mercredi 8 février 2006

A girl and her sewing machine.

Remember when I said that I wanted a lunchbag? In typical form, generally, whatever I want, I get. It's great how life works out like that.

But this time I got because I made, instead of sighing and hinting and all those other things that I do when I want something. This is surprisingly an effective strategy, by the way.

Before we can talk about the creation of my So Cute Lunchbag (I mean, really. It is that cute. It is so brightly coloured and happy!), we need to talk about my fear of the sewing machine.

Also, check out my totally awesome candelabra right behind the sewing machine.

Behold, the sewing machine. It's a rather archaic beast, dating back to the 1970s, if I'm not mistaken. It's older than I am! And my mother gave it to me because she decided that she wanted a new sewing machine that does many fancy stitches (and apparently, it can read minds too). This one, it only has six different stitch options. Which is about five more than I know how to use.

Incidentally, you can meet really cute guys lugging this around. Unfortunately, said cute guys are either gay or married. Dammit.

I think the first time I sewed something, I was around 10. We were going on the first of 3 horrendous road trips my parents took us on because they decided that my sister and I needed to see the US. So I decided to make a pillow so that I could take it with me. I also made a small diary: paper cut in half lengthwise, then sewn down the middle, the paper again folded in half again on each side so that when shut, the diary was 1/8th of a sheet of paper. It had a fabric cover and a ribbon tie, naturally. I was inventive back then. Annually, I made a new cover for my "trip pillow", puffy-painted the date of the trip on it, and made a new diary.

One of my three quilts. Don't comment on the imperfect corners. DO YOU KNOW HOW DIFFICULT TRIANGLES ARE?

And then in college, I "made" three quilts. (Note the big fat time lapse from the age of 12 to the age of 20. This is how much I like sewing.) I put "made" in quotation marks because I chose the pattern and fabric, my mother cut out all the different shapes I needed, I sewed about half of it up - and then I got tired of quilt-making, around the stage where I had to sew the long rows I'd created together. So I left all the pieces on the floor next to her sewing machine, and inevitably, my mother got fed up with the large heaps of fabric that obviously I wasn't going to do anything about and finished my quilts for me. After the third one she said no more, that if I wanted another quilt I'd have to make it myself. So I haven't touched a sewing machine in a good five years, because I already have three quilts. (But I really REALLY want a pink quilt now. I don't have a pink one. I have a blue one, a green one, and a purple one. But not pink! Or even better, pink and green to match my bed linens. Waaaaaaaah.)

You see, the problem is that sewing takes patience. Patience is something I don't have. Nor can I cut a straight line, which is very helpful when, say, cutting patterns out of fabric. I'm quite good at deconstructing things mentally and drawing up a pattern, but when it comes time to translating the pattern into cut pieces of fabric, I'm just no good.

Plus, I'm scared of the sewing machine. Even though I know it most likely won't happen, I am terrified that somehow, I am going to sew my hand to the fabric. So to make the sewing process as quick as I can make it, I press reallyreally hard on the pedal, making the needle go reallyreally fast. The problem with this is that then I have problems guiding the fabric under the needle, so sometimes, I can't sew straight lines either.

Anyway. Enough of my issues with sewing and sewing machines. A seamstress, I will never be. But you see, I wanted a lunch bag because I was tired of carrying around my progressively-getting-beat-up Anthropologie bag. (The solution could be to shop more at Anthropologie.) And I had a very specific idea of what it should look like - essentially, I wanted a tote bag the size of a small shopping bag, since the latter is a perfect size for a lunch bag. And I wanted it out of oilcloth, so that it would be waterproof and stainproof. And that was about it. I didn't need it to close, or do anything fancy.

Do you know how hard it is to find a cute tote with those specifications?

So, I decided to make one, because my mother gave me a sewing maching. She got the notion that I have lots of free time and hey! Why not sew? I don't know where she gets this idea that I have lots of free time. I only have free time because I procrastinate on my research. Playing on the computer = not doing research. Cooking = not doing research. Watching TV shows I've taped = not doing research. You get the idea. This is why I'm a little behind on my research. Actually, I think my mom gave me the sewing machine so that I could hem my own pants already and stop bringing them home to her. Haha, why would I do that?

Anyhoo, back to my little sewing project. A totebag couldn't be too hard - after all, it's only sewing straight lines. I sort of modeled my bag after this one. It looks so easy, doesn't it. Like I could whip it up in 45 minutes, tops, right? There's nothing really fancy involved. And I love looking at fabric! My oilcloth of choice being absurdly expensive, I went to a fabric store near school that sells upholstery fabric, since I wanted something durable. They had oilcloth too, but it was really really ugly, along the lines of this and this. Yuck and yuck. But they had really pretty other fabric. I was considering some toile when I saw..

... Fabric created for outdoor furniture. Read: stain-proof, fade-resistant, water-resistant, and yet it feels like regular fabric. In other words, perfect for a lunch bag! And they had plenty of jaunty stripes.

And if this worked, then it was only a matter of (short) time before I could make many many bags and then even perhaps progress onto aprons and pretty summer skirts, right?


So, problems with cutting straight lines and sewing straight lines aside (you'd think the stripes would help, but they don't), I had to further complicate matters by deciding to make my own handles (finally getting something decent, but not perfect, my third try) and by attaching an extra pocket inside the bag, just because I like the option of having pockets. If that wasn't enough, I kept sewing things wrong. Attaching handles with the wrong side out. Attaching handles in incorrect spaces. Sewing the pocket the wrong way out. Making the top cuff different widths on both sides. Sewing the side flap to both the side and the bottom of the bag. Somehow making it so that the needle created loops of thread instead of a nice straight line. Getting multiple strands of thread stuck in the hole where the bottom bobbin thread is supposed to come out.


Lots of wasted thread. Also, why are 95% of all pincushions shaped like tomatoes with dangling strawberries?

Three hours (and lots of wasted thread) later, I finally got a decent-looking bag. As long as you don't look too closely - the interior pocket is off center and one of the handles is slightly larger than the other - isn't it cute and pretty? Oh-so-pretty!

But I'll be darned if I decide to recover this chair my parents want to give me. Even if it would be really comfortable to read in. The fabric the cushion is currently in is ugly, and I'd want something else - for instance, maybe the toile that I saw at the fabric store. But HAHAHA. Recovering this cushion would involve SEWING CURVES and definitely more precision. So it won't be until I recover from the drama of making this bag. In about 8 years or so.