Whenever I’m called upon to list my favorite hobbies I invariably list sewing in there with reading, writing, cooking, and playing. I’m not a casual sewer; I’m a project sewer. I only break out the sewing machine 2-3 times per year, once around Halloween, and on the few occasions hand-sewing just won’t cut it. This year I’m making my daughter’s Halloween costume, a bright yellow, bell-bottomed fairy outfit which Lola has dubbed a “hip fairy” (you know, hip as in cool and trendy, not like a fairy who grants new hips to accident-prone old people). I’m thrilled because up until now, she’s either not worn a costume or chosen to wear – the horror! – a store bought costume. But this year we picked out fabric, fitted the pattern, chose the perfect shade of gold sequins for the trim, the whole shebang.
Yesterday I spent a solid four hours working on her costume and accomplished . . . well . . . bupkiss isn’t really a fair description of what I got done. I mean, much was accomplished even though I have no finished pieces to show for the time spent.
The pattern was cut out. All the fabric and interfacing pieces were cut. The pieces were marked. It was the marking that took the most time. For those of you not familiar with sewing by a pattern, you have to mark all the little spots where separate pieces are supposed to line up. So, on a sleeve piece, you have to mark all the little dots which must then correspond with the little dots on the shirt front and back pieces (which you’ve also marked). Usually I cheat a little, using a marker to mark the dots. The proper way, the way Grandma taught me, is a bit more time consuming. You have to mark them by sewing the dot loosely with needle and thread so you end up with a thread dot which you can remove once the garment is sewn. Anyway, doing this is even more tedious than reading about it, so you can imagine how thrilling my four hours were.
Another thing any seamster worth their sewing salt will attest to is that most patterns have at least one step that is incredibly time consuming but, if you try to cut even the smallest corner, will ruin the final product. On Lola’s costume, it’s the ruffle trim. First, take two 1 ½ yard lengths of contrasting color netting and cut those into sixteen 3” strips (32 strips total). Next take two strips, one of each color, align them and sew a wide stitch down the middle. Repeat until you have 16 sewn strips. Next, pull the bottom thread on the sewn strip until you have gathered a 10” ruffle. Repeat until you have 16 ruffles. Finally, hand stitch those ruffles onto the bottom hem of the shirt and the hems of the pant legs. Enjoy as your five-year-old proceeds to totally not appreciate how much work went into her costume.
So, I guess the point here is that I don’t really enjoy sewing in the same way I enjoy reading a book or baking a cake. It’s incredibly tedious and as expensive, if not more so, than just buying something off the rack. But there is some satisfaction to be derived from seeing a project from raw materials to wearable garment. Also, nothing makes one feel quite so smug and superior as being able to say, “Lola’s costume? Oh, I threw that together myself. You like it?”