It’s been a while—far too long, really—but 2017 has been remarkably draining for a great many reasons (some good, some bad), and most days it’s been all I could do to keep my life at least vaguely in order; writing posts and editing photos for a mostly unread blog has just not been high on my list of things to accomplish. But as the cold air settles in and I surround myself in hand-knit woolen goodness, a faint creativity begins to sparkle in the shadows, and I find myself wanting to stretch those writing muscles again. I aim to do better in 2018 and beyond, and I hope you’ll join me.
For months now, I’ve been talking about how I wanted to learn how to sew. Both my mother and my mother-in-law had sewing machines languishing in basements, just waiting to be used and loved, and both offered them up to me. Last weekend, I finally got my hands on one of them, and I got right to work.
Well, okay. Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s back up a moment. In truth, I got my hands on two machines. The first is that absolutely gorgeous Singer—which, based on a very limited amount of research, I believe to be a model 15-91 born in 1948. (Her name, if you’re wondering, is Evelyn.) The second is a newer (but not new) Singer Esteem II.
It’s the latter one that I’ve decided to use for now. I figured I’d have enough to learn without adding an older machine to the mix; most of the tutorials I’ve seen, including the Craftsy class I’m learning from, focus on newer models. I didn’t want to overcomplicate things unnecessarily at the beginning.
Don’t worry, though; Evelyn isn’t going far. She’s returning to my mother-in-law’s, where she will reside, in the table designed just for her, until we have the space to give her a permanent home.
Fast-forward again. That first day, I spent a bunch of time cleaning and oiling the machine; learning to wind bobbins, use the automatic needle threader, and bring up the bobbin thread; and sewing on some scrap fabric with a few of the available stitches, at various tensions and widths. Basically, I played—but I was also quite eager to actually make something.
Now, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that I’m a knitter. It seemed logical, therefore, to make my first sewing project be a project bag. (It’s important to cultivate one’s Vulcan instincts.) I picked out some nice cotton quilting fabric and a similarly shaded trim for a drawstring, and followed along with this pattern from Purl Soho as best I could.
It was both easier and more difficult than I expected—suitably challenging.Cutting straight lines in fabric is totally different than in paper, and my edge was a bit ragged and uneven; thank goodness the rotary cutter I ordered gets here soon. The fabric wanted to tug every which way (I suspect that would be less of an issue if I had a bigger workspace or, better yet, a proper sewing table to set the machine into), so my straight lines aren’t straight. I had to relearn how to iron; I pressed more fabric for this small bag than I have in the last ten years. Some things were left unsaid that are probably second-nature to those with experience, but not to me; I improvised as needed. I struggled with folding the bag to mark off the gusset, and the first gusset seam that I made needed a visit with the seam ripper. But in the end, after (all things considered) not all that much time and effort, I had a functional (and pretty) project bag. Goodbye Pretty Cheep—you were great for what you were, but there’s a new game in town, and her name is JD.
The colors in these photos are a little off, but trust me when I say that both the fabric and drawstring trim are lovely shades of silver; they really compliment each other quite nicely.
So what’s next? More of the same, but with this pretty blue fabric and a lighter gray drawstring. I’m hoping to make some adjustments, though—in particular, I’d really like to add a zig-zag stitch to the seams to reduce unraveling. I had actually intended to do this for the silver bag, but it only dawned on me after I sewed the gussets that I really should have done that earlier in the process, when there was no interference from the perpendicular seams. That’s okay; mistakes are how we learn.
In case it’s not immediately obvious, I am hopelessly drawn to tendrilled, art nouveau-esque designs. But this is the fantastic thing about crafting—customization, coupled with the thrill of creation. I find so much satisfaction in making, even (and sometimes especially) in the fledgling stages of learning a new skill. And more and more, as you improve, you find that you’re able to take your vision and make it reality.
Living in the Pioneer Valley, I’m blessed to be constantly surrounded by a beautiful landscape. I’m also lucky to be right nearby one of the greatest yarn stores in the world, Webs, and just a few hours drive from The New York Sheep and Wool Festival—a true fiber paradise. Webs runs a bus trip out to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds every year, and this year I finally decided to take advantage of it.
I’d never been to Rhinebeck before, and I was prepared for it to be awesome (it was) and overwhelming (it was). What I wasn’t fully prepared for was just how stunning the scenery would be.
How’s this for a lunchtime view?
Within the first few minutes of arriving, I’d already spotted Amy Herzog and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (yes, there was kinnearing), and of course I saw other famous fiber-types like Clara Parkes and Kristine Vejar in the book-signing area. I was too shy to actually speak to any of them, but it was fantastic just to be in the presence of so many inspiring, like-minded people, familiar and otherwise.
But—and this will probably be no surprise—the highlight of the day was, for me, the animals—the sweet, beautiful creatures that make it all possible.
I didn’t do much shopping, having spent much of the day petting sheep and taking in the overall atmosphere, but I did pick up some lovely, undyed alpaca yarn…
…and a gorgeous Kundert spindle, with which I am completely in love.
It was an amazing, if exhausting, day; I loved every minute of it.
Who’s ready for next year?