In less than two months I am turning thirty. I have come to realize, in anticipation of this milestone, that I need to stop telling myself to wait for experiences or to learn things later, and start doing them now. There are things I have always wanted to try, but had written off as being for other people, and now I am stopping myself from putting up walls like that.
One of these things for me is sewing. I have always had the interest, and even took courses in high school. My dream career was to become a fashion designer, and I would peruse college catalogs, gazing longingly at the images of art students studying textiles and fashion. I lacked confidence in math however, so I would get discouraged when it came time to measure something. So I wrote sewing off as too technical for me, and made up my mind to stick with painting, which involved as little exactness as I wanted it to.
Well, now I am opening all of the doors that I had closed when I gave up on the pursuit of hobbies. Sewing still called loudly to me, so I decided to start there. Today, with my first project under my belt I am finding out what a true joy and confidence booster it is!
This project is a fabric advent calendar. (It is technically finished, but knowing myself and my continuous perfectionism I will end up tinkering with it a bit more in the future.) It was a slightly complicated project to choose as my first sewing, but I managed to finish it on time for the first day of advent. (Having a deadline is always SO good for me. Without one I would always start things, and never complete them!)
First I perused different designs online for inspiration. In my head I took bits and pieces of the things I saw and dreamed up a design. Then I chose some fabrics. A dark grey with red stripes for the background, and an assortment of coordinating green, red and white fat quarters for my pockets. With these and some red thread in hand I went to my Mom’s house for my first sewing lesson in at least 12 years.
My Mom helped me measure my background, and then taught me the basics of how to work her machine. As I put my foot down on the pedal and started guiding my fabric along, I was suddenly overcome with memories of my high school classes. The process seemed natural. It felt awesome! Holding up my completed background piece, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment. Sure, it was just hemming a basic rectangle, but it still felt incredible to have made something. My Mom packed her machine up for me to bring home and borrow while I finished on my own.
The next day, I measured my pockets and painstakingly pinned them onto the background at regular intervals. (My background, when sewn, was 25″ x 21″ with a tunnel for a dowel to be inserted later, and my pockets are 3″ squares. This allowed a 1″ border all around, and a 1″ space between each pocket on all sides.) I also made my big Christmas Day square out of red felt, onto which I sewed a Christmas tree shape cut out of one of my green fabrics.
After everything was measured, cut, and pinned on, the sewing part was simple, and took very little time. Holding up my assembled fabric backing with all the pockets sewn onto it made me so proud and excited, that I ran (and danced!) all the way up to my best friend’s apartment so that I could show someone. I had sewn something together, and it didn’t look horrible!
Later that night, while watching Elf with said friend, I hand-sewed a little mouse out of felt. I drew a pattern for him freehand onto graph paper, which I used to cut out my felt shapes. I stuffed him with cotton filling, taking care to stuff the arms and legs as I went. I then stuck on his eyes, nose, scarf, and the inside shapes of his ears with felt glue.
I had originally intended to save myself a step by purchasing pre-cut felt numbers at the craft store. However, they only carried assorted bags of numbers and letters, and to get enough bags for what I needed would have cost at least 20 dollars. So I then attempted to cut some out of felt on my own, but they were coming out terrible. So I finally settled back into my printmaking skills, and carved some rubber stamp numbers of my own. Stamping them onto the fabric, I realized that my ink was not showing up dark enough, so I ended up tracing the outlines with a permanent marker. (I think I may end up filling these in so that they are bolder with fabric paint later, but for now I am ok with them.)
The very final step was to have Hubby cut the dowel to the right length, and to use some red cord to string my creation up. For the moment, it is hanging on the curtain rod, but I will be moving it to a hook in the wall asap.
For the past two days, Simon has really enjoyed moving the mouse into the right pocket. I tell him, “Today the mouse goes into pocket number _.” and then show him where it goes. I wondered if he would throw a fit when he realized that he had to put it in to stay, rather than take it out for use as a toy, but for now he seems befuddled and delighted enough to play along with Mumma and her weird game.
I learned a ton from this process. I think I will make some more of these, with some changes, to sell in my etsy shop when I reopen it next year. Right now, I am so thrilled to move on to another project. I already have my fabric!