Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adventures in Hand-Sewing (aka What Led Me to Purchase My First Sewing Machine)

Over the past few years, my extended family has grown as my cousins and their significant others started adding to their family. My cousin Becky and her husband Paul have two boys, Ryan and Trevor. Ryan is my Godson and was the first of the new generation. He's turning 5 next month. Trevor is 1 1/2. My cousin Chrissy and her husband Rich have two kids, as well. Sienna is 4 1/2 and Shane is 2 1/2. All four kids are ridiculously cute and I've been enjoying watching their personalities develop. I see them pretty often, and I knew I wanted to make them each something special for Christmas.

After the success of Sean's LSU pillow, I figured I'd make some more pillow covers, personalizing them with some sort of design each of them would like. I immediately knew that I wanted to make Sienna a princess pillow. She's a total girly-girl and is going through a pretty serious princess phase. But I didn't want to embroider a Disney princess or anything, so I found a coloring page of a cute clipart-like princess online. I traced it onto a pink fat quarter I picked up at Jo-Ann. (Pink is her favorite. She is exactly the opposite of how I was at that age!). Then, I embroidered it with shades of pink and purple. I made the princess's hair and eyes brown so she would look more like Sienna. Finally, I added a little frame based on Aimee Ray's Doodle Motifs and stitched Sienna's name at the bottom.

All was going well until I actually had to start sewing the pillowcase together. The pillow forms I bought (from IKEA -- so cheap!) were larger than the pillow I had made for Sean, and hand sewing ended up taking ages. Also, since it was light-colored fabric, I was really paranoid about the stitches showing through. After I finished 3 sides, I put it over the pillow form to stitch up the bottom. But for some reason, this came out lumpy and I had to do a second row of stitches to try and tame it. I think that part of the problem stemmed from the fact I cut the fabric with regular old scissors, so it was pretty uneven in parts. (I didn't have a rotary cutter at that point. Man, whoever invented the rotary cutter deserves a medal!) I was kind of annoyed that after all of this careful hand sewing, the bottom looked so weird. But I wasn't about to start over! I eventually got it to a point where it didn't look terrible, and I didn't think Sienna would be critiquing my work anyway.

However, I dreaded the thought of having to make three more pillow covers by hand. Sienna's pillowcase took me the better part of a week, diligently sewing every night! Would I even finish the rest in time for Christmas?

Then fate stepped in. The day after I finished Sienna's pillowcase, I was perusing (a site that links to sales all over the web) when I saw a listing for refurbished Brother sewing machines on eBay. They came with warranties, seemed to be from a reputable store, and most importantly, they were only $50 each! So, I treated myself to an early Christmas present. I bought the LX-2500.

It's nothing fancy, and if I stick with sewing, I'll probably have to upgrade in a few years. But it does have 17 different stitches and can do buttonholes. (I have no idea how, but the potential is there!) Also, it has a pretty design!

(I haven't given it a name yet. This is something that crafty people do, right? I am thinking Miss Marple might be fitting. In Agatha Christie's books, Miss Marple is always knitting or stitching while crime solving. She seems sweet and unassuming, but she knows how to get the job done. I think this is a good thing for my sewing machine to aspire to.)

I hadn't used a sewing machine since my 7th grade sewing class. My mom never used one, so we never had one at home growing up. It took me few days to get familiar with it and feel comfortable threading it. Things like bobbin winding were completely new to me. Luckily, the instruction manual was pretty helpful in this capacity. I ordered a quilting foot, walking foot, and free motion foot online to give me some more options than the regular old foot that came with it. I had no idea how or when to use these, but I took the advice of some more experienced sewing bloggers and ordered them anyway. (Most feet are under $10. The walking foot can be up to $50, but I got mine on sale for $22!) I also had to run out and buy things like... thread. Silly as it may seem, I didn't think about the fact a machine would require a different kind of thread than what was already in my sewing box. But there you have it.

My first task was to make a dust cover for the machine. I had some fat quarters I bought at Jo-Ann that I wasn't sure what to do with, but they match the color scheme of our living room and I thought they would work nicely. I did some very rough measuring, stitched the top and 2/3 down each side, and hemmed the remainder. Then I added some ties made from brown fabric, and... voila!

Then, I finished off the pillow covers that I had already embroidered for Ryan, Trevor, and Shane. The machine made life soooo much easier. I was able to sew each pillow cover together in about a half hour. I also figured out that I should probably make them removable, since kids can be ... you know ... messy. So, I overlapped two pieces of fabric to make the back of the pillow. The pillow forms can slip right out! (I feel kind of bad Sienna's doesn't do this, but she's also the neatest of the bunch!)

Ryan is obsessed with superheroes and he likes to pretend he's Batman, so his pillow has the bat signal. I printed out an image of the bat signal I found online and used a black iron-transfer marker to put the image on the fabric. The font comes from a Word document. (I tried to choose the font that was most comic book-esque without being Comic Sans...)

Just as Sienna is a girly-girl, her brother Shane is a typical boy. He loves sports and playing outside. His pillow is football themed. I drew this one myself and transferred it with the iron-on marker. I thought it could be a little more colorful, so the red and yellow lines were last-minute additions.

Since Trevor is only 1 1/2, it's a little too early to tell what he really likes. But he always seems to be playing with race cars (usually, ones that belong to his big brother!), so I used a coloring page of a race car and driver  for Trevor's pillow. (There are a ton of free coloring pages online that make for really awesome embroidery designs!) Trevor's name is in a font from Word, too. The checkered flags are my favorite part!

And thus ends the story of how I acquired my first sewing machine. Two months later, and it's already paid for itself. I only regret not buying one sooner!

1 comment:

  1. Those pillows are super cute! I'm sure the kiddos loved them. Congrats on your machine! They really are wonderful.