Sew Far, Sew Good! Get it?! Pass the beans!

Two years ago, I decided it was about time for me to start sewing.

When I was in junior high (or middle school, tomato-tomahto), I took a home economics class and loved the unit on sewing. Just to illustrate how much I loved it, please know that I willingly (!) participated in the home economics fashion show. I wore a hand-sewn navy blue dress (paired with red clunky beads, earrings, and shoes because I was immersed in the eighties like that), and carried a Cabbage Patch Kid (officially renamed Arthur Jeffrey when I decided that Clive Belden didn’t really suit him) who wore a hand-sewn hoodie. The summer after my eighth grade year, I made several crop top/crop pant ensembles, and I must admit: At the time, I thought I looked Very Cute. And that thought hasn’t really crossed my mind since then. So, sewing breeds self-confidence and makes you lovely. Right? Right-o!

Anyway, two years ago. Christmas rolled around and my mother-in-law presented me with a Singer Prélude. I brought it home and quickly put it in our coat closet. A few months later, I took it out and watched the instructional DVD. I may have even threaded a bobbin! (I’m very enthusiastic when it comes to bobbins.) I then returned the machine to the coat closet, where it still sits. (On top of the sewing machine is a chimney sweeping log. For some reason, the thought of removing that log to get to the machine is sort of overwhelming. What if I start a fire? It all seems so dangerous.)

A few weeks back I stood up and whispered, “It is time. Time to remove the log.” I opened the closet door, removed the log from the top of the machine, and sat back down. A few days ago, the sewing urge turned into more of a fever when I saw the amazing things Juju has been sewing. (Incidentally, does anyone know where I can find Japanese pattern books? Is it strictly an eBay thing? I don’t want to sell my car for Pochee, Volume 6. But I do want to know that Pochee, Volume 6 is obtainable. Because Every Single Thing Juju Made is something I want to wear.)

Last night I ran away from home (that’s twice in one week, for those keeping score!) and tried to find the nearest Jo-Ann store. (My goal was to browse pattern books and make a list of start-up materials that I might need. Tiny steps.) As I often do, I put on an old episode of This American Life for the drive and then I quickly became disoriented and ended up getting a bit lost. After my blood pressure returned to normal and I finally found the store, I discovered that it is closed for renovations. (It looks like the renovations are coming along quite nicely, Jo-Ann. The store will reopen on May 8th, which is my friend Mitzi’s birthday. Everything continues to happen and happen, don’t you think?)

My promise to you: I will be sewing before the end of the summer, and my short-term goal is to make a dress that the girls are willing to wear. (I’m so disappointed in the dresses we’re finding in stores. Why would anyone put an almost six year old in a dress that has a jeweled hole near her chest? Yikes.)

Any words of recommendation/advice would be welcome. (Unless your advice is “Put the log back on the machine.” Who are we if we can’t support one another with our crafty goals?)

Wait. I think I need a skirt made out of this. Imagine the possibilities, Diddy!

Edited To Add: Okay. I just broke down and ordered Pochee, Volume 6. Look out, World! ‘ ‘ ‘text/javascript’>

32 thoughts on “Sew Far, Sew Good! Get it?! Pass the beans!”

  1. No to the chesty lumberjack boys.

    A resounding yes! to the JuJu items. Cuteness on the 1/2 shell!

  2. You make cute clothing, I will continue to sew my purses and totes until the cows come home.

    I am a firm believer that anyone can sew. You just have to follow the directions. :)

    (Ignore the fact that I have fabric for two bags I need to make staring at me on a daily basis. I’ll get to it! I swear!)

    (Actually, I think you may have inspired me to get to it this weekend. If I can stop obsessively knitting long enough, that is.)

  3. By way of encouragement I offer you a memorable quote from THREE AMIGOS:

    Ned Nederlander: Sew, very old one! Sew like the wind!

    Please disregard the ‘very old one’ portion because if you’re very old, so am I and I’m not ready for that today.

    BTW, I appreciate you trying out the whole sewing idea on my FB status the other day. I feel honored and humbled but I am still looking for a Manly-man type of hobby. :)

    …maybe welding or bending steel bars with my teeth.

  4. I would love to see the looks on people’s faces when they figure out that those are lumberjacks on your skirt! I made curtains for the kids rooms, and the kids bathroom, and I haven’t sewn for 6 years since . . . .but I am thinking about re-starting because my boy wants ONLY elastic waist pants and he is too slender for everything you can buy at a regular store. Mommy may have to thread a bobbin along with you!
    Good luck!

  5. OMG!!! If you make a skirt out of that, I’m going to think you were kidnapped by aliens from Bemidji, Minnesota (home of Paul Bunyon) and dropped off in Imperial. No friend of mine from HS should look like they’re a native of Bemidji. Just trust me on that one!

  6. I’m so jealous. My Mom was the teacher for the 4-H sewing class I was very excited about, but she spent all the class time with the other girls because she could help me “later” – which never happened. Then I was sent to an all-girl high school where the nuns were so feminist that the freshman class was called “freshwomen” and there was no talk of home ec – only physics and calculus. I finally bought my own machine 2 years ago and have never even turned it on. All those feet and … I have no idea how to even put thread in it. Yes, there’s a manual, but … mommy?

    Perhaps during this little break I have I’ll learn? I look forward to your inspirational updates!

  7. Those Japanese patterns and what Juju has done with them make me feel totally inspired. I want to sew myself a whole new personality.

  8. Just a note to let you know that the Joann’s in Ballwin on Manchester is closing, as the new one a couple blocks over opened, and all patterns are 3 for $5 or 7 for $10. I was just there yesterday and they still have a ton left. So, maybe a good start and a little price.

    I bought my very first machine 2 years ago. It’s been collecting dust, along with the hundred patterns and who knows how much fabric for over a year. I wish I had more time. It was kind of fun to create. Maybe I’ll start again too.

  9. I’ve had my Singer Esteem for about 9 months. Mostly I’ve just hemmed some pants, but every time Hancock Fabrics has Coates and Clark thread for 50%, I go nuts. I’m more excited about the gorgeous spectrum of thread than I am about using it.

  10. I liberated my sister’s sewing machine from our parents’ house and it’s been sitting around waiting for me to do something with it. I want to make some market bags, but I’m afraid to try actual clothing yet. I’m such a chicken. I don’t even have a chimney sweeping log on it to use as an excuse.

  11. oooh, now I wish even more I still lived in St Louis and we could meet and go fabric shopping.

    Places to skim:
    Hobby Lobby & Hancock fabrics down at 270 & Lindbergh

    Jackman’s has the loveliest of fabrics (there’s one up on Lindbergh just north of Page I think. Or olive..? There’s another down on Watson not far from Ted Drewes adn a Joann’s down the road from that.)

    Agreed–hoochie elementary dresses require some workarounds.

  12. When your Jo Ann reopens- see if they are part of JoAnn University (no, I did not make that up). You can take classes at some of the stores. Like you, I really have not sewn since MS, but want to and I took a class about two weeks ago. It was very fun, I remembered more than I thought I knew and I met some very nice people.
    Right now I am making a dress for myself, which is going pretty awfully- but I am having fun and that’s what counts. Right? Just tell me I am right and that crooked lines are all the rage.


    It’s not *super tailored* looking but this is a rad first sewing-for-your-kids project. Very adjustable and the ribbon trim that makes the hem easy makes it look like you have mad skills. Especially if you picked a nice black fabric with multicolor eyes on it for your eye-obsessed toddler, like I did.

    Crazy quick, too, I tell you.

  14. Come on you people, gird up your loins & get sewing. It’s not hard. And yes, there is a bit more than just following the instructions, you have to take the occasional leap of faith that you can do things you may not have done before, but it is really truly worth it. Start with the lovely skirt in the .pdf file from ALex in OC, you & your kids will be very glad you did.

  15. If you want me to send you any Japanese pattern books, just drop me an e-mail (carolieATwordmagixDOTcom) with specifics. I can send ’em via domestic US Mail, so it would be relatively inexpensive…

  16. I could MAYBE sew on a button before I hit college (Catholic all-girls college prep for me, too) but I got involved in technical theater and specialized in costume design. Learned a heck of a lot and on industrial sewing machines that frighten rational people. Worked for a custom wedding dress designer for 5 years and learned even more on some gorgeous fabrics. My favorite fabric stores in STL:
    Anatol’s Fabric Outlet near Brentwood & Manchester, on the web as &
    Jackman’s Fabrics, especially the one on Lindbergh near Olive:

    I have an uber-fancy Bernina sewing machine that is computerized and does embroider and doubles as a pannini press (not really that last one!) and it has been sitting in my sewing office breeding dust bunnies, too.

  17. Listen, if I can sew, anyone can! I learned in Home ec, shelved it for years. Got a machine and let it sit for 2 years so I guess yours is ripe for the picking too.
    I have been making Amy Butler bags, and all kinds of skirts for my daughter. Check this link for anything Japanese
    also check

  18. Here is a secret….I hated Miss Slazinek’s home-ec class during sewing. I couldn’t do it! I used to go into her classroom and stuff my projects into my bag to sneak home for my mom to do for me! Do you remember the awful pillows we had to make? I made a CUPCAKE! Ridiculous!

    To this day I can’t even sew a button correctly…

  19. I have a sewing machine and can make THINGS but not clothing and so I cheer you on. And I adore everything Juju has made. AND I love that entire Japanese look with the smock over the dress over the pants. AND I am very happy that there is a Muji near me. AND I spend too much money there.
    I made blue vinyl placemats in middle school – with a matching head-band.

  20. I got a sewing machine from Santa at Xmas. It is still wrapped and still bowed.

    I don’t know how to sew and am scared.

    Hold me?

  21. I went to my first JoAnn’s store in KC this weekend while visiting. That sewing bug must be in the air because that shiny Japanese fabric with all the embroidery on it is to die for. Take off that log and get a-sewing! Little girls don’t need peek-a-boo holes in their dresses!

  22. The only thing that I remember from Miss Slazinek’s home ec class was her saying ” You smell like a fish fry!!”, after we came back from lunch.

    I have really wanted to get a sewing machine and start sewing again… but I’m so intimidated… I’m afraid all that I will be doing is ripping out seams.

    I think I will make this a long term goal for me.

  23. The Christmas before last I asked my husband for a sewing machine. And he delivered. I bought new supplies that my “Sewing for Dummies” book recommended. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Yes I bought that book. This is the first time that learning from a book has failed me. I’m completely flummoxed by the whole thing. I need someone to sit with me and DO so I understand all these foreign words like “bobbin.”

  24. My mom just sewed the cutest dress for my daughter. I picked out the pattern from Oliver + S (I see someone above referenced their lazy days skirt, also a cute pattern). I love their patterns.

  25. You might be interested in checking out the Sew Mamma, Sew blog. It’s a shop blog but they have a lot of tutorials and link to a lot of free patterns. I find it very fun and I’m not a seasoned seamstress either. (Seasoned seamstress is kinda fun to say, no?)


    Sewing little girls dresses is a snap. You have so much style that the stuff you create will be outstanding. If you can follow knitting instructions, you can sew.

    How’s that for a pep talk?

    I use my sewing machine every Halloween to make costumes (from a pattern, folks, I am not clever enough to just create from yards of fabric and a child’s idea). Then it gets put away until Christmas when a child needs some costume for a Christmas pageant and we can’t find the one the other child wore last year. Then maybe something might get mended over the course of the rest of the year. Then we’re back to Halloween again. My, my, how time flies.

    Angela, you could create lovely things on that machine of yours. Hop to it!

  27. It’s nice to hear someone other than myself and my mom saying that about little girl’s clothing! It’s getting pretty bad out there…. I’m glad I have boys now!
    I have always liked those little A shaped dresses, (the ones with the half circle neckline) but I don’t know if a girl would waer it since it may not be “hip” (is that still in use?)
    Either way, I’m sure whatever you make will turn out splendidly! :)
    – oh, and look at IKEA for fabric too, I love their designs!

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