Friday, January 21, 2011

The Art (and Necessity) of Sewing


If you are like I was not too long again, the site of the word sewing might make you shudder in fear. But, before you roll your eyes or bite your nails anxiously because you don't know how to sew, you should know that I am new to the world of sewing. In fact, I would still consider myself a Sewing Novice.

I grew up in a household with a mom who could use a sewing machine. It wasn't unusual to find her hemming pants, repairing a torn seam, or even making a household item or two. At some point in my tweens, she decided it was time for me to learn how to sew. I spent the summer learning to make little throw pillows and even made myself a couple pairs of shorts.

However, the years went by and I didn't sew. Pants needed to be hemmed and I asked my mom to do it because "she knew how." I got married and my husband needed his pants hemmed. Guess where I went? My mom helped me and my sister this way for years. After all, she had the machine. We were busy. She didn't really seem to mind.

But one day, she announced that she thought it might be time for us to learn (re-learn) how to sew so that we could repair our own family's clothing. She might have said something about needing to know this skill because someday she might not be around. She might have...but whenever my parent's talk that crazy talk about them not being here someday, I go into 2-year-old standing with the fingers in my ears mode.

Some of that talk registered though. I was feeling bad about bringing my piles of mending over to my mom and dropping them off like she was my seamstress. Not too much later, I was browsing the end caps of Target and my eye fell upon a sewing machine. It was a basic Singer model on clearance for $35. Now, I didn't know about sewing machines, but I knew it was a great price. So, I put in my cart.

Then I unboxed it and put it in my closet.

It sat there awhile.

I mentioned my purchase to my friend, Sarah, who is a gifted seamstress. She agreed to hold a series of basic sewing classes over the summer. And the rest is history.

I want to reiterate that I am a sewing novice. I have learned how to thread my bobbin and put it in the machine, to thread the machine, to sew a straight line, and to change needles, tension and stitch length. I can even trouble-shoot my machine a bit. But, I am still tentative when I sew. I'm not completely sure of myself.

However, I am pretty satisfied with what I've learned and how I've used it to make our family's well-being better and a bit more frugal.

Now, instead of throwing out ripped up pants, I know how to trim off the ripped portion and hem the pants into shorts.  I can do minor seam repairs and even cut down a dress from my 8-year-old to fit the 5-year-old. And yes, I can hem pants and jeans.

My mom was so encouraged by my progress (or maybe she was just relieved to not be sewing so many extra garments) that she decided it was also time for my sister to learn/relearn. Pretty soon my sister was taking piles of her family's garments over to my parent's house and using my mom's machine. And recently, she received her very own bright and shiny sewing machine for Christmas.

The whole thing has me thinking about how we as a culture -- and especially as women and mothers -- have really gotten away from sewing as both a skill and necessity. It wasn't too long ago that clothing "off the rack" was more than anyone could afford. If you wanted curtains in your living room, then you had to choose your material and get to work.

Nowadays, you can pretty much buy those things cheaper than you can make them (which I think is a sad comment on our consumerism society) which had caused sewing to go the way of the RSVP. But, much like that antiquated but highly appreicate social grace, I honestly believe that sewing is still relevant and still has a place in our households. And, it appears I'm not the only one who thinks so. Sewing is on the rise. Check out this fun blog post from the UK about their resurrgence and some history of the sewing machine.

I may never have the natural gifting and talent that my friend Sarah has with sewing. I'm okay with that. I can always commission her to make what I cannot...or I can ask her to teach me and practice. But, beyond that, I think it's important for me to know the basics so that if it ever came to it (apocolypse, embargo of products from China), I could keep my family clothed and my house arrayed in window treatments.

I actually think that this is something we should all know. It's a skill. It's a craft. It's an art. And it makes frugal sense -- which if you haven't guessed, is usually one of my bottom lines.

Take for instance this pair of jeans that I am excessively proud of "rehabbing" (just ask my family...they will tell you that I've made them all listen to the story). My children -- much like yours -- are very hard on clothing. I've resewn on buttons and clasps, repaired tears, made cut-offs, and of course, hemmed pants that were too long, frayed, etc.

But this pair stumped me. My daughter had somehow taken her months old jeans (that I scored at Target for $4.34) and ripped a large "L-shaped" tear into the upper thigh. I could not see my way around to making them into cut-offs unless I wanted my 8-year-old to be sporting Daisy Dukes. And so, I decided to patch them from the inside. Then I bought a large fabric applique/patch and sewed it around the edges.



And...voila! Rehabbed pants...ready to be put back into service.

Really...if I would have known how much satisfaction I would get from taking care of my family in this way...and just the overall sense of accomplishment...I would have done it years ago.

So, take it from me. If you are thinking about joining the world of sewing, jump on in...the water is fine.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Year of Cycle-ing


I can't believe that I've been blogging for almost a year. When I started out, I didn't know that I would explore personal musings, add a deal page to my blog, stop deal blogging due to time, start another blog for the cake business I co-own, Plum Crazy, and eventually get so busy, that I slacked off on this blog.

But, I've missed it. I've been continuing to think deep thoughts. And, instead of releasing them to the world, they've been stewing around in my brain.

Of my goals for this year (see how I didn't use the word resolution...thereby releasing me from legalism of sticking with a decision I've made) is to be better about blogging. So, here goes.

Last year for my first post, I talked about the ear infection I experienced on Christmas Eve/Day and how the refrain of a song (Your Love Never Fails), "there may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning," felt like the theme for my year. I didn't imagine how true that would be for me -- maybe more in the little pains of life (injuries, discouragement, discontentment), rather than the bigger ills of life. But, pain nonetheless. However, the joy of God was truly a strength to me. Whenever I felt like a task was just too overwhelming and that I was in over my head, God always reached down and grasped my hand and pulled me out of the muck. His joy was truly my strength.

I ended the year in a bit of a funk. My season of training for the annual November half-marathon here in town started off great. I was faster than ever. More motivated than ever. This was going to be MY year. However, a few months in, I was injured. It came on gradually -- more than a little nuisance than anything. But it became more and more painful. Because I'm stubborn, I continued pushing myself and didn't seek medical care or even a diagnosis. I didn't want them to tell me to stop training -- even though I knew I probably should. So, I kept on -- in terrible pain -- trying everything to taping up my legs with physio-tape every few days for months, to ingesting Aleve daily, to wearing ugly compression socks the day of the race just to finish.

I didn't finish well. I didn't even beat my first year's finish time -- when I was 4 months pregnant! Discouragement for sure. After the race, I decided to go in to see a specialist to make sure I wasn't going to injure myself if I kept on running. Sure enough, there was something terribly wrong. My little injury turned into a BIG problem: a stress fracture. If I would have put my training on hold and allowed it to heal, the injury wouldn't have progressed into my ligament and tendon literally ripping away from the bone and creating a fracture.

Let's just say, I learned that lesson the hard way. There's a time to push and a time to heal. I now know the difference. And, changing things up is good. If I hadn't injured myself and HAD to rest my leg, I might never have experienced the joy and challenge of Spin!

I tried a Spin Cycling class several years ago. I was 6 months pregnant and a weeble wobble. Even the extra cushiony seat didn't help my rear-end from feeling like I was sitting on twin boulders. Needless to say, I did not enjoy it.

Flash forward to late November. Once again, I fumbled around as I tried to get my legs to cycle to the beat and my body to move back and forth to the music like everyone else in the class. But, once I got it, my running-conditioned body found that endorphin rush it loves so much. I was surprised to realize I was pushing myself just as much (if not more) cardio-wise when I was running. I have found a lot of simple joy and release when everyone in the class is moving to the beat and hitting that sweet spot. (I have another post in mind for that.)

And that joy of cycling has spilled over into 2011. And that's not all the "cycle-ing" that I've been doing. As always, we recycle as much as we can. However, I am just starting to love "upcycling." This happens when you take an item that was maybe destined for the recycle bin or trash can, but you add other elements and embellishments and turn it into something else. Something classy or functional. You've probably seen items in Real Simple or other magazines. I've seen a lot of my friends doing this as well. My friend, Amy, ingeniously took a roll of leftover white butcher-type paper they used to protect their carpet when moving into their new home, and stamped it with paint-covered Christmas-shaped sponges, and voila....Christmas wrapping paper! It was too cute.

So, inspired, I've been looking around for things I can upcycle.

When I was cooking dinner a few weeks ago, I found that I was oogling the empty Market Pantry pasta box. It had a cute see-through window and was the perfect shape for the letter box I'd been thinking of buying to put by our door to the garage. I usually drive our mail through the post office since it's down the street from us and our current mailbox set up at home is not conducive to keeping the elements out of our house. Most of the time, letters to be mailed end up getting lost under my purse and the toaster, etc. So, I was thinking of buying something to put them in above where we hang our keys.

I cut the top off the box and then cut the sides of the box at an angle. Here's what it looked like.


Of course, while functional, it wasn't very pretty to look at really. So, drawing upon a recent experience at our church's ladies' Christmas party, I bought some Mod Podge and pulled out my scrapbook paper and got to work.


And, a little while later, here's the finished result.


I added an extra piece of cardboard at the top for checks that need to be deposited
I can't wait to try something else. I've been saving out the most random things...my only fear is that I will become like one of the people on Hoarders who keep saving stuff to "use someday." I'm going to have to really watch myself.

So, this is my self-proclaimed Year of Cycle-ing. I wonder what other ways I can get that word in...stay tuned. Oh, and if you have some Upcycle ideas or projects you've done, please share. I need a new project!