Friday, July 24, 2009

Love Those Details

When my kids were younger and loved fussy kid clothes, I loved the detailing. I learned to applique for the first time on a homemade onesie (that is BEFORE onesie was a word or a thing). It was awful applique as I didn't understand stabilizer and my $99 sewing machine didn't allow me to reduce stitch length to a satin stitch. I bought that little machine when I started college and made all of my clothes except my jeans. Of course, everyone on my floor thought that since I had a sewing machine I would want to mend their jeans. (It didn't take me long to discover that I didn't need to reveal that I knew how to sew.)

In teaching myself to applique at that time, I didn't have access to fusible products as we have now. So, I improvised with stitch witchery which I used now and again for hems. Expensive for this process but I was thrilled with the results. My resource for learning these techniques was an ancient sewing book that I had pretty well memorized. Before my $99 machine, I could only do bound buttonholes--not even knowing that was an advanced technique. My sewing machine from high school was my mom's old machine, a Singer with a wooden case that I ran with a knee control and it only had a straight stitch. So being self-taught, I learned from a 30 year old sewing book (which now would be almost 60 years old) and now realize that the techniques I learned are fine techniques with great details and great finishes and are actually considered fairly high functioning detail work in sewing.

When I moved on to advance my applique skills, I add heirloom sewing skills and loved the concepts of pin tucks, winged needles and lace insertions. I became a Martha Pullen groupie, nearly looking holes in every publication I bought. I never learned smocking as it wasn't one of my favorite techniques but I was enchanted by cutwork. I have always studied fabrics and textures to try to figure out how they use them and what could be done to add more in detail. I really love gadgets like rolled hem feet, rufflers and bias binders. They are such smart tools. After having sewn on a lot of machines in my lifetime, I have a real appreciation for the fine tooling of these accessories on my Bernina machines. Not because I am a dealer but rather because I have had my share of the generic ones for the other machines and love my Bernina accessories which are tooled for performance and durability.

With machine embroidery...well that is the ULTIMATE sewing tool for me. Being able to do cutwork, applique, digitizing and so much more, my head spins with ideas!

This last week, I got to sit in a bit on our Master-Your-Machine classes on heirloom sewing. It was like looking in on Santa's workshop as I watched them do a lace insertion technique and fall in love with winged needle work. I wondered what happen to all the blouses I made over the years with those techniques. However, as I think about it...most of that stuff was my maternity clothes. (Oh yeah, passed them on to friends. I am sure they have had a good life.) What a delightful treat to remember these techniques. It is like finding a good novel and reading the good parts again. (Or am I the only one that does stuff like that?)

It also reminded me of Monica's apron she made while we were on vacation. Our kids grew up with mom sewing and always had ample access to sewing and crafting. However, I never pushed it. They all sewed at some level out of a desire to learn. To this day, I can't say that I have done a lot (except stay out of the way and smile and encourage) to teach them. I am available when they have questions, but like myself, they learn a lot by observing, questioning and researching. So, I was thrilled to see Monica take on an apron of this proportion. Details like a reversible apron, gathered bodice, draw string neck and classy pockets made this a challenge for her. But she is very proud of this as am I for her !

I have had lots of mothers tell me they have to work so hard to resist the urge to pull out stitches their kids sew or to not start working for the kids to rush things along. I have never really had that urge. I think it is because I know how much I grew in my own sewing skills by not having someone hover over me. I took on projects that good sense should have made me never consider. However, I also know I am not alone. Many sewers my age keenly remember winging it and learning on our own. I give a lot of credit to programs such as 4-H. If parents and leaders can just cheerlead and stay out of the way, kids can do great things. Next week, our kids camp starts at the store. I love it because I get to see the kids soar. We give direction but we always leave room for the kids to express themselves. I think I have as much fun as the kids do!

My kids didn't always wear or use everything they sewed, but they each have memories of the process. Keeping in mind that Monica's first sewing project was sewing a thumb mitten that she could put on her thumb at nights to help her quit sucking her thumb, I would say her apron is a long and positive way. But, I still wish thumb mitten would have survived the wash and wear (and probably eventual flushing) as it still makes me smile to think of it.

Sometimes I like to just practice a few techniques and envision what they will be on a valance or a table cloth. I like to just play on samples and write notes on them. (But then I am probably the person who while I am reading a book, will skip ahead and randomly read a future segment, then watch the plot unfold trying to figure out how the author will get the story line to my random reading.)

So now that you got a glimpse at the weird way my brain works, I hope I have encouraged you to go and pull out the decorative stitches on your machine, thread it up with a winged needle (or better yet a twin-winged needle) and see what comes of it. Be sure to use a natural fiber (cotton or linen or flax) as it will only keep the holes with natural fibers.

All the Best to You, jill

p.s. If you want to learn more about the book Monica used, just click on the photograph and it will take you the link about it.

1 comment:

Joanna Nabeta said...

Who says that skipping ahead in a book and then reading from the beginning is weird? And, who has that ever prestigious job of defining “normal” anyway? Actually, my family has tried very hard to convince me that that is NOT the way one is supposed to read books. Hasn’t stopped me yet.....