SEWING: A FUN WAY TO "DRESS" UP YOUR TIME
When most people think of sewing, a picture of a dull activity for the elderly often comes to mind. I used to picture a frontier, "Little House on the Prairie" type, mending a sock by the fire place, when the word crossed my mind. If I were told 5 years ago that one day sewing would be my most enjoyable and time consuming hobby, I would argue you were talking to the wrong person.
I recently started my own clothing line consisting of originally designed, hand crafted, one of kind apparel for women. I specialize in dress making although I have given a try to making all types of clothes from men's jackets to women's separates to handbags. The process of taking a design on paper to a wearable piece is one that can get complicated. I find that sew, although overall enjoyable, can be difficult and often frustrating. I say, heck, it's better than joining a street gang.
When I first began my adventures in sewing, about 2 years ago, I thought since I consider myself a particularly creative person, it would come easily. As I mentioned before, producing a successful product from a sketch is hard and there are step that must be taken. First is the fun part; deciding on general design and choosing fabric. Sometimes I just choose fabric that I find interesting and decide later what it will become. Other times, after you have a look in mind, you have to find the appropriate fabric. The appropriate fabric is determined on strength, stretch, thick or thinness and flow. The amount of stretch in a material is one of the most important, and least realized, characteristics you must consider when picking a cloth. Choosing a fabric with too little give can make the garment difficult to put on, requiring the use of more buttons and longer zippers. Too stretchy a material, on the other hand, can result in a "floppy" look and tends to stretch larger after a couple washing. The first step is an important one; choose the right fabric.
The second step in creating a garment of envy is cementing your idea. The fabric should have been chosen to work with the sketch or even the mental image of what you want to create. Type of fabric may be up there with the most important choices but the technical aspect of your design is up there with the most tedious. The exact placement of sleeves and straps, the tapering of the waist, darts for the bust, button and zipper attachment and the overall symmetry of your garment are all obstacles that have to be ironed out (pun defiantly intended). Trial and error in this particle area is the best method I have discovered. As a beginner, I found it beneficial to carefully disassemble a store bought article similar to my vision. This made it easier to study the various shapes as clothing looks very different before it's all put together. Once you have established the cutouts you'll need, simply trace them on your fabric and carefully cut out with sharp scissors (FYI don't ever use your sewing scissors for snipping paper; it dulls them quickly).
Now that you have your assorted garment pieces cut out, we're ready for step three, sewing! No Laura Ingills technique allowed here. A sewing machine is a must. During the first months I used a sewing machine from Walgreens that cost $29.99. Sure it was loud, inaccurate, and had a very rough way of stitching but it was good to learn on. I don't recommend the hand held sewing devices. They constantly unthread, are hard to handle and basically do a terrible job. That's if you can figure out how to operate them in the first place. If you don't have access to a machine, the "Dressmaker 2" from Walgreens will do fine. Before you begin sewing, go along the edges of the pieces you want to connect and use pins to not only hold the two pieces together but also to use as a guide for where to stitch. Once you have sewn along all your edges, fold the outer edge of the cloth in about 1/4" and sew that down. This will create a clean seam and will prevent the cloth from unraveling.
Great work! Once your satisfied with the look of your garment, try it on. If possible, have someone else try it on for you. This way you can view your creation from all angles and make adjustments as needed. Your first attempts as clothes making will be a bit disastrous but mostly humorous. It takes some practice and patience to start producing clothes anyone would consider wearing. The process of learning to sew is fun which is something that cannot be said of most things. I hope your interest is captured by this creative and expressive hobby as mine was. However, if sewing does not work out for you, there are always the street gangs.