What does the last of the housewives do?

Tag: Sewing

Furry Waistcoats will Never go out of Fashion

Some years ago I was out shopping with my sister and we noticed that many shops were stocking furry waistcoats. I love a waistcoat and love a bit of tactile stimulation, so tried some on. One I particularly liked had a price tag of $150. “One hundred and fifty smackers!” I cried. “For that I’d make my own!”. And with the sunny reliance on my competence that characterises my family, my sister replied “As if you would”.

I’ll show her, I thought. I got myself up to Spotlight and bought some of their finest fake fur, a waistcoat pattern and even some interfacing, just in case. And then I was rather inconveniently diagnosed with cancer and rather lost concentration for a bit. A couple of years later I started thinking about that waistcoat again. They still hadn’t gone out of fashion. I got out the pattern. I boggled quite a bit at the amount of tissue paper involved and all the numbers. I put it away again. Then last year, you may recall, I was coerced into making Roman Soldier costumes for the school play from a pattern and after the initial two weeks of migraines it really wasn’t too difficult. Today I found myself with a whole afternoon with no one in the house to demand stuff of me. It was time.

The pattern looked a lot less intimidating this time around. I got out the fur, dug out some left over satiny material from making the Muffet’s swimming carnival cape, laid it all out and started cutting. Of course a project of this type needs some helpers to stop the material from flying away.

The fur proved surprisingly easy to sew. I’d pinned and sewed together the eight pieces in less time than it took to cut them out. Of course unpicking the back two sections to sew them on the right way up took a bit of time, but we got there in the end. I could actually wear it just like this.

But I’m going to do it properly with lining, here it is in pieces:

I’ve put that together too. You then put the shiny side of the lining to the furry side of the waistcoat and pin it together. I’ve just started sewing that up and after bamboozling myself over whether I’m going to be able to turn it the right way out or not I’ve decided to finish it in the morning. And then I shall go over to my sister’s place and swan around in my furry waistcoat and she will no doubt ask me whether I shouldn’t have just plonked down the bucks and I could have had it five years ago. But that, of course, would be missing the point entirely.

Swimming Carnival Accessories

“Mum, we’re allowed to dress up for the swimming carnival! Can you make me something?”. Year 7 is so exciting for the Muffet, they’re allowed just that little bit more freedom and it’s going to their heads. Swimming carnival is on Friday, and it isn’t compulsory to attend, unlike primary school. It is, however, very strongly encouraged and the Muffet wouldn’t miss it for quids. Especially as you can dress up. Looks like it’s time to get out the ole sewing machine again.

The first thing is to decide what to make. A hat? Hair’s going to be wet for some of the time, so no. Some kind of outfit? I still haven’t recovered from the school play. You know what I’m pretty good at. Capes. They’re only a step up from baby blankets and I’ve made wizard ones, fairy ones, a Red Riding Hood and a Jedi one. With or without hoods, they are dead easy and you don’t need a pattern. Muffet wants a swirly one in her house colours, so I stuff her house shirt in my handbag and it’s off to Spotlight I go.

Her house colour is maroon, so if we lived in Brisbane I’m sure the whole house would be decked out in footy memorabilia. As it is, I’m surprised at the choice of materials available that exactly match her shirt. Dance satin is on special, so I get three metres of it and six metres of maroon fringe, plus some black and white balls of that yarn you knit into spirally scarves and a set of knitting needles to replace the ones the dog ate.

For a travelling cape you make trapezoid panels, a big one for the back and two halves for the front and it sits close to the body. For a swirly cape you need a semicircle. I spread the material out on the floor and measure the width. It’s one hundred and thirteen centimetres, so I draw on the wrong side a semicircle of that radius. See, you should pay attention in maths. I cut out a semicircle for the neck of radius twenty centimetres. I’m not going to get all fussy about finishing touches, but I don’t want to leave the neck edge raw and I don’t want to muck about with facing and fusible interfacing, so I make a smaller cape to shoulder height to sit on top with exactly the same neck cutout. This has a fifty centimetre radius. I hem the front edges of the larger and smaller capes, then sew the maroon fringing around the edge of the smaller cape. Then, concentrating tensely, I place the shiny side of the short cape against the rough side of the long cape, line the neck edges up and sew them together. I got it right first time! I don’t even need to press the seams as the material is heavy enough to sit properly. A tab of Velcro at the neck corners and I’m done in under an hour.

How popular am I going to be when the Muffet gets home? But then again, how long will that popularity last?

What I’ve learnt about Sewing

I’ve done it, I’ve finished the damned things. Six soldiers costumes are on their way to the Muffet’s school and it’s only fair that I share with you some of the things that I’ve learned.

A quick recap for those of you who haven’t been following me like a bloodhound. My dear daughter volunteered me to help with sewing for the school play. I fronted up to the main instigator of this outrage, Mrs Gray, and sweetly informed her that I was rather good at sewing in straight lines and did she have any togas for me to hem? She handed me a bag of material, a very complicated set of patterns, fixed me with a steely glare, returned my sweet smile and said “May the force be with you”. For further accounts of my subsequent misadventures, see here.

So the first thing, dear reader, is to identify your motivation. In this case, impress Mrs Gray. But there are many more practical things I have learned about sewing.
Static electricity can be a good substitute for pins.
Don’t wear drapey clothing while sewing unless you’d like to incorporate it into the costume.

Cotton batting is a tasty source of fibre.
An RSL style carpet is excellent for hiding stains and dog hair, but it does mean the only way you’ll find a dropped pin is by stepping on it.
Turn off your sewing machine while you’re away from it otherwise your dog will sit on the pedal and give himself a fright.
If you’re sewing after dinner, you will sew a sleeve on upside down or a badge to your pyjamas. Factor this into your timing.
If you want to use some material scraps from a pile your late elderly cat used to sleep on, no amount of washing and hanging it in the sun will get out the smell. Just chuck it.
Resist the urge to admonish your children with pins in your mouth.

Pets can be useful to stop your material from flying away.
That clunking sound means the top thread has come off the hook thingy that goes up and down.
Sewing a ribbon or some scalloped felt over your seams is an excellent way of disguising the fact that you haven’t measured anything.

It’s a bit hard to tell from this shot, but this tunic was doomed. It did teach me three valuable lessons. Don’t let the dog sit on your sewing shortly after he’s been eating grass. You need to sew the wrong side to the wrong side OR the right side to the right side, not one of each. And if you’ve given yourself a break from sewing by ironing the school shirts, you need to turn the iron back down if you’re going to press the seams on your polyester tunic. It didn’t actually set the smoke detector off, but it did attract the attention of the children who, as always, were very forthright in their advice.

A hot glue gun is a useful alternative to hand sewing.
Your sharp scissors are under your daughter’s desk.

It’s easy to make wire closures for your armour if you have a set of jewellery making tools and five years experience making clasps for necklaces.
Finally, with a great deal of patience and coffee and moaning to friends and an enormous amount of muttering, you can teach yourself to sew and deliver six soldiers costumes a whole two weeks before the performance.

Now I don’t know if I want to get in and sew something for myself or sell my machine on eBay. I should probably give it a few weeks before I do anything rash.