Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cushions and Carriers!

Another busy week has come and gone and another fab sewing class attended.  I really enjoyed this week and I feel like I'm getting to grips with the construction side of things and the techniques are starting to make sense.

This week we made cushion covers.  The idea was to embellish them, but as you will see from my pictures I kept mine fairly plain.  This was partly because I prefer an unfussy style but also because I decided to keep things simple and not overstretch myself in the class as I didn't want to feel rushed.  As it happened I could have probably done more as I had time to spare at the end.  It wasn't wasted though, as I spent the time picking our tutor's brain with all my many sewing queries, playing with the fancy stitches on the machines (we're using a Singer Confidence which is a great machine to play with) and even learning how to sew a button hole!  Ooo, fancy!

This is my cushion front.  I love the flower power material, which I think was an old duvet cover.  I embellished it with a denim style ribbon which matches the back.  I wanted the ribbon over the the left a bit more but it didn't quite work out that way!

This is the back, which is made of an off-cut of lightweight denim,  The yellow insert with the buttons is made from a recycled man's shirt - ingenious!  I love the fact that the class encourages recycling and upcycling.

This week's project was quite timely as we're in the middle of decorating our living room and this will be the first cushion to proudly adorn our new sofas when they arrive next week!

I was such a keen little sewing bunny after my cushion success that I did some more sewing at home today and produced this little wonder(!).  

Oh, you say you can spot the deliberate mistake? No, silly, owls are meant to hang upside down like bats, right?  Oh.  Well it holds my spare carrier bags just fine and seeing as it's going to take pride of place hanging in the garage this time I will save my blushes...

Tomorrow was going to be pyjama bottom making but, frustratingly, I'm about two inches short of the fabric I need so that will have to wait.  I'm sure I will find something to make though - I'm becoming an addict!

Monday, 23 September 2013

My First Class

Last week was a busy one in the Oh Sew Quiet house!  Between decorating our lounge/diner (everything is upside down, everywhere), the boiler going on the blink, dropping and smashing my iPhone to smithereens (sob!) and you know, working and stuff, I managed to get to my first sewing class.

First, a quick run down of the class.  There were five of us in total - me and three other women around the same age-ish (Iate 20s to mid 30s I'd guess - hope that wouldn't horribly offend any of them!)  and a more mature lady.  Everyone was very friendly which made it relaxed and enjoyable.  Most of us had done some basic tinkering on a sewing machine, some a little more than others I think, but the pace and level seemed to cater for us all, thanks to our very knowledgable and pleasant tutor.

During the first week we were making reversible tote bags with a patch pocket.  The tutor took us all the way through the process from choosing and cutting our fabrics to sewing on the final button.  She found a nice balance between standing back and giving us the confidence to get on with the task and then stepping in and lending a helping hand when we needed (as she needed to for me, several times!).  The class was two and a half hours between arriving and introducing ourselves to each other over cups of tea to stepping out the door to go home.  So, without further ado, this is what I managed to make in that time.

I think its failings are fairly self evident!  A bit on the wonky side ("rustic", I tell you), and the ribbon loop is too long to go over the button properly.  I think I'll probably snip and put a stitch in that to shorten it.  The main reason for the wonk is that I made the inner lining of the bag a little larger than the outer, so when they were sewn together the outer puckered and skewed. The tutor helped me rescue it by putting a clever little fold/dart in the front under the button that you can't really see in this picture. resembles and functions as a bag! 

I decided to make another bag at the weekend, partly to reinforce the methodology in my mind (which sides to sew together when putting the inner and outer pieces together, how to get the handles in properly etc) and partly to try to better it at a second attempt with more time.  I wouldn't say the class is rushed but I did feel a little pressured to get the bag finished in the last 45 minutes so I think I could have done better.  That's about me though, not the class - I put pressure on myself.

So, second time round and this was the result.

Again, it's a little hard to see the detail in the picture (must work on that).  This time things went better, but I did take my time doing it on a Sunday afternoon whist half watching Take The Lead.  Lessons learned this time was that the material was too flimsy for the size and shape of the bag (I wanted to make a squarer bag but one this size would need a sturdier fabric).  And again, I didn't get the button/ribbon loop spot on.  The actual sewing part was fine though and I got the seams quite straight (despite the funny angle it sits at in the picture!).  I love the little owls!  The pocket and straps were made from an old dress that I no longer wore.

I know most sewing bloggers create and present things that are much better and more sophisticated than this but I am ok with it.  I am new to all of this and I see each error as a lesson learned and a skill practised.  I'm enjoying the learning process and I'm really pleased that I enrolled in the class.  This week we're working on embellished cushions so I'll post about my creation afterwards!

Monday, 16 September 2013

So What's With the Quiet?

When I was trying to think of a name for this blog I played with a few "Oh Sew..." variants, many of which were already taken.   Then "Oh Sew Quiet" popped into my head and I suddenly realised it was perfect and wondered why I hadn't thought of it before.  I thought I would explain further.

If a total stranger (i.e. you!) asked someone close to me to describe me I'm not sure they would necessarily say "introvert".  I think that often, when someone thinks of what an introvert looks like they might say "shy" or "quiet".  I identify as an introvert but I'm not really either of those things.  I can talk to strangers pretty easily, I like people and I'm not too shabby when asked to make a presentation at work.  However, I still think of myself as an introvert. 

One of the main characteristics that aligns me with the world of introverts is what tires me and what energises me.  I'll be honest, I'm not at all keen on parties or big group gatherings.  Even though I'm getting on a bit (30+!) it's not an age thing - I've been this way forever.  When I was younger, and especially when I was at university, I felt like I *should* love going to parties and hanging out with tons of people.  I felt bad that in actual fact that really did little for me and actually made me feel like I needed to retreat and recover.  What I have found, and accepted, over time is that I much prefer and value time spent with a few people at a time,  when I can actually share thoughts and ideas and connect on a more individual level.  I also value time to myself, even though I don't think of myself as "antisocial".

Another real challenge for me is noise.  Whether the noise be music, a cranked up TV or just a lot of background chatter, I often feel noise to be exhausting.  I mean genuinely, physically tiring.  I only realised this about myself in the last couple of years.  In the past I would feel that my shoulders were hunched and I was feeling tense and irritable without knowing why.  Now I realise -  turn off that damned radio or move to a quieter workspace, and instantly, as if by magic, I can feel ten times better.  It's like a world of stress has lifted from my shoulders.  Odd, huh?

My communication styles and preference also fit with an introverted personality type.  I find that I can express myself much more fluently in writing than in speech - both in English (my mother tongue) and in French (which I have studied to a fairly advanced level).

I used to beat myself up a bit for being the way I am.  However I now understand that I am not alone and, in fact, there is a greater understanding/appreciation around nowadays for introverts (this is one of my next reads).  I still think society at large is more geared towards accepting and rewarding extroverts.  That is perhaps another post for another day.

All of this is another reason, I think, why I am finding that I enjoy the calm and peace I feel when I am sewing.  Even when I am cursing because I have messed up again!  

So that's the story behind "Oh Sew Quiet".  And besides, it's a funky song, even for an introvert  ;-)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Starting Out With A Skirt

I start my short sewing course next week and, although it is aimed at beginners, I wanted to feel prepared and not look like the class dunce!  So I found some time this week to crack out the sewing machine and have my first real attempt at making something.  After a bit of deliberation I decided to start off with a simple, elasticated skirt.  

I watched a few YouTube videos and read a couple of blog posts that all featured a similarly constructed skirt.  In the end, because I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and underskilled, I decided to just go for it based on what I had watched and learned without following any one tutorial in particular.  I guess I worked most closely, though, to this video tutorial from Brett Bara from her book Sewing in a Straight Line

And, (*drum roll*) I managed to make this (*taadaa!*)

Although the end result is far from perfect, it is definitely passable and overall I feel quite pleased with my first project.  I was chuffed that I managed to get the hem and tunnel for the elastic (there's probably a proper word for that!) quite straight.  I did make a booboo and sew in the elastic before doing the vertical edge of the skirt meaning that I had to sew over the elastic to finish, but it hasn't affected the way it looks or wears.  

I picked the wrong time of year to make such a summery skirt though, and as I look out of the window at the pouring rain and dark skies I think it may have to go into the wardrobe until next spring!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


I have a feeling that Pinterest is going to ruin my life.  I can foresee a time soon when I forget to eat or go to work so entranced I will be by the MANY. PRETTY. PINS.  

Since I spend so much time drooling on the site I have decided that I need to make a most loved list of objects that I could start on for my beginner projects.  So far I am tempted by this lovely "Fall Leaf Pillow" cushion by Amy of Positively Splendid on Tatertots and Jello.

I've also got a simple elasticated skirt on my list.  Now I just need the time and courage to give it a bash.  Oh, and the internet to go down so I stop Pinteresting and start stitching!

Has anyone else got a list of "to sews" as long as the proverbial fabric roll to start for Autumn?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

On Being a Worrier and Finding Flow

It's come to something when I can actually spend time worrying about what a worrier I am.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have chronic anxiety and I don't spend my every minute pondering the nitty gritty of every day life - I don't sweat the small stuff.  But I have noticed that when my mind is idle or I am doing something passive and undemanding (i.e. most of my usual leisure activities), my mind wanders of its own accord into those grim rooms where I keep the things that worry me - the bigger stuff.  And before I even realise I'm gritting my teeth, hunching my shoulders and adding more unnecessary grey hairs to my prematurely silver-highlighted head.

There are some activities that combat this unhealthy habit to some extent - reading would be one.  But even then, unless I am absolutely engrossed in a novel or article, I still often get to the end of the page and realise I've gone off into my own little world and not taken in a word of what I've seemingly read.  

So it was quite a surprise when I picked up a needle and some thread sometime in late 2012, having found some little cross stitch sets in Hobbycraft and decided to have a play, that I realised I could sew away for quite some time, thinking of precisely nothing much and lose myself in the simplicity of the stitching.  I think, to some extent, I found flow.

Flow, to the uninitiated, is a concept born of a Hungarian chap named  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, and describes that state where you are 'in the zone', when you lose yourself in an activity and lose track of time.  I'm not sure I feel the kind of rapturous joy that is sometimes associated with the state of flow, but I can switch off the little voices in my head, zone out and give my poor, ground down teeth a rest.

I've not done much sewing since my little discovery.  I finished the cross stitch sets, made a few little felt Christmas decorations and was given a lovely, purple sewing machine as a gift.  However I've found that I often lack the confidence to just 'have a go' and I'm the type of person who learns best by being shown practical things by someone in person.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I am starting a short course in sewing in a couple of weeks time.  My dentist and I can't wait!

I'd love to hear what brings other people flow.