Sunday, March 25, 2012

First project!

Okay, so I finally got down to doing some proper sewing today...and what a learning curve it's turning out to be. I didn't want to start on anything big or overly ambitious so I decided to make cover for my mobile phone.
It's a rectangular block; how hard can it be, right?
I already had some idea of the type of cover - a pouch/bag that can be tightened at the top with a drawstring - I wanted. The sketch was easy were the measurements - or so I thought.

Sewing the edge of the fabric so that it wouldn't fray turned out to be a challenge in itself
First of all, I had no idea of how much space I should leave at the edge - a seam allowance - for doing reinforcement stitches (or something similar to prevent the fabric from fraying. My "go to" book of the moment, the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook, talked about how it generally gives a seam allowance of 1.5cm, which is geared towards beginners. I thought, great, that's me so I'll just add 1.5cm on either side of the fabric for my mobile phone pouch.

It started reminding me of Goldilocks - one was too long, one too big and one too small (the white was a prototype to get a rough idea of how I would sew the pouch)
I had made a rough prototype out of some old T-shirt material awhile ago to get an idea of how I would go about sewing the pouch. After cutting, pressing and sewing the first one, I realised that I had doubled the length I needed. The second time round, I had given too much space for seam allowance. On the third try, I made the seam allowance smaller but, as the material is cotton and non-stretchy, it was too small for the phone (if it had been a stretchable material, it would have been just right).

I was close to giving up when I decided to try again with different measurements. I pressed the cloth and cut it as carefully as I could and sewed the sides and corners in the order they were supposed to be sewed and finally came up with this one.

Do we have a winner, yet?
It's a double-layer (I just cut twice the width I wanted and sewed it along the length to double its thickness) mobile phone pouch - not as sturdy as one made with a heavier cloth but definitely better than sewing a single layer as the first three were.

Close-up of the type of stitch I used for the edging
It's not a perfect edge and it's far from a perfect finished product but I'm relatively satisfied with this first attempt of something I could actually use. I didn't have anything to use as a drawstring so I twist a bit of the scrap material, pressed it and strung it through the top loops and voila, a drawstring pouch for my phone!

A new home for my phone
In the end the measurements which provided the best fit were 9cm wide and 33cm long (folded in half so the bottom is seamless and there is a 2cm allowance for the top loop). It's a slightly roomy fit but 8.5cm would be too snug for this type of material. It took me the better part of this morning and some of the afternoon to make this and it was pretty good, despite the mistakes. Think I might make another in a different pattern to see how it would turn out.

And it starts...

Setting up shop (metaphorically speaking, of course)

It's been about month since I got myself my lovely sewing machine. After trying out a few stitches on some old T-shirts that were going to be thrown out anyway (and getting a bit of T-shirt scrap so horribly tangled that the machine ate it and I had to call my husband to help me figure out a way to get the material out), the machine pretty much stayed mostly untouched on its temporary perch at the end of the dining table.

Until now...
My little sewing corner currently consists of a desk, a swivel chair with wheels, a couple of magazine holders for my sewing books and a paper bag holding cloth I bought from Jakel in Masjid India

I finally got round to visiting Ikea to get myself a table and chair to set up a proper workspace a few days ago and managed to put them together yesterday. And this morning I finally got a chance to work on a small project at a sewing designated area. The table and chair came up to just under RM500 but the satisfaction of having this area is priceless.

The view I have from my sewing corner - my mum-in-law has her plants at the front and the TV can keep me company if i need a break from sewing

It's fantastic to have a proper area to work on my sewing - the first chapter in the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook discusses setting up a sewing space. Though there are some lovely ideas I'd love to incorporate later on, a good table and chair are all I need now.

I found the drawers to be handy for keeping small items and supplies. The desk is also long enough to hold my books and a couple of old T-shirts I use for practising stitches.
I'm thinking of getting a transparent box or something for cloth - one for the new uncut ones and another smaller one for scraps of material that might come in useful for future projects.

While working on my first project (which I will get to in a bit), I still ended up using the dining table and the floor as surfaces to cut my fabric and running to my room to press it in the process of sewing. Ah well, this is just the beginning, after all. Details can be ironed out as I go along.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My new toy

Alrighty, so I've hit the online blogs and sites on sewing, joined a sewing group on Facebook (where I was promptly intimidated by how advanced the other members were and kept mum) and bought a few books on sewing.

You can guess what my next step was ... my first ever sewing machine - the INNOV-IS 30 by Brother (also known as the NV30)!

My precioussss...
I'm really excited about this one. I bought this baby at LSN, a sewing machine company I had heard of from the sewing group. The shop offers classes too, but it will sms me when the next one comes up. I was so excited about getting the machine I completely forgot to get a picture of a shop itself (which, ironically, I had reminded myself to do just before I got out of the car!).

I had initially thought of getting the simpler, XL-2630 (it's a mechanical one that can do 57 stitches) but the shop did not have stock of this (and I was really keen on getting a machine today). The shop assistant showed me the next step up, the electronic range of Brother sewing machines - NV10, NV30 and NV50.

I was not too keen on the NV10 as it has fewer stitches than the mechanical one so I went with the NV30 (which can do 70 stitches, including single-step button holes and special stitches!) after a demonstration. At RM1,299, it's RM500 pricier than the one I was intending to get but it's so worth it - I finally have a sewing machine!

Okay, on to the great unveiling:

Stitch guide, power cable, foot pedal, instruction manual, quick reference sheet and hard carrying case
The shop assistant had told me there was an instructional DVD included with the instruction manual but there isn't. I checked the Brother website and the manual - no mention of such a disc so I'm not concerned about its absence. That's what YouTube and reference materials (thankfully the manual also provides some good details).

Seven types of feet, a seam ripper, clear plastic bobbins, a needle set, twin needles, and other bits
The lovely little bits that come with the machine - all the feet I would need for the stitches this machine can do are included, along with a bunch of other things. Altogether, it looks like everything directly related to the machine is included. 
Such a thing of beauty, can't wait to test this out

Now all I need is thread, some material (to practise on and then to start doing a project on) and a project to work on. Oh yes, because the machine is now sitting on one end of the dining table, a proper table for sewing would be on my shopping list in the near future.

Useful reading material

 As excited as I am about my new venture, I hate jumping into anything without first some research - and something as foreign to me as sewing calls for some MAJOR studying.

Googling "sewing", or something along those lines, yields results that number in the millions - pretty daunting. I figured that the good old book is still the best for trying to learn the basics, and as easy references. I think there are still some pretty good sites out there that deal with sewing (but will leave that for another post).

The following are what I have collected in my first few trips to the bookshops (MPH in Bangsar Village, Borders in Bangsar Village and Kinokuniya). Of course, as this is just the beginning, I have not read the books in full and am reading bits and pieces from all of them at the same time. My comments below are my initial thoughts of these references:
MPH, Bangsar Village
This was the first book I picked up because the it provides pretty good information on things related to the sewing machine, such as parts of the sewing machine, which types of needles that are suitable for which fabrics and the types of feet you should use for various stitches (includes loads of colour photographs - which I love - demonstrating how to do the stitches, too).
Borders, Bangsar Village
I had picked this book up without realising that Simplicity is actually a big company dealing with all things related to sewing, from patterns for clothes to materials, etc. I like this one because it provides a pretty comprehensive list of things a newbie needs (or might want) and provides helpful diagrams of how to take proper measurements and cutting patterns, for instance. It also has handy tabs for flipping to a particular topic quickly.
I had actually heard of BurdaStyle from a friend who is sewing enthusiast. This book goes into the process of making a dress (or top, skirt, jacket, etc) from reading the pattern to cutting it, testing it and sewing it. It also provides several projects that the reader can try out (and some patterns in a neat pocket at the back of the book). Altogether, this looks promising, though I'll only be able to gauge how easy it is to follow the instructions after I actually start sewing.
While The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible, which I bought first, is good for learning about the different extras I can use for creating different stitches, The Sewing Machine Classroom is fantastic for getting to know the actual sewing machine. It, again, has lots of lovely colour photographs and instructions that show things such as types of threads and needles, among others.
MPH, Bangsar Village
My latest acquisition: not as many colourful pictures in this one; but there are lots of snippets of advice from people who sew that cover topics from sewing gear and setting up a sewing room to sewing, fitting and finishing. I like the fact that the tips are organised in short, clear paragraphs - it makes for quick and easy reading.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Step 1: New beginnings

Books to get started.
Okay, so I decided to take up sewing, which is what brings me here. As this is a new project I'm embarking on, I hope to chart my progress via this blog. 

I figure I will kill a few birds with one stone this way. I will (ideally): 1) get to write what I want (which is different from the writing I do for work); 2) get to practise photography (and finally learn how to use the Nikon DSLR camera I bought from a friend a year ago); and 3) stay committed to this new hobby (my current sewing skills are limited to some light alteration work - i.e. fixing a tear in my pants or something like that).

A little on where I'm coming from: I neither liked nor saw the value in sewing as a kid. I hated Home Ec because of the sewing component in the syllabus. The only exception was when I did a tie-dye project for school (I didn't mind sewing then because it was related to art, which I loved). 

In the past few years, though, my perspective on sewing changed. I met people who not only like sewing but do wonders with it - homemade bags, cloth toys and dolls, and individual pieces of clothing. I have admired and "ooh"-ed and "aah"-ed over what these ladies can do but did not think much about doing anything myself.

But the notion to take it up happened somewhere along the way (the fact that I can no longer find clothes of my liking in my size and at a price I'm happy with also helped with this decision) and recently, it's all I can really think about. So I decided to do something about it.

I'm part of a closed sewing group (although at this point I'm still a silent member as I haven't got anything to contribute to the discussions), have started looking things up online and have invested in a few sewing books and am deciding on a sewing machine to get to start my sewing adventures.

Ooh, this is going to be fun.