My grandmother was a second mom to me, and since she was quite the seamstress, I grew up around sewing machines. I knew the basics of how to start and stop. I’d seen her cut out countless patterns over my lifetime. I even know how to go look up a pattern and then pull it from the drawer (by taking a big, long, sniff of the drawer. I love sniffing books, but there’s nothing quite like a pattern drawer. Mmmm). I’d even sewed Margie a dress when she was about 18 months old. But my sewing machine had started missing stitches and I didn’t have the money for a tuneup so I let it gather dust in my closet.
And at some point I lost my confidence. I think it might have something to do with knitting. As I got more experienced in that skill, I saw how much work it took to learn new things and to be good at them. It was overwhelming to have to start at the beginning again (essentially) with a different craft.
And then I inherited like four more sewing machines.
So, with a newly tuned up old machine, I decided I’d try my hand at making Elliott’s Halloween costume. He wanted to be a Weeping Angel and at first I was all OH HELL NO, because I’d seen this tutorial and got really insecure. But I took a deep breath and realized it was quite simple, actually. A kid’s Halloween costume doesn’t have to be as complex as an adult cosplayer’s. (And if he chooses to wear this at Gallifrey One next winter, I’m adding a sign that says it’s the first thing I ever sewed. Then it will look AMAZING in context.)
So anyway. I asked on Facebook for ideas in making the costume. I thought I’d buy a pattern for a simple dress, but my friend Mariah (who makes delicious allergy friendly candy) was all, “Nah, for a tunic you don’t need a pattern.” So I started doing that thing where I think I know what I’m doing when I really don’t. Just to be responsible, I did look for a pattern at JoAnn’s, but they didn’t have anything in Elliott’s size. Basically, it’s like JoAnn’s was egging me on.
I did not take in-process shots because I didn’t want step-by-step close-up shots of my failures. But here’s what I did. I looked up tunic how-to’s and followed this one. Sort of. I decided I didn’t like they way they folded it. I did some sort of crazy math in my head and decided they were wrong, so I folded it the other way. Long way first. I think. Luckily for me, this isn’t a tutorial. It’s just a blog post. FOLLOW ME NOT, INTERWEBZ.
I grabbed one of the t-shirts Elliott wears for pajamas and folded it, laid it on the folded fabric and lightly traced an outline for the dress. I made it even bigger than necessary because I knew I’d want it drapey and loose. I did not trace the sleeves. Weeping Angels just say no to sleeves. The better to grab you and send you back in time to let you live to death. Or something.
And then I got ready to sew.
So I fixed a broken needle.
And I threaded the machine.
And I tried to load the bobbin, but nothing happened.
When you inherit a machine that’s 30 years old, it usually doesn’t come with the manual. Luckily for you, the Internet has your back and has it loaded somewhere online. In fact, that’s how you learned to change the broken needle and thread the machine. But it was entirely unhelpful when you couldn’t figure out why nothing was happening when you followed the directions to load the bobbin. So you call your aunt (the machine belonged to her mother, after all, it’s her responsibility) and she comes over and adds some WD-40 and BOOM. Bobbin loaded. You are quite pleased with yourself, even though it was technically your aunt that fixed it.
And then I sewed it. And you know what? It WORKED. I even made some of the seam look relatively straightish. If you just look at this small section.
This is the sort of thing that makes me cocky. I have essentially no sewing experience but I decide to just make up a pattern one day and it works just fine. Next thing you know, I’m going to think I can sew an orca and it will take me YEARS.
My plan for the hat was similar. In that I had no plan. I also did not have a child at home that weekend to try the hat on so I had to guess. Luckily my kids have big heads and mine is small. So we pretty much have the same size head. I cast on and knit a couple of rows 1×1 ribbing so it wouldn’t roll, and then I switched to knitting two rows, followed by purling one row. I made sure to make a line of purl stitches going up the front to act as a part in the hair. Once the hat was complete, I took the rest of the yarn and braided it, sewed the braid into a bun and stitched it onto the back of the hat. BOOM. Hat-wig-thing.
The wings were a little harder in theory because I wasn’t sure where to start. For one thing when we cleaned out my mom’s house last year, I threw away all the wire hangers. So I looked for wings that had the right general shape, but was mostly not finding anything remotely Weeping Angelish. Until I went to Michael’s for felt. They had a pair of perfectly-shaped angel wings ON CLEARANCE. Because The Universe was trying to be a sewing enabler by making this project easy.
So I bought them and all the gray felt that was on the shelf. I cut the shelf to the shape of the wings and used my cordless cold heat glue gun (they DO exist!) to glue them on. That’s easier said than done. When you are gluing large things, the first glue dries before you get to put it all together. So I learned quickly to do it little by little. And then I spent the next several hours cutting out feathers. I even took some to knitting group to work on last week (we don’t discriminate against non-knitting projects). Only I forgot my big, sexy fabric scissors and it turns out that using little clippers to do serious cutting is quite painful on the knuckles. But what’s a little crafting without bone bruises? WIMP CRAFTING. That’s what.
And then we put it all together. No bad, actually. I took the kids to Balboa Park over the weekend and impressed a lot of people with the homemade costume. Yay me!
Next I think I’m going to go sew some pillow cases or, if I get ambitious, pajama pants.