Before we were married, Josh came to me with a pair of pants in hand. This was the beginning of a major moment for me and my ability to ‘woman’ the way I’d like to. The pants had a rip in the back pocket, and as a poor uni student he wasn’t wanting to shell out and buy a replacement pair. This encounter was relatively early on in our relationship, because if had Josh known me any better, he would’ve known that I didn’t really sew. Whenever I needed anything repaired or altered I’d gratefully send them off to my sister, who was happy to do it. This was not only because I couldn’t be bothered, but because my sewing skills were suuuuuuper basic. But, I put on my fake-it-’til-you-make-it face and said, “Sure thing, Hun!” He kept on in the kitchen making us dinner, and I headed into another room so I could work in ‘better lighting.’ I faked it like the best of them. I spent a good five minutes on the ever favourite ‘threading the cotton through the teeny tiny hole’ process. Ten minutes later, I came out to Josh proclaiming, “Our future children will be okay!” Treating the pants like they were a symbol of the success of how I would influence our future family, I showed Josh the slightly butchered repair job. “It’s a bit dodgy, but look, there’s no hole!” You would have thought I had just been handed a million dollars. Josh said something sweet about me being a future wife and mother and I called it a win… I have since dabbled once more into the art of sewing, making some book holders for church, but other than the old button repair, I’ve never made something I can actually wear. I decided it was time to make that happen and for more than ‘just do it’ reasons. I am on the tall side, and shopping can be a nightmare. Where a dress would normally sit at someone else’s knee, for me, is somewhere closer to Timbuktu. A major comfort crisis! I had also been working on a program at church called personal progress (watch this space – new blog coming later) which focused on personal development for young women in various areas. For one of my projects, I decided I would attempt to finally make something wearable. I’d been doing the program for nearly two years when I put my nike list together, and had still not made anything. So, to help with the reality of my procrastination, I added at number thirty… sew a skirt.
I was in year 8 the first time I touched a sewing machine. It was one of the topics in Design and Technology, and started with a pretty dodgy lesson. We each put our pedal to the medal and started hardcore sewing on a piece of paper. Our machines weren’t even threaded. We were literally just poking holes through paper. It was like an upgraded version of that craft activity from primary school where you pin-poke a pretty pattern onto black paper. Only we had been given the pattern. A straight line. So that we could practice sober sewing. *Face palm* Our teacher eventually decided that we were ready for the danger of sewing with actual thread, and set the task of making a pair of satin pyjama shorts.
I picked this super cute cartoon frog print and got to measuring and cutting and pinning. Now, the actual machine part. I felt pretty confident using the machine… all the paper practice, how couldn’t I be? *Sarcasm, I have a bit of a problem* The teacher showed us how to thread the machine, including the bobbin. Or did she? I kept threading and re-threading, and re-threading my re-threading, because every time I started sewing, the thread went a bit skewish, and generally WRONG! Here started my thorough dislike and fear of bobbins. Not-so-interesting-story shorter, my shorts ended up being way too small, with mega large leg holes. Like, how the even? Luckily, Charlotte was happy enough to get a free pair of shorts… despite the occurrence of indecent exposure anytime she sat cross-legged.
The first part of this new project was the fun part. PINTEREST! Do you know how many DIY skirt pins there are? More than you probably care to know about. The pictures were pretty, and the models looked so happy – so you know that means the skirt is good, right? And I was just pinning away… but then when I started looking at the tutorials I started to freak out. I’m talking bobbin flashbacks! So, I decided to call in a reinforcement. The tutorial I followed can be found here. But for your pleasurable reading, I’ve arranged an abridged and ‘realistic’ version of the tutorial.
STEP ONE – Make sure you have everything on the list, even if you don’t understand what you’re supposed to need.
I thought this would be the easy part. I rocked up to spotlight and there was material everywhere! Not even just lots of what I needed, but lots of different. I circled around bolts of fabric about forty five times, totally confused with what I was after. I knew I needed stiff kind of stuff, but it couldn’t be see through, and I could get away with a little stretchy, but not thaaat stretchy, and flannel – who even asked you? I must have been giving off a shoplifting vibe with all my confused walking because the lovely shop assistant only offered me her help three different times. How does one even shoplift a bolt of fabric? At that point I figured I should probably settle with the cute hedgehog fabric.
STEP TWO – Enlist a translator, but don’t be surprised if you are still confused.
Algebra, Shakespeare and sewing instructions should each be publicly recognized as a totally foreign language form. Charlotte tried to bridge the gap. We folded out the bit of fabric I bought and she started speaking foreign tongues about sewing this way or that way, and the width, and the belt, and pleats, and seam allowances. I was completely lost until we started ironing. That I knew about.
STEP THREE – Put on tunes to drown out the thoughts of confusion.
I spent the first hour trying to keep up with what was going on, but it was a little too overdrive for my brain, and I needed to mellow. So, I said ‘Hello’ to the tunes. I seriously think this really helped because the skirt started to look a little more like a skirt, and I felt like I actually understood what I was doing and what I needed to happen next. By this point, I was, in so many words – a sewing genius! Or, at least I felt like one.
STEP FOUR – Take the zipper and chuck it away!
SERIOUSLY THOUGH! Unless you’ve been training for the sew 1000, do not attempt to make a skirt with a zipper. Tutorial says zipper? Get a new one! Already bought a zipper because you think you’re up for the challenge? Well, get ready for some serious long stares, followed by deep confusion and problem solving thinks. Remember group work at any stage of education? Child’s play!
There’s a proper way to put in a zip, but if you want to know, don’t ask me. I used the Emily method. It starts out well meaning with something that actually looks like a proper zipper, but when you get to that bottom bit where the two ends of the zip meet, well get rid of the sewing machine and get your hand sewing on, otherwise you’ll end up unpicking the big mess you are sure to make. Not fun. And about those extension parts at the top of the zip that are supposed to be sewed down? Totally over the top and unnecessary work – just chop them off. I did.
STEP FIVE – Dance in success and exhaustion when you’re finished, and when you wear it, tell as many people as possible that you made it, because sewing is hard!
If a professional, or even semi-good seamstress/dressmaker took a look at my skirt they just might laugh, or at least point out the dodgy workmanship. But, I made that thing. It was a flat piece of fabric when I started, and through the magic of sewing (and Charlotte’s help), I turned it into an actual wearable thing! Fist pumps!
I have this other skirt that I bought at goodwill a few years ago. Whenever I wore it, I’d have a few people ask if I made it, to which I would take mild offence. Did the skirt look like an obvious ‘home job’? I have since changed my tune.
You see me wearing this bad boy, and I dare you to ask if I’m made it. I spent a mass of hours trying to get it to work and properly prevent indecent exposure, so you bet you buck I’ll be admitting to putting it together. It’s no *insert fancy type of clothing here* but it is mine. Did I mention that I made it?
Now, I’m none the wiser to the reoccurring ‘life lessons’ and inspiring take-aways that have been creeping out of my posts of late. The first time or two it kind of happened accidentally, but the rest have been pretty intentional – and that is all because life is AMAZING! Originally, I figured that this blog would just be me sharing about a cool list of experiences that I’d had, but I’ve been finding, again and again, that life has this ridiculous amount of lessons to teach me. And, I get so gosh darn excited about them, that I just have to share them! So yeah, here I am, calling out my awareness of this great blessing, and now directing you to the ‘life lessony’ portion of the post.
I’m not yet sold on the whole make-all-your-own-clothes-instead-of-buying-them thing because FYI, material is expensive. Can I get a ‘right on’ from all my sewing able people? But, I can assure you there will be a next time. “Why?” asks the imaginary mass of readers inside my head. Oh, I’ll tell you why, imaginary readers (and my actual readers). It’s all based on what I got out of the experience.
There’s this guy called John Bytheway – yes, his real name – and he gives this talk that I love! I’ve listened to it at least 5 times, and every time I just want to get up and start doing something good. It’s called, “Turn off the TV, and get a life.” He talks about really analysing the way you spend your time, and evaluating the return that you get on the time you invest in doing something.
Let’s take my skirt for example… from the pinteresting to the blogging, the whole process has taken me 10 plus hours. In the end, I got a skirt, an opportunity to do something I find challenging and achieve at it, time spent with my sister, and the humbling chance to value her strengths and abilities, and feel grateful that our differences can bring us together. Kind of beautiful, right?
Let’s say I had swapped out those 10 plus hours of skirt work for watching TV. What exactly would I have to show for it? I’d probably have a nice bit of chill time, but after my chilling quota was full, what more would I get? A laugh? A joke that I can tell later on? I’m not condemning TV/movie watching – I love it – but in that kind of excess (hello my teenage years) you really don’t get much of a return. I am all for recreation and things that are self-care focused. Believe me, that’s been the past 5 months of my life and I’m loving it! And for a time, watching something was that ‘self-care’ thing for me. It gave me the unwind chill moment that I needed to recharge. But, I’ve been learning that there are other things that I can put in my world that not only fill the chill quota, but offer me extra in return. And I think that’s so important for how we feel and think about time. Not just in relaxation, but in all time we use. We talk about time as if it were money.
“How’d you spend your time?” “I’m happy to invest the time for it.” “I would’ve, but I ran out of time.”
But, how often do we worry much about the value of our time purchase, or the return on our time investment, and how often do we wisely ‘budget’ out our time? Time is this seemingly infinite gift that we are blessed with (until we die, of course). Each of us is given the same 24 hours of time every day, and maybe that’s why we become so careless with it. We don’t have to work for it like we do money, and if we run out of time today, there’ll be a new installment tomorrow. This may be true in a sense, but what we fail to realise is that so often we are experiencing less than time has to offer us. If you were to run a ‘health check,’ what would your ‘time statement’ say about how you’re managing it?
I am so not perfect with time. Often how I’d like to spend my time, and the reality of how I spend my time are two different things. But I’m learning. I’m stepping up and trying to take control of how I spend and invest my time. And if that means another 10 plus hours making another skirt that people so obviously recognise is home-made, because I can see a pretty awesome return on that time investment, then I’m actually, really, okay with that.