Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sewing With Rosebud in Novi, MI

One of the main attractions for me at the American Sewing Expo, in Novi, MI, last month was the chance to take a daylong course entitled "Easy Blouses," taught by the force of nature known as Rosebud. I took a lot of photos of garment pieces. Good heavens, why didn't I get a better picture of her? I think it's because I found it hard to simultaneously document and participate in this highly informative, hands-on session of sewing, in which we were introduced to some of the sewing methods and practices commonly used in a garment workroom. It was an intense day with an uncommon teacher!

Rosebud, a veteran of production sewing, is an educator for Islander Sewing Systems. Our garment was the Islander "City Western Blouse," which we had to have cut, marked, and interfaced before we arrived in Novi. When I prepped my garment pieces, I noted we would be abandoning the usual 5/8" seam allowance that is the standard in typical home sewing patterns. For this project, many of our seam allowances were 3/8", others were even 1/4", and only the side seams (which were flat-felled) were 5/8'. There's no trimming and grading seams in a shop, of course, and no hot pressing or steaming anything.

Oh yeah, no pins, either, of course. Many of our practices in our sewing rooms at home just slow down a production sewist, or "operator." Think of it as the difference between someone who wrenches on his own vehicle at home, and someone who puts cars together in a factory. The process is so different, and so are the results, not to mention the motivations.

"Thumb on the bottom, fingers on top," Rosebud reminded us frequently. If there's anything an average home sewer can incorporate into her habits, it's that. Keeping your hands in this position as the machine grabs the work and pulls it in is one of the hallmarks of faster sewing, and it saves you from getting all kinds of hand problems and pains. Here's how: Hold the work just like the photo above. Sew until your fingers get close to the presser foot and you can't see what you're doing. Stop sewing for a second and re-grasp and reposition the work, and repeat the process until you've completed the seam. This is really different from putting in pieces that are pinned together and sort of "feeding" the machine with fabric — which is certainly my own tendency.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Standoff

Last week I attended some of the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI. I had a wonderful couple days in workshops before a foot fracture prompted my early exit.

But what I'd like to ponder for a moment is, the standoff in the home sewing world these days. On the one hand, we have the grey ladies of sewing. We know them by their unstyled hair, sensible shoes, and machine-embroidered sweatshirt ("Meow," it says, right under the cat's head). As they trudge away from the sewing show, laden down with enough fabric, patterns, and sewing supplies to warrant a sherpa, I can't help wondering where all those nice things will disappear. Not into well-made, well-fitting garments for themselves, I'm pretty sure.

Contrast this against the smaller-in-number-but-loud-n-proud, D.I.Y. fashionistas. They may or may not have had a grey lady in their lives to inspire and teach them, but they gravitate toward tutorials and products that proclaim, "This ain't your grandma's sewing! [quilting][knitting][embroidery][whatever]." They may "have the patience" to learn to sew from a printed pattern, but often, not. The tattoo budget has been tapped out, leaving no funds for good fashion fabric, it seems. They sometimes lack basic skills, such as turning a hem. Learning these things would inhibit creativity, they protest.

I'm not always inclined to find a middle ground. I like to commit to a side. But in this case, I really think there's so much to be gained from each woman learning from each other. I'd like to see more grey ladies taking care of themselves and sewing things they feel great wearing. I'd like to see more fashionistas taking their craft more seriously by devoting more time to learning its basics, and forgoing the fabric from the $1.99 table. I think we can all help each other, if we can only get past our judgments. I would love to know what that feels like. As a first step, I'm not even going to post any pictures.