Saturday, April 11, 2009

To sew or not to sew...

My first sewing project was a pink stuffed animal pig when I was 5 years old. My grandma taught me to sew and my mom continued to encourage my skills by letting me use her sewing machine on projects ranging from Barbie clothes, pillow covers, to clothes for myself.

I want to pass on a love for sewing to my girls. After all, it is a valuable skill to have. You can save money by hemming your own pants or making your own decorator items. One thing that is not usually cost effective to sew is clothing. Ready-made clothes are inexpensive and nicely made. The time and the effort it takes to sew something just isn't worth it any more.

Enter Emma and her huge desire to sew a dress: I was at the fabric store with Emma and she insisted she pick out her own fabric (I'll use the correct pronunciation here to save us all a little embarassment). She wanted princess dress that danced. I was all set to tell her "no" because I really didn't have any desire to start teaching her the valuable skill of sewing quite yet. A lady overheard me telling Emma that the fabric she chose was not on sale. The kind lady handed me a 50% off coupon and my only argument was blown out of the water. A zipper, thread, "easy-sew" pattern, and $10 later, we left the store with Emma bouncing to and fro with joy.

If you have never sewn anything with a pattern, it isn't too hard. It is like following the recipe. My skills were a little rusty, but it came back to me as Emma and I roughly cut out the pattern pieces we needed for design A.

Hello pretty new rug. The rug has nothing to do with this post, but saying hello to it will save dedicating an entire post to the new rug.

Then we laid the pattern pieces on the fabric and I took some measurements of Emma to decide which size to make. It brought back so many happy memories as I remember clearly being the little girl being measured for a new dress. Those memories put a smile on my face as I showed Emma how to pin the pattern to the fabric.

At this point I should have realizes that the fabric had an "up" and a "down." It wasn't until the dress was completely cut out that I noticed that our swoops and hearts were upside down on the bodice and sleeves of the dress. Does anyone care? I don't.

One thing my mom taught me to do was to cut underneath the pattern piece. You can see in the picture that we could use it later for a bigger size. This pattern goes from size 3 to 8. If I want to make this pattern again, I just follow the lines and cut the fabric only. Otherwise, this pattern would only be good for a size 5 or smaller for next time.

Saving the pattern pieces for another dress made me feel really wise and frugal... and just like my mom.

Emma tried her hand at the sewing machine, but she is still a little young to control the fabric, keep her fingers free from the needle, and run the peddle. She really enjoyed watching me though. I was impressed with how she stuck with the project, showing appropriate glee with each finished seam. I kinda liked having a cheering section.

After I finished the bodice of the dress, she was disappointed because she said she wanted a dress, not a shirt. She went and got the pattern envelope and studied the picture for a long time. I showed her the seam and it began to make sense. Sewing the skirt to the bodice was the most exciting part. For awhile Emma sat beside me with her face 2 inches from the machine and Mandy sat on my lap. Crazy, but I had a lot of fun.

It took all morning to sew the dress with another hour during nap time for the sleeves and the hem-- about 4 hours total. Emma got up from her nap and was thrilled with the finished project. She immediately tried it on and asked me to take pictures of her.

Thankfully the dress danced around in the sunshine just fine. Emma insisted she was a "butaful" princess. I agree.

Although this pattern said it was "easy-sew," I have to disagree. It had been a zillion years since I had attempted a set in sleeve and I found this part pretty challenging. Easy would be no zipper and no sleeves. These sleeves were really intricate. They are pretty cute though. 

I was just at Costco and saw their beautiful, little girl, spring dresses are just $12. They are far fancier than the one Emma and I made with lots more ruffles and ribbons. Sigh. Emma had such a good time with the project that it makes it worth it this time, but it might be awhile before I am easily swayed away from ready-made dresses again. 

What about you, would you attempt to sew something you could easily buy at the store for the same price?


Andee said...

I'll by the clothes thank you very much and save the sewing for when I'm desperate for draperies. I have boys anyway. It's not very cost effective to sew jeans and t-shirts.

Melanie said...

I agree - sewing clothes is just not worth it! Emma's excitement, though, might make it worth it!

Cathy said...

I agree with you...buying a dress, especially on sale is so worth it. But, like you've said, the wonderful memories that you have created not only for Emma (and Mandy), but for you too! Awe! Nope, can't put a price tag on that! The dress is really, really cute, by the way and Emma looks to proud of it. Good job, mamma!

Cathy said...

How did you do that top picture, by the way?

Annie said...

Beautiful pictures! I have attempted to learn how to sew. A couple of years ago I tried to sew a skirt, my mom showed me how to follow the pattern. After hours of confusion we finally found out that the pattern was wrong! I gave up and haven't tried again. I leave it to the experts. The most complicated thing I have ever sewed was some cloth napkins. I love the picture of Emma twirling. I'm going to show it to Paul and see if he can do something similar with Eli.

Lisa said...

The dress is adorable! I think I may have begged my mom to buy dress patterns and fabric for me when I was a little girl. I love the picture of Emma twirling. Whenever I tried on a dress, the deciding factor was whether or not it twirled. I'm impressed that Emma stuck through the whole process.

Sara said...

I don't know how to sew at all (did a few projects when I was kid...but I've long forgotten all I learned). When my pants need hemming, I take them to my mom. If I did know how to sew, I don't think I could ever see myself taking the time to sew something that I could buy for the same price at the store (but I think you sacrficing your time to work with Emma on her first sewing project is awesome!). And although you and your sister both mentioned sewing draperies, I have yet to find a fabric I like at Joann's (even with a coupon) that would be cheaper than buying curtains on sale at a store. To me, sewing just doesn't seem to be a very good way to save money anymore.

Lindsay said...

I think it's an awesome thing to teach a little girl. My mom didn't know how to sew, and I was always so interested in learning so I pretty much learned on "my own" as a middle schooler. I think the experience of teaching Emma and doing something together is so worth it. Especially since it seems to really interest her.

I also commend you for your patience. I still struggle with patterns and I can't imagine doing it with a 4 year old right now! Way to go!

Choco Girl said...

Good job! And I love that fast snap picture of her dancing! Precious! I still have a cut out pattern for the dress that I wanted to make still in my closet. I was suppose to make it with my mother. It's been, uh, over five years I think! Pitiful!

Anonymous said...

Clothing-no. Decorating items, probably yes. I sewed myself a dress a few years ago ($12), but should have just gone to Ross--it would have been faster and the results would have been more pleasant. :) Kelsey