Intentional Sewing

Intentional sewing means that each garment I make has been chosen and constructed with much thought and care. It means that it is needed, already has a place in my capsule wardrobe and therefore is deserving of precious closet space. It is a good design, made from quality fabrics and notions and sewn to fit me perfectly. Throughout the life of the garment it will be cared for and respected and I will be grateful to have it. Too deep? Is it? Think about it. From a financial standpoint, it’s not always cheaper to sew your own clothing (but perfect style and fit is priceless, of course) and you will spend many hours choosing the pattern, altering it to fit your body, finding and preparing the fabric, and finally sewing up the garment. It will be a labor of love and intense satisfaction. Why should it be done haphazardly or with any materials that don’t make your heart sing? Why should we ever sew with anything less than great intention?

Making becomes more and more satisfying as you improve your skills.  Add to your bag of tricks as you are ready to progress.  I offer sewing for adults from beginning to fine-tuning with sergers and pattern fittingOpen sewing sessions introduce you to new perspective and a community of sewing friends.

Saying goodbye to something you still love

I recently sold my vintage 1970’s Pfaff 1222 sewing machine. Some of you are gasping in horror right now. Is she crazy, you muse? That is a classic machine. Yes, it is. I found her in a pawn shop in 1988. She had a cracked cam stack and needed repair. The fine tech at Montavilla Sewing Center in Portland, Oregon fixed her up good as new and she became one of the most fabulous tools I’ve ever used. Such a lovely, straight-forward sewing machine. Clean, simple, even industrial lines. The system to store all the parts inside the case by using a reversible tray beneath the free arm was a creative marvel. The clicky, snappy accessories compartments in the case top-Yum! Ahhhh, happy to just think about it. So, why did I sell the machine? Because I wasn’t using it and I hadn’t for some time. A few years back I was in the middle of a big sewing project and it broke. I ran it into the shop and was quoted $300 to get it fixed. I needed another machine right then so I asked the salesperson to recommend a new one that would be of equal quality. Enter the Pfaff 2029. I bought the floor model on the spot and left the 1222 with the tech for repairs. He called a week later with the good news that he was able to do the repairs for $99. I retrieved my machine and set her in the corner. While 1222 was in the shop, 2029 and I had bonded. It wasn’t a deep and sudden bond, but one met more out of frenzy and desperation. You see, I had to finish 12 little red metallic spandex cowgirl outfits for my daughter’s jazz dance group and was already on deadline.

2029 and I got down and dirty and learned each other. This was my first computerized sewing machine and it wasn’t an easy adjustment for me. As we sewed on together I did learn that it outperformed the 1222 in one major way: it could sew through many layers of denim without skipping. It was actually stronger than my old machine. Until I started my sewing school in 2008, the older machine just sat around. In the school she was happily used again by new students and had a special friend in Jacqueline (pictured here) for over three years. After I regrouped the studio into its latest incarnation, I again had no real use for the 1222. And it weighs a ton. So it sat in the cupboard. When I started clearing out my excess possessions, I decided it was time for the machine to be used and loved the way it deserved to be. You see, the Pfaff 1222 loves to sew. I just know it. We made so many beautiful things together. I met a lovely woman while selling a different machine on Craigslist and I introduced her to the 1222. It was love at first sew and she swept off the machine and reported a week later that she was halfway through a new quilt she was making for her husband. This makes my heart happy. I still feel a little pang of something I can’t describe when I think about not owning that machine, but I know the new pairing is fresh and right. Goodbye, old friend.

Hello stitchers!  I hear this question so often that I’ve decided to start a little FAQs blog this week.  What machine should I get?  Well, sewing is just like with any task you take on-good tools make the job easier and generally more enjoyable.  Before you head out to the store, ask yourself these questions:

1.  What do you want to sew?  Clothing?  Crafty things like hats and handbags?  Quilts?  Auto upholstery?  Boat sails?  You gotta know what you’re making to know what tools you need.

2.  How much money will you spend?

So let’s say the answer to #1 is ‘I want to make some clothes, some household items like curtains, maybe a quilt or five…just general sewing, nothing really heavy.’  You want a basic, domestic sewing machine.  Let’s say the answer to #2 is $200 to $1000.  Yeah, I know that’s a big disparity, but I’ll talk more about that later. Let’s go shopping…

Here’s where to go–shop at a local sewing machine dealer that you can trust!  Don’t know of one?  Ask a friend who sews or a sewing instructor who they like or go online and read reviews about SERVICE and quality.  When you buy your machine from a good dealer, you get a warranty, lessons (how-to use your machine lessons, not how to sew specific items) and often all servicing for 2-3 years. This is a good value in most cases.  Depending on the machine, a complete tune-up is around $70, more for some models and around $130 for computerized machines.  AVOID:  box stores, chain fabric stores, anywhere that will not service your machine in-house.  You may save a few bucks initially, but you’ll likely be sorry if anything goes wrong with your machine.  Don’t like who you’re dealing with or feel pressured or like the salesperson knows nothing about sewing?  Go somewhere else!

Here’s what to bring on your shopping trip.  Your sewing project wish list, some pieces of fabric that you will likely sew with. The tester fabrics at the sewing dealerships are all perfectly stiffened with fabric sizing and they can fake you out! Oh, and some scissors (tho it’s likely that they have some handy.  I like to be prepared). A notebook.  Take notes on which models you like and the price.  Lastly, bring the ability to walk out without making a purchase!  Now you have some idea of what’s out there, the model numbers, and what they cost.  Go do your homework.  Search online for reviews that are independent.  See what the buzz is.  Unhappy consumers are pretty anxious to tell about what they hate, so keep that in mind, too.  Call or email a sewing teacher!  We love talking about sewing machines and have opinions that could help you make a good decision.

More soon about finding a good used machine in a thrift shop or on CraigsList.

Until then–move around, eat something green, and take a stitch!


Cutting the House in Half

I’ll just spill this out on ‘paper’ before my head blows up. You lucky readers! I am in the process of downsizing my sewing and teaching space from 475 sf (plus a 10 ft wall of cabinets and a few shelves in the garage) to a new studio that is only 162 sf—AND the space will be shared with the laundry equipment. Why? I’m building an apartment for my 89 year old mom in the lower level of my home. Three generations: mom, me, my two daughters. I think I’ll name it the Gabba Gabby Hey House, in honor of The Ramones. Mom hates The Ramones, but we agree on lots of other things, like how fabulous it is to SEW!

I figured out once that I had moved 21 one times, and that was about 3 moves ago. You would have thought I’d be smart enough not to collect more crap than I could fit in a car. Even though we are not moving out of our house, we had to move out of the entire lower level. I had a LOT OF STUFF down there! Not a small amount of it was/is fabric, yarn, patterns and, um, 19 sewing machines. 19. It’s as cathartic as it is shameful to say the number out loud. I justify it by telling myself that I’m a seamstress and a sewing teacher and, and, no one needs that many machines. I immediately got the number down to 14 by giving away 5 machines to former students and a good friend. That helped…a little. We haven’t even started in on my crazy magazine collections, books, pattern books, notions, ugh. Did I mention craft supplies? Mountains of it was stored in the garage. I just kept pulling out boxes. The ‘craft’ area had sort of devolved into a nightmarish pile of mess and unfindable supplies (Word is telling me that unfindable is not a word. I beg to differ). But everything had to come out and upstairs in order to start the remodeling project. I met the exit deadline with minutes to spare, by sheer will. I have never felt so truly controlled and imposed upon by my possessions. Too much stuff. I know there are volumes written on the subject, so I won’t bore you with more decluttering advice, but I will share with you the feelings of hopelessness I felt while dragging it all upstairs and wondering what I’d do with it all and how I was going to live with it piled in my living room and bedroom for two months. Yeesh. I have to go through it all and purge. Purge! Purge my fabric stash? Are you crazy? What if I need something? What if? Oh my, I sound like a hoarder. Last I heard there are still fabric and craft stores all over town. Funny that they are called STORES. I totally stole that from some organizer author woman.

So, going thru and cleaning out and clearing out all the fabric. I had about 15 or 20 plastic bins, some 8 x 20ish and some 15 x 20-all full. I emptied at least half by giving it away to my students on the last day of classes, and then by giving more away to Goodwill. I still have tons. I am going to n0w go thru and touch each piece and ask myself if I’m really ever going to sew it up. This will be an interesting exercise. Stay tuned…

Here are some pics of my old, lovely sewing lounge and the bare new space. I hope you’ll follow along and read and watch the progress. I’ll be posting pics and looking for set-up advice for my new, much smaller, clutter-free, uber-efficient sewing salon (nook, palace, corridor—help me name it)! Please join me…..and in the meantime…

Move around, eat something green, and take a stitch.
Xoxo Helen