Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Project Runway meets Project Clueless

Child #1, like her mother, settled on her career choice in fourth grade. For me it was law, for her it's fashion design.

Apparently, if one wants to be a fashion designer, they need a sewing machine and sewing lessons.

My daughter begged for a Bernina sewing machine for Christmas, which is the equivalent of begging for a new Mercedes for your first car.

One quick look at the $2000 starter model was enough to send me straight to Craigslist where I found a very gently used Bernette at a much happier price.

Which is all good except, as my mother put it when she inspected the Bernette on Christmas morning, "It's a lot of machine for a little girl."

"Hmmm," I said and then I shrugged because I don't know the first thing about sewing. Literally, nothing!

I am the woman who, on noting the seam had come out of her skirt hem earlier this week, stood up, turned it around and fixed it with a quick row of staples. Which is exactly how they teach you to do it in law school.
Child #1 took to her sewing machine like, well, a seamstress to thread.

There were some immediate successes. I am now the proud owner of three coffee cup warmers, an odd little purse made out of something blue and fuzzy and one napkin. "Make three more and I'll use them on the dinnertable," I suggested.

So far that suggestion has gone unheeded.

But failure is where you learn the hard stuff and my lack of knowledge about sewing means Child #1 has had to go it on her own. In fact, the only thing I do know about sewing is that eventually something goes wrong.

A few weeks ago there was a shriek of pure anguish from the basement. "I can't thread the bobbin," she wailed as she stomped upstairs.

"A bobbin," I said and handed her a sandwich. "That sounds like something you'd wear to meet the Queen. Don't forget to put on your bobbin and bring sixpence."

She glared at me.

The bobbin drama was followed by a novel approach to patching her father's jeans. Instead of closing the hole at the knee she sewed the entire leg shut. We offered help, but it was summarily rejected.

She's made herself several skirts of interesting length, but it wasn't until she whipped up the dress pictured here that the benefits of my sewing cluelessness became clear.

Instead of sitting at my side and patiently taking direction she's busy forging her own trail. Mistakes and frustrations will be plentiful, which is okay because success, when it comes, will be that much more satisfying.

As for me, I'm gathering a nice collection of her early works and waiting for her to get a little bit better before I hand my skirt over to see if she can do something about my staple hem job.

Did you follow in the footsteps of your parents or blaze your own trail? 


Beylit said...

I didn't learn to sew until college, and then it was by being thrown in head first into the costume shop. Thankfully I had lots of help. Even though she seems to be figuring out the basics on her own, you may want to check at your local fabric shop to see if they offer sewing classes on the weekends. They can teach her some cool tricks that are hard to guess on your own.

And a Bernina is expensive but so wonderful, but wait until she asks you for a serger. The one I covet doesn't even show the price when you search it online, and surpasses the beginning Bernina's price by a good deal.

She seems to be doing a great job though.

ilima said...

I remember the day I got my Bernina, and it's been put to work ever since. My mom is a seamstress and though I don't do wedding dresses like her (she pretty much sewed ALL my clothes growing up), I usually do Easter dresses and Halloween costumes for my kids every year, along with other random projects and gifts.

Gail said...

Things I learned were needed for living. Sewing was one of them.

Looks like your daughter is progressing and I would almost die for one of those machines!

Johanna Garth said...

Beylit, sewing classes are definitely in her future.

Ilima, I'm so impressed by that kind of ability.

Gail, it does make me happy she's learning an important life skill.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Staples? I've been desperate but never thought of using the stapler to fix a wardrobe malfunction.
That's cool she's learning all on her own though.

Weaver said...

Yes. I've done some of the following and some of the trailblazing. Congrats to your daughter for her determination to learn. And for you in letting her make her mistakes. Too often we, as parents, was to spare our kids the disappointment and in the process steal the sense of accomplishment when they succeed.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I got a sewing machine for Christmas, too! A little cheap one because I don't know much about sewing, either, but I want to learn. (I haven't done it since high school, and not much then.) Mine is still in the box. At least partly because I am a little bit afraid of threading the bobbin!

Hart Johnson said...

I totally need to introduce you to my friend Peggy. My LONGEST friend--we've been close since we were 4, used to be a Pattern Maker for Jantzen, then Pendleton... she has a masters in textiles and when we were in grade school taught me to sew (with some help from my grandma)--Peggy can SEW. And she lives in Portland... and I think her son is your son's age--okay probably a little younger... 6 I think, maybe 5, so feasibly there is even play date potential to distract the boys. Seriously, I think you'd totally get along anyway. Trouble is she isn't online much. As for me... I can so 'crafty stuff'--curtains, Christmas stockings, baby blankets... but I am not nearly careful enough for clothes... I always have strange nubs and gaps...

Joanne Noragon said...

What a self starting young lady. More power to her. Having retired from self taught art clothing, I can relate to the experience, albeit thirty years later. In reading the previous comments, yes, knowing how to make a pattern that represents your imagination is priceless. And so is a good serger.

altspeed said...

I stapled french cuffs once when I forgot to grab cufflinks on the way out.

E. Arroyo said...

Pretty cool of her forging her own way. =) And she doesn't give up.

Nicki Elson said...

Aw, congratulations to her - the dress is beautiful. As is the singular napkin, hehe. And yeah, it's very cool that she's going this one on her own, and all you have to do is sit back and be immensely proud of your little fashion designer.

Unknown said...

My mom used to sew (now she quilts) and I learned at an early age how to sew. My first sewing machine was a toy that caused me lots of frustration. My second one was a real sewing machine that I inherited from my dead grandmother. I still have it. It's almost 100 years old. And no, I don't sew with it. :)

Chuck said...

Your bobbin comment was right on cue!

I think she has done great and you should be proud. The fact you can lend no assistance will probably be awesome for her in the long run (provided she doesn't switch interests). Keep the early works...they will be fond remembrances later on.

And give her your skirt to fix, seriously, how much worse could she do than staples!! :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

That's a pretty dress! And your daughter sounds really resourceful. I wish I knew how to sew. I suppose I could pick up some of the basics by watching Youtube videos, but those cute puppy videos keep distracting me.

Alison DeLuca said...

That dress is gorgeous - amazing! As a fellow clueless sewer, who was forced to take Home Ec and nearly failed because I, too, couldn't change the bobbin, I am in awe of your daughter.

Barbara Watson said...

Although frustrating at times, I'm sure it's fun to watch her enthusiasm and see her skills grow!

Shell Flower said...

Ah sewing. It's awesome, but something always goes wrong with the machine at some point during a project. I've recently learned during my Halloween costume creation that a crooked needle can mimic messed-up tension. (I'm imagining your eyes glazing at this point--LOL) Anyway, your daughter should look into t-shirt surgery online. There are some great ideas and t-shirts are a dime a dozen, unlike nice fabric which adds up.