Labour of Love

The process of making two aprons from scratch.

It’s been challenging. It’s been frustrating. I almost gave up…many, many MANY times. I’m happy to say that I persevered and even though I would have liked better results (I expect far too much of myself, I’m working on this flaw) the 2 aprons are finally complete:

I made mistake, after mistake, after mistake. Even right up to the very end of the project, when I thought that I had completed my final apron; I turned it around and noticed that I had stitched one of the apron ties to the main body of the fabric. Gggrrrrrr!!! I had to dig deep and find the strength and will to finish those two aprons. I had a moment (it lasted for 20 minutes) when I contemplated throwing away one of the partially completed aprons. I was desperate, disappointed and fed up beyond belief with myself, my supposed lack of sewing ability, the fabric not doing what I wanted, the sewing machine not doing what I wanted, life being unbearable, blah blah blah…..I was at a low point.

I then pulled myself together (somewhat) and felt absolutely horrified at the thought of WASTING FABRIC!! NO!!! Then I began to wonder if anyone kept a stash of projects that had gone wrong, simply to remind themselves of how hideously something had turned out at the first attempt. Out of curiosity, does anybody out there do this? I am genuinely considering creating a fabric room 101-esque stash of reject projects. I dispelled that idea, because it felt too much like giving up (which I cannot stand to do) and that’s when I formed a new relationship with my ‘unpicker’. It turns out that this bad girl was the best £1.25 I’ve ever spent:

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My best friend: the fabric unpicker

Those 2 aprons had me unpicking like I’d never unpicked before, as though my life depended on it. I could easily call myself a master unpicker. If you need stitches unpicking, I’m your girl. I essentially more than doubled the time needed to complete both aprons, because I had to unpick the majority of my work. What I can say is that this experience has taught me never to be afraid of unpicking. This might sound strange, but I had this idea that every stitch I made HAD to be perfect FIRST TIME. That the calibre of sewist was directly proportionate to the number of times you made a perfect project. Now I know that thought was completely ridiculous, because there is no perfect project and there will always be mistakes.

I should never be afraid to unpick stitches that are not correct, because as I have experienced, it can be the difference between completing a project that I am proud of and binning a project altogether. These 2 aprons will always be remembered as my first sewing labour of love. They taught me patience, the importance of paying attention to detail, the art of taking my time and they also showed me the full extent of my love for sewing. They are going off to wonderful homes where I am know that the love and appreciation for these handmade treasures will far outweigh the love, care and hard work that went into making them.

I have now made 5 projects in the 13 days since my sewing adventure began. I have already compiled a list of projects that I wish to complete. I am really itching to start making clothes and I must admit that in the early hours of the night when my insomnia had firmly taken hold, I started to peruse blogs of other sewists whose sewing skills I greatly admire. One particular blogger had made ‘The Bettine’ dress from a pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. I love the style and the pattern is ‘easy,’ so a great first garment for me to make.

I am currently awaiting the pattern’s arrival and it will be one of the projects I will start in the next few weeks. I am very excited to see how it turns out. Shout out to Emily, writer of the blog, ‘Self Assembly Required’ for posting about her experience using this pattern. It definitely helped me to find my first garment pattern. While I wait for ‘The Bettine’ pattern to arrive, I will start on my next project: pillowcases. I am anticipating that they will be simpler to complete than the aprons and provide a much needed break from my ‘best friend’ the unpicker. It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder…

First Unsupervised Project

My experience sewing solo. No workshops, just me at home with my sewing machine.

A few days ago, I started and completed my first unsupervised project. It was another ‘envelope’ back cushion and the results were not too shabby. I could easily pick apart (pun intended) my project and be really hard on myself, but I will resist the temptation to do so. I have to be realistic: it’s my third EVER sewing project, it’s my first ever time following the instructions and creating it by myself, PLUS I finished it within 3 hours. I’m very proud. Here is the finished product:

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‘Envelope’ back

My mum will be the lucky recipient of this cushion, along with my one of the items of my next project that I’ll start today, which is 2 aprons. For the aprons, I have had to create a pattern using the original, completed project, as I was not provided with the dimensions for the material. This has meant pushing myself further and taking the initiative to start learning more sewing skills. I’m very excited for where this will take me in terms of upcoming projects (pillowcases followed by a simple gathered skirt, perhaps).

Remember when I wrote about my unsuccessful use of the overlock stitch on the sewing machine, during my first unsupervised sew, which prompted the purchase of the overlocker? Well, I have to admit that I am now very happy with my decision to purchase the overlocker. An expense that I could perhaps have done without, however the results are brilliant. See for yourself:

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Now that I have proved to myself that I can really sew, that it’s not just a fluke that occurs when I’m in a sewing class, I am ready to start the next project. I’ll let you know how it goes. My sewing adventure continues.

My Second Project

My second sewing workshop attended and my second project completed.

I was apprehensive about attending the second class. The first time, I made an ‘envelope’ back cushion. This time, I would be making an apron. I might as well have set myself the task of making a jacket from scratch, because that’s how daunted I was about this next project. I wanted a challenge, but I was starting to think that my second project should have been to make a cushion with a zip. Building on the foundations of what I had learned days earlier may have been the better option, but no. When I arrived at the class, I happened to be the only person attending which meant that I got 1:1 tuition. I used this time in order to ask advice about sewing machines and was given the opportunity to use a Juki HZL-353ZR-A for the duration of the class, in order to test the machine and see how I got on with using it.

Much like the first class I attended, it was amazing. All I could think about was completing my project (no stress or anxiety related to any external factors) and I became even more determined to progress with sewing. I made some mistakes along the way, but I easily rectified them, sometimes with guidance and sometimes by using my own common-sense and initiative. As you can see from the photos, I completed the project: an apron with adjustable tie and usable pocket:

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My second project: Too precious for me to ‘use’ just yet.

I was so inspired by my achievement that I decided to purchase a sewing machine (the Juki HZL-353ZR-A I had been using throughout the class) and immediately went to Anglia Furnishing Fabrics and Anglia Fashion Fabrics. Both shops are across the road from one another and enabled me to purchase the resources I needed for the new sewing machine, along with fabric and accessories to start my own projects at home. I was clueless about the length of fabric I required and even the types of fabric I should use, in order to create another cushion and two more aprons. Despite this, the ladies in both shops were patient and helpful, even giving me some much needed tips. I left the sewing class feeling very proud of myself and I was inspired to continue sewing. I felt as though I really was capable of getting better and completing more projects. I also left having found the missing piece to my puzzle; a sewing machine, or ‘My Little Juki’ as it is now affectionately called.

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My new purchase – someone remind me that I’m still paying for a wedding!

I have booked another class for a week’s time to create a third project. In the meantime, I will get to work solidifying and practicing the skills I have already learned, only this time I’ll be doing it without supervision. Wish me luck!

My First Project

My very first sewing time sewing and the project I completed.

The class was amazing! Not only did I have so much fun, it was exactly what I needed to stop the thoughts that are constantly playing in my head, like a broken record. It was two and a half hours of bliss. No feelings of anxiety and absolutely no stressing about work!! Just me, a sewing machine and two other ladies who were refreshing their sewing skills. Here’s the final result. Every stitch my own work. A Norwich City Football Club inspired cushion, before the derby tomorrow against Ipswich Town:

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‘Envelope’ back


I am told that this is called an ‘envelope’ back cushion (because the back resembles the back of an envelope) and I am extremely proud of myself. I must admit, I did think I would be the first person in the history of Makeplace to leave without completing a project. As it turns out, I took to sewing much quicker than I imagined.

During the class, we used top-of-the line, computerised, Juki sewing machines. I’d never heard of the brand before, but I was told the majority of the clothes we purchase in shops are made on a Juki. Apparently, they are industrial sewing machines and even make an appearance in the factory on Coronation Street, ‘Underworld.’ I’m no sewing or television soap aficionado, so fact-check away with those pieces of information. What I do know is that the sewing machines had so many buttons and settings that they practically make the garment for you.

All I have to compare these machines with is my mum’s ancient Singer, which she adores and refuses to change. It’s the type that requires lubrication, and inserting the bobbin, threading the machine and getting the machine to work requires PhD level knowledge of sewing machines. In short, it’s never made me want to take sewing up, but instead had the opposite effect and made me never want to go near a sewing machine.

I saw and used an overlocker for the first time. It’s a complicated looking machine with lots of thread going into and coming out of it. It can cut the fabric whilst stitching the edges to avoid fraying. The overall look is neat and professional. It was like a miracle machine. It made my work look amazing. Note to self – learn more about overlockers. All in all, a successful class and I’ve left feeling inspired. More importantly, I’ve caught the sewing bug. So much so, I’ve booked myself in for another class next week to make an apron.

This will be project number 2 and I absolutely cannot wait. In the meantime, I think I’ll start looking into purchasing a sewing machine. There’s no point learning a new skill without having the ability to practice it. I’m aware that there are lots of different brands, price ranges and types to choose from, but surely finding the right sewing machine for me can’t be that complicated? Time to find out. Let the search begin.