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Nov 1, 2010

Peter Revisits His First Sewing Project

Good morning, everybody, and Happy Day of the Dead to those (living) who celebrate it.  I don't know about the weather where you live, but here in New York it's getting cold.  Almost too cold for a velveteen jacket.

As you can see, I've been slowing introducing my new jacket to the outside world and so far, so good.  I do notice that it doesn't go especially well with the blue of my jeans but I do like it with mixed plaids.

Readers, if I start to look like one of those Japanese kids on Harajuku Street, you will tell me, won't you?

You don't even have to say it explicitly -- a simple "!" will suffice.  I am definitely getting more confident about mixing patterns and it's a slippery slope to the Hello Kitty lunchbox and embellished Uggs.

Readers, I'm not one to linger in the past, but occasionally I will happen upon something that reminds me where I was at a certain moment in my life and, consequently, where I am now.  Does this ever happen to you?

I don't know why I was digging through Michael's underwear drawer -- boredom? -- when I happened up these.

Sentimental MPB followers and lurkers, those gingham boxers were my very first sewing project, which I made in June 2009.  Aren't they pretty?

I made them using Diana Rupp's book, Sew Everything Workshop.  It's a project called Foxy Boxers and Rupp's book comes with the actual paper pattern included (among many others).  I always recommend this book for beginners because it's so good on the basics and very stylish.

Trust me when I say I had no idea what I was doing and no familiarity with sewing terms when I took on this project.  It took me about three days to finish them (I'm not kidding).  And as pretty as they are on the outside, inside they're a bit of a mess.

Let's take a look at the inside fly.  I still don't understand how I ended up with this huge inside flap.

Or why I didn't clip this seam to help the fly opening lie flat...

Forget about overcasting seam allowances.  Today they're all fraying.

Below, on the inside back seam, you can see I was stitching a second seam in zig zag, but a) the tension was too tight on my machine, and b) I never cut the seam allowance down to the stitching line.  So despite zigzagging the seam allowance there's all that fraying.

Here's another area of yuck, where the leg and side seams intersect.

To my credit, the waistband casing came out pretty well.

And despite everything, I am still proud of them, and will promptly re-bury them in Michael's bureau.

I thought it was useful to take a fresh look at those boxers because I was reminded that you really can't go from A to, say, K, without passing first through B, C, D, E, F, etc.  The only way to learn is to make mistakes and then figure out what went wrong.

If you don't have someone nearby to ask, you can ask questions on Pattern Review or take a look at a RTW garment of the same type and see how it's constructed.  That is something that never occurred to me while I was making those boxers.  I had a dozen boxers I could have examined to help me figure things out.  But that was something I had to learn too!

Readers, the week ahead is a big one, ending in my brother's wedding.  But more importantly, I am hoping I get my 1969 McCall's pattern in the mail.  And look at the photo I found online yesterday: Yves Saint Laurent Spring/Summer collection, 1969.

Do womens sewing patterns today reflect current fashion trends as immediately as they used to?  I wonder.

In closing, friends, do you ever go back and revisit old projects and recognize the progress you've made?  If you don't, you should.  Now I understand why Michael complained about getting tangled up those boxers -- it's dangerous in there!

Have a great day, everybody!  What are you working on?


  1. My first garment-sewing project was a sort-of advanced coat - swingy with a GIANT collar. I made it out of white upholstery brocade that was nearly plasticy on the back - you know the kind? I did alright and still like the coat, but had problems with the collar. I made the undercollar out of orange brocade, for fun. The collar pieces were the same size, so I have serious issues with the brocade sticking out! I was considering removing the collar and fixing the other day. Sigh.

  2. Just remember, they are called Uggs for a reason...

  3. Even though I'm not a beginning sewist, I just made those boxers for my husband's birthday. (My teenage daughter is getting Diane Rupp's book for her birthday). He loved them! We'll see how they hold up.

    I always like Mrs. Frizzell's advice on the old Magic Schoolbus show: Go ahead! Make mistakes! Get messy! Sewing is truly one of those things you must learn by doing.

    Angela in Texas

  4. I wish I could go back and look at the first garment I made, I would be much, much, much younger!

    I find pattern companies have gotten less up to date over the years, carry less and less men's patterns, and offer more and more home dec and costumes. But my biggest gripe about patterns are that the directions are not even half as good as they were. If I was unsure about constructing a particular style or detail I would use a Vogue pattern because of their more complete directions. It was a great way to learn. If complete directions were included do you think there would be less wadders and more sewers?

  5. Happy 'Dias de los Muetros' to you to.

    Ahh! The first sewing project: doll clothes for my Barbies. Those girls were always so well dressed and had a bigger wardrobe than I ever did!

  6. The pattern companies are not, for the most part, what I'd call fashion forward now, more like here today gone tomorrow fashion trendy, and the instructions aren't as complete as they could be, esp for beginners.

    The first thing I made: cigarette pants and a couple of those boatneck, sleeveless over blouses to go with. Who knows what the seams and zip looked like! The bad news: I cut the regular length not knowing I should have measured and had to shorten them to capri length to salvage them. The good news: I chose a fabric with multiple overlapping dots in golds, browns, oranges and tans that seemed to change colour depending on what I wore it with. Instantly hooked on fabric from then on.

    I'm going to learn to use my serger, finally having deboxed it. (Yes, that's silly, but I was too sick to understand the directions when I bought it.) I bought The Complete Serger Handbook and Ready, Set, Serge. The first is supposed to be set by set from threading on for the complete novice; the second, a series of very simple projects designed to teach one skill at a time, each building on the last. Wish the pattern companies had a set of learner patterns that did the same as novices really do not know how to pick a pattern they can sew.

  7. First project-a beach bag made with the bottom of a bleach bottle and a fabric top-I was a crafty Campfire Girl. Next up a Barbie dress-those teeny seams and sleeves were hard. My opinion of the Hello Kitty outfit--wish I were that bold!

  8. My first project was a Halloween costume, which was a dress so that I could be Medusa. Now that I think about it, it was pretty hard at the time and I had lots of material...I will have to take a look at it and see what I would have done differently. That was the project that made me think I could make "real" clothes. Not just ones to be sewn (and worn) once a year.

    Right now I am finishing up a Simplicity dress. The top is done and now I just have to finish the skirt and attach. *If* I could stop reading all these sewing blogs and just do some sewing already!! :)

  9. I started a blog just so I could see my projects evolve over time. It's a nice combination of satisfaction at my progress and cringe-inducing shame at my blunders.

    Right now I'm finishing a blue corduroy jumper with snowflake button embellishments for my niece. I also have an autumnal stripey silk dupioni sheath dress cut out, but I still need to cut the underlining and lining. Woohoo!

  10. Luckily, my first garment sewing project was a nightgown for my daughter. Thankfully, 3-year-olds don't care if the inside seams are fraying so badly they show out of the bottom of the dress. :/ We all have to start somewhere!

  11. Coats, especially, are...umm.... enlightening (!) to revisit. I was not so sold on the usefulness of interfacing when I began!

    There are a few skirts that I made when I first got into garment sewing that I still wear, but otherwise most other things have been passed onto goodwill.

  12. I do celebrate the Day of the Dead. I celebrate it tomorrow, though.

    My 1st sewing attempt was in 1984. I had just gotten a brand new sewing machine that I still use today and I made my mother a pair of shorts. That is when I learned that sewing sizes don't match rtw sizes. My Mom was a real tropper and wore the shorts anyway, proudly, though not out of the house.

  13. from the waist up you are perfect, but you do need some gray or khaki jeans.
    Also it is not impossible to go back and remake a project after you have learned more. I once read about an older woman who instead of buying new things all the time, went into her closet and remade garments. Of course, she was dealing with real silk, real linen, real wool etc. It was worth it.

  14. My very first garment was a pair of pj bottoms that I made in home ec in 10th grade. I wore them to death, but could not figure out how they were just a tad snug.

    It's fun looking back at those first things that came out of the sewing machine. Sometimes they weren't always wearable, but its more about the journey at that point than anything else I think. And I'm soooooo glad you kept going, because where would we be today without you Peter?

    Very excited about your houndstooth and the pattern. Can't wait to see it all done up!

  15. Peter you look amazing! And that book does look like a good one for a beginner. I am wearing a shirt today that made me smile when I noticed the seams are finished with zig-zag. They aren't serged. And the pattern you posted really reminds me of my first "important" sewing project. I made a jacket just like that from a plaid (much like a Burberry) wool and some camel pants to match. My mom helped me match the plaids. I was so proud of that jacket! I must have been 14 or 15.

  16. No matter how far you come, you'll always see a difference! My biggest improvement has been how my projects look on the inside, even a year ago I was still using 'close-enough' thread colours! Blogging helps hold me accountable for nice inside finishing :)
    Love the velveteen jacket - looks great with the bright argyle!
    I'm working on a pink floral 50's dress - not very seasonally-appropriate but a lot of fun!

  17. No !!! from me. I love your outfit today.

  18. Like some others, my first sewing projects were making doll clothes for my Barbies. The first ones were just tabards---a rectangle of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head, tied around the waist with a piece of string. I did progress fairly rapidly into T-tunics and pantaloons, and even the odd wrap skirt.

    I feel like I have a hard time learning things in sewing NOT by doing. I can read a hundred times how I shouldn't do X or should do Y, but until I've done (or not done) it I don't really believe it. I'm stubborn (dumb) that way.

  19. Not bad for your first try. My first sewing project was probably a dolly dress. My first real clothing was a pair of shorts... which I then repeated six times. And my first large-scale project was an 18 inch rag doll with a complete wardrobe that I sewed all by hand. That was also the first project that made me cuss like a sailor and throw it across the room in a fit of pique.

    I'm still working on pajamas and the Christmas dress.

  20. My first sewing project was a pair of Roller Strollers to wear to a Bay City Rollers concert 157 years ago. I made white pants with tartan down the legs and a tartan shirt to match. They were awful, but I wore them anyway. I'm glad I don't have them anymore.

  21. My first ever project (in Home Ec) was a tea cosy and matching set of egg cosies. Royal blue with yellow ricrac. For some reason, despite my mother being a hoarder extraordinaire, these seem to have gone 'missing'. However, on my last visit she did show me a toiletries bag (my 2nd Home Ec project) - and as I class myself as a total beginner now (having taken sewing up again only recently at 40), I must say I was rather impressed with the zip! Anyway, you look gorgeous in the velveteen jacket and a huge thank you for sharing your first project - it is really encouraging for someone like me! x

  22. That velveteen jacket is fabulous.

    I bought Diana Rupp's book after seeing you recommend it here. I've only sewn one pair of pyjama pants before (I wear them all the time) and have a second pair lurking in my sewing box waiting for me to sew the elastic casing.

  23. Hi there, I have been lurking for a while now but had to comment today as I have just spent a few happy moments thinking about my first sewing projects. As a teenager in the sixties (yes I am old), I would go out with my friend on Saturday morning and buy fabric. We then went home and cut out and sewed a "zipper" dress each. They were very simple shift dresses with a zipper down the front. We only owned one pattern and would make subtle changes each week. We then went out in the dresses on Saturday night. On one occasion when sewing a pale cream and brown number I ran out of cream thread and finished it using white convinced the stitches did not show. The disco we went to had UV light and every stitch shone out like a beacon.
    We would also do each others hair and attempted to copy the Vidal Sassoon style which was so popular then. This entailed having a long very straight fringe which hung like a curtain and covered one eye. This hair curtain was sellotaped to my face whilst I was sewing (no hair straighteners in those days).
    Well I have enjoyed my trip down memory lane and I always, very much, enjoy your blog. Thank you.

  24. My first sewing project I only remember as a blur of navy and white calico and rick-rack--possibly an apron--made on my grandmother's treadly machine when I was 7 or 8.

    LOL SaliO--I made that same beach bag!

    My first garment was a skirt made in home ec class. I was hooked on sewing, and was much more fearless then--I whipped up lined wool dresses and pants, matched plaids, etc. My sewing really improved when I slowed down and took care of details, like interfacing, graded seams and fitting the pattern to me.

    Your jacket looks great with the argyle.

  25. giggle. I remember my first pair of long pants that I made. It was a mistake to wear them to work because I was ridiculed by my boss' husband as he sneered, "Your pant legs are uneven."
    I was mortified because it was true. I've never made pants since and I don't know where they went.
    As for other sewing projects, the older ones have not survived my constant moves around the country, but the pictures have. You give me a good reason to dig those out!


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