Thirty Days of Making: Some Sewing Projects

I’m in Day 22 of a short series: Thirty Days of Making. Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entry will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what I think I learned from the endeavor.  (My friend Alicia is beginning a new series along these lines, 12 weeks of the Artist’s Way — I wish her well in her process, go check her out!).

Reason for the Project: 

I left my geometry notebook at school, and another project, the parts to a gauntlet for a kid’s Halloween costume; so I was left with the materials I had at home.  I wound up making a bag for a semi-sculptural object at home, and cutting the parts for a new sash. One of the things I notice about working with tools, like fabric scissors or the iron, is that the more I do it, the easier it becomes. My friend Phyllis sometimes says that it took her twenty years to learn how to build databases, and now it takes her twenty minutes to build a new database.

There’s a reason for that.  And there’s a reason I’ve done all this work with the tools and materials of Making over the last twenty days, particularly with sewing.  I want to get better at using these tools; I want to get to the point where Making things is just a second nature process for me.  Because I want to know how to get there, myself, so I can show students how to get there.  It’s not an easy state of mind to cultivate, obviously; but cultivating it by practicing it seems to be one of the keys to doing the work.

Process and Result

The sash was the second thing I did; and it went the smoothest of the two projects.Thirty Days of Making: sewing projects I was able to iron the fabric, lay out the pattern, pin it, and cut it, in about an hour. This is phenomenally good time for me to accomplish a task like this. I used to be a lot slower. But I also know what I’m doing with this project. I’m just glad it’s not the shirt again. Yet.

This pattern consists of three pattern pieces — the shoulder band, the end pieces, and the tab that holds them together across the hip.  I’ve made this sash in blue and green already; now I’m working on yellow and red.  My red fabric isn’t quite right for this project, though; so I held off on cutting that fabric.

There’s five basic steps here:

  • Iron the fabric
  • Pin the pattern to the fabric
  • cut the pattern pieces out of the fabric
  • cut interfacing
  • steam-glue interfacing to the fabric.

For those who don’t know, interfacing is this stiff, not-quite-fabric material that can provide a little bit of stiffness to the collar of a shirt, or the placket; or can in the waistband of a pair of pants. It’s not fabric, exactly, or maybe it is, but it’s sort of a fibrous panel that has a bit of glue in it.  Run a hot, wet iron over it, and the glue melts, bonding the interfacing to a piece of fabric (and sometimes to the ironing board).

Thirty Days of Making: sewing projects Having cut the interfacing and fabric, I glued the interfacing in place on three panels of the eight panels of the sash.  Wait, I hear you say, I thought you said there were three pattern pieces?

There are.  That’s right, there are only three pattern pieces. But each pattern piece repeats: the shoulder strap is doubled — that is, the shoulder-side, and the side that faces outward.  The end piece gets duplicated four times — front and back, inside and outside.  The hip strap gets duplicated twice — inside and outside. And each pattern piece gets a number of pieces of interfacing: none for the hip strap, two for the end pieces, one for the shoulder strap.

Tomorrow, I’ll pin two end pieces (already faced with interfacing), to the shoulder strap with interfacing.  Then I’ll sew those two ends together.  I’ll do the same to the three pieces that form the front side.  Then, I’ll have two long strips, front and back, to the sash.  Another pinning, this time with the out-sides together on the inside, and I’ll sew the outside edges of the panels, except for a four-to-six-inch gap along the inside back edge.    The edges of this hole will get reinforced; because I’ll put the whole sash through this hole to turn it right-side out once it’s sewn together.  And then I’ll hand-sew a ladder stitch up the inside of the hole, to close it up.  And then the sash will be complete.

Thirty Days of Making: sewing projectsMy other project was not quite as successful.  I have a decorated, sculptural stick that I decided to make a bag for; it has rather a complicated end that was in need of some protection.  I shaped the fan-or cone-shaped head and body of the stick-bag today at school, and then assembled them with hand-tools this evening at home.  Alas.  The stick fits fine in the narrow part of the bag; but the head does not.  Mis-estimated the top of the stick…  I’m going to have to cut the cone off, and shape a slightly different structure for the top of the bag.

Reflection on My Learning and in General

Of course not everything goes according to plan.  That’s as it should be.  Making doesn’t go perfectly.  It can’t.  What we can do is develop a skill-set, and become more mindful of how we work, and familiarize ourselves with tools and materials. These things will enable us to solve more problems, and create more solutions that themselves generate more interesting problems.

But those are the big takeaways:

  • Develop a Skillset
  • Become more mindful of Work process
  • Become familiar with tools and materials

My friend Topher mentioned the problem yesterday of “Manual Illiteracy”.  We have a generation of kids who sometimes build things at home, and sometimes don’t.  That’s in part because the parents of the current generation are not, for the most part, Makers or Tinkerers.  That’s falling to us who are discovering or rediscovering, and re-developing skill-sets, and relearning work processes for Tailoring or electronics, and who are discovering again what tools and materials are and what they do.

We’re going through the twenty years part of the process, so we can build a database in twenty minutes. Or a sash.


Two and a half of five stars.  Not bad projects, either of them. Also not school-related, except insofar as they improve my workflow, make me more familiar with the tools and materials of sewing, and help me develop the skillset I want.  Still, not badly done, and will ultimately have good results.

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