Saturday, 23 February 2013

The old Crown dies and the Brother reigns supreme

After our daughter was born (hereafter referred to as "the monster") I decided that I wanted to be able to sew some clothes for her - after all, what is cuter than a gorgeous little baby dressed in lovingly hand made, quality clothing? and I thought that maybe I could save myself a few dollars at the same time by making some of my own clothes too. So off I went to one of the local second hand / deceased estate auctions and I came home with an ancient Crown brand sewing machine for the princely sum of $5.

The old Crown was possibly older than I was and not in fantastic condition, but it worked, and as I'd never done much more than clumsy hand stitching in primary school and sewing on a few buttons it was perfect for me to teach myself on. I figured that even if I blew it up after just one item of clothing then I really wasn't losing that much.

Well I did make a few barely wearable items for the baby monster and a hideous teddy bear out of reclaimed denim (it wound up looking like an evil mouse rather than a bear and never did get all its arms and legs attached) but as with most of my crafting flurries, it didn't last long. After about 6 months the old Crown languished in its vinyl, mission brown with mustard yellow lining, case in the spare room.

The monster wearing a K-Made Red Riding Hood costume
The monster wearing a Red Riding Hood
costume made on the old Crown.
The dress, apron and hooded cloak
are all K-Made
Since then the old crown has been pulled out of hiding a few times a year and each time my sewing skill has improved slightly. The old Crown served me well for a couple of pairs of curtains and a handful of items of clothing for the monster (mostly costumes for school dress-up days that don't need to be hard wearing or long lived) but although I tried several times I'd never successfully made a garment that I would be happy wearing myself.  To be honest I can't blame the old Crown for the lack of self-made wearables, it was more my poor choice of patterns, even poorer choices of fabrics (looking back now some were truly hideous) and not particularly good pattern cutting and sewing skills that stopped me finishing wearing anything I'd made for myself.

I knew that the end was coming when I pulled the old Crown out for a costume making session last year and the light just wouldn't turn on - I managed to track down a replacement bulb that fit, but still no joy, it just wouldn't light up. But even with no light, the rest of the machine was working OK so I set it up on the kitchen bench, turned on all the room lights, ploughed on and got the costume finished just in time. By the end of that project though the poor old Crown was struggling and protesting each stitch loudly. The next time I pulled it out for a whirl I found that no amount of pulling apart, cleaning, oiling and coaxing would persuade the poor old thing to make even a single stitch - the Crown had finally seized up and died. :(

Not long after the death of the Crown I was complaining about the number of times each week that I had to do washing. My significant other has a complete aversion to anything other than one particular style of shorts for everyday wear and the number of wearable pairs he owned was diminishing as they wore out or got ripped and wrecked. This meant washing more frequently or he would be going out pantless. So I suggested a shopping trip to pick up a few more pairs of shorts (same style of course and only dark colours, preferably black). As is always the way when you go shopping with a specific item in mind not a single store had anything that was just right so we came home empty handed. It was then that he made the comment that as a child he had often watched his mum deconstruct clothing and use that as a pattern for making new clothes for him and his siblings.

I initially just ignored the comment by my other half, knowing that my mother in law is a wonderful seamstress who has made tonnes of beautiful items of clothing and items for the home over the years, he knows I'm nowhere near as skilled as his mum with a sewing machine, I wouldn't even contemplate sewing clothes without a proper pattern.

But the more I thought of it the more I couldn't help feeling that I'd like to give it a go. How hard could it be really? I examined a pair of his shorts and decided that they really didn't look that complicated,  I probably could replicate them if I tried. I had a problem though... with the death of the old Crown, what was I to sew these shorts together on? I definitely wasn't going to hand stitch them, even if I weren't too lazy to even consider it they'd probably fall apart on him the first time he wore them!  I needed a new sewing machine.

After examining the budget and making a promise to myself that I'd sew more and spend less on store bought items, I decided that I could afford a modestly priced new sewing machine.

The first store I went to advertised themselves as a sewing centre, specialising in new machines of a couple of well-known brands. The machines on display certainly looked lovely, even if only a couple of the least fancy machines fit within my self-imposed budget. But I stood in that store for almost 15 minutes and even though I was the only customer in the store and I made a point of making some noise as I walked around looking at machines, cleared my throat a few times and generally looked like I needed assistance, the sales lady glanced at me a couple of times from where she sat at a machine but never once looked up long enough to say hello, tell me she'd be with me in a moment or ask if I needed any help. I walked right out of that store without looking back - if they weren't interested enough to even say hello they obviously weren't interested enough to take my money.

So off I went to my local Spotlight store where the range of machines on offer was much better than at the specialist store (if not quite as fancy or expensive) and the store staff were very helpful in pointing out the pros and cons of each of the machines on display depending on the type of sewing I was planning on doing. In the end I decided upon one of the mid-priced, general purpose Brother machines.

Wow what a difference a new sewing machine makes! I couldn't believe how quiet the new Brother was the first time I turned it on and tried a sewing a few scraps together. I went into a frenzy of scrap sewing just trying out all the different stitches that were either not available or had never quite worked properly with the old Crown and generally making friends with my new machine.

Since the Brother has joined the household there has been quite a few items produced that I'm actually quite proud of. So far over the past few months I've made:
  • personalised messenger bags as Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephew that looked pretty awesome (I'm only disappointed that I didn't take photos before gifting them).
  • a mini-messenger bag (a trial run for the Christams gifts) that the monster uses regularly to tote around her ipod, DS and other electronic bits and pieces
  • pyjamas for the monster
  • a knot-style wristlet/handbag
  • a pleated handbag for myself
  • a heap of little notepad wallets as Christmas gifts for the monsters' teachers and school support staff
I've even managed to make a dress for myself that I wore outside of the house to a semi-formal work function.
    The pleated handbag
Inside the pleated handbag - lined
with pockets and everything !
I even mastered the hidden zip pocket :)

The notepad wallets I made
for the monster to gift.
These ended up being really handy little items -
I kept one of the less successful ones for myself
and use it ALL the time.
Inside of the notepad wallets.
And the main reason for the purchase of the new machine in the first place - the new shorts for the other half? Well they were one of the first things I tried. I took one of his oldest, rattiest pairs of shorts and cut it apart at the seams, used those pieces to create a pattern including seam allowances, bought some fabric and got to work.

Right now that first pair of shorts are in my "Work in Progress" pile needing to be hemmed and finished. Ooops. I'll get to them eventually.

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