Apr 11, 2012

Sew Good. Sew Profound.

by Michelle Douglas

Amazing, amazing thing... Back in February I bought a sewing machine.

Why is this amazing?

Because I have always said that I hate sewing. Admittedly, I can’t remember ever actually using a sewing machine, but at school I never finished a single hand-sewing project. My sewing teachers shook their heads darkly and said I was ungainly and inept.

And I believed them.

For the thirteen months between school and university I worked in a clothing factory sewing the crotch in men’s knickers. That involved using an industrial overlocker. Production line work. Not creative. Not inspiring. Oh, yeah, and I had a seriously mean supervisor.

Can you see now how amazing it is that I’ve bought a sewing machine (and, no, I didn’t just get it because it was on a half-price sale)? Look, here it is. Isn’t it pretty?

Now, because I was on deadline I wasn’t allowed to use it until March, so I spent several weeks stroking it whenever I walked past.

What inspired me to buy it? Ah, good question, dear reader. I’ve been reading a daily blog by Kristina Douglas (aka Anne Stuart), Jenny Crusie and Lani Diane Rich (aka Lucy March) called Reinventing Fabulous (here’s the link if you’re interested: http://reinventingfabulous.com/) and these women love craft and sewing and are so enthusiastic about it that it started me thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to make things—clothes, cushions, curtains, bags. Oh my, the possibilities seem endless!

And you know what I’ve discovered? I am not inept and ungainly. I am a goddess! This is what I’ve made so far.

A tea towel cushion cover. This taught me that it is SERIOUSLY EASY to make something that looks good!

A t-shirt tote. This taught me that if I don’t put the presser foot down when I try to sew, I will make a mess… but also that I have the ability to fix said mess.

And a shoulder bag. This has a lining and fusible interfacing in the straps and everything! Fusible interfacing? Oh, believe me, I’m learning a whole new language. This…umm…also taught me why people use patterns instead of just measuring in from one edge of fraying material and cutting the required length out. :-)

This is what I’m attempting next and the material I mean to use. Wish me luck!

The sewing has been so much fun! Remember the sheer joy of play when we were kids? Remember how proud we were when we made something? There seems to be something joyful in this kind of play—it’s a refilling of the well and keeps our joy in life alive.

So I’d love to know—have you been playing lately? Is there something you’ve been doing that makes you smile and fills you with joy. And if anyone would like to leave a sewing tip or two for this enthusiastic beginner, I’d be terribly grateful. :)

[And for interested readers, I’m running a contest at the moment for an advanced copy of The Man Who Saw Her Beauty + a packet of Tim Tams + a packet of loose-leaf tea from The Tea Shop. And, yes, there’s a story to the Tim Tams and the tea but you’ll have to read the book to discover what it is. :-) For more information check out www.michelle-douglas.com]


  1. The sewing machine is so wonderful, Michelle!!! My MIL had one and when she passed away, my husband decided to try his hand at making his own shirts etc. At least he did make 3 before we had to lock the machine up for our intercontinental move.. Out of those he stitched one is usable :) I use it at home or to go nearby...since it's pretty loose for me... ! The other 2..well, you could call them as trials..LOL!

    As for myself, I prefer using the needle and thread to make table mats, handkerchiefs etc....slow, but I'm a bit scared of sewing with the machine :) Love the items you've made though!

  2. Michelle, I *love* to sew and used to make lots of my own clothes. Sadly I don't have time anymore, although I can't resist the fabric, patterns... now I have a bulging cupboard waiting for me to find time.

    Love what you've done though, and can't wait to see how your gorgeous green dress turns out (will we get to see? Hope so).

  3. Michelle, WTG on the sewing venture!!! And LOL sewing the crotch into men's underwear! I once pulled the cords on gocarts for a week at an amusement park. Not my finest hour 8)

    I have a sewing machine, maybe 25 years old now. Real simple to use and I bring it out every now and again. Made Tabby 9yo and 2 of her friends Halloween costumes a couple of years back. There's a great sense of achievement that comes at the end of numerous brain-scratchings and unpickings.

    I haven't done anything new and inspiring lately, but I'm looking forward to reading what others are taking up coz I'm feeling I need to break out!

  4. Michelle, good on you learning to sew! Having seen that glorious shoulder bag in person I can vouch for how lovely it is. Yes, you are a goddess!

    I have a sewing machine that's been used to sew things that must be done and some fancy dress bits and pieces. Personally I prefer decorative sewing (embroidery and tapestry) to making clothes. Something about the stress of having seams that are straight scares me! I haven't been doing any sewing for the past couple of years, partly due to lack of time and partly due to tired eyes from the computer. But I decided a while ago it was time to get back into it as it's such fun. As you say, it's a wonderful feeling admiring something you've made. Ask me in a month if I've started again!

  5. Hi Ju,

    Ooh, I bet your husband would have some great tips for me! Laughing at his "trial" shirts, but the fact you wear his 3rd attempt (in public!) shows he must have developed his sewing skill nicely. :-)

    Ah, I see we're the reverse of each other. I'm not afraid of the machine, but hand-sewing...now that's another thing entirely. :-)

  6. Oh, Anita, I can't believe how much I check out fabrics now!!! I bought 3 metres of orange cheesecloth the other day because it was on sale. Have no idea what I'm going to make with it yet...perhaps something orange and hippy-like to go with my green tunic. :-)

    Hope you find the time soon to play with your sewing machine again!

  7. Oh, Robbie, am now thinking "What is the weirdest job you've ever had...?" could be a fab topic for a future blog post. It has to be said, pulling the cords in go-carts isn't something you hear about every day. :-)

    You made Halloween outfits? Oh, am so jealous! You sound like one of those wonderful mothers who can whip up a fabulous outfit -- no doubt whilst baking and icing a fabulous cake at the same time. :-)

    Hmm...am thinking now if I couldn't just whip something up for the cocktail party for the RWAust conference. :-)

  8. Annie, having been fortunate enough to have seen samples of your embroidery and tapestries, it has to be said that you are a goddess too.

    Hmm...okay. I haven't found straight seams scary yet, but then I do have a trusty unpicker near at hand. When I get around to sewing trousers or long skirts, I will, however, be taking those seams very slowly. :-)

    Hope you find the time to get back into making your gorgeous decorative pieces.

  9. And putting in zips... Argh. I'm sure you'll handle it all with panache, Michelle.

    Hey, I like the idea of being a goddess too! That's given me a real lift. Might have to start thinking of which piece to work on next - when I get this scene out of the way. My poor h&h are finally getting their first kiss and I feel I can't leave them.

  10. Ahh... where goddesses are concerned, it takes one to know one. ;-)

    Zippers! I'm looking forward to those. I have a zipper foot and everything. It'll be a breeze...a piece of cake... (Have you noticed I'm into positive thinking where the sewing is concerned? And if all else fails I have my trusty unpicker.)

    Now goddess or not, I really do think you should get back to that poor h&h of yours! Looking forward to eventually reading the fruits of your labour. :-)

  11. Michelle, I'm a big dud in the kitchen. Ask my poor husband - or my mother-in-law. She'd love to tell you ;)

  12. Robbie, I'm of the firm belief that you don't have to be a goddess in the kitchen when you're already a goddess on the sewing machine.

    Still...it does sound as if your m-i-l might have some funny tales to tell. :-)

  13. Michelle, I'm seriously impressed!

    My mother and one of my sisters have a sewing machine, but I've always thought I'd be as ungainly and inept as your teachers thought you were. In fact, I seem to remember making a pillow case at school for my dad and it not being the best pillowslip in the world. But it was green, his favourite colour, so that had to count for something. :)

    Can't wait to see if you do something for the RWA cocktail party this year!

  14. Rach, I bet your dad treasured that green pillowslip and did in fact think it the best pillowslip in the world. :-)

    You most definitely would not be ungainly and inept as you too are a goddess. (Am thinking we need to rename ourselves The LoveCat Goddesses) :-) But your grace and elegance may, in fact, be reserved for dog tennis rather than the sewing machine.

    Ooh, the challenge is on for the cocktail party, methinks!