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Living A Semi-Handmade Holiday: Teaching Sewing

sara and ashley (6 of 8)

I glory in most of Christmas’ excesses – an overabundance of gold accessories and garments, eggnog and peppermint induced happiness, Bing Crosby caroling and lighting schemes that seem to defy gravity. But when it comes to crafting gifts, I admitted last week that I conceded defeat to handmade gifts when the pace of December got out of control and only sewed my holiday outfit(s). Don’t get me wrong, I a big fan of the handmade. Hand crafted gifts are personal and pretty much always guarantee a heartfelt response from both the receiver and the giver. But up until this year, I shied away from it. This year, I’m different, and rather than add to the glut of perishables, I searched for gifts that would last beyond holiday 2015.

Gifts can come in many forms. They can be tangible and they can be not. Knowledge is one of those non tangible gifts and for two ladies I work with, this was my gift to them. Sara, Ashley and I have talked about having a crafting night since early summer, scouring Groupon for the perfect deal. It took a while for the light bulb to go on and for me to suggest that our craft night be a sewing night. Sometimes, I’m such an oaf.

Our company hosts a holiday party that everyone dresses to the nines for, and we decided to use the event as an opportunity to finally have a craft/sewing night. Because both ladies have limited sewing experience, we kept the project simple – a shirred maxi skirt. Using 4-ply silk from Mood Fabrics, their skirts are literally 2 rectangles shirred and sewn together (one rectangle for the waistband and one rectangle for the skirt). No pockets or linings to keep in basic and cut on the cross grain for yield. The waistband is interfaced with lightweight fusible from Fashion Sewing Supplies and faced with grosgrain ribbon for support (we opted against Petersham because it’s more flexible than grosgrain). This waistband application is a technique I’m using on another skirt and I like the stability it adds, the bulk it reduces and the nice touch it adds to the interior of a garment. The skirt closes with an invisible zippers that extends to the top of the waistband. No hooks and eyes. I enjoy hand sewing as much as any other seamstress, but I hate H&E’s at the top of a zipper closure. The girls were not wearing the right shoes when I measured them, so we cut long and hemmed to the correct length later.

Our crafting night took place in 2 sessions after work. During both, I let them handle some of the steps, and walked them through the rest for the sake of time. We have a deadline! I also explained the how and the why, which is the most important part in my opinion. “This is why interfacing is applied,” and, “This is how to shirr fabric.” Things of that nature.

Sara: “I didn’t really know what to expect when I agreed to a crafting night with pro-seamstress, Maddie, but I was hoping I had enough basic knowledge of sewing to not screw it up. We arrived at the infamous studio, which was very exciting to see, and Ashley and I were of course distracted and entranced by the props, clothing and vintage artifacts scattered about. Once we had fun looking around, it was time to get down to business. We started off by measuring our waists and length. Maddie calculated the height and the length of what we needed to cut from our fabrics and then we were ready to start working. We laid our fabrics out and Maddie showed us how to make the edges straight so we didn’t cut jagged, crooked lines. We lightly brushed the edges to straighten them out and then began measuring the two boxes that would become our skirt and waistband. Once we measured, we drew lines with wax/chalk and then were ready to cut. We took turns until we both had some nice looking rectangles! Next, Maddie demonstrated how to shirr (is that the right word?! I can’t remember!) our skirts by sewing one line (two lines are also an option) and then pulling one thread and adjusting the fabric to be evenly distributed. We were done part 1, and Ashley and I were very excited to actually get the skirts sewn and complete!”

Ashley: “Have you ever gone shopping and no matter how many racks of clothes you root through or how many hours you spend searching you still just never find that one perfect article of clothing that is worth spending the money on?   Well, when I first met Maddie I thought, “How cool is it that she never has to worry about a shopping crisis strike out. She literally has the ability to create any type of clothing that she’d like. The coat that fits her perfectly or the pair of pants that no one else will have. I instantly admired her passion and knew that I was interested in learning on my own. 

The first night we went to Maddie’s studio to make our skirts, I really didn’t anticipate the amount of math it would take to measure out the correct amount of fabric for each of our skirts. Luckily, Maddie is a good guide and talked us through the process. Sara and I spread our fabric out and used chalk and washable markers to measure out our fabrics. We each took turns cutting and I’ve never been so careful cutting straight lines! After, she showed us how to shirr the skirt’s fabric so that it tightened around our waist band. 

It’s been a fun project to do on my own and I am so excited to see the final product!”

Sara and Ashley, I’m so glad I could give you a forever present and memory.

Stay tuned for the unveiling of their finished skirts!

sara and ashley (3 of 8)sara and ashley (4 of 8)sara and ashley (1 of 8)sara and ashley (5 of 8)sara and ashley (7 of 8)



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    I think this is a wonderful gift to give. They look like they are having so much fun. Do you do anything specific to make sure that you cut a perfectly straight rectangle. I have problems with this some times.



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