Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Revisiting old nightmares

I've had to drag the sewing machine kicking and screaming out of its cupboard several times this week and that doesn't please me. I don't think it pleases the sewing machine either - I hear malice in its whirring everytime I use it and it's gone for my fingers several times. Relining curtains is an unwieldly job, especially when your only workspace is already covered in fimo, miniture cupcakes, beads and a pile of paper you should have analysed for last weeks "team confabulation". I guess the only saving grace is this paper now has several lines of neatish holes punched in it.

I know it's not good to analyse, but was thinking back and trying to work out where our relationship broke down and the realisation struck me quite clearly. I attended what was effectively a technology college between the ages of 11 - 13. I actually don't remember much about the school other than the sheer number of practical lessons we had. I cut things out of zinc sheet, snapped bits of acrylic on pillar drills, learnt how to turn wood on an industrial size lathe and how to use hand engraving tools. I blame my parents for encouraging me to make things, but I blame school for giving me tools and showing me what was possible. Far more practical learning experience than the prissy single gender grammar school I shifted to later on, where it took four weeks for a group of horribly giggly girls to build and paint a rather useless looking shelf. For someone with my background, these lessons were nothing short of inefficent torture; honestly, if you want to wind me up, make me work with someone who's scared of power tools. And Miss Clarkson used to wash her smalls in the washing machine in the home economics room *shudders*.

The only practical thing I hated at tech college though was textiles. There is only so much time I can spend making kites and hand sewing googly eyes on a soft-toy freak show before I lose patience. I carried the resentment with me from primary school where the girls and boys were split once a week - and I had to practice feather stiching on bright orange cross-stitch canvas whilst the boys got to build planes out of balsa wood. Even now, twenty years later, the unfairness of that still irks me. Textiles class never stood a chance because it felt like a punishment meted out specfically on those with two X chromosomes.

My over-riding memory of textiles class at the tech college is the sewing machine. Before you were allowed to thread and use the thing you had to prove you could sew in straight lines with the correct speed by submitting (to be graded) your neat lines of holes punched in paper. I still do that exercise before I start stitching now. The first exercise I remember where I was allowed fabric was the one I am going to repeat today. The technology apron - the item that that you made in textiles, wore in woodwork then washed and ironed in home economics.

I don't have any really rough beige cotton in my sewing stuff so it isn't going to be an exact replica. I also might even consider wearing the apron in the kitchen - I now have a Kenwood Chef which is capable of plastering me with whatever is in the mixing bowl (even on the lowest setting), so it needs to be thick enough to withstand projectile cake mix.

I do have this fabric. I like it a lot.

I was going to make a dress out of it (I even have the pattern)...

...until I realised that a) that was too ambitious a project given I can't sew b) I'd never get round to it and c) boho/vintage/shabby chic isn't really me. I haven't worn gingham since I was at the afore-mentioned school of infant gender repression and this fits in the same box. If it was a person it would be a young 1950's American housewife with immaculate hair, nails, make-up and a duster in one hand - posing like a poster girl for a furniture polish company. I look like a cross between Amy Winehouse and Sarah Palin so drinking tea elegantly out of bone china cups with Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston isn't going to work.

Aprons, in my limited knowledge of not wearing them, consist of a central piece, a neck strap, two ties and a front pocket. The central piece is symmetrical. I also want a loop on the side for useful things. I don't know why, it just feels right.

I don't want to start by hacking up my nice spotty fabric, so I'm taking out the overhead projector pen on the remaining "Hick-chic" corn curtain first. This sort of looks like an apron - at least it's symmetrical (fold down the centre axis, draw and slice).

My fabric is quite thin and because of this it needs lining or it won't withstand an ariel cupcake frosting attack. I have this thin blue fleecy material, which is meant to be a blanket.

I'm glad it's going on the inside though, as it feels flammable - a scary sort of 80's shell-suit flammable. I figure it'll be splash proof at least - as it's synthetic, even if I risk ending up looking like a Pink Floyd album cover by getting to close to the cooker.

I'm going to start by hemming the pocket and making the straps - as it's a small job and the sewing machine might not notice.

I can cut round my arable template to give a nice shape - leaving a little bit of leaway for hemming the outside part.

Adding the interior layer...

All hemmed - after much cursing and thread snapping. I should admit here that I have no idea what the dials on the side of the sewing machine actually do as I haven't changed them since I pulled the thing out its box originally.

I'm going to go back to punching holes in paper now. Next the straps and sundry bits...

A little focal corsage made from vintage lace to break up the spots a bit. Actually, that should read (if I'm being honest) - made a flower out of a scrap that looks like it's been cut from an old petticoat and stitched it onto one corner of the pocket to hide the fact that I forgot to line up the pattern repeats and turned the corner way to fast. Just to warn you, I drive like I sew. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Me and the sewing machine, well, we're never going to remarry, but I think I'm satisfied with the armed truce we seem to have at the moment. At least the cupcakes won't stand a chance any more.

I did listen at school. Sometimes.

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