Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekend Project: KaBoom!

For 'tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petard
-- Shakespeare

Did you know that a "petard" is basically a land mine? So this quote means that a person is blown up with his own mine. I bring this up because, if you heard a loud boom coming from the direction of Florida this weekend, I think I can explain... ;)

One of my sewing students, Ana, constantly has ideas that involve deviating from the pattern instructions. Sometimes I can immediately see why they are bad ideas, and sometimes I am not sure if they would lead us into trouble or not.

The problem is that I am far from fluent in Spanish and so I generally have to stick to trying to communicate simple ideas. And she is the type of person who will be satisfied with a good explanation, but never with a "because I said so" excuse.

As a result, I came up with a one-size-fits-all bit of advice. I recommended that the FIRST time she sew any pattern, she stick faithfully to the instructions. My argument was that the people who designed the pattern probably put a lot of thought into it and know what they are doing and they may have good reasons for their approach. However, after she has sewn a pattern once, she should be familiar enough with it to be able to figure out if and where and how she can make modifications.

Makes sense, right? It was certainly good enough for Ana...

Apparently I need to run it by myself again! ;)

Yup, I took a peek at the hip skirt pattern and immediately started thinking that I could do better than the pattern designer. The waist band (really at the hip) is 3 inches wide and the pattern calls for 3/8th inch wide elastic to be inserted in the band.

The large discrepancy between the sizes of the waist band and the elastic just didn't seem right to me. Plus, I decided, I like zippers better anyways - I'll just put in a zipper instead. And so I did. ;)

Take a look at these two waist band pattern pieces from different patterns. See if you can figure out which one lies nicely along a woman's hip and can be closed up with a zipper, and which one needs some elastic along the top to help it conform to a woman's shape...

(So, as you can imagine, after putting in the zipper and trying on the skirt, I took out the zipper and bought some 3/8th inch wide elastic!)

It is truly embarrassing to have to admit to making such a stupid mistake.

But what an excellent lesson learned for me. First, a reminder that, despite having sewn for several years, I still do not know as much as professional pattern designers! ;)

Second, you can be sure that I'll pay a lot more attention to the shape of pattern pieces in the future - especially before I attempt any of my own modifications!

The skirt isn't quite finished yet, and given that I have other photos for you, I'll postpone a picture of the skirt until it is done.

Speaking of Ana, I pulled off a triple surprise this weekend. Juana and Ana had birthdays in April, and our friend Susan's birthday is early in May. I managed to throw a surprise birthday party for ALL 3 of them!
Here's how I did it. I invited Susan to help me throw a surprise birthday party for Ana and Juana. They were expecting me to show up alone for our regular sewing afternoon today (Sunday), and did not expect to see Susan or to have a party.

However, I had told them that Susan's birthday is this week, and if they wanted to give me birthday cards and/or presents for her on Sunday, then I could make sure that she got them during the week. So, when we showed up, she (of course) ahd presents for them, and they were prepared with cards and gifts for her! I had gifts for all, lots of balloons and a cake that listed all 3 names!
I wouldn't be surprised if this triple surprise goes down in history as a highlight of my career! ;)

After pizza and cake, we did spend some time sewing. Ana finished the purse that she was making for Mariana (the 4-year-old for whom I recently sewed a light blue sparkling princess dress).
And Juana finished the dress she was making for her brand new baby niece.

It was a wonderful afternoon! I hope you had a great weekend too!


CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

Wow! A triple surprise birthday party. You rock!

CarlaF-in Atlanta

gwensews said...

I loike your teaching method. That is how most of us learned to sew--per directions, then substituting techniques as we learned. Very good of you to throw the birthday party for everyone. Wish I had a teacher like you!

Sometimes, we do get "taken down a notch" in our sewing. Don't despair at your zipper vs. elastic dilema. After sewing all of my life, I today-sewed two front pant legs together. I started sewing teh back legs together when I discovered the shape wasn't looking quite right!

Christine said...

Great job on the surprise party!! I always had a hard enough time throwing a surprise party for 1 person, so pulling one for 3 is quite amazing!

gwensews said...

You've been given an award by Gwen at

Have a great day!