Thursday, 4 November 2010

On a Zip and a Prayer

I’m like a child in a sweet shop with sewing shops; nose squished against the window, breath frosting the glass, saliva drooling down my chin over the colourful, unattainable treats inside.
Then I remember the door.
Recently, I went to see Roz, at Sew Much Fun. You can’t just ‘pop in’ with her - once you cross that threshold into a land of fleecy cupcakes, flat-packed owls and cosy chaos it’s impossible to leave. I just wanted a couple of buttons and ended up staying all afternoon. Some, making whole outfits, have been there for years.
I love it. It’s not cheap, but you can always get what you’re looking for, or a good enough substitute. Orange buttons? Here’s a jarful.
As I rummaged looking for three identical ones (there were two of every single kind, just not three) we got into a conversation about cutting corners. Hard though it is to admit it, I’ve done with sewing what I always do with any new project. Learn a few basics, rush in, make a little headway and then hit a wall which I won’t be able to climb unless I slow down and learn to do things properly.
Like putting in a zip. I’ve been either winging it so far or avoiding the necessity of putting one in (nothing wrong with pulling something over your head, is there? Even if it does give you a flat face). I don’t even use the zip foot because it’s far too scary and, well, it’s just easier not to so I use the normal foot instead and it can’t get anywhere near close enough, leaving a huge margin.
Then there’s tacking. I know that, like pension plans and Brussel sprouts, the laborious needle and thread system is there for my own good. It’s just much quicker to skip the tacking and go straight from pin to sew. Who’s going to notice the odd bit of bunching here and there and, honestly, why would they even care?
The trouble is that I notice and I care. I know where the faults lie, and I know they’ll just get worse. Take the three orange buttons, and by extension the dress they were destined for. It had started off so well. I bought the fabric on a day out in a little shop in Brighton’s lanes, a lovely bright blue linen/cotton mix. For the pattern I borrowed a dress from someone at work that I’d always loved (the dress, not the person), made with triangles and hanging down to asymmetrical points. From this I made a rough newspaper pattern and a diagram that could pass as instructions.
The problem came when I tried to assemble it. Because my pattern was so haphazard the triangles didn’t meet up. The bodice was too wide and I had no idea how to attach the straps. Oh, and the zip was a disaster – one line of stitching far wider than the other, and such an ugly mess. It served its function, ie doing up and undoing, but was pretty shoddy workmanship.
You know how you always know when a cake is homemade because the top slopes to once side and you can see knife marks in the icing? Well, that’s what the dress ended up like, even with the addition of orange buttons. Surely the aim is for people at least to assume you bought the dress in the shops. If the dress quite clearly isn’t fit for sale then should you even be wearing it in public…
One comment made me laugh though.
‘You’ve done the zip really well!’. Ha! Which either meant the person hadn’t looked at it properly. Or they were being kind. Or they honestly thought that was the best I could do.
Whichever it was, it was time to go back to the drawing board. Less time staring into shop windows. More, shudder, zip time.