A long story about making something

There's something I've wanted to share with you for a while. It is something I made. On a sewing machine. Like, real sewing, with a pattern and all.

But first I'd like to introduce you to someone: her name is Lisa and she's the face behind biglittletales.blogspot.co.nz  blog.

I came upon her blog earlier this year when I was uploading images and links onto bloggers' conference website. When I first clicked on Lisa's blog, I think I spent (at least) half an hour going through her posts, page after page after page. She makes things, mostly kids' clothing I think, and there was such style and... ambience almost to her photos.

At one point I saw her ask, would anyone like to test out a pattern?, and without thinking much I e-mailed her. No, sorry, she answered, this one's already been tested. But there are, she said, more patterns which will be up for testing shortly. A classic unisex pea coat, for example. Would I be interested?

Hell yeah I'd be interested!

Though first I had to ask: what's a pea coat?


And I should probably put in a disclaimer right here and now, and that is: I'm not a sewing type of a person. 

I mean, sure, I can make a kitchen towel - almost anyone can. (Technically, it was my husband who had never used a sewing machine before, who taught me how to zig-zag a kitchen towel side all neat and tidy :P. He'd come up with it himself, whilst I wasn't at home, and I've done lots of towels since.)

Or I can patch up my jeans. And put labels onto The Kid's clothes.

But I've never really made a proper piece of clothing. The one dress I made in school doesn't count, because - and if you're my domestic studies teacher, please skip this paragraph here - I only pretended to work on it in class and always dropped it off at the seamstress' office after school. She quickly undid stitches I'd put in in class, put in an equivalent of my week's worth of work in ten minutes, and essentially finished that dress for me, and I got an A for it.

Though for some reason whilst I was reading through Lisa's Big Little blog I felt brazen enough to think I could handle it. And being a pattern testing project, it wasn't gonna be an issue if it didn't work out, was it?


Pattern printed out on loads of A4 sheets I sat down with a marker pen and started underlining all the bits that were confusing. (I mean, it is a pattern testing, isn't it? It's my job to send in as much feedback as possible, isn't it?)

Within minutes it was clear to me that I was lacking some pretty essential sewing vocabulary.

Cut on fold. What's that?
Cut mirror. What's that?
Serge. What's serge?
Press the seams open. What's pressing? Is it, like, with an iron or something? But I don't even own an iron. Never have.

I tried reading it a few more times, in case I figured it out along the way, and then googled a little, but in the end I just put the damn thing aside and started cutting out the pattern, thinking I'd figure it out once I've got the pattern sorted.

Which is sort of what happened. Sure, there were a few blips along the way and it took me a whole three nights' worth of sewing, but I made it. I made it! 

It went from this, an old picnic blanket,

to this,

and this,

until it was this!

And though the coat was meant for my niece who is just a little younger than The Kid, I straight away tried it on The Kid who, for one, wasn't very impressed with being stuck in a coat when it's 20 degrees outside and, two, doesn't look girly enough for this coat anyway. But I wanted to see how it looks!

And then came the funny part.

One of the blips I experienced during my sewing process is that for some reason, however careful I was with pinning and matching and cutting and following the instructions, sleeves just would not match the body. Like, throw a tantrum sort of style wouldn't match. Just wouldn't. 

Three times I tried, three times it wouldn't work and in the end I just, ahem!, stretched the outer fabric enough (because it's got stretch) and put a fold in the inner fabric (because it hasn't) to make it work.

And why I didn't just e-mail Lisa and ask, beats me. It would've been such a reasonable thing to do, would it not?

But once I'd sent my comments and my sewing story to Lisa, along with photos of the finished product, with a bit of back and forth e-mailing we realised that... I was doing it wrong. Like, basic sewing sort of stuff wrong.

You see, when I was at school and was taking those domestic studies classes, the one thing that stuck with me was how to mark out a pattern and cut it out and piece it together. It was one of those things I did have to do in class, myself, whilst the teacher was watching :P.

And even back then I was smart enough to think, wow is this cumbersome and tedious or what. 

We had to mark out the pattern onto fabric, cut it out leaving about 2 cm of fabric around the markings, then piece it together so that markings on different pieces of fabrics matched - a major pain in the bum if you ask me - and then somehow get to a wearable product as a result. (Which in my books was nothing short of magic.)

Sort of like this, sewing where those crude red markings are:

But turns out that sewing has changed since then. Turns out that - and to people that don't sew it probably isn't gonna make any sense, but trust me, in practice this thing here makes A LOT of sense - nowadays you don't have to leave that 2 cm edge and try to make markings match whilst fiddling with it.

Nowadays you cut along the pattern, don't even have to mark out anything - just put a piece of paper onto fabric, pin, and cut. And then when you put two pieces of fabric together, they match. And then you just sew a little bit away from the edge, which in my case would've been something along the lines of this:

And then it dawned on me that, one, had I known this ahead of time, it would've probably taken me much less than 3 full evenings of sewing because I would've not had to fiddle with matching it all and stretching one fabric and folding another one and, two, I know knew why a coat that was meant for a 2-year-old was looking so big and roomy =)

Pardon me for such an unsightly crop but I'm just trying to leave my niece a little privacy. On my own kid, I remind you, it looked like this:

So, yeah, that's my sewing story. The first ever piece of clothing I have made, personally and honestly.

And though I very much enjoyed the challenge, I am so not doing it again!

PS. Do check out Lisa's Big Little blog. She makes some awesome stuff.

Edited to add: in case you're wondering, I don't think Lisa's patterns are difficult.

In fact, if I didn't have that (wrong) preconceived idea that I had to leave a gap between a pattern and a cutline, I think I would've been fine. But it did not occur to me, once, that it could possibly be done differently than the way I was doing it.

So if you're a beginner, too, and you're wondering whether to try something out from Lisa's collection, I'd say go for it. It's doable. Just sayin'!


  1. well done - it actually looks great! :o)

  2. I think it's turned out really well, well done especially considering it's really your first attempt!

  3. See on asjalik jope, mille sa valmistasid. Tuli just meelde, et kunagi 1979-80 aastal mu ema valmistas just sarnase ja lillelise jope mu pojale, see oli pikk ja soe ja samuti oli varrukates kasvuruumi ja pikkuses ka. Ta oli kerge ja soe, kuna pepu ja polved olid tuule eest kaitstud.
    Soomes on ka välja kuulutatud 4G vörk osades linnades jakohtades, kuid seda kiirust ju kunagi kätte ei saa. Ei tasu lihtsalt maksta selle eest, mida sa ei saa kasutada.