Sewbi-wan Kenobi: May the seam ripper be with you

ben_kenobiI did it. I changed the blog. I’d been thinking about it ever since the sewing obsession took over, and I realized that my old blog name and design just had nothing to do with sewing at all. I wanted a change, but I hassled myself about it. “Stop shifting things around all the time.” And then you know what? I had a moment of clarity. It’s my blog. Just like sewing these clothes is about me dressing how I want, wearing what I want, making what I want. If I want to shift things, I will shift them. So I have!

My two favorite communities on Facebook are the Curvy Sewing Collective Community and the Patterns for Pirates community. A few days ago I started sewing with knits for the first time. Oh boy. Knits are great, but they take some know-how. I posted in my two favorite communities:

Oh you guys, someone talk me down off the cliff. My serger arrived today. You’d think the day that happened, the serger would be the problem, but no, she’s humming right along (I named her Andy after Pretty In Pink). It’s KNITS that are a total nightmare! I have a stack of great patterns for leggings, t-shirts, and skirts, and a stack of knit fabric. Today I thought, I’ll take it easy, I’ll make a maxi skirt, something simple, just to get adjusted to working with knits. Easy, right? And yet I just made the world’s ugliest maxi skirt.

The fabric ROLLS, rolls, rolls all the time, at every open edge. I tried ironing it on medium, per the iron’s directions and what I’ve read. It just seemed to anger it. It would stay flat for a few seconds, and then SPROING back into rolling, practically giving me it’s little knit middle finger as it went. Getting the waistband on was literally twenty minutes of me just sitting there, unrolling three layers of fabric, trying to clip them open, then watching as they furled back up. Sewing all this together was so hard (and it looked awful when I was done).

I’ve watched a dozen tutorials on YouTube, and yes, knits roll, but nothing like mine. People have knits with slightly curling edges. Where are these magical knits? What am I doing wrong? I washed it first, was that the problem? Do I need to pre-serge all edges? (What a waste of thread.) Help me, Sewbi Wan Knitobi…. (simulposting this to the Patterns for Pirates community).

wicketBetween the two communities, I got a hundred responses, everyone laughing with me, supporting me, and helping me out. (You can read them here and here.) One person even took a video of her sewing with knits to show me what normal rolling looked like! In the end we figured out that I had bought some bad fabric, and I got lots of great advice on what to get next time. Most people wear their clothes without thinking about fabric content, but when you sew it becomes necessary to really understand the material you’re working with. I’d made the mistake of thinking “knits” were just one big category that I could pull anything out of and use successfully. Boy was that the wrong assumption.

The next afternoon I thought I’d figured knits out. This time, I was trying to make a pair of Peg Legs. Now, I want to make it clear that it was not the fault of the pattern that I had so much trouble. I was making mistakes, but at the time I didn’t know what I’d done wrong, and I was rapidly descending into sewing-room misery. So I posted to the Patterns for Pirates community (the company which sells the Peg Legs pattern) to ask what I was doing wrong:

Okay, I know my post last night about knits was funny, and it was meant to be, I was frustrated but also still very much had a sense of humor intact. Today I’m basically near tears. Once I realized my green knit fabric was just BAD, that the rolling wasn’t my fault and wasn’t normal, I moved on to this pink stuff. Seemed fine! I tried to make peg legs. Spent all morning cutting them out – I have fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue, so it takes me awhile to do anything and using my time and energy this way is a big deal. Once the pattern was done, I was ecstatic at how easy they were to cut out of the fabric and put together. Until I realized, they’re wrong.

The waist on the peglegs is about 34″ around. That can’t be right. I’m a 2X, I have a 50″ waist. The band that I cut out for the pants goes way beyond the actual waist. I can’t figure this out. I checked the strips on my serger: my seam was 1/2″. The length on the pants seems just fine. I tried them on, thinking maybe there is some magic to make pants 34″ around fit a 50″ waist. No, I can’t even get them on, they’re way too small. I checked the pattern: yes, I cut out the right size. I haven’t cried over my sewing in ten years. I know it’s too early to give up on knits, but I literally have $200 worth of fabric in the dryer right now, and I’m considering just selling it and going back to making sundresses in the summer from cotton prints. What the heck is wrong with my sewing? I don’t understand. You guys are making Peg Legs left and right! Why am I failing?

Again, a ton of comments, and again, all of them kind, encouraging, and full of suggestions and advice. I’m telling you, these are the nicest people on Facebook. I love these two groups so much. People shared stories of the times they screwed up, and they had so many suggestions for how to make the next pair work. I found out what I’d done wrong; I’d cut against the grain, and I’d used a fabric with not enough stretch. The pattern wasn’t the problem, I’d seen dozens of people make great Peg Legs. It was just that I didn’t have any experience with knits, and I was glossing over details that turned out to be really important. Your basic newbie mistakes.

And then, after we’d figured out the issues, my jaw dropped when Joy Lucio from NR Fabrics told me to go her site, pick out my favorite solid color of the cotton/lycra (the blend I should have been using), and she’d send me three yards. For free. What an amazing, generous offer! A few days later, I opened my mailbox to find a package containing three yards of beautiful eggplant cotton/lycra. It’s gorgeous! I can’t wait to make another pair of Peg Legs!

I love these communities so much, I feel like I’ve found my tribe, and in sewing I feel like I’ve found my passion. I wanted to change my blog to highlight this. I thought back to the support I’d gotten, and how they’d loved my joke about “Sewbi-Wan”. When I thought about how to change my blog, I thought about the warmth of the sewing tribe, my love of sci-fi, my wise-ass sense of humor, and that silly crack I’d made. The decision was easy.

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