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Learning to Sew

My grandmother knitted and my mom needlepointed, I’ve picked up both crafts. Even though both of them did needle crafts, neither of them sewed except to mend clothes and occasionally hem things (we are short, so most things need hemming!) So for Mother’s Day, my mom and I decided that we needed to learn. We took a class at John Lewis (we were living in London at the time). It cost somewhere in the ballpark of £50 for the two of us; reasonable considering it was a half day and included all materials.

We learned to use a sewing machine, follow a pattern, sew various stitches, and make an apron! It was a ton of fun. So much fun that my mom and I decided to buy a sewing machine… Suddenly our not terribly expensive class spawned the purchase of a moderately priced Janome sewing machine. Then fabric. And that’s where the wheels came off the wagon.


I don’t know if you are familiar with the store Liberty of London. Well, they have the most beautiful and overpriced fabric ever. Seriously, it’s something like £22 per meter for their least expensive fabric. But it is lovely fabric to work with and it comes in beautiful colors and patterns. Anyone who sews knows that precuts and kits cost more per yard (or meter, as the case is in England) than comparable fabric off the bolt. Of course they save time and there’s less waste so often they are worth it. For us the kits had the added bonus of having all the materials and instructions for a simple, self contained project. We each made one patchwork pillow. Then another (the pillows above are our second kits). Then we got Rowan fabric from John Lewis (it’s the brand we used for our aprons) and made more patchwork pillows.


If you sew, you know that these pillows are barely patchwork. But look at the points on that four square pillow!


We now make almost anything as long as it’s flat. Curtains, pillow, more pillows, coasters, and quilts. I quite like quilting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dead set on making quilt sized things, but I like the technique and I admit there is something amazingly pleasurable about finishing a whole quilt.  I’ve made 4 quilts so far. Two are very small, very simple lap quilts (both from Purl Soho patterns–if you are learning to quilt or do patchwork, I highly recommend them). The blue and yellow one (pictured above) is very large. It’d fit a double bed as a quilt but is meant as a throw for my mom’s queen bed. And finally the small-ish grey and white one, which is a proper size lap quilt with a modern sort of pattern.


I am advancing to less flat things. I made a case for my sewing machine, because unlike the more expensive (and higher end) Janome that my mom got, my free-with-sears-points Brother machine didn’t come with a cover. It’s the least flat thing I’ve made and it’s really just five flat pieces sewn together. I am proud of the matching pin cushion and the ribbon trim. If it didn’t collapse on some of the quilted lines, it would almost look professional! And now I’m planning on making a camera bag, which will be composed of flat pieces but when all is said and done it will be less flat than anything I’ve made previously. Fingers crossed.

From time to time, I’ll share some photos of my sewing projects and other crafty activities. I’ve been trying to step up my game in this department; partly because I like being able to make quilts and other useful items, partly because it keeps me out of the kitchen (which will make my scale and my waistband happy), and partly because crafting calms me (something I certainly will need during this election cycle!)


Hi, I'm Mercedes. I'm a PhD candidate in politics and a trained pastry chef. I'm also an amateur photographer, hobby quilter, and all-around nutty girl living in the Big Apple.

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