I’ve written before about how valuable to me time sewing with friends has been (in the book Once Upon an Expat…available now on Amazon…click here!) Here in Congo we have a group who get together around once a month to craft together, in surprisingly diverse ways: last week, we were drawing, making dreamcatchers, sewing garments, and talking about cross-stitch. On past occasions we’ve had the actual cross-stitch going on, leatherwork, découpage… It’s not a how-to session, no one is learning a new skill. (Although tips, advice and materials are often exchanged.) We come, we do, we go home again.
It’s not unreasonable to wonder, why go to someone else’s house for the doing? Why lug your materials or even sewing machine across town, just to take them home again three hours later? What kind of person needs to ‘stitch and bitch’ when they can just stitch? Not me anyway, I used to think – before I had kids, and before I started going to playgroups, and before I understood that being in the exclusive company of other women is so much more than mommy wars and bitching. While we’re at it, let’s just dispense right now with the use of that word, with the idea that women talking to each other can only comprise of complaining or doing others down. Let’s call it ‘stitch and cheer’ instead.
These days of course I spend a lot of time in the company of women, talking over coffee, dinners, singing practice, while we watch the kids. It’s a shame that there aren’t more men in our spouse circles…but that’s another thought for another day. The thing about doing while we talk, bringing our creative time together, is that the pressure is all off the conversation. And the conversation is freer, more relaxed, and can become more intimate, connected. We even have people who don’t bring anything to do, but just enjoy the hanging out time.
And just as important for me is that way that I can ring-fence that time for a project (or at least for starting one). I may have a great list of ideas of stitchy projects I want to do, but they’re rarely the priority amongst family, teaching, writing and other activities where I have a commitment to other people. At home, I can’t easily ignore the other stuff and do the sewing first. But if I’ve made an appointment to do it, I get the joy of making something new.
And so it is that last week I took along a refashioning project that’s been in my basket for months, since a favourite top got burned on the ironing board (not by me!) I was gutted to lose this easy-to-wear, compliment-inducing print top. Of course, being British, I pretended it didn’t matter at all, just a little thing, accidents happen, I hardly even wear it, no apology necessary! Etc.
But with the damage near the hem, I figured I could do salvage it, having recently become an avid follower of sewing blog Makery, where Portia Lawrie is the queen of stylish refashiong.
Two years later (ahem) I finally dug it out, and took it along to the crafting morning with a too-cheap shapeless t-shirt, with the intention of creating a wearable contrast top.
Quite apart from the trickiness of combing two different types of fabric, one knit, one woven, I suspected the cheapness of the t-shirt jersey could cause problems, so I knew this would be experimental.
Just as I was about to chop off the full damaged area of the red top, a friend pointed out that I could keep the full design, by unobtrusively patching one hole, and incorporating a couple of other into the seam allowance – already a win from sewing in company!
I finished it at home that weekend, and I am pleased to report I do indeed have a wearable favourite top again! Some specs are below for anyone interested in the details. The bottom hem with the cheap jersey is a bit lop-sided, but with a bit of pulling and stretching in the wearing it’s not easily noticeable, and I’ll be more than happy to wear this for school-run-and-pottering days. I’ll try and remember to post an update about how long it lasts.
Here are the specs:
Fabric – Mango scarf-print shell top; Zara (sorry Zara) too-cheap shapeless tee.
Strategy – Removed damaged hem of original top; unpicked side seams of tee, but retained original hems to add jersey pieces to front and back of original top – different lengths for split hem effect; unpicked short length of top side seams before attaching jersey, then re-did side seams.
Tips and techniques – Before cutting jersey to final length, used spray starch to stabilise it; hand-basted as well as pinned seams – these two techniques really helped keep seam from stretching out; zig-zagged seams to prevent fraying; lazily patched small hole in top with scrap from removed hem and wundaweb.