Things That Frustrate Me: Sewing Machine Help?

I’ve been working pretty steadily, sewing most of the day. Then, as I’m feeling a good rhythm, and nearing completion of some of the laptop bags I’ve been making, my sewing machine decides it wants to be a jerkface and throw a fit.

GEDoes ANYONE know what the heck this is? What causes it? How to fix it???

I’m at a complete and total loss. The machine will work perfectly fine, with no problems and then suddenly, BAM! It does this crap to me. What you’re seeing is the thread coming from the bobbin all jacked up. And it bunches and jams up the needle and I have to do battle with the machine to get my fabric back. It starts doing this out of nowhere and, if I’m lucky it’s a once or twice deal, but sometimes it will keep it up for hours before it manages to straighten itself out somehow. It makes me want to throw my machine out a window. These hissy fits that my machine throws waste a butt-load of thread. I often get upset and say, “Screw this” and go back to sewing by hand (which takes eons by comparison).

GEThis was taken the other week when it was doing the same thing.

Do any of you, my readers, have any experience with this? Can any of you offer me any help? I’ve had this machine for 11 years. My mother bought it for me. It’s a White 935.

GE GE

I actually meant to take pictures and post this a few hours ago, but then I had to hunt for my camera (it is a rather crappy camera, I know), which frustrated me even more.

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Laptop Bag: Making a Pocket

A couple months ago, while I was working on some other artwork, I took apart an old dress I’d picked up from FreeCycle eons ago and had been hoarding because I loved the pattern. I’ve decided I want to make a laptop bag with it. However, there are some modifications I had to make to the original Instructables pattern.

See, isn't that a gorgeous pattern?

See, isn’t that a gorgeous pattern?

First off, the material isn’t as heavy as that of a suit jacket. So, I needed to add some moderately thick interfacing to give it some extra stability. I only have 2 kinds of interfacing on hand – very thin fusible web and some generic sew-in interfacing that I picked up from somewhere ages ago (probably from my paternal grandmother) and I don’t even think the company that made it is around anymore. I don’t want to make a trip to the store, so I went with the 20+ year old sew-in stuff. It’s awesome how well this stuff kept. The point is, if your outer material is on the thin side, just about anything will do to stabilize it. If I didn’t have any interfacing, I could have used a layer of some slightly thicker fabric to add more durability.

The other thing I have to do is to create my own pockets. See, the beauty of using a suit jacket is that it already has pockets, so you don’t have to make them yourself. It’s a time saver, it really is. It can be a bit of a pain to draft and construct a pocket where none previously existed, but it can be done. Here’s how:

GE1) Measure out on the back where you need the hole for the pocket mouth to be. I do this my marking the center line. Then, you’ll want the mouth to be about 2.5 – 3 inches from the top. I decided I want my pocket to be about 5 inches wide, so, I made sure to put that 2.5 inch mark on that center line. You can use a rotory cutter or good scissors to carefully cut along that line.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn't been trimmed yet.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn’t been trimmed yet.

2) For each pocket I made, I cut out a rectangle of lining fabric about 5.5 -6 inches wide (wider than the mouth hole) by anywhere from 12-14 inches. It all depends on how deep you want your pocket. Say you want your pockets 6 inches deep. Since you’ll be folding the piece of lining in half, multiply the number of inches (in this case 6) by 2. Then, use some scrap piece of the outer material to line the top edge of each pocket piece. You will need this piece of outer material to blend in when pushing back the edges of the opening creates an open space. You’ll see what I mean later.

3) Starting with the bottom edge, face the right (face) side of the pocket to the right (face) side of the bag face, lining the edge of the pocket along the edge of the mouth hole. Pin into place and then sew. Go ahead and sew along the entire length of the pocket piece, even if it’s wider than the mouth hole. You can always use a seam ripper to pull out a stitch or two if you need to later.

GE4) Now you’re going to do the same thing with the top edge. Kind of loop the pocket lining over so that the edge of the right (face) side of the pocket runs along the top line of the mouth hole.¬† Sewing this one with a machine can be a little tricky, but it can be done.

GE5) Push the pocket into the mouth hole. Very carefully, work the edges of the mouth hole , pinching the edge from the pocket and the face, creating a smooth seam edge. Pin as you go. Pay particular attention to the two sides of the pocket slot. This is where you may need to take out a stitch or two – but just enough that you can push the pocket edges all the way in and create a smooth edge all the way around. Now, stitch around the pocket slot, making sure you don’t sew the pocket shut.

6) Sew the sides of the pocket shut.GE

Tada! You have created a pocket! I told you it was a pain in the ass, didn’t I? Now do you see why you needed that matching fabric at the top of the pocket piece?GE

Revisiting An Old Project: Laptop Bag

A couple years ago, my boyfriend emailed me a link he’d seen on making laptop bags out of men’s suit jackets (and strongly hinted that he wanted one). The pattern and instructions are over at Instructables. If you’re interested in making one, I suggest clicking that link, as I’m not going to be redundant here. ūüôā

One of the things I would recommend if you’re going to make one would be to use some upholstery grade thread and denim or leather needles, as you’ll eventually end up pushing very thick layers of material through your machine. My poor little machine was crying for mercy when I made one of these bags for Neil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      O

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that I’m gearing up for this weekend’s Race Street Bash, I’ve decided to create more of these laptop bags, using the original Instructables pattern as a basis from which I will variate. Come back tomorrow evening for the first of these variations!

What I Get For Thinking

From this point forward, no more promises… I promise.

So, I’m still not quite ready to show you all the completed jacket. After I finished installing the back panel and tacked on the new cuffs, I noticed something…

GE GE

… The outer edge of the cuffs, and on the wrist along the bottom of the cuff, are more spots that are fraying too badly for me to just ignore. The entire reason I am doing this creative upcycle is prolong the life of this jacket for my friend. If I don’t do anything with these worn spots, they will eventually get worse. Well, even without those spots, the jacket will still eventually wear down, but I’m aiming for later rather than sooner.

As a result of this problem, I’ve been experimenting with different ideas on how to reinforce these weak zones without just throwing more patches on them. So, I had one crazy idea that I spent way too much time on only to fizzle out on me. I thought that perhaps I could use a decoratively cut strip of contrasting denim to cover those areas – providing the needed reinforcement while at the same time looking interesting.

GE GE GE

If you notice, while the band fits well at the cuff, it’s too short on the other side as the arm of the jacket begins to expand out. If I secure this band onto the jacket, it will cause bulging and puckering. So, now I need to come up with another idea. In the meantime here are some photos of the jacket showing the completed back panel replacement.

GE GE

In other news, I have about a week before I am set to share a table with another friend, Julia, at C4A’s Race Street Bash in Urbana, Illinois. This means the jacket is going on the back burner while I finish making things for that event. Given that the temperature has been in the 80’s this past week, I don’t think Melissa will be needing her jacket back just yet. Besides, as I’ve been experimenting on it, I’ve decided there are a couple more things I want to do, for the sake of aesthetics. ūüôā

The Fitch Pitch: Socially Conscious Re-Branding?

So, I know that I had promised that my next post would be the finished jacket that I’ve been working on (See posts 1 and 2), and I promise to get to it. However, I saw this video in my Facebook news feed, and wanted to comment upon it.

I’ve never been all that keen on Abercrombie & Fitch (or American Eagle, or Hollister, or any of the other cookie cutter trendy fashion outlets for that matter). It’s just never been my style. When I was a teenager, I spent all of my hard earned burger flipping money at Hot Topic (which, 10-13 years ago actually carried some pretty awesome stuff). I still have my spiked leather collar… oh, memories. Of course, this was also before I woke up and started to learn about where all of my clothing came from and noticed the consumer machine I was taking part in. But, I digress…

A&F, like just about every other brand out there, is marketing to an audience and is pushing this image of what is physically and socially desirable. Everyone and everything around you is trying to influence you in some way. Our parents, our friends, the schools, the media, religion, all of it. How do you think culture is passed on? No one is born knowing anything or having any opinions or philosophies. We learn these things from the society around us, for better or for worse. At least the guy doesn’t deny he has an agenda. I don’t agree with his agenda, but, I give credit where it’s due.

So, the Fitch the Homeless campaign. I kind of like it in that they’re pretty much telling A&F, “Screw You and Your Elitist Crap!” And I also get that, generally, giving homeless people clothes isn’t a bad thing. Donating used clothes and keeping them from being trashed is certainly the opposite of the massive textile waste A&F creates by burning clothes (Seriously? Quit being such a dick.), so it’s doing some good there.
— Did you notice though, that they didn’t just shop some anonymous thrift shop, they went to Goodwill, and even made sure to flash the logo? The song, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis also specifically names Goodwill and just recently Beyonce teamed up with Goodwill for her latest tour. I’m sure these are all just coincidences, and it’s likely just genericized trademarking at work, as Goodwill is one of the largest second hand companies internationally and perhaps the most widely known company name in the US, aside from Salvation Army, but 2 syllables is less hassle than 5. Sorry, Salvation Army, we’ll always remember you come bell ringing season.

Perhaps what rattles around my mind the most with regard to this Fitch the Homeless campaign, is that, it’s pretty much using the homeless people to combat this image that A&F is pushing. I’m sure they have the best of intentions and they just want to wake some people up to this system we live in, tarnish the A&F CEO’s elitist vision and hopefully get him to 1) Quit burning clothes that people could use 2) Realize people come in all shapes and sizes and 3) We already have a big enough self-body image problems and disorders stemming from them.¬† I also respect that in order to get people involved in a cause, you have to get that message out somehow, so why not make a youtube video and use social media to get people motivated, interested and interacting with your cause? It’s a very smart thing to do and hopefully it *will* get people involved and bring about some positive change. But, despite all their well-meaning, at the end of the day, they’re still juxtaposing the image of homelessness against the current conventional ideals of social desirability. They’re mad at A&F for saying “A is pure, we don’t want to be tainted with B” – which I wholeheartedly agree makes them douchebags – but they’re fighting this message by saying, “Hey, look! We’re tainting your precious A with B all over the place and there’s nothing you can do about it!”. This is still a problem.

Fringe Distractions and The Wonder of Fusible Web

Was my last posting really 3 weeks ago? Where did the time go?? I suppose I can blame a recent obsession with Fringe for part of my distraction. I discovered it was on Netflix and have been systematically working my way through the series (I’m currently into the first 2 episodes of season 3 for anyone who cares). Though I did just spend a week out of town visiting family, so, that played a role too. (I managed to get my grandmother hooked and now Walter (played by John Noble) has become her heart throb. It’s too cute.) For anyone unfamiliar with the show, here is the promo for it:

Whatever the reasons for my absence, I hath returned! And I have updates on the progress of the jacket I started working on last time.  The very first thing I did was to take out that upper back panel and the two cuffs, as they suffered the most damage. I ironed them out and used them as patterns to create new pieces. Because the front sections of the vest were too small by themselves to cover the entire back panel, I needed to combine them to create a big enough piece. So, I played around with them a bit Рlaying them out in different ways, trying to imagine how cut out pieces would look, how I would need to arrange them to both utilize as much of the decorative material as I could while trying to maintain some kind of visually pleasing aesthetic once the sections were to be joined with the denim.

GE GE GE

Now, while I am entirely replacing the more damaged pieces, there are other areas of the jacket that are worn down as well. The folded edge of the collar has a lot of wear on it. However, as the collar sits directly above the back piece that’s already been replaced, I can’t very well replace the entire collar without compromising the visual harmony of the jacket. But I couldn’t very well leave it to wear down further, otherwise I would be doing all this repair work only to have my friend’s beloved jacket wear out again in a short time. So, as an answer to both of these problems. I patched them from the wrong side with the help of some fusible web.

GE GE

This is actually the same thing I did when I realized the buttonholes from the vest were part of the back piece I’d cut out and installed. As I was predominately concerned with layout and fabric conservation, I managed to overlook them! However, a few pieces of scrap and some fusible web and the buttonholes were no longer an issue.

GE GE

Next time, I will show you all the finished project!