Monday, September 30, 2013

Improv Bags, Here They Come!

I had these bagful of cut-up strips of soft canvas-like cotton fabrics originally intended for kids' project that my friend, Suzette, left me. She simply ran out of time to utilize the craft supplies for youth group at church before she moved to Egypt. The supplies sat in my garage for good five years, not knowing what to do with them. I finally took them to the church summer camp this year along with three of my sewing machines, hoping that some inspiration will hit me.
OMG, it did! I stared at the strips of soft canvas for a while. Then, BINGO!  I also had a box of random fabrics loaded up in my car, just in case. I quickly ran to my car to drag the fabrics out, and began sewing. Here is my first one. The accent fabric was also a nice thick durable woven cotton, very suitable for market bags. Formerly a curtain!

That was totally fun. Totally an improv sewing. I took no measurements, just picked the fabric up (the soft canvas was already cut into these strips of mostly same but varied length so I just needed to pick the ones with similar length), cut the accent fabric, not even pinned them as the fabrics didn't slip at all, and just sewed away!

The bag looked rather plain, so I added a heart applique. The straps were made with the same soft canvas material of the same size strip. One strip cut in half and patched up to make it longer, produced one strap.

This second one I made had shinny, glitter accent, and it was very popular. All these bags ended up being sold for a fundraiser, and I received requests to make more with this purple/lavender shinny glitter accent fabric - a former pillow case/sham.

This one was with rainbow butterfly accent fabric. Very sunny. I decided to sew on a few different colors of cotton fabric pieces onto the strap.

 Oh, I just love this daisy print. I picked up about a yard of it, totally unused new condition, at a recycle shop a while back. After sewing into the bag here, I loved it so much that I actually looked up the source of this fabric. I found it. It's called Daisy Path. I liked it so much that I ended up making two more bags with this fabric, with only about 1" x 3" of the fabric left! I may get more now that I know where I can get it.

More of the purple lavender shinny pillow case/sham accent bags.

I recently sew, I mean, saw this book at a bookstore and immediately picked it up.  Improv Sewing. Oh, YES! Somehow my mind was trapped in the idea that I must use a pattern, I must follow directions, or at least I must take measurements in all things at all times.  The book freed me up. "Oh, heck. It's just a market bag and these are leftover fabric pieces which were otherwise going to be thrown out. Nothing to lose." FREEDOM! Formerly a certifiable control freak (I've come a long way, I now consider myself a recovering and expanding control freak) of a creative type, now on the loose! Watch out! The ladies who wrote the book has a blog. They even made a book trailer! I love it.

Anyway, It's a beautiful book. I haven't made anything that's in the book yet. But I am inspired. That was the whole purpose of the book anyway, right?  For now, I'm possessed with bag making and I'm loving it. I pick the base fabric for the bag, but don't really have a plan for the accent fabric or the size or the design, and just make it up as I go. So freeing and different from the traditional garment construction. I still love and do garment construction the old fashion way, but for now loving making bags.

By the way, the three sewing machines I took with me to the camp and sewed every single day, all day long, (so much so that I didn't do anything else! Really!) were these three cuties. I got to know them, especially two very well. 6 hours of non-stop sewing daily would do that.

Here is my Singer Genie. She's so sunny and cute.

My red "S" Singer Featherweight. I didn't sew much with her since she is straight stitch only. But I made her an extension table cover with a leftover jean leg from hemming, inspired by Tammy's blog. Well, I just re-read it and the idea apparently originally came from Michelle of Life With Lou, who by the way was the FIRST official visitor to my blog leaving a comment! Such an honor!
 I also brought my trusty Kenmore Ultrastitch machine. Oh, nuts. I don't even have a photo of him! (For me, I think it's a he) Well, another post, maybe entirely dedicated to him as he is special.

I got distracted a little. Back to improv bags and improv sewing.  Do you ever sew and make something without having an exact plan? What do you make? How is the result? What do you think this way of sewing does to your mind, heart, soul, your brain, etc?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How it all began - My first vintage sewing machine

Let me introduce you to my beautiful 'Tami'. My first vintage sewing machine, Singer 15-91, born in 1936.  She came into my life in April of 2013.  I know, I know. Singer 15-91 isn't that rare or super special. But how she came into my life is. In some ways, it changed my life.

 Pretty girl. Front and back.

I think these were 'before' pictures. Even before getting a spa treatment, she was in a pretty good shape. She was definitely well used, loved, and well cared for.

One day,  I came across an estate sale. It was 2:00pm. Something told me to stop by. I go in the house. The sale is about to end at 3:00pm and everything was half off. I cruise the house that has been mostly picked and looking rather chaotic. I walked into a room which was apparently a sewing room. There was a sewing machine in cabinet (I think it was a Kenmore, but I didn't pay much attention to it) and there was another black sewing machine on the floor which got my attention.  It looked old and dusty, but somehow I was attracted to it. It had some gold embellishments on it which later I learned they are called 'decals'. (I was a complete novice at vintage sewing machines.)

I asked to test it, the folks there said sure go ahead. I plugged it in, I heard the motor. I realized I may not know how to thread it when I looked at the machine. Then the magic happened.  My hands remembered how to. The bobbin case was there, so it was good, and my hands just automatically took the thread and threaded the machine. The threading was very similar to the machine I learned how to sew on when I was, maybe 5. I did this while two women looked over me, as if to say 'you go girl'.

It powered on and it sewed. I decided to take it home. It's half off, anyway, right?  I also picked up some sewing odds and ends that were still left in the room, which included fabric cutter and some large rulers, for practically nothing. I also found this book in the linen closet. Since there was no manual or anything for the sewing machine, I decided to pick up the book. They tell me it's $1. No brainer.
This is how my first vintage sewing machine made it home with me.  I instantly fell in love with the beautiful stitch it made, and its beautiful face plate.

Besides, it was as if something told me to take her home, guided my hand to thread the machine to test it while I was surrounded by a couple of older women encouraging me to take it. I felt an immediate connection to the machine, and couldn't bare the thought of it ending up at some random thrift store or, even worse, at a dump. It had to go home with me.  I hadn't seen a beautiful stitch like that before. It took my breath away. I was amazed. It was even before I cleaned it up and oiled it, mind you.

Later I learned that the machine was born in the same year my mother was born. In honor of my mother, I named her Tami.

I researched and learned how to open up the machine to clean and oil.  Look, I even took the tension dial apart.

And, this is how it all began. Tami was about to change my life which you'll know more about in my subsequent posts. Why this blog title, "Urban Recyclist"?  Well, there is more to my story.  I hope you'll come back to check it out.