crafts · Sewing · workouts

Taking my (sewing) medicine, plus fitness update

I love to sew, which is probably obvious from reading this blog!  Having said that, there are some parts of the process that I love more than others.  For example:

I love:

Ironing seams

Sewing fast

Narrow hems (I’m weird)


I… don’t love:

Cutting, both the pattern and fabric

Sewing on buttons

Trying to adjust gathers evenly


Out of those, I hate cutting the most.  In fact, when I’m not sewing it’s often because I can’t face up to the idea of cutting something out!  I use a rotary cutter, which is easier than anything else of course, but even so I hate all the pinning and marking.  Patterns are tedious too, but not as bad as fabric.  I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about this issue – I hate to miss out on  sewing time because the part I don’t like comes first!

I’m off work all week, as I don’t teach on Thanksgiving week.  I am not going out of town for the holiday this year, so I decided to try an experiment:

I brought my cutting table into my living room, put on some tv I’d been meaning to watch (Stephen Fry’s “In America” on Netflix) and set myself to cutting.  Cutting is much more fun with something to watch!  I’m also trying to train myself to use pattern weights for smaller pieces, to avoid pins. I don’t have a cutting mat that is as large as my table, so that only works with small pieces, as I need to scoot the mat sometimes.  I’m way to cheap to pay as much as the large ones cost so far, but eventually I may get one!

After I cut the pieces to a pattern, I marked them (with my chalk pen) and removed the pattern pieces.  I put them in zip loc bags with the pattern.

This way, when I want to sew I can just pull a the pieces out.  I’m still working on cutting my winter wardrobe today, and then I have a rehearsal tonight, but tomorrow I plan to start some sewing!

Finally, I thought I would post a little update about my progress on the exercise program I committed to (Ballet Body Periodization.)  I’ve completed 2 months of the program out of 6.  Each month gets a little harder, but I am (mostly) enjoying the challenge.  I’m very excited to have upper body strength for the first time ever (thus this ridiculous photo!)

Ok, so I won’t be winning any bodybuilding competitions, but if you look really closely you can see actual muscles!   I don’t have a body type that builds easily on my upper half, as it is naturally small, so this is exciting.  The plan has a ton of plank and pushup work for upper body.  At first this made my wrists ache, as I have tendinitis, but after awhile I actually felt my wrists strengthening.  It has actually aided in my playing – I used to get aches in my wrist after a long session, but not anymore!

I also made a full body collage of the changes I’ve seen.  Having a visual record of progress makes it easier to continue on days that I’d rather just nap!

The biggest change is core strength, as I think you can see in the top row.  You should be able to click and make the photo bigger, I know it’s small.  I’m not dieting (or changing my diet really) so any change is due to the plan.  I actually know singers who refuse to do core strengthening exercises, as they believe it will form a ring of muscle that will impede their breathing and lung capacity.  I don’t find this to be the case, though I suppose it’s possible that overtraining might cause a problem, especially if you overtrain only one part of the core, if (for example) you only did traditional crunches.  My knees have strengthened as well.  I used to get pain in my right knee sometimes, but as I’ve strengthened the muscles around the knee that has gone away.

The biggest change, though, is in how I feel.  I have more energy overall, and my self-esteem has increased.  I think my body is healthier – I got my usual November/change of the weather cold this week, and it was gone in 6 days (plus I never got as run down as I usually do.)  I exercise for an hour on average, 6 days a week (it’s actually longer than an hour on strength days, and less on cardio (I do 40 minutes, as I’m still working on endurance.)   I am telling you, if I can do this anyone can.  I have not seriously committed to a plan like this in my entire life!  I used to dance, but that was different – and I was not a super great dancer either!  I did exercise when I was dating a trainer, but it wasn’t for me, and I didn’t see great results.  I plan to continue with the plan, and after that is over try a different plan.  I’m trying to make this a lifestyle change!  I’ve bought way too many exercises dvds, and my husband is getting me an x-box Kinect for Christmas.  I tried out one of the dancing games, and it’s a great workout – I love to dance, even if I’m not the best!

I hope to be back later this week with some completed garments – hopefully even some pants!

19 thoughts on “Taking my (sewing) medicine, plus fitness update

  1. Buy a piece of hardboard and cut it to the size of your cutting table and then you can cut directly on it with your rotary cutter. It does blunt the cutter blades a little fast, and eventually the hardboard gets so beaten up that it has to be replaced, but for my table I can buy one sheet of hardboard and get two cutting “mats” from it for about £8 so it doesn’t break the bank when they need replacing.

    I honestly think I might have quit sewing before I’d really got started if I hadn’t started cutting everything with a rotary cutter.

  2. Those big mats from J’s (or H’s) aren’t too bad if you use the coupons. There will probably be a 50% off one here soon that will knock it down to a more manageable price. I cringed when I bought mine, but I think it’s probably been worth every penny and wouldn’t go back to using scissors.

  3. Great post! I feel like we are doppelgängers. I also hate cutting, but mostly I hate fitting and tracing patterns. Lots of effort for for very little payoff.
    Love that you are working out and following a plan. I am a big exercise video fan. Mostly I’ve done the TurboJam/Chalene Johnson videos. She has a weight training program that I can’t recommend enough (Chalene Extreme). Short workouts (30-45 min/day) that will really increase your upper body strength. Her Turbo Fire program has really increased my cardio capabilities as well. I also recommend the Jillian Michael’s dvds.

    1. I borrowed Turbofire from a friend and I love it! The music is great, and Chalene has a great personality. I will have to look into her weight training program, as that’s what I’m thinking of doing after my ballet program is over. I love DVDs too – I thought they would be cheesy, but they’ve really made a difference for me!


  4. I HATE cutting things out too. It is my biggest sewing obstacle. I often feel once i have everything cut out too worn out to actually start sewing. Watching something, especially Stephen Fry, is a good idea. I had a friend come over a couple weeks ago to just chat while I cut out the fabric. She was in charge of keeping me on task if the talking took over working. It was a nice way to play catch up and work on a project.

    Yay! for the ballet work out. I used to dance and I miss it. Mostly because it made me feel good about myself. I think building core strength does wonders for that. Keep up the good work!!!

    1. I’m like that too! I always know that cutting adds an extra day to a project, because I cannot cut and sew the same night – I need a break after the cutting is over, even if it was simple.

      Good idea about having someone over – I will have to try that too!

  5. Cutting is my least favorite part too! Wait, does anyone out there actually *like* cutting? I’ve tried watching TV when I cut, but I end up missing too much of the visual information in the show and so it doesn’t hold my interest. As a result I’ve found that podcasts are perfect for cutting! Nothing to look at, they can go anywhere, and if I listen to NPR podcasts I actually feel like I’m learning something 🙂 Actually, I mostly listen to the culture-type NPR podcasts – I highly recommend Pop Culture Happy Hour and All Songs Considered. There is also a podcast every day of Fresh Air.

    1. Podcasts are a good idea. I used to listen to This American Life, RadioLab, Wait wait don’t tell me, and Praire Home Companion, but now that I’m not commuting for work I never find the time! I think I will download some to my phone and give that a try.

  6. Congratulations on your awesome exercise will power! I wish I could commit like that. I hate cutting patterns too and I try to cut four or five at a time so that it happens less often. I spread everything out in my living room and watch TV too:)

  7. Haha I don’t mind cutting that much because I tend to do it during commercial breaks, while I’m watching TV (which is why I have a ton of fabric cut up that I never get around to sewing…)
    Thanks for sharing your exercise journey, and you should be very proud! Getting stronger and more fit will only increase your health and well-being. If you have an iPod/iPhone/iPad, you should check out the Nike Training App – not necessarily to do those workouts, but if you want to check out some other good exercises to do

  8. Do you actually cut the pattern pieces out to the actual size? I just rough cut out the pieces to separate them, leaving some margin, and then cut the pattern piece along with the fabric to actual size measurements after they are pinned together.

  9. I too don’t enjoy cutting. For some reason I’m not such a fan of sewing darts. I used to not-like gathers, but I’m ok with them nowadays. The way I deal with cutting is, if I can, space it out. For example, if I’m cutting a coat (TONS of pieces), I cut out only the outer fabric first. Now of course I’m stuck because I couldn’t be bothered cutting the lining… 🙂 Anyway, cut-sew-cut-sew-repeat. OR like you said, get it over with in one go and start sewing in a fresh session.

    I’m impressed with your sticking to your exercise plan. I too began exercising – yoga once a week, swimming 3 times a week. Then my back gave out and I did nothing for a week, then I got an infection – did nothing for another week or more… Now I’ve only gone back to Yoga. I’m attending a class that is below my yoga level which is unfortunate (that’s what they’ve got at the sports center – the yoga I used to do is expensive). For me the killer to a good routine is if something (illness, special occasion, stressful time) gets me off the routine – it is HARD to get back.

    When I exercised I too felt better, more energized, less aches, I liked how my body looked younger and more toned, etc. I did go on a health diet food-wise and lost most of the weight (6 kgs) due to that, though.

    1. What keeps you motivated to keep going? I’m trying to make myself do Pilates these days. I only started last week, so we’ll see how it goes.

      I LOVED In America, by the way. I can’t imagine cutting out fabric while watching it, though, as it always makes me bawl like a baby.

  10. I also hate hate hate cutting out, just thinking about it makes me feel stressed. Agree with the podcast tip though – I love listening to Radio 4 and catching up on podcasts while I sew. And it does make cutting slightly more bearable. I like your methods of cutting out lots of projects at once and then getting started when you feel like it, not sure if I will ever be that organised but it’s a great idea.

  11. I understand what you mean. I’m not the biggest fan of cutting myself. Glad you found a way to make it more exciting. Also, congrats on fulfilling your exercise goals. You look fab:)

  12. I’m not keen on cutting either, but it is the stage when you get a feel for the fabric so it’s kind of a nice first step, like an opening ceremony to start the project with.
    What I absolutely hate and what keeps me blocked from doing more sewing is the darned marking of the pieces! I just cannot stand it!
    You mention using a chalk pen? What kind is it and do the markings stick well? I found mine brushed off too easily. I am trying to do tailor tacks with thread but I’m losing the will to live over them (loads of button and pleat positions, argh!). Someone recommended an old piece of soap if the side is a very sharp edge, to use for marking because it washes out and even sticks the fabric pieces together a little. It doesn’t brush out either. Haven’t tried it yet though.
    Any tips on that would be fantastic!

    1. I use this product:

      It’s in the quilting notions section of many stores, not the regular notions. I almost always use the white chalk, but I have used the blue before without permanent lines. I would only use white on the outside just in case. It doesn’t rub off too easily, and it’s accurate. I’ve also noticed that I can mark darts etc by tracing over the lines on the pattern tissue while the pattern is pinned to the fabric. It will go through the tissue, and mark your darts.

      I also like the disappearing marking pens, but as I mark early they don’t work for me. I agree about the chalk wheels – they vanish too easily. And I don’t do tailor’s tacks – so tedious!

  13. Congrats on your fitness routine and the results. Hooray!

    Regarding cutting out patterns, as you know, rotary cutting is the way to go. Not sure what kind of prices you’ve been seeing on mats but I have found some reasonable prices on Amazon for the self healing style. In fact, I just order this 24×36″ mat on Saturday for only $27 with free shipping.

    The price is now showing $35 but I think it depends on which vendor fills the order.

  14. Love your cutting tips, especially the ziploc bag idea. As for the exercise, as with everything in life, moderation is the key. For myself, 45 minutes of exercise a day is just part of my daily routine. I went through a period of self-absorption and became obsessive with the exercise bit a few years back. While I thought I was doing great things for myself, in reality, it had become too big a part of my daily focus. I would become nervous and very upset if I missed even a day. I was finally able to put exercise in its proper perspective and move my focus off myself and to others in my life (husband, children, family), everything fell into place and I regained the balance that had been missing. I became a much more peaceful and happy individual. Life is a journey and just when we think we’ve figured it all out, we learn something new!

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