crafts · Sewing

Weekend update and review of Simplicity 1871

I’ve fallen victim to my usual March allergy/sinus problems.  This year they came early – the downside to a mild winter!  I have a lot of difficulty convincing myself that I need to take a break, particularly if I already had plans.  As a result, I had a busy (and great!) weekend, but not a lot of rest.  I’m taking a few days off work to recover.  I’ve started on McCall’s 6518, and I’m catching up on my reading.   My current read is Bill Bryson’s At Home, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the evolution of private homes (specifically British and American.)  I adore Bryson’s style – he seems to be as enamored of random knowledge as I am, and the negative reviews on Amazon (which mostly focus on his tendency to go off on tangents) are precisely why I love him!

One of the things I was doing this weekend while I was not resting was pretty exciting – I was teaching one of my friends to sew!  My friend M had a sewing machine (a gift from her husband) but needed some help getting started.  I invited her to bring her machine over on Sunday, and we tackled Simplicity 1871, an “It’s so easy it’s Simplicity” pattern.

I looked through all the pattern catalogs trying to decide on a good starter project.  I didn’t want anything that had to be fitted, as I feel like the issues inherent with fitting are best saved for a second or third lesson (I’m very glad I started with quilting and straight line sewing, let me tell you!)  I wanted her to be able to finish something in one session, so that she would feel she had accomplished something (I have learned from music teaching that it’s very important for a student to successfully do something at the very first lesson, as it gives an immediate sense of competency and a base to build on later.)

Knowing that M loves scarves, I picked up this pattern.  I suggested view A, pictured in pink above, as the other view has button loops is double sided.  It’s not super obvious from the photo, but the scarf in view A is made of two rectangles joined in the middle with a french seam, and the ruffles are supposed to also be french seamed into place.    I made a few alterations in the interest of keeping things simple.  We made the french seam in the middle (it’s good practice figuring out where the seam marks on her machine were) but I did not have her make the french seams for the ruffles.  Instead we used my serger to make a rolled hem on the long ends of the ruffle and the ends of the main scarf.  We made a narrow hem at the ruffle sides, and then I serged around the outside of the scarf to give a finished edge without the 9 yards of narrow hemming it called for.  She sewed one ruffle onto each end (no french seam, as the edges were already finished) and left off the second layer of ruffles, as we both felt they were a little much.  A little ruffle goes a long way in my estimation!

I helped her to pick a linen/cotton blend from Joann’s for the scarf (above, it can be found here.)  This fabric worked really well for the pattern – it’s slightly sheer, but crisp enough to give the ruffles some body.  In addition, it was super easy to sew and work with, and didn’t fray too quickly around the edges.

She picked up on everything really quickly, and wore her finished scarf home!  A scarf is a great first project in this situation because there are two of everything, enabling me to demo everything once before she gave it a try.  The only negative is that using my serger probably convinced her that she needs one, and that’s only a negative depending on how you look at things.  Personally, I wouldn’t be without one again, as I use it on every project.

I failed to get a finished photo, but I can assure you that the pattern is good and the results are very cute!  I’m looking forward to helping her tackle clothing projects later this month.  I’ve never taught someone sewing before, and I was surprised by how easy it was for me to explain things (I have taught knitting, and I think I’m lousy at it!)  It’s given me the idea that in the future I could offer sewing lessons, if I decide I need to supplement my income (as though my taxes weren’t complicated enough, with my own business and all the freelancing I do!)  I come from a long line of teachers – every member of my Dad’s family teaches – but I never thought I would be one of them.  How things change (and I’m glad they have!)

Teaching M also brought home to me the importance of hands on instruction.  I taught myself to sew, using videos online and books, and it was really hard.  I’m a pretty determined person, and I hate to be defeated by anything, so I carried on, but I know that’s not true for everyone.  There are so few places to learn sewing now – home economics classes seem dead, and many local sewing/fabric stores have died off.  We have a few stores offering quilting and heirlooms sewing lessons, but almost nothing on sewing clothes, never mind fitting!  Hmm… many ideas!  Leon the cat, by the way, enjoyed the lessons.  He spent a good 3 hours curled up inside this sewing machine case!

So that’s the exciting part of my weekend, but we did do other things.  On Friday we took a trip to Cincinnati and visited Jungle Jim’s with Marc’s Mom.  Jungle Jim’s is an enormous grocery store with a huge natural and international section.  It’s also notable for the whimsical decor – the bathrooms look to be port-o-lets from the outside, but open to a nice normal bathroom, but instance, and the store is decorated all over with animatronic figures rescued from abandoned theme restaurants and the local amusement park (King’s Island.)


(Yes, that is a monkey dressed as Elvis… obviously!)  We didn’t buy too much, but I was able to buy some Biscoff spread.  It’s basically gingerbread cookies in spreadable form, and it’s as awesome as that sounds.  I’ve since found out that Trader Joe’s carries a version of the spread called Speculoos, so I’m happy to have a local source – I’ve eaten in for breakfast on a bagel the past 3 days!  We stayed in Cincinnati through Saturday night, and I made dinner for Marc’s parents (lime peanut noodles, which I’ve made three times because they are so good!  I leave out the unsalted peanuts and add tofu.)

I’m planning to take tomorrow off as well – in the future I will try to remember that I get well faster when I rest.  Ah well – it was worth it to have a great weekend!


3 thoughts on “Weekend update and review of Simplicity 1871

  1. Hey there, first and foremost love the blog!! I live in Belgium where speculoos spread is very popular!! speculoos is the name of the little biscuits that come with coffee (at least they do in europe!!). They have it with everything – they even make speculoos tiramisu which is amazing!! Good luck with the lessons 🙂

  2. I think you could do well teaching private sewing lessons! I’m from Louisville, too, and I’m always so frustrated by the lack of resources for hands-on learning. There are plenty of quilting classes, like you said, so it makes me feel like the only one in this city who sews clothes. I learned the basics from private lessons when I was a kid, but when I’ve looked recently for more advanced classes like pattern drafting / fitting, I couldn’t find anything, even on Craigslist. The JCPS Lifelong Learning program usually offers things like “gourd crafting” and “food canning” but not apparel sewing! Go figure.

  3. I also love Bill Bryson. I picked up ‘Lies your teacher told you’ after you mentioned it and really liked it and so did my husband. Great blog I have always enjoyed your style and writting voice.

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