Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bag Lady

There's something in the air. . . .a reconnection with making things, being creative and enjoying the satisfaction of producing an item or garment made in your own home, not in China. Jackie speaks about this in the previous post and is making a tapestry, and Sandra says that she has bought a sewing machine to do creative embroidery.

For some time now, I've been wanting to get a new sewing machine and start making my own clothes once again. Fed up with reading labels "Made in China" (take a look at the labels of most of the clothing on sale in the UK, including M&S, and this is what you'll find), I decided I wanted to have a go at making things which could carry a label saying "Made in Cheshire" (notably by me, in my own home and totally to my own taste!).

I had to unearth my very old sewing machine from the depths of the cupboard under the stairs. It's over 40 years old (my parents gave it to me as a wedding present). It's very heavy and by today's standards, very basic and primitive, although it is an electric machine, not a really old-fashioned treadle! It now awaits recycling, but in the meantime I've bought myself a new modern machine which does 18 fancy stitches and buttonholes. I guess that's more than enough for me to play with and covers the purposes I'll use it for. I've also bought a very neat sewing cabinet which houses the machine and all the bits & bobs that go with sewing. It opens out to form a proper sewing table and closes down to look like a bedside cabinet. Brilliant design!

I remember how we used to use the old treadle sewing machines in the basement at Saffron Walden College - they were lined up under the windows and there must have been 6 or 8 of them. They were nearly always in demand - everyone used to make their own clothes in the 1960's - and often there would be a queue for the machines, so popular were they. I carried on sewing into the 70's and possibly into the early 80's, making curtains, children's clothes, a couple of casual shirts for the husband and of course, dresses for myself. I well remember making ties with Jackie and having pipe dreams of selling them and making our fortune! I did sell a few to the owner of a gent's outfitters in Middlewich. We were members of the same amateur dramatic society and he wanted some for his shop. I felt very pleased about this!

Having installed my new machine and played for hours trying out the new stitches after re-learning how to wind bobbins and thread the machine (it all comes back - like riding a bike!) I found the husband thrusting his new lightweight cotton dressing gown at me saying the sleeves were too long and it needed to be shortened - could I do it? Yes I did, and impressively fast too - well, he was impressed!

Then I moved on to a project that inspired me when I first read about it in "Resurgence" magazine - social guerilla bag making! You can read about it here. I've become a bag lady, so far making 2 bags from old duvet covers. I've never made a bag before, these are dead easy to make, and the idea is that they should replace the excessive plastic bags which all too often go on to pollute the ocean and end up inside turtles, which then die.

Right now, I have one and a half old duvets left to make bags from, and I've also discovered in that cupboard under the stairs some offcut curtain fabric, which will do nicely as well. I may not end up handing these bags out in my local supermarket as at the moment, there's only me making them (I'm a "pod" of one - see the website for more info on pods) but it's very likely that family members and friends will be getting one as a gift!

On the knitting front, the weekend Guardian had a supplement called "The Rebel Knitter's Guide", which I've kept. There are lots of knitting needles in that cupboard under the stairs, along with interesting off bits of wool. I already feel my fingers getting itchy at the thought of it.


Maylis said...

Great to catch up on your news! You'd been talking about getting that sewing machine for a while, and it's great to see you have it and are enjoying experimenting with it.

Jackie H said...

I had forgotten about those treadle sewing machines!

I have kept on sewing intermitently too, making curtains, peg and laundry bags and shortening clothes (you need to when you are only 5'2"!)but I haven't really made anything for myself to wear for ages.

Who knows perhaps we will start that craft/clothes shop after all!!

barbara said...

Hi Joyce,
I remeber you telling me about this exciting new sewing machine.
What a wonderful summer project, and I agree with using one's own reusable bag than plastic.

My Mum-in-law was a skilled seamstress who could whip out anything on her machine.I don't have that talent, though I can do simple hems,buttons & the easier chain stiches by hand. Which already is a help !

Have fun !