Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Relax and enjoy the process.

My Mom.  She was a card.

My mother was an excellent seamstress.  And completely self taught.  Growing up, she made virtually all of my clothes.  And while some were more stylish than others (esp in my younger years), when I worked for the Riverside County Coalition for Alternatives to Domestic Violence, I had the best wardrobe an employee of a non-profit could ask for!  And for a fraction of the cost (remember when patterns cost less than $1?)

See, Stylish!  She made her dress and my cute little suit . . . . both out of the very hip double knit. . . .

But, as a kid learning to sew this was a LOT of pressure!  None of it real of course, and all of it self-imposed, but pressure none the less.  When I decided I wanted to learn to sew my mother had me cut out a BUNCH of rectangles -- starting with a cardboard one that I would use as my pattern for all the rest.  Then she sat me down at her SINGER sewing machine, showed me the basic operation and said, “Now sew these up.”

I sewed the first few and showed her my progress.  

My seams were not straight.  

My mother could sew a straight seam with her eyes closed.  In fact, she really only had sight in one eye.  And in her later years, as her sight was going, she could still sew a straight stitch.  Providing someone else threaded the needle.  To this day, if I THINK about looking away from the seam I am sewing it will go wonky.  W O N K Y.

In spite of this start in the world of sewing, I have always owned a sewing machine.  And when lived “at home” I often made clothes for myself.  Mom was always there to rescue a project gone awry…or put a problematic zipper in a problematic dress so I could wear it on Easter Sunday…or hem an item (I really dislike hand sewing.)

So recently when a friend on Ravelry was talking about sewing her first SAORI item – a market bag – the best help I could offer was to, “Relax and Enjoy the Process.”  She took that to heart and decided that hand sewing was much more relaxing than using the machine and made an awesome bag.  Check out Debbie’s blog for pics of this awesome creation!  (and be sure to leave her a message telling her how beautiful it is!

At the same time that Debbie was weaving and creating her market bag, I was working on a tote bag.  I’ll call it a “project tote” because I incorporated a lot of pockets…I love pockets.  But I may have gone a bit overboard.

This is the inside of the bag...picture it, well, inside.  I made it out of 2 shades of denim and some floral print something.

I started with a commercial pattern, but it didn't have pockets.  And in the “items needed” section, it called for a lining, but in the directions never talked about actually making the lining…much less actually lining the bag.  So I improvised.  Kinda like when I cook…start with a recipe and then leave this out, add that…you get the idea.

The weaving of the cloth was awesome.  But of course!  

Then came the construction of the tote.  RELAX AND ENJOY THE PROCESS. . . . . .

There were so many things that were not quite right, or as easy as they should have been.  At times I had visions of my mother shaking her head and saying, “Now Denise, you know how to do that!” 

Oh, the things I did wrong...and oh the things I learned.

 I had forgotten how to put a zippered pocket into a piece – I had to go to  You Tube for an instructional video.  I wanted a pocket grouping that I could see in my head, but had no pattern for…so I winged it.   And through it all I kept reminding myself to RELAX AND ENJOY THE PROCESS

And it worked.  I finished the tote.  Well, mostly.  There is still some hand sewing to do – and no one to do it for me!  But through the process I learned a lot. 

 I discovered through trial and error things that should make the next tote bag easier to make.  And these lessons are ones that I probably would not have been able to learn if I had been stressing about every little misstep.

I am working on applying this to other areas of my life:  Healing my knee; losing weight; running.  And I can see that it is working... when I will let it.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.


  1. So true, Denise! "Relax and enjoy the process" - it's how I learned to spin, weave, crochet, knit - it's applicable in so many areas of my life too. Thanks for the reminder, my friend!

    Your bags are fabulous!!

  2. I didn't know your mom sewed a lot of your clothes. My mom sewed a lot of mine too. I'm not very good at sewing them myself though. Just never got into it, I guess. I do like to sew things for the home, bags, etc.....things with straight seams. :-)

    That's a great relax and enjoy the process. Things go much better that way.

    Those bags are great! I love all the pockets!

    I'll head over to visit your friend's blog now.


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