I recently finished my first year of graduate school and after a year of brain-melting academia I have realized I desperately need to have more creativity in my life. This obviously meant I needed to buy a sewing machine and get my craft on. After perusing the aisles of Joann’s and ogling $200+ machines, I quickly came to realize the way to go would be the dreaded Craigslist. We’ve all heard the horror stories about going to strangers houses and taking candy from men in vans, but I bit the bullet after I found a seemingly legitimate ad for a $10 sewing machine.
I talked to the woman from the ad and she told me I would know which house was hers… her husband was the one building a chicken coop in the front yard. (I’m not sure if this made me feel more or less wary of using Craigslist). Thirty minutes later I brought home my new beauty, a 1980something Singer sewing machine. Other than a few cosmetic imperfections she works like a dream.
The next day I ran enthusiastically to the store to get some glorious fabric to use with my new machine. I made a couple of maxi skirts. One of which I love and wear constantly (seen below); the other taught me you need to make sure the fabric you buy is NOT see through when stretched enough to cover your derriere. Needless to say, it was a valuable life lesson.
For those of you who have considered dabbling in the sewing world let me tell you something I did not realize. Fabric can be startlingly expensive. The pros out there may be shaking your heads thinking “Duh!”, but I honestly had no idea how pricey sewing paraphernalia could get! Unfortunately, the starving grad student can’t afford to pay $10-20 per yard consistently for the best fabrics. There are wallet savvy ways to acquire fabric (buying online, searching the sale sections, buying in bulk), but I knew if this hobby was going to sustain itself I needed to find a way to readily make it less shocking to my pocketbook.
Luckily, I happen to be friends with (and related to) many crafty women; one of these ladies sent me the blog of a woman who buys unwanted, unloved, or just plain ugly thrift store clothing and refashions them into beautiful new clothing! This was definitely my speed so I went and bought myself a black and white polka dotted housecoat that day. This beauty put me back $3.50 from the local thrift store.
I should have prefaced this entry with the fact that I am, by no means of the imagination, a seamstress. I like to refer to my sewing endeavors as “Shawn’s Sketchy Dress Shop”, because as my roommate will attest I basically operate under the “measure twice, cut once, and hope you can fit it over your shoulders when it’s done” method of sewing. If I had a mannequin this would be another story, but for the time being I just don’t have the means (or space) to get one.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize anyone would want to know how I made these silly things when I set out. Therefore, there are no in progress pictures of my first few creations. For this lovely dress I made a few simple changes. First, I removed the shoulder pads. Someone from before my time will have to explain to me why these were ever a good idea, because almost everything from the 80’s and early 90’s I find thrifting has them and I can’t understand them. Next, I removed the sleeves and brought the side seams in about four inches on each side (there was a lot of room to move in this thing).
Then I brought up the hem and neatened up the line of the straps and voila! A new dress.
Once school starts and I’m “supposed to be working on my thesis” as my professors keep reminding me, I’ll either be on here all the time avoiding writing or working in the lab like a good research assistant.