Becoming a Seamstress

My life is just an ever-growing list of things I want to do or see. I have so many hobbies, it’s kind of crazy. I have a wide interest range, and I love connecting with people, so gaining new hobbies is the perfect culmination of those two things in my mind.

Ever since I was little, I thought it was cool that my mom could sew and cross stitch. She made me dresses and costumes for my school plays, and her cross stitching hung on the refrigerator. But I never imagined I’d be in my 20s making tote bags and fixing dresses.

As an only child, I’ve learned to enjoy finding projects I can do on my own, such as writing, reading, and making things. As a middle- and high-school student, I was introduced to knitting by my cousins who learned. I tried to learn through a book or by having them show me, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it.

My mom took me to the local knit shop, and they offered classes for beginning knitters that we did together. I was hooked on it, but my mom found it stressful. But she knew it would be something productive for me to do after school, so I started finding projects and I would go in at least once a week for knitting circle. Every day, at least four or five ladies would gather at a time to knit and gossip. I felt so much more comfortable there with them than around people my own age.

I continued to knit for years, and my mom taught me how to use her sewing machine, and I even dabbled in cross stitch. However, once I moved to Japan to teach English, I lost touch with some of those hobbies. Towards the end of my first year on JET, a friend of mine who was moving gave me her IKEA sewing machine. I took it enthusiastically, seeing as it was free, but I didn’t do anything with it during my second year.

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The sewing machine came with me to Korea, but then I realized that the wattage was different and I had to get a converter for it. Then, I tried using it, and it acted strange, and although I had some experience with sewing machines, I had no idea what the problem might be or how to fix it. So we took the sewing machine to my mother-in-law, who is mostly illiterate but knows how to sew. She got my machine working, and almost immediately, my sisters-in-law were asking me to make them things.

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We went to the largest traditional market in Daejeon to buy some fabric and other sewing necessities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that fabric is relatively cheap. Knitting is a pretty expensive hobby, and finding good yarn is sometimes a difficult task (since most places don’t ship internationally). I had to buy fabric shears, rulers, a tape measure, and plastic boxes to help me organize my tools.

My first project was a pillow that my husband requested for his car, since he drives back and forth to different hospitals every day. I already knew the basics of sewing, and we bought a huge bag of stuffing, so I thought I’d give it a go. I cut out two squares, sewed them together on three sides, turned it right side out, and filled it up. I had trouble sewing the last corner, so I decided to sew it by hand, but since then, I realized that I could have used a different stitch to mask my work. Oh, well. That’s how you learn!

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Junkyu used his pillow the next day and said it made the drive to work much easier, so that was nice to hear! I’ve always loved making things that are practical, so sewing is definitely going to be a great hobby for me.

My second project was a tote bag. I was nervous about making it for a while, but I watched a tutorial and had everything I needed, so I gave it a go one day. It was a lot more prep work than actual sewing. I used a more durable fabric that had a Korean print on it, and I think it turned out pretty well. I ran out of tan colored thread part of the way through, so I had to use white for the rest, but it’s not terribly noticeable.

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The IKEA sewing machine that I have is pretty good for something that retails for much cheaper than most machines. I got it for free, so I am happy that I didn’t have to start off my sewing hobby in debt to a huge machine. Many people who start sewing, I’m sure, have to consider how much they want to spend on their first machine. Beginners can’t do difficult projects right off the bat, and most of the settings on advanced machines are rarely utilized, even for expert sewists.

However, this little IKEA machine can’t last me forever. Eventually, I’m going to want to make things that require a little more technique, and this thing has already given me some headaches. Although my mother-in-law helped give me some pointers, my machine jams sometimes and I have no idea why. I’ve taken it apart, cleaned it, and oiled it, and sometimes the thread still gets caught. I’ll probably invest in a better sewing machine in the future, but as of now, I don’t have much of a reason to shop around.

3 thoughts to “Becoming a Seamstress”

  1. I’m so impressed with people who can make stuff. I have a girlfriend who has crocheted me fingerless gloves and redesigned my crew neck t-shirts into v-necks. I pay her in cookies, but that’s as crafty as I get. 🙂

    1. It takes a lot of work sometimes, so I’m impressed with people who can make patterns themselves and knit garments in a matter of weeks. I take my sweet time so that I don’t mess up or get stressed. I’ve tried crochet and it’s fun but very strange as a knitter. They say it’s awkward to learn one after the other and it’s so true.

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