Thursday, 24 February 2011

My Love Affair With Oilcloth (Part 2) - Overcoming The Obstacles

So back to the drawing board, or rather the internet, that limitless fount of knowledge. Jeeze! Maybe should have done this first before ploughing ahead with the bag. There were lots of tips on working with oilcloth out there, even found a kindred spirit - someone with an oilcloth obsession. Think she got it a bit worse than me though :D
These were some of the tips I found:
1. Whenever possible, work on the wrong side of the oilcloth
2. Use trimmings or bias binding so you are not stitching straight onto the fabric
3. Use teflon sewing foot
4. Use a walking foot like the one used for quilting
5. Cover the bottom of sewing foot with masking tap
6. Sew through tissue paper which can then be removed afterwards
7.Put talcum powder on the fabric
OK, OK! Number 7 was the product of yours truly’s brainwave, triggered by a recent incident involving the Dino-boy, a bottle of talcum powder and sock-skating on mummy’s newly cleaned laminate floor. Besides making the attic aka my sewing room smelled a whole lot nicer, it also made me sneeze and my eyes to water. A bit counter-productive since the aim was to produce even, straight stitches! You definitely need to see what you are doing! So you can take no 7 off the list, unless somebody less sensitive to talcum powder care to road-test it and report back.
No 1 and 2 are pretty self-explanatory, but not always possible especially if you are like me, you just have to top-stitch everything in sight. I discounted no 6 straight away. couldn’t imagine myself picking off all the bits of tissue afterwards. That would just drive me insane.
Tried no 5. Maybe I’m not doing it right but all I achieved was the masking tape sticking to the oilcloth AND everything else! Maybe should have spent a bit more time making sure the edges were properly stuck down.
That left me with no 3 and 4, both involved trekking down to the local sewing machine shop. The lady was very helpful. It boiled down to two considerations: teflon foot is less expensive than walking foot. However, the walking foot has the upper hand when sewing through layers. In the end, I decided to splash out and invest on a walking foot. I had visions of making beautiful handmade quilts as I walked home (not that I’ve ever made one, but it’s never too late to learn!).
It turned out to be a great investment. The fabric moved forward like a dream. I started working on thicker oilcloth and never looked back. I am back in love...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

My Love Affair With Oilcloth - How It All Began (Part 1 of 2)

When the girls were younger, on the way to their Saturday morning swim lessons, I used to walk past this little shop in town which stock lovely oilcloths. The designs and colours never failed to cheer me up, never mind if the day was grim or the girls were misbehaving.  However, I never thought of any other use for them other than as table covering. 

Then, I saw one of Cath Kidston’s oilcloth creations for the first time and I was instantly smitten! Still, I was reluctant to use oilcloth thinking it would be hard to work with on a domestic sewing machine. 

This all changed in September last year when I joined a local sewing group. I made a couple of small bags out of cotton fabric. Sarah saw them and immediately begged me to make a bigger one for her. She gave a long list of her preferences and requirements, the main ones being:
Large enough for books, gym shoes, sports clothes, recorder and wellies
Waterproof (The Dinosaur spilled a bottle of drink on her old canvas bag)
Bright and cheerful colours
and the list went on and on ...
Basically, she needed a tardis!
We settled on using Laura Ashley’s cupcakes oilcloth because it was on sale, Sarah loved the colours/design and it’s thinner compared to other oilcloths I’ve seen, therefore hopefully easier to sew. 

I chose a simple construction, just two pieces of rectangles with the bottom corners squared off to give a flat bottom. It was lined with white water-repellant lining and interlined with compressed fleece. Turned out huge! Had to put in extra magnetic snaps to the side so it wouldn't look bigger than the owner.

Thank goodness the photo quality's not that good. The top-stitching left a lot to be desired!

Finished just in time for the snow days
I’ll be honest with you, I didn't find it easy! If I had a swear jar, it would have been full by the time I finished the bag. However, the problems were not the ones I had expected. I was afraid of the material being too tough on my not-so-new Toyota and even got myself a leather needle. Nope, no problems there. The needle went through the fabric so easily that I switched back to my normal needles because the leather one was making huge holes in the fabric. 

The problem was, oilcloth stuck to either the foot or the base of the sewing machine, therefore wouldn’t move forward without me pulling and pushing. This produced uneven drunken stitches, some long,some short. Bleurghhh !!! I was in danger of falling out of love...
(Find out how I tackled this problem in part 2)

Friday, 18 February 2011

My First Folksy Friday

Every week, I look forward to Thursdays. Sewing group day! It's held at my fabulous local children's centre and has free creche. For two Dino-free hours, I could put my feet up, take my time to drink my coffee, have a good natter with other moms and, of course, do a bit of uninterrupted sewing if I'm so inclined. 

Had to miss it this week because we had our first check-up with a new dentist. It's Dino-boy's 2nd proper check-up and he's been practising all night (open mouth, show teeth but do not roar). He climbed onto the seat himself, sat still throughout and his teeth were declared perfect. We were so proud of him! 

So, in honour of his bravery and fantastic dental hygiene, my first Folksy Friday is on ... DINOSAURS! Roarrr!!! 
(Click on the picture to go to the Folksy shops they come from)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

My First Entry

The house is quiet now. Everybody is asleep. Macbook reclaimed from Dinosaur and his sisters. Right, lets get on with this blogging business. Seems pretty daunting. Where do I start?

The reason this blog is set up is to record my crafting activities,  mainly bag-making. But I can already foresee, with me being me, some of my posts will digress to anecdotes about the antics of the Dinosaur and his posse.  I won't lie - some of these posts will even be of the rantings-of-a-frazzled-mother kind but I will do my best to keep this to a minimum. (Frazzled is one of my favourite words these days. Wonder why?)

Going "monster" hunting

Why Sarah & Hannah?

First, apologies to my bank manager who kept thinking that the business is a partnership. Also those on Folksy forum who has been calling me Sarah. It's not my attention to confuse anyone. Honest!

Maybe I should start by introducing you to my kids. Sarah's nine going on twenty. She is sweet, sensible, practical and thoughtful. Hannah's six and just recently has proclaimed, "I'm not into princesses anymore." Hannah has a dry sense of humour, can be temperamental and very fashion-conscious. The Dinosaur a.k.a. Dino-boy is two and currently thinks he is part shark, part dinosaur and part chimp. He is also an expert monster catcher . 

A few months ago, the girls and I sat down and had a brainstorming session to decide on the name of the label. We ended up with an informal business plan. They could not, however, decide on the kind of bags I should be making. Interestingly, their ideas reflected their personalities.

Sarah's idea:
Sweet Sarah - oilcloth bags which are practical, not fussy in design, feminine colours but not overly bright

Hannah's idea:
Hannah Banana - vibrant colours, quilt-weight and furnishing cotton, more adventurous in design

Why can't we have both, I said (partly to diffuse the tension building in the air)? Lets name it Sarah & Hannah and the bags would fit into either of these two ranges, though some will have elements of both. Each bag will need the girls' seal of approval before I could put it on sale.

But what about the Dino-boy, you might ask? Well, he will occasionally make an appearance in the form of the Cheeky Monkey (Cheeky Dinosaur doesn't quite have that nice ring to it) - simple totes and drawstring gym bags in funky, kiddie cotton. 

Lin x

p.s. Sorry for rambling on for a bit. Will do better next time. I promise that the next entry will be more about bags!