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More Than Just A Pretty Face, I Can Write Checks and I Can Sew!



Middle school years: a time when adolescents have huge pimples, bad hair, disproportionate limbs, and raging hormones. Middle school years: also a time when adolescents are often enrolled in wood shop and home economics.

Although I was unfortunate enough to attend middle school, I was fortunate in that my middle school made both boys and girls take both wood shop and home-ec. I preferred wood shop.  More often than not, the wood succumbed to my tools and I applied the stain neatly. In general I turned out a good and useful product.  Interestingly enough, I did not bring my A-game to home economics. I was terrible at following a recipe or basic sewing. (I did excel at check writing and balancing a check book, which was also part of home economics at my school.  This proved to be telling.  As an adult I have excelled as a consumer.)

It seemed I was destined to carry on the family tradition of taking shirts to the tailor when a button came off. (As for cooking, my passion for eating seemed to suggest that I may, one day, learn to follow a recipe.) I was okay with my lack of sewing and culinary prowess until the first summer I did not return home from school.  It was 1998 and I shared an apartment with a friend – a blank slate for us to decorate.  As fate would have it, I was also, inappropriately, put on Prozac that summer.  My domestic blank slate, and inaccurate dosing, proved to be an interesting combination.

I turned into some sort of modern-day, cracked out June Cleaver.  I was tightly wound and emotionally dead which did nothing for my romantic relationship, but it did wonders for my domestic drive.  I hopped in my car, sped to Jo-Ann’s, and bought a used Singer sewing machine, as well as yards and yards of leopard print.  Upon returning home with my bounty, I promptly tossed the machine manual because “instructions are for losers.” Then I taught myself to sew, badly.

I made leopard print drapes and leopard print pillows.  I am sure I made other leopard print squares, although I cannot recall what their purpose was.  I made kitschy scrubs with Varga girl prints and retro cowboy prints. I also cooked three meals a day, and fed everyone around me.  Breakfast and dinner were not such a big deal, but I worked across the street, so I would come home and cook lunch too.  I bet my food was pretty awful.  Truth be told, I don’t remember.

Over the years, my cooking improved dramatically, but periodically I would haul out my 800 pound Singer, and I would continue to sew badly. Eventually the sewing machine became relegated to a tool for embellishing paper collages (which I love to do, but it was a sign I had given up on sewing.)

Then, last winter, I decided to learn to sew for real.  I was prepared to chuck all my bad sewing habits and put my nose to the proverbial grindstone.  I took a one day course, Intro to the Sewing Machine, at Make Workshop. I also asked for a new sewing machine for the holidays from my father. My Kenmore only weighs a mere 20-some-odd pounds and I have kept the manual.  (One of the most important things I learned in my sewing class was to keep, and frequently refer to, your manual.)  I sewed a sweet little pencil case at Make, and picked up the instructor’s book, Sew Everything Workshop: the Complete Step-by-Step Beginner’s Guide.

I sewed a few more pencil cases and then cracked open the book.  I made the two pillows pictured above for my new digs. The instructions for both are in the Sew Everything Workshop.


I made these pillows first. I found the fabric at Purl Soho, and fell in love.


They are envelope pillows, which are ideal if you have a toddler and/or are a slob.  I speak from experience on both fronts.  You can pull the pillow form out and toss the cases in the wash.

I made the other pillow second. The pattern intimidated me a bit because it involved a bit more patience to ensure a nice and even border and a slip stitch to finish it off. I have not been gifted with patience, but I have been gifted with stubbornness, which was good enough in this case. I found the bird fabric at Ikea for a few bucks a yard. (Ikea has amazing fabric for making household items.)  I also found an experienced home seamstress to teach me the slipstitch, because I did not quite get it on my own. I made two more pillows.  I get lots of compliments on them.

I am not quite sure where the great zeal I have for learning how to sew came from, but I am happy to have it.  I love learning to sew – correctly.  I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment – even more than the sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of each wood shop class in middle school.  I can sew!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 07.28.2010 11:03 pm

    Let’s hear it for antidepressants! Been there done that too my friend…your pillows are quite impressive and the entertainment value of this post makes up for your recent hiatus. Welcome back!

    • Lu permalink*
      07.29.2010 6:48 am

      Thanks Julie! I love self deprecating stories about personal achievement. 🙂

  2. 07.29.2010 6:48 am

    LOVE how that bird/blue pillow turned out, after all the hemming and hawing. Good to see you back!

  3. 07.29.2010 1:53 pm

    So glad the blog is back! And might I just add that these pillows are perfect for insulating your lap from the excessive warmth generated by a MacBook.

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