A long-winded, parentheses-filled post about sewing

21 10 2009

Once upon a time, I was in 4-H to learn how to sew. (A special 4-H post has been brewing for awhile. Stay tuned!)

After exhibiting at the fair (I got a blue ribbon!), I used the rest of my skirt fabric–a geometric print with hot pink, turquoise, and black shapes and slashes on a white background–to make a bag.

I’m thinking I was in 4th or 5th grade at the time. Everyone had a bag like this:


Except for me. (Whatever happened to Esprit, anyway? And Guess?? [I put two question marks in there because one of them is part of the title.] Gone the way of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, I suppose.)

I thought to myself, “I can sew. I can make a cool bag that will almost be as good as Esprit.”

Well, let’s just say that began a long line of sewing visualizations falling short of the actual reality. (The bag was, however, the only thing I made that ever caused me physical harm. I’ve already used parentheses too often in this post, though, so I’ll save it for the future with 4-H.)

Bags are so handy that I can’t seem to get away from them. Twenty some-odd years later, I’m still making bags. Here are two I made for a raffle tonight at my kids’ school:



(Psst. They’ve also got books inside! Please buy a ticket!) (Actually, I don’t know if I’ll even get this post finished before tonight, and I don’t think anyone who is going to be there also reads my blog. Apparently, I’m just going for the most-parenthetical-statements-in-a-single-blog-post record.)

My visions are more closely aligned with the finished products nowadays. Not always, but more often.

This next is probably my favorite bag, though. From this shirt:


(that I wore for my sophomore school picture),

I made this bag for Eden’s piano books:


I am amazed at how gigantic those denim shirts are. Anyway, its second life is a happy one.

I’d been happily sewing, making aprons and bags and Halloween costumes, when one day I saw a show.

I don’t watch much tv. There isn’t really time for it in my schedule, and when there is time I’d rather be reading a book. That’s just the way I am.

But one morning, early, my walking partner bailed on me (see–she does it sometimes, too! Just not nearly as much as I do . . .), so I thought I’d see if they had any Pilates workouts “On Demand” (which is something the cable company does for those of us who don’t have Tivo or DVRs) because I’ve always wondered what Pilates is. I found the fitness section (where there was no Pilates to be found) and while trying to decide between a 3 minute ab workout and a 12 minute ab workout, a preview came on.


For this:




Three minutes later, I watched my first Project Runway Episode.

Ten minutes later, I was completely hooked.


Probably only my mom knows this, but I used to want to be a fashion designer.


I had a Kimberly doll (I really wanted a picture of her in her red-and-white roller skates, but I couldn’t find one) that I would dress up for hours on end, using fabric scraps to make new clothes for her. Of course, I actually stuck the fabric into her body by pulling her arms out of their sockets and tucking it in instead of sewing the clothes, but it was still designing! I swear it was!


So Me + Project Runway = an insane obsession that has brought up a lot of my childhood aspirations.


I have watched (and waited, impatiently, for Thursdays) every episode this season. I have ordered past seasons and have watched three of them already on Netflix. Some of it is a little creepy, and a lot of the designers are full of drama and bad language. Still, I love it.

I love it for many reasons.

Especially when I started noticing this Heidi:


Looks a lot like my Heidi:


(Note the similarities, despite one being a professional picture I stole off a search engine and one being a picture of a picture taken in high school: the lovely brown eyes, the beautiful high cheek bones, the beguiling triangle smile. Heidi, you’re a dead ringer!)

So, where am I going with this? Well.

After 20 + years of making bags, I’m starting to make clothes.

And not just for my kids, either.


For myself.


That’s huge, especially if you are me and have an irrational fear of looking like you are wearing something homemade. I’m making a dress right now. If it isn’t too embarrassing, I’ll post a photo when it’s done. (If it is too embarrassing, I’ll give it to Goodwill and no one will ever know I made it. Deal?)

I think I’ll ask for a dress form for Christmas.



13 responses

21 10 2009
El Jefe

Where ARE you going with this? (Just kidding–by the way, I also have an unhealthy obsession with parentheses). And, I also seem to have a hangup when it comes to homemade clothes. But, I’m looking forward to seeing your results.

–El Jefe

21 10 2009

I love it! And I totally see the Heidi resemblance! You are a woman of many talents… 🙂

21 10 2009

Wow! I’m impressed! I want to see the finished product. (You look a little worried in your high school photo–scary photographer?) (I can’t believe you still had that shirt.) (Anything else I can put in these? ()()()()()()()

21 10 2009

Wish I could sew with any proficiency…I tried quilting again with borderline embarrassing results. Good for you for taking it on!

21 10 2009

I aways wanted one of those esprit bags.
I remember that sophomore pic (I think I tried to made a necklace and headband to match my cool cousin)
The Heidi’s are very similar.
And I’m excited to see your creations.

21 10 2009

There actually is a really great pilates workout on demand. It is in exercise tv, two weeks to a new you, less more pilates.

22 10 2009
Mrs. Olsen

Oh wow. Everyone at Madison Jr. High would purposely crack open their lockers so they could hang their GINORMOUS Esprit Bags on the frame. Those suckers could hold lots of brushes, combs, and hairspray (necessary for the 80s).

So I am so proud of you. I had a white flowy (big) robe (for the big house) and laid it on the ground and started cutting it up to make a simple long A-line skirt and a modest square neck top (that I was going to embellish with satin ribbon) instead of a mumu robe. So it was ridiculous. I couldn’t do it.

Keep it up! BTW, I had 4 parenthesis! (go me).


22 10 2009

once i turned a pair of corduroy pants…into a skirt….with a couple of odd placed lumps….and then there was a time when I made curtains…except the thread kept tensioning (is that a word?) wrong…and so I had all sorts of lumps and bags on it….and then there was the 4-h project in fifth grade…where my mom convinced me that i NEEDED a safari outfit….in Rexburg…with burnt orange mesh on the shoulders of the shirt…yes…it is as ghastly as you were just thinking it was in your mind.

I seem to be addicted to the …. perhaps you could explore that in a future post!

Thanks for the memories!

22 10 2009

I feel like I’ve failed Judy Johnson because I’ve let my sewing skills lapse. I sew hooded towels. Period. Granted, all I really remember about those 4-H sewing classes is the time I somehow sewed four layers of my one layer skirt together and had to pick the whole thing out. (I pray my children don’t discover 4-H, I don’t have that kind of patience.)

I totally remember your high school picture and always loved you in the orange headband. I also love Project Runway, Heidi (both of them) and paratheses.

22 10 2009
Candice Rail

The sophomore picture of Wendy with the headband is the Wendy I know and love. I loved your headbands. Look how cool this one is.

And I dig your Esprit Bag. Why did we have those? Were they the rage around the country or merely Rexburg? I remember hanging them on my locker in Washington Middle School.

22 10 2009

Nice entry W. I love bags too but I haven’t made very many. I recognize the blue plaid fabric from the baby project. I hope you get the dress form for Christmas so you can continue to create many fabulous designs . How did the school auction or raffle go?

22 10 2009

Jefe–wait until we have your name next Christmas. I’m going to make you new Scout pants!

Ina–“talent” is a relative term . . .

Dina–Not so much a scary photographer as scary eyebrows. Ahhhh! Also, I cannot throw clothing away. (I do, however, send lots of stuff to DI and Goodwill. I’m talking about clothes that are damaged in some way.) I’ve tried, but I’m always sure there is some hidden use if I can just wait long enough for it to manifest itself. This is why I have several boxes of clothes waiting to be made into something else. (The clothes [and me] can hardly wait.)

Monique–I can’t really attribute my sewing success to 4-H, although that’s where I got my start. My mom helped me through countless “projects” (which always, always, always ended in tears until I was about 20) with kindness and patience. (And probably lots of eye-rolling when my back was turned.)

Kathleen–YOU were the cool cousin. From California, no less.

Mrs. Olsen–I have a gigantic, pleated denim skirt that I’m saving for something special. Hopefully, I can turn it into something cute, but I’m kind of waiting until my proficiency level increases. Your mom was the 4-H sewing maven, so you should call her next time. (P.S. 5! Way to go.)

Abby–Thread tension is the bane of my existence. By the way, I noticed you tactfully didn’t mention that incredibly badly sewn blanket I sent you when your baby was born. (I can’t believe I actually sent it to you, except we were poor and in college and I didn’t want to feel like I wasted two yards of fabric, I guess.) I don’t remember the safari outfit, but the fact that you made and entire outfit instead of just a tube with a casing for elastic puts you years ahead of my 4-H skills. I still have the apron you made me for my wedding shower, and I still wear it (when my kids let me . . . because anytime I put it on, THEY want it). I think your mom had my dream craft room in your Rexburg house.

Mandy–ha ha ha! I think I spent at least as much time picking out seams as I did sewing them during 4-H. Did you notice the Heidi connection before I pointed it out? I’m curious.

Candice–You are too kind. Headbands were another thing I made, I guess. I have no idea how widespread the Esprit bag phenomenon was.

Mom–The raffle . . . oh, the raffle. My neighbor asked me to donate, and said, “A basket for around $5 or something.” So I made the bags and bought 5 books for each from Goodwill. I show up last night, and there are these GIGANTIC baskets–one had loads of gift wrap, one had a DVD and movie treats, one had passes to a local wolf sanctuary, one was a barbeque set. I was very embarrassed at the inadequacy of my offerings. (I even put a raffle ticket in one myself). In the end, though, some kids wanted the Captain Underpants book in one and the Elephant and Piggie book in the other, so they put their tickets in them. Eden won the Halloween basket, so she was happy; Rainbow didn’t win anything, so she was crushed. Zack had scouts, so he didn’t really know what was going on. Luckily, Eden shared her chocolate pumpkin coins and spider rings, so everyone was happy.

(Is this a long enough comment?)

Oh, I forgot Kari’s–thanks, Kari, I’ll check that out. I can hardly wait to unmystify the thing that is Pilates.

23 10 2009

Wow, it has been so fun to read these journal posts! You were so observant about the bathroom in our house and those dangerously sharp plastic soap dishes. (Is it okay to comment here on a previous post?) Do you remember how the soap would drip down around the plastic prongs, then harden, so when you took the soap off the dish, it was slightly painful to lather? Did we have black and white wallpaper?

Oh, 4-H. Good job on the sewing and I love Project Runway and Heidi and your cool cousin in California Kathleen and it’s such a treat to read your posts. You’re just a little gem shining brightly, shining for the whole world to see.

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