Learning How to Sew (week four)

My major learning project was back in full swing this week as I attempted to make a pouch from plans I had purchased from Savage Industries.  The model I chose was the Savage Industries EDC Pouch Small.  The following image of the what the final product should resemble following the exercise.



This week’s objectives were the following:

  • Use a pattern as the base of a project for the first time.
  • Gain confidence in adjusting my methods to get better results.
  • Use a raw zipper that is not pre-assembled.
  • Gain experience in using binding.
  • Gain more experience and confidence in using the sewing machine.
  • Keep working on the alignment of my seams and keeping consistent seam allowances.

Unlike the last project I undertook, this one had a pattern from which I had instructions to follow.  After downloading a PDF of the pattern from the website, I met my first challenge.  I initially printed the plans on a 8.5’ x 11’ piece of paper and upon further inspection, I realized the pattern had to be printed at a reduced scale to fit on the paper.  I would have to print at 100% scale for the dimensions to work out but that would require a paper size and a printer that isn’t readily available.  I considered many ways to attack this problem, I could have the plans printed at a print shop, I could use a digital projector to project the plans on large piece of paper and trace the pattern by hand or I could print the pattern on regular sized pieces of paper and assemble them manually.  I opted for the last option as it was the most economical and required less time and energy.

Fortunately, I work in a school!  Our copier can print on 11’ x 17’ pieces of paper which reduces the amount of assembly I would have to do once I had my pattern printed.  The process proved to be a bit of a challenge as I couldn’t find a way to do such a print job on my Mac.  After quite a long period of time going through menus of the PDF reader on my computer, I was ready to abandon the idea of printing and assembling the pattern on smaller pieces of paper when, in desperation, I decided to explore the feature in Adobe Acrobat Reader.  With much elation, I had finally found what I needed, a function to printer posters using multiple smaller papers.

Capture d’écran, le 2019-11-03 à 18.35.20

After assembling the papers, I finally had a pattern and was ready to start cutting fabric.  Upon further inspection, I noticed that the pattern was explicitly licensed under a Creative Commons license!  One nice link to our class discussions on open education!  This particular version of the Creative Commons license specifically allows for people to share and adapt this pattern as long as attribution is made, it remains noncommercial and all adaptations have to keep the same license.  I found this application a perfect use of the Creative Commons license in the context of open education.  Good job Adam Savage!

Capture d’écran, le 2019-11-03 à 21.26.30IMG_5594

Given that this pattern only comprised of square shapes, I decided not to cut my pattern to transfer the dimensions to fabric, instead, I decided to simply transfer the measurements to fabric using a ruler and a straight edge.  It worked well in this case.  Once I had all cut all the pieces, it was finally time to sew.


On a side note, as with many hobbies that are form of making, often ignored is the idea of preparation.  Success when working in the world of making can often be directly linked to the quality of the preparation of the materials, the maker and the space.  In my case, as much as I just want to get going with my sewing machine, I have been adamant in staying disciplined in the quality of my preparation.  I find good preparation negates many potential future frustrations and issues.  Being prepared is a value I have fostered throughout my personal and professional career and it has never let me down.

I started with the zipper and immediately noticed something was wrong as the stitching was much too loose.  I took a few minutes to fiddle with adjusting my machine using fabric scraps and once the issue was resolved, I pressed on with my project.  Sewing the panels of the bag was quite straight forward and I must say that the experience from my previous project paid dividends in that I had a lot of confidence in how things should fit together when being assembled.  The instructions provided by the pattern were very minimal and had me asking many questions.  As I proceeded step by step, many of those questions were answered simply by analyzing the situation using my previous project as a guide and working through the logical progressions that had to be followed.

Sewing binding was a first for me and it was rather difficult.  Keeping everything straight without causing wrinkles and creasing was very frustrating.  I got through it, but I’m not satisfied with how it looks.  Fortunately, all of this work ends up being inside the pouch and remains mostly hidden.  “Hiding your crimes” is a common saying in the world of making and in this case, that is exactly what I did.


The final result was a bit disappointing.  Although simple in concept, this little pouch proved to be very difficult in execution.  Making nice corners proved to be difficult and I have a few didn’t turn out very good.  Otherwise, I’m very happy with how my pull tabs worked out and how the overall shape of the pouch looked.  I opted not to include patches and labels as this project is not to be a professional product made for the mass market.

I knew mistakes would be made and took the opportunity to learn from them and progress in my learning the art of sewing.  Now on to something more ambitious!

8 thoughts on “Learning How to Sew (week four)

  1. Hey Daniel, I really like the variety of pictures you include in your posts, it really makes it easy to follow your project. I am fascinated by your project as I do not know how to sew, but I think it’s a very useful skill to have. I’m always bringing my mom stuff to fix for me.

    Your comment on how preparation is often ignored really struck a chord with me! It’s important to go over this step in a how to video. I especially find it annoying on YouTube when a video sort of glosses over the preparation time for a project (say, a reno project). The old saying “preperation is 90% of the work” really is true.

    Keep on rocking dude!

  2. I admire the project and very nearly did something similar. I think this is an admirable trade that often gets looked over. I plan to do some upholstery work on some hotrod projects, so I may be looking back at these posts for advise. I agree with your perpetration statement and really stressed the importance of proper recuperation to my former carpentry students. I believe that building things is good for the soul, it is very satisfying to complete a project, I think there is a lack of closure in modern society. There is a great book on the subject called “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work” that has some interesting points on the matter. Good luck on your journey!!

  3. Reading about the progress you are making in your final project is so inspiring. Sewing is a lost skill, and I wish I would have paid more attention to my mom and grandma who were both very accomplished in this area.
    I am curious, you must be analytically oriented in your learning style? I was impressed with how detailed you are in following instructions and your observations of your learnings. I also appreciated you pointing out how “Creative Commons” was relevant in your activity! Fun to see what we are learning about in its organic use 🙂
    What is your next sewing project?

  4. Hey Daniel! Your progress this week really reminded me of my own. I also struggled to get my learning project started due to outside circumstances. You a printer… Me a Raspberry Pi that did not want to screen record. I was also on the verge of giving up but after a couple hours of persistence, I as well managed to figure it out. It’s always interesting to see the struggles and triumphs that we have with these projects. I believe this is important to experience the process as we want students to go through similar processes.

    I absolutely love what you have done with sewing so far. It has always been something that I have watched my mom do, and it is such a practical skill. I love that you can create usable products from your learning project. Excited to see the rest of your journey.

  5. I’m really enjoying the set up/style of your progress posts. The pictures and descriptions are easy to follow and I have a really sense of your wins/struggles. The preparation is always the most important yet tedious step in many of our projects, but especially with sewing! One idea- when I was learning to sew, I used to take apart things and sew them back together. It’s important to be able to read a pattern, but sometimes it’s fun to see what you can do without it! You should consider using some scrap fabrics to make something without a pattern.

  6. Hi Daniel, I really enjoy the visual elements you add to your posts. It is so clear as to each of the steps you worked on in this week’s project. Although you were a bit disappointed in your final project this week, I can see a huge leap in your progress when I think back to your first post. Looking forward to your “something more ambitious”! Keep up the great work.

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