Learning How to Sew (week seven)

This week represents the culmination of my project.  My aim was to complete my EDC2 bag and I’m pleased to report.  MISSION ACCOMPLISED!  Here are how things went in the final week of my major learning project.

My first task was to cut and install a piece of plastic to act as a rigid bottom to my bag.  I scavenged an old piece of plexiglass that I has in my supplies and used the table saw at school to cut it down to size.  I then used a piece of sandpaper to make sure there were no sharp edges.  I didn’t want the piece of acrylic to make any inadvertent holes in my bag.


I then placed the piece of acrylic in the bottom of the bag between the outer layer of the bag and the liner I had completed last week.  Once I had aligned the liner and the bag, I pined them in place to prepare for the installation of the zipper.  Making sure I had everything aligned, properly oriented and securely clipped in place, I was ready to stitch the assembly.  On the other side of the bag, I did the same procedure with one additional step.  In the original plans, two nylon paracord loops are placed underneath the zipper to act as a clipping location for the eventual shoulder strap.  Having purchased plastic clamp style clips to use instead, I cut out a couple pieces of fabric to act as supports for my clips.  This little bit of improvisation went smoothly.

(Side note: Had I not gained the experience of the previous project, I’m certain this step would have never been so easy.  This small piece of sewing improvisation gave me a tremendous amount of confidence in my abilities as a student of sewing.)

With the zipper installed, I felt a wave of momentum that called for me to finish my project.  I should have kept calm and collected as this is the point when things started going awry.  The spacing in my stitching started being uneven and I even missed the proper location to stich at some points.  I started introducing involuntary pleats in my seams and started to get irritated that things weren’t going as quickly and smoothly as I wanted.  I was getting tired and it was late.

(Side note: Over the many years I have spent working late nights doing hobbies that I love; I have noticed that working when tired is never a good idea.  Patience quickly runs out, I rush through steps, I miss important ones and end up with mediocre work that is not up to the standards I set myself.  At this point, I should have listened to my body and to my frustrations and stopped.  Sewing, like many other practices like teaching, performing sports and playing music, having a positive growth mindset is essential.  This is not achievable when the mind and the body are tired.  There is no shame in taking breaks and going to sleep when contemplating a problem.  A good night of sleep seems to always bear fruit in these situations.)

I decided to at least install the two zipper sliders and secure the zippers by sewing the stops at both ends of the zipper.  The first stop was a challenge as the material was very thick and didn’t want to feed properly in the machine.  The machine was struggling to get through all the thicknesses of the material, and in my impatience, I floored the pedal to get the job done.  By doing so, my first zipper stop was crooked and poorly stitched.  In frustration, I removed the stitching and tried again with a relatively satisfactory result.  When came time to install the second zipper stop, the same problems arose but a major one manifested itself.  Due to going too fast and asking too much of my machine, I broke my first needle when it slammed into the flat part of the zipper.  That was the tipping point for me.  Not knowing where the replacement needles were and not being in the mood to proceed, I left the project there and stormed away.

(Side note: Breaking the needle was probably the best I could have asked for, it forced me to stop my unproductive use of time.  I often tell my students the following words of advice: There is no sense in staying up late to study as the mind is not in a state where that information can be retained.  I recommend, the night before and exam, for my students to go to bed early and get a good night of sleep.)

The next day, rested and ready to continue with my project, I found a new needle, replaced it, and finished my final zipper stop without any issues.  The next step was to install a long piece that was going to act as a tube to house the rods retain the shape of the bag when it opens and closes.  I used the seam tape to keep the folds in place and sewed the tube in place in a matter of minutes.  I was once again, one with my machine!

The last important part of the project was to make the shoulder strap.  Not only did I have figure out how to thread the webbing through my clips, I had to fashion a primitive shoulder pad.  There were no instructions on how to make said shoulder pad, but a quick scrub through my resource videos quickly gave me the answer.

The final part of the puzzle was to bend some stainless-steel rods for the openings on my bag.  This was quickly done with a hack saw to cut the rods to length, a hammer and a vice to bend them into shape and file to remove the sharp edges.  Installing the rods was effortless.  Suddenly, my project was done.  I had learned the foundation of sewing and felt an enormous sense of relief and an even bigger sense of accomplishment.

As I proceeded in completing my final sewing tasks related to my major learning project, I came to appreciate the mix of resources I was able to use to accomplish my goals.  Learning how to sew is not an easy task, but with the proper resources and the proper support, it is well within reach for any learner.  Although I had my wife available to support me, I honestly tried to fend for myself so as to explore my limits and fully exploit the tools and methods a new learner would have at their disposal without the luxury of someone with experience by their side.  The main resource I used was YouTube.  The diversity of available tutorials ranging from complete beginner concepts to more complex situations, I could always find answers to my questions on Youtube.  The availably of open resources such as the creative commons patterns I used were very valuable to my development.  I’m not going to pretend that after 7 weeks and more than 50 hours of sewing that I’m an expert.  I still have many things to learn and as with any new skill that is acquired, new questions arise, and new opportunities emerge.  I’m already thinking about the next project I would like to accomplish.   I’m also reflecting on how these new skills fit with all the previous skills had already acquired in my capacity as a make.  I have gained a new perspective on a world that was foreign to me and I’ve proven to myself that I have the ability to learn by using many of the technological tools we have explored over the past few months in EC&I 831.  From social media, to open educational recourses and well beyond.  Here are a few pictures of the progress I have made and the final product I have achieved.


2 thoughts on “Learning How to Sew (week seven)

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