3.29.2006

Mistakes

Mistakes...I know they're inevitable, but it's still irritating when they happen.

One of my current projects is to make a set of placemats & napkins as a gift for a friend. As this is my first time dealing with home decorating projects, I prepared by spending 2 evenings reading through the home decorating project section in my Singer Sewing Guide researching the specifics of sewing home decorating products - suggested fabric types, design and finishing ideas.

My task was simple, 8 matching napkins and placemats. Easy, I thought - all square/ rectagular in shape and straight lines all the way! The idea was to create basic white tablewear with a contrasting border of satin stitch all round. It all started with the fabric. My research taught me that tablewear fabric was typically hardier than garment making fabric, so I should look for something thicker and tougher. Initially I liked the idea of linen, but was worried that it might be too see-through and crease too easily. I decided that cotton would be a better option - it also had to be relatively tightly woven and thick so that 1) its shape wouldn't distort too easily and 2) you couldn't see the tabletop through the placemats.


I ended up with 4 yards of something akin to cotton twill - I bought my fabric from the first store that I walked into at the Chinatown Fabric Complex. At that moment, it seemed ideal - thick, white, felt quite nice and tabletop-ish in nature. In hindsight, I realised that I was so worried that I couldn't find the right fabric that I just jumped at the first thing that looked relatively OK to me. On arriving home, I popped it in the wash and tumble dried it to preshrink the fabric. I was looking forward to my new project!

I cut a small rectangle as a sample placemat. As I started pressing the fabric to turn in the seam allowances, I noticed that i didn't make very crisp, clean creases. This meant that the edges and corners didn't turn out as sharp or crisp as I would have liked. The next thing I found out was that my poor domestic sewing machine could not properly navigate the thickness of the fabric to create that beautiful satin stitch that I had in mind. The industrial machine had no problem at all going through the fabric - however, industrials are made for the purpose of a single task - to sew basic, straight lines of stitching - they don't do fancy stitches like the satin stitch! So I ended up with wonky, irregular stitching on my test piece. It looked nothing like the dainty, elegant gift I had in mind!


I tried my best to rescue it by trying out varying stitch designs and border patterns. However, the more I looked at it, the more I realised that it wasn't the stitching that made it weird - it was the fabric itself and the result it yielded. No matter how much I ironed (ironing does a world of wonders - it immediately gives a professional and finished look to the product) the entire effect was cheap and tacky. I kept turning and looking at it at different angles hoping for a glimmer of hope - but nothing. Added to that was the mounting realisation that I would possibly be stuck with 4 yards of white cotton fabric for which I had no other use for!!

This morning, I took another look at it and came to the conclusion - Wu Yao Ke Jiu (hopeless). I just had to bite the bullet, and admit that it was all a big mistake. I'm just going to have to go buy another lot of fabric and try again. This time, it'll be just 1 yard until tested and proven!!! The white cotton has been relegated to the back of my storage space.

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