Everything that can go wrong

I have made every mistake possible on the quilted pillow shams.  I have cut fabric incorrectly (to the tune of needing to get more fabric), I have miscalculated (and have lost time because the miscalculations were for the purpose of correcting the aforementioned incorrect cuts), I have made rookie mistakes in the sewing (we won’t even go there), and yet somehow I have come up with two pillow shams that are exactly the same size.

Fortunately, I learned from the mistakes and can apply those lessons to the next round of trying out the design.  It will take longer, but that’s what happens in the design process.

Which brings me to an important point:  Handmade is neither fast nor easy.  Yes, there are patterns with only a few simple pieces, but that doesn’t mean everyone ends up with a masterpiece.  Patterns marked “fast” or “easy” or anything of the sort are going to be faster and easier for the people who are well practiced at the craft.  Whether it’s sewing or knitting or any other thing, beginners will need to take extra time for reading the instructions thoroughly and for fixing the inevitable errors.  I’ve just put six hours of work into something that is presentable but not ready to be the prototype for a finished pattern, and I’ve got a lot of hours of sewing logged.

And that brings me to another important point:  Pay the designer for the pattern.  It takes time and energy (and mistakes and reworking), to work out a design and then to write out the steps with diagrams (and then to rewrite and redraw), and none of that counts the cost of the materials.  If you can afford to purchase the yarn, the fabric, and/or everything else you need to work the design — even if you’re shopping for the lowest cost materials you can find — then you can afford to pay for the pattern.

Never follow instructions

I did myself an injury by knitting too much.  Yes, it’s possible.  According to the physical therapist (when I demonstrated how I knit), I keep the triceps of my right arm engaged (flexed) for too long of a period of time.  Who knew?

This happens when I get a whole lot of time to sit and knit, something I usually do only for an hour or so in the evening when I’m sitting down to watch television.  Yes, I had planned to do a lot of cleaning over my holiday vacation, but a lot of things got in the way of that, including (but not limited to) the dust sending me into sneezing fits and my DH being out for hours on end, which left me to babysit the dogs.  (No, it’s not possible to do a major clean-and-sort with pets in the room.  They get bored easily, and then they get into trouble.  Besides, the dogs would rather lay around upstairs where there are soft things like carpeting on the floor.)  For a few days I concentrated on sewing.  I had to finish hand-sewing the binding to a scrap quilt (done!).  I tried doing a bit of knitting again, but the triceps haven’t healed that much.

So, I am back to doing a bit of sorting and a bit of sewing.  Today I working on a flanged pillow sham.  If you do even minimal sewing, you can find free instructions here.  It appears it was accomplished with some sort of napped fabric, something that I don’t have on hand and which I wouldn’t use anyway because I intend to make shams to go with a quilt I made for my sister Marcy earlier this year.  That means doing a bit of figuring to include seam allowances where there are folds in this set of instructions.  It also means figuring how I’m going to machine-quilt the fronts only.

And that brings me to my point:  Instructions for making things are usually made to be adjusted (if you know what you’re doing).  I’m not saying that a recipe for carrot cake can be turned into pot roast, but there are substitutions that can be made within the instructions that will give you banana bread instead of carrot cake.  Likewise, instructions for a basic, flanged pillow sham can be turned into a flanged sham with a quilted top.

Of course, if you don’t sew at all then there is no way a discussion of seam allowances and iron-on batting will make sense, just as making banana bread from a carrot cake recipe would have had me completely flummoxed if someone else hadn’t already figured it out and written it down.  I don’t cook very much.  Cooking isn’t something I understand enough to adjust on my own.  But I’m working at it a little at a time.  It’s not quite as frightening to me if I have someone on hand to ask before diving in (e.g., “We don’t have an allspice on hand; can I substitute a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves?”).  In time I am sure I will have more confidence, at least with herbs and spices.

I’ve been knitting and sewing garments for a number of years, so I know my way around making adjustments to these things. If you’re still uncomfortable about adjusting a knitting pattern for personal use, I encourage you to ask for help.  Most patterns are just a template on which to build a personal garment you’re proud to wear.  If you’re unsure, get yourself to a knitting group and start asking around because the chances are that you’re not the only person to have dealt with the problem.  Just take it a little bit at a time.