When I started my journey into sewing, I made a lot of mistakes. As I progressed, I got better, a lot better. Just to keep me humble, once in a while, I have an epic fail. I am sharing this failure with you.
Earlier this year, I received an email from a former customer asking me how to sew a rug I designed. Did I design a rug? No. That didn’t sound right. I requested a picture of the pattern. Dang. I did design a rug. She asked me for help in putting it together. Could I send her a video showing how it’s done? Mind you, this pattern was over 25 years old. I designed it when I owned my shop.
This woman is certainly not the first person to have a project hanging around that long, but she might be the first person to find the author and ask for help after 25 years. How did she find me? My shop name was Gallagher’s, but my last name is Nau, I closed my shop in 2004, and I moved 150 miles away. She must have been a pretty good sleuth. My memory was a bit rusty, but after looking at the picture it came to me how to assemble that rug. I had forgotten the technique, but I grabbed some fabric and played with it, and luckily it worked. I did remember! So, I made a short video for her and sent it off.
I have been designing patterns for many years, not regularly but at least quite a bit
I even had a few in American Patchwork Magazine years back. After I was contacted about the rug pattern, I looked in my pattern folder and was surprised at how many patterns there were. I decided to revamp some of them, turn them into digital files, and put them on Etsy. Of course, I had to make new samples, but I chose some of the easier ones and it was good to have another look at my methods and make some revisions. Surprisingly, I have had decent success selling them.
Once I started rewriting, I was enthused, and I came up with new designs. I saw a painting that appealed to me and thought it would look great as a table runner. It is an easy pattern. It takes under four hours to finish. Thus, the name, The Four-Hour Curve Runner. While designing is easy for me, pattern writing is something else. I believe in lots of diagrams for my patterns, no matter how simple they are.
These days I also make a video tutorial with each pattern. It is quite a production. I make at least two if not more samples of the project. A pattern will have 20 or 30 hours before it is completed. It is not unlike sewing. You start with a shape and you must design each step and build each diagram along the way. I began writing the pattern and was anxious to start sewing.
I found several shortcuts which I felt were genius. I was proud of myself. The runner assembled in under an hour. I chose to quilt it in the ditch with an invisible thread. I have never been a fan of invisible thread, but it was the right choice for this pattern, and it worked beautifully. Within two hours I had made and quilted the runner. The only thing left was to attach the binding. Easy peasy, right? I sewed the binding and noticed it was a bit longer than the runner, but I figured once I pressed it that little bit would press out. At times, I will glue my binding to the back so I can machine sew the last step. It is a quick fix. I slapped on the glue and pressed it. The runner looked ok, but there was that still a little bump in the binding that bugged me. I set the project aside while I made dinner.
I spent my entire dinner thinking about that little bump. Realizing it would always bug me, I decided to remove a small portion of the binding and make it a bit shorter. If I hadn’t glued the binding it would have been a simple task to repair. But no, I was trying to save time and I had glued it. Now, as I tugged at that binding, I realized I had a problem, a big problem. I didn’t realize how strong fabric glue is. It sticks! It sticks to the fabric and the thread. After about an hour I had pulled away some of the binding but realized this was going to be a project! I’ll put it aside and work on rewriting the pattern. I will take the rest of the binding off tomorrow.
I find the glue has now really set. I slowly pull off the binding and must cut the section of binding out. The edges of the runner look rough and the binding is not looking great either. I decide to cut out a section and add a new piece. I open the seam where the binding comes together and the phone rings. My neighbor has a slight emergency and needs help. Two hours later I am back; the binding is waiting. I sew it together. I forgot that I had not added the two-inch piece.
Tear out the binding one more time. Measure another two inches and add that to the binding. Whoops, I have sewn the piece upside down. No problem. Rip out the seam, place the binding correctly and sew it back on. Then I sew the two binding edges together and measure and once again I am short. By this time, I am agitated. Very agitated. Ok, don’t get upset, set it aside and work on writing the pattern.
The software for the pattern is new to me; therefore, for most every step I take, I need to stop and look for a video explaining how to achieve a task. That done, I always find another task and watch another video. But I’d forgotten the first video so I watch it again. I continue to play with the software to get it to do the magical things it is capable of. In the end, I have success! Each step requires a good 15 to 20-minute video to achieve my goal, not including those darn commercials. I have now spent an entire day learning the software and putting it into action.
Back to the binding. I opened the seam again and added two inches to the binding. Placed it on the runner one more time it is too small. What the heck is wrong with me? I figure it might be best to do something else before I explode.
By this time, I have done a bit of research on how to remove fabric glue from fabric. You would think this was easy, wouldn’t you? Uh uh. Nope. Nada. I don’t have any acetone, which Is what is recommended, so I try alcohol. No luck. This means a trip to the store. I hate going to the store. I have spent the past four years working hard not to go to the store. A trip is required. So, of course, I need to clean up and look presentable for the very mean ladies at my local Ben Franklin. This prep takes about 30 minutes. I jump in my car assuming I will be gone for about 10 minutes. I arrive at the store. I am always hesitant to enter Ben Franklin. For those who have never experienced one of these stores, they are like the old drug stores. They carry lots of little stuff that you don’t want or need. But today I need acetone, so I am here. I swear these women believe that I am casing the joint each time I enter. They eye me as if I am going to steal one of those bejeweled plastic flowers or the nasty fabric they have in the back. Honest, I just need some acetone and I will get out of your hair ladies! Hazel, the head clerk, is in no mood to be nice to a customer, so she yells to the back of the store, “Bernie! Get this woman some acetone!” Honest Hazel, if you told me where I could find it I would gladly walk over and get it.
But no, Bernie lumbers up to Hazel and says,” I can’t find no darn acetone. Look for it yourself.” I so love this store and the people in it. Most days I drop off my shipments to the postal lady in the store. I bring the same size packages every day with all the labels affixed and postage paid. Each day she stops me and weighs every package. I have tried to explain there is no need. I have a postage machine. I am just dropping them off. But no. She makes me wait every single day. Now that is power! I decide no one is going to ruin my day so I give a wave to Hazel and plaster a smile on my face as I exit.
On to my local Walgreens. Surely, they have acetone. Nowadays stores are like wastelands, you can hear your voice echo as you walk down the aisles. There is no one to ask a question. I spend 25 minutes walking around the store with no luck. No one speaks or looks at me, so I feel justified in not purchasing anything and leaving quickly. Who else would have acetone? Of course, the hardware store. It’s only another 10 minutes away. Down the road, I go. I love this hardware store. The people are nice. They like me and treat me kindly. I am in my special place. I ask the clerk for acetone, and he walks me to the aisle and shows me the gallon can of acetone “You have nothing smaller”, I ask.
“Sorry ma’am we sometimes have pints, but you know, with the pandemic and all everything is hard to get,” I explain that I need maybe a teaspoon. The gallon can is a bit of an overkill. I have visions of my house on fire because I have this giant can of acetone just waiting to explode. I can see myself sleepless and waiting for something awful to happen. Nope, I am going to have to pass this up. Darn. Where to next?
By this time Dennis calls to see if I am all right. I was running to the store two hours ago. “Yes, yes, I’m good,” I say. Dennis is a creature of habit. Each day he goes to the local pub and spends about an hour and a half talking with his friends and having a beer. We have always referred to these visits as “going to the hardware store. This can be quite confusing when he is at the hardware store and he is at the hardware store a lot. Today I am at the hardware store which is THE hardware store. When we moved to Fergus Falls we decided we didn’t need two cars.
It’s worked out well as I don’t go much. Dennis’ afternoon trips to the “hardware store” are sacrosanct. He is being very nice during this call, but he wants the car to go to the “hardware store”. So, acetone will have to wait for another day. Off I go back home.
Day four …
I consider going to Walmart to see what they have, but then there are no clerks in Walmart either. It too is a wasteland with people standing in lines that trail to the back of the store waiting to check themselves out. This will not be a pleasant experience. I am not in any shape to deal with these types of problems on this day.
A few weeks back I stopped at the Service Center to return something, I stood in line waiting for a measurable amount of time for someone to come to the desk. A nice woman showed up and told me they were not accepting any returns. “You don’t take returns anymore?” She explained, “No, our computers are not working today. Maybe tomorrow?” I asked, “You can’t accept returns but you can sell me stuff?” She dropped her head and nodded. A less sane person might have attacked her at that moment but realizing this was not her fault I wished her luck. Someday I will make that return.
I have to finish this sample today so I can get the pattern out. There is no magic chemical that is going to help me. I tried peeling off the glue again. No luck. I start, carefully, picking the stitches out. The problem is this: I am working with black binding on a black quilt with black thread. My eyesight is not what it once was. What to do? In the end, I started ripping the binding off. I mean it took both hands. At times it felt a, bit satisfying and also frightening. My God, but this glue is cemented to the back of this runner. I pull and yes the binding begins to release but along with it comes parts of the batting. Now what? By the time I get forty percent of the binding off I