Friday, January 8, 2010

In which I sew my own microwave heating bags for the girls

Before I get started on this, please let me caution my friend Katie.

Dear Katie,

You are such a good friend to me. You are so generous and loving, you have such a great dry sense of humor, you love margaritas and you are a bountiful fountain of good advice. I really enjoy your friendship and I have a sisterly affection for you, which is why I want you to stop reading, like, RIGHT NOW.


I mean it. It may hurt you, either when you faint and fall off your chair when exposed to my hopeless idiocy and wind up in the hospital because you hit your head, or when you crack a rib from laughing and wind up in the hospital from a punctured lung.

Okay. Now that Katie is still reading along anyway has gone to get herself a Diet Pepsi, I will relate to the rest of you the story of the microwave heating bags I just finished making for Meelyn and Aisling.

The microwave heating bags are so lovely, aren't they? I wrote
this post detailing the simple instructions for making a microwave heating bag on December 19, and then this post about the U-shaped microwave heating bag darling Katie made me for Christmas on January 3 and all in all, my holidays were lovely and warm.

Since the weather outside is frightful, I decided to share the love and follow the simple instructions posted ON MY OWN BLOG to make cute bags for Meelyn and Aisling, but here's the thing: I thought to myself, You know, how hard can this be? You just sew everything in a straight line, right? And then put the filler in? And sew up the hole! Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy!

So I decided I didn't really need to read the directions.

I used 1/4 yard for each bag, although they turned out to be much smaller, once I trimmed off all the parts I goofed up on. (I buried those scraps deep in the kitchen wastebasket under some coffee grounds and used tissues so that no one will know how truly stupid I am when it comes to sewing.) That's my mom's sewing machine up there in the picture; Aisling's bag is on the right and Meelyn's is on the left. The folded paw-print fabric in the middle by the scissors is the fabric I bought to make the dogs each a small heating bag for their beds.

Doesn't it figure that I totally screwed up the heating bags I sewed FOR MY CHILDREN, while the dogs? The dogs will have the ones that will be perfect because I will have lots of practice making microwave heating bags by the time I sew theirs. Geez.

So I made Aisling's first, right? I lopped off a bit of the fabric from the end that I believe is called "the selvage," which is Sewing Speak for "the ends." Why the sewing people have to have this special lingo with words like "bobbin," "selvage" and "serger," I just don't know. It's like a club that they want to keep me out of because they know I don't understand and besides, it stresses me out.

I cut that bit of fabric off because it seemed like the bag was going to be way too long. Then I cut the fabric apart where it was folded. Then I turned the upside piece of fabric around backwards because every dummy on the planet knows that you have to do that. And then I plopped down at the sewing machine and impressed the heck out of myself by whizzing along in some lines of stitching that were more or less straight -- veering more towards the less straight if the truth be known -- and went around the rectangle of fabric with much back-stitching to make sure everything was nice and strong, remembering to leave an opening big enough to both turn the fabric inside out and also to put the dried beans in, which was my choice of stuffing.

Only. Yikes. It turned out, when I snipped the threads and whipped the little bag off the machine, that I had only turned the UPPER piece of fabric print-side-in. The lower piece was still discouragingly print-side-out. Oh, the HELL that is sewing. The unmitigated, hideous HELL of it all. I tried to rip the flannel bag open with my own dainty hands, but due to all that backwardsy sewing, it was pretty tight. I ended up having to just cut all the stitching off and re-sewing the whole thing, making DARNED SURE that both pieces of the cute ladybug print Aisling chose were facing inward.

Somehow, I managed to fill the bag halfway with beans without spilling them all over the floor; I just spilled them all over the countertop. Yay. Mindful of the spillage factor, I carefully returned to the sewing machine, which was sitting there trying to pass off its spurting laughter as coughing. I gave it a withering glance and it hushed up.

All I had to do was sew up the little hole, right? Does that seem like it would be too hard? Well, it was. First of all, the bag was too short to sit on the table while the opening was stitched shut, so I kind of had to jostle the beans around and re-distribute them in a way that allowed the bag to sit on the machine's edge, as Meelyn's is doing in the picture.

It probably would have gone more smoothly if I hadn't accidently sewn over a bean.

The machine protested, but at first I just thought it was being like a horse and not minding me because it could sense my fear. So I continued grimly on until the machine yelled, "OUCH! GEEZ, I'M SORRY I LAUGHED, ALREADY! THAT HURTS, YOU BIG BULLY!"

"Oh," I said. "Sorry."

I pushed the sewn bean back down with the others and carried on with the closing stitch, heaving a sigh of relief when it was done. It doesn't look all that great, but in the picture? I put the ugly side down so that none of you could see it, especially Katie, who probably needs smelling salts about right now.

One down, one to go! I knew how to do Meelyn's bag, especially the part about turning both sides of the fabric inward, so I pulled her fabric out of the Jo-Ann's bag with and air of casual expertise. I lopped off the SELVAGE, checked to make sure my BOBBIN still had thread on it and wondered for a few seconds what a SERGER is all about and then started sewing.

"Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" said the machine, happily buzzing along, bean-free, as I pressed its pedal with my foot. "RRRRrrrRrrRrrRrrrrrRrrRRRRrrrrr!"

I was so casually expert-like, so nonchalant, so practiced, that before I knew it, I'd sewn the whole bag shut. I know you think I'm kidding. I know you don't think anyone could possibly be that freaking ignorant. But I assure you -- one could.

The thing is, I didn't realize my mistake until I was done with the sewing and went to turn the bag inside-out before filling it with the beans.

"Hey!" I said indignantly. "Who's the big dope who sewed this- .....oh, crap."

Once again with the cutting off of the stitches, the re-sewing, the humiliation. My right eye developed a tic, and I began to wonder why it would be a bad thing for the girls to be cold at night. Maybe I have this all wrong, I thought desperately. Maybe it their characters?....if they're cold while I sleep in cozy warmth? I'm sure that's right.

Somehow, I got that bag sewed up the right way, turned it outside-in and managed to fill it with beans, which was very hard with my eyelid twitching and jumping. I carried the bean-filled flannel bag back to the sewing machine, where I managed NOT to sew a bean this time, sewing up the open part with ease. That was, in fact, the only easy part of the entire sewing-in-a-straight-line endeavor.

So if you don't mind, I am going to go warm up my own microwave heating bags -- the ones someone else sewed -- and go lie on the couch for a while. Hopefully my eyelid will stop spasming very soon.


Kayte said...

This is why people like you and me should not operate sewing machines. At least you had something you could actually use at the end of it all. Cute material!

Amy said...

See, I say that I want to learn to sew...until I read a post like this! LOL! If you'd like more practice, I'll take one of those microwave bag things, too.

Sharon said...

LOL!!! Makes me feel less ashamed for not even knowing how to sew a button.