The other day I was doing some cyber window shopping and I came across this:
This is Simplicity 7876, the first pattern I ever sewed, the one that started it all.
There was a little shop in our town that sold sewing machines and fabric, and the proprietress held sewing classes in the back of the shop. I think I was about 11 or 12, so it must have been around 1979 or '80 that my mom signed me up. I was so excited and couldn't wait to get started!
Our first project was actually a tote bag made of plain cotton. The pattern was cut all in one piece and was a hand-drawn pattern provided by the instructor. It was basically just a simple project designed to teach us to pin the pattern to the fabric, cut it out, and then how to use the machine to sew straight seams, and gentle curves. After it was complete we moved on to the pattern above.
Simplicity 7876 is a very simple wrap skirt. It has a very generous A-line silhouette and wraps in front. There are no closures, the only "challenging" detail was marking the left side seam of the waistband to leave an opening for the tie band to go through so you could wrap it and have a smooth waist.
The class instructor taught us to read the back of the envelope to determine what fabric to use and how much to buy. We learned how to read the measurements and figure out what size to make. Once we opened it up, she showed us how to find the pattern pieces, cut them out and press them. Then we learned how to follow the pattern layout to fit the pattern onto the fabric and cut it all out.
And then it was on to the sewing. I loved every minute of that class and I whizzed right through the construction of that skirt. I remember how excited I was to pull it from the machine and try it on...
...And that was when I had my first experience with the mysteries of fitting. My skirt was too big! With the waist band cinched up as tight as it would go, it was too loose. I didn't understand why- I had measured carefully and followed the chart on the back of the envelope. Why didn't it fit?
I don't even remember asking the teacher about it. I guess as a child, I didn't think to investigate too far. It didn't fit like I wanted it to, so I just tried to think of a way to make it work. ( I was years ahead of Tim Gunn!)
My amateur fix was to simply fold under the vertical edge of the skirt front under layer an inch or so and stitch it down. I didn't trim, I just folded the already finished edge under and added a couple of rows of stitching to hold it all down. It added bulk and looked odd, but I figured it was going to be under the front wrap- who was going to see it? When I showed it to my mom and explained, she praised me for being clever and solving a problem.
I had so much fun in that class and I was so excited to have made a wearable garment that my mom turned right around a let me pick out fabric for a second skirt! The first one was a quilting weight, plain, purple cotton. If I remember correctly, I had picked it from my mom's stash. My second skirt was made out of a glorious pale pink cotton that was much lighter weight and had the perfect drape for this skirt. It had gorgeous fuchsia strawberries as big as my whole hand scattered all over it. I didn't know anything about the concept of muslins at the time, but I did know that my first skirt had had a problem, so for the second one, I knew in advance to take in the skirt under layer so I could pull the waist ties tight enough.
I remember proudly wearing that skirt to school the next year. And that was the beginning of my love affair with sewing.
What was your first pattern ever?