Fritz the Beaver.

A projects post.

Blog time ; it’s the very last day of September 2020 and as about a wet and cold autumn day as you can get in the UK : mid-day and there’s barely enough light in the house to read by, iv’e even got the woodburner going to warm the place up. Today…..i’ve been playing with my Beaver for most of the day and before you go into full Kenneth William’s mode, that or just blank incomprehension, let me just say that my Beaver is a Frister & Rossman sewing machine that just happens to be Mark 4 Beaver : honestly….you people !.

Today, iv’e spent just about all of it taking apart some old curtains and then making a cover for my big floor cushion out of the curtain fabric and an old , high quality bed-sheet. In case that sounds a weird combination then maybe it is, i wouldn’t know except that the curtains were a soft and thick cotton chenille i think and the old sheet a very high thread count cotton.

Aside from once having made an outdoors sleep quilt (badly) from a kit when i lived with a mate in Southampton….that and having done a few hand-sewn repairs on big sails today was the first time that iv’e ever actually made a finished ‘thing’ from scratch….and without even a design or pattern to work from. The previous night i did the obvious thing and entered ‘making floor cushion’ into Dr Google/Youtube and then sort-of followed the basic design and build from one of those search results.

Well, it’s made and the cushion cover is on the cushion, if you look at it from a distance it doesn’t look too bad : it’s only when you get close up that you would see all of the mistakes and wonky seams….still, it’s a thing and i learned a lot from each stage of it so from that point of view it was a success. The way i look at it is that it’s a start, that iv’e just done a whole load of things that iv’e never done before and that i can get a lot better at doing each stage : also that i sort-of understand the whole process of designing, lofting, cutting and making in fabric rather than say knocking something together out of plywood and epoxy. My mate Big Al says something along the lines of ‘once you have basic tool skills and build-things skills in one area you can often transfer that basic skill into another area.

Yesterday i set myself up a basic sewing bench, essentially a large folding table, and worked with the sewing machine and the few basic tools and materials that i had….i’d already ordered some zipper tape for another project and the bloke who sold me the machine kindly included some different threads and luckily some spare needles (i broke 2). Today i got the first delivery of a large order of bits’n pieces that i think i need : a large marking out/lofting board, a set of sewing tools, some chalks, a load of pins and clips and some much better scissors.

The hardest part of that first project was sewing in the fine zipper tape (no 3 tape) and then putting the zip back together : i spent ages running back and forth up stairs and down again between beaver and computer just in trying to work out how the adjustable zipper foot worked. I do seem to have a basic problem with the machine in that i can only do a straight stitch….whatever i do i don’t seem to be able to set the machine to do even a zigzag stitch. I definitely need better lights to work with on a dull day and i can’t leave the work station set up and iv’e just realised that i’ll need some new storage space for fabrics…..today i went in search of a fabric shop in town and sadly it seems to have closed.

I have to admit to one major mistake right at the end of the day when i was trying to work out how to do one small detail and i decided to take a look at the way an expert had done it….in this case a piece of work that my mother had done and sent us as a present. Just to say that i’m a total beginner and my mother is a senior level Jedi master of sewing, not just very good but at least City & Guilds trained level in technical embroidery which is micro fine work. Well the difference in skill and neatness was about 60 years or so….the length of time that my mother has been sewing at least at a competent level. That’s a high bar to aim for and to be honest i don’t need to be that precise for the kind of jobs that i want to do but impressive all the same.

Next…..iv’e got several projects in mind and mainly with the idea of doing exercises that i can learn from ; today for example i thought that it would be good to take a second attempt at a floor cushion cover using better fabric and improving on my basic skills. That didn’t work out so i’m going down a different route today in that i’m going to re-make some lightweight curtains for the back of the house as a lead-in to my first serious project which is designing and making a carry system for my new tent. After that i want to again , design and make, new sail covers for my boat as the old ones are falling apart from UV degradation.

What iv’e got a bit of right now is information overload…..too many Youtube video’s watched, from cushion and curtain making through tarp and stuff bags and then right up to making a Baker tent from scratch. One comment today is that very few of the You-tuber sewing channels assume some level of skill or knowledge already and that’s frustrating…..a bit like me saying ‘cannulate the brachial vein’ and assuming that you know what i’m talking about and can site a cannula. One site that doesn’t do that but shows each and every stage, no matter how basic is ‘Tock’ of Tock customs (link below) who seems perfectly happy to show how to make a zip from zipper tape or just how to press and sew a seam….kind-of ‘bloke’ level that i need. Tock, i don’t know if that is his name even takes the time to answer my noob level questions.

Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMq9fg94250&t=642s

Onwards……

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