textiles – Justin Franklin

 The textile assignment in the makerspace 490 class began a couple of weeks ago, and it has been a long couple of weeks. When I first began using the sewing machines I had no idea what I was doing, because I had never used one in my life. It has been a strange experience overall but one that I have learned a lot from, as is usual with the assignments from this class.

The first thing we were instructed to do was to create a bag. I began this project having absolutely no idea what I was doing. I chose some fabric to make a bag out of and began cutting out shapes from it. I only did this because everyone else was doing it, at the time I had no idea what I was doing. Apparently, these were the pieces I would sew together to make this bag. I was surprised that something so simple took so many pieces, and such careful thought to put together. I had never really considered how things like this were created before, but there were surprisingly a lot of steps to it. Sewing itself was something that even though I had never done before, I warmed up to quickly. It was actually fairly easy and I enjoyed it. The bag I made took some time to complete, but I was really satisfied with the result.

This was the in-class assignment though, and I had to now move onto the final assignment. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to make or what I would be getting into. The concept of sewing ‘patterns’ eluded me still, since the pattern for the bag was basically just a square. I browsed the pre-approved sewing patterns for the final project, and didn’t really know which idea was better than the other. I sort of knew I wanted to do a plushie right of the bat for some reason. When I was kid I used to play those crane games with the stuffed animals in them, so I’ve always liked them. As soon as I saw that there was a sloth pattern I knew that was what I would probably want to do. I did look at the goldfish one as well, but even though it was less pieces, the difficulty meter posted in the .PDF said it was pretty difficult, so I said to myself, “Yeah, the sloth one”. I love sloths.

So I began work on the sloth. The first thing I did was begin to choose fabrics. I found a great fluffy material that had sloth written all over it. I knew I had to use it. I also found some regular felt type fabrics for the face and toes.

One of the biggest hurdles of creating this thing was cutting the pieces out. I didn’t realize how much time it would take to cut the pieces out for this thing. Even though I spent a lot of time cutting pieces of fabric in the correct shapes, I still didn’t get it right in the end, because often times, the shape needs to be mirrored, so that you have two of the same shape, but with the ‘outside’ of the material on the opposite side as the other corresponding shape. A difficult thing to explain, and one that didn’t have much importance placed upon it within the instructions, probably because whoever had written them had assumed that the reader would have enough experience to realize this, but not me. I was also trying to move somewhat fast, because I had guessed that the actual sewing process would take a lot of time.

I began sewing the sloth pieces together, just working through the instruction piece by piece, page after page. I was actually surprised with how well it was initially going. One of the biggest problems throughout the project, and one I noticed early on, was the material I was working with. It was very fluffy, and sort of like a shag carpet. Although this was really good for a plushie, it was just difficult to work with, because I could barely see what I was doing. Many of the seams I was sewing were being done on intuition and just sort of feeling that I was in the right place. Sometimes, it was difficult to even push the material through the machine, and the needle often got stuck.

A big moment with this project came towards the end. Because many of these projects have to be sewn inside out, and then flipped outside in, I found that things can get pretty confusing. I carefully tried to understand what the instructions were telling me to do, but ended up getting confused and misinterpreting what was going on. I had sewn my legs to the wrong side of the body piece. Normally, this could have been remedied by using a seam ripper to remove the stitching, which I tried to do, but the material I was using was so fluffy that I couldn’t even see the seam underneath it. At this point, I actually had to cut the legs off of the body I had sewn them to, and remake a new body piece. The second time around I had spent much more time trying to figure out what the instructions were telling me to do. Honestly, very confusing, but I figured it out. Since this was the final page, the end of the project, I was stitching together multiple pieces of the plushie. The body, the head and arms all in one seam. Many of these components also had two layers to them, so adding them together and also considering that there was a lot of fluffiness from the material meant that pushing this mass of fluff through the machine was nearly impossible. I decided to sew key spots with the machine, in order to keep the pieces together as one cohesive thing, and hand stitch the holes or gaps later down the road. 

Another aspect of this project was the embroidery requirement. In-class, we had worked on a quick crash course embroidery assignment. I randomly chose to embroider a donut, and it came out great, but I wasn’t sure what I might do to incorporate embroidery into my plushie. I decided to embroider the face of the plushie instead of just cutting out the shapes and sewing them together as I had originally planned to do.

Creating the face was quite easy actually.I had originally planned to take a screenshot of the example sloth plushie in my .PDF instructions and then just trace it in inkscape, and that worked to an extent, but not completely. I eventually had to draw my own eyes, nose and mouth, but luckily it didn’t take long and it wasn’t terribly difficult.

Once I had my embroidery design I just sent it through the machine and went for it. Luckily, I had actually found some better felt that I had originally planned for using for the face. The new felt had a better color to it, and seemed better quality. My embroidered  face came out first try, luckily, and I took it along with my sloth body home to finish via hand stitching. I attached the face to the body via a running stitch that runs around the face. It looks simple, but it worked great. Also, since I had left holes in pieces of the body I was able to flip parts of it back inside out and hand sew stitches from the inside, and seal it up pretty good all the way around.

In the end this was a lot of work, but it was worth it. It was somewhat more difficult than I though it would be, but many parts of this went pretty easy and pretty fast. It could have been much worse. There are also some mistakes in the final project. One noticeable thing is that one of the legs is longer and wider than the other. Not sure exactly why this happened, but I’ll just say its harder than it looks for sure, and I have a newfound respect for people that do this.