About a year ago I went to this class at work teaching ways to be "greener" in our cleaning, a.k.a. better for the environment. It was pretty interesting, and sufficiently scared me so I'm now leery of the harmful effects of many cleaning products. But moving on to the point of this post. One of the green cleaning tips was homemade laundry detergent
. During the class, I excitedly jotted down the quick and easy recipe. Not only would I be helping to save the environment (superhero Jessica), but I would be using a healthier laundry detergent (I had no idea it was anything less than 100% fine for you), and I would be saving tons of money in the process. I'm not sure which of those had me more excited.
I was anxious to try it, but of course not so concerned that I wasn't going to finish the store-bought laundry detergent sitting at home. So one year later I finally got around to trying this recipe. I'll admit the excitement had died a little bit. Just like a kid at Christmas, I had moved onto the next bigger and better toy. But I still liked this old toy and was interested to see if it worked.
I'll admit I was also a bit skeptical. Why would anybody buy laundry detergent if it was really this cheap and easy? And would it really get my clothes clean? Would it make them feel stiff and weird?
So I finally tried it. My first attempt was less than stellar. Turns out the recipe was serious about the size of the bar of soap. It called for 3.1 oz and I only had a 4 oz bar so I just figured, more is better right? Wrong. Turns out if the soap to water ratio is too high, you'll end up with a solid chunk of detergent instead of a liquid. When I went to stir it I had an "oh crap" moment. There was nothing liquid about it. I could scoop it out and hold a slimy ball of detergent in my hand, not what I was going for! I added more water to help balance this out (while slightly frustrated with myself) and finally got the detergent to a reasonable-looking consistency.
Now came the real test, would it make my clothes clean? It was a neat idea and smelled delightfully of soap and orange (my chosen essential oil scent), but if it didn't clean my clothes then I was going to need to make a trip to the store for some detergent pretty soon.
The test load went in (towels of course). Wash, wash, spin, spin, open and smell. Hum, it smelled nice. I didn't notice the orange, but it smelled slightly of soap and mostly smelled like nothing. Into the dryer. Heat, heat, spin, spin, open and smell. They smelled clean! To be honest there wasn't much smell one way or the other, which is what I was going for. They didn't smell overwhelmingly of orange, but at the same time didn't smell dirty at all. There was also no weird feel or texture. It worked!
The pants were a hit! I finished the pants just in time for the rehearsal dinner at my wedding, so of course I told my brother he had to wear them. I received many compliments on how well they fit, but also many comments on the unique pattern. But let me back up to actually finishing the pants...
I was so close to finished for about a month but couldn't bring myself to actually sit down and finish them. I was getting married in less than a month, so I'm going to consider that a good excuse for procrastinating on the pants. When I finally did lug out the sewing machine and tell myself "I will finish these pants tonight", it went relatively fast.
The belt loops weren't bad. They were pretty straight-forward based on what the pattern said (for once). However, the fabric was so thick I did break two needles in the process. Breaking a needle is annoying, but not the end of the world. After the first break I called both the sewing machine and pants a few choice names, but I changed my needle and kept going. After I broke the second needle I was less understanding. I balled up my fist, shook it at the pants as if that was somehow going to make them finished, and then realized I had no other needles.
After a quick trip to buy more needles, and yes I did buy more than just a single pack, I was back and ready to finish. Belt loops, check. Now the only thing left was hemming the bottom. Let me explain why that was annoying. Remember how I *might* have made a mistake earlier in the pants process? (I admit nothing.) Well... my unique addition to the pants ended up making them just a little bit too short. With the raw end exposed they barely grazed the ground, but clearly I couldn't just leave a loose end at the feet with strings hanging off. Shoot, what to do?
I ended up making a cuff at the bottom. It was a little annoying to figure out how long to make it, and clearly I couldn't base anything on the pattern at this point, but the end result looked very nice. And I must say that nobody commented on the cuff... it's as if I did it on purpose.
The moment of truth! My brother came into town for the wedding and I had him try them on. I held my breath as he went to put them on. If they weren't perfect I had no intentions of adjusting them anytime soon so I was hoping for perfection. And yes, a home run! They fit, they were a good length, and best of all... no more changes!
Back to the rehearsal dinner... My brother did wear them, and they looked good. But I must say that the most hilarious and unexpected part of the evening was having people go up to my brother and want to take close up pictures of his pants. Since he was wearing them at the time it seemed from afar more like close up shots of his lower body. I did have to laugh when I looked over and saw my aunt taking a close up picture of his butt. I guess technically the intended picture was his pants, but still a funny scene to see at my rehearsal dinner.
I have to say getting started sewing is definitely the worst part. The directions tell me to start with the pockets. I figure that can't be too hard, right? Noooo, there's a lot more going on there than I realized. So much folding that somehow makes sense when it's all together, but when looking at the directions just seems confusing. Also, it seems to me the directions call for two unnecessary pieces. I THINK one of them is for reinforcement, but the other seems like it would just get in the way. I decide to take a more minimalist pants-making approach and eliminate the "extra" pieces.
Yes, I have pockets! Now onto the legs. The directions definitely have some unnecessary steps. Scanning... scanning... ok. I sew the front, the back, and now I have something that (loosely) resembles pants! Next step, zipper. After analyzing the directions for a few minutes I decide this seems more complicated than I'm in the mood for so I skip the zipper for now and move on. Come to think of it, what a great stopping point. Might as well put them aside for a while until he can come for a fitting.
A couple weeks later he comes into town and I bring them out for a fitting. I turn them right-side out so he can get an idea of how they will look and he seems very pleased. I must admit, they do look better than the original picture in my mind.
I readjust the size and decide they're ready for a final seam. Zip zip, done! I read onto the next step and realize I've made a mistake. Crap. I take a moment to consider my options. It's a minor mistake that he probably won't notice unless I point it out. If I redo them it will take me FOREVER. Hum... executive decision made, I will keep them as is. What mistake? They're perfect! Now onto the pockets...
First of all, you have to know what you're doing to even understand a pants pattern. What is a yoke? Interfacing? Placket? Selvage? Ahh! Also, I'm pretty sure that patterns, at least the one I bought, haven't been updated since the 1950s. Let me back up...
After realizing I need a pattern, I go to the store with my mom and have her help me pick one out. Forget all the new technological inventions of the past half century, these black and white newspaper print patterns are located in a file cabinet, using a location system similar to the card catalog system at the library. (At least the kind they had when I was a kid, it's probably been updated since then.)
Now which pattern to get? Luckily, despite the hundreds of women's options, there are only TWO patterns for men's pants. Hahaha, makes it easier to decide which style I'm going to buy. Then we have to choose the appropriate size pattern. Luckily my brother provided me with detailed leg and waist measurements so I'm good to go there.
Yes! I'm making progress. I have my pattern and I'm ready to get going. I get home, open up the pattern and hope it will all make sense once I look through the directions. NO! My confidence deflates like a popped balloon. Even more confusing. What is a yoke and why do I need interfacing? What does it mean when it says the size "with nap"? Meaning I get a nap halfway through the pants? If not, I'm confused.
I step back a minute and assess the situation. I tell myself I am a smart, creative woman with some sewing experience and I CAN do this. So I figure I'll start by cutting out all the pattern pieces. The pattern gives different options of crazy ways to fold the fabric in order to save fabric, but that's confusing so I just start cutting. Each piece says "cut 1" or "cut 2". Ok, I can do that. I cut one, set to the side, then cut another if needed.
Finally, I have all my pieces! I really feel like I accomplished something so I take a look at step 1. WOAH, what is it talking about?!? Luckily mom's coming to visit so I'll ask her...
Mom looks at my fabric pieces and again laughs at the fact I'm making pants for my brother. She starts looking through the pattern and translating the directions for me. First, we need the front legs. Great, I cut those out already. I run to get them and return with an accomplished feeling, until...
Mom: "You have two lefts. Did you also cut a right leg?"
Me: "What are you talking about? The pattern said cut 2 so I cut 2."
Mom: "Yeah, but you have to cut 1 face up and 1 face down so you have a left and a right."
Me: "What?!? The pattern said CUT 2. It did not say cut 1, then turn pattern over and cut another!"
I search back through the directions to prove I'm right, that the pattern never told me to TURN OVER and cut on opposite sides. Yes, I was right that there was nothing saying "turn over", but it was not a satisfying victory. I still had to re-cut all the patterns to include a right leg.
Ok, so now I know you have to FLIP all pattern pieces. Check. Time to sew...
My brother calls me a few months ago, while I'm on vacation at the beach, and asks if I have a sewing machine. For those who own a sewing machine, do you also have one with you on vacation? Exactly, nobody does. Keep in mind my brother has no interest in, nor knowledge of, sewing - bless him.
So when I get this call the first thing that goes through my mind is he had a button fall off or a tear that he wants me to mend. That I can do with needle and thread so I blindly charge ahead and ask for more details.
That's the point where he asks me, "will you make me some pants?" Let me set the record straight here. I've never made pants before and I've never had anybody ask me to make pants before. Again, I blindly charge ahead and ask for more details. He proceeds to tell me he was running errands with a friend who had to buy fabric for her class project (details unknown). While in the fabric store (likely his first time), he saw this "awesome fabric for pants". He of course went ahead and bought some, knowing he would be seeing me at the beach the next time.
Now this next part is what I imagine went through his head. "Jess knows how to sew. Pants can't be that hard, right? You sew the front to the back and add a few details like the zipper. I'll bring her this awesome fabric and she can make me some pants one afternoon." I'm honored he has such faith in my abilities, unfounded as it may be. However, that doesn't change the fact I didn't have a sewing machine with me and had never made pants before. I tell him it will take me a while, yes, longer than the weekend, and just chuckle.
I go home, set the pants fabric in the corner, and do nothing for a month. Finally I start to feel guilty and call my mom. I'm pretty sure this was my plan all along seeing as how I don't know how to make pants and I know my mom has made some before. The phone call goes something like this:
Me: "Mom, Ryan wants me to make him pants."
Mom: "Hahaha, he what? Pants are a lot of work. Nobody makes men's pants anymore."
Me: "I know. And you're going to love this pattern he picked out, it's very bold. Where do I start?"
Mom: "You'll need to go buy a pattern..."
Let me also add that this fabric is DRY CLEAN ONLY and makes me think of the Victorian era. My bother definitely has a unique sense of style.
I decide that although I know nothing about making pants this will be a good learning experience and a chance to use my new sewing machine. So off I go to buy a pattern...