Friday, July 11, 2008

Sew What?

That's what my husband always says when I tell him I am going into my sewing room/office to sew. "Sew what?"

A few months ago, maybe during my 3rd session with my school, the senseis were discussing the poor condition of our banana bags. They were wondering if it would cost a cool fortune to have them repaired. I overheard and asked if I could take a look since I like to sew.

The canvas bags were quite worn in spots. The soft, almost flannel material inside the pockets housing the handles was terribly frayed. Of the 6 handles, (3 bags x 2 handles = 6 handles), only 3 were intact. One of the banana bags had a huge jagged L shaped rip near the heavy duty zipper. There were coffee colored water stains. I asked if the outer coverings were removable, which they were, and promptly said I could probably repair them. Sensei said he'd pay me if I could repair them, and that it was no hurry to do so. I told him no payment required. I just wanted to be a team player (and still do.)

We used ball point pens to deflate the innertubes inside the bag covers. The senseis told me that the air in those bags had been there for many years and I had no reason to doubt them - Whew! Fresh air it wasn't! I took the bags home and immediately started trying to figure out how to make the needed repairs. The thing I thought would be the most difficult ended up being much easier than sewing the detached handles back into place.

I visited my favorite store, no names but suffice it to say, I had to really watch my step with all the falling prices, and picked up some canvas that was approximately the same weight and color. I promptly took it home and washed it, along with the bag covers themselves to avoid shrinkage, hoping some of the water stains on the existing bag covers would come out in the wash, so to speak.

My favorite store did not carry the flannel type stuff to reline the pockets, so I went to a fabric store and found just the thing. I looked and looked while my husband scoped out the sales floor to see if they sold red hot pokers in the fabric store. (He enjoys fabric stores about as much as book stores if you read my post on the book sale.) There was one small scrap roll of it in the scrap bins so my determination paid off in this case. We paid for our purchase and got the heck outta there before my husband suffered any retinal damage.

Back at home, I went to work on repairing the bags. As I said, the big, jagged, L-shaped tear was the least of my problems. I made patches from the canvas I bought, used some fusion material to reinforce the layers and then sewed the whole thing. I was quite proud of myself because, initially, it "seamed" a quite daunting task. (There I go again with the puns!) Feeling pleasantly surprised at the ease of this repair, I thought to myself, "Piece of cake."

What followed were quite a few long, cozy evenings in front of the roaring…sewing machine. Actually, the roaring was coming from me - It was enough to make a saint scream. The angle of these handles inside the pockets was virtually impossible to get to with a sewing machine. The needle kept jamming in the material. The needles kept breaking. The needles needled me to the point I thought I would have to chuck the whole project or chuck my sanity. (And some will argue my sanity had been "chucked" long before this!) But, of course, my pride and time already put in prevented me from quitting. I am not the best at hand sewing, but I knew that was going to have to be the repair method of choice if I were going to finish this project. And I was going to finish this project.

So, like so many other times in my life, I told myself that quitting was not an option and that not only could I and would I hand sew these handles back on, I'd sew them on securely and built to last. And that is just what I did.

About 2 weeks later, I returned the the bags when I came to class. The senseis liked the looks of the new and improved repaired banana bags. They exchanged the cost of the sparring gear I had just ordered for my time/materials in repairing the bags. I thought that was a generous and fair gesture, so I accepted and said thank you.
Whatever the case, the sense of accomplishment in making challenging "material repairs" was much more satisfying than the "material rewards".


CrimsonPhoenix said...

Well, you officially have a new reader. I'm CrimsonPhoenix from martialtalk, btw. I've really enjoyed reading your blog over the past few days and I can really relate to some of the things you've said.

Especially with the whole sewing thing. I'm no great hand sewer, but I was forced to hand sew a rather large patch on my gi when the iron just wouldn't cut it. Fun times.

That's a sweet deal on the sparring gear.


Martial Arts Mom said...

Welcome! I'm glad to have a new reader! I've been kind of worried because there were no comments on this post and I figured the sewing angle was not a popular one to touch on. But then yesterday, I caught one about making Hakamas on AikiThoughts blog, and I commented on that one because I tried to make my own gi pants from a material with 97% cotton and 3% spandex but using my regular gi pants as a pattern, they turned out WWAAAAAAYYYYY too big. I will have to tear out all my double reinforced stitching to alter them too because there are no side seams like with regular pants. AARRRRGGHHHHH!!!! Anyway, glad to have you on-board. I'm getting ready to post a new one today...