Just What Does "Confident Beginner" Mean Anyway?

Lisa Stewart project fails skill level vinyl fabric

I have been sewing for decades. My hands-on time has ebbed and flowed as my life circumstances dictated (kids, job, money, interest, space, etc.), but with the variety of projects including wedding attire, quilts, intricate costumes, drapery, etc. under my belt, I classify myself as an intermediate sewist. 

That is to say, until I made a handbag. With vinyl. Marine vinyl.

I knew there would be a few challenges, but I was surprised at just how many. 

Kaya Papaya Design has three patterns, all rated "Confident Beginner." In the pattern description, we make a point of listing the skills used, such as inserting a zipper, using various interfacings, etc. Additionally, we list the fabrics intended for the design, with a few notes regarding some of those fabrics. But the pattern can't and shouldn't include all the tips necessary for fabrics, notions, abilities, etc. It is up to the sewist to determine if these are things they will feel comfortable doing or learning based on skills they possess.

What this rating means is a "Confident Beginner" knows their way around a sewing machine and tools, terminology, fabrics and notions, and has the confidence to try something new or to ask any questions. For myself, that meant learning all about vinyl and its inherent properties when it comes to interfacing, sewing (needles, glide foot) and pressing. So while many sewists are dashing through a pattern in a few hours (and may be classified as "Intermediate or Advanced") for me the process was a lot longer. And I failed.

Getting ready to stitch 3 layers of marine vinyl and a layer of Peltex.

And my machine telling me it was not going to happen. And I did Einstein's definition of insanity and tried several more times.

What can I say - I was seduced by teal vinyl and nickel hardware. But I didn't stop to think whether my machine could handle it - I had never stitched multiple layers of vinyl before. I had never stitched vinyl at all.

So, I will go forward with another trip to the fabric store (like that is painful - haha). And curb my fabric temptations to something more practical for my domestic sewing machine. Patricia tells me there is such a thing as thin vinyl! 


 Are you an experienced sewist who has found handbag making to be a challenge?



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  • Ellalou on

    Your machine looks like my Husqvarna Sapphire 835. Mine would go through vinyl if I used a size 14 needle and went really slow. I also purchased a walking foot that helped a lot.

  • GB on

    I loved making the Cici tote it was a lovely pattern. Thank you. When I saw that you had done a cosmetic bag to match I was thrilled. Thank you very much.

  • Anonymous on

    Great interesting newsletter, even for non-sewers!
    I will definitely do the handbags idea for women in shelters.

  • Carolyn on

    Oh, so true, about always be up for new things. My husband waits in the car with music on.
    Pickles cartoon to follow as soon as I find it in a pile in the co-opted dining room.

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