Do you panic at the sight of the tiny type and intricate instructions on a pattern envelope? (Fear not; it's no worse than decoding Etruscan.) Do you drown in the sea of fabrics and fumble your way through the notions counter of your local fabric store? And finally, in desperation, do you consider dismembering your sewing machine and burying the parts beneath the basement floor?
A pity - because the home sewing market is filled with new products that will swiftly turn you into the Einstein of the pinking shears set.
Study, for example, the new packaged kits that allow you to turn out your very own big name designer dresses. Turned off by the thought of elaborate preparations? Fabric-by-the-inch - pre-tiered, shirred or quilted - requires sewing only one seam.
Cecelia Lewis, one of the originators of Canned Couture, sums it up: "Our fashion kits may do for sewing what cake mixes did for baking."
The Canned Couture kits, which Lewis calls "uncompleted ready-to-wear," come with precut fabric. "We got fed up with the prices going up every season and workmanship not improving," says Lewis, whose kits will retail for $14 to $30 complete.
Pattern companies have also realized that a busy career woman, concerned though she may be about an affordable, up-to-date wardrobe, has no time for wading through complicated instructions. McCalls's has introduced "Show-Me! Patterns," consisting of three starter-lesson booklets and eight very basic patterns for novice stichers. Butterick Patterns' new early spring catalogue is full of "Super Quick" patterns and a section of uncomplicated styles that cost only 99 cents per pattern.
But be warned. Even with these simplified methods, your creation may turn out a disaster. You cannot be careless with finishing details and expect to produce something that resembles the expensive, but beautifully constructed clothing on store racks. The preshrunk, well-tailored moral is that in the end, it is what the sewer puts in that either makes the item an instant success or relegates it to an eternity in the back of the closet.
Sketched clockwise: A very basic skirt from the McCall's "Show-Me!" group. Syle No. 5757, shown in 100 percent cotton leno, which comes in khaki green. The fabric from G Street Remnant Shop came straight from a Seventh Avenue designer's workroom, and is 60 inches wide and $8.95/yard.
Strapless bathing suit made from all nylon/lycra fabric. A kit assembled with your choice of stretch fabric, polyester thread and easy-to-follow pattern No. 1335 will be assembled for sewing neophytes at any Strech & Sew store. The suit kit will cost from $15 to $25 complete.
Sew an outrageous Hawaiian shirt. The Hecht Company fabric department will have Concord's all-cotton jungle prints at $3/yard for 45-inch-wide fabric. This one was made from Butterick Pattern No. 5385.
The stores are full of preshirred fabric-by-the-inch leaving only one seam to sew to make a sundress or skirt. The product also is available in a 19-inch length so you can make a little girl's sundress without having to cut off excess fabric. This flower print in poly/cotton is 19 cents an inch at Sew and Sew Forth in Springfield Mall.
This very recognizeable jacket is from Canned Couture's "French Designer Collection" and comes precut in an acrylic that feels like mohair (Style No. 107, $23 for the kit). It is shown with purple silk skirt and blouse from their "American Designer" group (about $25 each for the complete kits). The Canned Couture kits should be at the following stores in early May: Woodward & Lathrop, House of Fine Fabrics and Minnesota Fabrics in Fairfax and White Flint.