Friday, June 24, 2011

This is Why We Finish Our Seam Allowances!!!!

Shredded Front Pocket I first developed my slapdash ways as teen rebellion when my mom was teaching me to sew. One of the things she insisted on that I absolutely loathed was that I had to finish all the edges. To this day, my mother does not own a serger as she fears the threading. So all those edges were finished with zigzagging. Zigzagging takes forever and is ugly to boot. So in my rebellion, when I sewed unsupervised I did NOT finish my edges. It was liberating.

I actually never had a garment fall apart, surprisingly, but at some point in my later teen years I came around to my mom's side and started finishing all edges, a habit that persists to this day--though I now blessedly have a serger. I might even go overboard in finishing my edges. I know that many people don't finish edges that are protected by lining but I do: both the fashion fabric and the lining have every edge serged. Unless I am doing a very narrow hem, the enclosed edge of the hem is serged. Every.edge.

You can imagine my annoyance, then, when after the sticky of some mango sticky rice I purchased a street fair leaked all over my backpack and I put it in the wash I pulled it out of the washing machine looking like this. Argh! Because the edges of the pocket bag had not been finished, they just disintegrated beyond the stitching line in the wash.

Bottom Repair I was especially annoyed because only a couple weeks earlier I had finally gotten around to fixing the bottom. It had a rip in it from law school (let us note that I graduated from law school 10 years ago last month), from carrying sharp-edged binders in the same place and same way. The hole had finally gotten to the size where things were going to fall out of it. I cut a double layer of rectangles in the heaviest fabric I could find in stash, a linen(ish) tablecloth purchased at a thrift store several years ago. I stacked the rectangles and attached them to the seam allowances on the inside so the weight would be supported on the already proven seams rather than the hole-y bottom. Then I stitched around the hole to secure it to the fabric. Voila! Good as new.

Some might say I should have taken this as a sign to just get a new backpack, and I was tempted. This is not my every day backpack, a black affair that is more "professional" (lol). I commute on foot or by bike, grant me the backpack. But I use this backpack weekly for grocery shopping and other schlepping. It would be a justifiable purchase.

Nowadays, backpacks--like iPods--are available in a variety of colors to express your personality (I mean, so cute, right?). Back in the dinosaur age when I went to college, backpacks were like Model Ts: you could have any color you wanted, so long as it was forest green. (They might have also had black, but I'm pretty sure that is the extent of the choices available.)

This is actually not the first iteration of this backpack. Jansports have a lifetime guarantee, and I actually ripped an identical hole in the bottom of another backpack with the same binders in law school. I believe the original backpack was purchased for college. In law school I was too poor to buy a new backpack, so I used the lifetime guarantee to send old ripped backpack to Jansport (after trying unsuccessfully to fix it myself) and they sent me this one in return, basically the same as the old one, in the same forest green color.

I thought for a while about how it would be fun to have a cute backpack instead of a dinosaur-age non-self-expressing forest green one, but damn it, this backpack is perfectly good (other than the ripped bottom and shredded front pocket). The materials and workmanship (other than failing to finish seam allowances) are still in perfect condition--which is why Jansport offers a lifetime guarantee!

Pocket fixed! open So I bit the bullet and took a couple of hours to fix the shredded pocket and zigzag every last exposed edge in the entire backpack. For the pocket, I first trimmed off all the shreds, then zigzagged the edges. Then I sewed the pocket edge back onto the backpack, approximately following the still-extant original stitching line. You can see in the lower right how much seam allowance was originally used for this operation--I lost nearly an inch in the shredding incident. It took time and patience but wasn't difficult.

Pocket fixed! closed And now it's as good as new! Or close enough for my taste. I am sure someday something irreparable will happen to the old forest green dinosaur and I will replace it with something self-expressing in the turquoise or floral family. But the old forest green dinosaur has lived to see another day, and will cart home groceries for years to come.

Consider this your PSA, when you find yourself mind-numbingly bored while finishing your seam allowances: Yes, it really does make a difference!

22 comments:

Amanda S. said...

Great job! It is refreshing to see somebody actually fixing something in our throw away culture. And I had the exact same backpack in college! I'm pretty sure it is still somewhere around my house, but I believe the zipper broke. I am NOT going to try replacing that, but possibly might send it in for the lifetime guarantee.

Jacqui said...

My daughter is not going to be happy that you've convinced me that she can continue to use her pink Jansport. She had just about talked me into a new plaid one. I am glad that my son's has held up in the wash (and his overall roughness on that poor backpack) but I'll definitely remember to put it on gentle.

Mary said...

"Make do and mend" is my new motto. Good job on that repair! We have an ancient navy colored Jansport backpack that is currently with my husband as he flies into DC. I believe that backpack has been to college, graduate school in three states, Ireland, and Tokyo.

As for SA, I don't have a serger and I am a master at finding new ways to finish seams. It is necessary and important-your mom was right
;-)

Dei said...

Nice work on your backpack. I won't encourage you to part ways with it 'cause it has deeper significance. :)

I'm like you, a stickler for finished seams. It speaks to the durability and quality of the craftsmanship.

Samina said...

Heh, I've got the same Jansport backpack from my college days, too. I think they replaced mine somewhere along the way for the same reasons. Mine just hangs out in my closet now, but every time I see it, I think I should pull it out & use it.

TracyKM said...

I was thinking you were going to totally replace that front pocket with some funky fabric....

Anonymous said...

I think you've just outed yourself as not having such slapdash ways ;-)

Adelaide B said...

I am working on a loosely woven linen dress right now. Every little bit is serged or zig zagged. This thing will never fall apart! Also, I tend to keep backpacks until the zippers give out, no matter what else fails. I do not have the patience to repair zippers.

Joy said...

My backpack from that era was (and is) burgundy. It's traveled the world with me and is still in great condition (it's some camping brand, can't remember the name). My burgundy and forest green bath towels are finally dying (phew!).

I'm amazed you fixed the pocket. I guess you found the flaw in Jansport techniques! I hope you don't miss that extra inch of pocket space (:

kissmystitch.com said...

Even thought I own a serger, I admit I am guilty of not finishing my seams sometimes - and guess what, I think your mother and my mother were cut from the same cloth! (no pun intended). She also used to make me baste everything before I sewed - it took a bit of the fun out of sewing but I get it now.

Mrs. Micawber said...

Wow, this post brought back some memories. I didn't start finishing seams until I was in my 40s (the rebellion lasted that long). Now I'm a sucker for French seams. Those backpacks - I don't know how many my husband has thrown out because they got shredded. That crinkly nylon just pulls right out of the seam.
Good for you for fixing an old friend instead of throwing it away.

Tanit-Isis said...

Hehe! Having recently taken up indoctrinating, I mean teaching, my children sewing, I was trying to explain seam-finishing to them the other day. I don't think they were buying it.

I'm a bit haphazard in my finishing. Sometimes awesome, sometimes not. Since I got my serger repaired at Christmas I've been leaning more to the finished side, but still not obsessively (I don't finish turned under hems or most lined seams.) Although the finished seams definitely look nicer, none of my un-seam-finished makes have failed due to seam-ravelling yet. Zipper failure, button failure, poor thread- and fabric-choice failure, but not ravelling.

Yet.

Noile said...

Nice fix! At least, Jansports do seem to take a huge amount of abuse before they fall apart. Mr. Noile has murdered a few, but never without extreme effort (and many years of it).

When I made equipment like this myself, many years ago, I did what was standard then, even for manufacturers: I melted the edges of the seams by holding them just above (never IN) a small flame.

This was surprisingly easy to do and prevented shredding permanently. It's still the method I use to "finish" webbing straps before I sew them into or onto anything.

I agree with anonymous -- this is no slapdash fix -- and I'm glad you've been able to keep your historic bag!

Lynn said...

I love that you have repaired this bag so many times - Thanks for showing us to give mending a priority too. My mending pile leers at me but my children have unfortunately outgrown garments before I've gotten around to fixing them.

I have reinforced several of those free grocery bags stores give out from time to time for promotions - They seem to be made of interfacing and poorly sewn together. I've had several rip as soon as a few groceries are put in them, which I'm sure is not convincing people to re-use them.

McVal said...

Good job! I just fixed the winter hood from my nieces coat this morning because it was fraying away from the seams. At the parts at the top where I screwed up a little, I sewed on two little pom poms and now when she wears it, she'll look like a little bug. She's two, so it's cute...

Doris said...

My Jansport backpack from law school died a few years ago (about 10 years after I graudated!) when the zipper stopped zipping. I only found out recently that they had a lifetime guarantee. I probably saved it with the vague intention of replacing the zipper at some point, but maybe I'll send it back to them. I can't imagine ripping out a zipper and dealing with all of those raw edges!

Big in Japan said...

It's official, you may no longer refer to yourself as "slapdash".

neighbourhood.gal said...

So do you finish you seam allowances with the serger before you sew a seam or after? It seems like it would be easier to serge all of the raw edges after cutting out each piece - before the actual construction begins.

But tell me what you actually do.

nomadicstitches said...

I always hated finishing seams. It takes forever and I was never happy with the way it turned out.

I got a serger and I still hated serging edges and still didn't like the way they turned out.

And then I was introduced to the french seam and I am a total seam finisher convert. I love the neat and tidy encased seams that method gives me. I love the lack of fraying (even zigzigged edges get frayed)and just how clean it looks.

Clio said...

LOL - When I was in college (mid 90's), they also came in navy or burgundy. So, self-expression was limited to an earthy color pallet.

So glad I got a serger! Makes the job much more bearable and makes garment insides prettier.

Anonymous said...

Jansport has a lifetime guarantee. I replaced mine a couple of times since my college days. Check their website.

a little sewing said...

Great repair! I can relate to the satisfaction of fixing something that has history & memories attached. It pleases me that you enjoy serging :)