“S” is for Shooting … and Also for Sewing

In my profile I briefly mentioned that my hobbies consist of 3 S’s – Singing, Sewing, and Shooting. I happen to swing back and forth between the three with wild abandon, depending on my mood for the day ( or week, or month…). Sometimes they even overlap a little, which is what I’m going to talk about today.

Remember that I just recently spoke about my cleaning routine – mostly my non-routine? The biggest exception to this is my living room carpet. Reason being that the living room carpet is the main staging area for my sewing habit. Yep, it’s a “Habit” – yep, like a drug habit. Seriously. Playing with the color and texture and pattern gives me some kind of weird dopamine fix, and takes me to a happy place. (It’s almost the same happy place as when I finish a USPSA stage and smell the spent gunpowder, or lock an acapella chord in my quartet.) The carpet can’t be dirty, or all the fuzz and cat hair and popcorn crumbs stick to the fabric when I’m laying it out on the floor. So, the vacuum pretty much never leaves the immediate vicinity of the living room.

While popcorn crumbs and cat hair are a lovely thought, I’d rather not have them contaminating my handiwork. Especially when I’m laying out a partially completed quilt for Soldiers’ Angels Germany, as I’ve managed to do seven or eight times over the past couple years. The Soldiers’ Angels at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany provide homemade quilts and tied blankets, clothing and hygiene items to military personnel that have been medically evacuated out of Afghanistan and worldwide – usually without an ounce of their own gear along, and sometimes without a stitch of uniform left unshredded. So, it gives me an even bigger happy-boost to know that the color and pattern that is brightening my day today may soon brighten the day of a wounded or ill service member far from home. The stuff I manage to send is a tiny drop in an entire ocean of donations that they need, so if you like to sew, or can tie a fleece blanket, consider Soldiers Angels during your next project session. The specifications for what they need can be found on the website.

Recently, during a lull in my quilting, I had another sewing brainstorm. This time, it was directly related to shooting, and came to me during a local IDPA club match. Up to this point, I had been using a floppy old Hawaiian shirt for my cover garment. It was flimsy,  got in my way when re-holstering, looked terrible (not that looking fashionable on the range was really my goal), and was generally unsatisfactory. But, I had web-searched official-looking neato tactical vests, and just couldn’t justify the money to myself. Not to mention that I just can’t carry off that “Tammy Tactical” look. As it often does, the practical voice in my head whispered, “You could make something like that for a lot cheaper”. Yes, I have voices in my head – don’t tell anybody, mkay – it might affect future background checks.

A personal challenge began to take shape. The personal challenge I made to myself was to see if I could make a shooting vest ONLY out of fabric and supplies that I already had – thus costing me nothing but the price of a pattern, “if” I could find one. I stewed this idea over for a few days and started going through my fabric stash. (Any woman who has sewed for 20 or more years knows what a fabric stash is. I don’t think I’ve thrown away any leftover fabric pieces bigger than 2 inches square since 1990.) I went straight for a bag of twills that I hadn’t gotten into since I was pregnant with my last child. Here was a goldmine – denim leftover from making maternity and toddler jeans, flowered twills from a gym bag and a jumper I sewed, khaki twill for a pair of shorts I planned, but never made – it was perfect! There was even matching thread, and a strip of velcro leftover from someone’s Batman costume. But the stroke of genius that I’m proudest of was remembering the mesh bag that my Uncle Mike’s shooting belt came in. A chunk of that would make a perfect back ventilation panel.

“Damn Stubborn Woman” – that’s what guypal called me when he offered weblinks to vests for purchase, which I politely declined due to the challenge that I had issued myself. I do think he thought I was nuts, but he did offer me advice for how the thing should hang. I think he used the words “nipple line”…

With the moniker “Damn Stubborn Woman” as further impetus, I found a Simplicity pattern, altered it so as to be nearly unrecognizable, and set to work. The end result just tickled me to pieces. But, I had more fabric scraps left, so I also tried a second vest, using lessons I had learned from making version 1.0 to make version 2.0. What I really, really liked was that there was nothing “tactical” about these vests. I was going to be practical, and look a little feminine — not like I was trying too hard to be “Tammy Tactical”. Here are the results…

I’ve since had people tell me that I need to go into business. But the reality is that I sew for fun. I already have a demanding career. I sew because it makes me happy playing with the colors and textures, and if I had to do it for a living or with a time deadline it would lose its allure. Just like the quilts I make – you couldn’t pay me enough for the time and love I put into them. That’s why I give them away – it makes me happy to make someone else happy. You could never pay me enough to make up for that feeling.

I posted this not to advertise a business, but so that other women with a modicum of home sewing talent could see what is possible with a little imagination. Sewing and Shooting are not incompatible hobbies, and you don’t have to be locked into only what is available for the men in the sport. My next imagination project is a quilted “cover” for a carry holster. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  1. Jaime

    September 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Can't wait to see your "cover". You could be the Vera Bradley of the gun world!

    ps. Love the vest.

  2. Dr. LateBloomer

    September 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks Jaime!

    I have the fabric, but I think it's going to be a "snow day" project this winter.

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