sneaking a peek

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Apparently I’ve forgotten how to blog. It all started with an allergy to photo-taking combined with heat-exacerbated decision fatigue. Translation: I wasn’t getting much sewing done. Then I sewed a few things, but only when I broke the cycle.

This is what happens to me:

I stare from the pile of fabrics to the pile of patterns I just selected. None of the patterns seems good enough for the fabrics at first. Then I inevitably pick the challenging ones, with a lot of shaping. They all need muslining. It turns out I’m out of muslin and willingness. And so the fabrics end up being too precious and I get stuck.

The remedy: easy sewing. The photo above is one of such easy projects that got me sewing again. Now to get it photographed and give it a proper post…

But first a couple of questions for you if you have a minute: Do you ever get stuck in this way? What slows you down or drains your sewing motivation?

sewing for kids you can’t measure

That was the task I gave myself before the trip. My unsuspecting gift recipients were three children: one about 2.5 years old, one a newborn, and the third one still on the way.

Here’s what I made for the two tiniest ones:

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It would probably help to have my cat to pose alongside for scale but it was one of those rare occasions when he didn’t want to take a nap on the cutting mat.

Both patterns were free. The pants are from Made by Rae. The raglan tee came from this blog. I’d definitely sew the pants again but I think I’d like to check out other tee patterns, possibly with a different sleeve construction. The cuff details on the sleeves were very fiddly. I don’t want to blame it on the pattern because it’s possible I might have made them fiddlier than necessary as I rushed to finish up before the trip.

That’s not all. I also made bibs (using this free template).

bandana-bibs

Sewing them was quick and fun until it came to inserting the snaps. This time I just reached for the snaps from the kit included with the snap setter. Success rate: 3 out of 4, meaning — one of the bibs has an unexpected duet of snaps on one side. Snaps are just not my friends. In things I make for grown-ups I am thereby sentenced to always laboring over buttonholes. But buttonholes wouldn’t have worked here, so maybe this is the last of bibs for me unless I find a snap-setting partner?…

Finally, here’s what I made for the bigger kid, though with her I had a tougher nut to crack since she’s at that stage where she gets to grow more or less, or differently, than your standard sizes. She’s in the age of unpredictability to my untrained eye.

She seems tall to me, but then I haven’t known that many two-and-a-half-year-olds and she’s also one of my favorites, so I’m likely to attach whatever superlatives I can find to how I see her.

I ended up making one thing that might fit her soonish (a tee), and one that will have to wait:

birdie-tee

Here‘s the tee pattern, another free one.

The pants are probably my favorite item. I made them from Butterick See & Sew 3889, and they will have to wait a longer while to fit. I hope hipster foxes don’t go out of style before then!

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The sassy pocket is my addition. I hope the parents don’t come to curse me for creating this convenient hiding place for random wonderful and horrifying “treasures.”

Will I sew more clothes for kids? Likely! Even likelier if I find a sneaky way to get the recipients measured. So many free patterns and tutorials tell you to either measure the kid or trace their existing clothes. That’s not really an option for an aunt who lives far away. Unless Skype gets into VR mode.

What have you been sewing?

Seasonal Wardrobe Disorder #2

Some time in the middle of last week I sat down to make the following sketch:

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It was getting warmer and my overall seasonal wardrobe deficiencies were stirring my imagination, so I cooked up a list that reflects my (as yet mostly unfulfilled) shirt and shirt dress dreams and also includes one vanity party dress project (Simplicity 1059), two haunting UFOs (McCall’s 7314, a shirt dress I spontaneously cut out and half-sewed last summer, please don’t judge; and a Colette Beignet skirt for which I cut out a lining but, inexplicably, not the main shell), and a half-baked cardigan hack inspired by Johanna’s brilliant tutorial.

Very nice, but possibly also very unrealistic.

… And cue sudden temperature drop and now the thing trending on Twitter as #blizzard2017, and I’m back to the previous page in my sewing notebook. (I’m also back in the Keaton pants, which continue to be my stylish saviors in this a—-ole winter of cruel deceptions.)

As a reminder, here’s my previous wardrobe disorder remedy sketch, with some actual results:

Ladies and gentlemen, we are almost out of Pipe Dream Province here as most of the sketched items have been sewn. One item remains on the list (but with the pattern cut out, so baby steps are being made!). That last item will likely be Butterick “See and Sew” 5908, subbing for the pattern from Burda Style Wardrobe Essentials that I’ve been too lazy to trace (this one, and yes, I might still change my mind and trace it).

And here’s the current garment-in-progress, pleated pants from Burda 8/2016:

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Magazine photo and my hand-basted pair ready for first try-on, with additional cat hair embellishment.

It seems like it’s all pants all the time here now and like I’m suddenly very cavalier about making them. I’ve by no means become a pant fitting expert overnight but, to be honest, the pairs I’ve made so far look and feel better than almost all the RTW pairs I own, so that motivates me to keep working on new pairs. I stumbled upon this great post by Jasika Nicole about how exhilarating making pants is and: (1) I agree, (2) I bought that Burda pattern, so now that’s some kind of a plan, too.

So it looks like I’ve become more of a planner than I’d imagined possible, and making/hoping to make all these pants patterns, and more than mildly Burda obsessed…

Pants against blizzards, friends. Cheer me up in my snow prison and tell me what you’ve been up to.

simplify

Burda Easy blew my mind. (Images from burdastyle.de)

That’s my one sewing “resolution” for 2017. If the result is less than appealing, my excuse will be that Burda made me do it. Because the F/W 2016 issue of Burda Easy is what got the little cogs turning for me.

I noticed that I seem to operate according to an implicit rule that goes something like this: “why simplify when you can overcomplicate?” As you can guess, I never described it to myself in this way until began to realize I have a growing fabric stash and lots of remaining wardrobe gaps.

The issue is not sewing because I’ve convinced myself that I should save fabric for an appropriately ambitious project. Given the remaining gaps in my wardrobe,* it’s become clear to me that I need to balance the more ambitious plans with some simple garments that will get worn on a regular basis.

Enter Burda Easy. Doctor T has a great post about this issue if you want to know more about the designs and see more garment photos. Seeing the clothes in motion was what did it for me. Now, not all of these fit my life and style preferences: the huge vest and coat, and that oversize sweater would both make me look enormous and like I’m drowning in fabric. But a lot of them look really good.

The biggest suprise is how much I’m digging that tunic. It essentially conforms to Anna of the Paunnet blog’s definiton of Burda cutting corners design-wise: “rectangles by Burda” (see here). And yet I want to wear these rectangles. Obviously not now, not in the depths of frozen hell, but I think they will be close to dreamy when the world boils around us mid-July.

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More rectangles for me! Photo from Burda Easy F/W 2016.

But seriously now, here’s the strategy I want to try out this year: for every ambitious project (pants! shirts!) try to add some simple clothes, especially to wear around the house. So more knit tops; ideally, some decent-looking pants to wear around the house (maybe the ones from Burda to replace the ancient worn-out pair of cords I’m reaching for all the time), more shift dresses maybe…

Which brings me to strategy #2:

re-use already fitted and adjusted patterns as much as possible. Not that I haven’t been doing this, but I’ve mostly done it out of resignation when I got fed up with trying to fit a pattern that was turning out to be clearly not suited to my body shape. Funnily enough, given all the Burda inspiration in this post, the Burda bodice is pretty far from my shape (as I discovered when making this dress), so I might hack the Colette Laurel to get something similar to this one:

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Image source: burdastyle.com.

Another simple Burda project I have my eye on is this sweater:

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Pattern and more photos available here.

I might have some leftover knit fabric that would be great for this.

What about you? Any easy sewing plans you’re looking forward to? And how do you stand on New Year resolutions?

*Nothing helps you realize things as clearly as waking up in a harsh winter with one pair of pants remaining wearable in the weather conditions. That’s how you know you’ve been goofing up.

 

what’s your process?

Between the election and not having much time to sew, I found myself with very little that I wanted to write about. In fact, I’d been wondering all this time whether it might better not to say anything about the election… But in the end I’m very grateful to those of you who decided to say something — and by “something,” I mean offering insightful commentary and expressing concern about our shared future. I’ve been bouncing between fits of maniacal laughter while watching and reading the news, a sad stupor when realizing the news isn’t fake, and a profound sense of dread that history might be repeating itself and we are entering the 1930s redux in the remaining time.

So a black dress was in order. It was what I wanted to make the most, my actual wardrobe needs notwithstanding. And, you know, that’s what I’m going to write about. The sudden snowapocalypse let me finish it but not photograph it so all I have for you today is this crummy photo:

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a baste-fitted dress in progress

I can’t lie: I tend to feel a pang of envy when watching the amazing output of fastsewists. But I think I’m slowly growing to accept my cautious attitude and the resulting glacial pace of projects. I really enjoy having new posts to read about new projects but I also enjoy taking the time to fit and construct clothes for myself.

I had Susan Khalje’s Couture Dress class on in the background during much of the sewing, which helped me along. In case you were wondering whether the class is worth it: Susan Khalje is brilliant and absolutely hypnotic to watch, and I definitely want to follow this class along properly, i.e. with a sewing project.

This dress is not a couture project, let me dispel any doubts (ekhm, polyester; ekhm, no underlining; ekhm, no silk organza in sight). But I muslined, basted to fit, bound seam allowances — so, some jazz, just not all that jazz. It took me three muslins to arrive at a bodice that fits, and each one brought to my attention additional adjustments. I won’t lie, at low points it made me wonder if I’m some kind of a lady Quasimodo with my broad back, narrow and forward shoulders, sway back, etc.

I started out modestly, with one pattern, a Burda pattern I’d been eyeing for a while. I loved the pleated skirt and the neck- and sleeveband detail (the instructions for those were not very helpful though).

Burda 08/2015 #123 (Images from Burda Style)

I had ridiculously high hopes for the fit after reading several bloggers’ comments that the Burda bodice fit them so well they never felt the need to makea fitting shell for themselves. As you can imagine, that was not the case for me. Bat Back out of hell strikes again. It fit me like a straightjacket; I couldn’t move at all. Also, I desperately needed an FBA to be able to breathe in it.

One thing that really impressed me about Burda drafting was the treatment of the central back seam: it curves in at the waist to minimize/eliminate pooling on the low back. Cool fix.

In the interest of keeping it real let me tell you I gave up mid-way through redrafting the bodice, after spending hours studying the muslin, measuring flat pattern pieces, cutting into them, figuring out what to pinch out, what to add, and where.

I figured that the work I’d put into my traumatizing McCall’s shirtdress (The Shirtdress of the Broad Back Revelation) was potentially likely to pay off if I used a McCall’s bodice pattern as my base. McCall’s owns Butterick, so close enough. And on this one, the FBA had already been done for me.

Enter Butterick 6086:

Butterick 6086 (Images from Butterick Patterns)

It’s the ’90s vibe of the floral dress that caught my attention at that fateful pattern sale when I got this pattern. I don’t think I even registered that note about cup sizes back then. Honestly, it should be screaming at you in huge letters because it’s what fitting dreams are made of.

Two muslins later I got where I needed to be in order to finally cut into my fabric. I kept the Burda skirt and drafted the bands for the neckline and sleeves for the Butterick bodice.

I’m glad I remained skeptical about my fitting in muslin because the baste-fitted bodice revealed I needed to shave off a further 1/4″from both the front and back shoulder. That still remains a mystery.

More on the fabric and sewing another time. This dress marks the beginning of my love affair with spray starch, so I need to wash it out now that the dress is finished.

Once again, speedy sewists, I don’t know how you do it. What I’ve written about here took several days, and we haven’t even gotten to the sewing part yet.

Have any speed-sewing secrets to share? Or the opposite, fine finishing tips? Drop me a line.

Hazel in a heat wave

Do you have this too? My reaction to the recent heat wave was to quickly sew up a dress for that weather. The motivating logic was that if I sewed fast enough maybe I could outrun the heat. That more mature part of me knew it doesn’t work that way, but I let wishful thinking take over. And at the end I was rewarded with this:

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This is the third Hazel dress for me. I made two last summer and I’ve been wearing them a lot.

I have to admit, though, that since last year my approach to fitting has changed a bit. I put in a lot of work into fitting the bodice in those first two versions and as a result they fit like a glove. It’s not a bad thing but a year and several heat waves later my focus has changed. I now want clothes to move well along with my movements.

So this one is more relaxed. I did, however, take in the side seams a little bit (not as much as in the first two, but still). I cut a size down from my measurements and the fit is still pretty relaxed.

The fabric is seersucker partly underlined (skirt and bodice front) with cotton lawn. This was my first time sewing with seersucker and I was a little wary of the crinkly texture. It went fine, though, since the fabric’s stable.

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I rarely wear white, so of course the first time I wore this out I ended up with a cinnamon stain. It only makes sense. (I got it out and these pictures were actually taken post-stain, so whew.)

Concluding thoughts:

I have a lot of love for this pattern and I thoroughly enjoyed sewing it again. Sewing something you’ve already cut out (yes, I’m often that lazy) and already fitted is really relaxing — even when I’m basically melting in the heat. Having said that, after three versions, all of which are in heavy rotation in the summer, I think it might be wise to retire this pattern for a while. (Well, we’ll see what happens next summer, right?).

What’s on your summer go-to pattern list? Or do you always try new patterns? Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Adelaide, plus more thoughts on simple sewing

Have you listened to the latest episode of Seamwork Radio? It’s a fantastic interview with Felicia Semple. The interview makes for a good introduction to the philosophy of making that Felicia has been developing and documenting in the ongoing project that is The Craft Sessions — the retreat and the blog.  In a nutshell, The Craft Sessions is everyday creativity at its best: making as a cure for perfectionism, art as part of life. Joyful and naturally brilliant because the constraints Felicia imposes on herself are realistic and familiar to anyone who takes their budget seriously.

Among my favorites is this post about cutting fabric to minimize waste, this post about creative play, and basically all the thoughtful posts in the Stash Less series as well as the Simple Sewing 101 series, which is full of great tips and encouragement for new sewists and for those turned off by the challenges of fitting.

Simple sewing is exactly what I often miss out on when I try to think about how I could “make the most” of a fabric or a pattern. Here is how it goes: making the most of a fabric in my imagination becomes a quest to pair it with a pattern that will showcase its properties (often I end up imagining it should be a new-to-me pattern). Making the most of a pattern, as you may guess, revolves around the idea that I should buy new fabric. It all involves fitting and muslining that hasn’t happened. That all involves time.

When I rebel against these tendencies, I finally get something to wear, like this Adelaide dress that could have been made up earlier.

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This burnt orange rayon/linen was beginning to burn a hole in my stash. The buttons were a lucky thrift find from several years ago. I already had matching thread, and a fat quarter of orange polka-dotted cotton just waiting to be cut into bias tape (that one was a souvenir from a weekend getaway). I had the pattern — printed and cut for a while now. It was all there, I just couldn’t make up my mind.

I’m glad I finally did. I dove in without a muslin, but did my usual baste-fitting (fit basting? basting seams to fit?) to figure out if I needed to make any changes.

I had to cut the armholes lower because they were seriously digging into my armpits (if you are thinking of downloading the pattern, I believe that was one of the corrections to the new version!). Surprisingly for me, I didn’t have to make a forward shoulder adjustment — the shoulder seam falls on the original right where I need it. And does it even matter that much on sleeveless pieces, I wonder?…

 

That was it for design changes. Those fish-eye darts on the back gave me a pretty pleasing fit. And you know what that means: no worries about sway back adjustments, yay!

But I made a few other minor changes. I went with buttons from my stash rather than investing in snaps and equipment for setting them in. After messing up two belt loops in my insanely fraying fabric, I decided not to mess about with trying to turn them but folded them with raw edges overlapping in the middle and sewed over than overlap with a twin needle to secure it. (The belt, having a larger circumferences, turned nicely, so I stuck with the pattern there.) I liked the length of the dress before hemming, so I decided to use more of my special bias tape to hem it. Oh, and I added pockets.

The lack of pockets is the one serious drawback of this pattern, in my opinion. It’s obviously justified by the “3 hour” label that Seamwork gave it. My version of the dress took me much more than three hours but I’d say it still counts as a fairly easy and straightforward sew. And there’s no way I’m sacrificing pockets if I can help it.

I like Seamwork‘s geographic design names. I’ve never been to Australia, so Adelaide and Felicia’s Craft Sessions retreat (near Melbourne, I believe) are more a matter of imagined geography than a travel plan. Still, that imagined Australia stands for “where sewing gets done,” so that’s a good trip to the sewing machine at least.

Any thoughts on the pattern, sewing, or Australia?

from the sewing list

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The sewing list made me do it: another Plantain/Tonic tee lovechild, Geneva undies, and a much needed half-slip

Hello, everyone! How is Me-Made May going for you? As I predicted, I’m finding the daily outfit photos really challenging (and running late with those as a result). But I’ll zip it for now, at least till the end of the first week.

So here’s a bit of a throwback to what I made in April.

First off, I made a sewing list. I was getting really confused by my unwritten non-committal list (I know, surprise, surprise). So I wrote down all the must-sews and the maybe’s. The list turned out long, and maybe not entirely realistic. But it gave me an idea of where I stand with fabrics I already have… and it helps me to avoid buying fabrics at a time I really want to tighten the belt. And make it a fabric belt. From the stash.

But don’t let me convince you that fabric and sewing commitments are that much fun. I want to keep to the sewing list but a part of me is already trying to rebel against it and its priorities.

I really like Felicia’s Stash Less posts over at The Craft Sessions and really recommend them not only if you’re looking to discipline your stash but also if you’re looking for some honest talk about the challenges.

Here’s my modest contribution to that “honest talk” part…

I decided to kick off sewing from the list with a few of the basics that my wardrobe really needs, made only with fabrics and trims I already have. Unfortunately, I quickly got competitive with myself, imagining I would make more than one tee and pair of undies… and I realized there was no point in racing or trying to stretch it beyond the fabrics that were immediately presenting themselves for the projects.

So here’s what I actually made:

A tee from my blend of the Plantain and Tonic tee patterns. The neckline shaping and sleeves are from the Deer and Doe Plantain, and the shape below the bust comes from the SBCC Tonic tee. I like the neckline and armhole fit from Plantain but for skirts I need a closer-fitting tee, and the Tonic tee’s shaping is perfect there. Fabrics: black rayon knit with black lightweight ribbing for the neckline binding and cuffs.

Another pair of the Geneva undies. This isn’t view 2 but rather the result of some creative impromptu cutting and redrafting to suit my remnants. Fabrics and notions: jersey remnants left after cutting out t-shirts, vintage stretch lace seam binding bought second-hand a few months ago, elastic from stash.

The half-slip I had been forever putting off. This is my personal triumph against my natural laziness. I’ve had this polyester remnant waiting for months now and thanks to my evil list I finally made myself sew it up according to its intention. The lace trim was a second-hand find, elastic from stash. I used Gertie’s tutorial, by the way.

Thoughts: I don’t particularly love sewing knits and I definitely hate sewing in elastic, so that was the tough part. But I love having these items. You win, list. I am now your servant.

Do you have a sewing list or a plan for stashing less? Do you find it hard to stick to your plan?

the myth of basics

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self-portrait: lost my head, gained some wardrobe basics

I don’t know about you but I’ve never found wardrobe basics to be all that easy to find. It should be like the name says: basics should be readily available, they should be classic, and go with everything. And some say they are.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an Instagram post that stuck with me. It was a picture of handmade t-shirts with a caption I might be misremembering now (if so, I’m sorry). The author of the post seemed to be wondering whether it’s really worth making something you could easily find in RTW. It’s a fair question — we all like to sew different things — but my experience with RTW basics couldn’t be different from that person’s.

Perhaps basics hide when I go shopping (I’m not even joking), but over the years I was able to find just a few basics — t-shirts and simple skirts — that fit me well and actually could be paired with multiple items. I would wear them threadbare, hoping that another basic piece would eventually come along as a good replacement. That meant waiting out a lot of trends I didn’t like. And walking around in clothes well past their prime.

Sewing my own basics pieces has been a revolution in my wardrobe. They may not make for the most exciting sewing, they may not be easy to photograph or write about but they’re fantastic in their own quiet way.

What’s your experience with basics?

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Pictured above:

Top
Pattern: a mashup of the Deer and Doe Plaintain Tee and the SBCC Tonic Tee (both free!)
Fabric: rayon knit from Girl Charlee
Notions: polyester sew-all thread paired with woolly nylon in the bobbin

Skirt
Pattern: 
a circle skirt salvaged from a failed attempt at a McCall’s dress, with an added waistband and added side-pockets salvaged from an RTW tunic (so much salvage!)
Fabric: linen/rayon blend from Joann Fabrics
Notions: 
thread, self-made bias tape for seam binding, Hug Snug for the hem
more skirt details on Kollabora

 

the gifts of imperfection

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It was a week without sewing, all my attention taken up by the project above. I was very concerned about how it would come out because I have very, very little experience with embroidery. I was getting stuck in a sketching loop, with the sketches not leading to anything usable.

I needed to simplify, and I needed to get to work. Kati Lovasz’s Uptown Folk Blouse to the rescue: I didn’t copy the embroidery patterns in the end, but they helped me sketch out my own without overcomplicating the design.

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I could tell you about all the things I could have done better, but I wonder whether those are really the most useful things to say here. Sure, I learned useful things from this project as we do when we decide to take up something new. It might work or it might not.

My experience with making things so far tells me that a lot of the time you can salvage the losses and even turn them into surprisingly good new ideas. In this case I made a gift someone liked! Maybe sometimes it can be as simple as that.

Every now and then I stumble upon a discussion online bemoaning today’s “sloppy new sewists” and their uneven hemlines. It just takes me back in time to school and the fear and resentment I felt knowing that my first attempts at knitting were to be graded. And they were, and I can tell you I didn’t do well. Back then I thought it meant I was hopeless. Today I think it isn’t fair to grade someone’s first attempts at something. It tells us nothing about their aptitude, but it’s a great way to scare them away. And to undermine the learning process, which at its best is full of mistakes, experiments, recursive loops, and whatever detours and adventures the learner might take.

Is it really better for people to shy away from doing things just because their early attempts will likely be sub par? I don’t mind uneven hemlines. I prefer a world with them than one in which no one bothers trying because they might fail.