away

It’s been quiet here for a while and I wanted to clarify things a bit. I really apprieciate all the conversations I get to have through this blog and your blogs, and I didn’t want to disappear without a word. As you know, I don’t ever write too much about my life here. I’m dealing with a serious family emergency right now. I myself am fine but need to attend to the situation with as much presence, insight, and (hopefully at least a scrap of) wisdom as I can muster. It may take me several weeks — or longer — to return to these lovely online conversations, so in case you leave a comment and it’s hanging around without an answer, please know I didn’t suddenly quit or become indifferent to what you’re saying.

But this corner of the internet might stay silent for a long time.

Wishing you all all the best.

 

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simpler still

Too hot for many things: sewing among them, and when there isn’t much sewing, what is there to write about?

The unblogged.

I had 0.7 yard of this unusual (to me at least) denim look rayon fabric, which I found in a remnant bin. This is what I made out of it, with some “creative” fabric cutting decisions along the way:

helmi-bluefilter
Disclaimer: this image has been slightly dramatized with the use of a color filter for the purposes of this blog post.

The eagle-eyed among you might be able to tell that the base pattern is, again, Helmi by Named Clothing. I can’t stop making these. If I manage to get some sewing done in the coming weeks, I should be able to show you another one.

This one… had to be cut shorter than the pattern pieces (sorry, can’t remember how much shorter anymore — I was figuring it out and matching side seams on the fly). I didn’t want to sacrifice even more of the length, hence the bias tape hem.

(I used my kimono sleeve hack of the front and back pattern pieces as you can tell.)

The collar stand was cut on the cross grain because there was no other possibility unless I’d piece it from the fabric fumes I had left. And there weren’t enough of those fabric fumes for cuffs, so I went for bias tape again. Unlike the premade one I used on the hem this one was made by me, and softer because I cut it from a rayon remnant. You can’t see it when the blouse is worn, so I’m not particularly bothered by this mismatch.

The buttons were a lucky second-hand find. I’m glad I only had seven because with the top button-free, the blouse has a slightly softer, more fluid look that I think is better on me than a fully buttoned version would have been.

Helmi-blue1
Awkward modeling is an innate skill; the heat isn’t at fault.

I’ve been wearing this Helmi a lot. Hurray for remnants! They make for some creative, and fairly stress-free sewing.

What has everyone been up to?

blog break

I wouldn’t want to disappear without a word, so here’s a post that’s bound to disappear once I’m back in the lovely realm of blogging. I’ll be away until the later part of June and not sewing (ha!) but I’ve a bunch of me-mades packed to go with me.

Happy making! ūüôā

Me-Made May 2017: days 7-14 and new makes

Hello, everyone! We are getting to the mid-point. So far I’m feeling good about the discipline of documenting the¬†wearing¬†part of Me-Made May, though I know I likely won’t be able to catch the final days of the month… But so far, so good. You can find my first week roundup here.

Here’s my second week (plus one day):

From left, clockwise:¬†May 7:¬†very blue in a Scout tee in¬†that ubiquitous rayon print¬†and RTW pants;¬†May 8:¬†those Burda pants I wore a lot the previous week with the cardigan I also wear very often and a RTW tunic;¬†May 9:¬†one of my newer Plantain tees, my beloved Oblique cardigan, socks I knitted while reading Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer¬†(a personally significant detail), and RTW pants that were a lovely hand-me-down from a friend.

May 10: Burda pleated pants and Helmi blouse in buttery soft blue rayon (post coming up!); May 11 (the two smaller photos): working from home meant too much indecision and PJs, then a Maya Top (pattern by Marilla Walker) with the RTW pants I wore on May 9.

May 12:¬†Rooibos dress in a¬†great fabric from Cotton and Steel (a quilting cotton print called Sprinkle) with a¬†green laceweight cardigan (the pattern is Oregon Coast by Jenise Hope) and a black short-sleeve Plantain tee you can’t see;¬†May 13:¬†my favorite version of the Laurel dress from Colette Patterns in a blue poly crepe that turned out unexpectedly pleasant to wear; May 14:¬†McCall’s 7445 pants in “corduroy” fabric (ekhm, not really corduroy), Laurel blouse in another great Cotton and Steel fabric (rayon poplin) and same cardigan as May 12.

As you can see, I’m not afraid of repeats. I actually wish there wasn’t this invisible pressure on women to always try to wear something new. I had a friend who tried to avoid wardrobe repeats for the longest periods of time and counted on other people noticing that. It was the opposite of my aspirations. Just thinking about it makes me tired on her behalf. If only everything went with everything… but that’s taking it too far, I guess.

Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on in the past weeks:

a third Helmi blouse, which needs a post of its own and a second #sewtogetherforsummer dress. This time I reached for McCall’s 6885 and at this point I have very mixed feelings about this pattern…

How are you finding Me-Made May so far?

Blogger Recognition Award: Thank You & Giving Away More Awards!

Thank you, Sewing, for Cat People, for giving me this lovely blog award! It’s lovely to be included in this because these awards get to multiply — I get to give this badge to more bloggers, you, reading this, get to find out about more interesting blogs that are out there, and we get to do something fun, friendly, and affirming in what is a very bleak time.

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I won’t go into detail about the “bleak bit” right now. I notice that my writing often tends toward the negative. On this particular blog it often takes the form of exploring¬†my fitting drama. If it were possible to wait a while before giving your blog a title, I would have ditched the nonsense title¬†and gone with “Fitting Drama” or something similar. A big thank you to those who stick with me despite — or maybe because of?… —¬†all my fitting adventures and misadventures. Thank you for the great conversation, for cheering me on through my pant/trouser tribulations, and for your own writing!

On to the sewing blog version of the Proust Questionnaire!

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

Dear Sewing for Cat People, thank you again! Congrats on your newest great-looking pair of Safran Jeans and looking forward to your future projects!

giphy
We all need more of this in our lives. But please observe work safety regulations!

2. Write a post to show your award.

Yes, we are in it as I write and you read. And time twists on itself.

3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.

I’m a very private person, which for me means that keeping other areas of my life separate from this space makes me feel saner and happier. I started blogging because it gives me a sense of a fuller participation in the online sewing community — I’m not just dropping in and out of conversations but¬†you can see my sewing side written up here, and changing over time. That’s the simple reason: to participate in conversations to a greater degree, to get a record of what I’ve been doing and thinking, and to meet people online, in the capacity we feel comfortable with.

Writing online we inevitably develop a “persona.” I like to keep my persona circumscribed and somewhat anonymous because that makes me less invested in creating an impeccable image and overidentifying with this image. That works for me. But, in all honesty, I enjoy reading very different blogs on a spectrum from very anonymous with an exclusive thematic focus to more private ones. Those of you who have been writing about illness and difficult life events have helped me in my life outside this little online bubble. I couldn’t write about life the way you do but I hope I’ve been able to express my support and my gratitude to you in a genuine way.

4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

I think there’s a lot of tacit and intangible pressure to create something like an online version of you, to post under your name, and to present an idealized image of your life. My major piece of advice to new bloggers would be to allow yourself to be creative and discerning about¬†how you want to want to write, what you wish to put out there, and what you’d rather keep to yourself. Giving yourself at least some space between the you who goes to work, has colleagues, and responsibilities, and the online persona you’re writing up online will likely make you happier and freer.

This is my very subjective take on the subject but I see a lot of people making themselves captive to an image of themselves and of their life that is not even too good to be true but too plastic, perfectionist, and constraining.

And to add to that, don’t be too eager to turn yourself into a business. If you want to use blogging as a platform for a business, be strategic about it. Be upfront about the business aspect and don’t use yourself as an extension of the business because it will burn you out.

Feel free to ignore my advice if you disagree with it, obviously.

5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.

Here is, in random order, a list of 20 blogs that I enjoy for a whole array of reasons. One thing that brings them together is sewing. The bloggers write about it in different ways, they sew for different reasons. I owe everyone on this really not exhaustive list a big thank you for their writing, our conversations, and their sense of humor!

I hope this list lets you discover new blogs to follow regularly.

Sew It Or Throw It

Spare Room Style

Saturday Night Stitch

Belle Citadel

Handmade by Carolyn

Madame Tifaine

Chronically Siobhan

Elewa

Ida Aida

Thrift Make Sew

Mokosha

Tea Okereke

Poppykettle

Pretty Grievances

Sewing Is Not a Superpower

Punkty Odniesienia

Kathryn’s Busy Town

Au Fil des Pages

The Last Stitch

Pattern Scissors Cloth

 

 

Top 5 of 2016: the hits

1A big thanks to Gillian of¬†Crafting a Rainbow¬†for coming up with and hosting this great roundup series. I’ve been enjoying reading these posts for a while now and I’m happy to join in this year.

Here’s my purely subjective list. It has been influenced by lots of factors, from the weather to weight fluctuations.

Rather than pick out five garments, I’ve picked out five categories that cover both my most worn and liked garments and what I’ve been learning from these about my wardrobe gaps.

Here we go:

#1 All my Rooibos dresses so far

I would not have predicted that Rooibos would be my pattern of the year when I finished that first dress. But it quickly became my go-to warm weather dress for those occasions when I wanted to feel somewhat dressed up but with serious pockets. It turned out that I often want to feel that way. So I made a second dress, and when the temperatures dropped, a third, which taught me how great the simplified pattern works as a layering piece.

Really, I think that for me simplifying the design was the key. The original neckline, though cute, makes it look like more of a one-off than it needs to be. It would work well as a variation, with a no-frills variation as an alternative added to the pattern.

I have some thoughts on the criticism of how Colette Patterns are drafted but I’d rather save it for later. I did two muslins for Rooibos and I feel that those were enough for me to figure out the right fit for me. I do think that the bust sizing runs smaller than usual for this particular pattern, and so that’s an issue that should at least be clarified if not resolved with a pattern update. But, overall, I can say that I do recommend it. And I think I might make it again.

#2 Laurel in navy crepe
laurel4-2

The best fabric pairing I’ve had with this pattern so far. I wear this dress a lot — more than the other dress versions I’ve sewn up because this color and this fabric have proven the most versatile.

I want to keep working with this pattern. I’ve had some luck (and a lot of fun) trying out different hacks on the blouse version. I’m thinking of hacking the dress to get something similar to this Burda pattern. I will be sticking with the Laurel as the basis (rather than altering the Burda bodice) because it’s drafted both for my cup size and for a broad back.

#3 Skirts and tops for work

top row, from the left: [1] Burda deep pleat skirt (post), [2]Thread Theory Camas blouse and mini skirt (blogged here and here); [3] Burda deep pleat skirt paired with a Plantain/Tonic tee (post)
bottom row, from the left: [4] Astoria sweater (blogged here and here); [5] Colette Patterns Beignet skirt with Plantain/tonic tee and me-made cardigan (blogged here and here); [6] Simplicity 1070 knit pencil skirt (post)

Some lessons learned from trying to make my work wardrobe less accidental:

  • I like to keep my work and non-work wardrobes slightly separate
  • I really like wearing skirts, even when they don’t have pockets
  • overall, a skirt and a top (shirt, especially) gets more wear than dresses (these somehow feel more ‘private’?); significant exception: the Laurel dress above
  • I obviously still need to tackle making shirts and pants… and definitely with more dedication

# 4 Finlayson

A very important unselfish sewing project. I made two, and I think I will make more. And that clever collar might travel on to other sewing projects. Maybe this category will eventually become Thread Theory patterns? Time will tell. I am enjoying sewing those and have a few more of their designs on my forever expanding to-sew list.

# 5 Jammies and loungewear

from left: [1] Almada robe from Seamwork; [2] warm season jammies; [3] cold season jammies

In short, need more, and need to go beyond sleepwear to some solutions for the laziest of weekends spent at home. Ideas welcome.

That’s my Top 5. Coming soon, everyone’s favorite roundup: the misses.

 

 

why I like a uniform

I made a skirt. This skirt. I broke out of the tracing procrastination loop and boldly cut a lining and waistband. And by “boldly” I mean “finally” because, dear readers, I’m patting myself on the back here for getting something finally done.

In these photos I’m wearing the skirt with a RTW shirt because “Operation: Shirt” is stuck at the muslin stage. While I like the one pictured here (because it’s rayon, the fiber of the minor gods), it’s not ideal. It’s two sizes too big and swamps my shoulders but gives my broad, broad back enough room to move. Trade-offs.

But back to the skirt. The stiff fabric hasn’t magically relaxed, which you can see very clearly in that second photo where the side-seam pocket is standing up awkwardly on my hip. Maybe there’s a reason why the original pattern didn’t include side-seam pockets?… Well, with winter coming I need a place to jam some emergency tissues, even if it’s not as discreet¬†as I’d hoped…

I have a bad tendency to decide on pocket placement¬†without referring to patterns that include side-seam pockets.¬†Once again the result is pockets that are placed about an inch too low. Don’t do as I do. I also shouldn’t because I clearly don’t have good instincts in this respect.

But there are things I’m genuinely proud of. I followed Sheryll’s advice (can’t find the post right now but I encourage you to browse her ingenious blog) and liberated myself from the order of construction. I put in the zipper before sewing up the side seams and that gave me my neatest lapped zipper yet. (I did give myself a slightly larger seam allowance there. And, oh, the original pattern had a side-seam zipper and just one pattern piece for the back, so I changed that.)

I added a waistband. The pattern just tells you to line the skirt and it doesn’t even include facings, which, in my opinion, is a bad idea. If you don’t stabilize the waist somehow, it’s bound to stretch out. I prefer a waistband to a faced waist finish, so I drafted one. A wider one would need to be shaped so as not to gap at the top, so I decided to make mine fairly narrow.

I also disagreed with the pattern when it came to the lining. The instructions tell you to simply eliminate the pleat on the front when cutting out the lining but I added about 5/8″/1.5 cm of “pleat remnant wiggle room” there. ¬†Carolyn has a great post about how to add a lining to a skirt in which she spells out what sewing patterns typically don’t tell you when they say to use the same pattern pieces: convert darts to tucks and sew the seams with a smaller seam allowance to give yourself room for movement. So that’s what I did here. I also cut the lining about 1.5″ shorter than the skirt. The lining fabric is a colorful polyester I bought second-hand.

This skirt is part of my effort to come up with a work uniform. More precisely: I’d like to arrive at a small wardrobe of clothes for work that will act as elements of a work uniform. Anything to combat decision fatigue. So, not going as far as this brilliant lady¬†but close to Barack Obama’s tightly curated closet. (Note: no presidential ambitions here.)

I also like a bit of a uniform outside of work but without any “productivity plan.” Recently I’m all about pinafore dresses. I sewed the denim version of the Colette Rooibos dress with the intention of layering it over long-sleeve tees. It took me a while to realize I could also do that with my first Rooibos. So this is what I’ve been wearing most of the time after work:

It makes me pretty happy that these are all fully me-made outfits (well, minus the shoes, dear shoemakers).

Do you have a uniform? Do you love the idea or loathe it? Please share.

Thanks for reading.

the dream of a common language

This is a different post. I’ve been going back and forth on whether to write it, but it occurred to me after joining in a few conversations on Instagram that ignoring it isn’t a solution.

In this kind of blogging we strive to be apolitical. And with good reason. We want to talk to people about the things that connect us, and we don’t want our differences to prevent us from it. I think that’s a very important aim. But I think that the true dream that lies there, unspoken,¬†is not to create community by being quiet about divisive issues at all cost, but to have a shared language — and by that I mean a shared set of concerns and values — that we could use to¬†talk.¬†To really hear each other. Not to¬†debate¬†but to talk in a way that makes it possible for us to understand the other arguments, the ones we can’t yet understand or relate to.

I’ll be honest and say that the result of the referendum in the UK caught me by surprise. I still don’t know how to wrap my head around it. The split is so profound — almost 50/50, although there is,¬†indeed, a result, and one that carries as yet not entirely known or knowable consequences… And we’re observing a similar split in so many different countries.

For years now we’ve been living in an increasingly divided political reality. There are some differences between specific countries, but the depth of the division is comparable. We have been developing political labels that need to be translated from the lingo of one side of the divide to that of the other — otherwise, they don’t have meaning.

So what tools do we have for crafting conversations rather than debates in which we yell our ideas over voices from the other side?

Everyone wants to be happy and wants to avoid suffering. I’m not saying that to sound Pollyanna-ish. I think that’s what we genuinely share. I also think that that’s easily forgotten when we enter debates in which we act as it’s possible to convince the other side to capitulate (it’s not because we’re never truly addressing each other’s concerns). I think it’s where we need to start because it means acknowledging the pain caused by profound rifts.

This post is not only about what just happened in the UK — though it will have an impact on us all, echoing around the world, though in different degrees. Here, in the US, the Supreme Court has just issued a ruling that puts the lives of many people in jeopardy. We are, in different corners of the world, debating immigration without a shared language and without a shared recognition that we are talking about people who, like us (whoever “we” are in this conversation), want¬†to be happy and to avoid suffering. The vision of immigration that emerges from the debates is polarized between outrage over the lack of tolerance and outrage over the incomers imagined as¬†a hive rather than individual people. I wish we were able to talk, not to debate. And to include in the conversation these people who are like us even if we don’t acknowledge that in our divided language.

I’m still hesitant about posting this because I really don’t want to alienate anyone. I don’t want to alienate people who disagree with me. I hope there is a possibility we can start finding that common language and that we can begin to heal the divisions that are turning us into each other’s enemies.

 

*the title of this post is an allusion to the title of a volume of poetry by Adrienne Rich.

make and mend: some thoughts on Fashion Revolution Week

Hello, everyone!¬†So Fashion Revolution Week is almost over and I’ve been really tongue-tied.

I’ve enjoyed the Instagram posts from makers who happily answered the question WHO MADE MY CLOTHES? with a resounding “I did!”

It was great. And though it’s maybe really premature¬†— and something I may not be able to live up to (who knows) — I can’t help wanting to arrive at an almost completely me-made wardrobe myself eventually. If it’s not yet a goal, it definitely is an ideal.

I’m rooting for Carolyn’s year of handmade. It’s a challenge but it also seems like a natural extension of her creative talent and curiosity. Liza Mae’s (recently: 1, 2, 3) and Portia‘s feats of refashioning are putting my husband’s old shirts t-shirts in jeopardy (don’t tell him). Zoe’s¬†declaration of underwear sovereignty is another source of inspiration.*

But making (and mending and altering — let’s not forget about those) is one aspect of the incredibly knotted global problem Fashion Revolution Week is addressing.

I’m hoping that Fashion Revolution Week makes a difference. I hope the strategies Orsola de Castro talks about are effective in shifting things finally.

But I’m also very worried. Because fast fashion brands have gotten very skillful at washing their hands off the unacceptable working conditions and the unacceptably low wages off which they profit. For years now they’ve been putting the blame on middlemen — and they are getting away with that deflection of responsibility.

It is important to remember and to talk about the Rana Plaza collapse. And to ask questions, even if those won’t lead us to a straightforward solution to the problem.

Making is one thing, but we’re never completely cut off from global economy. Our thinking, as some argue, tends toward the tiny framework of a village — the world being too vast to grasp and relate to. But since the way global economy works is directly at odds with that “village thinking,” we bear some responsibility to think about the world and our place in it.

I don’t want to sound preachy — since I’m not exactly offering brilliant solutions here. I hope conversations continue beyond this week.

Thanks to everyone who shared their making, refashioning, and upcycling this week.


*add that one to the list of sentences¬†I didn’t think I’d ever write!

how not to dress for others

carrie-cool-dresser
Carrie tells her parents that she’s become a “cool dresser.” Image source. Is it courage or conformism?

I wish I knew how. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. With my¬†30th birthday came a naive hope¬†that the boatload of cultural expectations was finally slowly sailing away. Celebrities and dubious fashion icons are after all getting younger and younger (as I am getting older and older), so surely I could finally be my own person, in my own clothes, chosen and made by me for me. Sweet¬†maturity.

If only. Nature abhors a vacuum. So now there are new pressures. You don’t have to pretend to be a sexy go-getter anymore but now you have to hit that impossible sweet spot between trying hard but not too hard to look “youthful but age-appropriate” or however else to describe that thing no actual living person can ever get right. And then there are other pressures that depend on where you live and work and the people around you.

Sorry if this seems like the dark opposite of a personal style story. But I’ve been¬†noticing that alongside people’s wardrobe inspirations and ambitiously original sews often¬†runs¬†a¬†thread¬†of concern about how they are seen by those around them. I remember learning, after admiring hundreds of cool handmade/homemade outfits on various blogs, that Zoe Edwards came up with the Me-Made months in response to fellow sewists telling her they didn’t have the courage to wear the clothes they made.

I just hate feeling that¬†even when I really don’t want to be too concerned about fitting in, I end up being really preoccupied by it.¬†I keep returning to this post from Roobedoo, and the great quote nested there, originally from this post. They articulate more clearly what I’m trying to say, which is not that I want to be a rebel. I just don’t want to be a conformist.

Into-Mind, the one style (non-sewing) blog I like to read now and again, offers¬†some tips for¬†fighting your inner cowardly conformist here. But I’m curious if you have any tips or stories to share.