Saturday, October 22, 2016

autumn sewjo

The beginning of the academic year always brings a bit of chaos to my world & this year doubly... because I got a new job assignment right after my previous blog and I've been putting every ounce of brain power into learning new things and getting stuff done at work... then coming home and collapsing.

As the students and the rain and the darkess return, historically I lose my "sewjo" or whatever you call that certain cocktail of inspiration, motivation, raw materials, time, and energy necessary to make garments happen.

This year, as fall encroached and the pace ramped up at work, I felt the sewjo draining away - I completed several promised projects for church and that was all for the months of August and September... but I finally started to get a little equilibrium and a big longing for some self-care of the creative variety this October.

It happens to be another internet sewing phenomenon month #slowfashionoctober and that's pretty cool... but I haven't had the energy to follow along much... however, I did read a great blog on Make Do & Mend today.

Speaking of mending, I've been doing a lot of mending lately, myself.  I can't knit any more - I tried it for one weekend in September when I was sick and really wanted to have a cozy craft and my Dequervains flared up immediately.  So I'm giving all my yarn away.

Anyhow, I used to like to knit while watching my favorite tv shows as a way to unwind when work has me stressed and tired... the knitting is soothing and interesting, but also it makes me feel like the binge watching is a productive indulgence.

With knitting out the picture, I turned to my mending pile for handwork that I could do while watching shows... it's been great.  I did a bunch of maintenance on my sweaters for fall, fixed some stuff for my husband, took care of wear and tear on a few of my favorite me-mades.  Very satisfying.

It wasn't until the first weekend in October that I got to do a little self-indulgent machine sewing just for my own fashion pleasure.

My first project actually sort of emerged from my mending pile.  The vintage zip I used on my tiger skirt broke (sometimes that happens when you use salvaged 50+ year old notions. Often they are better than anything you could find now, but some have lost their virtue.)

I wasn't really happy with this skirt.  Something was just off.  I had reworked the fit of the waistband a couple times but I wasn't thrilled with the plain white waistband and I never found a top that seemed to match/harmonize with the skirt. 

So when the zipper broke, rather than remaking the skirt, I decided to make it into a dress.  With the scraps I had left from 2 yards of the Michael Miller Growl fabric, I just barely eked out a sleeveless bodice from a pattern hack I drafted from the Pauline Alice Cami shirt dress.  

Above is my first version of Cami that I never blogged about - I didn't like the instructions for the collar, so I cut it off after I made it -but I did love the shape of the bodice.  When I thought of a bodice to add this skirt on, I turned to a pattern hack I had crafted but never cut as plain front, no buttons.  The side zip closure on Cami also worked well with existing tiger skirt because it was a side-zip too... so it didn't require a lot of remaking.

I cut the bodice at the end of August and it sat on the end of my ironing board for ages... but I finally had the time to stitch it all together and wrap up my summer tiger obsession so that I could move onto making some things for fall... so here's Growl 2.0

I love it so much as a dress!  Also, I love the Cami bodice for my short waist and I am still working on little adjustments to make it the basic dress block that Emery never came to be. I may add a dart in the arm hole in the future - but I am very pleased with the potential of this pattern for future dresses.

I finished Growl 2.0 the first weekend of October and it was the last really warm early fall weather we had, so I got to wear it as a summer dress once before the rains set in.  I've also since worn it to work with tights and a cotton cardigan and I got a ton of compliments from strangers around campus - including several very fashionably-dressed students.  So the moral of this projects is, when you fear there are too many tigers on your garment, the solution is not to dial it down with plain white fabric - it's to go all-out and add *more* tigers!

Okay, with summer sewing finished, I now venture into new territory for me... fall/winter sewing.  I lost my "sewjo" or the time/will to sew for myself at the start of the academic year in 2014 and haven't really sewn a lot of winter-appropriate me-mades in my spring and summer sewing. I have, though, been collecting thrifted fabrics that I imagined becoming fall/winter garments.  So, the second weekend of October, I spent my time cutting some fall stuff. 

I'm obsessed with plaid.  I've been wanting some plaid babydoll dresses for ages - ever since making my first me-made New Look 6305.  I finally did it!

I totally love this dress!  It's so dorky and comfy... I just feel like a million bucks wearing it with a slouchy cardigan and some chunky oxfords.

My other finished object is also an oversized plaid babydoll dress, but not a tried-and-true pattern.  I thought it might be fun to try something different with this wearable muslin experimental pattern.

I wore it out on a lovely autumn walk with my husband today too - it layers up really well. 
For some reason, this dress reminds me of the movie Ghost World.  Who knows?! Also - both these oversized plaid dresses look cute with a turtleneck layered underneath & could go with knee socks or legwarmers layered over the tights too, for more warmth as winter settles in.

The pattern was a weird spur-of-the-moment idea. When I was thrifting last weekend, I found a pristine McCalls M6605 Tunic pattern in a size that would be too big for me to wear as intended, but I thought, with a few tweaks, the tunic length might make a good dress pattern.  For 99 cents, I thought it was worth a try. I made some guesses in adjusting the pattern for this muslin and dove in. I didn't take care to match the plaid or anything - but I'm still pleased with the finished muslin. I think it still needs a few refinements... but overall, I like the direction it's heading and this version will certainly get worn for kicking around in this fall/winter.

To give the sort of dumpy fabric and quick construction a boost, I used really fun vintage buttons on it.  I always mentally dread button holes, but once I get started, I rather enjoy making them & my re-tuned Viking 6460 is reliably kicking out a nice tight, even button hole now - so it's less of a big deal than ever before.  Let's forget zips and do lots more buttons this fall!  

Next up, to polish off what I already have cut - a 10 oz maroon denim Brumby. I bought the denim this summer to try to make jeans... but I've really been wanting a burgundy skirt, so I just decided to stash-bust and make something I know I will get a lot of good use out of, instead of letting it languish in my stash waiting for the wild moment when I decide to make jeans.

I'm embracing using things from my stash but also not beating myself up for adding to my stash when I am inspired to, which has mostly been my thrifting lately.  I haven't bought any new fabric since July.

The plaids I used in these projects were all thrifted finds that I've been saving for the last two years. In my mind, after saving them for a long time - they became special... but they are actually both kind of crappy older synthetic fabrics.  Which actually gives them a perfect 1990s grunge throwback feeling that matches the garments they became just perfectly.  

I'm working with what I have in my stash for winter - working my way toward making some lined wool skirts.  I'm not going to let winter stop me this year.  I'm feeling really curious and looking forward to bringing me-made sewn garments into all 4 seasons this year.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why Blog?

This weekend is my 20th high school reunion.  I decided not to go.  I was going to go to part of it, but I decided that I'd rather see the new Star Trek movie with my husband, get up early to go hiking with my parents, and have some downtime to get some sewing and relaxing done, than spend the weekend drinking and rafting and all sorts of other planned activities with a bunch of people I was never that close to & haven't seen for 20 years.

I guess I'm just a bit of a loner and curmudgeon, but I'm feeling okay with this decision.

However - the very fact that the reunion is happening gives pause to think.  20 years?! Already?

That's a bit staggering. Things change a lot in a decade. Even more in two.

When I was a senior in high school, I was addicted to my journal - an actual spiral-bound, cloth-cover book with a dark blue background, scattered with a celestial potpourri of golden suns, moons, stars, that I wrote in, by hand, with lots of different colors of pens every day. I had no readers.  I had no filters. I wrote what was on my mind, what was in my heart.  I wrote it just for me.

Somewhere in college, LiveJournal got wildly popular.  I tried making the switch from the private print pages of my journal to the glow of the computer screen, but it didn't really start to feel natural till a few years later when I had a blog as an extension of my MySpace page and I started my first Blogger blog for knitting as an extension of hanging out on the message boards.

Back then, people still had a lot of anonymity online and they shared a lot about themselves - not so much personal information, but personal thoughts & reflections... the types of things we were sharing just to ourselves before.

I think that those blogs were a lot more interesting, in many ways.

Now, it's still all about sharing with others, but in a smooth and polished way - professional photography, all the successes, tutorials, things for sale, sponsored reviews... you know, you're supposed to have a niche that makes you special and useful and gets you a lot of traffic so you can sell ads or get sponsors and make money from blogging.  There are a lot of blogs our there about how to make your blog better, more marketable, more profitable.

It just doesn't resonate with me. I'm just a person who likes to document my life for myself & maybe a few friends in one way or another. I'm not marketable now, just like I wasn't popular in high school... and it's actually a bit liberating to know that I'm so far from ever being that way, that there is no reason at all to try. But then - why blog, if no one is reading?  Why blog, if I am not teaching things or publishing patterns or taking super-fancy perfect photos, or just all-around being pretty and super-perfect at everything and showing the world how great I am?

Why?  I think it is just because I like taking time to reflect and to document my processes for myself - to seal the memory of things.  To look back on memories and be able to show the few people I care about a quick reference point of something I made that I think is cool. To avoid making the same mistakes over and over. To work out ideas.  To save information where I can find it again.  Lot of reasons... but they all sort of boil down to learning - learning about myself as I learn how to make better things. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

more thoughts on abundance, scarcity, stashing, and making...

I remember about this time 2 years ago at Lammas that I wanted to try to use up some fabric from my stash for a month, as fall approached - but instead, I just stopped sewing for a couple of years.

Strangely, I began to sew again in spring this year, right around the same time that I started sewing for myself 2 years ago... so I'm a little worried, with some waning 'sewjo' in the last month, that I would follow the same cycle again and stop sewing in fall.  But this time, I think I will persevere and get into the winter sewing this time.

I have some lovely wool and flannel fabrics that are just waiting to become cozy things & knitting is off my list of activities, since I got DeQuervains... so even if I go through periods of slowing down or getting busy, I think I will still be sewing come winter this year.

I just wonder what qualities and feelings are in this Lammas time, where the world is ripe with abundance and yet the tinges of fall and decay are just ever-so-slightly starting to show, that make me think so pointedly of my own consumption and collection of crafting materials?

Maybe it's falling after my birthday month, where I often give myself permission to be a bit more frivolous, that makes me suddenly want to keep it simple and use what I have?

Maybe it's the feeling of summer winding down and the need to shift gears to sew for a new season that feels overwhelming and makes me feel like I need to collect new things to be inspired and prepared?

Whatever it is, there's a certain angsty 'je ne sais quoi' that puts me at odds with sewing when I think about all these things together.  Sometimes, I find it temporarily inspiring to take on a new challenge - stash-busting, stash less, rigid budgets, rigid rules, making lists, capsule wardrobes... they give a temporary invigoration, but they are actually extensions of the angst and malaise.

There is a balance where enough is enough and making brings joy and beauty.  It is out beyond any challenges and self-imposed rules. It's a way of living and being.  A calm sense of purpose that is still open to the unexpected.

So I'm giving myself a non-challenge challenge. I think for about a year-ish.  Nothing hard and fast.  I just want to stop worrying and saving and just really use the beautiful things I have collected without a fear of scarcity or lack of worthiness to use "the good stuff".

I really want to use the fabrics and the patterns that I have already.  I also want to learn more about drafting, altering, and fitting patterns & creating blocks to have trusted, lasting pattern templates.

I have a friend now who knows how to do this. She's been starting to teach me some stuff and its pretty cool... so I would like to be open to exploring that, tracing out my go-to patterns in a more lasting form & really, really perfecting their fit.

There's nothing more comforting to me than using a tried and true pattern. I do like to learn new techniques and constructions processes, but once they've been learned for a certain pattern, it takes a lot anxiety out of the making process not to have to worry about fit & to already understand how the garment goes together... because my body shape is such that lots of tweaks, grading, and shortening are most always required.  Once I know the fit and make of a pattern, I have more freedom to play with the fabric... and that is what I really like to do.

I  don't mind repetition of processes and I also like to wear the same shape of stuff most of the time - fit and flare or babydoll dresses & full midi skirts in woven fabrics are my tried and true favorites.  In my wardrobe, these are the things I can sew better than I can buy & that give me joy when I make them. (Confession: If I can't steam it to a crisp, I'm not going to enjoy making it nearly as much!)

I give myself permission to not push my skills to make a bunch of new types of things.  I also give myself permission to get curious and try new things too.  Like, I made a pair of zipper shorts in June. I haven't blogged them, but I wore them on 4th of July.  They were fun, but they were so hard to fit. Maybe I'll try jeans this year.  Maybe I won't.  I will see how I feel. I will not be attached to results or lists.

Whatever happens, I'm going use the special fabrics, though. The ones that make my heart sing. The ones I've been saving for sometime in the future when I am better, more worthy, more perfect.

No more waiting. Because I'm fine now. Because I'd be happy with a closet full of Brumbys, Veronikas, and Kellys for all seasons in beautiful fabrics.  Because it doesn't really matter what other people are doing or what they think about me and my makes if I have a good time making and wearing them.

I am pretty sure that absolutely no one reads this blog & even if I had readers - my sewing is not my business or livelihood... it's my joy, my happiness, my balance to be a maker.  If that brings you joy to watch, yay.  if not - that doesn't matter.

So at this bittersweet time when we feel the simultaneous peak of abundance and traces of future scarcity or loss... I will just dig in and make stuff with the stuff I have. With no rules. Just curiosity.

Friday, July 29, 2016

august to august austerity...

Soooo... the stash-busting sewalong month totals kind of made me anxious. And the themes were hard for me too.  I always make dresses and dress month came around - I have made zero dresses.  (But I did make a pair of shorts and two skirts.)  During the unselfish sewing theme of June, I just ended up doing a bunch of projects I wasn't that into, for other people. It wasn't bad. I tried my hand a pattern testing for a designer who I really love and I sewed a bunch of super-boring (but much needed & appreciated) stuff for some people from my church.

Overall, thinking about my consumption and creation habits as a zero sum endeavor is seriously anxiety-producing though.  I lost my "sewjo" for a while and only got it back a bit when I thought of cutting into the beautiful tiger fabrics I've collected for my birthday and International Tiger Day - which is today!  May all tigers be well and happy! <3

I realized, when I was making things from these special fabrics, that I have a lot more joy sewing the special stuff & I have squirreled away quite a lot of special fabric... so I'm going to sew my favorite things - skirts and dresses - and maybe try some fun new experiments... but for the next year, I am really, actually going to attack my stash. Not the thrifted-for-muslin stuff. The *good* stuff.  The beautiful prints and the vintage treasures and the silk and the wool.

I want the joy and the pleasure of making and wearing things that are special and I have some patterns that are just always go-to winners for me.  I will experiment with my pattern stash too... but in austerity of acquisition, I mean to make room for total decadence of using up the good stuff.

Life is short.  Time is precious. The time is now to get into the treasures.

In doing so, I also hope to have enough fun to curb mindless spending and acquisition and replace it with total freedom to raid my own coffers of things I've been saving.  I'm sure I'll need some thread and some zippers (no matter how many vintage zippers I get, I often seem to lack the color or length I want... sometimes I get creative, but sometimes that won't do.)

But I think I have pretty much everything else for a bang-up year of the fanciest made-do & mend fun.

Hello August, bring it on!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Michael Miller Tigers

One more tiger fabric garment... this was fairly quick and dirty because the print (Michael Miller "Growl") is large and I didn't want to make a lot of details that would compete with the large print.

I decided to make a side-zip dirndl skirt and just use selvage to selvage, which was almost a print match. (more on that later.  I wanted to at least match the rows of tigers. It was really close to perfect from selvage to selvage... I just ended up with these cute little cyclops tigers at the side seams.

I didn't really want to make the waistband in tiger.  I had a proper Brumby skirt waistband in the striped ticking from my last tiger-pocket skirt... but when I looked at the fabrics together, they didn't look very good.  I thought maybe some plain creme colored denim would be good.  It was exactly the same as the background of the tigers and a nice heavy thickness for a sturdy waist.  I cut four front pieces of the Brumby waistband to make a fitted side-zip waistband.

I'm not so sure now that it's made up if I really like the solid creme, but it is late in the game to fix it. I do reserve the right to make this into the skirt of a dress at a later time or some other inspiring waistband, if I so choose.  Maybe even with the bodice in this creme denim... but I also reserve the right not to care if it isn't perfect... because - tigers!

I got several compliments on the skirt from a wide range of people at work (all non-sewing people who just liked the print.)  Lots of library folks were pretty excited by the "cats". (Hello - they are tigers, not housecats!) My husband likes it too & he isn't even fond of house cats!

I hand-picked the zipper, in a vintage metal zip that is sort of a dark cantaloupe color. I didn't have a white/creme one of the correct length... so I decided to contrast. Just for my own sense of matchy-matchy, I also finished the inner edge of the waistband with vintage double-fold bias tape in a nearly identical color.

I also made a nice thick Brumby hem, one full tiger... I'm loving these little beasties!


Monday, July 25, 2016

tiger time.

Where has the summer gone?!

I've barely had time to sew, much less blog... but I have been making things as time allows.

I wanted to make something special for my birthday, which was last week - this year, I really wanted to make something with a tiger print because I love tigers and July 29th is also International Tiger Day.  Tigers are very endangered in the wild and frequently mistreated in captivity - they really need advocacy and support to be able to come back to thriving & they are such noble and exquisite creatures that I fiercely wish to see them be protected and flourish.

I had some lovely Cotton + Steel tiger fabric from 2014 that I've been afraid to use till now.  I just didn't quite know what it wanted to be.  Then I saw another tiger print on sale on that I could imagine making into a sun dress.  Then I happened across some Michael Miller tiger fabric on ebay for a steal. Then I saw some other Cotton + Steel tiger/heart fabric... and well... this happened.

But then not a lot else happened after that to make garments. Last weekend, I knew it was now or never... I just wanted one tiger thing ready to wear on my birthday... so I made the one thing I had in my head that I new I could trust - a Brumby with tiger pockets.

More on this later, when I get some proper photos together.  I forgot a lot of little details about how to cut the Brumby to my favorite length and put it together, so I got a bit organic in my problem solving a few places along the way.  It's more of a Brumby-inspired skirt than a Brumby-proper... but it has those perfectly lovely Brumby pockets.

I forgot to add 3 extra inches to get the wide hem and the length that I like for work... so I added a little strip of the selvage edge on the bottom and added a row of tiger fabric inside to create the hem.  I also forgot that the zip is installed into the skirt & the waistband... so I did a beautiful job of handpicking and topstitching the zipper in... then I realized that lovely wide waistband was not included in the fun, so I used the remaining strip of selvage that I'd cut for the hem, to make a thin waistband.  I actually really like the play of the vertical and horizontal stripes... so I'm okay with letting things happen.

Bad Selfie of my Birthday Skirt taken at work on ny b-day.
I also have a great Brumby waistband cut out already and enough of this ticking left for those big beautiful pockets, so I can make another contrasting Brumby with some plain cream denim I got at a thriftstore in Ukiah, CA on a trip earlier this month... so I am looking forward that too.

I've had a pretty stressful July, but things are winding down and I plan to enjoy some relaxing this week - so I'll be making more tiger garments... stay tuned for some proper pictures too. <3 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Purl Soho City Gym Shorts

June is sure flying past at great speed.  I haven't had much time to blog at all, but I have been sewing quite a lot. On the Stashbusting Sewalong 2016, the theme this month is Unselfish Sewing.  When the theme was released, I wasn't sure if I had anything on the docket that would fit the bill, as I am a pretty selfish seamstress... but as if by power of suggestion, I suddenly got some semi-unselfish tasks - a few projects for my church and my first ever chance to be a pattern tester.  Very exciting, but not blogable at the moment...

Yet, before this flurry of secret or unselfish activity, I did make a new pattern that was just for my own indulgence. The Purl Soho City Gym Shorts.   Above is my third make of the pattern, after the fitting was adjusted.

I realized during Me Made May, that I didn't have any loungewear me-mades & I wanted to change that this summer.  I also wanted to try my hand at pants and shorts... so this free pattern seemed like a simple and useful place to start.

I am totally in love with the pattern and the end result.  It is a perfect stash-buster for interesting thrifted and left-over scraps.  It combines colors and prints, which is one of my favorite things to do, and the finished shorts are really comfortable and flattering.

I had to tinker a little bit to perfect the fit because I was right at the edge between two sizes.  First I went up to the higher size, and the result was too large.  Here's a pretty quick and dirty muslin, but they are actually still really comfortable for being at home. I was so focused on pattern matching the stripes that I forgot to flip the pattern around, so it's the wrong side on half the shorts.  Also bias binding and stretch fabric don't work together & it was too big, so I just trimmed the bias binding off and finished up for fit.

The second muslin, I did in a woven scrap of batik fabric that was part of a dashiki pattern - I got it at a thrift store.  It was really fun to lay the pattern out to make use of the cool print.  I made these a size down, where my hips were at the top of the size range and they were too snug, so I came up with a solution to add a center panel - used even more of the cool batik fabric and adjusted my fit so I could be more comfortable and get some good wear out of this cool fabric.

In the end, my fitting solution for the yellow floral ones was to use the larger size back piece and the smaller size front piece for a half size that gives my ample derriere a little extra breathing room.  I had a little Goldilocks "just right" moment when I slipped the yellow ones on.

I'm looking forward to making a couple more with scraps of special fabric this summer. I already have a dot chambray pair cut and ready to go when I shift gears back to my regular fare of selfish sewing.