Monday, May 23, 2016

#mmmay16 - Me Made May Week 3 reflections

This last week & weekend have been crazy-busy.  I'm tired/wired at the moment & can't sleep.  Not wired enough to make a collage of last week's me-mades, just enough to have my head filled with thoughts... so I figured I'd write about them to ease into sleepy-time.

Week Three had me reaching for 'secret pajamas' dresses that made me feel comfortable, I found myself drawn to repeating a few favorites. First up Monday morning was my new babydoll dress.  I am so in-love with this print that I feel like I could wear this dress every day and be happy.  It's a winner for me.  (Confession: I also wore it out to dinner on Thursday night, but didn't photograph it *again* because I thought it would be too boring.)

Tuesday was a repeat of my old faithful knit LBD. Throw on a vintage silk scarf... that's a wrap.  

Wednesday, I tried out an outfit combination of a 2014 top and a recent skirt for a new me-made combination.  I like the fabrics together, but I think this would be better in the fall or winter with tights & boots. It felt a little frumpy in this iteration, as the workday wore on... but I did get a couple of compliments on the outfit that day, which is interesting to me, since I wasn't feeling it.

Thursday the temperature dropped and I unexpectedly had a chance to wear my finally finished plaid dress and a me made cardigan. This outfit was fun to wear.  This month has had me really starting to bond with this grey twisted grapes sweater. I am so glad that I took the time to sew ribbon on the button bands - it's a game changer for this cardi.

Friday, I had the day off, but lots of work to do that made a skirt or dress highly impractical, so I decided to do a me-made knit top with jeans.  This is a top of my own design that is two huge rectangles sewn together - the yarn, I found in a thrift store for less than $4 - it is a soft black synthetic with silver sequins woven into it - it is such a simple design, made on size 17 needles in no time... yet it is one of the most complimented me-mades I have... several strangers and friends commented on liking my sweater that day. 

Saturday - back to a tried and true repeat - my first Lucie layered over a black tee - this time with my black handknit summer cardigan too. 

Today was so crazy that my husband didn't have a chance to snap a picture of me in natural light.  I tried to do an indoor, artificial light outfit selfie of this yet-to-be-blogged Veronika skirt... but it was a truly awful and uniformative photo.  Threw it on instagram for #mmmay16 posterity, nonetheless.

The skirt is not very photogenic, but it is lovely to wear and I think it flatters me.  It's a linen/rayon blend that I bought in Parch with the express purpose of making a basic black summer skirt.  I decided to try the Veronika with the decorative pockets - you can't see them at all in this picture, but they really add something special, much moreso that the same fabric made plain without pockets... and now it has pockets, too!

Somethings I've learned from this week:

  1. I'm not making wearable muslins without pockets any more.  I usually fuss with them until they are wearable or destined for scrap bag, so it's not worth a small time savings to skip pockets! 
  2. I got some really nice comments on the #newlook6305 babydoll dress and the oversized blue Lucie that I have started wearing like a jumper.  Even before I outfit-repeated them.  This is a style I find easy and put-together.  Made more of these shorter oversized dresses!
  3. I don't like a few of my older me-mades... or they just feel a little tired.  How do you get rid of things you have made yourself if you aren't a wellknown blogger who can sell them off online to zir readers?  I have the worst time getting rid of things that I have made.

Also, I've gone a little crazy buying fabric this month.  Feeling really inspired and too busy to actually sit down and sew (but not too busy to see all the amazing things that people have made on instagram) has led me to fabric/pattern shop.  

With the stash-busting sewalong & the stash-less work I've been doing, this was starting to add more stress and I was beating myself up about it... but I love all the fabric I got and it was mostly filling in an area of "bottom weight" & pants fabric that I didn't really have in my stash... and I am really excited about sewing some pants this summer... so I think it was needed, both at the time as retail therapy and now to progress with sewing inspiration in tackling pants. 

Today, while playing host to some out-of-town guests, by taking them to a local thrift store, I also found 4 cuts of fabric, all 99 cents each - 3 yards of a beautiful lightweight floral silk, a pretty peach pink vintage jacquard, with an interesting border print woven in, some denim & some heavy 1960s floral home decor cotton.  The latter two will be for muslins of the Cake Endeavor short. 

I'm really looking forward to cutting out some new patterns and experimenting - I am focusing on riding a wave of inspiration and finding some balance so that I am at least conscious of when I am using retail therapy to stay sane & making sure that what I buy for retail therapy will feed back into that inspiration and purpose.  

The bottom line isn't always just sewing up more fabric than you take in each month - I also want to be sure I am making things that I love and really want to wear when they are finished & that relate to other clothing I love for separates and layering. 

So far, so good - not perfect, but good.  I sure am looking forward to finishing #mmmay16 on a quieter note. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Look 6305 - 90s Babydoll Dress

Here's my latest iteration of the 90s New Look pattern #6305.  I made it in some beautiful thrifted rayon that reminds me of Eastern European embroidery work.  I really like it.  A lot.

It's my third make of this pattern. I made two back in 2014.  My first one was cut to be oversized, but ended up just a bit ridiculously voluminous and I wasn't a big fan of the fabric, either, so I only wore it once.  The second make turned out to be one of my favorite dresses and I still wear it a lot.

Third time around, I made it a little shorter.  This was partly by design and partly by constraint of the amount of fabric that I had. I like it short, but it also makes it less work-friendly for summer. It has to go with tights or leggings to be work appropriate, whereas the first one is long enough to be fine for a summer work dress with bare legs.  I rather like the shorter length, overall, though.

I adapted the pattern by just using the back bodice/facing for the front and back pieces & omitting the buttons down the front to make a smooth boatneck pullover dress. Re-reading my original blog about this pattern, I am reminded how much I wanted to make plaid versions of this style for fall and winter... and I still do.  This year, it will happen!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Me Made May - Week 2 Roundup

Sunday May 8

Monday May 9

Tuesday May 10

Wednesday May 11
Chambray Kelly from September 2014 (unblogged) & Yellow Woven Tee (Butterick 6113)

Thursday May 12

Friday May 13

Saturday May 14
Morning - stripey knit hat (unblogged) & retro sweatshirt
Afternoon - new babydoll dress from New Look 6305 (unblogged)

reflections at the half-way point:
I love this project!  I've been really getting to know my me-made clothes and falling in love with some of them anew.  While my sewing machines were getting tuned up, I also took part in #menditmay and worked through some items in my mending pile, including my first ever knit sewing project - a little black dress. Although it was imperfect in technique, I loved it a lot and wore it until the armhole ripped.  I wasn on a sewing hiatus when it tore, so I set it in my mending pile and forgot about it.  Last Sunday, I hand-stitched it and wore it that evening with a black cardigan I knitted.  
It was really satisfying to fix it up - didn't take long at all and it was wonderful to be reunited with an old friend dress. 

I've been enjoying bringing some older me-mades into the mix.  This month is a nice way to honor everything, even the me-mades that aren't shiny and new. I dug out a funky knit sweatshirt I made from an 80s pattern and 80s fabric because I needed something comfy to wear for some labor on Saturday morning. Normally, for that type of work, I would have fallen back on non-me-made clothes, but I found that I actually did have something I made that was suitable for the situation. 

I've also loved the instagram pictures that everyone posts daily - I am super-impressed and inspired by what people are making and wearing.  I've started following some sewing folks and I love seeing their creations.  I bought two patterns from seeing the cool things that other people have made McCalls 5577 from Ms. Cleaver and this Dottie Angel smock (Simplicity 1080) that I have seen at least a half-dozen times and just adore. I'm excited because these dresses are in my style comfort zone, but not exactly my go-to sewing comfort zone, so it will be fun to try something new to sew that I know I would like to wear. 

#mmmay16 has also given me a chance to fall back in love with older makes and see how they go together with newer makes too.  For instance, I didn't have the striped navy/white tee that I wore with my ikat Kelly this week when I first made that skirt 2 years ago. Now I am kind of obsessed with mixing stripes and prints in the same color family, so I have collected a bunch of striped tees. I totally love this skirt with a striped top, which I would not have discovered when it was tucked away in my spare room closet. 

Some things I've discovered in the process of me-made May that are lacking in my wardrobe, which I could make... first off: blouses.  I really want to make some blouses this summer.  

Secondly - pants and shorts.  I hardly ever wear pants and shorts because the ready to wear ones rarely fit and they often take pretty industrial sewing power to finish well.  Now that my super powerful Viking 6460 with its low gear is up and running, I think I can tackle denim... and I have the Cake Patterns Endeavor pant pattern with custom fitting options to help me master fit... so the obstacles are removed and this summer, I really want to give pants and shorts a go.

Lastly, more knit dresses & maybe even tees.  I think my Viking 6460 can take a walking foot, so I would like to try again tackling knits because I remembered how much I love wearing that little black knit dress, even with all its imperfections. 

The second half of May is going to be super-busy & I probably won't get a lot of time to sew or blog, but I will be on Instagram @katikhu every day with my me-made pictures.  I have much gratitude to my husband for playing along as photographer for many of the days.  I've only had to snap awkward selfies a few times, thus far. Happy making and happy wearing of your lovely creations! <3

Friday, May 13, 2016

tales from the stash: yellow woven tee

My first project on the newly revamped Viking 6460 was a woven tee from a vintage 80s pattern and a scant yard of lightweight cotton (sort of a voille/lawn weight) that I thrifted.  I'd already cut it out a couple weeks ago and I wanted to try a few things just for fun, so I thought it would be a good practice project - quick and simple, with room to experiment.

Before the machines were fixed, I intended to use it as a test for my first batch of homemade bias tape.  Yes - I know they don't match... but I find their print-on-print garishness rather charming.

The tape was a little more challenging to work with than store-bought.  This was probably due to the lack of starch, but also to the thinnes of the folded over parts - It seems to defy math, but I think adding an extra eighth of an inch or so of fabric for the actual fold part would make folded over parts meet in the middle and give just a teensy bit extra needed to conveniently stitch on and stay tucked under .

The bias neckline finish turned out fine, though, in the end.  I also did French seams at the shoulders, and turned under each of the side seams for a smooth finish that carried into the hem of the sleeve.
Once the sides were completed, I used the tacking part of the buttonhole stitch (2 & 4) to strengthen the underarm.

We had a bit of trouble getting the properly adjusted on the 6460 - the sewing machine whisperer shared a couple of pages of the repair manual with me and I puzzled over it to learn about the small adjustment that can be done by turning the knob of the button that you press to backstitch.  Turning left tightened up the #1 step so the stitching was closer together.  Twisting in the other direction would have tightened up the #3 step, which already looked good.

I've noticed this same problem to a much lesser degree on my Viking 5610, so I am excited to see if I can make the same adjustment on that machine too.

Another thing I learned - the bobbin case is a gear shift too! Pull it out and it pops the machine into a super low gear great for extra control with full power or for sewing through thick fabrics.  (Hello Morgan Jeans... I am day-dreaming about you now!)

I took a moment extra to make a nominal effort at matching the stripes... but then I realized the stripe pattern itself was not symetrical and the way I had cut the pattern to use every last bit of fabric actually had the stripes meeting in opposite ways.  Ooops!

It's still cute and breezy to wear for summer and I thoroughly enjoyed testing out my machine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

if you've got the notion...

Last Wednesday, just as #mmmay16 was getting underway, I sent my sewing machine in for a tune-up.  It's a vintage machine (Husqvarna 5610 - the Canadian model identical to Viking 5710.)  It was lovingly restored by an expert hobbyist who I have dubbed the "sewing machine whisperer".  I bought my machine from him about 2.5 years ago & it was still running quite well, but since I wanted to keep it that way, I thought it was time for some preventative maintenance.

I also have another Viking machine I bought when I was 19 that had been out of commission since spending a few years in storage at my parents' home while I was working in Asia. I grew up sewing on my mom's Viking 3310, so I wanted to get my own Viking when I left home.  That old 6460 saw a lot of use through my twenties and it always worked like a champ. But once I got home from Asia, it wasn't working properly.

It turns out that this machine - the Viking 6460 - is famous for its cams getting gummed up and you really have to keep sewing on it to keep it in good working order.  I didn't know that a few years ago & that's when I tracked down my 5610.  When I bought it, the sewing machine whisperer told me that he thought he could restore my 6460 if I ever want to get it working again... so I decided to see what he could do - even though I didn't really *need* another machine.

When I got it back out of storage a couple of weeks ago, I was happy to see it still made a decent straight stitch & reversed okay, but the cam was stuck so I couldn't adjust the stitch width for a zigzag or any of the decorative stitches or making button holes.

But then the plot thickened & that 6460 did the weirdest, scariest thing I have ever seen a sewing machine do in my life!

I had the light turned on but I was not sewing, just cleaning the body of the machine with a damp cloth, when it suddenly started sewing by itself!  I kid you not - the needle was going up and down at the fastest full power.  This was *freaky!*  But if that wasn't bad enough, then it started smoking from the back - this terribly stinky acrid smoke... turning the light off didn't stop the power, so as fast as I could recover from the shock of this unusual occurrence, I unplugged the machine and it stopped phantom sewing, but the smoke continued to billow out the back for a few more minutes. The machine was not hot to the touch, though.

Poltergeist?  Mercury Retrograde?! WTF?!

I figured that restoring this machine was now a lost cause, but it turns out to be a really common thing for the Viking 6000 series.  The weird smoke came from a capacitor burning out that could be easily removed.  Apparently its orginal function was to keep the use of the machine from interfering with TV reception but they are no longer particularly functional, so you can just take out the broken one and the problem is solved. 

Anyhow, the sewing machine whisperer was able to loosen up my camstack & my old 6460 friend is now working right as rain.  My sweet 5610 is also running a bit quieter and as nicely as ever. Yay!  I am so glad that I have connected with someone who has the skills and passion to care for these old machines.  If any one is interested in restoring a vintage machine or buying a vintage sewing machine in good working order - please let me know and I will put you in touch!  You will not be disappointed!

Besides documenting Me Made May, I kept myself busy while my machines were in the shop by organizing all my notions.  I collect vintage notions and have quite a stash, so it took a long time to sort through everything - but it's so worth it!

My sewing area and storage is not glamorous, but it is functional for me and the space I have. I feel a little shy to post these pictures because they show I'm not rich or stylish - but this is proof that you don't have to have a fancy sewing room to be organized and creative.

My thread it now all in one place, grouped by color, directly to the left of my sewing table for quick access, along with extra bobbins and my most-used tools.

My notions are all sorted - piping, lace seam binding, twill tape & fabric seam binding, single fold bias, double fold bias, extra wide bias/blanket binding, skirt zippers, dress zippers, elastic... all have their own little bins, tins, or boxes.

And my button collection is now collected into one large tub. (Yes, I have enough buttons to fill large tub with smaller containers! Eep!)

I also finished organizing my patterns, large scraps (if it wasn't big enough to make a set of pockets with, it went into deep storage to eventually become the insides of one of these tuffets.)  Here's interfacing, scraps, buttons, ribbons, and lace trim... all in their own tubs. 

Last weekend's big push of organization completed my stash evaluation and organization inspired by the Craft Sessions Stash Less project - the taking stock step.  I had already put the large cuts of fabric and the yarn in order... for my current making - I have one active projects box & a tub of summer fabric that is stashed, but easily accessible, under my bed.

I have several more "under the bed" shaped large tubs high up in the top shelf of my closet for winter fabric, special occasion fabric, yarn, knits and lining fabrics, and felt for appliques. It's amazing to know what I have and to see that I have a lot of cool fabrics and notions all waiting to come together into finished projects, so I can get inspired and make things without ever having to get online to order new stuff or dash out to Joann's.

This is making my shopping more deliberate and less frequent.  In concert with the Facebook Stashbusting Sewalong, Stash Less & the Making List from The Craft Sessions have been totally transformative in helping me think about what I have and love what I make more. 

Taking a little break from sewing to get organized while my machines were getting some TLC in the last week has also given a fresh perspective on where I want to go with sewing for the summer. Me Made May has been really interesting, so far, too.  So much more than just selfies - it's quite a thought-provoking and revealing process to go through.  I feel inspired and excited for the months to come. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Brumby the Third

Here's my third iteration of Megan Nielsen's Brumby Skirt. The first two were wearable muslins preparing for this fabric, which is Robert Kaufman Dots Indigo. I made the third version a bit more midi-length so that it would be more versatile for work.

I wore it Friday to work before Me-Made-May & down in the country at my father-in-law's house to kick off #mmmay16 the following Sunday.  I'm already hankering to wear it again, but holding off to give other me-mades some love.  Here's its debut, after a full day at work - pardon the rumple.

This picture shows a pretty good view of some of the topstitching, which I did with heavy white mercerized quilting thread.  I couldn't decided whether to use navy or white thread so did a couple of tests before settling on white, with the thick thread to top-stitch for a further accent. I didn't have any proper topstitching thread, but the mercerized cotton worked pretty well in a pinch.

I have really been enjoying taking extra time to add a bit more detail, now that I have the fitting worked out from the muslins.  I thought about an exposed zip detail too, but decided to go with a thick white mercerized thread for the zip instead - it is something a little different - a bit experimental.  I didn't want the finish for the waist band to be the same prominent white thread, though, so I slip-stitched it by hand inside with regular navy sewing thread.

I must confess, this was a slightly eccentric zipper installation. Once I finished the top-stitched zip, I liked the look but the fabric flaps were too far out from the teeth and I thought it would get messy with that much loose fabric once it was washed & worn a few times, so I went back in closer with regular navy thread and hand-picked the zip, as well.  I really enjoyed the process of hand picking.  I'm kind of strange in that I really enjoy some handwork and ironing. Here's an extreme close-up of the double row of stitching on the zipper.  I've already hand-picked another zip on another work-in-progress and I am pretty in-love with the method. I look forward to more practice and refinement in projects to come.

Not too much ekse to say about the construction of the Brumby after three makes.  I definitely like the pattern a great deal and am quite sure I will make it again, but not for a while.  It's time for some other projects. I realized this pattern in the fabric in which I had imagined it and am quite satisfied for now.

One thing that this project illuminated for me is that I want more chambray &/or denim in my life. I'll keep my eye out when thrifting & definitely on my next new fabric purchase, there will be more indigo!  Till then, it's stash-busting and getting reacquainted with old me-mades for #mmmay16. (I can't believe I'm really doing it this year!  Yay!)

Happy trails, till we stitch again...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Alexander Henry Folklorico, Raja Gemini, and Vogue 2429

I've had these Alexander Henry Folklorico fabrics in my collection since summer of 2014. I am really glad that I waited to let my mind work around the ideas of this fabric and let it tell me exactly what it wanted to be.  I thought maybe a high-waisted dirndl skirt at first and bought only a yard of each fabric.  Luckily, I had just enough to make a dress.

And more importantly, I suddenly had inspiration too!  Raja Gemini, goddess of the Fashion Photo Ruview came to my town. Of course, to meet one of my all-time fashion idols... I had to make a dress to wear.  And not just any dress... but something with a bit of showstopper sass. The moment for this incredibly beautiful fabric had arrived.

And the most wonderful moment of the night?!  Meeting Raja and having her compliment my dress! Swoon.

She's so beautiful and she was absolutely charming and lovely in the Meet and Greet.  She gave each person a tiny jewel of her time. Here's the polaroid from the preshow.

Vogue 2429 sewed up like a dream for me, as it did in my navy gingham muslin & my Amy Butler floral birthday dresses a couple summers ago.
For both of these previous makes, I gathered the center bust to make a sweetheart neckline. For this iteration, I preferred the smooth, higher neckline, to show off more of this delightful print.

I really love the way the center lotus fades into the upper petals of my tattoo.  
I had a marvelous time at the event and I loved wearing such a bold dress. It is definitely for special-occasions.  I was thinking of trying to stitch this fabric up for my birthday, but I actually have a different inspiration for my birthday dress this year... so I was really happy to have the spark of inspiration to make such a fun dress from this fabric and set it free from becoming that status of deep stash fabric that becomes too sacred, sentimental, or obsolete to ever use.

This project inspired me to step it up a bit.  To be creative, to be a problem-solver and a bit of an artist.  I loved taking extra time - it took about a week of mindful, step-by-step work to leisurely & carefully assemble.

Getting inspired to use this fabric that was in danger of never getting used, but just collected in a stagnant way, started me really thinking about the materials I choose to collect - how to organize them, how to care for them, how to use them, how to intentionally add to and curate my collection of raw materials. I've also been thinking about planning what to make and how to make it as a process - something to be savored and enjoyed in and of itself... in addition to the joy one might take in wearing a finished garment.

I've been pushing myself to invest just a little bit more time and effort, a little bit more pushing myself - either by making something a bit wild or learning/practicing new or more special techniques - such has special top-stitching or hand-picked zippers.

I'm looking forward to wearing and blogging about some of these new makes during Me-Made-May.  Only 3 days in, I'm feeling inspired and curious for the month & year ahead.