Me made may: week 1

So despite my failure to actually pledge anything anywhere, I am trying to wear at least one me-made garment a day for the month of May. I did this in 2013, but not last year because I was feeling kind of ambivalent. But this year I feel like I need a bit of a kick in the ass to get back into making things I actually want to wear, so it’s worth joining in.

Here are the outfits from the first week-and-a-bit. Note the presence of at least three garments I never got around to blogging about. Pictures are hard, man.

Alabama Chanin dress for #mmmay15 (shot on the way out of the theater after Age of Ultron)

#mmmay15 day two: my #averbforkeepingwarm #endlesssummertunic (and some jeans I didn't make).

Another Alabama Chanin dress for #mmmay15

More outfit posts. It's only for May though! #mmmay15 #colettepatterns parfait dress, wrap cardigan from a #megannielsenpatterns tutorial, and hand-knit arm warmers.

#mmmay15 day 5: Yet another #alabamachanin dress and a blue button down shirt from some #burda pattern. Leggings and jacket not made by me.

Today's #mmmay15 outfit: a new #grainlinestudio #aldershirtdress and some old #cakepatterns #espressoleggings

The traditional bathroom selfie of my people. Wearing a self-drafted @calpatch shift dress from #avfkw #khadicloth. Made for #seamallowance.

Relatively boring #mmmay15 day: hand-knit stripey noro cardigan.

This is all somewhat complicated by the fact that I’m still doing the wardrobe minimalism thing, so my wardrobe really is a lot smaller than it was. So far I’ve just been wearing things that I’d already identified as part of my Spring wardrobe, but I suspect that by the end of the month I will end up digging out some me-made items that didn’t make the cut.

But it is providing some fabulous motivation to bang out a bunch of t-shirts and other easy things that I’ve been meaning to make for a while, so that’s great. Due to various size changes, wardrobe purges, and poor fabric choices, I’m now at a point where the vast majority of my me-made garments are dresses, and I have very few basics. I’ve also been living with three t-shirts total, so this hasn’t been that big an issue, but there’s definitely some room for improvement.

Is anyone else finding that me made may makes you want to sew a lot more? I’m really enjoying the burst of sewing mojo.

Baby Blankets

When the small human being sew-along was announced, I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to participate. My small human being is well over two, and generally well out of the baby stage. But then I got invited to not one but two baby showers in the month of April, and I’m a little bit allergic to just buying things off registries when I can make something cooler.

In the past, I have made many elaborate baby quilts for friends having kids. But that was before they started all having babies at the same time. In the face of needing to make something like five baby quilts within the year, it was time to switch to something I could get done a little more quickly (even though making quilts is a lot of fun).

The design has evolved a little bit over time, as I’ve made a lot of them. Instead of blanket binding, I now used bias edging, and I started rounding the corners because it’s cuter.

Version 1 (for Morley and James):
Baby blankets!
Brushed cotton (sort of a light-weight flannel) with origami animals on one side, little foxes on the other.
(Sorry that this picture so completely demonstrates the need for better lighting on my sewing table. And the fact that I sew at 11pm.)

Version 2 (for Chris and Zoe):
Baby blankets!
Woodland creature tree flannel on one side, polka dots on the other.

I thought about making a tutorial for these, but I feel like it’s kind of too easy? My friend Heather made a bunch of these after I described the method mostly over text message.

Brief tutorial: You get two squares of fabric (I usually do 44″x44″, or whatever the width of my fabric will allow) and then sew edging around the outside. For rounded corners, trace the shape of a dinner plate or something similarly sized. It’s good to make one of the layers out of flannel to give some weight to it, but you could do the whole thing from quilting cotton for a summer version.

I guess that technically these are swaddling blankets. That’s what we used our version for, anyway. Now Izzy uses his as nap blankets at daycare, so they’re still going strong two and a half years later. They’re all cotton, have been washed a million times, and held upĀ great. Sometimes simple is best!

The news from my couch

(title h/t to Bishop Allen)

I’m currently recovering from the plague. And by plague I mean a nasty combo of flu, upper respiratory infection and possibly walking pneumonia. I’ve watched a LOT of trashy television. And Sesame Street. (My son got it too, though not as bad.) This is my ninth straight day on the couch. Do not recommend.

I’ve been knitting a lot while I’m sick. I’m working on the Lousia sweater from Cocoknits. It’s all stockinette, so it’s simple, mostly brainless knitting.

I've been sick for a long time. This sweater is progressing impressively considering how much I'm sleeping. Unfortunately I've used more than half of my yarn, so I may have to wait to finish it until I can make it to the yarn store.

This is the sweater as of Monday. I’ve since completed the body up to the armpits and most of one sleeve. Here’s the project on ravelry, if you’re interested.

I spent a lot of time cleaning out and organizing my sewing room. It’s still not fabulous, but I have a much better handle on what’s actually in there.
My sewing room.

I’ve completed some other things over the past few months, although photography’s been spotty. I made a bunch of little-kid t-shirts:
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I haven’t gotten around to photographing the others, since they’re pretty consistently on the toddler/covered in jam/in the wash.

I also bought a big piece of pendleton wool and stitched around the edges to make a blanket.
My current while-watching-tv project: sewing a fancy border onto this giant piece of wool so I can call it a blanket. Bonus: I get to snuggle underneath while working on it.
It is the coziest.

I finished off these hand warmers that I started at least five years ago:
Finally finished these arm warmers that I started in 2009. One less unfinished project! (Yarn and pattern are both from @shibuiknits, but at this point I don't remember the names. )

I also finished off a couple of more major sewing projects that warrant real photographic treatment: jeans for tom, and a dress for me. I’ll post those…someday.

What’s new with you?

Wardrobe Minimalism

I recently stumbled across the blog Un-Fancy, and from there into the world of minimalist wardrobe blogging. Which is, apparently, very much a thing. I’ve linked to the 333 Project before, but I never really did anything about it.

The basic concept of 333 is that you assemble a capsule wardrobe of thirty-three items, then wear only that for three months. After three months (theoretically this is a season change, but I live in California so it doesn’t really apply..) you make another capsule and then wear that for three months. Etc. The idea is that many items roll over after three months, but some things get rotated in or out.

Anyway. This time, I was due for a closet clean-out. Majorly. I’ve been a lot of different sizes over the past three years (pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight gain) and had to deal with different life circumstances. Stuff piles up.

I made a list of what I thought I needed in a wardrobe (note that this excludes accessories, workout gear, pajamas, underwear, bras, camis and leggings that I wear under things):

My Wardrobe Sprint 2015

(This is an approximation from Polyvore. Actual list below.)

  • 3 black tops
  • 3 colored tops
  • 3 striped tops
  • 3 button downs
  • 3 pullovers
  • 3 cardigans
  • 5 dresses
  • 3 skirts
  • 2 flared jeans
  • 3 skinny jeans
  • 3 jackets
  • 3 boots
  • 1 sandals
  • 3 non-boots
  • 2 fancy shoes

This is actually more than forty things…but whatever. I also realized that my lifestyle right now pretty much requires that most everything I wear be playground compatible. There’s no real distinction between work clothes and kid-chasing clothes.

I sorted through my closet and pulled out everything that didn’t seem to fit into this. Some went to charity, but mostly I just packed things away to consider later. Special occasion clothes and costume stuff got stashed in the closet in our den. I went from running out of space to hang things to having more than half of the closet free.

THIS IS IMMENSELY FREEING, YOU GUYS. Getting dressed is so easy now.

I have learned a few things:

  1. I don’t actually own everything on this list. My “but I have nothing to wear” feelings are kind of vindicated here. And now I know what I need to make or buy.
  2. Some of the things I’m lacking (or where I didn’t like the things I already owned) are because of fit. I have forward shoulders, so woven shirts and dresses always constrain my movement and I don’t own any. Sewing to the rescue!
  3. The representation of me-made clothes is only okay. My briar t-shirt is in there, and my drapey cardigan. And some Alabama Chanin dresses. But not a whole lot else, which I suspect is due to fitting issues.
  4. Three cardigans is not nearly enough cardigans.
  5. I forgot about graphic t-shirts. I LOVE graphic t-shirts.
  6. As a parent of a very messy little kid, I will never be quite as minimalist as some people. My clothes actually get dirty. Frequently.
  7. That said, this is actually a lot of clothing. PLENTY of clothing. I do not need more clothing than this in rotation at once.

I’m planning to wear this for a while (filling in the gaps as I go) and re-evaluate at the end of April.

So that’s my plan. Anyone else tried something like this?

Bits and Pieces

What I’ve been up to lately, in no particular order.

  • I’m part way through sewing up the Nell blouse from A Verb For Keeping warm. The black silk was purchased in Hong Kong on my honeymoon. The kimono scraps were a gift from my mom. I love having special little details like this on a project.

    Using precious little bits of kimono silk to line the yoke of this blouse. #365

  • My stash is kind of a mess. I set up a new sewing area in our basement about four months ago, but never really sorted out the fabric or patterns. I’m doing it now, slowly, and putting pictures of things in Evernote for convenient searching. (Hat tip to Mel, who gave me the idea.)

    Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.48.10 PM

  • I made a very successful muslin of the Colette Parfait dress, but then realized that the fabric I had planned didn’t work due to asymmetrical stripes. This led to the purchase of a whole bunch of monochrome dress fabrics, which I’ll hopefully get to soon.

    Monochromatic sewing plans

  • I have been knitting lots. The Georgina sweater is nearly done. I’ve been wearing knit cardigans a lot lately, so more are planned.
  • I bought a giant piece of blanket-weight Pendelton wool to use as a throw blanket. It’s gorgeous and super warm. I’m going to add some edging but otherwise just use it as-is. I was considering one of these blanket stitch variations.

    New blanket #365

  • Taking photos (of myself) for this blog is hard. I made a fairly epic dress for my company holiday party, but had some problems and didn’t finish in time. It’s done now, but I haven’t had time to dress up and take the pictures. Must learn to use the remote and the tripod! Or sign my husband up for photography lessons. Anyone have tips?

Instant Gratification

Sometimes, things are hard. But sometimes they come together really quickly, and oh man is that nice.

This project came about because I signed up for a drawing class, which started tonight. The syllabus instructed us to go buy various pencils and charcoal. Once purchased, it became clear that I would need some way to carry these things. So I went down to the sewing room, and started digging around. This is what I came up with.

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The outside is a sashiko kit I did a long time ago. Sashiko is a type of traditional Japanese embroidery or quilting, and the design in this kit is one of a number of traditional patterns. In the US I’ve mostly seen in manifest in craft store kits intended as pillows, but in theory you could put it on almost anything. Sashiko embroidery is sometimes used in boro, which is elaborately patched, layered, indigo-dyed fabric. It’s gorgeous, and probably warrants a whole post by itself. Maybe sometime!

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The kit just had you embroider a square, and I was never really sure what to do with it. So it went into the drawer of precious little bits and pieces. And then it sat there for five years until I pulled it out for this.

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The inside is just quilting cotton from my stash, and the zipper is a spare jeans zipper I already have (short zipper = nothing falls out during class).

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I didn’t use a pattern, just folded two squares in half. I did the sewing-fabric-on-the-end-of-the-zipper thing to get a cleaner finish. There are probably a million tutorials for how to do this online.

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Yay for quickie projects!

Hawthorn Dress

Remember my post about muslin hell? I did finally sew up the Hawthorn dress! It was actually done at the beginning of September, except for the hem. But then I had to persuade my husband to mark it, and I hate curved hems, and oh look, it’s January.

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So, the dress: It’s pretty. The linen is lovely. I put in a million little buttons and did the invisible hem and bound the waistband and it’s very nice inside.

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The hem is a little wonky because I couldn’t be bothered to do a faced hem. But I think it benefits from the extra weight and it’s invisible from the outside, so whatever.

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The vibe is a little “40s factory worker”, but I’m into that. But…it doesn’t fit. Like, four extra inches of ease at the bust doesn’t fit. I get that it doesn’t look that bad in the pictures, but there’s a ton of extra room and it doesn’t stay put on my body. The bagginess also makes it next to impossible to wear anything over the dress, which is a problem.

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Some of the extra fabric is because I did a pretty serious full bust adjustment (which I did need at the time, and don’t now). The rest is probably the linen’s tendency to grow and stretch. This is probably something I should have anticipated, but really I had no idea it could possibly be this dramatic.

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Right now, I double I’ll wear it. After all that fitting…agh. But sort of to be expected. I’ve been going through some medical stuff which means that in the past year I’ve gained (and lost some of, multiple times) 15 lbs, and worn bra sizes from H to DD. All of this has a lot to do with why the dress didn’t get finished for a long time. And while I can take things in to accommodate some weight change, the two extra cup sizes are hard to magic away after the fact.

At this phase of my life (pregnancy, breastfeeding, chasing a small child, maybe having another small child someday) sewing fitted things is a big challenge. My size changes so much that it’s hard to ensure that I’ll actually get to wear anything I make, which is deeply discouraging. I have lots of sewing plans, but who knows if the results will be even remotely worth the time I put in?

All that said, I did learn a lot from this project. Namely:

  • For bodice adjustments, I need a FBA (usually) and a forward shoulder/hunched over computer person adjustment. And often a swayback adjustment as well. This should transfer across patterns.
  • Sleeves are really hard if I want to be able to reach my arms forward and type and stuff. However, since I nearly always wear something over my dresses, I’m probably better off making mostly cap sleeve and sleeveless dresses anyway. This simplifies things dramatically.
  • Linen grows. It’s tricksy for fitted garments.
  • I really, really, ought to add pockets to any future dresses like this.

I had plans to make another version of this dress, but I think I’m shelving them for now. Fortunately I did trace the pattern, so I could start over if I want.

In more promising news, I did make a muslin of a different Colette pattern a couple nights ago and it fit reasonably well without adjustment. I think that my bust size is back to being proportional with their fit model (which I believe is a D cup), instead of way over as it’s been for most of the past couple years. So perhaps I’ll have better luck with that?