Best and Worst of 2019

I am happy that I met all my sewing goals for 2019 and ended up with quite a few useful and well-made pieces!

My single biggest achievement (and #1 garment for 2018) was actually a three-fer. I made jeans! And I used the embroidery attachment of my machine for the first time! And I went to a sewing retreat!

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Jeans, bitches!

The jeans are Workroom Social’s Claryville Jeans. I can’t say enough awesome things about this pattern. LOVE. And as the jeans have worn (I have worn them a ton since I made them in September) they have conformed nicely to my bod.

Here’s another look at the embroidery on the back pockets:

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While the sewing retreat part of the jeans-making experience wasn’t for me, I am glad I did it. I learned a lot about myself and I have been thinking about how to apply that learning to next year.

Another goal was to make a garment for my mother. I made her a top from Lekala patterns, and she liked it so much, she asked for another one, in fancier fabric that she can wear for Christmas/New Year’s events. I sewed this up for her birthday in December.

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Lekala 4114

She picked out this gold polyester satin. Not the best, but I made it work. It looks better on than in this photo (I promise). I used the fancy buttons I got at LouLou in the Garment District in NYC.

I took the “RTW Fast Pledge” and made a goal to not buy any clothing except for things like socks and tights. I would have made it, too, if not for my vacation in May! It was so cold (unseasonably and unexpectedly) that I bought a few things on an emergency basis. I donated both jackets to a charity that provides coats to the poor, and I have worn the sweater a few times. So…. I am going to call this “a win!”

On the positive side, I truly did “Me Made May” this year – wearing at least one me- made garment daily for the whole month of May. Yay!

Here’s my biggest swing-and-miss from 2019: I didn’t do so well in my resolve to participate in fewer sewalongs and sewing contests. I get swept up in the excitement and camaraderie. I also hope to make new friends this way. It doesn’t seem to work out that way.

On the bright side, I won the January 2019 PatternReview contest with this ski jacket:

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Ski Jacket from Simplicity 8843

I had planned to enter this contest – and this contest only – but then I went on a binge of other sewalongs, contests and such. What happens when I do this? Let’s just call it a mixed bag:

I mean, there are no disasters here, but also not much that plays well with “sew edgy” looks. I did some stuff for charity (napkins and scrap quilts center top) and I passed the first round of the PatternReview Sewing Bee with that blue cardigan before bowing out voluntarily when the second round didn’t inspire me.

The white top was not what I wanted. I entered a contest to make an outfit, so made a nice pair of black wool pants and planned a button-down shirt to go with it out of this pretty white striped shirting I bought. But, I had a problem with my sewing machine’s computer and it was in the shop for a couple of weeks, so I needed instead to do a top that I could construct on the serger or by hand. This top is the result. It looks really awful untucked, better tucked in. I am kicking myself that I used that shirting for something I don’t love.

I joined two Sewcialists sewalongs – one where I drew the color “coral” and other where I drew the word “funky.” I ended up with a wrap skirt (top right) and a top upcycled from a tablecloth (bottom left). Since these sewalongs really run on Instagram, and I am not an Instagram person, I miss out on the whole thing. Likewise for the charity projects for The People’s Sewing Army – if you’re not an Instagrammer, you get left out.

Finally, in my effort to stop making so damn many mistakes, I claim a partial victory. I have made my peace with the fact that I need to just baste a lot more. Basting does things that pinning does not (at least for me). So I resolve to baste even more in 2020!

Stupid Mistakes

I spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to lay out patterns for the centerpiece inspiration fabric for my “edgy” work wardrobe. And then I thought about it so much I screwed it up.

‘This is the fabric, a border print rayon sweater knit I bought at Marina’s Fabrics in Hamilton, Ont. during the PatternReview Weekend shopping trip.

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I like the bold geometric element over the staid charcoal and grey houndstooth design. I had envisioned this as a lined skirt based on Simplicity 8058, but I couldn’t get the layout to work. The repeat of the cobalt blue motif didn’t allow for good pattern matching, especially since I really wanted a skirt with a zipper, not an elastic waist.

So I downshifted into a knit jacket or cardigan plan, and chose the Muse Jenna Cardi that I bought last fall and never sewed up. I taped together the .pdf pattern and spent – no joke – an hour laying out the pattern pieces in various scenarios.

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Layout of the Muse Jenna cardigan with my border print knit

I had enough fabric for either a short-sleeved hip-length cardigan where I’d have to piece the bottom band, or a longer-sleeved waist-length where I didn’t need to piece the band. I fussed and fussed and decided to do the waist-length with 3/4-length sleeves because it would fit better with the rest of this wardrobe’s high-waisted skirts and pants, and short sleeves would be a bit too precious for me.

Then I cut the pattern out. I had assembled the hip-length .pdf pieces and folded up to the shorter hemline, figuring if I wanted to make a longer one later, I’d have the pieces all ready. I cut. Then I cried.

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Fuck!

That’s right – I folded up the hem for the back but not for the fronts. Another C- in home ed moment. The whole damn thing was now mismatched, with too little fabric left to recut. After a proper round of cursing, I decided to adapt. I cut the fronts out of the plain houndstooth fabric and squeezed in 3/4 length sleeves.

There was not enough fabric to do the very wide hem band. I had planned to cut the button band, cuffs and neck band from faux leather, but I didn’t have enough to also do the hem bands, so instead I cut all these pieces from black ponte. The cobalt only shows on the back. Here’s the cardi in progress. Does this look weird?

 

Anyway, it’s done. I am going to “edge” it up with some special buttons, or maybe a silver zipper.

Dress of Disappointment

To continue my Summer Suck-a-Thon, I finally finished sewing McCall’s 7350. The dress doesn’t totally suck, but it’s a disappointment.

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McCall’s 7350. Meh.

I was attracted to this dress because it reminded me of an Ann Taylor dress I had years ago. The cap kimono sleeve, V-neck, midriff band and full skirt ticks my boxes.

But damn this dress is BULKY. You can’t tell from the pictures, but it’s a faux wrap with a giant back piece that’s cut on the fold and gathered to probably half its size. The midriff detail is double-layered. And the wrap-around bodice also adds bulk to the party in front. AND there is supposed to be elastic in there too! That’s a lot of fabric to tote around – 2.5 yards of 60-inch wide stretch cotton jersey with a “dry” matte finish.

A close-up of center-front reveals some wonkiness where all the layers came together, like a bunch of grumpy people stranded at a bus station. I later unpicked this and sewed it into submission by hand.

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Let’s get all the seams to meet at center front!

Here’s a back view with all the gathering on display. It’s almost like a bustle back there! It’s a fabric hog because of the amount of gathering. You may need to make a center-back seam if if you don’t have 60″ wide fabric. Or, you could just make the back piece smaller to eliminate the bulky gathers. I won’t tell. Honest.

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If you like a lot of fabric on your ass, this is the dress for you!

I sewed the bodice back in June. I was disappointed with it, so I tinkered and set it aside, then tinkered some more. Finally I decided to just get it over with. The dress is passable, but not destined to be a favorite.

Here’s all the changes I made to the pattern:

  • I cut a size smaller in the bodice than the measurements indicated because several reviewers noted that the bodice had way too much ease. They were right. Even a sizer smaller, the bodice was big. I tapered the side bodice seams 1 cm each side, tapering to nothing at the armscye to eliminate some of the ease.
  • Several reviewers also noted that the armscye was rather low, so I raised it an inch. I’m happy with how this came out.
  • I hemmed the sleeves 1 cm shorter than called for because as-is, they stuck out a bit like feeble wings.
  • I lengthened the bodice an inch – a standard McCall’s adjustment for me. However, because the dress is so bulky and heavy, the fabric drags down a bit. The original bodice length probably would have been fine.
  • I took in the midriff 1 cm each side so it would fit more snugly and eliminated  elastic that was supposed to be in there. Seemed unnecessary, and I could not handle any more things happening at that midriff area.
  • I added 3 inches to the hem, so that the skirt would fall just below the knee. As-is, I think the pattern would be a bit shorter than the pictures indicate.

I am going to wear this to work this week and see how I like it. Maybe it will be a good “laundry day” garment?

 

Mending Mojo

My sewing mojo ebbed after the pants-fitting debacle and the ass-awkward plaid skirt mess. I decided to take a month off from sewing. Instead, I worked on mending and improving a few me-made and RTW garments.

I have a bad habit of thinking “good enough” when I am done with a project, even if a few fussy details aren’t perfect. I like to wear things a few times and assess if I need to tweak the fit, change a detail or fix a flub. I also want to be sure, frankly, that I really like something I’ve made before I’ll commit more time and materials to it.

I assessed some recent makes and put a few in a “mending pile”:

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Simplicity 3688: Fix the wonky topstitching on one of the rear pockets.
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Sew down the kick pleat better in this Burda 6895 skirt so it doesn’t bunch up when I sit, and sew the hip buttons down more securely.
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The sleeve hems in this Simplicity 8174 jacket are a bit twisted with the lining. Need to fix this!
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Same with this Deer & Doe Arum dress – the sleeves of the fabric and lining don’t play well together and they’re a skosh tight.
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My husband likes these shorts from Kwik Sew 4045, but the back pockets are too shallow for his cellphone – I need to extend them.
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The lining hem on this Brooklyn skirt from Colette’s Seamwork magazine is wonky and shows a bit in the back.

This pile of mending should keep me busy for a couple of weeks, by which time I hope the spring weather will have arrived and I can get excited about sewing again!

My Many Mistakes

I finished this blouse today – a project from the Italian sewing magazine La Mia Boutique. This is a design from the up-and-coming Italian designer Eliana Riccio. Her style blends girly boho shapes with edgy details. I thought a little edgy blouse would be useful in the wardrobe.

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I made a resolution this year to get over my tendency to make a lot of mistakes when sewing. I would sew a lot faster and enjoy it a lot more if I could stop doing stupid things. So with this blouse – a rather complex project, what with the split sleeves with plackets and cuffs and the collar with collar stand – how did I do?

  • I sewed some of my flat-felled seams backwards.
  • I sewed the left sleeve onto the right side of the bodice.
  • I sewed things wrong side to right side a couple of times.
  • I sewed little tucks into things and had to unpick several times.
  • I tore open a buttonhole a tad when cutting it open.
  • The collar pattern matching is dodgy.

I fixed most of these errors but said the hell with the collar.

I also ran into a problem where the sleeves were way way way too long, and I elected to make the cuffs smaller instead of shortening the sleeves and having to calculate where to put the pleats and worrying that the cuffs wouldn’t fit.

So, I’d give myself a C- in Home Ec, per the usual. I really need some strategies to get over my error-prone ways. Any ideas?

Skirt of Doom

Do you ever know when a sewing project is doomed from the start?

A colleague of mine wears a cute kilt-like skirt to work that has a little asymmetrical overlay. I like it and figured it would be easy enough to sew, so I grabbed New Look 6326 to try View D (the floral print skirt on the pattern envelope).

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New Look patterns are nice for a few reasons. The envelope usually includes a wide range of sizes (sizes 10-22 in this case) and some various views that are truly different, not just minor variations on a theme. The patterns also are pretty inexpensive because there’s just one garment, not a wardrobe.

Pattern in hand, I looked for some fabric in New York’s Garment District. This store at 257 W 39rd Street beckoned because it offers deep discounts and usually has a great selection of wools. I wanted a plaid – maybe a Tattersall or Buffalo check – to highlight the asymmetrical front hem.

I have shopped in New York’s Garment District for years and have learned to put up with and even sometimes enjoy the crowded stores, the haggling, the thrill of the hunt and the mercurial customer service to get the best quality and greatest variety of fabrics imaginable. The store at this location is currently called Gate 232, but it’s gone by various other names over the years. It has some nice stuff and a lot of junk.

I found some navy wool crepe in an uneven windowpane plaid that would be perfect – not too heavy with a good drape. I found it in the wool section of the store with big signs everywhere saying the fabrics were $10 a yard. When I inquired about the fabric, however, I was told it was not part of the “sale” and instead was $12 a yard. I bargained with the guy to get the $10 a yard. I am OK with this in theory – haggling is part of the Garment District culture, but it rubbed me the wrong way that magically the very thing I wanted was not part of the so-called “sale.”

I inspected the fabrics before asking for a cuts, since I have also learned the hard way that fabrics can be stained, torn, or have defects. It seemed fine, but it is dark and cramped in that store, so I didn’t do as good a job as I would have elsewhere.

At the register the guy took my credit card and mumbled something about “10 percent.” What? I asked him. He was trying to charge me a 10% fee for using a credit card. There is no sign of this “store policy” anywhere. I grabbed back my credit card and walked out. He guy yelled at me that I had to pay for something once it was cut. I yelled back that he was chiseling me for a bogus fee after we’d agreed on the price, and I’d be happy to take it up with the city’s consumer protection bureau. He relented, cursing that he’d been in business X years and this had never happened before, blah blah.

When I got home, I found that the wool crepe was shot full of little holes that are visible if you hold the fabric up to the light. I guess moths had eaten it? I sent the fabrics to the cleaners to be steam cleaned, to be sure any moths were dead.

I soldiered on. I was able to squeeze the skirt out of the fabric (I had bought enough to make a long skirt but settled for a shorter skirt). The front asymmetrical overlay went together well, but I stupidly did not stabilize the crepe and because it’s slightly on the bias, it pulled a little when I sewed it, distorting the plaid a bit.

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I decided I could live with it and kept going. I sewed the back darts, sewed rest of the skirt together plus the right-side waistband (but not the facing yet) and tried it on for fit. I usually need wide darts or double darts in the back of a skirt, and indeed, I did in this case, so I sewed another set of darts near the first. When I tried it on, it looked a little lumpy back there, but I figured it would press out and look right once I’d installed the zipper and waistband.

I set the project aside for about a month because of illness and other commitments. When I came back to it yesterday, I looked in dismay at the waistband – it was sewn on crookedly. How did that happen? I unpicked it, only to remember too late that I’d graded the seam (sloppily in some places), accounting for the goof. Yikes. I marked the sewing line with chalk, using a flashlight to follow the old stitching line, since the seam allowance was gone and unevenly graded.

Thinking I was back on track, I put in the invisible zipper and the waistband facing. I gave it a good press, smoothing out the hips on a ham, and pinned up the hem to try it on. Oh brother. My backside looks like this:

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What the hell?!? I cannot account for this weird pleating and crazy excess fabric! I pinched it out just to see what I was dealing with, and the result is a hot mess because the plaid is ruined. Also, the waistband is uneven despite my best efforts.

So, is this my first wadder of 2018? Can this skirt be saved?

Eight Sewing Resolutions for 2018

I realized this week that I sewed about 30 items in 2017 – a record for me and a major step forward in my growth as a sewist. I almost always had a project in the works, I learned to use a serger, and I made a lot of garments that I wear regularly as well as items for gifts, charity, home dec and upcycling.

 

I also wasted time and money on a few things, so I am circumspect about what I might accomplish in 2018. I will have less time to sew in 2018. I have enrolled in a graduate program related to my job, so that will take priority, at least from January to May for the first class.

Eight resolutions for 2018, then:

  1. Participate in fewer sewalongs and contests. In 2017, I entered 8 contests on PatternReview.com, sewing 20 items in all, and sewed garments for five sewalongs with The Monthly Stitch and one with the Sewcialists. (Some of these overlap.) The PatternReview events included stash-busting and wardrobe contests, which account for much of the volume, as well as the annual PR Sewing Bee. In discussing the contests with friends on PatternReview, I am have been in the “it’s fun to participate” camp while many are in the “in it to win it” camp. I never win. I never come close (OK, I came in a distant third once). I was pissed that I didn’t make it to the third round of the Sewing Bee – that really hurt my pride. I did win one random drawing prize this year, which was nice, but I lack the skill, fit and finesse to really compete against the experts. I am going to sit out all the contests and sewalongs this year unless they happen to coincide with my established sewing plans. There’s also no Sewing Bee this year to tempt me. I volunteered instead to moderate a contest.
  2. Make jeans. I really need to do this. I need new jeans, for one thing, and I also really want the challenge. I might take a class at Workroom Social in March.
  3. Bust the embroidery unit out of its box. My husband bought me a Bernina 580 for my birthday two years ago. It came with an embroidery unit, which I didn’t really want. I am just not in to the whole embroidery thing, and I really don’t want to spend a ton of money on special threads. But I see a lot of RTW with nice embroidery details, so I figure I should at least try it. Perhaps if I make jeans, I can embroider a cute detail on the pockets?
  4. Truly Do Me Made May this year. I have participated in past years by doing “me-made” 4 or 5 days a week in May. This year I am almost ready to do it every day. I have almost enough seasonally appropriate garments, although I could use more pants  for work and definitely need jeans (see #2).
  5. Stop making so many damn mistakes. It takes me a while to sew garments because I make a ridiculous number of mistakes. “Sure,” you’re thinking, “we all have a seam that goes awry once in a while. Quit being such a perfectionist!” That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about sewing things wrong-sides together. Upside down. Accidentally pleating or tucking. Slicing off chunks of fabric with the serger. Stuff like that. I usually buy fresh seam rippers in January because they get dull with use. No more! in 2018, I will baste, double-check, triple-check and baste some more to be sure I have it right.
  6. Go on a sewing retreat. I want to have a long weekend away from the house where I can just sew and learn and maybe make some new friends. It would be ideal to attend a retreat that’s far enough from my house that I will stay overnight but close enough that I can drive or take Amtrak (East Coast, as far south as DC). It seems like a lot of retreats are for quilting. Any garment-sewing retreats out there? Let me know!
  7. Try charity shops. So many sewing bloggers come back with great finds from charity shops. I donate to these shops all the time, but I never shop at one myself. I want to try out a few this year to see what they have to offer, either for yardage and other sewing materials and patterns, or for upcycling opportunities.
  8. Sew something for my mom. She gave me the sweetest Christmas gift this year – a bunch of sewing supplies including a fabulous pair of Kai scissors, some Swedish patternmaking paper, a snap kit and a new quilting ruler. IMG_20171228_122726I asked for these things through an app we use to manage our family’s Secret Santa gift exchange. I was happy that she listened to me about what I wanted and that she read over all the info I provided in the app. “I never knew your favorite color was red!” she said. I want to make her something, both to thank her and to give us something to do together. I thought I’d try to replicate some garment that she really likes or wants. It will be challenging to sew for a different body type and size, but I am up for it.

What are your resolutions?