Top 5 Hits, Misses and Lessons Learned in 2017

Oh damn. The year is almost over. Time for reflections on what I did and didn’t do. Let’s start with the positive, shall we?

My #1 lesson learned from 2017 was to make more simple, wear-anytime items. Previously, I used to make mostly complex, expensive, time-consuming items, such as lined blazers for work, party dresses and other things like that. I’d love them and wear them occasionally, but I realized I could enjoy my sewing projects more (and save money and time) if I sewed more everyday things.

Top 5 Hits: The 5 most worn or most loved makes from your year!

 

My Top 5 Hits are (right to left):

  • Kwik Sew 3452 – This simple OOP jacket/sweatshirt has been worn almost weekly since I made it this fall. Love the color, the lightweight 100% cotton fabric and the fit.
  • New Look 6498 – I made this crazy dress from sari fabric I bought in India. It was my most creative project of 2017. It’s a bit over-the-top, but I like it that way.
  • La Mia Boutique Camicetta 20 and Simplicity 3688 – OK, this is two projects in one picture – I’m no martinet for the rules. I am proud that I think I finally conquered fit on pants and on button-down shirts. My previous sewing machine sucked at buttonholes, but my new machine makes perfect ones, so I no longer fear the button-down shirt.
  • Great British Sewing Bee Breton Top – Another very simple project that has been worn and worn since I made it out of lovely 100% cotton jersey.
  • Simplicity 8174 – This is my big, extravagant, complex project for 2017. It has 23 pieces and three zippers, made out of ultrasuede with a silk charmeuse lining. The fit is perfect and it’s RTW quality, IMHO.

Lesson learned #2 – Sergers are good things. Lesson learned #3 – Knits are fun. I’d avoided both for years. I thought sergers were complex and expensive, and giving a “cheap” result. If I was going to invest in the time to make a garment, I was going to make it right, using couture seam finishes or linings. I got a serger for my birthday and started using it with hesitation just to finish seams. This fall, I used it to make the two knit garments seen above. I’d avoided knits because both of my sewing machines didn’t like them very much. With the serger, the knit garments went together quickly and the quality was very good. I will still do couture seam treatments when the garment calls for it, but the serger fits well into my “everyday” wardrobe plans.

Top 5 Misses: These are all dogs.

 

  • Simplicity 8137 – This lined wrap top is just OFF – my biggest time and money waster of 2017, by far. I have worn it a few times to work, after pinning closed the bodice, so it’s not a total loss but still a huge disappointment.
  • Madalynne Noelle bralette – Another waste. Lesson learned #4 – Free patterns are rarely worth it. I never wore this. I will never do another free indie pattern unless it has plenty of positive reviews.
  • This Edith blouse from MariaDemark has been in the “UFO” pile since spring. I cannot get the darts even, despite many tries. I blame the poly crepe fabric (the fault couldn’t lie with me, could it?) I rarely have a UFO. If I start something, I almost always finish it. Lesson learned #5 – It’s OK to give up and cut my losses once in a while. The frustration is not worth it.
  • This bag from Burda 2562 (OOP) is just a hot mess – a true C-in Home Ec effort. I slapped it together from the leftover ultrasuede from the moto jacket project as part of the PatternReview.com Sudoku Wardrobe contestLesson learned #6 – Don’t make stuff just for contests. I participate in many contests and sewalongs because I love the camaraderie, I’ve made friends, and I love a good deadline, but I’ve also wasted time and money.  I have used this bag a couple of times, so it’s not a total loss, but it’s embarrassingly poorly sewn.
  • This Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 8058 had all the makings of a disaster. Cheap fabric. Tricky design. Exposed zipper on a knit. Way too short. I should have stopped when I cringed at the fabric, bought on sale online. I forged ahead nonetheless. I lengthened it 4 inches, ruining the designer’s line. Despite the stiffest interfacing I had, the center front detail curls and warps the second you sit. The zipper is a hot mess. I will call this a “wearable muslin” that was worn exactly once. I would like to try this again in better fabric and without the piece that juts out at the tummy.

Finally, the #1 make of the year:

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Pussyhats. I made 22 of these hats from a free pattern from Fun with Fleece for the Women’s March on Washington. I constructed them on the serger in an assembly line and sent them to friends protesting Trump in California, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. Not the fanciest or best-sewn project, but the most meaningful for me. I was inspired to see the distaff side of humanity, brought into sharp relief by Trump and his ilk, who regard women as either sex objects or subhuman property, use their gifts to say to men who rule over us: WE RESIST.

I am thinking some more about my goals for 2018. See you in the new year.

Stash Busting for Charity – Put a Hat on It

Do you have lots of random scraps of things in your stash – bits of fabric that are too big to toss but too small to use for much?

Make hats! For charity! Or for yourself or your family or friends or for kids in the neighborhood. Whatever… if they have a head, put a hat on it! For about a fat quarter of knit fabric each you can have… all this!

The pink hat is the “Scrap Cap” from Green Pepper Patters F822. It’s made of fleece left over from the Pussyhats I made for the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. Damn Trump is still the damn president and we women have even MORE to march for this year. I made this for the daughter of a friend who’s marching with us in New York in January.

The duo of white hats is from Simplicity 1566 – a pattern envelope with an entire wardrobe for a baby or toddler. This is a great package of patterns for gift-making or for kitting out your kid with cute, simple, easy-to-make styles. My favorite in this package is the little hoodie. This hat is OK  – I wasn’t crazy about the shape and the ribbon ties. I decorated them with some trims I’ve had in my stash for 10+ years. The hats are made with leftover cotton jersey from a T-shirt project. I’m donating the hats to a charity that collects winter clothing for the needy.

The trio of blue, white and black hats also will go the charity. These are made from leftover border-print viscose knit and rayon jersey. The pattern is “Mountain Cap,” also from Green Pepper F822. These go together very quickly on the serger – I think I made all three in under an hour. I made one child size, one teen and one adult just to see how they fit. The teen size is perfect for me. I added a little cuff to it, just ’cause.

Don’t Raise Your Hand

I’m back home from an overnight business meeting. Another meeting where men dominated and treated women dismissively, and women (myself included) did dumb things that didn’t help.

The meeting was for an industry group of people in technology. There are six women (three of whom are lower-level staff people) and 20 men (including two senior male staff people).

Monday night, at a dinner at a steakhouse (natch) where do I end up standing during the cocktail hour, but with two of the women, who talked the whole time about their kids and families while all the men talked shop. I peeled myself away and tried in vain to insert myself into more substantive conversations.

Then for the meal, determined to break in with the real action, where do I end up sitting but at the “girls’ table” with the three other women! I ran to the bathroom before the meal and when I returned, all the seats were taken except for two, next to the other three women and one of the women’s male coworkers. Those seats were vacant, of course, because none of the men wanted to sit at the “girls’ table.” I made the best of it, and we had good substantive conversations, but the worse tendencies of men and women in business were off to a bad start.

One of the men who led the meeting is always welcoming and engaging. The other one literally ignores me – it’s like I am not in the room. I made it a point to say hello to him and to engage him in conversation.

At the meeting today, I intentionally crossed the room to avoid the other women and sat in the middle of a pack of men. I engaged them in conversation and we had a good meeting. Then during a Q&A after a presentation, I could not get my question in. The men kept talking over me. At one point I actually raised my hand like a schoolgirl, which just made it all worse. Eventually I half rose out of my seat and just talked over another man  – the jerk I mention above – to get my question in – really just steamrolled him the way everyone had steamrolled me. The question was answered and sparked a good debate.

At the afternoon break, over coffee, the man who did the presenting actually said to me: “Did you get what you needed out of the presentation? You didn’t ask a question.” “Yes I did!” I shot right back at him. “I asked about X.” “Oh yeah,” he said, backing off, “that’s right.” I grabbed my coffee and walked away.

The meeting concluded with a man in the group taking credit for an idea I have been pushing for a year. It was a minor point after everything else that day, but it just felt like the last straw. I took an early train home.

If you find yourself in this situation:

  • Don’t stand around with a gaggle of other women shooting the shit. Look to see who everyone else is talking to, and talk to that person.
  • Never sit at the girls’ table.
  • If you have a question, ask. Don’t raise your hand and wait to get permission to ask. Just do it.
  • If someone does something sexist or even just thoughtless (hard to tell sometimes), call him on it, right away.
  • Be in the present. Get your ideas down early, speak up, repeat yourself if you need to before the men will listen.

Thoughts on Thinx

I bought two pairs of this special underwear called Thinx that’s meant to be worn when you have your period. The underwear has an absorbent and odor-neutralizing crotch panel that can absorb a tampon or two’s worth of menstrual blood (depending on the style of Thinx you choose). In theory, you can go without tampons or pads at all and just wash and reuse the underwear.

In short, did they work? Yes. They are probably not for everyone, however.

This is a pretty long post and has a lot of details in it. If you’re squeamish, find something else to read. I am not affiliated with this product in any way, and I did not receive any free samples or other compensation as a condition of writing this blog. This is really just my thoughts and experiences with this product.

I bought two pairs of Thinx for a few reasons:

  • I’m very interested in new textiles and how garments can be used to support medical needs, be it menstruation, illness or disability.
  • I’m interested in alternatives to standard menstrual products in general. Having consumed these products most of my life, I always think, “There’s got to be a better way!”
  • I like that female engineers, businesswomen and scientists are thinking anew about menstrual products, and that they are able to get funding to manufacture and market these products.
  • I would like to reduce my use of disposable, nonbiodegradable things in general. All the wrappers, applicators and packaging of standard tampons and pads could be reduced or eliminated.
  • I think that women should be able to talk about menstruation openly and without shame. Products such as Thinx open the dialogue.

I read over the product specs (see www.shethinx.com for more) and bought a high-waist style ($38) and a hip-hugger style ($34) to try. Based on the measurements, I ordered a large but they were too small, so I got a refund and bought an extra large in each style.

Because I like to sew, I know when I am looking at a well-made garment, and these were. The lining of the underwear is made of a cotton and elastane blend. The waistband and outer layer is a nylon-elastane blend – the waistband has a pretty, sheer stripe detail. The absorbent inner liner is made of a polyurethane laminate, or PUL fabric. It runs from waistband to waistband front and back and is encased in the lining and outer fabric. The sides are sheer.

I tried them this week. I wore the hip-huggers on Sunday, under jeans, without any back-up tampons or pads. They performed admirably with no leaks. I was aware each time I used the toilet that the underwear was absorbing blood, but it soaked in to the absorbent layer and did not feel sticky, just a bit damp. The underwear was a bit bulky, but not bad, especially under jeans. There was no smell at first, but by the end of the day, I could detect a scent – not the usual menstrual blood scent, but a scent that’s hard to describe – a bit plastic-y and sharp. The scent wasn’t objectionable, really, but it was there.

I wore them for the rest of the day and to bed. I woke up with no stains on my PJs or sheets. The odor was much stronger at this point, but that’s to be expected – I wore them for a full day! The instructions say you should rinse the underwear and then wash it, using regular laundry soap but no fabric softener. I saw a lot of blood come out in the rinse, so I let them soak a bit, then rinsed again until the water was clear. Then I let them soak with some laundry detergent, scrubbed them by hand, rinsed and let them line dry.

I had intended to wear the high-waist pair to work Monday, but when I tried them on with my dress, they rode up a bit and were noticeably bulky in the rear with the style of dress, so I switched to some high-waist trousers. This time, I backed up the underwear with a tampon because I couldn’t take chances at work, but I didn’t use a pantyliner as I normally would. Again, they performed well. There was no odor or leaking, although to be fair, tampons did most of the job. The general fit of the underwear was not great and rode up all day. I wore them to bed without any back-up and they were fine – no leaks or stains and the faint odor. Again, I rinsed them and washed them in the sink with some laundry detergent.

I reused the clean hip-huggers to work Tuesday under a skirt without any tampon backup, and they performed very well, although my flow was a lot lighter by then. There was no odor or dampness.

My takeaways:

  • Thinx are a viable alternative to tampons or pads. They do their job and perform as promised.
  • They look nice and are well made.
  • Thinx are not gross or smelly – not any grosser or smellier than the normal menstruation situation, anyway.
  • Using Thinx alone without tampons or pads, I would not want to wear one pair all day but rather would change them after 8 hours  or so. This makes sense, since I’d normally change tampons every 4 hours or so, and the underwear’s meant to absorb about two tampons’ worth.
  • Using Thinx as a tampon back-up, or on a light flow day, I will wear them all day.
  • I will wear the high-waist pair exclusively to bed, because of the bulky nature and the poor fit. I am OK with this because I usually wear big diapery pads to bed (I don’t want to get up in the night to change tampons) and occasionally have to deal with leaks.
  • I can handwash them and let them dry so that two pairs will get me through a typical cycle.
  • The cost alone doesn’t really justify the purchase. At $70 for two pairs of underwear, I could buy a couple hundred tampons, pantyliners and pads.

I will be interested to see how these hold up and perform over time. I will buy more if I really like them.

The Competitiveness of “Making”

Why is “making” things such a big deal?

I went to a dinner party Saturday night and got all snarky with friends about the glory of “making” vs. “buying.”

I happened to be wearing my tablecloth dress because these friends had shown an interest in the past about my sewing projects. It glams up pretty well with some cream-colored rope-soled wedges, a Kenneth Cole bag in sage green and some gold and jade jewelry inherited from my grandmother.

So when a friend asked if I made the dress, I said “yes.” Actually, I said “Is it that obvious?” She assured me it was not obvious at all, but she knew I sewed and so she always wonders when she sees me if I’m wearing anything me-made.

The guys at this party – my husband and two friends (husbands of the women) – had looks on their faces as if to say, “Please don’t let this mixed-gender conversation turn into a female-only discussion about sewing.” Clearly, most men don’t get it. They understand “making” something they enjoy, like baking a cake or painting a picture, but sewing women’s apparel is beyond them.

What’s a gal to do but to get a bit snarky?

One of these guys happens to have a pretty big garden. “Why grow your own vegetables and flowers? Why don’t you just buy them?” I asked. One guy homebrews beer. “Why do that? Why not just buy beer?” Hmm?

Clearly, I hit a nerve. I didn’t get much of an answer from the guys, beyond “it’s just a hobby” and “I’ve been doing it forever” and “I invested in all this equipment already.” Shortly after this little discussion, the guys decamped to the kitchen to talk, leaving the women in the living room. We shifted our conversation elsewhere.

When dessert was brought out, I could not resist another little dig. I knew darn well that my friend had not baked the peach tart that was put before us, but I couldn’t resist asking: “Did you make that?”

She said “no” and seemed embarrassed about it. Why? It was delicious and beautiful. We ate the whole thing. What difference does it matter if you make or buy? Are some things more worthy of “making” than others? If a man makes it’ does that make it more worthy?

Hey – if you want to make, make. If you want to buy, buy. No judgment.