Resolutions for 2020 – Distaff Style

Self-improvement plans – what else would we distaffers do on January 1?

A few quick resolutions then, before we get to work:

  1. Style: I did Me Made May for the whole month last year (even while on vacation) and for most of the year, really. Now that I have a reliable jeans pattern, there’s nothing stopping me from wearing Me Made Everyday. So I am going to go for it!

I got started this morning with a nice long walk in the park with the hubs and the dog in Me Made Jacket (Simplicity 8843), the Jasper Sweater from Paprika Patterns, and hat by Green Pepper Patterns.

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Me Made Cold-weather outfit

I made the sweater last week out of some poly-cotton blend sweatshirt fleece with a muted plaid design.

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Paprika Patterns Jasper Sweatshirt

To add interest, I did the cuffs, side panels and collar on the bias.

2. Gardening: My vegetable garden really put out this year. Amending the soil in my two raised beds helped so much. I found a reliable set of tomato plants and other veggies to grow from now on. I was kicking myself for not doing a better job of tending to the plants and harvesting. So I am planning to do less, but put more effort into what I have and not let anything go to the bugs or go bad on the vine.

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Tomatoes anyone?

3. Fitness: Seek out a real posture plan. I played around with various posture exercises and finally found something that seemed to work. I need to hire the trainer who did this workshop for some private sessions, to make this a regular thing. I am hopeful that I can stop my hunchback development and maybe even undo some of the damage I’ve done.

4. Housework: I have one simple goal. Keep the kitchen floor clean! With a dog around, it’s a chore. I always feel like my home is at its best when the kitchen floor is vacuumed and scrubbed. So that’s the big goal here. Exciting, right?

5. Sewing: For sure, I am going to continue with my “sew edgy” look for the office. I need to find a simple dress that I can make a TNT. I also need a few blouses, and I really need to make a proper suit. For casual wear, I will perfect the jeans. I realize that while I have been playing around with a lot of indie pattern companies, I have been disappointed with some results compared with results from Big 4 (although there are exceptions), so I am going to focus more on Big 4. I have plenty of fabric and patterns at this point – so I am going on a “fast” at least for the first half of the year.

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Sew Edgy office outfit – a favorite

6. Sustainability: A friend who’s a sustainability consultant really made me think about the nature of consumption and waste. I am proud that I don’t do fast fashion and that I will mend and alter clothing. I take public transportation, walk or bike most places. I have a few “upcycle” and “refashion” sewing projects in my head for this year. I feel I could do more, however, when it comes to food. We are doing Meatless Mondays as a family, and on my own I will do more meatless meals (my husband will be challenged to do Mondays as it is). I also am going to buy fewer prepared things in plastic containers – I am talking to you, deli soups and salads! Seriously, it’s not hard to make soup. I’ll probably save $100 a year! I sewed up some simple reusable bags for produce, and I always use tote bags at the store. And I am going to stop buying the occasional to-go coffee unless I can get it in a reusable insulated mug. I already do this with water – why not with coffee?

7. Diet: I just gotta kick sugar. I feel that very badly. I can go for weeks without any, and then I have some, and it’s just a spiral from there. I am not sure how to tackle this one, except to go cold turkey. I need to research more, but it’s happening.

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The last pie, for a while anyway

8. Career: I started last year doing a weekly work reflection on Friday mornings. I’d write down a few accomplishments, networking wins, personal achievements and other notable events from the week. This is a great idea because at work, weeks turn into months, turn into years, and then you have to get a new job, and you go to update the resume and you can’t think of what to say! This exercise takes 5 minutes and it really helps. I am getting started by updating my LinkedIn profile and resume with key accomplishments from 2019. Also, I am trying to network more. I need to be “heads down” at work and more collaborative and social.

9. Family: This is a tough one. I feel that I have neglected my husband and family at times, especially my in-laws. There’s no excuse – we live so nearby – but weeks go by without a word to or from anyone. Even with my husband, we have well-established routines that make it tough to break out. So I am going to make more of an effort on all fronts. Sometimes a simple call to say “hi” or an impromptu date night is all we need to get out of the rut. I will take care of my mother when she has knee surgery later this month, so I can use that time to visit a bit with others to get the year started off well.

10. Reading: I have done well with reading more female authors, but I feel I need to do more to read writers from different nationalities and races. I got a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, so I plan to pick up a few things to get started. I general, I am going to try to read more and do less “faffing about on the mobile” while on my train commute. Now that my grad school is done, I will have time to open my mind more in other directions.

11. Giving back: We made an effort  in 2019 to give more to charities, and we succeeded in increasing our contributions by a thousand dollars over the course of the year. I also have done a bit more charity work with groups I support by in-kind contributions of time and expertise. In fact, I won an award from one charity I support with weekly editing and coaching of college students. I miss volunteering with local groups, though – I managed one event in 2019 – a bike-a-thon – so I am going to try to do two events in 2020.

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Biking for charity – $500 raised

12. Activism. I will admit it: I dread 2020. I am terrified that Trump will get re-elected. I have little confidence that the Democrats will get their shit together. I worry that the economy will thank, and while that would hurt Trump, it’s going to hurt a lot of other people too, so I don’t exactly wish it. After he was elected, I made a plan to so something once a week to #resist. I wrote letters to Congress. I attended rallies. I got educated on the issues. I sewed a shitload of pussyhats. I donated money to groups under siege – Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League – I could go on. I have kept up some of these activities but have let others slide. This is a do-or-die year. I need to step it up.

Thank you for reading! I wish you all a happy healthy 2020! (Except Trump.)

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!

Ending Me Made May with a Whimper

So, it’s been cold here this May. I’d love to lay some of my summery me-made fashions on you this month, but I didn’t want to freeze my ass off. I ended up repeating a few things, so no point in taking pictures again. I did manage a me-made item every day, even though I had a couple of migraines (thank you – me-made PJs and T-shirts).

Here are a few unique looks. First, for the office:

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Head-to-toe Me Made – Style Arc Creative Cate top, Muse Jenna cardigan and Vogue 1312 skirt
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Style Arc Jasmine pants in stretch wool gabardine
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Simplicity 1202 top made from Nicole Miller fabric

For that last one, I was not having a good day at work – or a good hair day, either – sheesh! I was also wearing navy gabardine pants from McCalls’ 6901, but I couldn’t be bothered to get a full shot. Sorry, not sorry.

Here are some looks for home office and weekend wear:

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Kwik Sew 3452 sweatshirt. Yeah it was that cold!
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Breton tee from the GBSB book
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Tunic from Happy Homemade Sew Chic – I finally took off the black lace at the sleeves. Dog still will not pose for selfies.

My favorite look of the last week:

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Tunic from Happy Homemade Sew Chic

I was headed out to a hair appointment and then a baby shower. The skirt is RTW from the Boden catalog. This was the one nice day all week. I made the most of it!

And my “finish weak” look to finish May:

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Cardigan of shame

This cardigan is from Happy Homemade Sew Chic. It was the first knit item I’d sewn in ages, and it’s pretty… rough. For starters, the high-contrast geometric print is only on one side, so it’s not a great choice for anything where the pale and plain wrong side shows. Then there’s the error in factoring in how the pleats would work at the neckline with the fabric – not symmetrical at all. And finally I sewed on this silver clasp (the style of which has nothing to do with the style of the fabric, or the style of the garment) because I thought it would look better if it closed in front. Sure. Whatever.

I finish weak because I believe in showing the good, bad and ugly of my creations. I am not someone who photographs every garment and look to perfection. And I certainly don’t sew everything to perfection, either!

Me Made May Week 3

Hi everyone – here are some quick Me Made May looks from week 3. So far, I have worn at least one Me-Made garment each day, sometimes head-to-toe looks. I am delighted that I have come this far, and I am confident I can finish out the month.

First, the rest of the looks from last week’s vacation, where the temperatures soared into the low 90s after starting the week in the 50s:

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Blouse from La Mia Boutique July/Aug 2018 and Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt
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Lounging my the pool in the Tunic with Roll-up Sleeves from “Happy Homemade Sew Chic”
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Headed to a botanical garden in my poppy print top from Simplicity 1202 and Yasmin skirt
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The denim Yasmin skirt again, worn with an upcycled tablecloth top from Happy Homemade Sew Chic’s Tunic with Lace
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Dinner with my hubby in my Jalie drop-pocket cardigan and RTW dress

I went to the office yesterday and decided to dress up since I needed to get my head back in the game:

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Sewaholic Cordova jacket, Style Arc Creative Cate top and RTW pants in my office’s fancy elevator.

And then a couple of work-at-home days with suitably casual looks:

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The tunic top again, this time with the Seamwork Moji pants
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Planting spring flowers in a top from New Look 6330.

I notice that a few of my me-made items are nearing their expiration dates. This New Look top, for example, didn’t come out right and hasn’t worn well. The neckline is ripply and the hem is wonky. I wear it for things like exercising and working outdoors. Also, let’s face it, my upcycled tablecloth-turned-top is pretty funky (as was intended) but not a great look for me.

Likewise, that Cordova jacket is on its last legs. The zipper area is all rippled – I am not sure why but I suspect that the interfacing shrank when I had the jacket cleaned. It was always a little big, but it seems to be getting bigger as the years go by. I really need to make a new jacket for work.

 

Breaking the RTW Fast

My “RTW fast” lasted until May 12. Then I binged. Sort of.

The idea behind a RTW fast is to refrain from buying any ready-to-wear clothing except for lingerie, hosiery, shoes, and belts, and garments that you’re required to wear for some reason, such as a work uniform or a bridesmaid’s dress.

I thought this would be a great challenge to up my game and to force me to sew a few projects to stretch my abilities, such as jeans and a suit. So I signed up.

And then I hit a bad combination of vacation, poor packing decisions and unseasonable weather. It was much colder in Kentucky last week than it should have been. I mean, 20-30 degrees colder. It was also rainy. And I did not pack a raincoat.

I suffered through the first day of vacation, shivering under me-made tops and sweaters. On the second day, I caved in. We were headed to Churchill Downs to watch the horse races, which normally calls for an outfit like this:

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“Run for the Roses” dress, pattern is Tunic Dress with Lace from “Happy Homemade Sew Chic”

It was 50 degrees and drizzly. I ended up looking like this:

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(Look away from this hideous jacket – focus on the mint julep instead.)

I had a mint julep anyway and ended the day up about $4.

I bought this hideous Army green jacket at J.C. Penney. I had tried to buy a jacket at any of the independent downtown Louisville clothing stores, but all they all only had summer clothes on offer. The morning of the races I Googled “shopping mall near me” and drove 15 minutes to a suburban sprawl shopping center.

I hadn’t been to a mall in a few years, and I hadn’t been to a J.C. Penney since… who knows? My mother gave me a gift certificate once, many years ago, and I spent it on socks, underwear and undershirts for me and my husband.

Anyway… the pickings were slim. It took me 10 minutes to hunt down a saleswoman, and she had no idea where I might find a raincoat or jacket. I figured my best chance was the sale rack, where bereft out-of-season clothes hung in a jumbled display.

This jacket was literally the only thing for sale that would be warm enough and remotely fit me. It originally cost $64 but was marked down to $28.79. It had nice heavy copper zippers and some quality details like zippered double-welt pockets and proper facings, but only half of the snaps on the placket would snap and some of the topstitching was wonky. 100% cotton, made in China. Oh well. I cursed myself yet again for not bringing a coat, but I resigned myself to buying it and prepared to leave.

And then it happened. What happens to lots of people when they go shopping, I imagine.

The lure of cheap, fast fashion took hold.

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Shopping – grab it all!

I browsed the rest of the sale rack and identified other “bargains”:

  • A black V-neck sweater in a cotton-rayon-nylon blend, made in Indonesia. I already had packed a me-made black cardigan for the trip, but I thought I also might need this heavier pull-on style. Originally $32, marked down to $7.99.
  • A black lightweight nylon and mesh windbreaker, made in China. I convinced myself that since the Army green jacket was on the heavier side, I might also need a lightweight jacket for warmer rainy days on this trip. Originally $54, marked down to $26.99.

I drifted to another sale rack and started looking at tops and pants because, well, everything was so cheap. Then I remembered that I didn’t need anything else. Then I remembered I was trying not to buy RTW, especially cheap, foreign-made fast fashion. I slunk off to the register instead. In all, I spent maybe 5 minutes choosing, trying on, and deciding to buy these garments.

The black sweater was probably a good buy – it fits well and the fabric seems nice (we’ll see how it washes and wears over time). I wore it a few times on vacation because it remained chilly and my me-made cardigan was pretty lightweight.

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RTW sweater of shame, worn with a me-made Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt

The windbreaker is really a sad thing. I’m sure I will wear it, someday. But I did not need it and I should not have bought it. Because I sew my own clothes, I have certain… let’s say… standards. While my me-made apparel is not perfect, I would never do something like this:

 

Yep, that’s a serged seam in the center of the hood that can be seen from the right side if the hood is worn down. The edge of the hood was serged with exposed threads instead of a clean turn-and-topstitch finish. Seriously. How hard would it have been to draft a flat-fell for that one seam and properly finish the edge? Also, the elastic was inserted into cuff  by sandwiching it into a turn-and-topstitch cuff that was serged closed, instead of inserting the elastic into a casing so that the edge is clean. You can see not only the serging from the right side, but also the edge of the elastic!

I would like to know what goes into these fast-fashion RTW designs. Yes, they are meant to be cheap and quick, but how much cheaper and quicker is it to do something so crappy vs. something decent? Without these two gross finishes, this would be a nice little jacket instead of an embarrassment.

My main takeaway from this experience is that I spent about a minute buying this jacket. That’s the dirty little secret of fast fashion that no one talks about. This stuff is designed fast, made fast and bought fast. I was a little astonished at the sale price and didn’t think further. If I had looked at this jacket with a critical eye for 30 seconds more, I would have noticed these big flaws and would have passed it by. Part of the blame rides with the consumer, too.

Anyway, I will reinstate my RTW fast for the rest of the year and finish Me Made May. And next time I go on vacation, I will definitely check the weather forecast before I leave, and pack a coat!

Me Made on Vacation

When I packed for my vacation this week, I was excited to realize that I could do so many coordinating Me-Made outfits. I chose a blue palette and a red palette, and picked pieces from there. Except for one dress and one pair of jeans (and lingerie and socks), everything I packed was Me-Made.

Let’s get to the looks!

At the airport in my Great British Sewing Bee tee and Jalie drop-pocket cardigan
The cardi again, this time with a Vogue top and pants from Happy Homemade Sew Chic
Another Jalie drop-pocket cardi, with a Maria Denmark Edith blouse and Jasmine skirt, which I altered to make button front

Cheers!

Week One of Me Made May – Done!

This year I am going to do Me Made May every day. I am! I will!

In the past, I have done a few days a week, but now I have both the wardrobe and the confidence to really pull it off. Here are some looks.

I kicked off the month with my purple wool Sewaholic Cordova jacket for work. Here are my other looks for the office:

Work at home and casual weekend looks:

And a party dress to watch the Kentucky Derby in (it’s the Run for the Roses, don’t you know):

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Dress from Happy Homemade Sew Chic

This week coming up I have one more day in the office and then I am on VACATION! Woot!

How’s your Me Made May going so far?