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.

IMG_20200101_091805
Me Made Cold-weather outfit

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

DSC00612
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.

IMG_20191013_112808
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.

IMG_20180921_194314.jpg
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.

IMG_20191221_161434
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.

IMG_20180428_105317 (1)
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.)

A Suit for Work – Sort Of

I really need a suit for work. So I made one. Sort of. While this is okaaaaaayyyyy… it’s not really a suit and not really suitable for work.

DSC00618
Kinda sorta suit

I suppose this is a suit in that it’s a two-piece outfit made of the same fabric. The black is a ponte knit and the gray is faux suede. Somehow, although both fabrics have been treated the same way, the jacket fabric looks darker and more luxe than the skirt fabric. Hmm.

The jacket is Lekala 4114, which has a drop-shoulder yoke and bell sleeves.

DSC00630
Wingspan courtesy of Lekala 4114

The jacket was a pain in the ass to make. In brief:

  • It’s a lined jacket, but there are no lining pattern pieces provided. Draft your own, sucker!
  • The square sleeves and armholes make for an adventure in geometry as you finagle four right angles together. Bulky mess!

There are other goofy things – like the technical drawing doesn’t show the back yoke – but I don’t want to bore you. To sum up: I think I’ve had it with Lekala.

I also made my own trouble with this jacket. I wanted suede cuffs, but I couldn’t work it out. They came out very bulky and crappy looking. So I left half the cuff as a facing just so I wouldn’t feel that it was a total waste.

IMG_20191214_200851

My hand stitching sucks though. So I guess it’s for the best that the facings don’t really show. You can get a peek at them here:

DSC00628
Side view – with suede sleeve facings

The back gives a capelike appearance to the jacket.

DSC00625
Rear view – yikes!

I didn’t adjust for my uneven shoulder, because I had no idea how to do that with the yoke. Oh well.

The skirt, as I have mentioned before, is the Osaka wrap skirt from Seamwork magazine. In this picture you can really see how the two-tone seam cuts right across the widest part of my legs and butt, making them look wider.

Also, looking at this picture, I notice that I was wearing brown – not black – tights. Sheesh.

Anyway, this is not a great suit, by even the most generous definition. Sew edgy? Meh. It meets some definitions but misses the mark overall. At least I tried. I think the pieces are wearable, but definitely not together. And I think I will add a zipper to the jacket so it sits better.

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!

IMG_20191110_123356
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:

IMG_20191109_172041

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.

IMG_20191212_095615 (2)
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:

img_20190121_151046
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!

Sew Edgy Winter Sewing Plan 2019 Edition

Instead of making new fall/winter “sew edgy” sewing plans, I am trying to still deliver on my plan from last year. When I make a plan, I expect I will accomplish about half of it. So, I planned for 10 projects, expecting to make about five. As it turns out, I did six.

Anyway, here’s the fall/winter “Edgy Wardrobe” plan from 2018 and how it shook out – I ended up with six items which can mix and match for outfits:

2018 fall sewing plan update

I ended up finishing heavy on the “cheap and easy” side of the grid and focused on  “needs” over “wants.” The one “want” – that goofy Japanese-style top – was the one fail in the bunch. The rest all have been great additions to my wardrobe.

Anything that didn’t happen probably died on the drawing board for a good reason – maybe I was iffy on the pattern, or I didn’t have the right fabric, or I lacked the time/energy/interest to get the thing done. I was also kind of indecisive about a few projects, but the fullness of time has sharpened my eyes.

Here’s why the plans fizzled out:

  • The navy wool fabric I’d earmarked for either McCall’s 6464 or Deer & Doe’s Arum is too heavy for a fall/winter dress. During the past year I’ve developed much more sensitivity to temperatures with the menopause hot flashes and whatnot. The fabric’s better suited for a jacket or maybe even a light coat. So it will sit in the stash a while longer.
  • I need a simple ponte jacket, but the Oki Style pattern is not going to play well with it. The Lekala one is the way to go.
  • The New Look skirt gave me trouble in muslin form. I found a true wrap skirt pattern that gives the same effect and is much easier to sew, so that’s the new direction (see below for more on that).
  • I still like that Burda dress, but the fabric I had earmarked for it is way too heavy and stretchy. Jersey dresses are not for me. I may have to forget about this one.

So… what does that leave me for this winter? I feel like my needs for work clothes are simple and few.

  1. I need a suit, so I am going to make one – but I am going to take shortcuts. I have some high-quality ponte in stash that will get me the look of a suit for less work and less fabric, and a lot fewer fitting headaches. I may jazz it up with faux leather to work on the “sew edgy” plan some more.
  2. I need a good workaday dress. The RTW ones I’ve worn to work for a few years are pretty worn out. So I am going to make one – but something simple and unlined. Maybe use some faux leather here, too.
  3. I also need a work blouse – something simple, again, but in a print for a bit of color and texture.

I started with the suit skirt – again taking the “cheap and easy” route. This is the Osaka skirt from Seamwork magazine (a Colette publication).

The two-tone look allows for some stash-busting fun. I had about 3/4 yard of stretch faux suede, which I used on the top. The bottom is black ponte. This is a bit bulky, truth be told. I am styling it with my black wool batwing sleeve sweater to even out the proportions.

The pattern calls for a reversible skirt, but I didn’t want any more bulk at this party, so instead I drafted a waist facing out of leftover wool twill from my Style Arc Jasmine pants. I tried a few stash hardware pieces on as a closure for this but nothing really worked well. Then I remembered that I’d picked up this vintage covered button set at my favorite second-hand store:

IMG_20191114_203739
Vintage covered button set – oooh

I gave it a whirl with a scrap of the faux suede. It barely worked, but …. success! (The fabric’s a bit bulky. Did I mention that already. Oh yeah, I did.)

IMG_20191117_154131
Covered button

It’s a cute look. I plan to do the same with the Lekala 4114 jacket – using scraps of suede for the yoke and cuffs (if I have enough). I also plan to add a zipper for a bit of bling.

Lekala 4114
Lekala 4114

Three Goals in One!

I managed a hat trick for my most recently completed sewing project:

IMG_20191110_123356
Jeans, bitches!

Yes, I sewed a proper pair of jeans with all the topstitching, fancy seams, fly front and whatnot. This has been a goal of mine for three years. I am delighted not only that I met this goal, but also with how well the jeans came out.

But wait! There’s more:

IMG_20191109_172041
Machine embroidery, bitches!

I also busted the embroidery unit out of its box (where it has been gathering dust for 4 years), downloaded a simple design and sewed it on to the pockets. I even did a fancy “mirror image” trick so that these ginkgo leaf motifs are somewhat mirroring the curve of my butt.

But wait! There’s more!

IMG_20191019_085156
Camp view, bitches!

I attended a hands-on sewing retreat, Camp Workroom Social in the Catskill Mountains in New York State to make these jeans. It was another goal I had that I can call “done!”  While the event was definitely “not for me” in some ways, the class itself to make these jeans was wonderful. I never would have done it without the help I got at the retreat.

We used a pattern made by Workroom Social, called the Claryville Jeans, after the town where the camp is held. The pattern is drafted for us pear-shaped women who have larger hip-to-waist ratios. It’s a really high-quality pattern with all those great details that make jeans look RTW. And the fit was great. After trying on a muslin in size 12, I made a few 1-centimeter adjustments to give my butt a bit more real estate, such as scooping out and extending the crotch curve and increasing the yoke at center-back. I also needed to take in the waist about 1.5 inches.

The fit is pretty great. These are a bit tight, but they will no doubt stretch out and conform to my bod over time, as jeans tend to do.

IMG_20191110_123439
Obligatory butt shot

The jeans have slightly forward seams and a bit of a bump-out at the calf for some nice fitting details. You do mock flat-fell seams at the yoke to reduce bulk. The only thing I haven’t done is to install the rivets at the front pockets. I am going to borrow a rivet-setter from someone to get that done.

IMG_20191109_172845
Obligatory inside shot

The topstitching is a chore, as you can imagine. Next time I make these, I will thread one machine for construction and another for topstitching to save my sanity with all the thread switching you have to do otherwise. It’s not perfect in any event – I could not get that second line at the fly to work – but who cares?

I used a kit from the subscription box Needle Sharp to make these. I won the box from a drawing at PatternReview.com (thanks again!) The box was a really nice kit, including  Cone Mills (made in the USA) stretch denim, fabric for the pocket bags, interfacing, regular and topstitching thread, needles, buttons,  a zipper and rivets. I can see this being a great service for sewists who make projects occasionally and can’t or don’t want to maintain a stash. The box also came with the Ginger Jeans pattern, which maybe I will use someday if I get tired of the Claryvilles.

IMG_20190102_104829
Needle Sharp jeans kit

For the embroidery, my recent “goofy for ginkgo” moments offered an opportunity to try personalizing the jeans a bit. I was in no rush to try my machine’s embroidery unit, since I don’t really like most embroidery. What can I say? A lot of motifs are corny. But I found this design on Urban Threads,which offers more modern and edgy designs, so I decided to go for it. More on that later.

(I want to say here that I don’t get any kickbacks, promos or other value of any kind from any of the entities I am linking to here. I am just telling you all about the pattern, fabrics, and embroidery that I found and used because I really liked it. I believe in ethically disclosing this stuff.)

Notes on Camp – Distaff Edition (and Apologies to Susan Sontag)

Camp. Hard to define, but like pornography, you know it when you see it.

How you do define “camp?”

A) It’s so bad, it’s good.

B) Failed seriousness.

C) A sincere effort at artistic expression that falls flat on its face.

D) You’re not making fun of it, you’re making fun out of it.

E) All of the above.

Katy Perry.gif
CAMP – BITCHES!

Camp was the theme of the Met Gala this year. Some guests, such as Katy Perry (above) delivered. What makes this campy? Ultimately, it’s not the idea or the execution – it’s the fact that it both the idea and execution almost fell apart on the Red Carpet that gives her outfit the tang of Camp.

Here’s another example – Tiffany Haddish doing pimp drag:

Tiffany-Haddish-Michael-Kors-Collection-Met-Gala-2019-Red-Carpet-Fashion-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-11

Again – it’s not the style or the execution. What you can’t see makes this camp – in her clutch she’s carrying a Ziploc bag full of chicken that she said she cooked herself and brought to the Met Gala because “there’s never enough food at these things.”

Which brings me to me. I am attending a sewing retreat at a YMCA camp this fall. We’re having a fashion show, “Camp at Camp, ” in homage to the Met Gala. People are encouraged to bring or make a campy outfit for the party. This idea has mystified some retreat attendees. They don’t get it, or they don’t want to get it (I don’t know which). But I get it. And I get why I get it. That’s because to years ago I sewed an outfit that could slide into camp easily.:

IMG_20170920_154002
CAMP … almost

This dress, made from New Look 6498, was a sincere effort at creativity that, for the most part, fails.

It has its sincere moments. I made this out of a sari I bought In Hyderabad, India.

sari
Washed sari drying in the sun

I saw many beautiful saris, but I chose this one because it’s the kind of sari made for selling to tourists. Few Indian women would wear such a thing, I was told by my Indian colleagues who helped me pick it out. For one thing, adult Indian women don’t go in for depictions of Indian motifs such as peacocks or elephants in such a juvenile cartoony way, I was told. (Of course, tasteful motifs are always in.) Also, the mixed motifs – peacocks, paisleys, the overall color scheme, were all “a bit much.” The sari itself was a bit campy.

sari2
Campy sari?

I was told, as a western woman, if I wanted to cut it up to make something out of it, or to use as home dec or something, have at it. (I am expressing the opinions of some trusted colleagues and friends. I am sorry if you disagree.)

If you want to read about how I adapted this sari to make the dress, see my old blogs: Refashioning a Sari and Sari Refashion Completed!

I wore this dress once – when I was at a fancy dinner on vacation in Costa Rica. People stared at me. I realized that I looked ridiculous. So I never wore it again. It wasn’t campy, exactly, but it wasn’t “right” either.

To slide into camp, I needed two things. One – real peacock feathers, arrived from eBay this week:

IMG_20190913_073105
Actual peacock feathers… can you smell the camp yet?

I intend to make these into a headdress. I think I sense some quality time with Pinterest in my future.

Also, I need some campy-ass shoes. I was thinking gold platform heels. I need to find some. I guess a trawl of Zappos couldn’t hurt?

 

I Hate to Put a Label on It, But…

I finally did. Behold:

IMG_20190713_122735
Style Arc Jasmine trousers – with my label.

It wasn’t easy.

This is my second pair of Style Arc Jasmine trousers, with custom-made labels I got at The Dutch Label Shop. I bought 100 of these labels back in December 2017. The cost was  $33.70, including shipping. (I bought them during a 30% off Black Friday sale. The normal price would have been $46 with shipping.)

I chose red – my favorite color – the Distaff name and my city, New Haven, Connecticut (USA). You can also choose a logo, and I decided after some hemming and hawing to put the astrological symbol for Venus on the labels too, just to drive home the whole “female” point.

IMG_20190626_212112
Custom-made labels – ready for projects!

I put the labels in a drawer in my notions and threads organizer. I looked forward to using them. And then I didn’t. I even used a label the Islay Woollen Mill gave me when I bought fabric there to hide my labels, so I wouldn’t have to think about them.

IMG_20190426_203004
Lonely labels

I can’t say WHY I didn’t use them. Sometimes I think it’s a bit of an affectation to put your own label on something. Sometimes I am not proud enough of a garment to label it. Sometimes I just don’t want to do the tiny bit of hand sewing necessary – lame excuse, I know.

This week I finally said the hell with it and promptly sewed a label onto three items. Besides the Jasmine pants, I sewed one onto this top from Vogue 9246.

IMG_20190626_212044
Label matching – oooh!

And the Osaka skirt from Seamwork Magazine:

img_20190714_145111.jpg
Labeled, bitches!

I am going to label everything from now on. Promise. Three labels down, 97 to go!