When Your Sewing Project Is a Lemon…

Throw it in the trash!

Well, that’s almost what happened. Here’s the story:

I worked four hours yesterday trying to fix a baggy-knee issue with my second pair of Workroom Social Claryville Jeans. As you may recall, here’s the prob:

IMG_20200217_181725.jpg I got advice to try some darts in the knee area, so I dutifully put the jeans on, pinched out the baggy back-knee area, and sewed some darts. I had no idea that knee darts in jeans were A Thing – thanks for the reassurance!

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Knee dart

The darts were pretty big – at their widest point, it was about a half-inch of fabric, tapering to nothing at the side seams. It worked, sort of.

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Knee dart – take one

But… the darts created a problem in the front. I didn’t get a photo of this, but rest assured it was not pretty. I am perfectly OK with some wrinkles at the knees but it was so much worse with the back fixed. So then I added darts to the front. And then I had to unpick the side seams and resew them again. And it still looked like crap.

Then followed a danse macabre where I went back and forth from my sewing machine to the mirror to the cutting table to the sewing machine to the mirror… in my underwear, trying one alteration after another in desperation.

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Danse macabre – sewing edition

I was making these jeans as a dressy pair that I could get away with wearing to work or any place else where jeans would not normally be a thing. And I realized that was the problem. This fabric is not a jeans denim. It’s a stretch twill – too light to work with the pattern as cut. And as I stood there glaring at it, I realized I kinda hated it. It’s shiny. It’s too stretchy. It looks cheap.

So I threw it in the garbage.

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Good riddance!

And then, in the fullness of time (that is. this morning) I realized…

I could make shorts out of the damn things! Jesus! Just cut it off at the knee and get on with your life, gurl.

So that’s the plan. Once the weather warms up and I actually want shorts.

Me-Made February and Plans for March

I have now worn or used at least one handmade item per day for two months straight. Yes, February is a short month, but all the same, I worked it out.

To mix things up a bit, I started February with plans to wear things that didn’t get worn in January but were still seasonably appropriate. A few things didn’t get worn because I didn’t get around to it, and other things didn’t get worn because I don’t like them. Turns out, once I psych myself up to wear a garment I don’t love much, I can get into it.

Here I am leaving the house in the Butterick 6244 coat I made out of an old Hudson’s Bay blanket, carrying a tote bag from Burda 2562.

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This coat doesn’t work well for a few reasons. It’s pretty heavy but unlined and itchy. It has no front closure, so it tends to flap open in the breeze – not what I normally look for in a coat. The day was fairly mild, so I figured I’d wear it to walk to the hair salon – about 25 minutes each way. It made a statement as I swanned through the neighborhood and on the salon coat rack.

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One of these coats is not like the others…

I had not used this awkward and poorly made red ultrasuede bag for so long that inside I found a packet of sunflower seeds I bought a couple of springs ago.

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My bag has a second life as a forgotten seed repository

Now that THAT’s out of the way, I can say that I will refashion the blanket into a better coat. I love the fabric – it’s a classic coat – but it deserves a way better pattern. The bag went back into the closet for those times when I really need a red ultrasuede tote. So, basically, never.

I also had a goal in February to wear handmade clothes head to toe at least once a week. Here are a couple of favorite looks from the month:

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This is the Jalie drop-pocket cardigan, Claryville Jeans from Workroom Social, and top from Simplicity 1202.

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And at the office

The office look includes the Maria Denmark day-to-night draped top, the Muse Jenna Cardigan, and the skirt from Vogue 1312. I also wore my coat from Vogue 1276 (not pictured).

Me me-made March will (I hope) see the use of some springtime garments into rotation.

A friend from work saw this mug and just had to buy it for me as a thank-you for helping her with something:

IMG_20200224_082058Sweet, right?

So, the wearing went well, but the sewing went poorly in February. I didn’t do much. I have lost a few pounds and find myself unwilling to deal with the whole fitting thing. That is, I started on another pair of jeans but ran into a fitting issue. Still trying to resolve that (more to come).

Instead of sewing, I did something I never do, which is to buy a bunch of things. I really am not the type to buy many patterns or fabric on spec, but I went a little nuts in February.

My local fabric store, Banksville Designer Fabric, got a new owner at the start of the year so I dropped in to say hi. I needed some good-quality linings and also picked up a few fabrics for spring:

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Summer here we come!

I also binged on some patterns. I’d had my eye on this Issey Miyake pattern for a couple of years, but the resale price has been $25 to $35. When a relatively cheap one ($15) appeared on eBay, I had to get it:

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Love the jacket and pants. Very fitting with my office sew-edgy look.

Then for some reason I bought all these too:

They were on sale. That’s my excuse. There is zero chance I will make these anytime soon. Oh well.

Me-Made January and Late Winter Sewing Plans

It’s been fun to do a “Me-Made January” so I can use some winter garments that wouldn’t be suitable for Me-Made May. The exercise also shed light on what to sew up this winter that will carry me into spring.

I put every me-made garment and accessory into a Google Sheets file and noted what I wore every day, with the plan to wear or use at least one me-made item daily. Here’s the result for the month:

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Who doesn’t love a bar chart?

(I did not count anything out of season or dressy where I had no occasion to wear it – only things that were suitable for season and occasion made the cut.)

The top most-worn items were coats:

And sleepwear:

My new Claryville jeans:

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Jeans, bitches!

Oddly enough, this cardigan from the Japanese pattern book Happy Homemade Sew Chic, which is not chic and not my favorite garment in any way:

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I wore this more than intended because I had draped it over my office chair and kept shrugging it on and off all month if I got a bit chilly or warm. I’ll put another cardi in its place for February.

And lastly, lingerie and accessories:

I worked from home more often than usual in January, so my “Sew Edgy” office looks didn’t make more than one appearance for the month (if that). I am going to wear a few neglected items to the office this month.

I reckoned with a few garments I just don’t like. I tried them on and intended to wear them, but then I took them off. The fabric, fit or construction were just …  off. There may be no point in keeping them around. I’ll see how February goes.

Also, a few things don’t fit. I guess I’ve gained a few pounds this winter. Maybe the “no-sugar challenge” will help me take the pounds off.

This exercise has informed my plan for sewing this winter into spring. First up, another pair of Claryville jeans. And another bralette – I wear the Florence and another RTW one around the house more than I’d realized. And I should make another, nicer handbag. That Ethel tote was a tryout using leftover denim – I could use better fabric and interfacing on another. I also noted that I wore my few T-shirts pretty frequently, so at least one seems to be in order (and is easy to do).

I am all set with coats and sleepwear for now – but I’ll want another set of PJs come spring/summer. This plan should keep me busy for now.

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.)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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Side view – with suede sleeve facings

The back gives a capelike appearance to the jacket.

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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!

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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!

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:

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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.)

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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