Well, that’s not true. I like that .pdf patterns exist, I just hate the test printing, the messing around with the printer, the real printing, the cutting off of margins on two sides of the paper, the taping, the retaping when the first taping is cockeyed, and finally the folding and storage when the pattern is used. And I hate the additional cost of paper, ink, tape and storage envelope on top of the pattern I bought already.
As they say in ever infomerical ever: “There’s got to be a better way!”
I don’t know if this is a better way, but it’s a slightly less annoying way.
I started by laying out a cutting table’s worth of pieces. This pattern – the “Brasov Wrap Top” from Itch to Stitch, has 30 pieces of paper – thankfully with nested .pdf pages so I just printed out the sizes I needed. This is 18 pieces of paper:
I looked over these 18 pages and identified several pieces that had odd shapes – bits and pieces of larger pieces, like the tip of the shoulder or the edge of a hem, with a page that was otherwise blank, or that had other little bits. I cut those little pieces out, taped the little pieces to bigger pieces, and threw the excess paper in the recycling bin.
To cut I used my rotary cutter with an old blade that I’d saved especially for this purpose.
Many pieces are mostly pattern with little bits gone, so those are good to go and I tape as usual, but without trimming margins! Here’s how:
I printed this on cheap copier paper – I mean the cheapest stuff at the office supply store – the stuff that’s in a sad pile in the corner in a plain paper wrapper, as far away as possible from the glossy, bright white expensive stuff. This paper is kinda see-through. So, instead of trimming two edges of the paper, I just looked through the paper and lined up the margins. Hard to see in a photo, but here it is on a finished pattern piece on a dark fabric.
I needed less tape this way because I was just taping the piece, not the whole sheet of paper.
I think this 30-page top took 15 minutes to put together this way instead of at least 30-40 minutes with the old trim-tape-cut method. And it went together right the first time, without having to retape anything crooked.
I don’t know how well this would work – happy to say it did! I am not sure how well it would work with a multi-sized pattern, or with a very complex pattern.
I’ve noticed that garment sewists tend to fall into two camps – your “pattern people” and your “fabric people.” That is, sewists tend to be attracted to either a pattern or to a fabric, and then they seek either a complementary fabric or a pattern that would work to make the garment.
How about you? Do you gravitate FIRST either to a pattern or to a fabric?
Whichever hits you first – fabric or pattern – it can provide a good jumping-off point for organizing projects that satisfy you, without wasting time or money. I thought I’d share my fall 2020 sewing plans by way of example.
Personally, I am a pattern-first type, because I tend to sew what I need rather than be inspired by a certain look or textile. Here’s my system, which can be reversed to a fabric-first approach easily enough:
I start each spring and fall season with a list of what I need – pants, shirts, coat, whatever. I go through my patterns to see what fits the bill. I am a paying member of PatternReview.com, so I catalog all my patterns using the site’s “pattern stash” feature, which allows you to sort and organize all the different pattern formats in one place. (Screenshot of part of my pants stash below.)
Yes, I only have 10 pants patterns. I also have some pants under Big 4 wardrobe coordinates patterns – those are filed separately (I don’t love this feature, but them’s the breaks). I am not a big stash person in any event – I prefer to buy what I need. Of these eight pants patterns listed above, I have sewn up five of them. The Claryville Jeans and Style Arc Jasmine pants are TNTs. I’ve sewn the Jalie stretch Eleonores, McCall’s 7726 and Vogue 9181 once each and have not yet tried the Ginger Jeans, Vogue 9155 or the MariaDenmark Sysiden pants.
If I’m not really feeling anything in my stash, I check out websites and reviews. PatternReview has a “wishlist” feature where you can tag a pattern you might want to buy later. If I see a great review or just want to remember a promising pattern, I throw it in the wishlist. Here’s what I have for pants at the moment:
Any pattern I would need to buy goes into a “maybe” pile for the moment, with a note about the cost.
Next, I go through my fabrics and other stash items (zippers, buttons, etc) to see what I have and what I need to buy to fulfill the plan for patterns I have on hand already. I keep a photo album with fabric swatches stapled to index cards that note the yardage length and width, composition, where and when I bought it, prices, etc. I intentionally keep a small stash and prefer to buy what I need when I need it.
Any project that’s fully in hand goes into the “My Queue” feature on Pattern Review because I am ready to go.
If I need to buy fabric, that project also goes into the “maybe” pile (with notes about the cost).
Now comes the reckoning. <<Cue dramatic music>>>
What do I really need vs. want?
How much do I have to spend, and how should I spend it?
If I have $100 to spend, would I rather buy that new pattern and less fabric, or buy more fabric and sew up patterns I already own?
How much time to I really have to sew for the upcoming season?
How much effort do these projects require – complex things like jeans? New patterns that require fitting and fussing? TNTs that go together easily?
I settled on these items for the plan:
I am fond of plotting out my projects on a grid based on cost vs. effort. Here;s what that looks like:
These are mostly “needs” and mostly stash fabric and patterns. Because I was being thrifty for most items, I realized I could spring for a few new patterns and one indulgence project. The upper-right corner is the indulgence – the “Faye” Dress from last fall’s Fibre Mood magazine.
Do I need this dress? No. Is it going to be a lot of work? Yes. Will it cost a lot of money? Yes (it takes 4+ yards of fabric). But I wanted it the moment I saw it, and I still want it. It has been on my mind for a year. I think it’s worth the time and trouble.
Armed with a solid plan, I was ready to shop! I made a trip to my local fabric store and scored this gorgeous rayon challis for the dress, which scores high for hitting several requirements for an “edgy” work wardrobe with its high-contrast, high-drama, animal-inspired print.
I bought 5 yards because I may need some pattern-matching. It’s a nice weight though, so I won’t need a lining. I also picked up zippers, buttons and other items I needed. For other items, I waited until there was a good sale and placed my order. The planning phase saved me money and time – one in-person shopping trip, one online shopping session, and I was done..
How’s your summer going? Things have been busy here. In no particular order:
Sewed a summer wardrobe.
PatternReview.com had a summer contest to sew so-called “Endless Combinations” where each item has to go with two other items. I sewed eight things in all, built around my need for some professional-looking shirts for work videoconferences and quick comfy shorts and skirts for decent work-at-home looks.
I didn’t win the contest and didn’t try, which is a big step for me. Rather, I competed for fun and really enjoyed it as it fit with my plans and needs. I sewed 100% from stash too in summery hues of aqua and teal, white, black and gray. If you’re interested, the patterns are (left to right):
A: The Creative Cate Top from Style Arc in a poly knit that includes all my wardrobe’s colors, finished on the inside to help the cowl neck keep its shape.
B: Jalie Elonore pull-on shorts in black stretch twill – the slim fit goes with all the untucked tops in this collection and makes a great short for biking on my lunch break or after work.
C: A white poplin cotton top from McCall’s 2094 coordinates with anything! It includes pleated breast pockets from Butterick 5526, so that I can wear it with pocketless RTW skirts not part of this collection.
I had not been to the hairdresser since February. My roots grew out a few inches. My annual straightening could not be done because salons here are only allowed to do basic cuts and colors. I had been slicking my hair back into a ponytail each day ( see pictures above).
Finally I went to the salon and got this:
My husband hates it, but then I explained to him that this haircut literally and figuratively was a weight off my shoulders, and I think he got it. Or at least accepted it. Hey, it’s only hair, it grows, and I can always dye it and grow it out.
So those are the fun things around here.
Some not-fun things have included:
3. Activist activities.
I’ve read and attended lectures about racism. Learning about racism has taught me a few things I’d like to share. One big issue is the way white people tend to regard racism – they tend to think racism is only super obvious hatred for Black people -like Klan-level, cross-burning types of hatred – and ignore subtler racist acts. It’s all racism, people. If you don’t know what microaggressions are, for example, that’s a good place to start to learn, identify bad behavior and change your own.
White people also tend to ignore racism when they see other people or situations perpetuating it. We tend to think it’s not our job to speak up. Of course it is! Say something! A couple of recent examples from my life:
At the grocery store before the 4th of July, I saw a boxed fireworks kit that had obvious racist imagery under the name “Savage Fireworks”. I am not going to post a picture of it here, but trust me, it was disgusting. I called over the (white) store manager to complain. She thought I was complaining about selling fireworks at all, and I had to literally point to the box and say “That is disgustingly racist and you should remove it immediately.” The look on her face when she finally saw it was priceless. She got a shopping cart and starting loading up the boxes. I certainly hope she didn’t put them back on the floor later but I didn’t check to be sure.
At the physical therapy gym, there are a bunch of solar-paneled bobbleheads in a sunny window. There are animal figures, cartoon characters, holiday-themes, and, yes, a “hula girl” complete with grass skirt and coconut-shell bra. I asked the therapist, a young white woman, if she thought it was appropriate. “I think it’s kind of cute,” she said. I asked her if she thinks her Asian or Polynesian patients would find it cute. She just looked at me, uncomprehending. Then I said, “Would you still find it cute if it was a Black woman instead of a Polynesian woman, or would you then see that it’s offensive?” She looked at it again and said “oh, I see what you mean.” She put it in a desk drawer.
These are pretty small examples of the kind of casual racism I am talking about – certainly not on the scale of police murdering Black people in the street, but still harmful and perpetuating stereotypes.
Also, I wrote emails to La Mia Boutique and Burda Style, asking them why they don’t use nonwhite models and telling them I won’t buy any more issues or promote the patterns I have sewn until they do.
I also was going to email StyleArc, which uses illustrations, not models. The illustrations are always of white women. Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot of all their patterns. Can you find any nonwhite women in these illustrations?
But lo and behold, how did StyleArc promote its latest dress pattern?
So instead I sent a email commending Style Arc – saying it was “about time” and hoping to see many more Black models.
I have not received a reply from any of these companies, so we’ll see.
A sewing friend from Canada took issue with my emails, saying that it’s unfair that someone from the United States (me) expects sewing pattern companies from other countries (Italy, Germany, Australia) to confirm to what she called “American sensibilities.” Guess what? There’s racism and bigotry in other countries. There are nonwhite people and models in other countries. These companies have nonwhite customers. Nonwhite people are people and must be included, not pandered to with tokenism or dismissed with Continental shrugs. I also expect pattern companies to show models of different ages, body types, abilities and other dimensions of our human race. It’s the right thing to do.
4. Health crap.
My work to fix my shoulder and posture was really paying off earlier this summer. Through daily exercises and stretches, I had leveled off my shoulders quite a bit and was standing taller:
And then I started feeling pain in my right knee. I put off going to the doctor because of Covid-19, but finally I went, had an MRI, and found out that I have some gnarly arthritis in that knee. So then I got the shoe orthotics, the physical therapy and the dietary supplements “for joint health.”
I will probably work at home through the end of the year. Without my job in New York City, I find myself adrift…
My “work” style and my “home” style are, well, two different styles. What’s why the same person who made this:
Also made this:
Its’ said that true style comes from knowing who you are. So who am I?
I’ve never really felt that I fit in at the office, but I have played the game well enough. Everyone in New York dresses in black – often head to toe, year-round – so the “edgy work look” like the above was born. I needed to fit in and look tough. Eat broken glass and rusty nails for breakfast? You bet I do.
At home, though, I like more variety in color and style. I am not really an “edgy” person, though I like some edgy things. For home clothes, I like things that are clean and simple – hold the fripperies. I like nature, science, art – geeking out is a favorite past-time. Eat homemade yogurt and home-grown berries for breakfast? You bet I do.
I don’t know who I am.
I somehow am both of these people.
So I have two styles that don’t play well together.
I need a few things for spring and summer. Decided to make May “The Month of Bottoms” and June “The Month of Tops” for efficiency’s sake. A comb through my stash, however, revealed a problem. Most of the fabric was more in the “edgy” than “non-edgy” buckets.
I had three yards of these two fabrics earmarked for dresses. Don’t need dresses now – maybe skirts instead?
For tops, I guess I can make some black or white T-shirts or simple button-downs. That’s exciting.
And I need new shoes. Oy. And a haircut. Double-oy. My roots are grown out 2 inches, and I am very tempted to get a short haircut and stop dyeing it – that is the home “me” but definitely not the office “me.”
The longer-term issue is: how can I get a job and a life that better complement each other? Which of these people am I, really, or am I a third person who doesn’t show up in either? Is 50 too late to “find yourself?”
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!
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:
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.
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!”
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.
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 arranged the overlapping front pieces so that the motifs would scroll along at the hem and hip.
The tunic top again, this time with the Seamwork Moji pants
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
My favorite look of the last week:
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:
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!
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:
I went to the office yesterday and decided to dress up since I needed to get my head back in the game:
And then a couple of work-at-home days with suitably casual looks:
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.
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.
It’s easy to look edgy in the winter, at least where I work. Dark colors and a somewhat gloomy aspect are the norm. But when spring arrives, with its fuzzy yellow chicks and pink tulips, must we edgy dressers retreat into our coffins and draw the curtains, or can we make it work?
Let’s find out!
To review, I came up with several guidelines for edgy dressing. For full details, check out this blog. Here are the highlights:
Metal hardware and details
Leather and other animal inspirations
Element of surprise
I like to start with the cut and shape of garments and then pair them with fabrics, but sometimes it works the other way around, too. Here are a few things I have picked out for spring sewing for a work wardrobe:
This McCall’s 7465 batwing dress with asymmetical side ruching option ticks several edgy boxes. The batwing look offers an animal inspiration (duh) and an exaggerated shape, while the ruching to one side plays well with asymmetry. I can imagine wearing this with a belt to get some metallic detail in there, too.
The Mirri Faux Wrap Dress from Wardrobe by Me looks pretty simple, with a bit of asymmetric detail, achieved this time with pleating.
I also can see either dress as a top. I have loved an RTW a black cashmere blend batwing sweater for a few years now. I wear it often with this high-waisted Simplicity 8058 skirt, black tights and boots, and a long silver necklace:
I have an idea to make another of these Cynthia Rowley designed skirts. You can see from the line drawings that there are two large darts on either side of the center panel. In the version above, I cut the panel even with the waistband and added a belt and hardware detail.
For version 2, which I’d make in a lighter ponte or scuba for spring and summer, I was thinking of adding zippers into those darts and eliminating the back zipper. And I was thinking of trying this with a print, to wear with a light-colored top from the McCall’s dress.
I need some new jackets for work. Most of the jackets I have are from Ann Taylor. Hardly an edgy look. They’re good quality, so I have kept them, but I really need something less traditional.
Vogue 7975 offers a wealth of ideas in a high-quality and well-reviewed pattern:
I think a collarless look is more modern than the traditional notch or shawl look (and easier to sew, truth be told). I think View D could go edgy, either with the right buttons or with a zipper. View E could look cool with faux leather trim. I could make a muslin out of the lining fabric to check for fit.
I also really need a suit. I love this La Mia Boutique suit by the Italian designer Sara Poiese:
That skirt offers lots of edgy options with its princess panels and exposed zipper. The jacket also sparks ideas, but it’s hard to read on my shape. The shrunken look doesn’t do us pear shapes any favors, but maybe a strong shoulder element, such as leather trip or epaulets, could balance it out. Also, it needs a zipper and not buttons to coordinate with the skirt, right?
In any event, this is a big project and I would want to make a muslin first, both to test for fit and because I am not the greatest with Italian translation.
I really need new pants for work. What else is new?
Style Arc Jasmine with the cool pocket and bonus back yoke
I started this winter on another version of the Style Arc Jasmines in a rather pricey wool-rayon black pique with some metal belt and zipper details, and then set them aside after I made a bad cutting error. They sat in the UFO pile all winter. Let’s just say I was pissed. I need to get more fabric to complete them. I really like the ones I made, and with some tweaks, they could be TNTs.
I’d also like a pair of wide-leg pants out of a drapey material. Simplicity 3688 fits the bill nicely, with no drama, but it’s a fabric hog so I must find something economical.
Finally, some tops are in order. I really need a basic white button-down. I could edgy it up with some metal buttons, like these square-in-the-round ones I bought at Pacific Trimming in New York last fall. I’d need a fabric that can stand up to the buttons’ weight.
Everyone loves this Butterick 5526 pattern, which includes lots of design options. I have been meaning to try it. I think a collarless princess seam (center bottom), without the decidedly un-edgy frill, would work.
I also like this Vogue 9246 top for the cut-on sleeve and yoke detail, which could do with some black faux leather piping to edge it up.