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!

I Hate to Put a Label on It, But…

I finally did. Behold:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Label matching – oooh!

And the Osaka skirt from Seamwork Magazine:

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Labeled, bitches!

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

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.

 

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!

Spring Sew Edgy Work Wardrobe Plans

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?

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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
  • Asymmetry
  • High contrast
  • Exaggeration
  • Bold colors
  • 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:

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McCall’s 7465 Batwing Dress with Side Ruching

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.

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Mirri Faux Wrap dress

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:

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Skirt from Simplicity 8058 and the StyleArc Creative Cate Top

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.

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Simplicity 8058

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:

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Vogue 7975 with five trim options

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:

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La Mia Boutique Aug/Sept 18 line drawings

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?

 

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.

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Edgy buttons?

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.

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Butterick 5526

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.

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V 9246

Another version of my Magic Quadrant for Sewing Projects seems to be in order!

 

T-shirt Mania

I plan this weekend to sew up something really radical.

Wait for it…

T-shirts.

Yeah, sorry for the letdown.

Or am I?

I used to think T-shirt sewing projects were a bit daft. I mean, T-shirts are everywhere, they’re cheap, they don’t demand close fitting, and you can get them in just about any style and size you like. So why spend time sewing them?

But then I made a few and I realized they’re worthwhile because I reach for them time and again. I mean, my red ultrasuede moto jacket is nice and all, but my red and gray striped Breton T-shirt gets worn 10 times more. Plus, I can’t muster the time and energy to sew up something like a 23-piece jacket that often. But a 4-piece T-shirt? Oh yeah!

The frosting vs. the cake, indeed.

So let’s sew some cake, ok?

Since I got a serger for my birthday last year, I have learned how to use it pretty effectively to sew knits, such as jerseys and interlocks for T-shirts. One thing I learned the hard way: a serger is not necessarily a shortcut. It’s worthwhile to baste necklines and other tricky bits on the sewing machine before putting a T-shirt under the serger’s knife.

I have also learned a lot about different knits for T-shirts:

  1. Some of these fabrics are S-T-R-E-T-C-H-Y. Others, not so much. Some patterns can handle the stretch, some cannot. This T-shirt from McCall’s 7247 has an overlay that seems good in theory but hasn’t held up over time. It’s stretched out and hangs awkwardly. That’s because this knit had four-way stretch. Boo. This top would be best with a more stable, lightweight knit with two-way stretch only.
McCalls 7247 overlay t-shirt

2. Two different knits don’t necessarily play well together. I see a lot of fabric mixing and color-blocking with knits, but unless the knit’s weight and stretch are identical, you may have an unhappy marriage of fabrics in a garment. This top from New Look 6330 combined a basic cotton jersey with a viscose jersey scrap at the neckline. They are pressed into submission in this picture, but in real life, they are NOT friends.

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New Look 6330

3. Negative ease can be a good thing, except when it’s not. This took getting used to. The first knit tops I made were too small, because I misjudged the ease. Then I made some tops that came out too big because I over-corrected for the ease. There seems to be no hard-and-fast rule – each pattern and each fabric must be judged on its own merits, similar to issue #1 with the fabric’s stretchiness. If a pattern offers a “stretch guide” that’s great, but it often doesn’t help that much. Here are two examples using MariaDenmark’s Day-to-Night Drape Top, with different fabrics and different fits.

And this one  in MariaDanmark’s Kimono-Sleeve Tee was “just right” – made of viscose jersey.

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MariaDenmark Kimono-sleeve Tee

Finally, I want to make new versions of a new T-shirt patterns I tried earlier. The Deer & Doe Plantain is popular and looks promising. I sewed it up with a remnant of stretch velvet a few years ago and had a fit problem at the armscye. I think I can fix this. Also, I have some more striped interlock knit for another version of the Breton tee.

I am on the lookout for a good V-neck top. I think I will try adapting a TNT t-shirt for a V-neck. How hard can that be? (Famous last words!)