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:
(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:
McCall’s 7297 nightgown
My new Claryville jeans:
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:
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:
Green Pepper Snow Cap
Swoon Ethel Tote
Florence Bra from Seamwork Magazine
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.
Shoulder issues – the shirt is on grain. I am off grain.
Kwik Sew 3452
Upcycle knock-off of a $2,000 Monse coat
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.
I took inspiration from my 1976 first-grade class picture to create a modern look with a 1970s twist, using all refashioned and upcycled materials. To check out other refashions, and to vote for your faves, visit The Renegade Seamstress Refashion Runway Season 5.
The 1970s were not a pretty decade style-wise – in fact, a true 1970s look should feel a bit sleazy and unappealing. So I tried to make something true to the era yet wearable for today.
I worked with these raw materials: old jeans from my husband, a vintage men’s shirt and old kitchen curtains with crochet edging.
Let’s start with the top! The colors exactly match the dress in my class picture, so I had to go for it. Also, paisleys were such a huge motif from that era in fashion. If you find any ugly wide neckties from the mid-1970s, I bet you $1 in 1970s money (about $6.60 in today’s money) that paisleys swirl around someplace on it.
This shirt is very well made, with flat-felled seams, darts and nice wide facings at the center front. But… it’s made of that notorious spun polyester fabric that disintegrates into fluff instead of unravels at the raw edges.
To make this man’s shirt more feminine, I started by cutting off the button and buttonhole plackets and unpicking the collar, then cutting down the center front on an angle using New Look 6498’s bodice pattern piece.
I harvested the crochet edge from these old kitchen curtains and sewed them to the raw center fronts, then sewed up the middle to join the design into something new. The lacy detail is a bit see-through – just enough for an adult look without being too much. The crochet makes a little collar at the back neckline – cute!
The sleeves needed help too. Puffy sleeves were in during the mid 1970s, so I cut off the cuff and sleeve plackets, folded over a generous edge, and made an elastic casing with about an inch for a hem. The elastic allows the sleeves to fit more closely with the volume I wanted for a 1970s look.
The skirt is a throwback to my youth as well. Skirts made from old jeans were all the rage back then. If you don’t believe me, visit any vintage store or trawl eBay and you’ll see tons of these skirts.
To be authentic, I needed to start with men’s jeans. That was the style back in the day – you’d make a skirt from your boyfriend’s old jeans. In this case, my husband supplied these jeans that had seen better days.
Making a skirt is pretty easy. Start by cutting off the legs at the length you want. Cut an inch or two longer than the intended finished length to allow for a hem, but leave enough length in the legs to use the leg fabric as center front and back pieces.
Next, cut off both inseams to the crotch line, then unpick a couple of inches front and back – be sure to leave the fly area in the front intact.
Next, prepare the leg pieces you trimmed off. Cut them apart at the inseam so they are one nice flat piece and position one in the front and one in the back of the skirt – there will be a lot of fabric overlapping – don’t worry you will trim that off later. The unpicked bit of the front and back crotch should fold flat on top and overlap a bit (if they are still curling a bit, unpick a bit more until they’re flat).
Pin at the crotch points and all along the wedges.
Don’t worry if the hem is a bit uneven – you’ll fix that later.
Now sew down the wedge pieces. I just sewed the wedge underlapping the sides because I like the raw edge look. Also, I was going to embroider it and didn’t want any bulk. After the wedges were in place, I trimmed the excess fabric from the wrong side. If you want to get all fancy, you could trim the wedges down first and sew them to the side pieces with a flat-felled seam.
Then try on the skirt and decide on a hem length. It’s best if you can get a friend to help you mark the length so it’s even all around. Turn and topstitch your hem, and you have a skirt!
To make this skirt go with the top and to add more design elements, I decided to embroider the wedge in a 1970s style motif using colors from the top. I started by running a line of embroidery alongside the seam where the wedges meet the front and back.
Then I added lines above and below that line – eight lines of embroidery in all. Make sure you have enough thread to spare before you tackle this!
Looks cute on too and coordinates with the top, a belt with a big ol’ silver buckle and boots:
It’s been fun! What’s your favorite decade for fashion?
Sugar has been my lifelong enemy. Ever since I was a child, my sweet tooth would get out of control. Cavities, weight gain, headaches, low energy – all the bad stuff that follows a sugar binge have ridden bitch on my life, all my life.
I have been able to kick sugar for a little while, but it always roars back. I can go for a few weeks without having anything, and then I start up again. I am trying again to find a system that sticks.
No sugar or grains of any kind at breakfast (fruit is OK).
Avoid packaged foods (and reject any that have added sugar of any kind).
Eat fruit (but no bananas or grapes – sugar bombs that they are).
Drink only water, coffee or tea (no added sugar or flavorings).
Eat spicy food to ward of sweet cravings.
Eat roasted vegetables to heighten natural sugars.
Reward yourself with a small piece of dark chocolate (80%-90% cacao, low sugar).
I have never made it to #7, so I can’t attest to how that goes. But here’s how the other six steps have gone for me, from hardest to easiest.
Hardest: #2 – avoid packaged foods, especially those with added sugar.
In the United States, sugar is in everything. I mean, everything. And not just one kind of sugar, either – usually several varieties of sugar lurk in the most unlikely places. Food manufacturers do this to hide the amount of sugar in a food, since ingredients on he label have to be listed by volume.
For example, we had friends for brunch last weekend and served up some bloody Marys. I didn’t have any, but I listed to everyone rhapsodize about how delicious the bloody Mary mix was. Why so tasty, you wonder? It’s basically candy in a bottle:
Sugars of various kinds appear seven times on this label. Yes, fruit concentrates and molasses count! If all those sugars were counted as one “sugar” on this label, it would probably be the third ingredient after water and peppers.
The other problem in the United States food system are foods that have health halos – basically foods that are packaged as organic or otherwise “healthy” but in truth have a lot of shit in them. Cereals are the worst – my husband is constantly buying so-called “healthy” cereals that have as much sugar – gram for gram – as a candy bar.
Breads are tough too. I sometimes bake my own bread, so I know that a bit of sugar helps the yeast get busy faster. But there’s no excuse for something like this:
This organic bread has two kinds of sugar – right after the wheat comes “organic cane sugar” (seriously – it’s the THIRD ingredient if you don’t count water) and further down the list of all these grains and seeds you get some molasses.
I found some French bread that had no sugar in it, but it went stale after two days. Sugar is a preservative too. There are these so-called “sprouted” breads in the freezer section that have no added sugar, but I am sorry to say the texture and taste didn’t thrill me.
Finally, I hit on tortillas – I found some with no added sugar, so I am doing wraps and burritos instead of sandwiches for a while to see how that goes.
Hard: No grains or sugar at breakfast
Most important meal of the day, ’tis said. And hard to avoid grains and sugar.
I often have breakfasts like this with plain Greek yogurt, and don’t ever eat sugar-sweetened yogurt or sweetened fruits. Luckily, I have been a black coffee or tea drinker for a while and never go for sweet coffee drinks. But I always crave carbohydrates in the morning, and I often reach for some toast or other carby thing later in the morning if I have none at breakfast.
It’s really important to make this effort because if you start the day with sugar, the rest of the day tends to go downhill quickly. Think of each day as a blank slate – you don’t want to crap up that slate first thing, do you?
Other breakfasts I have enjoyed include eggs in various forms, apple slices with peanut butter, roasted veggies with olive oil, and ricotta with berries. You have to be careful with breakfast meats such as bacon, ham and smoked salmon, because a lot of it is cured with – you guessed it – sugar!
The Times got pushback for putting the kibosh on oatmeal for breakfast – plain whole oats, no sugar added. People are really devoted to this breakfast, apparently.
This has been HARD for me. Whine whine whine. I soldier on.
Easier: Basically the rest of the list is pretty easy and even enjoyable.
Water – no prob. Once in a while – maybe once a week – I used to drink a Vitamin Water Zero. Now I have zero Vitamin Waters, and it’s all good. If I crave something bubbly, some Pellegrino with a lime or lemon wedge does the trick.
Spicy food – also no prob. I can’t say if this trick has really curbed sugar cravings, but in general, the more flavorful your food is, the more it satisfies you. Of course, it was hard to find spicy condiments without added sugar. Finally I found this salsa:
Ingredients are just tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, vinegar, garlic, spices and herbs. It’s sooo good – I put it on everything!
Roasted veggies – I had been doing this anyway, so it was an easy win.
Roasted root vegetables in olive oil
Roasted grape tomatoes and garlic
I roast up a batch of veggies a couple of times a week. The roasted tomatoes are delicious as a topping on meats or pastas. Roasted larger tomatoes put through the blender make a great alternative spaghetti sauce too – with no added sugar. Jarred sauces are loaded with sugar!
Easiest by far: Eat Fruit!
I love fruit. I eat 2-3 pieces every day and will reach for fruit first if I crave something sweet. Often fruit packs a bigger punch if I pair it with a bit of protein or fat, like whole-milk ricotta, peanut butter, or cheese.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with fruit, so I like to buy different things every week. Out of season fruits are sometimes good frozen (just be sure there’s no added sugar). I keep cherries, blueberries and strawberries in the freezer at all times in case the craving strikes.
Next step – No-sugar February
I have been playing with these sugar-busting tactics all month and am ready to go for it 100% in February. If I make it the whole month I will reward myself with #7 – a piece of dark chocolate.
The 1970s were an ugly decade. Let’s face it. There’s not much to root for. But for this week of Refashion Runway, we have to go there. Luckily, I have two advantages:
I was born in 1970, so I have some first-hand memories of the decade’s style and values.
2. My husband is a pack rat and has been storing ugly 70s clothes in our attic closet since we moved into this house 18 years ago.
Let’s get going!
These bags held so many treasures it’s hard to know where to start.
Should it be the plaid pants?
How about the Anderson Little brand (read: cheap-ass) polyester double-knit sportcoats?
Note the demi lining (also poly, natch) – would not be able to stand a whole lining because in poly double knit you sweat. Like. A. Pig.
This leather shirt is actually beautifully made and possibly valuable as it came from Saks Fifth Avenue.
I played around with it, but regrettably there’s not much material to work with. I am going to see what it’s worth on the resale market.
And finally, the jackpot:
The color story of this paisley print creepily reminds me of my school picture from 1977. I have to use it! No excuses!
It’s a man’s shirt, so I will need to feminize it a bit. I have some lace and crochet trims to play with from these old pillowcases and curtains. And I am going to make a 70s style denim skirt from a pair of my husband’s old jeans.
So that’s the plan. The outfit is due Friday.
If you haven’t checked out last week’s fabulous entries, please visit The Renegade Seamstress and vote for me if you think I’m worthy. Thanks!
I just love a high-contrast look to jackets, so when the first-round challenge of Refashion Runway Season 5 was “statement sleeves,” I knew I had a great opportunity to create some drama!
My jacket started life as a dress that a friend gave me. She didn’t like it, but she thought the linen-cotton blend fabric was nice and the print was cool. She gave me a challenge to refashion it. Challenge accepted! Here’s the before look – big, boxy and shapeless:
The fabric is rather stiff, so I began by washing and drying the dress a few times to change the fabric’s hand – it’s softer now but still crisp enough for a jacket.
I started by cutting the dress straight up the front and unpicking the neck facing.
The front was turned and topstitched to create a self-facing. Then I created a pleat at the center back to take up some of the fullness, so it would fit better.
I trimmed about 8 inches off the bottom to create a more pleasing length, leaving side vents about an inch long just for style. I used the fabric from the bottom to create the collar and pockets – nice big pockets perfect for holding a phone and keys.
I drafted the collar just by measuring the new neckline and tracing off a collar from an RTW shirt to get the basic shape, then adding a 1/2 inch seam allowance. I cut the same in red so that the collar is two-tone.
The red contrast came from a rain jacket with a broken zipper that I bought at Goodwill/ I was delighted to find something in a red with blue undertones:
I love the combo of red, white and blue – red is my favorite color and it it always delivers a nice pop!
I cut off the jacket’s cuffs to reuse them in the new jacket.
I tried several ways to work these in to the blue and white jacket, but nothing was gelling – I didn’t want them to look tacked-on but rather integrated into the jacket as an essential piece of the design. So I instead used the red as a contrast in the cuff. I sewed the cuffs so that they can be worn turned back for max drama or turned in for just a peek of color.
To continue the theme to another part of the jacket, I thought to add a button feature to the collar so that I can wear a bit of the red exposed or not, depending on my mood.
Here’s a flat view of the jacket, with the center-back pleat and my label showing.
And here’s the back view – love the cuffs!
Voting is supposed to start today. Please visit The Renegade Seamstress for a look at all the entries, and if you like what I’ve done, I’d love your vote!
As part of my sustainability goals for 2020, we’re doing Meatless Mondays as a family. Except for the dog, that is.
My husband is a carnivore second only to the dog, so I have been working on ways to keep him satisfied and not deprived. Here are some ideas for magical meatless meals:
Chick peas (aka garbanzo beans) – Protein and fiber in one place – what’s not to like? Sure you can buy them canned, sure, but for really nice chick peas, buy them dried and cook them yourself. It’s a lot cheaper ($2 or $3 / pound) and the texture is better. Soak them overnight in plenty of plain water (for at least 6 hours), drain, and then simmer in salted water for about 1 hour, or 30 minutes in the Instant Pot. They have a buttery texture and take well to spice – try some crushed red pepper in a hearty sauce!
Lentils – Another protein and fiber one-two punch. These cook more quickly than chickpeas and have a texture that lends itself to soups and stews. I like the French style lentils, as they’re a bit more durable than other kinds, but it’s all good.
Chili – Purists will argue that chili should NOT have beans in it, but who cares? When you’re making a vegetarian dish, it’s a given that beans will star. I like to use either black beans or kidney beans, plus some plant-based meat substitute to bulk things up, plus lots of onions, peppers, tomatoes and corn. And a lot of spices – smoked paprika really works wonders to bring flavor to anything. Feel free to top with cheese or sour cream and some thinly sliced scallions.
More cheese, please! You need to be careful with cheese because it can pack as much saturated fat and calories as red meat. For Italian dishes, I like to buy part-skim ricotta and mozzarella to save some fat and calories, but I always use good imported Romano or Parmesan. Here’s some manicotti in a quick tomato sauce, getting ready for the oven.
Go for grains – A lot of less-common grains make the base for salads and soups. Barley in particular is filling and satisfying, and its texture stands up to whatever you throw at it. I like to parcook barley in plain water until it’s almost done, then take it off the heat, add a generous amount of salt, and let it stand covered for 15 minutes or so. This barley salad is great for summer with watermelon, feta, cucumbers, peppers and other goodies.
Refashioning or upcycling textiles into new designs has been really fun and satisfying, so I resolved to push myself more in 2020. Here’s a gallery of projects from the past couple of years:
The tunic top again, this time with the Seamwork Moji pants
Upcycle knock-off of a $2,000 Monse coat
I didn’t have to wait long. I was chosen to compete on “Refashion Runway” – a friendly sewing competition sponsored by Beth Huntington, aka “The Renegade Seamstress.”
Yikes! There are 15 contestants who have put up some fabulous looks using textiles that had a previous life. Here’s a rundown of the competitors with some of their choice refashioned looks. I am so impressed with how these sewers combine textiles and shapes to create something super cool.
While I am no slouch in the sewing department, my refashioned looks have been a bit, shall I say, basic? I have upcycled and refashioned mostly large flat pieces of fabric, such as a sari, a blanket and not one, but two tablecloths. My most ambitious project was creating a nightgown out of an old bathrobe, and while I like how this project turned out, it’s not exactly a garment I wear on the street. In public. Or even in a photo on this blog.
So, I gotta step it up.
The first project, which starts January 18th, is “Statement Sleeves.” We were given the basic challenge parameters in advance, so we could start planning. There are few guidelines for each challenge; we’re meant to interpret it for ourselves. I assume this challenge means we need to create a big, showy sleeve in an refashioned garment. Statement sleeves broke through as a trend a few years ago as a kind of antidote to the sleeveless look of the early 2010s. It’s still going strong, to judge from all the ruffles, puffs, pleats, cutouts and other sleeve designs you see out there.
I really like a dramatic cuff on a sleeve, so that’s my jumping-off point.
In my closet, several misfit discarded garments wait for their chance to shine. That’s your cue, awkward linen dress!
My friend Emmeline gave me this dress last summer. She wore it once but found it … just … not … her cup o’tea. But the fabric was nice, so she gave it to me with encouragement to refashion it.
The first thing I did was to wash and machine dry it with other laundry three times to soften the linen-cotton blend up and to let any shrinking get nice and shrunken. Trying it on, you no doubt notice a few pros and cons:
I like a high-contrast print, which this for sure provides in navy and white.
It’s big and long enough to give me some fabric to work with.
There are no darts or zippers and few seams to complicate a refashion project.
The hem and sleeve hems are split, offering some design change opportunities.
I am not crazy about the “junior high school art teacher” swishy brushstroke motif.
It has no lining, and the “wrong side” of the fabric looks pretty bad, as the navy bleeds through.
The neckline is awkwardly proportioned and has a crummy facing.
The fabric remains a bit stiff and ungainly despite three journeys in the washing machine and dryer.
Clearly, this is not going to work as a dress, no matter how it’s refashioned.
My big idea is to turn it into a duster-style jacket. I think I will cut it right up the middle, self-face the raw edges, recut the neckline and add some darts for shaping, front and back. Maybe a contrasting lining? It will need some help as the wrong side will be on display even more as a jacket.
But what about the sleeves? That’s the whole point of the challenge. I am thinking a cuff – in the same contrast as the lining – with some accent hardware or other bling to edge this look up a bit.
I had nothing suitable in my closet of misfit garments, so it was off to Goodwill to see what they had.
This red rain jacket has a lot to work with as it’s fully lined. The zipper was broken, which is probably why someone donated it. And it has a cute drawstring in the hood, which can be repurposed easily.
Red is my favorite color! And the contrast with navy and white will look chic (I hope).
I have a good week to play around with my ideas before the contest starts. Wish me luck!
Self-improvement plans – what else would we distaffers do on January 1?
A few quick resolutions then, before we get to work:
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.
I made the sweater last week out of some poly-cotton blend sweatshirt fleece with a muted plaid design.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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:
The back gives a capelike appearance to the jacket.
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.
Tied up with grad school and work obligations, I had to be choosy about what I read in 2019. As in past years, I made it a point to read more female authors’ work. Here are some recommendations:
I started the year re-reading “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle. Over Christmas, I saw the movie directed by Ava DuVernay, and it was … not how I remembered one of my favorite books of childhood. So I hit up the library and re-read the story. It’s still a fabulous story with a message that really resonates with me today much as it did when I was a child.
That put me on a science-fiction/fantasy kick, so next I re-read Ursula Le Guin’s masterpiece “The Left Hand of Darkness.” (Again, with the library.) The book is famous for exploring gender issues in science fiction. It’s strange and beautiful and I highly recommend it.
Then I re-read “Dune” by Frank Herbert – one of the most popular books of my youth. This book did not age well. While the planet and culture Herbert created are fascinating and inventive, the characters and story arcs seem pretty dated and even offensive today.
I continued to plow through the library’s science fiction/fantasy section with “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman – a deliciously funny and scary send-up of the way religion warps societies.
At this point, I gave up on my library visits and sought out some new sci-fi books. I bought “The Power,” an award-winning book by Naomi Alderman, about a new deadly power that evolves in women, changing tipping the battle of the sexes to women. I highly recommend it, too.
I highly anticipated Margaret Atwood’s sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale, “The Testaments.” The original book changed my life in high school, and I re-read it recently in light of the never-ending shitshow that is the Trump administration. Sadly, the Booker Prize-winning “The Testaments” disappointed me. While some might find the story satisfying, I think it missed something deep and true about human nature and the American psyche, unlike the original, which cuts very close to home.
I had read a lot of sci-fi at this point, so it was time to get real. What better way than with a book about people who live in a slum in Mumbai, India? “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is a prize-winning nonfiction book by the journalist Katherine Boo. I was drawn to this book because I noticed these slums in Mumbai, right alongside the glittering modern airport.
I was both fascinated and horrified – I took myself on quite a guilt trip but also came to understand more about Indian culture and ways of life. The book is dark and devastating and also funny and sweet in places.
For nonfiction, I also read “Feminism is for Everybody” by bell hooks, the pen name of the feminist professor and activist Gloria Jean Watkins. The book is an approachable primer on what feminism is – and isn’t. I love hook’s simple language explaining how feminism is an antidote to the patriarchy’s institutionalized sexism. I also like how she challenges white cis bourgeois women (such as myself) to basically get our heads out of our asses.
I started but could not finish “The Tale of Genji,” an ancient Japanese work – a kind of proto-novel – written by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu, in the 11th century. The book follows Genji, a beautiful and charismatic young prince, through his loves and losses, victories and sorrows. The book starts with young Genji, dishing with his friends one rainy night, about the “ideal woman.” I read this in English translation, which included copious notes to help the reader understand the intricacies of 11th-century Japanese life.
I tried to read this after I saw a beautiful exhibit inspired by the book at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I stood a long time looking at this screen, depicting Genji in exile.
I was fascinated because not only was the text ancient, but a woman wrote it! Sadly, for me the book was hard to get through and follow. There’s a lot of what we modern people would consider misogyny, rape and child abuse. But I imagine it’s a realistic picture of what was going on in Japan at the time.
I was interested in reading something new after that. Unfortunately, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh was not what I was looking for. This novel tells the story of a beautiful privileged young woman who basically sleeps and shirks her life for a year, with no consequences. She emerges from her year richer and happier and more beautiful… blah blah. Awful.
My final recommendation – saving the best for last – is “The Overstory” by Richard Powers, the 2019 winner of The Pulitzer Prize. I loved this so much I bought copies for many friends and relatives. It was so beautiful and unexpected and thought-provoking. Please check it out.