Monday, June 1, 2015

Goal Achieved: (Almost) 30 Days of Me-Made Clothes

I set a Sewing Goal to participate in Me Made May this year. I’ve never done it before and honestly, until I started my own sewing blog last fall, I’d never even heard of it. I’ll be honest, usually when I participate in any kind of 30 day challenge, I lose my enthusiasm for it about 6 days in. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty proud of myself right now.

I wore handmade clothes 28 days out of the 31 days in May. My actual goal was just to make it 30, giving myself one day to be lazy or have a dilemma of some kind. My safety-net if you will.

The items I wore:
Skirts: 3 (Kitties on BicyclesSkirt, Green Striped Skirt, Blue Embroidered Skirt)
Tops: 2 (Pink Embroidered Tunic, Green Taffeta Top)
Pants: 1 (Pink Capri Pants)
Pajamas: 2 (Blue Skull Jammies, Pink and Purple Jammies)

 What I learned

First, I am not the same size I was 3 years ago. This presented a challenge because most of what I wanted to wear, was made quite a while ago. The two tops I had this May were both a bit small on me. The pink one especially. Way too tight in the chest. The green one is tight under the arms and because I spilled something on it, now has a permanent stain, so that’s done for. The blue embroidered skirt was the dress I wore for my engagement photos 3 years ago and since it no longer zipped all the way, I just cut it off where I could zip it to and made it into a skirt. Sometimes you have to make last minute compromises. Life goes on.

Second, I discovered that if I really need something finished, I’ll finish it. I am the queen of cutting out patterns and forgetting about them. Case in point, the green top. I have no idea how long that was sitting with no sleeves. It took me 10 minutes to attach sleeves and hem the bottom. Yeah, I could have done that years ago.

Third, my laziness and the cold were my only downfalls. That’s a painful realization. One day, I was just too lazy to find me-made clothes. Another day, I was out of town and packed something easier to travel in. The last day, it was very cold and windy, and I don’t have any warm me-made items. I probably could have had them…but the laziness. And if you read my last post on the Green Polka Dot Dress, you’ll know I’ve decided not to be so hard on myself about my sewing creations. Some days, I deserve to just be lazy.

Fourth, I learned that my wardrobe, both purchased and handmade, has some rather sizable holes. Neutral colored tops being one of them.

I also learned that I really do love the retro 40’s, 50’s 60’s styles and I plan to make myself a lot more items that fit into those eras. I’m even getting more adventurous with my hair. Boring pony-tail be gone!

What I completed for Me Made May

I know that Me Made May is not about rushing to sew more items just to wear them in May, but these items were already on my to-do list and they were really helpful this month.

I finished the green top, tight and awkward and no longer going to be a part of my wardrobe due to a lovely new stain on the front.

I finished the Pretty Bird Dress for my April challenge at The Monthly Stitch just on time to start wearing it in May.

I also finished my pink Capri pants. They need some work, but they’re wearable and gave me some much needed windy day attire.

I finished the Green Polka Dot Dress, which had been giving me trouble since March.

I chopped up my Blue Embroidered Dress into my new Blue Embroidered Skirt. Hooray for last minute saves.

I found (finally) the green striped skirt which had been MIA for at least 6 months. Buried in a box. “There you are my lovely!”

Why I succeeded

The first reason I succeeded is because the Mac and Cheese dress is so darn versatile! I wore it with black, I wore it with turquoise blue, I wore it with red, I wore it with dark blue, I wore it with a combinations of colors including white, black, pink and whatever else is in that crazy head scarf that was my grandmother’s. (She had the best stuff!) Yeah. Versatility rocks. The Green Polka Dot dress is the same way, I just didn’t have it for the whole month, so it got worn a little less.

But honestly the biggest reason I succeeded is because I made myself accountable to people. I have a few Instagram followers who are also personal friends. They repeatedly asked me how it was going and made sure to give me feedback on how much they liked the outfits, either on IG, via text, or in person. Their support was vital. You know who you are, and I thank you.

While we’re on the subject of Instagram, WOW! Posting daily outfits via IG and Twitter did wonders for my number of followers and for my number of page views on the blog. I expected it to go up a little from that activity, and from my additional posts this month, but holy cow! Hello new readers! Come, sit, stay a while and let me get to know you!

Now that it’s over

First off, I have been cutting out projects for June like it’s going out of style. So I plan to get those finished up. Normally I have a box where I keep my WIP’s, but since I want to keep thinking about them, they’re all out on display (like a museum?) so I can’t forget about them because I’ll walk past them every day.

Second, I have to deal with the holes in my home sewn wardrobe. I need more separates, tops, skirts, and pants seem to be running a bit behind the dress count. Particularly the tops because the only one worth wearing again is much too small now. So that takes my official count to zero.

Last, now that May is over I have to admit that I feel relieved. There was a lot of planning involved in dressing solely in my own creations. Planning, that I do not usually make enough time for in the morning when I’m getting ready for work. Also, I have some fabulous Ready-To-Wear pieces that are feeling lonely and I miss them as much as they miss me.

So, I’m counting this Sewing Goal as completed. I wore 28 days of my own creations and I’m extremely proud of myself. I have a huge pile of future projects and WIP’s for the next few months and I really need to start thinking about my fall/winter wardrobe. Did you participate in Me Made May? If you did, how did it go for you? If not, are you working toward participation for next year? 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Green Polka Dot Dress

I have been wanting this dress for so long. For probably about a year now I've been thinking about the green fabric with it's lovely white polka dots. I've been thinking about how I would wear it as much as I wear the mac and cheese dress and how much I couldn't wait to have it in my wardrobe. When I finally got my hands on the fabric I'd been looking for, and when I'd finally narrowed down which two patterns I was planning to mesh together to make it, I couldn't wait to start.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this dress it's this: perfect is the enemy of good. I wish I could sew perfect dresses. I can't. Not one dress has ever been perfect. I always see my own mistakes. This dress, however took that to a new level.

I attempted to use the top from the Butterick 4443 that I've used several times. I planned on pairing that with a rounder skirt from a different pattern. The bodice has been in the past, a bit shorter than I'd like, so I lengthened it. And since all the dresses I've made with that pattern are getting a little tight, I tried to scale it up a size. Apparently I did that wrong, because it was both too big and very awkward fitting. Huge disappointment.

So, my trusty seam ripper and I took the bodice apart, took it in where it seemed most appropriate and put it back together again. Better fit, but not great. It's big under the arms, and around the neck, but snug (yet wearable) in the waist.

The skirt did not line up with the bodice well. I have side seams that are more like back princess seams or something on the skirt. There's also the bunching that happens right on my tush, like that needed more padding. *rolls eyes*

Then the zipper. Okay, I'm going to let you in on a little secret...I have zipper anxiety. I know that sound like some weird sex phobia, but I swear it's all about sewing. I hate zippers. I'm not good at them. Invisible zippers are always visible, lapped zippers are a bit lop-sided and the idea of sewing a fly makes me cringe. I know this is something I have to get over, so I have a plan to practice sewing closures all summer in hopes that soon they won't be any trouble at all.

This zipper, it was a doozie. I put it in three times. The second time, was after a few glasses of wine. Lesson learned, don't drink and sew. Don't drink with a seam ripper either, you'll just stab yourself in the hand.

So after 2 takes at the bodice, 3 takes at the zipper and giving up on skirt alignment, I have a dress. I won't say it's an amazing dress, but it's a dress. I know that in the retail world, I would probably have found a dress that had similar fit issues and was of a far lesser quality and I probably would have paid for it with big bucks a few years ago. I've bough dresses that were worse than this. It's not amazing. It's wearable. It's okay. It's good.

If I get ambitious enough, I'll come back and fix those things, but it won't be any time soon. If I were to try to fix it all now, I would just get frustrated and somehow, the whole thing would end up in the trash. So it will stay flawed for now. What I got out of this experience is something I think that we all forget doesn't always need to be perfect. Sure it would be nice, but that's not practical. Sewing is a learning experience and what I learned with this dress was to not be so hard on myself.

Friday, May 15, 2015

How Sewing has Changed my Shopping Habits

Me Made top and RTW capris
I love shopping. Love it! I love shoes, clothes, home goods, food...I’ll shop for anything. In the past year though, the number of clothing items I've purchased has dropped dramatically.

I shop differently than I did before sewing was such a big part of my life. Now I look at the quality of construction (which is terrible in most stores, even the expensive ones). I look at things like how well plaids and stripes are matched at the seams (they’re usually not), I look at the quality of the fabric (I won’t buy a knit I can see through) and I look at how well it covers what I want to cover (oh baby, can’t wear that to work).

For example let’s say I’m looking at a plaid skirt. If the lines of the plaid doesn't match along the seam, it goes back. If the fabric is too thin, wrinkles too much, is not appealing in some way, it goes back. If the skirt is too short, has incorrect proportions, a highly visible zipper, unflattering lines, seam, tucks or folds, it goes back. I could make it with fewer errors with a simple pattern, nicer fabric and add some fun lace trim and a good lining in a just a few hours.

In short, I've become much pickier about what clothing I’ll buy. I know that if I want a truly stellar look, I have to make it myself. That’s how I get exactly the dress I want and often times, I get it for cheaper than I can buy it.

This is my favorite skirt ever! Me Made!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a serious bargain shopper, so if I can find a pair of pants that look nice and are on clearance, I will buy them. But even with stellar savings, the item has to fit exceptionally well for me to bring it home. I won’t pay $12 for something that needs $20 worth of alterations, because let’s be honest, I won’t get around to those alterations for a while, and by the time I do, I probably won’t like it as much as I did when I bought it. I have long legs and a long waist, so hemming pants/skirts is never something I need to do on a store bought piece of clothing. The only real alterations I’m willing to do on a ready to wear item is taking in the waist or bodice on a dress. Even that, I only do if it seems like something I could handle in less than 15 minutes. What can I say, I’m lazy that way, but at least I know my limits. To the point, I don’t think it’s worth my time to buy something that needs altering, even at a steal, but that may not be true for everyone. Some of you may be more ambitious than I am.

Now that I have a customized look, I rock a lot of prints and polka dots that I probably wouldn't have been able to find in the kind of dress or skirt I’d make it in. I also have clothes that always fit well. I still buy jeans and sweaters and some basics, but a lot of times, finding my size is a stab in the dark, because I have no concept of size now as it exists in the retail world. As far as my body measurements are concerned, I wear three different sizes. Sewing is how I make all three sizes come together in one perfect outfit.

A note on personal style: I follow a lot of sewing blogs. I see a lot of handmade items in my various social media feeds. I can tell you one thing for sure. The more you make your own clothes, the more you find your personal style. Go ahead, find some other sewers in the community. You’ll see how each of them has a very unique style, how each put their own spin on every pattern they make, how fabric choice, trim options and accessories really make something your own. Seeing friends’ creations is inspiring and helps me to move my own personal style forward. I seem to be moving toward skirts and dresses with a vintage fit and feel to them, but I don’t usually go full-on vintage vibe with my look. Perfect color/print coordination really rocks my socks too. Oh, and colorful. I love me some colors, especially pink!

I love to wear pink!
One of the most extreme ways sewing can change your shopping habits is by ending your retail clothing shopping completely. Yep, that’s right. There are some lovely sewing enthusiasts who sew everything they wear and have completely sworn off buying retail clothing. Even their underwear. I’m not there yet, and I don’t know that I’ll ever be, but there is certainly some inspiration to be found in it, isn't there?

Personally, my handmade wardrobe is a little limited at the moment, but participating in Me Made May has helped me to identify where those gaps are. I'm working toward a completely handmade work wardrobe, but I'm allowing my home/downtime wardrobe to still be mostly ready to wear. Is increasing your handmade wardrobe a priority to you? How much of your wardrobe is already handmade? How much of your wardrobe do you wish was handmade? I'd love to know!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pretty Bird Dress

The Monthly Stitch challenge for April was “Put a Bird On It”. I picked up this fabric from JoAnn’s on clearance, but I liked it when it first came out and was debating paying full price for it, but just got luck. It’s a cotton knit fabric that I just adore.

I love the print because I’m a gardener, so anything with birds and flowers is really my cup of tea. I also love the colors. Since I’m trying to make conscious decisions about practical pieces for my wardrobe, I always ask myself when buying fabric for a particular project, “What am I going to wear this with? And what do I have that matches it?” Luckily, these (purple, pink, yellow, green) are my colors. I have a purple cardigan and a fuzzy pink shrug, both with matching shoes to go with this dress, so it was an instant staple in my wardrobe. Also, stretchy = comfortable.

A close up of the fabric
I used McCall’s M6886 for the pattern. It has only two pieces for this version, so it was a cinch to put together. This is my first knit project, so I wanted something very easy, and I got it. I think the whole thing went together in about 2 hours, cutting time included. The neck and arm holes are a little bacony, but we’ll see how I like them. I’ll put a neck band on if I think it’s necessary later.

I didn’t pre-wash my fabric, and I have some reservations about it shrinking, so I made it a size bigger than normal, but even if it doesn’t shrink up any, it will still be super comfy. I’m also the kind of person who is very conscious of when knit items, particularly skirts and dresses, get too tight, so bigger is better to me.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mac and Cheese Dress

This is what I call the Mac and Cheese dress because the color reminds me of that crazy cheese powder from the old kid-food favorite. And while I think it’s been years since I’ve had anything resembling the blue-box staple in my diet, this dress is one of my favorites.

I made the dress back in 2012 in the early spring so I could wear it to some of my bridal showers for my upcoming wedding that year. I instantly fell in love with the way it fit and looked.

The pattern is Butterick 4443 which in my house, is used quite frequently because it’s both easy and flattering while still being a simple pattern to adjust when necessary.

The fabric is an orange/yellow cotton with felted white polka dots. The fabric was found at a garage sale in a box of miscellaneous fabrics that I picked up for a grand total of $3.

I wear this little number with white accessories, black accessories, turquoise...and on a chilly day, I’ve been know to pair it with a dark green sweater. I’ve found it to be a fun way to brighten up my wardrobe, since it has proven to be so versatile.

And since it’s my favorite dress, you can expect to see quite a bit of it while I chronicle Me Made May 2015 on Instagram.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kitties on Bicycles Skirt

This fabric. Take it in. I saw it first on Pinterest in blue. Once I found it on Spoonflower, I immediately wanted the pink version. The kitties were calling my name, saying “Frances...we’re kitties...on bicycles...with polka dots...and PINK!!!” The kitties knew my favorite color. Damn those kitties!

Two yards of cotton sateen later, I started working on this little beauty of a skirt.

Side Note: This was the first time I’d purchased fabric online. I was a little disappointed that the fabric felt a bit rougher than I anticipated, but I still like it. If I’d had a sample in advance I probably would have chosen a different type of fabric (still the same print though), but I was too excited to buy this fabric to bother with samples first. Lesson learned.

The pattern was the circle skirt from a retro dress pattern. The skirt was a little longer than I wanted and also, since I only had two yards, I had to cut it on the bias to get the pieces out whole and even then, the bottom inch was left without the print on it in some places where it got too close to the edge of the fabric.

I had the front and back of the skirt sewn together, but stopped there, still contemplating the idea of lining it. In the end, I tossed it in a bag for later and went back to more pressing projects. I cut out the pieces back in October, but I was derailed from the project by my step-daughter’s semi-formal dress, the Brocade Corset Dress. No regrets there.

Initially I was going to line it with flannel backed satin so it would be nice and swish well, but have a little bit more warmth than regular satin. I decided to nix the lining and simply wear a slip underneath (I have a sudden desire to own a multitude of half-slips in various colors, but that’s another post for another day).

I dug it out again for my Sew Finished February challenge (#sewfinishedfeb) as one of the projects I knew I just had to complete this month.

So after cutting out the pieces as designed in the pattern, I marked off two inches from the bottom, due to previously mentioned print and length issues, and gave it a little trim. This afforded me a bit of selvage that I could work into a waistband which I had neglected to cut out because the pattern was for a dress, not a skirt. Luckily, that worked out wonderfully for me because it now has this darling little one inch waist band that I just love.

I’ve only had my serger for a few months and this was my first attempt at a rolled hem with it. I was not pleased. :( I don’t think I have everything quite right as far as settings go, because it just did not look like a rolled hem to me. I serged it as a rolled hem anyway, and then when I decided that I was not happy with it, I moved over to my regular machine and busted out the rolled hem foot on that and re-hemmed it. Much better results. Since it was serged first, my rolled hem came out wonderfully tight and darn near perfect. I still have quite a bit of learning to do with the serger, so I’m not giving up on this rolled hem thing just yet.

My overall feeling about this project is that I don’t know why I waited so long to pick it back up again. It took me only a short while to finish the skirt from where I’d left off. (Seriously, I finished it on Sunday and I still managed to real half a book that day.) This skirt got rave reviews at the office on Wednesday. Everyone there knows I sew, so they’re always interested it what I’m wearing and asking if it’s handmade.

Speaking of handmade wardrobes...This lovely skirt will definitely be a key piece in my wardrobe for Me Made May this year, so look for it to grace these pages again in a few months.

I'm hoping to get a few better shots of the skirt later this week, but lighting in our house is a bit of an issue when it's nearly dark by the time I get home. I'll update the photos as soon as I can.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sew Finished February

Like many sewists, I have a to-do list a mile long and a heap of UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) taking up valuable space in my sewing room. Seriously, it's a bit out of control.

So for the dreariest and shortest month of the year, I’m taking control of the Unfinished. That’s right, welcome to Sew Finished February! I will not allow myself to start any new projects in the month of February. I will only allow myself to work on my sewing WIP’s or Works In Progress.

Rather than go it alone, I’d like for you to join me. As an official sewing challenge from me to you, here are the rules:

  • The project must have been started prior to Feb. 1, 2015. “Started” means at least one piece of fabric has been cut out. Anything beyond that is great.
  • You must have stopped working on it before it was finished.
  • You must finish the project by midnight on Feb 28th 2015.
  • Share your project with me. You can either email me or tag it with #sewfinishedfeb.
  • Tell us a few things about the project, including:
    • when you started it
    • what point you were at in the project when you stopped (and started again)
    • why you stopped working on it (Where you angry at it? Was it confusing? Did you just have bigger fish to fry that day?)
    • all the basics like pattern, fit, fabric, etc.
  • Check back the first week of March to see the round-up of everyone’s finished projects! (Note: if you write a blog post about your project, be sure to include a link for me to add.)

Now, if you’re anything like me, you have more than one UFO or WIP to choose from. That’s okay. You are welcome to finish more than one! The more the merrier!

If your project turns into the epic fail that some projects are destined for, never fear, it happens. You can share that too if you want. That’s up to you. If I have a fail this month, I promise to share it. Really. ;)