Category Archives: thoughts

Pants Lesson in New York

I’m finally starting to feel settled in New Jersey. I’ve been on the job for three weeks; we finally have a sofa and storage pieces; I have become familiar with the bus and train systems of New Jersey (sort of…Newark Penn Station is confusing still, with all the different places that have similar names where passengers need to wait for the bus). Last weekend, I felt settled enough to do something just for me—take a sewing lesson.

I decided to work on pants in this lesson. I’d tried fitting these Vogue trousers before, in a different sewing class in SC, but I then gained a lot of weight, which made all the fitting moot. The lesson I had last weekend was at the New York Sewing Center, located in the Garment District. The instructor was awesome. She was patient and didn’t talk to me like I was a kid (an issue I have had in other sewing classes in other cities). I made a huge amount of progress in two hours, getting the pockets, inseams, and side seams sewn. I plan on sewing the crotch and attaching the waistband before going back to work on fitting. I suspect I need more room for my butt, less of a curve on the hips, and less length overall, due to me being a shorty. I’m really looking forward to my next lesson!


Not a Lot of Sewing Round These Parts Lately

But I’ve been thinking about sewing a lot. It is comforting during this time of unrest in the US. I like to mentally plan all of the stages of a project, from matching fabric to a pattern to how the project fits together.

I haven’t actually had the energy to actually sew lately, though. The last few items that I’ve made have been duds; some of them I didn’t even have the energy to complete after realizing that they wouldn’t fit at all (I’m looking at you, Simplicity shorts). All these misfires have been discouraging. Normally, I would forge ahead and try again, but I’ve been rather down, so I’ve been dragging.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been working on losing weight for the past couple of months. This is for health reasons; all of my doctors have noted my weight and told me to lose it over the past four years. Unfortunately, all I’ve done is gain weight over the past four years. After suffering increasing joint pain, I decided to seek assistance, so I’ve been following a plan set by a doctor and have succeeded in losing some weight. I will continue to work on losing weight over the next few months, until I am no longer overweight. I know this has to be a permanent lifestyle change, so I am adjusting my outlook accordingly.

I’ve been changing sizes with every passing month. That also makes sewing a challenge for me right now. Plus, since I have gotten older, my body has become overall shaped differently. I still have a big derriere and thighs, as well as narrow sloping forward shoulders, but I now have a thicker waist too. I have to learn how to adjust for these things so that I feel less awkward in my clothes.

I’ve been wishing that more people would post in their blogs, as I love reading about others’ project details, but it occurred to me that I am not giving what I am getting. I feel badly about this. I want to share; I want to be as productive as others are; however, I am tired and uncertain. I’ve been reading books more as a way to escape.

How have you dealt with a changing body? Does stress make you turn to your handmade hobbies more, or do you deal with it in other ways?

Affiliate Links: Some Thoughts

I’ve noticed that people seem to get annoyed when bloggers insert affiliate links in their posts, or when they write entirely sponsored posts. Readers don’t like to have their reading interrupted by these verbal commercials.

I can definitely understand this dislike. I have read some sponsored posts that were just fawning over a product unrelated to the focus of the blog–that’s annoying. Don’t tell me about a food mill when I’m interested in garment construction! There’s no real content there, either! That’s more “marketing” than “content.” I get bored with blogs that have a lot of blatant content marketing posts.

I don’t find posts with throwaway references to products annoying. Those posts, where people casually refer to something they use anyway with a subtle link and a brief note about the affiliate link, are much less annoying. It’s as if the writer is someone you know telling you about one product they found that worked better than other products.

I also don’t care about sidebar ads. My (free) web email has sidebar ads; my (free) streaming music service has banner ads; the blogs I read (for free) have ads (for the most part). Those ads allow me to have these things without paying money for them. Win-win for all of us! If I hate your ads/sponsored posts more than I like your content or service, I won’t go to your site.

I understand that people have to pay for bandwidth and all the other stuff that goes into hosting and supporting a website with its own domain and large amount of storage. Bloggers can either pay out of pocket for their hosting costs, or they can run ads or include affiliate links to help pay for the hosting costs.

How do you feel about advertising on blogs and websites?

I’ve Been Quiet, but I’ve Been Sewing

That title pretty much sums up what many sewing bloggers say to explain their absence online. This is part of the reason why I have been quiet on this blog.

I have been sewing, but it’s been going slowly due to me taking a writing class online and having wicked tendinitis flare-ups. Since the last time I posted, I think I made a skirt, a dress, a shirt, an attempt at a skirt muslin, and three muslins of pants. (I did not end up with a pair of pants at the end of the pants fitting class I took because I needed, and still need to, make so many changes to the pattern so that it fits me.)

I’ve also been gaining an absurd amount of weight. Since we moved, I’ve been sad, lonely, and physically unable to exercise, so I eat things like ice cream because I am not enjoying large swaths of my life, but I enjoy ice cream. Gaining more weight has exacerbated the reason why I can’t go walking, cycling, or swimming. It’s a cycle.

I don’t want to sew for this body, the biggest body I’ve ever had. It’s frustrating. Most straight size patterns don’t fit me, and if they “fit,” they look awkward as hell.

Today is my first day of dieting (again), but this time I am really determined to lose the weight so I can be active again (and enjoy sewing for myself more again). I’m giving counting calories another go, using My Fitness Pal. I have to spend tonight planning meals and going to the store to stock up. I have to say no to junk.

I also want to focus on sewing flowy clothing, like what Thornberry wears, so I can be comfortable. (I love her use of color and shape in sewing! Also, I love loose waists. Rather, loose waists love me.) Right now, all my clothes are so uncomfortable for me. I think I need to adapt to where I am right now while I work on getting to where I want to be.



Working on Stuff; Swing Dancing Outfits?

Hello, readers! I’ve been working on three things for the past few weeks: shorts for my boyfriend, a skirt for me (that only needs the elastic now), and the V1247 skirt. I have days where I don’t do any sewing, or where I do one small thing, which is why it’s all coming along so slowly. However, I have–as of this week–decided to dedicate 30 minutes to sewing every weekday, so I think I will be making more progress. Also, I think I will be happier, having spent 30 minutes daily doing something I enjoy. 🙂

Speaking of activities I enjoy, I have gotten back into swing dancing, now that I can physically do it again. I don’t have many going-out outfits anymore. I did several closet purges after gaining a lot of weight.

What are some good patterns for dresses I can wear for a little lindy hopping? I prefer to wear sleeveless dresses that allow me to move. If you have any vintage or modern pattern suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Interfacing Discussion: How does it wear (over time)?

Let me say this right off the bat–I still don’t know too much about interfacing.

My first experience with interfacing was walking into the Jo-Ann’s to find some for my first dress. I looked at the array and picked one at random, one that seemed light and stable for a woven dress. It was a Pellon interfacing. I asked for help at the desk, but the person said that she could not help me pick it out. (That’s a discussion for another day.) When I look at my first few garments made with Pellon interfacing, I wince. The fusible interfacing rips off of the facing in little balls and wisps, as if a cotton ball were falling apart. The sew-in interfacing is not much better.

Pellon fusible interfacing. almost a year later
This is Pellon fusible interfacing after almost a year of washing cycles.

After reading a lot of sewing blogs, I started noticing that a particular brand of interfacing was praised, while another was vilified. Everyone loves Fashion Sewing Supply’s interfacing! Everyone hates Pellon interfacing. Now, I know why. I ordered some interfacing from FSS and, to no one’s surprise, the interfacing was much better. It felt better to the touch than the Pellon, not plasticky at all. The glue was more evenly distributed on the fusible lengths; when I went to fuse, the interfacings bonded quickly and strongly to the facings with no bubbles. I’ve washed the garments I made with the FSS interfacing (and hung them to dry, as I do all of my handmade garments), and the interfacing has held up well, with very little wear.

Superior interfacing
Here’s the Fashion Sewing Supply fusible interfacing in action. This dress is about 6 months old and has been washed a few times.

I ordered more from FSS in a variety of weights and colors. I am looking forward to seeing how it wears.

I also have used muslin as interfacing. I saw the suggestion on a few blogs; Sewaholic is the main one that comes to mind. I like how it uses up bits and bobs that otherwise wouldn’t get used, and how the muslin is a breathable, natural fabric. It also wears well, even with all the friction from washing and wearing. On the other hand, I feel like it gets a bit poofy when I use it as a sew-in interfacing. I do like it as an underlining, though, especially with a synthetic fashion fabric.

I think I will continue to use muslin as interfacing, whenever the garment seems to warrant it.

What kind of interfacing do you use? How did you learn about the different kinds of interfacing?

Vogue 9021 Planning; Ready to Wear vs. Homemade

I’m currently working on a first draft of Vogue 9021. It seems glamorous; I’m drawn to the fluttery, open batwing sleeves in contrast to the sleek skirt. I find that I like this dramatic silhouette, although I am not sure if it will work on me, a shorty–hence, the draft! I am making it out of a chambray-blue broadcloth (poly-cotton), as that’s one of the recommended fabrics. It seems a bit stiff for this purpose, but we’ll see how it turns out. I am making it in a size 18, but I am thinking that I may have to take out a little width in the bodice. There’s about 3 inches of ease there.

I went shopping yesterday for a cocktail dress to wear to a wedding. I’m feeling pressed for time and I am unsure about V9021’s suitability, so I am not making a dress for the wedding. (It always seems to come down to time.) I tried on several dresses in two different stores. Some were size 12, some were 14. I pulled the same dress in both sizes when both were available.

Under the yellow, harsh light of the dressing room, I tugged them all onto my body. Each dress made me feel bad. They highlighted things that I prefer to be hidden. They were tight around my waist and loosey-goosey around my shoulders (how?). I was close to quitting, but I knew I needed to find something. I ended up buying a princess-seamed fit-and-flare dress covered in hot pink flowers on a pale blue background…not something I would normally choose for myself, but it fit, right?

After I checked out, I realized that I never feel bad like that when I am trying on the clothes that I made for myself. Even if it’s a first iteration of a pattern with no adjustments made yet, I don’t get upset with myself. I think, “I can change this the next time I make this, or I can let it out a little here and take it in a little there.” I feel happy and proud of myself when I see myself in something I made, even if it’s a little awkward.

Maybe it would be worth it to stay up late, get up early, and spend all that extra time working on a dress for the wedding. Even if it looks “homemade,” I will at least feel happy with myself and not be reminded of my physical flaws.

(Don’t) Keep it in the Closet, or Let it Go: Clearing the Wardrobe

One recent Friday morning, I woke up with one thought in my head: “I must get rid of all this clutter. I need to do it now.”

Dresser drawers could hardly close. Baskets of laundry overflowed onto the carpet. Outerwear hung on the chair and laid on top of the bureau. The mess was all I could see. I could not hide the mess because there was nowhere else for it to go.

This is not going to be one of those posts that refers to those anti-consumerism, pro-minimalism books. I haven’t read any. This is me dealing with a problem that has been developing over time.

Flashback story time: Since Hurricane Katrina, I have had a hard time getting rid of any of my belongings. I lost the majority of the things I owned in that storm–I went forward with only what fit into my backpack for the evacuation, which I thought would last a weekend. I returned home after a few months. I’d gained weight from all of the stress eating and I had the shopping budget of a graduate student on a small teaching assistantship stipend. I had but a few ill-fitting garments to my name.

Every time I have moved over the past ten years, I have gotten upset about throwing away or donating anything: papers, letters, clothes, books, gifts that I didn’t like and couldn’t use, and so on. Stuff became me. Cleaning my room or apartment was physically and emotionally exhausting.

Over the past couple of years, I have gotten much better about letting my belongings go when I don’t need them anymore. I don’t feel a need to hold on to clothing that doesn’t fit anymore or to craft supplies I can’t use anymore, specifically.

So, during a recent weekend, I told myself that I would rid myself of the majority of it and I would feel better. I chose zones to work through: bureau, shorter dresser, closet, storage bins. I gave away yarn to knitters and crocheters. I put clothes that are too small for me (most of what I had) in bags to send to Goodwill, except for a few items that a friend wanted, which I gave to her over the weekend. I culled the scraps from my fabric storage area and put them in a separate bin so that I could have a better idea of how much dress/skirt/blouse yardage I had. (Turns out, I don’t have a lot. It was mostly scraps.) I plan on using the remnants/scraps for bias binding, small craft projects, and stuff for babies.

Here are some photos showing some results:

bins for storage
The top bin contains my scraps. The middle bin contains a few too-small items that I’m saving for later.
Empty Bins
These used to hold knitting supplies.

Not pictured: multiple bags of clothes destined for Goodwill, multiple bags of rags and tiny scraps.

I felt a huge sense of relief when I was done. Everything was organized. I could see what items of clothes I needed and could shop or sew accordingly. I wasn’t using brute force to shove a pile of t-shirts into a drawer that’s already filled to the brim.

I don’t need to hold onto items that I can’t or won’t use now, or in the future.