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.


Cation Designs Dolman Tee: Making A Copy of a Copy

dolman tee
I wore it all day!

I like the idea of doing a “rub-off,” or a copy of a favorite garment. Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch wrote an informative post (and review of a book) about doing a rub-off that inspired me. I checked out the book she mentioned (from the library) and read it all, trying to memorize the techniques. I haven’t yet tried a rub off of a favorite garment, but I have tried someone else’s!

The first time I made the Cation Designs Dolman Tee, my results looked so twisted and crazy! My sewing machine did not like the fabric, a slippery soft mystery knit with lots of stretch. I used a zigzag and a ballpoint needle, but my machine attempted to eat the fabric at every turn. The worst part was my neckband, which rippled and twisted somehow. I blame it all on the sewing machine. Please excuse the awkward selfie.

Dolman tee

I did XL in the sleeves and L in the body, since people have said the arms run small on this top. The L turned out to be tight around my hips, and the shirt is rather long on my body. I decided I like the shape and general breeziness of this shirt, so months later, I made another–this time in size XL all over and entirely on the serger. Prepare yourself for another selfie!

dolman tee

This version is definitely better constructed than the previous version. I love my serger! I am not sure about the looseness in the body, though. I feel like I should adjust the pattern so that it nips in more at the waist and so that it is shorter. I think the band should be more in the vicinity of the belly than the hips, and currently the hem band is straining over my curves. I think the sleeve bands could stand to be tighter as well.

I would like to get the hang of fitting, and I think working with a simple pattern may help me, as there are only so many ways I can go wrong, I think. I’m also quite interested in doing a rub-off, which seems complicated. I’ll get there!

By Hand London: Polly top

I made this By Hand London top out of unlabeled remnants from the Joann’s sale remnants bin.

By Hand London Polly
Do you see the differences between the shoulders?

I did a few things differently, since I was working with remnants of cloth and of pre-made bias tape. One armhole and the neckline are finished with pre-made bias tape (orange and white). One armhole is finished with a facing (made of the blue fabric) from the Polly pattern. This is why one shoulder is wider than the other. I don’t think most people notice this, though, as the shirt sort of slithers around my body. It’s a bit wide and loose in the chest (and armhole) region, which is something that I never thought I’d say past the age of 17. I think I made a large. I suppose I should go down a size the next time I make it. I also sewed the shoulder seams at an inch, as I read that the straps were a bit long, and I think that was the right move for me. I do like how flowy the shirt is. It’s very cool to wear when it’s hot outside.

By Hand London Polly back view
A bit of extra fabric around the waist, or is it not enough fabric for the booty?

I will say that my back looks so awkward here, but none of us are used to looking at our backsides, right? I like how this top shows a lot of skin, but not in an uncomfortable way, for me at least. I also think I can only wear this shirt with jeans. It’s not meant for shorts.

New Look 6053, View E: A-Line Skirt

Right before Easter week, I made a version of New Look 6053, which I bought on a whim at Wal-Mart when I was there to buy a chest-of-drawers. (I’m so easily distracted by sewing sections.) Previously, I’d made a draft of it out of quilting cotton, using a zipper I’d bought in a lot from eBay which fell apart after I un-zipped and re-zipped it once. I liked the general fit of it, so I went ahead and made it again out of a bird-covered cotton I got at a Hancock’s sale two years ago.

I am judging my dodgy sewing of this skirt.
This is the definition of “stank face.”

My face is one of drive-by judgment. I did so many things wrong on this skirt! The lapped zipper is all kinds of crazy looking at the top (and I’ve done several lapped zippers just fine before!). My hem is uneven. The facing isn’t quite right. There’s an odd looseness in the front under my belly, like a little poof of extra fabric. I was assured that the skirt looks fine to anyone else. It’s what I think that counts, though!

This version is a size 18. My current measurements (33 waist, 43.5 hip) are slightly larger than what is stated for size 18, but I have plenty of room to move and the skirt does not dig into my belly when I sat down, which is excellent. I think I could shorten the skirt some. It has a little bit of the sister-wife vibe. The hem is turned under twice, which I think was a poor choice. I should have used bias tape to do the hem, since the skirt is A-line. I also needed to double check how I was applying the facing, as I’d already had to redo it once, having sewn the wrong ends together and serged the bottom part of the facing. The facing should have covered the zipper tape, and it didn’t on one side. I was frustrated after so many mistakes, which made me make more mistakes.

Here’s a little blogger pose for you, pigeon toes for a bird skirt:

Pigeon toes for birds!
This pose says, “I’m just a lil blogger, showin you my stuff.”

Here’s another one:

What am I even doing here?
I like to think of this blogger pose as the “putting out a cigarette with my shoe.” I was very much enjoying my photographer’s direction.

And here’s the back:

Baby got skirt back
The wind decided to highlight my assets.

I think I would make it again with a different, softer fabric, and maybe one in wool also. I did wear this skirt two times after making it, so I guess it’s okay, but there’s no way I’m letting anyone look at this zipper!

Sewing Fails

Everyone has sewing fails, but I think I have more than other people. My impatience grows as I get closer to the end of the project. I get distracted and then I make a terrible mistake. One sewing fail is a Simplicity 1716 dress. I was feeling good about it: a slinky purple sleeveless dress with a cowl neck. I cut the size according to my measurements. Things were going well until I sewed the armhole bands on inside out, using the triple stretch stitch twice, so tightly that it was impossible to unpick. I tried on the dress (way too late) and realized that it made me look like a giant purple rectangle.

purple dress thumbs down
I did not approve.

I was so angry that I stuck it in a drawer. I didn’t try to fix it. I couldn’t bear the thought of trying to wrestle with the seam ripper. Another sewing fail that I have is the Colette Sorbetto. My first version fit a little weird, but I went ahead and made the same size again with no adjustments…after I gained some weight. What was I thinking?? The bias binding, made from the same fabric as the blouse, started to unravel after I applied it. The bust darts are not pointing at the right location, as I didn’t know about relocating bust darts (and where they were supposed to go) at that point. I took that shirt on vacation with me and I wince every time I look at the photos. The following photo is not so bad, but really, it was bad.

Colette Sorbetto and cake
I look happy, but my shirt is crappy.

I just sewed a zipper on a skirt in a crazy way and then sewed the wrong side of the facing on what has to be the easiest skirt ever. Before that, I sewed another skirt that was extremely large and unflattering and then mangled the lining a little bit. I also just sewed my very first sleeve on backwards and I can’t be bothered to sew it on the right way. I broke a needle in my serger trying to fix a hole in my only pair of yoga pants. I had to take a little break after all that destruction. Is the trick just to do one operation per day, so I’m less likely to mess up? Probably, but I don’t know if I can sew any slower than “like a glacier.”

(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.

Sergers & Sew Fabulous

I had a lesson at Sew Fabulous, a sewing studio, recently and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Flashback: I had a Treat Yo’ Self moment and bought myself a serger (a Brother 1034d) when it was on sale around Christmastime. After I got it, I read the entire manual in preparation for using a serger for the first time. Reviewing the threading diagrams confused me. (“What is that square part? Is it that square part, or the other square part? It’s all a bunch of lines!”) I needed someone to show me. I made an appointment for a private lesson at Sew Fabulous.

Heather at Sew Fabulous is awesome! She is an extremely patient teacher. She started the lesson by having me examine the way it was threaded, then had me unthread it and rethread it a few times. She gave positive feedback along the way. After we were done rethreading and sewing samples with different tensions and stitch widths, I felt that I had a much better understanding of the machine and was less intimidated by all of the levers and metal bits that the threads go through.

I’m looking forward to having faster, more professional finishing on my future garments.

New Look 6053: A Simple A-Line Skirt

Simple patterns are my favorite. I dislike how RTW features so much fussiness: spangles, beads, embroidery, studs, and other bits and bobs are distracting and unattractive, especially by the time the clothes hit the sale rack. I love plain clothing with simple lines. Unfortunately, simple, classy, plain clothing in RTW seems to cost way too much for the quality and fit.

One of my goals with sewing is to fill my closet with skirts, tops, and dresses with classic style lines, without random frippery. I want to make tops and bottoms in solid colors, so that I can mix and match with the prints that I have.

New Look 6053 fits the bill for simplicity. It has straight-skirt and A-line-skirt options in multiple lengths, and the fabric types listed are varied, from casual chambray to fancy silks and “silk types” (What does “silk types” even mean? It’s so general.) I can make skirts for work and for the weekends with this pattern. It would be interesting to try it in different types of fabric and see how different the effects are.

My first draft is in a quilting cotton. I’m attempting to go through my stash, which isn’t very large, but I want to make sure that I use the fabric that I bought when I was first learning to sew so that I can buy nicer garment fabrics in the future without guilt over clutter.

Where I Sew & How I Organize

I do my sewing in a corner of the bedroom. The room is large enough to hold a bed, a desk, multiple chests of drawers, and two nightstands. It doesn’t feel too cramped.

Sewing area
It’s always cluttered.

The sewing machine is on the desk, along with the serger (which I have not yet tried to use), a basket of rulers, shears, tracing/marking notions, and a sewing basket. I keep the sewing basket, which I bought at a garage sale, as it reminds me of one I played with as a child.

I like my machine because it’s lightweight and it adjusts its settings based on what stitch I select. That takes a lot of guesswork out of it for me. I can also carry it places by myself, which is super important to me.

Sewing patterns
Pattern explosion!

Next to the desk, I keep a set of plastic drawers for notions and folded PDF patterns. On top of the drawers is a fabric-sided bin holding my regular patterns. It’s overflowing! I trace the majority of my patterns using a roll of medical office¬†paper (which is translucent). Once I’m finished tracing, I put the tissue paper, instructions sheet, and pattern envelope into a gallon Ziploc bag. The traced pattern goes in the bag once I’m done with it.

My fabric remnants and yardage go into an Ikea Expedit, which I actually bought before I started sewing. After I did a purging of my belongings when I last moved, I had more room for storage…lucky for me! I currently have a little too much to fit into the cubbies, so some of it is in the chest of drawers. (It’s stash diet time…) I don’t like the idea of keeping a huge stash; it seems like undue pressure for a hobby. I have enough to make maybe three dresses, two skirts, a pair of pants, and three shirts. The shirt yardage is with “practice” fabric that I got in Fabric Mart bundles. (No more bundles for me for a while. I should buy with purpose.) It seems like enough to me.

I cut my fabric on a long folding table, which is between the sewing desk and the cubbies. It gets put away when it’s not in use. I use a giant cutting mat and a rotary cutter, as it’s easier on my hands.

As a person who’s only been sewing for about a year and a half, I’m satisfied with my modest setup. When I’m an old lady living in a house with empty rooms, I’ll have a magical setup. At this point in my life, what I have will suffice. I’m also grateful for my boyfriend, who helped with setting all this up.

and that’s what’s up.

New Look 6145: Progress Notes

I started New Look 6145 the weekend of 2/7, tracing and cutting out the pattern pieces. I used African wax fabric that I bought in the New York Garment District last summer. (The purchase of this fabric was the first time I have successfully, accidentally, haggled a price. It’s a source of pride!) the fabric is light and crisp, even after a trip through the washer and drier. It is also a bit sheer.

Edit: This is my progress, as of 2/17/15–side seams are sewn and finished (clean-finished), vent is finished and reinforced, and zipper is inserted (somewhat poorly, but I am not too fussed about it). Next up: sleeves and a hem!

New Look 6145, shift dress, muslin
New Look 6145, partially completed

On Monday, I sewed the darts. This dress is different from Simplicity 1609 (another shift dress) in a few ways; one of those ways is that it lacks shoulder darts and another is that the angled darts are less dramatic than the French darts on S1609. It also has a back vent, which I am not sure is entirely necessary, since the dress seems to be rather short.

On Friday, I worked on the facing. I had some cutting mishaps, so the facings are not entirely even, after seeing the to the back pieces, which were the ones I mis-cut. I decided to turn under the un-notched edge and sew to finish, rather than using the fake overlocking stitch to finish, as I usually do. I think it looks neater turned-under.

On Saturday, I decided to do a lapped centered zipper, rather than the invisible zipper called for in the pattern. The decision was based on what was available in my collection of zippers; the only matching zipper I had in the correct length was a regular zipper. This was my second time doing a lapped zipper, so I found it pretty exciting. I mashed up Lladybird’s lapped zipper method with the Reader’s Digest method, since I’d already basted down the facing, according to the directions in the NL 6145 packet.

This is my first garment with separate sleeve pieces that must be set in. I’m looking forward to this challenge!

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