(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.

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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!

Simplicity 5914 Dress (1970s): Plans

Kestrel Makes is co-hosting the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge this year. I decided that I’d like to join in, saying that I would sew one vintage pattern this year. (I don’t want to overextend myself!)

I settled on the 1970s as the decade whose style I wanted to explore. I wanted to find something relatively easy, but with a couple of added details that would allow me to try a new technique. I found Simplicity 5914, a shift-like dress with a collar and cuffs, along with a waist seam (unlike a true shift), which fit the bill.

Simplcitiy 2914, a 1970s dress pattern
Image is from Etsy @AuntHoneysEstate/Google Image Search.

I ordered the pattern in size 18.5 from eBay; I couldn’t find one in 18 or 16.5. My plan is to try to tissue fit the pattern, as it’s already cut in that size, or to trace the pieces slightly smaller. What should I do? I’m excited about learning how to do a collar and cuffs. I plan on starting a practice run of this dress this weekend.

I wonder why Simplicity doesn’t print patterns in half-sizes anymore?

Simplicity 1609, a Jiffy Pattern: A Shifty Shift Dress

I read about Simplicity 1609 on Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing and on the We Sew Retro website. I really liked the versions that I saw there; I had visions of myself looking sleek and mod in my own version. I believe I started this series in December 2013 and finished it in January 2014.

I made a muslin out of a polka-dotted sheet (no photo), using size 16 at the bust and 18 at the waist and hip. I didn’t put a zipper in it. It seemed fine, though loose.

I made a second version, complete with zipper, out of green paisley broadcloth. It had some fitting issues in the back, but the front looked good. (This was my first centered zipper! I hand-basted it in before sewing it in by machine.)

Simplicity 1609, shift dressI looked up “puffiness in upper back” on Google. I was surprised to have this, since my lower back dips in sharply…normally, I have pooling of fabric in the lower back. I believe I found that the back bodice was too long, so I shortened the back bodice above where the waistline was (approximately, since the back bodice and skirt are not separate). The fit in the upper back improved on the third version, made of linen from JoAnn’s, but the fit in front declined, becoming loose and giving the impression of a big belly.

Simplicity 1609 Front Modeled

Sorry about all of the background stuff–this was my one opportunity to get a photo, and it was dark and cold outside. Even though the fit isn’t perfect, I have worn it to work a lot…with a belt to control the puffiness in front. I like how breezy it is.

A sewing teacher suggested that I actually go down a size to 14, so I may try that on the next version of this. I find Simplicity 1609 easy to sew, and I like the silhouette in all the versions I’ve seen. I want to make it work for my figure.

 

Learning New Sewing Skills: Simplicity 2444 Draft

When I started sewing, learning new skills was my main goal–it still is. Here’s one of my early hits/misses, a first draft of Simplicity 2444, sewn in February 2014:

Simplicity 2444

Skills learned:

  • Inserting an invisible zipper using an invisible zipper foot
  • Underlining the bodice with muslin, following Reader’s Digest instructions
  • Using muslin as a sew-in interfacing
  • Gathering (the skirt)
  • Using rectangles to create a gathered skirt (learned from Dolly Clackett)

Simplicity 2444 Back View

Things I did not do well here:

  • Paying closer attention to the instructions (and misunderstanding the instructions because I was looking at the Reader’s Digest sewing book and the instructions, which were different), rather than my common sense, which resulted in the zipper not ending at the top
  • Sewing the skirt in such a way that some gathering threads are visible
  • Hemming (I did a quick hem because this serves as a draft/a costume, since the fabric is crappy thin poly $1 Wal-Mart fabric–in this photo, the dress is unhemmed)

I made this (16 bust, 18 waist, rectangles for skirt) during February 2014, less than a year after I started learning how to sew. It has gaping in the back due to the zipper issue and possibly a “crone neck” issue, and gaping around the neckline, which others have noted.

Simplicity 2444

In my second version of S2444, I did 18 all over (due to weight gain) and added little darts on the back shoulder area to help fit over the curve of my upper back–thanks, Pattern Review commenters! I did the zipper properly, after lots of practice. For my second version, I used the included skirt, which has a lot of volume. I’ll edit this post later to feature it.

Sew Fresh!

One of my objectives with this blog is to promote diversity by representing a body type and look that is under-represented in the Sewing Blog Community.

Hundreds of sewing blogs exist already. There’s a pattern, though; the blogs that appear first in search results belong to young, thin white women. There is a lack of diversity among the top results. Sewing blog community members in places such as GOMI Craft and personal blogs have noted this. These blogs get the most traffic, and blogs by outliers tend to not get much attention, so they are overlooked and fall to the back of search results, if they register at all on the search engines.

That means that people like me–a woman of color with a little extra weight who is making her way toward middle age–don’t see their figures reflected as much in the endless photos of finished products. It’s frustrating because I do blog searches of particular sewing patterns to see what the finished item looked like, and what kinds of adjustments the sewist had to make to the pattern to make it fit. If almost all of the bodies modeling the garments are near the “standard” size and proportions, that is not helpful to me.

Pattern Review seems to present a more balanced representation of sewists, but the interface on that website is clunky and unappealing, and it doesn’t allow sewists’ voices to shine the way that personal blogs do.

Some blogs that I like include Sew Crafty Chemist, Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, Miss Crayola Creepy, Idle Fancy, Clothing Engineer (whose body type is a lot like mine), and Ten Thousand Hours of Sewing. They present a variety of body types and fitting challenges; they also write very thoughtfully and methodically about sewing. I would like to do the same! I want to keep it fresh.