achievement unlocked: unicorn dress

when i was first thinking about trying to sew my own dresses (three months ago), the cambie dress by sewaholic was one of the first designs that caught my eye. but it was listed as an “intermediate” pattern, & i thought i was an adventurous beginner at best. so i started with some other designs first. then i saw this new unicorns & rainbows print by doohikey designs & i knew it was destined to be a cambie. the cambie has a sweetheart neckline, little gathered cap sleeves, & either an A-line or a gathered skirt (both with pockets). it’s a pretty frilly, feminine pattern, especially with the gathered skirt (which i knew would be my first choice for silhouette), & while a lot of other seamsters on the internet have tried to contrast the sweetness with contrasting fabric choices, i decided to go ALL IN with pink unicorns & rainbows!

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also of note: see my purple shoes? those are the new fluevog amies i picked up on sale. very cute & surprisingly comfortable!

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gazing westward…at ramona trying to crawl into the street. (we stopped her.)

i ordered the unicorn fabric from fabric.com, & they always seem to take like a week to ship my stuff, which kind of sucks for me because, once i commit to a fabric, i want it immediately! alas, i had to wait. but i already had the pattern, so spent my wait time making muslins to try to get the bodice fit as close to just right as possible, given my still-limited sewing skills. (this is only the fourth dress i’ve ever made. i forgot until after it was finished that it was graded “intermediate,” i guess because of the lining? which was a pain in the ass, but we’ll get to that.)

sewaholic designs for “pear shapes,” which is not my fit issue. as such, the largest bust/waist measurements were just a little small for me, & the hip size was much too large. i would up adding a total of two inches to the side seams, doing a 3/4″ swayback adjustment, & expanding the dart legs on the front bodice a quarter-inch on either side. i also shortened the shoulders half an inch. i probably could have lost a full inch there, but i was worried it was pulling the bodice up & making it too short in front. i left the skirt as is, since it’s gathered & didn’t really have to be a precise fit. i was worried that a gathered skirt would be way too much fabric draping over my stomach, so i chose to eliminate the skirt lining to cut down on fabric in that area. the unicorn print is a bit on the heavy side for the average quilting cotton, so i think it will be fine. & i am still planning to make a slip one of these days soon.

i also added the piping to the waistband & neckline. & i made the piping! it’s not pre-bought! i had 1/16″ cording & i wrapped it in red fabric & sewed it on. it was my first time making piping & it went pretty well. it took a few tries to figure out how to pipe a sweetheart neckline (tip: you have to cut all the way up to your stitch line to get it to curve properly at the middle on the neckline), but it turned out pretty well. i also used red for the pockets, which you can’t see here because my hands are in them. i lowered the pockets a bit because i’m ridiculously short-waisted. leaving them where they were would have created abdomen pockets.

since i only lined the bodice, i just kind of had to wing it on some of the dress construction. i used white bemberg rayon for lining & that stuff is so fiddly to cut. it doesn’t matter THAT much because it’s just a lining. it’s not meant to be seen. but it’s very slippery & kind of hard to sew & i was really anxious when it was time to line the sleeves because the lining was so much smaller than the fabric i’d cut for the sleeve. & i didn’t really understand how i was supposed to stitch from the inside when it was already lined. i wound up just tucking the sleeves into the pockets between the dress & the lining & stitching across the front, just under the piping. i think it looks fine. i used pink thread that matches the fabric exactly, so i doubt anyone will really notice.

two things i’m really proud of: i experimented with print-matching for the first time, trying to match up the print across the zipper in the back:

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it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad at all for a first attempt! i also tried to center a row of unicorns in the waistband.

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so, new things i learned:
* how to make a pattern (slightly) bigger.
* how to make piping for both straight & curved seams.
* print-matching.
*how to gather a waist (it’s pretty much exactly like making ruffles by hand, which i’ve done several times before).
* that invisible zipper can be sewn with a special invisible zipper foot. not that i did a spectacular job with it. but the zipper is slightly more invisible than it would be had i used a regular zipper foot.
* using stay tape at the neckline, shoulder seams, & zipper (for added stability).

things i’d do differently:
* maybe only one layer of interfacing on the waistband. it’s two pieces of interfacing, two layers of fabric, plus the piping. it’s A LOT. that means it’s really sturdy & doesn’t collapse as soon as i put the dress on, but two layers of interfacing & piping as probably overkill.
* i think the stay tape does help the neckline curve toward my body, but it’s possibly just a hair too big. i should have experimented with only adding an inch to the bodice (a quarter-inch on each side seam) & added more at the waist as needed. oh well.

other than that, i’m really happy with it! i’m also getting better at sewing in hooks & eyes, & this was my first project since i had my pinking shears professionally sharpened. i finished all the seams by pinking them & they cut like a dream now.

& yes, i did sew a bit while ramona was awake. here’s what i busted her doing at one point while she was being suspiciously quiet:

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STANDING on the dining room table! what a beast. & here’s a photo of her, just for cuteness.

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getting ready to throw a rock into the pond in the backyard.

a little love letter to sewing

i’m still working hard at getting the fit right on the cambie dress. i have a couple of days until my unicorn fabric arrives, so i’ve been using the wait time to make some muslins. my first muslin just straight from the pattern. it was a hair too small. so i added half an inch to each side seam (two inches total) & shortened the shoulders an inch. i sewed that muslin up yesterday & it’s better, but there’s some excess fabric billowing under the bust & i’m on the fence about how the back looks. i may need to do a small swayback adjustment there, which will be a first. (not that it wouldn’t have been useful in other dresses i’ve made; just that i haven’t done it before.) i’m going to lengthen the shoulder a half-inch & extend the front darts a quarter-inch on either side & see where that gets us. honestly, the fit is probably “good enough” at this point, but it’s not like i’m in some huge rush. i have plenty of time to try to make it better.

i’m also excited about some of the new construction techniques i plan to implement with this dress. it’s a sweetheart neckline, & they have a tendency to gape away from the body. the muslins i’ve made definitely have that issue. so i’m thinking about reinforcing it with silk organza or stay tape to make it curve toward the body. if i have enough fabric, i’m hoping to also experiment with pattern-matching across the zipper. i’ve never done it before, so who knows how it will turn out, but why not try? i’m also thinking about adding piping to either side of the waistband–another technique i’ve never used before. all i have is 1/16″ cording, so it will be pretty subtle. i’m thinking about red, because red & pink is one of my favorite color combos. i’ll probably also use red for the pockets. i’m hoping to have the whole thing done by the end of next weekend!

jared, ramona, & i went to a yard sale yesterday morning, not realizing it was being thrown by our handyman’s girlfriend! she was selling lots of interesting sewing stuff for cheap. i got pinking shears for $3 (they could stand to be sharpened, but they work pretty well & are very easy to handle) & a little mat for my machine pedal ($1) to keep it from skittering all over the floor while i’m sewing. i also got a big bag of various needle-threaders, hem tape, etc, for 50 cents. we chatted a bit about sewing. apparently she took some classes in kansas city back in the day & learned a lot of construction techniques. i’ve looked into classes in lawrence, but there’s nothing at the arts center or the university. the local fabric shop offering “intro to sewing,” but when i asked if they thought i’d get anything out of the class, considering what i already know, they just looked at me & asked, “did you make what you’re wearing?” “yes,” i said. “you won’t get anything out of the class,” they said. apparently it’s all stuff like how to use rotary cutter, how to thread a sewing machine, etc. BUT. they are working on expanding their building & adding a second story, & once that’s finished, they want to add more classes. so maybe there will be something more appropriate for my skill level then! i’m learning a ton just from reading books & blogs & the occasional youtube tutorial, but it would be great to have an actual experienced seamster to bounce ideas & questions off of in real life.

some of the other moms in playgroup are astonished when i show up wearing another new thing i’ve sewn. they’re like, “don’t even pretend like you aren’t insanely productive.” i’ve tried to explain that i’m just obsessive, & that i am sewing instead of doing other things that should probably be higher priority: brushing my teeth, eating, cleaning the litterbox. when i’m neck-deep in a project, it’s really hard for me to tear myself away from the sewing table. it’s not because, oh, i’m so talented or i’ve got my shit together so much. it’s just that i LOVE SEWING. people have their passions, something they can do for hours & feel like no time has passed. that’s how i feel about sewing. other people feel that way about cooking or watching TV or gardening or tinkering with their bicycles. sewing seems to intimidate people a lot because it seems to involve all these skills that you really have to work to learn. it’s kind of like math in that you have to learn the basics before you even know what sorts of questions come next, if that makes sense. like, recently, i went to the fabric store & said i was about to take on a project involving organza, & i asked if they had any tips on how to stabilize it to avoid puckers or skipped stitches. that’s not a question i would have been able to ask a year ago. i had heard of organza a year ago but wouldn’t have been able to identify a bolt of it in a fabric shop, let alone have any concerns about the way it handles. the clerk suggested using sharps needles–which, again, a year ago i didn’t realize that there were different needles suitable for different types of fabrics. who knows what i will learn in the next year that is an impenetrable mystery to me right now?

in other news, i think i have written here before about all the fellowships, grants, etc jared has been applying for all winter, & how we don’t know if one of them will lead us to move away from lawrence. it’s been hard not knowing. there was the possibility that we could be leaving as soon as next month! i’ve been trying hard not to think about it because there’s nothing i can do to make the decision or plan ahead. but on friday, KU offered jared a job teaching environmental studies next year (he’s an environmental historian), so it looks like we’ll probably be staying! it’s a huge relief to more or less know the plan. (there’s still a small possibility that some big grant will come through & we’ll move after all, but it’s not terribly likely.) jared will teach & finish his disseration, go on the job market next winter, & hopefully we’ll be leaving lawrence next summer to move to wherever he gets hired. in the meantime, we can keep paying cheapo rent to live a block from downtown, we can keep going to storytime at the library (which is moving into its gorgeous new building this summer), we can stick with our awesome playgroup, i will be here to see what happens with the fabric store expansion, & maybe we can even go ahead & have a second kid. maybe.

ramona has made a ton of progress in the last few days. she’s getting better & better at walking with only one hand held, & yesterday she actually let go of both of jared’s hands & just stood there for a minute, holding a toy, before plopping down. & she didn’t cry when she sat down. he also took her to the playground & she climbed up to the slide & slid down all on her own for the first time! (feet first, on her belly.) this is great, because it shows that she’s more physically confident. we’re slowly getting used to the climbing & now that she’s more physical, she’s been less demanding with the constant books. she is understanding more & more words every day. she knows how to high five now!

ramona climbs & i sew

ramona had a poop download yesterday (sorry, non-parent readers, but poop does indeed sometimes happen), & when i returned from dealing with it in the bathroom, i found her sitting in my sewing chair! she has climbed up into our landlady’s patio chairs & on to a bench at the playground, but i didn’t think she was big enough to climb into a regular chair for some dumb reason. the rest of the day was insanely easy. she just kept climbing up into my chair, where she would sit, happy as a clam, for literally an hour at a time. she wasn’t making a mess, she wasn’t begging for stories, she wasn’t tormenting the cat. she was just sitting in a chair. i was like, “fuck yes, this rules.”

fast forward to today. today she climbed on to my desk chair. & from there, on to my desk. i found her perched up there, gnawing on my journal. not cool! i gave her the boot & she climbed back into my sewing chair. & started reaching for my sewing table, & specifically, the lovely shiny things on the sewing table, such as my very sharp embroidery scissors, my even sharper sewing shears, my pin box, & my ridiculously expensive computer. (i was researching the cambie dress by sewaholic, which is going to be my next dress project. read on for more on that later in this post.)

i gave her the boot again & she proceeded to climb into jared’s dining room chair & then on to the dining room table, which was littered with my kind of expensive special order writing pens, a dirty diaper (just wet, don’t worry) i hadn’t yet put in the hamper, & a vase of flowers. terror baby!

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there’s probably a fairly simple solution: we must always keep our chairs pushed in when we’re not using them. obviously she’ll eventually learn that she can pull them out & position them to climb to forbidden heights, but hopefully it’ll take her a while. i will also have to train myself to put away potentially dangerous sewing items or things like pens & journals that i don’t want her ruining when they’re not being used. when i first started sewing, i was awful about just dropping thread & little snips of cloth & even pins all over the floor. but obviously none of those things is good to have on a floor with a baby that stuffs everything in her mouth, & i trained myself to immediately put pins back in the box & to brush threads & scraps to the side instead of the floor. it’s just a matter of developing a new habit.

i left ramona with jared for an hour yesterday while i ran downtown for an appointment, & when i came home, she was in a completely different outfit. i said, “oh no, did she sog through her outfit?” & he said, “no, i took her outside to play & she jumped in the pond.” !!! our landlady, who lives right next door & shares a yard with us, is really into birding, & she has two small, shallow ponds in the yard that are basically overgrown bird baths. they are surrounded with decorative rocks & ramona likes to pick the rocks up & throw them into the water. & i guess this time, she decided she’d like to follow the rocks! the water is more shallow than her bath, & jared was right there, so she wasn’t in any danger, but she still just dove in fully-clothed! shoes & all! jared said he had to give her a bath, since obviously a glorified bird bath is probably full of bird poop.

& then our babysitter (jared’s very generous colleague, allison) showed up to take over & we were able to go on a real date! yesterday was our anniversary: seven years. it was also the first time jared has ever actually been kind of excited about anniversary. every year before this, he’s been like, “well, two years is when it really counts…actually, three years is the big one…anniversaries don’t really matter until four years…” etc etc. but i guess in jared’s world, seven years is when you really know you’re serious. he was perhaps more excited than i was! we just went out to dinner & tried to see “the grand budapest hotel,” but we missed the first ten minutes. so we decided to take in the later showing & go have a beer in the meantime, but we wound up having such a nice time sitting around & talking at the bar that we just skipped the movie altogether. we never get to just sit & talk anymore! it’s just baby baby baby work work work until she goes to bed at night, by which point we’re both so exhausted/overwhelmed with all the work we didn’t get to because of the baby that we still don’t really end up hanging out, really.

we had a very serious conversation about buying a new mattress. it went like this.
ciara: “i can’t wait until it’s time for us to buy a new mattress.”
jared: “that will be really nice. i feel so sore when i wake up in the morning.”
ciara: “me too. but that’s because i have arthritis. & am also old. but i’m scared of mattress places that advertise easy financing. i’m scared of buying a mattress so expensive that we have to have financing. we didn’t even need financing for our car. but i guess we spend more time sleeping on our mattress than we do sitting in the car.”
jared: “yeah, & places that sell you a mattress without financing seem really sketchy. i think it’s time to start saving up. maybe we should make a timeline.”
ciara: “i can’t wait until people ask how we spent our anniversary. ‘we decided it was time to get a new mattress. but not in a sexy way. just because we feel stiff in the morning. again, not in a sexy way. i really want to stress that no part of our anniversary was remotely sexy.’”

so, sewing stuff! i altered the sleeves on my mix tape dress a bit (during one of ramona’s naps). i cut the elastic for the sleeve hem a little too big, so i couldn’t push it up if i wanted. i cut out an inch or two of stitching to pull the elastic edges out of the casing & trimmed about three inches off. i sewed it all back up again & now it’s perfect! i wanted a puff sleeve effect & that’s what i have now. i wore it to toddler gym this morning & another mom immediately ran over to me & was all, “i love your dress! did you make that? you are so talented!” i told her it was only the third dress i’ve ever made & i’ve only been sewing for a year & she said, “that’s so inspiring! maybe i should try sewing too! i’d love to be able to make something like that!” now THAT is the kind of reaction i live for!

like i said, my next dress project is probably going to be the cambie by sewaholic (http://www.sewaholicpatterns.com/cambie-dress/). it’s a very sweet dress: gathered sleeves, a sweetheart neckline, & of course i’m doing the full skirt silhouette. very sugary, very girly. a lot of other people who have made this dress have tried to choose fabrics that contrast with the femininity of the design, but i say, go big or go home. so i’m doing it up in this fabric:

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i sewed up a muslin yesterday (again, during ramona’s nap–i like to just put on a podcast or a TV show in the background & sew while she naps), & it was just a HAIR too tight in the biggest size. sewaholic is an indie designer that is specifically cut for the “pear-shaped figure,” & i have written before about how that is not my fit issue. my bust measurement is larger than my hip measurement, & my bust measurement is slightly larger than sewaholic’s largest offering. bummer. luckily, i have been combing the internet for blogs written by plus-sized seamsters, to get tips on how to fit patterns written for smaller measurements, & i picked up a copy of “the complete photo guide to fitting,” which has a WEALTH of information on fitting. the cambie pattern was really just a little too snug–i could get it zipped, but i don’t think it’s realistic for me to wear a dress that tight & take care of a baby or be totally comfortable, & what’s the point of sewing for myself if i’m not making something i can actually wear in my day-to-day life? i’m not sure what the fix is, but i’m going to start by adding just a little extra width at the side seams & see if that solves the issue. i don’t think i’ll have to make an actual full bust adjustment.

i have also already picked up the fabric & selected the pattern for my next dress after that. two words: BACON DRESS. here’s a sneak peek:
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achievement unlocked: mix tape dress

another dress is completed.

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in keeping with my “terrible photos of myself” series. my hair is still wet from the shower, & you can see the black hole that is the top of the fridge. who cares!

so, the stats on this one: it’s based on the licorice dress in “the colette sewing handbook,” which i purchased in january when i decided to start dipping a toe into the world of sewing my own dresses. here’s the photo from the book:

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on first viewing, it definitely did not leap out at me as being something i was dying to sew. i like the polka dot version is a little better, but just because it’s more fitted around the bust & i suspect that’s more a function of the model being skinnier than it is a function of design. i say that as someone who is probably considerably larger than the model in the blue dress. but i was inspired by some other seamsters on the internet who made alterations to their patterns, switching up sleeves & hemlines with abandon. i am not terribly attracted to this dress as designed–that collar! i really don’t think that would work on my figure at all. fine for other people, but definitely not my style. so i decided to experiment with changing it up.

i wound up eliminating the collar altogether. i made a facing out of bias tape to turn it to the inside. i shortened the sleeves by half to make them more of a puff sleeve & less of 1980s secretary sleeve. i made it shorter, & i added more flare to the skirt to turn it into more of an A-line shape. i also added pockets, just because i really like having pockets. & of course, the pattern suggests making this dress in a slinky, silky material, but i used quilting cotton & synthetic organza.

as with my last colette dress, i think the bodice on this thing is a little too big. i said last time that i’d cut a size down with my next colette pattern, & i did with a muslin, but it seemed TINY so i gave up & cut the usual size. & it’s big. it definitely gaps away from my body at the neckline. i should have finished the smaller muslin & tried it on with my nicer bra before making a final decision on the size. next time, i guess.

i also suspect that it gaps because quilting cotton is so much stiffer than the slinky fabrics suggested by the designer. this dress is meant to “skim over curves” & be a little loose. in something silkier, the extra fabric would just lay against the body, but because it’s cotton, it sticks up more. which is fine. i’m not going to be winning any prizes for the fit of this bodice, but it’s okay. it is, after all, only my third dress ever.

new skills i learned:
* fabric layering to create a new textile effect. i basted a layer of organza over a layer of cotton to make the band on the skirt & the sleeves.
* making my own bias tape. i’ve had a bias tape maker for almost a year & never used it. it makes single-fold bias tape. i checked & re-checked the instructions for this dress & it didn’t say anything about whether i should use single-fold or double-fold bias tape (for the hems on the sleeves). so i took a chance on making my own single-fold tape. & it was a disaster. maybe it was my fault? maybe it could have worked if i was more precise in my stitching? but i just could not get it to wrap all the way over the edge of the sleeve & still have room for the elastic. so i picked it all out & replaced it with store-bought pink double-fold tape. live & learn. i’ve learned that single-fold bias tape is essentially useless.
* how to set in sleeves! i was so anxious about this, but it wound up being way easier than i expected. when i am instructed to “sew three parallel rows of basting stitches” & “pull the thread tails to ease in fullness”, etc etc, of course i was scared. this is the kind of thing that makes people think they can’t sew. but i jumped on in there & it was a breeze, honestly. helped by the fact that the sleeves are supposed to be puffy, so i didn’t have to worry about creating a perfectly smooth sleeve cap.
* & of course, various pattern alterations. if i had it to do over again, i would have been more precise in my skirt measurements. the bodice all the way down to where the organza starts on the bottom of the skirt is one piece, & i just kind of winged it in doing the organza piece & them hem piece. it turned out fine–not 100% perfect (the organza is not perfectly lined up at one side seam), but it’s close enough. i could have done a better job had i taken the time to measure carefully & maybe even draw up pattern pieces.
* hemming a sleeve with elastic. this was very easy! (once i swapped out the bias tape.) i could see myself doing this with all kinds of stuff for ramona once she starts walking & doesn’t look so weird in skirts & dresses. (right now, they just pull up over her diaper butt because she crawls everywhere.)

if i had this to do over, i’d fit the bodice more carefully, & i’d make the sleeve elastics more snug so i could actually push the sleeves up. (update: i picked out an inch or two of stitching on the sleeve hems & did end up losing about three inches off the elastic, so now i can push the sleeves up & give them more of a puff sleeve silhouette. yay! it was a super-easy fix.) i would also just cut the sleeves shorter. i halved them from the original pattern piece, but they are still just a little too long for my taste.

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the back. the dress closes with an invisible zip in the back & a hook & eye. you can see in this photo that the neckline doesn’t line up exactly perfectly, & that i should learn how to do a swayback adjustment, but all in all–not too bad.

oh, also! i lined the dress with white rayon bemberg. this was my first time using a silky lining, & my first time lining a dress. i cut the pattern pieces from the bemberg first & basted it to the mix tape fabric & then used it all as one piece to construct the dress, rather than cutting out the fashion fabric, making the dress, then cutting out the lining & making a second dress & then stitching them together. maybe one of these days i will install the lining like the directions instruct. i really like the lining! it’s so cool & smooth against my skin.

at the risk of sounding like an asshole, i also want to mention something else. it seems like every time i sew something new, someone pipes up to ask me to make them something. maybe half the time, the person offers to pay me. the rest of the time, they just say, “could you make me one?” leaving me to broach the awkward topic of payment if i was amenable to taking the time to sew them some bespoke item of clothing or something in the first place. even when people offer to pay me, they don’t always seem to understand exactly what is involved in the cost of having someone make you a handmade item of clothing (or quilt, or set of curtains, or whatever). i’m not going to pretend i’m some super-talented couture seamster. i think you can see from my photos that i am not. so i’m not sitting here thinking that i’m so talented i ought to be paid $100 an hour or something. BUT. as soon as i finished this dress, someone asked me, “will you make me one?” let’s break it down.

i ultimately used about four yards of mix tape fabric for this dress, & let’s say two & a half yards of rayon bemberg, & maybe two yards of organza. plus thread, a sewing needle, a hand-sewing needle, a 22″ invisible zipper, maybe two yards of 3/8″ elastic, a hook & eye, a package of double-sided bias tape. plus, the cost of the pattern.
mix tape fabric: $40
rayon bemberg: $15
organza: $12
notions: $15
pattern: $5

we’re already up to $87 just for materials. poke around on modcloth or eshakti or even the anthropologie website & see what you can get for $87. having someone sew you a bespoke dress is not likely to be cheaper than buying off the rack.

now let’s get into time. i spent maybe two hours last week cutting & sewing a couple of muslins. & as you can see, the fit on the bodice is not spectacular. so let’s say i’m doubling the time taken making a muslin to really get a perfect fit on someone who is not me. that’s four hours. i spent maybe an hour prepping the fabric (washing, pressing, etc). i started tracing the pattern & cutting on saturday morning at around 9am. i worked straight through until 4pm, with a little break for putting ramona down for her nap & eating. call it six hours. then i worked again from 6pm until 10:30pm, with a break for dinner & baby bedtime. three & a half hours. on sunday, i started working at 8am & finished the dress at about 2:30pm, with another break for baby nap & lunch. so, five & a half hours. so that’s twenty hours altogether. even if i am only paid $10 an hour for my time & work, that’s $200. & really, $10 an hour is a bargain considering that all the time i spend sewing is time i am NOT spending with my daughter, or my partner, or keeping up with housework, or reading books, or any of the other things i would probably prefer to do rather than making a dress for someone other than myself. round up & this is a $300 dress. i suppose if someone really wanted to pay me $300 to make them a dress, it would be hard to say no. that’s a lot of money. but pretty much no one who sees me sporting a new dress i’ve made & asks me to make them one is thinking, “yeah, i would drop multiple hundies on that.” they’re thinking they might be really generous & offer $50. & allow me to add: this dress is made out of quilting cotton. if someone wanted me to make them a dress out of actual garment fabric, that would be even more expensive. if they wanted silk organza instead of synthetic (which cannot be ironed)? add some more money. i could go on. plus, after busting my hump all weekend making this dress, my body is wrecked. my wrists, knees, hips, back, & neck are a mess. this isn’t just something i can whip together in an hour during ramona’s nap or whatever. it’s time-consuming & physically taxing. as i get more experience sewing, i’ll probably get faster. i remember the first skirt i ever made took me like thirty hours (mostly because i kept installing the zipper wrong), & now i can put the same design together in maybe three. but still!

in closing, one last photo of the dress (& ramona!):

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birthdays with babies

today is jared’s birthday. for three months every year we are the same age. (i’m older.)

of course, he had to work. fridays are his busiest day because he teaches three classes back to back. we put the fourth crib railing up on monday afternoon & stopped co-sleeping, & even though all three of us have been sleeping better since then, ramona’s personality is different. she’s a million times more cuddly during the day, but also much quicker to have a complete meltdown over something inconsequential. (well, to me. i’m sure to her, it’s is VERY consequential when mom does not immediately drop everything & read her “goodnight gorilla” twelve times in a row.) i’m not saying there’s necessarily a connection between her sleeping alone & her being so much more demanding on both physical affection & constant attention, but…draw your own conclusions.

in any case, i really hope it’s a phase. maybe she needs an adjustment period. it could also be related to teething, as she is starting to grow her molars, & her top canine teeth are also popping up a few months ahead of schedule. it’s not easy to count her teeth, but i know for certain that she has at least eleven at this point, so we’re more than halfway done with the baby teeth.

i definitely don’t mind reading to ramona. i’ve already read her the entire “harry potter” series & the entire “series of unfortunate events” series, to say nothing of her bookcase full of board books, each of which i have read dozens of times. i actually make time everyday to sit & read to her. however, i do have a problem reading to her ALL DAY LONG. from the second she gets up in the morning until the second she goes to bed, all she wants to do is have books read to her. i’m not kidding. i used to be able to read a few books & she was satisfied to play on her own for a while. now she wants “mr. brown can moo” & then “trains go” & then “tails are not for pulling” & then “baby signs” & then “smile!” & then “trains go” again & then “baby naps” & & then “how big is a pig” & then “moby dick” (the baby lit version) & god have mercy on your soul if you attempt to take a break & sip some water or go to the bathroom. she wants me to read her books while i’m trying to make her lunch, or change her diaper, or put the laundry away. it’s nearly impossible to get anything else done. & once she’s has chosen the parent that will be reading her selection, the other parent better not attempt to step in unless they want to see a baby go into meltdown mode. i’m talking screaming, tears, banging her head on the floor…i can handle it as long as she gives me a decent nap so i can have a break. but today she only gave me an hour & a half. not long enough!

she is also still not walking or standing unsupported. gestationally, she’d be fourteen & a half months old now. early intervention suggested we get her eyes checked. maybe she lacks confidence because she doesn’t see well? so she’s going to the eye doctor on monday. we are all really at a complete loss as to how to encourage her to move forward with these milestones. i don’t particularly care that she’s not walking yet, but i really feel she should be standing by now. i know plenty of kids her age don’t, & eventually they learned & it was no big deal. like how i didn’t learn to ride a bike until i was 12, & didn’t get my driver’s license until i was 31. but i am starting to feel a bit concerned.

anyway: jared’s birthday. i asked him if he wanted to make him a cake, & he was all, “eh.” that’s a quote. ramona was so exhausting & demanding today that i did not make a cake. had he said, “yes, i want a cake,” i would have made it a priority–maybe put it together during her nap or something. but he seemed indifferent so i didn’t do it. then she woke up much earlier than i expected & was running me down, so i put her in the stroller & took her downtown. she’s always easier to handle outside the house. we went to the fabric shop & picked up some notions for some future sewing projects (a dress & a slip). we went to the bakery & i got jared this cookie he likes. we went to the florist & i put together what i considered to be a rather masculine bouquet, with orange roses & some berries & other things. then i realized i had no idea how to get my (kind of big) bouquet home with a stroller, so the florist offered to walk it home for me. that was nice! the perks of living like a block from downtown.

when jared got home, i was like, “i didn’t make a cake. sorry.” & he was like, “oh, you didn’t? …oh. …i guess that’s okay.” & i was like, “i would have if you said you wanted one, but it seemed like you didn’t care & ramona was exhausting today.” & he was like, “i wanted a cake.” *sigh*

jared wanted to check out this local restaurant we’ve never been to, as a birthday treat. so we walked down there & it was PACKED. they have like ten tables. seriously. there were maybe four parties waiting ahead of us. you do the math. the hostess said it was a 20- to 30-minute wait, so we took a gamble on waiting. & we were still waiting an hour later. we were finally seated at 7:30pm, which is ramona’s bedtime. she was starting to meltdown, but what were our options? she had to eat something before she went to bed. we ordered bruschetta as an appetizer, but ramona was completely losing it & basically tearing her face off in exhaustion. so we switched our entree orders to take-out & fed ramona as much bruschetta as we could get her to eat & got her home a full half hour after she’s usually in bed. she drank her entire bedtime sippy in one swallow & immediately passed out, & we ate our take-out (which was quite good, but would have been even better actually still warm) on the couch in front of an old episode of “parks & recreation”. the glamour of parenting.

jared kind of wanted to be mad at the hostess for underestimating the wait time, but i’m sure she didn’t expect the women at the table we finally got to linger over coffee for literally a full hour, making faces at ramona, before they finally left. if it was anyone’s fault, it was theirs. sure, they’re entitled to take their time with their meals & everything, but maybe if you see a baby waiting to be seated, & you have like a quarter of a cup of coffee left, don’t nurse that shit for 45 minutes while making googly eyes at said baby like you give any kind of a fuck about its health or well-being.

this weekend i am hoping to get started on my new dress. i guess i am going to hand-baste the lining to the dress fabric. maybe this is insane? we will find out.

on sewing & momming

i took advantage of ramona’s nap to finish making the muslin for my next dress project. i started it the other day, after buying the local thrift shop out of king-sized flat sheets. (i got their entire stock, plus a gingham button-down for jared, a riding toy for ramona, & the world’s most elderly fisher price play rotary phone–it’s seriously mounted on a solid block of wood, & ramona has no idea how to use it because she’s never seen a real rotary phone, nor is she allowed to play with our cell phones–all for $5 total!) i knew i wanted to add flare to the skirt so i drafted that right into the muslin & got everything cut out but then i ran out of steam because i hate tracing darts, &  knew i’d have to move them down since indie patternmakers maybe don’t get that sometimes people are in their mid-30s & lactated for a year & a half (ahem), & the darts i did trace were all fucked up-looking…

anyway, i finally got all the darts moved & properly traced. i basted the whole thing together, complete with zipper, & tried it on with a great sense of trepidation. for some reason, i just expected it to be really ill-fitting & unflattering. i slowly made my way to the full-length mirror…& it looked great! nearly perfect. i’m going to have to move the horizontal bust darts down too (i don’t know why i didn’t do that in the first place) & i think i’m going to lose maybe quarter-inch off each shoulder seam, but i think those are the only changes i will have to make. i was really surprised at how good it looked!

unfortunately, the good fabric i’ve ordered isn’t slated to arrive until friday, so i can’t start sewing for real until then. friday is also jared’s 34th birthday. i had kind of hoped to have the dress done by then, just in case we decide to live on the edge & hire a babysitter & go out on a real date. but our anniversary (seven years!) is next week, so maybe i can have it finished by then instead.

this dress will be an experiment in several new skills: sewing with organza, setting in a sleeve, & lining a dress. i actually bought some white bemberg to use as a lining. i am considering drafting a facing for the neckline, because ramona is obsessed with my breasts & constantly yanks on the necklines of everything i wear so she can look down my shirt. i think she’s just really interested in bodies. she also likes to lift people’s shirts up to see their belly buttons, she looks up pant legs & sleeves…she is learning that clothing conceals body parts & she’s very curious about it. which is great & everything, but i don’t want her ruining the necklines of my handmade clothing.

i am also thinking about drafting a removeable waistband/belt for the dress. it already has a lot more shape than i expected, given the pattern photographs. but adding a belt could be fun.

i’ve been thinking about why i like sewing so much. obviously i’ve had a lot of other creative interests & hobbies over the years. i used to do printmaking, i used to paint, i guess maybe i still qualify as a zinester (even though it’s been almost a year since i released my last zine–though i have a draft of one rotting in my computer word program as we speak). but i think i love sewing more than anything else i’ve ever done. well…maybe not more than zines. i loved zines a lot, for a long time. i have a different relationship with sewing because it just isn’t as social. a primary component of zine-making is that other people read the zines & probably write to you or talk to you about what they think. zines (for me) were primarily about ideas & how people respond to those ideas. sewing is much more tangible because i am creating an object rather than compiling my own thoughts. & while i love feedback about my sewing projects, all that really matters is what i think of something. if i make a mistake with a sewing project, i can either unpick it & try again, or just chalk it up as a learning experience that actually taught me a real skill i can apply to projects down the road. i’m not sure what would count as a “mistake” in the zine world. writing something that ends up being wildly misinterpreted/hated? that’s happened to me before. i didn’t really learn much from it. it just made me feel frustrated. i’m not saying i never feel frustrated when, say, i sew an entire 22-inch zipper into a dress inside out, but it’s not the same kind of frustration. it’s easier to just grab the seam ripper & think, “oh well, mistakes happen,” with something like that than it is to have to deal with some obnoxious email from someone who wants to tell me how wrong i am about something that they just misunderstood in the first place. (which, granted, the goal of a writer is to write clearly enough that misunderstandings are few & far between. so one could make the argument that i should have learned to express myself more clearly. but the bottom line is that someone is always going to be offended by something someone says, no matter how clear they attempt to be, in the weird social justice circles in which i circulate(d) my zines.)

for me, sewing is kind of like parenting in that there is always something new to try, always something new to learn, & personally, i find the fruits of my experimentation much more fulfilling than i ever anticipated. over the years, i’ve noticed that a major source of depression for me is when i feel that i have nothing to look forward to, nothing to fill my time. which is obviously a huge problem for me, being on disability, & having limitations on what i can physically do. with a baby & a sewing habit, i definitely don’t have to worry about how to fill my days! & there’s always something to look forward to: ramona learning a new word, finding a cute new pattern i want to make, hugs from ramona, finding a great new fabric i want to work with, ramona doing something hilarious like sneaking into the pantry & then panicking & knocking everything in the pantry over in her haste to pretend she was never in there when she hears me coming, finishing a new dress or quilt or other sewing project & getting to show it off.

& there’s always something new to learn, which i really love. i love seeing some sewing technique i haven’t tried yet & trying to figure out how it’s done. i love trying to achieve new milestones with ramona. i recently stopped pumping (finally!), but kept giving ramona bottles at bedtime because i was scared she’d flip out & refuse to sleep if i gave her a sippy instead. then she stopped falling asleep on her bottle, so…i experimented with giving her a sippy. & it worked out fine. she seems just as happy to drink her milk from a sippy. jared decided he couldn’t take any more nighttime head-butting & kicking & insisted that we put the fourth railing up on the crib & stop co-sleeping. i was very sad about this & was terrified that ramona just wouldn’t sleep if she was corralled inside a crib after having access to our bed for her entire life. but…she actually seems to sleep BETTER alone in the crib. she wakes less frequently & falls asleep faster. like i said, there’s always something new to try.

i guess this makes sense, because i love being a mom & i love sewing. so of course there are some similarities in why i love them. & on that note, i hear ramona waking up from her nap.

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achievement unlocked: firefly dress

i made a new dress last week! i am just slow about updating this blog, i guess.

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in keeping with my love of not gussying myself up for photos. i didn’t even comb my hair before this picture was taken. (though i did look in the mirror & thought my hair looked okay. that opinion did not translate to the photographic record.)

anyway, the dress! it’s the crepe dress pattern by colette patterns. i used a print from the wee wander collection & solid yellow for the waist tie. this dress was also my first experience with fusible interfacing, which was very easy to use, & with making facings (for the neckline & the sleeves), which was an exciting new skill to try. i did french seams on all the skirt seams that didn’t involve pockets (it’s a wrap dress, so there were a lot of skirt segments to sew together) & bound the waist seam with orange bias tape.

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the dress looks especially cute here, & you can see i’ve got my hands in my pockets, but i didn’t realize the sleeve facing was sticking out.

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the back!

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just a goofy photo.

i love this dress! i’ve been wearing it a lot since i made it. jared & i left ramona with a sitter that is not related to her (jared’s history department colleague, allison) for the first time ever on friday night so we could go see jonathan richman at the bottleneck. i wore my dress & my new purple fluevog ballet flats, which i have yet to photograph. i was a tiny bit self-conscious because i felt “dressed up” wearing such a bright dress & new shoes, but it was also a good look. some acquaintances were there & they seemed impressed that i managed to sew this dress up in only two days. i probably could have done it in one, but you know–i do have a baby to look after. thankfully, ramona has been giving me some good naps lately, so i’ve been able to get in a fair amount of sewing time. it’s also better for me to take my time with sewing projects a little so i don’t start rushing & get sloppy with the details.

on the topic of sloppiness, i admit i probably got sloppy with the hem. straight out of the envelope, this dress is LONG. though i guess i’m not that tall. i’m only 5’5″. but still! had i not shortened it, it seriously would have come within a hair’s breadth of my ankles, which was not the designer’s intention, i’m sure. i cut two inches off the hem while i was cutting my fabric, & i wound up making a four-inch hem. so i lost six inches of length altogether. the hem looks fine from the outside, but the inside is very puckery, which could have been avoided if i’d just taken my time with it more. but the hem was the last step of the process, & i was just rushing to get it done.

i’ve already gotten several compliments on this dress, & i would probably make it again. it was pretty easy–especially the fact that it has little cap sleeves that are part of the bodice. i am looking forward to learning how to set in sleeves, but i’m not sorry i didn’t have to do it here.

new things i learned making this dress:
* how to make & sew in facings
* french seams
* bias tape seam binding (i think this is called a “hong kong seam” by some people)

i did end up hemming the circle skirt part of my cat dress yesterday & wore it to jared’s first soccer game of the season. it’s amazing how much better-sewn the firefly dress is in comparison, considering that only about a week elapsed between the two dresses being made. i used bias tape as a facing on the cat dress, but i was sloppy & impatient with it, & there are places (especially on the waist) where it sticks out too much. i think this was a function of not really understanding what a facing is or how it’s supposed to look. it’s fine–i still think the cat dress is perfectly cute (especially now that i’ve hemmed it so nicely). i’m just reflecting on how much i’ve learned, & how much there is to learn, about sewing, & how much i am enjoying the process of trying & learning new things.

if i made this crepe dress again, i might consider lining it. maybe. it already requires a lot of fabric, & lining it would double the fabric allowance, but if it was lined, i’d have more places to tack down the facings (or i suppose i could eliminate them altogether). i tacked them at the seams, but obviously if i tack them anywhere else, the stitches will show on the outside, & they do flip out sometimes, which is annoying (especially on the sleeves). i would also consider interfacing the waist tie because it twists & bunches really easily, & obviously it looks best if it stays wide & flat. i might also make the bodice maybe an inch longer, because as it is, the waist tie has tendency to ride up above my actual waistline.

i’ve heard of people making this dress reversible, which seems like a fun experiment.

i think my next dress project will be a heavily modified licorice dress, by colette patterns, in multi-colored cassette tape print fabric with purple organza accents. stay tuned!