achievement unlocked: Mariner pa’u skirt & Blanc tee

I’ve got a twofer to show today!

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I cannot believe how long it’s taken me to write up these garments. I made the t-shirt in May & I made the skirt in late June. I think the issue is that I wore them constantly all summer, but somehow never managed to get photos before I spilled Ethiopian food or pasta sauce or whatever all over myself. I guess I’m kind of a messy eater.

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^^^ Same t-shirt, same skirt, at the Kansas City Zoo in July.

Let’s talk about the t-shirt first, because it’s pretty simple. The pattern is from Blank Slate Patterns, & I think it’s free if you buy another pattern. I picked it up when I bought the Marigold shirtdress for my entry into Indie Pattern Month’s “new to me” challenge.29104507022_8d160e13da_z1

This is a super-simple tee. It’s just two pieces with cut-on cap sleeves. Raw edges at the hems & neck are turned in & stitched. I did a narrow zigzag at the seamline to help things turn under neatly (a little tip I picked up from Beverly Johnson’s Craftsy class on sewing a supportive one-piece swimsuit). The bottom hem does roll a bit, because I made it VERY narrow. When I make another in jersey fabric, I will have to remember to add a little extra length so I can make a deeper hem.

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Despite its simplicity & my usual preference for a banded finish at the hems & neck, I am obsessed with this tee. I don’t know that it would necessarily work for every body, but I love the way it fits me. It shows some shape, but it’s not tight enough to make me self-conscious. The fit is really casual & summer-y. I have been wearing it seriously at least four times a week all summer. I’ve cut another in some gorgeous plum-colored double knit from Style Maker Fabrics. I won a $25 gift certificate to the shop when I won one of the Indie Pattern Month challenges at the Monthly Stitch. (My final winner’s haul for Indie Pattern Month was $25 in free fabric, an instructional DVD on zippers, & nine free patterns from various indie designers–pretty impressive!) This pattern takes less than a yard of fabric (60″ wide) so it’s very economical. & it’s so fast to sew. The only reason my double knit version wasn’t done an hour after I cut it out is because I’ve been dragging my feet on tracking down matching thread.

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Bottom line: this is not the most sophisticated pattern in the world, but I love the way it looks on me, & when you add in the fact that it was free & it takes an hour to sew…nothing but raves from me.

On to the skirt. This was a featured make-at-home project in “Threads” magazine a couple of months ago. Apparently the pa’u skirt is a traditional native Hawaiian garment often used in hula. It’s usually midi length, & there are three rows of channeling at the waistline. A ribbon is inserted through each & cinched to fit, which also creates dense gathers. There’s only one seam in the garment, at one side, where the ribbons are fed.

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I had some qualms about making this skirt, & I’d love some opinions. Given that this is a traditional garment from a culture that I am not a part of, & which is not a privileged culture, social justice-wise, it seemed like maybe it was culturally appropriative of me to make it. I asked Jared for his input, & he voted that it was culturally appropriative. Obviously I made it anyway, because I had my eye on this fabulous border print & was already planning to use it for some kind of a dirndl skirt. This skirt has the whole ribbon element, & I loved the dense gathering at the waistline (even though it definitely adds bulk in an area where I require no assistance)…I am basically helpless when it comes to ribbon. I’ll make practically anything if I can use ribbons.

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The crossroads of fashion & cultural appropriation are difficult & thorny. There are a lot of styles that have made their way into “mainstream” (read: white) fashion that began in the traditional designs of marginalized cultures. Some of the styles are used specifically to evoke the marginalized culture, like dresses with cheong-sam styling (think frogs & maybe a stand collar) or heavily embroidered poblana-style blouses (thank you, Mexico). But some elements have basically become completely assimilated into mainstream fashion (kimono sleeves, for instance).

& it’s a constant issue for privileged Western white people to just buy (or make) the styles that appeal to them & never stop to consider the fact that they may be appropriating a really important part of a marginalized culture. Consider, for instance, the Navajo Nation suing Urban Outfitters for slapping their name all over clothing made in vaguely “tribal” prints. (Consider “tribal” prints in general.)

So. These are the thoughts I had while making this skirt. I still feel unresolved on the issue. Obviously this style of skirt is important to hula culture, & hula culture is important to a race of people who were colonized & exploited. Am I contributing to that exploitation by making this skirt, just because I think it’s cute? Maybe.

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I do like the skirt, & I wear it constantly, & I get loads of compliments every time. (I think people just really like the print, & a one-seam gathered skirt is an ideal way to showcase a fabulous border print.) I used a full three yards in width, but I shortened it a bit so it’s knee-length or a little above (depends on where I wear the waistband). I also did the ribbon treatment the same way I did on my Anderson blouse, by sewing ribbon to 1/4″ elastic, to give the waist a little stretch & facilitate being able to put it on & take it off without untying. I made the ribbon a little long for the bottom tier, a little longer for the middle, & longest at the top, so they all fall to about the same length.

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The fabric is a laser printed print from the Hawthorne Threads in-house line. It comes in a pretty big selection of colors. I honestly had a hard time choosing. A warning to those who may be tempted to order Hawthorne Threads prints for garments: the print is indeed 44″ wide, as advertised, but the selvages are enormous. The average selvage is like an inch. Each selvage on these bad boys was like 10″. The fabric also feels a lot more stiff than your average high-quality quilting cotton. I was not thrilled with the hand or the drape at first. Washing it made it a little softer, but it was still really stiff, & all the gathering on this skirt requires a certain degree of drape, you know? But like I said, I’ve been wearing it, & hence, washing it, all summer & it’s softened up a lot.

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assorted sewing ruminations

Remember those shorty overalls/dungarees/”ovarees” I made last month? I submitted the design to the Maker’s Wish competition over at Schnittchen Patterns. People can vote on which designs they would like to see turned into actual Schnittchen patterns. The four most popular choices will win. It’s kind of a cool idea, letting the people that ostensibly may buy your patterns have a say in the options available. Maybe go check it out & vote?

& if I may include a bit of reasoning for why you should vote for my pattern: I intentionally submitted a garment that is perhaps a bit more unique in silhouette because I feel like there’s a lack of that in the indie pattern world. As a person who aims to have a completely handmade wardrobe, I need a lot of options–NOT just skirts & dresses. I wear pants, jeans, & shorts all the time, because that is what is most practical for my lifestyle. When I got a bee in my bonnet to make my shorty overalls, I really couldn’t find a pattern I liked. I wanted classic jeans detailing (topstitching, rivets, mock fly, front & back pockets), a full front & back bib, & I was absolutely obsessed with wanting a waistband. I also had a vision of having buttons at the hips to facilitate fit. I guess that’s a detail I remember having on some overalls I had in high school (circa 1993, when overalls were all the rage).

There aren’t a lot of overalls patterns available, full stop, & every one I found was not quite right. The bib was cut too low, it called for buttons at the shoulders instead of classic dungarees hooks, there were pleats around the belly/hips, it was cut all in one with no waistband (or even a waist seam in some cases), the fit was too snug, the legs were too wide, something. I could have just bought the pattern that was closest & tried to alter it to suit my vision, but instead I took a chance on just drafting my own, & I LOVE how it came out. Those ovarees are probably my most worn item of summer 2016.

There are so many dress patterns in the world. I’m not saying that we don’t need another. I’m just at a point in my sewing where I can easily alter & hack the dress patterns I already have to get pretty much any style I want. People seem to find pants a lot more challenging & want a pattern to guide them. So…pick my pattern! Or, seriously, any of the others. There are some really intriguing designs to choose from.

In other news, I guess I am co-hosting a sew-along in this crafty mom FB community I am in. Not quite sure how it happened, but I’m okay with it. The selected pattern (I had nothing to do with making the choice) is the Key West tank by New Horizon Patterns. I had never heard of this pattern company before. It just goes to show: there are so many indie pattern companies out there, it’s literally impossible to keep track of them all.

I’ve never been of a sew-along before. Like, I’ve never even silently followed along with one online. I haven’t cut out the tank yet (I’m waffling between two fabric choices), but it looks super-fast to sew. I imagine that once it’s cut, I’ll be done sewing it in less than two hours.

After that, the group is arranging a knit-along. The pattern in the offing is the Zinone top by Andi Satterlund. & the most exciting part is that I kind of inspired the knit-along! I have been thinking about taking up knitting for a long time. I even had a roommate who tried to teach me way back in 2004. I don’t know why I didn’t stick with it…Just a lack of commitment, I guess. Jared knows how to knit & has offered to teach me on numerous occasions. I’ve just always been really intimidated by it. All those different kinds of yarn & needles & something called swatching & the possibility that whatever you knit could potentially be ruined in the wash, if it’s wool & you forget. I guess it’s not so dissimilar from when I first started sewing & was utterly flummoxed by all the different kinds of fabric that are out there. Cotton is cotton is cotton, right? Surely there’s not really an appreciable difference between, say, voile & quilting cotton. People just act like there is so they can feel fancy, right? I really did think that. & it really didn’t take me that long to learn how wrong I was.

We have a really nice local yarn shop in Lawrence, so I stopped in there & bought the stuff I need to tackle the Zinone. I let Ramona help me choose the yarn. I decided to just focus on getting the weight right. The pattern calls for linen yarn & I am too incompetent to know if it makes a big difference to use a different fiber. Ramona chose a really soft yarn that is mostly merino, in dark gray. At first I wanted to choose something else, because…gray? Bor-ing. But gray is actually a really utilitarian color in my wardrobe, & I wanted to honor Ramona’s choice. She was so excited to be helping me.

My logic is: my first garment project ever was a fully lined fitted skirt with darts, a yoke, curved pockets trimmed with bias tape, & an invisible zipper. Did it come out perfect? Definitely not. But it came out Good Enough, & I actually still wear it. I jumped in with both feet with sewing, & therefore, I’ve never been intimidated to try a new technique or fabric or garment pattern. Why not take the same approach to knitting? The worst than can happen is that I will hate knitting. But if I can complete even an imperfect knitted garment & enjoy the process & learn something new, that’s a big win. I told the crafty moms this, & one of the experienced knitters offered to put together a knit-along so there will be a crew of people to help me (online) if/when I get stuck. Fun!

I think that’s most of my sewing news that isn’t actually the sharing of a garment. I spent the morning cutting out some new projects, though, so…more to come!

achievement unlocked: pink bird print swimsuit

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I already made one swimsuit this year, & although it did not display my sewing proficiency to its greatest advantage, it fit well, it was comfortable, & I liked it. There was just one problem: I used a plastic locking closure on it, positioned so high up on my back that I simply could not clasp it by myself. Every single time I wore it, Jared had to clasp it for me. I knew I needed a suit I could put on without help. & also, Jared broke the clasp a few weeks ago. It just kind of snapped into like five pieces one day when he was trying to clasp it for me. Obviously the suit can be salvaged. It’s not difficult to just replace the clasp.  But I decided to just get a jump on making a suit with no clasps, in the interest of satisfying a need without having to buy any new notions. I already had this swimsuit fabric & plenty of lining on hand.

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There’s also a backstory as to why a swimsuit rocketed to the top of my sewing to-do list, even though summer is drawing to a close.

In June, I found a lump in my right breast. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled, because I needed her to sign off on my health so I can volunteer at Ramona’s preschool. She did an exam & also felt the lump. She referred me for an ultrasound to get it checked out. I’ll cut to the chase here: I am fine. I don’t know if it wound up being normal breast tissue or a benign cyst or what, but in any case, I do not have cancer, or even a non-cancerous tumor that requires any treatment. Whew! But it was definitely a scary few weeks. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family, & I’m only 37, but I know way too many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer at around my age. One of them, a woman who wrote a zine I was really into in the 90s/early 00s, even died, leaving behind young children.

At my doctor appointment, there was also a full blood panel done. My labs came back showing elevated blood sugar & elevated liver enzymes. The obvious conclusion here is type 2 diabetes. Unlike breast cancer, pretty much EVERYONE in my family has type 2 diabetes. It killed my father at the rather young age of 48, & my sister (she’s 35) has been experiencing all kinds of awful complications recently. My grandmother had it, & God knows how many aunts, uncles, & cousins. Honestly, if I make it to age 50 without a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, it will be a miracle. But a follow-up fasting blood test gave me the all-clear.

But that doesn’t mean I have to just sit back & wait. Before Ramona was in the picture, & then for about 18 months after she was born, I was pretty devoted to doing water work-outs at the local pool a few times a week. We have a gorgeous outdoor facility here in Lawrence, but also a really nice indoor pool for cold weather. When Ramona was 18 months old, I slipped into a horrible depression & had that whole financial crisis where my disability was rescinded (I am on disability for depression; kind of ironic that the government decided I wasn’t disabled while I was in the midst of one of my worst depressive episodes in recent memory). I felt I couldn’t justify the expense of a pool pass anymore (even though water work-outs are really good for my mental & physical health) & I let it lapse. (Haha, or I let it “laps”. See what I did there?)

In the two years since I stopped going to the pool, I’ve gained thirty pounds, which is kind of whatever, who cares what a scale says. But I’ve also had more chronic pain, including debilitating migraines, more insomnia, more low-grade constant depression, & a lot less energy for being an involved & engaged mom.

So, I decided: Ramona started preschool on Thursday, & after I dropped her off, I went straight to the pool & bought a new pass. My goal is to go every other day. We’ll see if I manage it. Since a lot of the time I’ll be going while Ramona is at preschool & Jared is at work, I needed a suit I could get into by myself, stat.

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I made a pattern from scratch to make my last suit, & I used that same pattern for the bones of this suit. I changed the back to have more coverage, with just a teeny little cut-out. To keep the edges snug against the body (the scoop on my last swimsuit stood away from the body a little bit), & sewed swimsuit elastic to the edges, stretching as I went, & then trimmed the raw edges with fold-over elastic.

I didn’t line the ruched section on the front this time because, duh, it doesn’t need to be lined. That means the hemming is much tidier this time around.

The biggest change I made was the top/bust area.

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I constructed cut & sew foam cups using my trusty Shelley bra pattern. I layered swimsuit fabric over them & made these little pleats/tucks along the bottom of the cup. The frame is made from Duoplex covered in swimsuit fabric. I sewed the swimsuit-covered cups to the swimsuit-covered frame & attached the channeling so the topstitching would be on the exterior of the suit. The bra on my last suit was completely internal, but I wanted to experiment with bra styling for this one. I added a seam allowance to the bottom of the frame & sewed my band elastic to the Duoplex only, just above the seam allowance. That way, everything is supported, but there isn’t an unsightly bunch of zigzagging all over the front of my suit. The Duoplex layer is attached to the rest of the suit at the wide seams & along the top, but is left free at the seam between the frame & the torso. I tried attaching it, but it caused the frame to ripple & I wanted it to lay smooth as a contrast to the gathering on the cups & the ruching on the torso.

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I covered the seamlines on the cups with scraps of swimsuit fabric. The straps are made of bra strapping sandwiched between swimsuit fabric, finished on either side with fold-over elastic. They still have a bit of stretch to them, but they’re pretty stable.

I added a layer of swimsuit elastic to the bra part of the suit to snug it up against the body & finished with fold-over elastic. The only bummer part is that the swimsuit elastic is a lot wider than the fold-over elastic once it’s folded, so it shows on the inside. I would have preferred for it all to be completely enclosed. I could have ordered wider fold-over elastic, but I was really racing the clock to get the suit done before Ramona started preschool. Next time!

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I also finished the legs with fold-over elastic. If you’re curious, I got the swimsuit fabric during the Hancock close-outs. I think it was literally like $1.50 a yard? It’s not my favorite print (I kind of really do not like birds; they attack me a lot), but it is my favorite color, & with the black trim, I actually love the way this suit looks. I’d usually gravitate toward a louder print, but this just goes to show: sometimes the fabrics that don’t really sing on the bolt are the ones that make really nice-looking garments.

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Close-up of the cut out. This is easy to do. Just draw lines on your pattern piece indicating where you want the cut-out to be & add a seam allowance if necessary. (I just covered the raw edges with fold-over elastic, so I didn’t bother with seam allowances). Use the bit you cut off to figure out out how you want to crossover to look. Both pieces will be sewn together in the side seam, & for this suit, I secured them together in the fold-over elastic all the way to the cut-out. When I attached the straps, I bartacked them to lower fold-over binding first, & then the top. Because the lower binding is angled, this enabled my straps to angle perfectly to cross over in the back. I love me some crossed straps! I don’t know if I am being very articulate about how to do this (there’s a reason I don’t do tutorials), but once you figure out, you can use this technique on everything: dresses, t-shirts, undies, whatever.

So, that’s that! I leave you with an obligatory mom photo: Ramona on her first day or school, standing next to one of those chalkboard things that are so popular on Pinterest. Yes, I made it myself, it’s not digitally printed or anything. It’s chalkboard posterboard & hand-lettering/drawing with chalk markers. I’m pretty proud of that airplane drawing. Drawing is really not my forte, so I’m pleased with how it came out. (PS–Ramona LOVES preschool. Yay!)

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achievement unlocked: teal & black bra & undies

I have a garment post! & not just any garment post. It’s another bra! Bras are totally my favorite garment to read about on sewing blogs right now.

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This is another Shelley bra. I’ve made seven now. At this point, the fit is tweaked to perfection. I don’t think there’s anything I would change. Of course, I always do something different with the fabrics. Here’s how I switched this one up:

  • used sheer nylon tricot on the upper cup instead of lace
  • applied the black & teal lace to the sides of the cup
  • sewed the wire channeling to the exterior of the bra (this is probably my favorite detail on this particular bra)
  • attached the straps balconette-style, which is to say, I eliminated the strap tab on the power bar & bar tacked the straps to the cup & covered the stitching with other details
  • finished the entire top edge of the bra with fold-over elastic & applied double-sided ruffled elastic over the top of that
  • made my own bow
  • did a Gothic arch with a nice cross-over on the interior of the bra
  • covered the powernet in the back with lace

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I think it looks a little better on an actual body, so let’s go to the tape:

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Sorry these photos are a little bit dark. Our new bathroom is much smaller & darker than our old bathroom, & contains the only mirror in the house. I tried to lighten them up in editing to show the details better.

One weird thing about this bra is that the cups seem just a hair too big. You can see that there is some space between the right breast & the wire on the first photo, & a little flat spot at the bottom of the right cup in the second photo. I’m not totally sure what the issue was there. When I put in the wires, I noticed that the cup overall seemed to have a larger diameter than any of the other bras I have made, even though they are all the same size: 40D. I wonder if finishing the top edges differently made some kind of weird difference? A bra requires so much precision, even being out 1/4″ can make an appreciable difference. But the bra is still completely wearable. It’s comfortable & I am happy with the lift & support it provides. I’ll see what happens with my next one.

Of course, no bra is complete without undies to match.

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These are teal jersey, with 2″ black stretch lace for the waistband & legbands. I used some lace scraps to decorate the front. I experimented with ruching under the lace, which is why that area looks so wrinkly. I feel like the result was a little meh. I covered the unfinished edge of the lace with black ribbon & added a little black bow just because I like bows.

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I think the back is a little more interesting, thanks to this little cut-out. I just kind of guesstimated where to put it, & I think I placed it perfectly. I’m not going to include a photo on my actual body because for some reason, I feel weirder about showing myself wearing underwear than I do about showing myself in a bra…Maybe because a bra is kind of a bigger achievement, as far as sewing goes? So I feel like it’s earned a proper unveiling? All I know is that the cut-out is right at the lowest low point of the back, which is perfect.

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Both sides are finished with fold-over elastic. I really like fold-over elastic.

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So there we are! I now have enough sets to wear a different one every day of the week. Not that I don’t plan to make more! More! More! The undies pattern, incidentally, is good ol’ Butterick 6031. I just like to change up the style lines & details every time I make it.

I found the iron yesterday, in a box labeled “Ciara stuff”. So now I can get going on the skirts for my partner’s mom. The problem is that I’m having a hard time getting motivated to sew. I bought a couple of small dressers at IKEA the other day to serve as fabric storage, & I started moving fabric into them yesterday. I found all kinds of lengths of fabric I’d completely forgotten about. I sat down & made a list of all the projects I could conceivably make with the fabric & notions I have one hand. I might have to go out & buy the occasional zipper or whatever to complete a project, but I have everything I need for about fifty more garment projects, from bras to swimsuits to jeans to jackets! I have some kind of plan for every length of uncut fabric in my stash–& even some of the scraps! It’s just a matter of doing it.

& my mind is already fast forwarding to fall, even though it stays hot in Kansas through October. I have been thinking about taking up knitting for a long time, but I haven’t pursued it because, you know, I don’t have time for all the other things I already want to do (sewing, reading, swimming, doing elaborate craft projects with Ramona). People are like, “Knitting is cool because it’s more portable than sewing. I can do it on my commute to work.” That would be awesome if I still lived in Boston & spent an hour on the bus everyday going here or there. But I don’t have any downtime like that in my current life. & yet, I would love to knit myself a sweater or two. If I could knit my own gloves & socks, I would truly be able to make my entire wardrobe (except for shoes, which is definitely still something I’d like to try one day). (I know you can sew those things, but it seems like knitting provides more options.)

Jared is going to start going to work again tomorrow (oh, the weird summer work-at-home life of an academic). I’m hoping that this return to normalcy will motivate me to tackle some sewing. How do other people get themselves going when they feel this way?

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moving is the worst

I wish I was writing with new sewing projects to show off, but alas! I finished a new bra & undies set last month right before we moved, & I fully intended to bring it with me to the Airbnb Family Vacation Week, but there was a miscommunication with the bag I packed it in. It wound up in our storage unit instead of with us. I did have some other unblogged projects with me, like this really cute skirt I made like a month ago & still have yet to photograph, but every time I thought about taking pictures of it, I would instantly spill something on it. Soon!

We moved into our new place on Monday. Our friends Ellen & Mike helped us, which was amazing. Ellen in particular combines some kind of superhuman super-strength with a really calm, sensible demeanor that is packed with helpful hints for moving. I lost track of how many times I said, “Oh, that’s a really good idea,” or, “That’s a good point,” & I have moved like thirty times. (Literally.) I hurt my arm partway through the move-in process. I tore a tendon along my bicep, which hurt so bad I actually sat down & cried. (Shocking as it may be to anyone who knew me before the age of 25 or so, I am not really a big crier anymore.) I honestly thought it was broken, but a few days of Vicodin & icing it with a bag of frozen cranberries have restored me to health.

The new place is kind of meh. I mean, it’s all right. But it’s definitely smaller than our last place, so we are struggling to find sensible places for all of our possessions. The biggest casualty is undoubtedly my sewing area. In the old house, all my sewing stuff was along one wall in the living room. It was like a sewing zone. Of course it would have been my preference to have a sewing room with a door I could close (just to keep the cat out), but it worked for me.

That’s not really an option in the new place. The living room is a lot smaller & doorways are positioned in such a way as to make the placement of large furniture (like sewing tables & cutting tables) really hard. I also sacrificed my desk to downsizing, which is where I was storing a lot of my harder-to-store notions.

So, right now, my sewing table & quilting cottons storage are in the living room. The table I use for pressing, along with some of my fabric stash, are in the little nook with the washer & dryer. We’re going to put the cutting table & the remainder of the fabric stash in the bedroom. (We have a really large bedroom in this place, which is nice.) I put my serger in the laundry nook, so I can get it out easily & set it up at the kitchen table when I need to serge, & my extra sewing machines are on a shelf in the closet. My cabinet of lingerie fabrics, sewing reference, & patterns is next to the bed.

So, everything is kind of scattered everywhere, & a lot of it is in the bedroom, which I don’t love because it makes it inaccessible if Jared is napping or sick or whatever. Not that that happens much, & I can easily work around it, but it’s just not a perfect situation.

I got everything set up yesterday & started cutting out a couple of skirts that Jared’s mom has paid me to make for her. It’s a really cool pattern, & I’m thinking about grading it up to my size when I finish her skirts. The problem is that she purchased her fabrics without consulting me & one of them is a lovely but incredibly lightweight black cotton lawn. It’s okay for the back, which will have two layers (it’s a wrap skirt that wraps in the back), but it really doesn’t work for the front. I mean, it’s practically translucent. It needs a lining, & I’m thinking a self-lining would be best, but the pattern calls for 3.5 yards & I only have 3. I don’t even know if I have enough fabric to make the skirt as-is, let alone adding a whole lining panel to the front. I can usually eke out extra yardage by cutting on a single layer, so we’ll see where that gets me.

I’ve also decided to make myself a new swimsuit. I love the suit I made in May, but the closure is perfectly positioned for me to not be able to clasp it myself, & last week, the closure broke while Jared was clasping it for me. Like, the plastic just kind of shattered. I could just replace the closure, of course, & I probably will at some point, but I learned a lot making that suit & I’d like to transfer what I learned into a suit with improved fit & finish. I’d also like to experiment with different design lines & make it something I can wiggle into without assistance.

& of course I am still on the bra-making tip. I realized I had the same lace design in three different colorways: fuchsia, teal, & purple. I used the fuchsia a few months ago to make this set, I used the teal to make the still-unblogged set last month, & I’m thinking about using the purple to make a third set & showing all three for the August Monthly Stitch challenge. The theme is “Triple Trouble,” in honor of the blog’s third birthday.

I sketched out a design the other day, with Ramona’s help. She weighed in on what color elastics & findings I should use, & where I should add lace. She has a surprisingly sophisticated eye for bra design, considering that she’s only three! It was her idea to leave a scalloped lace edge on one side of the straps & use fold-over elastic to finish the other side. I made pattern alterations yesterday, & honestly, this set & the swimsuit might jump the queue over the wrap skirts because we’re almost completely unpacked & I haven’t found the iron yet. I can’t really make a cotton lawn skirt without an iron. My Sanita Mary Jane clogs are also missing in action. This means I almost have no choice but to replace them with a pair of brogues by Fluevog. My hand is being forced (though it will have to wait until the money situation improves a little).

achievement unlocked: Alberta Street skirt

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We are talking about the skirt this time. It’s the Alberta Street skirt by Sew House Seven, another pattern I picked up in the Monthly Stitch fundraising bundle. I’ve already blogged about the blouse & the jacket. The Alberta Street skirt is a high-waisted pencil skirt with a back zip & vent, faced contoured waistband, & large patch pockets. I made mine in a fabric that was billing itself as narrow wale stretch corduroy, but the wales were so narrow& the nap so fluffy, it’s almost more like stretch velvet. & it is VERY stretchy. I think the pattern states that it can be made with a woven or a fabric with some stretch (think, like, denim with 2% elastane or something). My fabric probably had more stretch than anticipated by the pattern design. I cut an 18 at the waist & graded to a 20 at the hips (which is weird, because my measurements put me in a 20 at the waist & an 18 at the hips–the reverse just seemed to fit better) & I probably could have sized down a bit thanks to the stretch.

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After I took all my photos, I realized I didn’t have ANY that were full-length! I feel like you’d get such a better sense of the fit & proportion of the skirt if I wasn’t cut off mid-calf in every photo. & there’s nothing I can do about it now because the skirt is packed away in a storage unit thirty miles away while we move houses.

I’m also standing with a hip cocked in this photo, which makes the seam down the middle of the back look off-kilter. It’s just the way I’m standing, honest!

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The pattern directions were for a tidy lapped zip, but I chose to do an exposed zipper to give the skirt a little edge. Please enjoy this photo, which may be the world’s all-time worst photograph of a metal zipper.

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I also reversed the angle of the pockets. In the original design, the pocket is high at the side seam & slopes down toward the middle. To change the angle, I traced off the pocket piece, keeping the height & original proportion. Then I drew in the hip curve & placement notches on the lower side. Easy enough, really. I chose to do this because I do use the pockets on my garments all the time & having the higher edge toward the middle of the garment just feels more utilitarian.

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I also lined my pockets, though the pattern said nothing about doing this. Just another “why not” decision.

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Here’s a shot of the back vent, open so you can see my seam binding. I bound all the seams with the same voile I used for the Anderson blouse & the facings on the Salt jacket, both because this fabric started shedding & fraying the instant it was cut, & also just for my own amusement. I’d never done bound seams before. It definitely added time to the construction of the skirt, which would have otherwise been a pretty fast project. The finished garment looks polished, but construction is remarkably uncomplicated. The hardest part was probably the vent, & that’s just because I had never done one before. The instructions were really easy to follow & I got everything folded over & stitched down properly on the first try.

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More seam binding. This also shows the stay I made out of quilting cotton to try to flatten the tummy area a little. It was an experiment. I don’t know how effective it is. But it’s not uncomfortable, so there’s that.

Now, the $10,000 question: Is this skirt wearable? Does it fit into my handmade wardrobe? This is a big question, given that it’s literally the first pencil skirt I have ever owned in my entire life. I never thought it was a silhouette that would flatter me, as I am bigger on top than I am on the bottom. I always assumed a pencil skirt would only emphasize that fact & make me look even more unbalanced. But I think it’s actually okay-ish.

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With a sailor shirt I made like two years ago & never wear because it really needs a tight, high-waisted bottom, & until now, I’ve never owned such a thing.

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With my Archer tuxedo shirt. This is maybe not the best? Maybe it’s just a shitty photo. I should try it again with hands out of pockets, in a full-length mirror, before I decide. The hands-in-pockets/cut-off-at-knees look is very stumpifying. But at least I now have a go-to outfit in case I am ever called upon to pose as a cater-waiter in service of unraveling the mystery behind a jewel heist or something.

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With my black Jasper sweatshirt. I look cozy, that’s for sure! Add some sweater tights & my Sorels & I am all set for a walk in a snowstorm.

It also works with a plain black t-shirt, of which I have approximately 10 million, but I chose more interesting garments for my styling photos. So the bottom line is that this skirt will get worn once the weather cools off enough to permit corduroy.

I have to address something though: the skirt is called the Alberta Street skirt because it’s named after Alberta St. in Portland, Oregon. Sew House Seven is a Portland-based pattern company & a lot of their designs have Portland-inspired names.

I had a viscerally negative reaction to the name of this skirt, & probably never would have purchased it if not for the bundle sale. I used to do community organizing in North Portland, in the late 90s/early 00s. This was right at the beginning of the city’s efforts to gentrify North Portland, to transform it from a historically black neighborhood into the fancypants white neighborhood that it is now, rife with yoga studios, doggie daycares, cute little hipster sewing shops, etc. Here’s a video of one former business owner on Alberta St. talking about how the city pushed out the black population:

My office was just off Alberta St. & I walked around that neighborhood everyday. The city was not caring for the neighborhood when it was majority black. There were roads that weren’t even paved! My job was to work with residents in the community to address the needs they perceived. They had really basic concerns, like wanting the city to put in stop signs at dangerous intersections where kids were being hit by cars, or wanting less police harassment. No one could live or work in this neighborhood & fail to recognize that institutional racism was REAL & it was ruining lives.

The city succeeded in its efforts to transform North Portland into a playground for wealthy white people. The Alberta St. of today is unrecognizable compared to the Alberta St. where I worked just seventeen years ago. I’ve been back to Portland several times since I moved away in 2001, & it’s always unsettling because the entire city is different…& not necessarily in a good way, if you care about the lives of poor people & people of color. I know the name of this skirt is just a name, but people who tried to organize against the sweeping destruction of gentrification in North Portland, to say nothing of the people who were actually LIVING that destruction, who were displaced because of it, have reactions to the words “Alberta Street”.

I’m probably not doing a great job articulating myself, because my primary reaction to the fight over Alberta St. is just sadness & hopelessness. I think about the community of people that once lived there, raised kids there, made their livelihoods there. I went camping once with a woman who lived just off Alberta St., & she told me all about being in the Black Panthers Ladies Auxiliary in the 60s. She was an absolute wealth of information about Portland’s black power movement & the history of her neighborhood, where she had lived for decades. She & her family were pushed out by the city’s gentrification programs. To make room for $40-a-plate farm-to-table restaurants & boutiques selling hemp sheath dresses.

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the state of the move

Unfortunately, it appears that I am not going to get through my backlog of sewing projects before the move. We’re picking up our Uboxes (apparently this is Uhaul’s Designer Impostors version of PODs) tomorrow evening. I’ve been wandering around the house on a rollercoaster of emotion, whipsawing between feeling like we’re in really good shape with our packing & feeling like there’s still so much to do.

My friend Rebecca came over with her daughter, Isla, the other day to help us out. Isla played with Ramona & Rebecca helped us pack & throw things out. An objective eye is always a good motivator for identifying the things you should probably just toss/donate, because they’re not looking at everything with the same sentimentality & emotion. She pushed me to make a decision I’d putting off for a long time: getting rid of Ramona’s baby clothes (except for the sentimental things, mostly stuff people made for us, hand-me-downs from when Jared was a baby, & the first sleeper she ever wore when she was finally given the okay to wear clothes because her skin was strong enough to tolerate it). & my maternity clothes. Baby blankets, swaddles, bottles, cloth diapers, baby carriers, & some toys she has outgrown. I’ve given away a lot & am trying to sell the stuff that is actually worth something. We’re not necessarily closing the book on ever having another baby, but it’s definitely not on the agenda right now, & toting that stuff along with us every time we move just makes me sad.

We have to have this place clean & empty by Monday, so the plan is to load up the Uboxes on Sunday. We don’t get keys to the new place until August 1, so we’ve booked an Airbnb in Oskaloosa for the interim week. I’m not super-thrilled about staying in Oskaloosa, which is a tiny town (less than 1000 people) about 20 miles north of Lawrence. But they were charging a two-thirds less than the cheapest place in Lawrence.

It’s going to be a whirlwind of change once we move into the new place. We’re finally moving Ramona into a toddler bed. She’ll be four in November & she still sleeps in a crib because she just never tried to climb out, so it was never unsafe. But we need to get serious about getting her 100% potty trained, & that means she needs to have the option of getting out of bed when she needs to go. This means we are also eliminating all diapers very soon.

& she starts preschool in mid-August. This will be a huge transition for both of us. She’s been home with me full-time since she was released from the NICU. Suddenly she’s going to be spending seven hours a week without me. I’m both excited & nervous. I am making all kinds of unrealistic plans for what I will do with that time. Sewing! Going to the pool! Home improvement projects! Reading! Like, way more stuff than you can really do in seven hours a week, especially when you consider that it’s a co-operative preschool, meaning that parents do a lot of volunteer work there. Like, they are required to do a lot of volunteer work. So that will be interesting.

All the parents I know at the school have transferred their kids into the afternoon program, so I will be getting to know a new batch of parents & their kids. I’m open to it, obviously, but a bit trepidatious. I wrote about the whole crazy TCBY-refusing-my-child-water-during-a-heat-advisory situation a few days ago. I shared this incident with some local online parenting groups, just as a kind of “heads up, this is not the place to go with a kid emergency” public service announcement. & the online parent groups totally lived up to their reputations by allowing the whole thing to spiral into recriminations & mama drama.

At the beginning, people were really supportive, but all it took was one person being like, “Hey, now, I think someone should be thinking about the feeling of Big Fro-Yo,” for things to go kind of crazy. Of course someone trotted out that old canard: “You shouldn’t expect other people to take care of your kids. It’s kind of parenting 101 to make sure you bring enough water if you’re taking your kid out on a hot day.”

Ah, yes. Time to get out your This Happened Because You’re a Shitty Mom bingo cards. Honestly, I expect bullshit like that from people who don’t have kids. Everyone is a great parent right up until they are actually a parent. & that’s not an indictment of people who don’t have kids. I’m just pointing out the reality that you truly cannot grasp the myriad challenges of parenting until you are in the shit (sometimes literally).

But from other parents? It’s insane! I would love to meet the person who has been parenting for three-plus years & has never once been caught out with one of the following situations: kid convinces you to go out without the stroller, but then refuses to walk. You forgot the snack. Kid decides the morning outing is the ideal time to take four shits in a row & you run out of diapers. Kid falls down & scrapes a knee & you are fresh out of Band-Aids.

These scenarios (like my TCBY incident, which was borne of my asking for a tap water top-off on my kid’s water bottle, because it was really hot & she chugged the water we brought from home faster than expected) are just everyday whoopsies & I defy the full-time caretaker of a child not to experience at least one of these in three years. We’re not even getting into big-time emergencies, like the car breaking down on the side of the road while you’re out with the kid, or the kid sustaining some kind of major injury on your watch, or your kid climbing into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. This shit happens! To bad moms & great moms & every other kind of mom in-between. & dads too. & grandparents, nannies, aunts, teachers, everyone who is responsible for kids!

What really surprised me was all the people defending TCBY on the grounds that the local shop is a sponsor of our library’s summer reading program. If your kid finishes their summer reading, they get a coupon for one free 3oz. fro-yo cup. This is a value of $1.38. I’m sure the owner is well-aware that most kids are going to want more than 3ozs. Parents are on the hook for paying for any overages, as well as toppings & cones, plus fro-yo for themselves & any other children they are with that do not have a coupon. Meaning that the owner more than recoups the value of the coupon, while also receiving the goodwill associated with sponsoring this children’s literacy event. This is why businesses do coupons like this! It’s not because they are altruistic. It’s because it makes money.

One person piped up to say that the local TCBY generously provided coupons to the school she used to work for, which was apparently in a “lower socio-economic district” (not sure what that means in Lawrence, which is kind of too small to have “rich schools” & “poor schools,” but anyway), so kids could come in & pay only $2 for some fro-yo.

What a pillar of generosity! Inviting poor children to patronize his shop & pay him money! What will he think of next!

But for whatever reason, these other moms weren’t seeing that. They probably think that stores have sales purely from the goodness in their hearts. They perceived of this child-exploiting money-making gambit as proof of his “family-friendliness,” & clearly much more important this his decision to turn away a sobbing three-year-old on a hot day when all she wanted was some tap water.

It’s times like these that I am very relieved to have a good solid foundation in radical anti-capitalism, & I’m glad I’m sending Ramona to a co-operative preschool (the first integrated preschool in the United States, in fact!) where hopefully the other parents will be thoughtful people not so ready to believe everything Big Fro-Yo tells them. I mean, obviously I can laugh about this to a certain degree, but I will also never patronize a TCBY for as long as I live (in fact, when corporate HQ offered me coupons to try to “make things right,” I declined), & I stand by the fact that the owner of our local TCBY is a monster who should be run out of business, & anyone who tries to defend him is pretty much dead to me. Actions speak louder than fucking coupons, for crying out loud!