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achievement unlocked: pink unicorn maxi Lady Skater

Writing a new blog post has been on my to-do list for weeks, so I might as well just do it! To be honest, part of my silence here has been due to the fact that I’ve been sewing a lot recently! I don’t know if I mentioned: I traded lamps with Ramona. I was using a little clip-on lamp from Ikea as a bonus light for my sewing area, & Ramona had been using a larger tabletop gooseneck lamp in her room. We swapped & now my sewing space is actually bright enough to use! My sewing spaces in previous houses had always been in front of windows, & my sewing space when we move next month will also be in front of a window. My sewing space here faces away from the windows. It’s amazing how much the lack of light depleted my enjoyment of sewing. So that’s my tip: if you’re feeling kind of down on sewing, maybe switch up the lighting situation in your sewing space!

& Ramona is thrilled with her clip-on light. She clipped it to her bed & uses it to look at books before she goes to bed. It has an easy flip switch so she can turn it on & off herself. Sometimes she likes us to drape a quilt over her bed & turn it into a “fort,” & with the light inside, it’s pretty delightful in there. (I may have possibly laid down in her bed a few times to take naps while she was at school.)

Anyway! Here’s a thing I sewed!

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This is another Lady Skater dress from Kitschy Coo, but this time I lengthened it into a maxi & did away with the sleeves. I am obsessed with this dress. I wear it all the time. If you can believe it, this is not only the first maxidress I have ever made…It’s the first maxidress I have ever worn! EVER! I guess I used to feel like maxidresses were just not my style. I feel like my legs are one of my best features, so I’ve not been terribly interested in covering them up, & I also associate maxiskirts with hippies, ie, the complete opposite of my personal self-conception. But I’m a total convert now! They are so cool & swishy for hot summer weather, & I don’t have to worry about them flying up over my head in the constant Kansas wind. I have another maxidress (in a woven) all cut out on my sewing table already.

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This was a pretty simple hack. I’ve already added pockets to my Lady Skater, so I kept them for this version & just extended the seamlines of the skirt to make it ankle-length. Then I took out some of the width because it was unnecessary with all that length. I cut the armscyes a little bit deeper & guesstimated the length of the binding. My only quibble with this dress is that the arm binding could be a little bit shorter. They gape just a tiny bit. But I love pretty much everything else, so that’s kind of a nitpick.

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The fabric is 95% cotton/5% spandex (my preference for almost all knits) from the Magic collection by Sarah Jane. This particular print is called Unicorn Forest & the colorway is “blossom”. In other words, pink & unicorns. As if I wasn’t going to buy this.

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I like to use Me-Made May every year to dive deep into my self-sewn wardrobe & wear things that don’t get worn much. Sometimes I discover a forgotten gem that works its way into regular rotation. Sometimes I find something that I just do not want to wear anymore. That was the case with my pink unicorn print Cambie dress, which was maybe the third dress I ever made? As such, it just wasn’t very well-sewn or -fitted. I’m not being down on my abilities. It’s just a fact that learning to sew involves time & mistakes, & I’ve learned a lot since I made that dress four years ago. Getting it out for Me-Made May motivated me to get rid of it, but Ramona told me she loves when I wear my “pink unicorn dress,” so I decided to make a replacement right away. In a fabric that will actually be worn during hot weather. I’m not a fabric snob, I think quilting cotton can work very well in a self-sewn wardrobe, but it has to be the right application. A heavily-gathered sleeveless dress was not the right application for me. Too exposed for transitional/cold weather, but too heavy & oppressive for hot weather. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime in seersucker or something.

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Nothing much to say about the construction. I did my usual understitching on the pocket bags so they turn under really nicely. I hemmed & topstitched the neck & armbands with a wide straight stitch. I am really getting good at topstitched bands on knits. The only hassle I had was with sewing on the clear elastic to stabilize the waist seam. My sewing machine is very particular about sewing elastic. I’ve learned that it really prefers a universal needle for that activity, regardless of the fabric involved. Otherwise, it skips stitches or birdnests. I’m not saying that my Pfaff Ambition Essential is a bad machine, but it’s certainly more tempermental than my el cheapo basic Brother. The Pfaff also hates buttonholes. When we move, I think I might set up both machines so I can use the Brother for the tasks the Pfaff rejects, & also so I don’t have to keep switching thread when topstitching or whatever.

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I had just enough fabric leftover after making this dress that I was also able to make a retro-style bunny ear headband. It’s a lot of look when I wear them together, but I’m a lot of look kind of person.

pattern: Lady Skater dress from Kitschy Coo
size: right between size 7 & 8
fabric: three yards of Magic Unicorn Forest knit from fabric.com
notions: jersey needle, pink thread, coral quilting cotton for pocket bags, clear elastic
total cost of all supplies: around $45 (the fabric was kind of pricy)
alterations: added side front pockets, lengthened skirt 16″ to make it ankle length, removed about 2″ of width from the skirt, left off sleeves & bound the armholes instead
next time: make armbands just a little bit shorter so they snug up better
remarks from the public: “It’s very…glamorous, I guess? Because long dresses are always glamorous?” — Jared
photos: I took the photos of Miss Mackrelmint 1942 modeling the look, & Ramona took the photos of me

 

achievement unlocked: Tetris print Kielo dress

I have been sewing quite a bit recently! Not as much as I would have liked, because Jared was pretty sick for a while, & was thus commandeering the bedroom, where my sewing & cutting tables are. But I am finally, FINALLY, getting back into the swing of stitching.

I’m plugging away on my capsule wardrobe. My plans continued to expand & got a little unwieldy, so I went back to the drawing board & divided by ideas into two capsules of thirteen pieces each. First up: spring (even though it’s almost June). I actually have seven of the thirteen spring pieces completed or close to it, so it’s not as crazy as it sounds. What is crazy is that one of them is a knitted piece & I don’t know how to knit. But I did finally sign up for a class! It’s worth mentioning that I’ve never taken a sewing class because I was too intimidated to seem like an idiot in front of the ladies at the fabric shop. By the time I finally felt like I “knew enough” to avoid embarrassing myself in a beginner class, they told me I was really too skilled for their classes to be valuable to me. So I’m going the other way & walking into this knitting class with absolutely zero skills.

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Anyway! Let’s talk about this dress. This is the Kielo dress from Named Clothing. This has been all over the sewing blogs in the last few years. I never sewed it before now because, frankly, it just didn’t interest me. The Named aesthetic never really grabbed me, & until recently, their size range was fairly limited. But I came across this Tetris print while dicking around on Spoonflower one day (for reasons unknown, as I generally consider Spoonflower too rich for my blood) & I couldn’t shake the idea of sewing it up as a Kielo dress.

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I chose the classic cotton jersey substrate, as I wanted to avoid polyester & I’d heard the “modern jersey” had opacity issues. The Kielo is designed for a stretch fabric, & especially because it is not one of the patterns available in the larger size range, I didn’t want to mess around with trying to grade up for a woven. According to the size chart, the largest size for the Kielo can accommodate a 34″ waist. Mine is 38″. You’d think it doesn’t matter because the cut is so huge at the waist anyway. I’m probably the only blogger that isn’t giving you a photo of the dress untied, but you can Google it & see that it is shaped like a manta ray. The big wings on the side wrap around & can be tied front or back, & so, in that respect, the waist is adjustable & ostensibly accommodates larger sizes. I’ll come back to this.

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As far as the fabric goes: yes, it definitely faded a lot after the first wash. & it doesn’t have that cool, drape-y hand that I prefer in my jersey, even though it’s the same fabric content as something from Riley Blake or Art Gallery. It still feels a bit stiff & “sticky,” almost, even after a couple of washes. But I think the print I chose is bold enough that it works even without a true black background to set it off, the fabric is opaque, it’s light enough to wear in hot weather, & it will only soften up with age & wear, so I give it a thumbs up. You just really need to make smart choices when buying from Spoonflower. It might not be the best source for fabrics newbs, you know?

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The pattern required approximately all the paper in the world to be printed & taped together, but that’s why we have podcasts, right? I caught up on a few back episodes of “Ask Me Another” while I worked on it. Everything went together really sensibly, & the sewing was a breeze. It’s really a deceptively simple design. There are darts & s a back seam for shaping, so it’s not purely relying on negative ease to fit. The whole wrap-&-tie situation looks interesting & complex, but it could not be easier. This would be a great beginner pattern for anyone who isn’t afraid to sew a dart in a stretch fabric (& you shouldn’t be; it’s pretty easy).

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I harbored a dream of cutting this so the density of the Tetris pieces was along the “wing”/wrap part. I also fully intended to go with the maxi length. But because my fabric was a one-sided border, I had to go with the more traditional density at the hem, & that meant I didn’t have the length I needed to go maxi. I guesstimated where to cut it off to make it knee-length & I feel I went just a little bit too short. It’s wearable as-is, but it did inspire me to add another piece to my spring capsule: a coordinating black ruffled underskirt, which I shall blog another day. I thought it was finished, but it was the victim of Ramona-related hijinks & needs a bit of mending.

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I cheated the bust a little (Named drafts for a B-cup, I am a D-cup) by adding 2″ to the bodice front, which wound up being pretty much perfect. I also added two small darts at the neckline because it was gaping like crazy up there. I think I just cut too big a size for my shoulders, which are proportionally narrow. The darts solved the problem nicely though.

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I finished the armscyes with black fold-over elastic because I just didn’t want to deal with little hems or self-bias. I had just enough of the glittery black fold-over elastic to finish the neck with it. It looks great & coordinates spectacularly with my glittery black Toms, but holy hell, is it itchy. I will never use that stuff against bare skin ever again. I blame the fold-over elastic baby headband industry, which has resulted in impractical elastic finishes, as well as the mass marketing of ruffled or otherwise decorative elastic being marketed as fold-over when it cannot in fact be folded over, but that’s a rant for another day. (Looking at you, misleading Etsy shops!) Also: anyone who puts glitter elastic anywhere near a baby’s head is a monster.

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& as for the waist issue I mentioned? Look, this dress, which I did not alter at the waist in any way, does fit. But if a size for a larger waist had been available to me, it would have been nice, because the width of the waist affects the width of the wrap pieces & the length of the ties. Having a couple of extra inches there would make the skirt fall a little better, & I’d be able to wear the ties the way I wanted, which was to wrap them to the back & back around to the front to tie them. I can do that, but I just have little stubs of ties. I’d like to have the length to double-wrap & still be able to tie a nice bow. I definitely make these alterations for myself whenever I use this pattern again (next summer, maybe?)

pattern: Kielo dress from Named Patterns
size: straight US 14 (my current measurements are 42″ B, 38″ W, 45″ H, D-cup)
fabric: about two yards of Tetris print cotton/spandex jersey from Spoonflower
notions: jersey needle, black thread, very lightweight black knit interfacing (for the waist ties), black fold-over elastic, black glitter fold-over elastic
total cost of all supplies: around $70–yikes!
alterations: lengthened front bodice 2″, grading to nothing at the side seams (cheater FBA); added two 3/4″ darts at neckline to address gaping; shortened from maxi to knee-length, maybe 16″ altogether?
next time: go down a size in the shoulders, grade up at the waist, lengthen ties, try maxi length, maybe add a secret pocket to the wrap section?
remarks from the public: (to Ramona) “Your mommy’s dress reminds me of Tetris. Man, I played a lot of Tetris in the 90s. I was all about that Game Boy.” — one of Ramona’s preschool teachers
photos: I took the photos of Miss Mackrelmint 1942 modeling the look, & Ramona took the photos of me

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Meet Miss Mackrelmint 1942!

I wish I was sharing a garment today, but Jared has been sick & it’s getting in the way of me finishing & photographing new projects. Most of my sewing stuff is in our bedroom, & if he’s in there sleeping all day, that means I can’t sew. We’re moving at the end of July, & I will have a dedicated sewing space that I will be able to use any time. The new house is two stories. All the regular rooms–bedrooms, kitchen, living room, etc–are on the first floor. The second floor is just one big open loft space. It has a perfect little nook that is lined with windows, with wall space for my cutting table, pressing table, & machine cabinet…Plus my latest sewing room addition, which I will get to shortly.

But first! It looks like my medical mystery has been unraveled. I had an MRI of my cervical spine (ie, neck) the other day. It showed a badly damaged vertebrae that is compressing my spinal cord. It’s called cervical spondylotic myelopathy & its symptoms correspond to the lion’s share of my symptoms. It is most commonly treated with surgery, which is what my doctor recommended. Apparently they go in through the front of the neck & take out of jacked up vertebrae that are causing the problem. They fill in the empty space with metal plates & bone grafts. A permanent side effect is a diminished range of motion, but that’s a fair trade-off if it resolves my issues to some extent.

I’m meeting with the “Spine Center” at the hospital on Monday & I guess they’re going to fill me in on all the details? I’ll have to travel to Kansas City or Topeka for the surgery because apparently I never have a medical issue that can actually be treated in Lawrence. There will probably be a neck brace involved, & the timing is kind of a giant clusterfuck because, you know, we’re moving in two & a half months! I’m not sure exactly when I will have the surgery, but I don’t think I’ll be a whole lot of help loading & unloading a moving truck, you know? I’m not even sure how useful I will be with packing. As my friend Rebecca said when I told her, “Poor you, but also…poor Jared.”

I’m not feeling too sorry for myself though, because if this is the root of my health issues, I’m glad it’s something that can be treated, rather than it being an incurable degenerative disease, you know? Plus I got the news on the same day as I got something else…

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Meet Miss Mackrelmint 1942, my new dress form!

I have found myself getting really interested in draping lately, but it’s difficult to drape without a dress form, you know? So I spent some time researching dress forms & thinking about what exactly I was after & what I was willing to spend. Our local antiques mall has used Dritz My Double forms for sale on the regular, but I really wanted something pinnable & uh…not totally janky. Preferably as close to my measurements as possible. Of course I daydreamed briefly about getting a Wolf, but even a used Wolf was beyond my means, especially because “vintage dress forms” are such a hot element of hipster home decor recently. All these nincompoops with more money than sense, buying $600 dress forms to store their necklace collections or whatever. Ugh.

So I was saving my pennies & hoping I’d be able to afford to buy something in maybe a year or two. In the meantime, I tortured myself by occasionally searching for “dress form” on my local Craig’s List. I did such a search last week & there was Mackrelmint! I could not believe my eyes. She was selling for a fraction of what I assumed my budget would be, & hundreds of dollars less than the average vintage Wolf I’ve seen online. She was right here in Lawrence (unlike the neurosurgeon I require), & craziest of all, she is almost exactly the same size as me. She’s broader through the shoulders & a little bit smaller in the waist, but our hip & full bust measurements are identical. It was just meant to be!

Obviously, she’s pretty stained (what’s known as a “patina” in the hipsters-buying-dress-forms game), & she’s missing the knob at the top of the stand. The cast iron base is pretty rusty, so it doesn’t roll very well & the foot pedal is sticky, but she’s otherwise in really good shape. I’ve seen vintage Wolf forms that are in literal tatters, rips everywhere & padding sticking out, that cost four times as much as Mackrelmint. So, I am just thrilled!

& she looks pretty good in my clothes.

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Here she is wearing my most recently-finished project (which I will hopefully blog soon).

I do wonder how long it’s going to take me to stop startling a little every time I walk into my room. I’m not used to her being there yet, so I always jump & think she’s a real person. But man, what a score! I never thought I’d have a Wolf! & I can’t believe what great shape she’s in, considering that she’s 75 years old.

Incidentally, Mackrelmint is one of Pippi Longstocking’s middle names, & it is a name I briefly considered for Ramona while I was pregnant. Instead, we went with Ramona, obviously, & her middle name is Astrid, after Astrid Lindgren, who wrote the “Pippi Longstocking” books. I feel like Mackrelmint would also be a really good name for a cat.

In other news, Ramona had her preschool graduation last night. She’s not actually graduating. She still has one more year before she’s old enough to start public school. She’s the youngest kid in her class & the only one who wasn’t graduating, so she got a special mention in the program & a special certificate congratulating her on her first year of preschool. It was all pretty adorable. The kids sang some songs for us, & one kid played his ukulele. Tunelessly, I will add. But he was so serious about it, & kept “tuning” it, like a real musician. It was really cute. Ramona got all jacked up on cake afterward & proceeded to have an utterly predictable sugar crash bedtime meltdown.

I also started my assistant treasurer duties &, um…It’s really hard! Mostly just because I barely know how to use my email, let alone figure out all the spreadsheets I have to keep updated. It’s one of those situations where I don’t even know what questions to ask to help me learn what to do because I don’t even understand the basics. Luckily, Jared is familiar with the programs, & the previous assistant treasurer will be around in the summer to help me with the transition. & it still beats being on an actual committee!

Lastly, I gave Jared the other part of his birthday gift: a crepe pan. This was admittedly self-interested, because I love crepes. Last night I whipped up a batch of crepes with Nutella & whipped cream & had a delicious treat while watching the new season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” after I got Ramona to bed. If I can’t sew, this was definitely a fantastic consolation.

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achievement unlocked: horrifying velveteen Luffa jacket

I am going to share a fail project today, if for no other reason than to finally move it off my “to-be-blogged” list, where it’s been languishing for nearly a year.

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This is the Luffa jacket from Waffle Patterns. This has technically been seen on the blog before. & GOOD GOD, it’s actually worse than I remembered.

I sewed this up last June, as a key element of my Patti Smith-inspired outfit. I have to admit something: those three pieces were each a lot of work individually, & they won me some free stuff in the Monthly Stitch Indie Pattern Month contest, but I never really wound up wearing any of them. All three are now bagged up, ready to hit the thrift store. The Archer shirt just wound up really not being a good shape on me in a fabric with so much structure (I think something drapier could still work, but I’d want to lengthen it just a touch), something about the jeans always bothered me (maybe the topstitching? It’s just really THERE, black thread on such a nice light gray twill), & the jacket…I just made a lot of mistakes with the jacket.

I don’t want to think about how much the fabric for this jacket cost. I mean, it’s not like I had to take out a loan or anything, but I definitely chose to sew this in some special fabrics. I used black velveteen, & because it was a Patti Smith-inspired look, I special ordered some lovely horse print satin from Spoonflower for the lining.

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I still think the pattern is great. Waffle Patterns offers a lot of really unique patterns–especially coats & jackets–that challenge a sewer. They’re clever & well-drafted. But they also come in a somewhat limited size range. I was just a bit outside the top range of sizes, so I tried to make some adjustments to get the jacket to fit. I don’t remember all the details because it was sewn so long ago, but I definitely did a bit of a FBA & I tried to lengthen it a bit. But all I really succeeded in doing was pairing lovely fabric with a lovely pattern & turning it into a shitshow.

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My face says it all.

The FBA worked great. The fit across the upper chest & bust was spot on. But something weird happened with the shoulders. They were just too damn tight, even though I have relatively narrow shoulders for my proportions. I believe I attempted to do a full upper arm adjustment with the sleeves, which are beautifully drafted & two-part. I definitely fucked that shit up big time. I think I messed up both the grainline (HOW? That’s like the easiest thing to not fuck up) & the sleeve cap. They fit, but they were NOT pretty. There was odd puckering & twisting. Great job, Ciara.

I also mentioned to MELT part of the sleeve cap on the lining.

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My attempt at adding length was also a disaster. I think the primary thing that drew me to this pattern was that gorgeous rounded hem. So of course, I ruined it. I still don’t really know what I did wrong. I know I put the notches for attaching the facing/lining in the wrong places. I think the width that came with the FBA (I always leave the width an FBA creates at the waist because I need the space there too) & my slipshod attempt at adding length just distorted the curve too much, & I didn’t do enough to course-correct. It curves, but then it kind of plateaus out into a weird fin in the center. Which I artfully attempted to disguise in the above photo, to reasonably good effect. See how easy it is to lie on blogs? Go take another look at the horrifying reality in the first photo.

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Welt pocket horror.

I didn’t understitch the facing, so the lapels won’t lie flat. Trying to make a welt pocket with satin, which frays like a motherfucker, is a headache in waiting. & then, the icing on the cake: I could not have done a worse job hand-stitching the lining to the hem. I overworked everything & the hem is all bubbly & pulls every which way. I did wear it a few times just to see if it was really as bad as I thought, & no one said anything like, “My eyes! MY EYES!” But I just felt uncomfortable wearing something so badly sewn. I put it in my mending pile, intending to re-stitch the lining & maybe even take apart the facing so it could be properly understitched. I just never got around to it. That’s a lot of work to put into a jacket, which was already a lot of work to begin with. I’m not a big jacket person to begin with.

I wish I’d gone with the Decades of Style Three’s A Charm jacket, which was my original plan. I think the silhouette is more true to the inspiration, & I’ve heard really good things about how it works on ladies with a little extra padding. I just fell in love with that damn curved hem & had to go with the Luffa instead. Maybe someday I’ll try it again. Maybe I had to fuck it up royally once & I’ll get it right next time. I will say that reflecting on what I like about the Luffa & what I fucked up in the course of sewing it has given me some inspiration for an overdress I’ve been planning to make (part of the summer capsule). So there’s my silver lining, I guess!

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This photo is blurry, but you can see the wibbly-wobbliness of the hem, & the beginning of the house of horrors that is the fit across the upper back & shoulders. But you can also kind of see how I WANTED it to look, how it nips in at the waist & flares at the upper hip.

But of course, that’s just another example of angles & framing obscuring the horrific reality. Here’s how the back REALLY looks.

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KILL IT WITH FIRE! That fucking COLLAR! Possibly the worst sewing I have ever done, & that includes way back in the day (like ten years ago) when I didn’t comprehend the importance of sewing with the presser foot down.

Anyway! I didn’t work on the capsule yesterday because I tried to be Party Mom & go on all kinds of adventures with Ramona before preschool. We did have fun, but she stepped in dog poop & wiped it off with her bare hand, so it was a mad scramble to the closest business where I could thoroughly scrub her hands (which was like eight blocks away!). & it was 90 degrees out, & I do not handle heat well. We were only out for two hours, but I spent the rest of the day in bed, trying to recover.

That night, Jared & I had the following conversation:
me: “I didn’t sew at all today.”
Jared: “Are you sad about that?”
me: “Yes.”
J: “Are you…sew sad?”
me: “That was pretty weak, dude.”
J: “Hmmm. I’m feeling a serge of annoyance coming from you.”

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sewing with a plan: summer capsule wardrobe

I was so excited to get back to sewing, after all the cancer, & bronchitis, & ear infections, & blah blah blah. I cut out a new dress last weekend & had it all ready to be sewn on Monday while Ramona was at preschool. & then I woke up on Monday morning with some sort of excruciating hip situation that made the act of moving my right leg close to unbearable. I got out the serger anyway to finish the fabric pieces (it’s a jersey dress, so I’m just going to zigzag the seams & press open). Luckily, Jared had taken Ramona out for a bike ride, so they weren’t around to be disturbed by my screaming & weeping as I shifted my foot on the foot pedal. I did manage to get all the edges finished, but then I had to go lay down. No sewing was done this week, alas.

But! I did plan out my summer wardrobe! It’s somewhat ambitious, considering the small amount of sewing I’ve been physically capable of achieving in the last several months. I think I’ve completed five projects so far in 2017, & they’ve mostly been pretty simple: lounge pants, a raglan tee, a tea towel.

There are thirteen garments in my summer queue, but I am so excited about them! If it all pans out, I will be doing a lot of pattern hacking, a lot of drafting from scratch, a lot of playing with prints, & a lot of playing with different textiles. Plus a lot of embellishment (of course, my new obsession), & some really different silhouettes. I’m experimenting with layers, maxidresses, & cropped looks in a way I never have before. But I took the time to really think about exactly what I want to make & how the different colors & silhouettes will work together (& with the stuff I already have) to create different outfits. No closet orphans here!

I’m planning four dresses (I wear a lot of dresses when it’s hot outside), two skirts, one blouse, one summer sweater, one pair of shorts, one pair of pants, one bag, one sun hat, & one pair of shoes. I’m hoping to embellish with beads, ribbons, buttons, applique, some cross stitch &/or embroidery, & lace. I’m using jersey, linen, seersucker, canvas, shot cotton, lawn, & chambray. I made a list of outfits that can be created with these pieces (an “outfit” here being defined as three items worn together that won’t get me arrested for indecent exposure, so swapping out one accessory for another counts as a new outfit) & came up with more than sixty combos, & that doesn’t even factor in the looks I can make with these new items combined with the stuff I already have!

I’m going with my trusty Ciara-approved color palette: gray, black, pink, yellow, & turquoise. Maybe a few touches of green & purple here & there. Of course there will be some gingham involved. It’s summertime! Of course there will be unicorns involved! I decided to get rid of my unicorn print Cambie dress because it has never fit properly & is not very well-sewn (it was like the third dress I ever made, so no shocker there), but Ramona loves the unicorns so much, she actually mentioned it in the Mother’s Day card she made for me. It said, “I love you, Mommy! I love the unicorns on your dress, & walking with you, & playing with you! Happy Mother’s Day!” (transcribed by one of her teachers, of course). So I’m replacing the Cambie with a new dress with a unicorn print. There will also be roses, because I am tired of fighting the fact that I am really drawn to rose prints. They seem so mumsy, but I love them. I am secretly hoping that Jared will get me a miniature rose plant for Mother’s Day.

I kind of freaked out for a minute over how much I was spending on fabric, notions, & patterns for everything, but then it occurred to me that buying similar items off the rack (if that is even possible with some of the embellishments I am planning, & of course the customized fit) would cost ten times more, minimum.

My goal is to get everything sewn up by the end of July, when we move to our new house. The hot weather usually lingers in Kansas straight through October, so summery items will get plenty of wear beyond “summertime”. Plus I’m making the effort to make sure everything can be layered & combined with warmer items to be worn in cooler weather.

A lot of this was inspired by the posts the Curvy Sewing Collective has been doing about capsule wardrobes. I’m attracted to the theory because I love things like “curation” & “collections”. It’s just never seemed like something I could really mesh with my personal aesthetic, which is big on prints. Like, I guess I could make a capsule collection of a few pairs of jeans, some t-shirts, & a hoodie (my current cold weather uniform). It’s just never grabbed my attention. But the Curvy Sewing Collective has had a lot of really useful posts on coming up with a vision for a capsule collection, incorporating dresses, & thinking about how to combine garments in unusual ways. I found it really inspiring (obviously!). Marrying it to the season & using it as a way to experiment with new silhouettes really motivated me to think outside the box. I’m especially excited to be using so much pink in these garments. Pink is my favorite color but I have often avoided sewing with it as much as I’d like because it would be easy for me to go all in & have a completely pink wardrobe. I decided to just really go for it this time instead of challenging myself to go with a color less “expected” of me (by myself, Jared, & Ramona, pretty much the only people who know how fucking much I love pink).

So! Those are my big plans for once I can use my leg again! (Which will probably be this weekend; I am feeling a lot better now than I did at the beginning of the week.) I can’t wait!

Re: the leg thing. I saw my doctor yesterday & we discussed the whole mess of health issues I’ve got going on these days. She conducted one of those neurology tests where you have to follow the person’s finger, stop them from pushing your leg down, walk heel to toe in a straight line, etc etc. I failed everything SPECTACULARLY. Part of it is standing still with your arms out in front of you & closing your eyes. Easy peasy, right? Go try it right now. Did you fall over instantly? Because I did. I was so utterly lacking in balance & coordination that I almost joked, “Whoops! Guess I shouldn’t have swigged that bottle of tequila in the parking lot.” (For the record, I literally can’t remember the last time I had an alcoholic beverage. January, maybe? I think I had a beer at a book club meeting. I don’t think I’ve had actual liquor since before I got pregnant with Ramona.)

So they’re doing some more bloodwork to rule out an auto-immune disorder (lupus, for example), & I’m having another MRI done next week, this time of my neck. The doctor said it was to check for pinched nerves, but I’m no dummy. They are also looking for lesions on the spinal cord. & after that, a referral to a neurologist. I get that this all sounds kind of scary, & I’m certainly dealing with a lot of symptoms that are affecting “the tasks of daily living,” as they say, but you know. I’m used to it. This ain’t my first goat rodeo. So I’m just trying to keep a sense of humor about it.

achievement unlocked: owl print calendar tea towel

I got my MRI results a lot sooner than I expected, so I won’t prolong the suspense: my brain is 100% normal. That’s obviously a good thing, but it means that we’re not any closer to finding an explanation for all of my strange health problems. About 5% of people with MS have clear brain scans, so it can’t be ruled out entirely, but you know. MS is pretty rare to begin with; 5% of an already very uncommon disease isn’t terribly likely.

I will be seeing my doctor soon to discuss. In the meantime, it has gotten hot as fuck in Kansas (almost 90 degrees today, ugh) & my body is in open rebellion. I’m having some kind of weird hip thing today. It doesn’t hurt to stand or sit perfectly still, but if I try to move in any way (even turning my head, or, say, typing up a blog post!), I am in excruciating agony. I tried to sew a little this morning because I have a new summer dress ready to roll & it would be perfect for this weather. But the pain is on the right side of my body & the act of using my right foot to press on my machine pedal was so agonizing, I openly wept. I snarfed a Percocet left over from my surgery. It didn’t make a dent.

Anyway! Who cares! Let’s talk about some sewing.

The little summer dress I’m currently working on is made from fabric I simply could not resist, from Spoonflower. I’m not ordinarily all up in the Spoonflower because their fabrics are really expensive, & not necessarily the best possible quality. I mean, you can buy some nice fucking fabric from Mood or wherever for $27 a yard. But I’m such a sucker for prints sometimes. I just fall in love & reason goes out the window.

As long as I was already selling my first-born to pay for some damn jersey, I spent some time on the site to see if there was anything else calling my name, & I discovered a whole selection of really cute calendar prints! Like for tea towels, you know? My mom had some when I was a kid, with, like, an image of a rooster & a whole calendar for 1986 printed beneath it. I’ve always found calendar tea towels really charming, & I was like, “Wait, I could MAKE one!” As so often happens, my mind’s eye took on a certain Vaseline-on-the-camera quality, as I imagined Ramona in fifty years, opening her cedar chest to show someone her treasured collection of pristine calendar tea towels hand-sewn by her mother over the years.

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I was quite spoiled for choice in the 2017 department, because, you know, it’s May. I’m sure the designer of the print I chose was surprised to be getting paid for a calendar print so late in the year. It was really hard to pick, but I went with the owls because they just reminded me of Jared & myself somehow. We have a real Statler & Waldorf dynamic, & even though Statler & Waldorf are human Muppets, they’ve always made me think of owls. I guess because I think owls are really judge-y? Just like me & Jared!

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You can buy the calendar prints as fat quarters, so I bought one on Spoonflower’s linen blend. The fabric was cardboard-stiff when it arrived, but it relaxed a bit after being washed. To be honest, I’m really not sure how well it would function as an actual tea towel, due to the printing process. It seems like the print really compromises the fabric’s natural absorption properties. Luckily, our house is already overflowing with tea towels & various rags (pro-tip: cut up old sheets & clothing to make un-paper towels; they work perfectly well, they’re re-useable, they don’t cost anything because they’re things that would have otherwise been thrown out, & they are zero effort). So I felt perfectly justified in making a decorative tea towel.

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I do think the fabric may have stretched off-grain a bit in the printing process, because there were spots where the printing was not quite straight. Linen goes off-grain easily because it’s such a loose weave. So that was kind of a bummer, but somehow I’ve found the inner strength to persevere.

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Yeah, I burnt the corner a little. Whoops.

Nothing really to write home about as far as the sewing process goes. I mitered the corners (another pro-tip: when you trim away the excess fabric after sewing the corner seam, one side of the seam will be trimmed away at an angle; trim away the other side to match & press the seam open for a really sharp, pointy corner) & topstitched with a thread just slightly darker than the background color. I glued on some teeny tiny Swarovski crystals to mark days of importance to our family (our birthdays & Jared’s & my anniversary). I made the hanging loops from a bit of ribbon I had lying around & attached it with double-sided fusible tape so there wouldn’t be any extra visible stitching on the tea towel. Next time, I will stitch the ribbon on before mitering & topstitching, because I do find stitching more trustworthy than using a fusible. Not that a tea towel falling off the wall would be a calamity or anything.

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I cut the dowel down to size myself using Jared’s hand saw, & realized in the process…Hey! I’ve never used a hand saw before. My review: not as easy as it looks. The cut edge could really stand to be sanded a bit, but the sandpaper is buried somewhere in the depths of our storage closet, so…nope. It’ll turn up when we move & I’ll sand the dowel then.

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So yeah! Just a quick & easy instant gratification project to give myself a break between beading & cross stitching sessions. The finished tea towel is pretty large, like 14″ by 22″ or so? So it adds a lot of pizazz to the house without a lot of effort. I’m already getting antsy for people to design prints for 2018! (Or maybe I’ll design one myself?) Something like this would also make a nice handmade gift, in case anyone wants to get a jump on the December gift-giving holidays.

Really, my only regret is that the owl print gave the Jared the opportunity to say, “More like a tea OWL, am I right?” *sigh* Do you see what I have to live with, people? & he is passing his punnery on to Ramona.

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achievement unlocked: gray quilted Hudson pants

I already blogged this project over on the Monthly Stitch, so if you read that, maybe just skip to the end of this one if you are curious about some everyday life news I have to share (warning: it’s not the best news). Or read on if you just can’t get enough of my amazing writing, or if you are obsessed with joggers for some reason (the pants, not the people).

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These are the Hudson pants from True Bias. I got the pattern as part of a bundle a few years ago & assumed I would never sew it because athleisure is just not my jam. I’ve never sewn a True Bias pattern before because there’s never been a True Bias pattern that I wanted to try. Indie patterns are expensive compared to picking up a Big 4 in a sale, so mostly I only buy indies that seem special somehow, & I use Big 4 or self-drafting for basics. These pants did not turn out great & I actually probably would have gotten a better result from self-drafting, but I don’t know if that’s a real problem with the pattern or with the alterations I made to it. & I will add, despite their flaws, they get worn ALL THE TIME.

Based on the size chart & various blogged versions I have seen, as well as the samples on the True Bias website, I made a few changes right off the bat. I cut the largest size available & then added 1″ to the front rise, tapering to nothing at the side seams. I also hate feeding elastic through channeling, so I constructed the waistband my own way, by dividing the waistband & elastic into quarters & tacking the elastic to the inside. You can still clean-finish the waistband this way. You just have to be careful not to catch the elastic on your second pass on the waistband if you’re using a straight stitch. I also attached long ribbons to the ends of my elastic to use as a drawstring. I just thought it was prettier than a more traditional drawstring material, & added a little splash of color.

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I got the lovely quilted double knit at my local fabric shop. They have stepped up their apparel fabric game like whoa since I started sewing four years ago. They even carry Bemberg now, which I used to have to special order. Anyway, this fabric was pricy, but SO soft. Ramona likes to pet my legs when I wear these pants & say, “Your legs are so, so soft, Mama. You are soft like a cat.” I used some leftover black sweatshirt fleece (that pills if you look at it, ugh) for the contrast bands, & some nice yellow jersey for the pocket bags. The only issue I had with this combo of fabrics is that the black fleece has WAY less stretch than the quilted gray fabric. So it was quite fiddly sewing the two together. I tried to stretch the black as far as I could & not stretch the gray at all, but the gray was born to stretch. I love the look of the contrast band on the pockets, but sewing it was not fun.

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This was also a complicating factor when it came to the ankle bands. I cut a band as drafted & basted it together & it wouldn’t even fit over my foot. Whether it was just drafted really tight or the fabric I was using had a lower-than-recommended percentage of stretch, I don’t know. I suspect both issues were at play. I added 2″ of width, & it works, but an extra 1/2″ would really be ideal. The ankle band is so tight, I can’t pull the pant leg up to, like, change socks or whatever.

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On the flip side, the alterations I made to the rise were completely unnecessary. I made that change because my measurements put me just a hair outside the largest size on the size chart, & also because I know I have longer-than-average legs & a larger-than-average belly. I pretty much always need to add to the front rise when making any kind of pants, & even some skirts. & I swear these were described as “low-rise” all over the internet. I always prefer a mid-rise. My alteration provided me with a rise that could handily function as a bandeau top. If I don’t mind stooping over a bit, I could wear these things as a strapless jumpsuit. I don’t really mind. When it comes to pajama pants (which is what these are for me; I’m just not an athleisure/sweatpants-outside-the-house person, unless major health issues are at play–these have been worn to several doctor’s appointments & emergency room visits), I’d rather have a high-rise & plenty of room through the hips than the opposite. But my version clearly does not fit like the sample.

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I would make these again (with wider ankle bands & without all the alterations I made to the rise), because they are great pajama pants. Maybe they’d even work in warmer weather & a more lightweight knit. But this style is definitely “trendy,” meaning it will look dated as hell in a couple of years (if it doesn’t already; the pattern is already three years old), & most people really don’t have any use for more than one or two pairs of joggers in their wardrobes, especially if they are using them as actual outside-the-house day pants.

On to my blergh news: I am having a brain MRI done later today to screen for multiple sclerosis. I don’t know that I actually have multiple sclerosis, but it would certainly explain A LOT: my complete lack of energy, the fact that I’ve been too foggy to even read magazines for the last year or so, these weird tension headaches I get, my constant dizziness, the weird chest pains I’ve been having for the last few years, & the fact that I have pretty much no feeling on the right side of my body. I spent some time last night poking myself with embroidery scissors to see how bad it really was. I could feel the pressure, but no pain or sharpness, even when the scissors left a mark. Kind of handy for sewing, because it means I can poke myself with needles all I want without pain, but not exactly what one might call “normal”. My doctor ordered 50,000 blood tests this week to see if my symptoms were being caused by a thyroid problem or a vitamin deficiency, but everything came back normal.

So! We shall see! I’m not sweating the MRI, I’ve had them done before & have no issues with claustrophobia. I think being stuck in an elevator actually sounds kind of relaxing. But you know. It would be nice to maybe have a couple of months without some kind of unfolding health catastrophe on my hands.