Category Archives: Uncategorized

What happened with LCNS?

Hey folks. I know, it’s kind of ridiculous. I splashed out on a real website with a personalized URL & I put the effort into re-designing the site, & then I disappeared.

This blog is now primarily a sewing blog–specifically, about women’s garment-sewing. But if you look through the archives, you will see that it’s gone through several iterations over the years. I didn’t learn how to sew until 2012/2013, but I started the blog way back in 2009. I used to write a lot more about politics, feminism, & zines. When Jared & I decided to have a child, it morphed for a while into an infertility/pregnancy/parenting blog. When I was going through my cancer treatments last year, I wrote about it.

I’ve been quiet here for the last month or so because we have been going through a very upsetting experience as a family. As most of you know, Jared & I have a daughter. Her name is Ramona & she will be five years old next month. We enrolled her in a local co-operative preschool last year, when she was 3. We were really happy at the school for an entire year. Ramona thrived, she made friends. But tomorrow will be her last day at the school.

At the beginning of September, I noticed a play tipi on the school playground. My personal feeling, as a person who cares deeply about anti-racism & social justice, is that play tipis are a classic example of cultural appropriation. I feel that they teach children to view marginalized cultures as playthings, or relics of an apolitical history. I had never seen the tipi on school grounds before (I wouldn’t have enrolled my child at that particular school if I’d known that a play tipi was among their toy stash), so I asked where it had come from. A teacher explained that it had been a gift to the school from an alum family, & it didn’t come out of the shed very often. When the teachers did pull it out, they referred to it as an adventure tent.

I shared my view that the tipi was not an appropriate toy for the children, & that the teachers had to know that on some level if they were not comfortable referring to it as a tipi. (It was a classical conical structure, with sticks coming out of the top. It was definitely designed to look like a tipi rather than an all-purpose “tent”.) The director agreed with me & got rid of the tipi.

& that is where everything could have, & should have, ended.

Instead, the school’s board launched a seven-week campaign of harassment against me. Although they claimed to agree with me about the tipi, they insisted that I had not used the correct venue to ask about it. (I had raised the question on the school’s private Facebook page for parent discussion, rather than saving the question for an upcoming board meeting or one-on-one chat with a teacher.) They said that because my question had “made teachers feel bad,” it was considered a “personal attack”. I was accused of being hostile & disruptive for asking this question. I was received numerous emails & text messages from board members, reprimading me & berating me for raising the issue.

Eventually the board developed a policy for the parent Facebook page, drafted in response to my inquiries about the tipi. Parents were told to raise issues & concerns about things like playground toys & school curriculum in private conversations with teachers, or via a form that would be considered at the monthly board meetings. We were not to discuss such issues amongst ourselves on the Facebook page, & violators would be subject to vague consequences, including removal from membership in the Facebook group.

The next day, the husband of one of the board members approached Jared on the playground & told him that we were not welcome at the school & should withdraw. It was a pretty clear-cut example of harassment & intimidation. We documented the incident in writing & sent it to the school director, just to have it on file in case things escalated with that family.

Shortly thereafter, Jared & I were summoned to the school for a private meeting with the director, board president, & one of the board VPs. (The board, incidentally, is comprised of school parents, appointed to their positions via a cursory nomination-&-election process at one of the two mandatory all-family meetings that happen each year. Most board members run unopposed, & generally, mere minutes elapse between nomination & election. There’s definitely no getting to know the candidates, contrasting & comparing their views on various school issues, or anything like that. Basically, someone volunteers to be president or secretary or whatever, & the general membership is like, “Uh, okay,” & “votes” them in for a term of one year.)

Apparently, the impetus for the meeting was a screen shot the board received regarding my writing about the person who confronted Jared on the playground. I had posted a friends-locked Facebook account of the issues we were having. One of my FB apparently/supposedly took a screen shot of my post & sent it to the board. Despite the fact that the post was private & did not identify anyone by name, the board considered this a violation of their vaguely-worded “problem-solving policy” & demanded that Jared & I both sign a document attesting to the fact that we “understand the problem-solving policy” as a pre-condition for Ramona’s continued enrollment in the school.

As far as we know, the individual who initiated the confrontation with Jared on the playground was not reprimanded or forced to review the problem-solving policy. Note again: his wife is on the board.

We taped that meeting, & we have the president of the board on tape agreeing that our signing the document means that we are all going to move forward in Ramona’s best interest. Our requests were simple: stop twisting our words & accusing us of doing & saying things we never did or said. (This was related to their written charge that I had called a teacher “disgusting,” when in fact I was clearly referring to the play tipi as a “disgusting” example of racist iconography–guys, it was decorated with jungle-themed fabric. I mean.) If someone comes to them with rumors or gossip about us, or screen shots that violate our rights & privacy, refuse to listen or look at them. In sum, stop harassing us.

Again, all of this is on tape.

We walked out of that meeting feeling that things were resolved. Not perfectly, but well enough that we were able to move forward & live our lives.

Two days later, they rescinded my position as assistant treasurer. Several explanations were offered. We were told that the board had decided it wasn’t a good idea for “someone who is so upset with the school” to handle the school’s money. (My job was to collect & deposit school tuition.) We were told that “several families” had contacted the board to say they were “uncomfortable” with me handling their money. We were then told that it was actually just one family that was uncomfortable, but because money was involved, the board “had to take it seriously”. & then we were told that it was really for our own protection, so we wouldn’t be the victims of “false allegations” of financial malfeasance.

Of course my immediate thought was that this was another attempt to sideline us & strip us of meaningful responsibility within the school so that it would be easier for them to force us out on some trumped up justification. But what could I do? Refuse to turn over the deposit slips? Stage a sit-in at the bank & demand the right to deposit tuition? So I acquiesced, even though I really enjoyed that job. I told them to keep me updated on the timeline for transitioning a new person into the job, & to let me know who the new person was so I could arrange to train them.

They replied that the treasurers would handle the training. This was confusing to me because the entire reason the assistant treasurer job exists is so the people who have the power to spend the school’s money (the treasurer, president, director, etc) aren’t also the people who deposit the money. This separation of powers is clearly spelled out in the school bylaws. The treasurer had never even been trained on how the deposit system works (not that it’s rocket science).

I want to make clear: I’m not accusing anyone of financial mismanagement by bringing this up. I use it simply as a illustration of the fact that the board would rather violate its own bylaws & separation of executive duties than allow me to retain any position of responsibility. They made clear that there was absolutely no problem with the way I had been doing the job for the previous six months. They just…didn’t want me doing it anymore.

They told me I could wrap up October’s tuition, but less than a week later, with no forewarning whatsoever, they removed my access to the tuition & operating spreadsheets I required to finish my job. They told me to turn over any checks I hadn’t yet had a chance to process to the director.

Again, what could I do? Refuse? Insist that I be allowed to go to the bank & make sure the school’s money was deposited so the teachers could be paid? So, I went to the school & gave everything to the director. I wrote an email to the director, president, & board detailing the various issues that the incoming assistant treasurer should be aware (families on payment plans, the color coding system I used in the files to track late fees, that sort of thing).

& the day after that, we got another email from the board president, summoning us in for yet another private meeting. We asked for an agenda, or at least a rough idea of the topic, several times, & several times, we were refused. I was convinced that they were going to tell us that we were being kicked out, & that it was all cloak & dagger because they had our security deposit refund written & ready to go & just wanted to do it quick & face to face instead of drawing things out over email. Jared was convinced that it was pretty much anything but that, since we hadn’t done anything to justify removal from the school. We were all paid up on tuition, we’d been showing up for every participation day, we’d done our weekend cleaning, we’d even done the alternative cleaning job they assigned us so we wouldn’t be present at the mandatory fall work day (the dad that confronted Jared on the playground was in charge of work day & didn’t want us there). We had signed their problem-solving policy form. We had even acceded to their problematic “no discussion of social justice issues on the FB group” policy, even though it flew in the face of our moral & political principles & we were sick about kowtowing to a rule that was specifically developed to protect white privilege & white fragility. It was only our own white privilege that allowed us to do that, & that’s on us. That was very, very wrong of us, & I regret it with all my heart. They manipulated us by using our love for our child against us. We could suck up the racism, toe the party line, & keep our kid in a school she loves, with friends & teachers she loves. Or we could do the morally correct thing, refuse, & break our child’s heart.

Anyway. They said that they didn’t want Ramona at this meeting, so Jared stayed home with her & I went alone. & I was right. They were kicking us out. They returned our security deposit & October tuition in full (which was financially more than they were obligated to do, & was clearly designed to be a “hush money” type of situation) & gave me a letter outlining their argument. They said that I was in violation of the problem-solving policy by continuing to post about my issues with the board in private, friends-locked FB posts. When I asked how they knew what I had posted, considering that I have fewer than 200 FB friends, which includes only two other parents from the school, neither of whom is on the board, they just said, “We have screen shots. & we looked into it. It’s legal for us to have screen shots.”

Legal? Perhaps. Morally wrong? Definitely.

The post they took issue with was about being removed as assistant treasurer & how sad I was about it. & how confused I was that they wouldn’t let me train the new person. (That was before I knew they were going to fold the job into the treasurer position, at least temporarily, in violation of the school bylaws.) I wrote, “I’d like to believe that they are not intentionally being shady, but it feels shady to me, which is very confusing!” In the context of the post, it’s clear that I was referring to their behavior toward me as shady, but in their letter, they said that I was accusing them of being “shady” with regards to the management of the school’s money, which constituted “impugning the school’s character on social media,” which was a violation of the vaguely-phrased problem-solving policy, which states that behavior that “interferes with the board’s ability to do its job” will have consequences.

Of course they wouldn’t tell me where the screen shots they allegedly had came from. I learned the next day that unnamed board members had been approaching my FB friends & actually asking them to provide screen shots of anything I was privately writing about the school. As far as I know, everyone they asked refused, but at least one person provided a recollection of the “shady” post, which, in the absence of the actual text of the post, was easily twisted into an accusation of malfeasance & thus, grounds for forcing our family out. The person who offered the account to the board member has apologized to us & seems to feel terrible about how the board twisted her words.

People keep saying, “This sounds illegal! You should sue them!” But it’s a private, non-profit school. They don’t have an obligation to accept every family that wants to attend. They are licensed as a day care facility, so it’s not an “access to education” issue. & at the end of the day, our problem is not with the school. We don’t want to destroy the school. It was the board that engaged in this campaign of harassment, & it was the board that eventually decided to force our family out. As I explained, being on the board is essentially a volunteer position with a certain degree of codified authority. I have no doubt that different board members would have resulted in a different outcome. It was just our bad luck to run up against a group that is especially petty, vindictive, & authoritarian. The next logical step from where I sit would be for the families who are still involved with the school to demand an emergency meeting & perhaps a vote on a new board. That’s what I would do if I was still at the school & all of this had happened to someone else. But since we are no longer a school family, we have no power to make anything like that happen. It’s entirely possible that the board won’t face any consequences for this situation, & that they will live the rest of their lives telling themselves that they did the right thing by essentially destroying a child’s life because they were upset that someone made them feel uncomfortable about overlooking the cultural insensitivity of a toy. That’s their prerogative, I suppose.

Ramona is, of course, devastated. She doesn’t understand any of this. All she wants to do is play with her friends. She wakes up everyday asking us if it’s a school day & planning what games she is going to play with her friends. We’ve told her what happened & that there won’t be any more school after Friday, but–she’s 4. She doesn’t understand. It makes no sense to her that she isn’t going to be able to go to school (which, mind you, is three blocks from our house) & play Octonauts with her friends. She keeps talking about what she wants to wear to the school Halloween party (at which we are no longer welcome) & what kind of cookies she wants to bring in for her birthday. She keeps asking us when her next show & tell day is. I actually slept in her tiny little toddler bed with her the other night, even though it’s too small for me to be able to stretch out my legs, just because I had this overwhelming compulsion to be with her, to hold her, to somehow try to protect her from everything hard & sad in the world. I know this isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone, but it’s legitimately traumatic for her, & in no way necessary. Even if a person disagrees with me about the fundamental tipi issue, even if someone wants to be that person that’s all, “What the big deal, it’s just a tent,” (if that’s you, by the way, feel free to take me off your reader), I think we can all agree that kicking a child out of school is not the appropriate resolution.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with for the last several weeks. This also means a big shake-up to our schedule, which might affect my sewing going forward. We’ll see what happens, but obviously it’s going to take us at least a little while to figure out our new normal. But you know, sewing is my lifesaver when it comes to keeping my sanity, so it will still be a priority, as will this blog.

Incidentally, the name of the school is Lawrence Community Nursery School, in Lawrence, KS. It’s also known as the Little Red Schoolhouse. Again, our time there was wonderful…until it wasn’t. & a different board probably could have come to a different resolution. So I’m not saying, “Boycott this school, they’re all monsters.” I’m just saying, this was our experience. It resulted in a real & profound trauma for our child, & for us. We were victimized by a board that repeatedly lied to us, violating our privacy, misrepresented our words & actions, failed to honor its own agreements, & insisted all the while that everything they were doing was our own fault. I think it would take a remarkable confluence of events for this same situation to befall another family, but hey–it happened once. Buyer beware & all that.

Here’s Ramona hiking at the Field Station north of town.

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achievement unlocked: asymmetrical Mrs. Stylebook skirt

I am finally blogging this skirt that I made a month ago!

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This is a skirt from the Japanese sewing magazine “Mrs. Stylebook”–specifically the high summer 2017 issue, which I bought on Etsy from a seller in Japan. I like the idea of sewing magazines because it’s potentially a lot of bang for your buck. I think this magazine cost $25, including shipping, & I don’t know how many patterns it contains–close to one hundred, for sure. Obviously I don’t plan to make every single pattern, but even if I only make two, that would bring the cost down to the level of your average indie pattern company. & what really appealed to me (& may repel others) is that most of the designs are draft-it-yourself. I know some people are really put off by the idea of dropping a bunch of money just to have to get out their rulers & tracing paper & create their own patterns, but as someone who fits into exactly zero standard size charts, I love it! I enjoy the process of drafting in general, all the measuring & drawing, & the fact that I get a 100% custom-fit garment out of the process is just gravy! That’s actually why I picked “Mrs. Stylebook” over some of the other pattern magazines out there that include pre-drafted patterns.

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Of course, my skirt didn’t quite turn out like the skirt in the magazine. Probably because I know zero Japanese & had no idea what I was doing. All I had to go on is a couple of sample photos & a page of diagrams. Everything was in centimeters too, of course, so I was constantly having to look up the conversions. I also managed to choose the one skirt in the entire magazine (probably) that wasn’t based off a sloper. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s not really a complicated design. It’s basically an asymmetrical circle skirt with some pleats. I probably just should have drafted an asymmetrical circle skirt with the pleats. But I was trying to “trust the process” of following the magazine diagrams, which was maybe not the greatest idea when I really had no clue what the diagrams said!

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My biggest conundrum was figuring out the closure. The sample skirt clearly has a separate waistband, but I didn’t see any obvious signs of a closure–no zippers, buttons, or hooks. The waistband measurement in the diagram was also confusing. It seems to say that the waistband should be the waistband measurement divided in half, plus 2cm. Maybe I was supposed to take that measurement & cut the waistband on the fold? That seems like the obvious conclusion, but that literally just occurred to me right this second. & it still doesn’t answer the closure question. Other diagrams for self-drafted garments included illustrations of buttons, zippers, etc. It occurred to me that maybe this design was for a knit fabric, & so no closure is necessary. Unfortunately, I couldn’t decipher the recommended textiles, despite hours spent poring over multiple English-Japanese dictionaries. & I had already committed to this yellow & white striped woven from Ikea.

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In the end, I cut the waistband my waist measurement plus 1″ for wearing ease & 1″ for a skirt hook overlap. I installed an invisible zipper along the pocket side of the skirt & fastened the waistband with two hidden skirt hooks. That worked fine for me. Also, I am kind of becoming an invisible zipper whisperer. I am thrilled with how that zipper came out!

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I must have pleated & re-pleated the skirt at least ten times, but I just couldn’t achieve the effect in the photo, with the pleats being longer than the center panel & falling just so. That was probably user error, mostly, because I don’t sew a lot of pleated garments. I really don’t like the way pleats look on me. (So why did I pick this pattern? I don’t know. I liked the asymmetry & the fullness.) Eventually I moved the pleats to the side, & I liked that a lot more.

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The overlap in the back is awfully short on me. Maybe the given measurements just weren’t meant for a lady with a little more junk in the trunk? Or maybe I fucked up somewhere along the way. In any case, it was an easy enough fix. I had two yards of really silky-feeling white cotton lawn in my stash that I had purchased with the express purpose of making an underskirt/half-slip. I had just never gotten around to it. I went to Joann & bought some white ruffled cotton trim designed to enclose a raw hem & sewed a 1/8″ yellow ribbon to it. I sewed up one seam, added elastic to gather in the skirt, & done. Now I have a really cute coordinating underskirt to wear with my striped skirt, & with all of my other dresses & skirts. & I was able to make another by cutting the yardage in half length-wise. I trimmed the second skirt in a wider pink ribbon, because pink is one of my neutrals & goes with literally everything in my wardrobe. I especially like how it looks under my pink gingham shirtdress, & under my Lady Skater dresses.

So that’s that! Even though this pattern is literally four pieces (if you don’t count the pocket bag), it took me weeks to make it because I spent so long trying to decipher the Japanese. Why I never reached out to the larger sewing community to see if there was a Japanese speaker that could help translate, I have no clue. It didn’t even occur to me until Zoe offered, by which point, the project was finished. Next time!

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Bonus creepy kitten pocket bag.

pattern: skirt from the high summer 2017 issue of “Mrs. Stylebook”
size: custom
fabric: 3 yards of yellow & white striped cotton from Ikea
notions: universal needle, white thread, white invisible zipper, two skirt hooks, lightweight interfacing for the waistband, invisible zipper foot
total cost of all supplies: around $50
alterations: none, really, because I drafted it myself
next time: try a lighter, more drape-y fabric; maybe try it in a knit
remarks from the public: “It’s okay, Mama. I don’t think you look like a bumblebee. They have black stripes.” — Ramona
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest, as always

achievement unlocked: Little Ramona doll

If you visit this blog strictly for adult garment-sewing, turn back now! Because this particular post is about dollmaking, a new sewing rabbit hole I have fallen down.

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Meet Little Ramona! (Ramona named her.) When I was brainstorming my fall/winter sewing plans, I decided I wanted to do more sewing for Ramona. She’s still growing like a weed, but I think it’s slowed down enough that I can no longer use the excuse of an exponential baby growth explosion to justify not sewing clothes for her. She also loves it when I make other things for her–quilts, pillows, etc. She even goes crazy when I mend things for her, like slapping a patch on a hole in a pair of jeans from Goodwill.

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Ramona does have a few dolls, but she is more of a stuffie fan. (& let the record show, I never thought I would be the kind of person who used the term “stuffie”. I was gung ho on “stuffed animal” all the way. But one of Ramona’s favorite stuffies is actually a stuffed vampire, which is technically not an “animal”. & she calls them stuffies, even though I have no idea where she picked up that word. So…I’ve given in. But with God as my witness, I will never refer to her as my “little”. That is simply a bridge too far.) Personally, I like dolls, & I have fond memories of various dolls my mom made for me when I was a kid. So I decided I’d make Ramona doll for her upcoming fifth birthday.

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As with every new sewing endeavor I undertake, I did a mountain of research before I took a single stitch. I thought I’d just do your classic sock doll with a painted face, stuffed with polyfill. That’s what I remember having as a kid. But somehow I stumbled upon Waldorf dolls/natural fiber dolls & I went that route instead. Ramona does go to a play-based preschool, but it’s not a Waldorf school, & I actually don’t have a ton of patience for all the faeries & magic involved in the traditional Waldorf world. I’m all for imagination & play, staying away from the commercialization of childhood, not filling my house with noisy plastic toys, etc etc. But I do let Ramona watch TV (on the computer), to the point that one of her teachers gave me a drawing Ramona made at school & said, “She drew glasses on this person! I think she was drawing you!” & I instantly knew, no, it was Arthur, from the “Arthur” TV series.

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But, hey, no one ever said you have to ban all sugar & technology from your home before you can make a Waldorf-inspired doll. I got a bunch of dollmaking books from the library, queued up a bunch of YouTube tutorials, & ordered supplies from Weir Crafts. I got an early start (Ramona’s birthday is still ten weeks away) because everyone online was like, “Budget several months for your first doll. These dolls take forever!” etc etc.

I started stuffing the doll’s head on Wednesday & Little Ramona went to school for show & tell yesterday, less than a week later. I mean, I’m not claiming that this is a one-hour project, by any means. Stranding the hair alone took hours. But I think the fact that I already have so much sewing experience, both on machine & by hand, really helped speed up the process. The most time-consuming parts were mostly just a product of me over-complicating things. Like, when I made the head, I spent a bunch of time hand-tacking the neckline to cover the craft string, which was totally not necessary, because that whole area is covered anyway when the head is attached to the body. I also fussed with the face embroidery forever before deciding less is more. I probably spent a solid eight hours embroidering the face, only to rip it all back out to do just really simple satin-stitched eyes & a single strand of floss for the mouth. (& yes, ripping back the work I did means the doll skin on the face is less than perfect, but I was looking at the entire project as more of a learning experience than an exercise in creating museum-quality handwork, so whatever. Now I know for next time.)

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A traditional Waldorf doll is very minimalist. The facial features are more suggestions than anything else, with the idea that a child will use their imagination to project stories & emotions on to the doll during play. But you know me. I like to be fussy. So I did add some unnecessary detail, like ears, & eyelashes, & a dimple. Anyone who has ever met Ramona will know that her giant blue eyes & long eyelashes, big ears, & dimple are her stand-out features (eyes & dimple courtesy of me, ears & lashes come from Jared), so I wanted to incorporate them into the doll. I also added a belly button, the suggestion of bends in the elbows & knees, & I articulated the fingers & thumbs with chenille stems, so the hands are bendable, rather than just being mitts. (Though I did not make the fingers separate, because that look on a doll really creeps me out.)

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I also cut out a felt heart in Ramona’s current favorite color, blue, stuffed it with rice, & blanket stitched around the edges. I stuffed it into the torso to create a little extra weight. It gives the body a little extra heft for hugging & cuddling.

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& of course, she needed clothes before she could go to show & tell. Ramona requested “pink & green undies, a black t-shirt with a shark on it, & blue overalls.” I drafted everything from scratch & couldn’t quite accommodate all of Ramona’s requests, but I did my best.

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The undies are pink cotton jersey trimmed with teal 1/8″ elastic (the closest color I had to green). The t-shirt is a pretty simple dolman sleeve, also in cotton jersey. Somehow, I don’t have any fabric with sharks on it, so I subbed in a picture of a cat instead. I just zigzagged it for a more casual effect, & didn’t bother hemming anything because jersey doesn’t ravel.

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I fully intended to make overalls, but the legs I drafted were too tight, so I turned them into skinny jeans. They were kind of a rush job–I finished them literally ten minutes before we had to leave for school, & I still had to grab some lunch, get dressed, wash my face, etc etc, in that ten minutes. But they definitely fit Ramona’s aesthetic, the pockets are all 100% functional.

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Making the clothes was so much fun! I often make little paper or cloth mock-ups of garments I am making for myself, just to get a sense of how certain treatments work, to solve order of construction conundrums, etc. So this was totally in my wheelhouse. & as much as I love frills & bows & lace & ruffles, Ramona DOES NOT, & it was actually really satisfying to make doll clothes that are more contemporary & modern-looking than a lot of what you see out there. I’m also wondering if knitting doll clothes might be the solution to my knitting woes. I have yet to finish a project because I am slow, & the bigger my project gets, the more tension issues I have. I have a tendency toward overly tight stitches, so maybe a smaller project will enable me to work out those kinks. I know, I know, I should just make a scarf or pot holders or something, but ugh. I like to make real things! Not just squares & rectangles! Doll clothes might be the way to go!

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I’m not sure if dollmaking will become a “thing” for me, because the materials are not exactly inexpensive, & the process is definitely time-consuming. In a perfect world, people would commission them from me, so I can afford the materials & make more dolls without being a weirdo whose house is filled with dolls, you know? I mean, I only have one kid. But who knows, we’ll see.

PS–I finished stranding her hair while Ramona was at school today. Now she has pigtails! I used cotton yarn & two different kinds of mohair, individually stranded on to a braided wig cap made from boucle & mohair. Honestly, this volume is not all that dissimilar to how my hair looks if I wear it down.

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sewing with a plan: September

Well, my late August sewing didn’t go exactly according to plan. A nasty cold began circulating at the preschool as soon as it was back in session. Ramona caught it right away & passed it along to Jared. Somehow I have thus far been spared, but they are both malingering a bit. Jared has been sleeping on the couch so his coughing doesn’t wake me up. I guess the only way this has really affected my sewing is that I have felt like I need to be around downstairs because I’m the only healthy member of the family who also possesses opposable thumbs, in case people need water or applesauce or whatever. I’ve been cross stitching to make the most of my time. I can do that on the couch with Ramona while she watches “Arthur”.

I did finish the skirt I was working on, but I haven’t had a chance to take photos yet because my tiny photographer has been sick. Plus I wanted to make something to wear under it, because it gets short in the back if everything isn’t laying just right, & I didn’t get around to finishing that right away.

I decided that September 1 would be the day I finally get my shit together. This is the vow I make to myself on the first of every month…& every Monday…on my birthday…on New Year’s Day…Any excuse for a fresh start. Never mind that I’m 38 years old, & if I was ever going to get my shit together for real, I probably would have by now. But it actually has been going pretty well so far! We’re only three days in, so there’s still plenty of time to crash & burn (especially if I catch that cold), but I might have set a new record for myself. Usually I have one really productive day & then I spend the second day of the month/Tuesday/the day after my birthday/etc laying on the couch, unshowered, ordering in a pizza & binge-watching “The Golden Girls,” because I exhausted myself the day before.

(Incidentally, I once got a comment in response to a similar post from someone laying into me about how I was a useless, lazy sack of crap because some people have jobs to go to & how I’ve got to pull it together if I hope to be a functioning member of society. I don’t really remember the details. Joke’s on them though because I already know I’m not a functioning member of society! I have chronic, debilitating, treatment-resistant depression & anxiety instead. You win some, you lose some.)

Sewing plans?

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Mostly I just wanted an excuse to post this photo, because I worked on these drawings for like one thousand years.

These aren’t ALL of my sewing plans for fall/winter, but it’s a lot of them. I put checkmarks on the garments that are already finished. There’s a lot of stuff here I am excited about! Like the hooded blouse (bottom row, second from the left, with the black overalls). I’m planning to use Simplicity 8447 (for both the blouse & the overalls). I just really like the idea of a hooded blouse. I bought some banana print cotton lawn to use, & am thinking maybe black buttons, to coordinate with the banana stems & the fact that I wear a lot of black?

Also, the top row middle look is a nice snuggly set of rib knit pajamas. The fabric is a ditsy floral, not ordinarily my thing, but I just couldn’t resist it when I saw it on fabric.com in the spring. The only hitch in the plans is that I want to make the bottoms leggings, but I don’t have a leggings pattern I swear by. I actually have never made leggings. I’m not a big wearer of leggings (though I’d like to start, because I think laying in a supply of leggings will make it easier to wear skirts & dresses in cooler weather). So this is me, soliciting pattern advice. In a perfect world, I’d like a pattern with options for either ankle length or cuffed, a slim elastic waistband, & a mock fly would be the icing on the cake. If there’s an affordable pattern out there that fits the bill, let me know! I already have the Patterns for Pirates Peglegs pattern (because it’s free), but it has like 12″ of negative ease, which seems like…a lot. I know the whole point of Patterns for Pirates is that they enable women to sew their own knock-off Lularoe clothes, but I’m not looking for that Lularoe split-up-the-back experience. I also don’t mind drafting my own.

The pants in the middle row, at the right & second to right, I’m envisioning in reversible sequin fabric. This would be a total experiment, who knows how it will turn out or how much wear reversible sequin pants will receive. But I’m thinking, more than you’d probably think, because I like to dress a little crazy.

As evidenced by the skirt all the way to the right in the top row. It’s the Oki Style Sasha skirt, which is made to look like trousers re-fashioned into a skirt with all kinds of ruffles & flounces. I kept seeing it in my head in a business-y kind of glen plaid, & I found the perfect fabric from Mood. It’s gray with a touch of baby pink, exactly my jam.

The coat in the middle is something really different. I went downtown to run errands the other day. I needed new Frixion pens so I started walking to the indie fabric shop, Sarah’s, but I got distracted by the Antiques Mall. Because I was sick all last year, I hadn’t been window shopping downtown in literally like a year. I tried to keep myself in check, but I found an amazing embroidered dress that I just had to have. & then a vintage bias cut silk slip EXACTLY my size for only $5 (which is remarkable on a lot of levels–I am usually too big to fit into truly vintage garments). & then I found a black woollen cocoon coat from the 1950s…also an exact fit. (The bottoms of the sleeves are maybe a little tight, but I can probably let them out if it really bothers me.) I had been planning to make myself a fairly simple black coat & elevate it by adding an embroidered tulle overlay. I already had the tulle, but had been putting off buying fabric for the coat because everything I liked was quite spendy. I’ve never been big into re-fashioning. I have preferred to just sew from scratch, but…I decided that sewing the overlay to the vintage coat would be a lot easier, & a lot cheaper. So I bought it. That will be an interesting experiment. If it turns out well & I enjoy it, maybe I will do more re-fashioning.

sewing plans from eclipse to September

Happy Great American Eclipse Day! Here in Lawrence, Kansas, we are just outside the path of totality. Apparently we will have a 99.3% eclipse. I was thinking that that was good enough for me, but Jared convinced me that it’s really worth making the drive to experience totality, being so close & everything. We have our eclipse glasses, we’ve told Ramona’s teachers that she will be out today, we’ve cleared our schedules…&, as it transpires, it’s supposed to be cloudy & stormy in our little corner of Kansas, so we might not see anything at all. Jared said we can get Ethiopian for lunch, since we’ll be in or close to Kansas City, so I guess that’s something. I’d jump through a flaming hoop for some kik alicha.

I have a post all written up & ready to go, but I hate the pictures. I’ve just been sitting on it for like a week & a half. So I think I will draft Ramona to take some new, better photos for me before I post it. In the meantime, let’s talk about the topic that has been consuming a lot of my attention lately: SEWING PLANS. ‘Tis the season, after all.

I wrote in the spring about all my big plans for spring/summer capsule wardrobes. I got quite a few garments on my list done, but I also got distracted by Indie Pattern Month & wound up making a few pieces for that that weren’t on the list, nor season-appropriate. When I think about sewing the rest of the summer-y garments I had planned (several of which are all cut out & ready to go!), I just feel really meh about it. Even though it’s still really hot in Kansas, I feel like I have plenty to wear & I’m ready to move on. So I’ve stuffed all those garments into bins for safekeeping. I’m thinking of it as getting a jump on my spring/summer 2018 sewing. I’ll still need maxidresses & shorts & cute blouses then, right? (Well, “need” may be a strong word.)

As my new sewing space comes together, I am just overwhelmed with ideas for things I want to sew. & not just clothes for myself! Ramona picked out some fabric at Ikea & she wants me to sew pants for her. I’ve decided that her growing has slowed down enough that it’s probably not illogical to make her some clothes. I also promised Jared that I would make us a cozy flannel fitted sheet two years ago. I need to replace my entire lingerie drawer. My bra size changed after my hysterectomy (which I hear is pretty common). I now have a smaller band & a larger cup, & I need a different wire style. & the elastic on all of my self-sewn undies is wearing out. I treated myself to a really nice cross stitch design program & have been fiddling with some pretty elaborate designs. I told Jared I would make seat cushions for the new dining room chairs we bought. (Our old ones were literally falling apart.) & I definitely need to replace my handbag. I’m currently using the Noodlehead Supertote I made a few years ago, but it’s looking pretty beat up.

I’m an obsessive list maker, so I sat down & made some lists:
* eight complete fall/winter outfits, which can be mixed & matched into a minimum of six other outfits
* three sets of weather-appropriate pajamas
* six bra/undies ideas
* two bags
* two pieces of outerwear
* two very complex cross stitching projects
* six “sewing for the home” projects
* six projects for Ramona
* six paper-piecing projects
* two knitting projects (maybe)
* I’d also like to try my hand at re-fashioning some sweaters. I have one in particular that I never wear, but am loathe to give away because I have a sentimental attachment to it.

This is definitely kind of a lot of sewing. But it’s a mix of instant gratification projects & more complex & time-consuming sewing. I’ve also included some of the more cool weather-specific garments I have made recently when thinking about outfits, so some garments are already finished.

I’ve picked three projects that I want to finish by the end of August:
1. That confounded skirt from “Mrs. Stylebook”. It’s been in the naughty corner for the last few days because I have not been able to work out exactly how the damn thing is pleated. But I had a brainwave last night as I was falling asleep, & I think I know how to finish it now. It won’t be exactly like the skirt in the magazine (at least, I don’t think so, but who the hell knows because I have no idea what the description is in Japanese), but it will suit my purposes.

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the gray asymmetrical skirt

2. A self-drafted mori style pink & white tunic with a pintucked yoke & half-length puff sleeves

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3. A September-themed paper-pieced wall hanging. Don’t judge me! I think it might spruce up the house, & I think Ramona would really like it. My plan is to use two patterns–a bushel of apples & a butterfly with some flowers (which I will convert to sunflowers, since September is sunflower month in Kansas), & a third alphabet pattern to spell out the name of the month.

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I’ll leave it at that for now, because September plans are a lot more involved, & we are also thinking about driving all the way to Columbia, Missouri for the eclipse, which would necessitate getting on the road in a minute.

Do you love planning posts as much as I do? Obviously I love seeing finished garments & hearing all about their creation, but I find planning posts super-inspirational. Am I just a weirdo?

 

 

achievement unlocked: railroad denim Burnside Bibs

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Yes, I have already sewn another pair of these overalls, even though the pattern has only been out for like six weeks! & even though it is overalls, & the question exists: how many pairs of overalls does one 38-year-old woman really need? Apparently I will not rest until I have a pair of overalls for every possible occasion.

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This design gives me a real 1930s hobo vibe, so of course I had to sew a pair in classic railroad stripe denim (& damn, I’m glad I bought it when I did, because it’s out of stock now). Some years back, before Ramona was in the picture, Jared joined a hydrology research team for a summer. They did half their research in the Adirondacks & half in New York City. I spent the summer living in Philadelphia so it would be easy for us to visit each other. During one of my visits to New York City, we went to American Girl Place, because…why not? They had the most elaborate, museum-quality displays for each of their historical dolls, one of whom is Kit, a plucky aspiring journalist & baseball enthusiast growing up during the Great Depression. Her display included a huge TV that broadcast a loop of a young boy in tattered overalls held up with a rope approaching a house to ask for work. Jared & I found the juxtaposition of the real history of desperate, starving children (I have relatives who actually died of deprivation during the Great Depression) in this outrageously luxurious consumerist paradise absolutely hilarrible. So that is what was on my mind while I made these overalls.

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I made a few small changes to this pair, mostly to just tweak the fit a little. I added a 1/2″ of length to the bib & extended the front crotch curve 1/2″. I shortened the legs by 3 3/4″ (I’m 5’5″, & Sew House Seven drafts for a figure several inches taller than that). I raised the back pockets…um…a lot. Maybe too much? They’re right up by the belt loops now. I’d lower them a smidge if I make these again, but I do prefer them very high instead of halfway down my thigh. It makes me feel kind of glam, in a tacky “Three’s Company” sort of way. I think it works okay with the slim-fitting darted back waist. Depression-era hobo meets Studio 54? Have I just defined my personal style concept?

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I did press & topstitch the ties & straps this time. There was no way I was going to be able to pull tiny tubes of this heavyweight denim inside out. I even considered swapping the invisible zipper out for an exposed metal zipper because of the weight of the fabric. But I decided to try an invisible zip first, just to see how it went. Spoiler: it actually went surprisingly well! Hands down the best invisible zipper I have ever sewn, probably because I just kept ripping it out & doing it over until it was just right. I must have sewn it seven or eight times. Even with an invisible zipper foot, it was challenge to get right up under the coils through all the layers of denim. But it zips very smoothly, & the waist & hips are EXACTLY the right size for me, so the zip snugs things up without straining itself.

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This is also the most perfect facing I have ever sewn. I spent a few days just unzipping it & admiring it because I was so damn pleased with myself. I still have not achieved that elusive “perfect sew” (this one was a bit of wobbly stitching at the back waistband, though it’s camouflaged by the fabric), but this is as close as I have yet come. Which was a really nice change of pace, because the two garments I whipped up before these were just a hot fucking mess. Like, they’re wearable, but I know I can do a LOT better.

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It’s been unseasonably cool in Kansas this month, so I’ve actually gotten to wear these sooner than I expected. I wore them over the weekend to go see a friend who just had a new baby. She found out she was pregnant on the same day that I had my first cancer surgery–she actually picked me up from the hospital just a few hours after finding out, & kept it to herself so as to not further traumatize me while I was on my journey to uterus-lessness. But she’s really the only pregnant person I have not been wildly resentful of in the last year, & it was a real joy to meet her new baby. & because she is a good friend, she even took the time to compliment my overalls, even though she had literally just had a baby like 45 minutes earlier. I don’t think I even had it together enough to know my own name 45 minutes after I had Ramona.

In other news, the sewing room is coming together. I was just up there doing a bit of drafting. I treated myself to the high summer 2017 issue of the Japanese pattern magazine “Mrs. Stylebook” (I am obsessed with that title) & instantly fell in love with one of the skirt designs. Some of the looks in “Mrs. Stylebook” are featured as paper patterns, but the majority are drafted from scratch or from bunka slopers. On the one hand, I love this concept because it means that the size range doesn’t matter. You’re drafting from measurements, so it’s going to be a custom fit every time. On the other hand, the entire magazine is in Japanese. I know absolutely zero Japanese. Luckily there are some websites that include Japanese sewing glossaries, but it’s seriously a matter of being like, “Okay, that character kind of looks like a ladder with a roof over it…” & then poring over the glossary until I find a match. There’s barely even any context to help a non-Japanese speaker figure out if they are looking at sewing instructions or fabric types or what. You really need to have a solid technical knowledge of sewing patterns to puzzle it out. It’s fun, but also kind of exhausting. After spending a solid three hours yesterday translating Japanese terms & converting measurements, my brain just switched itself off & I spent the rest of the evening laying on the couch watching “The Octonauts” with Ramona. Maybe I should sign up for Duolingo?

& of course, I had to choose a somewhat complex skirt. It’s asymmetrical & has pleats & it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out exactly what edges are supposed to be sewn together. But as with all things sewing: you won’t learn if you don’t try!

pattern: Burnside Bibs from Sew House Seven
size: 18
fabric: 3.5 yards of fairly heavy Kaufman railroad stripe denim
notions: denim needle, navy thread, invisible zip foot, navy invisible zip, a bit of lightweight interfacing for the waist facing
total cost of all supplies: around $35
alterations: lengthened bib 1/2″, lengthened from crotch curve 1/2″, shortened legs 3 3/4″, & raised back pockets maybe 2″?
next time: lower back pockets maybe 3/8″?
remarks from the public: “What zipper? ;)” — Instagram comment in response to me bragging about my invisible zipper
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest, as always

I have a new sewing space!

Things have been a bit quiet here because we moved house at the beginning of the week. We only moved a few blocks, but it was still an enormous production. There was a miscommunication with the former tenant, so we wound up having to move our stuff in two trips, which meant we did not have movers for as much of the process as I’d hoped, & we had to spend one extra night in the old house. We are still slowly unpacking & trying to keep our heads above the water of chaos a 4-year-old can sow (mixed metaphor alert?) when half her toys are in boxes & her parents are exhausted.

But mostly I am THRILLED with the new house! It’s definitely the biggest house I’ve ever lived in with so few people. Like, I lived in punk houses that were as big or bigger, but I had four or five roommates. Here, it’s just me, Jared & Ramona (& Biscuit, who went on an initial territory-claiming sojourn the other day & didn’t come back for almost 48 hours), & we have SO MUCH SPACE. We have room for all of our books & bookcases, real storage for things like extra quilts & Christmas decorations, all of Ramona’s toys (even the big ones, like her play castle)…& best of all, to me, I have my very own SEWING SPACE.

It’s upstairs, which is an open attic area. There’s a little room with sloped ceilings at one end, which Ramona has claimed as a playroom. & there’s an inset room with a wall of windows in the middle, & that is where I’ve set up my sewing stuff. I have SO MUCH ROOM! There’s space for my pressing station, my cutting table, my entire fabric stash, my sewing table, my dress form, my cabinet of lingerie supplies, all of my sewing books, my serger & spare sewing machine…& all of it is in the same space, which is going to make my sewing so much relaxing & efficient. There really wasn’t room for my sewing stuff at our old house. My pressing table was on the opposite side of the house from my machine, so I had to walk all the way across the house & back to press every individual seam. Half of my notions were basically in storage because I didn’t have room for them. Using the serger was this big production & pulling it out of storage, clearing everyone out of the kitchen (the only space big enough for me to use it), setting it up, & racing to get my serging done before everyone got annoyed with the noise & the space I was eating up.

The big windows mean I have lots of natural light, which is really crucial to my sewing success. My sewing machine was against a solid wall at the old place & it often made me feel anxious & sad to be sewing there. I had to have all kinds of lamps on, even in the middle of the day, to see what I was doing.

So yeah, I am THRILLED. I even re-organized things so that all my quilting fabrics are stashed & I’m using the storage piece I originally bought for them to store WIPs. Each project has its own individual bin, with fabric, notions, pattern, everything I need, right there next to the machine.

& best of all, there’s plenty of room to expand, if need be. I joked to Jared that I could start hosting sewing retreats. There’s plenty of room up there for another person to set up a sewing space & a bed, & they’d even have their own half-bathroom. I did a writing residency ten years ago at a space called the Anchor Archive, in Halifax. I slept in a little cabin & I had to staff the zine library for a few hours a week to earn my keep, but otherwise, it was just a workspace for me to write. I wound up writing twenty logic puzzles from scratch & releasing them as a zine at the end of two weeks. It was really fun, & now that I sew, I think it would be so much fun to do something similar with sewing. But this is only the most nascent of ideas. Feedback welcome!

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me on the front porch of the Anchor Archive in June 2007

I still have some more work to do up there to get everything set up. I have some lights to install & a few things to hang, & I need to sort out how everything is going to be plugged in. But I will definitely post photos when it’s finished. I really cannot WAIT to start sewing up there! Ramona convinced me to buy some vegetable print fabric at Ikea yesterday, & I’m planning to make her a pair of pants, & I got some striped fabric to make myself an experimental, structured dress situation. Plus all my WIPS, & a bag to replace my Noodlehead Supertote (which is starting to look pretty shabby after two years of daily use), & curtains for the new house, & something from the Fabric Hamper I won from Minerva Crafts for my Shenai dress…I have a lot of ideas. I just need preschool to start back up so I have the time to execute them!

Incidentally, I have three yet-to-blogged garments that I entered into the Indie Royalty competition over at the Monthly Stitch. I made a striped waffle weave henley shirt, I hacked the Paprika Patterns Jasper sweater into a really cute hoodie, & I made another pair of Sew House Seven’s Burnside Bibs, from heavy railroad striped denim. The editors decided to make all the entrants finalists, so maybe go check it out & kick me a vote? I’ll try to post about the garments in more depth here soon.

achievement unlocked: pink gingham swimsuit

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Hey ho, I have made my one trillionth swimsuit. Actually just my third. But three swimsuits is still a lot of swimsuits for a person who does not spend much time in the water. I used to be deep into water aerobics & water walking. I went almost everyday while I was pregnant with Ramona, & was back at the pool again as soon as I was cleared for water immersion after giving birth to her. But then I discovered sewing & it’s been a tug of war ever since. Do I want to suit up & head to the pool, or do I want to keep wearing my jammies & chill at my sewing machine, listening to podcasts? Sewing almost always wins.

I decided to get back into it last fall & splashed out (see what I did there?) on an annual pass, with the thinking that I’d definitely use it if I spent so much money on it. (An annual pass costs a little more than $200, which is a great bargain if you’re planning to hit the pool several times a week.) I was diagnosed with cervical cancer approximately two seconds later, & was forbidden any kind of water immersion during my treatment. I was just cleared to get back in the water (& that includes baths) in May.

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Anyway, I have been wanting a pink gingham swimsuit for years. Having made two suits previously, why didn’t I make one of them in pink gingham? I don’t know! When I started sewing & realized that gave me complete control over the textiles, colors, & prints I wore, my immediate instinct was to make everything PINK because I love pink. There’s precedent. At one point in my 20s, I wore nothing but pink for a few years, right down to my shoes & shoelaces. I even dyed my hair pink & had pink-framed glasses. But I guess I had this idea that pink was too “expected” of me (by who?) & that having the opportunity to branch out & experiment, I should.

& before I sewed, I got most of my swimsuits from Modcloth, & usually chose a retro bombshell style in gingham, with a brief time-out for a woodgrain print with a cute belt, which exploded off of me one day at the pool when I was pregnant. I guess I didn’t want to sew one because they were too easy to find in RTW, even though finding a suit that was EXACTLY what I wanted/needed was next to impossible in RTW.

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My big issue with swimsuits has always been support up top. I have a big rack, & it’s not very self-supporting. Swimsuits are not exactly known for their lift & separation. Halter necks are bafflingly prevalent in larger sizes, even though they are torture devices for women with large busts. I’ve also learned that I have an unusually high quantity of breast tissue deposited at the top of my bust, which makes finding a suit with decent coverage a big challenge. I want some lift to keep my bust from blending imperceptibly into my belly, but a bit of lift leaves me spilling out the top of a traditionally-cut suit.

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Okay, so this suit: I decided to just follow my dreams & get some pink gingham swim fabric. I combined two patterns to make a tankini style with swim shorts. The tank is based on the Harriet bra from Cloth Habit, & the bottoms are hacked from the Closet Case Patterns Ginger jeans.

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I made myself a Harriet bra last month that I have yet to blog, but I will say that I was quite impressed with the pattern. I’ll make a few small alterations next time, but I was generally very impressed with the fit right out of the gate. The cups in particular were absolutely perfect: no wrinkles, no flat spots. I did find the neckline & underarm coverage a little low–see again my proportionally larger volume at the top of the breast. Since I was adapting the pattern for a swimsuit, I knew I’d want even more coverage than I like in a bra, to keep me decent with all the other preschool moms (& dads!) at the wading pool. So I added an entire inch of height across the cup & frame.

I converted the cup pieces to make them suitable for foam (trace ’em off & eliminate the seam allowances where the cup pieces are joined together). I made foam cups & separate gingham cups & sewed them together along all the cup seamlines, to maintain that bra-style topstitching. Then I set them into a frame made of very firm powernet & gingham basted together. I added the channeling & wires as you would with any underwired bra.

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For the tank part of the tankini, I just drafted it according to my measurements. It’s easy. All you need is your underbust, natural waist, & high hip measurements, as well as the distances between them. Quarter the diameters & draft yourself a trapezoid kind of shape along the edge of a big piece of paper, so you can cut your fabric on the fold. (The edge will also serve as your grainline.) No need to add seam allowances, as a bit of negative ease is desirable in a swimsuit. I added another 5″ to the back piece at the top to account for the height of the bra portion on the front, & I added 4″ of length to the front piece so I could gather it into the lining for a ruched effect. Seam the bra to the front, & then sew the side seams. There’s no need for a back bra piece because the back of the suit can serve that purpose.

I guesstimated the length of straps I’d need to cross over in the back (no surprise looking at a lot of my recent makes–I love crossover straps) & made them from two tubes of swim fabric with strap elastic sewn through. I finished the back & underarms with swim elastic, with the tension distributed the same way you’d finish a bra (neutral in the back, pulled taut along the underarm). To cover up the bartacks where I attached my straps & channeling, I sewed some decorative buttons to the straps, & added a cute little retro tie to the bridge. The tie is just a fabric tube with tapered ends, sewn to the center of the suit & then tied in a knot. I’ve never had good luck with the kind of tie that actually gathers up fabric from the suit because I really need the coverage there. I think my purely decorative tie is a really nice detail that pulls the whole suit together without compromising my desire to keep my cleavage to myself.

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I decided to make swim shorts rather than a traditional swim bottom because I just like the idea of swim shorts. They’re not easy to find, you know? So often they are attached to an ostensibly thigh-concealing skirt, which just screams “I’m insecure about my body” to me. I mean, I get it. We are all constantly beaten down with a fusillade of insistence that we hate our bodies. Swimsuits are an especially fraught apparel concern for many women, as I learned from “Cathy” cartoons as a child. But my philosophy is that there’s nothing I can wear that is going to fool anyone into thinking I am slim. & when you actually go to the pool & look around, there are all types of bodies. Maybe especially because I got into the pool through water aerobics, that province of the elderly woman, I embrace the idea that EVERY body is a pool/beach body. You don’t have to earn the right to enjoy the water, or wear shorts, or go sleeveless, or wear a crop top, or whatever whatever, by making your body conform to a particular shape or size. There’s a lot of talk about figure flattery, dressing for your shape, etc, but I think the most “flattering” look a person can wear is WHATEVER THEY DAMN WELL PLEASE.

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So, swim shorts. I was imagining a boxer-brief kind of thing, but shorter. I didn’t anyone to think “bike shorts” when they saw me. So I traced off the Ginger jeans pattern, extending the rise to my natural waist (& eliminating all the bits for the pockets & fly) & giving myself a 2″ inseam. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers write about trying to make shorts out of the Ginger jeans & it never works out well for anyone. & that is because the Gingers rely on negative ease & stretch denim to fit, while jean shorts tend to have at least 1″ of positive ease (think a fitted waistband on a skirt–form-fitting/skimming, not squeezing).

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Negative ease is perfect for swim shorts, though! These were easy peasy to make. I drafted a waistband (ie, drew a rectangle) & fed through some elastic, & I used the Ginger fly piece to whip up a mock fly, which I just topstitched into place. I sewed on a few decorative buttons for that boxer-brief styling & voila!

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This suit has already been pool-tested & -approved. I might shorten the straps maybe an inch or so, & might also try out a different wire in the bra portion. My bust situation has undergone some weird changes since my hysterectomy. They actually got bigger, which I really was not anticipating, but apparently it’s a pretty common side effect of hysterectomy/menopause. My high & underbust measurements are also smaller because I no longer have the hormonal fluctuations I once had. Instead of being a 40D, I’m closer to a 36E. It’s a small change, almost a sister size, but with bras, a tiny change makes a big difference.

pattern: Harriet bra from Cloth Habit & Ginger jeans from Closet Case Patterns
size: 36E for the top & 16 for the bottoms
fabric: 1.5 yards of pink gingham swim fabric, 1 yard of white swim lining, a quarter-yard of swim foam, a quarter-yard of firm powernet
notions: stretch needle, hot pink thread, 1 yard of strap elastic, 1/2 yard of band elastic, 1 yard of underwire channeling, two size 44 regular underwires, nine 1/2″ transluscent buttons, 1 yard of swim elastic
total cost of all supplies: around $25
alterations: added 1″ of height to the bra cups & frame
next time: use deeper & longer wires, make a wider waistband for the shorts, sew mock fly piece on before construction, shorten straps 1.5″ or so
remarks from the public: “I really like your swimsuit, Mama. [faux-contemplative pause]…I have an idea! We should go to the pool! I’m already wearing my swim trunks!” — Ramona (She is going through a big swim trunks phase. She has three pairs & zero “girl” swimsuits. The trunks combined with her short haircut is really inspiring a lot of gender panic among moms at the pool.)
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest, as always

achievement unlocked: teal gingham Henrietta Maria top

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All right, let’s talk about this top, which is the Henrietta Maria blouse from Scroop Patterns. (Note: I’m recycling some of the photos from my last post. Sorry not sorry!) This was the very first Scroop release, & I’m not gonna lie: I had zero plans to sew it up. The line drawings made it look like an Edwardian nightshirt, which is not exactly my style jam. But I wanted a loose-fitting woven blouse of some sort to pair with my suspender skirt. I was imagining a modern riff on a dirndl, kind of, so I was looking for some kind of updated or unique twist on a peasant blouse. & I was especially looking for an indie pattern from a company I haven’t sewn before, to fit into the Indie Pattern Month “new to me” challenge.

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I briefly considered the Scroop Patterns Ngaio blouse, which is a new release that I’ve been seeing on blogs a lot recently. But I just haven’t been sold on any version I’ve seen. Something about the boob situation always looks a little bit weird.

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I mean, right? I think I personally just prefer a wider/lower neckline.

I really don’t know what compelled me to pull the trigger on the Henrietta Maria, given that it looks an awful lot like a maternity shirt my mom wore back when she was pregnant with me in the 70s. But I’m glad I did because the final results turned out much better than I expected while I was sewing!

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I was initially going to use a yellow tiny gingham seersucker (yardage leftover from a maxidress I still need to sew). But it just wasn’t speaking to me, so I went stash-diving to see if I had anything better. I found this teal gingham seersucker that I originally bought to make a shirtdress. Perfect! The larger checks were just what I needed, & inadvertently made sewing this blouse up so fast & easy, because they served as a built-in measuring device for all those cartridge pleats.

Also, not for nothing, teal is the official awareness color of gynecological cancers, & let us not forget that I was treated for cervical cancer this past year. Layers upon layers, amirite?

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This was a surprisingly quick pattern. I expected it to take me a couple of days, but the sewing went really fast. The only shaping comes from the pleats, so it was just a matter of a few seams, pressing in the facings, & then pleating. There are more than seventy pleats on this garment, & if I would have had to measure, mark, & press each one individually, it definitely would have taken a while. But since I could use the checks to estimate the measurements, that saved me a lot of time.

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I did a few advance alterations. This pattern is drafted for a B-cup, so I did a 2″ slide & pivot FBA. Next time I’d add maybe another 1/2″, because it pulls ever-so-slightly across the fullest part of the bust. The directions suggested cutting the size you’d need for your full bust & adjusting the number/width of pleats to fit the shoulders if you are smaller or larger than a B-cup, but I’m really glad I went with an FBA instead. My full bust measurement is 43″, & I cut a size 38 (Scroop Patterns has a sizing chart based on bust size, so a size 38 corresponds to a 38″ bust), & it’s still pretty wide in the shoulders. I mean, it’s a wide-necked design, but still.

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I also did a 2″ swayback adjustment, but I still have a lot of pooling in the lower back. Maybe that’s just inevitable to some degree for a dartless woven top? Especially one intentionally designed to be fairly loose-fitting in the waist & hips?

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I also shortened the sleeves a few inches to make them elbow-length. Sewing has taught me that I loathe three-quarter sleeves. If they are touching my forearms, they need to be solidly long sleeves or else I just get mad. Plus I felt like there was already a lot happening with the color & the gingham & the pleats & the volume…I needed to rein it in somewhere.

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Per the suggestions in the instructions, I finished the cut-on facings with some lovely narrow white lace. This only really works because the facings are two inches wide & integrated into the shirt via the pleating, but it’s a really pretty detail for this particular garment. It makes the blouse feel extra-feminine to me, which is kind of nice sometimes. I also added bra strap carriers, which serve the dual purpose of keeping my bra straps tucked away (not that I really care about showing my bra straps, especially considering that I sew all my own bras, so they are all pretty) & keep the neckline up on my shoulders. This top would for sure be slipping off my shoulders with every movement without the carriers. But with them, I look like a magical clothes-wearing wizard. I feel like people see me & they’re like, “HOW is she wearing such a wide-necked top with no bra straps showing & it’s not slipping off her shoulder every five seconds? Is she a WITCH?” It feels very elegant, which isn’t something I can say for pretty much anything I have ever made before.

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I will say, the length of the this top leaves something to be desired. It wouldn’t really be wearable as-is without the extra length I added via the FBA. & bear in mind, I am fairly short-torsoed. I read that it was a bit short on length on Tanya’s blog, but of course I had to be a maverick & see for myself. It can be kind of hard to gauge exactly how long it’s going to be before it’s completely finished, because it is SO wide before all the pleats are sewn. Almost an entire yard of fabric (!!!) is in the neckline pleats alone! But if you decide to try this top, maybe just add an extra inch or two to the hem to be on the safe side. You can trim it off if the finished shirt is too long. I took the teeniest, narrowest hem possible, & it is just long enough that I feel I can wear it untucked, which is fortunate, because I am not much of a shirt-tucker.

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My goal for the weekend is to finish my project for the “hack it” challenge. I would have finished it today while Jared & Ramona were on the Lawrence Community Bike Ride (a photo of them from a few years ago was used for the newspaper article advertising it!), but I had serger issues & then I had elastic issues…It’s so close to being done, & I think (hope) it’s going to be SO cute.

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& that reminds me: I learned this morning that my Shenai dress was one of the winners of the “dresses” challenge! Amazing! I won a £100 Fabric Hamper from Minerva Crafts! Wow! I know I thought my dress was pretty terrific (I’ve been wearing it almost non-stop ever since I made it), but it’s nice that other people thought so too!

pattern: Henrietta Maria top from Scroop Patterns
size: 38
fabric: around 2 yards of teal gingham seersucker
notions: universal needle, white thread, 3.5 yards of narrow white lace, 10″ of white 3/8″ ribbon, two sew-on snaps
total cost of all supplies: around $25 (including the pattern)
alterations: 2″ slide & pivot FBA, 2″ swayback adjustment
next time: add maybe another 1″ to the length of the top, do another aggressive swayback adjustment, take another 1/2″ off the sleeve length
remarks from the public: “You look beautiful.” — Jared (In fact, he said the Henrietta Maria/Madeleine suspender skirt combo is his favorite thing I’ve ever made, but I don’t know if that’s just recency bias talking.)
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest

achievement unlocked: black denim Madeleine skirt

Happy birthday to me! I’m 38 as of today. I think this is the chillest I have ever been about my birthday. Maybe now that I am officially in my late 30s, I am over thinking that everyone should drop everything they’re doing for the month of July & give me all the attention. (Though the finalists for the Monthly Stitch‘s “dresses” challenge were announced today, & I am among them, so if you want to nip on over & throw me a vote, that would be a nice birthday gift!) I re-potted some plants, worked on my project for the Monthly Stitch’s “hack it” challenge, updated the preschool tuition. Jared & Ramona gave me a miniature rosebush with lovely yellow roses, & they’re in the kitchen right now, making cupcakes. I chose vanilla with chocolate frosting. I thought about going bold & requesting chocolate with maple bacon frosting, but maple bacon just isn’t the taste sensation I crave when it’s nearly 100 degrees out. Today is Lawrence’s hottest day of the year so far in 2017.

I also plunged a seam ripper deep into my fingertip today. Like fully stabbed it in there with all the strength in my body. Pro-tip: when using a seam ripper to poke holes in something (which you probably shouldn’t be doing anyway), maybe don’t brace the object with your fingertip, duh. The seam ripper was dangling from my finger, with fully half an inch of the blade embedded down to my finger bone. Adding insult to injury, Jared is taking me out for Ethiopian food tonight, which I love. If you’ve never had it, 1) what the hell are you waiting for, & 2) you eat it with your hands. Luckily the injured finger is on my left hand, which I don’t use much.

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Should we talk sewing? I made this skirt. I made the top too, but I’ll blog it separately sometime soon. Gotta give all of my precious garments their own time to shine, right?

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The skirt is the Madeleine suspender skirt by Victory Patterns. I feel like a perusal of my blog in the last year or so would make me look like an indie pattern non-stop fangirl. The truth is that I like to sew a mix of indies, Big 4, & self-drafted, but I’ve been leaning on indies a lot in the last year since Hancock (my source for 99-cent Big 4 pattern sales) closed, & I’ve been too sick & out of it to a bunch of pattern math. Plus it’s Indie Pattern Month again, & that’s what prompted me to finally make this skirt that I have been swooning over for three years.

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I wonder why suspender skirts are so hard to find in RTW? Maybe just because making the suspenders involves extra fabric & labor, which isn’t worth it for a style that isn’t trending hard? It’s even harder to find a RTW suspender skirt for a larger size. In fact, for a long time, I thought suspenders were not an option for me at all because I couldn’t see them playing well with a large bust. But Jared (slobbering only slightly) convinced me. I think his exact words were, “I think suspenders would…*clears throat*…look REALLY good on you.”

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I remember the exact moment I first saw this pattern. It was for sale at Grey’s Fabric & Notions in Boston. I was in town on vacation, visiting Jared while he was on a research trip. Ramona’s grandparents had whisked her away to Vermont to show her off to all their Quaker friends. I had a day alone in the city while Jared was in the archives, so I took myself on a tour of all the fabric shops & sewing destinations in town. Can I just say that the world of sewing is, like, gentrifying? Ten years ago, going to a fabric shop was like going to a fish market. It was pure chaos & you had to know what you were after. Now it’s cute, teeny boutiques with a curated selection of textiles. That is a gross over-generalization, of course, & I have only been sewing in earnest for four years, so what the fuck do I know. All I can say is that Boston’s most-recommended fabric stores were not really what I expected.

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Anyway, I saw this pattern & the heavens opened. It was the skirt I’d wanted to wear all my (adult) life. Maybe to fill the hole left by a denim suspender skirt I had as a child. I vividly remember wearing it to a square dance in an actual barn & being like, “I will remember this magical moment for the rest of my life.” I was maybe nine years old?

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I don’t know why it took me three more years to actually make the pattern. I was just having trouble settling on fabric, I think. In fact, it wasn’t until I had my rotary cutter in hand, about the cut into some floral print denim that wasn’t exactly rocking my world, when I was like, “Wait! Black denim!” I have so much in my stash, & somehow have never sewn a straightforward black skirt. (I did make the Alberta Street skirt from Sew House Seven in black twill last summer, but I never wore it because I just couldn’t with a pencil skirt.)

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I’m pretty thrilled with the finished skirt. The denim I used has so much body, it makes the shape of the skirt really full & dramatic. I remember finding a skirt a lot like at H&M in like 2004, but it was all sold out in my size. I do suspect, however, that my fabric may have had a bit more body than the designer anticipated though, because parts of the construction were unreasonably difficult. It took me literally 45 minutes to turn each strap right side out…Yeah, 45 minutes EACH. I eventually got out a really thick wooden knitting needle to force the fabric through, & I made sure to use the blunt end so as to not poke the tip through the fabric. But my strap was so resistant, the DULL end of a GIANT knitting needle actually ripped through the denim! & not even at the seam! No harm, no foul though. It was on the back side of the strap.

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I shortened it a ton, like maybe seven inches? But I didn’t adjust the depth of the pockets, & they go almost all the way to the hem. They are so deep that I can’t even reach the bottoms without contorting myself sideways. Fare thee well, any random business card or crumpled up tissue that gets dropped in there. You’ll never be seen again.

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The pattern calls for a lot of topstitching, which I was kind of meh about, but I did it. I just did it black on black because I didn’t want it to be a big feature & compromise the neutrality of the skirt. Trust me, it was difficult to squelch my impulse to topstitch with variegated thread & embroider the pockets & use rhinestones button, etc etc. I am nothing if not a magpie. I hated doing the topstitching because it took forever (I used a triple stitch with regular thread) & in the end, I don’t know that it added much, since I didn’t use a contrasting color. On the plus side, the construction seams seemed SUPER-fast after all that triple stitching. & I say that as a person who is endlessly frustrated with how slow my machine is (only 800 stitches a minute).

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This was also my first go at a lapped zipper, believe it or not. I haven’t been avoiding them. They’ve just never come up in any pattern I’ve made so far. It worked out fine, but it was curious that the seam allowance for the two back skirt pieces are exactly the same, but to make a lapped zipper, one side was pressed in 5/8″ & the other was pressed in 3/4″. I don’t know, maybe I did something wrong somewhere along the way? I just fiddled around until it looked right, & I mean…It fits, & the zipper is properly covered when the skirt is zipped up, so it all worked out okay in the end, I guess.

The waistband was also a conundrum. I tried to follow the instructions, & I don’t know if I fundamentally misapprehended something, or the instructions just weren’t meant for the weight of fabric I used, or what, but after trying & failing for an hour to turn my waistband right side out, I noped out. I ripped out all the stitching & sewed it on like a jeans waistband instead. & guess what? It wound up being my best-looking waistband ever. Three cheers for just pressing up the seam allowance on the facing & topstitching. Why suffer?

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This post is way too long, but I do just want to mention: the suspender straps are not interfaced, & my buttonholes sank into them like BUTTAH. So gorgeous. But if I try sewing a buttonhole into anything interfaced, my machine is all, “Not today, Satan.” I think I might start experimenting with different types of interfacing to use with buttonholes & see if I can coax a better performance out of my machine. Just goes to show you: prince doesn’t always equal quality. My $100 starter Brother machine never shied away from a buttonhole.

pattern: Madeleine skirt from Victory Patterns
size: 16
fabric: 2.5 yards of black stretch denim (stretch fabric is not necessary for this pattern)
notions: denim needle, black thread, five buttons, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, interfacing for waistband, quilting cotton for pocket lining, seam ripper (for opening buttonholes), hand-sewing needle
total cost of all supplies: around $35 (including the pattern)
alterations: added 2″ to waistline, shortened skirt by around 7″
next time: maybe make the pockets a little smaller?
remarks from the public: “You look like a ballerina, Mama.” — Ramona
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest