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As I sweat I dream of Fall

I read on wunderground.com this morning that July was the hottest July that has ever been recorded, on Earth. I don’t know when they started recording these things, but I do know July has been hot. Weather doesn’t last forever, though, does it?

It’s been several months since my last post. In the meantime, I’ve had a roller coaster life. My family moved, leaving behind a beautiful house to live in a tiny apartment that costs more. I started homeschool preschooling my three year old. I had a miscarriage. None of these are the sorts of things that one usually finds reason to post about, nor that generally inspire sewing. Luckily, emotions and stress (both good and bad) are like the weather.

Fall seems to be the time of year I feel the need to assess my life, and with it my wardrobe. At the end of summer, I’m so over the oppressive heat, and the constant effort to find ways to modestly be naked (as if that has ever existed!), and I just want to throw everything away. I want to have as little stuff to take care of and as few clothes near me as possible. But with this annual purge, I usually end up finding the serious wardrobe gaps that were never resolved before temperatures made them unnecessary. Then Fall starts, and I panic. 

Last year, when I went through this cycle, I didn’t do anything until it was almost too late, cranking out a few mesely items after I was already freezing. This year, with everything going on, and the knowledge that sewing wouldn’t be a convenient task, I started thinking about fall early. Good thing, too, because I have some serious wardrobe gaps still/again! And, with it still being over 100*F everyday, I’m REALLY looking forward to it being cool enough to notice those gaps!!

My husband was on a business trip last week, and since he wanted 3am wake up calls, it was only natural that I stay up all night to give home those wake up calls, and of course staying up until 3 am makes for a lot of sewing time! After my son went to sleep each night, I brewed a pot of coffee, turned on Gilmore Girls on Netflix, and sewed for hours. It was pretty amazing! 

I don’t have real photos, just terrible in-the-bathroom-mirror ones, and four finished garments! I won’t share them all now, but I am especially happy about my Roscoe dress. I wore it day and night, taking it off only to shower daily and try on other items I was sewing, for three days! Whatever. Judge all you want, it was amazing!!

I used rayon challis from Joann’s. It’s pretty and has amazing drape, but it sure likes to disintegrate. I don’t know if I’m just completely incompetent, but even with French seams, my rayon clothes fray to the point of no repair usually just a few weeks after finishing them. This time, the seams seem like they’ll hold, but there are a bunch of random holes developing in the gathered panel at the bottom of the skirt. I’m not sure how to fix them, so I’ll just watch them and enjoy the hell out of this dress until it falls apart!

So, here’s to letting go, reassessing, and starting fresh, and to finding a little joy and comfort along the way.

Roscoe dress. View B. Leather cords at neck instead of pattern ties, and omitted sleeve binding.


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Unintentional sewing 

Despite planning, or understanding of sewing fundamentals, occasionally I think my brain shuts down for a bit and everything goes differently from how I intended it. 

Recently, I made a very unintentional jacket. I intended to make a wearable muslin of this jacket and to practice making and installing a lining (even though the pattern doesn’t call for one), but pretty much nothing went as planned. First, I was using a slightly washed out red cotton twill for the body. It was a free-to-me fabric, and close enough to my palette that I thought I could make it work, and wouldn’t be totally upset if the muslin just didn’t work. I cut the pieces, sewed the body together with a few small alterations to fit in advance, and tried it on. First of all, it was a tad snug in the shoulder. Second, it was REALLY short. Third, the red color was not working for me at all. On a whim I decided to dye it black. Well, not only did that not work, but the jacket edges that I hadn’t thought about before throwing in my washer frayed well beyond their seam allowances, so I wasn’t able to line it. 

I honestly know enough about all of this that I really should have prepared better than I did, but by trimming the edges and finishing them to prevent further fraying, the jacket amazingly works as is. 

   

 And I rather like the dusty rose color it dyed, which goes even better with my palette. (And with all the blushy pinks!)
It is very casual and lightweight, and like a cardigan or light blazer in its usefulness as a finishing piece. I’m not sure exactly how much wear it will get, but I actually really like it. And, as a muslin, it served its purpose very well. I know pretty much exactly what to do for my linen, actual version of this jacket. And what not to do.


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Spring Fever

While a good sized chunk of the American population was dealing with this year’s version of Snowpocalypse, Vegas had a week that felt something close to warm, and it was wonderful! It dropped to freezing again, and even snowed, but has since fully rebounded into warm and sunny spring. Maybe it is the sunny 70 degree weather that had gotten to me, or maybe it was the overwhelming amount of Valentines Day swag and patio furniture decorating every retail space in existence for several weeks, but I have really started to get excited for spring, and it is looking pretty pink. Seriously. All fabric purchased within the past month has at least a small measure of blush to it.   

  Keeping with my general color palette, and the idea that I really like very simple, but feminine clothing, I’ve found myself making a lot of new things lately, and it is really exciting. Fall had a lot of purple. Who knows what summer will bring. Maybe crimson and indigo? We aren’t in any rush to get there, yet.

I’ve also (mostly) gotten knits sewing out of my system. I love knits, a lot, but until I have a serger, I’m really not going to sew very many knits. I can’t emphasize enough how much I dislike sewing knits on my basic machine. I attempted some tees and threw them back into the “incomplete” bin.

And so, I’ve been having a lot of fun with wovens again! So. Much. Fun! Even epic failure has been fun.

A few weeks ago, I completed a True Bias Roscoe Blouse I’ve been planning since Black Friday, and it has been in heavy rotation. I don’t know that I can love it more! 

  

I was trying to figure out a remote, pardon the face.

 
As I was sewing it, I tried it on and thought ‘I dunno… I don’t think this is going to fit.’ I am so glad I persevered because it was perfect, just like my Hudson pants, straight out of the printer. I used a polyester crepe, which was pretty much impossible to press along the way, but was a great experience otherwise. I’d love to make some nice silk versions, but my toddler and wallet tell me that I should stick with poly for now, or at least maybe rayon. I actually have a white cotton voile with gold printing that I recycled from a dress I held onto for too long despite the fact it will never fit me, and I’ll bet it makes a lovely, summery boho version!


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When you can’t sew…

I’ve been laid up since before New Years with something closely resembling a sinus infection, and I broke my last sewing machine needle sewing a little zippered pouch for a Christmas present, so no new sewing has been going down. 

That’s okay. When you can’t actually sew, you can still prep and research and think about sewing. And you can knit a lot while wearing home sewn comfy things. And I mean knit A LOT. Since New Years, I finished the first sweater I’ve knit for my son, and an ultra warm double layer hat for a friend, and I’m well into the insole of a pair of socks for myself, and it’s only six days into the year!

I did only the most minimal Black Friday/cyber Monday shopping in 2015. I bought over 20 yards of fabric and four indie patterns. I’m really really spendthrift about patterns, but there are some things that I am not ready to screw around with self drafting with. Besides that, there is so much to be learned from well drafted patterns. So, I bit the proverbial bullet and got 20% off to ease my pride.

I’m trying to learn how to sew with knits, so two of the patterns were for knit fabric, the Sallie jumpsuit by Closet Case Files, and the Hudson pants from True Bias. Comfy lounge clothes are an important part of my mom wardrobe, and my preference for dresses has gone out the window as a certain troublemaking toddler tests my modesty with his shenanigans. The Hudson pants can be made more or less casual, ranging from straight up sweats to drapery rayon slacks, and can be worn year round. True Bias even has a hack for modifying the pattern to be a short skirt, which is great versatility for a few years from now. Sallie has multiple neckline options, and can be a maxi dress, a shorter dress, a jumpsuit, or a romper. That’s awesome!

The other two patterns I bought are for the Roscoe blouse by True Bias, which is a simple, pretty, comfy peasant blouse that can also be a dress in various lengths, and the Clare coat by Closet Case Files. I love how simple the blouse is. It is an easy sew  and a shape that I hope is universally flattering. I have a pretty floral crepe I bought specifically to use for the blouse, and it is already cut and ready to go as soon as I get new needles. There is just enough crepe leftover for a new (and improved) tank top this spring. The Clare Coat is a goal. I got rid of my coats over the summer and haven’t had one this winter. Vegas doesn’t get too cold, but it gets cold enough to regret not having a coat, or jacket, or wool sweater, or any of the basic garments normal people (not obsessed with purging and making) have. I want to skill up this year, so the Clare Coat is a project for this spring or summer to ensure I have a coat by next winter. I’m going to do view a, because I LOVE the asymmetric zipper and front. I still have to figure out everything else, though…

I am currently wearing my first pair of Hudson pants. No joke, I’ve worn them almost every day since Christmas, mainly taking them off to shower and throw them in the wash. Straight out of the printer, the pattern was perfect. That has never happened before! I used stretch fleece from my big Black Friday purchase, and have four more pairs cut for myself plus more planned for gifts. Actually, half the fabric I bought was with these two True Bias patterns in mind! 

The last bit of fabrics I bought were for free patterns. I bought stretch lace for Indigo Orchid’s t-shirt underwear pattern, and for Cloth Habit’s Rosy Ladyshorts. Those are both halfway complete, so I don’t know how either will work, but I’m optimistic. I also bought a few yards of rayon stretch jersey for lounge t-shirts. Tessuti has two free patterns available that I like: the Mandy Boat Tee, and Our Fave Top.

So that’s where things stand. Soon, I’ll replace my needles and get some sewing done, but until then, I’ll think and plan and prep for sewing, and finish those socks.


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Here’s to 2016!

2015 was a pretty good year for me. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, good or bad, but it was a steady year of time with family, time at home, and time to create. I took trips, made friends, made some big lifestyle changes, and the like. I also, honestly, went through my first real bout of depression since before my son was born. You see, I’m a painter. You’d never know, because I don’t ever have an opportunity to do it, but creating is something that is deeply engrained in my core identity. Painting, specifically, requires a certain measure of calm and aloneness for me to do, and with a toddler, calm and aloneness just aren’t a part of life. About halfway through the year I had a very strong compulsion to create, and I realized that I had let creativity and making take a backseat to other aspects of life. I spent the second half of the year balancing that out. If I can’t paint, I need to make something, ANYTHING, to feel like a whole person.

This year I made a lot of things, several of which I didn’t share. I learned new things and pushed myself to be better, and I took more time to make for others. Next year I hope to do a lot more of the same. Here are some goals for 2016:

  • I want to paint. Even just once. Even if it isn’t any good.
  • I want to knit more. I find it very calming. I want to make myself a more basic, sturdy, warm and cozy sweater, and I want to tackle something that is considered “advanced”. I also want to do these things before it is too late in the year to enjoy them.
  • I want to try serger sewing. I acquired a lot of knits in November, and I’ve made some work, but I want to have them be better in their finishings.
  • I want to make a jacket. I have a lightweight, 3/4 sleeved jacket I got from a friend, but it isn’t very warm. I want to make another lighter weight jacket for spring and fall, but I also want something much warmer that I can wear next winter. I bought the new Clare coat pattern from Closet Case File Patterns, so maybe that will be my big sewing project for the year.
  • I want to sew more for others. I have a few late Christmas gifts I’m working on for some of my friends and family, and I’m hoping that making for others will force me to slow down and do quality work.
  • I want to finish at least one of the two quilts I started in 2015. I’ve never made a full-sized quilt before, and these need to fit our Cal King bed, so that is going to be quite an undertaking for me.
  • Lastly, I want to get back into the (heavily dreaded) routine of regular exercise. I took a break as I was adjusting to paleo eating, and chaos of the holidays, but this year I need to suck it up and be better.
  • I want to enjoy and wear the things I make. If they don’t fit right, I want to fix them and learn from them. If they fall apart, I want to learn from that as well. If I’m taking time to make things, I want to spend time using them.

That’s a somewhat vague list of goals, I know. I don’t have specific patterns or techniques listed. Of course, I HAVE specific patterns and techniques I’d like to use, but I’m not going to get myself stuck on that as much as in the past. I want to just make, and make well, and make myself better at the things I do and make along the way.

My final note on 2015 is this sweater:

I finished it between Thanksgiving and Christmas and was able to wear it both for Christmas and most of New Years Eve. It is a disaster. The yarn was cursed (maybe bugs at some point, or maybe just not as high quality as I thought when I bought it) and seems to dissolve and break as I breathe. I’ve probably got a dozen or more knots throughout, trying to mend holes. I don’t care. I love it! I plan on wearing it until it is a wreck and won’t stay on my shoulders anymore. I also plan on making it again with a sturdier yarn, maybe something with some silk for strength (and because silk is so fancy). I’m really proud of it. It isn’t a sewing make, but it is my favorite make of the year.

So here’s to 2016, and all the beauty and usefulness it will bring!!

Happy New Year!


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Selfish Knitting and IKEA for the Win

Since I am on the verge of finishing up (and showing off) a lovely sweater that should be done any day, I figured it was time to deviate from sewing discussion a little to talk a little about my knitting this year.

I am a selfish sewist, but I am not a selfish knitter. Usually.

Since learning to knit when I was about eight years old, I have done a lot of knitting for other people. My husband has had a few pairs of socks and at least one cap knit for him, as has my son (who is on about to receive a sweater for Christmas, as well!). Friends, family, and a handful of children undergoing chemotherapy, have been the recipients of a variety of knit goods. Until last winter, I had only ever knit myself one successful pair of socks, a small lace scarf, and a single, basic cap. I sew for me, and usually knit for everyone else.

Last winter changed that. I had made some cowls for friends for Christmas and had a ball of art yarn leftover that was interesting. I also had a six hour drive to Southern California to visit family. Since my husband does the majority of the driving, I thought randomly, “I should make myself something with this!”

Until that point, I had also never knit anything bigger than a scarf, so I made the obvious decision to design and knit myself a sweater. I like to make the DIY process as complicated as possible.

I decided to knit a drapey, open-front cardigan sideways and flat, in garter stitch, then stitch up the shoulders and pick up stitches to knit sleeves in the round. I wanted quick and easy for the first sweater I ever made, so I also used giant needles.

I finished the majority of the body during that trip, and then set aside my knitting to do everything else I do when I’m not knitting, and I didn’t pick the sweater back up again until September of this year. Several balls of yarn, and months later, I’m happy to report that my first sweater ever is a success.

 

I like to think of it as hobo chic. It kind of looks like a threadbare rag that someone living under a bridge is probably wearing, but at the same time I feel like it is actually pretty darn cute. I’d think I was just biased if I didn’t see commercially made cardigans like this and this, and (check out the price of) this one being sold. Hence, hobo chic. Mine is also super comfy and my kid loves to curl up inside of it like it is a big blanket we can wrap around the both of us, which makes me so ridiculously happy. It also gave me the confidence to knit my second ever sweater, which is just inches from completion, and pretty without any trendy hobo-ness to it.

Last winter, I also tried my hand at sewing a drape cardigan. I looked around for a good sweater knit fabric to use and couldn’t find any that was worth the price tag. It was during a trip to IKEA the same weekend I started knitting sweater #1 that I spotted a soft and interesting, and VERY inexpensive throw blanket that I thought I’d use to make a cardigan. It was woven, not knit, which only made the project even easier for me. I used this awesome tutorial (with a few minor changes like bigger front panels to create a longer drape) and wore that sweater throughout all of 2015, and will get some more mileage yet in 2016.IMG_7125 (2)


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Colors and Neutrals

Be forewarned: this one’s a little long-winded. Because color. 

On my quest to become a more organized sewist, and to not wastefully buy pretty fabric that never gets used (or worse: used but never worn!), I have been trying to be much more selective with my shopping and planning to begin with.

This sounds easy enough, right? The problem is that some fabrics are just not suited for garments, no matter how pretty they are. Or at least not suited for garments for everyone. As much as I embrace all beautiful things and every glorious color, I want to also feel like I look good. I love color and prints, and get inspired when I look at fabric, but I put a lot of time and love into the things I make and really don’t like when I’m disappointed by the end result. For years I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly what I was doing wrong. It turns out that a lot of it comes down to color and neutrals.

Because I love bold bright colors, I spent years assuming that eventually the colors would somehow work together to make a cute, but cohesive wardrobe. I’d see women wearing prints and try to mimic their ensembles. I actually used to take literal notes on the wardrobe of someone I went to high school with because her sense of funky, colorful style was inspiring (totally not creepy at all, right?).

The truth is, neutrals don’t have to be boring, but the wrong ones or too many of them usually are. Additionally, too much color takes away from cohesiveness. Really. Green skinny jeans that go with one floral blouse, one solid t-shirt, and one jacket, and absolutely nothing else in your wardrobe, are essentially useless. If you try to compensate by buying more floral shirts to go with the jeans you are on the right track, but missing out on some variety. If you try to compensate by buying an orange pair of skinny jeans to go with all the other floral shirts that don’t look good with the green jeans, you’re missing the problem. And if you are like me, you buy the green jeans and an orange sweater and a purple jacket, because they are really stinking cute, and are then heartbroken when they actually look bad with absolutely everything else in your wardrobe (including your shoes)! Don’t be like me.

The opposite can be worse,though. I tried to rein in my patterns and colors for a while and ended up with grey, oatmeal, and khaki solids that were boringly partnered every day. 

I went from one extreme to another, without considering  what actually looked good on me. I think I just saw myself as the universal blood donor of skin tones despite the fact that I’ve never once found a foundation, powder, or concealer that looked natural on me.

I’ve determined that, for me, it comes down to balance and a color palette. My color palette, more specifically. To start off, I went through a lengthy, and pretty nerdy, color study on myself to determine what colors actually look good on me using the directions from  this article. For some people, this may seem silly or overly complicated, but those people probably don’t have trouble formulating a wardrobe. I do. 

After everything is said and done, I’m very happy with the resulting color pallet. It reads a little duller than I’m used to, and a little winter-y. I’m not sure how I’ll summer it up, but at least I have a guide for knowing if something should look good on me, and can shop accordingly. The colors also go well enough with each other that things make or bought SHOULD be a little more universal in my wardrobe. *Fingers crossed.*IMG_7098

After I developed my palette, my next step was to cull my stash more using the palette as my guide. Here’s how that looks:

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These look good. 😉

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Some bolder prints I’m hoping work with the rest of my wardrobe.

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The one on the left is a stretch so it’s going away. The right one’s great.

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This sweater I’m knitting is a near-perfect match!

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Some good solids, though the green is iffy.

The final thing I don’t have figured out quite yet is how I’m going to balance prints with some good neutrals. Not necessarily boring neutrals, but some strong bones around which everything else can fall into place. I think items like my newly made purple pants are definitely a step in the right direction. Maybe this will finally be the thing that actually works intuitively.

Wish me luck! And do remind me if I seem to fall back into my terribly chaotic (or exceptionally boring) color ways!! 😉