Spring is here, finally, and with it all attendant busyness that, I remind myself, is all good things and so WHY AM I SO STRESSED OUT ABOUT IT and having that nightmare where I’m in grad school and it’s the end of the semester but I haven’t done any of the work?
I never had that dream while I was actually in grad school.
Mom told me she wasn’t seeing any Easter dresses she liked in stores. So I made one from “leftovers.” Do they qualify as leftovers when you bought enough for 3 garments? Dubious.
I did make a special trip to Joann for the contrasting fabric.
It’s the same fabric I used to make MJ”s birthday dress. I thought that birthday dress would be a good backup if this one turned out way too big until I realized I hadn’t seen the birthday dress since, well, perhaps as far back as MJ’s birthday 7 months ago. It’s not in her closet or dresser, that’s for sure. I am losing my mind, and all of the things I am in charge of. Which is everything. I’m a mess, folks.
It’s big, but not too big, and kids this age you can justify making clothes a little larger than necessary, the caveat here being that you need to actually keep track of the thing if you want your kid to wear it more than once.
When I showed it to MJ she said it was “all mixed up!”. Did she like it? “YES!” Mom says she’s going to be a quilter.
Here I sat with ambitious ideas and informal spreadsheets of inspiring patterns for my work wardrobe, all simple, modern dresses with loose, easy silhouettes, when I discovered Atalier Scammit and took a quick detour into my other sewing aspiration which is, apparently, to be French and wear clothes that are all about flowy ruffles and voluminous gathers and pretty prints. This version of myself is willowy and long-legged and breezy and owns a French country house boasting a gorgeous garden that’s home to a large honeybee population and fruit trees, but there are only a few variables that we can control. Ruffles and gathers it is.
I loooove the yoke. I looooove the gathers. I looove the sleeves. I looove the curve of the button band. I looooove everything about this blouse. Everything except how it looks on me. But I don’t know if it matters. It’s a shirt. It’s innocuous. Nobody is evaluating it it but me.
Here are some terrible photos I took on a beautiful finally(!) spring day.
I daresay it’s too big, but then I think isn’t that the whole point? Maybe if I tucked it
This fabric is another one that I picked up while on vacation from Craft South. There’s just one left from that trip. This fabric was just waiting for the perfect blouse.
Maybe I won’t wear it in a field of poppies, but I’ll definitely wear it to work Good enough.
My continuing troubles sewing with knits… continue. Let me enumerate my mistakes and grievances. After failing to cut a single pattern piece on the grain I:
Broke a serger needle and since I
Couldn’t find the allen wrench to replace the needle I
Decided that I would just go ahead with the one needle and call it a 3 Thread Narrow stitch
Resulting in holes at the end of seams when sewing in a continuous circle which I
Realized were recurring and not one-offs only after multiple passes (because Hello! You can’t just leave a broken needle in your serger and call it a 3 thread narrow stitch)
Meanwhile losing maybe an inch of length in the sleeve/cuff before
Deciding I didn’t give a damn and zig zagged those damn holes closed, and not even with matching thread because I was GOING TO FINISH MY DAMN TOASTER SWEATER DAMMIT whereupon I
Donned my finished top and realized I had sewn the bottom band on backwards with the seam in front.
It was not a good sewing night, folks. Now, in the clear light of day I can see that and I can’t really explain the fogginess, stupidity, and/or stubbornness that kept me going on down the wrong path blatantly ignoring the voice of common sense and reason that I definitely heard yet willfully ignored. I mean, really, a broken needle =/= a 3 thread narrow stitch, and I knew that. I just really wanted my damn sweater and it seemed to be holding the pieces of fabric together just fine which is as much as you want when you’re too desperate to give it a proper thought. It was supposed to be an easy, quick, one-night sewing project, and I was going to fight the thing into submission.
Knits can be challenging, at least for me, but they make up for that by being forgiving. In spite of all that I ended up with a passable top, passable here meaning I can wear it without embarrassment and nobody will assume it’s handmade because of its defects.
I even like it! Everyone and her sister has already made a toaster sweater, and with good reason: you get the comfort of a sweatshirt but a style that’s fancy enough to wear to work. Fabulous. I can’t stand the high funnel neck (I hate turtle necks, too, it’s a personal preference, not a pattern problem), so I fold it over and my neck can breath and move without touching fabric.
Next day I found an allen wrench, not the one that came with my machine which is gone, gone, gone, and fixed my machine up. All is well with serger until the next time…
I’ve made Matcha twice before. I get the most use out of my sleeved version and had had in mind to make another like it, but didn’t check yardage requirements and there was just no way.
Mods-wise, I skipped the shoulder detail and sewed the center front to halfway between the lower and upper neckline notches. Construction-wise, I flat-felled the center front seam, french seamed the shoulders and sides, and hand-sewed the inside of the collar down. It’s easier to find satisfaction in fine finishing if you’re pretty sure your project is going to work out.
The woman who helped me at Sarah’s Fabrics was so kind and persistently lovely that she wore down my antisocial attitude and got me to confess to all kinds of indie pattern makes and intentions. She also told me she’d used this fabric to back a baby quilt for friends who live in a Mid-Century Modern home. I live in a 1908 hulking box of a cube of a battleship of a house. but I like to fantasize about having Mid-Century house, or maybe about being the kind of person who can live in one fabulously, minimally, uncluttered surfaces gleaming. I don’t, and I’m not, but I have a pretty blouse that’s a call out to that fantasy.
I went on a job interview this one time and my interviewer asked me what drove me. What got me out of bed in the morning?
“Habit?” I responded, nailing the lid on the coffin of that job opportunity.
I spent that afternoon obsessing over analyzing my response. It was an honest answer. I’m not filled with passion for accounting standards when my alarm goes off. If I hadn’t been flummoxed by my waaaay too literal brain’s complete inability to come up with a more appropriate response I may have been able to save myself by explaining that I’m really very philosophical about habits. I think about them. I actively try to make them good ones. I ask myself if my habits are helping. I use use them as a tool to try to make life’s necessary tasks as pleasant and brainless as possible.
As someone who bangs on about making clothes you might might be surprised that I hate deciding what wear each morning. I do like sewing . I do not like dressing.
Enter the work uniform. Or: the habitual wardrobe.
I’ll blather on some other time about how a vision for my ideal work wardrobe coalesced. Suffice for now to say that I have a vision and one of my goals for 2019 is to create it. If successful, instead of feeling vexed or vaguely annoyed by having to decide again what to wear to work I’ll open my closet and mindlessly pick from a variety of similar-but-different dresses that strike the right balance between comfort and business casual.
Later, as I continued to let my idea of habit marinate over a few weeks, I realized that I had developed a habit of thinking of myself as “habitual” and it really bringing me down. Boring. Uncreative. It lacked agency. I decided to re-frame how I talk and think about myself. I am not habitual. I am disciplined.
I had a friend in high school who told me he didn’t like my name. It was “too biting”. My “biting” name suits me, or maybe I’ve grown to suit it since I never gave it any thought until this person offered his rude, insulting, irrelevant, unsolicited opinion.
My name is biting, my nose is sharp, my chin is pointy. As I age I see my aunts’ angular features emerge. I would be pretty if I wore makeup. Or smiled. I used to be cute before I cut my hair. If you’re a woman you know the drill.
My name, my features, my bare face, my expression all subvert traditional notions of femininity, or so I’ve been told explicitly and subliminally all my life. I’m an invisible middle-aged woman, now, and the drop off in scrutiny emboldens me to try clothing styles I never would have when I was younger.
Pattern: Tacara by Seamwork
Size: 4? 3? Does it matter?
Fabric: Plain black knit remnant I bought at a fabric scraps store
This dress is unmistakably femme, but subversively so. The unusual shape and loose drape are the opposite of feminine. I had expected those features to hide my figure, but it emphasizes my curves more than closer-fitting styles. Surprising!
And it is Oh. So. COMFORTABLE. It’s a dress I think I’ll like and possibly grow to love, but it’s also a dress that will take some practice wearing just because it’s so different from anything I’ve worn in the past. I forget that I like wearing this dress until after I already have it on – I just have to remember to take it out of the closet.
I wasn’t going to do any sort of 2018 retrospective. I especially wasn’t going to look at my 2018 Make 9 list. I was sure that I completely missed the mark. I hadn’t thought about my list in, oh, 7 months or so, except for the nagging sense of guilt I felt about not making as many pairs as pants as I hoped.
Juniper Pants – 2018 was supposed to be my Year of Pants. It wasn’t.
Ginger Jeans – I made these! And then never blogged about them.
Boxers – Got stuck sourcing elastic.
Some sort of denim skirt – I made most of one, Ginger, but I sewed the invisible zipper in too closely (who knew this could be a problem?!) and it doesn’t zip past the start of the waistband. I’ve ignored it for months.
Lander Pants – I made a muslin and it was so, so bad I was put off of pants completely. I’m still working up the gumption to deal with the mysteries of a crotch curve.
A mixed bag, to be sure. I don’t look at this and feel good about the things I’ve made, I feel bad about the things I haven’t. Unmet goals weigh heavily on me. I won’t be repeating this experiment; its specificity doesn’t jive with my more lackadaisical attitude towards making. Or maybe I need to reframe it and conceptualize it as a direction or theme for the coming year rather than a than a to-do list. I’m still learning about what I wear, what I feel good wearing, and what I make, and I hope I’m getting closer to a Venn diagram of the three that’s a single overlapping circle. I pecked a bit at putting together a Make 9 for 2019. I couldn’t commit to 9 patterns to sew, but it did help me realize a theme for 2019: developing and making a work uniform.