Toast

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:

  1. Broke a serger needle and since I
  2. Couldn’t find the allen wrench to replace the needle I
  3. Decided that I would just go ahead with the one needle and call it a 3 Thread Narrow stitch
  4. Resulting in holes at the end of seams when sewing in a continuous circle which I
  5. 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)
  6. Meanwhile losing maybe an inch of length in the sleeve/cuff before
  7. 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
  8. 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.

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Blurry, much?
Pattern: Toaster Sweater by Sew House Seven
Size: Small
Fabric: Cotton French Terry from Stonemountain & Daughter. Here it is in black.
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All seams in the back as they should be.

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.

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Not today, funnel neck.

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…

Mid-Century Modern

Sometimes you don’t even know that a fabric is perfect in color and scale until the thing you’re making is finished and you put it on and it’s the somehow the most YOU thing you’ve made possibly ever.

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Pattern: Matcha Top by Sew Liberated
Fabric: Aerial Lawn in Pacific by Carolyn Friedlander, purchased at Sarah’s Fabrics

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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.

Disciplined

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.

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So professional!
Pattern: Farrow Dress by Grainline Studios
Fabric: Chambray? I’m a terrible sewing enthusiast who forgets to make notes.

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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.

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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.

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Bitten

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.

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Pattern: Tacara by Seamwork
Size: 4? 3? Does it matter?
Fabric: Plain black knit remnant I bought at a fabric scraps store
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The idea of a cocoon comforts me.

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!

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Motion makes this dress beautiful.
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I weeded the crab grass out of our front lawn and seeded it a few years ago. No grass has grown since, not even weeds. Oops. 

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.

2018 Make 9 Retrospective

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.

  1. Juniper Pants – 2018 was supposed to be my Year of Pants. It wasn’t.
  2. Weekender DuffleI made this!
  3. Belladone DressI made this!
  4. Ginger Jeans – I made these! And then never blogged about them.
  5. Boxers – Got stuck sourcing elastic.
  6. 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.
  7. YorkI made this!
  8. Moneta DressI made this!
  9. 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.

Last Year’s Preparations Pay Off

My mother is a guesser, not an asker. What’s more, she’s a guesser who is uncomfortable asking anything of anyone, ever. Pause for a moment before taking that sip because I have something shocking to tell you: I’m the exact same way. In ourselves we call it independent. In one another we call it stubborn. In Granny we call it ornery. With love, folks, WITH LOVE.

You might think our respective guessing and *ahem* independent natures are at constant loggerheads, but it only seems to be a recurring problem when it comes to buying things for the kids. Mom guesses at what we need and I guess at what she has or hasn’t already purchased while we both try to avoid being presumptuous or hurting one another’s feelings. This has played out in several different ways over the years with different results, most notably the time I decided to ask, just ask, for an Easter dress and my mom gave us SEVEN (I haven’t mentioned, yet, that gifts are my mother’s love language which complicates these transactions even more), but this year somehow we just didn’t talk about it. At all. I didn’t ask if she’d bought or would buy Christmas clothes for the kids, she didn’t ask if she should or give me a big bag of them. I honestly didn’t think about it until I picked the kids up from my parents’ and realized that I wouldn’t be seeing them again until Christmas Eve church service and for the first holiday ever we had no clothes for the kiddos.

What to do? I scanned my imperfect memory of the kiddos’ wardrobes. This is another problem, neither my mother nor I remember all the things we buy or where we put them., but I clearly remembered Chuffy having 5 Christmas sweaters to choose from and decided that if MJ were to wear a pink Minnie Mouse dress, well, that would be OK.

I also remembered the fabric I had ordered last year when I thought I might make MJ’s Christmas dress … and Mom bought her one, instead. 🙂 I used a big swath of that fabric to make myself a Christmas skirt. Did I have enough left to make a dress?

I did! I also had all the notions. This wasn’t the pattern I had intended for this fabric, nor is it a traditional holiday style, but I’ve had it on deck for a long while and there’s nothing like the holidays to remind you that time is running out and if you’re going to make your daughter all the dresses while she’s still young you better get cracking.

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Pattern: The Louisa Dress by Companie M
Size: 4
Fabric: Quilting cotton aw yeah

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Read on to find out who chose the buttons…

I didn’t choose this pattern for its simplicity, but I was grateful for it. Not too many pieces, no gathering, straight forward pocket construction, the loud fabric doesn’t compete with the design, and the seams are all finished before you piece it together which was a refreshing change from usual routine. I didn’t have enough fabric to worry over which to use where or pattern placement and matching. So I didn’t! And it was all so easy.  I couldn’t believe how fast it came together. Hubs said he’d thought the same thing, but didn’t want to say anything. No, I assured him, it was legitimately and surprisingly quick.

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This year’s Christmas miracle: unintentional yet PERFECT PATTERN MATCHING

MJ liked it well enough to not fight me too much getting into it Christmas Eve and the fight she put up was I think inspired by Chuffy’s tantrum over wearing not sweatpants. She choose the buttons, but it was the giant pocket that won her over – even little girls love a dress with pockets – and she voluntarily choose to wear it all Christmas Day. Chuffy, on the other hand, stayed in his pajamas. Fair enough, kid, I’ll give you that one.

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Even the full lining went in like a charm.

I could have worn my coordinating outfit, but I’m not into mother-daughter matching. If that’s your thing, cool, no judgment. I’m not yucking your yum, it’s just not my thing. Instead in a funny twist I wore the Christmas dress my mom bought me this year.

Oh, my stars and garters

Who didn’t see Gillian’s Scandinavian Fabric Stars tutorial and immediately order a short stack of fat quarters to make a quick 27 or so?

I know it wasn’t just me.

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These were really satisfying to make.

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Perfect for plopping down in front of the TV with BIG glass of wine and a delightfully terrible made-for-TV Christmas movie.

All they need is hangers. The ribbon is in a small bag possibly in a bigger bag tossed into an even larger bag (it’s bags all the way down, folks) with all the unwrapped Christmas gifts and I keep thinking I’ll dig it out when I get around to starting the wrapping, but I keep postponing that chore until “tomorrow” in favor of another Christmas movie and requisite boozy accompaniment.