On Me-Made-May 2016

Do you remember when you first heard about Me-Made-May? Do you remember what you thought, how you felt about the idea?

I can’t recall which year it was, exactly, that I first stumbled across this month-long making-and-wearing challenge. I don’t remember which blog I saw it on first, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Zoe’s. It may have been a daily or weekly check-in post, or an end-of-month wrap-up. I don’t think the event was actively running at the time. In fact, come to think of it, it may not have been a Me-Made-May event at all—it may have been Me-Made-March or Self-Stitched September, two forerunners of the annual tradition we know and love today.

It’s strange to me that I can’t remember it, because I do remember how intrigued I was by the whole affair, how readily I soaked up page after page of outfit photos and introspections. I loved seeing the real clothes that real people wore to their real jobs, real family dinners, real vacations—clothes that they had made themselves. I deeply admired their commitment: commitment to finishing what they started even when they had to rip out the same seam three times; commitment to sitting in meetings next to coworkers wearing luxury labels and not feeling faintly embarrassed; commitment to exposing the fact that they “cheated” on their pledge or that they will never, ever sew their own tights, even if they could, because they just don’t to want to.

When I discovered Me-Made-May, I hadn’t sewn any garments for daily wear, just costumes and props for various dress-up holidays, parties, and events. (Truth be told, I’ve sewn very few garments since then, and that weighs on me. But we’ll come to that in a minute.) I knew you could, of course, and it was a thing that I wanted to do, but I hadn’t really seen anyone do it in a way that was meaningful to me. I understood that buying something off a rack in a store was a relatively recent development in the history of human fashion, was aware of the decades of where even the less-well-off might have clothing made-to-measure by a tailor or dressmaker, had heard stories of people’s grandmothers and mothers making their own or their children’s clothing, but I hadn’t seen anyone of my own age, of my own lifestyle, make more than the occasional garment. I’d never seen anyone attempt to systematically build a wardrobe.

And I wanted very desperately to be that person. While I’ve had my share of ill-fitting and poorly made garments that made me crave a custom fit, what really drove me was the desire to be able to say “I made this,” not just about an apron or a taken-in dress, but about the trousers I wear to work and the t-shirts I wear to the grocery store. And I wanted very, very much to participate in a community that challenged—and rewarded—this. I wanted to be able to post daily outfit photos, each with the implicit caption “I attempted this and succeeded. I didn’t just dress myself today—I crafted my image with my own two hands.” I wanted to be embraced, and celebrated, along with the other Me-Made-Mayers. I wanted to belong to a group of people who seemed so very, very cool.

Each year since, I’ve thought about participating, but lamented the fact that I have nowhere near enough things to wear, even if I committed to just one piece a few times a week and wore the same pieces multiple times. Whenever I thought about remedying this problem, I quickly succumbed to what I perceived as a lack of necessary skills, then a lack of appropriate patterns, then a lack of suitable fabric. Now I have a fair amount of all three, and it’s clear that the only thing I truly lacked was the sense to make good decisions, and the nerve to follow-through and just do the thing already.

This, then, was going to be my year. In my mind, I quietly committed to spending March and April steadily sewing up a few versatile pieces so that this year I could get in the game. I resolved not to do any frantic, last-minute sewing, but to try to make sewing each week a habit. I acquired a few more patterns, treated myself to some fabrics that I was really excited about, and set up a queue of projects in Trello (thanks for the idea, Camille!). The only thing stopping me this year was me.

And then life went sideways. At the end of March, Justin’s best friend fell into dire straits and very much needed an opportunity for a fresh start, so we invited him to live with us for a couple of months while he reestablishes himself. Suddenly everything stalled or had to be put on hold. Our plans to paint and furnish our guest room were suspended because it was abruptly occupied. Our desire to seek out and adopt a dog was deferred, because our new resident has a small dog of his own that’s living with us, and we didn’t want to bring a new pet into the mix. My hope of creating a dedicated sewing space was stifled, because the guest room is currently off the table and our office is too crowded with displaced items from the guest room to admit more furniture.

To add hardship on top of difficulty, tax season was not particularly kind to us. Purchasing a house, which we’d been told many times was a huge boon from a tax standpoint, turned out to be a burden this past year. We don’t regret becoming homeowners—not by a long shot—but we definitely felt an unexpected pinch this April, which further prevented any new home or craft supply purchases while we bounced back.

And, because I have an amazing ability to kick myself when I’m down, I recently resolved to go back to working out at the gym. It’s a positive change that I can absolutely see the physical and emotional benefits of, but it’s eating into my free time, especially since the gym is in the opposite direction of my house. Taken all together, I started to feel as though I had neither time nor resources to do anything at all that I really want.

If this all sounds like a lot of whining to you, you’re absolutely right (and I appreciate you sticking around this long in spite of it). The realization that, once again, I can’t participate in Me-Made-May the way I want made me rather miserable, and, quite frankly, miserable to be around. But after a good, long wallow, I’ve finally realized that I can still make a pledge. It’s not an official one—I want to save that until I can do it properly—but it’s what I can manage this time. I credit it in no small part to Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow, who with her own pledge managed to penetrate my thick skull with the radical notion that the most important aspect of Me-Made-May is thinking critically about wearing clothes, and that if circumstances don’t encourage a lot of wearing, there’s still a great deal of value in thinking about handmade. With that in mind, I’ve figured out what I need most right now, and what I can reasonably do, and what I want to say:

I, Caitlyn of Practice Makes Pretty, sign up as a follower of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavor to revisit my Wardrobe Architect journey, revise my ideal palette and silhouettes, and develop a sewing plan that more accurately reflects my sartorial aspirations. I further endeavor to put this plan into action during the month of May by sewing, mending, or knitting at least three days each week.

Now, I’m not the best with intentions. (Hello, passel of New Year’s resolutions that I’ve made no progress on to date!) But if there’s one thing that motivates me, it’s a deadline, and May won’t last forever. Peer pressure is also hugely underrated for its ability to effect positive change, and I cannot thank the sewing community enough for how much it inspires and drives me to become the person I admire in others. I’m not sure I can (or ever will) contribute anything meaningful to this amazing online community, but you all have given so much to me, and I appreciate it. Thank you, every one of you.

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