Me-Made-May ’17: Wrap-Up

Now that I’ve logged my two sewing projects from May and cleared some space mentally, I’m ready to review my Me-Made-May experience. I know we’re more than halfway through June and the sewing blogosphere has moved on already, but you’ll humor me, right? You’re the best. 🙂

Except for one missed day during Week 3, I kept to my goal of wearing at least four me-made garments each week. (Then again, the last week of May didn’t have four days in it, but I managed two me-mades anyway, so I’m calling it a wash.) There were definitely repeated garments, but no completely repeated outfits, which is a feat I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off, especially since I tend to go through phases of wanting to reach for whatever feels easiest or most comfortable at the time, over and over again.

Though I didn’t end up posting weekly here as I’d thought I would, and though I still can’t get on board with Instagram—I’m a words person through and through—I did take photos every day that I wore a me-made garment so that I’d be able to spot trends, reflect on silhouettes, and identify wardrobe gaps.

Week 1: Active in Aqua Workout Top & Pants // Mashion Cardigan & Black Leggings (unblogged) // Black Leggings (unblogged) // Easy Tartan Scarf

Week 2: So In Love Cardigan (on Ravelry) // Sage Pleated Skirt & Holden Shawlette (on Ravelry) // Sunbird Shawl (on Ravelry) // Floral Sorbetto

Week 3: Haruni and the Tree of Stories Shawl (on Ravelry) // Vanilla Skirt // Pumped Up in Pink Workout Top & Pants

Week 4: Rings of Ouranos (on Ravelry) // Easy Tartan Scarf // White T-Shirt // Black Leggings (unblogged)

Week 5: Floral Sorbetto // White T-Shirt

Seeing everything laid out like this, I’ve realized several things:

  • I wear a lot of black. (I wore even more than you see here, on days when I didn’t wear any me-mades.) I don’t actually want to wear as much black as I do, because I find it looks quite harsh against my skin, especially near my face. But since I bought most of my office attire during a few major shopping trips during and immediately after college, and I’ve neither grown out of nor worn through most of it, those initial purchases continue to linger in my closet. I’d really like to phase them out in favor of more navy blue, warm browns, and even some grey, but options in those colors tend to be more miss than hit most seasons at the few stores I shop. I need to either a) expand my shopping horizons and try other petite -friendly retailers besides Express, b) find a tailor I can trust to alter pants from regular misses sizes , or c) learn to sew my own perfectly fitting pants. At this point, I’m not actually sure which of these is the path of least resistance.
  • I’m grateful that the May weather was so variable, because a sizable chunk of my handmade wardrobe comes in the form of handknit accessories. I’m complete okay with this, but could stand to add a few more sweaters, particularly cardigans of various weights, to the mix. There’s absolutely zero chance you’ll find me in handknits in the summer, though—it’s unbearably hot and humid here, and wool, no matter how magical its properties, will never feel good on a 100-degree, 100-percent-humidity-but-somehow-no-rain day.
  • I’ve been gravitating toward skinny bottoms balanced with looser tops. I need to make more of both.
  • I only wore one dress (with leggings) and one skirt (with tights). I’d say dresses and skirts were underrepresented this month, but only barely. I can probably chalk this up to the fact that most of my dresses, me-made and ready-to-wear, are too casual even for my laid back office. My office is also freezing, so I’d just end up covered in a fleece blanket at my desk anyway. But I love the idea of pulling on secret pajamas a comfortable dress and rolling out in the morning, so maybe I need to suck it up and make a dress or two.
  • My outfits are dying for more texture. My wardrobe is overwhelmingly simple, solid-colored separates, which means that outfits tend to fall flat visually. They’re crying out for a statement necklace or shoes, a cute handbag, a textured fabric like bouclĂ© or suede, or a textural design element like pleats, pintucks, ruffles, or visible ribbing. Anything to break up all the solid blocks of color and smooth fabric surfaces.

These observations open up a lot of different creative directions, and it’s so tempting to try to run down every path at once. But I’m going to try to rein myself in and remember that neither a handmade wardrobe nor a strong sense of personal style happens over night (especially since recent household budgetary constraints have me limited to my existing stash, which may not jive with my current seasonal/situational needs).

Despite feeling like my current wardrobe is a long way off from my ideal, participating in Me-Made-May has convinced me that it’s not impossible for me, personally, to one day have a wardrobe where I could wear at least one thing I made every day, if I wanted to. I don’t know that I’ll ever achieve—or even aim for—an entirely handmade wardrobe, but it’s gratifying to see that what I’ve made with my own two hands takes more than two hands to count!

Just for fun, because I’ve secretly wanted to do this every year that I’ve followed along with Me-Made-May, here’s a gif of my outfits each day:

Me-Made-May ’17: My Pledge

What’s this?

I, Caitlyn of Practice Makes Pretty, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I endeavor to wear a self-made garment at least four days of each week for the duration of May 2017.

That’s right. No more sitting on the sidelines while this great maker community supports, encourages, and celebrates one another. No more watching the parade of lovely handmade garments and accessories and lamenting my own lack of me-mades. No more hollow self-consolation, telling myself “I’ll be ready next year.”

I want in, and I don’t want to wait any more. Time to stop holding myself back.

Am I ready? I don’t think so, not yet. But I will be. I know that Zoe is firmly opposed to panic-sewing, but as she points out in her MMM’17 announcement, “if you want to use taking part in the challenge as the kick in the butt you need to finally hem that half-finished skirt, or rework an ill-fitting garment, then great.” I’d like to think this includes projects that you have the materials for and want to make, but haven’t started yet.

So, during the month of April, I’m (unofficially) committing to carving out time every day to work through as many of my queued patterns and stashed fabrics as I can. I’ve had garments lingering on my to-make list for months, just waiting for me to sit down and sew. But I’m extremely susceptible to indulging the thrill of planning and the borrowed satisfaction of imagining a finished project, then not following through. So I’m done planning. There is no plan, just sewing. (And knitting.) With a focus on finding joy in the process, and on placing more value in the fact that I finished something than the fact that the thing is good.

Consider the fire lit.

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.


For about two decades the start of May heralded, for me, the beginning of the end of the school year, complete with a battery of exams and an obligatory cold. Once I became a regular visitor to Sewing-Blog-Land, however, I came to recognize May as that exciting time of the year when feed readers are full to bursting with photo-filled posts and introspective essays celebrating Me-Made-May. I’ve always thought the name neatly sums up the challenge, but here’s how the creator describes it:

“Me-Made-May’15 is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to actually wear and love them.” — Zoe Edwards, So Zo…What Do You Know?

The rules for the challenge are set by the individual participants; pledging to wear one handmade or vintage garment per day is pretty common. The goal is to identify which handmade garments you wear most often and which continue to languish in the back of your closet; to determine where there are holes in your wardrobe that could be filled with a handmade or refashioned item; and to encourage you wear and accessorize your handmades as clothes rather than as finished projects or artwork. (Amy Herzog has a great post about that last topic, definitely check it out!)

Me-Made-May has exposed me to so many amazing sewing blogs and accomplished sewists; it encouraged me to start sewing more seriously (as in, to fill up my closet with everyday clothes instead of just a costume or a hat once a year); and it dovetails nicely with the goals of the Wardrobe Architect series to build a thoughtful wardrobe.

All of that said, I sadly won’t be participating this year. The reality is that I just don’t have any handmade garments to wear. I have a finished skirt (which I’ll blog about later this week) and a finished sweater, one nearly finished sweater, and a handful of scarves and hats; none of those items are appropriate for the weather here right now. I’m firmly resisting the urge to do any panic-sewing because, in addition to being generally discouraged for its crazy-making potential, I’d rather concentrate on making garments I want to wear over simply making things that would make me legally decent to appear in public. (You’re welcome.)

As someone who has watched several Me-Made-May challenges from the sidelines, I had one thought I wanted to share with anyone who’s participating: there’s no need to feel self-conscious. For some reason many bloggers are embarrassed to share a photo every day, or to wear the same outfit over and over again. Why? As a reader and fan I eat up every post with pictures, even if those pictures don’t come attached to clever sewing tips or step-by-step instructions. I love seeing clothes on actual bodies, out in the wild. And seeing the same clothes more than once? It’s a great way to get ideas about how to style the same piece different ways, or to show how a well-made fabric holds up to multiple wears between washings.

Making deprecating comments about feeling vain is just silly: personal sewing and knitting blogs are inherently self-centered, because they’re focused on one person’s project successes and failures, and that’s okay! That’s what readers come for the other 11 months out of the year, so why would May be any different? I haven’t encountered a sewing blogger yet who posted too much, or one who bored me during Me-Made-May. The challenge has been running for five years and the sewing blog community hasn’t shriveled up and disappeared as a result yet, so I’d wager other non-participants feel much the same. So for everyone who has joined the challenge, give yourself a break in the guilt department and enjoy yourself.

Meanwhile, I’ll be cheering you all from the sidelines and plotting to participate next year. If you’re blogging about your Me-Made-May 2015 journey, send me a link? I’d love to add more blogs to my daily digest.