A Little Handmade Christmas, Part 2

Content with the handmade cheer I’d poured into our home, I set about lavishing it on a few of my loved ones. My sister-in-law and dear friend Heather is a collector of mismatched socks, and it only felt right that she should have a truly special handmade pair in her sock drawer. I’d entertained the idea of making her socks last year, but chickened out at the last minute—I had no doubt she was knitworthy, but I thought there were other things she needed and would enjoy more.

With Justin’s encouragement, I threw my doubts aside and cast on Glenna C’s A Nice Ribbed Sock. The yarn is Hedgehog Fibres Sporty Merino in color Bubble, from my beloved LYS Warm ‘n Fuzzy. I made my usual adjustment of going up a needle size, but otherwise knit the pattern as written. Details (like the length of the leg and foot to fit a women’s size 9.5 shoe) can be found on my Ravelry project page.

I was lucky enough not to suffer second sock syndrome, although I was a little rushed to finish them before we got on the road to see everyone for Christmas. I managed to make my right wrist and forearm rather sore for about a day, which is all the warning I need to take it easy on future projects!

Heather loves them and has hinted that she wouldn’t mind another pair, if I felt so inclined. I’m a bit jealous, though, as I don’t have any handknit socks of my own, so she may have to get in line!

My second gift, and the biggest undertaking of my four Christmas projects, was a casserole carrier for my sister, Loren. She loves to cook, and on many occasions she’s taken meals to friends: to celebrate special occasions, to take care of them when they weren’t able to cook for themselves, or simply to enjoy their company. Transporting a steaming pan of lasagna or enchiladas across town isn’t exactly a cakewalk, though, and last year she casually mentioned that she was looking for a carrier to make it easier to bring hot dishes to potlucks and the like.

As with Heather’s socks, I thought a lot about making her this gift, but again, I lost my nerve. I doubted my sewing was up to the task, feared she wouldn’t like pattern or fabric I picked. I settled for other things I knew she wanted, things that felt easy and safe.

You have to understand, though, that my sister is really, really good at giving gifts. She’s attuned to everyone’s changing hobbies and evolving interests. She’ll be out shopping and see something that reminds her of you, and she’ll bring it home. Maybe she sets it aside for a birthday or holiday; maybe she gives it to you right now, just because. She also has a knack for searching out something you want and, when she can’t find the exact thing, picking something else that you end up liking even better.

I felt I’d let her down when didn’t make her the casserole carrier, but she graciously didn’t say anything more about it, and I squashed the feeling until it didn’t bother me anymore.

It bubbled up again—boiled over, really—when, a full year later, she mentioned a casserole carrier again among the things on her wish list. She was quick to qualify her wish by saying it didn’t need to be handmade, purchased would be fine too if handmade was too difficult—but handmade would be very nice.

Well. That settled that. I wasn’t about to buy this thing when I could, after all, make it. I had my brief; I set to work.

Photo by Loren

The pattern is Simplicity 1236, which offers carriers for a 9″ x 13″ rectangular baking dish and a 2.5-quart oval dish, round bowl covers in three sizes, and soft-sided dishes similar to a key tray or bedside catch-all.

Photo by Loren

The rectangular casserole carrier has a quilted lining, double-zipper closure, decorative piping, and loops to hold a wooden spoon or dowel to create a handle.

Photo by Loren

The pattern calls for “quilted ironing board cover fabric” for the lining. The only ironing board fabric I could find (at JoAnn) was un-quilted. Instead of searching online, placing an order with another vendor, and waiting for it to arrive, I did the only logical thing I could think of at the time: buy twice as much fabric and a package of cotton batting and quilt all of the lining myself.

Indeed, it was probably the most logical thought I had at all, considering I was in my second JoAnn store of the day and having a hunger-fueled meltdown trying to select the fabric for the outer shell. (It was very important to me to get it right, and I could not be persuaded that any number of fabrics would be “right.” Suffice to say that I have a very patient husband.)

Photo by Loren

I relied on my walking foot with quilt guide to get the lines spaced evenly at 1 inch apart on the bias. Initially it was quite easy and mindless to sew, though by the end I definitely got bored and was ready to move on.

Since I knew I’d committed a fair amount of time to making the lining, I went ahead and purchased coordinating piping rather than making my own, and I have no regrets about that. I was able to get a pretty good match between the piping, zippers, and light grey flowers.

I followed the assembly instructions to the letter, and I’m happy with how neatly things came together overall, especially considering I don’t have a lot of experience doing three-dimensional corners. As you can see above, the entire inside is clean finished; there’s only a small amount of hand-sewing needed at the “hinge” to accomplish it.

There are only two things I would do differently. The first thing would be to interface the handles, which felt a bit flimsy. (I entertained the idea of making a second iteration out of a sturdier material like canvas, but I’m afraid that it would get too bulky to manipulate at the end, especially easing the corners).

The second thing would be to find a way to invisibly (or at at least subtly) tack the lining to the shell. As designed, the two are connected at the edges but not the centers, which provides that lovely clean finish but means that the two have a tendency to separate. I don’t think it’s even noticeable when there’s a dish in the carrier, but again, it makes the whole thing seem a bit flimsier than it probably is.

Loren seemed genuinely delighted when she opened this up on Christmas morning, and excited to put it to use. I hope that it holds up well and stands her in good stead through many family-style dinners and special gatherings.

A Little Handmade Christmas, Part 1

‘Tis the season for overdue 2017 project posts! On this, the one month anniversary of Christmas, I have a few holiday-inspired projects to share. Today I’ll share two things I made for us at home, and tomorrow I’ll be back with two gifts that I made for family.

The first things I made were new, matching Christmas stockings for Justin and me. My own childhood stocking is very dear to me because it was sewn by my mom, but it’s often too small for the things intended to go in it: it doesn’t fit a paperback book well, which is a perennial favorite filling. Justin’s stocking, which he got after we were married—his childhood stocking still lives at his parents’ house—is larger but store-bought.

I’d wanted to make new stockings for several years, but each time I ran out of time or energy and had to let go of the idea. This season, however, I was overflowing with holiday spirit, and I was determined not to let it go to waste.

I polled Justin on what he thought the stockings ought to look like, and he was overwhelmingly in favor of tartan bodies with a fur or fuzzy cuff. He ended up picking out both fabrics from JoAnn: a crimson and evergreen snuggle flannel (which has a printed rather than woven design) and a faux lambswool (because the faux wolf fur that he wanted was laughably far outside the budget, even for this small project). I chose to line the stockings in leftover white cotton sateen from my stash.

For the pattern, I traced Justin’s stocking and fine-tuned the shape until I’d achieved what I believe to be the Platonic ideal of stockings. I have strong feelings about the proportion of shaft length to width and the angle of the toe, and I was vocal about my opinions while browsing inspiration online—high-end and charmingly homemade stockings alike suffered my scathing opinions. It’s really no surprise I needed to make my own to get what I want.

I was pretty sure I’d figured out how to assemble everything to get a clean finish and include a hanging loop, but just to be safe I referenced this tutorial from Cluck Cluck Sew to make sure I didn’t have to tear anything apart and sew it again.

The result is exactly what we’d both envisioned, and they served wonderfully to hold this year’s goodies from Santa.

Next up is a bit of holiday decor inspired by these adorable tiny sweaters that we bought at the Container Store last year. They’re sold as gift box adornments and tree ornaments, but we hung them straight on the wall by our front door last year.

This year, I wanted to give them a little more weight and make them feel like an intentional part of the decor, so I mounted and framed them—quite inexpensively, too!

To determine roughly what size frame I was looking for, I laid out the four sweaters on the floor, spacing them comfortably, and took measurements of the minimum length and width I’d need. Then I popped into our local thrift store and perused the framed art section until I found a decent-sized frame that I liked. I think it cost me $6–$7? It held a print of a floral still life.

I removed the staples holding the cardboard backing in place, then separated the layers: glass, frame, and matted print. I set the glass aside and spray painted the frame with three coats of cherry red paint. I turned the print over so that the back was now the front and wrapped it—matte and all—in a linen-look fabric from JoAnn, stapling it in place with regular-duty office staples as close to the edge as possible.

I didn’t want to go out and buy a package of gold push pins, so I took plain white ones and painted them with a little gold acrylic craft paint I had lying around. (It took a couple of coats and was kind of a pain, but it was effectively free for this project.) When they were dry, I dabbed a little Gorilla glue (again, what I had lying around) on the flat underside of the pin that would be against the fabric and pushed them straight through the fabric-wrapped print. The points stuck out too far in the back, so I tried bending them down with needle-nose pliers, but that didn’t really work; I resorted to using the pliers to snip the tips off, and that seemed to work just fine.

Once the glue tried and the pins were firmly in place, I placed the wrapped print in the frame. To secure it, I followed the advice on Decor Adventures to use glazing points (also called glaziers points), which I purchased at Lowe’s. From there, it was a simple matter to move the sawtooth hanger to convert the frame from portrait to landscape orientation, tap a picture hanging brad in the wall, and hang both the frame and sweaters. The sweaters aren’t permanently attached to the pins, so if I ever change my mind I can easily use them in a different way.

I’m ridiculously pleased with the outcome of this little piece of art—it’s still hanging up, and it makes me happy every time I come in the house.

Fast (Re)Fashion: Polo Shirts to Polo Dress

During the first quarter of 2017, Justin was let go from his office job and was put in a position where he needed to take temporary work for a time. Options were sparse, however, and he ended up in a more a physical job than he expected, one that had him on his feet all day handling things that were frequently sharp, greasy, or caustic. There wasn’t a strict dress code, so for the first couple of months he kept wearing his favorite t-shirts and polo shirts to work. His motive was understandable: faced with mindless tasks he didn’t enjoy in the sub-basement of a company that didn’t value him as an (expendable, temporary) employee, he clung to the one thing that made him feel like a person. Who can blame him?

Unfortunately, several of his shirts quickly sprouted holes, grease stains, and bleach marks. One of those shirts was a particularly nice polo from Ralph Lauren, in a flattering shade of green, that he’d received as a gift for Christmas.

The stain was too large and too prominent to cover up discreetly, but I was loath to throw away a good shirt that was otherwise in pretty decent condition. After eyeballing it several times and then trying it on (it was a men’s XL), I decided I could salvage it by turning it into a dress for me. I knew the dress had to have princess seams to avoid the stain, and I didn’t have anything in my pattern stash like that.

After flipping through both online and in-store pattern books, I settled on New Look 6567.

It’s designed for wovens, but it was the only pattern I could readily find that had the style lines I was looking for. I ignored the various neckline options and the back zipper, since I planned to preserve the original collar and placket and leave the dress a pull-on affair.

I cut the shirt apart at the side seams and removed the sleeves, but left the front and back attached at the shoulder and left the bottom hem intact. Based on my measurements and what I thought was an acceptable amount of ease, I traced a size 6, and then proceeded to shift the pattern pieces around on top of the shirt until the grainline was parallel with the center front and the slope of the shoulder on the pattern roughly aligned with that of the shirt. I had to dodge the bleach stain, and I also wanted to preserve the logo embroidery if possible—I liked the contrast of orange on green.

As soon as I started playing pattern-piece-Tetris, I realized there was a problem: although the shirt was plenty wide enough on me, I wasn’t able to fit the side front and side back pieces on the shirt and respect the grainline without losing a significant amount of length from the bottom. (I wish I had a photo showing this, but I forgot to take one.)

I briefly despaired, then raided Justin’s closet and dug out another polo shirt that was destined for the refashioning pile. This one was a different brand with a different cut, and it was white. The shape didn’t matter so much since I was cutting the pieces out of the middle, but I decided the white was too stark a contrast, so I over-dyed it navy using Rit liquid dye leftover from a Halloween costume project a few years ago. As with my other dyeing experiments, I used the stovetop method and it worked a treat.

With these cutting hurdles behind me, the dress sewed up quickly. I basted everything on my regular sewing machine and then sent it through the serger to seam and finish the edges. The logo just narrowly avoided being eaten by the seam.

Perhaps the only thing that would give away the secret of this dress’s origins are the teeny, tiny seams near the back underarm, which were the part of the shoulder seams on the white-shirt-turned-blue-shirt.

A split hem seemed a like a classic design choice. The back of the dress ended up several inches longer than the front, so I ended up cutting off the excess and re-hemming the back in coordinating thread for each panel.

Overall I like the way the dress turned out—it looks pretty much exactly like I envisioned it—but it’s just a little too snug and a little too short to feel comfortable walking around in. (These dress form shots are a bit deceiving, since it hasn’t been padded out to my measurements yet.) I can see that I overestimated how much the pique would stretch horizontally when choosing a size, and what felt long enough in a baggy cast-off is different from what feels long enough in a more figure-skimming silhouette. If I do a refashion like this again—I’m definitely interested in trying, I’d just need to thrift a couple more shirts—I’ll size up in both pattern and shirt so that I can get the fit I’m looking for.

Since I don’t know anyone smaller than me, this dress is headed to the thrift store, but at least that’s better than heading to a landfill, right?

Tribute Month Sewing Notes

Have you been following Tribute Month over on the Sewcialists blog? My own tribute went up earlier this week—check it out here to read how Erica Bunker inspired this outfit, and don’t forget to follow the blogs of all the creative and inspiring contributors who made Tribute Month possible! I can hardly wait for the next theme—having direction and a concrete deadline really helped to focus my sewing, especially when I came close to stalling out right before the finish.

Before these garments are too far behind me, it seems like a good idea to record some of the more technical details of what I did. I deviated significantly on both patterns, but I do hope to make them again, and I’d like the next versions to be even better.

First, the skirt. It’s Simplicity 1465 View C, a straight skirt with a waist facing, front and back darts, and a center back invisible zipper. I’ve said many times before that I’m not fond of skirts that sit the natural waist because they feel constricting to me, and because they tend to emphasize that my waist is not much smaller than my bust and hips, making it look thicker than it is and making my whole torso look rather straight-up-and-down. But I’ve also had minimal success at finding or altering patterns to be low-rise, and after ruining a lovely lightweight yardage of navy corduroy trying to make that modification, I decided to bite the bullet and give a natural-waisted skirt a try. I wagered that, since I was planning to make it in a dressier print, I’d probably only wear it for nicer occasions anyway, and if I didn’t love it, I’d only be wearing it for a few hours at a time a few times a year anyway.

I cut a straight size 12 based on my waist measurement, but pegged the bottom of the skirt by subtracting 1 inch at each side seam (4 inches total). My waist is a fraction larger than a 12, but after reviewing the pattern pieces I was confident that there was enough ease to cover that extra quarter-inch. In fact, after wearing the skirt out to take photos, I think that I could take the waist in a little on a future iterations. I don’t know if I could go down a full size, but I could probably shave a little off each side seam—and possibly a little more if I chose not to line it or chose a slightly stretchier fabric than the mid-weight stretch cotton sateen I used here.

The pattern is designed to be unlined, but I wanted the option to wear it with tights in cooler weather, so turned to Sunni’s BurdaStyle tutorials for how to create a ventdraft a vented lining, and sew a vented lining, but modifying my pieces slightly to keep the original waist facing. These instructions used to be on Sunni’s blog A Fashionable Stitch, and I vaguely recall them being easier to follow when I used them the first time. I managed to muddle through them with much reading, re-reading, and test-folding my fabric, but it does bug me (more than it should, to be honest) that they create a vent that is lapped in the opposite direction than usually you see in ready-to-wear: normally the satin stitches that tack the top of the vent in place create the appearance of the number 1. In future iterations, I’ll reverse my left and right back pattern pieces and back lining pattern pieces. I’ll also make the vent longer (taller?), because I find it shortens my walking stride a little more than I like.

One critical thing that’s not covered by the tutorial is attaching the lining to the skirt at the waist. The tutorial is written for the BurdaStyle Jenny skirt, which has a waistband, so you can follow all of the steps for attaching the lining to the skirt at the vent and then worry about attaching the lining to the skirt at the waist afterward. Because I was using a pattern with a facing instead of waistband, I figured out that I needed to attach the shell and lining at the waist first if I wanted to be able to get a clean finish, including understitching the waist facing to keep it lying flat. Once the waist was taken care of, then I could follow the instructions for attaching the lining to the vent, and then finally handle attaching the lining to the zipper tape so that it doesn’t get caught in the zipper.

And now, the top. It’s Simplicity 1425 View E, a sleeveless, princess-seamed top with a pleated peplum. Although my measurements put me in a size 12, I cut a size 10 after seeing that the pattern has 3.5″ of ease at the bust and 4.5″ of ease at the waist. If/when I make it again, I’ll go down a size; with such a contoured style, and especially in a fabric with stretch, I’d like it to fit more closely to my body than it does.

When I pulled this pattern from my stash to sew, I actually thought it was designed with a back zipper, and it wasn’t until I had cut out all the pieces and was skimming the instructions before starting to sew that I realized it has buttons. I can’t imagine making it that way; it’s not loose enough to render the buttons purely decorative, and having to do them up behind my own back—with fabric loops instead of buttonholes, no less!—is not my idea of fun.

Despite some initial trepidation about using a separating metal zipper, the entire process was painless, easier than installing an invisible zipper. I used an 18″ zipper, which ended up about 3.5″ shorter than the length of the top. I knew that the top of the skirt would come up higher than the bottom of the zipper, and if I’m wearing it casually with low-rise jeans I don’t mind the possibility of flashing a tiny sliver of skin, but if that’s a concern then definitely consider getting a longer zipper and shortening it.

For both pieces, I finished things cleanly and invisibly everywhere I could. The skirt lining has French seam; the skirt shell has serged seams (I thought Hong Kong seams, while lovely, would be too bulky and hidden anyway); the cut edge of the skirt hem is covered with a fun purple grosgrain ribbon and blindstitched in place. The top has bias facings at neck, arm, and peplum hem, all blinstitched as well. I enjoy hand-sewing, but next time I’ll draft an all-in-one facing for the bodice.

On the whole, I’m very pleased with how the entire outfit came out, and I’m very much looking forward to wearing it to a professional event in October. It’s also restored some of my desire to sew with wovens (or stretch wovens, at least), because it proved that I could find middle ground between a comfortable fit and a flattering silhouette. I doubt they’ll overtake knits in my wardrobe, but at least I can regard them with a little less prejudice.

Inspired by Sewcialists

I spend as much (or more) time dreaming and scheming about my wardrobe as I do sewing it. There are so many clever, creative people sharing their sewing adventures online, and so many drool-worthy projects beamed directly to my appreciative eyeballs each day, that sometimes it’s tempting never to sit down at my own sewing machine!

Tribute Month is about fanning that glow of admiration into a fire for completing a garment. Below are five brilliant ladies who have style and passion in spades, and who make me want to sew up a beautiful handmade wardrobe. Each one is an inspiring answer to the question: “What should I make next?”

Inspiration #1


Sewcialist: Allie of Allie M. Jackson

Sewcializes at: Blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest

Style notes: Demure & coordinated

How she inspires me: Variously described as “modern mid-century” and “fresh, feminine, and vintage-inspired,” Allie’s style strikes a perfect balance between retro glamour and modern sensibilities. She tempers silhouettes from the past with today’s fabrics, of-the-moment accessories, and practical makeup and hairstyles. When she dresses down, she never looks sloppy, even if she’s just taking her dog for a walk or lounging in her pajamas.

In short, Allie has the kind of always-put-together look that I dream of creating in my own wardrobe. Her success is due in no small part to the fact that she knows what colors work for her and sticks to them for most of her projects, and she has no problem sewing a winning pattern multiple times to up the mixing and matching potential. At the same time, she often uses interesting fabrics or thoughtful details like lace overlays, ruffled accents, or a touch of embroidery to elevate her garments from ordinary to everyday luxuries.

What I’d sew: What better place to start than a two-piece set? Coordinated separates in a solid color (especially if it’s from my personal color palette) or a large-scale print would be great wardrobe-builders on their own and would make a bold statement when worn together. If I wanted to go a step further and borrow more specifically from Allie’s closet, I’d choose a faux crop top and full skirt.

Inspiration #2


Sewcialist: Erica of Erica Bunker DIY Style

Sewcializes at: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube

Style Notes: Fashion-forward

How she inspires me: Erica is a powerhouse when it comes to sewing. She regularly sews the more complex patterns available from the Big 4—often turning out multiple garments a month—and she’s completely undaunted by fiddly construction techniques, shifty fabrics, or harder-to-fit garments like jackets and pants. In fact, she’s got such a firm grasp of fitting and all the little tricks that make garments a success (never skip the interfacing!) that I can’t remember a time she’s mentioned a project turning out poorly.

But what really attracts me to Erica’s work is her focus on fashion. Sewing enables her to explore and revel in sartorial trends, and her excitement about the creative possibilities this offers runs like an electric current through every one of her sewing stories. She genuinely enjoys the process of sewing clothes in order to dress her best, and the way she challenges herself to re-create or take inspiration from expensive luxury brands makes me want to push my own sewing (and dressing) to the next level.

What I’d sew: Because Erica sews just about everything she wears, no garment would be off limits here, so long as it has a dramatic detail like plunging neckline, exaggerated sleeves, or cut-outs.

Inspiration #3


Sewcialist: Juebejue of Petite Republic

Sewcializes at: Blog

Style notes: Flirty & feminine

How she inspires me: Shout-out to all my fellow shorties! While pattern adjustments for a petite figure are by no means the most difficult or time-consuming modifications, I’m always on the lookout for style ideas from other ladies 5’4” and under.

But beyond a shared need to shorten everything, what I admire most about Juebejue is her unabashed love for clothes that are fun and a just a bit sexy. She rocks floaty dresses and sky-high heels, and she’s not afraid to show a little skin. She’s also devoted mom to two girls—check out the sweet costumes she’s made for Little A and Little K—and throughout the changes that’s brought she’s maintained a strong sense of personal style and a devotion to wearing what she enjoys.

Juebejue is fearless, and a great reminder to wear the clothes that make you feel good about your body, whatever that may look like.

What I’d sew: Time to set my own silly insecurities aside and treat myself to a short-short dress that shows off my legs. For some instant-gratification girliness, I’d whip up a ruffly off-the-shoulder top in a summery color. For a more time-intensive project, I’d love to sew a perfectly fitted fashion corset that I could wear out to date night.

Inspiration #4


Sewcialist: Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn

Sewcializes at: Blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube

Style notes: Practical layers with a twist

How she inspires me: If you know anything at all about Carolyn, then a better question is “how DOESN’T she inspire me?” This amazing lady committed to a year of wearing only handmade items, including shoes, and continues to wear exclusively handmade garments even after her self-set challenge has ended. She’s created not one but two wholly local outfits. She’s an unselfish sewist and an occasional costume-maker. She also knits.

Carolyn sews a mix of dresses and separates, and she’s a pro at mixing, matching, and layering the items in her closet. Many of her garments would superficially qualify as basics, but they’re far from boring. She often turns to Vogue or Japanese pattern designers to inject her projects with visual interest through unusual style lines or clever construction. Her approach to wardrobe building means that she not only looks fab day to day, but putting together a coordinated travel wardrobe for any climate is a breeze.

What I’d sew: A miniskirt with statement pockets or a knit top with a draped neckline would be a great way to add both versatility and punch to my wardrobe. A woven dress with hi-lo split hem (and perfectly mitered corners) would easily take me from work to weekend in style.

Inspiration #5


Sewcialist: Klara of A Robot Heart

Sewcializes at: Blog, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest

Style notes: Vintage prep & whimsy

How she inspires me: A Robot Heart dwells at the intersection of dreamy fairy tale landscapes and serious reflections on identity, beauty, and sustainability. Striving for balance is a recurring theme in Klara’s personal style journey, and her outfits are a delightful contrast of tough and sweet, practical and playful, classic and quirky. Likewise, her wardrobe is a varied collection of garments she’s sewn herself (many self-drafted!), accessories made by independent designers, thrift shop finds, and vintage hand-me-downs.

Klara’s a veteran re-mixer, but the common thread throughout her looks is a touch of the romantic, the whimsical, the just-a-little-silly. As her style has evolved, various influences have waxed and waned, but her outfits remain undeniably her, which in my mind is the definition of style.

Each of Klara’s outfits has a larger story beyond the sewing, one she tells in a voice that is lyrical yet raw with honesty—no mean feat considering English isn’t her first language. She doesn’t shy away from sharing her own struggles with responsible consumption, self-acceptance, and mental health, and she’s a model for using sewing and fashion as an avenue to look thoughtfully at all areas of life.

What I’d sew: Balance and contrast are touchstones for Klara, so a fitted denim jacket with metal hardware or an oversized knit cardigan with leather elbow patches would bring a good mix of yin and yang to my closet. To inject a dose of fun into my otherwise sedate work wardrobe, Klara would no doubt approve a button-up shirt in a cheeky print.

I’m Sewcial!

In the wake of Me-Made-May, I had a wealth of ideas but no real direction for my next project. Enter the lovely Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow, who invited me to be a part of the return of the Sewcialists!

A sewcialist is anyone who talks about sewing on social media, and the Sewcialists blog is a collaborative space to challenge, inspire, and share each others’ sewing adventures through monthly themed sewing.

Somehow—and I’m really, truly not sure how—I missed the Sewcialists during their original run. Surely I must have seen projects and posts prompted by the monthly themes, but I was never a regular visitor to the site.

Luckily for me, the Sewcialists archives are still around any time I’d like to take a dive into Scraptember, Sew Disney, or Lingerie Month. And I’m beyond fortunate to get to be a contributor to the relaunch of this great group.

To kick off, August 2017 has been named Tribute Month, where we’ll be looking to our fellow sewcialists for sartorial inspiration. Whether taking cues from their favorite silhouette, fabric, or pattern—or even copying one of their garments we love—we’ll be sewing up a storm in their honor.

Tomorrow I’ll share 5 sewing bloggers who inspire my sewing choices and, even more importantly, make me want to dedicate whole days to my machine. Later in August I’ll share sneak peeks of the outfit I’m working on, and at the end of the month my finished garment(s) (I’m hoping to make two) will appear on the Sewcialists blog.

What are you most looking forward to sewing in August?

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 bouclé 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: