random thoughts during Me Made May

1. In the lead-up to May, I always wonder if I’m going to participate. I always think, “I should sit down and set a clear intention/plan.” I never do this pre-work. And instead, I wear something me-made on May 1st (sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally), and make a game-time decision.

2. The dress I’m wearing today brings me immense joy.

I made this dress yesterday. I'm wearing it today. Not sure what #MeMadeMay2017 will look like since homeownership continues to claim my extra money and time. BUT I'm thankful for this fabric in my stash and for the minor alterations that made this favori

3. It’s one more iteration of a dress that I made for the first time in April 2016 – this is a shocking detail to have uncovered, because I can’t quite remember my life before these perfect (for me) dresses. One of the best lessons I’ve learned through Me Made May, and from this evaluative process of sewing, is that I should invest in high-value projects like this one. If the delight-to-effort ratio is too low on too many sewing projects, I’m going to lose interest. A dress like this, I can now assemble in a few hours (especially since my pattern pieces and process notes improve slightly each time) and I’ll likely wear it once a week until it falls apart – this is the type of project that refills my sewing mojo tank.

4. Things that fill my sewing mojo tank: learning a new skill and applying it effectively, quick/easy garments that I will wear frequently, making minor alterations that dramatically improve the fit of a garment. Things that empty my tank: making a garment for the first time and discovering that it does not fit me well (this should NOT be a surprise/disappointment, since my main motivation for sewing is that I’m not sample sized, yet it’s still a frustration), making alterations and discovering that they do NOT improve the fit of a garment, fear/anticipation of iterative sewing (which often includes the previous two frustrations).

5. I’m trying to re-conceptualize my sewing hobby based on this article, which encourages you to collect achievements through your hobby instead of collecting stuff for your hobby. One way I’m trying to do this is by attempting to sew every pattern I own. This has always been a vague goal, though my pattern-collection has more to do with what patterns appeal to me than with what I need/want to wear. Sometimes the purchase of a pattern is more accurately the purchase of an idea of who I might become if I were the type of person who wore that garment. And my previous goal of sewing each pattern included within it a sub-goal of becoming each of those potential versions of myself. That…was obviously subconscious, because it’s EXHAUSTING and IMPOSSIBLE to achieve those goals!

So the new goal is to sew each pattern once, and to decide whether or not the pattern is worth more of my time after that initial trial. I might discover that the pattern was a representation of some far-fetched ideal, and if I have to make a garment and try it on in order to cast off that ideal, that supposed failure can be re-framed.

6. THIS HAPPENED LAST WEEK. I connected all of those dots last week when I made what I assumed would be the base of my new professional wardrobe – a return to woven fabrics, a dress with some structure, but clean and simple and totally pulled together. (As if I’m not pulled together while wearing comfortable knit dresses, please give me a moment while I continue to rip apart this ridiculous ideal I’d created for myself.) This is the pattern – look at how unflappable those sketched ladies are! Now notice (like I did not) that the fabric wobbles/gapes ever so slightly at the neckline and armsyce on the real life model – an indication that this simple pattern is far too boxy/flat to allow for real life lady curves. My optimism and the allure of this ideal self were significant blinders – I even made a muslin (draft) of the bodice with leftover/wadder fabric, and managed to overlook those pattern flaws! It was only after I carefully made the full garment, using a VERY nice fabric, that I put on the dress and was confronted with how dramatically flawed the ideal was.

Serious devotion to using up the fabric stash: cutting into some Liberty lawn. 😳

There are no photos of the finished garment. I attempted to take in a few seams to improve the fit, but the problems were too dramatic for that small fix. Instead of wallowing (or taking photos), I pulled off the bodice and inserted a shorter zipper on the skirt (which is still incredibly cute).

7. Whoops! I didn’t intend for this to turn into a rant about one particular garment, but this must be where I needed to go with it. This attempt still brings me great disappointment. It emptied my sewing mojo tank significantly. I’m sad to have cut into some beloved fabric – though one of my goals this year is to do exactly that. (So by this measure, I was boldly successful.) I am tempted to work and rework this pattern until it fits me perfectly, but one of the best lessons I’ve learned, which I’m reminded of as I wear the perfect purple dress pictured above, is that successful iterations start with something that fits. I don’t think this pattern will ever fit me without significant re-working. I did learn a few neat new skills – the dress is/was fully lined, and I put in the effort to understitch every seam. I can get rid of this pattern now – and firmly place it in the “tried, and rejected” category.

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thoughts one encounters when taking/editing/posting photos of oneself in clothes

I had no idea my neck looked like that. Interesting.

Can I make the neck look different? What if I stretch it out a bit?

Nope. That just looks haughty.

Okay, make some goofy faces to loosen up. You can just delete them later.

WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY HANDS?

omg Are my hands disproportionately small?

Does the disproportionately small size of my hands indicate that my ENTIRE BODY is too large? That the weight I have accepted as ideal for my bone structure is actually much larger than ideal?

Dude, what? Why do you think about bone structure so much?

It’s the default comfort for tall girls. Don’t take that way from me.

Okay, fine. Smile at the camera. DO NOT LEER AT THE CAMERA.

CRAZY EYES. Delete.

Though, it’s not much worse than all the others. Bring back that crazy eye photo.

Maybe when I see “crazy eyes,” other people see “totally normal person who is alluringly passionate about life.”

Why is my face doing that weird thing? THAT IS NOT WHAT MY FACE LOOKS LIKE.

It happened again. Okay. Maybe this is my face. This is my face. It’s a great face. PEOPLE LIKE ME, WILLINGLY SPEND TIME LOOKING AT ME, AND DON’T MAKE COMMENTS ABOUT HOW WEIRD MY FACE IS SO MAYBE IT’S NOT WEIRD.

Some have even called me beautiful. I tend to interpret this as a not-just-skin-deep kind of beauty that expresses itself in the experience more than the image of me. Which is a preferable form of beauty.

Can this experiential beauty be captured in a photo? Let’s try.

Too sultry. DELETE.

Pretty-not-sexy. Pretty-not-sexy. Relax your shoulders. Lengthen your neck. Try not to be too intense in the eye. Smile.

Oh shit I started moving after the countdown but before the shutter so now this is blurry, but…I think…everything that’s not blurry is PERFECT.

Just do the same thing again. Just be perfect on command.

Ummm…I look like I’m farting in this photo. I didn’t even know I had a Passing Gas Face.

Look at the camera. Don’t look at the camera. Don’t look at the camera but look at a very specific area to the left of the camera.

Oh, no, that’s too far. You look distracted, not bemused.

Hrm. Too close. You just look like you’re incapable of making eye contact.

Smile? Not smile?

Resting Grimace Face is not the look I was going for.

How about an open-mouth smile.

Muppet Smile.

Try a fake laugh?

Okay, this is PERFECT, facially. POST IT.

Wait. No. WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY HANDS? HOW IS THAT EVEN HUMAN?

Salme Olsen Dress

Real talk: I’d like to be one of those people who posts extensive reviews/photos of every finished garment, with a thoughtful recap of the alterations and sourcing information. I know these are useful. I search for them ALL THE TIME. I want to see what people of different body shapes/sizes look like in a pattern before I try it. (Or, to be more specific, I want to see what someone with MY body shape/size looks like in a pattern before I try it.) And even apart from the Greater Good argument, I happen to enjoy browsing my archives for notes/photos to remind myself of what I made. It’s lovely to have a personal record.

BUT: updating this blog is one of my lowest life priorities. I only post when I’m excited about something. Or when I have a stack of about 6 finished books and I force myself to photograph them and write reviews.

What I’m trying to say right now is that I am REALLY FREAKIN EXCITED ABOUT THIS DRESS.

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(Facial expression does not properly convey excitement. Trust me, it’s there.)

First, it’s got that whole “early 80s summer loungewear” vibe that is one of my particular weaknesses. (I’ve mentioned Red Oaks on Amazon recently, but seriously, if you have an affinity for 70s/80s clothing you will want to watch it for that alone.)

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Second, I’ve been trying to nail the perfect neckline/armsyce/strap for a loose drapey tank top, which has been fairly elusive. Either they’re too tight around the back, or too floppy at the clavicle, and I’ve yet to find the arm curve that sit’s close without pinching. I thought I was as close as I was going to get with the last test version – made by comparing a composite of every pattern whose bodice fit I love with the straps of the Seamwork Adelaide. And then Salme releases this free pattern, and I make it without any alterations, and it fits like magic!*

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*One of these days, I’m going to take a pattern drafting class, and a well-drafted pattern will no longer seem like magic to me. But until then, I actually enjoy this trial-and-error+magic approach to sewing.

Okay, so what will you (or future me) want to know about the construction of this particular version?

-Pattern: Salme Olsen Dress
-I cut a straight size 16. (I think. The bust measurement would have been what I tried to match, knowing that this was the only place where it would sit snugly on the body.)
-The fabric is a cotton lawn (maybe this), which was very sheer so I lined the bodice with the same fabric and found some matching lining in my stash for the skirt.
-Since I was lining the bodice, I hid all the seams inside the two layers, using the fabulous order-of-assembly from the Sallie Jumpsuit. (I’m sure there are other great examples of this assembly, particularly the enclosed strap seams, but I’d been trying to conceptualize it myself for a while and it hadn’t made sense until I followed Heather’s instructions.)
-Because of the above assembly, I didn’t use the bias binding. And the straps are narrower than they would be with binding.
-I basted the skirt layers together, then attached them to the outer bodice. After that, creased the bodice lining, stitched most of the way around, then added an elastic casing, AGAIN using the Sallie Jumpsuit as a reference, because it was so intuitive (and because I love to see that little ruffled tunnel).

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-I french seamed the skirt layers (and, doh, even french seamed the bodice sides, which I now realize was unnecessary). This used to feel like SUCH a burden, because I was an impatient sewer who wanted to finish garments IMMEDIATELY so I could wear them, but I’ve slowly become more patient and now the french seaming is a habit.**

**I am still an impatient sewer, but I now break sewing into multiple sessions instead of just one. I try to stop just before the point-of-no-return, so I can make finishing choices with a fresh head. Also, I don’t let myself compromise, no matter how excited I am to wear the finished product.

Oh man. That was so boring. Useful information, but SO BORING.

How do I feel about this dress? IT IS AMAZING! This is not the first time I’ve tried to bring my 80s summer loungewear dreams to life (see: this chevron situation made with quilting cotton which I still love with my whole heart even though I don’t wear it in public; the Seamwork Catarina which was VERY close to successful, but I need to be honest about my willingness to wear a strapless bra for more than 2 hours a month), but I think this might be the first time I’ve done it SUCCESSFULLY.

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The first night I wore this, I felt both casual AND sexy. This is a dress I would wear to a picnic or on a date. I am DEFINITELY packing this (or another version in a different fabric) for my Paris vacation.

The only change I’m going to make for the next version: add those little bra-strap securing tabs. I’ve never attempted that, but I love this dress so much, I think it’ll be worth the extra effort.

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Week Whatever, Me Made May 2016

Despite the week name, I’m still feeling pretty pumped about Me Made May. It’s fun to bust out and document all of my handmade clothes (at least, to document them, since I wear most of these clothes regularly), and I love the sewing mojo it brings.

Day Twenty-Three
Final(ish) week of #memademay2016 and I'm finally wearing all of my woven dresses. Spoiler: they're all basically the same pattern, copied from an old dress, smushed with some pieces of the #peonydress by @colettepatterns. This is sleeveless, and the fabr

This might be the first day of the month I’ve worn something non-stretchy, which is hilarious since I only started sewing in knit (aka stretchy) fabric in the last few years.

More details about this dress – and the next one – in last year’s weekly recap.

Day Twenty-Four
Round two, with sleeves. Overcame my fear of ridiculous prints after spending some time in London a few years back. This version is MOSTLY #peonydress by @colettepatterns but the back is self-drafted with a lower scoop. #memademay2016 #mmmay16

Sidebar: this was also a week of breaking in some crazy sandals! I am totally digging them, but not digging the blisters. (I need to break them in more slowly.)

Day Twenty-Five
Pro-tip*: I usually take a few goofy face photos so I actually look relaxed in smiley shots. Today, the goofball wins. Wearing a dress I made for a wedding last year. I never blogged about it and forget most of the details. Bodice is #V9100 and the skirt

THIS DRESS! I might be posting it for the first time on this blog. I made it for a friend’s wedding last July – she told bridesmaids to wear a navy dress, and I had a LOT of fun dreaming up variations. The bodice is Vogue 9100 (with many, many drafts made up before I was satisfied, but I’d never done alterations on princess seams before) and the skirt is PROBABLY borrowed from the Colette Peony.

I sewed it up in a cotton lawn, and lined it with something silky, and this dress is SO COZY. (Except for the fact that it isn’t made of a stretchy fabric.)

Day Twenty-Six
Every time I wear this dress, I wonder if I should shorten it. But I LOVE the swingy skirt! The top is based on a #Nettie and the skirt is a lengthened Lady Skater, because I am entirely unoriginal when it comes to skirt silhouettes. #mmmay16 #memademay20

THIS dress was my first attempt at a navy bridesmaids dress, which IS made from a stretchy fabric. I used a scuba knit, which gives it that fun shine (and it has a nice heavy weight), but ultimately it felt too casual for a wedding. So I went back to the drawing board, and let myself wear this on a regular basis.

The bodice is…a hacked Nettie? Probably. And the skirt is totally from the Lady Skater.

Day Twenty-Seven
#memademay2016 #mmmay16 Same pattern as Tuesday.

Compare this to the 2014 photo. Because I’m too lazy to give some more details. And also because I want to celebrate how unruly my hair has become.

Day Twenty-Nine
A little #memademay2016 catch-up. It's difficult to take photos of oneself in spandex for posting online, but I couldn't be happier about never needing to try on or buy bike shorts again because NOW I CAN MAKE MY OWN! #mmmay16

Y’all. These shorts. Make me so happy. They are long enough. And high-waisted enough. And I made them out of some high-performance fabric. And they are magical and I’ll never have to shop for workout shorts EVER AGAIN. (Unless I decide I hate wearing this bike-short style, but it’s unlikely.)

These are my Espresso Leggings, shortened, and modified at the waistband a bit (I folded it over itself so that I have a nice wide elastic-less situation).

Day Thirty-Two
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WHAT? The month is over? I don’t care. I just needed to show off this silky tank-top that is the (almost) final draft of the tank I’ve been trying to perfect all month. (So much better than Day Fourteen, right?)

Day Thirty-Seven
Confession: I haven't stopped taking outfit shots.

Ha ha ha. I can’t stop. I literally can’t stop.

This dress, I’ve officially decided, is dead to me. The fabric, and the drapey skirt, are still awesome, but the neckline is so wonky. My pose is seriously distracting from how floofy the top is, so you’ll have to trust me.

The real question is whether I should chop this up and wear the skirt by itself OR use the fabric to make another tank top.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I Me-Made it! Okay, I didn’t technically document every day, but I think I wore (or re-wore) something me-made every day of the month. And I continued to critically assess my wardrobe, which is one of the major takeaways for me. AND I think I’ve been slowly convincing more friends that a handmade wardrobe is awesome (duh) and achievable (trust me).

To Make:
-more workout shorts
-more tank dresses (because I’ve actually pulled that gray one out of the dirty laundry pile, and also catch myself wearing it as a nightgown)
-A few more challenging items, so I have something to show off next year.

Week Infinity: Me Made May 2016

Remember how I never finished a summary of Me Made May 2015? Clearly I’m overachieving at dropping-the-ball this year, because I lost track in week two. (In my defense, week two ended at the beach.)

Let’s see what I can dig up…

Day Eight
#memademay2016 #mmmay16

Ooh! I’m wearing the second version of that tank-dress I copied. (The gray one I wore Week One is the first version.) You can’t tell in the photo, but the fabric is textured, and it has a really great weight/swing because of that.

Note to self: The straps are SLIGHTLY shorter than I’d like, so I need to update the pattern pieces with a little length.

Day Nine
Made the skirt. I think it's stolen from the #ladyskaterdress pattern, but it might also be a partial-circle skirt. #memademay2016 #mmmay16

Just a simple circle-ish skirt. I think it’s just the bottom half of a lady skater, lengthened.

This fabric is a scuba-knit, which is why it’s so shiny. The shine makes it look fancier than it is.

I have tightened the elastic in that waistband at least three times. Clearly my lady skater skirt hacking skills could use some work.

Day Ten
☁️☁️😩 Wearing a #plantaintee and another #M6654 skirt. One of these days it'll be sunny enough to wear a bright color. (Those yellow shoes were an attempt, but I felt like they were mocking me.) #memademay2016 #mmmay16

I am having PTSD now, looking at these photos. THE WEATHER WAS SO DREARY AND I WAS SO OVER EVERYTHING.

Plantain tee – one of my first, in a really slippery ITY knit. And the skirt is a stretch denim pencil skirt, the first (modified) version of M6654. My second – the gray one I wore in Week One – was slightly better, and I think I have enough of this denim to take a second run at it.

Day Eleven
Coping strategies for perpetual rain: re-wear comfortable me-made garments (the skirt; shirt is store bought) and copy cute poses from @missmake 👍😜 #memademay2016 #mmmay16

OH HELLO GRAY PENCIL SKIRT, I WAS JUST TALKING ABOUT YOU. I just really love that skirt right now, and so I wore it with an old American Apparel top (that I keep meaning to copy).

Day Twelve
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA #SALLIEJUMPSUIT AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA #memademay2016 #mmmay16

I don’t think I can admit publicly how long I’ve wanted to make a jumpsuit. Let’s just say that I have a get-a-grip-friend that I check in with every time I fall for some 70s-loungewear-inspired article of clothing, to find out whether it’s actually cute or if my total obsession with that era’s clothing has blinded me. (For reference: Dirty Dancing, Wet Hot American Summer, Red Oaks on Amazon Prime, literally every striped cotton dress with a chevron pattern ever.)

Thankfully, the Sallie Jumpsuit made it past her filter, and I’ve been holding onto it for almost a year, waiting for the nerve to make my own. Now that I’ve done it, I should admit that I have TWO SECRET PINBOARDS filled with jumpsuit photos. One of them is a list of variations I could make on the Sallie (or mash-ups with other patterns). I probably won’t wait another year before trying another jumpsuit!

Day Thirteen
Guess who didn't notice people were sizing up when they made the @seamworkmag #mesadress and accidentally made this sexy number? 🙌 #suckingeverythingin #memademay2016 #mmmay16

THIS WAS UNEXPECTED.

I found this gloriously spongey floral knit at Jo-Anns when I was picking up some notions, and they had JUST over a yard left on the bolt. I bought it without a plan, and decided to try my hand at a Mesa Dress.

Unfortunately, I failed to notice that most people size up their Mesa, so that it’s not so form-fitting, which means this dress doesn’t have QUITE the playful/casual vibe I was hoping for. However, it’s still awesome, and I will probably wear it a lot once I get used to the fit.

Day Fourteen
Taken after a dozen or so shots, when a friend opened the window and asked if I needed help. #totallynormalbehavior This top is draft 3 or 4 of my attempt to make a loose tank. #memademay2016 #mmmay16

First night at the beach: one of my only real attempts to capture a garment.

This is actually a draft, one of many in my attempts to make a TNT woven-tank pattern. Once I have the fit worked out, I’ll let myself sew it up in some drapier, silky fabrics. But until then, I keep testing it with cotton lawns (which have more movement than a quilting cottons, but not much).

Hilariously, I’m in this process because I can never find a store-bought sleeveless top that I like. The shirt I copied this from is the best option I’d ever found – it tented out more than I’d like, and I didn’t particularly love the print, but I love the IDEA of a sleeveless woven top to wear with skinny pants. So, the frustrations of this process are lessened when I realize that I will never again have to search for one in the stores, if I can perfect my own.

WEEK TWO THOUGHTS

This week really illustrates the reasons I sew: I could make a jumpsuit that is long enough for my torso, something that I am highly unlikely to find in stores. I’m also in the process of finding the best-fitting sleeveless top, so I never have to try on an ugly ill-fitting version in the store.

I have to remember that, as nit-picky as I can be with my clothing, the standard I hold when MAKING for myself is significantly higher than the standard I can expect when SHOPPING for myself. So even when these garments fall short of my ideal (“perfection”), they are so much better-fitting than 90% of the clothes available to me.

To Make:
-another jumpsuit, before the excitement wears off
-further revisions to that sleeveless top pattern
-slight update to tank dress pattern (lengthen straps)