Sewing

Outfit post: The Batter-Up! daydress


So this has taken forever! I finished this dress over the summer and have worn it a whole bunch of times. I was pretty damn pleased with the results. I did a post on the making back in August (August!?!?!) and here we are, live in the in the flesh. Or fabric.


I admit that a big part of what keeps me from blogging about my finished garments is really that I have a hard time snagging a good spot to take photos. With a 5 year old in the house and my full-time job plus teaching nights I get caught up with myself and have a hard time wanting to tear myself away from sewing versus taking pictures of the dresses and outfits I so love wearing. 

I am This reminds me of my most-hated habit people have in online dating personal ads: I'm so busy I can't meet people the usual way. Ugh. You're too busy to meet people? Great. Sounds like we have a great chance at making a go of things. *sigh* 

Dear readers, whoever you might be, I promise not to make sucky excuses in future about not being able to snap a few photos. Poor snaps are better than no snaps. Done. Moving on. 


This was my first try at making a dress with a pleated skirt. Like I said at the start, super pleased with the results! I did it free-hand using inverted box pleats. The only thing that really went wrong was the alignment of the front pleats with the waist darts. Fortunately the busy print keeps anyone by me from noticing. Woo?

Outfit details:
Dress- me-made, fabric from SR Harris
Cardigan- Gap outlet, shortened by me, similar here: Kinny and Howie
Shoes- Earth Shoes Solstice
Bracelets- various spots
Necklace- Christmas gift from my stepdad a few years ago





Choosing Patterns, some how's and why's

My closet is a dense forest of me-made wardrobe items. Crammed and straining. And yet, i cannot stop myself from sewing more things to wear. I used to get sad and wistful looking into my closet, wishing I had something I was excited to wear. After I started making my own gear my closet visits transformed! Now I stand before my closet flooded with excitement about which awesome, exciting, well-fitting outfit to wear today

On the right you can my sweater bag. Cardigans in many colors and shapes, organized into warm, cool and neutral stacks. In truth, my sweater bag lives in my dude's closet. Mine, although the larger of the two bedroom closets, isn't big enough. It's love. 

So with so many fun choices how do I decide what to make next? How do I balance pattern selections? What makes a good scale, color, texture choice? Below I'll walk you through some snaps of a recent trip our to my favorite fabric warehouse! Most of my fabric choices are a variety of quilting cottons, which simplifies things a bit. I like working with quilting cottons, easy to sew, easy to care for and SO MANY CHOICES!!!


Here's a stack I had gathered up, trying to work out what I should get and what wouldn't make the cut! If you ever see that weird lady in the fabric store draping fabric over herself... think of me. I'm that lady. It's really one of the best ways to understand how a pattern will be affected by the curves of your body, whether the scale will work for you, if the color is flattering. 


This pretty light yellow-green fabric was a definite thumbs-down. Looking at my skin next to this fabric I felt super washed out. I love the scale and that the pattern offers fun possibilities for using on-grain or on-bias. Sadly, it didn't make the cut.


I struggle with feedsack patterns. I really liked this color but this particular fabric was a plaid crepe with varying levels of sheerness/opacity. I don't like to line my skirts so this one didn't make the cut either. 


Oh man, I went back and forth on this fabric for a long time. I think I worked through the stack and came back to it 2 or three times. I so love the energy of this print, it's a little wild and fireworks-y and the shade of pink is nice and versatile. I loved the idea of the fabric in a skirt and kept imagining twirling in a circle skirt of pink fireworks... but I could not get a good image in my head with the fabric for a bodice. Who knows, perhaps next time I will see the boom boom pow pattern again. Didn't make it this time. 


At this point I am guessing you might be wondering well... what did you get? I loved this crosshatch. I like the smallness of the different elements in the pattern and how it is balanced out by the all-over, irregular cross-hatch. From a few feet away the pattern did not break into distinct boxes or stripes, also a major plus. The dots here are green, blue, white and brown. The background is pink with a darker pink crosshatch. Very flexible for cardigans. We had a winner!


You can kind of see it in my secret-excited little smirk here; I loved this fabric. It said, Barbie Throws a Party or Donna Reed's Summer Shindig or Please Wear Me With Little White Gloves!!! I brought this one home. Classic polka dots with bold pink roses breaking things up. I like irregular polka dots as I find that straight polka dot matrices make my eyes water, they look like they are vibrating. So this was a perfect solution.


Sadly, one more that did not make the cut. These are the kinds of fabrics and patterns that I really love and really wish worked for me. You can see how wan and washed out I look next to it. The pattern has a fun Deco look but I just couldn't get something that would look so blah in color next to my skin. 

I regularly make another round through the store after cutting my initial choices. First off, they ask you to reshelve your fabrics yourself. Second, I almost always feel like I will find one more thing now that I am in the zone. Here is a shot of all the lucky home-comers from the last go-around. You can see a whole bunch of things that didn't make the pictures. Some of these I felt so strongly about I didn't both with pictures for. I have finished 4 dresses from these fabrics so far. The Lemon Surprise fabric was a 2nd round find as was the chambray with discharge print roses in the upper right hand corner.  


I finally got a tripod for my camera so more outfit posts on the way! Hurray! Hopefully this helped expand your horizons of print and pattern possibilities! 

xo, 
Sarah



Hoppity Hop, snatched from Dolly Clackett

I was reading over on Dolly Clackett today about the blog writers blog hop and decided to throw myself in the ring. (She called it the cowards way out but I take it as a chance to dive in!)

If you are not familiar with Roisin's blog she's a delightfully funny lady in the UK who makes all manner of well-fitting novelty and bold printed dresses. I envy her shoe collection and have a crush on her geographic location (who wouldn't when a trip to Paris doesn't mean a small loan from the bank?! Except for the fabric I'd be hauling back...)

Anywho. Here I go taking up the gently set down torch:
1.) Why do I write?
Oh the lameness but it’s pretty basic. I like it and I think I am pretty good at it. I know I need to work to get my voice to come out in my blog the way it does when I write articles, cover letters and that sort of thing. But the short answer really is that I like it.

Why I write a blog is a little different. I have pretty strong feelings about personal history and leaving a mark. I’ve never had any interest in fame or renown but I do want my kids or future generations to have something they can look back on. I created my grad school thesis on the idea of memory as a tangible thing. It’s why I love vintage and antiques and thrift. Tiny, handmade poodle skirts made for some lucky kiddo. It’s all got history.

I just about gave up the ghost when I saw these. Right on the heels of, "How adorable?!"
I thought, "What a sweet gesture to make these for a kid you love..."

2.) What am I working on now?
Right now I’m actually working on planning some future blog entries on Fall/Winter sewing, working up the gumption to do some photos in my many dresses and also a modified Gertie’s Portrait blouse pattern that I’ve redrafted as a kimono-sleeved dress bodice. The new dress is cut from a hot pink waxed cotton I picked up on my summer trip home to Philadelphia. 

Here you can see that #jacknamedcat is also excited about the possibilities.
3.) How does my blog differ from other sewing blogs?
I don’t really know how to draft patterns but I do it anyway. I don’t follow many rules like pre-washing my fabrics or documenting the making process very thoroughly. But I freaking love sewing my own clothes. I completely lose myself when I sew. Hours gone by without feeling it. It takes me out of myself. Since I moved in with my Dude he’s actually given me a bunch of ideas for blog posts. I get going talking about something and he’ll inject a, “THAT’s what you write about!” He sees what sewing does for me and can draw out all sorts of observations that I have a hard time stepping back and seeing myself.

My fabulously stylish Dude and I at a friend's wedding this summer.
Such a hottie!

How does my writing process work?
In front of the TV, on lunch at work, notes in my phone… I’ve just started creating outline blog posts to keep track of various ideas. When I think about whether I want to write something down I think about whether I would want to read it. Is it worth the time writing it out? Would I want to be able to find someone blogging about something like this? Don’t I wish I could have found this info without having to slash up a pile of fabric and snarls of thread and… so forth and so on. 

Some posts brew away a long while, weeks even, before I think they are worth posting up.

I hope this was one of those thing! The enjoyable, glad I found it kind. Coming soon... thoughts on Fall/Winter sewing plans, re-evaluating my closet and how to stay warm this winter!

xo, 
Sarah

Today's post is brought to you by coffee. Spilled on me leaving the house.

Laziness and a lack of knowledge ruin wardrobes. It's true. I'm sure that when lots of us get an oil stain or some such thing on ourselves we think, "Well, there goes that dress/shirt/skirt/whatever." Particularly with t-shirts. It just never seems worth pursuing an alternative... or does it? When you rock vintage, me-made or otherwise investment garments you need to know your way around a stain remover.

Today I'm gonna share a few of my most favorite solutions to those wardrobe-destroying woes. All thanks to my mama, really.

I grew up with an amazing mom who just knew how to do... anything. Install a toilet? Make a perfect Christmas cookie? Sew a shirt? Yup. Remove a stain? Absolutely. She would re-attach buttons, shorten pants and fix busted seams. I thought it was normal. I wanted to be just like her. I keep these things in my cleaning closet just for those occasions when life, you know, just seems to happen.


#1 Carbona Stain Devils
I remember picking these up in the super market when we ran out of some formula. I don't remember which ones we kept around. I just knew that there were special formulas depending on what your stain was made of. In grad school I understood much better the chemistry behind these and what a miracle they really are. In my house as a grownup I keep the Fat & Cooking Oil formula as well as the Wine, Tea, Coffee and Juice formula.
You can order them online or find them at your local Jo-Ann's.


OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder Large Image
#2 OxiClean
I hardly think there's a person in US who hasn't heard of this one. But, what you might not think of with OxiClean is that it is wonderful for removing age spots and marks from vintage fabrics and linens. Whenever my mom (who now runs an antiques shop) or I come across linens that look well taken care of but no less dingy and needing a little love, we use this. A recent batch of vintage homespun napkins came home with me covered in spots and emerged from oxiclean soaking to be a clean, even cream color. As they should! Remember to run anything you've soaked through the regular wash, too.


#3 Synthrapol Detergent
Looks boring and bland, right? Wrong! While I would use Carbona for known stains and OxiClean for less known stains I use Synthrapol for all sorts of fabric cleansing. When clothes are very dirty, have sweat stains, keep shedding dye (like when you buy an indigo-dyed fabric), Synthrapol is my go-to. I started using this in college during my Fibers classes to rinse hand-dyed textiles. It's safe for home use and super efficient. A very small amount go a long, long way! I'll soak the family tablecloth in this after a holiday and have an easy-peasy time getting the marks out. It's gentle on fibers and tough on stains. Also, it has no added colors or fragrances!

All three products are pretty affordable and findable. I've included links in the title bits of each for your easy reference. Keep these ideas in your back pocket (or laundry closet!). It sure helps to know there's hope for your "ruined" clothes when you are livin' la via me-made!

xo
Sarah

Travel packing and livin' la vida me-made.




 Vacation in progress! Here we are in Cape Cod, MA ready to get our Yaaaay! on right before Barry and Monica began their epic walk down the aisle. Mike looked amazing in his seersucker suit and Venetian boater hat. Sometimes he tries to rebel against his hipster-inclined ways but I am usually able to cajole him into owning it. He's a beautiful man and can pull of strong colors and statement pieces. Once he takes the plunge he rocks it pretty hard. I knew he would for this trip, too.

I wore a modified version of Butterick 5748. It's the regular bodice with the notch in front. I had previously made the neck-gape adjustment to my pattern pieces and the tiny amount of leftover gape was handled beautifully by the ease created by the notch. I added an extra-full gathered skirt and in-seam pockets for this version and am pretty pleased with the results over all! This is the first time I applied a rick rack trim over the surface instead of as an edge treatment. It was also the first time I used the basted-shut zipper technique I saw here. I have done once or twice since then and will definitely be incorporating it into future garments!



Certainly I must be getting ahead of myself, though! In my last post I talked about sharing some of my me-made wardrobe travel tips and observations.

Here are a couple of shot showing my packing in-progress. I hung out all of the dresses I planned to take on this trip so that I could coordinate jewelry and shoes. I tend to gather everything up on the bed before starting to fit it into my bags. I have been traveling with a 1-bag rule for a few years now. The addition of my train case is definitely a break of tradition and I wanted to make sure I wasn't just taking along additional things for the hey of it.

When packing I come to a point that I just know that I have reached the tipping point. I prefer to leave a little extra room in my bags to allow me to bring home treats for myself and my stepdaughter.
 Mommy Dearest's line may be "No wire hangers!" but my own is, "No checked baggage!"

1- sorely dislike waiting for the carousel
2- becomes difficult to carry it all solo
3- risk of loss is too high
4- mid-trip changes increase risk of loss
5- traveling with vintage or me-made means not   being able to replace things = heartache

I've encountered a lot of drama in my travel. I have learned to cut it out wherever possible.


Because I'm a nutball I, of course, had a last dress in-progress the night before we left. I promised myself (and my boyfriend who kept eyeing my pile of dresses with trepidation and a hairy eyeball) that if I finished the new dress one of the trip dresses would come out of the pile and the new dress would get work on the plane.

I've been working on tweaking a self-drafted bodice to include a v-neck.  In the purple striped dress below it worked out quite well! After making the pink dress I think the bias is the reason is worked so well.

In any case, here's a hotel mirror shot of me at 8pm after getting up and dressed and out the door around 4am, trekking through the airport, Boston and 3 hours of driving. I think it looks damn fine. Whatever reservations I still had about the dress are gone! Especially since I shortened one of my black cardigans to pair with it (and a million other dresses!)


The last dress for this post is the purple striped number i mentioned above. If you follow me on Instagram then you've seen it already. This was my first try at pattern matching! I'm super pleased with the results. I even found that I could get in and out of this dress without inserting a zipper. I'm still on the fence about whether to go back and put one in. I mostly think it would make getting dressed easier... What do you think?

Tomorrow we are off to the City of Brotherly love for some fabric shopping, fried chicken and donuts, farm-to-table food and some general lovin' and kickin' around. I hope to get some more action-shots of my clothes. Soon! Happy Monday Blogland!

Travelin' me-made and retro style!

Hello blogland! I write you from a cozy room in Buzzards Bay, MA. We departed Home in Minneapolis at the less-than-charming hour of 5am to make our way across the country for our friends Barry and Monica's wedding! Look up #baronica2014 on Instagram for some of their awesomeness.

I am excited to be able to share some images of my entirely me-made wardrobe for this trip! It will be the first time my mom will get to see this batch of dresses. I learned my love of sewing from my mama who taught me to sew on the machine she made my baby clothes on. I am so pumped to show her the latest.


In addition, I am traveling with my train case for the first time and hoping to garner some insights and tips for making the most of train case travel. I have been surprised by how much I can fit inside. I've also been pleased by how easy it is to reach in frequently to grab this or that while we made our way around Boston and toward the Cape. I'll be snapping photos and gathering tidbits to share. I'd love to hear your tips and tricks, too!

Getting over the hump, a little bit on motivation

I LOVE teaching. And, I LOVE sewing. Challenge is I don't love writing my syllabus. We are about to go off on vacation to Boston, Philadelphia and New Jersey and really, really need to get my syllabus finished and my first lecture ready to go. We come home only 3 days before classes start.

I have a whole heap of fabrics just screaming at my from the cutting table to become the next wonderful thing I get to wear and so I have given myself the mandate that all of my syllabus and first week of class materials need to be ready to print before I can get back to sewing.

 So what do I do? Go buy more fabric, of course. My boss is an experienced pattern maker and we have a lunchtime pants-making chat set up this week. The first pair of pants I made were such an enormous, colossal failure that I decided I absolutely must seek out help.


Every review I have read about Butterick 5895 talks about success. Many sewers seem to have success right out of the envelope. A few needed minor tweaks. Only two reviewers have talked about them being bad in the first go. Even one of those lovely ladies just ate her words! Tasha of By Gum, By Golly looks fabulous in hers. I went to Joann's on my groceries trip today thinking I would just get what I needed to try making them.

I also found this beautiful ikat seersucker that was on sale for $7/yd and couldn't help myself. Why am I writing this blog instead of finishing my syllabus? Can't you see I am my own worst enemy! Oh, reader, encourage me to do what I need to so I can keep making fun frocks and things.

Wish me luck!

The Batter Up! daydress

During my day off last week I was very happy to spend the whole day home and sewing. And doing laundry. And cleaning the cat's water fountain, etc, etc. Still, mainly, a sewing day!

After my most recent trip to SR Harris I had a really hard time deciding which of my new fabrics to start with. Looking through my box of trim I decided to make up this fun blue dot print with some extra wide rickrack trim from my stash. I went back and forth about it since it made me think of baseball right away. I love the kinda '40's, kinda '60's pop Deco feeling of it.

I keep all of my TNT pattern pieces in their own envelopes. Separate bodice and bottom pieces. Mix and match heaven! I have a whole envelope of pocket pieces, too!

I started out with my kimono sleeve bodice block and a basic gathered skirt (I use a tapered hip line instead of a straight rectangle to reduce bulk). I laid all of my bits out and just wasn't feeling it. So I scrapped the kimono sleeve bodice and instead opted for my newly modified Butterick 5748 bodice! I made this up as a test run for a dress I am wearing to a friend's wedding later this month. With the first try there was major neck gaping and the back is so low that I can only wear it with one bra that I own. 


B5748

To eliminate the neck gape I followed the advice of berni and i . Her step-by-step was perfect for altering a one-piece bodice front with waist and bust darts. It's giving me the confidence to go back and fix some other patterns with similar problems. Don't fear the dart!

As a side note, I generally don't pre-wash my fabrics unless I am sure that the sizing is corn-based (I have an allergy). I find that most fabrics are so much easier to cut and fit in their fresh-off-the-bolt state. Plus, my ironing and pressing time is greatly reduced and my washing machine is saved the trouble of loose yarns tumbling around the center holding my towels and underpants hostage. 

In the future I hope to share additional tidbits about organization, pattern tracing, storage and modifications. I love reading about other bloggers organization and tips and tricks. 

Next up: pictures of the finished dress! And some Bakelite love. 

Happy sewing!




Day off, new sewing space!



Ok, so it's not a totally new sewing space. We moved into our duplex about 2 months ago and although we are settled in many ways I am still getting used to the new space and it's quirks. We've just combined households and finding just the right way to put each of our belongings into the best use is the kind of challenge I love. Fortunately for us both my boyfriend likes my flair for organization and design. 

Here's the new layout!


I really should have taken some before/after photos since there is an enormous red, sculptural chair that is now hidden away in our Enormous Closet. I was getting pretty frustrated with my workspace flow before. I have a small ironing board and it would have to be used on top of the worktable. The serger felt crammed in at the far end when the giant chair was in the place of the sewing machine. Now, I have usurped a bookshelf for my ironing station (and lego storage for the kiddo!) and we have a lot more open floor space. Woo! I keep other supplies tucked away in our Enormous Closet.


Now, with the sewing space on its way to glory I have a couple of other things that need resolving. I'm pumped to hang these wine boxes for some additional storage/keeping junk off the workspace over my sewing machine. It'll be great to be able to keep thread and bobbins close at hand without having them on the work surface! Other items include: additional light for sewing machine area (perhaps), additional thread rack for overflow (absolutely!), hairpin legs for the worktable (when I can stop myself from blowing my candy money on Bakelite...rrrrright.)    


For now, I am off to spend the day with my stepdaughter. This will be her first time coming thrifting and antiquing with me. On the lookout for: Bakelite bangles, quilted hosiery boxes, end tables and cloth napkins. Future post on our day of spoils and also my approach to antiquing and thrifting, for sure!

A day to play

It's been a quiet week at work. The sort that finds me reaching out to coworkers to see what I can help with and compiling mental checklists of all the things I would like to get done at home. So I am super excited to be taking a personal day tomorrow!

On my to-do list:

-SEW! 
   -Work on the Butterick 5748 for a friend's wedding
   -cut out fabric for two other dresses
   -draft pockets/trim plans for the two dresses

-antique mall?
   -in Hopkins, Antiques on Main
   -look for: bakelite, cloth napkins, satin organizers! Like these:
   I have seen a bunch of folks storing bangles this way and I truly love it!

Happy almost Friday!