Sewing Room Reflection: Almost There

My mind this week has been preoccupied with how it feels to be almost there. You know what I mean. It can happen near the end of a long car ride. It happens in the sewing room when all that’s left is stitching the hem. It’s happening in my “garden” right now as I wait for tomatoes to ripen. You can just about see, taste, hear, smell and feel your reward. It’s a good feeling; one of anticipation and excitement.

I’ve been more concerned lately with what it’s like to have this feeling of being almost there interrupted. There’s a detour. A seam needs unpicked and re-sewn or the bobbin runs out. A storm breaks the heavy branches full of green fruit. What does being interrupted at this point in the process feel like? My gut reaction to this situation is to feel the opposite of anticipation and excitement; I feel disappointment and regret.

Once the sting of my initial reaction has faded, how do I move forward? There are certainly two paths laid out in front of me. I can keep driving, sewing or waiting. The alternative is to let the circumstances that were out of my control get the best of me. It can be very hard to hold on to those feelings of hope and enthusiasm that I started with, but I think that’s the better path.

I try to think of how my enjoyment of the final result will be multiplied by the struggle, how my patience will be rewarded, if I stay the course. But there’s no reward for giving in to the feelings of frustration. It’s, of course, okay to stop the car or take a break when the disappoint occurs, but I encourage everyone to keep the end in mind when you are stopped by something you can’t control.

Zip Top Lunch Bag

My husband and I both pack our lunches everyday. As school teachers we can’t leave the building to get lunch and the cafeteria offerings barely qualify as food. The only option we have for eating healthy, tasty food during our work day is if we bring it ourselves. Having a unique lunch bag that is the perfect size to fit inside our larger messenger bag (Peter) or tote bag (me) and that fits a balanced lunch and snack makes the habit more enjoyable and sustainable. This is Peter’s new lunch bag.

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As I was planning his new lunch bag, these were the goals I was trying to achieve:

  • quick & easy to make
  • interesting, yet masculine design
  • large enough to hold a couple small to medium size containers
  • sturdy, but softly structured so it could be folded up when empty

I think this fits those requirements quite well. It took me one afternoon to complete from cutting the canvas to snipping the last thread. The longest part of the process was probably making the decorative lines of stitching. I like the stitched lines detail a lot. I chose the colors because they are Peter’s school colors. This bag is also the perfect size for holding a container with a 2-3 cup capacity with enough room to add an apple or a baggie holding a snack. I made it from a heavy weight canvas. I didn’t line the bag because I didn’t think it would be necessary from a structural point of view, and it saved me quite a bit of time too.

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Design/Pattern: My own (it started out as two 12″ x 12″ rectangles of canvas; pretty simple stuff)

Materials: heavy weight cotton canvas, 12″ zipper, matching and contrasting thread

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Techniques:

  • double stitched seams for strength
  • pinked seam allowances
  • installed zipper
  • decorative top stitching
  • gusseted bag bottom

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I know I’m not quite ready to think about going back to school yet, but fun projects like this one make the transition a little easier. I also enjoy making things for my husband that I know he can use and enjoy. As others who sew for men know, there are fewer sewing project options that appeal to a male sense of style. It can be difficult to make a sewn gift for a man. Unless Peter is being too nice to say something, I think this one was a success.

Sewing Room Reflection: Personal Style

As a sewer and an avid reader, I spend a fair chunk of time reading others’ sewing websites, getting ideas and learning new things. One thing that gets me hooked on a particular site is the author’s personal style. Since most of what I sew is clothing, this aspect tends to draw me in first. As a reader though, it’s the writing that keeps me coming back.

I read and love blogs with varied writing styles, but one thing they all have in common is that the voice of the writer seems to accurately portray the author’s personal style. I think it adds to the sense of community and camaraderie that there is in the online sewing world.

This realization led me to think about my own writing style. What is my personal writing style? Does it match my real life personality? Does it match my sewing style?  I started to think about whether I was good at conveying my personality through my writing as well as through my sewing.

While I think my writing style is an accurate portrayal of my thoughts and style, I can’t help but compare myself to other bloggers and feel a bit of self-doubt. I feel that my writing style is rather different from the style favored by some very popular sewing bloggers. They write in a very bubbly, colloquial style that uses the second personal perspective a lot. I had to ask myself whether writing in a style more like theirs would help my blog gain readers.

I ultimately have decided that this wouldn’t be a good plan. Just like wearing clothing that doesn’t fit wouldn’t be comfortable, writing in a style that doesn’t suit me wouldn’t put me at ease.  My writing style is more bookish and formal than what might be popular. But that matches who I am.

I am a bookish person who gathers information about things that interest me and stashes it away like a chipmunk stuffing her cheeks. In large group conversations, I often realize late in the conversation that I’ve just been listening to everyone, yet I still feel like I was involved in the discussion. I make friends slowly and I don’t enjoy being the center of attention.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to let my writing style evolve naturally rather than try to mimic what’s trendy. It might mean that I gain online sewing friends more slowly or that I’m rarely the center of blogland’s attention. But I think it’s better this way. I’d rather have a smaller audience that is genuinely interested in what I have to say than a large audience that I have to try to keep entertained by putting on an act.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite blog that you like because of the writing style? Do you struggle with finding a comfortable writing style? How did you find a writing style that matched your personal style?

From Pants to a Skirt

You may remember seeing and reading about my “yacht pants“. Basically, they didn’t feel like a garment that I would wear much, yet I just couldn’t bear to let the beautiful cotton linen blend sit unused in my closet. Thankfully, since the pants were a loose-fitting style, it was very simple to transform them into a skirt that I can use.

Here are the pants:

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And now the skirt:

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This skirt is definitely more my style. It’s actually very similar to a favorite skirt that I made quite a while back (before blogging), except it has an elastic waistband instead of a zipper. I have worn this skirt a few times and it’s so comfortable and keeps me cool. I am just estimating here, but I would say this skirt is about 113% more my style than the pants version were! And it was simple to do.

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In case you were wondering how I did it, I will describe my steps here. (Sorry, I didn’t get any photos for the visual learners.)

1. Use a seam ripper to un-sew the center leg seams.

2. Try on the garment (or put on your dress form) inside out.

3. Pin at the center front and center back where you want your new seam. Try to make sure this seam is parallel to the grainline of the fabric so that your new skirt hangs nicely. (I didn’t get mine perfectly on grain, but I got pretty close and I think it looks good enough.)

4. Also mark where you want your hem. Unless you are starting with a very full-leg style of pants, you will most likely have to mark your hem at knee-length or above.

5. Take your garment off. You want to do this with the pins in partly just so that you know you’ll be able to get your skirt on and off with whatever type of waistband and closure the pants had, although this shouldn’t be a problem if the pants already fit you at the waist and hips.

6. Measure and mark your hem plus hem allowance. Cut off excess pant leg. 

7. Sew your new center front and center back seam. Press and finish the seam with your preferred method. 

8. Press up your desired hem width and sew.

9. Wear and enjoy your new skirt!

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2013 Goals Progress Report

We have made it through the first six months of the year, so I thought this would be a good time to revisit my 2013 sewing goals. Here’s my progress report:

50 posts: I made a goal of writing 50 posts in 2013 and so far I’ve written 21, not including this post. I’d say I’m doing pretty well at achieving this goal. I’m a little under half way to 50 posts, but I think I can easily reach my goal if I keep sewing and posting at my current pace. It’s been wonderful to spend more time writing about my sewing.

Sewing at least once a week: I did pretty good at keeping this goal from January through May, which was the hardest part of the year to stick with it. Doing some sewing for my sister’s wedding helped keep me on track! Now that it’s summer break, it’s been a breeze to sew at least once a week. The ratio is basically reversed; it’s unusual if there is one day a week when I don’t spend time at the sewing machine!

Building my sewing community: If you’ve been keeping up here, you’ve probably read about Urban Threads Studio. I found out about this new organization as I was looking for people or places in Chicago where I could work on this goal. I was so lucky that they just happened to be moving into my neighborhood. Through my involvement with UTS I’ve met others who are interested in sewing and I’ve also invited a few friends into my sewing circle. I am very excited to see how this community grows in the second half of 2013!

Teaching: Through UTS I also have the opportunity to accomplish my next goal. I started out by helping at the Mending Cafe event, where anyone can bring in clothing that needs repaired. I have had a great time teaching others to do some basic sewing at this event. I am also going to be teaching a couple of workshops, which is going to be very fun, I think. My first class is how to make a reversible apron and it’s coming up soon on July 9th from 7-9pm. (If you’re in Chicago and are interested in this class or others, there is a coupon deal going on right now on youswoop.com)

Challenging Project: I haven’t really taken on a very challenging sewing project (unless you count teaching). I am still interested in learning to quilt, but whenever I go to the fabric store I end up gravitating towards what I know best, which is garment sewing. I still think it would be great to learn some new sewing skills or put my sewing skills to use in a new way. I just have to figure out what project will help me do that. Any suggestions?

Did you make any sewing goals for the year? How are you doing at keeping them?

Pretty Blue Dress

This fabric and pattern were a perfect pair! I have had my eye on the Hazel sundress pattern from Colette Patterns since it came out last spring and when I finally bought the pattern I waited quite awhile to find just the right fabric for it. I knew I didn’t want a fabric with a pattern that would compete with the unique bodice design, but I also didn’t want a flat solid colored fabric. This turquoise chambray was the perfect middle ground. It is woven with royal blue and turquoise threads, which gives the color a lot of depth and interest. It was very hard to capture this in a photograph so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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I don’t often make a muslin when I sew. If I am concerned about the fit I will often just baste the pieces together and adjust from there. One time when I think it’s worth the time and effort of making a muslin is when the design has a very fitted bodice. So, since this pattern has unique bodice seams and is close-fitting, I decided that making a muslin of the bodice was a good idea. The decision led to some other good decisions in making this dress fit me.

First of all, the darts in the bodice give the dress a more retro silhouette, which might work better for someone who wears vintage style undergarments. I do not, so I needed to make changes that would get rid of the dart point. The easiest solution? Change the dart into gathers. (Instead of sewing the dart, sew two or three rows of basting stitches in the front bodice seam allowance. Pull up the stitches to form gathers where the dart would be centered. Sew the bodice front to the bodice sides as usual.) I think this design change worked well as a fitting solution and as a bonus the bodice gathers echo the gathered skirt. Win win!

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns Hazel

Materials: 100% cotton turquoise chambray, small bit of white cotton voile for bodice lining, thread, 22 inch invisible zipper (any zipper at least 14 inches long would be sufficient though)

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Techniques:

  • serged seam allowances on skirt and pockets
  • gathered bodice and skirt
  • quick-lined bodice
  • slip stitched hem and bodice lining

Alterations/Changes: As I described above, to fit the bodice, I changed the darts to gathers. I also decided to line the bodice for a cleaner finish. I used this method to create a quick bodice lining. One more thing about the bodice: the upper edge doesn’t gape. I’m pretty sure this is due to great pattern design rather than my sewing skills!

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This is a great summer dress! It’s made of cool, comfy cotton. It’s a unique design. And it can be dressed up or down. I am super pleased with this new addition to my summer wardrobe. I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone who is looking for something a little different, yet still very wearable, to add to their closet.

Yacht Pants

I have dubbed these pants my “yacht pants”. Or maybe I could call them “country club pants” or “all inclusive resort pants”. For some reason they seem like the kind of thing women wear in these settings. Unfortunately, these are not places that I frequent. I’m not saying it’s unfortunate that I’m not going to these places; it’s unfortunate that these pants don’t fit well into my lifestyle and wardrobe because that means I won’t get much use out of them.

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When I bought this beautiful cotton-linen blend fabric off the remnant table, I had it in my mind that it would make the perfect pair of summery pants. My workplace isn’t air conditioned, so I was trying to figure out what I could wear that would be professional looking and light. For me at least, these pants are not it. I think I just might not have the kind of life that off-white pants fit into. I’m not super sad about that. I still love this fabric though, so I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t make something that I would wear more with it. I think now that a jacket or skirt would have been a better choice for my wardrobe and lifestyle. Perhaps I could re-purpose this project into a skirt still. What do you think?

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Design/Pattern: Simplicity 1808, view C (Wanna know something funny? I bought this pattern because I wanted to make the jacket, but soon I’ll have made everything in this set of patterns except the jacket.)

Materials: off-white cotton linen blend, medium weight

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Techniques:

  • finished seam allowances with a zig-zag stitch before I started construction; this was a great idea as I felt like I flew through the construction with this step out of the way
  • pleats
  • partial elastic waistband

Alterations/Changes: These are loose-fitting pants so I didn’t have to do much fitting, but there were a few changes that I made to help the fit.

  • petite adjustment so that the waistband didn’t sit too high (folded pattern piece horizontally above crotch curve to shorten)
  • straightened the line between the waist and hips so that there was less volume across my hips, which aren’t as curvy as the pattern

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While these pants probably won’t see much wear, I am glad I made them. Every time I make something that doesn’t fit into my wardrobe I get a better idea of my personal style strengths. Right now light colored, loose fitting pants don’t work. In the future I will know that, as much as I might like this look on someone else, it just isn’t my style. And that’s okay.