Category Archives: Sewing

Me Made May 2019

It’s the tenth Me Made May! I remember running into the first one when it was partway through, and being both fascinated and jealous (those were EARLY blog days and I had about two me-made garments.) I was first able to participate in the follow-up “Self-Stitched September” with a pretty limited (and slightly odd, in hindsight) wardrobe, and I’ve been on board, on and off, ever since, with a few years missed for various life-related reasons. (I swear I did 2012 but I can’t find any documentation of it!)

It’s interesting to look back through the years, as I’ve been at some very different places professionally and personally. The long gap after 2013 was caused by working two jobs for five years, which left me pretty much living day to day with no room for any kind of challenge—but I was still wearing me-mades and having quite a lot of fun with my wardrobe, actually. There were a lot of retro-style fit ‘n flare dresses, and they were a lot of fun.

Which brings my to my current pledge:

I, Tanit-Isis, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2019. I endeavour to wear me-made every day (except bras and socks) and to go through my wardrobe with an eye to assessing what fits and wearing conscious, thoughtful looks, not just throwing random items together. I’m in flux right now, body and style both, and I want to think about both how I actually look (which is changing) and how I want to look (which also may be changing?)

So there’s a few different things going on here.

  1. I have LOTS of me-made clothes at this point.
  2. My body has changed. Some of the stuff I made a couple of years ago no longer fits (which is killing me but doesn’t seem to be magically reversing).

3. My job has changed. I’m not working nearly so much “customer facing” work, and I find my motivation to go all out is somewhat diminished when it’s just the same co-workers who see me every day. Not that they’re not appreciative, but I’m not making first impressions.

4. Fashion is changing. Boxy silhouettes, wide-leg pants… buzzwords like “comfy”, “relaxed,” and “easy-fitting” seem to be dominating the fashion conversation these days. It would be really easy to fall into this, given the body changes I mentioned above, but frankly those are all the features of the 80s and 90s fashion I grew up with that I hated most. So I’m conflicted.

Given the above, I’ve often been feeling like what I pull out of the closet is either not creating a coherent look, or that the look I’m ending up with isn’t quite what I intended (or that I don’t even know what I intended.)

On top of that, sewing class samples for my teaching has been putting quite a few pieces into my wardrobe that were picked more with an eye to what can be sewn from the kind of fabrics the quilt-shop where I teach stocks, and to a lesser extent what is “hot”, than to thoughtful wardrobe-building for me. I’m not quite sure how to resolve this conundrum, though I could of course just give myself permission to not wear them. But I do like them.

So yeah, I need to think. To evaluate. Decide how I feel both about the current trends and how they fit with how I want to look and how I actually look. Me Made May may not solve this for me. But I’m hoping it will at least give me some more information about where I’m at. I’m planning to document on Instagram, probably via stories, and with any luck I’ll manage a summary post here in June.

Wish me luck!

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Tanit-Isis takes a class

So, I’m taking an introductory quilting class at Periwinkle. Kind of a work-perk thing? Anyway, it occurs to me that this is actually the first formal sewing class I’ve ever taken. Bizarre. Well, quilting is bizarre, too, so I guess that works.

The class is designed to take people from little to no sewing experience all the way to making a decent-sized throw quilt, in a sampler style of about a bazillion different blocks, in just seven weeks. Well, seven plus homework. We’re going to practice quilting and binding on a swatch because I don’t think she figures we can finish quilting the whole thing by the end of class. I’m pretty sure she’s right about that, though I really enjoy the intensity of the class.

Pattern overview

Things that bug me:

  • Cutting perfectly good fabric into teeny pieces just to sew it back together. Yes, I know that’s the whole point of quilting.
  • No steam. I’m not sure if this is common among quilters, but the teacher is quite anti-steam, because apparently it makes it too easy to distort the pieces. Meanwhile I don’t think anything I’ve pressed sans steam looks like it got pressed at all…
  • Doing math in inches. The entire cult of quilting is framed in inches and fractions thereof, and it makes me want to break things.
  • The whole pattern is predicated around working with fat quarters. Obviously none of my fabric was IN fat quarters, so I had to cut quite a bit of it into fat quarters.

Half-square triangle gris, waiting to be stitched together and then sliced apart.

Things that have blown my mind:

  • A 1/4″ seam allowance isn’t 1/4″. It’s 1/4″ less turn of cloth, with lots of experimentation sewing strips of known width together with different needle positions until the math works out.
  • Making half-square triangles in a giant grid and then cutting them out after. That was pretty fun.
  • How often Pythagorean theorem comes up, and then the quilters just dodge right around the backside of it.
  • How intense the need for accuracy is, especially with the seam allowances.
  • How hard it is to visualize what the different colours will look like in the different patterns. I mean, I worked at a fabric store for YEARS. I’ve helped people pick colours and prints for dozens of quilts. But visualizing the specific blocks? Mind melt!
  • Oh and I’m pretty happy to have learnt to use my shiny new rotary cutter “properly”.
  • I also love the variety of blocks we’re making, and how a few simple changes can make it look completely different.
  • The cat got locked in the basement and decided to give me some layout suggestions.

  • I am seriously looking forward to the quilting part, which I THINK I have more of a handle on than this weird piecing business. Because there’s bound to be little tips and tricks I’ve missed—but at least I’ll be a little more in my comfort zone.
  • Maybe?

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    Class Samples: Dress Shirt

    A very eager student asked about a class using this pattern. Curious, I was happy enough to oblige.

    The Dress Shirt is a simple, pared-down take on a shirtdress, and I actually really enjoyed the sewing process, particularly the front bib and how the neckline was finished. Things went a bit awry at the sleeves—my first inclination was to set them in flat, shirt-style, but there’s way too much ease in the sleeve cap for this method—lots of gathers that are difficult to control. So I did the second sleeve in the round, but still didn’t do a great job on the easing. Next time I would pare down the sleeve cap a wee bit.

    On the other hand, the pockets I added worked out fine.

    The back view is surprisingly attractive in this picture, at least (these are terrible photos but I had about three minutes to take them in, so it is what it is.)

    However, my biggest issue, far and away, is the fit in the shoulders. I did the same size (10) as for the Trapeze Dress last fall, which is technically a size down from my current measurements but a) there’s plenty of ease and b) I don’t think my shoulders have actually changed very much. Plus looking at the model, the pattern seemed to have slightly dropped shoulders, not really what I wanted. But, as it turns out, the shoulder fit has the same restricted movement and tightness across the back as I had in the Trapeze—plus a WAY low armscye.

    I did only two of my usual adjustments–when sewing up these class samples I try to stay fairly close to the pattern. I squared the shoulders slightly, and I raised the underarm about 1cm. I did the same on the Trapeze Dress, and I don’t think the underarm height there was a problem. But obviously a bit of a broad-back adjustment is probably in order.

    Dress lifts up at least 2-3” when I raise my arms. However, I do like the shorter hen length.

    But on this dress, the armscye appears to be dropped by over an inch. I could easily lift it up an inch to an inch and a half before I’m happy with where it falls. For that matter, if I can get the sleeves sewn in a way that’s comfy for me, I’ll probably take 2-3″ off the hem, too. But that’s more personal preference.

    There’s not much more to say as it’s a simple make. I really did enjoy the physical sewing of it. I don’t know if it’s the most flattering thing I’ve ever made (better photos might change my mind there), but it was a fun process!

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    Class Samples: Alder shirtdress

    It’s a bit sweet. And a bit snug right through the bust—I really need to come to terms with my new measurements. But I knew from scouring Instagram that I preferred the “fitted” versions of this dress, so I was at least somewhat intentional in sizing down.

    I considered adding back-ties, but with the down-sizing I didn’t really need them.

    Anyway. I love the short, sassy skirt. I love the fabric, which is a yummy double gauze. It might, however, be just a little too twee. I’m thinking I would like it paired with black leggings and tall boots. We’ll see.

    I went with a mandarin version of the collar. Partly I like them better, partly I’m hoping if I lead some students in that direction it will save some class time. This is only scheduled as a 6 hour class and I’m a little scared. Once it’s don’t being a class sample, I might even cut the neck down to a bound scoop. I’ve seen some hacks like that that I really like. I’m just not really a shirt-collar person, I guess.

    The front patch pockets are teeny weeny. I was a good sample maker and resisted the urge to skip them, but I did add some side-seam pockets, suspended from the gathered skirt seam at the top. This holds them in place a little more nicely than just side pockets.

    The construction went pretty smoothly, without any major and unfixable snafus. Unlike my last class sample. Still kind of reeling in horror from that one, honestly. For the arm facing, I used a bias tape I had made previously, and while I cut my pieces the same length as the pattern indicated, I think because I had already stretched the tape out going through the bias tape maker, they didn’t have as much give as if they’d been freshly cut that length. So it took some finessing to get them in properly, and it’s still not my best job ever. A half inch longer would’ve been perfect.

    What I completely failed to take was progress and detail shots, except for the one lone pic of the pockets underway. It’s too bad, because I like how the side pockets went together, and I actually managed some very nice inset corners, if I do say so myself. And the hem turned out really nice, too, if I do say so myself. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it…

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    Planned obsolescence

    I have a complicated relationship with distressed denim. Like most teens in the 90s, one of my main goals in life was to shred my jeans—or at least bust through the knees. However, the romance of the tattered denim faded pretty abruptly when I had to start buying my own jeans—I wanted those to last as long as possible! So I avoided the pre-tattered distressed looks as much as I could. I’ll put my own holes in them, thanks.

    I don’t generally try to distress my homemade jeans for the same reason, and I’ve complained loud and long about being unable to find hole-free jeans for my children. But the one thing I do miss about storebought jeans is the complicated wash and fading, even though I also think it’s environmentally questionable.

    I went with unfinished, frayed hems.

    So I was both fascinated and repulsed by this pre-shredded denim fabric when it came into my Fabricland three or four years ago, part of one of the random groups of jobber fabric they would get in. I couldn’t decide if I loved or hated it… anyway, in the end I settled on the side of love. But it’s still ridiculous. Someone went to the trouble of weaving this perfectly good denim, and then scraped, bleached, and shredded holes in little lines all the way along, until the sturdy, serviceable cloth is almost a kind of lace.

    Everyone else seemed to think the fabric was a bit too weird. It sat, and sat, and sat. And then one day I got to work and the entire group had been shunted into the bargain centre. So I bought the whole bolt, and the idea of making the weird, impractical stuff into an equally dramatic McCall’s M6800, began to tickle the back of my brain shortly thereafter.

    Fast forward to about a month ago, just after making the Kilt Jacket, when I had a weird little lull before I could start working on class samples. And for some reason the tickle to make something completely irrelevant, impractical, and unnecessary overwhelmed me. I guess I was a little late to #sewfrosting?

    Anyway, having made this jacket twice before, the fitting was largely sorted out. Which left the matter of which options I was going to use, as this pattern has many. I decided to try mashing the wide-lapel view with the hood. I love it when a hood runs right into a fold-back lapel. I wasn’t actually sure this was the right way to achieve the look, but it seems to work. I added about two inches to the front of the already-voluminous hood to extend it onto the lapels, reshaped the lapel neckline into a smooth curve rather than the angle for the notch collar, and I did wind up trimming about 1/2″ off each lapel to get them to line up with the hood.

    For construction, I used the same method as my first version, a combination of bound seams and topstitching. With all the little frayed holes, this fabric is fairly delicate, and I wanted lots of reinforcement on the seams. I used some grey-blue gauzy cotton, left over from this dress. Maybe not the sturdiest choice I could’ve made, but I think it worked out. I skipped the facings, too, opting for a binding folded to the inside for this part too.

    However, Hong Kong binding plus double topstitching does not make for a quick project. I also didn’t go full bore, and had to occasionally interrupt… anyway. It developed slowly.

    But, it’s finally finished. Or, maybe finished isn’t quite the right word. In temporary equilibrium? Because this piece calls out for distressing. I’m almost tempted to go at it theatre-style, get some patina going. Failing that, the shredded fabric is more-or-less guaranteed to begin failing sooner rather than later.

    I’m already planning visible mending, layering, patching. I don’t really think this jacket is done.

    I think maybe it’s ready to start becoming. Obsolescence is a part of the plan.

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    The jacket that nearly killed me

    Or should I say kilt me? (Feel free to groan away)

    If you read any of my posts from January, you probably noticed me whining about this jacket in the background. Well, it’s done! And you can read the full whinge over on The Sewcialists website, as part of their February “Sew Menswear for Everyone” theme month!

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    Class samples: Zoe Dress

    In March I’m teaching a class on the Zoe Dress by Sew Over It at Periwinkle Quilting. So it was high time to get on with sewing my sample.

    This is a cute basic dress and I figured it would be a step beyond the very basic Arum I did last year. And I really, really liked this beige-with-writing-and-roses fabric. I had a really great fit with the SOI Betty Dress back before Christmas, so I was pretty excited.

    I’m generally a big proponent of tracing when it comes to expensive indie patterns, but I find the SOI patterns really hard to trace. The Betty didn’t have different line styles for the different sizes, which made it hard to pick out the right size, and this one had different line styles, but some of them were really faint, with tiny and spaced out dots, including the size 12 I was tracing for the lower half. Also there’s more notches than you can shake a stick at, and I always miss notches when I trace. So I cut. Based on the Betty, I cut a size 10 for the shoulders and bust and a size 12 for the waist and hip. I didn’t do a petite alteration, but I did add a small swayback adjustment, by shortening the back piece at the waistline and taking a wedge out of the side piece, since the pattern has princess seams but no side seams.

    I tend to like a lot of ease in the hips, so I kinda wish I had gone up another size there. As is, I let out the side back princess seams as much as possible–you can’t adjust the front princess seams because there are pockets in this area (yay pockets), but the back is where I really need the room anyway.

    You can see the pulling across the back armscye in this one.

    The swayback adjustment worked well, although it’s possible I should’ve petited somewhere by a smidgeon.

    There are back neck darts. They make a nice shape and I didn’t modify the shoulder slope or anything. (Often I have to square it a bit)

    But something is off with the back armscye. The sleeve cap is tall and narrow, which alarmed me a bit, and it definitely works well if I keep my arms down but doesn’t allow a lot of motion. And moving my arms to the front the littlest bit pulls mightily across the back. Fortunately this cotton has quite a bit of give, but it feels like I need a bit of a forward-shoulder adjustment—it’s tight across the back if I try to move my arms forward, but roomy across the chest. Weird because that’s not something I’ve ever needed. Possibly I could let out the seam at the back armscye a wee bit…

    I did raise the underarm a tiny bit, which I almost always do, and that helps with the mobility a bit, but I’m just not totally sold on that armscye. And I’ll definitely be checking back measurements when we do the class.

    All in all, though, it’s pretty cute.

    I’m going to show you my greatest, most terrible shame now, though:

    There. There it is. Do you see? How in the HELL did I not check, when I went to cut it out, which way the print was facing? Of all the STUPID… anyway, I can’t go on or this blog will descend into a string of profanity I’ll probably regret releasing onto the internet.

    On a happier note, the invisible zipper and the facing attachment fully by machine went smooth as butter. After all these years I still think of Pattern, Scissors, Cloth every time I do this. And yes, I still had pink thread in the serger from the baby overalls, and it makes me happy.

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