Tag Archives: The Selfish Seamstress

Sew Style Heroโ€”The Selfish Seamstress

This post is inspired (just a little past due) by the Sewcialists blog theme for August: your Sew Style Hero.

I started this blog in early 2010. It was early days of sewing blogs, it was exciting, and I was learning so much about sewing. But I didn’t know much about blogging, or about how to build a following (Still don’t, I guess) and while I blogged basically every single day at that point, nobody else knew I existed.

The day that changed was August 27, 2010. The day the Selfish Seamstress wrote about me.

Many of my favourite blogs from those days are still around, but many have also gone silent. Life happens, and no one was a pro at that point. But one of my favourites to slip into the shadows was The Selfish Seamstress. In addition to fabulous knock-offs, her writing and online persona were hilarious, with her kindness and joy showing through the allegedly grumpy and misanthropic Selfish persona.

She was notoriously vague about her location, even to continent, so I wouldn’t have ever expected to meet her. Except one day earlier that spring, she had posted about an unseasonal snowstorm, and I had commented that we were having the same crappy weather where I was. A private message followed and by some miracle it turned out that we were in the exact same city!

We met up for coffee a few weeks later, my first real-life sewing meetup! It was as giddy and delightful as I could’ve hoped for—except for the crushing news that Selfish was in the throes of moving back to Europe. Our real-life friendship would encompass exactly two coffee dates. I think I still have some of the terrible fabric she gave me when she moved. Though most of it was good and put to good use.

While my brush with sewing blog greatness was brief, the exposure she gave me cracked my shell and really helped me start interacting with the online sewing world, as well as showing me how awesome it could be when online turned into real life.

Back in those days, before people figured out you could charge for it, it was pretty common for sewing bloggers to slap together a free pdf pattern to share with the world (mine are still linked under the pattern tab here). The one Selfish was most famous for was her iconic Coffee Date Dress, which is a lovely little basic, with a signature ruffle to keep it from being boring.

I had always meant to make it but never quite got around to it—but as I started thinking about Sew Style Hero month for August, I kept coming back to The Selfish Seamstress and the dress.

It didn’t take long to re-download the pattern, and it only takes 24 pages to print. (I think the Fiona dress I made earlier this summer was 40 pages) It’s been a while since I used a hand-drafted PDF. It’s cute.

And by a miracle I remembered to add all the seam allowances when I cut it out, whilst paying a ridiculous amount of attention to matching the plaids.

This fabric is a mystery suiting that has been in the stash almost since the last time I saw Selfish. It’s a grey plaid/houndstooth with little threads of pink that I can’t seem to get to photograph. It’s almost certainly polyester. In any case, it makes a good wearable muslin if nothing else. Because it’s a bit on the heavier side (and plaid) I cut the ruffle as a single layer on the bias. Time will tell if that was a good idea, I guess.

I did my “usual” grading between sizes: 36 shoulders and bust, 38 waist, 40 hips. I should have remembered that this is essentially an indie pattern. I should’ve cut the whole bodice a size 38. For that matter I could’ve cut the skirt size 38, too, but it’s easier to take in than let out. What really sucks is that I kept thinking (since this fabric has a lot of give) that it would work out, so I kept going, and by the time I had the zipper in for a full try-on I’d already aggressively clipped my seams at the underarm facing, only to discover I couldn’t even zip the damn thing up.

I threw it on the dressform, took some pretty pictures, and thought about it for the weekend.

Then I sacrificed my careful, impeccable plaid matching at the back seam, ripped out the zipper, and re-sewed it in with minimal seam allowances. This gave me the extra inch or so I needed at the bust, but I had to take quite a bit out at the waist. That’s ok though. Taking out is ok.

All in all, the dress is cute but I don’t feel fabulous in it. The bodice is a bit short (a known feature of this pattern, but I tend to have a short torso so I wasn’t too worried) even on me. Mainly I think I don’t love the fabric–it’s pretty but doesn’t feel nice, and gets really staticky. I guess there was a reason it had been in stash seven years. In any case, almost more than the dress itself I enjoyed posting about it on Instagram, revisiting and sharing memories of the Selfish Seamstress with people I’ve known since the “old days” of blogging, and many more who I didn’t know back then. Check out the posts under #selfishseamstressfanclub on instagram if you’re interested. Or share some memories here, especially if you made this dress back in the day!

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WWSSD? (What Would Selfish Seamstress Do?)

Probably not this.

Gathered skirt

Yes, this is the other piece of “nice” fabric Her Selfishness accidentally included with the poly chiffon and fun-fur. (Don’t you worry… we’re getting to the fun fur.) It is apparently a Vera Wang jaquard. This probably makes it the first “designer” fabric I’ve ever had the privilege of mangling. It’s navy/black, variably shiny, with a pattern of concentric circles. It’s crisp to the point of cardboardy and takes a crease very nicely. It would make an extremely elegant coat, ball-gown (if I had, y’know, more than about 3/4 of a metre), or maybe even a sheath-dress for someone with superior fitting skills.

I made a gathered skirt.

In hindsight, it might have been better pleated. Or perhaps I should’ve paid attention to the 2:1 golden rule of gathering, rather than just taking a double-width panel and

Gathered from the back

gathering it all onto my skirt yoke. If I could’ve made it longer I would have—or rather, I’d have made it about the same length but with a wider hem. I think it needs a little bit more weight at the hem… Or something. Anything to reduce that pouf! The pouf does not help with the natural tendency of such skirts to be longer at the front than the back.

Actually, the pictures look pretty good, about what I was going for, so perhaps it’s just that I need a petticoat or bloomers underneath (Madeleine, anyone?) to reduce the feeling of “my bum is hanging out in space” that I get when wearing this. It certainly doesn’t need a crinoline for volume.

This is, however, another item that is not likely to make it into my regular rotation of clothing, and hence not something I should’ve been working on during my precious Self-Stitched September sewing time. I can only conclude that there was some seriously evil mojo infused into that fabric her Selfishness “gave” me.

Pouf!

Or, y’know, that sometimes you just have to make a pouffy skirt.

I used the yoke from the A-Plus A-Line on Burdastyle (graded from a size 4 at the hip to a size 8 at the waist as I didn’t want it sitting at my natural waist), and just gathered the rectangular panels to it. I made my first attempt at a lapped zipper on the side, which turned out awful. If I really want a nice zipper I should really bite the bullet and do it by hand, but I already did the whole hem by hand last night and I didn’t feel like it.

In Self-Stitched September News, Day 4: Are you sick of JJ’s yet?

Self-Stitched September, Day 4

I know I am! (I’m also sick of my usual poses so you can look forward to some doofy ones. This one is called “Oh Noes! I am being Followed!”)

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Imagine the scene…

The Location

A crisp summer evening (did I mention the climate here SUCKS?) in the perilous region of the city known as “Downtown”. This is the natural habitat of the stylish and hip, such as the Selfish Seamstress, but an area I usually view only as on safari, through the glass of the train windows.

I arrive early, having allowed myself both getting-lost time and finding-parking time, and end up needing neither. There it is, the appointed coffee-shop, lurking in all its trendy glory (and it’s open late). Such places used to be my stomping-ground, back before domestic bliss replaced teenage angst, back in the days when I, too, lived Downtown. I take up residence on one of the several benches outside, and pretend to play with my ipod. Mostly, I am watching.

For Her.

My thoughts race back to the chance comment left on her wonderful blog, months ago, that revealed my general location. Although I read religiously, I rarely comment since there are usually fifty or more comments before mine that have said everything that could possibly be said. My surprise at receiving an email a few days later admitting to being in the same general vicinity (and shopping at the same depressing fabric-store chain). This when I had no idea we even shared a country! A few more emails, and by a miracle we are even in the same city! (Not such a big miracle, as it’s the largest city in the province). In fact, we are associated with the same University, although in very different departments and at very different levels.

And then—there she is! So petite and stylish and elegant in her Hikaru Jacket and her Jalie Jeans! Her topstitching makes me want to cry. She shows me the nearby newstand that carries Burda (my first Burda Magazine!)… and buys me a hot chocolate! (made with melted chocolate! With whipped cream!).

She gives me patterns. Including THIS one! (Since she never actually made the dress, I assume she decided it fell into the Frumpy category. Nevertheless, it is a charming gift, despite the fact that Her Selfishness buys patterns in the 6-10 size range and I normally fit a miss’s 12 ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

We talk about sewing, and dance, and sewing, and driving vs. not driving in cities, and sewing, and (amateur) modeling, and sewing, and how we started sewing, and cell phones, and sewing, and not having real-life sewing friends, and sewing, and…

all of a sudden it is ย ten o’clock at night. The handsome Dan comes and plucks the Selfish Seamstress away, and I drive home in a floaty haze of happiness, cradling my Burda in my lap. And yes, it is sometime on this drive home that it occurs to me that we took no pictures.

The next day, still on a brush-with-blogging-and-sewing-greatness high, I traced out this jacket… and we all know how that went (it’s currently wadded in a ball under my bed, waiting for resuscitation).

It wasn’t until later, in the cold light of Wadderville, that it occurred to me to wonder about the Selfish One’s motivations. Obviously she could not be really enjoying my company. This concerned me quite a bit. But then it dawned on me… The Selfish Seamstress may have no friends, but she adores flattery. And really, aren’t I the perfect agent? My sewing skills are no match for hers—I am far below the level of a Nemesis—and I am perfectly willing to gush more-or-less endlessly over her sophisticated creations. And if I do grow boring, or stalkerish, or too demanding, well, she’s leaving the country in a few weeks.

Which means my brush with greatness will remain just that—a brush. But I can now say it, the way my Grandma still talks about having tea with the Queen as a little girl… I once had hot chocolate with the Selfish Seamstress!

And, as a bonus, her shout-out (besides bringing unprecedented hit-numbers to my low-key little blog here) brought to my attention the fact that an old friend from my dance-costume-making days, whose skillz (especially in the finishing department) I have long admired and envied, has started her own blog, Blood, Sweatshop & Tears! Nifty!

So if you did come here via Her Selfishness, thank you for taking the time! And if you didn’t, well… you can always say you knew me first! (LMAO)

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