In Which The Blogger Takes A Flying Leap…

Out of her comfort zone, that is.

This post will be really long (mostly because it covers two weeks worth of progress–I am behind!), and I’m going to start out a little differently from my normal style. I don’t usually get all introspective on you; not because I don’t have Deep Thoughts, but because I’m usually just too excited to share whatever it is I’m sharing to get too serious. ūüôā So if Introspective Mads doesn’t do it for you (and that’s okay!), feel free to scroll down a bit and wait for the pictures to start! (TL;DR, I’m taking a pattern making workshop and it’s been very interesting and fun and confidence-smashing and fun again!) Without further ado…

*cue Deep Thoughts*

I enjoy learning. For me, learning is pretty much a desirable end in and of itself–I just like to know things about stuff (because I haz a smrt), and generally speaking, the more things I can learn about, the better! On the other hand, I consider myself a relatively cautious person; I tend to be risk-averse and enjoy having a solid routine. While I’m willing to try new things when I feel like it (for example, learning to sew!), I don’t really enjoy being prompted or “encouraged” to do things without first being interested on my own. My introverted nature does not help matters; I tend to stick to indoor nerd-ery and can become isolated. But sometimes, with the right encouragement or inspiration, I can be coaxed out of my little bubble and into the wide and wild world of opportunity. This time, the new thing is a workshop on pattern drafting and fitting, and the encouragement came from a new friend.

I became acquainted with Paula DeGrand quite by accident: I cannot remember how I found her blog, Getting Things Sewn, but once I did, I immediately subscribed and eagerly read every subsequent post, even feeling brave enough to comment from time to time. (This is one part of the online sewing community that I struggle with: I always feel like I want to¬†comment, and sometimes I even type out a response, and then I chicken out and delete everything because these people don’t GAF what I think and also I’m an idiot anyway.) We also interacted a bit on Pattern Review, which is how I learned that she and I would very soon be residents of the same metro area! This winter, we were finally able to meet up in person and I am happy to report that she is just as intriguing and delightful in real life as she seems on her blog.

Prior to our in-person meeting, Paula had¬†blogged about¬†a workshop she was taking here in Columbus–a pattern making workshop! The instructor was Nina Bagley, a very¬†experienced and talented patternmaker with decades of experience in the fashion industry. Unfortunately for me, the workshop–focused on pants, of all things!–had already started when I learned of it, and I immediately emailed the Cultural Arts Center to inquire about any future workshops like that one. While I did receive a nice but not-terribly-informative response (equivalent to, “Thanks for your interest. As to future workshops, we don’t know…we’re trees.”), the real insider info came to me from Paula, who alerted me to the opening of registration for the next workshop; this one would be focusing on coats and capes. Guys, I got the very. last. spot. in that workshop, and I squealed and bounced around with glee.

Now you may be thinking, “But Mads, you’ve never shown even the slightest interest in (or, let’s be honest, aptitude for) pattern drafting or expert fitting! Why would¬†you think this workshop is a good idea?” And that’s totally a fair question. I’m still quite a beginner, and I’ve never made a coat or a cape or a jacket, and I assumed I’d probably be the least-competent person in the entire workshop group. But I got excited about this for several reasons: 1) Paula’s enthusiasm is contagious, 2) $100 is a bargain-basement price for a 5-week (1 evening per week for 3 hours) local workshop with a small class size taught by someone who has worked successfully in the fashion industry for many years, 3) I want to learn everything I can about sewing, garment construction, fitting, patterns, drafting, and design in order to make better things for myself and anyone else I choose to sew for, and 4) What better way to learn than from an expert, surrounded by enthusiastic people who are better than me at our shared craft? (And also 5) I’ve had that damn 1920’s pre-teen coat pattern in my mental “Gotta Sew This” queue since I bought it, and I knew this was a great chance to be successful with making it fit and look good.) So there you have it: Mads, out of her comfort zone, becomes Mads, the pattern workshop student. Back to you, Irreverent Whippersnapper Mads!

***********************************************************************

My first week of class got off to a terrible start. Like a boss, I left home 30 minutes before the scheduled start time–more than adequate to get to where I should have been going. (Uh-oh…) My directions had me get on the freeway, which should have been my first clue¬†not to¬†trust them, since this was a freaking 10 minute trip. Those same directions resulted in me getting off the freeway where I was told, only to find myself utterly lost in an unfamiliar (and none too nice) part of the city, nowhere near my destination. As if that wasn’t awful enough, my so-called smart phone decided that it wasn’t about to allow me to access Maps or the navigation functionality. And my GPS is buried in the house somewhere, which obviously meant it was not in my car to help me. Cue the panic attack! (No, I don’t have a generalized anxiety thing: I do have a few actual phobias that trigger these things, and a handful of other things can set me off too. Like being lost in an unfamiliar area, by myself, with no navigation assistance,¬†especially if I’m on a timeline. Womp womp.)¬†So to recap, I¬†was¬†lost in a part of town that I’d never seen before and which felt decidedly dodgy, and on top of that, I was crying and couldn’t breathe and was, as the kids say, freaking my shit. Time to call¬†for backup!

Tom was nearly home when I reached him. I was absolutely frantic and he was trying his best to calm me down. (I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced a panic attack, but mine certainly do not respond to people telling me to calm down!) He finally got home and had the unpleasant task of trying to give me directions from a random intersection in Columbus to a place I only knew the name of, as opposed to the actual address; I couldn’t even tell him which direction I was facing, since my car lacks a compass and I had no frame of reference via familiar streets or landmarks. Tom got me to my destination, finally. Remember how I said I’d left 30 minutes before the start time? When I finally arrived, I was 10 minutes late to class. 10. Minutes. Late. This drive should have taken 15 minutes tops. And then I had to pay for a parking meter and try to find my classroom in a new-to-me building. On top of that, it was very, very obvious that I had been crying, which was *exactly* the kind of first impression I wanted to make on¬†a room full of strangers, one of whom is widely respected and recognized in her profession and was, for all intents and purposes, in charge of me for the next three hours. After that whole ordeal, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be there anymore!

When I walked in, I saw a huddle of people off in one corner of the room; they were all looking at something together (which turned out to be Paula’s project). I happened to walk in with another class member, so I felt a little less awkward about being late. Nobody batted an eye! After brief introductions, we got right down to business: Nina pulled and tucked and wiggled Paula’s coat, noting what adjustments she felt were needed and why. It was incredibly educational. All of us were allowed to weigh in as well, which felt strange at first but became natural by the end of our 3 hours together. (Or in my case, 2 hours and 50 minutes!) After Paula’s pattern had been cut, slashed, taped, and cut some more, Nina looked at me and asked if I had a pattern in mind. “Yes,” I said timidly. “Do you have it with you?” *RESIST THE URGE TO ROLL EYES!* “Yes.” “Well go get it and we’ll have a look!” This was the moment I’d been dreading since I realized what kind of format the class was in after about 5 minutes. It felt like those nightmares where you show up to class and the teacher announces that today, there will be a test on the socio-economic impacts of de-colonization on the African continent and you’re all, “WTF? I thought this was math class!?!” And also you’re in your underwear.

I walked back toward the group, clutching the traced-off pieces of my coat back, front, and sleeve. Being a genius (heh), I didn’t bring the actual pattern envelope with me, so Nina was sort of working blind in terms of imagining the look of the finished coat. I described it the best I could. She seemed pleased with the way the pieces worked together, but remarked that it looked “small, like for a child.” She was relieved when I clarified that it¬†was for a child! My homework was to make a muslin of the coat body as-is and bring it back the following week. I left class that night feeling pretty good about my project and getting it to fit.

Back at The “Mads” House, I dutifully made my muslin. Nina and I had identified one sure-fire issue–a need for more length from shoulder to bust–and I was eager to see what we’d do to fix it. I packed all my stuff:

Fancy-pants bag, ready for class!

Fancy-pants bag, ready for class!

Stuffed with, er, stuff.

Stuffed with, er, stuff.

Made sure this made the trip, too--no more working blind!

Made sure this made the trip, too–no more working blind!

I made a timely arrival this week, and was really fired up to hack my muslin apart. Unfortunately for me, my rogue decision to set in one sleeve was a bad one, and Nina needed me to rip it out before we could do anything else. It somewhat helped her evaluate the fit visually, but we needed to mess with the body before we could worry about the sleeve. Feeling foolish, I went back to my seat and started tearing at things. I plodded back up front and Nina made some cuts into the front of the coat. And then she pointed out something that was terribly embarrassing: I’d cut the front piece off-grain. Badly. *sigh* Guess who is tearing their muslin to adjust the grainline before making up the next version? —–>This kid. Between that stupid mistake and my utter inability to fully wrap my head around the drafting stuff we were shown that night (different collar types–very interesting!), I left class last week feeling like I don’t have the skills or smarts necessary to do a good job on this project.¬†I’m trying to remind myself that I’m there to learn and that if I keep working at it, I’ll get there! Besides, understanding flat pattern drafting takes time, since you have to think about things from both the 2-D and 3-D perspectives; that’s not something I really do at the moment! Would you like to see the state of my own personal Frankenstein’s Monster¬†Coat Pattern?

Yep, that's masking tape. We created headroom for my t*ts out of masking tape. O_o

Yep, that’s masking tape. We created headroom for my t*ts out of masking tape. O_o

New shoulder line!

New shoulder line!

Original tracing on the right, Frankenmuslin on the left. Check out those neckline and armhole differences!!

Original tracing on the right, Frankenmuslin on the left. Check out those neckline and armhole differences!!

I didn’t realize that masking tape was so versatile, did you? We added some length from shoulder to bust (“headroom for my t*ts”) and scooped out the armhole. At my request, we also scooped out the front neckline–it was making me claustrophobic! The back neckline was lowered by Nina as well. She was sweet enough to clean up the lines around the neck and armhole for me and tape it all up. I also had to take a wedge out at the armhole and taper out to nothing down the side seam. Obviously my homework was to use this muslin as my new pattern and see how the changes helped with the fit; Nina will then assist me with adjusting the sleeve piece when we have class this week. My gut tells me that will result in¬†a pretty extreme makeover for the sleeve, but I know I’m in good hands!¬†Here is Pre-Teen Coat Muslin 2.0:

New, on-grain muslin!

New, on-grain muslin!

Trying on the new version over a hefty fleece shirt

Trying on the new version over a hefty fleece shirt

Awkward side-view selfie!

Awkward side-view selfie!

I’m mostly happy with how this is coming along. My main concerns are making sure that I’ll have enough room to wear bulky sweaters AND interline and line this thing, and that the side seams tilt to the back of the coat (which gets worse the closer to the hem you look) and I can’t tell if it’s a fit problem or due to the volume being concentrated in the front pieces vs. the back. Fastening the coat resolves that issue, so ????????????

I ordered a second, higher-quality wool for this coat than what I planned to use originally. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m still using the green and cream material for a first version.) I have a few reasons for this. First, the stuff I have is of a looser weave than I realized, and I want this sucker to be WARM, especially if the Polar Vortex insists on becoming an annual occurrence here in Ohio. Second, I’m not sure I’ll have enough of the green and cream fabric to do the attached cape, and I want a version of this coat with that damn cape, or there will be tears and violence. Third, this happened:

Yep, that's a hole.

Yep, that’s a hole.

Because I am so smart and so awesome, I decided that I could just tug this yardage out of the bin where it sleeps; naturally, it sleeps near the very bottom because it hasn’t been pre-washed yet. I may have hulked out a bit too much, because I do not remember this huge tear being present when I packed this material up the last time. ūüė¶ It’s close to the cut end AND the selvedge, so I think I can at least get the coat itself out of this fabric. But I felt entirely justified in ordering some nicer wool coating (and interlining!) so that I can have a truly awesome, truly warm, truly cape-tastic coat one day. Behold:

This will make a fine coat and cape combo, no? =)

This will make a fine coat and cape combo, no? =)

I’ll wrap this entry up by saying that I hope it wasn’t terribly boring. I’m very excited that I’ve made a new friend (and one who is brilliant at sewing, to boot!) and I’m psyched¬†about my workshop and hope to learn a lot. Nina is a great teacher, and my fellow students are very kind, enthusiastic, and talented. I’ll share updates each week, hopefully! (And my pants are still on the docket, so check back for progress there, too!)

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February* FO Trio Post (aka Shield Your Eyes)

*Okay, so one item here was made in December. Whatever.

Hello again!

Hopefully all of you are enjoying the last gasps of the weekend; we had nicer weather the past few days, which doesn’t hurt!

I have not one, but THREE completed garments to show off today–can you believe it?!? Very exciting stuff.

Up first, the longest-finished of the three: my latest version of vintage Simplicity 1281!

New skirt, featuring Mulder

New skirt, featuring Mulder

Side view

Side view

Obligatory twirl photo, duh

Obligatory twirl photo, duh

I have very little to say about the construction of this one, since it’s my third version. It’s exactly what I wanted and is a great staple for my wardrobe. The fabric remains a PITA, but seeing the way the skirt hangs in photos helps me feel like it might be worth it. ūüôā

FO #2 can be (partially) seen above: the Tamara top by Style Arc!

Do not adjust your monitor: this shirt is playing games with your eyes.

Do not adjust your monitor: this shirt is playing games with your eyes.

Side view of those triangular bottom panels

Side view of those triangular bottom panels

It's like someone captured the very essence of my attitude in a single candid photo...

It’s like someone captured the very essence of my attitude in a single candid photo…

Pretty nuts, huh? I bought this fabric a few months ago when FabricMart had a big sale and had no idea what to do with it at first. Then I saw this top pattern while shopping the Style Arc Etsy shop and got the idea you now see before you. I wanted to look like a walking page out of one of those 3D picture books from 20 years ago, and give innocent bystanders headaches. Flawless Victory. Speaking of flawless, I should note that the last photo in the above series was a candid that Tom took at the very end of our session this morning. My red was getting all up in my face and so I tried to move it before he took another photo, and he chose that moment to snap a candid shot. After we saw this one, we ended the “shoot” for the day, because it was obviously not going to get any better. Ever.

Constructing the top was relatively challenging at times, due to the fabric (an ITY jersey) and those damn pointy corners. I thought I had knit interfacing but that turned out to be incorrect; I improvised with Wonder Tape and my tracing material and got what I think are really good results. I had to unpick the right one twice (!!!!!!!) until I was happy with the point. After that part was finished, the rest was pretty smooth sailing. This was my first Style Arc pattern, and I knew what I was getting into with respect to their instructions; that said, I really didn’t need any other resources to make this work, since I’ve done neckbands and have sewn knits on my machine before. I did all my hems with a lightening bolt stitch (no twin needle ūüė¶ ) and the stitching is pretty well hidden by the busyness of the print. I will get a lot of wear out of this top! (Bystanders, you have been warned!)

The third item in this post is actually a big fail. I made a really dumb mistake and that resulted in an unwearable (in public) garment. But I’ll share it, because it’s part of a concept outfit with the Tamara top above. (I know, right? Who fucking does “concept” outfits? Who am I trying to be, the The Who of sewing??) Presented for your viewing agony: the Shadi knit skirt by Named Clothing!

Yep, nice and trippy

Yep, nice and trippy (plus a scowl)

Just in case you ever wanted to know more about my ass...

Just in case you ever wanted to know more about my backside…

I got it in my head that it would be AMAZING (and hilarious) to go head-to-toe “Mod on Drugs” and make a pencil skirt out of the same checkered jersey. I knew I wouldn’t really wear them together, but having them as separates seemed like a great idea. I picked up the Shadi knit skirt pattern from Named Clothing (via Pattern Review) and got to work. Sadly, I did not notice that I was cutting the skirt with the highest % of stretch running up and down instead of horizontally. You can bet that I noticed, though, once I tried putting the goddamn thing on. At first I was baffled: I’d done everything I was supposed to do, including making the elastic smaller than my waist and stretching it to fit the top of the skirt. I even graded out from the smallest size to the one up from it on the PDF at the hips, just to be safe!! Tom laughed hysterically as he watched me struggle, which made me mad, and when I finally got it over my ass I realized I could barely walk! Ugh. And of course, there isn’t enough material to re-cut it and it’s long since sold out. *cue heaving sobs* But if I’m honest, the top is the more versatile piece and would have gotten the most wear, and it turned out pretty great, so I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience.

"Vitruvian Mads," aka my entire range of motion in this skirt

“Vitruvian Mads,” aka my entire range of motion in this skirt

But of course, I had to take photos of the two together. HAD TO, you guys. Brace yourselves, and maybe take an ibuprofen and come back to look at the next photos in 30 minutes:

The trippiest dog training photo everrrr

The trippiest dog training photo everrrr

"Come on, Mulder, dance with mommy!!"

“Come on, Mulder, dance with mommy!!”

Good boy!!

Good boy!!

So there you have it: three things, two of which will make it into regular rotation. The other might be scrapped for parts (i.e., the vintage elastic in the waistband) or just binned; the jury is still out on that one. The Shadi pattern is NOT the issue here, to be clear: my lack of ability to brain while sewing is entirely to blame. I’ll be using the pattern again, for sure. (Yes, I know I could have probably just drafted a knit pencil skirt myself, but Named has an aesthetic unlike most other pattern companies out there now and I’m happy to give them my $9USD for this and support them.) I may not make the Style Arc top again, but only because it’s such a statement top that I don’t know if I’d need another in my wardrobe, even in a saner color combination. I will be making more Style Arcs, though, obviously! Vintage Simplicity 1281 is a TNT for me, so it will undoubtedly be back again. Now that I’ve gotten this inspiration out of my brain and into meatspace, it’s on to pants for this weirdo!

Have you ever gotten a random inspiration that you had to bring to fruition right this second? Did you love the results as much as the original idea?