Top Fives, Part 2: Reflections and Goals

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Formerly known as “Goals and Shit,” by Mads. Thanks again to Gillian for keeping this going! Part 1 of my Top 5 is here–it felt more logical to separate them this way. 🙂

Happy New Year, everyone! I am writing this from my couch (under a sherpa blanket–if you get winter weather, you will want one of these) with a sinus infection. Truly a fitting end to this big-picture shit-show of a year, eh?

So, anyway: 2016 Sewing Reflections and 2017 Goals!

For Reflections on 2016, I just have a few random thought-barfs for you:

  1. Vague Disappointment: When I look back on my sewing in 2016, it’s hard to remember much about it. I ended up with garments that I love, but I think it was just kind of a slog in the sewing room this year mentally. I had hoped to get more accomplished in 2016, but oh well. Every project just seemed to take FOREVER. I had a lot of stress in the background: July marked the first full year at my new job, which still demands my best every day whether I have it in me or not; at home, we were in Bathroom Remodel mode from March when we started seriously planning everything until December when it was finally finished. I am hoping to be more creatively productive in 2017 and want to treat my sewing–even the challenging projects–as my chance to re-focus and enjoy myself. I love sewing, and I don’t want to lose that in the moment. With no massive home reno projects in the pipeline for 2017, hopefully that’s an easy thing to live up to!
  2. Being Social: One thing I really did enjoy in 2016 was taking part in #sewphotohop in September. I “met” so many new and wonderful people and felt so inspired by the creativity that’s out there just waiting to be discovered. Thanks to all of you who share your creative spirits with the world and are willing to talk to (sometimes slightly odd/awkward/foul-mouthed) strangers about it: you are awesome. Having a community–I am lucky to have both a virtual and a physical community for sewing–makes this incredible hobby/passion/lifestyle that much more meaningful.
  3. Being Bold: This is more reflected by my 2016 fabric purchases (and I suppose by 2 of my projects this year) given my glacial sewing pace, but I am trying to embrace color in my wardrobe the way that I embrace it everywhere else. (Except my car: I speed so a neutral color is a must!) Color brings me a lot of joy and I want to wear that joy on my body, regardless of what “experts” or anyone else thinks about whether or not it is flattering. The #restingbitchface will remain however–that’s basically tattooed on.
  4. Fearless (or Stubborn): I am not one to be scared of a project. (Scared of making a hash of my Chanel boucle yardage on the other hand? Definitely. I would vomit from rage and shame.) If I want to make something, I make it. (Muslins first, of course–gotta practice!) I know there are folks who don’t approach their sewing projects this way and that’s FINE–it takes all kinds, right?–but if there is one thing that’s been consistent across my journey into sewing, it’s been my “attitude problem.” 🙂 I get mad when things don’t work out, of course. I’ve cried over projects that didn’t live up to my standards, or when I felt like I hadn’t done the garment justice with my technique or skills, but I just get back in there and make what  want to make. Shit, I took patternmaking classes on a bit of a whim with ZERO experience and it turned out to be one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, even if I did struggle with the material some days. I guess what I’m saying is this: no matter what I make in a year, or whether it worked or it didn’t, I FUCKING MADE THAT THING. And even if it was a piping hot mess, it is likely that I learned something from the experience. So I want to encourage all of you, especially those who may find this attitude uncomfortable, to pick ONE project for 2017 and Just. Make. It. Try it. If it sucks, it sucks; we have all made something that sucks. And if it doesn’t suck, then you conquered that project. And no matter how it turned out, you can find a lesson there someplace. And there are an awful lot of us out here who will encourage you, give advice, let you vent, and clap out loud for you as you go. You can.

And now: Goals!

My goals for 2016 were rather vague (I’m not too fond of prescriptions for things that are supposed to be my hobbies–that’s for work!) but I gave myself enough to aim for to be able to tell how I did after-the-fact. Here they are:

  1. My first goal was to stop buying fabric…nope. Definitely didn’t happen. (And now that I know how to knit, I buy yarn too. Shit.)
  2. Goal 2 was to fill some wardrobe gaps with sewing. This was a mixed bag: I made some tops but no pants. However, I scored BIG at a Limited sample sale a couple of weeks ago and got plenty of pants and some new blouses for next to nothing; I am hoping those will tide me over until I can catch up in Ye Olde Sweatshoppe.
  3. Goal 3 was Outwear and Activewear, neither of which happened but that’s cool because I knew even in 2015 that they weren’t top priorities.
  4. Dude Sewing was next on my list, and I think it is safe to say I nailed that one. Tom got 4 pairs of bitchin’ sweatpants AND one pair of Japanese denim jeans between December 2015 and December 2016. (I did not manage to make him anything for Xmas this year though, and I am sad about that.)
  5. Last up was to keep my sewing spreadsheet going, and this was another rousing success. Although sometimes, like when I’m looking at the fabric tab, I wish I hadn’t done such a great and thorough job…

So that brings us to goals for 2017! Again, I’m a loose goal-setter, but I do genuinely hope to succeed at the following:

  1. Cull That Stash. Donating isn’t really my favorite option for my garment fabrics because I buy nice things (with a few scarce exceptions from when I was first starting out) and want to give fellow garment sewers a chance to make them into something awesome (or horrible, whichever–just make it into SOMETHING). Have any of you ever sold stash fabric online before? How did you do it, and what do you recommend? I intend to sell everything for as dirt-cheap as I can: this isn’t to make money, it’s literally to make space. O_o I am not averse to donating things if it comes to that, it’s just that there aren’t huge numbers of options for that around me that I know of–if you have advice for that route, hit me up!
  2. Make Those Jeans. My pattern is ready, I had one nearly-complete attempt that was undone by bad fabric, and I seriously want to make this happen. This is my year, no doubt!
  3. Be a #basicbitch. Boring, yes, but I want to make some serious progress with basics and staple pieces this year: knit dresses that work just as well for the office as a gig depending on styling, knit tops made from luxurious fabrics, and shirts and skirts that can be worn with tons of other pieces seamlessly.
  4. Conscious, Heartfelt Gift Giving. I’d like to make more gifts for more people I love this year. 2 of my sisters have moved to new digs and said they’d love some Dirty Bird Potholders; one sister is getting Pussy Hats for her group going to the Women’s March in a few weeks; my bestie wants some Well-Mannered Bird Potholders for her mother; dear friends (Dunuh’s people!) are having their second baby and that baby needs a baby shark, obviously; Tom needs more jeans and I have patterns and denim and could just make them without him really noticing; Bestie is getting at least one pair of knitted socks for her birthday. That’s quite a list but if I can plan properly, it should be easily done.
  5. Draw It or Forget It. I treated myself to a Fashionary earlier this year and have not kept up using it as well as I had hoped. I tend to get these garment ideas out of nowhere and without a way to get it on paper, I forget about it. I’ve said before that my sewing queue is very fluid–and I like that–but I do want to remember what intentions I may have had for a fabric or pattern in case it was a decent plan!

So that’s it for me and my Top 5 posts this year: thanks for sticking with me! Feel free to weigh in with a comment; one of my favorite things about sewing and blogging is talking to people and making new friends!

See you all on the other side–let’s make 2017 awesome.

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Top Fives, Part 1: Hits, Misses, and Highlights!

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It’s Top 5 time again! Thanks to Gillian for hosting once again, and to everyone out there who has shared their own thoughts and data under the prompts–I look forward to reading these posts every year!

Since I always enjoy reading other people’s recaps this time of year, I figured I would share my own! I will do two separate Top 5 posts this year: one for hits, misses, and non-sewing highlights, and another for goals and reflections. I’m not a prolific enough sewer (YET.) to justify separating out those first few things, LOL! So without further ado, here we go!

Top 5 Hits

This is a tough one, because I had almost all successful projects this year. For the sake of expediency, all my Sharking is ineligible for the rankings. 😉

  1. Buffalo Check Archer – This shirt has gotten so much wear in its first few months of life! I am also a big fan of the snaps.
  2. Dude Jeans – Bragging rights + workmanship = Definite Top 5 project. I am still really proud of these jeans!
  3. Holiday Outfit – I worked with lace for the first time and powered through some mojo-busting creative challenges to get this project finished. I am very happy with the dress and know it will be worn again!
  4. Penny Raglan Trio – I’m counting these as a cluster; the rose gold and green striped versions get worn the most, but I am really glad to have all three of these tops in my wardrobe.
  5. Moss Mini Skirt – Again, this got worn quite a lot when the weather was warmer. It’s not getting worn as much now because it turns out I don’t have tights that go with navy. :-/
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Archer, Dude Jeans, Holiday Dress, Penny Trio, and Inside-Out Moss

Top Misses

As with last year, I don’t really have 5 misses in my 2016 catalog. But here are things that had issues:

  1. Penny Raglan Take 1 – Utterly unwearable; below is the only known photo of it, actually. The fabric was just too heavy for the pattern IMO and the colors were not a good look for me. I also hate the original neckline: it looks sloppy on me. Recycled.
  2. Dirty Bird Pot Holders – These are here because of Clover’s Chaco Liners, which stained the finished product and resulted in them having to be washed before I could gift them; because the fronts are paper pieced (so grainline doesn’t really matter), they warped out of their painstakingly-squared-up shapes. Fuck you, Clover Chaco Liners.
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Sad Penny, Dirty (Chalk) Bird

That leaves us with the in-between things; these things are liked (or loved!) but got overshadowed by more versatile things.

No Man’s Land

  1. Jungle January Dress – Full disclosure: I love this dress and have worn it a handful of times. It just doesn’t get “go-to dress” status because, you know, Zebra + Electric Cobalt Blue. Although I do have lipstick to match it now… 😀
  2. Kielodoscope – Love. I made it right as the warm weather started to wane though, so it didn’t get more than 2 outings this year.
  3. Sleeveless Striped Archer – Again, I love this one. It’s just highly seasonal until I can knit some baggy sweaters to wear over it in the colder weather!
  4. Dude Sweatpants, Takes 3 and 4 – Total successes, but sweatpants are not that exciting–especially when they’re a repeat! I didn’t even blog them (I did share a pic of one pair in an unrelated post, though).
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Jungle, Kielo, Archer, Sweatpants

I made 19 things this year, including 6 sharks (3 big ones, 1 medium one, and 2 miniature ones). Not bad, although the sharks certainly artificially inflate my count! The shark-adjusted sewing count stands at 13; that accounts for finished items only, and does not include anything that got pitched after completion. Not bad!

In 2015, I made 14 things; 13 of them were garments. So by that metric, I am only 1 garment short of last year’s figure (my 14th thing in 2015 was a shark; my 13th thing this year was the set of potholders). I had certainly hoped to do better than that this year, but things happen!

Speaking of things happening, that brings me to my last thing for this post: Non-Sewing Highlights!

  1. Learning to knit – Life-changing achievement, you guys. I am hooked. So far I still only make socks, but I have plans to move on to cowls and sweaters very soon! ^____^ I am very grateful to my friend Betsy for taking the time to teach me–life (and my stash) will never be the same again!
  2. Bathroom remodel – This is also a big deal, for both time and $$ reasons. Our house is 106 years old and still had the original claw-foot tub in the upstairs bath; those are nice (and highly coveted by some folks), but it just wasn’t right for us. We now have a very modern, very functional (and up-to-code!), very beautiful bathroom upstairs and it was worth every penny, every frustration, and every minute of work. I’ll share a post about it soon! (And don’t worry, the bathtub went to a good home–I would never trash such an iconic piece of our home’s history unless I had absolutely no other choice! I’m pretty sure they could take away my History degree for something like that!! 🙂 )
  3. New lappy – This blog is now brought to you on a new laptop as of May 2016! Mine was from 2006 and had survived moving from England to the US (I bought it in the UK out of necessity during my semester abroad–that currency exchange HURT, man), functioning as my sole source of television and movie entertainment for 2 years, and a metric shit-ton of pet hair/kitty stampedes/wanton dog paws and various other abuses. It even survived a hard drive wipe after being infected with a virus that attacked the core of its Windows operating system! I was used to its quirks, like the British Pound currency symbol where the # sign is (I couldn’t be bothered to change it from its original UK English settings…), but it was time to retire it; while I do miss having Windows XP, it is nice to have a fully-functioning machine again!
  4. Family – Okay, this feels like kind of a cop-out because my family is always in my life regardless of what year it is. But this year lacked the health crises of 2015, and Tom and I are hours away from celebrating both our 8th wedding anniversary and the 10th anniversary of our first date. (Awwwwwwwww.) We’ve got all three of our babes with us, and it feels like we’re in a nice groove right now. Family-wise, it’s been a really good year. 🙂
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New socks, New Bathroom!

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Awwwwwwwwwwwww

So that’s it for this portion of my Top 5! I’ll be back with my Reflections and Goals in a separate post. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Will you be sharing your 2016 round-up? Did your sewing live up to your expectations this year? What do you want to change–or keep up!–in 2017?

 

An Utterly Unnecessary Holiday Outfit

Hellooooooooo!

I hope you are all having a good holiday season so far–this time of year always seems to blow up my schedule and make me stress like it’s my job, so I for one will be glad when it’s over!!

You may remember that last year, I decided to make a fancy-ass dress for my company’s holiday party. The dress code for this party is not black tie, as you may have expected from the nature of my dress. Rather, the only real stipulation is that people are not allowed to wear jeans. Clearly, I require only the flimsiest of pretexts to go full evening wear on my colleagues! Just before last year’s event, Vogue released V9160 in their holiday collection, and I instantly knew that it would be Next Year’s Outfit. It even made my epic Planning Post for this Fall/Winter!

I bought the fabric for this during the first quarter of the year but left any actual work on it until November–bad idea. 2 weeks before my event, it was clear that some major adjustments were needed; it was a slight scramble and I had to compromise my original vision, but I got it finished. All told, the final item is nice and I felt great in it!

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V9160/Sloper Mash-Up!

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From the back! (The back necklines are symmetrical–the lace on the right side ended up with more blank space at the top, which creates the illusion that they aren’t the same. Grrrr.)

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Snow! It was also sleeting when we took these.

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‘Tude

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Note, if you will, the mirror images of the necklines–pretty proud of that one!

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Without the sash, but now with more Derp Face!

Please excuse the skirt, which had been worn the night before to my party and needs to be re-pressed and re-clappered; I ironed out the “Butt, Meet Chair” wrinkles for you, though! (And yes, I did wear that lipstick to my work party! I also wore eye makeup and some jewelry for that event, but wasn’t about to put it back on for a quick photo session. Meh.)

Fabric!

The lace for the bodice was the first thing I found: it was everything I wanted, from color (Eggplant!!) to width (WIDE) to style (double scalloped, no beads, slight metallic thread usage, beautiful cording, and no tulle backing). It’s a Nicole Miller lace and I got it from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Next, I set about finding fabric for the trousers. I chose wool/silk gabardine because it has that sheen for evening, but would be easy to work with because it’s so stable. Mood had the perfect color, but I found a very-slightly-cheaper price at Fashion Fabrics Club, so I ordered from them. This was difficult, because their website uses different names for the colors vs. Mood’s site, and their depiction of colors was much less true-to-life than Mood’s. I ended up having to return the first cut I ordered–at my cost–and re-order another color. I never thought I’d have to say this, but I should have just ordered from Mood! In the end, I got the color I wanted and it really is THE SAME FABRIC that I swatched from Mood, so whatever, lesson learned.

My rayon bemberg for underlining the bodice came from Vogue Fabrics, who I heartily recommend. I ordered a color card first, which was a massively good choice: do that. My one beef with the experience comes down to color depiction on the site (which is soooo bad in the flesh tone section of colors) and the way they stack swatches and staple them down on the card. Once you remove the staple, you’d better not shuffle your swatches around because remembering what color is what will be impossible, especially given their awful color depiction online. Not that I know anything about that…okay, I totally did that. Luckily, I could search for the color names that I *thought* I was considering and find other sites that displayed them better. Once that was done, I settled upon…*drum roll*…Beige. Corpse-y, but it matches my skin well and doesn’t detract from the lace at all.

Pattern!

The bodice of this pattern is truly wonderful: I only needed to do 1 muslin to confirm the fit (I checked the length beforehand and added what was needed). I could probably have taken it in from the bust to the waist but I didn’t want to risk Hulking out of the lace because it was too snug! The sleeve caps are a great fit for the armholes, with hardly any easing required (and this lace takes easing very, very well). They are rather fitted sleeves though, so if you plan to make this pattern, be sure to check that! And one other thing to be aware of is that this bodice’s surplice neckline is rather…booby. Really rather booby. Like, checking-my-tits-every-time-I-move booby. If I was a busty gal, this would probably have required some adjusting on the pattern itself; as it stands, I’ve got more ribs than tits so I left it as-is and opted not to put a snap there or sew it closed. The pattern calls for small shoulder pads, which I omitted; my shoulders, in my opinion, support the garment well enough on their own.

You may have noticed that there is a skirt on this outfit rather than trousers. There were issues with the pants–despite 4 muslins and getting close to a good fit and being fairly sure about what final changes needed to be made, the fashion fabric behaved so much differently than muslin that it rendered the pants unwearable and unsalvageable. :’-( And since this fabric was pricey, I only bought a smidgen more than what I needed per the pattern envelope. To say that I was crushed would be an understatement: I so badly wanted the jumpsuit from the artwork! And the shape of the trousers was so flattering and beautiful, even in muslin. I was so distraught that I took a vintage cocktail dress to a local tailor to have it hemmed, just in case I needed to wear it to my event. (Hey: that skirt was 3 layers of silk chiffon PLUS a lining, and needed to go from Midi to Mini–I wasn’t about to do that shit myself, deadline or not.) Fortunately, I was able to get a pencil skirt out of my remaining yardage and make it work–truly a Christmas miracle! 😀

Said skirt was made from my skirt sloper/moulage than I made in a class with Nina last year. I knew the darts would probably never match with the bodice, so I cut the skirt out with 3″ side seam allowances; from there, I sewed the skirt darts and then pinned the pieces to the bodice to mark where my side seams needed to be sewn to match the bodice AND fit me. Quick and dirty, yes, but it worked! I hemmed the skirt to 18.5″ from waist to hem because I think that is a flattering length on me; I kept about 2″ of hem allowance, which I felt was appropriate for this fabric and the shape of the skirt. The length allowed me to not worry about a vent, either–yay! The hem was sewn invisibly by hand.

Hilariously, *before* I cut out the skirt, I had a hell of a time with the pattern piece for the sash! It is supposed to be cut on the fold, but I had not one lay plan at my disposal that would accommodate that on what was left of my material! So to recap, I had plenty of fabric to cut out an entire emergency skirt, but not to put the sash on the fold. O_O I made it with a center back seam and honestly, I doubt anyone would think less of the dress because of that! The sash itself is not very flattering on me from the back due to my narrow back waist and the straightness of the sash, but I love the effect in the front! It adds that extra element to make the dress look “Finished.” I always prefer a buffer of some sort in dresses with contrasting tops and bottoms with a waist seam, whether it’s a belt or a waistband inset or something like that, so I am glad I went ahead with the sash!

Construction Notes

This pattern is fairly easy to put together–there aren’t very many pieces! But the lace obviously added some work because of how it needed to be underlined. I hand-basted both fronts and backs to their respective underlinings, which was great for getting the bodice put together. But it occurred to me the day before the party that I couldn’t take the basting stitches out of the surplices without replacing them somehow–the layers would separate and flap around! My solution was to prick-stitch along each surplice in my purple thread, taking care to come up through a section of lace so as to hide the stitching on the right side. It is utterly imperceptible from the outside as a result!

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Wrong side of prick stitches on surplice neckline

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Right side of the same section–can you find the stitches? xD

I didn’t have any real trouble sewing the lace; the cording got bulky quickly, as did any areas of heavier embroidery that got taken up in darts, but my machine handled it just fine. I used my straight stitch plate most of the time to prevent the feed from eating the lace, though! I used a Microtex 70/10 for the bodice by itself, and an 80/20 Universal for the wool/silk gabardine, as well as for joining the bodice and skirt together and inserting the zipper. The zipper, by the way, is longer than the pattern called for: 24″ vs. 22″. I made this decision when I was still planning on a trouser jumpsuit: due to the difference in my waist and hips, I needed more room to unzip and wiggle into the thing! This held true even with the skirt, so #noregrets. I had to call Wawak to order the zipper, because the colors on their website weren’t showing up very accurately and I had Very Serious Questions. Tanya (I think? It’s fuzzy now…) was able to understand what color I needed and give me accurate information about the choices they had; it turned out that the best match wasn’t even listed on their website in that length, but she hooked me up and I couldn’t be happier with the match.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic pattern, and I highly recommend it if jumpsuits are your thing. Just pick a drapey fabric for the trousers–or at least something with more drape than wool/silk gabardine!–and you’ll be okay! I would love to revisit this pattern another time and get my fantasy jumpsuit, but my next project will absolutely be something less stressful!

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Remembered to get one pic on Saturday…3 drinks deep and on the way home, LOL.

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This *felt* treacherous in those shoes…

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“Talk to the fabulous lace-clad hand…”

Have you made a holiday outfit this year? If you’ve ever sewn with lace, how did it go?