2015 Reflections and 2016 Goals

Welcome! Consider this my version of a “Top 5” post, if you will. (And thanks to Gillian for masterminding this recap series–it’s been such fun to read everybody’s posts these last few weeks!)

Had I been more productive in 2015, I would have done the whole Top 5 shebang. **Actually, after looking it up, I finished 14 things in 2015–that’s 2.3333333 times¬†as many as I finished in 2014!!!!! I am awed.**

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So in light of this BRAND NEW INFORMATION, here are my Top 5 Sewn Projects of 2015:

  1. Marfy 3093, Version 1.0
  2. True Bias Men’s Hudson Pants
  3. Marfy 3093, Version 2.0
  4. BHL Anna Dress
  5. McCall 7103 (aka Sherk, aka Dunuh)
    Honorable Mention: Style Arc Tamara Top
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Marfy 3093

The first iteration of the Marfy pattern has been worn so many times that I have lost count–nearly once per week since being finished! I think it is my best work to date (sorry, Anna dress) and I am really proud of it. Isn’t it awesome to fill a hole in your wardrobe that you didn’t realize existed??

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Men’s Hudson Pants

I guess this is sort of cheating, since the pants weren’t for me, but seriously: Tom wears a pair of his Hudsons every. single. day. When both pairs went into the washer this past weekend, he ruefully put on a RTW pair of sweats and kept asking if laundry was done yet. He is eager for at least one more pair, so I know they’re a hit!

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Marfy 3093 #2

Marfy 2.0 is also wonderful, but I don’t reach for it quite as often simply because my work wasn’t as excellent as on 1.0. (And I also got pizza on it the last time I wore it–I KNOW–and have washed it, but still have to re-starch and iron the collar before I can wear it again. I am nothing if not lazy.) But it is much-loved and does get worn!

Anna Dress-70

Anna Dress

Ah, the Anna dress…I love that I got it done and that I was able to wear it. The flaws in it–and trust me, they are flaws–are unnoticeable to most people, and the fabric is BEYOND amazing, so I won’t be dissuaded from wearing it to future formal events.

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SHERK

SHERK! I love this thing more than a 30-year-old ought to love a giant stuffed animal, but I can’t help it. He will be the first of a handful of these, I’m sure; I’ve already agreed to make one for a co-worker’s granddaughter for her 2nd birthday. I am just glad that my friends and their son enjoy the shark so much–that’s such a great feeling!

tamara flick

Tamara Top

The Tamara top gets a lot of wear when the weather is cool/cold (solid polyester + snug fit = cold seasons only). It was definitely a good addition to my wardrobe this year!

And now, my Top Fails or Misses:

  1. Named Shadi Skirt 1.0
  2. Named Inari/Shadi Scuba Set-acular
  3. BHL Anna Dress
shadi skirt 2

Shadi Knit Skirt

Obviously this Shadi skirt is my biggest fail of the year–it was literally unwearable in polite society. I did wear it to the first night of my sloper class (Nina said to wear something tight for measuring, and I knew EXACTLY what to put on!), but after that it was unceremoniously cut up, the elastic salvaged, and the scraps of skirt thrown away. Womp womp.

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Shadi Skirt + Inari Top

I dearly wanted to love this set. REALLY wanted to love it. But I never, ever wore it. ūüė¶ The crop top is fine on its own, but I don’t have enough slim-fitting, high-waist bottoms to pair with it for office-appropriate outfit building. “But Mads,” you’re probably thinking, “isn’t that why you made the matching skirt?” Why yes, dear reader, it is. But I just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of wearing such a tight skirt in public. I’m no prude–I despise “modesty” doctrines, etc.–but I just felt very self-conscious in it. (That’s right: even scrawny people can have body confidence issues!) The skirt is STILL unhemmed. It’s such a shame, because that incredible fabric deserved better. ūüė¶ Maybe 2016 will be the year I get over it and wear at least one part of the set…

Anna Dress-27

Anna Dress, with accurate facial expression of my feelings

Come on, guys: Anna had to make this list. Even if I wear the dress, love the fabric, and got tons of compliments on it at the party I wore it to, I cannot pretend that the flaws aren’t there. I see them every time I look at the dress. It is what it is.

No Man’s Land

Neither of my 2 Inari Dresses made these lists because they fell into that weird middle ground of being worn sometimes but not constantly; they’re neither hits nor misses, I guess! Vintage Simplicity 1281 didn’t make the lists either, but it got worn pretty regularly. My only complaint about that one is the fabric, whose favorite thing to do is still wrinkle. My Anna skirt got a lot of wear in the summer months, but is definitely a seasonal item when you live in OH!

I¬†think that’s everything from 2015!

Goals:

Last year, I did something very similar to what I’m about to do: laid out vague goals–big picture items, if you will–to strive for in the coming year. I do have a project queue, but it gets edited all the time, fabrics get reassigned to other theoretical projects, and stuff definitely “cuts” the line regularly. I prefer to let my inspiration be my spirit guide on this peyote fabric-fueled journey through the creative realm rather than make prescriptions. That being said, here are a few general things I’d like to be able to say I did in 2016:

  1. LIMIT THE BUYING. I don’t mean RTW–I’ve been unofficially RTW fasting for almost 2 years. I mean fabric shopping. I have so much fabric that storing it has literally become a problem. A problem I cannot solve unless: A.) we win the lottery and buy an entire IKEA warehouse and/or a bigger house, or B.) I sew through some yardage. I know which of those is more realistic, so I’m going with that. I LOVE sewing, and now that I have more free time to devote to it, I am hoping to make some real headway here in 2016. This was among my goals for 2015, and I failed very badly.
  2. Fill wardrobe gaps. I still lack tops/blouses in a way that really limits me, and more pants wouldn’t hurt either.
  3. Make some activewear/outerwear things for myself. I need these things, but not in a “SEW THIS FIRST!!!!!!!” sort of way. But it would be fun and different for me, for sure.
  4. Dude sewing. Tom has a long list of things he needs and/or wants, and while he does not expect me to make him a wardrobe, it is something I want to do.
  5. Lingerie. I need bras that fit, and I am trying to go pad-free. (Which, in my approx.¬†30A size, is damn-near impossible to find in a store.) I have what I need to get started, and I’m hoping this is my year. Underpants would be nice too, but those I can just buy if it comes down to it.
  6. Keep up with the sewing spreadsheet I started late in 2015. I am recording fabric and patterns that I have, fabric I would like to buy for a specific project I have in mind (and where to find it), a project queue (this changes depending on my mood or inspiration, but it does help get my creative juices flowing), and a selfless sewing idea list. The fabric and queue are the most up-to-date tabs so far.

Reflections: 

Non-sewing stuff in 2015 was a definite mixed bag. We nearly lost Tycho, but his amazing vets saved his life. (Talk about emotional whiplash…) I got promoted. I had braces, but they came off in March. I got bad family news. I made new friends. I took a leave of absence from my vintage job. (That one counts as both a high AND a low–I cherish the store and the family I have there, but my body couldn’t cope with my schedule any longer.) Overall, things could have been so much worse, and I feel lucky to have made it through another year.

I did spend a lot more time in my sewing room in 2015 vs. 2014, not least of all because my work schedule is now strictly a 1-job situation. My output doubled (!!!!!!) from 2014 to 2015, but I did accomplish much more than the final tally for 2015 would suggest: my patternmaking classes resulted in an increase in knowledge and understanding of my craft, and I have lots of bits and pieces from those sessions hanging around. Those classes really changed my life, adding new skills and friends that I never knew I needed but now could never do without. I can only hope that 2016 is a continuation of these good things, and hope that this new year brings you all health, happiness, and peace in whatever form it may take. ‚̧

Better Pictures Project* (And Also Another Marfy 3093)

*Disclaimer: this LONG post is mostly about improving the photos I post to this blog, but it does feature a new sewn garment as well. It’s just that the photos and talky words will have more to do with photography and less to do with sewing than usual. Additionally:¬†I am probably not the target audience for Gillian’s awesome series, since I have a partner to take my photos and we use a cell phone and not a camera, but her September homework inspired me. =)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Since we last met, your intrepid blogger has managed to turn 30–WOO HOO I MADE IT!!!!!!!!!¬†I’m excited for this new chapter of my life;¬†this is the first fresh decade that I have kicked off¬†knowing exactly who I am and feeling good about that person, and it’s a great feeling. Not bad, eh? ūüôā

I have also been sewing as much as I can, and I am trying desperately to keep up with my massive blog roll (Bloglovin’ makes it so easy to follow a billion-and-three blogs, and then I end up with the dreaded 99+ unread icon…), which helps explain my belated interest in Gillian’s Better Pictures Project. She has been posting lots of really helpful information for anyone looking to¬†improve their photography skills and make their blogs that much better. Now, per my disclaimer above, I not only do not have an actual camera, I have a personal paparazzi to help me; as such, I read the camera settings posts and thought they were interesting and helpful, but just not something I could incorporate into my life right now. But then the September “homework” came along: find a new TNT photo location close to home. THAT, friends, was something we could handle! I knew there was a public park comprised of a ravine and its surrounding wooded area within walking distance of¬†the house, so we went location scouting (with Mulder in tow, naturally) one Saturday morning in September. You guys, I might never take photos in our backyard ever again!

So we had a new awesome location ready to go, but we were missing one crucial element: a finished thing. (This is still a sewing blog, you know…) So I got Tom all wound up about taking these photos in an idyllic location and then basically gave him photography blue-balls by taking forever to finish my new shirt. But whatever, I don’t need to explain my art to him!!!!!

*Ahem*

Finally, I finished the damn shirt. And then it got cold and rainy here in Ohio, which meant that going down into a ravine was probably only going to result in one or both of us winning a Darwin Award rather than any blog-worthy photos, so we waited. Then this Sunday, the weather gods shined down upon us with sunshine and mild Fall temperatures!

Bird Mural

Bird Mural

Fashion is about climbing on stuff, right?

Fashion is about climbing on stuff, right?

Senior portrait pose

Senior portrait pose

One of our favorites of the day...

One of our favorites of the day…

Side view + some nature

Side view + some nature

Another favorite!

Another favorite!

A back view

A back view

I wish I could fit in this pipe!

I wish I could fit in this pipe!

Using props to our advantage

Using props to our advantage

The shirt really pops!

This amazing slate wall made the best backdrop of all!

This amazing slate wall made the best backdrop of all!

The color of the shirt really pops in these!

Gotta use a bridge when it's there!

Gotta use a bridge when it’s there!

A walk-away shot on the way back to the car

A walk-away shot on the way back to the car

(Really quick note: every photo in this post was taken on a cell phone with no filter or settings adjustments.)

The blouse is another Marfy 3093. I LOVE this pattern, you guys! This time I made it in a hammered silk (I bought it from the same lady who sold me the chambray I used for Marfy 1.0) and while I did a decent job, there are things I wish had gone better. I should have listened to my gut and done a starch or gelatin treatment first, because this stuff got shifty. But overall, I am very happy with the result. I used some precious vintage shell buttons ca. 1930’s and they’re perfect for this shirt. The only thing I did differently to V 1.0 was to leave off the pocket flaps (and accompanying buttons) and remember to french seam the front shoulder seams. I am done with this pattern for the time being–it’s a pretty unique shirt, after all–and will be moving on to other stuff in my FW ’15/16 queue.

My only regret about these photos is the way I styled myself and the blouse. In person, I totally looked like an extra from a 1990’s music video from the waist up!! It was mostly my makeup (lipstick, in particular) combined with the shiny finish of the shirt–both looked great on their own merits, but together they weren’t what I was going for AT ALL! Hopefully that doesn’t come across in the photos to people who aren’t me, but I certainly can’t un-see it, LOL!

Yeah yeah, we get it: but what about the Better Pictures Project thing? Here’s what we did:

So, I’m biased, but these are without a doubt the best photos I’ve ever posted to this blog. We chose a¬†time of day¬†(10:30AM) with plenty of natural light–critical in such a heavily wooded and earthy area–and the added benefit of next to no foot or bike traffic, since it was a Sunday. You may have noticed¬†the distinct absence of a Mulder cameo in these photos. ūüė¶ Ultimately, it just wasn’t a good idea to try to have him along while we were climbing around on slippery rocks and earthen banks and focusing so much on the quality of the composition and lighting. He really loves this park (he “helped” scout, after all!) so we will take him back again, just not when it’s “Mommy Daddy Happy Photo Time.”¬†And you guys, we haven’t even been to the entire park yet!!! Endless possibilities for the entire family. ūüėÄ

So Phase 1: know when and where to go, and when to leave the dog at home.

Phase 2: Challenges

I think we really did a good job of achieving most of our goals for this conscious attempt at improving our pictures. Obviously the primary objective–finding a TNT photo location close to home–was achieved, and we’re thrilled about that! We knew we wanted to¬†incorporate¬†the features of our site as much as possible, and I think we did that pretty¬†well. There were some areas we would have liked to use more, but either the lighting wasn’t working out or the extra water from the rain the day before made it too annoying or hazardous to attempt what we had in mind. The bird tunnel is a prime example of a lighting issue: in real life, there was lots of light pouring into the tunnel from outside, but that did not translate to the photos. The shot I posted above is the one and only workable shot we got from that site, and it’s pretty dark (and I’m fucking slouching…grrrrr)! Another issue we ran into was my dislike/fear of nature–I do NOT do nature, folks. I am a strictly indoor nerd. So there were some points during the shoot where I was eager to get out of the setup because OMG THE NATURE IS TOUCHING ME AND CHRIST ON SALE IS THAT A BUG?!?!?, which translated to stiff poses and short sittings. And, like any sensible human who wants to live, I was not super keen on the slippery-ness of some of our settings due to the rain; that, unlike my seething hatred of the great outdoors, will not always be the case, thankfully.

Phase 3: It’s not you, it’s me

Tom, bless him, has really found a love for taking photos by helping me with this blog. He even wants to get a proper camera at some point! He probably has more fun than I do on these shoots!! Tom¬†is a great amateur photographer, IMO. In addition to having a great eye and¬†tons of creativity, he is adventurous and very willing to roll with whatever happens while we’re shooting, which makes for a relatively easy and fun experience. It also leads to some unexpectedly awesome photos and settings! What he needs, frankly, is a better model. I really have to work on feeling comfortable in front of a camera: I never know what to do with my body!! I feel like I look uncomfortable and awkward most of the time, and I want to change that. I need to work on poses that feel natural enough to me while still looking interesting; I’m not necessarily going for editorial here, but I do want to take cool, creative photos of me faffing about in my handmade clothes, so whatever. I need to practice my poses and faces before we go out for a shoot, and perhaps invest in some practice time with Tom to see how things photograph before the “real deal” gets underway.¬†Do any of you have suggestions for or advice on posing for photos? Do you ever feel awkward having your photo taken?

Here are a few ton more from our shoot: enjoy! And seriously, please weigh in with how you think we did: input is welcome and appreciated!

Inception: Blog Photography Edition

Inception: Blog Photography Edition

Admiring the nature from a safe distance

Admiring the nature from a safe distance

Much casual. Wow.

Much casual. Wow.

Branchy branch

Branchy branch

Pensive walking

Pensive walking

Probably shouldn't have touched that water, tbh...

Probably shouldn’t have touched that water, tbh…

I got my silk shirt dirty for this one. O_o

I got my silk shirt dirty for this one. O_o

"Mads" in the wild

“Mads” in the wild

Reflection

Reflection

"Fabric Sale Ahoy!"

“Fabric Sale Ahoy!”

There's a smile!

There’s a smile!

Camera-shy

Camera-shy

I totally match my living room. #sorrynotsorry

“Mads” for Marfy 3093 (aka B*tch Made A Button-Up)

Howdy, internet people!

I have a thing to show off–hooray! This particular thing is one¬†I’m rather proud of, because it’s from a Marfy pattern. Marfy, if you are uninitiated, is a line of patterns that tend to be the purview of more adventurous and/or advanced sewers. They can be purchased in a few ways: via the Vogue website (not all Marfy patterns are available that way), the Marfy website (again, not exhaustive), or by ordering their annual catalog (see Marfy’s website). When you order, you get only one size; the pattern arrives pre-cut, folded into a rectangular packet. The kicker? No seam allowances, no hem allowances, and NO INSTRUCTIONS. You’ll get markings for grainlines, notches, buttonholes, etc., and a few hints as to where certain pieces attach to one another, but that’s it. Apart from that, Marfy tend to offer beyond-a-beginner patterns, and some of their stuff is really complex. Their bridal patterns are legendary. Once I saw a version of this blouse–3093–at¬†poppykettle, I knew I had to have it. A few weeks ago I bought a big piece of heavier-than-average chambray at a lady’s stash sale for $3 with this pattern in mind–behold!

Front--plenty of buttons!

Front–plenty of buttons!

A better view of those sleeve tabs

A better view of those sleeve tabs

Back view; how about that curved yoke??? <3

Back view; how about that curved yoke??? ‚̧

Full-length shot

Full-length shot

Hanging out with my shirt and my blurry dog...

Hanging out with my shirt and my blurry dog…

I made a straight size 42 in this pattern with no adjustments whatsoever, apart from some extra length at the bottom. (I did make a muslin first.) 42 is the smallest Marfy size this pattern comes in, and even though a 40 would be closer to my measurements, I ended up liking the roominess of this size.

I’m going to come right out and say it: this pattern was not difficult! I think that’s down to the fact that this isn’t one of their more advanced patterns, like a cocktail or bridal dress; I mean, my skills have improved quite a bit since I finished my first-ever garment back in 2013 (which, OMG, simultaneously seems like it was yesterday and forever ago!), but I am not prepared to give myself that much credit for this pattern¬†resulting in a great shirt. The drafting was absolutely excellent, which is in line with Marfy’s reputation. One word of warning though, if you feel like making this exact pattern: it is LOW. LOWWWWWWW. Camisoles are mandatory, folks. Unless of course you have a life and/or job where your bra and tits are¬†allowed to show their faces at will, in which case, I fucking envy you.

My

My “My tits should not be this close to showing in public” face.

I even wore my loudest bra–blue leopard!–for this shoot, thinking it would show up when I demo’d the low front. And while my bra decided to be camera-shy, trust me: we were close. Tom made sure to note that any time I moved, he could see it. So keep this in mind if you pursue 3093.

**WARNING: Word dump imminent.**

So, even though I am inclined to give the exceptional pattern most of the credit today, I did take quite a lot of care with this project. We’re talking chalk outlines, thread-tracing those chalk outlines, and¬†marking¬†all important items with a different thread color: think buttonholes, the roll line for the lower collar, the shoulder position (which was very necessary because of the yoke–no shoulder seam!), which side of the sleeve was the front, pocket placements, etc. After¬†all that, I went through and added seam allowances with my seam gauge. I did 5/8″ everywhere, to facilitate french seams. I added 1″ of sleeve hem allowance and 1 1/2″ of body hem allowance. The bias hem facing only ate about 1/2″ of that, which is good because I needed that extra 1″ or so.

I drafted a back neck facing–the pattern does NOT have one–for a cleaner finish in that spot, and I am very pleased with how that worked. The undercollar got put on the bias to ensure a good roll. I interfaced the upper collar, but kept my interfacing out of the seam allowances. Looking back, I sort of wish I had interfaced the front facings as well, but I gave those roll lines a good press and am happy with how they sit. This, along with the above paragraph, was all stuff I did before sewing one stitch on the machine! Needless to say, this project felt like it took forever and I expended a lot of mental energy making sure my prep work was up to scratch. And it’s just a chambray¬†shirt!!! ūüôā But it’s a¬†Marfy¬†chambray shirt, so I wanted to make sure I gave myself every chance to be successful. Which reminds me: PRESS YOUR SHIT, guys. It’s so important and it makes a huge difference. I pressed every. single. seam. I sewed on this blouse and was amazed at how much more professional everything looked once that step was done.

When it comes to construction, I did my french seams nearly everywhere that I intended to, with the yoke seams at the front being my most shameful exception. No good excuse for that one, guys–I got really caught up in making sure those front pleats faced the right way and utterly forgot to french that area. The back yoke was another tricky spot, so I just pressed¬†the yoke seam allowance under and edgestitched that motherfucker. The armscyes are another area I didn’t french, but that was according to plan–I didn’t feel like messing with that, frankly. I know it’s possible, but I felt like I’d done my fair share of tedious bullshit for this shirt already. For all these un-frenched areas, I zig-zagged the seam allowances close to the stitching line and trimmed them down. I tell myself that, from far away, it looks like serger stitches. LOLOLOL. ūüėČ

The only photo I have of the innards, for some reason

The only photo I have of the innards, for some reason

As for instructions, I double-checked myself only one time (yay!), and that was to make sure I sewed the sleeve tabs to the appropriate side of the sleeve, since I’d never made them before this. They go on the inside and your buttons go on the outside, FTR. ūüôā (The post I referred to was on Dixie DIY; I literally just needed to know which side of the sleeve to sew the tabs to, and one look at the post of hers that came up on Google made it obvious. Yay!) If you have some solid garment construction experience, and especially if you’ve ever successfully done a collar and facing insertion, you can absolutely handle this blouse. Although, if anyone wants to know what I did here (order of construction, etc.), just ask in the comments and I’ll share. I just didn’t want to make this textbook of a post any longer than it is already!

I guess the moral of the story here, apart from “Mads has a new shirt to parade around in, hooray!”, is that you should not be afraid to try something just because you know it might be hard. Maybe don’t start with¬†fabric that has sentimental value or that you would be sad to ruin, but just get in there and try things. As long as you learn something, it was probably worth doing. If you get to a point with your sewing where you think, “Gosh, this pattern seems difficult,¬†but I feel like I could do that,” then DO IT. Personally, even though I think this pattern was simple enough for me to tackle, I felt AMAZING when I looked at the finished¬†shirt and realized that I had done a good job on a Marfy pattern. Finishing this project has even made me reconsider how I “rate” my skills…I have always considered myself a beginner, but I’m wondering now if I have finally surpassed that classification.¬†Do you categorize your sewing skills this way? Did you have that “ah-ha!” moment when you realized you had crossed over to the next level?

We had another great shoot for this blouse–Tom really likes taking photos!–so here are some extras. (And seriously, I say “shoot,” but this whole process took 15 minutes at most.) Some are silly, some are “arty,” and one of them (of me, mid-strip down) is both. ūüôā

“Haven’t you guys ever seen an album cover? You’re supposed to be standing in random places, looking away like you don’t care!”

“Dude, what were we doing again?”

“Mulder, come here!!”

“Good boy!!!!”

Is my dog the only one obsessed with lipstick??

Is my dog the only one obsessed with lipstick??

My dog should be a model...

My dog should be a model…

Sunbeam

Sunbeam

Artful strip-down: A Lifetime Original Movie

Artful Sunset Stripping: A Lifetime Original Movie

What, you mean you don't flit around your house like this??

What, you mean you don’t flit around your house like this??

If you’re still with me, thanks so much for checking in with my silliness–see you soon! ‚̧

Supplies:

Approx. 2-2.5 yds chambray
9 plastic buttons in two sizes (courtesy of a lovely sewing friend)
Marfy 3093
White Gutermann polyester thread