Saturday, April 25, 2015

Colette Pastille First Muslin

Now that we are in spring, I have been feeling more inclined to sew.  Fall and winter are for knitting, spring and summer are for sewing.  I made a denim Miette (from Tilly and the Buttons; more on that later) and now I am working on the Pastille dress from the Colette Sewing Handbook*.  I just finished my first muslin and it is the epitome of why you should start with a muslin:  it looks terrible.  Baggy, the waistline is wrong, I may have cut out the wrong size bodice and the hips look funky.  It is so fugly, I was tempted to abandon the idea of making the Pastille altogether.  Half an hour later, though, I remembered why I started sewing this dress in the first place, even though I really have little need for a sheath dress:  I need to practice sewing.

I'm a firm believer in developing new skills and common sense says that the only way to get any better at them is to practice.  With every other skill I've cultivated, I have understood that I will need to practice before I will be any good at it, but with sewing, however, common sense seems to fly out the window.  I want to be good at it right now and if I'm not, I don't want to do it.  I've been trying to figure out why I'm so resistant to the idea that I will need to make an unspecified and probably rather large number of terrible garments before I will be able to make lovely ones and I think I've come up with a couple of reasons.

1.  Fabric isn't cheap and making a garment that goes straight into the trash feels like throwing away money.  I know some people obtain cheap fabric by buying old sheets or fabric at flea markets, yard sales, and second hand stores and all I can think is:  those people must have more time than I do.  I have yet to find old sheets at the goodwill near me, much less fabric yardage and so would need to visit several of these stores many times in order to get the cheap fabric and frankly, it's hard enough for me to find time to do laundry frequently enough to keep my family of three people in clean clothes.

2.  The only way to know if I have been successful in my sewing is to try the garment on.  This involves a whole lot of time looking at myself wearing something awful.  It's like going jeans shopping with the added downer that it is my fault the garment doesn't fit.  A dress form would likely help, but I can't afford one at the moment and I live in a very small apartment.  I think I might have to throw out the vacuum cleaner in order to have space in the closet for a dress form and since we have wall-to-wall carpeting and a toddler, that would not be a good idea.  Leaving a dress form out all the time is not an option, even if I could find a spot where we weren't tripping over it (see also:  destructive habits of a three year old).

If only I had a set of disembodied
hands to help me with fitting.
So, the only way to get better at sewing is to spend money and put on clothes that make me look like I'm wearing a sack.  Oh, and become a contortionist in order to do things like "pinch out fullness" on my muslin while I'm wearing it (I'm looking at you, swayback adjustment).  Recently, I've decided that I'm just going to have to suck it up, swallow my pride, and just make a bunch of ugly, ill-fitting garments so that I can one day make beautiful, well-fitting clothes that I love.  To that end, I decided to start working my way through the patterns I already own using the fabric I already own.  I'm fairly good at making an A-line skirt and a Renfrew-style t-shirt, so now it's time to work on woven dresses and tops.  Once I feel pretty confident about those, I might even start working on making that most dreaded of all garments, the Waterloo of home sewists everywhere:  pants.**

Before tracing the pattern for the Pastille dress, I took my measurements, added a little ease, and compared the end result to the finished measurements of the dress and chose what size(s) to trace.  Based on measurements, it seemed like I needed one size for the upper body and then grade out to a larger size for the waist.  Trying on the muslin, my waist looks rather baggy and sad, so clearly I added too much to the waist.  Also, the front waistline of the bodice was about an inch above my actual natural waist and the back waistline appeared to be nearly two inches below my natural waist.  After doing some Google searches on the Pastille dress, I found that many people have also had too much length in the back of their muslin and one or two have also had the front of the bodice be too short at the same time.

So, my current plan is to throw out my first muslin and start the second one by first tracing a smaller size bodice.  Then, I'm going to actually measure my torso from my shoulder to my waistline going through my bust apex and measure paper pattern at the same point (something I should have done in the beginning) and add length to the bodice front pattern piece.  For the back, I'm going to attempt to get my husband to measure my back length.*** Then, I'll again measure the paper pattern piece and shorten it accordingly.  For now, I'm not going to mess with the skirt, just fit the bodice. Once I have a nice fitting bodice, I'll work on the skirt which I anticipate will need a swayback adjustment.


*Funny story:  my copy is signed twice!  I bought it from the Colette website so it came to me signed and then I got a chance to meet Sarai at a book signing/meetup in Oakland and she signed it for me in person

**And by pants I mean trousers, not underwear, although I've got a bunch of old t-shirts sitting in a pile, waiting for me to make underwear out of them

**As a scientist, you would think something as simple as taking a tape measure and determining the length of an object would be relatively easy for him, but as soon as you make that object a living thing, he gets confused (to be fair, he's a physicist, not a biologist, so living things confuse him--think of him as a cross between Sheldon and Leonard from Big Bang Theory).

Friday, July 11, 2014

Unfortunately, it never occurs to me to write a blog post these days.  That is, I think, "Wow, I haven't written a post in a long time," often enough but that thought is never followed with, "I think I'll write an update right now."  It's far easier to spend my time wandering around pinterest or looking at other blogs!

So, what have I been up to?

I made knitting needle cases for a swap on swap-bot.  My partner was a mortician and interested in death culture, so I found some fabric with skulls and skeletons to use.

There was Christmas, which I mentioned in my last post.

There was Easter for which I made a dress for Cate (finishing around 3AM Easter morning).

We went to Boston to see J's parents and to leave C with them while we went to...


A child-free vacation, our first since Cate was born 2.5 years ago.

Then, we went to Iowa to help my family get my grandmother's house ready to sell (Grandma moved to assisted living).

So, not a lot of time for sewing recently and I rarely feel like knitting during the summer.  

Instead of playing with yarn and cloth, I've become more interested in writing letters, mail art, and sending unusual objects in the mail.  Did you know that you can put anything that weighs 13 oz or less in the mail as is and as long as it has proper postage, the USPS will deliver it?  Recently, I sent this pineapple cup as is--straw, leaves, and all--through the mail.  Inside I put a plastic flower lei.  Both cup and lei were from the dollar store.  All arrived safe and sound at their destination.  :)  I haven't decided what my next shipping experiment will be.

So far, my attempts at mail art include making envelopes from old calendars and children's workbooks from the dollar store and decorating envelopes with washi tape, stamps, markers, stickers, and whatever other embellishments I can find.  It's been fun to play with scissors, paper, and glue again.

Finally, I made my first two Artist Trading Cards for a swap on to be mailed tomorrow.  I'm a little nervous because I do not especially consider myself an artist, per se, but I hope my partner will like my efforts.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Our tree

Lorenzo's new favorite spot

Handmade ornament for Cate

Christmas in California!

Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reflections on being a beginning sewist, indie pattern companies, and product support

Life got in the way a little and prevented me from moving forward on the Red Velvet Sewalong for awhile, but I'm happy to say I've completed through Day 5--Hooray!  This means I've:
Hey, I figured out how to do a three stitch zig-zag!

  • done the Deep Bust Adjustment and added longer sleeves to the bodice
  • cut out my fabric
  • stabilized and sewed my shoulder seams
  • attached the facing and topstitched it to the bodice
I wasn't totally happy with my topstitching, at first, and was considering ripping it out, but then I looked at it again the next day and decided it was fine.  The fabric crept a little on the top as I was stitching, which made it look a little skewed.  But, then I decided it didn't look bad (and certainly not bad enough to keep me from wearing it), so I decided to move on.  In the videos accompanying the sewalong, Steph shows how she uses steam a seam on that part which I'm sure keeps the fabric from creeping.  I didn't have any, so I didn't do that step.  Next time, I will (I haven't even finished this dress and I'm already planning another one!).

My mom was visiting last week and I showed her the pattern and we talked about the price difference between indie patterns and buying a Big 4 pattern from Joann's.  It's true that indie patterns are much more expensive than what you would pay for, say, a Simplicity dress pattern.  I like supporting small businesses (especially those owned by women), and I recognize that a higher price is something that goes along with buying from a small business.  Not everyone has an interest in going out of their way to support small businesses, though, and some prefer to save money on buying their patterns and spend it on more expensive fabric instead and I can appreciate that point of view.


You are never, ever going to get the sort of product support on a Big 4 pattern that you can get on an indie pattern in general and on the Cake patterns in particular.  Never.  Maybe, if you are an experienced sewist, that doesn't make much of a difference to you, but if you are a beginner, well, the videos accompanying the sewalong are worth the price of the pattern all by themselves.  And, on top of that, you can upload images of your project to the flickr Sewalong group and if you are having a problem, the designer herself will help you sort it out.  Frankly, this is pure gold, and this is what my mother and I ended up talking about.

I am quite lucky in that:  1) my mother is quite good at sewing, and 2) when I decided to learn to sew and bought a machine, my mother helped me make a dress from start to finish.  This meant that I learned a whole bunch of very basic things right at the very beginning and had enough confidence (and knowledge) to make a few skirts and kid's clothes on my own.  I'm also unlucky in that my mother lives half a continent away and so, after that initial lesson, I was mostly on my own.  That's where the product support, sewalongs, etc. come in.  

I know I'm not alone in this.  There's a large number of beginning sewists who have nobody nearby to help them learn to sew and improve their sewing.  Maybe they don't live near family or if they do, nobody in their family sews.  The online sewing community has been instrumental in helping people in those circumstances, and sewalongs (led by the pattern designer or another experienced sewist) are invaluable.  I'm very grateful that they exist and I hope to join more sewalongs in the future!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

RV Sewalong--Getting ready

Hot Date 

In preparation for the sewalong, I took my measurements and then roughly cut out the pattern pieces I'm going to be using from the pattern paper and ironed them.  It appears as though I will need to do a Deep Bust Alteration since there is 3 5/8 inches of difference between my bodice length and the pattern piece length!

Tomorrow, I plan on tracing the pattern pieces in addition to whatever we need to do for the sewalong.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Sewing Along

I've signed up for the Red Velvet Sewalong!

Red Velvet Sewalong Esme House 

Cake patterns is hosting a sewalong for the new Red Velvet pattern.  They've divided everyone into three houses (I'm in Esme) based on the names of the models on the pattern envelope.  There's a points system and a prize and a Flikr group and all sorts of stuff.

This is the first pattern sewalong I've done and I'm super excited about it.  I'm hoping that the 30 minutes a day of sewing during the sewalong turns into 30 minutes a day of sewing after the sewalong, too.  The sewalong will give me some accountability in that you get points by showing progress pix and for finishing an object (a Red Velvet dress or clutch or Espresso leggings).  This is going to be a good time to start the sewalong, too.  My husband, John, will be home on the 11th for Veteran's day so I'll be able to work on some of the Espresso leggings before the actual sewing starts for the Red Velvet dress (Day 1 is getting all of your materials together and choosing size and fabric).  On Sat., the 16th, John will be leaving town and my mom will be flying in.  Mom sewed many of my clothes when I was little so it will be great having another sewist around during the sewalong--she can help me figure things out if I get stuck.  :)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Ginger #2

 I finished my second Ginger skirt.

Pattern:  Ginger from Colette
Fabric:  Cotton stretch sateen from Joann's
Notions:  1 invisible zipper and a grossgrain ribbon for trim at the bottom
Modifications:  Used a contour waistband pattern piece I made for my first Ginger, raised the hem a few inches, and added some ribbon as trim.

Actually, I finished it quite some time ago.  I was going to add some ribbon to the waistband and it's been hanging in my closet with the ribbon pinned to it.  Sunday morning, I was desperate for some clean clothes so I pulled all of the pins out and put it on.  Perhaps I'll add the ribbon sometime in the future.

Part of the reason this skirt has been hanging in my closet without being either finished or worn is that it didn't fit right.  I gained weight in between making my first Ginger and the second and so the waistband was too tight to wear a little below my natural waist like I wanted, instead it sat at my waist.  And, because I raised the hem, it was too short when it was sitting at my natural waist.  So, it sat in my closet, waiting for me to either take out the hem and lengthen it or give it away.

My experience with this skirt is one of the things that prompted me to start exercising and start eating better. It wasn't a long time between the time I finished my first Ginger and my second and yet I had still gained enough weight in that time for the skirt to not fit right (the 1st Ginger was longer so even though it sat higher on my waist that I would have liked, it didn't seem too short).  I've been steadily gaining around 5 lbs a year for the past 10 years.  This is not something I wanted to continue!  So, I've been eating twice as many fruits and veggies as I had been, drinking three times as much water (seriously, I was terribly dehydrated before!), and watching my portion sizes.  Now this skirt fits like I want it to!

Obligatory self-portrait in the mirror
Question:  does modeling your finished projects ever get any easier, or does it always feel awkward?  I always feel like a bit of a dork having my husband take random photos of me.  I'm not a center of attention kind of person.  I've heard having a tripod and a remote helps but I only have a point and shoot camera.  I can get a tripod for it, but not a remote, and the timer gets old real fast.  Any suggestions?