Practical sewing.

image

Today for Me Made May I wore the same Comino Cap dress as the other day because I did laundry yesterday and it’s my new favorite. I also wore a self-made apron while I was baking earlier.

I probably wear this apron more frequently than any other handmade item I have — usually every day. I wear it while cooking and while doing dishes and other chores. There was a fad for apron making a few years ago, but most people were making frothy half aprons, which look great in a retro sort of way, but do very little in practical terms. A good apron has to cover your clothes to save them, after all.

I traced off an old apron to make the pattern for this one, and used two layers of quilting cotton instead of one of canvas. (I’ve also made reversible aprons this way.) I used purchased twill tape for the neck and ties, so it was even easier to make. I love that such a simple item gets so much use!

My friend Tanzy came for tea today, so I made bannocks and a hot black eyed pea dip. We also had the refrigerator pickles I made on Thursday, and the blueberry freezer jam I made yesterday. It has been a busy week in my kitchen! I really do enjoy cooking and baking when my energy level permits it. I get a little self-conscious baking for Tanzy, though — she trained as a pastry chef. Today she brought a meringue roulade to share!

But we had a nice chat, and my apron got yet a little more use. (And I made the Hello Kitty tablecloth, too.)

image

This pattern has Comino Cap-tured my heart.

image

*Groan!* What a terrible pun, am I right? Aren’t you glad Me Made May allowed me to force such dreadful wordplay upon you? Of course you are.

I now totally get why sewing bloggers  went bananas for this pattern when it came out. The t-shirt is great, and the dress is marvelous.

I graded out at the waist and hips again, shortened the bodice by two inches, and added several inches to the skirt’s length. I seem to add length to everything these days, despite being only 5’2″. I’ve got nothing against short skirts on others, but I’m 40-mumble years old and I work in accounting. I’m not wearing anything much above knee level to work. From a stylistic perspective I prefer midi length, anyway — I think it’s more elegant.

Yes, this is the same fabric I used for the tee. Unoriginal, sure — but at least I knew it would work well. I got both the tee and the dress out of 3 yards, even with all that extra length in the skirt. What a great (and economical) pattern!

I would also like to say that this is the best neckband application I’ve done to date.  But then I turned around and made one of the crappiest hems I’d done in a while! Eh, win some, lose some. I’m still very satisfied by this dress, and totally in love with the pattern.

A great skirt for a not-so-great day.

image

I’m wearing yet another Collette Mabel skirt variation today (I think I’ve made 6 Mabels total) for Me Made May. I think the boxy top (from Target last year) gives it a mid-90s vibe. This outfit pretty forcefully recalls all of those rib knit skirt and tee combos from Express I wore back in the day.

This is one of the most comfortable skirts I own. The ponte knit is especially soft and stretchy — I wish I’d gotten more of this fabric in other colors. I needed that kind of comfort today. I didn’t do a great job of respecting my limitations over the weekend, and now I’m paying the price.

After two days of non-stop busy-ness, I woke up this morning with super fatigue and mystery pain, and a brain fog so bad that although I was at work for six hours, I only billed out one and a half. I couldn’t think my way out of a wet paper sack today. Not a great day.

But at least my clothes were comfortable.

A really great t-shirt.

image

I’m wearing a Comino Cap t-shirt today for Me Made May. I love this shirt, and I really love this sewing pattern. (I think the fabric is still available at Girl Charlee, too, as it was a fairly recent purchase.) I also have a Comino Cap dress almost done (no hem yet), which I’ll almost certainly wear before the end of the month.

I procrastinated on making this shirt for a long time. I was off the size chart at the waist and hips, and the armholes looked almost impossibly tiny. A review at the Curvy Sewing Collective convinced me to try it, and I’m really glad I did. I added the amount I needed at the waist and hips, and the armholes are exactly right, even for my generously sized arms. It fits very, very well — neither too tight, nor too loose, great medium length, almost no pooling above the waist in the back. I particularly like its little cap sleeves — just enough, and not an awkward kimono sleeve. It’s simply ideal; I anticipate making a metric buttload of these tees.

I really am feeling very enthusiastic about this shirt — a feeling apparently shared by both a client and a grocery check out clerk who complimented me today. (Good job me!)

This is the first thing I both cut out and sewed this month — I mean both in May. I still have two things I cut out before May began (one a good long while ago, actually), but I intend to finish them before the month is out. I’m not going to worry about it, though. It has been too nice a sewing month to get all high pressure now.

Good enough.

image

Here I am in all my post-workday rumpled glory, wearing a fat cat print Made by Rae Washi dress for Me Made May today.

Having seen a million cute versions of this dress all over the internet, I bought this pattern when it was still fairly new, despite being outside its size range. My first muslin, made way back when, was a hot mess — and so I quickly abandoned it. I ended up making a really great dress for my (smaller) Mom from the pattern, so it didn’t feel like a waste.

A couple of years later, I made an equally unsuccessful muslin for a similar-but-different elastic back quilting-cotton-friendly dress (the pattern name escapes me), and I realized that the Washi dress was much better drafted, and that my pattern alteration skills had improved in the interim. So I gave it another go.

I’m really glad I did! I gave it an FBA, lengthened the skirt a bit, and lengthened the bodice to give it more of a fit-and-flare vibe instead of the drafted empire waist. I might tweak it a little more if I make it again, but really: it’s fine. Perfectly wearable.

I worked in theatrical costuming for several years in my youth. We didn’t build exquisite period pieces or perfectly tailored modern separates. We worked within a minuscule budget, for short run shows, and specialized in “good enough.” I went from sewing as carefully as I could to sewing as fast as I could. I learned to alter and adapt thrifted pieces, too. If it looked good from the audience’s perspective, it was good enough.

My sewing perfectionism got thrown out the window, and thankfully never returned. Sure, I still love creating a quality garment, but I won’t torture myself over every little imperfection. Are my self-made t-shirts worse than Old Navy? No? Then they’re fine. If I found a dress I liked that fit as well as this Washi dress at the thrift store for $10, would I buy it? Yes? Then this dress is fine.

Embracing imperfection can be very freeing. I recommend it.

Seasonally inappropriate.

image

Today’s Me Made May garment is a Day of the Dead skirt that I generally only wear, well, once a year.

I used to make a new Halloween print skirt every year or two (to wear to work in lieu of a costume), but my Mom gave me this fabric for Christmas one year, and this skirt became my new tradition instead.

It’s a self-drafted elastic waist A-line skirt, and I wish I could find the pattern pieces again because I made it to accommodate my very tilted waist/swayback, and the hem falls perfectly straight hanging from my natural waist. Oh, well! I probably should just draft a new one, anyway, since this one is really a couple of sizes too large — I just took in the elastic. (That’s why it looks more like a full skirt.)

Anyway, I could make a fairly specious argument that I felt like honoring my ancestors today, but the unfortunate truth is that my laundry pile is out of control…and this was both self-made and clean.

Sometimes that’s the real sartorial deciding factor, after all.

Revisiting the lemonade I once made.

image

Today for Me Made May, I’m wearing the dress I discussed in this post last year. The cat’s out of the bag now, I guess: it started life as the Bettine Dress from Tilly and the Buttons. I used the neckline from a smaller size, shortened the sleeves considerably, used contrast bias trim to finish the neckline and sleeves, and drafted a completely different skirt. If I ever make it again, I will also do an FBA on the bodice, and fix a couple of other minor things. The bodice fits a little weirdly, but no worse than a lot of ready-to-wear, so I don’t really mind. Sometimes good enough is, well, good enough.

It’s very comfortable in hot weather, and every time I wear it I’m reminded that I should sew more with rayon challis, because it feels so weightless and breezy¬†in this awful climate. Lemonade is also good on a hot day, and considering this dress’s origin story, I always think of it as my Lemonade Dress.

The rare pity party.

image

I stayed home sick from work today, but still managed to wear something for Me Made May. These are a pair of frankentrousers made from an old Burda pattern and Seamwork Moji. I’d made a previous (slightly more successful, due to the more stable knit I originally used) pair of lounge pants from this pattern, and although these pants don’t look great, they’re very comfortable.

I didn’t like the waistband or the crotch curve (I know, I know — me and my crotch curves) of Moji, but I loved the leg shape, so I used the waistband and crotch shaping of an old Burda pattern for drawstring pants that I knew fit very well. Then, just to make it more complicated, I made it from a knit. (Both original patterns were meant for wovens, but I do this all the time.) It all worked out. I really like both pairs of pants I’ve made from my frankenpattern.

I am feeling pretty gloomy today, though — comfy pants aside. I have limited energy at the best of times, and though I manage it very well, there are still times I can’t do much and just have to rest. Today I’m having very low energy combined with a recurrent stomach issue that comes and goes. I couldn’t go to work, and I won’t be able to go to choir practice tonight, either.

I hate committing to some plan and then being unable to follow through. It makes me feel terrible. I do my best to manage my energy (and my expectations), but there are times when I simply can’t do what I said I would. I know that everyone flakes sometimes, but I’m always mortified when I do. It’s worse, too, when it’s something I have particularly been looking forward to — like singing with this choir — but again, there’s not much I can do about it.

I have a good life, a happy marriage, lots of interests and hobbies. I’m better off than a lot of people. I get a lot done, despite my limitations. But I’m only human, and sometimes I get frustrated and angry and very sad that I’m not better, or healthier, or more able.

And today I’m having one of those sad and frustrated days.

Workaday Sith.

image

Yet another Collette Mabel skirt for Me Made May. I really love this pattern; I’ve made at least 5 variations on it. I call the look on my face “bored Renaissance merchant wife,” but in reality my cheap remote camera shutter thingy only works some of the time and I was frustrated with it. Also: there is no good place in our tiny, dimly lit apartment to take decent photos. Sigh.

None of that makes the skirt any less awesome, though.

I wear a pretty limited palette, by choice. We live in a very small place, with limited storage. More of my separates coordinate with a limited palette, and I need fewer shoes, too. Although I do wear other colors, the vast majority of my clothes are black, red, or grey — a color combination I like to think of as “Workaday Sith.” Most of what I sew stays within this palette, and most of the garments themselves are pretty basic — what sewing bloggers tend to call “cake” (as opposed to fancier “icing”). I would never be an exciting sewing blogger (I don’t sew quickly enough, anyway), but I look pretty put together most of the time, and that’s easier to do with fewer colors in the mix.

It’s not a method that works for everyone, and sometimes I envy people who wear the entire rainbow, but this works for me. And that’s what personal style is all about.

Ch-ch-change it.

image

I very rarely look at a sewing pattern and say, “That’s it, no changes.” Besides altering to fit, I very often — almost always — fiddle with design elements, too. I change sleeves and necklines and hemlines, and just about everything else.

Today for Me Made May, I’m wearing an April Rhodes Staple Dress. Sort of. I mean, part of the shoulder seams from the original pattern are intact. First off, the pattern is intended for woven fabric, and I made it in a knit. I lengthened it a bit, graded up the hips, omitted the elasticated waist shaping (because I always wear a belt with it), and completely changed the neck and cut-on sleeves/armholes by tracing a ready-to-wear tank that I found at a thrift store. It was a peculiar tank — kind of wide-shouldered-but-not-quite-cap-sleeved and a little blousy, but not too blousy. I loved that tank, but it was made of very cheap rayon knit and pilled like crazy after just a few washes. (It had pretty obviously never been worn when I bought¬†it.) Now the best parts of that tank can live on forever, only in a better fabric.

I sew very much the same way that I cook. A sewing pattern, like a recipe, is a suggestion — a jumping off point. You can follow it to the letter, but if you see potential for something else in it, you can change it as much as you want. Sometimes you fail spectacularly, but sometimes you get exactly what you had in mind. And that’s how I feel about this dress.

It’s so comfortable. With nothing to pinch or bind, it’s one of the first dresses I reach for on a bad pain (or panic) day. It’s loose and cool in the heat, but it works well with tights and a cardigan when it’s cold out, too. I really love this dress.