Chain Reaction 1, finished!

Since I didn’t manage to get pictures of my fourth finished piece before I finished my most recent project, I have two things to share today.

The first is a pattern that I’ve made before, the Stasia Tee by Sew Liberated. Since I’ve already talked about this pattern, I made it basically the exact same way as before, except I did add a little extra width to the lower section to compensate for the mom tummy that I’ve gained since the ivory version. I made a coral tee years ago, and it ended up being a surprisingly versatile piece in my wardrobe. But given that it was two kids and a quarantine ago, it isn’t fitting that well these days. So this one was to function as both a replacement for that, and a much needed pop of color in this particular chain.

I had quite a bit of this coral left over, so I did make a second little side project, which I’ll put in a different post soon.

The second project, and what I believe will be the last piece in this particular chain for now, was the Carlsbad Vest from the recently released Itch to Stitch book. As you know, I’ve become quite a fan of her patterns in recent years, and I can honestly say that I want to make every single pattern in this book! Which I haven’t been able to say about other pattern books that I’ve acquired in the past. To be honest, this vest wasn’t on my immediate radar, but I found a fabric during my birthday mini-shopping spree that I thought would be perfect for it. And since it happened to work with the pieces in this chain, I just went for it!

The fabric is a double-sided knit from Joann’s — black and white stripes on one side, and white dots on black for the reverse. Initially, I was wondering if I could make this fully reversible, but that’s a lot of flat-felling on a stretchy knit. So in the end, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of rippling all the seams. I did think that the reversible quality would make for a fun contrast with the waterfall effect of the front, and I do believe it worked out well. I also ended up using the dotted side for the arm bindings — partially for the style, but also because this knit was surprisingly hard to cut straight and all of my stripes for those pieces ended up slanted!

I made the size 14– I probably could have done the 12, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t pulling over my hips. The instructions were really nicely done for the mitered corners and the collar, so I had no trouble sewing this together. Honestly, the part that took the longest was the hemming, since it’s on all four sides and the way the corners are constructed made me think that my coverstitch machine wouldn’t be the best finishing choice. I ended up doing a folded hem (as per the instructions), with a narrow zigzag and tear-away stabilizer. It worked like a dream, with nary a ripple in sight, except the ones that are supposed to be in the front from that long rectangular piece. I could see myself making this again as an alternate silhouette to the Blackwood Cardigan, with a nice drapey knit.

And now, here’s how all five pieces in this chain mix together! As a reminder, the other three patterns involved are the Itch to Stitch Mountain View Jeans, the Itch to Stitch Atenas Jeans Jacket, and the Paprika Patterns Jade Skirt.

So, six looks from five pieces, which I can likely mix up more with different shoes (though my choices are admittedly limited there), or jewelry. Especially once I get to the point where Miss Grabby Toddler lets me start using my necklaces and dangly earrings again!

Overall, I’m quite pleased with how this chain-style sewing experiment worked out! My plan is to take a brief break from that for another project (I very badly need some pajamas that are between flannel pants and summer shorts), but plans for the next chain are definitely in the works. And, of course, I’m fully planning on mixing these pieces in with other things in my closet/future sewing projects as much as possible!

Chain reaction 1, The Jade Skirt

Not that you can see any details here, because black fabric.

My third piece in this first chain is the Jade Skirt, by Paprika Patterns. I’ve had this pattern/fabric pairing in my stash for a few years now, along with fabric for a second version, so it was time! And a basic black skirt is something that I’ve been lacking for awhile anyway.

The chair models it better than I do for details.

This was definitely a pattern that needed some brainpower on my part, more so than the pants (a pattern repeat) and the jacket (other than the welt pockets.) The front of this skirt is basically fabric origami, and I’m very glad that I took my sewing time one night to watch the video tutorial on her website! The folding process really wasn’t bad after that, though I think it would have helped if I had any quantity of more than two pin colors. I did find it a little tricky to wear for its first outing today, because even though it’s stitched under the folds to secure them, things tend to shift around when I’m in the process of sitting down. The other knit that I have for this one is a spongier, textured one. So I’m seriously debating topstitching the folds in place for that one, whenever I get to it. We’ll see how I feel after a couple of wears.

Pattern alterations!

The fitting was a more challenging process than I anticipated. I started out with a size 8, and the longer length. I’m not sure if I ended up making this higher waisted than it was supposed to be. The way that the skirt is constructed means that the bottom is finished off by the lining before the waistband is attached, and putting the finished edge at my preferred knee-area skirt length does make it high waisted on me. So then I ended up having to take quite a bit out of the back darts and side seams— I think I ended up grading it in about 6”-7” all around from my hips! And if I do succeed in flattening out my third baby tummy any, I may need to take it in even more. In anticipation of that, and also because me and stitching in the ditch with stretch stitches don’t get along, I hand sewed the waistband lining in so I can more easily access those side seams again.

I still love these crazy statement sleeves.

Just for fun, I paired this newest addition to my wardrobe with the oldest surviving member of my handmade wardrobe. I made this shirt back when Lord of the Rings was still in theaters, and I was trying to incorporate as much Middle-earth style into my wardrobe as a broke student could manage. (Side note, how am I looking at 20 year anniversaries of these movies now? I guess I’m old or something.) Anyway, this shirt alone has managed to survive the wardrobe purges since. And while I hadn’t really been able to wear this one in awhile, between babies/nursing and just lacking basics to pair with it, I think it works well with my accidental high waisted skirt. So I’m happy to have a way to get this back into a more regular rotation.

For my 100 Days Project update, I’m at the halfway mark today! And I haven’t missed any days yet, though I had to get creative with things like a recent late night at book club. I’ve used a few here and there for things like rethreading machines and washing fabric, which still counts for me because they’re parts of the process. I’ll admit that I’m starting to get some evenings here and there where I just want to take a night off and do something else, but knowing that I only need 15 minutes has helped a lot with keeping me motivated.

I’m actually already mostly done with my next project in the chain! So I’m thinking that one more project after this will probably be good for this set. I’m strongly considering knocking out a quick filler project or two before starting the next one, as I’m still plotting it out. Summer clothes will likely be involved!

The Atenas Jacket

I guess I’m on an Itch to Stitch kick, because the next piece in this wardrobe chain is the Atenas jeans jacket. I’ve been wanting to tackle this type of jacket for awhile, as I love the look of a denim jacket layered over spring/fall skirts and dresses. The blue denim one that I own has served me well, but the sleeves are obviously too short on me, as long sleeved RTW usually is. So I have to wear it with the sleeves rolled up as a 3/4 length jacket, which does somewhat limit its usefulness.

For this initial version, I made it from black denim that my mom gifted to me along with the pattern. After a great deal of debate, I made it in a size 10, C cup, graded to 12 in the hips. The result is quite fitted in my midsection if I button it, though not uncomfortably so. Honestly, though, I never button denim jackets, so it really doesn’t matter! And since my old basic black layering jacket finally got too worn and snug, it’s good to have a new replacement piece in my closet. (That old jacket lasted me for about 15 years, though –wait, have I really been writing this blog for that long?!)

Just ignore that all of my best shots have little limbs sticking out of odd places, ok? #momlife

Overall, the instructions on this were great. I was a little worried about the welt pocket, because the last time I made them was about 7 years ago, when I was binge sewing Sewaholic Thurlow pants. I did a little test run with some scraps, and it helped a lot. Really, the main problem that I had with this was that, despite double checking my sleeve against the pattern piece, I somehow managed to sew both sleeves in backwards, and didn’t notice until I tried it on. Which, of course, was already after I’d trimmed the seams and flat felled them! I had a little breakdown over that, but thankfully, the kids were content to watch tv and let me bust out my seam ripper, and I was able to get them fixed that same day. Not as nicely, to be honest, since I ended up just lining the cut edges up, serging them, and doing a much more narrow topstitch line. But it worked, and I still had the jacket done in time for my birthday, which had been the goal all along.

A few other details: I did the faux pockets on this one, as I was more concerned about the fit than the extra pockets. And though I cut out the tabs for the lower band, I ended up leaving them off the final jacket, since I wanted to be sure of the fit and I was getting pretty crunched for time by this point, even pulling hours of sewing each night last week to get it done by my self-imposed deadline! It’s just as well, since I would have needed 4 extra buttons for that, and it had also been awhile since I installed jeans hardware. But I only broke one button and I have a few spares of this type for whenever I get back into sewing jeans with an actual buttoned waistband.

I think I would make a few tweaks the next time, namely adding just a tiny bit more width across the upper back. It got more comfortable as I wore it that day, but it did feel a little snug initially, thanks to my killer flutist upper back muscles. I also need to add a little more length to the side pockets, because I don’t know if it’s the lining fabric I used, but it barely reached the folded front facing to get caught in that seam. I already have a vision in my head of turning the stack of jeans in my refashion pile into another one of these, though I’m definitely taking time off for some quicker projects before I tackle that!

To move on in the chain, I initially wanted to do a top, and will still likely come back to that. But after some brainstorming with my color savvy quilter mom about what would work with the pants that isn’t just a boring neutral, I realized I don’t have the right color in my stash. So that’s coming in the future, but in the meantime, I’ve started another bottom piece.

I also managed a nice little fabric shopping spree, thanks to a gift card from my in-laws at Christmas and some birthday money that I was given. So I bought myself 7 new pieces of fabric! One of them will actually work nicely for this particular chain, I believe, and several of the others will work well together for a warmer weather one. Though I generally love the fabrics that I get from my mom at Christmas, it’s been awhile since I was really able to pick out much for myself, so that was fun!

Grunge jeans

I finally finished my first piece of the year, and the first piece for my first chain reaction mini capsule! And there really isn’t any other way to describe this print, even if it does leave me singing Pearl Jam in my head. (Yes, I’m dating myself, but given that I have a milestone birthday coming up this month, it was pretty much inevitable.) This fabric had been sitting in my stash for at least 5 or 6 years because frankly, I didn’t know what to do with it. It was from one of my Christmas hauls that my mom often gives me, and while I like the print just fine, the fabric itself was a little strange, since it’s got this crazy amount of 2 way stretch that left me scratching my head about what pattern to use. (Seriously, if I did the math right, it’s something like 70-80%.)

I finally realized that it was a good candidate for a second iteration of the Mountain View jeans. And after last year’s closet purge, I was desperately in need of some pants that I felt ok about wearing in public. Especially because this whole crazy year has finally made me cave on the whole Yoga Pants Mom thing, given that homeschooling and having a toddler running around makes for a rather messy life. So this seemed like the perfect place to start.

I did make some changes from my first version. Initially, I took a wedge out of the back waistband to account for my perpetual swayback, and added about 1/4″ vertically to the waistband. I’m much more comfortable with this amount of rise than on the turquoise version, though I still wear those regularly. I did have the foresight to check the fit before doing any finished seams, thankfully. And I ended up taking out quite a bit — mostly in the knees down, since the fabric demanded a skinnier cut than I’d done last time, but I did also take an extra 1/8 or so on much of the rest of the vertical seams. I do wonder if I went far enough with that, particularly the back leg seams, but overfitting it and straining the fabric was something that I preferred to avoid.

I probably should have tightened up the waistband more, particularly on the elastic, as it is something that I have to adjust while wearing. I was trying to avoid the muffin top look, since that has become a little problem lately (thanks, quarantine 15), but I think I overcompensated. It’s not bothering me enough to do anything about it now, but I am anticipating/ hoping that I’ll need to adjust it in the future, given that I really am trying to build some sustainable healthier habits.

The last photo is how I styled it for its first public outing, going to church on a more wintry weather day. So I paired it with my latest Blackwood cardigan and a RTW top that’s basically the only solid black thing I own that isn’t sleeveless. (Definitely need to plug that wardrobe hole sometime.) I’ve already started the next link in the chain, which will be a jacket (also by Itch to Stitch, because her patterns just fit my current lifestyle so well!) I’m thinking a shirt to make it a complete outfit would be a good part 3. After consulting with my color guru (aka Mom the Quilter), I have an idea that would actually take care of something that needs replacing anyway. (Not the black shirt, not yet, I need some color with this!) But I don’t actually have fabric for that, so I’m hoping that Joann’s comes through for me. I have a gift card that my in-laws gave me for Christmas that needs using, and I’d like to get something besides just restocking on neutral threads and interfacing!

Finally, a quick note on my 100 Days Project! Today is day 17 of the project, and aside from not having a chance to do anything yet today, I’m proud to say that I have stuck with it so far. Since I’m starting with two projects that involve topstitching and all, it still feels like slow progress. But given that I probably sewed a total of 16 times or less over the course of 6 months last year, this already feels like an accomplishment. I’m probably averaging closer to 20 minutes a day rather than 15, but on nights when it’s taking longer to get my kids to bed (especially since my daughter is currently getting 4 teeth at once, why?!) or when Doug wants to hang out, it’s nice to feel like it’s ok to just sew a seam or two and stop. And so far, I’m not doing it at the expense of giving up digital scrapbooking, since that’s something I do more during the day, or reading, since I often do that on my Kindle while getting kids to sleep. I’m feeling good about this, and after last year, I think this was just what I needed.

The 100 Day Project

Since the start date is tomorrow, I figured I’d better actually post about this! I heard about and then did this project last year, to work on improving my digital scrapbooking skills. I didn’t quite manage to do it consecutively because life, but I did do all 100 days of the project, and it was helpful! (You can see my project pages here, if you’re interested.)

Since one of my overarching goals this year is to rekindle my love of sewing, I wanted to do something involving that this time. After debating for awhile, I settled on what I’m calling 100 Days of Consistent Sewing. My plan is to aim for 15 minutes of sewing every day. If I manage more, great! But I figure that 15 minutes is a short enough time that I should be able to do it, even on the nights that the kids fight bedtime and all that.

So tidy!
My new project basket

To try and get ready this week, I (mostly) finished getting my fabric stash reorganized, folded, and put away. (I still have some quilt cotton that a friend recently gave me that needs prewashing first.) I pulled the fabrics and patterns for the next few likely pieces in my chain reaction into the basket, so they’d be ready to go. And I did a little extra sewing in the evenings this week as a warmup of sorts.

I’ve been working through a second iteration of the Itch to Stitch Mountain View jeans this month. So for my official project beginning, I’m starting with the fronts and backs all sewn together, and the pocket topstitching done. So I need to attach the back pockets, sew the sides and inseams, put on the waistband, and hem them.

As far as blogging goes, I won’t be posting here daily, but I will probably do a weeklyish roundup. I do think that it might be interesting to track the total time from start to finish of these projects, though I’d have to wait on recording that until I start the next one.

Sewing with a (tentative) plan

I didn’t have any particular project- based goals in mind for this year, but I think I may be stumbling into something.

A more cohesive wardrobe has been a wish of mine for years, but I’ve also found it difficult to get inspired since I also love brighter colors and prints. I’m also finding it hard to put outfits together lately, period, due to having to get rid of so many clothes last year.

So I started off this year with some badly needed pants, a second version of the Itch to Stitch Mountain View pull-on jeans. These are still in progress due to having to do some serious fit- checking, which I’ll talk about more when I actually finish them.

Meanwhile, in the Sewing Sphere community, we’ve been discussing something we could work on together as an open sew-along. Many of us have had jackets and blazers on the brain, so I decided that for my first Year of the Jacket project, I’m going to tackle a classic jeans jacket pattern that I’ve had queued for a year or so. The fabric that I have to test it with is a black denim, and the pants I’m working on are a black and blue print, and I realized that this is the beginning of a complete outfit project.  All I need is a shirt.

So this led to the idea of centering my sewing this year around chain reactions. I’ve struggled in the past with planning capsule wardrobes that actually work together in the end, and successfully completing one is still a long term goal of mine. But if I start with a jacket that works with the pants, and then a shirt that works with the jacket and pants, and then, say, move to a skirt that works with the shirt and jacket, that’s basically six outfits right there depending on whether I wear the jacket or not.

I feel like this approach just might be the ideal thing for now. It’s not so big of a project that I’ll be overwhelmed at trying to fit in an entire capsule in a reasonable amount of time, but will hopefully curb the closet orphan problem. I could also use a garment (or even two) that I already have as a starting point, or center them around community challenges like the jackets. If I keep the chains relatively small, like 3-4 garments, I’m less likely to get bored of sewing all the same colors. Plus then I can still take time for side projects as needed. (My oldest already has quite the creative costume mashup in mind for Halloween this year!) And this could be a good way to build up to a larger capsule project in time, as I rebuild my TNT stash.

My plan for blogging this is to still do the individual projects, but then I’d also like to do a roundup post to mix and match the pieces as I feel that the chains are complete for now. So stay tuned!

Goals, goals, goals

Do I need to rethink these posts? After all, last year, I commented that I made a bunch of goals and got derailed quickly by pregnancy and a newborn. This year, I made a bunch of goals, and then got hit by a global pandemic and a massive loss of desire to sew. But it is helpful to see how these turn out, so here goes…

To review last year’s:

  1. Embrace the slow and steady. Well, I got the slow part down. Not so much the steady.
  2. Attack the refashion/scrap bins. I did make one scrapbust project, but didn’t do much with this otherwise.
  3. Bust some stash. Given my generally low output this year, I’d say that I didn’t make much progress on this. Though I did get to some things within a year of when I acquired the fabric, which is very good for me.
  4. Have a plan, but hold it loosely. Or, you know, throw it out the window and read a book instead?
  5. Work on my styling. After the fit- induced closet purge, my entire wardrobe is a mishmash and full of holes. So this was a big nope.

But with this in mind, here’s my hopes for 2021:

  1. Find a better time balance between sewing and scrapbooking, so I can continue to progress in both. I definitely want to make a more intentional effort to get sewing in on at least a weekly basis, even though digital scrapbooking is admittedly easier for me to work in with the minions running around.
  2. Make some “cake”! My wardrobe is overall lacking in basics at the moment, between the closet purge nd a lifestyle that is fairly different (read: even more casual) than it was at this time last year.
  3. But don’t forget some frosting. Seriously, I stare at my closet for way more time than I should when I need/want to dress up a little, like for church or even our homeschool co-op day.
  4. Figure out the “mom wardrobe” styling thing — more on that in a moment.
  5. Mostly, I just want to regain the joy that I used to have in sewing. And what community in that looks like for me now, since I’ve been feeling quite disconnected from the larger Instagram community. I am enjoying the Sewing Sphere so far, and Elizabeth from Elizabeth Made This recently started a Facebook group that I’m liking as well. I did also end up joining a more local Facebook sewing group (!) near the beginning of the year, but haven’t been too involved with that yet since I honestly just haven’t made much/little kids prevented me from attempting any of the pre-March meetups.

So about that styling thing… even though I didn’t sew nearly as much as I’d hoped this year, I did spend some time doing research. (I’ll admit, I was that girl who secretly enjoyed research papers in high school and college, I really love deep diving into a topic that interests me. I even spent two summers of college doing paid music- related research projects through a program at my university. Geek alert, right?) I finally read The Curated Closet, and am strongly considering adding it to my collection. I would like more time to actually work through the exercises at some point than the library allowed, but things like trying on a bunch of different styles at the thrift store just wasn’t doable this year. I also spent some time reading Life Styling, after finding it via my library’s Hoopla collection. My short review of this one is that the color analysis/palette chapter was quite interesting and helpful, but I honestly didn’t finish this one because I couldn’t relate to the second half of the book at all. And I found that I had a year long outfit guide specifically for moms buried on my Kindle, from a book bundle I bought years ago. I’m still trying to figure out how helpful this will be, since it’s basically a lot of outfit “formulas” for a largish capsule wardrobe, and I feel like I’d have to basically draw out a set of paper doll clothes to fiddle with in order to make that work for me. The palette is far enough outside of my own (soooooo much neutral and solid) that I’m having a little trouble visualizing how to bring my beloved prints into it, but I do think it could be useful in plotting out some styling options.

I have other thoughts floating around, like making Halloween costumes again this year (there’s talk of a potential Star Wars theme), I’d like to make something for the girl to play with smocking while she’s still young enough for it to be cute, and the boys could really use cases for the new Kindles that they got from my parents for Christmas. I also got the new Itch to Stitch pattern book, and want to make basically everything! So I do need to narrow down some project options for after I finish my current cut out project. I did spend some time earlier this month purging some old patterns that I’ve sized out of or won’t work, and am hoping to curate my fabric stash better soon. So that should help.

Looking back, looking forward

Now that the end of 2020 is in sight, I figure it’s as good a time as any to do some reflecting about the year and my sewing life.

I didn’t really feel great about my sewing productivity this year. I felt the same about the outcome much of the time, but writing this out actually helped my outlook on it. Here’s the list of everything that I’ve managed this year, starting with the things I’ve showed:

  • Visby Henley (Itch to Stitch, fairly successful. I think it could use some fitting tweaks, but I overall liked it.)
  • Mila shirt (Itch to Stitch, successful)
  • Mimi G chambray shirtdress (McCall’s, flop. I wore it once and it’s been sitting in my refashioning pile since. )
  • Lucy dress (Peekaboo Pattern Shop, successful, though not for its intended purpose. The update is that I used it for an at home first birthday photoshoot, since the opportunity for her baptism still hasn’t happened yet.)
  • Colorblocked Pony Tank (Chalk & Notch, one of my most worn me-mades for the remainder of summer)
  • Shenanigans Skort (5 Out of 4 Patterns, successful, though could probably use a bit of a fuller butt adjustment)
  • Chemainus top (Itch to Stitch, see last post.)

And a couple of things that I didn’t show here yet:

  • Two Blackwood cardigans, from Helen’s Closet. I already knew that I liked the pattern fit, though I haven’t worn my first iteration much due to the extremely light weight/ limited coordinating options. I had fabric for two more that I got last Christmas, and sewing them up within the year is actually good, for me! I cut both out near the end of winter. I made the charcoal one from a hatchi knit, near the end of summer, while my serger was still appropriately threaded. The ivory one is my most recent make, from this cabled quilted type knit. In retrospect, I should have added a little more ease to the sleeve on this one, since it doesn’t have nearly the stretch that the hatchi does. But it’s still quite wearable, and so warm!
  • I made dinosaur tails for the boys, instead of full Halloween costumes since I wasn’t sure if going out in any form would be an option. We ended up cobbling together costumes from things on hand for our church’s trunk or treat, and a spaced out Halloween parade with our usual trick or treat buddies. The Harry Potter costumes from a few years ago made a reappearance. And though I seem to need to add a little more velcro on the waist ties, the tails have seen some use for play at home. Also, not pictured, the boys were so excited about getting to pick out the fleece for their tails that they also requested blankets. So they each have one of those no-sew tied edge blankets made from these fabrics, too.

As I said, I haven’t been feeling great about my sewing, largely due to the timing/time suck of making my big flop of the year. But realistically, 10 projects over 11 months with 3 little kids in the house really isn’t bad!

There are other factors, though. There’s been a lot of grieving this year, and it’s definitely affected my enjoyment of this craft. Thankfully, everyone I know personally who got sick during the pandemic has survived, including an aunt who caught it while working as a hospital nurse. My entire immediate family has stayed healthy, thank God. But my flute teaching career vanished overnight, since neither of the two remaining students I had after my last maternity leave were situations that worked virtually. At this point, I still don’t know if I’ll get any students again, or if the tentatively planned involvement I’ll be allowed to have in my community orchestra this season will even work. I’ve never lived in a world where simply being a musician makes me considered to be dangerous. And since there’s always been ensembles to play with for the entire time I’ve played the flute, there’s been a lot of mourning over that loss, as I try to figure out how to learn to enjoy playing alone. (And trying to brush up on the piano, as the kids let me.)

My husband also lost his job suddenly. That one turned out for the best, as it was a constant source of stress for him, and he’s since found a new job that he’s much happier in. But it still caused a lot of uncertainty.

I’ve spent a lot of time on school this year. I’d already been doing preschool at home with my oldest, and had already planned to continue with him for kindergarten. It’s a good thing, because my state ended up being completely noncommittal to a plan for the current school year for a really long time, like until 2 weeks before school started, and I know I would have been panicking if I’d had to make the decision about what to do at the last minute. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, and it’s not all idyllic days at home, but I do think it’s been the best choice for us. We’ve also still been able to meet with our small co-op community in person, and that weekly interaction with other kids has been so good for him.

There’s been other stressors, too. Our remaining golden retriever died, and we’ve been having to adjust to not having a pet for the first time in our marriage. (Hopefully in a few years, but we want to wait until we’re done with diapers.) I didn’t see my closest friends in person for over half a year. The kids have obviously been affected too, as I’m constantly being told that they miss going to playgrounds/library storytime/playdates. It’s just a lot, as I know it’s been for everyone.

More specifically about sewing, I also had to get rid of a lot of favorite things that just don’t fit anymore, and it’s left me struggling to put outfits together on a near daily basis. I realized that a huge portion of what I sewed was for things like church and teaching, and both of those were gone for months. On days we’re just at home, I’m mostly just being the stereotypical frumpy stay at home mom in joggers and tees, because that’s what fits and can hold up to messes. But I’m not really enjoying getting dressed these days, which is having a major impact on my desire to do the thing that will help me fix the problem. Go figure.

To be perfectly honest, the Instagram sewing community was a tough place for me this year, too. Between the endless chatter about masks back in the spring, and all of the shaming of people that wanted to keep politics out of our sewing, I had to take a big step back from it. Frankly, I think it’s inexcusable to shame people for needing one place to have a break from all the chaos, given how many of us use sewing as a mental health aid, and I’m still irritated about it. I’m not entirely sure where this will lead, as I’ve still had very little desire to spend much time on my sewing Instagram account, though I’m still using my private one regularly to share photos with family and friends. I do know that I’m feeling more of an urge to write here instead, like I used to. I started this blog more as a project journal for myself, and the interaction was a nice perk. It’s hard to get that on Instagram now anyway, with algorithms and the hashtag disabling they did, so I haven’t missed being on there like I once expected to. I’ve also been helping my friend Brooke to get a new community off of the ground on Locals, and while it’s not very active yet, it’s been nice to have that smaller community feel again. What can I say, I’m an introvert, I get overwhelmed by all of the crowd noise. But I’m still hoping that it will pick up.

So in lieu of sewing, and aside from the obvious things like raising kids and homeschooling, I’ve been reading lots of books. I’ve gotten really into digital scrapbooking this year, to the point where our family album pages are pretty caught up most of the time and I’m starting to work on redoing some of my old paper albums. I also got asked to join a designer’s creative team on Pixel Scrapper, which is where I’ve been sharing my pages. So that’s been a fun challenge, and a good craft for me on days where I don’t have much brainpower at the end of the day, or want something creative to work on that I can do while the kids are awake and I can’t have sharp objects out.

I think this step back was needed for me, since this year has basically been a forced midlife crisis for me. (No, really, as I’m turning 40 in a few months.) I’m beginning to feel more motivated to get my wardrobe back into a better place again, that hopefully fits both my new stay at home lifestyle and my personal style. I’ve also been taking baby steps to get myself physically in better shape, since between the last sedentary-out-of-necessity pregnancy and quarantine weight gain, it’s not been a great combo. I have plans formulating, and I hope to share more soon.

The Chemainus Event

For my most recent finished project (finished in October, I just haven’t gotten around to adding the pictures until now), I did something unusual for me — I got so smitten by a newly released pattern that I bought it and sewed it up almost immediately. Or, at least what passes for immediately in my slow sewing world!

My one decent photo that I managed before the minions showed up…

The pattern is the Chemainus top, from Itch to Stitch. I think that by this point, I can safely call ItS my favorite current indie pattern company. It’s nice to have one again, since I haven’t fangirled so regularly over any pattern company since Sewaholic essentially vanished overnight. I’ve been wanting something along the lines of a loose woven tee for awhile, and this one caught my eye for both the pattern/ color blocking possibilities, and the nursing friendliness. (Of course, by the time I finished, Baby Girl was weaned! But I’m admittedly not sorry to be done with that life stage.)

Also pre-haircut, since by this point, I hadn’t managed one in about 13 months.

One thing that did slow me down a bit was that my finished top is my second attempt. I initially decided to play with this border print crepe that a friend gifted me with ages ago, thinking that it might work well to highlight the print. I was hoping that it would show more of the black, gray, and ivory. It didn’t work out that great, though. The polyester refused to hold a press for the neck binding, which made it quite fiddly. And when I tried it on, aside from sizing issues, all I could see was the taupe framing my face. Now, I have very strong feelings about taupe, and none of them are positive. So I called it a wearable muslin and moved on.

And the photobombing begins!

For my second try, I used a rayon challis that I’d bought for a dress years ago, but never got to. It’s probably for the best, because I would have had to fully line it if there had been a skirt involved, but as a top it doesn’t seem too sheer.

In the crepe version, I graded two sizes larger for the hips, based on my measurements. That turned out to be huge, so I slimmed it down approximately one size in the rayon. I ended up having to rip a large section of the side seams out and take it in even further. Also, oddly, the dart placement seemed fine in the first version, but I had to move it up nearly 2″ in the second one! (Which was admittedly good for my ego, after 3 rounds of breastfeeding.) That meant the top leg of the dart is basically in the armpit curve now, but it’s probably one of those things that only I notice when it’s on. It’s not affecting the comfort, so I’ll roll with it.

Overall, I like this pattern enough to keep playing with it, though that will likely wait for warmer weather plans. I think it’ll be a nice breezy style for wovens for our hot and humid days. And there’s definitely fun potential for stripe placement, though I botched that on this one. (Note to self, cut on the regular grain instead of the cross.) I think next time, I’ll do an entire size smaller overall, and check the dart placement again. I’m also considering both narrowing and shortening the placket. As it is, it’s ending at my navel, so I think it could benefit from going an entire button shorter.

I do have some leftover yardage that I need to figure out a plan for, too. I don’t think this will be a good candidate for a mommy and me look, given that my daughter has steamrolled into the toddler stage over the last few months, and a basically white dress would never survive her messy ways!

Sewing Shenanigans

After my second son was born and I needed some postpartum summer clothes, my mom gifted me with several knit skorts. They’ve become a summer staple for me, since they’re very practical for things like getting up and down off the floor with the kids, but still a little dressier for when I need to go out. I’ll need to work on some sleeveless tops to go with, since most of what I have left doesn’t quite work with the silhouette of the skorts. I’ve been wearing them anyway since I’ve mostly been at home for months now, but I feel pretty frumpy about it. Anyway. I had the thought a couple of years ago that I should try to hack some patterns together to create something similar. But then I was browsing Maternity Sewing, and discovered someone had done all of the work for me! And it’s overall better than I could have done myself.

The pattern is the Shenanigans Skort, by 5 Out Of 4 Patterns. I didn’t get to the pattern last year as the maternity wear I intended, but that may be for the best since I didn’t have to factor in the third trimester waistband fit. It has several options in lengths and skirts, so I made the longest length in both skirts and shorts, the mid-rise elasticized waistband, and a straight size L.

My sewing this summer has still been at sloth speed (more on that later), so it took a lot longer to make than it probably should have. But on the days where I did have both time and motivation to sew, I was able to get large chunks done. So with a few tweaks, I think this has strong TNT pattern potential.

What I liked:

1. The sizing is very forgiving. Whenever I make it again, I’d like to add an inch or so to the back rise. I think I’ll just have to accept this as a standard pants alteration by this point, just like my long sleeve length adjustments. But it’s still wearable.

2. I’m not much of an “athleisure” person. I’m not a fan of the term either, tbh. But I will admit that the athletic cut of this pattern works well. The shorts are much more fitted than on my RTW pairs, but this also eliminates the slightly nagging problem I have with those, of the shorts riding up under the skirts. The length was good, and the shorts are surprisingly comfortable. I’m seriously considering a shorts only hack of this as a project I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile, to make something to wear under other skirts and dresses to avoid that irritating thigh chafing.

3. It’s a good stand in, at least for the warm seasons, for the basic black skirt that I haven’t had in awhile. We’ll see how the ponte holds up.

The one thing I didn’t like as much: the pocket instructions for the version that I initially used were really confusing. I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to just leave the edges raw, or how to sew it with any finishing since it was a very curved shape. So I ended up ditching it, making two rectangular patch pockets that were easily large enough to hold my phone, and sticking one on each side. Patch pockets on adult clothes aren’t my favorite look, but it works. I think in future versions, though, I’d take some ideas from some of my RTW versions to make it look more polished.

Overall, I was happy with how this came together, as I needed a sewing win. My motivation is starting to return, finally, since I saw a new pattern that caught my attention. It’s already assembled and ready to cut! The time is a little trickier, mostly due to the kids. Sometimes lengthy bedtimes aside, we’re continuing with homeschooling this year, and this time for both boys as kindergarten/ basic preschool. So I’ve been spending a lot of my evening time preparing for that, since we’re planning to start later this month. I’m really excited about the main curriculum that I found, as its main focus is lots of fairy tales and fables, and I can use it with both boys. I’ll have to do math and literacy stuff with them individually, but having most of it more one room schoolhouse style will help immensely. (I’m a little nervous about trying to teach Hobbit to read, since I want him to love it, so hopefully that will go well.)