Lessons learned from Me Made May, part 1 (and a new top)

We’re about a third of the way through Me-Made May now, so I thought it would be a good place to recap what I’ve been thinking so far, share what I’ve been wearing, and show off my most recent finished project! Let’s start with the latter, shall we?

Stasia 1 This is the Stasia tee from Sew Liberated. I had it on my Make Nine list for this year, and one of the things I really loved about this pattern as soon as it was released was that it had options for both a tee and a dress. I’m sure that the dress will get made at some point– I have an ITY that’s perfect for the shorter version, and the maxi version has been calling my name since I first laid eyes on it. But since I’m really trying to build up my TNT stash, and the top was the perfect way to test the fit, I figured I’d start there.

Stasia 2 The color is pretty plain vanilla, but one thing I’ve been trying to add to my closet for awhile is a cream tee to go with some of my crazier print skirts, like the Gabriola I’m wearing it with here. This fabric was an unplanned recent purchase at Joann’s. But I loved that it has this faux cable texture, which kept it from feeling too boring in my head, and it was actually thick enough that you can’t see undergarments through it. That is so hard to find in cream. The fabric was easy to work with, coverstitched like a dream, and I was efficient enough with my layout that I have a substantial chunk left. I’m thinking I may have to hack together a hoodie out of remnants at some point, because wouldn’t this make a lovely hood?

Stasia back The tee pattern was really great to work with, too. I finished this in two sessions– one for cutting, and one for sewing in its entirety, so this is a great palate-cleanser sew. I made it as is out of the envelope, aside from I graded up one size between my waist and hips (yeah, I think I’m a little more pear-shaped than I used to be, thanks kids), which I think worked out well for me. The pooling isn’t quite as bad in the back as it looks here, I was kind of twisting for this stance. I like the little scoop in the back. I also think it can easily stand in with my beloved Renfrew and Plantain patterns as a basic, hackable tee without feeling redundant. Also, it can be made as a tank, and I really don’t have a good knit tank pattern, so this tee gives me high hopes for this! I would very much recommend the pattern, and don’t be surprised if you see it popping up again before long. (If nothing else, I have plans and fabric to use it to make a top for some much-needed summer pjs.)

Now, onto Me-Made May…

Days 1-9 collage

Here’s what I’ve been wearing so far, for days 1-9. (Note: I skipped last Saturday, since we were doing yardwork for a big chunk of the day, but I did have two outfits for Sunday.)

Row 1: My Jalie Vanessa pants, a hem-hacked Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono tee and a thrifted cardigan // a hoodie-hacked Renfrew with thrifted jeans // a maxi-fied Cake Tiramisu dress

Row 2: My new True Bias Lander shorts (not yet blogged, but hopefully will be soon) and a RTW graphic tee // The Stasia tee from above with my Sewaholic Gabriola skirt, and then switched to a slightly refashioned thrifted jacket with some jeans that I recently did some invisible mending on. (Yes, I’m totally counting those as me-made at this point.)

Row 3: One of my Deer & Doe Bruyere shirts, sleeves rolled up, with RTW jeans // My Seamwork Mesa with Cake Espresso leggings // an old Simplicity 2883 hack with the me-mended jeans

And here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. I still have a lot more handmade garments than I thought. I counted up my entire me – made wardrobe, not counting maternity clothes, outerwear coats, or things in my refashion bin, just before May. At the time, I had around 70 different pieces. (This was including long sleeves, so I wasn’t necessarily planning to wear everything over the course of the month.) It’s just that after multiple necessary closet purges over the last couple of years, a lot of what I have are at least semi-orphans.

2. The surprising hole in my wardrobe. What honestly surprised me was how hard it was to find things to wear on the more temperate days when I had to dress in what passes for work-appropriate for me! The hot days were easy, I could just bust out a maxi dress and be done with it. But I seem to be oddly lacking in short-sleeved separates. It doesn’t help that I only have four pairs of pants that fit and can be considered work-appropriate in my closet right now– my tencel denim Jalie pants, and 3 pairs of Old Navy jeans in grey, mustard, and teal. Somehow, the only top I have that goes with both the mustard and the teal is the plain cream Stasia tee that I just made. Which leads me to ask, how do I not have short sleeved stuff that goes with teal?! I mean, that’s basically a neutral for me!

3. The not surprising hole in my wardrobe. I knew going into this that casual at-home days were going to be a struggle to find something I made to wear, which is a big part of the reason why I signed up for 4 days a week. I do have a vague plan to sew some more casual tops and pants at some point, though I don’t necessarily have patterns in mind yet, nor do I feel a need to go 100% on my me-mades. I’ll be honest, the one thing in RTW that I’d probably have the most trouble letting go of is geeky graphic tees. I do love wearing my fandoms on my sleeve, so to speak. But the other thing is that the boys are getting to an age where dirt and art supplies are going to be a more daily part of life, and I do need some things that are either super-easy to get stains out of, or that I don’t care if I mess up.

4. I need to stop making 3/4 sleeved tops and start making more layering pieces. Seriously, they’re virtually useless in this climate. Mid-Atlantic seasons tend to bounce between winter straight to summer, with occasional weeks of spring and maybe about 4 weeks of autumn. I’m ok with the Bruyere, since it’s really long sleeved and I could just roll the sleeves up, and the cardigan because I can just take that off when it’s warmer, but the Simplicity top was feeling a little too warm by the afternoon.

5. Thoughts on more specific garments:

  • The Kirsten Kimono tee isn’t the best-fitting thing I have, since it’s pretty tight around the hips. It fits very well in the top, so now that I have the Stasia tee to fill the cream shirt hole, I’m strongly considering hacking it off below the armholes and refashioning it somehow.
  • I found myself wondering the entire day if the gold hoodie tee was too plain. It was originally made as part of a Minion costume, but I don’t see myself doing that costume again anytime soon. I actually did get some compliments on it while wearing it out of the house, but I’m still wondering if it needs some printing up with an applique or some block printing or something?
  • It’s super high waisted now, but I’m glad this Gabriola still fits. I was actually going to originally wear a different skirt that day, but I couldn’t even zip that one up. I’d still like to make the pattern again sometime, but I think I’ll need to size up.
  • This may be the last hurrah for the Simplicity top. While there are still things I like about it, mostly the silhouette and the cut of the sleeves, the waist tie is kind of uncomfortable now. (It keeps rolling up and pulling further into my chest, which may be a problem solved when I actually have non-nursing bras with underwires again, but I don’t have that right now.) Also, I’m feeling pretty meh about the background color of the print, and blue jeans are the only thing I have in my closet that this actually goes with, since it doesn’t really fit the palette I’m going for overall. I’m not necessarily saying I want to go full out capsule wardrobe, but I’d like a little more versatility than that.

So, to sum up, the number one thing on my sewing wishlist from this first third of the month is short-sleeved knit tops in prints that go with mustard and/or teal. I wonder if I even have anything like that in my stash!

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Top 5 Hits and Misses

It’s time for my favorite year-end series! Thanks for hosting this yet again, Gillian!

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of 2017! (1).jpg

I have to say, it was a rather mixed bag this year. I wasn’t the most productive in terms of finished projects. And I do have two currently unfinished things that seem to be turning out well, but I don’t want to hold off on this post in case I don’t finish them in time. That, and time to write on the computer instead of my Kindle is rare and must be taken advantage of. Let’s start with the hits, shall we?

nursing bras

1. The award for most worn definitely goes to my nursing bras. I only ever really blogged the ivory one, but I made three. It did get a little better as I went along, and the black one is the best by far. I’m happy to report that they are holding up far better than the RTW ones I used with Hobbit, since those were falling apart by the time he got to the age that Padawan is now (7 months). The fit is decent enough. I’m still thinking through whether bra-making is a field I want to dig further into. On the one hand, I do have a Craftsy class on them that I haven’t gone through yet, and I do get annoyed at continually paying for bras that start falling apart after a month. (Seriously, every non-nursing bra I had for the few months between weaning Hobbit and being too pregnant with Padawan to keep wearing them lost their underwires in that short time, and I’ll have to buy all new ones again when he’s done nursing. Argh.) On the flip side, this was super fiddly, and I really do prefer wearing the smoother foam-cup bras. Either way, this won’t be anything that’s happening next year. Maybe once I finally get my wardrobe in better shape again.

Cake Espresso Leggings

2. The “best wardrobe builder” was my grey Espresso leggings. It’s nice to have a pattern that works equally well for maternity and normal clothes! And since I pretty much exclusively wear leggings as tights instead of pants (except for that one time where I was 9 months pregnant and even my maternity pants weren’t fitting anymore), they’re pretty versatile. I still need to fix the teal ones I made at the same time, since that particular ponte just didn’t have the vertical stretch needed to make it work, but I’m hoping to add to that waistband sometime before the end of the year. We’ll see if I get to it.

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3. The award for “cutest project” definitely goes to the boys’ Halloween costumes. I mean, come on. I’m also gratified that Hobbit still pulls out the scarf sometimes to play with, since that was the most time consuming part of his costume.

Matcha and shorts

4. The “best salvage job” goes to my Wonderland Matcha top. Even though it started out ridiculously huge on me, I’m very happy with the finished result and wore it quite a bit when the weather was warmer. I’m still hoping to get the sizing on this sorted out, because I really do like the style and want this pattern to be a go-to.

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Incidentally, here’s a couple of projects I never got to blogging– I made a quick infinity scarf with the leftovers of this top, and a second one from a fun print I purchased specifically for this purpose. (I mean, tiny horse plaid!) I haven’t gotten to wear these much, since I spend a lot of time with a baby carrier on right now and they would just get soaked in drool, but I’m looking forward to mixing these in more soon.

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5. And the best “just for fun” project goes to my Norwegian Wood Rae skirt. The Sewcialists blog recently did a series on TNT patterns, and while it’s a little embarrassing to admit that my current TNT skirt pattern is an elastic-waist beginner pattern, it’s nice to have one thing that I can just whip out with fun fabric and know it’ll fit.

Now, for the not so good projects…

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1. The “fabric fail” award is a 3 way tie. The first is my nursing-hacked Renfrew. The concept was good. But the rayon jersey just drapes too much for having that kind of opening in the front, and at this point, it’s pretty much unwearable until I sew those nursing openings shut. Which pretty much defeats the entire purpose. I think that the sizing on this was also off– I made the largest size because nursing chest, but it’s just too long and saggy and baggy all over. I would like to do some more work on the Renfrew and figure out my new size, since this used to be one of my TNTs and I miss it.

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2 & 3: My black and ivory nursing camisoles. (Ivory only pictured, because the other is the same pattern. Plus bonus Padawan photobomb.) This was another fabric fail. It was the same rayon jersey as the Renfrew, and the weight of the elastic pulls it down past the opening band. I still wear them under other things, but I have to tuck the elastic under my bra band to hold it up. It’s definitely a fabric fail and not the pattern, though, because I made a grey one from a different remnant, and it has much better recovery, and works great.

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4 & 5. The “bad fit” award goes to both pairs of shorts that I made over the summer. I’m only showing the print pair here, since the solid was in the same picture as the Matcha top. At the time, the issue was that the largest size of the shorts were still too small for my postpartum body. By the time the summer ended, I’d lost enough weight that I could wear both pairs. But since the drafting still left the knit and solid meeting halfway down my butt and it always felt like the shorts were falling off, I really don’t think this is salvageable. The print in particular makes me sad, because I like the fabric for this one.

I have one bonus project that I’m not really sure which side it falls on.

IMG_5136 So, my Jalie Vanessa pants. On the one hand, first successful pair of pants I’ve had since I started having babies! On the other hand, I’ve been kind of stuck on how to style them, particularly since the weight of the fabric and the bagginess mean they really only work for warmer weather. Any suggestions on shirt patterns or silhouettes that might make these more versatile? I mean, I’d hate to toss out a pair of pants that actually fit just because I’m not sure what to wear them with at this point.

Matcha madness

Now that it’s December, I figured I’d better do a little bit of catchup on some unblogged things. After all, it’s Top 5 season!

IMG_5402This make is actually getting close to three months old! It’s just been really hard to get pictures of it, and I’m honesty still on the fence about whether it was a success. But here goes.

I liked how my last Matcha top turned out in the end, in spite of my sizing issues. So I decided to give it another go. I traced two sizes smaller than the original top, and pulled out a lightweight silky print that had been languishing in the stash for a decade or so. Long story short, a) I really need to find some finished garment measurements for this thing, and b) bad fabric choice. It was still huge, and boxy, and just didn’t have the drape that this shirt seems to need.

I played around with cinching it in, and toyed with the idea of making a belt with the scraps that are left, but decided against that, because the silky fabric would shift out of place and into unflattering territory fast. I actually did find a wide belt elastic that’s nearly a perfect match, but haven’t successfully located a suitable buckle to make that. So since the tied fabric belt made me look like Robin Hood anyway, I decided to err on the side of art teacher chic and turn it into a kimono style jacket. I guess that means this counts as the second piece for my Refashion Redemption Project. (The only picture I actually have of me wearing this is an Instagram selfie. But it’ll have to do. Incidentally, I’m also wearing one of the nursing camisoles I was never able to do a modeled shot of because I was super pregnant at the time.)

IMG_5404I’m really glad I’d taken the time to finish all of the insides with a bound seam allowance, since they’re visible now! I should have cut the strips wider, but live and learn. The bias strips were actually a recycle from an old bias cut, pull on skirt that I sewed ages ago. Refashion bin success!

 

Just call me Goldilocks

I’m going to do a little time traveling today. Not too far back, just to May. I was able to get back to sewing surprisingly fast after this baby, and managed to knock out three projects within the first six weeks of bringing him home. Unfortunately for me, the results have been less than stellar. But I do like to keep it real around here, and not every project is a success, so I’ll share them anyway. Hopefully the photos are OK, but the phone photos that I had to resort to are better than none, right?

20170703_141316My first project after Padawan was born was to knock out two pairs of shorts from Simplicity 1367. Shorts are legitimately the big hole in my wardrobe– I don’t particularly enjoy wearing them because I’ve never been all that confident about how I look in them, but skirts aren’t  always practical for life with young kids, and our summer is way too hot and humid for jeans. And I only had one pair of shorts to get me through the entire summer. I thought this pattern would be good for post-baby wear and (hopeful) weight loss because of the knit yoga-style waistband. Theoretically, I still think that. The problem is that I cut them out while I was still pregnant, and either I remembered my measurements from after the first pregnancy wrong, or I underestimated what size I might need, considering that I started this time with a few pounds more. They’re too small. I recently checked my measurements to cut a different project, and I probably should have gone two sizes bigger, though I made the largest size for the envelope that I had.

Matcha and shortsThey fit enough to be wearable, barely, but they fit me like maternity jeans after the halfway mark or so–the woven part rides too low in the back, and the knit panel is necessary to cover the rest. It feels awkward. It looks awkward too, if this backside shot is any indication. I’m hoping that as I lose some of this baby weight, that they might work better. (Assuming that I can, because I’ve been trying to up my exercise and drink more water and stuff steadily for two whole months, my best streak of consistency in my life, and guess how much weight I’ve lost? NONE. I’m so upset at this.) In the meantime, I bought a second pair at the thrift shop on a $2 sale day. (Along with jeans, because I needed those too.)

Some other details: the solid pair is made from nonstretch lightweight denim and an interlock knit, and the print is a rayon-blend twill that I got in an online fabric swap several years ago, plus a rayon jersey. The rayon jersey, which I bought second after deciding to also make the denim pair, works much better for the waistband. Or it would, if the print pair fit. The interlock is thicker, and I actually basted a fisheye dart in back to keep it from gaping away from me, but once I figured out that the shorts were going to be too small, I decreased the seam allowance on the denim pair, so it works a little better to squeeze them on. IMG_20170428_105621I did add patch pockets to the front of each pair with the intention of holding my phone when I’m dealing with the boys. It’s hard to squeeze it in since the shorts are tight right now, but it helps me tell the front from the back. It would definitely need a tag or something otherwise. I also added several inches to the length, I think around 6″, because the idea of my thighs in short shorts is uncomfortable. That’s exactly why I prefer wearing skirts in summer, I can cover more of my legs without looking frumpy. Anyway. Did I mention that the lining on the denim pockets are geeky fun? My mom let me raid her quilt cotton scraps, since I pretty much do all my cutting out at her place while she gets grandson time, and this piece was from Spoonflower.

Matcha and shortsNext up, I made the Matcha top from Sew Liberated. It popped up on my Instagram feed as a breastfeeding friendly shirt, so in a highly unusual move for me, I bought a brand new pattern and sewed it nearly right away. I should have made a test version. But stupid me, I decided to dive right into the Cotton & Steel challis that my mom gifted me with in lieu of hospital flowers. (Note to my husband, if you ever read this: I will never complain about you buying me fabric instead of flowers that will be dead in a week.) I rounded up on the size to go with my current bust measurement, but the pattern didn’t mention any finished garment measurements. (My one criticism of the pattern, since this company is new to me.) It was huge. What I probably should have done, once I realized this, was unpick what I’d sewn up to that point, retraced the pattern in a smaller size, and recut from what I had. But since I was in the middle of Doug watching the boys so I could sew and I have nowhere good to cut at home for now, I just started tweaking what I had. A lot. So I took in the side seam in the back, took a tuck under the back of the shoulder detail, turned the back into a large box pleat (okay, so that one was a  case of not reading ahead to see that it was supposed to be gathered), shifted the collar down about 2.5″ in the front, and so on.

Matcha and shorts The result is a pretty close approximation of the pattern, thankfully, and it’s very comfortable on our summer days with 3000% humidity. I couldn’t let this lovely fabric be a failure, because it feels so nice (and cool) to wear. Also, Alice in Wonderland print. This makes my literary geeky heart so happy. I actually do like the box pleat in this, too. And the neckline is really unique. There’s a hook and eye that helps hold it closed, and it has worked out very well for nursing so far. I keep thinking I’m going to add another hook and eye so that I don’t have to keep wearing a camisole underneath, but since my new necessary sewing setup means I have to go to the basement, haul a wire shelf out of the closet– most likely while wearing a baby and trying to keep a toddler from grabbing craft supplies and running– dig out the hooks and return everything else, it hasn’t happened yet.Matcha and shorts

Since this experiment gave me no real indication of the fit, I pulled a piece from my stash and cut out the sleeved version for the fall, about two sizes smaller. I haven’t gotten to sewing it yet, so stay tuned.

It’s admittedly frustrating that these three things had so many fit issues, since I have to fight for every scrap of sewing time that I get these days. That’s a large part of why I splurged on the fabric for the Rae skirt from the last post– I just needed something quick and simple that I knew would get good results. I did finish another project recently that seemed to work out, so I’m hoping that means that I’m back to a better streak of sewing. After this run, I could use a few more projects that are just right.