Monday, August 13, 2018

Failure is part of the learning process

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So my jeans were a big fat fail. I made it all the way to topstitching the waistband but I could not get the top of the waistband to stitch smoothly. I ripped it out probably 4-5 times and got so frustrated that I gave up. This was just the final straw though--I had several other bigger problems that led me to this point.

  1. In the process of sewing my way though 5-6 muslins, I made so many fitting changes to the original pattern that it was no longer recognizable. and that's fine--it's better to have a pattern that custom fits your body. However, I made one very large mistake: I forgot to true up the pattern to make sure that the fronts/backs fit together properly. So when I tried to sew my actual jeans the side seams and inseams did not quite fit together the way they should and it made for some twisting seams. Because of that I'm not sure if it was the twisting seams problem or if it was still another fitting issue but I had some weird wrinkles on the back of the thigh that I could not get rid of.
  2. In all of the learning materials I consulted most of them said that when fitting pants, putting on the waistband was optional or not necessary so I skipped it. This turned out to be a rather large mistake, because when I put the waistband on my jeans i found that it gapped a little bit in the back and was too tight in the front. I was able to mostly fix the back gapping problem, but I couldn't do anything about the front. so i have a pair of jeans that is too tight.
  3. I decided to modify the mock fly front in the original pattern to make it a true fly front. In doing so I made a mistake and my fly is not actually centered over my center front--instead it is just slightly off to the side. it's only off by a small amount but it's enough to look weird when the jeans are worn.
  4. I believe I mentioned this last time but I had no idea what I was doing with the distressing and it looks strange and unnatural.

At the point where I gave up, I knew I would never wear these jeans. I had been trying to finish them just so I could have the practice of going through all of the steps. and I can still do that whenever I'm ready to try again. My machine often screws up buttonholes so whenever i'm ready to tackle pants again i could use these jeans for a test run.

I have several things to keep in mind for whenever I am ready to go through this process again. I will start over from the original draft and make all the same changes but I will true up the pattern next time. I'll make sure to fit the waistband and I'll probably convert it to a shaped waistband rather than using the bias cut rectangle. I'll use the mock fly in the original pattern. On one of my muslins I actually sewed it up as directed in the pattern and it turned out fine. I'm not sure why i felt the need to change it. I've also purchased a thinner topstitching thread. One other thing I may consider is using my first pair of pants to sew up a flare or straight leg jean, rather than a skinny jean. It'll enable me to get the fit in the hip/thigh area correct before needing to also worry about my larger-than-average calves. I will also take it easy on the distressing and use it more as a tool to soften the fabric rather than trying for the perfect hip whiskers right off the bat.

So there it is. I feel like the crafting world often focuses only on our successes but there is value to be learned in our failures too. I put away these jeans on Friday evening when I got home from work and spent the rest of the weekend working on something else, and I already feel much better about sewing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

slowly sewing jeans

Back in my earlier sewing years, I had this "fast fashion" habit of trying to sew up garments as quickly as possible. Sometimes I'd want a new top to wear going out that night so I'd rush through the process. Perhaps unsurprisingly my workmanship wasn't the best and things did not always fit very well. It no longer makes sense for me to sew 5-6 garments a month at lightning speed simply because I don't need that many clothes. I would be happy to make 1-2 garments a month if they're well-made and will last. This time around I'm trying to make a concerted effort to slow down and do a good job. Unfortunately I have yet to outgrow my natural sense of impatience.

About a month ago, I watched as many Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) classes as I could on sewing jeans and fitting/drafting pants. I was all set to buy a new jeans pattern, but common sense prevailed. I've had Jalie 2908 in my stash for years. Several of the classes suggested that you really only need 1 well-fitting jeans pattern and then you can make as many style variations as you want. I traced off a size Q (which is actually a girls' size but it was the closest to my actual measurements, go figure) and went to work.

At this point I have lost count but I think I've gone through at least 6 muslins. Pants fitting was always really hard for me and it appears that it hasn't gotten any easier. I'm hoping to post more about this later but I've really learned a lot about my body shape, namely that I am curvier than my measurements (and the eye test) might suggest. I finally gave up and cut out my fabric not because I had the fit perfect but more because I ran out of random stretchy bottomweights that I could use for practice.

I bought some remnant Cone Mills Denim from Threadbare Fabrics on sale. I am aware that my first pair of jeans will probably not turn out that great, so though it was still on the pricey side, certainly it's not the end of the world if they end up in the trash.

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I've been following the Sewing Designer Jeans class. It's a good class for the most part but it's one of those things that makes the process look fairly easy when in my experience it hasn't been. For example, I like doing the distressing because I don't like super dark denim and that worn-in look makes the fabric softer. But although the teacher does give instructions for how to distress it takes practice to get it right. so instead of having those perfect horizontal whiskers on the front hips, i have weird random creases. i also made the mistake of trying to distress the knees while i was wearing the jeans so i have super obvious light blotches right at my knee bones, which is not a great look. but again, i knew going in that these jeans wouldn't be perfect and I'm willing to accept that.

Another thing that is driving me batty is my choice of Gutterman topstitching thread. firstly it only comes on like 33 yd spools (at least at joanns) which is kind of obnoxious. but mostly what is maddening is that the thread will skip a stitch or shred right before I'm finished with my topstitching, so I have to rip it out when I'm like 1" from the end. I also don't like how thick and shiny it is, and I made a poor color choice. I know that bright gold is traditional but I prefer more subtle topstitching.

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I am taking my time and basically following the lessons from the class, one day = one lesson. it helps keep my sewing to manageable chunks but man, it's taking forever. i'm already pretty sick of this project and I just want to sew something else. plus there's the very likely takeaway that I won't even wear these jeans when they're done so it feels like it's just a waste of time.

hopefully i'll get through this, file away a bunch of new knowledge for later, and eventually i'll be ready to try again. but for now it's definitely a struggle.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Summer 2018 10x10 Challenge Wrap-up

The Summer 10x10 Challenge is over and boy do I have thoughts. In no particular order:

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  • It was supposed to rain all week so I switched out the white jeans for a pair of grey skinny jeans. And then it didn't really rain at all. oh well.
  • A funny note: my husband failed to notice that I wore the same clothes for 9-ish days. This was not really a surprise though--he's not the most observant about these things.
  • I think I would have had an easier time in any other season besides summer for 2 reasons. 1) The other three seasons you can make different looks with layering, while I found this challenge to be a lot of basic top, bottom, shoes: repeat, and 2) laundry was a huge issue.

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  • About that laundry: good lord I had to do laundry so many times. I tried to be as efficient as possible, like once I got a fabric order in the mail and I washed my clothes with the new fabrics, but still I was mostly washing only 3-4 items at a time. I think I did laundry 4 times in the 10 days when I normally only do laundry once a week. This goes along with my thoughts that other seasons might have been easier because I probably could've gotten away with wearing things more than once without washing them but in the summer that's not possible.
  • In fact, I actually did not finish the challenge because I ran out of clean shirts on the last day. I was sewing jeans so I just wore old clothes because all of the indigo dye from the jeans got all over everything and I didn't want to mess up any of my nicer garments. so technically my challenge was a big fail, but whatever.
  • If I had it to do over again, I would plan out my outfits for all 10 days in advance so I could maximize both the number of outfits I could wear before having to do laundry AND making sure I didn't wear the same clothes too close together. at one point I had to do a Canadian tuxedo (not my favorite look) in order to avoid wearing the same thing 2 days in a row.

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  • Apart from the laundry issue I actually thought the challenge was easier than I thought it would be. I didn't even really get sick of wearing the same clothes until the very end. However, if I had it to do over again I probably would've changed my ratios. I was working with 4 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 shoes, and 1 jacket. With a redo I would've chosen 6 tops (including a button-down shirt that I could have worn as a makeshift outer layer), 3 bottoms (but replacing the shorts with a skirt or another pair of pants that could be worn to work), 1 pair of shoes (just a practical pair of sneakers because people notice shoes much less), and skipped the jacket.
  • This may have been entirely in my own head, but I definitely felt self conscious at work. I only had 2 bottoms that I alternated every other day b/c I can't wear shorts to work and I had a couple of tops that seemed to stick out, like the red shirt. I felt like it was easy to see I was wearing the same stuff all the time. by changing up the ratios as listed above I feel like it would've been less noticeable b/c I would have had a bit more variety.

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  • However, though I felt like the 10x10 challenge wasn't right for everyday, I can see how it would be awesome for a vacation. You could pack so much lighter and still have a nice variety of outfits. Just so long as you have the ability to do laundry once or twice I think it would be amazing for a trip.
  • Because I felt more self conscious about the sameness of my clothes I put a lot more effort into accessorizing than I normally do. Especially in summer time I tend to be lazy about jewelry, etc. but I felt like I needed to mix things up.
  • Although I love how soft my Paige grey skinny jeans are, I realized that they do not fit well at all. They are among my most worn jeans of all time b/c they go with everything but repeating them so many times has made me confront how ill-fitting they are. I'm definitely adding a handmade replacement to my list of things to sew.

I would consider trying this again in another season just to see how the experience is different. I definitely felt like I learned a lot from the challenge even though it wasn't my favorite thing to do. I don't see myself going for an entirely minimal wardrobe, but it felt good to experiment and I'm glad I tried it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Fall/Winter 2018 Making Plans

I am trying my best to be intentional with my new wardrobe makes, which means only putting in the time to make things I will actually wear. That entails more planning on my part. My past sewing and sometimes even knitting endeavors tended to run along the lines of being inspired by something I saw and then wanting to do it myself without actually thinking about whether or not it'll fit into my wardrobe. I am also trying to make things a season ahead of time because it makes more sense to have things ready to wear when the weather changes rather than scrambling to finish things when I have already needed them for a month or so.

So I am putting pen to paper (so to speak) and making a list of items I want to make for Fall/Winter. Some things I've even started on already and the rest is in the works. I am not operating under the illusion that I'll make everything but this will serve as a wishlist of sorts.

Knitting

  1. 20150412_152743
    At least 1 pair of fingerless mitts: I've got a simple Patons Kroy pair on the needles. I have 2 pairs already but in the fall/early winter I use them all the time for walking to work and walking the dogs as well so it would be handy to have one more.

  2. Remake Topshop cabled cardigan: I will write an entire post about this eventually but I fell in love with this cabled cardigan from Topshop. I bought it and realized it was knit out of the crappiest acrylic imaginable, so it had to go back. I ordered a bunch of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash to remake it. I have finished the sleeves and the back and I'm working on the fronts now.

  3. Topshop colorblock pullover: I didn't buy this one because it's so simple I don't need to see the garment to copy it. I love the colors and the oversized fit but again, I assume the materials aren't up to par. I bought a variety of worsted weight Knit Picks wools in appropriate colors to remake it.

If I Have Time

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    Convertible Mittens: I have 2 pairs of convertible mittens and they will probably be enough to get me through another winter but it might be nice to have a new pair. The problem is that I really hate making them. You know those sock knitting services where they can crank out most of a pair of socks on a knitting machine and you just have to do the finishing work? I really wish they had that for convertible mittens. What I really want is a pair with the individual fingers but that is even more work than convertible mitts, so we'll see. I certainly have enough sock yarn to choose from.
  2. Convertible Mittens for Spicy: My husband arguably needs convertible mittens even more than I do. so if I can stomach it I'll try to knit him a pair.

  3. Mustard Textured Scarf: I have plenty of scarves and shawls so I don't *really* need this but I could use a nice simple textured yellow scarf. The only reason I haven't started is because I'm anticipating getting bored really quickly. For some reason I like to wear very minimal uncomplicated things, but I generally prefer knitting more interesting ones. I've thought about maybe designing a gansey-esque cowl or scarf that would be reversible. I think Brooklyn Tweed has one but right now I am uninterested in giving BT any of my money so I'll either make up my own or go even simpler with an allover waffle or herringbone texture or something. It would also be nice to get this yarn out of stash. It's been around for awhile now.

Sewing


  1. Jeans! I have a test pair in the works right now. I've purchased some cone mills denim from Threadbare Fabrics in black and indigo. My plan is to do a dark wash high rise skinny jean and a pair of black crop flares. More on this soon.
  2. Self-drafted blouses: So I want a couple of tops that are similar to Shirt No. 1 and the Lou Box Top. However there are a few things I would change and because it's such a simple shape I should be able to draft my own using my measurements. I have some rayon challis and cotton lawn that I'd like to use. I'm planning to start this project when I finish my test jeans.
  3. Wrap Skirt: I found this 90s throwback wrap skirt that I really like. I dug through my pattern stash and came up with Simplicity 2512. It's a mock wrap but I think I can easily convert it to a true wrap skirt. I may also try to add pockets. I bought a beautiful floral Art Gallery rayon challis print and bemberg lining.

If I Have Time


  1. Black Morris Blazer: I really need a black blazer. The only reason I haven't made one is because I'm scared. I have the Grainline Studio Morris Blazer pattern and some stable sweater knit that I think will work. I just need to be brave enough to try it. I don't have a very formal work environment so a casual knit blazer would be totally appropriate and versatile for my job.

  2. Wool Wrap Coat: Being scared of sewing a blazer means I'm terrified of sewing a coat. And I have 4 coats so I don't really need a new one. However, I have this gorgeous navy wool flannel that I bought several years ago to sew a coat for my husband. I ended up just buying one that he never even wears so I'm not wasting this lovely fabric on him. :-P I found a wrap coat in an old Burdastyle magazine that may be a good fit if I can figure out the incredibly vague instructions.

  3. Men's Corduroy Pants: Back in the day I sewed my husband several pairs of pants using Kwik Sew 3504. He wore those pants until they fell apart. Like me, he has lost a bunch of weight recently and could really use some new pants for winter. I happen to have leftover corduroy fabric so I could remake 2 pairs of the exact same pants I made him all those years ago. I'm sure if I did he'd really appreciate it. and since i'm finally learning to sew jeans the proper way, I could make it happen. so I will do my best.

Looking back through the list I have most of the materials for all of these makes. So I am really hoping I can tick off a majority of the list within the next 3 months or so.

What about you? I'd love to hear about your Fall/Winter makes. Do you plan ahead or are you frantically knitting/sewing at the last minute like I usually do? Do you have any suggestions for cold weather staples that I should add to my list?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Seven years later...

In 2010 I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool for the first time and picked up 2oz of semisolid tussah silk from Gale's Art. I spun it into a 2ply laceweight yarn in 2011. It took literally months to spin and I resolved never to spin yarn that thin ever again (and I haven't since). Then, even though I was proud of my accomplishment I put it in the stash because I couldn't stand to look at it. And there it sat for several years.

I made an effort to knit it into a shawl twice. Both times I tried and then abandoned the Pebble Beach Shawl. Don't ask me why but for some reason I have the hardest time with simple eyelet and mesh lace. I think I get bored and stop counting and eventually lose track of where I'm at. Plus I'd get so bored I'd put it down for months and then not be able to figure out where I was when I picked it up again. So I gave up on that one and looked for a pattern that I could succeed in finishing.

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I chose the Ashton Shawlette because it was an easy free pattern but had enough details that I didn't think I'd lose interest. The size is also very customizable and I was hoping to take advantage of that feature because I wanted to maximize my yardage. You don't spend months spinning 1200+ yards of yarn not to use as much of it as you can. I did get a little bored in the end and I had about 5-6 grams leftover, but whatevs I did my best. The shawl is already huge enough and didn't really need to be any larger.

I'm a little hazy on the details but I'm pretty sure I did 10 repeats of the first lace pattern and 3 repeats of the leaf pattern. It's such a thin, delicate shawl. I can kind of see the appeal now of laceweight yarn, though I still don't think I'll commit to spinning more of my own any time soon.

I haven't worn this shawl yet. I was inspired to make it because I wanted a very light layer to wear during late spring/early summer mornings when it's still a bit chilly on my walk to work. Even my fingering weight shawls tend to be too heavy for this purpose. Of course we're in full summer right now so I haven't really needed it, but at least I have it now for future use. I tend not to wear this color for some reason though I do think it's lovely.

After finishing this one spring/summer item I'm mentally back to fall. I've always been way more excited about cold weather knits and I've been working on a cabled cardigan. hopefully I'll have details to show soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The garment that almost destroyed my sewing mojo

It's been so hot all summer that I got the idea into my head that it would be nice to own a few camisoles. To be honest I have never been much of a cami person because I am not a big fan of the strapless bra. However, I think I found one that stays up pretty well and doesn't dig in uncomfortably so I was ready to give the style another try. The Ogden Cami by True Bias is such a popular pattern that it was easy to get inspired with all of the different versions out there.

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My test version used the leftover indigo-dyed cotton/linen from my Willamette shirt. I had just enough hand-dyed fabric left that I hated to waste it. I was able to squeeze out enough for the cami, which takes less than a yard of fabric. This time I used the reverse side of the fabric from my Willamette shirt. It's much more solid in appearance and pretty much looks like a chambray fabric, which I was very happy with.

For this version I cut and sewed a size 0. I lengthened the body just slightly, about 5/8". Otherwise I made no changes. I embroidered a red X with perle cotton on the back lining piece to make it easy to identify the back from the front. It was very easy to do and didn't create any itch potential like it would have if I'd sewed a tag on the inside. I used the string trick to turn my spaghetti straps, but I wasn't altogether happy with the results. The straps turned just fine but getting them pressed flat and straight was difficult and honestly my straps are pretty wavy.

The fit on this one is ok, but it's tight under the arms. I modified the pattern to increase just the armholes to a size 2, giving me about 1/2" additional width all the way around. I sewed this version all in one afternoon so I was ready to cut out my next version. I haven't actually worn this one yet but I have made it part of my Summer 10x10 challenge, so I'm sure I will have plenty to report on it soon.

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This is silk charmeuse that I bought from fabric mart ages ago. I went a little crazy and bought all these silky fabrics and then let them sit in the stash because I was too scared to sew them, for good reason it turns out. I watched a bunch of classes on sewing with silk and other fine and sheer fabrics. I was armed with all these techniques for cutting and sewing silks.

I used my rotary cutter, pattern weights (ok, I used wet cat food cans but they actually work really well and I highly recommend), and i stabilized my fabric with medical pattern paper. I traced my pattern pieces to be a single layer and the cutting went fine. Where I think I went wrong was using cheap cotton thread for the sewing. One of the classes I watched recommended thin cotton thread, while others advised using silk thread or rayon embroidery thread. I was impatient and only had cotton thread in the appropriate color in my stash so I just used what I had. I am pretty sure the thread was too thick for the fabric and I'm definitely sure that the low quality really hindered my progress. There were often little slubs that would get caught in my tiny 65/9 needle and mess up my sewing. And even though I lowered my machine tension considerably it still puckered quite a bit when I sewed, especially on the hems.

I also had issues with my machine. Because the fabric was so delicate I pretty much had no choice but to use the single hole needle plate function on my machine. However, I have always had a problem with it breaking needles and skipping stitches and this project was no exception. I also had issues with my rolled hem foot. I have basically never been able to get the damn thing to work. Fortunately I knew ahead of time that it probably wasn't going to happen and only ruined a few practice samples before giving up and doing a machine rolled hem without using the special foot.

I did French seams, rather poorly. I also had the same problems with my straps being wavy. it took me about 2 weeks to finally finish this camisole, and I think I only did it because I didn't want to let it defeat me. I am not anxious to sew with silk charmeuse or any other slippery fabric again, no matter how nice it feels.

July 25

Having said all of that, I am wearing my silk cami today and it feels so lovely on. The color is just gorgeous and it'll be perfect to transition to fall with a cardigan or jacket. I've even ordered more fabric to make another Ogden Cami so evidently I haven't learned my lesson. Hopefully rayon challis will be less of a bear to sew than the silk.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer 2018 10x10 Challenge

Have you heard of the 10x10 Challenge? I've followed Lee of Style Bee for awhile but I've never tried it myself. There's a summer challenge starting next Friday, July 27 and I've decided to participate for the first time.

Lee has a much more in-depth explanation on her blog but in a nutshell you pick 10 items from your closet and wear them for 10 days. I've loosely been following a capsule this summer but narrowing it down to only 10 things is pretty extreme. I've chosen 4 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 outer layer. It's been such a hot summer I don't know if I'll even need the jacket but if it rains or something I'll be prepared. Accessories don't count and you can interchange those things freely, so if I get cold I can switch up with a shawl or scarf if I need to.

I'm only including 1 handmade item this time. I still am rather new to sewing my own clothes again and for this challenge every piece needs to be able to interchange freely with every other item. I don't have that many handmade things that are that versatile. I am planning to do 10 consecutive days so my challenge will include a weekend (hence, the shorts).

I am really looking forward to the challenge and seeing what everyone else is wearing. You can follow the hashtag #SUMMER10x10 on instagram. I'll be posting under that hashtag and also #kcsummer10x10 just to keep myself organized.

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