May 4, 2019

It’s Me Made May and I am Ready! (Or, my first full year as a garment sewist)

Oh hi blog! Since I only pop in here once in awhile, I’m going to start with a little life catch-up, then I’ll get on to garment sewing! Wait but FIRST, I have been blogging a little bit, for my work! I did a post for my work blog that I’d been meaning to do here on my own blog for YEARS and had never found the time to do: all about my UK-Ireland trip sweater project! Check it out!

travel sweater with labels

And I did a pretty in-depth Kool-Aid yarn-dyeing in the microwave tutorial, which is a different method from all the old blog tutorials I did years ago.

kool-aid dyed yarn

It’s now the beginning of May, so I’ve been working at Knit Picks for over SEVEN months wow! I still feel kinda new. BUT, my position changed halfway through that time, so I am relatively new to my actual job. The good news is I like my new position a lot better than the first one! Yay! My company is awesome because they paid attention to me and a co-worker who started at the same time as me, watching our strengths, and decided that hey, she would be a better fit in a different position and I would be a better fit in her position as book designer. And it’s true! So I’m designing print books now instead of emails & web graphics and I feel more confident in my work, happier with the workflow, and just all-around like I’m better and the job is better for me. Yay! I just finished the first batch of books that I fully designed, which will be out in the summer. The set of books coming out very soon was the first round I was in charge of, but the positions were all kind of mid-transition, so it was all hands on deck. Another designer did the covers and title treatments, and another helped a ton with photo selection and layout, so while I had a huge hand in those books, they were a team effort. Luckily, my team is great! But I’ll be really excited when the first all-me books come out in a few months! (Maybe I should add, don’t be TOO excited—I’m working within a set template, on a very tight timeline, so my creative freedom isn’t wide with these books. I’m actually super cool with the restrictions; since I don’t need to make design choices about everything, because most of the basic layout stuff is already decided for me, I can put a little extra time into fun design details, and, more importantly?, put plenty of time into proofreading, fine-tuning, and trying to make the books as perfect as possible for knitters to use! But yeah, they won’t actually LOOK very different from all the other Knit Picks pattern books.)

Taku sweater

So, I started my job at the beginning of October; I was so overwhelmed by the huge life change of working full-time in an office that I had little weekend energy and I didn’t sew anything for the first couple of months, and didn’t knit very much either really. I finished that Norah Gaughan sweater above, which I’d started in June, and I started another sweater that I still haven’t finished yet:

Spiral pullover

In November, I got started thinking about gift projects, which I didn’t really start until December, and I finished them by the end of January, so all my creative time and energy was spent on those until February. Here are a couple of those gift knits.

gift knits

And then February was the month from hell. On February 2nd, Banzo died, unexpectedly at only ten years old. I was so completely heartbroken and devastated (still am) that I could barely sleep or eat in the days after it happened, and my body reacted to all that by getting the worst cold I’ve had in years. So then I was heartsick and body-sick through most of the month … and just to top it all off with a cherry on top, the month ended with learning we had rats living in our attic. I did knit a lot that month, therapeutic stockinette in pretty colors. I got most of the body done in February, and then finished it at the end of March:

Gaugeless Cardigan

Finally in mid-March I gathered up some sewjo and made a dress. For some reason, the thing I was motivated to make was a summery caftan dress, so I had to style it up warm to be able to wear it in early spring.

Mojave caftan

That weekend was the first of seven in a row now that I’ve made one item per week! This weekend will be the eighth if I make one of the things I want to make soon… but I JUST picked up my freshly up-and-running new old Bernina Record so I’ll be practicing on that this weekend and might not actually complete a project. We’ll see! (In the background there is my cheapo Singer which is what I used to make everything you see in this post!)

sewing machines

Anyway, here are the things I’ve made each week lately: that first dress above was Mojave in a thrifted sheet. Then I made a flannel LB Pullover.

flannel top

Zinnia skirt in a thrifted sheet. My first pleats!

pleated skirt

One Hour Top in a thrifted knit sheet. (First time using a twin needle.)

simple top

York Pinafore in reclaimed corduroy and a fabric scrap for the pockets, both from Scrap.

pinafore with patterned pockets

Another Mojave in a thrifted flannel sheet with a couple of Connecting Threads bits.

flannel caftan

And lastly, last weekend I made an LB Pullover dress hack in a thrifted duvet cover. Whew!

bright big dress

But hey, that’s just the last two months! My garment sewing journey began in earnest one year ago, when I decided I wanted to wear something that matched my graphic design portfolio for my graduation portfolio show. I’d been using a sewing machine since I was… 6, 7, 8? Not sure… and I’d done clothing re-construction projects and simple improvised garment sewing, but I’d never actually used a pattern until the summer before that (July 2017) when I sewed my first Dress No.1.

simple dress with patch pockets

After that, I made another Dress No.1…

simple dress with elephant stencils

…and I also made some leggings using a self-drafted pattern.

leggings with craft stencils

I kept planning to get more into using patterns and making cool clothes, but I just kept not having the motivation to devote time and energy to the learning process; there were always too many things on my plate. But then, I was using these hand-drawn patterns in my portfolio, which I thought would look so cool on fabric, so I had the idea of sewing something with the fabric to wear and I got obsessed and HAD to do it! It was the motivating factor I needed to finally learn how to make clothes! Because I wanted to make something that looked good—not improvised, not scrappy, using a pattern more complex than Dress No.1 … so I needed to teach myself how to do it. And find a pattern to use, starting from scratch, not really knowing anything about the sewing community and indie patterns, etc, etc. This happened to be around the beginning of May that I started brainstorming this idea. So I stalked the #memademay instagram hashtag to start collecting patterns I wanted to make. I use Pinterest to keep track of patterns (this is the only thing I use pinterest for anymore!), so you can browse the patterns I want to make, the ones I now own, interesting free ones, vintage ones I like, and sewing tutorials & inspiration.

pinterest screenshot

So right away, after deciding to do this thing, I started practicing using patterns, first by sewing an Endless Summer tunic, which was a pattern recommended by a friend as an easy beginner-level pattern (it’s quite a step up from Dress No.1 though!)—my first one was a bit messy but pretty good for how much I was still learning:

first tunic

And then I played around with this Mix and Match Wrap Dress pattern… the first half I made was way too big, so then I made another half in the smaller size and it fit fine but was still kinda weird… but all that was good practice!

two-part wrap dress

And I made a self-drafted Boxy Tee as more sewing practice. Funny thing about this: I made the pocket to exactly fit my phone, and then like a month later I got a new phone, and of course it’s bigger and doesn’t fit! I still like it though.

multi-sheet fabric top

And then I pretty much just went for it with my chosen pattern and nice Spoonflower fabric! Eek I should have made a wearable muslin first, but I was short on time and heavy on confidence. I went very slowly, and it all turned out well! My chosen pattern was the River top, and here is my portfolio top, in action at my portfolio show:

portfolio top

It worked! Here’s my matching portfolio, front and back laser-cut wood covers (stained with turmeric):

portfolio covers

So that was it, I now knew how to use a pattern, and I had bookmarked a ton of patterns I wanted to make, and I’d started collecting fabric (from thrift stores, mostly), so I was officially a garment sewist! I made another River as a dress from a thrifted curtain:

white and blue dress

And I made two more Endless Summers: the first two I made are basically only for wearing around the house in the summer…

two tunics

…and then I made a flannel one that I LOVE and is one of my fave things I’ve made so far (all three of these are from thrifted sheets):

plaid flannel dress

I made another fun Boxy Tee:

rainbow tee

And I played around with the Mix and Match Wrap Dress some more, making two more halves. I still don’t have a complete wearable dress that I like, but maybe someday I’ll break out the pattern again and make something good from it!

two more dress halves

Another River dress from a flannel sheet that I LOVE (I think flannel is my favorite kind of fabric!):

plaid flannel dress

And an Akita top from that same sheet.

plaid flannel top

I made another Akita top that did not work very well and is for around-the-house wear only, and I attempted an Akita dress hack that I did a terrible job of drafting the bottom on and I need to just chop it into a top or tunic and then finish it so I can wear it… maybe I’ll do that this weekend!

two tops

I used the free York top pattern to try set-in sleeves for the first time:

top with sleeves

And I made a simple tank top to match the wrap skirt I made long ago:

tank top

Side note: I grabbed this pattern at JoAnn because the basic tank top, basic dress, basic pants all seemed like good things to have. I am not used to using big-4 patterns and I think I was supposed to add seam allowance and didn’t, so it turned out way too small (I added the panel in the center to make it fit, which I like, so everything worked out!), so I need to be more careful about that in the future… but then another weird thing is I can’t find this pattern anywhere online, to link it—all I can find is one ebay listing. It doesn’t exist on the Simplicity site, the JoAnn site, or anywhere else. I don’t understand how big-4 patterns work! So weird.

tank pattern

During this same time (basically all last summer, into early fall), I also made a dress from t-shirts that was an idea I want to develop more… it may turn into a blog tutorial or a free pattern download or something! So you get a sneaky closeup photo of that only—it’s a surprise!

t-shirts sewn closeup

That last stuff was made right before I started my job and lost my momentum. I jumped back on the machine in December when I decided to make a shirt for Pete for a gift! I got a bit ahead of myself… I bought the Negroni pattern to make his shirt, but then I had this plan to make a shirt for myself first to learn how it worked, so I bought the Archer pattern for myself…

shirt collar

I read a bunch of tutorials and stuff, learning how things like collars and sleeve plackets worked, but I really learn best by doing (can you tell?) so I started making myself a sleeveless Archer to make a collar, yoke, buttonband, as practice. But hey, guess what, there are different ways to make shirts! Turns out, basically every single element of the Archer shirt is different from the Negroni shirt—yoke, collar, buttonband, sleeves… completely different constructions. So I mostly made mine anyway, but since it was December and my shirt was sleeveless I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the hems and buttonholes…

two shirt collars

And I just went for it with his, but in a silly flannel fabric for the test run. And then I plan on making him a good one in nice fabric in the future. But it worked pretty well! The only major problem is the sleeves are WAY too long!! That’s an easy fix for the next one I make.

pete's flannel shirt

The yoke and the sleeve plackets were both SO COOL and magical to make! Crazy sewing origami-esque trickery.

flannel shirt closeups

Those projects taught me about flat felled seams, which was a game-changer, since I don’t have a serger. I did flat felled seams in my recent York Pinafore, LB Pullover projects, flannel Mojave. So much nicer than zig-zagging or pinking!

seams closeups

So those two shirts were so intense and I learned so much that I kind of burned myself out again, which leads us back to the top of this post when I finally gathered my sewjo back up a couple of months ago! Yay! And now it’s full-circle back to Me Made May, and I’ve sewn enough in the past year that I’m attempting to wear a handmade GARMENT every single day in May! I’ll be posting my outfits in small batches over on instagram.

a bunch of handmade clothes hanging

Handknit garments count, but I haven’t made very many of those. By the end of the month, I’ll probably be wearing some of my older reconstructed and improvised garments. Some of these, I want to re-reconstruct, fix them up now that my skills are built up. Like making nice, even hems on the old t-shirt skirts I made way back, and add pockets!.

tee skirt

Something else I’ve been doing since I really started sewing clothes is collecting fabric from my favorite fabric stores: thrift stores! Duh. Sheets can make awesome garment fabric, with great yardage! Of course, lots of thrift store sheets are too worn & pilly, or bad fiber contents, or just plain ugly, etc etc… there are lots of times I find zero good fabrics at a store. Then sometimes I’ll hit a jackpot shop and leave with like five awesome pieces of fabric. Sometimes it’s in the form of actual fabric, like with the selvedge still on, but actually that can be riskier than a sheet because sheets (and curtains) have tags that tell you the fiber content and washing instructions. I’ve bought a few pieces of fabric from actual fabric stores (that LB Pullover flannel came from JoAnn, and I have nice pieces from Bolt and Fabric Depot [RIP] that I’m saving for the right projects), or Ikea, but most of my stash came from thrift stores, Scrap, and then a bunch of free scores from work (I’m in the same building as Connecting Threads!).

fabric stash

I do plan on getting more from Spoonflower; that’s pretty pricey, so I like the idea of mostly using extremely inexpensive, reclaimed fabrics from thrift stores, and then putting that savings into treating myself occasionally with Spoonflower yardage.

spoonflower fabric swatches

Something else I’ve been brainstorming about is ways to use fat quarters (also Spoonflower swatches). I’ve gotten tons free from work, and I love treating myself to a couple of awesome fat quarters from places like Bolt, donna and toots, and Cool Cottons, or shops I find while traveling. But I need ways to use them! If I try one of my ideas and it works well, that might be another blog tutorial in the future.

pattern piece

That’s a shot of a pattern piece I printed on papers from graphic design school… for years, I brought home all full-size sheets that were blank on one side, knowing I’d find a use for them! Yay PDF patterns! Okay I need to stop writing and start trying out my new Bernina. May has already knocked my sewing energy up a notch and there are so many things I’m excited to make!!

Filed under: clothing,personal — Lee Meredith @ 2:49 pm
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