The Feast After the Fast

Well, I think it’s high time I admit that I have ‘failed’ my 2014 RTW fast. The other week I bought two t-shirts and yesterday I ordered a sh*tload of things online. While it’s a bit of a bummer to not have bragging rights in having sewn all my new clothes for a year, I can’t say I regret my decision.

There are several reasons for my change of mind.

First, without fail, it takes me much longer to sew anything than I anticipate. For example, I spent almost two weeks over my Christmas vacation sewing one dress which, when all is said and done, I neither like nor wear. I’m currently working on a blazer, and so-far-so-good looks-wise, but my progress has definitely been steady-as-she-goes. I think when you add in all the muslining, etc., I’ve been at this blazer for at least a month now.

Second, detail and cut are very important to me. If I’m being honest, I have to acknowledge that I’m simply not capable of creating a lot of the specific looks that I want. Of course I recognise that with time and experience my sewing skills will improve, but to quote my favourite movie, “Know your limits, Master Wayne.”

I don’t even want to think about how long it would take me to sew this outfit.

Third, finding new clothes makes me happy. While our society tends to associate statements like that with over-consumption and a lack of depth (shallowness) and/or intelligence, I have come to a point where I am not the least bit ashamed to admit that I enjoy acquiring clothing. How one chooses to dress oneself is a form of expression. Throw on a hoodie everyday? Lulus? A suit? Shop at Walmart? Gap? Holt Renfrew? All these choices say something about you.

On a related matter, I’ve been pretty down of late, and let me tell you, finding exactly what I’ve been wanting (horizontal-striped t-shirts) recently gave me quite the mood boost. Conversely, slaving away at a muslin for hours then trying it on and hating how it looks tends to have the opposite effect. While overall sewing is a great activity (passion? hobby? release?) to throw myself into, I think balancing the trials and tribulations, sweat and blood (literally – I am always jabbing myself while hand-sewing) of home-sewing with some other acquisitions, is healthy for me.

I wore my favourite dress yesterday. It generally garners compliments, and yesterday was no exception. I received a compliment from someone who rarely talks to me. I don’t know what it says about me and my levels of self esteem (or lack thereof), but right after I received the compliment, I returned to my office and bought more clothes from the store where I got that dress.  (And the package is supposed to arrive today, woo!)

Anyways, I guess the point is that it doesn’t have to be black-and-white, either or; I can curate a wardrobe made up of both purchased items and self-makes. In the end, we have to make decisions that are right for us, where we are, right now, and for me the decision is to not continue with my 2014 RTW fast.

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Christmas Vacation Dress

I am calling this my Christmas Vacation Dress, because it was the only sewing project I started and/or completed during my nearly two weeks off.  I had been hoping to finish three projects during my “sewcation”, but this one took far more time than I had anticipated.

Why did this dress take me so long?  Well…

The pattern is Butterick B5949.  Thinking that pleats at the waist would be “unflattering” on my figure, I decided to go with View C and made up a muslin.  Unfortunately, the puffy sleeves and chest (created by the pleats) made me look like a football player.  My mom remarked, “Well look at the model [on the envelope] – she’s so skinny!”  Thanks, Mom.

So I made a muslin of the bodice of View B.  To my eye it looked good.

 

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This bodice style was not flattering on me.

Christmas Vacation Dress

So I tried my luck with Bodice B.

So I worked away at the dress for ages; since I’m a beginner sewist, things tend to take me a while.  Over a week after I had first begun, I threw on my near-completed garment, zipped it up triumphantly and turned to the mirror where I expected the image of a perfectly-fitted dress to greet me.

WRONG.  The bodice had folds and bunches in all the wrong places, creating fabric “love handles” all across the back and an enormous fabric “muffin top”.  Not the look I was going for.

I don’t know what happened: how could I go from a decently-fitting muslin bodice to a horribly-fitting dress?  Did I use an unsuitable muslin fabric?  Should I have made a muslin of the full dress instead of just the bodice?  Should I have sewn a zipper into the muslin instead of just pinning it up?

I was feeling quite deflated since I’d spent so much time and used such beautiful (and for me, expensive!) material – a cardinal red wool gabardine from Britex.  I expressed my disappointment with my “failure” to my mom who said, “It’s not a failure!  You just need to adjust it!”  As cheesy as it sounds, her support gave me the boost in stamina I needed to keep going.  So I picked up my seam ripper.

I wound up having to take, from the bottom, fourteen centimeters off the centre back, tapered to 9 cm at the side seams, to get the back and sides to lay somewhat flat against my body.  (Yes, I know you’re supposed to lengthen/shorten the bodice from the lengthen/shorten line, but as I’d already cut my wool, that option wasn’t available to me.)  The resulting product resembles more of an empire style dress.

I also made a dart on the left front panel of the bodice, as it was flopping around at the neckline.  Unfortunately when I wore this dress for the first time, I noticed that both sides of the neckline gape more than I’d like.  Also, now that I’ve removed the basting stitches from the pleats at the waistline, they are more drapey and less firm than I’d prefer.  Basically they flop around instead of holding a nice pleat.  Grrr.

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While I would rate the finished project as only ‘okay’, I am glad that I tried out some new-to-me techniques.  I inserted a hand-picked zipper and finished the hem with bias tape.  I quite like both techniques, especially the zipper insertion.  It took me hours to get the thing in, but the amount of control you have is wonderful – I may never insert an invisible zipper again!

Christmas Dress Hem

The hem was finished with single-fold bias tape. (Sorry for the poor focus.)

The zipper I hand-sewed into the garment.

The zipper I hand-sewed into the garment.

Well, onto new, and hopefully less time-consuming and/or more successful, projects!

Potential

I’m kind of bummed at the moment.

At the beginning of October, my transit card had not automatically reloaded my pass as it was set up to do. The bus drivers I encountered by and large made me pay cash fare. There was one exception: a particular driver told me, with a smile, not to pay or worry about it. (This was the case for several days until the problem was fixed.)

Prior to my card problems, I had noticed that this driver was young, good-looking and fit, but once the newfound knowledge that he was nice and friendly was thrown into the mix, I was completely taken.

After much fan-girling and swooning about him to any of my friends who would listen, and with much encouragement from my personal trainer, I was able, bit-by-bit, day-by-day, to start talking to him. Before long I was standing by him for the whole bus ride back to the suburbs, talking about everything under the sun such as real estate, traditional gender roles, (good) food, our families and childhoods, and our shared existential crises (“Do you ever find yourself at work, just sitting there and thinking, is this it?”) He was always good for a laugh (or several), e.g. when I told him I like to sew, he told me how, when he was a kid, he would steal his mom’s shoulder pads and wear them under his shirt to pretend he was muscular. Over the weeks and months, I feel like I really got to know him (and vice versa), and looked forward to our daily chats.

I was/am proud of myself for striking up a friendship with a stranger. My personal trainer and good friend said to me shortly before he moved away: “You want my advice? You’re an awesome, smart, funny person, but you have this wall. You only let it down for certain people. If you want to meet people, you need to let down your wall. It’s all about confidence.” As soon as he said it, I immediately knew its truth. In general I’m not a particularly confident person, especially around guys whom I find attractive. So I felt really good and pleased with myself for letting down my wall for David.

This past Friday, as we pulled up to my stop, David said, “I hate to say it, but it’s my last day on this route.” He indicated that he had made a mental note of the routes I regularly ride and assured me that we’d see each other again, but I remain unconvinced. Not knowing how to say goodbye to someone who was important to me, albeit for a very finite time, I found myself waving my arms grandly and saying, “Well… have a nice life!”

Of course I am mourning the end of our particular friendship, but I also think that I am, to a large extent, mourning what it represented: a spontaneous, real connection, an example of my ability to (very occasionally) let down my wall and let someone in, the excitement of someone new in my life. And, though I hate to admit it to myself, I am probably mourning what could – hypothetically – have been. (“Well, we got along really well and have similar values. If he wasn’t married…”) I am 29 and have never been in a serious relationship, ergo “is there something wrong with me?” runs through my head regularly; potential is important to me, and lost potential, something to be regretted.

I guess it is true, as my mom said, “Maybe you’ll meet another hot bus driver who’s single!” Maybe…

Boy, I really do think it’s true that Christmas is a depressing time of year.

A Carven-Inspired Skirt

I love this skirt!

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Can you tell that these photos were taken a few hours apart?

This project marked a few personal firsts:

  • The first time I used a higher-end fabric (100% wool from a designer fabric store);
  • The first time I self-drafted a pattern, i.e. developed the pattern myself instead of purchasing one;
  • The first time I recreated a garment I liked; and
  • The first time I sewed an exposed zipper, one of my favourite details.
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A close-up of the exposed zipper. (I have no idea why WordPress rotated my photo and I can’t get it to rotate back.)

I am very pleased with the results!  I also used a high-end lining (Ambiance Bemberg), and it feels delightfully luxurious and silky against the skin.

I was inspired by the shape of the skirt on the right.  Turns out the wool I found was kind of close in colour to another recent Carven skirt on the left.

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The skirt on the left retails for 475 USD and the one on the right for 330 USD. I estimate that my materials cost me 25 CAD.

I wore my skirt for the first time today and received a compliment from a colleague (before she knew it was self-made).  I love it when that happens!  ;-)

No Store-Bought Clothing in 2014!

With a mix of excitement, trepidation and terror, I have decided to join Goodbye Valentino’s 2014 RTW Fast. In layman’s terms, this means that I am planning on refraining from purchasing clothing in the upcoming calendar year. Any new garments I will be sewing myself. (RTW stands for “ready-to-wear” or purchased garments, to be contrasted with those you sew.)

I am definitely scared. I only dusted off my sewing machine (acquired and barely used in high school) this past June, so I very much still consider myself a beginner sewist. Plus, I often express myself through my personal style (or lack thereof, depending on the day!) The fact that my new garments will not be acquired, but made – a far more time-consuming, and on occasion frustrating, process – makes me wonder: will I be able to create the wardrobe I want?

So, why am I doing this?

I love sewing. Plain and simple. I spend the majority of my free time sewing, daydreaming about sewing projects and reading about sewing.

I love a challenge. Last year I focussed on working out and becoming physically fit. While I am still enjoying a regular workout schedule, it’s time for a new personal focus.

I figure necessity (relatively speaking) will cause my sewing skills to improve.

A feeling of accomplishment: It feels pretty darn good to slip on a piece of clothing that has come together by your own hands.

A one-of-a-kind wardrobe. (To go with a one-of-a-kind me, har har har.) Being asked “did you buy that at [insert store name here]?” is starting to lose its novelty.

Satisfaction that terrible working conditions and/or unfair labour practices weren’t a part of the making of my clothes. (I must admit that I don’t know where most of my fabric is sourced, but at least I am eliminating some steps in the manufacturing process.)

I hate shopping. Change rooms? Make-up-stained garments? Dealing with salespeople who give you attitude when you return something purchased online (cough, Club Monaco, cough)? I could do without all of that.

Saving money. In theory…

So here goes… wish me luck! Not to imply that I am setting out with a defeatist attitude, but I figure that even if I do wind up caving and buying something, I will have gained so much.

Up until last night I was undecided on whether or not to go on an RTW fast, but when I tried on my current sewing project in front of the mirror for the first time and literally went “aaaahhhhh!!!!” and jumped up and down a few times because I loved the look and feel of the dress so much, I knew I had to at least try. And isn’t that what really matters?

Concerning “failures”

I am a self-taught sewer, meaning that I’ve learned everything through trial and error (with a ton of help from the internet).  For example, I learned that weight and drape of fabric are important when I chose an inappropriate fabric for a dress that wound up resembling a parachute.  It also took several ill-fitting garments for me to clue in that commercial patterns have a ton of ease and that you should refer to the finished garment measurements (not your body measurements) when deciding which size to cut.

ImageIt may look like a parachute, but I learned how to work with bias tape and make pleats during the making of this “failure”.

The end result of all this trial and error is that now I have several garments that I never plan on wearing because I don’t like the way they look on me and/or they are impossibly big or small.  I don’t view these items as failures per se, as I definitely learned from my mistakes, and I’m sure I improved my skills during the making of a “failed” garment.  (That’s not to say that chocolate wasn’t downed after the completion of each one of these disappointments!)

I am a pack rat who has way too much stuff, so I probably shouldn’t keep all my failed projects, but then again, it’s hard to let go of something you’ve spent hours days on, and had hoped to have expressed yourself through.  I think the disappointments will wind up hitting the trash bin sooner or later though, because photos are really all I need if I’m feeling especially reminiscent.

Does this mean I’ll finally start making muslins?  TBD.