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Ch-ch-ch-changes

A couple of months ago I was in my craft room, all dolled up, taking photos for this blog. I had planned on using the day to get several makes photographed so that I could post them over the next several weeks, and I was OVER IT. I don’t like taking photos of myself- lately it’s been feeling like tedious work to set up the lights, the backdrop, the camera, plan the outfits, put makeup on and do my hair, fiddle around with the camera remote which almost ALWAYS seems to have a glitch. I had always thought of this process as a labor of love but on this morning, teetering in my high heels while trying to keep my mark and smashing that tiny remote with my thumb over and over again, I recognized that there was no love here at all- it was just laborious.

I had a tiny break down in Claire’s lap that afternoon. I don’t know why I feel so sad about this! I said. I don’t know why I feel so unhappy! Something about my favorite hobby in the world, the one I had dedicated the last several years to, was making me sad and the mere recognition of that felt like a betrayal. It took me a couple of days to fully sort through my emotions, which tend to bubble up searing hot around my eyes and my throat so fast that I can barely see, much less communicate with anyone that I am struggling; I need distance to process. Once I had it, I figured some stuff out. I knew I had been using sewing to protect myself from stuff that was going on in my life and in the world- it had become a safe haven for me. I am an introvert so time spent with myself has always been a way for me to energize, but sewing made me feel accomplished and empowered in a way that I never anticipated, gave me time to concentrate on small tasks when I felt confused, frustrated or angry. It gave me space to mull over conflicts and have imaginary conversations with people that I felt nervous about. It gave me a job to do when I was left uninspired in my own career. All of that sounds good on paper, of course, and it was- to a certain extent.

But at some point, I started to need my safe sewing nook a little less. I was feeling supported in new ways, back in therapy for the first time in years, feeling more excited about life outside of my home and less inclined to hide from it. So I started to question why exactly I was spending so much time on sewing. Of course I love sewing very much, but why had it eclipsed all the other things I love to do in my life, like draw, build, write, learn, and above all else, what exactly was my goal now? By this point I had made an entire memade wardrobe that I was incredibly happy with and proud of, and I had a guest room closet full of beautiful #redcarpetDIY projects, half of which I hadn’t even worn yet. If it was true that some of my aims in sewing was to ween myself off of RTW, use /buy less and not focus on trendy fast fashion, then I had surpassed my goal a couple of times over, but I was also still weirdly still participating in what I was trying to get away from. I mean, how many sun dresses does a woman who doesn’t leave the house unless she has to actually need? (This is a rhetorical question)! As someone on instagram put it, I had effectively become a one-person fast-fashion factory, and it wasn’t making me happy anymore.

I think my feelings of unhappiness were stemming from a part of me being ready to shift the way I was living my life a tiny bit, ready to make room for other things inside of it, but the sewing habit that I had created over the years was now SOLIDLY engrained in my life. It had served it’s purpose so well that it had become a part of my identity, and now my identity wanted some room for growth but I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my routine. I wanted to change the mindset where I was making sewing my main priority. I was tired of planning the different parts of my day- friend dates, appointments, activities, chores, auditions- to fit around my sewing schedule instead of the other way around. I was tired of feeling guilty when I had a busy day and didn’t have enough time to go to the craft room and work on something. I was tired of being exhausted from a long day and forcing myself to go downstairs and sew because it’s what I should be doing instead of what I wanted to be doing. The line between my wants and my needs in the realm of sewing had become increasingly blurred, and although I still enjoyed the act of sewing and what I was creating, I knew I needed to tweak something to balance the scales a bit.

As I said before, sewing isn’t the only thing I like to do- my interests in everything hands-on is the whole reason I named this blog TryCurious! But the craft of sewing has taken over my life to the point where, when I have the opportunity to learn something new or work on a different kind of project, I either turn it down or procrastinate doing the thing til I forget about it. And that doesn’t feel good. Something has been off, so now I am in the process of trying to fix it.

I am not abandoning sewing and I am sure that this blog will continue to be more sewing content than anything else, but even just recognizing that I needed a shift seemed to set a lot of different things in motion- it’s like the world opened up to me a little bit when I made room in my head for it. To start, I’ve been taking ASL classes for the past month, which I absolutely love. ASL is something that I have wanted to learn for years, and then suddenly I had an opportunity to learn the skill for a future project, so I dove in head first. If this had happened a few months ago I can guarantee you that I would have convinced myself not to make any space for it in my life because I wouldn’t have had enough me time (loosely translated, my “me” time is known by all to mean my “sewing” time, lol). I’m also refocusing on my shoe making process, which is a craft I have tended to put to the side because it cuts into my sewing time too much. I’ve also been cooking more, reading more and hanging out with friends more. The change has been subtle to start- I still haven’t started reupholstering the dining room chairs that have been sitting in the garage since last spring, or learning how to build a dollhouse as I promised myself I would- but I still feel the impact that my new mindset has taken and it feels great!

I want to make clear that this post is not an attempt to encourage anyone to change their own habits or examine the role that sewing plays in their lives- I’m not here to judge anybody, this is just me and my story, and I decided to share it here because I like writing and it’s sewing related- I don’t want anybody to feel guilty about their own relationships with their hobbies. I started this discussion on instagram a few weeks ago and it was really great to read similar (and non-similar) thoughts about the topic of balancing sewing with the other aspects of our lives. I did get a couple of comments about how I shouldn’t change anything at all or feel guilty about it if I liked it so much, and this seemed like a really simplified view of what it was I was trying to communicate. But honestly I can’t blame anyone for oversimplifying the solution to an issue when said issue is being described in 2200 characters or less, haha.

Sewing does bring me joy, but so does balance, and that is what I am on a mission to find for myself. I am trying something new with my sewing now, which is to stick to a roster of makes that I have planned out ahead of time. It’s not quite a capsule wardrobe because minimalism is not my style, but I wanted to try a different kind of approach with the craft. I am continuing to buy fabric with intent as opposed to simply buying everything beautiful that I see (which isn’t too hard- my stash is already pathetically small!) and I am trying NOT to buy every cool, new pattern that hits the market unless I have a specific plan for it. For now, I am focusing only on ramping up my cooler weather wardrobe, which is lackluster compared to my summer wardrobe; I basically wear jeans from November to March and have very few choices when it’s time to dress up for something special. I wanted to give myself several key pieces of clothing that could work as both casual and slightly dressy wear, so I started pinning patterns and looks and narrowing down my options over a couple of weeks in September. I drew them all out in my croquis sketchbook and searched for fabrics that would pair well with them if I didn’t already have them in my stash.

It wasn’t easy! I had to make quite a few changes throughout the process, like when I ordered a cut of autumnal-colored corduroy online to make the Lander Pants out of, but once it arrived realized that it was much too light-weight for the sturdy, structured pants I was going for. That orange fabric ended up pairing well with the paper-bag waist Tully Pants by Style Arc that I had also put on the list, but of course then I was back on the hunt for the right weight corduroy for the Landers. And back and forth it went for weeks. I have since worked out most of the kinks in my plan and have narrowed down my makes to a really nice workable fall wardrobe that mixes and matches with what I already have in my closet. I have already completed three of the projects on my list: a thick necked turtleneck dress in a gorgeous ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, a Jackie dress in a floral velvet, and a blue jean jacket by Alina Design Co., which sewed up fairly quickly and which I am absolutely in love with (I promise to blog these individually in the future)!

Below I am sharing my sketches and fabric swatches paired with their patterns- in a few months I will revisit this post and see if I was actually able to stick to my sewing plan!

Apologies for the poor quality of the below photos- I was in a mad dash to finish them up as I was packing for a work trip and I didn’t have much time to make them look very good!

This is the Jackie Dress from Victory Patterns in a really gorgeous floral velvet fabric that I found in the fabric district in DTLA (funny story about buying this fabric, which I will share when I blog about it later). Spoiler alert, I have already completed this dress and I am in love with it!

 

The fabric for the True Bias Ogden Cami is less orange in real life than it looks in this photo, but it’s a beautiful, supple silk from The Fabric Store that I have had in my stash for like 2 years and I am excited to finally make something up in it. It will make a really great staple for auditions I think, which generally require solid, non-distracting fabrics, but I still like to go bold with my colors- gotta make an impression! I found an AMAZING light mauve wool fabric for the pants at The Fabric Store, and I will probably go with the Burda pattern for the pants after I tweak the fit in a muslin first since I have never made the pattern before.

 

I saw a girl on the street a couple of years ago wearing this flowy silk maxi dress with heeled boots and I am trying to recreate the look with this really pretty floral silk from The Fabric Store and the Stella Shirt Dress from Named Patterns. It’s got a big bow at the neck and an elastic waist, which makes me think the dress is going to be super comfy while still looking dressy. My fabric swatch is too small to show the brilliance of the print, but it’s very largewhich I think looks great in maxis.

 

I forgot to swatch the fabric for this Aberdeen top by Seamwork (it’s about the only pattern I have made of theirs which actually fit me with no adjustments), so for reference, it’s a pale yellow lightweight knit. Aberdeen is a pretty great pattern, a kind of slouchy v-neck top with fitted 3/4 sleeves that falls off the shoulder in a really effortless and sexy way; it pairs great with a pretty bra underneath. I finally found the correct weight corduroy fabric to pair with the Lander Pants pattern by True Bias, and I think this make might be the very first thing I have made in all-black in my entire sewing career! I plan on lengthening the pants legs so that the hem hits the floor- I looooove the design of these pants but I am not into the boot-cut look that doesn’t go all the way to top of the foot.

 

When I was discussing pants on IG acouple months ago, someone mentioned the Style Arc paper-bag waist pant, so I looked it up and immediately added it to my list. I loved the visual interest of the waist band and the comfort of the elastic waist. Also loved the slim leg fit and the slightly cropped ankle. This orange corduroy was too lightweight for the Lander Pants but I think it will work perfectly in this slightly baggier silhouette.

 

You can’t see how amazing my denim swatch is in this picture, but if you’ve been following on IG then you know how pretty it is made up in the Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket that I recently finished. That pattern is EVERYTHING. I still haven’t found the right fabric for the Named Patterns’ Shadi skirt.

 

The dress on the left is a hack of the Denver dress by Blank Slate patterns. I made it in an ultra soft ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, but I am not sure it works well in this pattern- the fabric is drapey and doesn’t hug my body very well, and I imagine it wont retain it’s shape for long, either. But it’s so pretty!!!! The dress on the right is intended to be a direct copy of a garment I saw on J’Adore’s blog last year, complete with hacks to the McCalls’ pattern that she based it off of. It also has a big bow at the neck (can you sense a theme here?) and is made of a really supple gold velvet from Michael Levine’s (another recurring theme with fall! For the record, it seems like velvet is “trending” right now, but not for me- I have ALWAYS loved velvet, I just haven’t seen it very often in fabric stores over the years! I should probably stock up on velvet now in case it disappears next year!)

 

The hoodie is more of a layering top for a shirt/blouse than an actual cold weather garment, but I was really drawn to the design lines and liked that I had nothing like it in my closet (I chose this pattern as one of my three pattern prizes when I was one of the winners of the McCalls contests on IG!). I decided to make it in a lightweight coffee-colored raw cotton silk, the same fabric I made my hot pink pants from last year – because of it’s thinness I think it will easily fit under a larger coat and give me access to a hood when my coat doesn’t have one. And last, but not least, another Archer button down by Grainline in a super soft flannel herringbone that I got last year from LA Finch Fabrics. I have been waiting for a long time for the perfect pattern to couple with this warm, soft fabric but ultimately I decided to stick with a TNT- my Archers are probably my most worn shirts, both in cool and hot weather, so I knew I wouldn’t go wrong with turning it into another staple!

Sequins of Events: THE SEQUIL

This shiny animal print fabric had been at The Fabric Store for quite a long time before I finally felt brave enough to give it a try, and that was only because I had successfully completed this sequinned dress first. It’s so different than the black and gold reversible fabric I had used before and it was pretty educational to see and feel exactly how different the two types of sequins were to work with. My black and gold fabric was stretchy and required zig zag stitches to construct it, but this fabric is made with a silk-type (probably polyester) woven fabric as the base that has the sequins sewed on top of it in rows. While I am not normally into animal prints, the shine and pretty colors in this one really drew me in, and I opted to go for a simple garment pattern to highlight the print, much like my last sequin make.

I have to say, I am not crazy about how this dress came out, but that is all due to the pattern choice. For some reason I chose Named’s Inari Dress/Tee pattern, even though I had made it before and hated it (it never made it here to the blog cause the fit was so awful). I figured that this time I could make some adjustments to the pattern pieces and fix the fit issues I initially had, but in hindsight, I should have simply chosen a different pattern. I hate wasting patterns! Anyways, the Inari dress is drafted to skim the figure with a loose fit in the bust and waist that slightly dips back in at the thighs, and it just doesn’t suit my bottom heavy shape at all. It didn’t feel comfortable to walk in when I first made it and I didn’t feel like it looked very good on me. To adjust the pattern pieces this time around and give myself more room in the butt area, I added a couple inches to the sides of the front and back pattern pieces, flaring them out a bit from the waist. It definitely fits better than the first time I made the pattern, but it’s still not great- I think this dress would have looked much better if it flared out from the bust and I had eliminated the side slits, giving it a more swingy silhouette.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s terrible, and I know I will definitely wear it, but I wish I had challenged myself more after the first sequin dress and played around with a different look. Looking at these photos I feel like this would have looked great as a fitted miniskirt! I have no idea if there is enough fabric to accommodate refashioning it as such, but I might give it a try after wearing this incarnation a couple of times.

The fit bothers me mostly in the back where the amount of fabric in the shoulders and waist seems to be disproportionate to the amount of ease provided in the hips. I don’t like how the fabric falls from my shoulders and then collects on the top of my butt. Wearing a slip underneath helps keep the lines a bit cleaner, but it still doesn’t feel good. And I like to wear clothes that feel good! I feel like I am swimming in fabric on top whereas the bottom of the dress feels comparatively tight.

Since this fabric is woven and not stretchy, it did make for slightly easier construction. I still used an upholstery needle to sew the side seams, but was able to use a regular straight stitch for them instead of zig zagging, and I was also able to fold over and sew the hems down onto the fabric without it bunching up and looking puffy. Like the black and gold dress, I encased the side, shoulder and sleeve seams with bias tape, and I also sewed a length of bias tape to the raw edges of the hems before sewing them to the inside, since the sequins on this dress were even more scratchy than the black and gold one. 

This style of this look feels very 80’s to me (hence the above pose), which I kind of like. In general I am not for the poofy shoulders and over-the-top silhouettes that embody that era, but I do love the bold prints and weird color combinations that were so popular, and I like pairing those qualities with more modern design features. In that respect, this dress is a success! But I dunno, I’m still interested in reworking this into something that feels a little more me, and turning this lesson I learned into something wearable. I keep thinking of that Rachel Comey for Vogue short skirt that everyone has always raved about (despite the drab and dated styling on the pattern cover, I’ve seen some pretty great renditions of it by several bloggers)…I bought it on sale a while ago but haven’t found a suitable fabric to make it in. Maybe this is a match made in heaven?

But also probably not anytime soon? What with being so behind in my sewing queue and needing to take pictures and blog recent makes (for the past few weeks I have been dealing with both a very serious family emergency and a trip to Costa Rica for a destination wedding/vacation and I am just now back home trying to get my life back together), this potential project isn’t very high up on the list. But who knows, I might just surprise myself and dig into it sooner than later; I’m finally sewing up Rachel Comey’s Vogue 1501 and I’m loving it so far- maybe I need to stay on this Rachel Comey kick?!

Kielo Wrap Dress: Take 37

Ok, ok, I have not made this pattern 37 times, but I feel like I’ve made it a lot and the truth is that I have never been completely happy with it. My first version is here where I was given some beautiful fabric from Girl Charlee with which to sew it up. I loved the drape of the fabric, the bold print, the slinkiness, but…it just wasn’t me. I’m still not sure why. You ever see something that you can intellectually identify as aesthetically pleasing, but it’s just not for you? That was my relationship to this fabric. It might be the simple fact that I am not a huge fan of wearing black- had this fabric been yellow or pink, I’m sure it would be in rotation in my closet to this day. But alas, it sat idle in my closet for nearly 2 years without one wear before I decided to put it in my etsy shop for sale, and I donated the proceeds to charity. Subsequently a maker friend of mine, Sarah (who is the creator of the feel good/give good website youareanawesomehuman.com– go check it out and spread some love while helping support a small business!), bought the dress from my shop and gifted it to a friend of hers for Christmas who looked absolutely stunning in it (they sent me pics!), so I have no regrets about this make it at all. If there is such thing as a “rightful owner” of anything in this world, this dress found theirs!

The second time I made this dress was as a gift to my Mom, made up in a bright floral print, and she loved it so much that she wore it into the ground- not even sure it’s still standing anymore. Which means I should probably make her another one. I wish I had a picture of her in it- it fit her and her style so perfectly! Anyways, after seeing her flaunt her Kielo around, I became determined to make myself a more casual one that I could wear regularly (at this point, I was convinced that the reason I didn’t wear my original black and white version was because it was too dressy for everyday but not quite dressy enough for a red carpet event). Named Patterns wrote a blog post on how to add sleeves to the wrap dress and shorten it and I was obsessed with the pretty striped version they hacked. I decided that this was the dress that needed to be in my closet, so I bought some beautiful striped oatmeal-colored jersey from Organic Cotton Plus and went to town hacking the original pattern by following the blog post’s notes.

It was a catastrophe. My friend Lawrence said I looked like the girl from The Ring when I showed him a photo of myself wearing it, my head bowed in defeat. I don’t know what went wrong! Perhaps the fabric was too heavy for the pattern? Maybe I should have adjusted the sizing even more? Who knows! But it looked terrible. Misshapen, baggy, tired- no matter which way I tied the straps or tried to cinch the fabric, it was screaming “NO NO NO”. I wrote another post on trying to Make It Work by getting rid of the “wrap” factor and making a few other adjustments so that it was more fitted and I wasn’t swimming in so much heavy fabric, but I messed up the collar by cutting too much off the seam allowance and I ended up with a distorted hem that wanted to be a boatneck but ultimately looked like a shipwreck (<—–I have never been prouder of a sentence than that one right there). Although I bravely wore the dress once or twice, it just didn’t look or feel good on, and it has since been relegated to the Butthole Bin™. I’m pretty sure there is enough fabric left in this dress to salvage a tank top out of it so I’m hoping to get that done this summer cause I HAAAATE WASTING FABRIIIIIC.

So let’s fast forward to Make 37. I learned my lesson. Sort of. I had a few yards of fabric from The Fabric Store that I thought I was going to use for this pattern, but that pattern turned out to be such a disaster when I made it the first time that I knew I would never make it again, so I sat for a while pondering what else it could be made into. And then it hit me: the Kielo wrap dress would be perfect for it! The fabric is a translucent, smokey black rayon crepe with a gauzy texture, and its’ sheerness gives the same effect as the sample of the Kielo dress on Named’s website, which is actually the dress I fell in love with when I first saw the pattern. Why did I keep making this pattern up in printed stretchy knit prints when everything I loved about the pattern was exemplified in the simple, sheer fabric in the pattern photo? Why had I been going about this all wrong for so long??

The Kielo Wrap Dress states that you can use either a knit or a woven fabric, which has always stumped me a bit. I am usually surprised when two fabrics with such different qualities are suggested as being interchangeable for certain patterns, and now I know the truth- they AREN’T. Or maybe they are, but there is usually some adjusting necessary, which the Named pattern description doesn’t get into at all. When making the Kielo in knit fabrics in the past, it always seemed gigantic on me. The armholes were huge, the neckline was wider than I liked, and I end up cutting over a foot of length off the bottom of the dress- and this is in the smallest size!

When I made the dress in a woven fabric, I assumed the sizing would finally be just right, but it was actually smaller than I anticipated. The armholes were so tight that they felt uncomfortable when I put it on with a bra. Since I have to wear a slip underneath this dress I don’t mind not wearing a bra underneath (my boobs are small enough to go commando without sacrificing comfort) but this definitely could have used a bit more wiggle room in the armholes, and after I took these photos for the first time, I realized I needed to make some minor adjustments for it to reach its maximum potential.

OKAY FULL DISCLOSURE: I spent about 3 hours prepping my photo setup, putting on makeup, doing my hair, and taking photos of the 8-ish projects I had completed over the past several weeks, as per usual for my blog posts. I had a lot of fun styling the roller set I had given myself the day before and I was super excited to finally get some of these fun makes out to the world. The next morning I woke up bright and early to start processing all my photos  on my computer and when I reached for the camera…nada. There was no memory card in it. You may think me an idiot, but I reviewed each photo I took before moving on to the next look and every single photo had been stored inside the camera’s “memory”. What I learned after some VERY AGGRESSIVE googling was that my camera’s default setting was in “demo mode”, meaning you can take lots of pictures (apparently over a hundred of them) without a memory card in the slot and the camera will “hold” them for a certain period of time. This setting is for customers at a store interested in purchasing the camera; they can take photos and review them as if it did have a memory card in it. So yeah. My photos were lost. If a camera takes 150 photos without a memory card in it, were the photos ever actually taken?

 

The whole point of this pitiful story is to say that when I first took these photos, I knew I wanted to make the armholes bigger, and I also decided to top stitch the edges of the sides of the dress where they wrap to the front- my floaty, gauze-like material kept billowing awkwardly at the seams and I figured that stitching the fabric down might help with that. So I was able to make those changes to the dress before the SECOND set of of blog photos I took the next morning, so what you see here shows the final version of the dress. The only other changes I made besides lengthening the armholes and topstitching the side seams was to use bias tape to hem the neckline. The instructions have you fold the hem under and stitch down, which I think is generally a very unprofessional and shoddy way to finish an armhole or a neckline. My biggest takeway from these adjustments, and something I can probably apply to all future patterns that suggest wovens and knits for the same design, is to be prepared to go up a size when using a woven and down a size when using a knit. Or better yet, just make a damn muslin. That seems to be the answer to 80% of my sewing problems.

Construction wise, there isn’t really anything new to add to this pattern that I didn’t touch on in my first blog post about it. It’s a very quick dress to put together, and aside from needing to have gone up one size for the woven fabric, I am happy with how it came out. If I had known how tight the armholes would be, I would have added a little width to the bust of the pattern pieces, but unfortunately the dress was already made up by the time I realized this issue. The only fix was to widen the armholes on the sides and bottom, and as such, more of the slip I am wearing underneath peeks through than I would prefer. But it’s a small issue and I don’t think it completely detracts from the dress- this is still far and away better than the last version I made of it! I always need to fiddle with the side seams on the wrap of this dress so that it will lay right, but my topstitching really did the trick (and probably would have worked well on the past versions I made of this). I absolutely love the way the sheer fabric looks with a black slip underneath- it feels sexy and looks chic, and, to me, more visually interesting than just a regular black dress (to date this is the only all-black garment I have in my closet).

I’m not quite sold on Named patterns yet. I absolutely love the designs and styling, and I have seen some awesome makes based off of their patterns (What Katie Sews has done some stellar work with their designs), but I feel like their construction methods are super simple and the finished projects need extra elements to look polished. I have successfully made this pattern work with the bias binding, but I worry that their other patterns might require a bit of extra attention to elevate their looks, too. I really haven’t made enough of their patterns to have formulated this opinion though- the only other pattern I have made of theirs is the Inari Tee Dress, which looked like a disaster on me the first time I made it and is just not a silhouette suited for my bottom-heavy shape. But I also revisited this pattern recently, and I am happier with it now after some small but impactful adjustments to the shape- you will be seeing that project on the blog shortly!