I had started writing up a Grand Goals For Twenty Fourteen post (that’s right, I went so far as to use the G-word!) but felt it was… a little heavy. I am not really given to clear, one-sentence “resolutions”, let alone easily legible lists thereof, so I figured it made more sense to think about what it is I want to focus on for this year, and write a bit about that. I came up with three areas that I wanted to put energy into, so today I thought I’d write about the first one: Making Stuff. Specifically:
Make more of my own clothes
This has been something of an unofficial trend in my life for years now. I still remember when The Boy (in a discussion about how we’re both sort-of hippies) pointed out that I’d like to make all my own clothes; at the time I was like “What? When did I say that??” but I guess he’s better at seeing patterns than I am, because… it’s pretty much true. My dissatisfaction with clothes shopping and my extreme pickiness, coupled with my desire to pare my wardrobe way down mean that by now I have a pretty solid idea of exactly what clothing I wish I had in my closet. The likelihood of me actually finding it? Pretty low, especially given how often I go shopping. Best get to the making!
Re-reading Lauren‘s post about how she gets so much sewing done definitely helped get me in gear to if not Ravelry-ize my personal sewing (despite the fact that all my stuff is currently spread out across 3 rooms…) to at least come up with and prioritize a “sewing queue” of my own. Probably the single point in her post that hit me hardest was #2: “UFOs don’t exist in my world.” I am the Queen of Unfinished Projects, and I know just how bad they are, not just for productivity, but also for motivation. The mental weight of all those could-bes and I-shoulds drags at you (or at least, at me) and ain’t no one got time for that. (Plus, knitting UFOs are like a black hole for needles and notions that vanish into project bags, and then I can never find a stitch counter when I need one. Argh!)
So! While I’m not foolish enough to think I’m about to haul out all my UFOs, line ’em up, and start knocking them out, I am giving myself permission to (one at a time!) pull out the ones that I either no longer want (lack of interest) or know I won’t work on (anger/frustration issues) and throw them out (if they can’t be salvaged) or unravel/unpick and let them have a new life as something I’ll actually want and use.
Given that this year marks some pretty dramatic weight/body shape changes, I am also trying to keep in mind that heavily fitted projects are not very practical (they can wait till 2015!). So, for this year, my clothes-making has the following 3 “goals”:
- Knit more socks. I’m steadily wearing my way through my stash of cute, but thin and horrible polyester socks from the Masson flea market, and I could do with some nicer (squashier, properly-fitting, warmer) replacements. Despite recently having started myself on a face-cloth kick, it is time to redirect all that “oh I’ve got 5 minutes” knitting towards something I really need.
As soon as I declared this a goal, I thought of my long-languishing Maeva — I turned the heel on the first sock sometime last summer — and then never got around to doing anything with it. With all the tricky cabling on the instep done, this seemed like an obvious UFO to pick up and finish, so I actually pulled it out, figured out where I was in the pattern, and started knitting on it again. When I tried it on, though… it wasn’t that comfortable. The sock is too baggy across the top of my foot at the bend, and the heel, despite being a flap, doesn’t hug my foot as well as I’d like. Thinking about how long it took me to get through the cabling for the first sock (pretty though it is!), I found myself sinking into dread of the second one… so I gave myself permission to call it a loss, and started Ravelry-ing for a new sock pattern.
In a fit of “don’t you dare lose your nerve”, I unraveled the Maeva, and am now waiting until I have time to remember how to cast on for two socks at a time on magic loop. The next contender? Toe-up, pretty simple, very cute, and easily knitted two-at-a-time: Paw Tracks looks perfect. Excited!
(As a note, I’m never going to make 100% of my socks. I do garden, after all, and I can’t think of anything that would stop me from getting out there faster than the thought of having to stand ankle-deep in mud, digging and raking, in my painstakingly slowly knitted socks!)
- Casual fall/winter jacket. This would definitely qualify as my “big project” for the year, but it’s something I realized this past fall that I desperately need. I’m fine down to about 5C, but any colder than that and things get sparse. I have coats for work and a sort of plaid flannel… Thing which I use for walking the dog, but nothing in the middle. Frankly, even my daily dog walks could use a little less frump in the form of a jacket I wouldn’t feel self-conscious doing groceries in.
- Focus on office wear. My list of “to sew” garments hasn’t gotten any shorter, but in order to keep from getting overwhelmed, I’m going to focus on making one specific section of my closet my mental ideal: my “office / work” clothes. It’s pretty easy to build a modular “capsule” out of office wear, and if I’m being really strict, there’s only two or three items I really need to get it to the point where I could get rid of everything I feel kind of “mehn” about. What are the items? A knit dress in some kind of work-appropriate jersey (black or plum), and a pair of grey pants. Anything I can fit in on top of that would just be gravy. (Though wouldn’t one of these skirts with the back flounce be awesome??)
I actually got started on this last week because I was getting tired of feeling like I had been wearing the same thing* to work for 3 months, and frankly I was sick of it. I had a presentation in a week, and decided it was time to make myself something that fit, damnit.
* Are you wondering about how I so desperately want to pare down my wardrobe all modular-like, yet don’t want to wear the same things over and over? I think there’s a balance to be struck here. I literally have been cycling through the same 3 tops and 2 pairs of dress pants (both of which are slightly too short) for dressier office days for months. (I sneak in jeans/cords and sweaters in between.) It’s driving me bonkers.
I decided on a skirt, picked up my Burda handbook and was pleased to see that Miho’s variation of their skirt had an elastic waist. I had no intention of sewing the elastic waistband, but her design meant I didn’t have to worry about how the top of the skirt would fit with the stretch panel, nor did I need to factor out extra fabric for a zipper, etc.
Over the course of several evenings, I hacked off the stretchy band from a denim skirt I was never going to wear, traced, cut and eventually put my skirt together, in time for this week’s presentation! Things I am especially proud of?
- I actually pressed. Like compulsively, the way you’re supposed to. Both layers of this skirt are a horrible slinky rayon which is great for office-looking clothing, but is a major pain to work with. The pressing definitely helped.
- I made a muslin. I know, for a skirt with an elastic waist? Look, I’m a sloppy seamstress on my best days, and I know it. So when I’m trying to sew something work-appropriate in a size and shape that are totally unfamiliar, as stupid as I may feel, I made my muslin. On the plus side, whenever I sew myself Miho’s elastic waistband, I’ll have a whole new skirt to show for it! (Does it count as a UFO if I’m waiting until I know what size to make something??)
- I finished my edges. I don’t own a serger, but I did take the time to overlock all the raw edges (exception: the hem of the grey overskirt, since it was folded under and tucked away) and while time will tell on whether or not it helps lengthen the life of my skirt, I feel pretty stoked every time I happen to see the wrong side of either layer.
- The only part of this skirt with pet hair on it is the stretchy panel. Thanks to my compulsive pressing, I somehow kept the floaty grey and black layers completely free of fur. Having actually written that out, I’ve probably jinxed it now.
What did I learn? That I am slow. Anytime there’s any kind of precision involved, whether with pressing (e.g. fold a hem up 1/2″ and press) or actually sewing (e.g. that blind hem you see up there? almost killed me), I am super slow. I don’t know if there’s some tricks I should be applying or what, but I’m kind of hoping this is one of those things I’ll get better/faster at with time because man, as happy as I am with it, it’s embarrassing to think of how long it took to sew this thing.
Fitting-wise, the skirt is good, although I had wrapped the seam where the stretchy panel meets the top of the skirt layers in bias tape to enclose the raw edges and it’s creating a bit of a “hoop” which makes for some weird bumps. Not a huge deal, since most of my tops kind of squash it down, but it would be annoying in a more fitted skirt. To be expected when you pair two airy layers of rayon with a thicker, cotton waist panel, I guess.
Still, a victory is a victory!