Sewing With a Plan in Review

I do still have the pants to make, but I’m not feeling urgent about it. I’m pondering exactly what pants I want.

I’m really glad I did this whole wardrobe sewing thing, I can tell you. I’m wearing the print skirt, burgundy shell and black sash right now. Put ’em on because I was sick of working in my writin’ chair and went to Border’s today to get some work done[1]. I was worried how happy I’d be with all of this, and concerned because of the time and effort. But you know? It has turned out quite well.

What really makes me happy is that I have a wardrobe instead of a lot of clothes that don’t really relate or go together. Barring being invited to a fancy dress ball, I’ve pretty much got clothes that work just about anywhere depending on how I dress the outfits up or down with accessories. I could go to a barbecue in what I’m wearing right now, or mix-n-match for a nice evening out.

What’s also really nice is that I have a really clear idea of what I can add over time so that everything is still nice and pulled together. I know what colors of yarn to buy for sweaters because I have the swatch card in my wallet. If I wanna buy a piece of clothing[2] same/same. Having the base wardrobe? It’s hard to explain how nice this is.

The next time I get a hare across my ass to do a lot of sewing, I have the basics that I can build on.  If I wanna add a really nice lined wool charcoal gray skirt? I know that I have pieces it’ll work with. Will I be adding nicer, tailored clothes in time?  Of course.  It’s just that I had almost no money and nothing to work with to begin with. Now I have plenty of “nice” clothes where I can afford to take the time and money to make the lined wool pants[3], make the really good jackets and silk blouses and so on.

I like to dress well and frankly haven’t done it since my son was born. I was a stay at home mom at first, and felt like I didn’t have a good excuse to “dress”, nor did I have the sewing skills to create a really nice wardrobe cheaply. Then I went through a galloping eccentric stage which I certainly don’t regret. Now, as a writer, I sometimes feel I have even less excuse to “dress” than I did. I’ve spent most of the last year in sweats or broomstick skirts unless I was teaching. But hey… I can sew, like it and can make a good wardrobe really cheaply, so why the heck not?

[1] God, I love being a writer

[2] Unlikely. I really enjoy sewing, and half the fun of my clothes is the kick I get out wearing something I made myself.

[3] Hey, I live in Northern New England!

Talk About a Random Post

I’ve been appallingly bad about working out in the past couple of weeks.

Which, of course, is idiotic, because I got a job where I have to get up at 0 dark thirty to open the gym for a couple of hours once a week so I can use the facilities without having to have the expense of a membership.  I get paid a little, which is nice, so I come out ahead of the game.

If I use the facilities!

I swam a mile today.  I just haven’t felt like pumping iron, so I’m just gonna swim most days.  I know, not perfect.  Screw perfect.  Swimming a mile a day is hardly bad for health and fitness!  I’ll be eager to start pumping some iron soon enough, I’m sure.

I’ve also been reluctant to work out according to my usual schedule because my son is home with me.  Why I feel guilty about leaving a thirteen year old for an hour while I go work out is dorky.  I used to love to have the house to myself at that age.  Not doing anything wrong, mind, just liked the sense of freedom and privacy.

Like my own mother, I tend to leave chores for my son when I leave the house (empty the dishwasher, put a load of clothes on to dry, etc.) I’m glad to have ’em taken care of, so am kind of effusive in my praise, because… Well, it really is a help, and it means he is a contributing member of the household.  I want him to know I see it that way.  When I was his age, I know my mom was glad someone else was doing the laundry in the summer.

I think a lot of problems with teenagers is that they feel unappreciated and useless.   Chores often feel like busywork to a kid rather than a necessary (and valued!) contribution.   Frankly?  I’m grateful to be free of dealing with the laundry for the summer, and I let my son know that.  I like it that I don’t have to cope with the dishwasher, and I let him know that, too.

I’m gonna get some work out of the way, and then reward myself with the final jacket in my sewing session.  I wore the burgundy jacket, burgundy shell and black skirt working at the front desk at the gym yesterday morning.  That combo works and looks quite nice.  I was so pleased with it that one of the trainers made a joke about me getting on my “million dollar smile” for the patrons.  He’s a chipper, friendly type of guy and I think he enjoys opening with perky morning people.

I know I do.

Fine, I Caved

I just can’t stand it.  I’m looking at the pics of myself and realizing why I hadn’t made clothes for myself using a commercial pattern since I learned pattern drafting!

I’m not entirely happy with the fit of the shell or the torso of the dresses I’m making,  Not surprising. My cup size is somewhere around an E, if I got a proper bra that actually fit right, and patterns are drafted for a B-cup.

Also, large size patterns are merely graded up from smaller size. This can cause all sorts of fit problems in the ribcage, torso and across the shoulders.  While the jacket I’m making, being a kimono style jacket, isn’t meant to be fitted, loose and gappy looks terrible in a simple sheath dress.  (The simpler a garment is, the more proper fit matters).

I’m redrafting the damn thing and making muslin of the shell before I go any further. I need different bust darts (I’m 40 and commercial patterns are designed for perky breasts which I don’t have any more), less fabric in the ribcage, and added waist darts.  The armholes are way too big and the adjustments I’m making, while okay, don’t look as good as a properly drafted torso for an individual.  They either interfere with the neckline or change the fit over the bust in ways that don’t thrill me.  I’ll use the pattern I bought for a basic neckline, as I like it well enough.  I’m also keeping the skirt, cause that works well enough.  In fact, I’ll likely use it as a template to redraft the dress.  I’ve extrapolated the formula one needs to use for the bias facing, and it’s not really hard.

I have this sinking feeling if I don’t do a muslin of the pants I’m gonna regret it.

I’d meant this to be a quick-n-dirty wardrobe, but if I feel like a slob in the outfit, I’m defeating the purpose.  I’ve already invested way the fuck too much in fabric to do that.  I like the basic garments, yes, but if I’m gonna sew ’em, anyway, a good fit is a better idea.  A basic straight skirt with an elastic waistband is hard to go wrong with, but the torso is another matter entirely.  And dammit, I deserve a sheath dress that fits my curves right.  I like my shape, dammit, and don’t particularly wanna hide it with drapery.  Which is more or less why I learned to sew in the first place.  This is also why I tend to make my clothes rather than buy them.  I rarely find something in a store that’s even as close to as flattering as I can make myself.  This would not be true if I had not learned to draft patterns.

I have a princess seam torso I could use, sure.  But even that needs a lot of tweaking now that I’ve started lifting weights (I haven’t tweaked it in probably three or four years).  My shoulders and back are broader, I’m narrower in the ribs and waist, the broad point in my hips is in a different place and my butt  is rounder, so the curve of my back is a different shape, too.   For that level of fit, I’d wanna make a custom dress form and do a draped muslin from which to make a pattern. Any local seamstresses wanna get together and have a dress form making party?  I know a couple of methods that aren’t too expensive or time-consuming.  Just never had any sewing partners to make one with.

Rewarding Yourself

I’ve always had this idea that you’re supposed to get stuff you need to get done because it needs to get done. Which is true as far as it goes, but when I feel unmotivated to do a task, I sometimes reward myself.

I often felt like a dork doing that. I mean, come on, grownups just get it done, right?

I missed a part. Grownups do what they need to to make sure they get it done, and self-motivation can take plenty of forms.

Right now I’m rather obsessed with sewing myself a new wardrobe. But I also have work to take care of — a book for a client, studying to teach a class, what have you. Because I work for myself, I could choose to spend most of my day on whatever my current obsession is.

If I made a habit of that, I’d have to get a “real job”. While I will if I must, I really, really don’t want to.

So, to keep myself on task, I reward myself when I get the day’s work done. I reward myself for working out with a Dr. Who episode, and that’s been quite a motivator for me.

I’m rewarding myself for getting work done with sewing time. I have a project that I have to complete a certain amount on each day to get it done, so I agree with myself that after I do that (and any other routine work), I’m allowed to go ahead and do some work on my wardrobe.

Because I’m so obsessed with getting my wardrobe done, it’s been a big motivator for me. It’s not even noon yet, and I got everything business-related I planned to get done today finished. So, I have a few hours to sew before I go for my swim, then have some fun with friends and family this evening.

I have to laugh a little. My mother’s reward for herself when I was growing up was downtime with a craft tray on her lap and the soaps playing in the afternoon. She took being a homemaker pretty seriously, and that meant a morning’s worth of housework, shopping, meal planning and what have you every morning. She moved fast and got it done quick because she wanted to do her painting (or whatever it was she was working on at the time).

I still have the “Housework should be done by noon” mentality, but I’ve had to throw that off because for me it’s business projects. (Which means more hours of work for me because I’m a much earlier riser than my mother!)

I also note that if I have a mentality that says, “Okay, you have to do X thing to earn X pleasure” not only does more stuff get done, the fun stuff has a sharper edge of pleasure to it.

Why I'm Abandoning Salwar Suits

For about six or seven years, the salwar kameez was my most common “office” garment.

I still love them. They’re pretty, modest1, as comfortable as pajamas (oh wait, pyjami suit… <grin>), easy to make, easy to care for if you choose the right fabrics, and always look neat and pulled together.

During those six or seven years, I was working as an administrative assistant. When they were commented on, it was usually positive2, other than once during October of 2001 when a female employee who grew up in India asked me if I wasn’t afraid to wear salwar suits.

I started working for myself coming on to a year ago. I only work away from my writin’ chair four or five days a month these days. I really can work in my underwear most days. But obviously when I’m teaching classes, I need to dress a little more nicely.

I’ve noticed a pattern. On the days when I wear a salwar suit to teach in, at least one member of the class (more often than not, it’s a male), gets really sharp and challenging in a way that doesn’t happen when I’m wearing more Western clothing. Do I think there’s a subconscious idea foreigner=ignorant going on there? Yeah. Maybe even a(n) (un)healthy dose of resentment of India vis a vis employment in computer fields. Probably there’s even a fair whack of the submissive stereotype associated with the garment, so they wanna play the dominance game3.

On the one hand there’s this idea “Challenge ignorance! Wear what you want and let ’em deal!”

Not sayin’ it’s not a valid idea. It is. But I also think it’s not a good idea to get in an ass-kicking contest with a porcupine. While I was reared that America’s strength is in its hybrid vigor, that is not a popular idea across the board these days. I’m not in that class to teach the virtues of multiculturalism. I’m in the class to teach ’em how to use MS Office applications! I get about three minutes to convince ’em that they should listen to me as a teacher. Then, either I have to deal with someone who has decided to play “Stump the Teacher” or they just waste their time playing Solitaire all day. I don’t want to take the time to have a fight with anyone’s subconsciousness under the circumstances.

I want them to accept me subconsciously as a professional, then I can be as much of a galloping eccentric as I want, and it’s just an entertaining way to teach the class.

1I know, I know, a preference for dressing modestly seems strange in a poly woman.
2and tended to amuse the Desi portion of the local population mightily, what with my light hair and blue eyes.
3My tactic there is to ask questions at intervals that I’m pretty sure that they can answer but most of the class can’t, then celebrate their genius. Three repetitions is usually enough to shut ’em up.

That Lovely Moment of DUH!

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make that delicate tissue paper last through endless pinnings as I make my new wardrobe, as well as how to use the same pattern piece to make a top and a dress.

The DUH! hit me.  I can trace the patterns directly onto the fabric and just cut ’em out that way.  I mean, jaysus, I’ve actually drafted more than one outfit directly onto fabric and not used a paper pattern at all!  I know, you really experienced seamstresses (hem! hem!) can now laugh at me and ask what in hell pattern weights are made for in the first place.  It makes the cutting out process a bit easier, really.  Also, it’s keeping me honest in terms of marking my pattern pieces properly before I cut ’em out.  I’m sometimes lazy about that, and then have to go hunting up the pattern piece to check out dots and darts.  Of course I know better, but you know how it is!  Cutting out is the part of sewing I tend to dislike the most. I’ll procrastinate for weeks on a project rather than cut it out.

I’m going to try to get a top and a skirt done today if I can.  That sounds ambitious, but isn’t.  This stuff is pretty easy to sew.  The shell is just a tank top with bust darts and bias facing, and the skirt is really a tube with an elastic waistband.  The link has a waistband technique I adore because it’s not that stupid casing trick where you get a bunchy, uneven twisted band.  You know, it’s more like what they do for sweatpants and such.  I’ve been using it for years.  In fact, I think that article appears in the only print version of that magazine that I own.

I’m finding Excel a great boon in keeping track of this project.  I’ve got a spreadsheet that figures yardage for the total project, yardage per garment, how many garments I’ve sewn and of what sort and how many I have left to go.

Summer Rain Nostalgia

Ya! I’m allowed to watch Dr. Who today.

I made a deal with myself that I’m only allowed to watch an episode of Dr. Who on days I work out. This is to keep me from being a lazy butt — at least until the episodes wear out. Must bribe myself with something else when that happens.

My son and I went to the pool together this afternoon. He swam a 50 with me, for which I am proud of him. I recall when I was learning to swim. 50 yards was kinda tough.

When we were walking home from the pool, the heavens opened. My goodness. Rain just poured from the sky. My son wasn’t too keen, wanting to get under shelter. I asked him if they’d kicked him out of the Kid Club or something. He asked why.

So I explained that when I was a child, my brother and I would beg to be allowed to go outside and play in the rain in the summertime. We couldn’t often. You don’t get a lot of rain in the summer in Central Virginia1, and when it did rain, it was usually a thunderstorm. No playing outside allowed.

But oh when it wasn’t a thunderstorm, how wonderful it was to play outside in the warm rain, sloshing along pavement barefoot, or skidding across soggy grass. (Or plugging up a drainpipe to fill a ditch to make a natural wading pool until one of our fathers caught us at it!)

It really felt nice to get drenched, kick off my sandals and walk home barefoot — glowing warm from a workout and soaked to the skin.

1Fredericksburg was not Northern Virginia when I was growing up for all that it’s a suburb of Washington, DC now