Pleasure and Profit

I’m finishing up a pair of burgundy pants.  Since I already have a pair of black dress pants that fit well and go well with the new wardrobe I made, these pants will be the end of Stage One of my Sewing with a Plan experiment.

I was talking to someone who said that sewing isn’t cheaper than going to Wal-mart.

Now, I do shop at stores like that often, and sometimes do find deals there!  But the money-saving wardrobe aspects really depends on a lot of factors.  Because I’m a reasonably experienced seamstress (hem! hem!), it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever be able to get something off the rack that will fit nearly as well as something I’ve made myself.  I can’t buy something in Wal-mart with a custom fit.  It’s simply not available.  But even throwing fit aside, can I find clothes at Wal-mart “just as cheap”?

Eh, sometimes I can. And when I do, I buy them.  I’d be highly unlikely to make myself sweat pants, a sports bra, or a t-shirt I was intending to work out in.  While I learned to sew to save money, it was more for historical costuming (which is gut-wrenchingly expensive if you cannot sew) than it was for a personal wardrobe.

I wouldn’t recommend sewing as a money-saving technique, necessarily, unless you really like it.  I do, which is what makes it worthwhile.  Yes, I get a garment whose material price is cheaper than what I’m likely to pay in a store,  I get the hours of pleasure making it, and the additional kick out of wearing something I made myself.  I don’t think I’ll ever get over that!  Opening my closet and seeing the garments I made for myself hanging all neatly organized gives me a wonderful sense of satisfaction.  But even the process of sewing, the smell of the fabric when I’m pressing down a seam, the sense of wonder of turning a 2D piece of fabric into a 3D creation, the puzzle-solving satisfaction of putting together a pair of pants with pockets, the way that the machine loops the thread to make a stitch in a way that seems like magic, all of that is all just fun to me.

But if I didn’t enjoy sewing, I don’t think it would be worthwhile at all.   All those hours of aggravation would not be worth the money I’d saved doing it, even if I did force myself to develop the skill necessary to sew well enough to be saving money.  I think that’d be too much like work and I could earn more money in other, more pleasant ways.  Ultimately, sewing is just a hobby I have that pays for itself, that’s all.

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.

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.

Wardrobe SWAP

A storyboard for sewing a wardrobeWell, I’ve ordered the fabric for my new wardrobe. This is a bit of a leap, as I’ve never really committed to this much sewing before. But I really, really need a decent wardrobe, don’t have much money and with this, I’ll get a bunch of interchangable outfits for less than I’d get in a department store. I need stuff that’ll look good for teaching computer classes and all of ’em will be acceptable when I throw the jacket on.

The sash can be a sash or a scarf, so it coordinates pretty well.

This project is based on the Stage One of Sewing with a Plan, but I’ve adapted it a bit to suit my needs and desires… and the pattern I had lying around!

Basically, if there are two of a garment, I’ll only be sewing them in the solid colors. If there are three of a garment, I’ll being sewing it in the solids and the print. The one thing I don’t like about this pattern is that it doesn’t have pockets. Guess what I’m gonna add?

When winter comes along, I’ll be keeping this color scheme in mind when I’m choosing the yarns for my sweaters, and am going to be on the lookout for a decent pattern with longer sleeves for a blouse that’d go with these.

This becomes a basic “go anywhere” wardrobe. I need a suit? Skirt, shell and jacket. Hanging out? Shell and pants or a belt and shift if it’s hot. Nice dress? I can wear the jacket with a shift of the same color and dress it up or down with accessories. Since everything goes with everything else, I won’t get too bored with the looks.

Not bad for less than $150!

Don't DO That!

I love going through blogs to get ideas for stuff.   Since I’m going to actually sew a wardrobe for myself, I’m looking at colors, fabrics, ideas and what have you on blogs.

I’ve noticed several complaints along the same order.  Someone buys a pattern according to clothing size and is astonished when it doesn’t fit — commonly the complaint is about the hips.  Now, these are people with sewing-specific blogs, so I confess at being a little surprised that this has happened.

Someone who is new to sewing wouldn’t know this, but clothing size in ready to wear clothes is vanity sized.  Every few years, they’ll make a size 12 a little larger.   You know the famous line about Marilyn Monroe wearing a size sixteen dress?  That’s about a size 10 in today’s fashions.

Well, sewing patterns are not vanity sized.  To get the right size, you take your measurements.  No sucking in your gut to get a number you like better.  The point is an outfit that fits you, not the numbers.  You look better in clothes that fit, anyway.

When you buy patterns, look at the back.   Check out the bust, hip and waist measurements.  That’s the size you’ll choose to make.   Yes, your measurements might not match up exactly.  Ideally, you’d choose the size on the largest measurement and make pattern adjustments for the smaller one.  As a beginning seamstress (hem! hem!) you’ll wanna just make the outfit.  Trust me.  Bespoke tailoring is a well-paid profession for a reason.

It really astonished me that people who sew regularly were choosing pattern sizes according to ready to wear dress sizes.  I could see someone who is learning doing it (once!), but if you’re into it enough to have a blog about it and you’ve managed to accumulate a big stash and are showing off pictures of fancy sergers, it would seem to me you’ve been sewing long enough to know better.

And if your excuse is that you usually draft your own patterns, that’s even less of an excuse!  You know measurements are the important bit.