Sunday, December 30, 2018

Second Adolescence: Year in Reflection and 2019 Make Nine

I feel like I'm going through a second adolescence—this past year is the first time I've been a single lady for more than a month since I was eighteen. Which sometimes is weird and lonely, and sometimes it's amazing, because I never really got to figure out who I am as a "me" before I tried to make that fit into "we's."

I realized I've been dressing for men for basically my entire adult life, by virtue of being in back-to-back long term relationships with two men. What does my partner like? What accentuates my body in a way that I know they'll respond to? I've never had partners that were in any way controlling over my body or appearance, but they're human and their eyes were drawn in predictable ways and I internalized those patterns and didn't even realize I was doing it. But now, I'm able to dress only for myself. What makes me feel badass? What makes me feel like the queen of the world? And, conversely, what makes me feel uncomfortable, or less able to be 100% myself?

While it can sometimes be overwhelming that I have a clean slate, I've been able to play with my wardrobe, my makeup, my hair in ways I never would have before and that is SO. FUN. Five years ago, I never would've guessed that glitter would make me feel as radiant as it does. I never would've guessed that a shimmery purple velvet jacket would make me want to strut everywhere I walk. I never would've guessed that I like bold earrings as much as I do. I never would've guessed how empowering I find low cut body suits and cozy crew neck sweaters—what can I say, I contain multitudes!

I never would've guessed. I still can't! I don't know what I'll like in a month, let alone in a year! I'm having so so much fun with that unknown. There are a lot of unknowns that can be scary or intimidating, but this one is a bit like magic.

I've been largely absent from the sewing community the past few months. The truth is, I made some amazing things this year, including two quilts that I am crazy proud of—but those big big projects burned out my creative energy. On top of that, the thought of sewing anything when I'm in such a period of transition in my sense of fashion felt counter to my goals of slow fashion. Figuring out how I really want to present myself to the world has lately meant not-so-slow fashion. I haven't totally abandoned my ethics there. I'm lucky to live in a part of San Francisco with amazing second hand stores, so I thrift most of my "new" clothes. I also have awesome roommates who have been incredibly generous sharing their wardrobes with me while I experiment. But I'm buying a lot more "stuff" than I ever did before, and some of it gets a wear or two before getting turned back around to the thrift store. I'm still not totally sure how I feel about that.

I recently caught up with a friend I hadn't seen in many years, and she gushed about my sewing, and I felt an embarrassed humility that I didn't recognize in myself. I felt weird that I haven't had the time or energy for making, let alone sharing in the online makers' space, or even looking at the amazing work by the friends I've made there. I felt that if I wasn't progressing in my skills, I was regressing. I know that's wrong, but the feeling of being stuck is a hard one to shake.

Anyway. I don't know if it makes any sense to feel stuck at the same time as feeling this tremendous, fire-cracker personal growth, but I feel it all! This year has been a time of big changes for me. I'm keeping that in mind as I set my goals for 2019. Last year I resolved to be more mindful of my environmental impact (meat consumption, disposable straws and silverware, paper waste), actively cultivate self love, and read more (particular by authors who aren't cis men), and I'd say I did pretty well. This year, my goals are to continue forming good non-screen habits, including reading still more, getting back into regularly practicing yoga, and sewing more regularly—though perhaps not more in volume. Importantly, I want to PLAY more: exploring more of San Francisco, dancing and dressing up more, and continue having fun with how I present myself to the world.

My 2019 Make Nine is about play: silhouettes that make me feel amazing in my body, sparkles and shimmer, and pretty but practical "basics."

knit wrap top // lace bra // lace undies
lacy cami // something sparkly // high rise cut offs
Carolyn pajamas // Bardot top // V9253

Monday, December 17, 2018

Rachael's Secret: Saying Goodbye to RTW undies

Part of my 2018 Make Nine goals was to replace all my worn out, dingy bras with pretty me mades. I tried to muslin the Watson Bra by Cloth Habit (which I hoped to make a swimsuit out of for another 2018 Make Nine goal) as a stepping stone to that, and I REALLY struggled with the elastic and sewing with delicate fabrics like power mesh, which tells me I'm not quite ready to start sewing fancy, lacy underwire bras.

I have been experimenting with undies, using up scraps from other projects that use knits, which both gets me more comfortable with elastics and helps me phase out my sad RTW pairs in good conscience. I initially started with the FREE Rosy Ladyshorts from Cloth Habit, and have altered that pattern to fit me more comfortably by lowering the rise by 1.5" and widening the crotch by .5".

This was a great first try, and it helped me realize what I like best about my most well loved RTW undies so I did a couple rub offs and hacked it with the Rosy Ladyshorts pattern as a base, though the final product doesn't look much like it.

Some things I've learned already:
  • Matching thread to lace elastic is way more important that I thought. Though it's not noticeable to anyone except me (generally true for undergarments anyway lol), I hate the white thread I used on the yellow pair—realistically, it would've been silly to have bright yellow thread I would probably never use again, but it would've been a nice touch to make them look more professional.
  • The stretch of lace elastic is so hard to predict. The Rosy pattern has a guideline for lace lengths that I found a little tight on the legs for my first pair. The second pair should've been about the same, but I found that I had about an inch leftover and the elastic is just slightly loose and I know will stretch out fast. Any tips on this, fellow memade undie makers?
  • I personally prefer patterns that are one piece on the front, but two on the back. The Rosy's ride up front in an uncomfortable way (sorry, impossible not to get a little TMI in this post), but I like a cheekier fit. Three piece patterns it is!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Triangle Jitters Quilt

I have a bad habit when I start to learn something that I pick very ambitious first projects, then get frustrated when I am not immediately perfect at it or find it more difficult than it is interesting. My first quilt was made with 8-point star blocks and took me about 6 months, working a couple hours here, a couple hours there as much as I could tolerate. My second, made of equilateral triangles, also took months, and I was so frustrated that I couldn't get my points to match up perfectly (because I really wasn't ready for equilateral triangles!). My recent tiny tiles quilt took nearly 8 months. While I realize none of these are complicated, per se, they certainly weren't the most beginner friendly. I'm totally on board with learning by doing and trial by error, but it would've been nice to have been more happy with the results of my first quilts.

Working on the Triangle Jitters Quilt by Suzy Quilts is the first time I've ever quilted half-square triangles. Yeah, I KNOW. I jumped feet first into the hard stuff and wondered why I was getting burned out so soon at the start of each project. I love this pattern and I LOVE half-square triangles.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Tiny Tiles (Wedding) Quilt

This quilt was, quite literally, a labor of love. My dear friends Pete and Georgia got married over Memorial Day weekend, and I was so happy to make the trip back to the UK for the wedding—a truly delightful community experience that was a testament to the open, collaborative way they live their lives. These two individuals are just bursting with creative energy, and I knew that the best way for me to honor them was to make something for them.

Friday, June 1, 2018

New Life for Old Furniture: Reupholstering a Thrifted Desk Chair

When I moved abroad a year and a half ago, I got rid of most of my "stuff." Furniture, dishes, lots of clothing—so much of it was college hand-me-downs, odds and ends that didn't feel at all like "me" so definitely justify keeping in storage for my year in London. My younger brother took much of it for his own college digs, so I could Marie Kondo half my stuff away guilt-free!

All this to say, with my recent move, I've gotten to buy furniture and art that really speak to me and make a space that feels completely my own. Something that was important to me was to thrift and repurpose as much as I could, and the chair for my sewing desk was a perfect opportunity to do so!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tencel RIT dying experiment

Did you catch my Mito Cami review the other day? Today's post is a follow up—when I made my #2018makenine sewing plans, I dreamt up "a siren red cami for when I'm feeling fiery and the world needs to know it" but the fabric I fell in love with was a white tencel twill, so I set about making it red hot with a bottle of RIT.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Papercut Patterns Mito Cami

Before my big move I whipped up one of the Papercut Patterns Mito Cami and I am... not sure how I feel about this pattern.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan

WOW Y'ALL it's been a minute. So much has happened in the past few months that sewing has had to take a major backseat. After a couple months unemployed after finishing my Masters, I started a new job that I'm really enjoying and moved to San Francisco. I'm living in the Haight (hippie central—this is where the summer of love happened!) and now that I'm settled in, I'm finding myself overwhelmed with inspiration here. It's just bursting at the seams with color, energy, and turning the ordinary into something extraordinary. I am so pleased to be here in a community that is so art-centric.

That being said—new job + moving has meant that I spent a month away from my sewing machine, which was torture! I had one pending knitting project (a throw blanket my little brother requested as a Christmas present like a week before Christmas 😳) that helped me keep my hands busy, but blankets are... not exciting, so I got sick of it and then had nothing to keep my creative juices flowing!

Anyways, I'm finally able to get back to sewing and celebrated by spending a Friday evening after a particularly grueling week to take my time and really enjoy the process. I usually try to limit my time at the machine to about an hour before taking a break so I don't get cranky when I start making little mistakes, but this time I put some music on and took mini dance breaks between steps that helped me avoid entering that sewing as self care turned stress danger zone.

The Driftless cardigan pattern by Grainline Studio has been in my queue for a while, and then when Hart's had their amazing sale recently, I snatched up some of this sweater knit fabric. It's definitely not my fave fabric because it's sweatery on the right side and like an athletic knit on the wrong side, but it's warm and was nice to work with so I'm still quite pleased. I wish it was sweatery on both sides though because that side is SO soft! Something I love about this fabric is that because of the heathering, the seamlines kind of disappear into it, so my not-so-exact seam matching is not even remotely noticeable.

Buttons? No buttons? I can't decide!

Everyone and their mother who sews raves about the Driftless pattern and now I know why. It's amazing. It's super adaptable in length—I'm going to do a cropped version next—and is just so well drafted. The instructions are clear and simple so what looks like a really complicated project when you have all the pieces laid out is a complete snap. If you're relatively new to sewing, but know your way around the machine and maybe have some experience with knits, the Driftless is a great pattern for you. Yay for beginner-friendly patterns!

~*~ Almost secret pockets ~*~

All in all, I spent probably 4.5 hours Friday evening (cutting fabric and constructing up to the hem bands) and another hour Saturday morning to finish it off. I am so pleased with this project. The pocket design really elevates this cardigan to something that's comfortable, versatile, and stylish.

This is my first *completely* finished project of my 2018 Make Nine (a couple other neeeearly done ones on my sewing table) so three cheers for returning to sewing, accomplishing a sewing/wardrobe goal, and loving the outcome! I call that a sewing WIN!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers

When I was learning to sew, I stupidly avoided asking the advice of my magical seamstress mothers who had decades of sewing experience under their belts, including long Society for Creative Anachronism careers and a stint at a costume shop when I was a baby.
Don't know why my modeling career never took off...
I made lots of stupid mistakes when I was first starting out that could have easily been avoided or rectified had I gotten over my 19 year old pride and asked for help! Lesson (at least sometimes) learned.

One such mistake was a two-for-one bargain from the very beginning. First: fitted, formal trousers as my THIRD EVER project. Stupid. Second: not pre-treating my very expensive, very beautiful plaid Mood wool suiting.

These mistakes, plus my wobbly stitch lines and "Mom I'm sorry I was stubborn earlier, I really do need your help" fly zip, meant I had a practically unwearable garment. I wore it maybe three times, each making me feel sloppier and sadder than the last. Mom tried to save it, she really did, but I had butchered that poor, beautiful fabric.

I stayed away from pants for a long time, but I'm here to tell you that pants aren't scary after all!! The Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers pattern is amazing and has helped me create the pants of my dreams!
Have I mentioned I love these pants?

Friday, January 5, 2018

FPC Square Neck Dress Hack

I love Friday Pattern Company's Square Neck top. I have 2 already, and keep finding myself envisioning more and more whenever I come across an interesting fabric.

I made plans with my best friend to go out dancing in San Francisco for New Years' Eve, and promptly tore apart my wardrobe trying to find something I wanted to wear, but nothing was quite up to muster. (Is it a coincidence that all of my formal wear is RTW and now that I'm sewing more, supremely unsatisfying? I think not.) 2017 was really rough for me personally and politically, and I wanted to send it off feeling like myself again: sparkly, happy, ready for anything...
Mission accomplished—and how cute is my BFF?!
With this in mind, I started obsessively brainstorming NYE dress options. I thought about pushing ahead one of my #2018makenine projects, a dyed Mito cami, but decided in the end that I really did want that to just be a cami rather than a dress since I don't wear dresses all that often and didn't want to waste fabric on something that would never leave my closet.

I came across this amazing black, glittery jersey fabric at Joann's and instantaneously knew it was destined to be my NYE dress. It took all of 5 minutes to decide on another iteration of the FPC Square Neck top, this time hacked to be a mini dress. Best of all? With some mad couponing skills, I got enough fabric for this project and (soon) a first try at the Watson bra/undies set for $8.