Gearing Up for Me Made May

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2017 was the first year I was able to fully participate in Me Made May. My definition of “fully participate” was to wear at least one me-made garment each day. At that point, I’d only been sewing for two years and some change, so it felt pretty incredible to be able to wear at least one handmade garment for 31 days with a moderate amount of repetition.

Looking back, participating really upped my productivity. I made quite a few new garments that month like the Roberts Collection Dungarees, the Mitchell Dress, two Lou Box Tops, Emerson Crop Pants, Moji Pants, AND I finished the Kelly Anorak. Although, Me Made May wasn’t the only reason my productivity skyrocketed… I’m a teacher. May is tough. Sewing is therapy.

I posted my outfits in my Instagram stories because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get well lit photos each day due to my job and lengthy commute.

#MMMay17 – click on the gallery to see each photo

I plan to participate in my stories again this year. Are you participating?

Make Space Tour

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I’m one of those people who moves stuff around a lot. Organizing and rearranging truly brings me joy. I did a little refresh before Spring Break ended, so I thought I’d snap some pics and give a tour. You can see what the room looked like two years ago on our Apartment Therapy home tour here.

I share this room with my husband, but my making definitely takes up the majority of the space. The table I use the most is part IKEA (FINNVARD adjustable height legs), part Home Depot (painted wood table top), part Joann (cutting mat). The table top isn’t ideal – the original IKEA top didn’t allow the table to fit into that space, so I had to return it and improvise. It’s super bouncy, so I can’t use my serger on it, but otherwise it serves its purpose. The cutting mat is awesome and also spends a decent amount of time on the floor when I need to cut out large projects.

The three lamps are 100% necessary. Doing anything with dark fabric at night is rough, and these lamps have made mistakes a thing of the past. I do prefer working when the room filled with sunlight, but most often that just isn’t when I’m able to.

The pegboard is from a local hardware store and the corkboard is from Muji. I spray painted the pegboard a light gray and recently added the little shelf to display my ceramics. This area is ever evolving as things are easily rearranged and I reassess what needs to be super accessible. Having thread and certain tools within arm’s reach has been a total game changer.

I have two of these RASKOG rolling carts from IKEA. Until recently, both were right next to my table and just crammed with both sewing and painting/drawing/printmaking stuff. I pared things down and now this one is right next to the ironing board. It holds my hams, seam gauge/point turner, distilled water, lint roller, pressing cloth, and some other bits and bobs that are handy to have right next to the iron. The pin cushion pattern is from Noodlehead’s Handmade Style book.

The other cart is adjacent to the table and holds WIPs, printed PDF patterns I haven’t assembled yet, my sewing machine manual and accessories, and block printing supplies.

The ironing board was just moved in front of the window. I’m hoping now I’ll be able to roll right to it from the machine, or stare out the window when ironing lots of yardage.

The ironing board used to be right in front of the bookshelves and I’d tuck things like the hams in between books when I was ironing. I think I’m finally at the point where I’m okay with the ironing board being set up all the time. Before I’d hang it up in the closet with all its knick knacks and need to schlep everything out if I wanted to sew.

The dress form is from a brief stint selling vintage and although she’s a bit smaller than my measurements, I like to throw WIPs on her. I’m hoping that once I take a draping class, she’ll prove more useful. I added a 3M hook to the side of my cart to hang my rulers, which once took up a lot of pegboard real estate.

The previous renters painted a few things with chalkboard paint, but we’ve only kept it on this door. I’m trying out having an illustrated ‘To Make’ list on it. The patterns include:

  1. Kalle Shirt by Closet Case Patterns
  2. Persephone Pants by Anna Allen
  3. Fairfield Button-up by Thread Theory
  4. Making Backpack by Noodlehead & Making
  5. Burnside Bibs by Sew House Seven
  6. Willow Tank (hacked into a gathered dress) by Grainline Studio
  7. Hemlock Tee by Grainline Studio
  8. Lark Tee by Grainline Studio

I guess I’ve sort of solidified my Make Nine plans here!

Behind the chalkboard door is a tiny closet. To the left there is a large boxed in vent that makes the only hang bar pretty much useless. I really wish I could hang up my patterns and quickly flick through them to find what I need, but this closet just can’t do that, or I’d have to sacrifice shelving on the opposite side.

In the closet is my fabric stash, my other machines, and notions/tools I don’t need constantly. The plastic buckets on the black shelf hold leftover fabrics and quilting experiments.

Fabric is mostly contained to the shelves on the right. It’s more or less organized by type and by my overall excitement to use them. The top shelf is thrifted bed sheets for quilts or muslins. The next shelf down in knits for tops and flannels for all those shirts I’ve promised my husband. The third shelf down is knits for bottoms and special fabrics (mud cloth and baoulé) as well as interfacing, which I keep in a bucket. The next shelf down is jeans/bottom weights, linens, and cottons. The bottom shelf is a hodgepodge of canvas for bags, batting, and thrifted sheets that don’t fit on the top shelf.

The fabrics on this shelf are my next up projects. The rope baskets hold pattern weights (vintage saucers!), extra pattern hooks, thrifted vintage zippers, and machine parts. The wooden drawers are a catchall and have bias tape makers, printer paper, and jeans making kits among other things. I’ve had these drawers since college and painted them several times (not recommended), which makes them stick. I would like to replace them with something else at some point. Perhaps a bunch of these?

I’ve been really struggling to find the best system for pattern storage. I tried keeping them folded in drawers, rolled up in drawers, hanging on nails, hanging in the closet (until there were too many to fit in the 1′ hang space), and now they’re on hooks on the doors. It’s still challenging to find the pattern I want and they’re not in any sort of order, but it’s better than the drawer system. Some not quite finished makes also hang on the picture rail.

I’m slowly getting to where each pattern also has a pattern card with relevant info and fabric swatches. The one above is my culotte design from my patternmaking course.

The bookcases are primarily my husband’s but I have three shelves. Most of my art and making books live here. The top shelf now houses a lot of the drawing/painting/printmaking supplies that used to be in one of the rolling carts.

I’m liking that these items are now a little more visible on the shelves.

There are definitely things I’d like to change and I’m constantly fantasizing about designing a studio in a house we own… BUT I’m really grateful to have to have this space. For my fantasy studio, check out my Pinterest board: Making Space.

Faux-French Seams for Curves + Another Shirt No. 1

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I love a French seam. I’ll French any seam I can. Even curves. But, French seams don’t really work well with curves. They look great on the inside but are bunchy as heck when you turn the garment right side out. Enter the Faux-French seam!

Step 1 Sew a regular seam (right sides together).

Step 2 Press raw edges in. Above shows one side pressed.

Step 4 Topstitch as close to the edge as you can.

Voila! Encased edges without the bunching! Here’s the top right side out and it’s almost perfectly smooth.

Here are the steps in drawn form since the black fabric makes it a little hard to see what’s going on.

Shirt No 1 Hack I’ve been on a big Shirt No. 1 kick. It’s a simple sew and lends itself to so many fabrics. After making two (one solid, one in a print), I knew it would be the perfect pattern to achieve all of my Ace & Jig desires. This hack is a great option if you have a bunch of smaller fabric pieces.

First draw in the desired seam lines and cut. Add seam allowance where the pieces will join together (any side you cut along will need added seam allowance). I taped additional paper directly onto the pattern pieces so that I could use my rotary cutter and reuse this pattern again later. Square the seam allowance if pieces join on a diagonal line like it did along the shoulder seam. Squaring will help the pieces come together without extra fabric sticking out. I also squared off the hem and side seams. That’s pretty much it!

SPRING BREAK

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It was really starting to feel like Spring Break would never get here. Last Friday felt like five days. And I’m definitely not counting, but there are 8 weeks left of school.  Eight.  8.  E. I. G. H. T.   This middle school teacher really needed some time off.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself this break. I have a tendency to over estimate what can be accomplished during a small amount of time off and despite usually getting a lot done, it never feels like enough.

So aside from one project (pattern testing the new Wiksten Kimono) and my PM&D homework, I’m taking it easy. Going to read this book, probably clean some areas of the house, and visit some fabric/thrift stores.

I don’t have to make all the things.

Unsolicited Advice on Social Media (+ some inspiration)

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Along with everyone else, I’ve been battling a spring cold and have subsequently been pretty unproductive making-wise. Feeling like crap has, however, given me all the time to look at images on social media.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how damaging Instagram and other social platforms are to people’s sense of self-worth and productivity. Now I must agree that I may spend more time than is healthy scrolling, but other than that, I don’t agree with this sentiment. I draw so much inspiration from Instagram and the community on this platform has really helped solidify my love of making.

While being a sick blob, I marinated on the reasons I don’t find social media toxic and came up with a few tips, sprinkled with some inspiring Instagram accounts (all photos are linked):

Follow real people. Yes, celebrities are real people, but I follow artists and makers whose lives are more similar to my own. I’ve “met” so many lovely makers through Instagram – folks I can reach out to for making advice, and are encouraging and kind. Good people with good intentions make a social media platform meaningful and uplifting.

Quilt Inspiration by Jennifer Neil of @ersa.fibers

Follow accounts that share inspiring content. There’s a lot of stuff to look at on the internet. Food shots, make-up selfies, and memes don’t get my creative juices flowing, so I avoid looking at accounts based solely on those things. I also look for well-lit photos, process shots, and honesty. Making can, at times, be incredibly frustrating and it’s nice to follow people who keep it real (even if the photos’ compositions are pleasing).

Weaving Inspiration by Sarah Sullivan of @sullystring

When inspiration hits, document it in a sketchbook. It’s important to capture ideas, otherwise they fade. Anytime I see an image that sparks an idea, I document it in my sketchbook (or pin it on Pinterest). The practice of putting ideas on paper is very calming and lets me brain dump when I’m overwhelmed with ideas and inspiration. I love this Shinola Sketchbook, if you’re interested in starting a sketchbook practice.

Sketchbook Inspiration by Hillary Butterworth of @butterhi

Share your work. Think of social media as a motivator and as a means to document your creative work. I’m a stickler for only taking photos in natural light and my job/commute makes M-F making pretty challenging. It’s a goal to find the balance where I’m making something and sharing it every day.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Happy sharing and scrolling!

Lately

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It’s the time of year when things start to speed way up, but also move as slow as mud. Example: Where did March go? But how are there 10 more school days before Spring Break? Anyway, a lot has been happening, but it feels like my productivity hasn’t been keeping up.

Sew News Last summer, the lovely Amanda of @seamsandstone reached out to me on Instagram and… that’s my mug in a bonafide magazine! You can read the related blog post here.

Sketchbook Sewing Plans I have been impatiently waiting for Sarah Golden’s new fabric collection ‘Around Town’ to be released from Andover. Feeling pretty confident I’ve found the perfect sewing pattern to pair the print ‘Improv‘ with – the cropped Kalle Shirt Dress.

Patternmaking & Design I’ve FINALLY moved on to the second section in my design class, Moulage. I turned in my second skirt design last weekend and will blog about both designs soon, but here’s my first design:

If you’re interested in patternmaking, the owner of Apparel Arts has several Craftsy classes.

Wiksten Kimono Pattern Testing I have the exciting opportunity to test the soon-to-be-released Wiksten Kimono by Jenny Gordy. The pattern, which was originally released in Making No. 4 / LINES, will now have three length options, a slimmer fit with a larger size range, and pocket options! My fabric bundle pictured below arrives tomorrow and I’m ever so excited.

Black Stitched Cotton + Black Square Cotton Bundles by Wiksten

Sewing I’ve managed to throw together two simple tops from my 2018 Make Plans. They both need the necklines finished, and the Shirt No. 1 needs the sleeves hemmed. Not sure it’ll happen today since I have SO MUCH PM&D HOMEWORK.

Happy Sunday!

Block Printed Sewing Machine Cover

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, buying my Bernina 530 was a big deal. I bought better thread (never again, Coats & Clark!), learned how to actually clean and oil a machine, and began planning projects just for her.

Although she came with a very fancy carrying case, she didn’t come with a cover. Since her purchase, I have resorted to throwing pieces of fabric over her in between makes.

The scrap fabric was a fine temporary solution, but she deserved something better.

Before my dear, sweet dog bear Ollie died, I had planned to make him a fancy block printed crate cover. It didn’t come to fruition before he passed, but I did make the lino blocks and thought the design would work well for the sewing machine cover.

I didn’t quite get the measurements right on this first iteration so it doesn’t fit with the slide-on table attached. It’ll work until I make a larger one! I’m also scheming a cover for my serger with a different print design.

I flat felled the top and side seams, and left an opening at the top for access to the carrying handle.

I used Speedball fabric ink and although I let the print rest for 24 hours and heat set it with an iron, it smeared while sewing. I had a minor panic attack when I noticed the ink rubbing off on my machine, but thankfully a magic eraser wiped it off. Any seasoned block printers out there have tips for setting prints on fabric?

Shirt No. 1 in Silk Noil

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I recently did a pretty sizable closet clean out. We rent an old house (built in 1925) and although it’s had a fair share of updates, the closets are just tiny. I decided to take on this task for multiple reasons –  1. I LOVE organizing, 2. space was feeling very limited, and 3. I knew I wasn’t wearing everything I owned.

I donated over five bags of clothes, sold some shoes and purses, and found new homes for my vintage items I can’t part with yet. My closet feels really good now and the process allowed me to identify the types and styles of garments I wear most often, AND what I should focus on making this year.

Even though I’ve only been sewing for three years and some change, I never went through that phase of making fancy dresses, or using exciting novelty fabrics. I always went into a project knowing that I wanted whatever I was making to be worn often and to speak to my overall aesthetic of neutrals and geometric patterns. I don’t want my garments to look handmade and I want items to mix and match easily.

Enter simple tops! Part of my 2018 making plans is to use patterns such as Shirt No. 1, Lou Box Top, and the Maya Top to build a collection of coordinating shirts out of silk noil, linen, and ikat. These patterns are also a great canvas for block printing.

Pattern: Shirt No. 1 by 100 Acts of Sewing

Fabric:  Silk Noil in Caramel from Stonemountain

Size: XS

Mods: None

Last weekend I was able to finish the first top for this goal. I decided to use the smallest size even though my bust measurement put me in between a S and M. I was hoping the XS would achieve a slightly more fitted look but still maintain the pattern’s relaxed silhouette.

The size choice overall feels good, but there is some slight pulling on the shoulder seams that I’d like to get rid of on the next one. I’m not entirely sure how I’ll accomplish that.

I had a brief moment when I first started sewing where I wanted to achieve an entirely me-made closet. I don’t want that. I do want to have mostly me-made and secondhand, with a dash of investment pieces from boss women makers, like Elizabeth Suzann, and ethical companies like Nisolo.

My new Shirt No. 1 pairs nicely with my ES Clyde Jacket in clay cotton canvas, no?

2018 Goal

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I’m not much of a resolutions person BUT I do think it’s important to ponder what you need more of in your life every once in a while. And maybe what you need less of too. And let’s face it, a new year is a good time to reset. Or, you know… late February ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Sketches from a visit to the University of Michigan Museum of Art

Goal: Draw More!

For me, I’d like to dedicate more time to drawing and painting. Ever since college (maybe even late high school), I’ve wanted to have a sketchbook practice. It’s been a long, hard struggle to get past the fear of the blank page, but it appears sewing has helped me get there. Having a partner who truly enjoys museums and encourages me to sketch while visiting has also been immensely motivating. And I think age makes you realize no one is looking at you in public, so sketch away!

If you’re interested in sketching out in the world, I highly recommend blind contour drawing. It’s a drawing exercise that, in my opinion, always produces great results. Here are a few I did while visiting the Cantor Art Center at Stanford.

I filled my first sketchbook last year and the one in the video above is almost filled. It felt really good to get to that last page and be able to flip through the whole book. A sketchbook is such a great way to document life.

I’m thinking about doing a 30 day drawing challenge and looping in my co-worker for accountability. We’re still hammering out the details, but I’m sure posting my progress here will be part of it. My parents also started a Drink & Draw evening with friends, which I’d like to join remotely.

Assembling an on-the-go sketching kit has been extremely helpful in keeping up the habit. It consists of my Creative Maker Supply Case made with my favorite Spoonflower fabric, which holds mostly pens and markers. This kit comes with me almost everywhere now.

As a birthday gift to myself I attended one of Case For Making‘s watercolor making workshops in December. I now have a beautiful, high quality portable watercolor set. THAT I MADE!

What goal(s) have you set for yourself this year?