More Pussyhats for More Fresh Hell Ahead

I’m making more Pussyhats for the Women’s March in New York on January 20th. Last time, I made 22 hats out of remnants of polar fleece, about half from my stash (leftover from my niece’s Halloween costume) and half purchased off the Joann’s remnant rack.

This year, in the spirit of environmentalism, I am upcycling fabrics for the hats:

On the right you’ll see the old hooded bathrobe I retired this year after faithful service left it with too many stains, tears and pills to be quite decent anymore. Each hat takes about a fat quarter’s worth of fabric, so I estimate I can get about 12 hats out of the robe. I will definitely use the striped front band as headbands for the hats, and I may do something creative with the hood.

The pink garments on hangers are two items I bought at Goodwill for $5.25. The item on the left is a tennis dress in French terry that has a little stretch. The item on the right is a short nightgown in four-way stretch jersey. I estimate I can get 8 hats out of both, maybe using the nightie’s lace and rouleau straps creatively.

I got both items at my neighborhood Goodwill store. I have donated many times to this store but have never bought anything there. I was disappointed to find no sewing supplies or yardage on sale, just a sad-looking Singer from the 1970s.

As I perused the clothing racks in search of suitable fabrics, it occurred to me that my sewing project might pose a hardship to someone. I found a couple of pink sweatshirts, but I thought, “It’s so cold. Maybe someone needs this sweatshirt to stay warm. Is it right to buy it?” So I chose items that I imagine no one needs, at least not in January in Connecticut. Maybe this is presumptuous of me? Anyway, it’s done.

I plan to make 20 hats in all. I already have orders from a few friends and neighbors who missed out last year, and I imagine others will roll in. A bunch of us, including my sister, are going to New York on the train for the day. A friend from PatternReview.com has drafted a hat for this year’s march. If yo want to try that pattern, send me a message with your email and I will send it – it’s on a .pdf.  I am going to use it instead of the free “Fleece Fun” hat I tried last year. While it got the job done, it was rather inelegant and ill-fitting.

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Are you marching too?

 

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New Year, Clean House

I spent much of New Year’s Day cleaning and decluttering my house. Such a chore! I put off doing routine things for months and guess what? They only get worse.

Since I’ve had a lot of success with simply asking for what I want, I figured I’d try it with my husband when it comes to cleaning and keeping the house clutter-free. My husband hates getting rid of his possessions. He has literally 100 socks as a result. My requests:

  • Please go through your closet and throw things away, recycle them or put them in a bag for donation.
  • Please put junk mail, catalogs and the like straight into the recycling bin. No “keeping to go through later” and no piling them up on the desk, the dining room table or the buffet.
  • Please shred documents that need to be shredded as soon as you decide to get rid of them. (Don’t pile them up on the shredder.)

I went through my closet and packed a big bag for donation, threw out a few things beyond hope, and selected a few things for sale on eBay. I rejected the idea of selling on consignment again – I didn’t get enough money from it to make it worthwhile. I should get at least $40 apiece for the items I’m selling on eBay.

I also organized documents for taxes, packed up our 2017 records into a box in the attic and sorted other papers that we need to keep.

If you struggle to focus and complete cleaning and decluttering tasks, here’s a method that helps me: I “time box” a task. Say, I give myself 1 hour to go through all my clothes and pull out things I don’t want anymore and decide what to do with them (donate, toss or sell). Or, I give myself 30 minutes to iron as many clothes as I can. I stick to that schedule and do 2-4 tasks, depending on the time they take. I give myself a half-hour break every two hours to have something to eat, return emails, relax with a magazine etc. I repeat until I get done what I need to do.

Eight Sewing Resolutions for 2018

I realized this week that I sewed about 30 items in 2017 – a record for me and a major step forward in my growth as a sewist. I almost always had a project in the works, I learned to use a serger, and I made a lot of garments that I wear regularly as well as items for gifts, charity, home dec and upcycling.

 

I also wasted time and money on a few things, so I am circumspect about what I might accomplish in 2018. I will have less time to sew in 2018. I have enrolled in a graduate program related to my job, so that will take priority, at least from January to May for the first class.

Eight resolutions for 2018, then:

  1. Participate in fewer sewalongs and contests. In 2017, I entered 8 contests on PatternReview.com, sewing 20 items in all, and sewed garments for five sewalongs with The Monthly Stitch and one with the Sewcialists. (Some of these overlap.) The PatternReview events included stash-busting and wardrobe contests, which account for much of the volume, as well as the annual PR Sewing Bee. In discussing the contests with friends on PatternReview, I am have been in the “it’s fun to participate” camp while many are in the “in it to win it” camp. I never win. I never come close (OK, I came in a distant third once). I was pissed that I didn’t make it to the third round of the Sewing Bee – that really hurt my pride. I did win one random drawing prize this year, which was nice, but I lack the skill, fit and finesse to really compete against the experts. I am going to sit out all the contests and sewalongs this year unless they happen to coincide with my established sewing plans. There’s also no Sewing Bee this year to tempt me. I volunteered instead to moderate a contest.
  2. Make jeans. I really need to do this. I need new jeans, for one thing, and I also really want the challenge. I might take a class at Workroom Social in March.
  3. Bust the embroidery unit out of its box. My husband bought me a Bernina 580 for my birthday two years ago. It came with an embroidery unit, which I didn’t really want. I am just not in to the whole embroidery thing, and I really don’t want to spend a ton of money on special threads. But I see a lot of RTW with nice embroidery details, so I figure I should at least try it. Perhaps if I make jeans, I can embroider a cute detail on the pockets?
  4. Truly Do Me Made May this year. I have participated in past years by doing “me-made” 4 or 5 days a week in May. This year I am almost ready to do it every day. I have almost enough seasonally appropriate garments, although I could use more pants  for work and definitely need jeans (see #2).
  5. Stop making so many damn mistakes. It takes me a while to sew garments because I make a ridiculous number of mistakes. “Sure,” you’re thinking, “we all have a seam that goes awry once in a while. Quit being such a perfectionist!” That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about sewing things wrong-sides together. Upside down. Accidentally pleating or tucking. Slicing off chunks of fabric with the serger. Stuff like that. I usually buy fresh seam rippers in January because they get dull with use. No more! in 2018, I will baste, double-check, triple-check and baste some more to be sure I have it right.
  6. Go on a sewing retreat. I want to have a long weekend away from the house where I can just sew and learn and maybe make some new friends. It would be ideal to attend a retreat that’s far enough from my house that I will stay overnight but close enough that I can drive or take Amtrak (East Coast, as far south as DC). It seems like a lot of retreats are for quilting. Any garment-sewing retreats out there? Let me know!
  7. Try charity shops. So many sewing bloggers come back with great finds from charity shops. I donate to these shops all the time, but I never shop at one myself. I want to try out a few this year to see what they have to offer, either for yardage and other sewing materials and patterns, or for upcycling opportunities.
  8. Sew something for my mom. She gave me the sweetest Christmas gift this year – a bunch of sewing supplies including a fabulous pair of Kai scissors, some Swedish patternmaking paper, a snap kit and a new quilting ruler. IMG_20171228_122726I asked for these things through an app we use to manage our family’s Secret Santa gift exchange. I was happy that she listened to me about what I wanted and that she read over all the info I provided in the app. “I never knew your favorite color was red!” she said. I want to make her something, both to thank her and to give us something to do together. I thought I’d try to replicate some garment that she really likes or wants. It will be challenging to sew for a different body type and size, but I am up for it.

What are your resolutions?

A Year of Reading Books by Women

My rekindled feminism, brought to a blaze in my disgust over Trump’s election, hit my Kindle reader right away. I resolved to read only books by women in 2017. I read 14 books in all, 13 by women, one book by a man and some short stories by women and men.

I started the year by rereading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it first in high school (25 years ago, but who’s counting), so I wondered if it would pack the same punch. It did, even more so as I imagined how many of our right wing lunatic political leaders would love a United States where the rule of law is gone and instead the government runs on biblical bullshit.

After that, I needed some escapism, so I read books 6, 7 and 8 the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. These books are, frankly, not that good. I got into them last year because of the TV series, and I got in to the TV series because of the fabulous period costuming by Terry Dresbach. The first three books are good, the fourth is OK, and then they go downhill – recycled plots, little character development, way too many inconsequential actions. I stuck with them because I expected a big payoff in Book 8 and it was only “meh.” It kept me a little entertained during my 15-hour flights to India, anyway.

I needed reality after that fantasy binge, so I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  Diana Gabaldon’s experience writing the Outlander books also fueled this interest. I have always wanted to write fiction but I have not succeeded for various reasons (here and here if you want to know more).

Then I read another series a friend had recommended, The Giver books by Lois Lowry. The dystopias Lowry created are similar to Atwood’s in some respects – in one society, a group of young women is judged by its ability to have babies. These are young-adult novels and not really my speed either, but I feel that I learned something from them about how our desires to protect ourselves from pain and harm may leave us feeling nothing, which is worse. They were good summer reads anyway.

At this point, I was reminded of some short stories I read by Alice Munro, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. I reread a few of them that had influenced me as a young woman. I never felt that I wanted to have children, yet all women I knew except for one great-aunt had children. Her stories confirmed for me that it was OK to have a childless life.

My next book was “Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners”  by Therese Oneill. A blogger I like had recommended it. It was very laugh-out-loud funny in places and pretty gross in other places. I later read a female historian’s account of all the ways the book is wrong. Entertaining – both points of view.

My last summer read was “The Woman Upstairs” by Claire Messaud. This was my favorite fiction book of the year. It followed on the themes from The Artist’s Way – the protagonist is a frustrated artist who finds her muse, only to be betrayed. Messaud is a hell of a gifted writer and I am planning to read more from her in 2018.

I realized at some point that I’d read only books by white women so far in 2017 and I had wanted to continue my efforts to read more African American women, so I read “Strategize to Win” by Carla Harris. She’s a high-ranking banking executive who’s made a name for herself not just for thriving in a white man’s industry, but also for giving solid career advice. I wish I’d read this book 15 years ago. It was instrumental in my decision to enroll in graduate school, classes starting in January 2018.

I reread “H Is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald, just because it’s beautiful.

My final female-authored book for 2017 was Emily Wilson’s translation of “The Odyssey.” I read about it in a profile in The New Yorker and I was captivated by her direct, insightful language in translating the Greek classic. It was very good, maybe missing a bit of the poetry of other translations, but doing a great job of making you care about the characters and better understand the ways the ancient Greeks lived.

I read three things my men. In October, to get the spirit for a trip to Baltimore, I read and reread some short stories and poems by Edgar Allen Poe. We visited his house and grave in Baltimore on Friday the 13th and got into the Halloween spirit. I was reminded of what a genius he was – the stories are well worth reading if you haven’t touched them since high school. I also read some short stories by Haruki Murakami on and off this fall. They were not that good. Long-form fiction is more his style.

Finally, I am reading “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire” by Kurt Anderson. This is my #1 nonfiction book for the year. If you want to understand how Trump could get elected president, read this. Anderson’s premise is that there is something in American culture, from its earliest days, that promotes and encourages magical thinking. Maybe it was the wide open spaces of the New World, or the religious nutjobs who first colonized the land, or maybe its the American embrace of new technologies, be it printing press or Internet, but our Constitutional freedoms have curdled into something dangerous for the future of American society.

For 2018, I will be starting out with college textbooks, I guess. I’d like to read more from African Americans and other cultures. And I will probably read one more series over the summer, just for fun.

Top 5 Hits, Misses and Lessons Learned in 2017

Oh damn. The year is almost over. Time for reflections on what I did and didn’t do. Let’s start with the positive, shall we?

My #1 lesson learned from 2017 was to make more simple, wear-anytime items. Previously, I used to make mostly complex, expensive, time-consuming items, such as lined blazers for work, party dresses and other things like that. I’d love them and wear them occasionally, but I realized I could enjoy my sewing projects more (and save money and time) if I sewed more everyday things.

Top 5 Hits: The 5 most worn or most loved makes from your year!

 

My Top 5 Hits are (right to left):

  • Kwik Sew 3452 – This simple OOP jacket/sweatshirt has been worn almost weekly since I made it this fall. Love the color, the lightweight 100% cotton fabric and the fit.
  • New Look 6498 – I made this crazy dress from sari fabric I bought in India. It was my most creative project of 2017. It’s a bit over-the-top, but I like it that way.
  • La Mia Boutique Camicetta 20 and Simplicity 3688 – OK, this is two projects in one picture – I’m no martinet for the rules. I am proud that I think I finally conquered fit on pants and on button-down shirts. My previous sewing machine sucked at buttonholes, but my new machine makes perfect ones, so I no longer fear the button-down shirt.
  • Great British Sewing Bee Breton Top – Another very simple project that has been worn and worn since I made it out of lovely 100% cotton jersey.
  • Simplicity 8174 – This is my big, extravagant, complex project for 2017. It has 23 pieces and three zippers, made out of ultrasuede with a silk charmeuse lining. The fit is perfect and it’s RTW quality, IMHO.

Lesson learned #2 – Sergers are good things. Lesson learned #3 – Knits are fun. I’d avoided both for years. I thought sergers were complex and expensive, and giving a “cheap” result. If I was going to invest in the time to make a garment, I was going to make it right, using couture seam finishes or linings. I got a serger for my birthday and started using it with hesitation just to finish seams. This fall, I used it to make the two knit garments seen above. I’d avoided knits because both of my sewing machines didn’t like them very much. With the serger, the knit garments went together quickly and the quality was very good. I will still do couture seam treatments when the garment calls for it, but the serger fits well into my “everyday” wardrobe plans.

Top 5 Misses: These are all dogs.

 

  • Simplicity 8137 – This lined wrap top is just OFF – my biggest time and money waster of 2017, by far. I have worn it a few times to work, after pinning closed the bodice, so it’s not a total loss but still a huge disappointment.
  • Madalynne Noelle bralette – Another waste. Lesson learned #4 – Free patterns are rarely worth it. I never wore this. I will never do another free indie pattern unless it has plenty of positive reviews.
  • This Edith blouse from MariaDemark has been in the “UFO” pile since spring. I cannot get the darts even, despite many tries. I blame the poly crepe fabric (the fault couldn’t lie with me, could it?) I rarely have a UFO. If I start something, I almost always finish it. Lesson learned #5 – It’s OK to give up and cut my losses once in a while. The frustration is not worth it.
  • This bag from Burda 2562 (OOP) is just a hot mess – a true C-in Home Ec effort. I slapped it together from the leftover ultrasuede from the moto jacket project as part of the PatternReview.com Sudoku Wardrobe contestLesson learned #6 – Don’t make stuff just for contests. I participate in many contests and sewalongs because I love the camaraderie, I’ve made friends, and I love a good deadline, but I’ve also wasted time and money.  I have used this bag a couple of times, so it’s not a total loss, but it’s embarrassingly poorly sewn.
  • This Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 8058 had all the makings of a disaster. Cheap fabric. Tricky design. Exposed zipper on a knit. Way too short. I should have stopped when I cringed at the fabric, bought on sale online. I forged ahead nonetheless. I lengthened it 4 inches, ruining the designer’s line. Despite the stiffest interfacing I had, the center front detail curls and warps the second you sit. The zipper is a hot mess. I will call this a “wearable muslin” that was worn exactly once. I would like to try this again in better fabric and without the piece that juts out at the tummy.

Finally, the #1 make of the year:

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Pussyhats. I made 22 of these hats from a free pattern from Fun with Fleece for the Women’s March on Washington. I constructed them on the serger in an assembly line and sent them to friends protesting Trump in California, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. Not the fanciest or best-sewn project, but the most meaningful for me. I was inspired to see the distaff side of humanity, brought into sharp relief by Trump and his ilk, who regard women as either sex objects or subhuman property, use their gifts to say to men who rule over us: WE RESIST.

I am thinking some more about my goals for 2018. See you in the new year.

Me Made in Costa Rica

We took a last-minute trip to Costa Rica last week and got very into the tropical spirit right away, with a few more wears of my summer me-made wardrobe:

I also wore my Simplicity 1116 swimsuit, a tunic from “Happy Homemade Sew Chic” and some other stuff – too busy having fun to take a lot of pictures.

Costa Rica is such a beautiful and lucky country. I am interested to learn more about its history. In brief, its leaders in the 1950s, after a brief civil war, did not take the route of many Central American countries but rather invested in education, preservation of natural resources, and true democracy. Here are some fascinating facts:

  • It has no army and lives peaceably between Nicaragua and Panama.
  • Its energy comes almost 100% from renewable resources (geothermal, solar and wind) and its on track to be a carbon-neutral country in another 5 years.
  • It’s the most educated country in Latin America, with a 97% + literacy rate.
  • Environmentalism is a big deal. Plastic shopping bags are illegal, recycling stations are everywhere and there is almost no litter on the roadsides. Even a simple roadside shack selling rice and beans to farmworkers serves food on real plates and silverware, not plastic and paper.
  • About 25% of its land is protected from development.
  • It’s home to 500+ species of birds, plus fascinating animals such as monkeys, sloths, jaguars, ocelots, poison frogs, turtles and so many more.
  • The president is elected for one 4-year term (unlike its neighbor to the north, which has had the same president almost continuously since the 1980s) and voter turnout of very high.

I seriously had a moment of “I could live here” feeling.

Stash Busting for Charity – Put a Hat on It

Do you have lots of random scraps of things in your stash – bits of fabric that are too big to toss but too small to use for much?

Make hats! For charity! Or for yourself or your family or friends or for kids in the neighborhood. Whatever… if they have a head, put a hat on it! For about a fat quarter of knit fabric each you can have… all this!

The pink hat is the “Scrap Cap” from Green Pepper Patters F822. It’s made of fleece left over from the Pussyhats I made for the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. Damn Trump is still the damn president and we women have even MORE to march for this year. I made this for the daughter of a friend who’s marching with us in New York in January.

The duo of white hats is from Simplicity 1566 – a pattern envelope with an entire wardrobe for a baby or toddler. This is a great package of patterns for gift-making or for kitting out your kid with cute, simple, easy-to-make styles. My favorite in this package is the little hoodie. This hat is OK  – I wasn’t crazy about the shape and the ribbon ties. I decorated them with some trims I’ve had in my stash for 10+ years. The hats are made with leftover cotton jersey from a T-shirt project. I’m donating the hats to a charity that collects winter clothing for the needy.

The trio of blue, white and black hats also will go the charity. These are made from leftover border-print viscose knit and rayon jersey. The pattern is “Mountain Cap,” also from Green Pepper F822. These go together very quickly on the serger – I think I made all three in under an hour. I made one child size, one teen and one adult just to see how they fit. The teen size is perfect for me. I added a little cuff to it, just ’cause.