On buying clothes

April 8, 2010

This post is partly to assuage my massive guilt about a shopping spree I went on yesterday, and more importantly to ask a question about something that’s been on my mind for a while: How has making your own clothing changed your outlook on buying it?

I’ve reacted to it in several ways, spanning from the “I-can-make-that-for-$10” phenomenon (which we all know and love, and which I grew up hearing every single day about something or other) to a higher appreciation for subtle details of quality construction (or simply things I know I don’t have the skills to do yet, and may not for a while).

Case in point: Molly (a new blogger who has made some absolutely beautiful things lately–her lemon dress is one of my favorite things I’ve seen on a blog in a while) posted about this dress yesterday:

I would not buy this dress, not because the styling is an issue, but because it would be so simple for anyone to make (and I did–stay tuned for an FO post!), even as a first garment. Regardless of the quality of the fabric, I could not justify buying it any more. But I did buy the following things because I appreciated the construction for the price:

The detailing and construction are probably above my level, which justified the purchase to me. The same goes for this jacket, which I love but know I would struggle to make. If I tried it, it would look messy…here, it looks artful:

Another consideration for me is fabric cost. I bought this because it’s probably 2 yards worth of silk (at least), and has a nice button detail on the sleeve that I know I would have difficulty executing in such a slippery fabric:

It hurts me to spend money when I know I can make the exact same thing, and I envy the sewers that have committed to exclusively making their own clothes right now, like Mena of the Sew Weekly (who inspires me not just because of her commitment, but also because of her ability to make almost everything from a vintage pattern! She is amazing.).  But I have had to admit that my sewing skills don’t allow for that and also that it would be depressing and restricting for me. I would like to walk a line, however, and I don’t know what that is. Right now, I’m trying to just learn and enjoy sewing clothes, not obsess over creating as much as possible, just so I have something to wear!

It’s also made me less of a bargain-hunter and more willing to spend money on something I love and appreciate, rather than just what’s on sale and looks good enough on me or will be muted/simple enough to last. It’s made me embrace a personal style that revolves around what I really like and want to wear, not what’s at J. Crew or Ann Taylor right now, regardless of how much I actually like the garments.  My mother picked me up some new Vogue patterns I wanted in a $3.99 sale the other day and she said she felt my style was changing. I realized she was right. I see clothes as more of an art form and method of expression than ever before, and it’s much more important to me to wear what I really want to wear and what I feel good in.

The most surprising thing has been a newfound obsession with shoes. I’ve never been a Carrie Bradshaw-style shoe lover, because honestly, shoes are so expensive, but now that I know they’re basically the one thing I can’t make, I am willing to spend more money–a lot more money–than ever before.

I’ve always been hesitant to spend on shoes because I wear them out so quickly, which I suppose is what happens when you live in a city. I haven’t spent more than $60 on a pair of shoes (not boots) in…maybe ever, and am still wearing (and love) a pair of pumps that I received as a gift in 2002.  I bought my first pairs of colored shoes for the first time ever yesterday, if you can believe it!

So, tell me how making clothes has changed your outlook! I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, and I really want to hear your thoughts!

Sweet success

April 1, 2010

I had some motivation yesterday and today and I successfully made a garment. Yes, it’s true! A real garment that’s actually wearable and doesn’t look like a paper bag. I am so inspired. I still have to sew on some buttons, but here is a sneak peak:

It’s the Sencha blouse from Colette Patterns. Remember the time I said I would never sew with any other pattern line again? It was a slight exaggeration, but it really is a wonderful company.

Y’all probably saw this post on the Colette Patterns blog yesterday, but I wanted to really hammer the point home because, well, it really applies to me. It has, at the very least, made me less embarrassed to share this disastrous dress, RIP March 2010:

It’s Simplicity 4358, which I purchased from the lovely Sarah of ColorKitten last month. Here is the original pattern:

I included the large version of the image because you need to see the detail to really understand what went wrong in my execution. I bought 1.5 yards of a very nice wool twill for $3 at Sew-Fisticated (yay for remnants…or so I thought).  I altered the pattern to fit my measurements, which is why I was comfortable attempting to use less fabric than the pattern calls for. The wool twill did fit the pattern specs, so I was pleased with my thriftiness.

It called for a facing around the neck and armholes–an interfaced, turned-under facing, to be exact. A more skilled seamstress would have said, “Multiple layers of wool twill with a medium-weight interfacing? Obviously not,” whereas I blindly charged ahead.

Problem 1: A turned-and-stitched facing is too thick and is obvious on the front

Problem 2: Interfacing was completely unnecessary

So I attempted to solve this issue by ripping off the interfacing and tearing out, then overcasting, the raw edge of the facing. Result:

To paraphrase Amy Bloom, a blind man can see how bad this looks. I actually went through the process of re-sewing the facing on and turning it right-side out, only to find the most unbelievably bulky gathers right underneath of the points. I don’t know if it was my fabric choice, but I honestly don’t see how you could take 4 layers of thick fabric, turn them inside out, and hang them from a curve…and expect them to lay completely flat, as shown in the pattern photograph.

I returned to the scraps of my fabric in an attempt to cut and sew a new facing (I really wanted to make that $3 worth it) and did not, it turned out, even have enough fabric to cut a new facing. Now the fabric pile has become a sleeping bag for my cat.

…all of this leads me to the article from Threads to which I referred earlier, in which Kenneth King discusses the merits of practice and really screwing up:

“I’m often asked for advice for people who are just embarking on the journey called exploring sewing and design. If I were to say one thing and only one thing, it’s this: perfectionism is a disease, and a form of fear!

When learning the craft of sewing (which I believe is absolutely necessary in order to know what’s possible when designing), you should expect to destroy several acres of fabric before you get good. This is an acquired skill which can only be perfected by means of repetition—practicing over and over, learning from mistakes, learning when you can save something, and when you need to cut your losses and start over.

If you are afraid to make a mistake, afraid to ruin some fabric, or afraid to waste some time, you won’t ever get really good at this craft. It’s the dues you pay for becoming proficient.

However, if you are willing to charge forward, cut into that fabric, try something different, and risk making a mistake, there will come one day when you realize that you’re sewing without that knot of worry in the pit of your stomach, and the process effortlessly glides along.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time!

Pattern: Madeleine Bloomers from Colette Patterns (it’s free! go get it!)

Fabric: Yellow silk twill purchased from Denver Fabrics

Notions: 1/4″ navy blue ribbon, some comically old buttons I picked up at Winmil for .50

Time to complete: 4 or 5 hours(ish) (it took me longer than the pattern said it would because a. I’m slow; b. I’m extremely slow when working with silk c. I spent a lot of time overcasting my seams because they began raveling the moment I started looking at them)

Modifications: only one band of elastic at the waistband (pattern calls for two) and the button/ bow combo on the waistband. It looked naked to me without anything there.

Total cost to complete: Probably about $10

Will I wear it? YES.

Made while watching: Season 1 of Glee

This is a fantastic pattern (and free! Seriously, go get it). Sarai is a brilliant pattern-writer, and sewing it was blissful. The only thing I struggled with was threading the elastic and ribbons through the waist and leg bands. I think they were getting caught in the seam allowances.

This project is even inspiring me to actually post my photos to Flickr, which I never do.

In other news, I tried to make a silk blouse from Sew U with the rest of the fabric, and it was ill-fated from the start. It never passed the “Would I buy it?” test, but I thought it would be a good learning experiment. And it was…just not a pretty one:

I had high hopes that I would change my mind during the process, though…but I began to dislike it more and more, especially after my seams came out so strangely. Can anyone tell me why a seam that looks like this when laying flat on a table:

slight puckering at the top, but mostly flat

looks like this when hanging:

flat on top, puckering on the bottom

flat on top, puckering on the bottom

?? This was very frustrating, and the final kick in the pants I needed to abandon this project…after spending most of Saturday on it, sadly.

I have a few more FOs to show you and am finished stippling the wonky star top…it does look much better now that it’s washed and quilted. Thanks for cheering me on!

Sneak peak

February 20, 2010

covered buttons and my nana's thimble

I finished both of my dresses today–binding, buttons, and all:

The shot above is the mandarin collar of the shirtdress. The picture below is of the binding on the dirndl dress, right before I attached it:

They aren’t perfect, but I like them and am proud of my handiwork…most of all, I did feel like I learned a great deal throughout the process and am improved every day. Complete FO shots to come soon!