Me-made May part 2

This is the middle part of me-made May. I’ll post the rest at the end of the month, I guess?

We’re hitting the part of the month where it’s a little bit more of a challenge and there are starting to be a whole lot of repeats. Which is good, right? I don’t want a wardrobe full of mostly things I wear less than once a month. That would be way too much clothing.

This is a Deer and Doe Zephyr dress with a hacked cardigan that you can barely see under my jacket. I really like this pattern, and this version came out awesome. The pattern wants a more substantial knit, so I got this heavier-weight 10% spandex jersey from A Verb for Keeping warm and it feels awesome. I also added cap sleeves (not pictured) and pockets (also impossible to see because of the black). And I lengthened the skirt. This one could probably get its own blog post if I could rise to the photography challenge.

This is one of the very few times I’ve worn my Pente sweater out of the house. I love the sweater, but a) it’s a little big/baggy b) it’s really too warm for most California daytime weather and c) the long drapey bits aren’t so compatible with kid-chasing. So it’s mostly been getting (a lot of) use around the house in the evenings.

My other Deer and Doe Zephyr (out of a Girl Charlee knit that claimed to be 100% cotton but I really don’t believe them) with a Briar top from super nice cotton/bamboo french terry. I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about layering over dresses this month. This version of the Zephyr dress is wearable but not perfect – the knit is too light for the pattern and it gets stretched out after a bit. The skirt is cute though!

I made this t-shirt out of bits of four other t-shirts several years back. It continues to be a favorite. The scarf I don’t think I ever blogged about, but it’s up on Ravelry.

A recently-finished Colette Hawthorn dress from Echino cotton sateen. I used the pattern adjustments from this version without changing anything. I’m the same size now that I was when I did the fitting for that dress (both times were a few months post-baby), so it works. But I’ll probably need to take it in eventually.

Double gauze Washi dress. I love how this dress feels, but I still feel a bit odd about how it works on me. This one was made as a maternity dress but didn’t have a ton of modifications (I just made the skirt a few inches wider) so it’s fine as a regular dress. But I still feel like there’s something “off” about the silhouette on me, which has stopped me from making more versions.

The only thing even nominally me-made here is the cardigan, which I bought as a secondhand pullover sweater and turned into a cardigan.

Me-made dress (my first of now three different Archer tunic dresses) and leggings. It’s a tad short and I think I’ve lengthened my later versions.

Briar top (repeated) with a Cake Patterns Tiramisu dress. I’m temped to turn this into a skirt, since I always seem to wear it with something covering the top bit.

Finally, an Alabama Chanin style dress and me-made shirt from an old Burda magazine pattern.  The dress was made 5ish years ago out of recycled t-shirts, and is really starting to show its age. I’m pondering ways to repair/reinforce it and extend its life. The fabric itself is quite worn and starting to get random holes, so this would be a serious challenge.

Are these posts redundant with posting things on Instagram? I’m not really sure. I like having a record of this stuff, but it seems like this doesn’t make for the most interesting reading. Thoughts?

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Me made may – part one

It’s Me-made May! I wore some stuff! And dyed my hair purple!

Day 1: Nani Iro Alder dress with clever pockets (new, never blogged) + espresso leggings from several years back.

Day 2: Drapey cardigan from a Megan Nielsen tutorial + tunic from the Handmade Style book.

Day 3: Cocoknits sweater, me-made tank top (from So Zo pattern), mended jeans.

Day 4: Alabama Chanin dress made from thrifted t-shirts and then overdyed, and a ten year old much-mended cardigan.

Day 5: Rayon tunic (0riginally a maternity thing) and hand-dyed cardigan.

Day 6: Smock alert! Alder dress from Khadi cloth, with added pockets.

Day 7: Make It Perfect Hero vest in the most ridiculous fabric, plantain tee.

Day 8: Rigoles scarf, Maddermade Lila Top Down sweater out of Madelinetosh DK + espresso leggings (now I wish I’d bothered to match stripes!)

Day 9: Same Cocoknits sweater, another plantain tee, mended jeans.

Day 10: First day back at work after maternity leave and yet another plantain tee. This one has been modified to have a super-wide hem, although it’s hard to tell from this picture.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I get out of me-made May, and whether it’s worth it. None of this is particularly different than how I would dress if it wasn’t me-made May. Which is kind of the point, right? I’m making these clothes so I can wear them, whether I’m taking bad selfies or not. But I am getting a lot out of participating:

  • I really like seeing how everyone else puts together outfits. It’s a good thing, especially in the post-partum phase were I’m trying to transition from dressing for pure pragmatism (boob access + not covered in spit-up) to something resembling personal style.
  • I get ideas for what to sew. Me-made May is a great source of photos of projects that might not otherwise have been documented. Being able to flip through photos and see how something looks on someone with my body type is great.
  • Seeing pictures of myself gives me insight into what’s working (or not) in my own wardrobe, and what kinds of things I should be making.
  • Posting pictures that someone will actually see provides some gentle encouragement for me to dig out less-worn items and generally not just wear the same thing every day. Sometimes these items are less-worn for a reason, but I need to at least put them on to gain some insight into why they’ve been languishing. I haven’t really done this yet, but I plan to!

So far the things I’ve been wearing skew pretty heavily to jeans-and-sweaters kinds of outfits. This mostly makes sense for what I’ve been up to (chasing kids, messy home improvement projects, breastfeeding a lot) but sort of leaves my pretty dresses high and dry. They may see more wear later in the month now that I’m in an office on a regular basis – we’ll see. A lot of them don’t work right now because of nursing/pumping anyway. And I’m an engineer in a mostly-male office, so I kind of have Issues about dressing too girly at work, even though I haven’t let that stop me much in the past.

I have been enjoying wearing lots of stuff I’ve mended or otherwise embellished. Making items last a long time in my wardrobe through mending, altering or re-working them feels good even though it’s often much less blog-and-photo friendly. This is a good thing for me to know, as it helps me figure out the most satisfying ways to allocate my time across different maker-ey projects.

I’m already identifying things I want to make – woven tops like the Grainline Scout Tee or the Wicksten Tank are at the top of the list. If I’m going to wear jeans all the time, I can at least wear something more fun on top. Those are quick and will get a lot of wear, so it’s an obvious win. More t-shirts would also be welcome, though they’re less critical.

After that I really do need to re-think my cardigan and jacket situation. I own lots of them, but they’re mostly ready-t0-wear and they’re virtually all gray or black. And (with the possible exception of the drapey sweater I wore on day 2 above) none are really that perfect neutral top that you wear over everything. I need to do some culling, some modifying, and maybe some sewing.

The next few dresses I make should probably skew more neutral than the stuff I’ve been working on. I have a deep affection for brightly colored and patterned leggings, but they’re often totally incompatible with my also-brightly-colored-and-patterned dresses. I suspect a basic black linen dress would get a ton of wear.

Part of me wants to make jeans, but it doesn’t feel like the best use of my time when things are still shifting around after having a baby. Plus, I have jeans. They’re not the best ever, but…ehn. Maybe when these ones get too big I’ll decide it’s time to make a pair.

Are you doing me-made May? What are you getting out of it?

Stripey tunic

As you can tell from my Instagram feed, I’ve been sewing way more things than I’ve been blogging. I have four or five unblogged dresses from this year alone. The reasons for this are pretty straightforward: while sewing can be done in five minute segments between baby care, photography really can’t. Plus, it’s been hard to persuade myself to sit down and write about what I’ve made when I could be making things instead. But I do truly enjoy having the blog as a record of what I’ve made, so the blog isn’t going away anytime soon.

I was looking at these pictures and thinking “I really should have ironed that” and then I realized that the wrinkles were a by-product of nursing the baby down for her nap and that I’d barely managed to finish the photos before she woke up. So basically, good for me for getting photos taken at all. Future goal: get off the Auto setting and stop everything getting so over-exposed.

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I made the tunic from Anna Graham (a.k.a. Noodlehead)’s book Handmade Style. Fabric is a Cotton & Steel rayon. I made her poolside tote (as with many things lately, never blogged) and liked the pattern a lot, so the book was an easy sell. I like a bunch of the bags in it as well, so hopefully I’ll get a bunch of use out of that one.

The pattern hits many “I just had a baby” checkboxes: boob access, forgiving silhouette, long enough to not worry about showing stretch marks when putting my hands over my head, etc. It doesn’t require much fitting and it’s easy to wear. I’m considering making another one in linen.

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This is a size XL with no adjustments beyond adding the pockets (#alwayswithpockets). This is novel for me – I generally need a pretty serious FBA with most patterns. But this is loose enough that I could get away with it (although you can see below that a dart wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world). This is also the sort of garment that will stay wearable if I gain or loose weight, which is a real concern in the years of having babies.

I waffled a bit about adding the drawstring (which is part of the pattern) but concluded that the big expanse of horizontal stripes could use some breaking up. Plus, playing with stripe direction is fun. I’m mostly not actually pulling it in to add shape, just enjoying the visual variation.

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Super-flatterning post-partum side view! Babies have taken a serious toll on my posture and my abdominal muscle tone. Woo. I did manage to match the stripe vertically, though the nature of the pattern means the side seams is still kind of visible.

This project also prompted me to think a bit about the kind of fabric I want to be sewing with and wearing. I have a pretty extensive fabric stash, but at the moment it skew heavily to knits and large-ish lengths of fabric that want to be dresses with full skirts. I’ve been working my way through the former bit by bit, and am mostly holding off on the later until my size is a bit more stable (why make something that will hopefully be to big in two months?). I’ve also got some denim for jeans, which kind of has the same problem. I can make a few things that are just for the next few months, but I don’t want to use up all this fabric I really like on things that won’t fit for very long.

The garments I can make that don’t have those problems – loose tunics or dresses like this – fit and drape better in rayons and cotton lawns. So I may wind up buying more fabric for those things, even though I objectively have too much. But I don’t want to be making things just to use up my stash, either…it’s tricky.

Does anyone else have these problems? I expect it will all become moot when I go back to work soon and stop having so much time on my hands…

Me-made May

 (Left: store bought. Middle: majorly mended, hacked or dyed. Right: things I made)

My plan/pledge for me-made May is the same as it’s always been: wear something me-made every day. More if possible, but not required. On some level this shouldn’t be challenging anymore, except:

  • I’m four months post-partum and bigger than usual, so many me-made clothes are too small and my size is still changing
  • I’m breastfeeding, so I need boob access
  • I’m going back to work May 10th

So there are definitely some open questions about whether it’s really going to work out for my actual life. I’m kind of viewing this as an opportunity to think about what makes up a wardrobe and how to choose what I make by viewing it in context with the rest of my clothes.

Inventory of me-made clothing (that I can wear right now):

Shirts:

  • 4 t-shirts (am I missing any?)
  • 3 button up shirts

Dresses:

  • 5 Alabama Chanin dresses
  • 3 Grainline Alder dresses
  • 2 other knit dresses
  • 4 assorted woven dresses and tunics
  • Various not-compatible with breastfeeding dresses (not shown)

Pants and skirts:

  • Non currently, unless you count mended jeans which I kind of do

Warm stuff:

  • 1 vest
  • 1 sweatshirt (briar)
  • 1 draped cardigan
  • 4 sweaters I knitted

Loungewear (not pictured):

  • Alamada robe
  • Various t-shirts
  • 1 pair of pajama pants

+ various knitted hats, scarves, arm warmers

Observations:

Wow, this is a lot less clothing than I’ve actually made. That’s what happens when you change sizes several times in a few years! I do have a category of “things I can technically fit into but aren’t really comfortable or convenient for breastfeeding or pumping” which I’m probably not going to end up wearing, so I’ve left them out here. I don’t want to go too far out of my way to wear the things I’ve sewn, I just want to be sewing the right sorts of things in the first place.

Another thing that jumps out (from that picture in particular!) is how all of my colorful clothing is things I’ve made, and my ready-to-wear items are all gray, black or blue. They’re also heavily skewed to basically practical stretchy things that are forgiving to changing bodies…which makes sense. But I also take away an impression that maybe I should be sewing more things in solid neutrals.

My makes skew heavily to dresses and a few t-shirts. This is at least partly due to the fact that I don’t have much luck buying woven tops or dresses. I currently don’t have any skirts, which seems crazy to me (though there are a few which might fit by the end of the month, we’ll see). Making pants would be fun, but it’s fairly fit-sensitive and probably not all that suited to my phase of life.

I will be taking and posting pictures, at least on Instagram. How about you?

pente sweater

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This sweater was a major project. I started it a few days before Zeena was born, in tiny yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Loft) on size 4 needles.

Just noticed that my knitting coordinates perfectly with my living room carpet.

Still spending most of my time nursing/knitting. Opted for the more subtle accent stripe pattern. Stockinette for daaaaays. #knitting #knittersofinstagram #brooklyntweed

Got my replacement yarn. Back in business! #knitting #knittersofinstagram #stealthbaby

I worked on it while nursing, more or less on top of the baby, for three months straight. 

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 This project was an attempt to make what I wanted to wear (simple, drapey, gray) and not so much what I wanted to knit (elaborate cables). I think I’ve pulled it off, but it’s hard to tell as it’s been far too warm here to even consider wearing that much wool. So it’s been hard to put it in any kind of regular rotation. The fabric is light enough that the sheer weight of it isn’t too overwhelming. I think it will be wearable when we get some temperatures less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ll report back. 

  
The pattern: Pente, from Wool People 7. Designed by Carol Feller. My ravelry notes are here

It’s an interesting construction – the body is worked in the round, then  you knit the sleeve front and back together with the body and attach everything at the end. This felt very clever but got pretty unwieldy at the end, with two fronts,  back, two sleeve fronts and two sleeve backs (2500ish yards of yarn) all hanging off my needles as I finished the top of the left sleeve. The description “octoblob” was used. If I made something like this again (not any time soon!) I’d add side seams to make the whole thing more manageable to knit. 

The yarn, while beautiful, was frustrating. It broke a lot. Which was worse because I was alternating two colors, and it was a giant piece of knitting. Any time things got tangled, the yarn broke. I wound up having to buy an emergency skein of the blue, in part because of how much yarn got eaten up with joins.

Fit-wise this is very forgiving. I never really got gauge, sized down and hoped for the best. And it’s fine. I’ve been rolling up the sleeves a lot because my life is very messy right now, but they basically fit the way they’re supposed to. 

Anyway, it’s done! It’s pretty! And now I can go back to knitting quick, gratifying things for the next year (or several). 

the elusive basic shirt

This shirt is about as boring as it gets – a plain button down shirt in gray chambray. I used the Grainline Archer, like everyone else in the online sewing universe. It doesn’t have any accents or clever details or contrast top-stitching. But it’s an extremely useful wardrobe item. I’m excited.

(I’m rather less excited about the blurry photos. Picture-taking has been hard around here, and I’m still experimenting to find a reliable setup.)

The combination of a large-ish bust, poor posture and a comparatively broad back mean that I’ve historically had a terrible time buying shirts. At least, non-stretch woven button-downs with sleeves. After a couple of attempts, I concluded that this was something I had to make – no one is manufacturing shirts that fit me. So the fact that I can put my arms in front of me without binding is positively magical. I’ve never worn a button-down that did this unless it was at least three sizes too large.

Like everyone says, the pattern is great. Everything fit together perfectly, and the instructions were straightforward. I cut a 14 and made the following modifications:

  • 2″ FBA, adding a bust dart. I know this isn’t really how you’re “supposed” to do this on this shirt, but all the dart-free FBA tutorials have warnings about only adding 3/4″ at the most. For me, this preserves the ease in the pattern as written, which is pretty generous. I probably could have added less. I may go that route for future versions – while this fits me now, the bust will be way too big once I stop nursing.
  • The FBA added some width to the front, which I may remove in a future version. The amount of ease around my waist borders on excessive.
  • I added 1″ at the center back, making the pleat wider (the yoke remains unchanged). This relieved some straining I was getting across my back between my arms.
  • I did a 1″ full bicep adjustment. I could have maybe gotten away with less, but some adjustment was necessary here to provide the freedom of movement I was so hell-bent on.
  • I added 2″ in length. I feel like these proportions are more flattering on my body.
  • All the seams on this were either enclosed or flat felled, to keep things pretty inside

Notably I didn’t mess around with the armscye on this, which I usually do. I probably could have done that and avoided adding so much width in the back, resulting in a more fitted shirt. But I kind of feel like this style is supposed to be somewhat loose and flowing, so I was worried about overfitting.

Ultimately it came out a little big, but I attribute that at least partially to the fact that I lost about 5 lbs between fitting and these pictures. Post-partum life is exciting that way.

As you can see, the fabric is pretty stiff, and there’s a lot of ease through the body. It does have the potential to bunch up in unsightly ways. I’m still hoping that it will soften up once I’ve washed it a couple of times, which will help it hang better. Chambray is basically lightweight denim, so I have high hopes for how it’ll wear in.

I’m totally happy with the collar. And the snaps! I should have graded the seams more though – the fabric is a little on the bulky side, and this made snap insertion more exciting than it really should have been.

Like #secretliberty, but with more giraffes.

Contrast inner yoke! I used a scrap of double gauze left over from a baby  blanket. Why not?

This photo illustrates why I probably won’t ever wear it buttoned all the way up. Not exactly the best look for me. Mostly I intend it as a light-ish layer over jeans or dresses, with the sleeves rolled up.

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Tah-dah! Have you made any better-than-you-could-buy basics lately?

Pants from the moon

This is my first article of kid clothing after a long drought. Izzy and I were sort of on the outs about it after an incident wherein tiger-stripe pants were requested and then rejected – he refuses to this day to even try them on. So that sort of put me off the whole thing for six months or so. I seem to have finally moved past it.

I truly have very little to say about these pants, construction-wise. They are one main pattern piece with funky pockets and elastic around all the openings. I’m basically only blogging them because they’re they’re only thing I’ve managed to photograph with any kind of thoroughness since Zeena was born. I make lots of thing, I just don’t take pictures of the ones that need to be on me, apparently.

  
  

Anyway, they’re the Made by Rae Moon Pants and Izzy adores them. They took very little time to make, even with the addition of piping on the pockets. The fabric is a baby corduroy which I believe is designed by Lotta Jansdotter. The finished product bears a strong resemblance to one of Izzy’s all time favorite articles of clothing (now outgrown) so they were adopted with enthusiasm. He’s also a big fan of the “ghosts-es” in the pocket lining.

I also made a pair in a kitty-print knit, which are even more perfectly Izzy. I left of the pockets, so they were even quicker and simpler.

Both of these are exactly how I want my kids’ clothes to be: colorful, comfy, and gender-neutral (at least by my definition). They don’t have a lot of fussy closures (which my three year old has zero patience for anyway). They’re easy to move and play in.

This kind of sewing project really does make me feel like I could manage to make a large-ish percentage of my kids’ clothing, especially when my efforts are adopted so enthusiastically. I’ve since cut out a bunch more clothes for both Izzy and Zeena, which may eventually make it to the blog as they’re finished off and photographed. It even worked out that this happened during Kids Clothes Week, although I can’t say I planned that. I also went through my mounds of fabrics and consolidated all the “kid” fabrics into their own bin, which makes it easier to pair fabrics and patterns. For kids, I like to mix fabrics in one garment (exhibit A: the numerous raglan shirts I’ve made for Izzy), so saving even relatively tiny bits of fun prints is worthwhile. Now that they’re all in one place (instead of divided between the scrap bin and various other fabric bins in my sewing room) it should be easier to find and make use of them.

Anyone else doing instant-gratification kid sewing? It’s lots of fun!