Lessons learned from Self-Stitched September

Well, a great big shout-out goes to Zoe for the SSS idea.  I must say I signed up with enthusiasm in the middle of August, and then when the weather turned colder on September 2nd, the enthusiasm turned more to panic.  And stressing about “what am I going to wear today that’s self-stitched!?!?!?!?!?!??!”  I have not stressed about what I wear like that on a daily basis since I was in high school.  Oh boy!

Yet there’s always been something sewing in my life…. so the last 30 days have taught me a few things:

Most of my casual wardrobe is ready-to-wear.  Simply because I’m a SAHM and, quite frankly, it’s easier to walk into my local thrift store or discount outlet and pick up a pair of casual pants for 80% off than find the time to sew them up.  All the expensive, business and evening attire I own is pretty much self-stitched, but who am I kidding?  A strapless silk duppioni cocktail dress doesn’t work for me most days.  Back in May I just had a hankering for summer dresses, so I finally stitched some for me.  Needless to say, the three lovely little people in my house bombarded me constantly with, “Who’s that dress for, mommy?” with looks of wistful hopefulness in their eyes.  Sorry, darlings.  Mommy is sewing for herself these days.

Most of my sewing for the past 10 years has been for my girls. I’ve put in hours and hours and hours of smocking and embroidery and stitching for them because they’re all girly-girls and love to dress up for church, dinner out,  a birthday party or school!  (No, you may not wear the green silk hand smocked and embroidered dress to school today, even if you do love to wear petticoats and it’s a dress that needs petticoats!)

I’ve mostly sewn for economic reasons. Now anyone who sews would go, HUH?! given the cost of fabrics, but it’s true.  For the casual everyday stuff, I have tended to go RTW because I didn’t have the time on my hands with three little girls running around – never mind the energy – to think about a sewing project unless it was something that was needed in someone’s wardrobe.  But when it came to fancy occasion dresses or winter dress coats for girls, making them at home was a big savings.  Hence the large collection of custom-made girls dress coats, dresses and petticoats over the last 10 years.  If I needed (wanted) something new to wear to that wedding that was next weekend, then I’d panic and scramble and turn into a B with an itch so I could have something new or pretty to wear. After all, it is cheaper than buying something lined, boned and not out of 100% polyester that was off the rack that would fit.  Ahh, yes.  Fit…

It’s a trouble to fit oneself properly. Without the proper dress form, that is. I used to be a straight size Vogue Pattern size 12 back in the day.  No pattern adjustments required!  But then I grew (in the wrong way) and added three children to the mix.  Oh boy!  Measuring myself was a sad thing to do, so I just stopped.  I remember at one point I refused to believe the measuring tape, put together a pair of linen pants, and they did not fit.  So I had to give them away.  But the tape measure and I have reconciled, mostly because I realize it always tells the truth.  And with practice comes experience and less frustration with pattern adjustment.

So, here are my resolutions:

  1. I need to plan a wardrobe for fall. So many of you do – sketch out ideas and colours.  Not me.  Never have.  I’ve just liked a design and decided I would sew it up!  The result is a closet with thin pickings and very little coordinates
  2. To sew more.  For me.  For my girls.  For friends. For pleasure.  For the art of it.

Stay tuned, ‘cuz there’s more projects on my sewing table.  A green cashmere jacket (cut out 3 winters ago), a pair of casual pants, the HepburnHepburn project, a Harris Tweed coat for DD1, perhaps a trench for me, a Chanel style jacket, some shirts… and a skirt… like this….if I can find the right material…..

I made it through SSS!

SSS 29- Simplicity 4076

Day 29:  Well, since I was going to be sightseeing at Niagara Falls with my brother and his family who are visiting from Alberta, I thought I’d go with jeans and this very useful self-stitched top which I have repeated over and over this month.

And for the last day, September 30th:

last day of SSS

Well, SSS went out in my house with a sheepish whimper.  My plans today included spending most of the morning in the dentist chair, so instead of looking glamourous, I opted for comfortable:  pants Vogue 2578 from about 4 years ago in a wool/viscose tweed, purchased tee and sweater, Cole Haan boots.  I had my DD3 take this picture this morning before running off to school, so please forgive the obvious!

SSS 27 and 28

Well, dear fellow SSS bloggers, I’m sad to say I bailed on Monday again.  It’s just a crappy kind of chore day to be dressing in anything I own that’s self-stitched.  That said, I’ve really noticed how RTW my wardrobe is for the casual day-to-day SAHM and volunteer-in-your-kid’s-school life I lead.

The only thing self-made that I wore were those beautiful purple earrings from my dear friend Lisa…. 😐

Day 28:

SSS Day 28 – Burda 9-2010-111b top and Gap jeans

I just put on my BurdaStyle top and my Gap jeans.  I think I need to make a pair of SS jeans or corduroys or SOMETHING that’s casual.  I’ve made several pairs of pants in my pre-blogging days, but they’re all fully lined dress pants, and they just don’t suit my SAHM volunteer-at-my-kids-school kind of everyday life.  I mean, can you imagine tripping around in stilettos through a public school hall to read with kids twice a week?  I guess that’s why I like summer:  it’s just so easy to throw on a dress and be done with it!  Fall dressing has always been a bit of a conundrum for me.  One day it’s hot, the next it’s drizzly and freezing and yet it’s too cold for summer stuff and too warm for real winter clothes.  This SSS project has really got me thinking about my fall wardrobe, how to make it work, and what’s missing in it.  But more on that later……

Last Weekend of SSS

SSS Day 25:  Gap jean jacket, Vogue 1093 skirt, Lands’ End tee.   I can’t believe that’s the last Saturday of Self-Stitched September.  This has been a challenge for me, mostly due to the fact that I’ve really not much in my wardrobe that is self-stitched and appropriate for the in-between fall weather.

SSS Day 25

SSS Day 26:  Vogue 1087, blogged here. I’m totally in love with this dress.  It’s flattering and like every other Donna Karan design I’ve stitched and worn, incredibly comfortable to wear.  This is my new favourite dress.  I’d like one in many different colours, but that would be ridiculous!  I think this pattern is a “classic” and a keeper.  It’ll be interesting to see what I think of it 10 years from now.

SSS 26 - Vogue 1087

I have to confess, too, it was really nice getting glammed up for Sunday morning service.  It’s not everyday that playing dress up is a necessity or appropriate in my SAHM life, so I relish it when I have the opportunity!

SSS Day 24 and home decor

not quite awake yet

SSS Day 24:  self-stitched dress (red cotton piqué Vogue 2684), sweater by Olsen, Roots Purple Rain 2009 bag and slides by Town Shoes.  What a lovely picture, eh?  Staring at the camera in a daze.  It’s about 9:00 a.m. and I am, obviously, still not awake.  Yup.  I am NOT a morning person.  However, I had errands to run today, and I’d like to share them with you, since they all involved fabric and other such lovely things.

The first stop was Fabricland.  My DD1 had a harp concert tonight for a local orchestra’s gala fundraiser, and she does not have concert blacks since she’s outgrown the last set I made for her.  So I needed to buy the fabric, pick up DD3 from school, give her lunch, take her back to school, return home, cut the skirt for DD1 and sew it up before the all the DD’s arrived home at 3:15 because dinner needed to be served at 4:30 so DD1 and DH could be out the door on the way to the fundraiser by 5:00 p.m.  Whew!  Oh, and in between, I needed to drop off that headboard cover I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

headboard cover

Here it is in the context of the room.  This is a “guest” bedroom for my clients granddaughter when she sleeps over.  LOVE the chandelier.  I would like a chandelier in my bedroom!

I must say it was a very simple cover, but it was my first experience sewing 1/2″ piping.  It took a bit of fussing, but it looks lovely!  I wonder if there’s a special sewing machine foot for large piping.  I ended up just using a zipper foot.  And there was barely enough fabric to cover the piping and match all the stripes at the right spot.  And the stripes were printed 2 inches off grain!!!  Can you believe it?  I lost a good 10 inches of fabric truing it up to the stripes.  I must say, that’s my pet peeve with fabrics.  I just HATE fabrics that are not true to their grain.  blah! Do you have a pet sewing peeve?  Do share!

SSS Day 22 and 23

SSS 22

Well, here I am on Wednesday, September 22nd, on my way out the door to the library, of all places, to pick up holds that my DD2 had put on…. wait for it…. Hannah Montana stuff.  😮  I also had an interview with DD2’s new teacher to see how she’s fitting in at her new school this year.

Cardi-wrap and tank:  Simplicity 2603 again with capris from Lands End and shoes from Town Shoes.   BTW, I wanted to share a picture of my little Nuggett trying to figure out the Simplicity cardigan pattern layout.

isn't he just so darn cute?!?

He’s so funny.  Every time I sit down to sew, he thinks I want to play.  So he drags all his toys and sits at my feet and yelps when I get up to press something and inadvertently step on his little feet.  He’s been in our house since April – you’d think he’d know better by now!  And don’t you love all the scissors holding the pattern piece in place?  I was just too damn lazy to pin the entire thing, so I used my shears collection as pattern weights!

Day 23:

Well, this morning I worked on a headboard cover.  Yup.  A headboard cover.  My first ever foray into the world of home decor.  I must say, sewing 1/2″ diameter piping is not a piece of cake, especially around corners.  I was asked to put this together for a lady in our church who’s redecorating a room for her granddaughter.   I finished it up this evening, and will drop it off tomorrow.  Hopefully I can get a picture so you can see it tomorrow.

Anyhow….  Since the best radio station in Toronto with a Weather Guarantee said it would be 21°C today, I decided I’d wear my “Oh, Susannah” Liberty dress in Vogue 8469.  You can read my review here, since this was prior to the start of my blogging.   And off I went to read with my little guys at school this afternoon.

Nuggett watching the camera take my picture

By the way, I’m wearing Lisa’s purple earrings again!  These are very comfy and unusual and pretty and subtle and unique.  I think that about describes all aspects of them nicely! 🙂  Oh, and did I mention they’re PURPLE!?!?!?!

SSS Day 20 and 21

SSS Day 20:  I’m sad to say that I’ve nothing to report as self-stitched for Monday.  This particular Monday required jeans and t-shirts for grungy type stuff, and unfortunately I’ve no pair of self-stitched jeans or a self-stitched t-shirt.  But let me tell you about my day, because I’m so excited about what happened in the morning!

My DD2 has Down syndrome.  She is 10 years old and we are always thinking ahead about things she can do as she grows older and what she can do to keep active and learn new skills.  I was told about CARD – the Canadian Association for Riding for the Disabled – years ago, but our schedule never allowed us to apply for a space.  They use horsemanship skills to improve muscle tone, social skills and self-confidence in children and adults with disabilities.  A good friend of ours whose daughter has CP (cerebral palsy) has ridden there for years.  Anyways, we were going to the stables on Monday for our assessment by their resident physiotherapist, who would decide if DD2 was a suitable candidate for their therapy programs. She is!

Needless to say, DD2 is ecstatic to be able to ride horses.  We had the opportunity to meet the horses and see the stables.  Now, I had some reservations about DD2’s enthusiasm when she actually got close to the horses.  She can be very sure she’s not trying something if she doesn’t feel 100% safe.  (She’s the only daughter of mine who has not suffered stitches or broken bones because of this obsession with feeling ‘safe’.)  All the horses were outside in the pasture, so the three of us wandered out to meet them.  What a wonderful experience.  I was so sorry I forgot to bring my camera!  DD2 wandered down to the fence and all the horses walked over to say “hi”.  DD2 chatted away, petting their noses and treating them like they were old friend.  This sort of thing only happens in movies!  BTW, the horses couldn’t be bothered with us adults – they were only interested in making friends with DD2!  I have never seen her so confident to try something new.  Maybe all those (not again!) Hannah Montana episodes with Blue Jeans the horse helped prepare her for this….  Anyways, it doesn’t seem like much, but small victories are what make life exciting!

Then in the evening on Mondays, my three girls and I pop over to our local church to set up tables and cook dinner for 80 women who come for Bible study.  So you see why I needed get-down-and-dirty attire – I’ve added “jeans” to my sewing list.  😉

SSS Day 21:  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I volunteer at DD1’s elementary school in the library.  Shelving books, cataloging books….. and reading with dear little people who just don’t get enough reading done at home and need some extra practice.

shirt Vogue 7340 - skirt Vogue 1093

It was finally warm enough to wear some summer self-stitched!  And blustery – don’t ya just love the hair?

SSS Day 17 and 18

Well, we’re past the half-way point on this project.  I must say it’s been an eye-opener for me.  I know I sew a lot, but compared to other people in sewing blogland who have been posting their progress through this project, I don’t really sew much.  I just don’t have the time to sit and sew endlessly.

Day 17:  The first day all week that I’ve been able to sit down and sew.  Here I am:

Vogue 8656 top, yoga pants and an old sweater

BTW, I really am disliking the top in the photo.  The colour is great, but it’s just…. I dunno….. blah the more I wear it.  I’ve relegated it to schlepping-around-the-house wear.   My review of it is here.  You can see I’m busy sewing something red.

Simplicity 2603 tank

Day 18:  Well, here’s the something red!

Simplicity 2603 tank with cardi-wrap tied variation #3

Today was the first Saturday in full DD1, 2, and 3’s schedule.  So we were off to ballet class this morning and then DD1 had a harp lesson after lunch.  Here’s how I wore the card-wrap today, and since the picture was in the way, I thought I’d do a Vanna White imitation – HA!

The pattern sewed up very quickly.  The front of the cardigan is very long – past my knees – but I thought it would be a nice addition to my closet because of the variations the length allows.

un-wrapped cardigan

I used a rayon-lycra knit from Fabricland – the last of the stash that I purchased last week to make some tops for SSS.  It’s been really cool here in Toronto – BANG! September arrives, the weather drops 10°C!  So much for using my summer projects for SSS….

I made no changes to the pattern – didn’t even bother doing an FBA.  But I did cut it down a full size given the loose fit of my previous Simplicity SSS project.  The top is a bit long for my taste, too, but I think it works well with the length of the cardigan.

First-ever BurdaStyle project fininshed! YAY!

I’ve finished my first ever BurdaStyle project.

I was very pleasantly surprised at the September 2010 issue of Burda Style.  I decided on a subscription out of curiosity after reading so much about it on all my fellow sewers’ blogs just to see if it was as great (or horrible) as people say.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised, and since I need some tops that are suitable for fall, SSS and the duties of a SAHM, I thought I’d give style 111B a try in some rayon-lycra jersey from my local Fabricland.

technical drawing for Burday 9-2010-111B

After looking at the pattern sheets, I suddenly remembered what turned me off Burda patterns when I first started to sew back in the 1980’s:  the lack of seam and hem allowances.  However, after sewing all these years, I felt confident enough to draw in my own!  It was very meticulous work tracing the pattern pieces.  I’m thankful that the instructions give the drawings of the pieces with all the markings, as it was very easy to miss them when tracing through so many coloured lines!

pattern maze

The instructions were quite easy to follow.  I will say, though, if you’re new to sewing Vogue’s instructions are a lot more detailed: there’s more of the finishing/finicky tips for putting a garment together that these bare bones instructions did not include.  However, I’ve not  yet tackled something more detailed, like a jacket for instance, so I’ll reserve my final opinion until later!

I was unsure of the sizing, so imagine my surprise when I needed no alterations, for a change!  I measured myself, and was disappointed to find that I should be cutting a size 46, according to Burda’s sizing table.  This pattern only went up to a size 42, but I cut it out anyways  – I figured knit fabric has a lot of give (if it was snug) and the design has the crossover happening so high that I didn’t need to worry about falling out the front of it.  I didn’t actually measure the pattern pieces prior to cutting – DUH – although I did tissue fit to my dress form.  And what a pleasant surprise!  I’m not sure if the design is meant to have so much wearing ease, as the pics of garment don’t show the entire thing and the model is wearing a belt to boot (something I’m not  likely to do, since I don’t have a 24-inch waist).  And I really liked the sleeves.

sleeve detail

Although in retrospect, the ties are going to be ANNOYING when I’m cooking dinner for my crew.  Oh, well, I’ll just push the sleeve up past my elbows!
Conclusion on BurdaStyle:  I’m liking!

SSS Day 10 – 14

Well, I must confess I haven’t been 100% faithful in this endeavour.  Here’s my update:

Day 10:  a SAHM chore day.  I stayed in yoga wear all day, with my SSS contribution being Lisa’s lovely earrings again!

Day 11:  no photos, and I’ll be blessed if I can remember what I did, where I went, or what I wore.  It was the first Saturday after the first week of school, so we just crashed and hung out at home all day.

Day 12:  a lazy Sunday at home with my crew.  I confess I stayed in my PJ’s ALL DAY.  (Yup, I’m smiling 🙂 !)

Day 13:  I had to meet an older friend who has asked me to sew up a headboard slipcover for her granddaughter’s bedroom.

Gap jeans, JNY top, DK jacket, Roots Purple Rain bag

Day 14:  repeat day

Gap jeans and Simplicity4076

Day 15: out all day – first at Community Bible Study, and then hunting for odds and ends of clothing items my girls need (slippers, tights, shoes, etc.)  I didn’t wear anything I’ve stitched myself.  The pants and top are Anne Klein.  But the scarf  is a lovely eternity scarf made by a good friend of mine who is gifted with knitting needles.  And Lisa’s earrings again.  D’ya think they’re one of my favourites?

Jen's eternity scarf & Lisa's earrings - both in purple!!!!