Is there a way to make a post about a dress that I’ve made so many times before interesting?
I’ve made Geraniums for MJ in wee baby size, toddler size, preschooler size, and now kinder size. It’s a fallback, a stand-by, a tried-and-true. I’ve made it for gifts with intended recipients and I’ve made it just because without anybody specific in mind and stuck it in a drawer until an appropriately-sized recipient presented herself. It’s a good pattern. More than any other pattern this is one has provided comfort and focus and intent when I was distraught and scattered and aimless. It’s a lot of emotional weight to put on a pattern, or any inanimate object, but this is one I started sewing emotionally weighty times and have continued to sew as emotions have stretched and calmed and escalated and mellowed. Sometimes the through lines are not the things you expect.
Pattern: Geranium Dress by Made by Rae
Options selected: faux cap sleeves, gathered skirt, scoop neck, inseam pocket
I’ve been desperate for a good denim skirt for… ever, possibly. I can’t remember the last good denim skirt I had. There was the hideous one I made out of an old pair of jeans; the one that never fit quite right but I wore for 7 years anyways; the one that had a pair of shorts sewn in that made me feel so bulky and frumpy and old that I never wore it even though it was objectively far more flattering than the one I was trying to replace. I mean, I’ve come around to shorts (living in the Midwest wrangling children will do that to you), but not in my skirts. Just because I’m a middle-aged mother of children doesn’t mean I have to dress like one, right?*
This make fit the bill, but it has left me wondering if my denim skirt days are behind me. It feels like a throwback to my 20’s. That’s too far to throw back, folks. We’re talking turn of the century! Without realizing it I’ve been trying to fill a hole in my wardrobe that’s decades old and possibly irrelevant to me now. I may not want to dress like a middle-aged mom, but I don’t want to dress like I did in 2001, either. Let’s try to look grown up by wearing it with a blouse instead of a baby tee, shall we?
Pattern: Ginger Skirt by Colette Patterns
Fabric: Denim from Jo-Ann
I think it was the unconscious suspicion that this make was out of place and time that made me drag my feet every time I encountered a setback. First I had trouble with the zipper. The slider got hung up on the bulk of the lower waistband. It was months before I ripped it out to give it a little more wiggle room. Then I had trouble topstitching through all those layers of the waistband. This may seem like a single instance of a problem, but given how many times I sewed, ripped, and re-sewed I assure you it was numerous instances of the same problem with a broken needle and empty bobbin thrown in just to mix mishaps up a bit. I settled for imperfect. Good enough is good enough. By the time I was done I was d-o-n-e-DONE.
So, the fit. It’s an a-line skirt and I assumed fitting would be easy-peasy, but there’s something not quite right about the hip-to-waist ratio for me. In fact, tugging this supposed-to-be-high-waisted skirt down towards my hips so it lays better has made me realize that that’s exactly what I’ve done with every single a-line skirt I’ve ever owned. Note to future self: grading between sizes is a thing you need to do. Stop pretending you don’t.
*You don’t have to tell me that I already do; I know I do. It’s just built-in shorts under skirts is where I draw the line. Those and the elastic-waisted polyester pants Mom gave me. Those pants spent too long in my closet before I finally got rid of them whispering to me that someday I’ll be 60 and think they’re the bee’s knees. Shut up, elastic-waisted polyester pants! You’re not the boss of me.**
**I was wrong, I found those pants in my closet STILL. WHY.
This was supposed to be a slam dunk. I really enjoy plants and planting and playing in dirt. I’m proud of the food my neighbors and I grow together on our neighborhood farm, and I’m proud of the community we create and support.
Also, I really like prints. So much so that when I had to have my picture taken at work and the guidelines suggested no prints or sleeveless blouses I was rather at a loss what to wear.
Obviously a shirt featuring vegetables should be just the thing.
I think, though, that I might like it better when I’m retired and taking master gardening classes. Perhaps it will feel authentic, then, and not like I’m a 40-year-old trying to look like an ironic 20-something trying to look like a 70-year-old. Maybe by then my tired old eyes won’t feel so assaulted by the garish combination of green and red.
Or, maybe I’ll wear the shirt anyways.
Anyways, Willamette, great pattern, great camp shirt, easy to wear, satisfies my enjoyment of a collar and apparent distaste for button-downs (I don’t even know why, I just know I almost never reach for them). Bad for wedding, though, you could see down my shirt. Whoops!
This is not the dress I’d intended to make. But it is, to state the obvious, the dress that I made.
I taped the pattern together. There was a skirt front. There was a skirt back. I cut out a skirt front. I cut out a skirt back.
Reading the instructions much later I learned that if making view C you were to cut two rectangles so-big by such-big.
I had cut out the skirt for view B.
Good thing this pattern included instructions in English, unlike Evol which I totally winged, guessing at the construction based on experience and pictures. Now that I can cross-reference French words like “interface” I realize Evol would have benefited from some. Google translate has a long way to go, folks.
I mostly work with cottons and linens and did not not enjoy any part of dealing with this shifty, slippery fabric. I found it so difficult I was sure everything about this dress was going to be a disaster. I went on and on complaining about it, so much so that when I donned it to show my husband he said, “What’s so awful about it?” And I was like… well, nothing. It’s great. It feels great. It fits great. I can’t even explain how this can be. It’s objectively more flattering than my usual sack-dress shapeless makes. Drape must make up for all manner of ills.
Other random notes: I added a bit to the bodice length. by cutting it at the waistline for the next larger size; the way the elastic casing is made is neat-o; this fabric feels dreamy against the skin; I didn’t bother with button holes, the neck hole is big enough that I was able to sew the plackets together when sewing the buttons on. I wore it out on the town not quite finished and I still haven’t serged the seam allowances on the armhole because I have to change the thread out. Lazy me!
May! My favorite month. What child isn’t predisposed to prefer her birth month above all others? May’s so great weather-wise that I’ve continued to like it even in spite of my birthday. Or Mother’s Day. Or the 50,000,000 things that crowd the familial calendar leaving me to wonder when I’ll ever find the time or energy to keep things afloat. Still: May! Yay!
May! Me-Made-May! I didn’t have it in me to formally sign up this year. Buuuuut I got to wondering if I could wear a me-made every day without repeat, so I made that my loosey-goosey unofficial unadvertised goal. No selfies, just flat-lays to keep a log.
I can hear what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But all you have to do is go to your closet and count your me-mades to know if you have enough to wear a month without repeat!” Not so, my friends. Just because I have the thing doesn’t mean I wear it. Some me-mades I need a little reminding to wear; some I need a little cajoling; some I avoid entirely; and some I probably should avoid (threadbare gray bird-print blouse I’m looking at you).
Without further ado, here are the mostly terrible flat-lay photos I took of my me-mades either wrinkled from wear or wrinkled from the washer. I forgot a few. The weekend of June 1-2 was so so fine I wore a couple me-made dresses I hadn’t during May and threw them in the collage to make up for the photographic lapses.
This experiment made me think of my my-mades in a different way than I usually do. Typically I’m getting dressed to have clothes on; I’m not thinking about why I wear the things I do or, more illuminating, why I’ll wear some things I don’t feel great in and why I don’t wear the things I don’t: fit, color, style, lifestyle, weather, weird personal associations. I was reminded of how great a dress fits that I rarely wear because of the color; how much I love the style of a particular blouse but never wear because it’s a smidge too small; how much I absolutely love camp shirts and should really just make 5,000 of them and have a personal uniform; and, finally, how even though I bang on about needing to make more bottoms in my heart I really have no interest, at least not right now, and I’m giving myself permission to cross them off my to-make list and stop feeling guilty for making the things I like instead of the things I think I should.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m KoMari-ing my house, but I have been cleaning out. I’m not looking for joy. I’m looking for absolution. I want to be unburdened by things I’ve kept far too long, things that I thought might be useful or that I thought my future self would want. I can’t speak for my future-future self, but my present future self wonders why her past self couldn’t part with string art she made in junior high mumble mumble years ago or why she thought her present future self would ever want it.
My time to clean out is limited, and often interrupted. It turns out this works in my favor because I don’t get decision fatigue before I have to take a break. I have the mental energy to be honest and ruthless. If I can get the stuff that may still have some use to someone else into bags in the basement then it stands a good change of getting moved out of the house. Things are neater, shelves are clearer, drawers are emptier, boxes that I’ve moved twice without unpacking are gone, and storage bins I bought when I misunderstood my problem to be one of organization and not over-accumulation sit unused and have become clutter themselves.
I’ve been on such a roll that my attention has even turned to areas formerly sacrosanct. I’m talking fabric stash, folks.***
At first thought it isn’t so big and it’s easy to justify. But as I continue thinking about it the stash snowballs. I realize that I have enough for several dresses, a top, two shirts for Hubs, a skirt or pants, and some other random stuff that I bought for such-and-such purpose then abandoned. The stash no longer feels “not so big”. But you know what? Those don’t bother me. Those fabrics wait patiently on the shelf. They’re all earmarked or usable quantities and I like them. Let’s call that part of the stash “curated”. It was the stuff in the bins that gets to me. What’s even in there? And why do I keep it?
It turns a big chunk of it was scraps of fabric I don’t like and/or aren’t big enough to be usable in any significant way. Off to Scraps KC it went. Another chunk constituted scraps large enough for children’s clothes. I had three choices: 1) admit I was never going to get around to using the scraps and give them away; 2) continue to store the scraps indefinitely in case I ever did get around to making kids clothes; or 3) make the damn kids clothes, already.
I’ve made both these patterns before. If you click through you’ll see that this is even the 2nd pair I’ve made from the leftover mustard yellow linen. I overbought by a bunch. I can’t speak for the recipient (she told me they could be for her brother when she saw me cutting them out) but I personally LOVE them.
And finally, not kid-related, I made a project bag.
I put heavy expectations on this one cut of fabric that’d been in my stash for too long. You know the one: it’s pretty and special and you want the perfect thing for it and the longer you look at it the higher the stakes become.
I wanted something businessy enough for the office, casual enough I would wear it everywhere else. I was sorely tempted to hack Peppermint Magazine’s Peplum Top into a dress, but it would be too casual, too balloony, too sleeveless.
What followed was a long, indecisive story full of false leads, boring twists, humdrum turns. Highlights include an ill-advised pattern purchase which I don’t want to talk about because there’s nothing wrong with the design, it just wasn’t me and I don’t know what I was thinking. I stuck with it long enough to make an ugly muslin of said pattern out of terrible, cheap fake satin from Big Box Store.
Overwhelmed by my lack of ability to make a decision that wasn’t horribly misguided I finally did a thing just to get this fabric made into something and out of my head.
It was a mistake to preface the debut of this dress to my husband by announcing that it was “a little weird.” The style wasn’t exactly flattering, but then I wasn’t sure it was exactly supposed to be, and I was self conscious about how the pleat fell right on the apex of my belly, making me regret all the more the Mexican food and ice cream I’d gorged myself on the prior weekend.
“It doesn’t look weird,” Hubs said. I felt relief, but he hadn’t finished. “It looks like a sack dress,” he continued, shrug implied. He meant it as statement of fact, not criticism, and really, this dress is the very definition of a sack dress (I looked it up), but the word “sack” destroyed all hope that I had achieved the subtly quirky yet sophisticated garment I had wanted.
I slept on it. I wore it work. I realized it needs a pair of heels, not my usual flats. I noticed it was comfy as all get out. The soft brushed chambray feels like wearing giant flannel shirt. Soft + comfortable + professional without being stuffy. Isn’t this combination exactly what I wanted? Why be disappointed that it’s not as flattering as a fit and flare which, cute as they are, I can’t stand wearing for more than a couple hours? I’ve worn this work quite a lot. It’s become a go-to, part of my regular biweekly rotation. I would wear it weekly if I didn’t think people women would notice.
If success is measured in comfort and use, this one turned out to be a dark horse winner.
Excuse the wrinkles. The only drawback to sewing my own clothes is that by favoring cotton and linen I have added to my ironing chore.
Spring is here, finally, and with it all attendant busyness that, I remind myself, is all good things and so WHY AM I SO STRESSED OUT ABOUT IT and having that nightmare where I’m in grad school and it’s the end of the semester but I haven’t done any of the work?
I never had that dream while I was actually in grad school.
Mom told me she wasn’t seeing any Easter dresses she liked in stores. So I made one from “leftovers.” Do they qualify as leftovers when you bought enough for 3 garments? Dubious.
I did make a special trip to Joann for the contrasting fabric.
It’s the same fabric I used to make MJ”s birthday dress. I thought that birthday dress would be a good backup if this one turned out way too big until I realized I hadn’t seen the birthday dress since, well, perhaps as far back as MJ’s birthday 7 months ago. It’s not in her closet or dresser, that’s for sure. I am losing my mind, and all of the things I am in charge of. Which is everything. I’m a mess, folks.
It’s big, but not too big, and kids this age you can justify making clothes a little larger than necessary, the caveat here being that you need to actually keep track of the thing if you want your kid to wear it more than once.
When I showed it to MJ she said it was “all mixed up!”. Did she like it? “YES!” Mom says she’s going to be a quilter.
Here I sat with ambitious ideas and informal spreadsheets of inspiring patterns for my work wardrobe, all simple, modern dresses with loose, easy silhouettes, when I discovered Atalier Scammit and took a quick detour into my other sewing aspiration which is, apparently, to be French and wear clothes that are all about flowy ruffles and voluminous gathers and pretty prints. This version of myself is willowy and long-legged and breezy and owns a French country house boasting a gorgeous garden that’s home to a large honeybee population and fruit trees, but there are only a few variables that we can control. Ruffles and gathers it is.
I loooove the yoke. I looooove the gathers. I looove the sleeves. I looove the curve of the button band. I looooove everything about this blouse. Everything except how it looks on me. But I don’t know if it matters. It’s a shirt. It’s innocuous. Nobody is evaluating it it but me.
Here are some terrible photos I took on a beautiful finally(!) spring day.
I daresay it’s too big, but then I think isn’t that the whole point? Maybe if I tucked it
This fabric is another one that I picked up while on vacation from Craft South. There’s just one left from that trip. This fabric was just waiting for the perfect blouse.
Maybe I won’t wear it in a field of poppies, but I’ll definitely wear it to work Good enough.