Saturday, August 29, 2015

"That Fabric Hurts My Eyes."

I love a good striped fabric, and this narrow navy and white knit with tiny silvery mylar strands woven into it has been waiting in my stash for three years. I originally purchased it with View E of McCall's 6559 in mind, but then I saw McCall's 7121 and, in the words of Barney Stinson, "newer is always better!" It seemed like a good way to make a maxi dress that would make the most of the stripes, while using less fussy cutting than my original idea. Besides, I like the idea of making a Harley Quinn sundress at some point...

It's a little looser at the waist than I'm used to for this kind of dress, and that neckline is weird, but I don't care enough to troubleshoot it. 
There's a teeny bit of swayback going on that I should probably fix in my next version. 

I constructed the dress almost entirely using my serger, with the exception of the hem and the neck and armholes, where the instructions simply said to fold over and stitch. This worked okay, but still slightly sloppy, on the neckline...but looked just pathetically Becky Home-Ecky on the armholes. Maybe it's that my jersey had less stretch to it than necessary for that finish, but I'm inclined to say that anytime you're asked to fold over a smaller circumference and then stitch to a larger circumference, you're going to end up with some amount of weird pulling and messy stitching. I'm kind of sad that I "wasted" this fabric on a dress I don't absolutely love, but I've still got enough fabric left for one of my dolman sleeve tops, and I know I love those.

Hyeeernghhh that armhole stitching. Ugh. And the mess at the V-neck. 
Quick, distract them with chevrons! Okay, never mind, even those aren't perfect. 
At least my knit hems have come a long way, though! Ever since StephC posted about hemming knits with fusible webbing to stabilize them, I've used that method to avoid wavy bumpy bunchy hems like the one on the left. 

Pattern: McCall's 7121
Fabric: Mystery blend (suspected rayon/poly, with some silvery mylar strands in there) jersey knit from Michael Levine Loft, at least three years old. Because of how dense the stripes are, they play all sorts of tricks with the camera (and the naked eye...enough that when I was cutting out the pattern pieces, Mr. Cation said that the fabric hurt his eyes).
Notions: Steam-A-Seam for the hem
Hours: 3...the part that took the longest was cutting (no handy stripe guide like the Tiramisu pattern) and the neckline/armhole. I hate that the instructions just have you fold it over to hem, which doesn't work for the curves of the armholes, and it looks unprofessional.
Total cost: $2
Will you make it again? It's a good pattern for showing off stripes, but I won't make it again unless I have a fabric with bigger stripes. It's just too much trouble trying to line up these tiny 1/8" stripes! I'm also keen on giving that Harley Quinn dress on the pattern envelope a try!
Final thoughts: I was excited about this pattern when I got it, but went through a period of frustration and I'm-sure-this-is-going-to-be-terrible when I was trying to put it together. I should really stop following the directions on a pattern when I know I'm not going to like the finished look! I should've just done my regular binding, but it had been so long since I did this kind of finish that I thought I'd give it a try because yes, it is faster, and maybe I was exaggerating in my head how awful it was? No, no I wasn't. Although the finished dress is fine and I'll certainly wear it, I'll feel more comfortable with a cardigan on to hide the awful armhole stitching! Still, it's a nice enough overall effect.

Speaking of the cardigan, it's the one that comes with McCall's 7135, a Khaliah Ali jumpsuit pattern (and the original reason why I bought it). It's the first time I've ever sewn a shawl collar, and it was a lot easier than I expected, although invisibly hand-stitching down the collar seams like more work than warranted for an "easy" knit pattern. The cardigan definitely runs big in the arm and armscye, but since it's a very basic navy blue, I'm sure I'll wear it a lot anyway.

You can see here how thin this fabric is, as the stripes of the dress are faintly visible. 

Pattern: McCall's 7135
Fabric: Rayon tissue knit, leftover from this dress
Notions: None
Hours: 1.5, with most of the time spent trying to fiddle the slippery fabric into place at the collar while stitching it down
Total cost: $1
Will you make it again? I'd like to try it again with a modified sleeve and a thicker, more stable knit...maybe a sweater knit?
Final thoughts: A cardigan in a tissue knit seems silly, but it works perfectly for school, where my lab classroom doesn't have functional air conditioning but my lecture classroom does, so I can layer and transition appropriately. I just wish the sleeves were tight enough to roll up, since having SHB = always having to roll up my sleeves to deal with messes.

I'm pretty sure I could fit two of my spindly arms into the sleeve, it's so Saggy Baggy Elephant!

Mediocre projects like these make me feel a little off my game with sewing. Maybe it's that I took such a long break from it because of SHB, or that mommy brain means I'm not as sharp as I was, but I really feel like I need a project that I can sink my teeth into. Only problem is, I'm usually too mentally tired to think about anything that difficult or long-term, so then I just spend my sewing time on silly little knit projects that turn out serviceable but not at all exciting (okay, the cat sweatshirt was exciting, but not technically difficult at all!). In some ways, it's not dissimilar to those articles about people living in poverty experiencing decision fatigue, but way less serious, of course.

Does anyone else ever go through this? i.e. real life (in my case, still adjusting to being a mother while working, which I know millions of people do all the time, so maybe I'm just a wuss who can't get it together) is so tiring that they just do second-rate things that aren't what they really want to be doing with their little spare time? How do you deal with it? Other working moms, how do you find time to have a life? Where do you get the mental reserves to sew Chanel jackets and tailor blazers and fit historical gowns and research new costumes? Actually no, scratch that last one -- I am so good at research -- because it's taking the research and actually putting it to use that's the difficult part for me!

From (the sadly long dead) Fyeah Seamstress Tiger tumblr. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!"

Strictly Ballroom was my favorite movie when I was a senior in high school. My best friends and I were crazy about ballroom dancing and boys, so what's not to love about a cheesy movie featuring an ugly duckling who turns into a swan and gets to ballroom dance with the boy of her dreams? It's like Baz Luhrmann was trying to craft a movie specifically to appeal to us! Anyway, the key line from the film is when Fran goads Scott into dancing with her by telling him "A life lived in fear is a life half-lived!" What does that have to do with sewing? No, I'm not making ballroom dresses.

Two years ago, Mr. Cation gave me a serger for his birthday because he is a wonderful hobbit man. At first I was excited about serging All The Things, but then I got scared because of all the stories about how tricky it is to thread sergers and figure out tension and hey THERE'S A KNIFE THAT MOVES and what if I accidentally cut off my finger? So I kept making excuses for not figuring it out, like how we were moving into a new apartment so I didn't want to unpack it yet...and then the school year started and then I got pregnant and was tired all the time and then I had SHB and was really tired all the time, and before you know it, two years passed and the serger was still sitting in its nice box, and I was still scared. Finally I decided that enough was enough; it was silly to have a perfectly good serging sitting in a box just because I was afraid of messing it up. After all, a life lived in fear is a life half-lived and all. If studying the manual and reading the numerous blog posts sounded too overwhelming, I would just sign up for a class to teach me everything I need to know. Thankfully, my sewing school of choice, Cañada College, has a Basic Serging class!

Three long nights later, I had a notebook full of samples and I was no longer scared of my serger. I proceeded to do a whole bunch of sewing with both knits and fray-prone fabrics in order to make up for the previous two years. Looking at all my nicely enclosed seam allowances, I felt so silly for putting off figuring out my serger for so long. All the knit garments that could've been better finished! Oh well, at least I finally learned how to use it. And then all the power went to my head and I created a monster.

One of the garments I made during the last month was a raglan sleeve sweatshirt, which has been in regular rotation so often that I toyed with the idea of making another, identical one. I decided that was too silly, though, so I thought about what my wardrobe needed and figured a sweatshirt dress/tunic to go with leggings in the wintertime would fit the bill. I didn't want to make a plain one, though, so I started poking through my Pinterest boards for some embellishment inspiration. And as is typical for me, I got inspired by kids' clothes, namely this little girl's cat dress. Um, what was I saying earlier about identical sweatshirts being silly? I'm pretty sure this is sillier! But then I found this cat dress and this suggestion of a cat dress, for adults! I don't know, is there a point when one is too old to wear cat clothing? I'm over thirty and have a small human being who depends on me for sustenance, and I'm somewhat responsible for shaping young minds and all that jazz, should I really be wearing something so juvenile? Yes, I've worn lots of other cat clothing, but it was generally slightly more adult-looking.

This is not adult at all. Unless maybe I were a Japanese adult? They seem to revel in kawaii at all ages. 

Then I thought about the serger and how I spent two years living in fear (okay, more like two years living with intermittent guilt every time I either 1) made a knit garment, or 2) looked at the box in my closet), and decided screw it, if I want to dance my own, wear ridiculous cat clothing, I'm just going to do it, no matter what the Australian Dance Federation and president Barry Fife have to say about it!

Pattern: McCall's 6992, modified to make it tunic-length
Fabric: Mystery sweatshirt knit (feels mostly cottony) from Elaine's husband's stash, passed on to me when they moved to Baltimore
Notions: Steam-A-Seam Lite for the appliqué pieces
Hours: Two so far, but I'm thinking I should probably go back and hand-sew around the facial features just to make sure they last through washing. I've had remarkably good luck in the past with Steam-A-Seam-ed appliqué pieces holding up, but I don't want to risk it with possibly my favorite use of it ever!
Total cost: Free, thanks to the use of someone else's stash.
Final thoughts: I feel like my cat garments just get crazier and crazier, and the more silly they are the happier I am about them. This is good, I'll get it all out of my system now, before SHB is old enough to be embarrassed by his mom's goofy outfits!