A Marriage Milestone

Later this month my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage.  We have known each other a long time and you might think that there are no surprises left.   Au contraire mon frere.  Today brought a true first in our relationship.

My husband cleaned out his own closet!

Normally I sneak in when he is at work and quietly divest him of faded sweaters and stained oxfords.  Or I gather pants that no longer fit and pile them on his side of the bed so he can’t lie down without seeing them.  Come 5 p.m. I see him reclining in the bed taking an after-work breather, the pile moved to my side.

That is when I hold each garment up one by one and say, “Do you still use/want/need this?”

I once asked if his mom had ever made him go through his clothes while growing up.  His baffled expression told me everything.

One can imagine then how dubious I was of last night’s proclamation.  While flipping through the channels he announced that he wants to own as few material possessions as possible.  He was going to aggressively thin his things, culling the stuff he no longer uses frequently and donate it to thrift.

I reminded him that I already do that and not to cull my things.  Then I expected him to forget.

He even got rid of the shoes he got married in, and that he had on when he spent two hours in the clink, but that is another story. I almost exhorted him to let me get them resoled, then I remembered that I had recently trashed the wedding garter belt . Sentiment aside, I let him pitch them in the bin.

Well, a man can still surprise you after a decade!  As a teacher he is on summer break.  This morning we got up, we made the bed, then he shooed me from the room, opened up his closet door and began. 

Two large bags of clothes are sitting by our door destined for donation; I am mystified as to what got into him.  He even showed me where he had moved the sweaters and suit jackets to the back of the closet because they were “out of season” evincing a level of sartorial forethought that he has heretofore pooh-poohed. 

Wow, you think you know a man, and then he pulls out something like that.  I gotta love him! 😉


A Change in Plans

For the past two months I have been concentrating on sewing a spring wardrobe using the Harper’s Bazaar outline.   It is a list of 50 garments, which is demanding, but fun to think about all of those new clothes.

I am about ten home-sewn garments into the fifty and I am thrilled.  But the last few weeks I have paused in my sewing.  It seems there is to be a complete change of plans.

Instead of sewing stuff that looks like this:

Vogue 1220

It appears I shall be sewing things that look like this:

Kwik Sew 3326

Yes, fellow home-sewers, I am preggers! 

Due late September or early October.

As a plus-size mom, finding maternity clothes in my size range is nearly impossible, and when they are found, they are often dumpy and ugly.  That is why I am excited to have the time with this pregnancy to sew some attractive clothes for myself. 

But how should I go about it?

Do I continue with the original spring wardrobe list, only making up maternity clothes?

Or do I scrap it, and sew several small capsules of coordinating garments?

Who else has successfully sewn for their own or another’s pregnancy?  Do you have any advice to give me?

Next Post: Thursday, March 3, 2011: My First Try at Altering a Pair of Thrift Store Jeans into Maternity Pants

Spring Tees Finished and Why Does Burda Shape Their Sleeve Patterns So Narrow?

The spring tees are finished.  Here they are.  That brings me to ten tees, but two are iffy, which makes the required eight.

Now on to blouses.  The wardrobe list  shows 16 blouses, eight for work, and eight casual.  As a SAHM I am redefining the work category as dressy-casual-out-and-about wear.  And casual is defined as a bit more comfortable, things I would wear at home. 

 Sixteen blouses is a lot but I am going to give it a shot.  I plan to use eight different patterns and make two versions of each.  That should cut down on the time somewhat. And if I see any great sales I am free to fill in the corners with some RTW.

My first is a simple camp shirt.  Here is my practice muslin of a camp shirt using Burda 8673, option A. Often I have issues with Burda sleeves and this time was no different.  I made three sleeve renditions and the results remained so-so.  Three is my typical limit before I scrap a pattern. 

Two very hazy photos of the practice muslin sleeves. Nothing I did made the sleeve any better.

I have had this problem before with Burda sleeves and now I am considering trashing all of my Burda top and jacket patterns as they all seem designed the same way.   I find the fit and design of the torso to be very flattering so I hate to lose the patterns, but I have yet to get a sleeve to fit comfortably.

The sleeve cap does not look wide enough to cover an arm and it is sloped so differently than the armscye.

Can anyone tell me why the sleeve cap is so differently shaped than the armscye of the shirt?  Has anyone else encountered the same problem with Burda?

Is there a correction or should I throw my Burda’s away?

Next Post: Tuesday, February 8, 2011: Working on another camp shirt using a different patternmaker.

Winding Down on the Tee Shirt Category for Spring 2011

Today is my husband’s birthday and preparations have kept me from getting the last two white tees done.  They aren’t even cut out though I did wash and dry the fabric. 

Since I am still enamored of the “collage” option in Photoshop I am going to show my completed shirts as a series of small pics. 

I did buy two RTW shirts from the local thrift that fit, those are the peach and pink tees on the top.  The other pink tee is the one shown in my previous post on cutting down a women’s tee.  The white and grey polo are a bit tight.  Let’s hope I lose some weight this summer.  I was pleased with the navy tees as I used a vintage Stretch and Sew pattern I found at a thrift store.  The best tees were those I made from fabric folds, or when I cut out a pattern using the fabric from an XXL shirt. 

The wardrobe list prescribes only 8 tees, and I have nine, but some of those tees are not so great.  The ones I like best are the two RTW pinks, both navy tees (the dark navy tee I made two replicas of)  and the grey.  That makes for six good shirts. 

I am kind of bored with this category but as I promised myself to finish what I start this year, I am going to work on the two remaining white tees this weekend.   I am going to use Ann Person’s “City Tee” pattern which is one of my favorites. 

Next Post: Saturday, January 29, 2011: Pattern Review:McCall’s 6164 – The 80’s Tees

Starting to Sew for Spring 2011! Choosing my Color Palette.

After a few weeks of unexpected delays in getting started I got up this morning happy to begin a new big project.  Per my New Year’s resolution this year I am trying to follow the Harper’s Bazaar Best Basic Wardrobe List by either sewing or collecting the correct number of garments in each wardrobe category.  As we are in the midst of winter cold and overcast skies I am lifting my spirits by sewing ahead for Spring.  (I’ve never been this on the ball before, so that feeling of virtue is enough to lift my spirits too!)  Additionally, this year I am working hard to confront a continuing issue in my home-sewing and garment shopping.  

 The Problem

Though countless magazines and advice books have counseled me to do so, in the past I have been inconsistent in selecting my colors when I shopped for clothes or selected fabric.  The problem is not that I wear colors that are ugly on me.  I am classified as a Clear Winter, if you are familiar with the “Color Me Beautiful” system of describing color palettes by season and then matching those to one’s skin, eye and hair tone.   Since I have cool undertones I don’t try to wear earthy colors or pale pastels. 

The problem is that I don’t want to narrow down a color range.  The rule books seem to be saying, “Limit yourself to just a few colors for the rest of your life!”  I’m artsy enough to love color and I don’t want to limit myself.  Sometimes I shop for something specific, but often my mantra is “if I like it I buy it.”  But buying up every color I look good in means lots of lovely fabric in which I sew one garment, and that garment often has no other item of clothing that matches it.  My individual garments flatter me but my overall wardrobe lacks cohesion

The Solution

I am loathe to admit how long it has taken me to cotton on to this one, but I don’t have to give up any of the colors I love.  I just have to limit them per season.  That means I choose a range of complimentary colors for each season.  If I miss out on say deep burgundy in spring, I can make sure I add that to my range in the fall. 

This makes total sense.  I wish I could tell you where I read it so I could give that person credit.  I have been too busy at the fabric store scrounging the clearance rack and gushing over the new arrivals to come up with anything that sensible.

My Color Palette for Spring 2011

My base colors: navy, khaki, dark gray and denim. 

My accents: medium clear pink – rose, medium clear blue – royal, white, red, and turquoise.

My first attempt to collage in Photoshop! I forgot white as one of my accent colors but consider the background as a stand-in. Now let’s see if I can hold fast to this palette for one season.

I am going to work REALLY HARD to stick with this.  We’ll see if it kills me. 

I plan to do both bottoms and tops out of my base colors.  The accent colors are primarily restricted to tops as I don’t like to draw too much attention to my bottom half by wearing bright colors there.   

The knit tee patterns I want to use for spring and my new and improved sewing basket.

To make it easy on myself I thought I would begin with Tees.  The list recommends eight t-shirts.  I have a basket of thrifted tops that I want to refashion into women’s polos and tees.  Refashioning is much harder than one might imagine.  I know all of these tops won’t work out but if a few do they will pay me back as most of the original shirts were gleaned from the 99 cent rack.  I am waiting to see which of these works out and in what colors before I begin purchasing fabric.  And my goal is to LIMIT myself to purchasing only the fabric that will complete this category, no more and no less. 

My collection of thrifted tees and polos to refashion for spring.

If limiting my colors doesn’t kill me, leaving the store without impulse buying fabric probably will.

Next Post: Saturday, January 22, 2011: Refashioning: Making a Fitted Tee from an Oversized Women’s T-shirt

Ringing in the New Year with a Resolution

My New Year’s Resolution for 2011

Finish What I Start.

This is the overarching goal in all areas of my life that

I have for the New Year 2011.

In years previous I have made extensive lists and then lost sight of them sometime after Valentine’s Day.  I had so much I wanted to accomplish that I got sidetracked.  Last year I tried something different.  I concentrated on one word that would sum it all up.  Release

Most of what I needed to release were unhealthy attitudes, hurts and bitterness.  Stuff I won’t go into here.  Six months ago when I was in the thick of it I did not imagine it would ever be over.   But having that one concept to hold onto all year led to the resolution of a lot of emotional baggage.  Through God’s grace, pains that I thought would never end are now so completely petered out that I am bored with Release. 

 I want something else.  Something simple to understand and pointed towards an area of my life that really needs work.

 Finish What I Start.

As an artsy person this has been a bugaboo for me.  I have a lot of interests and I am easily sidetracked.  Now a large portion of my mind that previously expended tons of energy gnawing the dry bones of bitterness has found itself unemployed and looking for amusement.  A little voice inside my head keeps telling me, “Hey, you have a ton of inactive materials sitting around your house!  You have blessings that you aren’t even using. That doesn’t make any sense.”

So this is my next big thing: taking care of a considerable backlog of UFO’s still lurking in my house.  In addition to sewing, I have beading, genealogy and other home improvement/crafting endeavors, the residue of which is sitting all over my house, unfinished; a bunch of great ideas going to waste.  

Going through the Stash Bash this fall and early winter has inspired me and taught me,  just like my Aunt Marg said, diligence does pay off.  Both the Stash and the UFO’s can be reduced.  And I have gotten some great stuff out of it.  

But it can’t just be backlog or I will lose momentum.  Artsy folks need the stimulation of the new.  One portion of my energies is going towards UFO’s and another is going towards my two sewing goals:

  • sew a coherent wardrobe for myself
  • and, learn heirloom techniques.

In sewing a wardrobe I will be using the Harper’s Bazaar:Best Basic Wardrobe List I Have Ever Seen.  My trial run is for Spring 2011.  I am going to either sew or collect the number of prescribed garments in each category.  For example, if the list says that I need at least 8 knit tees then that is what I am going to concentrate on making or purchasing.  Determined to Finish What I Start, I am going to complete one category before moving on to another.  I can’t wait to see how far I get by Spring!  In the past I have both sewn and purchased rather randomly.  This will be my first ever sensibly structured attempt to assemble a working wardrobe!

My other sewing goal involves my daughter.  She is still small enough to wear heirloom dresses.  With some Christmas cash I bought a book “Sew Cute Couture” by Gail Doane which comes with traceable patterns and complete instructions for heirloom dresses and jackets for little girls.  There are six patterns in my daughter’s size range and I am hoping to finish one project every two months, meaning that I would have completed the entire book by year end 2011 and hopefully learned a lot.

There it is!  I actually can’t wait for DD and DH to go back to school so I can get started.

Happy New Year and Blessings Upon Your Resolutions!

Next Post: Tuesday, January 4, 2011: My First Post of the New Year; Wherein I consult an elder seamstress as to why my collar wants to fly off my neck.

What Not To Wear:Book Review

   What Not to Wear

Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine of the famous British show What not to Wear  model all the photos in this pictorial illustration of how different design lines affect various figures.   Divided by “flaws” each chapter highlights one of the ladies wearing clothes that flatter, and most importantly for the home sewer, the authors’ also swallow their feminine pride and allow themselves to be photographed wearing clothes that bring out their worst figure attributes.   

A lot of style books rely on drawings to show right and wrong clothing choices but I always wonder if the drawing has been altered to support that individual stylist’s viewpoint, and actual clothing may not follow the same principles in real life.  I did feel somewhat manipulated that the “worst” choice pictures invariably show each woman slouching and scowling, but most of the time I would have to agree that Trinny and Susannah could be beaming with joy and still those “worst” outfits would be complete horrors on them.   The camera doesn’t lie. 

Let’s Get This Out of the Way First

What May Annoy you

That the camera doesn’t lie is both a strength and an impediment to the book’s message. Trinny and Susannah do appear to be a figure type opposite of the other illustrating a real-life compare and contrast.  But neither is truly plus size and heavier ladies might be annoyed by the complaints about arms that “could feed a family of six”, but just look womanly in the photo, or ankles, though not dainty spindles are not exactly elephantine either.  You may disagree that some of their “flaws” are not flaws at all and want to admonish them to relax a bit.  Additionally, if you are struggling to attractively present a body part that is far from the average you may wonder what these ladies have to complain about as neither’s figure has any extremes.  

Given these flaws this book is still a great browse for the home sewer


Here is Why

As failure can be more educational than success, it is the fashion frights that make this a good book for the home sewer to browse.  When we look at pattern books, sometimes the garment is pictured on a live model, but often it is drawn on the untypically thin and tall figure common to fashion illustration, but not common to the general female population.   As we often focus on the garment as a whole, instead analyzing the seams and edges that define that style, it can be hard for the buyer to correctly translate which of various similar patterns offered will look best on her figure.  

As a home sewer you know can take an average garment and make it outstanding with a custom fit.  However a custom fit will not cure the appearance of a garment when the design lines are truly not suited to our figures.   As a home sewer I know I have wasted time fruitlessly sewing clothes that no amount of perfect technique could make flattering on my figure.  Looking at the photos of Trinny and Susannah giving special attention to the seamlines and edges gave me a much better understanding of how various style details interact with my figure.   Now I am a much more decisive consumer of patterns.  Before I purchase I take a hard look at where the seamlines and edges cross the body, along with the ornamental details.  If a major component of that pattern is a design line that is not flattering to me I don’t buy it.  The result has been less time and money wasted on sewing “maybe-if’s” and fewer wadders.     


As What Not to Wear was written in 2002 it is already a bit dated as the authors make much ado about their hatred of 80’s fashion, but are now probably online shopping for leggings and day-glo ensem’s.   But the principles behind fashion design do not change and this volume offers a good look at some classic designs in relation to common figure attributes.  I haven’t seen the British TV show but have heard that the ladies have a reputation for brutal honesty.  The book does get snarky and uses irreverent terminology for the female form.   Don’t let that deter you.  Thankfully most of the work is in pictures.  I checked my copy out of the library and found it to be one of the few style-how-to books with information I could apply to my home sewing.

Worth at least a look.

Next Post: Saturday, May 8, 2010; The Last, and Easiest, of This Summer’s Simple Skirts

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