It’s that time again.

Logo for Me Made May 2019.

I’ll be participating in Me Made May again this year. I’ve pledged to wear self-made items on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays (as usual), though I may also throw in a few Fridays or Sundays this year. Although I know it’s not specifically a photo challenge, I’m going to try to post pictures on Instagram because I enjoy it — and May is the only month I consistently get photos of the new things I’ve sewn over the past year.

I also plan to finish sewing a few things I already have cut out, muslin two bodices I’ve been procrastinating on, and refashion two self-made pieces that don’t work as-is. I figure all of that will give me a pretty busy month! I may make a post or two here, but that is only a possibility.

An elegant solution for “wardrobe orphans.”

I don’t know why this particular concept hasn’t caught on, but the “Pick One, Sew Two” plan from Christine Jonson Patterns is pretty clever, especially for dealing with “wardrobe orphans.” It’s not overwhelming, and it’s logical. You take one garment you already have and pick two sewing projects to match it. I mean, that’s it. You could make up something inspiring about capsule wardrobes or minimalism or whatever buzz word you need to get enthused about it, but…it’s pretty straightforward.

I’m very intentional regarding my own wardrobe choices under normal circumstances. If something doesn’t fit, feel comfortable, or coordinate with other items it’s usually passed on without much further thought on my part. But every once in a while I buy something crazy (that I love) or a key piece wears out, and I have something I like to wear that doesn’t go with anything else. I currently have an eShakti skirt and a pair of Old Navy trousers that fit into this category. Both are sort of awkward, but I genuinely like them. The skirt was custom made to slightly larger than my current measurements, so I have a temporary alteration in place on the back waistband that is too messy to wear with a tucked-in shirt. (I didn’t want to permanently alter the skirt, as my waist measurement can vary by several inches, as I’ve previously explained.) I decided that a couple of cropped t-shirts (like the Seamwork Astoria) will work this back into my wardrobe. In the case of the Old Navy trousers, they fit well for (non-custom) RTW, but they have weird fake pocket welts on the back that bump out and kind of ruin the lines of longer tops. This was a major disappointment, as I had ordered these pants to replace a pair of worn out black pants — so the shirts that went with those trousers don’t work with these.

Sometimes it’s hard to be so picky.

Anyway, I just made plans to remedy the situation, as you can see above. (Forgive my hasty, smeared, and beyond-amateur drawings.) I plan to use patterns and fabric I already have, too. Better yet, all but one of these planned garments will coordinate with other pieces I already have, thereby better tying my entire wardrobe together. Win-win.

Make Nine for 2019.

I’ve chosen a loose list of sewing goals this year, although I think I still fall well within the parameters of the Make Nine challenge. I only specify two sewing patterns by name; the rest are just items I need or particularly want to sew. So this list is purposefully vague and mostly To Be Determined.

  1. Cashmerette Montrose Top
  2. Retrace Washi Dress and alter to current measurements
  3. Something green for my birthday
  4. Black skirt
  5. Something with a square neckline
  6. Simple trousers
  7. Fit and flare dress
  8. Sewn cardigan
  9. Swimsuit cover-up

I think “Simple trousers” is one of only two repeated items from last year, and probably the thing I most need. I don’t know why I have such trouble fitting pants when I sew them! I don’t usually have significant fitting problems with ready-to-wear trousers — just waistband looseness in most cases. It seems like many sewing patterns have crotch curves made for Martians, though. I suspect that a lot of the indie patterns I’ve tried are improperly graded in the larger sizes, frankly. So…Trousers Quest continues into 2019.

I still haven’t tried the Montrose top, but I’ve seen so many cute versions that I have no idea why I’ve procrastinated this long. I made a new novelty print Washi dress for Halloween last year and realized that I needed to retrace the pattern and start over with the fit. I don’t think any of my measurements are the same as when I originally made it, but it’s such a versatile dress that I wouldn’t mind making another one or two versions, possibly with details from the expansion pack (which I’ve had for years but never used).

Everything else on the list represents more of an intention than a specific project, but I wanted to keep it non-specific for maximum flexibility. The perfect pattern could always come along later!

My other repeated item from 2018 is “Something green for my birthday,” which got foiled by a particularly nasty bout of flu last year. I have some pretty amazing fabric ready to go for this, but no pattern picked out yet. I’ll do my best not to procrastinate until the last minute this time around.

I’m terrible about taking the time to get photos (except during Me Made May); I’m not a sewing blogger for a reason. But since sewing one garment a month is part of my 2019 goal list, I’m hoping to share more of my sewing this year — at least on Instagram. I’ll try to keep up with any progress here on the blog, too. But I know myself well enough to say no guarantees!

More like “2018 Make None,” amirite?

I discovered when reviewing my 2018 Make Nine list the other day that I had failed pretty spectacularly in accomplishing much on it. Reading the list literally, I made exactly one item: my beloved Suki Kimono.

I did try two different trousers patterns, neither of which went beyond the muslin stage due to fitting issues — and I did make an A-line dress from my Concord tee pattern, but not technically a swing dress. So I’m not sure either count as completed items.

I also knitted a few inches of progress on my Baktus scarf, but I’ve come to realize that I am no longer really a knitter. I do intend to finish this scarf, and I’m not ruling out knitting a hat or two in the future, but knitting is rough on my hands (pain-wise) and I don’t watch much TV these days, so I have less need for an “occupy my hands” hobby. Furthermore, if I’m going to be brutally honest about it, I was never very good at knitting. I’m also a very slow knitter, which always tried my patience. I intend to finish this scarf (eventually) and then let go of most of my yarn. I’m going to hang onto my favorite knitting tools, but I intend to knit very sparingly in the future.

I like the idea of the Make Nine challenge — and I did sew several things last year — so I’m going to attempt it again in 2019, only with rather different parameters (post coming in January).

Summer of Sewing: Belated June Update.

Sarah's Summer of Sewing

I only managed to sew a single item during June, but I still consider it a success as it was the best thing I’ve sewn for myself in years, hands down. I made myself a Suki Kimono from Helen’s Closet in black and white paisley cotton lawn. It’s as light as a whisper, and I have worn it every single day since it came off the sewing machine. In fact, one day I was under the weather and only took it off long enough to launder it — and then, after a shower, I put it right back on!

I don’t have pictures of the robe yet (though I intend to take some for Instagram), but this post was so late I didn’t want any further delay.  I know that’s practically heresy with “pics or it didn’t happen” as the law of the land, but I’ve always been eccentric and pleased to go against the grain of our collective culture.

Sewing the kimono was simple and quick, especially since I used most of the shortcuts listed in this post: I skipped the pockets, lengthened the front band, omitted the inner ties, and left the belt loose. I actually was pressed for time (I wanted to finish the robe before we went on our vacation in Colorado), but I probably would have made the same adjustments even if I hadn’t had a looming deadline. I just like the aesthetic of the lengthened band and almost never put pockets in a garment, especially side seam pockets. (Remember how I said I was an eccentric? Yeah, I’m pretty much the only woman online not lamenting that every garment doesn’t have pockets. I especially don’t understand having pockets in a dressing gown. What are you going to put in those pockets, anyway? A dainty lace handkerchief? Look, bro. The box of Kleenex is right there. Jeez.) I was able to finish the robe in two afternoons (not counting cutting time) without really rushing.

I did have some trouble with the sleeves, but I’m pretty sure that was operator error. I was reading the directions on my computer, as I normally do to save paper, but my laptop was in for repair, and the desktop computer is in a different room than the sewing machine. So I may not have followed the sewing instructions to the letter. I made it work and I’m not at all dissatisfied with the results. I am weirdly, deliriously happy with this robe. It was a minor problem — nothing compared to the difficulty I had with cutting it out. I used a border print lawn, but the fabric was printed a little off-grain, and I had to do a lot of juggling to get things lined up or mirrored in the way I had planned. I barely had enough fabric to squeak out the shorter version with an additional yard of fabric, but it did work out. I’m glad I measured the pattern pieces themselves, too, because the shorter version was mid-calf on me — which was exactly the length I wanted. The pattern is drafted for someone 5’6″ and I’m a little less than 5’3″, but I still found it ran longer than I had expected (though I was delighted not to have to add extra length or subtract it from the longer version, which would have been floor length on me).

My one regret is that I did not use interfacing in the belt. (I definitely didn’t want it in the front or sleeve bands.) It crumples and twists into a little spindly thing, but I had wanted everything to be extremely lightweight for summer use and didn’t want to risk the heaviness of the interfacing. This is not, however, a deal breaker. I’d rather have a belt that was too light rather than one that was too heavy, even if it maintained its structure better. I mean, it’s a wispy little robe. It’s not a structured thing. But I do wonder if I could have found a very lightweight interfacing as a compromise.

I’m only one inch larger than the size chart at the hips and probably could have left it as-is, but I did add extra room there so the ease at the hips would match the ease at the bust. I’m glad I did, too, because it looks exactly right. I am just in love with this robe. It’s almost embarrassing how much I want to gush about it. Will I make this pattern again? YES. Of course. Probably the only drawback about using such a lightweight and soft fabric is that it’s likely to wear out relatively quickly, especially with the level of use it’s already getting. I plan on making a near duplicate one day as a replacement, so I will keep an eye out for an appropriate fabric so I’ll be ready to go when the time comes.

The Suki Kimono was the first item on my 2018 Make Nine list that I managed to complete, too — so it was a success all around. Basically, what I’m saying is that it’s the best robe ever. And forgive my superlatives. I can’t help it. I’m robe-addled with love.

Summer of Sewing: May Review.

Sarah's Summer of SewingI have actually been sewing. Imagine that.

I genuinely love Me Made May. I think I would enjoy it even if I didn’t actively participate, because I love seeing all the garments that other people make and wear — and one of the best things about it is that it isn’t a fashion challenge or a photo challenge. These are (for the most part) the real clothes that people wear day to day, like multiple copies of a favorite t-shirt. I’m also the sort of person who makes many versions of the same sewing patterns over and over again — so I like to see that I’m not alone. You see people dressed as they usually do — to run errands or work in the garden, not just dressed to the nines with perfect make-up and accessories. It’s like street fashion, but much more casual.

Because I follow so many plus sized sewists on Instagram, May is also a good opportunity to see sewing patterns on a variety of bodies. I’ve already purchased one pattern that I was on the fence about because I saw it looked so good on someone shaped like me!

I followed through on my pledge and wore something self-made on every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday in May. I even managed to post a picture each time on Instagram. (I know that’s not the point of the pledge, but it is part of the fun.) I really did wear the things I normally wear; I only took care not to repeat anything. (Darth Marple style forever!) I wasn’t able to wear a couple of things I had planned on because it got so hot so quickly — and I also saw from the pictures that one of my bras doesn’t fit correctly and needs to be replaced — but I had a good time with it.

I do admire all of those dedicated Me-Made-May participants who make 100% of their own clothing, but I don’t aspire to that level. I don’t have the energy for it, and I’m mostly satisfied with the ready-to-wear* I have in my wardrobe. (I’m extremely picky — if it’s still hanging in my closet, it definitely works for me.) I know I’ve said before that I tend to sew simple things, a lot of “beginner” type patterns even though I’ve been sewing for more than half of my life. I mean, I’m capable of sewing all sorts of things. I used to make Victorian dresses and Renaissance costumes, for crying out loud — I am not afraid of zippers and buttonholes — but I choose to keep it simple because my energy level is so low. I mean, the amount of energy I would need to invest in sewing a pair of jeans — multiple muslins, all that bloody topstitching — could easily net me three or four tops and a dress instead. I’m not saying that I aspire to be my own sweatshop, or that quantity is always better than quality. I’m just saying that for me, personally, most of the time it makes sense to focus on the simpler things.

This might change in the future, of course. My energy level could improve, for one thing (hope springs eternal), and I’m already so dissatisfied with most ready-to-wear that I could see spending a couple of months sewing a winter coat or something like that.

Collage of May photos.

I finished a few things I already had cut out this month and made a couple of other simple things from scratch — including a pair of leggings for my Mom. I made a total of six new garments: Two dresses, two tops, and two pairs of leggings (including Mom’s). I’m more than satisfied with that!

I plan to complete the first draft of my new novel next month, so I bet my sewing momentum slows down a bit. I hope to finish a robe and another t-shirt dress before our vacation in July, though — and I plan to do at least the first muslin of my test project. That’s probably more than enough for June, but as I said, I’m pleased to have started off my Summer of Sewing with some tangible success.

Onward to June!

(*I’m not saying that I’m satisfied with what ready-to-wear currently has to offer plus sizes — I’m patently not. Also, I have to admit that the much of the ready-to-wear I own — aside from loungewear and underwear — is custom made to my measurements via eShakti. So it’s not exactly “off the rack” to begin with.)

Summer of Sewing: Preparing for Me Made May.

Sarah's Summer of Sewing

It’s that time of year again — time to take the Me Made May pledge and focus on sewing for a while. So, without further ado:

‘I, Sarah L. Crowder, of codenamesarah.com (and @codenamesarah on IG) sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2018. I will do my best to wear a self-made garment every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday during the month of May. I will also use this month as an opportunity to finish a couple of lingering UFOs, but I also want to get back into the habit of sewing more regularly — just for fun, with no pressure.’

I’m not promising photos this year, neither here nor on Instagram. I will be wearing many repeats from last year, and I don’t want to make a fuss over taking pictures this time around. I will do my best to photograph newly sewn items and a few things that I’ve never shown on IG, though. Of course, being me, I have to take things even further…so I’m going to use this year’s Me Made May to kick off an entire summer of sewing.

I genuinely enjoy sewing, but I haven’t been making time for it. It’s true that my energy level is especially low right now (particularly since I had the flu), but I make time for other, less important things — so why shouldn’t I get a little more sewing in? I spend so much time thinking about sewing, but so little time actually doing it. That’s what I want to change. I’ve finally gotten my writing into a useful daily routine — now I want to do the same thing with my sewing practice.

When we moved to this accursed apartment (that’s a whole other rant), I specifically made room for a dedicated sewing area. The only things I have to get out and put away are the iron and ironing board — and I can leave those out most of the time, too. I really have no excuse for not sitting down and spending 20 – 30 minutes a day sewing. Even that little bit of time really builds up, particularly as I tend to make simple garments. Just to be clear, though — I’m approaching this as fun, not as a self-imposed duty. I like to sew, and I love clothes; this is really just another form of self-care for me.

Aside from one design-concept-to-finished-item project that I have in mind (that will likely require multiple muslins), I just want to keep on sewing the simple dresses and basics that I usually do. But I want to actually do it, not endlessly theorize about it, as I am wont to do. So I’ve decided to dedicate the next several months to sewing, and have christened it “Sarah’s Summer of Sewing” because I am, as I have noted before, overly fond of alliteration.

I do use the term “summer” loosely here, though. I mean, I’m starting this in May and will likely continue through October because this is a subtropical zone. It’s already 80 – 85F here, and temperatures will remain at least that high until October at the earliest. So summer here lasts a good long while and has little to do with the traditional 20 June – 20 September temperate calendar. Also, it’s my thing, and I can be as loosey-goosey with it as I want.

I’ll do my best to check in here at least once a month, just for accountability — and more often if I have something notable to show off.

So here’s to a fun Me Made May and a successful Summer of Sewing!

Late to the party.

Here are all of the projects I chose for the 2018 Make Nine challenge. From left to right, top to bottom:

  1. Burda Robe 01/2017 (#126). I have needed a robe for a long time, and I really like the gathered detail on this one. It’s also made of knit fabric for extra comfort.
  2. A Seamwork Arden dress. I intend to alter this to sleeveless. Almost no one seems to have made this pattern, but I’ve always liked it.
  3. A Baktus Scarf replacement. My old one got a couple of big moth holes in it (a lesson to be learned regarding proper storage there), and it was the first thing I ever knitted with “good” yarn (Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed). I also loved the shape of it. I don’t knit much at all these days, but I loved that scarf. This will probably be the only thing I knit this year.
  4. Something green for my birthday. My birthday is St. Patrick’s Day, and although I don’t really celebrate the holiday I do wear something green every year. I have two very different bright green fabrics in my stockpile, but haven’t decided which I’ll use this year — or which project I will use for either fabric. This is fairly hazy, I know — but it has an obvious deadline.
  5. A Concord t-shirt swing dress. I am just as in love with the Concord Tee as pretty much every other plus-sized woman who sews, and I really need some more easy dresses for hot weather. Two of my favorites are pretty much worn out and I’ll be really sad come spring if I don’t make at least one replacement.
  6. Simple trousers, to be determined. Another vague intention, I’m afraid — but I haven’t settled on which trousers I want to work on. I think I will stick to a pull on stretch woven style, but since I have failed with at least three of these patterns at the muslin stage, it might be time to try something else. I just ordered the Fast & Fabulous Miracle Pants from Hot Patterns (goodness, their pattern titles are always so breathless), but we’ll see how they test.
  7. A Heidi Purse from I Think Sew. Confession time: I’ve had this cut out for months, but never got around to sewing it. I really hate inserting magnetic closures, and that’s probably the whole reason for my procrastination.
  8. A Springfield top. I’ve tried other woven tanks and never can get them to fit very well. My pattern alteration skills just aren’t as far along as I’d like, but this pattern has so many positive reviews that I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
  9. A Suki Kimono from Helen’s Closet. Yes, that’s another robe. I don’t have any robes at all right now, and I spend a lot of time in sleepwear or loungewear and I’m trying to up my game in this area. I mean, I can be comfortable, but why can’t I also pretend to be visiting someone’s country house in the 1930s? Exactly.

None of these projects are too hard — and several are very easy — so I hope I can make some good progress on these. I do want to focus more on my sewing this year. I am less and less satisfied with most of the clothing I buy, so I’m fairly motivated to make more of my own stuff. I’m going to try to be more diligent about posting pictures of finished projects to Instagram this year, too — and to the blog here if I have anything particular to explain in detail.

Here’s to a productive (yet peaceful) 2018!