reflecting on me-made-may

This was my first time really participating in Me Made May and I had a lot of fun with it! The (nearly) daily documentation, mindfully encouraging myself to choose a handmade garment over a RTW one, and the reflection that came with it about my wardrobe, my style, and how I want to present myself to the world in the future, were all really enjoyable parts of this month-long event.

You may remember from my last post that I didn’t get terribly specific about a goal; I was giving myself permission to dip in and out of the challenge as I felt like it, and not be too demanding on myself. I didn’t think I had enough me-mades to make it through the month, or, more accurately, that I had enough me-mades that I wanted to wear.

It turns out that I was able to wear some sort of me-made garment (or undergarment) nearly every day, with some repeats.

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Me-in-progress-May

I, Kirstin, of Small Bobbins, do solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

(Wait, that’s not the right pledge, is it?)

Happy Me-Made-May 2018! This is a challenge invented by Zoe from ‘So Zo’, you can read more about this annual event on her blog or listen to her interview on Love to Sew Podcast.

MMMay is probably one of the “original” sewing challenges for the digital sewing community. Nowadays, there are so many challenges that it’s impossible to keep up! In fact, I’m even at a point where I’m (gasp!) challenged-out. So for my MMMay 2018 pledge, I’m going to focus on my massive pile of WIP/UFO’s (works-in-progress, un-finished objects) and follow a low-key pledge to wear me-mades when I can. I’ll try to document my daily outfits on my Instagram so that I have a record of what I’m actually reaching for, and maybe that will help me focus my plans once I’m open to starting new projects again.

works-in-progress

Yes, no new projects until my WIP-pile is done. Honestly, I have too many! At least 16 projects that are either fully cut out, partially cut out, or need some mending/altering before I’d feel comfortable wearing them. I don’t think I’d reasonably be able to get through all of these in May, but I’m sure going to do my best, and I’m banning myself from new projects (besides pattern testing!) until I’m through.

So what’s on the menu? (click through to go to the designers’ sites)

Yeah, so, omg.

I’m a big believer in checklist, so here’s how I’ll approach these projects:

  • Grab one at a time: To me, this feels like a crucial first step to tackling these projects. Focus on one at a time! Give it my full attention, complete it, and then move on.
  • Check where I’m at: did I cut out all pieces? What size? Did I make any pattern adjustments? Do I have all the notions/equipment? Matching thread?
    • If I’m missing any notions/thread, I’ll make thorough notes and put it aside until I can head to my local shops.
  • Read all of the instructions before getting started: if I have any qualms about the methods or the order of the steps, I can make notes before starting.
  • Sew the dang thing.

What about you, have you pledged to participate in MMMay this year? Do you have an overflowing pile of UFO’s that keeps you up at night…? No? Just me? Okay then…! Has your approach for organizing and tackling your sewing projects changed since you started sewing? And if so, why?

my cool-mom coat

I’ve always been pretty over-ambitious. When I caught the sewing bug, I thought, well let’s get started on overhauling my entire wardrobe. When I got pregnant, I started scheming to sew all my own maternity clothes. Coats, jeans, lingerie, I could do it all. Sometimes this overconfidence worked out terribly. Like, hmm, let’s say I don’t quite have a fully me-made wardrobe yet (although in the few years that I’ve been sewing, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack). Sometimes it works out okay, like when I sewed my first coat pretty early into my self-taught sewing journey.

I was so proud of my first coat, a Cascade duffle coat by Grainline Studio that fit my nine-month-belly and beyond. I had made it in a very cheap wool/poly (heavy on the poly) blend that I got for 1 euro per meter at a shop that was going out of business. It was meant to be a low-stakes, “What have I got to lose?” first version of a coat, to get me through my biggest waistline and prepare me for my second, real coat.

Cut to two years later. The coat is too big and the wool is pilling. I’m reminded every time I put it on that I skipped the toggles and badly screwed up the zipper shield. Plus, it doesn’t keep the wind out (even though I interlined it). Time to finally get around to that new coat!

I started planning this last September when I spotted some luscious grey cashmere wool at a fabric store specializing in designer deadstock. I bought the fancy interfacing (from the UK because I haven’t found good interfacing in Belgium yet?!) and a Craftsy class on tailoring to make sure I would do it right. An exhaustive pattern search to find the dream coat led me to the Named Gaia coat pattern.

And all of this is to say, that coat isn’t finished yet. I’m an Obliger at heart and powered by deadlines, so February’s Sew My Style challenge, the Rumana coat from By Hand London, was the kick-in-the-pants I needed to finally replace my maternity coat with a stylish (and warm!) coat.

The fabric is an 80/20 wool/poly blend from Stoffen.nl. I bought 3.5m, and the project nearly ended there after it was delivered to the wrong house and both Bpost and the vendor were terribly unhelpful.

I cut out the US10/UK14 with no alterations. I’m 5’8″ and was smitten with the idea of a long, sweeping coat, so I had no qualms about the length. I referenced the finished measurements and felt like I could get away without any fit adjustments. You could probably squeak out the same size from 3 meters (as long as your fabric doesn’t have a directional print or nap), as I still have a solid scrap piece. I’m thinking a mini-skirt (Shauni’s recent make is inspiring!) would be lovely.

I followed the instructions pretty closely for the interfacing, but added an extra piece of heavier interfacing on the lapel, and a small strip to follow the roll line. I didn’t follow any particular techniques in making this decision, but I think I absorbed some bits and pieces from that Craftsy lesson.

I hand-embroidered a marigold design on the front facings. This was my first time doing embroidery and it was really enjoyable! I also stitched my initials into the back neck facing and added a hanging loop and little buttons on the inside to stabilize the big buttons.

If I could do this over, I would’ve picked a different lining. Don’t get me wrong; it’s beautiful! One side is a shocking pink with fine white pinstripes, and the reverse is stripes in variating widths in navy, white, pink and orange. This mystery fabric cost me A LOT (from same designer fabric store), but the weft is honestly made of hopes and dreams, because it quickly disintegrated in reality. After much internal struggle and Instagram Story polls, I decided to power through, interface all seam allowances (and darts) and give an offering to the Sewing Gods. In the photos below, you can see the threads just fainting away from the fabric, it just can’t bear to hold on as a unified piece.

And here’s the moment where I’m ‘birthing’ the coat through the opening in the hem, you can see how I made use of every.goddamn.scrap. of interfacing to strengthen my seams.

I had some hiccups with the construction and required a lot of Googling to get through. I don’t say this as a negative though; I’m not a very experienced coat-maker. There’s not much about making a coat that hasn’t already been covered in a clear, illustrated/photographed/video-taped tutorial somewhere else on the internet, so use it to your advantage!

I’ve mostly shunned my Cascade since finishing my Rumana, though I am missing the coverage I get from the duffle coat; not having a hood or full closure over my legs/hips has made biking to work even less enjoyable, but I suppose that’s the price of fashion!.

Definitely the toughest parts were:
– Deciding on materials and parting with so much money on quality fabric
– Taping together and cutting out 96 pages of non-layered PDFs (why isn’t everybody making PDF patterns layered yet?!)
– Cutting all the fabric
– Interfacing all the fabric
– To a much lesser extent, the construction of the vent and lining, and the hemming process were also difficult, but came together way more quickly than all of the above-listed steps.

(Very glad this shoddy hem job is locked away inside the lining, hidden forever.)

Sensing a theme? Prepping the coat was WAY more difficult than sewing the coat itself. Plus, wool is L-O-V-E-L-Y to sew. Zero seam ripping with the sleeves, collar, etc. Everything just eased in beautifully and without puckers.

A couple more full-length shots for the full effect.

Parting thoughts? I love how it turned out! I might not make another one, at least not for a while, because my coat pattern stash overflows with other great designs and I should really finish up the Gaia. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy waltzing around like someone who’s chic and put-together and maybe not hoarding crackers and small toys and wadded up tissues in her pockets.

Everything I made in 2017

Let’s just get last year out of the way in one fell swoop, shall we? Here’s (mostly) everything I made in 2017 (photographed in a single nap-time, hence the same hair and repetitive poses!).
— Four Neenahs (from Seamwork): the red is truest to the pattern (with some length removed at the hem), the grey ribbed version has a shortened collar and sleeves, and the yellow one has no sleeves, a gathered skirt, and pockets(!!!).

I also shortened one into a shirt and added ruffles to the sleeves (it’s too short though, so I usually only wear it tucked into a high-waisted skirt).
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— Four Nettie bodysuits (from Closet Case Patterns): my favorite versions are these two that I added a turtleneck to (borrowing some of the shoulder shape and neckline from the Neenah pattern), worn with a Colette Phoebe (love! this! so! much!) and an as-yet-unreleased pattern from Just Patterns that I tested (the black one above is the same skirt). These are winter staples for me!

I also made a high-neck/scooped-back version in black & white checks, and a scooped-neck/scooped-back version in white ribbing and contrast grey neck and sleeve bands. Both shown here with Flint pants from Megan Nielsen (which I’ve unfortunately over-fit and they’re a bit tight, but I have another pair on the way!).

— Two Astorias (from Seamwork): the striped one is a straight Medium and the black one is a heavily altered Large (SBA, etc.) that made me realize that the Medium is perfectly fine after all. I love both of these, since this silhouette is basically my cool-weather work uniform.
Grainline Alder (shortened to shirt length): the fabric is a bit to heavy, so everything feels a bit stiff, but it’s fine to wear underneath sweaters. I also have a habit of making buttonholes too small (I’m constantly worried about making them too big) and this one is difficult to button because of it.
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— In the Folds Peplum Top, free from Peppermint Magazine. Love love love this top! Warning to any fellow tall gals (I’m 5’8″/168cm), I added a decent amount of length and it still feels quite short, but also beware of simply extending the A-shape when you’re lengthening it, or you might look like you’re wearing a tent. I love the V-shape of the back and the construction techniques.
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— Linda wrap dress from Just Patterns: I got to test this pattern, I’m looking forward to warmer weather to bring this out again!
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— Reversible bomber jacket, a free pattern from Mood Fabrics. I had an idea for this whole ensemble for a 70’s themed beach party last August. It’s still Belgium, so the weather was quite chilly once the sun set, and the jacket and longer bottoms were perfect. I hit some snags following the instructions on this pattern, there is not much hand-holding to get you through that square corner! But I managed and the result is true to my vision. Not sure how much everyday wear this will get though, as it’s a bit costume-y. It took me forever to find iron-on letter patches though! These were from Eulalie.nl
— A pair of red plaid flannel pajamas using the Kate bias top from Just Patterns (another pattern I tested), and the free Julio pants pattern from Make My Lemonade.
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— I made two Orla dresses (free pattern from French Navy Patterns), one of them was balled up in a fit of frustration and never finished, so I only I have photos of this one. It’s such an easy dress to wear though, really looking forward to wearing it again!
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— This is technically a refashion, but it has resulted in something that works so much better for my wardrobe that I’m including it here. It was a dress, but as a dress it was too short and made it look like I was wearing a kid’s dress. I re-hemmed it into a peplum and wear it much more often.
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— A basic white jersey Agnes top from Tilly and the Buttons, not much more to say about this except it just works well in my wardrobe!
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— A Mesa dress (from Seamwork), a great simple summer staple. The fabric was a nice find from Girl Charlee UK, a really soft cotton jersey that unfortunately seems out of stock.
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— And, rounding out with things that didn’t get photographed: One bra (Sierra from Madalynne) two panties (Celeste from OhhhLulu and Maxine from Evie la Luve), a onesie for Tilda, a t-shirt (traced from an existing one) and pair of pants (the Jim Jogging from Ikatee) for Darwin, a Toaster sweater (Sew House 7), two (“self drafted” aka, rectangles) skirts out of the same lovely material that didn’t work and are awaiting new life in the refashion pile, a Named Sointu that has been perpetually sitting in my ‘in progress’ pile, oven mitts for Darwin and Tilda for their play kitchen, and another Kate bias top.
PHEW! 
In total, I made 36 things last year! I’m pretty impressed with myself. Summer was especially productive; those dresses can get sewn up in snap! Not all of them have turned out to be winners, but I can tell that I’m really improving my sewing and figuring out my rhythm with planning and executing projects.
What about you, did you total up your makes from last year? Share your numbers with me and let’s swap virtual high-fives!