2017 and all that

This is quite a long post, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on things I made in the past year. Many of the things I loved initially didn't end up getting worn as much as things that took some time to grow on me. I've realized that writing reviews of garments before I've actually taken time to live with them may be a bit of a disservice. I will not be writing up clothing as quickly in 2018.

When I began to write on all of the sewing that has done this year, I realized it reflected my journey through this year. Our life the last few years has involved lots of change - getting married, I went back to school and changed careers, both of us changed jobs multiple times, and we moved across the country twice. 2017 was the year that has the least change in it since… well, I’m not really sure, maybe 2011? Jonathan and I have both been working the same job all year, we have been living in the same place, and most importantly, we haven’t acquired any new cats. My sewing began a little unplanned and all over the place but became more cohesive and intentional as the year went on.

We moved back to Massachusetts in October of 2016 after being in Colorado for two years. In some ways, it felt like coming home, and in others, it did not. Before buying our house, I’d never been to this town that we live in. It’s about 40 minutes from where most of my friends live, which is fine on long summer evenings but feels prohibitively cold and distant in the winters on frozen back roads that may or may not have ice on them. So after taking a break from sewing for a few years, I took it back up. And by ‘a break’ I mean I sewed just a few garments in a year.  At some point last February I decided it was time to quit watching Netflix every night, and cut into some fabric, so I downloaded the Colette Neenah dress, pulled out some lovely, thick ponte I’ve had forever, and went to town. Alas, alack, I made a totally dumb beginner move. I used my old body measurements even though I’ve gained some weight the past two years, so it was too tight and horribly unflattering. But I had started sewing.


Once back on the sewing train, I decided it was time to sew my second button down. I had finished one Archer shirt with lots of hand-holding from Anna, and bought some lovely mammoth flannel from Fancy Tiger destined to be a second one, but it had been sitting in my closet for a year. The shirt was a real struggle. Despite hand basting and every other method I could think of, I couldn’t sew the front button placket without puckering that thick fabric. Then (thanks again Anna) I tried using spray glue and it worked! I sewed the buttonholes using a friend's vintage Singer buttonholer, which led to buying one myself and I was in business again. It has a lot of imperfections, but it is warm and cozy and I wear it once or twice or three times a week in winter.


I had a fairly sizeable (for me) fabric stash at this point so for Lent I gave up buying things (including fabric, but not thread), and decided to sew with what I have. In the end, I think this was a poor decision because most of the fabric in my stash was from my early days of sewing when I didn’t realize that quilting cotton was for quilting and perhaps a little too stiff for most garments. I made an Easter dress out of a vintagey quilting cotton with a McCall's pattern I’ve had forever and neither the fabric or the style are me anymore. Plus the neckline gapes. Then I made the Heidi shirt from Anna and while it was so fun to sew, the quilting cotton was so stiff and thick that I was never really drawn to wearing it. I think it would be lovely in something softer and drapier.

Easter Sunday - the one time I wore this dress

Easter Sunday - the one time I wore this dress

The Heidi shirt is pretty awesome, but despite loving this fabric at first, I never wanted to wear it.

The Heidi shirt is pretty awesome, but despite loving this fabric at first, I never wanted to wear it.

After realizing I didn't actually want to sew with most of my stash, I gave the majority of the fabric to my friend Ellie who does costumes for the local YMCA productions and never has enough of a budget. I did, however, have some lovely raw linen which ended up becoming my favorite summer shirt of the year - the Collins Top. Unlike the shirts I was about to go on and make, the fact that it's linen meant that it was never in a special pile of delicates waiting to be washed. I felt totally fine wearing it while gardening or hiking or doing anything sweaty. And it's trendy and interesting enough that I also felt pretty cool. I plan on revisiting this pattern multiple times next summer.


Lent ended and I discovered Pintuck & Purl! I wanted a drapier sleeveless top, and I bought some Robert Kaufman chambray for a Kalle shirt. The Kalle shirt is awesome! But the embroidered fabric is a very poor choice for someone who owns two cats. It's begun to unravel already and I don't think it will last more than another season. I need to make it again in a sturdier chambray. I loved it so much I made the tunic length version in a beautiful rayon from Blackbird Fabrics. Sadly, something about my wash machine does not agree with rayon. Almost all my rayon items have had holes appear in them despite washing them on delicate in cold water and hanging them to dry. So neither Kalle will end up as staple wardrobe items despite the fact that I love the fit and the fabric.

Cats love this shirt but it does not love cats.

Cats love this shirt but it does not love cats.

Sad, tiny holes everywhere. Also, why didn't I iron this for a photo shoot?

Sad, tiny holes everywhere. Also, why didn't I iron this for a photo shoot?

I also made a Farrow dress that I almost completely forgot about in a lovely linen/cotton blend. It is so nice to wear but probably the most unflattering dress I own. I may end up putting some elastic in the back so that it gives me at least some shape.

Note me putting both hands in my pockets and trying to hold the dress close to my body so I have at least some waist definition.

Note me putting both hands in my pockets and trying to hold the dress close to my body so I have at least some waist definition.

The real hole in my wardrobe at this point was sleeveless shirts. So I went looking for something sleeveless, drapey, and easy for summer and found the Lisboa top from Orageuse patterns. I made two versions. I really loved these when I first made them, but as I mentioned, rayon has not been holding up well in my wash machine. These rayons are both a bit more sturdy (red is from Pintuck, yellow from Blackbird) - but the Orageuse directions did not tell me to interface the deep v in the back of the shirts and despite stitching over it multiple times it has begun to fray on both shirts. I also should have serged the facing to the shirt as that has begun to unravel as well. And they are both so very ... floral.


Although I never documented them well, I made three pairs of Maritime shorts. Without any alteration it has become my TNT (tried and true) shorts pattern. I prefer them in a stretch denim although the pattern is written for a nonstretch fabric. I plan on making a few pairs next year and fully replace all my poor fitting ready to wear shorts.


In July I decided to splurge on some fabric and made the most disappointing dress of the year, the Charlie Caftan. The pattern didn't work on me at all and it is in a wad in my closet, waiting to be reinvented as a woven Summer top as soon as we get near the threat of warmth and sunshine. Such a waste of that gorgeous, gorgeous Nani Iro fabric.


After sewing lots of florals that I loved in the fabric store, but didn't actually reflect my personal style, I decided to rethink what I was sewing and what I was actually wearing and from here on out the fabrics are not going to be nearly as exciting. I read the Curated Closet and really narrowed down what things I love to wear.

The first make after my bout of self-reflection was the Orageuse Rome shirt and I really love it. I want to make a few more in some sturdier fabrics - this Japanese cotton is a bit delicate so it goes in the delicates pile.

I then moved on to the wardrobe workhorse that I've been intimidated by for years - jeans! Despite the fact that my sewing machine wasn't really up to the job, I managed to churn out a pretty good pair thanks to Heather Lou's Sew Your Dream Jeans online class. I love these so much. I got lazy and decided to buy a pair of jeans at the store a few weeks ago, and I never wear them because they are just so uncomfortable and ill-fitting compared to my Gingers, even without any alterations. I'm currently getting ready to sew my second pair and the adjustments I'm making are minimal.


High off making a pair of jeans, I decided to tackle my most challenging project ever - an Anorak. I bought the lining expansion and everything. Honestly, I'm not really sure that my sewing skills were up to it. I probably should have sewn an easier jacket before doing this, because I got stumped and frustrated at several points and about half of this very long project was just not fun for me. But I finished it! And then decided to wax it. It is one-third waxed and sitting in my closet waiting for more wax and some good photos. But all of the sewing bits are done, and I'll be very excited to wear this whenever the rainy New England spring arrives.


After the length anorak fiasco, I made a quick toaster sweater to get back some of my sewing mojo. While it was an easy sew, I don't love the fit. It feels very loose and linebacker-y for something that is a knit. It's made with a lovely stretch wool that is incredibly warm which is the one thing I really like about it.

This phone angle always makes my clothes look more flattering than they actually are.

This phone angle always makes my clothes look more flattering than they actually are.

Then, to end it all, my final project for 2017 was another plaid flannel Archer. I need all the thick, mammoth flannel Archers. They are my favorite winter shirts. Although it wasn't exactly feeling like winter in Llano, Texas, where this picture was taken.


Not included in this summary are three things I sewed for Jonathan, my first knitted cardigan, and two knit hats. But I will save those for another post.

It's interesting to see all these makes in one place because now I can make a few observations about my sewing year.

Firstly, everything I sewed after reading the Curated Closet has been a winner! (Except maybe the toaster sweater.) I think that it was incredibly helpful to take a few days and plot out the things I want to wear and the colors and fabrics I go to in my closet. I would really recommend the book to anyone whose sewing projects are languishing unworn in the back of a closet.

Secondly, my sewing skills have really improved! I've been sewing for several years, but I've never made this many items in one year - if I include the projects for Jonathan, that is 22 garments. Many things are responsible for this surge in productivity. The biggest one is that I have my own dedicated sewing space, so I can leave projects out and pick them up with no set up time at all. I never have to clean up projects in order to have dinner. I also have a budget for fabric now and can buy the patterns and materials I need right away. And, after several years of sewing, I finally have all the tools I need to make pretty much everything, from applique scissors to a sleeve board.

Although we are only a few weeks into 2018, my sewing pace is still going strong, so I have high hopes that I will be a much more skilled seamstress at the end of this year.

I've made a resolution to blog at least twice a month this year. It's hard to know what this blog should be. I don't want it to necessarily be a diary of what I made because that is a bit boring. I may add tutorials if I come up with anything useful. But it may just end up being reflections on how wonderful it is to make things and struggle with new skills. Hopefully by the end of 2018 my blog will have sorted it out just as well as my sewing sorted itself out in 2017.