Monday, November 24, 2014

A Suit of Armour of Cloth


Oona has written a wonderful post of how we use clothing as a weapon and it really resonated with me.  My true inner self is not something I have really talked about here as, to be honest, many formative years of ridicule makes me hesitant about revealing her.  I grew up as an only child in a single parent family during the 1970s and 1980s when single parents and their children were social pariahs.  Add to it that I grew up poor in an affluent city populated with judgemental and idiotic people and the picture becomes complete.

Growing up, my wardrobe consisted entirely of hand-me-down that didn't suit me but was offset by wonderful pieces sent to me by my English grandparents. I dressed to fit in (as well as I could) or disappear, and dressing to suit my mother's uber preppy tastes was always a priority.  It just wasn't worth the argument to go out in something I actually felt comfortable wearing.  To this day, I hate button down polo shirts and khakis.  I have an aversion to penny loafers, grosgrain ribbon belts, field hockey, and cliques.  Want to see my utterly miserable?  Dress me up like a Washington politician! LOL!



It took me a very long time to start dressing for myself and be comfortable in my own skin and it really didn't start to come together for  me until shortly after I became a mother.  Pregnancy was very freeing for me from a fashion perspective and I really ran with it.   Before that, there was a lot of trial and error and fashion disasters!  I tried being a goth (you can imagine how well that worked, considering I don't wear black and hate punk music!), a mod (a bit better - much more 60's influenced), a rocker avec a black fringed suede jacket (we called rockers skids - nice, I know) until I finally settled into a mish mash of hippie meets Audrey Hepburn.

When I picked up sewing clothing seriously again (I have sewn since I was 9) that fantastic fall down the creative rabbit hole began and I've been happily chatting with the Mad Hatter ever since, bar a few mishaps along this yellow brick road of endless possibilities.  It was also a great thing to acknowledge my own inner Star Trek/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/Disney movie quirky geekiness! Meeting the Mad Hatter is enlightening, no?



Nowadays, I use clothing as a source of comfort and affirmation - a suit of armour with a positive intention.  I am an unapologetic clothes horse of epic proportions.  Changing my wardrobe over to reflect the seasons results in hours of careful unpacking, repacking, hanging, and folding  and I absolutely look forward to it.  I am proud of the fact that I rarely shop RTW, stocking my wardrobe with a mix of handmade and thrifted pieces  Bright colours, happy prints - primarily florals and polka dots- and simple silhouettes announce who I am.

I am introverted around those I don't feel 100% comfortable and and distinctly challenged by being in a group with more than 3 new people.  At these times, I use clothing to either repel human contact as it's just too overwhelming or protect my inner self at times when human contact is socially unavoidable.  Small talk and idle chit chat is awkward.

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My life is fulfilling and affirming.  I am surrounded by a beloved group of people who love and appreciate me for who I am.  Along the way, I have had to make hard choices to protect my inner self but the rewards are always greater.  As I have grown, my clothing choices have grown with me.  I own not one single piece of clothing that would be considered fashionable or allows me to 'blend in' and I'm proud of that.

2014 has been a year of challenges for my family and I.  I will not be sad to see it go and have already been thinking about what I want to do in 2015.  More authentic blogging is on my list as I found that the blogs I love the most don't shy away from sharing inner struggles.  It's that ability to connect with the blogger that keeps me coming back.

But my mantra for 2015 is, quite simply, this:

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Pattern Hoarding and What I Really Sew

My Floradora dress.  I wore this to death this summer!

I am a confessed pattern hoarder.  Truly.  Before I sold off or donated a huge chunk of my hoarded collection earlier this year, I had - no word of a lie - 6 drawers full of patterns! Whoa.  How could I possibly choose what to sew with such an overwhelming volume?  Truth was, I couldn't, which stymied my sewing to no end.  So I stuck to my TNTs and sewed them again and again, turning out items I love and wear but was a bit chicken to blog about as I felt it wasn't interesting or new.

In truth, what I really sew are multiple versions of core patterns.  I find when I stick to my favourites, I turn out garments that I wear often and feel good wearing.  I am not a 'try every new pattern released' kind of seamstress and it's taken me a while to be OK with that.  I hate overly tailored garments and run away from complex fitting issues.  They're just not why I sew.

I do sometimes feel a strange sense of obligation to my favourite pattern designers to purchase and make ALL THE THINGS from their latest releases, partly because they work so incredibly hard to turn out fabulous designs for us, and partly because being a good seamstress means I can.

My Muse Francaise top.  I love the hip tie and added it to several other versions.

When life gets busy or stressful, as it does, sewing is where I gravitate to release negative energy and refocus.  Pair that with a distinct style change this year, from fit and flare to simple and relaxed, the last thing I want to do is try out a new pattern when I'm picking up scissors and cloth to destress.  I've been dealing with pretty serious joint pain of late, so my inclination to invest both time and money in a new pattern isn't really there.  The last few new to me patterns I have tried turned out fine, from a construction and design perspective, but fell flat in the pleasing department.   I've learned to stick with what soothes my sewing soul.

My Granny Rose Laurel made for FESA 2014.

That doesn't mean that I haven't been creating!  Sadly, knitting has taken a back seat as it aggravates my hands and wrists too much but sewing is still doable.  My favourite dress patterns are Laurel, Washi, and Lady Skater.  I feel especially clever that I was able to sew Laurel in a way that doesn't require a zipper!  Their silhouettes are ideal and the fact that I can pop them on, layer up and look and feel presentable is a huge plus for me.
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My Secret Garden Sorbetto and my grey Meringue skirt made for FESA 2014.

I have loved the Sorbetto since it was released.  It's such an easy to wear and easy to make pattern.  The possibilities for variations are endless and every season of my handmade wardrobe has at least 3 Sorbettos in them.  Over time, I have modified the construction of my Sorbettos to fit me and my style.  I eliminated the bust darts after way to much fiddling (I detest fiddly fitting!) and sew it with a 3/8" seam allowance.  I have several sleeve lengths for my Sorbettos, but I currently love the Washi sleeve and Jasmine cuff with mine.

My denim Meringue skirt. I wear it weekly.

If you don't own a copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook yet, then get thyself to their website and buy one!  Even if you don't fancy all of the patterns in the book, I guarantee the Meringue Skirt will become your best friend.  It's slight A-line shape (much less than Ginger) and simple construction have made it a staple in my wardrobe.  The scalloped hem is such a pretty detail and, I swear, every time I wear my denim one, I get compliments.  An instant mood booster!

My charcoal Renfrew cowl top made for FESA 2014 and my Butterick 2507 pants.

As I said before, I was a knit scaredey cat for ages!  Every time I ventured into Jersey Land, I ended up with wadders and a lot of frustration.  Until the Renfrew.   This gorgeous pattern was love at first stitch (sorry for stealing your title, Tilly!).  It was simple to cut out, rolled edges notwithstanding, and went together easily.  It fit beautifully, too.  I loved the clean finishes and the ladylike silhouette.   I know have at least 8 Renfrews in my wardrobe and plan on making many more, especially the chic cowl neck version.  It's warm and cozy, made with fabric that feels like you're wearing pajamas, but looks well put together.  NINJA SHIRT!

My navy Pants of Perfection made with the only Vogue pattern I own.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with pants.  I can't even tell you how many RTW versions I've owned and tossed (evil low rise pants - I hate you!!!), as well as sewn and wadded.  In my sewing experience, these have been the absolute worst to make work.  I even gave up on  making them and wearing them for a time, but really missed having cigarette pants in my wardrobe. (Hey, Gap! Can you please bring back your skinny fit ankle length pants?  Thankyouverymuch.)

After MUCH trial and error, Butterick 4552 and Vogue 2128 are my TNTs for wide legged trousers and vintage Butterick 2507 (my copy is sadly disintegrating) and vintage Butterick 9805 are TNTs for my cigarette trousers.  I tend to shy away from modern cigarette trouser patterns as they have way too much ease.


So, that's my sewing pattern quiver, in essence.  As much as I want to jump in and SEW ALL THE PATTERNS, I really can't.  The poor things just end up looking sad and lost in  my closet as they don't get worn, which really defeats the purpose of sewing.  My core patterns are what I wear and what I love to sew.  It's what I need to remind myself to be brave enough to blog about, even if it is my 10th Sorbetto and my zillionth Laurel dress.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Fabric Day

Holy ham sandwiches, I love new fabric days! The lovely UPS gentleman dropped off a weighty box this afternoon and I could not wait to dive in.  I've been quite disciplined in sewing through my stash and have managed to reduce it significantly.  That, coupled with a preference for mostly solids paired with a few prints (polka dots and florals) means I can justify shopping for fabrics!

I find something magical about looking a new pile of fabric. I mean, yes, you've spent your money on it and will invest your time to make fabulous pieces for your wardrobe, but it's the potential of brand new fabric that I find enchanting.  Even when I've already picked projects for each, I still find it so.


Gah! Look at that glorious rainbow!! After many mishaps, I have disciplined myself to shop within my palette in order to ensure that everything I make is loved and worn.  Closet orphans make me sad :(  Plus, when I sew within my palette, everything goes together easily making early morning outfit selection less of a crap shoot! LOL!


Starting in the middle of the pile are two lovely rose printed ponte knits.  Do you know how tricky it is to find printed knits NOT on a black background? It's much like trying to find the Holy Grail.  I don't really wear or like black so I often have to bow out of pretty prints due to the background colour.  I did luck out here, though!  Both of these gorgeous granny prints are on navy backgrounds.  Lady Skater, I'm looking at you!


Talk about a hypocrite! LOL!  It's true that I rarely wear black and shy away from it normally, but that darn .Jane Sassaman went and designed all these fabulous prints and seduced me!  It figures that the one I bought is the one with the black background.  Jeesh.  This beauty will be a Laurel dress.  Hot pink tights, anyone?


OK, it's freezing here and has been snowing steadily for the last 4 days.  Thank goodness I don't live in Buffalo!  Those poor buggers have over 4 ft of snow!  Renfew tops - both plain and with the cowl neck - are a major piece of my cold weather uniform.  I've made 4 this year and plan on adding at least 4 more.  These lovely navy knit prints (aren't the hearts so cute?!) will be cowl neck versions.  Yum!



Oh, red.  I love you so much!  Even when I deviated into Pink Land, I still loved you.  You are happy and cheerful and a terrific neutral.  That one in the middle is a delicious cherry red stretch twill that is destined to become a pair of sassy cigarette pants.  I blame Winnie.  

That glorious fabric at the top is, of course, Millefiore Red by Kaffe Fassett.  He makes glorious fabrics but I'm too scaredy cat to cut into them because they're so pretty.  But this one?  This lovely red print (see it up there?) I had to buy it because of this dress:

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Gorgeous, right?  I love it! I can accent it with about a zillion colours too.  Oh, Laurel dress, you are just the perfect dress and tunic pattern for me.  Especially since I craftily figured out how to make you without a zipper. Muah ha ha

See that pretty lady at the bottom? Yup.  Another granny rose print insanity but she will go beautifully with my red trousers, right?  Plus about a zillion other lovelies in my wardrobe.  Sorbetto, my reliable, wonderful Sorbetto, avec Washi sleeves will be just the one for her.

What are you sewing lately?  Anything cozy on the needles?