Obligatory Me Made May Reflection Post: 2018 Edition

Phew! We did it! Whether you made a pledge or not, we’re all Me Made May 2018 survivors!

Me Made May is about cultivating thoughtfulness and reflection on our wardrobes and sewing choices, and that’s really my favorite aspect of it. Each of the last three years has been wildly different for me, and brought up different challenges: office-appropriate makes, maternity makes, and now full-time-mom style.

I pledged to attempt 100% me-made garments (excluding pjs and underthings), but promised myself I’d go easy and let myself cheat as much as needed. It was surprisingly simple to go nearly 100% me-made, but a few early cheats (before the jeans were finished) really helped me keep my momentum going. I didn’t feel trapped by too many dressy garments, and I just wore what I wanted on most days.

Takeaway: Cheating is good. I wholeheartedly endorse participating with cheating (on your pledge) rather than eschewing the whole thing out of fear (not enough garments, clothes aren’t gram-worthy, etc).

I did end up wearing more dresses and skirts than I normally would. Naturally, jeans and stretchy pants are easier, but dresses were surprisingly not that hard. I loved wearing my basic black M6886 dress (with modified hem and sleeves), and could totally see that being my uniform once I’m done nursing. I did end up changing into pants at some point in most days, usually for our evening park trips. I don’t need to be flashing my neighbors while rolling around and playing with JuJu.

Takeaway: I can wear more skirts and dresses in my everyday life. Also, wearing a couple of different outfits each day is kind of fun, and another way to keep rotating in my favorite me-made garments more often.

I also found myself reaching for some surprising garments pretty often. I wore my brocade coat almost every weekend for bleary-eyed Sunday morning coffee runs. I loved wearing super comfy sweatshirts and leggings with my fancy jacket, and it put a spring in my step. I also wore my new Butterick caftan tee a few times (plus as pjs). I never would’ve guessed that I’d wear a shirt as both daywear and nightwear, but it was a delicious treat to roll around in, essentially, pajamas.

Takeaway: I dunno. Make all the fancy jackets? Make all the pj tops? How about this: make what you moves you, and let your wardrobe surprise you. Sometimes having all your outfits planned and perfect doesn’t leave enough room for surprise favorites.

Like in previous years, the optional “sharing selfies on Instagram” part of the month — which I really enjoy — hammers home that most sewers on Insta are using indie patterns. Like, I could scroll through dozens of posts before coming across a Big 4 project. While it doesn’t feel isolating or anything, it’s always a quirk that gets amplified so much in May that it’s impossible to ignore. I’ve foregone indie patterns for the most part because I have zero problems with Big 4, but I’m wondering if it’s time to branch out a bit. I don’t want to do something just because the cool kids are doing it, but I’m curious as to whether, as a Big 4 fan, I’d find the features other sewers rave about to be noticeable or worthwhile.

Takeaway: If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, maybe see what’s down there.

Instead of trying to sew anything to fill holes (besides the yet-to-be-posted 8222 jeans, which were a last-minute whim anyway), I focused on mending and refashioning. It wasn’t the most fun sewing — starting from scratch is always the most exciting to me! — but it was still satisfying trying to find ways to give old garments new life. Some attempts were busts, and that’s fine — I feel better giving a garment a second (or third) try before giving up on it and sending it to the scrap pile. Also, wearing some older makes helped me look at them with fresh eyes, and a few unexpected garments are now in the “refashion” section of the closet. I hope to continue with this exercise next year, and have May become a “Make Do and Mend” month for me.’

Takeaway: It’s pretty satisfying to put some love into your wardrobe. It’s not as much fun as creating, but it’s a key part of having a handmade wardrobe that really functions.

This year, rather than big takeaways, the whole experience for me was more about having fun and celebrating the sewing community. Wearing 31 days of me-made was not a challenge, and it didn’t feel much different than other months. It was fun to encourage myself to wear different garments instead of my regular defaults, and I do love ending up with a photo record of my wardrobe that updates from year to year.

All in all, a great experience, and I’m definitely “in” for next year already!

Crown Jewels Dress: Butterick 5850 Pattern Review

Oy, this dress, you guys.

When the Royal Wedding Sewalong was announced, I thought it would be totally fun to participate. I had been sewing a ton, and tossing a fun project in the queue, even if I didn’t need a party dress, wouldn’t be a problem. Then I spent half of April torturing myself sewing this dress, only to realize at the end that I’d made a lot (like, a lot a lot) of stupid mistakes. This dress is so lucky it turned out cute, because I was ready to chuck it out the window a number of times.

I’m just going to put it out there: I hate sewing grown-on/shawl collars. I need to not do it for, like, at least another year. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but they never come out crisp and clean for me. They come out kind of sloppy and forced and ugly on the inside. (That’s the nickname for this dress: Ugly on the Inside.)

Because I went into this project all gung-ho, I ended up making three muslins of the bodice. Three. You guys. The funny part is that the joke’s on me. I ended up making a bunch of edits and unneccessary tweaking because I didn’t fully read the instructions. And after having a lovely time marking up my muslin with Crayola washable marker (not joking, it really was fun), I totally disregarded some important marks and didn’t fit the damn thing(s) properly at all. I ignored the directions regarding gathering part of the bodice and just hacked the pieces down because I thought they were too big.

Then, when I went to sew the final garment, it was too small to sew as intended because sometimes I am SO SO DUMB. It sort of works, but there really should be more overlap between the two bodice fronts. I mostly lost the high front neckline, and ended up with a much lower front v-neckline. It’s not bad at all, just not intentional. If I had just made the dress like usual, without muslining, it probably would’ve fit reasonably well. Alas, no.

Sidenote: I seriously debated being all, “I made a bunch of intentional edits because I’m awesome,” but I just can’t. There’s enough smugness on the internet without me pretending I have skills I really don’t. So embarrassing honesty it is.

This is more like what it *should* look like….

There were some edits that were valuable that didn’t totally jack up the fit, so that’s a plus. I slashed out some fullness across the back, which I should always do. That was an easy adjustment to make on the pattern and resulted in a smoother fit across the shoulders. I also cut in the shoulders a bit. I’d read a few reviews that note the finished dress doesn’t have the cut-in shoulders that the cover illustrations show, and I’m happy with that update. In all honesty, I’m really, really trying not to have my takeaway on this project be “don’t muslin, ever,” but it’ll be awhile before the sting goes away. (The real lesson is: don’t sew like a damn idiot, Self.)

Another update includes lining the skirt because my fashion fabric is pretty thin, but I didn’t think through the process. So instead of having a lovely clean finish inside, I have double the mess because I made a lined bodice and lined skirt, and then put them together. (Shaking my head.)

Okay, now that I have all that off my chest, there’s actually a lot to like here.

Aww, I really like this dress in spite of everything!

I love my fabric. It’s just polyester, but the colors are so vibrant and the print is a blast. So blingy! It’s walking the edge of “super tacky and cheesy” and “mildly ironic but in a refreshingly earnest way.” So happy I have more of this fabric, so I can make a cute everyday blouse and/or a slinky nightgown and robe. I’m also thinking it might make a fun lining for a coat project I’m planning for the fall.

Love this fabric, and that pattern placement on the back is totally intentional. For once.

I love that this fabric is lightweight, which ended up working really well for this skirt. The skirt is enormous! Huge! Tremendous! It’s four panels wide, and I can’t imagine gathering that much yardage in a fabric like shantung, which is what I would’ve picked if I didn’t have this fabric in the stash. It’s wonderfully floaty and light and swishy to wear, with the lining (a silky poly-ish of unknown origin) providing some extra body.

I did cut the lining down by half after seeing how much bulk the full gathered skirt had. Thank goodness! My lining would barely gather up in the halved size — I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I’d tried to gather the full four panels together!

I also love the length — long enough to seem a bit formal, but short enough to be playful. It’s just right for me, but of course, it all depends on your height.

Okay, some final notes if you’re interested in making this dress:

  1. If you muslin, make sure to gather at the bottom of the bodice (as clearly laid out in the instructions).
  2. Make sure your fabric can be gathered a lot. While stiff fabric will give you a lovely shape in the skirt, you’ll end up with a bulkier waistline. If you’re fine with that, go for it!
  3. Consider altering the shoulders to be a bit more cut-in if you love the envelope cover.
  4. Consider doubling up on the tie bow (instead of edge finishing both humongous pieces with a narrow hem). I cut double the number of pieces so I could just sew them right sides together, turn the whole shebang, and be done with it, and also so that the fabric underside wouldn’t show. If you have enough fabric, I’d recommend this option.
  5. Also on the ties, consider adding some interfacing or fabric with more body. My bow is really floppy and it kind of takes away from the whole look.

On the whole, this is a really wearable dress. It offers coverage without being boring. The faux wrap front with a side zipper lets you move freely without worrying about moving parts. I just didn’t enjoy making it nearly as much as I enjoyed wearing it.

So, welcome to the closet, my Gem of a Party Dress!

Questionable Sleeves, Party of One: McCall’s 7717 Pattern Review

You know, it must be frustrating at times to be a pattern designer. People make a bunch of edits, use inappropriate fabrics and pretty questionable methods, and then critique your design for not being perfect. So I’m not really critiquing McCall’s 7717, since I did all of those things. That said, I’m not a fan of the final dress — without some updates, that is.

This is a Laura Ashley branded pattern, which makes it extra funny that my husband referred to this as my “scandalous dress” after seeing me in it. Let’s just say that if you want to wear this dress to the office or church, you might want to consider adding a couple of inches to the hem and raising the v-neckline a couple inches as well. It’s pretty clear from the cleavage on the envelope that the low-cut look is intentional, so that wasn’t a surprise, and it’s not actually something I mind at all. (I’m still on my, “not-in-an-office-daily-I-do-what-I-want” kick.)

I think I should start with the edits I made first, in order to provide some context. They aren’t extensive by any means, but they did change the overall look and feel of the dress. The big change was that I made this in a knit — a lovely Liverpool knit from Cali Fabrics. I hadn’t worked with Liverpool knit before (because I’m a super late adopter on, like, everything) and wanted to give it a try. My opinion?

It’s awesome. It’s a thick, kind of clunky double knit, but the crepe-like texture keeps it safely out of ’70s double-knit territory. It has a nice body and weight, meaning that no lining is needed to smooth over bumps and lumps and it’s not transparent. So, with that in mind, I edited out the lining of this dress. Then, of course, I happily edited out the back zipper and cut the back bodice, midriff, and skirt pieces on a fold. Yay for fewer seams!

Fewer seams = more fun!

That made this a pretty simple sew, and the whole thing came together pretty quickly. I finished the neckline with bias tape. Thankfully I had just been practicing on another test garment and got a healthy refresher on bias tape finishing. (Meaning, I totally botched things up a few times on the practice garment. Whoops!) I still interfaced the midriff pieces per instructions, using a knit fusible interfacing. Mixed experience there: the interfacing removed a lot of the stretch, making this dress a wee bit challenging to take on and off, but I think the extra stability is worth it. I’m just not sure what the point of knit interfacing is if the stretch is compromised so much. User error, perhaps?

I also added a couple of darts in the back to finesse the fit a bit. I really need to start doing this on every garment, but I always forget in my new-project enthusiasm. Ideally, I would’ve made the edit to the pattern, not on the actual garment. Fortunately, the print on this fabric obscures them anyway. Actually, the print on this fabric obscures pretty much all the seaming details on this dress. The princess seams and midriff band are pretty much wasted on this print. (It reminds me of the fireworks I would draw as a kid by making successive rings of crayon hashes. Anyone else?)

Seriously, you can’t even see the details. Shrug.

Speaking of the midriff band, it looks like it’s designed to hit close to the natural waist, but ended up sitting higher on me. After trying on the bodice for a fitting, I was hoping it would all come out in the wash, but nope — this dress is more of an empire waist cut on me. Not really a problem, just not what I was expecting. I was expecting an A-line skirt, and that part totally works. I generally prefer a slim silhouette, but this dress has me thinking twice. With the combo of the knit, the print, and the A-line, I can let it all hang out in this dress. It’s super comfortable, and provides solid cover for a brunch buffet belly.

The sleeves are the showpiece of this dress, and that’s where my awesome, comfy, cozy Liverpool glitched out. (Sidenote: I couldn’t get the word “Liverpudlian” out of my head while working on this.) When I said that the thick double-knit didn’t look like it was from the ’70s, I really meant, unless you add giant bishop sleeves. And then you will look like you picked up this dress at a kitschy thrift shop.

Giant sleeve alert! Watch where you’re swinging those things, ma’am!

I don’t think it’s a trainwreck, but I don’t like it. Also, the cuffs ended up being too wide for my scrawny wrists, so that’s not helping the hang of the sleeves. I could have gone back and unpicked the cuffs and tried to rework that detail, but I just didn’t care for the way the bulky knit draped when gathered so tightly. My solution?

Be lazy. (As per usual.)

This is what I do when my husband says, “Act natural.”

I just pushed the cuffs up over my elbows, let the sleeves bag out, and I like it! To me, it just looks like an intentional elbow-length bell sleeve. Plus, I kind of like that this way, I can’t get the sleeve caught on anything — it’s locked down and baby-proofed!

Confession: I didn’t actually finish the cuffs with buttonholes and buttons. I was working against the clock to try to finish this and pack it for a quick vacation. I just stitched a button through all thicknesses on each cuff and called it a day. Thank goodness! It would’ve been a waste of time to go to the effort, as it turns out. Laziness wins again! Sadly, this dress did not get a vacation debut, since it was too damn cold. We went to Carmel during winter’s last gasp. Instead of getting sweet pics with the ocean in the background and feet in the sand, we huddled in our jackets on the beach for about 10 minutes, and you get driveway pics instead. Shrug. I feel like that’s really the story of this dress. Great intentions not quite realized, but a decent time had by all anyway.

Just ignore the gigantic bruise on my leg. No idea where that came from.

Welcome to the closet, my Obscenely Comfy Statement Sleeve Sack!