My main handmade gift this year wasn't sewing related, since I ran out of time to make Mr Rat something on our Singer. But I did have time to make a chess set for him out of oven-bake clay and seed beads. We found a chess board earlier in the year at the thrift store, but didn't have any pieces to play on it. When he opened up this particular Christmas box, Mr Rat was really surprised and excited-----which made me pleased that I had spent the time making something personal for him and me that we will use for years to come. I think that the total cost was about $12 worth of clay and about three hours of molding it and another hour and half to bake the pieces.
(In case you are wondering: Ryan's set is the potted cacti collection, and my set is the team of white rats).
Mr Rat and Gia ---- walking into the future
Before we make new goals, I’d like to take a moment to see how I did with last year’s goals.
-We definitely used a lot of thrifted fabrics, buttons, trims and sheets for our sewing projects. I think we did a good job saving money by continuing to purchase most of our supplies second-hand and sticking to our budget.
-I did sew more skirt sets, and many of the things I sewed mix and match well. I didn’t make a capsule wardrobe, per se, but I think that I’m gradually moving in that direction as I increasingly plan and cut out several projects at a time.
-I did challenge my sewing skills with a vintage Vogue and a Folkwear pattern, but I still haven’t sewn either of my Jean Muir patterns yet. Still, I learned how to make tucks and pleats, among other things.
I think that we did well with our goals for 2018, and the ones that we’ve made for 2019 have a lot in common with last year’s:
-To use what we have: as I mentioned in the last post of year-end reflections, Mr Rat and I already have enough fabric in our cabinet to keep us busy all year long, and many patterns that we haven’t tried out yet. I think we are getting better and better about being selective about what we purchase, especially since we don’t have a lot of storage space. So this is still a goal for us going forward: to use what we have, and to make minimal purchases that aren't to help us finish projects that we already have the supplies and patterns for. I am interested in learning some basic pattern drafting and adjustments, so I can take patterns that I already know fit well and give them different sleeves or necklines or collars, etc. I have two sewing books that cover some of this information----perhaps 2019 will be the year when I crack them open and give them a try! If you, too, are interested in stash-busting over the next year, I thought that this series of blog posts called "Stash Less," by the Craft Sessions, were really interesting reading.
-Mr Rat wants to make 2019 his year of pants-making. He hasn’t found a pattern that he really likes yet, so he is going to focus on trying out his various pants patterns and getting a good fit. He also has some shirts made with tried-and-true patterns planned out (and one in progress).
-I would like to do a couple of slow projects over the next year: the first being my brown wool coat that I’ve already cut out and need to start sewing. I’d also like to try to make an embroidered blouse, and maybe also some more heavily embellished dresses, with pin-tucks or ribbon trims or eyelet edging. My favorite dresses are monochromatic, or the trims vary only in shade or are simple white on black contrast. I will keep that in mind as I plan out some more complex projects to do alongside my simpler ones.
-Another goal that we have together is to try to be more regular about taking photos of our projects (there were quite a few that never got photographed this past year) and posting. It would be great if we can post once a week, but even twice a month would be a very respectable goal. I think it might also be nice if we tried out some other kinds of posts, as well: sewing and pattern-drafting tutorials, outfit posts where we take a photo of our previously finished sewing projects and how we wear them differently from day to day (and year to year), maybe some more posts about jewelry making (I haven’t done any of those in a long time!), inspiration, historical, and discussion posts, how to repair and maintain clothing and accessories, and thrift store/antique store finds.
What are your new year’s sewing goals? Do you make sewing goals, or just go with the flow of what the year brings you? Are there any types of posts that you’ve enjoyed reading here on the blog and wish we would do more often? Or types of posts we’ve never tried that you would be interested in reading? I can’t promise that we will manage to do many different posts than our normal pattern reviews right away, but we are curious about what you are interested in----this blog is a conversation with you, the readers, as well as being a document of our sewing-related endeavors and it’s always nice to know what you are thinking about.
I think that this year I will write my end of the year sewing reflections in a slightly different format, looking at Mr Rat's and my successes and misses through the year in some detail so we can use that list to help plan for next year. One of the things I’ve learned from two years of participation in Me-Made-May is that being thorough in reflecting on past projects does make for clearer and more cohesive thoughts when putting together future projects. This might take a while, and may not be too interesting to anyone but myself, so feel free to speed-read or even skip through this post if you are busy. So here is my (I think complete---hopefully I haven’t missed any projects) list of 2018 sewing projects:
Blogged Successes –
McCalls 7291 tweed cape-jacket
McCalls 4968 grey wool jumper dress
Simplicity 5639 square neck pullover blouse- both black and muslin versions
McCalls 6209 navy flannel dress
Simplicity 7880 and Simplicity 7460 tan striped skirt and blouse set
Simplicity 9470 navy camp shirt with tie sleeves
Folkwear Lindy Dress - dark red floral Indian cotton shawl-collar 40s style shirtdress (my sister ended up giving this back to me as it wasn’t quite the right fit for her, and I’ve worn it a lot more than I thought I would when I first finished it---so this one is a surprise success for me)
Butterick 6914 brown check empire waist maxi dress
All of Mr Rat's projects were successes: his tan linen shirt, his new rayon aloha shirt, and his as-yet-unblogged flannel pajamas.
As Yet Unblogged Sucesses - (some of these got worn during Me-Made-May, so there are a few photos of them above, and others are recently finished makes from the fall of which I have no photographs at all----yet)
Simplicity 3573 striped cotton nightdress (previous version of this pattern blogged about here)
Simplicity 3573 robe pattern sewed up as a lightweight denim coat - see photo above
Simplicity 8131 brown cotton voile tie-neck blouse (previous version of this pattern blogged about here) - photo above
Simplicity 7886 blue roses cotton maxi dress - photo above, from Me-Made-May 2018
McCalls 3483 rust colored corduroy smock dress
Muslin peasant blouse – I’ve lost the vintage pattern that I used, so unfortunately I can’t give you the patter number, but I changed the sleeves from a gathered long sleeve to a elbow length cropped sleeve anyway, so it looks rather different than when I first finished it. I like it a lot though, and when this version wears out, I think that I will take it apart and use it to make a pattern for future versions.
Maybe Successes? (these are patterns that fit well, but I’m still trying to see if these particular garments that I made from them will have a permanent place in my wardrobe)
Simplicity 8611 golden jumper dress
Simplicity 7752 little pink flowers peter pan collar dress
Butterick 6469 light blue gingham maxi dress
Simplicity 7880 and Simplicity 5204 green skirt and vest set
Butterick 3846 high waisted wide leg denim jeans (unblogged)
McCalls 6209 rose print cotton dress
McCalls 4038 birthday patchwork maxi prairie dress – this is a beautiful dress, but I doubt I will make this pattern again because the fit is very snug! And the style is not particularly suited to my everyday wear with a shaped and faced hem that is so long that I have to wear heeled clogs underneath to not trip while walking.
Simplicity 8620 white wide collared blouse – this blouse pattern only looks good in softer, more flowing fabrics, and my choice of white cotton was just too crisp. I ended up giving away this pattern this year because despite several tries at sewing it (I did like the shape of those sleeves a lot) I never liked the way the blouses tended to untuck themselves at the sides while I wore them. I think this is because they had no bust darts to give them shape and keep the sides neat.
Butterick 3953 striped top – this pattern didn’t have enough ease at the hips to sit nicely over my full skirts. I also haven’t been wearing scooped necklines often since we moved to Utah because my skin has become very sensitive in the dry and polluted air of the Salt Lake valley. I ended up giving this blouse away, even though I liked the fabric and the trim.
Simplicity 9486 gingham maxi dress – even though I let the seam allowances out a bit while I was sewing it, this dress ended up being uncomfortably tight around the rib cage. I ended up unpicking the zipper and saving it and turning the bottom of this dress into a skirt, which will probably appear on this blog sometime next year.
Simplicity 7460 v neck floral blouse – I like my second version of this pattern so much better. The v neck ended up being a little too low and because the blouse is so loose, it would shift around as I wore it, which made keeping the neckline modest quite difficult.
Vogue 1231 – this dress was a great learning project: I learned to make a pleated skirt and to do tucks, and I followed the rather complicated and sometimes vague instructions of a vintage Vogue pattern for the first time. But I didn’t end up wearing the finished dress very often---the pale blue tended to stain, and I didn’t end up liking the big bow on a looser silhouette on me very much----I think it exaggerates my child-like body shape. I’m also not a big fan of elastic waists, even when it is rather well hidden, as this one was.
McCalls 2592 and Simplicity 7880 in green and pink Indian-style cotton. I think I didn’t end up wearing this set often because of the color. It looked just fine! But it isn’t a color that I turn to often, so I rarely picked it out of my closet, and wore my previous denim version from last year far more often.
Simplicity D0739 1950s skirt in tan twill. This pattern is fine, but I need to start using waistband interfacing and maybe go down to a size 8. I don’t much like the way most of my previous versions slide around on my waist after I’ve tucked my blouse in, and this particular pale tan twill tended to get Gia’s hair stuck all over it, which made it hard to wear.
What I’ve learned from my lists: I’ve been productive this year! I think I’ve averaged 2-3 finished garments a month. Mr Rat finished three projects this year---probably not so surprising given that he’s had to work long hours and our weekends have been busier than ever with lots of family events to attend. Knowing our average sewing output is really helpful when making sewing plans for next year. Looking over our fabric choices in our sewing cabinet, I can see that Mr Rat and I already have enough fabric for a year’s worth of projects. This means that we should be realistic and buy little or no fabric this year if we want to use up most of what we already have.
Knowing our sewing output and also my disappointment that five of my outfits that I sewed I ended up giving away (and that there are another couple of projects that I’m still on the fence about) makes me think that I need to be more organized in the way that I plan projects. Usually I keep a paper in my pattern notebook with a list of things I’ve learned about my preferences from doing Colette’s Wardrobe Architect. This year I was experimental and strayed from my favorite colors, prints (or lack thereof----if I am being honest with myself, I don’t wear a lot of prints from day to day) and silhouettes fairly often. While sometimes this worked out surprisingly well, oftentimes it ended up that I made something that I found interesting and pretty but didn’t want to wear very often. So I think I need to refocus my color scheme back to my favorites: black, white, navy, grey, brown, blue and cream. And I think it will be helpful if I plan out my sewing projects a month in advance, or even two or three months at a time, ‘capsule wardrobe’ style. This will help me make garments that are more versatile and worn longer, I hope. I won’t give up on experimenting altogether, but maybe I will limit projects that stray from my list to once every two or three months, working on things that I know will be practical and useful the rest of the time.
I’ve found making this list and pondering it very helpful as I’ve started putting together a post about Mr Rat’s and my sewing goals for next year. I think that I will try to make a year's end list again next December, too. Are there any methods or tools that you’ve found especially helpful as you plan out your sewing projects? Do you make year end reflections on your sewing, or new year’s goals? I’m curious to hear about your process, if you want to share in the comments.
I was sad to not get this dress finished and photographed during the fall, as I had intended when I got the fabric for my birthday and started sewing it in November. But even though I didn't finish the last of the buttonholes until December, it isn’t so inappropriate for the brown and grey shades of a milder winter’s day---so long as I wear my thrifted vintage sheepskin boots and my homemade crocheted shawl with it.
This fabric is homespun cotton in a tiny gingham check/plaid from JoAnn fabrics, making it the rare fabric that we bought on sale at the fabric store rather than buying it second-hand. The buttons are from JoAnns, too, and the zipper that closes the dress in the side seam. This was my first time trying out 1970s-era Butterick 6914. I am very pleased with the comfortable fit, and I also like that there is no zipper going up the middle of the back like most patterns. Side-zippers can make getting dresses on and off a little slower, but they have the advantage of being far more invisible. I like the sleeves with their long, deep cuffs (so long that they are curved and faced, rather than folded like a shorter, straight cuff would be) and I think the little pocket on one side of the skirt is an interesting detail. It gives it an apron-like feel, just right for working and cooking and painting and sewing----you can stow any number of little things in a useful patch pocket like that.
The homespun drapes nicely, but has a tendency to warp and fray. I interfaced the top of the patch-pocket to help keep it from stretching out, used bias binding to finish the inside of the waist seam (as well as acting as a waist stay), and was careful to finish all the seams on the machine rather than pinking them as I normally would for cotton fabrics. I edge-stitched all my seams, as usual, to help keep them crisp and make them more durable. I've noticed with my vintage empire-waist dress patterns that the bust darts tend to be very deep and will end up very pointy if I don't stitch right along the edge of the fabric for a good half-inch or so at the end of the bust dart to help flatten it out. I also suspected that the sleeves wouldn't ease in smoothly at the tops (in previous patterns I've tried from the 1970s I've found that the sleeves tend to have excess ease) so I did a little extra gathering at the very top of the sleeve-head to make the extra fabric look purposeful, and I think that I was successful. The buttonholes are done by hand, and took me a long time, since they are rather large and there are quite a few between the bodice and those lovely long cuffs. The other thing that delayed my finishing this dress was getting Mr Rat's help pinning up the hem. Since the sides are cut on a curve, they stretched out and I couldn't just turn and hem the bottom the way I would with a dirndl-style skirt.
I think that prewashing homespun fabric before you cut into it is very important, since it is a little stiffer with sizing when it comes straight off the bolt, and gets very soft after even one wash. All that said, I like how my first homespun dress turned out, and will definitely use this fabric again if the opportunity arises.
In these photos that Mr Rat took at the park, I’m also wearing one of my homemade capes for extra warmth and a brown jade necklace and earrings that Mr Rat made me as a gift several years ago.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.