Monday May 6 - My mom came over and helped me re-pot all of our houseplants, so I wore my practical two piece dress and a thrifted cardigan.
Tuesday May 7 - It was still chilly and I had an art lesson to teach in the afternoon, so I chose a relatively new thrifted sweater to wear tucked in to my homemade brown skirt. The sweater was $1 on sale at Goodwill. I think that it had been left on the rack because it had some loose buttons and other little issues that needed mending. Based on the collar, cut and quality of the wool, I believe that either it is an authentic 1950s sweater, or a very good imitation from a more recent decade. In any case, I'm glad that I bought and fixed it, because it matches this skirt very well.
Wednesday May 8 - Still a chill in the air. I wore my Indian block-print cotton shirt-dress, but made it warmer by also wearing tights and a thrifted cardigan. When I took Gia for her daily walk, I also put on an Indian block print cotton scarf that a friend gave me a long time ago. I don't typically wear much red, but I feel like I'm coming around to it in small doses.
Thursday May 9 - I didn't get a photo that day----sorry. Some days end up unexpectedly stressful. I was wearing homemade clothes, as usual, though.
Friday May 10 - Cleaning day, and I had some errands to walk to, so I wore an old black dress, a thrifted cardigan, a homemade dark brown twill bag (still not blogged yet, sorry! Me-Made-May makes me remember what things I've forgotten to photograph), and my old black clogs. The necklace is silver with an amber drop, a gift from my husband a few years ago.
Saturday May 11 - Here are some of the re-potted houseplants! They all did really well with their transition this year---no casualties and hardly any drooping. I think they're all happy to get fresh soil and bigger pots. Mr Rat and I had a family dinner to attend to celebrate Mother's Day and some May birthdays, so I wore my recent floral and lace pullover dress, as it was finally a nice warm day. It felt good to wear something casual and celebratory. You can also see my most recent dress in progress in the background.
Sunday May 12 - I wore my brown checkered homespun dress. Those of you who remember when I made it last fall might have noticed that I added some more buttons down the front, as I was getting some slight pulling between the original buttons. I think it looks even nicer with more buttons, as the spacing between them is closer to the spacing between the buttons on the long cuffs now. I wore it with a homemade tiger-eye necklace.
This blouse was an experiment. I had a big scrap of fabric left over from making my Easter dress, so I thought that I would test out my idea of taking a dress pattern that I sewed last year, Simplicity 7752 (it is an out of print pattern from the 90s, but it isn't hard to find on Ebay or Etsy if you are looking for your own copy) and making a blouse out of it. Well, it sort of worked, and it sort of didn't.
To make the blouse, I cut out the bodice, sleeves, collar and cuff pattern pieces and left off the skirt. I lengthened the bodice by a good three or four inches, since I knew that on the dress it ends slightly above the waist, and I wanted to make sure it was long enough to reach my waist and get turned up for a hem. Well, that was actually too much length---since I hadn't widened the sides at all, I found that the hem of my blouse bunched slightly around the full gathers of my skirt top. So I ended up taking the first hem that I made and turning it up again. Then it became a rather wide hem, which gives the blouse a rather structured, jacket-like look. In fact, I think that this pattern could make a nice lightweight spring jacket if I was using a heavier cotton or flannel or even a thin denim. My other problem while making this blouse was that the cotton was a little too stiff to ease in well at the shoulders, so I ended up giving them a slight gather at the top. I don't think this looks quite as nice as my first dress version, which has a smooth sleeve cap.
The rest of the construction details are simple: I pinked the inner seams and facing, did the buttonholes by hand, and used thrifted buttons that I've had for several years.
I'm not quite certain about this blouse: while it didn't turn out quite the way I imagined it, it's still wearable and comfortable. I think it could make a good gardening top, especially with the nice flower print. But I feel some doubt that it will become a favorite everyday blouse. I think my adaptation of the original pattern still needs some work----maybe if I try widening the bottom of the blouse so it has a slightly flared look, and maybe also experimenting with the sleeves----short sleeves might look nice. Or maybe I will just stick with sewing this pattern as a dress, since I like the dress that I already made from it.
I think that making this blouse was a good learning process, and I did use up some more of my fabric scraps. If I don't find myself wearing it, even for gardening----it is well made even though it is simple, and I won't feel shame putting in my Goodwill pile to see if someone else wants to give it a home.
What do you do with the clothes that you make when you feel uncertain about them?
Sorry to be a little late posting about the start of Me-Made-May. I've decided this year to not worry about repeating garments or mixing in my vintage sweaters, but to just get dressed as I usually do, and make a record of it. So a lot of my outfits may be very casual-cleaning-studio-work themed. The weather has also been unusually cool and rainy so far this month, so you will see more of my cold-weather wardrobe than in previous years. We will see what weather the weeks ahead hold, and what activities.
I hope that your month is off to a good start! Here is my first week of outfits:
May 1 - Wednesday - I needed to walk to do an errand, so I bundled up in my black flannel dress and tweed wool cape-jacket to keep me warm in the drizzly weather. The bag is one of my recent sewing projects which I have yet to post about on the blog. It is made from a 1970s pattern out of thrifted scraps of denim lined in black cotton. I am also wearing my jewelry set of brown jade that my husband made for me a few years ago.
May 2 - Thursday - Another cold day, spent working at home. I am wearing my homemade shawl collar blouse, a thrifted cardigan, a recently completed ribbon embellished wool skirt that I need to blog about soon (if I can just get more photos of it! The weather hasn't been very cooperative, with all the dark clouds and rain), and my old Lotta From Stockholm clogs. You can't really see it in this photo, but I am wearing a dainty little gold floral vintage necklace with matching earrings.
May 3 - Friday - Cleaning day, so I wore my brown twill jumper over a home-made blouse, along with a thrifted cardigan and boots. My earrings are also homemade, from a set that I made out of red jasper. Not only did I clean, cook, cared for our pets, and did laundry, but I also weeded and planted our little patio garden. I'm eager to see what comes up in the next few weeks.
May 4 - Saturday - My husband and I went out for lunch, so I decided to dress up a little and wear one of my favorite homemade blouses and my homemade long brown skirt. The bag by my feet is another recent sewing project (sewn at the same time as the black bag I used on May 1) made out of remnants of brown twill from my jumper and some brown cotton from a dress that I sewed last year that didn't fit quite right (and thus never made it onto the blog). You can only barely see it, but I'm wearing a vintage scarab bracelet that was once my aunts, and which I have had since I was a little girl.
It's that time of year again! Me-Made-May starts tomorrow. If you haven't heard of it before, you should visit this blog post by founder Zoe of So, Zo What do you Know? I imagine that most of you are already familiar with the challenge, which is to wear your homemade clothes as often as possible throughout the month of May. This will be my third year participating, which means that I've been around for almost a third of the 10 years this challenge has existed on the internet!
My pledge is similar to the last two years: I, Mrs Rat, commit to wearing my homemade clothing every day for the month of May. I will try to wear my handmade garments in new combinations, including my homemade jewelry, bags and other accessories. I will try to document my outfits with photographs, posting them weekly here on the blog. At the end of the month, I will reflect on the things that I've learned and use them to help me plan my sewing projects for the rest of the year.
I hope that I will make it through the month with a photograph every day and a post every week, but recently life has been a bit stressful for Mr Rat and me, so right now I am making my pledge to do the best that I can.
Are you participating in Me-Made-May this year? What's your pledge?
Since I started Fashion Revolution week this year with some ideas of how to use up fabric scraps, I thought that it might be interesting to put together an inspiration post looking at patchwork clothing---another great way to use up those scraps and re-purpose old fabrics. So without further ado:
Seminole patchwork dress. This dress is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I found this photo of it while reading an interesting article that features a brief history of Seminole patchwork on the Pendleton Woolen Mills blog.
Dior crazy quilt dress from their Fall 2018 collection.
1970s dress from the VintageLadyGR etsy shop.
1970s quilt skirt from the VintageChicVA etsy shop.
Bandana patchwork jacket by the Japanese brand Kapital.
How do you like to make sewing plans?
My own process tends to be simple: I sit down in front of our sewing cupboard, take out my book of patterns and flip through them while looking at our folded stacks of fabric. If I think of a combination that I like, then I sketch it in a small notebook, noting any changes or adjustments that I want to make, and look to see if I have all the notions, thread, and trimmings to complete the project that I envision. Then I cut the fabric out and put it in a basket next to my sewing machine, so I can sew it within the next few weeks or months.
But I do sometimes do a little bit more in the planning process, which I will share here:
- Sometimes I like to poke around Pinterest looking for inspiring clothing. While I rarely fully imitate something that I see, I don't think it is a bad thing to make a copy of a garment that you love, so long as it is for personal wear and not to sell (since I think that would be disrespectful to the original designer). But so often, there is something you want to or have to change---whether it is the fabric, the color choices, the trims, or the hem length. Still, when you are stuck and can't think of what you want to make, looking at photos for inspiration can stimulate new ideas. You can also search on Instagram, Etsy, or the Met website, for instance. Do you have any other favorite places to look for inspiration when you are planning out new projects?
-It's also very helpful to check PatternReview, especially if you are trying out a pattern for the first time. Sometimes someone else has made it, and it can be very useful to see what they thought of the pattern, its instructions, construction, etc.
-The other thing that I find helpful when I'm planning out projects is to spend some time pondering my wardrobe, my needs, and my preferences. The best way that I've found to do this is to go through the questions in Colette's Wardrobe Architect at least once a year. Having a page of notes of personal preferences, colors, shapes, and favorite patterns and details is perfect if you want to challenge yourself to sew a capsule wardrobe, or just focus your regular sewing on the practical things that you need and want to wear. Participating in Me-Made-May has always been helpful as well, since I after I complete my yearly challenge I have a month's worth of photos to look at to see which silhouettes and colors I wear most often, what gaps in my wardrobe I still need to fill, and which patterns I should sew again.
What tools and techniques do you use when you are planning out your sewing projects?
Out of the 75 or so garments that I own, only 11 are not homemade. Those 11 items include 6 thrifted items (2 excercise t-shirts, 1 winter coat--which I hope to replace with a homemade one this year, and 3 sweaters), 3 free gifts (my exercise hoody and jacket, which were gifts to my husband, and a turtleneck sweater that I got years ago at a non-profit where I taught drawing classes), and 2 store-bought items (my exercise leggings and an old black t-shirt that I wear under sweaters in the winter time).
That means that 85 percent of my wardrobe is homemade. If you don't include exercise wear, then 92 percent of my daily wardrobe is homemade. I'm slowly learning to crochet, so I hope that as my current sweaters wear out that I will be able to replace them with homemade, too.
The numbers in my closet are pretty similar to last year's. Every year that I've done a wardrobe evaluation, I look at those numbers and think to myself: "I could have a totally homemade wardrobe---I am so close! Maybe by next year it would all be homemade if I replace this or that thrifted item..." But when I'm totally honest with myself, I don't particularly want to sew my own exercise clothes (not to mention that my 1940s Singer doesn't have a zig-zag stitch, so sewing knits is not something I can do easily even if I did want to) or my underthings. I like some of the things that I've found at the thrift store, like the Nordic folk coat decorated with bands of colorful ribbons that I wore all through this past winter. It's okay to not have a wholly handmade wardrobe. Maybe someday I will, but then again, maybe my closet numbers will stay the same from year to year, and that's okay too (so long as my clothes all fit comfortably in my closet).
A closet is a changing thing----shifting to meet new needs, growing for new events, and hopefully, gradually becoming more personal, useful, practical and beautiful over time. Most things that I make get made and worn all the time, but there are still a few that hang wistfully in the corner, not getting used. Those are the ones that I hope to re-purpose or donate. I do this once or twice a year, which is another reason why even though I sew a lot, my closet numbers stay relatively constant.
I'm still working towards that goal of a well-loved closet, full of clothes that last. It's surprising to me sometimes how challenging that goal is---how shifting needs and desires and changes to our bodies and age and lives change the clothes that are needed and wanted. But some things do stay steady: a fondness for certain silhouettes and colors, certain items of jewelry. And that steadiness is reassuring, because even though things do flow and change, our closets remind us that all those clothes are just facets of one's own personality. Sometimes one facet shines in the light, and sometimes another one, but they are all sides of the same thing that we know intimately even as we discover more about it: that is to say, oneself.
Do you do a yearly closet review? What does your review tell you? Do you make goals based on what you know about the numbers in your closet?
Simple, lovely, white peter-pan collar blouse, I made you three years ago when we lived in Santa Clara, California. We were so poor then, and I sewed often to help myself feel clothed in dignity while I walked everywhere because we couldn’t afford a car. I bought your pattern quite cheaply online, only to be disappointed that a piece of the matching jumper tissue was missing. But you were all there, blouse! And I was happy to try you, and liked you so much when I first put you on. You were my ideal blouse: simple, feminine, with a slightly puffed sleeve, pretty cuffs, and a nice round collar. You fit so well, with enough ease to be comfortable, and shoulders that were narrow enough for my small frame. I remember taking my time working on you, even though you were made from an old, thrifted cotton sheet. I used shell buttons I’d harvested from an old shirt, and sewed up all the insides of the seams by hand to make them neat, and made my button-holes slowly and painstakingly by hand, too. I wanted you to be crisp and perfect----to make me feel good. And you did. And you still do, every time that I put you on. I’ve worn you to church and to the library, to family photos (you looked better in them than I did, blouse), to the park, to museums. I’ve worn you in sunshine and rain and snow. And I hope to keep wearing you wherever I go. I also hope to make some more sister-blouses from your pattern. Blouse, you don’t let me down: you are formal, you are informal----you can and do go everywhere. I’m grateful for you.
All sewers face the dilemma of what to do with the fabric scraps left over at the end of a project. Most of us have boxes or bags or baskets of scraps taking up valuable space in our sewing storage. Finding ways to use those scraps makes our sewing pursuits more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and thrifty, too. Using scraps is a practice with historical roots: from the crazy quilts of the English Victorians to the boro patchwork or tiny fabric gifts called “omiyage” of the Japanese, who had a saying that if a scrap of fabric was large enough to hold three beans that it was large enough to keep and reuse. Fabric waste is a growing problem around the world with terrible environmental effects. Using up even the little scraps left over shows that we value the resources that went into the creation of the fabric that we use and the people who made it. When we re-use and re-cycle, we are doing our part to help make this world a little bit better place.
In honor of Earth Day and Fashion Revolution Week, I’ve put together a list of ways to use up scraps. Probably you’ve thought of many of these same ideas yourself, but maybe some of them are new to you, and hopefully all of them are interesting enough to inspire.
Do you have any other ideas or methods that you’ve used to use up fabric scraps?
This week marks the sixth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,138 people and injured 2,500 more, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. Every year, the organization Fashion Revolution has marked that week with regret and respect by drawing attention to the dangers of the fashion industry, and prompting people everywhere to ask the question: “who made my clothes?”
And not just that question, but the many more that come afterwards: were they paid well? Where do they work? How did the fabric of my clothes get made, and where is it from? Are my clothes harming other people or this Earth?
There are lots of interesting resources on the Fashion Revolution website, if you take a look. They have fan-zines, events all over the world, and ways to participate by (among other things) asking brands, manufacturers, and policy-makers for more transparency and change in the way fashion is produced.
Reading about the current state of fashion is shocking: According to the Fashion Revolution website, in the USA alone, 10.5 millions tons of clothing are sent to landfills every year. That’s about 30 times as heavy as the Empire State Building. When you add facts about how much water and other resources it takes to create new fabric, how little clothing makers are compensated for the work they do in very poor conditions, and many other mind-boggling statistics----suddenly it is easy to comprehend how high the cost truly is for cheap, fast fashion.
Since we as sewers and seamstresses have the skills to make our own clothes, there are many things that we can do to reduce our own participation in the cruel cycle of fashion, and to hopefully help raise more awareness of the value of the clothes that we make and wear----and the great value of sewing, even in this modern, post-industrial world.
Since Fashion Revolution week, Earth Day, and Arbor Day all overlap this year, I thought that I would celebrate them in a small way by putting up a post every day. So, starting tomorrow, here are the posts coming up this week:
1.Ways to Use Up Fabric Scraps
2.Loved Clothes Last: A Love Letter to my Homemade Blouse
3. Yearly Closet Review
4. Making Sewing Plans
5. Inspiration: Patchwork
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.