Thursday, July 31, 2014

Personal Summer Sewing Challenge

This summer I set a goal of sewing clothes for myself.  I was unsure how the start to the summer would unfold and we found ourselves afloat for a couple weeks due to a death in the family, bad weather (tornadoes) and no summer camp schedule to speak of.  We were adrift for a bit, but I had dreams and thoughts of sewing clothes to keep me anchored (and sane) and therefore the kids happy.  When I was able to schedule them with an activity I slipped away to my own activity and peace reigned for at least 20 minutes at a stretch.

I am very new to sewing clothes for adults.  I have made kids costumes here and there and done some quilting, but never anything that required measurements and fit.  I really didn't know where to start.  I reached out to a friend, and the internet, and then dove in.

Two tips I picked up pretty quickly were: 1. Make a (wearable) muslin out of cheap fabric and 2. Pick the pattern size based on your measurements, not your clothing size.

My first three patterns to try were: 1. The Wiksten Tova, 2. The Washi Dress and 3. The Schoolhouse Tunic.

Coincidentally my neighborhood sewing shop (The Sewcial Lounge) was offering a class on the Wiksten Tank which I also signed up for.  What a great experience!  I learned so many little tricks and tips that I felt quite accomplished when I was done.  I learned how to sew in bias for the armholes and use a sewing gauge.  And while it wasn't a pattern I had initially picked out for myself it made a great top and starting point for my other projects. 

My first tank (top left in first photo), that I made during the class, is a wearable muslin out of generic quilting cotton.  [I don't particularly care for the fabric pattern, but it was a good trial run and now has been worn camping and weeding the garden a few times this summer.]  I walked out of the store wearing my new tank top and the confidence to move on to something a bit more ambitious. 

The other three tanks I made to add to my summer wardrobe and I consistently wear at least 2 each week.  They came together very quickly and in about 4 separate 20-minute windows (cutting, sewing, armholes and neckline/serging seams).  The blue is from some Ghanaian fabric a friend brought home for me from travels abroad, the yellow is a quilting cotton that is softening after many washes, and the voile is a lovely Anna Maria Horner print that I found on sale.

Once I had the tank down I moved on to the Washi Dress.  My first go at that was not good - I made a dress entirely too big and learned the real value of making a muslin.  My second attempt at a wearable muslin was much better.  I opted for the tunic length, reasoning that I would save on fabric while getting a better fit and then could do the dress next.  The teal/green tunic above is out of quilting cotton from my stash and I do wear this top out in public.

Then came the dress, made from a cotton voile from JoAnn fabrics.  It turned out about as wonderful and I could have expected for my first dress.  The shirring is not straight and I didn't bother to change the thread color for the facing.  But it fits reasonably well and the hem is straight.  I am excited to make another (with the notch and sleeves this time) in another lightweight fabric.  Maybe a soft linen or another voile.  I love the sleeveless look for this one too.  A great all-around summer sun dress.

Two other details to note are the serged seams (!!) and 'handmade' tags.  The serger was a gift from my husband this spring and I am in love with it.  The finished seams make all the difference in a wearable garment.  And the tags were a gift from a dear friend.  They add the perfect touch this this first set of clothes.

I have taken to calling these items the Summer '14 collection.

And with August starting tomorrow I only have a few weeks before we roll over into the Fall '14 collection (smile).  I have yet to tackle the Wiksten Tova - I tried it out in and the muslin is too big.  Back to the cutting table for that one.  And I also worked on a muslin for the Schoolhouse Tunic.  This one fits well everywhere except just below the bust, where it is too tight.  I am puzzling how to extend the pattern piece to give myself a bit more 'below bust ease' so it all comes together well.