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Why Bother to Learn Sewing?

Why do I want to learn to sew my own clothing?

As a knitter who’s purchased $30 merino-cashmere-nylon sock yarn to make hand knit socks, I’m certainly under no illusions that it will be cheaper to sew my own clothes versus buying them (at least, not in the short run — more on that later). Most of us sock knitters have been asked why we bother to knit socks, when you can buy them so cheaply, and my answer to that will likely cross over to many of my reasons for wanting to learn how to sew: above all, fit; choice of materials; and pride of making something lovely with good techniques.

bayerischeAs a former Army officer, and as a veterinarian, I love the simplicity of uniforms.  I don’t have to think about what I’m going to put on when I dress for work at a vet clinic. I toss on a pair of scrubs and occasionally a lab coat.  I have a comfortable pair of clogs, and I wear my Bayerische socks.  I love that.  I get to wear comfortable clothes, suitable for my job. If I want to get on the floor with a big dog (or even medium or little dog!), I can easily do so in scrubs.

I have two main sets of scrubs, both in black. I have two scrub tops from 1st Care for working their vaccine clinics (the company uniform is black pants, with their blue scrub tops). I have one additional, older pair of scrub pants bottoms in turquoise-y green that can be paired with a black scrub top, but I rarely wear those.

It’s a good thing I don’t need an extensive work wardrobe. We have a small house, about 900 square feet. It’s also an older home, built in the 1920s, and as such, it has tiny closets, and small bedrooms.  There’s just not a lot of storage space. I share our bedroom closet with Dave; including winter jackets that only get worn if we go somewhere snowy, I get a little over half of the closet.  I also have a bookcase that I used for everything that doesn’t get hung up in the closet.  Work out clothes, jeans, sweaters, and underwear (along with a few miscellaneous items) are folded and placed on the shelves.

The idea of a capsule wardrobe, where you have a limited number of items that fit and that you love, from which you draw your daily outfits, really, really appeals to me.  I’ve not gone through and counted my items that I wear for non-work, non-working-out activities, but I’d be pretty surprised if it’s more than 37. Given I live in coastal Southern California, my wardrobe doesn’t change too much over the seasons, so I have that in my favor!  I tend to wear the same things over and over: jeans, a striped cotton sweater, a red patterned tank, a denim skirt, a corduroy skirt, a black tank top (I have two of those), and a chambray shirt. All go with my black Tieks ballet flats that I’ve worn so much they’re getting close to needing to be replaced.  (I do have a pair of cowboy boots I adore but rarely wear.)

I also feel that the idea of slow fashion is critically important for so many big reasons, including conservation of our world’s resources and humane working conditions for employees in garment factories. Here’s a more recent article from NPR. Have you read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion?  It’s well worth reading.

This all means I want to have a simple non-work wardrobe of clothing that:

  • Fits well and comfortably
  • Is well made with fine finishing details and construction
  • Will both last a long time and be stylish until it wears out beyond repair
  • I love to wear, that makes me happy

Fit is one of the hardest things. I hate shopping, I hate trying on clothes, I hate ending up with something that just seems good enough because I can’t find anything else.

Good construction goes hand in hand with fit — things that are poorly constructed don’t maintain their fit.  Good construction is, if you can find it, expensive (as it should be, to fairly compensate people for their work) — and this is the point at where it might make economic sense to sew your own items.

I believe, if I learn to sew, that I can construct a wardrobe, over time, that meets those bullet points.


First-ever quilt block!

Finally a post with a picture of something I did!

I’m taking the free BOM (block of the month) class at Craftsy.  I really, really don’t like the first block, the asterisk block, but I do like the second (which uses the same technique, sew & slash), the wonky pound sign.

Here’s my block!  I’m going to the do the quilt in black, white/ivory & greys.  I saw some lovely monochromatic quilts at our local quilt shop, Nina’s.  I purchased 2 fat quarters;  I figure as I build this, I’ll choose fabrics based on the blocks as well as what grabs me at the moment.

The original block wasn’t supposed to have a border.  I had to add one because of, shall we say, my learning curve with my machine, the presser foot  (learning precisely what marking was 1/4″ vs 3/8″), pressing seams to the darker fabric precisely so the thin strips don’t puff up (basically I need to pull the fabric flat to I can  press right against the line of stitches), and my tendency (which I’m working on) to have the fabric just a wee bit on the outside of the line, as opposed to right on the line.

Nonetheless, I’m quite pleased with it.  In fact, since I’m working on a project for my mom, I might even do a second one in her fabrics.


2012: Non-knitting but still crafty goal

Goals need to be quite specific to actually be workable.  I’ve touched on this in the previous posts, but to summarize, for a successful goal you need to:

  • Be specific.
  • Identify measurable, attainable steps.
  • Set a timeline.
  • Periodically reassess (more than just yearly, lol!) & update

Here’s an example.

‘Spinning more’ is not really a good goal. ‘Spinning 10 minutes daily after dinner’ is better — it includes a duration and time of action.  But I think it’d be better to give even more specific parameters — what fiber to use?  learn different draws?  etc.

Then I should look at what I really want to accomplish with my spinning — which is, actually, to create yarn that meets my standards from some of the nice fleeces I have.

All of a sudden I have a lot more to think on.  That spinning 10 min per day is really to get me more comfortable with spinning, my wheel, etc.

At some point I need to really learn how to reliably create a certain type of yarn.  I need to learn how to ply efficiently & well.

At this point, I should start brainstorming for all the steps I need to take to attain the skills I need to accomplish this, and set a time frame for each.

Do I need to find a teacher?  take a class? If yes, find a teacher & set up an appointment.  Find a class & enroll.  Find some good youtube videos if nothing else!

Finally, I need to check in on this weekly.  Any longer, and if I’m not keeping up, I’ll keep postponing things.

And, um, for right now, the above is just an example.  I think I’m going to just keep spinning at picking up the Trindle ever so often.  No stress, no expectations, no plans.


Nonknitting-but-still-crafty Goal

I’m going to have one main non-knitting goal this year:  Sewing!  I want to learn to sew this year.

(See, I can rein in my overachieving tendencies. Hah.)

Applying the above:  what do I specifically want to accomplish?  I want to learn a variety of skills through accomplishing several specific projects (still need to come up with the specifics on the skills, but I’m thinking things like darts, zippers, different ways of seaming, adapting patterns to fit me, and so on).

I’ve already made some pillows for Mel, via the Sewing Studio Craftsy class.

I want to make at least one skirt, one dress, and one blouse (some of the dresses either have blouse options or cute bodices that can become blouses), and a quilt.

I’ve signed up for the free block of the month club at Craftsy. For Christmas, Rosemary got us two reference books on sewing: The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing & the Singer book.  I’ve scouted out and purchased patterns for a skirt and a couple dresses.

I have fabric for the skirt, a dress & a blouse;  fabric for my mom’s pillow; and fabric for the first block I’m going to do.

(Dave is going to work on the quilt with me; he wants to learn to do some t-shirt quilts down the road.)

What I still need to do is figure out, hmm, when.  I’d like to have the skirt in time to wear to TNNA (that’s in a couple weeks).  I’d like to finish the first quilt block by then.  I think that at least the square is possible, and I can extend the timeframe on the skirt to, say, Madrona.  The fabric for the skirt, by the way, is this gorgeous red and cream and aqua and brown and black paisley. I already have a couple outfits planned.


Early December DIPs etc

California Revival Knits:  No change in the projected timelines.  The goal is still to get the book to the printer around Christmas, with the PDF available then, and with print copies to follow in a couple weeks.  Thank you so much to everyone who’s preordered it!  (If you haven’t yet, don’t forget there’s a discount code here;  or, if there are other Cooperative Press books on your wish list (and trust me, they’re all awesome!), Shannon’s running a Christmas special through the Cooperative Press newsletter (sign up here).)

Did you see the previous interviews with yarnies Marilyn King of Black Water Abbey and Jeane de Coster of Elemental Affects?  I’ll be posting another interview this week.

Don’t forget also to check out Wendy’s progress on her Wrought Cardi on her podcast, Knit 1, ❤ Too.  She’s joined the fronts & backs and it looks gorgeous.

MFPP:  One of the patterns is still on the cusp of being ready for test knitting.  I should get it done this week, but….

WWW (the acronym for the next super sekrit book):  …I’m hoping to get the body of the cardigan DIP done this week (and ideally started on the sleeves). This cardi is a pattern I’ve been working on off & on for a while.  It’s in Black Water Abbey yarn, and I’ve posted about it in the past on this blog.  It’s found a wonderful home in this new book, both style & colorwise.  Bonus points (or?)  to anyone who guesses which it is & comments on this post!

I also want to do some charting and swatching for another of the patterns, a hat (to be done in wonderful Sunday Knits yarn).

I’ve also been brainstorming for some of the other patterns, making sketches, and so on.

Other stuff: Dave and I purchased a sewing machine.  He actually sews;  he’s made a ‘metal jacket’ where he’s appliqued all sorts of patches onto his jean jacket.    He’s also applied all sorts of metal studs (not shown on that picture).   He wants to make more, and perhaps sell them at metal shows, or make them to order.  Welcome, hon, to the world of crafting!

He also wants to get a black canvas apron and make a ‘metal apron’ for when he’s doing his ‘black metal cooking’.  He does cook;  he grills, and he makes a wonderful beef filet, roasted, sliced thin, and served on crostini with whipped horseradish cream.

After doing a quick web search, I’m thinking he’ll need to sew up an apron in some very heavy duty fabric, then applique his patches.

Last year Rosemary and I went to the Purl SoHo warehouse in Tustin.  I bought some SHELTER and buttons;  I can’t remember if Rosemary purchased anything.  We did browse the fabrics, and of course, I immediately gravitated towards the Liberty of London.  Upon seeing the price per yard, apparently I made some sort of comment along the lines of “Good thing I don’t sew!”

Upon browsing their blog the Purl Bee, I immediately gravitated toward this miniquilt, the Circular Applique.  Guess what fabric….yep, Liberty of London.  At least I’m consistent.

We’re planning on visiting the warehouse this week.