Striped Jenna Cardi

I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot of praise in the sewing community for the idea of “slow sewing”—of pulling back on the rush to make all the things and instead investing more time in the process of each project and finding joy in more time-intensive finishing techniques with the hope of creating more thoughtful, longer lasting finished garments. But like a lot of things that get a bit romanticized (minimalism, tiny houses, eating locally, etc.), there just isn’t quite as much shine to the idea when you’re forced into it by circumstance rather than consciously choosing it. Or, at least, that’s how I’ve been feeling as someone who is doing a lot of “slow sewing” just because that is all I am capable of accomplishing right now.

fullsizeoutput_643

Take this cardigan, for instance. I cut the pattern out in March 2017. I put it aside because I was pregnant and simultaneously wanted to work on some maternity projects and felt too overwhelmed to deal with stripe matching. I had the baby in August, and I managed to put some fusible knit stay tape on the shoulders around Christmas that year. I think I serged the shoulder seams over Spring Break in 2018. And then once my classes had wrapped up in May and I had a few days where I was able to send Jude to daycare while I stayed at home doing whatever I pleased/trying to recover a bit from the most exhausting period in my life, I was able to sew up the rest of the cardigan.

Obviously, this is not what people have in mind when they talk about slow sewing. And I actually do completely understand wanting to get outside of the feeling that we’re supposed to be constantly producing more. I’m just a tiny bit salty right now because sometimes trying to get something sewn up feels like slogging through a mud pit while dragging a bunch of bricks behind me.

fullsizeoutput_624

It doesn’t really matter though—getting something done is better than nothing. And thankfully getting this project finished and off my sewing table set off a steadier (although still slow) stream of sewing activity.

This is the Jenna Cardi from Muse Patterns, made using the expansion pack that includes a v-neck. I’ve made this pattern once before (when I said that sewing a cardigan felt like cheating to me as a knitter since it’s such a fast process—Ha!), and I made zero changes to the pattern from the last time I made it. That turned out to be a little bit of an issue, since I experienced the same problems I encountered the last time I sewed it, especially with the ease in the sleeves. I did a basted fit on the sides after attaching the sleeves and ended up taking about 2” of width out of the sleeve and sleeve cuff. Based on my experience with this project last time, I also used one less button than called for in the pattern, which I think works better.

fullsizeoutput_626

Since I cut this out pre-baby, it is made to my pre-baby measurements, which I can’t actually remember but are about a size smaller than I currently wear. The result is totally wearable—I don’t think it looks like it’s too small or like the buttons are about to bust open. It just means that it has a tendency to ride up a bit at the front if I wear it closed. That’s not a huge deal since I almost always wear cardigans open anyway. The fabric is a cotton-spandex blend that I bought from Fabric.com. It was listed as a sweater knit but it’s actually a really nice and soft French terry.

The big surprise with this project was finding that I don’t actually have much in my closet to layer underneath this cardigan. I’ve mostly been wearing it with a black t-shirt underneath. I should spend some time playing around with some of the shirts I have to see if there is an unexpected combo that might work and allow me to get a bit more mileage out of this combo. Maybe I’ll get around to that next May. Lol.

img_4966

 

 

Better Late Than Never: MMMay18 Reflections

I know most people are probably well over Me Made May (how is it already July!?), but I never got around to summing up my thoughts and experience this year. We seem to have packed all of our summer excitement in the first part of the season so I’ve either been busy or just haven’t felt like blogging for the past several weeks.

Anyway, my pledge for this year was to wear one handmade garment at least five days a week and to spend at 20 minutes a day sewing. The second part of the pledge was, in my mind, the crux of the challenge I gave myself. Since I had Jude, I’ve really struggled to find time for sewing so I really wanted to prioritize carving out little spaces of time when I could get back to my machine and work on some projects for myself.

img_5741

I kept track of both parts of my pledge on paper. Wearing a handmade garment five times a week wasn’t a problem, and I managed more than five days most weeks, although my wardrobe is so small right now that I was doing laundry frequently. I also managed to squeeze in sewing time nearly every day—I think I only missed five days, and four of those were days were days when we had visitors. During that sewing time, I managed to complete two projects that I’m looking forward to blogging soon: a striped Jenna cardi that I cut out more than a year ago and a black voile Willamette shirt.

img_4966

Striped Muse Jenna Cardi

img_5253

Hey June Willamette

Aside from two finished garments, here is what I took away from my challenge this year:

  1. I really do like my handmade clothes best of all. I’m still firmly an advanced beginner sewist, I am not a master of fit, I make a lot of boring basics, and I am not the kind of person to invest in really high quality fabric. And yet—the things I’ve made myself seem to fit better, feel more comfortable, and make me feel better about myself than the stuff I purchase from stores. This was a worthwhile reminder for me because while I tend to keep a pretty spare closet, I am especially low on clothes right now. Having a baby didn’t just change my body size and shape—it has also changed which styles I find most practical, comfortable, and desirable. With so little in the closet, it’s tempting to go out and buy a bunch of new stuff, but Me Made May served as encouragement to invest my energy in making time to slowly make new stuff rather than going shopping. (And it assured me that I can get by with what I have.)
  2. Time spent on alterations is worth it. One afternoon I spent my sewing time hemming a pair of too-long jeans I’ve had since February. And after having worn them only rarely, I’ve now been wearing them nearly every day. Alterations are pretty tedious, but especially when my sewing time is so limited, it’s worth using my sewing skills to improve what I already have.
  3. I can get a significant amount done in small bursts of sewing. I think we all intellectually know that this is the case, but it’s hard to commit to the practice of working on things in small bursts until you actually see what you can get done. I kept track of what I accomplished each day in my sewing time, and it was just really nice to see everything I was able to get done in those little stretches of time laid out in front of me. It also helped me better visualize my sewing projects in very small, discrete steps.
  4. But getting in a good stretch of sewing helps. I only finished two sewing projects this month because I did manage to squeeze in a couple of longer sewing stretches of at least an hour. At the same time that it was helpful to see how much I could get done in short stretches, it also felt kind of frustrating at other moments—like I was just plodding along on a project that felt like it would never be finished. I think, at least for me, the only way to make sewing in short bursts successful is to balance it with occasional longer sessions so I can make a good bit of progress that renews and refreshes my interest in the project.
  5. I need to invest in my warm weather wardrobe. I spent so many years as a student and most of my life in northern states with fairly mild summers that I never really made an effort to make or buy summer clothes that I enjoyed. I did as much as I could to get by on the same clothes I wore the rest of the year, which usually just meant wearing jeans and t-shirts. But now I live somewhere with hot, humid summers that stretch at minimum from May through September and while I have some time off, I’m still teaching and going to meetings for a good deal of the summer. I need clothes that are more suited to the climate while also helping me look just a little more put together. A big part of the problem is that when I look at warm-weather clothes, I have a really hard time finding something that feels like me. It’s not entirely surprising—I mean, if my personality were a season, it would be deep winter. But it’s time for me to figure out a way to dress for the heat in a way that will allow me the ability to both step outside of the AC for more than 5 minutes and still feel like myself.

Unrelated, look at this child! It’s already time to start working on making him an outfit for his birthday!

img_5709

Muse Jenna V-Neck Cardigan

I like sewing with sweater knits but, as a knitter, they also make me feel like I’m cheating. So I think of this, affectionately, as my cheater cardigan–made over the course of two days rather than the two (or more) months it would take using yarn and needles.

Muse Jenna Cardi

This is the Muse Patterns Jenna Cardigan. I made the hip-length version with 3/4 sleeves and used the Jenna Expansion pack to get a v-neck, which is my preferred cardigan neckline. I’ve been planning to make this cardigan for a long time, and for some reason, I built this pattern up in my head as being a bit challenging. But, in reality, it’s very easy to put together and really only takes a bit more time than a basic t-shirt.

Muse Jenna V-Neck

I knew I would need the size 40 for the shoulder, but I didn’t want to have to do an FBA to get enough room across the bust so I went with the cheater FBA (appropriate for my cheater cardigan) and blended out to the size 42 at the armscye. I ended up significantly slimming the sleeves and the sleeve cuffs–I took 2″ out of the sleeve cuffs and an inch from either side of the sleeve opening, tapering to nothing at the top of the sleeve seam. But other than initially floppy sleeves, I’m really happy with the fit on this pattern. I think the only adjustments I’d make to the pattern the next time around would be removing some of the sleeve cap ease and lowering the point of the v-neck just a bit.

img_8789

The fabric I used is a really soft cotton-Spandex slub sweater knit that I bought last year from Fabric.com. The little bit of Spandex means that it has good recovery, which means that this shouldn’t bag out with wear. It’s pretty lightweight and similar to my two most-worn cardigans, which I wear year round on all but the coldest of Ohio winter days. My other cardigans are black and gray, so I’m glad to have an option that is an actual color. I sew with so many neutral fabrics that this is the first time I’ve ever used something other than black or gray serger thread.

img_8761

I used this project as a reason to finally figure out how to sew buttons on using my machine. It worked well (and was not at all difficult to figure out) so I’ve now succeeded in making my most-hated finishing task that much faster and easier. So this project is a win all around!

img_8770