#SewingTop5 2018: Reflections and Goals

I’m back with my second post for #SewingTop5 2018. (You can find the post recapping my highlights, hits, and misses here). Today, I’m sharing my reflections on 2018 and setting some goals for the coming year.

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Reflections

#1: As I said in my previous post, one of the big highlights of this year was getting back into sewing after eight months away from the sewing room while I was taking care of a new baby. It was exciting enough just to find time to sew again, but even more exciting is the fact that I managed to carve out a regular, daily sewing habit for myself. It took some time to figure out the best approach, but I finally realized that by just setting aside 20 minutes for myself after Jude went to bed, I was able to make consistent progress on my sewing projects and enjoy some quiet, alone time at the end of the day. I’ve wanted to establish a regular sewing practice for myself since I started sewing, and I’m so glad that I finally hit upon a sewing ritual that has made that goal a reality.

#2: I wasn’t sewing during the first part of the year, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about sewing (especially when I was stuck in the lactation room at work several times a day). While I daydreamed about what I wanted to sew and plotted how I would get back into the sewing room, I realized that I needed to rethink my sewing goals. I originally took up sewing specifically because I wanted to be able to make as much of my clothing as possible and avoid shopping, which I loathe. It was an exciting but daunting goal that, in retrospect, kept me from experimenting in ways that would have beneficial to my sewing. That original goal kept me focusing on simple, basic projects that were more likely to lead to wearable garments. And I still learned a lot and, indeed, ended up with a lot of wearable items. But I think it kept me from trying garments I really wanted to wear that would require more fitting or more technical skill. And I think it also sometimes discouraged me from sewing, just because the goal itself seemed so out of reach given the amount of sewing time I have and my skill level. So I’ve reoriented my goals, and I’m trying to really focus on sewing the kinds of things that seem interesting to sew and like the kinds of garments I really wish were in my closet. And I’m trying to hone my shopping skills to take care of the stuff I don’t really want to make.

#3: As part of rethinking my sewing goals, I also started thinking more seriously about what kinds of clothes I want to wear. I feel so overwhelmed by clothes shopping that I’ve typically just gone for whatever is easiest to buy, and that’s historically left me with a boring closet of solid basics that don’t fit either my body or my personality very well. In May, I read The Curated Closet—I loved it, and it’s helped me work out a clearer sense of my ideal style, which is helping me choose projects and making it easier to shop for the things I don’t have the time or the desire to make. You can even see the pin board I created while I was reading the book here.

#4: Between establishing a regular sewing practice and getting a clearer sense of the kinds of projects I want to make, I’ve finally struck a more pleasing (to me) balance with my stash. I would generally prefer to buy fabric for a project as I’m about to make it—this is what I already do for my knitting projects, which is why I have a very minimal yarn stash. But the combination of not sewing regularly and not having a firm sense of what I’d like to sew/wear, I’ve spent the last several years engaging in aspirational fabric buying. I’d buy fabric with a project in mind, but I’d either not get around to sewing it while the desire to make the project was fresh or I’d realize that the project really wasn’t something I wanted to make. Right now, I’m making most of my short-term sewing plans based on what is already in my stash and buying fabric for new projects only as I need it. I’ve also gotten rid of lots of fabric that I just don’t have any desire to use and now I have a stash that feels manageable and isn’t stressing me out.

#5: I found that I really love sewing kids clothes. I spent almost the entire fall sewing things for Jude, and while I wish I had struck a bit more of a balance with sewing for myself, it was really satisfying to make some quick projects that have gotten a lot of wear. It just affirms my change in sewing goals—better to sew what makes me happy than to feel like I have to make everything I wear. And I know that there is likely a hard limit on how long Jude will willingly wear mama-made clothes, so I’m going to keep taking advantage of the opportunity while I can.

Goals for 2019

  1. Knit myself at least one sweater that I love. I have a post or two coming up about this, but I’ve been struggling to figure out what kinds of sweater patterns work best for me. My last few attempts at sweater knitting have been flops, so I’ll be happy if I can add just one pullover that I love to my closet.
  2. Sew a button up shirt, finally. This is one of those garments that I would happily make part of my daily uniform, but that I’ve been too hesitant to sew for fear of getting it wrong. Time to tackle the button up shirt. Luckily, I’ve already got plenty of suitable fabric to work with.
  3. Sew myself another pair of jeans. I loved the process of making my Ginger Jeans and the toddler jeans I made for Jude only reignited the desire to sew some more jeans. I want to keep working on the fit of the Ginger pattern, but I’d also like to try the Morgan Jeans.
  4. Sew a couple of shirts for summer that I feel good wearing. In my Me-Made May reflection this year, I realized that I need to make more of a concerted effort to figure out a summer wardrobe that will work for me. So I’d like to start by making a couple of non-tshirt tops for myself that feel both summery and more representative of my style.
  5. Sew something for Aidan. After having fun sewing some garments for Jude, I’d like to try making a garment or two for Aidan. I have two issues of Ottobre Family, which contain many men’s patterns. And there are actually a couple of garments that Aidan has trouble finding in stores, so it would be great if I could help him fill those wardrobe gaps.

As always though, I’m just looking forward to more making in the new year. I’m proud of everything I accomplished in 2018 and excited to tackle some new things in 2019!

 

 

 

#SewingTop5 for 2018: Highlights, Hits, and Misses

I always like participating in the #SewingTop5 Series hosted by Gillian at Crafting A Rainbow. It’s a fun way to reflect on the year, and I feel like I have a lot to celebrate and reflect on from 2018. 2018 has felt like a very long year, and I’m also kind of shocked to find myself at the end of it.

Top 5 Highlights

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  1. In January, I went back to work full-time after having Jude, which means that he also started daycare. The constant flood of kid germs aside, it has been a great experience. We love his teachers, he seems to love being at school, and I feel like parenting has given me a sharpened focus in my work life so I actually feel like I’ve gotten more efficient at work despite the fact that I’ve got more going on.
  2. At the end of April, my brother got married, and I got to officiate the ceremony. But Jude, of course, stole the show by being incredibly cute. Lol.
  3. In May, after I got my spring grades turned in, I actually started sewing again–basically for the first time in eight months since Jude was born! And I’ve actually maintained a regular sewing practice for the first time since I started sewing. I’m actually shocked by how much I managed to get sewn this year. (I actually started reading for pleasure again at about the same time and am likewise shocked by how many books I managed to read.)
  4. Jude turned one in August! We had a party for him with all of our family in Wisconsin, and I had a blast making his first birthday cake. It is so fun to watch his little personality develop. He is silly and sweet and sensitive, and I love watching him learn more and more everyday. (He also got tubes shortly after his birthday, which finally took care of the monthly ear infections we were experiencing–such a relief!)
  5. And finally, in October, I decided to make Jude a Halloween costume. It didn’t feel right to put this project on my “Hits” list since it only got worn a couple of times, but making it was definitely a highlight of my year. I didn’t think I’d enjoy costume sewing as much as I did, and it turned out so freaking cute I can hardly stand it.

Top 5 Hits (listed in the order that I finished them)

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  1. Black striped Muse Jenna Cardigan. I wasn’t sure I’d wear this much when I finished it over the summer, but I’ve been wearing it all the time.
  2. Pinstripe jersey Stevie Top. Aidan complements this shirt every time I wear it.
  3. High-waisted Avery leggings. So comfortable!
  4. Jude’s Mukava Jeans from Ottobre 01/2018
  5. My Picking Daisies shawl–easily my favorite knitting project from this year.

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Top 5 Misses

  1. My Willamette Shirt. I didn’t like the fabric I used, but also think I would have preferred a smaller size.
  2. My mid-waist Avery leggings, which basically look like my high waisted pair, but roll down my hips when I move around.
  3. My Carbeth Cardigan. I haven’t blogged about or taken pictures of the finished cardigan yet, but this knitting project turned out to be a bust. It fits, and it’s a great pattern. But it’s not my style, and I know I’ll never wear it.
  4. (and 5) Both views of the Santa Fe top that I tried. This swingy shape just doesn’t work for me–it doesn’t look good, and I don’t like the way it feels either. I haven’t really worn these, even as pajamas.

I at least feel like I learned something valuable from each of my “misses,” and I’m looking forward to putting those lessons to use in 2019. But more on that in my next post when I’ll talk about my Top 5 Reflections and Goals!

Top 5 of 2016

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I know I’m a little late, but decided to write up a Top 5 of 2016 post at the last minute. This year, I think I managed to sew one pair of kid’s pajamas, six pairs of leggings, eight tops, two sweatshirts, one cardigan, three pairs of pants, three Stowe bags, and six zippered pouches. I also knit five pairs of socks, two pairs of fingerless mitts, one cowl, one scarf, two Christmas stockings, two toddler sweaters, and finished up one adult sweater that I started the previous year. Oh, and I crocheted a tiny cat. Here’s the year in review:

Top 5 Hits

Overall, I’m really happy with the things I made this year and ended up wearing nearly all of them regularly. But these are the five garments that I have enjoyed most–I wear them constantly and feel good in them.

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  1. Black Ginger Jeans
  2. Striped Halifax Hoodie (I’ve actually made another version of this pattern that I may love even more)
  3. Vogue 8909 Lounge pants
  4. Purple Sweater Knit Muse Jenna Cardi
  5. Black bamboo Concord Tees

Top 5 Misses

I’m lucky in that I didn’t actually have five misses–just a few projects that didn’t work out.

2016-misses

  1. Thread Theory Camas Blouse: I was really happy with this when I finished it, but didn’t wear it much because it didn’t really feel like my style. I’ve realized that I just really hate gathers like this top has. They just feel too feminine for me.
  2. Ottobre Blue Fog Top: I’m really sad to call this one a miss since it is another shirt I was really happy with when I posted about it. But the zippers are kind of an awkward feature and it just didn’t fit into my life. It is too casual for me to wear to work but felt more fussy than I wanted to deal with on the weekend. Actually, neither this shirt nor the Camas blouse fit me anymore anyway, so they will be donated in the hopes that someone else enjoys them more than I did.
  3. Jalie Eleonore Jeans: Blech. Bad fabric. Pull on jeans. Weird Fit. I hate these and never wore them but I’m glad that they made me feel brave enough to tackle my Ginger Jeans.
  4. (Not Pictured) Butterick 6378, View C: This was my only wadder this year. The fabric that I was working with was really cheap and shifty, making it difficult for me to sew well and frustrating the hell out of me. And then when I tried it on before attaching the sleeves, I remembered how much I hate the way gathers look on me. Abandoned due to seething anger.

Top 5 Highlights

2016-highlights

Two of my 5 highlights: Our trip to San Francisco and officiating my friends’ wedding

  1. In May, we spent a week in San Francisco with our friends and godson. It was a great trip where our friends graciously played tour guides and took us EVERYWHERE.
  2. At the end of June, my youngest sisters (who are 14 and 16) came and spent a week with us in Cincinnati. It was a little challenging to entertain teenagers, but we had a lot of fun, and it was nice to get to know them better as young women.
  3. In October, I had the honor of officiating my friends’ wedding. I was so nervous I would screw it up, but everything went well and it was such a great way to be part of their special day.
  4. Immediately after the election, I was lucky enough to get to escape to Montreal for a few days to attend a feminist conference with my friend. We had a great conference, ate Montreal bagels, bought some yarn souvenirs, drank beer and knitted in the hotel lobby, and processed our post-election feelings together. It was a lovely little trip.
  5. And finally, Aidan and I found a house to buy! We close later this week and we’re moving in the week after. I can’t wait!

Reflections

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Some honorable mention projects: My Dumpling Kitty, the Cotton + Steele Stowe Bag, and one of the Wonderful Wallaby Sweaters I made for my nephews for Christmas

  1. I spent almost the whole year in a weird knitting funk. I knit very sporadically and, frankly, didn’t enjoy the a whole lot of what I did manage. I’m not sure what was up–if I was picking the wrong projects or it just wasn’t my year as a knitter–but it all made me feel kind of twitchy and unsettled. Luckily, it seems to be over. I think playing around with some nicer yarns has brought me back to the joy of the process.
  2. At the beginning of the year, I bought myself a serger and I am completely in love with it. It’s made simple knit projects a lot more enjoyable and made more complex projects like jeans feel slightly more manageable. I held off buying a serger for a long time and I am so happy that I finally went for it.
  3. I feel like my sewing has gotten noticeably better this year. My projects are turning out better overall, my technical skills are more precise, the fit of my garments is better, and I feel like I’m finally developing stronger instincts about pairing fabric and pattern. Basically, sewing has started to feel a lot less clumsy and more natural for me, and I think that’s being reflected in the things I’ve been making.
  4. I benefitted a lot from sewing in smaller, more regular chunks of time. This was actually one of my goals from last year’s post. I didn’t always keep up with it–I had a couple of periods in the year when I really wasn’t sewing at all. But when I did regularly make time for ~30 minutes of sewing a day, I got a lot done and I feel like the quality of my work improved.
  5. A lot of my clothes don’t fit–nearly everything I made last year has been donated and about half of what I’ve made this year doesn’t fit either. The experience of having whole chunks of my handmade wardrobe out of commission because of fit has changed my project planning for the better. Before, I was concentrating on making basics and trying to make as much of my clothes as possible. The result was a lot of boring projects and an overwhelming to-do list. When I got to the point where I had to acknowledge that I was making something that might not fit in a few months, I started picking projects based on what seemed interesting (stylistically or technically) in the moment. It made for more enjoyable sewing and for garments that I really liked wearing, even if I don’t get to wear them for years.

Goals for 2017

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  1. Set up my new sewing space. In our new house, I get a dedicated studio space that is big enough for all of my sewing stuff and still have room for a desk for when I work from home. I’m looking forward to getting it all set up and organized.
  2. Make a sweater for Aidan. Aidan has been wearing the Ranger cardigan I made him a few years ago and has requested a second sweater. This time, he wants a cabled pullover in a softer yarn. I’m planning to make him Jared Flood’s Svenson sweater (pictured above) and intend to start swatching a couple of different yarn possibilities later this month.
  3. Try some new yarns. I used a lot of budget yarns when I was in grad school, and while they aren’t bad yarns, I think I’m burnt out on them a bit. Experimenting with some different yarns in the last couple of months has done a lot to get me inspired about knitting again, so I plan to keep it up.
  4. Do some cross stitching. Counted cross stitch was my first craft–my earliest memories of cross stitching are from when I was in kindergarten. It’s something I’ve done on and off since then. This year, I’ve got a couple of specific projects in mind that I’d like to make. I’ve bought the patterns and fabric and already made a good start on one of them.
  5. Make a quilt. It might be a small quilt, but I’m interested in trying some quilting this year. I kind of suspect that it’s not the kind of thing I’ll really love, but who knows?

Here’s to a new year of making!

Top 5 of 2015

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I decided to participate in the Top 5 series hosted by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. It seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on what I managed to accomplish during a particularly stressful and busy year. All in all, I managed to knit 19 items (3 baby sweaters, 4 adult sweaters, 8 pairs of socks, 2 cowls, and 2 Christmas stockings), and I sewed 28 items (22 garments for me and 6 kid/gift items). I didn’t want to do this in several posts, so here is one long monster post with all of my thoughts on the year:

Top 5 Non-Sewing Highlights

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A post-dissertation defense pic with my committee, including a committee member who had to Skype in.

#1-3: In March, I accepted my first full-time teaching job. In June, we moved to Cincinnati. And in August, I finally graduated with my PhD. All of these things made for an incredibly stressful and exhausting year, but they have also all been exciting and positive changes.

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#4: Aidan’s sister and her wife had twin boys in August, so we have two new nephews. They are bald, adorable little Charlie Brown babies, and I could eat them up.

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My dad exploring the lemur bubble at the zoo.

#5: My dad and his girlfriend rode down to Cincinnati on his motorcycle at the end of July. We spent a week exploring the city with them, which was a lot of fun and a much-needed, reenergizing break for me.

Top 5 Sewing Hits:

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

#1: Ottobre Fox Shirt–Still one of my favorite things in my closet.

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#2: Onyx Tee–When I started making this, I wasn’t at all sure I’d like it. But I ended up wearing this all the time until the weather turned colder.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

#3: Get Moving Hoodie–A recent finish, but I love everything about this project. I’ve been wearing this almost daily since classes ended.

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#4: Simplicity 1062–This is the only thing in my closet that actually makes me feel kind of cool when I wear it, so it remains a winner.

Little Wave Cardigan

#5: Little Wave Cardigan–I haven’t had the chance to wear this a ton since I finished it so recently, but I’m just really proud of this piece. This is definitely the best thing I knit this year.

Top 5 Misses

Jalie 2921

#1: Jalie Tie Front Top–This shirt fits well and looks good in pictures, but it just isn’t my style. I think I’ve worn it once, maybe twice? I thought I’d be forced to wear it because I’m so short on work clothes, but I actually ended up getting more creative with work outfits in order to *avoid* wearing this shirt.

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#2: Featherweight cardigan–I’ve already thoroughly explored my disappointment with this one, and the fact that it made this list will be a surprise to no one.

#3: Style Arc Becky Yoga pants–I never blogged this project, but I made two pairs of these in an effort to replace my ratty lounge pants. I didn’t particularly like the fit of the pattern, and I used a fabric that was too thin so these are basically glorified leggings that I would never wear outside of my house. I’m still choosing my thread-bare, holey yoga pants over these and am actively looking for a better pattern so let me know if you have any recommendations.

SBCC Tonic Tee

#4: Tonic Tees— I hesitate to call this a “miss” because I have worn these a lot since finishing them, and I do really like the pattern. But, I’ve grown more dissatisfied with the fit (I think I made them a bit too small) and dissatisfied with my fabric choice (the cotton-spandex jerseys I used for these t-shirts is too firm for my tastes). I’m actually in the process of trying this pattern again in the next size up with a lighter weight cotton jersey to see if I can get something that is closer to my t-shirt ideal.

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#5: Solid Green Jersey Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2014–I haven’t and won’t blog this project, but it was a whole series of “what was I thinking?” moments. I tried to use up a length of jersey that was much different than pictured online and not a color I wear by using a pattern that is not at all my style and, not surprisingly, ended up with a shirt that makes me think “WTF!?” When I put this on, I feel like the scenes in Orphan Black when Helena wears Allison’s clothes. Good riddance.

Reflections:

  1. I feel like I did more knitting than sewing this year, or I at least knit more consistently than I sewed. I’ve been knitting for long enough and knitting is so much a part of my daily routine that it’s easy to keep up with even during stressful periods. So far, I sew more in bursts when I have big blocks of free time open up.
  2. This year, I sewed my first pair of pants (the HP Tailored Track Pants) and my first woven shirt (the Onyx Shirt), which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with sewing knits, so I’m glad I finally started to branch out a bit.
  3. I feel like I saw a noticeable increase in the quality of my sewing this year. The finish and the fit of my clothes is getting better, as is my matching of pattern with fabric, which has resulted in more items that I am happy to have in my closet and that are getting worn a lot.
  4. This is an ongoing process, but I also feel like I’ve made progress in figuring out what I really like and want to wear. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I feel like I finally have a good handle on what I like in a hand-knit sweater. But I’m also embracing my love of black and gray and being more discerning about the style of the sewing patterns I’m making (hot pink t-shirt disaster notwithstanding).
  5. I bought a lot of fabric this year–more than I feel comfortable with, especially given how little I sewed. I know that what I have wouldn’t seem like a lot to many people, but I am not a stasher and don’t really want to stay in the habit of stashing.

Top 5 Goals for 2016:

  1. Try to focus on sewing in smaller bursts of time so that I can make sewing a more consistent part of a my routine.
  2. Knit more sweaters. Now that I’ve figured out what styles I’m most likely to wear, I’m hoping to get more hand-knit sweaters in rotation. My working goal is to make 8 new sweaters this year.
  3. Focus on sewing pants. I wear pants everyday and have a horrendous time trying to find pants that I like and that fit in stores, so it just makes sense to focus my attention here.
  4. Make myself some button-down shirts. Right now, I’m planning to make McCall’s 6649, the BurdaStyle Button Up Blouse, and the Itch to Stitch Mila shirt.
  5. Whittle down the fabric stash. I think the question of whether to keep a big fabric/yarn stash comes down to personality and how you go about planning projects, and my personality does not mesh with the stashing lifestyle. Right now, I’ve got just under 80 yards of fabric stashed, and I’d like that to be a significantly smaller number by the end of next year.

I feel good about my goals for 2016 and am looking forward to a great year of making!