Friday, August 23, 2013

V8825 - The Finished Project

Last night I attached the cuffs and skirt to finish my rendition of Vogue 8825.  Again, this really is a very easy pattern.  Plus I wore it to work today and it sort of feels like pajamas.
The most difficult part of the pattern is lining up the shoulder darts and seams, followed closely by the not so difficult assembly and installment of the barrel cuffs.

For more info please see patternreview.com!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Homeward Bound - The Introduction

When I first heard about Emily Matchar's book Homeward Bound, Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, I thought that this was a book likely to be relevant to my interests.  And then I thought, if it is relevant to my interests it would also likely interest my readers, as few as they may be.  So I decided to review this book chapter by chapter over the course of a couple days (or weeks).  And so we begin...

2013-08-22 20.50.50.jpgThe introduction gives us a glimpse of what Ms. Matchar has identified as a new modern trend of women (and some men) taking up seemingly out-dated domestic hobbies and then sharing their housewifely accomplishments via "domestic-porn blogs" and other social media.  She states that this "hipster housewife" ethos means that "[o]ur new collective escapist fantasy is more likely to involve a Vermont farmhouse and a cute Anthropologie apron than a SoHo loft and a pair of Manolos."  And here I think she begins to miss the mark.  Now I don't claim to speak for everyone, but I'd much rather wear my Anthropologie apron while baking (gluten-free) cupcakes IN my SoHo loft.  Except the apron wouldn't be from Anthropologie.  If I want a vintage style apron I shall make it myself thank you.  That way it can match the curtains in the kitchen.  In any case, if her fashionable young subjects in "Brooklyn and San Francisco and Austin and Chicago" with their urban gardens, backyard chickens and vintage clothing were actually longing for the countryside they could easily go.  Because despite her claim that this is more than a "whim" of the "privileged hipsters", much of this lifestyle is largely dependant on a certain degree of free money and free time.  Growing and canning organic fruit is expensive.  Attachment parenting and homeschooling are time-consuming.  These things may or may not be beneficial (I think the jury is still out on some of this), but they are also choices that are out of reach for many people who need to work a full time job or two.  So yes, this may go beyond the realm of hipsterdom, but it is still the purview of the privileged. 

Later in the introduction, Matchar introduces a 33 year old PhD candidate who claims that her knitting, baking, rooftop gardening and cheese-making are more than just hobbies. 
These are not just hobbies for her.  She has a deep and committed belief that homemaking is central to a sustainable, socially just society.  She believes that traditional "women's work" like cooking, crafting, and raising children has been devalued and sees restoring this work to its rightful place of honor as one of her most important goals.
  To which I say, what is wrong with hobbies?  I've always been one to have loads of hobbies.  At different times in my life I have knit scarves, drawn portraits, made scrapbooks, built dollhouses, sewn clothing, painted silk, sang, danced, played the viola, acted in community theater and learned to cook.  I have always had lots of hobbies.  The biggest cultural shift to me isn't that people are taking up these pursuits but that crafting is now cool instead of a slightly dorky, shameful secret.  Yes, online communities have changed how we relate to the domestic arts but I think that has more to do with community building and finding like-minded individuals who share our interests than some sort of Pinterest related one-upmanship.  Frankly I think this trend might have just as much to do with the rise and acceptance of "geek" culture as it does political motivations. 

And as for the idea of restoring "women's work" to it's rightful place of honor and respecting it as something more than a hobby?  I would point out that I come by my hobbies honestly.  I sat with my maternal Grandmother for years as she sewed unique costumed teddy-bears for craft shows, tended a gorgeous backyard flower and vegetable garden, painted pysanky eggs, and drew beautiful pastel landscapes.  My paternal Grandmother sewed our Irish dancing dresses and other clothing for several generations, made beautiful quilts and wool hooked rugs, grew African violets, and late in life learned to use the computer.  One afternoon in seventh grade she taught me how to make scones.  At various points these activities brought in money and provided emotional and creative outlets for two of the smartest and most capable women I've ever known.  That doesn't make them not hobbies.  If we have to make this a gender issue, why not ask why men don't feel the need to justify their hobbies as something different or more.  They can just be into cars or woodworking or whatever.  Yes the lucky few get to turn a hobby into a career but up to and even including that point, it's still a hobby and that is just fine.

Matchar also discuses a highly-educated lesbian couple who hope to both work from home so as to dedicate their lives to parenting, cooking and crafting.  This decision is seemingly motivated by one of their Boomer mothers who was a high-powered executive with depression and diabetes.  Apparently this one woman was proof that trying to "have it all" was crazy nonsense and success in the workplace makes you sad and unhealthy (take that Sheryl Sandberg!).  So instead these women want to be "hands-on attachment parents for their planned 'three to six' children.

They want to cook all their meals from scratch like they do now - homemade granola for breakfast, home-canned fruits and veggies, slow-simmered bone broths, homemade sauerkraut - and grow their own veggies ("When we eat out, we're letting somebody else choose the quality of our vegetables," Sammy says). 

But again, my lived experience doesn't mesh with this theory that eating healthy and a good dose of DIY is not compatible with working a regular job (It may be incompatible with the vegetable pretension however).  The beauty of slow-simmered bone broth is that it can be made in the crock pot while you are at work.  The vegetables and herbs can be planted in a single weekend afternoon and will grow just fine without your being there 24 hours a day to watch them.  I just don't understand how one fixes a lack of work life balance by completely opting out of the outside world.  I thought the key word is balance.  Because if I'm being honest here, the least productive I've ever been was when I was unemployed.  Yes, I went to the supermarket every day and bought fresh ingredients and cooked dinner.  I also vacuumed more regularly.  But with more free time I spent a lot less time doing what I loved.  My time was no longer valuable so I no longer valued it.  An entire summer was squandered.  But when I have to squeeze my passions into a few evening and weekend hours?  I make that time count.  When working 8 hours a day (or 10 or 12... I'm a lawyer, remember?) I refinished tables, tailored suits, and taught myself to cook Indian food.  When unemployed, I...kept the house slightly tidier? (And yes, I understand that these particular women are planning to work from home rather than just exist on money that will magically materialize... but other examples seem heavy on the "not going back to work after baby" thing that I find worrying.  Like, Etsy is great and all, but for most people it is not a secure long-term career plan.)

So yeah, I've only read 9 pages and I already have all the thoughts...  As you can tell, my ideas are a bit scattered here.  On the one hand, I am supportive and agree that something is indeed happening here, but on the other hand I think some of this is rubbing me the wrong way because I am part of the demographic she is theorizing about yet her examples don't ring true to either my experiences or those of the people I know.  I largely regard my crafting and sewing and so forth from an artistic/aesthetic rather than political lens.  I do these things because they are fun and rewarding and feed my creative impulse.  I sew because I am picky about my clothes and everything in stores is expensive, short, and pulls across the bust.  I mean, I like the environment but not enough to give up meat or Lycra.  I like to knit but have zero desire to clean up the feces of chickens or children.  And if I ever did acquire chickens or children I would not want them sleeping in my bed!  So maybe there are large numbers of people who attach greater significance and meaning to their domestic pursuits.  That is their right and if their continued support of my pet projects mean more stores carry quality yarn, I'll be a happy camper.  But yeah, these people may exist, but haven't met them. 

One interesting point that she makes regarding this turn toward the domestic is that it is happening at a time when a lot of the world around us seems soooo uncertain.  I am thirty years old and the economy has been terrible for my entire post-education adulthood.  The climate is in crisis.  Every day we hear about how we can't count on Social Security, the government is reading our email and grocery store spinach will kill us.  It's scary out there and I don't think I'm alone in feeling under-prepared.  I agree that among our generation (Millennial?) there is a growing distrust of institutions (the social safety net, large corporations, organized religions) leading to a feeling that we need to do for ourselves.  That we just might be better off if we retreat a bit into our families and our own skills.  But I also distrust a domestic movement that is happening at the same time the right is attempting to roll back reproductive rights.  I distrust the fact that the "opt-out revolution" is still happening at a time when we are also being encouraged to "Lean In."  I obviously don't think that knitting and sewing and cooking and even parenting are anti-feminist.  But sacrificing your financial security and sense of self to accomplish these things to an interwebz approved standard just might be. 

Vogue 8825 - simple and pretty in purple

Yesterday night I constructed most of the bodice of Vogue 8825. 

I had plans for alerations on this pattern.  Given the sleeve style I originally hoped to lose the cuff and make this a modern fitted kimono for hanging around the house.  That said, once I got started I realized I had more than enough material to complete the pattern as drafted so I moved forward without alterations.  The only alterations I actually cut into this pattern was lengthening the skirt by 3 inches.  Other than that, I cut a straight size 18.  I didn't even bother with a full bust alteration as per usual.  I did a quit paper fitting which ended up being not totally off base and given that I was using a double knit with a significant amount of stretch, I determined that any further volume would not be necessary. 

Even now, I'm worried that the finished product might be a little big.  So far the fit of individual peices isn't ideal but I also tried on everything over my clothes and frankly that will make anything look lumpy and gross.

So far this pattern is indeed "very easy" as advertised.  The only bit that provided any challenge was the seaming on the shoulders and even that isn't difficult so long as one properly marks and follows the pattern pieces. 

And the bodice took my exactly 2 hours to sew.  I know this because I watched episode one and two of the Great British Sewing Bee while completing the garment to this point. 
I am seriously charmed by this show and would sooooo audition if they brought it over here.  I may have to dedicate a full post to this lovely project in the future...  But for now I will just say that I love my Project Runway, but there was something so charming about how drama-free and supportive the contestants were with one another.  The narrow focus on technical skill and alterations of commercial patterns and garmets were actually useful to your average viewer who may at some point find a shirt that they love "if only the neckline were a bit lower."  I love the educational segments regarding the history of home sewing.  Plus you get tailoring advice stright from Saville Row... it really doesn't get better than that. 
So yeah, I think this dress in total will end up taking about 5-6 hours.  I cut the pattern a few days ago (about an hour), I assembled the bodice yesterday (2 hours) and now I'm attaching the cuffs and skirt (estimated 2 hours?). 

If all goes as planned, I should hvae a simple, comfortable knit dress to wear for tomorrow.  Not bad for a few evenings work!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

You have got to be kidding me...

So a day after I plan my mini-wardrobe (including a leather skirt) and purchase my materials, what happens?  FabricMart posts skins at 50% off!  Because of COURSE they did.

To be fair, I've purchased skins from FabricMart before because even at full price they are reasonably priced and consistently buttery comparted to some other leather dealers.  (I'm looking at you Tandy...)  And I spent the 24 hours since placing my order worried that I didn't buy enough and would have to cut a skirt shorter than I'd like.  (Oh, the curses of being vertically blessed!)  So I bought an additional skin from the same batch as my original order and thus got to take advantage of the amazing sale... But still guys.  Still.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Wardrobe Revamp

One downside to moving to a new place and starting a new job is that my wardrobe feels ALL WRONG.  I am perpetually feeling fat, overdressed, inappropriate for the climate and terribly uncool.  It's a problem.  Add to that the fact that my new commute includes four miles of walking each day and my current clothing is just not cutting it.  So it is time for a wardrobe revamp.

Now some days I will need formal business attire for which I can fall back on my suits and shift dresses.  But for everyday wear I will need some relaxed yet professional layers.  Luckily, this need falls right when Pattern Review is holding thier Mini-Wardrobe Contest

Now, while I can't start stitching until September 1, I can plan and shop and muslin!  So I've tackled the planning stages and think I will create some fun fall basics.  I started by putting together a Pinterest board where I gathered inspiration... for this I just pinned anything that "felt" like what I was going for.  In the end, it looks like I need a combination of soft draped tops, tailored skirts and jackets, and maybe some hits of leather. 

Using this inspiration, I sketched my initial plan:

My plan is to create a sleeveless print blouse with a chiffon yoke and a matching skirt which can be worn together to mimic a dress or worn as seperates.  I also hope to make a camel colored leather pencil skirt and a white knit top.  The fabrics have all been sourced from

My next step will be to find or draft appropriate patterns and perfect the fit.  But not to worry, this does not mean I won't complete the purple dress mentioned in my last post.  For while it will not be part of the mini-collection, it is in the same plum color scheme and will go with many of the other peices (largely jackets) that I have planned.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Big BIG Changes (and downsizing the sewing space)

Soooo... I haven't updated since February.  I am quite ashamed and we shall say no more about it. 

That said, there have been some major changes in my life since that time.  Last time at "Sewing in Style" our intrepid blogger was a struggling attorney in the rust-belt city of Cleveland, Ohio.  Six months later we are reuinited with our heroine in San Fransisco where she is working for one of the largest software companies in the world!  And the peasants rejoiced.

I'm very excited.  My life has all of a sudden moved in a very pleasing direction and so like the pioneers before us, my gentleman friend and I packed our belongings and headed west. 

Downside to all of this?  I have lost my sewing room!  I know!  This is a tragedy of the gravest proportions.  While in Northeast Ohio I could rent a two bedroom house for $650 a month, here in the Bay Area (is that supposed to be capitalized?) a one bedroom is running me more than three times that.  And doesn't include utilities.  And is actually in the suburbs.  Ah well. 

So how did I handle the vast downsizing of my stash and supplies?  Not well, probably.  I managed to give away three large storage bins of fabric, yarn and other sewing and crafting accruraments.  Now to be fair, some of the paring down should have happened many moons ago.  There is no good reason for me to own three hot glue guns.  There really isn't.  (Actually, there is...  I never remember where I stashed them so I just buy a new one the once a year I need one.  This is not a good way to live.)  Upside?  My aunts have become far richer in the ways of knitting needles (not that they need it, they are all worse than I am) and my sister who is learning to sew has a lot of material to practice on.  Anything my friends and family did not want I gave to charity.  I was ruthless.

As a reminder, this was my former sewing room:

I had a long desk where both my sewing machine and my serger could be set up.  I had multiple cork board to provide inspiration.  I had a standing height cutting table which not only had a butcher paper over cork top (perfect for sketching or pinning) but 27 feet of bookcase storage.  I had a closet and space to keep my ironing board eternally up.  Heaven.
This is not an option anymore.  I now have to fit my sewing area into a bedroom corner.  That said, after some careful editing, I have managed it.  Now this is not the finished product and some oranization and decoration is still to come, but here is my new dedicated sewing space:

All the furniture is by Ikea... I did the whole "build your own desk" thing and grabbed a cheap table top and legs.  I bought a modern style plastic chair.  And I purchased an old curtain covered "wardrobe" from a friend which is currently serving as storage for my remaining fabric stash, UFOs and the ever-growing collection of patterns.  My collection of sewing and crafting books has found a home in the living room with all the other fiction.  One of my cork boards can be brought out and placed on the bed to serve as a makeshift cutting table.  It's not bad, although it does demand a bit more vigilance in terms of cleaning up after myself.  Without a door I can just close on the mess I need to actually pick things up.  This will require a drastic change in habits but I'm sure it will serve me well. 

And I've already started my first project in the new space!  It's a kimono styled faux-wrap dress and a bright purple knit which I think will be both comfortable and stylish.  Tune in next time to see the results!