My output is evidence of all the time I had this summer. I moved from one city to another and have been working part-time from home to recover from the exhaustion of graduate school. But once I return to my digs, I’ve got to ramp up my full-time work search. That means, less time to sew, less time to daydream about all the things I could make.
What a privilege it’s been, through the Summer Essentials Sew-Along, to have done just that. All summer. I kept sneaking items into my list of 5-ish items. I’d pitched the idea of the sew-along after enjoying the community nature of Me-Made-May, hoping to get in some essential items and better prepare me for both summer and Self-Stitched September. The final tally? Fourteen homemade garments. That’s three bottoms, two dresses, two t-shirts, four tops, a skirt, a cardigan, and a swimsuit.
I was absolutely floored by the response, the creativity, the skill and the output of all the phenomenal sew-alongers! I swear, some completed their five items in the first two weeks! More than anything, I loved how it exposed me to so many new people and their blogs, and through them, new styles and patterns and patternmaking itself. There are more than 330 images of me-made summer pieces in our Flickr pool. Since I've got so much to learn about garment sewing, seeing others' creations constantly upped the ante on me-made clothes while inspiring me to believe that with practice I could meet higher and higher standards.
I thought I'd do a roundup of my summer garments, but what's more importantly are the sewing-related lessons I gained as part of this collective effort! So here they go:
1. My sewing doppelganger is a joiner and a planner, but she has a short-attention span and requires closure.
I’ve read elsewhere about personalities in the sewing room and, as someone making a career change, I’ve been thinking about my working personality in general. I’ve always liked tasks that require my presence/skill/attention, that both allow me to be independent but connected. So it makes sense why I like sewing and why I keep joining sew-alongs.
But I’m also goal-oriented. I love the process as long as I know there’s closure at the end of it (even failure). So this meant that I sometimes rushed through things to get a finished object, or, if my attention’s moved on, I did things half-heartedly just to get it off my list. In fact, there were a range of approaches to lists, what was yours?
2. Essentials matter
Though the nature of the sew-along was wide-open, it prompted sewers to think of what they could really use this summer. And though I often used projects as an excuse to try or refine new things (Buttonholes! Plackets!), it was the items that really filled the holes in my closet that really made all the difference. And even though I sometimes wanted to veer off-list, the result often made it worth the process.
Seriously, I dress differently. And this new wardrobe is a better reflection of me.
Remember my sweet-and-sassy skirt? This full skirt changed the way I looked at my body — the high waist, a more feminine silhouette. This lead me to think about my body shape and gave me the cajones to venture into the full skirt on my Shelley dress.
And my two Ruby shorts? All legs, baby. Since I gave myself permission to be pretty, I also gave myself permission to show off the budding varicose veins in my legs that I’ve been ashamed of since they appeared a decade ago. What can I do? This is the body I have.
3. Repetition makes all the difference
New Look 6965
Crewnecks 3& 4
Along with the two Rubys, I sewed New Look 6965 twice, Simplicity 3263 (vintage) twice, and the Sew U Homestretch crewneck four times. I was pleasantly surprised at how much better the second often turned out (higher quality construction, better fit) and how quickly I whipped it up, even when the second visually departed with a pattern variation and different fabric. I guess it’s true, practice makes perfect. And I still have a lot of practicing to do, but I become more confident—and more courageous—by seeing how each garment brings me closer.
4. Doors closing, doors opening
Two of the items on my list were total duds, as in, I can’t foresee wearing them at all. But they both taught me valuable lessons.
This tunic, made as part of the Japanese top sew-along, was a disaster because I kept departing from the original. The most important lesson in this project was drafting the pattern with instructions. Just as I enjoy the tactile aspects of sewing, I really enjoyed drawing the pattern. This gave way to my Pattern Project.
This white blouse, which I was incredibly excited about, hasn’t seen any public use, either. It was a lesson in both fabric choice and personal style. Though this could’ve been gorgeous with a more suitable fabric and a few pattern tweaks, I’m unsure I like the primness of the large peter pan collar. I’ll definitely be using the pattern again, for its use of body darts introduced me to the beauty of shaping.
I had a professor who always said that you should aim a little bit higher than your ability for it both stimulates you and challenges you to grow. The BurdaStyle Alison swimsuit was definitely higher than my ability, as was all the knits I delved into. But I’ve always been the kinda gal who runs out into traffic, and this sort of recklessness in the sewing room has made me feel that I can sew anything.
My only hurdle is my patience, and it’s a big one. The question I now ask myself, is not whether I am able to sew something, but whether I am I willing to sew it again and again to get it right? Will I feel my time was well spent? Will I have learned something crucial from this, even if it’s a disaster?
So that sums it up. I’m so happy that so many have made this journey with me. How do you feel about your summer essentials? What were your lessons?
I'll have rare access to the internet for the next few weeks, so I wish you beautiful, final days of summer!