Monthly Archives: September 2012

The I Guess It’s Okay Skirt

First of all, thank you all so much, SO much for your amazing and thoughtful comments on my last post. I haven’t been able to respond to them yet the way I would like to, but your thoughtful responses just thrilled and amazed me (though I really should stop being amazed at how awesome this sewing community is). If you haven’t read the book discussed, give it a gander if you get a chance, it’s really worth readying. I think this is such an interesting subject and clearly is something that we all think about or consider when we sew, both the gender roles involved and it’s impact on our lives and then the world in general. And just to clarify, when I talk about smugness, I really mean myself, I’m SUPER smug about sewing, I’m really just the worst, on the outside I’m like, ohhh, no, it’s really NO big deal, but on the inside I’m like, yes, I’m just generally better then you, ain’t no thang. It’s okay to be impressed about what a huge flipping deal I am. No biggie.

In other news, meh. Meh on me. I have NOT been a diligent blogger of late. Or a responsive person. Or a good emailer. The only thing I’ve kept up is consistent feeding of the cat and if I don’t do that he screams at me.


So deceptively calm.

But school is wonderful but busy and guess what? Guess what? Guess what? I got a job working in the Tisch undergraduate costume shop! Waaaaaaaaaaa? Yeah. AWESOME.

Actually, in all seriousness, I couldn’t be more thrilled. The people who work there are lovely, the woman who designed the show we are working on right now is a lovely young designer still in college but she’s so talented and smart that I want to just learn from her now, and she’s just one person there! The supervisors are lovely, the shop is fascinating, and I’m pleased as punch to have been able to hustle work-study into sewing time. Seriously, I sew and they pay me (in theory, I just started on Friday so I have no proof of that yet). It’s splendid.

Technically I’m overhire, so I just work around the student productions, but there is something really fun about rushed crazied costume building. (Especially when it’s a part time gig, let’s be real.) But I got to use a serger! On my first day! Living the dream, people, living the dream.

So now that we are all caught up, this thing is a thing I made. Meh to this thing too:

I made this three weeks ago, forced my roommate to take photos of it last week, and am just posting it today. STRUGGLE. I’ve worn it a number of times, and it’s cute enough, I suppose, but it’s not the skirt I set out to make. Can you believe the impulse behind this was to be more pencil than pouf? No? At this point neither can I…

I used BurdaStyle’s Marie pattern, a pattern I have used TWICE before, and yet for whatever reason this time I must have cut it wrong? Or something? I don’t know, it doesn’t taper at the hem which it is supposed to do. I converted the back pleats into darts, but that really oughtn’t to make a difference…..I don’t even know, guys. I don’t even know.

It’s also a bit big. Sigh. And wrinkled. Ah, well, that’s reality for you!

Still, it’s cute enough, and insanely practical (a solid colored neutral modest-but-cute skirt? Yeah, where CAN’T I wear this thing? Other then the Met ball or a nightclub, it’s pretty much a go-everywhere thing). And it’s stash busting, which is, by the way, my biggest fall goal, because I just really need to rid myself of fabric. It’s…taking over my life.

So all in all it’s fine, but honestly, it’s really just okay. Still, I’ll wear it, I’ll use it, but I wish I knew what had gone wrong!

In the meantime, I made another skirt (more on that to come), cut out a blouse and a pair of black denim Clovers, and looked at the men’s shirt pattern for a long time with no motivation. Why is it so hard to sew for other people? Sigh.

Fall Sewing! It continues! Has anything crazy (like a new graduate program and a new city) taken over your life lately? How did you deal?


Filed under Burda Style, Clothing, Sewing

I Too Have Read Overdressed

Have you heard about this book? You must have done, it’s like the 50 Shades of Gray for people who sew, everyone is reading it, shocked but also pretty excited, and just a little bit smug. At least, I assume that’s how people are reading 50 Shades of Gray, if I wanted to read Twilight Bondage Erotica I would…be a completely different person. And hopefully you wouldn’t be reading this…

So, I finished this text about two weeks ago, and I have to say, I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It’s rare I read non-fiction of any kind, but of course as a sewer myself I had to be curious about this book and besides, sewing has, for better or for worse, altered the way I think about clothing, about buying, and about the garment industry in general. It’s amazing that this hobby I picked up through curiosity and the desire to dress better has evolved into something that may indeed haunt me for the rest of my life. Walk in as a curious newbie, learn some new things about yourself, and the world, and never leave. Guys, we’re totally in a cult…

So this isn’t a book review. I liked the book. I enjoyed learning more about an industry that is deeply in trouble and deeply troubling, and I have to say, I felt, as do many of us who sew, a mixed sense of horror and pity. Oh, my god, that’s the ideal of Aristotelian tragedy! Mingled fear and pity! (I’m….in Drama School. Be nice.)

But what I mean is, this book sort of just reinforces what many of us already think, we nod calmly thinking to ourselves complacently, oh, well, I don’t participate in this system anymore, I’ve seen the light, I’ve come to whatever deity we are most comfortable quoting, we’re the GOOD ones. And hey, we are, we do have that virtue, we make stuff with our hands and we know the time and effort that action takes, and for many of us that makes us think more carefully and consciously about buying.

However, I was telling my roommate about the book, and she pointed out something really important. Fast fashion has, in fact, shifted the burden of the task of making clothing from being a huge part of the lives of women, and in fact a lodestone around the necks of most of the lower and middle class, to being something many women no longer have to think about. Women can further their careers, or even have careers, because they don’t have to worry about the mending all the time, making clothing for their families or themselves, it’s a huge shift. Well, that is, it’s a shift for women in the West. Because I responded to my roommate that the reality is, we haven’t eliminated this burden, we’ve handed it off. Women still make up the majority of workers in the garment industry, they just do it overseas, primarily, as we know, in Asia. So while women of all classes here don’t concern themselves with making clothing, that doesn’t mean that all women are liberated from this task.

But it got me thinking. A lot of, deeply privileged, people who chose to sew at a time when we really don’t have to do so (I mean, we might believe we have to, and I think Overdressed makes a great argument for why everyone has to at least acknowledge these issues in the world of clothing manufacturing at least try to mitigate them, the major strategy to do that being to make you own and mend your own garments) are women. There are male sewers, awesome ones, too, and a lot of tailors are male (because our silly little female brains simply can’t wrap our heads around tailoring, duh) but the majority of the people who gravitate towards these tasks, sewing, knitting, crafting, are women. Is that just our conditioning? Why don’t men sew? Did fast fashion, spanning back to the garment industry of the late 1800’s, free women to work but enslaved them to flashy trends and badly made clothing? Did the garment industry help our lives only to hurt them in the long run?

Of course, it’s not that simple. Still, it’s something to think about in the midst of all this back patting and praise for what is, in my opinion, a really excellent and informative book.  We don’t criticize vacuum cleaners for making cleaning easier because it’s a machine. We don’t criticize the sewing machine itself. But because there is, and as far as we know, always will be a human element in garment construction, and because that human element is and has been, by and large, women, we have to consider the way that fast fashion has helped many women eliminate domestic tasks from their lives by forcing other large groups of women to make sewing their whole lives, and for very little money, at that. How much convenience can and should we expect in our day-to-day existences? And are we really willing to take on the tasks we’ve so easily shirked and passed off to other, less convenient, cultures?

In a sense, we who sew are, but do we really know what that would mean? I’m at the point when I sew most of my own clothing, and thrift the majority of the rest. But I’m privileged to have gotten there, and I know that if I was stuck in a situation where new clothing was needed I could have it, in two shakes of a lambs tale, a few dollars,  and hours and hours of a Chinese woman’s life. And honestly, at this point, I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have that safety net around me. Can you?

So, anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about right now. I’m off to write the next Oedipus Rex. But if you have time, drop me a comment and tell me what you think about these issues, if you consider them at all.


Filed under Books, Ethics, Life, Sewing

The Repeat Offender Dress

Oh, hey, there, strangers! Where the hell have I been? Just, you know, moving to a new place, settling in, starting a graduate program, the usual. I’ve also started running, i.e. I’ve run, like, 5 times which is 5 times more than usual, met a thousand new people (perhaps a slight exaggeration), gotten lost about 7 times (perhaps a slight under-exaggeration) and tried vegan ice cream. Oh, and I made a dress. But that’s about it for me thus far (well, I’m knitting us a bath mat, but who’s counting?) so far in New York, for the simple fact that I don’t have a place to sew in my room. I don’t have a desk or a table, which was clearly a huge error in judgement, and while I can WRITE anywhere I can’t SEW anywhere. So this Saturday I’m off to the Brooklyn Flea (any New Yorkers want to come? Flea market? Food market? Fort Greene? ME?) in the hopes of finding a nice non-bedbug infested desk/table for my sewing machine, because at this point I’ve cut out three projects but been unable to sew a stitch! Honestly, I don’t know how I managed this dress, when I think about it….

Fun fact, this dress was almost entirely free. The pattern is my underdog, Simplicity 4977, which has moved from Dark Horse to Hero Squad in my estimation.

This time, I think I lowered the neckline more to my satisfaction, i.e. I didn’t narrow the shoulders, but the fabric is a bit flimsier (a marvelous lawn print which I won from Quiet and Small’s recent giveaway, THANK YOU YOU WONDERFUL LADY!) so the effect is rather different, I think, then my last try:

It’s a bit blousier then the last time, and I would never wear it without a belt, but I still adore it and get compliments on it every time I wear it.

Still, don’t I look happy?

Obligatory indie shot. Hey, I live in Brooklyn, so it’s not an option anymore, really. I did french seams throughout with this thing, finished the neckline with bias binding (also from Quiet and Small, this dress could also have been called the Quiet and Small dress, really) and added pockets and shortened it and added elastic at the waistline. BUT other than THAT it’s basically the same thing as the pattern. I also bought that rosemary plant in the photo.

Le back, complete with my mad-woman-of-shio hair.

Ah, so contemplative. I’m really thinking, when will this damn timer go off!

Did I personalize my notebook to match this dress? Of course I did. OF COURSE I DID.

And I match Cadfael! Which is the most important thing.

You might be curious to know if he’s happy here in Brooklyn.

I think he’s okay. Such a stoic fellow, it’s very hard to know.

So I promise that once I get a desk/sewing station the posts will come free and fast. Wish me luck at the Flea!


Filed under Clothing, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns