Me-Made-May Day 27

Here you have it. One of the most boring things ever, a white t-shirt. (Paired with the pink skirt you’ve already seen on the 13th.)

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This was, honestly, a quick-and-dirty project. I’ve been meaning to make this since I started making maternity clothes, but couldn’t get excited about it. Finally I found some fabric (sourced from a thrifted tee), but it still sat around for a few weeks. Today I decided it was now or never. It’s not great, it’s not polished, and I took the lazy route and re-used the hems from the original garment instead of sewing my own. And then I put it on, hot off the sewing machine, without even doing a final press! It was lunchtime; no time to iron.

Increasingly I am opting not to perfect every project, but to decide in advance how much time and effort I want to spend and then adjust my expectations of the outcome accordingly. It’s a novel way of working for me, but in certain cases in yields acceptable results where perfectionism only yields never-starting-in-the-first-place!

Me-Made-May Day 21

Yesterday, I made this dress, which I am wearing today.

IMG_3548 copyI have to say, I’ve been feeling a little bit sorry for myself lately, since my favourite summer sewing project is a vintage style cotton dress. They’re easy to make, and cotton comes in beautiful prints of all kinds and is easy to find. But a waist is necessary for those styles, and for maternity wear that stiffer cotton doesn’t work too well. You need something with more drape. And yet the options for drapey fabric are much slimmer, especially if you rule out polyester (which I hate). So as I wheeled my cart around the fabric store one day, I found myself picking out fabrics just because they were the right texture, realising that in fact I didn’t actually like them. Wrong colours, wrong type of print.

Then I spied this stuff. Fabric like this comes on a long bolt, and is pre-shirred, meaning the whole strip of fabric has elasticated gathers already sewn along one end. It’s meant for making sundresses, but I have scorned it all my sewing days thus far. Why would you make a dress if you’re going to start with something with half the work done already?

But this week I was desperate. For one thing, I wanted a pretty summer dress, and in fact I really liked this fabric print – more than I could say for most of the other candidates at the store. For another thing, I’d spent a week meditating on how I was going to alter my maxi dress pattern for maternity, only to realise that all my sewing patterns are still in a shipping container somewhere, and I’d either have to buy a pattern or make something I could make without a pattern. And over the weekend I grew out of yet another piece of clothing that seemed so capacious before, and realised it probably wouldn’t be the last to join the post-baby clothing pile before the summer’s out. So I bought that fabric.

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I think what you are supposed to do with this fabric is just sew it into a tube for a strapless dress. Like this.

IMG_3524I’ll admit there’s a certain Classical charm to the simplicity of this construction. It makes me want to bind a few ropey cords around my middle to hold it all up and finish off with an antique pin and a curly bun. However, in my observation, dresses of this shape have a tendency to sag and blob if not carefully managed, because the dress is the same all the way around, while your body isn’t.

IMG_3526Despite the Classical appeal, I just prefer my clothes to be more robust and stay where I put them. So of course what could have been an easy project became complicated.

I cut a front and back piece, and scooped out a lower armhole area, because that’s one reason dresses like this sag – your arms push them down, while you’re hiking them up in the front. Really you just want an arm opening. I also added some shaping in the bust area, using a dart on each side, which hopefully isn’t too obvious but helps control some of that potential side blousing.

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Of course I also added straps. Finally, in the back, there’s an inverted box pleat which falls open (the cause of that tall fold you can see down the centre back) and adds some width to the skirt. Useful for walking, but it also reminded me of Regency styles, which are of course one obvious ancestor of the modern maxi dress.

IMG_3543I have become a lot more slapdash in my sewing, mostly because I’m sewing for an immediate need rather than my previous approach of planning strategic pieces for a long-term wardrobe. I didn’t do a lot of beautiful finishing techniques or anything on this dress, and it was designed on the fly, pinning it onto myself at each stage and therefore not always being very exact. But I will say that my more recent projects, while I feel they are less technically skilled, have been more creative, and that has been fun.

 

 

 

Me-Made-May Day 18

I made this top a while ago and keep forgetting it exists! Oops. I think it’s because I made it in the last flurry of activity before we moved, so I whipped it out at top speed and then moved on to other things.
IMG_3497I drafted the pattern myself, but ‘drafted’ perhaps sounds too organised. I started with a kimono-sleeve pattern which I did draft, cutting it off at empire line and then adding a rectangular ‘skirt’, but this fabric was so stretchy that my original cutting and sewing yielded a top that was much too big. I just kept pinning it in and resewing until it was right, but didn’t record any of my changes (like I said, I was rushing before we moved). And in fact the fabric was very unusual in its crinkly stretchiness, so I doubt the measurements of this top would be very useful for another.

The denim skirt is a refashioned charity shop one. It started out as a typical straight denim skirt with a front fly. I think it would have fit me beautifully in my pre-baby days. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and blousy tops call for narrow skirts, so I did some hacking.

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I’m including a picture of the gory details below, in case it’s useful to anyone wanting to do the same. I cut off the top of it the skirt, curving the cutting line lower in the front to clear my belly, and then added on a tube of stretchy jersey fabric which reaches up over my belly and has elastic in the top. I was basically copying the way my maternity jeans are constructed.

IMG_3506Now, I will say, by way of warning, that a straight skirt to the knee isn’t the most practical maternity shape, because manoeuvres like bending require more room to move your knees than it probably did before. At least that’s how it feels for me. I struggle to fasten my sandal straps in this skirt. However, it’s a nice piece to have, especially now that it’s really too hot for jeans most days and so skirts and dresses are pretty much ‘it’ for me. (I’m pondering trying to overcome my hatred of shorts, but haven’t managed yet.)

One last thing – I realised the other day that I have some jewellery I made. So I pulled out these earrings. Bonus!

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Me-Made-May Day 13

This is my outfit from a few days ago. The skirt is a very simple dirndl (i.e. a gathered rectangle), and I was inspired by the tutorial at DIY Maternity, http://diymaternity.com/pants-skirts/elastic-waistband-skirt-tutorial/, though I just used my own measurements.

I’m also wearing the cotton slip you’ve already seen.IMG_3479

I added pockets as well. Whenever I’m sewing pockets, I think, ‘Agh, is this worth it?’ However, I always find a use for them. Since I have to use the laundry room at our apartments until we buy a washing machine, it’s handy to have a pocket to stash my keys while I’m hauling clothes with both hands.IMG_3480I used this pink floral fabric because when I made this skirt, a couple of months ago, I wasn’t sure whether the style would really look good and didn’t want to buy fabric for it. I just had the fabric lying around without any specific project in mind, so decided to use it. It seems a bit on the cutesy side, being a ‘ditsy’ pink floral, but the usual risks of looking to little-girlish, too young, or too contrived seem canceled out by pregnancy.

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Me-Made-May Day 12

A while ago, I made this tunic, which I am wearing for only the second time today.

IMG_3476The first time I wore it, a couple of months back, Mike told me that I looked ‘ready to give birth’, which I took to mean that it made me look huge! And I know why – this pattern should have been made from a more slinky, drapey fabric, whereas my cotton/spandex fabric is quite substantial and doesn’t have a lot of drape. So it looks a tad puffy.

However, a couple of months on, it now fits me much better. I definitely feel better in it.

The origin of this tunic is in a similar one I bought long ago from a charity shop in Oxford. (Actually, I think my mom bought it for me.) I loved it, and for a while when I started seeing Mike, it was my go-to outfit for those nervous days with him when I didn’t know quite how dressy or casual I should look. That tunic, which was a pretty turquoise colour and draped nicely, felt pretty like a dress without actually being a dress. ‘Oh, me? I didn’t dress up, what are you saying, this isn’t a dress, is it?’

Alas, it met a sad fate with a bottle of bleach while being laundered over one Christmas. My mom felt so bad that she picked the ruined tunic apart and made a pattern from it, which came to life again as the perfect maternity piece.

 

Me-Made-May Day 6

You’ve seen the denim skirt already. But today welcomes the first garment we’ve seen this month which I actually made from scratch, this watery-aqua embellished tee.

IMG_3459I loooove it. Actually, this is iteration No. 3 of this top: I have two long-sleeved versions in the same fabric! It began by sacrificing an old favourite long-sleeved tee, which got cut up in the name of sewing science. Actually, it was getting ratty but I kept hanging onto it because the fit was so perfect, so my consolation was using it to make a pattern from. I then altered the pattern to be maternity appropriate by adding some width all around, even more width in the lower front, and the elastic ruching on the sides to accommodate the ole belly.

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The fabric was on sale when I bought it, so I just bought a ton. In fact I’m glad I did, because I’ve already made three tops from it and have enough fabric for a fourth. Fortunately I like the colour, but even more I like the fabric, which is a cotton/modal/spandex blend, very thin but durable and stretchy.

I also tried my hand at embellishing this using some strips of fabric, twisted and hand sewn into rosettes. It made a good TV-watching evening activity.

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Me-Made-May Day 4

It’s a denim skirt today. I’d been planning this project for a while, and had almost run out to buy a yard or two of denim to make it from scratch before I decided I should hit up the charity shop first. And indeed I did find a suitable skirt there to remake.

IMG_3366The original was, I don’t know, some kind of 80s number perhaps. It had a wide yoke waistband, gathers, the two patch pockets you can see, and some rather large tan plastic buttons on the waistband, which performed no function. The whole thing was also topstitched in that gold jeans thread, which isn’t a look I really love. But it was a nice dark denim, a good semicircular shape, and big enough that I could rework it.

Much like the white skirt I already wrote about, I started by removing the yoke/waistband at the top, along with its buttons. I then folded down the top of the skirt itself to create a new casing for some wide elastic.

I actually removed the pockets, wondering if I could leave them off altogether, but there was a visible line where they had been – even after I washed it – so I decided to reattach them but using navy thread for a more subtle look. Actually, now I really like the pockets.

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Me-Made-May Day 2

This dress really only scrapes by as being handmade, I’m afraid. It’s a dress originally from Target, which I found at Salvation Army, and the only alteration I made was to adjust the side seams and armholes.

IMG_3358But it’s worth noting what I did, because it’s an easy fix that applies to a lot of garments.

Very often, something 1-2 sizes up from my usual size will be fine in length but simply too wide, particularly in the bust and armhole area, and the armholes are typically too saggy and low. Using dressmaking patterns first alerted me to how sizing works, which is that sizes get wider faster than they get longer, i.e. for every 2″ additional circumference (i.e. one size up) they might only have 1/2″ additional length. And of course logic would have made me aware of this if I’d ever thought about it much – someone a size bigger than me isn’t likely to be a whole 2″ taller. So although I might not be a size Large in circumference, in height a Large is likely to be fine. And while I’m pregnant, a non-maternity Large (in the right style) is actually ideal everywhere but in the whole shoulder/armhole area.

May 2 Diagram

Taking in the side seams about a 1/2″ also ends up raising the armhole, while ultimately decreasing bust circumference by about 2″ overall. So this simple alteration fixes all the problems with a too-big bust and saggy armholes, and I’ve found it useful many times on both tops and dresses.

IMG_3363A lot of the sewing I’ve done for myself during pregnancy has been reworking secondhand clothes to make them function for me now, and hence not quite the creative or technical accomplishment of some of my previous projects. I wasn’t sure at first if I was really happy about this, because admittedly it’s more impressive and satisfying to step out in a dress you’ve completely designed yourself, like last spring’s maxi dress.

IMG_0915But I do feel that my quicker, easier maternity refashioning projects have taught me some new practical skills. And in a sense they simply fulfil, in a different way, the desires that motivate the more complicated projects: to make creative use of what’s available, and open up possibilities beyond what’s possible by simply buying new clothes.

 

 

 

Me-Made-May: Day 1

Here’s today’s outfit!

IMG_3331The white skirt is a refashioned charity shop find. I actually bought it a couple of years ago for £2, because I loved the fabric (linen/cotton), the shape, and it did fit me perfectly. However, a few things about the style meant that it was hard to wear – it didn’t really facilitate tucking in tops, which I do a lot in the summer. It also needed a layer underneath to prevent it being too transparent. But when I was looking for maternity sewing fodder, I realised this skirt was perfect, because it had lovely pleats right at hip level, which is the ideal place for a maternity skirt of this type to sit anyway. So I took off the existing yoke at the top of the skirt and replaced it with an elastic waistband, which now sits comfortably around my hips. And since there will be no tucking-in of tops this summer, it’s just right!

IMG_3337Of course the see-through problem still persisted, but I decided to solve that by making a little cotton slip – no nylon slips in summer, PLEASE!

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This slip was made from a thin white nightgown – a charity shop purchase again – and is just a simple rectangle stitched into a skirt with an elastic waist. I had some white eyelet from the edge of a charity shop sheet, which I sewed to the bottom. As an added bonus, I wanted this slip to be wearable when I’m no longer pregnant, so it needed some extra length for when it can sit back up at my natural waist once more. Thus, I sewed some tucks around the bottom, above the eyelet, which if I undo the stitching later will come loose and give me several extra inches of length.

Are you bored of secondhand remakes yet? Because that’s what this tank top is as well.

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It was a couple of sizes bigger than my usual size, which gave me enough fabric to alter the side seams. I recut it so that the front was wider than the back (for obvious reasons) and then added elastic along the waist area to create the kind of rushing you typically see on maternity tops like this. It’s a very easy alteration to do! And maybe I will again, too, because tank tops are 99c at Salvation army, and half off every Wednesday! Salvation Army, you will be seeing me again.

 

Me-Made-May 2015

me-made-may'14I really enjoyed doing Self-Stitched September in the fall, when for one month I tried to wear at least one handmade garment on five days of the week for the whole of September.

So I thought I would sign up to participate in Me-Made-May, the spring equivalent, hosted by Zoe. I hesitated initially, because pregnancy has put a lot of my wardrobe out of commission, and a lot of my maternity staples are store-bought, making me nervous about being able to make enough homemade outfits to last the month without getting frustrated. However, I definitely enjoyed the Self-Stitched September challenge, and I think I’ll view being pregnant as simply amping up the challenge for May.

So my terms will be the same as before: I will try to wear one handmade, or refashioned or altered, garment five days a week for the month of May. The new challenge will be that I am large and only getting larger, and indeed for the time being still living out of a suitcase after our recent move! But I have a few sewing projects planned, and I’m looking forward to being creative with the clothes I do have.

As in September, I plan to share many, if not all, of my outfits on the blog, another part of the challenge which I really enjoyed. So I shall see you on Friday!