This is going to be painful …

I have a great job, and I’m very happy and thankful to have it. Particularly right now, when my company is laying off thousands of people around the globe, I’ve got no complaints at all. But today I found out that after more than three years of working mostly at home, I’m going to need to be back in the office, it looks like probably four days a week if not the full five. That’s not SO bad, because you know, people and socializing and stuff. But when I heard the news, my heart sank a little bit because I was picturing my closet. You know, a closet with very few clothes for career wear, because over the last few years I haven’t really needed much, and so when my already older clothing wore out, I didn’t really think about replacing it because who needs a bunch of slacks & dressy blouses when they’re in the office once, maybe twice a week?

Good strategy, huh?

So I went up to my closet and took stock. Two pairs of slacks, a few blouses (that I’ve worn so often, I feel like they’re second skins), a single pair of work-type shoes. Ummm …. yeah. Great.

Since I need to start going back to the office most days of the week on MONDAY, I knew I wouldn’t be able to really make any clothing before I needed them. So I headed out to pick up a few things, and I’ll admit, I got some good deals – a couple pair of slacks, a few shirts and a cardigan for $160. But they’re so … generic. So … boring. So … lacking in style. But you know, at least it keeps me from going to work sans clothing. I hear they frown on that in the office these days.

I’m a plus size, and I’m not much of a garment sewist, but I’ve got to make an effort to make myself some clothes, because everything I saw today was just … eh. You know that feeling? You walk in to a store and you see some clothes and they’re ok, but nothing special, and you don’t hate them but you don’t love them. Eh. I haven’t worn skirts in ages because … well, because I’m not a thin girl, and … chub rub and all that, but I’m thinking that a couple skirts might be fairly simple and fast to turn out because I’m NOT a fast garment sewist. I can whip up a queen size quilt top in a day and a half, but a garment of any type? We’re talking a week, at least. Maybe longer, if I’m just not feeling it.

Frankly, I’m not terribly worried about fitting right now. I’m more concerned about construction and making sure I can actually put it together without too much hassle. Sure, fitting is important, but so is a garment I can wear. As I go along, I’m sure I’ll start working on fit more, but for now, it’s about garments that I can wear that don’t look terrible. I don’t care that others might judge me for that; they don’t have to agree with me. But I’m pretty sure that four pairs of slacks and eight tops will get pretty boring in short order, and I don’t really want to pay more money for clothes that are just … eh.

This is going to be painful, but in the long run, it will be worth it. Right?

Right???

At least, I hope it’s worth it …

The best laid plans of mice and men …

And apparently, women who sew. I really don’t know why I make plans when it comes to sewing, because the reality is, I never live up to those plans. Life gets in the way, or I get sick (as I am now, with a cold), or I just get sidetracked.

I didn’t get my cardigan finished in September; it still needs to be hemmed, and hemmed it will be – eventually. Instead, I got busy with the Green Eggs and Ham quilt, getting it quilted and starting the binding. I have one side bound, and almost all the quilting done, but once I was finished with all the “planned” quilting, I spread out the quilt and took a look at it and realized that it needs more quilting. There isn’t much that really needs to be done, but I do intend to do it and finish binding the quilt. It was my plan to do that this week, and then both Chris and Travis got sick on Monday, with different ailments, if you can believe it. I was feeling pretty smug about the fact that I wasn’t sick and then yesterday I got hit with a very light version of Chris’s stomach bug, and this morning I woke up with Travis’s cold. So I guess the last laugh is on me. Ha. Ha. Ha. But I digress.

I really need to finish up the quilt, because I need to get it to Julie, and I have other things I want to get done before the holidays. Namely, I have a wall hanging I’m supposed to do for Christmas Eve, a challenge that my mom presented me with last year. I know she’s been working on hers, but while I’ve given mine some thought, I haven’t actually started on it. She’s totally gonna kick my ass in this challenge, I can feel it already. And of course, I want to hem the cardigan. And I have about 12 quilts in various stages of production that I would like to finish, not to mention a couple I would love to start. So yeah … I have a list of things to do.

But every time I make a specific plan about what I want to accomplish and when, it doesn’t get done. I don’t know if it’s the inner rebel in me, or if I am just so disorganized or if I simply waste too much time, but I don’t seem to be able to focus enough energy on sewing and quilting in the average week to finish the things I want to do. I’m not sure why this is the case, because for years, I spent a LOT of time quilting each week, every night after work when the kids went to bed, and on weekends. I think I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m not going to set specific goals for finishing things or getting things done anymore. I have a different plan now.

Instead of setting goals of finishing this, or making that, I’m going to just set a goal to sew for a while every day. Right now, my goal is to spend at least 15 minutes each day sewing. That doesn’t mean that I’ll spend 15 minutes looking at patterns online, or reading Pattern Review, or that I’ll spend 15 minutes looking at fabric to decide what I want to make out of it. That’s 15 minutes laying out a pattern to be cut out, or 15 minutes of actual sewing at the machine. Or even 15 minutes cutting thread off a quilt project (I have several threads that need to be trimmed off Green Eggs).  Nope, not that either. I can do that while I’m watching tv with Chris. I want this 15 minutes to be in the pursuit of actually making something.

In a week or two, depending on how the 15 minutes a day goes, I’ll up my goal to 30 minutes a day. My ultimate goal will be at least an hour a day of sewing, with the option to do more as time permits. There will be days I spend an hour sewing, a few where I get in 30 minutes, and hopefully some where I can get several hours in during a session. I will be keeping track of my sewing time, because how else will I know if I’m making progress toward my goal? The main thing is to sew more often.

And with that, I guess it’s time to get upstairs and see what I can get done today. Hopefully, I can get more than 15 minutes in, but if I don’t, I’ll be happy to actually get just the 15 minutes.

Happy sewing, everyone!

The Weekend Approaches

And trust me, I’m counting the minutes until it arrives! No real plans, but I’m sure I will find something to do. And if I know me, I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve fabric.

Speaking of fabric, I finally finished my button down shirt. It was actually done on the first day of this month, so I’m not counting it as my challenge garment, but it is done. There were some problems, as I posted about before, but overall I’m pretty happy with it – definitely happy enough to wear it outside of the house. No photos yet, but I’ll try to get some this weekend and post them. I have also made good progress on my cardigan, despite some issues with trying to put the shoulder seams together. All that’s left on it is to hem it and it’s good to go. I’m hoping to get that done this weekend as well. It would have been done by now but I’m running short of thread, so I’ve been procrastinating about going to buy some more. I’ve learned from the experience that in the future, I will only buy the large spools of thread, not the smaller ones. It’s really amazing how fast the thread runs out!

As I was procrastinating on the hemming this week, I was also considering what I want to make next. That’s when I realized that I really don’t have a plan for my sewing and … I think I need one. I don’t want to make a ton of clothing right now, because I’m losing weight. At the very least, I want to make a few items that I can wear as I lose several pounds, so nothing too form fitting or fitted. I can probably alter items as I lose weight, but they can be altered only so far. With that in mind, I’ve come up with the following plan …

2 pairs of neutral colored slacks, with waistbands and zipper closures and belt loops

2 loose fitting cardigans in navy blue and red (I think)

3 fitted t-shirts (although I said nothing fitted earlier, I do believe that fitted tees are fine, because if they are looser as I lose weight, I doubt anyone will notice overmuch)

2 work blouses

2 bras

3 pairs of panties

1 jacket/coat

Obviously, it’s going to take me some time to get all that sewn up, and I will likely not work on it continuously, so the list may change slightly. And this doesn’t include the list of stuff for others in the family – I owe my son a hoodie and I want to try making some boxer briefs for my husband. But I really would like to make all of the things on the above list over time because I think it’s going to give me some great experience and a wonderful wardrobe. And now that I have a plan, I’m even more excited to get started on my next garment!

While I’ve been working on my garment making plans, I’ve also been working on the Green Eggs & Ham quilt for Julie. Currently, I’m doing the embroidery on it that will act as the quilting, and I have to admit that I love this quilt a little more every time I look at it. It’s going to be hard to let this one go, so I am going to have to make myself one after all! I mean, really … what child of the 60’s or 70’s wouldn’t LOVE this quilt?

Green Eggs & Ham, getting quilted!

Green Eggs & Ham, getting quilted!

August Recap

In August, I decided I would challenge myself to make one garment a month, and though the challenge isn’t to start until this month (September), I came very close to having a garment done in August. I think I would have had it done, or at least close, if not for a problem I ran in to last night. I was serging the side and underarm seams last night and … I don’t know, my serger just went nuts. It was working beautifully and then all of a sudden, threads started to break and I broke a needle (NO clue how THAT happened). And now, I’m concerned that my shirt may be completely ruined. :-(  I had already re-threaded the machine like half a dozen times before the needle broke, and I’m not even sure where the broken part went (to be fair, I haven’t looked for it yet either). So today, I’ll get back in the studio, try to fix the machine and then try to salvage my shirt. I’m going to be VERY unhappy if my shirt is ruined because of this. It really makes me want to not use the serger anymore. /sigh

But, onward and upward. Today, whether I get the serger fixed or not, I’m going to finish cutting out my cardigan, and hopefully get it put together. The pattern instructions say that it can be made in an hour (ha. ha. hahahahahahahaha!), but not being a strong sewist, I’m pretty sure it will take me longer.

Other projects I have planned for future sewing include a coat for myself, a hoodie for my son, several t-shirts for me, and an attempt at a t-shirt for my husband. He’s a pretty big guy, so making a t-shirt for him will be a challenge, but I’m willing to try. Also, I bought some beautiful navy blue ponte knit this weekend that I want to use to make either some slacks for work, or maybe even a dress.

I also dyed a piece of fabric the other day using an ice-dye method that I just loved. It was so freakin’ easy … I’ll post some photos and directions on the process soon (my very first tutorial, perhaps?). This was a test piece to find out how it worked, and to prepare fabric for my first ever landscape quilt. I’ve always wanted to do one but never have had the confidence to jump in. Well, I guess something broke loose because now it’s pretty high on the priority list to just try it out.

In other news, there may be some decorating posts from me in the not too distant future, as I have decided on a new theme for my living area. I’m currently in the paint testing stage, and I’ve got my color chosen. Chris says it’s not a color at all, because it’s far too light to see a difference in it and the primer currently on the walls. I have decided to go with an off white or cream color for the living area because I don’t want to have to repaint again in a few years because I am tired of the color. This way, I can change themes and colors and decor without having to change the walls too. I really despise painting, so why not make it as easy as possible to avoid doing it again for as long as possible? I mean, I paint my walls a color and then in a couple of years, I’m tired of that color. The only color I currently have in my house that I don’t hate is a very light grey in the front room. It is so light, in fact, most people don’t realize it’s grey; they all think it’s an off white!

Well, I’m off to try to salvage the shirt now; wish me luck!

Moving outside the comfort zone

The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears. – Dan Stevens

 

This October will mark the 14th anniversary of the first time I ever attended the Houston International Quilt Festival. It was the same year that my ex-husband and I decided that divorce was the best option, and I was looking for a way to move forward in life. I attended that first show with my mom and a friend of hers, and it opened up to me a whole new world that I never knew existed – a world where I was intrigued with fabric, color and the visual stimulus that would take my mind off other things going on in my life. The quilts that interested me the most were NOT my great-grandmother’s style of quilting. They were beautiful picture type quilts, and I was stunned by the work, time and effort it must have taken to produce them.

It wasn’t too long after that I decided to learn to quilt – something I’d always had an interest in, in the abstract, but which I’d never thought I would actually do. I walked into the local quilt shop, The Painted Pony, and told them that I wanted to learn to quilt. The lady who was helping me said, “Sure, we can sign you up for a class!” I told her I didn’t have time for a class – I was a single mom with two small children, a full time job and I attended school in the evenings. I just wanted a book. She kept insisting that I would never learn to quilt on my own, but she did eventually sell me a book and the fabric to make a quilt, but as I was walking out of the shop, she said to me, “We’ll still be here when you fail at that, and you can sign up for classes!” A week later, I took my first completed quilt back to the shop to show her that I could indeed learn to quilt without their class. It was far from perfect, but it was mine, and I had done it alone. It may sound silly to say, but that first quilt changed my life.

For the next eight years or so, my life would revolve around my children, my job, school and quilting. I made time for quilting even when I was taking a full load at school, while continuing my demanding full time job. It was my sanity, my escape, and it changed my life for the better. I took a break where I quilted only intermittently over a period of about four years, and then picked it back up again in earnest a couple of years ago. A four year break can kill the skill set, so I’ve spent the time since I picked up again to rebuild those skills. Most of those quilts I designed myself, or bastardized a design I saw elsewhere. They were skill builders in many ways – bringing me back to the quilting art, teaching me how to implement my own ideas, and exposing me to the various ways that others approach quilting. But I’ve grown somewhat complacent in my quilting. I’m firmly stuck in a comfort zone I’ve had no intention of moving out of, until now.

The last few weeks I’ve been working on improving my garment-making skills. I’ve always had basic skills; I made the kids some shorts when they were little, I’d make myself pants with elastic in the waist. My garment projects were always really simple, very basic, and not too exciting. In a word, they were boring. When I recently decided I wanted to make myself some clothes, I went back to – you guessed it – pants with elastic in the waist. Then I thought, you know, this isn’t really what I want to do. I want to learn to make t-shirts, and items with buttons and zippers, and collars and waistbands. So I went to Hancock Fabrics and bought a pattern to make a shirt with a collar, collar band and buttons. I’m not a fast sewist, so it’s taken me about three weeks to get to where I am with that shirt, but it’s close to being completed. It needs buttons (the buttonholes are already done) and to be hemmed. I am really hoping to get it completed today. After that, I have a knit cardigan cut out that I’ll be putting together. I made myself a t-shirt a few weeks ago; I need to tweak it and learn how to do a better neck, so that project will come after the cardigan. I was really nervous about working with knits, because the internet will have you believe that they are really difficult to work with and make sewing a chore. But I’ve really enjoyed it, and I plan to do a lot more of it. I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone and I’ve really enjoyed making clothing, much more than I ever thought possible.

Last night while I was working on my shirt, I started to think that maybe the reason why I’m not all that interested in picking up another quilt to do is that I’m stuck in my quilting comfort zone, only I’m not so comfortable with it. I do the quilts that are easy for me, and I’m not challenged enough. Maybe my reality is that I need a certain amount of “challenge” to keep myself moving forward. When I started thinking about it, I realized that nearly every time I’ve taken a break from quilting, it’s come after a particularly long period of being stuck in whatever comfort zone I was in, but instead of turning to other fabric arts, I would pick up my camera, or find another hobby. I get easily bored when I’m not being challenged, and that’s why I look for other hobbies to take up when I get bored with quilting. It isn’t necessarily I want a break from sewing itself, as evidenced by my recent garment construction, but rather, I want a break from the monotony I’m creating for myself. This led me to realize that my second greatest barrier to moving forward in quilting is my own fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of … something I cannot name, perhaps?

I’ve always admired landscape quilts; that’s what I first fell in love with at the Houston quilt festival in 2000, and I’ve always wanted to do one but I’ve had a million excuses why I can’t or shouldn’t do it. I can’t draw. I’m not an artist. I’m not familiar with some of the techniques used in those quilts. I’m not talented enough to do it. There are a million excuses why I can’t do it, but there’s one good reason why I should try – because I want to do it. If I had let those excuses deter me from learning how to quilt in the first place, I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the things I’ve already done. And even though I’m not an artist and I cannot draw, why does that also mean that I can’t make a landscape quilt? It doesn’t, quite frankly. My landscape quilt doesn’t even have to be realistic – if it doesn’t turn out so good, I can call it an abstract! So what’s holding me back now?

Nothing. There is absolutely nothing holding me back now. And so, in tandem with finishing my shirt already in progress and putting together the cardigan I’ve already cut out, I’m also going to start work on my first landscape quilt. It may not turn out great, and it might not look much like a landscape when I’m done, but I’m going to give it a shot. And if it isn’t that great when it’s done but I’ve enjoyed the process, I’m going to try again. And again. And again. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter to me what others think about the quilts, it will get me out of my comfort zone, and that’s exactly what I need.

My Personal Challenge

As I posted last time, one of my goals is to get better at making clothing. I still don’t have the revised pattern piece, but I did email them again this morning to ask about it and to point out that there is also not a notch for one side of the sleeve. I’m about to pack it all up and take it to my Mom’s to see if she can help me get it finished. I’m not happy about this because I was really hoping to have it finished by now!

Anyway, back to my original reason for posting. My goal is to get better at making clothing, both for myself and my husband. So I’m setting myself a challenge – one new garment completed each month from September until the end of 2015. I hope to complete more than one a month, but right now, that’s my goal. One garment each month. It doesn’t have to be for me, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. But it does need to be completed by the last day of the month. 

My garment for September will be a semi-fitted t-shirt for myself. I made the fitted version of Butterick B5215 back in the spring, and at first thought it didn’t fit well and that there were problems with the neck line (there ARE problems with the neck line, but I’ll save that story for another time). Well, it does fit very well, it’s really comfortable and I can conquer the issues with the neck line. In fact, once I put the shirt on the right way, the neck was perfectly fine. I’m going to try the semi-fitted version of the same pattern, and I’ll be starting it this weekend (and hopefully finishing it, too, which means my challenge will start in August, not September). I have plans to make either four or five of these shirts for myself, so it might be a couple months of t-shirt sewing in various colors. I will do a post on the fitted version as soon as I can get a photo of myself wearing it, and share my struggles with the neck at that time. 

Another thing I’m seriously considering doing is to take a fitting class with Craftsy, because I want to learn how to draft my own patterns, and I think proper fit is the first step in that process, not to mention that even when my measurements are the same as the information on the pattern envelopes, I don’t always get a good fit. I have found that in some cases, I could have made at least a full size smaller than the envelope indicated. I think learning how to get a good fit is also important when one starts to branch off into independent the pattern maker’s offerings, not because they aren’t as good as the Big 4 (Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick and Vogue), but because I can pick up the Big 4 on sale sometimes for as little as $1 each, and the independents cost about $16 on average for a pattern. I’ve been a little wary of indie patterns because a lot of them are downloads, where you print them out on regular paper and then tape them all together. I’m not interested in yet another step in trying to make a garment – I want to pull the pattern out of an envelope, trace it off and GO. I would never use a pattern that I taped together to make a garment, so that would mean I would have to print it out, tape it together and then trace it. No thanks … I’m not that interested in anything an indie has come out with to go through all those steps. Heck, for that, I can learn to draft or modify patterns myself, which is why I’m considering the Craftsy class.

At any rate, my sewing plans this weekend are to maybe finish my button down shirt, if revised pattern pieces come from Butterick, and if not, I’ll start work on a t-shirt. I’d like to make a tee that I then put some embroidery on, but I’m going to make this first one to check for proper fit first. Then, if it works out like I think it will, I will make another one to embroider on. :-)

Have a great weekend, everyone!