I thought my pinafore days were over

My mom sewed a lot for me when I was a kid. She made me all sorts of lovely dresses and skirts, especially sundresses until I stopped wearing them in favor of pants around age 12. I don’t remember if she ever made me a pinafore as such, but I remember reading about them, and my sundresses certainly served the same purpose.

Recently as I was scrolling through Instagram I came across the Fleur Pinafore by Untitled Thoughts. I was entranced. But then I kept scrolling, because I don’t wear pinafores, and I haven’t since I was 12 at most. But then it kept popping up on my feed. And then I followed the hashtag. And then I found myself at the fabric store shopping for supplies to make myself a pinafore.

I bought this beautiful softly woven cotton fabric from Hobby Lobby. It’s somewhat more loosely woven than quilting cotton, which makes it drape nicely, and the colours and pattern remind me of my childhood in Arizona. I also bought some plain deep red cotton as an accent/lining fabric.

Now I am a very creative person. I’ve written knitting and tatting patterns, and I’ve drafted one or two very simple sewing patterns for myself. So when I looked at the Fleur Pinafore, I thought about how it’s pretty much just rectangles, and I decided to take my measurements and draft my own pattern. And doing that turned out pretty well, but I definitely feel that if I had bought and followed the pattern this would have taken me less time and my finished product would have turned out a little nicer. As it is, though, I’m pretty happy with what I made.

The first thing I did was to measure myself and my fabric and have a good think. I even made a little sketch! I wanted to be extra fancy with the front “bodice” block of the pinafore, so I cut and stitched this first.

Then I cut my lining fabric. I had originally planned to do my pockets, waistband, and lining all in the same wine red fabric, but it turned out that I didn’t buy quite enough. So my waistband and the front and back blocks were lined with an eggplant purple linen/rayon blend that was left over from another project. Before sewing the fashion fabric to the lining, I made up the straps so I could stitch these in with the seam. Once the front and back blocks were assembled, I turned them right side out, clipped the corners, ironed everything, and top-stitched around the edges. With this the bodice front and back were done.

The next piece I worked on was the waistband. I cut the waistband straight, as a rectangle, but with hindsight I wish I had cut it on a slight curve like a pants or skirt waistband. The red fabric originally meant for lining was cut as the outer waistband, and had interfacing fused on. Then the waistband outer and lining were centered over the bottom edge of the bodice blocks, and seamed.

The final piece to assemble was the skirt. I found that if I folded my remaining fabric in half it was the perfect length, so I cut it into 2 equal pieces along the fold line, and sewed 3 rows of basting stitches along the top of each skirt panel. Before gathering the skirt panels, I sewed them together, leaving a 5″ opening at the top of each seam. I inserted a placket into both openings, but instead of attaching both sides of the placket to the skirt, I attached one side of each placket to my pockets. The pockets had not been seamed yet, so I sewed the second half of each pocket to the second skirt panel, and then sewed the pockets together. This is hard to describe, and even harder to visualize, but it left me with a pocket and a skirt opening in the same place.

At this point I was running out of daylight, so I did a quick single-turn hem, and went to bed. The next morning I was wild to wear my new pinafore, so instead of waiting to sewing in closures I pinned it on and went about my day. This wasn’t part of the plan, but I am so glad I wore this around for a day before adding closures! It turns out that my sitting down waist measurement is about 2 inches larger than my standing up waist measurement, and I had not accounted for this in my pattern drafting. Wearing the pinafore pinned closed for a few hours helped me to figure out where the closures needed to be so I would end up with a garment I would actually enjoy wearing.

The last adjustment that needed to be made was to the hem. I cut the skirt as 2 equal rectangles, not taking into account the difference in waist-to-hem measurements in the front and back. The proper technique to fix this is to take out the waist seam and raise the waist to the right measurement, but I had already established that I was not taking the waist seam out. Instead, I cut the front panel to be an inch shorter in the front, angling to match the back panel at the side seams.

My pinafore is technically still not done. I still have a single-turn hem, and I need to do some finishing work on the pocket edges, but it is wearable, and I have loved wearing it this month!

P.S. This garment is massively cat approved! My black cat normally refuses to sit in laps, but the first day I wore this pinafore he volunteered to be a lap kitty. This dress is magic!

Me Made May: I made Shorts!

Hello, friends, and happy May 1!

I remember when I first heard of Me Made May, probably 6 years ago. I had a few me-made garments in my closet, but not nearly enough to wear everyday. The idea of wearing handmade every day – or even taking it a step further and wearing only handmade items – boggled my mind. So the first and second Mays I watched from the sidelines, marveling at all the things other people had made. The third May was the first year I participated. By this point I had made several tops and had quite a few knitted accessories. It made me sad that it was Me Made May, and not Me Made February. It’s a lot easier to wear knitted shawls and socks in the winter than in the late Spring. The second and third Mays were easier than the first as I continued to make things I needed instead of always buying.

This will be my 4th year participating in Me Made May, and this year I have a game-changer: Pants. I’ve wanted to make pants for quite a while now, but it seemed scary and I didn’t have a pattern, so I always put it off. What made me change my behaviour (and my mind) this year was the COVID-19 pandemic and the realization that it was Spring and I only had one pair of shorts. Just before the pandemic hit the US and everything shut down I went to the library and got a bunch of books. This wasn’t intentional, but it was fortuitous, since I now get to keep the books until the library opens up again. One of the books I got was Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. The book comes with quite a few patterns, ideas on how to mix and match them to create different garments, and a lot of general sewing and fitting advice. One of the patterns is for fitted cigarette pants made in a stretch fabric. I like fitted pants, so I took my measurements and cut a size 6 with an 8 waist. When I buy ready-to-wear pants I often have trouble with them fitting well in the bum, so I added some length to the back and sides of my pattern to make sure I would have enough coverage. Then I ordered some stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics and waited for the mail.

A few days later my fabrics had arrived. I washed and dried my first fabric, laid out the pattern pieces, and cut everything out. Then I machine-basted everything together according to the pattern, and did a self-fitting. The pants fit surprisingly well out of the envelope. I took the waist in (I probably could have cut a straight 6), made a small adjustment in the front seam, lowered the waistband, and raised the hem. I made sure to mark all my adjustments, then I took everything apart. Before I started these shorts I told myself that these were just a muslin, that it didn’t have to be a wearable garment, and that whether or not they fit I was going to take them apart and transfer my changes to my paper pattern. Doing this made me feel like an adult and a virtuous sewist. And I know that next time I use this pattern it will already be adjusted to my body and preferences.

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With my pattern updated, I sewed everything back together with a normal stitch length. Then I wrangled with the zipper: I put the zipper in 4 times, and I’m still not happy with it, but there comes a point where good enough is all you need. On the first try the zipper went in beautifully. But I had used a basting stitch length, and I was worried about the longevity of my zipper. So out it came. On the second try my stitch length was correct, but the thread tension on my machine was horrible. Ditto for the third try. I noticed on the second and third tries that the bobbin-side of the sewing looked much better than the needle-side, so for my fourth attempt I sewed from the inside of the garment (which made much more sense to me anyway). There are still a few weird loops of thread on the outside of the fabric, but it mostly looks ok. This was the only part of this sew that my machine had trouble with, and I think it just didn’t like sewing through 2+ layers of denim and the zipper tape.

Once the zipper had been wrangled into submission, I pinked the inside seams and sewed the hem. Then I did a final fitting for the waist height, sewed the waist facing in, and tacked it down at the zipper and seams. At this point I realized I should have sewn the facing in before the zipper, but oh well. My shorts were finished, and at that point, being finished was all I cared about.

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I have fabric to make another pair of shorts, which will bring me up to three pairs – a respectable number. After that, I’d love to get some fun stretch wovens or Ponte knits and make full-length pants. I can make pants, y’all! The sky is the limit!

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Me Made May: Year 2

I participated in Me Made May again this year. My making has slowed down considerably in the last 6 months, so my goal was the same as last year: wear 1 handmade garment or accessory every day. It’s interesting to see how many garments were the same as last year, but also how many were different.

Garments:

Of course I wore my grey Alabama Chanin dress. This dress has become one of my go-tos: I feel good in it and I always get compliments. I also get a lot of wear out of my orange tunic-dress. It’s super comfortable and easy to wear for a lazy day at home.

I have 4 handmade sleeveless tops now: 2 self-drafted, and 2 Wiksten Tanks.

I don’t wear vests a lot, but when I do, they need huge awesome collars. Some handmade lace for a back cutout doesn’t hurt, either.

It’s debatable whether socks are garments or accessories, but I figure since they enclose a part of your body and have to fit, they should be included as garments. I wore my Slytherin socks and my Watermelon socks throughout the month.

Having handmade undergarments has been a real boon for those days when everything else was dirty or didn’t seem to go well together.

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Accessories:

My office is really cold. As in, ‘wear socks and shoes (not sandals) and a shawl and a sweater and fingerless gloves’ cold. So I wore shawls a fair amount this month. My Granny shawl drapes perfectly and stays on effortlessly, and I also wore my wedding shawl and my most recent pattern release, the Balai Shawl (free pattern here).

Some days I didn’t feel like going all out, so I accessorized with my Kumihimo necklace or a ribbon rose hair clip. Simple, but effective.

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New:

I’ve been working on several projects this month, but most of them aren’t finished yet (oh the life of a crafter). I did manage to finally finish my wool crepe vest, and I love how it turned out! It’s big and comfortable and the fabric is oh so lovely.

Me Made May: Takeaways

This was the first year that I participated in Me Made May. I was really surprised that I was able to wear something I had made every day in May – some days I even wore more than one me-made item. Getting dressed some days was hard, though. I realized that I have a me-made wardrobe gap: I see clothing style in a continuum of how casual or dressy it is. The continuum looks like this: casual, medium casual, business casual, professional, dressy. At home I wear mostly casual clothes – jeans or shorts and a t-shirt, or even pajamas. At work I like to dress on the nicer end of business casual. But most of the clothes that I have made fit in the medium casual range, so I don’t always want to wear them at home or at work. This tells me that I need to make more t-shirts and truly casual wear so I can be comfortable at home. I also need to make more business casual clothes so I can feel comfortable at work. I will still wear my medium-casual clothes (both around the house and on the job), but changing what I make will eliminate the time I spend standing in front of my closet wondering what to wear.

I’d like to build a wardrobe that is truly functional and beautiful. Part of that vision is wearing sleeveless shirts with cardigans to be wearable in all seasons. I see lace cardigans over simple sleeveless tops worn with pants in fun colours. Or coloured tops with black or grey pants. Or black tops with grey or coloured pants. I’m still working toward this, but finding the Wiksten tank pattern is a huge step in the right direction. I like how the pattern can be made with nice fabric to dress it up, or in simple cottons for everyday wear. I also have yarn for 3 cardigans now, so I guess I should get making.

Me Made May

This month I participated in Me Made May. I’ve seen this in the past and wanted to participate, but didn’t really know how. I looked it up this year, and basically Me Made May is a challenge to wear the things you have made every day in the month of May. I wasn’t sure if I had enough handmade clothing items to do this, but I decided to try. It ended up being a great way to find things I had made that I had forgotten about and to try different clothing combinations. I will definitely do this again.

One dress, three ways: I love my Alabama Chanin inspired grey dress. I feel very cute wearing it, and it is so easy to style!

Tank Tops: May is warm where I live, so I wore my tank tops a lot. One is self drafted and two are Wiksten tanks (one of which I upcycled from a shirt my husband had torn).

Socks: I wore my Fraternal Slytherin socks a lot. As in every time they were clean. Also, I finished my Pink Floyd socks this month and they have been a bright addition to my handmade wardrobe.

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Accessories: The Chevron Lace Headband is my first published pattern (and it’s free). I’m about to publish a pattern for this cowl as well – it will be called Raindrops and Wildflowers and I’m planning to publish it in July. I also wore my Wedding Shawl and a ribbon rose hair clip I had forgotten about.

Other: I don’t wear skirts as much as I used to, so I had forgotten how much I loved my Joseph skirt. I wore my Lace-Back vest, and my long sleeve Alamaba Chanin t-shirt for the odd cold day.