Infest the Waters: A Blog About Design, Life and Making Stuff

A Midsummer Night’s Sewing Round-up

Placemat - closeup

For most of this year, I haven’t been sewing much because, well, I’ve been busy with work that pays me actual money.  Seriously, though, things are very different now than they were this time last year, which is likely to be fodder for a forthcoming blog post.  The long and short of it is that I’ve had a lot of rewarding work over the past six to nine months that has kept me very busy and away from my sewing machine.  Good for the pocketbook, but not so great for conversation or making stuff.

As I’ve slowly been clawing my way out of workaholism (really…what else was I supposed to do during this awful, awful winter?), I’ve been trying to get back to some of my avocations, like sewing.  There’s been no shortage of projects, and my collection of patterns, like sauerkraut left unattended in the fridge, seems to be multiplying on its own.  (Seriously, if anyone can explain to me that sauerkraut phenomenon, I will be eternally grateful.)

I also have an ever-present pile of clothes earmarked for mending and altering that taunt me from the corner of my sewing room, and some of the clothes have been on the pile for years.  Especially when I switch the clothes in my closets because of the season change, I am acutely aware of clothing that I haven’t worn in years.  I’ve instated a rule:  If a particular piece of clothing hasn’t been worn for the entirety of a season, it gets donated.  However, this rule breaks down when it comes to clothing my grandmother made for me, which carry a certain sentimental value.  Even though I know deep down in my heart of hearts that I’m never going to wear that large flower print pleasant dress that she made for me in the 90’s, I still harbor the completely unrealistic fantasy that perhaps Elaine Benes’ wardrobe will come back into style, and then I’ll be really glad that I hung on to all of those horribly unfashionable dresses that look like a cut-rate florist threw up on me.

One of the items in said pile was a pair of light blue pants that my grandmother made for me circa 2005.  Over the years, she had made me some truly beautiful clothing that I still proudly wear.  But this pair was doomed from the start.  The fit just wasn’t right.  It had a very wide waistband, and the legs, which began wide at the thigh, only got wider.  The crotch was too low, and there was too much space around the waist.  She probably made the right size for my measurements, but as I’ve discussed before, sometimes patterns just have too much ease in them.  They were never quite right, and to be perfectly honest, they looked like I was wearing a pair of pajama pants over a diaper I had taken a dump in.

So after making a pair of pants as my final entry in last year’s year-long sewing project, I felt empowered to tackle altering these pants. I’m sorry…or maybe I’m not…to say that I didn’t take a picture of the pants before alteration, so you’ll just have to imagine the aforementioned description. I took the pants apart around the waistband and cut down its width, and I took in the waist and made the legs slimmer.  Luckily, I didn’t need to monkey with the fly, and in the end, when I put everything back together, I had essentially turned a pair of loose-fitting flared pajama pants into a pair of slim fit, straight-leg slacks that don’t look one bit like a I took a dump in them.  Not too shabby.  And I kind of needed a new pair of spring-/summer-weight pants anyway.

Pants alteration    Pants alteration - back view

Next up was a random half-finished project that had been taking up space on my sewing machine ever since I made the Wacom tablet case last November.  It was a failed attempt at making something cool for the exterior of the case.  I had sewn a bunch of round felt donuts to some blue velvet, which made a cool pattern, and I had intended to sew two sections of that together to form the case, but once I sewed the rounds to the velvet, I discovered that it was too thick to pass the two pieces through my sewing machine.  So they’ve been sitting around ever since dreaming of one day becoming placemats.  The problem was that I’ve been struggling for months to figure out how to finish the edges of the placemats, and then suddenly it hit me a few weeks ago.  I could just cut off the excess fabric around the felt rounds and use Fray Check to make sure the unfinished fabric edges didn’t fray.  Voila!  Now I have two placemats.  Très moderne, n’est pas?

Two placematsPlacemat - closeupPlacemat with table setting

And finally, I happened to be at The Resource Exchange a couple of weeks ago to do some training on their new website (developed by yours truly), and I picked up some lightweight, waffle-y white cotton fabric to make a sleeveless summer shirt.  Most fabric is either 45″ or 60″, but this was an uncommon 38″.  So I knew I’d probably need to buy more than the pattern called for.  I thought I had adjusted accordingly, but when I went to cut out the pattern, tragedy struck West Powelton!  I hadn’t bought enough fabric.  Luckily, I knew there was more still at The Resource Exchange, so I planned to pick up extra the next time I had a chance to get there.  I briefly considered e-mailing them and ask to set it aside, but ultimately I decided that wasn’t necessary, because WHAT WAS THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THEY’D SELL OUT OF THAT EXACT FABRIC?

And this is where I went wrong.  When I stopped by the store a mere five days later, I found out that they had sold the rest of the fabric the previous day. Lesson learned.  Take the two minutes and e-mail if you really want something, Wittchen.

I was mildly devastated, mostly because I had spent a couple of hours cutting out most of the pattern and attaching the interfacing.  But this also presented a unique challenge.  If I could find some complementary fabric, I might be able to make it work, and it might make the shirt more interesting.  Not being able to bear the thought that I had wasted both my time and the fabric that I had already cut to size, I accepted the challenge, and a couple of days later I found a lovely seersucker on sale at Joann.  (Just in case, I bought enough of the new fabric to make the entire shirt out of it in case the two different fabrics didn’t work out.)

Much to my delight, it worked beautifully, and now I have a lovely new summer shirt.

Sleeveless shirt - front  Sleeveless shirt - back

After the long winter, it feels good to be seated at the sewing machine again. More projects to come soon!

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