Sometimes it is so exciting to create a totally new me-made garment! That excitement can get other things pushed to the bottom of the list, like repairing the clothing I already have.
I'm pretty good at repairing anything me-made, I think because I really appreciate those pieces more. But I've been trying to get better at repairing, altering, and refashioning not just the things I've made, but the rest of the clothing in my closet as well. I've been doing better (see my invisible jeans mending post) but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
I would say that about 80% of my closet is second hand clothing, which I love, but they often come with little things wrong with them that, if I fixed them, would make me love them even more. A lot of them are easy fixes too! But my intentions to fix them often end up leaving me with a pile of mending that sits there for months at a time.
Me Made May has been very inspiring for me in terms of finally getting these things mended and altered. I decided that since my me-made wardrobe is pretty limited while I'm pregnant, that I would include
wearing things that I've mended and altered as well as the completely self made pieces. And I'm loving it! It has really motivated me to do those
alterations, and to appreciate those pieces more!
Here are a few examples of my alterations:
The polka dot top:
I got this shirt at a second and shop, and I love the color and pattern, and the style of the shirt! Whenever I go swing dancing, it always pops into my head as a perfect little retro looking top to wear. The problem is, with swing dancing (as with many things in life) you have to be able to raise your arms with ease. And this shirt did not allow for that. What an easy fix! I just had to take off the sleeves, and turn under the raw edges. And yet... it sat in my mend pile for about a year before I touched it.
The Striped Dress:
This dress is another second hand piece of clothing that just wasn't quite right. It was a strapless dress, but had absolutely no support on top, which led to a lot of yanking up to make sure everything was covered. On top of that, the white of the bust area was not only slightly see through, but also had some staining in the pits.
Solution: take off the top!
This was another really simple fix. I seam ripped the top from the bottom, cut the zipper down, (safety pinned the zipper down so I wouldn't accidentally pull it off during alterations) and then hand tacked the zipper in place and a hook and eye at the top of the elastic. Voila! Skirt.
Altering the ready to wear clothing that I already have is such a quick easy sewing project. Sometimes it's nice to sit down and be able to accomplish an entire project in a half hour. I also feel like RTW clothing often gets the short end of the stick. I know the quality isn't always great, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be using all the discarded second hand clothing that already exists. Wear it out. And then repair it! RTW deserves to be repaired too! I just need to make it more of a priority....
I've got a great little downloadable freebie for you guys!
I've always loved the idea of Me-Made-May, but I've always been intimidated by it. For those of you who don't know, MMMay is a challenge started by Zoe Edwards of SoZo to help sewists develop a better relationship with their handmade wardrobe. It is a huge deal on instagram every year, because most people pledge to wear all handmade for the entire month, and post a selfie every day on instagram using the #MMMay18
Which is super intimidating right?? My handmade wardrobe is not nearly filled out enough to wear only handmade all month. And posting a picture of myself every day to instagram is quite a commitment for me.
But then, I listened to episode 38 of the Love to Sew Podcast, which featured Zoe and the MMMay challenge. And Zoe emphasized that this challenge is NOT a photo challenge, and it is NOT the same challenge for different people. You get to choose what you want to challenge yourself to do. You don't have to wear me-mades from head to toe. And you don't have to post an instagram selfie every day. You can track your challenge however you want!
So of course, my mind jumped straight to bullet journaling!
I'm obsessed with my bullet journal, and I love creating new spreads to help me keep track of my life, so I whipped up a few pages to help me track my newly inspired MMMay!
A couple of my pattern testers made a particular request after reading through my Inara instructions. After seeing one of the photos of my grey robe at the end of the instructions, they each let me know that they would love to read a blog post about how I added the lace to it. The good news?? It was super duper simple to do!
The great thing about lace (most lace anyway) is that your can cut it, and it doesn't fray. So really, this beautiful lace overlay was really as simple as cutting out pieces of lace that I loved, pinning them in place where I thought they looked good, and then I chose a matching thread color and topstitched the pieces down. Easy as pie. I'm not sure why people say this, pie seems like a rather intimidating dessert to make. Easy as.....no bake cookies. There you go.
If that sounds wayyy too simple, here are a few details and tips of what I did, in case you are planning on replicating it:
- I placed the lace onto the robe after sewing the side seams but before the bottom hem step, and before adding the binding. In retrospect, the stiffness of the lace did weird things to my hem, so next time I'd hem and THEN add the lace overlay, and then put on the binding. I added the sleeve lace after hemming the sleeves, and as you can see it lays much nicer!
- The lace sleeve bands are 3" tall. The lace around the hem is about 4", except at the sides where it goes up to 8" above the hem. I LOVE the way the higher lace on the side seams accentuates the curve of the hem.
- As you can see in a photo below, I didn't have one nice big piece of lace to work with. There are actually several parts that are pieced together. But the beauty of matching your thread color is that you can only tell that it's pieced if your eyes are about a foot from my butt. And I don't usually let people get quite that close to my rear end.
- I added a final touch of lace to the center back neck of the robe. I love that it brings the triangular motif of the hem to the back of the robe as well.
- Unfortunately I cannot point you in the direction of this beautiful lace I used. It was a small sample piece in my stash from when a local fabric store was downsizing. #makeyourstash
I would LOVE to see how you guys hack The Inara pattern to make it your own style, this way or any other way! And if you have any questions about what I did, just comment below! In the meantime, I'm now going to go make myself some no bake cookies....
If you haven't seen Sylvia's Epic Halloween Quilt on FlyingParrotQuilts.com, you need to drop everything and go look! I am absolutely in love with her quilt blocks, and her color choices! One day, I will make this quilt for myself! Mark my words! I'm extra excited to see her Round-up for it this year because she gives my Tombstone Pillow a mention! I would love to see someone make both the quilt and the Tombstone pillows for an epic Halloween bed set. Because you know that's what is going to happen over here at the Stage household one day.
I was originally going to include this blog post in with the London Sewing Tour of 2017, but my love for this magazine spilled over into too many words, so I decided to separate it from the fabric shopping tour. I spotted this magazine in the Manchester airport during our layover on our way to London this summer, and instantly loved it. I took a picture of it so that I could remember what it was called, but then when I was in the public toilet Eddie snuck back and bought it for me (this is typically how things go in our relationship. I want something but will never allow myself to buy it, and then Eddie forces me to get it or surprises me with it) So, I had a very pleasant 2 hour layover reading my new magazine!
Apparently, there is a reason I’ve never come across La Maison Victor in Indiana, because this is the first issue in English! One of the biggest things about this magazine that I love is the overall aesthetic. The photos are just the right mix of being beautifully professional but without everyone looking like mannequins. I have very strong opinions on sewing pattern photos and illustrations, often finding that even if a pattern itself is trendy and modern, the photo in the pattern catalog still somehow makes it look like something from the 2000’s, just slightly too out of date to be appealing.
Anyway, along with the beautiful inspiration you get from this issue, you also get 8 free sewing patterns with full size pattern pieces! 8 patterns for £5.99 is a steal! Speaking as someone who has designed patterns, I really don’t know how that is even possible.
Something else that I really appreciate about La Maison Victor is that they offer not just women’s patterns, but also men’s, children’s and baby’s patterns too! Along with the sewing patterns, there are other DIY projects sprinkled throughout too including an extremely cute sweater you can knit, a DIY flower crown, and a couple of home décor projects too. Different skill levels, very inclusive sizing, and step-by-step tutorials add even more to this already delightful magazine. The only thing that I don’t know yet is how well the patterns are made, because I haven’t had a chance to test one out yet. But once I do, I’ll let you all know!
You know when you just see a fabric and you absolutely fall in love with it?
Yeah. That’s what happened to me at Let’s Sew.
I was there on a trip with my ASDP group this past spring, visiting one of our members’ sewing workrooms, and we decided to check out the local fabric store while we were there. Let’s Sew is a great store full of beautiful garment fabrics and quilting fabrics (that are good enough quality to also be used for garment making!) I had intended to just go to look, and not to buy anything.
Ha. You know how that goes.
I spotted a beautiful blush eyelet fabric on a roll against the wall, and that was it. I didn’t know what I would make with it, but it was coming home with me!
I started sketching in the car ride home, and by the time we made it back, I had a plan.
….That I worked on intermittently for the next 4 months….
The downside to working a day job where I sew, and owning a side business that also involves me sewing for hours, is that you end up having very little time and energy for getting sewing done for yourself. This is actually the first whole project I’ve taken on just for me in years.
I started out by playing around with the fabric on my dress form, and then drafting the pattern for my new dress. I actually drafted it specifically for the fabric that I had bought. I hadn’t known what I wanted to make with the fabric in the store, and I was trying not to overbuy, so I really had a very limited amount to work with. I started with 1.5 yds of the face fabric, and 1 yard of the lighter pink lining fabric. I also wanted to draft the pattern very specifically for fabric use because as an eyelet fabric, it had the most beautiful border on the edges! There were certain parts of the dress that I wanted to make sure that I used that border for. The bottom hem, the front yoke, and the center back for certain were going to be out of the border pattern. I would have used more for the sleeves, but I didn’t have any more even for that. Instead, I ended up tracing around the scallops of the edging in order to create the sleeve edge, mimicking the look.
So after pattering a new dress, the logical next step is to make a muslin, to test the pattern out.
But I have this bad habit of not making a muslin before diving in to a project, and true to form, I didn’t make one for this dress. I don’t make a lot of time for sewing for myself, and when I do, I never want to lose that precious time to a test run, even when I know I’m risking the entire project by choosing not to do one.
I cut all my pieces out with a 1” seam allowance to give me some wiggle room, but I definitely had some “Oh shit” moments during the process, when I thought I’d completely screwed it up. Although if I’m honest, every new project I do goes through a moment or two (or five) when I feel like I’ve completely messed it up and I can’t stand looking at it. Luckily I usually get passed this feeling, and I did with my pink dress too.
Originally, I had drafted this pattern to have an elastic waist. But once I tried it on, I did NOT like the way it looked. It bunched in all the wrong places, and I wasn’t satisfied with the look of the elastic on the open back of the waist. It just didn’t look finished to me.
So I decided to pivot, and add a waistband in place of the elastic. I scrounged up enough fabric to create the band, and gathered the skirt and top into the band and it looked much better! But by adding a waistband, I had backed myself into a corner.
I had gone all out with this dress in terms of finishing the seam allowances. I had decided to make the insides just as pretty as the outsides, and went with french seams, along with all sorts of bound edges and Hong Kong seam finishes.
But my late-in-the-game pivot meant that in order to be able to put the dress on (kind of important…) without the elastic waist I now needed a zipper opening in the side seam.
The side seam that was already perfectly frenched. (definitely an "oh shit" moment)
This lead to a lot of procrastinating, in the form of googling tips for how to put an invisible zipper into a French seam. But in the end, I just had to wing it. It was pretty much hand sewing to the rescue. My bright white zipper did end up taking away from the sophisticated look of my dress innards, but a lot of hand sewing at least made it look cleaned up and presentable.
As with any project (especially one that I don’t make a muslin for...), I already have improvements in mind for my next go with this pattern. But overall I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out! I definitely had fun trying to take some pictures of it! I’ve been eyeing this ivy wall down the street from me for a while, and I got Eddie to come with me to cut out the awkward selfie shenanigans. He said he would only come with if he could pretend he was a real photographer and dress the part. Apparently this is how Eddie thinks photographers dress: hat, glasses, and cut off jean shorts. He is so adorable.
One of the benefits of having super cool bosses (I’m including myself in here of course) is that I get to travel without worrying about using up too many vacation days. The factory life of having only 5 vacation days for an entire year is over, and now I can basically take off as much time as I can afford to! This summer has been a great example of this perk. I not only went on a family adventure to Alaska at the beginning of the month, but I also just got back from a work trip to London! Eddie was there participating in an Alzheimer’s conference, and I was able to tag along!
Along with the normal sight seeing we accomplished, I also took the time when Eddie was in the conference to go on a bit of a sewing holiday tour of London.
Here are a few of my favourites from the trip:
(excuse the blurry photos, I was using my phone!)
Fabrics Galore was another fabric shop that stuck out to me. Their window display was stellar, and I really enjoyed their fabric selection! I love very modern prints, and this store was full of them, especially, their home décor section. I’m just sad I didn’t have any projects in mind that would fit these beautiful fabrics! I love anything cactus, world map, or insect related, and this store had all of those! They also had lots of skull fabrics, and even a sort of cork fabric!
I ended up finding a beautiful cotton chambray with birds on it, and decided that I needed a shirt or a shirt dress out of it.
Cloth House Warehouse
I found out later in the week that Cloth House had a separate warehouse location that was *gasp* having a huge sale. This second location is going to be closed for renovations this summer (and apparently summer starts in August across the pond, as the sale ended July 28th) so when I visited, prices were ridiculously low in order to move inventory out. I’m talking £2 a metre for 60” wide rolls of cotton or silk fabrics, £5 a metre for wools, and specialty fabrics. It was a very small room full of fabric and several people shopping, each trying to set aside a personal stash of fabric rolls for when they were ready to purchase. And I loved it!! I love a good deal, and I love digging through fabric and seeing other people super excited about sewing too! I bought myself 5 metres, and I think I left that store the most empty-handed of anyone in there. Here’s what I got: 1m blush mesh, 1m black mesh, 1m light grey jersey, and 2m of some sort of blue cotton bottom weight knit.
Needless to say, I had to use an extra carry-on bag to bring home my new prizes. There were so many more stores that I walked past, or stepped inside for a bit. Too many to talk about individually here. I’ve added a few more photos just to give you a taste.
Oh, and I absolutely love that in the UK, notions are “haberdashery”. Absolutely brilliant!
I’ve always hated throwing away fabric. Even the little pieces. As you probably know, I have an entire Etsy shop dedicated to reusing fabric remnants! So why in the world it didn’t occur to me to recycle my fabric scraps before… I don’t know! I have no excuse! Except that maybe, just like everyone else, I didn’t really know you could! Oh I knew you could reuse fabric, and I do a lot of that. But I didn’t’ really know you could recycle it. But then I watched this video (if you haven’t seen it yet, it is worth watching!):
And it blew my mind. Zero waste. ZERO.
And then I watched True Cost on Netflix. Which is another eye opener. I recommend watching that too. It really got me motivated to do everything I could to lessen my negative impact in the fashion and manufacturing world.
True Cost is a documentary that came out in 2015, about the impact the fashion industry has on the world. According to the film, there has been a 500% worldwide increase in clothing consumption when you compare it to the 90’s. There is also a huge increase in the amount of clothing that is disposed of every year. The average American wastes 82 lbs of textiles in a single year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 85% of post-consumer textile waste ends up in our landfills, and that textile waste makes up almost 5% of all landfill space.
But what can I do to help this??
I went on a Google spree. I became obsessed! I looked up everything I could on how to recycle fabric in my area. I know that not all of these options are going to hold up everywhere, but these ideas will at least help you get started!
With all the different people and groups I’ve reached out to about fabric scraps, I’ve developed a bit of a system in my apartment. I now have a series of containers where I separate my fabric scraps into large, small, and unusable. Once I fill up my containers, it’s time to pass them along. The unusable scraps go into a trash bag marked “fabric scraps” and get delivered to one of the thrift stores. The larger pieces go to the 4-H and Project Linus groups. And the small pieces go to the kids just learning how to sew! I have a spreadsheet complete with everyone’s contact info, and I rotate who gets the next delivery of fabric goodness.
Let's take a tour of my sewing space!
Here is a big overview of what it looks like. My favorite part of my sewing space is all of the sunlight! I’ve worked in places with no windows before, and I know just how much it can affect my work ethic and general happiness to be without fresh air and sunshine. Plus, the natural light is a big plus for taking photos.
I work alone, but I do share my sewing space with my husband, because my sewing “room” is actually just a part of the living room/dining room. But this is actually a huge improvement from our last apartment, where I had to keep my sewing desk in the bedroom. As an early riser, I like to be able to sew before my husband wakes up!
My layout is mostly dictated by what fits. But I did make sure that I can reach all of my sewing machines by simply turning in a single chair, and all of my sewing notions are kept on one shelf, right next to my desk. The patterns, products, and fabrics are more spread out around the apartment. I’ve learned to optimize every little space in our home. Under the bed, under the couch, and most of the walls are all used as extra storage. I also have a folding table that only comes out when I need it. I try to keep things tidy, and use cute storage solutions, because there is no option to just close the door on my work-space if it looks like a disaster.
I don’t get many clients in my sewing space, but the ones who do see it always notice the wall of fabric that I have. My dad built me this wooden rack that holds several rolls of fabric, so that they can be within easy reach without taking up any floor space.
I’ve recently dedicated a section of my sewing space to be my recycling center. The series of baskets shown above in the reading nook/storage area is where I separate out large and small scraps in order to pass them along to other people like teachers and quilters. Whatever is leftover that can’t be used by other people has it’s own basket. I donate these scraps to Goodwill, who sends them on to a fabric recycler. I will be writing a dedicated post just about fabric recycling soon! I'm becoming obsessed!
The wooden posts you see are actually part of my booth display. I've found ways to use most of my booth props in our apartment. This works great as a way to minimize the amount of stuff we need to keep around for craft shows, but it also sucks because when I do a show, our entire apartment gets torn apart for a few days.
This is my mountain of drawers! Zippers, buttons, webbing, needles, eyes, rivets, tools, it all gets stored in this one area right next to my desk. Easy access, and everything has a place! The top grey part is an organizer for hardware that I found at goodwill, and the middle section is actually a shoe organizer! And the colorful little baskets inside are kleenex boxes with the top cut out because they are the only thing I could find that were the perfect size!
I have a tendency to decorate every inch of my walls! This canvas especially makes me happy, because it is a good reminder. My sewing space, like everything else in my business and life, is a work in progress. None of it is perfect, but I still love it!
I hope you've enjoyed this peak into my sewing space!
I'm always open to new storage ideas. Leave a comment if you have a suggestion!
I love new years.
And I love making new years resolutions.
I know, I know, it is a completely arbitrary date, but really, what is so bad about a trigger to help people remember to reflect on their life and inspire change? Who cares if it is arbitrary, really? Not me!
I'm not saying that you have to have a new years resolution, or that if you don't make a change on Jan 1st, you have to wait another year. But there is something to be said for group efforts. When everyone around you is determined to better their life, it can help inspire you to do the same. It does for me.
So as 2016 wraps up, and along with it my busiest season of business to date, I've been reflecting a lot on what this year has brought me, and where I want to go with my business and my life in 2017.
Looking back at my goals for 2016, I've realized that this year was all about growth for me. I've grown in so many different ways, from expanding my knowledge, to growing my audience, to bringing in more sales than I ever have before. I added another self employed day to my week, and I grew my network of like minded creatives for support. I also grew more confident in myself and my business this year. One big milestone was my interview on the Etsy Conversations Podcast. It took me months to work up the confidence to apply, and even more gumption to actually listen to myself on the podcast (you know it's hard!) but I did, and in the end it was an extremely fulfilling venture outside my comfort zone. Another milestone in comfort was participating in the Yelp's Totally Bazaar. I was extremely intimidated by my fellow vendors (a lot of brick and mortar businesses that are much more established than me) but it ended up being one of the hightlights of my year!
Growing my business in 2016 has meant a growing workload as well, which has really affected the way I've begun thinking of 2017. I've noticed my growing jealousy towards sewers who have a wardrobe full of self made items. Jealousy is not a fun emotion to feel, but for me it's a red flag of what I'm missing in my life. And I've realized that this specific envy is occurring because instead of adding a business into the rest of my life, my business has simply taken over the time I used to take for myself (and then some). My constant focus on growth has lead me to be more and more of a workaholic these last few years. The other day I realized that it had been 3 years since I had sewn a piece of clothing for myself. THREE YEARS. This is not ok. I know that it's a trade joke that "the cobbler's children go unshod" (aka my entire closet needs alterations) but if I keep this up, I'm going to burn out.
So instead of growth, (although I do still hope to grow) my target in 2017 is going to be FOCUS. Or maybe another good word for it would be INTENTIONAL. I want to take a step back, and make sure that the business that I am building is what I WANT, and not just the path I am swept down on my way to the faster growth. This means choosing where I want my business to go in the long run, and working towards that, with more balance in my life, more me-time, and more long term strategic thinking.
My Goals for 2017 (in no particular order)
1. Continue Blogging and Emailing Once a Month. This has been working well for me in 2016!
2. Create at least 4 Clothing Sewing Patterns. Sewing patterns (and kits) is the direction I want to take my company. This means I need to really focus on creating more patterns, even though it means months of work before I can start bringing in profit from it. In the long run, these items are evergreen and can be sold forever.
3. Plan Out Patterns for each of my Sewing Level Categories. I have the categories, so now I need to fill them!
4. Sell my DIY Kits in stores. I love love love my kits! They use up discarded fabrics, and my original patterns. So obviously I need to spread the love.
5. Update all my PDF Instructions to include information about my Facebook Pattern Group. No one will know about the group if I don't go back and add it into the instructions! This is a fast goal, but a tedious one I've been putting off.
6. Work towards #FitTheFlux. This is something that has been running around in my brain for a while, and I'm hoping to get it started this year. Patterns that fit, even when your size fluctuates. If you are going to spend all that time on making your own wardrobe, you want to be able to wear it for a long time, even if your body is in flux.
7. Sell My Products in a Store in Fort Wayne, and on Mass Ave. I love being able to reach more customers and I love working with other local business owners.
8. Grow my Facebook Pattern Group. It's a community for people who use my patterns and kits, and want to get tips and share pics.
9. Super Slow Fashion Project. This is a project that I have always wanted to do, and I feel like it may help me to better appreciate my profession, and the professions surrounding me. I want to create a piece of clothing from scratch. As scratch as I can get. This means not only sewing it, but weaving the fabric. And spinning the yarn to create that fabric. And shearing the sheep to get the wool to make that yarn, and so on. I'm not entirely sure how this project would even work, or who I would need to contact to make it happen. But in a world full of super fast fashion, I want to take a time out to really appreciate what creating clothing used to look like. If anyone has any idea who could help me make this happen, I am all ears!
10. Take a Textiles Class. Textiles are my weakness! Especially because I get a lot of hand me down fabrics. I don't always know what fabric I'm working with, or how to take care of it. If I'm going to get serious about these patterns, I need to be able to recommend fabrics to people who use them, and I'd like to be able to help people take care of their finished garments. (once again, if you are going through all the effort to make it, might as well make it last!)
11. Pay Myself a Percentage of Profits Each Month. I've been struggling with how to start paying myself from the business without crippling my business if I have a slow period. I heard on a podcast that another creative business owner gets around this problem by using percentages. You take 20% (or however much) of the profit each month, and that way your business still gets profits as well. And it is a little extra incentive to make more sales to get paid more... I'm happy to say that I'm starting this method this month! :)
12. Give Myself a Raise. Any of you who have read my past blog posts know that I struggle with pricing my items. I made a big effort in 2016 to get my prices to a (mostly) fair point, while being able to pay myself (theoretically) $11 an hour. But really, as the CEO/CFO/Marketing department/Designer/Seamstress/Customer Service Rep/Blogger/Website Designer/Salesperson/Researcher/Buyer/Social Media Rep of Goheen LLC I think I deserve a raise....
13. Create a Consistant Sizing Chart. If I'm selling clothing patterns, this is a must!
14. Create a Line Sheet. I'm hoping this will streamline my wholesale/consignment pitches.
15. Use Pattern Testers. I can't catch all the mistakes myself. Plus, I've gotta have all the different sizes tested out!
16. Contact 5 Sewing Blogs. Blogs are a great way for people to learn about new patterns, and once I have some new ones, I'm hoping to connect with my fellow online sewers and spread the word.
So, 16 goals is a lot (although 4 fewer than last year. I'm getting better I swear). Some will take me a day, some will take me all year. And I need to make sure that these goals don't crowd out my personal goals for the year (like they did in 2016). It won't be easy, but after reflecting on all this I am refreshed, and I am ready to get started!
creative business owner. designer. hoosier. crafter. runner. sewer. swing dancer. outdoor enthusiast. entrepreneur. wife. material hoarder.
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Madeline Stage email@example.com
"Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."
- Earl Nightingale