In the Merry Month of "MeMadeMay"

For several years now I have been curious about the May tradition among sewist called "MeMadeMay."   I haven't participated, (it requires advanced skills, like taking selfies!), but I do like the idea of encouraging more garment making.  And it's fun to see how other people are creating and wearing their own wardrobes.

I figured it wouldn't be such a big deal since I make and wear most of my clothing.  I decided I would try it.  Now, I didn't actually post anything anywhere...by 'try it,' I mean that I wore something everyday in May that I had created, and took a selfie to document my progress.   I really didn't think it would be difficult, but it surprised me in several ways.

Here's what I learned in the Merry Month of May!

1.  I am not very good at 'selfie!'
This was not a new discovery.  One of my thoughts about participating in MeMadeMay was that maybe it would help me practice taking selfies and I'd get better at it.  Not so much, as demonstrated by my 31 tries. (and these are the BEST tries!!!! 😝)

2.  Can you say "mud colors?"
After seeing these pictures all together there is no doubt that I have a mud colored palette.  Again, this is not new information, but it was so striking to see it all in one go.  Even looking in my closet really didn't have the same impact.  Not sure how these guys got in there?

3.  May was way too wet and cold!!!!!
Each day I kept thinking that I would be able to get into some of my summery pieces, but then the mercury would plummet and I'd reach for the sweaters and long pants!  By the last few days I did get to wear a few of my lighter weight things, but even then, I was taking off my sweaters to take the pictures and then putting them right back on again!

4.  Pants!  Who knew?
I have made way more of my pants than I realized.  I was quite surprised by how many times the MeMade part of my outfit was the bottoms.  

5.  Not just sewing needles...
I have some favorite knitted pieces.  I have been knitting more in the last several years and have gotten to the point that I will actually wear some of my hand knit pieces out of the house!  One sweater in particular was just the right weight for this blustery May.

6.  I do love me some linen!
Yes I do!  Any weight, bottoms and tops, plain and fancy....if it's linen I'm all in.

7.  ✌
"V" necks seem to be my neckline of choice.  

8.  Accessorize!
There were a few days that the only thing I had made were my accessories.  

Finally....it was tougher than I expected.  So much of what I have in my closet I have made, I was really surprised that I had to think about what to wear each day.  There was one day that I realized that I hadn't worn anything that I created until I got ready for bed...yes, I had made my PJ pants! Whew!

I'm really glad that I tried it.  I do think it has helped me hone in a bit on what I really wear and what types of garments are practical for my life.  There are lots of things that I like to make...but not all of them find their way into my wearing rotation.  I think I might try this again in the fall to see what my wintery preferences are.  It's not necessarily what I thought it would be.

So...what did I wear on the first of June????  My niece got married that day, so party clothes of course! (and that's my handsome son in his party duds!  what fun!) ....and, yes, I did make both my skirt and my top!  Score!


What's Old is New Again

I have been sewing...really....I just haven't been wearing anything that I've made because it has been so doggone cold this spring.  Every time we get a warmish day I think this is when I can put the sweaters away and get out my summery shirts and dresses, but then my plans are dashed...back to 50 degrees and rain.  That's it, I am going to share a couple of very summery tops that I have made and am dying to wear, somewhere!  (for now they have only been tried on in my sewing room.)

The story of these tops starts some time last fall when I had a major clean out of my drawers (dresser drawers 😉).  I had a biggo pile of scarves that had been collecting for quite a while.  There were several that I don't remember ever wearing!  Yikes!  I sorted and returned the current crop to the drawer, but had some really nice scarves that I wasn't wearing but wasn't ready to abandon quite yet.  They were out of the drawer but have been languishing on the edge of my sewing room table.  I decided there were a few that would be large enough to make into summer tops.

The first scarf I chose was a gorgeous grey silk chiffon and silk charmeuse combo.  I cut a chunk out of the middle and used the borders as they came to make a simple square tunic top.  It feels very luxurious and elegant.  We have season tickets to our local summer stock theater, this will be perfect!  I can't wait.


The second scarf was a very loosely woven rayon and cotton blend, with a bright "flame" pattern woven into it.  I tried the stripes both horizontally and vertically but didn't get very excited until I tried a biased layout.  The scarf was less than 20 inches wide so I had to get pretty creative with my cutting.  I also knew that it would drive me crazy if the bright orange, yellow and pink stripes didn't match.  It was definitely an eke it out project.  

The finished top is very light and drapey and will be excellent if and when we get our normal sweltering days in August.  Right now a little 'sweltering' doesn't sound half bad!

I still have a few scarves with plenty of potential.  It's fun to find ways to repurpose them and create things that will actually come out of the drawer.


Just Playin' Around

One of the big perks of retiring (which I did in 2016, so it's not really a new thing...) is being able to sew in the daytime!  For years I would grab sewing time whenever I could fit it in, and that usually meant late at night.  My obsession with 'mud colors' may come from the fact that I never saw colors in the light of day!  Having a leisurely afternoon in my sewing room has become one of my favorite pastimes.  And sometimes I even sew! 

Sewing when other people are awake, has also meant that "sewing with friends" is a possibility. 


Spending a day with a sewing buddy is 'sew' much fun.  (You knew the pun was just waiting to happen...) It also  gets my creativity charged up.  Sewing and creating for me is all about the process.  The opportunity to participate in someone else's creative process is an amazing privilege and always enriches and expands my own design thinking.  Brainstorming by definition is a group activity and bouncing around design alternatives and ways to get a whole garment out of 2/3 of a yard of fabric is totally energizing, and fun!  I have had several great play-dates this month that have really helped nudge me out of my winter sewing funk and jump start my spring and summer projects.

Factory Dress Play-date...
My love affair with Merchant and Mills continues, so when a friend saw my 'trial balloon' of the Factory Dress and fell in love too, it was a perfect sew together opportunity.  I had sewn up the pattern last fall to see if the shoulders and neckline were going to work for me.  I made up just the top part of the dress and ended up loving it as a linen T-shirt!  Our plan was to each make the actual dress version.

Just to make sure we had enough of a challenge, my friend chose a lovely soft linen, with a one directional plaid!!!  We spent a huge amount of time with the layout and cutting, which made all the difference in the end.  It's kind of like painting a room, the prep work takes 10 times longer than the actually painting.  The fabric was a perfect choice for the pattern and the effort to match the plaid really paid off. 

My fabric pick was a linen drapery fabric that I came across on a recent trip to Vogue Fabrics in Chicago.  I have been waiting for just the right fabric for the Factory Dress pattern and this was it!  It has enough body to hold up to the rolled sleeves and crisp collar, but still soft enough for the generous skirt.  If it didn't have in-seam pockets, I probably would have run in the side seams a bit, but that seemed like way too much work at the end of our Factory Dress day.  I slept on it and decided to pull in a bit of fullness at the waist by adding a little belt at the back.  I think I like it better than if I had actually taken in the sides.  If it ever gets to be summer here, I think this will be one of my go-to garments.


On the same Chicago outing, I had found a piece of linen that I thought would work for another Merchant and Mills pattern that I have been wanting to try. After our Factory Dress day I was on a roll and went ahead and made up the Ottoline Jacket.  It is designed with denim in mind so the heavier weight linen worked really well.   Another winner!



Sweatshirt Play-date....
A few weeks ago I worked out a pattern for a sweatshirt that I wrote about here.  The sleeves of the shirt have a generously cut armhole that is offset at the underarm.  Somewhere between a set-in and raglan sleeve.  I have a friend who has had her shoulder replaced and finds it difficult to get in and out of shirts that are too close at the underarm.  I thought she would really like this sweatshirt.  Yep!  It worked well for her....so another sew together opportunity was born.

We spent the day fitting the pattern and putting together a really cute navy and white striped version...which I totally forgot to get a picture of!!!  Never fear...my friend was so pleased with the pattern that she went home and whipped up a second one.  (she is really, really fast!)  Her version has a darling stand up collar with a drawstring and a front pocket.  She remembered to take a photo.

Sewing is so often a solitary activity.  I love it when sew together opportunities arise.  I am so grateful that I have friends who are willing to share their creativity with me.  I can't wait for my next play-date.


The Perfect Travel Bag...Again!

I rose on Sunday morning (and let me be clear....it was April 28!!!!!) to this winter fantasyland scene.  While I certainly can appreciate the lovely, sparkly, crispness....IT'S APRIL 28!!!!  The saving grace was knowing that it would be gone by dinner time.  I decided to avoid the whole thing by hiding out in my sewing room.  

My son visited from London a few weeks ago and brought with him a wonderful duffle bag made out of waxed cotton.  It had an ingenious zipper pocket that opened the full length of the duffle and folded down when closed to create a tidy sized backpack.  

Several of my family members and friends have not just noticed, but commented on my growing fascination with bags.  (some may even have gone as far as calling it an obsession!)  Whatever...

I studied the bag, thoroughly.  It was definitely too large for a purse/backpack, but the clever opening got me thinking....

I have a pile-o-scraps left from my waxed cotton adventures last December, so I started with a pocket idea and scraps.  

My increase in traveling over the last few years has helped me hone in on what it is I like about my travel bags.  There are several 'must have' options that I wanted to incorporate into my waxed cotton backpack...

-  Yes, I do like to have a backpack.  I find if I have a one shoulder bag to haul for any extended amount of time I get all twisted to one side.  Much better to have a balanced load on both shoulders.

- Pockets!!!  Plenty!!!  There are several pockets and pocket placements that have become non-negotiable for me.   I want a phone pocket that is on the back side of the pack and opens to the side.  This allows me to swing the pack around on my shoulder and retrieve the phone quickly.  Also, pockets on the back side are more secure than front pockets.

I want a pocket for my wallet, another for my sunglasses/reading glasses, one for all the small stuff that wanders around on the bottom of a bag and is never seen again, and a place for keys to attach.  If I get many more than that I just get too confused!

When I travel I want to take things in a carry-on that I don't necessarily want to carry all the time, i.e. knitting, snacks, a sweater,  a water bottle, maybe my laptop.  BUT, most carry-on bags are too big for wandering around London for the whole day...dilemma!

My plan was to create a backpack that would accommodate my travel needs AND not be too big for a daypack.  I love a challenge!

I spent some time working out the details and running up a couple of prototypes. My plan also had to take into consideration the waxed cotton.  I had to be careful not to gang up too many pockets, linings, stabilizers, straps etc, or I would go through too many machine needles!

My pattern included pockets made from light weight slippery lining to make retrieving things easier, a fully lined big 'cavity' pocket and four zippers of varying lengths.

Just figuring out what pieces to cut out of which fabrics was crazy making!

I worked in segments and then put everything together....here are several of the pocket segments ready to go...

When it finally came together I got pretty darned excited!  (Maybe obsession isn't that far off?!)  Let me give you a tour of my new travel backpack...

Two zipper pocket on the back side...

the top pocket has inside pockets for my wallet, glasses, and keys...

the bottom pocket, with requisite side zip, is just the perfect size for my cell phone.


There is another pocket in the front flap that can hold the little stuff, lip gloss, breath mints, nail file...

So that takes care of the 'walking-around-everyday' stuff.  Now for the extra 'what-I-want-on-the-plane' stuff.
Here's where my son's duffle bag comes into the picture...

Voila!  Under the front flap/pocket is the biggo cavity that flattens out when nothing is inside it, or can grow to accommodate lots of plane snacks or London shopping finds as needed!


To keep it tidy there is a buckle that can be cinched down depending on the load.

And you might think that so many wonderful features had to come in a monster size...but...It all fits in a neat, perfectly sized package!  AND, don't you think a waxed canvas backpack with black metal buckles is totally cool and hipster for an old lady?!  Please excuse my exuberance...I just get so carried away!

By dinnertime the snow was history and I had yet another 'perfect travel bag.'  I think I'll go buy a plane ticket!