Sewing Challenges

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Good news and bad news as of late. Good news is that my sewjo is running at high gear. I’m on a roll constantly sewing something or other these past couple weeks. I have several projects going on right now which is good because if I get bored or frustrated I can work on something else for a bit while still feeling productive.

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I’ve been thinking about what got me so inspired lately and I really owe it to a bunch of great people I met recently. Susan, Miss Lulu and I took a trip to Dallas to see Oonaballoona perform in a new musical (she’s amazing!). We had lunch together and I was really excited to meet her, she’s like the sweetest person ever. I left with lots of ideas brewing in my mind about fun things to make. Hi Oona!

And before that I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of Austin sewing bloggers. I had lunch with Lauren of Rosie Wednesday, she’s super nice, too!

And then I met Melly from Melly Sews and Miranda from One Little Minute (who just moved here! yay, more Austin sewists!). Miranda and Lauren even came to our meet up group last night for a sewing party.

All of this has made me so grateful for the friendships I’ve made (and have yet to make, I swear it’s my goal to get every sewist in this city to come to our meet ups, haha!) through this hobby. I definitely feed off of other people’s creativity. :)

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Bad news is I’ve had a sewing epiphany – I think my handmade wardrobe has reached critical mass. After sewing consistently for about two years I’ve filled all my wardrobe gaps. This is tough because normally when I begin a project I ask myself “what do I need?” Lately the answer is “not much.”

Without having a real need I’ve felt less excited to sew clothes for myself. I still am sewing clothes, I’ve got an Archer shirt and an Anna dress in the works at the moment, and I love wearing what I make but I think I don’t feel challenged enough. I think I need to try something new. I still want to sew clothes but maybe I can mix things up a bit? Make the clothes I do sew nicer or more creative.

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When I think of the “challenging” garments I’ve made I think of all the swimsuits (I have like, 8, now. I think that’s enough…), or the couple coats I’ve sewed or the bras (which I’ve kind of lost interest in, mostly because it’s still more cost effective for me to buy them). Those were all fun but I still feel like I need to spice things up, ya know?

I’ve come up with a few ideas on how I can challenge myself to sew better and more creatively and expand my creations beyond casual everyday clothes.

Project Wedding Dress and Couture techniques

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I bought Susan Khalje’s couture dress sewing class on Craftsy and now I feel like I get to use some of the techniques. Nothing crazy but for my wedding dress I’m underlining the body in organza and doing a ton and a half of hand stitching. It will definitely be the nicest dress on the inside that I’ve made. I’d love to try to apply what I’m learning to other dresses, maybe even really fancy gowns??

Handbags and leather

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I’m currently working on Amy Butler’s Weekender Bag pattern. I’m probably 40% done but I’m liking the stiff, structured look of the bag. You know it’s an Amy Butler pattern when it calls for 3 layers of interfacing on one pattern piece! It’s going to be a traveling essential, I can already tell.

I want to try making some nice professional looking handbags, complete with metal hardware and leathery bits. Nothing says “expensive bag” like leather bits – handles, straps, buckles, zipper tabs, pockets. Plus, although I technically know how to work with leather I’ve never had much practice.

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True Bias’ lovely version of the It’s a Cinch tote has really inspired me. How freakishly gorgeous is that bag!??

Quilting

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I just finished a quilt top using a pattern and now it needs to go get long arm quilted. I think I might be ready to start experimenting with modern designs and even free-form patternless quilts. Ya know, throwing scraps together into something cool. Sure, I have no idea what I’m doing but that’s part of the fun, right?

Sewing and fitting others

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Susan, Miss Lulu and I are working on a challenge where we design and make a garment for eachother. I’m really excited about this because I never make clothes specifically for other people (besides babies…) and I’ll get to do a real in person fitting rather than just having measurements, sending the garment off and hoping it fits.

I know it sounds silly but I never get to do cool stuff like full bust adjustments so fitting someone with a completely different shape than mine will be a fun challenge and I can try out fitting techniques I’ve never had the opportunity to use before.

Sewing for dudes

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Ok, I’ve made one article of clothing for my man, this shirt, which I’m not in love with. Justin has kind of an odd body shape – long torso but short, stubby limbs, a thick neck and, ahem, some junk in the trunk. I kind of think he has the body of an oversized hobbit. Just don’t tell him I said that…

Anyway, I think I want to dive back in to guy sewing but this time I want to make something he’d actually wear – aka, t-shirts and shorts. So I’ma give the man what he wants! I have a t-shirt pattern that I think might work and I bought Thread Theory’s Jedediah trousers/shorts pattern which with a lot of tweaking I think might fit his odd shaped lower half… I hope… we’ll see. I’ll definitely be putting my skills to the test with this one.

Costumes
And finally, the coup de gras of my sewing challenges – costuming! Ok, hear me out, I’m not crazy, at least I don’t think so. I want something challenging, right? What better than costumes? I’m thinking more in the historical vein… I figure I’ll get the most enjoyment out of making something I can wear to an event of some sort so the most obvious would be Renaissance Faire or Civil War Reenactment dress. Ok, so which to make first? Well, Butterick patterns were on sale so the winner is… Civil War!? (Yes, that’s as good a reason as any to choose one over the other).

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I bought the simplest Civil War era dress pattern (which still eats up nearly 9 yds of fabric, eek! thank goodness for joann’s 40% off coupons) and some teal and cream gingham. I still have to find fabric for the bodice lining.

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(so much fabric!!)

Even if I finish just this dress it’s not enough. I’ll need lots of extras to complete the look – petticoat, hoopskirt, chemise, drawers, corset, cuffs, collars, shoes and socks! I’ll probably just buy a hoopskirt online, maybe even a petticoat but the chemise and drawers should be pretty easy to make and I think making a corset would be pretty fun, right? Or am I crazy?

Anyone else into historical dress/costume making? Any tips, patterns, suppliers you recommend?
Any other suggestions for ways to challenge myself and grow my sewing skills?

SwimAlong!

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Man, I feel like I’m working on a gazillion different projects but because of that none of them ever seem to get finished… At some point I’m going to finish them all and flood this blog with sewing goodies.

In the mean time I wanted to let you in on some stuff I’m doing, perhaps stuff you’d want to get involved in, too.

So, have you heard of SwimAlong 2013? It’s music to my ears! You know me and swim suits – I love ‘em! Well, I love sewing them anyway. Even though I rarely go swimming. The most swimming I do is usually in a river or a creek somewhere here in Austin. Austinites are really into floating down rivers in tubes or hiking out to some waterfall and splashing around on the rocks. Did you know I grew up right next to the beach and I had a pool at my condo building, too? Yeah, I had all this access to swimming and I hardly ever used it. If only I sewed my own swim suits in high school.

Anyway, Kadiddlehopper and Three Dresses Project are hosting SwimAlong, a swimwear sew-along. You can pick whatever pattern or design you like. The gals are offering helpful construction posts and lots of inspiration.

For my suit I’m going to be adapting Ohh Lulu‘s lovely lingerie patterns for swim wear spandex (and I promise to show you how so you can do it, too). How cute would the Gracie and Bambi patterns be for a bikini?

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I bought a half yard of this wild and crazy swimwear knit from Stitched Fabric Boutique here in Austin. I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to use it. I’m thinking of mixing it with some solid black so the tacky, 70’s explosion doesn’t overwhelm me.

This fabric is really abstract and artsy but what you can’t completely visualize from this pic is the shiny gold splotches and squiggles all over it.

If you’re a little insane like me and actually like this print I found it on Spandex House‘s website. For some reason their site doesn’t have individual pages for each fabric so if this search link doesn’t work then just search for the fabric with this product number: PS-3772. There are two other colorways for it, as well: PS-3771 and PS-3770.

Anyone else planning on participating?

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etsy

In other news – my patterns are now up on Etsy! Etsy finally decided to get on the downloadable-product bandwagon so now you can buy from Etsy and instantly download your patterns!

Dixie DIY’s Year in Review 2012

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I love the new year! New start, new goals, new memories but first I want to review everything that I did sewing-wise in the last twelve months.

2012 Was a pretty big year for me, I dyed my hair purple, sewed a bunch of swimsuits for my summer vacation, I released 3 new patterns (one of which was free), and made about 50 garments and accessories. Not too bad! Let’s break it down now -

  • Garments Sewn for Myself: 34
  • Dresses: 10
  • Shirts: 19
  • Skirts: 1
  • Pants/Shorts: 6
  • Underwear and Swimsuits: 2 bras, 1 undies, 7 swimsuits
  • Accessories: 1 wallet, 1 handbag, 1 make up case
  • Sewn For Others: 3 dresses for cousins, 1 baby shirt, 1 shirt for my man, 1 monster quilt
  • Other crafts: 1 failed kite, 1 travel neck pillow, 1 holiday wreath, 1 state shape string art

Now, let’s discuss the value of all those me-made items, not monetarily but in terms of wear-ability and how well they met my sewing goals from last year.

To recap, some of my goals were: to make “church appropriate” dresses (ie: cute party dresses that don’t look trashy), solid color tops, tops and dresses with sleeves, good everyday dresses, pants/shorts, blazers and solid color coats. On the flip side I was refraining from sewing skirts (already have to many that I don’t often wear) and anything without sleeves or clothes that need to be worn with other clothes to feel comfortable.

Colette Macaron with Fabricker FabricsDrape Drape book no. 3
(these two dresses are both “church appropriate” and good for everyday wear, double check!!)

So I didn’t sew a single coat or blazer(well, maybe a sweatshirt/blazer hybrid thing). But I did ok in most other areas.

  • Shorts: 3
  • Pants: 3
  • Church Appropriate Dresses: 2, but only one really fits
  • Solid Color Tops: 8
  • Everyday Dresses: 7
  • Stuff with long sleeves/three-quarter sleeves: 7

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I broke a few of my rules (they’re more like guidelines anyway), I made one sleeveless dress, several printed tops and one skirt (but that was a UFO so I’m letting it slide).

Jeans from HellSimplicity 3850
(pants that don’t fit anymore)

But here’s a big problem – A lot of the clothes I made don’t fit. Some didn’t really fit from the get-go like my first two pants from the year. The first pair of jeans from January stretched out way too much, those got donated. The second pair of pants from February also seemed to stretch out but were also a little big to begin with.

Victory Patterns Anouk DressRed LolaDarling Ranges Dress
(these dresses don’t fit anymore *sadface*)

But then I lost some weight last winter and slowly but surely a lot of my fitted garments got too big, like my first Colette Macaron dress from 2011 and my Victory Anouk dress from January. Both of these dresses are so big in the bust and shoulders now it’s not really worth trying to fix. That cutout on the Anouk dress used to show a little bit of skin, now it show half my bra!

My first Darling Ranges dress from March is too big and now gapes in front and is too low, not really fixable. My Victory Lola dress is like a giant sack now.

Most of my shirts fit ok but it’s such a bummer about the others. I’m seriously considering doing a giveaway on the blog for those dresses rather than donating them to Goodwill. I’d like to know they’re going to good homes. What do all of you think about that?

Pattern Runway Sweet ShortsTulip Sleeve Knit Dress - self-draftedHighly Modified RenfrewBurdastyle Handbook BlouseBurdaStyle Handbook BlouseScout TeeVelvet Scout TeeMovies in the Park ShortsDarling Ranges Version 2.0Raglan Sleeve Knit Dress w/ Crochet BackPecan Street Art Fest Dress
(my most worn me-made garments)

But there’s good news! Of the things that do fit I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of them. My most worn items would be my Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts, my self drafted tulip sleeve knit dress, my short sleeve Renfrew, my two Burda Book blouses (always in heavy rotation!), both Scout Tees, my Movies in the Park Shorts, the 2nd Darling Ranges dress and my black dress and floral dress from April and May.

One Week, One Pattern 3.0Sewaholic RenfrewColette Juniper denim trousersTaffy Blouse
(what doesn’t get worn: bad fabrics, bad fit and not so good styles)

What I don’t wear as much of – my early versions of my Summer Concert Tee, the rayon fabrics have just fallen to pieces, things snag on the fabric all the time and there are even little holes in the shirt. The fabric was just crap. Thanks a lot fabric.com.

Also my first cowl neck Renfrew is just too tight in the bust to really be comfortable. I like looser knits like my Hot Cocoa Sweater. It’s a shame ’cause I loved that honey color!

Also, I thought I’d enjoy the wide leg look of the Juniper trousers but I just never wear them. I think they make me look like I’m drowning in pants. I’m a little upset but hey, you live, you learn.

And alas, those giant sleeves on the Colette Handbook Taffy Blouse have kept me from wearing the top. I feel that with all the billowy fullness at the shoulders I have to balance it out at the bottom but I’m just not sure how to style this top.

***I’m really into making lists and assessments to turn them into new goals so I love making posts like this and reading other bloggers’ recap posts. If you’ve done a “year in review” post leave me the link in the comments so I can check it out. Maybe I’ll even find some new blogs to read this year. ;)