Musings about pandemic life

When this year started I decided I wanted to blog more, make more, do more, and I was going in that direction when this pandemic showed up. I had to review my plans, as the rest of the world, and it made me not only think about things, but also about what I really want to achieve – with my life, the years I might still have in me, and where to go.

It also made me really morose. I simply froze up. The first two weeks I was supposed to be traveling I actually stayed home and was on official vacation. I wanted to finish projects, but couldn’t do a thing, and it frustrated me a lot. I wanted to be productive, like so many other people on Instagram and on Facebook, but I simply couldn’t, even when I’d put myself to it. I was failing miserably and feeling awful about it.

Until I realized not everybody was being productive. Those who were, were doing it a  different way. That’s when it fell on me that things were going to be different for a longer while then I had thought at first. And it meant everybody would have to adapt at some point, to some extent, because life goes on, in any way possible.

I still want to travel to other countries and other cities, but we will have to wait for a while. Not only because of restrictions, but also because of money. And that’s when I started considering the things I could do without abandoning social distancing and keeping most people safe. I can still learn a language, learn to play an instrument, learn to be more patient and learn to make new things. I can still talk to and see people from around the world, thanks to the internet and broad band transmissions.

I still can do so many things… so why do I complain? Why is this not enough? Actually it is, but we’ve been instilled with this idea that we need more, more, more, while in reality we need less. We can have more, but we don’t need it. We need more love, more understanding and more serenity in life, and less things. We complain because we’ve been taught to want more, while in reality we need to learn to see better, be more and have less.

So one thing I’ve learned from this pandemic life: it’s time to be more, have less, and enjoy life as it is. And keep our social distancing, of course, because we still want to protect others and ourselves in this situation. So that it won’t become a pandemonium.

 

2019 in short – plans for 2020

2020 is here. I have many ideas but no real plans yet.

2019 was a very intense year. Beginning January my father passed away after 4 months in the hospital. The reality of this made my head spin for at least half a year, while I was finishing my course to become a certified sewing teacher. I’ve designed two coats, and made them from scratch.: one for myself and one for hubby. After this I fell in a dip, couldn’t make anything for a few months. And then I started making again. Becoming a tester for new coming patterns was an idea that became a goal and now I want to pursue it more.

Inspired by Helen from Helen’s Closet after listening to the Love to Sew Podcast on New Year’s Goals I’ve chosen a word for 2020: Challenge. Why Challenge? Because I want to challenge myself to do things I haven’t done before, to make different garments and dare myself to try not only new things but things I’m afraid of. I’m quite conscious of my voice, so filming myself or filming while saying something about what I’m filming is always a challenge. So I intend to do it more often. Having my photo taken with my new and old makes. Writing more – on the blog and for myself. Being more pro-active instead of retro-active.

I won’t set any specific goals to myself. I had a few years of goals – which I’ve reached -, and now I just want to be.

With that in mind I’ve made a short video with my first make of 2020: a Montrose Top by Cashmerette that I’m trying to perfect in fitting. Each new one I make should get me closer to the perfect fitting. And in a very Dutch way of doing things, I don’t usually make simple muslins but wearable muslins. This is number 3 and there will be a more extensive blog post about the process. With this one I’ve used a 100% cotton fabric gifted by Minerva Dot Com in exchange for a blog post. It will be published later this year.

So that’s it for today.

We’ll see how this challenging myself idea gets me.

That 2020 be a great year!

Cheers,

Lília

Anniversary in a Harrison shirt

Me having fun pretending to be “badass”

Some time ago I began thinking about the possibility of testing more patterns, getting in touch with different indie pattern designers that might offer the opportunity. I was finishing my course, and would have more time in  my hands.

At the same time I saw a call from minerva.com, inviting makers to get fabric gifted in exchange for a blog post. I loved the idea – hey, I love to write, even if I don’t do that as often as I’d like – and got in touch with them. It would take me a few more months to dare ordering some fabric and commit to the making and the writing, but I was selected to start receiving their e-mails.

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Then came along August and this beautiful linen looking cotton grabbed my eyes and the imagination started to flow. I thought about making a Kalle shirt from Closet Case Patterns, but it was a pattern I hadn’t made yet and was so unsure of trying it size wise that I ended up going for another pattern: the Harrison shirt, from Cashmerette, which I knew it would fit me well and I had already shortened the sleeve for my short arms. And it was indeed the right choice for this beautiful blue cotton, because from the moment I decided to cut it into a Harrison shirt it simply went like a charm. Proof that plans not only can change but should change when the need calls for it.

I can say the fit is almost perfect as is, as most Cashmerette’s patterns are for me. I made a wearable muslin in size 24 before I committed to this one and found out that I found it a bit too big for myself. I do have a preference for a bit less roomy clothes, so I went with a size 22 the second time around. I also used the opportunity to shorten the sleeve length, since besides being quite short I have rather short arms as well.

I had all the materials necessary already:  very dark blue buttons I’d bought in Rio during one of my visits, sew-in interfacing (I’m more used to sew-in than iron-on), and a myriad of possible threads of very similar colors that I could use. And also very dark blue thread, that I ended up using to topstitch some lines, but not all.

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The beautiful dark blue topstitching from closer up.
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Some less obvious topstitching.
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A close up of the buttons up front. I’m totally in love!

I could not forget to use one of the labels hubby gave me for a birthday a few years back.

Between cutting the fabric and finishing the shirt it might have taken me a couple of weeks, maybe even 3. I was not counting. This is not a complicated pattern to make, but I am a slow sewist and like to enjoy all the moments I can: basting when necessary, topstitching very slowly with a stitch in the ditch foot, and going carefully through every step. The one thing I really wanted: having it done by October 22nd, for our anniversary.

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The famous dark blue buttons. I really love the contrast they make.
Green at the back of the buttonholes…

And because I had so many different shades of blues and greens in my threads collection, I simply chose the ones that seemed to blend better with the blue of the fabric. Make do with what we have is as important to me as making a beautiful garment. Trying to be sustainable and sewstainable as possible.

…blue at the front. Making do with as much I had at home as possible.

It’s all a matter of good planning and following the steps, even more when you don’t have that many hours in your days or weeks to simply dive into the sewing and forget about the world. Since I had a goal, making it happen was easier then when you don’t have a deadline. It does help. At least for me.

I love the end result! The color is beautiful and the dark topstitching is enough to give a nice touch without it being too much.

A Harrison shirt might not be the most advanced sewing I made – it’s an intermediate level sewing though, but I used my knowledge in order to make it special: right button placement, well-made buttonholes, well-finished collar and perfect topstitching. Small details that make a whole difference.

One of the things I’ve been learning lately is that even though I am quite advanced in sewing techniques – I do have a tailoring diploma after all -, I am more lacking in the fitting myself department then I would have liked.

I have another couple of Harrison shirts already cut. Now to find the time to finish them!

A sewing dip after years of making – and a come back in blogging

So… I promised myself I would write about my makings during the summer, after all the rush had quieted, but I couldn’t.

I got in a dip. After 5 and a half years of rushing myself to draw all the models, make all the work pieces, draft and sew my own models and be judged by the experts, I was totally in a rut. I couldn’t even sew for about 2 months.

Sewing is an outlet of my daily life. It is a creative outlet, but also the moment I can be by myself, talk to other people (mostly women) about my ideas and creations, and just forget about the problems around me and mine. At those years it was a way of not thinking on how our fathers were getting old and how far away I was of my father in a daily basis. It was a way of investing my energy in something good, making me forget I could not visit my husband at the revalidation center at any moment I wanted. It was a way to simply be away of my troubles.

Fortunately husband was back home very quickly and because he invested a lot of energy in it, also in perfect form.

Fathers passed away and even though life went on, sadness prevailed.

I finished my course with good grades and two beautiful coats, but I was totally burnt out. I could not sew for a while. I could not think about sewing things myself, even though I still thought about it all the time. Reading books about sewing, still looking at different models and just longing to go back to it – without having the energy for it. So I let it go – allowed myself the time to heal and to enjoy it again. It took a few weeks, almost two months, but it came back.

After a completely non-sewing July, August was a good month, with an alterations challenge hosted by Mia from @sewnorth (Sew North), which slowly put me back on track. It still took me some time to feel motivated again to go completely back to this hobby I’ve learned to love and simply took over my waking hours.

I love to sew. I love anything related to sewing. When I started sewing I thought all the basting and thread marking was a bit too much, so I decided I didn’t need that. Until I realized how much of a difference it makes to be careful, mindful and precise in your making. Not only it saves you a lot of time, it also gives you a wonderful result. Always. But I had to go through the not precise phase in order to give the more mindful way of sewing it’s great value.

I hate ironing, but started giving value to constant pressing. I’d rather have results quickly, but learnt to enjoy the process of slowly basting and thread marking. And more and more I want to learn different processes and techniques, even if they don’t really have any practical use in dressmaking.

I’m still more for dressmaking, but I think I’m ready to try other makings. I have an old backpack I love, that is getting too ratty for me to use. Not only stitches are coming out in places, the fabric is tearing apart and I’m afraid things will start falling off. So I’m planning a remake. I don’t have the fabric for a new one, but I’m looking for it. While I don’t find it, I’ll tear the backpack apart, being careful in reporting all the steps backward, so that I can put it back together after drafting the pattern from the old one.

I’ve also started to test more actively. I’ve managed to test a couple of patterns in the last few months and hopefully will be able to test more in the future. I will be writing my first post for the Minerva.com (@minerva.com) blog shortly. I just need to finish sewing in the buttons on my Cashmerette‘s Harrison Shirt.

As the time passes, I’m also getting enthusiastic about writing again. First for this blog I’ve been neglecting for quite some time, but also for myself. I have many stories in my head I’d love to put into paper, and I never find the time or the energy to write. No more. As I go back to sewing I find my creative juices flowing again, in all directions. I think about sewing, but I also think about drawing, drafting models, writing stories and so much more.

The sky is the limit and I should just fly away with it.

So let’s go back to it.

Three new books on my shelves. Or are they?

I’ve just received three titles I’ve been coveting for some time: Smart Fitting Solutions, Mending Matters and Breaking the Pattern. Three totally different books, but all of them quite interesting.

           

The first one to get to my hands was Breaking the Pattern, on their launch day. Since I work in a bookstore (The ABC in the Netherlands), it was no surprise. Quite excited about it after reading so many good reviews, I fell a bit flat on my bum when I didn’t fall in love with it right away.

Why not? I asked myself. It’s a very good book, quite pretty, well made and full of interesting ideas. They give very good pointers on how to change the patterns and already give all the needed information for a number of those hacks. So… what was bugging me?

After some thought the one thing that kept creeping into my mind was that the models and the sizes were not that inclusive. They have a reasonably good amount of sizes, but they stop just before my size. So if I’d want to make anything from their patterns, I would have to considerably alter it so that it would fit me.

But I always have to alter patterns because I’m already shorter than the standard used in the industry. So, why was it bothering me so much?

The slight irritation was because I felt left out in their representation. Both models in the book are beautiful, but they are also both quite thin. And even though I’m quite aware of differences and that not everybody can be represented, nor that the authors have a problem with curvier models, I still felt left out.

Which brings up another question: I still feel like there are very few books on how to deal with curvier models, and I would love to see one being published with this public in mind.

It feels almost indecent to say all these things about this book, because it is such a good book! But it’s just not for me at this time, unfortunately.

On a happier note for me Smart Fitting Solutions is exactly what I was looking for at this moment in life. A book dealing with different sizes and shapes, posture and many other things. Fitting solutions is not something you find everywhere and even the old books that deal with it are not as easy to find. So, yes, this one made me happy.

And then came Mending Matters. What else can I say about it that hasn’t been said yet? Apparent mending is making an appearance in our lives, specially for people interested in helping saving the planet. It’s hopefully here to stay and to teach people that you can still make beautiful things while also mending them for continuous use. That what we wear does not need to be disposable after a few times. It is a way of life, one that is starting to weave it’s charms on me.

At this point in my life these two last books resonate more to me than the first one. Maybe because I’m older and what I consider important changed with time. It is interesting to see that the older you get, the more you think about your impact on the environment. So maybe that’s the difference and the why.

In any circumstance, they are all very good books for what they want to teach and create. They all deserve to be studied and used extensively.

Enjoy, people! It is a very good time for us makers at this moment and I’m enjoying immensely what different people are bringing to life.

Green shirt – or is it?

I think it’s petroleum green, but I’m not really worried about it. The most important thing: it’s beautiful!

August 2017 Jennifer Lauren from Jennifer Lauren Handmade invited a bunch of people to test her Afternoon Blouse and Shift Dress in order to show the world how it fits different body shapes.

As per usual I love her designs! They look a million bucks but are actually quite straight forward to make – everything I love in a garment. I’m all for difficult constructions when necessary and totally against when it’s not.

But I digress.

I made a straight size 24, again as per usual. But… I had to widen the sleeves a little bit, so I actually sewn them with a tiny seam allowance instead of the given one.

I’ve chosen the blouse version because I don’t actually wear dresses that often – even if I’d like to, but it’s not really practical while standing in stairs, putting up books or squatting at your work – so pants it is for my daily life. And I wanted to make something I could wear more (see me showing off at work) than only making a test garment and never wear it again. So a blouse it was.

I used a green/petroleum green rayon viscose (I guess. That’s how it feels anyway) I’ve bought at a market fair in The Hague for very cheap. My thoughts then: if it doesn’t work I at least haven’t spend too much on it. And I loved the color and the feel of it.

I also had a beautiful multicolored button at home that I’d bought in Rio and I thought might work well. I already had the right thread for that fabric and interfacing, so I was set to go.

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I used my “industrial” weights (washers from the DIY store) to hold down the pattern and then used pins to fix it to the fabric. I’ve tried using a rotary cutter, but can’t get used to it for the life of me. So even if scissors and shears are not as precise as cutters, they do work better for me.

Cutting was not a problem, and I realized right after cutting that the armhole would probably not be wide enough for my biceps and made a note to self: use the seam allowance instead.

I prepared all the pieces to start my sewing and then bang! My husband had a stroke and I couldn’t think about anything else besides living a day after the other.

It really gutted me to have to drop the project, but I was in no condition to do something else. So I took my time, let things slide for a few months and didn’t worry about the blouse.

But around February/March it started bugging me again. I was not happy I hadn’t finished the project – which I had promised I would -, and I still wanted to see the end product. It was such a beautiful fabric! I needed to finish it.

Decision made I put my mind to it and went to work. Following the instructions to the letter, because even if the construction is not difficult, it’s a bit fiddly if you haven’t done it before. And because my mind was still a bit fuzzy, I went slowly. Good decision, since I would have probably made a mess if not doing it that way.

But I love the end result! I wear it with enthusiasm and get loads of compliments for the make and the button. So success achieved.

As mentioned the construction is a bit fiddly but simple: if you follow the instructions the first time around. I’m still not too happy with how the rounding at the front came out – I definitely need more practice in that area -, but I love how it looks, how I look in it and that it actually is a pretty blouse. Good job, Jen!

Here some details. The one thing I did extra was anchor the facing on the shoulder, because it does tend to turn around the neck. It still does, but less then before.

Instructions: pretty good.

PDF: good and easy to put together. But next time I will have it printed as A0 – I don’t really care much about cutting and taping pages and pages of paper. I’ve been using Patternsy with great success, so I actually recommend (out of the goodness of my heart, because they are not giving me any discounts for that!).

Pattern construction: good and easy, even if a bit fiddly.

Will I make it again? Definitely. But I want to try the triangle detail next time, just to be different.

In my book a big success, both for the designer and for the maker.

A Pippi Pinafore

There’s nothing more interesting than breaking my blog silence sharing my experience in making something new. So here we go again, this time with a beautiful pinafore.

I love Jennifer Lauren Handmade patterns and I always jump in the tester bandwagon as often as possible. Since this time I would be sewing during my sewing lessons vacation I just grabbed the opportunity and applied. And got super happy when I was chosen for reviewing it.

It took me a bit longer than I had planned, but here it is: my rendition of this amazing pattern.

As usual, the instructions are really good and easy to follow. I had a hickup at some point because I hadn’t read the instructions well, so I went back and discovered where my error had been and corrected it in time.

I’ve been using Patternsy lately to print my pdf files and even though I was tempted to do it, I decided to cut and paste to see if it’s still as good a match as the other 2 files I have and it is indeed! One of the best pdf files I’ve encountered so far.

I had a thick cotton with a bit of stretch in my stash for a while – actually NZ fabric given me by my best friend when I was in Wellington last time – with a curious squares patterns that I thought could work really well for this pattern. I also had some remnant lining fabric, so I actually was more than ready to go.

I used a straight size 24 with a C cup, and it’s definitely the right size for me. I made some changes between cutting the pattern and cutting the fabric so it would fit me better.

I was very careful while cutting the fabric because of all the squares on the fabric. It can’t be a perfect pattern match, but I’ve done what I could and it worked really well. The pockets are great and I’ve used jeans buttons because that’s what I had at home. No buckles, so I used buttons again for the straps, and with the instructions it’s easy peasy.

I have shortened the length in the bib in 3 cm (standard change for me), as well as the length of the skirt in about 6 cm (since I’m only 1,58m in a world where most patterns are made for 1,65m or 1,70m) so that it would stop right before my knees. And because I realized just in time that my waist is actually a bit wider than on the pattern, I’ve added 2 cm to the waist. Well, I actually forgot to divide by 4 and added 2 cm on ALL sides, whilst I should have used 0,5 cm… But that’s the beauty of making your own clothes: you make mistakes and you correct them.

Looking at the back pictures I think I should have done a sway back as well, but I wasn’t feeling that adventurous. It will have to wait for next time.

The straps were a bit hellish to turn – because that’s one of my difficulties in sewing and I still haven’t resolved that yet. But they turned out pretty well – because I followed the instructions. So it was worth doing them. I will try some other methods next times though.

All in all a very pleasant and easy sew, with very nice details such as the lined patch pockets.

Would I change anything on the pattern? Maybe add the option of back patch pockets. They are lovely, aren’t they? And I’m always for more pockets.

Will I make it again? I’m not so sure. It’s not usually my style, but it might become one. It is quite comfortable and beautiful, so who knows? I will probably make one for daughter, who was quite appreciative of the results and the fabric. I might still have just enough left.

Great pattern and great experience. If you are looking for a nice and not too complicated sew, this is a good pattern to make.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the reading and if not convinced yet, give it a try.

Cheers,

Lília

Life goes on…

A lot has happened in the last few weeks and I’ve made a conscious decision in not saying anything on this venue before today.

In September hubby had a stroke – “mild”, fortunately – and our lives were just scrumbled over. I was suddenly solely responsible for daughter, work, going to hospital and later revalidation center. It was a lot. So I simply closed off and went with the flow, living by the day.

Best decision ever. You actually cannot do differently. It’s such an intense moment you can only survive it day by day.

Fortunately he recovered – and is still recovering! – pretty quickly and within a few weeks was back home. He still has some balance challenges and get tired very quickly, but is improving at hyper speed, so no complaints here.

Then, at the end of October my father in law passed away. The best thing for him – he was quite tired, sick, had lost a lot of weight and just wanted to go to his wife. He’d been a widower for 14 years and for him it was time to go. It was a sad happening for the rest of us, as it usually is.

Hubby made a beautiful presentation with old and new pictures and had a wonderful say during the eulogy, his brother had a short and also powerful say and daughter read a heartfelt poetry about her “opa”. All that with beautiful music that spoke to us and of him.

Cerimonies like that are still a bit alien to me. Used to the way things happen in Brazil, a lot quicker because of the warmer weather, I actually identify better with the Dutch way of working out this moment. As a not very religious person finding a way of showing the sadnesses of loss, but also the glory of knowing someone, in a different way is actually quite freeing. It helps with the whole process of letting go and rethinkg your priorities.

And then we come to exactly that: priorities. Life has a way of showing us what’s important and how we can deal with it. Let’s enjoy it to the fullest.

The Cashmerette’s Upton Dress

This is actually one of my favourite patterns ever. It was also the first one I’ve bought from Cashmerette – because I fell in love with the pattern, but mostly because I fell in love with the navy blue fabric they were selling some kits with. I just couldn’t make my mind quickly enough and when I finally decided to order the kit, the navy blue was already gone. Then from there to deciding for the other kit it took me a little bit more time, but not as much. Fortunately that one kit was not sold out and I’ve managed to grab the whole set. A bit more expensive than what I was hoping for- we have to pay extra taxes in the Netherlands from goods coming from the US -, but I loved it so much it was worth the price.

I bought the kit – including fabric and pattern – July last year and made the dress for father’s 90th birthday in September. I first made a muslin and after deciding I had to simply shorten the shoulders 3 cm straight both on front and back, this wonderful version was born and it simply fit perfectly!

For this version I decided not making it with pockets, but since then I’ve kind of regretted the decision. I miss pockets! So now whenever I make something new for me, it’s always with pockets.

I really enjoyed making this Cashmerette pattern and it made me want to try more of their patterns. Which I did, and it’s wonderful, really!

Besides the fit being perfect for me, the instructions are well-written and quite clear, and when in doubt you can always follow their sew along, which are pretty good and detailed.

Since I’ve bought this pattern I’ve actually bought another kit – that I haven’t used yet, shame on me! – and ended up buying all of their patterns in pdf. Printed them at home and after putting them together, copied the size I wanted and am now actually preparing a couple of different Springfield tops for the coming weeks. I’ve made a couple of versions of the Concord tee already and will show them here one of these days.

So if you are curvy like me and are interested in some well-drafted patterns for curves, I do advise you to try one of Cahsmerette’s patterns. It’s worth it!

 

Writing again? And sewing? I try my best!

It has taken me sometime to start writing again, and even though I really want to be blogging at least once a week, life gets in the way and I don’t seem to be mustering the energy to do that as often as I’d like. But I do whenever I manage the time.

Today I’m printing the pdf version of The Afternoon Blouse & Shift Dress from Jennifer Lauren Handmade (@jenniferlaurenhandmade), which I will be testing. Yeay! I’m quite happy with this opportunity, and what it entangles. Not only that I’ve managed to produce a nice product and a fair review within the time limit she’s given us for the previous pattern, but that it forces me to keep making things and putting energy in something I really enjoy.

I discovered sewing a few years ago as a second thought, something I would like to do because I’ve seen people making things and they looked pretty. And then I simply fell in love with the whole process and can’t stop trying new techniques, new things, new fabrics, new gadgets… So now I use any opportunity I have to make something. Quite often for others – child, friend, husband… – and sometimes for myself. I need to make more for me these days, because I can’t seem to find anything interesting at stores nowadays – on my size or with my taste! The size needs to drop a bit – for health reasons, I’ve accepted my shape a long time ago – but the taste…

I guess I’m going in the direction of wearing only Me Made stuff. Cool!

Besides all that, I found out sewing is my Happy Place. I get totally zen when sewing and preparing fabric and notions to sew something. It centers me, calms me. It helps me to put things in perspective. And making things for others and myself make me even happier.

At the end of September I will be posting a review on the Afternoon Blouse. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make a Shift Dress as well or not, but I will definitely make a blouse. And will wear it around. Depending on the end result I might even make the dress too. We’ll see.