|Photo by Katy Laliotis|
When it comes to sewing garments, I have lofty goals but lack the skills, practice, and confidence to make the enterprise feel worthwhile. Of course, that really means I need to attack the learning curve head on until I feel more comfortable sewing my own clothes! Since childhood I have romanticized the self-sufficient domesticity of sewing and knitting all my clothes, baking all my bread, growing my own vegetables, cooking and eating delicious slow-food California cuisine meals, and having chickens roam the yard. I credit this fantasy partly to my childhood love for book series like Little House on the Prairie, but also because local production is a more sustainable way of living, by cutting down on shipping and packaging, support of questionable labor practices, etc.
I am stoked how well my current off-campus house and housemates fit in to my idealized domestic DIY aesthetic: we bake all our bread, have some veggies growing in the backyard (and get a CSA share from a local farm and on occasion, raid the student organic garden), co-op the dinner cooking, and my housemate Kiana is a crocheter, sewer, and knitter, and brought her sewing machine to college!! Kiana has quite a bit more experience sewing clothes than me and generously let me use her sewing machine and offered her expertise when I was confused or stuck. Much of my non-quilting sewing knowledge comes from my grandmother, who was always so involved in the sewing process that I never learned enough to sew on my own. Before this project, I had never followed a commercial pattern, added interfacing, or even cut out a pattern without Grandma's watchful (but sometimes overbearing) eye.
So Kiana's sewing machine and expertise were available to me, I had a wee bit of spare time at the beginning of the school year that was sure to disappear, I wanted more sewing experience, and I also had a practical need for more professional solid tops to pair with my patterned skirts. Of course, in theory I could procure said type of shirt from a store, but present trends of pastels and wonky cuts (crop-tops, open backs, etc.) do not vibe with my style. So DIY we go! I selected a pattern online, and then went to JoAnn Fabrics to retrieve said pattern (Simplicity 8061, if you're really curious) and pick out some fabric, which always takes so much time. I was looking for a bold, solid, emerald green cotton-poly blend, but kept getting distracted by fun patterned fabric and couldn't find what I envisioned in the garment fabric section. I was just about to give up when I resorted to pass through the entire fabric inventory when I finally stumbled into the wall of cotton-acrylic blend solids. All the supplies for the shirt checked out at less that $15! These days, handmade clothing often costs more than something factory-made, but not this time :)
I mostly stuck with the pattern but deepened the neck and back. The neck cut is traced from a shirt of mine from H&M, and the back is traced from a dress I bought at Macy's. While of course, sewing a shirt from a pattern was a new skill for me, I reveled in the fact that I could modify it further to my tastes!
The sewing process took more hours than I'd like to admit. My seam ripper didn't assume a starring role until I got to the sleeves, but my cautious approach slowed things down. Also somehow cutting out the pattern pieces takes a really long time? Time passes so quickly when sewing! I learned how to slip-stitch hems by hand to render the seams invisible, how to attach a sleeve, and re-learned how to sew darts in the bust line. Kiana's assistance was invaluable. The fit is a little tight in the chest region, restricting mobility of my arms a little, but several other shirts I own are the same way. And that's partly due to choosing fabric that isn't stretchy.
So here it is! The Whitman Student Engagement Center recently had a free LinkedIn professional head shot event, and I showed up for the photo shoot wearing this shirt, partly to get some solid photos that didn't involve a derpy iPhone self-timer bedroom selfie like the one above. Good thing the shirt also works for professional purposes!
|Photo by Katy Laliotis|
All in all, I could not be more stoked on the outcome of my first big garment sewing project. My goal is to also sew an article of clothing next semester, and of course many, many more items to come in life! I can't wait to get better at sewing my own clothes.
Until next time, happy fall and happy crafting!