This year I’ve been trying to move into a seasonal rhythm with my sewing and knitting wherein I’m sewing and knitting warm weather clothes in the fall and winter, and sewing and knitting cool weather clothes in the spring and summer. I tried relining my winter coat in late October last year, failed miserably, never figured out how to fix it, and thus proceeded to freeze/wear four layers during the winter for lack of a decent coat. I vowed to do it differently this year, to make things ahead of their season, and I’ve more or less managed to do so.
I started moving on to fall-winter stuff at the beginning of August, with socks and a gigantic, cozy sweater (still in progress — it’s the Linen Stitch Pullover on Ravelry if you’re on there). No sewing, though, until yesterday.
Yesterday I started to make a shirt. At the beginning of making this shirt, I said to myself, out loud, “this is doomed from the start” — and wouldn’t you know it, I was right! Incidentally, I said the same thing to myself at the start of this skirt. It does get tiring being right all the damn time.
Note to self: stop trying to self-draft or copy anything more complicated than an A-line skirt.
I wanted to take my time, to French seam the interior to within an inch of its life, to hand baste the pieces together instead of pinning them. I did all of that, and yet it still failed. I will repeat the reason why it failed, more for my benefit than yours, as I’ve done this over and over again and yet I still keep doing it over and over again: I am not at a skill level where I can self-draft or copy anything more complicated than an A-line skirt.
This was very definitely an impulse sew, a bad habit of mine because my impulse sews almost always turn out poorly. It happened like this: I was drinking my morning coffee, knitting a pair of socks for Alvaro, and listening to the Thread Cult podcast (I just discovered it recently) and the podcast planted a bug in my ear that said: Go sew! I have a shirt that I’m due to make for a friend, but it’s with a pattern (Lou Box Top) that I’ve made twice and I really wanted to do something new. I started going through my small collection of patterns, but the patterns I have are all for summer clothes, or else I don’t yet have the right fabric, or else they’re vintage patterns for someone with a 20-inch waist. I was motivated to sew but not motivated enough to deal with enlarging a pattern. I also went through the two sewing pattern books I have, but it was the same story there. My next stop was my closet, and that’s how I landed on the very bad idea of trying to replicate a shirt with sleeves.
This is the favorite shirt that I picked out to copy:
It’s a slightly cropped trapeze-cut top that I got at a second-hand shop in Boston a couple of years ago. It fits me really well around the shoulders and underarms, and there are no darts so I wasn’t going to have to fuss with trying to figure out how to add them to the pattern. The fabric is kind of stretchy and felty (sorry for the technical jargon) and the fabric I was using for my copy was pretty different — a woven cotton with a slight stretch — but I thought it would work anyway. I’m pretty sure I was right on that actually; the fabric wasn’t the issue, but rather the cut. Or maybe the seam allowances weren’t big enough? I wish I could tell you where I went wrong, but if I knew where I went wrong I would be over at my sewing table right now fixing it.
Luckily the fabric I used is not one I particularly love. It was within the heaps of fabric I bought in Madrid last Christmas. It wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t particularly nice either. I got it at a small indie craft shop that had mostly quilt fabric, and I really just bought it to buy something. Alvaro and I had taken the Metro all the way to the other side of the city to go to this particular shop because I’d read an online review, and so I felt like I couldn’t walk away empty handed. A silly reason to buy something. After maybe a few minutes of “well, that was a pointless trip,” neither of us would have cared one way or another.
I think I can probably salvage this somehow, turn it into a sleeveless top maybe. I recounted a bit of my escapades to Alvaro and he suggested that I make a quilt out of my projects that didn’t work out. I’ve filed away this excellent idea for down the road. I like the image of rolling myself into a cozy, quilted cocoon of past failures as I wail in frustration at another sewing project gone awry.
All things considered, I don’t feel particularly bad about this. I did learn some lessons about construction, and I got to practice French seaming on more difficult shapes like rounded shoulders on sleeves. Fun fact as an aside — I learned how to do French seams at the sewing workshop I went to during our vacation (volunteering at a castle restoration project in the north of France, another blog post for another day). I had never seen such a thing, and I didn’t even know what it was called in English, but in French it’s called couture à l’anglaise… which means “English seams.” I only learned the English name when I got home and was scrolling through other people’s sewing projects on Instagram. I think this is hilarious and weird, like neither country wanted to take credit for inventing such a magnificent sewing technique.
Another thing I learned: I need to actually plan my upcoming sewing projects, and that means investing in some patterns and warmer fabric (i.e. not thin cotton and cotton gauze, which is all I have). I’m not planning on sewing a whole new wardrobe. I was thinking three pieces: a cape (already have the pattern for that, and it’s going to be obscenely dramatic and I can’t wait), and two undecideds. Here I was, thinking I had leg up on winter because I’m knitting a sweater in August, and actually I have no idea what’s in store for my sewing machine and me.