I barely recognize myself

I learned several important things while making a shirt for my friend Hannah:

It’s for a friend, and the first important thing that I learned is: I am apparently much more careful about everything when I’m sewing for a friend. This is only the second time I’ve sewn something for someone else, but the last time was nearly a year ago and I forgot how much more precise I am when someone else is going to be wearing it. Go ahead and psychoanalyze me, I’ve been doing it too for the past few days.

Another important thing was: being extra careful takes considerably more time, but you are richly rewarded for your time, and you don’t cringe at the garment’s innards as you put it on.

Another important thing: being extra careful and taking more time to do things right can actually be quite meditative.

And finally: being extra careful and taking my time made a simple t-shirt, which I’ve already sewn twice for myself, feel luxurious and precious and beautiful. (For info: the pattern is Lou Box Top, found here, and the fabric is from Liberty London.)

I will now take you on a tour:

This is me pinning down the French seams, a new trick I’ve had up my sleeve since late July. It is now one of my top three favorite sewing techniques. Also, please do not judge my ugly ironing board. It was 5 euros second-hand and it gets the job done. One of these days I’d like to replace the cover but for now I’d rather be sewing fancy t-shirts for my friends.

And then I ironed down the French seams and hand sewed them flat. This more or less took the entire weekend.

I took some time to ponder how to deal with the bottom hem, because in my experience thus far I’ve found that curved hems are a pain, because the fabric always folds over on itself and looks like a hack job. Having spent the better part of a weekend on this shirt and happy with how it was turning out, I wanted the hemline to be pristine. This is what led me to discover another of my top three sewing techniques: the hand-rolled hem. Here’s the video I watched:

As I was laying down the first few stitches, I still didn’t believe that I would be capable of such magic — and yet when I pulled on the thread my stitches folded in on themselves one after another down the line. A rolled hem turned out to be perfect for the fabric and the shape of the hem, and on top of that it was fun to sew. I found myself slowing down so I could enjoy it for just a little bit longer, and was honest to god sad when I closed up the last of it.

After all of that, here’s what the insides of Hannah’s shirt look like:

Nothing but tidiness. I’m a changed woman. A slower one.

And so my number one favorite sewing technique is … cultivating some damn patience.

That’s it. I’ve realized that without patience, I may as well forget about all of this clothes making business, because in the end what I’m interested in is making things to last, making things well, taking my time, making less (how about that!) but making better. That’s what I want, but it’s taken about this long for it to really sink into my head enough so that I actually act out what I want and value.

Moving on… I’ve narrowed down a list of the things I’d like to sew for myself for fall. Number one is a cape, but I haven’t found the fabric yet. Number two is this shirt from atelier scammit, which I’m making with a vintage (c. 1950s/60s) navy blue crepe I bought off Etsy. Number three is this skirt from Colette, which I don’t find to be as exciting as a big ol’ cape, but a stretchy jersey skirt will be very practical for wearing with things I already have. And as I was cruising pattern companies, I thought, hey, let’s be practical. (Full disclosure: I have several other patterns waiting in the wings that may or may not get made … so much for setting the limit at three new items for myself. However, these three will get made first, and if that’s all I make, all the better.) In the sewing for other people category, Alvaro is going to be getting a button-down shirt once we go find fabric for it. (The pattern is Walden, also from Colette. I will admit that I bought it mostly for the name, but also because it has several adaptations so it’s one pattern packet that has the potential to create many different shirts.)

The crepe should arrive this weekend, but rather than cut right into it I’ll be making a muslin. I will be making a muslin because, as noted above, I am a changed woman who does not just leap into sewing projects willy nilly. I make muslins, even for fairly loose tops like the one I’m planning for my crepe, because one of the points of making your own clothes is fitting things exactly how you want (and I need a FBA, which complicates things). I would also like to avoid a meltdown from messing things up with the actual shirt fabric, since it can’t be replaced. Alvaro’s shirt will get a muslin as well because I figure I’ll be remaking the shirt several times over in the future.

That’s it for sewing. As for knitting, aside from churning out very loudly striped socks for myself and others, I’ll be making a wool cardigan (Something Silver on Ravelry) with yarn from the Longomaï collective outside of Grenoble. They turn up at my favorite local Christmas market every year (a kind of punky one, where potters sell pots next to antifa guys selling antifa pins) and I realized early this morning as I was drinking my coffee and scrolling through Ravelry that I have (I think) enough of their yarn to make a fitted sweater. And if it turns out that I’m short, I know where to find them come mid December. The yarn is white (undyed, but I’ll probably dye it after knitting) and reeks of sheep, which I find not that unpleasant. This is my test swatch, after blocking:

THAT’S RIGHT: I SWATCHED. And blocked.

Want to know why? Because I’ve been knitting away these past two weeks and all I have to show for those hours is a life lesson, which is great, but I was aiming for a sweater. I tried first one yarn and pattern and then another pattern, didn’t swatch either time, and both times was so far off on the gauge that, without exaggeration, I could have fit myself x 2 in the finished sweater were I to continue knitting it.

I talked to a fellow knitter and sewer today about this, and she groaned when I mentioned swatching. As she said, it just feels like a waste of time. But you know what’s a bigger waste of time? Spending a week knitting a sweater and holding it up against yourself and saying, hmm, I do believe I will drown in this, and then having to unravel the whole thing.

And so, I swatched. And the gauge is perfect. I didn’t have the right needles (I swatched on straight, but need circular for the actual sweater) so I ordered them from my local shop and they should be here by the weekend. I felt a little leap in my heart thinking that I wouldn’t be able to cast on tonight, but we’re talking about a few days here. I can wait. I am patient.

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