Tuesday, December 6, 2011
This weekend I set out to turn some soft, squishy flannel into cozy pajamas. I was craving a change of pace and had just received my copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick - clearly a sign that it was time to make some clothes.
Well, I definitely learned some things about myself in the process. Let's see...
First off, the Oliver & S Bedtime Story Pajamas pattern was wonderful. So wonderful! Two years ago I made the kids pjs from a Simplicity pattern and really decided then and there that I would never, ever, ever sew clothes again. Granted, that was my first go at clothes and I hadn't a clue at all, but it was a tremendously stressful experience. Now, I'll admit that I relived a bit of that when wrestling with my options for tracing the Oliver & S pajama pattern so as to preserve all 5 sizes included on one ginormous tissue paper. Why don't they include more than one tissue paper so that you can just cut each size out as needed? I mean, these patterns aren't cheap and tissue paper is... I think? I turned to The Colette Sewing Handbook for suggestions and didn't come up with any ideas that were available to me that night. So, I threw caution to the wind and cut the tissue paper in the largest size I'd be sewing this year (basically feeling that I'd never sew pajamas again anyways, because What Was I Thinking!). At least the Colette book reminded me to iron the silly tissue paper and that pattern weights (like my camera and scissors) would be so much easier than pinning.
Really, once I got past cutting the tissue paper pattern pieces to size, the rest of the process went smoothly. I did a good job transferring all markings and cutting my pieces thanks to suggestions in the Colette book. Before this I never had a good technique for transferring the dot markings, for example. The Colette Sewing Handbook suggested placing a pin through the dot in the tissue paper and then using a marking tool to mark around the pin insert point on both sides of the cut fabric. Worked quite nicely!
All in all it was really nice, as a beginner, to have the Colette book on hand. It's not that Oliver & S was lacking in key information, it's just that as a newbie I don't even know my options. Take seam finishes, for example. Last time I made the kids pjs, I think I completely skipped seam finishes (or just pinked a few edges). The whole pattern was like a foreign language to me and the thought of adding the "extra" step of finishing seams seemed like a cruel joke. Many washings later, I totally get the point. The Colette Sewing Handbook had a nice how-to section on seam finishing options that made me feel in control.
In the end I went with an overcast stitched edge. I think it looks dandy, and hope it holds up well.
When cutting pieces for Aria's Bedtime Story Pajamas, miserable memories of sewing those pjs two years ago almost had me skipping the pajama top altogether. I mean, you can always just sew pants (those are easy), buy a t-shirt and applique some fabric on it to make a set of pajamas. But, that kimono style top is so darling... I'm so, so, so glad I persevered because the Oliver & S top design is incredibly easy to sew. My favorite part was finishing the sleeve seams and side seams with one long right angle stitch line.
Hip, hip, hurray for straight lines!
I love how her pajamas turned out! The flannel is Diamond Mine from Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks collection. It's trimmed with Hugs & Kisses in Candy, also by Anna Maria. I happen to know from experience that Anna's flannel holds up very well over time, staying nice and thick and warm. I can't wait to see how these look on her, but they're stashed away for now until Christmas Eve!
So, remember how I said that I learned some things about myself? Well, while making these pajamas and taking breaks to read The Colette Sewing Handbook here and there, I came to realize that I am a quilter. Shocking right? But hear me out. I love to make quilts, the easy ones and the hard ones. The ones for people and the ones for no reason. The ones that take forever and have to be fixed and finally turn into something I can appreciate at the end. I don't always love every minute of the process, but overall I'm motivated to do it and I don't actually care that it takes quite awhile.
I so don't feel that way about making clothes. I don't want them to be hard. There is only a limited amount of time I want to spend making them. And, also, I don't particularly aspire to be able to make myself a tailored, awesomely fit garment. I mean, at first I thought that would be cool, but now I see that I just don't have the passion to take me there at this time in my life. It's a whole ton of work to get there!
Sewists that are ready for that rode take a pattern as a starting point, make a muslin (wearable or not), make adjustments to the pattern and repeat, repeat, repeat until they're thrilled. They also probably want a dress form. I, on the other hand, just want to open a pattern like these Bedtime Story Pajamas, cut out one size, follow the directions and come out with a fabulous item all in one go!
Clarity is key. If you do feel passionate about learning to make yourself beautiful, well-fit clothing, I think The Colette Sewing Handbook is an awesome place to start. Sarai Mitnick's writing is clear, friendly and illustrated so well with in-process photographs.
Plus, this dress is one of the included patterns! And, if you want to make "easy" clothes for kids (whose lack of curves make for a quick fit), the Colette book is also a nice extra reference for navigating your options or unscrambling way-too-brief directions that you'll find in some patterns. For myself, I think I need to look in the direction of knits. Knits have that stretch that helps a pattern accommodate more shapes and also create a finished look that I like.
I recently pinned this quick tutorial for making a dress from a simple knit top. I love how the author really threw the dress together. That's the attitude I hope to take this spring with dress-sewing season gets in my blood again!