March 22, 2018

Getting my sewjo back...

There's something elusive about inspiration and creativity. It's one of those big ideas that people like wax poetic about: the muse, the spark of genius, creative flow. It's also one of those things that can disappear as quickly as it came.

That's where I've found myself these past few months.

Now, there are a lot of reasons for this. And, I'm gonna warn you upfront, this blog post is about to get real. And I've been procrastinating about writing this post because it's been so hard for me to put into words.

You may remember from my About page that my mother was the one to teach me to sew back in 2015. And you may also remember that my desire to learn was partly predicated on my mother's diagnosis with cancer. I wanted something to share with her and have her pass on one of her amazing abilities to me. Sewing was something we could share, something we could spend afternoons with me texting her pictures of my fitting problems and her texting me solutions, something that I could show her proudly every time I got to see her.

You see, we lived in different cities, me in Brooklyn, her in Buffalo. That is, until I decided to start Needle Sharp. And while one reason for my moving from Brooklyn to Buffalo was to have a better financial base for my new venture, I also wanted to be near my mom who was in her fourth year of what we knew would ultimately be a terminal illness.

The move completely sapped my drive to sew. On the one hand, I had my creative juices flowing: I was launching this business (it started one week before I moved); I had to design my site, my logo, my packaging; I had to learn marketing and make Facebook ads and Instagram posts. It was all interesting, stimulating, artsy stuff. But on the other hand, I had no desire to sew. 

Nor did I have the space. I'll tell you right now; I'm still not unpacked. Because of timing, remodeling, other priorities, etc, I wasn't able to unpack back in September. 

Or October.

Or November.

I did squeak out a Toaster Sweater in October by sewing at my kitchen table. But as anyone who has used the communal kitchen table to sew knows, it's problematic in that you have to constant set up and take down your workspace. Plus the room had horrible lighting and a poor overall set-up for pressing and cutting. After the one attempt, I did not want to sew anymore until I could unpack further.

Then, one week after I got my first sale on Needle Sharp, my mom went into the hospital and never came out.

Grief is a powerful and paradigm-shifting thing. And I'm still in the process, probably will be for a long time.

The one thing that I've truly to come to understand about it so far is that it's full of conflict. Not like "having an argument" type conflict, but "having two thoughts that contradict each other but are both true" conflict. I can be upbeat and laughing then fall into sadness. I can be completely focused one minute then consumed by a storm of thoughts the next. I can be incredibly grateful that I have this business where I can use my skills and feel productive and purposeful , and I can lament the fact that my mom won’t be with me on my journey with this new company and this new chapter in my life.

But I do know that she was proud of me. She told me as often as she could. And I do know that sewing is a connection that I will always share with her. So it was important for me, even though I haven't felt like sewing since November, to get back into it.

The first step, of course, was to set up my sewing studio. With the help of my dad, who, let's face it, was also going through the loss, we painted the walls, set up my table, bought shelves for the fabric bolts and got organized. 

And then I sat down at my sewing machine to make something.

I didn't really know what to make. I knew it should be simple enough and something that I would wear. You see, since leaving my retail job, my wardrobe has devolved into leggings and a different top each day, if I get dressed at all. The joy and curse of working from home.

Scanning through pattern company sites for upcoming boxes, I found myself on the site for Victory Patterns. They had just done a site redesign, which I love, and I wanted to see what they had added.

I've always loved Victory's designs. They are absolutely unique to the brand, and they appeal to the more adventurous side of my sense of style. They are the clothes I would love to wear but rarely find myself buying. 

So why not try making them? To satisfy the simple yet wearable part, I chose the Simone Top. It helped that I knew that I had bought a pair of contrasting fabrics that I intended to use in something else, but that would be perfect for this pattern. The main fabric is a combed cotton voile from Mood with a floral, sorta French porcelain design on it. The contrast is a yellow paisley voile, also from Mood, that shares the same pink tones as the blue fabric. They aren't meant to match, but they coordinate quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

I sewed up a very quick test garment, which I almost always do for woven garments, and, to my complete surprise and joy, found that Victory Patterns fit my bodice better than any indie pattern company I've come across. Yipee!! I was able to sew a straight size 6 without moving the shoulder seam forward or changing the position of the darts, which I always have to do with most patterns. (Hello, rounded shoulders and low boobs).

Getting back into the physical part of sewing was a little rougher than I thought it would be. The muscle memory took a few hours to come back. So I proceeded slowly and methodically in the making of this. I even basted the seam allowances so that I could be sure of my accuracy, a thing I rarely, rarely do. Over all it took me three days to make this simple top. 

But, man, do I love it.

Simone Top Victory Patterns

I especially love the racerback, which makes my shoulders look waaaay smaller than they actually are. 

Victory Patterns Simone Top

I used flat piping for the front placket, instead of covered piping, and I left off the front tab, which another blog said looked like a little tie and now I can't unsee it. To account for that, I changed the keyhole opening a little bit to be the same shape as the pointed placket. For the whole thing, I also used peach thread because I knew that top-stiching would have to appear on both fabrics and I thought that navy thread would be too much on the yellow fabric and yellow thread would be too noticeable on the blue fabric. I like how it turned out; the top-stitching really blends on both.

Victory Patterns Simone Top Cotton Lawn

Some close-ups of the top-stitching, plus my zipper, which for once lays flat at the top.

Victory Patterns Simone Top Cotton Lawn

I did have some problems with the instructions. Well, one problem. The picture for the front pleats does not match the actual way the pleats look when pressed towards the center. Something got reversed in the image, I think, but if you're going to sew this pattern, use the verbal instructions for this part, not the images. 

Victory Patterns Simone Top Cotton Lawn

I would also add about half an each to the side seams on the back bodice. I've noticed after wearing this top a few times that the side seam swings towards the back, which is not great. But as pattern adjustments go, this one is minor at best.

Victory Patterns Simone Top Cotton Lawn

Finally, if you have a keen eye, you'll notice that my directional print is in two different directions on the front and back bodices. This was the big oops of the project that I didn't notice until after cutting. However, there was really no way to avoid this because, as I said earlier, the fabric was purchased with a different pattern in mind, so I did not have enough to cut the back bodice with the print going the correct direction.

Oh, well. The pattern isn't obviously directional until you look pretty hard, so you really don't notice it unless you're looking for it. And it's an acceptable price to pay for getting my sewing mojo back

And it is back. The whole process of making this top has been really cathartic for me, and I can feel my desire to make things returning. I've already got another Victory Patterns project on my table. Sewing will be a connection that I will always have with my mom, and the thought of that is really satisfying in those times of conflict.

I will continue to try to make her proud.

Happy sewing, 



1 comment

  • I am sorry for your loss- I enjoyed reading this post and that top is adorable. I hope you continue to keep your creative juices flowing and keep feeling connected to you Mom in everything you continue to make. Without a doubt she is proud of you!

    Dany on

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