The Ethics of Sewing

I’m back again (“… cried Nora, with a monumental crash”*), newly invigorated by some NaNoWriMo events in my library. It’s also NaBloPoMo, but I’m not up for a daily post. We’ve been using NaNoWriMo as an opportunity for writing of all kinds, so I’m revisiting the sewing blog concept, even though I know a lot of sewists and knitters are moving away from this format.

Someone just raised a great question in an online forum of which I am a member:

Is it better to make your own clothes from mainstream fabric stores or buy clothes from mainstream clothing stores?

This is something I’ve been thinking about on and off since I read Elisabeth Cline’s Overdressed. Sewists who pledge to make all of their own clothes, or all but the shoes and underwear, often cite the excesses of the global fashion industry as a reason, but unless you’re spinning your own cotton to weave your own denim, it’s not possible to completely opt out of the textile market. My immediate answer to my fellow crafter’s query was that making your own clothing allows you to avoid at least one layer of potential human suffering by bypassing the factories where your bohemian dress from Anthropologie or your $20 Old Navy jeans are made.

But what about the fabric? Continue reading


Spring Break is for making things?

I guess I’m just not much of a blogger, since it’s been nearly a year AGAIN. I choose to blame grad school, which will be over in August – hopefully that will mean more time for making things, if not writing about them.

Today is the last day of my spring break, and as always I had grand crafting plans. I’ve been plugging away at the Beatnik sweater, and I’m actually halfway done with the second sleeve so maybe one day it will really be done. Here’s a progress shot from January (!).

#sundaysweaterkal with kitty, tea and Downton Abbey

A post shared by Susanne (@chezalouette) on

And the other day I whipped up an Aberdeen tunic, from Seamwork magazine! As promised, it only took a few hours, and it was a good instant-gratification sewing project after giving up on so many poorly executed or ill-fitting things. Plus, bat-wing tops are awesome!

Like everyone else in the entire world, I also read Marie Kondo’s book about decluttering. I got rid of 3 bags of clothes and 1 bag of yarn and fabric scraps, and generally did some good sorting. This process, in conjunction with finally doing the first few steps of the Wardrobe Architect project from the Coletterie, gave me a little more clarity about what I should actually DO with all of my yarn and fabric… more on that another time.

Summer is for making things?

When it comes to knitting and sewing, I’m full of ideas and pretty lousy at the follow-through. There are 75 patterns in my Ravelry queue – and that’s after purging about 50% of it a few months ago – and nearly 200 on my sewing board on Pinterest, mostly patterns I want to make. I’m also turning into quite a pattern hoarder: 416 patterns in the Rav library and a growing pile of pattern envelopes, PDFs and Japanese books in my sewing collection. Then there’s the stash… I recently sorted my fabric and I have two big tote bags of fabric destined to become garments, and about six sweaters worth of yarn, plus all of the single skeins and leftovers.

One reason I started this blog was to try to give myself some accountability in my projects. If I join a sew-along or Me Made May, I have to finish, right? With that in mind, here are the next few projects I want to dig into, not including the ones that are already in progress. Patterns and materials are all lined up, I just need a nudge in the right direction:

1) Beatnik sweater by Norah Gaughan, in Berroco Remix in “strawberry.” I’ve had the yarn for two years and it’s been on the top of my queue for even longer, but I haven’t even swatched! As soon as I finish the second sleeve on my current project, this is what I’m pulling out of the closet.

Beatnik – Knitty

2) View G from Stylish Dress Book: Clothing for Everyday Wear, in this blue bicycle print from Girl Charlee. I’d already been eyeing this pattern when I saw Tea’s beautiful version on Kollabora. It’s always nice when someone else has made the pattern work before you attack it.

Retro Bicycles fabric – Girl Charlee

3) The Bombshell Swimsuit by Closet Case Files, in black-and-taupe polka dots from Girl Charlee. This one has a bit of a deadline, since I’m going to Seattle and Michigan in three weeks and I don’t have a wearable bathing suit. If I don’t finish before I leave for Seattle I’ll just take it with me and finish on my mom’s old Elna, but I have to finish it by August 1 or no beach for me.

Bombshell – Closet Case Files

4) McCall’s 6600 in black and white Anna Sui cotton-silk twill from Mood. My fabric is a pretty bold graphic floral, so the whole thing will be a little more “statement-y” than I’m used to, but I love Clare’s version at Sew Dixie Lou and her fabric is even wilder than mine!


… yes, I’m still here.

It hasn’t QUITE been a year since my last post, but pretty close. I started grad school last September and my job also changed a bit, leaving very little time for crafting. Or sleeping, or doing laundry, or reading anything but journal articles. Sooo, I do still knit, and sew, and (rarely) can things, I just haven’t had time to take pictures or write about it.

This summer I’m not working, so in theory I have time to catch up on crafts AND write about them. So far I’ve sewed one dress, knit most of a sweater, and almost finished two more dresses, and I just pulled three pints of sour cherries out of the canning kettle. More to come soon!

When sewing projects go wrong

This skirt was supposed to be a Well Made Garment, the kind of thing that I’d be proud to have made instead of buying at H&M or the Gap. Plus it was going to be cheaper. I started with a New Look pattern that I bought as 6873 but seems to have morphed into 2543, and some seersucker from the bargain area at G Street.

New Look skirt

I’m still a little intrigued by those shorts, too.

I added a white cotton lining, piecing together the pockets and the skirt front to cut out the front lining. Things started to go downhill when I sewed it together. The seersucker is some kind of bizarre synthetic that you can’t iron and it won’t hold a crease anyway. The yoke lining suddenly became an inch bigger than the outer part. I hadn’t accounted for the zipper when I decided to line it, and even with the help of various tutorials over on Sewaholic I made a total hash of it.


I guess it doesn’t look SO bad…

THEN I tried it on and realized it’s a little too big – but also a little short. The pattern is meant to sit 1″ below the natural waist, which is an odd place for a skirt. Tuck your shirt in and it looks like your skirt’s just too big, leave the shirt out and the A-line shape gets in the way. But even if I could figure out how to adjust it through all the layers of pockets, linings, etc, this beast is SHORT. That’s when I set it aside for 4 months, hemless and too big.

When I finally got around to hemming it, I pressed the lining up the wrong way. I decided that the thing is already cursed and just went with it. Continuing with the same ham-handed approach, I left the off-white thread in my machine even though this is really grey and white-white. I just about managed to press up a narrow hem, and I was going to measure a proper hem when I remembered how short the darn thing is. So for now, it’s just got a single narrow hem, which the fabric is doing its best to escape. One day I’ll get around to putting a hook and eye at the top of the zipper, but today I decided life is too short.

New Look skirt

The lumpy tucked-in look

In the end, the quality is still probably about on par with H&M – weird fit, strange fabric and some kind of questionable stitching that might only survive a few wears. Let’s just call it a wearable muslin and move on…

When quilting mania strikes

I got back from a trip to Michigan on Sunday, but I don’t have to be at work until next Tuesday so this should be a good week for crafting. Or sitting around reading with the cat, we’ll see. I went to the AQS Quilt Week in Grand Rapids and came back with all sorts of quilting ambitions. (So much for all of those dresses I was planning last time!) There was a $5 book sale and I wound up with a strange Japanese cross-stitch book, a Joel Dewberry one that I mostly just got for the stuffed bird in it, and a battered copy of Gwen Marston’s Liberated Quiltmaking II. I’m itching to try some of the “liberated” blocks, but for now I’m getting started on turning this pile of Denyse Schmidt fat quarters into a decidedly unliberated “Chevron and On” from Quilty. (It’s so unliberated I’m using the same fabric as the designer)
Denyse Schmidt Chicopee FQs

I cut all my pieces and whipped up one block, but I think I want to get the Bernina patchwork foot before I go too much further – the 1/4″ mark on the plate is kind of hard to see and my seam allowances could use all the help they can get, as evidenced by my last set of quilt blocks. These are my 18 Granny Square blocks, from this tutorial on the Moda blog. I might make 2 more, just to make the top a bit bigger – 18 was a pair of each combination of blue and orange fabrics.

Granny Square blocks

I like this block, which is kind of like some of the older album blocks I’ve seen, but it seems like there must be some better way of constructing it. The outer edges are entirely on the bias, plus there is this:


I mean, really. I understand trimming blocks to get the shape and size just right, but this is a MOUNTAIN of triangles and almost-triangles, that are probably just small enough that I’ll never find a way of using them. Any ideas?

Aaaaaaand, we’re back!

I don’t know what happened – there I was in May, blogging away about my new projects, and suddenly it’s July. Don’t worry, I’m still here and still making things. Two quick trips, the end of the school year and the crazy exhaustion that comes from working at summer camp have slowed things down, but I have several new projects to share soon. There are two knitted shawls, two dresses and a whole lot of pickles waiting in the wings here… plus ricotta that’s so fresh it’s still chilling!

A few weeks ago, I dug out all my fabric to see what I had lurking in the closet and under the bed. It turns out I had four dress lengths and four skirt- or shorts-sized chunks of fabric squirreled away. An inventory of the pattern collection revealed a TON of skirt and dress patterns waiting to be matched up with fabrics. I tend to buy fabric and patterns separately, so even if I have a project in mind it’s not like I bring home 2 yards of fabric and one skirt pattern and immediately execute The Plan, which means sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the possibilities and just don’t make anything. (This is one of the reasons I thought a blog might be good – a place to give a little structure to all my vague ideas)


This isn’t even ALL my dress patterns, just the ones I want to make soon!

After making a bunch of piles on the floor (husband and cat were a bit bemused by this, since it didn’t seem very productive to outside eyes), I have some pairings in mind. The Cambie  dress would look fabulous in anything from the peach-print sateen to the herringbone-weave chambray, but I’m going to limit myself to one for now. Besides, the chambray is definitely reserved for the Lisette Traveler, since I’ve been envisioning a chambray shirtdress for over a year now. That might be my next garment project – I initially thought view A or B, but now I’m leaning towards the fuller skirt on view C.

I’ve also made my first foray into vintage pattern shopping, inspired by Tilly’s version of Simplicity 7341 from 1976. It had been a rough day at work, so I got 7341 plus two other vintage Simplicity patterns. 7049 is from 1975, while 5063 must be a few years older. For one thing, the sizing is considerably different from the other two.

Vintage patterns

I love the topstitching and modified kimono sleeves on 5063! I can see myself wearing the short-sleeved version in a neutral color, maybe gray with red or aqua topstitching – probably no gloves, though. 7049 is almost painfully 70s, but at the same time I quite like the blue dress. I don’t know why they were so into wearing dresses and tunics over turtlenecks back in the day. I think I’ll skip that part too. I may end up shamelessly copying Tilly and making the same view of 7341 in Japanese double gauze. I got some with a birthday gift certificate, in black with giant pink trees and animals on it. I’m also envisioning a tunic version in super lightweight chambray – it would be rather Anthropologie-esque if it came out properly. Just have to take a deep breath and start unfolding that elderly tissue paper!