Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips to get over a crafting slump

I've been thinking a lot lately about all the wonderful replies to my post a few weeks ago about trying to get my sewing mojo back. I think we all go through little slumps now and then with our various crafts of choice...sewing, knitting, paper crafting, you name it. You might be seeing lots of things that inspire you to create, but finding obstacles along the way, even when you sit down to work.

Because all the comments I received were really a big help in fighting through my sewing slump, I thought maybe it would be helpful to others out there to call out a few tips and suggestions I received. I found these especially helpful once I sat back down to sew, because I still found myself facing obstacles and wasn't sure what to do about it.

Here are a few tips on little things you can do to get back in the saddle with your crafting, compiled from reader comments and with my own two cents on my experiences thrown in. ;)

Miss P likes to start with something small and easy if she hasn't sewn in awhile. After several months of not sewing, I know that I sure feel like I'm practically starting back at square one! Easing in with something quick is a great way to re-build confidence in your skills that have been laying dormant for awhile. My first sewing project after several months should have been this easy idea I have for a great vintage-inspired purse (well, it's easy in my head, lol), not a project that was in-progress 9 months ago that had fiddly bits I already found difficult (semi-sheer button-up blouse with a collar).

Anthea of Sewing Vintage Knitting mentioned she likes to take her time getting back into a project if it's been awhile since she worked on it. She'll put on a dress form and kind of size it up and down periodically while moving onto another project. After awhile she'll know where to pick back up. I like this idea a lot. I tried to jump right in whole hog to the sewing project I had in progress the last time I sewed (aforementioned blouse), and it was a disaster. I really should have put it aside for awhile and started something fresh.

Dolly Cool Clare (who just made a gorgeous Hawaiian print dress, by the way!) suggested starting a new project with fabric you really love. What a great suggestion! My white cotton blouse was in serious violation of that. What's to get excited about with white cotton?! Instead, it felt more like drudgery to work on, combined with the other issues I was having with it. I should have just skipped right ahead to the fabric and pattern stash and dived in for something I would actually enjoy working on. After awhile away, start back in by using a supply or a pattern you really love to help get (and keep) you inspired.

This one is all me, and is something that dawned on me when I tried to figure out why I was so mad about sewing when I started back in on it after months away. Seriously, I began to think maybe I really hated sewing, and why was I doing it?  When really, I just hated what I was working on. It wasn't working for me, for a variety of reasons. I did some reflecting about why, and as silly as it sounds, one of the reasons I came up with was the collar. I love collared blouses in cooler weather, but find them a huge pain to sew, and quite frankly when it gets warmer outside that's just too much fabric on my neck and chest anyway. (As I've mentioned before, I'm a heat wuss.) So why was I sewing a warm-weather collared blouse when I don't like to wear collars in warm weather and I hate sewing collars in the first place?!

My tip? If you haven't worked on a craft in months, don't start back in with something you already know you don't like to work on! If you dislike it, you're not going to want to work on it. Period. Move on to something you like.

Casey of Elegant Musings brought up a personal goal she's trying to make for herself, which is setting aside 30 minutes each day to sew. This was like a little light bulb going off in my head. Squeezing in some time each day for a sewing-related activity is something I need to commit myself to. And ever since she said this I've really been trying to stick to it myself, and it's been great! Even if it's been just pinning sleeves into armholes, or sewing a seam or two, at least am seeing forward progress on my project and it's satisfying. It's also easier to take minor snafus (which of course I've had... seam binding sewn to the wrong side of my seam allowance on one sleeve, I'm looking at you) when I know I'm forcing myself to work on it again the next day instead of just turning away in disgust for weeks at a time.

Jessica of Chronically Vintage also moved recently, and like me will be setting up a space in her basement to craft, and hopes it will inspire her to create. Liz of Busy Lizzie recently re-organized her sewing space and is indeed finding that inspiring! Don't underestimate your workspace. Since I haven't gotten my dedicated sewing space setup yet, I can vouch for the importance of having an organized space... from the perspective of someone who totally does not have an organized space at the moment!

It's frustrating searching around for a tool because it's buried under a pile of pattern pieces, since I have nowhere else to put them. Or walking up and down between the dress form in the basement and the sewing machine in the dining area. This does not motivate me to want to sew. Even in our condo I had a better organized space, though it was still multi-tasking as the dining room. Because my space is in limbo right now until I get my sewing area setup, I haven't even been trying to organize my space, which is a major mistake that just adds to my frustration! Maintaining an organized space makes it easier to actually work in your space and you'll spend like time fumbling around for things and swearing.

Liz of and I were discussing this topic over email and she shared a tip I really took to heart. She said one of the best things you can do after finishing a project is jump right into the next one. You may even find it goes smoother and faster than the project before. I am notoriously horrible about this with sewing. I'll sew a project, and then not sew again for weeks or months. In my case a lot of this is lack of confidence in my skills and frustration. But I need to get over it! I'll never participate in Me Made May if I only manage to sew a few things a year. Nor will I ever get more confident. Once my current sewing project is complete, I'm going to bounce right into the next one, whether or not this one turns out great or just meh. I swear!

So now that I've bared my sewing soul with you (eek)... where am I now, you may wonder? I'm working on a 1940s dress. It's a house dress pattern that buttons up the back, with ruffles for sleeves, ties at the back and patch pockets. No collar! And no facing pieces, something else I don't like working with, so I avoided it for my first project back in the saddle. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of fiddly stuff to annoy me with this project.... lots of French seams, what feels like miles of blind stitching by hand and the world's strangest-to-iron cotton lawn. But I love the pattern, and I like the fabric, and I'm making progress. And I hope to have a new summer dress to show off in a week or so, if it all works out.

Thanks, dear readers, for your tips and suggestions on getting over my sewing slump. And I hope this post helps others out there get over their slumps, too. If you have more suggestions or inspirations, please do share!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Finished project: So neat and sweet jersey

Finally, I have a finished project to share with you all! It's about time.

This is my latest sweater, with the delicate name of So Neat and Sweet in her Simple V-Necked Jersey (pattern link on Ravelry, my project page on Ravelry). It's from A Stitch in Time Volume 2. Now I know all of you other vintage knitters out there know about this fabulous book by Susan Crawford, of course.  But I can't reiterate enough how lovely her books and patterns are, if you're not familiar with her!

This was knit in Quince and Co. Finch, a 100% American wool (sourced and spun here). I just loved knitting with it. It's not superwash (so hand wash only), but is very soft and springy with a tight twist and is very lightweight to wear. I see lots and lots of projects in this yarn in my future. (In fact, my languishing Vintage Knitting College colorwork pullover is in the same yarn.)

I started this pullover the last day of February, but was so caught up in packing and moving, I didn't finish it until Friday. The body pieces flew by, but knitting both sleeves at the same time seemed to drag on. (Of course it didn't help that I didn't actually knit at all for over a month, being too busy and brain dead to do so.)

This was a pullover I really enjoyed knitting. You're in for the long haul when you knit a long-sleeved sweater in fingering weight (4 ply) yarn with an allover stitch pattern, so you better enjoy the journey. And I did! The stitch pattern was over 6 rows and was actually quite easy to memorize, which made it a good project to knit on the go.

As I'm sure you know by now I love to tinker with patterns, however I knit this exactly as written. I only made two changes: (1) I knit the smallest size, for size 30-32" bust, which actually measures 35 1/2". That gave me 1/2" negative ease across the bust instead of positive ease. (2) I knit a couple of extra repeats of the pattern in the sleeve caps because my rows are always short.

I wouldn't call this an easy pattern for a beginner. While the stitch pattern and shaping is quite simple, actually decreasing in pattern can be a bit tough, even if you're used to it. I knit the back first and then decided I'd prefer my armhole decrease stitches to be in purl, so that's what I did for the front. (No one will ever see the back and front of my armpit at the same time so I wasn't going to rip back to re-knit the back. So there.)

It really came out just like the original!

{Source: A Stitch In Time Volume 2, © Susan Crawford}

I'm a sucker for little details, and love how a line in the rib pattern flows down from the center of the sleeve cap at the shoulder seam, as well as in the center of the v-neck. Wonderful symmetry.

Usually, I would use mattress stitch to attach a neckband, however I followed Susan's instructions to use a flat slip stitch (described in the book), and I like the result. It was a good way to match up the decreasing neckline edge with the edge of the garter stitch band (which I think is more fiddly to deal with than a stockinette edge).

Needless to say, I'm over the moon about this pullover! And since I've decided yellow is my new neutral (not that I ever had a neutral before), I know I'm going to get a ton of wear out of this.

Now, what shall my next vintage knit be?? Something from a vintage booklet? Or something from volume 1? I just can't decide!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Coral on my mind {and my lips}

Hello everyone! I've been obsessed with the color coral for quite some time. I think since last spring! I got a gift certificate to Sephora for my birthday, and I decided to splurge on a lipstick I'd been wanting to try for awhile. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupté in Rose Paris (27). As I'm sure you've noticed, I usually stick with red, however I thought this bright pinky coral would be a fun change. I paired it with an even brighter pinky coral nail polish, Essie in E-nuf is E-nuf.

I know one of the reasons I like this lipstick is the gorgeous vintage-inspired tube, and the light yummy scent. It just screams old Hollywood starlet.

I'm enjoying the color when I'd like something a bit less vibrant than red, or just want something a tad more casual. This color can really only be applied if your lips aren't too dry as it accentuates every little dry bit of skin, but I think that's an issue with lighter lipsticks in general (or at least lighter lipsticks on me).

Today was ridiculously hot for May, so it was a good day for one of my favorite dresses. Well, truth be told I haven't rotated my closet yet, so I've been wearing the same 3 or 4 summer dresses over and over again lately as they're the only ones I have out. So while I say it was a good day for this dress, I've probably worn it 3 times in the last week. (Shh, don't tell.)

I even infused my outfit with bits of pink and coral.

Outfit details: 50s house dress from Bamboo Bettie, earrings made by me, vintage brooch a gift, vintage sweetheart bracelet and plastic barrette from somewhere or other, tooled wedges from Remix

As if I needed any more inspiration for my coral love lately, I just need to look outside. Pinks, especially those with a hint of coral tickle me every time I see them in the yard.

Do you have a coral lipstick or nail polish you love? Especially one that's a bit less hot pink? I'd love to hear about it. I definitely don't see my coral lust waning anytime soon!

(Stay tuned for a small giveaway later in the week!)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Vintage knitting pattern: 1954 Mother & Daughter Shrug

I don't know about you, but I have had shrugs and boleros on my mind lately!

As the weather finally seems to be staying nicer and I creep closer to rotating my closet (yay for seeing pretty spring and summer fashions that have been hidden away for months!), I've been thinking about what cover ups I like to pair with my not-too-cold weather clothes. I have a multitude of boxy cardigans, but lately I've been really wearing a couple of my favorite boleros the most. I love that they're just a bit less bulky and nip in at the waist, which is perfect with dresses. I really need more of them in my life!

So I thought what better time to share a vintage shrug knitting pattern? (Though I think of this as more of a bolero, but that may just be me.)

This one comes from my somewhat tattered copy of a Fleischer's knitting book called Cardigans... Cardigans... Cardigans. Half the cover is missing but I was able to date it from another eBay listing as being published in 1954.

There are a few things I like about this pattern. It's knit in fingering weight (or sock or 4-ply, depending on where you're from) at 8 stitches an inch, so it wouldn't be too bulky for spring or cool summer days to throw on over a blouse or sun dress. It has dolman sleeves which I adore in boleros, and it's knit flat in one piece. Because it's in stockinette, it would be a relatively quick knit. Although due to the shaping, I definitely don't think it would be a mindless knit.

Plus there's a child-sized version, too! Of course if I'd really been thinking ahead, I would have posted this on Mother's Day. ;)

The other thing I think is really fun is the recommendation to finish it with braid or bead trimming. What a great way to use up some vintage trim in your stash! I think it would be lovely with a design done in cording, too. I'm not sure the technical name for this, but I have some sewn on one of my shrugs and it's very smart looking. I'm always inspired to try it myself.

I hope you enjoy this pattern, too!

Download: 1954 Mother and Daughter Shrug (pdf)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting my sewing mojo back

I'm tired of not sewing!

Last autumn, I had so much going on with knitting projects that I sewed very little. And then came the house buying, and the moving, and, well, my sewing machine has been pretty lonely. I kept saying I'd start sewing again once I got my basement craft area going, but that hasn't really happened yet. It's been bothering me that I haven't sewn in months, especially since I had hoped last year I'd really step up my sewing pace. Well, there's always next year... err, of course we're 4 months into that. ;) I finally decided I'll just set myself up to sew wherever I can until I have my dedicated space.

The first step was to find my last vintage sewing project in process. I started this back in September. It's view 3 from Simplicity 4608, though short-sleeved.

Let me tell you, if you've never picked up a sewing project that you started months ago, it is hard. I haven't even started back in on it, but it's pretty intimidating. I have no notes on this, only where I left off. The tucks are complete, as are the French seams for the shoulder front and back.

And sorry, it may be awhile before I get lighting figured out for basement photos! Our house is proving to not have very good natural light for photos and I need to do some research to work around that. Otherwise outfit photos in winter will be outside standing in the snow, ha ha.

Here's the back view. This fits very poorly around the neck of my dress form, but rest assured when draped on my own body it's fine. (I probably need to adjust the dials a bit.) The back horizontal shoulder seam was gathered, too. I recall I tested out the French seams with gathers and this fabric before doing it on my pattern pieces as I didn't think it would work out, but it did and I'm quite pleased.

(Of course, it looks a lot better ironed, but this was fresh out of the bag I had it stored in.)

Along with the sleeve and collar pieces cut out and pinned to their respective pattern pieces, that's it. I have no notes. I have no idea what I was planning to use as interfacing for the collar pieces. I don't have any white silk organza (why do I keep forgetting to order this!), so I suspect I was planning to use another layer of the fashion fabric since it's quite lightweight, or perhaps sew-in interfacing. I remember now that I still hadn't decided how to finish the inside of the sleeve cap and I was nervous about finishing the collar with such a sheer fabric. I guess I need to just dive back in! Although that's a bit easier said than done when you're already a rather timid sewist.

To try and get my sewing mojo going again, I also opened up my packed sewing patterns box. This is how my vintage patterns have lived since we started packing at the end of December. Lots fit in here, but it did really show me that my pattern stash is woefully small. No wonder I always look through and have a hard time deciding what I'd like to sew!

Isn't it fun when you get to unpack something of yours that you really, really like? It was kind of like Christmas. There were patterns I'd only recently bought before packing, so I didn't even remember I had them. What fun!

I had a helper, too. I swear you can't open a box in our house without Dinah diving in.

So here's a little sewing inspiration for you, from a few vintage patterns.

I really like this blouse pattern, it's very simple. (Did you catch the great shaped waistband on the skirt on the right, too?) I could see making view 2 in any number of solids, or using the collar-less view 1 to show off great prints. While the pattern didn't say, I'm thinking this needs something very lightweight and drapey, like a cotton lawn, or perhaps rayon? I think the only closure is one button at the back of the neck.

How about the dress below? I wouldn't wear the collar up, but isn't it smashing? I love the sleeves, too, and the piping accent on the solid version. If only I could find more light cottons in prints like that floral... oh, how I wish I could browse in a vintage sewing shop!

And last but not least, a blouse pattern that was new to my collection when it got packed. I just love all the views of this Hollywood pattern! Which is your favorite?

If you've gone through periods where you haven't done any sewing or your projects aren't working out for you, how have you been able to get your sewing mojo back?? I really need to step up my sewing!

Monday, May 7, 2012

In blues & plaids outfits {and post-haircut}

Thursday evening, I got a haircut, as you know. I went for a shorter version of pretty much my usual, so basically a short middy. I had a long talk with my stylist about how I'd style a curl fluff on top, and she cut my hair so that I could do that, albeit with that layer a little longer as she was worried I wouldn't be able to do much with it if that didn't work out for me. Which is good, because wow, was I all thumbs at it when I tried. I'll give it a go again but I'm not holding out any hopes. I think it was a combo of "I'm not doing this successfully" and "this just doesn't look very good on me". Ha!

In the meantime, here's two outfits and post-haircut photos in one. First, I'll show you a hairstyle you will likely not see me in very often. This was styled with sponge rollers the day after my cut.

This turned out to be a don't move, don't go outside, don't go near humidity, don't breath hairstyle. It would be lovely if I lived in the middle of the desert. I don't.

Instead, I live in humid Chicago, and it rained the day I styled this, and within an hour my hair was a complete wreck. Frizz, falling down bits, you name it. Appallingly bad! As soon as I got home from brunch and fun but fruitless second-hand shopping, I had to pile it all up on my head and adorn with a scarf. So much for a chic vintage 'do. On the bright side, the after-style was pretty cute and will be fun and casual for summer. (Sorry, I forgot to photograph it! But you'll see it again, I'm sure.)

Outfit details: Freddie's of Pinewoods jeans, red Bakelite bangles, Bass saddle shoes, 50s wicker basket purse, 50s starburst earrings from Atomixrox, reversible squirrel belt by Cassie Stephens, pullover knit by a friend for a swap on Ravelry (the pattern is Mary Jane)

So here's my hair the next (again rainy) day and much closer to what my hair really looks like, droopy curl included. I'd already had to pin one up to the nape of my neck by this point in the day. This was styled with perm rods, which my hair really is a bit too short for unless I'm just going for a bit of wave at the bottom. But sometimes I like to play with different tools.

Having gone short again I'm still not sure if I like my hair better when the length sits above or below my shoulders. I forgot that when it's this short, any rogue curls and droopy bits are way more obvious, and I do get those. A lot. But I can also leave it mostly un-styled with a little front roll for quick on-the-go days, like when I commute to work and just can't bring myself to set my hair.

The great thing is it's just hair, and by the time I make up my mind, my hair will be different...and I'll have probably changed my mind, anyway. ;)

Outfit details: Freddie's of Pinewoods jeans, mixed Bakelite bangles and earrings, the other side of my reversible squirrel belt by Cassie Stephens, 50s plaid cowboy shirt, 50s embroidered bolero from FuturaVintage

And last but not least, we're starting to see things bloom in our new yard!

Hope you had a lovely weekend! And hello to all my new followers on Twitter! I'm still getting the hang of it but I think it'll be a fun way to connect with other vintage fans.
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