The New Sewing, part 1.

I don’t know why, but I caught the sewing bug a few weeks ago. I am fully aware that I have a short attention span and that my interest flits from project to project…sometimes it’s painting, sometimes it’s photography, sometimes it’s fixing things up around the house. But right now all I want to do is sew. And when I sew, I want to make clothes. Not curtains, not cushion covers, not tablecloths. Clothes.

The only problem with this is that I have not had great luck sewing clothing in the past. And it is very frustrating to stay up late finishing that dress/skirt/blouse/thing and find out, in the end, that it either screams “I made this myself” or is just so unflattering that it’s not worth wearing more than once before it is condemned to the dark recesses of the closet.

Despite my previous track record, however, I’ve decided to have another go at sewing a few bits of clothing for myself and for Camilla. To separate my current wave of enthusiasm from my previous endeavors, I am calling it The New Sewing and have established a few rules:

1. I will look through my own clothes (and Camilla’s) before sewing something from scratch to see if I already own anything that could be made more wearable through simple alterations.

2. I will sew to meet a specific need and not just for the heck of it.

3. I will not buy fabric unless I have a very specific project in mind, and I will check my current stash first to see if I can use anything I already own.

4. I will make sure that the fabric is appropriate to the project and is a wearable and flattering color or print. (I’m thinking of some specific “short sleeve plaid flannel shirt” and “blue/brown prairie print skirt” fiascos here.)

4. I will take the time to prewash the fabric, make measurements, baste seams, sew a muslin, serge the edges, and whatever else it takes to make a fully-functional garment that is designed to be washed and worn for many years.

5. I will seek out and pay for good patterns if I think they have a better chance of fitting myself or Camilla than buying cheap ones or making my own.

Well, that’s a pretty lofty list and I’ve already broken, um, a few of these. But I feel that it’s good for me to at least start with these points in mind, especially since it’s very easy for me to get an idea in the morning and want to start making it that afternoon. But good sewing really doesn’t work that way. Picking out fabric, washing it, finding a pattern, cutting it out, making adjustments, sewing and picking out seams, hand stitching buttons…all these things can be so slooooow. But I need to learn patience. And I really want to become a better seamstress, which isn’t going to happen if I just slap some fabric together and call it good. Practice doesn’t make perfect if your practice is always sloppy.

I’m now going on week two (three?) of The New Sewing, so I’m obviously running a little behind with my blog posts. But I can show you one of my first projects, which — I am proud to say — produced my baby’s first mama-made garments. Unbelievably, I had not sewn anything for Camilla thus far. Usually I find so many cute things at the thrift store or Target that I decide that it’s not worth the effort, and for really complicated clothes (jackets, jeans, button-up shirts) I still think that’s a better use of time and resources. A few weeks ago, however, we found that the babe was running low on pajamas and that gave me an idea. You see, my darling mum gave me an old and incredibly heavy serger for Christmas that was still sitting in my closet because I was strangely terrified to use it. But what better first serger project could there be than jammies? Good fit isn’t essential and no one will see them besides family. (Oh, and everyone who reads this blog.) Plus, I am predisposed to be forgiving because she just looks so cute when she wakes up with scrunchy hair that I won’t even notice a few wonky seams.

So, that’s what I did. For fabric, I went to the Goodwill on their 99 cent tag sale day and came home with a pile of extra-stretchy t-shirts. I have to say that, if you’re trying to sew baby pajamas, old t-shirts are really where it’s at. They’re pre-shrunk, they come in way more colors and patterns than the knit fabric at JoAnn’s, you can find them with a lot of different weights, softnesses, and stretchiness, and you have the option of using the existing t-shirt hems instead of sewing your own. Score!

From t-shirts to pajamas...

For patterns, I used the 90-minute shirt tutorial on Made and the baby tights tutorial on Made by Rae with a few adjustments (i.e. no feet). I wish I had made my patterns a little bigger since these fit perfectly right now and I had been hoping for something a little loose. But I can easily adjust my homemade patterns the next time around.

They look better when she wears them.

I cut out five shirts and five pairs of leggings but have only finished a few since I need to rethread my serger in black before doing the others and am therefore finishing every single project I can think of that uses white thread. These are the first ones I finished and I admit that they don’t look all that great on the table. The fabric I used for ribbing was way too thin and ended up looking really wavy after I serged it. (Side note: the only solution I could find online to this problem is to adjust the “differential feed,” but my machine is so old that I can’t do this. Do any experienced sergers out there have any other suggestions?)

The other jammies.

But, I think they look pretty cute when they’re worn by the model.

I need to make the neck opening a bit bigger next time around, but I can still squeeze the shirts over her head.

The "I don't want any" face.

See how enthusiastic she is about her new jammies?

Oops, the pants are a bit low.

I accidentally made the waist too short on this pair of leggings…oops. My baby wears lowriders.


Oh, can I also take a minute to brag about her standing prowess?

Helping mommy with the laundry.

It comes in very helpful when you want to help mommy do the laundry.

Did you SEE what was in there?

Which is evidently waaaaayyyyy more fun than she realized.

Silly mommy.

Modeling her new jams.

This is the other set I finished.

I wrapped the ribbing around the unfinished edges instead of just sewing it on top, and I think it looks a little bit cleaner.

Sounding her barbaric yawp.

I made this set from an old long-sleeved tshirt of mine and was just able to eke out both the shirt and the pants.

It’s a little hard to see, but I was able to re-use the decorative hem for the pant cuffs and shirt bottom.

Oh, and the color matches her eyes.

Pondering my camera strap.

Which are usually fixated on whatever fascinating object is dangling nearby.

Running from daddy.

Unless the foot monster is coming.

Beware the foot monster!

You think that you are fast…

He got her anyway.

…but HE is faster.

The foot monster!

And when he catches you, he will eat you up. With kisses.

New teeth.

Which makes you smile like this.

(More sewing projects to come, as soon as I can get some decent photos…)


7 thoughts on “The New Sewing, part 1.

  1. Paula, you are one clever gal! How adorable on the model, too.:) I got the sewing little girls’ clothes bug too…think it’s because it’s 90+ degrees outside and the natural light is perfect this time of year.

    I’ve been sewing off and on for over fifty years and think your guidelines are so wise.

    The website… is wonderful for inspiration and information. Someone there might be able to help with your question.

  2. Those sound like good rules to me. I agree with the patternreview suggestion – especially when sewing clothes for yourself. I’m not always smart enough to check there before I sew, I’m usually reading the helpful comments too late. I’m impressed by the flatlock stitching for the ribbing – I can’t figure out how to do that on my serger, so I would’ve just zig-zagged it. And why does re=threading have to be such a pain? There are a couple free girls patterns from oliver + s that I’m sure you could do for the baby.

  3. I just love these pictures! You are such a wonderful seamstress, Paula. Her jammies are darling. If I didn’t know you’d made them I would have thought they were store bought. Wish I could sew half as good. We’re 22 days and counting!!…. =)

  4. Wow, thanks for the nice feedback. :) I will definitely check out…I hadn’t heard about it before.

    Meagan, I bought the last issue of Stitch with my Joann’s 40% off coupon so I could get the Oliver + S halter top pattern. I made it up already and it is sooooo cute…I will take photos when both the light & my model are cooperating.

  5. Dear sweetie,
    I am astounded that your serger is working this well–I see the wavy lines, but I’m not sure I know how you can avoid them without putting more tension on the seam lines. Do you remember me telling you that Daddy got me a hemmer? You would like it. Otherwise, I think your pjs are so professional looking that I don’t know how you could do much better. I’ll work on getting copies of the serger manual to you. The lower riders brought back fond memories of some of my own sewing… I love you, honey, thanks so much for getting up the courage to use the machine! Much love, Mum

  6. Pingback: The New Sewing, part 2. «

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