Saturday, January 17, 2015

On economic recovery and the apple-picking dress.

When my lawyer work load goes through the roof, I may actually manage to keep sewing a bit here and there, because sewing keeps me grounded and sane, but blogging goes in the toilet. There is only so much time I can stand spending typing away at a computer in a week, apparently. Actually, I can stand quite a lot of time, it turns out! (Hello, internet addiction!) But there is a limit and I've been hitting it.

I wish I could say my workload was lightening up, but it's not. This is actually good news in a way. I'm a land use attorney, so my work load ebbs and flow with development. The economy is thawing out everywhere. I think most people feel the load of the deepest recession of my lifetime lightening up a bit, even if we are still complaining about rising costs and stagnant incomes. Economic development is actually a thing again.

It's funny to say that - twelve years ago, when I became a land use/local government attorney, I would have looked at you incredulously: "When is economic development ever not a thing? This is California!" Remember, property values just keep going up and up and up, right? Sure thing right there.

To my former self, I say: "Oh, honey."

And with that, we grow older and more experienced and more jaded.

So, yes, the economy is thawing. THANK GOD. I have been so blessed to have a job throughout this shitstorm. Our house was underwater for a solid seven years, but we paid the bills. I admit, I wondered a few times if my choice to practice this area of law was a mistake (clearly, bankruptcy law is where it's at! that, my friends is what we call gallows humor). But I was lucky to graduate from law school when I did, back when there were jobs aplenty, and I entered into the recession with years of experience under my belt. I have the deepest sympathy for newer attorneys who graduated into a world-without-jobs; a lot of my resilience is just pure luck and timing.

I wonder what impact this "Great Recession" will have on our generation? Will we be scarred like my grandparents' generation was by the Great Depression? Will we stash our money under our mattresses? Because we know, banks can still fail messily. Markets are fickle and cruel. Will I ever feel like home-ownership is an "investment" again? Will I be warning my poor grand-kids: "Don't buy more house than you can afford! You never know when the market might crash again!" while they roll their eyes at old granny? Will I save every rubber band and newspaper "just in case"?

Only time will tell. I definitely feel like these hard times have changed my outlook, but maybe that's just middle age creeping up!

Where was I? Yes, my workload, which is so dependent on new development or redevelopment, is going through the roof! Yay? "Mixed feelings" doesn't even cover it: Relief, a certain amount of nerdy and lawyerly joy, excitement about hopefully seeing some changes in my city (both the one I work in and the one I live in), caution, uncertainty, wanting to be optimistic but not daring to be, a little bit of exhaustion. I think so many of us are experiencing serious budget-burnout. For crying out loud, when will be able to SPEND SOME MONEY? Years of economizing and driving beater cars and jerry-rigging fixes to the roof. So much deferred maintenance!  It's exhausting! The recession supposedly ended five years ago, but we see the results of the foreclosure crisis all around us still.  Frugality seemed fun there for a while, but the shine is seriously worn off. I'm ready for a spending spree.  


Okay, thank you for indulging me. Recently I've been thinking about blogging, and my current blogging slump, and I decided that I need to talk about what's on mind a bit more, rather than limiting my posts to just the more shallow stuff (pretty sewing and crafting!). I used to actually have opinions on my blog! Ha. I think there's the fear of oversharing on a blog, which is a pretty public space after all. But there needs to be a balance.

With that, my first sewing project of 2015!

Apple Picking Dress

The Apple-Picking Dress! As y'all know, I am trying to work through my oliver + s stash this year (actually, we're in year # 2 of that project), and this pattern has been in my stash for well over a year now. This pretty pink calico has been in my stash for at least as long. As you can see, "Project: Make Pink Clothes For Maggie" continues in earnest.

Apple Picking Dress

This dress is a more complicated make, with the neck bow, placket and little sleeves. And frankly, the end result is a bit on the fussy side by my standards. The amount of floof (floof = ruffly, puffy, floppy) - it's a bit out of my comfort zone! When I finished it and put it on Maggie, I couldn't help but feel that she looks a little like an old lady in a 1980s dress (it needs shoulder pads!). I think the long sleeves and double ruffle skirt may be just a bit ... much.

Of course, Maggie's choice of accessories probably increased this effect. She's very into her necklaces these days.

I really admire the vintagey style of several bloggers who have really made this dress shine, but I just don't know that it's "me." Perhaps I would like it better in a less fussy fabric, or perhaps it's just a bit too floofy for me. At any rate, it is always fun to sew a new oliver + s pattern, so I don't regret it. I just don't know that I'll be making a ton of these in the future (that said, my very ruffle-centric niece would probably love this dress).

Apple Picking Dress

Of course, Maggie would be adorable in a paper sack, so little old lady dresses? No problem.

Apple Picking Dress

Initially, as you can see, I used covered buttons on the placket, but they were a MASSIVE FAIL. I don't know what I did wrong, but they started falling apart almost immediately. I had pushed them together with all of the finger strength I possess, but it clearly wasn't enough. I decided to scrap them and switch them out with some more casual wooden buttons which I actually like quite a bit better than the covered buttons anyway. Stupid covered buttons: I spent so much time making them!!

Apple picking dress new buttons

After I finished sewing the new buttons on, I showed the dress to Maggie, and she said "I don't like it!" and turned away. Huh. These opinionated children!

I've put it in her drawer and we'll see if it gets any wear. It is pink, after all.

Are you feeling the economic recovery yet? Or maybe you never felt the recession to begin with? Do you feel like the years of frugality and austerity changed you?

And what's your vote: Cute, or old lady?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Recap: Sewing!

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. We had a lovely Christmas, and my children made out like bandits (of course). And Joe lost his first tooth the other day! My baby boy is getting so grown up!

And I got a fancy new car - this was not part of the plan (sadly, my last car, a Toyota Matrix, died an untimely death when its transmission went kaput after only 110k miles), and financially it's kind of a bummer. But ... but my new ride sure is purty! It's a white Toyota Camry Hybrid. My daily commute (48 miles round trip) adds up fast and it will be nice to buy gas less often. It might even be worth economizing a bit more on fabric and patterns.

So it has been exciting times here. All in all, a positive start for 2015!

I love reading everyone's year-end round-up posts, so of course I have to do my own as well, complete with mosaics! And a bit late as always. This year I am going to do two round-up posts: one for sewing stuff, the main focus of this blog, and one for house stuff, which has been a major focus for me this year and definitely feels like a big (maybe the biggest) accomplishment of 2014!

Last year I made some sewing resolutions which I then naturally forgot all about. But looking at them now, I'd say I did pretty well. I did not learn to put in a zip fly, and I did not complete any major smocking projects (maybe this next year is the year!), but I did sew a bunch for myself, and I did sew a lot of patterns from my stash.

1. Sewing for me.

I think I did quite well with this in 2014. I made myself six t-shirts (two were never blogged and not included above), which I wear quite frequently (and I'm still wearing last year's t-shirts too). Of these, my Plantain t-shirts are easily the most frequently worn me-mades. The neckline and swingy fit really suit me. Love that pattern. I need more! My least favorite tee, not including muslins and practice versions, is my Breton Tee. I'm afraid that even with my modifications, the neckline is too high. It's not comfortable. I've considered trying to fix this, since the fabric is very nice and I do like the stripes, but in the meantime it lingers unworn.

I made two blouses, a Josephine top and a Bess. My rayon challis Bess wins that contest hands down - it is deliciously light, flowy, and comfortable, and looks great tucked, untucked, under a cardigan or jacket, or on its own. I've worn it with jeans and dressed it up with a suit. The perfect garment! I need more of those too!

In contrast, the Josephine feels rather square and boxy larger bust. Nonetheless, the fabric is very nice, and it looks good with a suit, so it did see some wear this past summer.

I also made five skirts. Of these, my most frequently worn is definitely Liesl's Everyday Skirt. Another great pattern that has stood the test of time for me! It's comfortable (that elastic back is the best!) but polished enough for business casual days at work. The fabric I used was good quality and washes well, so that helps too. Sometimes simple really is best. My second favorite is the Mabel skirt. You just can't go wrong with knits!

I made two dresses this year, an Alder Shirtdress and a Washi dress. I will confess, I rarely wear my Washi dress. It only looks good belted and it's just not very comfortable. It looked good in photographs, but I don't feel that it's very flattering in my everyday life. I know so many seamstresses love this pattern, but I think I've decided it's just not my thing. I made the Alder dress late in the year, so it hasn't seen a ton of wear, but I'm hoping that will be a go-to item when the weather warms up. I was very impressed with Grainline patterns generally and want to try more of them.

In general, I have learned that I am more of a "separates" person. I just don't wear dresses very often, and when I do, I want them to be easy and relaxed. In 2014, I mostly sewed skirts and tops, which worked out well, because that's what I actually wear most days. While not every item here was an unqualified success, I learned a lot about what I enjoy wearing and the truth is, I probably wore at least two me-made items on an average week, which is a big increase for me. So that's great!

For 2015: I want to continue sewing basic, comfortable, everyday garments for myself. While it would be great to learn to fit a party dress or tailor a suit or sew jeans, I don't know that this is in the cards for this season of my life. But I know I can expand my wardrobe a bit with some more very wearable and comfortable items.

And my Nova Tote! I use that thing all the time! That was definitely a hit. I have a couple more in the works for gifts. 

2. Sewing for Joe
Joe remains a tough nut to crack, and he disliked as many projects as he embraced this year. I find this pretty frustrating and upsetting so I honestly don't want to sew for him as much as I used to. That said, I made him a handful of things this year. 

Joe mosaic 2014

At the beginning of the year, I made two pairs of Jacob pants for Joe. I loved this pattern, and especially, all of the potential for incorporating piping! Too bad Joe swore off pants entirely shortly after these were made and hasn't even considered wearing these since. Sigh. They are really cute.

Similarly, even in knit, Joe took a dislike to the Sketchbook Shorts I made for him. Oddly, he was willing to tolerate the Sketchbook Shirt a bit more, but does not wear it often (and that shirt was so much work to make!). He wore it to my cousin's wedding, and that was the important thing. Moving on.

The hits of 2014 were t-shirts and knit shorts. Joe wears all of his mama-made t-shirts frequently. I recently lengthened last year's green Field Trip Raglan and whipped up a new Field Trip raglan for him. I didn't get around to blogging the project (and it's pretty basic) but Joe wears these two shirts all the time.

Joe loves his zig-zag Flashback tee and knit shorts, and even enjoys wearing them together!

Another big surprise hit was Joe's Robot! He sleeps with every night! Major mom-score on that one.

For 2015: Resign myself to the fact that t-shirts are Joe's thing even if I find them relatively boring to sew. Maybe try a henley or polo necked tee for kicks? Definitely let Joe pick out more fabrics. Joe has really fun taste.

3. Sewing for Maggie.

Maggie sewing 2014 mosaic

Maggie made out pretty well this year! I count eight tops, eight bottoms, and five dresses in addition to a swimsuit, backpack, bonnet, and undies! It's no secret that I love sewing for little Mags, even when all she'll wear is "PINK PINK PINK!"

One of my resolutions last year was to sew up more of my stashed patterns, especially vintage and Oliver + s, and I did pretty well with that. I sewed a couple dresses from vintage patterns (here and here and here), and I tried a couple of Oliver + s patterns for the first time, including the Sunny Day Shorts,  2+2 Top and Skirt, the Playdate dress, the Class Picnic Shorts, and the Roller Skate Dress. I also revisited some favorites, including the Sandbox Pants, Hopscotch Top, and Class Picnic Top.

For 2015: I'd like to keep trying to sew through my Oliver + s stash this year. I already have some cool-weather plans for the Mags (pink culottes!). I have a feeling I will be sewing more Roller Skate Dresses, Playtime Leggings, and Class Picnic blouses this year - they are such easy pieces that Maggie loves to wear. I also have a couple of vintage patterns that I'd like to make this year. In general, I don't really need sewing goals for Maggie sewing - she's so fun to sew for, it just happens!

4. Misc. Other Sewing.
Miscsewing 2014

And here area few "other" pieces I made this year. Cushions for the couch, a roll for my crochet hooks (not yet blogged), and some Christmas sewing! Yes, I made stockings for both the kids this year. Whew! I've also worked on some miscellaneous quilting, embroidery, and smocking projects this year, finished a quilt for my niece, and taught myself to crochet and finished my first afghan! And that's not even trying to document the many dresses I made as gifts ... I guess it was a pretty productive year! (It's funny, looking back, I do not feel like it was an especially productive sewing year for me, or a great blogging year, but I guess I did make quite a bit of stuff!)

And with that, I will conclude with a couple of goals for 2015:

1. Sew down the fabric stash! It is currently out. of. control.
2. Sew from the pattern stash. Stop. Buying. Patterns. (Haha, we'll see!)
3. Sew more for the house. It's actually pretty fun!
4. Keep sewing for myself and expand my dressmaking skills.
5. Continue to work on my crochet skills.
6. Finish Maggie's quilt this year. I clearly need to incorporate some pink into it.
7. Finish my smocking/embroidery WIPs.
8. Have fun and don't get down on myself if I don't make as many things as I feel like I should!

And with that, here's to a fantastic 2015! What are your sewing goals?