handmade wardrobe challenge

Lately I've been listening to the Curious Handmade podcast. I love Helen Stewart's calm voice, her lilting Australian accent, and - when she has guests on the podcast - her warm and gracious interview style. Since the beginning of the year, she has been talking about her efforts to simplify, to declutter her house, and focus on the things she really wants to accomplish. I can identify with this to some extent, as I'm constantly trying to simplify and declutter. Really, who isn't these days? Love it or hate it, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I have not yet read but have moved all the way up to no. 150 on the waiting list at the library, has struck a chord with many the American consumer, me included.

In the latest episode of her podcast and on a recent blog post, Helen Stewart announced the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge and I plan to participate if I can. I like that she's giving it three months, which is a nice leisurely time frame; August is for planning, while September and October are for making and wearing. Fall is the perfect time to wear those hand knits, after all, and two months is [theoretically] plenty of time to screw up a bunch of sewing projects before you finally get something right. Or is that just me?

There are a few things preventing me from just jumping right in, mostly having to do with the logistics of my life right now. The new semester/school year starts up in a couple weeks, so I'll be busy with various work obligations as usual, and then there's the Big Renovation scheduled to start around the same time. While my sewing space isn't part of the remodeling, everything from the kitchen and Anya's room will have to be relocated for several weeks, and given how small the house is to begin with, I have a feeling this will encroach upon that space.

There's also the fact that a lot of times I suck at sewing. I really do. I made two Beatrix tops last month. The second one definitely turned out better than the first, and I might actually be confident enough about it to wear in public.

The kids and I made several successful pairs of shorts and even a t-shirt for Daniel. This boosted my confidence somewhat.

So I tried making a shirt for Anya using the same pattern (Flashback Skinny Tee from Made-by-Rae) in her size...

...and my confidence faltered when she tried it on and immediately two seams snapped. I learned the stubborn hard way from extreme ignorance experience from making Daniel's t-shirt that I can have stretch thread in the bobbin only, and regular thread on top. What worked for one shirt did not work for the other. I know I chose the right size, and now, after some helpful comments from others on Instagram, I'm pretty sure fabric choice was largely the reason it didn't work. I used a couple of Stuart's old t-shirts, which are knit jersey that is not particularly stretchy.

Old t-shirt fabric isn't something to cry in your milk over, and since all I'd really lost was about an hour of my time, this evening I decided to chalk it all up to a learning experience and try again. This time I cut the pieces out of a stretchier fabric I got on clearance (I think at Hancock's, nothing special) with the specific intent of learning to sew better with knits. It's cheap fabric, not even cotton I bet (it stuck to the iron), but there is a lot of it to hack up and practice my skillz.

I sewed a bunch of practice seams and gave them all a good yank to mimic the stress a sleeve seam would undergo when the wearer in question is an active second grader. Every single one snapped. I tried different stitch lengths, different thread, nothing worked. I'm at a loss here. It's not my machine (I have a nice one). There are plenty of sewists in blogland who sew simple clothes on regular machines with knit fabric, but success is eluding me on this one. So many variables here: fabric choice, thread choice, stitch length, maybe I just yanked too hard, or maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

I should take a class or some lessons - I can take a free sewing lesson from the dealer where I got my machine - but the timing isn't great with everything happening in a few weeks. I know there are good online classes out there. I prefer in-person teaching and learning situations, but given how hard that can be to arrange, maybe I could check it out on Craftsy or Creative Bug or something. Anyone out there have recommendations for rookies at sewing with knits?


Julie Crawford said…
I think it's so awesome that you are stretching your sewing skills! I am not a sewer, I find it frustrating and there is so much for me to learn, but each new project no doubt teaches you a bit more, and like any other craft, you get better the more you do it. Good luck with your renovation!
Anonymous said…
I've only watched the first two videos and have yet to try anything with my machine, but Meg McElwee's "Sewing with Knits" class on Craftsy is all about sewing knits on a regular sewing machine, and the reason I signed up for it was that I'd heard so many good things about it. So that might be worth checking out!

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