At the beginning of this year, I became a Lector at my church. This means that on my assigned weeks, I get to read one of the Scripture passages of the Mass from the altar. It’s a great privilege and it’s really special to serve in such an active way.
I only had the opportunity to read on three occasions before the church shifted to virtual Masses due to Covid-19, but those three occasions wiped out the majority of my lector-acceptable wardrobe. When I’m scheduled to read, that means I spend the first ten minutes of Mass sitting on the altar, facing the congregation. None of my skirts are very short, but I don’t have many that go well below my knees, and that’s obviously what I want if I’m sitting facing everyone.
“Lector Skirts” were high on my sewing list, and “isewlation” is the perfect time to work through my more practical to-do’s. On my recent trip to Japan and Thailand, I bought this gorgeous poppy-printed rayon in Bangkok specifically to make a lectoring skirt. Fortunately, Bangkok fabric prices mean I always buy more than I need, and I had enough fabric to make a full maxi dress.
I have a much easier time wearing dresses than skirts, because skirts always have the issue of finding a matching top. This dress will be easy to throw on for dinner by the beach (dreaming of someday when we can go out to dinner again!), and it will be perfect for lectoring with a little sweater over my shoulders.
I lined the bodice with a soft knit to add some comfort to an already very comfortable dress. I didn’t use a formal pattern for this dress – a few years ago, my mom bought me a dress in this style and I LOVED the fit but the fabric wasn’t quite right. So I traced the simple shapes of the dress to save the pattern, a la Tabitha Wheelwright, and my mom returned the dress to the store.
I didn’t include pockets as I was sewing the dress because I was eager to just be DONE. And then I realized a dress without pockets is just sad. So I opened the seams back up and added in-seam pockets. I might not use them often but I’m glad they’re there.
I have fun selecting lining fabrics that coordinate rather than perfectly match. This allows me to work from my stash and worry less about having all the perfect fabrics before I can complete a garment. My bodice lining is a golden yellow that matches the yellow poppies, and again, it’s comfy knit which is more important to me than having it be a perfect match. And the in-seam pockets are a peach that matches the pink flowers. The pockets, especially, are never seen from the outside of the garment, so this fabric was also chosen by weight first – it’s a midweight rayon with enough support for a pocket, but thin enough that it won’t weigh down the dress.
The back has a little keyhole with a button, which is mostly a design detail, as I don’t need to unbutton it to put on the dress. Choosing buttons is always both very fun and very challenging! Here I debated going for something more “fun”, like a flower shaped button, or something more contrasting, like the handful of yellow buttons I found in my stash. In the end, I went with a flat pink shank button… nothing fancy, but I like its simplicity. I used a thin hairtie for the button loop! I have a whole pack of assorted colored hairties that I keep on hand for occasions like these when I might need a thin, colored elastic.
I’m looking forward to the day when I can wear this dress farther than around the block to my favorite pink wall! But I can’t complain about days spent inside, they certainly help me cross projects off the endless to-sew list.
Happy May! Somehow, we’ve made it all the way to this new month and it’s time for my favorite sewing-community celebration: Me-Made May. Started by Sozo Blog, here’s her Me-Made May FAQ if you want a formal introduction.
The wonderful thing about Me-Made May is that it’s simply a celebration of anyone who makes their own clothes. There aren’t formal rules or requirements. I’m realizing now that I’ve never actually posted my outfits in past Mays, so this will be a first. I’ve done a few Mays now, though, where I’ve worn at least one me-made garment every day for a month, and I love the challenge.
My first MMMay must have been at least five years ago now, but May arrived and I decided I was ready to take part. I’m best at all-or-nothing, so I decided to wear at least one handmade article of clothing each day. It was a big decision at the time. I had a pile of handmade tops in my dresser, but for some reason they hadn’t really made it into my wardrobe rotation. I mostly wore jeans to work, and there weren’t really any rules for what tops I could wear, but for some reason I never chose my me-mades.
I think that in my head, that pile of shirts was still just, “things I made,” not, “things I wear”. It wasn’t a pile of clothes, it was a pile of accomplishments. But what a sad life for a shirt to lead!
Suddenly, every morning when I opened my dresser, I was confronting that pile of handmade shirts, and forced to choose one. It was a huge learning experience! I wore each shirt all day, and at the end of the day knew exactly how I felt about it. There was at least one that didn’t fit quite right, and I knew I shouldn’t use the pattern again. There were a few whose fabric wasn’t quite right, or that didn’t feel like me. But for the most part, I felt great. I was wearing the clothes I had made, clothes I was proud of, clothes that made me feel like me.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that one month of focus changed my sewing habits and my dressing habits for good. My (Marie-Kondo-folded) tops sit in my drawer by color, with the me-mades interspersed between ready-to-wear: they’re no longer sacred objects, they’re just clothes, and I wear them. I make much better decisions now when buying fabric, and I’m able to focus on buying fabrics to make garments that I’ll actually wear. My sewing practice feels much more efficient and joyful when I know that I’ll wear the clothes I make, even if they take more time or effort.
This year, I’m planning to wear a me-made every day. Sometimes this might just be a simple refashion, but every day it will be something that came from my sewing machine. Unlike previous years, I’m going to document what I can. One of the downsides to sewing more basic, wearable garments, is that when I finish them I simply… wear them. This is fantastic! This is what they’re made for! But this also means I skip pictures for the blog or Instagram, and MMMay will be a perfect time to catch up and share.
I’m excited, as always, to take stock of my handmade garments and re-find some old favorites. I’m hopeful that I will be able to better diagnose any gaps in my handmade wardrobe, and maybe get to start on some new projects. I’m already loving the peek into what everyone else is wearing – the #memademay2020 hashtag on Instagram is an absolutely fantastic source for finding new patterns to try. I made a hashtag to keep track of my outfits this year: you can follow along at #samanthasewsmmm2020!
My formal goals are to post at least 2 outfits per week to instagram, and blog one article of clothing per week, but I’ll be wearing me-mades every day even if I don’t post.
Are you playing this year? What’s your goal? And if you’re posting outfits somewhere, please share – I’d love to see.
Two summers ago, on a visit to Ohio, my mom and I accompanied my aunt and uncle on a stroll through their local farmers’ market. We sampled some scones, picked out some produce, and saw many wonderful doggies, but what I remember most about that day was a pair of shorts.
I saw a girl about my age wearing the most adorable shorts. They had an elastic + drawstring waist, but they were made from a navy fabric with a floral border print that elevated them from “gym shorts” all the way to “dressy shorts”. In a rare moment of nerve, I approached her, gushed over how cute her shorts were, and asked if I could take a picture so I could try to sew them later. She was more flattered than confused, and didn’t even seem to think I was weird (although perhaps it was just midwestern kindness).
This all took place a few weeks before my move to Florida, and I knew similar shorts could play a huge role in my Endless Summer wardrobe. Who am I to refuse a super comfy pair of shorts that doesn’t make me look like a bum? Needless to say, for the past 1.5 years I’ve been on a mission to create my own version of the Canton Farmers’ Market Shorts.
My “house pocket shorts” were a step in the right direction, and my second pair sewn from Simplicity 1887: the pattern that I hoped would be the one. My first pair from S1887 was a navy rayon, sewn as a wearable muslin. They came out really big, but the flowiness of the fabric + the magic that is elastic made them work for the most part. I knew the chambray of the House Pocket Shorts wouldn’t have much drape, so I made those in a much smaller size for an exact fit.
After two very different pairs, that pattern went back in my binder and the Canton Farmers’ Market Shorts went to the back of my mind as I journeyed around the world.
When I got home from India, of course my sewing room closet wasn’t quite ready to accommodate the enormous stack of fabrics that I had acquired. So they stayed in the open, displayed on a shelf for inspiration. And inspiration they were… because one night, as I was falling asleep, I remembered this fabric and realized it could become some wonderful shorts.
I used my trusty Simplicity 1887 again, and cut oversized to allow for full comfy-ness and because this cotton has the perfect amount of drape. I elasticized the whole waistband, which made the front a little bit funny until I added extra tacked down pleats. I also put two minor darts in the back. The pleats + darts allow me to have the flowy culotte look I was aiming for, without weird puffiness near the waistband.
I didn’t have much extra fabric, but I did line up the pattern pieces carefully for appropriate flower placement. With such a big motif, I wanted to make sure I didn’t end up with a round orange flower like a target in the center of my booty.
The pocket fabric is another blockprinted cotton I brought home from Jaipur, and I can’t believe how well it matches the flowers of the main print. I let a little bit of the pocket lining peek out for a faux-binding look.
The jury is still out on whether I will add a tie-front, but otherwise these are done! I finished them over the weekend and immediately celebrated their wearability with a stylish beach walk.
And now, back to sewing with plain white.