Wednesday, July 15, 2015

building a wardrobe

all from my pinboard here

This fall, I start student teaching, which is beyond-possible-words exciting. Except I need to be able to look like an adult five days a week. And for the past three years, I have grown to rely on the fact that A. people who see me on Tuesday don't see me on Friday (repeat outfits), B. I'm an adult and can keep myself fairly clean (unlike children who can and will spill who knows what on everything), and C. leggings with a long sweatshirt can form acceptable attire. Essentially, I can wear whatever I want, within reason of course. But in the classroom, I have to look like a professional teacher while wearing machine washable clothes, because I'm working with first graders. On top of that, most of my store-bought clothes are cheap/secondhand finds from before my freshman year of college, and they're falling apart at the seams.

My goal is to plan and make a wardrobe that is comfortable and clean and cleanable and professional. I looked at it from the perspective of trying to make capsule wardrobes: one for warm months, one for cold. 20 items each for some variety. Then I somewhat randomly assigned quotas for tops, bottoms, and dresses (which I love and will just pair with shorts to make them appropriate for the classroom). And then I realized just how big the holes are in my wardrobe. Example: I do not have a lightweight cardigan. I just don't. Which is frankly ridiculous, considering how much I love cardigans.

In true Internet fashion, I've started a pinboard to collect all my inspiration and ideas. More importantly, I've started a couple of projects this summer--including one that's already to show off to the internet!--but my main goal right now is still to nail down exactly what I'm looking for, style-wise and to fill the holes. Right now, I think I'm going to try some of the exercises in Colette's Wardrobe Architect to kinda solidify what I figured out from my first capsule wardrobe drafts. I want to be extremely intentional about how things work together, so that I have a wardrobe, not a closet full of individual pieces. I'm really excited about this challenge (and let's be honest--about the opportunity to make a lot of stuff)! I'm hoping to really get a lot out of looking at my closet and trying to figure out how to make it work better for me.

Monday, May 4, 2015

finished: basic-but-not-boring tee

Confession: I really like hand-sewing. I love it, in fact. This doesn't really ever seem to help my mending pile, unfortunately, but sometimes it leads to me making clothes or storage to hold all my medicine.

I finally finished my Plantain recently, despite the fact that it's not winter. Spring is here, and I'm yearning for short-sleeves and bare legs and running around in the sunshine like a tiny little toddler. Yet here I am, willingly wearing a long-sleeved, winter colored shirt. Then again, I don't really wear spring pastels. So there's that.

Pattern: Deer and Doe's Plantain
Fabric: mystery Amazon jersey, used earlier in my magic switch-y dress
Size: 36 (no alterations)

The pattern itself was a bit of a challenge. Not because the actual construction was difficult--I didn't even need the instruction. But wow, PDF patterns can be tricky. The taping together, the trying to match sides up correctly, it made the cutting-out-part of the pattern much tougher. Add to that a slippery jersey that folded and scrunched and stretched under the paper and my carpet floor turned into a cutting surface, that was very much not my favorite part of the pattern.

But the pattern is also beautifully designed. The scoop neck is graceful, the sizing is accurate, and the A-line, hip-skimming cut is really elegant. I even liked the fabric, which for a dirt-cheap Amazon buy holds up pretty well and is super soft. Sure, it's probably 130% polyester, but it's still cozy and comfy, while still looking pretty nice. The look in general suffers a bit on close inspection from the typical pulling I always find with my hand stretch stitching, but I think that's because my stitches are a little too big still.

I did piece the neckband, because I didn't have enough fabric in the right direction to cut it in one long piece. But I don't think it's too noticeable. And the biggest secret of all the secrets: despite taking the time to hand-finish every single inside seam, I have not hemmed it. Sleeves or the bottom.

All in all, I know the product is an extremely wearable tee (proof: these pictures were taken on three days when I actually, in fact, did wear it). Also, several of these pictures are super out of focus, but three. times. taking. pictures. I got bored of putting on a shirt that was too warm for the day just to take pictures.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

february things

Fun fact: almost all of January I had a post sitting here, just waiting to be posted, but then I went through a little moment of questioning the narcissism of posting things about my life online and then a moment of I'm-really-busy and now I'm just tired and bored of reading fifty page documents about classroom management, while waiting or class to start. I know February's only been for like two days, but here we are, and the month is short, so, yeah... Sleepy brain doesn't write too well.

Recently I've:

...cast on for a pair of mittens to replace the ones that let in more wind than they keep out.

...cut out a Plantain from the leftovers from this dress. First PDF pattern, folks. I'm branching out into the 21st century.

...cut myself some DIY bangs. That's very recent, 'cos I did that this morning with my new fabric shears in front of my bathroom mirror. I've done it before (several times in fact), but I found this tutorial super helpful for stepping up my bang-cutting game this time.

...rediscovered makeup blogs and vlogs and tutorials. Feels very vain to say that. Oh my gosh so much narcissism in one little post! The Financial Diet cover to cover (end to end? first post to last post? I'm gonna stick with the bookworm description) like a dork, because the advice A. feels fairly relevant to my status as a broke college student living on a very fixed income, B. makes me feel like a grown up. Even if I still can't purchase wine.

...made some delicious muffins loosely based off this recipe, but very, very changed. I might actually put the recipe here because they were so good and I want to make sure I get the recipe down.

...made a social studies journal, invented several math games, and played with water-based markers as alternative watercolors and with actual watercolors as watercolors. Oh, education classes I love you so.

...consumed a lot of tea and a lot of coffee and a lot of chocolate. None of this is probably that great for my health, because it's being done to counteract being on campus for weird hours and sleeping like a baby (not like the proverbial baby who sleeps peacefully for a perfect, refreshing eight hours, but like a real baby who wakes up every two hours starving and then can't fall back to sleep and therefore looks at recipes on Pinterest.)

...found out just how much fun a pair of "teacher shoes" (the kind with heels that make the click-clack sounds as you walk down the hallway) can be. Guys. It's like an instant power/confidence boost, as long as you stay within the limits of what you can walk in.

(Forgive me for the really bad collage at the top. I was trying to illustrate this! This is the source for the makeup photo.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

why homemade?

(I wrote this essay of sorts a while ago, and I've realized it's kind of a great mission statement for the kind of handmade life I want to lead. Just thought I'd share it here, as I set goals for the new year.)

I can admit that I'm proud. Proud as a peacock with all his new feathers. I'm very proud of being able to say, yeah, I made that. From a piece of fabric or raw ingredients or a pile of cardboard and string. I'm even more proud if the end result looks or tastes good.

But I don't just make things myself for the rush.

I can admit that I'm a bit of a purist. I like starting from as close to scratch as I reasonably can. Starting with quality, adding my highest quality labor, ending with higher quality than I would get in a store. Fewer preservatives, less polyester, better flavor, better drape.

But I don't just make things myself for the higher quality.

I can admit that I'm a very small bit of an activist. I cry for the mistreatment of overseas textile workers, for the closed doors and sometimes maltreatment of the meat industry, for steamrolling of small farms and industries by big business. I get mad about mystery synthetic chemicals that lace our food and for the complete disconnect that our society has for the sweatshop worker in Taiwan when we pick up a $5 sweater in Forever 21.

But I don't just make things myself to avoid a culture that ignores the dangers to ourselves and the world around us caused by our desire to consume.

It's all that and then some. I believe there is intrinsic good done when you take raw materials and do the processing themselves, whether that's growing their own food, knitting their own scarves, or crafting their own decor. I believe there's nothing more empowering than learning a skill that can be used in your day-to-day life, like cooking or sewing ('cos you wear the garments or see the pillows on a day-to-day basis). I love the act of creation that pushes my mind to think critically and creatively to discover new solutions to the problems I pose in my head. I love that it's so different from the culture of academia, where I feel like the goal is sometimes just to consume as many articles and texts as possible and then to spew them out upon command. It connects me to my ancestors and helps to keep what could be dying crafts alive. It also doesn't hurt that making my own stuff saves a pretty penny over buying the same quality products, which makes my college student budget much, much happier.

That, all smashed together and mixed up and super-glued at the edges, is why homemade.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

november things

Getting ready to see this out my window again!

It feels crazy to me that it's already November. But here we are, facing our first snow, talking about Thanksgiving, getting ready for the fall recital, counting the weeks down to finals and home. November is shaping up to be a busy month for me, but it's all good busy. The retreat I've been prepping for all semester, rehearsals, it's all coming together now!

  • I am a firm believer in the importance of tea. Perhaps twice a day. Or more. As I told a friend recently, I basically live on the stuff. So tea lattes naturally happen, and that Emileigh's new recipe looks super yummy. 
  • I've been pinning late 20th century stuff like crazy for my costume design class. And I have to take back what I've said about the 80s. There's some stuff that's not abysmal.
  • But really, Charles James is where it's at. Forever. Oh my gosh, every dress is so beautifully designed!
  • My newest favorite food blog: Half-Baked Harvest. Can I afford nice cheese and maple syrup? No. Do I want them anyway now? Yes. 
  • Dirty Dancing. I want to be Baby, but only in the dancing scenes. Mambo!
  • I'm starting to plan something of a Thanksgiving menu for myself, because I'm staying at school. Chipotle pumpkin soup sounds good, or maybe spaghetti squash with garbanzo beans and kale? Maybe I'll make some more pumpkin muffins or finally buy a loaf pan and bake some bread. Regardless, it'll be delicious. 
  • So many papers. And now, 'cos I'm getting into the truly preparatory part of my teacher ed program, lesson plans. I can see the end coming and then I'm going to be a real person full time and do this all the time. Kinda crazy and more than a little bit scary!
  • I really want to sew and knit everything. I'm optimistically hoping to whip out a Plantain during Thanksgiving. We'll have to see though. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

october things

  • Right now, basically everything I eat is made out of pumpkin. Not really joking either. One of my favorites was this homemade pumpkin spice chai latte (with Trader Joe's pumpkin pie spice, because it was super cheap and is also delicious.
  • I recently watched Roman Holiday and was reminded just how amazing Audrey Hepburn is again. I may or may not kinda want a handsome, kind stranger to swoop in on a moped and sweep me off my feet too.
  • Right now I really badly want to sew a full skirted three quarter sleeved red dress, reminiscent of this one and this one. Basically, I want a better fall/winter dress with sleeves. 
  • I also really need a light cardigan to carry my summer dresses into fall. Especially 'cos I feel like I can't just wear my flannel or a floppy sweatshirt everyday because I'm observing in a school/kind of being a real person, which requires looking quasi professional. I hate having holes in my closet.
  • New blog discoveries/loves: Top with Cinnamon (it's so beautiful and this loaf cake is now on my "to bake" list), these muffin/cupcakes from Sally, MP by Maude, and Poires au Chocolat.
  • I learned how to watercolor for a costume design project last week, and it was surprisingly fun. I may have made some art that I'd actually be okay with hanging on my wall! And by art, I clearly meant costume renderings. No D├ęgas over here. Just a rough, but acceptable watercolor.
  • Speaking of art, I don't have a kiddo and won't have one for a while, but I do get kid's art from working with them. I loved this idea for making them into super artsy prints. (Sidenote: I have a friend in art school who impressed a professor by using kid's art in his art project. 'Cos nothing is artsier than kid's art.)
So that's where I am, halfway through October (halfway through the semester too -- eek!). Here's to a good continuation of fall and to fall breaks everywhere!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

fo: bucket-y bucketness

Forgive me for that title. I'm in the midst of midterm projects, actual midterms, sleep deprivation, and what looks like the slight beginnings of a cold. But I'm observing pre-K students who are basically little germ factories, so sick happens.

When you move into an apartment for the first time, it's this giant empty slate. Maybe you have some furniture that you acquired from the previous tenants. You have a couple of tchotchkes or knick-knacks (by the way, I love the word tchotchke and I wish we used it more often), but mostly, you have an empty room.

I wanted a little more storage, so I decided to make a bucket bag based on this tutorial from Victory Patterns. It took me three times longer than it normally would, because I had to hand sew the whole thing, but the result is that I finally have somewhere to stick my bobby pins, headbands, and hair ties. They used to be sprinkled liberally around the room. Not cool.

I used some mystery fabric I got from a friend for free and some leftover heavy interfacing instead of buckram, because I already had the interfacing and I figure they serve essentially the same purpose: make something not stiff act stiffer. The tutorial itself had clear enough instructions, for the most part. I didn't have to look anything up, and the techniques were basic enough, especially when you're making the whole thing using hand stitches you learned when you were five (whipstitch and running stitch for the win). Really, there's not much to say about it, except that it very perfectly fits its niche.

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