Sewing Time

It’s late.  My muscles ache, my brain is a bubbling stew of reminders, my shoulders yearn to shrug off the weight of the day.
The couch swallows me whole as I collapse into its soothing billows.

Minutes pass.
My mind begins to calm.  My back begins to untie its convoluted web of knots.
My fingers begin to itch.
Something… something is missing.

A wearied glance across the room catches my sewing machine in a state of neglect, a state of nervous anticipation.
The dim light casts ghostly shadows on my work in progress, misshapen and fetus-like, yet to take its first breath as a finished garment.
Dare I hoist up my listless limbs from my upholstered oasis?
Dare I sacrifice further exhaustion of the body for invigoration of the mind, exhilaration of the spirit?
Before I can adequately ponder this perilous trade, I hear the wooden floorboards creaking beneath my feet…

Bright lights flood my sewing table.
My eyes cringe, widen, focus, ignite.
Before me lies the antidote to the menagerie of ailments that plagued me throughout the day.
Bernina, my beloved apothecary.

Fabric, soft and malleable and dancing with dots and stripes and checks.
Scissors, sharp and imposing, powerful and precise in my capable, if tired hands.
Spools of thread in every color, pins and rulers at the ready.
Chalk, with its ephemeral alchemy, eager to prescribe my every move.

With the flip of a switch, the purr of my freshly oiled machine flows through my veins like life-giving blood.
Foot to pedal, fingers to fabric, needle to unending reservoir of thread.
My healing has begun.

Hours later, I emerge from a sea of multicolored lint, fabric scraps, and thread tails, wide-eyed and victorious.
Tales of crooked seams and ignored directions shall never be uttered, for the seam ripper knows better than to share its dirty secrets.
I raise my finished garment to the sky, as if the entire jungle is eagerly awaiting its new king.


Apparently the healing powers of a freshly constructed garment are only effective on a particular set of precious souls.
Do rolled eyes and exasperated smirks count as reverential appreciation?

At the peak of simultaneous physical exhaustion and spiritual fulfillment, my body once again collapses, this time in a puddle of joy and delight.
My fingers, now sore and red with pin pricks, rest contentedly, having fulfilled their creative yearning.
At least, until tomorrow.

As I drift off to sleep, occasionally forcing open my heavy lids to catch one last glimpse of my shiny new garment, I remind myself that this ritual is deeply rooted within me.
My heart pumps with the passion of my mother and grandmother.
Their knowing hands nurturing, caring, making, healing.
And perhaps one day I will teach another how to heal her body and soul with the ritual of making.

I am at peace.
My eyes close.
My hands unwind.
But I still hear the purr of the machine, softly flowing through me, waiting to once again be unleashed.

Carolyn sitting at the computer

Am I about to write something brilliant??

Do you find yourself yearning to know more about me as you’re sipping your coffee each morning?  Are you constantly thinking, “I wonder what Carolyn’s doing right now?”  If so*, you’re in for a treat, because I was recently nominated by the very talented Kat over at The Couture Academic for the Writing Process Blog Hop!

*I sincerely hope no one is doing this.  :)

Kat is one of those sewing bloggers that I not-so-secretly wish I could meet in person someday because I suspect we would get along fabulously.  Her attention to detail in finishing her garments with couture techniques is admirable, and I really enjoy her positive attitude and genuine love for sewing.

Anyway, onto the questions!

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Science tote bag - front

Something simple: A new tote bag.  The pattern is simply a set of rectangles sewn together to form a floppy bag with self-fabric handles.  No interfacing, no structure, no frills.  Just a pretty fabric tote for housing my lunch, wallet, keys, shopping treasures, or whatever else one throws in a casual bag.  :)

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So Zo undies by Allspice Abounds - finished

After all the precise sewing on my Archer and a few busy weeks with not much sewing progress, I needed a simple, instant gratification project to get my sew-jo back.  I’m sure you can relate.  I decided to whip up a few more pairs of So Zo undies using some jersey scraps that I had lying around and a fresh batch of fold-over elastic.  I guess I was on a roll because I wound up making 5 pairs!  Yay for some new, colorful additions to my unmentionables drawer.  :)

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Grainline Archer of Many Details - finished

My Archer of Many Details is complete, and I have to say, I really like this one!  Not surprisingly, it’s the little details that make all the difference.  They take extra time, but to me, it’s worth it.  :)

Although I finished sewing this shirt about 2 weeks ago, I’m only getting around to blogging about it now.  Life has a way of getting busy sometimes, and sewing is usually the first thing to go when my schedule fills up.  Sad but true!  My sewing had been moving along at a glacial pace anyway, mostly due to me being exhausted after work lately, so I guess the last few weeks of low sewing productivity aren’t all that surprising.  Ah, life.  Anyway, back to my new shirt!

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Pattern Review Boston-area meet-up - group photo

 Group photo from MariaDenmark

Instead of showing you my finished Archer of Many Details, which is indeed finished but not yet photographed, I have a bunch of other sewing-related updates for you today.  Get ready for a somewhat random & gushy post.  :)

Boston-area sewing meet-up

This weekend I attended my first-ever sewing meet-up, the Pattern Review Boston-area meet-up at Grey’s Fabric.  Basically the best day ever!  :)  I’ve heard many bloggers say that people who sew are the nicest people, and I’m happy to report that it’s absolutely true.  Everyone I met was so down to earth, friendly, and kind-hearted, and of course everyone was so joyful and passionate about sewing.  It was such a pleasure to hang out with people who share my interest in sewing, chat about fabric and patterns, and simply meet such a wonderful bunch of women.  I think this was the first group of women I’ve ever hung out with where there was absolutely no drama.  How refreshing.  :)

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Gray Archer in progress - cut pieces and ribbon

The latest project on my sewing table is my third Archer, which I’ve affectionately dubbed “The Archer of Many Details.”  I’ve been meaning to try out a bunch of new-to-me shirt-making techniques, and I figured I’d give them all a go in a single project.  Two birds and one stone, you know how it goes.  :)

The main fabric is Robert Kaufmann pinpoint Oxford, a chambray with a crisp hand that presses like a dream.  It’s the same fabric I used for my first Archer, which I love (and actually wore today!).  It makes a really crisp, professional-looking shirt, which is exactly the vibe I’m going for.  I saw it at Grey’s Fabric and immediately scooped it up in a whirlwind of spontaneity.  I’m sure you can relate, ha.

Ok, onward to the “many details.”

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Bound buttonholes - two-piece piped method - large gallery image

Sew Skillfully Banner

To kick off Sew Skillfully, I decided to learn how to sew bound buttonholes.  Exciting!!  : )  The book I’m using (Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing) details several methods for making the buttonhole and finishing the facing on the inside of the garment.  For my first attempt, I chose the following:

  • Buttonhole: Two-piece piped method
  • Facing: Windowpane method

To be honest, I chose these methods because they seemed to be on the intricate end of the spectrum, and I wanted to get the best finish possible.  Call me a sucker for detailed procedures!  I actually really enjoy sewing complicated things sometimes, and pushing myself to learn these more advanced techniques is exactly what Sew Skillfully is all about.  No shortcuts, at least for now!

I made 2 buttonholes using this method.  I’ll show you my second one first, because it came out better.  Not surprising.  :)  Ok, let’s dive in!

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Sew Skillfully Banner

I consider myself an intermediate sewist.  I’ve sewn a bunch of garments, most of them successful, and definitely feel that I’ve moved on from the “beginner” title.  Interestingly, I can easily see myself squatting in the intermediate category indefinitely, happily sewing a wardrobe full of garments that fit well and that I love wearing.  Advanced techniques aren’t necessarily required for sewing successful garments.  If my main goal in sewing is producing a wearable wardrobe, I think I have most of the skills I need at this point.

However, that is not my only goal.  I want to learn, push myself, explore!  :)  One day I’d like to graduate from “intermediate sewist” to “advanced sewist”… and perhaps even “expert sewist” somewhere down the line.  (A girl can dream, right?)  Enter the Sew Skillfully project.

Sew Skillfully is:

- A fun way to challenge myself to learn more intermediate and advanced sewing techniques, without necessarily incorporating them into a specific garment project.

- A way for me to document my progress, ask questions when I get stuck, report on any interesting findings, and share tips and recommendations with you as I come across them.

- My own small contribution in advancing the sewing blogosphere beyond content focused on absolute beginners, an area which has been fully saturated, in my opinion.

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Summer Blazer by Allspice Abounds - Simplicity 2446 - front

After about a month of work, I’m thrilled to show you my finished Summer Blazer!

Summer Blazer by Allspice Abounds - Simplicity 2446 - showing lining

Isn’t she a beauty?  :)  Made of breathable cotton and fully lined in silky Bemberg rayon, this light jacket is the perfect companion for summer days with just a hint of a cool breeze.

Project Stats:

Pattern: Simplicity 2446, a classic-cut, fully lined blazer in 2 lengths.  This is the cropped version, more or less.

Fabric: The shell is a medium weight cotton print, and the lining is Bemberg rayon (my absolute favorite lining fabric).

Modifications: A bunch of fitting alterations, made for my first blazer.  For this version, I chopped 4.5 inches off the hem but left all my other modifications in tact.

Level of crafty satisfaction:  I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty smug about this one.  :)

Before I throw a bunch more photos at you, a few quick notes:

  • I wrote two in-progress posts about this blazer (Part 1 and Part 2), featuring close-up photos of all the details and diving into construction and finishing techniques.  Check them out for all the nitty-gritty.
  • For all my posts on Simplicity 2446, including my first blazer, click here.
  • The white fabric is a killer to photograph outdoors, but I’ve included some indoor shots at the end of this post so you can see the details of the print.

All right, it’s picture time!

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