Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sewing and standing up for your body

The Everywhereist, aka travel blogger Geraldine, recently wrote a post that disturbed me. It was a good post and a necessary post, but it disturbed me nonetheless.

In a nutshell, she was bullied to the point of an anxiety attack during a trans-Atlantic flight. The man sitting behind her threatened to shake her seat if she reclined, and he mocked her when she tried to respond with civility to his outrageous behavior.

This stranger made a power play for Geraldine’s personal space, and it was extremely scary for her.

In her post, she writes about how women’s personal spaces and bodies too often are treated as public domain. They’re subject to commentary and invasion in a way that men’s personal spaces and bodies are not.

Personal invasions

When I worked at the Wisconsin State Journal, my desk was partially on camera when reporters did live remotes from the newsroom. I would sit behind the featured reporter and continue my work while they were on local TV, because I was on deadline and we needed to GSD.

One night, we got a call in the newsroom for “the girl who was behind the reporter.” The man on the phone said he was my uncle. I picked up, expecting to hear a familiar voice. Instead I heard a stranger say that I would be prettier if I smiled on camera.

I don’t remember my reply; I think I was in shock. (For the record, this guy had a history of calling the newsroom and laying into whoever answered.)

I would be prettier if I smiled on camera. I wasn’t a broadcast journalist. Never had an interest in it. I wasn’t the featured reporter. I was at my desk, doing my job. After that night, I left my desk whenever reporters were on TV. It was the easiest way to avoid harassment.

I would be prettier if I smiled on camera. Think about it: The way a woman looked while she was minding her own business bothered a man SO MUCH that he felt compelled to say something to her about it.

I’ve had other experiences — and if you’re a woman, I’m sure you’ve had them, too — where your body, appearance, or personal space was incorrectly judged as fair game. I’ve had sunglasses snatched from the low point of a V-neck shirt. I’ve had my bra strap tucked in for me.

Unfortunately, I think these attitudes about and actions toward women are widely viewed as normal and not offensive. But, when you cut to the heart of them, they’re driven by subordination and inequality.

The intersection of sewing and standing up for your body

What does this have to do with sewing? Actually, I think it has a lot to do with clothes.

When it comes to RTW, men’s clothes are pretty consistent, even when sizes are S-M-L, etc. Buying pants couldn’t be any more straightforward — waistband plus inseam and you’re done.

To compare, the sizing of RTW women’s clothing is wildly different between labels. A 4 is not a 4 is not a 4. And even when you have garments that are sized by measurements — take bras, for example (band size plus cup size) — you still can’t be sure what you’re going to get.

I’m not breaking any ground here when I write that vanity sizing is a huge mind job for women. You think there's something wrong with YOUR body, not the clothes and their whack sizes. Combine that with subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that women’s bodies are part of the public sphere, and it’s no wonder that too many women have negative feelings about their appearance.

Now, when you create garments for yourself, you take your body out of this toxic environment. Your handmade clothes fit and flatter your wonderful body; vanity sizing be damned. Your handmade clothes function for your needs and tickle your fancy.

I’m not saying sewing can cure anxiety caused by personal space invaders and jerks with unsolicited opinions.

But I think sewing can help you master your own perception of your body and appreciate it in a new way. And next time you’re compromised, you will have greater resiliency to stand your ground and do what you need to do to return to safety and comfort.

Over to you: How do you see the link between sewing and women's bodies as public space? Am I reaching too much? Am I on to something? Please sound off (respectfully) in comments.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Swimwear sewing tips: 8 can't-miss resources in one place

I recently wrapped on the Reno halter swim top and high-waisted Dakota swim bottoms from Seamwork magazine. As I sewed, I wished there were a single place to check out lots of different swimwear sewing tips.

Then I was like, "BAM, girl, why don't you make a library yourself!" And this post practical wrote itself.

Here are eight Erin VH-approved online resources for sewing swimwear:

1: Helen's Closet
2: 101 Creations
3: Helen's Closet
4: Seamwork
5: SeamstressErin Designs
6: Indiesew
Line swimsuit illustration: Closet Case Files

Sources for swimwear fabric and notions

Closet Case Files

Why this resource rocks: Heather provides links to her preferred vendors for swim fabric, lining, bra-making goodies (for robust swim tops), and elastic. And she would know, as creator of the ubiquitous Bombshell swimsuit and the new, hot-cha-cha Sophie swimsuit. Plus, I asked a question in the comments about fabric type and got a nice response from a fellow reader!
Click here to explore this resource.

Reno top step-by-step sewalong

Helen's Closet

Why this resource rocks: Helen sews the Reno top, step by step, with great photos. This was my No. 1 resource during this project. Per Helen's advice, I added a bar tack to keep the foam cup from wandering.
Click here to explore this resource.

Gorgeous pics of Reno and Dakota

Helen's Closet

Why this resource rocks: Helen takes in some fun in the sun in her Reno/Dakota suit. I am completely in awe of her fabric choice for version 2 of the Dakota bottoms — the plain-front version without the front panel. IMO, the plain-front Dakota could have a granny-panty vibe. But Helen perishes the thought with a bold geometric print that almost looks like patchwork. Seriously, you have to see it to believe it. She also features pics of some other bloggers' Reno/Dakota makes. #inspiration
Click here to explore this resource.

Sewing swimwear 101

Seamwork magazine

Why this resource rocks: Seamwork delivers thoughtful tips on choosing fabric (including lining), notions, and construction. Check it out for steps on inserting an underwire. This article convinced me to cut all my pattern pieces single layer. Control matters SO MUCH with slippery fabric.
Click here to explore this resource.

Inspiration in pink lace

101 Creations

Why this resource rocks: Beth is a vision in a hot pink lace Reno/Dakota. The texture of her suit is utterly eye catching. She also nails the obsession of sewing a project that walks the line between maddening and empowering. If you need words of encouragement, check her out!
Click here to explore this resource.

Real talk about Reno/Dakota

101 Creations

Why this resource rocks: Beth dives into the dirty details of Reno/Dakota construction. If you dig on her post above, you've got to check out this one to understand the technical elements, especially her work on the Reno top.
Click here to explore this resource.

A guide to mastering swimwear elastic


Why this resource rocks: Indiesew assured me that swimwear forgives sewists. If elastic is a little wonky, your suit *probably* still will function just fine; stretchy fabric and negative ease are beautiful things. Another tip is to leave a two-inch tail at the beginning of the elastic to help anchor it to the swimsuit. Try it; it'll change your life. This blog post also highlights common mistakes and includes photos of what errors look like — crazy useful!
Click here to explore this resource.

Technique: how to sew elastic to a swimsuit

SeamstressErin Designs

Why this resource rocks: Erin shows her preferred method for sewing elastic to swimwear in an excellent video. I used her technique to put in my elastic. She talks about controlling levels of stretch in the elastic as you sew and where you need more stretch (convex curves, such as your bum) and where you need less (your waistband). This post convinced me to not tug so hard on elastic as I sew.
Click here to explore this resource.

What resources have you relied on to sew swimwear? Sound off in comments! And please let me know how I can improve this mini guide. I'm all ears. If you could share it with other sewing pals for their feedback, I'd be forever grateful!

P.S. Did you notice that my collage only has seven images BUT features a headline for eight sewing resources??? LOL my bad, sort of. I guess I'm counting 101 Creations twice. (I'm too pleased with how the collage turned over to make it over.)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Quilt love at the Wisconsin State Fair

One of my favorite events, the Wisconsin State Fair, wrapped this weekend. It sounds corny, but it's a great time for the whole family — good eats, animals of all shapes and sizes, and the best people watching of the year.

I love to poke around the 4-H exhibits, and I was especially hot on the quilts, probably because I recently finished my first quilt.

Feast your eyes on these beauties!
The rainbow colors pop against the black background.
Love the turquoise and purple colorway.
I am deeply in love with the backing fabric here. I am pretty much a goner when it comes to a combo of pink-red-blue-turquoise. I think that's Amy Butler?
Dat colorway. And I love how the floral display matches the quilt. The white lattice is a great touch. The onlooker looks like she's part of the display. #performanceart
I also am deeply in love with this orange-hot pink-purple colorway. It reminds me of Spree candies.
Harvest colors.
Color, color everywhere!
This makes me have Tetris feelings, and that's a good thing.
Each square is different, but the whole quilt is harmonious.

I also was enamored of the hooked rugs. I don't know how they're made, but I intend to find out!
I hope this is an original design. A circus fat lady?? WUT?
Gah, the texture of the rugs kills me! Maybe I need to take up another textile-related hobby?

And here are some just-for-fun pics:

Clockwise from top left: Checking out the award-winning dahlias; admiring a rabbit-shaped cake; chowing down on New Berlin Lions Club corn; and examining edible treasures from the garden.

See ya next year, State Fair! You've given me extreme quilt goals.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Slicing a Swimsuit: Underway on Reno and Dakota

See what I was talking about with the Barbie '57 Chevy vibe? Mint green and hot pink. It feels so much like '50s nostalgia in the '80s. And I love it.

As you can see, I cut the pieces for the Reno bikini top and high-waisted Dakota bottoms. Just how high are the bottoms? Check it out:
On the left is the lining for back of the bottoms. I cut a small. On the right are a pair of size medium low-rise, bikini-cut cotton undies. In the middle is a can of sparkling water, for scale and hydration.

Damn, dog. That's A LOT of coverage. I'm so curious to see how these bottoms turn out. I'm so used to wearing low-rise bottoms. It's going to be a huge adjustment to see myself in something different.

Part of me is worried that I don't have an inner pinup girl to rock them as they should be rocked. We shall see.
To ensure accuracy, I cut everything from a single layer of fabric (save the stuff that needed to be cut on the fold). The results were great, but it did take about three hours. There was zero rushing.

I'm treating this first go at Reno/Dakota as a muslin, and I'm going to try to baste as much as I can before sewing with a proper stretch stitch. We'll see how that goes. Because of all the negative ease and elastic, I think it will be hard to judge fit without sewing it together correctly. But I'm going to give it a go.

In any case, I'll end up with a lot of practice on the pattern and fabric before the real deal garment.
Here's a closeup view of some tailor tacks.

Remember how I was concerned about the transparency of the mint zebra fabric? With the lining, it's opaque (at least when it's dry). The mint zebra has a nicer hand than the hot pink; it's beefier.
While I was cutting the swimsuit, my son asked me to make a bandana and coat for his dog softie. So here's a photo of a dog with a swimsuit lining coat and spandex bandana.

Before I get into assembling pieces, I plan to play around with stitches and sewing feet. I've read that:

  • Cutting elastic long offers more control at the end of a line of stitching.
  • A walking foot keeps fabric moving smoothly.
  • Tissue paper helps stabilize slinky swimwear fabric.

I will report back on all these assertions!

P.S. I ended up ordering rubber swimwear elastic from Sew Sassy. The store sells five yard packages of various widths for less than $3 each. I discovered the store through Closet Case Files' post on sourcing swimwear fabric and notions, which I recommend if you're interested in making a suit. Could be good to explore the different vendors well before you need to hit the beach!

Over to you: How would you "muslin" up a swimsuit? Am I bananas to think a basting stitch is going to help me understand fit at all? Please sound off in comments!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The latest: Ready, set, swimsuit!

I wrapped on Epic Project on Sunday, and I've moved to my next sewing mission: a swimsuit.

I'm fixing to make the retro-inspired two piece from Seamwork magazine: the Reno bikini top and high-waisted Dakota bottoms.

Pics and line drawings from Seamwork

I want to make a new suit for our Northwoods Wisconsin cabin vacation. I've got about two weeks until I'm kicking it lakeside.
I originally bought two swim fabrics: a hot pink and a metallic rainbow leopard-print foil (grrr-yow!). I thought, if I'm going to hand make a bikini, it's going to have personality. The leopard print reminded me of a swimsuit I had in the late '80s — black and rainbow leopard print, with a heavy Barbie and the Rockers vibe. It was a bikini that was connected at the sides (remember those!?!); I think now they're called monokinis. But I digress.

The hot pink is a legit swim fabric (well, according to Jo-Ann, anyway). The leopard-print foil fabric, however, is active wear fabric — think gymnastic leotard. I don't know how it dawned on me, but I got thinking that perhaps the active wear fabric wouldn't hold up for swim. Hungry for answers, I posed this question in the comments for a Closet Case Files post about sourcing swimwear fabric and notions. A fellow reader pointed out that foil could fail in chlorine, and a swatch test likely would reveal all.

I opted to get different fabric. I don't have great access to a pool for a swatch test. And I can make some namaste-cray-cray yoga wear with the leopard-print foil.
My new fabric, also bought at Jo-Ann (it's like a mile from my house, guys — too easy), is OK. I wanted a print, and this mint zebra print was my only option. I picture the hot pink and mint green will have a Barbie '57 Chevy vibe, which is great for a retro-looking suit. (I was deeply into Barbie, if you hadn't guessed).

I've got everything I need for the suit, except two notions for the top: 3/8-inch plastic boning (half a yard) and 1/4-inch rubber swimwear elastic (1.5 yards). Jo-Ann couldn't deliver, and I'd like to order both notions from the same vendor to save on shipping. Plus, chasing notions all over the Internet is a drag. Any suggestions where I could find these goodies?

Let's talk suit details: I'm not yet sure if I'll put the mint green in the middle or on the sides of the front. I want the back to be hot pink because even though I'm lining the suit, that would be a lot of light-colored fabric stretched over my bum and TRANSPARENCY. Better safe than sorry.

I also plan to insert cups into the Reno top for modesty and added shape. I found good tutorials at Helen's Closet and Seamwork magazine.

Fitting the top will be a trick. I'm currently a 32C, which is a medium-ish cup size but a small-ish circumference. I split the difference and cut a size small (B cup). I hope, because this is a soft-cupped top with ties, the fit can be fudged a bit. I don't want the cups to be too small, which throws off proportions, or too big, which likely would mean the top part of the cup where the breast is less full would be floppy. Maybe Reno will be my first bust adjustment! This post from 110 Creations could be very useful — looks like blogger Beth had similar bust-fitting concerns.

Over to you: How do you feel about the retro, high-waisted swimsuit? Do you have a favorite era for swimwear? What are your favorite shops for securing swim fabric and notions? Please share in comments!