Wait, #MeMadeMay is a sewing trend, right? Correct! I have fallen into the rabbit hole that is garment sewing, and I can say with great confidence that this sewing post is the first of many to come.
Because I follow a great many knitters on Instagram who also sew, I have long been familiar with Me Made May. I interpreted this trend as a fun excuse for sewists to show off their new handmade pieces by sewing as many projects as they desire in the month of May and/or attempting to wear a different piece or a different combination of pieces (with the option of throwing in a handknit here and there) on as many days of May as they feel inclined.
However, just yesterday I came across an IGTV video on Spoonflower’s feed sharing an interview with Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated. In the video, Meg offers her take on the Me Made May topic. Expanding on the idea of brandishing newly hand-sewn items and sharing their wearability and the wearability of older staples, Meg adds that it’s important to focus on what you already have in your closet, handmade (“me-made”) or not, and getting creative with outfit combinations–even experimenting with styles outside your comfort zone. In her view, this practice is an extension of the “mindful wardrobe,” where both the making and the styling processes are slowed down so that you can place value where it is needed. It makes sense to me. Handknitting is quite slow (tediously slow when compared with sewing), so the slow fashion idea has always held great appeal in the knitting community. We knitters know how to value our makes! But handknits cannot possibly account for my entire wardrobe, and as I found myself growing increasingly disappointed with my regular clothing brands, I decided it was time to embark on a new challenge: making a summer wardrobe. (Many thanks to the Good on You app for sharing the ethicality and sustainability standards of several of my clothing brands.)
As the Alabama weather sprinted straight out of spring into a middle-of-the-summer heat wave, I decided to finally put my dusty, dormant sewing machine to work again. I have very little sewing experience, so it only made sense that I should start with fulfilling my grand aspiration of sewing a Hinterland Dress (pattern by none other than Sew Liberated). I took my time learning each step along the way by googling various online tutorials, yet I still managed to screw up practically every portion of the garment. Fortunately I had ordered extra fabric, somehow knowing I would make a mess of most of it on the first try. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, please read through the list below, which details all of the blunders on my first Hinterland dress:
- When cutting fabric, “on the fold” does not refer to folding it in half so that you have two pieces that can be cut at once to save time. It means that you don’t cut on the folded part, duh. When I cut my pieces the first time I cut the bodice back and one of the skirts along the fold as well as around my pattern pieces. 🤦♀️ Fortunately I figured out my error prior to cutting the other skirt piece.
- Bust darts were a new thing for me. I had to redo one of them because I veered off my marked line, but it was no biggie. I used the following video for guidance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gw122OzY6M
- The neck facing was a tricky ordeal. The first go was completely wrong, and I cannot even recall what I originally did. Fold the piece of fabric, press, pin, sew, repeat two times and you’re finished. Easy peasy? No. The fabric does not like to curve perfectly into place, so some gathering at the neckline did occur, and I decided I was okay with that.
- “Trimming and grading the seam allowances” is a whole technique that requires time to learn, but on the first go I arrogantly assumed that meant just cutting out the extra fabric. Nope. I used various online videos to help me somewhat fix this mistake, and I later learned that neckbands that are inserted in the round are even more difficult.
- After attaching the bodice to the skirt (prematurely, it turns out), my daughter pointed out, “The skirt part is inside out and the top isn’t, so that’s not going to work.” Me: “I knooooow, Sophie. I was just experimenting with how that would look…” She didn’t buy it.
- After positioning my bodice and skirt correctly with BOTH inside out, I re-sewed it and then proceeded to the placket. Oh, it turns out that if you are sewing a partial placket, as I was doing, you don’t attach the skirt to the bodice until the placket is all done. Stubbornly, I decided to make it work–not because sewing the skirt to the bodice for the third time would be too much work, but because my poor pride couldn’t take it. I ended up sewing that X configuration you frequently see at the bottom of button-bands, which helped mine to appear somewhat neat and intentional. The top is still a bit goofy looking, but oh well.
- Figuring out how to make my sewing machine create buttonholes was so fun! Until it wasn’t. First I spaced a couple of them wrongly because my math was bad. Second I finished all of the buttonholes and even cut them out for buttons–only to realize I had made the holes on the button-band rather than the buttonhole band. It was too late. There was nothing to do but redo them on the correct band and sew the buttons onto the hapless buttonholes. You might think I’m terrible at following directions, but actually I followed directions here. I had simply not followed directions when attaching my skirt to the bodice, which forced me to sew the bottom of my placket such that the buttonhole band and button-bands were reversed.
Despite all the mistakes, this dress is BY FAR my favorite dress ever. It fits me perfectly! (For reference I am 5’7″ with a 36″ bust circumference, and I made the size 8.) I love the roomy fit, and the pockets are a dream. I already have plans to make another Hinterland, minus the buttons/placket and with cap sleeves, very soon.
The fabric of my Hinterland is Robert Kaufman Cotton Chambray Dots, which I purchased from Purl Soho. It is 100% cotton and a bit stiff even after washing, but I had expected that and quite like how it makes this version feel more dressy. The buttons are from my grandmother’s button jar, so my dress is that much more special.
As soon as my Hinterland was finished I decided to sew a tank for myself and a tee for Sophie. We both oohed and aahed over the Neko and Tori fabric collection by Cotton + Steel that I spied on the Brooklyn General site. Naturally, Sophie sprang for the “Nombiri” fabric with kitties and birds, and I went for the “Tiny Trees.” The fabric is 100% cotton and is cool to wear.
For Sophie’s tee I foolhardily believed with all my heart that I could design a tee pattern based on a good-fitting tee in her closet. The front and back pieces were easy enough, but the little cap sleeves and neckband were troublesome for me. There is a technique whereby you gather the sleeve a bit with basting stitches in order to reach a proper fit around the armhole before sewing it in place. I didn’t do that, but I should have.
The neckband was just a nightmare. Let’s not go there.
No, your eyes do not lie. There is quite a bit of gathering around the neckline. Oh weeeellllll.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. This blog post is a whopper.
For my first sewn top I opted for the Willow Tank by Grainline Studio. It requires only one yard of fabric, so you can’t beat that! This time the bust darts were a breeze, the armhole facings were painless, and the neckband was…a bit less complicated.
But it is the fit that makes this pattern so good. As with Hinterland, I made a size 8. Having already worn my Willow tank multiple times, it has fast become a summer staple, and more of these are on the way. I also have a couple more Hinterlands in the works, as well as pajamas for my kids and possibly a different dress and even some pants. Stay tuned!