Thursday, May 29, 2014

Super Wide-Leg Pajama Pants

Stockpiling fabric is a dangerous sport because inevitably you accumulate a lot of fabric. It often happens slowly, a couple yards here and there that quickly adds up over time. For the first couple of years after I got my sewing machine, I was accumulating fabric at a fast rate. I would go to the fabric store and fabric would be on sale, and I would think I could use this fabric for a dress or that fabric for a skirt (but with no actual plan in mind).

The problem is I can find fabric more quickly than I can use it. I wish I could sew faster, but I’m just not that capable yet. So I’ve cut way back on my fabric buying this past year. I’ve been trying to use the fabric I have before I get more fabric, and I’m slowly making a dent in my fabric stock.

Another problematic issue with stockpiling fabric is that sometimes you buy fabric thinking it’s pretty cute, and then years later you look at it and think “what was I thinking?” I’ve had that feeling with quite a few fabrics, where if I were to see that same fabric now, I wouldn’t buy it. But, as I already own the fabric, I might as well try to find some purpose for it.

That’s how I used this fabric for my Super Wide-Leg Pajama Pants. When I initially bought this lightweight cotton fabric I thought it was kind of cute, and that maybe I’d make a dress out of it one day. I’m generally not a huge fan of pink-purple, but I do think it’s an acceptable shade, and I thought the pattern was rather interesting. But the fabric is sparkly, and I’m not really into sparkles; they tend to turn just about any fabric juvenile, real fast. So taking a look at the fabric now, I wouldn’t buy it. But I had it, and I decided the best thing was to make pajama pants.

Remember this 1970s wide-leg pant pattern I got from a thrift shop? I decided to alter it to become elastic band pajama pants. I used the pant leg patterns as-is, except for one thing: I added extra height to the top of the waist so that it could fold over to fit the elastic. I didn’t bother changing anything else; the gathering of the pants were forgiving enough that I didn’t have to alter the waist size.

I was curious to see how wide-leg these pants would be in the end, and they’re quite wide. It’s almost like wearing a long skirt. But I like them. And they have pockets, and I love pockets…a lot. These pants are very cool and airy—perfect for summer wear.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pajamas. [Yawn.]

I’m never excited to shop for pajamas because they’re pretty much the same and they’re pretty much boring. There are only so many options for women: nightgowns or shorts/pants with tops. Usually I’m just looking at pajama pants; some are fairly nondescript, being a flat color or an unassuming plaid, but others are blatantly obnoxious. And I can’t help but wonder, who wears these garish colors or likes these tacky patterns? I don’t. And the fabric tends to be nothing special, mostly just jersey or cotton or flannel. 

I understand that pajamas are meant for sleeping in, so the biggest factor is whether or not they’re comfortable. No one wants to be in scratchy or too tight pajamas. However, it’d be nice if there was a tiny bit of design in there because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of pajama pants that I actually wanted. The design just isn’t there; there’s nothing special about any of it.

So I’m extremely lazy about buying pajama pants because I don’t find them interesting to look at, and therefore I almost never look at them in a store. Inevitably, I reach some sort of desperation point where I need new pajama pants and I just buy the least ugly pair I can find at a store for not much money. I’ve had coats, dresses, tops, skirt and shoes that I’ve loved, but I’ve never had pajama pants that I’ve loved.

I feel like pajama pants should be awesome. I spend a good third of my life in them, and there’s no reason that they should be such fashion rejects. So if I can’t find what I want in a store (and I don’t want to pay a ton for them either), then I’ll just make them myself. I’ve made pajama pants before (and they’re not hard to make), and I think can make a way cuter pair than the lackluster pants I’ve seen in the stores.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Simple Pleated Skirt

Not long ago I picked up some blue fabric and a vintage pattern, Simplicity 2433, from a thrift shop, and I used them to create my new skirt. I used this pattern as a starting point, and changed things according to what made sense to me.

I think the skirt portion of this pattern is the simplest thing ever—it’s just a rectangle that is pleated across the top of it. That’s really the only part I used from this pattern. I used a waistband from another skirt (since this pattern had a very narrow waistband and I prefer a thicker one). I also used a zipper instead of snaps as the main closure.

And finally, I decided to use a button (instead of an eye and hook) for the closure at the waistband. I thought this would be a good project to finally use a button. I chose a simple plastic button from my jar of buttons I got at a thrift shop. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I Love Buttons but They Scare Me

For four years I’ve sewn without sewing a button. Part of the reason is that most of the patterns I have don’t require buttons, but instead use zippers and eyes and hooks for closures. Outside of a button-down shirt or coat (neither of which I’ve tried sewing), buttons don’t seem to be very popular closures in many patterns. A practical reason is that sewing a zipper is probably the quickest type of closure to sew, and a zipper is likely cheaper than a row of buttons, so it makes sense that they’re the go-to closure for many patterns.

However, I love buttons. They’re wonderful design elements that can instantly add style to a garment. And I can’t seem to help but collect buttons because they’re pretty. In fact, I have a box of brand-new buttons that I bought in the hopes of using but never did. I also have a jar (filled to the brim) of mostly plastic buttons that I bought from a thrift shop years ago. So I don’t lack buttons. [Pause.] But I lacked the knowledge to use them.

Up until last weekend I’d avoided sewing buttons. They scared me. I kept having flashbacks of when I first learned to put a zipper in, and how it took me forever to do it; (I think it took me half a day…or at least it felt that way). I remembered the frustration and the cursing and I thought it must be just as hard to put in a button (and I didn’t want to go through that aggravation again). I was intimidated.

But I decided to suck it up and try. It was a sewing skill I wanted to learn and I was ready to spend the day learning if it killed me. I braced myself for pain and suffering…only it didn’t come. I followed my sewing machine’s manual of how to create buttonholes and was pleasantly surprised of how easy it was. My sewing machine has a buttonhole foot that does practically everything. I have to do very little; just measure my button size and mark my material, make sure everything is set up on my sewing machine correctly, and then put my foot to pedal and let the machine sew. It’s automatic and awesome.

Now that I know how to make a buttonhole, I want to make lots of buttonholes. Learning one simple technique instantly broadened the range of patterns I’m willing to try and increased my excitement about buttons. I’m even more in love with buttons, now that I can actually use them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Frugal Snob

When it comes to clothes, I think I’m a frugal snob. This may sound contradictory, but really, I think these attributes easily go hand-in-hand. It comes down to wanting good quality at a good price. A large reason I’ve cut back on my shopping at the mall and discount stores (that sell new items) is because I don’t get enough quality. A vast majority of the time I’m disappointed by the items in a store made with cheap materials for prices I find unacceptable (based upon that lack of quality).

But even when the prices are okay, I’m still not very interested in cheap garments because I’m a snob. And I don’t think this is a bad thing; it means I have standards. With so many options available, there must be a line between “worth it” and “not worth it,” and for me, that line is quality. I’ll see some cute garment in a store (from afar), and when I finally touch its fabric I can’t help but think, “I’m not paying $45 for that.” I hate scratchy fabric. I despise cheap-looking fabric. And I’m vastly annoyed when fabric is too thin for the garment (e.g. skirts and dresses that are practically see-through).

When I was younger, cheap fabric never bothered me, but now cheap fabric is a deal-breaker. And even when the fabric is okay, I’ll still balk at the price of a simple garment and think, “I could just sew this.” (I think this especially when the craftsmanship is shoddy, because if I’m going to wear shoddy craftsmanship, it should at least be my own.)

Even the items that I like in a store, I’ve often gotten too frugal for. I went to a clothing store the other day and was in the sale section and saw some fairly nice sweaters on the hanger for about $30 and I didn’t even bother to try them on. I wasn’t desperate for these sweaters (that were fine but not particularly special), and I thought might eventually find something like it at a thrift shop for less.

The thing is, I’m often attracted to expensive things but don’t feel inclined to buy them at full price (although there are always exceptions to the rule). If I go into a higher-end store, the prices feel too steep to me, so I usually walk away with nothing. So the high-end stores are too expensive (even though I like their stuff), and the average stores are too cheap (in quality), so that leaves me with thrift shopping. Where every so often, among the Target and Old Navy rejects I find something special—a quality piece of clothing that I love for a good price.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Shopping Progression

As a teenager I loved the mall. I spent hours at the mall; friends and I would shop, eat, walk around and just hang out. I can’t say that I usually bought a ton of items (sometimes the only thing I bought was lunch), but the mall was a go-to destination for me for years

Later I moved onto discount stores that sold new clothing because I could buy more items for less money. The stores themselves were less glamorous in presentation than the mall, but I was fine sacrificing some ambiance for lower prices. Perhaps that’s where I started to hone my (clothing) hunting skills among long racks of sort of organized stuff and got accustomed to paying less for items.

Now, I prefer thrift shops. It seems like it should be the reverse; that as I grew older (and could afford it) that I would prefer shiny new items to used ones, but more often than not, this isn’t the case. I don’t go to the mall with excitement any more and I don’t want to browse for hours—I want to be in and out…quickly.

It’s not that I don’t shop for new items at the mall or other discount stores (with new items), because I do, but I tend to go to those places for specific items (e.g. shoes). Once in a while I’ll drop by the mall to see what there is (and may find something I like), but it often just feels rather sterile and generic. I prefer thrift shops for the surprises.

It’s fun to shop at thrift shops because there’s such a variety of stuff, and I feel like I can get some good deals because it’s (almost always) cheaper than buying something brand new. For me, it’s usually best if I’m not looking for something specific at a thrift shop, and I can easily spend hours browsing; I’ll just see what they have and see if there’s anything catches my eye. It’s about finding something unexpected; something I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it; and perhaps something different than new items being sold in stores (since I’m not a terribly trendy person to begin with). It’s just more fun.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

You Catch More Flies With Honey…

I don’t watch reality TV shows that focus on the “drama” of people “living their lives” because it’s just too painful for me to watch. My curiosity to see what all the fuss is about doesn’t get the better of me (anymore); I just refuse to watch them. There’s already enough depressing stuff in the world, and I know I’ll just get more depressed watching people snipe and fight and name-call each other for “entertainment.”

I doubt most people’s lives are like these reality TV shows (mine certainly isn’t), but every so often reality TV show moments seem to find their way into your life. I had two minor instances in the last few months that I wasn’t a part of, but happen to be at the periphery as things unfolded.

First, I was in a store’s dressing room (that was quite large and had a lot of stalls), and few stalls down I hear two women arguing (and really it was one woman going at another women). I’m not exactly sure what they were arguing about, but the angry one kept saying something about “defending her child” (although I’m not sure why she was defending her child). And I think the other woman apologized a few times but the angry one kept going. The part that stuck in my mind was when the angry one said, “I’m trying to talk to you like a human being,” because I think I rolled my eyes in exasperation. That’s a terrible thing to say to someone; it implies that somehow they aren’t quite human enough to comprehend what is being said to them.

I was very uncomfortable and wanted to get out of there sooner rather than later. By the time I finally left the dressing room stall, I saw a young woman crying and being taken to the side by an employee. I felt bad for her and the store’s employees. As I was leaving the store, I could see and hear the same angry woman talking to a store employee (possibly the manager)—and she was not happy. (I was pretty glad that I didn’t have to deal with her.)

The second incident was in the parking lot of a store. I heard a truck stop suddenly because a car was trying to reverse out from a parking space right in front of it. The man in the truck was pissed (as he was nearly in a car accident) and yelled at the car driver. I don’t remember all the mean things he said except for the “Go back to your own country” part, because I thought that was especially rude.

These two small confrontations don’t compete with the blowouts you see in reality TV shows, but they’re distasteful all the same. It’s perfectly natural that people get angry from time to time, but the way you handle a situation shouldn’t be so rude. The old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” comes to mind; you can get your point across without being so accusatory and mean-spirited. And likely people are more willing to listen and want to help you if you’re not beating them down verbally. Being firm, polite and clear-headed will likely help your cause more than snide remarks and derogatory language.