I think the biggest thing I learned was that I don’t have enough handmade clothes to sustain me for an entire month – not even as a minimalist/ capsule wardrobe. The second thing was that I am all about the knitwear when it comes to handmade clothes and finally, if I was only allowed to wear handmade clothes from now on I would end up walking around with a bare bottom!
Lets just look at these in a bit more detail;
Not enough clothes
Yes I know it was only a few months ago that I was complaining about having too many clothes but when it comes to handmade I really don’t have that many. Even though I have made garments on and off for the last 20 years these have mostly been “occasion” garments like ball gowns or wedding outfits. Tempting as it may be to rock up to the allotment in my vintage vogue pattern cocktail dress and wellies it is not very practical. Added to this is the distressing fact that most of these actually no longer fit me, partly because I have put on weight since gadding about at balls but also because since having children the shape of my body has altered so even the ones that in theory should fit don’t, at least not without needing alterations. As I am not yet a confident enough seamstress to make alterations happily these garments are banished to a suitcase under the bed.
All about the knitwear
Lets be honest, my first love is knitting and sewing will always come second to this which does have its advantages, one being that given its stretchy nature knitwear is more forgiving of fluctuations to body size and shape over time, it is also something practical – living in the UK particularly in the North West where it appears to rain or be grey and overcast for 80% of the year having nice warm woollens is a must. However, it does have its disadvantages too the first of these is that on those few and far between days when the sun does shine I run the risk of melting. Yes I could knit with cotton or linen for more lightweight summer garments but I have done that before and ended up with a jumper that resembles a dish cloth and hurt my wrists to knit. An alternative would be to stick to wool but just knit with a lace weight rather than a 4 ply or DK as is my preference which is something worth investigating (especially after spending several days immersed in one of my mum’s books on vintage style knitwear). A final point to make is that out of all the jumpers I have only 2 are 100% wool, on top of this 1 is an alpaca/silk blend but the rest are wool/ acrylic blends or just 100% acrylic depending on how long ago I made them. This is not an ideal situation, I want my wardrobe to feature more natural fibres and as such I need to make sure that when I do add anything to my knitwear collection this is at the forefront of my planning decisions.
Walking around with a bare bottom
I’m making a joke about it but this is actually quite a serious point. I have a few tunic length garments which with tights could function as a dress at a push but I do not have any skirts or trousers made by my own fair hands.
Back when I was a student I had lots of pairs of handmade trousers mostly based on a vintage sewing pattern I picked up in a charity shop and given that I didn’t own a sewing machine at the time they were all hand stitched too. I absolutely loved them and wore them to death. Unfortunately I was at least 3 stone (42lbs/ 19kg) lighter in those days and even then my legs were never slender. The women in my family have what we affectionately call “sturdy walking legs” but we also have small waists in comparison. In reality this means that when it comes to fitted trousers a standard size is not going to work, to fit my hips it is going to need grading down at least 1 size for the waist and it will probably still need alterations making to the width of the leg to make room for my larger than average thighs and calves.
A further complication is that despite a significant amount of fabric in my stash very little of it is suitable for making trousers with and what I do have I don’t want to ruin by making it in to a garment that doesn’t fit properly. The solution to this would be to make a sustained effort to reduce my weight (but as I am already thinking about getting myself a biscuit when I have finished typing this I’m not holding out a lot of hope on that front) or to make a toile and go from there. I have come to the conclusion that a toile is to sewing what swatching is to knitting – a dirty word for something that most people try to avoid because it is not as exciting as cracking on with the real thing but as with swatching I am beginning to think that taking to time to make a toile would really be the sensible thing to do and worth it in the long run.
The over riding thing that Me Made May 2017 taught me though was that when I wear clothes made by my own fair hands it makes me happy in a way that no ready to wear garment ever could.