What does it mean to slow down and Make in a thoughtful manner....?

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Me made

For the past month those who follow me on Instagram and Facebook have seen many self portraits. My good friends know that in another lifetime I was a photographer and used myself as a subject often. Not quite in the adventurous and creative way that Cindy Sherman does, but I was always around, so a willing (?) model. This modern concept of 'selfies' vaguely affronts me, but what are you gonna do? It's out there, no way to fight it. Most of them I ignore. Me Made May, however, is another thing altogether.  Herewith a small explanation and short (as possible) exploration of what I discovered during this month.... 

For the uninitiated among you, Me Made May is brainchild of a British sewing blogger named Zoe Edwards. You can read more about her here. You should go check her out, she very interesting for what she began. For five years now the greater online sewing community has been spending the month of May both wearing and, for the most part documenting, the garments they have made for themselves. They make a pledge to wear me-made garments for a month, and carry it out by posting self portraits proving both that the garments are real, and that they wear them.  I know there are many in the world who do not think that people are making garments anymore, but oh, how wrong they are!  We garment sewists are out there, and many of us have gotten to the point where our entire wardrobe is self-made. In fact many are so self-clothed that to make the Me-Made pledge to wear some portion (if not all) of self-made garments during the month of May is just a moot point. One such camper is the inimitable LLADYBIRD, or Lauren Taylor to some of us, who bowed out of participating this year. Lauren will be coming to AGOS to teach next September, and if you have the means and the time this will not be an opportunity to miss....  

But I digress.  So there are all these bloggers, or even just Social Media users, who spent the month of May (for the past five! years) wearing and documenting their self-made wardrobes.  What does this mean? I can imagine it means many things, to many people.  But to me it is a celebration of my craft. This thing I do that gives me so much pleasure, that some would call a hobby, that is truly and selfishly just for me, is actually something that has a utilitarian purpose- to clothe me from the elements. I love the Wabi-Sabi of making clothing. You can just make beautiful items for special occasions, but even those go through an ugly phase until they emerge as a finished lovely garment. Most of my making takes on more utilitarian goals. I make garments with the distinct purpose of clothing myself. The most important part of their role is function more than form. Of course the form is the fun (and challenging) part. I make myself clothes, ordinary, daily use, multi-purpose clothes. If you have been reading here before you know that I have a uniform. 

Actually you can look above and see my uniform. I wear A-line skirts with blouses and cardigans, or classic sheath dresses with the same cardigans. I like simple silhouettes that let the fabric do the heavy lifting. My sewing happens in fits and starts. For the past few Winter months I have been quilting, and knitting, more than making garments.  Given the climate I live in, this is no surprise. While I love sewing with wool, I do not seem to do it much. Or more accurately when I do, I am knitting with it. My sewing proclivities gravitate to the mid-weight skirts, dress and top direction. So in the deepest darkest winter I live in a couple of wool skirts, my hand knit sweaters, turtlenecks, and an endless rotation of tights. And I do more quilting.  When the weather warms I get more creative with both what I wear, and what I want to make. Out come the shift and sheath dresses, and I layer my woven blouses with lightweight cardigans.  That is my comfort zone.

This May I made a couple of observations about my style of dress, and my style of sewing to wear.  I like functional garments that can be worn in a number of different ways. I tend to be a component dresser. While it was not intentional, I appear to have made enough components that work together in terms of color family and fabric pattern versus solids to make this all work. Not much of this was pre-conceived. Much of what you see above was made individually as impulse choices.  I have never sat down and thought out my wardrobe. I do periodically say 'crap I have too many patterned bottoms, need to get some solids in there' and I'll go buy some Essex Linen from Robert Kaufman and fix that.  I'm kinda a no-nonsense garment sewist. I am not a ruffles and flourishes type of dresser, or maker. I like to find a silhouette that I like, muslin the pattern till it fits, and then crank them babies out.... I will on occasion make a special event outfit.  The By Hand London Elisalex in the bright blue spider print Echino fabric above [second from the right in the second row down] was made for a fancy party. The Catnap dress [a Colette Patterns Peony second from the left on the top row] was made in response to the Lizzie House call for projects with her last fabric line.  Everything else is a repeat collection of Colette Patterns Ginger skirts, Wiksten Tova tops, Colette Pattern Laurel and Peony dresses, Grainline Studio Moss skirts and Scout Tees.  There's probably a Sewaholic Renfrew or two in there also.  One impulse make that I want to repeat is my by Hand London maxi Anna dress [second from the right, four rows down]. Oh, the feeling of swishy rayon slipping around your legs while you walk.....  These are all links for those of you who don't know these patterns by heart (or by name) already. 

My great realization this May was that while I really want to make some more detailed and intricate patterns (Grainline Archer, Sewaholic Granville or Oakridge, Colette Hawthorn, By Hand London Flora, Sophia, Kim), and I think I would wear them. No, I know I would wear them... But the reality of my time management is that I like to know I can make a garment, that will go on my body soon, in a couple of hours from cutting out to hemming. I own my own business, I work pretty much all the time. So when I sew, I need to make the time really worth it. I am proud of wearing all me-made, you might even say it's part of my identity, my brand (ugh). However I don't have tons of time, or attention, for intricate garments.  This is why I look for classic garments with clean lines that I can tweak to make unique, and produce over and over again. This explains my huge appreciation for the patterns of Grainline Studio and Colette Patterns.  They make up the majority of my closet. I know when I get one of those patterns tweaked to my lumps and bumps, I can make garment after wearable garment. 

Then when someone tells me how no one sews anymore, I can smugly say I made everything I am wearing....and I run my own business.  So if I have time for it, anyone can have time for it.  I am going to strive to take some of my deep dark Winter making time for more detailed patterns. But in the meantime I have my eye on some more simple, fast patterns like Blueprints for Sewing Cabin, Grainline Studio Morris, Colette Patterns Aster , Liesl & Co. Gallery, and Sewaholic Hollyburn.  Need to keep it fresh, even if I am a creature of habit.  What about you? Do you make garments?  Do you have favorite patterns? 

Carolyn Friedlander

Talking to Chawne Kimber