Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dud City


Of the last twelve things I've made, only three of them are real life wearable (my beach bum shorts and skirt and my white Luella tunic in case you were wondering).  Three!  Three of twelve.  Twenty five percent.  Those are not good odds.  My friends, I am officially in a sewing rut.  A deep sewing rut.  I have made the occasional wadder in the past, of course.  But never this many in a row.  I'm discouraged.

I've sat looking at the duds (no pun intended- ha!) for a while now trying to figure out why.  Why so many?  Why have I lost my sew-jo?  What is it that makes each piece a failure?   In the past, I figured there are two main reasons a piece doesn't work.  The style of something is just wrong.   Either the fabric doesn't work with the pattern or the shape just doesn't work for me or my lifestyle.  Or there is some technical issue that makes me not want to wear it.  Like a floppy collar, pointy darts, a pucker or something weird about the fit.  In the case of every single dud I've finished recently, it's the style that I don't like.  I'm making things that I don't like!  What's wrong with me?  I spend hours making something, then put it on and think... meh.  I feel like I used to have such a good handle on what I liked and didn't like.  Now I don't know.


To be fair, some of those pieces above are okay.  The crazy kimono is growing on me.  The green skirt is a refashion of this dress.  I wasn't going to wear it again and I didn't want to waste that pretty dip dyed linen.  And I am planning on fixing my Nicola dress bodice at some point.  I don't have the confidence to do that now.  Someone asked me a while ago if I thought my style had changed since becoming a mom.  I hadn't really thought about before then, but now I can answer with a definite yes.   The problem is that I don't know what it has changed in to.   

I am delving in to this now because I desperately need clothes I can wear to work.   I teach art in an elementary school, so I can get away with work wear that most people can't.  I don't need corporate work apparel or anything.  But I do need to look put together.  I need nice work clothes that make me look like I know what I'm doing (i.e. things with real waistbands, buttons, collars, etc.).   When I went back to work last school year, I bought a bunch of stuff in a hurry because nothing fit.  I was four months postpartum.   I bought several skirts and a pair of black pants with an elastic waist from j.jill.  I do love that pair of pants, but it's hard to wear them without looking like you have your pajamas on.  I didn't care at that point.  I was just trying to figure out how I was going to eat lunch and pump at the same time.  Then by winter, I fit back in to my old clothes.   Yet I didn't find many things I wanted to wear.  I wore weird things last year.   I think I wore the same pair of corduroys about seventy-five percent of the time with different blouse-y tops.  Moms of little ones, help me out.  What do you wear on a daily basis?

Anyway, this is an incredibly self indulgent post.  I am halfway through my summer which is why I have the time to think.   I really have been sewing a lot.  Baby Jane (or maybe I should call her Toddler Jane) is consistently taking a two to three hour nap in the afternoon.  Which is awesome for me and my sewing machine.  I just wish I could actually produce things I want to wear! So help a girl out.  What do you do to get out of a sewing rut like mine?  What can I do to figure out what will work and what won't (ahead of time)?  I want to put on something I've made and think yeeeessssssss.  You know what I'm talking about.  I need some sort of plan.  I am not a planner by nature.   I have one more month of summer so I want to take advantage of this sewing time while I have it.  And pants!  I need pants.  Real pants with waistbands and zippers.  But mom friendly, too.  That's a tall order, isn't it?  I think I also just need someone to commiserate with me and all my duds...

And because I want to leave on a positive note...


 ... here is something I made that ended up perfect.
:)



45 comments:

  1. What about knit dresses? That's my go-to for teaching. Comfy, easy to sew and wear, and they look professional enough. (I wear leggings in winter, and leggings shorts in summer so that I can sit on the carpet with kids and not flash my drawers!) Maybe some knit pencil skirts to go with your circle tops, or some faux-real-pants, like the Sew Liberated Skinny Jeans made up in stretch twill? Good luck - I"m curious to see what you make for the new you!

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    1. I do love knit dresses. I wore knit dresses constantly before. But for some reason I don't seem to have any now. That is definitely something to look in to! Although we have a strict 'no leggings' policy at my school :(

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    2. Not even leggings as tights? That's harsh. I wouldn't get through Canadian winters without them!
      I found the pants pattern i was really thinking you might like... it's a skinny pant with a zip, but somehow also an option for a secret knit waistband that no one will ever see or know about but you. I haven't sewn from this company, but judging from their FB group lots of people seem happy with these pants! http://www.jocole.net/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=8_27&products_id=144

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  2. Do you have the time or willingness to go do some snoop shopping? Including trying things on? I love Gillian's suggestion of knit dresses with leggings under. I'm also a fan of the slim a-line skirt something that lets you move about without worry. Good Luck - and Toddler Jane is adorable! What a cute, cute baby. g

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  3. I can really identify with what you're talking about here. At several key times in my life ( after a baby is definitely one of them, and I had three!) my clothing needs and style have changed. It can be pretty disorientating when you're in the middle of it - it's almost like, who am I now? I don't know what I want to wear anymore! Yes it is a first world problem, but it's still confusing and a pain! During those times, I've usually stuck to a few well fitting classics that are pretty basic (i.e. Black trousers with a variety of tops a bit like what you did with the corduroys) and slowly and new style begins to emerge. After having a baby, some of it really is adjusting to focussing (just a little!) on yourself again. If it's any consolation, I'm in the throes of a style review due to life and weight and age changes. There are two things I've found helpful. One is doing the exercises from the Colette Wardrobe Architect series (on the Coletterie blog, info now in the side bar), this encourages you to dig really deeply into your background, why you wear what you wear etc. Yes it is a bit time consuming but I think it's worth it. The other was looking at fashion magazines while at the hairdressers! I don't buy fashion magazines as a rule because I object to the unrealistic way they portray women's bodies and I rarely shop rtw, but it's been useful for me to see how they combine clothes and also just to confirm there are still clothes out there I actually like. Then I bear them in mind when showing what to sew. More up to date people told me they make a collection on Pinterest from various favourite inspiration sites and look for a unifying factor. For what it's worth, I think you've sewn some fabulous stuff lately. Your print shorts and skirt stand out for me and they definitely reference your old style so maybe you just need to tweak abit.

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    1. Yes, first world problem. I honestly felt a little silly writing this post. But work clothes are necessary! Maybe I should get back on Pinterest and browse around. I try to avoid it because it's such a time suck. I only skimmed that wardrobe architect series but that's also a good suggestion.

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  4. My kids are teens now, but I had the major wardrobe/style malfunction. I could not fit into anything in a store and it made me angry. Which is pretty great sewing motivation.

    What you're wearing out now is a good indication of what you're rolling with. Take a pattern off those corduroys and make some more pants like them. Make a pair in a crazy print. Allow for fail. Stretch denim is not evil. Make sure it all washes and that you have a couple of can'tfail/goto items. Don't go for outfits; that planetary alignment will only happen once a month.

    And splurge on one of them. So much of this time in parenting is all about the kid, and your kid is adorable, but you matter, too.



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  5. I have definitely been there! I'm still there! My son is 21 months now, so you'd think it would wear off. But my body changed, and it's a lot to get used to. And it changed again when I weaned.

    I'm definitely a lot squishier around the middle post-baby (at the same overall weight) and that's mean a serious shift in where I want things fitted, and how much. I've been wearing a lot of skinny jeans and big, swingy tunic tops with a shrug or cropped cardigan over, to give the impression of a waist. My other new favorite thing is shorts with tights or leggings and boots, and then some kind of long sweater. Depending on how fancy the shorts and sweater are, this can actually look quite put together, and it's AWESOME for kid chasing. Simple sheath dresses can also be great.

    Some resources:
    - http://aintnomomjeans.com/ is full of pictures and suggestions and recipes for outfits. Not a sewing blog, but great for getting a sense of what styles are out there.
    - Pinterest, of course. Pulling together images I like and then going back to see what they have in common is great.
    - Polyvore for similar reasons.
    - the company Free People has a serious customer gallery of people's outfits using their clothes. I'm not sure if you're into the free people/boho style thing (and some of it's pretty silly), but I found it to be a helpful resource for putting together outfits that go beyond top + bottom. A lot of what they sell boils down to simple shapes that drape well, which is also something I like to sew. Seeing similar clothing in action helps me figure out how to wear it, or what about my projects isn't working.

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    1. Thanks for all the links! I am also a big fan of the big, swingy top and skinny jeans. And Free People. I'll have to check out that gallery.

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  6. I can't relate to the mum-part, because I haven't got children yet, but I do sympathize. I need to adjust my wardrobe too to some life changes, and it is a progress. Start out small, maybe a pair of go-to pants, and go from there. You won't get a perfect wardrobe instantly, but try to enjoy the process. And don't be so hard on yourself, clothes are supposed to be fun and enjoyable :) Good luck!

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  7. I was in a similar way when my son was a few months old, with the added fear of measuring oneself post-baby. So I picked a simple pattern (Tilly 's Miette) and a beautiful loud happy cotton and made myself one thing I liked, from there I was able to focus a bit more on what I wanted to see for myself. So I think you need n easy win, sew something you know you like in a fabric you love, it can be super easy or boring, but give yourself the boost of sewing something simple, well. In terms of dressing with children (I have two under 3) I sew things for myself in two categories - lovely grown up things (occasionally) and everyday things that make me feel good and can be stand up to regular washing :) On my sewing table at the mo is a Cake Cabarita in stripes. Secret pyjamas are also great (ponte pants, lightweight shorts etc). Fwiw I think you always look well put together and artistic on your blog. :)

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    1. Thanks! Washable is definitely a must :)

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  8. This does sound familiar - and I found it really hard between my pregnancies 'cause I knew it was all going to blow out again ;0 I'm just getting comfortable with my 'new' shape now, but I lived in maternity jeans with fitted breastfeeding tanks under loose tops & layered waterfall cardigans for a few years ;) Now, I have kept the scarf as accessories and embraced shorter skirts with leggings. I also browse 'style sites', and follow some of them on Pintrest, like YouLookFab. Oh, and I got the old ColourMeBeautiful & other style books from the library to learn the basics of silhouettes.
    And I second the call that knit dresses are fabulously comfortable & a complete outfit with minimal effort ;)

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  9. Stay positive - the tide will turn :) Perhaps have a shopping trip where you try on a bunch of clothes and work out which ones make you feel good - then go home, find a corresponding pattern and sew up a few pieces that you love. Good luck - you'll find your groove again :)

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  10. Grab someone you trust and go shopping just to see what looks good on..Ask the opinion of the trusted friend. Take photos or make notes. As for the sewing..keep it simple. Simple garments, simple separates..I mean we all know who is taking up a lot of your attention ;) that adorable baby..

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  11. I know how frustrating this can be, I've felt the same myself and that's without even having my life change by having a child. I was going to suggest the Wardrobe Architect series, the same as Phillipa above. It really helped me figure out the kind of styles I actually like to wear, rather than those I just like the look of.

    Good luck!

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  12. You got a lot of good advice and I'd like to second the knit dresses and the knit pencil skirts. Also making a copy of your favorite corduroy jeans and sewing them up will add pieces to your wardrobe quickly and that seems to be what you need right now. This is an older blog reference, Shannon of Hungry Zombie Couture (http://hungryzombiecouture.blogspot.com/) is a teacher and if you read through her blog, she spent summers sewing. I like how she made a lot of basics over and over so that she'd have a wardrobe for school. It's a little more "professional" than you want but I think her methods will help you!

    And kiss that adorable baby every day! She is soooooo cute!

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    1. Ooh, thanks for that link. That's what I need to do, sew some basics now to get me through the year. Or at least get a tnt pattern under my belt so sewing during the school year is easier.

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  13. ah, duds. it happens. (though i'm drooling over that crazy kimono.)

    when i think back on my duds and groan at the fabric "wasted" i just remember i learned something or got better at something i already knew, even if just by repetition. which kinda helps, but still a bit of groanage.

    there's a vogue knit wrap dress that everyone has made and loves-- V8379, it fell into my hands at a meetup and it's a GREAT pattern. of course, i don't know work appropriate from adam, but maybe it would blend your (newer) style with work style?

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    1. A wrap dress would definitely be work appropriate.

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  14. Buy a new pattern that stretches your skills a little bit. Shopping isn't my usual recommendation for the blahs but I've seen this phenomenon in my own sewing and in others. Yes, life changes may be a big factor, but from the sewing side I think it's sort of a sophomore slump. I often notice someone who's sewing is really interesting out of the gate and then it becomes repetitive and uninspiring (I've seen it in my own, too). It often seems only the people who are new to sewing try the most ambitious projects, maybe they don't know better, but they often have better than expected results. Then after sewing for a while we become more conservative and try to repeat past successes and sometimes fall into assembly line sewing or compulsively trying to sew up every scrap, finish every ufo, etc. And that's the point where the blahs kick in. When I began sewing most my clothes I kind of figured it would work well for me because I'm not that trend conscious anyway. But I've come to think being fashion conscious is more important for those who sew, not because they need validation but it's nice to have a frame work to bounce ideas off of and just chasing the little changes in fashion can be enough to keep out of a rut. For me I had a point where I had all these A-line tunic/t-shirts in bold colors that I was wearing constantly unitl one day I just couldn't look at them. My solution was to move into simple solids for a bit while I figured things out. So that's my advice try something new and a little ambitious, sounds like separates are what you actually wear. I like Vogue 1387, haven't tried it. Recently I've found everything from Named Clothing inspiring and Republic du Chiffon, but finding something that suits your tastes is paramount. Or how about making Vogue 1247 again, that pattern always feels fresh and is so flattering.

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    1. I think you hit the nail on the head with 'sophomore slump.' Trying something ambitious might be worth it. I've avoided more complicated things because of a lack of real sewing time. And I have wanted to revisit Vogue 1247 for a while now.

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  15. My kids aren't as tiny as yours, but when they were smaller, my wardrobe was all about washable separates. Lots of bright colored knit tops with darker bottoms. Since I'm long past nursing now, I've gone back to dresses for a majority of my daily wardrobe now; still mainly the machine washable kind. Cake patterns are great for everyday knits. Kitschy Coo's lady skater is another great basic that goes together quick and looks "put together" without being fussy. As far as pants, I haven't made any for myself lately, but I have the jalie jeans pattern I want to try out. If you had some bottom - weight fabric (denim or not) with a bit of stretch, that patten looks like it has great potential for everyday mom wear that could cross over to work wear with the right tops.

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    1. i have that same Jalie pattern. I've never opened it. Maybe now is the time!

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  16. I feel for you... I kind of had similar issues when we moved across country to a different climate and changed jobs where the collective dress code went from business casual veering corporate to business casual veering casual and arty. This was almost two years ago and I'm only just feeling more comfortable! It must be even more of a shift with a baby...What saved me was shopping. I had been sewing almost everything, but I was too busy and so dissatisfied and I just needed some clothes! It was good, though, I got a few things that helped redefine my style and filled some huge holes so I felt like I could get dressed in the morning. And now I'm starting to make clothes that actually work, but with no pressure. If it works, great, if not, I have something to wear already. Good luck!

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  17. Not that I was terribly formal before having my 15-month old, but I'm definitely more casual now - it comes from spending a lot of time on the floor and around messy toddler hands.

    But I hear your frustration, so many of my favorite dresses aren't nursing pumping friendly (we're still nursing), so I can't wear them, unless I want to change before and after work (which, no). I've been focusing a lot of my sewing for babe and for me on well-made basics - like a lot of t-shirts. They're quick to make and get worn a lot. I basically do a 3 tried & true/easy project to 1 more complex ratio.

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  18. I can't really relate on the mom front, but I can relate on the style slump side of things. When I was in grad school I wasn't really sewing to make a wardrobe - I was sewing to experiment and have fun. Everything was a crazy project, and nothing needed to fit into my lifestyle or wardrobe because I was just going to wear ratty jeans, t-shirts, and sweats to the lab anyway. It was all about creativity and exploration and fun. Now that school's over I'm trying to figure out who I am and what I want. It is difficult - and I can't say I'm doing a good job of it - so it is hard for me to figure out what sort of a wardrobe I want to have. (The fact that I somehow have ended up sewing on commission for a lot of other people hasn't helped me in the style department either.) I think you have to decide what kind of sewing you want to focus on - sewing for creativity or sewing for wearability. The items you have made are really fun and creative with colorful prints and exciting patterns. But if you want to sew for wearability I would go with basic patterns in solid colors or with basic prints (like stripes or polka dots). The things I've felt the most creativity in designing seem to get the least use, whereas the basic knit tops get worn almost daily. I would suggest maybe making 3-4 basic items (like 2 knit tops, a knit dress, and a knit skirt) and then make something totally wild and crazy and fun and beautiful, just to keep your creative interest alive. You can have the satisfaction for wearing the basics, but also have something fun to experiment with as well.

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  19. I think we can all relate. I have a love hate relationship with sewing, mostly love, so that is why I continue to do it. Nothing is more frustrating than making something that doesn't turn out....LIKE TODAY! LOL I lost time, money I spent on the fabric, and mostly my patience. So what am I going to do next? I am going to pull out a pattern that I have already made once that turned out perfectly and make it in another fabric. That will make me happy. :) Cheers to keeping sewing. You make gorgeous stuff. Make those shorts again that you just made recently. They turned out fantastic and who doesn't need more than one pair of fantastic-fitting shorts?!

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  20. I miss stopping by. I've been up to my knees in work, and it won't stop until Oct. Your girl has grown SO much!!

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  21. Hi! Sometimes a little distance from a project - even a year in the back of your closet…Take heart! When you have little time to sew - you want a big bang for your time. It is so frustrating too, when Mom time is at a premium. Be gentle with yourself. When I am in a rut I reduce the odds of failure. I go to my tried and true pattern (like a Sewaholic Renfrew pattern) and a nice fabric (not too precious) and enjoy the process. It's tough, I know. We want to be productive. Also if you can "trick your mind" that the process is just as important, if not more important than the final product, it may help…enjoy your time with your machine, no expectations. Take care <3

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  22. P.S. I love your style vibe - that is why I follow your blog, to get inspired! So as far as I am concerned. Your duds are probably awesome.

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  23. Just started following you...love your style! Maybe a few Colette monetas? I'm just about to try making one...looks supremely easy to make, mix-up with other things and wear. :)

    p.s. That little face is DARLING!!!

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  24. I've been there--wait a minute, I'm still there. Sewing all over the place and nothing's working. Finally, I realized I needed to SWAP (sew with a plan). Start with a 4 pack or 6 pack of coordinates (pants/leggings, tops/tunics, dresses/skirts, jackets/kimonos). Very specifically connect each item with coordinating fabric. (No more loosey-goosey--I'm talking to myself here). I'm in the process of doing this now and I'm finding it's working for me. I'm usually all over the place but I can manage small increments of easy workable pieces. I'm a little OCD and ADD so this was helpful for me: http://sewingplums.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/e-bk-wardrobe-plans.pdf . Hope this helps.

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    1. That link is great! Thanks. I am a fan of SWAP- but I am easily distracted. Sewing with coordinating fabrics is something I can handle though.

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  25. I've read your post a couple times, and here are a few lines that stuck out to me:

    "I'm discouraged"
    "What's wrong with me?"
    "I desperately need clothes I can wear to work"
    "I want to put on something I've made and think..Yes!"
    "I need a plan"
    "I have one more month of summer"

    I think you need to be kind to yourself. Yes, you are a new parent, you have changed and so your wardrobe needs have changed. Yes, you can sew, but does that mean you have to sew everything you need right now? I think no. You have not failed because you buy pieces to fill the large gaps in your new closet. Just because you CAN make tee shirts doesn't mean you NEED to make them.

    I'm often paralysed when shopping because I think, I can make that, so I should. But then I don't ever get around to it, or it ends up in the wadder pile. Why? Because for me, making basics is boring. All that work to fit something I can buy for a reasonable price. Sometimes sanity is worth the cost of RTW. I'm discovering that the challenge of a complicated construction, or the creativity of planning the personal details of a project is what really motivates me. When I have to be slow and considering...contemplating each step, that is when I feel like "YES! I made that!" I don't see the puckers in those projects or the shoulder adjustment I forgot to do on the facings. All that fades. But when I finished my plantain, all I could think was the fabric's too thin, the neck band is thicker in some places, the twin needle tension is weird, ect...

    Go through your closet and pull out those pieces that make you happy. The ones that represent the creative you. (Like that kimono). Then go to the store and buy some basics to coordinate with them. Sew for fun right now. Take your time. You can't put a deadline on creativity. You are an Artist. Don't turn your passion into a chore.

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    1. I one hundred percent agree with you when it comes to not sewing everything. But I do find that I like the things I sew more than the things I buy. I think I'm getting to a point in my sewing where my skills have surpassed what I would buy- at least in my price range ;). I have gone back and read my post a few times now and I do realize that this probably all stems from some anxiety about having to go back to work (sigh!). You are so right that I need to slow down and just enjoy the rest of my summer. It just seems to go by so fast!

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  26. I am all about tunics and leggings. Drapey, comfortable foolishness. I like the kimono!

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  27. Ugh, that's so frustrating. It's tough enough to have sewing fails, but when you have limited time to sew and feel like your wardrobe is rapidly dwindling, even worse! I second the advice to think carefully about what goes together when you select fabrics. The main problem with why my casual wardrobe doesn't work is that when I've sewn separates, I haven't really thought about what I'll wear them with. So it feels like I have way less clothing than I do because I have so many pieces that can only be worn with one thing! Also, how about experimenting a little with patterns you've already made- maybe that would be a way to guarantee success without being too bored? A Luella tunic, lengthened, but omitting the ruffles and changing the back gathers to one pleat (mimicking the front)? Something along those lines... the fit and proportions are already sorted, but it won't be a clone of something that's already in your wardrobe and there's still some fun design work to do.

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  28. You have some great comments here. I was especially interested in the idea of the "sophomore slump" - that rings true for me personally as well. My suggestion might be really cheesy, but it worked for me when I was trying to figure out who I was fashion-wise after having two babies and moving from working in an office everyday to becoming a remote, work-from-home employee for the company I worked for at the time. I watched a lot of episodes of What Not to Wear. Yikes, what a confession! But watching all those women try to figure out who they were and what clothes best expressed that helped me figure myself out, too. Good luck! I know there will be another side to the slump you're in right now, and I'm excited to see what it is.

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    1. I'm a remote WAHM too! It's really hoard to justify getting a set of clothes dirty when I don't have anywhere to go. I mean, I MADE my pjs, so that should be ok, right?

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  29. So glad you can talk things out here, you give us so much, we love being able to help where we can. Had a couple of thoughts/links to share - use or not - first is a blogger who makes some cool things (she makes ALL her clothes, whoah) and I thought of her because some of the things she has made seem like things you would like and suit your style. Alot of her recent post have been more complex, but if you browse back a bit, I remember things that seemed "you" - anyway for inspiration - here is that link: http://handmadebycarolyn.blogspot.com/

    Then the other idea, along the lines others have said about figuring out do you buy basics and make special things, or what...I have run across a blog lately that talks about wardrobe planning. I thought maybe the color ideas would help you figure out what you want to do with your basics for school, not the whole planning thing which seems a bit complex but interesting! She references another blog that goes thru all the steps and has lots of color palette wardrobe examples, anyway here is that link: http://www.studio-alexandra.com/2014/07/wardrobe-building-from-scratch/#.U9LMEo1dWFc

    And most of all - thanks for sharing pics of Baby (Toddler!!!!) Jane with us - my three are all grown so enjoying watching her grow very much.

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    1. Oops, that comment below was meant to be a reply to your comment!

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  30. Thanks for those links! And you are so right about Carolyn's blog. I have followed her for a while now and I swoon over everything she makes. I do love her style!

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  31. That last pic is quite an adorable make (chuckle)! I have such a hard time prioritizing my sewing and I understand having a dud is even more of a dud when you have limited time. One thing I did a couple of years ago was try to figure out: do I want to sew a wearable wardrobe (i.e. precisely what I know I need) or do I want to sew fun, experimental stuff and supplement with RTW? In the end, I focused on really basic wearables, especially getting some TNTs that I could make multiples of. And now I'm branching out a bit. Maybe knowing what you *really* want from your sewing will help focus your efforts?

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