Mural: ‘Love, Knowledge, and Peace’ by Steve Smith~Dla’kwagila
Have you ever decided to spend a chunk of time in a new city, filled with excitement and an anything-is-possible attitude, bolstered by good wishes from people saying, “Oh, that’s great! You’ll love it! You’ll do so well there!”, only to discover that it’s just…not your jam? You spend so much energy trying to figure out why you don’t fit in or why it doesn’t fit you before finally giving into the fact that it’s nobody’s fault — it’s just not a good fit? That was essentially our summer. After a year and half of the pandemic making our industry even more fickle and weird than usual, my husband Neil and I decided to take a risk for three months and try out some pastures that were rumoured to be greener. We’re a fairly adventurous couple and you know what they say: If nothing changes, nothing changes. So we rented a trailer, hitched it to the car, loaded it with motorcycle and abridged sewing gear, and off we went. It’s not that we didn’t have some beautiful experiences and see some amazing things, but living in a tiny space with not much light, on top of not finding the work opportunities we were hoping for, definitely made for some interesting learning and growing. Still, I’m grateful for the last few months because, for me, clarifying what doesn’t work often helps me clear the path for what does. I know the self-help gurus are cringing at that statement, but I’ve found it to be an important and valuable part of creating my life, even if I only appreciate it in retrospect
This Deer and Doe Patterns Sirocco Jumpsuit was actually the first garment I made in our temporary digs back in June. As I mentioned, the place was small, but it did have a little bonus room with a little table in a corner. When my wonderful brother-in-law was kind enough to make — and laminate! — a slightly bigger surface that I could put on top of it, I plunked my sewing machine on the long side and my serger on the short one and presto: I had a wee little sewing nook. How many times have I said ‘little’ in this post already? Should we make it a drinking game?
Anyway, I figured starting with a knit project would give me a good chance to test out my set up. This teal stretch jersey from my stash doesn’t have the best recovery, but it’s a good weight for this project and, most importantly, I had enough yardage. I generally only get a one-and-a-half to two yards/metres of knit fabric if I don’t know what I’m going to make with it, but I must have had some bigger plans whenever I bought this. I decided to go for a (hopefully) wearable muslin and try out a sleeve hack I’d been mulling.
As I was looking through the thousands of snazzy Siroccos on IG, I didn’t see very many with puffy sleeves, so I tried out a tutorial that the infinitely inspiring Mijke (@sewitcurly) had on her feed. I liked the one-step process for cutting and slashing that she uses that automatically adds height to the sleeve head, rather than having to do it after. It worked like a charm! I forgot to take a bit of length off the shoulder of the bodice, though, so I got cozy with the seam ripper, removed about an inch, and reattached the sleeve. I also couldn’t get the idea of a 40s-style cuff out of my head, so I drafted a simple band and just eyeballed the outer curve. For a clean finish, I cut and sewed two pieces for each cuff, turned them right side out, and then sewed the right side of the cuff to the wrong side of the sleeve so that the seam is hidden once the cuff is flipped up. I also serged in some clear elastic due to the aforementioned recovery issues with the fabric. I’m so tickled with the way this hack turned out! This feels like something Rosie the Riveter would have thrown on when she had the gals over for a game of cards after work.
Not to harp on stretch recovery, but it brought up another concern for me: the waistband. There are no zippers or closures on this baby, which means relying pretty heavily on the expansion and retraction powers of the fabric to get it over the hips to hug the waist. To beef up the retraction component, I had what was, in theory, a brilliant idea of lining the waistband piece with soft stretch mesh. What I wasn’t expecting was for the mesh to pull down on the height of the outer waistband due to their different stretch percentages, which made waist collapse in a very not-cute way. Ugh. More unpicking. Unless…what if I just cut the mesh horizontally down the centre? Then the mesh in the seam would basically serve the same purpose as putting in clear elastic… resilience, but a bit softer… Hallelujah! The brilliance was back!
At least until I realized that the whole thing was a full size too big. So I pinched. And pinned. And pinched. And pinned. By the way, this is why I love really long pins – pin-basting is one of my favourite techniques for fitting. The upside of having to take it in so much? No unpicking! I could just cut off the original seam. Take that, Seam Ripper! (Just kidding — I love you and I would be nothing without you please don’t ever leave me.) Now I can happily fold these awesome, not-so-secret pyjamas into my fall wardrobe rotation! I totally get why this pattern is so popular.
This jumpsuit was the first of only four completed sewing projects in the last several months. Granted, two of them were bathing suits, of which I am very proud, but my plans were much more ambitious than that. It’s kind of the perfect metaphor for my entire summer. I tried some new ideas. Some worked, some didn’t. It took some effort, but I managed to right-size things and accept that failure is an option, but it’s not necessarily how things will turn out in the end. You just have to keep going. I’m so excited to get back home, back to all my sewing tools (my cutting table! my dress form!), back to the spaces and places that fill me with the creative energy that feeds every area of my life. How lucky am I have such things to return to? As the days get shorter and cooler here in the northern hemisphere, I hope you have a hobby, a space, and moments of time where you can be experimental, messy, and joyful.
Happy Autumn, Everyone!