To Sew or Not to Sew?

I’m debating this year whether I should make a new dress for Easter. I have this great border fabric I bought probably two or maybe even three years ago with a gift certificate from a friend that would be perfect, but I keep holding off because I don’t want to make the wrong pattern choice and then regret cutting it up.


I’m also not wild about my current shape, another reason to hold off (though, that reason can last for years when you don’t do anything about it). I don’t know. I’m ambivalent at the moment. One thing I am sure of is that at the end of the month I’m hosting a fabric swap at my house for a bunch of ladies who sew. Hoping to get rid of stuff that’s been hanging around with no purpose and maybe get a few new pieces with possibilities.

Partly in anticipation of the fabric swap and partly due to a sudden inability to take the mess anymore, I’ve been cleaning up my sewing area. I was shamed into mending half a dozen pairs of pants my husband had asked me to fix over the course of the past, oh, let’s say five years. It took all of half an hour. After that I realized that there wasn’t too much more to put away. So I did.


As I was searching for extra buttons to fix Zach’s pants, I realized my button organization (or lack thereof) was untenable. So I found some jars and organized them by color. I put up an extra thread rack that had been lying around for months (I don’t even remember where it came from) and organized all my thread by color.


It feels good to be so orderly, to look at colors other than white and gray. And now that I can see what I have, I realize I have a few big projects — recovering a chair, recovering an old comforter, recovering a cushion — to attend to. Perhaps I’ll find that they, like the pants needing mending, will be fairly simple and painless.

My Easter Dress (Plus Two Dapper Dudes)

Here’s what I was sporting this Easter in the SEVENTY-TWO DEGREE weather! It’s Butterick 6582, a vintage reproduction pattern. The linen-look fabric was snapped up at Jo-Ann’s with a Christmas gift card back in January (many thanks to Zachary’s grandmother for that). The sash was just something I threw together in lieu of a self-fabric belt.

It was a beautiful day in all ways: weather, music, message, baptisms, and friends old and new joining the church.

My photographers didn’t get the bottom to show the length, but pretty close. This is my handsome husband/pastor.

The boy looked especially handsome, I think. As we were walking out the door in the morning, he announced to us that “We’re an Easter egg family.”

You didn’t know I sew? Don’t feel bad. I just remembered myself.

Ten days and no posts? Unheard of. So you know I’m busy. I’m busy with work, spring break, editing, writing. And I’m busy making a new dress for Easter. It’s going to be big.


Big skirt. Big flowers. Big color.


And it’s kind of a big deal to me since it’s been two years since I made a new Easter dress (last year I wore one I’d made previously for no particular occasion).


And it’s been simply too long in general since I sewed anything. I think I needed a bit of a break after I sewed all of this in 2012:


But break’s over. Time to get busy.

Overcriticizing Your Own Work (or How NOT to Take a Compliment)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Sunday I wore this dress for the first time. I made it back in early September (if you found this blog through the Sew Weekly, you may have seen it before).

Normally I’m someone who dives in, wings it, fixes along the way if necessary, and comes out of the creation process with something I like. Something that fits. Something that works.

Not so with this dress. I thought I’d be smart and really measure and really fit the pattern to my body, and so I ended up thinking I needed to lengthen the bodice (that’s the top part of the dress, for you non-seamstresses out there). But it turns out I must have done that all wrong. And I neglected to check the neckline while doing my alterations. So I ended up with something way too low-cut for comfort and bunchy around the torso to boot.

It went straight into the closet and I decided I would take the time to fix it later. Yeah, right.

Then Sunday morning I decided to finally wear it. I’ll wear it, I reasoned, so I can really get a feel for what needs to change. I put a light turquoise tank underneath to deal with the neckline problem and wore it to church.

I got a lot of compliments on it. No one noticed the flaws (except perhaps my close fellow seamstress friend who may have been wondering about the bizarre bodice issues). People loved the fabric (which I also adore and which is one of the reasons the fit issues were such a huge disappointment to me). They loved the pleats. They loved the whole package.

But as I received their kind comments I quickly told them about all the flaws I needed to address. Not being seamstresses, they all adopted a somewhat glazed over look in their eyes and were probably thinking, “Geez, Erin, I was just trying to give you a compliment.”

Not surprisingly, this whole experience got me to thinking about writing, editing, and sharing our work with others…

Lesson 1: We’re all our own worst critics. Well, unless we’re deluded. We see the flaws in our work that others do not. What we need to ask ourselves is whether we can be satisfied that others see beauty when we ourselves see something that’s almost-there-but-not-quite-yet.

Lesson 2: If you’re not happy with it, go ahead and work to make it exactly what you wanted. If it will continue to eat at you and keep you from confidently showing your work to the world, keep making it better. Go ahead. Indulge yourself in all those little edits. However, you may, like me, discover that you constructed your creation so well and so precisely that to fix it you have to do a lot of work and everything you alter will mean some other part needs to be altered as well. (This is why I like making clothes but not altering them.)

Lesson 3: At some point, you really just need to let go and let the thing be what it is. Sometimes the more we work on something the worse it really gets. I’ve worked a piece of clothing to death. I’ve probably worked over my first as-yet-unpublished novel almost to death. Sometimes you just have to call it quits and move on to something new.

Lesson 4: Don’t point out the flaws that have already gone unnoticed. It’s not humility. It’s false humility. It’s fishing for the other person’s comfort and reassurance (and more compliments). It’s giving you a chance to talk about yourself more. Just gracefully say thank you and move on to another subject, perhaps returning the compliment to them somehow.

Now then, where’s my seam ripper?

Sew Long, 2012

It’s been a busy sewing year for me as I participated in 44 challenges at The Sew Weekly (the very last one is yet to be posted). Here’s everything I made this year. If you want to see all the Sew Weekly posts, here’s a link to my posts. Click each one to read it, page through to find them all.


The one that hasn’t been posted yet (and that I’m not entirely sure will be posted) is one of my favorites. Here’s a sneak peek, in case any of you happen to be interested.


In the coming days I will celebrate my 12th anniversary and my 33rd birthday, along with another family Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a busy time of year and I look forward to a fresh start of writing, blogging, and living in 2013. See you on the other side…

This, That, and the Other

In my non-literary life, I spend a lot of time sewing, often using vintage patterns, sometimes vintage pieces of fabric, and sometimes both. A recent creation of mine was featured on The Sew Weekly, to which I am a regular contributor. And I was happy to receive a nod from the lovely Jody at Couture Allure, who was the source for the vintage flapper dress pieces that made their way into my 1920s dropwaist dress.

I did a lot more blogging about my sewing on my previous blogs, but I thought I’d mention this particular project as a jumping off point for a new feature I’m developing called Destination Lansing. In 2013, I will do a weekly blog post highlighting the many things that make living in or visiting Michigan’s state capital a treat. One of those places will be Potter Park Zoo, where I recently wore this dress. Why would someone wear a flapper dress a la The Great Gatsby to a zoo? Well, it will all make sense if you read this.

And though F. Scott Fitzgerald was not from Michigan, he was born in the midwest, so there’s a loose tie-in there with the real purpose of this blog (to champion the region and, eventually, feature more content of Michigan authors, books set in Michigan, and my own literary efforts, which are ongoing but as of yet mostly private).

Beyond that, sewing occupies a prominent spot in my next work in progress, so it’s not completely unrelated to my writing. Anyway, I guess since this is my space I don’t really need to justify what I decide to write about here, do I?  😉

As the rottenly hot summer winds up today and cool autumn begins tomorrow, I anticipate the return of my poetic muse (who rarely visits in the summertime) and I’m looking forward to sharing the beauty of this bittersweet season with all of you.