Monday, February 15, 2021

Trying the KonMari Method - Clothing (A Maker Version)

As the old year* ended, I needed to lighten my load, eliminate the clutter (physically and emotionally), and prepare for bringing light and calm into my life. So, I decided to consult Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I had watched her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo earlier last year and felt inspired to go through my clothes. However, I did not follow her tried and true method as written. I gained a bit of space, yes, but there was no real catharsis or clarity.

Recently, I noticed people mentioning a new Netflix show, Get Organized with The Home Edit. I found it more like a commercial for the Container Store. There was no real thought about why they had all this stuff or if you should keep it. Instead, the emphasis was on the cute products to put it all in for visual aesthetics. Watching it, I felt uninspired by some of their storage solutions, especially when they displayed Reese Witherspoon's movie wardrobe and memorabilia. Working in a museum and being familiar with textiles and restoration, their decisions made me nervous. However, it did make me return to Marie Kondo's wisdom and her KonMari method of decluttering.

Confession time, months ago, I picked up her first book at a thrift store but still had not read it. So I originally started this undertaking only knowing the "Cliff Notes" version. The plan was to catch up on my reading as I went along.

According to her book, Marie believes you should move through your belongings in this order: Clothing, Books, Papers, Miscellaneous, and Sentimental objects. 

Clothing is first because, in her years of practice, she considers it the easiest one. Obviously, she has not worked with many Makers

Initial Observations:

Some of the items in my closet are clothing that my mother or I made DECADES ago!

1. They were made for a high school-size Lisa and will never fit again. 

2. They are no longer my style or in the colors that I wear. I mean, there was an iridescent pink ball gown skirt in there!

3. They were items that I was incredibly proud of and wanted to remember.

When I first started sewing clothes in the 1980s, that's how I spent most of my free time. I was fascinated by clothing construction and frequently attempted ambitious projects such as Issey Miyake and Karl Lagerfeld Vogue designer patterns, lined garments, bound buttonholes, the pad-stitching of a tailored jacket, and working with sheer and silky fabrics. Back then, I didn't know to be scared of doing those things; I was FEARLESS!

For sentimental reasons, those items avoided "the purge" time after time. I would move them from one home to another, and they continued to take up space.

A great point Marie makes in the book that doesn't stand out enough in the media is this:

It's NOT about throwing things out; continually throwing things away to eliminate "clutter" is not  calming, and it will never bring happiness. The goal is choosing what you want to keep in your life (the Does it Spark Joy? concept). It's a way to take a closer look at what you surround yourself with and how it makes you feel.

My personal experience was that I loved most of my clothes, but why wouldn't I? I made them! As a maker/sewist, I could say that about my clothes because they were unique to my tastes and style.

However, I could eliminate some:

  1. Things that were several sizes too small, items stretched beyond repair, pilled knits, and others that I no longer felt good wearing. These would be easy to discard.
  2. The "slightly ill-fitting item but after losing a few pounds I could fit again" items. Who needs that pressure?
  3. Those that may still spark joy, but because of the style, I would not wear them.
  4. Things that my late mother made for me over 30 years ago.
  5. Things that I planned to alter or adapt that I still hadn't done.

The other goal was to remove these from my home in a way that I felt good about, either by donation of the good RTW stuff or fabric recycling because clothing donation sites don't take kindly to handmade items. (There is no easy way for them to label sizes on these, so I get it.)

There was a small fear that if I got rid of everything that doesn't spark joy, would I have any clothes left? The answer was yes, the ones that matter.

Here is everything in this category that left my wardrobe.

Final Observations:

Outerwear: I gave away five jackets/coats which could not close over my hips. I kept the four that fit; three I bought recently and my handmade Issey Miyake-designed coat.

Tops: I found out my wardrobe is 70% tops. I am severely lacking in coordinating skirts and pants.

Pants/jeans: I found a well-fitting pair of jeans recently bought (during Covid) that I had lost track of in my closet! I now have four wearable pairs of jeans and two pairs of knit pants.

Scarves: I had several but never wore them. ALL GONE.

Underwear: Two sad bras are now gone, and I replaced some worn underwear and socks.

Purses: I thought I had maybe 6-7, but I had SIXTEEN bags! How did that happen? I now plan on storing the bags that I kept in a way where I will see them and use them more.

Shoes: There were so many that I no longer wore. I lost five uncomfortable or worn pairs. The others will be stored so that I can see them and wear them more often.

Here's an example of decluttering I found on the Interwebs from Wild We Roam. It isn't the KonMari method, but I felt this experience was very similar to mine.

Coming up next, more of the KonMari process...

*The year that must not be named.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Finally! The 2019 Kitchen Makeover Update

Way back, at the end of 2019, I updated my dad's kitchen in the house I grew up in. I realized I never wrote about it here, even though the research and planning took up most of my time and energy. I guess it took me all of last year to process!

Our kitchen has always been a project because it was subject to my father's whims. He would "makeover" the cabinets, backsplash, countertop, and appliances whenever he spied a bargain at a retail or thrift store. Oh, the memories; the silver tin backsplash, mismatched cabinets in different wood grains, awkward cabinet placement that limited accessibility, replacing two useful dish cabinets with a wine rack, and lots of kitschy knick-knacks, many of them depictions of roosters!

The sole survivor of kitsch!

While my dad agreed to my plan to start over and have a complete redesign, there were tense negotiations on almost everything. Some of them:
  • I would work with a Home Depot consultant* to design the kitchen, get measurements, and order the cabinets.
  • His handyman would install the cabinets and not Home Depot.
  • I could order unfinished cabinets that will be painted to lighten up the wood-paneled kitchen. 
  • I could choose the color because it needed to be warmer than the white prepainted ones available.
  • I could choose ALL of the design components, cabinet layout, door style, backsplash, and flooring.
  • Everything (but the cabinets) must be available in the store, nothing could need to be shipped.*
  • I could personally sanded, primed, painted, and polyurethaned all of the cabinet components.
  • I could install the tile backsplash by myself.

The picture above shows how it looks now, and below is a rundown of almost everything we purchased to change it and make the kitchen look cohesive and much more functional. If you want, take a deep breath, and scroll to the bottom to see how it was.


*I actually wanted to order this flooring in gray, but that was nixed. It's my one regret, and I often think of it, especially after something spills on the lighter floor. 

My inspiration for the mix of cabinet hardware:

HGTV Magazine

Not Pictured:
  • Glacier Bay 33" all-in-one drop-in double bowl stainless steel sink with pull-down faucet, $199.39 (N/A)

Renovation total without supplies was $2,090.30.


BEFORE -2017?**

AFTER - 2019

**Yes, that is more countertop creeping up that back wall. Ugh. Also, EVERYTHING is brown. Welcome to my childhood.
* Thank you, Margaret "Margi" Cooper!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Simple Sofa Pillows - Singer Sewing for the Home

No, not more garment sewing but some necessary and long overdue home sewing.

In 2016, I created two custom slipcovers for a 62" wide octagonal ottoman we use for a coffee table, one in a wipeable vinyl and another in upholstery fabric. Before 2021 arrives, I have now finished the matching sofa pillows in that same subtle green, brown, teal, and orange Ikat print upholstery fabric. (Let's just say I have a little problem with procrastination, ok?)

Sewing for the Home (1988)

It wasn't difficult because I had the help of my first Singer Sewing Reference Library book, Sewing for the Home. My favorite method for covering pillows is their version that has an overlap closure. 

So easy, so elegant, so quick! If you don't have this book, there is a very similar tutorial from So Much Better With Age. I also found one by The Crafting Nook that uses one piece of fabric, simplifying the process.

I could have used a ruler and measured the 17" x 17" front and 17" x 22-1/2" back pieces right on the fabric. Instead, I created one paper pattern measuring 17" x 22-1/2," which at full size I could cut the pillow back. By folding it under at the 17" line, I could also cut the pillow front. Therefore, one pattern could be used for both parts.

During construction, I reinforced all the stress points by double stitching at each corner and the overlap area, knowing that these pillows would need to be hardworking. I then steamed every seam and pressed them with a clapper to create flat crisp edges.

This is a great way to change your decor quickly and cheaply; it takes less than two yards per typical couch accent pillow. An added bonus is that if you chose only machine-washable fabrics, spills are no longer a problem if you move quickly.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Blouse Obsession Made Real - Friday Pattern Company Adrienne Blouse

Pattern: Friday Pattern Co. Adrienne blouse (2018)

Pattern Description: Slightly cropped knit top with statement sleeves gathered at shoulders and hems with elastic.

Pattern Sizing: XS-4X, I cut out an XL, even though my measurements call for size L. 

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? It looked exactly like it!

Were the instructions easy to follow? This is such a simple top. The only thing that might cause difficulty is if you are not familiar with sewing knits. Otherwise, this is a very quick sew once you figure out your preferred amount of wearing ease.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I fell in love with the neckline, the gathered shoulders, and the drama of those full sleeves.

Fabric Used: 54" Dark Navy/White Rayon/Lycra rib knit from FabricMart, leftover plush back bra strap elastic from the stash, Dritz 1/2" braided elastic for sleeve cuffs, Gutermann 100% polyester thread in Silver #100.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: With this first one, I choose to sew it with no alterations, not even a full bust adjustment. I have another knit ready for my final version, so this is also a muslin.

I cut this in the XL size even though the pattern measurements suggested I make the L to fit bust measurements of 38" to 39". I chose to work on the side of caution and go larger because the pattern calls for 6-1/2" in negative ease! I wanted a fit that I would feel comfortable wearing and was scared of it looking too small and like a sausage casing, to be truthful.

Of course, it turned out too large, and I ended up opening the side seams and taking them in along with the armscye. I believe it ended up equivalent to the Large. I didn't reopen the elastic at the shoulders, so the neckline didn't get reduced and is too loose. I now believe a size L with a full bust adjustment might have been fine.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I will definitely make this again after I figure out the right size to cut.

Conclusion: I have been seeking out versions of this top for months, knowing I wanted to make not one but several of these. I love the finished ones I've seen, especially all the print versions and the dress hacks out there.

After a while, I realized why I was immediately drawn to this pattern. It strongly resembles the gently squared necklines of two of my favorite dresses, both worn for royal weddings: 1) Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway's dress designed by Ove Harder Finseth, and 2) Lady Sarah Chatto's dress by Jasper Conran. The Adrienne blouse only ups that wow factor by adding a much fuller and gathered sleeve. I already have a lush ivory knit in mind for a winter-white knit version.

Ove Harder Finseth design

Design by Jasper Conran