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Deadline grows closer,
I’m sewing in a puddle
Of tears and regret.

Check out the Selfish Seamstress Store for haiku goodies- proceeds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.


Another day, another whole lotta thinking about me. Such is the life of the truly selfish, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And as is often the case, I’ve been thinking about myself and my blog.

When I mention to people that I maintain a sewing blog, often the first thing they ask is whether a lot of people visit. I don’t do any rigorous stats tracking, but I say that it seems to be quite a lot of traffic these days. The next thing they ask is, “Do you make a lot of money off of your ads?” And when I tell them that I don’t do paid ads or sponsors, they are surprised at the wasted opportunity. Similarly, I’m often asked by other sewers why I give my patterns away for free rather than trying to sell them. Why not be more… selfish?

Here’s the thing- I have no moral or philosophical objection to people making money off of their blogs or sewing. Quite the contrary in fact- I love knowing that people are able to leverage their beloved activity in a way that benefits themselves, and sometimes even supports them. You know how I feel about doing things for your own personal benefit. Passionate. And ads on blogs don’t bother me at all (so long as they are sitting there quietly and not popping up windows or obscuring the content that I want to see). I even appreciate a nicely curated ad that was chosen because it might be interesting or relevant to me. Would I ever even have heard of ModCloth or any number of independent vintage pattern companies if not for these little ads? People who blog are putting something out there for others, trying to make a contribution, so why not get a little something in return?

So why don’t *I* advertise on my blog then?  And why don’t I charge money for my pattern downloads?  The answer is simple (and you should have guessed it by now if you’ve ever visited this blog before): SELFISHNESS. Sewing and blogging are two of my primary free time activities, and the less of a “job” it is to me, the better. And if I’m getting paid for it, it becomes kind of a job in my mind, and with that comes a sense of responsibility and accountability, a.k.a. YUCK and YUCK. Perhaps no one else would feel that I was accountable, but I would. As it is, I try to post at least a few times a week, but as you know, life (and sometimes extraterrestrial life) can get in the way, and maybe there will come a time when I just don’t feel like writing or sewing for a whole month. Or six. I don’t want to worry about whether my advertisers feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, or whether they’re being cheated, and I certainly don’t want that worry to be my motivation to maintain a certain quality or frequency of posts. If I feel like writing crap or hibernating, that’s up to me :D

Same deal with patterns- I’m an amateur drafter, and an even more amateur grader. As it stands now, you get the pattern for free and if you think it stinks, well tough noogies for you- I warned you to sew it at your own risk, and guess what? It was FREE. That’ll teach you to download free stuff off the internet :) It doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t look right, why doesn’t it come in size 38? What do you want me to do, give you your $0 back and head back to the drafting table to fix your customer service issue?  Ha. I’m obviously exaggerating a little bit here, but I think this should give you an idea as to why I am so very very NOT interested in charging money for my patterns ;) (And seriously, who would pay $5 for a pattern download by an acknowledged amateur drafter? Not me.)

That pretty much sums it up- the whole lack of commercial features on my blog is driven not by any holier-than-thou attitude towards profiting, but instead out of pure and simple selfishness, self-centeredness, and lack of responsibility! I won’t promise it will always be this way- circumstances and priorities may change. But for now, this is how it stands. Selfish, lazy, and all about me and my own personal glorification.

You might be thinking, “Ah, but Selfish, what about your Selfish Seamstress Store? You sell things for charity, which seems like both a blog-related responsibility AND unselfish!” I have gotten comments to that extent before, and all I can say is that you greatly, greatly misunderstand the motivation behind that. You hear the word “donate” and you think of it as altruism. I think of it as taking advantage the masses whom I have ensnared into reading my blog, and manipulating them into doing things to make the world a little bit more into the world that I want it to be. And making sure they think about me every time they drink their coffee. Shameless self promotion. See how that works?  Now go buy some mugs and t-shirts to support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Do as I command!

[Note: If you are suddenly feeling like this whole post was actually one long roundabout ad, you would be correct. Hahaha. You think I zig?  I zag!]

For better or worse,
For richer or for poorer,
But mend your own pants.

Check out the Selfish Seamstress Store for haiku goodies- proceeds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Super stylin’ Susan over at Knitter’s Delight once left me a funny comment recounting the time that she noticed someone was hitting her blog by searching on the phrase “I hate Knitter’s Delight.” Any of you have visited Knitter’s Delight knows, of course, that there’s absolutely nothing there to hate, unless what you hate happens to be really cute dresses on a really cute blogger.

Anyway, I was just perusing my own impoverished stats, and noticed something unusual in my own top search terms from yesterday:

Yes, all the usual suspects are there like “selfish seamstress,” “gargamel,” “baby bunny“, and “coffee date dress.” Then there’s the new and unexpected but totally explainable “fashion knickers 1981.”

Ooh, but look at that- there’s also a never-before-seen search term that got cut off:

“elaine may the selfish seamstress is a p”

WordPress stats reporting cuts the phrase off after a certain length, so I’ll probably never know for sure what the whole phrase was, or whether it was nice, neutral, nasty, nosy, or none of the above. (It must have been important though because they searched on it five times.) But I think it would be a fun game to guess! So far, my top guesses are:

“elaine may the selfish seamstress is a pretty, pretty lady!”
“elaine may the selfish seamstress is a princess,”
“elaine may the selfish seamstress is a peter fan in secret,” and
“elaine may the selfish seamstress is a perky ray of sunshine the first thing in the morning when i open my eyes

I guess there’s also the very very teeny tiny remote possibility that the “p” is the start of a phrase beginning with the words “piece of.” But that is just oh so unlikely. So, readers, I open it up to you for an afternoon game. Fill in the blanks and be creative!

By now it’s probably old news to many of you that BurdaStyle is coming out with a book that will feature some new BurdaStyle patterns and variations on them created by BurdaStyle members. I was invited to submit a top-secret design, so I sketched up a variation on the coat design they sent me, without entirely thinking through the consequences. And then the actually chose my design, which I was not expecting. At first I was like, “Sweet! My sewing is going to be in a book!” And then suddenly, I was like, “Oh crap, I have to sew a whole coat in a couple of weeks.”

I’m very proud to be a part of this great project and this is a very cool opportunity. But a piece of me is pretty apprehensive as well about being able to get this finished and having it turn out ok. I should have thought this through beforehand! I rarely ever sew on a deadline and I’ve got a busy month ahead of me. I haven’t got all the materials I need for the coat yet, and I’m not sure where to get them, and the fabric I received from BurdaStyle is not exactly what I was picturing for the design, though it is very pretty. It’s not entirely free labor- in addition to the glory, the designers also get the garments back to keep after the BurdaStyle folks shoot them on models for the book. But they said to expect about an 18-month turnaround time, which means it will be long enough before I get the coat back that for now it feels like I won’t be sewing it for myself, but for someone else. And you know how that usually goes for the Selfish Seamstress ;)

Wish me luck!

Let’s start all over
Just make it all go away,
Darling seam ripper.

Check out the Selfish Seamstress Store for haiku goodies- proceeds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Yesterday’s poll was pretty enlightening.  If your predictions are correct, things are going to go very sharply downhill in Selfishland while Dan is out of town for the next week. Top predictions were:

Sink full of dirty dishes (158 votes as of this writing)
This is a distinct possibility. Cereal bowls and yogurt spoons mostly probably. Unless I stock up on those drinkable yogurts and eat my cereal by the fistful straight out of the box. Hmm. Good ideas, good ideas. Of course, I haven’t eaten anything yet today so as of now the sink is still empty.

Sharp increase in online fabric shopping as surrogate for love (158 votes)
Possible, but I’m also holding out for a little shopping in Seattle, so it’s possible that some restraint will be practiced. I’m trying to work through some stash this week though, and if I do a good job that may give me the false sense of security that pushes me over the edge into some sort of late-night online fabric shopping spree.

Malnutrition (117 votes)
See “Sink full of dirty dishes” above.

Picking on cat due to unfulfilled need to pick on someone (113 votes)
Never! Baby kittums can do no wrong in my eyes. Don’t be ridiculous.

Blog oversharing resulting from lack of social interaction (112 votes)
Hmm. I would say this is probably unlikely. I think I’m pretty good about keeping personal stuff personal and avoiding the TMI. You never know though- I could get unpredictable because I have my period right now.

Big pile of finished sewing projects (107)
Well, this might be a bit optimistic (though to be fair, “Big pile of unfinished projects” wasn’t too far behind in the votes.) But I have decided to work through some stash, as I mentioned a moment ago, and although Dan has only been gone for about an hour an a half, I just finished this Sidonie skirt:

Pardon my bad face day. I didn’t actually make this skirt in 1.5 hours. I started it last night while Dan was packing and finished it this morning. Sidonie is a BurdaStyle pattern which I downloaded back when most of the BurdaStyle patterns were still free. It’s as no-brainer as a lined skirt with a zipper can get. Bias cut with just two back darts.

I used a gorgeous wool remnant that I purchased from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston back in April for $7.50. I had intended to make a skirt with it when I bought it, but I hadn’t thought to do it on the bias (don’t you love a bias plaid wool skirt?). And since I decided in favor of bias last night, I had to do some serious, serious fabric acrobatics to cut this out of a mere 3/4 of a yard. First, I eliminated the back seam and put the zipper on the side (I like this so much, I see no reason to make this with a back seam in the future.)  Also I had to eliminate the narrow waistband because I didn’t have a long enough continuous piece of fabric after cutting the front and the back. And finally, I shortened the pattern and made about as narrow a hem as you can possibly make on a fairly heavy wool.

And this fabric- this is REAL wool. I love this stuff. It loves to be ironed aggressively with tons of steam, and it’s gorgeous and cooperative and scratchy and flannelly and so very very scratchy (I know I said it twice)! I don’t know if I could even have stood it if I had been able to add the waistband. The only issue I had with this plaid was that it was somehow slightly warped even though the plaid itself is completely square. I had to really force it to be symmetrical on the bias and despite lots of tugging and grain straightening attempts, the skirt is still ever so slightly lopsided. But I don’t think it’s noticeable to anyone but me.

I was completely obsessive about matching the plaids, as you can see from the photo of the side seam above. I even adjusted the dart placement slightly so that he plaid would be mirrored on either side of each dart:

And I did the zipper by hand, as usual:

As you can also see, I did a little topstitching at the waist for some stability and to mimic the look of the missing waistband.

Instead of using regular lining fabric (I am finding the usual lining fabric linings on my skirts to be increasingly annoying and uncomfortable) I used some very posh, smooth Vera Want knit that I got from some months ago. It was described as “luxe” and it certainly is- it’s got a creamy, cool, weighty feel to it, and I had purchased it with a goddess dress in mind. However, when I received it I found that it had sort of a sickly off-white shade to it, the aesthetic of which reminded me of nothing so much as a … um, are you allowed to say “condom” on a sewing blog?  Um. Anyway, it’s turning out to be a wonderfully luxurious and comfortable lining for a heavy, scratchy fabric. (Actually, I just noticed after taking the pictures that the lining is a little bit long and you can see it in that first picture.  I guess I’ll have to take another inch off of it.)

Oh, and I’m wearing it with my Minimalist Cowl top, the pattern for which you can download for free.

Okay, I was going to make myself some lunch, but I think I’ll get started on another skirt instead. More later!

The one calming and centering presence in the life of the Selfish Seamstress, Dan, is going out of town tomorrow for a whole week. And you know what happened last time Dan went out of town. Undoubtedly sloth and chaos will be unbridled and entropy will ensue.

(The rainbows are there to taunt Peter, a.k.a. one of the sewing bloggers who is NOT marrying Dan, no matter what scheming he may be up to.)

At the same time, all of the Selfish Seamstress’s normal scheduled evening activities (namely dance classes) are on hiatus until the start of July. And for her, idle feet often mean idle hands.  And idle hands… probably don’t feel like cooking dinner for one.

So here is the question.  What will become of your Selfish Seamstress over the following weekend and week before she heads off to Seattle? (Thank you for all of your fabric store suggestions, everyone!) Check all that apply, or suggest your own outcomes!

Did I miss anything?

The silver leopard print satin that I used to make the now the destined-for-my-mother’s-closet Drama Queen Jacket (McCall 5487) was actually purchased without a plan in mind. I generally try not to purchase fabric without having a specific garment for it, as I try to keep my stash relatively small (though it has been growing a bit in recent months, to my chagrin.) But in a way, leopard is its own kind of neutral and makes sense for a variety of garments, so there was no doubt that I’d find a use for it. And I guess I did.

But prior to deciding on the jacket I was playing with the fabric in front of the mirror, and I wrapped it around my waist and turned to Dan and said, “How about a pencil skirt?” He looked at me and his eyes lit up and he exclaimed, “Oooh, cute!” And while I’m not generally the type to make an effort to cater to my guy’s taste in matters of dress, the delighted expression on his face sort of sealed the deal. Plus it did look pretty cute as a quasi-skirt. I did all kinds of interesting fabric acrobatics when cutting out the McCall jacket to make sure there would be enough left over for something like this J.Crew skirt ($138 and sold out!):

Don’t worry, I won’t style it like this. I will not tuck a tie into my waistband and I will (probably) brush my hair. Sloppy-from-the-waist-up is a look that models can pull off and make it look intentional and chic. On me, it’d just look, well, sloppy from the waist up :)

One of my prolific sewing-blogging heroes has been whipping up adorable pencil skirts right and left lately and doing plenty of legwork on pattern and style reconnaissance. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have any of those patterns, and I decided that I should just put on my big girl panties and draft one already. I mean really. A pencil skirt is practically a sloper, and I already have one of those. And what’s the point of having taken drafting classes if you can’t be bothered to flex your drafting muscles every so often? But the thought of pulling out the craft paper was somehow so daunting for your very lazy, Selfish Seamstress.

So I went with the easy route:

That’s the high-waisted pencil skirt #138 from Burda’s main collection, I think only available as a download.  It was on sale for 99 cents (lots of their downloads are on sale at the moment on the German website – just be sure you’re comfortable navigating the German online ordering system if you want something because I am not going to hold your hand and translate!), and that seemed to be a fair price for some continued laziness. Here’s their finished garment photo:

As you can see, the model and I have practically the same figure, so I think this should work out just fine.

I guess I should have seen this coming in light of yesterday’s discovery of the 50-foot tall Burda Professor. Dan arrived home a little while ago from his trip abroad to get me the July 2010 Burda issue, and as soon as he got in the door I pried it out of his bag with my selfish little hands, looking desperately for the coveted pants that I’ve been lusting after and…

… of course. It’s the one pattern in there for the extra tall girls. Burda sizes 72-88. Duh, how did I not see that one coming? The model is a freakin’ Amazon. (Though to be fair, I have seen issues of Burda in which they used the same model for both the tall girls garment and the petite girls garment, so you can’t necessarily guess based on the model.)

Needless to say, I was mad. “Can’t you do ANYTHING right?!” I screamed at Dan. “You get your sorry butt back to Frankfurt and YOU. FIX. THIS.” But after I punched a hole through the wall and calmed down some, I decided that it wasn’t worth sending him back because he’d probably just return with some lame excuse about having checked every newsstand in Germany and how all the Burdas were the same. Which would mean even more days with no one to cook dinner for me, and still no viable pants pattern. So I sent him off to the bedroom to think about what he did.**

I’m not sure what my plan of action is now. I may just try to draft a similar pair of pants myself. Going from a pant pattern designed for extra tall ladies and editing it for my sub-petite inseam is probably asking for trouble, given all of the weird pulling and sagging issues that can occur when you start messing with the crotch/hip/tooshie area of an existing pants pattern. I don’t know.

The Selfish Seamstress is just going to ponder why nothing ever seems to go her way while eating some of the cookies and chocolate Dan brought back for her from Europe. Poor, poor Selfish Seamstress.

** It is also possible that Dan may have just wandered into the bedroom himself and passed out from jetlag. It’s unclear.

Sweetheart out of town
Means Cheerios for supper
And sewing till dawn

Check out the Selfish Seamstress Store for haiku goodies- proceeds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

The sewing obsessed are already undoubtedly aware of the independent pattern company Colette, which produces lovely vintage-inspired patterns, like the Chantilly dress pattern above.

Colette patterns come in sizes 0-18, which I think are meant to be much closer to normal RTW sizing than the Big 4 sizing scheme (how many home seamstresses got messed up by making a Big 4 pattern according to their usual RTW size rather than their measurements the first time they tried to sew something?) Colette is also notable for using models who look like pretty ladies you’d see out in the park or at the office rather than 5’10” fashion models. I won’t use the phrase “real women” because as one who lacks curves, I can tell you that it’s no fun going from being teased by other kids about one’s scrawny, undeveloped physique from the age of 12  to being told repeatedly as a grownup by other grownups and the media that “real women have curves.” This is *my* reality. And it barely fills an A-cup.

But on that topic, the Colette patterns are generally shown on beautiful curvy, zaftig, hourglass-shaped women, perfect for modeling the retro styles from the era of classic pinup girl. And most of the Colette garments I’ve seen made up on blogs and websites are on ladies of at least average curviness (and by this I am referring to shape, not size or weight). In fact, the according to the size chart, the Colette size 0 is designed for a 33″ bust (body measurement, not finished garment measurement).  I wear a size 0 RTW, and with the Big 4 patterns, I wear (or grade down to) a size 4. However, the size 4 bust measurement for a Vogue or McCall’s is Selfish Seamstress-sized 29.5″ (don’t even get me started on the Big 4 waist measurement BS), a full whopping 3.5″ smaller than Colette, so we’re potentially looking at a very non-trivial SBA with a Colette pattern.

Granted, I know that there are some Colette styles that wouldn’t suit my figure even if I could get them to fit properly simply because the styles themselves look best on curves, but I thinking even a gamine like the Selfish Seamstress would like a coat like Lady Grey?

My question is: have any of you who have been “blessed” with a boyish figure (again, talking about shape, not size) tried out Colette patterns, and if so, how did the fit work out? Are they cut for a different kind of  ladyshape than Burda or the Big 4? Ladies of modest endowment and minimal waist definition, pipe up!

Oh my goodness! Dear readers, thank you for your outpouring of warmth and congratulations over my recent engagement-inducing puppetmastery of Dan via sewing. Hopefully Dan will not realize how he has been manipulated into matrimonial subservience until it is much too late. And I am so very happy to receive all of your warm wishes and words, I can’t even express it. The Selfish Seamstress is at a loss for words. All I can say is, thank you, June, Cidell, Bernadette, Koritsimou, lunatepetal, Amber, Amanda S., Rachel, Daci, Hashi, sa, Auntie Allyn, Brooke, Jan, jen, Elizabeth, sandoz18, Karen, Rachelle, Karin, Kathleen, nettie, Colleen P., Sewing Sue, Tasia, Belly, a peppermint penguin, Christy, Rachel, Debi, Shelley, Leigh, Susan Davis, MakingTime, wendy, Claudine, CGCouture, HollyS, Nikole, Katie, Trisha, Meredith P,  NT, Dora, Peter, wan-nabe, Cindy, Angie, Megan, Lee, meli88a, Trena, LindaC, reilly, Beangirl, Susan, Margaret, bookishbella, Len, Angela, Tracy, Uta, Nancy K, Debbie Cook, earthanddust, Karin (the Mrs.), Alison, Stephanie, Crystal, CarmencitaB, girdtmom, Stef, JillyB, Jenny, D, Venus de Hilo, Isaspacey, Plummy, Kim, Lee-Ann Galway, Vicki, Samina, Eloise, Janice, Paula Lemos, BeckyMc, Sue Prichard, beth, Silvia, Sherry, Daisy, Sue, Karen, Stephanie, Jessica, becky, Elly, Remnant, yazmins, dana, yoshimi, Shirley, Joanna, Ann’s Fashion Studio, Vivienne, Jean S, AllisonC, AlewivesGirl, Amy, Nikki, Victoria Baylor, Noile, A Sewn Wardrobe, AmyG, Reethi, Karen, Andrea, Whitney, Jennifer Susannah (the other one), Lise, Vicky, Jane, Henriette, Shannon, jenny, seemane, Becky, Renee, Vicky@coffeeandmilkies, Laurie, Sara, Erin, Benny the Bunny, Melissa, Pattie, line3arossa, Sarah M., various Anonymous commenters, well-wishing lurkers, and anyone else I might have missed. I would hug you all personally if I could! And this coming from the Selfish Seamstress, who has NEVER hugged anyone in her entire life except her cat.

Just a thing or two about the ring since there were so many comments about how interesting and unusual it is. Don’t worry, I am not becoming one of those engaged people who blabs and blabs about her ring.  Just this once. Dan picked the ring out from a company called greenKarat, which sells ethically and environmentally conscious jewelry, relying on recycled materials and conflict-free stones. The ring itself is made from reclaimed platinum and set with a lab created emerald (i.e. not mined.) I adore it, not least of all because he put so much thought into finding a ring that I would love to wear and that works well with our values. I’ve never been much of a jewelry person and would probably not have minded if the ring had come from a cereal box, as long as it was from Dan, so the simplicity of it suits me well. Not that I’m against big fancy engagement rings in general- I’m always thrilled when friends of mine who really know how to appreciate a giant rock get the ring of their dreams. Such a gem would be wasted on me though. Had Dan presented The Selfish Seamstress with such a ring, her unappreciative and ungrateful response would most likely have been something like, “Seriously?  What were you thinking? We could have put all that money towards our retirement!”** Anyway, check out greenKarat if you’re on the market for some new (old) sparkly stuff.

As for the dress, I do plan to make my own, but before you get your hearts all a-flutter, I should burst your bubble by making the disclaimer that we intend to have a very simple, very casual wedding. (We’re hoping for a simple Jewish ceremony followed by a big backyard barbecue with Filipino food, but it’s all still barely in the planning stages and neither of us seems to have access to a big backyard.) I apologize to those of you who were hoping for a fairy tale wedding gown sewing blog saga, complete with tutorials on how to construct a cathedral train or hand bead Alençon lace with individual Swarovski crystals, but right now my dream dress comes down just past my knee and is made of plain white cotton voile.  The Selfish Seamstress intends to be a dull bride, indeed! Don’t worry though- there may be a fun tulle underskirt hidden somewhere. (Probably under the skirt.)

Of course, I’m looking to all the usual sources for inspiration, like Audrey in Funny Face:

And Grace.  No, not that Grace Kelly wedding dress, but this other one from High Society:

I’m not planning on copying either of these wholesale (definitely can’t pull off those balloon sleeves), but I do hope to capture something of their flavor. Not thinking too hard about it just yet though :)

As for the bridesmaids, my sisters have already been informed that they can wear whatever they want, new or from their closets, matching not required. (Do I even have to state that I will not be sewing dresses for them?) And my other attendant will probably be a guy, which means boring clothes. Leave it to the Selfish Seamstress to suck all the fun and pomp out of a wedding, right??

** “our retirement” is the phrase the Selfish Seamstress would have used in this situation, but in her head what she really would mean is “my Bernina 830.”

You all know by now that the #1 rule of Selfish Seamstressing is, “Don’t sew for others, only for yourself.” If you aspire to be a Selfish Seamstress and have managed to achieve this perfect equilibrium in which every item that passes under your presser foot goes straight into your closet, you should pat yourself on the back- you have reached an extremely high degree of proficiency in Selfish Seamstressing.

Of course, sewing only for oneself is often easier said than done. Perhaps you don’t want to make an enemy of the gossipy lady at work who really wants a pencil skirt “just like yours.” Maybe you don’t want to look like the b who can sew but is still too selfish too make something cute for her neighbor’s toddler, about whom you are SICK OF HEARING ALREADY. Or maybe you think your mom is the kind of person you don’t want to turn against you. For those of you who are still working on your Selfish Seamstressing skills, you might like to refer to my handy guide “Selfish Seamstressing for Beginners,” which I put together a few months ago, to help the novice avoid the most frustrating and hair-pulling-out experiences of sewing for others.

Today, however, for those of you with very high Selfish aspirations, or those who have mastered the art of sewing for oneself and are ready to move on, I offer up this guide to Selfish Seamstressing for Experts! What more is there when you’ve gotten to the point where everything you sew goes to you and you alone, and people know not to ask for fear of the eye daggers you will shoot them? It’s quite simple:

You can use sewing to exploit your friends to get stuff you want.

Oh yes.  Advanced Selfish Seamstressing moves beyond sewing things that you want to using sewing as a weapon to manipulate the people around you to do your bidding. Any hobby seamstress has been approached with a request like, “If you make me such-and-such, I will pay you back for the fabric,” or “If you sew some new pants for me, I’ll cook you dinner!” And any seamstress worth her salt knows that these are unfair trades through which she would undoubtedly get the shorter end of the stick unless the friend in question is Thomas Keller. And when faced with such a request, the natural response is annoyance. (Check out Carolyn’s brilliant and eloquent post on this topic!) But the truly truly selfish seamstress should regard this as an opportunity. After all, only the very feeble minded would assume that paying someone back for the fabric is somehow a square deal, right? And when you’re an expert Selfish Seamstress, the question should not be, “How do I get this person off of my back?” but rather, “How can I exploit this friend to my best advantage?

The secret is choosing the right friends. Like with fabric, patterns, tools, etc., if you can’t use them, lose them. Think of them as objects in your strategy to use sewing for world domination. Case in point:  my adorable friend Nienh:

Nienh is fantastic in her own right, no question. She’s smart and fun, always up for doing stuff, and has a brilliant sense of snark which puts the Selfish Seamstress to shame. She drinks tea with her dog, which is kind of awesome. But, more importantly, she serves as an excellent case study from which to draw lessons about picking your friends for selfish seamstressing purposes.

1) Choose friends who have excellent taste and really nice stuff. You’ll notice in the photo above that Nienh is wearing a Coffee Date Dress, sewn by yours truly. Now, before you gasp that the Selfish Seamstress actually sewed a whole dress for someone else, allow her to show you what Nienh gave her in return:

Oh yes. Nienh gave me those in return for a Coffee Date Dress, which at this point I can pretty much sew in my sleep. $10 worth of ivory stretch cotton sateen from Vogue and a couple of hours of easy sewing parlayed into a gorgeous pair of black patent Nine West wedges. Needless to say, Nienh has great taste. A win for the Selfish Seamstress!

2) Choose talented friends who can do awesome stuff for you. In exchange for the Coffee Date Dress, I got more than just shoes.  (Negotiation skills are crucial!  Who said trades have to be one-for-one? Always aim for at least two-for-one!) Nienh also painted me this cityscape of my favorite bridge in Chicago:

That’s right!  Shoes and a beautiful piece of original artwork, custom made for me! Are you starting to see the advantages of advanced selfish seamstressing? With a few more years of practice, I’m thinking I can easily parlay a half dozen basic sheath dresses into a chateau in the French countryside and a beach house in East Hampton.

3) Whenever possible, choose friends who are a convenient size. Sounds weird, right?  It’s not.  Advanced selfish seamstressing is all about minimizing your effort and maximizing your reward. Choose friends whose proportions don’t deviate from the back of the envelope or who are perfectly symmetrical or otherwise easy to fit. Case in point: Nienh is just about the same size as the Selfish Seamstress which means no tedious fitting! The Selfish Seamstress made up that Coffee Date Dress in her own size, handed it off to Nienh as is, and claimed her prizes. Easy! Another advantage of choosing friends who are exactly the same size as you?  If you make something for yourself and you don’t like it, you can pretend you made it for them and use that as yet another opportunity to wheedle shoes out of them.

See? It’s as simple as that. And with a little practice, you too can use your sewing skills to turn the tables and take advantage of the people around you.

As a final story to inspire you to reach ever higher in your Selfish Seamstressing aspirations, I’d like to share a tidbit from my recent surprise trip to Montreal in which I pulled off perhaps the greatest selfish seamstressing coup of my career. Dan arranged the surprise trip to celebrate four years together, Montreal being the city where he first told me he had a crush on me (aww!) back in 2006. In light of this anniversary, I had undertaken a simple S.W.A.G. project for Dan, using the secret fabric I alluded to buying at Whipstitch. Here is the fabric itself:

Sock monkeys and bananas! And here is the S.W.A.G. present, modeled by Dan himself, sporting a little bedhead on account of me dragging him out for a photo right after waking:

Super simple drawstring pajama pants! I sneaked a couple of early morning stitching sessions, and he was none the wiser.

And now you are probably nodding along in full understanding of these advanced concepts. After all, the Selfish Seamstress sewed up a quickie pair of jammy pants (which she has yet to hem), and in return was whisked off on a romantic surprise weekend trip to a beautiful city, put up in a beautiful hotel suite with a whirlpool tub, treated to dinner at a lovely French restaurant, and patiently accompanied to more than a few fabric stores in Montreal. Great deal, right?  She milked that boy for all he’s worth!

Except he had one more thing up his sleeve during that trip (remember what I told you about aiming for at least two-for-one?):

You know you’ve mastered Selfish Seamstressing when you manage to exchange a pair of sock monkey print pajama pants for a promise of lifetime commitment. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

“Hey, while you’re at it,
Can you sew for me too?”
Time to make new friends.

Check out the Selfish Seamstress Store for haiku goodies- proceeds will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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Total donations to date:
$270.00 to the Atlanta Humane Society
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