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It’s OVER!!! I sent in the BurdaStyle book coat yesterday after too many late nights of tearful sewing, too many fun outings missed on account of grudging, miserable sewing, too many other things I could have been making and didn’t, and far, FAR too much whining about it all! Haha, you think I’m done whining? I’m not.

In the end I would have to say that the coat is neither beautiful nor well made. It is passable. But as the deadline grew tight, the quality of the workmanship on this decidedly work-intensive project became increasingly more “brute force” and with rapidly diminishing finesse. My general high-and-mighty philosophy of, “If you’re not going to sew it well, don’t bother sewing it at all” disintegrated quickly under the weight of a deadline and the drudgery of a project I did not enjoy. There are known puckers. There are corners cut. And after spending waaaaay too much time on this coat in the last two weeks and dropping quite a bit of my own money and digging into my personal stash for materials, I have taught myself my own lesson about S.W.A.G. sewing once again. BurdaStyle unfortunately did not cover the cost of linings, trims, and notions, which I imagine wasn’t much of a big deal except for the people working on the coat project, but it did end up being a little more than I wanted to put into it. Plus due to the necessity of a last-minute redesign because of a supplies miscommunication, I made an executive decision to ditch the fashion fabric that BurdaStyle picked out (sorry, BS! Thanks for sending it though! You can have it back if you want!) and sent to me because it wasn’t going to work and ended up using my own fabric instead. So suffice it to say, by the end I couldn’t bring myself to invest any more time or resources in dainty details or hand finishing. It’s okay though.  Not gorgeous, but hellz, it’s still a handmade freakin’ coat.

I can’t show you pictures of the final product, but I’ll show you something I bought from the thrift shop so I could cut it up to make part of the coat:

It’s a big ol’ fake fur coat!  And the best part of it (because the fur itself feels kind of heinous in the way that fake fur does after it’s been around the block a couple of times) is the label!

Oh yes this is a genuine Tissavel from France.  Originally purchased at Sears, which some of you may know better as “The Fashion Place” or “Place de la Mode.” I think from now on I’m going to refer to Sears as Place de la Mode (with my best French accent, bien sûr!) as in, “Darling, I think this weekend we’ll need to make a little jaunt over to Place de la Mode. I am just aching for some snow tires and a new Tissavel.”

Back on subject- I’m sort of excited for the book to come out, but if I never see the coat again, so much the better! It’s not my style anyway so I probably won’t wear it even if it does get sent back to me eventually. But I’m hoping that the good folks at BurdaStyle pull out all of their art and styling big guns for the photoshoot. They do have fantastic stylists. Under the right conditions and on the appropriately gamine-like model, I think the coat could be made to look chic. Those conditions, however are not “on the Selfish Seamstress, walking around on the street.” But whatever, done! Done, done, done! Out of sight, out of mind, which means I can stop sewing it and stop whining about it, and finally get back to sewing other things and whining about other things!

Permit me to get started right now with me me me me ME ME ME me me me ME! Me me me leopard pencil skirt me me ME TWEED SKIRT SUIT me me ME ME me me new sleeves on blouses me ME me ME me ME flowy pants me me me me me me me me me me black wool trench coat me me ME ME me finish leopard jacket me ME me ME me ME me ME me ME tux dress in plum and gray me me ME me me ME plaid wool jacket me me ME ME ME me me me ME ME ME me me me mod stewardess dress ME me ME ME me me me me me me me me houndstooth sheath dress me ME ME me clown costume just kidding ME ME me me ME me ME me ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME

Well, hello! It seems some of you have been wondering where I have been, why I haven’t been updating my blog, haven’t been reading and commenting on yours, haven’t been spreading the word on selfishness and seamstressing, and generally spreading my usual good vibes throughout the interweb. Thank you all for your concerned comments and reproachful nags (as you can imagine, I have a soft spot for comments that are both belligerent and flattering). Was I badly injured in a freak snowshoeing accident?  Was I eaten by bears?  Did I (gasp!) decide to abandon you all for good??  Fear not, treasured readers, I am well and there is a very simple explanation for my absence:

Alien abduction.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy. All I can really say is that they come in peace. To divulge any information beyond that would be risky and imprudent. So don’t ask. But suffice it to say that despite all that extraterrestrial ray-gun-and-flying-saucer dramarama and a surprisingly not-boring lot of Winter Olympics coverage, I did manage to finish the Valentine shirt for Dan, Burda 133 from the 10.2005 issue. Here it is on Dan, as he channels is inner model, with Slurpee and mobile phone as key props:

He’s been wearing it to work in hopes that someone will compliment him on it so that he can brag that I made it for him. So far no bites. I have decided this says more about his co-workers than it does about the shirt. Style-oblivious troglodytes!

I’ve made this shirt for Dan before (obviously during some other period of unselfish idiocy) with the only fitting problem being that the sleeves were a little too short. This time I lengthened them by an inch and a half and now they are mysteriously too wide.  The shirt fits well through the chest but could stand to be a bit slimmer at the waist. I could take it in a smidge, but stocking the house with cookies and pie sounds like the easier and more fun solution. After all, why edit your sewing when you can edit your partner?

The Selfish Seamstress loves to read other people’s sewing blogs.  She does this mainly in hopes of finding mentions of herself.  (Secondary reason: So she can steal your ideas.)  Recently she has noticed some bloggers making comments somewhat along the lines of, “I wish I could be more like the Selfish Seamstress!”  How tremendously flattering!  Are they jealous of my long flowing hair?  My remarkable intelligence?  My keen sense of style?  My intermediate sewing skills?  My adorable tuxedo cat?  Then it dawned on me:

People admire my outstanding ability to tell friends, family, and colleagues to bite me and die when they ask me to make them stuff.

Well, I can’t blame you. It’s quite the black art, and you can’t just develop these skills overnight, especially if you’ve spent years generously giving of your time and effort sewing stuff that leaves your hands never to return again. (Of course, the Selfish Seamstress was born without a capacity for generosity and compassion, and thus has quite the head start). If you’ve been sewing for others for a long time, it can be as hard to turn your back on unselfish seamstressing as it is to quit carbs. Because much like French fries and cookies, blood-sucking vultures are ubiquitous and hard to say no to. They often operate under innocuous-sounding code names like, “best friend,” and “granddaughter” to trick you into doing stuff for them.

As with many bad habits, quitting cold turkey often leads to relapse.  An alternate plan of action may be a gentle ramping down by prioritizing which unselfish sewing projects are the biggest waste of your time and cutting those out first. To help you out with this, I offer a handy set of general guidelines for those just getting started with Selfish Seamstressing:

The Selfish Seamstress’s Handy Beginnner’s Guide to Sewing for Others

Costumes for kids:
Rating: :(
Kids vary in the amount of gratitude they feel or express when you make them a present. They may be thankful or not, but by and large they are not going to feel  indebted. Many of them live in a dreamworld in which people give them stuff just because they’re kids.  This attitude buys you NOTHING.  On the other hand, if you’re going to make something for someone, it may as well be something that they really want and really get excited about, rather than something that’s going to hang unworn in a closet gathering dust and breeding resentment (on your part), so costumes are a good way to go. Plus, kids’ costumes are generally low-effort and use low-cost fabric (because why would you knock yourself out for something the kid will wear a couple of times and then promptly outgrow?) which means more time and money left for you to make something nice for yourself.

Mending and alteration:
Rating: :( :(
Yuck.  If ever there was a thankless job, it’s getting other people’s clothes to fit them.  It’s boring.  It’s uncreative.  People think it’s no big deal since, after all, you just love sewing, right? The only good thing that can really be said about mending and altering stuff for other people is that it often is a fairly quick job.  Hemming a pair of pants takes a relatively short amount of time compared to, say, making six bridesmaids dresses in different sizes for your friend’s niece’s wedding. The big con though: If you do it once, people will have no problem asking you do to it again. Hemming the pants quickly, but then not returning them for a couple of weeks because you’re “still working on them” may help prevent future requests.

Home decor sewing:
Rating: :( :(
I have to admit that I’m biased about this one because I find home dec sewing to be dull dull dull.  Mmmm…. sewing endless straight lines on heavy fabric. Just thinking about it bores me to the point that it makes quilting sound fun. (Haha, sorry quilters!) The upside of this one is that home dec sewing is the type of unselfish sewing for which you are most likely to get paid.  For some reason, people seem to think that making window treatments is a real job that warrants compensation, while fixing a torn skirt or sewing a dress from scratch is just a nice gesture from a buddy. All I can say is, if you must do it, milk it for all it’s worth and don’t fall asleep at the machine during one of those 72″ hems.

Clothing for men:
Rating: :( :( :(
Men are not unlike kids in that their degree of receptiveness and gratitude varies. From a technical standpoint, men’s clothing is the worst unselfish sewing you can undertake because it’s often so labor intensive. Men’s clothing is detailed, with cuffs, plackets, collars, welt pockets, lapels, etc. – all the good things you love to sew for yourself, for SOMEONE ELSE. It takes a long time and it can be fiddly. A lot of men also prefer clothing that is uncreative- often the kind of handmade clothing they would be happiest receiving is the kind that looks like it came from the Gap.  Tiny unique touches and details may just be the thing that makes a guy say, “That’s not really my style,” and relegate the garment to the back of the closet. And, as everyone knows, resentment varies in proportion to the amount of work put into an unworn garment. The more work you put in, the more you despise the recipient for not wearing it!

Clothing for women:
Rating: :( :(  to  :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(
Although sewing clothes for women could be relatively painless (a simple knit top with four pieces for your grandmother who loves it because you made it and wears it every time she sees you), it could go horribly, horribly awry.  You haven’t truly felt rage boiling in your veins until you stand in front of the mirror while the recipient tries on your hours and hours of labor and says, “It’s really nice. Ummmmm, I’m just curious, but if you wanted to, could you make the bodice spaghetti strap instead of short-sleeved? Not that it’s not totally fine like this, I’m just curious. Also, do you think maybe it should be a little shorter? And do you think we should have gone with that other red fabric instead?” Is your temperature rising yet?  Mine is just typing this :)

This list is not comprehensive, nor is it without its exceptions to the rules, but it should provide a decent jumping off point for those looking to build up their Selfish skills.  How about you?  Have you got any tips for S.W.A.G. sewing to avoid?


Some people take joy
In sewing for their loved ones.
We call them, “suckas.”

The Selfish Seamstress has been blogging for a little less than two months now, but although she is new to blogging, and relatively new to seamstressing, she’s quite the seasoned expert at being selfish. It wasn’t too long after I began sewing in earnest that I noticed the pattern- things I sewed for myself got finished quickly, and things for anyone else dragged on a bit. Quite soon after I noticed this, I quipped to Dan that I was going to start two lines of clothing, one called “Selfish” that would include all the things I made for myself, and one much much smaller line called “UOMI” which would consist of the things I made for other people (Get it?  Get it?  Sound it out.)

Not long after, Dan surprised me with some adorable clothing labels that he designed:

Some of the spelling got lost in the translation, but cute, right?  Needless to say, I have far more of the YUOMI labels left than the Selfish ones :)

Of course, the last outstanding big piece of holiday S.W.A.G. is the brown cotton velvet sportcoat for Dan.  The one I started in 2007.  And when I say, “outstanding,” I don’t mean “spectacular” but rather, the last remaining project thing that will not die, as in “outstanding balance” or “outstanding debts.” And debt it is indeed.  This the price I pay for having a sweet-natured partner who surprises me with things like clothing labels he designed himself for no special occasion whatsoever.  He’s sneaky, that one.

The sportcoat and I have fallen into an uneasy, uncomfortable relationship. It’s like that person at work who gets on your nerves but you never talk about it.  Every interaction with the sportcoat is frustrating, and everything about it irritates the crap out of me.  I’m generally a pretty laid-back seamstress- usually nothing ruffles my feathers when I’m sewing. If I have to unpick something, I have to unpick it, no big deal.  But the sportcoat has found a way to push every one of my buttons.  NOTHING has gone right with this project. Tonight, I sat down grudgingly with it and tried once again to set in the sleeves:

On average, each sleeve has been set about 3-4 times.  I reshape the cap and trim.  I baste and pick and rotate and baste and pick and repeat.  I stitch and steam, and kick the walls and scream and yank them back out again. I swear at myself for not having opted a nice cooperative wool and blow loose velvet lint out of my respiratory tract.  And now, after having spent every last ounce of patience and a fair bit of impatience as well, I have decided that if I don’t settle for mediocrity, Dan will get a very unflattering baggy brown velvet sleeveless tunic.  So this is about as good as it’s going to get:

Sigh.  It’s puckery. It’s hard to press.  Here’s my rope and I’m at the end of it.  If anyone has any clever ideas about this (strangely enough, I have made cotton velvet jackets in the past for myself in which the sleeves settled in quite nicely on the first try – just goes to prove my point about sewing for others being a futile waste of time!), please feel free to share them.  I refuse to negotiate further with the brown velvet albatross, but I’m sure your tips and tricks will come in handy once I’ve gotten back to sewing things for my sweet, beloved ME.

In addition to hypothetical sewing, mocking readers, and hawking stuff, it turns out that I also sew! Hahahaha.  Okay, this is sooooo not something that I would wear. Dan says it makes me look like I’m from Cirque du Soleil. 

But S.W.A.G. present #3, a sequined taffeta bolera for her mommy, is almost done. (Yes, I am a grown woman who calls her mother “mommy” still.  I’m not going to give it up, so mock all you want!) I hope she decides it’s her style at least. My mommy is a sweet person. But much like her Selfish daughter, she won’t wear something she doesn’t like just because it was a gift. She knows that people’s feelings are important, but looking good comes first!  Smart lady.

For having only 5 pattern pieces (other than the lining), this was an awfully fiddly project with difficult seaming at the collar and under the arms, and the taffeta is not very forgiving of tiny imprecisions.  You get to see it on me since I don’t have a dressform at the moment.  It’s cut in a size 34 as my mom is a smidge bigger than I am, so there’s a little extra room in there.  But then again, I’m not really sure how fitted a garment like this is supposed to be. I do need to finish hemming up the sleeves, but I’m trying to decide whether I want it to hit halfway between the elbow and the wrist or just below the elbow.  Thoughts?

I have some fabric left now, and I’m not sure what to do with the rest.  I’d like to make a matching top to go with the bolero, but I’m having trouble picking one out. I definitely don’t like what is going on in Burda’s photo:

That’s a whole lot of fussy for that much shiny.  I’m contemplating this Ottobre top, which would suit my mother’s taste for tailored sleeveless tops with necklines that are neither deep nor wide.  Plus it would justify the fact that I impulse bought this issue of Ottobre for something like $14 while on a trip to Switzerland even though I KNOW I never make anything from Ottobre:

But I’m wondering if that neck opening is too narrow to go with the bolero.  I don’t think it will look nice if you can see the shoulder straps when the bolero is on.  If it were for me, I’d just do a simple princess-seamed bodice with spaghetti straps and perhaps boned at the seams, but that might barer than my mom wants go to. What do you recommend?

More S.W.A.G. progress! I finished the two cowl necked tops for my sisters this weekend:

You’ll recall that when I first purchased the fabric for these, I was disappointed that they weren’t as soft or pretty as my teal one. I was okay with the charcoal grey shade, and a little bit skeptical of the dark army green. I have to say, after a washing they have softened up quite nicely, and the dark army green one in particular is looking kind of awesome.  I started to wonder if maybe I like it better than I like the teal one I made for myself.  Naturally, I had to try it on:

Yeah, that looks good on me. And naturally I thought about keeping it.  Thought about.  The problem with that is that I would have to embark upon yet another S.W.A.G. project to replace the gift. What’s a Selfish Seamstress to do in such a situation?  The only viable solution is to give it  as a present, and then borrow it at some point in the future.  Borrow it permanently.

With two S.W.A.G. gifts down, I turn once again to the brown cotton velvet albatross that taunts me from the shelf:

Oh yes, that is a partially sewn brown cotton velvet sportcoat that I started for Dan in 2007, shortly after I began sewing in earnest.  A sportcoat with lots of fiddly details that I as an amateur seamstress in 2007 wasn’t ready for and that I as an intermediate seamstress in 2009 just don’t feel like doing for anyone other than myself (welt pockets in cotton velvet?  Come on!) 

Since I began the project, Dan has had numerous birthdays and Chanukkahs pass by for which he has been promised this jacket and instead ended up with something else.  Every once in a while I take it out thinking that this time is the last time and it WILL get done, only to put it away after some incremental progress. I have some deep forest green satin to line it, after having long ago re-appropriated the teal jacquard lining originally intended for it to line a jacket for myself.

Well, dear readers, let it be declared here that this S.W.A.G. albatross is the next project on my list and it WILL get finished for Channukah.  (Of course, I say that knowing that if I take the Selfish route and put it aside in favor of other stuff for myself, you’ll only be cheering me on. Enablers!)

A cotton velvet sportcoat.  Why would anyone take on such a complicated and challenging project in such a fussy fabric for anyone but herself?

Oh yeah, I remember now.

Every gift I sew
Is one fewer thing for me.
Bite me, holidays.

It is a common misconception that the Selfish Seamstress, and Selfish Seamstresses in general (you know who you are and I think you’re cool!), does not sew things for other people. In actuality, Selfish Seamstresses often find themselves in situations in which they have to sew for others, which is what led them to become Selfish Seamstresses in the first place. In fact, much like with bee sting allergies with which you don’t know if you’re allergic until you’ve actually been stung, you can’t really KNOW whether you are truly a Selfish Seamstress until you find yourself having to make something for someone else.

If you find that making something for someone else takes twice, thrice, ten times as long as it would take to make the exact same thing for yourself (or never gets finished at all), you might be a Selfish Seamstress.  If your only motivation to finish said object is so that you can get back to making stuff for yourself, you might be a Selfish Seamstress. If, when you finish it, you consider keeping it for yourself, you might be a Selfish Seamstress. And if you have thoughts like, “Yes, Mommy, you carried me and gave me life, raised and nurtured me from an infant and paid for college to boot, but once I’m done hemming your skirt, YOU OWE ME,” then you are one seriously ungrateful and impressively Selfish Seamstress.  Good job!

When a Selfish Seamstress cannot avoid a sewing project intended for someone other than herself, it becomes a S.W.A.G project – Sewing With A Grudge. We’ll do it, but there’s grudge sewn into every stitch. (Sometimes love too, depending on whether you are a mildly Selfish Seamstress or a full out egomaniacal B like yours truly, but always at least a tiny bit of grudge.)

And so I find myself with the holidays approaching, up to my ears in work at my job, with few precious hours for sewing.  I’m putting myself on a strict diet of S.W.A.G., namely something-as-yet-undetermined for my non-sewing mother, and cowl sweaters for my non-sewing sisters. Maybe I’ll finish the brown cotton velvet sport coat I started for Dan back in 2007.  (Selfish?  Check!) If I absolutely must sew for myself, I am only permitted to finish stuff that’s already in progress- no new selfish sewing until the presents are done.

I’ve already bought some sweater knit for the cowls, a charcoal gray for one sister, and a dark army green for the other.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything as soft and pretty as the teal knit I found in Switzerland, but they’re not bad.  I suppose I could give one of them the one I just finished for myself with the teal and just




Haha, did I have you going there for a sec?  Seriously.

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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