Friday, March 26, 2010

Unfinished Object Overload

Sewing Cartoon: Death By Unfinished Object

If this has never happened to you, you're either inhumanly perfect or lying.

I am currently down with a major case of UFO Overload. I pride myself on completing every project I start--unless it's a total wadder--but in the past few weeks my sewing ambitions have so far outpaced my snail's-pace finishing methods that I'm in real danger of drowning in mid-stream muslins, partially-traced patterns, half-sewn hems and seductive-but-totally-unsewn sketches.

Clearly this cannot be my fault. The real blame obviously lies with:

  • My mother's sewing machine. It just had to develop tension issues while I was visiting her. Coincidence? Hmmm...
  • Pattern Review. Who told this evil website to host a spring mini-wardrobe contest at the same time I was starting my intensive childbirth classes and tying up the loose ends of my political cartooning career? Or to host online classes on facings and underlinings that I could not possibly resist signing up for, despite their overlapping schedules?
  • Cartoonist Baby. Without a doubt her distracting kicks to the ribs are the reason I sewed that armhole facing on inside out and those baby pants together upside down...
  • Cartoonist Husband. Sure Masheka has been doing all the dishes and laundry and vaccuuming and litter-box changing since I've been pregnant (not to mention massaging sore pregnant-lady legs and bringing me water and cooking and grocery shopping and itty bitty things like that)... blah de blah blah. Does that give him the right to make me go to bed at 11 p.m. just because my midwife said I need more sleep?!

So who are these UFOs stalking my dreams and laying siege to my sewing peace of mind? For the purposes of this exercise, I shall only count projects that have been cut, traced, muslined, or otherwise progressed beyond the pattern-buying, fabric-acquisition or wistful daydreaming stage. From oldest to most recent... (and I realize that since I only started sewing again this January, my definition of "old" pales in comparison to many of yours).

The freezer-paper-stencil whale onesie

Gray Whale Stencil PhotoShop test on purple onesie

  • The dream: Create fabulous one-of-a-kind silkscreen-like Ts cheaply and quickly!
  • The reality: I can't mix stencil paint to save my life.
  • What's done: This was the first garment I ever made on my serger when I got it out of storage two months ago, and it was so plain and boring I decided it needed embellishment. The onesie is (badly) serged, the snaps are attached, the stencil is cut, I have the paints and brushes...
  • What's not: The actual stenciling.
  • What's stopping me: Fabric paint failure. I've done several tests with the Jacquard opaque metallic fabric paints and a variety of brushes but I always seem to thin the paint too much (resulting in bleeding under the stencil edges) or too little (resulting in cracked paint when the jersey is stretched).
  • Urgency/guilt factor: Low. Cartoonist Baby will not go naked due to my negligence. And it IS wearable in its unembellished poorly-serged state.
  • Status: On hold.
  • Hope for eventual completion? Low.

The Pinup Girls Turquoise Lace Bra

P. Girls Classic Pattern 1235Duoplex Non-Stretch Knit: Black & Turquoise
  • The dream: Large-busted gals can save big money by and avoid over-priced bra specialty stores by learning to make their own supportive, custom-fit bras and swimwear. As I've gone up several cup and one band size in my pregnancy (from 32E to 34G), I have had to buy more and more ridiculously overpriced bras--I'm talking $127 for a piece of fabric with some wires in it.
  • The reality: Bra-making is hard and the supplies are expensive and hard to source.
  • What's done: I ordered the pattern, fabric and notions from Bra-makers Supply in Canada. I ordered Lee-Ann Burgess's self-published Making Beautiful Bras and Making Beautiful Swimwear book and DVD set from Australia and read/watched them repeatedly. I bought all kinds of fancy laces from Daytona in NYC. I bought a presser foot that sews precise 1/4" seams. I traced the 34G pattern and... cut out the left cup pieces.
  • What's not: I haven't even tried to seam them together to test the fit.
  • What's stopping me: Bad timing--while waiting for some of the supplies to arrive I began work on my orange silk floral maternity dress.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: High. Those books and supplies were not cheap, and while I was procrastinating, my cup size went up AGAIN and I had to make another trip to the overpriced bra shop.
  • Status: On very temporary hold.
  • Hope for eventual completion? High. I will learn to make my own bras. I've calculated that, not counting pattern or books, each homemade bra would probably cost about $10-$15 in materials and probably much less if I can do some clever sourcing.

The "easy-to-sew" Simplicity 3765 baby dress trio (blogged here)

Turquoise and brown polka dot quilting cottonSimplicity 3765 flats
  • The dream: While in Massachusetts visiting family, I'd whip up some baby outfits on my mother and mother-in-law's respective sewing machines in no time! My mother-in-law was impressed when I said they'd be done in a day. Oops.
  • The reality: I got a bad cold and my mom's sewing machine had to be taken to the shop.
  • What's done: All three dresses/outfits are cut and bundled, and the first two are mostly sewn.
  • What's not: The skirts and fastenings.
  • What's stopping me: I got to the part where the directions said to sew on the back closure button and make a thread chain and had to look up the latter in my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. Then I realized I should be working on my mini-wardrobe contest sewing instead.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: Low. These things are so over-sized she won't be able to wear them for at least a year yet. Though I do want to show them to my mother-in-law.
  • Status: On hold.
  • Hope for eventual completion? High. I can't let a little thing like a thread chain stop me!

All four pieces for my mini-wardrobe contest entry

My Plum Polka Dot Mini Wardrobe, V2
  • The dream: I can whip up an entire stylish maternity mini-wardrobe from four patterns I've never sewn before and which all require extensive maternity alterations in just one month while taking childbirth classes and two online PatternReview classes. And working fulltime and blogging and... NO PROBLEM.
  • The reality: I don't have a single finished piece yet. Crap. And April 15 (or is it 14?!) is not far away.
  • What's done: I've made some lovely sketches and color choices, acquired all the patterns and fabric (except one fabric that's on its way) and most of the notions, ironed a big pile of muslin and traced the patterns that needed tracing.
  • What's not: Um... EVERYTHING? I need to alter the patterns, make muslins, and construct all four garments. Er...
  • What's stopping me: It's been a hectic few weeks. And I was in desperate need of more skirts, and one of my fabrics was missing, and the circle skirt pattern wasn't working and I'm behind on my Sencha blouse for the facings class (see below).
  • Urgency/guilt factor: High! It's not just the deadline—I'm running out of time to sew for maternity and I really need spring clothes.
  • Status: Full steam ahead!
  • Hope for eventual completion? I will not be defeated... or maybe I will.

Sencha Blouse Maternity Modification

Colette 1007 Sencha Blouse Maternity Modification Sketch
  • The dream: Just because I have a GIANT PREGNANT LADY BELLY doesn't mean I can't make a fabulous vintage-style button-backed blouse.
  • The reality: It may be "loose-fitting" but I still have to add at least 5" to the bust and 12" to the belly.
  • What's done: I did the aforementioned FBA and tummy adjustments to the pattern and made a muslin.
  • What's not: More FBA and belly adjustment is needed to the muslin before I can even attempt to cut my slippery silk fashion fabric. And I need to redraft the neckline to a scoop.
  • Urgency/guilt factor: The online facings class I'm making the blouse for (the exercise is to make a simple blouse, redraft the neckline and make a new facing pattern for said redrafted neckline) ends Sunday and I would like to finish in time to get feedback from the instructor.
  • Status: What else would I do on a Friday night?
  • Hope for eventual completion? I'm slightly concerned.

That makes ten pieces in various stages of completion (eleven if I count this muslined BurdaStyle magazine top, but I'm wearing the "muslin" right now). How many UFOs are haunting your sewing space?

Update: Just so I don't scare anyone away from the fabulous pursuit of bra-making, I actually HAVE made two cute well-fitting maternity bras that I love and adore and are way better than RTW, but they are non-underwire sleep/nursing bras, and no good for everyday daytime support. I won't show them on me here, but trust me that they fit perfectly and look great:

Sleep/Nursing/Maternity Bra Test Muslin fronthotmamasleepbra


  1. I vote for the maternity cardi and skirt first!

    I have two six-foot tall IKEA units with tubs (the kind meant for children's toys) full of knitting, weaving and sewing UFOs. I'm working on it...

  2. oh, the ufos.....I just cut my losses on a few that, ahem, must have shrunk in their bags because they're way too small for our girl!

    On the onesie? Seriously, get some steam-a-seam, but some cute motif out of fabric, fuse it and call it done.

    On the bra -- okay, you totally just scared me off trying to make my own bras for at least a few more years! yikes!!

    The mini-wardobe - go go go!! You'll never regret having had nice maternity clothes. Good luck this weekend!!

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  4. Sorry, I didn't finish typing. What I said was--oh, I'm not even going to COUNT my knitting UFOs--I have a cardigan for me that has been just inches from completion for a month, and a Baby Surprise Jacket for Cartoonist Baby that just needs some kind of fastening (but I'm terrified she'd choke on buttons!) and the half-finished socks and the one-third finished lacy Kidsilk Haze scarf... but I'm cutting myself slack on those due to my wrist problems. I have no such sewing excuses.

  5. And Sarah, I didn't mean to scare anyone off from bra-making--I actually HAVE made two fabulous well-fitting bras that I love and adore and are way better than RTW, but they are non-underwire sleep/nursing bras, and no good for everyday daytime support. So I do believe it's possible!

  6. Yeah, I love your sleep bras and I may tackle that -- but the full-cup underwire thing? I keep thinking about it and then....I think about how much stuff I have to do already and how crazy it will make me.

    It would be awesome to have as many well-fitting bras as I need though. I'll wait and see how yours ends up going!

    And on the knitting -- I have an unfinished sweater that is...6 years old? Literally, almost completely done. But I haven't been able to knit since I got pregnant (back in 2004! with hyper-emesis which I attempted to knit through -- bad idea, can you say imprinting forever?) so it's in a bag languishing. Probably forever.

  7. I've made the Pinup bra (I didn't like it on me as much as the Danglez DB4), but I am totally in support of our making lingerie. Women need beautiful lingerie - esp. as their bodies are in transition. The idea of making bras is SO appealing to me, it's my latest obsession.

  8. Bras aren't that hard. You have to start out knowing that the first one is a wadder as it won't Fit Perfectly. The second will be Almost Perfect. By the third you'll wonder why you waited so long.

    Visit for reasonably priced fabric and notions. eBay is a great source for stretch lace and I recently bought a lot of bra making supplies that will last me for the rest of my life for about $30.00 - good quality, too, in nude which I plan to custom dye in all shades of the rainbow 'cause you know as well as I do that everyone needs Just One More hobby, right? ;-)

    You can buy a custom dyed bra kit (any size) from Sommerset's Etsy store, and check out her blog ( for tutorials.

    Oh, yeah - knitting UFOs? There are plenty around here, but it's worse, as I spin the wool, too ;-) Not that I would try to convince you to try yet another hobby...And then there's soap making...

  9. Love, love, love your illustrations! And your planned garments are all beautiful... BUT: Do you really want to spend the last (potentially) restful weeks before the baby comes putting so much pressure on yourself? I'd say skip the contest and the baby clothes (you'll probably be given more gifts than she can wear!) and focus on a couple of things that are really going to make your life easier, e.g. the bras. Just my two cents. Of course I'll enjoy reading if you decide to make all of them!

  10. I hear you! I have too many in-the-works to even count. I'd focus on the wardrobe. You can do it!

  11. I know how you feel. I have UFO from 2 years ago, all these alterations for myself and husband, and new stuff I cut and just got burnt out on. Hehehe.. I hope you don't get burnt out and you definitely need your rest. Good luck!

  12. I have some nerve helping someone with their UFO's but here goes:

    First, finish the Sencha blouse.

    Then complete Mini-wardrobe in this order: knit top, cardigan, skirt, and dress. This way, if you run out of time you can substitute a much simpler dress for the contest (I fear the Parfait alterations will drive you crazy.)

    Create the much needed bra AFTER April 14.

    Put away the stencil paint for now. Cut the whale out of fused fabric and blanket stitch it on onesie, embroider on the other details. This project can easily be done while you're in recovery after baby is born.

    Also perhaps you can farm out some or all of the baby dresses to sewing friends to finish for you?

    Good luck!

  13. Wow, thanks everyone for the feedback and suggestions! Uta and others, you are quite right that all this pressure probably isn't the best idea, it's just very Mikhaela of me to create all these self-imposed deadlines! I went to a thrift store today and picked up a few $2 maternity tops and skirts to take the pressure off, and I'll just finish what I can finish. I am indeed starting with the blouse, lsaspacey, since it's already muslined--that's my next post!

  14. Oh, and I also think you should appliqué the whale. I actually made one here: Never could get the hang of fabric paint.

  15. Very cute whale! My mother said the same thing--she has done both stencils and appliqué and feels that stencils are just too messy. I think stencils might be fine on wovens but I don't see how to keep them from cracking on knits.

  16. I still think you should applique the whale, but I was able to stencil a lot of baby-size knits back in those days -- I used Jacquard opaques (but not metallics) and stuck with jersey knits, not rib knits (well, most of the time). They all held up really well (as in, weren't worn out at all by the time she grew out of them). If you're interested, take a whack at it again -- but not for 6-9 months! Give yourself a break on that one!


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