April’s Challenge: Seeing Double, Sewing Double

So I stumbled upon a sewing collective called “The Monthly Stitch.”  Now, not to bash other collectives, but this one seems to be full of completely normal, nice people for a change…yet they approved me, so…

Every month they host a challenge, something of a goal, a way to spur creativity and set a deadline for those of us who really, really need it (for example, I can crank out twenty or more competition dresses in a month; I can really fly, if necessary, and make one start to finish in a day if I had to.  Yet I’m embarrassed to admit that I have outfits for my Ready-to-Wear line that have been cut out for weeks and are still not finished…).


April’s challenge is simply perfect for me: “Sewing Double.”  Folks are asked to recreate an item that has worn out, remake a piece a clothing in a different fabric, or simply make two pieces from the same pattern.  However, since this is a creative activity, I am allowed quite a bit of leeway, which is great — since I just received an order this morning for a new custom piece (and I definitely, definitely need a deadline for this, as it’s not something that makes me wake up and think, “Wow!  I get to work on this today!”)

So my personal “Sewing Double” challenge is going to be team dance outfits (Get it?  Double?).  All I know is that they’ve been commissioned in black, in a fabric I don’t particularly care for, but one that should be easier to use than the velvet upon which I usually rely.  It was either this, or get to work making a dozen or so club dresses now (double times six), the likes of which probably wouldn’t make for G-rated reading after about day two.

The last tux I made

The last tux I made

If you’re interested in joining the collective, check them out by clicking “The Monthly Stitch” icon on the right side of the page.

A Creator’s Evolution

(Title irony intentional, of course)

This week I’m celebrating (and by “celebrating” I mean I briefly thought about it when it popped into my head at the grocery store while choosing bananas) the twenty year anniversary of the creation of my first skating dress.  This slightly unkind reminder of my own personal aging process brought to mind just how much has changed since those first very stressful days, and I realized that documenting my continuing journey, as well as memories of obstacles past, would be a perfect addition to my company’s website (gratuitous plug: http://www.shopfireflyfabrics.com).  So here we go…

Twenty years ago, my skating dress sewing goal was simple: don’t make my kids look like dorks.  It evolved, as did I, through so many phases: the “make my skaters blend in so no one will know I have no clue what I’m doing” phase, the “make my skaters look better than (fill in the name of some coach who seriously bugged us at the time)’s skaters” phase, the “only have to redo the skirt twice” phase, the “how can I make this dress look like they spent $800 when I only have a $40 budget” phase (which, sadly, still lingers in too many clients’ minds), the “I don’t care if I don’t sleep for six days as long as it’s done on time” phase, the “if it only needs one safety pin it’s a success” phase, the “how can I make you look 50 pounds lighter and three inches taller” phase, the “yes, I’m sure I can finish 18 more dresses in two weeks” phase, and the “if you don’t want to pay this (extremely and ridiculously reasonable) price, then I don’t feel the need to sew for you anyway thank you very much” phase.

Thinking about how much has changed really brought to mind the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears” — lots of pricked, bloody fingers (and yes, this one time I did rip the skin off my leg when I tried to peel off some dried E6000, but that’s another story…), sewing in central California July heat so intense that I had to stone over the sweat that dripped onto and stained the fabric, and, of course, many, many tears when what was in my head just didn’t translate into a finished piece (see a future post on the “Las Vegas Underwear” dress).  But since those less than illustrious beginnings, I’ve probably sewn 300 dresses, many of which are still in circulation many years after their creation, and I see them when we travel to meets both in and out of state.  What used to take me several days now takes a couple hours.  What I used to give away because it felt too unprofessional and crappy now is a full-time business.  What used to embarrass me now fills a portfolio.

Aside from sharing lessons learned over the years, I’ll also share tips and tricks I’ve figured out along the way.  I’ll post current projects and share steps of the design and creation process.  As the business grows, I’ll share trends and new fabric finds.  If you’re an old pro we can commiserate; if you’re a novice you can avoid many of the setbacks and sidetracks I encountered.

And just for kicks…this is a photo of that very first dress I made twenty years ago, which took about two weeks:

Tiny Katey, in my very first dress

Tiny Katey, in my very first dress

And a dress I made 19 years later, which, beginning to end, took about six hours:

Emma at the Pan American Championship of Clubs

Emma at the Pan American Championship of Clubs

Let’s continue to evolve together, shall we?