Blog Psychology Pt 3: The Mere Ownership Effect and the Endowment Effect

I love that name, don’t you? It makes it sound like it’s so insignificant–mere ownership, you know. I merely own this car, I merely own that book.

But no. What the psychologists are getting at here is that the mere act of owning something appears to change people’s opinions towards whatever it is that they own. By taking the simple step of buying something, you are pretty well guaranteed to like it more than if you hadn’t bought it. In experiments, for example, researchers compare the price that sellers are willing to part with a given object for, to price that non-owners are willing to spend to acquire it, and find consistently that the mere act of owning a given object gives that object more value to the owner than the marketplace is willing to recognize.

Buyer beware, indeed: once something is in your hot little hands, you will almost certainly find it worth more than it really is.

Through some tricky experimental conditions, psychologists believe that it is the association through ownership of the object with the Self that leads to the over-evaluation of the object. Basically: “Since I own this whatever-it-is (coffee mug, book, car), and I am a pretty fabulous person, therefore this object is pretty fabulous as well, and I’ll need a lot of money to willingly part with it.”

Neat, huh?

But wait, there’s more! There’s also the Endowment Effect.

Which finds that people also over-value what they are given The act of giving creates a relationship, which alters what people feel is acceptable and not acceptable in terms of ethical and fair behaviour, including beliefs.

What does this mean for you, hapless readers of sponsored blog posts?

It means you can’t trust a word of them.

It means that the mere act of having been given a product or service to review is likely to unconsciously and unavoidably alter the opinion of the blogger.

It means that there is no way not to sell out, for most of us, as soon as transactions enter the picture; and that the blogger is not going to be a reliable narrator so far as they will be able to honestly evaluate their own tendency to be affected by ownership.

Again, this doesn’t meant that they’re lying. It doesn’t mean that they are aware of the opinion changes that ownership brings.

But it also means that you, as a blog reader looking for solid and unbiased opinions on products and services, would almost certainly be better off asking someone who borrowed them.

And it means that for those of us who write reviews of products or services on our blogs–compensated or not–we need to keep in mind that the ownership and the endowment both may have affected our opinions in ways we’re not conscious of, and that it is ok for readers to question us. Critical reading and thinking are good things, and anyone who asks how reviews are affected by sponsorship is well within their rights to do so. It’s not an insult; it’s not an attack; and it’s not personal.

Finally Finished: the Cross-Stitch Project

blog-1-1And it even took less than a year!

I know it’s small. The thing is, cross-stitch takes forever. Every one of those stitches is an even little x (at least, as even as I can make it with my deteriorating eyesight; I need glasses and don’t yet have them), so each one takes several seconds to complete, and when you have around 200 stitches in an inch of fabric (and sometimes considerably more) and a design of a foot square–that’s approximately 55 hours according to my rough calculations.

Yes, to embroider a little decorative bit. I know. It isn’t a wise time investment. But it is fun, and it made this pretty little picture.

I had a lot of fun modifying the pattern (originally from The Cross Stitcher magazine).  They called for a regular cream aida, replaced with this hand-dyed and nicely variegated tea-colour. They also called for standard DMC floss colours, which I completely ignored and just used whatever silk and/or variegated cotton flosses I had on hand that were similar in colour.

I’d picked up some Madeira silk flosses a couple of years ago for the stash and, if you think you may ever be in the mood for embroidery with silk flosses, let me warn you: those little packages are very clever and cute but they don’t hold a lot of thread. I ran out of both the bright blue in the border, and the teal in the letters, partway through. The blue I was able to replace online; the teal I replaced with a similar colour from another company. You can totally see the difference in the picture, but I tell myself it’s not as obvious in real life.

Now I have a question for you:

In the pattern, there are a number of single-x bits I haven’t stitched in, because I wanted to replace them either with small sparkly beads or with single-x stitches in a sparkly floss. Which do you think I should go with? Beads, or floss?

Also, the pattern recommends making this up into a cushion. I’m not convinced that’s the way to go. For one thing, this is destined for a home with small animals and children in it. For another, most of the flosses I used are silk flosses; I’m not 100% sure that the colours are wash-fast (they’re supposed to be, but you never know) and I’m also not sure if it’s the kind of thing I’d keep on my couch, under the circumstances.

The other option is framing it. Definitely safer, not as touchable.

What do you think?

Blog Psychology Pt 2: Our Memories Are Basically Crap

Let’s accept at face value that sponsored bloggers are lovely human beings who are kind to animals, pay their taxes and generate warm and fuzzy feelings in all who know them. Let’s further state that they would never consciously tell a lie as it would be too painful for words.

Does this mean that their claims of how they used to feel about something are true? That when they say that this is a product/company they have always valued, that this is in fact the case?

Well … no. Not necessarily.

Our memories, as it turns out, are not so much indelible recordings of events and feelings as they occurred, but piecemeal representations of bits and flashes with emotional import, endlessly recreated when called on in the future, subject to infinite reinterpretation and–yes–alteration with time.

Some experiments to demonstrate:

On the day of September 11, research psychologists in New York distributed a questionnaire to people in the City and surrounding regions, asking them to write down what they remembered about the terrorist attacks. Approximately 1,500 were completed and returned. Periodically afterwards, these same respondents were asked to recall those events. While overall recall was good, particularly on the important points (Sept 11, New York City, terrorists, WTC), accuracy was only about 80%. Which is pretty good, yes, but tellingly, the parts of memories that altered most were how people remembered feeling on that day.

Other experiments were conducted at the same time, contrasting people’s accuracy in their memories for the 911 attacks with other, mundane memories from the same day (what they had for breakfast, say), and what they found was fascinating: while memories deteriorated at about the same rate, people’s feelings about the accuracy of those memories was quite skewed: respondents believed that their more emotional 911 memories were more accurate than their mundane memories. But they weren’t.

Forty percent of the time people misremember some aspect of their 9/11 experience, the study indicates. And the part they get the most wrong is how they felt.

“You tend to project your current feelings about 9/11 on what you felt then,” explains Hirst. “You see this in other aspects of daily life. For instance, if we ask college students how they feel about a boyfriend or girlfriend now, everything’s good. But if you ask them about the person after they break up, they’ll say they knew he or she was bad for them. Our emotions change over time, and it’s hard to get back in that initial emotional space.”

I remember having read somewhere that when participants in a 911 memory experiment involving journalling were shown the memories they recorded at the times of the events, some of them became quite angry, as it conflicted with their current memories about what happened and they accused the researchers of having plagiarized them. However, I haven’t been able to find this reference, and in a post about memory being fallible it would be a little suspect for me to ask you to take my word for it. So you can do with that anecdote what you’d like.

But basically, while emotions help us to remember details (particularly of traumatic events), our memories of the emotions themselves are highly subject to alteration over time.

(I always think of this research when a friend or acquaintance tells me, in the wake of a separation or divorce, that “I never really loved him/her.” They probably did, and now just don’t remember.)

So this paid spokesperson. This sponsored blogger you know and love–or maybe distrust, because their opinions seem to be a little too in sync with whatever company is currently paying their webhosting bill.

They may truly believe it when they tell you how much they have always loved Product X or Service Y, and how thrilled they are to help promote Company A or Cause B as always having been near and dear to their hearts. Their integrity may be perfectly sound and their honesty and trustworthiness unimpeachible.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right.

Style Arc Jasmine Pants: pajamas for work

There's this thing in sewing blogs where people look up into the sky in a so-called Birdie Shot ... I thought I would spoof on it with a Meteor of Death Shot. Oh my god! Death from above!
There’s this thing in sewing blogs where people look up into the sky in a so-called Birdie Shot … I thought I would spoof on it with a Meteor Shot. Oh my god! Death from above!

I almost–almost!–wore my Colette Jasmine shirt with the Style Arc Jasmine pants for the photos for this one. Just because it would tickle me to be head to toe Jasmine, plus the Jasmine shirt is pink and that would make for a fun colour combo (to me). But the shapes didn’t really work together, so alas, it’s just one Jasmine this time.

Yokes on the back.
Yokes on the back.

Super comfy, though. The Jasmine pants pattern is a stretch woven, so while they look quite professional, they feel like pajama pants. Hurray.

Angled pockets!
Angled pockets! Front fly!

I like the style of pockets enough that I’m currently splicing them into a woven pants pattern that doesn’t have pockets, and these pants also come up almost to my waist, which means when I sit down, my underwear stays under. The back has a nice jeans-like yoke that helps with the fit and makes it a bit more stylish. I didn’t have to make any adjustments; it fit just fine out of the package, straight up size 12.  You’ll just have to take my word for it when I sat that when I’m not posing strangely in the garden, there are no drag lines on the front, except for where I put the insulin pump in my pocket.

The fabric is an inexpensive cotton-poly stretch twill from Fabricland.

Better picture of the pockets.
Better picture of the pockets.

Another review I read (can’t remember where) said that if you want a slimming effect, the thing to do is to replace the stretch woven on the inner pocket piece with a woven-woven, and just have a bit of facing on the visible part. That is likely true. But I was lazy and just used the stretch woven everywhere, so no slimming effect for me. Still, if you wanted to, you could.

OH MY GOD WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! ... in comfy, stylish pants.
OH MY GOD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! … in comfy, stylish pants.

Photo notes: Today was spend-your-points day at Shoppers (as I write this), so I went in to get my $110 of free stuff, and of course there was someone there doing makeovers … so what the hell. Why not. Right? Free!

The amount of stuff she put on my face, it’s amazing it didn’t swell by 3 cm around.

Moisturizer. Some serum to make the moisturizer work better. Primer. Concealer. Foundation. More concealer. A sparkly thing. Eyeshadow. Eyeliner. Mascara. Bronzer. (If you’re wondering about the darkish stripe on my cheekbone, that would be it.) Lipstick. Gel stuff for eyebrows. WOW. All that stuff I usually just look at and wonder what exactly it is supposed to do, I had on me. And I looked, in person, like the victim of a freak circus accident. Either that or a TV personality on my lunch hour.

She was a very nice lady and we had a lovely conversation and I feel bad saying anything critical about it, but it was a lot of makeup for me. BUT, victims of freak circus accidents tend to look like normal human beings on camera, right? So I thought it made a good occasion for the photo shoot.

With the brightness on the photo turned all the way down, I am whiter than the birch tree and my neighbour's white window trim. And that's with my summer tan. Anyway, carry on!
With the brightness on the photo turned all the way down, I am whiter than the birch tree and my neighbour’s white window trim. And that’s with my summer tan. Anyway, carry on!

However, even covered with two different moisturizers, primer, concealer, bronzer, some sparkly thing, and a lot of very dark eye makeup, you’ll notice I still look as white as if I were an incandescent lightbulb left on in a dark room. The lack of melanin is entirely natural. (sigh)

Blog Psychology Pt I: We Don’t Know Why We Do What We Do

Can a blog filled with happy sewing talk stand the occasional bit of science geekery? What do you think?

So there was this neuroscience experiment a few years where they hooked up a bunch of research subjects to electrodes that would make them move their right arm involuntarily. They were not told that the electrodes would have this impact on them, and were just doing computer tasks. Every so often, the researchers would trigger the electrodes and the research subjects would involuntarily move their arms. Then the researchers would ask them why their arms moved.

The correct answer was “I don’t know.” The subjects were not informed of the purpose of the electrodes, and couldn’t feel them when they were activated.

But every single one of them gave a reason for moving their arm.

“I was thirsty; I wanted a drink.”

“My nose was itchy.”

“I needed to backspace.”

Whatever the reason was, it was both plausible and absolutely false. What was going on here?*

It turns out that our conscious minds don’t so much control our behaviour, as explain it to us after the fact. In another favourite experiment, researchers examined the electrical impulse sending a hand out to, for example, grab a cup of tea, vs. the electrical impulse signalling conscious thoughts about thirst. They found that the thought “I’m thirsty” occurred a measurable (and tiny) time lag after the arm was already reaching for the drink.

In other words, your body figures out that you’re thirsty and tells you to drink, and your arms is already moving the drink to your mouth, before your conscious mind latches on to this fact and thinks, “You know, self, I want some water.”

Substantial evidence now demonstrates that our conscious minds are not so much The Driver of our actions, as The Interpreter: coming up with plausible and rational explanations for what we have already done. Whatever lying to ourselves is going on, it’s happening at a subconscious level and we are not aware of it.

That includes the two-year-old who knocked over his playmate’s block tower, the cheating partner, the gossiping friend, and your Favourite Sponsored Blogger, who assures all of his or her readers that the reviews are honest and unbiased.

Even if your Favourite Sponsored Blogger really and truly believes that the sponsorship arrangements have no impact on the reviews, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

“Great. Thanks, Andrea. What do you expect me to do with this information?”

Just keep it in mind.

If you read blogs, you’ve almost certainly seen disclaimers like this around:

 

How sure can this blogger be, though? Can he or she know that her opinions are unaltered by the sponsorship arrangement? Well … no.

You don’t have to believe that bloggers are selling out by lying in exchange for free stuff; but the receipt of free stuff may have changed their sincere and honest opinion, and it is totally legitimate to wonder what their opinion would have been had they paid for the product or service in question, or if they offered an opinion on something they do not own.  And any blogger worth their salt will be ok with this kind of questioning.

As it turns out, there’s also a substantial body of research into whether or not we can accurately remember what we used to believe, the impact that gifts and purchases have on our opinions, and figuring out who is most suggestible to those kinds of arrangements. There’s even an internet quiz to figure out where on that spectrum you lie. I’ll write up posts on those soon, but in the meantime, how responsive do you think you are, either to the lure of sponsored blogging, or to being influenced by the sponsored posts that result? Do you remember ever having been won over by something you didn’t think you’d like, until you owned it? Do you have a history of jumping on the bandwagon, or are you constantly scratching your head while the latest one drives by?

~~~

* I would have loved to dig up the reference for these this week, but haven’t had the time. If anyone is curious, though, let me know in the comments and I’ll put more effort into it over the weekend.

StyleArc Emily Top

StyleArc has an excellent reputation for producing high-quality patterns with  RTW details, and without the ease issues that can be found in the Big 4 (McCall, Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity). On recommendation from many internet sewing friends, I decided I wanted to try them for myself, even though the price tag (as they are shipped from Australia) is fairly high.

Subtitled: after a long work day, commute home, making dinner, and then making tomato soup for later canning, the only thing I wanted to do was lie down ... so that's what I did.
Subtitled: after a long work day, commute home, making dinner, and then making tomato soup for later canning, the only thing I wanted to do was lie down … so that’s what I did.

The Emily top was the free pattern in July, and I liked it for the neckline pleat, so I ordered some other patterns for the suit I’m planning and got the freebie. I have beautiful coral-red bamboo jersey from my April fabric spree; initially, I was planning a dress, but after sewing up the first Moneta and the scandalous wrap dress, I figured I probably actually had enough knit dresses and what I could really use were some tops, particularly a coral-red t-shirt to replace the coral-red short-sleeved sweater I used to wear all the time with this skirt. Those flowers are applique and embroidery, not print. Isn’t it fantastic? And yet is has been languishing in my closet because I no longer had a shirt to wear with it.

One of the things that StyleArc does differently is send you the pattern in only one size. So you need to be fairly sure that the size you’ve selected is the right one for you; there is no drawing between the lines for size 8 and size 10 and fitting that way. Another thing they do differently is assume that you already know how to sew pretty well; the instructions are minimal. For the Emily top, you get a couple of bullet points and one illustration.

Notes:

  • Neckline and pleat. Super cute, eh?
    Neckline and pleat. Super cute, eh?

    I found the assembly of the neckline pleat a bit confusing. After the first try, I didn’t like the placement–the pleat was too far off the neckline and into the neck, and didn’t lie the way I wanted it to.

  • I also found that I didn’t like the neckline binding. I should just know better than to use binding on knit necklines. This is a fairly substantial knit, and with the addition of the fusible hem interfacing, it became so stiff that it stood up from my neck like a mandarin collar.
  • So I ripped out the right shoulder seam and cut off the binding, did a regular seam on the neckline and resewed the right shoulder back together with the pleat farther over. I think it looks a lot better this way. I hand-stitched the extra bit of pleat width into the back neckline.
  • The sleeves I find a bit on the tight side. Next time, I’ll add half an inch or so, just to make it a bit looser.
  • I’d like some extra space in the shoulders. This is a common issue for me with both patterns and RTW, so I don’t blame StyleArc.

    Back view. Fence leaning. In real life, the shoes, skirt and top all match, which is what happens when you really love a colour and just buy it without thinking about what you'll wear it with.
    Back view. Fence leaning. In real life, the shoes, skirt and top all match, which is what happens when you really love a colour and just buy it without thinking about what you’ll wear it with.
  • And it was very, very loose when I first made it. Oddly loose, given that the package shows this as snug and tucked into a snug pair of pants. Anne’s version at Clothing Engineer is also loose, so it’s not just me; plan accordingly!
    So after serging the top and trying it on as given on the pattern, I reserged the side seams and nipped in the waist by an inch or so on each side. There’s still plenty of ease, but now I can wear it tucked in to something without looking totally ridiculous.
  • I tried using the blind hem on the bottom hem as directed, but it was too wavy; then I tried the lightning stitch with the walking foot, and that was worse. I ripped those out and used my lovely fusible knit hem tape. The ripped-out hems left a few small marks, but tucked in this is not a problem.
  • Inside of hand-stitched sleeve hem. First serged, then folded inside and stretch-stitched in place. You can see the zig-zag if you squint.
    Inside of hand-stitched sleeve hem. First serged, then folded inside and stretch-stitched in place. You can see the zig-zag if you squint.

    I hand-stitched the sleeve hems. Yes, it’s true. I wanted a nice flat finish on the sleeves, which I knew I wouldn’t get unaided on the machine, and the fusible hem tape I knew would be uncomfortable on such a snug hem. They’re small; it didn’t take long to sew. I stitched a zig-zag on the reverse and a small back-stitch on the front, which keeps it neat and close to invisible but maintains the stretch nicely.

    And a close-up of what it looks like on the outside. You can see it pretty clearly here, but not in the other photos. It's a great, simple stitch for finishing short knit hems by hand.
    And a close-up of what it looks like on the outside. You can see it pretty clearly here, but not in the other photos. It’s a great, simple stitch for finishing short knit hems by hand.

Otherwise, it’s done, it’s comfortable, the sleeves are long enough that I can wear it most of the year (like most office-workers, my cubicle is over-heated in winter and over-cooled in summer). And it matches my skirt perfectly. I wore this to work at my earliest opportunity and may or may not have spent part of the day rubbing the sleeve hem appreciatively and thinking about how soft and comfortable it is. Plus, neckline pleat!

End of makes that could be considered summery; time for fall!

Not even a little bit sewing related

For a refreshing perspective on body image and strength training, and a quasi-related follow-up to my previous post on Vogue’s ridiculous anti-lifting article (completely unintentional on their part, but still), check out An Open Letter to Everyone Who Has Told Women “Don’t Get Too Muscular.”

When women strength train, it is an act of borderline social disobedience. “Don’t get too muscular” is the phrase of choice used by people who are threatened by strong women to put them “back in their place”.

And it’s working.

We have three generations & counting of women who have been brainwashed into voluntarily physically debilitating themselves.

The Sewing Blog Community reflects the biases of the larger culture (of course), so it exists here too. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed sewing bloggers dieting or running themselves into bigger readership numbers and more prominence.

Vogue 8747: a fun blouse that fits

When I bought this Liberty lawn earlier this spring at my favourite local fabric store, I had in mind a Belcarra or Scout or some other kind of casual t-shirt. But the more I wore my lawn Jasmine, the more I realized: I am not a fan of pullover woven shirts.

Nothing wrong with them. But when you tend towards the top-heavy, anything big enough to pull over is going to gape at the waist, whether bias cut or no. I do like and wear my Jasmine, but tucked in for that very reason. So whatever the lawn was going to become, it had to be fitted.

I decided on this Vogue blouse, size 14D.

I’d made up a test garment in polyester crepe, but it was one of my very few wadders: the fit was fine, but the polyester just would not press properly, and on a shirt like this, press is important. So I got it far enough to determine that yes, the waist and bust would fit and I could close it, and then moved on to the cotton version. Which of course means that I had all kinds of learning experiences left to enjoy as I progress towards a wearable shirt.

No, it's not awkward to hike into the woods and take selfies of myself staring pensively off into the middle distance. Not at all.
No, it’s not awkward to hike into the woods and take selfies of myself staring pensively off into the middle distance. Not at all.

It’s the challenge I like, right? Good thing, because it challenged me.

To begin with, I have a high waist, so when I’d got the blouse sewn up together enough to try on, there was all this extra fabric on my back. As in, snug everywhere else, but baggy city on the shoulder blades. No problem! I just took the shoulder seams apart, cut a wedge shape out of the side back pieces to preserve the shape of the armysce, and took two inches off the top of the centre back, then sewed everything back up again, reshaping the curves to match what I’d cut off. In theory, this should have preserved the shape and length of the shirt portion so that the collar (which I’d already assembled) would fit; in practice, the shirt became just a smidge too long, and getting the collar to go on properly became an enormous challenge. Made doubly so by my insistence on using the serger to do this to minimize fabric in the collar.

blog-4-1It minimized the fabric all right–by slicing up portions of the shirt and collar so that I had to resew them, twice, making the collar stand now about half as tall as it should be. It’s a hot mess in there, but thank goodness you can’t see it. You can see some pleating at the top of the shirt front, due to all the sewing and resewing that I put the poor thing through.

blog-11-1And then I also moved the waist up on the pattern, but ended up making the new waist a bit too snug. (sigh) So when I first had it all made up, it was tight. Very tight. I thought I might have to wear this tucked in forever. Much to my surprise and gratitude, when I washed it to get off the markings and remove some persistent wrinkles, it loosened up. Colour me very happily surprised. Isn’t cotton supposed to shrink?

The flowers on the lawn have red centres, so I used red buttons on the front.

At the very least I now have the pattern properly marked up for next time, and it’s versatile and comfortable enough that I’m sure I’ll be making it again. It’s a simple, basic work blouse that I am currently wearing with grey dress pants, and should work under suit jackets and sweaters so I can continue to wear it as it starts to get colder. (Note, Mother Nature: in September, not now. August is still supposed to be hot. Thanks for your understanding!)

Transitions

When you sew, transitions means something a little different than buying light-weight long-sleeved tops and hoping you can wear them in November. (Keep in mind this is Canada. Even in southern Canada, it does get cold.)

It means asking yourself when, in all practicality, you should stop sewing for the season you’re in and start sewing for the season you will be in soon. There’s no point to starting a four-week project when you’ll be wrapping it up just as the weather starts to shift. What’s the fun in finishing something you can’t wear for ten months?

And it is August, after all. We’ve got a good month left of summer heat, most likely, and then we’ll be looking for sweaters and cardigans to take the chill off, lightweight coats, and (if you’re me) pants instead of skirts. (I am a strictly fair-weather skirt wearer. I have winter skirts and I wear them if the weather will approach 0C and there won’t be any snow. Otherwise, it’s pants through to spring.) It would be nice if I had some new fall makes ready to wear around the end of September.

Which means I’d better get started.

I’ve had a good run so far this summer. Since the end of Me-Made May, I’ve made:

  • a few t-shirts for Frances
  • Frances’s grad dress
  • a Renfrew
  • a pleated yellow t-shirt
  • a pair of denim shorts
  • a scandalous faux-wrap dress
  • a yellow wonder-dress
  • a crocheted sweater
  • a pair of Vogue shorts
  • a second Moneta
  • a button-up shirt
  • most of a Belcarra (just needs hemming)
  • pieces cut out for another Chardon, with some dyeing and embroidery planned
  • and most of a Style Arc Emily shirt–hemming to be done and neckline to be altered.

There are things I’d like to make for myself and Frances over the fall/winter:

  • some nice long-sleeved t-shirts for my girl
  • some pants for her that aren’t jogging pants (which she always wears) and also aren’t jeans (which she hates) would be great. Except that patterns for girsl are usually so, so girly and Frances doesn’t go for that.
  • She wants me to make her a denim jacket. I’ve had the pieces cut out for ages, so I really have no excuse.
  • a nice I’m-here-to-kick-ass-at-my-new-school first day outfit for her, unless she’d rather buy one
  • two or three pairs of heavier-weight work pants, for winter
  • a crocheted sweater
  • that suit
  • a pair of jeans, or maybe two (my favourite jeans are becoming unwearabley holey)
  • a couple of long-sleeved work-appropriate knit tops, and long-sleeved button-up woven tops, would be great too
  • and somewhere in there will be a Special Christmas/Birthday Outfit for Frances, because that’s what we do

It’s a very, very practical list. You’ll notice not much cute or twee happening in there.

It’s also a very, very time-consuming list. It’ll keep me going over the winter, for sure. There are at least fifteen garments in that list, and I’m going to want to make things for people for christmas, too.

Anyway, not only should I prioritize and then shorten that list, but probably stopping with the summer sewing a little on the sooner end would also be helpful. I’ve decided that, once the Emily top is done, it’s on to fall sewing for me.  What do you do?

Last Summer Hurrah: an instant-gratification Moneta that decided to be less instant and more educational

Courtesy Uncle John, who is a much better photographer than I am.
Courtesy Uncle John, who is a much better photographer than I am.

I did it. I went fabric shopping in Toronto. My god, what a budget-buster that is.

(Digression: It’s not just that I’m undisciplined when it comes to fabric. In fabric stores close by I have no trouble walking away from things if I’m not sure or don’t have the time to sew it up soon. But Toronto is not an easy trip for me: it takes me a couple of hours to get downtown by train and a couple more to get home again, and most weekends most of the year, I need to be home by late afternoon on Saturday in order to be here when my daughter gets back from her Dad’s. So my opportunities to get down there and spend the day are very limited–a few weekends a year–and so when I’m down there and I see something I like I know it will be months before I have the chance to get back and buy it again. My credit card weeps in advance of these trips. Anyway.)

Uncle John again.
Uncle John’s again. And yes, here is Frances in her lovely grad dress, with Ice Sparkle, her dragon companion. I’m telling myself that it’s so far away you can’t really make out her face … thoughts?

But this dress was not a budget buster. Not at all.

Whenever I’m on Queen W I make a point of stopping it at Downtown Fabric, because it’s a lovely well-organized little shop with a wide variety of fabrics, from inexpensive and simple to insanely nice. I didn’t see any of the fall stuff I was technically looking for, even with the assistance of the shopkeeper’s employee’s two adorable young daughters, who accompanied me throughout and kept showing me what they really liked and thought I should get. (A sweater knit with large cats on it featured prominently.)

But a lovely polyester knit panel print caught my eye.

This is me making my "I love Frances" face.
This is me making my “I love Frances” face. Photo courtesy of Aunt Sue. They are a family of photographers.

Polyester! I know! But it was soft and thick and the print was so beautiful–a panel grading from cafe-au-lait at one end to cream at the other, with a white floral pattern in the background and a black and pumpkin floral design covering one half of the lower bottom–and it wasn’t at all expensive. (Note: The guy who runs the store will give you a discount on whatever the price is on the bolt. Sometimes a substantial one. Saunter around and take your time and you’ll probably get a good deal.)

Anyway, I got two panels’ worth, or about two metres, which I figured would be just enough to make one sleeveless Moneta. Not that I was planning on making another Moneta, but the drape of the fabric and the print placement just cried out to me, “I want to be a simple knit dress with a long sweeping skirt!” And who am I to deny a fabric its deepest heart’s desires?

Staying with the tea theme, but self-taken this time for a closer dress view. Plus Simba. Who thinks he's a dragon.
Staying with the tea theme, but self-taken this time for a closer dress view. Plus Simba. Who thinks he’s a dragon.

I chose to lay out the pieces so that the dress would grade from pale to darker from shoulder to waist, and then darker to pale from waist down, with the large flowers as close to the side-bottom as I could get them. The skirt is lengthened considerably to give the large flowers space, from about knee-length to more like tea-length, but I really like it. It makes the dress very work-friendly and classy, and the flowers on the fabric are quite pleased with it too. The bodice is self-fabric lined, and I used knit hem stabilizing tape on all the seams and hems. Still love that stuff. Often I’ll fuse it on, make up the seam or hem, and then peel away the excess. It’s still in there making the seam strong and flat, but you can’t see it at all.

But assembly was not as smooth as all that, Dear Readers. First off, my sewing machine flat out refused to stitch on this with a lightning (stretch) stitch. I tried regular, ball-point and microtex needles, and various kinds of thread. No luck. I guess that’s how you know a fabric is a good synthetic–the stitches skip and the bobbin thread knots up on the back. So I had to do all the major seams on the serger, including the neckline and the finish on the armholes. An interesting experience.

Getting the clear elastic on to the waistband was an exercise in frustration (and by “frustration” I mean hollering). The serger just flat out refused. I spoke to it nicely. I pleaded and cried. “No!” it said. So I basted the elastic on with the sewing machine using a regular stitch, and even then had to stop and re-thread every so often because it would start skipping.

More tea, more Simba, better flower view.
More tea, more Simba, better flower view.

After I joined the shirred skirt to the bodice and tried it on, it became obvious that the clear elastic was just not comfortable around the waist. It digs in. Same thing as the first version, so no surprise, but I decided I didn’t want to have elastic digging into my midsection whenever I wore the dress. So I serged that seam again to cut off the elastic, figuring the bodice lining would help support that seam when I stitched it all together. In the course of serging off the elastic, I accidentally cut a little hole in the bodice front. I know. A scrap of fabric put behind with some double-sided tape (didn’t want to risk sewing it up by hand and making it even more obvious) fixed that problem. Hemmed it with a straight stitch, which is ok because the hem doesn’t need to stretch anyway. And then sewed the bodice lining to the waistband by hand.

Taking out the elastic on the waist did make it a lot more comfortable, though. It’s not any looser, but it doesn’t feel so constricted.

Hours past when it should have been finished, it was finally done.

Now that I’ve made two Monetas (link to the first), I can safely say that the bodice is just too snug for comfort for me. The first one I made has relaxed somewhat, and I hope this one does a bit too. I even added an inch at the sides of the front bodice piece, and it’s still very snug. Still, I think the longer skirt balances the look out enough to make it work-appropriate, and I love this print.

Besides adding a bit of space to the bodice front and lengthening the skirt, I also deepened the front neckline by about two inches. The original is quite high. There’s lots of room for alteration there.

Anyway. It is done, I have survived, the dress also survived, the fabric is happy to be part of this dress, and I am happy to wear it. I’ve already worn it to work, and it was comfortable and swished elegantly when I went to the kitchen to fill my tea cup. I also wore it to the inaugural meeting of the Ottawa Chapter of the Dragon Tea Society, from which I have stolen some of the above pictures, figuring it was more interesting than anything I was likely able to take of myself. And given the colours, I think I could add a jacket or cardigan to this and wear it into the fall.

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