In-between times

It’s been a few weeks since my sister’s wedding, but it’s still weird being done with the dress. In the month leading up to the wedding, I spend 30-ish hours a week on the dress, kicking up to about 60 hours in the week before. And in the six months before that, I spent anywhere from 5-15 hours per week on it.  The time I spent sewing was the tip of the iceberg, however, compared to how much time I spent thinking about it. Given a construction problem (when and how to underline, boning channel placement, sew-in cups, neckline stabilization…), I’ll chew it over and over like the ruminant I am. A perpetual internal dialog about construction and 200+ hours of sewing is a commitment of a completely different scale than what I’ve invested in any previous project, including my coat. I loved (almost) every minute of it, but it’s left me in a rather odd state.

For one, I’ve come to the realization that I bought a bunch of sewing stuff while in my wedding dress trance – vintage/used patterns and some new (and rather vibrant) fabrics. I got to hang out with Sanae this week and she hypothesized that my sewing wishes were coming out in the form of purchases. I completely agree. Even though I loved sewing the dress, I still lusted after other projects that had to be put off.



Paradoxically, with all the fabric and patterns and projects ready for me, I’ve found it a bit hard to get sewing again since finishing. I’ll get excited about it when I’m at work, but will end up happier spending time in our until-now neglected garden or watching Star Trek TNG with Nathan. I did plod through a black linen Gabriola last weekend. I love wearing it, but the sewing felt a bit like a chore.|garden

So I’m rolling with that feeling. I’ve gotten less and less good at forcing myself into things, which I’m taking as a sign of personal growth. “Disciplined” and “motivated” were words that people used to describe me when I was younger. Those compliments were like food to me at the time, but when I look back I realize how little I trusted my own instincts and interests at that age. I worked for good grades in every subject because that’s how I viewed success and I logged miles of running and ate low-fat foods because that’s how I viewed health. I try to ease off sewing when I get that duty-bound feeling, that I should be sewing because it’s the only way to enjoy myself. When that beyond-excited-to-sew obsessive feeling comes rushing back, though, you’d better believe I’ll be following into my sewing room.

So for now, I’ll leave you with a peek of the lace draping for my sister’s dress bodice. Still trying to figure out how to blog about this project… | wedding dress lace draping

What do you do after finishing a large project? Any rituals to share?


67 thoughts on “In-between times

  1. When I wrote that I was backing off of trying to do ALL THE PROJECTS a few months ago, someone wrote that her goal for the year was to spend 20 minutes a day sewing. I’m not that consistent, but the comment was a good reminder that doing just a few tasks at night can make a dent. That’s really helped me when there are times I don’t want to confront an entire project. Tracing off two pattern pieces before bed a few nights in a given week is easy, and it lowers the barrier to entry when you do feel the desire to pick up the project.

    1. I’m not that consistent either! I love the idea of committing to bite-size amounts of daily sewing but when I’m into it, I sew for hours on end without noticing.

  2. Well, congratulations to both you(for finishing the dress) and your sister (for obvious reasons)! 🙂
    I was supposed to sew a wedding dress for a friend of mine once, but she got married way earlier than anyone expected and I didn’t end up making it in the end. I was super excited as the way I see it, making a wedding dress is the holy grail of sewing. 🙂
    I quite enjoy looking at photos about the process, and maybe you could share how you solved all those dilemmas about the neckline, etc, in several posts; I’m sure we could learn a lot from your experiences (all 200+ hours of it!!!). But most importantly – I can’t wait to see the finished dress!!

    1. Thank you, Etemi! I think you’re right, there is something both daunting and thrilling about sewing someone’s dress. And thanks for the requests! I’ll try to pack as much info about the highs and lows of construction as I possibly can into whatever I end up writing. A lot of my process was reading Claire Schaeffer’s and Susan Khalje’s books as well as sewing blogs and trying to apply their information to my sister’s dress.

  3. I cannot wait to read that blog post! What a treat it will be! No pressure 🙂 I would be happy with just pictures.

    With the hot weather lately it’s been very hard to return to finish a lot projects I’ve cut and are ready to go. Forcing yourself to sew really isn’t fun and does feel like a chore. I so hear you on that. And like you, I’ve been satisfying my wish to want to sew by buying all the sewing things. Gah! Sewing will come. Eventually.

    1. I’m hoping to blog about the dress very soon! My sis and I have a date to pick out pictures today, actually, and I think that will be my next post. (I’m hoping sometime in the next week, but I always seem to fail at blogging on a particular timeline.)

      It’s so hot! I think part of my wish to get back into sewing is that my work wardrobe is totally insufficient to carry me through a summer like this. I hope you’re staying as cool as possible 🙂

  4. What an effort. I tend to take a break after huge projects and then get back in with some super fast ones (fix a hem, cushion cover etc) and some daydreaming/planning.

    1. Funny you mention that – minor refashions and fixes have sounded better than ever recently! And maybe my 20-item sewing list is more of a preliminary daydream than an actual to-do list… 🙂

  5. i SO know where you’re coming from with this post. How do you recover from something so all encompassing and all consuming that stretched you beyond your skill set and courage has ever been. I was here after seeing my dress. I guess the difference was I was the one that made my own dress. It was surreal to wear it on that whirlwind of a day but I had a 2 week honeymoon to ride the surreality of the entire escapade of devoting hundreds and hundreds of hours to something so compulsively. I started to see again afterward but I lost the ability to blog about it. Like I could concentrate on sewing cloth together but talking about it or sharing it with the world was just a little but too much. Now, 7 months later, I’ve only just started blogging again and I’m back to “normal”. Let your body dictate what it needs, listen and follow. And LOTS of photos please!

    1. I really enjoyed your wedding dress posts (and your video!) Making your own dress is just really, really impressive. I had to hand mine off to a friend to make because planning my wedding became so overwhelming to me! Love the idea of letting your body decide – I can’t hear that message enough. Hoping to blog and share photos very soon!

  6. I can so relate to how you’re feeling, you’ve articulated it so well. I am exactly like that – when I’m kept from selfish sewing for any reason, be it work or sewing for someone else, I obsess over patterns and fabrics and plans, then I can’t motivate myself to do any of it once I have the time. I think I just need to learn to be satisfied with whatever I’m doing that makes me happy, whether it’s sewing or just lounging all day and reading a book.
    On the other hand, maybe you can have your cake and eat it too if you made something with this fabric:

    1. Sewing that fabric while watching Star Trek.. I’d feel like I was immersed in one of the weirder mind-bending episodes!

      I was surprised to realize I’d bought as much sewing stuff as I had! The fabric and patterns are pretty fun – I just need to be ok with the idea of letting them cool out in the stash for a little while, and focus on what’s making me happy, as you said.

  7. I’ve had exactly the same attitude to sewing since I finished my 20s style wedding dress just over a month ago. I was so focused on getting it right over the last 6 months – including getting up at 4am to sew before going to work each morning, that sewing definitely feels like a chore at the moment. I’ve still got my list of things to make, but I can’t bring myself to focus on anything for long. I hope the sewing bug will return soon!

    1. Cheers for sewing your own dress and on your wedding! That’s a lot to process all at once, and I’m utterly impressed by your 4am sewing sessions. Wow!

  8. I am not a serial sewist, generally. I’m not sure what happens, but I just feel like I need a time out after a project, hence my output can be lower than the average blogger. But then I don’t sew to blog, I sew for joy, joy I feel I want to share via my blog when it’s all done and dusted. You and I sound very alike in our younger years, I spent a lot of time ensuring I didn’t disappoint anyone – I was smart, athletic and overwhelmed much of the time. Good on you for taking time out and sewing only for joy. And I can’t wait to to see the wedding dress. That lace and the draping is exquisite.

    1. I love your blogging and sewing philosophy! I have been somewhat of a serial sewer, but I’m finding I’m happier with time in between projects, too. (Isn’t it nice to be older and feel more solid in your own interests and decisions?)

  9. I am so looking forward to reading about the wedding dress making! I’d love to make one myself, but all my soon-to-get-married girlfriends live in other countries, which makes the task quite difficult. Whenever I finish a difficult project, I tend to go on some sort of sewing detox and spend time reading and watching movies, without pushing myself too much into sewing something else, even a simplest tee. My sewing mojo usually comes back within a few days and sewing becomes ‘natural’ again.

    1. That would be really tough, fitting internationally! My sis lives a mile from me and she was over 2-5 times/week – I was spoiled. If you get the chance, I’ll bet you’d make a spectacular dress!

    1. Ha, nope! I’m such an enthusiastic stitcher that it’s very obvious when the joy isn’t there. When tracing a pattern sounds like a crushing amount of work, it’s time to do something else 😉

  10. Wow, huge congratulations on finishing that dress!! The idea of spending 200+ hours on a single project is truly mind-boggling. I don’t know how to process this information. 🙂 Sometimes I wear myself out with a sewing marathon and need to take a week or two off to regroup. Like you said, the urge to sew always manages to find its way back. Hang in there and enjoy your gardening and moving-watching.

    1. I can’t quite comprehend it either! I started doing the math (conservatively, I might add) and I almost didn’t want to say the number to myself…

  11. Well done, such a deadline! I find doing a different craft helps, a crochet thing or a knitted whatever… I have gone through lots of ups and downs with sewing and wanting to sew and not wanting to sew… and I totally understand working out how to blog about something so time consuming and rewarding… you’ll work it out with time.

    Congrats to your sister and YAY!

    1. I’ve been avoiding starting new fiber crafts because I’m afraid I’ll get addicted! I like the idea of being able to switch to another one as a break, though… very intriguing. Thanks so much! 🙂

  12. I understand this post all too well. I do everything as I “should” always, and am never living up! I also buy fabric and patterns like mad when life gets in the way of sewing, and then feel a guilty let down when I can’t be inspired to enjoy sewing when I do have the time. 😦 So, you’re not alone. I know it’s easier said than done, but just do what you want! It’s okay if you don’t want to sew right now, you will before too long. And if the unthinkable happens and you don’t get that sewing spark back, that’s okay too. But… you do need to just put all those wedding dress photos up there, words or not 🙂

    1. Hahaha, never fear! Pictures are coming 🙂

      I wonder if this is yet another argument for only buying for the project you’re actually starting next? I’ve aspired to that for years, with varying degrees of success.

  13. I’m in a sewing lull right now for some reason. Maybe it has something to do with these lazy days of summer? I don’t know. And I can’t wait to see that dress. But no pressure, of course 😌 ha!

    1. It comes and goes, doesn’t it, sometimes without reason! I made my photo selections on Friday and am waiting on them to be sent over from the photo editor (aka my sis)!

  14. You have described what I often feel after a big costume project. I’ll pour so much energy into that costume and problem solving the challenges that it gives me, all the while thinking about the Ginger Jeans or Anna dress I’ve been wanting to make. Then the convention ends and I am burnt out and can’t get excited about sewing. Blogging often helps – it reminds me of the process that I enjoyed so much. But blogging is also very time consuming and I have costumes from 3 years ago that are still not written up. Doing something completely different.

    1. I’ve actually heard that bridal is like costuming, mostly because the construction needs to be easily altered – but it also sounds like both types of sewing have a sky’s-the-limit aspect to them. The amount of energy you put into your costumes astounds me. I am getting excited to blog about the dress – and I need to do it before I forget anything – although I don’t imagine it’ll trick me into wanting to make another formal dress. Never say never, though! I think it is a bit of a let-down to return to every-day sewing after such a challenge.

  15. I can’t wait to read all about the wedding dress, but only when you feel like it’s the right time to share it. I’ve never spent so much time on any one project so I’m interested to hear how you tackled it. For me, music was once a hobby and is now my job, so with sewing I try really hard to keep it in the hobby category. I never want it to feel like work so I try not to sew if it doesn’t feel natural. Every time I have a sewing lull, I find that over time ideas start to percolate in my head and eventually they bubble up in the form of sewing excitement. I think rolling with it is a good thing! Enjoy your garden and the Star Wars viewing!

    1. I didn’t know you turned music into a profession from a hobby! You must have tremendous skill and passion to have made that leap. I wrote up a 20-item list right after I finished the dress and I just haven’t wanted to jump into it! I think the real ideas will present themselves in a much more exciting (and selective) fashion, like you said, once I’m really ready to dig back in.

  16. Oh gosh, that peek at the bottom looks gorgeous — whenever you’re up for blogging about it, I’ll be happy to read your post — and until then, enjoy yourself doing other things! I so understand about forcing oneself to do things at a younger age, and feeling burnt out after a big project. I think of the advice in a number of books – it’s important to play, and part of playing means following your inner child to whatever sounds like fun at the moment. Maybe that’s gardening or watching TNG, cool! Or wandering around a museum or jumping in a river or lying in a hammock. Or sewing. I mean, whatever it is, just go with it, and you’ll get back to your projects when it feels right. For me, that’s been the best part of sewing less (and not sewing for the blog) … and even of taking time off to write and having to learn how to moderate my writing so that it’s sustainable for my life. Learning how to do the things I love in a way that feels good and fun, vs. draining and filled with “should”s. And yah, maybe that means that I sew fewer clothes for myself, but how much do I actually need? (Although I hear you about feeling ill-equipped for certain seasons … but you’d be surprised how far a new dress or two can get you. Or pants or blouse.)

    Anyhow – hope you’re staying cool and enjoying yourself!

    1. I love that idea of play! I’m pretty inexperienced in the garden so everything feels like a big experiment. Jumping in a river sounds pretty good right now, too… are you handling this heat ok??

  17. I just have to say that you are an amazing sister to devote your time energy and skills to such an important garment! I can’t wait to see the post, your teaser looks stunning! I don’t have any advice other than maybe go with the flow right now. It only seems natural that you would have a bit of burnout after an intense project.

    1. Thank you so much, Margo! (I have to admit that part of my motivation for sewing her dress was selfish – I wanted the motivation to try new and difficult techniques!)

  18. Congratulations to your sister, and congratulations to you for making the dress! In time you will look back and think wow, that was an amazing achievement! Once I’d sewn my best friend’s wedding dress last year, the very next day I sewed a knit Coco dress. Super fast, super easy, very different from expensive white silk satin. It was so refreshing and got me looking forward to fast projects again.

  19. Nice to hear where you’re at. I’ve learnt too that its important to listen to the ebbs and flow of your inner sewing goddess. Sometimes I can have a whole day set aside, kid free, and not feel like sewing. I would have once done the same, just forced my way through. But I’ve learnt you’ve got to be in the right space for sewing. Sounds like you needed a little break, understandably! Looking forward to your next project when the sewjo strikes again… x

    1. Whatever you’re doing, however you’re pacing out your projects, it’s working! Your pieces always look special and considered to me 🙂 After the dress, I think I’ll share the black Gabriola I made. Even though I felt burnt out making it, I love it!

  20. sounds very familiar! After weeks of intense studying (the breaks often filled with ordering stuff for future projects I don’t have the time for while studying) I usually collapse onto the sofa, zombie-like, with no motivation whatsoever. It lasts a week or two, during which I feel really bad not USING the free time I longed for before and not doing the stuff that I should enjoy, so then I feel extra bad for not sewing or knitting or whatever. It get’s better somehow but I haven’t found a way to make it pass faster yet. Hope you do and feel better soon and get all your mojos back! (And if you figure it out, tell me what you did!!)
    Also can’t wait to read more about your wedding dress process and see the finished dress and everything along the way! The draping looks gorgeous!

    1. The sense I’m getting from yours and others’ comments is that we all need downtime after time-intensive projects – yet most of us feel like we should power through! What is that urge? This week I do actually need to make a skirt for a dance class I’m taking, so I will be fighting the urge to relax and watch the tomatoes grow – temporarily.

  21. Now this is familiar. I think I didn’t sew for nearly 2 months after finishing my dress. And the sabbatical was really nice. I struggled to get back into it even then – I’d always find other things to do (Next Gen is a wonderful way to pass the time!). I think that riding the hi’s and low’s of such an involving and consuming project make it hard to start something new, because in a bizarre way I was still pining to be in that position, midway through a crazy huge project? hmmm. You’ll eventually find your rhythm again 🙂

    1. I was struggling to put that feeling into words but you nailed it – I do miss the intensity of the wedding dress even though I was more than ready to finish it. The shorter projects I was pining for during the process pale in comparison. Good for you for easing back into it! I actually committed to sewing a skirt for a dance class I’m taking (regretting that a little bit now) but I’m hoping to keep listening to myself and taking it easy.

  22. Wowsers! That sneak peek of your sister’s dress, I’m drooling a little over all that lacy goodness. I am so incredibly impressed and excited to see the finished product.
    I think that it’s really great that you are recognizing these feelings that you are having and that things are changing. I say go with the flow and keep doing what you are doing. I totally think it would be natural to take a bit of a break after such a long and high pressure project. For me, some quality time with Netflix helps, and sometimes an easy project that I know I love to sew. For me, that’s usually an Archer (or my new found love the Granville). I have it fitting just right now, and I find the whole shirt making process really soothing and satisfying. Plus you can do it step by step for a few minutes here and there, and get a lot accomplished. Like one day, do the button bands, another day the pockets, then the sleeves, then the cuffs, and so on… That or a super quick knit project sometimes does the trick.

    1. Thank you, Heather! I like that idea, a project with many steps done slowly. I was actually going to make a shirt for Nathan as my first project post-dress, but I got stymied by a fit issue I wanted to resolve. Ah, well! I’ll be feeling it again before long. 🙂

  23. I am PANTING for this wedding dress post…. Poppy Kettle’s WD posts were probably my favorite from last year…

    I always like mentally refreshing after an all consuming project with something easy and instant gratification; a Coco dress, Hudson pants, a plantain Tee. Knits, basically. Also, just giving yourself permission to tak e abig il breather ad not do any sewing if you don’t want to!

    1. Oh man, her posts were the gifts that kept on giving… I loved reading them for the first time and again when I started working on the dress this year.

      At this point, I’ve picked at a few simpler projects but I’ve noticed that I walk away reeeal easily when something needs fixing or finishing. I’ll know I’m back when I get amped up to make a bunch of flat pattern alterations! 😉

  24. EVERYTHING you said. It’s such an all consuming pastime that I don’t think it’s surprising that one gets burn out occasionally especially after such an epic project as a wedding dress. I am DYING to see / read all about it – many many posts should be dwelt over!

    1. You know, I was sure and certain I’d want to sew up everything I didn’t when I was buckling down on the dress! I think this break just caught me by surprise, but it makes complete sense.

  25. I think you’re right to go with your gut feelings. Sewing isn’t fun when it becomes a forced activity. I bet you’ll find your rhythm again after a little bit of a recharge. Have fun in the garden and get lots of couch cuddles.

  26. Wowza, that lace! I’m so excited to see the dress! For me, after a big project (my coat projects come to mind) I always enjoy sort of sewing something on a whim. Like, sitting down in my sewing space, seeing what I feel like making in the moment, and just doing it. Nothing from my plans or to check off a list, just whatever feels inspiring and energizing in the moment. I also love to recharge by knitting or cooking– something else that’s creative, but without the intense problem-solving that massive sewing projects revolve around. For me, sewing is a cerebral activity, but knitting and cooking are intuitive, so it feels like a nice break from the mental heavy lifting while still being productive. But that’s just me!

    1. Interesting that knitting feels more intuitive – it looks really complicated with all of the diagrams and swatching! Then again, you know how I’m actively trying to avoid getting obsessed with knitting 😉 Sewing something on a whim sounds delightful. I’m starting to wonder if the huge list I wrote up for myself right after finishing the dress is crushing the fun out of sewing?

  27. Ooh that sneak peek of the wedding dress is a tease, can’t wait to see more pics! I haven’t sewn any big projects for a long time as I just dont have the brain space for it right now – quick easy sews all the way for me. I can totally see what you feel a need for a breather and other activities after 200+ hours of sewing! Gardening & Star Trek sounds like fun. And day dreaming about sewing projects, that’s always fun too!

    1. I did feel a bit cruel posting the lace pic… 😉 I’m so impressed with new parents that manage to sew and create after having a kiddo – talk about a big project!

  28. Last year after I finished my maid of honor dress I had a similar dip. Not that it took nearly as much time but it was such an important project that indeed it took up quite a bit of time and brain space. It took me quite a while to get out of a sewing rut after that. I made a couple of maternity tops for my sister in the mean time, but these last couple of months I’ve really found my sewing stride again. I sew in shorter bursts now, which makes me feel more like doing it I think. I also relaxed my self-imposed stash busting goal. Buying a couple of new pieces of fabric also inspired me.

    1. I like the idea of shorter bursts. I can get so compulsive about sewing that I think it would be good for me, although probably difficult to do. Btw, I came very close to using the same pattern as you did for my matron of honor dress!! I loved your version and still want to try it some day.

      1. Thank you for the compliment! Which pattern did you end up going with for your matron of honor dress? I’d really recommend that pattern, but use a fabric with more body than bridal satin, like rayon jersey for example. Ironically, I liked my Muslin better because I used a jersey bedsheet. 😀

      2. I ended up using Simplicity 1801 without the sleeves. (I actually had big plans to put longer puffier sleeves in, but ran out of time.) And thanks for the tip on that pattern! It’s so cool and unusual but I could see how it would be critical to pick the right fabric.

  29. O.K…. I understand exactly what you mean. I think I’ve made 40 or more wedding dresses. After each one it seems my mojo dies…… but, now I’ve come to realize that if i want to do something…. I give myself a deadline…. it does help, bit by bit I work back into it. Take a break, do some other project that doesn’t involve sewing for a bit. Then do a super simple quick to finish project… you will get it back. It just takes a bit of time.
    Jump into reading your vintage patterns… that may help also. It gets the juices flowing.
    good luck!

  30. Oh, I can’t wait to see the finished dress!! When I finished my wedding dress I made a quilt as a palette cleanser of sorts. After a big-ish project I usually tidy my sewing room so it gets back to a place where something new can be started.

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