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Feb 20, 2010

Suit-us Interruptus or "The Dutiful Son"

I was so excited about getting my jumpsuit finished by today.  It's coming along extremely well and I'll be debuting it here tomorrow (Sunday), so be sure to check in.

But I didn't finish the jumpsuit because I got sidetracked.  I made my mother a fleece jacket.

Originally I'd planned to make my mother a bathrobe, but she didn't like the horizontal stripes in the fabric I'd purchased.  Lemonade from lemons, I ended up using that striped knit to make this.

On Monday I went fabric shopping with some other Pattern Review members and I bought about a yard-and-a-half of heavy, high quality black fleece, thinking I'd make my mother a little jacket.

I actually adapted the same pattern I'd used to make Michael's Valentines Day jumpsuit, if you can believe it.  My mother is short and somewhat stout, so I wanted a pattern with raglan sleeves, which tends to be roomier under the arm and in the bust.  I added a few inches to the chest and added a simple collar and of course, didn't add legs.

Ta da!

It fits her well and she seemed to like it.  My mother is not one to gush about gifts and honestly, while she seemed grateful, her response was about the same as if I'd found this fleece for her at the Salvation Army.   Then again, it's not like I'd put it in a box and wrapped it for her.  I just sort of pulled it it off the dummy and had her try it on.

I generally enjoy sewing for others, but this project didn't leave me with a very warm feeling or sense of accomplishment.  Still, I'm glad I did it.  Your parents are your parents, after all and they won't be around forever.

Have you ever sewed something for someone and their reaction was not what you'd hoped?

Do you think knowing how to sew makes you appreciate a home-sewn gift more -- or less?

Dig in.


  1. I've had the same experience, Peter. It almost feels like they expect you to sew something for them and it's not a big deal. Non-sewers sometimes don't see the effort and love that goes into every project, especially the ones that are seemingly simple.

    You did a great job on the jacket - love it! Looking forward to your jumpsuit debut.

    You posted a while back about the fuzzy (?) tiger striped fabric you purchased. I definitely think Cathy needs a Dr. Zhivago-style hat and stole. Fab-u-lous!

  2. When her friends compliment her and she can say "My son made this for me" and then they gush some more - that will be the reward. Give it a week or two and I suspect she will appreciate it more.

  3. This is why I never sew for others! Well, DH is an exception, and of course, he shows appropriate appreciation. :-)

  4. Learning to sew has definitely made me appreciate hand sewn items now that I understand the time, effort, love, and care that we put into creating something that is unique for the ones we love. I have been in your position a few times and have decided that unless a specific item is requested my time is best spent on creating things that I love. But, I must say your Mother certainly looks happy in her stylish new jacket!

  5. Peter - I have only had success sewing for others when a) my daughters were teenagers and could not find what their friends were wearing in a size that would fit them, and b) when I showed them that I could make not only exactly, but nicer versions of what their friends were wearing and that they would fit. I always knew when we had a winner because they would take one look ('one look..that's all it took, just one look') in the mirror and twirl around. If they just stood there, twitching it, I knew it was a wadder. But even if was not perfect, if I got a twirl out of it, I knew we were 95% there, that they were happy with it, and would wear it in happiness. I have never had success making things for people on the basis of my wanting to make that item for them; it had to be something that they wanted a LOT and asked me to make for them.

  6. I absolutely think that knowing how to sew/knit makes you appreciate homemade more. I'vel often received a turned up nose from a sewn or knitted gift. If I'm honest, its only my grandmother that really apperciates anything I make her. Bless her cottons!

  7. Since I grew up with my mother sewing and knitting and doing all kinds of stuff, and I always made things myself, too, I also always knew to appreciate handmade gifts. To me, they're worth more than things that are simply bought, because I know a lot of thought and work and love goes into them.
    I only make things (be it sewing clothes, or making jewelry, or whatever) for people who I know will appreciate it. And I only make what I want to make when I want to make it for whom I want to make it. I don't take requests and I certainly mostly sew for myself. Sometimes also for my husband, and of course gifts fror birthdays and christmas, but other than that, it's for me. :)
    So far I've been lucky and noone has turned their nose at what I made for them. I guess I just have great friends and family for a crafty person.

  8. You are an excellent son! And I keep trying to get my mother to send me her measurements because I want to make something for her.

  9. Yes. A LONG time ago, I made a newborn outfit for my brand new nephew (now a Marine). Not even a thank you note from my sister in law. Never made anything for anyone else in her family.

    An extreme case for me, though, as most people do gush appropriately. I LOVE when handmade things are given to me.

  10. I don't sew for that many people, but my dd has always been very appreciative and quick to brag that her mother made it for her when she is complemented. I sewed some doll clothes for her and her friend's American Girls when they were young and both girls loved them because none of the other kids had the same thing. I am not sure that most people understand what it takes to make something and would just rather have store bought.

  11. I'm sorry. Do you not read The Selfish Seamstress? I mean, she's not just out there yammering to herself for no reason, you know.

    Do. Not. Make. Things. For. Others.

    Well, OK, I make most of my kids' clothes. But they are both under the age of seven and under strict orders to worship me at all times. Unless you can get your mother to unconditionally worship you like you're an avenging god, I would probably say you're about as lucky as you're going to get with the gratitude. (And I agree that she'll probably be all over that gushing-thing with her girlfriends when the time comes.)

  12. I sew for my kids, most of it goes over really well. My oldest daughter is hard with dressy clothes, but loves the knit tops and pajama pants. My boys love the pajamas, the baby doesn't care yet. I almost never sew for Mike, never really needed to yet, he lives in jeans and polo shirts or Land's End flannel pullovers. For my mom, only something home-decorative, a table runner, etc, because she can sew if she wants to, and she is really critical of my work. Why put myself out for something she's going to critique? Now she likes my quilting and embroidery, so I stick to that for her. For others, friends, nearly everyone has been appreciative. But I do see the Selfish Seamstress' point, somewhat, that not everyone understands the work. But I think it was nice that you did that for your mom. It looks great on her.

  13. Well, the jacket looks like it fits her very comfortably. So I predict that over time she'll be surprised at how often she reaches for it and then over a longer time she'll see how long it has lasted, and then she'll appreciate it and ask you to make another one.

  14. I made a quilt for my nephew (he was only 6 at the time), and when I presented it at Christmas, no one seemed to care! Even though I had spent the last two weeks worked 10+ hours a day on it, and had modeled it after a quilt that his now deceased great-grandmother had made for my husband when he was a little boy. Yeah - not doing that again!

  15. I've had a 50/50 reaction when sewing for others. So I'd have to day I'm with the Selfish Seamstress and beangirl on this one.

  16. I only sew things for my daughters and myself. I have been disappointed in the past when I've put effort and love into a project and the recipient didn't seem appreciative, so from now on - gift cards for everyone else.
    My little girls of course are very proud when I sew them stuff and are sure to tell everyone that I made it.
    What really gets on my nerves is when people say "What, you sew? Who has time for that?" Hereby indicating that I spend my time on frivolous crap, when they are the ones who sit in front of the TV or what have you and don't do squat.
    Ok, I'll calm down now.

  17. I sew for my partner and he always appreciates it, but this christmas I handmade every gift I gave and all of the family, with the exception of my brother-in-law, just said a rather lack lustre 'thanks'. I made some rather detailed handbags and shirts, with fabrics and colours chosen with each recipients favourites firmly planted in my mind as I worked. Needless to say, I won't do that again. I think most of them would rather have had something plastic from K Mart. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, for whom I made a bright yellow vest, was thrilled and wore it all day. Given that it was stinking hot and the vest was heavy wool, I was very pleased. He made up for the others.

  18. yup. I don't like to sew (custom) for others. It takes all the fun out of it. I just want to make what I feel like and if you like it, then you can have it. or not.
    xo, suzy

  19. I'm from a family of creative people so I love handmade gifts and love to make things for others. I've also learned how to spot the ones who actually appreciate it and won't make something for just anybody. I'll share with you my funniest sewing for others story... I made a jumper for my 3rd daughter. She picked out the fabric she wanted and embroidery design and colors. When I was finished I proudly presented it to her, she looked at it, looked at me and then said "the collar's the wrong color" then blew her nose on it and walked off!
    She was too little to realize what a brat she was being and it was really too funny to be upset about so all I could do was sit there and laugh. Ten minutes later she loved it and got lots of wear out of it... after I washed it.

    Great job on your mothers jacket, I'm so impressed that you altered a pattern to make it.

  20. Lynne W RatherBeSewingFebruary 20, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    The Do. Not. Sew. mantra? I learned that lesson fairly young, when I made a smokin' halter top out of beautiful fabric for my best friend in high school for her birthday. I was tailoring wool coats at that point in Home Ec so I know it wasn't the workmanship...I had made a similar top for myself that she loved, so I thought she'd like hers, too. 'Lackluster response' was the kindes I can put it. Luckily, I got compliments on my sewn home dec and my little boys' clothes several years later, so I've kept the sewing thing going. Plus, some of our extended family sew and craft, and they DO appreciate the time and love I put into my gifts (or they act like they do@) I still handmake lots of gifts and my friends appreciate them (even if they do call me Martha, which I pretend not to hear....I'm much more fun!) I guess I choodse my friends wisely and am lucky to be able to make whatI want, when I want.
    I love your mom's jacket and the fact you cared enough to pour yourself into a project for her. I hope she is bursting with pride and love on the inside and just is not the demonstrative type.
    On another subjsect, I love the jumpsuit path you're on, and the khaki one is perfectly perfect. Next, please humor me and make a bold print a la Vera or Kaffe Fasset for summer at the Cape or Hamptons. Fabby, darling Peter.

  21. My sister-in-law considers me her personal seamstress. And she tends to brag on what I make for her daughter, too. She dresses Evie in what I make fairly often and between her and my brother, conned me into making a Yo Gabba Gabba Foofa costume for Halloween last year. The first thing you have to understand is that there's no pattern for this. At all. And all our ideas of adapting RTW clothing didn't work and we couldn't make the pinks match. The week before, I finally figured out how to do it. Thing is, I'm a sewist, not a seamstress. I can't pull things out of thin air--I need patterns! After much tearing out of hair, I decided that sewing a shell to the gathered bottom of an a-line dress was the way to go. here It turned out well, anyway. It got gushed over by just about everybody, and I entered it in the Joanns/Simplicity costume contest on a lark. It's in the top five in the baby/category right now, but we won't find out the final results until sometime next month.

  22. Lynne W RatherBeSewingFebruary 20, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    ..sorry for all the typos above. Haste makes waste. Wanted to add a hearty YES to mom2five's comment: "I love handmade gifts...I've also learned how to spot the ones who actually appreciate it and won't make something for just anybody." That is the key. After all, each of our creations contain a little part of our heart and soul, so we have to take care to whom we entrust them.

  23. Wow, so many fantastic comments! I agree that it's better to sew for the people who are asking for something specific (like Michael -- who asks daily!) rather than sewing something you think someone else will want/need/use. As I reflect on it, my mother never asked for a fleece at all, whereas Michael's mother had requested one specifically, and was (or seemed) over-the-moon about the one I made her last December. And that one didn't even have serged seams!

    I think that we've been conditioned to think of something homemade as a "thrifty" gift and somehow less valuable than one purchased with money. We give gift cards these days, so people know exactly how much we're willing to spend on them. It's harder to place value on a handmade item: it's almost a foreign experience. Plus I think knowing that something is commercially produced gives people more confidence about it's suitableness: like, "Oh, this is from Ann Taylor so it must be in good taste." It takes more confidence to say, So-and-so made me this and I'm going to wear it despite no one being able to recognize its origin. Know what I mean?

  24. Funnily enough, a homemade gift can be a lot *more* expensive than a store bought one. We made quilts for my grandmother and my brothers for Christmas this past year. In materials alone, (and we bought everything 50% off) we spent around $100 per quilt. I can go to Wal-Mart or the Dollar General and buy a king sized quilt for less than that!

  25. Lynne W RatherBeSewingFebruary 20, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    Yes, those who sew, quilt, paint, etc. know that it is MUCH more costly (not to mention the time investment) to make something of quality from scratch, even with those %off coupons, than it is to go to the nearest Big Box and buy what every other chump has. I hadn't considered the brand concept but that must be true for many recipients (Ann Taylor = good taste; homemade = who knows?? So here's to us! We get it ... and we GET that we get it! Sad that some self-confidence comes from a label or embroidered logo. Here's to our uniqueness and the cameraderie that comes with it!

  26. I learned my lesson early on. I sewed Giftmas presents for everyone one year at college. Never again! Appreciation was sub-zero.

    I get my extrinsic validation in other ways. Wink.

  27. I have only sewn for my little kids, who don't yet know what appreciation is. I toy with the idea of sewing for my husband but haven't worked up the nerve yet since he's so honest with his assessments of things I sew for myself (both good and bad). I have knitted things in the past for my husband, parents and sisters. All were appropriately appreciative. Of course, they knew the work that goes into it.

  28. Oh, I should have said. Our homemade Christmas extended to everybody.... and we have a big family. I think that my brother and sister-in-law were probably the *most* appreciative. The pajama pants I made for them were a huge hit. My little brother had to ask me to fix his abit, but he was gobsmacked that he had to ask me to hem his because they were too *long*. (He's 6'7 and hasn't been able to get ones long enough for years!) His birthday is coming up. I'm either making him a summer version of those same pajama pants, or some cargos. He needs both. *shrug*

  29. love your blog, first of all. Although I might have mentioned this before ..?

    I started sewing a year and a half ago and would not say that I am very accomplished: I don't care that much for the inside and struggle with fitting But still ...

    When my brother told me that he was going to marry his very pregnant girlfriend I asked about her dress. She did not have anything yet and was not too keen going out and trying all those hideous maternity dresses. I don't know what happened in my brain that moment but I proposed making a dress for her. She was at home while my brother stayed with us for the weekend so naturally he could not answer immediately. The moment I said this I got really nervous but than I thought that no woman would want her SIL she barely knows and who lives not near by to sew her wedding dress (not the big white one but still). But when my brother called three days later she was ok with it. A kneelength jersey wrapdress for a pregnant bride - I felt terrible. And she let me choose everything: fabric, colour, pattern.

    Well, to make this short: I sat down for 27 hours with only four hours sleep in between, send hubby and kids out of the house and sew, sitting very hunched and tense. And we only could try it on the night before the wedding!

    It looked good on her and the colour was gorgeous with her pale complexion. She was kind of thankful but not over the top so I assumed it was not great. But later on every member of her family came over to congratulate me for making her so beautiful (I also took over make up and hair, shoes and jewellery):-)

    But never ever again. Sewing for somebody else stresses me!

  30. The only people apart from my kids for who I sew regularly are my sis and her kids. This used to be a constant source of irritation because she barely ever says thanks when receiving my handmade gifts. And boy did that irritate me! So many times I've decided not to do it anymore - but then a birthday approaches and I cannot think of anything else so I make another top or sweater...

    Then I noticed that in almost every photo I see of their family (they live FAR AWAY so I mostly see them in photos...) at least one of them is wearing something I made, and sometimes all of them. Those aren't photos taken specifically for me, either, just pics of their life as it is. What could be a more beautiful "thank you" for my efforts than seeing my gifts being dear (and useful) to them. So what if she forgets to thank me. I know better!

  31. Sorry you didn't get the gushing thanks that we would like when sewing for others. :(

    I sew mostly for my kids and myself. The kids are easy to play off each other. If I sew too much for one kid, the other feels left out and I get lots of thanks when they get something. My friends usually specifically ask me to make them gifts, so that is generally a sure win. I swear I've gotten invited to baby showers of friends of friends specifically so I would make them my signature baby gift.

    That's not to say that I haven't received luke warm responses. I seem to remember getting a lackluster response in the last few years, but I can't remember who it was. Must not have been too big of a deal. I think because most people gush, the other ones don't bother me too much.

  32. I have definitely been disappointed by the reaction from hand-knit or hand-sewn gifts--unless someone else is a sewer/knitter/quilter, they assume it is just easy for you and they often don't really appreciate the work or effort that you put in.

    And it can be really hard to judge what someone will actually wear. I knit my husband several high-quality wool hats that look fantastic on him and tried to keep with the neutral (boring!) colors he like (he even picked out the yarn himself) ... and surprise, surprise, he has worn each of them about two or three times and instead always reaches for the plain cheap $10 black acrylic RTW winter hat because he says it "goes" with everything.

    I'm also shocked sometimes by people who don't realize how much WORK it all is--a friend once asked me "oh, could you knit me a sweater?" I was like -- "I barely have the time to make things for myself, never mind make some sweater on order that doesn't even interest me." I politely declined.

    So... just sewing for myself and baby for the foreseeable future. I do want to try to make a shirt or a hoodie for my husband at some point but I've been burned by those other things I made him...

  33. I've been very lucky that the baby clothes/gifts I've sewn for friends have been incredibly well-received. In fact, I get a huge grin on my face when these friends make a point to send me pictures of their wee ones in the stuff that I've spent hours on. I'm sorry that your mom wasn't more effusive in her praise, but she does look quite adorable in the jacket. You did a really great job on it.

  34. your mom looks good in black.
    cute jacket. looks comfortable.


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