Confessions of a Reformed Sewaholic

Hi, I'm Molly. It’s been six weeks and 1 day since my last sewing project. I’m a sewaholic.

I made at least 130 apparel items for myself in 2018. I’ve gone on benders of one new clothing item a day for 10-12 days at a time. I’ve said “yes” to testing patterns that I didn’t need . I’ve said “yes” to testing fabric that I knew I’d never wear after I was done taking promotional pictures. I sewed things quickly and poorly just for the sake of finishing it. I’ve promoted fabrics and patterns I didn’t especially care for.

And what did it get me?

Burnt out. Drained. A closet full of clothes I’d never wear. And a feeling that I’d been wasteful: wasteful of my time, of my money, and of our earth’s resources (the environmental impact of textile production and waste is a HUGE problem).

And to add fuel to the fire, I read this book:

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Amazon affiliate link!)

Whether you buy clothes or make clothes I highly recommend this book. You don’t even have to be interested in clothes or fashion. But, if you wear any clothes at all, I think it’s important to think more about your consumption- where do your clothes come from and where do they go when you’re done with them? This book delves into how the fabrics are made, who’s sewing them (despite all of our technological advances, yes, there is still a person who is sewing your clothes), who’s designing them, how they’re manufactured and distributed, and what happens to your Goodwill donations.

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I started reading the book back in October, right at the same time I traveled to Los Angeles. Downtown is flooded with stores like this, displaying fast trends at insanely low prices.

It was the perfect backdrop to everything Overdressed was talking about: how our cultural consumption of clothes has changed. Clothing has become a disposal good, quantity over quality. We’re willing to pay less and less, and have sacrificed quality clothing made in way that’s sustainable for our world.

If I’m going to be honest, I’ll tell you that it left me a little depressed about my closet. And the fabric in my sewing room. I realized that even though sewing my own clothes does a lot of good, there were still some major problems with my clothing habits.

in short, I was my own producer of fast fashion. I was substituting quantity for quality in my own work. I was spending my time and money to make things that I didn’t even plan on wearing more than one or two times. Just like the consumer who buys something they don’t need because it was “too good of a deal to pass up”, I was accepting strike-off fabric (free fabric from fabric stores in exchange for me sewing it up and supplying them with advertising), because it was “too good of a deal to pass up” (even if I didn’t like it, and it just meant more clothes in my closet that I wasn’t wearing).

Cue the guilt (I’m very prone to guilt, haha).

I gradually started to step away from the pattern and fabric groups I sewed for (even the ones I truly loved). My heart wasn’t in it any more, and it felt ridiculously wasteful to keep doing it (again, in terms of time, money, and planet Earth). But by stepping away from those groups, I also realized something else.

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By saying “yes” to so many pattern and fabric groups, I was essentially saying “no” to all of my own projects and ideas and creative goals. The time I wanted to learn new techniques or sew up patterns just for fun and not because I had to. I was rushing to do everything for them, and it was taking away from me being able to do anything for me.

Obviously, this wasn’t their fault. I’m the one that couldn’t stop saying “yes” to every sweater, brushed poly print, or dress pattern that offered itself to me. I’ve sewn for SO MANY talented, sweet, motivated women. And I loved supporting them and their dreams. But now it’s time to work on me and my own goals.

World domination.

Just kidding.

But I wouldn’t mind learning to hand pick stitch my zippers or use horsehair braid (no horses are harmed in the making of modern-day horsehair braid).

So, I took a break from sewing. It’s been six weeks and one day. The longest time I’ve gone without sewing anything since I started sewing obsessively three years ago. During the past six weeks (and one day), I’ve thought a lot about what I DO want to sew and I’ve made some changes to my closet and my mindset.

  • There are some vintage patterns calling my name upstairs.

  • I got Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing for Christmas, and I’m SO excited to learn some new vintage and couture sewing techniques, not to mention give some of her patterns a try (the tie blouse is top of my list!).

  • I stopped buy fabric from my regular shops and started searching our local thrift shops for fabric, so I can sew more sustainably.

  • I did another closet destash, and sold off some of my me-made goods that I don’t wear.

  • When I did “need” to buy a few items last month, I chose to do so from Pact Organic, for 100% certified organic cotton staples made in fair trade factories.

I’ve had a few sewing friends reach out and say that they missed seeing my sews, or that they hoped I got my “sewjo” back. But I’m super happy to be where I’m at, and I’m so excited about these changes. I know that stepping back from pattern testing and fabric samples was right for me. I’m looking forward to thinking more critically about the items I sew and enjoying more time sewing them.

I do 100% recommend Overdressed (and I hope I didn’t get too preachy about it!)— let me know if you’ve read it or if you end up picking it up! I’d love to hear what you think.

xoxo,

Molly

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Happy {Blog} Birthday!

Today marks the two year anniversary of Middle River Studio! Lest I forget my own blog birthday, I have a SquareSpace bill to remind me, ha! Thanks, SquareSpace.

I have to say, after two years, I still have no idea what I’m doing here.

No, really.

Two years ago, I wanted a place to dump all of my sewing projects. To show them off and share them, and for my own pride and joy. Also, I thought I would be using the e-commerce feature to be selling my goods.

In those two years, it’s been a lot of posts on “here’s my finished project, here’s what I did, this fabric, this pattern, la la, la”. I pretty much quit selling my handmade clothes. But I also tried a lot of different things out too, trying to figure out what I really wanted to be talking about and what I really wanted to do here in cyberspace: I did little tutorials on sewing projects, I did some crafty things, I shared our Shasta camper project, and I did some posts on events I did this year, like the pin-up contest and going to New York and LA for fashion week.

And I’ve brainstormed about a hundred things I want to do here.

In the past few months, I’ve seriously considered relaunching with some specific handmade goods for sale. As in so serious that I ordered all new tags and branding items. Annnnnd now I’ve back tracked on that. I’ve had SO many ideas on challenges or features or monthly projects. Maybe my problem is that I want to do everything.

Do I need to focus in one area? A lot of blog experts would say yes. I guess that’s not me though. This started as a sewing blog, and is really more like a lifestyle blog, containing anything I want to talk about, ha. It continues to grow and change as I continue to grow and change.

And I have some fun ideas for 2019. I can’t wait to get going on them all.

Thank you for being here. Seriously. When people say they miss me blogging, or miss seeing my sewing posts, that warms my heart in so many ways. I’m over here working and posting away, and even though my analytics tell me there’s someone on the other side, it sometimes feels like it’s just me. But there’s YOU! Here scrolling through what I write. And I appreciate that in so many ways. Thank you for popping on during my sporadic posting.

Happy birthday to Middle River Studio! I can’t wait to share what’s next (I’ll give you a hint: there’s more vintage stuff, some very specific sewing, and a “new” camper on the way!).

xoxo

Molly

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So long, 2018. Helllooo, 2019!

I’m usually not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I really love the start of the new year any way. I love the feeling of a fresh start. I know it’s kind of cheesy too, but the winter time is such a natural time for quiet reflection. After the craziness of December, it’s nice to sit back and think about what I want for myself, and for my family. And so, I ended up with three “challenges” for the month of January anyway. I think just planning a month-long challenge is a more realistic approach to resolutions anyway. I look at these more as “resets” after how over-the-top December can be. So, here’s what I’m doing this January:

1) It’s no spend month! December is full of extra spending, from presents to traveling to see family, to extra groceries for special meals and events. It gets out of hand fast. So, Mike and I decided to do a no spend month to counteract the spending craze of December. So, it’s just the essentials: groceries, gas, bills, basics toiletries and household items. Any extraneous purchase needs to be approved by the other spouse, for accountability.

I listened to a show on public radio last year about Ann Patchett who did a no shopping year, and it was really interesting. One of the things that stood out to me was how when she thought she “needed” to buy something, she usually found a way to work around it. For example, running out of hairspray, and thinking she needed to buy more . . . when actuality, she had a boatload of cast-off hair products stashed away that she turned to first, even though they weren’t her favorite. Ie: Finding ways to make do with what you have instead of buying more. Or instead of buying an item that would get minimal use, borrow it from a friend. I don’t know if much will really come out of just no-spend month., but I really encourage you to lfind out more about Ann’s year of no spending. You can listen to same show I listened to here (from WBUR’s On Point), or here’s an opinion piece Ann wrote for the New York Times if you want a quick read!

2) No Facebook. This one has been a long time coming, my friends. I think social media, and Facebook specifically, is naturally very addicting, but as a stay at home mom, I think the problem is even worse for me. It turns into a major social outlet, during long days at home that otherwise wouldn’t have any adult contact. But the problem snowballs when it feels more like you’re living your life on Facebook instead of the real life that’s right in front of you. Soooo, I signed out and deleted the app. The only thing I miss at the moment (five days in, my friends!) is that FB is an easy way to find out what’s going on— my play group dates, events in the area, etc. Want to read more about the social media addiction? Here’s a fast read from the Guardian. I’ll also say that no Facebook helps me with the no-spend thing, haha. I spend too much time scrolling through the Buy, Sell, Trade pages, or Facebook Marketplace.

When I first told Mike I was going to be Facebook-free for January, he asked me what I was going to do with all my extra time. I said, “Good question. I’m going to be cooking.” Because . . .

3) I’m doing Whole 30 this month. Ha! I know “I’m going to eat healthy this year” is the most basic form of a new year’s resolution. Buuut, I failed Whole 30 this past November, so I needed redemption. Plus, I do feel strongly that Whole 30 is a GREAT reset for your body. And my January is all about resetting my life and realigning with my overall beliefs. And I do believe we’re in a health crisis. And I do believe that one of the biggest things I can do for my kids, to help them have a long and healthy life, is to give them healthy eating habits. Honestly, I think it’s one of the biggest impacts I can have on their lives in the long run. Love them, and feed them well. So, Whole 30 is a good reset for me to change my habits, and as the primary meal-planner and food-shopper, the good habits get passed down to everyone else as well (not that my kids are doing Whole 30 with me, but they are eating better in general). Whole 30 is not a diet, it’s not something you keep doing long term. It’s a 30 day reset, followed by a 15 day re-introduction period. I think it will help me curb my sweet tooth (just in time for my youngest’s 1st birthday party, which is taking place in a candy store, ha!). Related side note: watch the documentary Fed Up! It’s about sugar, and I found it to be excellent. And check out the Whole 30 book too!

So, those are my three goals for January! What about you? What are you doing this month? And if you’ve already done Whole 30, I’d LOVE to hear your favorite recipes!

I have crafty-sewing-bloggy plans too! I’ll be back soon to talk about those!

xoxo

Molly

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Fashion Week Take Two: Los Angeles

Earlier this month I went to Los Angeles to walk in Fashion Week (for a second time!) for my friend and favorite designer, Kristi Fitzpatrick of George + Ginger. If you missed my first post about walking in New York Fashion Week, check it out!

Talk about a whirlwind. New York was a great trip, but my weekend in Los Angeles was fast, sleepy, and absolutely crazy wonderful. I woke up at 1:30 am, drove to the shuttle in Duluth, shuttled on down to the airport in Minneapolis, flew out to LA, Lyft-ed to downtown, checked into my AirBnB, walked to the Grand Sheraton, and checked into the Society Fashion Week at 2:30. Did the whole getting ready, walk in a fashion show thing, and then crashed into my bed at the AirBnB at 11:30 PST, aka, 1:30 AM CST— as in, I managed to stay awake for a whole 24 hours. Which is no small feat once you’re 30 and the mother of three.

What a CRAZY 24 hours.

Ha!

I don’t know if it was my sleepy, just-getting-by state, or the fact that this was my second rodeo, but I was so much more relaxed and had so much more fun at the show!

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It was so fun getting to see some people for a second time, as well as meet new sewing people that I’ve known forever (cough, Rachelle from 5 out of Patterns, cough!).

Everyone popped right down and got to work helping out with make-up.

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Kristi’s collection for this show was totally on point. Absolutely blew it out of the water.

She used black and white fabric from a variety of custom fabric hosts, a lot of whom I’ve sewed sample fabrics for before. This fabric I’m wearing is from Fabric Anthropology.

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And then, she laced me up in the welded corset. What?!

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I love how the metal was incorporated into all the pieces. Hair, make-up, and then that whole hurry-up-and-wait thing. Haha!

It was a BIG show with 10 or 12 designers showing. My absolutely favorite designer at the show (besides G+G, of course!), was jus10h. Seriously, please go check him out. Not only was his collection amazing, but he was so stinkin’ nice when I was fan-girling all over his collection while we were waiting in line for the runway.

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I was so tired, and not at all nervous this time. It was a bummer because I feel like I could have done better, but I got thrown off because of how fast we were being sent out on the runway . . . but in true theatre style, you just go with it. Don’t tell Mike, but I should probably just do one more show so I can absolutely nail it. Third time is a charm, right?

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I’ll tell you, I shouldn’t be allowed to go last though. Stick me in the middle where I have to conform a little more. Because in truth, I ad libbed a little too much in the finale, haha. It was the theatre girl in me, I couldn’t help myself. The pictures make me look cool and collected, but I promise the video shows what an absolute dork I am, ha!

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This collection was absolutely amazing, and these photos don’t do it justice- the details of the metal were awesome. There’s a floral metal crown, and some welded handbags in there too!

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After that crazy, crazy day, I had a full day in LA all by myself to do whatever I wanted. So obviously, first I slept in. Ha! Then I headed to Pasadena to go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market. I may or may not have teared up a little when I was walking in, I was just so happy. Legit flea markets are what my dreams are made of.

I was staying in downtown LA, so it was cool to take the drive up to Pasadena and check out more of the city besides just DTLA.

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I bought five dresses at the flea, including three from Carly here, who is an absolute gem (she has Twiggy eyes, my friends). She had such a great collection of vintage dresses, including a whole slew that were from the set of the Astronaut’s Wives Club. (My dress is from Apple Thief Vintage, one of my favorite vintage shops on Etsy.)

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I spent FOUR hours at that flea market. It is GIGANTIC. Afterwards, I went to the famed Santee Alley and the Fashion District. Santee is a whole lot of cheap fashion jammed into an alley. Definitely a cool walk around, but not quite what I was expecting.

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I couldn’t leave the fashion district without some fabric, so I stopped into Michael Levine. It is a great store (they also sell on-line). I went into the main retail store, but right across the street, thy have a Home Decor store, as well as the Loft, where you can buy fabric remnants by the pound.

The main store had a fantastic selection of designer remnants that were $5 a yard, and I picked out five cuts of fabric. Shout out to Lupe, who provided me with WONDERFUL customer service. It was a delight to talk to her and she was so helpful. Probably like fabric stores used to be ;)

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Here’s the part of the story where I lugged my flea market finds, 15 yards of fabric, and 12 spools of serger thread the 3/4 of a mile back to my AirBnB. It was heavy. It was a struggle. People looked at me.

After dropping the goods off, I headed to The Broad, a contemporary art museum. I LOVE sculptures, and I especially loved their collection of Andy Warhols. Here are some of my favorites.

If you’ve never traveled by yourself, I highly recommend it. It was a lot of fun to just do things on my own, at my own pace, whatever I wanted. I dare say, it was relaxing, haha. And I LOVED Los Angeles. To be honest, I was initially really only excited about my NY trip, and was feeling pretty ‘meh’ about LA. But I really enjoyed LA, the people, the slower pace than NYC, just the total vibe. And it was even cloudy and uncommonly cool the whole time I was there, so it wasn’t even like the sunshine and warmer temps swayed me, haha.

Overall, I left feeling just stupid, crazy blessed. To have the opportunity for some time away from real life, to get to be a part of something so cool and creative as fashion week, and to have a family that supports all that.

I also left wearing this ridiculously amazing vintage set. Ha! <3

xo- Molly

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Adding "Runway Model" to My Resume: New York Fashion Week

When Kristi from George + Ginger announced last spring that she would be participating in Fashion Week this fall I immediately started a plan to save my pennies so that I would be able to tag along. Over the course my pattern testing, I’ve done more with G+G than any other indie pattern designer, and I think it is ah-maz-ing that she’s taking her pattern line to the next level. I missed her debut at New York Fashion Week back in February, owing to the fact that, oh, you know, I was having a baby. So I was thrilled that she was going to be showing collections again this fall (thrilled for her, and for me, because I was dead set on getting to go see one of her shows!). She was actually signed to show collections in three places—New York, London, and Los Angeles!

In July, she gave me the official invite, not just to tag along and watch, but to actually model for her. Insert jaw drop here. I also got the official okay from Mike to go to both New York AND Los Angeles. Sneaking away for solo trips when you have three kids (three kids four and under at that) is seriously crazy, so I was so stinkin’ excited that we were able to talk it out and work it out so that I could do both (and shout out to my MIL for helping out with child care to make it happen!). Guys, I was literally bouncing around the house that day, I was so excited. I mean, I don’t even break 5’4”, I walk into to things on the daily, and I’m a mom of three living northern Wisconsin . . . getting to say I walked in the Fashion Week was never really an idea on my radar. And if you’ve seen pictures of me from high school, you’d also believe that I’ve never been one of those “I’ve always wanted to be model” girls, ha! But I was so excited to be a part of it— the art of it, the creative process, this piece of the world of fashion.

I was also really stinkin’ nervous in a weird way. So, I didn’t really tell people about it because I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. People were on a need-to-know-basis. I mean, my SIL was coming along with me to NY, and I didn’t even tell her what I was doing, haha.

September came, and I jetted off to NY, meeting my SIL in Minneapolis along the way. I’ve never been to New York, so we had some sight-seeing scheduled, along with a Broadway show. We did a bus tour, explored Chinatown and Little Italy, went to see Mean Girls on Broadway, went to Madame Tussaud’s, went to Top of the Rock, and spent a lot of time hanging out in the hotel lobby, watching the models from other shows (it was so fun to people watch!). We stayed right in Midtown. Next time, I’d much rather stay somewhere else . . . maybe Brooklyn? That’s probably more my vibe, haha.

I also sewed allllmost everything I packed (except for the 80s strapless dress I wore to see Mean Girls!), so if you’re interested in the sewing aspect, pop over to the George + Ginger blog, where I shared everything I sewed for the trip!

I was SO excited to meet Kristi. I’ve pattern tested for her for over 2.5 years now, and have come to know her pretty well over that time. I've loved getting to “work” for her, and after all that time, it was awesome getting to meet her. I definitely squealed.

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The day of the show, we checked in at the crack of dawn. The absolute worst part is that no food or beverage is allowed back stage. See that cup of coffee? I need about eight more to properly function.

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We had five hours to prep- hair, make-up, get dressed.

Most commonly used phrase to describe the morning: “Hurry up and wait.”

It was insanely cool being backstage. You’re not just with your designer and her models, you’re with everyone getting ready for that show (there were five designers in ours), so there are a ton of people getting ready in such a wide variety of designs. It’s really inspiring.

I loved that Kristi had such a variety of people walking for her. People from random sewing people like me, to inspiring models, to Victoria Henley who was on Cycle 19 of America’s Next Top Model. And a variety of shapes and sizes— this was not a one-size-fits-all show. <3

I thought for sure, with how much theatre experience I’ve had, that I wouldn’t be nervous about this. But I definitely was. I tried to reframe it a little. ‘Oh, that pit in your stomach, that’s just excitement! You’re not nervous, you’re excited,’ I said to myself as I waited in line to for my turn.

And it goes SO fast. All that hype, all those nerves, and really the actual runway walk goes so fast. You walk right towards a whole lot of camera flashes, strike a pose of two and then walk back. Five seconds of fame ;)

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It was pretty awesome getting to wear a Kristi original . . . and, bonus, it’s in my closet right now! We got to keep out outfits.

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Afterwards, press photos. That I can do, haha.

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Overall, it was a great trip. I gotta say though, I didn’t love New York as much as I thought I was going to . . . just the chaos of the city made me appreciate where I live. I sighed in relief when I got to MSP and saw a Caribou, haha.

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Read on about my trip to LA Fashion Week! <3

xoxo

Molly

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