Friday, April 22, 2016

Play Through The Boxes

The weather has been unseasonably hot. We've had blue skies for over a week and it's been 17 degrees Celsius at 8:30 in the morning. I wore a sleeveless sun dress one day, sat outside to journal several mornings at Starbucks, and ate breakfast and lunch at the table on the back patio. So weird for April. Wonderful though.

This chest cold is a real "winner". I only started feeling somewhat normal on Tuesday. Last weekend, I was lying on the couch feeling like all kinds of miserable rolled together when the clutter started getting on my nerves. Tidying up led to the decision to move a cabinet from the living room where it held yarn to the kitchen where it could hold dishes, which meant moving the yarn somewhere else, and that had a domino effect that somehow led to spring cleaning the entire house... including the studio. Perhaps not the wisest choice for an "invalid" but it did distract me from feeling miserable.

One of the books I'm working through in my journal time is Rice Freeman-Zachery's Living the Creative Life which is a compilation of answers from fifteen successful artist on questions like where do your ideas come from, how did you get started, and what are your tricks for overcoming blocks? It's an excellent book. I've read it several times and get something different out of it each time.

One of the assignments is around providing a rich, creative childhood for yourself now. It suggested to gather together whatever catches your eye and then to start with whichever one looks the most enticing and play with it. That's the important word: play. Don't work, don't set goals, don't give yourself exercises. Just play.

Two things make that just the perfect assignment for this spring and summer. The first happened one morning about two weeks ago when I woke up with that wiggly, jiggly, YES YES feeling in my stomach and thought today is the day - to start being healthier, losing weight, and toning up in a flavourful, maintainable way. I researched losing weight over fifty and it recommended no more than 1,200 calories. I've counted many things before but not calories and WHAT an eye opener that has been. I had no idea about some of my favourite foods. I'm glad I picked that option and - if 1,200 calories aren't enough - can add a bit when my stomach growls.

I already had this recipe book from Weight Watchers with information about their point system as well as calorie counts. It's been really helpful especially as the meals are quick and easy. It must be the right time in my life for this "get healthy" decision because so far I'm finding it quite doable. I decided to weigh myself once a week but mostly to go by the fit of my clothes since I'm also doing a lot of yard work and getting out to walk... which builds muscle... which weighs more. AND...

... the second reason this is the perfect assignment is the bits & pieces of potential boxes. They are in the "whatever catches your eye" category. Normally when I clean my studio and review these boxes, I assess whether the contents still have potential and if so, fold everything neatly back into the box and continue storing it. Only I've been doing that for years. This time... since I've been encouraged to play... and I won't be sewing fitted clothing any time soon, I've decided to play through the boxes. They're sorted by woven fabrics in the two at the front, then knit fabrics, than jewelry bits, painted bits, and quilted pieces. There is a LOT of potential.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through stitching the first quilt for the guest room. It's tedious work that was messing up my dining room so I moved it back downstairs with the second machine at a separate table facing the window and the boxes of potential. While I'm stitching, I can thinking about turning that robe into cosmetic bags and combining those painted pieces with the beads from that necklace to make a purse. I have more than enough ideas bubbling to get started and I'm excited to see how I grow creatively while working through the piles. I imagine some of the pieces will end up back in the boxes but a lot - hopefully - will get moved forward and this is good.

Have you ever noticed that your creativity has grown? One thing I've really noticed since moving here is that I'm taking more time to come to a decision and oftentimes I'll circle around to the next or the next right answer. I'm also seeing potential where I might not have seen it before. The previous owner left two very old wooden ladders, both with at least one rung that is duct taped together. I leaned the smaller one against the post in the carport to use as a trellis for a trumpet vine and will use the taller one on the side of the house when I plan a vegetable garden. And I'm working on a way to display my house numbers with a piece of garden fencing. We'll see how that goes but it's fun to be creative in a different way.

Thanks for all the suggestions for the frumpy dress. In the end, I took out the sleeves and threw away the rest because the fabric just wasn't worth investing so much time and energy into when the other pieces were labour intensive. I'd rather take them forward differently. Above, I made two woven sections of serger strips for the sleeves and below...

... I made a 6" x 42" section of thread lace using the 1/8" strips cut off by the serger and some soluble stabilizer. The thread lace has a much heavier look than I anticipated and looks fabulous as a collar which may take the garment in a totally new direction.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - my oldest grandson turned three this past week. He's healthy, happy, and one of my favourite people.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Frumpy Dress And An Unfinished Cardigan

Along with their snuggles and kisses, my darling grandsons shared their cold... and it's a winner... going from not too bad, to horrible, to getting better over the last week. Most of my time has been spent lying on the couch but I did get some studio time in earlier in the week and yesterday, I did some more work on the grey sweater refashion.

At left is how it started with a basic V-neck with a ribbed stitch. I started by cutting up center front after stabilizing it with some interfacing and then cut a curved hemline... which ended up looking rather chunky on me. In the video...

... I show some of the first decisions I made and how I go about starting a refashion. I made several other videos but I'm not sure they'll be of much use. First I'll have to see how the sweater finishes. It's being quite stubborn right now and not playing pretty.

I took a break from the refashion to work on a dress using the same idea of serger strips as embellishments. As you can see, I inserted the sleeves from the sweater and that part works okay... as do the embellishments... and the white top stitching... however...

... the dress is looking rather frumpy. It's a lengthened version of Marcy's Vogue 8876 that I wanted to look elegant and graceful. It's definitely not there - VBG. Because I hate matching plaids, I cut the side panels in a different direction than middle front and center back and only matched along the side seams. I have come to the conclusion that I dislike horizontal stripes immensely. The dress looks less than wonderful and this is the point at which I decide if I'm going forward or not. Probably not. Even though I've spent quite a bit of time on this dress, there is no point finishing it if I'm never going to wear it and right now, it doesn't look at all flattering and it's unlikely the shaped bottom will make much difference. I'm more inclined to start over and let this one become a learning curve.

Originally, I wanted to wear the refashioned sweater over a sleeveless version of the dress only when I tried the sweater on with a previously sewn version, they didn't work well together. The cardigan fit too close to the body to be flattering with the dress so I put it aside and thought I'd make the dress next and then finish the cardigan. Apparently I'm at a bit of a standpoint right now - a frumpy dress and an unfinished cardigan, neither of which are going where I thought they were going, however, I still want to try the dress in a longer version and I am hoping the longer pattern will also be suitable for a coat. We'll see. I'll try again.

With my cold, I haven't been out walking. These pictures were taken a couple weeks ago. They're of the walk along the lake that is 3 kilometers in each direction, six round trip, and mostly flat. This pair of Canada Geese walked part way with me. 

There are several walks that extend off of the main one. The two pictures above are of Christmas Island which is a bird sanctuary with a 1 kilometer walk around the outside edge. The Canada Geese are on a small pond in the middle of the island and the walkway is along the lake side.

Salmon Arm is located on an arm of Shuswap Lake which is a HUGE lake. There are over 5000 miles of shoreline. When I was a child, my family often camped at a provincial park on the opposite side and I walked or rode my bike along that shoreline. 

Right now, the birds are pairing off and the beavers are building big dams and there's always something happening at the lake. Contrary to what you see in these pictures, a lot of people walk, run, or bike this path so there's always someone to greet along the way. I'm so grateful to live somewhere that's creative, calm, and peaceful and where walks like this are just minutes from my front door. It's a gift.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - knowing when to call it quits

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Idea That Keeps Jumping Around In My Head

This past week, I was in Calgary visiting my daughter and her family and Wednesday's posting - obviously - didn't happen. In thinking it over, the middle of the week may not be the best choice so I'm going to try Friday postings for a while and we'll see how that goes. Theoretically, I'll get more done through the week and therefore will have more to talk about.

On Wednesday, I spent the day with my friend Mary. We went out for lunch, to Value Village, to Fabricland, and to Tandy Leather where I bought some remnants hoping they'd work for the final version of my daughter's purse. OH MY... what a wonder world that was of snaps and buckles and rivets and other hardware to say nothing of the beautiful leathers. I'll definitely visit there again. I enjoy making purses - especially with simple shapes like the one above - and I think it'd be fun to work with the remnants, dyes, and embossing supplies to see what could happen.

Mary took several pictures of me wearing the surface designed jeans with a black top and fabulous hair that somehow managed to stay looking great even in a wind - LOL.. or at least in my dreams - only they weren't on the camera when I went to download them. Too weird. I'll try again. I really wanted to show you some finished pictures.

The stretch denim jeans I made using the same pattern lasted two wearings and then the seam pulled apart at center front... I'm assuming because of the high degree of stretch needed for my curvy hips only there's so much stretch in this fabric that it doesn't really make sense plus the seam was serged and top stitched. Has this happened to you? Do you have any suggestions for sewing a more secure seam? I won't have the jeans but I did get to test the better crotch curve and I will have the fabric. I plan to serge it into more strips and then use them to work on the idea that keeps jumping around in my head for creating a open weave fabric that could be used as a hem, collar, or sleeves. It'll be labour intensive but...

... for some reason I don't fully understand, but that just is, I enjoy labour intensive projects. I found these two images in Pinterest one night when I wasn't sleeping. The grey one would be fabulous sewn out of linen and the gold one has the look of a fine boiled wool. All those dots would be too fun... and labour intensive.

When I'm at home, I don't spend any time snoop shopping on-line but when I'm away, it's a great way to gather inspiration.  Both of these tops look like potential refashioning ideas and these...


... are interesting pants. I like funky pants and I need to be careful. I've put on some weight since falling in October and I was already a little too fluffy so now I'm super fluffy and I've noticed that I'm dressing baggy because I feel uncomfortable. I need a better solution.

These two top ideas intrigued me. The one at left is a combination of knitting and woven yardage which I'm working on as a goal and the one at right is a fun way to play with a knit, not necessarily a plain one. I have several fabrics in stash that could be used with this inspiration. The skirt is fun too... for the right figure... not mine.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - happy visits, baby snuggles, good friends, and inspiration

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Collection Plate

Some of you have written to say how much you miss the daily postings and I really appreciate hearing that however, considering that not nearly as much sewing is going on in the studio as in the past, I've decided to stay with once a week postings for now.... on Wednesdays.

Since moving, my life has a different flow. This is such an artistic community that there is always something to see and do and I'm enjoying the relationships I'm developing with other creative women. That takes time, as does walking in the park or along the lake. This summer, I'd like to get a bicycle.  And, I'm making time for new explorations.

This is not my bag. A friend took one of her acrylic paintings, cut it up, adhered it to a canvas bag, and then painted in the rest of the details. Isn't it gorgeous? Earlier this year, I taught her to knit and she's totally addicted. For her birthday I gave her some wool, a pattern magazine, and the canvas bag. I have more bags so in a few weeks we're going to get together for a play date and she'll teach me how to paint my own bag. What fun. It's another step in surface design.

The three or more process is working excellent. Although I'm not getting a lot done in terms of actual pieces produced, the ideas are endless and energizing. I'm going to tweak it a bit though or I'll have all tops or all bottoms and no coordinated outfits. I will rotate between fit, surface design, and added details but not necessarily with the same pattern. Fit can be a new pattern and the other two can be ones I've already fitted. I think that'll work better and eventually each pattern that I liked will get its moment.

In my last posting, I talked about exploring the crotch curve further. I used the drawing above - made with the flexible ruler to mimic my curve - to trace the line onto the pattern I used for the surface designed jeans and then I sewed it again out of muslin just to see. The crotch curve fit FABULOUS only the muslin was incredibly tight which is really strange since it fit with the denim and it was way too big with the stretch denim I used next. It just goes to show how much of an impact the fabric factor has.

Here's the side seam of the stretch denim jeans. First I stitched at 5/8" and then the width of the presser foot - six times - making the seam 2 1/2" wide. That removed an additional 7 1/2" of ease. Wow!

The first of the three quilts is about a third done. The long, straight rows of stitching are tedious but they are progressing and I like the results. Beside the sewing machine, I have a bowl to collect all the thread ends. I refer to it as the collection plate. By the time I finish the quilts, it should be full and I can use the ends to create thread lace. With the stretch jeans...

... I collected all the bits as well. The pile top left is the 1/8" that's shaved off by the serger when I edge finish a seam. The pile at right was made with the seam allowance cut off by the serger for the inseams and the crotch seam. I took the strips and twisted them and then zigzagged over the length to get the cording. The middle pile is of serged strips made with the wide seam allowance. I ran it through the serger, stitched the seam, cut if off, and then ran the width through again. There are fourteen 40" long sections. A few years ago, I used serged strips like that on a little girl's coat. Now I'd like to try using them on something for myself. This feels like "free" supplies, embellishments that would have been thrown away but can now be used from something unique and personal.

Today's posting is late because last night, when I would have written it, I was instead stiff and sore on the couch. I think even my fingertips ached and certainly parts of me are still screaming this morning. The picture above is of the house before I bought it. By the time I did, the garden was not nearly as pretty and the door with glass panel had been replaced with a plain one because it was damaged. As you can see, the steps go out at a forty-five degree angle from each end of the porch. It's rather odd so I...

... had my contractor square out the ends, replace some rotted boards, and add new steps off the front. I wanted him to do a whole lot more only the quote was way too high for my budget. Right now, I have more time than money so...

... I am doing as much as possible myself. On Monday, I took out the cement around the bottom of the tree and widened the dirt to make it look less crowded and then I rolled a whole bunch of the rocks from below the lilac bush to the front of the house... one at a time... like a child with a ball. The lilac bush will be given away and the lawn filled in. I also removed the bricks from the old stairwell and...

... stacked them in the carport. They remind me of the scraps from sewing. Even though they weren't what I wanted where I wanted it, they are completely usable. Right now, I'm cutting out some curved gardens that will be lined with large rocks and then I'll figure out the walkway. I need to make the work manageable by doing it a step at a time plus I'll need to find someone to haul away the mess. Not only do I have all the turf to get rid of but there was an illegal, not attached to the house, cracked and leaning, chimney that we had taken down before it fell on someone. That mess is along the side of the house where I want to extend the garden and create an opening for French doors into my studio... eventually.

I've been looking at different options for railings for the front porch and I think this version using rabbit wire might be what I go with. The wire is not too expensive, quite sturdy so it won't sag, see through to maintain the light and the view, and galvanized so it won't rust. It should work but first I need to strip and stain the deck.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - strength and mobility

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Fabulous Brain Workout

It's only been a couple of days so I'm probably far too optimistic hoping for full fledged spring and even so, yesterday I took my lunch and sat by the lake and watched the birds in the sanctuary and then I walked three kilometers to the end of the trail... and back. It started to rain about a third of the way back but that was fine. My raincoat has a hood!

One of the things I thought about was my conversation with my coach - Diane - last week. We talked about how guilty I've been feeling about the blissful general description of my current lifestyle and how a general description does not measure other concerns. Dumping your whole life story is just not something you do at the general level.

AND... because I moved here to be part of a creative community and to therefore more creative... I was feeling under incredible pressure to go into the studio and create - all day - every day - amazing things. That's not the plan. Although I know for a fact that God moved me here, I'm beginning to see that the resting, healing, and preparing stage of the land between is not over yet; it has changed how it looks and it has changed locations but it's not over yet.

Another thing Diane and I talked about was the push pull tension I feel between creative and entrepreneurial ideas.  On one level, I know that just because I know something doesn't mean I have to do anything with it and on another level, I have not shortage of business ideas only when I think about them there are some things I will never do again and some things I can hardly wait to do again... when the time is right. My question for our next session is what would it look like if I invited opportunity to come to me? That's a really interesting question. Sharing on the blog is part of the answer.

Typically, I keep my sewing contained to the studio only this piece needed to be somewhere else. It's one of three quilts that I batted earlier this week. It has been at least twelve years since I've made a bed size quilt. Two are twin size with a substantial drop and are for the guest room beds and one is queen size for our bedroom. All of them are whole cloth and will be stitched with lengthwise channel stitching spaced the width of the presser foot. That's relatively easy only I am not at all used to working with this amount of bulk anymore and unless I pace myself I could end up with very sore shoulder muscles so I set up on the dining room table with sunshine, the view of the pond, and a timer. I will stitch for thirty minutes, twice a day, until I'm done. That's about 2" each time. It's going to take a while.

The guest room quilts are a mottled, twill like, fabric that I bought in the bargain center in Calgary when I was visiting my daughter. I didn't think I had enough for both quilts so the last time I was there, I looked for more and found only one meter. That turned out to be all I needed. The seven meters I had were enough for the two quilts and the one meter will work for the binding. I'm stitching from the back since it's so much easier to see my lines on the lime green. The stitching is subtle. That's okay. It's the look I wanted even if it appears to be a lot more work than it's worth. Once they're on the bed, I think the stitching will show more.

When was the last time you did something for the first time
is one of those quotes that has really resonated with me. I read it several years ago in one of my studies and it's a question I often ask myself... just to make sure I'm not staying stuck in some rut. A few weeks ago, we had a double knitting demonstration at knitting group. I didn't intend to participate only it captured my imagination. I ended up going home and trying it.

With double knitting, there are two right sides showing the knit stitch that face outward and two wrong sides with pearl stitches that face inward. Crossing over the colors from one side to the other knits the work together otherwise it would be a pouch.

I already knit continental with my left hand so I had to learn how to hold the second yarn in my right hand and flick it over the needle... with the same tension as the left hand... which took quite a few samples and considerable time. When I finally felt confident enough I started working on my cream and grey piece and it's certainly knitting up a lot slower than any recent project. It's also a lot of fun. AND... I found this video that shows double knitting with both yarns in the left hand so now I need to try that too.

What I found interesting was how engaged I was with learning this new skill. When I tried polymer clay, it was ho hum and even though I tried to stay with it and push through with textile jewelry, it didn't capture my imagination like this knitting has. Is it because the other two were entirely new and this new style of knitting builds on previous skills or is it because fiber and knitting are my thing? That too is an interesting question.

With the quilts I'm going way back to something I used to do. I don't want to quilt do as much as I want them done and since I have more time than money, quilting them myself is the only option. With the double knitting, I'm taking a skill I already have in a new direction that is different enough to teach new skills and to inspire new projects. I'm making a scarf and dancing in my head is the idea for a reversible sweater - child's size - just because I can.

Diane and I also talked about how the phrase you could sell that is a compliment. And it is. Even if I don't want to sell anything. I am glad to have reached the stage where I can follow up curious questions just because there is something there I want to know. Knowing is enough of a reason whether it's a new way of knitting and a new knitting project or whether it's...

... following up an idea sparked by an article I read about crotch curves that made me think about those wrinkles I don't like and why they might be there. I'd link to the article only the bookmark went missing when Windows decided to upgrade itself without my consent. SO ANNOYING.

The article had a diagram that compared the crotch curves of the different pattern brands. Naturally, I had to know what mine was so I used the flexible ruler to - again - determine my curve and then compared it to the diagrams. I have a short front curve, and a long back curve and what Pati Palmer refers to as a high/low crotch in her book Pants for Real People. Many big name sewers don't recognize the high/low crotch but if you have one, you do.

I'll make a video to show what I mean after I've tested a new muslin but just imagine that the crotch point and the waist remain stationary and you have a length of string equal to your front crotch curve and another equal to your back crotch curve. The string has to run from the front waist to the crotch point and then from the back waist to the crotch point. If the string is short, it'll take a more direct route and if it is long, it'll need to droop down. LOL - I droop down.

I have figured out a lot of alterations that are working fabulously for me because I've been willing to let go of a fixed idea and try a new one when I think it has potential. That's how I found out I'm short waisted and that I need a narrow chest and a narrow back adjustment versus a narrow shoulder adjustment and that's how I found out that I'm petite through the armhole and need to raise the underarm about an inch and that I don't need to move the bust point for that exact reason but I may need to do a full bust adjustment. EVEN IF...

... you think you know the answer, be willing to question it and to question "authority". Just because big names X, Y and Z say it's not true, perhaps it is true for you. It's a thought. A viable one. One recent pant discovery for me was that the top of the waistband needs to sit at my waist as opposed to the bottom of the waistband otherwise my rib-cage pushes the waistband over. My waist is like a string. Another discovery is that I don't actually have the tipped waist that I thought I had... for years. That often happens when a new adjustment corrects an "old" issue in a different way.

NOW, I am going to retest how much hip depth I've been taking out as well as a new shape for the crotch curve. With the article, my measurements, and my curve shape, I think I can come up with an even better answer that the one I've been using. That's exciting. I hope that you'll keep searching for better answers. To me, that's one of the great things about sewing. Not only is it highly entertaining with a bonus of clothing that fits, it's a fabulous brain workout.

It's been a week of calming awareness and of revisiting some previous skills, of taking some current skills further, and of re-evaluating others. This is good. In the dining room, I'm working on the quilts. In the studio, I'm working on the third pair of pant using piecing techniques, a bunting bag for my youngest grandson, and a refashioned sweater. In my curl-up chair, I'm working on the double knitting. And outside, I'm walking longer distances and starting on the yard work with the very-ugly-but-I'll-make-it-pretty front yard. Overall, things are getting done bit by bit while I am de-stressing and finding better balance. YES YES

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - new crotch curve information to explore for a better fit