Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Thoughtful Dresser

In a recession there is the temptation to stop buying clothes, and at first this can be superficially soothing, for the soul can sicken on consumerism, shopping and spending. There is a mother lode of comfort in making your own soups at home instead of going out to a mediocre restaurant to pick over the lukewarm starter slapped on a table by a waiter who is adding up in his head how much he's going to make in tips. With fewer occasions to go out, who needs to dress up anyway? The simpler life of jeans and T-shirt can seem a radical new approach to living, the clothing equivalent of moving out of the city to the country. - Linda Grant

I'm re-reading The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant. Every time I read it, I'm struck by the quote above perhaps because jeans and a t-shirt are NOT a radical new approach for me, they are the norm I'm attempting to change. A radical new approach would be to abandon jeans in favour of something else, or at least to abandon them more often than I presently do. But then again. Maybe not.

In response to young contestants on a modeling show who were attempting to dress sexy without truly understanding what sexy is, Linda quotes Simon Doonan as saying - All over America, people are making kamikaze choices about what to wear. They are misrepresenting the goods. They are letting their clothes write checks that their personalities cannot cash.  What if...

... the radical new approach - for me - was actually to embrace jeans and a t-shirt in a great BIG all encompassing hug and instead have polka dot jeans and pink jeans and paisley jeans and all kinds of jeans, a whole collection of fun and flirty, looks like Myrna, jeans.

I LOVE IT! With 
t-shirts and jewelry to up the fun ante, what an enticing thought.

The mind races. What about hand painted jeans? Or a skirt. I'd take a hand painted skirt. I wear them quite often in summer. 

In a recent posting - What Is Style? - Ari Seth Cohen wrote:
Style means something different to each person who gets up in the morning and decides how they are going to look. While some may consider it a means of celebrating the self, a fight against invisibility, or an act of creative expression, others may simply get dressed without putting much thought into it. Motivation aside, for the people I photograph, style is a reflection and example of the care, passion, and energy that they invest and express in their daily lives.

I'm so thankful that I sew, that I can keep working toward writing a check that represents the true me, and invest my energy in expressing myself daily. YES YES.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - I can sew. I can sew jeans. I can sew fun, flirty, Myrna jeans.

P.S. - click on the picture to visit the jeans at

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Aging Sewist

A friend of my husband's keeps asking us to go to Mexico with him and his wife... and lie on a beach... for two weeks... at an all inclusive. Lying on a beach is so NOT me and I cannot imagine any possible way that I could make it through two weeks at an all inclusive without my sewing machine. Beaches stress me out. Sewing de-stresses me. Without my sewing machine, it's a given that I'd come back from a beach vacation completely grumpy. For me, the best of vacations includes creativity. Not beaches. And definitely not ships.

Apparently, I should just try a cruise because I'll like it. How is it that people who barely know you can determine that you'd absolutely enjoy being trapped on a ship if only you'd try it while you - who knows yourself quite well - knows for a fact that you won't like it at all. There is nothing about being stuffed in a floating suitcase with a gazillion other people that I find remotely enticing. The only thing worse is flying in a tin can. I do fly. Only when I can't drive. I love to drive.

Isn't it wonderful how as we age we know more and more about ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses, the things we want to do, and the things we definitely don't want to do? And even as we become more comfortable in our own skin, we're evolving through new phases and there's more to learn. VERY. Fun. While there are some things I'd do differently if I could go back in time, there's no time I'd go back to forever. The age that I am right now, with the knowledge I've accumulated so far, and the possibilities still stretched out in front of me, seems just fine to me.

As I've been aging, so have my sewing skills and one of the things I love about being an aging sewist - and by that I mean mature in sewing years as opposed to old age wise - is having a quicker awareness of when a project isn't going where it's supposed to be going. The trick is acting on your intuition because it's so easy to talk ourselves into continuing on when we really need to stop on the spot. You saw me do that with the blue cardigan earlier this month. I should have quit sooner.

It might have been the lace that seduced me into staying with the cardigan because I loved it so much that my very next project involved the same lace. Or maybe it's my zero waste approach. Or a reluctance to let the lace go to waste.  Or the fact that it was already out in the studio.

I used it again - as an overlay - inspired by Anthropologie - except that in the pictures above, the t-shirt material is puckering and clinging in the back and in the front, the lace panel is stronger than the side panels and pushing them around and either Millicent and I need a bust raising event or the bust point needs to drop. That led me to...

... thoughts of another T & T t-shirt pattern - this time with princess seams - because aging sewist me knows that princess seams plus a center back seam equals the very best of fit. This pattern - Vogue 8323 - has over sixty reviews on most of which are rated highly recommend. A few of the ones I read noted too much cap ease on the sleeve and some suggested a full bust adjustment while others didn't. When that happens...

... I look for a reviewer whose advice I trust. Belinda noted that the armhole seemed to be cut too high and when I looked at the pattern, the same side pieces are used for both the sleeveless and the sleeved versions. Since a sleeveless armhole should be an inch higher than one with a sleeve, I compared my T & T armhole with the pattern armhole and lowered it 3/4" leaving the sleeve cap as is because it matched the height of my T & T sleeve cap. Now to see how that works.

This isn't it. This is New Look 6735. Some bloggers are participating in January Jungle. This t-shirt was sewn in August 2010 so it doesn't count but was fun to include. It's become a favourite which is surprising since it's not a princess seamed pattern and it's not an expensive fabric - bought off a flat fold table marked way down with other cheap feeling prints. Apparently, this one was a lucky find. It has lovely drape and is very comfortable to wear which sort of illustrates why you need more than one T & T pattern although I'm not sure how you guess when you've chosen a fabric that's going to be loved to death. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - bonus ! ! !  the center panel on the new princess pattern is narrower than the one on the previous and I can reuse the lace panel. YES YES!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Flow Of Ideas

Do you ever say something out loud as if saying it out loud will make it so or put something in writing because by writing it down that thing that you're wishing for will actually happen? I don't think it works like that. I think we finally get to the things we get to when we're finally ready to get to them. Perhaps as the saying goes when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

Writing - or talking - have never been the magic wand for me that changes wish into fact. Rather, they seem to be the process I use to work things out. Talking and writing leads to a flow of ideas which, eventually and inevitably, leads to a solution. It can drive some people crazy. One friend stopped being my friend because she said I was inconsistent and constantly changing my mind. LOL - well - yes - but - at least I'm interesting.

Life is trial and error. I've never lived before. I'm inexperienced. And since I don't believe in reincarnation, it's a one shot deal which means I'm going to make some mistakes, head off in some directions that don't work, say some things that I wish I hadn't said and do some things that I wish I hadn't done, and - if I'm lucky and paying attention - make corrections that work for me and in the process find and live into my own path. It seems to me that to embrace trial and error in a great, all encompassing hug is the only way to find that path. There is no such thing as perfect while the pursuit of perfection can be paralyzing.

Across the street from our home is a puppy park. The other day, a mother was there with her dog and her small child who happily ran all over the park chasing the dog. She - not that I could tell from this distance that it was in fact a girl child but she just seemed like a girl child to me - had that cheerful lilting toddle that makes you smile. It made me think of my daughter and my not yet huggable grandbaby and about how I'd make a better parent now at fifty than I did at twenty-five because I've - thankfully - learned a few things since then.

One of the things I'd hoped to have learned by now - and perhaps I have but keep forgetting or it's simply the process to forget and send out some generic prayer and then wish you'd been more specific - is to be careful what you pray for. Somewhere around the first of January, when I set my intention for this year as do the work, I surely prayed for help doing the work and one wonders if God is gleefully waiting for just such an opportunity. Zap. NOW she's going to learn the lesson. He has THE weirdest sense of humour.

We have had more than a few financial setbacks in the last month, setbacks of the volume and kind that overwhelm while adding up to a serious chunk of change and necessitating a major overhaul of the budget while bringing all spending to a screeching halt. Last week, I spent $1.96 on discretionary items beyond groceries and gas and only because I was already at the till, coffee in hand, when my Starbucks card ran out. It would be an understatement to say that I am learning to do the work in the area of finances. And it's good. There are some lessons that needed to be learned and better now than in retirement because I really do want retirement to be fun. Learning is often the silver lining.

I've been needing to do the work in the area of health and exercise for years but hadn't yet hit on a way to exercise that would slot nicely into the daily schedule and work through all seasons because I'm a creature of habit and because there's no use picking an outdoor pursuit when I won't go outside if it's too cold, or too hot, or too rainy, or too windy, or too anything less than absolutely perfect at the hour that I want to go outside.

One thing I hate about exercise is getting dressed twice. Once is enough for me. After that, I want to get on with the day and I'm definitely not spending my day in sweats and - as I'm somewhat vain - if I'm going to be seen, I'd prefer to put my best face forward - even at the gym - which I hate. I find it a total waste of time driving to the gym and driving back so I've experimented with different ways to exercise from home, none of which have worked out so far.

I was thinking about this problem a few weeks ago and decided to jog, in my living room, without a treadmill because I really like treadmills but I don't want one in my living room. I started jogging on the spot in front of the picture window while the world is waking up and heading off to work. To get started, I walked to one hundred - right step, left step, one, right step, left step, two - which was really two hundred. And then I started jogging slowly and adding steps in two hundred increments while walking the first and the last one hundred to warm up and cool down. And then I picked up the pace and started swinging my arms for a better workout and now I'm up to 2,500 right and left steps which is really 5,000 and it takes roughly 30 minutes. One can only imagine what the students across the street at the bus stop are thinking but then again... who cares... because so far, it works and...

... I'm not getting dressed. I've figured out how to fit it into my - habitual - daily schedule. I get up, turn on the coffee, make my bed while it's brewing, write the blog, read blogs, and head to the living room where I jog in my jammies until I'm hot and sweaty just like "they" recommend, strip the jammies off into the laundry, get dressed, journal, eat breakfast, clean the kitchen, tidy the house, and decide what's next. How I became so habitual is puzzling but is it really worth worrying over? If I like to do the same things in the same order, every day, and that works for me is that not good enough if on the days that it's necessary to differ I can be flexible? I think so.

If I'm cleaning house, doing laundry, running errands, or have an appointment, it's scheduled next if at all possible because after that it's creativity time. YEAH. I am extraordinarily lucky to have raised my children to adulthood, retired from my career, and been able to stay-at-home with time to explore creativity BUT as you know it's also been difficult. After years of working 8-10 hours a day, to suddenly have no hours of work has been a huge adjustment. Too much time can be as equally difficult as not enough time. I think I'm finally there with the adjusting but gosh did it take forever.

Since around the first of January, I've been thinking about how to do the work of being creative. The financial setbacks of the last month are definitely going to have an impact. I'm being careful to pray specifically... like for the Design Outside the Lines workshop in June... because I really Really REALLY want to take my sewcation... and based on the finances that's going to be an interesting trick on God's part but I believe it'll work out.

Having attended DOL once already, I have a better idea of what to expect and have been thinking about how to approach the workshop this time. I'll take better notes and integrate them with my pictures immediately lest I forget... which I will. And I want to experiment with the paints, stamps, and mark making materials. Shams gave me that idea from her trip last fall when she focused on those areas and said the resulting fabric was great for piping and trim. What a good idea! I've been wanting to find time to explore mark making techniques for what seems like forever but I want to explore so many things and it's impossible to find time for everything. Slotting marking making into the DOL retreat sounds perfect plus I'll have the input of the other participants.

Just before my blogging break, I wrote that my direction was creative everyday wear and my focus was knit garments and specifically t-shirts. Having given that some thought when staring at the empty spaces of my closet and the near n-k-dness of my body while recognizing that in my mind these were not ordinary t-shirts, or even nice t-shirts, or even somewhat unusual t-shirts, they were beyond amazing, give me that immediately, t-shirts and that's slightly too much pressure even for a competitive girl like me - if you know what I mean. I don't think the way to advance creatively and do the work is to set such unrealistic - even if unverbalized and not written down - goals for yourself so my goal is to simply to sew whatever I want, to sew every day, and to explore the new techniques and ideas that tickle. We'll see how that works out.

In the chapter on thinking in Today Matters by John Maxwell, he writes: If you want to become a great thinker, you need first to become a good thinker. Before becoming a good thinker, you need to become a thinker. In order to become a thinker, you need to be willing to first produce a bunch of mediocre and down right bad ideas. Only by practicing and developing your thinking daily will your ideas get better. Your thinking ability is determined not by your desire to think, but by your past thinking. To become a good thinker, do more thinking. Once the ideas start flowing, they get better. Once they get better, they keep improving.

It's as I've often said, we learn to do by doing and as we do our sewing, knitting, writing, reading, cooking, home making, art making, or fill in the blank _____, our abilities grow.

I can't sew all afternoon which means I'm also doing a lot of knitting. I like the idea of mindless, meditative knitting but once I'm in the rhythm, my mind wanders so I try to give it things to think about like design. I've been developing a scarf pattern using an alpaca, wool, and nylon blend originally intended for socks but since I'm not a sock knitter - nor a hand knit sock wearer because they just feel yucky on my feet - it's another sock gone scarf. This time in turquoise. It took me ALL DAY to work out the first six inches. I don't consider that a day wasted. I consider that a day of exploring possibilities, of learning, of increasing my knit thinking abilities, of inviting my inner artist out to play, of having fun.

Why are we so hesitant to sample and start over? Why do we think we need to get it - whatever it may be - perfect the first time when there is no such thing as perfect? Isn't failure the greatest teacher and shouldn't we therefore be grateful for failure?

To be a great sewist, you must first be a good sewist and to be a good sewist you must first sew and to sew you must first explore a lot of mediocre and downright bad projects and through practice become a great sewist. To be a great knitter, you must first be a good knitter and to be a good knitter you must first knit and to knit you must first explore a lot of mediocre and downright bad projects and through practice become a great knitter. YES YES! That's how ideas flow.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - hard but good lessons

Monday, January 28, 2013

Today Matters

Last fall, I decided to give my journal writing more direction by using a study guide as a starting point. The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth was so useful that I chose another of John Maxwell's books - Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Ensure Tomorrow's Success - to work through next. The premise behind this book is that the most important day is today and that to make the most out of today, which in turn leads to tomorrow's success, it's best to make decisions about key areas in life - such as attitude, priorities, values, finances - twelve of them - once and then live into those decisions on a daily basis.

William Gladstone is quoted in the chapter on priorities as saying - He is a wise man who wastes no energy on pursuits for which he is not fitted; and he is wiser still who from among the things he can do well, chooses and resolutely follows the best. My immediate reaction was how nice for him and who gets to do everything else?

It became clear as I read this chapter that it's written from a business perspective, for a man in a career with a wife at home doing all the things he'd rather not do. The chapter, in my opinion, over-simplifies and fails to address potential conflicts between individuals that have the same priorities but live them out differently. Because it's written from a business perspective, by the head of a company, his solution to incompatible individuals is to fire them. For a stay-at-home Mom - and in many other roles - firing the opposition is rarely an option. LOL - can you imagine?

Further in the chapter, the author, John Maxwell, writes if you're over age twenty-one, your life is what you're making of it. To change your life, you need to change your priorities. That statement totally annoyed me because wrapped up in some people's priorities is a whole lot of drudgery and that sentiment is too simplistic for the scope and impact of many priority based decisions.

After my faith, my first priority has always been my family, and I'm pretty sure that the author is NOT going to say that faith and family are wrong choices. There's a disconnect in our perspectives most likely because I am not the intended audience for this material. That said, whenever you're angered by something it's an opportunity ask why because there's a little niggle trying to talk to you. In this case, it lead to a good discussion about what we say our priorities are and what our actions prove our priorities to truly be. That's an interesting thought to ponder; an action changer if you let it be.

Later in the same chapter, the author asks .... will you take complete responsibility for how you spend your time, take control of the things you can, and make today yours? The key words being of the things you can. He asks three questions - what is required, what gives the greatest return, and what gives the greatest reward. The defining line between return and reward appears to relate to money. It wasn't entirely clear to me.

He goes on to say that many people are not successful because they focus too much on what is rewarding and not enough on what is required. I would argue that most women are focused too much on what's required and not enough on what's rewarding. Women tend to put everyone but themselves first to the detriment of their own energy, health, and self-development. I saw this time and again with my students when I was teaching and with my friends, especially when our children were very young. Caroline and I were the only two to take a yearly vacation, separate from the family - in our case a sewcation - and she came because I invited her and organized the event.

In most families, if someone is going to go without, it's typically the mother. Women will make sure that Joey and Billy and Sally get to hockey and painting and piano every week, without fail, even though the odds are heavily stacked that Joey and Billy and Sally are NOT the next Gretzky, Rembrandt, or Beethoven but the same woman can't find an hour a week in the studio or some time to read or an evening for coffee with a friend. It's a soap box issue for me. I'm a HUGE advocate of self care and as I look at the questions swirling at this time in my life, I am VERY grateful that it's a precedent I've already developed.

Working through the study questions around priorities, I've been thinking about the three requirement, return, and reward questions, about how life looks currently, about possible new directions, and about taking control of the things I can control. This decade - of my fifties - more than any other decade - is MY decade and my priorities need to be reshaped and shifted to take on new dimensions and expressions that are more heavily weighted toward my self care and my growth. It sounds selfish and I don't believe it is. Rather, I think it's the natural ebb and flow of a woman's life, especially the life of a stay-at-home Mom whose children are now adults. I believe that letting this chance to invest more solidly in me go past without investment would be a tremendous loss.

Knitting is a fabulous way to curl up on the couch in front of the fire and think. With this scarf, I cast on 34 stitches, knit five rows of garter stitch, knit in pattern until the end, knit five more rows of garter stitch, and cast off. Knitting in pattern until the end gives you LOTS of time to think.

The scarf is for a friend's birthday. It's long - as long as my dining room table - and will wrap around her neck twice and tie nicely. The yarn is a silk blend with a luscious feel. It should will make a lovely gift. I'll give it to her at lunch today. I'm making roasted garlic potato with salmon soup, biscuits, and a quinoa chocolate cake. YUMMY!

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - processing time, priorities

Friday, January 18, 2013

New This Week

In their new look book, Anthropolgie talks about (their) five signatures of style, one of which is the plain tee. Of course! Plain! Last year, when I was sewing and wearing plain t-shirts, I was out of style and this year, when I want to sew and wear more complicated t-shirts, I'll be out of style. LOL - out of style seems to be my style which makes it a darn good thing that that's perfectly okay with me.  I'd prefer to be me.

I checked out the new this week page and here's what I found... and what I think....

For me, a black v-neck t-shirt is about as basic as can be. Mine don't cost as much to sew as The Sadie V-Neck - $53.00 - costs to buy and that's a nice bonus of sewing. I prefer a three-quarter length sleeve and that's another nice bonus of sewing - doing it my way.

Like the blue cardigan that never finished, the Sun Medallion Pullover - $88.00 - has a lace overlay, this time in a more casual, baseball, style. Lace overlays can add a feminine touch that's completely different from pleats, tucks, ruffles, or gathers - often more sophisticated. I'm intrigued by how it's showing up so often lately. It's - obviously - something to explore although - LOL - maybe next year when it's out of style.

The Alva Lace Pencil - $88.00 - is another lace garment. According to the five signatures of style, high-low pairing - such as a dressier top with more casual bottoms or visa-versa - is in. Are you able to do that? I find it difficult. The look always seems out of balance to me. It requires exactly the right proportions and accessories to carry it off - and perhaps the right attitude - which perhaps I don't have if I'm feeling off balance. The skirt = gorgeous.

At first glance, I thought the Bloomfall Peplum Tank - $78.00 - was a woven blouse but it's actually made with rayon polyester spandex which would make it quite comfortable. I've mentioned in the past that if I sew a woven blouse, I don't end up wearing it so I've been thinking about sewing a knit blouse. A guarantee that I'd wear it would be nice but I guess the only way to know for sure is to try it and see. Piping details like this would make sewing it even more fun. Quick and easy is quick and easy but it can also be boring. Details like these increase the fun factor.

LOVE the sleeve details on the Speckle Sky Blouse - $118.00. It's silk. I doubt I'd ever sew or wear a silk blouse even though several people I know adore silk and wear it as often as they can. I prefer fabrics with a bit more substance as opposed to what I call floaty fabrics. I do like raw silk and dupioni silk. What surprised me with this garment was the price. Actually, all the prices have surprised me. Although most are way more than I'd pay to sew the garment, they're also a lot less than Anthropologie has charged in the past.

Wide leg pants like the Level 99 Wide Legs - $98.00 - are REALLY flattering to my figure. These are sewn from linen, spandex, and lyocell. I had no idea what that last fabric was so I looked it up and it's made from bleached wood pulp. According to Wikipedia, the fabric first went on public sale as a type of rayon in 1991. It shares many properties with other cellulosic fibers such as cotton, linen, and rayon. Some main characteristics of lyocell fibers are that they are soft, absorbent, very strong when wet or dry, and resistant to wrinkles; lyocell fabric can be machine- or hand-washed or dry cleaned, it drapes well, and it can be dyed many colors, and can simulate a variety of textures such as suede, leather, and silk. That sounds interesting especially as linen is one of my favourite fabrics. I may need to research this one and I know for sure that I have a similar pant pattern. 

I spent some time looking at Anthropologie yesterday because yet still once again I did not feel like sewing while at the same time I was feeling pressure to produce something so I'd have something to talk about. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Pressure can be good.

My guests on Monday were two art quilters. At the conclusion of our visit, we discussed getting together regularly, most likely monthly. When I asked why - as in why would we get together - the answer was to have a push to produce something and then to have a space in which to talk about it and other artists to talk about it with. YES YES! Those are both very positive and something I've been looking for for years which makes it...

... interesting that this opportunity has arrived at a time when I'm not creating art pieces any more and when I'm not feeling as energized and motivated in the studio as I'd like to be. A friend commented yesterday that I seem to be looking for a sense of direction. No. My direction is creative everyday wear and my focus is t-shirts and knit garments. What's missing is drive.

I've decided to take the next week off from blogging to think, regroup, and - hopefully - find my missing mojo. For someone who loves to sew as much as I do, it's scary when I don't feel like it for any extended period of time. This week has been a rough one with some not so fun stuff happening. Hopefully, once I sort things out, it'll be good. Right now, it's a bit overwhelming. I'm exceedingly grateful that I did everything I could to start the new year on a positive note. Can you image otherwise - VBG.

Talk soon - in a week - Myrna

Grateful - sunshine and supportive friends

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Eighteen Inches

Yesterday was another curl up on the couch with a warm snuggly blanket and knit and read day. I didn't feel like sewing. I did knit...

... eighteen inches on the sock gone scarf.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - time heals

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Good. Enough. Done. Gone. Next.

Tuesday night is knit night and - once again - I wasn't there. The plumbers arrived at 4:00 and didn't leave until 7:30 while noting that it would have been another forty-five minutes for the tank to heat up enough to wash my greasy hair. By the time I got to the group, it would have been time to go home.

Just in case, earlier in the day I did start a new project - the sock gone scarf. The sock was too big for me and felt funny on my feet and it fit my daughter and felt funny on her feet so... back in balls... to knit into something else. I have debated fingerless gloves with great intensity for several weeks going as far as tracing a shape, drafting a design, and figuring out stitch patterns and counts and in the end opted for mindless, sure thing, meditative knitting and left experimenting for the sewing section of the studio. This scarf is the same yarn and lace pattern as the sock with larger needles.

Perhaps it was a lack of skill but more likely the loss of patience due to two significant financial setbacks in less than a week. Either way, the (potentially gorgeous) blue cardigan is now at the bottom of the garbage can. I spent an hour reworking the top of the button bands so they were neat and even only to discover...

... that in spite of all the work done to stabilize, baste, and maintain the shape, the center front length had become somewhat distorted and the top of the ribbing didn't match side to side. At another time, I may have been able to resolve it. Yesterday, I lacked the energy to do anything more than pick it up, toss it in the trash, and determine to move on. Good. Enough. Done. Gone. Next. There are perhaps two lessons learned - beware of fabric quality and when you're aware of poor quality, quit immediately.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - that significant financial setbacks are easier to recover from when you already have a closet full of fabric

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Shiny Objects, Distractions & Detours

Our hot water tank is not hot anymore. Sometime after we went to bed, it started to leak and when our son got home from work at one o'clock, he noticed and woke up Howard who turned everything off. It's cold showers for today.

Just yesterday, when I was showing my guests around, I'd noted that when it was time to replace the hot water tank we intended to move it around the other side of the furnace so I'd have more room for dyeing and painting. Hmm.... I didn't mean today... but... I'm thankful for a son who noticed and a hot water tank that didn't burst in the night and create a huge mess in the basement.

Cloth Habit is running a bra sew-a-long. I signed up and haven't done a thing. Shams just finished the Vogue 1333 skirt. It's gorgeous. I want one too especially as the pattern has been sitting on my counter for almost a month. When I first started contemplating it, I thought it might be interesting in a turquoise and black striped fabric of Marcy's. The fabric has sold out. The pattern is not traced. And I'm working on the sweater that never finishes. The sweater...

... that was supposed to be finished two weekends ago, and then last weekend, and then I wanted it done yesterday and now, today, it's my top priority. Yesterday, I thought about shiny objects, distractions, and detours - in my case the volume of work I think I should be able to create but somehow can't and the pieces I think I'd like to create when reality is I can't sew everything. I thought about multiple fields of interest and about focus.

As frustrating as it can be at times, I am thankful to be a one piece at a time kind of sewist because at least I finish.... eventually. The answer to last week's question is no, I can't sew five t-shirts and work on jewelry at the same time - LOL. I've been pondering what is realistic (something more than what I'm doing) what is ridiculous (something less than my long, long list) and how to find balance between the two (that illusive balance !! again). Always an interesting question.

The top of the button band has turned into a bit of a mess. Thankfully the left side goes underneath as I've pulled out the stitches at least four - if not more - times and this last time left a hole that needs  fixing. The right side is much neater and should cover up any issues. The band is twisting. I won't be sure of how it'll hang until it's completely finished and it's another reminder to pay attention to quality. This sweater is definitely a prototype. I'd like to quit but it's already getting too many compliments and has become a challenge so.... onward.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - NOT waking up to a puddle in the basement

Monday, January 14, 2013

False Promises

By the late  '70s, my interest in sewing had merged with my path as an artist, which I chose to pursue through fabric. While studying art at the University of Oregon, one of the best things I learned about the creative process came from my printmaking professor, LaVerne Krause. "Never be afraid of your materials." This monumental idea - that if you're not afraid of your materials, you won't be so fearful of making a mistake - allowed me to enjoy my work and approach it without the threat of ruining something hanging over my head. Taking risks is important, but learning how to take advantage of the twists and turns that happen along the way is even more valuable, because all mistakes can become something positive. - Preface, The Party Dress Book by Mary Adams

Chasing self-fulfilment is a bit like chasing happiness. It's an emotion that cannot be sustained. It relies too much on circumstances. It depends on a person's mood. In contrast, you can develop yourself regardless of how you feel, what circumstances you find yourself in, your financial situation, or the people around you.
- Chapter 15, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell

... the second thing that happens to people who stop trying to actively grow is they lose their passion. We all love doing what we're good at, but being good at something requires us to keep our skills sharp. Less skill leads to less enthusiasm and eventually discontent.
- Chapter 15, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell

Friday ended up being one of those days that knocks you over at the knees and takes some time to recover from - the not fun kind. My favourite form of recovery is curling up on the couch with a blanket and a book. Next to sewing and writing, reading is one of my top three favorite activities however... it led to false promises. I read. I thought. I processed. I did not sew. The sweater is not finished BUT... the collar is.

After reshaping, I used a 5" strip of the ribbed fabric folded in half, serged to the wrong side, and turned to the right side. If the cardigan opening were to fold back and become visible, the inside is very neat plus the serged edge gives the collar roll and lift. The look is narrow and perky, almost rebellious. Now for the button band. I won't promise it for tomorrow as I have guests this afternoon and I'm not actually sure what will get done but it's next and we'll see.

I first read Mary Adams' The Party Dress Book a few years ago and since the copyright is November 2010, it was most likely right around that time. I remember enjoying it so much that I sent a copy to my friend Caroline with the suggestion that we sew party dresses for our 50th birthdays. When I gift a book, it has impacted me significantly and at the same time I am aware that books - and quotes - impact different people in different ways. The quotes above hit me in a particular way this weekend. They may mean absolutely nothing to you. Isn't that fascinating?

The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell has been just the right book at just the right time and so powerful that I bought copies for each of my boys and offered to pay them to read it and work through the questions. I rarely do this and they've never yet taken me up on the offer but I'm hopeful this will be the time. Starting at fifty, it's valuable. Starting earlier, the benefits could be amazing.

In the closing circle at the Design Outside the Lines workshop this past June, I talked about how I breath in fabric and how it felt like I'd been on a respirator for a long time, not creatively dead but not nearly as alive and energetic and passionate as before. That kind of creative energy is like a drug. Without it, you're in withdrawal and all you want is more. Returning home from the workshop, I was positive that I'd be re-energized and eager to charge full steam ahead. It hasn't turned out that way BUT... it was a turning point from which I've been steadily growing.

If you read Mary's book, you'll see that she dabbled in a few different things but she focused on one - the dress - which became her blank canvas of experimentation. I giggle when she writes that this or that technique was unique to her because in every instance she's discussing a technique that I have used in clothing. It reminds me of when I was creating art quilts in a particular style and then another artist wrote a book about her style... which was similar to mine... and suddenly my work wasn't my own anymore. When people saw it, they would immediately assume - out loud - that I was copying the other artist. That can certainly burst your creative bubble. It burst mine to such a degree that I changed the way I worked. I didn't want to be seen as a copy or a copycat.

What we know about ourselves and our work and what we know about the work of others is limited by our field of reference. The Internet has made the field bigger but not so big that we know everything about everyone. Mary thought she was unique and in her field of reference she was. I'm not a well known dress designer and have no desire to be and I doubt that the two of us were the only ones using those techniques. There were probably other women sewing in other studios using similar ideas. I've come to see that as an interesting phenomenon - the art of doing the same thing in similar ways with individual twists. We all get dressed.

Among other things, John's book pointed out that I need to pick a focus and step strongly in that direction. And Mary's book once again reinforced my belief that fabric is my art form and clothing my canvas and that I need to dip my brush and paint boldly. No answers but I spent the weekend thinking about how to blend those two thoughts and create an energizing field of study. I think it may have to do with t-shirts because that's the garment I wear the most often and when I've struggled in the past, it's been with the question what's the point? Circumventing that question by focusing my creativity on the garment that I wear the most often could quite possibly be the answer because learning how to take advantage of the twists and turns that happen along the way is even more valuable... than doing without the drug.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - credit cards in unexpected situations

Friday, January 11, 2013

After Seeing The Light

Let's start with an apology for the blurred and not so wonderful photos to follow. They were taken late yesterday afternoon when the light was at its absolute worst in the studio and couldn't be retaken this morning because my son had another dentist appointment, complete with sedation, and I'm not at my desk typing - I'm in the waiting room waiting. One thing to figure out soon is the best place in my (relatively new) home to take pictures. I've never lived with the direction of light that is in this house and I find it rather harsh and hard to take pictures in BUT... at least there are pictures. That's something to be grateful for.

After seeing the light shining through the back with the near fatal flaw, I knew that no matter what happened next the finished cardigan was never going to be as wonderful as hoped for. Nice but not amazing. When a project shifts like that, there's a natural inclination to stop doing our best and to simply get it over with. It's an inclination that I prefer to fight because I don't feel that doing less than my best is respectful of my creativity. I'm not saying there aren't times to walk away. There are. But I think we can walk away too fast and that even when a project is sub-optimal, there are still lots of lessons to learn which is why I hand basted rather than machine basted the lace layer to the knit one.

And it's why I basted the side seams and then was completely annoyed to find that the serger had pushed the intersecting seams out of alignment. With another fabric, I'd have taken the seam apart and re-matched it however, with this one, that would most likely have ended with holes. The more "mistakes" that happen, the more that natural inclination screams - okay, now, will you quit? - but I think it's simply one of those know when to hold them, know when to fold them kind of moments. Nice but not amazing is in essence a wearable muslin and actually wearing a garment provides another learning curve. By continuing I could test further ideas and later - when I make this cardigan again - I'll have a better idea of what to do and what to watch for. Already, I know that I want the lace section shorter and the ribbed section longer.

Millicent is modeling my clothes for now while she's the thinner one - LOL - and when we trade places, I'll take over again. This photo is VERY blurry but you get the idea. The part below the lace is the ribbed fabric. It's the same in the back. The folded line at the bottom is the hem waiting to be turned up. At this point, the cardigan has the potential to wander over into frumpy so...

... I'm playing with different neckline shapes and details. So far, the V is winning and I'm debating how to blend it into the to be added button band. I checked through my inspiration files and found this....

... Anthropologie V-neck with buttons and this...

... Anthropologie V-neck with buttons, both of which are from a few years ago and on both of which the neckline merges into the front and then I found...

... this Peruvian Connection cardigan also from a few years ago. Hmm... doesn't that just make you wonder if I had more than one source of inspiration for this cardigan. Everything we are and do is a compilation of everything we have been and done. So intriguing. Results on Monday.

Thanks for all the fabulous feedback on yesterday's posting. I enjoyed reading the comments. It's fascinating to see how we are the same and yet so individually unique at the same time. If and when I sew the black t-shirt again, I'll be sure to post the how-to. I want to sew it again using higher quality fabric and my improved T & T pattern.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - My weight is bothering me and it's completely my own fault and within my control to correct so I'm doing the work BUT... yesterday...  someone wondered why I was so worried about it because I couldn't possibly weigh more than a number that is actually thirty-five pounds lighter than I really am. It was encouraging.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Top Of The Tickle List

A friend was over for coffee yesterday. We discussed getting things done. She works full time. I don't. Her job requires flexibility. Mine doesn't. She'll be working on one project and suddenly she's to leave it and move to a different one. That would drive me absolutely crazy. I am flexible within a routine. My daily schedule is in virtually the same order every day and I prefer to start and finish one project at a time. It's what works best for me.

Right now - as in it could change before Monday - the plan for next week is to sew several basic - most likely black - t-shirts. My wardrobe is desperate. It's reaching a critical stage. Only sewing basic t-shirt after basic t-shirt is boring so I've been thinking about sewing a t-shirt and working on a piece of jewelry at the same time in some sort of alternating way like an hour here and an hour there. The concern for me is not can I sew five t-shirts or can I create a piece of jewelry, it's can I do them at the same time in the same space? For some people that's not even a question. For me, it's not at all how I work and it might not even be important to learn how to work that way but it's an interesting question.

With the new year, there's been a lot of discussion about sewing basics... or cake... or frosting. Since my return to fashion sewing, I've tried a few SWAPs, sew-a-longs, and similar plans and they always seem to suck the joy out of sewing. As soon as I have to sew in some way, I don't want to. Part of how I decide what to sew is by following up interesting questions. Can I sew a bra? Can I sew jeans? Can I adapt this pattern to look like that RTW garment? Can I learn this new technique? Can I make this garment fit my figure? I'm curiosity driven.

Where I'm the most flexible within the studio is with what I sew and typically the project of the moment is whatever was top of the tickle list - anything from practical to party. Sorting through my photographs pointed out that most of what I wear, I sew and most of what I sew I don't wear. It's only a small portion of what was sewn that actually makes it into wardrobe rotation. That's a curious observation. It leads to the questions why and how can I up that ratio so that almost everything I sew gets worn? Why do I sew what I sew?

It's not about money. A lot of women tell me they stopped sewing when it became less expensive to buy the garment than it was to sew it. Every time I hear that line of reasoning there's a part of me that wants to ask where they shop because it's rare that the garment I sewed is more expensive than a purchased one of similar quality. For me, sewing is about quality, about entertaining myself, about stretching my brain and my creativity, and about fit, fun, and flatter.

When I started fashion sewing again several years ago, I wanted to learn how to sew bras and jeans and when I started knitting again, I wanted to learn how to knit socks. I've studied every possible sock knitting method and I've knit several pairs and I don't like knitting socks or how they feel on my feet. I can buy two dozen socks in two seconds flat and they'll last for a year. Good enough. On the other hand, the bras that I sew fit about the same as my favourite RTW bra so I buy basic black and white bras and sew ones with more expensive and colorful fabrics and prettier lace. The panties I sew are way, Way, WAY more comfortable than anything I can buy so I sew them in basic colors and in matching sets with the bras, sets being something I'd never bought due to sizing and expense.

My husband brought this fabric back from Guatemala and I used Burda 7500 to sew a pair of pants with a cuffed and pleated hem and an elastic waistline. The fabric has a gold metallic thread in it that was itchy so the pants are fully lined. Both my sons think they look like pj pants and my daughter thinks they're quite ugly. I absolutely LOVE them. The are so comfortable that I made another pair in a striped grey and both get worn regularly.

Being a gift, the Guatemala pair was free. The grey pair was sewn for $5.00 with fabric bought in the bargain center. When I wore them in June at the DOL workshop, Marcy complimented me on the pants and said she really liked the fabric.  I mention that only to illustrate that I'm not deluding myself about finding good deals on fabric. Until I returned to sewing, I didn't have any clothes of this nature because they are typically quite expensive. Before sewing, the clothes I would buy I couldn't afford and the clothes I could afford I wouldn't buy. It was a dilemma. Now, I can afford to sew them.

I sewed the jeans I'm wearing in the picture above. They fit me far better than any I can buy. I wear jeans regularly and once my weight is settled, would like to sew more mainly for the fit and the style lines. I hate being held hostage by whatever is in style. I prefer to wear what flatters me. The wool jacket is sewn from Vogue 8459. I was curious to see if I could sew a jacket that fit well and, if I could, would I wear it. Yes... I could... and no... I wouldn't. Since making the jacket almost three years ago, I've worn it twice. That's good learning. I am far more likely...

... to wear a skirt like this one from Mary Adams' book The Party Dress Book. It's sewn in a method she calls crazy applique that's layered and involves threadwork. It's exactly the kind of project I really enjoy working on and there would most likely be less hours invested in sewing this skirt than in sewing the jacket plus I'd have more fun sewing it and wear it more often. That's good learning too - to both invest my time where it's fun and where it's wearable.

I've done a lot of learning with t-shirts. First I learned to sew a basic t-shirt and developed a reliable T & T pattern. From there, I started adding interior seams and details like the RTW copy  above. I evolved the basic t-shirt into a cardigan pattern and have used it to develop my own designs as well as to refashion existing sweaters. I've taken the T & T in numerous directions and have numerous more to explore because I wear knits more than any other fabric and t-shirts more than any other garment.

When I think about sewing more of the clothing I actually wear and about making those pieces more creative, I am thinking about adding details to t-shirts, skirts, pants, and cardigans. My inspiration file is full of images like the one above from A similar piece could be easily developed from Katherine Tilton's Vogue 8691 - a fabulous pattern.

Why do you sew what you sew? What percentage of what you sew do you wear? What percentage of what you wear do you sew?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - an understanding of the best direction for me to explore in