Friday, February 1, 2013

Patterns From The Skinny Years

When we set out to buy new clothes we are taking along not only an interest in fashion, but also an internal hell of insecurity or self-loathing about what it is to be clothed, and because we're buying clothes, not putting ourselves up for the Nobel Prize, it is the body and its horrible failings that matter. It's really irrelevant that you are a wonderful mother and wife, or that you have a doctorate in particle physics. If the clothes in the shops don't fit you, then none of your accomplishments will help.

The clothes you put on do not instantly make you the character you want to be. Clothes are a lifelong journey into acquiring an identity, an identity deliberately formulated, but also made by accident. You try on a tweed jacket and understand that it has connected with the part of yourself you scarcely knew about, which would like to go for a walk along a country road, with dogs. Or you put on a hat and discover in yourself a capacity to be quite lah-di-dah. And indeed all cross-dressing is a means by which we can give expression to those secret selves which lie concealed beneath our obvious appearance; who people believe us to be, but in our heart of hearts we aren't. Or not completely. - Linda Grant, The Thoughtful Dresser

Last week, the plan was to spend this week sewing with the goal of actual garments to show and talk about. It's not escaped my notice that my productivity - in terms of hanging in the closet you could actually wear them out in public clothes - is quite low. If we were measuring by paper or muslins, that's another story.

I sewed three versions of Vogue 8323 and can report that the new set of alterations developed during my month long spree of T & T t-shirt development last fall has paid off. I'm getting to YES much faster. With the first version, the bust point was too high. The t-shirt could possibly have been saved except that the fabric was unflatteringly hugging every lump and bump. It was good muslin material. The second version was perfect unless you count the fact that I - stupidly - chose a ribbed knit and it kept expanding sideways and looked baggy and unflattering. It's now a jammie shirt BUT... the bust point was correct. The third version appears to be fabulous. The side and shoulder seams are basted and need to be sewn permanently, the sleeves inserted, and the hems stitched.

One t-shirt a week is really REALLY low productivity but there is value in the process, at least for me. My success rate is steadily climbing as I learn which alterations to make, which fabrics I prefer to sew and which I prefer to wear, which styles suit my figure, which garments will get worn and which will rarely see daylight. As I commented yesterday, I feel like I've finally reached a point in my return to fashion sewing where I have a more solid understanding of what I'm hoping to accomplish and as a result I'm accomplishing it more often. This is good.

Recently I pulled out four t-shirts I wear frequently and the four corresponding patterns and compared the fit results and the fabrics used and attempted to make some observations that I could take forward. Ideally, I'll end up with the best front sewn to the best back with the best sleeves for the best figure flattering fit only...

... I have a (good) problem. The running is beginning to pay off. I haven't lost a lot of weight - three pounds - but I've already lost two inches on my bust which is sadly always the first to go. I'm enjoying running and the more I'm sticking with it, the faster I'm running and the number of steps is increasing. It appears that I've slotted this into my schedule in a way that works and that it's also going to work for toning my figure but not at all for my current sewing. My weight has always fluctuated so I have a range of clothing and patterns and can compare previous measurement charts. Perhaps, I'll live on the wild side, sew (step) out in faith, and use patterns from the skinny years or - LOL - sew a coat since it'll rest on my shoulders and they're not going to change. Any advice?

The turquoise scarf is completed and blocking. I love the way blocking is to knitting as pressing is to sewing. SUCH a lovely finish. In all honesty, my sewing productivity is down because my knitting productivity is up. Since I'm not knitting socks or things that need to be fitted or sewn together, that leaves scarves so I've been reading stitchionaries and playing with scarf design and figuring out what I can do with the yarn that I already have in stash and really enjoying the quiet, contemplative time.

The past three weeks have been incredibly peaceful. While I still maintain that God has THE weirdest sense of humor, there is something amazingly freeing about boundaries, about reaching the point where you realize that some aspect of life is not going to change and you - finally - stop trying to change it and begin instead to change yourself. YES YES!

In the past three weeks, I've become even more of a home body. I've spent a grand total of $6.04 on discretionary spending. That can't last. There are things I need like black thread and interfacing but it's wonderful to be able to sew and knit from my stash, re-read old favourites, journal in my own living room with a view of the valley, and have friends over for coffee instead of going out. It feels more real in some way - perhaps something like a radical new approach to living to quote Linda Grant in The Thoughtful Dresser.

I've mentioned before how highly competitive I am, especially with myself. Right now my goal is to go as long as I can without buying anything and to only buy items with cash, not debit, not credit. What a delight on Wednesday when I broke the last needle in the box to go into my stash and find another box. YES YES. Thank you God. I buy needles by the 100 from the wholesaler along with pins, interfacing, and thread and I'm not ready to place an order so this was a fabulous find.

This RBC credit application above came in the mail yesterday. I was shocked to see their marketing strategy. See how much you can save in interest charges on a $4,000 balance ? ? ? What happened to pay off your balance each month to maintain your credit rating? Transfer your balances - as in plural - from other high interest cards - as in plural. That's scary. More than one card? More than one high interest card? Why? The only time that I've had two credit cards was when one was for business expenditures and the other for personal spending and that was only to simplify the accounting. Maybe I'm naive and unrealistic but to me credit cards are absolutely fabulous in emergencies and for travelling and for shopping on-line but they are not meant to be lines of credit or bank loans or ways to have more money than you earn and - IMHO - when treated in that way, they become a heavy ball and chain. Debt is deadly.

Financial setbacks are character builders. They make you evaluate what's truly important and reset your priorities and - as I'm finding - show what's possible within your stash and within yourself. We did not expect to have several financial issues all at once and it's frustrating however, even though they were unexpected and will take some time to work through, we will work through it step-by-step and as we do I'm thankful for the reminder to pay more attention to finances. I'd gotten too complacent about how often I went out for coffee and lunch and on snoop shopping trips and I was buying a few too many patterns and bargain center fabrics. Not at a bankruptcy pace but too often.

"They" - the omnipotent and all knowing they - say that time management and money management are the two areas of greatest stress in life. Earlier this week I talked about women not spending enough time on self development which I think is crucial for our own health and for the health of our relationships. Money management is another area in which if we did the work, we would reap the benefits. There is nothing so sweet and so satisfying as paying cash.

And it's hard work. And it means doing without. And it takes a long time. And it's worth it. I emerged into adulthood not understanding money or debt or even that bills existed. At one point I had run up a substantial credit card balance that I had absolutely no way of paying off and had to work my way out of that situation. I realized I was ignorant about money and I read a lot of books and worked out a system and now our household doesn't carry much debt. I can't handle the stress and I enjoy the things I've paid cash for far more than I did the things I'd put on credit because I couldn't afford them - especially sewcations. Now, the mortgage is our only debt and we're working hard to pay it off BUT... this recent situation has reminded us of other ways in which to improve.

I know money is one of those topics best avoided however, I think it's critically important so I'm talking about it. There are always situations beyond our control but we're better prepared to deal with them if we already have a financial system and a set of rules around money. And there will be correction points. We had gotten complacent. We've had a wake-up call. We've adjusted our rules. If you don't have a system - as someone who has been there, done that, and didn't like it - I highly recommend getting this area in order. You will feel tremendously lighter.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a bonus check yesterday that helped to make a substantial step forward

P.S. - sorry about the text changing sizes. Blogger is doing weird things with that and with spell check.


  1. I too am loosing again and have decided to buy my clothes until the end of June. Then I am going to make them and toss them as I loose weight and get smaller. My first area to get smaller is my hips.
    My biggest concern will be getting patterns to the TNT stage. Right now I will use two patterns I have that will be easy to retrace to smaller sizes. Ron explained it to me. My biggest issue will be the waist on the pants (elastic at this time) as the whole thing takes a lot of patience to get them to sit correctly. I might not be able to do it by myself.
    We have a budget that we follow and it really helps. It will change in July as we won't have my extra income but we will survive well on what we have. Life does throw us curve balls and we have to work through them. We had to do that when we lived in Dawson Creek.
    Have a great weekend.

    1. The garments that had gotten tight will fit better again soon. That buys me some time. What I've realized with my fit and fashion journey is that the vertical doesn't change radically as the horizontal might and that the fitting adjustments I make for things like arm length or center back and center front length will basically stay the same so I can still fit patterns and then adjust through the width later. I could make a million muslins but - LOL - I think I've already done that so a new strategy is in order. I want some clothes too.

      We are already planning for when Howard retires which won't be for another eight or more years but we wanted to develop some new habits before they were necessary rather than after the fact.

      You too - have a great weekend. Are you going to the sale at Fabricland?

    2. Not sure about if I am going. I need to measure up some interfacing to see if I need more (probably do) and I need buttons and embroidery thread. I might snoop around a bit but not much.I won't be doing sewing for myself until after July 24th. I have some fabric more clothing for me and would like to use that up first.

  2. I make most of my clothing for two reasons, nothing that I could purchase in the stores would fit me at all, nothing manufactured in my price range would be congruent with my personal style at all. I am grateful that after my year of dealing with cancer, which played hob with my finances, that I have a substantial fabric and supplies stash. For now, until my bank account recovers, however long that takes, I will be shopping my stash except for things like replacing thread and notions.

    I have lived carefully and frugally wit my finances for years. I so agree that a line of credit is a tool to be used and not abused - have seen friends use credit to the point of needing to take out a second mortgage on their home, and not for necessities but for frills like dinners out, not noticing what they were doing until it was far beyond the point of sense... I do have a credit card, but I only use it in true emergencies. Living within my income means doing without a lot of things that most folks consider necessary. I do see films with friends a few times a year, but only at the second run theater where the price is $3; eating out is a rare treat, I don't have tech toys that require monthly contracts like the iPhone/iPad gizmos, and a vacation for me is to go and spend time visiting friends... Doesn't mean that I wouldn't enjoy such things, or wish that I could afford them, but realistically for me at this time, they are not possible.

    1. There are things that I can't afford and never will be able to afford and while I wish I had the opportunity in some cases - especially to take more workshops - it doesn't exist and I find a certain freedom in not debating the issue. The answer is no. Instead, I am free to focus on the things that I can do which I find far more positive. Do you find that to be true as well?

    2. I must say that I do agree with you - I do my best to focus on what options are available to me rather than fret after what is not... (though I do yearn for the companionship of other artisans, I make do with connecting with folks online, and do what I can to foster connections with the creative folks that I know locally)

  3. Right now I am enjoying knitting and quilt making while I wait for my weight and figure to stabilize. None of my carefully developed TNT patterns fit any longer, and I don't have the desire to work on fitting new patterns knowing they will just be temporary.

    A good book for money management is "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas Stanley. When DH and I read it 15 or so years ago it dramatically changed our approach to spending and saving money.

    Lois K

    1. That's partly where I'm at too - not wanting to spend too much time sewing clothing that soon won't fit but I do think I could work on uslins.

      The Millionaire Next Door is a FABULOUS book. I've read it several times and recommended it often. I also liked The Automatic Millionaire and Smart Women Finish Rich. Both excellent.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.