Friday, May 31, 2013

Not One Stitch

Along with the knitting, I had several errands planned for yesterday and a coffee date in the evening. It seemed wise to do the errands first only I never got to the knitting. Not one stitch. How is it that the item top of the list can so frequently be the thing that we don't ever get to. For many women, that item is often self care.

Self care is a soapbox topic for me. When some women find out how much I sew, or see my studio, I invariably hear some version of you're so lucky, I could never do that or have that or spend as much time on things for myself because I'm so busy being super Mom or Wife or Worker or religious. I'm not sure if it's a comment intended to make me feel worse or them feel better. Either way, it doesn't work for me.

How can we teach our children (at any age) the importance of finding and developing their own interests and of not simply existing in a life of busy and work and doing for others if we don't role model that ourselves? How can we believe that God created us with unique and individual skills and abilities that we are meant to explore if we never explore them? One of is a life of energy and learning; the other is a life of frustration and depression... at least it is for me when I don't get to create.

We are - IMHO - better for pursuing our interests in a balanced and healthy way. Learning how to say no is important to having space to say yes. It's interesting to me that this theme of saying no, of being less busy, and of pursuing personal interests is showing up more frequently in the books I'm reading. Is there a change happening? I hope so. It is possible to be loving, caring parent/person by role modeling self care.

Oh dear... I detoured. Told you it was a soap box issue. Yesterday's errands - while not knitting - were mostly about me. Food at Costco. Books at Chapters. The public library to request an OOP book on jewelry design. A trim of the trim of my hair to shorten the front sides just a little bit more. We may be approaching perfect but who knows. My hair and I are having moments right now - LOL. And then... a visit to a gallery, conversation with two artists, and a refashioning project.  Except for no knitting, it was a near perfect day.

Every year Costco brings in a bunch of t-shirts. They were called Segments before and now they're called Kirkland Signature but I can tell by the feel that they've simply switched to owning the brand. The fabric is 100% cotton, thick, soft, and lasts forever. There are variations on the theme with crew or scoop or V-necks and long or short or 3/4 sleeves and longer or shorter hemlines. This year's variation is a V-neck and a longer hemline which is perfect and a cap sleeve which is not. I compared the shape of the armhole and the angle of the shoulder seam to my T & T t-shirt pattern and it's a good match. The Costco t-shirt has more stretch than my T & T so it's narrower but not a lot narrower.

The Costco t-shirts retail for $8.99 which is ridiculously inexpensive and could bring up a whole conversation based on Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion except that I'll wear these for years and then I'll cut them up and make them into something else like the bleached t-shirt I showed earlier this week SO... since the sleeve is so unflattering on me... and the price is so reasonable... I bought one in my size and one in the largest size and then I took out the sleeves on my size and cut new ones from the larger t-shirt using my T & T pattern.

When comparing, remember that the black sleeve has no seam allowance showing at the underarm and only 1/4" around the cap while the turquoise sleeve has 5/8" all around. There's slightly more bicep width in my T & T because it's designed for less ease. There's also more cap height which is a frequent failing of both RTW and some patterns.

There have been several different letters to the big four pattern companies posted over the last couple weeks at Sham's, Robin's, and Barbara's blogs.  It was interesting to read what was an issue for each of these women and to compare their thoughts. It's quickly obvious that the pattern companies can not possibly hope to please all of the people all of the time and why fitting and pattern adjustment are a necessary part of sewing. I'm always intrigued by where people are willing to develop skills and where they are not. I can cook and bake and it's good and only okay. My garden is pretty but I'm in it more to decorate the front of the house than because I love gardening. I don't. I'd rather invest my time in sewing, knitting, and other creative endeavors. Each interest has a set of skills that need to be learned and perfected. It's a fact. Very few - if anyone - is going to cut on the lines and get a perfectly fitted garment.

Several years ago, I attended a workshop where the instructor compared a classic blouse pattern from seven of the top pattern companies. They were virtually identical with only small points of difference. The  Vogue pattern had the most design and fitting elements. New Look had the least. All the companies were starting with the same block and the same measurements. The variations on some things - say shoulder width - were a part of the fit and ease intended.

I'm not rushing to their defense because I too would like to see more consistency but I do think it's important to learn your own measurements, the adjustments you need consistently, and how to make those adjustments.  Even a little bit of information about pattern drafting will help to make pattern adjusting make sense. That I'll need to adjust is why I love my fitting shell and why I think it's worth the work to create. I can compare it to any pattern, adjust the pattern to my measurements and preferred ease, and it'll fit. I may not like the design or the fabric I chose but it'll fit. This is good.

Edited June 1st to add: these thoughts are a general opinion and were not aimed at Shams, Robin, or Barbara who are all fabulous sewists - just in case anyone thought I was being critical of them specifically rather than speaking generally... which is what I'd intended. I'm a huge fan of their work and have learned a lot from their blogs.


The re-dyed fabrics had mixed results. The yardage went a wonderful denim blue which I quite like. The scarf is still its original lime green which tells me that the fabric is either highly treated with something like formaldehyde or it is not in actuality 100% cotton made in China as the label claims. I have some blue iDye Poly so I may try that next and see what happens but I'm a bit worried that this is not the scarf to take to the workshop if it's going to have issues taking dye and paint. We'll see. The yardage is about to become a skirt.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the skill needed to swap sleeves

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Add In Increments

Normally, when Howard is away I invite a friend to come for a sewing visit, go away, or plan a lot of projects to maximize the time - like cleaning last week. I miss him only he has travelled extensively for work in the past so being apart is something we're used to and we have our routines and we're adjusted but then again, possibly we've become unadjusted now that his travels are irregular. I found this past weekend really lonely. But maybe it wasn't just me. When I was out for a walk, my neighbor - who is single - asked me how I was doing, was I lonely and when I said really on the weekend and wondered how she managed ongoing, she said it was just a weird weekend - barometric pressure or something. Nice to know.

Yesterday was the opposite extreme. I had three sets of company and that was enough interaction that I cancelled my weekly sewing date to spend a few hours alone in the studio. How we individually approach life fascinates me. The conversations ranged from an upbeat, positive, exploring, lets see what happens approach to more of a victim, that'll never happen for me, I'm not that lucky approach. I know which I'd rather be.

One of my guests is an artist. We talked about bad, good, and great work as described in Do More Great Work and about the directions we are each going in. We don't always have the option of - or the opportunity to - interact with other artists or sewists but when we do, it brings an extra energy to creativity that I'm starting to want more of... which I find interesting... since I've been mostly working alone for years. Thank goodness the Internet can fill in a few of those blanks.

I've been having a wonderful email conversation with another friend about our style, proportion, and how to make simple lines more edgy. One of the greatest gifts you can have in life - in my opinion anyway - is someone who will tell you the truth and help you to find a better answer. She's not saying my work is all wrong. It isn't. We've just been discussing what I learned about my fashion personality and the directions I want to take my garments in along with the balance between soft lines and drama and how to bring more of the elements from my textile art into my clothing. YES YES ! ! !

I've cut and rolled three more balls of yarn and have one meter left to do before putting the balls and the extra yardage aside until I find the right pattern. I haven't decided if I'll knit to fit a sewing pattern or try to gauge the yarn and follow a knitting one. I think the decision will be made when I find the shape I want.

More yarn seemed boring. I wanted something else to show you today so I decided to dye the lime green scarf and - because I was pretty sure it was cotton - test to see how the ribbing that I'm using for the yarn would take dye.

I started by adding blue... and then a bit more blue... and then a touch of black working in increments. The scarf turned a gorgeous turquoise emerald kind of shade and the knit scrap went a denim color. After ten minutes, I added another yard of the knit. It's been over a year, possibly two, since the last time I dyed fabric. I thought I remembered the instructions but apparently I didn't. After I washed out the dye, the fabric was exactly the original color. Too funny. I made more dye, let it sit overnight, added the soda ash solution this morning, and will rinse it out later. It looks pretty. Hopefully it sticks or I may need to go back to dyeing school.

My focus today is knitting the sweater for my friend's grandbaby. I'm starting to run out of time. There's not much left to do - one front, sew the shoulders together, join the sleeves, knit on the collar, block, sew the side seams, add buttons. I'll alternate knitting and making yarn and we'll see how it goes. It's small. That sentence might be longer than the work - LOL.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - instructions

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Synchronicity & Fear

With quilting or textile art, there is very little waste. Not so with fashion sewing. All those bits and pieces around the edges feel like throwing away money to me so I've tried to find ways to use scraps in what I call zero waste sewing.

A few months ago, I did a search for knitting with fabric and came up with a YouTube video. In it, the woman talked about cutting individual stripes from old t-shirts or fabric and about - IMHO - unnecessarily complicated ways to string them together.

My first thought was why not cut the strips similar to continuous bias in quilting which offsets a seam creating a tube and then cuts around the tube. And then, I thought why not use a tubular knit?

While that contradicts the initial goal of using waste, the idea intrigued me. On Monday, I found a gorgeous, tubular, ribbed knit in the bargain center still in its original wrapping - never opened - significantly reduced.

I cut the edge of one meter with a slight angle and then used a threadless serger to cut around the tube at regular intervals allowing the resulting "yarn" to pool on the floor.

And then, I rolled it up into a ball. One meter of fabric = 64 rotations x 44" long = 2816" or 234' or 78 yards per meter per ball. Based on that, I went back and bought the rest of the bolt... just in case... because I'm not sure what I want to knit yet.

It's messy but the fabric yarn knits into a wonderful texture even on the super small needles that were sitting on the counter. With larger ones, it'll create a more drapey fabric. I wanted to watch the video again and when I opened the home page at YouTube, this is the video that was recommended for me - What Can Fear Teach Us?

Different expressions of synchronicity and variations on the theme of fear having been showing up a lot lately - like the phrase in the postcard from Paris - you are more than what you fear. Let's assume that's true and if so, what do I fear that I am more than ? ? ?

Knitting with yarn made from fabric is only one of the many ideas that flow through my mind daily. I have no shortage of ideas, just a shortage of push to play with them. Why? I tried finishing the sentence I am afraid of ....

It's a form of rejection when you spend a significant amount of your life doing work that doesn't sell.  You can analyze it from numerous angles and realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has nothing to do with you but the fact of the matter is that if the work was supposed to sell and it didn't - whatever it may be - that's depressing and it makes you take a good hard look at whether you gave up too much for too little and ask what if it happens again?

I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. When I'm doing something I'm doing it deep. It appears that I am afraid of wasting time, money, and energy investing myself at a deep level in a creative endeavor that will end up failing and lead to regrets. It doesn't take a rocket scientist for that one. Been there done that.

What's more interesting is that on a completely different level I believe that all creative endeavors are successful and especially those that go in unintended directions because they teach you so much. I also believe that being an artist has nothing to do with selling your work. What does money have to do with it? Those are two different subjects - being an artist and being in business. On some subconscious level, it appears that I am afraid to try X because what if I fall in love and then I want to make lots of X's and then might decide to sell the X's and they won't sell and I'll be unhappy because I wasted all my time, money, and energy making X's... BUT...

... does it not strike you as absolutely ridiculous to NOT invest in what's of interest for fear of wasting time, money, and energy and instead to waste the same time, money, and energy doing what tickles but not nearly as loud. That sounds like bankrupting yourself.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - let's call this progress

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do Great Work

We're going to start by having a close look at exactly what Great Work is. I don't want you feeling that Great Work is beyond your reach, that it's only for people who already have a deep sense of mission, who have reached enlightenment, or who are somehow extraordinary. Everyone can do more Great Work.

Great work is what we all want more of. This is the work that is meaningful to you, that has an impact and makes a difference. It inspires, stretches, and provokes. Great Work is the work that matters. It is a source of both deep comfort and engagement - often you feel as if you're in the "flow zone," where time stands still and you're working at your best, effortlessly. The comfort comes from its connection, its "sight line," to what is most meaningful to you - not only your core values, and beliefs, but also your aspirations and hopes for the impact you want to have on the world.

But Great Work is also a place of uncertainty and discomfort. The discomfort arises because the work is often new and challenging, and so there's an element of risk and possible failure. Because this is work that matters, work that you care about, you don't want to fail. But because it's new and challenging, there's a chance that it might.
- pages 3-5, Do More Great Work, by Michael Bungay Stainier

After writing yesterday's posting, I wondered what commonalities would exist between my favourite pieces - the ones that reflect my style, the ones that I wear the most often, and the ones that I had the most fun creating. I loaded the images in the morning but started writing the text last night. In-between, the mail came including the book quoted above. There are some very strong - and slightly weird - moments of synchronicity happening in my life right now. I love that and I'm a bit nervous about what it all means BUT... let's look at the clothes. I'd love to hear your reaction.

Vogue 1312 - is sewn from a stable knit. I altered the bodice to use princess seams, changed the neckline to a rounded V which is the shape I wear most often, used the armhole and sleeve from my T & T t-shirt pattern, and altered the shaping of the skirt pattern pieces for a - IMHO - more simplistic and professional method with less bulk.

Vogue 8743 - is sewn from a navy linen with dupioni silk, raw silk, and linen being three of my favourite fabrics. This pattern comes with princess seams and cup sizing which I really liked and box pleats on the skirt which I didn't. I eliminated them. The length is slightly above the ankle just past the widest part of the calf. When I play with skirt lengths, this one feels proportionally the best to me. This silhouette shows up constantly in my clothing.

This grey sweater knit was fabulous to work with especially for double needle pin tucking. It's a refashioned garment that started with a sweater sewn from a Simplicity pattern that felt boring and prissy. I kept playing with it until this piece emerged. I think this is one of the best pieces I've sewn since my return to fashion and it very strongly reminded me of how I create textile art and made me realize that a shift of that kind of energy will - somehow - be possible.

Kat Wise makes the most amazing garments from recycled sweaters. I "discovered" her on Etsy about the same time as there were several magazine articles on recycling garments - probably two years ago but I'm guessing. This how it's done video is great. She makes it look so easy when it's actually quite labour intensive but a LOT of fun. Two of the fabrics were yardage and the rest were secondhand men's sweaters. I loved making this sweater and yet whenever I wear it, it gets comments but I find it's not completely comfortable. Something is slightly off and it seems a bit too bulky and not long enough. The pattern was a second version of another sweater that I'd made from creating a pattern from a RTW garment using my T & T t-shirt as the base. The first version I wore until it wore out but the next two have never felt quite right.

This piece started out as a t-shirt using my T & T pattern. The goal was a plain front and a swing style back with a draw string just above the waist similar to a RTW garment - in theory - only when it was finished, it felt more like on sign on my behind saying Look Here Big Butt. It's refashioned. I slimmed the peplum, separated the front, evolved the side gathers to pleats, and added the embellishment at the bottom front. It has GORGEOUS buttons with a swirling paisley-ish design in black on white shell. This is one of the very few times that a frill doesn't make me feel like a little girl. I enjoyed making this cardigan and I like wearing it but it doesn't come out of the closet all that often because it still has a slight prissy feel and that tie in the back although I think the hands over the bust look of the tucks helps to de-prissy. It's better but not amazing.

This is my T & T t-shirt pattern with a shallow scooped neckline. The design has either easing or side darts at the bust line depending on the fabric used. I love it in a stable, heavier knit and dislike it in a thin, clinging one. I've probably made this pattern a good two dozen times if not more and of those, maybe six or seven are in my closet. Unless they fit extremely well - which is always a combination of the pattern and the fabric - the results are uncomfortable emotionally which makes me curious about why it works in one fabric and not in anther and how to choose more wisely more often. The same is true with the shape of neckline. If the fabric has some substance, I'm okay with this shape but not otherwise. Paisley is my absolute favourite design motif. This is one of the only darted, one piece bodice patterns I use frequently. Normally, they don't work well with my curvy figure. I prefer princess seams.

Katherine Tilton's Vogue 8691 is running a very close second to my T & T for most frequently used pattern. I recently lengthened it to a dress. It has princess seams and a defined waistline similar to many of my favourite pieces and skims the body but doesn't cling. It gives me shape. This print does not feel overwhelming because it's monochromatic in terms of value.  I left off the frill. I tried it and it felt all wrong - little girl again. I realized recently that I dislike being in cluttered garments as much as cluttered rooms.

Same pattern, different results. I consider this another of my best pieces. It's made from recycled black 100% cotton t-shirts that I bleached and stitched back together in a patchwork format. I wear this garment but not as often as you would think for a favourite because even though the bleaching has a pink-ish tone, the garment feels brown to me. That's not a color I like much and have little to go with. I wear it mostly with jeans or a jean skirt and some amber jewelry.

This is my T & T t-shirt pattern again, this time used to recreate Vogue 8390 without the shoulder gathers. I'm not fond of gathers and often substitute pleats or tucks. I love tucks. This print works because it is again monochromatic in value and softly shaded without overpowering my face. Large, bold, high contrast prints take over.

On the pattern cover, this Koos Vogue 1244 skirt is very very colorful and really really full. It's more me in a single fabric with modified fullness. The skirt is doubled with the intention of it being reversible which made no sense and resulted in a bulky waist. I narrowed it further by taking darts and tucks around the waistline. I wear this with the paisley t-shirt above. It's the only outfit I own where I actually tuck in the top and is one of my top three most successful pieces. The belled bottom is similar to...

... Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8499 which I've sewn twice - once in a dark denim and once as above - and I imagine I'll be sewing it again and again over the years as it's comfortable and flattering. I may eliminate the pockets at some point and see what that looks like. With this pattern, you hem the pieces before sewing the seams. That's a trick I've transferred to a few patterns since. This print is the most high contrast one in my wardrobe. It works because I wear the skirt with a black t-shirt and colorful jewelry which calms the look down near my face and adds a stronger focal point to draw the eye upward.

Burda 8213 is my most sewn skirt pattern. I come back to this trumpet shape again and again because it gives me shape without making me look like a frump or a ball. This 2 parts to 3 parts proportion is also one of my favourites . The resulting length is just above the ankle like the dress earlier. Currently, I have two versions of this skirt although I've had more previously. This one is made from a stretch denim and the other from a textured, embellished linen, both common to me fabrics.

This fabric was a fabulous find in the bargain center for about $7.00 total. It's a lightweight but firm cotton blend with a subtle stripe. It presses like a dream and doesn't crease easily. The seaming on this pattern is interesting and I LOVE the cuff and pleats at the ankle. The pattern is Burda 7400 with the waistband ribbing replaced with elastic. I'm too short waisted for ribbing and I wouldn't wear a top tucked in with these pants so why bother with that bulk creating detail.

This is the same pattern in a fabric my husband brought back from Guatemala a couple years ago. This anti-pear combination is a very common look for me. Typically a pear should not wear a print on the bottom and a plain fabric on the top as it draws attention to the hips. The older I get, the less I mind my hips since they nicely show off my smaller waist. The print on the bottom with plain on the top plus jewelry is part of my fashion personality and signature look. You can't see the necklace up close but it's a bright pink fused glass with gold tones similar to the pants and unusual beads. It demands more attention than you can see here. I'm constantly getting comments when I wear it.

These jeans are McCall's 5592. They're too tight right now or I'd be wearing them all the time. I love the dark denim, the long line, and the trouser styling. I'm very Very VERY uncomfortable in any kind of snug fitting skinny pant. I wear jeans but I don't think of them as my best look and tend to wear them mainly at home. These I wore out often... which probably means I should sew some more now instead of waiting for my weight to stabilize... as in dress the body you have. The top is only tucked in to show the fit. I'd just spent a month on the topic of jeans when I sewed these and I wanted to show them off - LOL. The denim was in a bin of ends at a significantly reduced price so I was able to buy lots of the same fabric to perfect the pattern.

And these are Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8712 pants lengthened to the ankle. Marcy is probably my most sewn designer which isn't really saying much since most sewn does not mean extensively sewn and I've never made one of her top or jacket patterns because they tend to have a lot more ease and less shaping through the waist - if I lose my waist, I look like a tent or a blob - although to be fair to the jackets, I just haven't gotten around to them yet. These pants are made from a stretch polyester with a relatively monochromatic print and a subtle sparkle of gold. I bought the fabric 70% off and made a skirt and these pants and still have some left. LOVE the fabric.

What I see in terms of the pieces I consider successful is that they involved conquering fit in some way to make them eminently wearable and/or involved altering, adapting, and evolving the design, were emotionally engaging, and I rarely knew what the end result would be when I started. The bleached t-shirt is an example of what I meant yesterday by making a pattern special. What similarities do you see?

To find these images, I went through the month by month files of sewing done in the last three and a half years. VERY interesting. There were far more failures than successes and the successes are more recent. Although I'm eager to know and to sew what works for me more often, I can see that I've been on a long journey of self discovery and have experimented and tried a lot of different things while learning. I think that's good. I'm only amazed that I'm still sewing and that I have any blog readers at all - LOL - considering what a roller coaster it's been. THANK YOU for sticking with me.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - weird but wonderful moments of synchronicity

Monday, May 27, 2013

This Is Not My Box

On Saturday, I went for coffee with a friend and we had a wonderful two hour conversation about what was going on in each of our lives. On Sunday, I went to a barbeque to celebrate another friend's daughter's graduation - because they are important to me - even though my first choice would not have been to spend the afternoon with a group of people I didn't know and had little in common with. On the other hand, I can attend a creativity workshop, not know anyone, and it doesn't bother me at all since I'll have something in common with everyone and we'll be talking about one of my favorite subjects.

I've been told that I can talk to anyone and for the most part, that's true. I just prefer some kinds of interactions to others. How we relate to the world was the subject of my study yesterday. Reading through the chapter and answering the questions, I discovered - or perhaps confirmed is the better word - that I function best in a 1-1 environment. I'm good in groups if I'm the speaker, the instructor, or it's a group of like-minded individuals. In terms of structure, I prefer partnership with the view that we are all equals. It's no surprise that I'm introverted and relational. I think relationships are what life is all about. My love language is quality time.

I was thinking about how I relate to the world at the same time as I was pondering the questions Jilly posed in Musings On The Creative Process. Jilly wrote - I know there are a lot of reasons why we sew - I'm curious about those of us who are really interested in bringing the unique and creative into our clothes.  I really hope to open a dialogue with those of you who care to share..... I left a comment saying that I'd answer her questions here because - me being me - it was definitely going to be long winded and - LOL - I was right.

Do you sew, and dress, to express the inner you?

If this was a yes or no question, I'd say yes only the real answer is far more complex than that. Perhaps, it'd be more accurate to say that sewing and dressing to express the inner me are the main objective which is in turn comprised of smaller goals some of which I've attained and others I've so far missed. It's also the path of discovery. I'm experimental so I'm constantly trying ideas - read fabrics and styles - that don't have a high probability of success... just to see what happens... and sometimes I find that frustrating and wish I'd focused on what I knew worked only repetition bores me and therein lies a conundrum. 

Has sewing helped you discover/uncover who you really are?

The first time I sat down at a sewing machine, I was in love. There was never a period of learning to enjoy sewing as some of my friends experienced. I was never frustrated by what I didn't know and I'm still excited about what I can learn. I sewed fashions from age twelve until my early twenties and then switched to traditional quilts and then to textile art. While creating wall art, I went from following a pattern to creating independent pattern-free pieces and did a lot of learning about myself, my style, and my voice. When I came back to sewing fashions, I wanted to bring that learning with me only it wasn't that easy because...

Does it take courage to dress the way you really feel about yourself?

... it does take courage to dress the way you really feel about yourself especially when you consider that before you can dress that way, you have to figure out how you feel and what that feeling looks like. You have to research yourself. The more confident a person is with themselves, the more easily they are able to dress the way they feel. I did not emerge into adulthood a confident person and I march to a different drummer than most. It has taken a long time to be sufficiently at peace within myself to start reflecting that through clothing. I'm barely scratching the surface and I'm both thrilled, excited, and frustrated that it's taken so long.

DO you dress the way you really feel about yourself?

LOL - if this was a yes or no question, my answer would be no. I can identify what looks like me but I can't always transition that awareness to on the body. I've touched on it at different times and have favourite pieces as a result of those encounters but I'm not all there yet. I've been experimenting to discover what's me and at the same time, I have - perhaps - been both playing it safe and trying to put myself in the wrong box. It takes time to recognize that this is not my box. Ours is not a culture of dressing up or standing out. It's homogenized. To truly be yourself, and to wear your signature style with complete confidence, you need to be willing to stand out. Was I less willing than I thought or has it - with it being my signature style - not quite come together yet or is it something I've found and rejected and need to find again? Bits and pieces of all three. I'm getting closer.

Do you sew to express your own individuality, and what is it that you are expressing?  Rebelliousness?   Power?  Artistry?  Thumbing your nose at something?   Something else?

If I am attending a workshop with a big name, it's highly unlikely that I'll wear one of their patterns and if a pattern is suddenly very popular and "everyone" is making it, I probably won't and I may be so disinclined to sew it that I'll give the pattern away. I have no desire to be like everyone else. I sew for fit, for creativity, and for individuality.

The greatest struggle for me switching back to clothing from textile art has been the paint-by-number feeling of sewing a pattern versus the unknown exploratory journey of creating textile art. It's a vibrating, engaged, can't stop sewing, want to know what's going to happen next, type of energy that I've been working to bring into sewing fashions. It's why I love refashioning so much. I don't think I will feel truly expressive until I'm experiencing that energy on a more regular basis.

I recently read a comment made by someone who is searching for a special pattern. It made me pause to think about the opposite approach of making a pattern special. I think that's what is so amazing about a T & T. Once fitted, it can be taken in so many directions that make a pattern special, unique, and individualized as opposed to identifiable.  I don't think I'm pushing myself enough to really work a T & T pattern.

This difference in perspective and output between looking for a special pattern or making a pattern special engages my imagination and I know that's where I need to focus my energy so that my clothing is unique, individualized, creative, textural, artistic, bold, a canvas, and a background for points of interest like jewelry. I know it in theory only that goal requires play, practice, and persistence and that's another struggle - finding self imposed deadlines and sufficient pressure to motivate.

Part of accomplishing individuality is defining the styles, colors, textures, lines, and shapes that work for you. That's not an overnight, quick answer if you happen to think a lot like I do and if you experiment through trial and error and if you tend to get caught up in finding the answer. Right now, I'm feeling confident that I've arrived at some of those answers. A few.

Maybe you sew just to be able to be "on trend" and do it affordably, or just want clothes that friggin' FIT you, because nothing in retail does - I'm interested in those reasons too.  Or maybe you just don't want to be part of the "fast fashion" crowd - kudos to you for that!

I definitely do not want to be on trend and I'm not interested in fast fashion. I prefer clothing that is timeless by nature of the fact that it's classic or it's artsy and unique. It's also really Really REALLY important to me that my clothes fit extremely well and that the lines are flattering to my figure type and expressive of my fashion personality. These are HUGE goals that create tension and a division of time and interest. Will I focus on fit or will I focus on creative expression? What will I make time for? Where will I spend my resources?

Fit is a journey all its own especially when your weight is a moving target like mine is. Although fit is technical, I think that learning curve is made more difficult by the fact that our expressions of self can be a similar moving target as we grow and evolve. We are different women at twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and so on. We can be different women after fitting our dress shell than before. Everything we learn changes us and what once worked, won't always and yet some things remain the same. All of the illustrations in this posting are of garments that I see as expressive of my style and most of these pieces would have appealed to me at any age but are more wearable now at fifty simply because I am more confident.

Why do you sew? 
I sew because I breath in fabric and sewing is the number one method by which I express, entertain, and energize myself. I like that how I sew has evolved over the nearly forty years I've been sewing and that there is still plenty of room to continue learning, evolving, experimenting, expressing.

And what is the creative process behind it?

Jilly meant these last two more as wrap up questions but I wanted to use this one to address the things we struggle with and the awareness we have of our struggles. We can set goals but we won't always attain them if there's something unidentifiable standing between us and that goal. It's fear, typically the fear of fear of failure which is ultimately the fear of rejection. If I were to take a guess at what's holding me back, I would say it had to do with all the years I invested in my previous career only to have it end by circumstances beyond my control. I would rather not go through that again except that as valid as that fear may be, it doesn't really work for my creative journey.

I want to move forward and I'm finding it hard to do the work without the publishing and exhibiting deadlines I used to have. I've been wondering if I need to create some of those and if so, how. I also see that creating originality - whether it's drafting a design, adapting a T & T, creating my own fabric, adding embellishment details, and so on - is the form of expression that will take me away from the paint-by-number feeling and into the originality and uniqueness I crave. I've mentioned it before so you'd think it'd be a no brainer to go in that direction once you've recognized it and apparently not so. I'm having trouble making myself do the work which is why do the work is this year's catch phrase.

Artistic expressions involve internal emotions and when that happens, sewing is not nearly as cut and dried as I'm sewing a blouse, or a skirt, or a dress. Stuff happens. Good stuff. I'll eventually figure out what's holding me back because I think we both have to enjoy and perfect our technical skills and keep pushing creative boundaries to really explore any art form. Or perhaps I need to because I'm a go deep kind of person.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - interesting questions to ponder/answer

Friday, May 24, 2013

Postcard From Paris

Have you ever written a letter to yourself? I've done it twice, once writing from my current age to my younger self and once writing from an older age to my current one. It's quite an eye opening if you can manage not to over think and to simply start writing and see what emerges.

At the Design Outside the Lines workshop last June, Marcy gave us all a postcard. They were randomly distributed and we were to trust that we had received the card we were meant to receive and then write a note to ourselves and give the card back to Marcy to be posted from Paris on her spring trip. Mine arrived last week.

I had forgotten what the card looked like but not the message. The words would come back to me at the oddest moments throughout the year and each time the message made a little more sense. I wrote... In the shadows are wonderful design lines. Embrace the shadows. In the shadows is no place to live. Come out of the shadows. Live bold. You are more than what you fear.

I knew where the part about wonderful design lines came from because we'd talked about shadow images in the workshop. The rest has only started to somewhat make sense in the last few months and even still, I'm not entirely sure what it means now or will mean in the future. I wasn't aware that I was being fearful but I do believe that the root of all issues is fear and in particular the fear of rejection.

A couple of years ago, I listened to a sermon called The Land Between that talked about the Israelites wandering around in the desert on their way to the promised land. They were between here and there, a place where many of us find ourselves. Lost. Confused. I was definitely feeling that way. What I loved to do had ended, I had no idea what was next, and it seemed that everything I tried failed.

While staying with my daughter, we went to her church and the sermon was about Moses, the Israelites, and the land between. Moses was forty when he left Egypt and became a sheep herder for his father-in-law. He was eighty when God called him to go back and lead the people out of Egypt. He was one hundred and twenty when they - finally - got to the promised land. In all that time, God was preparing Moses for a purpose. That's a long time to wait. I was struck by how old he was and by the fact that we as a culture want to rush our accomplishments into our youth and yet there is so much life to explore in each decade. I am wiser, calmer, more confident, a much better artist at fifty than I ever was at twenty - much better at many things. Life experience is a valuable thing.

Recently, I sat down to do my bible study and the section I was reading was on Moses and the land between. Hmm... sense a theme... do you think I'm supposed to be getting a message? The author talked about how if you are in the land between, you are there for a reason and if it's rebellion, you'll know, otherwise, it is most likely to rest, to heal, or to prepare. It occurred to me that I'm here for all three. I definitely needed rest, there was much to heal, and for a while now I've felt that I'm preparing for something only I don't know what. I'm - somewhat - resigned to the fact that I'll be here - in the land between - for as long as it takes which as far as I'm concerned is taking too long but then again, nobody asked me. 

However... me being me... and now that you brought it up God... could I please know what I'm preparing for. I asked for a floodlight because I don't want to go haring off in wrong direction. Been there, done that. I didn't get a floodlight but I just might be getting some aisle lighting like the kind you see on an airplane or in a theater. It's baby steps and I couldn't tell you what it all means because I don't actually know other than to say that I'm excited by the things that have been clicking together lately - books and articles I've read, sermons I've heard, websites, blog entries, the color black, line, texture, details, colorful accents, statement necklaces, why I might have such a large collection of jacket patterns, the fundamentals of design applied to clothing, small occasions to teach, and more. Something is going somewhere. Who knows? LOL - not me so...

... in the mean time I'm carrying on... here... in the land between. I cut out a dress last night and it struck me - considering how much black I wear - as surprising that I don't already have a black dress in my closet. It was time. The fabric that I used for the lining in the purple lace dress was so gorgeous I almost didn't sew it in and the only reason I did go ahead was because I had enough yardage left to sew another dress. See that black pile. That's the remnants. There's more zero waste sewing coming up.


Because the pattern I borrowed from Patti was too small, I traced the front and back bodice of my T & T t-shirt (New Look 6735) and then copied the design lines from the OOP Vogue 8936, did an FBA, and adjusted the skirt pieces to match the new width of the front and back bodice. It seems to have worked out. We'll see when I'm done.

I didn't clean yesterday. A friend phoned just as I got home from getting my hair cut and by the time we stopped talking it was lunch. My hair was all gorgeously pretty - finally - and I didn't feel like putting on work clothes and messing it up. Then I got an email from Patti with a great blog link and we ended up going for coffee to discuss it and by the time I got home late afternoon, I just wanted to sew. Today too. I'll get back to cleaning next week. What's left is not going to take nearly as long as what's already done. It's manageable... especially after a weekend of sewing. I'll re-energize.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - eventually, we do get from here to there

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Five Guys, Chilli & Chips

Cleaning the kitchen was vastly different this time compared to last time. We'd just bought the house and it was supposed to have been professionally cleaned only there was grease, grime, twist ties, bread crumbs, and other assorted things everywhere and not a single drain in the entire house that actually drained which makes it really hard to clean.

It was only three months after finding the lump, two weeks after the surgery, and we were still waiting for the (benign) results. Howard had just gotten back from a seminar in Detroit and was about to get on the plane for Guatemala. Things were tense.

The contractor doing the renovations was a turtle moving backward. The floors were bare wood. The studio was non-existent. The garage was full of boxes, the house was full of boxes, and everything had to be shifted constantly in order to work in any particular area. It was the worse move I have ever made and if they'd all been like that, we'd have moved once and stayed put for thirty years.

Last year, this time, it felt like I was constantly two minutes from a melt down. The stuff of my life was piling up and overlapping. I've "affectionately" referred to it as the year from hell. It wasn't pretty and it dragged on FOREVER. When we're in the middle of some thing, it can seem pretty dark. It's good to be reminded that it will eventually end.

I woke up late, cleaned all day, had company for dinner, and didn't sew yesterday so I'm showing off my clean kitchen - VBG. The cabinets go to the ceiling. My stuff doesn't. I'm not tall enough to reach. I'd need one of those rolling library ladders. As it is, to clean the cabinets behind the sink, I have to stand in the sink. It's a good thing I don't need the space. Cleaning took seven hours. A few things moved to new spots. I wonder how long it will take the guys to remember where they go ! ! !

All the units in this complex came with a deep pantry. I added two more of the rolling shelves and use the cabinet for plastic containers, bowls, casserole dishes, and glass pans. I've had a pantry like this before and I know it's too deep and too high for me to see anything. It was always a mess.

Our pantry is in the hall closet where the linen was supposed to be. We built a new closet downstairs off the new laundry room. Originally that closet was supposed to be for my stash but it moved every time the studio moved and every stash move also shifted the linen until this last studio move when I built a new stash closet.

Now, the deep hall closet that was supposed to be the washer and dryer but first became linen and then stash is now cleaning supplies, paper products, the broom, mop, and vacuum and when Howard gets home, we'll move the freezer into it which just makes sense to me - near the kitchen. Just because someone labeled a certain area by a certain name doesn't mean we have to use it that way. There are no rules. What's important is that we make it work for us. Drapery fabric makes some amazing coats, skirts, and pants. Upholstery fabric is perfect for bags. Fabric is fabric.

I broke one of my favourite glasses. It's a reminder that death and disaster are a given. They visit everyone's life at some point and we won't always have the opportunity to use the good dishes and cut up the precious fabrics. Don't wait. Use them. That's what they're here for. Not to be stored in a box, out of sight, out of mind, except for the few moments every year when we clean and re-store them.

Except for washing the railing around the stairs and the doors, I'm finished cleaning upstairs. After going through every box, basket, closet, cupboard, and drawer, there was very little to discard, only half a box, and everything in it was given to me by someone else which means that I'm making tremendous progress on not bringing into my home things that I don't truly want or use. This is good.

The scarf above was a gift from my friend Sharon who bought it because I like lime only this particular shade is not good around my face. I can show the scarf here even though she reads my blog because Sharon always encourages me to use a gift my way. The fabric is beautifully soft and 100% cotton. I'm going to over-dye it with blue with maybe a touch of black to get a darker green and then take it along to the workshop in June for stamping and painting. I'm excited to see how it works out.

I had the guys over for dinner last night - five young men 20 - 24. What fun! They know I can't actually see their expressions so when I said smile pretty for the camera, naturally they didn't. Two are mine, two are "adopted", and one is a childhood friend visiting from out of town. I put pink napkins on the table for a girl moment since it was me, the five guys, chili & chips - boy food.

This morning, I'm getting my hair cut... again... and hopefully it'll be wonderful this time. Then washing the railing and doors. Then working on the dress pattern I showed yesterday.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - five guys

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Beautiful Push

In stages is the better way to go with deep cleaning. The sparkle is lovely but it's a LOT of work. I couldn't have powered through at this level. Today is the kitchen. Tomorrow is the doors and railings. And then I'll take the weekend off before starting on the basement. Yesterday, I cleaned the entry closet, the hall closet, the pantry, and the cabinet in the living room, and moved the living and dining room furniture around, washed the walls, floors, and baseboards, vacuumed the upholstered furniture, and cleaned the wood furniture. It took four hours. And then I had dinner and went to knitting.

Patti was over in the morning. If you remember, this is the lady that I met last fall through another friend. We get together once a week to talk about sewing, creativity, and life in general and it's wonderful. Before meeting Patti, it had been twenty-six years since my friend Caroline moved away and in all that time there had been no one in town who loved to sew as much as I do and wanted to get together regularly.

We have the same body type. She's shorter than me. I'm a size larger. It's close enough that we can try each other's clothes on to see what the garment looks like on us which means - LOL - we have a similar pattern collection. Yesterday, she brought over a black, stretch crepe dress sewn from OOP Vogue 8936. It's GORGEOUS. I've borrowed the pattern and will grade it up to my size.

I've had a similar pattern - Vogue 8382 - in stash for years but seeing Patti's dress inspired me to action. Having a group to belong to, even if it's a group of two, significantly impacts your work. In-between visits, I collect articles, quotes, books, or thoughts to share along with whatever work I've done in the studio. Having something to show Patti is a beautiful push. I'm thankful for the opportunity.

In his book, The Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell talks about how no one succeeds without connections. The first time I read that, I started researching the background of successful people and whether it was in the field of writing, textile art, or fashion sewing, they were all part of a group in some way, a group that had a defined part in helping them attain success. Naturally, I wanted to be part of a group and what I discovered is that while you can be open to the idea and available if it happens, you can't make it happen just because you want it to so it's important to be able to both create individually and as a team.  Sometimes, often, you have to be your own push. Sewing blogs are - IMHO - a wonderful resource.

Patti was reading through Marcy Tilton's website and came across her recommendation to read Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. The sub title is 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative and the points are...

... available on a poster from his website.  I was going to embed a Creative Mornings Austin video where he talks about step six more only Blogger wants a YouTube video and it's not and the code wasn't working so... to save time... since I already slept in today...VBG... here's a link to the blog posting. Although the talk was directed to a specific audience, what I liked is that he talks about sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly and says that the process as opposed to the end result, and especially the successful end result, is encouraging to others who are on a similar journey. Yes.

You probably know already that I agree since I blog about what it takes to figure out what I want to know, what techniques or ideas worked for me, and which ones didn't, and about the circling path of finding, then losing, then finding again some spark of truth that's motivating. My discovery that I like black and texture and monochromatic are not new, I've just seen them in a new light with the added information of what a statement necklace does for me. That was the click I hadn't grasped before. Perhaps it's the click someone else also needs.

We catch our truths in little wisps that over time accumulate. Sharing that process as I do is a combination of my need for authenticity and truth and my desire to support and encourage others. I think it's a disservice when we insinuate in some way that a task was smooth sailing and easy when only that step along the path may have been smooth while the journey is a jagged process of trial and error and up and down that with persistence reaches points of success and then moves on to new discoveries.

For some people, the Internet connects them while for others, it makes them feel incredibly alone. If you research Austin Kleon, you'll find that he has grasped how to use the blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook, and other on-line resources in an incredible way to promote his business. He appears to be doing well. It makes me tired. I'm just not there anymore and I can't imagine doing that again. I want to spend the majority of my time creating as opposed to talking about creativity but one aspect of the Internet I highly value is the gathering and sharing of information. I love blogging and I love learning. Now that I've read his book and watched this video, I'll look into more of Austin's work. There are numerous videos, including a TED talk, on YouTube if you're interested.

But later. First I need to clean the kitchen which is perfect because cleaning time is also thinking time and a huge quotient of creativity is the thought process.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - Patti

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Without Head Or Heels

It took six hours yesterday to clean both bathrooms and our bedroom which sounds like a tremendous amount of time but I was working steadily. It's just that I went the deep route. In the bathrooms, I took everything out of the cabinets and washed them inside and out and did the floors and the baseboards.

In our bedroom, I washed all the bedding from mattress protector, to sheets, to quilt, to pillows and moved the furniture around to vacuum and wash the floors... and walls. I can't remember the last time I washed walls. It must be at least thirty years ago. VBG - we usually move and paint only the walls were dusty... from when the floors went in... over a year ago... just in case you think I'm some kind of Suzy Homemaker... which I'm not.

After the first wall, I realized it'd be better to vacuum them first. Dust and water equals a yucky, wet mess too high to reach. I washed from bottom to top with a wet cloth over a Swiffer. I read about this bottom to top method in a magazine way back when magazines talked about things like spring cleaning. Using a Swiffer is a trick I learned from some friends when they were getting ready to paint. Both worked great. No runs and drips. I did the baseboards with a toothbrush and used a steam mop on the floors. I'm past the hands and knees stage - LOL. I even vacuumed the mattress and polished my husband's chandelier.

The dress is finished. By the time I was done cleaning, I wasn't looking too pretty so you're getting the without head or heels version. It looks better in person. It seems like I'm saying that a lot lately so either I'm delusional or need better photography. I left the hem as is and took the side seams in an inch at the waist tapered to the underarm and the hip. It's feels great on. I'll wait to see what I think about the hem when I'm wearing shoes and jewelry and my hair is done.

When I started this dress, I had all sorts of ideas for making it more creative like a frill at the hem and visible lace sewn to the lining and embellishments at the neckline and... and... and... except the more I worked on it, the simpler it became.

At the same time, I started re-reading Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo's book Nothing To Wear and I've had some new ah ha moments. Isn't it great how every time you read a book you get something different out of it? Love that. The last time I did the style quiz in this book, I was predominately avant-garde with a minor in chic. This time, they were exactly even. Here are the descriptions from page 37:

Chic: This style is defined by a powerful look and sharp lines that seem to come together in an effortless way. It is often monochromatic and combined with bold accessories.

Avant-garde: This is an ultramodern style that uses fashion as an extension of the wearer's creativity. It often seeks to make a dramatic statement. Typically, the foundation for this wardrobe is black.

For a really long time - like twenty years - I wore a black t-shirt with jeans and bold accessories - every day - throwing on a colorful cardigan if needed. That was my work-from-home uniform and it's still the predominant look I wear now. Back then, next to the jeans and the t-shirts in my closet would be one occasion type outfits that I'd spend a lot of time putting together for weddings, reunions, or Christmas parties. They were typically more edgy. I had fancy and I had jeans and black t-shirts.

When I started sewing fashions again - only three and half years ago - I was so excited to finally be able to sew clothes that would fit and to escape the uniform and move in new and bold directions. Guess what? I've barely budged and the big ah ha reading through the book this time is why. I haven't budged because I'm already wearing my fashion personality. I may need to spice it up but the formula is exactly right. That's also why my stash and my wardrobe are predominately monochromatic and why...

... while I might absolutely love all the details that Gwen put into her version of Vogue 8876 at Sew Expo... it's not me. Whenever I try to sew and wear something like this, it feels like playing dress-up. I'm not anywhere near comfortable in a dress like this as I am in a simple, well cut, well fitted, black dress with an eccentric piece of jewelry. That's a huge awareness, one that would allow me to make my version of the same dress with less color contrast and - most likely - a feature jewelry piece.

Or I could sew the dress with texture and line like the OOP Vogue 1284 skirt made in March. The bow is a little out there - it gets a few looks - and so what. I'm okay with that. I love this skirt and wear it frequently. The last time was to my daughter's church. She - my daughter - wasn't all that impressed but during the meet and greet, the woman behind me leaned forward and said love your skirt. I wore it with grey boots, a paisley printed knit shirt, and a solid blue necklace that is exactly the same shade - all indicative of my fashion personality. I've realized the role that statement necklaces play in my wardrobe and why I enjoy them so much.

A constant style is a consistent thread that weaves through your life but is "tweaked" as you evolve. Having a constant style allows you to be more focused and sure in your way of dressing.
- page 50

IF... you pay attention to your constant style and stop trying to reinvent the wheel or be someone else and instead live into your own style and work to develop it to the best of your ability. The purple/black dress works for me because it's medium to dark and monochromatic. It didn't need more embellishment because there's already enough visual texture for my fashion personality. I like the clean lines of the style, the flattering fit, the texture of the lace, and the narrow range of colors. Instead of adding more embellishment, I'll focus on the accessories to pull it all together and create a look.

Each of us possess an identity and an image. Our identity is who we are - our soul, our spirit, our personality. Our image is what we project - ourselves as others see us. One of the reasons you can feel lost or impatient in attempting to create your look is that you've lost touch with who you want the world to see. To ensure great style, there must be a connectedness between identity and image - a clear alignment between the two. Very often there is a mismatch, or disconnect, between these elements that can lead to fashion frustration. Projecting an image of ourselves that doesn't express who we are is always confusing, difficult, and exhausting. It can make us feel as if we're putting on a costume or assuming a role, forcing us to act like someone we're not
. - page 2

It's interesting - in that abstract, wish I'd figured this out a whole lot faster, kind of way - that when I thought I wasn't dressing at all - jeans and a black t-shirt - I was actually dressing more in my style than I have been for the past three years. Perhaps I've been trying to be someone else, someone I thought I was before, in another time, in another life. I've evolved - subconsciously while doing other things - and didn't recognize that evolution for what it was. It sounds so simple. It even sounds familiar. I think we circle through these ideas a few times before the click that brings it all together. I'm excited to move forward with this information and thankful that I haven't gone out and bought a lot of wild prints for my stash. What's there is a great base. The avant-garde me will still have her colorful moments while the Chic me is going to embrace her love of the monochromatic even more and especially black.

One of the workshops I used to teach was called Self Expressions. It was about creating independent textile art. My goal as the instructor was to give the students the emotional freedom to move away from patterns and traditional work into self directed work. A discussion about our style and finding our voice always came up. We learn to do the work by doing the work and through that same process, our style emerges - piece by piece - expression by expression. Our style is always with us. By creating, we are giving it voice and learning to listen to and respect that voice.

The piece above is called Lines 4. It was made near the end of my career and sold to a Canadian collector, in part - I think - because of its authenticity. The piece clearly exemplifies my style. That consistent thread that Jesse and Joe are talking about with fashion extends into all areas of life from how we decorate our homes, to how we arrange our landscaping, to how we create art. Lines 4 is simple and simple is hard to do. There's no place to hide. Simple is also often overlooked. Simple is Avant-garde Chic. Simple is a powerful look and sharp lines that seem to come together in an effortless way but actually take a considerable amount of work to get the balance just right.

Lines 4 is one of a series created while I was studying how to work with tension between two focal points of near equal value, an aspect that became a signature element of my work. Notice how your eye moves between the blue boxes and the red lines. That's a tension that demands attention. I feel like I've made a significant discovery through re-reading Nothing To Wear and that because of that discovery I can now move on with confidence and begin working on how to incorporate this same kind of tension into fashion and a look that gives my fashion personality a stronger voice and provides a greater connect between my identity and my image.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - for a home to clean, the water and supplies to clean it with, and the ability to do so