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


  1. Congrats on the journey!

    And what I see is something that you mentioned--a lack of clutter. I'm with you on that, for both of us...

    1. Thank you. It's interesting how you can have a sudden awareness that in retrospect seems so obvious. I'm not sure why I didn't connect the clutter dot before but now, it makes total sense.

  2. What a thoughtful post! Thank you. It gave me something to think about for my own wardrobe sewing, for which I have a lot to do.

  3. This was an amazing post, Myrna! What a lot of work it must have been... and I really appreciate it. I have a pair of very wide-leg pants in a stretch denim that I also really enjoy wearing... now I'm thinking I may make them up in linen as well.
    I'm not very analytical in my wardrobe making, and I make more than 90% of what I wear... I think I will put all my summer stuff on a rack and see what treands I come up with! Thanks for the food for thought.

    1. LOL - I have some wide leg linen pants too and the only reason they didn't make the cut is because they are RTW, don't fit as well as I'd prefer, and have a really annoying drawstring at the waist. Why we'd want a bow on our belly I have no idea. I try to flatten and tuck it in every time I wear them.

      Comparing clothing will tell you a lot. Look through your pattern collection as well. There will be similarities.

  4. I definitely see similarities in your favorites. Fit, flare and length. Fitted through the waist and flared below.

    I have the same problem with my TNT knit top. Fabric choice can make or break it. I've gotten better at picking the right fabrics and understanding how the stretch factor affects the final fit so my failures have gone down.

    1. Yes. The similarities are there. The challenge is to shake up the routine a little.

      I think I'm getting better too. It comes bit by bit doesn't. Lately, I've been more aware of the weight of a fabric in addition to it's percentage of stretch. It's a Goldilocks thing - not to thin, not too bulky, just right.

    2. I've been trying to shake up my routine as well. I've been doing mostly different hem lengths and shapes. I love the longer tunic lengths and I'm trying to figure out how to work them into a summer wardrobe. I don't do skinny pants or capris and that's what they seem to look best with! Guess I'll stick with dresses for the summer.

    3. Longer tunics can sometimes look good with a longer, straight skirt depending on the width/length proportions. It's always surprising how tricky some tops can be. Good luck shaking it up.

  5. It's so interesting to see which pieces are your tried and true favorites. That bleach-dyed t-shirt is especially inspiring.

    1. Favourites or the most fun to create. It'd be nice if the two matched up with increasing frequency. I love everything about the bleach-dyed t-shirt except it's brownish overtone. Next time I try that I may remove color and then add back to get a different halo.


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