Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thoughts On Space & Stash

I wonder...

... do you suppose...

.... that at this time of year there are conversations going on between wood turners about having too many blocks or between chefs about having too many spices or between jewelers about having too many stones or between painters about having too many canvasses or between pianists about having too many sheets of music or between ____ about having too many ____? There are numerous ways to fill in the blank because each form of creative expression comes with its own list of tools and supplies.

It would seem to me that how much is a personal choice influenced by our personality, our finances, our creative goals, our proximity to the nearest store, and the available storage space. The more important questions to me are what do I want to create, what tools and supplies are required, what do I currently have, what do I need, where will I store these supplies, how will I pay for them, and what are my personal boundaries.

Do you have a studio space? How big is not the most critical element. That it exists is - whether it's an entire room, the corner of a room, or a closet. Women especially tend to put the needs of others before themselves and yet it is only by nurturing ourselves that we have enough energy to nurture others. A failure to nurture ourselves de-energizes our environment. Me being creative is essential for our household running well and I believe that's true of all creative people and since all people are creative, all people have some way in which they need to nurture themselves including making time and space and funds available.

How much time, how much space, and how much money we invest in ourselves are individual choices influenced by our circumstances. Our situation and the way  we move through life is unique to each of us but caring for ourselves should not be. I do something for myself - definitely journal writing and usually sewing - every day and see it as not only important for my own health but as a role model for other women.

Where do you sew? I have had a sewing space in every home I've lived in since I was seventeen. When we got married, Howard and I never had a conversation around whether I would or wouldn't have a space. It wasn't a topic that was up for debate. For me to be fully me, a sewing space was part of the mix. It has to exist.

Since I'm a minimalist and since I hate other people's stuff oozing into my space, it has always been important to me that all the ingredients of my art form are contained within my designated space. When I have a small studio, I have a small stash and when I have a larger studio, I have a larger stash but I've always had as big of a stash as there is space to store.

How much fabric I have is determined by the amount of space I've allotted to it as is true of every item in the studio. I want as much fabric, as many patterns, as wide a variety of notions as possible, and as big a collection of books as fit on my shelves so that I can create what I want to create when I want to create it and - should the bottom drop out of our financial situation or an ice storm keep me from the shops - I want enough stashed up supplies to get me safely and sanely to the other side of that issue. LOL - we have a generator!

I don't debate if I have too much or even if I have enough. I debate if I have what I want and need and that depends on what direction I'm exploring. When I'm done with one direction, I move those supplies and ingredients along so that they no longer take up valuable real estate in the studio. Once quilting was my primary creative outlet and quilting fabric took up an entire eight foot closet. Now, the cotton batiks I've kept take up two 36" shelves. The same shift happened with books. Except for a few favourites, the quilting books are gone and in their place are fashion related ones. There's no longer a roll of batting in the closet, just a few pieces in a basket on a shelf. More space can be created in a studio simply by moving along what is no longer needed.

I clean the studio twice a year going through every box, basket, drawer, cupboard, shelf, and closet and analyze do I really need this or that particular item. Do I want it? Does it add to or detract from my goals? In the process, I reacquaint myself with my supplies, look at gaps that need to be filled, and open up empty spaces to create flow and new directions within the studio. Crammed full is not good either. What I no longer need I donate.

AND THEN... because I have a large enough stash of fabric and patterns to get me through for a quite a long time... I can concentrate my designated dollars on finding the fabrics I really want at the prices I'm willing to pay. Right now, I'm concentrating on acquiring both a higher quality of fabric and a higher quality of second hand garments to refashion. That goal, along with my goal to explore surface design, is dictating the majority of my purchases at the start of this year as does what's on sale because I prefer to stock up on certain supplies - like thread and zippers and interfacing - when they're on sale. Why pay full price if you don't have to?

There are times when boundaries are just the push you need. In the past, and again this year, I have limited myself to working with what is already in the studio. This isn't because I have too much or because I can't afford more supplies. It's because it challenges me to come up with solutions I might not otherwise have thought of BUT... I'm not shopping any differently. If there's space in the stash and I find a fabric I love and I have the cash to spend, I buy it.

When I travel, fabric is still my souvenir of choice - high end, quality, the best I can afford. I have three trips planned so far this year to Calgary, Seattle, and Oregon. Knowing I'm going means I'm leaving more gaps in the stash and knowing what's already in stash will limit what I buy. AND... I love a sale, especially in the bargain center but even then I only buy what I can afford and have space to stash which limits the debate for me. I've already made the decision by designating space. My stash is as big as the walk-in closet in my studio and that's the limit.

Those are - a few - of my thoughts on space and stash. I could probably go on because I feel quite strongly about how important it is for those of us who sew to feed our creative souls HOWEVER... as you can see, my friend Patti took some pictures of me in the Koos skirt including a headless shot because it really wasn't pretty. I love the way I feel in this skirt. It makes me feel confident and flirty, feminine and pretty. I'm not so sure about the way I look. The pictures surprised me. They don't match the feeling. LOL - I just won't look.

Definitely, I'll go down a couple sizes next time and shorten it another two inches. LOVE this sweater from the second hand store, never worn, complete with Asian tags I can't read for only $9.99. The back detail is especially lovely and it goes perfectly with the skirt.

Tomorrow, I'm leaving bright and early to visit my daughter and her family. I'll be there for two weeks painting their new home, helping with the move, and snuggling my grandson. Since the household is in an upheaval and phone and internet connections are shifting locations, I'm not taking my computer with me. There won't be any blog posting again until February and I'll reply to any comments and emails sent after today at that time. Enjoy the rest of the month. I have had a fabulous beginning to 2014. I'm determined - come inevitable ebb and flow - to have a great year.  YES YES ! ! !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - Howard had a long awaited appointment yesterday with the surgeon and they (the system) are - finally - going to do something about the excruciating pain he's been in with his legs. The doctor was amazed he was still standing and walking. I'd love to see him pain free for a change. What a blessing that would be.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Simple Soothing Sewing

I had every intention of painting a book bag. I'd even started looking through my stash for an appropriate fabric only...

... on Monday, at Chapters, this bag was significantly reduced from completely ridiculous to more than affordable. It's faux leather, 15" high, 12" wide, and 6" deep in a denim blue color with one zippered pocket and one divided pocket inside and included a small zippered pouch like a pencil bag. Good and enough. I used it yesterday and it's perfect for now.

I'm sewing two new pairs of pajama pants for my trip. They are McCall's 2476 in the teal print above and in a purple print. Both pairs are very soft. This pair is completely finished and the other pair should be done today. I also refashioned...

... a pair of sweat pants into a pillow. My youngest son bought them last year at CreationFest when it was wet and cold and he'd forgotten to pack pants only they weren't quite long enough for him so he left them behind when he moved thinking that I could wear them only his hips are MUCH slimmer than mine.

It's amazing that one pair of men's sweat pants is not enough for a standard pillow case. I love the challenge of working with what I have but sometimes it takes a little longer to come up with an I didn't buy a thing, I had it all at home answer although most of the time it works out. This time, I couldn't think of a solution for filling in the missing fabric and thought I'd have to buy a small piece of fleece and then, when I was folding laundry and putting away my other pajama pants, I realized one of the about to be replaced pairs was black and white fleece and could become the back of the pillow. YES YES.

And... for the zipper... I was debating a buttoned opening because I don't typically have zippers this long in stash but I checked my zipper basket just in case and found a 31" length that I'd taken out of an upholstered couch cushion. I needed 27". It worked. My son laughed when he saw it but didn't ask to take it with him so I guess we've got a new comfy pillow for the TV room. YEAH.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - simple, soothing sewing

Psalm 37:5 - Commit your ways unto the Lord, trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Elements Of The Opposite

Yesterday, my contractor was back to continue work on the downstairs and even though he's so happy while he works it's still noisy, dirty, dusty, invasive. I'd asked him not to come on the weekend because Saturday was my only day to be completely alone for the next three weeks. I'm glad I did that. I enjoyed the quiet, the space, and finishing up this little dress.

To give it a pop of energy, I added elements of the opposite, the complementary color yellow-orange. I loved these buttons with their grid-like design and shiny surface. To match the color, I mixed red and gold paint and added water to thin it down so I could...

... paint four meters of white, eyelet lace. You can see in the image that there's a bit of a shimmer to the lace. The gold was a metallic paint.

I wanted the inside of the hemline to be neat and clean and I didn't have serger thread in the correct color so I stitched the lace right sides together and then stitched again 1/8" away and trimmed close to the second row of stitching and then I turned...

... and zigzagged along the hemline just above the lace from the right side. On the wrong side (above) it nicely finished the edge. I used a needle to tie off the ends and pull them into the center of the button band rather than back-stitch.

Once the hem and the buttons were complete, I thought the collar needed just a little something more to tie it all together so I...

... wrapped crochet cotton around a toilet paper roll by loosely wrapping it and then snuggling it up close. This turned out to be way Way WAY more thread than I needed. LOL - oh well. More for later.

Once the roll was wrapped, I thoroughly drenched it with yellow-orange paint and then...

.... left it to dry - which took quite a while - because the cardboard was saturated with paint as well. Both the eyelet lace and the thread were heat set using an iron before they were sewn to the dress.

Here's the lace, the button, and the thread all together. I thought I did a pretty good job of matching the color especially as I had to mix the paint twice since I only thought of painting the thread later and hadn't mixed enough for both.

The thread was VERY stiff. I used pliers to pull it through the collar when making the buttonhole stitches. I'm really pleased with how the dress turned out and - VBG - apparently calling it the twirl is not going to work because it doesn't make sense in most sentences. I'll just have to decide as I go along whether the version I'm working on is a sweater, a dress, or a coat. This one is a dress.

This morning is my weekly creativity get together. Tonight the "boys" are coming for dinner. In-between, I have a few errands to run but there should be some studio time although I'm starting to make packing piles. I'm leaving Friday morning to go to my daughter's for two weeks (no blogging) to snuggle that delightful grandbaby of mine and paint their new home. I don't want to start anything long and involved right now and then leave part way through so I'll pick something soothingly simple.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - days alone

Galations 6:9 - For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Hand Painted Twirl

When my husband traveled extensively for work and I was at home with three young children, I read books on single parenting because married or not, when there's only one parent present, you are single parenting. It's always good to gather advice.

Currently, I'm semi-retired and the majority of my friends work full time. I could rephrase that as I'm single and they're "married" because there are commonalities. That made me wonder what advice is available for single women in terms of living life to the fullest. With a few obvious exceptions, much of it is advice we all should read.

In her book Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled, and Independent author Judy Ford points out that we are all single. Sometimes we are single in a relationship and other times we are single and not in a relationship but we are born single and as we pass through life our most constant companion is our singular self. That does highlight the importance of knowing who you are and what you want and where you're going because only you is going to get you there.

Your value and your worth are never going to be wrapped up in another human being. The only person you have to live with every day for the rest of your life is yourself, so start with making her happy and the rest will fall into place. - The Single Woman: Live, Love, and a Dash of Sass by Mandy Hale

And before you have to ask, I'm not suddenly single nor anticipating being single at any point in the near future, however, odds being what they are, I am likely to be single at some point. And I'm the proactive type. And curious. And I like to explore answers to difficult questions before I'm in those difficult situations. What I read in Judy's book was encouraging, comforting, and completely applicable to the currently un-single now.

I've already mentioned it a few times, but another book I'm enjoying greatly is Imagine Big: Unlock the Secret to Living Out Your Dreams by Terri Savelle Foy. It has opened my eyes to an entirely different way of moving through life that is more positive and more proactive. I love carrying my dream book with me each morning to journal. It's hugely encouraging... and a little awkward. With my creativity and spiritual study guides, my journal, and now my dream book it's quite a stack of books. Yesterday, I thought about doing some surface design on a book bag. What fun ! ! !

Although they are on different subjects, the two books have overlapping themes such as what you think about and how you speak. If it's true that we get more of what we think about, then I am all for thinking more positively. Do you approach life positively or do you approach life negatively? I grew up in a negative environment and had to learn how to be positive. I've made tremendous progress and there is room for improvement.

Another theme is who you spend your time with. Is it with people who support, encourage and build you up or is it with people who squash your dreams? Considering that question from the perspective that I spend the majority of my time with me, how critical that I support, encourage, and build up my dreams. I love the way my dream book is helping with that goal. Equally influential are the others I spend time with because I love to go out for coffee and a good conversation.

I had a HUGE epiphany this weekend. Some of you will think duh, of course, how come she didn't know that but... growing up in a negative environment has a negative impact on how you think and behave. No matter what you accomplish, there is still a niggling background that natters away at you which means I've spent large portions of my life working to improve my self esteem.

This weekend I realized that the question is not do you (the other person) want to be my friend? as in am good enough or worthy enough for you to identify me as your friend. The question is do I want you (the other person) as a friend? as in is this a good match, is it healthy for me, do we have a connection that works and one where we can add to each other's lives. It's a vastly different question and looked at that way, some long-term friendships may be past their best before date and some newer ones are best left unexplored. It's an amazing perspective.

One of the things Terri teaches in Imagine Big is to recite affirmations in the positive such as I am creative. I am kind. I am generous. I am a good friend. I am wanted. I am included. And so on... Start talking those out loud to yourself everyday, all day, especially the minute you feel grumpy, and you'll be amazed at how your thinking and your approach to life changes. Even if it's already good, it gets massively better. I highly - HIGHLY - recommend the book.

If you want your life to be a five star reality, you have to stop settling for a fast food mentality. No matter how much you stress or obsess about the past or future, you can't change either one. The present is where our power lies. The Single Woman: Live, Love, and a Dash of Sass by Mandy Hale

As you can see, I finished the hand painted twirl. I have some more details to share but I didn't want to make you wait any longer to see the finished garment so I'll write about them tomorrow. As I noted on Friday, I'm already starting to think in paint and it's fabulous to be developing a new skill. I have ideas for several more twirls, for the book bag, and for some men's shirts. I picked up four at the second hand store yesterday with a skirt in mind. FUN FUN ! ! ! !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - epiphanies

Joshua 1:9 - Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Starting To Think In Paint

The Kaizen Way is a philosophy for change that circumvents the brain's built-in resistance to new behaviour by asking small questions, thinking small thoughts, taking small actions, and solving small problems. The goal is to change your life without fear or failure by achieving a large goal through a series of small changes, so small that your mind laughs and thinks it's way too easy.

Without knowing, I employed this philosophy last year when learning to run in 100 step increments. It was so successful that I'm repeating the process this year with the treadmill. And it's the same philosophy that I'm using with this surface design series to help myself learn and get more comfortable with these skills - start simple, build up, get to where I'm going one small incremental step at a time.

A dress form is - in my opinion - an invaluable tool. I use mine as a design wall once a garment is three dimensional and past the flat stage. It'd be great to have a child's size form and maybe one day I will but for now, I use the floor. Above, is the garment prior to the button band and below...

... you can see how the band adds a blending element. In this image, the sleeves haven't been sewn in yet.

Because the sweater knit is stretchy and great portions of the armhole and neck edge are knit, I used strips of fusible knit to stabilize the edges making sure the shapes matched the pattern pieces.

The button band is sewn on with a 1/4" seam that is pressed toward the band. It will eventually be folded in half and slip stitched in place and then top stitched but it needs to remain open until decisions for the hem and for the collar have been finalized. It's a 1" band. Center front is 1/2" from the finished edge.

Although there is not enough of the hand painted fabric, there are still several options for the collar. The knit option would be soft and comfortable but appears rather bland and doesn't pull together the different elements.

A flat collar using the darker print is another option. It connects to the button band, wraps around the entire garment, and connects the darker print of the back with the front.

The darker print could also be used for a more traditional collar with collar stand. I opted against that choice and went with the softer, less formal look of the flat collar. If there had been enough of the hand painted fabric, I would have consider piping or a bias trim.

Once the collar option was chosen, I could determine how to finish the top of the button band. I didn't want a facing and I wanted the neck seam to be encased in the collar for a cleaner finish so I folded the button band right sides together, stitched to the half way point, clipped from the top, and turned the band right sides out to achieve a finished edge.

The collar was sewn in place from the inside with the upper collar right sides together with the inside of the dress and then slip stitched by hand underneath the collar where the stitches are hidden. If the top button is left undone and the garment folds open, the inside edge will be neat and clean.

This was a learning opportunity. I forgot that the neck seam was 3/8" so some of the stabilizer is visible. The next time I need to stabilize a seam like this, I'll use a strip of interfacing that is narrower than the seam allowance so it will disappear after stitching AND... if I need to stabilize an armhole, I'll fuse the stabilizer to the right side of the garment so that after the seam is stitched, the interfacing will be in the middle of the two layers of fabric rather than on the outside as above. YES YES - learning is good. AND...

... I'm already starting to think in paint. Even though this is unlikely to prevent someone from enjoying the garment, it's an opportunity for me to mix up a blue that matches and neatly paint it over the stabilizer. If you go back and look at the top of the button band, you'll see some blue thread stitches showing. Not any more. I used a black felt pen to make them disappear before I added the collar. Tricks like these are amazing tools to have in your toolkit..

The dress should be finished by Monday. I hope to post the rest of the story then.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - nine spindles, one end post, $25.00 total at the Habitat for Humanity store. YES YES ! ! !

Mark 11: 23-25 - Jesus was matter-of-fact: "Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say 'Go jump in the lake' - no shuffling or shilly-shallying - and it's as good as done. That's why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get God's everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it's not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive - only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pay Me In Fabric

Although it was designed as a coat, depending on the weight of the fabric chosen, this pattern can be either a sweater, a coat, or a dress which leaves me wondering what to call it so I've settled on The Twirl because no matter what form it takes, with or without godets, it still has that twirlability that little girls love.

I always sew a size three since I'm not sewing for any specific child. That makes things easy. All the pattern pieces and variations have been traced and can work with what I have. It's a T & T and the great thing about a T & T is that it allows your hands to move with ease while your mind bubbles with creativity. YES YES.

This version from September started with a hand painted fabric I made in the summer and some recycled denim from a blouse that didn't work out. Although it wasn't officially part of the surface design series I'm working on now, it was a good beginning. It turned out well in that encouraging, you can do this, kind of way. All of our previous learning goes forward with us and encourages our new learning. This is good.

As I mentioned in Tuesday's posting, I cut the center front pieces from the hand painted fabric, the side front and sleeve pieces from the dyed sweater knit, and the side back pieces from the darker, print fabric. By placing these on the design wall, I could see how they flowed together and start to evaluate what to do to connect the front and the back and to create a cohesive garment. One decision needed was...

... which fabric to use for center back. As a connecting element, it's a very important piece. I tried using the darker print and rejected it because it left the back with only the color blue to connect it to the front. To me, it was like a beautiful hair style from the front and a flat crown with a hole in the back. Not a good look. Above, I auditioned the possibility of cutting the entire center back from the sweater knit but rejected it because the look was too choppy. Leaving that, I worked on...

...connecting the darker print fabric from the back with the front of the garment. I auditioned a  narrow 1" button band and decided this would nicely do the work without overpowering the hand painted fabric.

My goal starting this project was to learn and utilize surface design techniques in a step-by-step doable manner, stretching a little with each step while avoiding leaping over tall buildings without a safety net. One big piece of white fabric was more than I could handle so I chose to add detail to an existing fabric as my first step. Above left is the before fabric - another that I painted this past summer - and above right is the same fabric with stitching lines drawn using a fabric pen. To draw the lines, I meandered over the fabric with the pen just as I would have done with a quilting stitch in the past. It adds a lot of energy to the hand painted fabric while blending it with the darker print.

Another blending element was to create a small flange of the darker print to insert in the front princess seam. I auditioned several widths of flange and settled on a generous 1/8" and then I tried top stitching the seam using blue thread on the hand painted side but found it was too harsh. The zigzag stitch was softer.

After evaluating several options for the center back, I separated it into two pieces and cut the upper back from the sweater knit and the lower back from the darker print and then used a band of the hand painted fabric to connect to the front of the garment. This created a less choppy looking back while effectively blending the three key fabrics.

When I dyed the sweater, I also dyed a piece of linen thinking it might be useful as a collar or piping. When I placed it between the center back and side back pieces, it was too bright and too solid - intense and visible - and distracted from the focal point of the upper knit back and the waistband. Instead...

... a row of topstitching along the seam was enough to add interest without overpowering the rest of the back. The seam on the left is topstitched and the one on the right is not. I think the top stitching was necessary but it's personal choice however...

... it becomes another connecting element between the front and the back when the same top stitching is done on the side seam.

While the sleeves are visible from both the front and the back of the garment and help to blend the two sides, the collar and the hem are the only elements that wrap completely around. While I'm working on other parts of the garment, I debate those possibilities. Above, I determined in advance that there was enough of the knit fabric to cut out the collar if I chose to use a knit collar and below...

... I'm debating bias tape around the hemline. Numerous options will come forward if your allow your mind to invite and evaluate options. All are possible solutions. Your job is to choose the one that you think will do the best job. There's always more than one right answer so don't beat yourself up trying to figure out "success". Try something. Next time, when you make another garment, you can try something else. The world won't stop turning if you just play. It won't even stop turning if you make a "mistake" because "mistakes" lead to opportunities. More tomorrow.

My friend Patti claimed the beige silk cardigan. She says it's fab, she loves it, it's really comfy, here look, isn't it perfect. LOL - yes. We agreed that she can pay me in a gift certificate to Pay me in fabric is my new mantra. I can use it when we go to Sew Expo at the end of February. I'm looking forward to that already. Marcy has scrumptious fabric.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the electricity is back on in my studio. Garry had to turn off the breaker for some of the basement work. I know I shouldn't complain. It's certainly better than an ice storm.

Job 19:23 - Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

At The Bottom Of The Stairs

Yesterday, while sewing in my studio, I listened to my carpenter working just a few feet away. He's told me before that he's in his element working on these kinds of jobs and you can certainly tell as you listen to him whistling, humming, singing, and talking to himself. He's very happy and every once in a while you'll hear a "sweet" or a "yes" as he finds exactly what he'd hoped to find behind that drywall. Celebration. Such an essential part of life.

The thought occurred that the carpentry work he's doing isn't so very different than the refashioning work that I'm doing. Both of us are evolving an old surface into something new and different. I like that. It's good. I'm having some "sweet" moments of my own.

The image above is the view from upstairs looking down the stairwell. It is MUCH brighter than it was before Garry started working because the wall in the hallway downstairs had already been removed when I took the picture. Once it's back, much of the light will disappear but not all of it because now...

... the door at the bottom of the stairs is gone and the wall is cut back and will be replaced with a railing. It's SO MUCH BETTER than...

... the dark hallway and stairwell that were there previously. This opening was closed off before. The metal support post is the corner of the hallway. The opening to the right of it above will be the new doorway to the bathroom. The opening to the left along the hallway is the doorway to the bedroom, and from the post forward will be the wall between the bathroom and the bedroom.

The original door was down by the bathtub in this image and opened from the bedroom plus there was a closet that extended into the bathroom from the bedroom. You can see the framing line left on the floor. Now, there will just be a wall - no openings - between the bathroom and bedroom making both rooms much more useful and the bathroom will be large and accessible. LOVE it ! ! !

I know I said that I'd write some more about my thought processes today. I definitely will do that tomorrow but I was so excited about this change that I wanted to share. And... just in case... to tide you over... a piece of eye candy found on Pintrest. I have no idea where it's from but isn't that a gorgeous sweater? It gives me ideas. I need to make a new favourite sweater and new and favourite are hard words to string together ahead of time.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - light and openness

Luke 12:48 - From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.