Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More Of Who We Are

Take pen in hand and write a brief creative autobiography of your life. Allow yourself thirty minutes to put memories on paper, filling in the prompts below. How did you express yourself at different times in your life? Did you act in elementary school? Did you sing in the high school choir? Did you decorate your apartment in college? Large and small, your history of creative action is a map of your creative life. Allow yourself to make connections as you write. What do you miss? What was fun? What have you denied yourself? What do you desire to do now?

The above was an assignment at the end of chapter eleven in Julia Cameron's book The Prosperous Heart. The prompts that followed were for each set of five year increments - age 0-5, age 5-10, and so on - and asked you to answer the following: I was most aware of my creativity when..., I wanted to..., In my household creativity was..., I wished that I had..., and I was creative when... The prompts are good but I found the most surprising thoughts emerged when I simply started writing and let the words flow without critique - a stream of consciousness if you will.

I have a reputation for being outspoken, for saying out loud the things that other people only think. That dubious gift leads to the implication that I am aggressive. And I'm not. I often tell people that they'd be surprised by what I don't say. What I learned when I started answering these questions was how passive I actually am, how often I settle, how often I don't speak up on my own behalf, an awareness that I'm often acting on the outside and stuffing on the inside to get along. And I think that's normal and true of all of us especially when we're young and that our lives are a journey of discovery, of revealing the inside to the outside. The older I get, the less I care what people think, the more authentic I am becoming. This is good.

Clothes reveal the inside. What we wear and how we dress says a lot about how we move through life. Are we wearing clothes that are truly us or clothes we've settled for? To what degree do our finances control our image? Do we wear what's popular or what feels authentic? Are we sewing what's easy? Are we risking new styles to see if they might become a comfortable part of our visual identity? Are we playing it safe, repeating familiar lines without new interpretations? Do we settle for practical accessories when we really want to wear party shoes? Are we staying stagnant or learning and growing?

Every time I look through my pattern drawer, I'm drawn to out of print Vogue 8398. There's a message in that attraction that's trying to break through and yet every time I put the pattern back in the drawer and don't sew it. Why not?

It seems ever so slightly prissy and somewhat classic yet at the same time form flattering with the princess seams and flirty with the peplum back. Have I not sewn this pattern because a raglan sleeve is not my style? Is it because I'll need to fit the bustline? Am I afraid that on me it won't look as flirty and feminine as I want to feel in it? Am I wondering what to wear it with? Even when we think we're not thinking, questions like these run through our minds every time we contemplate pairing fabric with pattern to sew. We have expectations and hopes and perhaps those answers only appear when we actually sew, which is another version of learning to do the work by doing the work.

Are we too quick to judge? Do we immediately say I can't wear that rather than how can I wear that? With the raglan sleeve jacket, it's a simple matter of drawing in the shoulder seam and utilizing a fitted sleeve to make it more flattering to me. When Vogue 8975 was released, I thought the dress might be doable but completely missed the potential of the cardigan until...

... I saw Nancy Murakami's version. While the aspects of this style that don't work for my figure still exist - the dropped shoulder and the lack of a defined waistline - Nancy's version impresses on me that any pattern can be less of what it appears to be and more individual and customized if we'll take the time to evolve its lines in our own specific direction and that we will continue to find our direction by continuing to evolve. We learn to sew by sewing. We learn to dress by dressing. We learn to sew creative individualized wearable clothing by continuing to sew creative individualized wearable clothes and the more pieces we make, the more we learn, and the more our style and individuality are revealed. And then... we take that learning forward and make increasingly wiser choices.

While I will in all likelihood change the sleeve on Vogue 8398 and attempt to make the pattern work for me, it's unlikely I'll ever sew the Vogue 8975 cardigan. With the first, there's enough potential to take the risk and with the second, there's enough awareness to not go there. In contrast, Vogue 8982 is much better suited to my figure. It has sufficient seams and darts to fit a curvy figure, a more defined waist, a set in sleeve and strong shoulder, and - if you look at the pattern page - you'll see it interpreted in numerous ways all with a different personality. Our choices - of pattern, of fabric, of notions, of details - all speak to our authentic self BUT...

... the expression of our authentic self is NOT set in stone. We're not done evolving until life is finished. As new aspects of our personality are revealed, as we drop some roles and take on new ones, as we experiment, and as we accept that not every garment has to be an absolute winner in all areas, we'll be drawn in new directions. Butterick 5994 is not nearly as form fitting but it has almost all of the same elements and room to play. It's worth exploring and...

... so are the two dresses - Vogue 8975 earlier and Butterick 5986 above - because in the right fabric with the right visual personality and the correct amount of drape these could both be fun to wear and flattering to my figure and they are so far from a pattern I would have chosen just a couple years ago. They reflect new learning and new experiences and new layers revealed. I find myself wanting to not stagnate but to continue exploring new frontiers that balance what I know to be true about myself with new learning. This is - to me - a fun and valuable aspect of life at my age.

It is learning that looks at Butterick 6028 and acknowledges that no matter what "they" say, skinny pants do not look good on my figure, that skinny pants make me look like a lollipop on a stick however, these pants have an elastic waist and princess seams in the back, a natural waist level, flat pockets, and flattering seam lines that do suit my figure. They are worth exploring to find that perfect width of hem that will work for me and to play with visual pattern because even though I'm a bottom heavy triangle - oh well - I'm okay with pattern on the bottom. I like it's vibrancy. Life and especially the creative part of our lives is a journey of becoming more of who we are and sometimes who we are color and pattern and creativity wise is far more important than the exact right lines although the best of the best is color and pattern and creativity paired with the exact right lines. What fun to discover ! ! !

LOL - I bought some new patterns. Bet you guessed that.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - risk and guarantees


  1. "I have a reputation for being outspoken, for saying out loud the things that other people only think. That dubious gift leads to the implication that I am aggressive. And I'm not."

    My daughter (almost 16) is this way. I've had people comment on how "smart mouthed" she is. But she is not. This is her (her -paternal- grandmother is the same way). I will not ask her to change herself because she will appreciate that aspect of her personality later. I spent so many years being a "yes" person. I am glad that she is not.

    I was all, "what in the world" when B5986 was released. I like it more every time I see it. I'd love to see it made up on you!!! That OOP Vogue jacket is awesome. I really like it :)

    1. Funny how speaking truth that perhaps startles people is labelled smart mouthed as opposed to smart mind or intuitive. It takes a while to live with and appreciate that ability in yourself.

      LOL - I'll think about sewing that dress soon.

  2. Hehe, yes, I can relate. I share your dubious gift, often saying things other people dare to only think. To wit: I once got "counseled" by my laughing head-shaking manager who was ordered to do so by the hospital administration after a patient complained. The man was refusing to pay his copay for his elective procedure that day and got quite ugly about it. I was nice about it until he said "you can bill me for it." I looked at him and asked "Really? When's the last time you walked out of Walmart telling them to bill you?"

    Seriously, when people complain about the things I say, I tell them they haven't heard half of what I'm thinking. It may not sound like it, but my filter is always on HIGH, thankyouverymuch. Mostly I think there's so much fear and denial in our society that it defies comprehension. When I immigrated to the country where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are supposed to be the order of the day, I never imagined I would see so many people who merely survive (and I'm not talking in socio-economic terms), their minds tightly bound into the slavery of believing and never questioning, and who drown what little happiness they might have in alcohol or junk food.

    1. Nice to have company. My husband has used that same WalMart line for customers that don't want to pay for their truck repairs.

      Today, I wsaw some beautiful purses only right there on center front was the stamped name of the designers. No thank you. If I'm paying that much money, it's not to advertise for them; it's to be me. I'm constantly amazed by the lack of individuality and the homogenization of our culture and - especially - of the large number of women who are afraid to do anything - go to a movie, take a trip, eat in a restaurant - by themselves. It's seems so limiting to me if what you want to do requires someone else to want to do it with you. I read a line recently along the lines of no one can do your push ups for you. Exactly. No one can be me for me.

  3. My dad taught me from an early age that "you can get into more trouble from what you don't say than you can from what you do say." I've always applied that advice to relationships, whether personal or professional, and it has made my life so much easier than it seems to be for the side-steppers. Even my grandchildren know me as the pragmatic one, and they actually come to me for straightforward help in figuring out things for themselves... And thanks for all those bright and beautiful photos to contemplate!

    1. LOL - I think your Dad may have had some different thoughts in mind than those that I keep in my head. Many are best left unsaid. It's really about measuring our words isn't it, so that they are honest and useful and not dishonest and hurtful. Pragmatic and straightforward works well for me.


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