Monday, July 14, 2014

I Would Do That Differently

Back in the early days of the resurgence of quilt making, there was a strong debate about whether machine quilted quilts were "authentic". Some firmly believed that only hand quilting really counted. And then - once machine quilting became more readily accepted - there followed the debate about whether art quilts were quilts or whether art quilts were art. It seemed that traditional quilters held one opinion while the art community held another with the result that a whole lot of textile artists struggled to find the right word to not only describe what they did but to have their work taken seriously. That's how I ended up mounting my pieces on gallery wrapped canvasses and describing myself as an artist who made contemporary abstract paintings from fabric.

Although I can't remember where, I recently read a very strong opinion on serging. The writer was quite emphatic that serging was not a professional finish. Her opinion reminded me of the hand and machine, art or not, debates and I wondered why did it matter. Most of us are not trying to be professional seamstresses. We are trying to produce garments that we ourselves will wear and that are as carefully crafted as we are able to make them with our current set of skills. As we improve our abilities, our output will improve also. That seems good and enough without expectations around professionalism. Do good work works for me.

As egotistical as it might sound, over the past month I have been keeping track of compliments received about my work. Two stand out - that my work is impeccable and that I have an eye for aesthetics. Both were a wonderful boost to my artistic soul and neither person commented on my serged seams. Considering that no one else is going to be climbing inside my clothes and that I'm not trying to garner points for posterity, it seems that neatly serged with good craftsmanship, interesting architecture, and fine details is - at least for me - the better choice. That said, I've had people more than willing to take my serged products. Apparently, they are also professional enough.





This weekend, I started working on Katherine Tilton's Butterick 5891, the sleeveless top with fifteen pattern piece, cut single layer. It took much longer than normal to trace, much longer than normal to alter, and much longer than normal to layout and cut. And that's okay. There's no rush. Just a lot of fun.

If you read the reviews, there's a mixed reaction from highly recommend to recommend with modifications. Several reviewers did not recommend the pattern for beginners. I agree in that I wouldn't recommend it for someone just starting to sew but I disagree in that I would highly recommend it for a confident beginner wanting to move to the next level. It will challenge you to think through what you want to do. Several times I thought I would do that differently. I changed some of the instructions as I went and now that I've sewn it once would do a few other things differently. I'll most likely will sew it again simply to try out those possibilities.

Whether or not you think this style would suit your body type, consider sewing the pattern. It's a fabulous learning, growing, stretching piece and I am sure you will learn a lot and have a huge sense of satisfaction when you're finished. Don't worry about whether it'll fit you. In fact, why not sew a different size so it's not even a consideration. Just enjoy the process, the evaluation, the thinking through, the contemplating, the opportunity for creativity, the outcome, and the learning. It'll be an interesting process.





And be yourself. Do what you want to do and don't worry about what other people might think. That's how you learn and how you find your own uniqueness. The image above shows the back of the top with a beautifully matched print along the off center back seam that merges the dots between two alternating fabrics. If I had a fabric like this, I would carefully match the dots too because the match shows up the seam and the seam is one of the fabulous architectural details. However...





... I don't have that fabric so I chose instead to not match the seam so that - in a different way - it would be visible. I will match a pattern when I think it's important but for the most part I choose busy patterns and don't match because I like the break in a pattern that highlights the seam lines and the way lines are interrupted and new lines are formed. This blue dotted version is my wearable muslin. I'll sew it, wear it, see what I think and how I feel and based on that quite possibly make the jacket. I have a striped linen in stash that would be excellent.





Although I do like and do plan to wear this top, I've come to accept that not every pattern I sew has to be a garment I would wear. I want to enjoy the process of sewing. I want to experiment with new to me concepts and find out what there is in that experience that could be taken forward into the next and the next garment. In-between other basic garments, I'm exploring patterns like Katherine's with lots of architectural detail and I'm learning what I like, what feels like me, and what looks good on me. And in the process, more of me is emerging. I'm finding my voice.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a positive attitude

The people whose attitude causes them to approach life from an entirely positive perspective are not always understood. They  have limitations in life. Their gifts are not so plentiful that they cannot fail. But they are determined to walk to the very edge of their potential or the potential of a project before they accept a defeat. 
- John Maxwell

22 comments:

  1. This pattern has been on my 'to-do' list for some time. Really like that fabric...can't wait to see the end result.

    I always love reading your reflections!

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    1. I'm just about to sew the buttons on. I plan to wear it tomorrow on a road trip with my friend to give it a trial run. I'd love to see your version when you sew it.

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  2. Myrna, you always give me something to think about. It had never occurred to me to make something in a size different from my own just to test and learn. I will have to think long and hard about that one!

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    1. Don't think too long and hard. Try it. Then you'll have something to reflect on - the benefits of learning away from the will it fit me question.

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  3. I had to chuckle and respond to this post. In the quilting community opinions are very strong but I do see some give and take recently. When the "modern" style became popular a few years ago in my area the die-hards were nearly apoplectic! I was amused. There are still some hold outs but their thinking is rather concrete in many areas of life. That said, I have also experienced the bias toward seam finishes in garments among some sewing groups. The only time I witness a 'blink' among garment sewists is the division of skills along professional versus couture finishes. There is not a sewist that I know that does not use the serged finish. It is a nice clean and stable finish. To deny that is ridiculous. Sounds to me like someone is puffing themselves up! Terminology, labels, opinions, got to love it!

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    1. I love that I've reached an age where what "they" think is less relevant than what I think and want to do. It's so very freeing.

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  4. Opinions are what makes the world go around. What I think is correct, someone else doesn't. Serging is one of those controversial techniques. The purists say no serging, others say yes. Some people say match all the threads, others use basic colours and others will choose wild colours as their signature. I use the serger to finish most of my garments. But, I have done Hong Kong, pinked, and zig zag finishes. On my bucket list is to make a shirt with flat felled seams. I happen to love techniques like that. Do I care what others have to say? No.

    I am looked upon as a crazy lady as I hand sew overlays onto the rodeo garments I make. I hate gluing them down and then sewing the pieces you can't glue down into place with invisible thread. I know of top rodeo garment designers that do. We agree to disagree on that. Another one we have agreed to disagree on is lining. One designer omits the lining to cut costs. Another uses the lining as a muslin. To me, you line the dress so it fits smoother over the body and you make a muslin to fit on the person. What happens if you have to cut the lining to make alterations?

    The top you are making is really nice and how you are using the fabric shows off both the lines of the pattern and your creative thinking. I would pass by this garment as it is too short and too full in the body. But, I love it when I see someone else make these patterns as many of the are really nice and designed by great people. They look fabulous on people just not this person.

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    1. Better to be thought crazy than boring - IMHO. I'm not sure how the top will look on me. I may love it; I may not. Time will tell but I've enjoyed sewing it.

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  5. Myrna that pattern is one of my favorites! I made the sleeveless version this year as part of my All Tilton All The Time SWAP, and I've got a second one in the works. I simply adore it. Looking forward to seeing yours - if there is anyone who can make that pattern sing it's you! All best to you!

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    1. What a great name for a swap. Where can I see a picture of your version? Nice to know you've loved the top enough to make another one. That's always encouraging to hear.

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  6. "All Tilton All The Time"--what a great, fun plan!

    I don't own a serger and have zero plans to buy one. I don't want something else to 1) make room for or 2) take care of....

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    1. LOL - and I can't imagine living without mine. Too fun.

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  7. I love this pattern, in fact it is on my work table and was to be the next project until my daily tote bag wore through & I needed to finish up a new one to take its place; it has to be a certain size to accommodate what I carry in it.

    I love your joy in creation for itself: 1. be intrigued by a pattern 2. create your own expression of that pattern 3. it is neither here nor there if it is your size, or flatters your contours; the joy is in expressing yourself. Maybe serging can be part of that, maybe not, in a particular project.

    The quote by John Maxwell offers a perspective new to me: to walk to the very edge of my potential. Wow, what a goal! What a guidepost! Now if I can just think of some analogies that are art-referential...

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    1. It's interesting to watch yourself evolve. I used to be all product and then all process and now I seem to have settled somewhere in the middle but I do view sewing as entertainment with bonus clothing and want to find it joyful as you said.

      The quote made me think too - in part about the benefits of not fitting in. I'm glad it offered a new perspective.

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  8. "...my work is impeccable and that I have an eye for aesthetics." Sounds right to me! :) it is always nice to get such positive feedback about something you've created, i think it's wonderful to keep track!

    re: serging. Well, to me the great thing about sewing is that you can make things however the heck you want. It's interesting that you bring up a bit of an anti-serging backlash, as for the last several years i felt like a complete luddite for not having a serger! I've never wanted one, didn't have any spare cash lying around for one either, and i'm happy with the kind of sewing i do - lots of hand work and french seams. I like the way garments fall, especially the lightweight cottons and linens and silks i wear in the evil summer heat we get out here. And serged seams bother my sensitive skin and damaged nerves.

    But- that's just me! I strongly suspect that if i was a mother of three young children you would not be able to pry my serger from my cold, dead hands!!!! And regarding 'couture' and 'professional' techniques, i'm lucky enough to be able to visit the nordstrom's and neiman marcus stores in downtown Walnut Creek several times a year. I see plenty of serging on the designer garments, and it's beautifully done and often combined with french and hong kong seams. I find a lot of it comes down to good quality thread in a fun or complementary color, with the tension and stitch length adjusted nicely and attention paid to which seams are serged. Marni, Theory, Valentino, - they all use serging! I can't remember exactly but i strongly suspect i've even seen serging on Chanel garments - next time i'm at NM i'll take my camera an document it if it's there. Myrna, i'll be sure to send you the pictures so you can blow the anti-sergers minds!!!

    That pattern looks so fun, i've had my eye out for the perfect fabric since it came out but no luck yet. It may take a while - i just now am finishing a dress out of a print rayon knit i bought over a year and a half ago. I sew on geological time!!! happy day!! steph

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    1. Positive feedback was the fabulous bonus of taking my work with me to the retreat. I didn't want to show off but I knew from previous experience with my textile work that we often don't see ourselves as others see is and that hearing that viewpoint can be encouraging. I still remember the dumbstruck look on two women's faces when I asked them if my textile pieces were good enough for a competition. They couldn't believe I didn't know that they were. I didn't. I had nothing to measure them against.

      It'll be interesting to see if you ever reach a stage where you do want/enjoy a serger. There are threads you can use to make the seams softer and of course serged with thread is different than serged with that plastic crap BUT.. in the end... we all get to do it our way and that's so fabulous. I think your handwork is wonderful but it's not my thing. I hand work only when I have to.

      I think the pattern could be quite effective in two fabrics of similar value/different pattern - a subtle but definite shift. I hope your dress will be on your blog soon. I'll look forward to seeing it.

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  9. Ugh, yes, the thought police. Or the sewing police, or quilting police, or fill-in-the-blank police. In other words, people who need to get a life. It's your work, so your choice of finishes, hand vs. machine stitching, etc. None of the choices is inherently good or bad.

    Those are great compliments you got, and good on you for cherishing them.

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    1. Ah... yes... them again. It's always intriguing who has strong opinions about what. I used to have quite strong opinions and I've really mellowed over time although - VBG - there are many who would say I still have really strong opinions. I do cherish the compliments. They were food for my soul.

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  10. Re the fabric in the pattern shot, it looks as though it's the same fabric reversed. The taupe-ish background part seems a bit shinier than the creamy white. Maybe it's just me. And that opens up another discussion for me- sometimes I like the "wrong" side of a fabric more than the front. Go figure. Myrna - your sewing IS impeccable. And in the end, satisfying ourselves should be the goal, not to meet others' expectations. Blessings everyone - enjoyed reading all your comments!

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    1. I thought it looked like a reversed fabric as well or at least two printed to be opposites. Either way, it works. I agree with you that the wrong side can often be better - of buttons too. Thank you for the compliment. I aim to do my best and that satisfies myself which I agree is a really good goal.

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  11. Interesting thoughts Myrna, and interesting discussion in the comments. Thank you :-) I have this pattern and just realized that I have been putting it off because of the reviews. Perhaps too "hard" or time consuming...ah, what else do I do with me time but sew, ride, read etc? I am going to tackle this pattern next and I have some lovely cotton to use. As for the serger use, I have one but still finish my woven garments the "old fashioned" way. To each his own...

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    1. The reviews can definitely have an impact on us. I've avoided a few not well constructed pieces but - like you - I have a fair amount of time so why not do the more time consuming pieces and have fun in the process. Can't wait to see your version.

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