Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Shiny Objects Kind Of Thing

Creative work - it is like a faucet: nothing comes unless you turn it on and the more you turn it on, the more it comes.  - Brenda Ueland

If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland was first published in 1938 and yet as relevant today as it was then. Timeless. And not just about writing. Substitute any word for write and the information is equally applicable.

In June 2012, I attended my first Design Outside the Lines workshop with Diane Ericson and Marcy Tilton. It was a paradigm shift in how I create clothing and I've worked steadily over the past four years to grow my skills. Along with attending more workshops, for the past two years I've been working 1-1 with Diane defining and achieving my creative clothing goals. It's been FABULOUS both for learning and for defining what I truly want.

What intrigues me is how I can think I want to do some thing, and procrastinate, and avoid for fear of, and then finally get to that thing, only to then wonder is this really me? Stencils and paint fall into that category. Having created fabric with an all-over motif, having filled the canvas with graffiti-like images, and having created two garments - one with a light background and one with a dark background - I'm seeing that stencils and paint are detail skills much like piping a seam or adding a zipper. They are simply one more tool in the toolbox to take me toward making visible the imaginative garment image that I see in my mind.

The second garment - Butterick 5786 - with the dark background was much harder than I thought it would be. Trying to create images that were visible and yet not overwhelming severely tested my beginner skills and the struggle reinforced quite clearly that if we're not talking black and white or tone on tone, my preference is for low contrast and texture over pattern. This wasn't new learning; it was confirmation. It is something to pay attention to.

I could have learned the same thing by looking in my closet. There are plain t-shirts and blouses, patterned skirts, textured cardigans, monochromatic colour mixes, and statement necklaces. On the weekend, I bought five garments for my shrinking wardrobe. Two are solid black t-shirts. One is a denim cardigan with a textured knit. One is a two-tone blue monochromatic cardigan. And one, is a black cardigan with a black and white lace motif on the front. VERY me.

One of the things I discussed with Diane was the awareness that perhaps I've been subconsciously trying to reinvent myself  when what would work best is to embrace myself and do me even better. I'm probably not explaining that well. I think it's a shiny objects kind of thing. Like when I see t-shirts that are made from a combination of floral, dotted, and striped fabrics and I think I want a t-shirt like that only to make it and then realize that such a combination feels way too much for me, as if I am lost behind my t-shirt.

My uniform is more typically a plain t-shirt, a more vocal lower garment, a complimentary cardigan, and a statement necklace. Within that framework, there is a lot of work that can be done without wandering over into someone else's playground. That's huge when you think about it. Recognizing your own playground. And  it's comforting. And focusing. I've been thinking about ways to become more myself. It's an interesting thought. How can you be more you?

After painting a hot mess that no amount of work was going to save, I re-cut the back pieces and started over. I've come to enjoy these seeming mistakes because they take me on interesting adventures. I'm not good at random so when I can remove control and introduce randomness in some way, it's always liberating.
The same thing happened with the sleeves. For some reason... say perhaps a measuring error... they were way too short and the cuff wouldn't do up around my not-all-that-fat elbow and so... again... I re-cut the pieces and sewed new ones. Sometimes things just doesn't work. And sometimes that's a blessing.

If the hot mess hadn't happened, my finished blouse would be too busy. If the sleeves hadn't been too short, the cuffs would have been too prissy for me. Now, with the finished blouse, all the party is going on in the back and there are simple clean lines in the front. I love the pastry blender stripes over the buttonholes and the ever so slight visibility of the painted collar stand. Other than that, it's my kind of garment.

One thing I really enjoyed was the technical aspect of doing a good job. Sewing a straight seem. Pressing cleanly. Creating sharp collar points. And so on. It's all good and I'm not sure about the sleeves. Right now they fit well while the bodice fits tight. After a few more pounds lost, when the bodice fits well, the sleeves may be too big so I'm making some binding from the left-over painted scraps so I can morph this into a sleeveless version if necessary.

The most unusual experience happened to me the other day. My hairstylist had to close her salon due to a medical emergency so I went for a haircut with a new stylist. When I walked into the salon, she was very friendly and welcoming. We're a similar age and found a lot of things in common right away. She has only been doing hair for about fifteen years. I was a hairstylist thirty years ago.

One of the things we talked about was what we both like about doing hair. In the course of our conversation she said I liked you the minute you walked in which is not something that typically happens to me and since there had already been a lot of "coincidences" that brought me to the salon in the first place, it was especially interesting.

A short while later, another woman walked into the salon and my stylist said that's my boss and then turned to her and said this woman used to be a hairstylist at which point the boss asked me if I'd like a job. I was a bit startled however, since returning to hair styling is the one job I have considered, I said maybe and asked what that would look like. We talked for a while and I said I'd think about it and let her know to which she said she hoped she heard from me because she had like me the minute she met me. Stranger and stranger.

I gave it 24 hours, discussed it with Howard, and the next day, last Thursday, went back in to talk to her. When I walked into the salon, there were three women at the desk and the owner was looking down. Another woman asked if she could help and when I said I was there to talk to the owner, she looked up, turned to the other woman, and said this is the woman I was telling you about.

One of the things I've been praying about is to see and clearly follow the path that God opens before me and all this synchronicity and coincidence made it pretty clear that this was a path I needed to at least check out. I made an appointment for yesterday and had a meeting with the owner and the office manager. We talked about how after thirty years of not cutting hair I could be reintegrated. They were both very encouraging and wanted me to come to work. What a lovely feeling.

I'll be watching a lot of YouTube videos and shadowing the owner for the several weeks while I decide if I want to go ahead. If so, I'll be inviting friends for free haircuts to rebuild my skills and then, once confident, will be scheduled as a regular hairstylist working three days a week. I'm nervous. And excited. It's another interesting adventure and hopefully like a faucet - as I turn those creative skills back on, they'll come more and more.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - an unusual - and exciting - experience

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Recovery Mission

The second garment, dark background, isn't finished yet although it has progressed from a rescue to a recovery mission. There was no way the original back could be saved and - luckily - I had enough scraps to put together another back sections. A definite plus for buying extra yardage.

Fibrefemme wondered if the reason I was having so much trouble with the dark background was the degree of contrast. I'd come to a similar conclusion. That's one of the things I love about  new learning journeys, they will teach me something new and they will confirm what I already knew and perhaps am ignoring. Paint has not changed my preference for low contrast nor my preference for texture over pattern.  

Here's the hot mess. I started out wanting a wandering line along the back seam and then decided it didn't show up enough so I started adding more motifs and decided that didn't show up enough so I tried to create an hourglass shape to the stenciling and add another colour. Very quickly I was in danger of filling the canvas as opposed to creating any kind of sophisticated image. I also hated the yoke-like line I'd added and that led to cutting new pieces. I'm deciding what I can do with the abandoned pieces - patches, binding, covered buttons, there are options.

One aspect I really enjoyed was the technical details. I have sewn a button up blouse with a collar stand, collar, and cuffs for a long time and it was fun to see it starting to take shape. After taking my measurements I dialed my smaller dressform as close as possible and I love how the shape of this pattern - Butterick 5786 - looks slimming even though "without clothes" the form looks bottom heavy. That one of the wonderful things about dressing and about creating clothes that fit and flatter.

Fun, fit, and flatter are really important to me. Not to everyone. When I checked the reviews for this pattern, one reviewer wrote that she knew it was going to be too big for her shoulders but didn't think it would matter with this style. She seemed very happy with her garment. I found that an intriguing perspective because it's been my experience that good fit is always worth the work. I liked how Margy's version fits well, has wonderful texture, and looks fabulous on her. As always. I really love her work.

This morning, I'm in Kamloops for a follow-up appointment with the surgeon about my hip. I went in last night, ran some errands, and had dinner with my husband. My appointment is early so right after that I'll head back for lunch, knitting, and finishing the blouse. I took the sleeves with me to slip stitch the cuffs last night and all that's left is to sew them in, add the buttons, and decide if any more paint will be applied.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - confirmation and learning

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Learning: A Stenciled Cardigan

In my last coaching session, the assignment Diane gave me was to use stencils on two garments. She wanted me to choose patterns that had few pieces and to use a singular fabric rather than combining them... which apparently I'm good at. I love when she casually slips those compliments into the conversation - LOL - because we don't always know what we're good at on the compliment from someone whose opinion you really trust level.

One garment was to have a dark background and one was to have a light background. To start, I chose Marcy's Vogue 9190 cardigan. My version is a hybrid with the back from views C and D and the front from views A and B. The fabric is a very stable knit in a soft grey.

A pastry blender gave me the random striped look that I wanted for the cuffs. Even though I taped off, I rotated too far back a few times and ended up with some extra dots. Oh well!

Once the cuffs were in place, I thought the lines were too dark and added white on top. When I found myself tempted to eliminate the slit in the cuff, "we" had a chat because these are exactly the kinds of details I want to add to my clothing and it only took a bit more time.

I am amazingly good at absolutely even repetition and it takes a lot of work for me to be random. While stenciling the collar, I tried to work fast and not overthink and the placement did end up more scattered than in rows. YES YES!

OH... and I eliminated the gathers in the back yoke. The difference in length between the yoke and the lower back was 1 1/2" which IMHO is not enough for nice gathers so I decided to create a series of tucks and while they looked good in my sample, they looked horrible on the real thing so I re-cut the lower back sections and created a box pleat at the center. I like how this looks.

I've been sewing for a really long time and at this point, it is rare for me to read the instructions but I had no idea how to get the drawstring to extend past the collar seam. I had to read them to figure it out. That was fun, learning something new.

Let me tell you - as the voice of experience - that it is not a good idea to attempt to flatten your plastic stencil by ironing it no matter how many layers of press cloths you've put over top. When I get a new one, I'll extend the black floral stencil to the upper collar. I waited until the cardigan was finished for this decision because I wasn't sure if the collar could be worn up or down. If up, I may have stenciled the under-collar but it looks best down so I'll add to the upper collar.

When I added the black paint, it was TERRIFYING but I got over the fear quickly and continued on. And it was fun. And I felt like I'd made progress. And now, I've started on my second garment with the dark background and I've done a really good job of creating a hot mess. I thought a darker surface would be easier to work on. It's not. I'm persevering. I'll let you know how it's going on Friday.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a total of 9 1/2" lost to date

Friday, November 18, 2016

Painted Progress

With two play dates and some practise time this week, I've spent enough time working with the paint and the stencils to start feeling way more comfortable and ready for the "real thing"... although... at the same time, I'm evaluating if painting and stenciling is for me and, if it is, how and where and why would I use them.

It's been a long time since I've sewn with any kind of production style but that's what fourteen pouches call for. There is a wonderful sense of accomplishment working through the pile cutting, seam finishing, pressing under, and adding a zipper to each. And so on. Unfortunately...

... when I attempted to sew the sides and bottom together, there was absolutely no way to turn them right side out which explains with Alisa Burke's bags - above - why she adds the black tabs at each end and why a sewn side piece may have been a better choice. Hmm... live and learn.

I thought washing the canvasses might soften them. It did. It also faded the colours even though they'd been heat set them several times. That was somewhat discouraging and made me wonder about stenciling on garments that would be laundered frequently. The end result is still lovely but not as vibrant and the pouches are still too stiff to turn so - for now - while I come up with plan B - I've put them aside and moved on.

I was frustrated with the bags this morning and that did not seem the appropriate emotion for painting so I started on a refashion of a Lynn Mizono Vogue 1312 dress sewn several years ago. It's too big for me now so I'm turning it into a sweater coat starting with cutting up center front and adding a button band. The fabric I chose to go with is a grey/black check that had a selvage worth saving.


In the afternoon, I worked on the cardigan starting with white spirals randomly stenciled on the yoke. I wanted a darker element on top only I was TERRIFIED to just paint it on so I created the paisley stencil on a scrap of fabric and realized right away that it was too large so I....

... bravely applied one of the floral stencils attempting to get some areas lighter and some darker. I really like the layering of the two stencils.

The smaller group of floral elements was positioned off center so I added another singular flower to the left to create balance. The collar is stenciled with white spirals as well. It's only laid in place right now, not stitched, so this isn't exactly how it'll look in the end but you get the idea. Today, I'll stitch the shoulder seams and start working around to the front attempting to not overdo it and to maintain the simplicity of the design.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - painted progress

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Addicted To Drizzles

Ugly? Not at all. I find what you refer to as your 'child-like' examples, to be vibrant, lively, and showing movement. IMHO Diane's grey jacket back looks drab and mundane. I fail to see the 'sophistication'. Do your own thing ! Otherwise, your work will be a 'Diane' look alike.

I really appreciated the comment above that Sharon P made in the posting
Ugly And Uglier. It's a valid point especially as I've been working quite closely with Diane for several years now. The thing about coaches is that we're attracted to them because of our similarities and yet we also need to maintain our individuality. I feel I have not only grow tremendously skill-wise while working with Diane but that I am much much clearer on what my style, my voice, is.


When I had made a similar comment to Diane about sophistication, she asked me as part of my assignment to define what I meant. I'm attracted to the hard and soft edges of the painted lines, the layering of different stencils, the asymmetric placement of the design, the mix of straight and curved shapes, the less than predictably rhythmic repetition, the surprise of the under collar, and the tickle of pink on an otherwise monochromatic background. All of these are things that I can take into my own work without becoming a clone.

On Monday, I invited my friend Gwen over to help me since she has a lot of experience with stencil design work and - in fact - studied with Diane and her mother, Lois, years ago. I love this picture of her "acting up". We had a great time playing and - YES YES - I actually got those hard and soft edges and graduated light to dark colouring and overlapping stencils. Finally. Below left, I see tremendous improvement in my leaves as compared to the ones I did earlier. With more practise, I'll do even better.

For several years now, I've been trying to get those hard and soft edges and I just couldn't seem to flick the paint correctly. I'd pick up painting and then put it down. When I told my daughter I was working on my painting skills, she said you're always working on them. Hmm... not really... BUT...

I've found - and probably you have to if you've been reading my blog for a while - that I can want to do something and talk about it for quite a while and even make attempts but still seem to stall and get nowhere until it's truly time. And now was the time for improving these skills BUT... just in case... and to keep me on the right track... I'm going to another friend's studio today to play some more. I am determined to learn and to move ahead and to take this learning into my garment assignment.

Having just cleaned the studio - and the Bits & Pieces of Potential Boxes - I didn't want to add another six pieces of fabric to the pile so I decided to make the painted canvasses into cosmetic bags. The prototype I started with was way too fiddly and more work than I wanted to invest in the task so I opted instead for zipper pouches. The canvasses were similar but not identical in size. From my favourite, which was also the smallest, I cut two 7 1/2" x 10 1/4" pieces and put aside a larger section to make a bag for myself. From four, I cut six each 7 1/2" x 10 1/4" sections and from the last, slightly smaller, one, I cut six each 7 1/2" x 8 1/2" sections. There are two sections in each bag and sixteen bags in total.

My serger refused to sew nicely through the canvas and I refused to fight with it so I stitched once around the edges with straight stitch and once with zigzag stitch and then turned under 3/4" at the top and stitched it in place. I broke a lot of needles with only two layers of painted denim. I'm leery of sewing through four layers when I put the sections together. Right now, I'm sewing very slowly using a jean needle and it's worked the best so far. If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Before I finished for the day, I paired each bag with a zipper. One of my goals was to use what I have and so far everything has come from stash and - since all the parts are here - it doesn't look like I'll need to buy anything. What I'll do with sixteen zippered pouches I'm not sure. LOL - an Etsy shop?


AND... while I've been playing with different paints and stencils on the canvasses, I've also been trying out ideas for my garment assignment. One is a woven fabric in a dark denim and the other is a stable knit in a soft grey. I like the drizzles. In fact, I seem to be addicted to drizzles. They're random and fun and you have to just play around with flicking the paint and see what happens instead of overthinking them. This is good for me. I can be far too rhythmically repetitious.

... but what it suggests is that beyond mastering our craft, the most important goal for each of us is also the most personal: finding our own voice. It takes a whole lot of dedication and conviction and hard work and talent and luck to make that happen - but most of all it takes time.
- The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World, by Ted Orland

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - hard and soft edges