Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Gifts We Can Give Ourselves

For the past few days, I've been sifting, sorting, and organizing in the studio as much as possible so I can get back to work. It's taking me longer than I'd like because I'm only about 99% better and still feeling weak but... it's coming... and this is good... and I'm almost done. This afternoon for sure.

Whenever I clean my studio, it's like an exploration of self. I discover the themes that happened over the past year that I may or may not have been aware of and that's always interesting. In 2017, I purchased quite a few high end, second hand garments like this metallic linen, Eileen Fischer, skirt. Right now, it's too big for me and eventually I'll take the seams in but only after enjoying the quality of the material and of the workmanship and copying the pattern which is...

... also why I purchased a pair of Oska denim trousers on the weekend. I didn't have enough energy to try them on so I took my best guess that they'd fit me and thankfully they did but - once again - even if they hadn't I planned to copy the pattern because I have saved LOTS and LOTS of images of Oska pants and they obviously speak to me. They were new, never worn, and the consignment price was $60.00 while the retail price is over $400.00. I'm very grateful for the quality of merchandise at the new consignment shop that opened in town. Even if I'm only snoop shopping, there is plenty of inspiration and there's something about high end garments that informs and inspires better sewing.


At this time of year, most people buy gifts for family and friends and yet very few people give gifts to themselves. I believe it's important to celebrate who we are and to support who we are becoming. One of the gifts we can give ourselves is curiosity. If you are curious enough to explore ideas and then to explore what those ideas are telling you, you'll learn so much about yourself and about what you want to do and have and who you want to be. Along with what's in my studio, I discover themes in my image files. This year, there are numerous pictures about texture, one-of-a-kind garments, and jewelry. Following up that inspiration will require....

.... risk taking which is another gift we can give ourselves. It can be so easy to get caught up in the quality of what we know how to do well that it's hard to step in new directions and be less than until we become more. The Flat Houses textile art piece I began a few months ago started yakking at me while I was cleaning. It wanted to be finished. It wanted to be entered in the exhibit. It wanted to know just what was I planning to do with it if I wasn't planning to finish it and enter it. I realized that while it is true that I'm far more interested in creating clothing than wall art, I was also avoiding finishing and entering this piece because the quality of my workmanship is not what it was ten years ago and because I'm somewhat disappointed and embarrassed by that fact even if it only makes senses. I decided that finishing and entering was the goal and good and enough. And I've realized that risk taking is likely to be the theme of the next year because I find myself wanting to be braver and an even more authentic expression of myself.

Good and enough is a gift we can also give ourselves because creativity is not so much the product as it is the process and it's what we learn along the journey that nurtures us and takes us forward. If I can be good with the enough of this particular piece, I can be good with the even better enough of the next and the next piece as I continue to develop my skills. I cleared some space in the fabric cupboards for the Bits & Pieces of Potential and made them more visible so I'll begin to explore what they have to offer. Some of these fabric rolls are garments that didn't work out and that I'm planning to recycle and some are left over bits of fabric that I particularly loved working with and want to use up. I also have purchased garments to refashion that are hanging in a nearby closet. It doesn't matter if any of this potential turns into something wearable or even something wonderful. What matters is exploring the bubbling ideas. Recognizing and accepting that concept is another gift.

Over a year ago, I cleaned out twelve boxes of potential that I'd stacked under the stairs and gave away what I wouldn't use keeping only what truly resonated with me. This is one of the great gifts of getting older - knowing ourselves better. And when we know ourselves better, we can move along what no longer works for us and pull forward and explore further what does. My image files are FULL of garments that intrigued me in some way and I'm learning to define what that way is. With the top above left, the fit and the monochromatic texture works for me and with the top right, the curved hem, the colours and the sparkle of the black and white work but the fit is so not me. I'd never wear it. I'd feel sloppy. Taking the time to know ourselves is another of the gifts we can give ourselves whether that's through our image files or magazines or snoop shopping and then... try out that learning... work with it... tweak it... until you find that ever growing and increasingly authentic expression of self.   I am so far from who I was even five years ago that if you haven't observed the journey you might not even know me and that is SO EXCITING.

Shoes are something else that has come up this year. Again, at the consignment store, I've been able to buy some brand name footwear at amazing prices and I love the quality and better fit as well as the more interesting and fun styles. Fun wants to show up more and more in my life and I'm starting to go with it. I ordered some orange shoes for Outfit 3 of The Outfit Project whose starting point is a pair of painted pants made earlier and never worn. I also ordered some painted boots for one of the remaining outfits. It was devastating in October to lose the aunt I knew and loved so much to a debilitating stroke and I want to learn from her horrible reality. If it's at all up to me, I chose not to get to a state where my body exists and my mind and my life as I knew it are gone... which includes looking after my health... and having more fun... like orange shoes and off the wall clothing. Life is truly short.

Another gift is the gift of doing what we love to do simply because we love to do it... not because it's practical... not because it's less expensive... but simply because we love to do it and we want to entertain ourselves in that way. I love to make things and I love to figure out how to make things. I used the pattern pieces from Burda 6850 and a knitted swatch to design a  topper for Outfit Two in a dark navy. The fleck stitch provides beautiful texture - and there's that theme again. To make the stitch, knit row one, pearl row two, knit 1 pearl 1 on row three, pearl row four, and then repeat. This photo doesn't do the detail justice. I still need to block the pieces, sew the seams, and finish the neckline but hopefully will have a better image soon. If you both sew and knit, sewing patterns can be a great source of information for designing knitted garments, especially a T & T pattern that fits you well.

Make what you want to make. I've made a lot of purses over the years and at one point someone whose advice I value said they were okay but not nearly as amazing as something else I was making. Even though I know better, I took that to heart and for quite a while stopped making purses and now I'm making them again. The number of purses I've bought to copy and the variety of images in my files tells me purses are a fun and creative outlet for me and one I would benefit from exploring. It's about what I want to make and not what someone else thinks I should make.

Knitted garments that are less than best are no different than sewn garments that are less than best. Why wear what doesn't flatter. I don't need a new garment as much I love the process of figuring out how to make that pattern or yarn or fabric work at its best which includes fitting and flattering. This past week, I started a second sweater using the purple yarn my friend Mary gave me that I'd knit and rolled back into balls. I've transferred some of the learning about a better fitting sleeve cap from fitting the grey cardigan and I'm re-testing the information on this one and then I'll test it on a t-shirt. Being open to what we can learn and where we can use it is another gift we can give ourselves. It's amazing how often learning over here is useful over there in a completely unrelated or only somewhat related area of life.


Another gift is time. So many people - men and women alike - tell me that they have no time for the things that they want to do. They are just too busy. There is no guarantee that we will ever be less busy, that we will ever make it to a space where we feel free to explore what we want to do. If we are too busy for ourselves, for our lives, for exploring who we are and what we know and what we want to know, then things are IMHO very badly out of balance. This is how we nurture ourselves, it's how we fill our gas tank, how we put on our oxygen mask, how we model to our children that it's okay for them to take time for what they enjoy and to embrace life, live with abundance, and fulfill their potential. Time does not mean twenty-four hours a day every day. It means some time each day whether that's even just ten minutes. Ten minutes adds up to a lot when taken day after day. And even if you're a person who believes they can only work in great chunks of time so they are better off not working at all, excuse me but I don't believe you. You can learn new tricks. I certainly did and it was worth the work especially if....

... you also give yourself the gift of space and stash. And again, it's not about how much you have, it's about having a space and having a stash. Even when I had single room in a room and board situation, I had a folding table in the corner with my machine on top and a stash box below. I have always made time and space for creativity and if you also give yourself the gift of a budget, you can take advantage of sales, thrift store finds, and used materials to explore... in your designated space... with those few minutes every day... what interests you. I believe that I have the space and the stash that I have now because I made a priority of nurturing creativity and what you use grows and develops and when you are open to opportunities they come your way.

I could go on... but I won't... you get the idea. Please spend some time at the end of this year and the beginning of the next to think about the gifts you can give yourself and how you can make the most of this one precious life you've been given. What gift will you give yourself this coming year?

LOL - I'm posting without proofing. How's that for risk taking. Hopefully I'll have some time later to come back and see if there's any major mistakes but for now, I'm back to sifting and sorting.

HAPPY NEW YEAR - talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a year of taking risks

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Wicked One

For the past three days, I've alternated between lying on the couch and lying in bed. Sunday, wasn't quite as bad. I curled up with a blanket and knit the front of Outfit 2's topper. Monday and Tuesday were spent lying down. Mostly sleeping. Who knew that I could actually sleep all day and still be exhausted. Holding my head up is taking way too much effort. My armpits ache. My eyelids ache. A heavy metal band is jamming in my forehead. Every part of my body feels like it's been hit by a semi hurtling down the highway. Giving birth was easier than this.

Today, I anticipated another day on the couch, hopefully sitting up, hopefully knitting the back section of the topper and then getting on with things only last night the sneezing and drippy nose started. I'm feeling worse not better. Apparently, I've reached a new level. When I cancelled breakfast with a friend, she said I hear that cold is a wicked one. Yes... yes, it is.

I did finish the purse for Outfit 1 on Saturday as well as three of the "chains" for Outfit 2's statement necklace. When I can actually focus on taking a picture, I'll get one. Right now, the camera looks far too heavy to hold.

Talk soon - Myrna

- a firm couch, a warm blanket, a fluffy pillow, time and space to heal

Friday, December 15, 2017

Hitting Road Blocks

Thursday night, my son went into Kamloops to watch the new Star Wars movie with his Dad, brother, and five other friends. It was a long movie, running late, followed by an equally long drive home. Even though he's twenty-eight, being his mother, I waited up for him. Call me when you leave. Call me when you get home. I told him. I doubt my children will ever get too old that I don't want to know they're home safely.

AND... it seemed perfect.. needing to be up late... because I intended to work all night, finish up some projects, write the blog during the hour and a half he was travelling, and sleep in Friday morning while it was auto posting itself. That didn't happen. Instead, it seemed like I kept hitting road blocks.

To start the statement necklace, I bought the largest upholstery cording I could find and practiced tying the knot shown in the earlier posting. Then I cut a strip of purple fabric, folded under and stitched the long edges, basted the strip to the cording, wrapped it around, and slip stitched the opposite edge in place before highlighting the seam with embroidery stitches in a lighter shade of purple.

And then I covered the fabric bead in glass beads with a purple exterior, a turquoise interior, and a slight gold glow that'll go fabulously with the knit top. The chain is a narrower upholstery cording...

... covered with a purchased bias trim. Because the cording would show through, there is a layer of black lining underneath the bias trim. To finish the necklace, I intend to incorporate parts from a broken antique, painted wood necklace that is somewhere in the studio. I know this for a fact because I brought it out earlier this week, evaluated it, discarded it, moved on to other choices, decided it would be the most appropriate choice afterall, and now can't find it.

While I've come to expect unexplainable things like losing a bright turquoise necklace in a highly organized studio as part and parcel of being committed to an engaging project, it's still rather frustrating. For now, the other parts are in a tray waiting... safely... I hope... while trusting that the necklace will show up sometime between now and the beginning of March and I can finish this piece. Since I was waiting on the necklace to finish the knit top, I've decided to use my favourite neck shape and then debate the hem. The focal bead is intended to sit at bellybutton level so at least I know that part.

Earlier this year, I bought a "placemat bag" from the local consignment shop for less than the wooden handles were worth. I particularly liked the way the sides were inset and folded and it seemed easy enough to duplicate only it turned into a series of errors instead. I've made several linings, numerous renditions of the sides, and sewed the pocket on, taken it off, and sewed it back on... twice... while debating how to do what I wanted to do. Before I started writing this post, I had just finished the real, live, this will get sewn in, lining. YES YES - I wasn't doing anything else until I got that done.

For the fashion fabric, I used a remnant that I painted about four years ago and added more turquoise and gold paint to the surface before layering it with batting and a purple backing and quilting it with turquoise thread. The binding is a gold dupioni silk with paint splatters held in place with hot pink top stitching around the edges. I didn't get a very good picture of the stitching. More when it's done.

Although I had figured out the inset and folded sides, I eventually chose another method with similar results. Seeing as this is day 10/10 for the first outfit and I only have 2/5 elements completed, there was the very real danger of taking the easy way out and dumbing down the project to something that was more quickly finished. I didn't want to do that. It's more important to me to push my creativity and to find a way to do what I want to do than it is to get 25/25 elements completed by due date. Luckily though, I do have some built in catch-up time and...


... while I was thinking and debating, I started on the statement necklace for Outfit 2 by knitting several long and narrow strips using different stitch patterns. On one strip, I created openings for beading. Both necklaces are radically different than anything I've made - or worn - before and that's really fun. along with pushing my creativity, I want to push my outward expression of my inner self as well and be as me as I can be. And me is done with playing it safe.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - figuring out the bag lining.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Part One Of Outfit One

Today is day eight of ten allotted to complete outfit one. The knit top is not co-operating but the other parts and pieces are well under way.

The skirt is the first completed part - part one of outfit one. In retrospect, there are a few things I'd do differently but for the main part...

... it echoes the inspiration of the hemline of this skirt in a photo I found on-line. My hemline bells slightly more which I like better and my skirt is less full through the hips and waist which I also like better. One mistake I made...

... was to spend too much time worrying about the one way design and not enough about "twinning". In fact, because I had just barely enough fabric, it never really occurred to me until I saw the large turquoise moon shape repeating itself in all six panels at hip level where it was quite noticeable and again at hem level where it was less obvious with all the gathers. Next time, I'd flip several of the pattern pieces in the opposite direction.

To fix this skirt, I cut out darker sections of the print and pinned and then stitched them in place over the turquoise shapes.

Because turquoise is the dominant colour in the print, the stitching barely shows and is even less obvious when looking at the completed skirt. Without this change, I knew I probably wouldn't wear it so I'm glad I added the applique pieces. Once I finish the rest of the outfit, there will be far more demanding places wanting attention that unless I actually point out the fix, I doubt anyone but the keenest of eyes would notice. And that's okay with me.

The knit top is a solid turquoise and will have a large purple knot necklace as a statement piece. Purple, turquoise, and the gold in the print and shoes form a triadic colour scheme which is why I chose purple. For the knot button, I started with the fattest upholstery cord I could find and practiced tying knots in it before covering the piece with fabric. The necklace and the purse are well under construction and when they are done, I'll go back and decide on how to finish the top. I'm still not happy with the neckline but want to pair it with the necklace first.

For each item, I'm making a list of the steps involved as well as how I worked between the items in each outfit along with - 93 so far - points that I think about in my work while I'm moving through the creative journey. It occurred to me that the project would make an excellent book and/or workshop and since that's the direction I'm moving in - YES YES!

In the past, I've talked about this or that project that I wanted to take on... partially in hopes that making a public declaration would actually get the thing done... but the energy was never sustained and the idea faded away. NOW... after almost three weeks of planning and working on The Outfit Project... I am even more excited about it than when I started. Tap dancing inside excited. Thinking about it all the time excited. Picking out parts and pieces and making list excited. AND... And... and... It's been a long... Long... LONG time since I've been this engaged in a project and it's a wonderful feeling. I think this is - LOL - true love.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - an engaging project

Friday, December 8, 2017

Being Exactly What I Complain About

Walking to Starbucks yesterday morning in the predawn lack-of-light-ness, wearing dark clothing and a black winter coat, when it's near to impossible to see a pedestrian, I realized I was being exactly what I complain about, hard to see, as well as putting myself in danger. Luckily, I walk on the sidewalk but even so, adding a reflective element to my wardrobe would be a good idea.

The pond in my back yard has that layer of ice that looks black and clear, like it's not even there, so it was rather amusing to see the ducks fly in, land, and walk on water. There's a group of seventeen on the pond this fall and their antics will be entertaining. Earlier, when it snowed, they'd go for a walk around the edges in pied piper fashion leaving a row of duck prints behind them. The open water is closer to and just over from my house and, with seventeen of them, is edge-to-edge ducks.

Outfit One will be comprised of a skirt, a knit top, hand-knit wristlets, a large Chinese knot necklace, and a bag as well as the the gold leather shoes I found earlier this week. All of the elements are started; none are finished.

For the skirt hem, I used 2" wide elastic and tested different lengths in 4" increments starting at 40" and moving up to 52" before settling on 44". To make it easier, I marked the intervals on the elastic before inserting it and then slid back and forth to the different measurements. The skirt is complete except for the waistband which is waiting for the top so I can layer them and get the proportions right before hemming the top and adding the waistband to the skirt.

Because I want a large necklace, I raised the neckline on the knit top and even though I tested it before adding the binding, once that was in place the opening was too tight to get over my head gracefully... if I wanted to keep my make-up on... and my hair done... so I lowered and widened the neckline slightly. To maintain the shape that I'd worked so hard to stabilize in earlier steps, I fused a strip of non-stretch interfacing next to the binding before cutting it off.

That cut off section will go in my bits & pieces of potential box for use down the road as ties, maybe even on the purse. This pile of clothing came home with me from the thrift store along with the shoes. On top is a gorgeous fuchsia pullover that's never been worn, then a black velour cardigan with "in" sleeves even though it's obviously from the eighties complete with shoulder pads, then a hand-knit man's sweater with a bleach stain on one sleeve but so beautifully knit that I feel the need to save it in some way, and a pair of way too small jeans with fabulous fabric that co-ordinates with the plaid shirt I bought a few weeks ago. Potential. I'm addicted to it.

The Calgary Cardigan is back in balls. It turned out huge and hugely unflattering. My friend Mary sent me a couple more skeins of the yarn to finish and I sent her this thank you picture. I'd hoped for the cardigan but this is as good as it gets. I'll re-knit the balls. I love the colour and the yarn. The wristlet pattern is Madrid, free on Ravelry. I started it in a thin, fuzzy, perfectly co-ordinated with my knit top yarn and was going cross eyed trying to figure see it clearly enough to figure out the pattern so this grey version is a practice run.


AND... I've also been practicing making knots with this thick upholstery cording. The large knot will be the focal bead of Outfit One's statement necklace. Even though I haven't finished anything, I'm excited about the start and am really enjoy The Outfit Project so far.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - fabulous thrift stores