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Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Yay, Me!

That's exactly what I yelled this morning when I put on the last bead. Because holy moly, I was tired of this project. Tired beyond tired. It had gone on for far, far too long, with bead after bead and sequin after sequin, and no matter how you tell yourself that, oh! it will be soooo much fun to wear! there comes a point where you just want it to be the hell over. You know? And that point came many, many days ago. But, yay, me: I plowed on through it, and here's my proof.

This is the bolero before, back when I thought this was all I was going to do to it. I told you about that whole mental process last time, about how these little things are, in truth, kind of jewelry garments: they're not that functional in a whole keeping-you-warm kind of way, and about the only reason to wear them is to add some bling. So here's what it looked like:

 That was cool, but I knew it needed to be cooler.
so here it is now:

Now I'm working on this, below, which you might remember from last year. It was a Lucky Brand scarf I got on clearance somewhere when we were traveling, in a Lucky Brand store. I don't even know where or when it was. Anyway, I loved the chambray fabric, but it wasn't very functional: too thick to be just a scarf and not thick/warm enough to be useful. 
 So I dug around in the storage building and found a stash of old, paper thin, worn soft flannel pajamas. I cut those up and made a lining and held it in place with rows of kantha stitch.

 Now I'm going back and adding many, many more rows of stitching with various kinds of floss. This is all part of My Evolving Plan, now at the stage where I'm trying 1) not to acquire anything new 2) get rid of even more of the stuff I don't totally love and 3) go back and make every remaining garment into something fabulous. Fabulous to me; it doesn't matter whether anyone else would wear it or buy it or like it. *I* have to. Otherwise, what's the point, right?

I love this kind of stitching, these long rows of running stitch. They're easy on the hands (mostly) and easy to do while talking or watching a movie or riding in a car, and they're very satisfying, mentally: my brain seems to come up with all kinds of ideas when it's not having to coordinate the chasing of tiny glass beads around in a saucer. It's relaxing to me. Soothing. I look forward to odd moments when I can pick it up and do a row (I almost typed "do a line or two" and thought, whoa! that sounds way more exciting than pulling thread through cloth!) or two. But, you know, maybe it is my drug: calming, addictive, an obsession. Maybe doing rows is like doing lines, not that I would know. Maybe my various obsessions have kept me from ever needing a drug habit. Who knows?

Anyway, boring. What else is fun is that I've got various kinds of floss I can play with while doing this stitch. I've got some wonderfully soft silk floss, and I've never done kantha stitching with it and have no idea how it will hold up on repeated trips through the fabric, but I'm going to find out. I've got some #3 perle cotton in variegated denim-y blues, and I'll see how that looks. I could try some couching, maybe, although the lines are getting kind of close together for that. Anyway, it's wonderful: I get to experiment and stitch and try out stuff I haven't used yet and use fibers people have given me, and it's all very, very satisfying.

I'm really happy this morning, stitching and thinking about what I want to do next, about which garment needs some attention. I have two tiny scraps of silk velvet from the pinafore my mother made me when I was 2, and I want to stitch those onto two garments, somewhere where I can pet them when I'm wearing the clothes until there's nothing left and they fall off. While I've been working on the orange and pink bolero, I've also gone into the closet and pulled out aprons that needed to have the pockets moved. I want pockets to be functional, not just funky, and lots of Cynthia Ashby pockets are just silly: down by the hem or on the back or tilted at a weird angle. So I've been carefully ripping off and moving those. I've been doing a lot of Test Wearing, where I pull out something I haven't worn a lot and put it on and wear it all day. Does it bind anywhere? Does it stay in place, or does it move around? Do the pockets work well? Does it need another pocket? Most important, though: do I love it? I actually do say, out loud and loudly, "I love my clothes!" when I put on something that's wonderful.

I'm reading some books and have ordered a couple more (all used, of course) about clothes and garments and what we wear and why we wear it and how we feel about it. I love reading these and hope to have some recommendations for anyone else who's similarly fascinated.

It's all in a really good place right now, and my closets have space enough where I can see things and think about them. I've got ideas for things I want to try, and that's always fun.

Time for a walk, then food, then more stitching. Thanks for coming by~~XO

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Monday to Make You Feel Better

I thought I'd write this for those people who sat down after a crappy day and are wondering, "Is it just me? Am I the only one who dealt with this crap today?"

No. No, you are not.

Friday I got the usual message from CVS that my prescriptions were ready to pick up. It's an auto-refill thing, and it's nice when it works. Saturday we stopped by to get them. The SSRI wasn't in the bag, and when I asked, they said, "Oh, we're waiting for your dr. to renew that one." Well, that's all fine and dandy (a lie), but the doctor in question has moved to Austin, The Land of Texas Liberals, and has turned over all our records to another doctor, one of his former students. In Odessa.

I text The Former Doctor and ask if he can renew this for me one last time, since I'm out and kind of need them. He texts back that no, he cannot. I have to go see The New Guy, and in the meantime, The New Guy can call in enough doses to bridge the gap.

So this morning, Monday, I get up and call. Long story: they can't renew the RX without seeing me, it will take a while to get an appt., but if I can come Right This Minute, they'll squeeze me in. It's 30 minutes away, but I have no real choice, so I grab a cup of coffee and set off. It is 35 degrees and foggy and wet, the temperature dropping. Trucks everywhere on the highway, driven by adolescent (for all I know) oil field guys on meth. The office in Odessa is at the end of a dead-end street you can get to only by going around the hospital, which the GPS doesn't know about, so that's an adventure.

I get there and go in. I'm looking like my usual self: embroidered old Levi's, my hair, 11 earrings, bright mis-matched SolMate socks and fingerless gloves, tie-dyed purple t-shirt, purple linen jumper, purple Birkenstocks, burnt-orange linen Tina Givens pattern duster. You know. This is Odessa, Texas. Everyone is wearing shades of brown and black, and they are all massed in the part of the lobby that has a tv, and they are all staring at it raptly, as if maybe something has happened. But there is a laugh track, so probably no live coverage of disaster. All heads swivel to watch me walk through the lobby. There is a couple necking over in the corner, but there is no one quite as interesting as I am. It is, of course, not the kind of staring that cute, nubile young women get when they strut through a room in heels. It's the kind of staring people do when someone comes into a room having an out-loud conversation with the risen Jesus, who is riding on their left shoulder and arguing with them about cupcakes. It's the kind of staring where you can feel people pulling their children closer to them and starting to edge away, as they would from a overly-salivating dog.

I go to sign in. She asks for my insurance card. I know I have it because I gave her the info off it when I called earlier. I dump out my bag (with a big, crinkly plastic bag full of stitching) and a coupon and a couple of tubes of lip balm I never remember to use. Kindergarten scissors (so you can take them through security at the airport), 4 pair of cheater glasses (because they're so cheap they fall apart without warning). No insurance card. I go back out to the truck, but I already know the card is on my desk at home. I go back in. They don't have a later appt., but they can't see me without making a copy of the insurance card. She gives me paperwork to fill out and says to come back at 3 pm; that would be *after* I drive home and get the insurance card. I can't get pissed; it's my own fault. But what a pain the butt: it's wetter and colder than it was when I left home, and the traffic (oil field traffic, which is a beast unto itself) is worse. As I'm driving home, though, I realize two things: it's now 10 am, and it's time to give Lennie Lulu her insulin, and I had completely, totally forgotten about that. And I have a pickup scheduled for 11 am for the last three eBay packages, and I completely and totally forgot about those, too. So it's actually a GOOD thing I have to drive home: I'll get home about 10:20, still  OK for the insulin *and* the package pickup. So everything will work out.

Two blocks from home, my Low Tire Pressure light pings and comes on. I pull into the driveway. I know how to check the tire pressure, but here's the deal: I will have to find something to allow my fingers to loosen the things on the tire thing, whatever those are called. And if I go and air up the problematic tire, who's to say that it doesn't have a slow leak from a puncture that will cause it to go flat on the way back to the 3:00 appointment in Odessa? Meaning I would have to call them and tell them I wasn't going to make it and literally BEG them for drugs.  To which they would laugh hysterically and flag my record and perhaps turn me in to the County Mental Health Authorities.

I come in, give Lennie her insulin, set out the packages, and go to Bill Williams' Tires, which I'm identifying here because these guys are just The Best. I go in, the young guy asks for my keys, I sit down and fill out the doctor's office paperwork they sent with me, a chore I loathe, as writing by hand any more is almost impossible and, also, very, very painful. My printing looks as if it were executed by a lunatic, literally. It's all over the page, irregular and bumpy where the joints just refuse to cooperate. Just as I'm finishing, the guy calls me over, says I'm ready to go, all the tires were fine. It's the weather, he says, and says I'm good to drive back to Odessa. I reach for my wallet; he says, no, that's what they're there for. This is not the first time they've done stuff and haven't charged me; I guess it helps that we've always bought all our tires from them. Not discount tires, but well worth the cost in terms of on-going service. Or maybe they just feel sorry for me. I mean, really: the way I look, the way I'm dressed, the way I'm hunched over a packet of paper, grumbling and holding my pen in a death grip like we're doing mortal combat. What's not to pity, right?

I come home and find the packages have been picked up. Except no mail has been delivered, so I have to wonder if they were *picked up* i.e., by the postman, or *stolen* as in "off the porch by some skanky junky" who thinks of this as their own private eBay shopping routine. Oy.

So now I'm going to go take a shower and make another cup of decaf and get back in the truck and head out in the (even colder and wetter) ugliness to drive back to Odessa to keep the new appointment and, we all hope, get The New Doctor to call in a RX so I will not leap across the room and rip his throat out with my teeth.  Or cry. But, you know me: the throat-ripping is much more likely than the public crying. Pretty much any behavior is much more likely than my crying in front of someone. I'm thinking maybe I should wear a scarf around my mouth as a kind of muzzle. You know? That would pretty much complete the whole Crazy Psycho Bag Lady Look, I think.

So: do you feel better now? I hope so; I hope the travails of your day pale in comparison, or at least that the story of my Monday has made you laugh. Or snort, or chortle maliciously, like if maybe you kind of hate me or something.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

My Plan

This is part of it, anyway. Instead of acquiring more stuff to play with, I'm going back and working on things I've already worked on, making them theoretically More Fabulous.

Here's one of the Alabama Chanin boleros. It started out just a pink bolero, and then last year I did this (I showed it when I was working on it):

That was cool, but I've been thinking about these. They aren't warm. They're not purely functional as things to cover you or keep you warm or whatever, so then they need to be fabulous. For me, that means making them like a piece of jewelry. The ones I wear the most are the ones I've beaded and sequined, that are sparkly and shiny and fun to wear. So I'm planning to re-visit the others. This one is first, and here's where I am today. It's slow going, and I think I'm going to have to start a pure stitching project to switch off with because beading can get very, very tedious. I whinge a lot at about this stage in every project.
 In the photo below you can see that I first went back in and added a lot of stitching. I like that.

I'm guessing I don't need to tell you that I didn't have to buy a single thing to do this. I have a drawer of orange beads, one of pink, and three little drawers of various sizes of sequins. I love using things I already have. 

As I said, it's slow going. I can't work on it away from the house: those beads would be a disaster if they spilled. 

It's very satisfying, though, going back and re-working things. Or not so much re-working as adding onto. I keep dreaming of the wardrobe where every single thing would be fabulous, one of a kind, exactly like I want. It's a fun goal: I already have most of the supplies, so it's very inexpensive. It takes a lot of time, so it encourages me to slow down, enjoy the process (a big change from my life as not a Type A, not a Type B, but a Type AAA). I can do it while I visit or drink coffee or tea or wine or watch a movie. And it's encouraging me to really think about the things I want to keep and the things I want to let go. How many jumper/aprons can one Woman of A Certain Age expect to wear in her lifetime? Answer: not nearly as many as I own, that's for sure.

So that's where I am right now. This and handling the multiple eBay auctions, which actually takes more time than I would have guessed. But it's great because stuff is finding its way to new homes, making more room in the closets (yes: more than one) and letting me see what's in there and plan what to do next. Plus I feel good about it going somewhere where it will be worn. Ahhhhhhh.

Monday, January 05, 2015

All eBay, All The Time

I swear this is all I've done for the last several days: take photos, take more photos, measure stuff, do listings. At first, I thought I'd list one thing for auction at a time, spread them out, take my time. But I quickly realized that was going to be a total pain in the butt, with multiple trips to the post office (or, as I said on Facebook, multiple pick-ups, which would irritate our fabulous postman no end, seeing as how he's recovering from multiple surgeries (knee replacement) and would surely prefer not to clamber up on the porch every day for a couple weeks). So I'm doing them all at once. It's not like I'm trying to make a ton of money, so even if it's Not The Way to Do It, as people always say about everything, it's the way *I'm* doing it.

Here's a link, I hope (works for me, but who knows?). No, I'm not trying to get you to bid on anything. No pressure from me: I loathe selling stuff, so auctions are the only way to go: I list it and walk away.

What's wonderful about all this is the sense of freedom I feel. I've given away stuff, donated stuff, found new homes for stuff. But these things I've made: it was a lot harder to find somewhere to send them. I tried a couple things that didn't work very well. People kept asking me if I'd sell them. So I'm doing this, and, man, it feels great, and it's spurring another purge of other stuff. I've got a bag in the living room that's going to Goodwill, and every day I find something to drop in there. I've got a package ready to ship out to a friend; I found some things in the drawers of the chest we're painting, and as soon as I saw it, I thought of her. So that's good. I have a sack of book to leave at Starbucks or, maybe, take to the hospital to leave; I'll have to check.

I've started going through drawers again—yes, again—with fresh eyes, finding more stuff I don't need, don't love, don't want to take care of any more. The more I get rid of, the freer I feel, and let me tell you something: freedom is an amazing thing, way less valued than it should be. I don't mean reckless freedom, the kind where you do stupid stuff just to prove you can. I don't mean the kind of freedom people imagine they would have if they had tons of money and could travel constantly. No, I mean the kind of freedom where there's not a ton of stuff shackling you to a life you didn't plan: stuff you've somehow accumulated and now have to take care of. Think about if you had a chance to move to the place you've always wanted to live, but the condition was that you had to be ready to go in 24 hours and could take only 2 cartons with you, nothing else (animal companions don't count, of course). Could you do it? Could you get ready to go and pack what you love/need in a day and leave everything else behind?

I couldn't. For me, it would be The Clothes Thang: all the clothes I love. But, hey: I have stuff I say I love but that I never wear. Maybe I've never worn it at all (this morning I'm wearing a Cynthia Ashby duster that I dyed and have never worn; I'm test-wearing it to see if it stays or goes). I'm slowly disencumbering myself from even my wardrobe. I'm hoping to make 2015 a mostly Buy Nothing Year, although not so strict as it sounds.

When I misplace something in the house, it makes me nuts. There are so many places something can be, esp. small stuff like the tools I use. Scissors. Cheater specs. A little bag of beads. I keep imagining a time when there wouldn't be anything lying around (books, stacks of fabric) for stuff to get lost underneath, when everything had a place and stayed in it so that nothing ever got lost. It's not like our house is horribly cluttered. (Well, *my* spaces are not.) And we're not hoarders. It's that there's been this huge change for me: 20 years ago, I loved having everything around me, right where I could reach it, and I loved having multiples of the stuff I liked and one in every color and size and new stuff waiting for me to try it and. . . .

Now it's the opposite: I like clean, clear spaces: empty desks and tables, space between things. When there's nothing there catching my eye, my eye turns inwards (that's always been such an ugly, creepy mental image: an eye turning inwards—I don't even know why I used it. Sorry about that) and I see ideas, things I want to do, possibilities. When I had stacks of projects all around me, there was no room for new ideas or new things to try. It always felt like I was trying to catch up. As I've weeded out and culled, I find more and more ideas coming to me, and—best of all—the time to pursue them. One goal, as I've said, is to learn to spin yarn and then weave something, just to do it, if only once.

I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there. By doing this slowly, little by little, coming back to the purging again and again, it's not only painless, but it's fun. It's a joyful process. I've mentioned before that I've given a lot of jewelry to a young friend, someone who really loves jewelry and has a lifetime ahead of her to wear it. Because I don't think much about this stuff, about giving things to new homes, and because I have a bad memory (I've told you how I used to see things at my mother's house and go, "Oh, wow, that's cool!" and she'd look at me as if she'd spawned an idiot and say, slowly, "You made that"), when I see my friend wearing my mother's pearls or a ring I gave her, it's a surprise, a truly joyful moment of seeing something that, for years, lay in a velvet-lined box and wasn't ever worn. I really can't describe the joy for me: most people are sentimental in a different way and would keep their mother's things; I love knowing they've gone on to a new life and are no longer my responsibility and then seeing them making someone else happy.

Well, anyway: this is just selfish nattering: selfish because although it's of huge interest to me, it's just the same-old, same-old: the stuff I've been thinking about for a long time now. But I want to keep telling you about it because it's making such a difference in my life in so many ways. Not just getting rid of things, but in learning the joy in letting things go, giving things a new life and setting them free instead of clasping them tightly. I used to believe there were a lot of things—objects, belongings, stuff—that I could never bear to part with (with which. . . .). Now I know there's really nothing. There are some things I love and plan to keep, but I wouldn't be broken-hearted if I didn't have them. I think destroying all my journals and calendars may have been the biggest step. It felt like a huge, smothering burden was lifted off me when they were finally gone. (I used to rent a safe deposit box just for the journals, something that seems totally foreign to me now.)

OK. Thanks for reading. I hope maybe I've sparked something for you, but if not, that's OK. Not everyone wants to get rid of things, and that's fine. But others of us just need to make a start to be amazed at how the world begins to open up in ways we didn't anticipate.

Time to go out and take a walk and then list the last few auctions, and then on to sorting through more drawers. XO

Monday, December 29, 2014

End of The Year What's Nexting

It's that time of year when you start thinking about what you want the next year to look like. More of this, less of that, maybe a little bit of this and none of that. I used to make long elaborate lists in my journal, decorated and embellished, with marginalia and wishes and goals. I don't do that any more—seeing as how I don't keep a journal any more—and many of the things that were once important no longer matter. I used to make resolutions about exercise, work, money, weight. Those things have all fallen into place over the years, and now I seem to look at my life more generally, rather than in detail. Plus my life is good, and there aren't a lot of things I want to change.

There is one thing, though: this whole wardrobe project, this on-going fascination with the stuff in my closet and the projects I work on. For several years I've been paring down and simplifying in almost every area, but I've still been acquiring more clothes. I typed "new" clothes, but very few of them have actually been new; just new to me. Still: rather than working with what I have and creating my dream wardrobe made up entirely of SoulWear, I've been collecting cool clothes I couldn't resist. Pathetically, quite a significant portion of that has been because they were cool clothes I couldn't ever afford to buy new: the collection I've amassed would be prohibitive if I'd paid full price. Scarily so.

Here in the last couple weeks, I've been really thinking about that, and I've started weeding out again. In the last week I've given away a pair of like-new orange leather Birkenstocks, a Cynthia Ashby dress, pieces of Flax and Bryn Walker and Heart's Desire by Mary Grace and some other things that were also Nice Stuff. And then I've started listing some of my own creations for auction on eBay. This isn't much fun for me, since it's kind of a lot of trouble and irritating in that you spend money (for shipping) before you get paid—the money stays in Paypal pending payment forever. But I'm doing it because people keep telling me they want a chance to buy the stuff I make. I, having been down this path before, know the outcome, but I feel compelled to do it, anyway. If I give things away, people say they wish they'd had a chance to buy it. If I have a drawing, someone will say they wish they'd had a chance to win. I hate disappointing people. I've tried giving stuff away and making stuff available, but it just never works out. So, OK: auctions. What I know is that people are kind and they mean well, but when they see clothes I've made and say they wish I sold them because they would sooo buy them, what they actually mean is that they would love to have one but in a specific color and in a different size and with other sleeves and a different neckline and maybe not those exact pockets. It's why I shut down my Etsy shop years ago. Selling clothing is a tricky, tricky thing, indeed, and I am not good at it and don't like it at all. I like making; I do not like selling.

But I'm doing it. I'm doing a series of short, 3-day auctions to give people a chance to bid on the things I'm clearing out. There is no reserve price on these. Right now there's an apron, hand-made, hand-dyed, my own pattern. The current bid is $15.16, and that cracks me up. Standard eBay shipping is almost $9 (a set price), and I have to buy the boxes and the tape, and so this time I learned and set the shipping and handling price at $12 so I don't come out in the hole (this has happened to me before when something was a lot heavier and more expensive to ship than I'd anticipated). This apron that's for sale has all the edges bound with hand-dyed, hand-made bias tape I created out of linen, sewn on by hand. I'm guessing there are maybe 10 hours in this project, although it's tough to figure because I don't do it all at once (the dyeing takes place long before, usually), and if you look at it as an hourly amount, I'll make less than $2 an hour, not counting the cost of the linen and variegated floss (neither are cheap). Yikes: if I look at it that way, I *will* come out in the hole. Let's move on quickly here~~

But I'm doing it. I'm doing it so when people can say, "You should sell your stuff!" I can say, "I have!" and I don't have to feel guilty when people say they wish they'd had a chance to buy it: anyone can bid. It takes me out of the process.

And then I'm moving on. What am I moving on *to*? Ahh: that's the exciting part. I've been spending a lot of time (snort) lately looking at mending boards on Pinterest. Jeans mending tutorials and kantha stitching projects and boro. I've been having to mend my favorite pair of jeans: I've long thought of them as Studio Jeans, since I have always worn them mostly at home: they're a little baggy, and the waist band was removed years ago because I don't like waists. But they're soft, well-worn Levi's 501s, and I love them, and now that I've had to start mending them, I've gotten inspired. I've started wearing them everywhere: they're no longer baggy old jeans; they're a well-loved, fabulously-stitched garment I wear all the time. I have several skirts I've made from 501s, and I have several other pairs of jeans I've been babying along, trying to make them last: years ago I scored a stack of 501s by accident, walking into a store with a price sign of $13 a pair. Turned out the sale had been one of those flash sales and was already over, but the department manager said that the sign was still up, so I could buy whatever pairs I wanted for $13 each. I bought every pair that was even close to my size: 29, 30, 31. Too bad they had only a few, but I still should never have to buy jeans again. I can just make these that I already have into Fabulous SoulWear, bit by bit, a little at a time.

Then—and this may well be The Thing that was finally the tipping point—I was out in the storage building, digging around looking for something, and I came across these:

 A pair of cut-off overalls. Yes, they fit me. No, I will not wear them as cut=off overalls. There's a jumper/apron in their future, though. I had no idea I still had them.

The coolest thing? In their long version, before they were cut off, and before they were dyed pink (they were painter's overalls), this: these are what I was wearing the night I met The EGE. That summer, the summer we dated, I came home from college with these white overalls and bought half a dozen pair of white bikini underwear and half a dozen men's white t-shirts and dyed them in sets—using Rit dye, I'm sure, because that's all I knew back then—and I wore those with these overalls all summer long. Later I dyed the overalls pink and cut them off, and I wore them until they began to fall apart and faded almost to white again.
 These were all iron-on things; it was way, way before I ever heard of rubber stamps, back in the 70s. the color has lasted astoundingly well.
 I have no idea where that streak of greenish blue paint came from, but there are a couple others, as well.

 Back then, I stuck exclusively with the split stitch: it's sturdy, it makes a nice solid line, and it reinforces seams really well. None of the stitching (all DMC floss)  has worn out, but, alas, the fabric eventually gave way:
What can you expect, really? These got a lot of wear, and they're almost 40 years old.

I also found another pair of overalls, denim ones that are still full-length and are almost as old, plus a pair of striped/ticking ones I bought at an antique store and never did anything with, probably because I was so creeped out at finding an unwashed bandana handkerchief in the pocket that even laundering them in hot water and bleach couldn't erase the horror.

Then, last week, I came across this site on Christmas Day and spent hours down that rabbit hole and came out feeling changed about the way I've been thinking about my clothes. I'm no longer thinking about what else I might find/make/buy, but about what I can do with what I have already: old jeans, boleros, aprons, jumpers. What can I do to these old garments to make them wearable again? What new skills can I learn? I was intrigued by the part in one of those posts where the guy talked about unraveling fabric to get cotton thread to mend an old garment, and that reminded me of a conversation I had with Keith Lo Bue in Stamford; he's working on his collection of vintage clothing from the early 1900s, mending and patching with appropriate thread and fabric.  I don't think I'll do that, but I could: I've got bins of old denim and old chambray, and I have enough to make a couple garments and enough left over to patch stuff for the rest of my life. Patching: I love the way it looks (not traditional patchwork, but funky handwork) and what it means. Some of the blogs I found down that rabbit hole resonated with me: clothing is so intimate, the closest thing to us, that we need to really think about our relationship to it. What do we use to cover and protect and adorn our bodies? Stuff made from petroleum and plastic? Things created by people in sweat shops halfway around the world? Ugly things we intend to toss out when they're no longer functional? I see people in pilled sweatpants and stretched-out stained t-shirts and wonder how those people would feel if they were wearing, instead, something they loved: a favorite shirt carefully mended by someone who loves them, or something they created themselves or something they'd taken care of for years and years. Would they seem happier and calmer and more centered in their bodies? Would they, I wonder, be healthier? Lots of people tell me they don't really care about what they wear, but I wonder how that can be true: how can you not care about what touches your skin?

I have a workshirt of my father's that his wife gave me when he died. I haven't done much with it—some minor stitching. I'm wondering what I might do with it now. Where might it go, and what might it mean eventually? I have some of the curtains my mother made for my bedroom when I was 11. What might those become? How can I use that fabric to mend something else?

So that's what I'm thinking about. It's exciting. Right now I'm re-working a bolero I made a couple years ago. I'm going back and adding a ton more stitching, and then I'm going to bead it to a fare-thee-well. I plan to do this a lot: take something I've already made and see where we can go together, make each garment a thing of joy, something with hours of work and hours of love and care. I would love to vow that I won't ever buy anything else to wear except new underwear as needed, but I don't know that I can do that yet. Soon, I hope. It's really the only area left to simplify, so it's a fun challenge.

Whatever you're planning for the new year, I hope it's exciting and rewarding, challenging and, gee: fun. Lots and lots of fun in all the ways you enjoy most. XO

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Tina Givens' Marisha Jacket Incarnation #3: The Peter Max Coat

Holy moly, this one was A Project. You've seen it in its earlier stage:

You can read more about it here.

And it was OK, but it wasn't what I wanted. So I started playing around with it and added some stuff to it, and then last Sunday I spent the whole day figuring out where it was going to go. Figuring out size and shape and how many layers I could deal with, feasibly (there were times when I ended up hand stitching through 8 layers of fabric, something I most heartily do NOT recommend). I had to go out and find a CMC splint (carpometacarpal joint stabilizer) to wear to try to help with the pain (it didn't do much, so I spent too much time this past week whinging and wearing microwaved heat mittens).

Anyway, after a week of doing little else except working on it, it's done. I may go back and do something with the blank orange panels at some point, but for now, I'm pleased having them this way. I may also add some sort of closure, some buttons and some jersey pull loops, but I don't know that I would ever wear it buttoned, so I'm letting that wait for now, as well.

So here it is, my Peter Max Coat:

The edges are all beaded; that's what I did all day yesterday.
And with a scarf I made last year that goes perfectly.

Now I've got to start something new, something that will be a lot easier on the thumb joint so it can recover. (It's arthritis, so it's good to know this is not the kind of project I want to do a lot of in the future.)

I'm very pleased with it and can't wait to wear it, like, you know: everywhere. Out, and around the house, and in the studio, and to sleep in. All this work? I may live in this puppy for the rest of my life.

Thanks for coming by! XO

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tina Givens' Marisha Jacket Project So Far

So here's a progress report. Of course I'm obsessed with this pattern, and so of course I'm making more than one. What a surprise, right?

Here's what it looks like on the TG site:
 And here's what it looks like if you make it in the actual size and following the actual pattern.
 Here's the first one I made, below:
 with that tacky Butt Flap:
You can see that I lengthened the front panels. I sewed the bottom all the way to the edge rather than leaving them loose, as you can see in the pattern photo.

I've since removed the Butt Flap and turned under and hand stitched the cut edge:

OK. That was after I made #2, so let's see if I can explain the chronology. I made the red one, #1, and then I made the purple one, below, #2. Then I made #3, which is coming up, below. Then I went back and altered #1, the red one, and then I embellished #2, the purple one. Then I made #4, coming up later, and then I went back and started embellishing #3. It's confusing, but it makes sense to me because I see the construction and the embellishment as two separate projects. Left brain and right brain. Work and play. OK. So here's #2:
 I think I lengthened the front panels a little more. I made the other panels longer, as well, and I flared them a little more at the bottom edges. Instead of having a collar, I reversed it and topstitched so the neckline is a finished edge.
It's finished and now looks like this:

And here's #3:
 I've long been fascinated by the idea of a coat of many colors, and I had a bunch of left-over pieces of linen that weren't enough for a jacket by themselves but that would work with other left-overs.

On this one, I did the same thing with the neckline (no collar), but I didn't topstitch because I had 4 layers of fabric. I used cotton jersey binding, a la Alabama Chanin (as I did in #2), to go around all the edges. I had a bunch left over from other projects and just used that, which was very satisfying. I love finding uses for left-over stuff.
 I'm thinking the back lends itself perfectly to some sort of appliquéd scenery or something. Still mulling over that part.
 I wanted it to be warm, and I had a lot of left-over chunks of cotton jersey, including some raspberry/purple mix that I'm not crazy about on its own but that would be great as a lining. So I lined the whole thing. Not traditional lining, where it's loose and separate from the garment itself, but rather two layers constructed together.
 I kind of mixed it, trying to thwart my natural tendency toward symmetry. Ha.
 So there's that one. I've worn it, and it's warm and very wearable, but it was way too blocky and boring, so I've started a long, tedious appliqué process on it. I started that yesterday: right now I'm hand stitching circles of color all up and down each sleeve. I *loathe* working on sleeves after they're already in place, but there's no way in hell I'm going to take them off, so. . . .It will take a long while, but it will be fabulously colorful when I'm done.

But before I started embellishing #3, I made #4, below, from upholstery-weight hand-dyed linen sent to me as a gift. On this one, I didn't even want to try to top-stitch the seams because the fabric was so thick, so I thought I'd do raw edges. I also shortened the front panels even shorter than the original pattern and made longer flaps so I could flap the front over more. I zigzagged around all the cut-out pieces before I started putting the jacket together so the edges would ravel but not too much. I've never done this before, and I made some mistakes somehow: when I washed the jacket, some of the seams unraveled. Plus I got carried away and tossed it in the wash before I trimmed and zigzagged the bottom edge, which is the last part of the construction. So there was a huge mess, with tons of random linen lint EVERYWHERE (The EGE took it outside and shook it out reallyreallyreally hard for me. It was dark, and the next morning when we looked out, it looked like orange snow in the driveway), and I had to mend a bunch of seams before it was even completely dry. Next time I'll do a tighter zigzag and be more careful about seam placement.

But! The good news is that I love it a lot, never mind that I haven't worn it yet.
 Above: obviously, I didn't get the jacket centered on Ricë. One side isn't that much lower than the other.

 Although the fabric around the button and buttonhole, below, looks different, it's the same. It was sewn on after the jacket was laundered, so it hasn't frayed yet. I stitched it in place on the machine and then hand-stitched.

We went to the yarn shop yesterday and I bought some special floss for it in oranges that are close but not exact. I'll do some easy hand stitching on it at some point.

So that's what I've done so far with this pattern. I had thought I'd keep lengthening the front panels and make it into a regular coat. You know, that meets all the way down the front. But I realized that I hardly ever wear a coat that way; it's always loose and open. I wear layers of stuff, and this jacket is perfect the way it was designed: the front can be buttoned, but it's open the rest of the way down, and layers show really nicely. Plus it's easier to walk in. So I think I'll stick to the shorter front panels after all. I do want to tweak the top: the shoulders could be wider and the underarm part be narrower: in other words, that whole shape could be more blocky instead of being so wide under the arms and narrow at the shoulders. I'll keep the huge pockets; that's one of my favorite parts. I'd like to make one with gores added in, but I can get that same effect, I think, by widening the bottom edge a little more. It feels like anything is possible.

What's next? I want to make on out of chambray from cut-up shirts, but first I need to, duh: cut up the shirts. Then I've got the 30 yards of linen I just dyed, so I could make jackets in orange and green and blue and deep hot pink. I don't know yet; I'm just kind of going along one at a time, seeing what seems like it wants to be next.

So here they are, #1-#4:

The thing I hope y'all get out of this is what some of you were telling me in the first place: you make things your own. As you work with anything—a pattern, a technique, a medium, a skill—you learn it, but you also learn about yourself through it: what's comfortable for you, what challenges you love, what things make you mental, what things you'd like to learn. For instance, as I worked with this, I discovered I like working with raw edges but need to practice my skills (I don't want a serger, but I've got to work out the optimal settings for zigzagging. I don't really like the look of zigzag stitches, but they're useful, so I need to deal with my reluctance to use it). On this pattern, I pushed it in one direction (longer front panels) and then backed off. I had to do it to see what it would look like and to experiment, but now I'm done with that experiment and will try something else.

I can never make just one of anything unless I don't like it, and I seldom even get involved with something unless I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it. If I use a pattern for a garment, I almost always end up making *a lot*. The dress I made when I was subbing—I've mentioned that before—that I ended up making 50 times. Most people cringe at the idea, but my brain adores that. It's repetitive, but it's experimental at the same time. I'm pretty sure I won't make 50 of these, in large part because that would be 150 yards of linen, and that makes my eyes cross. Dyeing and prepping 30 yards was a multi-day task, with enough lint floating around to make carpet.

OK. Lots to do today. A walk while it's nice (it's supposed to be 75 degrees today and then 42 tomorrow), laundry, more stitching on #3. I want to get outside this afternoon while it's warm and disassemble chambray shirts; too messy to do in the house.

Thanks for coming by! I hope you're having a lovely weekend~~XO