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Midland, Texas, United States
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

This Week

Here's the stuff I just finished today, popping it in the laundry to shred (the bottom edge of the duster) and soften up.
 It's a duster and an apron, each from a pattern I created myself and have been constantly tweaking in the meantime. The duster has a raw bottom edge, a gore on one side, and handmade double-fold bias tape from the scraps of the linen. Yes, indeed, I'm pleased with myself for being able to make that binding. You betcha.
 The apron has all the edges double-folded and stitched, like handkerchief edges, kind of, I think (although I don't really know if that's what they are or not). Except, that is, for the top of the pockets, which is just the selvedge. If I don't like that white stripe, I can stitch onto it or turn it under or make more bias tape like I used for the duster. No biggie. I like it because, like the frayed edge of the duster, you can see the different colors that make up the fabric.
 I like the low back. It keeps the apron from looking too fuddy-duddy and domestic-y. Also from being too hot.
 What I learned from this apron, my most recent, is that I need to make the neckline narrower and bring the straps in if I'm going to turn under and stitch. This was sized for using binding, and by the time I roll under the edge, the neckline's too wide, and the straps slip off my shoulders. Plus it's still a little too wide on the hips, esp. if I'm going to leave it open on the side (from right under the pocket) and add a gore. So this morning I made another pattern and moved it in about an inch, maybe a little less.

Then this duster, same pattern, finished earlier in the week. It nearly drove me nuts: cotton rayon velvet fabric I found in the storage building, in the bin marked, duh, Velvet, and orange silk rayon velvet (I dyed it long ago) cut into bias strips and folded once (and ironed and rolled to set the fold) for the binding. I used a ton of pins, and it still crawled. I resorted to using a glue stick in some places just to hold it steady long enough to get it stitched. It doesn't really matter because I don't plan on making a lot of stuff out of velvet, although I might someday make one more, this time out of all silk/rayon. Not any time soon, though. I've got this and also a silk/rayon velvet Magnolia Pearl duster, given to me by Robin when we went down to meet them for the interview. So I'm pretty well covered with the velvet dusters.

What I love about this one is the bottom edge, which is a lot of fun to wear. Well, I haven't actually worn it yet, but it's fun to put on and twirl around in.  It's 82 degrees here, hardly velvet duster weather. But I think it's going to get cooler this week, so maybe~~
 The photo above is dorky; I wouldn't wear it like that, but I wanted to give you an idea of how it fits. I may later add a tiny hook and eye right at the edge up there, but not yet, not until I wear it some and see what it needs. It's meant to be loose, like this:
 I used only purple thread, even on the rose and knots, so that nothing shows on the inside.
 I may add more roses. At first I'd thought to add half a dozen or so but thought I'd wear it first. They're kind of heavy, so I want to check how it flows and drapes.
 The knots look like frou=frou bows, but they're just knots. It feels like a court jester's coat to me, and I love that.


 This is how I stitched the dangling ends of the binding. I can always remove them if they bug me. Right now, though, they're my favorite part.




So that's what I've done this week, along with giving away more stuff and preparing to give away even more: I've got 10 more garments, things that I thought I'd keep forever, ready to box up and send to Wendy. Yes, it feels fabulous. When I get finished with this part of the journey, I plan to take photos of my two closets. The hangers are—gasp!—not even touching! Since y'all didn't see my closets before this began, it isn't that big a deal, maybe. But to me? Not being able to see what was in there for decades? And having "off-season" clothes all out in the storage building and STILL not being able to see what was in the closets? It's amazing. Really, totally amazing. And I'm not done yet~~

The very most exciting part: as I get rid of more and more, an increasingly higher percentage of what's left is stuff I made from "patterns" I created just for me. My only regret is that I didn't start this decades ago. But it's only a tiny, tiny regret: I'm just now old enough to fully appreciate the adventure.

Thanks for coming by—now back to the cutting table to use up some more of that sale linen. Woot~~

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Very Good Week

I've had an amazing time, and I wanted to share, of course. I seem to have had another revelation about clothes this week, deciding without knowing I was doing it that I would like to have a wardrobe made up as much as possible from things I've made myself, rather than things I thrifted or thrifted-then-altered or whatever.  I interviewed a designer for an upcoming issue of Bel Armoire, someone I met in Santa Fe in 2002, and she said she wears only clothes of her own design, that everything she designs for her shop is something she makes to fill a spot in her own wardrobe. I love this idea, and it stuck in my head; so I'm weeding out yet more fabulous stuff that I didn't make to make room for things that I did. I have the core of jersey dresses and leggings and t-shirts and tank tops and jeans, and maybe someday, before very long, everything else will be something I designed and made myself. I'm sending at least one box a week to my friend Wendy in Austin, weeding out things that are fabulous but that I didn't make.

This began when I made that duster thing, the one I cut out without a pattern and sewed up and love, and here's where I am today.

First of all, the core dresses, the inexpensive cotton jersey ones from Dharma Trading that I got years ago and dyed. I've begun cutting off the sleeveless ones, since there's no reason for long dresses when it's hot enough for no sleeves. I've done three so far, making a self binding out of the cut-off part. These hit right below my knee, the perfect length. And because they flare out below the waist, they're easy to wear and sit in without being bulky under other stuff.
 I've also cut off some of the aprons that were calf-length and longer. This one was a Cynthia Ashby I dyed and altered, and now I've cut it off more and made pockets out of the part I cut off (it had weirdly-placed pockets out of vintage hankies, which is way too frou-frou for my taste). I don't know if I'll keep it, ultimately, or not. Depends. For now, I'm liking it, even though it wasn't my own pattern.


 Then there's this gray apron, which I showed last time, I think, made from a CA linen tank dress. Since I showed it to you, I added the appliqué, which I love. Although it's not made from scratch, it's pretty much my own pattern, since I mostly just used the fabric, changing the neck and sides and armholes and length and, well, pretty much everything. I added the pockets from the part I cut off.

 Added a gore because the bottom was too straight and tight to move in freely.

 Then something I'm having fun thinking about. I have two charm bracelets and a lot of other silver charms. Since I don't wear much jewelry any more (too heavy for the joints in hands and neck), I'm going to add the charms to clothes I make. Here's a raven/crow I bought in Port Townsend one year on the way to Artfest, where there were a LOT of these guys The EGE photographed. We're all Edgar Allen Poe around here with this one:
 I'll see how he does through the laundry; I can always just pin them on with cool safety pins, or I can baste a little protective pocket around them before I wash them. Should work out fine. Not like they're really precious to me or anything.

The skull worked out OK after all, even though I screwed it up initially during a rant about Ted Cruz.
 Then the duster, which I'm loving a lot. I showed it to you when I was just starting to work on i. It's the one I cut without a pattern and *then* went back and made a pattern from it:
Here it is now. I made bias tape from bias-cut strips of the linen to do the binding around the front and neck, leaving the sleeve ends raw (it's the selvedge, so no problem) and the bottom edges just machine stitched to prevent raveling but otherwise being allowed to fray a little.

 The skull on the back is just a slightly larger version.

 Then the one I just finished yesterday, so of course it's my current favorite.
 It's out of some really funky heavy linen on clearance. It was a horrid green, and I realized I couldn't live with it, so after I make the duster and got the velvet binding pinned in place, I had to take it off and haul out the chartreuse dye and fix it. It worked, and now I love it. Here it is over the first from-my-own-pattern apron, which I also just shortened. The pink dress doesn't go, but I haven't shortened the purple one yet. Let's pretend, OK?

 The binding and rose are from silk/rayon velvet from a dress, some fancy designer thing that was just not going to work for me. Cut strips on the bias, folded and ironed, sewed over the raw edge (which was sewn first on the machine to prevent raveling). For the rose, I just sewed a bunch of petals and then layered them and sewed them in place.
 Sewn with silk floss. I tried to get good close-ups, but the color washed out when I got too close.
 Really proud of my velvet rose, even though the placement (at the point of the gore) doesn't work as well as I'd hoped. It's sewn in place, mostly to see how it launders. Made of the same velvet as the binding, cut in strips on the bias. The leaves are from silk ribbon removed from a thrifted garment. if it shreds through the laundry, next time I can just pin one in place. I can buy and dye silk velvet when I run out, so this is something exciting to me.

 I'm also working on side slits and uneven edges, still working to get myself away from symmetry and rigidity.
 So that's what I've been up to this week. My goal for this coming week is to resist buying any more sale linen. I now officially have enough to keep me busy experimenting at least until autumn. First, though, I want to make the cotton velvet I found in the storage building into a duster, trimmed in bright orange silk velvet. I can't wait, and I hope to cut it out this afternoon, sewing the edges to stabilize them and getting ready to work on it. Velvet is scary to me, really tough for a non-sewer (machine sewer) to work with. I just have to keep telling myself that anything I screw up on the machine, I can fix by hand. That's the only way for me to look at this stuff: I can't follow patterns, and I can't machine stitch for shit, but I can mend like nobody's business! Yeah, buddy~~

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let's Try Dictation, Shall We?

So I thought it would be fun to try dictation since so many of y'all suggested that it would be a good way for me to be able to do blog posts without having to type and hurt my fingers and it's really weird to be sitting here talking to myself loudly and clearly and enunciate in every single syllable but it's worth a try if it will help and make things easier and if Wayne Newton can understand what I'm saying.

Okay so that whole first paragraph and the swing two [--this one, too--] was typed exactly as I said it there some comp is [commas]missing and the editor in he wants to change it but I think I'll just leave it like it is so you can see this is the very first time I've ever done this and it works pretty well except when it decides that I've said enough it just stops and then printed [prints it] out so I'm sitting here talking and nothing is happen [ing]

Ok. This is me typing now. You can see, above, that some things are kind of wonky, but that may well be my fault. I think there's a way to tell Wayne Newton I want punctuation, but I kind of tend to talk in long run-on sentences, anyway. Don't most of us?

It would be great if it would 1) show the words as I say them, instead of waiting until it decides I've said enough and 2) *not* decide that I've said enough and let me just keep going. But I think there's hope here, and thank y'all for encouraging me to give it a try. I knew it was possible, I just haven't ever played around with it.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Here's what I'm doing with the duster this morning.




 Before I did any more to it, I wanted to have a pattern of what I did in case I love everything about it and want to make another exactly like it. I laid it out, folded some brown paper in half, and traced around half the duster. This is a no-brainer, of course, nothing to it; the reason I'm showing you is so you can see how easy this is and be inspired to try something you've been thinking about but that seemed Too Hard. Eh. Start with something, start anywhere. The more I play around with this stuff, the more confident I feel. I actually caught myself thinking last night, "I can do anything!" with a little burst of oh-wow-excitement. Now, given that I don't know how motors or electricity works and can't remember anything at all from trigonometry except that it almost killed me, the chances that I can do *anything* are not too likely. But it feels huge, the possibilities out there.

The arrow indicates that it goes on for however much fabric there is, or until it's the length I want. That part is all variable because it doesn't affect the fit.
Since I didn't measure anything, I figured I'd better have some record of what size it was before I finished the seams and stuff. That's what I'm going to do now.


Thanks for all the suggestions—I really appreciate them, and you! XO

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quick Peek

I'm still trying to figure out how to share as much as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. It's not that I don't love y'all, because I do, and I really appreciate people stopping by and commenting, and I hope to provide inspiration. But writing posts takes up sewing time and, so much worse, is painful. Yes, I have gotten to the horrible place where typing hurts. It's my thumb, and I'm trying to come to accept that I'm going to have to Have Something Done. If it doesn't improve (not the arthritis improve, but the apparent inflammation that has made it suddenly a lot worse), I'll go visit The Hand Guy again. There are options, I know—NSAIDS, injections, replacement. Eeeeeeek.

Anyway, so less typing. Just some photos of what's exciting to me right, esp. this first one. {Note: we see, below, how well that idea works.]

I want to make simple linen dusters. I don't know why; I have enough already. But the challenge kept nagging at me, and this past weekend I found linen on sale. I went in to buy 2 yards of heavy black linen for an apron jumper thing, and it was 30% off. The woman at the fabric shop is a serious enabler, though, and she took me all around the store to the tables where the clearance stuff was, linen that was 70% off. So you know I had to get some, even though it was in colors I don't usually buy, like this black and grey striped stuff. I figured this was the best opportunity I'd ever have to just jump in and try it without the worry of ruining the fabric (normally, linen bought locally is $17-18 a yard; I try to buy all my linen from Dharma Trading, at less than half that, but 1) there's no immediate fix when you get an idea, and 2) they don't have black.

Anyway, so 2 yards was nothing, and I washed it and then yesterday laid it out and just jumped in, no measuring, no pattern. I did lay a Flax duster on top of the fabric, just to get an idea of size, but no marking. Just folding and cutting. Here's where we are now:
 Straight from the neckline kimono sleeves. I didn't know if the fabric would be drapey enough to make this work without the sleeves sticking out, but it's perfect so far.
 I'm leaving the sleeve ends and bottom raw, I think. I stay stitched the bottom to prevent raveling; the sleeves went to the selvedges

I'm planning to add pockets and then also a gore on one side. Today I want to finish the seams and the front edges.
 I've been playing around a little with possibilities for taking up some in the back, if I decide it needs it. Not having a plan or a pattern or any structural constraints is incredibly freeing, and the possibilities for experimentation are pretty exciting.
 Below you can see the sleeve shape:


 Then there's this Free People cotton sweater I thrifted a couple years ago, dyed purple (it was white) and wore a couple times. But it's oversized, and while I love that, theoretically, big boxy stuff just swallows me. I get tangled up in it, and it hangs funny, and it just didn't work. Plus I'd been wondering about cutting into a sweater and how I might stabilize the edges. I've done it before on the Yoolies, but it's been a while, and I thought it would be interesting to see if I'd do it differently this time.

Turns out, no. I played around with it, machine stitching and then cutting and then doing it over, a little shorter, and then whip stitching. Turns out I still like what I did before, so I did it again.




 Then there's my beloved 1930s-40s silk smoking jacket, made crazy-patch style with silk ties and rayon (I think) embroidery stitches. I got a great deal on it because it needed mending, and I worked on it back then and then washed and dried it (Yes: I wasn't wearing it because it creeped me out, even though it looked clean and had no odor at all), and then of course I had to work on it some more. This time I really got into it. I bought a bunch of lovely, kitten-soft silk floss and used that. I wanted brighter colors; there's no reason not to, as I have no interest in keeping it "authentic," whatever that might be.

 I used only the Cretan stitch; I love the way it looks.

 People have given me incredible snippets of silk; the one below has beads and metal thread, like wire.

 I used some ties, too. Just much brighter ones!

Below is a piece of velvet from the dress my mother made me when I was tiny. I'm finding homes for all the last few tiny pieces on various garments.

 I used some metallic thread over some of the patches that were stable but just butt ugly colors. I don't know how I feel about it. I love the shiny but not the rough, so I don't know that I'll use it again. Maybe. Just wish it were softer.
 I love this stitch, whatever it is. I need to look it up. Looks like a variation on a blanket stitch, doesn't it?
 I need to really work on the satin stitch. I'm not good at it. I love the silk floss so much I did a little on some of the worn places. Baby steps. I love the look of well-done, completely smooth satin stitch, but I think I'll have to adjust my expectations, since I've never been able to get there.
I want to rework the cotton velvet frog closures (move one to the other side, so they're both on the same side) and sew on the perfect buttons: made from shells. Not shaped and filed into buttons: actual shells, drilled with holes to be buttons. I don't know where I got them, but they're perfect.  So I can wear it tomorrow, maybe. It may be my last chance: it's been in the 80's this week, just gorgeous and sunny, but tomorrow's supposed to be in the 60s. Bleah, but a good day to wear this baby.

OK, NO MORE TYPING. See, this is my problem: I have all this stuff I want to tell you, and I get carried away, and the next thing I know it's pages later. It's why I do more and more on Facebook, never mind my love/hate relationship with it: I can share stuff, but it limits how much I type.

Anyway, thanks so much for coming by. I hope something sparks an idea for you! XO