I love it when this happens: a whole new world of possibilities opens up right before my eyes and I know that this Thing, whatever it is, is going to take me for a wild ride. This happened last night, and I wanted to talk about what sparked it because while I hope it happens for you, I know it doesn't happen for everybody, and it's such a hugehugehuge part of what makes my life fabulous that I hope I can help you figure out how to make it happen more often in your own life.
Here's what's fabulous:
And here's what got me there:
But never mind. I'm a huge fan of the concept of Alabama Chanin. I have all the books, see?
in fact, even now I can wear it only when it's "fresh"; after a little while, it stretches out and I have to keep hitching it up. Any more adjusting, though, would interfere with the appliqué, which was not one of the stencils in the book, obviously.
The second book was OK but kind of a disappointment to me as it had recipes, and for me, any pages with recipes are just wasted space. The EGE gives me a continuing subscription to O Magazine, and I love it (fabulous writers!), but I always skip over the pages about food and recipes (and also the ones about hair and make-up. Geez, come to think of it, I skip over a *bunch* of pages. I'm probably missing a huge whack of stuff, but I care nothing about those things, and life is too short to spend time reading about stuff that doesn't interest me. Especially when it's geared to getting me to--duh--buy stuff).
Anyway--so I was a little leery of ordering Book #3, but I had to have it to round out my collection, right? I seldom buy brand-new books sight unseen--I either buy cheapo used books from amazon.com or I order a book I've seen in Barnes and Noble and know I have to have. But to order a book cold? Yikes. It was like $27 plus shipping or something, and I almost didn't do it.
Man, am I glad I did. This book is sparking all *kinds* of ideas.
No, it's not the garments--I wouldn't wear either of these, above, for instance. And it's obviously not the colors--there's not a single color in this book that makes my heart sing. And it's not the angry-looking 16-year-old models, for sure (why is it that they can't have adult women model clothes? Oh, wait: I forgot. Everyone now officially Hates Women. Of course they don't want to see us as models. Right. Got it. Never mind.)
So it's not the things I see on these pages; it's the *possibilties* I find there. I love her explanations of the design process, and I love what she says about having a wardrobe of basic pieces. What I love most, though, is that seeing what you can do by hand has inspired me to think about my own wardrobe in an entirely different way. This came home to me stunningly this weekend, when I decided to alter a linen tunic I'd already altered several times. I started ripping out and sewing in the machine and realized I just hate it. Totally hate it. Now, I have four sewing machines. Two of them I love. In THEORY I love them, but there's something weird that happens whenever I use them. My seams are wonky. The tension is never right. It's like a constant battle, and I don't know why. As much as I love sewing by hand, I hate sewing by machine exactly that much. It could be so many things: my aversion to Rules, the fact that my mother was an EXCELLENT seamstress/machine sewer (she didn't much care for hand sewing that I know of), the fact that that kind of sewing is too nuclear and rigid and not anywhere near funky. It could be any of those or all of those. Or something else entirely.
So I had that new book, and it's about sewing by hand (everything is done totally by hand) with cotton jersey. Old t-shirts, originally: the first book had a lot about using old t-shirts; now that they're selling organic cotton jersey for $17.95 a yard, they don't much mention t-shirts. Duh. So I got to thinking about this, about how I might try some garments (the book comes with sheets of patterns you trace off), and I thought I'd go to the fabric store and see what they had in the way of cotton jersey. Not much, but they had 100% cotton interlock on sale for $6.99 a yard, and while I had no idea if it would work, I liked the weight and texture of it and bought two yards of an insipid pale blue. Why buy a color I find insipid? Because I'd dyed some leggings with Sky Blue and Wedgewood Blue and really liked the way they turned out and wanted to try some more on a different base color.
Because I tie dye with rubber bands, and because the agitation of the washing machine loosens the bands and because I don't want them going into the belly of the machine and forcing me to buy yet ANOTHER washing machine (I am, as you might imagine, kind of hard on washing machines--I get the very most basic Kenmore, the one that will let me do everything manually so I can adjust things as necessary. A front-loader? Forgettaboutit: you have to be able to open the lid multiple times during dyeing. So: in order to keep rubber bands from coming loose and going down in the those little drain holes, I keep the agitation to a minimum when I'm tie-dyeing.
Then: when I started trying to give things a denim/chambray color, I bought Sky Blue and Wedgewood Blue dye. They looked reallyreallyreally close in the catalog, and the person I talked to didn't really know which one was more chambray-colored. So I got both and tried the Sky Blue first. It was insipid, too--that fake pastel blue that makes my teeth ache. So I mixed up a bunch of Wedgewood and dumped it in. With only a very, very tiny bit of agitating. The results were fabulous. Here's a linen tunic that was white:
So this morning I got up and started looking at this stuff--this yardage of tie-dyed interlock and this book, and I was thinking about my Journal Shawls, the things I used to make out of cotton with images and text and embroidery and beading. They were way cool, but I never really loved them because they were a couple layers of woven cotton = they didn't drape and were too stiff and were really hard to wear. They were more display pieces--and, in, fact, that's what most people did with them when they bought them: hung them on the wall.
I've always wanted something I could do a lot to and then wear comfortably, and suddenly I have these ideas for lots of surface design on cotton interlock or jersey (I read the technical explanation of the difference between these--multiple needles in the bed, for instance, and it means nothing to me), so what I'll do is order some jersey from DharmaTrading.com for less than $5 a yard, since I have no need of the organic cotton jersey Alabama Chanin sells for $17.95 a yard. I'm glad organic cotton jersey exists, but if I paid that for a yard of fabric, I'd be paralyzed. There's no way I'd start dyeing it and cutting it and experimenting to find out what it would do.
This afternoon after my Annual Physical with Mendez, involving much hilarity and trading of insults, I went over and bought 5 more yards of the interlock, this time in white. I'm washing it now with a little bleach and then will dye some of it pink + fuchsia, and then I'm going to start thinking of all the other possibilities. Book #3 has instructions for a really simple poncho--just a length of fabric with one seam--and I'm making one out of the blue. I'll wear it and test it and see what tweaks it needs, and then I can begin thinking of the embellishments I want to do. Stitching. Beading. Writing? Stamping text? I have no idea--I don't know what I want to try, but I think it will be perfect: I'm always cold and always carry something with me in the summer to put on whenever I go into a store or office. Making a bunch of these in all sorts of variations would be perfect.
Or so it seems right now. Tomorrow something else may hit me. I'm working on Twirly #2, and that's still exciting. I've got some other alterations going on. I'm still clearing out my closets and getting rid of things I don't wear--I'm taking a couple of things every week over to Trish to sell for me. That feels good. My goal, as I'm sure I've said many times, is to have a wardrobe of stuff I love, each piece unique, embellished, comfortable and colorful and--the biggie!--something that makes me happy whenever I put it on.
What are the elements that lead up to this particular "aha" moment, the moment I began dancing around the house and talking REALLYFASTANDLOUD because I realized that Anything is Possible?
~~my constant source of inspiration has always been, ever since high school, Native Funk & Flash. That's always in the back of my head, those one-of-a-kind garments lovingly made by hand with no thought to what's stylish or hip. I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: for me, this is the best book ever written. It literally changed my life, even though I didn't know it at the time.
~~Alabama Chanin--that it's possible to sew with knit and do it all by hand
~~the vagaries of Dyeing Without a Net: I learned to do it The Right Way, timing and measuring and following instructions, and now I ignore all of that and experiment.
~~the things I've done in the past--the Journal Shawls, the Journal Skirts--things that worked and things that didn't quite work and things I dreamed but didn't know how to execute.
This is how it always works for me, putting these bits and pieces into my brain and letting it mix and stir. For me, it never works to go look at other people's stuff: that just makes me depressed. Because the things I love are things that aren't popular, I'm not going to see inspiration in shops or galleries. There I just see things that depress me in their predictability. Even artwear, even cool clothes--it just doesn't usually do much for me. I need the bits and pieces of stuff grabbed from here and over there and way up on that shelf, all disparate, all quirky. Dump all those in the pot, and let my brain play around with them.
Then there are the things that kill it for me. Today was like that: I had to get dressed and get out of the house (the physical) and then run a couple errands, and by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was lie down with a bottle of vodka. And I don't even drink vodka. Being out in the world is exhausting. I saw people I liked, and I even talked about my project--this thing I'm making, this poncho--because I had it with me. And while the people were nice and listened politely, it was obvious--of course it was: they were normal, regular people--that they had no idea why I sounded so excited by this length of knit fabric. As long as I'm at home working, it's as if the whole world shares my enthusiasm about whatever-it-is that I'm doing. Out in The Real World, it's obvious that I'm exactly like the weird old guy standing in the middle of his yard gazing up at birds in the sky and going, "Wow."
I was telling someone the other day, someone who's trying to decide whether or not they want to do a podcast with me, that if they're not excited by the idea, I'd just rather forget it. All by myself, I've got enough enthusiasm to power the world. But put me with someone who doesn't have any, and trying to generate enough to share? It's exhausting. It makes me want to lie down. + vodka. Or maybe scotch. No, wait: I tried that one time; it tasted like engine cleaner.
OK. So that's kind of what it's like. Putting little bits and pieces in your head and letting things perk. It's fabulous, and I hope it happens in your own head. Now my load of fabric is ready for the dryer, and I'm going to go stitch on my poncho-ette thing--got to make the test one to see what needs tweaking. I would already be in there working on it, but I kind of need some other colors of floss--these aren't colors I usually use, and the floss book shows me the perfect colors, which are, alas, colors I do not have. I could drive all the way across town, but I'm hoping that when The EGE finished running, he'll need to go to the store for something--I HATE driving all that way just for floss. Probably $1's worth of gas for $2 worth of string. Sigh.
I'll try to be better about reporting back--I always think I'm going to post every day and show photos, but I get so wrapped up in the work and then the projects that I think, "OK, so I'll do it tomorrow, then." And then when the next day's almost over, "OK, then DEFINITELY tomorrow," and then. . . .You know how it goes.
So tell me: do these Anything is Possible moments happen for you? What do they feel like? What sparks them?
Let's go make something~~XO