Tuesday, April 30, 2013

springtime 6PAC overview

Didn't quite complete the full six garments I'd planned, but the five that are finished are already integrated into my everyday wardrobe...

black denim overall pinafore

blue denim pinafore + black print cotton voile top

blue tee shirt

brown multi-print dress

The only 6PAC garment unfinished is the dark denim apron, which will get completed as part of my SWAP 2013... and now, on the the summertime 6PAC fun!!  I'm taking the advice of Elizabeth, the originator of the 6PAC concept, who had this to say about my admittedly somewhat insane idea of sewing another twelve garments... to fill in the gaps in my wardrobe...in the next three months (in addition to my regular work). She said:
"Indigo, I like your analysis, but let's take your double sixes and divide into useful groups of six.  So let's say for summer you do -- the summer dresses (4), plus a tee and a pair of loose trousers.  Then in autumn you can add overalls, two more tees, and three underdresses to warm up your pinnies. Yes? No?"
I have chosen some stashed rayon fabrics for more summer dresses, some textured linen in an interesting variation on waffle weave for loose pants, and all I need now is to come up with a bright idea for another tee shirt...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday musings

It was such an odd and harmless whim that I couldn't resist... Sometimes our plucky heroine gets tired of not having eyebrows, so last night I drew some line and dots designs on my face where the eyebrows should be.
I think eyebrows add another layer of expression.
but with or without eyebrows, I believe in the truth of the sign on my bathroom mirror: " Beauty has many faces. This one is your very own ♥ "


Yesterday I wrote on my thoughts about having a wardrobe of just enough:
"I actually like to have a basic set of eight clothes* rather than five,
so that it is theoretically possible to go for a week without needing to do laundry!"
Today whilst putting the laundry away, I decided to actually looksee how I was doing in that respect... Not as badly as I had imagined, and having looked, I can now do a better job of planning my future sewing for the year.
  • I have 8+ knit tops already, so those will only need replacement sewing when/as they wear out.
  • I only have 5 tee shirts, so adding to that cache will be useful, (and there are at least two more in the works currently).
  • I have 8 pinafores, 2 of which are starting to wear out, so replacing those (one brown, one grey) will be a good idea.
  • I have 4 summer dresses, so that category may move near the top of the priority list, particularly as two of those are very wornout
  • I have 5 underdresses, all of which are in good condition, but I intend to make a few more of those as well, since they work well worn not-under-a-pinafore for all but the hottest of summer days.
  • I have no pants. (Boy howdy does that sentence sound a bit raunchy) I think that one or two loose Marcy Tilton pants would be a great idea for summertime, just in case there is a chance for either woods-walking or a trip to the beach. Making a pair of overalls would be a great idea, as that is my very favorite kind of bifurcated nether-garment.
Let's do the math: 3 tee shirts + 3 underdresses + 4 summer dresses + 1 pair pants + 1 pair overalls = 12... That looks like several months of spare time sewing; fortunately all those are things that I have TNT (tried and true) patterns for.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

M3 2013...why not?

It's almost that time of year again... time for Zoe's MeMadeMay. For obvious reasons this was a no-go last year, but it has been a lot of fun when I did it in the past (MeMadeMay 2010, SelfStitchedSeptember 2010, and MeMadeMarch 2011). Since pledging to wear a me-made garment each day is pretty easy for me, I am going to pledge to get better at learning to take pictures of me wearing my clothing, I think that I remember seeing a tripod somewhere in one of the closets here, which might let me take pictures somewhere other than on the front porch...

Watching the slideshows of the former "Me-Made" challenges, it is obvious to me that the reason that my everyday wardrobe is looking rather tatty around the edges is that a lot of those clothes are two or three years old, and being in heavy rotation due to having in intensive rather than extensive wardrobe. Making up some new clothes is not just a fun idea, but it is needful. I don't have a closet full of more clothing than I use, but have yet to find a good idea of the timing for replacement sitchery. In long past years I would stitch up four or five new dresses a year, to wear as festival clothes to the Oregon Country Fair, Then that year after Fair, those would become my "better" clothes, and the ones from the previous year would get moved to the "work" clothing category, and anything left after two years would become "grubby" gear...

I actually like to have a basic set of eight clothes* rather than five, so that it is theoretically possible to go for a week without needing to do laundry! The clothes closet has never yet made it that far, but it is a goal... that combined with a pair or two of overalls, a pair or two of loose pants, and an assortment of outerwear and underwear, makes a very tidy, unextravagent wardrobe. Rather like the "Not So Big House" movement, where a smaller house allows for a greater quality of materials and density of design, my Not So Big wardrobe allows me to pay a great deal of attention to the various components.

8 pinafores
8 underdresses
8 knit tops
8 tee shirts
8 summer dresses

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I am not the 1%

Yesterday our plucky heroine took herself off to see the Alabama Chanin trunk show which was held at a downtown boutique. This was an experience both very pleasurable and very awful...

The shop that hosted this event was not the sort of shop I would ever set foot in voluntarily, being the sort of shop intended for the small subset of folks that might actually purchase Alabama Chanin clothing retail. That known, I put on my most dressy artist clothes, left my everyday knapsack at home in favor of a leather pocketbook, and set out to see what I could see... I did ask permission from the "doorkeeper" if I was allowed to take photographs, and was assured it was permitted, but when I went upstairs to the floor with the women's garments I was immediately accosted by the saleswomen, in a way that left me wondering if I had inadvertently stepped in farmyard leavings on my way up the stairs... Not since I was a young student, and was followed closely while shopping in the suspicion that I might shoplift have I been made to feel so out of place; truly if they had been looking any further down their noses, I would have not only seen their nostrils but under their chins...

Since there were no other customers, I was able to look at the garments set out, but was forbidden to take more than a few pictures; and as I was not placing an order, I could only dream of the delights that were inside the design notebooks that hold examples of the various combinations of stenciling, stitchery, beadwork that make up the surface design vocabulary of Alabama Chanin.

I was particularly taken with the use of wide bands along the armscye  and neckline edge of some sleeveless garments, a sort of "non-facing"  facing, that added substance to those edges

The fabrics are thinner than I expected, which gives the garments quite a  bit more drape than might be expected, even double layers had a  softness to them.

One thing I learned on this expedition was that most of the hand stitchery is at the large/long end of the spectrum she suggests in her books, more 1/4" than 1/8".

There was some use of variegated floss which added a subtle richness to the embroidery, and a variety of ways to fasten garments closed, from tie cords, to crochet-covered snaps, to loops and self-covered shank buttons.

It was a real treat to be inspired, to get a sense of the hand of the fabrics used, and to be able to see the details of her garments in person.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Japanese art lesson

shunyata : a Sanskrit noun usually translated as emptiness

when I was young there was so much I wanted,
and all I thought I had to offer was the empty place between my legs

now I remember that negative space is partnered to what we notice,
and only when they both are in harmony is it possible to make great art

notan : a Japanese design concept involving the play and placement of light and dark

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

equilateral cogitation

The fear of making a mistake or of getting it wrong stops many people from even trying and it's through the process of trying, experimenting, seeing what happens, getting it wrong, correcting, improving, and ultimately growing our skills that we learn. Allowing fear to intrude holds us back from some amazing creative journeys. Put one step forward.
~Myrna Geisbrecht
Our plucky heroine reads an assortment of blogs regularly, many but not all of which give a glimpse into the lives of artists and artisans near and far. Myrna Geisbrecht writes regularly about her sewing process and thoughts, and always starts my day with something to think about, but her comment today about not being stopped by fear seemed so resonant to me, not just about the way that fear holds us back from creativity, but in so many other parts of our lives as well. While there are times when caution is vital and lifesaving, there are other times when the only danger is our own fear. I hope to improve my ability to know the difference, and to let my heart and hands free...

came home Monday from another excellent visit to my Seattle pals over the weekend... now am almost but not quite caught up on sleep. As always, there are all sorts of thoughts running round my brain that in time will be gathered in and given a thorough examination as to potential usefulness/increased resiliency. (am beginning to wonder how many prior life-actions were based on inaccurate assumptions) This seems to be shaping into a year of doing things differently, in an assortment of ways...


Another tenday has been added to the 2013 Sewing With A Plan deadline, which will have the contest ending on 10 May 1013 instead of at the end of April. This is a good thing, since our plucky but absent-minded heroine left her project bag up in Seattle on the dining table. In my family-of-origin, leaving something behind was said to mean that you were asking to return soon...

The other reason that the contest has been extended is that one of the Global Moderators over on Stitchers Guild, Ann Rowley, has been a participant in the Great British Sewing Bee, a BBC 4 part television show intended to find Britain's best home sew-er. I have been really enjoying watching it as the various episodes have been reposted on YouTube; unlike what I have heard about US network "reality" shows, this has been quite focused on skill, with a fascinatingly varied cast of characters, and the drama is about how well they can sew under some astonishingly tight deadlines.
Episode 4
For those that enjoy this sort of thing, these are a treat to watch...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday thoughts and tidbits

The aphorism of the day is "if you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got"... why, because our plucky heroine started building a new habit into her morning routine. For the last several years, taking a little thyroid pill has disrupted my former everyday mornings, since it needs must be taken on an empty stomach, then nothing else eaten for at least an hour, which has resulted in what feels a lot like wasted hours.

Today, instead of turning on the computer, I went into the workroom... Amazingly, instead of almost forgetting breakfast in an online daze, I almost forgot breakfast because I made substantial progress on a current studio commission. This is a new habit I want to will make a part of my daily routine

Pearl borders: they're not just for Byzantines any more... I don't just make SCA regalia in the workroom, but am occasionally contacted to make jewelry for folks active in various other organizations, or containing imagery that is personally significant. I have made heraldic jewelery for folks who have it by right of inheritance, and totemic images for folks who found them in dreams; making things that would otherwise not exist anywhere is what I delight in, whether in metal and glass, or in textiles...

Last weekend my pals Beth and Karen came down to visit, for a weekend that ended up including a short session of "craft camp"; a hands on demo of freezer paper stenciling. I love how whatever the technique I teach, the designs and style of each student always shine through. There has been a lot of Alabama Chanin style handstitching and applique happening here at Acorn Cottage, and there is some of that happening up at their place as well, as they are both working on some special handmade clothing for their wedding this summer. It was fun to show them another skill for their "toolbox" of fabric embellishment, I look forward to seeing in August what they end up creating, and I am considering if there might be interest in a teaching workshop on handstitchery and embellishment...  (their small samples will probably end up as potholders)

Beth's stencil, and the cut away leftovers

Karen painting her sample; 
using a clothespin to hold the painting sponge

went to Fabric Depot with my pal Sharon Rose, and though I have promised self not to buy any fabric this year, I had to break my vow... seriously, how could any medieval reenactor pass up a chance to take home some handwoven twill fabric woven with nettle fibers! I think this is a birdseye twill rather than diamond twill, but it is certainly a rare bird indeed, and enough came home to make some useful bags of carrying...

Last week the feet were doing well enough that some very small walking was possible, and after acupuncture, a few blocks of the Hawthorne neighborhood proved to be irresistible. There were still some cherry trees full of blossoms...
and the branch scars on these tree trunks peered out amidst a garden full of springtime foliage and flowers

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

when the going gets tough...

The last two days I have been rather flattened by the news from Boston - I lived there for many years, and have family and friends there. Last year my kid brother ran in the Boston Marathon as part of a group that raises money for melanoma research; only a foot injury kept him from running this year as well. I am trying to focus on all the news of how folks are and have been good and helpful...

I know that there are places all over the world where this kind of bombing happens all too frequently, and we rarely hear about it. It is never okay. Having it now happen in my old stomping grounds, on streets I've walked more times than I can number, just makes me wonder and weep.

When the going gets tough, our plucky heroine heads to the workshop... there is little that I can do to heal the world, but I can use hands and heart to create small pieces of beauty, and put my attention on the work of creation, as a counterweight to destruction.

A fair amount of enameling has been done, including a do-over on the piece that was so troublesome earlier this year... this time, it seems that the fire-gods have been kindly, and this large enamel (3" x 2") is ready to have a setting constructed. I love the combination of cloisonne and limoges enameling.

There is as much thinking as doing in the pieces of custom jewelry that I create, since each one has different technical challenges... here, I am building a setting for a teardrop shaped enamel pendant that will be bordered with pearls. One challenge is how to specifically place the small eyelets that will hold the pearl border, since they need to be spaced appropriately and exactly. It is a balancing act between the distance and the size of the seed pearls.
Ended up needing to make a side trip today to Winks Hardware since somehow all the 20ga drillbits had dissapeared. Very very tiny drillbits, needful to make tiny holes to place the fabricated eyelets in place before soldering. Seed pearls are pretty, and quite small (these are actually rather large as seed pearls go; transparent ruler included to show scale)

Monday, April 8, 2013

the downhill side

in which our plucky heroine continues to make slow but steady progress in the small bits of time between work; eight down and two to go...

Denim pinafore + black floral top = springtime... A denim pinafore is fairly basic, and a wardrobe workhorse. I did add a wide top pocket across the front bodice panel, since the top pocket on the overall pinafore is so very useful. In some ways I prefer the integral pockets to patch pockets, they are a bit more work and fabric intensive, but they hold a lot more, and are slightly less obtrusive.

highlighted clothing is completed...
(SWAP sewing closes on April 30th)

springtime 6PAC 2013 SWAP
pinafore black vertical pique
black denim pinafore black denim
top black reverse applique
top grey/black knit
black floral print top black floral print
apron bridge/third layer apron
indigo denim pinafore indigo denim
top brown knit
indigo knit top indigo knit
brown/indigo dress brown/indigo

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday stitchery snippets

Last night 'twas so windy out that the noise of the turbine ventilators on my roof woke me from sleep twice. Wish there was some simple way to harness that power to help keep the house warm! No current affordable micro-scale wind turbines yet for urban homestead, alas...

Have been making good progress on extant regalia orders, and in between work, wirebending and enameling and suchlike, there are still random sewing bits happening here.
Starting on the hemline panels for the wrap apron... There are three more garments I want to complete for SWAP 2013 before the contest ends on April 30th: a denim pinafore, a brown tee shirt and a wrap apron that will coordinate with all the pieces. These panels are in process, being first stenciled in black on brown jersey, then applied to some indigo linen. They will be embroidered reverse applique, stitched in grey, and eventually end up decorating the hem of my bridge garment, the dark denim wrap apron (which I still need to develop a pattern for; fortunately the pinafore and tee are both TNT patterns, and fairly simple...)

A clever tip, when doing reverse applique, is to cut a tiny hole in the area that will be cut away after the stitching is completed. That way, the chances of accidentally snipping through BOTH layers when cutting away parts of the top layer, are greatly reduced. Ask me how I figured this one out...
The denim pinafore uses a pattern that I have made many times... This particular detail is a Useful Tip: before stitching the binding that edges the armscye and forms the shoulder straps, tack 1/4" twill tape in place, by surrounding that with the binding, the straps are both reinforced and stabilised.
Years and years ago I made a cloak for young Heather , which now is being worn by her daughter Elli. Elli's best buddy Laurel needs a cloak too! So bit by bit another child cloak will be fashioned so both little girls will be happy! This is the start of trim for around the edge of the hood...

As far as the ribbon shown in the photo... as I had nothing at all here that coordinated, and do not have the time currently to cardweave my own trim! (the original cloak is trimmed in a scrap of handwoven trim) I went to my favorite local fabric boutique (Bolt Fabrics) and found something that looked well with the teal wool, and added medium size rickrack on either side. The points of the rickrack will be stitched down with peach color floss.

For a "pattern", it is a simple half circle cloak, with an attached hood made from a rectangle folded in half and pleated slightly at the neck edge to give just a little shape. A small metal cloak clasp fastens it at the neckline, and all the raw edges are bound. The design looks similar to the Folkwear Morrocan Burnoouse, but made small to fit a littley-kid
This BBC program is a delight to watch, rather different apparently from US "reality" shows, the folks sewing are rather more a diverse crew. It was a real treat for me to see Ann Rowley, who is a strong presence on my favorite message board (Stitcher's Guild); now I have a face and voice to go with her ever useful commentary...

I have been enjoying in the last few months working on projects in the style of Alabama Chanin. Wouldn't it be fun to go see actual Alabama Chanin garments IRL... trunk show here in PDX April 25 - 27