29 August 2012

Perfection

There is an interesting thread running on Artisan's Square right now that piqued my interest.  Here is an excerpt of jem's original post:

"...After seeing some of the garments displayed on this site, I am both motivated and discouraged. Your work seems like absolute perfection.  I don't think I have ever sewn an item that is absolutely perfect.  There always seems to be one little thing out of kilter. I get really annoyed with myself and can't understand why I can't sew with perfection. I am not a new sewer either.  My work is decent and my non sewing friends are in total awe of the fact that I make my own clothes, but I still feel that after all this time sewing I shouldn't have to do these little tweaks to the garments.  Am I being too hard on myself? Do any of you have this thought process, or is it just me?"

This makes me want to sit down with jem and have a good heart to heart.

A Matter of Perspective

When I was new to sewing (at the age of 17 in early 1988), I was absolutely fearless.  The first real garment that I sewed was a prom dress.   I was either too naive or too stupid to know that sewing a prom dress was probably not the typical first project.  However, despite my lack of experience, I sewed that dress, I wore that dress and I was pretty damned proud of that dress.  I though it was absolutely perfect.  Well, I still have that dress and I can tell you, it was not perfect.  I won't go into a laundry list of problems with it, but suffice it to say that, although I did an amazing job for a beginner, I can do much better now.

I guess it's just a matter of perspective.  For the skills I possessed at the time, I did an excellent job.  But now, through study, experience and a healthy dose of  common sense (attained through simply getting older), I am a better seamstress than I was 24 years ago.  So, I submit that perfection is a matter of perspective, related to our age, our life experiences and our own personal standards.

Our Own Worst Critics

Why are so many of us always so hard on ourselves?  And why is self reproach such a female thing?  Believe me, I know that men aren't immune to self doubt, but it seems more ingrained in women.  Not to mention, the desire to compare ourselves to other women.  "If only I was as ______ as her" can be a common refrain for many women (how we fill in the blank may vary, but the general idea is the same).  Unfortunately, this attitude can undermine and weaken us.

Comparing yourself to another seamstress is a recipe for disaster.  Wanting to improve your skills is laudable, putting yourself down is not.  For me, sewing is a revelation, a salvation, a blessing and a joy - it makes me sad to think that someone would feel even a tiny bit bad about herself because of sewing. 

In the Eye of the Beholder

Like many things in life, perfection is defined by each individual - no two people will describe perfection in the same way.  I often cringe at the hours (days, months, years) that are spent by some seamstresses trying to get a "perfectly" fitting pair of pants.  All wrinkles and smile lines must.be.eliminated or else.  For them, that is perfection.  For me, it is an exercise in insanity.   But, as they say, to each her own.  What I might call a perfect pair of pants (or jacket or dress or...) may not be acceptable to someone else...and that's okay.  We all have our own guidelines (which are likely to morph and shift as we go on in our lives) that we live within.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that I feel for jem.   I really do believe she is being far too tough on herself and  I truly hope that she learns to cut herself some slack. I'm willing to bet that her garments are far more fabulous than she realizes.

27 August 2012

SWAP, SWAP, SWAPing Along

Where have I been for a month?  Sewing, sewing and sewing (and sewing!).  I have been going great gangbusters in the sewing room.  My mojo is back and it has been demanding that I sew.  I have learned to never question the mojo, so I have been following orders.

Since we last spoke, I have created 31 garments associated with my SWAP.  As many of the patterns are new to me, in many cases I made a wearable muslin (or two) to tweak the fit and then sewed up the real deal.  I did all the muslins in fabrics that coordinate with this SWAP (or another SWAP that I am already planning for winter), so I now have a ton of new wardrobe additions for the start of the school year (which happens in one week - eek!).

Needless to say, I have a butt load of SWAP garment goodness to show you.  Just gotta dust off the camera and slap on some make up.  So, stay tuned...


28 July 2012

I Love Fabric Mart

Yesterday, I showed you my new SWAP.  I mentioned that I still needed three fabrics to complete the plans.  Well, Fabric Mart came through for me with not only the fabrics I needed, but at a 35% discount to boot.  Yee Haw!  I have updated yesterday's post to reflect the addition of the new fabrics. 

While I was buying the three fabrics I needed for SWAP, I may have also tossed in another three goodies and a mystery bundle.

Behold the bounty:

These three are the SWAP fabrics (silk crepe de chine, silk blend burnout print & silk animal print):




And, these three are the "just 'cause" fabrics (all three are RPL suitings):







And, that my friends is why I <3 Fabric Mart - like a great friend, they are always there for me when I need them.  Now, I just hope that none of the SWAP fabrics sell out before they get to my order.  If that happens, I may have to cut a bitch.  What?  Seems harsh?  It's fabric acquisition, people - there is no room for niceties when it comes to fabric acquisition.  Sheesh, I thought you'd know that by now.

27 July 2012

My Old Friend, the SWAP

SWAP = Sewing with a Plan

Many of you are familiar with this concept, having either read about it or participated in the contests.  Back in the day, Julie of Timmel Fabrics (Julie, if you're reading, I sure do miss you and your fabric!) ran the SWAP contest.  These days, the lovely folks over at Stitcher's Guild Forum have taken over the reins.

The SWAP concept (and subsequent Timmel Fabrics contest) was based on an idea presented in Australian Stitches magazine about a decade or so ago.  The idea was to create a wardrobe that is cohesive, both in colour and style.  The different garments (one jacket, two pairs of pants, two skirts and six tops were required in the original SWAP contest) in a grouping should work together to provide the wearer with several mix and match outfits.

I used to do almost all of my sewing in SWAPs.   However, over the last while I had gotten away from sewing this way.  Well, earlier this week I was perusing back issues of Australian Stitches magazine.  Lynn Cook (one of the editors) had put together a lovely wardrobe (see issues Vol. 15, No. 9 to Vol. 16 No. 4 if they are available to you).  In the first issue, she sewed up a jacket, two skirts, a pair of pants and two tops in black, white and red fabrics.  In each consecutive issue, she added to the mix with further garments.  Along the way, she added in other colours (orange, teal, bone, lavender, etc).  In the end, she created a beautifully coordinated wardrobe. 

This was very inspiring to read, so based on her plans, I put together my own version:

SWAP Phase 1 - based on Vol. 15 No. 9:

SWAP Phase 2 - based on Vol. 15 No. 10:

SWAP Phase 3 - based on Vol. 15 No. 11: 

SWAP Phase 4 - based on Vol. 15 No. 12:

SWAP Phase 5 - based on Vol. 16 No. 1:

SWAP Phase 6 - based on Vol. 16 No. 2:

SWAP Phase 7 - based on Vol. 16 No. 3:

SWAP Phase 8 - based on Vol. 16 No. 4:

The vast majority of fabrics were in my stash.  However, I do have three fabrics that are still alluding me at this point (ETA: I found three fabrics that finished off my SWAP, so the storyboards have been updated).  The patterns are a mix of recent and older ones that I had in my possession.  I may add or modify as I go along if I find it necessary.

I have already started on the plans above - one garment is finished and several more are cut out.  So, stay tuned...

25 July 2012

Button Love

I am a collector.













Actually,  let me correct that.  I am a hoarder.

I hoard fabric, zippers, shoes, food (remind me to show you my pantries some day), books, jewellery...Let me sum it up by saying that if a certain class of objects gives me pleasure, you can be sure that I will buy a wide assortment.



This holds true with buttons as well.  I love buttons.  I love the shapes, the colours and the simple (but powerful) utilitarian nature of buttons.  
My earliest and fondest memory of buttons is probably one that is not unique to me.  My maternal grandmother had a tin, full of buttons.  There were dozens of buttons that had been removed from discarded articles of clothing.  She often gave me this tin to play with - dumping out buttons, putting in buttons, organizing buttons into little piles, feeling the smoothness of some and the roughness of others.  I loved that button tin (and the late grandmother that is so intimately associated with that memory).  To this day the sound of buttons rattling around in a old tin evokes such strong emotion in me.

So, I hoard buttons.


I store all my buttons in small plastic bags.  Each plastic bag holds a different set of buttons.  I so enjoy going through these buttons to find just the perfect match for a new garment that is hot off the machines.  It stirs up fond memories every time I open the button drawer in my sewing room.

22 July 2012

The Taming of the Arse

So, you may be asking, how's that whole 'lose weight/eat healthier/ exercise more' thing going?

Well, I'd be lying if I said I was where I had hoped to be by mid July way back when I started this journey on January 1st.  Last we spoke, I had dropped nine pounds and was feeling much better.

Since then, I have had a few set backs.

My professional life was very stressful during April, May and June (let's just say that teachers are often taken for granted by many).  About that time, I noticed that I was becoming a bit obsessed over the whole food thing (not eating disorder level obsession, but rather just a smidgen too focused on every label, calorie and gram - a focus that I can't hope to maintain long term).  So,  I decided to take a step back and reassess my priorities and figure out how to go about getting healthier in a way that I can carry on over the course of my lifetime.  I don't want any quick fixes, but rather long term attitude changes.

Unfortunatley, I became too lackadaisical and my quantity of exercised decreased.  However, my food habits didn't deteriorate completely, so in the end I only gained back two of the nine pounds I had lost.

The last two weeks I have been able recommit myself to a healthier lifestyle and I have been increasing the exercise and cleaning up the eating.  So, I am hoping to shed the last few pounds by the end of the year.  Slow and steady and maintainable is my new mantra.


20 July 2012

Skirty Dozen

Here is another of my "Skirty Dozen" dirndl skirts that I have introduced you to previously.

This time the skirt is made from a mauve/dusty rose/rust print rayon fabric from (you guessed it) Fabric Mart.  It has the most interesting splotchy linear print that really has several more colours in it than I listed above.  I really like prints like this - there are so many mix and match possibilities with the other garments in my wardrobe due to all the colours that are present.

I have paired the skirt with a flouncy and ruffly purple sleeveless shell and a dark brown cardigan.  Both the cardigan and the top are purchased items.

My shoes are a comfortable pair of bronze wedge sandals from Clarks (I love Clarks shoes!). I also have these in silver - when I find a good pair of shoes, I often by multiples.  I can't be the only one that does this, right?

This is my typical uniform for work.  It is professional, but not stuffy.  Comfortable, but not sloppy.  And simple to thrown on - skirt, top, cardi - what could be easier?

18 July 2012

Memories of a Prom Dress

As many of you know, I chaperone Prom every year and this year* was no exception.  As per my usual, I sewed up a spiffy little dress.  I love attending Prom because it allows me to indulge in my desire for pretty party dresses by providing me with a venue to display said dresses.

This year, I revisited a lovely vintage pattern, Simplicity 3323.  I have made this pattern before, so knew how to put it together quickly (since I was coming down to the wire in terms of timing - why, oh why, do I always leave my Prom dresses to the last minute?).  I also had a list of tweaks to make to the dress that I had jotted down from the first go around.  The bodice was lengthened by 1" and I scooped away a 1/2" of the front armscyces, as the original dress was binding on my arms when I would reach forward.  This solved the really rather annoying straight-jackety feeling.

I chose a bright blue taffeta that had black flocked roses scattered over the fabric.  I had received this fabric as a freebie from Fabric Mart a year or so ago and it had been impatiently aging in my stash ever since.  I am absolutely smitten with this fabric, but I never would have purchased it on my own.  Thank you Fabric Mart's Free Bundle for providing me with interesting and unexpected  textiles! 

Only the bodice is lined (with some black silk dupioni that was left over from another project), as the flocked fabric is not transparent at all and I wanted the dress to be light and airy for a warm day.

I accessorized the distinctly 50s dress with a pair of metallic T-strap heels and a small sparkly pin at the waist.

I received many compliments (from students and staff alike) and I was cool and comfortable all evening.  This dress was a definite winner!

* Prom actually occurred at the beginning of May, so let's pretend it didn't take me two months to post this, mmkay?