Friday, July 30, 2010

Never mind

I signed on to do the Butterick 5147 Sheath Dress SewAlong.

And I wanted to do it.

Until, suddenly, I didn't. I started looking at every other project in my queue, including some I hadn't felt motivated about in a while.

It's kind of like how I feel about my book club lately. For August, we're reading Edith Wharton's Custom of the Country. A book I suggested! And I just can't be bothered. I'm reading everything else I can lay hands on. Dorothy Dunnett, Leif Enger, Barbara Kingsolver. Bring them on, just let Miss Wharton leave me in peace right now.

Of course, as soon as the sew-along is over, I'll probably get an unstoppable urge to sew sheath dresses. And then Elizabeth can laugh at me all she wants.

It's ALL about the shoes

Though I couldn't wear them in public without the dress.

Which, of course, since it's horrendously sunny in Philadelphia again, looks all washed out and I was trying to stay out of the bright light. But you get the point, and more importantly, you can see the shoes.



Aren't they fabulous? And best of all, they're comfortable and I can walk in them - even outside, except I hate getting their flowered soles all scuffed up on the sidewalk. These may be carpet shoes only.

Off the shoe topic, how did they sneak a new season of Project Runway up on me? Usually I'm planning my whole evening around the premiere, laying in the snacks, getting the wine ready, and all of a sudden at 3:00 p.m. Thursday, someone mentions the first show is at 9:00! Six hours warning for PR, and part of it spent stuck at work?

On the plus side, it looks like it might be a promising season. I liked the beginning twist, it just shows how evil they are - they got all the designers together, told them their first challenge would involve an item from their own suitcase, and after they sifted through and came out with some cherished piece, they were told to hand it over to the designer on their left, for them to cut up.

Ouch. I know how I'd feel.

Nothing too fabulous came out of the challenge, but still, it's Project Runway, and it's back, and now I can finally pry my darling news junkie off the couch and get the remote off its rotation of MSNBC-CNN-CNBC-Comedy Central so I can watch fashion porn for 90 whole minutes every week!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time to pay the piper

For all the piping on this dress.

Did I ever mention I love piping? I don't even mind installing it anymore, though I used to hate it. My regular zipper foot isn't a big help, but the adjustable zipper foot Kenneth King recommended when I took his Piped Pocket and Buttonholes class on Patternreview does the trick.

This is yet another version of BWOF 2/09 #113, the dress I wrote about recently. This is my fourth version of this dress, and while I could keep going, I think I'll give it a rest for a while and think about other things.

Besides, I'm out of piping. I bought 5 yards of this at Pacific Trims some time last year, with every intention of knocking off a perfectly adorable Tracy Reese dress. That may still happen, but I'll have to restock first.

This may be my favorite version of this dress so far. I went upstairs to Mario's office to get him to zip me all the way up, and he who never really has a comment on what I make said that he really liked this one too. "The lines are good on you." I don't know if he means the lines of the dress, or the lines of the piping, or what - and I decided not to ask. Sometimes getting into in-depth conversations with a non-sewing man who just wants to give a you a compliment defeats the whole purpose.

I'm pretty pleased with this dress. I used up my entire 5 yards of piping, which is kind of annoying because I would have liked to pipe the skirt's side seams and around the armholes, but then again, the armhole piping would have probably just ended up with deodorant on it anyway, which would have been really annoying. I should just shut up and be glad that it all came out evenly, including across the back at the zipper where I had issues last time I did a piped version of this dress.

The fabric has been in stash for a week, which may not be a speed record for me, but it's definitely approaching one. It was $2.99 per yard at Karlin's, the local store who recently kicked up their stock and lured me back in after several years of lackluster thread-and-zipper buying. The owner says it feels very Lily Pulitzer to him. Not so sure about that, but it's bright and summery and - at $2.99 per yard - the whole dress cost me about $5, including zipper.

This is absolutely getting worn to work tomorrow, first of all because it deserves a test drive and secondly because it's the perfect dress to wear with my new shoes I got on Saturday.

Monday, July 26, 2010

If you love something

And it doesn't fit . . .

Set it free.

I made this dress from BWOF 3/08 #115. It's Liberty. It's fully underlined in cotton batiste. It had 12 freaking darts in it.

I love it. It's fitted, unforgiving, and has no stretch.

I wore it once, to my friend's wedding last spring. Even with uber-Spanx, it was uncomfortable.

Deepika brought me a lovely piece of raw silk from India. I sent her home with that dress. I'll make something that fits me; she got a dress that fits her.

It's a lot like letting my friend wear - and keep - my great aunt's wedding gown. If it's not doing anything in my closet but pissing me off, I need to let it go to someone who will wear it, and in this case, someone who appreciates the work who went into making it.

Maybe now that this version is gone from my closet, I'll get around to making one that fits me.

Or maybe not. So many patterns; so little time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Better late than never

PR Weekend took place back on May 14 - 16, but we were missing one Very Important Person.

Problem solved, as you can see.

Deepika arrived in Philadelphia Friday evening for a belated visit, in the middle of the worst heat wave we've had yet this summer, and we've had a few. We stayed up with wine and chocolate for a while, but we wanted to get an early start on Saturday.

The next day, we went for breakfast, me, Deepika and a very patient man, and then hit a couple of porch sales in the neighborhood, the farmer's market and the monthly flea market. After that, we headed downtown and passed a few crucial tourist sites, like the site of PR Weekend and the restaurant where we had our group dinner.

There were plans to meet up with the rest of the PR Weekend planning committee at 1:00 p.m. - Andrea, Elaine, Annette, Mimi and Lee - but we had some time to kill first so we wandered around Old City, browsed the Headhouse craft fair, and had an encounter with a very welcome fountain.

I don't want to think about the incriminating photos she has of me!

We had a great lunch at Alyan's on 4th Street - falafel and hummus and french fries with onions and peppers (and thought of you, Trena!) and then hit Fabric Row.

I didn't think much could put me off fabric shopping, but near 100 degree heat is almost enough to do it. Thankfully all the stores had AC, so we didn't melt. It was close, though.

A good time was definitely had by all, though I've certainly done more fabric damage on 4th Street than I did yesterday. All I ended up buying was a zipper at PA Fabric Outlet and 2 yards of gray pinstripe at Verte Couture so I can try to replicate the pinstriped skirt I posted about recently.

Deepika found her fabric (that's a disciplined woman - she buys one fabric per trip!) and Andrea did a little damage in the name of sheath dresses yet to be. Mimi got some fabric for a bathing suit coverup, and Annette disappeared off down the block and came back smiling, with a bag. Lee got some lovely fabric that I'm looking forward to seeing made up. Elaine couldn't stay long, so she escaped empty-handed (I think).

In search of cool air, we stopped into a few different stores, and I ended up buying a totally kickass pair of shoes at Bus Stop which will absolutely require a new dress to do them justice.

Before we headed toward home, Deepika, Andrea and I walked up South Street toward the Magic Gardens, which is a fabulous tile and mirror mosaic-covered building and garden space created by Philadelphian Isaiah Zagar. It's much more magical in person; some things just don't translate in photos.

By that point, all the cool had drained from our systems and we were melting again. Home we went, to stand in front of the AC and get changed for dinner.

Mario and I took Deepika to our all-time favorite restaurant, La Locanda del Ghiottone (roughly translated: Place of the Gluttons), a BYOB at 3rd and Cherry Streets. I've been going there for about 15 years, but you don't need to be a regular to feel like family. After feeding us wonderful Italian food, the waiter dropped off a plate with a tiramisu and a cannoli on it. We dug in, and the other waiter, Joe, came past. "That's not enough," he said, and put down another plate, with another slab of tiramisu and a fruit crepe.

I'm proud to say, we cleaned our plates.

In an attempt to walk off dinner, we headed for Penn's Landing, where we encountered a concert and sat out under the full moon and listened to music for a while. When the music ended, we headed home again, and sat up and talked late into the night.

Unfortunately, the weekend ended too soon and Deepika flew home this afternoon, but I think we were able to give her a taste of what PR Weekend Philadelphia was like, and have a great time in the process.

Come back soon, Deepika!

**Edited to add a few photos supplied by Deepika.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I didn't need any fabric

but I bought some anyway.

Which really wasn't necessary because my Very Special Houseguest will be here soon and there will be some retail therapy occurring this very weekend.

But I couldn't wait. I walked down to Karlin's on 8th Street at lunchtime with Andrea, and we both indulged a bit.

I indulged a bit more, but I'm beginning to think about fall sewing, and Karlin's new supplier (the same one who sells the fabric crack to Jomar) is obviously also thinking about fall.

Of the 4 fabrics above, 2 are summer and 2 are fall: from the left, a dark olive pinstripe bottomweight with a little stretch (it's a really good green, it just photographs like crap); orange, brown and white plaid stretch woven - a 2.5 yard remnant for $5; 4 yards of olive green herringbone silk/wool/rayon blend with tweedy flecks; and a large print floral stretch woven that is destined to be another version of the BWOF 2/08 #113 sundress.

Apparently that shade of green is going to be big this fall for me. Like it isn't every year.

Monday, July 19, 2010

An experiment with gravity

A few months ago, I attempted my first strapless dress, as a theatrical costume for a friend. It wasn't my favorite project, for reasons of its own, but I enjoyed the challenge of constructing it since I'd never used boning before or attempted to make something that stood up on its own.

But once it was done and handed over, other than seeing it in the show and being glad it stayed up, I really didn't think about it any more.

Until all the cute strapless dress patterns started showing up for spring and summer, and until all the even cuter strapless dresses started showing up on blogs. Thanks, ladies.

All of a sudden, it seemed like it would be an interesting challenge to take on - seeing if I could construct something strapless for myself, something that would not only contain the girls, allow me to do fun things like move and breathe freely, and keep me from committing any public acts of indecency.

I started looking at back issues of Burda, because where else do you start when you need a specific pattern?

I really liked the strapless dress they did this year, but it had too much detail. I wanted something really simple, because I'd intended this as basically an experiment; I didn't want to do a lot of sewing to make an involved exterior when it was really the interior that I cared about.

2010, 2009, 2008. I kept looking. There were contenders, but nothing that really grabbed me, until a random 2002 issue that I'd gotten on Ebay thrown in with a few more current issues. May 2002 had this nice basic two piece pattern. Can't get much more basic than that.

Of course they had drafted it for a stretch woven, and I didn't intend to use a stretch, but just a minor detail. I traced it out in the 40, giving myself some extra on the sides in case I needed it.

This pattern has front and back darts, a center back invisible zipper and a slit in the back. Quick and easy for the initial construction. I tried it on, and it seemed pretty good. Then I got to the boning. Burda's instructions were pretty vague there, something like "sew to seam allowances." Okay. I was using the Joann's plastic boning in the casing, so I slipped it out of the casing, pressed open my seam allowances and stitched the casing down on either side, then reinserted the boning. It worked. Not sure if that's the correct way to do it, but it held still, and more importantly, it shows every sign that it might hold me up.

Sorry about the bra and the sunburn. It's too warm tonight to think about getting completely changed for construction photos; when the dress is finished, I promise I'll go strapless.

The fabric for this dress, which is technically a wearable muslin (I know some of you hate that term, but I have to say I'm a fan, at least when it turns out. If I think there's a chance it won't, I just don't use fabric I'd miss if I had to chuck it) came from the swap pile at the Philly PR Weekend, so it didn't cost me anything. There wasn't much more than a yard there, and it had an interesting flaw which I think I've managed to work with. It wasn't off-grain, but the machine-embroidered border was! The border was about 2" from the edge at one end, and about 3" a little more than a yard away. Obviously I wanted the border to be at the hem, so I straightened it and used it from there, which means the entire dress is just slightly off-grain. Thankfully it's a solid, so it won't show as much.

The only place it seemed like it might be visible was directly across the front. I think I may be getting over my fear of embellishment, because when I looked at this plain fronted dress with the embroidered border, I went diving into the trash to see if there were any scraps left to perk it up a little. The only bits left are literally what's on the dress right now. I still have to sew on the two smaller bits, and then I think I want to do a bit of discreet beading on the appliques. I have some dark copper beads left over from a project and I think just a few of them scattered on there would look nice.

So there you have it. A work in progress, but it looks to be successful, at least in that it won't spring me on an unsuspecting public.

Updates all around

First (and foremost), thanks to everyone who had fingers and paws crossed for Lily. I picked her up after work today with a clean bill of health, though my vet did at least agree with me that the symptoms were worrisome, even though on the geriatric tests they ran , she came up fine. Geriatric? I think she'd be offended.

The best we can come up with is that maybe she ate something she shouldn't have - seam binding, anyone? ribbon? - and it caused enough irritation to make her lose her voice and have some of the other physical issues. Her voice is a little better; she's up to an irritated scratchy whisper at this point, but the tone is as demanding as ever.

On top of that, I heard from the roofer today, who gave me the choice of $500 or about 5 times that, depending on whether I took the low road or went for for major reconstruction. He recommended the easy way out, because it's about 90% likely to work, and if I have to go back within the next year and take the expensive route, he'll knock the original $500 off the bill. That will hopefully get done before Friday, because I have a very exciting houseguest coming at the end of the week and I don't want contractors underfoot!

There has been sewing going on, and if I can get it together to write the post tonight, I'll have it up by tomorrow morning. It's an experiment, but a mostly successful one.

Thanks again to everyone who wished Lily well. She'd thank you, if she could be bothered to get out of the bag of fabric where she's napping.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Silence in the Sewing Room

Not lack of sewing, just silence.

Lily the cat seems to have lost her voice. Normally she has a very loud and demanding meow, particularly when she's standing outside the workroom.

Yesterday, low scratchy meow. Today, nada.

This happened before - about a year and a half ago, when she had the expensive butt surgery, her voice changed. It changed back, but I don't remember when.

One of the many negatives about the internet is if you go looking for something, you're sure to find it; searching "cat voice change" gives you lovely frightening ideas like laryngeal tumors and renal failure.

So I took her to the University of Penn's vet emergency room last night around 7:00 p.m. My vet didn't have hours until Monday and Ididn't know if I could get her an appointment, so even though it might just be something minor, I wanted to get her checked out. Minor has a way of turning major very quickly, and animals rarely show when they're in pain.

When we walked in, the waiting room was overflowing. A tech comes out, asks what's wrong, I give her the symptoms - also licking her lips, a little lethargic, maybe a little weight loss, just not acting like herself - and the tech says they'll probably run some blood work to see what's up.

8:00. 9:00. 10:00. Another tech comes out. "Lily?" she asks. I raise my hand. She's come to take a full history, including all about the surgery in January 2009, even though she's got the chart in her hand - which she obviously hasn't read because she asked if Lily had sustained another animal bite. Two hospital visits, one surgery and several thousand dollars later, it was determined it was never a bite; she'd simply been picking at her own infection.

But whatever. She takes a new history, disappears.

11:00. Midnight. Doctor comes out, with tech in tow. "Lily's people?" We get up, go into an exam room with her. She goes over the history again.

Why did I think my cat was sick? I repeat the symptoms. So that's enough to make me think she's sick? Yes. She's lost her voice, she's licking her lips constantly, she seems a bit lighter than usual, she's not acting like herself and she hasn't slept with me in a few days. The last time she exhibited most of that behavior, she was nursing a $3K infection just left of her tail.

The upshot: her bloodwork is fine, her kidney function is completely normal, her temperature is good, she's a sweet cat and I'm apparently a competely hysterical paranoid mother. That'll be $175 please - and 6 hours of your life.

I'm still taking her to my vet tomorrow, because now she has no voice at all, and I know my cat better than an overworked doctor in a Saturday night emergency room who can't see a (hopefully) minor issue with Lily because she's got way worse problems to deal with.

Fingers, toes and paws crossed, everybody. Even though I complain about her constant yammering at me, it's too freaking quiet in the sewing room right now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The second triple

As a follow up to my "One Pattern, Many Looks" post the other night, here's my other favorite dress to play with - BWOF 2/08 #113. I've also made this one three times, the final striped version just this weekend.

It wasn't like I needed another dress; I've been on a bit of a dress roll lately. But I felt like sewing something, and I wanted an easy project.

Because things don't always work when you want easy, this project presented a few problems, but nothing that couldn't be worked out. I cut the pattern pieces as a single layer so that the stripes matched on the top and bottom. I measured and marked my invisible zipper placement, and of course when I sewed it in, the bodice seam was 1/4" higher on one side than the other.

I thought about taking the zipper out and starting over, and then I looked at my leftover fabric and started cutting bias strips. I pressed it and then sewed it over the seam, and somehow - don't ask me, I think the gremlins were working this weekend - the bias tape ended up being 1/4" higher on the opposite side.

Profanity was heard in the sewing room. And outside the sewing room. And probably out in the yard.

Had a moment of thinking about it, and then I took some of the leftover bias tape and made a bow, and hand-sewed it over the crooked portion of the tape. It covers both sides of the zipper without making it hard to zip, so I'm calling that one a design element.

I still had some bias tape left over, so I stitched it down right above the hem to add a little interest.

Here are the other two versions of this same pattern - a stretch woven cafe print from last summer, and a cherry-printed cotton (non-stretch) from later in last summer. You can't see the bodice structure in the other two versions, but the cherry drses has all the seams outlined in piping, which not only feels vintagey to me, but shows off the detailing of the design in a way that I like.

The cafe print is basically the same version as my current stripe (although the new fabric is a little lighter weight and stretchier, and so the front neckline is a little unstable and wants to turn down). I may make lemonade out of that one as well, and actually turn down the part that wants to turn down, stitch it down and enjoy the visible contrasting stripes.

On the non-sewing front, we've gone from near-drought conditions to near-monsoon in a matter of days, and my house is taking on water like the freaking Titanic.

It thundered and rained last night, but other than the leak in the front porch roof that I've been avoiding dealing with, nothing major happened. This morning, the wind changed and when I came downstairs, it was raining in my dining room. Horizontally, spraying out across the room from the bay window frame. WTF? It was also raining in between the interior and storm windows, which brought on a fishtank effect and caused the water to run out - over the windowsill and down the wall.

After much swearing, some panic and every available bath towel and several old blankets, I had to go to work. My housemate checked later, after the rain stopped, washed and dried all the towels and reinstalled them for the rain expected tonight and tomorrow. She then called me at work, told me what she did and mentioned that oh, by the way, the attic was dripping as well, and is now spread with a fashionable blue tarp and several plastic fabric tubs to catch the water.

So, tomorrow. I have a hot date with my roofer at 8:00 a.m. Does it get any better?

And does anyone wonder why I've been stress sewing?

One Pattern, Many Looks

This contest starts on Patternreview on July 15th and runs through August 14th. It's one of my favorites, and a contest I would absolutely enter if I could (Contest Committee members can't enter contests, for obvious reasons, although I did get special dispensation for the Menswear Contest last year).

This contest always starts a lot of discussion on the boards about what can and can't be done and what changes can be made, but sometimes I think people just overthink it. Sometimes you don't need to do anything drastic to a pattern to turn it into a completely different dress - sometimes all it takes is fabric, or a different neckline, or even a different attitude.

One of my favorite patterns to do this with is Burdastyle's Fatina dress. I've made this pattern three times now, and none of the dresses resemble each other in the slightest, and I made no major structural changes to the pattern for any of them.

The first, the black and white pinstripe, wasn't altered at all, I just added the amazing floral trim.

For the second version, the plaid, I separated the bodice from the skirt so that I could cut the bodice on the bias and added a ribbon over the seam. I did add a short sleeve, but I don't consider that a major change either.

The third version is the most recent, and for the chocolate swirl dress, I kept the separate bodice and I sliced the skirt into thirds and added a hem band.

Three distinctly different dresses from a very simple pattern, and a very roundabout way of saying I made another dress yesterday, from another summer TNT (BWOF 2/08 #113), and all three iterations of that dress will appear shortly.

I'll try to get a picture of me in the new dress tomorrow if I wear it to work.

Clothes for small people

Baby and kids clothes are not something I make a lot of - not many of my friends have kids and the few co-workers who've had them aren't generally the type to appreciate something me-made - as opposed to something from whatever fabulous baby store I'm supposed to buy from. So they get what they want, and those with better taste get me.

One of my best friends, and the most stylish man I know, is expecting. Well, okay, his wife's expecting, but he's so excited you'd think he was. Once they found out they were having a girl, I have to say I was almost as excited as they were.

You see, I've been planning for them to have a little girl long before they were. They got married in November, 2007. The got married on the Friday of PR Weekend, 2007, so I could only go on Saturday, just a few hours after coming home from their reception. And one of the things I bought on that marathon shopping day was a piece of candy pink velvet embroidered with flowers. I wasn't quite sure why it called to me so loudly in Metro Textiles; I was too tired to see straight, much less think about a baby from a marriage less than 24 hours old, but subconsciously, I think that's just what I was doing.

Can anybody say first Easter dress? As a practice run, I put together this little number, BWOF 10/05 #139. A little garish? you say. What baby wears purple? you ask.

I'll tell you. This baby.

The mom's favorite color is purple, and her dad's nickname for her since she was a baby is Ladybug. So when I realized I had enough fabric left over from Mario's recent shirt, I decided to make the dress. I went digging through the trim boxes in search of something coordinating, and came across this ladybug trim, which I've had for so long I don't remember getting it. (I'm thinking some time in high school, which means the trim is older than the mom and dad).

To tie it all together, I got out a twin needle and did all the topstitching in red and yellow. The pinafore straps are buttoned with yellow flower buttons (and red buttonholes). I added a third yellow flower button over the join in the trim above the pleat.

I handed it over on Thursday. Dad loved it. I swear I heard the mom squealing that night.

Apparently, I'm going to be that aunt. You know, the one who makes the stuff that no one else would ever consider putting the kid into.

Good thing the parents have taste.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Is it a . . . tree cozy?

It hit 102 degrees in Philadelphia today.

And the trees are wearing sweaters.

I'm just saying.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Do it right the first time

And you won't be forced to wake up during the night, thinking about how you screwed up, and wondering just how much work it's going to be in the morning to take it all apart again.

I knew I wasn't going to get very much sewing done this weekend, what with one thing and another, so I decided to work on one substantial project. I think I'm one of about 10 sewists left on earth who haven't tackled the Jalie jeans yet, and it was time.

I'd already bought two different stretch denims, neither of which excited me all that much after I got them home. When I went to Joann's with Andrea the other week, I bought a piece of stretch denim that I still liked after I washed it.

Tracing off the pattern was no big deal, not after all the Burda tracing I've done. Now that I know what size I am, I'd be tempted to just cut the original pattern pieces out, but if I make these in a non-stretch, I'll have to go up a size, so let's just leave well enough alone, shall we?

I've made jeans before, from Ottobre. I liked them, they fit well, and the instructions were good. Same here, with Jalie. I think the fit is somewhat better on these, but I have to admit to liking Ottobre's instructions better. I got a better fly front with their instructions, and now I'll have to pull them out and compare to see where they differ, because I'm not completely thrilled with my zipper in these - the tab is visible at the top, so there's not enough of a flap over the zipper.

Easily fixed, but still.

I cut these out Friday, and worked on them Saturday and yesterday. I finished the jeans last night, and had Mario take pictures this a.m. The first three photos are from before I went back inside and took the jeans apart again.

I read a lot of pattern reviews for these jeans before starting in, but I basically decided to just go with the pattern as is (and the instructions) and see what I got out of it on the first go. Overall, I'm pretty happy - the fit is good, though it's easier to get a nice fit with stretch. It's what happens after you wear them all day that I worry about. Your butt's only going to sag so much in a non-stretch denim; with stretch, the floor's the limit.

One thing I did NOT like about the pattern is the waistband. They have you cut it on the bias. Stretch denim and then the additional stretch of bias? With no interfacing? Really?

I gave it a shot. As you can see in the first closeup, the waistband pulls - on the bias. It also folds over the button, and the buttonhole is stretching out from lack of interfacing.

When I finished them last night, I thought they were good enough. I don't wear my tops tucked in anyway, and I knew what I would change for next time. I was okay with the result.

Except I wasn't. I woke up at least twice during the night, thinking about that waistband. After having him take the pictures this a.m., I came back inside and retreated to the workroom with a large black coffee and my seam ripper and took off the band and made a new one.

Since my denim was stretch, I had to cut the band on the lengthwise grain to get no stretch in my new waistband. I cut it longer than the pattern piece, just in case I needed some extra. I used a light-weight interfacing, with an extra layer in the button and buttonhole area.

Sewed it all back together, topstitched, hammered the button into place and tried them on again. Much better this time. As you can see from the second photo, any issue of the jeans not fitting at the waist now is more body-related than clothing related. I can cope with that - I can't change the shape of my body, at least not in an hour and using only a seam ripper.

All in all, the Jalie jeans pattern is not the sewing epiphany it's seemed to be for so many people. Which is not to say I won't make it again, but I know what I'll do differently next time.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

When did it start?

When did you get bit by the sewing (crafting, knitting, insert-your-obsession-here) bug?

That's something I've been thinking about lately because of a book I recently read - Handmade Nation, the Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design, by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl.

I picked it up because I've been doing a lot of pre-season craft show work and I was thinking about much more interesting craft shows are recently than they were when I was a kid and got dragged to them by my mom or a relative. A lot of the time these days, there's plenty of stuff I'd like to buy, and quite a bit I can't afford - which isn't what craft shows used to be either. But then again, I'd rather see something I want that I can't afford than a whole room fully of crafty goodness that I wouldn't give house room to.

The book contains short profiles of about 25 crafters of all kinds, but what interested me the most was that almost all of them, when asked where desire came from to make things, said that they grew up around someone (a mother or a relative) who made something. It didn't have to be the kind of thing they grew up to make; it was enough to be raised around creativity that it sunk in.

My mom could draw, and while she didn't much like to sew, she could. There was a machine in the house, and every once in a while lightning would strike and she'd want to make something. It usually ended badly, with much swearing and a wadder in the trash can, but that's another story. My aunts sewed; my grandmother sewed. They embroidered, they knitted, they tatted.

They made stuff.

I remember being a little kid and always having some kind of project going, whether it was painting, making furniture for my doll house, sewing clothes for random dolls, trying to build a Barbie-scale log cabin in the back yard out of sticks (too much Little House reading, I'm sure). Many, many projects involved Elmer's glue, which I thought was the greatest thing ever created. What else could you mix with torn-up white bread to get clay? What else could be painted on fabric to get a waterproof effect for Barbie's raincoat? What else . . . well, you get the idea. I was in love with a glue that you couldn't sniff. (I sniffed Crayolas instead - the ambrosia of a fresh 64-box of crayons!)

There were beads, sequins, yarn, fabric, glue, paints, crayons, etc. in my room, and something was always in the midst of turning into something else. I guess it's not surprising that I still have the urge to make stuff, almost all the time.

What about you? Is it nature or nuture? Were you surrounded by creative women growing up, or did you catch the bug all by yourself?