I’m up and running on my new darner – UNSTOPPABLE!
[ my son makes memes. like no one’s business. ]
Fall seems to be an incredibly creative time of year for me, and others in my life notice. I get a lot of compliments on my purple hair. In fact in Grays Harbor I’ve heard nothing but compliments. Children are the most openly admiring. But not a day goes by grownups don’t say a few nice things as well. Women tend to compliment; men say something flirty and sometimes even touch me without permission (boo).
But in the car on our way to deliver a pie, my daughter tells me I look gorgeous. It’s pretty wonderful to be loved the way they love me. I know I’m one of my children’s heroes. I know they think I am beautiful and amazing. It’s quite humbling. It makes me feel less self-conscious and it sets a place for me in the world.
Just before I leave for my volunteer concierge shift at the Gallery I hear the stomping of feet and sense that kind of bundled-up energy children bring in the new rains. Wrapping myself in my scarf I step into the kitchen and I shit thee not, seven “extra” kids in my house, all boys. All rowdy, but completely obliging to my eldest child’s commands (wash hands, set the table, et cetera). All of them there for a fête Nels has planned: the celebration of Harris’ birthday. My son has made tea and set out cups and made cards. The children all sing the cat “Happy Birthday”. Phoenix kicks them out after I leave; we have a whitelist of children allowed inside while Ralph and I are gone.
Today in the kitchen: steakhouse bread (sort of like pumpernickel but without caraway, and made up WITH eggs and coffee), two layered chocolate and roasted coconut cream pies with Mexican vanilla. Then a soup the kids cook up while Ralph’s in Olympia: ham, chickpeas, spinach noodles, and fresh peas. Cherry tomatoes on the side and a big glass of milk for each kiddo. They eat sitting with me in my sewing room while I hum through one hundred and sixty-five half-square triangles on my old Singer.
Quilting and gallery sitting, and a few minutes talking with friends. It rained today but I thought ahead and I have proper raingear for the season – boots and coat anyway – and I’ve got proper raingear for the kids too. Food security, and clothing security, and shelter. A fortunate family.
Home now and it’s late; four cats slumber in four chairs. The house is full of the smell of baked bread and the flickering of candles.
For today’s sewing blog installmwent I want to talk about:
Picture a Kris Kristofferson voiceover: “You know, some people seem to have no trouble gettin’ themselves new ideas, trying out new things and branching out artistically.”
* record scratch, then in my own voice * Yeah. I’m not one of those people.
So anyway, trying something new. In the case of this Mini Yeti snowsuit, I really got myself in trouble. And then self-rescued. I ventured out in a few ways: mostly, in working with outerwear and tech fabrics I’d had no previous experience with (three such fabrics, to be exact). I also self-drafted a few tricky things (including curved spiral-pieced horns), lined and underlined counter to previous experience and without a pattern, and handworked eyelets. This is all new stuff and done on a blind commission sent my way from Alberta, Canada. And I’ll tell you, the whole thing felt like risky business often, and I wasn’t sure if it would work out.
But, so far, so good. The blessed item is winging its way to its new home, where I hope it will be much-loved and much-worn.
(Elastic-back, plenty of room for a diapered – cloth or disposeable – and active child! Lovely-warm double-yarn yeti mitts with mitten-holders! w00t)
I have neither the right nor the hubris (these days) to define the term or concept of “art”. But for myself, any creation I make without risk and without stretching myself doesn’t feel like art – it feels like craft, or construction, or some such combination. There’s no problem with craft, repetition, or factory-assembly type work – after all, how many times have I made a few tried and true patterns? – but since I’m trying to develop myself beyond what I already can do, that risk isn’t always super-fun when I’m sweating it out.
Still, I think things turned out okay, and I’d be proud to gift, with love, this garment to any budding snow-bound little tot. Which I may have to do, if the client &/ortot this was intended for isn’t into my results.
And now? Off to the Next New Thing.
I get asked often how long I’ve been sewing. The truth is I can’t remember a time I didn’t know how to sew. I think I’m only a modestly-skilled stitcher, really, considering I’ve been exposed my whole life. Some of my earliest memories of focussed work are of pinning cloth and sitting on the floor cutting with a pair of orange-handled Fiskers; of crinkled tissue cut down to size and marking notches by painfully cutting small triangles. In fact in learning something as a young child the methods my mother used were the ones I thought were The Only Way To Do It. As a grownup I’ve learned my own methods and taught my mother not a few. For instance in contrast I iron all my patterns (shout-out Amore!) and never ¡EVAR! cut them; I dispatch yardage from a table and with rapier-like acuity using a rotary wheel and mat, and I mark notches by a chalk line or tailor’s tacks.
My mom sewed a bit more as a young woman, before she had a family and career. She didn’t sew all that much while I was growing up but what is most important is – I remember she loved it. She seemed to enjoy the feeling of competence in her craft and she definitely enjoyed the design process (such as it is when you’re sewing out-of-envelope). I often think the familial example of someone who does Work and loves it is the most likely avenue for subsequent generations to take it up. This is why I’ve never much bothered to try to get my kids to sew. My guess is they will end up doing it because it’s in their blood. They know so much about it already, without even knowing they know! (They also think everyone knows how to make clothes… they don’t realize how rare this is.)
Three years ago my mother brought me my grandmother’s sewing machine – a Singer Centennial 15-91 made in 1950, both popular and utilitarian. The very machine was manufactured and shipped from the same location, only days apart, from the one a friend gave me about eight years ago when she moved from PT (mine is a Centennial 201-2, another great machine). As a Mother’s Day gift in 2009 I got grandma’s machine tuned up and re-gifted it to my mother – who hasn’t yet used it.
If I had the room I’d have kept it myself. I currently own two working sewing machines. I’d love more and to have them set up – it really is helpful, especially given how quickly I construct things – but I lack the space. I sometimes fervently wish for a room to spread out and outfit myself further with a set up serger and a cutting table and, jeebus, SHELVES would be nice! Realistically this won’t happen for some time; we aren’t likely to have a larger house anytime soon. My husband has offered to rent me a studio space in downtown Hoquiam because he is a Really Fucking Awesome Guy. But even the incredibly-cheap prices of downtown HQX aren’t in our spending plan; neither much are shelves or more accoutrement to fill such a space.
But if I could, I would snap up that opportunity toot sweet.
My clothes generally last so much longer than what people buy. My kids’ closet is bursting with garments I’ve sewn. When they grow out of the pieces (which is relatively quickly!) the clothes go off donated or gifted… I am rather shy about giving off my sewn clothes because I’m unsure of what people like and want (and I hate to mail stuff. A lot. So locals are easiest for me to gift to). A surprising number of garments end up going to the Salvation Army. Whatever their future destinations, I hope they are as well-worn and well-loved as they are when in my home.
Currently I’m only a few minutes away from finishing a couple wool coats, which I’ll post soon. Tonight I’m on another pair of Monster Booties, much requested by readers here and there. I have to put a pause on Yes to favors and outside-of-the-family work; Christmas approaches and one of my chief pleasures is sewing for those I love.
Wool, wool, wonderful wool! How I wish I had yards and yards and yards…
French seams on the inside of a coat – underlining exposed.
In other news, we have my mom’s (incredibly submissive, aged) terrier Tuck here for a few days while she cat- and house-sits in Portland. My mom brought this huge dog bed as well. Last night, his first night, Tuck curled up on the bed and a second later alpha-kitten Hamilton walked over and put her paw on his face. He immediately self-telescoped using his own butthole and slunk off; three of the cats took the bed in a neat feline coup. Ralph and I trained the cats off the bed (this was very easy and involved putting them outside in the snow every single time they so much as stuck a claw towards it) but I had to snap a picture for my mom.
She voted “No”, on the account of she would have had to move her body, which resembles the form and function of a Guild Navigator, about eighteen inches. Much easier to stay on the goddamned chair.
I sew and sew and sew and so rarely document what I sew. Here are two of my children’s Halloween outfits:
Can you guess what Nels was? The letter “V”, that’s right (his idea – for months before the holiday). You can see their auxillary costumes in this blog post. I love, simply love corpsey bridal stuff (as evidenced by Sophie’s ensemble last year). This year she chose “dragon” which was kind of a pain, but I rose to the occasion.
I have a “new” machine. It was my grandmother’s. Oddly it is almost the exact age of my 201-2 (which is to say, 56 years old). My MIL saw it today and said, “Do you have any good new machines?” meaning most people want to see shiny white plastic. The machine was dirty and cosmetically banged-up, but runs well. I’m thinking of hauling its over-heavy ass to the Quilt Show in Ocean Shores tomorrow to give to the reps who can take it to their Oly shop and clean it / tune it up.
Yesterday two girlfriends and I had a little sew-date together. This was about an hour before my world went a bit sideways. P.S., I’m at the heel flap and heel turn of the socks pictured above left and they’re going great.
I love my Spartan. I bought it for $50 for Sophie. She sews on it a little; I sew on it a bit more; Ralph sews on it! My 201 being in the shop, and my Kenmore not quite having the balls I need, my littlest guy is working just fine.
Do you know what this means? These pinked seam allowances mean I’ve settled on a corset fit. The corset is still slightly too large – lacing relatively tight with only 1″ of gap. However, I’m happy enough with it and besides: making it smaller or lacing it tighter makes it shorter on my torso. Right now, it’s perfect.
As long as we’re going retro; I bought needles in the thrift store in Oly yesterday. I broke the seal today (I am a believer in occasionally using useful, well-made, older goods!) and found the perfect needle for invisible-knotting through my stiff corset shell. These needles are Bell brand; ever heard of them?