Wardrobe Reboot

The era of cute shoes ended for me in 1998. Since then, every clothing decision I’ve made has been based on one thing and one thing only: “Will it go with my boots?” My footwear has to provide all-day support for my flat feet, even when I’m teaching on concrete. It can’t rub on my narrow (AAAA) heels. It has to accommodate the orthotic insoles that make my legs the same length. This is the baseline for my wardrobe for practical reasons, not aesthetic ones.

Still, this is my reality. Like my weight, it’s probably not going to change much. But you can see why I’ve been dragging my quad-A heels about a wardrobe makeover, can’t you?

Last week, I quit whining and got to work. It’s easier for me to keep my forward momentum if a project doesn’t require a trip to town to buy anything. I pulled out a few patterns I’ve collected over the years, and fabric from my stash. Two pieces of yardage were given to me by a friend who was whittling her stash in preparation for a move. One piece I bought to make a dress back when I could wear dress shoes.

The dress fabric was a poly-blend crepe in a gray-blue-green seafoamy color. I made it into a pair of pants using a Burda pattern. Two or three years ago I started a muslin from that pattern, but got distracted by some other deadline and never made the necessary adjustments.

While my butchery of the fine art of pattern alteration may make some of you weep, I got the job done well enough to be decent in public.

I made two other pieces last week using two Kayla Kennington patterns. When Kayla and I first crossed paths at Sievers, she had spent the day on a plane, a car ride and a ferry and still looked fabulous and comfortable. Ever since, I’ve been planning to make up the Cross Over Top and Perennial Pants for myself.

The pants were so simple I could make a pair in less time than it would take me to shop for, try on and buy pants in a store. I made my trial pair from yardage I got for free, thinking I’d be happy if I just had something without holes to wear in the studio. I think they’ll get an upgrade to Travel Pants when I pair them with a top made from some black linen in my stash (already ironed and ready to cut).

The Cross Over Top I made up from some drapey blue fabric (same source, also free). I think I’ll go down a size next time and still have plenty of room in the hips.

I have about 10 minutes of work to finish up this top. Like the pants, it was very easy to make. I expect it to be easy to wear, as well.

I have the black linen and two other pieces of yardage ironed and ready to cut out. The timing is perfect: Bill is taking a fire department class one night a week, so that will be my night to sew.

Now that the thinking part of this wardrobe reboot is done, I think I’m over the hump. The sewing is simple compared to the procrastination.

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Holiday Recycling — Curtains & PJs Edition

Spoiler Alert: Christmas presents discussed. Proceed with caution, or be prepared to develop gift amnesia (you know who you are!).

After this morning’s trip to town, I can mark four holiday gifts “done.” One trip down the hardware aisle at Fleet Farm, which carries washers in two colors, and the fold-up checkerboards are complete.

These gifts began with one set of recycled cafe curtains in a heavy cotton duck. After the fabric took a dip in the indigo dye vat, I cut each panel in two to make four checkerboards. The contrast fabric is from a box of goodies my sister-in-law’s bff gave me. I’m pretty sure these were pajamas at one time before they were cut up for quilting.

On the end of each board, I stitched pockets for storing the washers. And I added snap tape so the board can be folded up and secured with the washers in the pockets. Here’s how they fold:

I haven’t weighed them with the washers in place, but I think the weight and bulk will be just fine for canoe camping and cabin life. Since the snap tape was on a closeout, my total out-of-pocket expense for these four gifts was under $4. It will cost more to mail them than to make them, but not by much, since they’re so light.

Are you making holiday gifts with recycled elements? Hit the comment button to share your ideas: I’m still pulling a blank on what to make for a couple of people!

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Piecing, Harmony, And The Comfort Zone

There’s a tricky balance between a) pushing yourself outside your current comfort zone and b) having everything fall apart. I’ve been testing that balance for the past year. I call it my Year of Living Dangerously or YOLD. At times it seems like I’m dancing down a yellow brick road, and at other times like I’m asleep in a field of poppies. Welcome to Oz, where I’m about to tear away the curtain and reveal the reality behind one of my artistic fears. I hope this story helps you find courage, too (or at least a medal that says “Courage”), and a nudge to explore the boundaries of your own comfort zone.

This year marked my 10th anniversary as a full-time, self-employed fiber artist. Ten years in, it’s reasonable to expect some things to change. Challenging economic conditions effect what people are able to spend on workshops. Social media that didn’t exist a decade ago has altered the way information is exchanged. And technology presents new opportunities inside the studio and outside it.

So a little over a year ago, I made a list of objectives for my YOLD. It included some stuff that was especially scary for someone who, at that time, was still on dial-up and had never seen a Facebook page. Except for “post something on You Tube,” I’ve done pretty well with that list and my comfort zone in the digital world is much greater than it was a year ago.

To balance all the time I knew I would be spending at the computer, another major category of YOLD objectives was to spend time working with my hands in unfamiliar ways. I took a one-day blacksmithing class. I bought a spinning wheel and took a 5-day spinning workshop. I’ve been making friends with my sewing machine.

And this week (drum roll please), I made a pieced table runner. That may have been the scariest task of all.

Table runner made with 3 of my Spoonflower fabric designs

Maybe piecing isn’t scary for you, but I’ve successfully resisted it for half a century. I love when other people cut perfectly good fabric into small bits and sew it together again. But I got the idea at an early age (might have been 7th grade home ec) that my seams would never be straight enough. That my measuring and cutting would never be accurate enough. That I am lacking the precision gene it takes to piece.(Ahem. This is the scary personal revelation.) That my piecing might not be perfect. And if it can’t be perfect, why try in the first place?

When I recognize this kind of fear in a student, I pull up my Gentle, Supportive Instructor pants and together we get past the field of poppies. When it’s only Me, Myself and I, I just blows it off. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other things I could do besides piecing. But this time, Me and Myself got together to chant, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” It wasn’t three-part harmony, but it worked.

Quite frankly, a couple of pieced table runners isn’t going to send my work in a new direction any more than a blacksmithing class did. So what’s the point?

The point is, I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone, which is more limited by perfectionism than anything else. I made something that wasn’t perfect, and learned from it. My comfort zone is now a bit larger. And when the next big challenge comes in my other work, I’ll remember that courage isn’t the absence of fear but the willingness to take a risk anyway.

So what’s at the edges of your comfort zone?

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Under The Throat Plate

Earworm alert: I typed the title of this post, and now have “Under The Boardwalk” (with alternate lyrics) as the soundtrack for my day.

I’m trying to decide which is more magical — the way a sewing machine works or the process where an animated illustration comes through the air to display on my computer screen. Thank you to Marie E of Colored Thread for a heads-up on the Tyler School of Art Fibers & Material Studies: how sewing machines work!

It must be a coincidence that during the big blow, where we expected to lose power for who knows how long, I dusted off my sewing machine. Nothing dramatic to report — just a new work apron, a tea bag caddy for travel, a clip-on fob for my thread cutter, and I finally got some curtains shortened.

I could have stitched every one of those projects by hand and been quite content. I love the rhythm of hand stitching, even when it’s something as non-sexy as straight seams. I’m trying to learn to love my sewing machine, well, if not the same way then as more than a casual friend.

Maybe it needs a pet name. When my friend Jackie Abrams got her band saw, she gave it a nice, safe name — Mavis, I think.

Do you have a name for your sewing machine? Any suggestions on a name for mine?

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