Muslin, for a start.

I made my first muslin.

This was a big deal for me. I made it in a fabric that I would never wear (more of that navy cotton pillowcase material), just so I would not be tempted to try to wear it, and sewed it with thread that did not blend in at all, just so I would not be tempted to try to wear it! I’m dealing with the feeling that if I make it, it must be worn, otherwise it’s a waste. It’s not, and I know this, logically. But the emotions of the situation are what they are, so I have to find ways to get around them. And, yes, immediately I see the benefits to making a muslin. I can see where things would gap and where they would be too tight if I didn’t change the way the garment was sewn, and how sad I would be, if that were the case with a fabric I actually liked. That would be like… like buying an off-the-rack garment and then being sad and angry because it didn’t fit me. Why should it? I never met the person who sewed it. But I’ve met me. And I have to wear clothing to interact with people in the society in which I currently live, so why not like the clothing I wear?

Now, the funny thing is, I wear jeans and t-shirts as a uniform. I like my uniform.  It works for my days, and when I look at clothes that I like and would like to wear on other people, I end up choosing pretty much what I have as it is:  jeans, t-shirts, handknit socks and sweaters.  (If I am suddenly transported to Ireland I want to be ready.)  I just want to expand it a bit. Jeans and t-shirts…. and a few skirts? A few non-t-shirty tops? Nothing too radical. But still, I go to choose fabric and I feel a little woozy at the options!  So a muslin is going to help me decide, too, if I like the way a garment feels on me before cutting into fabric that it took real effort to buy.  Well, let’s not put it that way–I love having fabric around!  It’s just that as soon as I decide that it’s going on my body instead of my bed or a cushion, it’s a whole new ballgame.  So, having chosen and purchased fabric (and having done a happy dance that I got it off the bargain shelf!), I want to know the garment for which it is intended is going to fit before I try to make it.  And since, honestly, it’s harder to create a garment the more topography there is (I can cut straight edges if it’s going onto my bed, but straight edges on me… well, it makes me look like I’m wearing a blanket, too), a muslin makes a lot of sense.

I hate my muslin.  And that’s good news, because I am not in any way tempted to wear it out into daylight.  But it’s awfully handy.  Having made it, I’ve since cut into fabric for two other shirts and have been daydreaming ways to modify the pattern more.  And there’s a good chance that the garments might actually fit me.  This makes me happy.  I’m easy to please like that.

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The Linen Closet.

As I said, I have been feeding the linen closet this year. And then, a sheet died, an organic cotton flannel. (A great sheet, just the oldest of the bunch.) And I am not about to just toss six yards of organic cotton flannel because there’s a hole in there. So I cut it up, into pillowcase pieces, and began sewing pillowcases.

I had finished a quilt per spec for my mom, which left me with a couple of yards of navy cotton, so I made pillowcase pieces out of them too.

And then the linen closet spoke to me, and said that it wanted lace. Embroidery. Pillowcases were no longer enough, they needed to be embellished.

Don’t laugh. Just because historically I have not been an “embellished” type of person does not mean my linens can’t be. I don’t have to be a neo-Victorian to enjoy a lacy pillowcase. So I started making up some crocheted lace. It was fun, and because I was making up the pattern (and didn’t have to memorize it!) it was my go-to easy project for the trip to Seattle. Now it awaits a navy pillowcase.

Crochet lace and handspun

But I couldn’t stop there. This one wanted to be embroidered. I have long loved the look of blackwork, so I picked an online sampler and divided my pillowcase border into six blocks. Then, using waste canvas, I embroidered a different pattern into each block. It has been my evening go-to project, and while it took several weeks to complete, I love it. (Of course my “blackwork” was in navy. Because.)

Blackwork pillowcase

Now I have some oak-leaf lace on the blocking mattress for the next pillowcase. The trims have been lovely in-the-bag projects once I memorized the pattern. I have several more pillowcases to go, but there’s no hurry; no pillows have gone naked in service of this project!

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And… sewing.

Thora, my doppelganger.

Thora, my doppelganger.

Meet Thora. Thora is a dress form, and a friend and I made her a few weeks ago.

I make a lot of things, I think it is fair to say. I like making things. Once upon a time, I thought I was a single-project-at-a-time person. It is to laugh! No, I have discovered a real love of having multiple fibery relationships going at the same time… and even a couple that don’t involve fiber (but don’t tell!). Currently, I have going one quilt (awaiting tying), bags of cut squares waiting to be (at least) two more; a strip of knitted lace in cotton/linen; a pillowcase waiting to be edged in crocheted cotton lace; several balls of merino/silk singles in mid ply on the spindle; another spindle full of alpaca from Peru; a half-finished sleeveless sweater; a granny-square crochet afghan in mid-piecing; a basket full of socks for mending; another pair of socks… um… And of course, that doesn’t include the bags of pre-organized projects awaiting their turn in the queue, like the alien dolls in that claw-machine in Toy Story. “Goodbye, my friends, I’m off to a better place!” squeals the one as the rest “oooh” in reverence.

Yup. It’s a good thing I’m pretty much a process maker, or I’d go slightly mad with the slow pace of turnover around here. And I say that only slightly defensively.

So Thora. My friend Barrie and I decided to make dress forms and I challenged her to use it and not let it sit in the corner… wearing something but otherwise not seeing much action… Hey! I can hear you mumbling at me! She was blocking a sweater! And it needs buttons!

Okay, so the challenge has been thrown down, which means I need to start sewing.

My aunt tried to teach me to sew when I was in high school. She’s a lovely sewer–er, I can now see why sewing bloggers use the word sewist. You can say the word “sewer” and emphasize it as “sow-er” but in print it really does look like I’m trying to gild a very nasty lily. She’s a lovely sewist. She made her daughter’s wedding dress, and my husband’s vest for our wedding, among other things.* Anyway, she tried to teach me to sew, at my request, as a teenager. I managed a pair of shorts and matching top. I remember the other patterns we’d chosen: a full skirt to be made in white-dotted chambray, a white eyelet blouse to go along. But I was so scared. I hated my body, and while I was as fascinated by fashion and clothing then as I am now, the idea of making things to fit that body meant that that body was not likely to change. It also meant that I would have to admit on some level to trying to look nice. Trying meant you were putting yourself out there for criticism, and that meant you might get hurt.

Well, I pretty much still feel that way. But over the last few years I’ve been trying very hard to come to grips with those feelings. And darn it, I love clothes, I have and probably will for a while, even as I crawl into my dotage. (Does anyone ever make you feel like all your clothes should have elastic waistbands and that you should wear longer skirts and sensible shoes once you hit 41?) (Even though I tend toward sensible shoes. But I have since long before they were expected.) There’s no time like the present to try, I guess. And maybe that’s how I’m different from me at 15.

I picked up the Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick at the library and I love it. It is very simple and straightforward, and its premise seems to be to teach several basic techniques, then apply to them to a pattern. Before that, though, Sarai walks you through the design process, and the process of designing clothing for yourself. I think I’m going to like working with this book. Even if it does assume you want to wear skirts. Oh, there’s another thing about me–I never wear skirts. I’ve wanted to, but they tend to ride up and down on me like a loose ring on a finger, because while my figure is (genteelly speaking) an hourglass, it’s a rather shallow one and my waist indentation is rather high, as opposed to the “waist” where things like jeans sit. So my middle, where waistbands generally sit, is at a place that does not indent, so much, as mark a point on a narrowing parallelogram. Clear as mud? If you are wearing pants, they’re kind of caught by being sewn around your other bits. But a skirt can just go up, up, up. Suddenly I’m wearing a very mini skirt with a waistband just south of my bra. Otherwise known as a tummy panel.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that the first pattern is a skirt?

*There’s a story about sewing. So I asked my aunt to make a vest for Chris for our wedding and I went out and bought some lovely matte brocade fabric. She took a look at it, and gave me a Look. Then she made the vest, and on return handed me back the majority of the fabric. There really was a lot of fabric. “Make a sofa cover out of the rest of it,” she twitted. So I did.