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Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Just Over The Edge of Comfortable

Yesterday, I was crabby. It was a combination of things. Tighter restrictions in British Columbia where I live. Understanding why but still disappointed to cancel my trip to visit my daughter and her family. No hugs. No warm snuggles with grandsons. Concern for a friend waiting for test results (negative) after direct exposure to Covid. AND... the need for something new. 

Checking back in my files, I can see that I've been working on t-shirts for quite a while - longer than I thought. The results are good. I am one hundred percent happy with the tank top and the t-shirt armhole templates I have developed. They are working time after time. What's not working is the stretch factor. 

Between successes, I've sewn one t-shirt with so much stretch... and one with not enough stretch.... and one with barely enough stretch... that I won't wear any of them. I know myself. There's no point even putting them in the closet. It seems that I've been looking for the Goldilocks of stretch - not enough, too much, just right. 

Yesterday, I finished this navy blue, basic t-shirt. It's the one with barely enough stretch, just over the edge of comfortable into unwearable territory. It was meant to be a wardrobe staple and to fill out some of the missing parts in my empty closet. I'll have to keep trying. This one...

... on the other hand is just perfect. I like the polka dots, the black and white contrast, the shape, the fit, and the stretch factor. I finished it on Monday for my doctor's appointment yesterday. What a strange world we're living in when a doctor's appointment becomes an event worthy of a new outfit, extra care with my hair and make-up, and dressing up. 

This image came up in one of my Pinterest emails so I have no idea who this is or who took the picture or why but I know that I just love her whole look. With perfecting the armhole - or maybe it's Covid pounds - I've been noticing that I might like a little more ease in my t-shirts. This outfit seems to have the right amount. It's cozy and comfortable without being too slouchy and oversized, especially for a dropped shoulder. Something to aim for. 

Today, I want to try some painting experiments. I don't know if I actually can. It's something I've been looking at and gathering supplies for for quite a while and that fear of the unknown keeps holding me back. Hopefully the need for new is stronger. I want to scribble and mark make and put on paints and see what happens with goal of working toward creating fabrics that would be useable for handbags. That's the end plan. The beginning one is to somehow begin. 

What have you been avoiding starting?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - slow but still steady steps to a larger wardrobe

Friday, 26 March 2021

The Stop, Clean Up, And Get Reorganized Point

Thursday was one of those delightfully productive days when every time you look at the clock you're surprised at how early it still is. I got a lot done except this post. It wasn't until I was heading for bed that I realized I hadn't written it yet. 

This morning, a friend from out of town dropped by for coffee while her husband was here on business and then I went shopping (45 minutes away) for t-shirt fabric that wasn't black. I was only partially successful. I got a bright navy, a gorgeous fuchsia, and a yellow/pink/blue/black mix with an eastern overtone to the motif as well as three different black and white prints. Does it count if they are not all black? 

Marcy Tilton's Vogue 9057 is my basic t-shirt pattern only the number has been changed to Vogue 1733. I'm not sure why but it's the same pattern. This t-shirt is my last test of the t-shirt armhole template I've been working on and it's fabulous, working every time, ready to be copied t-shirt to t-shirt. Fitting journeys like this can seem tedious and drawn out but I find they are worth the work every time. My results get better and better and sewing is more and more fun. 

This is stable knit and I've realized that's absolutely critical going forward. Not only is it more flattering on my figure, the results are more guaranteed than when using a less stable knit like...

... the dark grey in this trio of fabrics. It's hard to see in the shoulder detail but even though I used the exact same armhole template and sleeve, both are stretched out and the armhole is too low. I know it's not the pattern because I've used it successfully three times. It's the fabric factor. In the detail at left, you can see how stretchy and droopy it is. It was so bad, I threw the t-shirt away and while I was shopping, you can bet I paid close attention to the degree of stretch and recovery. I'm not sure what really stretchy knits are used for - panties perhaps. 

Whenever I am working on a sewing question that involves numerous garments, multiple fabrics, and different patterns, I think I'm taking good notes and I think I'm keeping things organized but almost always, it's not true. And then, I reach the point of overload and typically it's a messy point at which I can no longer think straight. 

The biggest indicator is when not only is every surface covered but I'm starting to drop things on the floor. That's the stop, clean up, and get reorganized point. 

When I'm working on one garment at a time, I have what I call clutter control points like... find all the pattern pieces and put the unnecessary ones back in the envelope and put the envelope on the dresser... or... pin and cut out the pattern pieces and put the cut pieces and any needed remnants on the dresser and the rest of the remnants into the remnant basket. Clutter control points keep me from going crazy. I work best in a clean environment.

It's become an unconscious rhythm that I don't really think about until it's missing. While one friend was here sewing, she commented on how I would use something and then put it back right away. It's not how she works so she found it strange and at the same time could see how it kept the working area clear and was less frustrating. Things could be found because they were where they were supposed to be. 

Although it may not seem like it after all these messy pictures, the new dresser is working great and providing that missing surface I needed so much. I'm really glad I moved the turquoise cabinet downstairs and put the dresser in its place although I'm still looking for storage units for above. 

Developing my armhole templates was based on fitting work I've done before and information gathered from Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns. I was curious how well the pattern I had developed from measurements and drafting might match up to one of the eight she has in her patterns so I ordered a simple t-shirt pattern. When I compared the two, my template was near to identical to the 5W sizing and what really surprised me was that the shoulder width was narrow like mine and the bicep was wide enough. 

The patterns in the white envelope are different versions of my basic t-shirt that I've developed since 2010 when I returned to fashion sewing. I'm now re-testing each one with the armhole templates I've developed. This tweaking is going to allow me to focus even more on creativity and less on fit and still with complete confidence that the garments will look great. YES YES! My next fitting journey will be the armhole templates for blouses. 

How do you work best?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - great fabric stores

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Bumps And Folds

These weeks of downtime away from painting and house projects are going wonderfully. I'm getting caught up on tasks I wanted to get done including finishing the rug and copy some ready-to-wear pants for a friend.

I do not sew for other people but I have made patterns for several friends from ready-to-wear garments they love and want more of partly because I'm an enabler and want everyone to enjoy sewing as much as I do and partly because I really enjoy the puzzle of putting the pattern together. 

This particular friend and I have a lot on common in terms of the styles we enjoy although she is significantly smaller than me and leans more toward bohemian while I'm curvier and lean more toward architectural styles. Several times when I've copied a garment for her, I've also made a pattern for myself but not this time. I tried them on and these pants were definitely too frilly for me and far more suitable to a smaller figure. 

One thing I really enjoy about sewing at my age with my experience is that I have a much better idea of what suits me and what I will wear. When I try a new style, the choice is informed by what I know about myself and when I take a huge step out of my comfort zone to see if I could wear something completely different, I'm delighted if it works out and not frustrated if it doesn't. I knew it was an experiment. 

On Monday, I finished the rug. This was an experiment too. There are a whole lot of things I'd do differently next time as I talked about in the last post but I really like how it looks and the colour it adds to the entry especially with the door open and the light streaming in. 

Because of the way I joined the blocks, even with a walking foot there were a lot of bumps and folds at the seam lines. There was nothing I could do but embrace them so I made the choice to love it imperfections and all. After I finished stitching, I ironed and hammered all the bumps as flat as possible and let it be. This rug is literally going to get walked all over and with time, it'll soften and settle. 

After trying several possibilities for finishing the edges, I settled on cutting a 2" strip of the grey border fabric, pressing it in half, folding it over the edge, and zigzagging it in place. Luckily, I had enough yardage to cut two short strips and two long strips with no piecing. I stitched the inside edge twice and the outside edge once. I like how it looks and I like that it's done. 

I have just over a week before I visit my daughter and her family. She and her husband really need a break so they are going off to a hotel and I'm having a sleep-over with my grandsons. Even though I'll be playing with two little boys who are not at all interested in my wardrobe, it's a great excuse to make a couple new garments. Right after I sew my third test of the t-shirt armhole template, I want to make a pair of pants. 

Have you tried a new style lately? How did it go?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - fun, unique, one-of-a-kind rug for the entry

Friday, 19 March 2021

What Is Your Metronome?

Yesterday, I went on a road trip to where I used to live to see my stylist and get a haircut. I think she may be the only aspect of the city I miss. Driving through I was so glad I don't live there anymore... which is good... considering I moved. 

I went to Re-Store to hopefully find cabinet doors for the new upper in my kitchen. They didn't have any. I went to Chapters to look for books or a magazine. Nothing intrigued me. I stopped at Walmart to see if they had another set of the sheets I like. No. I bypassed Michaels. No matter what they had, I didn't need anything. The yarn store has closed and even if it was still open, my new drawers are full. I stopped at Fabricland and in spite of all the 70% off sales, I bought only what I stopped for - an outdoor fabric for my front porch. It was a successful trip from my pocketbook's perspective! And my hair looks great too. 

On Tuesday, I washed all these painted canvas remnants and hung them over the railing to dry overnight. They were from an assignment I did with my coach - Diane Ericson - years ago. At one point, I attempted to turn them into zippered bags only the canvas was way too stiff to turn them right side out once stitched so they ended up back in pieces. 

There were six different prints with less of the paisley bottom left and the mottled print top right. And that was fine until I decided there needed to be nine rows, not eight. I substituted a different print for the one paisley block and pieced another mottled one from scraps. I doubt it will be visible to most and even if, that's fine. I needed two more blocks. 

For each row, I butted the two blocks side-by-side and zigzagged them together. This is a step I'd do differently next time. It wasn't stable enough and caused issues further down the line. A strip of fabric underneath would have held everything together much better. 

When I joined the rows together, I pinned them to a backing fabric and stitched through all the layers. I'd do this differently too with strips under each horizontal and vertical seams instead of nothing under one set and a big piece under everything else. The backing created more bulk but didn't stabilize the individual row seams just the seams between the rows. 

I was concerned about the rug just feeling like fabric on the floor so I used two layers of polyester batting between the top and the backing. One would have been enough. 

I started stitching the layers together by re-zigzagging over each seam being careful to pull the fabric layers so they lay smooth without wrinkles. I went edge to edge across the grey border I'd added on four sides. This fabric is remnant from chair covers I took apart after I no longer had the chairs. The next step will be to add rows of straight stitching between the zigzag rows and flatten the pouf a lot more. 

A friend and I are doing a book club together. We assign a portion of the book to read and then talk every second Monday, usually for a couple hours, about what impacted us. Right now, we are reading Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit which is about developing the habits that will support the development and honing of your creative talents. 

A metronome is a tool used by musicians that makes a steady rhythmic ticking sound to help keep the correct tempo of the music. The word metronomically is an adjective meaning happening regularly or keeping to a regular beat. In the book, Twyla gives examples of how different artists get started into their work and asks the question what is your metronome?

I read the book for the first time in 2006 when it was published, once in-between, and this is my third reading. At this point, I don't know which is the chicken and which is the egg. Did I read the book originally because I am habit and ritual oriented or did I become habit and ritual oriented after reading the book? I can't actually say but what I know for sure is that I've already developed a lot of the habits she is talking about and they are hugely successful in my life as a whole and creativity specifically. 

My metronome is being prepared for returning to the studio. Above my reading glasses and posture brace are on top of the work to remind me to put them on. The seam ripper is there to remind me to take out the basting along the outside edges before continuing to stitch the layers together. By preparing like this, when I return to the studio I don't have to figure out where I was and what I planned to do next. It's sitting there obvious and ready. In a previous post, I showed a note I'd written to myself about what was next and the parts - purse feet - were sitting on the work surface ready to insert. It's the same thing, different version. 

What is your metronome?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful -
a haircut

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The Studio Was Beckoning

On Saturday, the turquoise cabinet was moved from upstairs in my studio to downstairs in my dining room. On Sunday, I put together the white dresser from Ikea and then reorganized the supplies from the cabinet. The books also went downstairs and a few containers found a new spot but most everything else fit into the dresser. 

The top two drawers hold patterns. They are turned on side and sorted into categories. I like that I can thumb through them without having to take them all out. It's easier. It's neater. 

The bottom left drawer holds knitting tools and the other three hold yarn. I'd like to clear out one drawer for projects in progress so I'll attempt to knit down one full drawer. LOL - making a black sweater would take care of half of this drawer!

This is the Sara section. All of the yarn shown was dyed by my friend who owns Skimikin Studios and sells on Etsy with her daughter. Her colours are AMAZING - my favourite hand dyed yarn. 

On Monday, I finished sewing the simple tee, a second garment to test my latest t-shirt armhole/sleeve template. It worked great and was very comfortable all day so I'm ready to make a third test. The pattern is traced and ready to alter and cut out. 

Before moving onto another garment, I went back and altered the B6709 top to reflect the armhole changes and while it fits much better now, it's not my favourite. I like the elastic in the cuffs but not much else. I'm unlikely to wear it so instead of going in the closet, it'll get cut up and put into the bits & pieces of potential box. 

Yesterday, I'd planed a road trip meandering from one second hand store to another looking for glass doors for one of my kitchen cabinets HOWEVER... when I woke up in the morning, the sun was shining, the studio was beckoning, and I didn't feel like going anywhere. I wanted to stay home and play. So I did.

Another item I finished was this bowler bag copied and enlarged from a thrift store find. It started as a prototype to hold my daughter's laptop for going back and forth to the office only she hasn't done that in over a year now. With the pandemic, she's working from home. I like how it turned out and with a few tweaks, it'll be one of my repeatable bag shapes. 

A few smaller things were finished - surprises for my grandsons to give their Mom on Mother's Day - and two projects in progress were deemed unlikely to be finished, dismantled, and put back into stash so I currently have zero unfinished objects. Usually this happens in December and I'd hoped to have it happen in January but here it is March. Oh well. Better late than never. 

This morning, I am starting a rug. In my stash was a stack of hand painted rectangles left over from another project. Even though they are canvas, the idea came from our local quilting store that has a rug at the front door made from cotton strips. It takes a lot of abuse and still looks great so I think it's worth the work plus it will do something with these remnants and be one-of-a-kind which I like. Theirs is square. Mine will be a long rectangle to go in the foyer by my front door. 

What did you finish making recently? What are you working on now?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - no UFOs

Friday, 12 March 2021

Confidently In The Wrong Direction

As tired as I am of paint and painting, I'm glad I did the garage. With white over brown, it is now much brighter and cleaner and this is good. On Wednesday, when I was putting things away and setting up my metal working bench, the sun was shining and it was warm enough to open the garage door.

Above left where the mannequin is will be my photo area. It seemed like the obvious choice since with the garage door up there will be plenty of natural light coming from the north... which those who know about photography... not including me... say is good light. I hope so.

The metal working bench is against the back wall of the garage near the entrance to the house. I enjoyed setting it up but haven't worked there yet. Hopefully, it won't feel as public and exposed as it looks.  I think it'll be okay, particularly as there are only eighteen units in this complex and not a lot of movement up and down the central road. If that changes as the weather improves, I guess I'll have to adjust or keep the door down - VBG. 

Yesterday morning when I got dressed, I was stunned at how ill fitting the B6709 top was. All those wrinkles in the left image were caused just by brushing my teeth and doing my hair and make-up. The garment crawled up considerably and felt way too big. In the image at right, I've pinned the armholes shallower at the shoulders and right away you can see how it improves the situation. I wore it pinned while doing my journal writing and the garment stayed smooth and in place with no major wrinkling. The sun was shining so I went for a walk first before heading to the studio and thought about what went wrong with my tank top to t-shirt armhole alterations. 

Retracing my steps, the dotted line above shows the edge of the tank top armhole. This is exactly the shape of the opening that feels right, covering bra straps and pudgy bits. 

Here's where I went wrong last time. For the dotted line to become the sleeve seam, the seam allowance needs to be extended outward at the shoulder, upward at the underarm point, and then blend between the two. Where I'd gone wrong was to lower the line at the underarm point. 

In this image, the solid black line is the sleeve seam and the pencil line is the raw edge. The sleeve seam will sit exactly where the armhole edge of the tank top draft was at the shoulder point and 5/8" lower at the underarm point giving that little bit more room. I've decided to retest this draft on a simple t-shirt before moving on to the more complicated one I'd intended to sew. I'm pretty sure it will be successful but then again, last time I walked confidently in the wrong direction so time will tell. 

Apparently, I bought a LOT of this black and grey striped knit because I've used it for several garments and already had a t-shirt sewn from it however, since the one shown in the last post feels far more comfortable, I cut off the sleeves on the earlier one, turned under the edge, bound the armhole, and created a tank top. It's not as nice as the tank top draft I just worked out but is still comfortable and should get some wear this summer. 

Since my post of the realistic assessment of my wardrobe, I've added three tank tops and one t-shirt to my closet and considering there were only twenty items to begin with, that's a twenty percent increase. I'd planned to sew Butterick 6377 - View A - next to use up some of the knit scraps in my remnant collection but first I'll sew the simple re-test and then debate if I want to alter the B6709 top or abandon it.  

The shape of the B6377 t-shirt is quite flattering on my figure and I feel really comfortable with its fit and flare lines. While tracing it, I was surprised to note that the copyright is 2016. Although it's not the predominate shape in ready-to-wear anymore, it's still quite common and perhaps for that reason. It creates an attractive and comfortable silhouette.  

Have you ever confidently made an alteration only to be stunned by how wrong it went? 

Talk soon - Myrna

- the ability to figure out where I went wrong and make corrections.