V8747: Encore

This is take two of a shirt I made last summer, with only minor changes:

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I took the pictures for last year’s shirt in the same spot, too–go figure. And I apologize for the lack of eye contact in these photos. Every shot where I was looking at the camera was either badly out of focus or I looked like someone had been trying to poke my eyes out with a stick.

1. Made out of pink cotton voile, mostly to match and be worn with the border print skirt, but also wearable with other things.

2. Added 1/8″ on the seams width-wise to make it a bit less snug. Worked like a charm.

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Sleeves! Blurry sleeves. My camera was determined to take pictures of the trees behind me instead of me. I’m trying not to take it personally.

 

3. Changed the sleeves. At first I thought maybe smocking, but with the gathers on the front, I thought it would be best to remain consistent and use gathers on the sleeves too. So I drafted a fairly snug cuff in the same dimensions as the front button band, cut and spread the sleeve to make gathers the same width and density as the front gathers, and added a smidge to the height of the sleeve cap to give it a nice bit of puff up top.

The Back.

The only thing I might change for next time is to take some of the length on the front out above the bust, instead of between the bust and the waist. It’s the right length but I think the gathers are just a bit too low for my taste, and I wonder if that would help the neckline stay put (it likes to drift wide). But it’s a pretty minor thing.

Review: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World(The weirdest thing happened this summer, Dear Readers. I made some shorts and t-shirts for myself and Frances and Mysterious Others, and I thought — you know, I have enough summer clothes now. There’s really no need to sew another dress or skirt. Let’s do something else. You’ll probably be seeing bits and pieces of those Something Elses over the next little while, plus there are some unblogged clothes that I’m hoping to get to, but in the meantime, here is an unrelated book review on environmental philosophy.)
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book makes absolutely no sense.

Look, I understand that the alphabet is a phenomenal technology that has transformed human thought and consciousness, but if you are able to make your argument using that technology then obviously the technology is not mutually exclusive with that argument.

The thesis of the book–so far as it has one–is that closeness with and participation with the earth as a thing with value in its own right was, for many cultures, enacted within a spiritual system that saw breath, air and spirit as all-encompassing and synonymous; and that, as the alphabet codified breath, it must also be responsible for the separation of breath and spirit, and our divisions from each other and from the world around us. But if you are capable of making that argument with the alphabet then obviously the alphabet is not to blame. He makes outright nonsensical assertions such as: “It was not enough to preach the Christian faith: one had to induce the unlettered, tribal peoples to begin to use the technology [alphabet] upon which that faith depended.” To which I can only say: oh please. The vast majority of christian converts throughout history have been illiterate, and for a good chunk of that time the bible was only available in a language none of them could read or understand!

Oh but that’s ok, because, as he says later on, “It is a style of thinking, then, that associates truth not with static fact, but with a quality of relationship …. A human community that lives in a mutually beneficial relationship with the surrounding earth is a community, we might say, that lives in truth.”

How about not. How about you say that, and I throw rotten tomatoes at you for doing so.

First off: truth is a perfectly good word already with a good, valuable, and necessary meaning of its own. You want a word that means “living in a good relationship with the earth?” Come up with a new one.

Second: Who gets to define what “mutually beneficial relationship” is or looks like? And how is that determined without reference to “static fact,” or outside, objective reality? How would anyone ever arrive at this relationship from the place we currently inhabit WITHOUT reference to truth using its current meaning?

Third: Even once that relationship has been arrived at, we are going to need to be able to reference “truth” as we currently understand it to pursue other important goals, such as human equality. For centuries now women and people of colour have had to fight slowly and with incredible push-back against inequitable and incredibly unjust systems by referencing external facts such as “in fact no black people are not stupid or violent” and “woman are not motherbots.” And let’s be clear: it is entirely possible, and has been the case for much of human history, that it is very possible for a human civilization to treat its constituent members like disposable shit while still maintaining their local environments in a fairly serviceable condition, so figuring out the earth-relationship part is no guarantee that it will lead to a just, equitable, meaningful or fair way of life for the people who make up that society.

But the whole book is like this, and his attitude toward “truth” as a concept worth preserving in its current state may be why he plays so fast and loose with actual truth.

Like this one:

“Of course, not all stories are successful. There are good stories and mediocre stories and downright bad stories. How are they to be judged? If they do not aim at a static or ‘literal’ reality, how can we discern whether one telling of events is any better or more worthy than another? The answer is this: a story must be judged according to whether it makes sense. And ‘making sense’ must here be understood in its most direct meaning: to make sense is to enliven the senses.”

Yeah. Ok. Find your nearest MRA or Nazi sympathizer and ask them what stories “enliven their senses.”

So you may be asking yourself then why I gave the book even two stars.

There are parts of it that are written beautifully, and I do feel that I learned a fair bit about the cosmology and spiritual systems of a great number of societies worldwide, which was interesting, though I’m not sure I trust his representations and I’d want to double-check his references before assuming that the information is fair or accurate. After all, maybe they were just stories that properly enlivened his senses. He presents a way of thinking in parts of the book that is fascinating–not his own, to be sure, but that of the cultures he writes about.

So that’s worth a star. And I do believe, as he does, that we need to re-embed ourselves with the rest of nature (conceptually and psychologically–we have never actually severed ourselves from it, but our belief that we have is responsible for most if not all of our environmental problems). But I believe that we need to do so with proper respect and relationship to the relevant facts, not on the backs of insubstantial just-so stories that can’t bear the weight.

View all my reviews

Math Skirt (yay!)

This is the skirt I will point to whenever any young person ever asks me WHY they have to learn about fractions, measurement, multiplication and division, and WHEN they will possibly ever use this in their real lives. Because this, Dear Readers, is a Math Skirt.

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Love the skirt but my god the pictures turned out terribly. I’m scraping the barrel here, Dear Readers. Also: The Front.

 

Let’s word it like a math test problem:

You have two 40″ long pieces of border print fabric that must be assembled into a fitted skirt for an adult woman with a 30″ waist and a 38″ high hip (5″ below the waist). How much must the waist be pleated to reduce the 40″ to 30″, assuming twelve pleats on front and back (24 pleats total)? How much must the pleats be reduced 4″ down to ensure adequate volume for the high hip? For bonus marks, draft a 1″ waist-band.

Sure yes! Let's go tromping around in the woods in my new white skirt!
Sure yes! Let’s go tromping around in the woods in my new white skirt!

I didn’t even properly draft a pattern for this. I just cut out two 40″ long fabric rectangles, sat down with a calculator, a ruler, and a pink chalk marker, and started figuring out where to put the pleats and how big to make them to fit the way I wanted them to–which was to duplicate this skirt, as much as possible.

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I do love that skirt.

White invisible zipper, white hook and eye. Side zipper so I didn’t have to break up the print. The fabric is a mid-weight cotton satin, and it’s just gorgeous. Just the right amount of body to get a pleated skirt puffing out nicely, but still light enough to be a pleasure to wear when it’s hot outside.

In the photographs, the white of the skirt catches all the light and you can’t see any details. So here is one with the exposure turned way down so you can see the pleats. They’re pleated from the waist to the high hip, sewn down nice and snug, and then released. Each pleat has a 45-degree stitching line at the bottom that you can just barely make out in this picture.

Pleats Proof.
Pleats Proof. Also Extra Wrinkles, that don’t show up in real life.

It has a white cotton voile lining, and here I used the skirt sloper to make a quick and dirty a-line lining–just enough to keep the main skirt belling out and provide a little extra opacity.

The Back.
The Back.

 

Since the border print ran along the selvedge, I just turned it up once and top-stitched it down. It’s not like it’s going to fray, after all.

Here I’m wearing it with a recent yet-to-be-blogged blouse, but I’ve got enough of the border print left over that I think I can make a shirt, maybe with the border print on one shoulder. This is yet to be decided.

In the meantime: Math Skirts–not so hard!

As a bonus, at the end of my little photo hike, this lovely lady popped out of the woods to say hello.

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Terrible picture as it was getting dark, but the deer around here are not shy of humans, so she just placidly trotted along, snacking on greens, eyeing me while I tried to get a good shot. Which I clearly failed to do.

V8997, the Sheath Dress Edition

Perfect place to take outside pictures in public with a good back-drop and no observers: a church on Saturday night!
Perfect place to take outside pictures in public with a good back-drop and no observers: a church on Saturday night!

I bought this stretch cotton pique at Fabricland on sale for $5/metre knowing that it would make the perfect V8997 sheath dress–snug but still comfy! Big colourful floral pattern! Enough body to hold it’s shape nicely! Figuring out the perfect lining fabric took a little longer, but eventually I settled on a stretch cotton poplin in white. I wanted something with the same give of the fabric, first of all, but secondly, I wanted to keep the cotton feel and breathability for those super-hot days in July and August when anything slippery on the skin feels like a wet plastic bag coated with silicone.

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Yes, I know; it’s summer now and I still look like a ghost. It’s either that or bright red, Dear Readers. I don’t do tan. Actually, this is my tan.

As I’d made the circle-skirt version of this before, the sheath dress was pretty simple. I shortened the bodice pieces on the shorten line, as last time it was too long; it turned out to be just a smidge too much and next time I’ll put back in 1/2″ of it. I also needed to take out between 1/8″ and 1/4″ for all the waist and hip seams (and that’s a lot–there’s eight pieces between the front and back) to make it reasonably snug and sheath-like. I took out about 1/4″ on the princess seam right at the armscye as well, to deal with some gaping that only become evident once the whole thing was sewn together (of course–so it had to be disassembled and reassembled at that seam. Always an adventure).

I also added about 3/4″ to the inside of the v at the shoulders to better cover bra straps.

The Back! Which I forgot to do up at the hook & eye. Oops.
The Back! Which I forgot to do up at the hook & eye. Oops.

The main variation was the welting. This is the same white stretch cotton poplin I used for the lining, in 1 1/2″ bias strips, folded in half. One of the things I really love about this dress pattern is the seamlines, particularly that angle around the waist (empire waist in this case thanks to the extra shortening–d’oh!), and I didn’t want it to be hidden by the busy print. And then I thought if I were going to add welting around the waist I should add it at the neckline and armscye as well, just for greater consistency and visual balance.

The Side. Still debating if I should snug in the waist a bit more. The stretch means it has a tendency to bag out a bit after wear.
The Side. Still debating if I should snug in the waist a bit more. The stretch means it has a tendency to bag out a bit after wear.

I’m glad I did. I think it looks sharp, emphasizes those seamlines well, and adds an extra 1/2″ on the shoulders for even more bra strap coverage (key!). But oh my god did it ever make assembling those pieces that much more finicky and time consuming.

The zipper was just a regular white zipper–I didn’t want to mess with an invisible zipper with a really thick and spongy pique fabric. But hey! Check out how those seamlines and welts match up!

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Not bad, eh?

Used a blind stitch for the main fabric at the hem, and my new 6mm hemming foot for the lining, which I totally love and which is also going to revolutionize my shirtmaking, I can tell. It was the easiest hem I’ve ever sewn in my life, ever.

And a ton of hand-stitching to attach linings to seamlines internally once most of the construction was done.

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I’ve worn it a few times already and I can atest to it being super, super comfortable, thanks to the stretch. Like pajamas comfortable. And find me another sheath dress that you would compare to pajamas, I dare you.

Can you see the migraine in these photos? Plus: meet Butch, an arm-patch activity monitor I'm wearing for a few weeks as part of a medical study. Butch joins Bertha, my insulin pump (named after the crazy wife in Jane Eyre--yes, really) and the Biologist, a continuous glucose monitor I'm also wearing for the study. The Biologist does not get along with acetaminophen, which is the only kind of painkiller I can take. Point being that until July 6, when I get a headache, I get to just suffer through it. And also I will be sporting extra weird medial bulges in blog photos for a couple of weeks. Did you care? Probably not.
Can you see the migraine in these photos?
Plus: meet Butch, an arm-patch activity monitor I’m wearing for a few weeks as part of a medical study. Butch joins Bertha, my insulin pump (named after the crazy wife in Jane Eyre–yes, really) and the Biologist, a continuous glucose monitor I’m also wearing for the study. The Biologist does not get along with acetaminophen, which is the only kind of painkiller I can take. Point being that until July 6, when I get a headache, I get to just suffer through it. And also I will be sporting extra weird medial bulges in blog photos for a couple of weeks. Did you care? Probably not.

StyleArc Jasmine Shorts

It’s no secret that I love my StyleArc Jasmine pants.

Another post, another goof photo. At least I'm still wearing yellow.
Another post, another goof photo. At least I’m still wearing yellow.

I wear both pairs I’ve made every week, as long as it’s pants weather.

But it is not pants weather right now. Sigh! And what I really need are work-appropriate shorts. Or, actually, shorts period.

It took me much longer than it should have to realize that I could just shorten the Jasmines and get a perfectly serviceable shorts pattern essentially for free, that has already been fitted.

Corporeal. Huzzah! I'm not invisible!
Corporeal. Huzzah! I’m not invisible!

So: leftover fabric from the pleated pencil skirt. I had just enough.

I used a rayon challis that is close to my flesh tone for the pockets and stays, per a recent Threads (I believe) article about how this is a better practice to avoid visible pockets from outside the garment. It worked just fine, and it’s comfortable and soft.

Innards. I am super proud of this fly, Dear Readers. But mostly, you know, here is the Pocket Fabric.
Innards. I am super proud of this fly, Dear Readers. But mostly, you know, here is the Pocket Fabric.

My one white pants zipper was just a smidge too long, but I was so not going to go to the fabric store just to get a slightly shorter white metal zipper. I just let it hang down a bit too long.

And this pair of shorts was a three-machine endeavour:

Serger for most seam construction.

Yes? Not bad? Also I added some bar tacks at the pockets and hips to create more strength.
Yes? Not bad? Also I added some bar tacks at the pockets and hips to create more strength.

Sewing machine to install the pockets and the zipper, hem, and top-stitch the waistband.

This hideous photo shows you the coverstitches holding the pocket facing to the pocket.
This hideous photo shows you the coverstitches holding the pocket facing to the pocket. It needs to be tidied a bit.

Coverstitch to reinforce the side and crotch seams, and attach the pocket facing to the pocket piece.

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Cover stitches sewing on that side seam. Perfectly parallel and FLAT.

 

I made a few more fitting tweaks for this version, mostly in making it a bit smaller in the waist (the last camel version I made is still too big after taking it in by an inch on either side). And it worked almost perfectly, with the minor exception that I failed to account for the 0 length-wise stretch in this cotton sateen (lots of cross-grain stretch), so the waist band is a hair too snug and has no give. But it’s still perfectly wearable, even when sitting at the computer for several hours and having a long, large lunch break. The rest of it is just perfect and I love it to bits. It’s a bright print but the colours all work with tops I already have, so–huzzah! More shorts!

The Back.
The Back.

Not too tired to pontificate, thank god

Today I am walking into walls. Apparently I have lost the ability to manage a straight line. But why should this stop me from soliloquising about internet matters? No reason at all.

To that end:

I coincidentally came across two articles about when and how much to care about what other people think.

Dani Shapiro wrote “What do you do when the internet hates you?” for the May edition of Elle magazine (I read it originally in print where it had a different title, but I’m tired and I forget; forgive me). And then Emma Gray wrote “In praise of women who give all the fucks” for the Huffington Post. (She asterisked her title, but I can swear on my own blog if I want to.)

Says Dani: Care less. Says Emma: Care more. This would of course not be the first time that women receive contradictory advice on how to be properly feminine from the Professional Womanification Guild. Actually, if we got consistent advice, they’d probably go out of business. But anyway:

“I’d hear from my agent that they were going in a different direction. Someone taller. Or they wanted a redhead. Or whatever. All I ever heard, thrumming beneath the ostensible reasons, was that I wasn’t good enough, or talented enough—not even to smile fetchingly and hold up a can of soda. Look,they just didn’t find you appealing, my agent once told me. I lived in a debilitating state of chronic insecurity, which I dealt with by exercising more, starving myself further, and making myself blonder. I was operating under the dangerous delusion that if only I could burnish myself into some sort of perfection, I’d be chosen. Truth be told, I was a lousy actress. I was self-conscious, tongue-tied, prone to blushing and stammering in front of the camera. It would have been merciful for someone to take me by the hand and tell it to me straight, put me out of my misery. I was careening down the wrong path, trying with all my might to squeeze myself into somebody else’s life.

“…It may sound quaint now, but in those days you’d actually have to go to a newsstand to pick up a magazine or newspaper. I was living in New York City, and I would haunt the newsstand on the corner of 82nd Street and Broadway, because that vendor got his shipment first. There were lovely surprises, like opening up the new Vogue to see a glowing review of my book written by a heroine of mine. But the negative attention was swift and vicious. The word bimbo was used as a caption beneath my photo in the New York Observer. A male writer I admired wrote a highly personal character assassination of me in New York magazine—I’d quote it for you, but I didn’t keep a copy (and I can’t find it online, I swear). I cried for three days in my apartment. Once again I felt I was being judged not for what I wrote, but for who I was. My life, reviewed.

“Of course, you might say I asked for it. To be a writer—to do anything that involves putting oneself out there—is to invite criticism. And if you write about personal stuff, well, what do you expect?

“…It seems to me that when we inhabit ourselves— when we say, This is who I am in all my flawed humanity—we are taking a step toward being most real. And when we buy into the opinions of perfect strangers whose feelings about us may be based on random data ranging from something they read to what we’re wearing and even to their own projections, we are being assaulted and governed by the unreal. As I’ve written this essay, I haven’t once thought about how it will be received in the world. If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to write it—I’m revealing quite a lot about myself, some of it is quite painful and unflattering. But as I come to the end, now I can imagine some possible reactions: Humblebrag…Who the hell does she think she is?…How dare she dismiss all those online reviews just because she doesn’t like them? The ugly comments from the past may even be flung back at me. You are a spoiled, pretentious crybaby. But that’s okay. I’m no longer dancing for the shadows. I’m just a shot of whiskey—not for everybody.

“And so I close the door. I write these words. I don’t click over to Google to see what people think. In the silence—in the absence of all those voices—here is where I discover who I am.”

I’ve quoted a fair bit of Dani here, and my apologies for that. But she makes an interesting point and she makes it well, in my opinion. The public criticism is of course painful and she’d rather have praise. But ultimately she recognizes that these people are allowed to dislike her and allowed to say so. That said, she’s decided to carry on being herself and doing what she does anyway.

People don’t like you? Dani says, don’t give a fuck! Fuck them fuckers. They don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. Or even if they do, so the fuck what? You don’t have to be something they like.

(And flip side: they don’t have to like you. It’s allowed.)

Whereas Emma argues that we have reached, in a memorable phrase, “peak lack of fucks given,” perhaps to our detriment.

“But it also can be deeply exhausting pretending not to give a fuck about everything — and at times, it may prevent us from fully embracing the fucks we do need to give. The simple fact remains: to affect real change, and feel anything deeply, you probably need to give quite a few fucks.

“…We might be closer to embracing “strong women,” but we also want those “strong women” to have an uncanny ability to “let it go.” Express messy emotion? Probably don’t. Show just how hard you try? Ditto.

“…Since when did caring the least about everything — or at least convincingly pretending to — become the most attractive quality a woman could possess? The only way you’re going to be able to rise above and give fewer fucks about the bullshit is if you actually give a fuck about something else.”

I think the two of them managed to say the same thing after all:

Decide what you do give a fuck about, and then don’t give a fuck about anything else. Dani gives a fuck about finding out who she is, being real, being herself, and writing. As a result she doesn’t modify her writing to appease her critics, because that would interfere with the more important goals of self-discovery and authenticity. Emma valorizes Amy Schumer, who has similarly decided to be bravely and authentically herself in public, and not allow the voices of others to detract from her self-confidence.

I can attest to this method. It works.

It’s also relevant that both Dani and Emma and the women they discuss have editors. Their work is not immune to professional criticism. They have gatekeepers who criticize their work, who have standards, and who can at least somewhat impose those standards on the work. In that sense, they haven’t decided not to care about what anyone else thinks; they’ve just decided to care about what a limited number of people in certain contexts think. If they didn’t, it’s unlikely that they would have achieved the professional success that they have.

These articles highlight something else that’s interesting and, to me, overlooked:

“Not giving a fuck” doesn’t mean “not disliking.” It’s an active, mental decision not to engage with something rather than a passive lack of emotion about whatever has gone on.

Dani is quite honest about disliking those negative reviews. Amy, in Emma’s piece, was very open about the dark place that criticism used to take her. Both of them are actively choosing not to engage rather than just not feeling any discomfort or unhappiness about the criticism. This also rings true for me: it’s not that I enjoy being disliked or criticized (or when a few hundred people at a public event start shouting that I should be fired, for instance). It’s not that I’m emotionally neutral on it, either. It’s that I’ve made an active choice about what I’m going to prioritize, and if something isn’t on that list, then whether or not I like it is irrelevant and I’m going to keep going.

Seen that way, “I don’t give a fuck” isn’t a statement about feelings but about values. And it is–I think this is overlooked too–a statement that contains with in it an implicit valuation of what other people want us to feel and care about. One doesn’t say, out of nowhere, “I don’t give a fuck about air mattresses,” for example, and if one ever did, it would immediately invite speculation about who exactly does give a fuck about air mattresses, and why. Whereas if I were to say “I don’t give a fuck about public transit” (a statement which I hasten to add is not true), it immediately brings to mind an entire debate about whether or not public transit is important, to whom, why, and possible positions.

Not Giving a Fuck is what happens when you’ve decided what you DO Give a Fuck about, when someone disapproves of your choices, makes you aware of that disapproval, and when you–regardless of how you feel about that disapproval–decided to carry on in the face of that disapproval. 

So to sum up, here’s How Not to Give a Fuck about Things That Are Not Worth Giving a Fuck About:

  1. Decide what it is you are going to give a fuck about. You can’t get around this step. What do you love, what do you care about, what are you willing to go to the mat for?
  2. When disapproval surfaces of something you have said, done, or made (or conversely, not said, not done, not made), re-evaluate: is there something going on here that should have been part of your Give A Fuck List? If yes, add it, care, and behave that way. If no:
  3. Keeping saying/not saying, doing/not doing, making/not making, what you were before. Go ahead and feel all the messy and uncomfortable feelings that come along with disapproval. One day they may lessen or go away, and maybe not. This is called “courage.” One does not get to the pinnacle of No Fucks to Give without quite a lot of it.

In the meantime, you have your work to do. You know what it is. Do it.

V8689: I like to make things complicated (or: why my April Fail-Bingo blouse was finished late May, posted in June, and also a multitasking RBG trip)

Oops! But the picture looks pretty cool I think so ... here it is anyway.
Oops! But the picture looks pretty cool I think so … here it is anyway.

Saturdays are busy days Chez McDowell.

Yes, yes, Saturdays are busy for everyone–but this is my blog, so I get to talk about my own busy Saturdays.

Saturdays are the days I do a full week’s worth of errands (groceries, bills, library, drugstore, etc.) , get in a decent workout, a longer-than-average-shower, any required yard work, and oh yeah, wouldn’t it be nice to do some blog photos or some sewing? All before 6pm, which is when my daughter comes back from her Dad’s house. Technically yes I could do some of that on Sunday, but my Frances-time is precious to me and I prefer to keep it as free as possible so we can hang out and I can listen to all of the amazing and quirky and clever and hilarious things that go on in her head. I do laundry on Sundays. Everything else I try to do on Saturdays, before 6.

Royal Botanical Gardens Lilac Dell with a band playing. Lots of trees = privacy, right?
Royal Botanical Gardens Lilac Dell with a band playing. Lots of trees = privacy, right?

As a result, my handmade garments have been piling up and I haven’t had a chance to shoot any of them. Why do I think every year that May will be a great chance to get outside for some decent photographs? Of course I’m outside–mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, picking up branches, trimming the hedges, and generally filling up my time and getting myself so sweat-grimed that a camera lens is the last thing I want to see.

This Saturday I was determined to get those photos done. I thought–hey! The lilac dell is in full bloom at the Royal Botanical Gardens; I need to renew my membership anyway; I can combine it with a hike while I’m there and kill two birds with one stone, plus it’s the RBG and so guaranteed to be gorgeous. Accordingly, I brought my camera, timer and tripod to the RBG and took some hopefully discreet selfies in the lilacs and along the trail while Getting My Exercise, Appreciating Nature, Renewing My Membership, and Losing Five Pounds in Sweat Through My Face.

Fortunately you can't see the sweat pouring off my face like the Mississippi. Right?
Fortunately you can’t see the sweat pouring off my face like the Mississippi. Right? Also: to go with the multi-tasking theme, you can expect this outfit to reappear when I blog the shorts. I’ll try to use different shots though.

It was so hot, Dear Readers; almost 30C. In May. I tremble to think of August.

Keep all that in mind while you read about the many ways I unnecessarily complicated my Fail Bingo shirt.


 

So this blouse took a long time.

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Partly because it was a new pattern, to me. I made it up in a size 14D as a test garment, tweaked the fit to be a bit looser around the bust and less loose around the waist, along with the standard shorter in the back and broader in the shoulders. On the whole it was pretty good and I consider these minor tweaks. Oh, plus moving the shoulder seam forward by about 3/4″.

Partly because I made it out of the cotton/silk voile that I adore so much and used for the other Vogue blouse. It is quite sheer and needs underlining. In fact, even with the underlining, it`s still a bit sheer. But I can wear it to work without embarrassing myself, and that’s key.

Of course, it`s a yoked blouse with princess seams, which means there are fifteen pieces to be underlined before assembly.

View D, the one I made–but without the boob pockets.

Fifteen.

Two of each, of course, stitched together carefully by hand before assembling the blouse. I bought 1 1/2 metres originally, and ran out and needed to buy an additional half metre to finish the shirt. That’s two-metres for one short-sleeved blouse (cost-wise still not bad though; under $30 including thread!).

Mercy.

Partly because this blouse pattern suggests felled seams. Which means sew together, trim one side of the seam, press the other one in half, fold it over the trimmed side, and sew it down again. Or you know, buy a felling foot and use that. I don’t have a felling foot. I`m reconsidering this, however, in light of the amount of time spent assembling this blouse. Though Janome doesn’t make a felling foot. Anyone have any generics they can recommend?

The Back. Horizontal lines brought to you by the treachery of tucking in. Why do they do that?
The Back. Horizontal lines brought to you by the treachery of tucking in. Why do they do that?

The pattern does not suggest finishing the seams in the sleeves, which is just odd. I ended up felling the sleeve seams and french-seaming the shoulders, then top-stitching the french seams down. This voile is incredibly light-weight and cut edges essentially disintegrate on contact with air, so sturdy finishing is necessary. I accidentally top-stitched the french seam down outwards instead of inwards (oops) but I love it anyway.

Inside Out. Yes, this is the inside of the shirt. Right? Also you can see how semi-transparent it is by reading the dry-cleaning joint's logo through the yoke.
Inside Out. Yes, this is the inside of the shirt. Right? Also you can see how semi-transparent it is by reading the dry-cleaning joint’s logo through the yoke.

I wish the buttons were a bit smaller and a closer colour match. It turns out that citron is not an easy colour to find in small shirt buttons. Who’d have guessed.  Other than that, I freaking love this shirt. It’s incredibly soft and lightweight, it’s loose enough to be comfortable to wear without being baggy, and it’s CITRON. Consider: it was 30C, just about; my face was a river and my bottom half got plenty sweaty under those shorts but the shirt, even double-layered as it was, stayed comfortable to the very end, even hiking in the woods.

The Side. From very far away. Sorry about that.
The Side. From very far away. Sorry about that.

I interfaced the shirt with a light sew-in interfacing; I avoid fusibles wherever possible. It’s not as crisp as a fusible would have been but it keeps the softness and drape beautifully.

I’ve now fitted three separate and slightly different Vogue button-up shirt patterns (this one with yokes and princess seams, one with princess seams only, and one with princess seams and a gathered front–yes, there’s a theme). I’ve got one with pintucks left, and then I’ll have four blouse/shirt patterns that should get me through whatever kind of button-up shirt I want to make pretty much forever. Add to the list a wish to learn how to make a hidden button placket on every shirt forever so I never need to worry about perfectly matching buttons. I’m reading through David Coffin’s two shirtmaking books right now (yes, simultaneously) in an effort to master this and other tricky bits of shirtmakery before tackling the pink cotton voile shirt I’ve already cut out.

My Me-Made Voyage of Self-Discovery, including a Final Recap

Dear Readers, far be it from me to pass up any opportunity for self-exploration. There is so much about myself I don’t yet know! And sure there is an entire world of books, movies, songs, science, hiking trails, locations, cities, cultures, languages, and nearly seven billion people I also don’t yet know, but I’m sure that I can’t properly figure all that out until I am chock full of self-esteem as a result of hard-earned self-examination.

And what better way that a purposeful self-voyage based on an analysis of and appreciation for the many and varied garments I have made and worn this month of May?

Accordingly, to begin, I looked for myself everywhere. I looked in the kitchen, the dining room, the front yard, the bathroom, even under the laundry basket in the basement. All I could ever find of myself anywhere were my own two hands, just ahead of me, always out of reach. My hands were all over the place (and are, even now, taunting me on my laptop keyboard), but the rest of me? Just glimpses, Dear Readers.

It was a very confused May (though a much warmer May than last year, where I remember shivering in the backyard all through the month for the selfies and wondering when it would ever be green again, and for the excessive warmth this May I am mostly grateful). How am I meant to Discover myself if I can never find more of me than my own hands? To be sure, it’s those hands that make the things I wear. But why? I can’t question them. They have no ears and if they did, no mouths to give me answers. Not that I’d want mouths on my hands. I’d never be able to go to the bathroom again.

At last I discovered the secret. And myself. In a mirror. Gazing into a mirror is, I’ve since found, a time-honoured way–nay, THE time-honoured way–of truly divining the ultimate worth of oneself and one’s purpose on this earth. The earth itself can wait. Right?

In so doing, I discovered something legitimately surprising: I wear a lot of yellow.

Yellow Vogue blouse in Liberty lawn.
Yellow Vogue blouse in Liberty lawn.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt in cotton knit.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt in cotton knit.
Yellow/citron silk-cotton voile blouse, Vogue again
Yellow/citron silk-cotton voile blouse, Vogue again
Yellow Butterick t-shirt again, with new Style Arc Jasmine shorts--mostly blue, but some yellow too.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt again, with new Style Arc Jasmine shorts–mostly blue, but some yellow too.
Vogue 8997 sheath dress--inexplicably, this dress has no yellow in it. This discovery causes me to question everything I thought I'd learned about myself in May.
Vogue 8997 sheath dress–inexplicably, this dress has no yellow in it. This discovery causes me to question everything I thought I’d learned about myself in May.
That yellow t-shirt again. Do I never wear anything else? Or maybe I just don't photograph myself in anything else? OH MY GOD. I WILL NEVER FIGURE MYSELF OUT.
That yellow t-shirt again. Do I never wear anything else? Or maybe I just don’t photograph myself in anything else? OH MY GOD. I WILL NEVER FIGURE MYSELF OUT.
Thank god there's yellow in these shorts. I can only take so many upsets to my newly emerging Theory of Andrea.
Thank god there’s yellow in these shorts. I can only take so many upsets to my newly emerging Theory of Andrea.
Yellow again! No mirror though. At least this photo demonstrates that the preference for Yellow still exists, even when it cannot be mirrorically confirmed.
Yellow again! No mirror though. At least this photo demonstrates that the preference for Yellow still exists, even when it cannot be mirrorically confirmed.

I had no idea I even owned so many yellow clothes. If anyone had asked me what my favourite colour is, I would have given the three replies, in order:

1. I don’t have a favourite colour. Any bright colour is fine by me.

2. I wear/own a lot of red though.

3. And I have a lot of blue fabric.

How did all this yellow slip under the radar?

My fabric stash is … err, stashed … in the den closet. I bought a few of those hanging Ikea sweater-storage thingies and fold my fabric up in those. It’s cheap, it keeps everything viewable when the closet doors are open, and when closed, shuts it away–except for the overflow currently serving Purgatory on the den floor. In contrast to the two full compartments of red/pink and the THREE full compartments of blue/teal, I have one total compartment for both yellow and orange and it’s not even full. Previous working theory: I don’t actually like/wear yellow all that much. Competing hypothesis: I like it so much that I sew it up as soon as I bring it home (except for the yellow cottons I brought home to make work pants–yes! it’s true!–which are still in the stash, weeping silent cottony tears).

Moreover, it’s all just so much more proof that I make a lousy 40-year-old. Yet another magazine has confirmed for me that in one’s 40s, one is meant to be wearing red. Alas.

However, it must be said that today I am not wearing any yellow at all. Burgundy pants, grey shirt. It may be that I will never Discover myself well enough to have the impact on this world that I know I am capable of. I suppose I’ll have to just muddle along the old way, without much thinking about Who I Am and How That Intersects with What I Wear. (Except for when I do. Yes, I know.)

I also discovered that I still need to make more shorts, and that it wouldn’t be amiss if I focused less on button-up shirts and more on knit shirts. Whether this will happen is as yet anyone’s guess. I couldn’t even begin to tell you, as apparently I just don’t know myself at all.

Not So Much with the Sewing Edition

“Where are our recaps, Andrea?”

(Because I know you have been waiting on tenterhooks.)

Well. A couple of things happened:

1. A weekend of yard work and painting = no me mades, at least no daytime clothing ones. Pajamas as always are me-made, but no pj selfies, thankyouverymuch.

2. Then a sick kiddo and a day spent at home.

3. Then a funeral. And if there is anything tackier than trying to keep up a gimmick like a month of me-mades and its related drinking game during a serious loss to one’s family, particularly when all one’s me-mades are brightly coloured and mostly floral, I’d like to know what that may be.

4. Then the mirror fell off my bedroom closet door and shattered into approximately 3,923,512 pieces.

I give up.

Except not really because so many of my clothes are handmades at this point, I end up wearing them anyway. So technically I just about made the goal; if I include handmade pajamas and my leather work bag, I made it handily. And also I can’t play this particular gap in posting for laughs or shots, so here is a breather post before hijinks are resumed. God knows I could use a few deep breaths.

~~~~~

This Be The Verse (Philip Larkin)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

Not advice I have followed–clearly–and thank goodness, because Frances is hands-down the best thing that has ever happened to me. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be her mom, and I feel like we are un-deepening that coastal shelf, slowly. But families, man. They can be so very complicated. The ties that bind can easily be the ties that strangle.

For a variety of coastal-shelf type reasons which I am only now, at 40, beginning to untangle and explain to myself, what felt like a very close-knit extended family during my childhood drifted apart during my late teens and early twenties. I was at a loss, and a very unhappy loss as well. What happened? Why no more christmas dinners? No more family reunions? To paraphrase a recent bestseller, were they all hanging out and having fun without me?

Well thank goodness for FaceBook.

I’ll let that sentence sink in a little. I know it’s not one that you usually read.

Again: thank goodness for FaceBook, because after running into a few roadblocks in trying to get more traditional contact information, I was able to reestablish contact with my aunts and their families over the past few years. It has been such a pleasure, Dear Readers, and what a treat that is–to connect again and find out that the people you remember from when you were a child are (or have grown up to become) funny, clever, caring, generous and kind people. That they’re people you would want to spend time with even if you weren’t related. It does not always work that way with families, as I’m sure you all know, and possibly from first-hand personal experience.

Last week my Uncle Larry, who had been in declining health for a number of years, passed away. His funeral was yesterday. His branch of the extended family tree was not one I’d been able to reconnect with recently. I’d met his second wife only a handful of times, never met her daughters/his step-daughters, and hadn’t seen my cousins–his sons–since my early teens, if memory serves. How painfully awkward this must have been for them. And of course, it wasn’t good enough. One can’t swoop in and claim a family relationship just at weddings and funerals. There’s no hope of doing even that now with my uncle, which is hard to think about.

I’m tiptoeing around a football-field’s worth of eggshells here, Dear Readers. When a person dies, it is the end of a world; and for their closest loved ones as well, at least for a time, the end of the world they knew. The distance had been so great that I don’t feel I can claim a personal loss. I can’t think of a better way to put it, but how dishonest it would be for me to talk about how much I missed him, when clearly I didn’t miss him enough over the past 20 years to visit. There are people I love who are suffering terribly from this, and for myself, I feel in addition to my concern and grief for them, very keenly the loss of any future potential of reestablishing that relationship. I shouldn’t have let it go by.

Frances came with me. It was her first funeral and she was, as always, a pearl. (I told her this and she said, “What does that even mean?” I said, “It means you behaved beautifully and I’m very proud of you and I can take you anywhere.”)

Regret is a terrible take-away from a funeral. I don’t want to let it happen again. In some cases it is well and truly out of my hands, but where it isn’t, the effort must be made.

More deep breaths. And I’d love to hear any extended family stories any of you have, if you’re willing to share them.

Woods (by Wendell Berry)

 I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.
Though I am silent
there is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.

Me May Made Recap the Second!

OK, so I have been sewing, all right, and finishing things, but I am just SO BUSY and with all of this Me Made May hassle and the selfies and the flickr and IG and blogging and what-not I just don’t know what I am going to do! Stress, people!

(How many shots was that good for?)

Ahem:

Here are things I wore during the second week. Some repeats, one day where I wore the Jalie jeans but didn’t take a shot, so no pic for that day. I’ve been sewing a lot for Frances–mostly t-shirts and other practical items. You will have to use your imagination on those for the moment. I also finished yet another cotton/silk underlined fitted blouse with ridiculous seam finishes, and once again am swearing off it for eternity, but I love that stuff so much I know it won’t last.

Without further ado or excuse making:

Day 8: Jalie Jeans, again! StyleArc Madeleine top
Day 8: Jalie Jeans, again! StyleArc Madeleine top
Day 9: Butterick t-shirt, McCall (I think) shorts, hand-embroidered. Because I like to put my butt on something fancy.
Day 9: Butterick t-shirt, McCall (I think) shorts, hand-embroidered. Because I like to put my butt on something fancy.
Day 10: that Vogue shirt again! RTW shorts. Frances and I were off to a movie (the Avengers) to celebrate Mothers Day.
Day 10: that Vogue shirt again! RTW shorts. Frances and I were off to a movie (the Avengers) to celebrate Mothers Day.
Day 11: Back to work. StyleArc Emily top again and another pair of their Jasmine pants.
Day 11: Back to work. StyleArc Emily top again and another pair of their Jasmine pants.
Day 12: Vogue shirt in Nani Iro double gauze and the self-drafted suede skirt.
Day 12: Vogue shirt in Nani Iro double gauze and the self-drafted suede skirt.

Imagine a picture here of the same jeans you’ve seen already many times.

Day 14: Same Butterick shirt again, this time w/ a close-up of the beading on the neckline.
Day 14: Same Butterick shirt again, this time w/ a close-up of the beading on the neckline.
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