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.

blog-192-22

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.

Me Made May Recap the First!

All this week I have worn clothing I made myself. Even pajamas! Which you don’t get to see, sorry.

Day One: Butterick t-shirt, Jalie jeans
Day One: Butterick t-shirt, Jalie jeans
Day two: Vogue shirt, same Jalie jeans
Day two: Vogue shirt, same Jalie jeans. You can maybe tell that I am not fussed about avoiding repeats.
Day three: me in a very sloppy Renfew, Frances in my first Ottobre t-shirt pattern
Day three: me in a very sloppy Renfew, Frances in my first Ottobre t-shirt pattern
Day 4: my tea-length Moneta, with a lovely panel print
Day 4: my tea-length Moneta, with a lovely panel print
Day five: Vogue leather skirt, and Vogue cotton-silk voile underlined shirt. Now that's a mouthful.
Day five: Vogue leather skirt, and Vogue cotton-silk voile underlined shirt. Now that’s a mouthful.
Day six: Same Butterick shirt, StyleArc Jasmine pants
Day six: Same Butterick shirt, StyleArc Jasmine pants
Day seven: StyleArc Emily top, Deer & Doe Chardon skirt (lining added)
Day seven: StyleArc Emily top, Deer & Doe Chardon skirt (lining added)

Do you care? God no. Of course not. But I am here to do my level best to give you all the justification you need to get roaring drunk. Bottoms up, ladies!

Now it’s a pleated pencil skirt (Burda Pleat Pencil Skirt 03/2015)

This was a pattern that did not want to be a pleated pencil skirt at all. What it wanted to be, based on the skirt as first sewn up, was a hot air balloon.

for visualization purposes

 

But this would have required me to install hot air jets on top of my feet which, in addition to sounding quite painful, I’m sure would also have been much too expensive. So I cut it down.

A lot.

In the front piece on the hips I took out at least 2″ per side and maybe half an inch per side on the back. I also pegged it below the hips slightly as originally it was pretty straight (and still is, so that tells you something).

untitled-27-6
The Front. With eye-contact, just for fun. Can you see the pleats? No? Me neither.

 

Despite the fact that the skirt pieces made a skirt that was much too big, the waist band as measured out was too small. One day I will learn to wait until after I’ve got the rest of the pattern assembled before cutting out the waistband piece. (I cheated and added a bit of fabric to the end to get it to fit the skirt waist.)

The Back.
The Back.

I’m not sure if I totally understood the zipper instructions as this has them going up partway, but not completely, through the waistband. It’s a little weird so I added a hook and eye at the top to keep it completely closed.

And there was obviously no attempt at print-matching whatsoever.

untitled-11-1
The Side. Do you know, I had no idea that my hair matched the exterior brick on my house until I saw these pictures?

 

But I don’t care. It’s a casual skirt, and at this point it fits and looks pretty well like I want it to. The back centre waistband is not going to be on display much, so whatever.

You can't see them from farther away since the print is so busy, but they are there.
You can’t see them from farther away since the print is so busy, but they are there.

The fabric is a stretch cotton sateen bought at Fabricland for less than $10/metre, and given that I only used a metre–with a $5 pattern, a $1 zipper and a bit of interfacing–this skirt cost less than $20. The fabric has a good stiff hand, which works well with the pleats, and just enough stretch to make it comfortable.  I’ve got enough fabric left to make a pair of summer shorts, and I can’t wait.

 

The Side-Back.
The Side-Back.

Now if only I could insert an entire week of free time between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon…

How To Be 40: The first in an ongoing (and sporadic) series.

Dear Readers, I have an apology to make.

It’s recently come to my attention that I have not turned 40 properly.

Nor, apparently, was I able to conduct my 30s appropriately.

I recently bought a copy of Harper’s Bazaar for potential sewing inspiration. I don’t know why I do this. I will never have time to make all of the things I rip out of magazines every month. But there I was, with a copy of Harper’s Bazaar, and a true Come to Jesus moment.

Can you ever forgive me?

I’ve been wearing the wrong colours all along!

I guess I just didn't quite manage Fabulous.
I guess I just didn’t quite manage Fabulous.

Apparently I was meant to be wearing pink throughout my thirties. I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised. Isn’t pink often criticized as being too girly and therefore infantalizing (leaving aside all of the sexism implicit in those statements) for adult women in the workforce? Still, there it is, in black and white (and pink): In your thirties? Wear Pink!

And I didn’t. I just … didn’t! I didn’t know! Ignorance is no excuse, of course. I should have known. All these months I have been inflicting images of my thirties-self in non-pink clothing. How did you stand it?

Now that I’m 40, apparently I’m supposed to be wearing red.harpers bazaar 40s 50s

The good news is, I already have a lot of red.

The bad news is, I’ve been wearing all that red throughout the time I was meant to be wearing pink. Thank goodness I am well prepared to be 40, and now that I know, I can be sure to emphasize red in my wardrobe for the next ten years (or until the next issue comes out).

But oh god, there’s worse news: I also wear a lot of yellow. And I’m not supposed to be wearing that until I turn 50!

Do you suppose if, by wearing yellow and pink together in this outfit, they can average out to appropriate for 40? Or do I make my top half look 50 and my bottom half look 30?
Do you suppose if, by wearing yellow and pink together in this outfit, they can average out to appropriate for 40? Or do I make my top half look 50 and my bottom half look 30?

I’m so grateful to this magazine for pointing out the ways in which I have failed to choose age-appropriate colours in which to clothe myself. In an effort to make up for this gross oversight, I will continue to share with you the advice I receive from diverse sources about the proper attire for women depending on their age. Fortunately, women’s magazines seem to be full of opinions about how best to disguise our increasing decrepitude and how to prevent ourselves from strangers being forced to witness women older than 22. It’s a public service, really.

For instance, Harper’s Bazaar also informed me that I should now be aiming to look sun-kissed (but I’m pale. Can’t I just be pale? I look like a clown when I’m sun-kissed. But maybe there’s a $100 bronzer that will be light and translucent and also red enough to look like I actually do when I’ve spent a day in the sun), only use mascara on my upper lashes, and that I have 20 years to figure out how to camouflage my jowly bits by covering them with a super-dark sculpting bronzer. Thank goodness!

harpers bazaar makeup age

I, for one, welcome our media overlords. It’s a good thing they’re here to tell us women what to do.

SELF-DRAFTED SUEDE SKIRT

Yep, all the alliterations for this one. It earned them.

This series titled "what am I going to wear with this skirt?" Thought one: stretch red silk blouse, bought 8 years ago. Conclusion one: Oh, I gained some weight. It doesn't really fit anymore.
This series titled “what am I going to wear with this skirt?” Thought one: stretch red silk blouse, bought 8 years ago. Conclusion one: Oh, I gained some weight. It doesn’t really fit anymore.

Earlier this year I worked through the Skirt Sloper class on Craftsy (that I bought last year and never had time for). Originally I meant to use it mostly as a way to double-check patterns before cutting out muslins; I know if the measurements align with those on my sloper, it’ll work. And it’s been fabulous for that purpose.

But then I started flipping through all of the spring fashion magazines and tearing out a lot of inspiration shots of short suede a-line skirts.

Like this one.
Like this one.

First thought: I wonder where I could find an a-line skirt pattern?

Second thought: OHMYGOD I DON’T NEED A PATTERN I CAN MAKE A PATTERN WITH MY SLOPER!

Yes, it deserves the all-caps treatment.

"No, I don't think this shirt will do. It really should be fitted."
“No, I don’t think this shirt will do. It really should be fitted.”

The suede came from Perfect Leather Goods in the textile district of TO; as they describe themselves, they have “leather for all occations.” Good for them. I’m not quite sure what an occation is but I’m sure it’s splendid.

Spelling aside, the store is a nice big maze jam-packed with all the animals skins you could dream up. Lamb, cow, goat, kid, snake, feather, reptile, crocodile; suede, leather, embossed; metallic, natural, shiny, every colour in the rainbow. Also a hint: they offer a discount to manufacturers, so you may want to claim you are purchasing for a business. I’m too honest for my own good so I paid full price. But even so, it wasn’t bad–for suede–and considering it’s 3M washable suede. I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable in trusting it to my washing machine but it does give me greater comfort in case I ever bring it to the dry cleaners.

"Better. Thank god the disaster at the buttonholes isn't visible here."
“Better. Thank god the disaster at the buttonholes isn’t visible here.”

Anyway. I followed Suzy Fuhrer’s excellent instructions in how to turn your sloper into an a-line pattern and made up a muslin, and then drafted a waistband. It fit, but I gave it a few tweaks to make it just a smidge less full. I left the muslin open on the side front seam instead of the centre back, to make it easier to get on and off and make adjustments with.

Third thought: OH HEY I DON’T NEED TO DO A BACK CLOSURE I CAN DO A ZIPPER ALONG THE FRONT AND HAVE AN OVERLAP WAISTBAND KIND OF LIKE THAT ONE I SAW IN THE MAGAZINE!

So I redrafted the waistband.

And used my new fancy-pants cold rubber tape along all of the seam allowances, just like I was supposed to with the leather one.

Innards. Cold tape visible on the one seam, then top stitched down. Same lining as the leather skirt. Hem is just taped up w/ double-sided tape. This suede is really thin and soft and I didn't want to punch any more holes in it than I had to
Innards. Cold tape visible on the one seam, then top stitched down. Same lining as the leather skirt. Hem is just taped up w/ double-sided tape.

Sewing it together was fairly uneventful. This time I used regular poly thread rather than upholstery thread (never use cotton on hides) because I couldn’t find a good colour match in heavy-duty thread, and used double-sided tape to flatten the seam allowances after hammering them with the mallet. This suede is fairly thin and I didn’t want to topstitch anywhere I didn’t need to. I did top-stitch on the sides.

Waistband folded over and sewn down flat, without folding, cold rubber tape on the outside of the seam to act as an additional stay.
Waistband folded over and sewn down flat, without folding, cold rubber tape on the outside of the seam to act as an additional stay.

The zipper (a regular one; the suede feels too light for a metal zipper and I didn’t want to monkey with the invisible zipper foot on suede) was inserted with a lap. It went in pretty well, I think. A bit of hand-stitching was needed at the very bottom but otherwise my machine offered no complaints.

I decided to have three buttons on the waistband, two real and a fake, which meant two bound buttonholes on suede. This was by far the most challenging part of the whole garment. Let me offer some general observations:

Egads. What a disaster.
Egads. What a disaster.

1. Get rid of every bit of excess on the inside of the waistband that you can before putting the buttonholes in. Three layers of suede plus interfacing plus random cold rubber tape bits plus welts are not going to want to fold over and lie flat.

See what I mean? The reverse of the bound buttonholes, aka an utter mess, and so much hand-stitching to try to make it lie flat  that it was beginning to rip.
See what I mean? The reverse of the bound buttonholes, aka an utter mess, and so much hand-stitching to try to make it lie flat that it was beginning to rip.

2. Go for the technique in the How to Sew Leather, Suede, Fur book, not the technique you’re used to using on fabric. Trying to get umpteen layers of skins to fold over and lie flat long enough to stitch them in place after you pull the welt through will give you hives, then nightmares.

3. Use bigger welts. It is very, very, very difficult to manipulate such itty bitty pieces of folded skin.

That said, they look ok when the buttons are in, but I wince when I see them naked, as it were.

Stay buttons! I used 'em!
Stay buttons! I used ’em!

The skirt fits just right and is the exact overall look I was going for. Oh my god, I’m a fashion designer!

The Back.
The Back.

.

.

.

Well, no. I’m not. But my first self-drafting adventure went pretty well and I’m happy with the skirt.

Group Think: When Two Heads are Worse than One (Science and Sewing, in one post at last!)

It’s my untested belief that expertise in any technical field will result in a near-total loss of respect for journalism.

I know it did for me. The more I learned about climate change, the biodiversity crisis, environmental regulations, and renewable energy, the more I realized that newspaper articles reflected reality only by chance, in passing. More often, an ill-equipped person with good writing skills and no critical thinking ability would write a piece far outside of their education and background by interviewing a bunch of people who claimed to be experts, without evaluating their credentials. We get climate change pieces giving equal weight to well-respected international climate experts and oil-funded PR hacks, pieces on renewable energy with well-reasoned arguments by scientists quoting the best available information and fruit-loop arguments by naturopaths who wouldn’t recognize a herz if it came up and hit them on the head.

And you end up with a voting public almost completely muddled on key issues because they’ve come to the completely totally 100% incontrovertibly WRONG conclusion that there are two sides.

Of course people are entitled to their opinions. I am legally well within my rights to believe that Mars is peopled by winged skeletons who worship Lily Allen. But the legal right to hold an opinion is not the same, and can’t be the same, as the attitude that reality is then required to bend to accommodate that opinion. No matter what I believe, Mars is in fact NOT peopled by winged skeletons who worship Lily Allen, or by anything at all. The experts are right and I am just plain wrong. (Or I would be, if I held that opinion.)

This set of science experiments sheds some light on the psychology of our inherent tendency to give equal weight to two contrary opinions, even when one comes from an expert and the other does not. Fortunately, for those of you who have no intention of purchasing the article for the low-low price of $10, you can also read this fun summation in the Washington Post.

This went on for 256 intervals, so the two individuals got to know each other quite well — and to know one another’s accuracy and skill quite well. Thus, if one member of the group was better than the other, both would pretty clearly notice. And a rational decision, you might think, would be for the less accurate group member to begin to favor the views of the more accurate one — and for the accurate one to favor his or her own assessments.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, report the study authors, “the worse members of each dyad underweighted their partner’s opinion (i.e., assigned less weight to their partner’s opinion than recommended by the optimal model), whereas the better members of each dyad overweighted their partner’s opinion.” Or to put it more bluntly, individuals tended to act “as if they were as good or as bad as their partner” — even when they quite obviously weren’t.

The researchers tried several variations on the experiment, and this “equality bias” didn’t go away. In one case, a “running score” reminded both members of the pair who was faring better (and who worse) at identifying the target — just in case it wasn’t obvious enough already. In another case, the task became much more difficult for one group member than the other, leading to a bigger gap in scores — accentuating differences in performance. And finally, in a third variant, actual money was offered for getting it right.

None of this did away with the “equality bias.”

The research psychologists attribute this to our need to belong to groups and get along with people. It seems that need outweighs any practical consideration, a good deal of the time, including when money is on the line. Fascinating, right? People who are right and know they’re right defer to people they know are wrong in order to get along and maintain group dynamics, even when it costs them to do so.

When it comes to climate change, this is a serious problem.

Aside: Climate change is a real thing that is really happening and is a complete and total catastrophe. There is no debate on this point in any credible scientific circle. If you think that there is, I’m so sorry, but you’ve been had.

/aside

We end up not moving forward with policy solutions because we keep acting like the actual experts and the paid non-expert hacks share some kind of equivalence when they patently don’t.

But–and I’m sure I’m not the only person thinking this–it’s present in every community, including the SBC.

Ah! See? I told you I’d come around to it.

People act as if the opinions and contributions of experts and amateurs are equivalent when they are not.

Thankfully, the fates of human civilization and a minimum of 30% of animal and plant species do not rest on this fact. The worst that happens in most cases is that a person walks around for a good long time in a garment that looks like utter shit and feels really fabulous about it. On a scale of worldwide catastrophe, it doesn’t even rank.

On the other hand, as this science makes pretty clear, an entire generation of sewers are being educated largely by internet celebrities who are too incompetent even to understand how incompetent they are. It’s not a catastrophe, no, but it is a crying shame. And as predicted by the social psychologists, if anyone ever speaks up to point out that some of them are experts and other are, well … not …, they are pilloried as Mean Girls, jelluz haterz, and bullies.

Aside 2: Yep, I count myself in the group of people sometimes wandering happily about in a garment that on later reflection was not up to snuff. It happens. We’re all human. I won’t melt if someone points it out, though tact is always preferred. It doesn’t count as “bravery” to “put yourself out there” if you feel entitled to nothing but praise; and if you’re going to present your work in public you need to be prepared for public criticism.

/aside

So it’s not the end of the world, no, but it’s a detriment to all of us. The people getting the money, in many cases, haven’t earned it; the people with valuable skills to share don’t have the platform to do so; we keep acting as if everyone’s equal when they’re not to be Nice and keep everyone happy, even though not everyone is happy; there are entire boiling lava rivers of resentment and bitterness flowing right under all the green meadows we’re so happily skipping over (in our badly-pressed culottes and boxy tops with peter pan collars, no less). It’s weird. Can’t we, as an online culture, agree that it’s not a violation of the Geneva Convention if someone points out that a hem is crooked or a print isn’t matched? Does it matter if it’s not “nice”? Don’t we all benefit from increased honesty and openness? Do any of us actually expect to be perfect, or need to be treated as if we are perfect in order to function day to day? If you really don’t want people to point out how you fucked up, is it so much to ask that you acknowledge it yourself, then? Hey look at this horrible side seam–I really fucked up!

That went off on a bit of a tangent. Pardon me. Let’s drag it back on track:

The Equality Bias! It makes everything worse while we smile and pretend nothing’s wrong. Fight it!

Climate Change Hamilton

Be a Climate Change Champion!

Trish Burr Embroidery

Insight into my work and inspirations

3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

Design Inspiration, Sustainability, Sewing, Style & Cake

Symon Sez

Passions gone public

Sew Pretty in Pink

Andie's sewing & crafting adventures in Toronto, Canada

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

AOKville

Notes from an Oakville Observer

Sophie Long

Hand Embroidery

Struggle Sews a Straight Seam

Just another WordPress.com site

douglust

she's a threadhead

Miss Celie's Pants

I sew. I cook. I travel. But, I do not clean.

this is moonlight

adventures in learning to sew

Bag'n-telle

Design-It-Yourself handbags

if you don't have anything nice to say, come sit here by me

the lives & loves of crabigail adams, professional hater

Frau Fleur

Sewing, Patternmaking & Dipsomania

The Fabric Room

a local source for exquisite European fabrics

Bows and Bunnies

Overdressed for every occasion - Adventures in sewing and style

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 761 other followers