Nightfall

My father’s family is full of crazy stories. I call them the family apocrypha because they seem incredible and there is no way to verify them. Like: his father was divorced (true); the divorce happened when he fell into a lengthy coma and his first wife gave up waiting for him to wake up (Days of Our Lives); that first marriage produced a son (true; I met him once. He seemed very nice); grandpa then married my grandmother (true) whose family disowned them because he was divorced and they saw this as adultery (true) until he converted to Christianity and they had children, at which point contact was resumed (true). Or: my Dad’s cousin was murdered (true; at least I have no reason to believe she wasn’t actually his cousin and I’ve looked her up so I know the basic story is true); the murderer was never found (also true); my grandmother was involved in undercover sting operations to try to find the killer (As the World Turns); this affected her deeply and the resulting trauma is why she was such an abusive shithead to her kids (very unlikely).

I heard these stories for as long as I can remember, whenever my Dad and I were alone. If the house was empty, if we were outside on the deck and it was night, if we were driving somewhere, the therapy session would begin. I’d hear about his mother had abused him, and all of the justifications for why it wasn’t her fault; how his father never left her and how he idolized him for staying; his hopes and dreams and work and marriage. The kind of thing a dad should really be discussing with his wife, not his nine-year-old, and I hated it.

There were no boundaries in my family, and it nearly washed me out of existence. My mother’s criticism and rejection were unrelenting, her threats to get rid of me–kick me out, give me up for adoption, send me to a foster family–unwavering, and my father backed her up. I can remember once or twice when he stood up for me, but it was rare. Because standing up for me meant he would become a target too, maybe, and he already was and it wasn’t pretty. Because reality for them was what my mother wanted it to be, and as much as he could, he lived in it, and in her reality I was permanently and inherently inadequate. Because as much as he had many wonderful qualities a strong will was not one of them and he gave in–not just on this, but on where he should work and where they would live and what they would do for fun and what kind of person he should be. She liked gardening; he gardened. She liked repainting the house; he painted. She wanted rescue animals; he cared for them. She didn’t like camping; he stopped going camping. She resented that other people had been to Europe and she hadn’t, and they made promises that they would travel there together when they retired; they retired, and instead of traveling she got another job and told him he wasn’t a real man because he wasn’t working, and they never went to Europe.

To the extent that I had a parent, he was my parent. He was the one who would take care of me when I was sick. He was the one who would show interest in my schoolwork, in what I was reading. He was the one who would sometimes take me places. He was the one who would help me, when she let him, if I was in a crisis. When she let him, he acted like he enjoyed my company, which is more than I can say for her. He was so easily pleased by the smallest trifle of affection, which from her he never got. All I can remember of them together is him trying to be close, and her rejecting him. And he stayed, just like his dad.

When I’d grown up and moved out, our therapy sessions changed. He’d call me once a week whenever he and my mom weren’t getting along and complain about how she was treating him; I’d listen and validate his feelings. Yes, you are right, that does sound crazy; no, I think anyone would feel angry about that; what she did was certainly not right; etc. I’d know when they patched things up because I wouldn’t hear from him for months, and then one day he would call again and it would be like nothing had ever happened. If I asked him how things had been resolved he would be offended; how could I imagine there had ever been a problem?

When he got sick last year, I agonized over what to do. I felt, rightly or wrongly, both that I was the last person on earth who should feel obligated to help him, and also possibly the only person on earth who really understood the situation he was in. I asked myself constantly how much help I could afford to give. What I could do that wouldn’t compromise my ability to take care of my daughter, who after all needs more than the average kid herself, and I don’t have a partner’s support. When my Dad was in the hospital last year, his wife (I am trying to retrain myself from referring to her as my mother) spoke to me only about the ways in which she assumed I would take care of him so that she wouldn’t need to take time off work. You know, your spouse of 45 years may have just been given a terminal cancer diagnosis but that’s no reason not to attend tomorrow’s IT meeting at the glove factory, and why should you miss it when your adult type 1 diabetic single mom of a disabled girl daughter can obviously easily step in to do it all for you? When I drew a line–“Frances has two doctor’s appointments and an x-ray this week that I need to be there for; I can’t be in the hospital this week as much as I have been”–she stopped speaking to me again. But for my own self-respect, if nothing else, I wanted to make the offers that I could.

They were rejected. They weren’t what my mother wanted or believed herself entitled to, so they were rejected. I was cut off, again. The same old pattern–his wife wanted to get rid of me, so he went along with it. Only this time it was his last year on earth. It punished me, as it was meant to; it also deprived my father of what could have been important support, and kept my daughter from the grandfather she loved and my Dad from the granddaughter he loved. Cruelty on cruelty and none of it mattered so long as it hurt me.

Since his wife doesn’t speak to anyone in the family except my brother, I called Dad regularly to find out what was happening and let other people know. It was the one thing I could do that she couldn’t stop me from doing. Until they moved. (Don’t ask.) And then I didn’t have their address or phone # and couldn’t call anymore.

He was admitted to a hospice shortly before he passed away and it was the first time I was able to see him since before they moved, but he was no longer in a state to recognize anyone.

After he passed away I was informed that since I was “never around” and “didn’t seem to care” that my presence at the informal memorial gathering was not considered important enough to make sure I would be able to attend. So I didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t. It seems like it had very little to do with my father or his memory, and no one from his side of the family attended–I don’t know if they were even invited.

But–and in my tradition of Longest Prologues Ever, I am finally getting to the point–I would like to say something publicly in his memory. He erased himself all his life in the belief it would make him loved. I don’t want his death to erase what’s left.


He was fundamentally a gentle person, fundamentally unequipped to deal with the abuse and dysfunction he was immersed in. Where some people might fight back, or escape, he accommodated. If he could only be loved by allowing himself to be hurt and not complaining, that is what he would do. He expected others, myself included, to do the same, and when I resisted he could be cruel. Nothing made him angrier than my tears. I’ve learned since that this is a common effect of a traumatic childhood.  (In one study, children who had been abused by their parents screamed at, shoved and hit other children who were crying.)

He loved hockey and started playing when he was very young, as goalie. He made the team in University; his parents told him they would not pay for his education unless he stopped, so he did. It was a regret he carried forever. He thought he was good enough that he might have played in the NHL, but he never again played seriously, though he played recreationally throughout my childhood.

He loved the stars. Golden-age science fiction of all kinds was his favourite entertainment, and he believed that space travel would become commercially viable in his lifetime, and one day he would look at the earth from space. I wish that had happened for him. He wanted to be an astronaut; if memory serves he applied once and wasn’t accepted. But the fascination was lifelong. He bought the nicest telescopes he could afford, astronomy maps and magazines, books and documentaries about astrophysics, whatever he could that was–literally–out of this world. He grew up on Star Trek and to him none of the new shows ever compared to the original. He read Heinlin and Asimov and Douglas Adams–any paperback of intergalactic or multidimensional or time-traveling adventure. He loved technology. When I was young he’d build radios out of parts bought at specialty shops downtown; later on he had several computers in various states of rebuild and repair in his house always.

He loved Tolkien. I can’t tell you how many times he read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, or how much he loved the movie adaptations. He had no time for realism but any larger-than-life story set somewhere very far away he would enjoy.

He loved camping and the outdoors. Once, when I was young, we went camping on a lake as a family. Though our food was tied up to a tree branch, it was stolen overnight, possibly by a bear. What a thrilling thought to a young child, that a bear had maybe been that close and we all slept through it. In the morning he and I went fishing and caught our breakfast. I was so proud. Of course his wife hated camping so we never went again.

He also loved his parents’ and his wife’s parents’ cottages, and we went there once a year. When we did, he loved to stop in Bancroft to hunt through the old quarries to see if he could find anything to add to his rock collection, which had a special velvet-lined drawer in the den of our home. Bits of mica and fool’s gold and quartz, whatever he could find. Every time we went rock hounding I’d find all the shiny blue stones and ask, “What’s this one, Dad?”

“That’s sodalite.”

“How about this one?”

“That’s sodalite, too.”

Every stone I ever picked up was apparently sodalite. Frances and I both have pieces of sodalite in our rooms.

He loved carpentry, and had a whole workshop of fancy and very dangerous machines for woodworking. The furniture he made was beautiful–put together and finished perfectly.

My love of the outdoors comes partially from him, but also partially because when I was younger, people were scary and trees were safe, so I spent as much time as I could with trees and as little as possible with people. And I look at all the things my Dad loved to do, and with the exception of hockey, they are solitary, demanding technical skills that are consistently rewarding if you put in the time and effort to master them. Unlike people, or at least the ones in his life, the radios would work every time if he put them together right. Quartz was quartz was quartz, and would stay quartz, even if he looked away for five minutes. Andromeda wouldn’t switch places with Ursa Major and demand that he act as if they’d always been there. If a table saw hurt him, it wouldn’t have been on purpose, and he wouldn’t have been expected to act as if he hadn’t been hurt in order to prove how much he loved it. I’m speculating on his reasons, but I think it’s true.

His love of decadent food was legendary. Dark coffee, practically solid. Red wine, after they’d left the church. Fancy chocolate liqueurs. Any excuse to visit a bakery or the Sara Lee factory outlet was seized upon and he’d emerge with carts full of kaiser rolls, croissants, danishes, any kind of pie, rich fudgy cakes, and boxes of fancy cookies. His delight in the food of Christmas never paled. Every year I’d make him tins of treats–peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate, truffles, cheesecake brownies, sugar cookies plated in icing–and every year he would be thrilled. Entire boxes of sugary treats he was practically required to eat for politeness’ sake. And lucky man, he never put on an ounce from any of it.

He adored Frances. Which is only sensible because my completely unbiased opinion is that she is as close to perfect as it is possible for a person to be, and on which point he agreed with me entirely. They bonded over science and Lord of the Rings and beautiful stones and Christmas decorations and movies. They would snuggle up together and bask in the glow of their mutual affection, and it was a joy to see. Every time I called him, right to the end, he would ask what she was up to, and I would brag about her acts of kindness and brilliance, and he would chuckle and say, “She’s such an angel. She’s so precious.” When she was a non-napping baby with enormous blue eyes and intense leg-kicking arm-waving interest in everything around her, he would smile and say, “She’s a real going concern.” I’m still not 100% clear on what that meant exactly, but it was intended as a compliment.

His expectations were so low that it took practically nothing to make him happy. Listening to the same beautiful passage in the same beautiful song for the 50th time. A really good cup of coffee and a nice sandwich with good deli meat and cheese. Sunshine. And yet his life left him so confused about people and relationships that, though he loved people, he had no idea how to be with them. That parents were supposed to protect children was something he never learned, not for himself, and not for me. That relationships were not supposed to be tests of emotional endurance went over his head. To him, love too often meant hurting and being hurt. Whenever he got close to seeing this, he chased himself away so as not to hurt his wife by leaving her–as if anything would ever make her happy or satisfy her. As if that was worth the sacrifice of his life. I made the point to him once that staying wouldn’t make her happy because nothing made her happy, and he agreed, then said he was going to stay anyway so he could take care of her when she got old and sick and needed someone. When he got old and sick–very, very sick–she sent him to his oncology appointments alone and I was not permitted to accompany him.

We talked about her–well, I mentioned that already. But the door he opened by complaining to me about his marriage I walked through with why I wasn’t going to accept her treatment of me anymore. He didn’t like it, but he understood. And then he would forget (or “forget”) ever having had the conversation and we would have it again. He had this double consciousness, on the one hand believing that he was alone and lonely because no one really cared about him, and on the other knowing that it was really because his wife drove everyone away. He wanted so badly to have people around him and love in his life but he wanted even more to give her whatever she demanded, and the two were incompatible. I held out hope right until his diagnosis that one day he would see that he didn’t deserve it, that his sacrifices could never be appreciated and that his life would be better without her–but it never happened.

It was such a waste. If he’d had the slightest bit of reliable nurturing as a child his temperament would have made him a natural friend to so many, and his life would have been so rich and full. Instead he made himself live and be happy with a feast of crumbs. He exclaimed over every one of them as if it were a prize.

I wish someone had told him he deserved more when he was young enough that it could have made a difference. When I visited him that Saturday and held his hand, I told him so. I’ll never know if any part of him heard me, but I hope it did.


He said he didn’t want a funeral. But that, I think, is his belief that no one cared combined with his unwillingness to impose; I think if a bunch of people had got together during his life to share fond memories of him he would have had the best time ever. It’s too late now, and I wouldn’t have had any weight in the decision-making process regardless, but if you have a fond or happy memory of him to share, I would love to see it here.

V1353 Encore: The Three Pounds Dress

I altered the pattern tissue after my first attempt so I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering what needed to be changed, and on the August long weekend here in Ontario, I finally cut out that fabulous rainbow linen, and sewed it up on the Monday holiday.

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And here it is almost November and I’m finally blogging it.

Am I the only sewer out there who persistently underestimates how long it’s going to take to actually sew something up? I had this idea Sunday night: “I’ll spend tomorrow sewing and then I’ll have a dress for Tuesday and salsa dancing!” And this was, technically, almost true, if one extends Monday by 45 minutes or so into Tuesday morning. I started after waking, and barring food and bathroom breaks, kept sewing all day, all through the evening, and into the wee hours of the next day.

The Back, plus a cookie.
The Back, plus a cookie.

But except for the interior tacking stitches of the bodice lining to the bodice, it is done. And I wore it to work on Tuesday and will wear it out salsa dancing.

Every alteration made to the tissue but one was exactly what I needed. The shoulders are just where I want them; the arms don’t gape or bubble anymore; the waistline doesn’t tilt and it sits just above my natural waist.

The Side, with a cake.
The Side, with a cake.

But I shaved off a little more from the waist itself than I should have. There’s lots of seams so it wasn’t hard to do.

Dear Readers, this dress is perfect, so long as I have no plans to breathe or eat.*

Unfortunately, I always have plans to both breathe and eat. Breathing and eating are always high on my list of priorities. I like oxygen, and I like food. So.

I’m calling it the Three Pounds Dress after Regina George in Mean Girls, because this dress would fit just perfectly if I lost three pounds.

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Or so I assume. Given my aforementioned love of food, this 3-lb weight loss seems very unlikely.* Still, in theory, if it were to happen, the waistline of this dress would no longer be painful after consuming a meal. Anyway:

The Front. Pleats hard to see with the print but they are there
The Front. Pleats hard to see with the print but they are there

I LOVE IT.

Unintentionally constricting waist and all. I love the colours, I love the pleats, I love how it swishes when I walk (you’ll have to imagine that part; I have no video footage). It is just the dress I pictured when I bought the linen, which is a very gratifying feeling and makes up for the loss of sensation in my feet. (I kid.) As a kind-of-bonus, the waistline goof does make for a more interesting silhouette.

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I am definitely going to risk losing consciousness and wear it out salsa dancing. If I do faint I have faith that some kind soul will pick me off the dance floor before I am trampled, and in the meantime, it’s going to be fun to twirl in.


*I ended up having a fairly stressful August/September and lost the 3 lbs despite myself, so now I get to breathe even when it is fully done up. Huzzah!

Burda 04/2016 Dress #122: Sheath Dress? and something stuck to the bottom of my shoe

The website says this is meant for jerseys and knits; the magazines says “dress fabrics with or without elastane,” which I take to mean wovens. As I went shopping for fabrics with my phone and not the magazine, I bought a poly jersey, and only figured out that might not have been what they had in mind when it came time to install the zipper–which, as it’s jersey, I skipped with no issues.

At any rate:

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It’s cute, eh?

It was a bit bigger than it should have been, but that might have been the fabric choice. I’d have to make it up again in a proper woven to see how that affects the fit. The neckline is a bit wobbly–I’m not a fan but I see it on the sample photo so my guess is that was intentional. I’d take it out next time though, and probably change it to a deeper scoop.

What the fuck did I step in? Also, The Side
What the fuck did I step in? Also, The Side

Alterations are challenging given the way it’s put together, but I made what I think are my standard alterations.

JFC I just can't get it off! And, The Back.
JFC I just can’t get it off! And, The Back.

The pattern goes together well and it is an interesting and well-thought-out design. The gore is a nice, very swishy touch; but it does alter the line somewhat from a sheath dress in my opinion.

 

Maybe I'll just burn the black shoes ... That's better. Side note: Wearing this exact outfit to work one day about a month ago, walking to my car afterwards, a man was kind enough to tell me that I looked like a god-damned whore. I love humanity.
Maybe I’ll just burn the black shoes … That’s better.
Side note: Wearing this exact outfit to work one day about a month ago, walking to my car afterwards, a man was kind enough to tell me that I looked like a god-damned whore. I love humanity.

A Conversation:

Me: When I told him I wasn’t going to see him again he said “you will always continue to know me.” I thought that was pretty ominous so I told him not to contact me again. He was traveling a lot this summer and I thought that by the time he came back things would have blown over, but instead it was escalating. Just before I went on vacation, for example, a group of us went dancing. He grabbed me and started dancing without asking and, when he saw I was looking pretty miserable (seeing as I was feeling pretty miserable), he said, “It wouldn’t cost you a lot of money to smile, you know.” Then the next day at a dancing class he was there and he got … gropey when it was my turn to dance with him, then afterwards he was telling all kinds of insulting jokes and saying awful things about women to try to provoke me into reacting. I don’t even think he wants to date me, not really. I think he’s just punishing me for saying no.

H: It could be both, really.

Me: I guess … Then a few days later there was another class and he was there again and he was gropey again, and afterwards he was just following me around trying to bully me into a conversation. I’d ignore him and walk away and he’d just follow me around. He wouldn’t stop. So I got fed up and left and he followed me into the parking lot and stood knocking on my driver’s side door while I started up the car and drove away.

H: Are you going to call the police?

Me: I will if I have to. I’m not planning on it yet. I’ve gone through things like this before and in my experience the police are pretty useless. They won’t do anything, they won’t even take a report, until after he’s basically punched you in the face. So, probably not. And besides, they’d only tell me to stop dancing.

H: That’s upsetting.

Me: It is. It’s really very unhelpful. It’s kind of a crap world to be a woman in, isn’t it?

H: Have you thought about getting a gun?

Me: [laughing]

H: Well–I’m South African, so I have different experiences with guns than you do, but I’m not kidding.

Me: Oh. Um, no, I don’t think I’m going to get a gun. I don’t–I’ve told a bunch of people about what’s going on and they’re helping me to enforce some boundaries and distance. I’m going to see how that works out before I–but I’m not going to get a gun.

H: It’s something to think about.

Me: Uh… I mean. I have gone through this before. Eventually they do leave you alone. Like in about six months. They get bored and stop. You just have to not interact, not react, not engage, at all. It’s just getting to that point is a huge pain in the ass.

H: Are you afraid?

Me: … Somewhat. It’s the escalation. But we’ll see in a few weeks, what’s going on then. I wish I had a better radar for this kind of thing. It’s just ridiculous that this keeps happening. I have to be doing something or …. One of the women in my dancing class was telling me that she’s seen him doing this thing when we go out for dinner, where he’ll just pester whatever woman is sitting closest to him to eat a french fry. And she can say no a dozen times and he’ll just keep pushing. He tried it on her once and she just kept saying no, and she said it took him five minutes or so to stop asking. Stupidly of course he tried it on me and I ate the damned french fry. But it seemed like such a small thing so I didn’t even think of it, except that’s probably how he figured out I’d be his next target. And I can’t even say that if someone else tried something like that, that I wouldn’t fall for it again.

H: Yeah, I don’t know either.


Predators do indeed test or “groom” their victims. They intentionally violate boundaries in small ways and wait to see your reaction. Then they up the ante. An example of this could be as simple as insisting on eating pizza on a date if you have expressed not liking it.


The art of “no.”

Let’s pause briefly for some Basic Important Safety Stuff:  “No” is a complete sentence.  If you say “no,” and the other person keeps talking and trying to convince you to go along with whatever it is they want, do what you can to extract yourself from the situation. This person is trying to manipulate you, and you don’t have to let yourself be manipulated.  And if you hear a “no” from someone, the correct response is to back off immediately.  No insults, no whining, no pressure.  Just say “Okay, sorry to hear it” and move away.


 

In real life, being overly persistent is not romantic. It is called harassment. Sure, sometimes a little persistence is necessary to win someone over, but incessant badgering to the point of making a girl uncomfortable is not going to get you anywhere. If a girl smiles politely and says, “That’s very kind, but no thank you,” she is not playing hard to get. She does not want you to “get” her. She is simply not interested.

Perhaps the worst part about persistence is when a guy realizes his defeat, refuses to accept it, and still subjugates a girl to unwanted attention. Let me make this clear: if we reject you, WE. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. HUG. YOU. Don’t try to play the good guy. Don’t act all sweet or ask us to press our bodies against yours. Not only is it humiliating and extremely uncomfortable, but it makes us look like heartless bitches if we say no. We do not want to give you a hug.

Moneta Again (Dancing Dress Part 3)

Cool printed fabrics are hard to pass up, for two reasons.

One: they are cool. That border print–right? When am I going to see that again? And now this very large floral repeat.

In a lovely, beautifully soft and cool bamboo jersey.

Two: Because simple patterns show off fussy fabrics best, making them up is a cinch and yet looks very impressive.

Behold Yet Another Moneta:

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Smiling again. It is clearly the end times.

No darts, no pleats, no shaping; just a t-shirt with an attached gathered skirt. Not only is it easy as sin to put together, the lack of structure means there is no interruption to the print. Huzzah!

I sewed some seam binding into the shoulders and the side seams to help it hold its shape. It’s a lot of fabric and quite heavy so otherwise it stretches out.

The black area between the floral repeats was not large enough to position the entire bodice, so I knew both skirt and bodice would have to have flowers on them. To create a bit of interest and have a solid black waist, I reversed the flowers on the top half.

The Back.
The Back.

The skirt was just gathered; I added clear elastic to the waist after the dress was assembled to help hold the weight. It didn’t work quite as well as I might have hoped but it’s definitely better than without.

The one goof was accidentally cutting one of the pocket pieces in reverse. I went ahead and used it anyway since I figured it’s on the inside and no one would see it … except that it insists on flipping out a bit and making a nice light grey stripe on one hip. I’ll bar-tack it down and see if that helps, and otherwise just be always twitching at that pocket to make sure it isn’t peeking. If that doesn’t work I’ll just cut a narrow strip of black and hand-stitch it close to the opening.

The Side
The Side

Burda 04/2016 Skirt #113B: Accidentally Underdressed

This is the story of a skirt I made for work that I can’t wear to work.

“What a lovely and interesting pencil skirt!” I thought in April when the Burda issue came. “Just right for the office. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a cool stripe fabric that might work.”

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She’s even at an office in the magazine pictures. What kind of office, I would like to know.

I had a work meeting in Toronto, after which I went to Queen West and found a very cool watercolour-style linen-spandex stripe in orange, green and yellow. Perfect!

Made a test version in a heavier stretch-cotton just to see how it worked. Good thing, as I initially made the front band (under the slit) about half as wide as it was supposed to be, and holy cow was that version indecent.

Phew! Crisis averted. (cue foreboding music)

Cut out and sewed up the stripey version. Tried it on. Fantastic! The stripes are going in the right directions; it mostly fits, though next time I would make it higher in the waist as it’s too low and low-waisted skirts always want to ride up on me to my actual waist. Also a bit loose for such a light-weight and stretchy fabric. If you make this up (and you should! but not for the office) a non-stretchy fabric will work just fine. What with that slit you will not need stretch.

Smiling again. You know this can't end well.
Smiling again. You know this can’t end well.

Got dressed one morning for work. Walked to the kitchen for breakfast.

Holy crap.

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Woops.

That slit opens up all the way to the top, eh? At every step.

Put some emergency stitches in to hold it a bit more closed. Went to work.

Stitches popped out.

Faced awkward conundrum of either acting like I meant to flash the office all day and just owning it, or holding it closed with one hand if I needed to walk anywhere. Very professional.

The Back, slit free.
The Back, slit free.

It’s a great pattern, a fun skirt, definitely different from the usual and if you can find a good stripe to make it up in, well worth the effort. Runs a bit loose so recommend doing flat-pattern measurements to make sure it’ll be snug enough to stay put.

The Stripes, without un/intentional flashing.
The Stripes, without un/intentional flashing.

However.

Don’t wear it to the office.

Date night? Dinner? Dancing? Sure. Absolutely.

But unless you’re aiming for a very special kind of promotion, if you get my drift, not for work.

Woops
If you have any stairs to climb, or take steps more than about 6″ long … and you should see what happens when you sit in it.

B6206: “Almost no one dances sober, unless they happen to be insane” (Dancing Dress #2)

It went like this:

Oh my god is Andrea *smiling*?
Oh my god is Andrea *smiling*?

I wanted to make another V1353 out of this spectacular linen.

I wanted to sew it on the cross grain so that the stripes would run horizontally along the pleated skirt.

I was 20cm short of enough fabric to lay out the skirt pieces in that direction.

I hmmmed. I hawwed. Do I lay it out on the grain? Or no? Cross grain is better. Right? I could go back to the store and get more–I could order more online–but then if there’s a postal strike god knows when it will show up–going downtown for 0.5m of fabric seems silly but it’s the only place I’ll find it–I’ll go downtown.

I went downtown.

I got my 0.5m of linen.

And 6 cuts that I had no intention of buying but couldn’t resist: three bamboo jersey prints for dresses, three tissue-weight rayon jerseys for t-shirts. Did I need them? Define “need.” OK, no, I didn’t need them. But I knew I wasn’t going to see a print like this again:

That flower is about 3' high
That flower is about 3′ high

…plus I need to bulk up my dancing wardrobe. Right? Obviously.

I rifled through the pattern stash looking for something that would accommodate a print this large in one unbroken piece. B6206 did the trick, though even after purchasing four repeats I only had enough to get an unbroken flower on the front, thanks to the width of the hem and the narrowness between the flowers. So the back is not as nice, but that’s ok since I don’t see the back.

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The Side. Plus a bit of the chopped off Back.

The selvedge was so cool I used it as the hem and altered the shape of the hemline and the waist to keep the length relatively even. It’s a bit handkerchiefy even so, but not much, and very worth it for that lovely pink border at the bottom.

It is a super simple pattern, works up very quickly and goes together beautifully. I did my standard pattern adjustments and the whole thing was bang-on. Notches matched up. Neck band was just the right size for the opening. Armholes a smidge gapey in front but nothing anyone can see. Back neckline lies perfectly flat. I did have to sew up the back waist seam about 3/4″ in the middle thanks to that short-waisted thing, but once I did it was just right. I didn’t do the recommended elastic casing–I just sewed clear elastic to the serged seam on the inside and then tacked it up at the waist. It worked though.

The one caveat I have is the length of the skirt. I knocked an inch or so off the pattern piece to account for using the selvedge, and as noted I brought the back up 3/4″–and I’m nearly 5’8″. Even so, the skirt hits the top of my feet when I’m in flats.

The pattern is just four pieces plus the neck band–there’s no darts and nothing fussy so it goes together very quickly. I haven’t seen any reviews of this one yet, which seems unfair, so here you go: if you’re looking for a basic jersey dress pattern that works well without needing major alterations or fixes, highly recommend.

V1353: People Think She’s a Hell-Raiser *

Thanks to the Golden Age of Introversion Online, I can trust that you will all know what I mean when I say that I am an introvert.

I score well into the 90s on any test measuring that trait. Go ahead, throw one at me: it’ll spit back a result roughly stating “you never leave your house, do you?”

Q: When you go to a party, do you …
A: [interrupts] A party? Are you out of your mind?

Q: When approaching a group of strangers …
A: [interrupts] Strangers. Oh god. Is hyperventilating an option?

You get the idea. An instinctual horror overtakes me at the idea of being in crowds, particularly crowds of people I don’t know, and especially particularly crowds of people I don’t know with whom I am expected to interact.

This made it extra fun when I got to organize public meetings for angry crowds of people I didn’t know with whom I was expected to interact, but that’s a story for another time.

I am also a bit of a goody two-shoes.

People are generally surprised when they hear me swear for the first time, having assumed that I would never do such a thing. I’ve never been drunk. The closest I’ve been to smoking is picking cigarette butts off the ground and putting them in the garbage. I’m a professional tree-hugger by trade and I tend to sign up for volunteering activities well beyond my time and mental resource capacities. I got straight As. And I’m one of those unfortunate people who tends not to consider that lying is an option when being asked a direct question until after I’ve answered it truthfully. My main hobbies are sewing and reading, for the love of god. Sewing and reading. Put a bonnet on my head and slap me back in 1850, why don’t you.

~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~Magical Relatives Barrier~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~

In fact, my reputation for goody-two-shoes-ness was so complete that druggy friends in highschool would use me as their mule. (“Can you hang on to this for me until third period? Thanks. Oh my god. Do my eyes look fucked? My eyes look fucked, don’t they? No one’s going to check your bag you look too innocent.”) (And they were right–no one ever checked my bag.)

But I did have one minor vice.

Using friends’ fake ID to sneak into nightclubs underage and go dancing.

(American friends, the legal age here is 19. So this was strictly a highschool endeavour as back then we all graduated at 19.)

Possibly alone amongst all of my nightclub-sneaking acquaintance, I’d go the bar and get a water and spend the night dancing. Because it was fun, and all-ages clubs were spectacularly lame–empty and boring, populated by the sad dregs of young people without fake IDs and older men with young-people fetishes. Ew. Sure the real thing was filled with letches with a blood alcohol level so high they didn’t even know they weren’t maintaining eye contact, not to mention the smoke that would take two showers to get out of your hair. The music was loud and the dance floor was packed.

~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~end Magical Relatives Barrier~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~

Then I decided to do something super-smart and get married at a ridiculously young age to a guy who promised he loved dancing too and we would go out dancing all the time–and after the wedding ceremony reneged (on that and a pile of other things which shall remain nameless). And my friends stopped having so much fun at bars, and I had a kid, and the kid needed a fair bit of extra help, and then my friends had kids, and one thing let to another and almost 20 years passed without dancing, barring the odd wedding.

(Sometimes being a grown-up just sucks.)

Then my Dad got sick and family dysfunction exploded into new shrapnel-laden patterns and Frances’s hips got worse and we were told she would need reconstruction surgery and I decided that this would be the absolute perfect time to just go out dancing with strangers.

It even involved a bit of lalochezia, a la:

“Oh my god this is such fucking bullshit. This year is a bullshit monkey that can suck on an elephant’s balls I am so sick of this. No embroidery in the world is going to distract me from this overwhelming mountain of fucking bullshit and its bullshit spawn. Either I am going to punch this year in the fucking face or I am going out.”

I went out. I found a meet-up group for dancing lessons and just showed up in a room of strangers and started learning the bachata. I did not even know what the bachata was. Now I do. It’s a 4-step latin dance. There has also been some swing dancing, involving a lot of spinning, which is fun, even when I trip over my feet and/or fall over. If no one gets a concussion or loses a limb, I count it a success. (The secret to happiness is often having a low bar.)

As a result, almost every free weekend night for the past month-plus has been taken up with dancing. With strangers and near-strangers. It has been a very effective distraction.

My one issue being:

An almost complete lack of going-out clothes.

I don’t buy clothes anymore and everything I’ve made myself for the past few years, that one dress excepted which yes has now actually seen the outside of the house, has been either for work or for casual wear. I’m not even sure what counts as dancing-wear for the 40-something set. (Going shopping for some brings to mind that scene from Sisters–you know the one.)

sisters-spin-570x297

So when I haven’t been out dancing, I have been home sewing clothes for dancing. My poor neglected pile of library books remains noticeably un-shrunk.

Which brings me, at incredibly long last, to V1353:

(Andrea’s Prologues! Now 10% longer, with added swearing!)

Whew.

Here is the first try:

bloggish-33
Photos taken on my way out the door for a salsa lesson. Why on earth do I look so terrified here?

The fabric is a mid-weight linen/rayon blend bought last year at Fabricland, lined with a poly/rayon that I’ve decided I really like as it is mostly rayon and not at all slippery, unlike bemberg. Easy to sew with, presses beautifully, dirt cheap.

This is a test version, so I made a few obvious adjustments to the pattern–grading between a 14 at the waist and an 18 at the hips and bust, then adding another inch at the bust to the side front piece, plus an extra 1/2″ to the shoulders–but otherwise left it alone to see how it would work up. The instructions were clear and worked well, all the notches matched, and it mostly fit.

The Back.
The Back.

I do recommend basting the shoulders together quickly before adding the lining to see how it fits. A few more changes at that point:

1. removed 1″ from each centre back seam, tapering to 1/4″ at the waist, to stop it from gaping. I could have taken out a smidge more and will for version #2.
2. Took in side seams at the waist about 1″ (1/4″ per piece). Will take in a bit more from the next version. The bodice is quite loose.
3. Need to take out some at the armscye between the front and side front pieces–a bit too gapey. Also need to lengthen the front piece on the next version as it’s just a bit too high to hit the waist properly in the front. Since technically it isn’t supposed to hit my waist at all this isn’t a pattern error–but thanks to being bizarrely short-waisted, it does hit my waist in the back and I’d rather lengthen the front to match than shorten the back.

Then hours upon hours of hand-sewing to finish internal seams plus the saddle-stitching, which is a nice touch but does take forever.

The Side.
The Side. Backyard notably short on Hell to be raised, but apparently a lovely plastic bag I failed to notice before taking photos. Woops.

I love it, and have a fabric and lining all picked out for version #2–this brilliantly fabulous lightweight linen which just screams dancing dress. (For sure it does not scream business suit or casual summer shorts.)

Photo from the Marcy Tilton fabrics website, but fabric bought downtown at Leo’s Textiles.

I’ve yet to see any bad versions of this pattern on the interwebz, so it seems a pretty safe bet and like it suits a variety of body sizes and types. I’ve noticed that for those who posted their tweaks and fixes as part of their review, taking an inch out of the top of the back centre seam on each side seems like a consistent alteration, so be warned.

Who knew I would finally have a valid excuse to sew up a bunch of dresses?

~~~~~

*I don’t think they do, actually. But bonus points if you recognize the source of the quote.

The Water Day Declaration and The Swearsuit

Frances: Tomorrow is Water Day.

Me: Water Day? What’s that?

Frances: We’ll spend a couple of periods doing water games and things.

Me: Oh! That sounds like fun.

Frances: Yeah, so I’ll need you to finish that swimsuit for me.

[pause]

Me: And you couldn’t have shared this with me before?

Frances: Well, I could have, but I forgot.


So.

I made a swimsuit.

swearsuit-7

Of a fashion.

The pattern came from the summer 2015 issue of Ottobre–the one piece, with modifications for fit. The fabric was a mystery blend on discount from Fabricland, bought to make a cheap experimental version before the “real” one.

The pattern was fantastic, which I’ve come to expect from Ottobre; the fabric was fine; the whole thing sewed up well and I was pretty gobsmacked at how well the modifications worked. Frances hasn’t had a swimsuit that fits well for many years–the ones in the stores do not work for her at all, which is why I was making one in the first place.

I made a few tweaks to the cut of the legs, and that’s where it stood until the Water Day Declaration. All I had left to do was the hemming.

Instructions: “Sew 1/4″ clear elastic to the openings, then turn to the inside and coverstitch.”

1/4″ clear elastic sewn to the openings: check. Took maybe 25 minutes.

Coverstitch: …

… Houston, we have a problem.

swearsuit-4

The looper stitches were a disaster. Nothing caught. The second line of stitching completely unraveled at the first touch on the two hems I first sewed, leaving little blue loops in the inside and an incredibly snug first line of stitching that had to be ripped out, one by one, taking forever.

Now, one of the things I love about having friends who sew, is when they share gems like this on social media (this one courtesy of Laura):

13237602_1029446733803692_4604391924121174297_n

This gives you a pretty good idea of what it was like in my dining room that night. Only more colourful. There may have been hitting of the coverstitch machine (I hear that helps).

I undid the stitches; reset the threads; the lower looper unthreaded itself and I’d go a whole seam without stitches. Or none of the second line of stitching would catch at all and I’d have a really ugly line of chainstitches.

I spent more time ripping out the fucked-up coverstitches than I had spent to that point making the suit in its entirety.

Eventually, I picked up the machine and removed it to the laundry room before I gave in to the mounting impulse to toss it into the backyard. (Dew also helps, I’ve been told.)

Ripped out all the stitches again, thus stretching out the spandex along the edges something fierce, and hemmed it using the zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine.

Took 25 minutes. And it doesn’t look as nice as it would have if it had been coverstitched properly, but since proper cover-stitching was clearly impossible, it looks a hell of a lot better than the available alternatives.

Of course, with the hems all stretched out from the repeated sew-and-rip, I had to perform emergency tweaks to the seams to tug them back in a bit. No idea if it worked or not as Frances was asleep by that point (swearing at and pounding sewing machines helps children fall asleep–try it!) and she had to bring it to school the next morning. Since then it’s also accompanied her on a camping trip, but I still haven’t seen her wearing it; she says it’s “fine.” She is 12. These days, everything is “fine.”

Also, my coverstitch machine is likely going to be taking a trip back to the dealer, accompanied by some strong words, to see if they can figure out what in god’s name is wrong with the damned looper.

Burda

Remember that sheath dress I made a while back?

It didn’t work out. The flowers didn’t make it through the first wash, and when I removed them, I was confronted with the inescapable reality that the neckline had stretched out during sewing and could not be repaired.

Sad but true.

Happily: I had enough of that lovely silk-linen fabric left over to make a decent skirt. And here it is.

bloggish-95 - Copy (2)

It’s the first ever garment I’ve made from a Burda magazine. Yes, I got a subscription. Alone out of all of my tech-loving sewmies, I hate pdf downloads. I hate buying them, I hate printing them, I hate worrying about the scale, I hate taping them together, I hate cutting them out once they’ve been taped, and I hate trying to store them afterwards. I would rather trace out a grayscale labyrinthian pattern sheet any day, if it saves me from the horror of the pdf download.

(I said horror, and I’ll say it again if I want to. Horror. See? I’ll keep it up, too, if I have to.)

It’s skirt 101A from the 3/2016 issue. It’s got a deep box pleat in the front, and is otherwise a simple a-line shape. And it’s got a cool extra-wide hem band at the bottom, which gives it a bit more weight and body.

101-032016-m_large

Technically, it also has welt pockets, but I opted to omit those. I can hardly imagine how I would have botched the whole thing if I’d attempted to put them in, with my focus being what it is at the moment.

I drafted a lining for it as the silk-linen is loosely woven and a bit translucent on its own. You wouldn’t think so, since it’s not thin, but it is. The zipper is supposed to go on the side, but I put it on the back, and I used a wooden button at the waistband for the closure.

bloggish-102 - Copy (2)
The Side, with extra helpings of linen wrinkles. I did so iron it. I would also like to thank Nikon for making me look as if I have a sunburn in this photograph. I was actually sporting my typical winter pallor.

It was entirely unexceptional and unexciting. The pattern went together nicely and everything fit. The skirt is comfortable and just different enough to be worth making. The fabric is lovely and I enjoy petting it every time–silk linen! All the waxy stiffness of linen somehow combined with the softness and sheen of silk. It’s a technological miracle.

winner of the slow fashion olympics

Years ago–really–I started this skirt.

bloggish-77 - Copy (2)
No I’m so fascinated, please tell me more!

I bought the linen, cut out the pieces, dyed the trim with cochineal, in 2014.

I thought about embroidering it.

Then I sewed it up.

bloggish-74 - Copy (2)
The Back, with bow. You can see the shadow of the insertion stitches on my legs. ! You can also see a metric fuckton of wrinkles. Ugh, linen.

Thinking about embroidering it took about two years.

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