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Yokes: One Way to Hide Darts

August 12th, 2012 by tatterdemalion

Hello y’all, and especially Jenn, who took me at my word and asked for a tutorial on how to make yokes! It may be helpful if you’ve already read my crash course on dart moving, but even if not, it should be pretty easy to follow along. Hands on helps for faster learning, so you may want to work along side with your own copy of miniature slopers, found in nearly any pattern drafting book and probably some places on the web. Or you can draw your own, if you are handily artistic. Which I am not. As we will see shortly.

So this is a yoke sloper (or block, depending on who is calling it names). It is 1/4 of a skirt, and half of the back, and it has one dart for your bum. As you can see, even though life has picked me up, swirled me around, and dropped me on my bum, I still have the same ol’ dining room table and the same really bad lighting.

The first thing we’re going to do is draw a line straight across the sloper, level with the bottom of the dart. (Please bear in mind that right now we’re talking theory so we understand what we’re doing. Please DON’T go do this to the original pattern that you want to modify so that it has a yoke.

Now take a cute lil pair of scissors and cut along the line we drew, the same way you cut out the dart earlier. This essentially renders our solid sloper block into three pieces.

Now rotate the two top pieces together until they touch, and Ta-Da! You have a skirt with a yoke!

And now this is the part where you say, “Now, wait just a second, honey. I don’t know about you, but the rest of us don’t consider this a yoke. A yoke is sort of like a waistband-type thingy, and this thing goes half-way down your backside!”

Okay, okay. Technically, this could be a yoke, albeit a very deep one, but really this is just to give you an idea of what we’re working on here. A yoke appears to have no shaping in it, because the shaping is moved to the seam between the yoke and the rest of the garment, rather than in it’s original dart location. But shaped it is. All we are doing when we make a yoke is moving around the shaping so we can put seams where we’d rather. The fit stays the same, but the fabric pieces look different.

So what would we really do?

Let’s draw our line higher up, bisecting the dart. In real life, we wouldn’t want a yoke so deep. So here’s our little example we’re drawing; in real life, you would measure down from the original waist however deep you wanted the yoke to be. (So, if you wanted a 3″ yoke, you would measure three inches down from the original waist at several points, and connect them as needed. That is to say, if your original waistline is curved, you really want your lower yoke seam to follow that same curve.)

Cut along that line, and again, you have three pieces. From here, you really have a lot of different options. Let’s explore some of them.

The simplest option is to put the two top pieces together, and blend the edges where they meet (smoothing out those points and dips into gentle curves). That leaves you with this:

You would still sew it up just like you would a normal darted skirt. So that lil’ dart, but then seam the yoke piece onto the top edge. The shaping–the fit of the garment– is still the same, but sewn up, the pieces now look different than the original draft.

But what else can you do?

Here, we’ve put the two “yoke” pieces together, effectively “sewing the dart” in that part of the garment. But now look what trickiness I’m going to do. I’ve drawn a line running straight from the point of the dart down to the hem of the skirt.

Slice it and dice and sew it up, and what do you have?

An embarrassingly bad sketch of a yoked, princess seamed skirt! All the same shaping is still there. The “dart” for the top pieces is now “hidden” in the horizontal seam, and the dart for the lower pieces is now hidden in the vertical seam. We’ve added more seams, but we haven’t changed the fit of the skirt. This style would be good for firmer fabrics without a lot of drape — denim or dressier weaves that are thicker and stiffer — or just any time you want a more tailored look.

But what else can we do after we’ve sliced it and diced it?

Take a minute to think about this one. As you recall from previous tutorials, when we close the dart at one end, we “open” fullness at the other end. Rather than sewing this dart, we’ve rotated it closed, opening it up in the bottom. We’re not going to sew this dart in the bottom; we’re going to leave it open on the pattern and un-cut in the fabric. What will this look like?

An inky sketch of an A-Line skirt with a yoke. This skirt will now be nicely fitted up by the waist and through the hips, but after that, it opens up in to a much more full skirt with lots of drape and movement. This would be good with thinner fabrics, or if you’d like a skirt with a little more swish and swirl.

But what else can we do?

You can gather it. Put together the top pieces for a yoke. Don’t sew the darts in skirt portion; instead, gather the extra till the skirt fits the yoke.

Not really my kinda thing, but everyone knows I’m a style heathen.

Here’s another option, if you are into fashionable, noteworthy sorts of things:

It might make your head hurt a little, until you figure out how it goes together, but I promise, it’s the same fit, just with different seamlines on the backside. And as one who has made a lot of stuffed animals, I can tell you it’s really not too hard to sew, either. Sew the skirt dart first, and then the horizontal dart connecting the skirt to the faux yoke.

If you really, really, really don’t want darts in the back, there is another option, but this one will mess with the fit a little. I’d only do it if your original dart is already pretty small, for whatever reason (this can include having already lowered the waist, making your skirt a little low-riding, or a different body build. For example, being short and sturdy, I def have darts back there. My lithe, bean-pole sister? Not so much so. She could get away with this method a lot better than I could).

‘K. So. Here’s an up close picture of our original dart.

Now we draw the line that will make the yoke. (See how I was clever enough this time to make it follow the original waistline?)

Now we’re gonna monkey with the dart. Draw a straight line down through the center of the dart.

And draw new lines for the dart, ending at the lower edge of the yoke.

So for this version, it will still fit snugly right at the waist, but you won’t have the same amount of shaping through the hips. You really need a drapey fabric to make this work, like a very fluid knit or even silk.

Cut out only your new dart, and then slice and dice.

And rotate for the yoke.

You can see why you can’t really get away with this unless you have a pretty small dart to begin with. You can also see that there’s pretty much a fish-eye dart of un-sewn ease. Maybe you’re okay with that, and maybe you’re not. It all depends on what you’re heading after.

Now, I have reprimanded you to follow the original line of the waist when drawing your yoke. You don’t really have to; that’s another style option. You can draw it how ever you’d like it to look and however you’re willing to dare to sew it. (Angles and curves can get tough, but if quilters can do it, so can you!)

You’d still just rotate out the dart in the yoke portion (put the two pieces together and cut them from the fabric as one piece), and you’d still just sew the dart (or any of the other options we’d discussed) in the skirt portion. The fancy-shmancy curved line doesn’t change any of that.

As a final note, it’s very important to realize that this tutorial DOES NOT just apply to skirt yokes. A significant example would be a shoulder yoke. Technically, these can go in either the front (taking up some bust fullness) or back (for shoulder curve), but are most frequently found in the back.

My picture up-loader is telling me I’m out of space, so I can’t do a step by step for you; but you’d follow the exact same process of drawing the line for the yoke at the tip of the dart, cutting the pattern into 3 pieces, and rotating the top two together and smoothing the lines. It would look something sort of similar to this.

The top is the original darted pattern sewn up. The middle has the same shaping, but now that dart is hidden in the yoke seam. And the bottom one is supposed to portray a boxy, unfitted top with no shoulder shaping.

But don’t feel like you have to stop at what is most common. You can actually turn the bottom of a bodice into a yoke in the same manner. Experiment! And let me know if you have any questions. ūüôā

Posted in Technical, Tutorials | 2 Comments »

Tuorials are Fun!

September 3rd, 2009 by tatterdemalion

Occaisionally I still get comments on my pattern drafting tutorials. I hope people are taking me seriously about asking if they have questions, because I have fun making those tutorials.

This¬†is basically just a note to¬†say “This Blog Is Not Dead and Gone Forever.” ¬†Yes,¬†it¬†is¬†technically¬†in sleeper¬†mode, but there¬†is still¬†a¬†live¬†person behind¬†the wheel. When brilliant¬†inspiration strikes¬†me, I¬†will be back. Or¬†if you¬†ask¬†me¬†a question.

Anyone out there having problems with pattern drafting?

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

I take your questions and do my best to answer them, vol. 2

March 29th, 2009 by tatterdemalion

Bernice recently left a comment on my “Crash Course on Dart Moving“.

Hi,

lOVE YOUR EXPLANATION ON ROTATION DARTS. I WAS WONDERING HOW YOU ACTUALLY PUT A DART IN A DARTLESS PATTERN. HOW TO MAKE THE DART WIDER SO AS I CAN THEN ROTATE THE DART TO THE WAIST AND SHOULDER TO ADD WIDE PINTUCKS AT SHOULDER AND WAIST.

THANKS

I like taking questions from the audience, and I like being able to help people who are struggling to figure something out. If anyone out there has questions, please ask them. It may take me a few weeks for me to get back to you, but I will get back to you. I can’t give a 100% guarantee that I know the answers to everything, but I have to be getting close to knowing everything. (Right? Right? C’mon, somebody back me up here!)

Okay, this explanation is going to be on the long side, so bear with me. Because the first thing I’m going to talk about is the whole reason or purpose for darts.

Here’s a sheet of paper. We’re going to pretend it’s fabric, because like fabric, it is flat.

paper or fabric, you choose

(That’s my brother’s mouse, and my brother’s speaker.) And here in this next picture is a can of Parmesan cheese.

cheese

(And that’s my brother’s mess. I take absolutely no responsibility for that mess. It’s all his.) The poor, abandoned cheese container has no clothes. But we’re going to fix that.

no darts

So we take our fabric and wrap it around the container. Perfect fit, right? And no darts! This is our “guy” example. His clothes need no shaping. He doesn’t understand why you always get so grumpy about clothes not fitting, because how complicated can it be? You just wrap some fabric around yourself, and you’re good!

We will try not to do violent things to our guy example, even though he has no empathy or understanding and thinks everyone in the world is just like him.

Here’s a girl example:

speaker

She has curves.

If she takes a piece of fabric and wraps it around her, it’s not going to fit her the same way it fit the guy. Here’s a cutaway example so we can see what’s happening:

the speaker covered

The fabric fit our guy example the same way all over. There was nothing complicated about that situation. But in our girl example, the fabric covers her just fine at the largest point, and it’s loose everywhere else. In order to get the fabric to fit her the same everywhere, we need to do this:

speaker with a darted cover

We’ve pinched out the extra. What does this look like when we take the paper off?

darts!

Darts!!

So, darts are shaping that is made by taking away fabric where it is too loose. Generally speaking, anyway. That’s the idea; tuck it away in the back of your head for the moment—we’re going to talk about something slightly different now.

Here is another mild-mannered piece of fabric/paper:

another example

Hello, fabric. This fabric has no shaping. It has no darts.

dart1

Here I’ve drawn on a 1″ dart. So now this fabric has a dart, but it is an “unsewn” dart, so there is still no shaping. Let’s “sew” this dart.

dart2

Now instead of laying flatly on the table, this fabric has some shaping.

dart3

See what I mean?

Now what happens if we make the dart bigger? Here I’ve made the dart into a 2″ dart.

dart4

And when we tape it up, the shaping is even greater.

dart5

The larger we draw our dart,

dart6

The taller our shaping becomes.

dart7

Some people phrase this as “The bigger the bump, the bigger the dart.” I think of it as simply the difference between two measurements. You have to take as much as necessary out of the bigger measurement to make it equal the smaller measurement.

Now let’s move on to a real life example. Here’s me. In an old t-shirt. A Land’s End boys’ t-shirt, to be exact.

shirt

(The mess is all mine, but I still don’t take any responsibility for it. I have lots of good excuses, but they take too long to type.)

Since it’s a boys t-shirt, it has no shaping whatsoever. Somebody has sewn together two flat rectangles, and put sleeves on it. It’s meant to fit our cheese container, which needs no shaping. It’s all the same anyway on a boy. But I am not a boy, and this means it doesn’t fit me the same everywhere.

What this means is that there are darts when I wear this t-shirt, but they are un-sewn darts.

Remember in our examples? When we put the flat piece of paper on the curvy speaker, suddenly there were these big gaps that weren’t there when we put the same piece of paper on the cheese container. And do you remember in the second example, when we drew the darts but didn’t sew them?

Well, this is what happens when you put the unshaped fabric on a shape. It tries to make darts.

shirt2

Did you see them before I pointed them out to you?

This is what we call “un-sewn darts” or “fullness” or “extra fabric”. If you put an un-shaped piece of fabric on something that has shape, there is “leftovers”.

So here we “sew” the dart. I’m pinning out the fullness; I’m “creating” a dart; I’m shaping the fabric.

shirt3

And in this extremely blurry picture, you can see it’s still all loose and unshaped on the left side.

shirt4

So that’s what you call a bust dart. This is what happens when you put in a waist dart:

shirt5

Since my nickname is not “Miss Skinny Through the Middle”, I find these waist darts to be hugely unflattering, and in real life I’m not going to use them. But if you were a guy, “waist darts” are the only darts you’d ever use, and even then, probably only if you were working on a jacket/sports coat/etc.

shirt6

So shaped on the right side,

shirt7

unshaped on the left. The shirt is the same. It’s just that one side has “unsewn” darts, and the other side has “sewn” darts.

You can also shape the side seams. Notice the unsewn darts on the left?

shirt8

In real life, I would use the bust dart and shape the side seam, but I wouldn’t use the waist dart. This is now seriously into sausage-casing territory, which I call “Not a Good Look.”

shirt9

In general, you can always use smaller darts. It just means you will have “less shaping”, or your garment will look more like the paper on speaker. But you can’t really make darts bigger, beyond a certain point. Could we have made the darts bigger on the paper on the speaker? No! Could have we made them smaller? Yes, but it would have been a looser, less shaped fit.

So what does any of this have to do with anything? Well, to answer Bernice’s questions:

(1) Your pattern probably does have darts, they’re just unsewn and undrawn. You can put them in. Probably pin-fitting a muslin would be the way to go (just as I pin fit my t-shirt), simply because it’s the most straight forward. Putting in darts will change the fit, though, so if you already like the fit, don’t bother with the darts.

(2) Once you “put your darts in”, you can’t really make them bigger. That’s just the shape you are. But you don’t need to make your darts bigger in order to put in pintucks.

All darts disregarded (either sewn or unsewn), all you need to do to add pintucks is slash-and spread.

Let’s move on to little pattern examples, of which mine are unfortunately very poor quality. I apologize, but I’m running out of steam here, and I really want to get this answer to you this weekend. Otherwise it’s anyone’s guess when I’ll finish it.

If I had a “dartless” pattern that I liked, and I wanted to add decorative tucking down the front, I’d mark off the section I wanted to tuck, like this:

pattern1

Then I’d slash right up the middle of that section, and spread it apart as far as I needed it,

pattern2

and tuck it.

pattern3

Now if I had a shaped pattern, and I wanted decorative tucks down the front, I’d arrange my darts like this:

pattern4

Mark off my area I wanted tucked, like this:

pattern5

Slash right along the straight line and add my extra fabric, and tuck:

pattern6

Now I think what Bernice was talking about was doing “functional” tucks, using tucks to take in the fullness instead of darts. In that case, you can leave the darts without having a perfectly vertical line, and simple tuck out the fullness at the top and the bottom. This will mean the tucks won’t make as straight line down the front of the shirt, but rather will end before reaching the bust.

shirt10

And that was my rather pathetic illustration of the origin of darts, where they came from, how they got there, what they’re doing there, and what happens when they leave. If I was being paid to do this kind of stuff, I would have taken the time to actually have unblurry, focused pictures. But as it is, it has taken me 5 hours to do all of this, and everything else I was supposed to do this weekend is calling my name. So as far as picture quality, I guess you’ll have to take what you can get. As far as understanding it, however, please let me know if you have any other questions. I will keep working at it until it makes sense for you!

Posted in Articles, Technical, Tutorials | 4 Comments »

Push My Buttons

December 2nd, 2008 by tatterdemalion

Why on earth did I decide to make myself jeans? Here I am, having just completed bodice and skirt sloper that could be used to make me any skirt, shirt or dress I can dream up, and all I wanted to do was make pants. What is wrong with me?

Well, nothing is wrong with me. At least with my reasoning skills. The problem is that there are no jeans to be had, for love or money, that properly fit me. The non-stretch jeans have such a long rise they go up to my armpits; this is because I am very short waisted. The stretch jeans—besides the afore mentioned unforgivable sin of being stretchy—will have a perfectly fine rise for me in the front, but in the back do not cover near as much of my backside as I would like. And none of them give me enough room to maneuver and all of them are at least six inches too long, and most of them more than that.

So, jeans. Yes, I drafted my own pattern for jeans. Yes, it was a headache, a nightmare, exceedingly tedious at parts, but I drafted them and sewed them. They actually came out pretty good, although I can’t possibly make another pair without tweaking the pattern (partly for greater ease of construction, partly for continuing to improve the fit). It was enough of an effort that I don’t really feel like talking about that part just now. Suffice it to say, I made a perfectly acceptable pair of jeans; all that remained was to install the metal button.

The metal button. You know, it’s on all of your jeans. It’s the kind you pound in with a hammer—it has a nail part and a button part, and whence the two are joined together they shall never, ever separate, and all that. They’re sometimes referred to as “bachelor’s buttons”, because you don’t have to sew to install them. I ordered a hundred of them in bulk (for Pete’s sake, you didn’t think this was the only pair of jeans I was ever planning on sewing, did you?), from a small family owned store in California.

I, by the by, am in a completely different universe, because I live on the East Coast. In the North.

Which is why I spent as much getting the silly things sent to me as I did on actually buying the buttons themselves.

But never mind all that. The button, the button.

I am sufficiently experienced with Murphy enough to know one must at least do a test run, both for the button, and the button hole. It went shockingly smoothly, both the button and the buttonhole. Okay, the button might have been a bit crooked, but that was just because I was sufficiently experienced with hammers to be a little more generous than was needed on a pound-in button. But still. That’s what trial runs are all about.

So I repeat the process on the actual-factual pair of pants, except being a bit more gentle on the pounding end. It comes out very nice. Life is good.

I wear the pants.

Life is still good.

I put the pants through the washer.

Life decides it can’t be good all the time.

The button comes apart.

How can this be? You pound it together, and whence joined, it never, ever separates. Remember? Remember? REMBEMBER?!

I push the button back over the nail. It goes on very easy, and comes off just as easy. Perhaps I didn’t pound hard enough. I look at the nail. It is blunted now, so I certainly pounded it hard enough to start trying to come through the button part. I take the nail out of the pants, and send them through the dryer. Maybe it was just an odd fluke. When they are dry, I’ll try again.

Or maybe Murphy is out to get me again. I try it on my sample again. Just in case, I get out my “anvil” from when I set snaps. It is hard. It is metal. It is just the right shape for cradling the button head.

Pound, pound, pound.

Ah, there we go. Nice and snug. Now I will button it through my test buttonhole. . .

. . .ker-plink, plankety. The button falls off of the nail.

What on earth? I look at the button. I look at the nail. There are no teeth on the nail to grip anything. The only mechanism inside the button to grip anything appear to be going the wrong direction. I look at another one of my 100 buttons. They all look the same. What gives? Am I supposed to pound so hard the tip of the nail flattens out so much that it can’t come back up the hollow stem?

Much vigorous pounding later, on a brand new button, I’m pretty convinced that is not the answer. Despite the “anvil” there is now a little out-dent on the front of the button. The stem of the button has been squashed down along with the nail. And the button and nail still merrily separate.

I am confused. There where no instructions with the buttons, but how hard can it possibly be? I know I did this once before; my first test button stayed in fine. I turn my sample to examine how my first and only success that ever happened.

Ker-plink, ker-plankity. My first and only success turns into yet on more failure. What. . .what. . .what? This just does not make any sense.

I search online to see if maybe there are tales of “what to do when your jeans buttons refuse to be happily married” or “what to do when you can’t even figure out how to install a bachelor’s button, for Pete’s sake”, or “how to keep your jeans buttons from falling apart at inopportune moments” or “please tell me you can get these things to stay together with out using a blow-torch or a sledge hammer” or “CAN ANYONE GET THESE STUPID THINGS TO WORK?!” The closest thing I can find is people recommending you “pound them gently but firmly several times”, that the button is installed when it “can no longer turn within the button”, and that if the button stem bends that your “nail is too long” (or your fabric isn’t thick enough), and you can cut it a little shorter (ha, yeah). No one reports their buttons spontaneously falling apart like poorly constructed bridges.

I send an email to the company out in California, because maybe I am just denser than a fire brick and I am just seriously not getting something.

The very nice company sends me back an email very promptly, telling me to please call this number and ask for Roberto. You will need to have the style number handy.

I don’t have time to call before Thanksgiving, because I am making blueberry pies. (You must please remember that California being 3 hours before us, there is some inflexibility as to when I call.) I did want to wear my jeans on Thanksgiving.

I gently tap in a button on Thanksgiving morning.

It comes out with in 20 minutes.

I get annoyed and give it a few very annoyed whacks.

It stays in all day.

I put it through the wash.

It stays in.

Now I am in the horns of a dilemma. I can pretend that the first 5 buttons were all flukes and that my remaining buttons will all be saintly and co-operative, or I can call Roberto.

I do not want to call Roberto.

Because the facts that he lives in California, didn’t email me himself, and is named “Roberto” all strongly suggest that he may not even be able write English, and almost certainly speaks with a heavy accent.

Now, please do not misunderstand me. I do not have anything against heavy accents. I do not have anything against people who can’t write English. I do not have any problems with people with people who can’t speak English or write in any language.

The person who has the problem is me.

Because, you see, I talk very, very, veeerrrryy fast. My family, who has to put up with me all the time—they only listen to every other word, at best, and make up the rest. My friends, who don’t have to be around me all the time either just smile and nod and pretend I make sense or ask me to repeat myself. Slowly. With space between the words, please.

And these are the people who not only speak my language, but know me personally! And they usually already know what I’m going to say before I say it!

So I do not want to talk to Roberto. Because I already know what he will say. He will say “What? What? I cannot unduhstand you. You haf no hammuh?” In a heavy accent.

I try to get help from my brother. He verifies it looks like it doesn’t work. He pushes one together with his bare hands. Well, I think he used his chin, some, too. His chin is like an anvil. Or something. He keeps stopping part of the way through to see if it’s stuck yet, but it never is. When he gets to the part where he blunts the nail and it still doesn’t stick together, he labels them all as cruddy pieces of junk.

I dread phone calls in the best of circumstances, and this isn’t even that. I am about 99.9% certain that I will have an awful, contorted, humiliating conversation with Roberto, wherein I try to explain to him what I am doing, and how it isn’t working, while he tries to understand and be helpful, but mostly tells me to do exactly what I’m already doing, and assuring me that if I follow his instructions it will work. And then I will have 100 buttons that don’t work and the instructions that don’t work to go along. A cute matching set.

To make matters worse, one button is still in place. I don’t know that it will still be in place, but it opens up the horrifying possibility that even if Roberto was 5 minutes down the street and I brought the buttons over in person, Roberto could still do the exact same thing I’ve been doing, and it would stay in. At least, for 5 minutes, until I got home. Or for five hours, until I was out in the middle of shopping, and suddenly ker-plinkety-ker-plankety loosing my pants button.

But because I am a good little girl, and I like to think that some how I can’t actually predict how these things will go, I called. Today. At four o’clock over here and one o’clock over there.

The first person who answers the phone is a very pleasant, perfectly normal, maybe-he-is-just-five-minutes-down-the-street-even-though-his-address-is-California type person. I ask to speak to Roberto, as my email instructed me. I am very pleasantly transfered. And then a pleasant voice says, “Dis is Roberto,” with an accent so thick it would put the Great Wall in China to shame.

At some point, you have to decide whether life is a tragedy or a comedy. Somewhere between verifying that no, I was not looking for jeans buttons, I had already bought them from him, and they were not staying in, despite being pounded into mauled bits of metal and his wondering confusion of how this could possibly be, I decided it was a comedy.

“Hm, dis is ve-ey odd. No udder customehs complain of dis. Do you pound it on somesing hard?”

Yes, I pound it on something hard. Very hard and very hardily, I have pounded this thing on something very hard. Don’t worry, I didn’t phrase it like that to him. But I did go over all the facts of the case.

“Dis ve-ey strange. It should be just the easiest ting,” he says, greatly confused.

“I thought they would be,” I say, “That’s why I bought them!” We both laugh. We are both greatly confused.

“Vat ziti are you?”

“Excuse me?”

“Vat ziti are you?”

“I. . .um,” All I can think of is the pasta “Ziti”, but I am not it, and it doesn’t relate to jeans buttons. “I, ah, I don’t understand your question.”

“Vat. Ziti. Are. You.” he says, very clearly.

Long pause.

“Vat ziti are you; you know, are you Lozzanglis?” Ah, Los Angeles!

“No, no. What city am I in? I’m on the East Coast!!”

“Ah, dat is what I thought. . .” he trails off.

We discuss that it is a hard surface. We discuss how thick my fabric is, but he says it is not too thick.

“Well, I not know what to do, because you are over there and I am over here!” We laugh. Yes. Life would be so much simpler if I could walk down the street, and he could show me how to do it in, and it would stay in for all of five minutes.

He suggests I use pliers. He suggests I have my very strong brother who puts them together with his bare hands to try the pliers. Yes, try that and see how it works.

I am about ready to tell him he is out of his mind, pliers won’t fix the problem, but the fact of the matter is very clear. He can’t help me. Because it should be working; no one has ever had this problem before, and he is over there and I am over here. So I say okay. And he says if I have any problems, ask for Roberto, and hangs up.

So now what do I do? I know perfectly well it doesn’t matter if I use a hammer, pliers or my brothers bare hands; I currently have about a 20% chance of any of these buttons working. I could email the person who first responded to me, and say “Roberto no can help me, because this never happen to his other customers. The buttons will cannot stay together; please ship me better ones or give me my refund.” But I don’t think they have any different buttons that don’t work like these ones, and if they give me a refund, it’s still only half my money back, on account of how much I paid in shipping (metal buttons are heavy when you ship them clear across the continent). And if I claimed all 80% of them were defective, I would have to ship them back to prove it. Then I would be out my shipping money and my buttons. (I should be clear here that I am predicting what will happen; they have no stated policy on jeans buttons that don’t work. But I would like to note that so fare my predictions have been eerily accurate.)

I feel bad for Roberto, because he wasn’t able to help me, and I feel bad for me, because he wasn’t able to help me. I have a button on my pants, but I don’t know how long they will stay there, or if I will ever be able to install any of the remaining buttons. Everyone at the company tried very hard to be helpful, but no one on the other side of the universe can figure out why my jeans buttons hate me. It’s of no use to me to get more jeans buttons if they all want to fall off without even a half-way reasonable excuse.

Did you ever hear of pilots landing their planes with “a wing and a prayer”? I would like to give you something to ponder. You know the age-old question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Well, now in your post-Thanksgiving jeans, how about you ponder how many angels are holding onto the button of your pants? Because apparently that what jeans buttons depend upon to stay put.

Posted in Contemplations, Not Working, Technical | 7 Comments »

Still to be Neat

November 2nd, 2008 by tatterdemalion

Still to be neat, still to be dressed,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, still perfumed:
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art’s hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.

Give me a look, give me a face
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes but not my heart. —Ben Jonson

Sometimes I need to be reminded of this. I’m not sure how it happens; it’s always very sneaky and insidious. It happens just a little bit here, and a little bit there, and one day you wake up and realize you keeping thinking about how to make your clothes look nice, how to make your house look nice, how to make you look nice—and that somewhere along the line, you forgotten or misplaced the fact that it isn’t those things that matter at all.

For me, it starts sneaking in when you supposedly see supposedly perfectly normal people who supposedly have it all together (sometimes you know better on at least one of those counts, if not all three, but that’s where it starts anyway). And for me, the place where it all comes crashing down as the nonsense it is is when I look through fashion magazines. Not that I have a lot—one time I got a one year’s subscription to Burda and one year I got a subscription to Vogue Knitting.

In some ways it is so fascinating to pick apart their sets. How do they get these garments to give the impression of the theme they want to give? Mostly, the garments don’t have much to do with it—it’s the accessories or the locations, or the way they painted the models. I can spend time wondering how and why they chose that accessory, or marvel at how they can make a perfectly plain sweater look amazing by wearing it over a breath-taking dress. But the more I look at them, the more it all crumbles away.

Have you ever looked at artwork from years past, or old photographs? And when you see a beautiful woman, what do you see? I can never remember their clothes—but their faces can make a huge impression on me. Their eyes and their lips, mostly, and they are alive. And you see the eyes and lips of the models, and—besides being covered in gobs of makeup—they look haggard, tired, sad, empty, dead.

They’re supposed to be the beautiful ones, but the more we look at the them, the more we pull back. When we look at pictures of someone who is really alive, like a young child having the time of their life, it’s different. The more we look at it, the more we are drawn in. The first has been carefully arranged to strike our eyes, and the other rings true in our hearts.

And there is another thing that makes me sad about looking through these magazines, every single time I do it. They assume your only goal is to catch the eyes of every and any man. Can that really have any appeal? No, wait—let me change that. It’s not what I meant. Can that bring any respect? Can they have any respect for one who presents themselves as so shallow, one who wants to take nothing but the eyes? Can they have any respect for someone who acts as though the ones they are trying to catch have nothing worth catching except the eyes? I don’t really need an answer to those questions, because I know the answer for myself.

The people that fill me with respect are the people who catch the hearts of all who see them. No one cares what they look like, but everyone wants to be with them. The writing that I enjoy is not the carefully-honed-for-public-presentation, not the songs that have been carefully formulated to become hits—but the ones from the heart. The ones that look at themselves and life without flinching, and are honest when they speak of it. The ones that don’t really care about the way they’re supposed to be, but who really care about the way things are.

And everyone admires these people, the ones who strike the heart, but most of us just don’t have the guts to do it. We admire the ones with character and love and life graven into their faces, and yet we pursue whatever means necessary to keep ours young and smooth and line-less. We love the houses full of warmth that doesn’t come from a heating system, houses with no pretension and no scorn—and yet find ourselves trying to mimic the ones that are neat and “just so” and void of life.

Like so many things in life, I think it comes back to the illusion of control that we all want to cling to. In our heart of hearts, we’d like to just be the way we are, and be loved anyway. But we’re pretty sure, if we open up our hearts like that, no one will like us and it’ll hurt an awful lot. At the same time, we somehow think that if we can make people like what they see, they’ll like us. Or approve of us. Or respect us. So we hide away the heart, which is too risky and too dangerous, and carefully present ourselves to the eyes. Then, we think, we can control what people think of us.

But it is only an illusion. We have no more control, no more safety. I know that lots of time people will tell you this–that beauty is only skin deep, and about truth being more important than appearances. But we just don’t have the guts to say “I don’t care what people think they see. I don’t care what people think about what they see. This is life.”

And it goes so much deeper than just the clothes we wear or how often we sweep the front steps and whether or not our drinking glasses have chips in the rim. People will give you the lip-service—they’ll tell you the best things in life are free, that no one ever wished they’d spent more time at the office. But no one really believes it. The things that cost money look good; the time in the office looks like the way to get ahead in life. The people who’ve had it all and done it all are the only ones who mean it. They took what looked good, and found it still left their heart empty. They try to tell the people who come behind them, but the people who come behind can’t quite bring themselves to say, “I don’t care if it looks like I’m wasting my life. That looks good from over here, but I know it’s just a painted face.”

Because the people who say the best things in life are free aren’t really quite right. It’s closer to the truth to say things like “freedom is never free.” You don’t get the good things in life without a cost. You can’t live the life you admire and respect without giving other things up. Maybe it is money, maybe it seems to be the admiration and respect of others, maybe it is giving up the illusion that you know what you’re doing and where you are going. But there is a cost for the things that are worthwhile, and you will have to pay it. There will be no defaulting on this bill; you’ll be looking it in the face every day of your life.

But people—they don’t make a conscious decision, usually, to follow the eyes and never mind the heart. It sneaks up on them, in some insidious sort of way. They kind of don’t realize it’s happening, until maybe one day they wake up and realize they wound up where they never thought they were going. We some how get it into our heads that the important choices will be huge and looming, and announced with sirens and bright lights: Here is your important decision. For the right way, go that way. For the easy way, go that way.

We never really suspect that it’s the little choices that matter. Are you going to eat the right thing, or the easy thing? After a hard day at work, are you going to treat your family the right way, or the easy way? Are you going to go to bed at the easy time or the right time? We can imagine the life we love, all right. But we tend to forget that it doesn’t just “happen someday”. How we live our todays is how our somedays happen. Our somedays can look pretty cool in our minds, but until we’re ready to pay the price, it never happens.

And we all like the picture in our heads of lives touched by our lives. Of people gathered on your funeral day, saying how you inspired them, you helped them, you changed them forever. Of people saying you didn’t play follow-the-leader, you always did what you thought was right. People saying you made them sit up and take notice when you showed them what life was really about. About you being a breath of fresh air, being vibrant and alive. Bringing a smile to people’s lives, having a spark dancing in your eyes. You took their breath away—you were so honest. You said the things they felt, but never had the courage to say. You meant the things you did, meant the help you gave.

Everyone wants to hear that spoken about them, but we don’t usually have the guts to pay the price. We don’t have the strength to rock the boat, so—we’ll just try to make it look like we know what we’re doing, make people like us or respect us or admire us—we’ll just try to keep things neat and under control. We’ll strike the eyes of those of us around us, because it seems so much easier than striking the hearts. But in our own lives, we tend to forget the charm of those that strike the eyes, and carry with us the impact of those that touched our hearts.

Yet in our own lives, we tend not to live it. Not because we don’t want it, but because it seems so much easier not to. It seems much too hard to look to where you want to be, and go where no one else goes. It’s just too easy to be swept away with the crowd. And then you look over your shoulder, and you see someone off to the side, away. And it looks really good over there, but you’d have to fight so hard to get there, and maybe someday you will. Maybe tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes, it’s always today, and today it’s easier not to think about it.

And that’s when you need a splash of cold water, whatever that means for you. Looking through a fashion magazine, or finding again a poem you knew spoke the truth, and realizing that what you live today is what you’ll live tomorrow. If you have a someday painted in your head, you have to start living it today. And if there is anything in life that you admire, you’ll have to pay a price for it. For me it is the reminder that if one wants to strike the heart, one must forfeit concerns of how one strikes the eyes.

(And that’s why I’ll never be a fashion designer. I’m too pig-headed about doing it the way I want to do it, and “never minding” how other people want it, how it would sell, and how it’s supposed to be. I know it seems really odd to write something like this on a sewing blog where I’m all about making clothes, but that’s kind of the point. As soon as I start compromising on how I think things should look, I start really not liking what I’m doing. I can’t do it the way it’s supposed to be. ‘Cause someday I’m going to be an eccentric old lady, and the “old” part is the only part that will take care of itself. If I don’t be my eccentric ol’ self right now, I’ll always be bending to how other people think I should do it. Me is me.)

Posted in Contemplations | 2 Comments »

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