The House of Tatterdemalion

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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 »

What I learned from knitting. . .(and it isn't what you think it is)

August 9th, 2008 by tatterdemalion

[ed. note: ‘Tis easier to write than to mess with pictures, and ’tis better to post without pictures than to not post at all. My promised post on design is still in the works, but you get this while you wait.]

You may recall that my elderly neighbor (old enough to be my grandmother) taught me how to knit. I don’t remember what all I said on that subject; I don’t think I mentioned that I had been trying to get her (back) into sewing. I like sewing. She thinks sewing is too fussy, too time consuming. So she wouldn’t jump at my bait to sew, but I jumped at her bait to knit. I think I did mention that I opened her knitting world up by introducing her to knitting books, knitting magazines, mail order yarn, and free patterns on the internet.

She tries to pretend she’s an old coot. She claims she can’t understand all this fuss about knitting with lace, and I get out books like Lace Style so she can see what people are doing. She complains that all the sweaters aren’t designed raglan sleeved, top-down, the only way she believes in making sweaters. In Lace Style, there is this truly ethereal garment—it is diaphanous, floaty, it plays with the sunlight. It is also, of course, meant only for effect. It’s insubstantial as a garment; it is meant as an accessory, to bring it’s unique appearance. I sit there and marvel at the huge effect that has been captured by a simple garter stitch in plain white yarn. She fusses, because what kind of a garment is that? And kids these days. . .!

But it’s all just a charade.

‘Cause a couple weeks later, she’s telling me about ravelry.com, and the “naughty” tab, and generally giggling like a teenager. My mind struggles to grasp this—I can look at a garment I would never wear, yet still cataloge and be captivated the various elements I could take and use as see fit. She can look at the same garment and deride it as utterly useless, not being able to harvest anything from it. Yet a few days later, she can be getting her chuckles from the same sorts of things she derided in the garments, now in a more blatant form. She is still a kid; she’s just still stuck in the time period she was a “kid” in. The problem for her is never really that anything strikes her as too sassy, sultry, attention drawing, etc. (My google-ads are going to be just awful as result of this post. . .) The problem is that it seems to her to be strange, foreign, unfamiliar. They are speaking in a language she can’t understand.

I get out Elizabeth Zimmerman’s A Knitters Almanac, and enjoy it thouroughly. She looks at it, and say “I don’t have time for that!!” and instead reads Things I Learned from Knitting, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, self-described as “The Yarn Harlot.” In this book, my silver-haired neighbor discovers that she is “addicted to knitting”, and she gets thrills from this. She isn’t in the least bit disturbed that she has this compulsion to knit, knit, knit, KNIT!!

Whoa. Get a grip, lady.

And then I think, is this how it seems to people I am about sewing? I hope not. Sewing isn’t my addiction; sewing isn’t my religion. I don’t really come across that fanatical about sewing, do I?

Here I am learning the wonders of knitting—don’t worry about being exact; it’ll stretch. And here she is, counting every single stitch, repeatedly checking her gauge on the project she’s working on, and still being in a snit because one sock turned out 1/4″ longer than the other. Here I am learning about how life isn’t that big of a deal; if you mess up, no one is going to count every single stitch you made and deride you for the place you made a mistake or two. And here she is, ripping and re-knitting and re-ripping again.

And from this I see that, (1) In my sewing, I have much more the attitude she has about knitting. Which is ironic, because she doesn’t want to become involved in sewing for that very reason. And (2) I would much rather my attitude toward sewing be more like my attitude toward knitting.

It really isn’t that important. Chill out, dude.

Not that I don’t value excellent work; I do, and I strive for it. But it becomes paralyzing. Is this pattern perfect? I can’t cut this fabric unless this pattern is perfect. No, don’t be silly. You’ll wear it anyway, perfect or not. You’ll learn where you went wrong and do better next time. For now—cut. People give you funny looks when they find out how much work you put into an everyday, ordinary garment, and with good reason. It’s just a regular old, ordinary thing—and you’re obsessed over it? You do realize, don’t you, it’s just a piece of clothing? It will serve it’s purpose and wear out. It’s a temporal, fleeting thing. Ride the waves and get on with life.

I am reminded of this every time I hear her obessively counting stitches, which I know is a futile thing because her gauge will change from moment to moment depending her mood. She is worrying futily, and it opens my eyes to the futility of my worry.

I am also reminded that human nature has never really changed from the beginning of time. The scandal of one generation at another generation is largely just a scandal of the differing ways of expressing the same basic humaness.

And age bears no realtion to fuddy-duddiness. She, being many years my senior, would be considered less fuddy-duddy than me, the one who has no interest whatsoever in clicking on the “naughty” tab on raverly.com.

And that time will march on; if you won’t make the effort to keep up, you will be left behind. You sometimes don’t realize how true this is, until you have become accustomed to watching late-middle aged people struggle with new technoloy, and then—having been thouroughly inoculated to the whole old-people-don’t-get-it—seeing a most definitely 100% of the way senior citizen whip out a digital camera and use it without hesitation. Suddenly you forcefully realize that the process of being confused by the world starts very early. If you are not prepared to look the future in the eyes and grab it by the horns, you will become confused. Perhaps it won’t be noticable until you are middle aged, or until you are firmly in the senior citizens territory. But if you don’t hang on now, it will be too late to grasp out for handholds later on. You won’t be able to grasp making sweaters any other way than raglan sleeved, from the top down. It becomes nearly as much a law as gravity itself; it is insurmountable. Meanwhile, “kids these days” will be doing some incomprehensible thing that seems utterly pointless and bizarre.

People don’t really change. But if you loose your ability to communicate with them and interact with them, it seems like humanity totally reinvents itself on a regular basis. And if you are from Humanity 1.08, how can you understand Humanity 1.5?

It seems as though the best way understand the world around you is to have one hand in the past, one hand in the future, and your head firmly in the present. If you don’t understand at least some of the past, you can’t understand the present you are in. And if you don’t keep an eye on where the future is heading, your time in the present is very limited; shortly you will be living in the past.

It sounds very endlessly difficult. But generally speaking, we’re going to either die young or grow old. And if you’re planning on growing old, you should start figuring out how to do it sooner rather than later. The course you set now will be the one you will be walking on when you’re older, because once you are old, you haven’t the strength to change the course.

Posted in Contemplations, Knitting | 1 Comment »

Somebody cue the music—here it comes!!

July 26th, 2008 by tatterdemalion

Which? What? Pictures and stories of my first ever self-drafted dress! That I finished last year, and never told you about, and finally now am gracing you with it’s presence! It is, basically, proof-positive that I finished Pattern Drafting 101. Taught be me. I was at the head of the graduating class. Which was only me.

Anyway, this is post is dedicated to Bridget. It’s all her fault. No, not really. Really, I could “Thank You” to a million people. Not really. I don’t know a million people. But there is the author of my one-and-only text book (Elizabeth Allemong and her wonderful book European Cut), and my sister who patiently took all my measurements a half-dozen times, and my aunt who introduced me to the world of sewing (but she’d probably die a million deaths if she realized she was responsible for starting me down this path, because for heaven’s sake you’re not supposed to take hobbies so seriously!), and my parents who borned me into this world in the first place—but I’m dedicating this one to Bridget.

Why?

‘Cause otherwise I wouldn’t have finished it, and it doesn’t matter how well you start if you never, ever finish. Oh, I guess I probably would have finished it. Eventually. Sometime. Maybe. But I was getting so sick of this project. I had reached ultimate saturation. I didn’t want to look at it, didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to work on it. And every time I looked at it, it seemed like it looked worse than it had the time before. And I was, like, 90% of the way there! It just needed finishing up, hemming and boring stuff like that. But instead, it had been tossed into a corner and was just sitting there. Bridget gave me the encouragment, that yes, actually, it’s coming along quite nicely indeed. So finish it.

Also, she kept me company while I cut, sewed, pressed and hemmed 177″ of bias binding. You really, really, really need company when doing something as tedious and mind-numbing as that.

Besides all that, you’d never being seeing this post except for her. She helped me cull through the over 130 photos my (very wonderful) sister took of me wearing the dress (yes, the same sister who took all my measurements!). It’s really no fun looking at over 130 photos of yourself. Then again, maybe she didn’t have fun looking at 130 photos of me, either, but she did it anyway. A true friend (but I’m sure the brownies didn’t hurt, either. . .they were really good brownies).

Anyway, yes. The dress. And me. Brace yourselves!

The Front

The side

Profile

The Back

You simply would not believe the tedious hours that went into making this dratted thing. The 177″ of homemade bias binding hem is just the beginning.

The hem

Besides the hem in this picture, you will note a couple of other things. For one thing, the whole dress is underlined. Interlined. Regular old lined. Something. Having bought this fabric way too many years ago when I was young and foolish, I failed to be deterred by the fact that it was rather thin. Very thin. Thin enough it really needed something more to keep it decent. This caused some disappointment to me later on. It may have needed two layers of fabric for opacity’s sake, but those two layers make it much, much warmer. Not so great for wearing during already-quite-warm-enough-thank-you-very-much weather. Everything I have ever read has claimed that building a dress like this will make it less prone to wrinkling, but the whole thing is 100% cotton, so I doubt you’ll see much of a difference on that count.

A second thing you will notice is all the orange thread-tracing lines. Techincally, now that the dress is done, they should be taken out. But that’s fuss and bother, and you can’t see them from the outside, and I’m quite finished working on this. I’m not in the least bit repentant of doing all that thread tracing, though. It was extremely useful for getting the pleats to line up right, and the darts and everything else. It is a time-eater, but if I ever have pieces-that-must-line-up, I would do it again in an instant. It was very reliable, didn’t go away until you wanted it to, and then did go away when you did want it to. It was Precise. I liked it.

inside detail

This is the inside shoulder; you can see the back shoulder dart. If you look close, you can see my hand stitching securing the muslin underlayer shoulders to each other. I was really doing quite the hybrid. I sewed a lot of the dress treating the muslin and the “fashion fabric” as one—the darts, and most of the seams. But where ever it tickled my fancy, I did it otherwise. The side seams were sewed together, but the inner and outer skirts were hemmed seperately. The muslin was treated as a lining at the neck and sleeve ends, sandwiching the (self-made) piping in between. And here, I sewed the “fashion fabric” shoulder seams seperately from the muslin, and descreetly hand stitched the muslin shoulder seams by hand. It made for a nice smooth finish.

Not that it was all so fine. Most of the time I just zig-zagged the seam allowances. I didn’t have a serger at the time. . .

inside scoop

Yes, you do see a waiststay. I was very ambivilant about putting it in. They say it’s supposed to support the weight of the skirt, and keep it from straining the rest of the dress. Having a hem that was 127″, and double layers of fabric, I thought that maybe it was necessary. But it’s rather uncomfortable, and I’m not sure at all that it makes any difference in the least. Especially since this was supposed to be a casual dress. Maybe if I was using fine, delicate fabric, I would be more worried. As it is—-it’s cotton. It’ll survive. Or not. I’m not too worried about it.

I say it was “supposed” to be a casual dress. It was. It was supposed to be the kind of dress you could host a picnic in—unfussy, but nice. The only reason I thought I could get away with such a fitted bodice is because I very cleverly added an ease-pleat in the back of the dress.

ease pleat

See? Very clever. I even precisely matched the print. Only problem? Sorry, Miss Knucklehead. You need your ease further down than that. As it is, I nearly burst a seam when I try to scoop ice cream, which means that whenever I wear this dress, I feel formal. And by “feel formal” I mean, I feel like I’m good for nothing but standing, prim and proper. Or maybe walking. But not doing anything that involves my reaching with my arms, with eliminates a startling number of activities. Half the time I ignore the “don’t move!” feeling and get on with my life anyway, but it is just not the casual do-anything dress I’d invisioned. I feel like such a failure. Kind of. Not really. The fit is really good, but I’m still pretty annoyed with this dress.

shoulder fit

Oh, well. At least I remembered to put in a pocket, and that’s once less annoyance.

pocket

The dratted back ties—they’re dratted because (1) I can’t tie them myself; I never mastered bow-tying behind my back, and (2) I cut it on the bias, which made it very difficult to sew without distorting.

tie

Why did I do that? I don’t know. I think I thought the ties would be more fluid and coopertive when tied. Maybe they are. . .

bow

Its loose in the back, but stitched down in the front, along the bottom edge. By hand. After tediously sewing it on by hand, I got it into my head to measure my stitches in their regularity and size. . .

Whoa. 1/16th of an inch, square on, everytime. Freaky. I guess maybe all my hand-quilting is paying off? Somebody go tell the atliers I’m readying for hiring!

I put a lot of silly stress on myself while working on this project. I just felt like it had to be perfect. It was a like a thesis paper, or something. It had to be the proof that I really truly had been learning, did learn. That I could draft to specific measurments and produce quality sewing. As such, how could I ever be fully satisfied with it? Every little mistake seemed like a disaster, completely obscuring the view of the rest of it. Instead of being pleased with how much I had accomplished, I wound up just being disgruntled with every little place where it didn’t seem to me to be perfect. Maybe that’s why, having drafted basic slopers that would enable me to make any dress, skirt or top I could possibly imagine, the only thing I wanted to do next was figure out how to make pants. Instead of feeling like I’d accomplished dress-making, I felt like I couldn’t measure up, and wanted to divert my attention elsewhere. Thankfully, I’ve relaxed (at least a bit), and my pattern drafting has continued.

Besides, in the grand scheme of things, the dress works:

me

me in front of a tree

here I am

in a tree

(Yes, you can climb a tree in this dress. If you’re detirmined. Or pig-headed. Take your pick, but I think I have a fair dose of one or the other!)

still in the tree

what do you see?

somewhere else

the other way

sitting

Besides, till this dress, I had only made 4 pieces of clothing for anything other than children. 3 of them were jumpers, and none of them came close to fitting.

I do believe I shall give myself a passing grade.

[Tune in next time, when I discuss my thoughts that went into the design of this dress. I have always been frustated by people who will tell you what they did, without giving any hint as to why they did it. I shall. And it will be fascinating. Sort of. Anyway, I’m out of time for it for now, because I’ve got to wash dishes, which is just loads of fun.]

Posted in Completions, Contemplations, Couture, Projects | 3 Comments »

Aloo fibers smell like goat.

June 7th, 2008 by tatterdemalion

I am sure you were all in desperate need of that astounding fact. It is true. I’m messing around with some Aloo fiber (it’s a thistle that grows in the Himalayas–oops. I mean nettle. I looked it up. I know the difference between nettle and thistle, really I do!) right now, and I can’t stop thinking “Good gravy! This smells like goat!!” And I know what goats smell like.

Did you wonder where I’d gone? Did you pine for me? Did you suppose I had given it all up in favor of dancing the polka and curling my hair? Nope! First of all, I don’t know how to dance the polka. And my hair is already curly, so traditionally, I ought to be struggling desperately to uncurl.

Nor did I die, or fall of the face of the earth, though I suppose if you wanted to be dreadfully theatrical, you could say I nearly did both. Once a week, I go up to my grandparents to watch over them and houseclean while my brother (he stays with them 24/7, as neither of them is capable of taking care of themselves) does the grocery shopping. The short-cut from back-roads-the-middle-of-nowhere to the-interstate-which-can get-you-anywhere is a very steep hill, chock full of hair-pin turns. Going up this hill, if you look to the right, you can see for a million miles all around as it overlooks valleys and hills. On the right, it’s an open empty field. On the left, it’s a boulder-strewn gully filled with trees.

So I take this road once a week, and I made it all through the WHOLE winter with it’s snow and ice and wind without incident. Even though I drove a midget little Geo Prisim which cried every time it attempt that hill, and liked to floated on slushy roads. And then we get this one very last freak snow, hardly worth mentioning. But of course it is windy (and did you know that Geo’s are kissing cousins to kites?) and a dusting of snow blows over a chilly patch in the road. Despite the fact that the vehicle is barely moving (this is a Geo, remember, and it is trying to climb a hill. A steep hill), I of course loose control of the vehicle.

I am happy to report that when I went airborne, I was facing the open field, not the gully.

If you have never been in any sort of accident like that, allow me to inform you that it is a very weird experience. No, really. You would think it would be terrifying, but you kind of don’t have enough time for it all to sink it—it all goes so fast. You can’t take in all the facts of the physical happenings around you, much less pause for philosophical and emotional ponderings.

And after it—well, it’s over. The lady in the SUV behind me was far more upset than I was. Although, she herself said it was far more upsetting to watch than to be in one—between her and her husband, they’ve wiped out on that road 3 different times. She was so upset she was nearly crying; I could only think about three things.

(1) Whoa, major adrenaline rush. I feel really, really weird. It’s going to take a while to flush all this from my system.

(2) Crap, I just totaled my Dad’s car.

(3) I am going to be soooo late.

It’s odd, but when you can get up and walk away, you can never quite grasp how close you may have come—to what? Broken bones? Months of coma? Dying? Who knows? You can’t. You don’t even know what just happen. For instance, the couple in the SUV didn’t want to believe me when I said I was alright; I couldn’t understand the concern until they explained I had been getting thrown around in the car. This was very difficult for me to believe, but the resulting case of whiplash the next day convinced me. Who knows how close I came to disaster? I suppose the couple behind me in the SUV. I suppose it does all make sense that she was more upset watching me than wrecking herself.

Certainly, I think, she will remember it for quite some time. 10 years from now, she’s going to sit up in bed in the middle of the night and say, “Honey, remember when we were driving up that hill behind that girl, and she went flying through the air, and we let her borrow our cell phone to call home, and when she was talking to her Mom she was all like “I’m fine, but Geo is no longer functional, so someone will have to pick me up.” ‘The Geo is no longer functional,’ can you believe that?!!”

She had a hard time not cracking up at phrasing at the time, and I suppose in retrospect I can sort of see why. I suppose such matter of fact statements aren’t exactly expected after one emerges from a crash landing. But at the time I could only stare at her blankly and wonder on earth I was supposed to say. I was fine; the Geo wasn’t functional, and someone did have to pick me up. That covers all the important points, yes?

Actually, the Geo was functional. Sort of. A pick-up truck was dispatched from home, and in the time it took themsleves to pull themselves together and drive the five miles out, a total and complete stranger had pulled up and checked to make sure I was all right, and then left to get a pick up; shortly thereafter another total and complete stranger pulled up in the pick up truck; pick-up truck man and SUV behind me man got the car unembedded; and it was discovered that car could still run. Technically. The headlights dragged on the ground and the doors wouldn’t close right, and it was quite rattley and bang-y, but there were no leaking liquids. They dutifully followed me to the bottom of the hill, where I sat waiting for a few moments before the pick-up truck from home arrived. (Seeing me properly centered on the road and the vehicle appearing only a bit battered, they couldn’t help but wonder why I had called for help. I had to inform them they were simply slow on the draw. Actually, it wasn’t so much that they were slow is that everyone else was so fast. I can’t help but wonder how many times per winter that guy pulls people out without a second thought. He is certainly not paid and probably not even thanked, considering the speed of which he completes the project and leaves.)

But it is toast. The frame is bent. Alas and alack and all that.

And what else? Let me s. . . I accidentally chopped off a bit of my finger with a carving knife. That counts as a near death experience, right?

bleeding!

And I got a splinter jammed way down underneath my fingernail, and I’m pretty sure that counts.

owie

And I had the flu, which made me feeling like I was dying, but only because I like to complain and mope. I don’t have any pictures for that. . .My Dad is probably going to hate me for posting those pictures of my finger. He can never bear to look. I do believe it upsets him more when my finger is dripping blood than to know I wrecked his car. I mean, OK, I get it that your own flesh-and-blood is far more important than a mechanical pile of metal (and less replacable, too). But it was a teeny eeny weeny winey cut, and it healed up promptly, like I knew it would. (This is the same bleeding finger only 1 week later. You can’t even tell, any more, of course.)

And the car is still. . .dead. Twisted. Worthless. Etc. (I think he’s just squimish about blood.)

Anyway, I haven’t been writing, but I have been sewing. And knitting. Both quite a bit, actually. If I ever get off my lazy bum and take/post pictures of it all, you will all get to see that I’m exactly like every body else—I go on endlessly about the stuff I’ve made, regardless of whether it’s worth comment.

Until then, just for the record, I’d like to state that I’m not dead. And that Aloo fibers smell like goat.

Posted in Contemplations | 1 Comment »

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