Posted on June 16, 2016
One of the most revolutionary “Hollywood secrets of the stars” I’ve ever read (well, maybe the ONLY one) was the interview where Jennifer Aniston was asked where she gets such flattering tee shirts. Instead of directing people to a $300 tee (like Gwyneth, bless her heart), probably made by an 8yo in China who wasn’t getting an education, Aniston admitted, “The trick to t-shirts is I that I usually tailor them. Which is silly, but it works.”
What the WHAAAA?!? SHE HAS SOMEONE MAKE THEM LOOK JUST RIGHT FOR HER. Like, a regular tee shirt, just MADE BETTER. But for whatever reason, making the leap from understanding that, and actually DOING IT FOR MYSELF has been really hard.
I hadn’t thought about this in a long while until I wrote recently about that moment when hand-making ALL your clothing becomes the new normal. My mother left a comment about how even when she buys off the rack now, she chops and snips and adjusts to make the thing she found in the store be THE thing she wants to wear all the time. As she put it, “It’s a little daunting to wield those scissors the first time. But when you see that now you have a garment you’ll actually WEAR, you become courageous.”
I’m sure the delay in my getting this idea from my head all the way into my gut, from an idea that I embrace conceptually to a deep part of me that is a reflex and a foundation for other ideas as I grow, has been some kind of self-worth/getting older/blah blah blah thing. I recognize now that I frequently saw my own hand-made things as LESS: less worthy, less valuable, less special, more easily replaced, not as needing of care. The transition isn’t that suddenly now I know that I can alter clothing or patterns to make something JUST for me–it’s finally seeing the items that I made with my hands as being as good and worthy as something bought at a store. It has also been a process of letting go of some designer’s idea of how long/tight/short/whatever that particular garment ought to be, and knowing (like Audrey always knew) what looks best on MY form. And that what looks best on me IS right.
I have become, in recent months, obsessive about fit. I still love the nit-picky details of construction, and the immediate biochemical feedback I get when I nerdily master a new sewing technique. I doubt–I hope!–that never goes away. But I have found the same reward, now, in exploring the idea of FIT in the garments I’m making. I feel like I’m excavating a whole new layer, and it’s exciting in a way I didn’t expect. I want every item in my closet to FIT ME, to flatter me, to be something I look forward to wearing. And if that means that I have fewer items in my closet, then so be it. I’d rather have a few things that fit FABULOUSLY than a zillion that I skip over while looking for something better.
Even when it’s not completely handmade, everything we wear can be made JUST FOR US. With patience and with a willingness to take a little extra time to alter and tweak and refine, everything can be tailored to our shapes. The same is true for every pattern you make: it’s a template for making a garment, not a definition of the garment to be made. You can use that template to adapt the fabric to your own form. It’s not about how GREAT you are at the machine. It’s about the value you put on the things you are creating, and your desire to make it BEAUTIFUL.
That feels like a shift in paradigm. I don’t think it is. It’s not new, I’m sure of that. But it sure does feel like a shift to solid ground. It feels courageous.
Posted on June 2, 2016
Posted on May 18, 2016
Posted on May 9, 2016
And then one day you catch yourself thinking, “Well, sure. Of course I’m going to make my own underwear. I mean, why didn’t I think of that sooner??”
But let’s back up a bit.
I came to sewing as someone who makes clothing. I didn’t start out making quilts or bags or even really home decor. I thought sewing WAS making clothing, for a big chunk of my life. All the other stuff came later. But even as someone who came into sewing making clothing, it never occurred to me to make…ALL my clothing. ALL of it? Like, ALL all??
Posted on April 14, 2016
I finished my first sweater and cast on stitches for a second sweater. I know! Not only that, but this second one is TO GIVE AWAY.
So the standard is a little higher. I really, really want this second sweater to be gift-worthy. When I made the Agnes Sweater, I flew to Pasadena and knitted most of the body along the way. I was juuuuust about ready to knit the sleeves on the flight home, and didn’t know how to use double-point needles. I asked Jaime of Fancy Tiger at a knitting-and-coffee session she hosted, and she said she NEVER uses double points since the learned the Magic Loop.
Posted on March 28, 2016
For nearly ten years, I have used and strongly endorsed Rowenta irons. They’re heavy, which is a good thing when you’re sewing and seeking to press rather than iron. They have a steel sole plate, which heats quickly and evenly for good results on the fabric. And they have a solid steam function that really shoots steam into your projects.
But in the past two or three years, Rowenta has really been leaving me cold, if you’ll pardon the pun. The issue: leaks. Oh, the LEAKS!! I have absolutely had it with my leaking iron. That water is HOT, y’all, so not only is it splashing and sputtering all over my project when it’s on the ironing board, but it’s dropping on my feet and scalding me. My feet! Unacceptable.
So a couple weeks ago, I’d finally had enough and decided to put the suggestions I’ve received to the test. Instead of getting another Rowenta to replace my leaky iron, or even another brand of iron, I upgraded to the gravity feed iron, in hopes that I’d never have to carry a pitcher of water from my kitchen to refill my reservoir ever again.
Today, then, in the ring: the Rowenta versus the Gravity Feed Iron.
Posted on March 23, 2016
Posted on March 15, 2016
I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. The earliest school memories I have celebrated the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March from Selma, and the Civil Rights movement in a very personal and immediate way. We drove past the sites of these historic events on a daily basis, and it was an ever-present part of my childhood–both the vestiges of racial tension and the legacy of the changes in our social fabric wrought by Civil Rights leaders short decades before I was born.
Posted on March 14, 2016
When you think of the word “seamstress,” what image springs to mind?
When you think of the phrase “famous seamstress,” whose image pops into your head?
Would you be surprised to learn that there are far more famous seamstresses than you may realize? And that a lot of them are not only household names, but have changed the world for the better throughout history?
About a year ago, just for kicks, I did a search to see how many famous seamstresses I could discover, and it was delightfully productive. I love the word seamstress, and I love the legacy that these women have left behind with their needles. They’ve influenced civil rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights. They’ve impacted religious freedoms, fashion trends and workplace laws. They’ve labored for soldiers overseas, for students in classrooms around the world, and as artists making statements about their time.
I want to share these women with you. I want to research and treasure their stories, and be inspired by their vision, their influence, their achievements and their passion. Starting tomorrow, semi-weekly posts here on the blog will point you toward women who have made a difference with their needle. I hope you’ll follow along–and share in the comments names you’d like to see featured so I’m sure not to miss anyone!
Posted on February 29, 2016
It’s only February, and I’m deeply immersed in the League of Adventurous Dressmakers. I feel so inspired and motivated and excited about the garments I have in my queue. Part of what slows me down, looking back on past years and the to-sew lists that never get completed, is that I love the planning stages of a sewing project, but don’t always feel accountable–everyone who reads and comments on my blog is super encouraging (loving you guys!), but you’re so supportive and understanding that when a project stalls, there’s no real pressure to pick it back up. With the League, knowing that there are folks who are excited and asking questions and posting photos and watching to see what comes next really gets me sitting down at my needle.