word from around town

by Charlotte

Hey there!  How’s it going?  Well, it is Monday, I have made four Emery muslins (five, if you count the full-blown, not-quite-there dress), and am ready to donate my bustline and dowager’s hump to science.  How about we talk about what other people are saying?

Mikhaela’s posts about barriers to sewing, and her recent UFO-busting streak, have had me nodding in absolute agreement.  Indeed, if you were to replace all of the husband and kid mentions with talk of school and cats, and all of the allergy-free meal references with asides about oysters and gin, I could have written them myself.  The cats have never treated me to a day at the museum, though.  Ugh.  Kids today, am I right?

Anyhoo, it is so comforting to know that someone else banishes their makes to the UFO pile after a roadblock.  I’ve drawn up thorough notes on how to line the Hawthorn, cut out everything but the skirt lining, and have the bodice shell and lining assembled.  Yet!  Yet!  That bloody collar’s poor directions make me want to set the entire thing aflame.  (You’re supposed to sew the whole thing with a 1/4″ seam allowance, not the standard 5/8″.  The instructions not only fail to mention this, but instruct you to trim down to 1/4″.  This is addressed on Flickr and in the comments on the Sewalong post, but I missed it.  Harrumph.)  I’ve been working on it for a month!  I need to just buckle down and soldier through it, and Mikhaela’s UFO ass-kickery is a total inspiration.

– This isn’t recent, but I’ve been thinking about Neemie’s New Years posts and the “Me, too!” school of pattern buying.  Mimi, at Shop the Garment District, used to work for a major pattern company, and she says that 75% of patterns purchased aren’t used.  That gives the me the sads.  I’ve been doing a thorough assessment of my pattern reserves, and I think I have something like 60% of my patterns cut out, but given the size change I’ve just experienced, I have to really go through and have a major purge.  A style cull, for someone like me who cannot picture garments on herself?  Not that easy.

The difference between buying a pattern and buying a dress in the store is, well, trying it on.  I can see someone wearing a cute dress from Anthropologie, pop in to try it on, decide it doesn’t work, and grab a couple of cookies on the way home.  It takes, at most, fifteen or twenty minutes of time, and costs me two Baked and Wired cookies.  (I go to school near DC’s main shopping drag, to be fair, and dozens of stores are literally on my route home.)  With patterns, though, I have to buy the pattern, cut it out, and make a muslin (or two, or six), before deciding whether or not it works.  Hours of time and a concrete monetary investment.  I sometimes feel obliged to make all of my patterns work, most especially the ones that required a lot of fitting time.  (Looking at you, Anna!)  Anyway, smarter pattern buying would save a lot of time, here.

-Michelle just had a not-so-great experience with BHL’s Flora pattern, and posted a detailed review of it.  She actually got some responses from the BHL ladies, and recently posted her final thoughts on Flora. The whole exchange is worth a read, but the most striking thing about the entire discussion, to me, is that people got testy around the idea of pattern testers being paid.*  Edited to add: The root of the tension is the notion that pattern testers are being paid for endorsing the patterns, not necessarily for the act of sewing up the patterns itself, but I guess things get kind of murky when someone is paid for doing something, and then writes a glowing review.  Talking about this issue is like untangling one big knot.

I made a vague comment about the “sketchy compensation issues” at play, if a blogger were asked to write a post about a make, in addition to pattern-testing.  I think it may have gotten misconstrued as insinuating that there are some secret backdoor deals happening.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Now, I’m going to give you a long preface to my response to this.  I first started reading blogs in ancient times, when I had a TA who had small children and wrote a well-received blog about motherhood.  Personal blogs published by women who weren’t Heather Armstrong were only just getting taken seriously, and corporate sponsorship in this corner of the Internet was really in its infancy.

In any event, bloggers were just starting to get approached to write reviews for companies (large MNCs, in a lot of cases).  At one point, though, someone said, “Sooo, we’re spending large swaths of time writing 2000-word “reviews” in exchange for. . .fabric softener?”  The tides changed.  There emerged a distinction between reviews (for which someone buys the product out-of-pocket, and writes about it on his or her own) and sponsored posts (when the company is involved, in whatever capacity), never the twain shall meet.  I think this raises a whole ton of interesting questions about women and money and friendship and business and skill and the general grayness of the (still!) new online frontier.

Years and years on the sidelines of that community means that I would totally think an exchange of money would legitimize a sponsored post, and professionalize a relationship, rather than call into question a blogger’s motives.  For me, the grayness comes when we’re drawing the distinction between pattern testing, reviewing, and sponsored posts.   They’re not mutually exclusive, nor are they necessarily dependent.  I do think it is telling, though, that a lot of people seem to have married the idea of pattern testing to reviewing.

– I’ve been on the fence about buying the Colette Guide to Sewing Knits.  Reading Maddie’s review side-by-side with Nancy K‘s has been pretty illuminating.  I’m leaning towards no right now, but would love to hear about your experiences.  The thing is, my Moneta fits well enough, but I’ve got a bit of armhole gape (as I do on all knits forever and ever, amen) and would love to know what the heck is going on with it.  Nancy K recommends the Taunton series, Connie Long’s Sewing Knits and Marcy Tilton’s The Easy Guide to Sewing Tops and T-Shirts.  A trip to the library might be in order, for me.

Kristin at K-Line has a marvelous post about wardrobe culling, and the seemingly Internet-wide purging cycles.  I’m not afraid of my wardrobe, per se, but I am the sort of person to regret getting rid of something much more than holding on to it.  I feel a sort of, not quite shame or embarrassment, but bashfulness, I guess, about selfishly wanting a large wardrobe.  I am fickle, and there are days when I want to wear an obnoxious floral, and others where I want to pare everything down like Calvin Klein in the 1990s.

Also, I’m in a weird place where I have to sew, because my old wardrobe plum doesn’t fit, and I have too much fabric and too many patterns to justify a summer of J. Crew.  I love reading all of these posts about simplifying while I’m amping up and feeding my fatted wardrobe.

I loved Mary’s comment on Maddie’s post about fast fashion and fast sewing.  I have a similar talk at school all the time, about politics and the golden ages of philosophy.  It goes a little something like, “Do you know what my favorite thing is about my life?  Not having polio.  Waking up, and not worrying about getting polio.  Seriously.  That and suffrage.  Property ownership.  Small potatoes, I guess.”  I’m working on an overwrought post about being taken seriously, and what that means for ye olde wardrobe, but I’ll spare you a preview.  You’re welcome.

Now, I’m off to finish another Moneta (armhole gape and all) and maybe head down to the World War II memorial.  Enjoy your Memorial Day, folks!  Service folks and their families, especially!

*I changed the word balked to got testy around to clarify the statement.  If only I could leave track changes on a blog post!

** I added some conjunctions and stuff, generally proofread, and questioned my grasp of the English language.  Must hire copy editor.

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