alchemy

Version 2
From the Barbara Kruger exhibit at the NGA a few years ago.  On one hand, I love the idea of the eye being the site of mediation/conflict between the individual and the world at large.  On the other, it would have been in better taste to put the large print guides near any other leaflet.

As with all other things, I waited six years after everyone else to let KonMari into my soul.

For the uninitiated, in Marie Kondo’s book (empire, really), one modifies one’s external environment to suit internal needs.  In her world, ultimately, tidiness is about happiness and happiness is about you.  To that end, you divide your belongings by category, make a big pile, physically hold each item, and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”  Reader, I am joyless.  Had I kept on with this, I would have no socks, two sticks of furniture, and a pile of clothes that don’t fit.  It seems that my joy button is broken.  [[Not a word from you, Julie.]]

It should come as no surprise, then, that my sewjo is dead.  Dead, dead.  I spend as much time thinking about sewing as I do thinking about or doing anything else, really, but magically, I cannot spin thoughts into garment gold.

I’ve tried some of the old tricks:  Heading to the fabric store and bonding with the high-priced merch; doing deep dives on all of your (yes, your!) Instagram accounts for news on new patterns and all the nifty ways you’ve made them your own; I’ve even gone to see a professional—I went to hang out with Bex at Stitch Sew Shop to make some bias binding, because it is a pull-my-teeth-out task for which I need adult supervision.

Things were on the up-and-up, until I signed up for a coat class that I never got to go to because my dry cleaner and work schedule banded together and decided that happiness was just not in the cards.  (Yes, mine is a bottomless supply of self-pity.)  My top-stitching was uneven but too delicate to unpick!  I couldn’t find any muslin.  I found the muslin and interfacing, but work got busy so I had no machine time.  You know the drill.  (Are you cycling through it right now?)

There is more to this, of course.  I ended up needing two surgeries last year.  (Yes, I tore the other ACL just a month after laying the bricks for my triumphant returns to my primary two esses!)  A combination of medication, surgical complications, and post-op treatments have rendered me unable to exercise right now.  One should cut one’s self slack, sure.  One also is not complaining (god forbid).  But!  One could also fashion an unreasonable plan for one’s triumphant return to the machine.  I dunno, reader.  One of these things sounds more fun than the others.

The usual order of operations for when I’m in the sewing doldrums is:

  1. Find a nearly there UFO and fix her up.  [[All of my UFOs are too small now!  Which is okay, but just disqualifies this item from being a mood-booster.]]
  2. Go shopping.  Ogle the goods on the fancy floors of Neiman’s, maybe even smuggle some in for a quick fit, then delight in the fact that you could probably make (a serviceable) copy and without that weird butt ruffle/peplum thing.  [[I’m supposed to be babying the cement blocks that I call knees, so am limiting my galavanting.]]
  3. Read other people’s blogs!  This is actually where I’d love some help, if you don’t mind.  There are two people on the Internet (three, if you count the dearly departed A Sewn Wardrobe) who can coax me off the fence about a garment.  Gina from A Feminist Stitch and Mary from Idle Fancy.  I could literally be in the middle of an “Ugh, but seriously, another f*&kin’ peplum” rant, then come across their version of a garment and think, “That’s actually kind of all right.  Beautiful, even”  Poof—wallet out, pattern secured.  Who charms your wallet away from you when those two are otherwise engaged?

Because I am me, and I like lists and do nothing if not share too much, here’s what I’m thinking the plan should be:

  1. Make some muslins.  Indeed, I just bought a 50-yard bolt of muslin off of the Internet.  I think that knowing that I can sew for myself at not an Indie 8/10 or Big Four 14 would be super helpful.  I also think that sewing garments without elastic and with zippers would be somewhat heartening.  See ya, schmattes.  Have you been sewing anything fun lately?
  2. Take a class.  A hard one.  I think I might benefit from being out of my depth, a bit.  I’ve only ever been to classes for beginning sewers, even though I’ve been at this for awhile.  Thomas von Nordheim?  Susan Khalje?  Bueller?
  3. In a weird way, sewing has complicated my relationship with fashion.  In some ways, it’s been good.  In others, reading sewing blogs has supplanted a lot of the hardcore fashion editorial reading I used to do.  I know this runs counter to supra 3, but I think I may try to bring some more Uncle Dries into my diet.

Oh, reader.  Those were 800 words that added precisely nothing to your life.  I think this means I’m using you for accountability.  So, next time I pop round (in yet another year, maybe?), let’s talk progress.  Pinky swear.

 

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19 thoughts on “alchemy”

  1. A big hard same. From the joylessness to the sewing dumps. I took a break from all things internet at the end of last year and to be honest, it was SO GOOD that I just don’t want to hop back on the bandwagon. Except that I need both new clothes to wear and new things to make (important for my mental health) and I’m realising how much reading sewing blogs facilitates my sewing impulse.

    My list of things to get me going again include yours and also finding a quick, easy, no-fitting project to get me started. I churned out a bunch of Concord tees and I felt no joy at all at being behind the machine. AND they don’t fit quite right. I don’t know why, really. I sewed some christmas gifts for small children and really enjoyed that, but the idea of sewing for myself? Hmmmm. Maybe THAT’S the problem.

    Also I’ve been daydreaming about a winter/fall wardrobe that’s less ‘retro housewife gone feral’ and more ‘forest witch prepared equally for gardening, demon murdering or hard core word processing’ and tbh I’m just not sure how to make that hard turn or if I even want those clothes and would enjoy wearing them. But it’s all I can think about, and waist shaping holds no charms for me. I don’t know why I need to put this soul searching on your blog instead of mine. Poor boundaries? Ugh blogging is hard though.

    Anyway. Your plan sounds excellent and I hope it works for you. Staying tuned for some blog reading inspo because I feel the same about our friends Gina and Mary.

    1. QUICK AND EASY ARE THE DEVIL’S WAY! So, I don’t make knits, really, because I made a couple and thought, “Self, this is so forgiving. It would even forgive you for buying it in a store.” Do you reckon it’s the *special* that will draw you out of your slump? Holiday presents sound special. Need to dig deep for selflessness, on this end.

      I’m thinking about taking a break from Instagram, at least. I’m so, so ambivalent. I also don’t have tons of leisure Internet time (well, I either have all the leisure time in the world or precisely none), and I find myself just wanting to lie in bed reading randomness on a Sunday. Then, I start wondering if it would be better to at least put on some real clothes and leave my home. Hell, go to a museum or walk around without headphones for once. It’s still *always* a coin toss. I don’t know if simpler is better, for me. Maybe I’ve just never had the patience to try.

      Forest witch, though?! YES. My aesthetic is bleeding (hemorrhaging) from Zooey Deschanel to Sofia Coppola to Phoebe Philo. But, I still have some very Liberace, too-much-is-not-enough leanings. The witch needs to be freed.

      I don’t want to say “Where have all the good blogs gone?!” Because that feels false. But, I’m so out of touch and there’s so much of everything, I imagine that finding a good, core 20-ish reads (outside of my core group of sewing buds) would be a bit on the difficult side for me.

      1. The thing is I find it hard to find tshirts etc that I like and fit both my shoulders and bust appropriately. But honestly I’m not having much luck sewing anything that fits better so, like… who can be bothered honestly? I think I need something I’m EXCITED about – I am both a product and a process sewer. I think I might sew something stupidly out of season, just because. Because it’s feeling like a real chore.

        Same with the selflessness. I was honestly shocked because I generally resent sewing for others. But I think it took the pressure off. So I guess I need to work out a way to take the pressure off myself in general. It doesn’t help that when I don’t sew for a month+ I forget all the fitting tricks and basically don’t remember what my body is like or how to sew. So it’s a challenge getting back in.

        I feel like I had that core group of blogs for a while and then I took a break and half of them are not posting (glass houses here. Not that I think my blog is anything super special but you know, if I can’t be bothered to post I can’t expect it of others (I can and do expect it, unreasonably)).

        I thought I would crave getting back on insta but you know, I don’t even miss it at ALL. Well I do miss knowing what my friends are up to but every time I go to redownload it I feel panicky and overwhelmed and so I don’t. I was going to say it’s not like I’m using my time any better but you know, I probably am. I still dick around on the internet but it’s not as sticky, and I don’t feel this weird need to Create Content. Very relaxing. Although I do want to get back to blogging because as you can see here I have this compelling need to write lots of words and I need to quit doing it in the comments on other people’s blogs!

  2. Ack, I’m needed on the internet and yet I’ve all but abandoned my blog!

    I’ve been going through a bit of a sewing doldrums myself, and that’s something I never thought would happen. I’ve been a bit worried that maybe I made a rash decision in getting my needle and thread tattoo and that maybe this wasn’t that kind of relationship all along. But I think for me it’s partially that I have a lot of clothes right now and don’t have a great need for more. That will probably change come spring and summer because I’ll lose the whole section of my wardrobe that consists of warmer dresses; in the winter I still wear most of my summer dresses with cardigans.

    I also haven’t been reading sewing blogs very much lately; I have a backlog hundreds of posts long. I just happened to check in on Feedly tonight and saw your post, and of course I had to read it immediately. I think blogs must serve as inspiration for a lot of my sewing in a way that instagram doesn’t because it doesn’t focus on technique and detail as much. So maybe my problem would be solved if I would just catch up on blogs? But I also feel like so many of the interesting people have quit blogging and reading my backlog of old posts kind of feels like a chore for me.

    Finally, it must be said that I’m probably depressed right now because I’m about to graduate (if my February defense goes well!) with one of the most useless degrees possible in today’s political and economic climate (I mean, I guess I could have pursued a PhD in Art History if I wanted to be less relevant?). Depression makes me less motivated to do the things I typically enjoy. Perhaps your recent surgical obstacles (and, btw, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been going through all this!) are making you feel less enthusiasm for things in general? (could this paragraph include more parenthesis?)

    Regarding tactic #2, have you tried bramaking? I’m sure there are classes near you. Making my own bras has put me off RTW bras and there’s a constant need for new ones because elastics wear out. That’s the next thing I’m going to be sewing.

    1. You are! If not just to gossip about the Shaukat price increase. With the exchange rate and shipping, it is now comparable/less expensive to buy your Liberty from (gasp!) Fabric.com or even (clutches chest) B&J!

      Preach. I fell so hard for sewing—got the Bernina, the fat fabric stash, and the blog to prove it. I’ve put in so much, it feels oddly like an obligation. I can imagine my mum finger-wagging at Young Charlotte about how I can’t learn the [insert must-have-or-die hobby here] because what’s going to happen when the *novelty* wears off. It’s almost pathological for me, now, where I must enjoy the SHIT out of any hobby.

      Did I ever tell you about my rashly deleting the Bloglovin’ and Feedly during the pay-for-testers debate, whenever that was. I thought I would thoughtfully reconstruct from scratch and categorize everything. That sort of started happening on DiggReader, but then I fell back into my slovenly Bloglovin’ habits and have no idea what is what.

      Though, I’m having a hard time with sewing blogs, truth be told. I find great comfort in the blog format, but I also really liked the sewing Internet in 2008 (seriously, A Sewn Wardrobe, hit me up). I’m not sure what to make of how we operate now. It’s not bad. I don’t blame Instagram or monetization, really, but I wonder if sewing blogs may have been too sewing focused? I will stay for life stuff (hell, I mostly write life stuff), but there are few blogs where life and hobby and everything get jumbled together. (Andrea of Zoopolis does a great job of mixing it all.) The blogs that I read ten (or more) years ago are the ones where I probably know the names of the author’s children and when s/he changed jobs and what goofy television show s/he’s into. Without that, isn’t it Instagram or a how-to book?

      Graduation is nigh! Oh, Gina. Employment. If I find myself in the Middle West, drinks are on me.

      The depression hypothesis rings true. I turn into a fainting goat when I face the unknown. A part of me wonders if I’d be wasting the time, energy, fabric on stuff that I’ll never finish or scarcely wear.

      Bras, you say?

      1. AGREE about the blogging atmosphere. I made a side blog to talk about non-sewing stuff because I felt this weird pressure to provide Sewing Content. I’m thinking about putting it back in because dammit, it’s my own blog and I can do what I want and who’s even reading it anyway? Only people I know and also like 400 silent people who found my blog through the CSC roundups and never comments, so stuff ’em! I mean, I don’t care if they comment or not but why should I feel like I need to cater to them?

        My best friend just pointed out I went through this same slump this time last year and we have located the issue – it’s school holidays and my partner is a teacher and he is home all the time and I haven’t had any time alone for like three months. I’m losing my MIND.

        Good luck with your defense, Gina! Graduating is scary but also good.

  3. I’m just happy to see you back in whatever capacity. Vent away.

    What I would like to propose is a sewing party, where you come over with one or two things from your fabric stash and we spend a day mucking about with pattern magazines and fashion magazines making plans and maybe actually making a garment, or maybe not. But there’s that pesky border thing, so probably not.

  4. Welcome back!! When the sewjo is lost, #2 always does it for me, the most expensive floor of Saks preferrably. Or, if not possible (for instance now that I am back in Haiti), the browsing ALL the tabs of new arrivals on Net-a-Porter!
    Or you can just keep writing about not sewing, because i’ll be happy reading just that!

    1. See, I’m liable to buy something in some of those open tabs in my doldrums (why?!? Natalie Massanet has enough!), so limiting myself to the completely unrealistic-for-me section of Saks is the move.

      Sad to have lost you to Haiti! You will be popping up to New York sometime, yes?

      1. It’s possible! But as I write this I’m doing an inventory of my stash (for which I entirely blame Morgan/Crab&Bee who bragged about her ridiculous tiny amazing stash on IG and made me green with envy) and intend to get it considerably lower. And that may require a travel ban to New York, considering my Mood addiction…

      2. Oh, I’m keeping everything visible and in baskets on my bookcase. I’m trying to find a good hobby that does not generate. . .stuff. Maybe stash-busting is a hobby in and of itself?

  5. Maybe it would help to do some other kind of sewing? Like handwork–cross stitch or embroidery? That sometimes works for me. Also just forcing myself into the sewing room to do something small helps get the ball rolling. I didn’t feel like sewing today, but I made myself go upstairs anyway because I had a little pattern adjustment to do. The next thing I knew, it was five hours later & I had gotten A LOT done.

    1. Thanks for the heads up about comment death! I did not occur to me to not use the app, even for a moment.

      I do currently have an embroidery kit sitting on my desk at work. Maybe that’s the ticket?

      Lastly, welcome!

  6. Welcome back. Your 800 words added a bit to my life, as I always love to hear I’m not the only one who thinks the things would look better without the buff ruffle/f*cking peplum.
    I agree with Ciara, forcing myself is often the best (and cheapest solution). I don’t want to sew, but once I start I’m into it. I also obsessively reorganise, pointlessly, the ‘sewing space’ when I’m not feeling it, but I don’t recommend that.

  7. Oh man. I hear you on nothing fitting anymore. Over the holidays I put on a few extra pounds (which I didn’t need) on top of the extra pounds I was already carrying (also not needed) and lately I’m just lounging around in my fleece pants and hiding inside from the cold. I’d like to sew, but haven’t for a number of reasons (namely, my sewing room is above the kids’ room, and they’ve alternated being sickly for the past few weeks)…so yeah, same.

    However, if you are looking to do some sewing that requires minimal adjustment, I recommend Lekala’s custom stuff. I’ve had excellent luck with them, even with my crazy body shape (big belly+butt+boobs and small shoulders). I haven’t tried them for pants, but for cute shirts, they’ve got you covered, unless you are feeling like you don’t look good in anything and just want to huddle in a snuggie and never go anywhere again (ok, that last part is probably just me.)

  8. I’m sorry to hear you had to deal with so much last year. I truly hope 2018 brings you better luck health wise (at least no surgeries??). I really lost my sewjo too the latter half of 2017, but that’s due to being severely sleep- and time-deprived with a new baby. But I know from past losses of sewjo that, contrary to your approach, I usually take on a very simple sewing project (such as napkins or a Renfrew, I love that pattern) that I can complete quickly and I know will turn out at least halfway decent. I think having a *win* usually pumps me up and then I want to create/make more. Just my process….we all get motivated in different ways, right?

    As for blogs to follow, I always get inspired by Lladybird. And she seems to be one of the few that continues to blog consistently!

  9. It’s interesting that your final paragraphs got me to say this. Recently I took a class from a well-known sewing teacher. I am massively disappointed in the final outcome. I am 78 years old, fit and slender, and have been sewing for 70 years. So not a neophyte. The teacher “hung” both sleeves on my jacket and I sewed them without a question. Disaster. Unredeemable disaster. I think my “teacher’s” lack of careful attention may relate to the fact that I brought my own fabric. I knew there was a shopping trip planned. However, I’ve had this fabric for 5 years and planned it for this project all along. I just didn’t need to buy fabric, especially for $200/yard. Several participants had the sense that there were kickbacks involved in this shopping trip. I can’t say this is true. What I can say is that after spending money on a course and a hotel, I got very little in the way of careful personal attention and I was the only participant who brought her fabric. I’m not sure anyone else in that class would go public with their observations. And I’m not sure how one does this without being sued. So when it comes to expensive sewing classes, caveat emptor.

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