voyage into the land of eileen fisher

A quick announcement/request before we get started on today’s post.  Does anyone have/is anyone willing to part with this Vlisco fabric?

I’m actually quite surprised that there isn’t a huge Vlisco secondary market, like there is for Liberty, given how many yards you have to buy in one swoop.  I’ve scoured eBay and Etsy, and even reached out to a couple of people who were selling sketchy “inspired” garments, but have come up with nil.  My thesis is on sub-Saharan African gender equality, the textile and apparel eligibility provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and labor force participation, so I’d quite like to present it in this fabric.

Naturally, I would pay you.  In money.  Ain’t none of that hug shit happening here.  (I think I’ve given up on cleaning up the blog, reader.)  Please do let me know, reader.

*****

On to the actual post.  So, due to new medication and old stress, your old Seam Ripped is considerably rounder than she was this time last year.  Last October, I measured in at around 40-30-41, and now we’re around 42-32.5-44.  Perhaps I spend far too much time on the Internet, but it sometimes seems as if everyone is either rapturously in love with their bodies or providing us with #fitspo.  Meh.  I’m sure a lot of it is performative and self-perpetuating, and not everyone falls at the extrema, but damn it’s a little suffocating.  I’m mildly dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, but I’m addressing it by eating fewer doughnuts.  A surprisingly difficult task, as I live a mere eight blocks away from what, for my money, is the best doughnut shop in DC.  That’s neither here nor there.  I’m also having surgery in a week and a half, and getting shelved from rigorous physical activity for something like a further two-to-four months after that (which is why I am writing this from Charlotte’s House of Mirth, and not the overnight train to Chamonix, sigh).  I’m trying to figure out what this means for sewing.  As of now, it means elastic.

I remember Oprah giving a tour of her closet (note that I cannot, as of this moment, locate my glasses, keys, or wallet), and saying that she has every size in there from an 8 to the land of elastic.  There’s something weird about knowing that your general equilibrium weight is two stone (my favorite unit of measurement ever, ever, ever) less than where you’re sitting and happily slicing into your nice silk.  That said, I’m as uncomfortable with the notion of not cutting into the nice silk as I am with the notion of cutting into it.  Implicit in the act of saving it for “better days,” is the idea that your current body doesn’t deserve it, which is bullshit if I’ve ever heard it.  It runs completely orthogonal to all but two things that I believe in.  The two mischief makers?  There are better ways to spend time than doing alterations.  Thou shalt not cut into the good fabric if you foresee waste or unavoidable calamity.

There’s also the secondary issue of what your larger-you style looks like.  My true style self is a weird cross between eccentric, 1970s billionaire and disgraced politician’s second wife.  I want knuckle-sized earrings and garish prints on one day, and tasteful low-rent Jackie Kennedy khaki Halston with closer-to-God hair the next.  With the larger size wardrobe, I’ve been making a lot of solid knits.  I’ve been so bloody bored of them, a lot of them remain unfinished.

We’ve had the discussion about style, and figuring out what one’s style is.  When I had an enormous abdominal tumor, I wore vintage-style dresses with dish plate-size flowers.  It seemed subversive, to have a wildly non-traditional figure juxtaposed with such a traditional silhouette.  While intellectually, I thought that in my solid knits I was sewing versatile basics for work and size fluctuations, I wonder if maybe there’s something else at play.  Maybe part of this whole equation is the desire to not be noticed?

[Long aside: I was at Patagonia in Georgetown the other day, trying desperately to buy a ski jacket.  I walked in—it was a hair more crowded than usual—and tried to find some help.  [crickets]  “Excuse me, could you—”  “I was hoping to—”  “Pardon, but do you know—”  All of the sales associates seemed to beeline past me, to other customers, as I was talking.  One, and sometimes two, sales associates were hanging fleeces kitty-corner and within sight and hearing range of me, and they kept on as I accidentally knocked over a display while helping myself, without even turning my way.   My attempts were intercepted twice, and I had opened my mouth to ask for an associate’s help as he walked past me and asked the woman three feet behind me if she needed anything.  I suppose the most logical explanation is that the Witherspoons of years past ravaged the ancestral village of Yvon Chouinard, and the cool indifference is the product of a centuries old grudge.  Other than that, I’m thinking that I might not dress or behave to get noticed.  I think about the people—women, actually—who managed to wordlessly get the sales associates’ attention as I was trying rather desperately to do just the same thing.  Cool, tall blondes who needed only cock their heads before an associate beelined towards them, and I think about my mother’s ability to go into the shoe section of a department store and get all of the associates swarming her like moths to a flame (while she is in jeans and a t-shirt, no less).  I, meanwhile, always want to stand on a crate and say “WHO DO I HAVE TO [redacted] TO GET HAAAALLLPPP?!”]

I own a tripod, and a camera, but I have decided to keep in the tradition of crappy Seam Ripped photographs.  You’re welcome.

So, I made two more Monetas.  The second one had a wonky waist, and I have to fix a hole that I made while overzealously seam ripping the clear elastic (blog has its name for a reason, y’all), so you won’t see it, outside of the “clear elastic is the devil, whhhhhyyyy?!” Instagram photo.  By the bye, Trixie (my dress form) is always wearing a necklace, which I find curious, because I own several necklaces, but never wear them.  I like the idea of them, and see people like Jenny from Cashmerette and Kelly from True Bias doing the statement necklace thing and think, “That’s so chic.  I shall do that,” then I proceed to do nothing.  They feel so. . .conspicuous? on me.  I only just got over wearing sunglasses outside, though, so don’t take my word for it.

Also, this was my first time twin-needling, and I’m trying to figure out if the tunneling is the product of the unironed stitch witchery, or if I messed up.  I should probably just press the stupid hems to figure it out, but I like a little mystery in my sewing.

Seam Ripped: Now with more litter box and cat tree.  Don't ever say I don't keep it real, reader.  This is a weird, double-faced double-knit from Mood, which I happen to love, but its doing that weird boob flap thing.
Seam Ripped: Now with more litter box and cat tree. Don’t ever say I don’t keep it real, reader. This is a weird, double-faced double-knit from Mood, which I happen to love, but its doing that weird boob flap thing.

Are you bored yet?  Let’s check out the dark and seedy Instagram photo of its twin’s waist.

Ugh.  Clear elastic can officially kiss my grits.
Ugh. Clear elastic can officially kiss my grits.  Also, this looks off-grain, but actually isn’t when it isn’t on the dressform.  (Does that mean it is actually off-grain, but good at hiding it?  Is that a thing?)  I think I pulled it onto Trixie a bit too hastily.

Then, I made M6931, and perhaps ill-advisedly used a lightweight silk (I’d hesitantly call it a lightweight crêpe de Chine or a heavier georgette).  I underlined it with a slightly heavier crêpe de Chine, and now I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in it.  Not good.

Ignore the fact that the squares are uneven.  I haven't tacked down the waistband, and overtucked that one piece when I was trying to see how things were shaping up.
Ignore the fact that the squares are uneven. I haven’t tacked down the waistband, and overtucked that one piece when I was trying to see how things were shaping up.

I cut out a Mabel with a turquoise wool double knit from Mood, but got so damn bored just looking at it, I’ve yet to take the forty-five minutes to put it together.  Sigh.

Now, I’m on the hunt for tasteful muumuus.  Up next are Grainline studio’s Alder, McCall’s 6885 and 6952, Vogue 1236 (I feel like this was OOP at one point?  I’ve owned it for six years, and have only used it once, woefully).  Maybe the Sewaholic Saltspring, but I’m not 100% sure.  I’m shocked by how reticent I am to shell out real money for patterns, when my threshold is so much higher for fabric.  I suppose it’s because fitting skills and a good eye for drafting can help patterns, and because the Big Four make available some truly good (I know, I am one of five people who think this), affordable patterns for my student budget.  Anyhow, find the proposed patterns below, in the above order, clockwise from top left.

Proposed post-surgical schmattas
Proposed post-surgical schmattas

Do you have any other muumuu ideas for my post surgical, paunchy lifestyle?  Should I just say screw it and make a caftan?

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how soon is now?

It seems to be Moz Monday here at Seam Ripped (it’s Friday, I wrote this three months ago.  Shut up.  Also, I usually answer all comments before putting up a new post, but am literally posting this so that I can get off my duff and reply to rest of y’all.  So sorry!  I’ve been swamped, which is no excuse).  Let us thank The Smiths for today’s title, and bow our heads for a moment in respect for Moz.

Reader, have you ever read Art and Fear?  In it, there is a quick story about a pottery class where the instructor divided the room in half.  One half was instructed to make the best objects they could, and strive for perfection; the other was told to just make as many vases as they could churn out for the term.  At the end of the term, it turned out that the mass-producing group actually churned out the more technically advanced work.  Who cares?  We’re getting there.

Sometimes I read other people’s blog posts about giving up perfection, and I can’t help but think, “How cute for you, finding convenient excuses for your indolence and allowing yourself to settle.  That’s so. . .nice.”  Yes, the first step is admitting you have a problem.  (Do let me know if you’ve figured out what the second step is, while I rip out my French seam for the seventieth time.)  I like being a perfectionist, but am firmly planted in Camp Free to Be You and Me, and accept that other people don’t have my rabid enthusiasm for getting things just right.

I do wonder if my perfectionism will serve me for the long haul.  This is why I am self-conscious about being self-taught (remind me to tell you about my sewing class disaster): I have no barometer for progress.  I look at people like Julie from Jet Set Sewing, Bunny of La Sewista, and Lori from Sewing Myself Stylish—people who have been sewing for longer than I have, and whose work shows it—and I can’t help but wonder what the steps are between rank beginner and able-plus home sewer.

We’ve talked about the dearth of intermediate sewing books before, but what about the difficulty with defining what an intermediate sewer/sewist/good grief these distinctions are the absolute worst/sempstress actually is ?  Maybe that’s part of the reason why sewing books published today jump from the very rudiments to couture techniques. Before, because large swaths of the sewing population could have been presumed to have similar practical educations and backgrounds, the market research did itself.  Now, the landscape hosts people of all different ages, genders, skill sets, professions who look for sewing books.  Is this why I want to go straight from six-dart, gathered-skirt dresses to the much-vaunted couture jacket?  Am I unacquainted with that which lies in the middle, and am therefore skipping steps simply because I don’t know that they exist?  Then I remember when Meg from Mood wrote on the Sewciety blog about being a younger sewer, banging off a cute dress before a party, and contrasted that with her present precision sewing.

(Complete aside, but isn’t it funny to hear people complain about the decline of the quality of fit of ready-to-wear?  It was much easier to fit a woman if everyone was wearing a similar sort of girdle, with their eyes set on a similar sort of figure, yes?  Now, we try to conform into the same sort of proportional ideal use the dark arts of dis/emphasis, which requires an entirely different set of expectations and tools.  So, it seems natural that there were more intermediate sewing books back when there was more standardized, widespread sewing instruction.)

In any event, I keep patiently waiting to be ready.  Ready for hand-sewing, ready for Alabama Chainin’, ready for a couture jacket, ready to make a coat, ready ready ready ready ready.  I read Amy Poehler’s book (and have mixed feelings about it, but still patiently await her dumping Rashida Jones and accepting another former-Hindu current-badass best friend in me.  I’ve made us a binder!  And bracelets!  Call me?  Also, can we talk about your boyfriend’s dad, just for a second?  I am afraid of him, yet want to be him at the same time (Jules Kroll, for those wondering)), and she made an excellent point.  You never feel ready for the big important things.  Most don’t wake up one day and say, “Hey, guess what em-effers, I’m ready to be a show-runner.  Let’s do this.”  Doubt is normal, doubt is human, doubt needs to get its ass kicked.  Well, not quite.

Have you ever read the book The Gift of Fear (I was not lying when I told you I own a mountain of self-help books about fear)?  Well, in it, there are several hundred-thousand gruesome stories about how you should listen to your gut, your fears.  Hell, you’ve got fear for a reason, and that reason is to avoid being raped, murdered, and left in a ditch as supper for wild animals.  (Too graphic?)  This all happens when you sew something out of your depth, doesn’t it?  Is that not the way this works?

Anyway, after I swim my way out of the land of elastic (we’ll talk about that next week), I think I might do something outrageous.  Good. Fabric.  I’m going to cut into it y’all.  Then I’m going to tell you about it, perhaps with photographs.  Of it on my body.  What now?  Then we’ll go into a long dissection of what it means to have good fabric, a good body, and a good photograph, and you’ll all band together with your torches and pitchforks, make your way up the hill, and burn my house to the ground.  I’m apparently in a dark place today.

*****26 February update: I would leave it there, but I’ve got a quick announcement.  I’m going to be in Paris late next week, Chamonix the week after that, and London for one day after Chamonix week.  I was/am on the fence about posting this (you could say that I have a shyness that is criminally vulgar), as I feel weird about it/go for subtlety and fail miserably, but if any of you live around those places and would like to grab coffee, I’m not only up for it, but I’d be very much obliged.  You needn’t have a blog or anything, you could just want to hang out.  Maybe we could even go buy some fabric?  My email address is seamripped@gmail.com, and I actually check it regularly now.  Though, I have yet to respond to Joost, which I believe makes me the worst person on earth.

*****Second update, because why the hell not/when am I going to post again?  Montréal and Mont Tremblant for Easter weekend.  Why this much travel?  Starting work = ten vacation days a year.  International relations-y school = French proficiency exam during the second week of April.