find your beach

Or, things I have been doing instead of sewing.

  1.  My Face

Really, my head, if you include my hair.  I remember when I bought my first bottle of cleanser.  This was probably eight years after I needed to.  Suddenly, my unibrow was the most prominent part of my face, not its light-reflective sheen.  Sigh.  Well, let’s just say, those were simpler times.

Now, I slough and balm and tone and peel and thread.  I don’t apply sunscreen, I anoint myself with it.  I stand on my tippy toes to tightline, wiggle-and-pull, and pat-not-rub my way into. . .looking potentially marginally better?  Who’s to say?  Well-meaning friends and strangers tell me that my skin looks great.  I think that’s cute.  Until someone is following you around trying to capture your essence in an amulet, there is room for improvement.

First Wives Club - Fill 'Em Up
Can we please agree that First Wives Club is the only film worth watching?

I have to say, the meticulousness one can bring to beauty and hair/skincare taps into the exact same part of my brain that sewing does.  There’s also a little bit of hopefulness to it.  You can never actually see yourself, your face especially, unmediated by something else.  It’s sort of. . .unsettling that just about everyone else can spot you from head on but you, the same way that, in abstract, most people don’t truly choose their own clothes.  With skincare, I suppose one could be putting on a mask to make outside match in, or maybe to protect the you you want to keep from the impressions and projections of the viewing public.  Petals on a wet, black bough comes to mind, oddly.

Nothing if not a sanctimonious jerk, I feel compelled note:  I don’t really think of taking care of myself, aesthetically, as self-care.  Audre Lorde would probably not come sit on the edge of my bathtub and listen to me kvetch about another well-paid, organic, grass-fed day at my moderately stressful job, after which I clocked maybe a whisper of time helping someone who isn’t me or doesn’t sign my paychecks.  I do massage my stress frowns as I listen to NPR in these troubling times, but I get the sense that doesn’t count.

2.  Art, maybe?

Look, reader, I don’t have the necessary degree of dirty-mirror-selfie earnestness to say, “Art moves the mind.  I try to spend every day experiencing more of it.”  Because, well, no.  HOWEVER, I went from a lifetime of pooh-poohing modern art and a few years of relegating myself to the west wing of the National Gallery of Art to being a person who actually cares about art and contemporary artists.

I went through the same thing with books a few years ago.  I think some people genuinely prefer things made by the dead.  That’s cool.  Others might be afraid to admit to liking (or even trying) something without years (decades?) of a well-respected chorus supporting them.  Also cool.  I just started to feel like I was doing a disservice to the present in a weird way.

Anyhoo, I’ve appreciated and loved work like Hormazd Narielwalla’s—he uses vintage and contemporary Savile Row tailoring patterns and makes the most stunning collages.

3.  Reading Watching television as I lie near-comatose in bed

I never used to understand the appeal of this, and yet, here we sit.

4.  Learning to ride a bicycle

Marx Brothers on a bike
Night at the Opera promo. I still say that probably would go better for them than bike-riding went for me.

Funny story.  I did not know how to ride a bicycle until this past December.  I suppose funny in this instance is tinged with equal parts sadness and amazement.  Have you heard about all of the differing pedagogical thought when it comes to adult bicycle riding?  Well, get comfortable, because I have.  I left my second group class with the local bicyclists association crying because I was regressed back to one pedal!  One pedal!  This was my emotional and moral nadir of H2 2017, in case you were curious.  I took my wounded pride and sniffles into a bicycle shop, determined to get my own effing wheels and teach myself.  That’ll learn ’em.  (Spoiler:  It won’t.)

Then, horrified at the idea of an enormous decorative piece of steel taking up valuable floorspace in my matchbox-sized apartment, I [lowers head] sought private instruction.  On two Saturdays in a freezing cold parking lot of a part of DC that has no name, a very nice man (from REI, to be clear, I did not solicit a stranger) set up halved tennis balls and caution cones and everyone emerged unscathed.  That and I can kind of ride a bike now.  Sort of.

Hm.  I do have a (forgotten, but coming in the nick of time) one-on-one with Kenneth King scheduled for Sunday.  (I know.  I must have been in a deliriously treat-yourself mood in November.)  We’re going to draft a trouser block.  Maybe there’s hope for me yet?


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.