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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Friday, September 21, 2012

Wardrobe config part two

As you can tell I am continuing to think deeply about major issues and what works for me, as opposed to everyone else.

The truth is when we are all kids we are pretty clear about what we want to do, and what we like.

I am reminded this every time one of the little girls spits out weird food or does that hit the floor in despair over the injustice of life thing - like being told to do something not when they want to or how they want to do it.

All that changes, maybe beginning the first time someone says, "what a good girl you are." Translated as  you did something you didn't want to, but I wanted you to do it.

Fast forward to the expectations of boys, and then men, and workplaces, and all that advertising stuff that we think we are too intelligent to be affected by but of course are.

If you sew you also are influenced by looking over to the next sewing machine (I am getting highly poetic here so this is a figure of speech, a metaphor or whatever) and thinking you should be sewing better, faster, more stylishly, more often. And if you read blogs let's face it sometimes you get this feeling really frequently. Unless of course the blog you are reading is this one.

I am the only one who has tried to peer into the background of those shots for housework/chaos of life evidence to see how they really get all that sewing done? I am self-revelatory phase, you might have to excuse me here during the confessions.

The thing is it is easy to get detached from yourself, I am totally into reattachment activities right now as you can tell, and far more significantly from the reasons you sew.

In periods of deep mediation, while staring at serger this evening, it occurred to me that I am really a fabric sewer.

I have the shelves to prove it.

I just love fabric.

Sewing and patterns give me an excuse to have it, work with it, be consoled by it, and be elevated by it.

Now I like a good pattern, but I really like it even more if I can cut it out more than once, many more than onces.

A good pattern to me is like designing a good course for my students, you tweak it and improve it every time you do it, but a good course can bring out the best in a totally new group of students - that's it's job - but it's working with the kids that matters.

Connecting with good fabric is like that moment when I am lecturing and I look out and some student catches my eye and they are smiling/laughing and we have that moment character to character.

The character of fabric matters to me. 

When I remember a favourite dress it's for the fabric, and when I think of my best sewing memories it's the fabric.

Do you remember you first fabric shopping experiences?

We used to have these department stores in Canada called Eatons - ruined of course by a bunch of second and third generation dingbats - with terrific fabric departments. 

I used to wander around those departments (kids used to go downtown by themselves on the bus when they were young in those days) and used to have to go and sit down at the pattern chairs every once in a while to give myself a break when I was too overcome by the fabric.

That was good fabric.

I have been thinking of this lately and kicking myself that I didn't pick up some off white boiled wool last spring at Mood - now that is a real fabric department store- and thinking that one piece of fabric you regret is worth 50 yards of fabric you got just because.

I am thinking that this TNT thing, with a few new pattern accents thrown in, might be me, after many detours, because that's where fabric sewers land.

What comes first for you?

The pattern or the fabric?


Cleverclogs said...

Oh yes yes yes! I turned up at today's sewing class shame faced 1) that after all the talk of a dress I was back to do another jacket and 2) yes it was that same pattern for the fourth time. It was the fabric's fault! I was browsing around for a patterned cotton thinking white and navy, and SHAZAM a deep navy wool/spandex leapt from the shelf into my arms breathing 'jacket me, pin tuck the welts and use the heirloom buttons' and I fell oh how I fell for it. So the dress is a suit. The skirt just needs hemming and I'm about to cut the lining for the jacket. It was the fault of the fabric I tell you.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

You know as my children started to get older and need me less, I decided to focus on what made me happy. And that was sewing...so I structured my life around doing that in my free time instead of all the had-tos that I'd been doing for years.

I don't clean, cook or shop. Don't like them...don't do them. I think it helps that I live in an area where good food is available via delivery. Someone else cleans for me...which reminds me that I need to sweep out my sewing room. So I have the time to sew because I've pushed all those other things to the background.

We only get to live so many days and nights and since I spend an inordinate amount of time M-F getting to & from work as well as at work,I want to enjoy my "me-time". I also think that it helps that I don't have a husband! *LOL*

LinB said...

Pattern first. As a child, I'd have dreams of being in barn-like rooms filled with pattern books -- I still have dreams sometimes about finding hidden departments in stores, with racks and racks of fantastic patterns for amazing garments, all so very different from any I have ever seen before. Fabric is EVERYWHERE where I live, as much of the weaving/knitting/dyeing/printing of it happens here. Patterns are a bit harder to come by.

Sewfast said...

What a thought provoking post Babs! Thank you. Upon reflection I believe I am a fabric first girl. Of course I have tons of both patterns and fabric, but the fabric sits there patiently until the right inspiration comes and then I pick out the pattern . Case in point...the dress I just finished for the special graduation. That piece of fabric has been in my stash for years. Wasn't sure what it was going to become, but when the occasion arose, I knew it would be perfect. I only had a week and I did go look at Nordstrom for a quick easy way out. I was unimpressed with the offerings there and realized that with little more effort than it takes to shop, I can have a beautiful dress that fits me and my style. My favorite pieces in my wardrobe are made by me. My pictures may be deceiving...i shove the mess out of the way or set up the photos in a tidy area (I try to keep at least one area neat...LOL!) I like how Carolyn put it. Now if I could only hire someone to cook and clean...

Kay said...

I can't say definitively what comes first - fabric, pattern, or design idea. Oh, I love a good fabric store - the sensuality of it! The colors, the textures, the feel and the drape... I could spend hours. And woe unto me if I run out of thread or need a zipper. There are several fabric stores nearby, but I can never just get in, get my thread or whatever, and get out. I just have to touch and look and dream. I frustrate the heck out of the more practical planners around me.

Having said that, I'm about to go up to modify a pattern I've used several times before, because I got an idea for a top I want to make and that pattern will work with just a few changes. I think I have some bamboo knit, and I may overlay it with some lace that has mechanical stretch, but it's the design rather than the fabric that's motivating me today.

My ADD (in my case that's a diagnosis, not a catchphrase) makes it hard for me to stick with a project as originally conceptualized. I may start with a fabric and a pattern, but the planned garment often takes twists and turns I did not foresee when I first brought the 2 together. Partly, it depends on why I'm sewing. I have a weird shape which dictates that I either sew or alter most of my clothes. So if I'm sewing because the season unexpectedly changed and I threw out most things at the end of the last one, I take a more practical approach. I use TNT patterns and stash fabric to make utilitarian (but, I hope, fashionable and attractive) garments. That's when the 1-hr. magic pencil skirts have so much appeal. Even I can stay on track for an hour! Making a dress for something like an upcoming wedding is a whole other matter. I just finished one of those projects, which entailed 3 pattern and 2 fabric changes. The resulting dress is beautiful, however, so it was worth the frustration and several all-nighters. I guess.

Martha said...

Fabulous fabrics lured me initially but it's the fabulous patterns that keep me intrigued.

BTW, your vision of what little girls do set me to thinking. Why don't I ever do that any more? It might be better than drugs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barb,
YES! I remember Eatons fabric department, although more of my fabric came from Woodward's (another dept store ruined by 2nd & 3rd generation dingbats). It's always about the fabric - I've got very classic taste in clothing, so a lot of the patterns out there just don't do it for me - but my head can be turned in a heartbeat by a beautiful wool, or silk...

Oh how I miss the good fabric stores of my youth! It has changed so much in Vancouver...


Jane M said...

Oh, yes, fabric first. If I would do it over again I probably would have been a textile major in college. As for fabric stores, I've been told that it's just "textile sex" for sewing friends. You know, all you can hear is "ooooh, ahhhhh, that feels so good,.....ooooh, wow, I have to have it......oh, wow, touch this...." I came home from this week's NYC visit again charged up with ideas and visions and that was just after a few stores, not an all day blitz. Hope you get to indulge when you go in November.

Dixie said...

Fabric is, by far, number one in my life. When I buy it, I have an general idea of what I want to make with it. Otherwise, I wouldn't know how much yardage to purchase. But as it sits in my collection, it sometimes tells me it wants to be something other than what I intended. The pattern selection doesn't happen until I've narrowed down the style of garment I want to make. Occasionally a pattern speaks to me first, and I find something in my stash that will be perfect for it. But fabric speaks louder than pattern, at least to me. And beautiful fabric speaks really loudly!

Patty said...

It's the fabric most of the time, but sometimes for a special occasion I will have the style of the outfit in my mind. In those cirumstances then the pattern drives the project. But I am an addict for fabric.....

Anonymous said...

Great post! Always the fabric first and then I'll figure out what to make. I often wish I could go back to the 80's and early 90's just to go shopping in the fabric department at Eaton's and Woodward's!! Such quality and selection. Hope Mood gives you a great fabric fix!! Cheryl

a little sewing said...

Barbara, you are so funny and I have to respond to your curiousity about the other sewers' housework /chaotic life. DH and really only live in one room and that is a combo sewing /tv room.
OK< we spend time in the kitchen.
But the rest of the house is covered in thick film of dust and cat hair. It is removed whenever we are having a holiday meal, so I guess I'll tackle that some time in mid-late November.

To answer the question, sometimes it is the chicken, but sometimes it is the egg :)

Marianne said...

Another random comment from me as I read my way through your old posts. They are so helpful to me as I try to find my way through a period of transition from full time work to semi-retirement. Why do I sew and what do I want to do now that the "more time" I've longed for has arrived. I always sewed clothing, being a nonstandard size and unable to find RTW to fit. But in reality, I find I don't really care about clothes! Not patterns either. Like you I love fabric. Sometimes I don't even want to use my beautiful fabrics, I just want them on the shelves where I can see them. Also I love the sound of my sewing machine, the elegance of a beautiful stitch, turning flat fabric into something useful and/or beautiful. There are so many components to this activity we love.

Anyway, lots to think about and again, thank you for writing.