Sunday, February 27, 2011

One Piece at a Time

Sheila Brennan's One- Piece Wearables came out in 2008, but I didn't hear of it until after it came out in paperback last August.  I had even seen reviews, here and  at Craftside . My initial reaction was ho-hum, more sleeveless stuff for teen sylphs. Once I had the book in my hands, some of the patterns were so clever I literally could not walk away.
To be sure, there are a good many sleeveless things that only the under 30-set should wear, but a blouse/jacket and a wrap dress (inexplicably called a robe) are cleverly shaped and flattering to many figures. I bought it in an actual physical book store for full price and was happy to have it. Yes, I know that using a single pattern piece wastes fabric, but it saves time and eliminates tedium, not to mention preventing backache! I have enough fabric in my stash that I can afford a bit of waste. Besides, much of my waste gets used in smaller things. And there is absolutely no reason I cannot piece fabric together.
I'm excited. I'm thrilled.  Maybe I'm even motivated. We'll see. I'm already planning to add sleeves to one top, and facings to another.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to Combat Fear of Sewing

A neighbor confided that she’d rather read or spend time with her kids than to learn a new craft like sewing. My first thought was, "Since when is sewing a craft?" Being able to thread a needle and replace a button are life skills on a par with being able to open a can of soup and heat it.

The trick to learning anything is to break it down into steps you can succeed at, so trying to thread a Milliner’s Sharp before you have threaded an Embroidery needle is not your best move. It also helps if you use good thread, as opposed to the cheap no-brand spools of polyester. Good thread is easier to poke through the hole of a needle. No-brand thread has almost invisible hairs that fight you.

I’ll bet that most folks who hate the thought of sewing on their own buttons have hairy thread and needles with tiny eyes, because those are sold on the racks of sewing supplies you find in stores that don‘t have fabric departments. There’s a paradox for you: sewing supplies for non-seamsters are pre-selected to make them fail. Lesson Number One is to thread the needle.

So what if your stitches aren’t as tiny and regular as the ones you see in quilts? You think quilters learned overnight? My mother let me play with a big-eyed needle and a spool of thread on my own. Once I had mastered threading the needle, we ventured into knot making. Sewing a strip of fabric and pushing the fabric back against the knot was magic: a flat piece of fabric turned into a ruffle. My stitches were large and higgledy-piggledy across the top of the fabric, but I had learned a new trick. It took awhile before I cared enough about the shape and size of my stitches to do anything about it.

For awhile every button I sewed was put on with lavender thread. I thought white and black were boring. My mother said," As you sew it, so shall you wear it." I took that to mean that I could add buttons and lace and sequins to boring clothing. I’m pretty sure she meant simply that she wasn’t going to come along and fix my mistakes. She was a good teacher. She’d show me how to do something, then go away and let me try it myself.

Sewing clothing is very forgiving. The first time I sewed a "straight" seam on a sewing machine, it meandered all over the place like a lazy ribbon. It was the side seam in a gathered skirt with a pre-elasticized waist. The seam was on the inside of the skirt and didn’t show. I soon mastered the idea that pressing the foot control hard meant the machine would go faster. I went so fast that I was finished with the seam before I had time to make a mistake. Lesson Number Two is to sew something where mistakes won’t matter.

Lesson Number Three is that clothing manufactured for stores is made to somebody else’s measurements. If it isn’t too long or too short, it’s in a color that you wouldn’t wear if you were paid to. It can be cheaper to buy manufactured clothing than to make it yourself, but the search  for acceptable clothing can take weeks.If you can sew even a little, you can fix  manufactured clothing.

Sewing is a life skill like any other. Give yourself the chance to have fun. Don't expect perfection. Relax, give yourself an easy assignment, and let her rip.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Insomnia Remedies I Have Tried

Denial. "My eyes are closed so I must be resting." This lie is not terribly effective, but hope springs eternal.
Stretching exercises just before going to bed release muscle tension, and sometimes that is enough. The Bad Back Book in Ox Bow's self help section has my favorites.
In winter, warming the bed before I get in it helps.
Sense memory acting exercises worked until I realized that the moment I had memorialized was 15 years old and it should have been replaced by something in real life.
Calcium at bedtime worked until for a few months, until I became allergic to the inert oil used to compress the calcium.
Caffeine used to put me to sleep. I don't know if it will keep me awake these days, but everything else has changed in the past 30 years.
Drinking alcoholic stuff is out. At one time, waving the cork from a bottle of wine in front of my nose would put me to sleep. Now when a bottle of wine is opened in my presence I get a bisulfite- related headache.
The difference between being a drug abuser and a visionary is a medical degree. When a doctor prescribes medicine for other than its expected use and writes about it, he's a visionary. Think Minoxodil. When the rest of us discover that Tylenol, aspirin, or even antibiotics will put us to sleep once or twice, we're technically abusing the drug.
Family members can fall asleep on Benadryl. I was up for 5 days and nights on a teaspoon of the stuff. I didn't itch, though. Technically, that was a win.
In my medical guinea pig days I learned that a small amount of codeine was relaxing once, but the next time I used it, it gave me a headache. I can use it once every 13 years. Good to know.
Repeating a mantra worked in good times, but was not strong enough to defeat the adrenaline surge that comes from talking down a jumper.
Self hypnosis Long slow breaths and imagining that I am lying on a beach, that my body is heavy, that it is sinking through the sand. This used to work very well, but I've lost the knack. A You-Tube production on self-hypnosis almost worked but I didn't bookmark it and many look like it.
I guess I could spent a night looking at self-hypnosis videos.