Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Little Homework

Garage after things moved out. Lots of work still to do.
Living with other people would be simpler if only we didn't come with so much STUFF! I gave away 18 car loads of things before moving my mother from Texas to Ohio 5 years ago.  My house went from slightly under furnished to bursting at the seams.

Our fabric stashes, her vintage quilts, her lace collection, furniture from her garage that I grew up with and wanted to keep, boxes of photos she inherited from sisters, my modern doll collection (I collected nothing older than hard plastic until one day I decided I'd rather have pictures of dolls than dolls), her pottery collection, my books -- they all vied for space and all lost. 

My mother took two cats and an assortment of possessions with her to Texas last week and left stacks of things to be taken to Goodwill, and  now I've  got space! I can see my floors! I can CLEAN my floors easily, without moving things in puzzle formation. I can and do mop and remop some areas that probably didn't get cleaned more than twice in 5 years. I've got the space to overturn chairs and get a good adhesion with the nylon sliders. Hey, this is a big deal for me!

In the formerly crammed to the rafters garage, I can move a couple of boxes, and sand a bookcase or a night table. When I had no time and no space, I occasionally bought a can of spray paint in an intriguing color: dusty grape, French rose, teal blue.  Now I wonder why I stopped at one can, because a can of paint will cover a wooden chair or an end table, but a 3 x 4 foot bookcase takes 2 cans.

Why spray paint for bookcases? Because it dries quickly. Regular latex paint takes 3 weeks to cure hard enough that  books won't stick to the paint. The first time I heard this horrible fact, I didn't believe it. I also didn't believe that someone would endure 3 weeks without books just to have bookcases painted in a color, and 3 more weeks after they covered the latex with clear polyurethane.

I have hopes of moving my books (My name is Mimi, and I am a bookaholic) from boxes in the basement to bookcases on the first floor. Some people can read a book just once and never go back to it. If it is truly satisfying, I hang onto it because there will come a day when I NEED a very good book, as opposed to a competent book or a collection of words masquerading as a book.

Discovery: Krylon's idea of plum is actually screaming roaring Dayglo purple. My idea of plum is a black with purple overtones. Discovery: Kilz primer in a can comes out as lumpy foam no matter how long  and how often you shake the can. It dries quickly and requires oodles of sanding.  Discovery: the can for 5-year old Behr paint holds up well but does not protect the contents.  The paint inside is a hockey puck. Discovery: the can for 6 year old Valspar rots around the rim. After opening the paint and stirring it up, I must use it on everything because that can is never closing again. Never ever.

Country White is everywhere, on a formerly depressingly dark bookcase, on a putridly pastel green bookcase, on a desk rescued from an alley and given with new legs. There's no shine at all, but it's a thick paint that covers well. Every brushstroke shows, but wet/dry sandpaper and a lot of elbow grease will smooth the paint. I am contemplating spraying on a polyurethane for a small gloss, simply because glossy paint doesn't seem to attract and keep as much dust. I'm sure there are learned studies somewhere on dust adhesion and paint surfaces, but I have not consulted them.

Some of the pieces I've been sanding, scraping, refinishing, reeling in horror from.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Relearning -- sewing for myself

After 25 years in which the only sewing for humans was mending, I am seriously sewing-impaired. I have distant memories of being able to cut a patterns and sew the item within hours. 

In the early days of my return to sewing for people, I created neatly sewn items for small, young relatives. This didn't help me adjust to my larger size. Then, threads were trimmed and facings were neatly in place. Now I sew with basting stitches and slash and whack with abandon, more or less creating my garment as I go along. The result is clothing that fits, but don't look at the seams. And don't look in my trashcan, because there are far too many broken needles scattered among the shreds of thread, tissue paper and fabric. Oh, don't look too closely that the clothing either, because threads dangle and there may be a pin somewhere.

I'm averaging 1.2 needles per zipper. If I remember to change the needle position in time, then I hit the metal glide stops. It is possible that with care and attention to detail, I will move beyond my current role of Doom to Sewing  Needles. It is possible that if I follow the instructions in the zipper package enough, they will begin to make sense. It is also possible that I will go back to hand basting every zipper the way I used to when I was 12.

I should not complain. If you don't ride bicycles for 25 years, it takes awhile to get your balance. I can't expect to sew nicely for myself after 25 years of sewing only for dolls. Dolls are one fifth my height, and made of plastic. They don't complain about fit. They have yet to demand that I use  invisible zippers. We won't even talk about comparative weight.

My expectations are out of whack. I want my home sewn creations to fit better than store bought.  I've achieved that. But I also want them to be free of dangling threads, and I want all the thread snarls to be invisible. This is not going to happen, because often I get entranced by a fabric and want to use it regardless. My gauze shorts have more seams than they ought to, and each seam is double sewn and zigzagged.  My Eddie Bauer wrap skirt became shorts, and yes, there are pieces left over, but Oh, it was close. I had to piece the rear. Well, I won't see the rear when I'm wearing the shorts, and they do feel good.

I know I ought to fold and pin and use the machine hemstitch on hems for my shorts. Instead I  folded and topstitched. Twice.

I wanted a waistband that would accommodate  normal expansion when I sit. It does. It stands out around me when I stand, though, and must be hidden under shirts and  blouses. The jury is not in on whether a comfortable waistband that looks like hell is better than a waistband that looks good as it strangles one.

My pockets are patch pockets that I don't even cut out until the side seams work properly. Someday this will bother me.

What bothers me at the moment is that it took a revolution for me to get back to sewing for myself, as if sewing for myself were somehow selfish. In fact, it is necessary. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from finally getting something to fit is good for my soul. I may be a better human being because I have a visible result. I am a happier one, now that I no longer have to settle for the least offensive commercially manufactured clothing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wedding Guest as Sofa Cushion

I created the perfect outfit for a  garden wedding: flowing floral skirt, blouse whose print matched a flower in the skirt print, buttons the shape of the flower.  I created it for someone who is roughly six inches taller than I am. I discovered this when I tried it on in front of a mirror.

The first set of culottes was more like gauchos, and I abandoned patterns of my own drafting for a more skirt-like commercial pattern, which turned out to be skirt like only in front. I redrafted the back to be skirt-like and was thrilled with it until I paired it with the blouse, which works very well with the gaucho silhouette and not at all with the skirt. At least not on me. The blouse looks fine with the gauchos but as casual attire, not as anything to wear to a wedding.

I contemplated adding poufy sleeves, so my blouse would more closely resembled the one the pattern front paired with its culottes. I drafted a sleeve pattern on tissue, folded and pinned it, slid it on, and abandoned the entire concept. 

It was now the day before the wedding. I could hem the trial dress of my dreams and wear it. Wear a dress made from upholstery fabric? Wear a dress whose fitting errors were quite visible?  In the end, that's what I did, because the colors are nice and the shape is good. While we were out in the heat and humidity, it was fine. Indoors, in air conditioning, I wished I had worn chinos and a tshirt. 

Upholstery fabric rendered as dress. Yes, I wore this to a wedding.