Archive | February, 2012

Sewing vs. Knitting

16 Feb

(Not that it’s a competition, because both are so fabulous.)  But they are not interchangeable.

And they are completely different exercises to undertake.

At first, when I started knitting, I thought it was so much more tedious than sewing. After all, sewing is relatively quick: If you have the right piece of fabric, you can often turn it into a three-dimensional garment with the addition of a few well-placed seams. Whip, whip! You have a skirt. The fabric does most of the work.  Whereas, with knitting, one builds the fabric stitch by stitch. And when you have built it and built it, stitch upon stitch, you then have…pieces of fabric, which you still get to sew together to create a garment.  All that work, and the knitter ends up with another version of what the savvy seamstress cuts from a bolt in a fabric store.

But then I kept knitting….and knitting, and knitting. And I learned that what knitting has going for it is that it doesn’t require such focus. I can knit and talk at the same time. Knit in a moving vehicle, knit and watch a movie. I’ve even knitted at poker games.  I’m not saying that it can’t be done, setting a sleeve or inserting a flat-fell seam while playing Texas hold’em…but, well, I’ll say it can’t be done by me. Most parts of sewing require a fair bit of mental attention–and sewing projects are often less than portable. The actions of sewing take up space all their own. I traipse from cutting table to sewing machine and then back out into my hallway, where I set up my ironing board, to press the most recent seam.  It’s hard even to have someone in the room to carry on a conversation, while I’m turning this way and that, walking about, running the sewing machine and mumbling around the pins in my mouth.  Hence, sewing’s comparatively asocial.  It likes a room of its own and some good music in the background.

As I balance the two, I notice it becomes a question not of what project is most alluring to me on any given day, but of what structure my day has. Do I have some free time to spend alone, in my home, trotting back and forth from pressing to stitching? Or am I on the move today, with only moments free riding the bus? Or maybe, today, my real focus is spending time watching Downton Abbey, and “creativity” of any sort will be only my secondary pastime.

Because when I’m busy, and the time for crafting happens only on a train going here or there, or overlaps other activities, I find that the stitch-by-stitch method of production in knitting sometimes make for craft projects that get finished much quicker, in calendar time, no matter how much more labor-intensive they may seem.

Chintz is in?!

15 Feb

I never thought I’d say that, much less with such delight.

One of my favorite online retailers, Shabby Apple, has presented a “Mad Hatter, vintage-inspired collection.”

And they’ve named the pieces after lines from the  poem Jabberwocky.

My favorite choices are the dresses “Frabjous Day”  and “Calloo Callay!”

The real joy is that these are all fairly simple patterns, and can be easily reinterpreted in a more quiet printed fabric, for those of us tempted , but not yet entirely convinced, by the return of vivid floral chintz prints.

Wardrobe Hacking

12 Feb

Not purchasing any new clothes has given me the excuse to be ruthless in my own closet. I have too much clothing I’ve been holding on to that I no longer wear, but that I find it hard to part with just the same.  Looking at these items as fabric–just piling it up, looking at it as material rather than finished garments, has completely changed my perspective. I realize that most pieces have great color or texture, some element that I really do like, even if the fit or the style is no longer relevant to my wardrobe.

Sometimes, the “makeover” can be accomplished as simply as taking out a scissors.  I had this stretchy, textured orange Spandex-y maxi dress. (Yes, I know: that description alone should have easily qualified said garment for the donation heap, right there.) But it kept surviving the closet purges. I held onto it, although I know I will never need a bright orange disco-dancing stretch dress, ever in my life (if indeed I ever did.)  But today, with scissors in hands, I was rummaging about looking for garments that might lend scraps of bright color to another project underway.  My hands landed on this dress. And I realized that I kept this dress for many genuine reasons: I love orange, it’s a hard color to find in the right tones, and I love texture–and this fabric offers both of those. I may not want a whole entire head-to-toe arrangement in orange, but it sure does make a good base of color for an outfit.

 


So with a few snips of my scissors, the transformation was complete.

Inspiration: Alabama Chanin

10 Feb

Every once in a while I’ll see a photo of some hand-stitched, hand dyed garment with a motif of floral cutouts, or an interesting texture created with a simple stitch, and I catch my breath and follow the links….

…and find Alabama Chanin.
I love the textures and the layers, and the way the raw handstitching is so often used in garments that end up being so much more elegant than a sum of their parts.  Of course, their items are also way out of my budget, so I will look, and learn, and as I’m thinking about ways to create, and ways to refashion things into new iterations, I will remember the way rough stitches look next to an unfinished raw edge of fabric, and can still be perfectly glamorous.

The End of Suitcase Challenge II

7 Feb

Once upon a time I made pants. It just so happens that they fit, right now, so for my last day of travel on Round 2 of my “Traveling Seamstress Handmade Suitcase Challenge” I am featuring my who-knows-how-old pair of handmade green pants, together with a cropped cardigan knit of Noro “Yuzen” multi-colored yarn.

AND, although my shell (worn under the cardi) is a factory-made piece, the bracelet on my wrist is one of my own fabric bangles.

Also, although you can’t see them, I think I get some extra-credit points, because under my boots I’m wearing my very own hand knitted socks.

Plus I’m wearing this outfit all the way home, which is always a good feeling, to be at that stage in any journey…it’ll be good to be back at my sewing machine once again, creating new things.

 

Suitcase Challenge Failure

6 Feb

It had to happen sooner or later. I just don’t have a full wardrobe of handmade goodness, at this stage, yet.

I’m wearing a handmade skirt (the one I called here my “Marginal Folded Skirt”) but the top is wholly off-the-rack and readymade.

I know 50% is a failing grade, and it’s going to bring down my “Handmade Suitcase Challenge” travel GPA, and I promise to try harder, tomorrow. But there’s only so much sewing I can squeeze in, sometimes.

(I admit, though, I am rather pleased with the way vivid teal looks next to navy. This skirt is a mostly-new color in my wardrobe palette, so finding things to wear with it is a bit of a challenge all its own. Sometimes it takes work even to get to that 50% mark!)

On the Road Again: Suitcase Challenge, Part II

6 Feb

Barely did I have time to unpack my suitcase and do laundry than I was off once more, anew. I wish I’d had had time to sew one more quick jersey fabric shirt, in between, or work on my blazer a bit more, or start my cape…but…such is life. I did not.

So I’m sticking to my resolution of wearing only handmade, as much as possible, whenever I leave town, so here I am, doing my best. Today, for travel, I’m wearing the corduroy skirt I made recently (and posted here) with the whipped-together cowl-neck tee shirt I made two weeks ago, for last week’s trip.

Meanwhile, sewing plans and creative projects pile up in my mind (and in my pocket-sized notebook) but I will have to wait to get to them for a few more days.

This is a short trip, anyway: three days, three outfits, and then hopefully I’ll be able to work on something brand new.

Meanwhile, I think I want to re-make the waistband on this skirt. When I wear something store-bought, I just make do with however it fits. When I wear something self-made, however, I fuss over every detail, never quite content. After wearing it a while, I always think I can improve on a thing.

I suspect this is why so many garments end up in my mending basket, as just  more work to be done.