Saturday, March 31, 2012

Am I too old to wear things like this?

I finished this last week when I had a ton of time on hands. You will note that this post only contains a single project; that is because although I had an entire week off for spring break, I did no crafting to speak of beyond completing this skirt. You have no idea how much of an accomplishment that was, though. This skirt was nearly the end of this year-long experiment.

It all started with this blog post. I just think everything about this outfit is fantastic. I love the circus-y quality that Lilli manages so effortlessly, and the tutorial seemed so simple. I could do it in a weekend! Oh, little did I know...

I ordered this fabric on Etsy, and got it in relatively short order. I just cut it in half down the length, intending to pleat the whole of it into a really full skirt. I was encouraged by comparing my measurements to Lilli's. Then I read the instructions .

Readers, math is not my best subject. No matter how many times I crunched those numbers, I could NOT figure out how on earth she managed to get her pleats flat and even and not overlapping one another. I couldn't make my pleats not lay on top of each other. Then Tilly made this pleated skirt and I got terribly discouraged. So easy! they declared. The stripes/chevrons make it idiot proof! Sewed up a dream! In an afternoon! Fuck it, I thought. I set it aside and cut the waistband. I was careful with my measuring and striped matching, since I had to piece it, and I interfaced it (I thought) properly. Um, wrong. I interfaced the front half of one piece and the back half of the other. I nearly cried, but instead I just forged on.

I cut a single pocket, because I didn't want the side zipper to interfere with the second one. Then I bravely lopped off enough from each skirt piece to make the pleating lay the way I wanted it to. I set to carefully pinning my admittedly MARVELOUS pocket into my neatly matched stripes, and sewed that son of a bitch up. I went to pin the pleats into the waistband and... It didn't fit. It was in, fact, about four inches too big. On a whim, I tried the waistband on around myself. Too small. Somehow, mysteriously, I had shrunk the waistband. SERIOUSLY FUCK IT. I walked away.

All of this occurred two weeks before my aforementioned time off. I bunched to damned thing up and threw it onto the pile on the dining room table. I spent some time making lamb shanks and embroidering instead. Then on the day I wrote that last post, I gave myself a talking to. Ridiculous, I said. Quit being a baby. Quit being a quitter. And I picked up the stupid fucking skirt and finished it. 

I fixed the tight waistband by adding two loops and two giant covered buttons. Yeah, I said two. Only one pictured, you ask? That's because a 4 inch wide band that sat on my natural waist tipped this right into weird EGL territory. I am certainly too old for that foolishness.  I didn't come to that conclusion until I had blundered my way through topstitching that monstrosity on, though. I was so over the whole process that I didn't even bother unpicking it. I just took a pair of scissors to it right on the skirt. I trimmed the waistband in half, turned the raw edges in, and topstitched THAT, too.

my stripey pocket! it's flannely!
The last thing I did was finish the hem by hand. I had intended to turn it up further and blindstitch it with my machine, but I liked it better hitting me right at my knee, so I added some hem lace and catchstitched it by hand instead. It took me about an hour and a half to finish off the handstitching.

 My weekend project skirt ended up taking about 16 hours all told, spread over the course of about a month. It's done, though, and I proudly declare it number 14. I like the way I styled it today, although the herring weather caught me off guard, and I was chilly. I just threw on a pair of black tights and a cardigan and moved the scarf to my throat, and it looks awesome right now, too. I want a turquoise or aqua or jade cardigan to wear it with, since I think the cobalt Lilli flaunts would come off a little jingoistic here (she's in New Zealand, I think.) Somehow I think this combo needs blue to set it off. What do you guys think?

Friday, March 30, 2012

I hope you didn't come for the cake.

Chances are, if you are reading this, that you know me personally and have a better than passing acquaintance with my mercurial and capricious moods (and my propensity for tossing around $10 words like I bought them half off.) I have struggled all my life to master them, with varying degrees of success, and when they turn dark I struggle all the harder. The difficulty comes when the darkness intensifies and I can't master it; the ensuing waves of guilt and failure begin to force it all into a spiral that sometimes can be very hard to pull myself out of. Today is one of those days for me.

I'm tapped.

I don't know why there are days when my eyes fill with tears that have no purpose or even cause. I don't know why I can't enjoy the company of my friends and family when this strikes, why I can't eat a meal in a room filled with people or have a discussion about gemstones with my seven year old. I don't know why I feel like screaming at the love of life to just leave me alone for a few hours, to get the hell away from me so I can weep over nothing in peace. I don't know why I can't even stand to pet my sweet, sick cat who spent three days in the hospital this week. I don't know why I can't just decide to be happy. All I know is that I am a dry well today, a pitch black echoing hole in the ground and I can't even make a decision about what to eat for dinner. That pisses me off.  It exhausts me.

I'm going to show you the skirt I finished last week (back when I had the moxie to care about things like resolutions.) Eventually, that is, but not today. Today I'm going to lie on the couch and watch really shitty t.v. and cry about feeling guilty for laying this all at your feet, when all you came for was a picture of my latest doodad. I might muster the courage to order takeout, or maybe I'll drag myself to the store for frozen pizza, but then again maybe I'll just eat the rest of the ice cream and whatever cheese there is. Tomorrow, I'll try again.

Keep checking back, okay?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I am better at thinking them up than getting them done

I have been thinking about what the goal of this whole project really is. If it's finishing things, then I'm toast. If, however, it's STARTING things - well, then, I'm good to go. I've got a dress without a skirt and a skirt without a waistband both sitting next to my sewing machine, which is unfortunately on the table where we attempt to eat dinner every night. I've got a pattern cut and waiting that's been cut and waiting since LAST SUMMER. I had this noble idea that I was going to finish a whole outfit this week, which I have off because of spring break. I can barely get my dishes washed and the recycling out of the damn house.

In spite of all this, I have accomplished a few things that I am going to let stand towards my total. First and foremost, I don't have pictures of the cooking things because I don't have five hands. So you'll have to imagine the St. Paddy's dinner I made: braised lamb shanks with pan sauce, tatties and neeps (mashed potatoes and turnips with cream), whole wheat soda bread, and not-quite-Carbomb cupcakes. These last were not-quite because I don't keep Irish cream liqueur in the house (I will consume it like I eat popcorn - absentmindedly in a single sitting) so the frosting was just whiskey buttercream. But I think that's worth #'s 9 and 10, at least - for dinner and dessert, right? I had to try a couple new techniques - I've never braised anything bone-in before. And the cupcakes had a new ganache. To top it all off, even though it was Saturday and I was off all day, I am not terribly efficient while cooking, and I gave myself a goal of finishing it all before 5 p.m. because we had tickets to a show that started at 7. I was done by 5:30 and we made it to to our seats with time to spare.

I called finished on the postcard project even though I didn't finish it. The last week slid right past me, and then another week, and once we were solidly into March I figured it wasn't really worth it anymore. Still, since week 3 was all handpainted cards, I decided a pat on the back was still in order. Postcard project is officially number 11, and my apologies to the seven who never received their final card. By far the nicest payoff for this particular project was getting a postcard back from C., who lauded the idea while she visited at the beginning of February.

And now onto the things I DID do!
I have had this Western style dress for HRH for about a year and half, always with the intention of embroidering it. When I bought it, it was two and half sizes too big. Now it's verging on uh-oh, maybe you should wear that before we have to send it back from whence it came (the White E for anyone who's interested.)
I did the roses on the front first. I don't love the leaves on these ones, but at least I got them even.
I asked the girl what she wanted on the back, and told her more roses were already in the works. She requested a butterfly. I spent about a day looking around on the Internet for one that I liked, then I spent another two or three hours getting the layout of this just right. The metallic thread I used for the body of the butterfly is evil, and looks wonky, and you will notice that I managed to stitch the whole thing askew, but all in all, I like the way this came out.

everything in my house is covered in cat hair

I feel like I get a little bit better with every stitching project I do. For the embroidery nerds out there, I like stem stitch the best for outlining and I am less afraid of satin stitch than I was. I used a tiny bit of backstitch to outline the upper wing of the butterfly, but that's it. Amazing what you can accomplish with a limited repertoire. And that seals up 12.

Finally, it's boring, but I might be proudest of this:

Yes, those are Ziploc freezer bags. It took my two episodes of Downton Abbey to cut those to size, triple tape the ends, punch appropriate holes, and get them in this binder, which is also from the White E. I wish they didn't have the logo on the front, but I can still see the patterns ok:
Eventually I want to have a separate Ziploc for each of my transfers, but I just got a few new ones and they are currently doubled up until I get another Downton Abbey disc from Netflix and so have something to occupy my head while I do the utterly numbing cut, tape, punch, fill.
For the PDF patterns I got plastic sleeves. I don't think I'll even have to take them out to trace, which is a bonus.
Yesterday HRH and I went to buy a new hoop - I needed a huge one for a delusion of grandeur that I am sure will not see completion - and HRH wanted to buy some new floss. I pointed out that I always just end up buying the same ones, and she implied maybe I could do something about that, like writing down the ones I have so I can get new ones that I don't. Coincidentally, when I got my newest patterns, they sent a DMC order sheet with all the colors they make conveniently organized by color number. It was a simple matter this morning to sit down with the order sheet and my floss box and mark which ones I have. I slipped it, too, into a plastic sleeve, and now I can pop it out and bring it with me when I get the urge to buy new colors. Like, always.

This marvel of organization (shut up, it's not something that comes naturally to me!) is my lucky 13, folks. That's a quarter of the way there!

Not affliated, of course, because why would I be?, but I'mma drop big props to the awesome places I get my patterns: I'm sure you all know about Sublime Stitching, and probably also Colonial Patterns (Aunt Martha and the new Stitchers Revolution), but I'm also enamored of Sew Lovely Embroidery and Urban Threads. I wish I could remember where the butterfly came from so I could give credit there, too.

That's it for now, kiddies. Hopefully I'll have something else fab for you really soon!