Zipper-Dee-Doo-Dah

Readers,
That merry tune you heard someone whistling Sunday afternoon was just me celebrating a major milestone. Yes, after starting this saga a year and a half ago, finally I have a pants pattern that fits!

Until I can model the pants myself in the ideal lighting conditions of my sister’s photo studio, I am using my point-and-shoot and my store mannequin, Ginger, in my sewing room.

These pants are a wearable test sewn from a stash fabric–a wool blend with the characteristics of wool crepe..  I didn’t choose the fabric for the color–a cool gray–but I wanted to see how the pants would feel and hang using a fabric of this weight and drape for future reference. The result was very nice.

I want to test other fabrics, like linen and linen blends with a range of weights and crispness, to see how differently the pants will turn out and whether I need to adapt the pattern.  I also want to test which types of pockets I can use that won’t gape.  But the upcoming tests of fabrics and construction techniques feel so much more doable than pattern-fitting!

One of the choices I made for my master pants pattern was a simple back closure with an invisible zipper for a streamlined look.  And I came across a wonderful method for installing an invisible zipper in a video by Kenneth King on the Threads website.  My efforts in the past had always resulted in the last inch or two of zipper tape not securely stitched down, which made me leery of using an invisible zipper in a pants application.  But Kenneth addresses the problem so well that I couldn’t wait to try his method, and with success after one try I’m a believer.

You know that student in every classroom who’s struggling to keep up, who’s asking too many questions and whom teachers have an instinct for avoiding?  That’s usually me.  So I am eternally grateful to teachers like Kenneth King who explain steps clearly and help students achieve enough success to build the confidence to continue.

If you want to know how to install an invisible zipper quickly and elegantly, Kenneth’s method is amazingly intuitive.  See A Smart Technique for an Imperceptible Zipper.

Shedding Light on My Beautiful French Sign

Readers,

About 25 years ago, when I was living in Minneapolis,  I happened upon an object in the window of a little antiques store in St. Paul that stopped me in my tracks.  It was this sign:

Seen in daytime

It was love at first sight, and I was immediately seized with the desire to own it.  Two hundred dollars later, it was mine.

I couldn’t have been more ecstatic if I’d found it in a Paris flea market, where I bet the asking price would have been considerably more and the headaches of shipping turning me away sadly empty-handed.

The reflective qualities come out with dramatic lighting.

Instead, happily, I am the proud owner of this beautiful, but mysterious, sign.

About its origin I never got more than a vague answer from the store owner: from France and made in the 1920s.  But Quebec seems more likely to me, just because it’s closer with no pesky ocean in between.

The lettering, visual textures, and contrasts suggest 1930s films to me.

I’d long intended to delve into the meaning of each word.  I finally got around to this task just this past weekend, when I posed my question to the readers of Pattern Review with a thread I called “French Speakers: Translate My French Sign!”  Did they ever, with comments coming from France and Canada as well as the US.

The consensus was:

Bonneterie:  Knit apparel including hosiery, underwear, and lingerie

Mercerie: Sewing supplies

I love the addition of the red lines.

Tissus Confection:   Dressmaking fabrics

Couture Mesure:  Made-to-measure dressmaking

When was the last time you saw a business offering all of these wonderful goods and services in one place?  Such a place is a rarity today if it exists at all.  When this sign was in use I think it represented something as unremarkable in its time as a hardware store or grocery store is today.

I love not only the references to the goods and services this sign proclaims but the weatherbeaten, everyday artistry of the sign itself.  It appears to be two layers of reverse-painted glass sandwiching a ribbed reflective surface to catch the eye especially on gloomy, overcast days and at night.

Imagining looking up at it at night.

I brought the sign to my sister Cynthia’s studio and she experimented with lighting and backdrops to elicit an atmosphere that had me thinking of noir movies.  Who knows–maybe Philip Marlowe picked up his “black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them” at this very shop.

Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand, Photographer for conveying the romance, mystery, and wistfulness of this sign.

Free, Fast, and Easy; Fun, Reversible–and Inspiring

Readers,

For the last month or so I have been opening my closet door to behold not only my spring-summer clothes and accessories but–my spring-summer fabrics!

My very small warm-weather wardrobe is interspersed with yardage.

Earlier this year I’d subjected my whole wardrobe to a new level of scrutiny, weeding out about a third of it. The remainder I divided into what I labeled Placeholders and Keepers.

The Keeper section was pretty sparse.  While inspired to see only things I liked as starting points for new outfits, I was also a little unsettled to see so much open space.   I was also curiously lacking in direction or focus for my sewing projects.

One day it just occurred to me to try interfiling my spring-summer cottons and linens by color with my clothes and scarves.  Within minutes my yardage was hanging cheek by jowl with tops, scarves, jackets, and skirts. And a funny thing happened: I instantly began seeing affinities between fabrics and wardrobe items that had escaped me before.

I also was more easily seeing interesting groupings of several fabrics and wardrobe items.  This was heartening. My editing process had pruned out the sartorial deadwood, but new growth had not begun.  Now I was beginning to see genuine possibilities.

I also saw which fabrics and wardrobe items were outliers. Did they just not belong, or were they the start of a new way forward?

In the following weeks I have greeted my new closet denizens as not only potential but likely dresses, tops, skirts, pants, and jackets.  Sometimes I shuffle a fabric from one color section to another to discover yet another form of compatibility–in value, or texture, or pattern–that is pleasing.

Something I’ve found particularly valuable is seeing a fabric’s affinity consistently over time, and not just with one other wardrobe item. Judging a fabric only in the context of other fabrics in my stash is kind of silly, anyway. I need to see how well it will play with others as a wardrobe item among other wardrobe items: hats, bags, shoes, jewelry, and clothes–the whole nine yards.

It’s been at least a month now since my spring-summer fabrics took up residence in my closet, and I’m in no hurry to return them to their shelves.  They have such a friendly, encouraging vibe I’m beginning to see the sense in Marie Kondo’s animistic tendencies.  Mind you, I’m not holding long conversations with my cottons or cross-dye linens–yet–but I don’t think a whispered “Thank you” would be out of line.

Two scarves hang next to a blouse I made last summer.

 

 

 

 

The Four Types of Discards

Readers,

The Kondo effect has reached me even though I haven’t watched any of the Netflix shows yet: I recently examined everything in my wardrobe.

I pulled coats, hats, and gloves from the coat closet; raided the laundry basket and to-be-ironed pile; unearthed shoes waiting to be polished since last summer; retrieved skirts from a pile of mending; and emptied my dresser drawers and closet. Nothing escaped my scrutiny, not even the eyeglasses perched on my nose.

Everything got categorized as a Keeper, a Placeholder, or a Discard.

Keepers I broadly defined as aesthetically and functionally the best stuff I own, what I would like to incorporate into new outfits and plan into wardrobe capsules.

Placeholders had fatal flaws in fit, color, style, or function but would stick around till I bought or sewed replacements, at which time they would be demoted to Discards.

Discards: I don’t really have to define them, do I?

Well, the interesting thing I realized last week is that there are four types of discards. I know this because–and this will show you what an organizing nerd I am–I created a table analyzing all 67 of the items I was discarding and noticed behavioral patterns and situations unique to each type.

Then I wondered how I would explain my discovery to you, Readers, and came up with this:

For extra credit (awarded by me to myself) I came up with a facial expression representing the emotion of each category.

We’ll start with Liked and used. Items of this type were enjoyed and worn till they were worn out or no longer needed. They were part of an active wardrobe and ordinary turnover.

Next, Liked but didn’t use. Items of this type were wardrobe orphans. I hoped and believed that someday–soon!–I would be wearing these things I liked. And yet, there was something lacking: the right occasions for wearing them, or accessories, or most likely, knowledge. I often didn’t know whether the color or the lines  really were flattering on me, or lacked the technical knowledge to sew coordinates for the pulled-together look the item deserved.

Next, Didn’t like but used. Items of this type I would describe to myself with a sigh or a frown, “It was the best I could do.” Pants that fit relatively well but had a lower than ideal rise, warm sweaters that were scratchy, a purse with lots of compartments great for travel but not stylish were all adequate without being satisfying. You can’t have everything, right?

Last, Didn’t like and didn’t use.  Items with this designation may have been clothes I wore in my job that I haven’t touched since retirement, gifts not to my taste, or souvenirs I liked until I brought them home and realized I’d have to change my personality or lifestyle to wear them.  There was a mismatch, but as long as I hadn’t clarified what a really good match was, in fit, color, or style, I wasn’t highly motivated to edit out these pieces.

Readers, I am so glad I took an extra step to see beyond the general category of discards to classify them by type. I noticed how I had tolerated mediocrities, defaulted to outdated styles because I didn’t take the time to come up with better ideas, and perpetuated bad habits that would carry my petty dissatisfactions into my future if I didn’t clean up my act.

But I also saw where I had enjoyed a garment or accessory and discarded it only when it had reached the end of its lifespan.

This is the model to follow for my future wardrobe: buy or make, wear and use with satisfaction till worn out. Repeat.

That’s an approach I would call a keeper.

Has Anybody Seen My Vision Around Here?

Readers,

On the bulletin board just above my computer is tacked my favorite cartoon, by Charles Saxon of The New Yorker. It’s what I see every time I look up from my keyboard, and I’ve never grown tired of it.

I always imagine that it’s a Friday evening, and the husband has returned on the commuter train from his job in Manhattan in banking or investing to his home in a Connecticut suburb.

He’s shed his tie and shoes and sunk his head into a pillow on the genteel but not comfortable-looking settee, stretching out for a restorative nap before dinner. The downturned mouth suggests he’s still ruminating about work and that his weekend has not quite begun.

And then his wife descends the staircase clutching a clipboard and says, tentatively but hopefully, “If it’s all right with you, I thought we’d do some long-range planning tonight.”

Don’t ask why I think this cartoon is so hilarious, but it may be because it hits so close to home.  I am that wife with the clipboard and the torrent of bright ideas.

Until recently, that is. Lately I’ve been feeling more like the husband on the couch: brooding and in a state of torpor.

If I learned anything from participating in the Ready-to-Wear Fast last year, it was that simply refraining from buying clothes does not instantly supply inspiration for designing a new wardrobe.

I may have learned better than ever what I dislike in what I presently own–and that was actually very useful–but I was not automatically transported to some new level of  understanding of what I like and what looks wonderful on me. No, I still need to do my homework.

This homework has been complicated by the fact that my coloring seems to be changing, so I’m not sure what does look good on me.  Some days it seems like the gray in my hair is quickly multiplying, yet other days I think I still am overall a dark brunette. I’m noticing that different colors near my face can make a huge difference in whether the gray or the dark brown is more noticeable.

I’ve also wondered whether my complexion is cooling. I think some years ago I was decidedly warm, but now it seems I am just on the warm side of the fence, which is affecting which colors complement me and which upstage me. It looks like I’ll be saying goodbye to some favorite colors that are too strong for me now, and that’s a little disorienting. I haven’t yet made the acquaintance of colors that will be new favorites.

In this period of adjusting and reframing I’ve been reviewing the materials of Imogen Lamport’s 7 Steps to Style program and reading vast amounts of the free content on her impressive blog, Inside Out Style, which has been great. I needed the refresh.  Imogen bases her wardrobe-building strategy on a combination of objective elements,  like your coloring, level of contrast, and figure type, with subjective elements: your fashion personality and “style recipe.”  Some days I make more headway on factual research. Other days I have a new insight into my style recipe, a concept that’s earning a new level of interest and respect from me.

Another way I’ve recently tackled the indecision doldrums was by attending a free, two-part talk at my local library given by the first certified KonMari consultant in Ohio, Michell Domke, about putting the principles of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up into practice.

Only minutes into the presentation Michell was having us close our eyes and visualize our ideal lifestyles as expressed in our homes. I’m sure the vision was different for every single person in the room but equally powerful.  Michell told us that one of her clients had struggled for two years to apply the KonMari organizing methods without imagining the ideal lifestyle she wanted to aim for, and guess what? She got stuck. She made no progress.

So, back to the cartoon that sits above my computer. Now I think I’m a little bit of each of the people in the drawing.

Part of me is nodding off on that couch with a furrowed brow mulling over one problem or another.

But part of me remains that lady with the clipboard, hesitantly yet insistently inviting me to do some long-range planning.

For the best vision it helps to have an up-to-date prescription.