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The beginnings of a sleeve pattern.

The beginnings of a sleeve pattern.

When I got back earlier this week from a 12-day trip to Ohio I thought I’d brought everything back that I left with. It turns out I was wrong.

I lost my momentum. And darned if I knew where it went.

To be specific, I lost my momentum drafting a pattern for a shirt for Jack that I began a month ago. I’d naively thought I could just alter the shirt pattern I’ve been using for years: nip some fullness out of the sleeve, front and back, and Bob’s your uncle, move straight to shirt construction.

But no. I found myself under the spell of shirtmaking teacher Steve Pauling.

And he somehow persuaded me that drafting a new pattern by the draping method would be the way to go. In a moment of weakness or wisdom, I’m not sure which, I agreed.

My shirt pattern must be worthy of this linen shirting, bought in London last summer.

My shirt pattern must be worthy of this linen shirting, bought in London last summer…

I had put off learning any pattern-drafting for the last decade, resisting my sewing teacher Edith‘s generous offers. Having a blog was the game-changer. Now I’m not just sewing–I’m Getting Things Sewn, for pete’s sake. Hero’s journey and all that.

So Jack accompanied me to Steve’s studio and stood patiently while we draped muslin on him. Steve made marks on the muslin and took measurements. Then we began translating those marks into a sloper–a close-fitting paper pattern–as the preliminary step to a custom shirt pattern.

Draping fabric on somebody, making marks, and turning those into paper pattern pieces is an interesting process but whose reasoning eludes easy comprehension for me. I take some comfort in knowing that my aptitude for spatial reasoning is only so-so. I have enough to be able to parallel-park, but not so much that I can grasp the slightest relationship between a three-dimensional body and a two-dimensional pattern without effort and practice.

...and of this cotton, bought at Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, MN.

…and of this cotton, bought at Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, MN.

Steve was happy to go at my super-slow pace to move me through this process. I did some pattern work under his supervision and then at home sewed a first muslin. In our second meeting we evaluated the fit on Jack and made changes for a second muslin.  We began drafting a sleeve.

Home again, I took a stab at finishing the sleeve draft. The object is to create a sleeve cap that smoothly fits the armscye and that balances fit and mobility. This is part science, part art.

Then I went on my trip, and the concepts that had begun to gel went poof!

When I got back, I looked at that shirt project with mild but increasing aversion. Pattern-drafting is not my favorite thing, but it’s a key to creative freedom. It was time I stopped avoiding it at all costs.

(Have you ever noticed that telling yourself to stop avoiding something never inspires interest, excitement, or action?)

Feeling this aversion in the past had led to years of guilt-inducing UFOs (unfinished objects). I was not going back to that, I swore to myself.

Then I realized what had stopped my momentum dead in its tracks more than lack of knowledge or skill: assuming that I should “go it alone” and that to ask for help would be “imposing.”

Says who?

Not me, anymore.

I think creating and sustaining momentum is an individual thing, from one person to the next, and one project to the next. The push and pull of structures, habits, teachers, and deadlines can all play a part in getting things sewn. I need to notice what’s missing and fill the gap. Do I need more expert guidance? Then get it!

I e-mailed Steve, asking if he would help me get back on track with this (to me) daunting project.

No problem, he answered. Let’s find a time.

And Bob’s your uncle.