I've managed to finish up Len's socks, which is a great weight off my mind because frankly, I was tired of looking at them. I don't know why, but I just really wanted to get those bad boys done.
Now I can get back to my Fair Isle sweater, but before that I wanted to get some spinning done this weekend. I'd bought some mohair, some fine merino, and some soy silk when I was in Phoenix the last time. I'm carding the mohair with the merino to make about a 50/50 blend, and it's so very, very soft. I'm hoping this is the right way to deal with spinning mohair, because clearly I've been spinning it the wrong way, which is to say as a 100% unblended fiber. It's so incredibly soft as roving, but the moment I spin it up, even when I'm conscious about not spinning too tightly, it feel so brittle and coarse. So I'm hoping that by blending it with the merino I'll get a cloudy, soft fiber. We'll see.
Like you, I'm tired of the whole Janet Jackson And Her Breasts Show, but this paragraph in a New York Times editorial
kind of made me chuckle:
There are plenty of Americans to laugh at, starting with the public itself. If we are to believe the general outcry, the nation's families were utterly blindsided by the Janet-Justin pas de deux while watching an entertainment akin to "Little Women." As Laura Bush put it, "Parents wouldn't know to turn their television off before that happened." They wouldn't? In the two-plus hours "before that happened," parents saw not only the commercials featuring a crotch-biting dog, a flatulent horse and a potty-mouthed child but also the number in which the crotch-grabbing Nelly successfully commanded a gaggle of cheerleaders to rip off their skirts. What signal were these poor, helpless adults waiting for before pulling their children away from the set? Apparently nothing short of a simulated rape would do.
I have to agree with the tone on that one.
For someone who's a science geek and a game player, I've always had a secret, almost embarrassing interest in fashion. I really like viewing clothes from a structural and artistic standpoint (though I make no claims to having an artistic eye). I find the way clothes can play tricks on the eye to be fascinating. How can a certain shirt and skirt turn a pear-shaped woman into a seemingly perfect hourglass shape? (The answer: shirts that create broad shoulder lines, like slash-neck or ballet-neck shirts, and knee-length flippy A-line skirts.) How does a jacket make a woman seem like she's taller, more statuesque? (The answer: a princess-seamed tailored jacket that hits below the hip coupled with a nice heel.)
But never having had a body made for the fashion world, I tended to view fashion as my enemy. No stores ever carried things that fit me, or looked right on me, or were styled for my taste. If my tastes were running toward sophisticated men's-style tailoring with structured darts for figure shaping, the fashion trends that season were frilly peasant shirts that flowed straight down from my ample chest and made me look pregnant. If my tastes ran toward subdued colors that fit my pale, pinkish skin and light hair and eyes, the colors that season were lime green and orange.
But even despite this, I've been a fashion show junkie. I'm not talking about the runway stuff — I'm talking about the syle shows that are seeing a lot of popularity on the networks. Shows like What Not To Wear
(my favorite) have me riveted. I love seeing what the style experts pair up and how they explain what they do to a particular person's figure. What looks fabulous on one woman can look frumpy on another. The wrong outfit on a woman with a model's body can make her look downright weird, while the same outfit on a pear-shaped, curvy woman can make her look fabulous.
So having said all of this, I've come to realize this weekend that it's nice to have something so basic as sewing in my skill set.
For the last several weeks, I've been shopping both on and offline for some nice spring and summer shirts that look right on me, have some color to them, are something I like, and are somewhere between dressy and casual. It's surprisingly hard this season to find something that fits all four criteria. I can find t-shirts galore that are comfortable and fit well, and I can find very low-key dressy shirts that I find...well, really kind of boring. But nothing that's a little feminine, a little colorful and flowery, and something I can either wear with jeans or a skirt. Or more importantly, nothing that has all of those things and
is actually structured properly for my not-so-standard figure. I found stuff in Lane Bryant this week, but I've reached the point where at least half of the shirts in the store don't fit me well because I'm actually too small (I never thought I'd get to say that). Oh, sure, they fit the chest — in that regard, I'm still a bit above the norm. But then they hang off of me funny and have no shaping whatsoever, or not enough since my waist is a lot smaller than most women who have the hips and chest measurement I have.
(Have I given you too much information yet? No? Good.)
So after getting tired of finding nothing, I decided to resurrect the skill I've been honing since I was 12: sewing.
Even when I was only 12 years old I had definite ideas of what I wanted to wear, and they were never in the stores. I wore whatever my parents bought me, of course — you don't really get a choice when you're that age. But I remember telling my mother about what I wanted to wear and saying that I didn't see anything like that when we were shopping. She told me, "well, we can sew it, then." She took me to the store to buy my first pattern. We looked through the books until I pointed to something and said, that's
what I want to wear. We picked out a fabric I liked and my mother dug out her sewing machine and taught me how to read a pattern, how to lay the pattern pieces, how to cut the fabric, and how to sew it.
I kept on sewing off and on through my teenage years, especially when I was at my heaviest, which was around 18 or 19 years old. Around that time I also learned to knit, so I was learning how to actually construct garments from a structural standpoint in both knitted fabric and cut-and-sewn fabric. Every so often I'd try and create something I had in my head that I'd sketched out and was sure would look right on me, much better than what was on the rack in the stores, because I could add darts for waist shaping or flare the hem a little bit to accomodate wider hips. And that led to designing my own patterns from basic bodice shell patterns. Over the years I've designed a couple of shirts, a skirt, and a few sweaters. I even sewed my own wedding dress from a pattern I altered to fit me better.
So I decided that's what I needed to do this season. I haven't sewed much in the last few years — mostly if I want to wear something, I knit it — but the lack of any nice shirts that are similar to the picture in my head of what I want prompted me to set up the sewing machine again. The shirt you see
in the picture today is the result of this weekend's sewing effort, and I'm thrilled with how it came out. The shirt has back, front, and bust darts for shaping, is slightly flared at the hem, and has a self-faced and slightly flared seam that I decided to do last minute. I simply cut the sleeve just past the elbow, took that portion of the sleeve and added about an inch of width for fullness, cut it on the fold, sewed it, eased the fullness in, turned it inside out, and then sewed it to the hem of the cut sleeve.
It's a really great feeling after all these years to be able to have an idea of the type of clothing I want to wear and know exactly how to create it. "I'm going to need bust, back, and front darts for shaping, and let's make it a V-neck since that balances out my sloping shoulders and fuller chest, and let's flare the sleeves a little bit since that's in style right now and it helps balance my thinner arms against my thicker legs." I've got plans to make another shirt with this same bodice pattern, only it'll be short-sleeved with the sleeves actually slit along the tops to create a little flutter.
I'd like to say that all of this sewing experience and the fascination I have with style shows means that I know exactly what looks good on me. Truth is, I still don't. I fear color, and I probably still wear a few things that don't exactly flatter me. But that's okay. At least I refrained from buying the orange and lime green shirt I saw in the store the other day that I thought might look good on me.