Sewing reorganization.

I’m going to leave continuation of the career questioning for another day. Today, I cleaned off the craft table (again) and reorganized the sewing, needlework and yarn stuff. I’m posting this to remind myself where everything is.

Basically, every small item needed for sewing besides chalk pencils, DMC embroidery floss, fabric shears, transfer paper, and large or blunt needles, is in the small plastic caddy that used to have my Fat Quarters in it. That is, I’ve moved the sewing machine threads, hand sewing needles, pincushion, pins, marking wheels, both hera, sashiko threads, and thimbles, to the caddy.

The new pack of transfer paper is in my white folder; the white Saral paper is still on the table. Embroidery hoops are in the sewing box with all my fabric, including all the Fat Quarters — both the Kona cotton and the patterned fabric — along with the dark blue cotton I got for embroidery.

My new circle templates for sashiko patternmaking are in the top drawer of the black file; my graph paper is going to live on top of the altar table in my office, for now.

I took the Wool-Eater crochet blanket out of the fabric box, and am thinking that I should probably either finish it or find larger storage for it. It’s pretty large and heavy, right about now. After finishing the final rows, I’ll need to weave in the yarn ends; which isn’t going to be fun, but it will make the thing okay to wash.

It’s fairly late right now…I have work tomorrow, as well. I’ve gotten into the pattern section of Japanese Country Quilting…which I suppose I can read more of, at lunch. I think this is enough writing, for today.

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Embroidery; wishing to work with fabric.

Right now, what I want to do is sew, or do something else with color and my hands…like practice my writing in Japanese. Sewing…is just very nice when I want to feel something soft and see something come together. I picked up a number of small cuts of Kona cotton the other day, just to practice embroidery and seaming.

The night before we went to the quilt shop, I realized that I could make a furoshiki as a perfect first embroidery project. (I also found a bilingual book on how to tie furoshiki at the Japanese bookstore.) Basically, a furoshiki is a square wrapping cloth that ties up so that you can carry things in it. I’ve read that these could be reinforced with sashiko embroidery, which is a specific type of embroidery focused on running stitch. I hadn’t entirely planned on going for sashiko.

It uses special thread and is usually somewhat geometric and precise. If I’m remembering correctly, we have red and yellow soft cotton sashiko thread; though I should be able to substitute perle cotton, according to the book Japanese Country Quilting: Sashiko Patterns and Projects for Beginners by Karen Kim Matsunaga.

I have perle cotton crochet thread in mauve, white, ecru, light blue, and variegated green…different sizes. The No. 20 feels substantial, though I also have No. 8 and No. 12. The green is from a company called H.H. Lizbeth, and it has a size that reads as, “80.” I’m…not entirely sure what that means, but it’s the finest perle cotton crochet thread I have.

I did retrieve my little sewing box …with a “cheaper” cotton I can practice on. I say “cheaper” in quotes because it probably cost more than what I just got, even though it is likely lower-quality.

Then again, I have something that I thought was a furoshiki until I opened it, and it was actually a heavily-starched washcloth. The label reads, Shirayuki Fukin,” which I think is the brand. After washing and drying, it fluffed up and softened, dramatically. At one time I had an actual furoshiki, but it’s either deep in storage or with family.

I think the hardest part about doing either quilting or making wrapping cloths, is keeping the dimensions accurate. I bring up quilting because…well, I’ve been thinking of going back to it. It’s just how to cut things en masse that is holding me back. Maybe I should just make little quilted sashiko coasters or something else using other forms of embroidery; just to toy around with things and practice, before I embark on a large project.

Worked on Folkwear #112 some more.

At this point, I am wondering if I should have taken a Digital Libraries class over the Summer as well as Fundamentals of Programming, which is straightforward enough to leave me a lot of time. Which …I should be using to develop my portfolio.

Today…I could really feel that I had taken medication way too late, last night. I wasn’t really up and active until after 2 PM, but that’s because (for those new to this blog) my medication is sedating and I took it at least three hours late. Sometimes it will knock me out until around 5 PM the next day if I take it at 1 or 2 AM. (For some reason, it affects me for around 17 hours when it’s late, less than that when on time. I think it has to do with Circadian rhythms.)

The good thing is that, due to tracking when I actually do take it, I’ve realized what happens when I try to stay awake by not taking it. If I don’t have anything I have to do the next day (like a class meeting or work), that day is often wasted asleep. Which…then, causes me to want to stay up and again delay taking the medication (if I’m finally awake at 5 PM, I hate to re-take that stuff four hours later and get knocked out again in an hour and a half). Which causes the next day to also be a wash.

Kind of a vicious cycle. On the bright side, when I take the stuff at 9 PM, immediately get ready for bed, and go to sleep when I’m tired, I end up waking at like 5-6 AM…so the loss of having a day only 5.5 hours long is basically…better than the alternative. And I guess I have a tendency to wake up earlier, too, though I can’t really predict that.

Having to do that is one of those things that will make me feel disabled for real, though.

I did see someone today I hadn’t seen in a long time, though I wasn’t up for talking, much (unfortunately). In lieu of working with the new leather project (on which I’m basically still in the design stages), I opted to go back to the trial garment (or toile) from the Folkwear 112 pattern (monpe). I did get a good amount of work done, though at this point I’m questioning why I’m doing all this by hand when we have a sewing machine.

Of course, in the finished garment, I would be using backstitch for my seams, not a running stitch. Backstitch is actually more satisfying for me to do, but I don’t really know why, except for the fact that it actually takes advantage of the fact that I’m hand-stitching. It could also be superior in a way to machine-stitching, in that it’s more elastic.

I’ve also realized that I was premature in cutting down my pattern pieces: one step of the pattern (the one I’m on) says to take different seam allowances for the different sizes — AFTER having cut out different size pattern pieces.

Since I’m sizing this up to a 16, I’ve had to go beyond what the pattern has written (if the instructions are accurate)…and now have no room for a seam allowance on the outsides of the legs. Even though I already added 0.5″ to the edges of the pattern pieces (which stop at Size 14 — I have the old version of the pattern). That adds a total of 1″ in diameter. The seaming instructions would add another 1″ in diameter, making an additional 2″ in diameter, total.

I do have one option, since this is just a toile, which is to just whipstitch the edges of the fabric together (or something), then try the thing on and see if it fits. The only reason for me to be making a toile is to learn what is being asked of me and to fit the garment, that is. It doesn’t have to look nice. Or last.

Speaking of which, I found that a certain stitch I was using on a patch pocket in lieu of machine topstitch only works to catch the edges of the fabric (I can’t remember the name of the stitch right now, and am too tired to look it up: the needle travels for about 1/8″ in a fold and then catches a few threads on the other piece of fabric, then goes back into the fold for another 1/8″). I would need to work back around the edge of the pocket with something more secure, even if it’s embroidery. Otherwise, that pocket is not going to stand up to use, as it’s being held in by tiny stitches.

That same stitch, though, is fine for things that aren’t going to be stressed (like the hem at the top of the pocket).

Also, somehow, I messed up one of my shoulders. I don’t know exactly how that happened, but I have been typing in some weird positions lately, causing pains in places I’ve never had them before. (I thought I might have had appendicitis, yesterday, but the pain isn’t here today. The day before yesterday, the small of my back hurt on the other side of my spinal column.)

I also helped unpack bins at work yesterday. That could have something to do with it (it’s possible that this activity has injured others). But I was also doing a lot with that arm, including lifting and holding heavy stacks of books, which could also be the cause. It just feels like before, when I lifted something heavy and then turned my elbow outwards, and then at certain angles, it felt like my arm would fall off.

Speaking of injury, I’m also getting good enough at hand stitching that I only hit my left thumbnail twice with the needle today. Unfortunately, one of those times was enough to split off the upper layers, but I’m still mostly intact! Without the thimble!

And…I think my brain just stopped working…

Trying to figure out what to do with free time.

While I wish I had something in-depth and philosophical to share tonight, I think I’ve done enough talking about that, for now. (I actually talked with people about things that matter, today. A lot of it bridged off of that last Creative Writing piece…which is helping me process a lot…at the same time. I understand now why this stuff used to make me break down, before.

Tomorrow…I believe I can choose what I want to do. A short time ago, I did go out and buy some leather to tool. It’s been a very long time since I worked with leather, but right now we have some stamps (including an alphabet) which could be cute. So far as I know, the leather just has to be dampened before I press into it. It will be something to experiment with.

I want to combine it with some micromacramé and seed beads, using an awl and cork board to pierce holes for twine. I also just now realized that I could put a button clasp on the leather portion, instead of making two separate straps for the bracelet. (I could also thread the macramé portion behind the leather…if for some reason I can’t punch the holes.)

I have two little bee buttons in pewter, one of which should work — if I can clear the shank. I also have a number of shell buttons, and those might also work, if I use a small one. (A large one will require extra length for the button to clear the buttonhole.)

I already have a thread burner to cauterize the ends of C-Lon or S-Lon cord. As for whether the thread burner still works, that’s a different question — especially as I don’t remember how to change the battery (or if the battery is even still in there). I had been wanting to use light hemp twine, though.

The big issue is thinking about the leather portion creatively, and about how to unify the design. I had been thinking of using just a strip of leather with a word (the word would guide the design), but I had to buy a small sheet of leather to get the type I wanted. That means that I don’t have to use a strip (though I’m uncertain if I need a special swivel knife to cut it — I already have a good number of X-Acto blades, which I can try first).

I still need to design what I want to tool into it, as well; and I had been thinking about using leather paints. Those are two different design elements.

Not to mention that the color of the macramé and the color of the beads need to coordinate or work into this, somehow: it would make the most sense to tailor the paint colors to the beads and twine. I can blend the colors of the paints; beads are something different!

All of that together would work around the word or design tooled into the leather. (I’m thinking about botanical themes, though I’m putting that brainstorm in a separate file.)

As well, I still have the toile (practice version) of the monpe (field pants) that I can work on, tomorrow…which might turn out to be one of the types of pants that would actually fit me (the waist, ties). Right now, I’m at the point of sewing the inside of the second leg together.

Maybe I’m not as into that as I thought? Or the gratification is too delayed. Or I haven’t looked at that beautiful ikat in too long.

I’ve realized I can cause myself serious pain, with needles (in particular, I have displayed the tendency to gradually destroy my left thumbnail by using it to stop the needle…which lets me know just how soft nails are, next to steel). I do now have a soft thimble which works well, but I may just be a little shy of even trying.

There are other things I could also do, like work on my portfolio. Up until now, I’ve just been setting up the technical foundation for this. I can work on the intellectual portion a bit, tomorrow.

Or I could draw and paint the succulents. (I also want to try and photograph that little baby succulent in the crack in the front yard…)

I’ve made the temporary decision to try putting in my values with black ink and then come back in with multiple washes. This is as versus putting in very dark values with paint alone, which I am thinking is a very different technique. One of my old classmates used to put in deep values with sumi ink, though, and then put transparent color over that (kind of like what I at least think happens when one gets a tattoo).

It’s a more mature version of playing around with black fineliners and then painting over the lines, which is what I’m considering. I also have dip pens which I do want to try out with at least the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black Ink…

That could be interesting, if I tried to make something stylized in black ink that was an interpretation of what I saw, then I went over it in watercolor!

Fresh ideas, eh.

What do I *want* to do? The crafts are calling.

I…think I might love sewing. I’ve been working minorly on the Folkwear monpe (mompei) pattern, entirely by hand (no machine stitching). It’s satisfying to see something come together, stitch by stitch. I believe that when I make the final garment, though, I’ll be using backstitch (for strength and durability) instead of a simple running stitch.

Right now I’m still working on the toile (trial garment), but now that I have puzzled out what the directions are saying…

It’s still nice. Actually better than quilting, because I know that I’m working toward an end product of something custom (and three-dimensional) that I can use and wear.

I am not even really upset about having to follow a pattern (though I know that if I keep at this, eventually I will begin to design on my own: it’s the same thing that happened with me and bead weaving, once I moved into beaded micromacramé). There are a few other patterns from Folkwear that I want to make: the Tibetan chupa, Tibetan panel coat, and the Nepali blouse.

I already have a Nepali blouse toile in progress, but I began it so many years ago that I doubt it will fit at all, now. If I’m right, the pattern is still in production, though; and I do have my working notes (and instructions) from trying to figure it out the first time.

There is something (obvious) there that satisfies my need for precision. I also like working with pins, needles, thread, and blades.

I want to go back to the beaded micromacramé thing, as well. The difficult part of this is that knotting will toughen my hands, though repeated needle pokes will do this, too (I’m finding). I’m also keeping in mind the possibility of using unusual knots and cords, which can handle Korean and Chinese knotwork. I am not entirely sure why certain cords work and others don’t, yet, except that the ones that do work are supple and have a firm, round cross-section, in addition to being synthetic fiber.

The knotted beadwork that I had begun to make before I stopped selling jewelry was actually elegant and unique; I haven’t seen anyone else doing the same thing. I am trying to remember why I stopped, and I’m not entirely certain. Maybe I got tired of my pinky fingers being calloused? Freaked out over the fact that I only personally designed one unique pattern? Freaked out over only using a handful of simple knots? Not sure.

Hmm. Well, in any case…my free time will be cut down over the next several weeks, which may ironically get me to spend it more intentionally.

I’ve also been reflecting on how the decline of local bead stores (and conventions) has impacted my usage of glass beads. That is, I’ve essentially stopped my beadwork. A great deal of instability has been introduced with a large number of unique (not round) bead forms, many of which have multiple holes…I think it threw people off, and continues to do so. (Marketing.)

I’ve got to remember that I can still buy online. The trouble there is that one can never be sure exactly what they’re getting. But I’ve bought beads from actual brick-and-mortar bead stores which had finishes which rubbed off — so that isn’t a guarantee of durability or quality.

So there is that.

And I have wanted to play with wirework, again; after having run across samples of weaving in my work boxes. I might be able to use my cabochons in this, too. In particular, I have a moonstone teardrop which I need/want to use. It would look great in some type of silver (at least Sterling, if not Fine or Argentium).

Of course, that requires design! And drawing! And trials in copper or brass!

I still wonder about combining weaving and knotting with wirework…

Now I’m going on…I should stop, for tonight.

Possible (subtle) identity shift

I’m considering modifying my primary identity from, “creator,” to, “Librarian.” Of course, creativity is a valuable component of librarianship. I think my health, mentally, is just reaching the point where I don’t need to fall back on stereotypical creative outlets so hard, in order to maintain normal functioning. (In the past, my creativity has been useful as a coping mechanism. It also could have been connected to my brain not working at its best.)

If you’re looking specifically for the section of this post which I mentioned in the opening line, skip down to the heading, “The necessity of Creativity,” below.


Monpe (mompei) project

That said, I was puzzling over the monpe (Japanese field pant) pattern last night (Folkwear #112, old version)…having finally gotten the guts to go and mark and cut out pieces for my toile (trial garment) and attempt to assemble them.

The major issue I was having from around this time last night, is that I couldn’t tell the right side from the wrong side of the muslin fabric, and the pattern cutouts were too much alike for me to easily make out what was what. Having extra fabric on all sides of each pattern piece also turned out to be more of a pain than a help: I ended up cutting most of it off (and am hoping I didn’t cut off a seam allowance by accident). A quilting ruler helped to add the extra 1/2″ which would theoretically size the pattern up to a 16. (The new version of the pattern goes up to size 20, but I don’t have that one.)

Looking ahead in the instructions, I was able to reverse-engineer what needed to go where, and now it’s looking correct. I have the pieces pinned out, though this is actually several steps ahead — I just needed to assemble the thing to be able to see what was going on (the instructions don’t help all that much if you’re going step-by-step with no vision of what you’re working towards).

I’ve found that pinning along (instead of across) the sewing line helps with precision, and that I shouldn’t baste until I’m sure things are correct. I’ve had to rip out diagonal basting (silk thread) at least two or three times (without using them) because of errors, and a line of sewing, I had to rip out once…and I’m doing this all by hand. Pinning is much more amenable to adjustment.

Also, it would have helped to copy the stupid shape-coded markings from the pattern to the cloth. I was using colored thread as markers for these spots, but I found when reading the instructions that the shapes mean something. I just didn’t want to go drawing big squares or circles on my fabric, though maybe I should. Color-coding is also another option.

I also need to use the cutting mat under my fabric, next time I try to mark it. I ended up denting the kitchen table with my marking wheel.

In any case, it’s better that I’m practicing on muslin than with my good fabric. It’s also surprising when working with the muslin, how much easier it is to pass a needle through than with quilting fabric (Fat Quarters, in particular). I was using Sharps in both cases, but it’s seriously much easier to sew through the muslin, than it is to quilt (which may be the reason why “Quilting Betweens” needles exist, I know now). I have a needle that’s actually bent from trying to pull it through quilting fabric, which caused me to just get a couple of new Sharps for the monpe project.

If the reason to sew is that I like working with precision, needles, and sharp things, too: well, it doesn’t disappoint. And actually having an end goal of a functional garment that I’m working toward, helps.

Since I haven’t been sewing for a very long time, it also helps to have the cheap muslin toile to screw up with and pin and unpin and mark and rip stitches out of.

But yeah, it can be frustrating.

The thing is that I don’t know where I can actually get a pair of authentic monpe for a good price, and if I could get them, they would almost certainly be vintage (i.e. used). It’s seriously difficult to find this stuff here. Either you look in Japantown and get vintage stuff, or you look outside of that and get inauthentic Americanized lingerie (the implications of which are things I don’t really want to get into, now).

I do…really, though, want to make a wrap top, utilizing a Japanese pattern which is modified for a curvy body and American aesthetic sensibility (i.e. not to a cylindrical ideal, as traditional garments generally aim toward). That is, I am thinking I want to tailor it.

Unfortunately, I think this means I’m either going to have to make the pattern myself (I have the instructions), or alter an existing pattern. I have a beautiful green-blue batik that I got a number of years ago for this purpose, but I want to make the monpe first, in order to hone myself at least a little.


Update on the Wool-Eater blanket project:

I’ve also been working on that Wool-Eater crochet blanket, though I got a bit discouraged when I realized that one of the skeins of yarn which I have and need to use, is from a different dye lot than the one it’s meant to match (even though I thought I matched them). This means that there are two slightly different colors going on in two rows that are supposed to be one color. I could rip out and stop at the pink row (I’m on light green, now), but I think I’ll go on with it imperfect, and try and make something more functional than just decorative.


Sleep update:

Today, as well: I was asleep most of the day. I’m not sure if it is connected to staying up late last night trying to figure out this monpe problem…or needing to get back to schoolwork today and not wanting to face it; or not wanting to go in to work for extra hours. It could also have been because it was really hot, earlier.


The necessity of Creativity

Anyhow…I’ve just noticed that I have accumulated experience in a lot of creative outlets, but that my life doesn’t have to revolve around those outlets. As, I’m thinking, it’s likely that a lot of people don’t really…you know, do this. I mean, I don’t think that most people wish to be creative. Or, maybe their creativity doesn’t express itself through arts or crafts or design.

It doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing, but my “creator” identity is something I came up with when I was in ill health, in order to keep myself going. And I mean, I was likely seriously ill. I am not sure I knew the extent of this, I just knew my experiences would sound, “weird,” to other people. But now, I’m effectively 16 years into recovery.

At this point, a lot of the unwanted mental activity that I was dealing with as a youth and young adult has been effectively brought under control. I can also communicate better now than I could then, which lessens the need to go out of my way to find creative expression (though I do believe making your own clothes is a form of creative expression).

The identity shift isn’t a solid thing yet, I don’t want to scare you; but I’m wondering if I thought of myself as a Librarian first, and on top of that as just a creative person (as versus an agent of the creative Divine), if it would help me pursue my goals (and free up my energy). It just seems that this kind of really fulfilling way of being kind of crept up on me while I was trying to figure out a way to stay creative and survive in the world. The creativity was my reason to survive.

But now I’m moving from, “surviving,” to, “contributing,” and that is an entirely different proposition. By this I mean that there are ways I can apply my creativity and problem-solving skills to improve the lives of others, and help make the world a better place. This is as versus doing my best just to take care of myself and stay alive.

It was and is helpful to take some control of my life, and making things is a great way to avoid feeling at the mercy of others. I think maybe, though…there are more ways to create than I thought of when I was younger…and I’m about to move into a position where I can and most likely will be tasked with helping my communities (which helps others as well as myself). That actually is a much more powerful position than I’ve ever been in, before, and it takes away the feeling of a lack of control.

I’m also older and in more control of my own life than I have been before…hmm. This is to say that I’m not entirely certain why I’m less drawn to story-weaving or pictorial arts than I was as a youth, but it seems to be correlated with some relief on my part…

Fabric and fiber

Okay, so now I get to update you all on the quilting progress.

I kind of wish that I had planned out the color scheme better before I started sewing:

IMG_4023w

Right now, I’ve got at least one seam going on one side of all of the diamond portions of this square. Some of the wedges at the lower part of the image already have two triangles sewn to them, though. I’ve been doing this all by hand, so it’s quite labor-intensive. Not to mention, trying on my fingernails–! But I picked up some type of clear flexible rubber thimble, which may help protect the thumbnail I’ve been using to stop my needle.

Something I realized too late was that I would want the edges of the pieces to line up so that they make 45º wedges. I’m not entirely certain exactly how to make sure this happens. I know that after the wedges are made, I’ll want to sew them to each other and then to those larger outer triangles, then sew the resulting squares together.

The problem is that I’ve just been trying to sew 1/4″ (around 6mm) from the edge of the fabric. Not all my cuts are as extremely precise as they would need to be for this method to hold up on a large scale, though.

Right now I’m using mini acrylic shape templates, and a rotary cutter. I have just figured out how all the shapes would be cut out of a strip of fabric, which should help, later. If they’re lined up, they can all be sliced out of one long strip, with minimal waste.

I’ve also just figured out that if I stop sewing 1/4″ from the edge of the piece, I will want to start sewing the next seam at that vertex, again 1/4″ in.

It’s helped to kind of try and lay out what I think I want to do (as I did in my “Ideas” post), because then I have something to measure against when I find something else I also may want to do. These pieces were laying out on the craft table, and when they’re easily seen, it’s easy for me to work on them first. I’m not entirely certain, why.

I also know, though, that I do want to toy around with knitting, more; and at some time it will be worth it to make those pants! I think right now, though, making quilt squares may be less intimidating for me, while I build my skills.

Why knitting? I think I’m attracted to knitting because it’s hard. And because it’s meditative. I used to hate it, but that was when I was in the very beginning stages of learning it (I’m not sure what happened). I still can’t remember how to do a long-tail cast on, but I’ll get it, some time. (It’s possible that I like knitting a lot more now because I’m using actual wool yarn instead of acrylic yarn.)

I also just remembered that I never took photos of all my little knitting swatches…hmm. I should do that…