Mar 21, 2013

Zen and the Art of the 100-hour Sewing Project

Have you ever been on a really long bus ride? Like, one that could be counted not in hours, but days?

I once rode the Greyhound from just outside Medicine Hat, Alberta, to Toronto with a friend (we started out in Victoria, B.C., but her car's engine seized just as we crossed over into Saskatchewan; we sold the car for parts and hitched a ride with a Canada Post delivery truck to the closest bus "depot" — which was actually just a gas station on the Trans-Canada Highway). The bus ride was 48 hours long — nothing compared to the hellish trip experienced by the young couple who got on the same bus in Whistler.

It's my theory that in order to survive such a test of endurance, you must give yourself over to it completely: You've got to say to yourself, "This is my life now. I live on this bus. These are my people. I am never getting off." Only then can you actually begin to enjoy the trip rather than make yourself miserable counting down the hours until it is over.

I'm feeling this same way about a couple things this week:

1) My kid has a persistant case of pinkeye. Of course that means she can't go to preschool because it's so crazy infectious (she contracted it at a birthday party last weekend; half the girls in attendance got pinkeye, the other half the flu. I guess I should consider myself lucky — I hate cleaning up vomit).

Nor can we go anywhere kids are in attendance (that would be unethical), or set up playdates (passing on pinkeye is not the way to win new friends). Instead we must hang out at home, doing craft projects and struggling with the impossible task of forcing medicated drops into a four-year-old's eyes thrice daily. This is my life now. Today we made soft pretzels and watched My Little Pony.


I thought the pretzels were amazing (I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe). However, my picky kid is the most hyperbolic food reviewer; she said the pretzels were so horrible that people were going to fill the street outside our window and start chanting, "The dough is yucky! The dough is yucky!" A simple "no, thank-you" would have sufficed.

2) Kenneth King's Jeanius Craftsy class. I am never getting off this bus:

Drafting on silk organza
What you're looking at above is the pair of pants I am copying, basted along the seamlines with a thick, white thread, and then pinned to a piece of silk organza marked with grainlines. I've now finished transferring my draft to paper. Following this, I only have to test the draft, correct the draft, turn the draft into a pattern, and then construct a pair of pants. I am on Lesson 3 out of 11. These are my people now.


All of it wouldn't seem so daunting if I was actually confident these pants can be replicated. I couldn't even tell you what kind of fabric these are made from. They're from W118 by Walter Baker. (Not a brand I had ever heard of; I bought them at Marshall's last December). The tag says 64% Polyester, 32% Rayon, and 4% Spandex. They're obviously a woven, but I can't see a grainline for the life of me. And they seem to have at least a little stretch in every direction, which must be why they are so amazingly comfortable and super flattering. Probably my best bet would be to head to Mood and ask someone who knows their stuff. Or try making them in another fabric, and adjust the pattern as needed. (Also, somebody better help me eat the rest of these pretzels, or this pattern will definitely need a few adjustments).

Edit: I've been googling, and now I think they're a poly-blend crepe. 

So how do you maintain your calm when mired in a month-long sewing project with no end in sight?

17 comments:

  1. Thank you for a much needed laugh. Maybe your kid will like the pretzels more with a dipping sauce?
    I lost count of the number of muslins I made for a pair of pants I'm working on... must be at least 10. I think I'm finally getting off that bus though - out of muslin and ok with the last one I made, so on to the fashion fabric it is!

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    1. TEN!!?? No. No, no, no, no.....YOU must be seriously zen.

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  2. I do the exact same thing! And people laugh at me, but I feel utterly and completely Zen when I do it, say at the dentist or the gym. "I am going to be here for the rest of my life, this is reality." And suddenly it isn't so bad. Surely it is the core of "acceptance?"

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  3. Oh, the sewing project that doesn't end. I have that one - trying to sew the Colette Jasmine. I've done 3 muslins so far and no dice. My problem is the FBA. It's on hold now, since there's no sense in trying to make a blouse while I'm pregnant if it's intended to be worn when not pregnant, you know? I'll figure it out eventually. Instead, I'm suffering through making a maternity bathing suit (tankini) and getting the top portion so that there's enough support and coverage for me is a lesson in engineering. Seriously.

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    1. THREE muslins? You must have the patience of a nun. I would toss a pattern that took three muslins to get right.

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  4. It's pretty safe to say I don't maintain calm. My fallout normally happens around about the time I need bias binding to finish necklines, or armholes. I have been know to line the bodice of dresses simply to avoid having to sew in bias- for some reason, I procrastinate over it for HOURS, and then when I finally get up the nerve to just do it, I discover that it doesn't even take that long and isn't even hard. Yet EVERY TIME I get to that stage of a project, no matter how long... I just wig out and lose all sense of time and place. I've been trying to do a FBA on the Grainline Tiny pocket tank for near on 6 months. Nothing I do seems to work. I get so optimistic each time, and then it doesn't fit, and I wont hem the armholes. I seriously have about five of these in various stages of completion. IT"S NOT EVEN A HARD TOP! Anyway. Good luck with your jeans :)

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  5. I like the long busride as a metaphor for a tricky and trying sewing project! And your approach to it is pretty inspiring, to just focus on the here and now without rushing forward or making future plans. Something that surely can be applied to many everyday things in life (traffic jams, eternally long lines in a store etc). Basically, I sometimes wonder if maybe we as a society stress a bit too much about small things, as everything has become so instantly accesible.
    The trousers though... wow, I'm impressed with your patience!
    And the pretzels looks super-yummy!

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    1. I wish I could send pretzels through the ether to all of you. You people would appreciate them (unlike my picky kid and dieting husband!)

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  6. With biggger projects I just remember something said by a lady in a sewing class I was teaching. Another Lady had asked how she was going to manage to get her bag made and the other lady said- "How do you eat an elephant?" answer being - "one piece at a time"...
    although with some projects I actually have felt like just eating them, instead of carrying on ...!

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  7. I tend to lose my mojo when I have a time-intensive project that just isn't going well. Sometimes I'll start up another easy pattern to work on when I need a break, and it seems to help. Your daughter is hilarious! The things that you tell us she says reminds me a lot of my nieces. Kids have the greatest personalities!

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  8. i like to think by this time next week/month/hopefully not year whatever bus i'm on will be at a different station.

    your kid is hilarious. i wonder where she gets it from...

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    1. Yes, her flair for the dramatic comes from her dad, but her comic timing is a family effort.

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  9. it's great to see your jeans in progress. i am on lesson two and got myself all tangled up in transferring the markings from my jeans (where i feel confident i did them properly) to my organza (where everything went to pot!!)

    hope your baby feels better soon. i'll take some of those SK pretzels, though... :-)

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    1. Are you posting about your progress? I would love to hear about it. I'm so curious to test my draft and see how it fits — if it is anything like the original. It seems like that would be a miracle at this point!

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  10. Oh man, you are a stronger woman than I. At least you have amazing pretzels? I would totally eat those pretzels with you and watch my little pony.

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  11. Unfair as it might be, your kid's comment is just hilariously funny. Love it! Thanks for sharing :-)

    Your original fabric might be punta di roma. I think in the US it's also called punte. It's a heavier knit, that can hold shape quite a bit better that other knits, making it suitable for pants. The fabric content would fit.
    Cheers, A.

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