"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Monday, January 20, 2014


It seems I have been on a path of deconstruction for a long time. It started with clothing, like taking things from the Goodwill, cutting them up (deconstruction), and making them into something else. Over time, it has applied to a lot of other things, although the other things might be defined better as downsizing. But it's all of a piece...the effort to start over, clean up, organize, and rethink.

The deconstruction of clothing has been a lot of fun, and a wonderful learning experience which is still ongoing. I have lots of ideas for things and techniques I want to try. The Goodwill has become my favorite shopping place, despite the rather creepy atmosphere, and the transients that haunt the place—to keep warm in the winter, and to cool off during the summer. There is also a part of me that feels a bit guilty for shopping there, when I see people who obviously can't afford to shop anyplace else, when for me it is just to troll for future projects. But I still go, and I still find things I can take apart and put back together as something new.

The deconstruction of my life is a bit different, and in some cases hard on the emotions. For almost a year I have been in the process of getting rid of stuff that I don't really need, or use. This involves giving family heirlooms to other members of my family to pass on, since Robert and I have no children. Mostly it means going through drawers, closets, and the (gasp) garage, and cleaning out stuff that hasn't seen the light of day in years. It's a little appalling how much clutter and "stuff" can accumulate over the years without us being aware of it, until a drawer is so crammed with junk you can't open it, or there is a wall of boxes in the garage that prevents you from getting to the washing machine. The revelation in all this, is that once you start getting rid of all that extraineous stuff, you start to feel lighter, freer, unburdened. I still have a long way to go in this process, but I keep working at it, one drawer, box, or cupboard at a time. I have taken carloads of stuff to the Goodwill, which I sorta think of as paying it forward. They will be getting lots more, and it doesn't hurt that it's a nice little tax write-off.

This emotional deconstruction can also apply to people. There comes a time when you realize some people don't make your life easy, and in fact, can make you a crazy person. To decide to eliminate these people from my life is a hard thing to do, especially if it is someone I have known for a long time. The question I asked myself, "Is being around this person hard work, or do they make being friends easy?" This is not to imply that I abandon friendships just because things get a little rough sometimes. All relationships go through those kinds of stages. What I mean is the type of person who just constantly becomes more of an irritant, someone I have to walk on eggshells around in order not to tick them off, and whose negative attitude toward other people starts to rub off on me without my being aware of it, until suddenly I think, "Wait a minute, that's not how I think about so-and-so, who has never done anything to me." It is then that I decide, enough is enough. It's sad, since these same people can be generous and giving, but not enough to make up for the other half of their personality. Fortunately, I have not had to make that decision often, and it is always painful when I do, but the relief afterwards, knowing that I will no longer have to be constantly on my guard around this type of person,  is the reward.

My current act of deconstruction is with my jewelry. I have pieces that have been around for years and never sold. Some are ones I made when I first started learning how to work with beads and wire, others are pieces that for whatever reason just didn't sell. So the other day I decided to go through all the things I had and take apart the ones that had been hanging around way too long. Some were pieces that I really liked, and I was a little sad that no one else liked them as much as I did, but ah well. After about two hours, I ended up with a great pile of components all ready to be made into something new, which is exciting. I also went through my stash of beads and findings and got pretty mercenary about tossing things I'd had for eons and never used. I am also upgrading my stock, so pitched anything that looked a bit too shoddy or worn. All of those bits and pieces went into a big plastic bag, which will also be donated to the Goodwill. I still have a few storage boxes to go through, but the bag is filling up nicely, and my work area is getting a lot more organized. I like that!

During this whole deconstruction process, I have had this picture in my head of a woman walking down a long road, carrying a huge, bulging knapsack on her back. As she walks along, things keep falling out of the knapsack. Behind her, for miles and miles, is a trail of "stuff" that she doesn't know is gone. But without realizing it, she is walking straighter, standing taller, and moving easier. Soon, there won't be anything left in that heavy knapsack, and then she'll be free.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Finish One, Start Another

Finish One

The finished project was the linen underdress for my SCA Spanish surcoate. The surcoate was one I made back in the mid-80s. I used to wear it with a white shirt and skirt. The shirt has since fallen apart, and the skirt is way too small in the waist. It is also black, and gathered. To undo all those gathers and try and mess with black thread on black cloth...well, let's just say I decided to make a proper linen underdress instead, which is what the garment would have originally been worn with anyway. One I could also wear with other costumes I already have, or ones I might make in future. Other than the cost of linen putting me into a major case of sticker shock, the project went quite well. Luckily, I had a 50% off coupon from JoAnn's Fabrics, so the cost was not as bad as it might have been, but yikes!

Here is the finished underdress. The only decoration is pearls sewn around the sleeve binding. Oh, and just one of the many things I love about linen is the way it drapes so beautifully.

This is the costume as it was worn, with the headpiece.

Start of Another

The new project is one I posted about back in September. Robert had picked up a long denim dress to use for a dummy he was making for a mounted archery event we were putting on in October. The dress didn't work for the dummy. At first, since it was a petite and too tight across the shoulders for me to wear, I was going to donate it back to the Goodwill, from where it came. But then I decided that if I cut the sleeves off, it would fit okay. So that's what I did, and I also cut off the collar. I left the edges raw, since I wanted them to fray. At that stage I put it on the back burner while we dealt with the mounted archery event, and then I moved on to the linen underdress.  Today I pulled the duster back out from hiding, and started playing around with it.

First thing I knew I would have to do, is take in the waist and sides. It was basically a sack, and I don't do sacks (why work to keep a nice trim waist, and then hide it under sacky clothes?). So, I put it, inside out, on Inara, and started pinning darts up the center back and taking in fabric at the side seams. This involved lots of pinning, trying on, re-pinning, and trying on again. I am no tailor, so this darting and fussing is new to me. It became clear that if I didn't also take up a lot of slop at the sides under each armhole, the darting in the back wouldn't really take in enough excess fabric to give me the look I wanted. So after a lot of pinning, adjusting, basting, and finally sewing it all down, this is what I got.

This is before I removed the basting stitches (in off-white thread), cut away the excess fabric, and ironed it all. You can see that I really had to cut a lot of fabric away from under each arm, then taper the seam back into the existing side seam.

Then I sewed everything down, trimed out the excess fabric, and ironed the piece (and apparently didn't take a photo of that stage). Next was to mark the split up the back with soap.

I sewed a 1/4 inch seam on either side of the soap mark, squaring off the end. Then I...gasp...cut up the back, following the soap mark.

This is where things got left today. Next step is to stencil a design up the front, along the hem, and up the split in the back, with black fabric paint. I haven't found the right stencil yet, but am thinking of something vine-like. Last step will be to put in a black linen gore in the back where the split is, giving the duster some flair and a slight bustle effect. I will probably add jet and blue beads to the stencils, and small bits of black lace as reinforcement where the center dart ends above the split. I am also thinking of cutting off the hem of the duster, sewing around the edge with black thread, and letting the hem ravel like the neck and armholes. Yeah, I think I will do that.

I mentioned before, when I first posted photos of this duster, that if I got really insane, I would replace the buttons, but the buttons go all the way down the front. Replacing them would probably make me crazier than I already am...and yet. We'll see, when the piece is all done.