Talking with a family member the other day about how people curate their online content to create an alternate world where they always look nice, their house clean, their work polished, I realized that as much as I value integrity and honesty, I also "put my best foot forward" when taking pictures for this blog. If there's stuff on the table, I move it so you only see my pattern pieces, not my dirty plates. If I take several unflattering pictures and one flattering one, guess which one I post? This is natural, and not entirely a bad thing. (After all, do you really want to see my dirty plates?) But there's a downside to the illusion of perfection. When all our friends and family look so perfect online, we might get discouraged or feel shame for the world of dirty dishes we have.
I never officially learned to darn... I simply figured out my own method after I learned some needlelace. My method is simple: first I used a doubled thread to outline the hole, giving it wide margins. Then I fill this outline with a Corded Brussels stitch. Where there is cloth, I sew the Brussels stitch through it, thus thickening the fabric. Where there is a hole, I just sew Corded Brussels stitch right over it, putting a layer of new cloth where there was none. When I'm teaching someone to darn, I use contrasting thread, but generally I match the sock color.
So remember the romance of gloves? Remember the talk about modesty and how people treat you in different clothes? This post relates to those.
Recently, I've taken to wearing the white mesh gloves I have for summer. At first I thought they'd make me more hot, but not so. The mesh allows air flow and the white actually seems to make my hands cooler. (I'm reminded of Civil War re-enactors of my youth, who when asked how they could bear to wear "all those layers" in blistering summer heat, would respond in character "How can you bear to show all that skin to the sun... you must just be roasting!") So when I have a pretty summer dress and cool summer hat, I also put on the pretty mesh gloves and feel quite put-together. What's been especially interesting, though, has been a change in how people treat me.
For a while, upon the advice of Carole Jackson in her book Color Me Beautiful, I chose camel as my wardrobe's neutral tone. But camel (a kind of warm brown) never inspired me. I tend toward analogous color schemes, so when I wore camel, I would pair it with brown, pumpkin, or tan... which is a perfectly fine look if you're a scifi desert dweller, but not a happy look for me.
A few times, my loving family would say I needed something to make my face "pop"--which is to say that I was melting into a camel puddle. (Khaki gives me the same problem!) I can wear it, but I need to ditch the analogous color scheme and put something bright and contrasting next to my face. However, what's the point of wearing something that doesn't make you happy? Camel didn't make me happy.
At a fancy dress ball last year I had an interesting experience. It was an all-white affair, not because of racism but simply because the people involved all happened to be white. (The crowd was middle-aged to elderly, for the same reason.) Most of us wore historical costumes or modern formal wear. A few people wore fantasy clothes.
One couple wore Indian clothing... gorgeous stuff! The woman's dress (Lehenga choli? Luanchari? No midriff seen) was gold and red and heavily embroidered with gilt and beadwork, and her husband wore a white satin tunic and pants (achkan and churidar), also elaborately adorned. They looked great! So I complimented them, as you do, and they told me they'd recently been to India for a friend's wedding, and they'd been given the outfits to wear to the three-day celebrations.
Here's what made it interesting: when I first saw them, I had two reactions almost simultaneously: "pretty!" and * awkward *.
When I was a small child, my dad tried to explain "market value" to me. Imagine you're selling an old bentwood rocking chair at a flea market. Two prospective buyers come along. One says "Cool rocking chair. Maybe that'd fit on my porch. I'll give you $20." The other says "My grandfather used to have a rocking chair just like that! I've always wanted one but never found one! It's perfect!" Who would pay more for the chair?
If Buyer 2 knew Buyer 1 had already offered $20, he would surely offer more! The chair might be worth $50 or $100 to him! Naturally I asked who was right. What was the actual value of the chair? And my dad said it was worth what people were willing to pay. That was the difference between market value and intrinsic value.
I dream of the perfect fit... of clothes that are simply perfect when I put them on, the grain hanging right, the ease just enough, the curves and shapes flattering. But in order for my clothes to be perfect, my body image must be accurate! And (as making my sister's block shows) understanding a body is easier said than done.
Something about having a sister... or being one... dictates that one must adorn the other. So my favorite person to sew for is my sister. Maybe it's because when we were growing up, she was my doll to be decked out as I wanted in all our games. Maybe it's because I love to show her to the world as I see her: beautiful and unique. But nothing I sew her is a success unless she wears it, and she is firm in her tastes. When I make things for her, I get to know her better: her preferences, her insecurities, her boldness. I want to learn what she wants to say, then give her the styling "language" to say it herself.
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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