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Thursday
May212015

Prom Dresses

High school English class was a haven for kids who liked to scribble. Fueled by the boredom and armed with nothing but loose-leaf paper and a pencil I scribbled out the prom dress of my dreams over the course of the semester. I would draw a little, daydream a little and then doodle some more. I kept that drawing for a really long time but I don’t have it anymore. I really wish I did. The sketch on the left is just a quick representation of that beloved original. I can remember that I drew it with a mechanical pencil so the lines were incredibly thin. The sketch itself was positioned lower on the page. I can’t remember what was above it. Maybe a title or maybe some long lost English notes. That’s not the only part that I’m foggy on. I can’t remember what the top looked like. I can’t remember if it had sleeves. I have a feeling that there were. They might have even been puffed sleeves with a lace detail. I just left them out. But the parts that I do remember, I remember really well. I was firm about the pointed waist. That was a must. I was firm about the colour. It was going to be a beautiful dark green teal. And those triangle shapes going down the skirt were going to be lace. White lace. Why white? I have no idea. This dress never went any further than a sketch. My sewing skills at the time would have never been able to pull it off. Looking at this sketch, wincing about those sleeves and recollecting my colour choices, I’m thinking it was probably for the best.

This is Emily’s last year of high school. The year of the prom and she asked me if I would make her dress. I think she worked up her sketch, the one on the right, mostly at home and not in English class. At least that’s what a mother likes to think. Her design is blowing mine to smithereens. The lines are so elegant and balanced. And the colours she picked are so perfectly her that I cannot wait to see her in this dress. She has also assembled some photos to help me understand what she means.

She wants the top to have sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. The only thing she didn’t like from this example is the pleating of the fabric.

She wants to have a cummerbund style waist but is waffling between the criss-cross effect like this one, or one that simply goes straight around.

And she wants a lot of chiffon at the bottom but without a gathered waist. We’ll see what I can come up with.

With the sketch, the photo references and the knowledge that the dress would have at least four layers with the smallest skirt circumference measuring 100 inches we waited for the big sale and then hit the fabric store. We bought a lot of fabric. Probably 20 metres or more. Without an actual pattern I was just guessing. I over guessed. But look at those colours. They’re so beautiful they can distract us from all of the excess fabric that will soon be delegated to the scrap pile.

Monday
Apr202015

The Tote Bag

The purse is decidedly not my thing. Ever since that trip to the mall with my very first purse it hasn't been my thing. I was eight. I think I was eight. It was my first time out with a purse. Of course I forgot it. The kind woman in the shoe store where I had left it chased me down in the middle of the mall. The embarrassment was so great that I decided a purse was just too much responsibility for me. The sentiment stuck and I have never been able to carry a purse without feeling like a fraud. Only responsible adults are allowed to carry a purse. Not people parading around pretending to be responsible adults and so I don't carry a purse. I made a tote bag and I carry that around instead. And yes, the irony isn't lost on me. It's really just a big purse.

Tuesday
Apr072015

The Career Dartboard

 

I sometimes wonder if from the outside it seems like I threw a dart at the career board while wearing a blindfold. The truth is that sewing has always been there. Silent and overlooked. But always there.

* * *

All of the clothes I remember having as a kid were homemade. There are three things that stand out. The floral dress with the red sash that Nanny made me. There was also a white button-down shirt with pink swans sewn on the sleeve cuffs courtesy of the fancy stitches on my mom's new sewing machine. It was supposed to be an Easter surprise but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and managed to see it early. And there was a sweater jacket with velvet panels. It wasn't even mine. My mom made it for my brother and I was insanely jealous.

* * *

Some teenagers haunted the arcade or the food court at the mall or musty basements with shag carpeting. My favourite was the fabric store. Nothing could hold my attention like those bolts of colour, texture and possibility. I never bought anything. I was just a stalker.

* * *

I'm not sure that home economics was ever in but when I was in school it was definitely out. Everyone took shop. I think I would have liked shop but you couldn't sew in shop. And shop wouldn't have given me permission to haunt the fabric store and present the opportunity to actually buy something.

* * *

I sewed a zippered pencil case in that class and I used it for all of high school. I didn't need to sew another zipper for about 15 years but I could still recall all of the steps thanks to that project.

* * *

My home ec teacher would talk about a sewing friend of hers that used to sew everything. She even sewed her own underwear. Since then, justified or not, serious sewing status has been reserved for people who sew their own underwear.

* * *

We didn't sew any clothes in that class so I tried to do it on my own. I made a red pencil skirt. I didn't believe in pressing back then. No wonder that skirt ended up with a waistband that resembled sausage casings. I hated that skirt. I never wore it. Not once.

* * *

When I was in college I had to pass by the sewing room. Rows upon rows of whirring machines. I'm not even sure what that class was. It was probably fashion design but it could have been sewing machine repair. Either way I always wished I was in that class instead.

* * *

I have a friend that used to spend hours and hours watching Jeanne Beker and the Fashion Television brigade picking out all of the things she would love to have. Her mother could take one look at those clothes and then recreate them. Her talent was both mysterious and magical. I was wonderstruck.

* * *

I sewed for myself for years. It was a hobby that I would take out from time to time. It wasn't really something that I talked about. It was just something that I would quietly do once in a while.

* * *

I read an article in a magazine about a vintage clothing collector. Listening to her describe fabrics, garments and the truly unique details she would find in these old pieces sounded more like music. Like a symphony of colour, shape and texture. Just talking about it now makes me want to go back and read the article again.

* * *

I read another article in a different magazine that listed the top ten jobs that were in high demand but not being fulfilled. I can't remember anything on the list before or after Clothing Alterer. It was the only thing on the list that I could do or had any interest in. The article claimed that it was something almost everyone needed but so few people could do for themselves anymore. I was a mom with three small kids. It wasn't even a remote possibility but I always remembered it.

* * *

An opportunity to sew for a living presented itself one day and in a brave move not often seen in my personal history, I took it. I haven't looked back.

Tuesday
Mar172015

If The World Was Made Of Glass

I wonder how long it would take for me to grow indifferent to the beauty of a world made of glass.

A really, really long time.

Monday
Nov102014

Kejimkujik

It's hard to believe that this paradise is a mere ninety minutes from our doorstep. Ninety minutes! So why don't we go more often? That is an excellent question.

I should also note that the third and seventh photograph in this entry were taken by the very talented third daughter.