Archive for the 'books, films & music' Category

pants… and the ensuing book review

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

I’ve finally done what I set out to do when I enrolled in Wardrobe Refashion; I’ve made a pair of pants using the pattern in Wendy Mullin’s book Sew U.

This project had it’s trials, and some spur of the moment fitting solutions – such as narrowing the legs by restitching the side seams, and ripping out the topstitching in the rear in order to counteract some unattractive pooching – but I’m delighted with the finished, imperfect pants, with their slight jodhpur look. A friend said, “They look store-bought” and made my day.

I approach sewing in much the same way as I do cooking, with the attitude that every recipe is a sequence of simple tasks, and can’t possibly be too difficult. This may be inherited from my mother who can tailor a suit without blinking and shrugs off her skills as unimpressive, since despite my ambitious attitude I have never made more than the simplest of sewn garments.

For the most part I found Sew U to be a good guide. The book has a practical spiral binding, and the design is hip, with simple, informative illustrations. Wendy Mullin’s writing style is friendly and encouraging. She generously shares stories of her past sewing flops so that readers can avoid making the same mistakes. There are excellent descriptions of the steps involved in prepping and sewing a garment, and suggestions for how to personalize the three patterns included (for skirt, shirt and pants.)

However there were some real problems when it came to following the directions for sewing the pants. Several important steps are missing from the instructions, and I had to guess what the correct approach might be. Also I had to flip back and forth to earlier sections of the book, tracking down information on which areas to stay stitch, or figuring out the seam allowance, which is not printed on the pattern as promised.

I felt confused when prep that was heavily emphasized at the beginning of the book was skipped entirely in the directions. I had to guess whether this pattern was the exception, or whether the book assumed that I knew to do this. I resorted to writing in the steps as I figured them out, and sticking post-its on all relevant pages. Not ideal, but a working solution.

It’s possible that if I were a less experienced sewer, or a trifle less stubborn, I might have given up the project when figuring out the missing links became a challenge. That said, without this book I would not have had the courage to make any pants, and I am now a pant-sewing fiend.

I have the bug, and at the risk of turning into Celie from the Color Purple, I can’t wait to start my next pair. The only delay is which pair (dancing in my head) to make first. So, while Sew U may not be the best absolute beginner sewing book, it’s extremely encouraging, and contains enough general sewing advice to make it a worthwhile addition to any non-expert library.

wings of desire

Thursday, April 26th, 2007


I just watched Wings of Desire again. I saw the film shortly after it was made, and I remembered it as something I was supposed to like, rather than something I connected with. It’s good to let time pass.

This time I found the film incredibly moving. Angels walking among us listen to our thoughts and fears, and each person has a story which is vulnerable and unique. This reminded me of Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson; both are full of details so specific, and yet telling of universal experience. Descriptions of the sacred embodied.


Monday, January 29th, 2007

I like that word. Swatch. Today I swatched. I shouldn’t have but I couldn’t help myself; once in a while this woman has to swatch.

The temperature has dropped to normal winter frostbite levels, and I find myself glove and mitten-less. I could buy a pair and be done but instead I’m lusting over the Endpaper Mitts from See Euny Knit!, which also look good over at Knitting Box. I could just knit them, but I can’t seem to leave a good pattern alone; I feel compelled to modify it. It’s not you, pattern, it’s me.

The flower and bird motifs are adapted from Knitting in the Nordic Tradition by Vibeke Lind. This book has a dull cover that looks out of date, but don’t pass it by if you’re a knitter, the content is juicy and inspiring.

Feel free to place bets on when my hands will be properly attired.

circle play

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

I felt a little under the weather yesterday so I spent the afternoon camped out in bed with herbal tea, a West Wing DVD, and a long-overdue sewing project.

Since July 2004 (long before I’d heard of any of the cool swaps that are happening in the craft/blog world – which isn’t really saying much since I’m invariably a late comer to these things) I’ve been exchanging small artworks with two friends, one in Maine, the other in upstate New York.

We call it Circle Play, the idea being that we explore (very loosely) the notion of “circle”, and the word “play” is a good reminder not to get too perfectionistic. We were inspired to start by a small book that S had found, and which P and I ran out and bought immediately.

It’s full of embroideries exchanged between two women in Denmark and the US – this little focussed project that went on for years. It seemed like such a great way to stay creatively connected to each other when we live so far apart. And to make experimental objects – things we might not make otherwise. We figured out what our parameters were and got started.

And it worked! After our first year we gathered for a weekend and laid our all our treasured experiments on a long dining table, covering it. I had forgotten so many of the pieces I’d made, and seeing them again was like coming back to a familiar place. With all the work together I could see the relationships between the months – unconscious similarities or repetitions of a theme, reuse of materials and colors.

Last year Circle Play slowed way down, all of us pulled in other directions. It’s been months since I received the last piece from P, and it’s been nagging at me, like a letter that needs answering. Yesterday I sat on my bed watching “good daddy president” Martin Sheen and started my reply. I’m not ready to show it yet so instead here’s my very first piece from 2004.