My words can be wiser than I am.
Sometimes I'll re-read an instructable, a recommendation letter or an explanation of a project that I wrote- and I am struck dumb. What would happen if I applied this information to other areas of my life? What would it be like to actually take my own advice?
The last 2 weeks have been rough. There's been a lot of grieving and family relationship stuff that is hard, very real, and incredibly boring. My work has been on display in new ways, both the mobility art and the e-book I've been working on. It's good and awful and exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. The stress level jumped up several notches, and it's been hard to concentrate. It took me way too long to write up my last Instructable, but I finally got it out. And then, a few days later, I re-read one of the steps.
"If you're in doubt, start with a simple first step. Ideas will come to you as you work so you can move on to the next step, and the next, and the next. Working on the project will give you ideas and inspiration that you can't imagine while in the planning process."
Surprise, surprise. That information is useful for so much more than sculpting faces. Maybe it's time to pay a little more attention to what I'm writing.
This week was full of memorials, obituaries, and funeral plans.
Not everything had to do with death, of course. Thank you to Leonard Greco for a wonderful lunch and talk of art, to Kate Conklin for a lovely lesson exchange and to Lois Lambert of the Functional Art Gallery for an honest and generous assessment of my artwork. Thanks also to Lauren Love and L. M. Attea in Baraboo, WI for hosting a dinner to honor Dave's mom and her legacy in that town. Thank you to McKerrin Kelly, Gia Mora, Kate Barlow, Pam Noles, my brother and sister, mutual friends of Steve Nelson, and all of the folks from the Summerset Festival of the Arts for their support and reminiscences.
I will come up with my own once I've processed. It may take me a very long time.
So instead, here are the obituaries for Rochelle Robkin and Steven Nelson. I'm also including a link for help in funding Corinne Ferguson's funeral and a memorial event for Michael Sheppard.
Rest well, my friends. I miss you all.
This past week had major struggles, and I'm having trouble processing them.
Of course, there were good things, including a completely ridiculous superhero ensemble, some solid work on Instructables, a successful vocal recital and great help from great friends. The big ugly 2 out shadowed almost everything else, though. Dave's mom is dying quickly, and one of my very best friends was killed in a hate crime. I will be able to tell stories of Steve Nelson and why he was such a formative person in my life, but not right now. It's too fresh.
Steve, you are my hero. You are wonderful, fabulous, flamboyant and could piss off a saint. You taught me how to embrace people's flaws, even my own.
I miss you terribly.
Grief and gratitude. These words get so overused. They've become commercial greeting card terms, the kinds you use when you just don't know what to say. They sound patronizing and trite. But sometimes, they are the only words that fit.
This week was a blend of grief and frustration with waves of gratefulness: for the wonderful people in my life, for the help I've been getting and even for myself. It's sad and wonderful and exhausting all at once.
Thanks for watching seedlings grow from seeds and for replanting. Thanks to Heather Woodbury and Anthony Tusler for believing that Opulent Mobility is an idea worth growing and sharing. Thanks to Rachel Stander for keeping me on track with e-book editing and to the Los Angeles Visionaries Association for a self-publication checklist I got at one of their lovely Sunday Salons. It's good to get an idea of what steps to take next. Thanks to the TV gig for superhero silliness this week. Those masks I made for the old Etsy store are coming in handy now. Who knew?
Thanks to me for building Kali in stages and writing about it. It started out as a way to keep writing regularly, and it's grown to be something much more. It's hard to explain. It keeps me accountable, forces me to see the progress in stages, and gives me perspective on both setbacks and successes. It even seems like other folks are enjoying the process too. Again, who knew?
And finally, thanks to the Robkin family for some perspective on the process of dying.
So my blog lost all of its formatting a while ago and I couldn't figure out how to fix it.
In the meantime, I moved my tutorials over to Instructables. The format is much easier to read than it is here on the blog and it's better for getting in all the details. You can find the making of the Jazzy Peacock Scooter from beginning to end. There are 16 Instructables, starting with making the "eye" of each peacock feather and ending with assembling the entire sculpture.
This work started out as a Jazzy Mobility Scooter found abandoned at the side of the road. It was quilted piece by piece out of reused textiles, trims, and bits of old clothing. The full work took 9 months to create.
Thanks for being patient while I fuddle around with technology!
If you have the bug for creating your own patterns and shapes, there's a world of possibilities out there in the land of books. Here are just some of the books I can suggest to you to get you started in the fabulous world of pattern making and draping. These are the ones I"ve used for years, and most of them are out of print, but they are still findable online.
There are a lot of fashion patterning books and tailoring books, and many of them focus on pattern drafting. I don't do much standard pattern drafting since I'm much more of a sculptor. Draping is better for you if you're more sculptural, if you think 3-dimensionally and like to cook by smell and by taste. Pattern drafting by the numbers is better if you're a serious recipe follower, enjoy knitting, and like things to be logical and structured.
If you like a more structured approach, go to the classics and try the Singer sewing books (as in Singer sewing machines). They're straightforward and to the point and were updated many times through the decades. They are out of print now, but finding older and well-used copies is easy.
Patterns for Theatrical Costumes by Katherine Strand Holkeboer (now Evans-Strnad) is a wonderful book for any costume making beginner. This book shows you historical costume shapes and silhouettes at their most basic, leaving it up to you where to play. It's a great way to start making historical patterns and costumes- and the shapes can easily translate into modern wear. It's one of the first really useful presents I got as a beginning costume person and it covers shapes from ancient Egypt to 1915 along with wizards, animal costumes, and nun's habits. I highly recommend it to anyone getting started. The patterns need to be scaled up (1/8" = 1"), but it's a simple procedure.
There are many historical costume patterning books, but Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion series is meticulously researched and detailed. These are very serious and historically accurate patterns, but they can be tricky to make up. Proceed with caution. This is for you if you truly want historical accuracy.
Norah Waugh's books can show you how to make everything from corsets and crinolines to historical costume patterns from 1600-1900. The Cut of Men's Clothes, Cut of Women's Clothes, and Corsets and Crinolines are classics in the costume making world.
From the Neck Up is THE book on millinery, also known as hat making. In the book, Denise Dreher has one of my favorite forewords of all time. Her description of the difference between rules and principles applies to so much more than hats.
If you've ever wanted to make your own high-heeled shoes (or slippers and sandals and handbags), check out Mary Loomis' Make Your Own Shoes. It's very dated and a little silly and her techniques still work beautifully. One note: I strongly suggest using modern safety precautions instead of the ones she mentions in the book. Leather glues require good ventilation and frequently a respirator.
Last but not least- here is some inspiration. Madame Barbara Karinska was one of the most imaginative and highly skilled drapers and costume makers out there. Her work for George Balanchine's ballets made her famous, but she also created costumes for burlesque, Broadway and film and even won an Academy award for her work on Ingrid Bergman's Joan of Arc.
Of course, this isn't all there is, but it will get you started. Pick what you are most intrigued by and go from there. Happy reading!
So maybe you're getting into making patterns.
If you're enjoying it, there are many tools that really help. You don't need absolutely need them, but the right tool can make your work much easier.
Tracing wheels are great tools for marking out your lines. Pin the piece of clothing down to your paper and use the wheel to press along your seam lines. Presto! You now have instant seam lines that are easy to read. Tracing wheels come in all kinds, from a smooth wheel to the extremely spiky. Pick the one that will do the least amount of damage to your fabric.
The spiked tracing wheel is my favorite.
Do you really want good clean lines? Invest in some specialty rulers. They help you make your angles clean and your curves smooth and pretty.
From top to bottom, there's an L-square ruler, which helps with right angles and straight lines. Next there is a plain metal ruler and a 2" x 18" gridded clear plastic ruler. Those both help make nice straight lines and to draw in seam allowances. next is the clear plastic French curve. That round head helps make nice arm and neck hole shapes and the rest of it makes smooth curves of all kinds. On top is a clear plastic hip curve with a gridded straight ruler built in, useful for hip shapes, curved seams, and straight lines.
Curved rulers make those "pretty curves" I mentioned in so many of the earlier tutorials. Line them up to your pin marks or tracing lines and use them to guide your hand so you can easily draw smooth lines.
Safety blades are great for cutting patterns out. You can use retractable blades or standard safety blades. They make the process fast and easy on your hands, and you can use the metal rulers as a guide for clean and beautiful lines. Just remember to use a large piece of cardboard or a cutting mat underneath your paper! You can do serious damage to your tables and ironing boards otherwise. (I speak from sad experience.)
On the left is a cutting mat. Cutting mats are great if you have room for them and can afford them. Most of my patterns don't fit on my mats, and full table sized mats are expensive. Sheets of cardboard or broken down boxes work pretty well in a pinch, so don't buy this unless you're really going to do a lot of cutting. If you've got the room and the cash, though, they can be a life and tabletop saver.
On the right is a pattern notcher, which will make nice, clean notches in your patterns. Notches are the road signs on your patterns: the little marks that tell you where to pay attention. A notcher can be easier on your hands than using scissors. They're not necessary, but they are fabulous.
All of these tools are nice to have, but don't let the cost or the details scare you off. You don't need most of them, and you can find used tools for cheap. Check out places like Craigslist or Freecycle, ask if you can borrow a friend's tools, or make friends with a tailor.
Honestly, DIY can be more fun with friends.
Time to make that knit top pattern be true!
"Truing up" a pattern means checking out all of the seams to make sure they match up as they should. In the last few tutorials we've checked out some of the seams, but you can't fix them all until you have them all. Now we have all the patterns made and are ready to rumble.
Here are the steps in picture format. There are a lot of them, but the steps are simple. And when you're done, you have a finished pattern ready so you can cut out a new top.
Now we can get that bust panel on paper. For this step, you'll need all of your pattern pieces from before. These are the back pattern and the tummy pattern, also called the lower front. You also need a pen or pencil, a ruler and paper scissors.
Get a specific pair of paper scissors. Plastic handled ones are perfect. Paper will dull your scissor blades fast, making them useless for cutting fabric. If you use someone's very expensive fabric scissors on paper, expect a screaming fit.
Here are all the steps in photo format:
Stuff I Left Out:
1. I usually don't add seam allowances to my patterns. That's because I was trained to make costume patterns. Costume patterns generally don't have seam allowances added, because you want to be able to add different seam allowances to different areas (like side seams and center backs). This makes the finished costumes easier to alter to people of varying sizes, and means you can rent out the costumes later and help cover your expenses. Fashion patterns do have seam allowances, because they get bulk cut in large quantities and no one wants to spend the time adding allowances.
Why is this important?
2. Technically, I should true up my patterns by lining up the actual seam lines, not the edges of the seam allowances. That means I'd need to draw in my seam lines on all my pieces and overlap them to get an exact match. And I didn't do that. It takes a lot of time. And you know what? For this pattern, it doesn't matter.
Why is that not important?
3. This is a stretch knit fabric pattern. It is very forgiving. The final fabric will stretch enough to make it fine. And since there's only a 1/2" seam allowance, it won't be off in any significant way.
Thanks for following along! Now you have all of your pattern pieces for a knit surplice top.
Okay! It's now time to pattern out the bust panels. You'll need another dismantled paper bag, straight pins, a pen or pencil, a ruler and the top you're patterning.This is a little more complicated than the other pieces. The bust panels each have a dart and it will take some folding and fussing to see our lines clearly. But have no fear! You will get it. There are just a few more steps involved.
We're also only patterning one bust panel, since they are both identical. Clothing manufacturers assume that all women have 2 boobs of equal size. This isn't always fair or true, but it is how this top was made.
Here are the steps in picture format:
Keeping the seam allowances folded away from the body of whatever you're patterning helps a lot. It lets you see the seam lines clearly and also lets you pin out an exact seam allowance. That way, you don't have to add those allowances later.
Congratulations! You've patterned the bust panel. Next time we'll clean up the paper pattern.
A. Laura Brody
I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. Sometimes I staple drape.