How Could a Seamstress Not?

The Spring of 2020 might look something like this in your home.

For me it was without hesitation and with a feeling of how-could-I-not, I wanted to help where I could in our world’s crisis. What? People are sewing masks? I can do that! I chose the one man assembly line approach for production thinking I would be more efficient. At this point, many face masks have been completed . . . and delivered. Finding the pattern (there are many out there) that pleased me, locating sewing supplies around the house, obtaining twist ties from the neighbors, this has been an all-consuming project for the past few weeks. My goal was to help out the helpers. Today, I delivered a quantity of 25 to a local nursing home and a batch of 50 were packaged for the local EMTs. Neighbors, friends, and family members have been gifted.

Here you can see the stockpile as it grows into completion. Once the prototype was made substituting elastic for ties, full production began.

Products need content information. That’s when I called upon my dear BF. Together we wrote the message whereupon he designed and printed the perfect thank yous to stuff into each one.

I heard that tightly woven 100% cotton was most breathable. That cemented the fabric choice. Of course, the masks needed to be washable. Filter pockets were added to the back lining to make them as versatile as possible.

Twist ties were sewn to the top and sandwiched in between the layers of fabric. The wire helps with fit. The reason why these ties ‘work’ is they take away the strain from long lengths of time behind the ear, they are adjustable, and the fabric is cut on the bias providing a bit of give or stretch, much more comfortable than otherwise.

The entire topic of hand made masks is debatable, I realize. Not medically approved, not yet officially mandated in public, wear with a filter . . . or not . . . these are just some of the conversations being had. And I might add, down deep I am hoping these FOs (finished objects) never get worn because that would mean we, as a Nation, have enough medical supplies to do away with make shift masks OR the the data and our methodologies reveals a virus in control. The effort of thinking I could help goes way beyond that of whether these masks will be used or not, however.

Here is a recipient wearing a sunny yellow. Sure does match her personality!

And, while I was writing this post, I received this text. “My sister and brother-in-law in Rochester – I’m going to send 2 to Rochester, 2 to the judge and two to Mary Ann if you can make six and if you feel like making more I have plenty of people . . . ”

Plan, Make, Finish, Wear

This is a question some of us, as knitters, ask ourselves. Are we wearing our hand knits? We ask that question for the sole purpose of giving ourselves a reality check. If the idea is to be adding a beautiful hand knit to our wardrobe, truly are we? This is essentially the honesty factor as to why we do what we do and whether we are succeeding in pulling off the look that we were after by knitting these garments in the first place. We all know, no matter what the creative process or how capable we are in our craft, some projects ‘work’ while others do not.

One such knitter has taken this particular topic to task and back in January of 2019 offered an opportunity via a thread on Ravelry to post what she calls ‘street-wear’ photos. Street-wear photos are candid shots of us in our hand knits, in our every day lives, doing whatever it is we do, at work or at play. And, then to post those photos on the thread.

I was smitten with this question because I have always thought and have said . . . yes, I do wear my projects and very much consider them a part of my wardrobe. I have even been known to say, I shop very little for clothes because finishing a garment is like adding a new piece to my wardrobe. So, I remembered this sort of self-monitoring opportunity and as I traveled through this last year, thought, I am going to test my own statement. Not sure on how I was I going to get the photo, I figured I could lean on selfies as a last resort. Of course, I was thrilled when I found some candid shot that had been taken of some activity or function I was at and found that I just happened to be in the background . . . with a hand knit on!

The below is a one year effort. The photos are not necessarily becoming (boo) but they do illustrate that my hand knits are my wardrobe. I have paired the ‘every day shot’ with a photo that was taken during the original photo shoot so you can more clearly see the garment. The top photos or photos on the right are from the ‘posed’ while the others are the recent, candid ones. All of these projects can be found on my Ravelry page and are discussed in full length on my website.

From left to right, I am at the Science Museum in a celebration, gift giving a baby sweater (I knitted), and in NYC for work with colleagues.

In the second photo, I am at a Christmas party for Habitat for Humanity, difficult to see, but I am in the back with my beautiful hoodie glam, one of my all time favorites.

a selfie and working a job fair . . .

preparing for a presentation and at the airport . . .

The photo on the right is from a knitting guild meeting. I am actually working on the Messoni that you see, above. The photo on the left was ten years, ago and our very first hubby and I did together ‘on location’. (See fashionscape.) Can’t believe I still grab for this sweater to wear.

In the ‘everyday’ shot, I’m out and about in the rain and to its right, at the Art Gallery for a night out.

And, possibly the inspiration for this post was this photo below, right, that was snapped recently by a dear friend who exhibited such joy when I asked her to photograph this.

To readers I suggest considering such questions. “Am I wearing my hand knits? Is that my intention? What keeps my knits on the shelves as opposed to being worn? Am I making intentional moves to change what is not working?” Posing such questions to yourself and answering them honestly may help you to become the knitter you want to become.


Making Connections

This morning, I am indulging in reminiscing. Perhaps because it is a typical snowy morning in January, the likes that have been unusually rare this winter. Or perhaps it is because I have recently recaptured my mojo for knitting and feel a need to keep my writing in sync or perhaps I was inspired by a recent thread on Ravelry. It could also be a good time for reflection as we head into 2020 perhaps with ideas of projects for the year and goals for completion.

I am thinking about sewing. The years and years of sewing I did long before I became a knitter. I remember waking up one day during my fifth grade summer and asking to make a dress. Mom pointed to a pile of newspapers and said, “There! Use all you need.” I said, “No, I mean with fabric.” And, so it began that I was sent to a neighbors who gathered up supplies and time and helped her daughter and I sew our first dress. Well, the experience stuck and through the years, the basement of childhood home turned into a sewing room, begging for fabric was my second name, and learning about construction through trial and error was my passion.

Today, as the flakes are falling, I am thinking of my Aunt who also became an inspirational sewing teacher to me and I am quietly thanking her. She taught me zipper installation. This is taken from my mom’s scrapbook.

I would barter with my mom. An hour of piano practice for a yard of fabric. I became quite good on the piano earning me an opportunity to perform through the years. But, of course, I was much happier with the dress with the puffy sleeves than I made for my performance, here.

Now, I’m thinking about my sister and how I sewed for her. Lots of things, almost always in a sweet mini print or soft plaid. She is here with Pierre.

When Ravelry’s Vogue Knitting group began a thread about sewing asking for people to share, it brought up these memories. I went searching for my personal photos that had an item of my sewing in them and that led me to search for electronic photos of patterns. Long gone are mine. My memory served me well and how fun to find this pairing. I am in the back, the jacket elsewhere, I loved this outfit sewn in a pale blue cordless corduroy. I remember wanting the pants to keep their creases so I added a very narrow row of stitching at the center fold of the pant to help keep the look I wanted.

I also found this pattern in the search and so wished I had a photograph of this outfit. I’ve admired Betsey Johnson for years and years.

Prom anyone? I would have cropped out my date but we were so cute. Now, when I shared this on Ravelry, the conversation went towards the car and I never once noticed the make, only the fact that my date opened the door for me. I do not remember the pattern’s resource but very much remember my jumpsuit that would probably be more ‘in’ today than it was then but I sure loved it.

I very much remember that my wedding dress was designer, Albert Nipon so finding that pattern was a cinch.

Through the years, I sewed for countless people. Button down shirts, bowling style shirts, church suits, children’s clothes, and probably the most intense project was a traditional wedding dress for a relative, the fit was perfect.

Funny, but here is my attempt this past Christmas decorating the Christmas tree. From ornaments to ribbon, a sort of dress for the tree?

The connection that the thread on Ravelry was making was the recollection of how the Vogue Knitting magazines would pair up hand knits with garments that were from sewing patterns. We appreciated the opportunity to sew the clothes that we saw in the gorgeous photographs of the magazines. We appreciated the guidance in being our own fashion plate and we appreciated the inspiration of instilling creativity in the reader/knitter. Does this look familiar to any of you? Here is how the knit/sewing opportunity was provided.

I wondered what the reader might get from this post? While certainly a walk down memory lane for me taking pause to appreciate, I thought it could serve as a reminder to thank those who have helped you along your journey. Or, to realize the connection one craft has to another to appreciate from whence your skill has come. Maybe, there is humor somewhere in here or something that strikes familiar that will allow you to recollect something or someone from your past.

I wish everyone a happy new year and a most successful year in crafting and project completion no matter what the skill, activity, or passion.

In Appreciation

Call me old-fashioned, not with the times, or even schoolmarmish, I cannot say enough how I appreciate a well-intentioned thank you.  Whether a wave from a stranger in a car,  a smile followed by a nod in a waiting line, it matters to me.  When it comes in the form of writing it is especially sweet but when in handwriting, that thank you lingers in my heart for a very long time.

As I transition back into the work force, I want to share these heart-felt notes that came my way from the volunteer experiences I recently had.  The first is from Buffalo City Mission where I taught knitting during their winter semester.  We had a very successful time as evidenced by the ladies’ projects as seen here.  I am heading back for their summer session and look forward to new projects while promoting our big idea of Stitch(ing) Away Stress.  That’s the name of our class.

This other hand-written thank you is from the head of the Wednesday crew where I served as an on-site construction worker for 1 1/2 years.  Both Chuck and I are moving to other opportunities but his kindness and compassion in helping me find my way during that time will live with me into eternity.  I will very much miss Habitat for Humanity, Buffalo while on my employment hiatus but who knows, with my newly obtained skills as a construction worker, I may be back!

Peeling Back the Layers

This is on the topic of life after the loss of a loved one.  Not the emotional impact nor the significant life change but more-so on the items that were labeled ‘his’ that were left behind.  What I call the layers of physical reminders in and around the house.  Loss is a tricky thing and we all cope differently.  I am speaking of how I handled his ‘comforts of joy’ that I no longer desired to have around. Where to begin?  How to deal?  Well, I did what I do best.  I organized them. I organized in groupings, like layers, from easiest to most difficult in their significance to our relationship meaning the easiest to the most difficult in coping with each of his things.

I call it the removal of layer one.  These are the large furniture-like pieces that I wanted removed from the house quite immediately after his passing.  Like neon signs of significant loss. Examples: his leather chair, his dresser. Our bed. I was on the hunt very quickly to find someone who could utilize this large furniture.  His clothing and shoes.  These items found alternate homes quickly.

Layer two.  These are things that were of significance to him, only.  His toys. Such examples: his fishing rods and equipment, baseball hat collection, pen sets.   Homes for these things were sought after the ‘big’ items.  Of course, offerings to family members were made, accepted, and appreciated as keepsakes.

Layer three and by far the most difficult to confront were items of his, however held the memories of our connection to one another, his passion and obvious talent. These items of his stemmed around all things music. His large collection of musical instruments, both woodwind and baroque, sheets of music, and extensive CD collection had to go.  About a year and a half has gone by and I knew it was finally time to face the inevitable.  What to do with them?  Knowing that instruments need to be played to keep from self-destructing as well as knowing their function is to be played, it was time.  Well, what instruments need are musicians.  Musical friends came to mind first in bidding them farewell.  Then, consignment shops.  A local shop took in his woodwinds. The baroque instruments . . . a trip to Boston.  Taking the baroque instruments back from whence they came could serve as purpose, perhaps some pleasure.

Potpourri Boston ~ We chose a quaint little apartment airbnb in Boston’s Historic North End.

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