Most of the time, I select fabric just because it catches my eye. Sometimes, there’s a purpose.
Next month is XOXO, and for me it marks a year of sewing in earnest. I decided to make an XOXO dress to celebrate. I gleefully ran around the fabric store to pull the bits together. And then when I started on it at home…
It was the first time in a while that I truly doubted my eye. Not only was I so sure in the fabric shop of how this would work, I had each component cut for exactly the length needed. I started in on the dress, wondering if I had imagined myself into a hot, dizzy mess.
Here’s the result:
I’ve nearly completed this dress:
What’s keeping me from finishing? I am convinced that somewhere out there is the perfect floral lace trim that needs to peek out from the bottom, and I haven’t found that trim yet. So this gorgeous print sits and waits for its turn to go to the ball.
Today I pieced out a dress combining these two fabrics:
I also started the next stage of this shawl, a Doodler by Stephen West:
And I went to an Intro to Synths class at S1 Synth Library, which also gives me access to using that library for the next month.
These are the fabrics that are lingering by my dining table, where I iron and cut my projects. Sewing happens on a much smaller table in my office.
The seashells print was purchased from a shop of Mississippi Ave in PDX that I think has since vanished.
The ringspun plaid – subtle, it’s a coffee brown with a inky, could-be-black, could be navy – was from the big fabric store in town, as was the dark denim on the bottom and the graphic map print above the denim. Not pictured: a denim lighter both in shade and weight. I bought five yards of both denims to experiment with, and I’ve made a single-cut dress from the dark denim.
Sandwiched between the map print and the ringspun: a Liberty lawn that reminds me of Gaughin. I cringe slightly at the term “luscious” when it’s applied to textiles. It is appropriate for this print.
So now: what do I do with these, and what’s first? And…. I am stuck. Stacking these for this photo did reveal the delightful, surprising way those plum and seashell fabrics talk to each other, though.
It was less than a year ago that I embarked on a challenge to make a dress per month. It started with finally finishing a dress I had long struggled with: a Colette Myrtle in a bright abstracted leopard rayon knit.
Working with rayon knit, especially if you’re new to it, is much like sewing drunk. It will escape your serger. It will laugh at your attempts to sew curved seams at a consistent allowance. It’s a pretty, drapey beast designed to lure you to novice sewing madness. And I was up against that beast, attempting to coax it into an encased waistband.
But I fecking finished it. I was more frustrated with its half-finished state and Myrtle’s occasional turn-me-inside-out-and-stitch-me-in-blind-belief ways. I figured out that a piece of cardboard would provide the temporary stability to get the elastic encased despite the rayon knit’s wiles.
The second I finished that knit dress, I cut another one in a so-gaudy-it’s-good yellow toile. I finished that Myrtle, hoisted it over my head and down my hips… And realized the elastic waist on a twill fabric was the cruelest thing I could do to my figure. I made it vanish. Then I promptly made another Myrtle in an orange twill festooned with ducks.
Myrtle and I have since made up, and frequently spend productive weekends together. Along the way, I’ve put a few other patterns under my belt, and began to develop my own.
I had one of my own patterns on when I got stopped by a woman who wants to develop a clothing line. Am I ready for this? No. But I know what I need to do to get there. And I also know I’m ready to start experimenting with this silk that has haunted me since the first time I laid eyes on it:
Today I wore this dress:
The fabric was one that made me squeal upon finding it at the textile shop where I’ve become a regular. With an upcoming library conference, I was determined to finish it in time to wear among my professional colleagues. I chose a red piping to give it just a little color and to pay homage to the Olivettis in the design.
I was able to pack this and eight other dresses I made in my case for Denver. Far more than I needed, but enough to account for whim and occasion.
Today was the last full day of conference sessions. I’ve received compliments on each of the dresses I’ve worn, with some realizing my delighted replies of thanks meant that I had sewn them.
This evening, I walked alone to a street lined with upscale bistros and boutiques. Wanting to wait out a line at one restaurant, I wandered into a shoe store known for eclectic design. I was curious about a couple of styles I had seen online and was surprised to find them less charming and more cartoony in person. What I was greeted with, however, surprised me more.
“I love your typewriters! Were you lucky enough to find that dress, or did you have to make it?”
It only occurred to me only recently that I should blog the sewing project I gave myself this past fall: make a dress per month. A simple challenge to build a skill and see where I could take it. I’ve overshot that goal, made a few other non-dress things as well, and have found that it has shifted my feelings about consuming and about presentation and a host of other issues that the one-day blog will give me space to discuss. Lucky to find? Lucky to make.
A colleague sent me this interview question from a library listserv:
Interestingly enough, I had a great question provided by a local HR Manager on this. She said she didn’t want to use it as first, but she said it was, in concert with the rest of the interview, an eye-opening look at the candidates.
Scenario: You’re new on the staff and we’re having a staff potluck. What do you bring and why?
She said that answers varied quite a bit.
– “A great new recipe I wanted to try,”
– “My favorite dish so that I don’t mind eating the left-overs,”
– “Whatever my supervisor suggests,”
– “I’d ask around and find out what everyone else is bringing and if there are any allergies I need to know about.”
Some were clearly more interested in what they would want to make/eat/experiment with versus what it would add to the potluck/staff. It’s an unexpected question and shouldn’t be taken out of context, but working with a new staff and the patrons is always an adventure and staffers have to be able to roll with the changes. It might add to the picture that the candidates’ resumes and responses to the traditional interview questions paint. (I’ve done some editing for grammar.)
It’s also a horrible question.
The more I read about Silicon Valley’s struggle to diversify its workforce, the more I’m reading narratives from People of Color who have been hired or interned there and their overwhelming feeling that they just don’t fit the culture.
I’m not in Silicon Valley, I’m not even in private business, but I do hire staff members and diversity is important to me. I want my library to reflect its community. Why this is a challenge is primarily caused by who goes into public librarianship – we are overwhelmingly white and female; I’m far from the only librarian who is “diverse via marriage” and not through my own demographics.
And I’ve been told by HR that we hire for fit. We ask situational questions: what would you do when… how did you handle this problem…. Hiring for fit is supposed to make it easier to transmit our institutional practices and values. It’s also a pretty damn easy way to wind up with a homogenous staff.
This potluck question, designed to be out-of-the-box and quirky, is dangerous.
You cannot separate food from culture. Very personal culture. How do you score this on an interview? How do you not penalize the person who brings the “wrong” dish to a hypothetical potluck? And how do you make the argument that making and bringing food for sharing is not still a highly gendered activity? How does this question not become how well do you fit in?
At the end of my first public library job interview, I was asked what kind of chocolate goodies I like to bake and bring to work. It signaled “you got the job.” But it also signaled who they expected me to be. I haven’t forgotten that question after nearly fifteen years in public libraries, and I’ll never ask it.