I know I’m pretty much the most “random” blogger out there, but as I am writing mostly for myself at this point, trying to decide on a point of view, I’ll take my liberties!
I had a wooooonnnnddderful conversation yesterday with a new friend. She’s a serious woman: an Ivy-League grad AND a London School of Econom-cs grad. We’re both trained “rationals,” so to speak. But each time we chat we end up talking about everything from spirituality to psychology to feminism to literature. She’s a bit of a lone wolf, I think, a bit like I have been, not because she doesn’t get along with people (like me, she’s gentle and pretty easy to get along with, I would think). The thing is that we’re both serious introverts. We’re both Myers-Briggs INFs. She’s a J, and I’m P, but I’m not a strong P, i.e. have elements of the J. Honestly, in some ways I feel as though she’s my lost twin.
Yesterday she dropped by (I was making copious graphs with thousands of little data points, which makes what ensued even more hilarious) and, as usual, we started talking about literature. That brought us to talking about Bath, and then we started talking about libraries (which involved comparing all of the various libraries we have visited in various corners of the world)…which led to it slipping out that although I’m an economist by training, I once also completed a graduate degree in library science/archival studies, just for the love of it. (It wasn’t the best use of money, really, as I’ve never worked in the field, but I’m an “experience” person and NOT at the root a rational at all (I had it trained into me)…let’s just chalk it up to that. )
Her immediate reaction? Ohhhhhh….I have ALWAYS wanted to be a librarian! I have thought so many times that I should do an MLIS. Say what?
I know it’s not a very exciting revelation that someone else wanted to have something to do with libraries (I had wanted for a brief moment to be an archivist rather than a librarian, only because I love being around old things more than anything in the world, and old combined with books (which are among the most beautiful objects ever created, in my view), was something that made sense to me). I even studied book restoration and paper making, which are closely allied. In the end, though, my analytical training and my desire to have a more secure career won me back to where I am now. But it was an unfinished love affair…
I have always felt that libraries are a sanctuary, and having visited a number of wonderful countries I’ve seen some gorgeous libraries in my day. When I was a kid we moved quite a few times for a period of time and I found refuge in the libraries of my new schools. In the community, too, I found a home at the public libraries in our communities. Seeing how much I loved books, the librarians became my friends and always had a new read to suggest. I was cleaning some books out of my spare room the other day and as I went through the books that I’ve kept after many many moves I see reflected in each one an important moment in my intellectual and personal development. In them, too, I see all of the questions I have always had about who I want to be, and why oh why must I choose just one thing to be? I now have a Kindle as well, that is full to the brim with works that have fixed my soul at one time or another. I want to read so many things that I will never get to in a lifetime.
This little stroll down the libraries memory lane, which, frankly, is something I almost completely forget about myself, until some random moment brings it to the forefront again, came on the exact day that I was also reconnecting with my interest in sewing.
When I was in my late teens and early 20s I learned to sew so that I could have the clothes that I wanted but could not afford. I sewed a lot, and thereby learned a great deal about how sewing patterns work. I made some pretty awful and ill-fitting things, because I was too lazy to find out how to make and finish things properly, although eventually I developed some skill by trial and error, and certainly an understanding of my own body shape, and made some reasonably complex and interesting things. I’ve always loved clothing and even from childhood was crazily sensitive to fabric and quality. My mother has always said that I have champagne taste, which I know drove her crazy but which I have come to understand is exactly right. If I wear something the fabric has to be a quality fabric. I can discern the exact composition of most fabrics from across the room. I just know when a salesperson is trying to sell me something that is crappy.
That’s all to say that I really don’t know why I stopped sewing. It just makes sense to sew: You can carefully choose exactly the materials that you want, and fit something to exactly your style, and learn and grow and be connected to what you are doing and wearing at the same time. Like my books, that each mark a moment in my neverending stream of pursuits and secret dreams, and each of the sweaters I’ve knitted and cannot get rid of under any circumstances, sewing just makes sense.
I was thinking this morning that I should have talked to my grandmother about sewing. I don’t remember her sewing, but I know she knew how, as I know that she made my mother’s wedding dress and I think some of her engagement clothing. I suspect it might have been because my grandmother had both arthritis and lupus, and given that playing the piano was her main event, she restricted her craft activities principally to spinning and weaving. I also wonder if it might have been because my grandmother and I were always strong personalities (I remember her once telling me that there were too many chiefs and not enough indians in the room when we were both in it, if you’ll excuse the outmoded expression that was used widely in the 70s).
My mother (far right), my grandmother, and my great-grandparents, probably in the church basement, at my mother’s engagement, I think. I remember anyhow that she said her engagement dress was made with pink and white striped fabric, so I think this is the one. Unfortunately, the pic is a bit damaged!
So maybe I dropped sewing because I didn’t have or didn’t think I had anyone to teach me. My grandmother died when I was 23, anyhow, which is another reason, and my mother literally loathes sewing, which I’ve mentioned before (I honestly think she might break out in hives on the sight of a bobbin). I even remember that I made a pretty nice jacket in a pale blue jacquard that I found at an upholstery store, and then when I was moving back to Canada from Australia I gave it away to someone. Just like that. And that was that. The only thing I have that remains of my earlier sewing activity is the black coatdress that I last wore at my grandmother’s funeral. When I think of my grandmother’s funeral I always smile, fortunately, because so many people came out of the wood work from my grandmother’s early life, long before I was born, who told me roll-on-the-floor stories about her…worth the price of admission, for sure.
That was definitely a tangent. So I suppose this is all to say that I love knitting, like a sister or a friend. She has always been with me and she always will. At the same time, I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to idea of connecting with the sewing community. I discovered, for example, that a blogger whose work I started reading a couple of years ago but who then promptly took a sabbatical, the Selfish Seamstress , has been back blogging for a while! Her return passed right by me!
I absolutely adore her writing, projects and quirky sarcasm. She does, however, make me feel incredibly sloth-like. I believe she has a full-time academic or at least professional job, seems to travel a fair bit, and makes at least the better part of her wardrobe, beautifully, by hand. Her writing is, of course, a dream. If you sew at all, I highly recommend that you check out her site (and take a look at the gorgeous wedding dress she recently sewed for herself). I would love to find a copy of that pattern!!
I’m also quite inspired by Jorth, whose blog brings me back to living in Australia, and whose sewing, writing and energy are always lovely.
As I mentioned the other day I’ve also recently discovered Tilly, who has a terrific voice and a great blog. Through Tilly I discovered Did You Make That? And oh my, there are countless others (A Dress a Day, Gertie, etc. etc.).
So what am I going to make? I’m definitely not going to abandon my knitting. I have a gazillion projects ready to start. I think the sewing will complement and nourish the knitting. They can work hand in hand.
So…for starters I have this burnt orange linen and vintage pattern (I’ll make the orange, sleeveless version on the pattern cover (Simplicity 6533)):
I developed a thing for mod dresses last year, goodness knows why, and something about the sassy orange number caught my fancy. I think it will be nice, and definitely a simple trial make. I just need to buy some lining and other notions and I am off to the races on that one. That might be my project for the weekend, although I’d like to make a skirt.
My second big project, and a more serious undertaking, is to make something with this wonderful Liberty cotton shirting fabric. It’s a bit too lightweight I think, for the pattern I have with it, so I’d have to line rather than face the bodice in the minimum, but I’m going to give this more thought. My boyfriend gave me the fabric for Christmas specifically to make a summer dress, but apart from a simple shirt dress or sun dress I just don’t have the perfect project in mind. Suggestions are welcome! (The purchase of the Simplicity 1803 pattern was inspired by Jorth, as linked above.) (Actually, funny story: I was with him when he bought the fabric in a somewhat snooty store in Florence. The salesladies didn’t seem to have much faith that I would be able to make something myself without ruining the fabric. Let’s prove them wrong!)
I have many Liberty fabric shirts in my wardrobe, as I love love love the patterns. I’m crazy for pattern and colour, in fact. My boyfriend knows how much I love blues as well. Pretty, no?
Well that’s about it! I’ll finish the blue sweater this weekend and then will hopefully post a photo of that. It snowed today in Ottawa, but as it’s simply not possible for me to wrap my mind around wet snow and sleet in April (even though it happens almost every year), I am going to end with this photo of my grandparents’ cottage on a sunny lake when I was a wee thing.
The blue sweater, in progress, folded over (just so you know it actually exists!) (bust:33):