Sunday, February 24, 2008

Challenge #2, Oy!

Maybe if the project I select for the challenge gets too personal, that's when I run into trouble.  I'm usually a fairly decisive person, but this assignment has me twisting and spinning.
I was pretty pleased with myself on Monday evening last week.  I had pretty well laid out the project and had assembled the relevant materials.  I had planned to make a postcard that had the seam binding going at angles across the face, with black buttons sewn randomly about the card.  I also wanted an envelope to house the card.  It would hide the card with the randomly sewn seam binding and buttons, like Alzheimer's patients try to hide their forgetfulness in the early stages of their illness.   I selected fabric I had bought for the first challenge, because it had a pattern  and color palette I know my Mom would have liked.   I had some gold metallic fabric on hand that I planned to use for the interior of the envelope.  I chose some rose-colored fabric for the postcard face, and I selected seam bindings that sort of matched.    I wasn't too concerned about the matching aspect at first, because matching clothes was something that went by the wayside pretty early for Mom.  Here's a reasonable facsimile of what I planned to work with (I don't always get the most accurate colors when I photograph - Note to self:  take a class in digital photography!)

I found a paper envelope about the right size, cut out the fabrics, and hand stitched them together to form an envelope.  Here it is just before the flaps were sewn down.

As I put the finishing touches on the envelope, I began to have second thoughts about the plan for the postcard.  I had been fingering the buttons as I selected them, and I felt that maybe they'd be better used as worry beads or charms instead of being tied down on a card.

The envelope reminded me of two smaller ones I had on hand: one that a jeweler used to hold a gold necklace I had purchased; the other to hold a rosary.  So, maybe I should scrap the postcard idea and try to figure out a way to use the buttons in a chain?  As jewelry?  As a string of worry beads/buttons?  An Alzheimer's rosary?

The mismatching of the seam binding was bothering me, too?  My Mom would never have mismatched anything in her earlier years.

So, I suppose I must decide what I want to bring from the past and what elements I want to incorporate from the present before I complete any more of this project.  It's definitely a dilemma for me.

I think I want to go forward with the envelope, but I've decided to not use the postcard to hold the buttons.  Maybe a stroke of genius will hit me as I iron this week's laundry.  Or maybe I just have to lay out a bunch of supplies on my craft table and fiddle about with them in case genius needs a shove in some direction.  

Monday, February 18, 2008

Onward to Challenge #2

Now that Nikki's clothes have been retired to the more appropriate three year old hands for which they were intended, I can move on to February's challenge.

Last month, I had thought to try an admiration piece to my mother.  But I couldn't come up with a way to express my feelings, so I selected the color palette instead.  When the topic of remembrance was assigned in February, doing something to honor my Mom jumped into my mind again.  So on February 2nd, I sat down with my photo albums and thought about making a collage of photos of her with a poem to accompany them.  Trouble was, I ended up surrounded with wet tissues, thinking about the woman I loved who is lost to Alzheimer's.  Scratch that idea.  I'd need therapy  or at least a good support group by the time I completed that project.  And one of my personal goals with the challenge was to have some fun.

While going through the photos, I came up with some darling shots of my sisters in the late fifties or early sixties.  I haven't mastered iPhoto yet and I thought I might do a computer project, experimenting with photo layout and color.  This idea was gently percolating, but I hadn't firmed up anything concrete in the way of plan or process.

Then, last night, as I was putting away all the materials from the Barbie project, I came across two containers of sewing supplies that had once belonged to my Mom.  When my sisters and I cleaned out my parents' home just after they had moved to an assisted living facility, one of the items I inherited was a tin of old (and I mean old) seam bindings, elastic (thinks bras and girdles from the fifties), hooks (rusty), snaps, and sundry supplies, plus a small box of odd (really odd) buttons.  I still laugh when I think of my sisters' faces when I said I wanted the items.  I know they thought I was ready for a rest home or at least drugs when I decided to lug this junk hundreds of miles across the Mason-Dixon line, while the Lladro and Limoge went begging for a home.

When I saw the two containers in my sewing bin, that's when it hit me:  use the materials from her stash to do my February challenge.   So I spent an hour or so last night considering how the seam bindings and the assortment of buttons might come together into some kind of cohesive piece.  Since I am starting this project so late, I decided to keep the piece in the 5"X7" range.   I'll probably need to purchase 1/4 yard of foundation fabric (I don't have anything heavy enough in my very meager fabric stash)  and I may add a few seam binding colors if my design requires them.

I am going to use the color palette of one of the last garments my Mom ever stitched before she gave up sewing - a mandarin-collared blouse that I also inherited but haven't had the strength to wear.   It's not good, you know,  when someone says they like your blouse and you burst into tears.  Plus, it's scary to wear your Mom's clothes - like when you forget what you've got on and you pass a mirror, you get inclined to say, "Hi, Mom."  This does not help my self-image.

And how, you ask, does this fulfill my goals for the challenge?  Well, I'm using up stash, holding the cost of the project to under $10, having fun (okay, that's questionable, unless exorcising demons can be considered entertaining, although remembering my sisters' expressions the moment I said I wanted the sewing supplies should count at least a little bit), and it is something I've wanted to do, if only to prove to my dear Allentown sister that I really am going to use this old stuff for something.  Plus, it will actually be a stitched piece, which is more in keeping with the rest of the work the challenge participants are engaged in.  Might as well not be totally out of step here!

Oh, by the way dear Tulsa sister, you don't have to send me those embarrassing photos of us as children that you said you had in your possession.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Finally, the Fashion Show

Well, for those of you who have been waiting patiently for the Barbie fashion show, here it is.  Nikki (left) and her friend Nancy (right) were available for the modeling gig this afternoon and I finally got all the velcro closures, hooks, and snaps sewn on the clothes just five minutes before the photographer arrived.  I have to say I am tickled pink with the results.  As I was making the garments, I tried each one on Nikki but today was the first time I put the pieces together to make whole outfits.  There are a few gaps in the wardrobe, like a long sleeve blouse, a long cotton skirt, and a dress, but I think a three year old will overlook those deficiencies.

Here is a summer ensemble.  Nikki is wearing the halter top, which came out much better than I had hoped (I decided to stitch the neck straps closed, like the bikini Nikki was assigned at the factory) and a hand stitched cotton skirt.  Nancy is wearing the vest/beach cover-up/mini-dress.  The beach bag is the only item I didn't make - it was a potpourri bag I found in my sock drawer, and the color was just too perfect to not re-purpose it.

And here's Nancy in the dress above, reversed front to back.  Nikki's wearing the Kidsilk Haze cardigan with the black sleeveless blouse and the skirt I made at the beginning of the challenge.
My favorite outfit is the skirt of Shepherd's fiber, the little jacket and the halter top that Nikki's got on.  Nancy's in the first sweater I knit for this challenge.
And here are the girls in their reversible sweaters.
And last, but not least, here's the Noro coat and the Habu jacket.

I'm laughing as I scroll through the photos.  I haven't played with dolls in years and boy, did I have fun with this project.  All that remains is to dress the girls in their factory-assigned clothes, box up the clothes I made, and find some suitable birthday wrapping paper for the present.  Nancy needs to be returned to her owner, too.

I'm sorry I'm finishing the January challenge a bit behind schedule, but I'm glad I enjoyed this project so much.  If I had a do-over, I'd use snaps on the clothes instead of velcro - the velcro makes a thick closure that deforms the fit of the garment; I'd plan out the ensembles better - I made what I wanted to make and didn't think about coordinated outfits until about halfway through January; and I'd have made sure the fashion show occurred at work as planned.  I'd also have mapped out my time better so that I finished the assignment on time.  But I've always been a procrastinator so it's not surprising that I'm late with this, just disappointing.

From the January challenge, I learned that if you "show up" for a project, somehow it gets done and the results are better than expected.  I learned to trust my instincts more when knitting.  Patterns are good guides, but I didn't use a pattern for any of the garments I knit for Nikki.  That said, I couldn't have made the fabric garments without the patterns from that wonderful woman in New Zealand.  I guess it's okay to let go and do as long as you know your limitations.  And I learned that if you ask friends for help with a fun project, they will laugh with you, ask every day how the project is going, send you fabulous fun fibers in the color palette you need, and read your blog even though they most likely have much better things to do.

Onward to February.  

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Longer than I expected

I apologize to the few readers who have left comments and are waiting to see Nikki and her pals all dressed to kill.  I hit a few speed bumps on the road to project completion.

First of all, it is no longer possible to buy fashion doll accessories.  I must confess that I did not complete an exhaustive search for doll shoes and purses.  But I did visit three or four stores looking for those bubble packs of accessories I remember my sisters getting after my mother made doll clothes for them.  A gentleman in one store told me they hadn't carried accessories for at least three years.  I guess this says either we are now so affluent that we just want to buy whole outfits, or it say we are so litigious that companies are no longer willing to risk a lawsuit over a potential choking hazard so they'll stop selling very small items.  In any case, Nikki is shoeless and bagless.

Second of all, a stream of disappointed women came through my office door to tell me they couldn't find their Barbie dolls.  Well, I can see clearly how this happened.  Either their minds are failing and they can't remember where they actually put them, or someone in their household was doing a clear-out and the dolls got tossed into the trash.  Of course, the guilty parties who chucked Barbie will never own up.  It's much easier to let your spouse think the item you are looking for is just misplaced.  One woman came in all harried with the story that she spent three hours in the attic searching for Barbie and came away empty handed.  She left my office though saying that the search had been worthwhile because now she knew where some other long-stored items were and the attic was all neat and tidy.

In any case, I have two fashion dolls in my possession and I will try to do the fashion show with them tomorrow.

As for the February challenge, I am still mulling over what I want to do.  Last month, I zoomed out of the starting gate.  This month, I am being a bit more thoughtful.  I am thinking I might try to learn some photoshop techniques and incorporate some old photos as part of the "I remember" theme.  I will select the photos over the next week and decide how I want to handle them in the overall project.   I'd also like to do some text to give the photos context.  I'll be able to devote my full attention to this after the fashion show.