Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thoughts from the sewing room....

I'm still immersed in sewing and am really enjoying it. Yesterday I lost track of time while working on the jacket in following photo:

denim jacket
Posted by Hello

This detail view is to give you an idea of the pinstripe denim fabric as well as some of the jacket detail. The stripes have a texture that is slightly raised on the surface of the fabric. The pattern is Butterick pattern #6376.
I'm making the view in the lower right corner, without a horizontal bottom band.

Last night was the third collar and neckline that I've dealt with in the past few weeks. It was a sort of "flow" experience, where my hands and arms knew exactly how to manipulate the fabric to feed it into the machine and get just the right ease between the collar and the neckline opening.

Thoughts of all my different fiber activities ensued. Each activity: spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing....requires a different but related set of skills. And each activity brings its own set of pleasures.

Spinning is very tactile as well as proprioceptive. There's a lot of physical labor that goes into preparing fiber for spinning. It's labor that requires some thinking. Yet it's easy to put your body on automatic pilot and immerse yourself in the senssations of spinning, combing, carding, and washing fiber. Touch, smell, color and luster of the fiber: All of these are so very nourishing to the senses.

Knitting is a little different. There are tactile and proprioceptive elements, but when I think of knitting I think of counting. From the moment the first stitch is cast on, the counting begins. There's counting in the gauge swatch and in pattern repeats and in getting the right fit in the garment. But it's often a therapuetic, meditative kind of counting, not unlike rosary beads moving under the fingers.

Weaving is a bit more complex. It begins with counting: how many warp threads, how many yards of warp, how many threads per repeat, and how many repeats in the web? But there's problem solving too. Which warping method will work best with the chosen yarn, for this item, on this loom? Are there enough heddles on each harness? What percentage of shrinkage to use in calculations? Which tie up of the treadles will require the least amount of effort?

I have to admit, this is the part of weaving that I like best. Figuring out how I'm going to get that warp on the loom so that each and every thread will be at very nearly the same fashion. There's something gratifying in standing back and looking at a newly warped loom.

Watching a web of fabric form in front of the beater is even more gratifying. This part of weaving is like a dance. Treadle, throw the shuttle, catch the shuttle, swing the beater...... an even cadence here will give the best fabric with beautiful selveges.

Sewing is more geometry than counting (to continue the math analogy). But sewing also starts with assessing the hand (drape) of a fabric and envisioning it in a completed garment, then selecting a garment that will be pleasing to the intended recipient. A pleasing garment is more than one that looks good, it must feel good too. It has to feel comfortable in the tactile sense, but also in a personal sense....does the color, pattern, and cut of the garment compliment the body type, personality, and life style of the wearer? So there's some intuition needed in sewing.

From there the geometry begins: Cutting layouts, pattern alterations, interfacing decisions, and then the construction of a 3 dimensional garment the fits the curves and contours of the human form.

There's also the mastery of machines that can ruin the product if your attention wanders or you suffer a lapse in judgement. Cutters on sergers can run amok on a curved seam. Bobbin threads can tangle and needles break. And irons will leave ugly pressing marks unless due diligence is applied. But when the potential hazards have been negotiated, you have a garment that's been made just for you.

So, there you have it. I really do love all of these activities. But never for a minute do I forget that it's a blessing to be able to pick and choose which to do and when to do it. As I stitch, I often think of textile workers who are stuck in one tiny tedious piece of production for meager wages. How difficult it must be to take any pleasure in the task when you are only a "cog in the wheel". And I do appreciate that I can run to Meijer's and pick up a new T shirt to wear under my denim jacket.

For a more informed perspective on today's commercial textile production, please go to: The World in a T Shirt

1 comment:

tie in the loose ends...