Friday, November 1, 2013

A Deep Sea Creature of My Imagination

Deep sea scientists have a tradition of decorating styrofoam objects, particularly cups, sending them to the bottom of the ocean with whatever equipment they may be using to study the world down there, and crossing their fingers that they come back to the surface much smaller than they started out. I am growing a nice collection of decorated cups since I have been going to sea to study deepwater predatory fishes in the Gulf of Mexico several times a year.

Before our most recent cruise earlier this month, a colleague gave me a gift. A strange and wonderful and strange gift: a styrofoam mannequin head. A styrofoam head that I could shrink. Oh the possibilities, and the pressure to draw something awesome and do that mannequin justice. I pondered until I came up with an idea, and that idea led to other ideas, and it all turned into a story. It's a mystery, and it's still unfolding in my imagination, so you get what you get here with this description.

She is a badass, genius goth woman adapted to life in the deep sea. 

 The isopods (Bathynomus giganteus) that exposed her brain are now her pets and they do her bidding (while hanging out on her face). 

She has large green eyes, allowing her to make use of every tiny bit of light available when she is in the twilight zone, and photophores on the front of her neck, in her very own pattern that distinguishes her from all the lantern sharks down there. 

She has grown gills, elasmobranch gills to be specific, and she has seven on the left side of her neck and six on the right (much like I have three earrings in my left ear and two in my right), because asymmetry is fun and badass. Gills are complete with windshield wipers so that she is invincible to
hagfish slime.

Her tattoos represent a red moon rising (or setting...I don't remember - time is confusing at sea), the sun shining down through the water (in the photic zone, of course) and the big dipper reflected on the water). A fish hook adorns her lower lip, and she wears a navy and white nautical stripe shirt, because she is on top of the trends. This might be the feature I can relate to the least...I am really not into the nautical trend.

I sent her and several cups to about 1800 meters, clipped to the longline tucked securely in my laundry bag. For a few moments, the bag bobbed at the surface and we wondered if it would sink, but it did, slowly, the whole way to the bottom. When we hauled the longline back up, the laundry bag and its contents came up safely, but alas, she did not shrink very much at all. Those of us with mannequin heads were imagining shrunken heads - voodoo style - dangling from our rear view mirrors, but she came up about 70% her original size. 

I should have been happy that she came back to the surface at all, and I was, but I got greedy. Would she shrink more if I sent her down again? I sent her down again at our deepest site. 

While I slept, the other setting crew put down the anchor, a fish trap, 50 hooks, another trap, a weight, a TDR, a trap full of cups and two heads, several more weights, then a lot of scope and a highflyer to allow us to retrieve the line. 

About four hours later I woke, excited to see my mannequin girl again. We pulled up the highflyer and the scope, and then weight, weight, weight, TDR... no trap full of styrofoam souvenirs! It was gone. All gone. I had her in my grasp, and instead of accepting her for who she was, I tried to change her and I lost her. Perhaps I adapted her too well to the deep sea, for there she remains. I will always remember her, though.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gifts, Mending, and New Projects

After my first successful hummingbird top, I had a little bit of a difficult time deciding what to sew next. I was afraid if I started another hummingbird right away I would rush through it and not do a good job. The hummingbird skirt (orange version) seemed a little bit daunting for the amount of sewing time I had available. My mother suggested (several times) that I revisit some gifts that I had been planning on making and for which I already had fabric. I was so excited/distracted by making clothes for myself that I was a little annoyed that she brought this up, but she reminded me how much satisfaction I would get from completing these gifts, and of course she was right. At this point, I already had a plan for my best friend’s birthday gift, which I’ll write about later when the final garment is complete.

I don’t think the friends on the receiving end of these gifts will see this blog any time soon, so I think it’s safe enough to post. I made some napkins for two of my friends and their husbands for their wedding/first anniversary gifts. I had so much fun making them, and I used this tutorial for mitered corners for cloth napkins. The tutorial was clear and very helpful. I am sure that I’ll use it again, and highly recommend it! I used quilting cotton for both sets of napkins, and made the napkins reversible. The double-layer of fabric makes it difficult to end up with perfectly square napkins with no ripples (I swear, I measured twice!), but they still came out really nicely. I chose the fabrics based on my friends’ wedding colors. I really hope they like them…I think there’s a lot more napkin-making in my future.

I also finally finished these baby blocks for my best friend Erin’s daughter. I started these last December as an intended first Christmas present, but learned an important lesson: December is too late to start construction of multiple handmade Christmas gifts. These turned into a first birthday present instead. I always pictured Gwennie crawling toward them, but crawling isn’t her primary mode of transportation anymore. Still, I’ve been informed that both Gwen and her older brother William play with the blocks and they were definitely a big hit with Gwen’s mommy. I am really glad that I finished them. When this idea first came into my head, I surfed the web a bit and looked at quite few block tutorials for inspiration, but I didn’t end up following any tutorials, and I didn’t keep track of what I looked at. So, thank you, all you bloggers who posted about fabric baby blocks, and sorry to not give more specific credit!

With Bimini Biological Field Station
friends in 2006.
Amidst my gift-sewing and field work observations, I managed to mend one of my favorite shirts: a dark blue peasant top that I bought when I lived in Wilmington, NC.The side seams started falling apart when I still lived in Wilmington, which means that I moved an unwearable top from Wilmington to two apartments in Gainesville to two houses in Tallahassee…ridiculous! The sides were constructed with French seams, so I tried unpicking them to re-sew them completely, but discovered that the viscose fabric was fraying so much that it wasn’t worth worrying about the French seam. I ended up just stitching straight up alongside the seam. This decision, along with the fact that my body has changed a little over the years, makes the top a little bit tight, so I have to take it on and off pretty gently, but at least I can get a little more wear out of it. I also replaced the elastic in the neckline, which had completely dry-rotted. The new neckline turned out really well and only resulted in one safety-pin deep into the thumb incident.

So what do I sew next? I have traced two of the three pattern pieces for view A of McCall’s M6612. I intend to make view A in a sage colored cotton jersey and view B in a paint spatter print cotton jersey from Girl Charlee Fabrics, both purchased with a birthday gift card from Erin (thanks, Erin!!). Neither of these fabrics seem to be available anymore, so I am really glad that I bought some cheap knit fabric at JoAnn’s the other day to make a test garment. I hate buying fabric just to make a test garment, but frankly, I really don’t expect to get this right the first time. At least the patterns for view A and B are so similar, I should get a lot of mileage out of my test garment. I also made use of a 50% off coupon at JoAnn’s to buy a bolt of muslin for myself. No excuse for not making a muslin now!

I am making this dress in a size 14. Do all my measurements fit into a 14? No, of course not. I chose this size based on my upper bust measurement and my hip measurement, but according to the chart, my waist needs two sizes larger! Can that really be? When there is that much of a discrepancy between all my measurements, I feel like my size choice is just a shot in the dark. I wish I had the experience to predict what size would be best and what pattern modifications I would need. Maybe one day!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My first wearable garment!

Last Friday, I wore my first me-made garment that was not a Halloween or theme-party costume! My second version of Cake’s Hummingbird top (Green version), is far from perfect, but it’s wearable!

I sewed my first version of this top in a tangerine knit from Girl Charlee Fabrics. I attempted to participate in the 30-minutes-a-day sewalong for this pattern, but guess what? It’s silly to start a sewing project right at the start of field season. Although I didn’t finish even one of the two pieces during the sewalong, I really liked the format and instructions and I’m sure I’ll try to participate in another.

I chose to start the peplum at my natural waist, and didn’t make any fit changes.  Unfortunately, but as expected, I didn’t get it right on the first try. The peplum started at an unflattering place on my waist and was a bit too short, accentuating my less than perfectly toned middle. The shoulders were also too wide. I loved the tangerine color, though, and reordered more of the fabric.

At some point in the summer which I truly don’t even remember, I made some alterations to my traced pattern and got started on version two, in a printed knit, again from Girl Charlee Fabrics. I took 1 ½” off of the inside of each shoulder and curved that line until it met with the neckline. I measured to my natural waist and graded the pattern in to the measurement of my natural waist. From there, I measured to where I wanted to try to start the peplum and graded the pattern out to the measurement at this point on my waist. I was feeling pretty good about these pattern alterations until I was brushing my teeth the morning after cutting out the pieces and realized that I forgot to make the corresponding changes to the peplum pattern piece. Oops. Oh well, not too late to fix it.

After sewing the upper part of the top together I realized it was a little bit too long, so I trimmed some length off. I then sewed the peplum on and had a really tough time lining it up. The next morning, when I was brushing my teeth (weird, right?), I realized that again, I hadn’t made the corresponding changes to the peplum. No wonder it was so hard to attach! Not technically too late to fix, but that’s a lot of stitches to unpick, so I didn’t.

After reinforcing the neck and sleeve bindings and hemming the top, I was done! I waited a few days to try the top on, worried that I would be disappointed if I tried it on right away. It could use some improvements, but overall, I like it! I LOVE the neckline…lots of collarbone and next to no cleavage…just how I like it. I think the peplum starts and ends at a good place. The peplum is admittedly a bit wonky, but not enough to stop me from wearing it. I’ll just try to do better for the next version (in the tangerine knit again!). I have a lot of wrinkling at my lower back, and sometimes the lower back seam actually gets caught on the waistband of my jeans, so that could be improved, but I’m not sure how to do it. It also doesn't help that my jeans don't fit me super well. I must say, I notice every imperfection in the photos, and every curve on myself that I wish the fabric would hide, but whenever I walked past a mirror, I was pretty happy with how I looked in this top, so all in all I’m happy with it.

Now to decide what to do next…the tangerine peplum top? Or the Hummingbird skirt? I haven't decided yet.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Changing gears...

This blog began as a way for me to inform my friends about when I'd be teaching yoga practices. While yoga is still a large part of my life, I haven't taught in well over a year. Part of me wants to teach again as soon as possible, but the truth is that I just can't access that part of myself right now. I have a lot of healing in my own body to focus on, so my yoga practices need to be dedicated to me and I don't feel that I have much to offer to others right now. Beyond that, my schedule is too inconsistent and I don't feel grounded enough to offer classes. I am sure that I will get into teaching again one day, but for now, you won't see yoga schedules here!

In the past year, I have felt a strong need to nurture my creative side. I've enjoyed making cards and gifts for people, and I am learning to sew. Additionally, I have been frustrated with my clothing and the way it fits me, so I am very interested in learning to mend and sew my own clothes. It's kind of a frustrating process on your own, so I have started following some sewing and DIY blogs to get ideas and inspiration, and learn techniques. There is an active, vibrant and supportive community of home sewists online, and I've decided to join them. I intend to blog my adventures here (when I can find the time). Journaling or writing letters have always been good outlets for me, and since I already have the blog set up, here I go! It's okay if you don't want to follow the blog anymore. It's okay if no one wants to follow it. I'm just going to write about whatever the heck I want, so there!