The House of Tatterdemalion

Unfashionable, unskilled, inexpensive--but still sewing.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Couture, considered III: Why me? (and maybe why you)

Well, why not?

Ok, ok, seriously. If you consider couture to be fancy ball gowns with huge skirts using yards and yards and yards of fabric, it would seem really hysterical that I'm interested in it. Where I live, anything more than jeans (not the designer type) and t-shirts (not the designer type) is considered dressing up. Myself included.

Part of it, I admit, stems from my personality quirks. Machinery and I do not get along very well. Not on the whole; it's not like I'm boycotting all machines. It's always a very personal vendetta. I think the darn stuff picks on me. Like dogs, they smell fear. They'll work perfectly fine for everyone one else, and as soon as they're alone with me they start acting up. (With no witnesses. Great.) The more complicated they are, the more likely they are to break, get "confused", and generally need to be beaten into submission.

So do I do all my sewing by hand? No. I did save up my pennies, and buy a very high quality sewing machine, but a totally and completely non-computerized sewing machine. Everyone thought I was nuts, but the more complicated a machine is, the more likely things are to go wrong. The simpler the better.

And this doesn't just have to do with sewing, either. It works the same way with cooking, too. I like to knead my bread dough by hand. I have this heavy-duty mixer that could do it sitting right on the counter, and I still like to knead it by hand. Using the mixer is noisy, and it makes me all tense. Kneading by hand is calming and relaxing. I chop most of my vegetables by hand, even though the food processor is sitting on the counter. (An exception being onions, which I cry over so much that I think it would only be fittingly polite if people sent me condolence cards, and maybe some flowers.) People think I'm nuts. "Why are you making things difficult for yourself?! You're making it take twice as long, and a lot more work."

Okay, then. Requirement number one: Be Crazy. (Otherwise known as: appreciate working with your hands and don't be put off by extra work. Or time.)

I like the way the cooking analogy works. There is fast food and fast sewing---hamburgers and fries, and 2 hour sewing projects. There are homecooked meals and home sewing--casseroles made with canned soup, and pot roast. . .and clothing that is quite a step above fast'n'easy, but is still quite willing to cut corners for convenience and time. And there are those special gourmet meals that are almost as special to make as they are to eat, and those special garments that are almost as special to make as they are to wear.

In my cooking life, I mostly make home-cooked meals, strive for those special meals, and occasionally resort to fast food. My sewing life seems to be following in the same path. What I do, and what I would like to learn to do, are often different. But I do work toward it. (I suppose this is where I'm supposed to say Requirement number two: Don't Be Complacent, which teeters dangerously on the edge of Don't Be Satisfied, which, while closely related, is different.)

Finally, I have to admit to myself that I don't just want to learn to sew well with my hands. I want to sew well by machine, too, as the circumstances call for it. I am not going to hand sew a pair of grungy working jeans, but I sure would like to be able to make them well enough to stand up to the rigors of wear and tear (and be more comfortable and fit better than what you could buy). And, really, hand-sewing on any $10/yd fabric would be silly. But when I start seeing the prices spiral upward, $30/yd, $60/yd, $80/yd. . .and sometimes more!! ($150/yd. for beaded silk, for instance.) I don't think I could dare to put something that expensive under the machine. If I put that much money into it, it wouldn't be a run of the mill sort of garment. Considerable time would be spent in the design, and in the construction. So, also, I would say Make It Count and Be Appropriate.

Which brings us back to the question of why on earth would a jeans-and-sneakers kind of girl want to learn fine sewing for fine fabrics? Because I want to. That's enough of a reason for me, and enough of a reason for you, too.


Anonymous Jesse said...

Hi. My name is Jesse, and I found your website while doing a google search for "tailor supplies" - namely those under structure fabrics you find mentioned in the tailoring books by Roberto Cabrerra. I have the mens' book (as I am a man) and have made one muslin and am working on fitting the pattern for a suit that I have purchased. It's kind of hard by yourself; I work with a man who used to do alterations at a local shop.

I wanted to write to encourage you, and to tell you that I think your site is neat. It's kind of funny finding someone else who seems to be young and reflective, trying to make their own clothes. I don't even know WHY I do it, but my mom made some clothes for me when I was living at home and, well, it just seemed to make sense. But, like you, I realize that tailoring ANYTHING is a long-term goal. Good luck with that!

4:07 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

Hi, Jesse--

The mighty hand of Google hath found me, huh? I hope you weren't too dissappointed I had nothing to do with tailoring supplies. I've yet to actually tailor anything, though I find the whole process fascinating. Some day I hope to tailor a suit for one of my brothers, which they will probably bemusedly put up with (being jeans and sneakers kind of guys), simply because I am their sister even if I am crazy. Failing that, I can always make a pan (or two or six) of brownies to bribe them into several fittings (that is the orginal meaning of the phrase "brownie points", is it not? To use brownies to accomplish your goals?).

Fitting certainly is tricky by yourself; I mostly resort to getting my sister to take digital photos of me and my unco-opertive muslin, so I can examine it better. Hooray for you for having real live help!

As for having a reason for it all, I thought my reason was sufficient. ("Because I want too.")

Thanks for dropping me a note; and if you ever do find a good place to find tailoring supplies, please let me know!

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Hey! Actually, I found some places that have some tailoring supplies online. Here are a few: <--- fabric site <-- online book about principles of tailoring from 1933

Ok, so not all are tailoring supplies. But you can find a lot online. And, as you may well know, you can really improvise a lot.

I am waiting for a 7-Fold Tie pattern in the mail, and I plan to make one (first out of ugly, cheap silk) and then out of this sexy polyester shirting fabric. Why Polyester? Well, just because I think it will make a beautiful tie. And, my muslin fabric for a jacket is a very tight weave twill cotton-poly blend (I think mostly poly). But it lays great. I might even make a casual, unstructured jacket out of it. I've been able to find pretty great fabrics cheaply, at a local fabric store. And, we also have some fabric stores that are more geared to clothing making, because I live in a metro area. That's also a great place to find supplies.

I think that's so cool that your simply curious and "into" making clothes. I have been trying to figure out "the why" for myself for some time, and I think that's pretty much it for me. I'm single, so I have time and money to pursue things that fascinate me. It would also be great if I could, perhaps, actually make a cool set of clothes every now and then, too. Take care.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

Cool! I'll have to look aroud a bit more when I'm not tired. B. Black and Son's looked quite intersting. Some of these places I did already know about.(As a side rant, it drives me nuts that so many people are switching to selling "Books on CDs". Book publishing on demand is just as accessible, and books are much more pleasant to use in the sewing room. Unless I'm supposed to print the whole CD out, which just means I get to pay for the thing twice--once to get the CD and once to print the book.)

I once read some where that it was better to use a very high quality immation rather than a very poor quality "real thing"--e.g. a very high quality polyester instead of a very cheap silk. A lot of "fake" fabrics can be really nice; my main grip with them is that I rarely (if ever) find them to be as comfortable to wear as "natural" fabrics, but that's personal taste. The only time when polyester gets really ugly is when it's really cheap (that is, low quality) polyester fabric.

As far as fabrics geared toward clothing, the internet is my friend. All local stores are geared toward quilting, with perhaps the exception of JoAnn's, which is geared toward. . .um. . .tacky seasonal decorations? Scrapbooking? Ugly home decor?. . .Oh, and they have some fabric, too.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

Argh, I'm too tired to even be writing comments on my own blog. . . see now that my past one is riddled with typos and spelling errors. Oh, well.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Hey, I have this GREAT suit (Calvin Klein) that I got on sale at Marshall Field's. Anyway, the thing is 100% Polyester. And, you're right. This thing is nice. I really usually like wool - most of my trousers are wool; I mostly like natural fabrics. But this stuff is pretty nice. I'm actually using a cotton/poly twill blend for a muslin fabric, but I really like it and I have like 10 yards of the stuff, and I was thinking of making a jacket out of that. I think that's good advice. Thanks for that.

1:43 PM  

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