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A sartorial epic

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Lately, I've been feeling a bit distracted, a little thin-spread. So, according to my usual coping mechanism when I'm feeling that way, I've been tying up some loose ends. On Sunday I finished my book; yesterday I finished a pair of socks (currently blocking); and Monday I finished this:

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My guess is that few Family Trunk Project readers have followed the saga of this jacket from the beginning. It starts way back here, in the 300-square-foot apartment that David and I used to share, and was more recently continued here, but now it's finally done...sort of.

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The "sort of" is because this is the top half of a suit (Vogue 2870, for those playing along at home), and the skirt is still far from done. It feels great to have the jacket complete at last, though, after working on it sporadically for almost two years!

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In retrospect, doesn't it always seem like the hangups that cause projects to sit on the shelf for months turn out to be really silly and quick to fix? At least in comparison to your expectations? That's definitely how the last finishing step of this jacket was for me. I remembered the bottom edge of the lining as fitting very poorly into the shell; I remembered hours of pinning and re-pinning, all ending in frustration. Coming back to it, I can't understand my confusion. It says right in the directions, after all, "Lining will form a pleat at bottom edge for wearing ease," and once I let it do that, everything was smooth sailing. Well, smooth sailing plus lots and lots of slip-stitching. And then I had a silk-lined jacket!

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Which, as you can see, is very exciting to me.

There are plenty of details to love here; I adore the cute trimmed pockets (also lined!), and the row of buttons along the sleeve cuffs, not to mention the curved lines of the bottom fronts:

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The unusual v-shape of buttons made me a tad nervous. David and I had to work hard to find buttons that toned down the military leanings of the jacket; just imagine it with brass buttons and you'll see what I mean. But I think these swirly leather ones avert that danger pretty well. (Not that there's anything wrong with military-inspired civilian dress; it's just not my personal cup of tea.)

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It's lovely to wear - I'm lucky that I didn't undergo any radical shape-shifting in the two-year interval between my alterations to the pattern two years ago, and the jacket's completion yesterday. And really, it's that luscious silk lining again. It makes me want to wear the jacket with shirtsleeves everywhere I go! Look how happy I am:

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Hopefully this streak of loose-end-tying will continue, and apply itself to things like, oh, completion of the Warren Johnson essay (all I have left on this pattern!), and some tricky charting I've been putting off. Until then, at least I'm outfitted to procrastinate in style.

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Bacchanal

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Okay! I'm back! I've been on the Emily Johnson version of a mad bender, which involves drinking a lot of herbal tea, debating about class privilege, watching Dirty Dancing while experimenting with ear candles, and engaging in out-of-control purchasing of fabric and yarn. I'm aware that Charles Bukowski has a different definition of "bender," and I'm 100% okay with that.

A few weeks ago, after literally years of delay, procrastination, and unreasonable grumpiness at my parents for continuing to mention the issue, I succeeded in selling my car. Let me just say that if you're thinking of leaving a car in storage for two and a half years in the hopes that the difficulties inherent in fixing it might go away, I strongly advise against the idea. That's what I did, and as it turns out, a car only gets more expensive and troublesome to fix the longer it sits unused in a garage or back yard. Not only that, but during the selling process I had to brave the trial-by-fire that is selling a solid, in-demand used car when one is a young, reasonably attractive woman. Permit me to say: the aggressive, deal-mongering dudes comes out, and they are absolutely incredulous when you tell them - you, a GIRL - that you will not take their offer of half your asking price. No, even though the car has a small dent in one side. No, even if they come over tonight, cash in hand. No, even if they whine, yell, or tax everyone's nerves to the breaking point by pitching a toddler-style hissy fit. They will simply not believe that you want them to take their paltry offers and go boil their inflated heads.

What with the bullies, the over-developed car-related egos, the deceit and the double-dealing, I was a nervous wreck for a week, but I finally sold the car, and the whole transaction ended up making me feel good: it went to another young woman, who very responsibly took it to her mechanic and got a good estimate of how much she'll need to spend on it. She made me a generous offer based on that, and I accepted. What do you know? Respect and human dignity CAN be maintained, even when selling a used car.

Anyway, the sale of the car coincided with my almost-birthday (coming up on Friday) and a trip to the Bay Area to visit my very dear friend Leah...and, frankly, I feel like I got a little out-of-control with the acquisition of new projects, and of just plain stuff. I don't regret a thing, but now I need to take a few deep breaths and get back into the zone of productivity, rather than acquisition. In the meantime, though, you can all enjoy my splurging. These scrumptious treats came in the mail a few days before we caught our plane:

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This is my last Sundara shipment for the first Seasons club (y'all can read more about Sundara's fantastic Seasons Club here if you're not already in the know). I have to say, this is some of the most beautiful yarn I have ever touched. Since our return I've been winding it slowly into balls, just to interact with it. Needless to say, given the buy-buy-buy theme of this blog entry, I re-upped for Autumn and added Spring for the upcoming round of Seasons as soon as the check for the car cleared.

Then, well, we were in San Francisco and it feels wrong to pass up a trip to the huge, beautiful edifice that is Britex Fabrics. Since my rediscovery of sewing I've been dreaming of sundresses, and I now have a couple of lovely cottons on which to cast my spells:

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But in addition to the cottons, there was an entire wall of beautiful European wools. Wool alone I could have resisted, but many of them were also plaids and hounds-tooth prints, and some were so outrageously luxurious that I felt, amusingly enough, that I was making a reasonable compromise with myself in only getting two yards of this scrumptious stuff. It's funny how our mental calculus adjusts itself around an object of desire:

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And...there may have been pattern purchases to go with these new fabrics, as well as a number of investments/orders of yarn to arrive in the near-to-distant future. All of which I'm psyched about - in particular, the Spring and Fall clips from Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm, whose CSA is just about the best thing ever. Even so, I am feeling a little bit frazzled. I am normally a very methodical, one-project-at-a-time, buy-materials-for-the-project-I'm-about-to-start kind of girl. Right now I have a complex sewing project, a major knitting design project, another, secret-for-now knitting design project, and a whole bunch of new, unformed materials all at the same time. I know this is normal for many people, but certainly not for me. Occasionally, especially when confronted with four floors of gorgeous fabrics, I become dazzled by dreams and infinite possibility. The same thing sometimes happens at Powell's Books, when I stumble into the coffee shop laden with novels sufficient to last a small family several years. I envision myself, somehow divorced from my job and social commitments, with unlimited leisure time in which to do nothing but craft lovely garments and curl up reading in a comfy chair. That kind dreaming, for me, is really fun for about a week, after which I have a deep spiritual need to get my feet back on the ground and start accomplshing things again.

So, that's where I am right now. The transition from heady dreams to tangible results is often a rocky one, because the results - as they are prone to do - materialize more slowly than the wild fancies. It's hard to still the clamorous idea-machine in my head and engage with an actual project, complete with quandaries and quagmires. Still, I'm starting to slow down, breathe, and delight in the gradual process of small details once again.

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A suitable girl

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More on the Warren Johnson jacket very soon; it's coming right along. First, though, I have to admit I've been doing a little something on the side:

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I have a wide streak of perversity in me when it comes to weather-appropriate pastimes. During high school, I tormented by parents by insisting on baking elaborate desserts during the hottest patch of summer, and they would come home from work, in the days before they installed air conditioning, to a boiling-hot house made even hotter by a 450-degree oven. I always seem to end up starting a heavy, cozy, woolen knitting project just as the weather is warming up, and purchasing light little sun dresses when the cold wind howls and the rain beats fierce on the windowpanes. So it's no real surprise that on experiencing the gorgeous warm sunniness that was last weekend, I would be seized with the uncontrollable desire to resume work on a sewing project I've had on hold for ages: a silk-lined woolen suit jacket and skirt.

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I was a seamstress for years before I started knitting, but living with another person in a 300-square-foot apartment, as I was doing with David until recently, doesn't really allow for such a space-intensive hobby. I resisted this conclusion for a while; you can read about my delusions and their consequences if you'd like. Soon, though, I packed away my two in-progress sewing projects to focus on knitting, which a person can do sitting in one place, with a minimum of extraneous tools. Since I'm not the kind of person who likes to have unfinished projects lying about, they have been pricking the back of my mind in a bothersome way ever since. Suddenly, this weekend, the time had come to make a joyful return to sewing.

I'm glad I did. I really enjoy sewing on its own merits, but it also has a cool, synergistic relationship in my mind with knitting design. Every time I learn a tricky new maneuver in the sewing world, I start thinking about whether it could be applied to a knitted garment, and to what effect. I like to compare the different mindsets - the cutting-and-joining mindset, versus the shaping-fabric-pieces-as-you-go mindset. My mother always claims that sewing projects are quicker than knitting projects, and I see where she's coming from: once all the pattern pieces are altered and pinned, and the fabric pieces are cut out, a person can whip up a simple dress in a night. Not so with most sweater patterns. Plus, there are so many more stages in a sewing pattern than in most knitting patterns, that sewing feels (to me) a lot faster-paced. There's always something going on, which is sometimes what my mood calls for and other times not. For me, following a knitting pattern is like reading a bucolic, pastoral novel, and following a sewing pattern is more like reading a tense spy thriller.

But oh man, there are ways in which sewing is a much harsher mistress, and I'm glad that I'm reminding myself of those as well. Remembering how unforgiving woven fabric can be, how a quarter-inch deviation in a seam or cut can make a noticeable - sometimes disastrous - difference to the final product, gives me a good perspective on the easygoing nature of knitted fabrics. And remembering about the long process of on-paper alterations that happens prior to even pinning and cutting, I marvel that I ever grumbled about knitting a simple gauge swatch.

That said, I'm currently in the thick of the exciting construction phase on this suit jacket, and I'm having a great time. I was really in the mood to be challenged and learn some new skills, and this pattern has quite a few. This, for example, is my first welt pocket:

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It's so cute! So neat and tidy! It's things like welt pockets that make me marvel about how anyone thought up such a satisfying and surprising method of construction. One minute you're sewing random pieces onto the FRONT of your garment, the finished surface where you don't want rough edges. The next minute you're cutting through the front of your garment, and there is an ugly-looking slash in the fabric. The next minute, badda-bing, badda-boom, everything is turned under, seamed and finished, two wrongs have miraculously made a right, and you have a jaunty little pocket to speed you on your way.

Also very satisfying are mitred corners. This is one side of a sleeve placket:

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Not at all crazy or difficult this time, just extremely agreeable. And I love using that little tool specifically for turning corners into crisp little points.

The jacket has actually progressed quite a bit beyond these pictures; I've set in both of the lining sleeves and just have to put together the fabric sleeves and set them in before that always-thrilling denoument where the lining and fabric shells are joined together. The silk is delicious; I can't wait to wear this jacket with a short-sleeved blouse.

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And I'll let you know when I do!

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