Dark night of the crafter’s soul

Dark night of the crafter's soul

Saturday was one of those days. You know, when nothing is working right: technology, interpersonal relationships, spatial reasoning. The kind of day where the last thing you should do is try a new-to-you sewing maneuver, right? And yet, I was feeling way behind on my Archer for Summer of Basics, which was still at the state you had seen it last Monday. My goal for the weekend was to attach the sleeves, sew and finish the side seams, topstitch everything, and hopefully get the collar and/or the cuffs attached. The first part of that went fine, amidst assorted other turmoil — sleeves, sides, topstitched. Then I decided it would be better to tackle the cuffs than the collar, given my suboptimal mental state. Why did I think that? I have no idea.

It did not go well.

Remember that quote I included in Elsewhere on Friday, about being willing to be bad at something in order to get good at it? Normally, lately, I’m totally feeling that way about sewing. I’ve been sewing at beginner level all my life (having peaked in the 8th grade and then regressed from there), did more sewing last year that the previous couple of decades combined, have gotten very good at bias facings and precise edge-stitching and whatnot, and I’m now really committed to enduring the discomfort of expanding my skills. But on Saturday, following several days of doing a series of other things I’m either not yet or no longer good at, it was brutal to be so stymied by my first cuff. (Or at least my first cuff since that 8th-grade popover anorak. I wonder if my mom still has that pattern somewhere — that just occurred to me for the first time.)

There I was, already steeping in frustration and stress over so many other things, reading the pattern instructions and the tutorial, scouring the internet for other blog posts and photos that might provide me with the crucial details I couldn’t get my brain around — failing to find those clues anywhere — but still feeling like I had to press on. So I tried to fumble my way through it … and … nope. And I just about lost it.

The thing is: It was not a big deal. It was just a few minutes’ worth of sewing that wasn’t right. The stitches could be ripped out. No harm was done. And yet I tortured myself (and Jen!) over the course of a couple of hours, between the googling and the trial-and-erroring and the stomping around on my beloved walking path (ruining a perfectly nice outing with my husband), and the texting with Jen, trying desperately to understand what she was telling me even while telling her my brain was in no mood to do so.

I always say to myself and others: walk away. If something’s not working, don’t make yourself crazy. Don’t send hate mail to the pattern designer — it’s probably not their fault. Don’t light the project on fire. Just put it down, walk away, sleep on it. It will almost certainly look different in the morning. No matter how urgently I wanted to get it figured out and have a win for the day, I eventually had no choice but to take my own advice.

There was a great photo in the #fringefieldbag feed recently, by @disorbo, whose caption read: “A little post mountain bike knit. After a ride, I like to remind myself that there are things I know how to do relatively well.” I thought of that as I plunked down on the couch Saturday night for what would normally be knitting time, but I knew it would be unwise. There was no way I was risking messing up my fisherman, and in the dark place I was in, I felt fully capable of screwing up even the grey stockinette thing. So I just sat there, like non-knitters do. It was terrible!

It did keep me awake, the cuff failure. I woke up turning the task over and over in my brain, sorting through the fog. And I got up, and I tried it again, and it worked.


PREVIOUSLY in Archer: Queue Check July 2017

Queue Check — July 2017 (Summer of Basics)

Queue Check — July 2017 (Summer of Basics)

Ummmm … grey cardigan? What grey cardigan? That poor thing has definitely not seen the light of day since my last Queue Check. No, it’s been all about the Summer of Basics dynamic duo up there, my vintage fisherman sweater and my first button-up.

I can’t believe it, looking at where it was a month ago, but the sweater currently sits at 4 parts all now at underarm height, so it’s time to start the yoke decreases. Thank heaven! Even knitting the parts round-robin style like this, the stitch pattern has gotten monotonous — as amazing and simple but oh-so-repetitive as it is — and I’ve been dying to get to the shaping. It will speed up from here, but I’m still nervous about getting it blocked and seamed and neckbanded by the end of August since I’m only working on it in the late evenings and allocating any weekend time to sewing.

The lovely Archer button-up is proving to be way more fun than I could have expected … so far. I’ve got the front/bands, pocket (made up my own), back/yoke all assembled, sleeve plackets sewn (ok, that part wasn’t so fun) and one sleeve basted on. My goal for yesterday was to have both sleeves attached and the seams serged. (I’ve decided to serge them, because I want to use my serger!) So I’m slightly behind schedule and gonna have to pick up the pace. The hardest parts are all still ahead of me — the collar and cuffs — and I don’t know how long to expect them to take, but I still need to fit SoB piece #3 in here, so I need to get this one wrapped up!

Speaking of which, you were all immensely helpful with the pants suggestions last week, and then on Saturday morning I totally scored at Elizabeth Suzann’s garage sale — the most exciting bit of which was some light army-green cotton canvas (garment weight) which I’m hoping will become my pants for piece 3 — I just need to commit to a pattern purchase. But all of that said, I’m still reserving the right to claim one or both of last week’s tops/tees as my third SoB if it comes to that! I sewed them in the time frame and they are definitely basics (and were under original consideration, even) but I don’t want to let that fall-back prevent me from trying to get the pants done. I can do it!

And for the moment I’m trying to not even think about what comes after any of that.

• Sweater is a 1967 pattern, Bernat 536-145, in Arranmore
• Shirt is Archer Button-up in sold-out fabric

(Porter Bin from Fringe Supply Co.)


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: June 2017

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

You know how sometimes the thing you’re dreading turns out to be BIG FUN? Such was the case yesterday, when I finally started on the Archer button-down shirt that drove me to propose the Summer of Basics Make-along. A shirt like this is the hardest thing for me to fit — any woven, set-in-sleeve shirt that suits my big shoulders will inevitably be too big in the body and in the upper sleeves as a result. Which is why I want to make my own, and also why I’ve been dreading it. This is also a garment that involves cutting out and assembling 19 pattern pieces. (My average is more like 3.) So never have I been more committed to the traditional muslin process. Meaning, after tracing them off onto my beloved Swedish tracing paper, I cut the five key pieces (left front, right front, back, yoke and sleeve x2) out of muslin so I could assess and adjust the fit. As a starting point, I cut a straight size 14 after comparing the shoulder measurements to my favorite flannel shirt.

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

Upon stitching together the yoke/back and front pieces, and setting in the right sleeve, I was thrilled that — ta da! — it actually fits, with very little fiddling. I’m ok with the ease through the body; my only issues were that the sleeve was a little big (not terribly, but why not tweak while I can?) and too long: It hit perfectly at my wrist before a cuff was factored in. So I laid the left sleeve back on the pattern, sloped the sides down from a 14 at the underarm to a 10 at the cuff, and shortened it by 2.5″, then sewed it on. The difference in the upper arm is subtle but meaningful, but it’s a much better width at the cuff than the 14 was. To make sure I’ve got the length just right, I cut out the cuff and pinned it on, and I’m officially good to go.

That was surprisingly painless. So now it’s time to cut all 19 pieces out of my beautiful blue cotton-linen chambray. The thing is, I’m so excited about this shirt now, and know I’ll want to make several, so I almost want to cut them all at once and have them waiting in the wings for gradual future production.

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin