Client Spotlight: Moira

While sewing, for me, is mostly a commercial pursuit, I have long associated it with love, not money.  I don’t mean that in the sense of I’m not getting rich as a sewist.  I mean that the first sewing I was exposed to were the stuffed animals and doll clothes my grandmother made for me and my cousins.  My mother sews clothes for my children.  My aunts sew quilts for their families.  Sewing has always been an expression of love in my family.  And though the majority of my sewing goes to items for sale, that doesn’t mean I don’t also sew for love.

The dress I made for my friend Moira is no exception.  When she approached me to make her wedding dress, I was so happy and excited to do it.  And though my entry here is listed as “client spotlight” and though Moira paid me, that doesn’t negate the love I put into making her gown.  I wouldn’t be at her nuptials in body, so my joy and well wishes for her and her beau would travel along in the dress.

Frida Esperanza by Alexander Henry
The fabric features cartoon renderings of several of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits.

Moira is an artist of the beautifully macabre.  This of course means she wasn’t looking for a white satin gown for her wedding.  What she came to me with was the idea for a 1960s cocktail dress that she could wear to other events.  We took measurements and she went on the hunt for fabric.  That fabric happened to be a cotton print by Alexander Henry called Frida Esperanza.

My first order of business was to do a tissue fitting.  Moira is a tall, curvy gal which made a couple fittings necessary to make sure everything fit perfectly.  I use the method I learned from the book Fit for Real People which involves pinning the tissue pattern together, trying it on, and marking any changes directly onto the paper.  For Moira we had to take into account that her bust apex was lower than in the pattern, widening the back and waist, and making sure the kimono cut sleeves allowed her ample movement.

After the tissue fitting I put together a muslin.  When you are altering a pattern there are so many adjustments that need to be made, a muslin is the only way to make sure you don’t miss something.  And since Moira had brought me just enough of the fabric to make the dress, I didn’t want to make a mistake that would put me in danger of running out.

Moira's Muslin
I have no clever reason for using two different colors of muslin here. I just grabbed what was closest and had enough yardage from my stash.

The muslin fitting brought to light other fit issues.  I had dropped the bust darts down, and had made the waist darts in the bodice narrower.  I had also added an inch to the center back.  Even so, there was still a large gap at the midsection.  This seems to be a common problem for those of us with larger busts.  Unless we are employing bras that also double as rigging for a sloop, the weight of larger breasts pulls them lower than those of our perkier, smaller busted sisters.  This means that the point of largest width ends up lower than patterns take into account.  By adding the extra inch to the back, I ended up with a gap that overlapped at the neck, but couldn’t close the rest of the way down.

I marked a bunch of notes right onto the fabric as Moira patiently waited, turning right and left, lifting her arms or sitting as I made my notes.  I kept telling her not to suck in, as I wanted the dress to fit her, not try to fit her body to the dress.

Now it was time to commit to cutting out the adjusted pattern from the final fabric.  Even here I had to make some more changes.  The original pattern calls for cutting the front bodice in two pieces and then sewing the center seam together.  Doing that with the print would cause a headache of trying to make sure I didn’t have Franken-Fridas on my friend’s bust.  Instead I cut the bodice on the fold.  Eliminating the center seam gave me a little extra room, too.

I dropped the back waist darts, which gave me the room I needed to make sure the fit was right, and there wasn’t going to be any tightness.  For the extra fabric at the top of the bodice, I put a box pleat in each shoulder.  This kept my center back straight.  Sometimes a tuck or a fold is just what you need to make things fit, then it becomes a design element!

I will be honest that when Moira showed up to pick up the dress I held my breath while I zipped her up into it.  I wanted so very much for the dress to fit like a hug from a friend.  And it did!  She looked so lovely twirling around in my workshop, staid Frida’s looking on in approval.

Moira Wedding Dress

And here is the bride in her dress at her wedding at a mini-golf course / wedding chapel.  I can’t express how much it meant to me that Moira asked me to make her wedding dress.  Again, I never thought I would work on bridal gowns, and I really am not.  Instead, I am adding my love for my friend to her wedding, helping to amplify the happiness of the day.

 

Book Announcement: Sew Craft

I’m excited to announce that Llewellyn Worldwide will be publishing my book Sew Craft: A Sewist’s Book of Shadows.  If you want to see what kind of book it will be you can read my posts on the magical properties of fabric and dream pillows.  There will be projects and rituals, as well as much of the lore and information I’ve picked up in the last year of research into magick and sewing.

From as long as I can remember I have written.  Before I could form letters or words I would scribble stories.  To finally realize my goal of getting my work published is amazing.  This project is going to consume most of my waking hours over the next few months.  Fortunately, now that summer break is over, I have more time to devote to it.

I’m not going anywhere, though.  I will still be posting here about commissions and events and whatever else pops into my head.  And I’ll be posting about the book, because eventually I’m sure that Stephan and my kids are going to get tired of me goobing over it.

A very happy Solar Eclipse to you all.  I hope it sees the start of something good for each and every one of you.

Client Spotlight: A.C. & Moira

You all may recall that I’ve mentioned before I don’t take on wedding dress commissions.  It’s not out of a dislike of weddings (I’ve had two of my own: one with the white dress and all the trimmings and one with just me, my love and my daughter at the justice of the peace).  I merely find that there are others who specialize in nuptial-wear and so really no need for my skills.

And yet, I have found myself once again working on a wedding outfit commission, and like the last one, it is not your familiar white satin and lace affair.

Before we get to that commission, however, I have a long awaited (well at least for me) update on the wedding tux I made for A.C. last December.  As a refresher, A.C. is non-binary, and wanted an outfit for their wedding that was a) fitting to their tastes and style b) included some traditional wedding motifs and c) could be worn to other occasions.  I made them a white satin vest suit with lavender lapels.  Well, A.C. just sent me photos of the ceremony featuring their suit and I must say they look absolutely fantastic.  Behold the glory of wearing whatever the frak you want to your wedding:

I’m am thrilled with how the tux turned out and it made my day to get to see the pictures of the happy day.

Now, let’s turn to the next commission, another wedding outfit, for one of my dearest friends.

I’ve known Moira going on eight years.  I met her at the second convention I ever vended at.  She helped spread the word when I ran a fire sale on custom corsets to raise money to keep my house.  We’ve vended together at various events, we bounce ideas off of each other, and we are supportive of each others’ goals as artists, crafters and women.  So when Moira told me that she was getting married to her long-time partner (another wonderful person I am lucky to call my friend), and asked me if I was interested in making her wedding dress I said yes before she had even told me what she wanted.

This weekend Moira came over and we hashed out some of the details.  Before I get into a break down of what I’ll be making for her, I want to make a slight detour and mention that this is the first time I’ve had a client over since we adopted our cats*.  I learned quickly that cats will: lay down on open patterns you are trying to discuss, attack dangling tape measures when you are taking measurements, and monopolize the attention of your client if they give any indication of liking cats.

On to the dress: Moira brought in several patterns she had picked up for us to discuss.  We narrowed it down to the one she and her groom liked best: McCall’s 7086.   McCall Pattern 7086

As with A.C., Moira wants a dress that she could wear after the ceremony to other functions.  I love the idea of practical wedding wear.  (My dress from my first marriage is sitting in a box in my parents’ home.) I took measurements, set up two future appointments for a tissue fitting and a second fitting afterwards.

Then we discussed fabric.  This was honestly the best part of the whole meeting because when Moira asked if I had any advice on patterns.  “Maybe not stripes or plaids because they would be a nightmare to match with this pattern.”  Anything else? Fair game.  As long as she found a print she loved, I’d work with it.  My reasoning is that one should wear what makes one feel fabulous.  If that’s big prints?  Awesome!  And if anyone makes any noises about how the print resembles furniture, then you sit your fabulous self on that person and smother them because you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

At this point you might be wondering, “Are you going to add pockets to this dress?”  And that’s how I know you are new to this blog.  Of course I will be adding pockets to this dress.  I personally view any pattern that omits pockets to be a design flaw that should have seen the pattern sent back for redrafting.  But fashion rarely makes sense, which is why I and other sewists are here to make up for the mistakes of others.

I’ll update as work on this dress progresses.  I also have a few other commissions that are in various stages of completion which I’ll post on in the coming months.  In the meantime, I’ve got some pockets to insert.


*I realize I didn’t mention this before, but in January I had to put down Trixie. While I am not ready for another dog, the house was feeling empty without a furry presence, and so at the end of April we adopted two cats: Barley and Jake.  We got them from the Humane Haven in Bolingbrook and the house has felt in balance once again.

Persist, Resist: Nine Fabrics from Spoonflower for your Craftivism

Next month I’ll be vending at the TINY HANDS craft show to benefit Planned Parenthood. I’m excited to be involved in this event, not only because I support Planned Parenthood and its work, but because I get to finally participate in an act of craftivism. Ever since I read Craftivism by Betsy Greer I have wanted to find ways to use my skills to make a difference.

With thoughts of resist, persist and protest in mind I collected some designs from Spoonflower together to inspire your own crafting activism. Check out the gallery below:

And if you are in the Chicagoland area, consider coming out to the craft show and supporting Planned Parenthood.

 

Sew Craft: Dream Pillows

In my backyard I have a bower on which morning glories entwine in the spring and summer. I have always loved the cheerful face the flowers give to the day, especially as I am not a morning person. I can see the blooms from my bedroom window and so, no matter how grouchy I might be when I drag myself from the warm embrace of my bed, I smile when I catch sight of the blue and purple flowers.

Morning glory seeds added to dream pillows keep nightmares at bay. Perhaps this is because they carry in them a promise of the morning to come, when the sunrise banishes the monsters of the night.

Make dream pillows to help with prophetic dreams, or to ease your mind to sleep. Make one for the child who wakes up from nightmares. She can reach for her sleep pillow, inhale the scent of lavender and lemon balm and fall back asleep, knowing her dreams will be sweetened by the scents.  To refine your spell craft, use linen—dreams and linen both share an association with water.  If you want inspiring dreams, use silk thread for the embroidery for its association with the air element.  If you need deep sleep, make use of cotton’s grounding earth vibrations.

Materials

Dream Pillow Materials
I used the lavender linen spray shown here when I pressed the fabric before starting. It’s not necessary, but it gives the fabric a nice fragrance.

Dream Pillow Design ( pdf | jpg )
Blue fabric about 12″ x 12″
Lightweight fusible interfacing
Embroidery thread in blue, purple and silver
Embroidery hoop and needle
9 morning glory seeds
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers

Process

1) Print out the Dream Pillow Design by clicking on the links here: pdf | jpg. Use the pdf link to print the image as is. The jpg link is provided for you to manipulate (enlarge, reduce, rotate, etc.).

2) Transfer the embroidery design onto the fabric.  You can use transfer paper, or trace the pattern right on the fabric.  I pinned the design to the fabric and taped it to the window to trace it.  I use the Pilot Frixion Clicker pens because the ink disappears from fabric when ironed.

Dream Pillow Transfer
This part will take a little patience.

3) Stitch the design with three strands of embroidery thread (1 blue, 1 purple, 1 silver). Use a stem, chain or split stitch. Use an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut.

Dream Pillows: Almost Finished
Halfway to the land of Nod.

4) When finished, apply fusible interfacing to the back of the design.

5) With the design centered, cut the fabric out in a 6” square. Cut a back piece of fabric also in a 6” square.

6) With right sides together, stitch a ½” seam along all sides of the square, leaving a 3” gap for turning. Back stitch at the start and finish of the seam.

7) Trim the corners and seam allowances.

8) Turn the pillow right side out. Press.

9) Stuff the pillow with the morning glory seeds and lavender. Do not over stuff.

Dream Pillows: Stuffing Time
You can also add mugwort to your dream pillow to help promote prophetic dreams.

10) Edge stitch ¼” around all sides of the pillow. Work slowly, shifting the lavender and morning glory seeds to the center to avoid catching them in the needle.

11) When you are finished, hold the pillow in both hands and charge it with restful sleep intentions. Say:

“Lavender sweet and glory of day
Please keep any nightmares at bay,
Should haunted thoughts disturb this guarded rest
Please help usher in a sleep that’s blessed.”¹

You can call upon one of the gods of sleep or dreams to bless the pillow as well.

Place the dream pillow under your own. Should negative thoughts rouse you to wakefulness, grip your dream pillow, inhale the lavender scent and allow it to lull you back to sleep.

Finished Dream Pillow
And your dream pillow is done. Sweet dreams.

¹ Many thanks to my partner, Stephan, for putting together a chant to replace my clumsy attempts at ritual rhyming.

Sew Craft: Fabric Magical Properties

One of the challenges in researching this book has been the lack of information on very basic topics.   While magical correspondences of everything from animals to minerals, colors to plants have been studied and recorded, textiles have slipped through the cracks.  When it comes to magical crafts, fabric has been given little if any consideration of its magical properties.  Yes, fiber content isn’t as exciting as, say, feathers or shells, but I feel that taking time to consider the type of fabric you’ll use in projects can give added meaning and energy to your work.

There are some people who have given some thought to the magical properties of textiles.  One such, Deborah Snavely, has two in depth articles on the subject.  I have come to use different correspondences than hers below.  Also, I don’t use the standard system of assigning male or female genders—I find the whole idea not particularly useful, and potentially harmful to my practice.  However, I include the link to her articles as I found them helpful in my own research and as a place for others to look to for their own investigations.

Without a venerable Cunningham to guide my studies, I have had to cast my net outside the metaphysical seas into those concerning the practical aspects of textiles.  The correspondences outlined below are based on my research into the origins of the fiber (where the raw material comes from) and the processes used to make the fabric.  My focus is on the most basic of correspondences: the elements.  I’ve also limited myself to the four most common natural fabrics.  Man-made and blends fall outside the scope of this entry.  Other natural fabrics: nettle, hemp, the new faux leathers made from pineapple leaves and mushrooms are best considered in another article as well.  Leather, fur and feathers have been left off as their associations are intrinsically tied to the animals they come from.

With that preamble out of the way, please check out the correspondences below.  Again, these are all based on my own research.  So, if anything doesn’t resonate with you, ignore it.  In the end, magic is a personal matter, and it is your own intuition, symbols and reasoning that fuels your spells.

Cotton

Cotton fabric is made from the boll of the cotton plant. The fibers are plucked, mixed, beaten in cylinders, carded, drawn, roved and then spun into thread. As such, it shares some of the qualities of plant from which it comes: it is associated with the Earth element; it can be used magically in spells of healing, luck and protection. According to Cunningham, “Cotton is the best kind of cloth (next to wool) to use for making sachets, or for any time cloth is needed in magic.”¹

One type of cotton fabric, muslin, was once a fabric highly prized in its native India and throughout the rest of the world. In her book, Muslin, Sonia Ashmore writes, “Muslin is an open-textured cloth, thin and sheer, woven to varying degrees of fineness depending on the quality of yarn used and the skills of both the spinner and the weaver. The surface, particularly of hand-woven muslin, has a softness to the touch that has been described as ‘mossiness’.”² This description of “mossiness” along with its origin of the cotton plant, places the fabric into the Earth elemental realm.

Use cotton fabric for any project, from robes to altar cloths to spell bags. It is well suited for spell bags as it is breathable, allowing the magic to flow in and out of the pouch.

Linen

Linen is created from flax; a laborious process that includes “retting” or fermentation in water. Because of this and its water absorption properties, it is associated with the Water element. It is a fabric that suggests purity and wealth. As it was historically used for bedding, linen is used in many healing spells. One such use involves tying a strip of linen from a sick person’s bed to a tree. As the exposure to the elements destroy the strip, the illness will be similarly destroyed in the patient.

Linen is associated to the goddess Hulda through its flaxen origin. It is used in spells of beauty, healing, money, protection and psychic powers. Linen is especially well suited to robes and other magical attire.

While pure linen is expensive, there are several “linen like” synthetics available at a lesser price point. These can be used in place of the authentic fiber. These faux fabrics require less ironing than pure linen meaning they can be preferable for use in items worn.

Silk

Silk is made from the cocoons of moth caterpillars. The cocoons are soaked in hot water from which loose fibers are collected and then twisted into thread for weaving. As a fabric it is seen as a luxurious and sought after material for garments. Magically, silk is considered to deflect magic, and to protect the magical energies and contents inside it, making it especially useful for creating bags used to hold and carry tarot cards, runes, and crystals.

Caterpillars, moths and butterflies, as well as their cocoons represent transformation, thus making silk suited for spells and magic pertaining to change, movement, and growth. Because of its association with wealth, luxury and prestige, silk is a good fabric to use in money and prosperity spells.

Silk is associated with the element of Air due to its airy quality and its origin. Because of its great rate of shrinkage and loss of strength when wet, it may not be suited for spells or rituals involving the Water element.

Wool

Wool sheared from sheep is bathed in a chemical bath, mixed, spun, washed and pressed to felt it. It is known for being impervious to cold and is often used for clothing meant to protect from cold weather. Coming from sheep, it is associated with the astrological sign Aries and the planet Mars. All of these properties align it with the Fire element.

Wool is associated with protection and comfort. It can be used in protective, prosperity and healing spells. Wool felt is useful for crafts from poppets to altar decorations. Wool suiting is useful for ritual cloaks, which will keep you warm during rituals performed outdoors during colder weather.

Cut edges of wool don’t unravel, making it useful for quick circle pouches or for when you don’t have time for finishing edges in a project. And though expensive, wool is a durable fiber that will last a long time, making it a worthwhile investment for spell and ritual tools.

 


¹ Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, p. 84

² Sonia Ashmore, Muslin, p. 8

Client Spotlight: A.C. – Pockets!

(You can read the first part of this spotlight here.)

The first obstacle I ran into with this commission came as I gave the pattern my first thorough read through. Like so many women’s fashions, there were no pockets provided.  This is a topic I feel passionately about.  Your typical wedding dress can possibly, maybe be excuses for not having pockets.  the assumption being that the wearer will have attendants to hold keys, wallet, makeup, what have you.  This outfit, however, is meant to be worn on other occasions, so pockets are necessary.

Fortunately, I’ve had experience the last few months with adding pockets to normally pocket free patterns.  Other than that alteration, the construction of the outfit for the fitting was straight forward.  The top is an unlined vest and the pants were much easier than I had anticipated.  The newly reorganized workshop helped immensely.

Having room to maneuver also made the fitting a more pleasant experience.

A.C. has a very slender build, meaning a need for some alteration to the bust to eliminate a gap at the armpit and taking in where the vest hits the hips a bit to reduce the flare.  The pants, however, could stay a little loose to accommodate the pockets.

Marking the hem was a little tricky as the fabric didn’t want to cooperate, but we got it figured out.  And that was that.  For a wedding outfit, this has been one of the easiest going projects I’ve done in a long while.

Next time I’ll have pictures of the finished outfit.

Book Research: 1949 Singer Sewing Manual

Advice from a 1949 Singer Sewing Manual
Text: Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Thing about what you are going to do. . .never approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates. Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing. . .When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine to dust your fingers at intervals. Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on . . .[If] you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing as you should.
Outdated, patriarchal claptrap aside I’ve always loved the above advice from the 1949 Singer Sewing Manual, not only because it is solid, but because it points out that sewing is serious business.  It also works, in many ways, as advice for ritual work.

When you are working a ritual, casting a spell, praying, collecting herbs, or what have you, there is a process of preparation, steps we follow to align their will with their goal.  We mentally prepare ourselves.  We gather our materials. We cleanse ourselves and consecrate our work space.  We make sure we won’t be interrupted.  Readying ourselves for magic and readying ourselves for sewing follow the same steps.

I mention this because I’m currently working on a book.  The subject matter is paganism and sewing.  I’ve got a good portion of it already written, and the goal is to finish it before the year is out.  The timing for November is just coincidence, this isn’t a NaNoWriMo project.

I’ll be posting bits and bobs of research over the next few weeks, along with more on sewing, cross stitch and whatever else strikes my fancy.  I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I do.

 

Reworking the Workshop

I am currently behind on several skirt commissions, an alteration of a previous commission, and several personal projects.  The reason? My workshop has become unworkable.  In order to cut out fabric I have to clear off my cutting table.  In order to clear off my cutting table I have to find space for stuff.  In order to find space for stuff I have to shift boxes and bins and bags to other spots.  Before I can even get started I’m already exhausted by the process.

If you look closely you can see the cutting table under all that stuff. It is supposed to allow me to cut out fabric without hurting my back, but in order to use it I had to often clear it off first.
If you look closely you can see the cutting table under all that stuff. It is supposed to allow me to cut out fabric without hurting my back, but in order to use it I had to often clear it off first.

My workshop was originally the garage.  A space that has never housed a car in all the time I’ve lived here.  For years it was where we stuffed everything that didn’t fit in the house, the yard tools, and a small horde of mice and voles.  It provided an easy way into the house via the automatic garage door.  But that broke a few years ago, leaving us with an extra, unheated room where stuff got put to be forgotten.

The back of the workshop. Again, if you look to the left of the picture you'll see the conference table that was supposed to serve as a workbench. Instead it just became a junk magnet. Way in the back you can see the file cabinet that holds my patterns. Getting into it was like launching a expedition into a jungle.
The back of the workshop. Again, if you look to the left of the picture you’ll see the conference table that was supposed to serve as a workbench. Instead it just became a junk magnet. Way in the back you can see the file cabinet that holds my patterns. Getting into it was like launching a expedition into a jungle.

When we moved my sewing stuff into the garage, we cleared out a little space for me to work in.  And for a couple of years it worked, kinda.  Patterns and tools got lost.  Fabric got forgotten in various darkened corners.  The rodent problem was brought under control through traps, and my arachnophobia was went through a downgrade as I had accept Arachne’s kin had taken up shop in the work space as well.

Back of the workshop, window facing out into the backyard. This was the official sewing space. Note that several of the shelves required me to use a step stool to reach when I needed items.
Back of the workshop, window facing out into the backyard. This was the official sewing space. Note that several of the shelves required me to use a step stool to reach when I needed items.

Coming back from SLCC, though, it became more apparent that the situation just wasn’t working.  I was getting frustrated and falling behind because I didn’t want to work in that dark, crowded space.  I found myself having to use the dining table more often.  Finally, I said “Enough!” and marked off a weekend to completely overhaul the workshop.

This wardrobe does not lead to Narnia. It is where I would store bolts (and bags and boxes) of fabric. I would come across fabric that I don't remember ever buying, proving the fabric was breeding. The company up top are remnants of childhood and LARP.
This wardrobe does not lead to Narnia. It is where I would store bolts (and bags and boxes) of fabric. I would come across fabric that I don’t remember ever buying, proving the fabric was breeding. The company up top are remnants of childhood and LARP.

I knew what I wanted: more open space to move around, less flat surfaces for me to stack piles of stuff on, thus adding to the clutter problem, and everything up off the floor.   The process took three days actually, spilling over into Monday, and inspired a reorganization of our bedroom as well.  I had decided to recruit the closet system for the workshop, which left us without a place to put our clothes.  This necessitated moving the wardrobe in the workshop into the bedroom.  Stephan has manhandled this piece of furniture four times in the eight years we’ve been together.  Without his help all of this would have taken a week longer.

Back of the workshop. Check out how open everything is. I still have my window view and can pull out the cutting table when I need it and roll it away so that it doesn't become a dumping ground.
Back of the workshop now. Check out how open everything is. I still have my window view and can pull out the cutting table when I need it and roll it away so that it doesn’t become a dumping ground.

The biggest change was treating the front of the garage as a wall.  With the automatic door not working anymore, there really isn’t a reason to keep it clear.  And by moving the shelves against it, that gives me more floor space in the middle of the room.  I also stored away the conference table.  Originally, it was supposed to act as a workbench, but all it ever did was serve as a place for me to stack things.

Front of the workshop after the work. The file cabinet is reachable. I hung a rug over the garage door to help combat drafts come winter. Everything is organized and accessible.
Front of the workshop after the work. The file cabinet is reachable. I hung a rug over the garage door to help combat drafts come winter. Everything is organized and accessible.

I’ve had the chance to work in the workshop for the past few days and I have to admit that it is awesome.  I can reach what I need without having to drag out a step stool.  The cutting table can be pulled out whenever I need it.  I’ve got all my current commissions and projects hung up where I can find them easily.  And I’m not moving bins or bags out of the way to get at what I need.

A bookshelf provides a home for books, cross stitch supplies, and my minions. The luggage feels especially comfortable.
A bookshelf provides a home for books, cross stitch supplies, and my minions. The luggage feels especially comfortable.

It wasn’t easy.  I spent several days very sore from the work.  But I am very pleased with the changes.  It feels like a real workshop now, rather than one shoved into the only space available.

GNH

It’s been a couple of days since we decided I wouldn’t be doing any more conventions for the time being, and I feel pretty okay about that decision.  As much as I enjoy conventions (in a Leslie Knope kind of way) I feel a certain amount of relief that I don’t have to scramble to find a way to pay for more booth fees since SLCC didn’t bring in money for that.

We made another decision that has been more difficult to reconcile, though.  That night while crying in my wine glass filled with cheap cab, I said, “I would give up all my creativity just to be financially stable.”  At the time I meant it.  Living in the US sucks if you are poor.  There’s the being food or housing insecure, but there’s also an added layer of judgement that comes along with being unable to pay your bills.  Thanks to our Puritan roots that equates wealth to worth, happiness is seen as only deserved by those who have an emergency fund, credit card balances paid off each month, and a retirement fund.  If you struggle from month to month, or live paycheck to paycheck, you are expected to be miserable.

I have struggled with more than societal expectations.  My ex made several times more than I did our entire relationship, a fact that became a problem after I had Charlotte.  I stayed home because it was decided that my $10 an hour would just get eaten up by childcare costs.  And once I lost that income, my worth to the relationship dwindled.  It didn’t matter that I was cleaning and cooking (things I did before I left my job).  The time that I spent raising our daughter didn’t count either.  Because there wasn’t a dollar amount attached to my efforts, I became a sort of indentured servant, paying for my keep with maid, cook and nanny services.  There’re reasons we divorced, and that’s one of them.

Coming back to the other night: all of the above was swirling around in my head when I admitted that I would trade the thing that made me happiest, the thing that made me who I am, for a respectable living.  I probably would have kept thinking that if Stephan hadn’t asked me if sewing made me happy.

“Yes,” I said, not really seeing what that had to do with anything.

Well then, what if we took the money factor out of things, he asked.  Not that I wouldn’t still sell my work on Etsy, or stop taking commissions.  Just … stop worrying about making a certain amount each month. What if, for the next few months, I focused on the happiness that sewing and writing brought, rather than the money?

It’s not an easy idea for me to wrap my head around.  I’ve been told all my life that I am lazy and irresponsible with money.  Just working without an expectation of making money seems to align with those ideas.  Jerk Brain, too, has chimed in with all sorts of guilt-inducing comments about how others don’t have the opportunity to take a sabbatical, and that the idea “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is just a bunch of privileged, white woman talk.

I’m trying to get around those obstacles, though.  I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life trying to justify my right to life through my income.  Taking four months to sew, write, bake bread, clean house and be the woman I want to be isn’t too much to ask out of a lifetime of being a wage slave.

After all, Stephan is back to regular hours at work after summer hours saw him working three days a week instead of five.  We can make that work to cover the monthly bills and any cash I make can go towards chipping away at our debt.  What’s the worse that can happen?  We won’t get out of debt as quickly as I had wanted.  But since I didn’t have any more conventions planned for this year, and since they weren’t bringing in the big bucks like I had hoped, it’s not like I am risking anything big.

The hardest part is giving myself permission to focus on what makes me happy.  I’m not comfortable with that idea.  And the fact that I am uncomfortable makes me sad.  I have to let go of the idea that I can’t really enjoy what I am doing until I am successful at it.  I’m not sure I will ever be okay with the emphasis of gross national happiness over gross domestic product.  For the next four months, though, I’m going to look at that discomfort through a lens of challenging my societal upbringing, and assure myself that at the very worst I can go back to measuring my worth by my bank account come January 1.