Author Archives: m d b

fibro is weird

I am prepping myself to carefully tidy my studio and I’ve got a weird cold sensation that passes up the back of my arms. I think this is fibro as that tends to be where I get the bruised feeling when fibro does that thing.

I’ve also had some worsening of my hand tremors. I think it’s too interrelated between my RA and fibro to figure out, so I am just going to have to continue to use therapy for each.

I think that while the erosion seems to have stabilised (as in it’s all eroded, but it’s staying as eroded, not that the joints are stable) but I think this is related to the twisting my ulnar has done and might continue to do.

Splints are great and also put pressure on the top of my ulnar so typing is a bit difficult.

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exhausted but motivated

I have just finished my stint as WorldCon masquerade director. The event is still going so I still need to do a proper debrief so I’ll wait for that.

But while deciding what on earth to wear I settled on Elsa but got Maleficent, my Wishing gown and my Elissa gown out to see what worked on camera.

My Elissa gown is entirely in pieces but they are good pieces. They are fun pieces, if I can just get the courage to put them on.

I love my blended interpretation and my original rope skirt, I’m not keen on how much stitching the ropes would need. though being stretchy it is possible I could overlock them and turn them. Hmm. The originals are just rolled due to the nature of the fabric.

But at 1m each I could just set aside a colour block a day to hand stitch them.

But I also really want to finally make my Maleficent wings. I’ve had much of the materials needed but I need to make a harness and of course one of the gowns.

My horns are very much pre- final battle (yep, they get sharper vertically. So I’d need to settle on how to deal with them. I do want to make them able to be worn more easily- so basically to snap on with magnets and make the space for my hair a bit wider and cleaner.

And I am also very keen to work on other projects. Like my entire Nordrhein wardrobe! My winter frock needs the fur lining put in. It’s basically an entire make over due to needing to take the lining out first.

But that silk can be used to finally line my Valois skirt as I accidentally used the best silk for that in something that has a new home.

So. Today I will reorganise my WIP pile as I probably can make it easier to work on everything.

Health is still up and down, it always will be. But I’m out of the holding pattern I was in caused by stress.

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stash busting

This is actually really difficult! I may have shell fabrics and some decoration ready for all my WIPs but gathering lining, support, interfacings, trim… it’s all been a bit difficult. I’m used to being able to just go to the stores where I can grab low cost but quality natural fibre fabrics but with fibro and my RA together it’s very hard to travel even to places on a nearly direct transport. And then carrying..

But I have just accepted I need my gabapentin during the day as it is actually really effective at night.

Right now the fibro is doing the raw/hot/cold patches thing. And that turns very quickly into flinching.

But I am now very sure what I want to accomplish this year and when.

I’ve spent a little bit of time on a distraction project. I should just finish it but I am not sure I can.

I’m also very busy for this week, so I might be pushing things to even attempt to do so.

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some progress

Today I actualy drafted a pattern. A really simple princess seam (into armscye not shoulder) and it really doesn’t look like anything special because it is familiar.

But it was entirely drafted from a width of curtain lining.

I taught myself how to drape primarily because all the classes and courses available at the time and for a long time after taught a very modern system. Which regardless of what anyone says is not peak evolution of patterning.

One of the reasons I have digitally collected all the dressmaking and tailoring manuals is to hopefully draw attention to the fact that so many try to make this claim. So they absolutely cannot be.

I like drafting too, but I prefer draping because drafting ignores the effect of fabric stretch*. Draping relies on it.

It becomes so obvious why curved seams are curved when they could be straight. Just pin a corner of a square of fabric at the CF neck of any mannequin and the fabric does wonderful things. Cut the corner off perfectly diagonally and it will change things. Cut it into a curve?

Anyway. The pattern was draped from neck to hip at CF and CB and the side panels were pinned in a vertical line through and eased from waist up to armscye and waist down to hip and pushed towards the middle.

Princess seams are so common but super misunderstood. They are not purely decorative they have a function that darts do not. There have been curved side back seams for centuries, but a curved seam at side front? Very rare until you see hourglass corsets worn regularly. Even then double darts are more common.

So there has to be a reason for them being relatively rare, and it’s a very simple reason- it’s expensive. You need to account for seam allowance over the most prominant curve and that creates a lot of waste.

Pinching a dart out meanwhile is not wasteful. And it offers the ability to undo the dart at a later date.

But once you have that seam you can make use of the vertical stretch it creates. Because a cut edge has more stretch than a fold. And clipping causes even more stretch. So this is why I had to pin and ease the side panels from waist up and down. I had to start with the center of the panels as an anchor.

I wonder if I can manage to get the motivation to do a video on this. Primarily as an engineering thing, not right and wrong.

*Or tries to calculate it mathematically and it just never really works out. It makes for very pretty line work though.

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this week is a whole mood

Ummm.. I don’t really know where to start but what started as a bad week on Tuesday just.. managed to get worse.

Sometime before Tuesday (sunday? Monday?) we spotted my chair had worn a hole in the carpet. The culprit? The chair is metal tubing and the feet are plastic which turns out were not fit for purpose and collapsed inside the tube feet! Once that happened the chair only needed a small amount of horizontal pressure to make a hole.

Fortunately I should be able to afford a repair and then get a mat specifically for my chair.

Then I picked up a fabric panel from the dining table and it stuck, I thought oh wow it really has been on the for a while and the condensation must have been very bad last night. And then I smelt it and ummm… not water. And oh look a stain in the varnish. Possibly into the wood? It was cleaned asap but the stain is there.

So I go to reheat my lunch on the stove (ceramic) and turnd my back and heard a crackle pop that sounded like a really firm peg snapping and shattering. Nope. Turns out there was a short and the oven swtitch at the mains flipped down. So we checked the surface for any residue of any sort, and turned it back on and..

Well it happened again. A couple of seconds of crackle, then a bang and flash of red then the unmistakable smell of electricity. I swore it was the element itself that glowed red (which is embedded in the glass top) but two sets of eyes saw different things due to the nature of how eyes work.

There is no apparent damage anywhere on the stove or pan. Apparent, I don’t have the tools to test of check the element or suface in any meaningful way.

But it does mean we can’t use it and need to replace it.

And today mum’s macbook screen has just stopped working. Soooo…

Our stresses have been financial. And just weird in their timing.

This week has also been stressful in terms of what is going on globally and locally so it’s been hard to even find any joy in making or doing.

But I have tidied my current project stash and do have a plan for that.

I have so many projects that have been put off for health and responsibilities that I think I’d like to just change a few things so I don’t feel so overwhelmed by them again.

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My word. No words for so long. I’m absolutely not managing to even keep up with health. Health, then responsibilities, mean I’ve been been overly stressful for months and it’s leaking out in all kinds of ways. But nothing cathartic.

Each time I think I have a handle on managing my exposure to stress it is cut away. Everything I am stressed about is very real, very much about what I cannot control. But I have to know.

I do indeed have to weigh risk factors for everything. I tend to have some kind of infection at any one time. Interestingly I have so far avoided them this year. Well I have been isolating more than usual, so there is that.

But it means I have no time left to Do. And it’s an important part of mental health to have that.

I find the kind of art I do is very stressful anyway. I used to love to sketch and paint and that is where I let out a lot of emotional stuff. I think a massive canvas and room to fling paint would be very useful right now.

But costuming? The only part I find relaxing is draping. So much bliss. But I have run out of draping fabric and so I’m left with cutting my actual fabric and oh wow. Stress distracts at this point and so I wind either making mistakes or assuming I’ll maks mistakes which means I try to keep extra and extra extra seam allowances. That eats into fabric alloted and I have also run out of funds to buy the ~100m of cotton cording I need for my main replica costume project right now.

It’s really just the bottom end of a cascade of everything but it means I have kind of run out of a lot of Go.

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trying to do

I have been spending so much time trying to keep up that I haven’t. So today there are a few tasks to do. I had enough sleep last night to have some focus.

I recently shared how I approach a frock.

This is not my exact process for every single garment I have made. And it doesn’t include how I got to the point of having a portrait in the first place. But generally even for media recreations I look at the full context, I’ll look at what else the designer has worked on, find any interviews, find making of, and sometimes I’ll be able to figure out what resources they had access to during any training they had.

The Just Breathe gown is a perfect example of how line art can be interpreted so far from the original and yet be immediately recognisable.

Duerer was really fascinated by this style that he used it a few times.

It might be easy to see my documentation and end results as things have been easy to find, most of it hasn’t been. But as an early adopter of the internet it’s mostly been those of us curating from art history and archives to find that information.

Fashion history has in my life time undergone a similar growth. I was simply not able to do the kind of research I am doing now at a university level. I tried. But couldn’t so I did my BSc while making as much use of the libraries as I could.

So it’s been exciting to see how very easy it is now to at least find the depiction of clothing by simple searches. But it is still based on who is doing the curating and why.

I’m trying to also work on my pattern book, it’s taking a bit longer because yes it was based on me and I have a degree of ease in using extant patterns and tailors books in that the patterns are very easy to use with very little change to fit me.

I’d really like to make it much more easy to use by anyone who wants to make or wear the garments, so am working on the instructions, line art for how to fit, the patterns, and figures. So it might take a while. I don’t want anyone to feel like an after thought if I publish too soon- my draft was a draft only.

As the extant tailors books really are a one size only deal (all of this is going into the book) it’s not a simple case of using modern scaling. And it has taken some time for me to use extant garments, the entire history of tailoring and dress making books, and artwork of the same fashion worn by people of different builds. There really isn’t a single scaling but is very regional- support and fit building built with layers is part of this. And so is regional style. But I am going to use some modern drafting books to be able to explain what modern ideas of scale are compared to earlier.

So there is so much I have not been able to web because I don’t want to not include everything that informs my process. The NRW stuff is waiting on one final piece of the puzzle and it seems fairly minor but it totally changed my understanding so now I need to make sure that new understanding is accurate.

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Stuck, not great

I have not made many posts at all, and it’s a reflection of simply not being able to do, not a reflection of how much I am having to think. I’m just not really able to keep ahead of what I need to keep myself safe while there is a severe respiratory virus out there. I have some kind of lung damage, we just don’t know what it is as it has not shown up in an x-ray.

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Oh it’s A Thing for both Rheumatoid Disease and Fibro but then also during this pandemic. I’m over the panic, and my body is paying for that rush of hormones used to get through that high stress.

Normally I pay for one day of activity through careful planning and then a week of (extra) exhaustion and (extra) pain and often then still a bit of a decline in health which means each event takes me back a little more.

So I had started to accept afternoon rest even when I think it feels like some sort of indulgence. It’s not, it’s therapy. It doesn’t help that so often in history it has been fashionable to look like you are sick- but it’s never really been okay to be sick. Fashion is usually about taking an aesthetic from a group of people without wanting the reality of life as part of that community.

But this pandemic? It’s like an event every few days and my body is not recovering.

So I have been very quiet here, my projects are a mess and everywhere as I’ve started to feel the stress of them being unfinished again.

My research is also in a holding pattern in terms of updating. It’s all there in my notes, and archives, and I have a number of unfinished pages to publish. But I am not able to focus for more than an hour at a time.

Today I managed to get underway with my frog needle case. I wanted to reframe my nifty antique purse but I need to dremel out the pins and I need to prepare for that well in advance. It will need to be the first thing I do in a day. It also is a bit hard as I never did replace my workstation (aka the thing wot holds the dremel in place and takes all the pressure off my busted hands and oh also prevents me hurting myself as the neuropathy is bad and I could you know… wobble the dremel into something.)

But yeah. This pandemic is hard, and the world has actually sped up in terms of expectations of productivity.

If you are finding it difficult, you are not alone, you are also not imagining things, and you are not failing. I can’t even quantify the degree of extra pressure, but I do know it’s gone from feeling like I can finish a project in a few years to not being sure I can get any done ever again.

Even my accessories are taking longer than it should. But they are light, I don’t have to engage my full body, which is part of why working at my computer is so draining difficult, and why machine sewing is so very difficult.

Writing this post has taken effort I really wanted to put into other things but I also know how important is can be to know that other people share an experience. It may not offer the solution needed, but it can help take some of the burden off yourself, set it aside, and focus on what you do know helps you.

This last week, I think, I shared privately an experience that upset me. A friend I admire greatly said she went through the same thing, she had seen it happen to other people, and gave me some peace as I was starting to have self doubt, and thought maybe it was egotistical to feel what I did.

So while I don’t have a solution to prevent that experience happening again, I have some peace that my feelings are not just valid but also not out of place.

Acknowledging an experience is negative is part of the process of getting through it. I can do a whole lot more if I know where my effort has effect. It doesn’t stop me putting in effort, but it channels it into healing and trying to make things better for others.

And it means I can also put a line under it and let the good experiences happen as well. And understand what makes them good. And express what makes them good.

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pandemic fomo

It’s real. But it’s because the rest of the world has discovered all my usually quiet online spaces and filled them with far too much to catch up with. I’ve also not really finished any projects as they are all intensive and difficult and I do not have all the materials I need!

But the Cleves projects are currently my focus as I do not want to be without my Hat and red frock any longer. The Hat was made over twice, but the frock has been in pieces for years. I did though bond the new plush velvet guarding to a light cotton base and have enough to play with if I decide to change some things.

I did start making this over a while back which required cutting new sleeves from a strip of fabric from the back of the skirt as I never found that same red again. With a very recent portrait find I might not have needed to do that but well.. it’s been done.

I need more fabric to add extra width to the skirt back.

Today some red velveteen arrived and it is soooo close but is a shade too light. I’m hoping I can hint it deeper with some cerise red dye. I’m hoping some other velveteen I ordered is a closer match but if not I know I can use this if I can devote a day to working with dye, hot water, and a large container outdoors. It’s a full body experience I really need to prepare for. Fibro and RA are flaring a bit which means more rest and more therapy.

But it is such a relief! I made this not long before I was elevated as a Laurel and it was so different that I am really really really desperate to wear it again after about 14 years! With the return of my Teal frock I’m really feeling the need to get my older work up to date 🙂

One of the aspects I want to discuss is the fabric colour and fabric choices. Red is a very striking choice for a frock. It’s not common, at all, for the decade I made it to reflect.

Everything I’m doing is based on research i have shared sporadically over the years but is taking time to web because to me everything is important so I can’t just share one part.

Okay. I have numbness on the back of my hands so it’s time to rest!

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