back seat, sitting back

I’ve been through a couple of tiring weeks. I’ll need at least a few more to recover from them. So not much news or progress. It’s mainly regaining and maintaining an acceptable level of energy.

in between: I bought a car. A new used one. This will break the isolation I live in when I’m in the cabin. In my head I am now free to go and visit knitter friends. It is a knitters car!

and I am sewing a dress! With real couture techniques. But it’s something I can only do in the city. Somehow I’ve got to wear my smart lady shoes for it. Good thing I like the city!

I like learning to sew and doing this. And it yields a usable, flattering result to bet! Did you know there’s a whole sewing community online? With a lót of women who like to sew vintage patterns, with lots of couture techniques. There are a lot that approach this engineer style too.

I am documenting my progress in another blog: BumbleSews. I have nearly finished my first ever dress. It only needs a hem, a pressing and some magic.

The third piece of news I’ve got is this: I got my genome checked. I send some spit to a lab in the USA and they send back a bunch of letters and numbers that basically is a recipe for me. A pattern. A DIY menu.

Very interesting! Seams Seems my vit. D receptor is broken…. as is my B12 converter. I also should avoid heroïne and lepra as I am extra vulnerable to those. Oh. OK.

gengen

these are my results for genes that code for the Methylation Cycle. This table was generated by Genetic Genie, a wonderful initiative.

These are just some of the thousands of genes. But very important ones. Because the Methylation Cycle is VERY IMPORTANT. Unfortunately I am too tired to understand the full impact very quickly. This is a nuisance because I am used to understanding things quickly. Especially new fields.

All I’m doing these days is freaking myself out, reading about the interpretations of those few genes that are not perfectly good. Estrogen dominance, lithium depletion, heavy metal toxidity, autism, vit D shortage…. it’s all there, written down in my genes.

There are solutions: ingest the things you cannot make yourself. But you have to do this carefully. Too much too soon will release too much toxins at one. But I am too tired to draw up a good plan for this.

I keep reminding myself I got this old, with these genes, and I will live with them for a few more weeks at least so there’s no need to try and understand and fix it all today. *tongue in cheek, I expect to live longer than a few weeks with these genes*

I also find it difficult to match the different scales of things.

I was at ease with working on the big scale: mental, spiritual, amygdala, nervous system, relaxing each day, meditation/yoga (if these were my cups of tea), happiness, living life.

The smaller scale I handled too: food, supplements, hormones, muscles, specific organs, skin.

But this new scale: cells, amino acids, methylation cycle, molecules. It’s all new. Well, I read about it when I first fell ill and I took supplements that work for cells in petri dishes. But it was all theoretical.

Now that I have practical knowledge of what is going on inside my cells and what is nót going on, I am freaking myself out.

And I have difficulty connecting these three scales with each other.

I shouldn’t even try. I should focus on resting and recuperating from the weeks behind me. I have no brain cells left for this intellectual work. I should sit back and smell something.

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Sewing as a woman.

Preparing to sew my first garment I find I’m getting ready to join in a long queue of skilled artisans. I’m researching fabrics, techniques and tutorials while I wait for my patterns to arrive. There is so much knowledge! So much eye for details. So many skilled hands. From this place all over the world. From my time all the way back in time to the first time someone covered themselves up.

There is so much more to discover than the clothes I know from my life thus far. I’ve never looked beyond cheap clothes form the stores (that never fit perfect) or ridiculous clothes on the fashion runways. Now I find there is a world of women who know how to fit a piece of cloth to the human form.

My personal line is going from my mother in the ’70s who made expressive garments to my grandmother in the ’30s who sewed spiritual dresses for her dance performances in colonial clubs in the East Indies, accompanied on the piano by the love of her life whom she met on the voyage getting there.

To the centuries of farm women before her who knew their measurements and made everything from scratch while abiding and expressing social messages in their Dutch traditional clothes. They knew how to make cloth from a sheep, from a plant or from leather. It was as common and great a skill as was making fire from a tinder box. Just because modern people haven’t been exposed to it doesn’t mean we don’t have a knack for it.

Dutch traditional dress from various regions, all different, all hand made:

Each region had their own silhouette, their own colours, their own customs. Their own head attire. This is just a very small selection.

There’s remarkable thing about the traditional clothes you see above. There are clothes from about 8 different towns and there’s a lot of black to be seen. The reason there is so much black is that black was added to a costume to indicate sorrow or grief. There are various rules for this: how long you had to wear black, how subdued the overall colours had to be. All depending on who died and how close related you were to them.

As these traditional ways of dressing were dying out only the elder people were still wearing it, with lots of reasons to wear black. Their spouse might have died. Or an adult child. That’s why the memory that still remains in our culture of these dresses is that they are often black or dark coloured. But they are not.

In truth they were brightly coloured and very elaborate. Colour indicated richness. (although dark coloured woolen skirts are very practical in use)

Young girls in Marken dress from around 1910, via wikipedia. The girl in the back is grieving for a distant relative, her sleeves have more dark in them and her hat and bodice darker/more subdued too.

Traditional dress from Spakenburg, photograph by Guus Herbschleb. The flowery fabric occurs in a lot of traditional dress, it echoos the rich fabrics that were brought in from the East Indies back in the 17th century. That was called ‘the Golden century’. Rembrandt, tulips and trading spices and slavery…

dress from Hindeloopen, by dagjeuit.nl

I’m looking forward to have non-black dresses. Black may be safe for a lot of people, it is bit too hard for me. It makes me look stern. Cold. Besides, I don’t need the safety.

lets end with a print by Paul Berthon, 1872-1909 (artist); L. Prang & Co. (publisher)

you know tulips aren’t original from Holland, yeah?

the Sewing Bug

starting a new project: sewing a dress. There’s a sewing bug going around. It’s buzzing on Ravelry. It’s busy on the BBC in the competition The Sewing Bee. And face it, modern women have been stung by it for years now.

pic by Bartek Ambrozik

It is so very satisfactory to make something with your own hands, using your wit. Loving materials and skills. If you can make it fit your own body than you’re feeling like a hero! Taking victory over all the clothes in stores that only flatter store models, not real people. Blowing a raspberry to all advertisements and childhood insecurities they sparked. This is real people, people!

Anyway, for me it’s a distraction from having to lay down more than usual and wanting a puzzle to solve. I’ve got enzyme pathways to study, knitting to do. And I like to sew a dress. Now I need a place to gather some info since I’m scribbling away on snippets and keep losing them. Also: my cat eats snippets for fun.

So I need a safe place. A place my fogged up brain can find again. This is it. Here we go:

Patterns purchased: Butterick 6582 and Butterick 5603:

pics by Butterick

now don’t get distracted by the colour, the models or their bridal tendencies. The trick to patterns is to look for the lines they are sewn with. The long lines. The short lines. Where and how they decrease fabric to suggest a waist or hip. How the neckline falls. Where the lines are to make the flat fabric round a curve.

Me, I am a short, curvy person. Fairly petite were it not for a set of big boobs and broad shoulders to support them. I have no waist, no hips, no buttocks. I would look ridiculous in any poofy ball gown you can imagine. Or in ruffles. Or in Grease-type Rock and Roll skirts.

pic by Sarah Lewis

I will look good in slender long lines that elongate me. I’m “a goblet”. I need ‘prinsess lines’. They run from the top into the skirt. A V-shaped neck will elongate. A skirt that flares below (like a mermaids tail) looks fab on me.

So I did not purchase the patterns for the dresses above. I purchased the line in their patterns:

pattern and pics by Butterick.com

Now you see the lines: long ones. No poofy skirts. No ruffles. Each dress has three variants.

My size: a mystery.

Size converters on the internet throw me off because in the Netherlands I’m a 36, a Small (providing I get a bit of extra room for ‘the ladies’). The converter says that a (German) 36 is a US 8, Medium. A US Small is a German 34 which is way too small for me. Than there’s vanity sizing where clothes companies suddenly called an M an S or the other way around. Has to do with making the customer feel they are smaller than they are? Or guilting them into buying more? I don’t know, I’m a hermit in a sheep’s fleece.

pic by Markus Biehal

Size is all about the frame. Your garment has to fit the back of your shoulders and the waist should be about the height of your waist. But you can amend the position of the waist easily (I think). You cannot amend shoulder width easily. Your shoulders is where the garment hangs from, get that size right.

So: I based my ‘size’ for sewing patterns on my frame and plan to adjust the rest. I measured my upperbust and I think for Butterick I’m a 16 with hips going to 14.

(Converter says a US16 is an Xtra Large and a German 44. They are mad. I’d swim in a 44!) Yay, Butterick and Vogue don’t do vanity sizing, they are consistent in their measurements. I’m a 16 in sewing patterns and an 8 when buying of the rack. Mystery solved.

my measurements:

upperbust: 92 cm/ 36″

bust: 97 cm/ 38″

waist: 76 cm/30″

hip: 96 cm/ nearly 38″

neck to waist: 40 cm/ 15,75″

bra: 70FF (don’t get me started on bra size converters!)

at 1.61cm/ 5′ 4″ I’m a Miss Petite to Vogue and Butterick patterns. Waist to hip is standard 18 cm/ 7″ in their patterns.

pic by Ariel da Silva Parreira

Things I do not know yet:

Lining. It is important. I believe this is a separate dress you make from the same pattern. You ‘hang’ it in the dress and you attach it to it. It is there to give the outer dress some stability and prevent seeing through and make the outer dress swirl around your body and not cling to it. I think.

O no! I have to learn about ease all over again! knitting stretches and I’ve got a basic of understanding knitting ease now. But sewing!

And seams! There will be seams!

and fabric…. which has bias. And grain. I can’t have grain, I don’t like gluten.

so much more to learn.

A few things to remember:

– make a dummy dress first. This is called a twirl or a voile I believe. Or a toile?

– my sewing machine is a vintage foot treadle. It goes to and fro. No fancy stitches. No fraying fabric. Just keep it simple.

– there’s a lot of hand sewing involved in sewing a garment. That machine is a workhorse. The fine print is done by hand.

– this is a multiple day project (think weeks). Make sure to put your stuff away in an orderly fashion (with notes would be splendid) so you know where to pick it up again. No need to invent the wheel every time you get out the project. A box of its own would be perfect.

– I plan to perfect one pattern, fit it perfectly to my body measurements. Than use that for future dresses.

It will be fun. And for once I showed up on time to participate in a trend!

pic by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Now for fun: go google some pictures of the patterns (try one and try two, not sure these links work), it’s amazing what different dresses these patterns yield. Dresses on real people! I’m already learning so much! Burdastyle.com and PatternReview.com and many more sewing platforms have a lot to offer. So many women generously share their knowledge and experience. I love it and feel part of it, while reposing and reclusing.

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btw, I have started a new blog to keep track of this sewing project. Have a look over at BumbleSews.wordpress.com. The first post is a virtual copy of this one so there won’t be much interesting to see in April 2013.