I must say, I am starting to get tired of sewing muslins. (I think I’m on #6 by now.) However, I am persevering, not just because I want a good end product but also because I want to understand how to “think” in fabric.
Have you ever had a time when you struggled and struggled and struggled to master something, then woke up one morning and realized that it was all so obvious? That if you took piece A and connected it to piece B, of COURSE you’d get result C? That’s what I describe as “learning to think”. It’s learning how things relate to each other, the simple laws that, when unconsciously absorbed, give you intuition about something, the ability to glance and say, “Oh, of course that’s what’s wrong.”
That’s what I’m aiming for – not just being able to produce a good result, but also gaining an understanding of the process. At times like this, when I am getting frustrated by my own ineptitude, I remind myself of the story that Annie Dillard wrote in her book The Writing Life, an autobiographical essay/book about being a writer. I would quote it in its entirety here, but unfortunately I have already packed the book! But the essence of it is: when she was living on a remote island somewhere cold and snowy, she had to learn to chop wood. At first, she set it up on the block and hacked at it with an axe, chips flying, until the top of the piece of wood was a mere nubbin. Then, she turned it onto its wee head and tried to hack at the bottom “before the whole thing fell over, God help us all”.
Then, she learned the secret of it. You don’t aim at the wood; you aim at the block underneath. By so doing, you chop through the wood rather than chipping away at it, and get a clean cut rather than a pile of woodchips.
To me, that is a wonderful metaphor for learning. In the beginning, because you don’t understand the principles, you chop at the sides of the thing, because you can’t see the most efficient way to do it. Once you gain confidence, and start to understand, you can split bigger pieces off. In the end, you understand how it works and you can just slice straight through to the chopping-block.
Right now I am chopping at muslins, and I think have almost reached the point of turning the point onto its nubbin and chopping at the base(!). But I am trying to see through the muslin to the principles underneath, and hoping that someday, in the not too distant future, I understand those principles and can aim at the block, instead of the wood.
I am really looking forward to moving and getting my paper dress form done! It’s just like a duct tape dress form except made with brown paper tape, so it holds its shape without stuffing and can be pinned into easily. I already have two rolls of brown paper tape, and could do it at any time. I’ve mostly been holding off because I don’t want to have to move a mannequin! But it will be one of the first things I do before I move. It will give me the chance to drape and pin muslins on a duplicate of myself, making experimenting with fitting a lot easier.
I am pleased to say that I mostly kept my word to myself and spent today packing. So far we’ve got the bedroom, the walk-in closet, and the living room mostly packed. Still to come are the kitchen and the garage – the tough parts, of course. I’ll be working limited hours (i.e. not much overtime) this week until I finish packing – the movers arrive on Saturday morning, 8am sharp. I’m thrilled by the prospect of a new workroom, though.
Tomorrow Mike and I are going to the new house to do the move-in inspection, and also to measure the rooms. We have three bedrooms to work with, and are thinking of making one the master bedroom (of course), one a study for Mike, and one a workroom/office for me. I’m rather tempted to graph out each of the rooms in Photoshop, then take appropriately-sized rectangles and shuffle the furniture around. Or am I just procrastinating the packing?