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Tony G. (the dear!) recently asked how I started making shirts. It is a good story, one I often tell my patients for it has a good lesson to it. I thought I would share it not only with Tony but with Spo-fans.

Sometimes when a patient admires the Spo-shirt I’m wearing to work I thank them for the compliment and then I tell them I made it. Often they are incredulous that I did so; they sometimes admire my ‘talent’ to sew.  I tell them this tale:

Many years ago chums and I would holiday every winter in the Florida Keys. A woman there had a shirt shop. She made loud colorful aloha-style shirts. I loved them and every year I would get a new one as a souvenir. This went on for four or five years. Then she announced she was retiring; there would be no more shirts. I became lugubrious. I wasn’t going to get anymore shirts. While I lamented this loss one friend said “Hey, I got an idea! Why don’t you make your own?” My immediate emotional response was “Oh, I can’t do that”. I then listed the many reasons why I can’t: I didn’t have a sewing machine; I didn’t know how to sew; I had no relations who could teach me.  Another friend said “Well, you could learn”.  My response to this was to point out I didn’t have time to do the things I needed and wanted to do let alone find time to learn how to sew – it was not possible.  A third friend, Jerrold, who sews for a living, hummphed and pointed out if junior-high school girls can do this so could I.  It dawned on me then what I just said: “I can’t do that” and “It’s not possible”.  These are big no-nos in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in which one looks at negative reasoning, assumptions, and fears. I call out patients on these all the time. So I decided to try, somewhat to show Jerrold but mostly not to be a hypocrite. Doctor heal thyself.

I borrowed Someone’s sister’s sewing machine and I bought a ‘sewing for idiots’ pattern. I purposely didn’t take lessons but tried on my own. After a lot of trial and error and more than a few frustrated near-abortions I finally made me a shirt. The garment was crude but I had the satisfaction I had succeeded. Now, that was to be it; I wasn’t planning on continuing the challenge. To my surprise I discovered I actually liked sewing.  I figured if I made a second shirt it would be much better. So I did……

That was many years ago. Since then I’ve made over a hundred shirts. I got better at it. I didn’t have the ‘knack’ but practice made improvements. In time I also learned how to take in/out my trousers and do cuffs. I’ve made curtains and quilts. Seasoned Spo-fans know I once sent a shirt around the world for a fund raiser. What was supposed to be six months-long endeavor to six or eight people ended up lasting two years. International strangers saw it and they wanted to be participate. By the time the shirt returned it came attached to many new people I now count as friends. Mitchell at Mitchell is Moving! is an example.

So –  I have a hobby I enjoy and I developed autodidact skills.  I have a network of friends – and it’s all because one day I didn’t succumb to “I can’t do that/it’s impossible” but I said ‘Maybe I can do that; maybe it’s not impossible; I will try”.

It’s amazing what can happen when we challenge or negative assumptions.

At this point in my narrative to the patient I add: “I think if I went back in time to myself ten years ago and said “Hello! I’m from the future! Look at what you’re going to be doing”  I think my younger self would respond “Are you high? I have no desire, no talent, not time go back to The Twilight Zone as that isn’t happening”.

To this day whenever I am faced with something new and unfamiliar I still have an emotional response to become timorous and want to back away. I then remind myself ‘this is how you felt about making a shirt, so why don’t you try it’. Most of the time I do try and most of the time I find it a marvelous experience.

Go thou and do likewise. 🙂

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I can’t believe I made a shirt without posting about it!  I finished this one a few days ago and put it away in the closet for it is too cold for Spo-ware at the moment.  It is Sho-shirt #108 if my numbering system is accurate.  I christened it “The Green Shirt” a precise if not too imaginable of a sobriquet. I like that my favorite buttons go well with the pattern of the fabric.  I can rest easy now knowing I have a new camisa for next month’s Palm Spring holiday.

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This one may be my best-made shirt yet. I am proud that there was not one bungle not one impediment in its making.   I am certain it will become one of my favorites. The fabric is called “Palm Springs”. It takes it inspiration from the retro-style now so popular again. I must get to Palm Springs soon, and parade it up and down Palm Canyon Drive ala Musetta.

I wore it to work yesterday. We were supposed to go out afterwards with a couple from Someone’s work, but they canceled. Someone texted me would I like him to bring my gym bag and we could to exercise. Hell no. I’m not making the shirts debut at LA Fitness. We went to happy hour where I had pink cosmos to match.  I was pleased as Punch.

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I am nearly done making a shirt and I am not certain if I will finish it.  As I worked on it this weekend, I am sensed a strong desire to stop and throw it away despite it being nearly done. In all my years of making Spo-shirts, was is the first time I have felt such.  

Once upon a time I used to feel obliged to finish a book or a meal ordered in a restaurant even when I wasn’t no longer enjoying it. Nowadays I don’t force myself to do either – so is it OK to do so with sewing projects?

The shirt in question doesn’t have a major fault to it but rather an accumulation of little disappointments.  The pattern is a whimsical assortment of tropical birds on a bright white background I now find a bit puerile.  Sometimes I buy fabric I think will be fabulous only to grow disenchanted with it as it evolves into an actual shirt.  This ‘Toucan” shirt has a lot of minor blips and errors to it – things I should be better at avoiding by now.  The seams have a jagged edge to them just enough to make me displeased.  Said shirt merely needs the buttonholes and buttons to be concluded, but the joy is gone. 

I thought of finishing it and posting a photo here at Spo-reflections or on Facebook and announcing ‘It’s yours if you want it. Free Spo-shirt !” I would count the raised hands (if any) and make it into a lottery. Out of vanity I probably won’t do this. With its blips and hiccups I would be embarrassed to have someone receive it. This runt of the litter may  have to stay home and be back in the closet, where I can look at it from time to time, and feel guilt both to discard it and to keep it. 

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. Maybe I have obtained the wisdom not all my work will be wonderful or worth keeping. Despite the time and energy (and expense) I put into these shirts, it is OK to crumble them up like paper of a bad sketch and into the rubbish it goes. 

All the same, it is a bit of a downer to feel a disappointment. It is one thing to put up with a tedious job but a tedious hobby makes no sense. 

 

Update:  soon after I wrote this I went into the other room and finished it. 

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Yesterday  Someone left home alone sans car (again). After finishing some there’s-work-to-be-done tasks I turned to sewing, which I have not done in a while. I am working on a Dr. Who shirt for a fellow blogger and a tropical bird shirt for myself. I was on a roll, so I got out my log cabin quilt.

 

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A typical log cabin quilt block – not my own. 

For Spo-fans unfamiliar with quilting, a log cabin pattern is made of strips of fabric encircling a square. They are simple to make for it is merely sewing together strips of cloth.  Many years ago – more than I can remember –  I fancied  making a quilt for the bed. I practiced making some small ‘beginner’ quilts in prior to the big one. I bought the 6-7 different fabrics needed, I cut them into ribbons, and then I starting sewing. After making a few squares I would lose interest or have shirts to do; I would put away the strips and squares for later.  “Later” is now over ten years ago; I am fairly certain I started this before I moved to AZ in 2005.  It’s high time it comes to a conclusion. I pulled out the materials and started sewing.

This is as good a place as any to point out I don’t know what I am doing. It is easy enough to make log cabin squares and link them together into bigger and bigger squares. What I don’t know is how to finish it. It would help if I knew the needed dimensions for an established end product. Is this to be a wall quilt, something you frame and hang, or am I making a bed quilt –and for which bed? When I started we had a queen size mattress and now we have a king.

Yesterday I made twelve more squares – and it all came to a sudden halt for I had ran out of the one of the strips. What the hell?  I have lots of the others so what happened to the pale green one? Was I so off in my calculations ten years ago I short sheeted myself? Bottom line: I can’t make any more squares.    The step in the process titled “Just keep making squares” is done.

A google search for ‘light green fabric’ has a modest eleven million hits for me to wade through.  It will be impossible to find this cloth ten years later.  Putting in a substitute green cloth would make it look bad.  This is all she wrote.  So that answers the question how big will it be: 8×10 squares with twelve more to expand it somehow on either end.

Now what?

I think it is time for me to put it all in a Santa Claus sack and go to the local quilting shop and seek out a teacher. I am sorely needing advice what to do. I suppose ‘framing it’ with strips can expand it enough to cover a king-sized bed.  I need to figure out how to quilt such a large piece.  Perhaps I should take a quilting class! This is possible, but I suspect if  Urs Truly entered into a likely all-female class I would be looked upon as an outsider, an interloper, an object of suspicion. So a personal trainer in quilting sounds a better route to go.

It pleases me I am finally getting this done.

UPDATE: here is a photo of my quilt.

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Hello from the faraway kingdom of Palm Springs. 

Now that I am here I can disclose I made for DougT a shirt for his next bug convention. By now the attendees expect him to so up each August in a new one. If he arrives in last season’s, there will be talk and my reputation will be ruined.*

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This one has cicadas all over it. I think it is rather nasty looking but Someone and DougT disagree. DougT likes it, which is the point.  Notice how the bugs ‘line up’ on the front; I am pleased as punch.

We arrived safe and sound to our resort to find all’s well here. It is ‘bears’ weekend apparently so the town is full up with big burly types.  We were happy to see Leon AKA The Wild One made it in, for last year he was sickly and had to cancel. We had some drinks and gabs before dinner which was a hole in the wall Indian restaurant.

I am certain to disappoint to relate despite it being the first night of a week’s holiday – and a Saturday night at that – we all imploded after the naan and vindaloos were done. We sank like rocks; we were exhausted from travel etc. Some of us were on Eastern Time Zone. So we all went to bed at 8PM. Really.  I slept nearly 10 hours. I had awful dreams sort like being in a Japanese monster movie although there was no Godzilla types.  I shall avoid curried snacks from now on.

 

 

*No one bothers about his; his was ruined decades ago.

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Ta da! Here is my latest Spo-shirt. Batik fabric is easy to work with as there is no need to precisely line up patterns or keep careful watch on the ‘right side’ up.  I’ve had the fabric for some time. I christened it “Sunflower”. It is probably better for the fall time; I will place it among the Autumn Collection. At 5C it is certainly too cold to wear now.

It is a relief to have a ‘new shirt’ made in time for Palm Springs. I think by now all my holiday-chums know my wardrobe and can spot repeats at a thousand paces. “I so like your blue; I never get tired of seeing it” type remarks.  As you can see I daren’t show up wearing last season’s lest there is talk. 

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Last weekend when I wasn’t sleeping or loafing I was sewing. I can not remember when I last touched the sewing machine – months I suppose. I have several shirts projects I should be doing. However, I’ve learned I lose my touch and make mistakes if I don’t keep it up. So I decided to make one as a ‘practice’ prior to hitting the proper ones.

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I was pleased as punch to discover not only had I not lost my skill but this one turned out very well. It has almost not ‘glitches’ or bungles. I really like the colors.

Each of my shirts gets a nickname. Will H. of “Willy or Won’t he?” commented it looks like something Marc Chagall would have done. So, it has been christened “The Chagall Shirt”.

I didn’t draw a male name in the annual Spo-family Secret Santa draw.  Too bad no Spo-brother will get it.

On the positive, I can keep it for a Palm Springs debut next February. 🙂

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Here is my latest shirt, just completed this morning :

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When Someone’s sister died I got several rolls of fabric. We were puzzled why Judy had them for she was not a sewer.  The maroon fabric with its golden leaves sat on the ‘to do someday’ shelf for over a decade – until now. It may be October but it is still warm enough to wear Spo-shirts outdoors. I figured I better get this one done before Halloween when it may be too cold to wear.

It turned out OK. I will think of his sister whenever I wear it. 

I have a few shirts I call ‘The fall collection’:

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The “Maple leaf’ Shirt

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The “Autumn Sunshine” Shirt

and 

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The Hallow’een Shirt. Its yoke is made from scarps of past projects. 

 

Now that the Judy Memorial Shirt is complete, I need to get cracking on my Halloween costume. I started to write about it, but it looks to be a good blog-entry by itself. More on this anon. 

 

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Last year I visited PEI, Canada. Thems who live there were well over four feet. I had a splendid time.  No summer holiday is complete without a look-see at a local fabric store. I got myself some whimsical and crustaceous fabric to commemorate my lobster dinner. One of the fine fellows who were the hosts purchased another sort of fabric, light as gossamer, striped blue and white.

Making this shirt was a bitch. The lightness of the fabric and my Viking machine did not get along. Stripes do not allow errors gently, but I persevered. I spend this weekend getting it done; I want him to get the shirt before the summer ends – which in Canada could be any week now.

Despite the tedious trepidations I think it turned out OK-enough. I hope he likes it.

I am saddened I am not returning in August to the faraway Kingdom of Anne of Green Gables for me to deliver it in person. I will have to trust Postes Canada to trek it toot-suite and sans trouble (that means without).

I hope next year to return to PEI and see mon ami happy with his Spo-shirt.

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