garments, sewing

materials gathering for altered Folkwear blouse, + hybrid skirt dreaming

I found the perfect batik for the Nepali blouse. It isn’t really feminine (at all), but then…well, if you know me, you know this can be a good thing for something I (in specific) will be wearing. As long as it’s tasteful.

What I found was a very dark blue-green cotton with white accents at $9/yd, plus matching Gutermann thread for under $2, and the sew-in snaps for the cuffs for same. It wasn’t at the place I was planning to go to — it was at a place I’d never been before, but I feel good about the purchase, and about having gone there.

Side note, I also have started reading the article “East Asian philosophy” in an older version of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which outlines some of the major differences between East Asian and Western thought. It’s interesting to see how deep the fundamental philosophical differences go between Western and Eastern cultures — things that I hadn’t even thought of, such as the concept of a personal soul being the basis for the concept of individual rights and sovereignty. Not individual-in-relation-to, but stand-alone identity, as illusory as that may be. But I can clearly see myself being caught in a dialectic between East and West, and coming to understand them both more fully.

I kind of wonder what the “South Asian philosophy” article looks like, now…

Anyhow. After hitting the first store, I trekked over to the place I was originally going to and picked up some dark, soft interfacing and a pair of fabric shears. This was at 20% off, so the interfacing was almost free with the shears. (I ended up needing one yard, by the way.)

What I was told at the first store is that it’s estimated my cotton batik will shrink about 5% in the wash, as hot water is used to set the dye in manufacturing. What I was told at the second store about my interfacing was to submerge it in very hot water and let it soak for 20 minutes to preshrink it, and see if it’s going to bleed. I still need to do that. If it bleeds…I’m using white. I don’t want my collar stained.

Maybe I should use white, anyway. Now that I’ve got the fabric at home, I can see if a white interfacing will show through too much.

Other than that…I have the idea to make a hakama-like skirt. Just not exactly hakama. I’ve been finding multiple fabrics that would look nice as an insert into a plainer garment, but which would be too loud on their own. One of these I saw at the store where I got my batik…it was sort of a version on Seven Treasures, I believe. Indigo and light blue. Made into its own garment, I wouldn’t wear it; but as an accent on another piece, it would be perfect.

What I have in mind is basically an A-line skirt which is open in the center front for maybe 6-8″, with a wide inverted box pleat at the center back. What I want to do is to insert a generous amount of accent material in mirrored knife pleats between the two front panels of the A-line, with the rest of this skirt being a solid color or a very subdued print. This will allow me to have a tailored skirt in which I’ll still retain mobility — at least if I don’t go crazy chaining the pleats to each other.

What I can see being an issue right now is that this seems to recommend pattern drafting and a higher level of skill, and I’m way too new to sewing to be able to do that and not be frustrated. I can, however, buy a cheap pattern for a long A-line skirt and alter it. The hard part will be the shaping at the hips and waist (I’m curvier than I used to be, and I don’t have a block/sloper), and the zipper or buttons I’ll need to fasten the thing.

I suppose I can start thinking on it now, knowing that it’s something to work up to. There’s no time limit on this, I suppose.

garments, sewing

heading up to buying fabric, and altering pattern

I should be going out tomorrow to try and find a suitable cloth for the Nepali blouse. What I want to do is lengthen both front panels and the two back panels, along with the slits on the sides (which hit above my pant line at the current time).

I should need about three yards of material for this, assuming that I lengthen the front and back pieces a maximum of eight inches, which means I’ll need 16″ more material. Normally I’d be using 2.5 yards of material w/o allowing for strategic placement of the pattern on the fabric. Half a yard is 18″. This last time I believe I got 2.75 yards of muslin and it was more than enough for the basic garment.

The major thing is that I don’t want to be showing skin, and the slits at the sides will show my skin (or more likely, undershirt), and the hem is so high that if I lift my arms above my head, I’m pretty sure my belly will show (which makes me uncomfortable normally, regardless of whether my belly is large or not).

One of the reasons I’ve liked sewing is that you get to customize your clothes, so for someone like me who says that just because I’m female doesn’t mean I want to show my body to the world (honestly I don’t know why clothes designers seem to think that female = sex object, even if unwilling), it’s good to know that I can modify what I’m wearing.

So basically I want to make this tunic-length. Slit on the sides but not to the point that people can see my skin. Long enough so that if I reach over my head, no one’s going to be looking at my navel.

As for fabric choice — I’m thinking something between violet, blue, and blue-green, though a brown will also work. I want it mid-ranged to dark in tone. This pattern is a good choice for showing off the print of something like a subdued batik. It should drape well, not wrinkle easily, and not be translucent (as the fabric overlaps itself and the interfacing is opaque and also unbleached, it is easy to see in the muslin version that the muslin is translucent).

I’ll also need maybe .75 yards of interfacing. I want to use a lightweight silk (probably not white), as I’ve noticed the nonwoven stuff tends to roll up on itself after a while of washing. (Granted, though, this was in a ready-made shirt.) This would be encased inside the collar, so it probably won’t get very worn. I’m thinking of cutting the interfacing on the bias, though, after seeing what a stiff collar looks like. I should probably still get at least .75 yards, but I need to check pattern requirements.

I also need to topstitch closer to the edge of the collar, next time.

It will probably be easier next time to use…well, I suppose I can use that white silk basting thread to mark points on the fabric, if I’m using a darker fabric. It’s a bigger pain than using chalk, but I know the silk won’t melt into the fabric, never to wash out, unlike the chalk.

Right now I’m thinking rayon, or a wrinkle-resistant cotton.

M told me that we have another pattern here which is like what I’m thinking of, with the tunic idea — but it’s a bit too untailored for me. The pattern I’m working with has been fine to the point of realizing it was uncomfortably short, and I can easily remedy that. I’ll just have to lengthen the waist and the portion below the waist, and make sure those lengths match before cutting my material.

And I need to get some sleep.

garments, sewing

working again on Folkwear Nepali blouse

I’m back to working on the Folkwear blouse. I need to use a much lighter interfacing next time (this time, it was broadcloth or canvas, I’m not entirely sure of the difference between them), because of the difficulty of machine-sewing over many folded layers in the corners of the collar.

I finished the slipstitching, and got the topstitching on the collar and facing done earlier, plus removal of the temporary basting of the collar to the interfacing. Now all that has to be done before I can work again is that the table needs to be cleared off and wiped down from dinner. Then I’ll work on sewing in the gussets.

It was intimidating to restart the project after so long, but after I got into it, it was easy. I’ve also started making notes on the instructions — I basted in a couple of ties on the wrong panel, making the article of clothing cross left-over-right instead of right-over-left. Which is correct if it’s a Japanese top (where you only cross the garment right-over-left for a dead person), but I’m not so sure it’s correct for a Nepali top. I suppose I can run a search on it.

Regardless, I pulled out the thread markers which said where to attach the ties, and the ties are basted in now, so maybe I shouldn’t worry about it so much.

I also found that my 20% off coupon for my regular fabric store expires very soon, so there may be a trip there within the next several days. I’m still undecided on whether I want to get fabric shears from them…

(EDIT: I just ran a search on my pattern and it’s a Nepali blouse, not a Tibetan blouse, though the permalink probably still says it’s a Tibetan blouse. Sorry about that.)

calligraphy, illustration, writing

notes on materials and recurrence of a beloved character

Just a quick post here, as I’m running a slight fever and should get some rest.

I did some sketches and writing today. The sketch I was able to ink was just in HB pencil and gone over with my black Riso marker. The felt “medium” nib was what I was looking for, if I was going to be making sketches to reduce in scanning, and wanted bold black lines. But the “fine” felt nib wasn’t all that much finer than the medium one. Alternately, the Micron Graphic 1 makes about the same line width, but the nib seems more fragile, and I don’t know if the color is as rich. I think the final factor in this will be which one withstands the alcohol markers the best, or which one I can reliably buy.

I also did some practice writing in a Faber-Castell Pitt brush pen, with very light pressure. I don’t know how the nibs are going to age, but fresh, they’re pretty good for lettering. Which I suppose is good when you realize that they aren’t what you’re looking for as regards hatching, or at the moment, for things other than lineart. I think I have a black one of these (which is a very dense, warm black), but I’m going to have to look for it. This one would also be good for lineart, as it makes a bold and somewhat variable line.

Other than that…I have a certain older (aged) character whom I’ve isolated my psyche from in the past. This was mainly because I’d become somewhat ill at ease with older characters seeking the attention of younger characters — and this judgment is based on a certain acquaintance I’ve (unfortunately) made in reality. Not to say that judgment is accurate. Today, after the last week of looking over sketches…I realized that being older doesn’t equate to being the …to be succinct, “dirty old man” that I’ve had to deal with in my life. For all I know, this character — the written character, that is — could be someone of my generation who is still alive in the future. Which gives a very different outlook on the concept of being aged.

The person I know IRL was shaped by his culture and time. I heavily suspect him of being racist and sexist (at the least — what I know is that he interacts with people based on what he thinks they are, which is based on their appearance), but this is something which occurs when someone is inundated at a vulnerable age by a racist and sexist and heterosexist environment, and never really has the insight to question the messages they’re receiving from whatever limited quarter they think is worth listening to. An older male who both has more insight (and wider range) than this one and who has been inundated in a different environment may turn out much differently. Which then means that they would conduct themselves differently, and they would have more options when it came to social settings.

Of course, this then leads to worldbuilding questions and alternate history or alternate reality. What specifically came to mind was the level of ease of physical mobility (allowing people to be exposed to other cultures, beyond just the “ooh that’s exotic” titillation that I suspect said acquaintance has felt, as ease of travel leads also to potential ease of immigration) and the level of ease of communication outside of one’s home culture (as via Internet or IRL social settings)…because I think that these are factors which allow a greater level of sophistication in social development as regards dealing with people who are different from oneself. And that’s something my character is really, really going to have to have in order not to become like the guy I know, who I perceive as being attracted to a younger person because of what he psychologically associates with her appearance (and additionally, because he can manipulate her without her full knowledge).

I’m deleting some contents here because they’re controversial and I don’t need angry comments. I’ll keep them for my own records — I know what I’m meaning to reference; it’s probable that the text won’t carry the entire message.

I drew this character again today — and felt as though I could make him anyone again — for the first time in months.

book arts, illustration

On possibly getting (back?) into comics

Yesterday I was mostly going over my old sketchbooks. You know, the sketchbooks with the tiny, light, barely readable (sometimes unreadable) mechanical pencil writing in them. I also started a layout for a sample page of a comic, during which I drew a character who I don’t particularly know, but whom I’m interested in nonetheless.

I skimped on the background (particularly the stuff across the street) but I can fill it in, in the final draft. I imagined it as being like this downtown area. Right now the window looks out on an empty lot. ;) I know, Scott McCloud said not to think of them as “backgrounds” but “surroundings”, I know…

(For some reason, it’s easier for me to connect with my characters if I can see them and their surroundings. And it’s easier to imagine them as their own people — and not extensions of “me” — when I can see their faces and their expressions, and then wonder why it is they look like that; how they got to that point.)

It was a good thing I did this — it gives me some kind of clue as to what I’m getting into if I want to commit to a comic project. It also pushed me to think of some kind of action for the character I was drawing. And I hadn’t scripted prior to this, though I do know that some people script and draw at the same time, especially when it’s one person writing and drawing the thing.

When I was into fiction, my major hurdle as far as plot was concerned is that I’d write, but nothing physical would happen; it was more of a meditation. When I draw, it becomes painfully obvious that nothing is happening and that I probably shouldn’t draw out the scene where the character is staring into his or her cup, longer than necessary.

(And then you ask the significance of the cup, which I just realized would go over the heads of the majority of my audience…it has to do with the amount of tea leaves and twigs and their positioning, which are supposed to mean specific things.)

The project I was intending to work on — the world for it, at least — this lends itself pretty well to short comics, as the vision I’ve got currently is that it isn’t going to be clear when things are dreams and when they’re real. …That’s something I’ve had a lot of focus on, recently.

I think that when I was in college, everything was so focused around realism and grounding in literal experience, that it was easy to become disconnected from more dreamlike writing. That space you get into where the borders between fantasy and reality are blurred and you can’t recall if what you’re remembering actually happened in this world or not.

I’ve already got a device which will note to myself the temporal relations of the scenes to each other, and whether each is a dream or physical reality. As the reader moves forward in the series, it will become clear to them, if they’re being attentive, what these navigation keys mean — but my vision is, at least, that they’ll have to figure it out for themselves. Or have someone else tell them. ;D

So the layout I did in 8B Faber-Castell graphite pencil. I like the soft F-C pencils because of their expressive quality. They will also be easy to recognize with light shining through them from behind. This was just layout, so I wasn’t making extraneous details too complicated; I was focusing on what I wanted the reader’s focus to be on, and panel placement, plus room for word bubbles. I suppose later I can get into how to express all of this best on a page, so that the eye naturally moves to what I want it to move to — but I’m too new to getting back to drawing, period, right now, to think too much about that.

Besides, this is meant to be hand-drawn, not meant to be photographic. And if I’m mostly doing this old-school (like without using bases I drew once over and over and over again), I can actually play up the handmade nature of it (like marker going outside of the lines of a shape).

I am, however, now thinking about something which I noticed while practicing drawing kana in black and bright orange last night…that I might want to change font colors for the voices of different characters. I’d probably have to be pretty careful about that, so that the colors aren’t too similar or too hard to read — but I have noticed that it makes a big difference if you want to highlight a block of text if it is bright orange. This is something I’ve seen used to effect in the webcomic, “Kagerou”. And something that I want to use if I (as I dream) make a handwritten book.

I’m not making a spinoff of “Kagerou,” to be clear, far from it (unless we group all psychologically-based stories into one box), but it could be helpful to use color as a visual cue to differentiate when different characters are speaking (as in the case of multiple narrators [which could eliminate the problem of the one-narrator text box that McCloud alludes to] or mental dialogue).

And besides, it’s just fun to write in bright orange.

It may not be fun to pay for color copies for an occasional use of bright orange, though. “Kagerou” has the advantage of being online, where hosting something in color doesn’t cost anything extra. Another option is varying the font (as I’ve seen in the Japanese-language versions of “Yuu Yuu Hakusho”), but that could get ugly and complicated pretty quickly. For one thing, because in YYH, the font is varied according to characters’ tone of voice, not for which character is speaking. And we’ve still got to allow for bold, italics, special effects, etc.

I’m thinking of using legal-sized paper for my magazines — half of an 8.5″x11″ page is just too narrow for good-sized English dialogue, and I’m intending to use a lot of bleeds, so that also factors in. I believe the standard size of a magazine is 18 pages…that’s nine papers folded together and stapled or sewn, and 36 pages to work from, total. I suppose the other two (if we up it to twenty) would be the covers. I’m thinking that if I center my layouts after rearranging the files to print on the appropriate page, this would enable me to fold and staple or sew them in the center, and then just chop off the extra on the edges.

I was using the Pantone Universe markers this last time for a sample image…they work well with Borden & Riley Marker Paper, which I think is supposed to be bleedproof. But the Chartpak Ad Markers bled through it, anyway…of course that’s the xylene solvent base. The Pantones are alcohol-based, and much less strong-smelling than Prismacolor markers (which I think have something ammonia-based as an additional ingredient to alcohol). I have no idea how that image is going to scan or print.

I have had issues with the Pantones bleeding through my regular drawing paper (not printer paper), but on the marker paper, they’re fine. And note to self: do not use the “fine” Pantone Universe nib for hair textures, use the brush. Srsly. You don’t want round edges on strokes meant to represent shading in hair.

I need to either find or re-test my ink swatches, and put them in the project binder. I’m still not very good with metal-nib dip pens, but I can use a brush, which I have several of, not counting M’s stash. And I didn’t even think of this, but I can use diluted ink instead of markers for final pre-scanned copies. I think I heard that’s more difficult than it sounds, though, because scanners are more sensitive than people’s eyes…so I might have to color-correct with a software program if I don’t want mud.

I’m thinking of getting a program designed for manga, despite my strong desire to not have a fresh-out-of-the-package look to my stories. It could help with computones. Or I could go with a free image-editing program and see what I can do there (as a manga software program may not be able to handle greyscale at all).

Hm. Things just get so much more complicated when you start talking about reproducing images, eh.

I have more to add on the graphic qualities I tapped into for yesterday’s practice, but I’ll put it into a separate post.

book arts, calligraphy, illustration, writing

creative expansion

On looking for the binder which held my handsewing samples, I found a number of old notebooks. Two of them were sketchpads, to be more precise — and looking at what was contained therein and in some of the unused pages of my bound notebooks inspired me to work on my 2D art again.

This in turn got me to start reading Scott McCloud’s Making Comics again, and I went out and bought a set of markers today in greyscale (warm tone, not cool). I’ve been using these for a while since I got home today. They’re alcohol markers, but they’re a lot less smelly than the Prismacolors. They’re also a good deal more expensive than the Prismacolors, at list. As it was, it wasn’t so bad — about 50 cents more per marker than the Prismas, and I was able to customize what I was getting (instead of getting three black markers in with the Warm Grey Prismacolor set).

What I’d had before were Trias, but apparently Trias used to be good (which is how I first ran across them) and now a lot of people (including me) have problems with the newly designed markers drying out. I had to throw out three or four markers because they were unusable — to Tria’s credit, I got these a good while ago, but not everyone posting bad reviews with the same problem, had them sitting around for years.

Getting back into illustration…it’s brought up whether I want to write again. Due to factors I won’t get into here, it’s been easier for me recently to think of writing. As it is, I should have a good fund of material should I want to practice adapting prose or poetry to a graphic novel or “comic” format.

But I think that the most interesting thing to happen today was experimenting with one of my brush pens (I think it was a Staedtler Duo), trying to write nicely and more-or-less correctly, using kanji and hiragana. Then I started looking at the Japanese learning books I have here but haven’t been using, and realized what a short jump it was from drawing pictograms and ideograms to drawing pictures.

So I want to get back on the Japanese learning thing. I had a dream the other night about copying someone else’s handwriting to learn new ways of moving my hand in drawing. I do know that my own handwriting really only became very legible after I’d practiced writing in Japanese (not romaji).

Right now I’ve got several things going on: sewing, drawing, Japanese language study, the potential of writing again and possibly writing and/or drawing some short fiction. The religious study is still there, but fainter in import. Then there’s also the knitting and crochet, which ’til now I’ve been pretty dependent on for occupying my time.

I find it interesting how much more engaging drawing is when it isn’t just figures. As Scott McCloud said, don’t think of “backgrounds” as “backgrounds”; they’re your character’s environment. I suppose of course things would seem a little unhealthy if you subtract the character from everything surrounding them, and often the rest of their bodies from their face. ;) I tried adding an open window behind my test character, and the image was suddenly a lot deeper and a lot more interesting.

I’ve still got to practice with the new markers. But one more thing before I go to bed:

I really need to get some more of those Tombow markers. They’re freaking wonderful. I love the color. And they’re cheap and readily available. I figure the joy I derive from coloring with them, outweighs archival concerns over whether they’ll still be around in 20-30 years.

They’re just beautiful. I may be going back for more. Right now with the new markers (not Tombow), I’m just working with warm greys. But there’s more I can do, once I get my value studies down right.

fiber arts

New books

This is going to be a quick post just to say that I picked up a couple of new books.  These are _Knitting in Plain English_ and _Crocheting in Plain English_.  From what I’ve read of both, there’s some overlap.  But I ran across these two, earlier, and was impressed enough with what I read (and saw, in the diagrams), to pick the both of them up.

A full review will have to wait…I’m only on Chapter Five of KPE (and in CPE, I’m only far enough to have learned a new hook position which makes my fabrics softer).  I decided to pick up KPE because I want to learn how to knit, and I needed a reference that was better than the free “Idiot’s Guide” lying around the house, which I’ve found not to be trustworthy.

I can name one instance where the diagrams in the latter are obviously wrong (though I only figured that out after going to knittinghelp.com)…I would be on the lookout for more errors, but I really don’t plan on going back to that book if I can help it.

Initially I thought that these two books were just to explain pattern terminology, but I do think now that they’re going to go far beyond that.

I’m continuing on the Flexi Cowl that I began a while ago (crochet).  No pictures, yet.  I really don’t know how it will turn out.  This is the project where I changed hook position basically 1/3 of the way through the project, though having a perfect flat rectangle isn’t necessary for this pattern.

And, I began practicing garter stitch on my bamboo needles.  (Which warped.)  I’m thinking that when I do begin on the scarf that I want to make to familiarize myself with the knit stitch, that I should probably use an ombre (slow color-change) yarn, as versus a tweed (?).  I mean by that, that there is a yarn which has two different colors to the plies, which I’d been planning on using for warmth…the problem is that the colors are both neutrals.

Ah, I don’t know.  The tweed is cheap enough that I could easily make a stole.  But there are other, prettier yarns out there.  It’s not a question of function, so long as I keep to wool, but of economy and style, I suppose.  The project could turn out looking pretty good as well as being functional.  It would just likely be smaller.

Wow, I’m getting tired.  I should get to bed.