Tag Archives: Sewing

An Allegory on Belief

An Allegory on Belief

I know that the allegory is an often disparaged form of argument, but for me it is almost essential. The allegory creates a visual picture in the mind of an often ethereal concept, and creates a connection that allows many of us to better recall the details of the argument itself. I’m all about visuals and connections, and allegories – good ones, mind you – are often helpful to me in understanding an intangible concept. As such, I often find myself creating allegories to strengthen my understandings, and this is one I thought of this morning that seemed worthy of sharing.

We all believe things, whether it is because we lack portions of knowledge (a common problem, since nobody knows everything!) or because we have a hope that would be supported by belief. Belief itself is not a problem. In fact, a belief that urges us towards better understanding or towards a positive attitude is probably a pretty good thing. What nudges belief into being a negative thing is when it is used in lieu of available knowledge, or when it is used to obscure available knowledge. Even then, it is only mildly harmful, in that it is belief held by an individual. Consequences of holding a belief in such circumstances are borne only by the person who holds them. What makes belief that replaces or represses knowledge harmful is when that belief (and the arguments for sustaining it despite contrary evidence) is spread to others. Knowledge unsought or misused can become more and more harmful the more it is spread. . .

I do many creative things, and find that the ever-expanding information about materials, uses, and techniques is sometimes even more enjoyable to discover than putting that information to use. However, as more is discovered, some older information is often found to be incorrect. This information, though, has usually been widely available and often used to teach beginners, which means that many people learned to do things poorly, which means that many people thought that they could never attain a good result, which led to many people thinking that they just couldn’t do something simple, which led to self-deprecation. “I tried, but I’m no good at it,” stops the conversation. Sometimes people will follow that statement with something more empowering; they might then talk about something in which they excel. Often it simply hangs in the air. The person who excels feels bad for reminding someone else of his or her failings. The person who has failed is reminded of her shortcomings. Any enlightenment is promptly snuffed out.
So what does this have to do with belief? Well, let me start with my allegory. (I know you were waiting with bated breath!)

I sew. I hunt for bargains. If I see something that appears to be a material I could use, and it’s a fabulous bargain, I might not worry too much about its makeup. After I get it home – and let’s assume it’s fabric for this story, although it could be nearly anything – I’ll wash it and dry it and see how it comes out. This way, I know that any chemicals that alter the appearance or hand or drape of the fabric have been taken out, and that any changes due to laundering have happened before I’ve put all the work into constructing an item. (Piece of knowledge – I know that there are chemicals used to make fabric easier to manufacture, or to make it more attractive on a sales floor. Piece of knowledge – certain fibers change during/after laundering, and even with the greatest care these changes can take place in subsequent launderings.) If I see these changes, I then need to put some more consideration into how I will use this piece.

When the laundering is done, the change the fabric has undergone might require me to treat the fabric differently. Let’s narrow it down to a single piece for this example – a shiny, stiff fabric in a lovely iridescent shade.

In the store, I see this piece, and it looks almost like a taffeta, although a bit lighter bodied. I may think it would be good for the skirt of a formal dress, and it’s 70% off and a unique color, so I buy it. There is no indication at the bargain fabric store of what it might really be, because the sale table is mixed remnants of all kinds. Once home, I pop it into the washer and dryer – formal or not, anything I make needs to be washable. The fabric comes out crazed with wrinkles, but incredibly soft and drapey. It bears little resemblance to the smooth, stiff piece I bought. (Piece of knowledge – even the stiffest shiny fabrics may come out like this, but only some can be restored to that state.) At this point, I need to decide if I’m going to find a way to work with it as is, or if I’m going to try to remove the wrinkles and/or restore some of the stiffness. If I’m being smart and thinking ahead, I’ll then take a small piece and do a burn test. The burned fabric will curl up or melt into little balls if it is an artificial fiber, but leave crumbled or flaky ash if it’s natural, a combination of these if it’s mixed. (Piece of knowledge – a low temperature iron is less likely to burn an artificial fiber, but won’t take out the wrinkles, while a high temperature iron might replace the wrinkles with a sheen on bumps like darts, folds, pleats, and seam allowances.) Before I ruin the whole piece trying to get the wrinkles out, I need to decide if the fabric can handle a temperature high enough to get the wrinkles out. If it can’t, I have the knowledge to re-imagine the fabric’s potential and use it for a different project. (Piece of knowledge – the fabric can be underlined to give it more body, or can be used in a manipulated form as it is in smaller areas than a full formal skirt. Piece of knowledge – I can also take advantage of the fabric’s properties and re-launder it in a manipulated form.)

This is an example of a set of beliefs that are challenged by knowledge, that change as more knowledge is gained, and that continue to offer hope as they changed. I believed that the fabric was shiny and stiff, and imagined it as one garment. When it came out of the dryer, I believed that I could iron out the wrinkles and imagined it as something else. When I did the burn test, and found that it was too delicate to withstand ironing, I was once again able to imagine a different purpose for it, based on my knowledge of sewing and fiber arts. My beliefs all started with a lack of knowledge (Will it come out of the wash like it went in? Will I be able to get it back to the way it was? What is this stuff made of, anyway?) and hope (imagining throughout the process all the wonderful things the fabric could become) that were changed as knowledge grew. Additionally, at no point did the beliefs cause any harm beyond increasing the amount of time and thought I had to put into using the fabric (or requiring me to go out shopping again if the project had to be done regardless and this fabric wouldn’t work for it!)

Now, how in the world could a belief in the properties of a fabric, or not knowing how a particular fabric needed to be treated or used be a harmful belief, you might ask. Well, consider if I were to love that fabric enough to open a store whose entire inventory consisted of shiny, stiff fabrics. Consider if I were to stock that store with fabrics of all different fiber contents, labeling none of them, and then advertise myself as a fabric store for fancy dress fabrics. I could even have regular fantastic sales events to draw people in. Even beginners would be tempted to try whipping up wedding dresses and prom gowns.

These beginners, though, are not going to know that some fabrics won’t withstand even the most delicate of cleanings, or behave differently from each other, or look just fine until they attempt to press the final garment. People with knowledge might bypass my store entirely, or ask for cut samples to test at home before buying, or decide the sale price makes something worth buying no matter what it turns out to be. No harm there. People who have some knowledge might decide to not clean the fabric at all, treat it very carefully, and understand that the garment might be worn only once. People with very little knowledge will know only that they have failed once again when they end up wasting time and money on an unwearable garment. Imagine, though, that the harm is even greater – the people whose knowledge is limited get no additional knowledge from me or my store, and end up believing that all shiny, stiff fabric is identical – and never try again. And moreso, they believe that their lack of success is due to personal failure, and not only learn no more but also anticipate failure so deeply that they do not try to learn any other creative art.

Belief, here, that a shiny, stiff fabric is simply that, and lack of knowledge about how to work with various types of fabric, has done a great deal of harm. People who believe that a particular type of sewing (or any sewing, indeed) is out of their realm question their abilities – might even cause others to question their own (I was thinking about making a dress, but when Mary told me all the troubles she had. . .). The sorely discouraged won’t even try flower arranging or scrapbooking, hurting not only themselves and their self-image, but the flourishing of businesses and artists in those endeavors that they’ve dismissed. Existing knowledge will not be passed along. New knowledge will be shared only by a persistent few. The set of beliefs that follow that first one, “I guess this is too hard for me;” “I’m really bad at sewing;” “I’m not creative at all;” “I suck at all that arts and crafts stuff;” “I mess up everything I do;” become more and more staunch defenders of the wall of enclosed knowledge. The beliefs do not encourage learning, do not inspire hope of anything attainable, and as they spread do so even more.

Most beliefs range between the mostly harmless, personal ones and the negative ones like those above that have consequences for only the people who have tested the waters themselves. If the beliefs are challenged and either are overridden by new knowledge or changed to accommodate new knowledge, it doesn’t mean that belief (and the hope and anticipation it might inspire) is wasteful or useless. The changed belief might even inspire better things because it compels believers to expand their horizons further.

There are people in the world who give belief far more weight than knowledge, though, and this is where the harm lies. They feel that belief must be taught to others, that any knowledge that challenges a particular belief must be denigrated or suppressed, that the belief must be held regardless of whether it eventually causes harm to individuals or weakens a society. They believe (!) that what they believe must be true because they and sometimes others believe it, and insist that as many people as possible be taught how to believe it (and how to resist learning about things that don’t outright support that belief.) Teaching a belief, teaching the unknowing how to avoid further knowledge, does worse than impede progress; it actually encourages regress.

I do not condemn belief. As I said in the beginning, belief can actually be a good thing – shoring up confidence and curiosity – or at the very least, unharmful. A people or group of people can still do great things under the banner of belief. What I condemn is the active presentation of belief as a means to stifle knowledge; I condemn the use of belief as a tool to control others; I condemn belief as a way to demean people into a particular way of behavior. I condemn belief as a substitute for knowledge.

My fabric store, FWIW, would convey not only my points of knowledge, but all the new information that would be gathered from staff and customers and media that built upon them. Each time knowledge supplanted a belief, new ones would be presented, challenged, and tested. The possibilities would never stop expanding, in part because the beliefs expanded side by side with new information, in part because the beliefs filled their need and encouraged people to keep trying and learning – new knowledge would encourage the kind of positive need a belief fulfilled until even more knowledge displaced it.

Argh! The Smell!!!

Argh! The Smell!!!

I am on the third “odor-destroying” product on the family room carpet. It didn’t seem like it was the carpet was the only culprit, because the cat pee smell in the room was still strong, but not over by the treated area as much as the rest of the room. I had already washed a bunch of fabric that had quite obviously been peed on, but just in case, I started checking some of the other pieces. Yep. The ones that didn’t smell like pee smelled like they’d been in storage too long, so I started pulling everything down and sorting it to wash.

The prospect of washing all that fabric is daunting enough, but when I started realizing that I had three loads, at least, of cold wash just in reds, I started re-evaluating my hoarding habit. I really should look at these more critically. Lots of that fabric makes me feel inadequate, because it’s one more thing that I haven’t finished staring me in the face. It’s supposed to be there to inspire, to play with, but instead it’s driving me away from sewing entirely. Yeah, there’s going to have to be some garbage bags next to the hampers. Sorry, fabric, but if I can’t see myself wearing you soon, you’re outta here.

I’d sell it, but that would keep it in my house even longer, and turn it into yet another thing I have to do. Almost all of it was cheap or free, and if there were a formula to figure depreciation of its worth over time, most of it would have reached a negative value. Let me go find those garbage bags. . .



OK, I’ve been really busy lately, not so interested in posting after I’m done with this – just reading and responding to other blogs, wouldn’t ya know. . . but I’m going to show you a couple of things I’ve been using that I think are marvelous.

I’ve been doing some sewing, but my sewing room is also for mending and such, so sometimes I end up not interested in sewing by the time I’ve made room for it. One of the time-consuming things is a few of hubby’s shirts. (BTW, when they tell you a high cotton count shirt is “wrinkle free”, they’re lying.) I don’t mind doing them, I put on the TV and zone out, but it just takes hours to do all of them – and I forget to iron until I have all of them. So when I got an e-mail from Atlanta Thread with a discount coupon, I splurged on a couple of things.


This is a Reliable Home Ironing Board. It’s heavy and sturdy, doesn’t rock around like your average board, AND it has a heating element and a fan that will blow upwards or downwards to help move steam and heat through the fabric. The foot pedal turns the fan on and controls the speed, and not only does it help in getting the wrinkles out (and not putting new ones in) but it also keeps things in place that might otherwise slip off the board. Only bad thing is that it’s way more powerful than my Iron now, so I might have to upgrade that, too. Heh.


I also got this massive sleeve/pants board. I can finally do the cuffs and the pleats above the cuffs. I do sleeves first, then the rest of the shirt, because the shirt gets kind of twisty while I’m ironing the sleeves.


Now, normally I’m not a big fan of Sylvania lightbulbs, but this one is great. It’s a full-spectrum halogen for sewing and crafting that fits in a regular fixture. Is it as good as an Ott Light? No, but it’s darn close and a heck of a lot cheaper. I have my Ott bulb on the right and this on the left, and I can see everything as I sew.

I haven’t spent all my time indoors, though. We had a lovely weekend, and I got started cleaning up. I prefer to take care of the leaves in the Spring. In Fall, they’re everywhere, and they keep dropping after you think they’re done (or blowing in from other places), and you always feel the pressure to drop everything and work if it’s nice, because it won’t stay nice out for long. The heck with that. Before Winter, all the leaves have blown off into piles, and I can bag the ones that might damage plants by staying there and leave the rest as protective mulch. In Spring, they get blown into even more compact piles, and each nice day will be followed by more nice days, so the pressure’s off. Since I started the Spring Leaf Cleanup this weekend, I became reacquainted with a couple of my favorite tools:


This is one of those rakes that can be made wider or narrower by sliding a rod attached to the tines. (It has a telescoping handle, too, so it takes up less storage space.) It’s great for getting under and in between and behind – less time crawling around on my knees to clean out tight spots! This is one of the cheap ones from Rite Aid or Cost Cutters or wherever I got it, and I’ve been using it for several years without trouble.


This was here when we moved in. We had no idea what it was, but for some reason, we didn’t throw it away. Now I’m glad we kept it:


We’ve tried all kinds of leaf bag holders – wire frames, boxes, tape holding them to fences, the daughters, but none of them has worked as well as this. I dump in rakefuls of stuff, I can smash it down to fit more, and nothing pierces the bag. When it’s full, I grab it by the little handle cutouts and slide it right out. Yowza! Oh, and I’m not being all irresponsible with these bags – the handles are tied in bows so I can take them to the town recycling center, untie and dump them, and then use them again. They’ll collect them at the curb, but it’s so stupid. They don’t want them in paper bags, which would speed up collection and would decompose in the giant town mulch pile, oh, no. They want them in plastic – and when they collect, the guys rip the bags open, dump the leaves in the truck, and leave the empty, torn plastic bags on the street. It’s a pain to take them in myself, but less so than cleaning up the mess the leaf pickup leaves behind.

So there you go. Merchandise that gets my seal of approval. Buy with confidence. Heh.

Why is it

Why is it

that when the kids have sleepovers, I end up more tired than they are? Geez Louise.

In other news, alisonsews.com is now on wordpress, so I’m finally going to be able to build it right. Many thanks and smoochies to Mr. Hubby Dude. I’ll be moving posts and pictures, then playing with the theme. Unlike the godaddy software, this is actually flexible, and requires very little understanding of HTML to customize. And now I’ll have to do more sewing so I’ll have stuff to blog about. Heh.

New Site for Sewing!

New Site for Sewing!

I’ve just launched AlisonSews, where all my sewing stuff will eventually be. The tutorials have been moved, I’m working on a couple more, and the pictures will be moved and enhanced with descriptions of techniques, materials, and pattern hints. The forum is up and working and waiting for you to visit. Gotta figure out how to change the darned picture, though. Some HTML thing I have to learn. . .

[update 3/17/2007]

The GoDaddy.com ‘Website Tonight’ software was just impossible to use — it is missing the flexibility of a WordPress blog — so the site has been re-done on WordPress. The tutorials will be moved again. Please leave comments so I know what needs to change!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Actually, in Toms River, trick or treating was last night, because tonight is the big Halloween parade. We won’t be going, because it’s cold, we’re tired, and you need to stake out a lawn chair on the parade route 2 days ahead of time if you want to be able to see. Audrey’s got a friend videotaping it, though.

Anyway, Carolyn’s costume was done in time. She went out for about a half hour. She’s going to have to join an anime club now so she can wear it for longer than it took to make it. Sheesh.





This is the costume Carolyn wants me to make. I’ve made the pants. The shirt and top underneath are made as a single piece, and our color motto here is “close enough.” Still have to do the overshirt, hat, and boots.

My Brain Won’t Let Me Sleep.

My Brain Won’t Let Me Sleep.

All night last night, it was going a mile a minute. I have so many ideas. Problem is actually doing something about them when I’m awake, because I’ve been up all night thinking and am too sleep deprived to actually feel like doing anything then. I have an idea for a sewing video, now that it’s so easy to put videos up on youtube and link them in the blog. It’s all I can do to keep it simple, because of course, in my busy brain, the ideas are constantly producing dozens of baby ideas, until I get paralyzed by too many choices. I’ve been worse – medication is definitely making it more manageable – but it’s hard to remind myself of that after a rough night.

So anyway, I’ve figured a couple of things I can do to rig up the video camera so I don’t need a camera operator. I’ve worked out the “storyboard” and figured out how I can do it without scripting it (I prefer room for improvisation, because I remember things as I’m going). I need to get a front-loading bobbin case to demonstrate,make the rig for the camera, and clean up the sewing area. Maybe I can at least get started on that. Of course, by the time I’m done with that, Audrey might be done with her homework and I’ll make her work the camera for me. MUHAHAHAHA!!! I knew I had kids for a reason.

Surfing Around. . .

Surfing Around. . .

I found two videos by a well-fed and poorly dressed fundie explaining 1. that the word dinosaur comes from “dyna”, like dynamite, “to explode” and “saur”, meaning “lizard”. This explains that the dinosaurs disappeared because they exploded. 2. that the continents did not drift, and that plate tectonics is a lie – the earth was actually like a big balloon, and when it got filled up and expanded, the continents came apart and the rest of the earth got covered with water. He stuck paper continents on a big balloon and blew it up and deflated it several times to demonstrate. I’m convinced. . .

I also discovered that there are about 10 junior sized sewing patterns out there that aren’t vintage on ebay. I was really hoping to find a couple so I could avoid the major alterations on children’s patterns or drafting patterns from scratch, but it’s just not going to happen. Apparently, girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 20 just don’t wear clothes. OK, they don’t wear home sewn clothes. *sigh* There’s very little on the racks, though, that’s the right size that doesn’t look either way too juvenile or way too adult for the girls. I’d like to get them into something besides jeans and tees every once in a while.

I Hab a Code id da Doze. . .

I Hab a Code id da Doze. . .

I woke up this morning thinking that the allergies were just worse than usual. Oh, heavens, no! I’m all sploogy and red and raw and sore now, and of course, can’t take anything for it. I looked all over to see if I could find the Vicks Vapo-Rub. It burns when it first goes on, but it clears the congestion. I think, though, that I threw away the jar because it’s older than I am. Hubby went to Carolyn’s Back to School Night tonight because I feel too sucky, and he’s going to pick me up a new jar.

The therapist is encouraging me to get some meds for ADD and anxiety so it’ll be easier for us to work out the things I’m stumbling over, and I really am thinking of seeing what’s out there. Just not Paxil. I was concerned because of the whole heart thing, but got a call from the cardiologist, and everything’s fine. So, yeah, it’s anxiety. In fact, as I wrote this, it felt like my heart skipped a beat. I got a list of psychiatrists from him, tried to match up his recommendations with who participates in our plan, and it’s slim pickings. The sister of a former neighbor is on the list, too – but that name would never be in the running. It would be bad to see that particular doc, I think.

I’ve been poking around the internet looking at sewing and fashion and pattern sites. I’m a little pumped (as pumped as I can be, the way my head is feeling ATM) because I also got my supplies from Atlanta Thread And Supply, and my new drafting/cutting mat is bright white, which will make tracing and marking and drafting an order of magnitude easier. I also bought the Gutterman thread chart with the actual thread, so now I’ll be able to order the exact right color for my fabrics. I have some stuff I want to do tomorrow besides sewing, but making something new is definitely on the list for this week.