January 6, 2014

Making Other Things Instead of Food

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; CHS-B25

To be honest, it's been a tough few weeks for cooking.  It's been one of those phases in which nothing sounds too great or is very time consuming or the essential ingredient fails to do its job (like the yeast in a recent batch of sticky buns).  Plus, it's cold and snowy and at times I've felt a little like the man in the photo above.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; X-12959

That's just how it is sometimes, so I have been keeping my food simple at home and enjoying a few meals out with friends.  The daylight is staying longer, new creative projects are started, tacos make for delicious and quick dinners, and I truly can make a batch of biscuits in about 18 minutes.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; X-28976

So, I get to sit back and relax by the proverbial fireplace and enjoy the winter for what it is.  I may be watching an entire season of Elementary (so good!) and catching up on Project Runway Allstars (worst season of any PR yet) rather than putting another log on the fire, but hot chocolate is included.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; Z-872

And when I feel like using my hands and being creative, I have been working my way through a few sewing projects. I have had an ongoing, autodidactic project over the past two years of learning how to sew.  My mother and her sisters made a lot of their own clothing growing up, but I am from an era when this impressive skill had fallen out of favor.  My mom tried teaching me some basic sewing skills when I was younger, but I failed to grasp them.  Also, I was a dancer and most of the sewing needs in my childhood were in the realm of costumes and I was focused on performance rather than home economics skill-building.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; WH1990 Emily Griffith Opportunity School Collection

I'm not much of a performer these days and have developed a strong appreciation for these skills in my adult life. While Home Ec was considered a rather sexist and dull subject during my education, I have since learned that the skills taught in Home Ec classes are quite valuable - for both women and men.  It may be one of those rare economics institutions in which quality is favored over quantity - and I love that.  My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was also a very talented sewist and used her WWII-era degree in Home Economics to start her career as a teacher.  I hope I can honor her with my own education in craft and creativity.

I have several projects going at once, with a stern reminder to self to take them one at a time.  First up to go to completion is a muslin (test garment) of the Peony dress pictured on top.  Once I have the test garment fitted and - if I'm lucky - wearable, I can apply my adjustments to the original pattern and knock out a couple versions of the dress in different fabrics.  Goodbye winter uniform of jeans and boots!  Hello custom wardrobe!

Like cooking, sewing and other creative projects are just as much about the process as they are about the end product.  It's about the learning itself and building on the knowledge you gained the last time around.  There is nothing like the satisfaction of a job well done, except perhaps the pride in the work you completed to get there. And there is something to be said about having a deeper understanding of consumption through the act of creation... The creative/consumption balance in my cooking will favor the later for a little while and in sewing, it will favor the former.  Neither creation or consumption will (or even could) reach 100% at any time.

Now go make something!

[Colette Patterns not only produces wonderful, high-quality patterns for women AND men, their mission statement is to offer a sewing education along with their patterns.  Sarai Mitnick, founder and owner, not only published a book on sewing that feels like it was written especially for me, but also maintains a beautiful and fantastically written blog.  Coletterie is where I found link to the ethical consumption article.  Also, the Colette Patterns is named after Mitnick's cat. Love.]


  1. This is a warm and comforting post! I adore the photos, most especially the one of dudes checking out the sewing machine.

  2. Thanks, Melissa! I like that one, too. I wonder if they tried using it?