A month of tiny failures.

I started February’s A Month of Tiny Steps with the best of intentions. I ended February’s AMoTS with a solemn resolve to “do better next time.”

To begin with, I chose the exact wrong sort of thing to do: A close ended, single project that only lent itself to tiny steps at a couple of different stages. I know where I went wrong, and I won’t make the same mistake again. We’ll call this a “learning experience.”

These tiny steps were also meant to help in habit formation, and sewing is unlikely to be a daily habit for me (unless I end up making a living that way again). I’m not trying to build up a body of sewing work, or stretch my skills on a daily basis. Writing lends itself especially well to the tiny steps method, and I’ve had great results using the technique with knitting projects, too. I’m not much of an artist, but I can see how drawing (more than painting or sculpting) would be an excellent use of tiny steps, too. But sewing? Not so much.

Sewing is a flow activity for me. One step flows easily into the next, and 20 minutes is not enough when I am in that head space. I take lots of reasonable breaks when sewing, so I’m not likely to tire myself out more than usual. (Though I learned that the hard way.)

So I’m going to continue to sew the way I have had the most success. I use infrequent very good energy days to cut several projects at once, and then take as much time as I need to sew through the pre-cut projects. The last two or three times I’ve done this I have gotten much more done than cutting and sewing one project at a time.

Also – and I know this is a petty complaint, as I have a dedicated sewing area – I really hate leaving out the ironing board. I can, technically – it just barely fits by the bed – but it’s such a nuisance that I would rather put it away each time I finish sewing. So that’s also against the “have all your tools ready to go and portable” rule.

All that being said, I would like to sew more. I really do enjoy sewing, and I particularly like making my own clothes. But I will use my daily tiny steps for other activities in the future.

See? Learning experience.

DIY not?

I came across “The Class Dynamics of DIY Clothing” the other day while looking for something completely unrelated. (Because that is how the internet works.) I can’t help but agree with the essay, and own my privilege in this area.

I know how to sew, have a decent machine in working order, a good amount of fabric squirreled away, and pretty much every sort of notion you might need to make basic items. If I like a pattern that doesn’t come in my size, I know how to make it bigger.

The initial buy-in to begin sewing is expensive – mostly because of the equipment. You need access to a sewing machine, an iron, an ironing board, good scissors, pins, needles, marking tools, and a space large enough to cut fabric (whether on a table or the floor). You’ll need a pattern (or the ability to make a pattern), thread, and fabric – which is often more expensive than a ready-made garment, especially if you wear natural fibers. You may need zippers, elastic, buttons, bias tape, interfacing, or trim. You will need adequate time (and energy) to sew.

The bottom floor for sewing is several stories up the building, if you catch my meaning.

I learned to sew in home economics when I was 13, though I wasn’t very into it at the time. Various relatives pooled their money to buy me a basic sewing machine for my 15th birthday, after I became interested in making my own clothes…because I couldn’t find anything I liked in my size in stores. (Does that sound familiar?) My grandma worked in a garment factory and had access to very cheap fabric remnants that I used both for practice and for finished garments in those early years.

By the time I was 18 I was working as a theatrical costumer. My experience is absolutely atypical.

I think there’s something else going on beneath this cheerful admonition to “do it yourself,” too: a little whiff of the “you’re on your own” mentality so prevalent these days. Society (in the form of the retail marketplace in this example) is failing to provide for your needs? Well, too bad! You’re on your own! Just do it yourself. Go sew your own, fatty, and get out of my face.

I could be wrong about that, but it seems to be there.

I truly love clothes, and I enjoy sewing. I would never tell someone not to make their own clothes if they were inclined to do so. And though I think that retail options should definitely be expanded in larger sizes, I’m not sure how much change we can expect in the short term. Even before the economy tanked, when fat ladies were (supposedly) lined up with cash in hand, retailers didn’t do much to expand plus size offerings anywhere other than online. So what do we do?

I wish I knew.

IMG_20120914_192505

ย (I made this dress, and I wore this exact same outfit today – though this photo is from last fall.)

“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'”
— Kurt Vonnegut

Confirmation bias.

I came across an interesting series of photos taken in shopping malls in 1990 a while ago on Retronaut. The photos were interesting in and of themselves, particularly since I was a teenager at that time, and it reminded me pretty fiercely of emo days of yore – but I noticed something else.

Check out the fifth comment on the page: “I like the lack of self-consciousness people seem to have in these pictures. I also notice the almost total lack of obese people. Wonder what changed in only 20 years?”

Really? An “almost total lack of obese people”? I beg to differ.

In virtually every crowd scene, and most photos with groupings larger than 5, there are plenty of “overweight” and “obese” people in those photos, especially in the background. (Which says something about the photographer, too.)

Keep in mind that “overweight” and “obese” look a lot different than the headless fatty photos accompanying “obesity crisis” articles would have you believe. (Don’t believe me? Check out the Illustrated BMI Categories set on Flickr. And remember that this woman is “overweight,” and this woman is “obese,” according to BMI standards.)

I’ve started to think that when people hear that a third of Americans are obese, they think that 33% of us actually look like the photos they see on the news. And sure, some of us do look like that*ย  – but only a very small fraction of the population does. (Something like 2%.)

Fat people have always been around. I was a fat teenager** in 1990 – just like some of the kids in those photos. You can argue the point that there are more fat people now (which is something else entirely, and is debatable in its own right), but you can’t argue that there were virtually no fat people 20 years ago.

I think what’s changed in the past 20 years is the level of vilification fat currently has in our culture. That’s my opinion.

Teen girl with terrible 80s hairdo is captured mid-sneeze.

*And all of us, fat or thin, deserve to be respected and treated well regardless of size. No ifs, ands, or buts.

**I was not in pain in the photo. I was sneezing. It’s the only photo ever taken of me…mid-sneeze. (Circa 1988.)

Posted in Fat

A trio of movies.

I took a break from my busy TV-watching schedule to watch a few movies, and here they are:

“The Shrine”

“The Shrine” was…pretty much okay. I found it sort of predictable, but I think like a scriptwriter and am rarely surprised. Still, I kind of liked it. I particularly liked that the scenes in Polish (I assume it was Polish, since they were supposed to be in Poland?) weren’t subtitled, which helped you to share in the alienation and confusion of the English-speaking characters. I guess that’s faint praise, but honestly – it was watchable, there were no rape scenes, and it had a couple of decent scares. It was a mediocre, but very palatable B horror movie. Why not waste an hour and a half of your life, right?

“The Possession”

I didn’t expect much from a movie with a 38% Rotten Tomatoes rating, but I really enjoyed it. This movie was subtle – and gradual – but it wasn’t slow or plodding. And any film involving the possession of a young girl is inevitably going to be compared to “The Exorcist,” which just isn’t fair.ย  But this is a very different (and very well acted) take on child possession. There was an alien quality to the spirit from the box that went beyond cinematic demons as they are normally portrayed – a coldness, and a hunger. This movie wasn’t a scare-a-moment thrill ride, true – but it was straight up creepy, didn’t suffer from CGI abuse, and although some of the “family in distress” story line felt a little forced, it was still the best horror movie I’ve seen in a while. I highly recommend it to the patient and discerning. In fact, I don’t really understand the hostility this movie has gotten in many reviews. It was pretty good. (Special bonus: Watch the “Paranormal Witness” episode in season 2 with a real dybbuk box for extra creepiness.)

“Red Lights”

Again, another sort of quiet, subtle movie that failed to connect with audiences – that I really enjoyed. And I, the Great Predictor of All Movie Endings, did not see the ending coming. I love that. I didn’t know much about this one going in, except for a hazily remembered trailer I had seen at some point – something about debunking psychics. I really only watched this out of my undying love for Sigourney Weaver, but that’s reason enough. I don’t want to give too much plot away, but despite the gloomy cinematography and the parapsychological subject matter, this isn’t a horror movie. It’s more of a supernaturally-tinged thriller – and an effective one, too. The silliest thing about the plot is that the parapsychology researchers get far more university funding than the debunkers do. Is there an emoticon for wiping tears of laughter? If so, insert one here. But don’t hold that against the movie. (Quick note for Netflix viewers: This streamed with extremely quiet sound. I don’t think I could have heard most of the dialogue on my laptop, and had to bump my TV’s sound to twice its normal volume toย  hear it clearly.)