Sunday, July 6, 2014

some days it's all worth it.

some days are perfect
and some simply could not get worse
some days it's all worth it
and some days this life is nothing but a curse
- "inside out", sara bareilles

being sick has taken a lot away from me. i spent a lot of my life being lost, and just as i started feeling like my life was coming together, (i'd gotten my GED, learned to drive, gotten my license, bought a car, started college, gotten my own place) suddenly illness struck and everything changed, literally overnight.

me and my super-smart grampa, circa 2010 or so, before i got seriously ill.
and clearly before i lost over 70lbs. hey there, chubbyface!
from the time i was a very, very small child, i was usually the smartest person in the room. this isn't me being full of myself--i was reading chapter books by the time i turned three years old and when i was given an IQ test at 5, my IQ was a mere two points lower than my grandfather's--a man who was invited to join MENSA.

so when i say that i was smart, i mean in that really awkward sheldon cooper/little-professor way. i hungered for new things, and every thing i encountered that was learnable, i learned it and i learned it fast. i was consistently bored in school because even in gifted class, i caught on quickly and was ready to move onto the next thing while my classmates trailed behind me and my teachers tried desperately to come up with things challenging enough to keep me engaged. and all along that's what i did: i got things. fast.

the frog is very happy about this tubie pad.
so you can probably imagine how hard it's been for me to become one of the most dense people i know. my memory is completely shot. i frequently do stupid or forgetful things. i've struggled through most of my college classes. i just don't get things anymore. if i do get them, i get them slowly and usually only after someone has explained it to me. which, as you might already have figured out, is something that bothers me a lot. i am not used to not understanding things, and for me, the worst feeling in the world is feeling like i am dumb. (and while i appreciate the fact that most of you reading this right now probably don't think i am dumb, that unfortunately makes no difference in how i feel.)

i tell you all of this so that you'll understand why yesterday was such a triumph for me.

recently i decided that instead of spending the summer laying around being bored and sad, i would break out all of my crafting stuff and get working. i am not much of an artist to be sure, but i like making kandy (raver) jewelry, i can knit anything that is rectangular in shape, and i have long wanted to wipe the dust off the 4th or 5th sewing machine i've owned in my life and learn how to use it. despite owning quite a few sewing machines i have never actually been able to use one, and although i've done a lot of clothes altering (of the "funky style" persuasion--no nice neat hems or anything like that) it has all been done by hand.

circles are overrated. as are simple
straight stitches. zigzag 4 lyfe
for those who dont know, sewing machines are actually a lot more difficult to use than you would think. or at least, more than i thought. nonetheless, i glanced at the manual just long enough to determine what each dial did, grabbed some scrap material, and off i went.

my first creation was a "tubie pad"--a bit of material with absorbent backing (i used fleece) and a closure of some kind (velcro or snap usually) that goes around a feeding tube to soak up any leakage. a lot of people make these little pads in any color or pattern you could possibly imagine, and they aren't very expensive and seem(ed) simple enough to make. there are probably better projects that i, as a whatever comes BEFORE novice could have started with, but i chose to start with a very tiny circular thing as my introductory project, and it didn't come out too bad if i do say so myself. it also didn't come out too circular, but hey. perfection takes practice, and at the point i made this all i had ever done with a sewing machine was run some scrap material through it to get a feel for the pedal and wonder why on earth the stitches kept falling out.

"my sewing machine has feet?"
indeed, when i made this little tubie pad, i began without knowing what the difference between a spool of thread and a bobbin was.

not fancy, but it's functional! and of course, once i realized that i actually made something where previously there was nothing but some fabric scraps, i was instantly hooked in that beautiful obsessive way that only an aspie can be.

i liked my new tubie pad, but i wanted to attack a bigger project, despite still not having much of an idea of how to do really anything with the sewing machine.

"i want kan*dee," circa 2001 or so;
i've been aching for a pair of phat pants lately. i've been a lot of a things in my life but at my core i have always considered myself to be a kandy kid. in the deepest recesses of the darkest depressions i've been in, it's always been the rave culture, fashion, music, and ideals that has saved me and pulled me back up out of the darkness. i feel lucky to have such a thing in my life, something that can save my life day after day.

however, i left all of that behind when i moved to new jersey for school. i donated or got rid of most of my "funky" clothes, stopped dying my hair crazy colors, and tried to be "normal".

¹ PLUR - the raver's core belief system.
Peace. Love. Unity. Respect.
it didn't really go well. trying to be someone besides who you really are usually doesn't.

and so i've been on a mission the past few months to reach inside myself and pull the happy, bubbly, walking rainbow up onto her feet. i live PLUR¹, i always have, and i always will. but there aren't words to describe what a difference it's made in my general outlook, how much more myself i feel. it's really a fantastic feeling, and i truly encourage you,  dear reader, if you have found yourself living a life that doesnt feel like it's truly yours.. stop it. stop it today, right now, and discover or re-discover who you really are. and then be that person, without worrying what other people want or expect from you. because they have their lives and choices to spend how they wish. you shouldn't let them spend your choices too.
care bear themed phat pants from enlightenedlibra.

so now that we've got all that out of the way, i decided that my second ever sewing project would be a rather large and complicated pair of phat pants. i won't even bother trying to describe what phat pants are, because they are whatever you want them to be. phat pants are large, wide legged. if you grew up in the 90s you may know the denim form as "skater jeans" or "pants that could house a family of five". for me, phat pants are super comfortable, super baggy, super cute pants or jeans. they might have fur or bondage straps or cartoon characters or bedazzles or whatever makes the wearer happy.

pants, believe it or not.
my overzealous pins.
i decided to go with a pink base because pink is my favorite color and before i had even gotten as far as tracing the paettern, i had already decided that i would be wearing these pants an awful lot. i discovered along the way that while sewing IS something that has to be learned, it's actually not as hard as it looks. well, at least, it's not that hard to do simple projects. i am not going to pretend that there aren't a LOT of people out there that are ridiculously talented with a sewing machine and can make super awesome stuff thats far beyond my level. but basic stuff? definitely not as hard or scary as it looks. (or looked to me!)
gunnery sergeant tigger² inspecting my work.
for the record, he approved.
 i went a bit overboard with pins on the first leg. i was very concerned that the fabric would just slide all over the place and everything would be ruined forever. by the time i got to the second pant leg, though, i had calmed down and was only pinning what was strictly necessary.

i went into this project intending to make a simple elastic waistband. with my weight constantly bouncing around due to a combination of unstable nutrition, unstable health, and the latest addition to my list of maladies, hyperthyroidism, and the fact that i can't take a lot of pressure on my abdomen, an adjustable or elastic waist is practically a necessity. im hoping to add a drawstring for further adjustability (since they did come out rather large even with the elastic waistband!), and on the next pair im going to aim for less generalized measurements as well.

 ²  yes, my cats have ranks. gunnery sergeant tigger, chief
petty officer tobias, and lance corporal faith. don't judge.

the waist of these pants came out just about as huge as it looks in the photos, but that was okay for two reasons:
  • they're phat pants. the bigger, the better,
    and the more comfortable.
  • with an elastic waist, there needed to be
    enough material to "scrunch" up around the waist for the look i was aiming for.

 i decided instead of just using the same material for the waist, that i would use the contrast material (meant for the pockets and accents, as in the care bear pants pictured earlier in this entry).

and yes, i also used care bears because i love care bears. this part was probably the easiest. i attached the strip of care bear material and then folded it over to create a tunnel for the elastic waistband. while stitching the fold, i stitched back and forth across the original seam that attached the care bears to the pink, thus reinforcing the seam. i left a bit of overlapping pocket open so that i could put in the elastic and possibly later a
drawstring. (for anyone who cares, i used a very tight zigzag stitch to complete the elastic strip into a loop, and i went over it four times back and forth to make sure it would not detach from itself. these pants may be very, very far from perfect but they're strong at least.

at this point they still aren't finished. i still have to hem the bottoms as they're way too long for me, and add all the embellishments, pockets, and accents i want. but they are, as of now, actual pants. they have everything that is required to call something pants, and i'm pretty happy with myself right now.

so right about now i assume you're thinking to yourself, "that's great and all, but i thought this entry had something to do with with triumph and illness and feeling dumb, so what exactly is your point here?"

attaching the waist after 6 straight hours of work and while
obviously very medicated, judging by my eyelids.
the triumph here is that i was, for the first time in a very long time, able to once again get something.. and get it fast. i went into my first project knowing nothing at all about sewing. i had to google many of the words used in the manual, i had to watch videos to figure out exactly how the basic pattern for making a pair of pants (phat or otherwise) worked. i didn't understand what a bobbin was, or why my sewing machine had so. many. dials.

the triumph was that within 24 hours i went from having no idea what was even going on to being the proud owner of a pair of as-yet-undecorated, totally unique, handcrafted with love and my own blood sweat and tears, bright pink care bear phat pants.

the triumph was that yesterday i took something back from the illnesses that have taken so much from me.

and that, my friends, is worth absolutely everything.