I’ve been posting a lot lately about purging, decluttering, getting rid of things, seeking the essentials and hacking back everything else.
I don’t want to be one of those irritating people who give everyone else good advice but never follow it themselves; and I think what I’ve been trying to do with all these posts is to shift the balance of my thinking. It is not easy, as I’m sure you know. Mental habits are ruts that are hard to break out of.
The good is often the enemy of the best, I wrote. This is a lovely aphoristic saying, full of insight and meaning. But it isn’t anything more unless you apply it, put it into practice.
There are a number of elements I consider as essential to my life: the love of God, my husband, family and friends. Writing, reading, and handwork. Those are my core activities and priorities. Then there are the necessary ancillary activities like cleaning, eating etc.
There are a lot of other things I would like to do – often, being all excited about a new shiny idea, I start doing them straight away – which there isn’t room for in my life, not without filching time from the more important activities.
Where this really lands me in trouble is with the sunk cost fallacy – having enthusiastically launched into a project or activity, I feel I can’t call it quits, because that would be wasting the resources I have put into it.
Does anyone else know the dragging guilt and wearying heaviness induced by too many unfinished projects? Are you in over your head too?
Here’s the truth I have to face: if it wasn’t a good idea to start giving your time to something, it isn’t a good idea to keep giving your time to it.
The sensible thing – nay, the wise thing to do is to admit that there isn’t room in your life for this right now, and let it go.
That being the case, I am regretfully withdrawing from the Historical Sew Monthly. I made a shift and a balaclava, both of which are useful, and I am pleased that I did.
I also made half of an Edwardian maid’s apron – my first attempt at pleating – which I may use as a half apron, or finish with bib, straps etc in the fullness of time, either with the frou-frou Edwardian bib, or with a fuller, more practical one.
But as much as I enjoy historical sewing (or at least, the results thereof), it isn’t a high enough priority in my life for me to be devoting as much time to it as the HSM’15 requires. So, I shall take my final bow (that’s me in the back row) and retire to the audience where I can sit and applaud the efforts of others.
I do feel disappointed, I admit. But the disappointment is tinged with relief, knowing this was the right decision to make, and nervousness, knowing that this is very likely only the first of many such decisions.
I was re-reading some old posts the other day and rediscovered my Master Metaphor: knitting a sock. The big long-running effort in my life at the moment is finishing the accidentally-epic first draft of my current Work In Progress, working title Tsifira. So naturally, my mind turned to considering it as a sock. A purple sock, of course.
Writing a sock is actually a lot like knitting a novel. Getting started is fiddly, and sometimes takes more than one attempt. After that you seem to be just going around in circles for a very long time. Then it gets more complicated.
There’s a lot of going back and forth, the pattern changes, and what used to be sideways becomes up, and vice versa. You have to pick up a number of threads you thought you’d finished with, and then you’re going in circles again. It’s not til you look back you realize that you’ve turned the heel.
Then, just when you’re thinking there will never be an end to this interminable circling, you realize you’ve got so far that it’ll be too long if you don’t start tapering toward the end.
This is where I am at with Tsifira at the moment: shaping everything in to the end. And once that’s done, there’s only a bit of grafting the loose ends together and it will be finished.
Of course, this is a first draft, so there are all kinds of mistakes I don’t even know how to make with a sock: surplus beginnings, several heels (and quite a few turns!), extra length where not required (okay, I definitely know how to do that one) and the toe shaping could well turn out too pointy or too blunt.
But that’s a first draft for you: messy as, and looking like nothing on earth. And this is where the sock metaphor falls down a bit (hur hur), because it’s really very hard to rewrite a sock. Either you undo the whole thing and start over (not recommended) or you cut and paste (definitely not recommended).
The point of the master metaphor is not, of course, that one thing is analogous to another, but that having done one thing that seemed difficult or impossible, it is possible to do another. And so with this.
A great deal of rewriting lies ahead, no doubt, but one day I shall hold my finished sock novel in my hot little hands, and that will be awesome, even if it doesn’t keep my feet warm.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some toe-shaping to do.
What’s your Master Metaphor? Know any good metaphors for rewriting? How is a raven like a writing desk?
The seed of the idea was planted in my head by this post and its comments. Several weeks and sleepless hours later, the thought takes form – and photographs (click to enlarge).
But do I need a stuffed Jabberwocky head in my life? I hear you ask. A beheaded (or rather dis-embodied) Jabberwocky is a symbol of triumph over oppression, whether in your past or your future. You should have one by you at all times.
Furthermore, when completed, this piece of ‘wocksidermy has stress-relieving properties. Read on for details…
Don’t worry if your sewing skills are not of the finest – that is no impediment to successful Jabberwock creation. They are known to be ugly beasts, and having your head chopped off does nothing for the looks.
a sock (as ugly as possible)
fabric (I used wine-red and olive)
ribbons (I used white, green & grey and grey-green bias binding)
a tennis ball (optional, but much more satisfying)
stuffing (I used old quilt batting)
thread (I used brown, green and orange)
needle & pins
First, cut the heel out of your sock, and put it aside. Your sock should now be tubish, but with a slit in it.
Cut a piece of fabric (I used red) big enough to fill in the slit and apply it to the wrong side of the sock. A bit fiddly, but best done when the sock is right-side out, in my opinion.
This forms the first hack neck-wound; have it as wide or as narrow as you like. Use blanket-stitch to attach the raw edges of the sock to the under-fabric. Ragged and messy is perfectly acceptable. A vorpal blade is not a delicate weapon.
Then insert the tennis ball into the toe of the sock. This will be the head.
Cut two circles of fabric (I used olive green) each about 5cm (2in) across. Do a quick running stitch round each, about 5mm (1/4in) from the edge. Cut a piece of white fabric or ribbon (about 4cm or 1 1/2 in long) and place this in the centre of the wrong side of each circle, before pulling on the thread to gather the circle into a puff. These are the eyes.
Lips: cut the heel piece in half lengthwise, then fold each half lengthwise (right side out) and whip-stitch the raw edges together, folding in the scraggy ends.
Teeth: cut two lengths of white fabric or ribbon (beware, ribbon frays), each twice the length you want the teeth. I made the upper teeth longer than the lower. Fold each piece in half – raw ends together – and sew down the sides. Stuff gently, then quilt a groove down the middle of each to create two teeth (this is where I used the orange thread).
If you want it to look extra tidy, you could sew wrong sides together and turn before stuffing – I didn’t, and it isn’t too obvious. (I think.) Also sew along the bottom of the teeth so the stuffing doesn’t come out.
Cut a piece of fabric (again, I used red) the shape and size you want the mouth. If you aren’t sure, consider the size of the lips. Pin this fabric to the head (refer to pic for placement) and sew down the edges – doesn’t have to be tidy as the lips will cover it.
Sew the teeth on, lining their raw edge up with the edge of the mouth piece. Again, doesn’t have to be perfect – Jabberwockies are not noted for their good teeth. (It’s “the jaws that bite” not “the jaws with the perfect bite”.)
Then sew on the lips by their whipped edges. These should cover the edges of the mouth fabric and teeth.
Sew the eyes on smooth side out (refer to the pic for placement) using tiny whip stitches around the edge of each eye.
Now the fiddly bit: using a small pair of sharp scissors, cut a slit in each eye about 2/3 of the way down, being careful not to cut right to the edge, or through the white underneath. Neaten the raw edges with whip-stitch or blanket-stitch (eyelashes!).
Use any combination you like of the ribbons, bias binding etc to create chin spikes, horns, fleshy mustachy bits, or any other facial excrescences that take your fancy. (I used bias binding with cord inside it for the ‘horns’.)
Follow Tenniel’s depiction or your own fancy, whichever you prefer.
The Coup de Grâce (Finishing Off)
Trimming: If there are any unwanted bits at the top of your sock – decorative bands, tight ribs etc – now is the time to whack them off. Use a vorpal blade, or failing that, scissors.
Stuffing: Your Jabberwocky can be stuffed as loosely or as tightly as you like. Too much stuffing, and the head will be smaller than the neck; too little, and it will be a sock with a tennis ball in it.
Where the Vorpal Blade went Snicker-Snack: Figure out how wide a circle will be needed to fill the hole at the top of the sock. If uncertain (as I was) try the lids of jars etc until you find one that fits comfortably without stretching the sock. Draw around this on your fabric (I used the red), cut out, and attach with blanket-stitch. Again, this is a gaping wound, so don’t feel your stitches need to be even and regular.
O Frabjous Day! Your Jabberwocky is complete.
And now for the stress-relieving part. When your work is not going well – be it writing, rewriting, or anything else – simply pick the beastie up by the neck and bounce its ugly head on the desk, walls, floor or any other firm surface within reach. (Now you know why tennis ball.)
Possible variations include shank buttons covered in fabric for eyes; a loop for hanging the Jabberwocky up; or if you’re feeling very adventurous (and have a long sock), a Jabberwock-Ouroboros or even a Merlion.
As with everything I put on this blog, these instructions and photos are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 New Zealand licence.
Which means that you are welcome to make any use of it that you please, including your own derivative works (even commercial if you like) as long as you a) say where you got it from, and b) share the same way.
Please leave a comment if you make something based on this – I’d love to see what you do with it!