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Weekend Reading: Pretty makes, pruning, and sewing with leather

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This week has been a little insane, and there isn’t much sign of it letting up soon.

We’re planning for our studio move, working on the next pattern, designing another big project for the end of the year (which I cannot wait to share), styling and planning multiple photo shoots, completely revamping our shipping procedures, AND trying to hire another person.

The result is that our studio is in a comically disheveled state. My desk is total chaos. Photo equipment and fabric is strewn on every surface. Something about moving makes you really stop caring about putting stuff away properly, because it’s all going to be torn apart again.

But the biggest surprise is that I feel fine about it all. A few years ago, I think all of this would have pushed me over the edge, into the downward spiral of workaholic anxiety.

I still fret a bit about how it will all get done, but the larger part of me just shrugs. It’ll get done, or it won’t. Worry is not very helpful in situations like this, so you might as well enjoy the work.

And in the immortal words of Angela Carter, “Nothing is a matter of life and death except life and death.”

Weekend Reading:

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

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What are your favorite films for inspiration?

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I recently rewatched one of my absolute favorite films in terms of costuming, 3 Coins in the Fountain.

This movie is pretty dopey, but it is entirely worth it just to see what the characters are wearing. And I am just so drawn to that technicolor 1950s palette of muted colors.

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I don’t know about you, but I will definitely watch films just for the costume and production design. It’s not just the pretty factor. I like that films construct an entire world of character and story, and the way that’s expressed through the visual.

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If you think about it, that’s what each of us is doing. We are each our own little costume designers for our own lives.

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If you’re interested in film inspiration, I recommend the (mostly inactive) blog Sweet Sunday Mornings for tons of beautiful film stills.

What films have you found have the most inspiring costumes?

I’d love to learn about some new ones! Give them all to us, be they classic films, new blockbusters, period dramas, all of it! Let’s all update our netflix lists.

[film stills via Sweet Sunday Mornings]

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3 ways to find willpower when you shop

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One afternoon a few months ago, I felt like I was having a mini meltdown at the fabric store.

This happened to me with alarming frequency. The store I shop at most often is gigantic. It’s stuffed with so many lovely silks, linens, knits, and wools that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices. And the longer I spent there, the more confused I would feel.

I was having one of those moments. I went there for just a couple simple knits I needed for specific projects. But once there, I saw so much that I wanted to buy.

The thing is, I didn’t really need to buy more fabric. I had a long queue of projects I want to make, and everything I need to make them. Plus, I have a lovely stash I really should shop from more often.

It felt like there were two voices in my head. One said, “oooh, pretty! Shiny! Buy!”

The other calmly explained that I already had plenty of fabric I should be excited about sewing.

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The first voice responded with all kinds of excuses: This fabric is special. It probably won’t be here next time. I really need some new blouses. This will stop me from buying RTW instead. On and on and on.

The calmer voice prevailed, but not until after a lot of discussion in my head.

Apparently, this sort of internal bickering is not as crazy or uncommon as I might have thought.

The curse of higher thinking

A 2007 study compared the self-control of 40 humans against 19 chimpanzees. Who do you think won?

In the study, each subject was offered a choice. They could have two of their preffered treats immediately, or they could wait two minutes and have six.

The chimps decided to wait for the larger reward 72% of the time.

The humans: 19%.

So what happened here? Do chimps really have better self-control than humans?

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In her book The Willpower Instinct, researcher Kelly McGonigal says, “Of course not. When we’re on our best behavior, humans’ ability to control our impulses puts other species to shame. But all too often, we use our fancy brains not to make the most strategic decisions, but to give ourselves permission to act more irrationally.”

In other words, the chimps don’t have quite the same ability to talk themselves into making bad decisions. They’re not capable of thinking, “oh, I’ll take the treat now, but next time I’ll wait,” or “I deserve this treat now, I worked hard today,” or “I might not want the treat in two minutes, so I’ll take it now.”

In other words, they don’t rationalize.

Balancing multiple personalities

McGonigal posits that in terms of our self-control, each of us has many selves living at once inside of us. At the very least, there is a self who wants instant gratification, and a self who wants long term rewards.

These two selves often struggle for control. It happens to me when shopping, or when a bowl of tortilla chips are set in front of me (yum).

One self remembers the long term goal (don’t spend too much money, don’t ruin your appetite for dinner) and the other thinks up all kinds of rationalizations (you deserve this, you’ll make up for it later).

I don’t think the challenge is to obliterate the pleasure-seeking voice. What fun would that be? But keeping the two in balance is a constant struggle, for all of us.

Here are a few tricks I’ve come up with for dealing with these conflicting desires. They’re helpful in a variety of situations, not just at the fabric store.

Technique 1: Acknowledge your multiple selves

The first and most important step is recognizing that you have conflicting wants. That’s half the battle right there.

When you have one of these moments, stop and consider for a minute that you really want two things at once.

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Next, try to identify with the calmer, more rational voice. It isn’t necessary to think of the other voice as “bad.” But merely thinking of the calmer self as the “real you” and the other voice as a different point of view is helpful.

I like to think of the wanting voice as a more hyperactive friend. Imagine you are shopping for fabric with a friend. You’re going to make her a dress. She flits from rack to rack pulling out anything and everything that looks pretty. Your job is to explain to her what she really came for, that you can only sew so much at one time, and that you can’t spend all that money right now.

Technique 2: Set limits

Setting some limitations in advance is a great way to curb your more acquisitive side.

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Having rules for yourself about anything, be it spending money, spending time online, or eating ice cream when you’re lactose intolerant (that’s me) is a powerful way to manage your short-term thinking.

I try to always go to the store with a list that I stick to. Of course, I do sometimes buy an outstanding bit of yardage I didn’t plan on, but having the list makes me much more focused.

Many of us go on occasional fabric fasts, but I find that even less stringent constraints can really help. What about limiting yourself to only buying from indie shops? Or only buying fabric for one project at a time?

Technique 3: Indulge mindfully

I find it’s important not to villainize yourself over these things.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a short term pleasure. It’s not a bad thing, just something to be aware of when it does conflict with your long term goals.

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I definitely still allow myself to give in to impulses, frequently. But I try to do it in a mindful way, considering whether it’s something I really want, how it meshes with my long term plans, and how much pleasure it will really give me. I want to gorgeous silk yardage now, but will I put it in a box and forget about it soon?

And when I do take my more impulsive pleasures, I enjoy it as much as I can.

In short

I’ve found that just the knowledge that you have conflicting needs is empowering. You don’t have to be a slave to any one of your inner voices. Just knowing they’re there helps to balance them out.

Do you feel conflicted like I do when you’re shopping? How do you deal with the competing demands in your head?

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Weekend Reading: Tropes, sports bras, and shine theory

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I have this ritual. Every morning, either at home or first thing at the office, I write 1000 words.

There are many benefites to having a creative ritual like this, but one of the primary ones for me is that every day, I feel like I created something. Even if I spend the rest of the day answering email or trying to solve an unsolvable problem, at least I produced something.

The photo above is of a nook in our soon-to-be new HQ. I’m planning to turn it into the writing corner, with club chairs and pillows and cozy blankets and lighting. It will be a little retreat for anyone to use when they want to get a clear head.

I can’t wait to show more of the move-in as it progresses. We’re still trying to figure out how we’ll arrange things and what we need to buy (and what to get rid of).

Weekend Reading:

  • This week on Snippets, we talked about saving thread for basting. You can subscribe to Snippets here.
  • “There’s nothing about too thin, too pale and really sad that implies that people will want to buy an expensive good, and in fact, there is probably data that shows that happy people actually lead to more sales. But these ads are about labeling and fitting in and sending a coherent signal.” Seth Godin’s incisive comments on chucking out useless tropes.

  • A wonderfully geeky look inside a sports bra from verypurpleperson.

  • Devon shows the evolution of her fabric stash.

  • The Consumption Conundrum on Design Sponge. Kinda funny to see this next to a “Summer must-haves” slideshow, I gotta say. I’m not saying that to be snarky, either. It’s a tricky balance for bloggers, creatives, and independent businesses.

  • Don’t forget to download the new pattern hack for Laurel! I can’t wait to do more of these.

  • Favorite read of the week: ” I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking.” Learn all about Shine Theory from Ann Friedman.

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

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Download a free pattern hack: The mod-ified Laurel

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I made this Laurel last month, inspired by some super-cute mod scooter dresses from the 1960s. I liked it so much, I made a free download of complete instructions so you can get more from your pattern too.

I’m a big believer in the LBD (little black dress), but in the summer there’s a variation that’s just as important in my lazy-lady’s closet: The LWD.

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I am seriously lazy about what I wear in the summer. It’s got to be comfortable, cool, and easy to throw on without a second thought. And you know what? I think I actually look better that way.

This dress hits all those points and I’ve been wearing it at least once a week.

The fabric is a nice thick ivory linen. As much as I love to wear white and off-white, I really do hate having to wear slips underneath when it’s warm, so I went for something nice and opaque.

Since it’s linen, of course there’s some wrinkling. I don’t mind looking a little rumpled in linen, because it’s just so cool, breezy and soft.

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The natural color does, I must admit, look a bit like muslin. But the fabric will soften up with more wear and become perfect, I just know it. Don’t you love clothes that get better with age?

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The mod-ifications

To modify Laurel, I made a few easy alterations that you can do too. To get the complete set of instructions, click here and enter your email so we can send them on over.

  1. I added a horizontal seam along the hip line.
  2. I added in-seam pockets, set into this new hip seam.
  3. For the top of the bodice front, I cut it in two pieces instead of on the fold.
  4. I added a slight V shape at the neckline.

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All the details are in the download, so check it out below.

I hope to create more of these free downloads in the future when I modify our patterns. In fact, I’m already working on the next one.

The cool thing is, when you download this one, I’ll be able to automatically send you the other freebies too when they’re done. Eventually, I hope to have a huge collection of pattern hacks to send out for free, so you all can get the most from each pattern you buy. Sound like fun?

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Pattern: Laurel by Colette Patterns, with modifications (see download for instructions)
Shoes: Sven clogs
Bracelet: Tiny Armour
Sunglasses: vintage tortoiseshell glasses my friend Kittee gave me years ago

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