Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

Creative Brain Versus Practical Brain

Creative Brain Versus Practical Brain

I went to town after church on Sunday. By the time I get to church, I’m halfway to town anyway and sometimes it’s just easier to run errands afterward than make a special trip the next day. We had gotten about 6” of snow since Friday night. The county road department doesn’t work on weekends. (When it gets really bad, people with plows go out and plow the roads themselves.) The roads were slushy, but they were slushy with a layer of ice underneath that made them deceptively slick. As I left church and headed toward town, someone in a minivan came roaring up behind me and got right on my bumper. I don’t have time for idiots like that. I get out of their way and let them go on to become an accident without me. I pulled into the elementary school parking lot and let the minivan pass, noting that the fire department was cleaning up an MVA just a bit further up the road caused by someone who had misjudged the road conditions and put his truck into the ditch. (That was followed about an hour later by another MVA in the exact same spot because you can’t fix stupid.)

Once I got down to the highway, the road conditions were much better. The state road department had been out plowing and salting. I ran my errands and picked up a length of clearance fabric at Jo-Anns for making a costume.

I sometimes suffer from the curse of knowing too much. A background in handspinning comes with a fair bit of knowledge about the historical use of fibers. I am aware, for example, what fibers, dyes, and construction methods are appropriate for particular periods in history. However, that knowledge can get in the way of common sense. I stood in front of bolts of fabric at Jo-Anns on Sunday having a silent argument with myself:

Creative Brain: You know that 100% linen fabric would be most appropriate for making a tunic worn by someone in the New Testament era.

Practical Brain: Linen is $21 a yard!

Creative Brain: Yes, but you should be historically accurate. And you have a coupon.

Practical Brain: A coupon is not magically going to make the price of that linen $6 a yard, which is my budget for this project.

Creative Brain: Christ didn’t wear polyester.

Practical Brain: No one is going to know.

Creative Brain: I’ll know.

The struggle is real. And then there is the issue of color. Peacock blue is pretty, but not something the Israelites would have worn. A brown poly blend fabric caught my eye but there were only two yards left on the bolt. I settled on a beige rayon/linen blend from the clearance rack and everybody was (mostly) happy.

The Sewing Out Loud podcast did a great series of episodes a few months ago on costuming. Zede, one of the hosts, has 30+ years of experience costuming plays and show choirs. She noted that costumes should be constructed so that they are alterable. However—and this is key—the alterations should never be permanent. If you have to take in a garment, you never cut off the excess seam allowance. No one in the audience will know if the garment has a 1-1/2” seam allowance instead of the standard 5/8”. Or if you hem something, you don’t cut off the excess fabric in case the hem needs to be lowered for another performer. If you’re really on top of your game, you’ll remember to use a different color bobbin thread so that the next person making alterations can easily find and remove the changes you made.

It took me about six hours yesterday to make a long-sleeved tunic for this coming Sunday’s character to wear. Part of that was me being OCD and tracing the size that I needed rather than cutting it out. Patterns are not cheap. Even at $1.99 apiece on sale, if we needed a separate pattern in each size, that would quickly add up. Part of it was also my insistence on finishing all the seams on the serger. (I really need to get that industrial serger up and running as it would have done the seams and the finishing in the same step. Hopefully that oil will show up this week.) Linen and linen blends fray if you look at them the wrong way, and I want this costume to last for a while. I was also wrangling a 4-1/2 yard piece of fabric. Thank goodness I have a long upstairs hallway:


This tunic will be suitable for a man to wear. Three of our characters are male and all the actors are of a size, so only the accessories need to be changed each time. I think I’ll have to make a woman’s costume, too, for the other two characters, one of whom just happens to be pregnant. Thankfully, I am not costuming an entire Christmas pageant this year.


I ran across a piece on the Sewcialists website about sewing sustainably, and I love some of the ideas the author, Sarah C, included. Specifically, she notes that she has four trash cans in her sewing space. One is for recyclable materials like paper and notions packaging. A second is for recycling scrap fabrics that are too small to reuse or save (and, when full, gets taken to clothing retailer H&M for their recycling program). A third—the smallest, she notes—is for things that cannot be recycled. The fourth is for clipped threads and serger trimmings that will be repurposed into pillow stuffing.

And in keeping with the idea of not letting perfect be the enemy of the good, Sarah notes that the important thing is to do what you can and not try to do it all. Her trash can idea is one that would be easy to implement. It’s on my list for 2019.

I found out yesterday that Amanda Jean Nyberg, whose book Sunday Morning Quilts changed my scrap-quilting life, has decided to retire from the professional quilt design world. That makes me sad, but I completely understand that she wants to spend time with her kids while they are still at home. Been there, done that. I think it’s good and healthy that she is retiring before she gets burned out. I don’t knit much anymore, although I noted on Sunday that both Elaine—who is a retired minister—and Valeri—who was our song leader that day—were knitting during the sermon. I haven’t brought any knitting to church because I sit in the front pew. However, I decided that because they were up at the front knitting, it was okay for me to bring something small to work on. I could knock out some dishcloths for the church kitchen. Our pastor doesn’t care that people knit during the sermon. He says it’s better to look out and see that than to see people sleeping.


This is at once horrifying and oddly comforting:


I made up a score sheet and hung it on the refrigerator. Every time we catch a mouse in a trap, I cross one off and write the date underneath. We caught four on Sunday. Since last Thursday night, the grand total is 10. At this rate, we won’t have to buy chicken feed for the clucks; they can subsist on a diet of dead mice.

The traps are effective, at least. I need to stock up on cheese. The husband is optimistic that perhaps we have stemmed the tide.

When ecosystems get out of whack, bad things happen, and ours seems to have tilted in favor of rodents in the past several years. We never used to have these kinds of problems with ground squirrels, chipmunks, and mice. Where are the predators? I haven’t seen that weasel for almost a week.

Stars Aligned

Stars Aligned

Costumes and Community

Costumes and Community