Now that I’ve told you a little more about why we travel most of the summer, I can also share some things I’ve made for our trips.
Our clothes spend a fair amount of time in a “closet” consisting of a thin strip of wood between the shelves we have built into our truck. It’s much better than keeping them in a suitcase, but still not ideal since they are unprotected. At the end of last summer, when we unpacked the clothes from truck to house, I noticed that one my jackets was significantly more faded on one side than the other. Maybe hanging it with the same side to the skylight for the whole summer was not the best idea? The same thing happened to Bryan’s jacket, so I’m pretty sure that extra UV light on one side was the problem—combined with the fact that it was warm last summer and the jackets didn’t come off the rack very often. I had been thinking vaguely for a couple of years about making some kind of garment bags to protect our clothes from getting dirty/scratched up as we move things in and out of the truck, especially as I have started to take more me-made garments on the road. This was the final straw, I had to do it.
I decided to make two, each half the width of our “closet.” One would be slightly longer than my summer dresses, and the other just long enough to protect shirts and pants. I traced a plastic hanger for the shape of the sides, and left a split in the front to close with a zipper.
This was the perfect scrap/thrift store shopping project. Since it didn’t matter exactly what the garment bags looked like, as long as they worked, I could use practically anything. I used the last of some heavy canvas from old curtains that came with our house, plus another small curtain (made out of some great textured blue-green fabric) that I bought at Goodwill.
This may seem like a strange project to wax poetic about, but here’s the thing: as I cut myself loose from trying for aesthetic perfection, not caring what anyone would think of my topstitching or pieced fabric, sewing felt more like sculpting; using what I had on hand, and my hands, and just making something almost like I was pulling it out of the air. I was free to use my creativity in any way I wanted, to use whatever I could find, odds and ends of colored thread, salvaged zippers (really nice ones actually)—and I started to see an unexpected beauty in my intentionally imperfect stitching, one that I hope comes through in these photos. I was free to do whatever I wished, and yet cared enough to add little touches and experiments. I was trying things, enjoying the process, and making something useful as I went. With enough practice behind me to be comfortable with fabric and thread, I was able to just play, and it felt pretty magical.
Around the same time, as we both worked on various projects for the truck and Bryan’s display before the summer season, he was refinishing the director’s chair that he uses in the booth. He did a really nice job, dissembling and sanding the chair before applying the new finish. After all that, I decided it needed a new bag to protect it from getting scuffed all over again as it’s loaded in and out.
Chair in the process of disassembly—we’re looking through where the seat would be.
I went back to the thrift store looking for something to line my chair cover with. I loved searching through the housewares section, looking at everything as a material instead of a finished product (always my favorite kind of shopping), and letting the serendipity of what I found help shape my project. I decided on two vintage towels for padding the front and back, and a second-hand piece of fabric to round out the outside. I think the green stripes with my other leftover fabrics make it look like something for sailing.
When I announced that I was going to spend our penultimate evening in Flagstaff sewing (this chair cover), I got an enthusiastic “Ok!” from my notoriously goal-oriented husband. Remind me to try this trick again next year . . .
It’s weird, but having all these me-made covers on our travels this season has been quite a boost to my morale. Every time I see them, or touch them, I’m reminded that I have a spring of creativity and ingenuity which I can use to make whatever I want, and whatever I need. That’s pretty much all I need to feel good about life in general.
How about you—have you done any creative and/or freeing projects lately?
i know exactly what you mean! when your life revolves around creative mediums that are both work and joy, it’s easy to maintain that underlying feeling for a need to always innovate or push yourself further. it’s soooooo satisfying to feel free of that, and good for us too. i volunteer at the local arts council and recently made a wood and fabric puppet theater. i’m used to making tiny, detailed, precise things, so it was so much fun to paint a large and loose and fun project. i also made some sample puppets that i was teaching kids to make at an event, and they were goofy creatures that couldn’t be pinned down to any species or known critter. happy.
Your puppet theater sounds great! I agree that it’s good for us to feel free of creative pressure. And making something in a different medium than you’re used to can be a great way to do that, besides just being fun!
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