Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cutting and Patching

A few months ago I read a book called Lessons from Madame Chic.  It made quite an impression and since then I’ve mentioned it several times on the blog.  One of the things it prompted me to do was to reconsider my wardrobe and work on editing it to be more reflective of my current style.  I’ve been slowly working on this project since then, with pretty satisfactory results. 

At the same time, though, I’ve also read books and blogs discussing the problem with wastefulness in modern, first-world countries – perhaps especially in America.  We amass possessions and gleefully throw away first the bags and wrappings which the possessions came in, then replacement parts, finally the possessions themselves.  The old skills of mending and fixing and patching are no longer really appreciated because we have such abundance.  Instead we have become good at digging more and more land-fills. 

So, instead of simply throwing away my old clothes, I’ve been analyzing them to see if I can salvage them in some way.  My first example is a green corduroy skirt from my ‘gypsy-chic’ days.  It is really quite lovely, with a big kick pleat in the front and patch pockets and gold buttons.  On the other hand, it’s quite a wide A-line, with a high, fitted waistline.  Currently, in my new ‘jazzy-smart’ phase, I’m favoring a more relaxed cut at the waist and a straighter line to the skirt. 

Gold and green are too good to waste!

 I decided it was time to call on my editing powers and use them not just for writing.

I’m going to take the waistband off the skirt, detach the side seams and then alter it to fit my new look.  I’ll have what amounts to a brand new skirt for free, and I’ll also not waste anything in the process.  It makes for a gratifying result. 

Thinking about this plan of mine, though, I realized that editing this skirt isn’t too far from the editing I’m doing currently on House of Mirrors, and even closer to what I did with The Art of Dying.  Since I was happy with the basic materials, I just had to cut new lines and enhance different elements in order to convey my vision better.  The operation requires its own sort of imagination, quite different from straight up creation, but it leads to more perfect results in the end. 

What author or artist or creator isn’t looking for more perfect results, after all?

Sometimes, though, no matter how thrifty you want to be, or how much work you put into the original piece, you have to start over from scratch.  I have another skirt, in fact.  It’s a long white linen skirt which I bought for a special occasion in college.  It has been a favorite article in my closet since then, but there is a lot of dirt out there waiting to sabotage white linen.  After  several years, the skirt is faintly yellowed, and then, to top it off, I just discovered a rip at the bottom of the zipper and also another along another seam, where I must have caught it on something. 

The skirt has a perfect cut for my figure, though.  In the interest of salvaging as much as I can, I’m going to take the entire garment apart this winter and use it as a pattern for a copy.  No sense wasting something I may never be able to find again, after all.  I feel the same about another story of mine, Fridays Child.  The novel is a mess, but I can’t just throw it out of the window.  At the same time, it can’t be fixed by cutting and patching and tweaking. 

An essential flaw necessitates a new approach.
There are some artistic endeavors which require a complete overhaul before they’ll be worthwhile. 

Much as I’m going to use the substance of my present skirt to create a new one, I’m going to take the pattern of Fridays Child and reconstruct the novel from scratch inside that pattern.  I never thought I’d be one of those authors who rewrites stories completely from top to bottom – but it appears that I’m gearing up to be just that!  Funny how one changes to fit the needs of one’s interests. 

I had been dreading the prospect, actually (just because I decide something must be done doesn’t always mean I want to do it!), but lately I’ve had a change of heart.  See, Fridays Child features one of my favorite characters: a half-Asian rock-musician named Lisa.  Her dual heritage gives her an almost insatiable appetite for all music.  I think one of the reasons my novel is a mess is because I didn’t bring that element in her enough to the front to provide me a unifying theme and image. 

Lately, though, I’ve been listening to a wider variety of musicians myself, plus I rediscovered the band Nightwish which features a female lead singer, just as Lisa is a female lead-singer for her band.  Listening to the beautiful woman’s voice while writing and reading in the evenings, I’ve been slowly learning again who Lisa is.  I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be able to attack the rewriting process, but I think I’m now ready for it when it comes.  


  1. I like your creative endeavours Chiara! I am no good at all with needle and thread but I really like your analogy of re-cutting your clothes to re-writing your novels - all the best with both !

  2. Sometimes one just needs some new digs. I had been wearing shoes that I had to have for a job. Which I am no longer engaged in. I actually bought three pairs, two sneakers and one casual type flats. But I didn't just toss the other shoes. There still is some life left in them, so four pairs of shoes in various stages of wear plus a other clothing went to charity.

    I'm going though another type of editing process. I'm having some kitchen work done. I've already given a full bag of kitchen stuff away. And I'll have to trade out some pots and pans, some of which are over thirty years old but are still very functional. Once I have replacements another trip to charity will be in order. I tend to give to a different group than the one I go hunting in myself. You remember that dress and jacket...
    I wore them to two different events, and also wore the jacket with another skirt. I think I might even wear the same set jacket and dress to some upcoming holiday events. And with them being wash and wear ...almost the best $15 for two pieces I ever spent!

    Thanks for your visits. And good luck with your books and wardrobe.