Friday, December 3, 2010

Evaluation, Distillation, Incubation

I am planning to make the current Marcy Tilton coat Vogue 8676.  I was inspired by the photos of the coat in which 2 colors of wool or ?double sided fleece were used. I worked through my plan, and discovered that the collar wouldn’t suit me, and the overall design was too unconventional for my current wardrobe.  I’d love to have this coat, but have no place to wear it comfortably.  My indecision was not a sign of failure, but of my mind sorting and discarding multiple ideas.  So, I made a strategic decision to go with the other view, which is less artful and more subdued in its design. 

This is a wonderful example of evaluation/distillation. 

Another phase in the creative process is incubation, in which we leave a problem alone, and let our subconscious chew on it.   We haven’t forgotten about the work, but we are letting it simmer on the back burner (I must be hungry as I see I’m using a lot of kitchen vocabulary).  This phase cannot be rushed (like a good marinara sauce cannot be) and is probably what gives rise to our perception of creative types smoking and pondering in untidy studios.   In the coat example, I left the planning alone for a few weeks and came to the certainty that the coat must be of a maroon shade, must be fleece, boiled wool or a similar feel, and must have large snap closures. 

I was in Fabric of Vision in Ashland, OR last month with no thought of the coat fabric.  I mentioned to Sandi what pattern I was going to try next and she said “I have just the thing…wait here.”  She brought out some alpaca wool in the most beautiful deep maroon shade.  I didn’t know what I wanted until I saw it…I just knew that was the coat fabric.    

As sewers/bloggers, we sometimes gloss over this moment with shorthand or don’t even talk about this phase while reviewing a garment or blogging about a project.  It’s too private, or even sub-verbal.  We just know when a fabric is right or not right, a design element correct for the overall garment, or a styling decision perfect.   In my case, I had allowed myself to be patient and leave the coat alone until I knew of the right fabric.  I didn't sort through online fabric stores or look at coat pictures or check PR...I just waited.      

This is my main project for winter, and I'll be working on it while camping.  We will not have power for part of our trip, and must use a generator from time to time.  I can run the sewing machine at that time, but don't really want to do that.  So, my biggest task will be to plan chunks of this project to correspond with electrical hookups.  I know that I do my best work in sewing when using handstitching and careful finishing techniques.  To be more mindful helps me produce better work.  

note: we are still snowed in and waiting to leave.  I am practicing patience, and hoping to be heading south soon. 


  1. I find that inspiration for a project often comes when I walk away from my initial plans and let them simmer. Often, I'm happy with the first plans, but there have definitely been occasions when the project takes a whole new direction. I have 2 right now, in fact, that are far from what I had initially planned.

  2. I don't mind the incubation phase. I often have things "simmering" in my mind. And it's true; you just know when all the elements come together to begin the plan. I love that flash of "aha" when something tangible fulfills the intangible. Hang in there. Hopefully you'll be on your way soon!

  3. Elle, I also am often happy with my first plans...but do love to see what emerges if given some more time. I am looking forward to seeing what you are making.

    Mushy, I love what you say above "...that flash of aha when something tangible fulfills the intangible." Wonderful statement.

  4. Is this the jacket pattern you will be using with the Alpaca fabric?

  5. ELMO, yes. I am using View B, the plainer design. My alpaca has couching in a geometric design with the motifs about 3 inches across.

  6. sooooo....did you ever make this jacket?

    I am contemplating it myself. Did you make your regular size, use a woven or knit? Purchase the beautiful fabric?

    Do you have a picture? I can't wait to see it... :)

  7. Hi Kathy, Yes, I did make the jacket. You can find a review of it on PatternReview here--

    After wearing it this year, I like it much more. The shape is rather boxy but it looks fine with jeans.

    Thanks for your comment! What a cool surprise to have a comment on such an old post.

  8. I spent alot of time googling this pattern number
    to find versions of this jacket.

    If you think it's too boxy, couldn't you taper in the sides a bit to give it an hourglass shape? Claire Kennedy (she has a blog) always suggests something like that.

    Did you do a FBA?

    Thanks for all your answers, your jacket looks great....

  9. Thanks Kathy, I used bias binding on all the seams for a Hong Kong finish so taking it in would be a job. It's fine-loose, slouchy, a Saturday type of jacket. I don't need an FBA. Are you planning to make this up? It's a great design for special fabrics and using curly edges of knits. I'll look forward to your version!


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