Thursday, August 22, 2013


Well, it's been a little while since I did a sewing parallel; mostly because I haven't been sewing. But yesterday I finished a dress, first time I'd made the pattern and I had to take an extra dart to make the bodice fit. It was Good Enough, but a little uniform. I decided I wanted to put some embroidery around the hem, so I got out my handy iron-on patterns.

Embroidery is one of those things that gives you a lot of bang for the buck on the "making an impression" front. People who don't embroider are always way more impressed than ironing on a pattern and filling it in with repetitive hand motions justifies by the effort involved.

So I'm ironing away, putting the border originally intended for a pillow slip all around the hem, which is always several miles around because I need full skirts to accommodate my stride, and I wonder, "What's with that blue smear on the back of the paper?"

And then I realize it's not just on the paper, it's on the fabric.

And then I look and I realize that I had some blue plastic hangars a tad too close to the iron and had gotten some melted plastic on one edge of it. Just a little bit; but enough to get on the fabric in more than one place.

And guess what? The iron, being hot enough to apply a transfer, was also hot enough to set the plastic dye right down in the fabric. So it might be possible to wash it out, but by the time I even noticed it, it was too late to do so by any means that would not wholly obliterate the transfer I wanted there.

So the whole dress is ruined, right?

Maybe. But I'm not tossing it out.

Because I'm thinking, those blue smears are tiny. Maybe by the time I've finished embroidering, they'll have faded so only someone who knows where to look can see them.

And maybe, while I'm embroidering, I'll think of a good way to disguise those smears, bury them under another decorative motif. I've got to ponder (and study my iron-on transfers) about that. If I can pull it off, I'll deserve the reaction embroidery gets a lot more than I normally do, because making them look like part of a decorative whole require some true creativity on my part, not just an iron-on and repetitive hand motions, given that there's nothing symmetrical or rational about the location of the smears in relation to each other.

If nothing else, I can still wear it around the house or out to the grocery store, because who looks at what other people wear to the grocery store? Pleasing other people with the outfit is nice, but secondary. I'm making it for me.

It's different with writing, except when it's not. You won't often discover a serious blemish in a story at a stage at which you can't just rip it right out and rewrite. But maybe there's a factual error that makes nonsense of your heroine's behavior and the deadline is cast in stone, no time to do the research and rewriting necessary. Maybe that error can be turned into your heroine's mistake, or a lie told to her, and the screws of suspense tightened by cluing in the audience while she's still acting on bad info?

Or maybe you and your editor have a serious disagreement about what is and is not a blemish, and removing what he wants you to destroys your whole vision? Maybe you don't have to take it to a different editor (though you should give that notion serious consideration, too) - maybe there's a way to twist that particular point into something that works for both of you?

Or maybe the work has some inherent weakness that makes it unpublishable, in the normal way of things, like it's full of in-jokes that render it incomprehensible outside of a demographic so narrow it's not a market (like your own family or gaming group or church) or it's a blatant fanfic or it has to be a picture book but it also has to be too long for a picture book. But - it's good, for what it is, and you can't bear not to share it. You can still find a way to share it. Print up a copy just for the family; self-publish it in some narrow corner of the internet; make a one-off edition for the friend the heroine is modeled on and give it to her for her birthday; use it in a class to illustrate some point.

Never wad up a work you like and just chuck it away. Not without due process. You can always throw it out later if it turns out to be genuinely unsalvageable.

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