Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Love/Hate Relationship with White Fabric

There's just something utterly compelling about straightforward white fabric. It could be a stretchy, it could be a woven, but it's all just the same color of the Blogger post field I'm writing on it. A blank canvas.

And that's pretty exciting in some ways. It's like, wow, I can do a thousand things with this. If it's a lightweight woven, like a batiste, I can dunk it in a pot of Kool-Aid dye and make it something non-white. Or, I put some chizimi thread in the bobbin of my Viking Husqvarna sewing machine, regular thread in the spool and just do some random, free form stitches here and there. Steam it with a little iron (no pressing though) and the stitches pucker up to resemble the center of a daisy. Or I could put some matching elastic in the bobbin, and do some wild and crazy stitching all over the place with my darning foot on the machine. Just move the fabric in a circular motion and sew like you're creating this a maze with no way out!

My point is that white fabric has a lot of promise, it's kind of like the blank sheet of paper back when people (including myself) used to create wordy masterpieces on typewriters. You'd insert the paper, crank the roller, center it, set your tabs manually, and then stare at the vast whiteness in front of you for a while before you started typing because you couldn't undo what you wrote unless you used White-Out, which also used to threaten to gunken your keys.

Sewing white fabric is a little like that, I think. A bit intimidating and exhilarating at the same time. The plainness of the fabric is just so full of possibility, kind of like life. You can approach the fabric with the attitude of "Oh, this is so boring. I don't know what to do with it." Or you can say, "Wow. There are a kazillion things you can do with this."

It's funny, I don't have that same attitude about black fabric, although the same principles apply. It too is a void eager to be filled with something, with life. Somehow darkness isn't nearly as compelling as light. Just like its antonym, black can
be embellished to your heart's content. You could do smocking, applique, twin-needle stitching, spray it with glitter, draw on it with fabric paint to create this incredible designer fabric unlike anything else in the universe.

Another thing about white is that I feel a little daring with it. I kind of feel like, "I"ll conquer you, yes, I will!" It's a bit of challenge. Not only will I pretty you up, but I'll keep whiter you than the sheaf of paper sitting in the paper tray of my Lexmark X73 printer. Black batiste and indigo denims don't test me in the same way. I don't have to worry about mussing up the canvas. Fading I might have to contend with it, but dirtying up, no.

Which brings me back to white. It's a test of wills to keep it pristine. Even during the sewing stage, I furrow my brow wondering where a brownish smudge came from. I wash my hands before I set the fabric underneath the foot. I might even use handwash, or rub my hands silly with one of those antibacterial gels.

Once I actually finish my white garment, the struggle to keep it unsoiled escalates. I swear ketchup practically leaps on the fabric, so I stay away from hamburgers. Ditto pizza. Greasy tomato sauce just wants to land on my blouse right at the bustline, never at the hem. Why is that? Sipping a red wine is equally challenging. Sweat stains? Didn't I just read in Lucky Magazine about soaking all your whites in a bucket of water with an aspirin tablet and then wash as usual? Weird.

Mud likes white and so does grass. I've no idea why, but I've noticed the two (turf and dirt) enjoy play dates with white apparel.

Getting back to white, there's a certain appeal to wearing it. There's the lure of wearing something that will reflect the sun when it's hot. The untested promise of a piece of clothing that appears to be comfortable and airy. Something that will make you look great. There's a certain uniformity about it too. It goes with everything, jeans, skirts, shorts, and just about any shoe you put on your feet. It's no wonder French designer Anne Fontaine has built an entire business around white. She knows women can't resist it.

Besides, white does make you look sporty. It is the color of choice for tennis players and golfers, so it has a reputation that's well earned. And if you're tan, white can make you look you have a well-funded savings account.

So what's white in my wardrobe? This. I think that's the only thing at the moment. But there's more of this same eyelet in my collection. I'm thinking of another top. But I don't really like messing with holey fabric and buttonholes, so whatever I do has to slip over my shoulders. I might even do something with some red top-stitching. White really likes red thread. They make nice sand castles in the sandbox together, don't you think?

Funny as much as I like white fabric, yarn of the same hue isn't nearly as intriguing, although a knitted white sweater, especially in a medium-weight cotton, looks refreshing, reminding me of the short-sleeved, scoop-necked summer top I wore for years until it got too stained for my liking, and I got rid of it. I could probably use something like that again. But I'm more likely to buy it, then to make it on any one of my knitting needles.

How about you? How do you feel about white? Do you have a lot of it in your wardrobe?


Lindsay T said...

Hey! I just opened up my copy of MORE and there you are! I wanted to send you a congratulatory email about being published but can't find an address for you. Nice piece!

the_lazymilliner said...

Lindsay - thanks for the kudos! Recognize the fabric on that dress I'm wearing? The pattern??? Anyhow, I"m at