August 21, 2016

The 36-Hour Shirt...

Brynwood Needleworks - THE 36-Hour Shirt

I've been packing up in earnest these days. I'll have more to tell you about that in the coming days (and weeks), but sorting and packing led me to this discovery. Today, I'd like to tell you the story of The 36-Hour Shirt.

To all of you who create, I'm sure you each have a story like this. You know...that one project that nearly pushed you off a ledge. The job commission project or, in my case, "government job" (read free) that almost killed you. Well, this is mine.

Brynwood Needleworks - Inspiration For The 36-Hour Shirt

Here's the story:
The year was 1981. I had recently moved back to my hometown and had been working where I met Handsome. We were already good friends. I was settled into my apartment, and I received this magazine clipping from a relative. Under most circumstances, I would have charged (even way back then) for my work, but it was my father who made the request.

If memory serves, he was in charge of some sort of horse-rider's organization at the time, and I think he found the "inspiration" photo in one of his horse magazines. The magazine article talked about how this shirt was all the rage; where shirts like this could be purchased (all on the West coast); and how much it cost. The perfect shirt for a Midwestern cowboy. (FYI - in 1981, the shirts were available from a variety of sources for $50 - $300.)

He approached me on a Friday. It was one of those "You sew and you can embroider. Will you make this for me for a banquet next weekend?"

Yup. That was pretty much my reaction. People often see the results of our efforts, but don't really think about the amount of time that goes into the finished project. I know that was definitely the case here. Have you ever had anyone accuse you of bragging when you share a finished project? (I have. Nice, right?)

Well, I guess the fact that many of us know how to meet deadlines helps to perpetuate the myth that we're miracle workers and time isn't really a factor in our chosen craft(s). "Sure. I can have it done by next Friday." (I still don't know what I was thinking. I didn't have a machine to do the embroidery. That would be done by hand after I sewed the shirt together.)

So, off I went. I located a pattern that was close in style; chose a beautifully soft black, cotton blend fabric and white cotton for the contrast. I grabbed packages of premade white piping and the snap hardware for the fasteners down the front.

Even then, I cut fabric on one day and started sewing the next. It's my way of dealing with the fact that I hate really dislike cutting out patterns. One day spent on that task. (I had plenty of time, right?)

Brynwood Needleworks - Back Yoke Detail Of The 36-Hour Shirt

I sewed the shirt together on Saturday, planning to start the embroideries on Sunday. That would give me a week to get them completed...or so I thought. On Sunday afternoon, he came back to me and said, "Is there any chance you can have the shirt done on Monday? There's another function I'd like to wear the shirt to, if you can swing it."

Wait. What? Seriously? "I'll do what I can", was all I could say. Then the panic set in. Who stitches that quickly? Who wants to stitch that quickly? I got a little sick to my stomach, but I set my jaw and kicked it up a notch. Game on.

Brynwood Needleworks - Close-up Detail of Embroidery On The 36-Hour Shirt
Yeah. These photos are the real deal. (I've come a long way in my technique, baby!) In those years, I didn't yet know about prewashing threads (hence the color bleeding when it was washed - some time after all the events), and wow! Who knew you separated plys of cotton floss? (Kidding? Not kidding. I didn't know.) Frankly, plying the floss wouldn't have covered nearly as well, though.

I stitched through the night. Really. I stitched all night, stopping only to take a shower and get ready for work on Monday. I grabbed a bag with this project tucked inside, drove to work and got there early enough to stitch. I did my job, but every lull, I pulled out the project, trying to hide that I was working on it. 

By 6 pm, I had a full 24 hours of stitching into the shirt...and it was finished. That bloody shirt was finished! I was in tears while I labored over it. Handsome saw it, saw my stress and said I should bail on it, but I couldn't. It became a challenge that I overcame.

Thirty six hours after the first request, I called it "done" and handed it off. (I did iron it before I gave it away.) I took on the challenge and performed a miracle. I couldn't even call it a labor of love. It was far from it. I took two photographs of him wearing it. He was proud as a peacock. He put it on and headed off to his early event.

Why am I not sharing one of those photos? My hands were so shaky, that both images are two blurry to really tell what it is.

Some time much later, I got it back again. Why? A seam had frayed. Could I fix it? Sure. Would I fix it? I still have it, don't I? Thirty five years later. I still have it. That bloody shirt. A reminder of thirty six panicked hours of my life when I got it done. No bragging...just fact. Never again.


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Createology said...

Yes! I can certainly relate to your promise of making the shirt. I have done many of these types of "You Sew, would you..." When will I ever learn to say, "NO!" Looks like your packing and purging is kind of like mine...treasures that send us down memory lane. Wonderful Week to You Dear.

Jane said...

Oh, my goodness, what a beautiful labor of love! Wish your photos of your dad wearing the shirt had turned out! Those shirts were very popular as "dress" shirts when we lived in Montana in the '60s-early 70s. Square dancers would have shirts that matched or blended with their partner's dress.
Going through boxes of old things brings so many memories! I've been decluttering/downsizing for several years. I've given so much away and thrown out a lot, but there's still so much more!

Jacque. said...

ohwow. I love that story and can so relate! And, by the way, back when I sewed only clothes, and until I lived 3 hours away from me Mum, she cut out my patterns for me. Yes, I still hate to cut out and do see it as a one day job. ugh. Anyway. Thanks so much for sharing that story!!! xo

Sheryl said...

Well. I had to laugh out loud at this one! I once did a cross stitch sampler and miscalculated the time it would take. I stayed up all night to finish that sampler. I have never done another! In fact, I've never done another cross stitch project at all!!! "No" came much easier after that! :)

TerriSue said...

Oh my, I have done this to myself so many times. When you stitch through the night and you have to keep sticking yourself with the needle to wake yourself up enough to continue. Or at the sewing machine where you doze off, the machine keeps going and you just added work because now you have to get your seam ripper out. I told myself once the kids grew up I would never do that to myself again. Alas there have been several Christmas eves that have found me sewing through the night for the grandchildren, or in the car going to a birthday party. My reasons are love.


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