My handicap: the paradox of choice

Even without all the usual feather pillows, The Chair is very difficult to get out of.

The Chair.  I call it The Chair although to be fair it’s really a chair and a half.  Ann refers to it as my love-seat but I could never love someone enough to share The Chair.

Originally it was Carmen’s, in Calgary but I spied it on a visit and draped myself in it, in a leonine way, and it so obviously was meant for me.  She sold it to me at a great friend price and I’ve had it since 2002.   Sometime in 2005, I think, I bought fabric to make a slipcover for the chair.  It came with a natural, damask  one and I wanted another, more colourful one.  I didn’t really NEED it, so the idea languished and I thought later that maybe I didn’t care for the colour so much (too scarlet to fit in my cayenne red living room in Cumberland, BC), and other things took precedence.

Then as I was doing my spring inventory this year I realized that if I would make the slipcover and cover the pillows that grace The Chair as well,  I would have eliminated a pile of fabric in my stash and accomplished a long-standing item on my eventual to-do list.

I have a fabric addiction.  I love the colour, drape and feel of fine fabrics.  One of my favourite things to do is to go to a really great fabric store and wander around, attracted by colour and texture and imagine what could be made from the fabrics that catch my eye.  Alas, there is not a great fabric store in my present neck of the woods (although, maybe that’s a good thing), but I have accumulated enough fabric over the years that I can find the same creative inspiration looking at what I already have.  This is also where I have a problem.

I love to sew.  I even like the actual act of sewing, making perfect seams with an economy of motion as the fabric feeds from my hands to the machine.  I love my old Singer 201 sewing machine and that it will sew everything from silk chiffon to upholstery fabric.  I love the smell of the steam coming off my pressing cloth as I press the seams that I’ve sewn.  It’s not just about the finished product.  I enjoy the process.  My problem, is cutting out.

Cutting the fabric is the tricky part, for me, at least.  The pattern needs to be laid out correctly with as little waste as possible and in some cases matched for pattern or nap.  But that is not the real dilemma for me.  Before it has been cut, a piece of fabric has the potential to be many things.  I can imagine those things quite happily without actually committing to any one idea.

I have a beautiful three yard piece of teal blue silk and wool that I’ve had since 1986.  I originally thought/imagined it to be a dress.  I’m glad now that I didn’t cut it then because I would not have worn it as much and I wouldn’t have it now.   Later it seemed to want to be a jacket.  But I have lots of jackets.  Lately I’ve been thinking that it will be a shirt  and I even went so far as to drape it on my closet door last winter but it remains  a piece of fabric with it’s potential intact.

I have  lots more fabric  languishing, imbued with potential.  In a way, it’s easier for me to work with small remnants because I’m constrained by the limited yardage.  I enjoy alterations as well for the same reason.  I will happily transform a garment into something more useable.  Solving the problems of how that can be accomplished is challenging and fun and so I avoid choosing what to do with my garment sized pieces.

There is a fabulous book about this dilemma: The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz.  The more possible choices you have the less satisfaction you will have from choosing because all the rejected choices exist as lost potentials that might have been better.  This is compounded for you if you are a maximizer rather than a satisfier.    For the most part I am a satisfier.  I decide the qualities I require and when most of what I want is encompassed in an item (or event) I choose.  A maximizer looks for the best (deal, price, newest features, etc) but there is always something newer, with more features, faster or a better deal and so the maximizer is less satisfied with a particular choice.

I fear, though, that I have a tendency to be a maximizer when it comes to fabric and garment creation.  Couple that with my imagination, that allows me to visualize the completed garment or object in great detail without actually making it (thus, maintaining all potentials) and I end up with my very own fabric store-like stash that I sort and dream about, stymied by my dilemma.  Choose, cut, and the possibilities are gone.

Which leads me back to The Chair and the fabric I chose for it six years ago.  I chose  the fabric partly because there was enough of it at a very good sale price.  There has only ever been one thing this fabric would become and the original slipcover was becoming a bit dingy with wear so I had motivation.  I finished the main part (in the picture) last night.  The skirt I attached by hand because, it was easier than forcing nine layers of fabric (at times) through my machine and easier to match the stripes.  I like the way the colour looks with my gold walls; better than it would have looked with the dark red walls of my previous living room.  So I’m satisfied.

Now I have the easier task to make covers for all the pillows ( two bolsters, a big soft feather pillow and a couple of smaller ones).  I’ve mostly decided what I will do but I’m enjoying the chair without pillows today because it’s my birthday and I’m enjoying a rainy day in The Chair, reading and blogging.  Oddly enough it’s nearly as difficult to get out of The Chair without all the soft cushy pillows as with.  The next time I get up, I’ll get more cake and a pot of tea so I won’t have to repeat the process for a couple of hours, at least.  Today, I am a lazy, ornamental Leo, and satisfied with that choice.

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