Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The one hundred dresses I made on my summer holiday


I love it.

While I have not literally made one hundred dresses this summer (or at least, so far), I have taken the opportunity given by long days with nothing to do to update a hefty portion of my wardrobe. Just before Christmas I read Tilly's post on sewing to your personal style, and it really resonated with the part of me that has been restless and frustrated with my wardrobe since mid-last year. It's a real issue, having an undefined personal style (#firstworldproblems).

Through no real intention but with fortuitous coincidence, I have made only two dresses this summer. Fortuitous because I already have a huge collection of summer dresses (is this the one hundred?) all of which fit neatly into my newly intentional wardrobe. My sewing then mostly coalesced around smartening up my top/short-sleeved blouse situation, and in discovering a new and exciting way of making bias binding in the process.*

In an effort to show the clothes looking like actual clothes and not misshapen cloth bags hanging on my door, I have attempted selfies of myself in two of my favourite recent makes. Note, these are taken after work and a glass or two of wine, using the camera on my computer. Bad selfies are the worst but people blogging about sewing with no pictures is the worst-er.

Firstly: this chevron print tent dress, an adjusted version of a vintage sixties Butterick pattern (4602 - the Turnabout Dress). I picked up the fabric, a navy chevron printed cotton, at the Arthur Toye closing down sale. Goodbye, Arthur Toye, I will miss you :'(


This wolf (!) print pencil skirt, using the basic pattern from Gertie's Book for Better Sewing (but with none of that mucking about with linings and underlinings and ridiculously huge waistbands).


The fabric was a souvenir from my travels in Berlin, I picked it up at a shop called Frau Tulpe's Stoffe which was stuffed with painfully stunning prints. I even tried to use my abortive German to communicate my love for EVERY SINGLE BOLT OF FABRIC. As I waved vaguely at all the fabric I remarked "sehr schoen, sehr schoen" like an 18th century courtier, while the perfectly nice fabric shop lady looked at me with bemusement.

Finally, my aforementioned blouse makes: I decided to be the last person ever to make a Sorbetto blouse or two. I am quite in love with this pattern, it suits my body shape and wardrobe intentions, and best of all it's free. I'd cut the pattern out so when I began to sew I didn't even need to muck around with sticky tape and tape measures before I could cut and pin and thrust it through the machine.

I made a version in a white and navy polka dot voile, and another in a vintage fabric that I picked up in Patea about five years ago on an amazing road trip with Shannon, like so:

Sorbetto top

Allow me to show you a fabric detail:


YES. Those are tiny green stick-figures playing in the water with their tiny green stick-figure children, and sailing their tiny green stick-figure boats.

I am very much an all or nothing kind of person, so I'm sure that once I have completed this phase of frenzied sewing I will return to my regular sloth. Or knitting. In the meantime, I have downloaded and printed a bunch of new patterns - the Grainline Hemlock top, this capelet, the Colette Laurel dress. I'm wondering if I can sew up the Laurel in a knit fabric, or if that would be a ridiculous and wasteful thing to attempt. Sewing readers, your thoughts please?


*Using this continuous binding technique and this cardboard ironing jig (which is mostly a pain in the arse to use but totally acceptable when suddenly discovering the need for bias binding late late at night). Although, this tip using a pin looks pretty good too, and I may try it next time.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The best thing about resolutions is making them

Summer! I am filled with a quiet joy at the prospect of being warm and staying outside for long periods of time, so when summer rolls around I feel a new lease on life. The long daylight hours allow so much more time to think and _ chill the fuck out_. The evening sun also mean that when I get home from work I'm less inclined to spend the evening hibernating on the couch and more inclined to do things in the evening.

This summer, filled with excitement, anticiPAtion, and enthusiasm for the months to come - not just Christmas but the warm weeks after it - I have given myself two very pleasant tasks. Tasks that I would like to spend all summer doing, but that I'm not pressuring myself to complete. Tasks for fun and not for making myself feel guilty.

Anais Nin at work

My first is to write at least 500 words each day - or if I don't feel like computers and typing, write five pages in my diary. I'd like to be a bit more disciplined with my writing practice and, more to the point, I really enjoy writing... There's something infinitely enjoyable about the act of sitting down and thinking and blatting it all out in beautiful words. I carried a notebook while I was travelling and wrote daily - mostly because I was alone, and had to write things down instead of blathering them to whoever was closest. It was such a good feeling to just sit and write, and think and sit and write, and I want to continue to do that.

As I've already stated, not all of this writing will be blogging. But, you know, if I'm feeling like bestowing my (always enlightening) thoughts upon the unsuspecting internet, I shall follow that bliss. I'd also like to put a beautiful notebook in my Filofax for emergency diary urges.

My second summer task is to read my set of Anais Nin's diaries which I have owned for years and years now and have not yet completed. I am starting from the beginning of the first volume of the original published set - 1931 - and fully intend to read right through to volume VI where my set ends. I do not own volume VII which is annoying, but perhaps something I can look at remedying in the future.

Best of all, the two tasks tie neatly in with one another - reading diaries or journals inevitably spurs me to write something down myself, even if it's just my thoughts about the diary that I've just read.

Any other summery intentions are confined to the week of glorious holiday I get between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, and are concerned with a few little making projects for which I need to get materials. New dresses would be good.

In conclusion: best summer ever? Let me make it so.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A philosophy of Christmas

05122011 007

A couple of years after I moved out of home, my parents broke up.

Christmas immediately became awful. "Christmas won't be the same!" I would agonise, still relying on Christmas traditions that had been established as I was growing up. Thus, five years of hating on Christmas followed, as each year would roll around and I would have to negotiate the guilt-filled minefield of Christmas day. I was totes grinchy. I was "bah humbug". I mourned the loss of family Christmasses and was jealous of the Christmasses of other people.

The grinchiness was a major about-face given that my entire life I had been a Christmas geek, a legacy handed down by my Nanny. Even when I was in my teens I would leap out of bed at 6am on Christmas morning  to see whether Santa had visited. How could things ever be the same if my parents weren't scheming to fill my stocking with oranges together? Christmas was ruined forever.

After an extended (and probably excruciating) period of Christmas hatery, I had An Epiphany. I realised that only I was responsible for my enjoyment of Christmas. It wasn't my parent's job to make Christmas amazing for me and if I wanted Christmas to be amazing, it was time for me to take responsibility for my own good times.

And thus, over the last four years, I have been working at making my own traditions and restoring my inner Christmas geek.

In the pursuit of geekery I have been persuasive in flats and tyrannical in my own house. I am committed to real trees, making my own Christmas mince* and Christmas cake**, drinking egg nog and making Christmas playlists. Christmas Day is an unknown quantity - between Shannon and I we have three or four sets of family to visit - but I can control the peripherals. Thus: croissants and coffee for breakfast and an unaccountably early start to the day.

But, most importantly, I am committed to just generally feeling Christmassy - the feeling of anticipation and infinite possibility that I used to have as a child - and to sharing my Christmassy excitement with the people around me.

My Christmas philosophy then is that you are solely responsible for giving your Christmas the best possible basis it needs to be a good day. You choose who you spend it with, and how you spend it. Even choosing to spend it with obligation people is a kind of choice - albeit not necessarily a great one, in hindsight.

And with that final note, I shall proceed to listen to All I want for Christmas is You on repeat.

* from the recipe given to me by Lisa after a blog post where I mentioned the grossness of suet.

** this Hungry and Frozen one but without the marzipan icing.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I went away on holiday and all you got was this shitty blog post

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I am so free with the feelings of what few readers I have left. I disappear for months at a time (my most recent post was on the last day of July), and when I resume, four months later, I refuse to even give an excuse.

Yes indeed, no excuse for you all - except - that for six weeks of that four months, I was traipsing around parts of southwest England, Berlin and Paris and was simply unable to post. This was the trip for which I began my abortive Savings Tower.

Suffice to say: I saved the money, I booked the trip, I went. Was the trip fabulous? Yes. Yes it was.

I am also very smug as I came back with less than a thousand dollars worth of credit card debt. This is due in no small part to the generosity of Shannon and Nat, who sent me some money-presents while I was away. I also managed to negotiate (with Shannon) a hiatus on the power and internet bills.

Although no debt would have been ideal, the amount I've come back with is completely manageable, given how long I was away, and that I didn't especially watch what I was spending. I'll pay it back in no time!

Best things about my holiday:

  • Seeing and staying with friends and family who made me feel welcome, and wanted, and spent a lot of their time entertaining me and feeding me and driving me around the place.
  • Riding the trains in South-West England: I'd love to do a holiday where I spend the whole time just doing this. My train journeys took me to Winchester, Portsmouth, Penzance, St Ives, Salisbury and Bath before returning me safely to London. And that was over just three weeks!
  • Berlin: Ich liebe Berlin! Berlin is the best and I want to move there. I loved the slightly deteriorating splendour of the palaces at Sans Souci, and the general awesome vibe of the city. I did not do a lot of clubbing, before you ask. This is mainly because I am not any kind of clubber, nor have I been since I was about 21 but partially because I didn't like the idea of going out, a single female, to bars and clubs in cities which I wasn't familiar with. I don't have any regrets about this.
  • Rediscovering how much I enjoy visiting art galleries. I adore museums, and art museums but I must confess I had gone off art galleries a little since with the Melbourne Episode (of over seven years ago now, ye gods). Maybe, since it was an overseas experience that had caused the ambivalence, it took a positive overseas experience to reverse this.




I have many pictures, but I don't think that anyone enjoys it when someone posts one million pictures of their holiday on their blog - and my photos are as a rule kind of awful. I have created a Picasa Google+ album with some of the better good shots and captions for you to view, if you are so inclined.

Finally, a disclaimer: I have seriously toyed with pulling this entire blog down and having done with it. Since I apparently just can't make the break, we'll just have to live with my erratic and irregular posting for the time being.

Just love me the way I am. x

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tiny coats and tiny dresses

When I have an attack of the Anxious and Unhappy, the first thing to go out the window is my blogging ability. This is because the only things I can think to write about are (in no particular order): how unhappy I am, how everything in my life is difficult if not impossible and how getting out of bed is the hardest thing in the world. How awful to record my abject self-pity for all time! I write it in my diary instead. Of course, my diaries read as though written by a woman with the worst of lives in the worst of all possible worlds, which is not at all the case. I am torn between hoping my fascinating inner life(!) will only be discovered and publicised after my death, and that my family will open the first diary, shriek at how awful it all is and burn the lot.

While blogging is effectively nixed, my anxiety downtimes will lead to a sudden increase in the production of knitted goods because it's been proven* that knitting helps to alleviate feelings of anxiety. And sewing - I've been working hard on letting myself enjoy the processes: of pre-washing and ironing fabric, of neatly cutting out the fabric and transferring the pattern markings to the pieces, sewing and finishing beautiful seams. I've been so proud of the garments that I've made since I've tried to move my focus from getting to the end of the process to the act of the process itself.

The most recent anxiety spell wasn't too different in that I spent a lot of time in bed, needles and yarn in hand. Best of all, I didn't need to make a decision between knitting myself yet more woolly hats, gloves and socks OR blowing a fortune on yarn from which to make myself a garment. I have a wee potential subject to knit for, namely lovely Bex's new baby.

So, I have been a veritable bootie factory. I made two pairs of these wee double moss stitch booties - one pair from a Knitsch sock yarn, and the other from some (?) left over from from Nat's wedding bolero. Silk and merino! Swoon.

The second pair of booties match the tiny matinee jacket with double moss stitch border. The buttons, which aren't that easy to see in this photo, are wee owls from my button stash.

The little frock is made using Made By Rae's free Itty Bitty Baby Dress pattern, fabric that I was lucky enough to win in Make it til you fake it's de-stash*, and bias and lace from my stash.

This is the second time that I've made this dress. My only gripe is about the construction notes - using these, the dress ends up with a mess of seams on the inside. This looks pretty rough and ready, and it would be easy enough to conceal them. If I was to make this a third time (and I fully intend to make it again because it's crazy easy and a superb stash-buster) I would throw caution to the wind and follow my own instincts in the construction.

Making little garments is deeply satisfying. I've learnt so much about the way garments are put together from knitting and sewing the tinies, and any mistakes/unravelling misadventures are automatically rendered less awful by the relative size of the project.

*By Studies.
*I also made some pyjama pants that are not good enough to show the rest of the world.
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