Monday, 30 January 2012

Back at it - Sewing that is

Dear sewing friends,
As some of you know I left the UK three weeks ago to come back to the land down under. Back to my land of shimmering heat haze, gum trees, violent storms and extreme weather changes. At first it seemed like I had brought the grey days and the rain with me - for which I'm thank full - but now the heat has hit and last night it was so hot it was hard to sleep. I'm slowly getting used to it again and I love the long light filled days. I've already been to the beach and to barbeques but for the first two weeks my body felt that it should still be winter and I missed England. I missed the softness of the weather, the sandstone and the puddles and the inbuilt courtesy of the people.
Here I was abused by a woman behind me at the counter in a local cafe for not making up my mind quickly enough. I was still jet lagged.  Driving again took some getting used to as well. Road rage is prevalent here. I felt like I had returned to a land of savages. This is a beautiful but harsh land founded by strugglers and survivors. Everything both good and bad is right there in your face.
I've been working a lot of shifts. The big advantage of nursing is that work - as much as I want of it - is not hard to get.
I am staying at my daughter's and she stored my sewing machines for me - what a good girl - and I got them out and got re acquainted, like meeting a trio of wonderful old friends. They all worked perfectly.
I had a purple print knit material that I had bought in the Netherlands and I wanted an easy relaxed maxi dress. I'd seen a long peasant style dress in a shop so I bought some elastic and M6346 and came up with this.

It is a knit dress from a pattern for wovens but I simplified it and ran it up quickly. I'll go into more detail in my PR review.

The back. BTW the grass here in my daughter's back yard was mown a week ago. That's how fast is it growing at the moment!

My sewing companion, my daughter's dog who is not yet full grown. I'm actually saying 'sit still'. He's a lovely boy and a big sook believe it or not.
I'm looking forward to having the time to get into Sydney and revisit The Fabric Store and Tessuti's and maybe the Silk shop. Ahhhhh!

Happy Sewing everyone,

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Leaving town

Dear people,

I'm leaving Oxford and England, for now. I've been busy paring down a lot of the things I'd accumulated  so this is a non sewing post but I'd say for most of us life and sewing are pretty much intertwined. I've sold my machine to a very happy recipient who lives in my building. She told me something I'd heard so much over the past two weeks while the machine was for sale "I'd love to learn to sew" or "I used to sew and I'd love to get back into it" or "Oh I have a machine and I'd like to sew but I'm not that good at it". My reply was always the same "It's not that hard. You can do it" and "most sewing machine shops and technical colleges and even fabric shops hold classes."
Ok it's easy for me to say after a lifetime of sewing. I heard the sound of the machine in utero. My mother sewed. My grandmother lived with us and she sewed. I inhaled sewing like breathing, have always known and loved it. It's harder when it is a foreign world and are purely self taught. More power those of you who have done this. And who can remember learning anything pre internet? It is such a valuable resource. Nevertheless, I remember when I was afraid of knits, and hadn't sewn a T shirt let alone a decent fitting jacket. Everything is a learning curve and sometimes things daunt all of us. I love reading the blogs and reviews of creative beginners that have no fear and are happily creative. It is sad that some people like those I spoke to, are too afraid to start.
Fitting is another thing that discourages people and learning to alter for your own body is a huge thing. I remember the point at which I realized that patterns were drafted for a standardised body that looked like the back-of-the-pattern book croquis and that my sewing would be better if I didn't sew for an idealized version of my real silhouette.  As a young sewer I thought it odd when I no longer fitted to the pattern's boundaries and was reluctant to shape the pattern to fit mine. It dawned on me slowly to vary the pattern where I needed it! I thought it was a failure not to have the pattern's statistics. Hey I am talking late teenage years here. Then slowly I gained a true perception of my own body. That is a gift that sewing gives us. Patterns are like the serving suggestions on the front of cake boxes. The reality can be very different and you have to take the idea and run. Same for pattern styles. This, I think, is the reason more people are returning to sewing. It feels good to take a pattern as a starting point and tweak it, change it, match it to your own particular vision.
This is what those people were telling me they would really like to do. I hope I encouraged them to just  start. Then they will find themselves expressing who they are in cloth.
My goal for the year is to express my style in a more cohesive way. Things that match could be a way to start ..
I fly back to Sydney, Australia tomorrow. Look out for some summer sewing!
Here is a flikr link to some of my memories of Europe.  England and Europe 2011

Goodbye England and Europe! I'll be back! xx Val

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Red Devil er .. Duffle

Hello peoples! Happy New Year. Make that Happy January to all those antipodeans who are already on their second day .. anyway here in rainy England it is new years day and this morning I finished the red duffle from Burda November 2011/111. I'm glad to get it done. Talk about a bitch to sew. Totally self inflicted as usual. I should have chosen a nice well behaved tightly woven red wool but I fell in love with just the right red in a fiendish thick double knit and it was a trial. I also cut it too large. To compound matters I lined it with a cheap burberry knock-off lining thinking it would look good. It didn't and I relined the hood with scarlet silk habutae..yum. OK now I've had my whinge I can say I absolutely love it my red coat. Love the red, love the loose shape, love the comfort of it and love the fact that it has such a happy vibe.

Finished at last

I know I should style up these shots but I had only just finished the coat and threw it on as I was on call and had to go in to work.
Here's the back of the coat.

I do plan to do more stylish shots of my garments this year. I'll try!

The other thing I plan to do is sew some casual yet stylish pants and try to get beyond wearing jeans so much. I'm not ready for old lady dressing but I guess I should start to explore dressing as a grown up. Face my inner mutton - see this delightful post by Mary Nanna of Make It Smirk. By the way I almost didn't make this coat for that reason - the same question of "Is it too young/too bright/too red?" Too silly even, but I put it on and like goldilocks it felt "just right".

On reflection, I should have lined the whole thing in red.

Lastly, I am not going to do a wrap up of the year except to say that except for one red devil I made things that I needed as I needed them. I did more than I thought I could with limited space, limited tools and often limited time. Even though I enjoyed the challenge I am looking forward to using my serger and coverstitcher again when I get back to Australia.

Happy 2012. My travels are temporarily interrupted but the journey continues.
xx Val

In the meantime just to show I'm serious about my intentions for this year here is a more flattering shot of red