Tag Archives: reflections

Creative hobbies

7 Aug

Tilly and the buttons asks such interesting questions. I loved reading everyone’s answers, so I may just join in the fun once again.

She is writing a paper for her Clore Fellowship. From her blog:  The brief is to write something very personal, so I’m going to discuss the impact that sewing has had on me. But I don’t just want to write about me.

Here are her questions:
Have you recently rediscovered your creativity? Nope! I have been sewing since a little girl, and haven’t ever really stopped.

Do you feel that taking up sewing – or another craft at home – has changed your life in some way? Yes!!! I can’t do a “before/after” analysis. But I can compare myself to friends who don’t sew. And here are some of the differences.

  • I have a wonderful outlet for my creativity.
  • I have a wardrobe that is uniquely expressive of my own sweet self.
  • I can dress very nicely – and soft-furnish my home – for a much smaller $ cost than a non-sewist/crafter.
I could add more but I think the rest of the questions cover what I want to say.
Has it affected how you feel about yourself? 

Not being dependent on the whims of fashion or the one-shape-fits-all blocks rtw is drafted on, means I am much more easily able to dress in a way that suits my figure, my personality, my colouring. I know when I am in a store trying on an rtw garment that sits on my hips, for eg, it isn’t that I have fat hips, it is the waist for the garment is 5cm too long for me. This sort of thing does wonders for my self esteem and helps me feel good about my own body.

Also, I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Flashbacks to the trauma, or nightmares about it are a sad but unavoidable fact of life for me. I don’t think I can even begin to describe how much having a creative hobby like sewing and crafting helps me to recover from those flashbacks. It helps me to calm down after them, to feel back in the driving seat in my life (“Hmm, do I want to make that fabric in this pattern or that? I think this one.” Simple decisions I can make about my sewing, and thus my wardrobe, and thus how I dress, and present myself, help reinforce the past trauma is past. I am creating my own life now.

Another element is that due to the effects of PTSD on my health I never managed to complete a university degree, unlike everyone else in my family. Nor have I really been able to achieve in my career path etc in the way, say, my sister without PTSD has. But there is nothing like having someone compliment you on your outfit when you know you created it: from deciding what fabric to buy, through choosing the pattern, fitting the pattern, making the final design decisions such as hem length and embellishments added, and lastly, that you have stitched every single stitch yourself.

Has it changed the way you interact with the world?

Well, mostly, I imagine if I didn’t sew, I would probably spend all my spare money on my garden or books. I would have to op-shop for every item of clothing, not just for the extra-especially groovy finds I do today. (Or would I just spend all my spare money on rtw and my garden suffer?)

How would you explain this to someone who doesn’t have a creative hobby? 

No idea! Ok that isn’t much help. I don’t know what it is like to not be intensely creative. I don’t know what it is like to not have creative hobbies. I do know that one thing that saddens and frustrates me is when people look wistfully at a creation of mine and say “I wish I could do something like that but I have no talent for it.”

I think talent is overrated. I think creativity is about what you put of yourself into something. I think it is about you and your relationship with what you are creating. And I definitely think unless you are aiming to be a professional creative artist of some sort, what other people think doesn’t matter. Sure, I said it is good for my self esteem to get the compliments. But I would have made every single garment and bag and curtain and accessory I ever have, regardless of those compliments, because my creative hobby is about me, for me. I love what I make, and that is the point.

Response to Tilly and the Buttons’ research questions

18 May
Tilly and the Buttons is doing what promises to be some very interesting research into the online sewing community. She requested people answer the following questions. Here are my answers.
  • What does the online sewing community mean to you? Why do you participate?
I feel totally Normal when I am reading sewing blogs of people who can’t resist a new pattern, or have a huge fabric stash, whose idea of a great weekend is being able to sew most of it away. Ok, so I have friends like this irl, but not many! Most people find it a bit of an odd (if endearing!) obsession.
My sewing technical skills have increased markedly from the freely shared information, tutes, techniques. My creativity was never lacking, but my willingness to give new ideas a go has increased when I see others giving it a go too. The increased skills mean I can bring my ideas into physical fruition just that bit better. (YAY!)
Above all, though, I love how supportive of each other people are. So much skill and experience freely and good-naturedly shared. It is so inspiring, it really is. I also love how so many of these sewing people sew for the people around them. Children, partners, wider family and friends. It shows how their sewing brings so much to the people they love, too.
Why do I participate? Well, I had been getting so much out of simply reading blogs, pattern reviews, tutes etc, that I wanted to give something back in exactly the same spirit of good-natured, positive, free sharing of skills. Just what and how, I don’t know, but I am working on it – on what I personally can contribute to the sewing community.
  • What are your favourite examples of projects initiated by sewing bloggers that capture this spirit of collaboration, creativity and innovation?
The sew-alongs are wonderful. I tried to participate in one, but couldn’t manage it sadly. But they sit there for anyone to follow at any time, full of information and collaboration and examples of where it took other sewists.
I love the tutorials! I just love them! I learn so much. I love how there are so many versions of what can often be the same underlying concept, but they show the different approaches of different people, their creativity, and as you say, innovation. It also shows how different people can come up with many different but all perfectly effective solutions to the same problem.
I also love the “Me made [month]”, again it reveals how different people all approach a similar theme in their own individual style. These examples help me feel more confident about my OWN approaches and solutions etc.
  • Who are the “leaders” in the sewing blogosphere? Is everyone / can anyone be a leader?
Not sure who the “leaders” are per se (ie can’t think of names much) but seems to me there are leaders of different areas – technical expertise, children’s sewing, vintage or retro sewing, sewing as a wardrobe/lifestyle/fashion statement, accessory sewing.
I have no idea if anyone can be a leader, or if, underneath the surface this part of it is really cliquey. However the “leaders” that are there are leaders because they are offering themselves, their skill, and their encouragement, rather than taking. I would think anyone who had the time (most of all as it is very time-heavy, as they are not just writing blogs but doing the sewing used as material for the blog. (no pun intended :-P)) and confidence and vision – and leadership skills as well as sewing skills, could become a leader, perhaps in their own little niche.
  • Are you involved in any other network of makers, whether online or offline? What makes sewing blogs unique?
I am involved with other networks of makers and other non-maker networks online. To me sewing blogs are unique in the positiveness towards each other that is displayed. It really isn’t a very negative place. Sure you get the odd negative comment, but it doesn’t usually devolve into dirt-flinging, it usually ends up creating a forum for people to swamp them with positivity and some very informative and thought-provoking responses. (or maybe I just steer clear of online drama, but I do think it is an unusually positive community atmosphere)
I think it certainly helps that we are all focused on sewing and the creativity of it, more than the individual people in the community. There is an air of “The reason we are all here is a love of sewing.” The focus is that, more than on people’s personalities, per se.
Honestly though, I think the community is this way because the people within it are this way. I have been in other communities with that encouragement and free-sharing of skill and expertise too, and it comes down to the leaders of the community setting the tone to be a positive one. But leaders aren’t leaders if people don’t follow. People in a positive community choose to follow positive leaders, not negative ones. It is all of our community. Each of us contribute to it, and it is what we have made it. And that is awesome!

Decoupage sewing boxes finished!

17 May

2 gorgeous decoupaged sewing boxes now adorn the insides of my sewing draw.

(That sounds like I have only 1 sewing draw. This is not actually true. I have many, but “The Sewing Draw” is the one with the notions, tools and haberdashery. “The Top Fabric Draw”, “Next Fabric Draw”, “The Next Next Fabric Drawer” have … yeah, well, you get the picture.)

Either I am not a good enough photographer, don’t have the right equipment, or it is just impossible anyway, to really capture the beauty of decoupage in a picture. It is so alive. When you move, the light catches on it, and refracts slightly through the layers of varnish and create a soft but glimmering effect. Intricate yet simple at the same time. Well, I think so, anyway 😛 There is a richness to it, as there is a richness to the varnish on my violin. And that is what I love about it.

I also like the work involved. Easy, but meditative and creative. Years ago some Tibetan Monks came to Darwin, and they did a sand mandala in the foyer of Parliament House. Hours and hours of intricate work. I tried to find an image of it, but I couldn’t. I think that is fitting, as they then tipped it into the sea at the completion of the work to symbolise the impermanence of existence.

Ok, so the decoupage I have done is going to last years, based on the lifespan of previous decoupage projects. But it is the same feeling of so much intricate work, creating layers and layers of beauty pretty much just of the sheer hell of it. You know, because I CAN!

For the curious, here are the steps I took (pretty much everything came from Spotlight)

  1. Gather everything together, get a bit of an idea of what I wanted
  2. Cover the boxes with a medium brown Folk Art paint to act as a sort of undercoat (the first coat kinda soaks in so takes a lot, so I used a random colour that was on special) I particularly like Folk Art paint as it is so densely pigmented. Mmmm! Sadly Spotlight seems to be taking it off their shelves. 😦
  3. Coat with light brown paint.
  4. Coat with a colour that tones nicely with the papers I am using (I have done high-contrast or complimentary colour schemes in the past as well as analogous ones. But I simply find analogous colour schemes more peaceful – as a bit of an adrenaline junky, peaceful colour schemes help provide balance for me.) I don’t get too fussy about completely covering the base coat. I like the complexity of the colours being layered a bit.
  5. Cut the papers in random ways then stick them on with the wonderful Mod Podge. I ❤ Mod Podge!
  6. Apply a few layers over the top of Shimmer-effect Mod Podge. (Well, it was on special at Spotlight one day. What can I say?) Make sure everything is properly glued down. I find even with great care the paper might not quite stick flat, especially on curved surfaces, so this is the step I make sure everything is filled and sealed thoroughly with plenty of mod podge.
  7. Apply a few coats of water-based varnish.
  8. Lightly sand, wipe off any remaining dust with a clean, dry cloth.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 till the whole project kind of becomes one cohesive whole, not a collection of parts.
  10. Finish with a final coat or two, of gloss or matte varnish, whichever is desired for final effect.

The shape of 1950’s clothing

20 Mar

Sophia Loren

According to the Couture Allure Fashion Blog, the shape of 1950’s clothing was made to fit the proportions of a waist 10′ smaller than the bust, and the hips 2″ bigger than the bust.

One of the most common comments I have read about 1950’s clothing, patterns included, is how the waist is so tiny compared to their own.

In contrast I tend to look at 1950’s fashion -especially clothes patterns – and drool. Oh so little adjustment to get it to fit me! Oh the shape is so close to mine!

Now I know, I am not dreaming. I of course had to check! My waist is 9″ smaller than my bust and my hips are 2″ bigger. Huh!

I have to say, it took me a looooong time to come to er… not hate… my body shape. As a teenager all I could see were my “huge” hips and embarrassingly big bust. It took till I was doing belly-dancing when 20, in my first performance, and an older woman helping me to fasten my hipscarf exclaimed “Oh, you have a perfect hourglass figure!”  to realise my figure wasn’t lumpy and ugly. No, it was “hourglass”.

And it took me another decade, give or take, to learn how to dress my figure flatteringly, without apologising for it. (I could dress it flatteringly for most of my life, luckily, I just hated it! Often trying to minimise the curvy look.)

Sophia Loren helped.  The first time I saw the photo at the top of the post my jaw dropped. My god, if she can have big hips, big thighs, tiny waist, big bust and not-stick-thin arms, SO CAN I!!! (I wish I could have that smooth olive skin too but alas, the Irish ancestry disallows it.)

As for this one – wow, not much airbrushing going on here. She’s human! Who could have guessed it?

Why didn’t I start this blog earlier?

19 Mar Random page of my sewing visual diary
Random page of my sewing visual diary

This is a random page from my sewing visual diary, the place where all my sewing and craft thoughts, ideas, inspiration and techniques have been stored - until I started this blog.

I have been playing round with the “pages” feature on this blog. I am loving it!

So far I have a list, limited to 3 so I don’t get overwhelmed (well technically it is, in practise… weeeelll…..) of sewing projects on the go, plus crochet and other craft projects I have on the go. I’ve been updating it as I finish things.

I then have a list of sewing projects and craft projects completed this year.

And just added, a list of things I want to make. Ahem. I have only just started filling that one out, and already I have about 10. I admit a few are just mending or finishing off, but hey…

Last but not least, as a bit of a carrot for myself, I have a list of alterations and mending. I HATE mending. I would rather sew a new piece of clothing from scratch. But I hate waste, or losing a fave item even more. I think as the carrot, I will give myself one chocolate frappe for every thing I finish and cross off on this list!

For the last 8 yrs I have had this sort of thing in my sewing visual diary, and, come to think of it, a Stash Inventory there as well. But they have been pretty messy and hard to keep track of.

Where my visual diary has come into its own is recording ideas for designs, clothing, techniques, working out the steps needed for a specific project etc. I also have pages of working out my wardrobe and the next item of clothing I could do with making. Here is a random page, as is the one at the beginning of this post.

Random page of my sewing visual diary

These are sketches of Jeannie Gunn's dresses(circa 1902) at the Elsey Station Replica, Mataraka, NT

Because I have that I didn’t feel the need for a blog, but having got this far into my blog I am really appreciating the format that allows me to adjust and change as my sewing projects change. I also love this “pages” feature!

One of the hardest things is how visual my creativity is, and how hard I have been finding it to take photos and get them up here. It isn’t really reflecting my creative process too well. Yet. I’m working on it!

My sewing visual diaries are irreplaceable. I will definitely continue to keep them, but this new sewing space is wonderful in its own right.

Random Dress Wardrobe Facts

15 Mar

I have 30 dresses. Of those:

6 are for dancing.

12 I made myself.

16 I found in an op-shop, one of which  I totally refashioned; most I adjusted to fit better.

2 I bought new ($10 each).

6 are vintage or historical – a 1950’s frock, regency dress, Edwardian apron-turned-pinafore, pink lace and ruffles vintage-style, regency-style op-shop find, mod pinafore.

4 are work dresses.

2 are for properly cold weather so rarely see the light of day, another 3 are a bit hot most of the year but ok for the 3 weeks of cold in the dry season.

5 are pinafore-style dresses.

6 are scrumptiously soft lounge-around-the-house dresses.

2 I have never worn (one is a regency-style dress I have never found an appropriate event to wear it to. The other is a lounging dress I like but isn’t all that comfortable 😦 Everything else gets worn regularly.

I also have one silk dress that is gorgeous fabric but a bit small (another op-shop find) and I am currently trying to decide whether to try to make it bigger or just use the fabric in another project.

Combined with my coats, they take up aprox half my hanging space (!)

If I was going to go mad and do a wardrobe cull I would possibly get rid of 1 dance dress (a tad too big and the wrong colour for me. BUT colour doesn’t matter when the lights are low like in a milonga! And it is bias – and from Cue I do so love it!)

I would perhaps get rid of the oldest of my lounge dresses. And my oldest pinafore dress (except it is so old it is perfect for painting and other messy stuff like that.)

I have plans for another 3(!) dresses on the way – an old-fashioned shirt-waist dress, the swing-era dress and the walkaway dress

That’s it!

Fabric flowers are a good distraction

4 Feb

My darling daughter, aka DD’s dress is it totally cut out now, the speed of the project increased markedly when I suggested DD could help me by cutting out little prints of roses from one of the fabrics (with her own little scissors that she can use with her tiny hands). This kept her occupied while I quickly cut out the dress with the big fabric scissors.

She cut out 3 flowers this morning, quite well actually. It is amazing how easy it is to use tools effectively when they are matched to size for the person. And rest assured, DD will be ‘helping’ me by cutting out more of of these flowers before the dress is finished!

Now I have to find some way of including them in the dress –  Sooo not what I had planned when starting out. But experience has shown that the best-laid schemes ‘gang aft agley’ can produce some fantastic garments.

What do to with the fabric flower motifs?

Some thoughts:

  • Get my fiance to get some felt, some hair clips and a hot-clue gun from Spotlight (because my fiance in Spotlight is a great source of amusement for me and the staff there) and turn them into hair clips that match the dress.
  • Or instead of hair clips, glue them onto safetypins so DD can pin them on her dress and arrange them and rearrange to her heart’s content.
  • Asking DD to arrange them on her dress where she wants them, then sewing them down (I wonder if she could do the hand-sewing herself, if encouraged and shown?)

DD also fondly believes she will be helping with use of the sewing machine too. Um… um… gonna have to get creative on this one too.

Her auntie, who has a little girl a similar age to DD, is also making her daughter a dress, said it worked quite well to have her daughter on her lap uh… helping … her feed the fabric through, while she herself works the foot pedal. Maybe this will work for DD too.

My Daughter’s Dress and The Artistic Defacing of a Pattern Envelope.

30 Jan

Day 5

More tracing out of the pattern onto pattern-trace.  my DD helped again, a few more wonky lines drawn with the utmost attention, myself cringing as she crawled over the paper pattern, almost tearing it at times. (Where else does one trace patterns off with the help of kids, but on the floor?)

She stopped after a bit and disappeared into her room, leaving me to trace in peace (and clarify for myself which bit of the wonkiness she had drawn was the actual cutting line) presuming she had gotten bored.

But no, she reappeared not long after, and as I traced I saw her out the corner of my eye sit down beside me and start busily doing something. When I was able to look up from the line I was drawing, I realised she had gotten her coloured pencils and was busily ‘colouring in’ the dress in the pattern envelope picture over the original colours, with the colours her dress is going to be. Blue on the sleeves, pink on the main bit and purple ruffles on the skirt.

Looks like she has finally worked out how we are making her dress with the colours of fabric her Daddy brought for her rather than the colours pictured on the envelope.

Swing dress sew along – adventures in home printing patterns

20 Jan

Printing the pattern
I had an amusing time with the Swing Dress e-pattern…

Apart from the odd small craft pattern, this is my first try at an e-pattern. I downloaded it, printed it out and stuck it all together.

There are no matching up marks as there are in the Burdastyle e-patterns I downloaded at the same time, but as the pages printed up in order from right to left, bottom to top, and it came with a printout of the entire layout, it was a lot easier to work out than I feared. There were the odd bits that didn’t quite match, but not so bad it will throw the finished garment off.
I used up heaps of stickytape, and it was like a grown-up version of kindergarten. My inner child had lots of fun! And it really wasn’t as big a job as it looked at first glance.

But half-way through I did get frustrated wrestling with the wind from our always-turned-on ceiling fans. I had the airconditioner on too, but the fans make the aircon’s capacity to cool just that much more effective (and friendly to our electricty bill and environment).
So when my fiance mentioned at his work they are always printing up large-sized plans at the copyshop, and it doesn’t cost a lot, I decided to just get it printed on one big sheet of paper there, along with the 3 burdastyle e-patterns I bought at the same time.
I sent it to them to print, and the copyshop had NO idea how to get the swing dress to print on one big sheet. So  I checked the FAQ’s on the Sensibility site, (only then, of course, not beforehand) and discovered it simply couldn’t be printed out like that. The only way was the stickytape and A4 sheets, as I was already doing.
Oh well.
However… the lovely girl that helped me out at the copyshop asked me where I got the pattern from. Her grandmother had just recently given her a sewing machine, and was in the process of teaching her how to sew (how awesome! Just like my Granny and mother did for me) And loved the patterns and wanted her own.
So I gave her the URL to the Sensibility site, BurdaStyle and a few other places I have found. Sadly, I discovered I knew the URLs off by heart I visit these places so much.
I hope she has much fun with them all.

Sewing the history of my life – Brisbane

16 Jan

I wrote this the evening Brisbane was slowly disappearing underwater, but didn’t post it, feeling it a bit self-indulgent. But my Darling Fiance thought it was interesting to see how my dressmaking is an integral part of my personal history. So I figure there is really no harm in posting it, now it is written…

My 22nd year was spent in Brisbane. I lived in Auchenflower and later Toowong, worked in Taringa, shopped in Indooroopilly (Ah, Sckafs, the wonderous Sckafs!). The scars of the 1974 floods were everywhere if you knew what you were seeing. I reckon at least one of the houses I lived in would be underwater today.

All the images, all the names, all the streets and suburbs splashed all over the news has brought memories of my time in Brisbane back so sharply. (I confess, there have been tears).
I was ill, able to work only a few hours a week, and very poor. I had no sewing machine, my wardrobe made up of the few summer clothes I had brought back from Auckland, padded out with the odd op-shop find. Then I got a new flatmate whose prized possession was her grandmother’s sewing machine inherited upon her death a year previously. It was one of those old, sturdy workhorses that will still be going when me and my old flatmate are grandmothers ourselves.

With incredibly generousity she let me use it. Suddenly my wardrobe was on the up. That is what I remember of Brisbane! The clothes I sewed. Sadly I have no pictures of them, too poor to be able to take many photos (it was pre-digital photography back then) and in the few I have I was wearing op-shop clothes.

But I remember still:

  • A lovely georgette-with-cotton-lining shirtwaist dress in grey with soft pink flowers, pattern from New Look, fabric from Lincraft.
  • I had long admired the short-sleeved business suits the girls on the train would wear in summer on their way to work in the CBD. No way I could afford an rtw suit, but with my hands on that sewing machine, a trouser suit in sage green summerweight wool from a clearance fabric store upstairs in Towoong village soon became my prized wardrobe possession. I might have been only working a few hours a week but oh did my 22 yr old self feel so grown up and sophisticated running up and down those stairs at Auchenflower train station!
  • A few oddly shaped and sewn T-shirts – my first fumbling steps at sewing knits.

One dress needs a special mention. I became very good friends with a woman who lived in Warwick. One visit to her, I found in the local shopping centre, a straight dress of very simple line in white rayon with sprays of purple flowers scattered upon it. (We had a bit of a giggle about going from Brisbane to Warwick to buy clothes – and fabric! The local fabric shop there had some sandwashed silk for $7pm. I bought up big, and still have some of it awaiting the Perfect Pattern.)

Back home in Darwin the next year, (coz you can take the girl out of the Territory but I discovered I couldn’t take the Territory out of the girl…) I was able to use mum’s machine again, the same one I had learnt on when a kid, as familiar to me as the back of my hand. I needed that machine! My health improving I was starting to be a more healthy weight, growing out of my Queensland clothes, including what had become known as “my Warwick dress”. So I simply traced the pattern off it, added a bit at the seams, and made another dress. Then when that wore out, I made another… and another. All ‘Warwick dresses’

Years later, my Warwick friend had moved to Brisbane… Lincraft! Need I say more? I couldn’t wait till I got home to Darwin to start sewing the gorgeous fabrics I found there. Fortunately I had had the foresight to bring a few patterns with me. The advent of a digital camera in my life means from this time on, I have a lot more photos of me and my clothes.

Blue rayon dress from a vintage pattern from an op-shop in Auckland,, fabric from Lincraft, Carindale QLD.
The grey skirt I made in Brisbane 8 yrs ago (self-drafted pattern) and still wear on my travels south, (Photo taken this Nov in outback Vic.) Fabric from Lincraft, Carindale QLD.
My “poppy dress” from a Burda pattern, fabric from the stash of my friend in Brisbane.

There, in the livingroom of my friend’s house, as I crawled about her floor, cutting out the clothes, and sewing on her sturdy old machine, one of the most rewarding things in my entire sewing career happened. My friends daughter, then 15, and already a ‘hard core’ punk rocker girl (stunning voice! brilliant guitarist) in an up and coming band. Part of her integral Look were op-shop clothes reworked creatively, cut to shape and held together with safety pins. (They were very poor, op-shop clothes were all they could afford. Fortunately punk, springing originally from such poverty or worse, lent itself well to her clothing approach.)
Her mother and I had presumed the safety pins were all part of The Look. Turns out, no, she just didn’t know how to sew the new improved-shape seams together again. One afternoon, she brought out a pair of old-man trousers cut down to fit her stunning svelt figure, the sides of the legs held together with safety pins. Sadly the edges were fraying and the pins ripping out.
“Can you help me fix this?”
I could indeed. I ended up teaching her the technical basics of sewing, and spent the next few weeks watching her take what I had taught her and run with it, creating (Or saving one she had made already) garment after garment. Creative, funky, totally unique, thrifty, and completely in harmony with her dynamic personality. I learnt so much from her, as she did from me. Soooo rewarding for us both.

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