Friday, 30 July 2010

Welcome to earth

There are a lot of blogs out there showing beautiful homes and interiors. Likewise in magazines you will often see wonderful rooms. I am sure these are not meant to make the reader feel inadequate but sometimes they do. When I forst started readingblogs I would look at these and feel inadequate - I have recently cleared up my blog list and just don't bother with "beautiful home" blogs. One thing I really like about the community of sewing blogs is that people will describe and show mistakes as well as successes.

I have a problem with the beautiful homes that have small children living in them - is it just my kids who make such huge messes? We have to hide away breakables and delicate items. Little I has an insatiable curiosity and I have recently begun to let her play with more delicate things like seashells. Yesterday she enjoyed playing with my dressmaking pins, sellotape and fabric scraps. Anyway I am digressing, this post was supposed to be an update on my progress over the last couple of weeks as I have been tidying and trying to instill someorder to the chaos.
Above I give you the before and after of the chair in our bedroom. This chair belonged to Mr Minnado's grandma. I think there may be a whole heap of microscopic life forms within this chair and plan one day to get it reupholstered. Mr Minnado however seems to think it should stay in its present incarnation due to childhood nostalgia. It folds out into a bed and he used to sleep on it when staying with Grandma. I can actually sit on it now. Can you see Little I peeping out behind it - she also likes sitting on it. I am trying to make sure I put clothes away more often to prevent the piles growing and growing.

This is something that I feel is a kind of realisation of what is blindingly obvious - look after your clothes and they will look better and last longer...duh....I am trying to hang them up or fold them into the drawer not just screw it up, shovel it in. Somehow when I have carefully laboured over making an item of clothing I find I am more inclined to iron it, hang it up or fold it carefully. If it is something cheaply made and bought for little cost I tend to have a much more careless attitude. Looking back at growing up my parents and grandparents were the type of people to hang clothes up, use shoe trees, polish and care for their shoes. Maybe I am getting old? I have always been a bit careless with my possessions - I would use a lovely handpainted cup to clean my paintbrushes, I would wear shoes till they fell apart, never thinking to mend them or polish them to prolong their life. I would put my art works away in a messy heap and then lose some or they would get all creased and spoilt. I am finding thatnow I am cutting back on buying new stuff and I have been getting rid of lots of things - I have a new respect for the things I am keeping.

Moving on, here is the jewellery storage - I was putting it in a pretty painted bowl that a friend had given me, but you couldn't actually see the bowl. Also having a bowl seems to be a magnet for dumping clutter. I found not just jewellery in here but also coins (almost £1 in coppers) , clips for sealing vacuum bags, the light cord that Little I broke about 6 months ago, receipts...
the list can go on and on.

Inspired by the amazing Hayley, I bought a mug holder in a cheap discount store and I sorted some jewellery to go the charity shop. I can now see what I have. The bowl is back in the kitchen cupboard to be used for salads etc. Without the bowl I have less clutter, as there is no easy place to put it. The little chest of drawers was made by one of my Dad's patients and I have had it since I can remember. It houses brooches and my collection of glass cocktail sticks. The odd cat thing is a letter rack that came from my parents' house. No one else wanted it when they moved but I love it.
I also took a card and a couple of pictures to the framing shop and got mounts cut for them - then I put them in some charity shop frames I have collected. I also got this green oil pastel framed properly - I bought it from a local artist four years ago and it has been waiting all that time to be framed.

I loved the blue framed birthday card my sister sent me. I also framed the picture at the very top which T brought home from school. We alreay had the wooden frame so I just asked the picture framer to make the orange mount. It is now hanging in our hallway. I had kept these picture for ages thinking I would cut the mounts myself and even frame them myself. Then last week, I decided to let go of that idea as I just do not have the time to do that. So as well as physically decluttering I am trying to let go of those ideas and plans that I know I cannot actually fulfill and concentrate of doing less but actually managing to finish some things. I am applying this to my list of future sewing projects which I am hoping to share in a future blog post soon.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Ahoy there sailor

Another Summer Essential - this Breton style top. I found the fabric in a charity shop in May (only £1.50!!) and blogged about it a while ago. It is very soft and lovely to wear. I used the Breton/Nautical top pattern in the Sew-U Home Stretch book. I cut it as a small but you see it is quite roomy and I cut it quite long so I can wear it with more things in the autumn. I am going to leave it like this and wear it for a while before deciding whether to take it in or not. I can't quite figure out my sizing but that's something to save for another post.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Finally Finished Dress

I finally completed my sheath dress for Summer Essentials Sewalong.
I cut this out at the end of May and it has taken ages due to me redoing the placket as it was wonky first time around and also being sidetracked by sewing cushions and my denim skirt. It is made from a charity shop sheet - I wanted to test out the pattern which is the basic sheath pattern from the Built by Wendy Dresses book. I also was trying not to spend too much money! After Me Made May I felt the need to make some plain block colour clothes even though I keep seeing lovely print dresses all over the place.
I trimmed it with Liberty print bias from Clothkits. I sketched out my idea for this dress in a notebook here (on right hand page), and I am pleased that I stuck to my idea and I like how it has turned out.
While making it I was having some second thoughts about whether a brown dress would automatically be too frumpy, but I guess it just depends how I wear it. I also redid the buttons - the first ones I put on were little brown flowers but they were too dull looking so I made fabric covered ones from the liberty trim. One of my favourite things is fabric covered buttons.
I did slightly mess up stitching in the zip as this is something I am not very practised at. I also lined the pockets and didn't quite manage to hide that fact when I sewed them onto the dress. I do like the shape of the dress but need to wear it for a few days to test it out.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Present for teacher

The end of term is fast approaching and with it the annual dilemma of present for teacher/no present....I don't like to try and give anything too personal and try to involve T in the process as I am trying to teach him that it is a Good Thing to Think of Others in Life and Say Thank You. But I do not want to go down the competitive present buying route or have him think you just go and mindlessly buy something for a present. I am hoping he can see it is more about making a bit of an effort for another person.
I was also plotting to get him onto the sewing machine - okay so he is only seven but my far reaching plan is that by the time he leaves home he can at least sew a seam, and sew on buttons.
So, at the risk of sounding like a "crafting mommy" blog I am showing you the bag I made with T aged seven last night to give to his class teacher as a Thank You for the end of school year. Look it's reversible... and let's hope she likes dogs.
I sat T on my lap at the sewing machine and he fed the fabric through and was in charge of the reverse stitch dial and shouting STOP at the end of a seam. (That last one was his idea) I was in charge of the pedal. Being of a technical mind, he was interested to know what all the different knobs were for. It was all very wholesome and lovely, we were talking about his great grandfather whose family were all tailors and shirtmakers, and who himself, ran a wedding and evening dressmaking business.
Then of course I had to ruin it by saying that people had machined their own fingers in sewing machines, this scared the poor kid so much that he had to stop sewing and go build some lego instead.
Ooops - there is obviously a fine line between promoting a safe attitude to working with a machine and overdoing it. This morning he was fully recovered from the imagined sewing machine trauma and was composing lists of what the teacher could put in her far, lots of books, a sandwich, a thermos and a DS lite.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Finished Tate Skirt

Finally I finished one of my Summer Essentials Sewalong projects. A denim skirt made from a pattern in last summer's (2009) Sew Hip magazine. As you can see from the magazine image the skirt was a bit shorter on the model but I wanted mine to be just below knee length - her skirt also looks a bit tighter than mine. I like the way it turned out as it is a skirt that I can wear and still chase after a three year old in! The instructions were clear and easy to follow though I did sew two bits together the wrong way round and have to get out the unpicker. The skirt has a front apron style pocket, lined with red polka dot farbic and red buttons. (I do like a bit of red). I tried it on with my t shirt tucked in to show off the buttons and the shape but felt a bit uncomfortable. It made me realise how much I tend to cover my stomach most days (just my own hangup here). The higher waisted skirt also then made me consider my torso and the old short waisted dilemma as described so well by Ali. It just looks wrong to me in the above photo and brings back alarming memories of my A level English teacher who always wore shirts tucked into her tweed skirts and who would bark at us about John Donne and Chaucer. (Eek, quick, stop thinking about that. Actually , I have to tell you that I saw that teacher last summer when I visiting my mum. We were at the local shops when I saw her and guess what really mature thing I did? I hid behind a postbox till she was gone and I made my son hide too.)

Anyway....back to skirt, I think I need to do some experimentation with different tops on this tucking in lark. I couldn't help but think of Tweedledum and Tweedledee when I looked at my picture and they are not really my number one style icons. I ended up wearing it with t-shirt out - the good thing though was that the higher waist means I can wear my shorter t shirts that I cannot wear with skirts that sit on the hip.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Re evaluation

Recent posts from other bloggers have made me think about one subject that I do think about a lot - stuff and consumerism. Zoe writes about how she is packing up two years worth of life and sewing to move from Spain to England. Part of being a sewer is being a collector of fabric, notions, patterns, etc plus she has a machine and a serger to pack as well as her wardrobe of beautiful Zoe-made clothes. When you have to move and pack up your things you are forced into a consideration of how much stuff you own - and circumstances may dictate you jettison some stuff. Just making decisions as to what to keep can be difficult. I moved a lot in my twenties and early thirties and have always had a fairly easycome easygo attitude to much of my stuff, although there were exceptions - I trained as a fine artist and so have several large portfolios of work. One of which resides under my daughter's cot these days with a heavy layer of dust on it. About few years ago I emptied one portfolio, framed up the work on paper and had an exhibition in a cafe. To my surprise and delight I sold almost all of them. The remainder still in frames are hanging in our house. I had had an idea that I had to keep these works as I would be using my portfolio in job interviews, exhibition applications etc but I have to say it was a great feeling to get rid of some of the pieces of work and to think someone else was deriving enjoyment from my artwork - well, that is a great feeling!

Hayley is also writing a thought provoking blog about the need to own stuff and buy stuff, examining her own motivations. I have been clearing up this morning inspired by her, thinking about my clutter and objects, why I want things and buy things. I agree with Hayley that I too was bought up t o be a consumer, as a young teenager "going to town" was a major activity, as I got older you HAD to have something new to wear before going clubbing and I can remember a feeling of being almost compelled to buy a new peice of clothing if my friend had bought one. Why was that? Some kind of subconscious competition with my friends? Anyone else care to own up to that? I have to admit that it is only recently that I have lost this urge to buy something just because a friend has...either I have only just grown up or my whole not-buying new clothes and accessories has really helped me towards gaining a new mindset

Another event that can force you to look at how much stuff you collect is bereavement. I have not blogged about my father's death (18 months ago) and am not going into details here but suffice to say, when some dies in their late '70s or early '80s, there is a lifetime's worth of stuff left behind. I know it has been overwhelming for my mum to clear all his stuff and so she has done little bits - also do you have to clear out all evidence of a person when they are gone. Me, personally, I find it hard not to go into supermode when visiting her house and "sort" it all out for her. But maybe she likes to still have his dressing gown hanging up and his coats in the cupboard. I do take bits each time I visit, for instance I collected up all the spectacles and took them to an optician for donation to Africa. Each little bit of clearing up makes me feel better, but I don't know why. My dad was a bit of a collector, not just the lifetime's collection of vinyl, cds, tapes and books but also collections of Useful Things like a box of hosepipe connectors, a box of electrical tape, a box of tweezers, do you get the picture? I have to confess that although I consider our house to be full and I am trying not to bring more stuff in but I do keep bringing back odd things of my dad's. For example, a magnifying glass that has a built in light...I mean how great is that? And the book in the picture here - my Grandpa was an air raid warden during WW2 in North London and rescued this book from the ruins of the house next door to his when it was bombed during the Blitz. You can hopefully read his writing in the picture above.
Anyway what I am trying in my rambling way to say is that I am looking at my objects and my relationship with them - that book is also the only example of my Grandpa's writing that I have and so is a tiny piece of someone who is long gone. I am reducing my consumption and clearing space in my house too but re-evaluating those things that are important to me.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Birthday present Bag

For my friend's birthday I made this bag. I looked at a bag that I use a lot and vaguely copied it - I say vaguely because I didn't bother with a pattern - I liked the fact that my original bag had the top band and was slightly gathered to fit the band. I used an A4 pad as a size guide as my friend had said she wanted something she can put a couple of A4 books in. The denim fabric is what was left over after making my denim skirt, which I still haven't finished - but I am almost there - just the waistband facing and hem left to do....I can blame my friend for needing a birthday present as the reason for not having finished that skirt. I like to blame others for my own shortcomings.
It is lined with red and white polka dot cotton - I bought 2 metres of this on Ebay and it has been great for linings and edgings. I just managed to squeeze out enough fabric to make the strap. The button was one from my button hoard - I like this button as it reminds me of blue patterned china and the ribbon loop was part of my haul in Zoe's fabric swap a few months ago.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Seventies Sewing Books

On Sunday afternoon, we went to a summer fete at a National Trust house. The top picture shows the entrance - to what was an upper middle class Edwardian villa. One day I will go there without my kids so I can look inside - apparently the last member of the family who owned it was a famous embroiderer - so I wonder if some of her work is on display. Also nothing inside the house was altered from Edwardian times. Many of the houses of this type have been converted into flats or demolished so this one is like a little time capsule.
One thing I love about National Trust houses is they often have second hand book shops. These are often found in an outbuilding, unstaffed, organised by volunteers and have an honesty box for payments. They are also a good source for second hand crafting books. I found this one for children from 1973. I loved the illustration style. Check the great outfit you could make for your friend! Or an apron
Then I also bought this crafting book also from 1973. It originally would have had a pattern sheet inside it which unfortunately is missing...I liked the look of these wide legged trousers either full length or cropped, very summer essentials.

It also has knitting and crotcheting patterns in it - which are in the book. But the things that I bought it for are these projects for children - I would love to have a go at making a playtent. Little I recently fell in love with one in Laura Ashley which costs...wait for...steady yourself...£200! (For a tent....eeek! It is a highly embroidered tent, but still £200! I feel a rant coming on) The tent pattern is in the book, as is a pattern for these cushions which I can see being popular in my house.

See how you can lie down on these cushions or sit up, love that. So now I am adding these to my ever growing list of things to make.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Things that stop me from sewing

I have not been too well for the last week - I have a summer cold which is dragging on and on. I was so muddled headed that I had to put away sewing my dress and skirt as I was making too many small mistakes.

Other things that stopped me sewing were the arrival of five binbags of childrens' clothes from my in-laws. For a few days my downstairs looked like a second hand clothes shop. We are very lucky as my kids have a boy cousin and a girl cousin just the right age to pass on clothes. It took me a couple of days to sort out the clothes as there were more than we need, and I made up one bin bag for Little I's friend. Another friend came over and took a large bag for her son. I took a four carrier bags to the charity shop and the rest we are keeping. I still have to pack away some clothes for the winter and for next year. Then I have been putting some of my RTW clothes onto ebay to sell.

And spending time in the garden - that has stopped me sewing. We are allowed to pick strawberries from my neighbour's garden. Little I is out there at least once a day with her bucket, issuing instructions while we pick a handful, we often eat them straight away, but last week I was organised enough to make strawberry jam (yes, I am turning into my mother).

I made four jars and let me tell you a secret... making strawberry jam is really, really easy! I thought it would be some kind of long, hot ritual in the kitchen but no, it is quick and very very simple. Honestly, if I can do it, anyone can. (And look, there in the top picture, is my jam on some bread)