Archive for February, 2011

My stepmother’s friend Helen sat in my living room drawing a few weeks ago while we carted trailer loads of dirt about for the garden. A little dress of Rata’s was lying on the kitchen chair, as dresses of Rata often do, and she drew that. Worth a messy house? I think so.

(I took to planting lettuces today to calm my nerves with regards the Christchurch earthquake. It worked, until they started counting the dead… kia kaha to you all down south…)


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A real sundaycrafternoon

I feel hung over today. The Injustice! I made a conscious decision NOT to go out drinking last night, and had only two beers with an (incredibly spicy, where was that stated on the menu?) meal before the rest of the party went out drinking cocktails somewhere fancy and I went home. But I think really it has something to do with all the work I did in the garden yesterday, digging, wheelbarrow pushing, shoveling and hoeing in the searing heat of the backyard – an excellent place to grow veges, not such a great place for extreme labour. And so today, despite wearing a straw hat and a lot of sunblock, I am slightly pink and the headache, droopy feeling and general muddle just will not lift.

Between bouts of this sunover, I made my new pair of leggings in that age old method I like to call ‘Cut Out and Keep’…

Those green ones are also a product of the Cut Out and Keep method, copied from a pair of Louis’ leggings which I particularly liked the shape of. But as the copy fit me better, this time I copied the copy. I cut each leg along the fold, and to accommodate the roundness of my backside, inserted a long, curved triangle of fabric. I really should get a stopwatch. They took virtually no time to put together.

I have a pair of mustard-coloured tights a friend picked up for me on a trip to London and they really are my favourites. Hopefully a second pair of legwear will lessen the pressure on the tights, while still satisfying my urge to yellow it up.

I stuck to yellow stitching this time, but on Rata’s leggings I am still plotting that contrast…

Then phase two of my sunover began, but while lying on the bed with cheese and crackers and Frankie Magazine I found my next wind (Frankie has that effect on me, and thus I feel it is worth it’s $9.50 for all that good ‘stimulation’). There was a photo of a furniture designer’s lampshade – basically a wastepaper basket with some fabric draped over it or something – and I remembered how horrible the light in our bedroom is with it’s naked bulb shining in my eyes as I lie in bed. So I found some fabric…

The secret?

Now to do other things while Rata is out…

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I have finished Rata’s shorts and first winter singlet!

The spotty fabric was left over from a skirt I made – my mum bought me the fabric for my 21st birthday as it was $35 a metre. But what fabric it turned out to be! It’s got a bit of stretch, but mostly it is an amazing cotton with a nice weight to it. The skirt is something I can’t quite bear to write off just yet, but it was worn often, almost daily even, and lasted four years. But at $35 a metre, you can imagine I didn’t throw any offcuts away!

I copied a pair of shorts I found in an opshop – they’re made in China, and I figured that they’d be super simple to copy as they would have been super simple to make in the first place! No waistband, no side seams, just zip-zip-zoom and you have a pair of pants. I traced around their shape, improvised on the curved bit, added a few centimetres for growth (and a side seam, as I wanted to use smaller pieces of fabric) and 30 minutes after I plugged the machine in, I had a pair of shorts. I even played pretend industrial fancy stitches by sewing the elastic in with a tight zigzag stitch. And I enjoyed that so much I did the hem that way as well.

The singlet is lined with an old thermal from Louis’ grandmother. If you look closely you can see I didn’t have much fun with the lining. But shhh! don’t tell anyone! That’s the previously mentioned yellow, soon to be leggings for all, fabric, which was a pleasure to sew. I’m quite a fan of my machine’s stretch stitch – I might get a little more into contrasts on the leggings.

Rata did a little jig for me in her fancy new threads when she came home from her Super Adventure With Bertie, and then we somehow managed to convince Louis to have fish and chips on the beach when he came home. It was my first f+c in Paekakariki for a whole year and well worth the wait.

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Mischief Managed, Part One

… in which we make a shelf out of bricks as the first part of the Great Sewing Room Tidy-Up. Surely, having only lived here a month, the sewing room would still be moderately tidy? Well, short answer: no. Gradually, while things have been unpacked and projects started, the amount of storage in the room remains at nil, so things are just starting to pile up, mostly on the table. The amount of space to work in depends on how much stuff I am willing to move onto the floor. But yesterday I noticed the old kitchen cupboards in my potting shed (yes, a room for every hobby!) had drawers which would make good shelves for the wall above my desk. I’m waiting for the drill battery to charge so I can hang them up. In the meantime, I have occupied myself with this…

I found the bricks around the garden, and the wood came from the attic of the other house my landlords own (moguls!). Those tins, filled with threads and notions, will probably end up above the desk, and no doubt there will soon be a cup of tea (or two) in their place, beside my computer.

I had kinda hoped that I would be able to empty at least one box of fabric onto the new shelf; alas, this is almost entirely new acquisitions and current projects. I might have to add an extra layer or three.

This strange looking contraption is for ironing sleeves and fiddly things – found at the Otaki opshop for just $1. I haven’t used it yet, but many times have I wished for one at various pernickety ironing moments. That yellow fabric to the right will very shortly be a pair of leggings each for Rata and I, and the outer shell of her warm wintery singlets. Shortly, as in, right at the end of this sentence. Stop.

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A machine of one’s own

My grandma died last year. Something I learned at her funeral was that in the 1950s, she and my grandfather couldn’t afford to buy the kind of furniture they liked, so she went to night school and made it herself. I was incredibly impressed. I wish I’d known that when she was alive.

The last time I saw her, I spotted these teacups in her cupboard and suggested we use them for our afternoon tea because they were so dainty. She then insisted I take them home with me. She told me where she’d bought them (she remembered exactly where everything in her house came from) and then told me and my dad how pleased she was that I was going to have them. They have pride of place in my sewing room at present, with the photo of me aged four from her bedside table, which I requested my dad retrieve when he went to help his siblings sort out her things.

Then in January, I received a wee message from my cousin Hayley, the only other granddaughter: ‘I just made my own skirt using grandmas old elna 😮 I feel so accomplished.’ I was so stoked that Hayley was sewing, as I hadn’t known she did! And I thought, perhaps the gift of a sewing machine has inspired her! Maybe I should ask her these things in person some time… but what happened next was quite amusing… when I reported Hayley’s comment to my dad, he said vaguely… ‘Oh, there were two sewing machines. I forgot I’d brought the other one down for you…’

A machine of my own! It’s so little! And orange! I wonder if it goes…?

(Probably not as well now that Rata has had a go at the tension dial…)

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Reindeer Dress, redux

My friend Lou owned a wonderful dress a few years back. Purchased from Joy and worn to death, the Reindeer Dress inspired lashings of dress envy from me and the sobbed regrets of ‘WHY? Why didn’t I know about that shop when I lived in London?’ I think that every photo Lou would post on her blog, I would shriek: ‘Reindeer Dress!!’ and I’m sure that shrieking made it to the comments. I always secretly hoped Lou would tire of the dress and as its most ardent admirer, I would be given it.
























But late in 2009, when I think I suggested it as an outfit for some occasion, Lou broke the terrible news. The Reindeer Dress was in disrepair. Every time she put it on, a new hole would appear. But have no fear, she told me. She was going to cut it up and give me the scraps for a dress for Rata. And so that fabric arrived at my sewing table (as the wrapping, I might add, for other awesome presents from London-town) and in December last year I finally got to work.

When I went to cut it out, I made the skirt a bit more A-line – on Wilhe the same pattern had looked a tad narrow.

I also managed to miss all helpful hints written on the pattern and did not add seam allowances where I was meant to. Really I should just re-draft that pattern so I don’t have to think about it.

Et voila! The waistband comes from the trim at the bottom of the original dress – when it gets a bit short for Rata, I’ll add a bit more of the trim. It was edged with some crocheted lace.

And here is the lovely dress wearer having an apple lunch and eagerly awaiting Lou’s visit. It’s still a bit big, but wearable as far as climbing steps and running around goes. And it was lovely to see Lou again after a year, aye, that it was.

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Plunge taken…

So, I have now committed to doing this Me-Made-March thing, where I pledge to wear at least one self-made item of clothing every day for a month. It’s kind of the kick I need to make some more clothes for myself. I have also implicated my poor unsuspecting daughter Rata into wearing at least one me-made item every week, which should get me into making some more things for her. And not just pretty dresses either: given the amounts of fun she has been having at Playcentre these past two days, she’ll be returning home each Monday and Tuesday covered head to toe in paint. She also needs some pyjamas which cannot be pulled off in the time it takes her to go to sleep.

So on that note, I’ve been putting this together this afternoon (after I finally mopped all those lovely footprints off the floor) – it’s a skirt made in the same vein as the peacock skirt, and the endless possibilities of that half-pattern are really racing through my head now. The grey material I am lining it with – denim to give the knit a bit of structure – was originally purchased to go with a very wild fabric from Bertie in a dress. But now I’m thinking grey yolk, wild pleated skirt body?

It helps that Bertie kindly gifted me so many fabrics (though the blue stuff was in the sale pile so I flipped her some dollars for that one). For one, the new blood in the fabric stash has inspired me. Secondly, when I bump into her wearing some newly made something in a fabric that has sat in her stash for years, she is always so happy to see it finally used. I equate it to the clothes swap feeling when you see someone rocking something that never quite looked right on you – there’s no jealous pang, just sweet relief the item is no longer languishing in your wardrobe.

Good feelings all round. I’m so happy today, what’s with that?

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