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Category Archives: Sewing

what was going to be and what was

It ended up looking a bit like this but not really, mostly because I was wearing it 🙂

This is what it was going to be. I love the pattern and the range of style options. It’s elegant enough for a wedding but not intimidatingly difficult. However, tracing and cutting required more space than I presently have or can create. This is what it ended up being. I’ve made it at least twice before, all the pattern pieces were already cut out and it is indeed an easy sew. It is, however, a 1980’s pattern, which means quite loose-fitting. Perfect. I wanted something more fitted. I measured carefully and reread the instructions, as well as measuring an RTW dress I use for work to ensure that the finished measurements wouldn’t be indecently tight. It worked out well. Both Dr B and YoungB were surprised by how nice the finished article was. (Don’t you just love their confidence in my ability?!)

My wonderful, expensive fabric behaved beautifully and sewed up a treat. Except, sadly, when I was sewing on the right side of the fabric (eg, to make the neckband or hem, or doing any topstitching). Then, no matter what I adjusted, there were skipped stitches. I tweaked all sorts of things, to no avail. Finally with time running away from me, the light fading, my neck aching (from bending over all that unpicking) and my patience fraying ever so slightly, I decided that I’d simply use a smaller stitch length, sew slowly and steadily and accept whatever I got at the end of that process. It didn’t do away with the skipped stitches, but it did minimise their number. And I accepted that result. (You’d have to look closely to notice the skipped stitches.)

I made version 1, including the long sleeves because, you know, cool afternoons  and evenings up in the HIlls, winter on its way and all of that. And, as I said, my end result was, as intended, a great deal more fitted than the envelope photo would suggest.

I changed the neckline entirely. I have interfacing somewhere, but since tidying my sewing room I’m no longer certain of its whereabouts. Therefore, I decided to do something whose construction was akin to that of a t-shirt collar, but I made it with a slight twist. I let the dress hang for a couple of nights before I finally hemmed it. Dr B measured it for me, and estimated I’d need to remove 5 inches. That sounded like rather a lot! I shortened it by 4 inches and turned up a half-inch hem. That gave me a flattering, just-below-knee hemline. Funnily enough, I don’t recall shortening it last time, and I haven’t marked the pattern to indicate that I did. But I haven’t got any taller in the intervening 33-odd years.

Rather than leave it languishing in the wardrobe simply because the neckline could use adjusting, I’ve worn it on Board meeting days.

Also, partly because I have T. Rex arms, I had to chop off some of the sleeve length. I hadn’t made the long sleeved version before, but I ought to have remembered the 1980’s penchant for Very Long Sleeves and taken heed from the pushed-up sleeves in the photo. No harm done and the dress finished in ample time (honestly, I reckon I was done with the last of the threads by mid-morning on the day of the late-afternoon wedding). We ended up being a party in blue because Dr B and YoungB both elected to wear blue shirts. It wasn’t done intentionally to match my dress, merely serendipity.

Serendipity had us all in blue, just like half the wedding party.

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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Sewing

 

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comfort of a sort

You know that feeling when you’ve lurched to the last working day of the year and what you haven’t done is not done but you can’t dredge up sufficient energy to care? That happened to me halfway through December. In my previous job, the obligatory holiday during the Christmas shut-down could vary greatly, so I mostly made mine long to enable me to cope with all the family, cycling and rowing events that clustered round that part of summer. It wasn’t the sort of job where the work you hadn’t  finished would be waiting when you returned. Jobs didn’t hang around or hang over for that long. You might find yourself typing later sittings of the same matter, but it would have moved on.

In my present job, almost everything I hadn’t done was awaiting me when I returned, plus a few extras I hadn’t anticipated. That’s a distinct deterrent to taking long breaks, because it means that the return workload is crushing and you need a good life-jacket. But I had a holiday, anyway, during which I managed to tidy my sewing room somewhat.

2017 will be challenging. The sector is changing and in order to survive and flourish, organisations have to not only change but come up with new ideas for growth. I feel remarkably inadequate in that scenario. I’m still reasonably good at thinking on my feet, and quickly, but I have no business background at all. This is, I suspect, a shorthand way of saying that I need to enrol in some suitable units at a local TAFE, or within an undergraduate degree, if I’m to have any hope of not going under. My problem is that I don’t know what I need because it’s difficult to intuit what shape the future changes will take with regard to my job. I often feel now as if I’m close to drowning because of the workload, so perhaps I need to invest in a better life-jacket because that feeling is unlikely to lessen.

As near to drowning as I might be, something I do know is that I’ll need to knit and sew more, or I’ll be too grumpy for words. I also know that I’m going to have to do a l-o-t of work to get my photo app to talk to my blog. Lots to work on this year, and not a resolution in sight! All the best with all of your plans, resolutions or just general intentions for this year’s crafting. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Knitting, Musing, Sewing

 

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an even bigger sideways wallop

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this.

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this but on the other side of the world.

On Thursday morning we woke to devastating news from Italy: one of the cousins had been killed in a motorbike accident. Yet again, plans for future meetings and shared learning went out the window. We’ve been a bit of a mess ever since.

Yesterday, however, YoungB and his fellow-student girlfriend, Dr B and I spent a delightful day: exhibition, lunch at one of YoungB’s favourite and highly-recommended burger joints, coffee at a chain we probably have – or should have – shares in by now, then a short reception prior to the local premiere of an Italian-Australian film (happily, set in Dr B’s part of northern Italy), showing at a nearby cinema and part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2016. After the film, a Q and A session with the director and her producer husband (information here), and a chat with YoungB’s Italian professor who was also in the audience, it was dinner time. We trundled across the road for that, then hiked back to the car. We had coffee and cakes at a same but different locale (Glynde) before finally coming home some eight hours after setting out.

We were all physically tired but somewhat restored in spirit, even if poor YoungB’s feet were hurting after the amount of standing and walking he’d done in totally inappropriate shoes. End-of-season sales saw that situation remedied this morning, so he went off to watch soccer while Dr B and I pottered about at home: he in the garden, I in the laundry. Oh, the thrill of it all 🙂

But the burning question I’m asking myself is, can I knock up a dress before Thursday’s AGM? I’m tired of winter, tired of being cold, fed up with wearing trousers and not that fond of the idea of a skirt. A dress? There’s potential in the idea. You know me, it’s unlikely to happen. But it makes me feel a little less inadequate to have it as a sort of non-plan when my knitting doesn’t make sense to me because every time I pick it up to do any, there are interruptions. Never mind. We’re alive and well and aren’t we lucky to have that?

 
 

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it wasn’t pretty but I did it

That would be the Bloody Long Walk. I wasn’t well and probably should have called it quits before I even started. But, as I often say, that’s why we have pharmaceuticals. Right? That’s YoungB holding me up at the finish line, though you’d swear he was simply giving me a congratulatory hug. Five minutes later I missed the edge of a chair and fell over. I could only laugh hysterically. I couldn’t get up, though I eventually managed it with YoungB’s assistance.That was about when Dr B decided we needed to go home. There was no argument at all from me, so that’s what we did. I went straight to bed the minute we got in the door 🙂

That stripey, cooling neck bandanna that’s half-on and half-off? I didn’t need it. But I made it specially the day before, just in case. I even half-charged it at one of the checkpoints, when it looked as if there might be some warmth in the sunshine. There wasn’t, or not much.

If you’ve recently managed a 35-Km walk or extreme activity of any sort – knitting, sewing, something physically challenging – well done. I’m going back to bed 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Health, Sewing

 

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a big, post-election grumble about a lot of what I see

No grumbles with this pattern, which is progressing nicely

No grumbles with this pattern, which is progressing nicely

I sat down to write one post and seem to have written two! Please ignore whichever half bores you 😉

The thing about trawling the web and looking at lots of posts on sewing is that so much of what I see strikes me a bit like Arthur Dent‘s house: it precisely fails to please the eye. I can see that the cut is lovely, or the colour is, or that it’s beautifully made but sometimes? Sometimes the proportion is all wrong or the colour doesn’t suit the person wearing it and the cut isn’t flattering on the figure of the wearer. The bodice of a drop-waisted skirt is too long or perhaps it’s the skirt that’s too short (or possibly long), though the overall length is fine, but together? It just doesn’t work. That is to say, even allowing for the fact that IRL when it’s moving rather than static it might look better, it just doesn’t work to my eye.

There are patterns about which the online sewing community seems to go into raptures and, although I can find individual things to like about each of the iterations I come across, it leaves me cold. Most of the Colette patterns are in that category – and because plainly designed for a body shape that mine has never been and is now unlikely to achieve, I don’t buy Colette patterns – which is a bit sad because I like the idea of supporting Indie designers rather than the Big Companies. The passion for Tilly‘s Coco was a bit similar; it didn’t ring my bells. And that’s OK. We’re not all the same.

With regard to the clothing, I accept that I’m in no position to criticise, because I myself don’t really make much; some might say I don’t make anything at all and that’s perhaps near enough to the truth. But it’s like singing: just as I can still hear whether that’s good or bad and give you very concise and informed reasons why it’s one or the other, though I do so little of it myself nowadays, I can tell you why those patterns don’t work. That doesn’t mean other people will have the same opinion.

Overall, however, it serves to reinforce the notion that anyone who wants to make their own clothing really needs to be able to draft a pattern and/or be able to make drastic alterations to a pre-existing one. That’s quite an ask in an age where these things are not taught at school. I was fortunate enough to learn pattern-drafting at primary school. My suspicion is that the more any person who sews uses a prefabricated pattern from anywhere – Big Company or Indie designer – the more the realisation grows that, no, it’s not going to cut it to keep doing this. You have to draft your own.

While I’m on a roll, something else that gets up my nose big time is the modern penchant for squashing breasts to flatness. I genuinely appreciate the need for comfort and support, I get the bit about not wanting to bounce around too much and I certainly understand the value of a minimising bra; but one that leaves you looking like some weird sort of chook gone wrong? Uuh, yeah, maybe not. It’s not flattering, it makes the clothes hang badly and, in some cases, is decidedly part of why the clothes don’t look particularly flattering. They’re being beaten at their own game by over-eager corsetry. I don’t have a problem with what’s occasionally described as industrial-strength undergarments so long as they don’t make the body shape they’re assisting into something that no longer resembles a normal, female body. (For tonight’s homework, define normal.) Yeah. I’m feeling cranky.

I admit it: that crankiness has been exacerbated by post-election ennui and the still-in-doubt election result.

On Saturday, I spent hours standing out in the cold, handing out how-to-vote cards. Talk about wondering about a lot of what you see! There were people who turned up beautifully dressed and brightened the day, others who’d obviously come straight from work or sporting events, youngsters being shepherded along by anxious parents afraid of looking right or left lest thoughts be contaminated by a leaflet not to their liking, many grumpy people whose expressions said louder than words that they didn’t appreciate having to vote or what a privilege it is to have that right, those who complained about how far they were forced to travel as if that were something we poor volunteers could magically mend, and many who laughed along with the silly jokes we were making as we handed out leaflets for the umpteenth time.

I occasionally regretted that there is no Socialist Alliance in my electorate, I say with tongue in cheek, because reactions would have been hilarious had I been handing out something with that logo. I certainly don’t look the type to be a rabid Left-winger 🙂 You’re fair game, whatever you’re doing, so you need to be thick-skinned. Luckily, I am. I was reprimanded for my not-at-all-radical views by one older man, who told me I should be ashamed of myself because I was old enough to know what I was doing. It’s not part of the patter, but the queue had stalled at that stage. I drew myself up to my full height – which is not great, but greater than his – and shot back that I certainly am old enough to know what I’m doing, and that’s why I do it. I had a little discussion with another, younger, bloke in the queue about hung parliaments and his view that voting for anything but a major party would result in chaos, despite the fact that many such governments exist worldwide and function well. One chap walked past all the leaflets, muttering as he did so that they’re all bloody criminals (he may have a point; it made me laugh). Another wanted to vote for Pauline Hanson. I reassured him that this isn’t her electorate, nor was there a One Nation candidate. I didn’t suggest he ought to move to Queensland, because I thought it was likely he wouldn’t know where that is.

Silliness aside, I was truly astounded – and not in a good way – by the number of people who seemed to have been caught unawares by the election. We’d just come to the end of one of the longest campaigns in many a year and still they seemed startled by it all. Entirely too many plainly hadn’t given any thought to how they would vote. I don’t expect everyone to do what we do – spreadsheets; I’ve said before that’s how we roll – but I wasn’t surprised that several of my colleagues had worked it all out before election day and taken their print-outs with them. A vote is too valuable to waste.

YoungB was doing his bit at a different polling booth – one with a sausage sizzle, I add with some resignation and a great deal of jealousy; there wasn’t one at mine – and he had some entertaining tales, too. He is a very charming young man and learnt early that if you’re polite to people, generally they will respond in like manner. He reported that he had made eye contact and cheerfully, but very politely, handed out his how-to-vote card. The old trick worked, even though some of them, he thought, would rather have responded with a mouthful of vitriol. Dr B was at a different booth – also sans sausage sizzle – and had a good time, doing two two-hour stints so that he could duck up to see Nonna and give her lunch in the interim. I closed my booth, and YoungB came to help me take down the last of the posters that I simply couldn’t reach. We swapped tales of our day when we arrived home, then he and Dr B went off to the party to watch the tally. I was too tired, too cold and too far behind with domestic chores, so I watched at home while I attended to laundry and the like.

Yesterday the boys went for a motorbike ride, to blow away the cobwebs and reconnect with something other than endless spreadsheets comparing political parties and their policies. We’ve voted, made our choice known, and done it unmolested in a democracy where we can be reasonably assured that our votes weren’t tampered with or ignored. We are in a dreadful, and dreadfully ugly, mess, but we remain extremely fortunate. And the queues about which I heard endless complaints on Saturday? At my booth, they extended to the gate and meant the wait was half an hour to perhaps 40 minutes (at most). It wasn’t days. We were out in the open, but we weren’t there for long.

My personal fitness guru, as YoungB has appointed himself, thought that, while they were out motorcycling, I should do a 10 Km training walk in order to be ready for the Bloody Long Walk at the end of next month. That would take me two hours. But I thought that if I didn’t bring in the laundry, we’d have no clothes for the rest of the week. More pressingly, I was convinced that if I didn’t knit some more of his beanie he wouldn’t have it for next weekend. He’ll certainly need it, because he and I will be visiting friends in a cold part of the world. There, I’ll have good reason to be grumpy; except that the warmth of the friendships will ward off the worst of the chills.

So, yeah. I’ve said my piece about practically everything, I think! Back to the knitting now. I’m pleased to report that it is going well, and I’ve taken the plunge and done some of these cables without using a cable needle. The reason why is probably another grumble, but I think I’ve been cranky enough. Pax 🙂

 
 

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1, 2, skip a few, 99

Dan's 65th birthday

This is probably the last family photo I have. It’s nice to see all of us being silly 🙂

Dear Mum, Youngest Aunt and I arrived at the answer by different methods – neither straightforward; you know we’re like that with arithmetic – but we agreed that, had you been still alive, this June we would have celebrated your 99th birthday.

You died well short of reaching that, and more than half our lives have been lived without you: without your smile and your wonderful baking (I occasionally get a real craving for one of those tasty, hearty egg-and-bacon pies with the light-as-air pastry, or the fabulous melt-in-your-mouth shortbread), your razor-sharp memory for sometimes obscure poetry, the weekly chinwag as to tricky questions in the Crossquiz (as it was then) and whether we’d reached excellence with the Target word, and the high-scoring Scrabble games, not to mention the occasional hand of whisky poker played for the killingly extravagant stakes of one- and two-cent pieces (legal tender in those days).

Yes, we’ve missed you, but you’ve missed so much, too: the family’s travels, the weddings, the grandchildren you’d been hoping for, all the accolades and awards across the years, and let’s not forget the music. You’ve missed a lot of singing and music-making at family get-togethers and Christmases. Middle Aunt and I still dust off our piano duets at Christmas, in what has become something of a ritual.

But you’re never truly far from any of us. For me, I see you in YoungB’s smile that’s so much like yours. I thought of you often when he was a rower, because the high school you once attended has a rowing program nowadays and our marquees were frequently alongside each other. You’re probably raising your eyebrows, wondering why I don’t mention that I see you when I look in the mirror, or every time Middle Aunt and I sit together at parties and confuse people who don’t know us well. Yes that’s true, and we laugh about it.

I see your work and evidence of your organisational abilities in the Lunchbox recipe book I use all the time. And I wish I could ask you about the everyday recipes you whipped up that I cannot remember (and that aren’t in the Lunchbox). I’m sure you knew how much I hated raisin biscuits. They were marginally nicer than the spice biscuits, both of which you baked far too frequently, as far as I was concerned; but you wouldn’t believe how often I’ve tried to find a recipe for raisin biscuits. I’ve proved they’re not fruit jumbles. That’s all I’ll say.

As well as that, I have your sewing machine (I think I can truly claim it as mine by now, but it was yours before it was mine). I have many of your knitting needles and and patterns. And I can knit, thanks to your teaching me (although I acknowledge that the Great Aunts helped). I still use my first-ever knitting needles. Although I can’t knit as quickly as you, nor do I have the same easy rhythm – and ditto those comments with regard to the Great Aunts, too – it’s true that most of the time I get there.

I’ve learnt that there’s much truth in your wisdoms that a blind man would be pleased to see it, that any small improvement renders the situation better than it was, and that if you’re out there doing it then you’re streets ahead of someone sitting at home. I often remind myself about the Devil and the tailor, shorten my thread accordingly and then squint at the needle just the way you did. I chastise myself for using sewing needles that would double as crowbars (your term again). But, heck, how are you meant to thread anything with a smaller eye?

We do these things. Life goes on. I repeat your words, which were probably those of your own mother, and so it continues down the generations. Every now and again, we add up the numbers. And this year we reached 99.

 

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soon it will be winter and I’ll have to knit

I can see it now. But what will I be knitting?

I can see it now. But what will I be knitting? And, no, I don’t actually have a cat.

You remember this was going to be a busy year with birthdays? It has been, and there’s another zero-ending one in the offing. Then we can breathe for a while before the usual slew of “not zero or anything particularly special” birthdays continues unabated. I think I’m off the hook for scanning photos with regard to any of the forthcoming numbers but there’s always something unexpected in store.

It’s frightening to think that it’s already March, nearly April and my creative efforts this year have so far been almost minus. When Dr B and YoungB were working in the backyard in 40-degree heat and I was concerned about their dehydrating, I fished out the sewing machine to make another of those cooling neck collars. Yeah, right. Something I don’t like about the Janome, as fabulous as it is in terms of variety of stitches and as good as it was for sailing over the loose-weave hessian, is that it’s a pig of a thing to thread. I had to re-thread it several times because apparently I was doing it wrongly. I sat there with the book in front of me, carefully following the diagrams. I redid the bobbin a few times, in case that was causing the difficulty. Nothing worked. I ended up putting it away and uttering a few impolite suggestions around behavioural change. And didn’t make the cooling neck collars. The Bs simply wore wet bandanas, instead.

It’s getting to the time of year where my fingers are itching to have knitting in them, so I’ve just revisited my Ravelry projects to see what’s awaiting completion that I could reasonably pick up in the expectation of finishing it without too much drama. There’s nothing. What isn’t finished is in the middle of serious tinking. To wrap my head around what’s necessary means being back in the knitting groove. And I’m not. So what do you reckon? is the only answer to start something new??

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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