Sunday, 24 July 2011

Tried and tested

You know those patterns that some bloggers can't help but use time and time again (I'm looking at you, Karen)? Well I finally have one of those myself!
The EvaDress 650 1934 blouse is, on the face of it, not very exciting. I think I struck gold, though, when I decided to try and turn the collar into a pussy bow, as I love my blue blouse and wear it to death. The pattern is simple enough to run up in a couple of hours, and also basic enough to withstand amateurish fiddling from the likes of me!
I had some cotton/silk mix left over from the Sew Weekly meet up that I was planning to use for a skirt, but decided it was just too light and have been wondering what to do with since. I figured that actually it'd make a good floaty blouse and thought what better than to use my EvaDress pattern to make a third version of my blue pussy bow blouse! This week I had a few hours spare, so set about sewing and this was the result!
As with the previous version, I simply lengthened the collar piece, sewing up the ends before attaching it to the neckline.
I also trimmed the neckline into a more gentle V, rather than keeping it as a slash as I had before. This gives less spare fabric under the bow when it's tied low on the chest.
There were two long shoulder darts in the front of the pattern, but I turned these into 4 pleats near the shoulder and I think it worked well!
Finally, I used my overlocker to finish the seams as I went for the first time, and I'm really chuffed with the results! I even changed the colour threads the overlocker was using. I feel very talented now!
I feel like I am sewing at a far more intermediate level now. Although the pattern is in no way challenging, I used a finer needle on my machine to avoid pulling the delicate fabric - something I've not bothered with before, I used a narrow hem foot for the sleeve hems and of course I was switching back and forwards between the overlocker and sewing machine. Add to this the 'as I went along' pattern alterations and I really felt on top of sewing this blouse like I don't think I have before. I'm really pleased with this, with the overlocking it really feels like my first professional piece.
Next on my list is a third skirt made from Simplicity 3688...maybe I can have a tried and tested week where I just wear the two patterns together all week?

Words can't express...

how terrible the events in Norway on Friday were, and how horrified I am.
I know I have a fair few readers from Norway, so I just wanted to say that I hope you and all of your loved ones are safe, and that in England we're all thinking of you.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said "We will retaliate with more democracy, transparency & openness"
and I'll leave you with a quote from a Norwegian girl who survived the attack on Ut√łya,

"If one man can show this much hatred, imagine how much love we can show together".

What a country.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Reasons to be cheerful. 1, 2, 3...

I've mentioned a couple of times recently how I've been feeling down in the dumps, but actually I've been starting to feel better this last week or so, and thought I should say a little about what's changed.
At the point when I started to wonder if I needed pharmaceuticals to help me pick myself up, I decided that enough was enough and I needed to pull my socks up and do something to cheer myself up. It's easier said than done, but what I've done has started to make a difference.

The last thing I want to do is to belittle depression - clinical depression is a crippling illness which sucks people into a vicious cycle of depressive feelings and can metaphorically and literally steal people's lives. Recent figures suggest around 1 in 4 women will seek treatment for depression at some point and there are often serious treatments involved.

What I'm talking about is low mood. Being down in the dumps, miserable, fed up and sick and tired. I'm pretty sure we've all been there, but it is tricky to pull yourself out of it without help. I've had a bit of training in various therapies and so has Tom, so I was able to make a plan without too much trouble. Hopefully what I did might prove helpful to someone, but there are a lot of websites offering help of every sort if you need some and don't like what I have to say. Mind is one of the best UK sites I know and talks about all sorts of mental illnesses, symptoms and aids from the basic to the most serious clinical interventions.

So, in no particular order, here is my guide to being cheerful;

1. List the positives in your life
By focusing on what's good about your life you can start to change your thinking. We focus a lot on what's wrong which can make the bad seem bigger than it is - turn it around and focus on the good stuff instead.
When you're down, this can be a tricky exercise, so take your time, be honest, ask someone else to help, and add to it when you think of something else. Keep this list around so that you can be reminded of how much good there is in your life whenever things get too much.
I listed things like my husband, our cats, our home, my hobbies, friends and blogging. If it makes you happy, celebrate it!

2. List the 5 most important things in your life - how can you spend more time on them?
Sometimes we can get caught up in what we should be doing, or just in moping around without investing in the important things in our lives, things which can make us happy. I know I don't spend enough time interacting with my husband, so we've bought a scrabble board, some 2 player x-box games and are committing to at least 2 trips 'out' to new places each month.
I'm also trying to schedule at least 1 hour a week for sewing, even if I don't really feel like it. Even if I only mend a hem. Because actually, I know that when it's done I'll feel good about it and will probably go on to do more.

3. List some things you would like to do (and then make them happen)
Planning for the future is important, it keeps you focused on moving forwards and on to happier times. These don't have to be world changing, but even small things like painting a room, going on a trip or selling some junk on eBay can be fun and once you've done them, there comes the satisfaction of ticking them off.
Baby steps towards these goals can be powerful too; if you want an expensive holiday, open a savings account and pay all your loose change into it.

4. List the things that are making you unhappy - can you solve or reduce them?
This is both simple and the most complex thing you can do. Even small steps can be powerful though.
Work is really getting to me, so I'm committing to looking for a new job. It might take me ages to get it, but I am working towards solving this problem.
My health will be harder to tackle, but I'm working to make a difference to that too, starting with a book recommended by the occupational therapist I see for my CFS. It may make no difference at all, but it is a step in the right direction.

5. Learn something new
As above, really. Learning keeps you fresh, and focusing your brain on something that's not how crap your life is can be incredibly therapeutic. Ideally, I'd reccommend you go on a course - meet new people, laugh together and discover something new. Learning from a book or DVD can be just as absorbing though and possibly more satisfying.
I've booked onto a load of adult learning course between here and Christmas and will be trying out photography, life drawing, cyanotypes and corsetry. All new skills, all creative and all out of the house!

6. What else can you do to make yourself happy?
This is a more general collection of stuff that cheers you up. Taking a bath, meditation, getting fresh air and sunshine, exercise (if you're able), eating better (porridge and tomatoes are natural anti-depressants and anything fresh makes you feel better than processed food), taking supplements (omega oils help keep your brain happy), tidy the house, be more spiritual (if you're that way inclined), talk to someone about how you feel, find a positive affirmation that works for you. Each little action helps to lift your mood and there are hundreds of suggestions like this out there.

Just making this plan made me feel a bit more positive, and the few actions from it I've taken have turned around what felt like a long period of grey Tuesdays.

I also have to thank all of you for your kind encouraging comments - you really do cheer me up with your lovely words!

I'd love to hear what you all do to cheer yourselves up, do share!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

One weekend, two outfits

Yup, that's right, I wore two outfits in two days. Fancy.
What is worth mentioning is that I actually managed to take two pictures in one weekend. It's some kind of record. What probably isn't surprising it that it's taken me more than a week to post, but hey, you can't have everything!
Last Saturday I was at home, seeing my family. We spent most of the day preparing for a party to celebrate my Dad's 60th but in the evening I popped on my Simplicity 5594 blouse with my Heyday trousers (sadly this tweedy fabric is now out of stock but they have some lovely new wool based fabrics in instead) and my new red shoes and had a jolly nice time.
I'm loving my set now - it takes me about 10-15 minutes to do, usually sitting in bed watching catch up tv late in the evening. It does desperately need a cut though - my split ends are getting out of control!

On the Sunday we went out to see a couple of friends for coffee, and I threw on an outfit that I was actually very happy with. I'm less happy with the pictures - I took dozens and these are the best of a very bad bunch.
The cardigan is from Debenhams and is new - I'm seriously considering getting one in another colour , maybe this black and white one, because it's light and pretty and beautifully fitted. The blouse is very old and from a charity shop, I bought it years ago and 'rediscovered' it at my parent's house! Love it when that happens! The skirt is also very old, I bought it at Coast, on a massive sale years ago. It was the last one left and a size 8, but incredibly fit perfectly. I'm a bit bigger now than I was back then, but it just fits me slightly higher up the waist now, which suits me fine. It's a lovely heavy linen too which makes it swish beautifully, but keeps it cool for the hot weather. It's a great skirt. Finally the shoes are another pair I bought in the Clarks' sale, they have an ankle strap and a nice wide heel so they're comfy and practical. Plus, they're very similar to many 40s designs I've seen. I've worn these alot since I bought them, so I think it was money well spent!
I hope you all had a nice time last weekend! ;)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Pride and pre-theatre drinks

Another delayed post - I feel like I'm constantly in a timewarp! Aside from the 1940s clothes that is...

Last week was Pride week in Bristol, a week of arts and culture events celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in Bristol and culminating in a day long festival with parades and live music on Saturday. It's only the second time Bristol has had a Pride festival and the organisers were aiming to beat the 25,000 people taking part last year, not such a daunting prospect when you realise that Bristol has around 60,000 LGBT people living and working in the city, giving it one of the largest urban LGBT populations in the UK. Despite this, the 'gay scene' in Bristol isn't that obvious, unlike Brighton, London or Manchester, say, and it's nice to see the cultural contributions made by the LGBT community given some promotion.

So it was that I came to hear about a play with a 1940s theme on Tuesday - The Darkling Plain. It's based on the sort of slightly ridiculous humour of the era, sighting Noel Coward as a major inspiration. It follows the fortunes of 2 families as war (The War Against Terror, spelt out as an acronym) is declared and their young men go off to fight for their country.
I'm not normally one to go out on a school night, but this was absolutely worth it. The play was funny and silly in all the right places, but had enough weight to the gender and political issues to make it feel like a mature production and the love story between two of the boys fighting at the front was sympathetically developed and very touching.
Interestingly, the casting was done with a total disregard to gender, and do you know what? It absolutely worked. The twon men playing one of the mothers and her daughter were superb, they restrained themselves from being too camp and delivered their parts with depth and skill.
It all made me want to go to the theatre more often!

Sadly the promised '1940s takeover' of the theatre was limited to 2 swing dancers, some bunting and a woman doing victory rolls, but for Bristol it was about as vintage as it gets (maybe I should start a vintage pride week?) and added to the fun of the trip out for me.
I wore my red shoes and bag again (can you tell they're my new favourites?) and my Vivien of Holloway sarong style dress. I've had this for ages, but didn't like how massive it made my bust look. I realised that the sleeves were partly to blame and so I cut them off! I used the fabric to make bias facing for the sleeve holes and stitched them back together in about 10 minutes. I'm really pleased with the result and seem to have ended up with a very flattering dress (which the play's writer complimented me on! How cool do I feel?!). I left my hair down, this is at the end of day 2 of a set which is why it's looser curls than usual.

So, more fun during the week. Think I need some more evening wear...

Setting and dieting

Well, that's another week over and done with, and typically, the rain has just set in for the rest of the weekend. I was going to go to the Chap Olympiad today but ended up selling my tickets on to a friend and buying tickets to a weekend event organised by friends. As it happens, I am now in bed with an upset stomach while hubby is getting rained on in a tent somewhere in Wales...So much for my plans!
I spent Tuesday this week working at home and took the opportunity to get some housework done.
Why do my arms look massive in this photo?
I also took the chance to set my hair while I was at home. I've put it up in foam rollers with a spritz of setting lotion and this'll last me about 2 days before it drops significantly. This is actually fine for me, since my hair tends to get greasy and limp if leave it any longer between washes! When I saw my Nan and Grandad the other weekend, I was chatting to my Nan about rollers. She finds it so funny that I'd choose to sleep in rollers, just like she used to but is amazed at how soft the plastic and foam ones are, not like her metal contraptions! My Mum thinks I'm mad, of course. She is of the generation that burned not just their bras, but rollers, stockings and all those other uncomfortable things I now use on a daily basis. Weirdest of all was hearing the conversation between my Husband and my Grandad about women wearing curlers to bed, all very strange! 
If I remember I'll try to get some pictures of my set one evening. It's very easy to do, surprisingly so for someone with limited hair skills like myself, and amazingly not at all difficult to sleep in!
These are my old faithful Freddies of Pinewood jeans, teamed with a new charity shop peasant style blouse. It has smocking over the whole of the waist area, which makes it very fitted under the bust, I'm a big paranoid about the attention this draws to my boobs, but it also shows of my newly slim waist, so I take it as a win! Since I started dieting about 2 months ago I've lost 19lb and by golly do I feel different. I now only have a few pounds, maybe 4, till I reach the goal I set for myself, never dreaming I'd actually get there. Sadly, this does mean that many items of clothing, like 2 pairs of Freddies jeans, no longer fit like they used too. Even these ones are getting a bit loose in the waist. This is especially annoying when it's clothes I've made - my 1940s summer dress is now swimming on me. I don't know whether to try to take it in (tricky with the pleats and tucks on the yoke), reuse the fabric for a skirt or pass it on. It has my first ever bound buttonholes and collar, so I'm loathe to do anything that would lose them! Opinions and bright ideas welcome!

I thought I'd share this book with you while I was at it - I picked it up in a little second had book shop they have at the National Trust property I visited last week, Tyntesfield.
It was published in 1971 and is worth the massive 50p price tag for the pictures alone!
It's also full of very handy hints about different sewing techniques, like collars and buttonholes!
Of course, I didn't really need it - I have dozens of books both antique and modern about dressmaking - I just couldn't leave it there. Does anyone else have trouble resisting vintage sewing books?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Old fashioned fun

After moaning about how boring life has been in my last post, I've managed to make it out of the house twice for fun in the last week!
After work on Wednesday I went out with some of my work team and went bowling at The Lanes in Bristol.
It's a fun 50s themed bowling alley with a bar and cafe and I had a great time trying the locally brewed light ale and winning the bowling with a stunning score of 95 - more luck than judgement sadly!
My work mates had demanded I dress in 50s style, so I obliged with a petticoat and white socks to go with my glam bowling shoes!
The Lanes is also where my friend Jamie has her great little vintage shop - Gimme Shelter - and, well, naturally I had to take a look while I was there. This clutch bag was the result!
I think it's probably 70s or 80s, but it has that timeless look which carries it easily into the early 20th Century. The suede is beautifully soft and in really good condition, and the opening action is still fresh. Best of all, it's massive for a clutch and so I can fit things like my camera, purse, makeup and keys inside without over stuffing it!

On Tursday I had the day off and Tom and I went to Tyntesfield for lunch and a wander round the house. Sadly, the house is shut on a Thursday and so all we managed was a wander round the gift shop, but we did manage to get a Cream Tea in the new cafe and snap some photos between rain showers!
I wore my Heyday tweed trousers with a charity shop blouse and an elderly TopShop cardi. The shoes are new from Clarks and are really comfy - they were on sale too (still are - 50% off)! I also too my new bag - it matched the shoes perfectly!
The Cream Tea was lovely, and the hot food for lunch they were putting out as we left looked amazing, I'm absolutely going to return for a full lunch soon!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Away From Keyboard

I wish I could say that my time AFK recently has been the result of some exciting business or craft venture, but in reality it's due to a general apathy and ennui about my life in general.
Work is getting me down, my health is pretty poor and my gentle forays into Etsy and eBay of late haven't yielded any results. Life is distinctly 'meh' right now and thus the interesting things I can write about are limited. I did finally make it out of the house for a really lovely day out in Dorset this weekend, though, so I do have something fun to talk about today. We saw a friend (and got to stay on his Army base in the Officer's mess!), visited Corfe Castle and Wareham and were blessed with the most spectacular weather.
I'm wearing Vivien of Holloway trousers, M&S shirt, Vintage hat
Corfe Castle guards a gap through the Purbeck hills near the South Coast and the site dates back to the 900s, when Queen Elfrida murdered her stepson King Edward the martyr at the castle to put her own son, Ethelred the Unready, on the throne.
The castle that we see today was probably started by William the Conqueror, shortly after the Norman invasion in 1066 and was extended during the 12th and 13th Centuries, particularly by 'wicked' King John who used it to imprison some of his least favourite people, with bloody and horrible ends for most of them.
During the Civil War, the castle was a Royalist stronghold and was besieged twice. As Lord Banks, the owner at the time, was with his King, it fell to his wife to coordinate the defense and this was a great success. In the end it took the betrayal of a member of the Garrison in 1646 to end the siege. Corfe castle was one of the last strongholds to fall, and had been so difficult to capture and cost so many lives, that it was ordered destroyed by an act of Parliament. The walls were undermined and gunpowder places beneath strategic walls.
The two halves of this doorway used to meet up!
Despite huge amounts of damage, and many centuries of stone plundering by local villagers (there are some very grand doorways in the small village at the base of the castle!) huge chunks of it survive intact. They just don't build em like they used to!
The village of Corfe and the castle are both well worth a visit, it's dramatic and beautiful. The pub by the castle does very good food and has a beer garden which practically backs onto one side of the castle.
Wareham is also very lovely and there's a nice walk round the Saxon walls (now just banks of earth really) for those with the energy and footwear (neither of which I had, sadly). There are also lots of antique and crafty type shops in the very pretty streets and I had If you do visit, I highly recommend The Priory Hotel for a cream tea. We sat out on the manicured lawn and enjoyed a delicious cream tea with really solid clotted cream and fresh scones. Yum yum! It's a little spot of bliss!