Monday, 23 August 2010

Vintage at Goodwood

No time for a proper review, so here are some pictures from Vintage at Goodwood last weekend. I'll write something insightful and interesting about it later. Probably.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Progress at last

I was sewing till about 12.30 last night, but I did make some progress with my dress. I've finished the bodice, so I now only have the skirt to stitch together, gather into the waist (urk!) and then put in the concealed zip. Maybe 'only' doesn't cover it. Still, I reckon that's about 1 day of sewing and I'll be done.

See the understitching next to the seam?
I learnt all about understitching last night. Understitching is where you take your seams and sew them on to the lining, to stop edges of lining or facing rolling forwards. It gives a much neater and more professional edge and is pretty easy to do. There's an excellent guide here on YouTube that helped me.
Before (left) and after (right)
However, I did make one mistake, which was trying to irom my seams down before stitching. As you can see form the photo below, the pins left massive holes! I'm hoping they'll fade or be repaired by ironing later. So annoyed with myself!
Today will be mostly spent on some much needed housework and garden tidying and then it's back behind the machine tomorrow.

I also just wanted to share Debi's version of the simplicity pattern I'm planning to sew for the Hepburn and Hepburn project - what amazing colours. Thanks to Sarah for tellinbg me about it. I'm very excited now!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Hepburn and Hepbut project

I've decided to join in Sarah's project sewing - somehthing related to one of the Hepburns. Since no part of me could be described as petite, I'm not going to go for Audrey.
Katharine Hepburn, on the other hand, has been one of my favourite actresses for a long time and inspired my middle name (Lauren Bacall having inspired my first!), so I'm going to give an outfit in her style a go. Eva Dress have a 1930s dress which is apparently something she wore in her first film. It's nice, but I'm not sure it's my thing.
Instead, I think I'm going to go for Simplicity 3688. I like the trousers and the top, so I'm going to give the 2 a go. As soon as I get back from Goodwood I'll be buying some suitable fabric and will probably start on the trousers.

Sarah is giving away some lovely patterns in conjunction with this sew along project - check out for full details!

Slow progress

I spent most of last night sewing and catching up on series 5 of Doctor Who. I must say, after initial misgivings that I quite like Matt Smith. He's no Daviod Tenant, but then few people are!
Anyway, there's not much progress to report on the dress. I've sewn together most of the bodice and am about half way through constructing the lining. I think I may get as far as finishing the whole bodice tonight, as the gathers are what's taken the most time and they're all done now.

I'm a bit worried that the gathers on the right look tighter than the ones on the left. I'm hoping it's only my imagination and that they'll look ok once it's on.

In other news, my new feet (the type for sewing, though with the state of my heels right now I'd appreciate the other kind) arrived. I have a concealed zip foot, specifically for this dress, a blind hemming foot, probably for this dress too, and a tiny hem foot, which turns under a tiny hem and sews it in one! Not sure when I'm going to use the last one but it seemed like such a sensible idea I oculdn't resist!

My knitting pattern also arrived. Not being a very confident knitter I'm not sure when I'll get round to using it, but it's nice to have around just in case! If I really get stuck I might ask my mum to make it for me!

And finally, here's my cat's new favourite sleeping spot, just because it's in my way! She's too cute to kick out though.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

I love...

The interweb is full of people I admire and I read blogs every day that make me jealous of how talented, funny and interesting they are. It helps to keep me on my toes and inspires me to greater things.
Today I want Melony's shed. Check out her fack of vintage patterns. Awesome or what?! She's also very creative and has done some very imaginative things fabric that turn our beautifully.

Hair today, longer tomorrow (hopefully)

No sewing last night, as I went to get my hair cut by my good friend and multi-talented superstar, Jamie. My hair has long been a source of frustration to me. It's poker straight and very fine. It's also on the greasy side of normal, so I have to wash it every day to stop it from looking lank. It also refuses to hold a curl without industrial intervention.
After being really kind to my hair (no treatments, colours, curls or anything) for a good 18 months last year in preparation for my wedding, I had a mad moment, decided to get it all chopped off and go for a Louise Brooks bob. It's a look that suits me, and my hair, and I worked the 1920s thing for a bit. Then I realised that all my clothes were more 40s, and that I just can't wear the 20s shape. Something about looking like a frumpy sausage. So, at the start of this year I began growing my hair out and an now aiming for a 40s pageboy style like this.

I figure I only need to get my hair to hold a curl at the ends this way! So yesterday Jamie cut my hair into the right shape - longer at the back and curving up to the face. I need about another 1 ½ - 2 inches on the back and it'll be about there, I think. I gave the curling a go this morning and it's looking pretty good (photos later if I can get some before it all falls apart).

It was very simple, which is what I need! After my shower, I put mouse in my hair and blow-dried it, curling it under with my vented brush while I dried. Then I took my curling irons and just flipped the ends under, angling the irons towards my face at the front sections of my hair. It was very quick and probably only added 5 minutes to my morning routine. I think the time aspect is the biggest issue for my hair - If I could get up early enough to put my hair in heated rollers or something I'd be laughing, but I have enough trouble getting up and to work on time as it is! So, I'm hoping this may be the answer to all my problems, and that by Christmas I'll have a nice 40s barnet!

StrawberryKoi  has an excellent tutorial for a large range of vintage styles, including the pageboy on YouTube for those of you with longer hair and the time to curl it first!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

M.E. and me

Inspired by the excellent blogs of Karen and BillyGean, I thought I'd write about something which is major, if unwelcome part of my life; my ME.
For the uninitiated, ME (or CFS) is an illness with no known cause, no known cure and is characterised by tiredness. It affects everyone differently, but for me it leads to aching limbs, no physical energy, no mental energy or motivation. At my worst I'm so tired I can't raise the concentration or energy to talk to my husband, I stumble around putting my coffee into the washing machine and my laundry in the bin because my brain won't work. It stops me sleeping, and all I want to do is sleep.

It makes my eyes throb and my stomach turn, and makes me so uncomfortable I can only flop on the sofa in the very softest pyjamas to feel ok.

However, it's not always that bad. Many days I'll feel fine, or only as though I had a late night. My bad times come about once every 3 months, and last about one month. I still have ups and downs in my good times, but they're usually because I've been out and dome something fun and am suffering for it!

The one thing which makes me luckier than most is that I'm still able to work. I work a regular, full time office job. Fortunately, I have flexi-time, so I can go home early if I'm feeling bad and make it up another week. I actually think that I could probably justifiably go part time, but working does keep my mind busy and makes sure I get up every day and go out. I think without it I'd be in the house all the time and would start to doubt whether I could live life like a normal human being. That said, I'd have way more energy to have fun than I do now.

It's an embarrassing illness to have so young (as many people do), since I never go out. I frequently cancel after work drinks, because when it comes down to it, I don't have the energy. When I went on a walking tour of Bath with a load of 50 and 60 year olds, I was the one sitting down every few minutes. And because I look fine, people think I'm lazy, or avoiding them. They don't know I'm going home to flop pathetically on the sofa. Other than telling everyone about it (which I hate - I don't want to be ‘ME girl’, or be thought of as weak) I can only make lame excuses about what I'm doing or why I'm tired.

Karen wrote the other day about being depressed and frustrated by her down times, but actually I've come to terms with mine. I know they don't usually last more than a month and I'm beginning to accept that I just have to live in a tip during these times, wearing crumpled clothes and eating instant foods, because, in a few weeks, I'll feel fine again. This actually suits my all-or-nothing personality. I can do a day's worth of ironing when I'm feeling good and then afford to slack off when I'm feeling bad. I go from periods of complete inactivity to frantic domesticity quite quickly, and I'm beginning to be ok with that!

Something else Karen said was that in the good times, you feel like you'll never be ill again, and in the bad times you wonder if you'll ever get better. That's so true to me and it's the reason I didn't go to the doctor with my symptoms for about 4 years after they started - either I just couldn't bare to make the appointment or I didn't think I needed it. In the end, I only got an appointment because my manager, having felt a bit tired and under the weather for a few weeks was diagnosed with cancer. That scared me and after a barrage of tests I was diagnosed with mild ME in the winter last year.

I should have known better really. I did a degree in Herbal Medicine and in the Uni clinic I saw a lot of people with ME, I looked at case studies and clinical trials – I know a lot about it! In my final year of Uni, just after Christmas, I got the flu. Rather than going to bed I tried to carry on as normal. Until then, I'd been in the gym 7 days a week. Two sessions a week of Kung Fu and Fencing and then about 40 minutes in the gym on my days off, sometimes I'd fit in a short weight session before the mainly cardio fencing. I was 9 stone, borderline ‘underweight’ for my 5’9” height but eating 5 full meals a day. I was toned and strong and fit, I slept well and I felt better then than at any time before or since. So when I got the flu I thought I could cope. I went on with my sports and took my exams despite feeling like death, until one day I couldn't get out of bed. I spent a week there, in the end, and when I could finally get up, I was weak and shaky and sleeping all the time. I found I couldn't do the exercise I'd managed before and so I struggled through the last of my uni course, in a fog of tiredness and wrapped in a duvet.

To cut an already long story short, I've basically been that way ever since. I feel as though I've got gradually better and I've started doing basic exercise as and when I can. My main goal at the moment is to build up a good base level of fitness and lose some weight. Since being 9st in 2006, I've gone up to 11st5 (yesterday). It's a blow to have gained so much, and to be able to do so little about it! Still, I appreciate that I'm luckier than most ME sufferers, and many, many people with really horrid illnesses and I am thankful for that. 2010 is the year that I get a grip on ME, and I'm determined to get to the end of the year feeling better and doing more with myself and, more importantly, more with my husband who has supported me and suffered through my sofa days without complaint.

One of the reasons for this blog is to think about something that isn't feeling ill for once. I hope by creating a pleasant diversion for myself, I can start to leave the ME behind and return normality. Bring it on!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Busy busy busy

Last night was cutting out, and it took me forever!

I had to cut 4 of each piece, and since I'm rubbish at cutting straight, I took my time and did each piece twice. Then I had to do my tailor tacks and notches.

I now have all the pieces cut out and am going to stitch about half the bodice before bed tonight. I figure if I get half done tonight, half Wednesday, the skirt on Thursday and sew it all together on Friday, I can hem and finish etc at the weekend and will still have 3 days spare before Goodwood for any last minute bits and bobs. I know I have a repair to do on a pair of gloves I want to wear and I'm sure I'll find more to do once I start packing.
I'm really hoping to get it done before the weekend, as I'm probably going to be heading off to the Brecon Jazz festival with hubby. He grew up in the Welsh wilds not far from Brecon, so it'll double up as a visit to his parents and a chance to get some toe tapping done. Despite being in Brecon about six times a year for the last 5 years, we've never made the festival! I'll be pleased to finally see what all the fuss is about.

We might take a trip into Hay on Wye on the way home too (most shops are open on Sundays and closed Mondays instead) - some of my favourite antiques and vintage shops are in Hay, not to mention the bookshops. For those of you who don't know, Hay is basically a retirement home for second hand books. There are probably 20 or more second hand bookshops there, some of them are massive. Those books which don't get sold in any of the regular shops get chucked into the Castle bookshop - a courtyard in the ruined castle - on shelves, open to the elements. There's an honesty box and a standard charge of 50p a book - it's well worth a rummage! It's a wonderful place, very olde worldy, and between the shops and cafes you can waste a happy day there, just pottering. If you're ever in the vicinity it really is well worth a visit.
I've had a look through some patterns I've inherited from my Nan today. Most aren't to my taste but they're wonderful all the same. The children's dress is one my mum would have worn.
There is also a box of zip, saved over the years. There's a sign of a different generation, and of a poor upbringing. My mum says she remembers my great-grandad picking up bits of string in the street to keep.
Finally, and the best item, is the pattern my Nan used to make my Mum's wedding dress. It's in bad condition, but it's definately one to keep!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Toil and trouble

So, having spent a happy, if frustrating, day yesterday trying to get my mockup of my dress (butterick b5209) bodice to fit, I'm ready to start the dress proper tonight. I'll try to get some snaps of each part of the process to review the pattern and show off my ability to complicate even the most simple of processes!

As expected, I had trouble getting the gathers to fit under the bust yesterday. My underbust measurement is 28", and on bust is 38", meaning that anything shaped around the bust usually ends up sitting several inches too high. Not for me the empire line! Yesterday, I made up the bodice in muslin with the measurements for a 38" bust and tried it on.

Since it was too big in the waist I took about 2" out of the back and re stitched it. Then, because the gathers were, predictably, far too high, I drew where my underbust line came onto the muslin. I then used those lines recut the two front sections, about an inch longer in the centre as it turned out. Finally I resewed it and took a little bit of fullness out of the centre front, so it's more fitted around the bust. Since I unpicked by toile before bed last night, I don't have any pictures, but it wasn't exciting and hopefully the real thing will be worth looking at!

All of this was done while watching Gone with the Wind (I think I'm developing an unhealthy crush on Clark Gable) and Andrew Marr's Making of Modern Britain. The latter is something I'm watching not just for enjoyment, but as part of my newest project - an A-Level in History! I'm taking the 4 modules over the next 2 years and the 2 I'm doing this year are Britain: 1906-1951 and Life in Nazi Germany. I'll be taking the Britain module in January, so I've started studying for it already. Fortunately, it's a time period I know a fair bit about already, so there shouldn't be too many surprises! Andrew Marr's series, while short and high level is a very good starting point and I'd definitely recommend it. I've used it to get an overview of the first half of the 20th Century and I think it's been a good introduction. I'm really looking forwards to looking deeper into such a fascinating time!