Incomplete, insomnia, insane.

I have been suddenly and – stupidly – unexpectedly busy of late. Who would have thought that going back to university for a post graduate degree, attempting to scrape a living, sewing, and generally surviving, would leave me with bout 4 hours a day for the combination of sleep and blogging, and that none of the tasks would get done properly? Apparently not me, or I would never have signed up for the insanity… All of this, of course, means, that my plans for Historical Sew Fortnightly-ing, for doing side projects, of completing any projects to my own satisfaction, seeing my friends and family, and generally having any sort of breathing space have fallen by the wayside. So I’ve made a point of carving out a few minutes to post a much delayed and incomplete entry for the Bodice Challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, and added it to the list of things to be finished at a later date. Along with the planned rest of outfit to go with it…


The front cut-aways are still to be determined. It’s missing sleeves, trims, seams… but you get the picture, right? You do? Please say you do… Because I have big plans for this outfit. If I ever get the time, I have enough of the stripedĀ cotton to make a bustle/overskirt, and what I hope is enough of the blue linen left to manage some sort of underskirt, cobbled together in truly period fashion with cheaper fabric for the invisible bits. There is some weirdness happening in various parts of this which need to be addressed before that, though. And the whole hemline needs to be adjusted (it’s going to be higher in front and dip down at the back over the bustle). And there needs to be – well, there needs to be lots of things. I figure this bodice is maybe a third of the way done, if I’m generous. And that’s having cheated and machined it. What you can’t see from these photos, though, is that it’s also flatlined. I didn’t want to cheat on everything! I figured I could justify machining since they did, technically, exist then.












There are many things I would change about this in hindsight, already. Not least of them is the way I’ve done the back seams. It is in no way historically accurate. Nor it is something that I like, so I’m tempted to pull them out and re-do now that I’m not in a mad challenge deadline mode. Although I’m in mad Conservation Professional Practices easy mode, which will be followed by more essays and… If you look closely, you might just see that steam coming out of my computer, my ears, my head, as I implode from all the pressures at the moment. No wonder my sewing was not going well, with all this going on. But I have to put it aside. A certain niece has a birthday coming up, which means that all other sewing not directly relating to income must be put aside to make a Queen Elsa costume, in full Frozen/Snow Queen glory. Good thing I discovered how to get through months with next to no sleep during my first stint at uni. Shame that was more than ten years ago and my body refuses to submit to demands for alertness on a week of four hours a night. Which might go some way to explaining any incoherence in this post.




Tulle-ageddon: The Sequel

The Tulle-ageddon wedding happened on Sunday. The bride had booked me in help her get into the dress, to manage the lacing, and to help out with any last minute dress emergencies that might arise, so I’d blocked out a fair amount of time for her on Sunday. I can’t remember if I mentioned, but I also made a flower girl dress for this wedding. The girl in question lives interstate and was only going to get to try on the dress for the first time the day before the wedding. That it was the day before, and not the morning of, was the result of some none-too-subtle suggestions on my part. And lucky it happened that way. I’d worked off some measurements given to me for the dress and it turns out that someone really can’t measure. The dress was big on the girl who, it turns out, is roughly the same size as my five year old niece, even though she’s twice her age.

Suffering through the fitting process

Suffering through the fitting process

That's a whole lot of taking in and up required...

That’s a whole lot of taking in and up required…

The dress was ferried to me early on Saturday afternoon and I sat down with my unpick, cursing myself for having overlocked the seams, for sealing the bodice with the lining, for not insisting that the girl try on the dress earlier. I picked, I swore, I mentally cursed the world, and I re-made the dress, finishing up at about 11pm and heading straight to bed so I would be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the wedding preparations. When I got there, it turned out I’d been a little conservative in just how much I’d taken the dress in – it was still a little big – but incredibly glad that the work was done. In the interests of fairness, there wasn’t nearly as much tulle in this little dress as there was in the bride’s (which I never photographed properly, since I only did alterations to it), but there again, there wasn’t nearly as much girl in the dress either.

Looking unbearably sweet enough to compensate for the remaking of the dress...

Looking sweet enough to compensate for the remaking of the dress…

The poor girl was so shy I felt like I was torturing her when I was taking the photos...

The poor girl was so shy I felt like I was torturing her when I was taking the photos…

Complete with sparky belt that just wouldn't sit right. It shifted every time she moved, but I didn't have time to put in a couple of stay stitches...

Complete with sparkly belt that just wouldn’t sit right. It shifted every time she moved, but I didn’t have time to put in a couple of stay stitches…

Disconcerting Light Bulb Moment


Sewing away, if not merrily, at least busily, last night, I got a bit of a surprise. Before I explain, I ought to set the scene.

It has been a hot summer in Melbourne. As in I’m looking at the weather forecast and seeing a night coming up where the minimum temperature is forecast to be 30 degrees. That’s 86 degrees in the old speak, or American speak. It’s hot whichever way you look at it. My sewing space is a bunker – technically known as a store room – under the house. It has no windows, a door that doesn’t go all the way up and a low ceiling. It also catches the full heat of the north sun during summer, meaning that it is unbearably hot to be in there during the day. A mad rush finishing effort in the lead up to Christmas, spending 5 hours at the machines in 40+ degree heat confirmed that I need to sort out some other arrangements for hot weather. In the mean time, I try to restrict my time in the bunker to night times, and I only go down there for overlocking. It’s not ideal, but it does the job.

Except that my overlocker has also developed an issue. A while back, the light stopped working. It would flicker on and off for a while, but eventually it just went off and stayed off. I didn’t bother with replacing the globe, just adjusted a work lamp that I use anyway, and continued to sew. It wasn’t quite the same, but it did the job and didn’t need me to get out the screwdrivers to access the innards of the machine.

Last night I was overlocking the bottom edge of a very full skirt. I had layers of fabric flowing out the back of the machine, layers of fabric still waiting to be fed through, and I thought I felt a gentle thunk on the desk but ignored it while I finished the seam. I was focused on the leading edge of the fabric and not paying huge amounts of attention to anything else, really.

So it came as something of a shock when I finished the edge and moved the fabric, to feel something hard bundled into a middle of it. A little investigation revealed that it was the light bulb from the machine. Not what you expect to find but better than the spider that I found in my bedroom last week (another one of the perks of the Melbourne summer – hot nights and huntsman spiders). It had obviously stopped working because it had worked its way loose somehow, and finally the combination of gravity and sewing vibrations had been too much for it. Given that it’s a screw-in job, I’m curious about how this could have happened, but at least I’m aware of it now and now that it took about 8 years of hard sewing to go the first time. Once I unscrewed everything and put the globe back in place, it worked perfectly once again so there’s clearly nothing actually wrong with it. If the machine is still in use 8 years from now, I might splurge and buy it a new globe anyway.

A slight delay in proceedings


There has been, in a fantastic phrase from Walk the Line, a hitch in my giddy-up this week. And it’s all Ethel’s fault. Things had been going so well – two days of scraping off 80 years of grease and gunk had certain parts of her underside looking, well, almost shiny. I know – miracle. And as for her bobbin winder, which was in several pieces, well, it was looking positively radiant. And then it happened. I decided that the last screw holding a bobbin winder bit to another bit had to come out. Except that it didn’t want to come out. And, in self-defence, it bit me. Or more to the point, it caused my screwdriver to bite me.


Feeling slightly faint, I did what any good daughter of my family does when bleeding – ran to the kitchen to run the affected limb under a theoretically cold tap (yeah, not so much on the cold front, when the pipe runs through the roof and it’s yet another in a looong run of stinking hot days) and wait for Mum to come in and minister to the pain with Savlon and Bandaids. Mum definitely comes from the more-is-better school of wound dressing. My thumb, still coated in grease and with a cut that to me looked like it would require stitches, if not outright amputation, was liberally covered with antiseptic cream that oozed everywhere when she was done and wrapped in 3 bandaids and some left over surgical tape that she had from one of her own medical emergencies.

The thumb remains attached. The dressing has been downsized somewhat to a point where I can bend the knuckle now without having to work too hard. I have even been to my usual personal trainer sessions this week. What I haven’t been able to manage, though, is anything requiring pressure on the ball of my thumb. Now I’m not sure how much you use your thumbs in home/handy ways, but apparently I use mine all the time, for anything from turning the key in the front door, to holding a bowl steady when I’m making dinner. And it’s been rather difficult when said thumb looks like this:


Updates on Ethel’s progress, and my attempts to tame her resistance to a good kerosene bath, will follow when I’m certain that I’m not going to be causing either pain or infection by going back to work on her.

The Thing

I’ve been down in my sewing bunker tonight, attempting to finish off various things, and I’ve had what I will describe as a brush with death. At least it could have been. Maybe.

It has to be said that my bunker is not that tidy. So in order to get to my overlocker, I had to move various things. And that was when I saw it.

The creature

The creature


I didn’t see it quite as front on as that. In fact, all I really saw was a black skittering on the wall. I’m not even sure exactly what it was. It may have been a spider, like Aragog (above). Or it may have been something else.

All I know is that it was huge* and fast moving. I only caught a glimpse of it as it darted behind a box of rolled up tracing paper and although I moved the box immediately – if somewhat nervously – I could find no sign of it. Which just makes it that much scarier.

I am not a bug person. Rationally, I know I can crush them without breaking a sweat. I have size and speed over them. But there is something about them that just sets my teeth on edge and makes me panic – unless it’s a cute little ladybug, in which case I will ooh and aah about it. But anything that’s larger than my little fingernail, black, has multiple legs and, worst of all, is either shiny or hairy, and I revert to screaming princess. Or I would if my breath didn’t get caught in my throat and make speaking, moving, thinking, impossible. Because rational thought disappears as soon as the bug appears.

And now I’m nervous about heading back to the bunker, because somewhere in there is a creature that would no doubt survive a nuclear apocalypse. Tomorrow, I’m going to be prepared.






*OK, So perhaps it wasn’t that huge. In fact, perhaps it was closer to the image below than the one above. But I’m sticking with the near death nature of the encounter. Even this little blighter can give a bite…Imagine what his overgrown cousin can do.

A Cinderella Story

The weather has been on a hot streak lately – apart from that bit where a cool change came through on Saturday and it dropped 15 degrees in 10 minutes. Seriously – so I’ve been plundering what summer wardrobe I have and plotting how to expand it. Because it has many holes. Sadly, far more holes than I have ability, time or energy to fix right now. But the biggest gaping hole is in the footwear department.

Sure, on the surface, it seems like I have plenty of shoes. But then you remove the black ones, and suddenly there’s not so many. Take away the winter warmers, and I’m left with 3 pairs of shoes, and only one them are flats. For those who don’t know, I have back issues. I can manage to wear heels occasionally without having to send a week lying flat afterwards, but more often than that and it gets tricky. Especially on days when I’m on my feet a lot. But when I was doing my check, I suddenly remembered a pair that I bought at the end of last summer. Fabric covered cream peep toes with navy leather accents, and a jaunty polka dot bow on the front. They were gorgeous, and I haven’t ever worn them because the weather turned the other way on me when I bought them. But I could find them. I remember seeing them when I was packing to move house in July, but they haven’t been seen since. And I desperately want to wear them.

Except soon after remembering them, I remembered something else. One of the last things I did before moving was to stuff a few – seemingly empty – shoe boxes in the bin, including the 0ne that these shoes came in. And I think there was a rattle in the box. It seems I may have thrown out my own pair of shoes. $90 gone in the blink of an eye. Not to mention some of the comfiest heels I’ve ever put on.

Undaunted, I’ve begun hunting for the elusive replacement. At the moment, I’m leaning towards American Duchess’s 23 Skidoo. Also divine, but more closed in that I would like…

And I’ve contemplated heading down to the local rubbish tip to see if I can find my shoes. That’s how much I loved these. So, lesson learnt from this? Probably not. It’s also occurred to me that I may have left some shopping behind on a recent shopping trip. Left it on the counter and walked away, with an entire bag of goodies left behind. Apparently, my early training as a blond is beginning to re-assert itself. Perhaps it’s the sun, bringing it all back.

Brace Yourself

I’v been distracted from sewing this week, as I stealthily colonise the downstairs store room with my sewing paraphernalia. For the first time in years, I have a sewing-free bedroom. Or mostly, at any rate. There will be photos of the final product in the downstairs room, but it’s not there yet. So in the mean time, here’s a work-in-progress pic that I took yesterday (sorry for the poor quality – taken with a phone and no flash, so amazed that it’s this good, really).


The work in progress. And yes, that large basket on the floor? That’s full of works in progress, in various stages of completion, venerability, and likelihood of ever being finished. But on the plus side, look how neat and pretty my stash is now!


The opportunities created by a bedroom that is just for bedroom related things proved too much for me, though. Rather than do the sensible thing and get everything in it’s place downstairs, I doubled my work load and decided to re-arrange the bedroom as well. I was shifting and turning my bed – still piled high with various bits and pieces, since the only way to turn/move a bed in a confined space is to get everything else out of the way, of course – when I suddenly noticed that things no longer seemed to be moving as they should.

At this point I should explain. I have a queen size bed with an black metal Ikea frame, complete with various curlicues and posts. It’s a nightmare to move it over carpet, because it sinks into the pile and becomes incredibly resistant to budging in any way that doesn’t inlve me either getting down low and applying my whole body weight to the frame, or lifting at one corner and shoving incrementally until it is where I want it to be. I got the bed halfway turned and in the middle of the room before the problem began. I got impatient and gave it a sharp tug backwards, when a corner sagged, there was a clanging sound, and a wood-on-wood noise. Yep, I broke my bed.

In my own defence, the corner in question was already weakened. Somewhere in my many moves the weld holding a crucial bracket in place had half popped. Of the two welds supposed to be holding the bedrail in place, only one was still functional. Turns out that tugging on the opposite end of the bed is a sure way to get this particular weld to give as well. Lucky for me, muscle arrived home at that point, so I have help to manouver things into a semblance of normal. With his help, I could prop the frame on carefully selected books (not for size or strength, rather for how unlikely it was that I would be fussed should they be damaged by supporting my bed. Thank god for university books on theory of literature and architecture). Catch was the rail kept moving to the side and collapsing again. The solution? The rail is now braced off the wall and seems to be holding. Of course, given that the buttressing involves a small carry-on sized suitcase and a large roll of yellow trace, it’s not perfect by any stretch, but it has to do for the moment. I debated taking a photo of this, but the room is still such chaos generally, thanks to having to stop re-arranging and get on with building my bed, so I wasn’t brave enough to immortalise my own messiness to that extent.

My sleep last night was rather careful, let me tell you.