Flies in the Ointment

The current climate means that the title of this blog has been slightly false of late. I haven’t been sewing. I’ve been eyeing off various unfinished items, but haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm to pick them up and finish them. But that hasn’t stopped me plotting new projects and eyeing off larger spaces so I can spread my cutting wings.

I went to check out a place on Tuesday, thinking that redundancies are likely to kick in early next week at my day job. I backed that up with an interview for my own job on Wednesday and walked out of head office feeling very dispirited. It seems that, even after I complained, bitched, moaned, and told them I was looking for a job outside the organisation, there is every chance they are wanting to keep me. Why, I don’t know, but if I’m in the best candidates it’s a pretty damning indictment of the others. But if I am so unfortunate as to continue my employment, I won’t get a pay out. Which means I won’t be scaling up my sewing operation. I will instead be locked into my soul destroyer of a job for that bit longer, losing that much more heart with every day that goes by.

Of course, part of the reason that I’m not able to expand is my habit of shopping. This month’s binge was at Amazon, where I loaded up on a combination of gorgeous photographic records of historical clothing, to the more practical break downs of the patterns used to create them. My favourites are the two shown below, but it’s a close run thing.

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I’ve never really been much of a fan of the natural form period – I prefer the bustle periods that bookend it – but there are some stunning ensembles in the Fashions of the Gilded Age. I can see myself putting together at least one of them, once I narrow down a fabric selection and stop spending on other things long enough to by it! The only frustration is that there are often patterns without a corresponding image to show what the pattern is for – just a vague description of the garment along the lines of “double-breasted jacket”.

The V&A books, in contrast, are all images no patterns. In their way, this series of books (of which I now own a couple) is just as helpful, given that the details shown help to give life to the garments. There is more than construction detailing – there is information on finishes, fabrics, and possible uses, what the desired shape of the time was. At the end of the day, historical clothing is driven largely by the underpinnings and without them, it is generally agreed that it is impossible to understand how fashions were put together.

Thanks to my dithering and attempts to think up ways to self-sabotage my interview, I haven’t gone in-depth in these books yet (or the other 4 that also arrived recently). Fingers crossed for a pink slip next week…


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.

New Year, New Resolutions

I’ve had some productive time away from blogging – and away from work in general – which has let me do plenty of actual sewing. The only thing that held me back over the break was the weather. I’ve discovered that my little sewing cave turns into a little oven at about 3 o’clock on sunny days, thanks to a trick of orientation that lets the hot summer sun bake the brick walls, even though there’s a two storey building about 3 m away to the north. I will actually post pictures of the finished items – all 3 of them! – when I find where my camera is hiding.

But now that I’m back at work, sewing has ground to a halt. It doesn’t help that it’s about 40 degrees outside – that’s 105 for those who calculate such things in fahrenheit – so the thought of moving away from the air conditioner is decidedly unappealing. So I’m killing time thinking up new year resolutions other than my usual “don’t make new year resolutions”. The first I’ve come up with is to keep on top of my filing here at work. Take a peek at how my desk looks after a day and a half of tidying to get a sense of how this resolution came into existence…

Yep. Exciting, isn’t it. Those mountains of paper are things that I still have to figure out what to do with. It’s not filing, but the same problem flows through into my sewing. So even though I have these things going on, I’m thinking about one of my other resolutions – to take part in the Dreamstress’s Historical Sew-Fortnightly challenge.

I completed the bonus challenge during my time off – photos will follow, I promise, but they haven’t even made it to the proper album for the challenge yet, either. A 1930s silk slip in a creamy colour that actually makes me look almost tanned. Almost. And now I’m moving onto the next one, to make something appropriate for a year ending in 13. To truly stretch my sewing boundaries, I’m going with 1813. I’ve never made anything earlier than the 20th century before, so its taking some research. The original plan was to make Janet Arnold’s 1808 riding habit, but I’ve scaled back my ambitions and am now looking at using that as inspiration for a spencer. I know, 1808 is not 1813 – but I figure a riding habit is something that you might not have replaced every year unless you were extremely wealthy (although how many poorer women would have been riding in the first place?), and also that styles moved slowly then, so the fashions are likely to have been fairly similar. Just to make sure, I’ve been doing some research.

The spencer is an odd little garment, really. It’s cropped, so it’s not exactly practical to adapt for current fashions (although that said I do have a couple of cropped cardigans that I wear with empire line dresses – so perhaps I’ll find a use for it afterall), but it was an essential element of the regency wardrobe. Most sources seem to suggest that it was an adaptation of a gentleman’s fashion. They seem to have been made to suit all seasons – having experienced the joys of a British climate, I can certainly understand the need for some sort of cover-up – and in fabrics from the most practical every day to the most sumptuous evening dress. I’m aiming a little lower, planning to use a simple cotton broadcloth which is not exactly historically accurate (the more common fabrics used seem to have been silks and wools, with the occasional foray into velvet, which I did contemplate), but as this is in my stash it is a winner. The biggest problem for me, other than trying to re-size the teeny pattern provided by Janet Arnold to fit my comparably gargantuan frame, is to narrow down the finishing details. There are so many options. Frills, braid, puffs, gatherings, pleats, double or single breasted? So, in an effort to find my way out of the wilderness, I’ve narrowed my thoughts down to these:

I love the pleats at the back of this, and will probably replicate if I can

I love the pleats at the back of this, and will probably replicate if I can

Love the idea of military frogging on the front, but have a feeling that is will be somewhere beyond my combination of time and skill at the moment

Love the idea of military frogging on the front, but have a feeling that is will be somewhere beyond my combination of time and skill at the moment

More pretty decoration that is unlikely to happen on my frist attempt...

More pretty decoration that is unlikely to happen on my first attempt…

Something more like what I think I will end up with. Although not in pink. I wouldn't want to look dead if ever I should wear it...

Something more like what I think I will end up with. Although not in pink. I wouldn’t want to look dead if ever I should wear it…




So now I’ve just got to get on with sewing the thing…

And that leads me to my second, and final, new years resolution – to cut back on the procrastination. You can see how well I’m doing so far!

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.

Living the dream

I’ve had some excellent news this morning. I will soon be the proud owner of my own private space for sewing. So I’ve started looking at how I can get it set up to best suit my needs. The stash itself should be pretty easy to arrange. Afterall, I have my shelving unit, and it mostly fits now. But there’s the crucial machine placement (and whether I can find a way to upgrade to industrial machines, but that’s a question for another day).

I have to factor in lighting. Afterall, the best sewing is done with plenty of light, right? And I need cutting space – not to mention a proper cutting table. I’m thinking that the folding picnic table I’ve been using up until now is probably not going to cut it. So I’ve been searching the internet for inspiration. And boy, is there plenty of it.

I’m liking the look of space some of these have, the elegant simplicity.

I could happily work here – although I doubt it would look like that for too long. So perhaps something a bit less minimalist would work better. The one below has a lot to recommend it in terms of practicality. It is an actual work space, rather than a designers dream of how a work space would be.

Still, it’s a little too cramped for my taste. Practical, but not spacious enough (although I am jealous of that pattern drawer unit). I’d take either of these instead:

Nice, bright, and seemingly well laid out. They look like spaces that I could easily spend hours in – provided I had the right tunes going in the background, of course.

Before I get too carried away, though, a reality ceck might be in order. Because my sewing space is not going to be a whole room, or anything close to any of the images above. It’s a storage room under the house. It has a low ceiling, no natural light, and lovely brown tiles to match the creamy bricks exposed on all four walls. Oh, and in the most interesting feature, it has a 10cm gap at the top of the door, so I’m not even certain it’s weather tight because I know it’s no dust or spider tight. It is also home to a large Ikea expedit shelving unit that I couldn’t fit upstairs when I moved in. Or rather, which I couldn’t convince the movers that they would be able to get up the turn in the stairs (so could have done it, they were just lazy). So really, my sewing room? Yeah, it’s a glorified cupboard with a couple of power points. But I still have hope. I could always do something like these:

I think I’ll start my letter to the landlord now:

Dear Landlord,

Please let me paint/wall paper/otherwise decorate the store room under the house. I want to work under there. Oh, and can I please have a glass hinged door that goes full height, to let natural light in? And while we’re at it, can I pull up the hideous floor tiles and replace them with something more…well, pretty?

Yeah. I think I’ll just start planning my trip to the hardware store for some MDF sheets that can leave with me when I eventually move out, that I can pin stuff all over, and then to Ikea to pick up a few of the gorgeous work laps I’ve seen in their catalogues. And I’ll give Dad the good news that his wood porking skills will be required for a small collapsible cutting table. See? I have a realistic plan of sorts. And, it means my machines are out of my bedroom. It’s progress.