*SPOILER ALERT* I'm still alive!
Okay, so we both know some people need a bit of a blogging break now and then. It's normal right? Often this involves a week or two of not blogging just to get some balance back or concentrate on a life project .... and it's no different for me. Except that, well, let's not beat around the bush, my couple of weeks became a year … (and a half)! Oops.
Those of you who read my last posts before my disappearing act will know that the sewjo was at an all time low. It was lots of things, over commitment, too many sewalongs, an endless procession of pattern testing .... an avalanche of things I HAD to do. Just for the record I am not especially good at things I HAVE to do. I am not a process driven sewer, I love and am driven by the 'idea' of things .... the endless choice of an inspiring tumble of fabrics, cavalcades of pattern and an ocean of making possibilities. My bloke calls this my butterfly brain. There are many things butterfly brain does not go well with: rules, spreadsheets, admin stuff, in fact non self-imposed structure of any kind. No wonder then, that the more rigidly I felt bound to sewing deadlines and pattern testing projects, the more my interest disappeared. Til it was ... well, til it was gone.
Honestly, it was just like that. I woke up one morning and it wasn't there. I went to the sewing room, looked at all the heaps of beautiful fabric, lovely patterns, yarn, buttons and silks and I felt nothing. Nothing at all. Not even the merest rustle of interest. It felt 'empty' and that kind of scared me. I decided to ignore it. Instead, I concentrated on other things I enjoyed. I read, baked, worked, watched old movies and distracted myself by every other means possible in the hope that my crafting mojo would sneak back up on me and I'd feel creative again. However, it was to be MIA for a loooong time.
Several months later I was still ignoring. Slowly month followed month, through Christmas to Easter and I didn't want to sew, knit or make anything. During this time I also expanded my business, moved premises and hired more team members. I started running (I know, how random!) and completed the couch to 5k program (then I fell over on my way to a client meeting and split my leg open on some iron fencing. Doh. I stopped running). It was now summer and work was crazy busy. I had no spare time at all and making things seemed like a distant memory.
In late summer something arrived. Unfortunately not the little creativity butterflies but instead a thumping big CLEAR IT OUT mindset. Now, I have no idea how this happened to me. There was a lot of blog talk at the time about Kon Mari and her magic books of tidying. I was my normal cynical self and laughed when a friend first told me about the book, but she begged me to read it and told me it had changed her life. So, somewhat reluctantly I read the first few pages.
I finished the book that same night and with autumn approaching my bloke and I started on a BIG clear out. I'm not going to lie, it took us months. We live in a small cottage, yet the staggering amount of stuff we had managed to accumulate in the nine years we've lived in our house was mind blowing. No wonder it wouldn't all fit! I knew I meant business when I managed to give away three sackfuls of shoes to the local charity shop without flinching. It even had red shoes in it! Red shoes … possibly my favouriteist things in the known universe. From bedding to underwear, DVDs to baking equipment we decluttered, minimised and organised. It was November when we finished. The house (and we) breathed a massive sigh of relief. (Just a wee note to those of you still cynical about the process and how long the results last … the house has stayed like this for 4 months and we never have to hunt for stuff any more. It truly has changed our life and our buying habits).
As for the sewing shed … it was unrecognisable in its newly organised and colour coordinated layout. I had destashed massively and donated huge swathes of fabric to charity quilting groups and our local resource centre, only keeping things I really loved. As I stood in the centre of my creative space I felt the little sparks of potential all around me … and the joy of rediscovering fabric long since buried. I am lucky to have some really lovely stuff. I spent a couple of Saturday afternoons mulling over patterns and looking at yarn and then something really wonderful happened … we welcomed a brand new member to our family. Meet Miss E.
Now, for those of you with good memories you'll recall that babies and I have a somewhat chequered history. Generally I have to force my face into a reluctant smile when I am handed one, trying not to remark that it looks like an evil gnome whilst secretly wishing it would transform into an entirely more appealing basket of fluffy kittens. Baby are, well, let's face facts … dull, with only four distinct operational modes: sleeping, crying, poohing & puking. However, not this time. As soon as she was born I was smitten and got an immediate itch to make something. Surprisingly, first out of the creativity shed was some wool to make a tiny berry hat. I've made these before and they are quick and simple to do and make any new mum coo with cuteness. As E's mum's fav colour is purple, I opted for a rich damson for this version, to make a mini plum hat. I finished doing the icord leaf stalk just two minutes before we went to meet our new addition. Needless to say it was a hit!
I had forgotten just what a lovely feeling it is to give someone something you have made with your own hands. Powerful stuff.
Following the plum hat success I was loitering around the yarn section of my local John Lewis when I saw an adorable pattern for a knitted fox. I fell in love with him and before you could blink had some orange, cream and black wool and a pattern tucked under my arm. When I told my Mum I was knitting a toy for a baby she looked at me like I was crazy. "You … You are knitting a toy?!" I must admit, it is out of character, and I have spent many happy years laughing scornfully at Jean Greenhowe's wonky scarecrows/clowns etc, but now I too have gone to the stocking stitch dark side! Lo and behold Rupert Foxley of Foxley Manor was born. I had a hard time giving this little fellow away (and between you and I have bought enough yarn to knit another for myself. Shusssshhh, don't tell my mum!). Miss E loves him.
Now, do ya see what I did there?! I snuck in some sewing when you weren't looking. That cute little winter fox dress and the eyecatching elephant adorned tunic dress with matching stripey binding and leggings … yep, you'd best sit down because I know it's a shock but I actually SEWED something. Ta da! Both are Lillestoffe fabric from the lovely KitschyCoo, the most divine organic cotton jersey in gorgeously graphic jewel toned prints. Surely the best possible thing for children's wear. The little fox dress is an adaptation of the Skater Dress (a special sized down version for wee bairns) and then the tunic and leggings were picks from Etsy downloadable pdfs. I have to say that children's clothes are great … tiny pieces so you can make them from the eensiest bits of fabric, zero fitting (woo hoo) and short, short seams. I ran these babies up on the overlocker and they took less than an hour each. Ultimate feel good sewing.
With these under my belt I decided it was time for a little sewing for me. So what to sew when it's been a long time since you made anything for yourself? Well, I knew it would have to be a knit as they are so much more forgiving in the fitting department. I went through my saved posts on Bloglovin and kept coming back to Cashmerette's Appleton Dress. When the dress was released I was immediately intrigued .... patterns you could make as a full busted woman that didn't require messing around with sticky tape, tissue paper and rulers for the afternoon … count me in! I also couldn't find a single bad version of the dress in the blogosphere – it seemed to work with all kinds of stretch fabric on every kind of figure. My fellow CSC buddy Jenny had also been kind enough to send me a copy of the pattern when it was released.
DISCLAIMER: Just FYI, a free pattern does not equate to a biased review. I'm always going to tell it exactly like it is, because, well … that's how I roll!
Anyhow, I spent the whole of Sunday in my newly organised sewing space. I found some thin viscose knit I ordered from the internet several years ago to use as a toile. My plan was to make a wearable muslin (we'll come back to this shortly). I started by cutting out the fabric (in single layers so as to get the best possible outcome) while listening to the David Bowie tributes on the radio. I sang along loudly along to Diamond Dogs, Life on Mars and generally remembered all the reasons I loved sewing in my little shed as I worked. Ferris the cat came along throughout the day to helpfully lay in the middle of my fabric, rub his face on the sewing table and paw at my knee for food. It was a lovely time.
Happy with my cutting out I gathered up my pieces to start sewing. I had the handy sewalong posts to reference for the tricksier parts of the pattern (although it's simple it does require some thought on the facing bands and ties), when I realised something had gone awry. I don't know if it was the singing a-long that meant my attention dropped or constantly opening the door for my visiting purry friend but somehow I managed to end up with this …
Eeek! Oh dear. I somehow managed to cut two fronts the same way round (even after spending ages checking I wasn't). Bugger. Please excuse the inside out lower front. Still, at least it's a pretty good fit. I think my biceps are a bit bulgier than most as I need another inch or so on the widest part of my upper arm, otherwise, for something run up straight from the pack it's looking pretty good. I am going to go for a slightly thicker knit in my final version as I feel pretty exposed in this and it seems to highlight a bit of a sausage belly issue at the moment. That may not be the pattern, it may just be my sausage belly, but I'll keep you posted. I guess I could always wear it with a pair of Big Pants. For me, at 5ft 6 the waist was perfect and the built in swayback adjustment also a blessing. My only other observation is that the three quarter length sleeves run a little short to the norm (although if you check out the picture of Jenny on the pattern envelope it's a good representation) – once hemmed I would definitely say they were more of a long elbow length so you might want to add a little length depending on your personal preference. However, the big bonus of the pattern? As promised by the blurb, the girls are safely covered and the wrap section does not move … at all! Awesome.
Meanwhile I have made a crazy eBay purchase of some outrageous leopard meets denim meets rose print polyester knit to give this pattern another go. It's a better weight but I'm not sure even I can pull off such a crazy print. It's on the cutting table so time will tell.
I have to say, it's good to be writing again. I have missed this whole blogging thing. Thanks, as always, for reading.