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Mojo: How to lose it and get it back again

Maybe you’ve noticed the silence round these parts and maybe not but it’s been a frustrating couple of months. It started, as it often does with life getting in the way. The stress of job hunting – I’m all good with change but uncertainty does my head in – then trying to settle into a new routine of commuting in London. My small support network in England was turned on it’s head when Mum and Dad needed to return to New Zealand to care for my Poppa for a few months. Then, I had a project that didn’t quite work out the way I’d envisaged. Then the sinking feeling began that, though a good company, the position I was in was not the best fit. Cue grumpiness, a desire to wear only pyjamas and No-mojo walking on in and settling down for a couple of months. My natural instinct is to be an optimitst, but this was an uphill battle.

I know I’m not alone in experiencing this from time to time, so I thought I’d share some small things that I find help.

THE LIFESTYLE BITS

One of the key things when you’re feeling stressed and time-poor is to remember that it’s not so much about time management as it is about energy-management (I remember reading this comment somewhere – I think it was from Tilly – and I hope I’m not misquoting too horrendously).

Spring Clean – Go hard for 1 hour, it’s amazing how much you can achieve and the workout provides much needed endorphins. It’s always much easier to clear your head in a clean space.

Broccoli Frittata

Eat a real meal – It can be hard when you’re only cooking for yourself but even grabbing a pre-made bag of salad and an omelette gives you a bit of protein and some green veggies.

Pop a B-vitamin – Ladies (and particularly vegetarians like myself) are often low in Vitamin B which can lead to feeling like a sad clown.

Meditate – I’m one of those people who can’t turn their brain off voluntarily so I like to try and meditate for 15 minutes before I go to sleep at night. Just google “free guided meditation” for a range of audio tracks. This is my current fave.

Sleep – Even a single extra hour helps so at 10pm on week nights on goes the guided meditation. I make a deal with myself that if I’m still awake at the end of it I can watch a tv show but for the most part I don’t make it that far.

Music – Find a playlist you love and crank it loud (suggestions heartily welcomed). I love 8tracks.com for it’s random selections.

Make a change – I’ve found a position that’s a better fit and had a verbal job offer on Thursday.

Appreciate your surroundings - yesterday I was riding on the top story of a double-decker bus heading to Oxford Street whilst reading the Guardian newspaper. It was one of those moments where I remembered how lucky I was to be experiencing life in another country.

THE INSPIRATION BITS

Spend time with your (Bloggy) Friends – Catching up on everyone’s projects and tutorials is a great kickstart. It’s such a genuine and supportive community to participate in. I’m putting together a Blog Roll page right now so it’s a great excuse to catch up.

Take on a ChallengeMe-Made-May’12The Colette Palette Challenge, or if you’re not ready to part with the PJs then Karen’s Pyjama Party.

Window Shop – Like many sewers, I don’t really shop any more so taking time to browse through the High Street can provide inspiration. My British picks – Toast, Whistles, and Cos.

Cos/Toast/Whistles

Cos/Toast/Whistles by lazystitching

Try a Different Craft – much like a change of scenery, swapping sewing for a knitting or crochet project can get your motivation running again.

Shopping – Browsing the newest releases like Colette Pattern’s latest can get the creative juices flowing or even better, fabric shopping with friends.

Colette Patterns: Hazel Dress

What do you do when you’re in a funk?

T.G.I.F. + More Croquis

Just wanted to pop in to say hi and a humongous thank you for all the encouragement too. Things have been plenty better this week with several interviews. The positions are mostly a step down from what I was doing but with good companies so keep your fingers crossed. Unfortunately, the whole process has kept me off the internet for the most part but here are a couple of things entertaining me this week:

Personalised croquis are popping up all over – I think the Colette Sewing Handbook was a popular present this Christmas! The one above is from one of my favourite new discoveries – Shona Stitches.

And Lauren from Lladybird has a great tutorial for creating a digital version.

Other Mini-versions of your favourite bloggers:

Elsewhere:

{source} Handmade Mess

  • Handmade Mess has a hilarious pictorial description of the trials of making your own wardrobe.

{source} bernieandi.wordpress.com

  • Bernie and I makes great Detail Inspiration posts like the collars one above.

I’m off to the Crafters Ceilidh first thing tomorrow so it’s early to bed with me. I’ll leave you with this gorgeous sunrise at my Aunty’s place north of Auckland and the playlist I’ve been listening to all week. Have a peaceful weekend and if you’re off to Edinburgh too – See You Soon!

http://8tracks.com/mixes/485514/player_v3

Breathe Me from Shannonigans37 on 8tracks.

Personal Post

I almost accidently uploaded my CV instead of an image, which is why I’m taking a wee break.

Hey guys,

The job hunting situation in London has me a little consumed at the moment so I’m going to take a blogging break for a couple of weeks. I appreciate all the support you guys give me and I didn’t want to just drop off the face of the earth. Hopefully I can manage a post here or there and I’ll be checking in on twitter but I need to be head down, bum up right now or there’ll be no money for sewing at all.

xo Alana

The Toast Tunic

At what point does a Sorbetto stop being a Sorbetto? I’m not sure of the answer, but I do know Colette’s free tank top pattern hasn’t let me down yet.

One of my favourite discoveries in England has been the phenomenon of the Toast Catalogue.

Toast is clothing/homewares store that stocks simple designs in beautiful quality fabrics. Their campaign shoots are just stunning and have made them their own niche in the world of catalogues.

They are (somewhat humorously) described in the Guardian as

“[being] synonymous with an idyllic, relaxed and creative way of life where people breeze around their Venetian palazzo or Scottish bothy looking beautiful. The catalogues are famous for their photography, shot on location in Lapland, Argentina or Sri Lanka. And Toast customers from Notting Hill to the Outer Hebrides buy into that way of life when they order their Fair Isle wool socks or their faded floral silk dressing-gowns. “

Toast Catalogue

One of my favourite items are their kimono-sleeved tunic dresses which they do in several fabrics, so it was a natural leap from my kimono-sleeved sorbetto to this dress. I widened the neckline, added cuffs and lengthened it straight down.

The problem is that it was so quick and easy to make… now I want more in silk… and wool…  and velvet… sigh.

 ETA: Tutorial for altering the pattern has been added here :)

Hopes for 2012, Baby!

I know, don’t I look all festive and celebratory?

In actual fact, I’m having a quiet new years more along these lines but I hope whatever you’re doing you are having a lovely time!

2011 was a bit of a write-off for me personally, the first 6 moths were spent working extremely hard and reaching the decision to leave the company I had spent all my adult working life with. The last 6 months were spent relocating from New Zealand to the other side of the world and reconnecting with family.

For 2012 I don’t have any big plans other than settling into a comfortable routine, starting with a job. I’m rather out of practice with the whole job hunting process so it’s a steep learning curve (not to mention the fact that I hate trying to sell myself) but, in order to make this London thing work, it’s a necessity. My background is in hospitality Training and Development and if I can find a position in a company with a solid positive work culture I’d love to continue doing that but if not I’m happy to find something else. All I want is an engaging job, paying enough to cover rent, bills, and fabric, and most importantly for me – working with and for good people. Hopefully it isn’t a pipe dream.

This is also the year I turn 30, if I’m happy, calm and content at the end of it, it will have been a good one.

Sewing wise I have bigger plans. I feel like I coasted a bit this year and didn’t really go out of the way to learn or progress my skills; this year I’d like to focus on challenging myself more.

  • Move to lazystitching.com: Last year I purchased my own domain name (how grown-up!) and I want to have moved to the new address by the end of February. The hold up is that I’m determined to teach myself html/css so I can design it myself, which ties in nicely with my belief that the internet can teach me anything. It’s actually really fun and I’m using a series of online tutorials called Don’t Fear the Internet as well as resources from Pugly Pixel.

Don’t Fear HTML from Jessica Hische on Vimeo.

  • Fit a perfect sloper: For Christmas this year, I finally got my hands on Palmer/Pletsch’s Fit for Real People from Mum + Dad. Their Full Busted DVD is one of my favourite resources and this book has a lot of love in the sewing community. The graphic design may be dated but the content is irresistible so much so that I can’t imagine sewing anything else until I make the fitting shell I’ve had in my stash for the last 6 months.

  • Take a pattern drafting course/Buy a mannequin: After drafting a few Sorbetto variations, I’d really like to learn more about pattern-making. Tilly and Suzy have both used courses with the London College of Fashion and that’s all the endorsement I need. So, provided I’m in a position financially, I’d like to do at least one course. Also related and reliant on moolah, is the hope to attain a dress form.

  • Make a pair of jeans + a winter coat: I want to up my skill level by tackling some of the techniques and garments I’ve been putting off for most of the time I’ve been sewing. Namely, fly-front pants, bound button holes, and bagged lining. All of which are used to make two wardrobe essentials – jeans and a winter coat. In the BMV sale, I’ve ordered a McCall’s Palmer/Pletsch jeans pattern and Simplicity 2508.


  • Sew more vintage patterns/Create side project: After making my first dress from a Vintage Pattern a few weeks back, I’m determined to make more use of vintage patterns in 2012. This ties in too, to a little monthly side project I have in the works. It sounds very secret squirrel but it’s not –  I’m just working on the details still so watch this space.
  • Attend V&A talks: Mela has written a couple of great posts on expat guilt on her Sifting Through blog and I can appreciate where she’s coming from. I often feel guilty about not making the most of London and I’m in a city where I don’t really know anyone – making new friends as an adult is challenging, y’all! It makes me miss my friends back home even more. I think the answer is just to say yes to as many opportunities as you can – you never know what will happen. One of those things is to attend more of the museum events that London specialises in. In particular the V&A often has talks by well-known fashion designers so I’d love to catch one of these.

Balenciaga: The Work of a Master - V&A, 19:00, Jan 23 2012

  • Buy better quality fabrics: My secret shame is the amount of polyester in my wardrobe. Being in a big city provides access to better quality materials at a range of prices so I’d like to step up the quality of the fabrics I’m using.
  • Have a go at some “advanced” patterns: I feel like I was more fearless when I first started sewing – I made a boned corset top for my 6th form school ball – and I scoffed at pattern difficulty ratings. Now I worry about making  mistakes and wasting fabric instead of just having a go so I have a couple of designer Vogue patterns heading my way.
  • Utilise more pins from Pinterest: Lastly, something I’m sure anyone on pinterest is guilty of , I’d like to make better use of the inspiration photos pinned to my boards. It’s so easy to put them there and forget about it, but maybe once every 2-3 months a pinterest challenge wouldn’t be a bad thing.

A little Erdem from my pinterest board

Heres to a exciting and rewarding year!

A Vintage Christmas Colette Macaron

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This is my second version of Colette Pattern’s Macaron dress although the first, which you can see here, was really a wearable muslin. For this version I finally got to use this lovely vintage cotton floral twill I found at a cool vintage fabric store just off Brick Lane, simply called The Shop.

Image via thevintageguidetolondon.com

Every Thursday they get new deliveries, and while it’s not as cheap as a charity shop find (they specialise in fabric not clothing) there is plenty to hunt through and it’s still quite reasonable.This was a 3 yard length although very narrow (35in) and it cost £6.50.

I wasn’t sure what t0 do with it but I think the vintage feel of Colette Patterns make a nice fit and I needed something nice but still warm and comfortable for Christmas Day. The red and green of this print don’t shout Christmas but sort of give it a subtle nod, like Joni Mitchell’s River*, not a Christmas song as such but it sure evokes the season.

 I made a number of changes with this version:

  • I kept the FBA in tact (detailed FBA posts here and here) but I shortened the darts under the bust by one inch.
  • Lowered the neckline by 5/8in as I felt a little choked by the high neck.
  • I had a problem of the bodice pieces not matching at the side seams of the last version so I adjusted the edges to make sure they were exactly the same length.
  • I widened the midriff band to 3 1/2in.
  • Made the skirt wider. I love the tulip shape of the original but I wanted something looser and longer for this to be a winter version.
  • Lastly I lengthened the sleeves to elbow length and added a cuff inspired by Adey’s version of Vintage Simplicity 3074 on the Sew Weekly.

And in the end it’s the little things I love most about this dress, the cuffs, the pockets set into the pleats and the sweetheart bodice. I’m so glad I gave it another go and now I have something to wear for my very first English Christmas!

*Any excuse to include a little Joni.

Sew-free Sunday + Walthamstow Market

Hey guys,

I’ve decided to start collecting all the random things I come across when I’m procrastinating instead of sewing in a weekly post. Some are sewing related and some are just random.

Welcome to Sew-free Sunday.

This week:

  • I have three works in progress but I wasn’t feeling inspired by any of them this week so I thought I’d just pop up toWalthamstow Market for a little inspiration.

General malaise + fantastic deals = a whopping shoppers high.

When I eventually came to on the Victoria Line train, I was swamped by 26 metres of fabric and only a hazy recollection of parting with £60. I may have needed a very strong cup of tea and a lie down when I got home.

Don’t get me wrong the deals are unbelievable, it’s just that I forgot for a moment I’m unemployed and as such should be much better behaved.

Please make me feel better and tell me I’m not the only one this happens to.

  • If you’re ever having a bad-body image day, the ladies over at xojane.com never fail to cheer me up and put things in perspective with their frankness and complete lack of boundaries. Sample writing: “Most shirts give the general appearance that my back mounds are being lovingly cradled by the fabric, like a very low and unsexy pair of back breasts.” (P.s. the lovely Mena from sew weekly sometimes pops up as a contributor, too).
  • Other things that make me happy… Babies! A second cousin came over yesterday and much time was spend baby cuddling. Biological programming or no, holding a baby makes my soul feel good.
  • On body image, this one is for anyone who thinks losing weight will be the answer to happiness (hint: that used to be me). I was looking through some old photos on Mum’s computer and I found this one from 2004.

This is at my smallest adult weight but to my eyes I look awful. I see the blankness and exhaustion around my eyes and the tension in my body and when I see photos from this period I just remember how unhappy I was. The pounds don’t take your problems with them.

Heavier, but happier two years later in Tonga, although to be fair, it’s scientifically impossible to be unhappy whilst drinking a cocktail from a coconut. Laborious research has proven it.

  • Neither can one be unhappy whilst watching jello jiggle.

Get your jelly on – LADY IN RED from Billy Law on Vimeo.

Billy Law made 30 desserts in a cone shaped jello mold in October for Breast Cancer awareness and each was put to the jiggle test.

  • Lastly I’ve been feeling a little homesick, so this slice of kiwi humour (albeit addressing a serious topic) and accents hit just the right spot.

So there you have it. My advice this week: shop mindfully, give yourself a break, drink cocktails from tropical fruit, hold babies, make jello + don’t drive drunk.

xo Alana.

Colette Patterns Fall Palette Challenge

This autumn Sarai & Caitlin from Colette Patterns are reprising their palette challenge from Spring with the Fall Palette Challenge.

I’m really excited to participate as my feeble attempt at Self-Stitched-September has been hamstringed by my lack not just a lack of self-stitched clothing, but clothing in general. In fact, my entire wardrobe since moving to London consists of:

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 tee shirts
  • 1 shirt
  • 2 tops
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 coat
  • under garments, pjs, tights etc.

People pack more than this when they go on vacation.

I’ve had a really chilled summer and the only people I know over here are family so there hasn’t been a need for pretty new clothes but summer is fading and the time has come to start job-hunting so the challenge has appeared in perfect time.

So here goes. The challenge is low stress and spread over 8 weeks, although I’m going to run it out to the end of the year and try for a few more items.

The first step is to pick a palette for the season. Over on pinterest, I’ve been happily collecting inspiration on a fall pinboard, as have many other participants,  then I mashed some of them together and came up with this:

(Visit pinterest for the sources)

I love the intensity of the almost neon yellows and golds against the warm ashy greys of the tree trunks so that was my start point.

It was so hard to narrow down the choices though so instead of just four or five colours I picked a range of neutrals and fancy colours that will hopefully all work together and incorporates some of the RTW items I already have.

As you can see the iron oxide orange picks up on the colour of my Rooibos dress so I’m counting that one as my first item just so I can say I’m not as behind as I could be.

The next step is to plan the other items in the challenge but I’m still finalising my picks so that will have to wait till next time.

x Alana

Sewing in a New Country – British Buys

In addition to what was packed in my suitcase, I thought I’d share what I’ve bought since arriving.

Ray Stitch is the brand new bricks and mortar version of the online store. Happily they are located on Essex Road just around the corner from my parents place in Islington, the store is gorgeous, warm and inviting. I stopped by for a coffee and walked out with new pins, denim machine needles and some gorgeous cotton for the pockets of the denim shorts I’m making.

Pattern making supplies: Brown paper and 40cm ruler from Ryman Stationers. Pattern Cutting Board (I swear these are almost impossible to find at home!) from Ditto Fabrics in Brighton. Also at Ditto I found a couple of lovely remnants.

A floral cotton sateen for Simplicity 2512.

Stripey knit for a scoop necked tank top.

I really couldn’t afford much when I visited the famous Liberty, certainly not fabrics at £19/m, however they too have a remnants table, with 1 meter cuts of cotton for £12. I picked a soft blue ditzy floral and whilst I was a little apprehensive that Liberty have been hyped so much that I would be disappointed once I got it home, I must so the quality of the printing is insane. See if you can tell the right side from the wrong below.

Whilst were talking London landmarks for fabric, I made a far too brief visit to Goldhawk road to grab some fabric for a couple of muslins. In particular I was looking for 6mm woven gingham to make McCall’s fitting shell (2718).

The pattern was one of four I bought online when the McCall’s patterns were on sale. You can see from the envelope illustration that it’s pretty dated but the instructions are from Fit for Real People‘s Palmer/Pletsch so I’m looking forward to playing around with fitting.

(Two more Palmer/Pletsch – McCall’s: 5974, 6331, and Vogue: 8491)

Another online purchase – twin ballpoint needles to sew that stripey knit above!

One of the first UK purchases was from another local – the Make Lounge on Barnsbury St – where I picked up a bias binding maker for all those Sorbetto Tops planned and another tricky find in New Zealand – dressmakers carbon paper.

I picked up a tracing wheel for the carbon at Goldhawke Road, along with a fly zipper and some piping cord for the Rooibos sewalong.

And that friends, is how you blink and find yourself with a sewing stash.

Preparing to Sew in a New Country


I thought I’d do a little post about how I’ve managed the move to the U.K. in terms of my sewing space and materials. Moving countries in itself is a bit of a nightmare in terms of packing, and even more so when you’re limited to 20kg (~44lb) weight so what I packed was determined by:

  1. The weight and size of the item
  2. How costly it might be to buy
  3. Would I need it straight away or could I wait until I needed it for a project
  4. What projects I already had planned

In the end I was so pressed for time* that I packed mostly by gut feel but it worked. Here’s what made the cut and why:

I used a small ziplock bag to house all the bits and pieces together.

The Basics:

Pins, measuring tape, hand sewing needles, chalk wheel, fabric scissors. These were the essentials, chosen for necessity.

Small Items:

Bias binding, twill tape, self covered buttons. Chosen because they’re useful and small enough not to add to the weight.

Project Specific:

Black, white and navy thread because they’re the colours I use most. Turquoise, cobalt, magenta thread for specific fabric I had packed.

Cost Saving:

I’d heard horror stories about the cost of notions in the U.K. so I packed some zips as insurance although when I arrived I realised they were mostly black, dress-length, invisible ones – useful just not a lot of options.

(Sewaholic: Pendrell blouse, Colette: Sorbetto tank, Macaron dress, Burdastyle: Jenny pencil skirt, Butterick: 4985 shirt)

The Patterns:

Choosing the patterns to pack was probably the hardest  - especially as I had bought a bunch of new ones just before I decided to move. I tried to stick to pattens that I had either already adjusted like the ones above or new patterns that had simple shapes like below. I figured these would be the most adaptable and wearable choices.

(Simplcity: 2562 Wide Leg Pants, 2512 Cynthia Rowley Skirt, McCall’s: 6318 Dresses, Vogue: 1025 Anne Klein Dress, 1247 Rachel Comey Blouse & Skirt, 1241 Kay Unger Cocktail dress)

The Fabric:

I tried to only pack fabric I had plans (and therefore patterns) for. In addition to 2m of denim and a piece of floral cotton for boxer shorts here’s what I packed:

Synthetic sheeny satiny type fabric in Cobalt Blue (<– sorry I’m useless with fabric types) for a cocktail dress.

Gorgeous Raspberry Silk/Cotton blend for a sorbetto.

Black cotton voile for a sleeveless Pendrell (view c).

Turquoise swiss dot cotton for a blouse (View B).

The Big Purchase:

The one thing I really couldn’t pack was my machine and being on a ramen noodle type budget I had to stay basic. Work gave me a little money as a leaving gift and I spent it on a new machine. So without further ado,

MEET ELENOR!!

She’s an Elna 2100 bought for £120 from amazon.co.uk. She’s not perfect but she tries hard and covers all the basic functions, plus she’s got a very colourful outlook with all that pink and purple.

So there it is everything I bought with me!

*(I actually would have missed my flight if the unbelievably AMAZING hire car lady hadn’t actually driven me to the airport)