May is a month of celebrating who we are as a community and what we do. Zoe’s Me Made May challenge is arguably the biggest event on the sewing blogger’s calendar and for years we have proudly paraded our self stitchery and dutifully documented our daily outfits. I have learned so much from participating (May 2013 // September 2011). Wearing handmade is no longer an Event with a capital E, waiting for someone to point out that wonky hem or mismatched seam. This confidence came from challenging my comfort zone. Now a days, you could ask me if I made what I was wearing on any given day and I’d probably have to look down and check because there are no longer two parts to my wardrobe.
And so with this in mind, I went back and forth on whether to participate this year – do I need to be taking selfies every day this month?
But here’s the thing – Zoe is always the first person to point out that taking photos is the least important, least interesting, least manadatory part of the month.
The point is to celebrate and challenge yourself into living a more me-made life and for many people wearing what they make is the biggest part of that. For me it’s not.
My biggest challenge in the last couple of years has been the actual me-making bit. I haven’t figured out a smooth schedule, an easy managable way to incorporate this hobby into a habit when the rest of life gets in the way. Instead I’ll sew nothing for a few months, then crank out three garments in a week. Hi my name is Alana, and I am a binge sew-er.
So I am embracing Me-Made-May a little differently but with open arms. Here is my pledge:
“I, Alana of Lazy Stitching, pledge to sit at my damn sewing table and sew for 20 minutes every day in May.”
Disclaimer: I feel the need to warn you guys, this might get a little rambly and dis-jointed courtesy of the jet lag currently kicking my arse.
Now with that out of the way, let me show you my second ever* wearable knitting project – the free Gaptastic Cowl pattern from Jen Geigley on Ravelry.
I learnt to knit as a six-year-old during a short stint at a Rudolf Steiner school (we even made our own wooden knitting needles!) but for years it was always a back-burner craft. But once I started seeing this lovely and simple pattern popping up on the likes of Tasia and Kelli I knew a return to the needles was imminent.
The wool and needles came from a small shop on Walthamstow market (narrow store front on the left not too far down) I used 2x 150g skeins in a lovely mauvey colour and being a novice I didn’t realise this yarn was way less chunky than described. To compensate, I used smaller 6.5mm circular needles and cast on 191 stitches rather than the 131 in the instructions. It worked out just right for wrapping around the neck twice.
Also, it must look close to the original inspiration because when my sister saw it she said it looked just like a cowl she bought from Gap a couple of years ago. (insert happy-dance here).
Here it is with a magazine for scale.
It was pretty slow going as I mostly used time on the bus and tube for knitting keeping home-time for sewing.
I managed to get the last stitch in while standing on the tube platform at Heathrow, just in time for my flight home to New Zealand. It was perfect to snuggle into on the plane, but I definitely didn’t need it once I landed.
Auckland and Melbourne certainly put on quite a show. It was so nice to be home and great to visit Melbourne – I just wish I had longer. Still I got to have coffee in Melbourne with the lovely Leith and managed to score some lovely fabric from Rathdowne including 2 meteres of this gorgeous bird print silk (any suggestions for what to make?).
But back to the cowl – I already have wool for a second version in my favourite colour…
*First wearable item… the worlds biggest pom-pom hat.
This is a post I’ve tried to write many times but it never quite feels right. Change is a constant as we all know, but some of us take longer to settle into it than others. I needed to press pause on blogging for a while to have the space to do so. The not-so-new now job is moving a long and requires both mental and physical energy with a team of 24 staff looking to me for answers and direction and my desperation not to let anyone down saw me committing to too much and feeling overwhelmed. So for everyone who has emailed, twittered and messaged me thank you for your thoughts and I’m so sorry I didn’t have my s#!t together enough to respond.
So why am I finally hitting publish now, im-perfect as it feels? It’s the oldest cliche in the book – life is just too short for perfectionism. Recently, my 60-year-old vegan, bike-riding, physical-labouring, healthy as an ox father had a blood-clot which travelled to his brain causing a stroke and throwing our small family into upheaval. When I got the call I was at work – busy and stressed as usual – but it all fell away and priorities re-aligned in seconds. He was rushed into surgery at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgerywhere they unsuccessfully tried to break up the clot before entering the High Dependency Unit. My sister in Melbourne flew back to London. Dad is okay, now.
He’s been home now for a couple of weeks and whilst we had another scare* on Monday which resulted in a night back at UCL he is on the mend. We got lucky – he can talk fine, he can walk, he’s alive. We got lucky.
Other people don’t, in the relatives room of the HDU, there were so many conversations and stories of those who had been there for many months and you wonder how and you wonder why.
Dad is a musical person, so his biggest frustration is the weakness on his left side making it hard for him to play guitar and the remaining confusion in the affected part of his brain makes listening to music frustrating. It just reminds you that your ability to indulge in your passion can all go so quickly. So, sometimes, I sew…
*Everyone should know the F.A.S.T. Test for stroke, please share it.
There has been many a meaningful discussion of late around what we sew and why. Sewaholic’s take on frosting vs. cake and Colette Patterns’ practical wardrobe posts both put into words the thoughts I’d had about Wardrobe Planning the second time around.
For the fall Palette challenge I’d gotten excited and begun collecting images that evoked the mood of melancholy chill in the air (I’d just been to the Dianne Arbus exhibition at the Tate Modern and may have been melodramatic).
Then I found images of clothing I’d like to make and own – on the surface, a dream wardrobe.
Vintage inspired clothes that made me drool – the only problem was that when I really tried to imagine myself wearing these clothes, I couldn’t. Circle skirts that feel costumey, high waisted sweaters that choke and give uni-boob, pencil skirts that cut mid cankle and hobble anyone daring to walk more than two feet – I did not want to wear these clothes.
The reality was that on a scale between comfort and figure flattery my own balancing point falls more on the comfort side than the other.
So with the stars aligning the Spring/Summer Palette Challenge and Me-Made-May I’ve decided to bring a little more reality to the table.
Like Caitlin from the Coletterie, I’m quite a homebody and when I broke down my time into a simple pie-graph it was clear that to make it through MMM I need to plug the lounge-wear shaped hole in my wardrobe.
The next gap is with the work wardrobe. I began the new job last week (thanks for all the good wishes – I’m loving it so far!) and for the first two weeks I don’t need to worry about it but after that management training starts. I’m looking for a compromise between smart/professional but still comfortable enough to move around in. I think double-knit dresses may be my saviour.
And finally a little frosting for sight-seeing with shirt-dresses, trouser-jeans and pretty prints.
So rather than a concrete plan, this time around I have a palette of colours and a general idea of where the gaps are which seems as good a starting point as any!
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.
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.
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.
And then there is the queen of croquis Polka Dot Overload who was all over this long before it was cool (;-)) with her amazing illustrated versions.
Handmade Mess has a hilarious pictorial description of the trials of making your own wardrobe.
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!
I almost accidently uploaded my CV instead of an image, which is why I’m taking a wee break.
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.