Monday, 29 June 2015

Sewing space downsize

You guys, you guys. I'm hurtling towards the end of term in a blur of LAST MINUTE EVERYTHING mayhem. Was it a good idea to be leaving on holiday just one day after school finishes? Probably not. But it's too late to change plans now, and I have a bikini and a dress or two to finish (to start!! omf*$%g!!) before we pack ourselves into the car on Saturday morning. Thank the lord I know there'll be plenty of wine when we get there.

Needless to say - because isn't it what all sewists do before a holiday? - I have been making things like a maniac. Of course, I have no photos and thus there is no finished-garment blogging today -  I shall be photographing them on location in sunnier, beachier climes OBVS. No, instead, today I would like to present to you - ta dah!! - the attic sweatshop where it all happens. Welcome to my new, improved and radically downsized sewing space!

Now, I'm not actually grumbling about the downsize.  I knew it would come at some point, and I still have my own, now permanent, room. NOT COMPLAINING at all. But, here's the old one, bird's eye view from the mezzanine:

(I blogged about it previously here, btw). It's now my daughter's bedroom. Fair enough, that was always its destiny. But I hadn't really realised just how much of that luxuriously huge surface and floor space I'd been using, until faced with moving all my stuff to a 2x3 metre box room. If I wanted to be able to get any yardage spread out on the floor in the new space (let alone all of it with space to walk round, sob!) I had to think creatively. Likewise the ironing station. There's no room for just putting things to one side: the room is all sides and it gets clogged up mighty quick.

The answer of course has been to put things on walls. The shelving isn't exactly earth shattering, but can I just say that I have been BLOWN AWAY by the utterly brilliant usefulness of that rail with hooks (now much more cluttered than when this picture was taken)?  I'd always thought hanging your paper patterns would involve a space-hogging rack, like this:

click for source
click for source

But no! Ikea to the rescue - and they hang flat against the wall! As does anything and everything else I might want to hang on it! Leaving me room for manoeuvre at the desk, and space to move my little cutting table (in the first pic above) around to wherever works best.  The cupboard under the window is where current projects and supplies live, nicely hidden behind a wax fabric curtain thank-you-very-much. Patterns are in a separate cupboard downstairs, but I keep a queue of the ones I'll be using soon on the shelves where I can get at them easily.

I always wonder how we all fit sewing into our lives as well as our spaces, so here's a step back to show you the bigger picture. This is the top level of our house, and the two doors to the right are the kids' bedrooms:

I'm not sure why, but this arrangement of rooms suits both the kids and me much better.  Perhaps I've neglected trained them thoroughly enough, or maybe it's just what happens when they get big enough, but these days I get to spend a lot of time not actually really doing things with them. It works well for all of us that I'm there next door, and we chat while they do their various things in and between their own rooms, as well as mine. Sewing no longer seems the big deal activity it used to be when it took up so much more room, and I'm suddenly finding it easier to fit in odd minutes here and there while they're doing other stuff.

Moving the kids to rooms of their own now has also brought them a definite understanding of personal space, which is really interesting to see. When they're very small, that's one of the biggest things you lose, and I think we'd almost forgotten what boundaries were like! (They're 6 and almost 8 years old now). But they've seemed to instinctively work out that if I'm in my room, I'm doing my thing, just like in their rooms, it's their thing.  It's been a surprise and a pleasure to find us all respecting each other's space quite so harmoniously!

Plus, on those occasions it gets less harmonious, we can just shut the doors.

Ah, bliss!

(Genius wall-mounted iron stand is also Ikea. Of course).

How does the place you sew affect the way sewing fits into your life?  Do family meals happen in front of the TV so as not to disturb the dining sewing table?  Or do you hardly see your close relatives, only emerging from your remote sewing cave for food and water?  And if you have children - how do they handle your sewing time (or don't they?!)


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Rockbuex // Experimental trousers

Cannot. Stop. Wearing. The Rockbuex.

The what?

Well, glad you asked!  Let me show you...

(You might want to put your sunglasses on. I inadvertently captured the full force of the sun in these pictures!)

So, the Rockbuex. A pattern by German blogger schneidermeistern, available in English on Kollabora where it is enticingly-named "Experimental Pants".  Because, as you can no doubt tell, it's not ein Rock - a skirt - but something closely resembling a pair of trousers.  Trousers with a veeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrry dropped crotch. Although I suppose you could look at it the other way, too, if you wanted: as a skirt that happens to be closed at the bottom, with ankle holes.

But let's be straightforward here. What it is, is extreme harem pants. And I really, really like how that fact covers all sorts of style bases - from high fashion harems to festival-gear sarouels, and all the faux-maxi-skirt mum-clothes in between.

I first became aware of this particular pattern when I saw it on the ever-stylish Ute, but this wasn't the first time I'd considered the appeal of this type of garment. When Oonaballoona posted her romper-with-room tutorial last year I was sorely tempted to give it a go then - but stalled at choosing an appropriate fabric and promptly forgot all about it.

Fortunately, by the time the same temptation arose this spring, that little issue had resolved itself.  On my visit to Paris in January I had picked up this beautiful blue silk at the rather bargainous price of 8 euros a metre. Even with a 3-metre minimum purchase, it was worth jumping on!  It's fairly roughly textured, not smooth - I know very little about the proper terms for these things but I think it's what's called a washed silk?? (Please correct me if you know better!)  Anyway, whatever it is, I had to have it, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it. The only thing I did know was that I wanted as much of it as possible next to my skin at all times.

Megan Nielsen's Tania culottes were my default plan for a long while - especially when saw her boxier midi-length version - but I hesitated over the relatively high waistband. While I love how that can look, I know that I just don't wear high waists regularly, and certainly not with the comfort level I wanted for my special fabric. And I'm glad I waited, because the Rockbuex hits the exact spot I was aiming for. Totally, utterly comfortable, while giving off a wonderful vibe of laid-back chic - and laid-back chic is absolutely how I roll at the moment.

In terms of construction, this pattern is extremely straightforward. The 'skirt' has front and back darts if you're using a woven fabric, to help it fall more smoothly, which I think it does. It has pockets (insert obligatory pocket YAY here) and, as written, includes ribbing at the waistband and ankle cuffs. I made a self-fabric waistband instead because I wanted it to match, with 5cm elastic inserted and then topstitched in the same way as the Hudson pants (I didn't get any close ups but you can see it in the photos above). At the ankles, I shamelessly copied Ute by adding a hem allowance and creating a little (+/- 5cm) pleat to draw in the 'cuff'. This keeps things nice and airy - though the silk is warmer to wear than I thought it would be, so this definitely isn't a high-summer garment. (Not that that'll be much of an issue in Belgium...)

In fact, to my mind, the Rockbuex is absolutely ideal winter wear - and not just because it makes a maxi skirt out of a pair of trousers. While I was contemplating the cuffs, and mulling over fabric choices, it occurred to me that one could make some of these in fleece for lounging on cold evenings, and doesn't that sound appealing, curled up on the sofa inside your nice cosy trouser/skirt thing? Well, from that vision it was a mere mental hop, skip and jump to the thought that, ok, ankle cuffs are good enough, but you know what? You could just go the whole hog and attach a pair of slipper socks instead. Seriously. You're not tempted? :-)

Anyway. I still have just over a metre of the silk left. I'm thinking of making an Ilsley skirt for maximum silk-wearing over the summer. After I've crawled out of the swimsuit vortex I've been sucked into over the last couple of weeks - I literally cannot think about anything else. Do you get like that too?? It's like my obsession with finally making a well-fitting bikini is demanding to be unleashed and, finally, completed - or else it'll destroy my ability to create anything, ever again. (I may be taking it a bit too seriously).

Rockbuex: Cat Approved.


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Dress like yourself

Just what is personal style?

It's probably inevitable to end up asking yourself that question during Me Made May, isn't it? This was the first year I've taken part wholeheartedly - i.e. without getting bored and giving up half way through - and with more or less daily outfit photos. It's a funny thing, to put those pictures out there (out here) and see yourself through the eyes (or likes, or comments) of others for a change. Funny because that's what we do every day - put ourselves out there, in our outfits. And like it or not, that's the person that others see.

They see if we're wearing a trend. They see shapes, colours and a level of over- or understatement (perhaps carefully constructed, perhaps not).  I think it's usually fairly clear to see whether we like what we're wearing, whether we feel comfortable. Maybe they see an image we're trying to project, consciously or unconsciously, even when that projection is the one saying: I'm not projecting anything, thank you.  Those who know us well might be able to tell what kind of day we're having.

I struggle a bit with this. That on some level, "personal style" can only be perceived through the eyes and, well, the judgements, of others.  I want to be able to say: personal style is about self-expression, regardless of what anyone else thinks. That those who look really great in their clothes are those who care least what others think of them. These things are true, surely.  It's just that - I'm not at all sure what it means when I say: I simply want to feel and look good. Good how? Good to who? Is it really even possible, or indeed important, for my only judge to be myself?

I don't know.

The only thing I do know is that finding a personal style which works for me has been a lifelong battle and that finally, at the grand old age of nearly-38, it's a battle I now seem to be winning. 

Cue another series of soul-searching questions...


... am I winning because I'm older and I give less shits? Because the sense of self that was so thoroughly purged by early motherhood has now risen from the ashes, stronger than before? Or will I hit my mid-forties and find myself wondering, again, how to adapt to a stage of life that seems to bring so many internalised preconceptions and ideas?

Is it because, nearly 40 years into dressing myself, I've finally worked out what I like to wear and what I don't?  Is it because of sewing - that I know what I want, and can make it work?

Or is it because the online sewing community has turned out to be an unexpectedly uplifting place to publicly post photos of oneself - to, essentially, invite the judgements of others, and for those judgements to be ever kind, positive and empowering?

Again, I don't know.

The fact is, Me Made May is a brilliant opportunity for some collective, positive exploration of personal style.  That I feel slightly awkward at my 'best' handmade outfits getting more likes than others, is more than offset by the overwhelming joy I find in other people's #MMMay selfies. If I'd had the time, there would have been likes for every. single. one.

When I put these collages together, I was thinking to analyse a little the outfits that really worked, and those that didn't so much.  The drape drape tops above, one t-shirt weight and one sweater, turned out to be immediate favourites. My Linden sweatshirts, below, paired with various skirt/dress options, were also super easy to wear. Far and away the most-repeated item of the month was my Turia dungarees, which was unexpected, but it seems I love the bib neckline and the fact that they have no waist (err, duh). There may well be more.

Call it coincidence - but of course, I'm pretty sure it isn't - the pictures in these three last collages of the "hits" are also those that proved the most popular when I posted them on instagram.

And I'm left wondering: were these my favourite outfits before other people said they were that good?

And yet again: does it really matter?

As an aside, another thing I find intriguing is that these are among my most recent makes.  Are sewists drawn in disproportionately by the new and shiny, I wonder? Is that inherent in the fact that, one way or another, we're all making our own fashion - and that's just what fashion does?

Well, I'm not attempting to answer any of these questions. In fact, I'm going to go all postmodern and say that I think the questions probably are the answers. (I love that that kind of evasion was basically how I ended up getting a decent degree, haha! Gotta love the humanities!)

If you're interested in thinking more about this kind of thing, I highly recommend reading through the intelligent and perceptive discussions going on in the comments of Karen's recent post on her Merchant & Mills Factory dress.  There is a wealth of food for thought there, about dressing for and through the transitional stages and ages of life.

Now, I want you to tell me: what's your take on personal style - can such a thing exist without being filtered through others' eyes?  Does that matter to you, or not?

And, surely I'm not alone in this: are you too perpetually curious about the age of other sewcialists??? I find it impossible to tell - some of you are spring chickens barely into your twenties, others of us bear the weight of many years! I always think of 'us' as being all the same, indeterminate age, but of course we can't be.

GO ON... I told you mine, now tell me yours: how old are you?! :-)