Missing Creative. If Found, Return to Amy

I feel like I haven’t been creative enough this year. Actually, it’s more than just a feeling; it’s a fact. I’ve spent so much of the last six months working with very little break, and the five months before that my work was so limited that time was in abundance, but my financial situation couldn’t accommodate. Since the beginning of this year, I have only successfully completed two sewing projects, and there’s one that I gave up on entirely. In previous years, I have made close to one project a month but I guess this year is a bit of a write off.

When the year began, I decided I wanted to expand my creative outlets. I took up embroidery, and I’ve made two little hoops. I find the repetition of the stitching rather calming, and it’s a good, relaxing way to try and stay creative. And yet, it’s been 7 months since I last picked up my needle and thread. Seven. I would love to start again, but I’m currently in a position where I simply don’t have enough time to sit for hours and hand stitch.

Another thing I decided that I wanted to learn was the art of watercolour painting. This one was a little harder, because it was completely outside the realms of my skill set. But I persevered and I’ve made a handful of small little paintings that are getting increasingly better. It is this that I am the most proud of, because I have finally managed to step outside of my creative comfort zone and teach myself something new. I’m no Picasso, but with a combination of YouTube tutorials and figuring things out on my own, I’m getting better.

I’ve always thought that I wanted to live a creative life. When I picture my future, I know what I want it to look like, and being able to express myself artistically plays a big part in that. I am an imaginative and creative person at heart, and it’s one of the things I find completely contentment in. I think part of my problem this year, apart from having so little time, is having very little space. Due to a change in my circumstances last year, I had to move in back home. Whilst I am saving to buy my own house, for the time being it means living with my dad. Yup, I’m that person in their late twenties still living at home. You can forward all judgements to the bin, thanks. I like to to think it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement, but that being so doesn’t make the house any bigger. And all my attempts to win the lottery have failed so far!

I’m searching for a new job, with no success. But I just know that I can’t stay in my current job very much longer, because it is draining my time, my life, my creativity and my will to live. I have to hold on to the hope that something better is coming. I mean, I’m even considering the possibility of changing cities once again, but this is a new idea and one that I have to invest a lot more thought and research into before I make any kind of decision. Either way, I know that my lack of creation is directly linked to my situation, and that I shouldn’t feel so bad about it. But I feel like an integral part of me is missing, and my passionate, imaginative heart is going to wither and die unless I can break free of this rut I find myself in.

Someone once said to me that if you really want to do something, you’ll make time to do it. If someone knows of a way to add a few extra hours into the day, without having to feel the exhaustion that will inevitably result, will you let me know?

Creating Away the Dark (at Least Temporarily)

I only work two days a week. This is a development that occurred a few months ago, when the agreed upon hours I was working in the other shop were cut back completely, and indefinitely. It was a change that meant all the savings I had managed to put away (a meagre $1700 by the time my hours were cut) suddenly had to go towards the weekly cost of living. I am now down to my last hundred in savings, and any progress I had made towards my long term goals was not only halted, but I actually ended up about 100 steps back…or 1600 steps, really.

Anyway, my financial troubles are, amongst many other things, one of the reasons why this week has not been a super fun time inside my head. So, as I often do when I feel the beginnings of a depressive episode coming on, I decided to try and vent it out in a creative way. For you other creative types out there, I’m sure you can understand the catharsis that comes with just spending hours working with your preferred medium. For me, my creativity manifests itself in garment creation and more recently, embroidery. Usually accompanied by a giant mug of tea. Listen to me; I sound like a little old lady – in fact yesterday my father quipped that soon I’d be ‘taking up knitting, or crocheting like a real old woman”.

But ageist comments at my own expense aside, I find a kind of peace when I’m creating, whatever form that may take. And lately, I’ve tried to expand my horizons. I am a very stubborn person, and I like to try and teach myself things as autonomously as possible. So, whilst my brain is doing it’s hardest to overwhelm me, I’ve been battling with equal fervour to keep the insidious thoughts at bay. This week, I bought a bunch of art supplies and did my first ever watercolour painting. It sucked. I mean, it major sucked, but though the end result was certainly nothing to write home about, I did feel a strange kind of pride in my wonky sunflowers. And, as watercolour painting was one of the things I was determined to try this year, it did feel good to actually make a start on my newest creative adventure.

Supernatural shirt weirdly appropriate for this week.

This wasn’t enough however, and so I picked up my long unused ukulele – another of the things I said I was going to do more of this year, ooops – and found a tutorial online (I mean, I said autonomously but some things just require YouTube!) and started to practice again. Have I forgotten everything I tried to learn since the last time I picked up my uke? Absolutely. But did I get a sense of productivity and accomplishment because I’m actually getting somewhere this time? You bet your blog reading butts I did. So, between making terrible watercolour art, and practicing scales on my ukuleke, you’d think my time would be pretty well occupied? Apparently not enough. On top of these newer creative pursuits, I started making my costume for our upcoming play and I completed another embroidery project.

Embroidery is not something I ever really considered until this year. I admit, I always kind of thought it was a little old lady kind of skill, and one that I didn’t see I’d have much use for. But then I came across all this amazing embroidery artwork and decided that I absolutely had to try it for myself. So I did. Again, teaching myself basic skills and resorting to YouTube to get the hang of other stitches to improve. The difference between my first hoop a couple of months ago, and my second one this week is noticeable to even the most untrained eye. I already have two more hoops planned for the near future; one as a birthday gift and one inspired by Firefly, because I am rewatching it at the moment and falling madly in love with the characters all over again.

A whole Lindsey Stirling playlist worth of embroidery.

The truth is, even despite occupying my brain with as many creative outlets as I possibly could, last night I still broke down in tears and spent the night staring at the ceiling, with dark thoughts chasing each other around my brain. I knew it was coming, but at least I managed to do something productive this week with my abundance of time off. Gotta count for something, right? Anyway, this post ended up being much longer than I was expecting, but at the very least, it has taken up a chunk of time in my otherwise long, loud and boring work day. So, I’ll leave you with a question! What are your favourite creative outlets? Any genius musicians, prodigy painters or clever wordsmiths out there? Come say hi!

Inspired

I haven’t written in probably 12 months. Somewhere in between new jobs, moving house a few times, trying to ‘maintain my sane’ and general, everyday life stuff, my inspiration to write fell by the wayside. Actually, ‘…fell screaming and tumbling down a ragged ravine to die slowly and painfully over the course of a few months’ is probably a more accurate description. Suffice to say, it’s been a while.

Recently, I’ve been strangely motivated. Where this motivation has come from, I can’t say. All I know is, over the last couple of weeks, Inspiration has returned from her year long hiatus, to slowly reintroduce herself into my life. Take, for example, my instruments. As I’ve said countless times before, I’m a collector of string instruments with no talent whatsoever for playing them. Last week, on a whim, I picked up my violin, got it in tune as best I could, found a tutor online, and started to practice. I’m not making music, mind. The sounds I’m coaxing from the strings are more akin to the wailing of a dying cat (sorry, neighbours), but I know how to hold the bow and where to place my fingers on the neck, which is a far cry from where I was. And I’m actually motivated to continue my practice.

Broken A string was subsequently replaced 😅

Then there’s my sewing. With all this free time on my hands (I’m still only working two full days a week), I’ve really been putting my time and effort into creating. I’ve made two skirts in two weeks, and soon I’m going to tackle sewing with knit fabric, which up until now, I’ve avoided.

Skirts a la Amy

And writing. As I said, it’s been a while. But lately, a couple of characters have started wandering through my head. It started with a casual, almost hesitant hello. I left them alone, allowed them time to develop and come to me. Now, those characters and I are on polite speaking terms, and over the next couple of days I plan to start moving them to a more tangible home on my tablet. The bones of a story are coming together in my mind, and I need to get it all down before the flighty Muse decides to go on another adventure and leave me inspiration-less again.

I’m feeling strangely positive about this, guys.

Quick DIY for the Home

So, my new house has quite a bit of space, and I have many plans on how to fill that space. Of course, most things must now go on the back burner until I find a new full time job (different story for a different time), but in the meantime there are a few little things I’ve done to make the house feel more like my own home.

I get antsy without a project. I’m midway through a dress at the moment, but after the first fitting it was too big, and then some life stuff happened, and getting out of bed has been really hard lately, and so all motivation to finish it went out the window. But I digress. Because of all this, I haven’t done anything creative for a couple of weeks now, and yesterday my creative urge came back with a vengeance.

I have this old, tired corkboard/whiteboard in my bedroom that I’ve literally had for years. And yesterday I decided it was time for an upgrade, to a fresh new message board. So, I got myself a new corkboard and a frame, and set about my quick afternoon project. It’s really quite simple, and no sewing required. First, I removed the original aluminium frame from the board. I cut it to size, to make sure it would fit within the frame. I then cut a piece of fabric the same size, plus a little extra on each side to wrap around the board. Once in place, I used a hot glue gun to secure the fabric, set it inside the frame, replaced the backboard and screwed it all in place. The end result is a suave new board to hang on my wall!

The other simple DIY from a few weeks back, was a quick sewing project. Basically, I have a tendency to hoard fabric scraps. Mostly because I convince myself I’ll find a use for even the smallest bit of discarded fabric. Often times, that’s not the case, and my collection of scraps was getting out of hand. So, I decided to make a door snake. I measured the width of the bottom of the door, and then I cut a rectangle length of fabric to match (adding a little extra for seam allowance). Using just a simple straight stitch, I folded the fabric in half, right sides together, and ran a single line of stitching along the raw edge at the bottom, and along the long side, leaving one side open. I turned it inside out, and stuffed it with pieces of scrap fabric until the snake was full. Then I turned the edges on the open side in to hide to raw edge, and sewed the opening closed. Simple, quick, and a good use of discarded fabric! Winning all round!

Anyway. My next project will be a curtain for the toilet window (there’s construction going on behind my house, and the last thing I need is a tradie walking past when I need to pee!), and after that…well, like I said, I have a lot of space to fill!

Wedding Dress, Aug ’17

So, it’s late. Very late. But I just realised I never did a post about it, and I wanna talk about one of my favourite, and most challenging sewing projects. The Wedding Dress of August ’17.

When my friend Emily approached me towards the beginning of last year to make her wedding dress, I was thrilled, and flattered, and a little terrified. I’d worked on a wedding before, but it was alteration for an existing dress, and it was for the bridesmaid, not the bride. This request was a huge step up in commitment and level of difficulty, from anything I had attempted before. But, I enjoy a challenge and, like any good masochist, evidently love procrastination to the point of panic. So, we began by going shopping for the right fabric.

Now, Emily is not what you would call a traditional bride, and she in no way wanted the traditional marriage. No white dresses and tossing of the garter here! Instead, we went on the hunt for a forest green satin and when we found it, oh, what a perfect fabric it was. Weighty enough for the winter wedding, but not too heavy as to be stiff. So, with the fabric purchased, I set about making a toile for the bust.

The bust was the hardest part. It required many measurements, many adjustments, and about three different attempts at pattern making before I finally got it right. I was living in the city at the time, and my space and time were limited, so it was only when I moved back home that things really got into full swing. To flatter her figure, we opted for princess seams and a sweetheart neckline. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a matching green lining silk, so I lined it with black (which works with the black tulle overlay, don’t worry.) when I was happy with the shape, we had a quick fitting and moved on to the rest.

The next step involved attaching a waistband and adding the overlay to the completed bust pieces. This was also trickier than it should have been. Between the slippery lining fabric, slippery satin and almost weightless tulle, it became a battle to keep everything aligned properly to sew it all together. Boy, what a pain. I managed to get everything pinned together, but then had multiple sewing mishaps as one fabric slid away from the other, or the tulle pulled away from where it was pinned. To be honest, it was a bit of a nightmare. But I persisted, and finally got it all attached.

From there it was relatively simple. The skirt was just a large block of gathered fabric. I cut three large rectangle panels, attached them together at the side seams for three (yes, three) seams around the whole skirt, and then spent a heckin’ long time gathering all that fabric to the right circumference. The same thing with the lining, and again with the tulle. And voila, I had a dress. But of course, then I had trouble again with the waistband. The early measurements (triple checked!) turned out to be too wide, so I had to unpin the bodice from the waistband, adjust and reattach. But, after many more alterations, hemming, and final trimming of the tulle overlay, Emily ended up with a whimsical, beautiful, completely untraditional wedding gown. And, coupled with a flower crown and sparkly ruby slippers, she looked absolutely stunning. Plus, the wedding was like walking into an enchanted forest and without question, the prettiest wedding I’ve ever been to.

So that’s the tale of the August Wedding Dress. And on a quick side note, for those who are interested in all things pretty and magical, Emily happens to be the maker behind Le.ft_made, which is a Melbourne based small business she created to cater to all your witchy, whimsical needs. Pop on over to her Instagram if you wanna check her out.

Photo property of Vanessa De Santis

Photo property of Vanessa De Santis

Farewell, 2017

We are once again at the last day of the year. As with all years preceding it, this day is a time for reflection and, for those that participate, resolutions. For me, 2017 was…complicated. 

R E F L E C T I O N

I’m a very ‘glass half empty’ kind of person. I don’t mean to be, but it’s an inherent part of my nature and I can’t help it. So, when December 31st rolls around and I think about the year, my thoughts automatically default to the negative things that happened this year. And in 2017, believe me, there were plenty. I spent some of the most miserable months of my life living in the city, working 17 day stretches and 10 hour days, only to go ‘home’ to a living situation that was equally unsatisfactory. I slumped into a depression that affected not just me, but my relationships with those around me. And amidst all of that, I came very close to doing something I always swore to myself I wouldn’t. In June, to keep both my sanity and my health, I quit my job and moved back home.

2017 brought with it many challenges and setbacks, I won’t deny. Too many, (and a lot of them too personal) to delve into on a public platform. In recent days, I have been fighting with a feeling of loneliness that I can’t shake, whilst simultaneously longing to be living on my own and away from people. See what I mean about complicated? But despite all the negative, there were some good times too. The highlight of the year was the week I spent in Tasmania. The beautiful country, the amazing places I visited, the wonderful friends I have there, and the innate feeling that I was home, made it one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think longingly of the day I get to go back.

In terms of sewing, I didn’t quite manage my ‘one make a month’ project. Instead, I made 11 projects, ranging from pyjama pants to a wedding dress. I think I did well, all things considered. I took on some challenges and surprised myself with how much I managed to achieve. I’ve come a long way from the early days of apron making, years ago when my sewing journey began.

All in all, I can’t say that 2017 was especially good. It had its moments, absolutely. I saw some great bands, made some new friends (and fell out with some old ones). I expanded my skills, took on new and frightening things, and went out of my comfort zone in a lot of aspects. But, nevertheless, I’m not sorry to see 2017 go.

R E S O L U T I O N S

As for resolutions, I don’t make them. What I am making, however, are plans. First, I am taking a tactical approach to sewing next year. This year I just winged it, and stitched anything that took my fancy. Next year, I am going to set myself nine projects that are different to anything I’ve made before, and I am finally going to take on the knit fabric beast. I have avoided it in the past because I’m scared of it, to be honest. Woven is so much easier. However, I know that Tilly Walnes, of Tilly and the Buttons, is bringing out a book on sewing with stretch fabric and so I am going to buy it when it comes out, and tackle the beast head on. Tilly really helped me when I first started sewing, with simple instructions and cute patterns, so I’m excited to see how I can continue to expand my skills with her second book.

Next on my list of plans is to do some research and find out where I plan to live next. As I explained to my best friend, the city didn’t work out for me so I think my next move will be coastal. But, learning from my mistakes, I will look around, visit and explore any potential homes before I barrel in head on and end up back in the City Situation. What will help, is that I plan once again to be living on my own, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am at that prospect.

The rest of my plans are sketchy at best. I refuse to say I’ll write a certain amount, or read so many books, or lose any weight or any other thing that I know I won’t stick to. I have a tendency to take on too much too soon, and get overwhelmed and end up doing none. The only other thing I want to do is take my director up on the plan we made to have her teach me the violin. Once the play is over, and we have more time, I am going to ask her to help me learn the instrument. Because honestly, it’s about time I made the effort, since my string collection remains sadly unplayed and unlearned. My final plan for 2018 is to take things slow. To try not to take on too much, and to remember to breathe. That’s not too much to ask from myself, I feel.

To you, dear readers, I simply wish to say thank you. Thank you for reading, for commenting, for sticking with me on this blogging journey. A particular thank you to two that, in the words of Anne Shirley, I feel are my kindred spirits. To Quinn, for not only your wonderful writing, but also for your lovely comments when I needed words of encouragement. And to Arbie, who has been with me since the early days, thank you for your creative mind, the adorable photos of your ferrets, and your kind words, always. I look forward to reading both of your blogs in the coming year!

Well, that’s it. Happy New Year to you all. I leave you with this comic from Sarah Andersen, which I feel sufficiently sums up my feelings about the coming year.

Image is the property of Sarah Andersen

Self Drafted Summer PJ’s

It’s coming into warmer weather here. As few of my clothes fit me anymore, I’ve gone on a bit of a sewing plan, starting with a pair of cotton pyjamas. I don’t wear pyjamas to sleep in; I’m 100% a “sleep in the nude” kinda girl. However, as I no longer live alone, it is unacceptable to chill in the public spaces of the house without clothes. Thus, the necessity for pyjamas.
I went to Spotlight a couple of weeks ago and,as with almost every craft store trip, I saw too many cute things and spent way too much money on fabric. Amongst the stash I purchased was this cute woodland print with tiny foxes and other cute little animals. So I had to buy it. And I did. Along with some other fabric I also just had to have, but still haven’t worked out what to make with.

So with the fabric in mind, I decided that pyjamas was the way to go. I’m very much into loose fitting cloathing lately, comfortable items that don’t sit too tight or cut in in unwanted places. Shorts are easy to make, but I made one fundamental mistake; I made them way too big! Once I tried them on, I realised that I could fit both legs into one of the shorts legs, so I had to bring the seams in at the sides and the crotch. They’re still a bit too big around the legs, but the waist fits fine and comfort is key, after all.

The top was also self drafted, and I just kinda winged it. I took some rough measurements and sketched up a quick design. What I ended up with was an oversized, vaguely old fashioned sleeveless shirt, perfect for those hot summer nights. Overall I was pretty happy with the result. I’m trying to challenge myself with creating my own patterns, so this was one of those attempts. A few tweaks I think, but otherwise I’m glad to say I can see constant improvements in my skill. Anyway, here’s the finished result!