When I first started sewing is 2014 I was never far from my machine. My brain was filled with wild ideas and creations, and I would spend every spare minute crafting them into physical designs. I look back over the clothes I was making in those early days, and it makes me sad a little. I miss the enthusiasm and the joy I took from the process.
These days, my creativity has taken a back seat. Actually if I’m being honest, it got kicked out of the back seat months ago, and left stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. And the truth is, I feel so cut off from that essential part of me that I don’t even really feel like me anymore. It’s like, somewhere along the line I got caught up in the day to day life stuff – and no small amount of bitterness about a whole bunch of that life stuff – and then, without me even noticing, my wild creativity just became more and more stifled.
I don’t know what it is. There is a passion within me that I feel has been wrenched out of me. And in its place is a gaping, jagged wound. What the hell happened to me, that I ended up here?
I don’t write anymore. Not for years, actually. Once, I had notebooks filled with stories and folders full of ideas. These days the only writing I do is here and for my job. Again, a part of me that has slowly been obliterated over time.
I need to start making time for being creative again. It’s essential for my wellbeing, my mental health, my very existence. I think a big part of the reason I’ve struggled so much in recent months is because I’ve not allowed myself the time to create. I’m going to be out of a job in two weeks, and then…I’m making a promise to myself. I’m going to make sure that I find ways to reignite my passion for creating. In whatever way that presents. There’s far too many projects unmade, and far too much unrealised potential.
I’m happier when I’m making something. Calmer in my person, and my mind. Better. More content. So here’s to finding the spark again, and to finding myself.
You look at talented people. Artists, musicians, singers, dancers, actors, authors. People who are really good at design, or carpentry, or sewing. And you think, damn I wish I could do that.
The thing is, all those talented people started out untalented. No one just wakes up one day and knows how to play the piano, or paint a realistic portrait. People develop their skills over time, and with practice. When I first started sewing years ago, the garments I was making were barely fit to be worn out of the house. These days, I have a wedding dress under my belt and another scheduled. I’ve made costumes for plays. I’ve made and altered clothing for friends, family, and people who just happened to hear that I sew. And I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. I’m not expert, but I’ve learned and improved over time.
A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to paint with watercolour. Every so often I sit and create something, and sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s awful. And that’s OK. Because at least I can say I’m doing it. Again, I’m by no means an expert. In fact, I’m not even remotely talented where painting is concerned! But I enjoy the process, and sometimes I think that’s all that matters. Not comparing myself to talented artists who have spent years honing their craft. For me, it’s not a passion, but a hobby. And therein lies the difference, I think.
In the same way that I own four different string instruments and still can’t play a single one. The truth is that whilst I love the idea of being able to play an instrument to go with my singing, I’ve never dedicated the time to learn. I get frustrated when I can’t learn 20 songs in an hour, and then eventually give up. But if I spent time and effort learning them, in the same way that all the talented musicians I admire have learned their instruments, then I could add that to my small list of things I’m not-bad-but-not-awful at.
I blame my lack of time. I blame the fact that I’m not good at a thing (despite not being able to GET good at it if I don’t practice). I blame life, and commitments, and work and a myriad of other things. But hey, in 3 weeks I’m gonna be made redundant anyway. So maybe I can start actually putting in some time and effort to learn a skill properly. Instead of just trying it out every few months and giving up after a day. Maybe I’ll take a class or something, I dunno.
Anyway. The point is, that skills rarely come naturally. And even the ones that do still need to be worked on. And it’s OK to not be good at everything. And it’s also OK to admire in others, skills you would like to have yourself. But if you want to have those skills, you’ve gotta be prepared to work at them. But don’t let not begin good at something stop you from trying it. We’ve all gotta start somewhere.
As a sporadically, broadly creative person, I find it hard to do just one thing. I sew, I paint (badly), I try and play the violin (even more badly), I sing, I embroider…I love to learn new skills, and so I am constantly trying to fill my time with various creative outlets. My problem is that I forget about setting aside time to just do nothing. I have three days off, today being the last before going back to work, and I have spent every moment of that time doing things I had meticulously planned out. Now, with this afternoon left before going back to work tomorrow, I have decided that I will take a step back from all my creative pursuits, and give myself permission to do nothing at all.
I put on a load of washing this morning (essential) and had a shower (also essential) but I have forgone straightening my hair, and I plan to stay home all day and do very little else today. Which is easier said than done. Every fibre of my being wants to pick up my paint brushes and create a pretty picture. In fact, on my drive home earlier, I saw so many things that inspired me, and I desperately want to try and recreate them on paper. However, I tend to paint hunched over, curled up in a small, unintentionally tense little ball. And I am aching all over today, so I know that painting that way is not conducive to healing. So. I am practicing a different kind of self care today. Instead of creating something, which for me, is a kind of self care in and of itself, I am electing to just veg out and watch some Supernatural in bed, with a cup of tea.
I love making things. A dress. A terrible artwork. A batch of chocolate chip cookies. It doesn’t matter what I make, so long as I’m creating something, then I’m happy. The thing is, I need to move away from the notion that if I’m not filling every spare second with something creative, then I am wasting my time. I think a lot of creatively minded people have the same problem. Creative Person Syndrome! I don’t want my hobbies to become a chore, or feel like something that I need to force myself to do. It is ok to not do anything creative today. It’s ok to just watch tv for a few hours. And that it exactly what I plan to do. My paint brushes will still be there tomorrow.
I am stubborn, and when I want to learn something, I generally teach myself. I taught myself how to sew, and have been making my own clothes for the last five or six years. I’m no expert seamstress, but I have a few tricky garments under my belt (I’m looking at you, wedding dress of ’17) and I’m a competent maker. However, there are some things I am not prepared to attempt to teach myself, and making a corset is right up there with garments that I do not have the patience to try alone. Enter Vanyanis; a studio in Healesville dedicated to corset making and couture.
After a few years of telling myself I would do it, I finally bit the bullet and just signed up for the beginner’s corsetry course, for the weekend just past. Under the careful and patient tutelage of Vanyanis founder, Lowana, I (and the two other women who attended the class) constructed a fully steel boned underbust corset entirely from scratch. Something that would have taken me literal years to attempt myself was managed in three days, and it was absolutely worth the price of admission.
The studio itself, tucked away in a quiet little street in Healesville, was beautifully and tastefully decorated, and had plenty of natural light. Lowana was not only a fabulous teacher, but a wonderful host, and I cannot stress enough how far that goes towards making a learning experience a positive one. The first day was spent learning how to make a toile (pronounced twahl), which is essentially a mock up of the final garment, designed to work out where adjustments need to be made to ensure a better fit. Amidst many cups of tea and chats, our toiles were made and adjusted as per the requirements of our very different bodies. Once all the necessary adjustments were made, the next two days were spent constructing the actual corset.
There is so much involved in making a corset, things that I would never have thought, and it is certainly a time consuming process. But, as someone who loves to learn new things, I was in heaven. Each step was explained and then put into practice, and the breaking down of the total construction into smaller steps made the process – which would otherwise have been a daunting task to tackle – smooth and relatively simple. Short of the final construction, making and piecing together the busk (the front closure of a corset) was one of the more rewarding aspects of the course for me, because it was such a lengthy process, and tricky in a lot of ways. Seeing the satisfactory completion of one of the more difficult aspects of making a corset was a quiet little thrill for my creative heart.
On the final day, we each tried on the corsets that we had painstakingly constructed (I learned how to lace myself into my own corset too, which was a skill I had previously assumed was a two person job), and the silhouette it created was astounding. I think there was a definitely a little bit of jaw dropping going on in that room on Monday evening. And one of the things that struck me most was how comfortable it was to be laced into a corset. Despite the misconceptions about corset wearing, it wasn’t in any way painful, or uncomfortable, or difficult to breathe. Much like any other garment I make to fit myself, it was comfortable and well fitting and, if I may say so myself, quite a lovely creation.
Over the three days I spent at the studio, I learned things that would not only allow me to now complete a corset on my own, but I also picked up a few tricks and tips that will aid me in my general sewing as well. It was honestly such a rewarding experience, and one that I am glad I finally decided to treat myself to. If you happen to be nearby, and want to check the course out for yourself, I have nothing but positive things to say about it, and for all my sewing friends out there, it’s a class I highly recommend.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.