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! 


Sewing Dreams

Last week, I finished my friend’s wedding dress. It took me a whole lot of weekends, a whole lot of stress (mostly of my own creation), a whole lot of travelling back and forth between home and the city, and a whole lot of fiddling about with tricky fabric…lots of tricky fabric. Now. Until she gets married next weekend and the dress gets revealed to the world, you’re not allowed to see it (so there). But now that this year’s greatest sewing triumph is complete, I’m dreaming about all the things I want to make a start on.

I follow a few sewing enthusiasts (and geniuses) on Instagram, and every day I see things that other people are creating. Everything from lingerie to shoes, and every cute, wearable thing in between. It gets my fingers itching to guide fabric through a machine. When I see crisp lines and perfectly overlocked seams, I just can’t shake that urge to set myself up at the table and just create in a frenzy of fabric and fatigue. Because sewing endlessly until I can’t see straight, and my back is aching like a labourer after a hard day, is exactly the way I roll. 

I sometimes get frustrated with how little time I manage to find to sew. I envy those gals on Instagram who are forever posting their sewing successes and I wish I could do it all day every day. I dream of once again having my own dedicated sewing room. I had one when I lived on my own, and it suited me perfectly fine. But if I could, I would have a big room, fully kitted out and completely dedicated to the craft. Oh, how I long for the day.

I have so many things I want to try. I am passionate when it comes to extending my skill and learning new ways to make things easier, or better. At the moment, I would say I am a decent sewist (still gonna keep saying that). I can take flat fabric and make it into something wearable. I’m past the point of things I make looking distinctly home made. And I’ve been trying to tackle new things this year instead of sticking to my comfort zone – i.e woven fabrics with no stretch. But even in the last project, there were things I would have liked to do better. And I know that will probably always be the case – indeed, my lovely friend insisted that she loves the dress, and that I am being too hard on myself. She’s probably right, and at the end of the day it’s mostly about her feeling beautiful and comfortable on her wedding day. But I now know that I have areas of improvement to focus on to unsure I keep getting better.

I have a few more projects to finish for other people, and then I think I’m going to put a hold on commissions for a while. There are a couple of things that I’ve had in my head for ages now, and I think it’s about time I started to get them out of my head and onto the table. Even without a sewing room, I can’t wait to throw myself into something new. And I’m excited for the creations yet to come.

Cramped Creativity

I’m feeling a little cramped at the moment. This is partly due to having no space at dad’s (once again, not his fault) and partly due to the fact that I wish I could just take a month off from everything, sit down and create.

I’m really enjoying my new job, and I can’t adequately express how much I love being at home. In the last month I have been infinitely better and happier than I ever really was in the whole nine months I spent in the city. My life, as a whole, has greatly improved. So please don’t think I’m just here to complain!

As I’ve said (countless times) before, I am a creative person, and making stuff or writing stuff or practicing stuff is what keeps me grounded and mostly even tempered and…y’know, sane. And it’s been a fair while since I’ve really done any. Whilst it’s true that I am in the middle of making a dress, it’s a little different than casual calm creating because a) the friend I’m making it for is in the city, whereas I am at home and b) there is a certain element of stress and pressure that comes with making a dress for someone to wear to her wedding. Don’t get me wrong; my friend has been lovely and accommodating and patient…so very patient with me. Rather it’s a kind of self imposed pressure to not fuck it up because let’s face it; that would suck.

When the dress is done, I have another skirt to finish for my friend Lou. It’s mostly complete but I stuffed up the zip insertion and so now have to buy a new one and fix it properly. Then I have a pair of pants to make for my friend’s six year old son, and then I’ve been asked if I can repair a favourite leather handbag of a woman I work with. It’s great that I’m getting all these requests but it does make it hard to find the time to complete them when I’m working full time and still travelling to the city every weekend. I mean, I haven’t even had time to do my own washing in the last two weeks, much less find time to sew!

And do you remember my 200 words a day writing goal? Well, that’s fallen completely by the wayside. My laptop died and I never had the time and so when I got home, I bought a new tablet to replace my poor dead Atticus. Of course I then got home to discover that it’s not compatible with iTunes so I have to find another way to store and play my music. And, despite being a Microsoft tablet, is doesn’t have Microsoft Office installed…! Which means no writing program for me! At least until I buy the program…at nearly $300 a pop. *sigh*

Now, it’s unlikely that I’ll find that month to take off, especially since I’ve just signed a full time contract for the next six months. But I’m considering another trip to Tassie next year so maybe I’ll get another creative holiday in there then. Until that time though, I shall just have to squeeze in creating time where I can and then perhaps stop taking on commissions one after another!

Oh! Fun little fact which is slightly off topic but which excites me greatly; I’m getting the internet set up at home! Which means I can write blogs on my laptop instead of my phone, and most importantly, try and utilise YouTube to potentially learn how to play my many instruments! It’s a brave new world, y’all! 

Sewing Update (Simplicity 1252)

At the start of the year, I set myself a goal to sew one new thing a month. My plan was to make a different item than I have ever attempted before, or use a different or tricky fabric. So far I have stuck to this goal, albeit barely!

January was a Peter Pan collar dress with a waistband. February was a loose fitting tee for my best friend, made from faux leather and a light, floaty patterned fabric that I have no name for. The first was a success, the second…well, I wasn’t overly happy with the end result. I used an existing shirt of hers to create the pattern which,in hindsight, wasn’t the best way to go given what I was working with. The seams were wavy, the sleeves were boxy and a little too GaGa-esque for either of our tastes. I made a couple of quick alterations, but all in all I was pretty disappointed. I also let time get away from me a little bit, and I know that if I had have taken the time, the result would have been better. The good thing about it, is that now I know my weaknesses when it comes to that kind of fabric, and I can work towards improving. Silver lining!

March was a tricky month, and I very nearly didn’t make it. I went on holidays, and I made some small progress on a jumpsuit I’ve had planned since pretty much the start of the year, but then life got in the way. Now, by some wonderful circumstance, I managed to get two days off this week. Two consecutive days off. Which is pretty much a dream come true for me. So yesterday, I abandoned by jumpsuit idea altogether, because it is still too far from completion to get done in a day. Instead, I raced down to the local Lincraft and picked myself up a basic commercial pattern. I’m not usually a pattern kinda girl, preferring to make things up and challenge myself that way. But, desperate times and all that. The pattern I went with was Simplicity 1252, a basic 60’s style sleeveless shift dress.
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The other night I caught a film called God Help the Girl (review pending), and I was inspired by the outfits in the film when I chose this pattern. Aside from wanting something I could smash out in an afternoon, I was looking to emulate the vaguely hipster-y, mod style of clothing worn in the film. I found some lightweight wool suiting in a dark green tartan that was perfect for the project – and at only $10 a metre! – and so I set to work.

I count this my new thing for March, because all of the dresses I have previously made, have had a defined bust and skirt, where this dress is one piece. The pattern was simple to follow, and just as simple to put together, though I made a number of alterations. First thing I did was lose the neckline facings, in favour of a full lining. I wanted to be able to just slip the dress on, and the silk lining has the added bonus of helping to keep everything smooth. Secondly, the pattern has a front centre seam, which I think looks a little strange. I did actually add the dart in initially, but ended up unpicking it and leaving just a small detail at the top, and I liked it much better without. The third thing I did was alter the length. I always go a size up when I’m making commercial patterns, because I like to allow for error, so I used the size 10. When I cut out the pattern pieces, the finished dress would have sat at the awkward just below the knee length, because whilst I’m not overly short, I’m not especially tall either. And I wanted to make a mini dress anyway, more reminiscent of the fashion of the late 60’s. So I cut a solid three inches off the length, and then hemmed it with a 1/4 inch seam.

I did have a little trouble when it came to hemming, because I was stitching the lining and the outer fabric together to hide the seams within, and the wool had a little stretch to it, where the lining silk didn’t. This left me with too much fabric at the end of the seam line, which created an unsightly wrinkle. To fix this, I simply unpicked the back seam a little, and did a little snipping and stitching to tidy it up and reduce the bulk. I just had to add a small slit in the back of the dress, but that doesn’t affect the aesthetic, so I was happy with the end result.

All in all, I am infinitely happier with my March make than my previous month’s attempt, and I can see myself wearing this dress a lot, probably styled with a white collared shirt and a cute continental necktie. Or I can grunge it up with a pair of Docs (note to self; buy Docs) and a leather jacket. I think, because of my fabric choice, this will be a really versatile little number. Plus, I have plenty of fabric left over to make a pleated skirt and matching bow tie. So even though I left it until the last minute, and I used a commercial pattern, I am still going strong with this one new make a month goal. And I’m starting to get some ideas for the next ones too, so good things are coming!

In Which I Suffer From Creators Block…Again.

 

I’ve hit a bit of a creative block. Like a giant, impenetrable brick wall smack bang in my path of creativity. And this ain’t no Harry Potter wall, that you can tap with an umbrella and stroll casually through to world of magic (or imagination in this case). It is a huge, threatening wall of bricky-ness, and it is solid and imposing and mean. Due to a whole bunch of extraneous factors, I haven’t been able to focus on any of my creative outlets. I’ve been trying to stay true to my goal of 200 words a day, but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve really had to wrench those 200 words out of my brain, with no small measure of difficulty. And instead of feeling accomplished afterwards, I feel exhausted, and like I never want to write another word so long as I live. The last time I tried to play a bit of Rocksmith on my day off, I had a phone call that had me in tears by the end, and I lost all motivation I had for rocking out. And don’t even get me started on my lack of sewing inspiration/motivation.

It happens to everyone. We’ve all dealt with a blank screen, an empty machine, an unrealised dream. And it can be really disheartening. Especially for someone, like me, who relies on being creative to stay sane and hold onto some modicum of contentedness. On one hand, the goals I set at the start of the year are, in a way, forcing me to get my creative on. But on the other, there’s also a little bit of self imposed pressure to get done the things I don’t really feel like I can do (lately anyway). Self motivation is kind of a double edged sword that way.

We are five days into February, and I haven’t even given my sewing machine so much as a sideways glance in at least two weeks. I have a pile of fabric stacked on the table, and I guiltily avoid looking at it every time I set foot into the kitchen. The thing is, I actually have an idea of my next make in my head. I purchased some blue and navy rayon at Lincraft a couple of weeks ago with the intention of making a romper. But then I also bought this really adorable embroidered gingham about a week later, and the idea in my head would be perfect for that instead. Yet despite actually having a half formed design in my head, I still haven’t been able to find the time or the interest to throw myself into the project. And this is why I set my goal at one new make a month, instead of a week, or a fortnight. I expected that there would be issues with time, and lack of motivation, and so I knew I needed to allow myself the month to create a new piece. For my own peace of mind, as well as my sanity.

But nevertheless, I keep coming up against that giant wall of doubt and uncertainty and totally empty brain. Creators block is a thing, and it can suck a giant penis in hell. It doesn’t help that every few days, I get a notification on Facebook, reminding me that I haven’t posted to the page in a week or so. I gotta say, I truly am growing to loathe the phrase “Keep up the good work with The Elegant Fox”. No, fuck you Facebook, I do not need a constant reminder of how I am failing as a creative person. *cries a little bit*

It will pass. At some point I will break through the haze of blankness and come out like some kind of monster of creativity, spilling words and sewing things in a frenzy until I make up for the last couple of weeks in the space of a couple of hours. It’s a process, and it is only that certainty that I will be motivated again that prevents me from throwing myself down in despair and sobbing for a million years. (Wow, I’m really getting imaginative with my description here…maybe the block is already gone!). Like Sarah in Labyrinth, all I have to do is find a break in the wall. Only I’m trying to get my creativity back, not a baby.

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Anyway. Tomorrow I am going shopping with my friend for fabrics for her wedding dress, and I’m honestly more excited about that than I have been about anything in about a fortnight. So here’s to finding good things in shit times, here’s to the eventual return of my creativity, and here is to my friends having faith in my abilities, even when I don’t. *raises glass entire bottle of wine*

Fabric Stores and Projects Galore!

I had a day off today, and I decided that there was no better way to spend it than by sewing. Now, because I am terrible at sticking to plans, and also I suffer from a severe lack of motivation, that hasn’t necessarily been the case. I had some last Christmas gifts to buy and, after discovering that there is a Spotlight store not fifteen minutes from where I live, decided that I could spend at least part of my day doing things other than sewing. As it turns out, that’s what I did for most of the day, and now it’s after four pm and I’ve still yet to sit down at the machine. However, since I have a project halfway completed set out in pieces on my sewing table, and a skirt to finish before I go home for Christmas in a couple of weeks, sewing will most definitely be taking place today.

For now though, let’s talk about the pre-sewing ritual of fabric shopping. Fabric stores really are my happy place. I can lose myself for hours in the aisles, running my fingers over the material, ideas forming in my head of things I could make, getting perhaps just a little too giddy at the sheer joy of it. For someone who wears predominantly black clothing, I never actually seem to purchase black material. See, it’s the patterns and colours that jump out at me, even when I have absolutely no idea what I will use the fabric for. I love finding fabric that is unique, and I love to notion of creating something out of said fabric that will be completely my own.

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See this? This is what we call Elysium.

I have been known to shop for fabric online. Like with most things pertaining to the internet, the range you can get is much bigger than what you are likely to find at the local fabric stores. But there is just something about spending time in an actual store that I find calming. It’s a pretty good way to unwind, and let my creative brain run rampant with ideas. So that is what I did today. I was actually looking for a specific fabric, a stone coloured linen patterned with rain clouds in varying shades of blue. I had seen it a few days earlier and instantly an image popped into my head of a dress. So I went, I scavenged, I emerged victorious. And scored myself a couple of other positively adorable fabrics along the way, for a remarkably good price I might add! Oh, if I had have had the time and the money, there would have been much more purchasing going on. There was one particular fabric I deliberated over for a solid ten minutes, patterned with hot air balloons (there’s something so romantic about an old school hot air balloon I find), and Spotlight currently had a beautiful range of geometric print fabric in metallic colours that I could just imagine as cushion covers and table runners. But i exercised some self control, and managed to make it out with 10 metres of different fabrics, more than enough to keep me occupied for a while…in theory anyway.

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Blue is the colour of the day, and look at how pretty!

But I am determined to finish my current projects first. The most pressing is a skirt commission for a friend of mine. We have been discussing it for literally months, and now that I have finally found the right colour of silk lining to go underneath, I can get it completed for her, and then maybe start on the clothing items she has requested for her kids. The other is what I am referring to as the Suave-ellous Ensemble (because it will be marvellously suave). I am a sucker for a woman in a suit, and so I am creating a vest and trousers set in a lovely grey suiting. The pants are completed, and I’ve made a muslin for the vest, the pieces of which are set out on the table, just ready to be cut. The vest will be lined with a burgundy silk, and I’ll be making a proper bow tie to complete the look. Later down the track, I might make a blouse or button up shirt to go underneath but for now, it’s not particularly high on my list of priorities.

Last week I managed to score myself a third day off every fortnight, so hopefully that extra day will mean I will get more of a chance to do some proper sewing. In the meantime, my machine awaits!

 

Days Off and Deadlines

I had a day off today. Well, kind of, but not really. I’ve been working hard to finish a costume commission for a good friend of mine and today is the last chance I will have to complete it before she goes to Melbourne tomorrow night for Oz Comic-Con on Saturday.

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A few weeks ago she showed me a photo she’d found on the net, and with that as a reference, I set about making her costume. I’ve had her in for a couple of fittings, but otherwise I’ve kind of just been winging it. So far, it’s turning out well and the last things I have to do involve a zip and attaching of the bodice to the skirt. Pretty simple stuff, just have to make sure it all fits. One more fitting and she should be going home with it tonight. But a sewist’s work is never done.

My best friend is turning thirty next week because she is old. She is having a costume party, no theme. I chose to live out my Steampunk fantasies, and I’m making a costume to accommodate. But of course, silly Amy went ahead and chose the most difficult fabric in the world. It slips, it slides…I honestly don’t even know what it is, I got it from the assorted fabric section at Lincraft. But hey, it’s a nice colour and that’s what counts.

I’m halfway through finishing the top and for once, I’m actually using a pattern. When you work five days a week, it’s hard to find the time to make your own patterns when you’re working to a deadline. My own fault. I allowed myself to get distracted by life and left myself a mere three weeks to finish the costume. Next time, knowing my time constraints, I’ll allow myself six months per job. Because I swear sometimes, that’s how long it takes!

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I love to sew, but I will be glad when I finish these two projects, and I can use my days off to do relaxy things. Like watch moves and chill on the couch. Ah, who am I kidding? I’ll probably clean my house and run errands like I usually do. What can I say, I’ve never really been good at having days off.

Sewing Update

Things have been pretty hectic in the life of Amy lately, so it’s been a fair while since I’ve had a proper chance to sit at my sewing machine and create. But a couple of days ago, I finally got some time and decided to start a new project. The last thing I finished was a pair of shorts for the four year old son of a friend of mine. It was the kind of simple project you sew through mindlessly, mechanically. I was ready for something new.

A couple of months ago I ordered some adorable fox patterned fabric from Spoonflower and have been looking for a project to use it for ever since. The other day, it kind of came to me. I had an image in my head of a dress with a Peter Pan collar, and so I immediately began drawing and cutting. I sew the same way I bake; I pretty much just make things up as I go. It’s rare for me to use a proper method, or pattern, so I just kind of winged it.

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As I’ve been sewing, the idea for the dress has developed and changed. I’ve allowed for a waistband in a contrasting colour, and decided on a whim to stitch in some tulip sleeves as well as the collar. I’m still in the construction phase of the dress at the moment, only really getting time to see between work and errands, but it’s slowly coming together. Hopefully I’ll get it finished in time to wear to my brother’s army march out this Friday. We’ll see how I go for time.

In addition to my fox dress, I’ve been commissioned to make an Assassin’s Creed costume for my friend to wear to Oz Comic-Con at the start of June, and I have to somehow find the time to make a steampunk costume for my best friend’s (the other one) 30th birthday at the end of June. But depending on how I go for time, I may just cheat and go the EBay option. And the four year old that I’ve made shorts for was so enamoured with them, that he has made several requests that I will hope to fill…if I ever get time! Suffice to say, my poor neglected machines are about to get one hell of a workout!

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Coming together...slowly!

All Work and No Creating Makes Amy a VERY Dull, (Vague, Nonsensical Idiotic) Girl

In my last post I ranted a little about having had a bad day. When I saw my best friend yesterday and I told him about what a vague idiot I’d been, his answer was simple and blindingly obvious. (of course it was, because he is blessed with beard wisdom). He told me it was because I hadn’t allowed myself any time to create, and then to further his point, asked me when I last did any sewing. I had to think about it and the answer shocked me a little; I haven’t done any sewing since before I left for Sydney…at the start of the month. Nor have I done any writing (outside of this blog) or guitar practice, or anything even remotely creative. And suddenly, everything made so much more sense.

I realise you might not see the connection between creating and being a completely unfocused, scatterbrained Amy, so let me explain. When I create, I’m grounded. I have something to focus on, something to keep me entertained and productive. It’s a way to release all my pent up energies…in a more productive way than masturbation! And it provides me with a sense of calm satisfaction. Taking time to create lets the other aspects of my life fall into place, and I can function as an actual member of society rather than a blundering, blithering idiot.

Things have been so hectic lately that I’ve barely had time to take a breath, much less take some hours to be creative. I’ve had to drive to other states, attend weddings and milestone birthdays, I’ve had to run errands and clean my house and work. And so even though I’ve had every weekend off this month, I’ve been so busy doing life things, that creating got put on the back burner. And as the other day will attest, other parts of my life have suffered for it.

It doesn’t help that since being put on full time, I lose the extra day off I had that I would use to create. I mean, sure I get holidays, and sick pay, and a whopping $73 extra dollars in my pay for the extra day I work, but I’m beginning to wonder if taking on a full time role was a bad idea. The logical part of my brain says it was a good idea; more security, looks better for any future loans I may choose to take out, more money…barely. But the part of my brain that thrives on creating and learning keeps telling me that I took on full time responsibility and lost the ability to keep myself sane. This life thing can be really hard sometimes.

This weekend I am getting tattooed, and then attending my grandmother’s 75th birthday, and then I’ll have to clean and do washing because I won’t get another chance. But I’m hoping that I can take some time on Sunday to sit at my sewing machine or my laptop and smash out something. Because honestly, if I keep going the way I’m going, my boss is either going to fire me out of pure exasperation, or I’m going to wind up in an asylum somewhere, rocking back and forth and being berated by an imaginary sewing machine for not nurturing my creativity.

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A Shout Out to All Creative People

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I love creative people. I realised today as I was going through my Instagram feed, that most of the people I follow, besides my friends, are people I’ve discovered that have some kind of creative talent.  Artists, musicians, fellow sewing enthusiasts; plenty of creativity flowing through my social media profiles!

I was scrolling through the ‘discover’ page and without fail, every profile that caught my eye was from someone who creates in some way. I just love seeing all the wonderful things people make, and every day I get inspired to keep creating cool things of my own. Even on WordPress, I follow a couple of blogs specifically because they relate to sewing.

I like to make clothes, and bags, and jewelry and knick knacks. I like to write. I would like to play music but am as yet mostly lacking talent in that particular area. I like to sing. I would like to be artistic but…hey, you can’t have everything!

So I just wanted to say, to all you wonderful creative people out there, keep doing what you’re doing. You are fabulous, incredibly talented and spectacularly inspiring. Thank you for giving me pretty things to look at, for inspiring me to keep creating even when I feel like I’m stunted, and for making this world just a little more magical.