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!

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.
Image result for simplicity 1252

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.

Image result for labyrinth wall movie

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*

A Little Lost and Weary

I have made a terrible mistake. 

If I had a dollar for every time that thought has crossed my mind in recent months, I would be able to quit my job and live comfortably for the rest of my life. In fact, I have thought it so many times that I don’t remember the last day I had where I didn’t think it.

I have come to the conclusion that I am either exceedingly unlucky, or someone hates me and has put a curse on me. There is simply no other explanation for my string of bad luck lately. Everything I touch seems to turn to shit. Every decision I make seems to be the wrong one. Every potentially good day I could have turns irrefutably, invariably sour. And I realise as I type, that perhaps this reads like the angsty drama of an overly emotional teenager who thinks the world is out to get her, or a cry for attention. I assure you, it is neither. This goes beyond just having a bad day. Despite my best efforts to stay positive, I find myself more unhappy now than ever.

I feel lost. I don’t know what my next move is, and in any case I’m afraid to make one because I fear the long list of negative repercussions that will inevitably follow. And there is a small voice in the back of my mind that tells me that that is exactly the wrong mindset to have. But the louder voice tells me that it doesn’t matter how positive I try to think, because I have been left disappointed every. Single. Time. So why should the near future be any different from the recent past?

I am so sick of this life. I’m sick of feeling stuck wherever I go. I’m sick of waking up every day and wanting to not wake up ever again. I’m sick of working constantly for little to no reward, in a job I don’t even have any passion for anymore. I’m sick of not having any direction, and I am dead sick of always, always being wrong. Just once, I would like to do something and have it not backfire in my face. *sigh*. I’m sorry. There’s nothing like a girl complaining online to kill your buzz. I guess the only thing I can do now (short of something that I promised I would never do) is to go home, make myself a cup of tea, and immerse myself in my writing. It’s new, this project I’ve started, but it hits close to home. And when the rest of my life seems to be falling spectacularly to pieces, I cling to creativity like a lifeline. Hopefully it will get me through this time too.

Sewing Update

A couple of days ago, I finished my first make of the year. Admittedly, I started it in late December but, as always happens with me, things got in the way and I had to put it on the back burner. However, finish it I did, and I think it may be my favourite dress of any I’ve made. You may remember from a previous post that I purchased a lovely cloud patterned linen fabric for the project, and I have to say it turned out just as well as I had imagined.

Now, I know I said I was going to do something different this year. Not so many dresses, and more different projects instead. But seeing as how this one was already started, I figured I could use it for January’s make. And although yes, I did make yet another dress, this is the first I’ve made with a sewn in waistband and Peter Pan collar (which happens to be one of my favourite styles of dress). Whilst I do adore how it turned out, there are couple of things to note with this dress. First of all, as I have (semi) recently discovered how to insert pockets into clothing, pretty much everything I have made since, has had them. In this case, I didn’t measure exactly right and so the pockets sit a tiny bit lower in the skirt than I would like, but they’re otherwise functional. Second, I completely drafted this pattern from scratch. It fits well, however next time I will need to alter the neckline slightly so it has more of a scoop. And thirdly, I think I need to do some research on how to make gathered waistlines a little less bulky. Again, this isn’t overly noticeable on the dress, but I can feel the bulk when I wear it, and I would like to improve on that next time.

Of course, I’ve never been one to sit too long, and I’m already planning for February’s make; a playsuit. I absolutely love them but often I find that the ones I see in stores are designed for women with frames more petite than mine, or come in the most hideous patterns and colours. I own two playsuits, and I think I will use the top of one of them as a basis for a pattern. However, I’ve been seeing some great inspiration on women walking past me in the street so it looks like I’ll have a lot to play around with. I’m toying with the idea of cutouts and spaghetti straps, but we’ll see how things go. I think the main thing about this upcoming project is finding the right fabric. I’ll be aiming for something a little floatier than the cotton fabrics I am fond of, so it looks like a fabric hunt is in the cards for me in the coming weeks. Yay!

Image result for playsuits
Forever drawing inspiration from Pinterest.

I’m still slowly making my way through the challenge of making my own shoes. I’ve already stuffed up once, but this second attempt should be better…I hope. Updates will come later, if I have any success! Other than that, I haven’t had any big commissions or projects since I made an Assassin’s Creed inspired costume for my friend to wear to Oz Comic-Con last year, but all of a sudden, I’ve had three requests over the last two days! A friend of mine asked me to make her wedding dress for her winter wedding later this year (eeep!), another friend has commissioned a dress to wear to a wedding in April, and last night I got a message from a third friend, asking if I made costumes, and if I would be available to make her something to wear to her girlfriend’s 21st, also in April. When it rains, it pours I guess!

It’s all very well and good to have sewing plans for the year but my business goal for this year is to start managing it a little better. I’ve had too many people commission me for projects, only to pull out or conveniently ‘forget’ after I’ve already bought the fabric. And I have a terrible tendency to forget who has paid me, and who hasn’t, in addition to under charging for my services. So this year, I am going to make an effort to value my time and my skill better. Which is going to mean deposits, a proper order book, and receipts for everything. Damn it, looks like adulthood is starting to catch up with me.

Anyway, that is what I have in store. I am determined to make this year a successful and creative one.

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.