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.

A Dress, Stress, and a Learning Curve

About six weeks ago, I had a woman contact me via my Facebook page regarding a dress alteration. It is the first time someone has contacted me that wasn’t a friend of mine, or a friend of a friend. A complete stranger. I was excited, because it meant my little label was getting out there. So we arranged a time for her to come to my house and discuss the dress she wanted fixed.

When she arrived, she brought with her a blue dress that she required an extra ten cms of length on. She had already bought her fabric, and so I had a quick look, deduced that something could be done, quoted her a price and a deal was made. I took it to my friend’s mum, who was a seamstress, and got her opinion on it. It never hurts to consult with someone who knows more than you! And that’s about when I realised things were not going to be as easy as I had first thought.

The dress itself had a skirt made in two layers…two very intentionally uneven layers. It was made from a heavy fabric, similar to suiting, and both hems had been reinforced with horsehair braid. The fabric I was to lengthen the dress with was much lighter and floatier, more of a crepe. The colour match was similar, but everything else was completely different. However, undeterred, I went about my process.

I had figured, upon seeing the dress, that it would be a simple case of making a circle skirt ten cms longer than the bottom hem, and putting in an elastic waist so she could wear it underneath. But when I tried, the fabric wasn’t wide enough. So I tried another approach, and managed to fit two half circle templates of the correct measurement on the fabric provided. I measured twice to be sure, and then cut into the fabric. When I pinned it to the dress to see how it looked…disaster struck. What I thought was a circle hem on the dress was actually wider; it was an oval.

So then the fiddly work began. Determined not to waste any fabric, I set about making a template for the skirt. Which I did. But again, when I lay it out, it was wonky. So I pinned the pattern to the floor, pinned the dress opened out on top, and set about making the pattern the correct length around, using scraps of fabric I had on hand. Finally, finally, I thought I had it. So I cut the fabric to the template, sewed the seams together and made a skirt. I then pinned that to the dress at the waistband, made sure it was ten cms longer around, lined the seams up and voila. Alas, not voila.

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This took me four hours...

Because the dress was shorter at the sides, the additional length combined with the lighter fabric made the front of the skirt hang noticeably longer than the sides. It looked awful. But I figured once I sewed in the horsehair braid, it would stiffen out and look fine. But I had the same problem, only the hem now looked especially dodgy. Finally I had to concede and call my client and tell her we needed to work something else out. I was starting to panic. I had had the dress a month by this stage (only being able to work on it during weekends) and I should mention it was a bridesmaid dress for her wedding. I had a dream that I ruined her special day, all because I couldn’t solve the puzzle of the dress!

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I consulted with my nan, and she told me what I had considered doing in the first place; dispensing with the horsehair and just attaching a band of fabric to the hem. Using scraps left over, I did just that with pins and when my client came around to chat about it, I showed her both the botched attempt at an underskirt, and the band I’d attached to the dress. We decided that the band was the best way to go, she was more than lovely about it and in no way as stressed as I was about how long I had had her dress in my possession. With that decision made, I set about making and attaching the band. We upped the length to thirteen cms just to be safe and so I altered my measurements and started from scratch.

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I made the band, measured and pinned, shortened it at the front to accommodate for the uneven hem, and ensure it sat evenly when the bridesmaid in question wore the dress in the day. Then I overlocked (though the machine tried to eat the fabric a little) sewed it to the dress, hung it on my mannequin and…huzzah! After six weeks, endless stress, more frustration than I had ever imagined, and countless issues on my part, the dress was finally complete. The lighter fabric at the hem flowed with the existing horsehair and hung nicely rather than sticking out at a wonky angle like my first attempt. When my client came to pick it up this week, she was happy with it and certain that her friend would feel comfortable on the day in a dress that wouldn’t be too short. And I honestly couldn’t have asked for a nicer or more patient client; if everyone else was like her, I’d love customer service a lot more!

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And so, saga of the bridesmaid dress is finally complete. It’s been a learning curve and a challenge, but I have become a more skilled sewist (damn you, that is a word!) as a result.

Habits of a Modern Day Sewist

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I cleaned my sewing room on the weekend. It has been kind of a shambles for a long time, and I finally got up the motivation to clean it. Honestly, I should have done it sooner. It makes everything so much neater, easier and more relaxing. But as I was tidying, I found myself with two pins in my mouth. I had no use for them, but I had picked them up from the table and they went straight between my lips for…safekeeping? When I actually put them back in the pincushion, it occurred to me that I have all these sewing habits that probably seem really strange to people who don’t sew. So here are a few, to maybe (probably not) help you better understand the habits of a sewing addict.

  1. Obviously, the pins. Now, I will pin something together and as I sew, I will remove them from the fabric. Without fail, the first one I take out will always, always go straight in my mouth. The rest find a happy home stabbed back into the pincushion, but for some reason, I always end up with that first one between my lips. I don’t really know why, but it’s just a habit I’ve always had.
  2. My idea of a leisurely Saturday is going to the local craft/sewing shop and spending time perusing the fabric selection. Whether I have a project or not, I always love to go and have a look. I touch and smell the fabric and more often than not, impulsively buy it because I am weak willed when it comes to pretty things. Which brings me to my next point.
  3. Some people go to the supermarket for one thing and come out with ten; that’s me in a fabric shop. Even if I go for a shop with no real purpose in mind, there are few times that I leave without a bag full of things I wasn’t initially going to buy. Fabric and elastic and ribbon and thread, pins and buttons and interfacing and dye…the list really is endless.
  4. Sewing in my underwear. This is usually for convenience, honestly. Plus, I hate wearing pants and it’s not like I live with anyone. But if I’m making something for myself, I need to be able to try it on and make sure all my measurements are correct, and see whether I need to tweak or tuck something. It’s just easier to do it in my underwear because then I’m not taking things off and putting them back on and taking them off again a billion times in a sewing session.
  5. Calling myself a ‘sewist’. Technically, sewist isn’t a real word. It’s not in the dictionary, and the little red line keeps coming up under it every time I type it, reminding me of that fact. But the correct term is sewer, and don’t try and tell me that when you read that then, your thoughts didn’t immediately jump to toilets and manky pipes filled with bodily waste. Hence, I get to use a made up word when referring to myself in regards to my sewing skills.
  6. Being oddly affectionate towards my sewing machine and overlocker. I know they have no feelings, or brains and that talking to them makes me seem like a madwoman. But they work hard, and without them, I would be sitting there sewing by hand so I think they deserve affectionate pats and words of encouragement/thanks. Don’t judge me. The machines are my friends.
  7. Scouring Pinterest for ideas, writing them all down and then making none of them. Pinterest is like my drug of choice. I can’t get enough of it, constantly looking up new things to make and create. Some of them I have tried my hand at, others are still firmly stuck in the ‘will get around to…eventually’ pile. But there is a world of creativity out there, and it’s always good to find motivation and inspiration for the days when my own brain comes up with nothing.
  8. Check people out, not because they’re good looking, but because I want to try and determine if I can replicate what they’re wearing. This is a habit I only got into over the last year, as my sewing skills improved. More than once, I have been caught out staring intensely at people like some kind of creepy weirdo, when all I’m doing is mentally working out how difficult it would be to make their outfits. Mental note; be more subtle.
  9. Hoard fabric. I am not a hoarder, except when it comes to sewing materials. I have so much scrap fabric floating around my sewing room, on the off chance that I might need it for something. When I cleaned the other day, I finally had to reconcile with the fact that those off cuts and remnants I had been saving are useless, and taking up precious space I could be using to store proper lengths of fabric. Even though it pained me a little, I threw them out…though give me another few weeks and I’m sure I will have built the collection back up.
  10. Forgetting to eat because I’m too engrossed in my current project. This is a bad habit, I’ll admit. Often times I get so in the zone that before I know it, I’ve been sewing for four hours straight, and my stomach is making bizarre noises that could be easily mistaken for Star Wars special effects. Good for productivity, bad for energy levels and, y’know, survival.

Some of these habits may seem strange, but it is these things that make being a sewist (there it is again) so much fun. And with that in mind, I am going to go and…get on Pinterest and search for cool things to do with scraps of fabric! Sew long, friends! (eh? Eh? Hilarious)

Sunday

A few days ago, I picked up my brand new car. I’ve been waiting a few weeks for it to arrive, so for a while there, it wasn’t really in the forefront of my mind. However, since I picked it up and have been driving it, I have actually become one of those people that kind of wants to talk about cars. Because it’s pretty, and new, and when you go from driving a 30 year old car to driving a brand spanking new one, well, you just have to get excited a little!

Today, because I had nothing else to do and because I’ve been itching to take the car for a little trip to run it in, I decided to visit a little town about an hour or so away from where I live. I visit this town every few months or so, just to do something different and break the monotony of my constant surroundings. It’s a little hippy, a little hipster and full of kooky, quirky things to buy. I love it. And today I was fortunate, because they were having a market. So I perused the stalls at my leisure, picked up a few goodies and happily meandered about, enjoying the sun and the fresh air.

I stopped in to a few of my favourite shops, and did a bit of impulse buying. And I had two women, on two separate occasions, compliment me on the dress I was wearing. Now, the cool thing about that, is that I got to respond with ‘thank you, I made it myself!’. I finished the dress this morning, and the opportunity was perfect to wear it, so I was more than a little chuffed that I’d gotten complimented. I love being able to make and wear my own clothes, and to receive compliments makes it just that little bit more worthwhile.

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Hello, I'm a girl, evidently.

A quick stop at the vintage market, and I was on my way home. It was as I was driving down a 100km stretch of road, that I came to realise something. I was actually a little anxious. As you may have read, I had an accident a few months ago (hence the buying of the new car). I wasn’t the least bit hurt but, while I think the experience has subsequently made me a better driver, I realised that it may actually have also made me a touch paranoid. I don’t know entirely whether it’s just because my car is so new, or because the accident is lingering in my subconscious, but the entire way home I felt uneasy. Stupid psyche.

Anyway, driving unease aside, today was such a lovely day, and I feel like I just had to share it with you! I hope you are all enjoying your Sunday too!

Making, and Wearing Handmade

There is something so cool about wearing handmade. Today I got out of bed and put on pyjama shorts. As I was pulling them on, it kind of struck me that I had created them. I had taken flat fabric and turned it into a wearable item of clothing. And that is really fucking cool.

I’m still relatively new at the sewing game, having only really started last year. But even since I first brought my sewing machine home, and set myself up with an ironing board in my bedroom for a sewing desk, things have improved. My skills have improved, and developed. The first thing I made properly was an apron. My friend had given me a whole bunch of fabric, and there was this sweet owl patterned material in the mix. Without using a pattern, I drew and cut and stitched and the result was a dodgy, but wearable apron. I was so proud of myself.

I made a few more aprons, to get the hang of my machine, and develop a technique. Then I started with skirts. The first one I ever made was a disaster. It turned out really well, and was lined and everything. Right up until I put it in the wash, and the coloured waistband bled into the mainly white skirt and stained. And then there was the shrinking issue. When the lining shows up a good inch below the fabric, you know you’ve stuffed up somewhere. Well, suffice to say, I’ve pre washed my fabric ever since.

For a long while, I didn’t really do any sewing at all. I didn’t have a place to set up at my dad’s house, and I am pretty bad when it comes to staying motivated. But then earlier this year, I got back into it, and found that I really, really loved making things. I take great joy from challenging myself, and have a kind of smug stubbornness in regards to not using patterns. I tend to just look at things, shrug and say ‘yeah, I could probably make that.’ Plus, patterns often confuse me anyway.

Once I moved out and had a bona fide sewing space, everything intensified. I started The Elegant Fox, started making things for other people as well as myself, and began expanding my repertoire. The beautiful thing about sewing is that there are always new things to learn, and a world of things to create. As of last night, I’ve added making cabochon jewelry to my skill set. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for months, and the pieces I ordered finally arrived this week. And I have so many more ideas in the works, so watch this space! (or this one). Many more cool, creative things are on the way!

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House Made Introductions

A person’s house tells a lot about them. You can always tell the people who tidy for company from the people who don’t. You can usually tell if someone supports a particular sporting team, or if a girl spends ten minutes or three hours in the bathroom. It’s the little things we don’t really notice that tell people the most about us. I can be completely summed up to a stranger by five things in my house. Which is to say, someone I don’t know could walk into my house today and leave after ten minutes with a fairly good notion about the kind of person I am.

Firstly, when you walk into my house, is the typewriters. They’re right at the front door, sitting atop some bookshelves that house a rather significant collection of books. This is the first thing people see. You can deduce one of two things from these cute little vintage pieces. I am either a) a pompous hipster with a penchant for buying vintage items to make myself seem cool or b) I am a writer (and aspiring author) with a deep and profound love of the written word, and a genuine interest in writing implements from history. It’s the latter, by the way.

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Secondly, as you make your way through my house – and by that I mean taking about a step and a half into my lounge room – you will see the large collection of books stacked slightly precariously atop a small but varied DVD collection. Now, in addition to the bookshelves when you first walked in, these thirty odd books will tell you that I am a voracious reader, with a tendency to buy books in bulk and happily make my way through them at my own leisure. That stack has been, at varying levels, a part of my living arrangement for the last six years. At least.

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Before you move onward, to the right is my bedroom. There, on my side table is my iPod, plugged into the dock and playing music (Amorphis at the time I took that photo). My iPod is perpetually playing. There are very few things I do, without the accompaniment of various styles and genres of music. Everything from Metal (the likes of Dimmu Borgir, Opeth and Dark Tranquillity to name a few) to instrumental pieces, progressive rock to folk and blues. I have what one might consider an eclectic taste in music, and I can’t go through my days without some musical motivation.

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Take a couple more steps and you will find yourself in my kitchen. To the right is my sewing room, where you will find a dressmakers mannequin wearing an almost finished gown of my own design, just awaiting the final touches to complete. Now, this is pretty obvious. Mannequin, almost completed project, fabric everywhere, sewing machine on the table; I sew, guys. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

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You don’t even need to take any more steps here, because on the wall outside the sewing room door, hanging in my kitchen is a canvas print that reads ‘Keep Calm and Put the Kettle On’. This could be admittedly taken a couple of ways. Perhaps I enjoy entertaining? Nope. Maybe I am a coffee drinker? Nuh uh. I drink copious amounts of tea. Can’t live without it, I am truly a writer cliche. I have about thirty different kinds of tea in a cupboard specifically designated for it. So I suppose, perhaps the fifth item should be my tea cupboard, but the canvas is more obvious and frankly, if a stranger were to go through my cupboards, I would find that unforgivably rude.

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And that’s about it. Oh, of course there are other things, if one cared to pay attention. The collection of Pop Vinyl figures that indicate a love of pop culture and geekery, the empty fridge that tells you I am a lazy cook, the prints on the walls that let you know I am a collector of cool art. My house is very Amy. There is no way you would walk in and mistake me for a footy loving jock, or a smoker or a painter or a cat lover. We make our space our own and sooner or later, that space will inevitably tell others who we are. So what does your house say about you?

Sewing Update

My sewing commitments have kind of taken over my spare time lately. Not a weekend has gone by since I started taking orders that I haven’t done at least a little sewing. This weekend just gone I completed a customer order and made something for myself so I was feeling pretty accomplished.

There is something so satisfying about looking at something, and knowing that you made it. I’m not a huge fan of patterns, and often don’t use them (not because they’re bad, but because I struggle to make sense of them!) so my accomplishments seem, to me at least, all the more worthwhile.

I bought an overlocker a few weeks ago, and finally got around to getting it set up. And let me tell you, it was one of the most worthwhile purchases I’ve made…despite my impatience with threading and penchant for snapping needles. It makes the whole process so much quicker and easier, and makes the edges of my clothes look heaps more professional.

I’ve been doing a lot of skirts lately, so I want to break away from them a little and expand my repertoire. Fortunately, my best pal let me raid her pattern box so, despite my inherent dislike for patterns, I have plenty of things to practice with. Always improving my skills! And honestly, thank gods for Pinterest. I now have about a billion ideas and plenty of inspiration so I might start making my own patterns soon. Who knows!

So, I’ll leave you with a few of my recent creations (for customers and myself!) and as always, thanks for reading!

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Customer order for Lou
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Sarah's Harry Potter skirt
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Peplum top (feat. Australia's NOT Top Model...)
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Beck's bow ties