Saturday, July 12, 2014

McCalls 6915, books & rain

This is the fabric and pattern Brighid and I chose in Christchurch a few weeks ago, while the boys soughed it out at a kung fu tournament.  It's black velvet, and really beautiful fabric.  The pattern is McCalls 6915, and while it is easy to put together, the actual pattern is ridiculous.  I had read that the pattern comes up large on Pattern Review, but the reality was quite stark.  The top is loose enough to be made in a woven (the pattern specifies moderate stretch) and the skirt is unhemmed and falls above her knees.  I favour loose dresses on Brighid, but this is just bad pattern making I think.  It is entirely my fault that I ignored the band and folded the neckline over and stretched it out really badly.  So I made some tucks in the front and then added the neckband after all.  The next step in fulfilling Brighid's specs for this dress is that she wants pointy bits around the hem and arms...

She added some socks and gumboots and a hoodie and off we went to see Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy at the movies.  Appalling gender constructions, but I tried to leave that at the door and I did really love seeing Brighid's pleasure in the film.

Recent reading:
1. A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride.  I think it is worth the prizes and acclaim it has won.  Not happy reading, but more worth it than I had feared given I had read some plot info already.  This White Review interview with McBride is thoughtful and much better than most interviews with authors (or perhaps I usually read in the wrong places).
2. The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers.  Vickers once again manages to win reasonable literary acclaim at the same time as writing a deeply satisfying curling up in bed restorative story.
3. I've just started The Collected Works of A J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  Fabulous so far.

In the garden, everything is wet.  Soaked to the core and out to the rims again.  I think my tulips have all rotted in it.  Shame, given that this is the year when I splashed out on more than ever before.  The daffodils and irises are obviously made of tougher stuff, and the snowdrops are looking lovely out the front already.  I do still have coriander in the garden, and lots of kale, spinach, silverbeet, mesclun, some rocket and masses of miners lettuce.  Not bad for the middle of winter.

The main triumph is that the illness which laid us up for eight days has finally departed.  Good bye and good riddance to that series of gastro disasters.

Monday, June 23, 2014

yellow yes, mellow, not so much

So, it's quite bold, and yellow.  It's my Issy top, from Style Arc.  I threw caution to the wind as it was a freebie pattern and made it up without any alterations.  Funnily enough it fits in the bust and is too big everywhere else except through the hips.  Who would have thought that all that reading on altering patterns and several years of experimentation would yield yet another proof?

It's not completely unwearable once I have taken an extremely deep hem (size 18 tops, I am reminded again, are not drafted for persons who are 5'4").  I may try and take the shoulders in, something I'vve never tried before.  I am taking the sleeves up to be 3/4 sleeves.  Bold yellow flowers all the way to my hands is tooooo much.

It will, no matter the alterations, be very bold, and very yellow.  I'm not sure I will wear it every second day.  I had the red version of this print and I was wise to make it as a dress with plain black for the bodice.  This yellow fabric would have made great tights, but you have to wear a lot of plain colours to be able to slot in tights like these.  Too late for tights though...

Anyways, I'd also like to record that meat bone soup is easy to make, lasts more than one meal, is nutritious and my children even like it.  I mucked around with mutton flap soup last weekend, and this weekend made lamb shank soup.  Lots of home grown kale and garlic in both versions of course.

I'm reading A girl is a Thing Half Made.  I will say that I am reading it, whereas my previous attempts at that unpunctuated stream of consciousness Irish novel known as Ulysses have all stopped before the end of the first page.  I find myself simultaneously both drawn in and scared of what might happen next.

I planted some garlic in the weekend.  Eating rocket, miners lettuce, giant purple mustard and some nameless mesclun straight from the garden.  Now the shortest day has passed, I shall be able increasingly to see my greens as I pick them in the morning for my lunchbox.  Mostly I try not to will the days faster though, as 7 and 11 seem such precious ages and I want to be with them now, not rush them to be older.  We are now up to reading book four of the Harry Potter series.  And they are in a knitting phase and I am the knitting tutor.

It's so precious to be with them when I am at work all day and time with them is not assured.  Not so much blogging now compared to seven years ago when I started blogging so I could have a thinking space that wasn't centred around babies and small children.  Not giving up just yet - still charting the sewing projects.  You may or may not be pleased to know that the next fabrics in the cupboard are plain, not prints.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

the renfrew red velvet dress with no velvet in it.

I've been sewing.  Above are four photos before I took a piece out of the bodice to take away the droop and hemmed it.  One day I might have better photos, but equally, one day may never come.  I was harsh on myself at first, but I suspect I shall come to like it a lot.  The skirt and midriff is from the Cake Patterns Red Velvet and it is beautiful.  I mustn't have concentrated properly, because my scissor pleat isn't exactly central in the front and not exactly symmetrical in the back.  My husband picked this, demonstrating that he was concentrating when I asked him what he thought.  I've made this skirt part of the red velvet pattern twice before and got it perfect without major effort those times.  I speak as someone for whom sewing and perfect almost never meet.
The top is the Renfrew top from Sewaholic, cut at just below the bust. I was looking for a combination which gave me modesty at the top (achieved), set in sleeves (achieved), winter-suitable (achieved) and a lovely fabric (achieved) .  I'd not anticipated the hint of early 1980s primary school teacher pinafore which it has though.
The difficulty of fitting clothes was what led me to sewing, and the difficulty remains.  The more I sew, the more particular I get about fit.  I think that if I'd pursued the Red Velvet top half, making alterations after my muslin last year, I would have had a really lovely dress.  But I wouldn't have had a dress which fitted all of my criteria above, and it is my winter wardrobe which needs augmenting right now, not summer.
So I've decided it's time to sew something straight from the envelope.  I'm a bit over spending hours making pattern alterations and then still not being quite happy with the final result.  Tonight I cut out the fabric to make a Style Arc Issy Top.  The instructions look sure to pose a challenge, with crossing and draping and asymmetrical necklines and hems.  But it was deliciously easy to cut the pattern when it was only three pieces and no fba or other messing.  I would add that the pattern is totally beyond me to add an fba to, so that sorted that aspect out.  The Issy top was a freebie when I ordered a Clara skirt  pattern earlier in the year.  No Clara until I've made a top though, as there are more skirts than tops in my wardrobe.
p.s.  I was thinking about making a dress suitable for a ball, but I have deemed that insane.  The multi-use options for a ball dress in a small wet town like mine are nil.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New definitions of precious

Tomorrow the marathon begins.  Not running, not that much of a sea-change has been going on at the not-quite-so-messy house.  Just the marathon of working full time with extra work responsibility whilst simultaneously parenting and attempting to fit in sleep and books and rest home visiting and garden and sewing. 

Today I eschewed my plans to go to work and instead cleaned the lounge.  Really cleaned the lounge, including sorting out all my sewing gear.  I found three tape measures, three packets of new bobbins, countless packets of curtain hooks and more packets of sewing machine needles than I was prepared to count.  All bought because I couldn't find the pre-existing packets in the mess.

The finished result is a thing of beauty.  Of course if a camera was charged and I took a photo to share on this blog, you would wonder what all the fuss was about.  A bright yellow room with some old furniture and lots of books and hobby paraphernalia... but you would miss the fact that the sewing machine sits on its old wooden school desk and you can see all the wood around it.  You could miss the snaplock bags and the jars of carefully sorted notions and sewing tools which are stacked on the shelves.  A photograph wouldn't capture the glee of my husband and children that they can actually sit on the rocking chair.

I've put the camera on to charge.  The next step is to see whether it still looks splendiferous tomorrow.

Things I have read lately:
1. Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee
2. Underground by Tobias Hill
3. The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy
4. Dark Sparring by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Stuff got me moving on clearing clutter.  Turns out I don't qualify as an OCD hoarder in need of professional intervention by a psychologist just right now, but there were some thought processes described in the book which were a little too familiar.

Underground was good.  Not quite as gripping as Hill's What was Promised which I read not long ago, but still worth it.

The Last Days of the National Costume was wonderful.  I'm surprised it hasn't had more publicity.  I guess we were all swooning over The Luminaries when Kennedy's book was released last year.  It deserves a proper review, and the clock is against me on that.  Post-modern theory and sewing and an Irish connection and the blackout in Auckland in 1998 and the most beautiful language.  Ask your library to order it.

Dark Sparring is Marsh's second collection of poetry and I loved it.  Buying it and The Last Days of the National Costume in Auckland made both books more poignant as I read them either up there or on my return, when I was full of the love for the vibrant city, the beauty of which not enough is said.

Things I have bought lately:
1. fabric
2. more fabric
3. gumboots
4. A layby beginning of more boots.  I wanted red.  Proper red.  I'm making do with wine-coloured boots.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

lawns or thyroid? hard to contain excitement

Well well well.  I didn't write for weeks because my life has turned into a workfest, and then blogger/google/gmail got so mixed up I couldn't access my account and now, wonders unexplained, I can access it again. 

1. sewing.  I made a renfrew top which I appear not to have photographed.  I made a pile of alterations to the pattern before I made it up, and I think I'll make some more yet, and turn it into a frankpatterned mix of renfrew top and red velvet midriff and skirt.  I made another circle skirt for a 7th birthday present.  Brighid is modelling the twirl factor on it above, before we wrapped it and set off for the party.  I didn't have any bias binding and so hemmed with a single fold (looooong hem circumference) and zigzagged it which actually looked quite good.

I hemmed two tiramisu dresses which have been worn unhemmed for ages.  I used steam a seam lite for one which was really good, except unbuyable at the moment as the factory burnt down.  I used a trendy trims supposed equivalent for the next dress, and that was only very marginally better than nothing.  Hand pinning skirts which have 3+ metre hems is not something I'm willing to do without a short cut.

2. sleep.  elusive.  not very interesting.

3.  thyroid.  bothersome.  refer 2.

I've been trying to understand the relationship between liver and thyroid health.  There is a documented connection, but I'm not making much progress understanding what and how.  As for which affects which, the chicken/egg conundrum persists.  Still, I have purchased livatone plus with turmeric and that seems to be doing some good.

4. Tobias Hill.  What Was Promised.  A wonderful novel.  Took me back to the magic of London all over again.

5. Winter sport.  It has started.  Boots and raffle tickets and mouthguards and shin pads and all manner of other smelly or soon to be smelly equipment are flying around.  Our money is mostly flying out the door.

6.  Lawnmower.  If buying a new lawnmower of a very good quality as an investment in reliability given the partial demise of the old lawnmower and the prognosis of expensive and imminent full demise of said previously trustworthy machine is not full blown suburban sensibility, I don't know what is.  If I don't blog again for more months, it may be because we have no money to replace the old computer because we spent it on a machine to make our lawns accessible (I started with the r--ble word, but couldn't complete).

Monday, March 3, 2014

sewing & books

New patterns:
Sewaholic Renfrew
Image 1

Style Arc Clara skirt
Clara Knit Skirt

I still haven't got my fabric buying and pattern buying and wardrobe needs in synch.  So I have gorgeous fabric in the cupboard in bold knit print for dresses or leggings.  But I have enough dresses and leggings for the moment and a need for cardigans in plain knits.  But I have wanted a cowl top for a zillion years to echo the RTW one I bought four years ago.  I tried a Khaliah Ali one and it wasn't successful.  The review and pics on the internet suggest the Renfrew could be the one for me.  This tutorial on doing an FBA on the Renfrew is going to be my mini-bible for the Renfrew project.

I read Deborah Challinor's Girl of Shadows and loved it.  This would make a fabulous mini-series.

Special find of the week: the digi-poem Hinemoa's Daughter.  Very beautiful.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anne Else: The Colour of Food

I've long been a fan of Anne Else's writing.  Her books on womens history and particularly on the history of adoption in New Zealand, were really important to me as a postgraduate history student in the 1990s.  Last year I read Else's PhD online and for the last several years I've been reading her blogs and .  When her food memoir came out only as an e-book, I was disappointed, but ethically opposed to getting a kindle or other device as it reduced the pool of books to be sold second hand thus available to people who could not afford new books.  But all those concerns fell away last week when my lovely husband surprised me with a kindle for my birthday.  There is no going back!  The books are so cheap and to be able to choose exactly what I want to read at 11pm or 3am or Sunday morning or whenever feels really close to magic.  The very first book I downloaded was Anne Else's The Colour of Food: a memoir of life, love and dinner...

Anne writes beautifully, and I think her tying in of food, love and history is very successful in this memoir.  In her Elsewoman blog she has detailed the challenges of eating alone and adjusting to living alone in poignant detail, and now I get to learn of the rich experiences before her loss.  I enjoyed the section on Albany particularly, as I'd not known anything of this experience beforehand.  Anne writes of Elizabeth David and afterwards I was looking for Lisa Chaney's biography of David.  The Colour of Food reminded me of the pleasure of reading the lives of foodies, without having to get out of bed and actually cook.  Anne's writing oeuvre has been an important contribution to writing the lives of New Zealanders and in particular to stamping out the reality that domestic work is significant and worthy of its own story. After reading The Colour of Food, I felt prompted to make more effort to get back writing and recording my own life.  Anne reminds those of us who teeter round the writing fringes as we live our lives that everyone's story is significant, and in turn gently suggests that we all owe it to ourselves to think and act carefully and share those acts for posterity.  A national taonga.

Since then (mere days ago), I've had the even more divine pleasure of reading Tim Winton's Eyrie.  At $48 in the shops, I had no idea when I would get my hands on this treasure, but with my magic kindle, I had it downloaded for about $8 (NZ).  Tim Winton writes like an angel.  I practically swooned at times.  I'm still thinking about Winton's anti-heroes but I can't say too much for fear of ruining the end for those who have yet to read Eyrie.

I've been looking for Deborah Challinor's next book after Behind the Sun, called Girl of Shadows, for a few months now.  I was supposed to be released in November 2013 in New Zealand, and I've yet to see it in a bookshop.  But never fear, I downloaded it today for only NZ$6!  Best I go and do the dishes and other jobs now so I can go to bed with my kindle as soon as possible.  It's like my childhood when the local library always had something to love.