Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My sewing philosophy

A year or so ago I read a marvelous blog post by Meg McElwee from Sew Liberated titled "a philosophy of sewing". At the time I read it I had absolutely no inclination to sew clothes and couldn't see myself sewing any time in the future. I had a fabric stash that was stressing me out because it hadn't been sewn up yet and the amount of space it was taking up could have been used for other things. My pattern hoarding was getting ridiculous - PDFs printed out and never taped together.

Basically my sewjo had run off into the bush somewhere and didn't want to be found anytime soon. I was devoid of inspiration and energy to sew clothes. I didn't even want to go into my sewing room.

On reading Meg's post I started thinking about what sewing meant to me, and how I could get sewing to fit back in with my life again. I mean, I LOVED sewing my own clothes. And not just because I hate going to the shops. My clothes fit better and look better and no one else is wearing them. Why wouldn't I sew for myself?

I remember telling a few friends about the blog post, and how much it had affected my thinking. But it took a year to finally write my own sewing philosophy. I had to work out a few things first, and a couple of things happened which totally changed my outlook on clothes sewing.

The first was minimalism. I've been trying to minimise our stuff and lives for the last few years, but I still have a long way to go. Does this thing bring value to my life? Is it easily replaced? Is the memory better than the actual object? Is this stuff stressing me out? All these questions get asked daily here, and not just by me. I'll be honest - I hadn't yet used it in the sewing part of my life, and I needed to.


The other thing that happened was Stasia's Style School. Again, it was a newsletter from Meg that alerted me to the existence of such a thing. I enrolled in Style School 9 in September, and IT CHANGED MY LIFE. For the previous year, for a variety of reasons, I had lacked sparkle and was just trying to hide myself away and it was hurting me! It was allowing other people to take advantage of my lack of confidence. And it was hurting the people around me! I realised I had to start showing up and by showing up, I mean SHOW UP. Every day during the course we did an exercise. I found my smile again half way through week one. WEEK ONE! I got my confidence back by week three. I rediscovered the importance of colour, fit and accessories; about congruency and finding out how you want yourself to be seen by others. It took me five weeks, but I discovered my power words and I now use them every single day.

The final week was a closet curation exercise and oh boy did it get cleaned out. It took me 10 hours to do the hanging closet, the shelves and my tallboy dresser. I went through the laundry basket, the ironing basket and the spare room. I'm just waiting for holders for my accessories and I'll be all set!

This was before I had minimised my closet a couple of months before.

Closet curation

And this was after I minimised (by doing the 30 day minimalism game).

Closet curation

And this was after Stasia told me what I really should be doing.

Closet curation

In a nutshell, I got rid of a LOT of clothes. I started to see clothes that could be worn across all seasons (not all my clothes mind you - sometimes I like that 6 month break from linen skirts!). I saw what no longer fit me or flattered me and I got rid of it. I now only hang the woven stuff - all the knit stuff and cardigans is folded on the shelves. Nothing is stored away except travel stuff and winter cycling stuff (top left shelf).  I've never felt calmer getting dressed in the morning.

But the best thing that happened was it eventually helped form the final version of my sewing philosophy. I have a clear idea of what I want to wear and what I need to sew, but also how I go about doing that with no stress whatsoever. So here is my philosophy of sewing. It's not for anyone else but me. It's certainly not a judgement on others and how they sew.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1. My sewing will be thoughtful and it will be slow.

2. I will make clothes that I love to wear, that suit my body shape and personality, and make me happy.

3. I don't make things to be worn once or twice, or for only one season. The aim is to wear my clothes for years. 

4. My home made wardrobe is about quality, not quantity.

5. I will sew when I feel like it, even if it's for just 5 minutes.

6. I will aim to go into my sewing room every day, even if it is just to look at it.

7. I won't sew to deadlines. 

8. I will always investigate the stash I have before I buy new fabric.

9. I will sort through my stash and sell or give away what I can no longer use. The aim for my stash size is a maximum of 20 pieces of fabric (not including linings).

10. If I buy new fabric, it must be sewn up in the next couple of weeks, and before anything else.

11. I will only cut one item out at a time. And I will only sew that one item at a time.

12. I will be thoughtful with my pattern purchases

13. I don't need to make very single item I wear. 

14. I will mend and alter clothes when I can, and when they are worth keeping..

15. I deserve the time I spend sewing. I need it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

So far this philosophy has worked pretty well for me. I have cut out and sewn just one thing at a time. I go into my sewing room every day without fail. I stop sewing when I feel like it. I definitely haven't sewn to deadline and I take my sweet time. And the stash is getting scrutinised quite thoroughly during this holiday. I'm finally excited about sewing again! And about inserting more pieces in my wardrobe that suit me and make me happy.

Hand stitched hem

Do you have a sewing philosophy? Has sewing stressed you out without you even realising it at the time?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Skirt 2017

My love of Christmas has been forever, but my habitual making of Christmas skirts or frocks commenced in 2010.

This was the year I realised Christmas at my in-laws needed some brightening up, so I ordered this Echino birdie fabric especially from Etsy and made a skirt. Winner.

Christmas Skirt

In 2011 we'd just returned from New York so I made this dress with fabric I purchased at Mood.

Christmas Frock

In 2012 it was another Bendigo Christmas so I went with the bird theme again, this time with fabric from IKEA.

McCalls 3507 - Christmas Skirt 2012

In 2014 I spent it in Canberra alone, so I had Merry Kaftanmas with the fabulous Bimble and Pimble.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

2015 saw me being lazy and taking up an existing old me-made dress by 7 inches so I'd be more comfortable at our friend's place for lunch. I'm calling that a Christmas Winning Dress.


I can't remember what I wore last year, but it was really hot so probably shorts and a Springfield top ;)

2017 sees us spending another Christmas in Canberra without family. Recently I did a total closet cleanout (which is a whole other blog post) so I'm now very short of casual summer skirts and need to make more. I found this Japanese linen/cotton fabric at my local fabric store last weekend and thought it might be perfect for a Christmas Day celebration. And it was. The linen top was made a couple of years ago. The photo shows both skirt and top very crushed after a wonderful lunch and some sofa-lounging watching trashy Christmas movies.

Christmas skirt 2017

 I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Day no matter how you spent it or who you spent it with. We have a really lovely day at home with some splendid food and a lot of lounging in the back yard. I now have three weeks off work so I'm hoping to get some sewing in at some stage, as I have a stash to use up and some closet gaps to fill!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lucy Boston went to the circus, and then she went to Sydney

Hey hey chickadees! How's everything going? Stuff is pretty cool here. Went to Fiji, went to Sydney - you know, just a typical year!

For four years now I have entered the Sydney Quilt Show, and it's always a blast. I have made the BEST quilting friends thanks to the Sydney show. For me it's worth the effort and expense of taking time off work and staying in Sydney for at least 5 days so I can firstly have a little holiday and me-time, and secondly so I have the time to catch up with everyone at the show! This year was a little different - my lovely mum decided to fly down from Cairns and stay for a few days, which was just wonderful! She'd never been to a big quilt show before, and she also got to meet my friends (and she loved every single one of them).

Lucy Boston Went to the Circus

This year I decided to finally finish my Patchwork of the Crosses quilt and enter it. This pattern is a little different to the typical Lucy Boston version however - instead of one inch pieces, it used 1 1/2 inch pieces, and the blocks are also appliqued onto a background, not joined. I bought the pattern from the designer Cherry Pie Designs, at the last ever Darling Harbour show before they demolished the convention centre, and showed it at the first ever exhibition at the new Darling Harbour convention centre.

Lucy Boston Went to the Circus

I was fairly pleased with how Lucy came together as a top. The striped border was thanks to my stubborness at being obnoxious about my fabric choices, my husband's insistence that a red and white circus stripe would be perfect, and the latest Tula Pink tent stripes hitting the quilt store at the exact same time. I honestly thought, on getting home, that I'd made a mistake getting red and cream, and not red and white, but it kinda turned out perfect! (Perfectly obnoxious, that is!)

Lucy Boston Went to the Circus

The quilting was when things went pear shaped. I started quilting a diagonal line from the top corner to the middle, turning 90 degrees towards the other corner. And then I repeated it every 3/8 inch. This started going a bit awry towards the middle of the section, but I persevered. By the time I got back from Fiji in early June, I finished off that first section and was faced with a massive bulge at the middle of the side border. So I spent two days unpicking it all - one quarter of the quilt, just gone. The bias blocks and the fact I hadn't cut out the fabric at the back of the applique had done me in, creating puckers and bulges, and if it hadn't been for mum coming all that way to see me and my quilt I would have withdrawn it from the show.

I ended up quilting horizontal straight lines 3/8 inch apart, and it turned out a lot better than I expected! It's not at all perfect, but I don't do perfect, and I was just happy it was done and not too much of an embarrassment to be hanging at Australia's biggest quilt show.


And then this happened.

Lucy Boston Went to the Circus

I will admit I did get a phone call from QuiltNSW the day before I left for Sydney. And I will admit I was really shocked at getting that phone call, especially given my category - Pieced Quilts, Amateur, predominantly machine quilted - seemed to have a really large number of entries (33) in it. Perhaps I'd won the meat tray*. Or they'd just made a massive mistake and had called the wrong Michelle.

Lucy Boston Went to the Circus

It was pretty sweet having mum there with me when they called my name out at the awards ceremony on day 1. She was so excited, as was I. I think I was just in shock that this had happened for the second year in a row, but the difference was that last year I knew my quilt was awesome. This year I was happy just to have entered it!

Lucy Boston Went to the Circus

So yeah, there she is. Lucy Boston who went to the circus one day, and to Sydney the next, and earned a pink and red ribbon for her efforts.

While I'm talking about the Sydney Quilt Show (which was awesome by the way - so much colour! 410 amazing quilts!), I'll tell you more about the hoop display that QuiltNSW erects near the front entrance of the show. Last year was the first year they'd done it and it was so successful and got people talking about the different techniques and styles on show. I was asked to submit a hoop quilt of my own for this year's show, so I replicated my Across the Universe quilt but on a much smaller scale.

Hoops display

And here are the some of the other hoops - pretty chuffed that one of the hoops that my quilting bestie Rachaeldaisy made was hanging close by mine. I'm imagining they never stopped talking, much like the two of us :)

Hoops display

Hoops display

I think this post is long enough now, so I won't share with you the other quilts at the show. Hopefully soon though!

I haven't entered the Canberra Quilters Exhibition this year, for a number of reasons, so Lucy is now safely hanging on our living room wall at home, above my nana's table, and behind the orange sofa. She seems pretty happy, and she has increased the happiness in that room ten-fold.

Lucy at home

*there's no meat tray, but there should be.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Putting the "slow" back into "slow lane"

My physiotherapist told me a couple of years ago to quit using flippers when swimming my laps. It was hurting my back and probably not doing my swimming ability much good either. For the first summer I swam without flippers I really missed them. I missed not being able to keep up with my faster friends in the medium lane, and I missed not having the power to overtake slower swimmers when I needed to. Also doing handstands in the pool with flippers on is pretty hilarious.


The following winter I realised I was OK without them. There was a lot less to take to the pool (just goggles and ear plugs and a towel!), and really, life in the slow lane could be pretty sweet. The people are chattier. There is a lot of "you go first. No, you!" and "isn't this weather magnificent?". But the best thing is that it takes me longer to do my 20 laps, so I get to stay in the pool longer. And I've given myself time to develop my breathing and my stroke technique and probably I'm not that much slower than I used to be with flippers.


This morning while doing the slowest backstroke ever known in the history of lap swimming, I was staring at the pool ceiling and I realised that my life, over the last couple of years, has moved to the slow lane as well. Probably 90% of my patchwork is done by hand - in fact I haven't been in my sewing room to do anything than iron for weeks. Rather than fix the irrigation system in the vegetable patch (it snapped off when a guy came to rebuild the beds) I have watered everything by hand the last two summers. I just prefer it. I spend most lunch hours alone at a coffee shop, either stitching or reading.


And I didn't even think of blogging for close to 5 months.

I no longer say "I'm too busy" - because being a main carer of someone you love is a privilege and shouldn't be confused with "busy-ness". I say "I'm exhausted" a bit too much but that's when I decide an early night is in order and go to bed.


Being in the slow lane is pretty sweet. All the other slow-lane life swimmers are pretty nice, mainly because I'm choosing to spend my time with nice people. By spending most of my sewing time on the couch in the living room, I get to have some pretty great conversations with my husband because that's also where he spends most of his time. Occasionally I'll dip under the lane ropes to get into the fast lane and use a sewing machine, but it's pretty brief. And I do the occasional crazy thing like drive to Sydney by myself to go to a quilt guild meeting, but it's so nice to come home again and be slow.


Anyway, hi. Nice to see you again.