adult's clothing · miscellaneous · musings · sewing

Style Arc Loren in orange

Another pattern repeat!  This one is the Style Arc Loren coat – you can see my first version here; I really like the way that it fits and I wear it often.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

This version is also size 12, but made from a vastly different fabric type. This is a thick fabric that looks like a boucle on one side, but has long floating threads in a different colour on the other. I wonder if it is an upholstery fabric? I picked it up at Restash, so have not real idea of composition or anything else. It frayed terribly and I finished the edges of each piece on the overlocker before I started joining it to another.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

The thickness of the fabric meant that I needed to hand-stitch the patch pockets to the front, and hand stitch the coat hem and the sleeve hems.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

There’s a lot that I like about this coat, but there’s a lot that could have been improved. Note that the pattern itself is designed to be sewn in a range of fabrics and the instructions are perfectly fine. It’s an unlined coat, and the person sewing it really needs to choose the appropriate sewing techniques and finishing options for the fabric that they have selected.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

I’ll talk about the collar first. You can see in the above photo how the fabric sort of collapses upon itself, despite it’s thickness. I did grade the seams, but the entire front facing and collar area would have benefitted from me used more tailoring techniques. Some more interfacing, using a few types through the collar area, and definitely made some more adjustments for turn of cloth.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

The same applies to the shoulders. Despite this being designed for a relaxed fit with an extended shoulder line, I could have considered a small shoulder pad and more sleeve head support.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

What I will definitely go back and do (and should have done at the time, learning from the first Loren that I sewed) was to hand-stitch the facings in place down the entire front of the coat. It will make it hang so much better. I might even consider some closures.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

From the Style Arc website: This easy fit essential jacket will become your favourite go to garment for all seasons and all occasions, this will only be defined by your choice of fabric. Featuring a slim shawl collar and optional patch or inseam pockets. This is a simply constructed pattern that can be made in wool suiting or linen for every day, knit for the weekend or for a touch of glamour make it in lurex fabric or for an on-trend look make it in faux fur.
FABRIC SUGGESTION: Wool, linen, ponte, crepe, faux fur, sweater knit or lurex.

loren-jacket

I will wear this coat, but it could have been better. Just a reminder to all of you to really consider what techniques you choose for each garment, depending on the fabric.

Style Arc Loren jacket in upholstery fabric

Most of you who read this blog know that I live in Melbourne.  We’re about to go back into covid-19 stage 3 restrictions again, from midnight tonight.  Back to only leaving home for food, for work if it can’t be done from home (so no change for us; we’re already working from home), for caring responsibilities, for daily exercise.  At this stage it’s for six weeks.  Clare still gets to go back to school on Monday (VCE students are continuing classes) but Stella gets an extra week of school holidays while the government figures out what happens next – I assume she’ll go back to remote learning.

This was expected really, watching the numbers go up and up and up over the past few weeks.  My plea to regional Victoria and the rest of the country: you also need to follow the rules and the recommendations!  When there are recommendations that you don’t travel, don’t!  When you are told to socially distance, do it!  We all know that it was when people began to get complacent and see more and more  and more family and friends in enclosed spaces and forgot about social distancing and hugged and kissed etc that this has become an issue again.  We all know that it’s hard – but it isn’t the random person in the supermarket that you’re most likely to catch this from; it’s your family and friends who you hug and forget to wash hands around.  Keep up with hygiene; keep on social distancing; minimise where you go and who you see.  You’re fortunate that you don’t have to go back into lockdown; ensure that it doesn’t happen by following the rules.

We’ve all seen how quickly this disease takes hold and we do still have a chance to keep it under control in Australia – but this will only happen if everyone considers the good of the community rather than their individual ‘rights’.  We all need to take responsibility.  So if you’re looking for me over the next six (at least) weeks, you know exactly where I’ll be!

 

 

adult's clothing · musings · sewing

Closet Case Cielo top

Thanks so much for your feedback on yesterday’s post!  This recently sewn Closet Case Cielo top has also highlighted another alteration that I need to make regularly.

2020-05-24 16.08.31

This is view B of the pattern, sewn in size 12, with the C cup option. I cut it slightly longer than the pattern length (I’m short through the torso, so didn’t anticipate that it would be as cropped on me as on the model, but I don’t do cropped so still wanted it a little longer). This is the same size that I sewed a dress version in last November.

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I adore this fabric – it’s handwoven cotton that I bought in Chiang Mai a few years ago. Beautiful colour variations within it, and lovely to sew and to wear. I decided to do a single layer in the lower sleeve rather than the self-lining, and to bind both the sleeve hem and neckline with bias binding cut from the same fabric.

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I was also able to play with the stripe direction a little on the back yoke pieces. Fun!

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From the Closet Case Patterns website: Part of our Rome Collection, the Cielo Dress & Top is an easy, breezy take on a boxy tee and shift dress. Loaded with interesting details and interchangeable features, it will fast become a wardrobe building favourite. Choose between a semi-cropped top with a cuffed short sleeve (View A) or dramatic gathered long sleeve (View B). Or, make an easy fitting dress with sleek inseam pockets (View C), or without pockets (View D). All views have a slightly dropped shoulder, angled shoulder yoke and roomy fit, with a choice between an elegant bias binding or faced neckline finish.

Skirt_Technical Flat

And those sleeves are certainly dramatic! I do like a dramatic sleeve, but I tend to avoid them due to wearability issues. I don’t want sleeve hems getting in the way, and dramatic sleeves are often difficult to wear under other items. This one works for me because it comes down to a narrower opening, the sleeves are not overlong, and it fits nicely under the dramatic sleeves of my Pattern Fantastique Falda jacket. Plus, it’s fun to have something a little different in the wardrobe.

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Now, looking at the front and back photos of this top, it looks to fit fairly well, albeit generously. It’s the side on photo that tells me a different story.

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My thoughts:

  • That front hemline is SO high!  And juts out so much!  I need way more fabric there to make it level the whole way around.
  • The dart looks okay, and this is already the C cup version of the pattern.  It doesn’t need a FBA to add length to the centre front.
  • The back neckline is VERY low as compared to the front neckline.  That’s not the case when the top is flat, or on a hanger.  The top is being pulled backwards.
  • It DEFINITELY needs a decent high rounded back alteration.
  • It could probably do with a forward head or a forward shoulder alteration as well.
  • I could consider sewing size 10 instead of 12 next time.
  • You can also see the excess folds of fabric in the back bum and thigh of my size 12 Style Arc Parker pants (now too big for me).  Ugh.

I’ve found a couple of tutorials that make sense to me for these high round back alterations:

I also find the free videos that Alexandra from In House Patterns shares on her blog and YouTube channel to be quite useful – she has them on many fitting topics.  I’m also planning to catch up on some of the many Craftsy/Bluprint classes that I ‘own’ these school holidays (before Craftsy/Bluprint vanishes completely), namely:

  • Sew The Perfect Fit with Lynda Maynard
  • Pants Fitting Techniques with Sandra Betzina
  • Fitting Solo: From Measurements to Muslin with Linda Lee

I have a number of other construction classes to refresh myself on too.  I’m generally happy with the quality of my sewing (while noting that I should sometimes think a little more carefully about incorporating a few more tailoring techniques), but it is fit that is ever changing and ever challenging.

As it happens, I do already own the following fitting books (many with post-it notes in relevant sections):

These are mostly Book Depository links, but if you’re interested in any do your own googling and purchase from your preferred book supplier.  It seems to me that there are a great many fitting books available; I suppose that you need to find which ones explain alterations in ways that make the most sense to you and that include the alterations that you commonly need.

EDITED TO ADD THIS COMMENT FROM THERESA: Please note that “The Perfect Fit” Singer book and the other “Perfect Fit” are the same book. The Singer Sewing Reference Library came out in the very late 80’s early 90s as a subscription library. Singer did not own the copyright; copyright remained with the publisher who was free to reprint (without the Singer label) the same material after their contract with Singer expired. Sometimes the pictures are updated but the written content and examples remain the same. The other book from the sewing reference library that pops up a lot is the “Tailoring” book so be warned. If you think you’ve seen it before or something very much like it, you may have.

As you can see, I have no lack of access to resources and information about pattern alterations!  I just need to ensure that I consistently put them into practice.  I’m going to put together a reference folder of ‘my’ alterations to keep right at hand beside my sewing table, hoping that will prompt me to automatically make these alterations to my pattern pieces before cutting out. And the next thing that I will do before I cut anything else out for myself is to measure myself again! Sounds obvious, really.

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Something that I will note is that I would definitely NOT get a better fit in ready-to-wear clothing.  Even if this fit isn’t perfect, it’s still in fabric that I love, combined with a style that I like, produced via a hobby that I greatly enjoy.  It’s definitely still worth sewing, while I continue on the journey toward improved fit.

adult's clothing · musings · sewing

Style Arc Fifi pants, and 3D scanners as a fitting aid

Once again, I am behind with blogging.  I have just started two weeks of holidays and am aiming to get up to date again by the time the holidays finish (my suburb is in a current covid-19 ‘hotspot’ area, so we will be spending the break at home).  Today I’ve decided to share one of my most recently sewn garments with you, as it has prompted a number of thoughts on sewing pants, especially for my body shape.  This is a bit of a marathon blog post!

Style Arc Fifi pants

I have sewn the Style Arc Fifi pants twice before (in wool here and in linen here). When The Cloth Shop, Ivanhoe shared this photo on Instagram of a rayon/poly/spandex check, with Fifi as a suggested pattern pairing, I was right onto it. What a fantastic check – with a number of colours that I love! And a pattern that I already own, and know that it fits and I enjoy wearing!

Cloth Shop Instagram photo

To refresh you on the pattern details: Pull-on pant sewing pattern with a smooth front yoke, elastic back and side pockets. This new wide leg pant pattern gives you the option of 7/8th or full length. The Fifi Woven Pant is a simple pant to sew that will give you a sophisticated look. FABRIC SUGGESTION: Crepe, linen and rayon.

fifi-woven-pant

I sewed size 12, as before, in the 7/8 length, which is pretty much full length on my 158cm tall frame.  I really like the way that this pattern is put together.  Flat fronted, with fabulous pockets at the front, and a wide yoke/casing that has elastic in it to enable you to simply pull the pants on and off.

Style Arc Fifi pants in rayon poly spandex from The Cloth Shop Ivanhoe

Because this is a check, I paid attention to pattern matching when cutting out and sewing. Believe me when I tell you that everything lines up on all those vertical seams. Also, I will never wear these pants with the top tucked in like this. These pants fit me really nicely across the waist and stomach and fall smoothly into the wide legs. Hooray! Now, lets take a look at them from the back.

Style Arc Fifi pants in rayon poly spandex from The Cloth Shop Ivanhoe

Righteo.  That’s not good.  They felt fine on, looked fine from the front, but these photos are telling me a whole different story!  There are a few things to consider here.

  • They’re probably a size too big in this fabric, which has spandex in it.  It doesn’t look to me as though it is just one specific area that has wrinkles, pulls, or excess fabric; most of the back seems too big.  Let’s zoom in a little.

Style Arc Fifi pants in rayon poly spandex from The Cloth Shop Ivanhoe

In this photo I’ve got my hands in the front pockets, which takes up a little of the excess space.  There needs to be a certain amount of ease to accomodate that.  But I can still see other issues.

  • Folds of excess fabric around the back crotch
  • Fabric not hanging straight from the bottom down.

For comparison, these are photos of the previous pairs.  Now, I was possibly a different weight/size when I wore these; my weight and size do fluctate quite a bit, so I am loath to fit anything woven too precisely (one of the reasons I sew pants in stretch wovens and why I choose elastic waists).

Style Arc Fifi pants in linen

That green pair is in linen; I love them! Sewn in November 2018, so I was probably a bit heavier than I am now.

Style Arc Fifi woven pant

The charcoal wool pair was sewn a month or two prior to the linen pair. Looking at these photos is making me think that my check pair is basically just a size too big for where I’m at now. Fortunately I sewed them on the machine, just using the overlocker to finish the seam allowances separately, so it shouldn’t be difficult for me to take them in. This fabric is worth me doing that.

Style Arc Fifi pants in rayon poly spandex from The Cloth Shop Ivanhoe

However, this also highlights an ongoing pants fitting situation for me. My shape is very front-weighted. Here’s some images that I got from a body scanner at a local gym a few years ago when they were trying (unsucessfully) to get me to sign up. It’s not at my current measurements; I’m a few sizes smaller at the moment, but my shape stays pretty much the same even as my size varies.

3d scanner as a sewing aid

3d scanner as a sewing aid

3d scanner as a sewing aid

I really need to find another place with a 3D body scanner, because this is super useful for sewers!  I have always known that to sew for yourself, you need to understand your own body.  As is very easy to see in these scans (taken only wearing underwear), I do’t have a defined waist, my lower rib and pelvic bone have hardly any space between them, I have a lot of abdominal fat, distributed both above my belly button and in the more common abdominal apron below it.  I have very slender thighs, and hips that are barely larger than my waist measurement.  I actually have trouble figuring out exactly where my waist is, which is another reason I like elastic in waistbands.  My bum is relatively flat.  Shoulders are on the narrower side, and quite rounded.  Bra size is a C cup, which doesn’t make for many fitting challenges, but my rib cage is comparatively large, which makes sense when you look at my waist.  What this doesn’t really show is how forward my head is.  The scanner also provided body measurements.

3d scanner as a sewing aid

These aren’t my current measurements, but once again it’s fascinating to see the proportions.  Check out the bust/waist/hip measurements; I often find that I range across three or four sewing pattern sizes, and that’s why.  My hips are smaller than my bust (often up to two sewing sizes smaller) and my waist is not much smaller than my hips – which often translates to two sewing sizes larger.  But I am clearly not ‘straight’ or a ‘tube’ in shape!  You can see that really well from the scans.

3d scanner as a sewing aid

Yes, front on you don’t see much ‘in and out’ going on (that’s probably a reason why I resist the term ‘curvy’ being used as an euphemism for ‘fat’ – not all of us who have fat are ‘curvy’ in that traditional hourglass sense).  But those angled photos I showed earlier really do demonstrate why I have some fitting challenges.  It’s all about fat distribution, as well as the underlying skeletal structure.

3d scanner as a sewing aid

So, back to pants fitting.  You may have noticed that many of my pants have ‘excess’ fabric along the back thighs.  They’re usually okay around the calf, and they’re generally firm around my body.  When sewing pants, I need plenty of room for my belly in the front, and I need to ensure that the waist will be large enough to be comfortable.  I never have issues with getting things on over my hips; as we’ve already seen, my waist to hip ratio is very small.   After many years of attempting to sew pants with a fitted waist, I have given up.  I can make them fit, but I cannot make them fit in such a way that they are comfortable for me to wear, and so that they ‘look good’ to me.  And they never stay up, unless the waist band is so tight that it causes muffin top both above and below!  When choosing a pants pattern, I look for:

  • Elastic waists (or a waist that can be easily converted to an elastic one)
  • Stretch woven fabrics
  • Minimal waist detailing (no-one is ever going to see it)
  • If in a non-stretch, plenty of ease.

Alterations that I consider, depending on the base pattern that I am working with:

  • Flat bottom alteration
  • Grading between waist and hip measurements (usually not necessary with the base patterns that I choose)
  • Full belly alteration

But what, oh what should I do if I want to remove excess fabric from those back thighs – especially considering how small they are in proportion to the torso above?  I don’t want to have too much of a lollipop effect!

Style Arc Fifi pants in rayon poly spandex from The Cloth Shop Ivanhoe

After a day of wear, these pants are basically just a size too big, possibly exacerbated by the spandex in the fabric. I’ll take them in; this fabric is worth it.

Writing this blog post has been really useful for me in processing the alterations that I should consider when sewing for myself.  There are a few that I make very regularly now:

  • forward neck/shoulder
  • shoulder width one size smaller than torso width
  • short torso length
  • removal of waist shaping

It’s not only my hair getting greyer at the moment; my body is definitely shifting as my hormones cause chaos. I suspect that I’ll need to lower bust darts more often, and carry out that flat bottom adjustment.  I’m 52, so this is all to be expected.  I sometimes feel sorry for my husband with a peri-menopausal woman and two teenage girls in the house!

I hope that all this detail and the 3D scan images are helpful for others with my body shape.  I find that there’s not as much information available on sewing and dressing for this shape, despite it being one that many women move towards in later life.  Having always been this shape, with size fluctuations, I select patterns accordingly.  There are many styles that I admire, but know that I would never bother with because it would be very difficult to make them work for me.  Fortunately there are many styles that I admire that I can also wear very happily!

miscellaneous · musings · sewing

Reflecting on Me Made May 2020

I haven’t written for over a month.  So much has been happening in the world.  Black lives matter; here in Australia as well as in the USA (and elsewhere).

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When I signed up to take part in Me Made Made, I hoped that it would get me out of the ‘tracksuit and ugg boots’ routine that I’d quickly fallen into during covid-19 lockdown.  I figured that there were other clothing combinations in my wardrobe that would also be warm and comfortable, but might also lift my spirits a little.  I gave myself the challenge to choose an outfit each day that required shoes rather than ugg boots, and was based around a scarf/shawl/wrap that was either hand-crocheted (by me) or hand-knitted (by mum).

Me Made May 2020 - scarves, shawls and shoes challenge

Me Made May 2020 - scarves, shawls and shoes challenge

Me Made May 2020 - scarves, shawls and shoes challenge

Me Made May 2020 - scarves, shawls and shoes challenge

As you can tell from the photos, Melbourne was pretty cold during May!  I needed an additional layer on top of those to do anything outdoors, and there’s generally an additional warm layer of some type underneath each one.  Activity wise, during May I worked from home, went for an evening walk a couple of times per week, went to the supermarket once each week, and by the end of  May I was able to meet up with friends for coffee in a local park.  All these outfits worked well for those activities, and made me feel a little more like ‘me’.  Some outfit combinations worked better than others – actually, some are very well tried and true – and I found a few new ones that I’ll repeat in the future.

Do we dress for ourselves, or do we dress for others?  So many people have talked about how they have ‘let themselves go’ during covid-19 lockdown, eschewing makeup, fancy hairdos, hair dye, wearing their regular clothes, etc, often because ‘no-one is going to see me’.  So why do we normally do and wear these things?  Many of us would say ‘I do it for myself’ – but if we’re no longer doing it because no-one is going to see it, were we ever really doing it for ourselves?  I felt better psychologically when I was doing Me Made May and making more of an effort with my clothing – but what is the chicken and the egg in that situation?  Was I dressing ‘better’ because I was feeling better, or vice versa?  I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but it interests me to ponder.

You may have also spotted a few garments in the above photos that haven’t been blogged yet – I’ll get on to that soon!  I have some catching up to do.

 

miscellaneous · musings · planned projects · sewing · teen

Planning

So, here in Melbourne we’re planning for Clare to return to school on Tuesday (she’s in year 12), and then for Stella (year 7) to return two weeks later.  It’s great to have some dates – I feel as though it gives a little bit of certainty (although in reality, anything could change and nothing is set in stone) and helps us to stumble toward a new normal.  I’m still working from home until the end of the school term, which means I will be able to drive the kids to and from school and they won’t need to take public transport.  And term three?  For me it will probably be a mix of working on site, working from home, and travelling interstate.  That is really difficult for me to comprehend at the moment.  Who knows.  We’ll see.  The girls will hopefully be continuing on with school at school, but we still don’t know when their extracurricular activities will start back on site instead of on Zoom.

It a whole other time of big change.  There has been so much change, so quickly, and in some ways we’ve just settled in to our at-home routines.  Now it all changes again, with an added dose of heightened anxiety while we wait to see what cautious re-emergence and return to more ‘usual’ activities has on the number of covid-19 infections and how the health system is able to manage them.  Clare has caught up with her group of ten friends a couple of times now in a local park, we’ve had drinks at a friend’s house, had a couple of friends pop over, and I met up in a group of ten school mums at the park yesterday morning for our regular coffee/chai.  We’ve all been keeping in touch and meeting up online since stay-at-home started back in March, but it’s just SO nice to see people in three dimensions!  It takes a lot to resist that impulse to give someone a hug, epecially after that time away from from them.  We’re especially looking forward to seeing my parents in a few weeks time (they live a couple of hours away and are in the high-risk category) so let’s hope that things continue to go well.

I’m sure that many of you have read or seen a meme that has been going around since the pandemic began pointing out that while we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat; some are on super-yachts, and some have just the one oar (author Damien Barr, on Twitter).

I heard that we are all in the same boat.
But it’s not that.
We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.
Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be.
Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, or reconnection.
Easy in flip flops, with whisky or tea.
For others, this is a desperate crisis.
For others, it is facing loneliness.
For some, peace, rest time, vacation.
Yet for others, torture: How am I going to pay my bills?
Some were concerned about a brand of chocolate for Easter.
Others were concerned about the bread for the weekend, or if the noodles would last for a few more days.
Some were in their “home office”.
Others are looking through trash to survive.
Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, some are not sure their loved ones are going to make it, and some don’t even believe this is a big deal.
Some of us who are well now may end up experiencing it, and some believe they are infallible and will be blown away if or when this hits someone they know.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat.
We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different. And each one will emerge, in his own way, from that storm.
It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance.
Not just looking, more than looking, seeing.
See beyond the political party, beyond biases, beyond the nose on your face. Do not judge the good life of the other, do not condemn the bad life of the other.
Don’t be a judge.
Let us not judge the one who lacks, as well as the one who exceeds.
We are on different ships looking to survive.
Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy and responsibility.

Clare and I have begun planning a graduation/valedictory dinner dress.  Who knows if there will be a graduation/valedictory dinner, but she’ll have a dress for whatever way we choose to celebrate!  She gave me these pictures as inspiration.

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Essentially, a fitted underslip, preferably in a contrasting colour, with a sheer embroidered dress over the top. I went busily googling, and found this beautiful embroidered tulle from Silk World. And it was on sale!

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We ordered a few metres and it arrived a couple of days later, much to our shock and amazement! Parcels have been taking weeks longer than usual to arrive, with so many people doing their shopping online instead of in person, so it was a big surprise for this one to arrive so quickly. And it looks fabulous in reality.

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Clare is thinking of a pale green slip to go underneath. I have a few patterns in stash that I am considering, both for the slip and for the overdress. This one should work fine for a stretch slip – I’ll just need to lengthen it a bit. And will need to find the right fabric for it. 2020-05-12 07.18.56-1

These are current contenders for the overdress, although they are designed for knit fabrics. I would probably do a bit of pattern mashing or variation.

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2020-05-14 08.18.55-2

McCalls have just released this pattern too, which is another contender. 20200520_182104

We have plenty of time to let the ideas marinate or percolate. I am also still considering a completely different option for her, because I adore the fabric. Clare’s 18th birthday is in January, so I can make an excuse for another ‘dressy’ dress! I bought this fabric from The Cloth Shop early in the year. It was the last of the roll and is an amazing border print.

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One of my talented Melbourne sewing friends used this fabric to sew herself a stunning dress from a vintage Advance pattern for Frocktails a couple of years ago. So spectacular!

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We have a few patterns under consideration, wanting to make the most of the border print, and of Clare’s preference for a fitted bodice and fuller skirt.  Although we don’t have masses of fabric to work with, Clare is pretty small so hopefully we can tetris bodice pieces out without much hassle.

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New Look 6526

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By the time either of those dresses gets made you will have completely forgotten about ths blog post, but it will help me to keep track of our thought processes. I quite enjoy having a ‘slow burn’ project in the background, especially after the positive experience of sewing last year’s formal dress without any time pressures.

musings

This is how we’re faring

My last blog post was on Monday – it’s now Saturday morning.  Five days.  What’s happened in those five days?  On the surface of my family’s day to day life, not much.  We’ve worked from home, kids have enjoyed sleeping in (school holidays started early, on Tuesday) and we’ve managed to get some household chores done between us.  The dog has never been walked as much.  There’s chatting with friends on Google hangouts, dance classes and girl guides done via Zoom, plenty of binge-watching Buffy/Angel, and online shopping deliveries arrived.  I’m starting to feel as though I can sew again.  We plan to go to the supermarket/grocer once per week.  Just trying to figure out what’s likely to be the quietest time.

In among all this, my parents (can I describe you as elderly, Mum?  You are 82 and 93) are at their home two hours drive away from us in country Victoria.  They’re lucky to live in a very comfortable house surrounded by garden, with plenty of birds to watch and fresh air to breathe.  They’re quite well, but are in a high risk group if they were to get sick.  So they’re staying home.  Like everyone else.  We’re all staying home.  It’s the only way that we can slow down and manage the spread of this virus.

My brother just got back from America and to his home in Cairns yesterday.  It’s a relief to have him back in the country.  Of course, he’s now in quarantine for two weeks.  The predominant source of Australia’s covid-19 cases is from overseas travellers, with America being the most significant contributor.  However, we’ve now also got community spread.  ABC News (that’s Australian Broadcasting Company, for my overseas readers) has an excellent daily update of Australian statistics, sliced and diced in different ways.  Now I am glad that I have studied stats at uni more than once, because I do understand those graphs.  I breathed a small sigh of relief this morning when I read that for the second day in a row the number of new daily cases in Australia has dropped a little.  Maybe people are starting to really get the message and are just staying home!  (I wrote too soon – yesterday was Victoria’s greatest single day increase in the number of cases.)  However, the growth rate is still showing a doubling of total number of cases every 3-4 days.  The forecasts still have us reaching medical capacity around 11th April.

And in the everyday, it’s become harder to remember what day of the week it is and what time of the day it is.  It’s different without the routines and structures that we have when there is work and school and everything that goes along with that.  Maybe it’s like being retired!  The days start to blur into one another.  My ‘to-do’ list is still long, yet doesn’t seem to carry the same pressure that it used to, because deadlines and available time to get things done has all become much more fuzzy.  It surprises me that I don’t find this more ‘laissez-faire’ approach to daily life more difficult.  Instead, I seem to have relaxed into it.  No alarm clocks any more.  No public transport to catch.  As long as I get my work hours done in the week, it doesn’t matter when.  My body has shifted into getting up at dawn when the birds start chirping.  It’s lovely on the back deck in these beautiful autumn mornings.

I’ve switched from radio/television reporting on the pandemic to reading about it.  I find that more helpful when it comes to managing my anxiety about the situation.  I very much need to know what’s going on, especially as the situation is changing from day to day, but can moderate my exposure much more easily via ‘print’ (on screen, not on paper) media.  I’ve also made a concious decision not to focus ‘too much’ about all the knock-on effects that this pandemic will have/is having on the economy, mental health, schooling, disadvantaged groups, politics, the state of the world in general.  That’s just too overwhelming for me at the moment, with too many unknowns and things that I cannot predict.  Yet I know that I say that from a place of privilege – it’s much easier for me to be an ostrich in comparison to many others.  Clearly, this is going to have ripple effects for the rest of our lives.  But at the moment – it’s a few days at a time.   It’s also been good for me to focus on the blessings in my life – and I have many.  I am still acknowleding all the griefs and losses that have arisen as part of this situation – because they are true and they are there and need to be dealth with emotionally – but am tempering that with all the good stuff.  So many people have it much worse than my family does.

Gretchen Rubin shared the following in her newsletter this morning: In this article, I found the concept of “anticipatory grief” particularly useful—and its advice that the best way to calm ourselves is by coming into the present. And to stock up on compassion.’

Andrea shared some words in response to my last blog post that I also found really helpful.  She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and wrote ‘the current situation takes me back to the aftermath of our earthquakes and that feeling of vulnerability and also being in the same head space as everyone around us and there only being one topic of conversation. We learnt so much through that and although at the time it seemed to go on forever we got through and the sun did indeed shine again.

Currently, the need to get the virus under control from a health perspective is the most important thing. Those of us who are not involved in front line health care really do just need to stay at home.  If in doubt, don’t go out.  And to all those health care workers?  Thank you.  So much.

miscellaneous · musings

About my weight

This blog post isn’t directly about sewing, or about travel.  It’s about weight – specifically, mine.  For anyone who has a history of disordered eating, this may be a trigger, so I suggest that you skip reading this post.  I’m writing it because I have recently lost a fair bit of weight, and people have noticed and commented.

I don’t have a history of disordered eating, in a conventional or medical sense.  I was a thin kid and adolescent.  In my adulthood I gained weight.  So I did intensive exercise and calorie restriction and lost it.  Then I gained it again.  And lost it again.  Repeat.  Ad nauseum.  I think that every time I did it my resting metabolism dropped lower and lower.  Eventually I read about the negative effects of diet culture and the impact of fatphobia – both societal and internalised – and decided to just stop focusing on my weight, and instead keep on sewing to fit the body that I have.

I made this decision for a few reasons – a major one being that I had no health imperative to change things.  I have always been dubious about weight discussions disguised as concern for people’s health.  It’s fatphobia, combined with ableism.  Fat does not necessarily equal healthy, any more than thin does.  It’s a false equivalence.  There are plenty of thin people who have terrible health – both mental and physical – and plenty of fat people who are incredibly healthy and strong.  My blood tests and external health markers were always in normal range.  I like good foods, unprocessed and fresh, but I also enjoy potato chips, soft cheeses, chocolate, and wine.

Then last year I started getting gastrointestinal symptoms that were affecting the quality of my life.  I was often uncomfortable.  My day job involves reading medical records, and I’d been reading many, many records related to diseases of the digestive system, especially of the liver.  I have a certain level of paranoia due to my job, so I booked in with my GP.  She ran all the usual tests plus a few more (these were all fine apart from a protozoa in my gut that many people have, but only cause issues in some) and she also ordered abdominal ultrasounds.  The ultrasounds only found one issue – fatty liver.

Now, fatty liver is not a good thing to have.  It occurs when your body starts putting fat into organs in addition to increasing subcutaneous fat.  To reduce it, I needed to lose weight.

As it happens, my husband – not an overweight man – was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about ten years ago.  He’s genetically susceptible to it; siblings also have high blood sugar.  Until recently he’s managed to keep it under control via exercise and diet alone.  We’ve done our own reading on the management of diabetes, and came across the work of Dr Jason Fung, a nephrologist.  He recommends fasting as a key method of decreasing insulin production in the body, and therefore reducing the impact of diabetes along with a corresponding weight loss.  Intermittent fasting has recently been popularised in the UK and Australia by Dr Michael Mosley.  Both my husband and I have science backgrounds, and the logic inherent in the work of both these men makes sense to us.  If you google fasting there are a myriad of articles about it – it’s becoming more and more well known and more popular.

My husband was already doing a complete fast two days per week, and in October I began doing it too.  For two days a week – mostly Monday and Wednesday – I don’t eat.  I drink black coffee in the mornings, and I drink plenty of water, but that’s it.  Mosley’s version of intermittent fasting allows a small amount of food on fast days, but that only makes me hungry.  I prefer to have nothing.

On the five days of the week that I eat, I choose higher protein/fat and vastly reduced bread/rice/potato and processed foods, and I avoid sugar.  I’ve also reduced my alcohol intake – my last alcoholic drink was in December, but I expect that I will enjoy a glass or two of wine on occasion.  I will sometimes have a piece of cake or some soft cheese and crackers, but not often.  I don’t count calories/kilojoules or plan my food each day; this way of eating doesn’t take up much head space.  I eat fresh foods, with as little processing as possible.  I didn’t fast at all for the three weeks that we were away on holiday, but tried to follow the same eating principles, without snacking in between.

So far I’ve gone from the BMI calculator defintion of obese through overweight to now not far from the ‘healthy’ weight range.  Most importantly, my gastrointestinal symptoms have improved significantly.  I won’t know about the fatty liver unless I have another ultrasound.  I’ll be interested to see what my other blood tests/health markers show next GP visit as well.

So yes, I do look different.  It’s not just the change of hair colour (I’m growing in the grey, which could potentially be a whole other blog post) and hair length.  Will I be able to sustain this lifestyle change?  I think so.  For me, it’s medically necessary.  I want to feel well, and reduce my chance of developing liver and pancreas issues.  I have tried fasting before, but that wasn’t with a health motivation.  Societal weight expectations don’t make me change my eating behaviours in the longer term! This time, it’s different.

Detractors of fasting say that it’s just another diet and another fad that plays right into diet culture.  I’m not so certain about this.  Many cultures around the world incorporate fasting into their regular lives, whether for one day a week or for other periods of time.  It’s not an unusual thing; billions of people do it.  Here in Australia we are conditioned to eat every time we feel a hunger pang.  Honestly, it’s not that hard to cope with feeling hungry every now and then.  For me, it’s only until the next day.  But there still isn’t any published research into the long-term effects of fasting.  I’d also like to see more research on intermittent fasting in perimenopausal women and how women’s hormones interact with insulin.  Most of what I’ve read has focused on men (which isn’t unusual when it comes to medical research).

Honestly, I was conflicted in writing this post.  The last thing that I want to do is to become part of diet culture, but I suspect that just by writing this I have done exactly that.  This post is just about me – sample size of one person – and I think it’s really important to remember that everyone’s journey and needs and health situations are different.  You need to do your own research and figure what works for you and your body and mind, in a holistic sense, when it comes to things like weight and food and health.  This is difficult in the society we live in.  In general I don’t talk about diets and weight and weight loss, and I actively avoid placing value judgements on foods.  There are more rewarding things in life to be spending your time and energy on; after all, you could be sewing!

 

Edited to add: Thank you so much to all the people who have commented on this post or contacted me in other ways.  It has clearly struck a chord with many people.  I was very interested to read how many of you have discovered that fasting has had a positive health impact on your lives, especially those of you my age and older.  Thanks again for your responses – they are greatly appreciated.

family · miscellaneous · musings

And just like that…

So, it’s 2017!  Just like that!

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(This blog post will feature random photos from the year).

I still have over 30 garments from 2016 that have not yet been blogged.  Gulp.  I have finally made it as far as getting photos for most of them and uploading them to Flickr, so maybe while we’re away I can get a few of them up here on the blog.  It would be nice to get that done before February.

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Did you notice that “away” sentence?  I think that mentioned a few times now – we’re heading off overseas for three weeks!  We depart on Thursday for Thailand, heading first to Bangkok for a couple of nights (if the planets align I might be able to catch up with Meg while we’re there), then taking an overnight train to Vientiane, Laos.  We have five nights there, then move to Luang Prabang (also Laos) for six nights, then fly back across to Chiang Mai, Thailand for another seven nights (I’m hoping to catch up with Gaye again while we’re there).  We are SO looking forward to it.  (And yes we do have a house/dog sitter staying while we are away so we are not telling potential burglers about an empty house – because it won’t be!)

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I do plan to blog about our holiday regularly while we’re away, depending on available time and wifi access, so those people who come here for the sewing, I’m letting you know in advance that for most of January this blog will primarily be about our family travels!

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Last time we visited Thailand the girls were 11 and 7 years old respectively.  This time Clare will be 14 (her birthday is on that overnight train) and Stella will be 9.  They are equally excited about our travels, and we’re fortunate that both of them travel very well.

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We all feel very much in need of this holiday.  My husband has been in his current job for over a year now, and this will be his first proper break.  There has been quite a bit of interstate travel involved for him over the past year, which he doesn’t really enjoy, and he’s looking forward to this trip very much.  I tend to do all the holiday organisation and planning, so he can sit back and do some reading and some exploring and just enjoy.

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Clare goes into Year Nine at school once we’re back.  She’s doing very well academically, has made a great group of friends with common interests and I thought that many of you would be interested to know that she won the Year 8 Design Technology (what many of us know as Textiles) award this year.  Stella will go into Grade Four, with teachers she’s had before and we know will bring out her best.  She’s at a small primary school of around 200 kids, and we all benefit from the close community that it provides.  She’s had a great year culminating in her first dance concert, where she really did show off her natural movement and expression.  And finally she really gets reading – hooray!

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I anticipate that the girls will be busy with their usual activities during 2017.  Camps with Girl Guides, music lessons, dance classes, school productions, copious amounts of time playing Sims or Minecraft.

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And me?  After we get back from holidays (there’s that wonderful word again) I go straight into starting a new job.  It was very sad to leave my current one, as I deeply value many of my colleagues, but the new job was an offer that I just couldn’t resist.  It’s three days per week (I was doing two days previously, but often more with other contract work or additional days) and I figure that it will take me quite a while to get used to it.  I’m looking forward to being involved in bigger picture issues, and extending on my current skills.  It’s an exciting time yet I’m also quite nervous.

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There will be social occasions with my sewing friends.  Thanks goodness for blogs and instagram!  Melbourne has a wonderful group of fun, intelligent, creative and clever people who just love sewing and love to talk about it – especially in conjunction with food and drink.  Thanks to all of you!  I already have a few weekends away planned – one with the “school mums”, two to Sewjourn.  I love all these women.  They add so much to my life.  I will be ever grateful to the internet for turning what could easily be a solitary hobby into the opportunity to meaningfully connect with others.

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As for sewing goals?  Well, they change all the time.  I need to do another wardrobe purge.  I will need some dressier clothes for my new job, so will need to shift the proportions of casual versus more formal in my wardrobe.  I’ve also put on quite a bit of weight this year, and doubt it will vanish any time soon, so need to get rid of any clothes that are a bit too small and/or uncomfortable.

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There will always be sewing.  My main aim will be to use what I have as much as possible.  To enjoy that time searching in my stash for the right fabric to go with the right pattern.  There is so much in there that I love!  And I haven’t used up all of the fabric I bought the last time I was in Chiang Mai.  I have many patterns just crying out to be sewn.  Speaking of my fabric stash and sewing room, it was recently featured on the Curvy Sewing Collective blog.  Many thanks to them for asking me  to take part.

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I never quite know how to adequately thank those of you who read my blog, and those of you who also manage to leave comments!  I don’t always respond as much as I’d like to, and that is something I plan to change.  I really enjoy and appreciate our interactions, and reading other people’s blogs is always a highlight of my day.  Yes, Instagram has definitely slowed down blogging, but in my view there is always a place for a blog.  I’ll keep on going with mine – February will be my ten-year bloggiversary!  For someone who has never been able to keep a journal or diary, that’s significant.  And it’s really due to all of you.

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So, we’re looking ahead, not looking behind.  I hope that 2017 is a year of joy, prosperity and health for all of you.  We certainly hope that’s what it will be for us!

musings

Musing

Firstly, I don’t think that I have ever had as many complimentary and supportive blog comments as on my last blog post on the lace dress I sewed for Clare.  Thank YOU all so much!  She has been thrilled to read them all, as have I.  I really do appreciate each and every one of them (I know it takes that bit more effort and time to leave comments, and we’re all under tight schedules nowadays).  I will be honest and say that I know I will be really disappointed if the dress doesn’t win a prize, but at the same time I am very well aware that there are many other stunning entries, and more are flooding in as the deadline approaches.  I don’t really know what the judges criteria are, and I didn’t really enter thinking that I’d win anything, but after it was finished and I saw all the photos I really hope that it might!  If not, just another life resilience lesson I suppose 😉

So, time for a new blog post!  As is often the case my sewing has got ahead of photography and time at the computer, so I’m blogging out of order.

I’ve mentioned a few times lately that I’ve put on weight this year.  It’s not surprising – a mixture of a slower metabolism, being in my late forties with likely shifting hormones, lack of exercise, and a distinct love of chocolate and wine – and because my other health parameters are okay I’ve been alright with it.  It’s not always as noticeable in the flat photos that you see on the blog, as much of my weight increase is right on the front of my abdomen, but it’s very much there.  And now it is definitely influencing the styles and the fabrics of the clothing that I am sewing.

Which leads me to talking about knit fabrics.  I much prefer a knit cardigan to a woven jacket, and a knit skirt to a fitted woven.  It’s about the flexibility.  I find that it moves better with my bulges, accommodates weight fluctuations, and allows me to bend and move in ways that don’t result in a garment that digs in.  The elastic waist is my friend! Now that Melbourne has moved into spring I am re-evaluating my wardrobe.

Many of my summer dresses still fit me – both the wovens and the knits.  The wovens are nearly all loose through the midsection, and because my upper chest and shoulders haven’t changed a great deal with my weight gain, they mostly still fit.  A number of my knit dresses are more fitted, but the nature of the fabric means that they can stretch to fit. However, I don’t always feel good in them – I don’t like the sausage casing feeling – so a number of stretch dresses have left my wardrobe.

I am finding separates more challenging.  I definitely need those elastic waists.  Most garments with a fitted waist no longer fit me at all.  Many tops and t-shirts that are more fitted around the waist also no longer feel good on me.  I also have a number of separates that don’t really go with anything else.

So it’s time to reassess.  I’m getting rid of what doesn’t fit, and what I don’t feel good in.  (You might have noticed that I talk about how I feel in my clothes, rather than how they look.  Although it’s likely that the two are linked, I know that I won’t wear things that I don’t feel good in, no matter if they look good according to prevailing “taller/thinner/younger” dogma.  My confidence comes from how I feel in what I wear, not what others think about it – although I do of course still appreciate compliments and positive feedback!  Ah, so many contradictions).

I also think that as I approach Fifty I am reassessing many aspects of myself.  I presume that this is a common thing – those “zero” birthdays often have an impact.  Although it’s still over a year away – and I don’t mind getting older; I feel that it is a blessing – it feels significant.  I think that it’s having an impact in a number of areas.

And as for my sewing?  I want to continue to focus on sewing “outfits” that go with at least  one or two other items!  As much as I will continue to love print and pattern I’m seeing a small wardrobe shift toward solids.  I want to keep experimenting with silhouette a little as well – I am planning on trying the off the shoulder look that is fashionable at the moment.  I am fortunate to have a very large stash of fabrics and patterns that allow me to experiment as well as to sew tried and true styles.  I just need a little more focus at the moment.

I’m guessing that these feelings are familiar to many of you reading this blog.  Does your sewing change much with significant changes in life stage?

Anyway, I’m having a day to sew some of those simple basics that have been missing from my recent wardrobe – so I’d better get back to it!

adult's clothing · musings · sewing

What I wore in May – week one

Righteo, apparently it’s me-made-May again.  I mostly wear clothing that I’ve made all year round, so I’ve decided not to participate in the “challenge” part of me-made-May this year.  And I don’t like the “me-made” label all that much, I must admit.  I’m all for alliteration, but there’s no grammar there.  However, past experience participating in this challenge and other clothing documentation challenges has taught me that there can be significant value in creating a visual record of your outfits. Given that I’ve just done a major wardrobe cull, this is a great time for me to really take stock of what clothing I have and in what combinations I wear it.  Summer is easy – I prefer dresses.  But autumn/winter?  Much more difficult.  More garments, more layers, more to coordinate. There are months of cold weather ahead, so this really is the perfect time for me to figure out what wardrobe gaps I have and fill them in!

What I'm wearing May days 1-4

When I culled my wardrobe I took out everything that didn’t fit, was tired or worn out, or that I didn’t like much any more. I took out everything that I’d enjoyed wearing but knew I was now passing over in favour of something else. And I took out everything that I never really wore – even if there was technically “nothing wrong with it”.  This meant that I was left with some garments that are wardrobe orphans, but I still really like and want to wear. These are the wardrobe gaps. The challenge now is in figuring out what garments will be the right ones to fill those spaces.

What I'm Wearing May days 5-8

So now I’m working out what still works for me.  I think that I am style transitioning a little at the moment.  I’ve enjoyed experimenting a bit lately with different silhouettes, styles, textures, colours and prints, and think that I’m now settling on the ones that currently feel right for me.  As a result I have quite a large to-sew pile again.  I’m really looking forward to making a start once I get rid of this rotten cold that’s been exhausting me over the past ten days.  In the meantime I’ll keep taking daily photos and subjecting you to them on a weekly basis.  Navigating the waters of personal style when you’re almost 47 and don’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb or look way older than your years – while still staying true to yourself and the way you prefer to dress – is a really tricky thing!