30 October 2009
There seems to be flurry of Big Issues in our life at the moment. The past month has seen friends and family announcing births, deaths and pregnancies, detecting (and removing) cancers, identifying health problems, ending partnerships, being overwhelmed by work demands, visitors, household catastrophes or communications. Plenty of fodder for the odd bout of gut wrenching anxiety. Plenty of fresh motivation too, to make some time for some time out and some deep breaths.
So, a weekend away at Phillip Island with friends in a renovated beach shack. We stayed up late (well, late for C anyway) to see the little penguins waddle ashore, and we walked on the beach, listening to the sound of waves, collecting rocks, exploring rock pools. A wonderful break from the usual routine.
Also, I’ve started a meditation course. I’m working my way through a 6 week Buddhist mindfulness meditiation course by Gil Fronsdal from Insight Meditation Centre, available through Zencast. It's wonderful that this kind of information is so readily accessible, and free, via the wonders of modern technology (Reason #784 to love the internet).
I’ve been raiding Zencast’s archives for a little while now, and have been quite inspired and increasingly interested in what I’ve listened to. Plenty to learn, plenty of possibilities for finding a bit more comfort, ease and satisfaction with life, with myself, with others. For the meditation course, I’m making some time each night, after C’s gone to sleep, to sit and focus on my breath. After a couple of weeks some progress has been made, but there is still plenty to learn, and to learn to apply.
22 October 2009
I think that dabbling in some gardening and veggie growing is making me more aware of the seasons and weather. In the last week it's started to feel a lot more like Spring is really here. Although, being Melbourne, it does tend to come and go as it pleases. Summer even got a bit of a look-in on Monday, although who knows what next week will bring.
Certainly, I won't be planting out my tomato seedlings any time soon, as they have failed miserably (possibly due to me parking them outside for some sun, but then leaving them there to freeze each night), but we have been harvesting broad beans, and hopefully we'll have some peas soon too.
Cabbages and garlic seem to be doing well, and hopefully the seeds (more peas, beans, carrots, beetroot, spinach and bok choy) we planted the other week will survive the bugs already nibbling them.
Fingers crossed I haven't killed the strawberries Mum gave me on the weekend, and come Summer we'll be eating them freshly plucked every time we head out the front door. One can dream...
18 October 2009
I grew up in a home where stuff was routinely saved and recycled for some purposeful use.
To this day, Dad saves timber and construction materials to build furniture and things around the home. Today when we visited he showed us the table he's just finished, and gave us the run-down of where all the components had come from: elegantly spiralled legs from a table they had in the UK; frame and part of the top from the old jarrah piano bench I grew up on (and before that use, being the frame of a friend's house); the other timber for the top salvaged scraps from my brother's boat building workshop. It all comes together in a neatly finished, cleverly coordinated way. Perfectly sized for their needs and layering day to day life with rich memories.
Mum saved fabrics and to this day is an avid patchworker and quilter, always finding some use for the leftovers. As a child I regularly rummaged in the large cardboard box that held the scraps accumulating from her dressmaking work. Over the years some scraps took on a comforting familiarity (that scrap of yellow print that was long and skinny; that little piece of black velvet; those pieces of funny tartan shirting from the shirts dad had long outworn, with the strange raised dots in the weave). I turned various bits into dolls outfits or patchwork gift items, eventually making my own scrap contributions when I started sewing my own clothes. Mum worked many familiar scraps into the much loved patchwork quilt that now lives on our bed.
I haven't become a carpenter (I leave that to the boys in the family) but I do hoard my fabric scraps. Lately I've been finding it harder to throw out even the smallest pieces of my favorite fabrics, so I'm instituting a kind of two tier scrap system- a big tub for usable scraps that I might find some purpose for (in a project pouch to coordinate with my everyday bag or patchwork baby bibs for example), and a shoe box for tiny offcuts that C or his childcare centre can use for collage pasting or play. I'm trying not to get too fanatical about the waste we generate, but being able to put every little bit of quality materials to some kind of beneficial use does give me a really good feeling about how we consume. Of course, what you can make with depends very much on the qualities of the materials you have to start with, which I think is a good excuse for always buying the best quality that you can find and afford.
I do find it exciting to read or see when other people have similar instincts or ideas, especially when they include genuine reuse of "waste" materials, and lead to beautifully designed creations, rather than a make do, mismatched hippie or scrappy deconstructed look. Would love to hear if you have seen anything that inspires you this way. Here are some links I've noticed recently:
I'm excited to see what Martha might make with her gleaned offcuts (this scrap T shirt she made a while back inspires me to do something clever with my own T-shirting scraps).
Beklina's rag rug (via Uniform Studio) and Five Forty's recycled sweater rugs (just in case you feel the urge to take up weaving)
OutsaPop has some great fashion inspiration and tutorials, even if some of them are a bit more "fashion forward" than what I usually wear.
The Recycle Remake Redesign Re-craft Reuse Recreate Reclaim Reduce group at Flickr has good (and bad) projects and ideas.
(Edited: forgot to mention Scraps month at Sew, Mama, Sew and of course the ultimate in stylish waste usage, Jodie's selvedge dress along with her other selvedge creations, and more selvedge inspiration in the Made with Selvedge Flickr group)
15 October 2009
Excuse me while I rant about children's clothing sizes. An issue that annoys me more than the issue of women's clothing sizes. At least I can try before I buy, and I'm not growing an inch every week (give or take a month or two).
When C was born friends advised me that children's clothes sizes are a lottery, and clothes are best purchased by comparison with a similar garment that is getting too short or snug (constrictive even?), followed by some wild guessing about how much room is needed for growth in the coming season. Similarly when making clothes I've learnt, over the years, to compare pattern pieces to a perfectly fitting garment that is already in the wardrobe, or failing that, some relevant body dimensions with a bit of fudge factor for wearing ease and fabric qualities.
I recently decided to boycott Cotton On (A company that thinks the world needs slogans like "They shake me" on an infant's onesie doesn't deserve my dollars) and instead make my growing boy some t-shirts, to supplement our hand-me-down supply and a couple of new designer t-shirts for the season ahead.
I applied the clothes sizes lessons learnt to an Ottobre pattern, comparing it to the Ts C's just growing out of, resulting in some substantial size modifications. The Ottobre patterns are multisized, which helps the process, but gauging fit and wearing ease is trickier I think for little persons clothes, where a little bit can make a huge difference. I possibly opted for a bit too much body width, and could have done with adding even more length to the sleeves, but overall it fits (for the moment at least) and C was quite keen to try it on. I think I'll tweak it a little more before making him some more summer T's and PJ tops.
Of course, after making it I stumbled across Vegbee's Blueprints blog (via Whip Up), where there is this great tutorial (amongst other things) outlining a process for making a pattern for a child's top from an existing one. Team it with Sooz's advice on sewing with knits (and perhaps a tutorial on freezer paper stencils or make up some other embellishments) and perhaps we won't need to winge about kids clothing sizes again...
10 October 2009
This week crafting opportunities have been focused on a much needed project- a new everyday bag. I'm a one bag kind of lady, and my old everyday bag had really started to show signs of wear. Not surprising since I've been using it every day for well over 2 years (I can't remember exactly how long, but I know I've had it longer than I've had a son).
I've been plotting a new bag for a while- contemplating the design, accumulating a few sketches, acquiring some materials. This week I finally got around to drafting up a pattern (yes I've been sewing with AutoCAD again..), tinkering and changing it as I cut it out, and then spending a couple of frustrating evenings (see sidenote below) sewing and pressing.
Today I put it to use and am really pleased with it. Great shape, love the feature fabric (from Ink and Spindle) and bag handle bits (from Nicole Mallalieu), perfect size and inside pockets just right for those bits and bobs that need somewhere to live (I particularly love the little hidden red pocket). Am thinking I should make a coordinating commuter knitting bag to tuck inside it too...
A sidenote on Product vs Process:
I have to say that sewing this wasn't fun. Sewing isn't generally something that relaxes me, and sometimes it does exactly the opposite. It’s such a contrast to my relationship with knitting.
The cutting and figuring out the finer design details seemed to take far longer than it should have. I guess that's the by product of making up your own pattern- you have to do all the thinking. Sometimes it's fun, but this time it felt annoying and tedious. Maybe the next everyday bag I make I’ll buy a pattern.
Then there was the sewing process itself. On the first evening I got to a point where things just weren't working my way. I swore. Then I turned the sewing machine off, put the cover back on the machine (mishap still wedged under the immovable needle) and put the pins and scissors away. I walked out of the studio and spent the rest of the evening knitting on the sofa. The next evening I sat down with a glass of wine and set to work again, managing to get it finished before crawling off to bed.
It was definitely the need for the finished product that got me through the process.
8 October 2009
We've been starting to make a little habit of doing a spot of baking on Wednesday mornings. It just sort of fits into our week then, right after breakfast, and it's nice to have some home made sweet snacks on hand for the rest of the week.
This week I felt like trying something different to our usual muffins or oat cookies, and C had mentioned gingerbread (perhaps Grandma had read him the story?). Being as I couldn't remember who had blogged about it recently (I'm sure someone had. Undoubtedly someone had.) I googled and came across this recipe at Taste. Easy recipe although the dough needs 30 minutes rest time, so we sandwiched the whole proceedings around other activities, and that worked fine.
I stuck to one colour for the icing, but entertained myself by giving them different outfits. We've also been enjoying ourselves making sure none of them run away...
3 October 2009
An old friend asked me last weekend if I'd been doing much sewing lately. I had to confess that I hadn't. From time to time I have weeks where I lapse into doing next to no crafting despite having crafting opportunities. I get consumed instead with cruising the internet, observing and looking and trying to absorb inspiration; daydreaming about things that could be made; mentally walking through projects but not actually undertaking them.
But there is a vast difference between thinking about and acting out. I realised it was time to get on to some doing- time to engage with the moments of the process instead of giving in to the seductions of the imagined product.
So I have reviewed my to-do list, revised some ideas, refreshed my priorities. I've tried to identify why projects have stalled, considered whether I am still interested in them, and establish what the motivation is behind them. And I have gently encouraged myself to spend suitable opportunities with some sewing or knitting on my lap instead of the laptop.
As a result, there has been some sewing- some baby bibs, some holes mended, and some small knitted gifts underway. Not necessarily to the letter of my to-do list priorities, but that's pretty arbitrary anyway, and once some creative momentum has built up it's nice to just go with it.