Wednesday, January 19, 2022

There’s more to life than making shallow, fairly obvious observations.

 Hello!! Larry David says that it's too late to say Happy New Year, but... Happy New Year!

I mean he has a point, to be fair. 

Anyway I hope your entry into 2022 hasn't been too bad. Nic and I had a very restful and lovely break over Christmas, and we managed to stay safe and healthy which felt somewhat like winning the lottery, honestly. Travelling via train to the north seemed like a bad idea so we had a very quiet break at home and it was lovely. I was very happy to spend our first Christmas in Dublin (and my first in Ireland for about 8 years) at home watching films and knitting. On the New Year's Day bank holiday, we took the Luas up into the suburbs and walked up the mountain for a drink in the car park of a pub with maybe the best view in Dublin:

It's not the best photo but we were treated to an incredible rainbow after the briefest shower of rain. It was very cold but a beautiful spot to drink a pint and eat some pizza and I'm sure it'll be even better in the warmer weather (although significantly busier, I would imagine!)

We did spend some time with family - my dad, both of my sisters and two of my nephews visited at the start of the holidays and we spent a very fun day together exploring the city. None of the children ever had the chance to visit our home when we lived in England so it makes me very happy to be able to have them here. Both nephews - Joe and Matthew - had great craic playing with the Seinfeld Lego that Nic got me for my birthday. Matthew was fascinated by the city - although he had visited us before, we hadn't left the neighbourhood, and he enjoyed walking into the city centre and seeing what it was like. It was fun to see it through his eyes - he was curious about everything and he really enjoyed himself. It was great!

The January blues haven't been hitting too hard... it turns out that going back to work after a holiday isn't that stressful when your job isn't horrible! I've been able to have a relatively gentle start back into the working year and I'm gradually starting to get back into the office as well. My workplace takes COVID safety very seriously: we have high-quality air filters in the offices, restrictions on numbers, we've all been provided with KN95 masks and students with free antigen tests (these are not available for free in Ireland unless you've been a close contact of someone with COVID) so anyway I feel cautiously optimistic about starting to go back into the office. I am working on some fun and interesting projects and I continue to feel very pleased at where I ended up working.

I've been doing very little sewing - as I mentioned before, I'm in a bit of a funk where I'm not sure what I want to wear! Part of it is the winter and working from home: when I was working in the office full-time, wearing a dress with tights, a cardigan and a pair of heels made sense even when it was pretty cold. But when I'm mostly at home - and now have a long walk to work (which I love) - this isn't as an attractive an option. I'll be back in dresses in the spring, but I am finding myself both keen to explore new styles and gripped with indecision about what those new styles should be. I'm figuring it out. In the meantime I've ordered some jeans online... we'll see how that works out (!)

Anyway - I have really liked the couple of things I have made in the last few months. After the unexpected success of the Bakerloo blouse, I made a dress version. Liberty lawn is difficult to buy here in Ireland but quite a few places stock Liberty quilting cotton... which is something I didn't even know existed? I bought three metres of the Hampstead Meadow print and I had just enough to make the dress version with the elbow-length sleeves. It is 44 inches wide and a directional print so I didn't have quite enough to make the ruffle for the collar... so I improvised with some red ric-rack that had been in my stash of notions for pretty much as long as I've been sewing:

I sewed it in just as you would sew in the ruffle, although of course it means that there is a little bit of a gap where the two collar pieces meet in the centre front neckline. I was full of doubts as I was doing it - not least because there isn't any red in the print - and it IS quite ridiculous but also I like it a LOT. 

I would say that quilting cotton probably isn't the best choice for this pattern - or at least, Liberty quilting cotton isn't. It's lovely quality but it doesn't have too much drape so the smocked style means that the skirt sticks out a bit. That said, I'm really happy with it and I've worn it quite a lot since making it in early November. 

Wearing it out for cocktails in a fancy hotel in Ballsbridge in December

I was keen to try the pattern out in a fabric with more drape so I ordered some viscose lawn from Fabric Godmother to have another go. Buying fabric from the UK is an absolute bollocks now with Brexit and seemingly completely arbitrary customs charges from An Post, so I avoid it mostly. However, having access to a UK postal address (my parents' house) means I can avoid the customs charges if I'm willing to wait for my fabric mule to visit! So I bought some viscose lawn and my dad brought it down when he visited in late December and on the couple of days before Christmas, I made myself another one:

This fabric was 55 inches wide so I bought 2.5 metres and had enough to cut out the ruffle. The print is subtly directional and I managed to cut out my pieces upside down! But I don't think it's terribly noticeable. In both dresses, I cut a straight size 10 - the fit is so relaxed that I just made sure I was happy with the placement of the bust darts and didn't fuss with it otherwise. But in this fabric, which has a great deal of drape, I wanted to reduce some of the volume so I took the bodice in about an inch at the side seams. 

It took me a couple of days to sew this dress - I was interrupted by the fact that I had my booster a few days before Christmas and felt extremely tired the day afterwards - but also I just straight-up did not enjoy sewing with the viscose. I'm a lazy seamstress in that I largely avoid sewing with slippery fabrics and mostly don't really like wearing them. This fabric is so lovely, though. It is so soft and light and feels beautiful to wear. It takes a press very nicely and doesn't wrinkle excessively. It's beautiful! So it was worth the very slight fighting with it I had to do. I wore it on Christmas day and although we didn't leave the house because the weather was so awful, I felt so pretty and glamorous and COMFORTABLE all day. So, hurrah! I have ordered some viscose linen to make another version for the spring - without the collar and with a longer skirt, I think. I just need to wait on my mule to carry it down from Tyrone.

I've made one garment so far this year, which is another pair of Closet Core Jenny overalls. These were a dream garment in so far as I was able to make my own version of the pair that inspired me to buy the pattern. I bought some Ruby Star society linen canvas from a shop in Ireland and got sewing just after Christmas:

Jenny Overalls with RTW shirt and clogs 

I'm really delighted with these. My winter uniform these last few years has been a pair of printed Jenny overalls so these make a wonderful addition to my four other pairs! These were directly inspired by the pair that Devon of Miss Make made a few years ago in the same fabric - it was seeing these that made me buy the pattern, but the fabric proved frustratingly elusive! Anyway I'm delighted with them and even if the cropped length is a little impractical in cold weather, I think they're gorgeous!

I do have some loose sewing plans - I want to make a gingham midi dress; possibly another Bakerloo top if I can find the right fabric; I have bought The Assembly Line Cuff Dress pattern and am waiting for fabric inspiration to strike and I'm considering - considering - making some elastic waist trousers such as the Style Arc Bob pants. These are extremely out of my comfort zone but I think possibly worth a go. Maybe!

Anyway, that's the craic there, sewing-wise. Here's a few photos of the last few months in Dublin:

A stunning purple sky over our neighbourhood park

Wolf Moon from Merchant's Quay on my walk home from work on Monday evening

Looking for seals in Dalkey

Sunset at Sandymount Strand

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

But the truth is, I'm not going to get wine of any temperature in prison. There are no fine wines in prison.

Hello! It's been a little while, so what is UP?!

Things have been pretty good. We have had an extremely beautiful autumn and beginning of winter in Dublin (in Ireland, winter starts in November):

Our local park looking gorgeous in the sunshine

I guess we're still in a bit of a honeymoon period or whatever, but it's been lovely to be able to continue to explore the city. It only really started to get cold last week so we were very spoiled with the lovely weather. 

The Grand Canal in October

My friend Ellen and her family visited at the end of October, which was the first time any of our friends from England came to see us. It was wonderful! They stayed in an airbnb nearby and we had so much fun together - it was brilliant to show them the city and our neighbourhood. It meant to much that they took the trouble to come to see us. 

Also in October, my nephew Fionn came to stay for a sleepover with my parents. He had just turned 8, so we took him to the toyshop to choose a present, had a little pizza party at home and went to the seaside at Sandycove. It was a lot of fun and of course it was completely and utterly exhausting. 

Fionn inspecting the divers at Sandycove beach

Fionn enjoyed himself immensely and has been telling people since then that when he grows up, he's going to live in Dublin. So that's super cute. 

We've also had my parents to visit a couple of times. My dad was here at the weekend - we had planned to go to a lecture together, which got moved to zoom, but he came down anyway and it was brilliant - although very cold! We went down to Wicklow on Saturday and went to Enniskerry for lunch and to Powerscourt to see the waterfall. My photos are crap but it was so beautiful:

It's Ireland's largest lingerie section waterfall, so I understand. I read that... somewhere. 

The river Dargle

We also spent a very chilly morning and early afternoon on North Bull Island at Clontarf. It was so cold and extremely windy but very, very beautiful.

I love it here. It still really feels like a dream to be by the sea and near the mountains and in a beautiful city, all in the one place! I feel very lucky.

Work is still going well. Unfortunately, because cases are high here, the government has advised everyone to work from home if they can. It's not essential for me to be in the office, so I'm at home for the foreseeable future. I feel sadder about this than I thought I would - I was really enjoying my routine of a couple of days a week in the office. But it could be worse, and luckily the job itself continues to be interesting and stress-free... the stress-free part is especially pleasing when I hear from friends from my old workplace about how it is going there. Spoiler: it is NOT stress-free.

I haven't been sewing loads, although I have a few projects lined up (including a dress for my niece). Somewhat unexpectedly, I've been having a bit of a ruffles moment. I don't know why. I think it started when I made my birthday dress and just randomly decided to put a ruffle on the hem because it seemed like it would work with the fabric - and it was just fun to make and fun to wear. I wanted an autumnal version so I made a dress using some ankara fabric that was in my stash:

This is sort of inspired by the beautiful dresses made by Kemi Telford. You can't see the details here because I didn't photograph it with that in mind but it's very simple - it's a By Hand London Anna bodice with a gathered skirt and a ruffle hem. I sewed it up on an impulse one evening and I'm pretty happy with it - it's a little big in the bodice for some reason but that means it layers up nicely and it's very comfortable. I've also worn it with sandals and it looks cute like that too. So that's a winner. 

Emboldened by my enjoyment of ruffles, my mind turned back to a question that had been troubling me for months, which was this: is the Bakerloo blouse by Nina Lee patterns very cute or is it Clown City? I couldn't decide. I'd seen several really cute versions of it (including the samples Nina used on the pattern envelope) but several that are... not for me. I didn't know if I would wear it because the collar is so large. So I decided I'd buy a similar blouse to see if I liked it. 

Actually this didn't help me decide. I like it, but I also think it makes me look a bit like the Child of Prague.

Just plant me in the garden! 

What actually finally made me go for it was the fact that Nina has moved and has stopped producing paper patterns and I fucking hate PDFs, so I bought the pattern and gave it a go with some Liberty poplin I had in my stash.

Nina Lee Bakerloo blouse with Victory Patterns Madeleine skirt

I do like it. The collar is so enormous though, it's comical. It's so big! But somehow I think it works, and I really like the sleeves. It was also really fun to sew. I sewed a straight size 10 and didn't make any modifications - I probably could have but I'm lazy like that. Anyway I have some more Liberty fabric - this time some of their quilting cotton to make the dress version so hopefully I'll get around to that at some point soon. I have also worn this with my dungarees and I think it looks cute:

Hanging with James Joyce in Ranelagh

It's a lot less plaster baby Jesus in a printed fabric, which is good - although I have worn the RTW top a few times too. If there's anywhere you can get away with looking like religious statuary, it's Ireland.

I also bought an amazing ruffle dress. I spotted this Kate Spade dress in the spring and thought it was awesome and kept going back to look at it but didn't buy it and then it was reduced by 50% so I thought, why not. 

I look goofy here but I don't care. It has ruffles! It has big sleeves! It's apparently a 'midi' dress but it's definitely maxi on this shortarse! It's pretty simple - it is unlined (apart from the bodice) and it's made from a medium-weight sateen - grown-on sleeves, an inset waistband and a gathered skirt: I could definitely have made my own version. But the fabric is so lovely and sometimes you just have to buy the dress. I wore it out to dinner last Friday night and I might wear it on Christmas but otherwise it's going to hibernate until the spring. Probably by then I'll be the only one running about in ruffles but fuck it. I don't care. I'll be living my best Margo Leadbetter life.

Anyway, that's the craic with me for now. Until next time!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

You know I always wanted to pretend that I was an architect.

 Hello! Happy autumn, I guess! 

For the first time in a very long time - maybe ever, in fact - I find myself not actively hating the onset of autumn and winter. I think it might be to do with the fact that I now live in a home that has central heating (our flat in Leamington was brutally cold in winter as the only heating was from two ancient storage heaters and all the windows were single-glazed and draughty) but it's probably some sort of autumnal denial because we have been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather recently.

Since I last blogged, life has continued to shift in interesting ways. The short-term job I had been doing from the beginning of June came to an end in mid-September, and I was offered a permanent job in the same organisation but in a different department. Working there had not been my plan when we moved - I had job offer for an assessment job somewhere else. But I enjoyed the short-term job so much that I was excited to accept their permanent offer. I started the new job at the end of September and I'm enjoying it a lot so far. I've also started working in the office two days a week, which feels a little weird (it definitely feels strange to wear a mask all day) but it's good. I can walk to work, which is wonderful. My colleagues are nice, the job isn't stressful and, importantly, the work canteen is superb and cheap. 

I definitely had a moment of doubt of like... should I step out of the field I had been working in for 13 years. Does that mean I have wasted the expertise I have built up, is this a backwards step etc... the way we are taught to think about our work life is that a career is a ladder that you are slowly climbing up, and that up is the only direction you should be travelling. But it isn't that. We moved to improve the quality of our lives and work is a big part of that - my old job was very bad for my mental health! Taking a chance on something else feels like the right thing to do.

Here's what I wore on my first office day of my new job - mustard Flint pants, RTW blouse and vintage velvet jacket.

If you're here for the sewing, prepare to be disappointed. I haven't been doing much sewing. Well - a little, but not much. I'm working out what my new wardrobe needs are, so I'm not extremely motivated to do a lot of sewing. 

Something I did spend time on, though, was making a replacement pair of denim Jenny overalls. The first pair I made - my first pair of Jenny overalls - were absolutely great and I wore them until they were no longer really wearable:

Look at this sweet summer pre-global pandemic child! I made this in October 2019 and wore them LOADS. Lots and lots. They were made from a stretch denim that ended up not wearing well - they shrank and faded quite badly so after we moved, I retired them. And I have numerous other pairs of Jenny dungarees now but there was a gap in my wardrobe for a denim pair so I bought some rigid denim from a shop in Dublin and made another pair:

There's not a great deal to say about these, but I made these in early September and they're great. The denim is an 11oz washed indigo denim, and it feels lovely to wear. I have ended up hemming them slightly shorter than they are in this photo now though because they were slightly too long. Anyway, they're great.

I had a birthday recently and I made an impractical birthday dress from some cute knockoff D&G fabric that I bought from Ali Express:

I wasn't going to make a special dress but we decided to have a couple of days away for my birthday, so I thought I might as well. I'd had the fabric for a little while and hadn't been sure what to do with it. I used the Emery dress by Christine Haynes and I just added a ruffle to the hem. Again, this is kind of a riff on something I've made before - the Majolica dress - which I made for my birthday in 2019 and was able to wear on holiday in the south of France:

I love this dress so much, you guys. And it's still very much in rotation! 

We didn't go to the south of France - I'm not ready yet for international travel - but we had a couple of days in Cork city because neither of us had ever been before.

I'm really pleased with how the dress turned out and I'm even more pleased that the weather turned out so nice when we were in Cork and I could wear it!

Our trip to Cork was our first holiday since the start of the pandemic, apart from two nights in a caravan in a village outside Leamington that we had last September. We took the train down and stayed in a hotel so it was our first long train journey since maybe January last year and the first time we had stayed in a hotel since December 2019. 

We stayed in the Imperial Hotel, which is in the city centre. It's apparently where Michael Collins stayed the night before he was killed. It's a nice hotel - the staff were lovely - but it was a bit of a shock to the system to be staying in a hotel. It was so noisy! On one of the nights we were there, there was a gig on nearby and it was incredibly loud. On the second night, the hotel bar had their music up so loud that the windows were rattling. And there was nobody in it!! The music went off at 11:30pm but it was not the relaxing hotel experience we might have hoped for. 

Still though, I'm glad we did it. Cork is a very lovely city and the people are very friendly. It was good to be somewhere new. I'm trying to gradually reintroduce some of the things from the time before that we haven't been able to do and travel is one of them. I still don't know about international travel, honestly, but at least I feel like I can explore Ireland a bit more. Just not to stay in a hotel with a disco.

The beautiful late summer and early autumn weather has meant it's been easy for us to spend time exploring Dublin, which has been great. Dublin is beautiful. 

I loved this view of the mountains from outside Áras an Uachtaráin in the Phoenix Park

Here's us having a drink outside John Kavanagh 'The Gravediggers' pub in Glasnevin last weekend

So that's the update. I'm hoping to do a bit more sewing over the next while so maybe I'll have some sewing to share again. What I've found in moving - even four, nearly five months on - is that it really is a massive change. I know that sounds like a daft thing to say because like... OBVIOUSLY. But of course you can never truly anticipate how a life-change will make you feel and certainly not how changing literally every aspect of your life will make you feel. Emotionally, there has been a lot going on. It's going to take a while to settle down, I guess. 

Anyway that's it from me for now. I'm going to leave you with a photo of one of my birthday presents from Nic: he bought me the Seinfeld Lego set and I spent a couple of happy evenings building it and it makes me laugh every time I look at it:

This is only a section of it, mid-build. It's Elaine in Jerry's kitchen. That's a muffin top on the counter! That's a picture of a Lego Larry David on the fridge! And yes... that is a sexy Lego George on the wall! 

So that's the craic with me. Until next time, friends!

Monday, August 09, 2021

You know, we're living in a society! We're supposed to act in a civilised way!

Dia daoibh, a chairde! Conas atá sibh? Yes, I live in Ireland these so I'm going to be speaking Irish to you all now, lol. No, not really. But one of the things I have been enjoying the most about living in Ireland again is seeing the Irish language everywhere: something you might not know about me is that I speak Irish, having learned it at school, and although I am very rusty after a fair few years living in England, I am picking it back up by being surrounded by it once again and that is a lovely feeling. I am taking some Irish lessons online and am looking for some in-person lessons to start later in the year too, which is very exciting!

Anyway, since I last wrote I have been grand. Things have been good! Here's what's been happening:

I got fully vaccinated! We managed to just miss the window for vaccination for our age group when we moved from the UK - I literally got the text inviting me to register for a vaccination two days before we left the country - and I thought we would have to wait longer to get vaccinated here. But once the slot for our age group opened up it all moved very quickly and it was very straightforward. I got to go to the Aviva stadium on Lansdowne Road for the vaccination and the last time I had been there was in 1999 to see R.E.M. so it was all very emotional (although at that point, it was just the Lansdowne Road stadium so it was totally different to when I was there before.) I got a sweet badge and no real side-effects after either jab - some tiredness and a slightly sore arm for a couple of days. Because of the rise of Delta, I doubt that being vaccinated will change my day-to-day life a huge amount but it does feel good to feel so much safer when doing essential things, and to feel like travelling a little (within Ireland) and seeing loved ones is safer also.

The badge says Fuair mé mo vacsaín COVID-19, which means 'I got my COVID-19 vaccine' 

I was absolutely fucking DELIGHTED to get vaccinated and I felt very grateful that it is something that was available to me. But, as I discussed in my last post, one of the things about the experience fof living in the pandemic has been the differences it highlights between people. I've been really disappointed to see people in my life spreading anti-vaxx rhetoric and even worse when they have co-opted pro-choice wording to do it. For me it's one thing if you don't want to be vaccinated: that's a personal choice. I don't agree with it, but it is a choice. But I see no justification whatsoever in going out of your way to discourage other people from taking it, and from spreading blatant misinformation IN A PANDEMIC. Especially when it is coming from people who have children, or who work with children or with other vulnerable people who are unable to choose to be vaccinated. I've unfollowed and blocked a depressing number of people on social media because of it. Obviously people haven't acquitted themselves well in the pandemic in general but I do feel a lot like George Costanza just shouting WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY into the clouds. 

Anyway please do not comment with anti-vaxx stuff because I will delete it.

I've done some sewing in my new sewing space, which has been great! I made a pair of trousers that were pretty horrible, so there are no photos of them. The first successful thing I made was a Deer and Doe Bleuet dress, although I don't have photos of it yet! I refashioned a too-big Marimekko x Uniqlo dress. I also don't have a photo of that! But I do have photos of two of the other things I made. One was a Made by Rae Geranium dress that I made for my best friend's daughter:

My best friend from school, E, came down from Belfast in July to visit us and brought her four-year-old daughter N with her. I hadn't seen E for about three years, so it was tremendously exciting to spend the day with her. It was extremely hot but we had a lot of fun just pottering around Dublin. N was so delighted with the dress that she immediately demanded to wear it, so she stripped down in garden we were having lunch in and put it straight on. What better compliment is there?! The fabric is some beautiful Nani Iro double gauze that was a gift from Neko Neko fabrics and I think I have enough of it left over to make another Geranium dress for my niece, Katie. I've already made her quite a few Geranium dresses and she loves them - her favourite, understandably, is the one I made her from some scraps of Cath Kidston mushroom fabric. It's such a sweet pattern and so quick to put together!

My most recent make is another pinafore dress - I have also been making less-utilitarian things in the last year, but when I crave comfort on a chilly day, there is nothing quite like dungarees or a pinafore dress. As a leaving present, my colleagues in my old job gave me a very generous €150 voucher for a fabric shop in Dublin called Cloth and I used it to finally buy myself a copy of the Apron Dress pattern by The Assembly Line and some beautiful 14oz indigo denim to make it with. I also bought some navy twill to make a pair of trousers for Nic and some Liberty lawn for a dress for myself at some point, but the apron dress called to me first of all. I'd admired the pattern for some time but had been put off by the high price point and also because initially the pattern's size range was very small AND you could only buy the pattern in single sizes. Both of these issues have been addressed - the pattern now comes in multiple sizes and the size range has been expanded so the waist measurement goes up to 49 inches, which is more inclusive than it had been previously.

Just a little flatlay on my kitchen floor!

This was a very quick and enjoyable sew. It took me most of a Sunday morning to make it - I listened to a couple of episodes of Double Love and before I knew it, I was done! There aren't many pattern pieces and I found the instructions to be very clear - I liked very much the way the drawings were labelled with a, b, c etc corresponding to the different steps in the instructions... it's a little difficult to explain but it worked well. The design is fab - the skirt's side seams curve to the front and the pockets are angled so that they are anchored into the side seams, but they are cut slightly bigger so that they don't lie totally flat, which gives an interesting shape. I really like the shape of the skirt.

The Assembly Line Patterns Apron dress with stripy top and saltwater sandals - the wrinkles at the waist are because I had worn the dress a couple of times before photographing it!

The closures at the back are a little odd - again, this is difficult to explain but there is no closure as such on the dress - it's all in one piece and it is pleated at the back to allow you the space to get into the dress, with the pleat closed and fastened either with buttons or with snaps. I had navy buttons in my stash and so I used those. Because of the way the fold in the pleat sits, one of the buttons has to pass through two buttonholes to fasten and this is !!extremely!! awkward to do behind your own back. I am pretty flexible (and a year and a half of regular yoga has helped with that) and I found it a struggle. Someone on instagram told me that she just wriggled into hers and when I tried that I found it manageable. Snaps might be easier to deal with if wriggling into a dress isn't possible for you, but in a heavier fabric I'm not sure how secure snaps would be. 

The other slight criticism I have was on the instruction for the straps which, to my mind, would leave quite an untidy finish on the inside. It has you just... sew the straps down on the inside? Like, not sandwiched between the facing and the bib? Just on top of the facing?? There are no instructions to finish the ends of the straps to make them neat. I sandwiched the straps between the bib and the facing, which is a very easy step to do, I just found it odd that it's not in the instructions to do this. Anyway! I made a size small but I think if I were to make another I might make the XS as the bib is a little big... and I probably will make another one because I wore this three times in the week after I made it. I feel great in it and I think it will be very handy in the autumn and winter. I mean it's been handy enough in Ireland in August... but then I didn't move here for the great climate.

Changeable weather aside, we have been having a lovely time here. We had my sister and her boys come to spend the day with us a few weeks ago, which was magical - all we did was have a picnic in the park at the bottom of our road (it was too hot that weekend to do anything else) but it was just such a joy to be able to spend such relaxed time together. We have friends from Leamington visiting this weekend - they are here because they have family in the area, but it'll be so good to see them and then the weekend afterwards one of our nephews is coming to stay with us for the night. This is very exciting as ever since he was old enough to talk he has been asking to come for a sleepover at our house. It'll be brilliant.

We have also been getting out and exploring as much as we can. A few weeks ago we had a lovely sunny day in Dún Laoghaire, just strolling along the coast, watching the seals and the sea swimmers and even having a little paddle:

Sandycove and The Forty Foot

My Mum told me I look like a granny in this hat, but I like it! Also no burned scalp, so...

On a not-so-sunny day on Saturday we went up the coast in the other direction to Malahide and had a rainy, windswept stroll along the estuary there. It was lovely. I love living on the coast more than I can say.

I'm wearing a dress that I made in early 2020 - it's a By Hand London Anna dress made from a RTW dress I bought and took apart. Yes, it's another dress with lobsters on it!

Other than that, life has been quiet and uneventful. Well apart from the fact that Nic won us a jeroboam of rosé from our local independent supermarket, Donnybrook Fair:

Yes, we are very proud. The trouble with moving somewhere new during a global pandemic is not knowing enough people to share a 3 litre bottle of wine with... so we are currently awaiting the perfect opportunity to open it!

That's the craic with me for now. Look after yourselves and sure I'll see you soon!

Friday, July 09, 2021

I didn’t go missing, David. The FBI knew where I was the entire time!

Well. It's a little embarrassing to roll up and publish a post on a blog that has been gathering dust for LITERALLY 18 MONTHS. The last time I sat down to write here was December 2019. I'm not going to apologise for the absence because... well, who cares? Also we all know that after 2019 came 2020 and... well. I admire the people who have carried on blogging in the last 18 months because honestly - I tried so many times to string a sentence together and I was simply unable to. But there we are.

Anyway, if you're here - HELLO! I hope you're as well as anyone can be in these truly strange and terrifying times. I'm... pretty good, considering. It has been a rocky old time, quite honestly, but that's true for all of us.

Since I last blogged in 2019 (!) obviously a lot has happened and life has changed quite considerably. When COVID started getting serious in March 2020, I started working from home full time and, like many people, spent most of the year essentially completely isolated from the world. Nic and I were both very lucky in the sense that neither of us got sick, we didn't lose anyone close to us and we were both able to work from home throughout. So we managed to miss out on many of the practical effects of the pandemic that upended people's lives. But of course that doesn't mean it was easy and, as I'm sure is true for many of us, the events of 2020 made me feel very differently about my life. I think about this postcard from PostSecret a lot:

This sounds much more dramatic than my experience, but the dual ruptures of COVID and then the events of summer 2020 really made me reassess who I was spending my time with and some relationships changed forever.

Working through the pandemic was also a LOT. I was lucky to have continuous employment and to work for an employer that was well set up for home working. I didn't have to worry about being forced back into the office or about losing my job. But my job changed completely - the thing I worked on was suspended and, as a result, I was moved initially into working on something else within my usual team and then eventually I was redeployed into working in a policy role in the Department for Education. I absolutely HATED it. I was miserable. I was working with some really nice people but the work itself was horrible and the management was horrible and the whole atmosphere was just extremely toxic... extremely hierarchical to the extent that people in the grade above me literally wouldn't talk to anyone at the grades below them. It was horrible, and I hated the policy I was working on too. 

It was very hard, and the experience of being forced to move into a job I hadn't chosen made me feel completely lost and totally undervalued by my 'home' organisation. That was partly irrational - most of my colleagues were also redeployed so it wasn't like I was picked on specifically - but it was also an important wake-up call for me. Long-term readers will know that work stress has made me sick in the past and it just became so obvious to me during redeployment that I had been held to an impossibly high standard at all times for something that was so inessential that it ended up being shelved, you know? The job that, at times, made me consider hurting myself was so inessential that I could just be picked up and moved to something totally random. It was a painful realisation, but an important one.

Nic was wrestling with similar feelings about his job and his employer. We were both struggling with being separated from our families and friends and, by December 2020, I just felt like there was nothing to look forward to. I had managed to stay relatively sane during 2020 by talking extremely long walks around Leamington listening to podcasts and by doing Yoga with Adriene but the thought of another year of the same thing was really difficult to cope with. So we decided to make a big change, and decided to move to Dublin. 

And that's what we did! Nic managed to get a great job in Dublin that he felt really excited about. I was successful in an interview at an organisation I was excited about working at and I'm basically on a waiting list for a job there AND I got a short-term job at another really cool organisation that I am exciting to be working at. So we moved - in May we left Leamington for good and we have been living in Dublin since then.

Poolbeg Stacks seen from Lansdowne Road - photo credit Eugene Muldoon

It was a big move, obviously - complicated by both COVID and Brexit - but, having decided in January we were going to do it, we had a bit of a lead time to get things organised. It was a little bit difficult to do some of the things you would normally do prior to a move - for example, it was extremely difficult to donate the furniture we couldn't bring with us to charity shops and getting a slot at the tip was like trying to get tickets for Glastonbury! Also the process of finding somewhere to live in another country was a bit of a challenge - but everything worked out and Nic found us a lovely house to rent in south Dublin.

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin - a cute little corner of our living room. I don't know if the stove actually works but it looks really sweet.

There were things I thought would be harder. I thought it would be harder to leave our flat, where we had lived for 12 years - but in the end, saying goodbye to our home was a good feeling. It was a good flat and I loved living there, but it wasn't suitable any more for the life I wanted to live. It was hard to say goodbye to friends but, again, not as hard as I thought it would be. I think this is because the pandemic changed how we conducted friendships so the idea of staying in touch remotely is much more manageable. But also... I think I came to realise that things had started changing before the pandemic with people having children and moving away or changing jobs and shifting the rhythm of their lives... the life I had a few years ago wasn't coming back. And that's not a bad thing! But it definitely made it less difficult to say goodbye. And finally, saying goodbye to Leamington was fine. I loved living there. I did. But I left Leamington/Warwick/Coventry ONCE in 14 months and... by the time we left, I was ready to go.

Spring in Jephson Gardens

Chesterton Windmill on our last full day in Leamington

So... yes. We live in Ireland now! It is difficult to articulate how being back in Ireland feels to me. I lived in England for almost 20 years - which is a slightly terrifying statistic - and again, long-term readers will know how living there felt after the EU referendum. Honestly not being there is GREAT. But also, being here is lovely! We are close to my family, close to mountains, close to the sea and close to some excellent museums and galleries and cultural opportunities. Also, the potatoes here are just much better. 

a potato in Dalkey

Now anyway if you're reading here still it might be because I used to blog about sewing and about what I wear and all the rest of it. I did sew a reasonable amount during 2020 but, in a shocking turn of events (shocking for me, anyway) most of the sewing I did was either to make myself various pairs of trousers/jeans/dungarees OR to sew for Nic. Making things for Nic was probably my favourite creative activity in 2020:

I made this whole outfit! 

I made Nic various pairs of trousers, shirts and dungarees. It's been so cool to collaborate with him on choosing fabrics and taking the basic template of the pattern (just a simple elastic waist trouser pattern) to make colourful, comfortable garments. 

You can't see it in the photo but his t-shirt features Pubert Addams and it is awesome! I made the spotty trousers.

I love this set made from wax cotton

I haven't done any sewing for myself since we moved - for various reasons, it took a couple of weeks for us to completely unpack - but I do have a cute little sewing/working space in our new house so when the notion takes me, I'll be all ready to go:

I'm sitting at this desk right now! I love having a view out onto our little patio/bin storage area

It feels a little strange to write a blog post though and not include some photos of things I've made for myself so here are a few highlights of things I've made and worn in the last 18 months:

Citrus Balls Jenny overalls! I actually made two pairs of printed dungarees in quick succession - these and a pair made from Rifle Paper Company canvas and I love them both. They were brilliant during the extremely enduring winter and were an important part of the capsule wardrobe I had to live in when I had packed up all my clothes.

Fuck You, Johnnie Boden/Fuck The Tories dress: this is a McCall's pattern (sorry, I don't remember which one) and it was inspired by a Boden dress that I was unprepared to buy because Boden are big old Tory donors! The fabric is Nerida Hansen fabric and I bought it from Neko Neko fabrics - NOT from the small UK fabric shop that used my photo to advertise the fact they they were selling the same fabric, without asking me or tagging me! Fucking cheek!! 

Dolce and Banana dress: this is that McCall's pattern again, this time in some excellent ex-designer cotton that I bought from Dibs at Selvedge and Bolts. I love this dress. I made it in February when there was some freakish warm weather and it's had a few wears since we've been in Dublin too.

I've made a few pairs of these Megan Nielsen flint pants. These are made from quite a heavy mustard twill that I bought in Ray Stitch. It shows up every wrinkle and is quite stiff but I love the colour and I think these are very cool.

I don't know if I'll make a return to blogging - the mood struck me there and who knows if it will again. But, sure, it's nice to catch up anyway.