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. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

When you look annoyed all the time, people think that you're busy.

Hello hello! How have we all been since the middle of October, eh? I've been okay - mostly great, in fact - nobody I love has been in a horrific accident, so the latter months of this year are showing an improvement on the earlier ones. Can't be too bad, right?

I'm being facetious, but I think I am allowed because there has been a lot of suckitude this year and I am glad to be nearing the end of it. Of course, there is a general election on Thursday so there is still a strong chance that 2019 will deliver a steaming turd in a bag to all of our doorsteps on Friday morning, but at the moment I'm trying to stay positive and work with that.

ANYWAY. What has been happening? Good stuff. Some good stuff has been happening! After we got back from our holiday to Perpignan at the end of September, we bought a new mattress and it has been such a life improvement, omg. The bed in our hotel in France was so lovely that when we got back to our sad old Ikea mattress I was like, 'NO MORE'. I had been working up to buying a new mattress for about a year but this is my least favourite type of shopping - it is expensive and boring to research, but you need to do your research because it is going to be expensive. Anyway we got some advice and bought a combination memory foam and sprung mattress (sprung on the bottom and memory foam on the top) and ever since it was delivered I have been like this:

So that's been good. It hasn't cured my insomnia or anything, but I have been sleeping much better overall and it has helped. It is also a really luxurious place to chill out and read. I love it.

In November, Nic and I had a short trip back to Northern Ireland to visit family. We had a long weekend and it was lovely. It was cold but dry and the weather was very beautiful.

The Black Lough, Dungannon

We weren't home for a particular reason, just to hang out with my family. It was so lovely - I was able to spend lots of time with my siblings, my nephews and my new niece. We took Joe to Armagh Planetarium - I hadn't been there since I was at primary school and it hasn't changed - and my parents took Nic and I to the Ulster Folk and Transport museum in Cultra. Also, importantly, I had a lot of time to cuddle Mini:

I think Mini would have preferred it if cuddling her had been my only activity whilst I was home.

One of the great things about being home was just being there for no reason - which is to say, not because of a family emergency! It was wonderful to see how well my brother has recovered from his accident. He still has quite a lot of pain but he has been able to get back to work a couple of days a week. If you didn't know what had happened to him and the severity of his injuries, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at him. It is such a relief to see him doing so well.

It was an intense few days and we were exhausted when Fionn MacCumhaill waved us goodbye at the airport:
yeah I'm not sure why he has a golf club, either

I haven't been doing a lot of sewing. I have had a few busy weekends but also I've been lacking in energy because of the low light so I have spent a lot of time lying on the sofa - or on our lovely mattress - just chilling and playing Zelda. It's been okay. I have started taking vitamin D and vitamin B supplements to help with that and having our Christmas lights up has also helped! But anyway, here a couple of things I have made.

I've been wearing my Jenny overalls quite a lot - they are super comfortable and I love the shape of the bib (so I have decided to make another pair over the Christmas break... watch this space.) In my seeming quest to find my perfect pinafore dress, I decided to have a go at cobbling together some different patterns to make one. So that is what I did a few weeks ago:

To make this dress, I used the bib and the straps from the Jenny overalls, the pockets from the Fiona dress and the skirt pieces from McCall's M7475, which was a cover gift on Love Sewing. I was a little paranoid about which skirt size to cut because the waist and hip measurement for my usual size in McCall's patterns seemed like they would be too small. So I went for a bigger size, and regretted it! You can't really tell in the photo above but the bib and waistband were too big and, as the denim I used had stretch in it, the second time I wore the pinafore I felt as though I had wrapped myself in a sail! Fit is very personal and very subjective but I do like my clothes to be fairly closely-fitted. Anyway - I considered taking it apart to make it smaller - which I just couldn't face doing - and in the end decided to just throw in a hot wash and put it through the dryer to let it shrink a bit.

This is like a weird spot-the-difference competition, isn't it?! The hot wash/dryer treatment worked well - a little of the dye came out of the fabric but not as much as I had feared and although I was a little alarmed by *how much* shrinkage had happened when I first put it on, I really prefer the fit now. It relaxed a little in wearing and I'm very happy with it now.

Here I am wearing it with a glass of champagne in Oxford a few weeks ago.

I don't know if it is the perfect pinafore dress but I am very happy with it and have worn it quite a lot already... it may be part of my unconscious desire to look as much as possible like my character in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp:

Even though it is literally just PIXELS I still wish Brewster offered re-usable cups.

Last week, I did a little bit of sewing to soothe my mind after a truly horrible few days at work (a three-day meeting where everyone was stressed and miserable at a horrible venue in the middle of nowhere with terrible food and limited coffee. Yeah, it was not great.) I had some Cath Kidston fabric that I had bought on ebay to make a shirt-dress, so off I went with that:

Magic Nights dress - M6891 bodice and M6696 skirt

Cath Kidston currently have shirt-dresses in this print for sale but their shirt-dresses never fit me and the fabric is viscose, which I don't trust not to shrink or bobble, honestly. This fabric is a light to medium-weight cotton poplin and it was lovely to work with. I paired the bodice from M6891 and the skirt from M6696 and sewed this dress over two evenings by the light of the Christmas tree, listening to records. It did a lot to soothe my mind and I am really happy with the finished dress.

I wore this on Saturday for a day out in London with Nic. He had a speaking engagement and then we had an afternoon of pottering around Bethnal Green, Shoreditch and Whitechapel... mainly eating, if I'm honest, but also enjoying festive London without the stress of central London.

This dress also works well with champagne, I am pleased to report.

I'm very pleased with the dress. I considered adding sleeves but honestly, even when it is very cold I prefer sleeveless dresses as they are easier to wear with a cardigan. I had dithered a bit on the buttons but I love how retro contrast buttons look so I bought these cute yellow buttons from the John Lewis haberdashery and leaned into looking as twee as possible.

As twee as possible and also as derpy as possible, of course!

I'm not very fussed on having a Christmas dress but I think this one looks suitably festive but will probably still work in the spring and summer - hearts and stars are for all year round, after all! Cath Kidston has since brought out a similar print in a different colourway but with Snoopy and Woodstock all over it, so you can bet your bum I will be lurking ebay in the hope of obtaining some of that!

Anyway, that's the craic with me. I only have a few days left of work this year - I finish on Friday for three weeks - and I am looking forward to relaxing with Nic and celebrating all the good things that happened this year and moving on from the bad. I have some sewing plans which I will no doubt share with you soon - until then, be good!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

I've been down the salt mines with my fellow Johnny Lunchpails so long, I no longer speak one percent.

Hello children! I am actually somehow here, even though my motivation to blog has been almost - although evidently not totally dead.

I had all sorts of good intentions after my last post at the end of April that I would post after we returned from our holiday in Canada and write about the time we had. Well that didn't happen but we went to Toronto, and it was lovely.

Here I am on an old Canadian train in front of the CN Tower. Toronto was brilliant. Nic and I fell in love with the city and its atmosphere, not least of all because we met such wonderful people when we were there. We were lucky enough to be warmly welcomed by some sewing friends - Andrea and Kristi-Ann both took time out of their days to hang out with us, and the wonderful Sarah and her family met us in Toronto and also hosted us for a day in Hamilton. We also made some fantastic new friends in a great local bar. All of this helped me a lot to restore some of the confidence I had lost after a few difficult years in which social anxiety clouded my brain. So it felt really good to get some of my old confident, extroverted ways back.

We were in Toronto for two weeks and only really scratched the surface of all the things to see and do there. And we didn't even make a dent in all the things to eat and drink - what an amazing food town! But we did do a few of the things I had planned, including a visit to Kensington Market to see the statue of Al Waxman.

This is actually one of the first things we did on our first morning in the city and immediately after this I had a great big London Fog flavoured doughnut. It was class.

We also took a coach trip to Niagara Falls. A coach trip wouldn't normally be my jam but it was the best way for us to get there and it also included a wine tasting and a visit to Niagara on the Lake. It was quite kitschy and super fun, although a lot of the other customers were terrible twats. Our tour guide, Steve, was very cute and funny and Nic and I are still quoting him now - when we drove past Mississauga, he told us, "This is where former Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, lived. Sorry to say, he took too much drugs."

We didn't have much time in the town of Niagara Falls but it was long enough for us to go on a boat trip - on the Canadian side, the cruise is called Hornblower (it's called Maid of the Mist on the American side.) It was a cold and overcast day when we went, which meant that the boat was only half full, and it was INCREDIBLE. I didn't take many photos when we were there because they couldn't capture the sensation of the roaring sound of the falls and the mist and the genuine majesty of it, but I would thoroughly recommend to anyone that they do it. It was AMAZING.

Here is a photo of me in front of the falls - you can see both the Bridal Veil falls and the Horseshoe falls. I'm wearing a red chambray Madeleine skirt that I made in the spring.

I was really grateful for the mental and emotional break that our Canadian holiday gave us, because life got pretty fucking real after that. While we were away, Nic's dad was admitted to hospital twice with an infection. He was back in the care home by the time we got back, so as soon as we could, we went and spent a weekend in Kent to visit him and Nic's family. It was good to see him, but it was a very hard visit and it brought up a lot of strong emotions for us both.

Then in July, my brother was involved in a near-fatal accident when he came off his motorbike whilst out on a ride with his friend on the 12th July bank holiday. He came off his bike on a corner and slid along the road before being hit by the bike, which then hit a metal fence. Luckily for him, a neighbour who was out gardening saw the accident and immediately phoned the emergency services. The quick action of the air ambulance service saved my brother's life - his lungs had filled with fluid and they punctured them to drain them. He was taken to hospital in Belfast, where he was put into a coma because his injuries were so severe.

Nic and I flew back to Northern Ireland the next morning, not knowing if we were flying home for a funeral. Thankfully, my brother had made good progress during the night and he came out of sedation on the Saturday afternoon and was strong enough to have surgery on the Monday. He was in intensive care for the best part of two weeks before he was able to go home. He will make a good recovery, although he does now have a titanium plate in his diaphragm - the surgeon assured him that he wouldn't set off the metal detectors at the airport, though! My brother was extremely lucky - his injuries were severe but he got immediate, top-class care, which didn't cost him anything. He was wearing a helmet and so he suffered no head or neck injuries. It was truly terrifying - I wouldn't wish the trip I had to make on anyone - but we were very lucky. Two other men died in motorbike accidents in Ireland the same weekend - one of them only a few miles away from where my brother came off his bike. It could have been a lot worse.

Nic and I were home for a few days and then back again for a few days the following week - in the midst of all of this was my parents' 40th wedding anniversary - and although the circumstances were horrible, it was good to be together. I really appreciated the close bond I am lucky enough to have with my siblings (and their partners) and my parents. We all really looked after each other during the worst thing we had ever experienced.

With my dad, having a 'thank fuck he survived' drink at the Duke of York

Sadly, things didn't get easier as the summer progressed. Nic's dad's infection worsened and he died in the middle of August. It wasn't unexpected, of course, especially as we had come so close to losing him in December 2017. But you can't prepare yourself for losing a parent. In some ways, it was a comfort to know that he was no longer suffering - one of the things that had been difficult about our visit in June had been that it was evident that his quality of life had diminished greatly. It's also a relief to no longer be waiting for bad news, which is a fear and tension we had been carrying around for the last eight or nine years. But the time between his death and his funeral (a couple of weeks - the English way of doing things is fucking inhumane) was very, very hard. The funeral itself was a lovely goodbye to a kind, gentle, sweet and funny man. I will always cherish the memory of our relationship - he called me his daughter and he loved me, and he loved my parents as well. My dad came over for the funeral, and I know that would have meant a lot to my father-in-law as their friendship transcended distance and language and was rooted in a shared love of their families and of the beauty of nature.

A few weeks after the funeral, at the end of September, Nic and I had a holiday to Perpignan. We had booked it before his dad died, so we had no idea how much we would end up needing it. We spent the last week of September there and we stayed in the same lovely hotel we stayed in last year. It was a brilliant week - the weather was stunning and because we were there for a week we were able to see and do so much more than we had been able to on our previous two visits.

Perpignan and Canigou seen from the roof of Galeries Lafayette

It was my birthday while we were away and we celebrated as we did in 2017, by spending the day in Collioure. I had made a special dress for the occasion from fabric I bought from Ali Express:

Majolica dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress with pleated midi skirt, worn with Saltwater sandals and Jennifer Loiselle necklace. That's a baguette in my hands, but Nic had already eaten the top of it.

We had a beautiful day and were lucky enough to return to the stunning Cote Vermeille on the last full day of our holiday, when it was 28 degrees (celsius, so that's warm) and sunny. We paddled in the sea, drank lovely local wine and went on a boat trip - I like to go on a boat when I am on holiday if this is at all possible. On this boat trip we saw dolphins and I got quite sunburned.

Look at that water! 

A man and the sea - that's Collioure harbour you can see there. The boat tour lasted two hours and took us to Argeles, Porte Vendres and Cap Bear.

One of the best things we did on the trip - maybe the best thing I've ever done on holiday - was to go to Villefranche-de-Conflent so we could go on Le Petit Train Jaune. This is a narrow-gauge train that runs from Villefranche right across the Pyrenees to the border with Spain. It has been running since 1910 and all but two of the engines are original. It is FANTASTIC. We didn't do the whole route - we went to Mont-Louis, which is almost at the highest point of the line, before coming back down the mountain to spend some time in beautiful Villefranche.

We were in an open-topped carriage on the way up and had the observation car of one of the closed carriages to ourselves on the way down. I took lots of photos but none of them can really show what it was like - it was a warm and sunny day, and travelling up through the mountains was really special - one of the things I love so much about Perpignan and that part of France is the dramatic mountain scenery and the beautiful Mediterranean coastline, and seeing it from the mountains themselves was truly wonderful. I have definitely left a little part of myself in the Pays d'Oc.

If I ever run away, this is where you will find me.

In her natural habitat.

So... that's where we are up to. It has been a really intense time personally, and of course it has been a ridiculously intense time in the world too. It hasn't all been bad (as the above photo attests - that was a little moment of perfection on our last day in Perpignan) but it has been a lot. Like, a LOT.

I have been sewing here and there although my time and mental capacity for it has been greatly reduced. In June and July, I made a couple of lovely shirt-dresses using McCall's 6891 and 6696:

Marin dress with Swedish Hasbeens peep-toe sandals

Carol Brown dress with Swedish Hasbeens Lise-Lott sandals

I made a M6891 earlier in the year - in fact, I am wearing it in the first photo in this post - but I wanted to combine that lovely notched neckline with a pleated skirt so I combined the bodice with the lovely full skirt from M6696. I bought the fabric for both of these dresses - stretch cotton - from Fabric Godmother and I wore both dresses a lot over the summer. They are fun and have a sweet retro charm whilst being super comfortable. I might make a cold-weather appropriate one if I can find the right fabric but if not, these will be waiting for me to wear and love them again in Summer 2020.

I have done a bit more sewing with denim. I made a Cleo pinafore! I made one when we got home from Canada and the weather was shitty out of some barkweave denim from the Village Haberdashery:

Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress with stripy top from New Look and red Swedish Hasbeens boots

I made another one recently from some leftover mustard denim that I used to make a Pippi pinafore last year. On both of them, I squared off the bib pocket and omitted the hip and bum pockets. I sewed the 'mini' length which, as you can see, is not mini length on me because I am a shortarse! I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I like them both - I didn't think this dress would suit me but I like it anyway.

On a pinafore kick, I ordered the Fiona sundress to make a denim one to wear as a pinafore (after trying on a similar dress in Gap to see if the style suited me.) I was heavily influenced by Becca from Redwsews on this - she is so super stylish!

Fiona dress in Barkweave denim, worn with stripy top from Seasalt and Swedish Hasbeens sandals

Another Fiona dress, this time in a lighter wash denim but worn in the same way because I am predictable.

I made the cute lower-backed version of the dress and while I am not totally happy with the fit, I have worn both of them lots already. My measurements put me in a size 10 but I was worried about the buttons gaping in the skirt so I sized up to a 12, and ended up having to take everything in all over... and then in the second one I cut a 10. I need to go down to an 8 in the bodice and maybe do a full bust adjustment if I make another but achieving the perfect fit has never been something that bothers me terribly and it hasn't stopped me from wearing these dresses.

In fact, I like them so much that, before we went to France, I ordered the Jenny overalls pattern and I made dungarees. DOLLY CLACKETT IN TROUSERS SHOCKER. It has been another surprise hit:

Jenny overalls, worn with that New Look top again and my Swedish Hasbeens boots

I made these in a 10 - I did learn from the Fiona dress - and the only adjustments I made was to shorten the rise by about 5/8 to account for my short torso. This is an adjustment suggested in the instructions and I did a tissue fit to see if it was something I would need. I don't wear trousers so I don't honestly know if this was something I really needed to do or if it made much of a difference to the fit. But they are comfortable to wear and I don't get a wedgie and I don't appear to have a polterwang or anything, so I am happy enough. These were fairly straightforward to make - the instructions are very comprehensive - but I did really hate the instructions for inserting the lapped side zip. There is a lot of bulk there with the pocket and I struggled with it a bit, but I think I would do better if I were to make these again. I don't know if I will - I'm not sure how many wide-legged overalls I need in my life - but never say never, because I didn't think I would EVER make a jumpsuit type creation and here we are.

I do enjoy wearing them and Nic absolutely LOVES them - like, he really really loves them - so that makes me happy. He's had a tough time and he looked after me and my entire family when my brother was in the hospital - making and wearing some dungarees isn't a hard thing to do to make the man smile.

 I mean, really. What a babe.

So yeah - that's the craic with me - a long-ass post for what has been a hard-ass few months. I'll be back at some point - I have some more sewing projects planned and some knitting and some trips to take. Who knows what life will throw at us. But it is good to keep this space and I'm grateful to any of you who are reading. Thank you, and until next time!