Thursday, March 31, 2022

Don’t play mind checkers with me, man. I’m not in the mood.

Hello! As my eight-year-old nephew would say, WHAT'S POPPIN?? (He really does say that, and it makes me laugh every time I think about it.) It's been a little while since I last had any motivation to write, but sure that's how it goes. 

Things have been pretty good! One of the most noticeable life improvements since we moved is that the pace of life is very different. This is largely due to our jobs, which are far less stressful than what either of us had been doing in England, but it's also that even in the city, the pace of life here is generally a little more gentle. It's one of the changes I've been working out in myself - who am I when I'm not quite stressed all the time?!

The early part of the year was chilly and damp, but with some really lovely bright days dotted around. In February, we had a couple of days away in West Cork as Nic's work took him to Skibbereen. We broke up the journey with a night in Cork city, partly so that I could book us a table for dinner at Café Paradiso. It's worth going to Cork just for Paradiso - Nic described the dark chocolate sorbet as 'life-changing'!

No photo of the dark chocolate sorbet - we were too blissed out by the time we got to dessert!

Overdressed for dinner

The following morning we took the bus down to Skibbereen, which is right down almost about as far south as you can go in Ireland. It's a very small town and there isn't a huge amount to do - especially if, like us, you don't drive - but we had such a wonderful time. We were there to visit a film producer that Nic is working with, so we spent some time with him and his wife and had a lovely dinner at their home. The rest of the time we spent pottering around the beautiful town and hanging out in O'Brien's Corner Bar, which shot right to the top of my list of all-time favourite pubs.

The River Ilen

West Cork countryside from the Compass Loop walk 

None of my photos remotely do justice to how lovely the area is - it was breathtaking even on a cold and drizzly February day, so I can only imagine that it would be exceptionally beautiful in the spring and summer. 

Blissed out by the fire in the Corner Bar

Hopefully we will be able to make a return journey later in the year because I would love to go back. What made the trip so special was the way it restored my confidence a little in being able to socialise without being crippled by anxiety! We had a lovely dinner with David, who invited us, and his wife Patsy and their guests Ciara and Barry - it had been a long time since I'd had the need to socialise with people I don't know and I was a little out of practice, but I really enjoyed myself.

Spending time in Cork turned Nic into a Murphy's fan

Spending some time away also made us both feel a little bit more confident to travel again so, for Nic's birthday, we decided to spend a few days in Paris. This felt like an impossible dream even as we were booking it, honestly. I was a little tormented if I was being completely stupid in doing it. I still don't know that it wasn't a stupid thing to be doing, to be fair. But it was wonderful and I'm so glad we did!

The last time we were in Paris was in 2018, so it was a very emotional return. And it was quite different this time. It was the first time we had flown to Paris, rather than take the Eurostar (one of the main things I miss about living in England, I have to be honest) and the first time we stayed in a hotel. I opted for a hotel rather than an apartment because it felt like it would be less hassle and it was similar in terms of cost. We stayed in a hotel in the 17th, which was lovely. We had a balcony! We had a long weekend and while I had been prepared for it to be very chilly and wet, the weather was absolutely lovely for most of the time we were there.

Morning light from a balcony in Batignolles

We arrived late the night before Nic's birthday, and the day itself dawned bright and sunny. It was the first day of the year where I was able to wear sandals, which was a real treat! We spent the morning strolling around Batignolles before walking down to the river and having lunch in Saint Germain-des-Prés. From there we took the bus along to the Grands Boulevards to enjoy the view from the roof of Galeries Lafayette and then up into Montmartre to visit some old haunts. In the evening we walked out along the canal to Porte de la Villette.

Window displays in pharmacies are something I always really enjoy when I'm in France. I don't need to explain why.

On the roof of Galeries Lafayette

Reunited with my beloved rue Caulaincourt Pizza Man

The steps at rue Paul Albert - this is one of my favourite parts of Paris

Candyfloss skies over the canal Saint-Denis

The following day, we had tickets to go to an exhibition at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent on Avenue Marceau. Nic had found this exhibition, which is part of a bigger exhibition series across Paris. This one focused on archive materials that focus on the daily work of a couture house: sketches, polaroids and toiles. It was small but beautiful, with an absolute highlight being the ability to walk through Saint-Laurent's atelier as it had been used during his life.

Sketches, some with swatches, including the Mondrian dress

Pattern pieces


The atelier

Being in a museum worked up a thirst, so we retired to Harry's New York Bar for cocktails. We had never been there before and it was a real treat: home of the French 75!

I had two!

Anyway, I won't share every single photo I took when we were there! Suffice to say, we had a beautiful time and it felt very emotional to return. I even managed some fabric shopping - for the first time, really, since 2019. I bought a few pieces of fabric in the Marché Saint-Pierre and a couple of lovely bits of Ankara fabric in the small shops in la Goutte d'Or. That was wonderful because it's hard enough to find in Ireland but of course you're spoiled for choice in this part of Paris!

Apart from some stress getting through the airport at Orly to come home (partly our fault, partly shortages of staff on security, partly just... airports) it was a really wonderful visit and we are tentatively planning to get back for a few days towards the end of June to coincide with a friend being there. 

I haven't been doing lots of sewing but I did have a new handmade dress to wear on holiday! At the end of February/beginning of March I bought the Cuff dress pattern from The Assembly Line and made a frankly disastrous attempt at making it from some otherwise lovely viscose. It came out absolutely, hilariously huge... I'm not sure how it turned out so massive on me! I chalked it up to having made an expensive mistake (the pattern alone cost almost €30!) but after talking it through with some Dublin sewing people at a meetup, I resolved to give it another go in some more stable cotton.

Things Called Jazz dress - The Asssembly Line patterns Cuff dress in Nerida Hansen cotton sateen with Saltwater sandals

So this is actually a very simple pattern and it is designed to have quite a lot of wearing ease, so part of the issue with my first attempt was that there was more ease than I like and this was emphasised by the viscose. For my second attempt, I sized down to the XS and used some Nerida Hansen cotton sateen that I had in my stash. I shortened the bodice quite a lot - by around two and a half inches - and this also made a big improvement to the fit. Otherwise I sewed this pretty much out of the envelope, although the elastic I used was slightly less wide than the pattern called for.

I don't typically enjoy wearing an elasticated waist, so I'm not sure what drew me to this pattern. I'm aiming for big, soft and colourful in my sewing this year and this pattern met that brief! I'm not 100% sold on the elastic at the waist aesthetically but it's very comfortable. I love the sleeves, though! They have a little volume and I think the elastic cuff looks very cool as well as being very comfortable, because it doesn't sit tight to the skin.

The fabric had been in my stash since late 2020, when I bought it from Neko Neko Fabrics. It's such a fun print and it gives me very 90s vibes, especially when combined with this shape! I had very low expectations going in and figured that I wouldn't be upset if it didn't work out as I wasn't overly attached to the fabric. But I like it a lot and have worn it a fair few times since I made it. I'll have to try to make another one to get the value out of that pattern, as it was so expensive! But I am very happy with this.

I also did a little bit of alteration. I bought a Justine Tabak dress secondhand on someone's instagram sale because I liked the fabric and also because it was a ridiculous bargain (I got it for €35 and new it would have been almost €300!) It was a couple of sizes too big, but a very relaxed shape so I figured it would be easy enough to alter. And it was! I took it in at the side seams and took some volume out of the sleeves and I've worn it a fair few times since then:

This is very different for me! The pastel colours and the shape of the dress are a little out of my comfort zone, as is the fabric belt, but I like it a lot. It's soft and bright and comfortable and it has definitely inspired me in some of the other things I want to make this spring and summer!

Anyway that's all the craic from me for now, so I'm going to leave you with a photo of me and Nic being cute on St. Patrick's Day on our walk along the coast to Blackrock:

Until next time, folks!

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!