Monday, February 03, 2014

I'm a star, I'm on top, SOMEBODY BRING ME SOME HAM!

Evening, nerds! A very happy Monday to you all. I hope everyone had a good weekend. It's a very chilly Monday night and I'm bundled up in blankets with a glass of prosecco, while Nic watches some random film he's teaching this week. It's Blow Out, and I'm keeping half an eye on it too because I understand that Dennis Franz has a part in it and, you know, Andy Sipowicz in the 70s. I have to see that!

Anyway, everything is grand. First up, I managed to shrink my lovely Northland Row dress a little bit to make it fit better! I had prewashed the fabric before sewing the dress, but I was fairly sure that a turn through the 95 degree cycle on my machine would shrink it up a bit. I don't normally use that cycle apart from for washing the bath mat and towels, so I know that my dress won't shrink further on future washes. Still, it's worth knowing that cotton can shrink this much because it would be a shame to sew something lovely and for it to shrink and become too small!

Northland Row dress and Irregular Choice 'Lady W' shoes

The skirt shrank as well, obviously, so it's a little bit shorter now too. Hence the rare sight of Dolly Clackett's Knees. The dress is still slightly big but it's now much more wearable - before I felt like my waist was getting lost in it and it made me look bigger than I am. If I continue to lose weight - which is possible given my circumstances - I will have to consider taking the dress apart and re-making it, but for now I think this fix works.


So, that's a little tip for everyone playing along at home. Pre-shrink your quilting cotton, but remember that shrinking can be your friend as well. With great power comes great responsibility, and all of that noise.

I had a very pleasant, sewing-filled weekend. My friend Sarah had a birthday last week and, inspired by her love of dresses and a recent commitment to buying quality, UK made clothes, she spent her birthday money on a sewing machine. I promised to go fabric shopping with her and help her get to grips with following a sewing pattern so, on Saturday we were joined by Char and we headed to Birmingham to drop some cash in the rag market. I had taken myself home from work early on Friday afternoon because I was feeling sick, and I was still feeling pretty rotten on Saturday morning. So much so that I couldn't spend any money at our first stop, Barry's Fabrics, because I kept having to go outside. Thankfully I felt better after a cup of peppermint tea and some cold and flu tablets and we all came home from Birmingham that afternoon laden down with fabric! On Sunday, I went round to Sarah's house bright and early and the three of us spent the day at some serious stitching. Sarah dubbed it the Dolly Clackett Sewing Bee! She had bought herself the Emery dress by Christine Haynes, and this amazing fabric from Tula Pink:

Raccoons from the Acacia range by Tula Pink

Sarah's mum was a professional seamstress, and Sarah knew how to operate her new sewing machine, but dressmaking was basically completely new to her. By the time I went home that evening at 8pm, Sarah had made a beautiful dress that fit her perfectly. I won't share my crappy iPhone photo of it here as I'm sure she'll blog it later in the week, but I was thoroughly impressed by how quickly she learned, and by how positive she was about the whole process.

Teaching is such a joy. I don't miss being a schoolteacher - mainly because I like having my evenings to myself - but I love teaching, and I find teaching people to sew to be such a thrill. Some of the moments that mattered to me the most in 2013 were during my sewing lessons at Berylune.

Teaching dressmaking in May 2013 at Berylune. Photos by the wonderful Fiona Murray.

There's something so special about seeing someone suddenly light up with the realisation that they can make their own clothes. That moment of "yeah! I get it now!" - I know this sounds as cheesy as anything, but being able to help someone to get there is such a privilege. I've never been interested in selling the things that I make, but being able to empower someone else to make their own is such a pleasure. I taught a fair bit in 2013 - as a volunteer for Action 21, at Berylune and informally with friends and family - and these were some of my happiest and most satisfying moments of that year. I've kept in touch with some of my students and the knowledge that they have continued to sew and continued to enjoy sewing is such an amazing feeling! I love knowing that I have helped in some way to give my students a skill they will have for the rest of their lives. I can honestly say I was as thrilled by each of the garments that my students made as I have been about anything I have made. I love sewing, but it can be quite a solitary hobby. Having the opportunity to teach and to spread the love has opened my hobby up for me and made it into something more than learning things for myself and filling my own wardrobe with pretty dresses.

I know that's all very emotional, but that's the rollercoaster of feelings that was set off by seeing Sarah modelling her finished dress last night. It was a great day - we chattered away and laughed the whole time - but the best moment really was seeing Sarah go from being completely new to sewing to having that joy of being able to say "I made this and I love it!" by the end. That's pretty fucking awesome, isn't it?!

I will be back later in the week with something pretty lovely I've made myself, but I'm going to leave you here for now. Seeing Dennis Franz with hair has kind of blown my mind...

This is... confusing