Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Soccer was invented by European ladies to keep them busy while their husbands did the cooking.


Ugh, I know. It has been a while. How are you all? Have you been on holiday, had your hair cut? Are those new shoes?

I have been on holiday, in fairness... and had my hair cut. And of course I have new shoes - it is me after all.

Since I last posted here I have fallen off the radar a little. I spent most of September and the best part of October feeling extremely anxious and quite depressed and I am only really starting to get my mojo back now. I've touched on it a bit on the blog this year, but 2018 has been a year where anxiety has been really getting the better of me. It's been very much like the Third Doctor wrestling the dark side of Omega's mind in The Three Doctors:

 Ideally I would have used a gif of this but there are none! The internet is fucked, but the TL;DW is Jon Pertwee wrestling with a man in a big stone mask while someone plays the wobble-board. Worth three minutes and twenty-three seconds of anyone's time.

I'm making light of it now because I'm coming out the other side of it, and because that bit from The Three Doctors is so iconic, but honestly it's been a fucking rough time. For most of the year, I had been dealing with persistent insomnia and it was really grinding me down to a fine dust. It wasn't so much feeling tired - it's surprising how quickly your body can become used to feeling shit all the time - but the effect it was having on my mental health. It is incredibly isolating and frustrating not to be able to do such a basic bodily function as sleeping - there is a reason it is used as a form of torture!

I hadn't linked the insomnia to anxiety because I was kind of in denial about how wound up I was. We went to Perpignan for a few days at the start of October and I slept incredibly well while we were there and I felt like a different person. But as soon as we got back I was straight back into having panic attacks at bedtime and right back into the cycle of insomnia and I really had to make myself face the fact that I wasn't coping.

A lot of it has been linked to work stress. I love my job and the people I work with, which made it really hard to admit to myself that it was making me sick. All summer we were short-staffed - I was running a team that is half the size it should have been, but with the same amount of work. I'm the most senior person in the team and the most experienced so I took on a lot of extra work and a lot of extra stress - and it wasn't even that I had to take on extra to get the required work done, but I was so extremely tightly-wound that I was doing extra stuff and still feeling like I was just about doing the minimum. 

Anyway, Nic and I had a big talk about it and I realised that I couldn't carry on with things as they were. I have two new staff members in my team now and I realised that I couldn't train them if I was too stressed to get out of bed in the morning, and I also realised that if I was feeling under-valued by my managers, I needed to tell them so that they could do something about it. It took a lot for me to advocate for myself in that way but I did, and it really helped - all of the extra work I did this year meant that I was able to take more control of planning my workload for the next year, which will make a big difference. Mostly it helped me to speak up for myself and hear my director tell me that I was valued and that he was going to do whatever it took to keep me well and in my role. 

It isn't all work stress - I am still dealing with a minor health issue that I've been waiting on treatment for since August 2017 and that combined with the insomnia has been making me feel like a stranger in my own body. I've finally got treatment scheduled for December, which will hopefully help me mentally as well as physically. 

Since then I have been getting my sleeping back on track and I have been feeling more like myself, but it is sobering to realise how much I had retreated into myself and how hard it was to help myself. If you had asked me about my self-worth during that time I would have told you I was fine, but I wasn't - I wasn't suicidal and I wasn't thinking about hurting myself or anything, but for most of this year I have been wishing that I just didn't exist... like I could just be disappeared out of existence without hurting the people who love me. That's a horrible feeling and I'm so relieved that it is fading and I am feeling more real again.

It hasn't all been dark clouds. Lots of good things have happened in the last couple of months. We had a wonderful time in Perpignan, not least because I slept so well and felt so relaxed.

Le Castillet, Perpignan

We had a long weekend - we arrived on the Saturday afternoon and came home on the Tuesday - but although it was a short break the warmth and sunshine did me a world of good. Perpignan is probably quite an ordinary town but Nic and I have found a lot to like there - the old town is very pretty, the surrounding mountains are spectacular and, well, what isn't to like about all of the €3 glasses of local rosé?

On the Monday we took the €1 bus to Collioure again - we had considered taking the train to Carcassonne, which is about an hour away, but it was going to cost something like €130 for the two of us which just didn't compare with the €4 it was going to cost to get to Collioure and back for a paddle in the sea. No regrets. It was so good.

It was a lovely warm and sunny day. We brought a picnic, bought a cold bottle of rosé from the Carrefour in Collioure and chilled out on the beach for a couple of hours before going on le petit train touristique. We tried and failed to do this when we were there last year - the journey was cancelled due to the fact that it was raining and we were the only people who wanted to do it - but there was a lot more interest this year! The train took us up into the mountains and stopped at the top so we could enjoy this view of the Côte Vermeille:

This photo really doesn't do it justice. It was so beautiful!

As we were going to be by the sea, I thought I would get my last 2018 wear of one of my favourite seaside-themed dresses:

Honoria dress - I wore basically this exact outfit when we went to Collioure last year too. If it ain't broke, etc...

I gained a new nephew in early September, bringing the total up to eight... and my youngest sister is pregnant with her second, and due in early May. Nic and I went back to Northern Ireland a few weeks ago to meet the newest baby and spend some time with the family. His name is Noah, and he's a peach:

Considering the fact that I definitely don't want babies of my own, I always look like such a baby-snatcher when I'm holding one!

It was a great trip home. It's so special to be able to spend time with our nephews - Noah's older brother, Matthew, is two and a half and full of craic - he's at the age now where he can remember Nic and I from visit to visit and he had lots to say to us. He's got it into his head that Nic is Santa - maybe it's the beard? - and we have been having fun sending him motivational videos of Nic explaining to him why it is important to be a good boy and a good big brother to Noah. Joe, who turned five a few weeks ago, was telling us all about how much he likes school - he told me that his favourite parts of school are lunchtime and hometime. He even wrote a song about how much he loves hometime. SAME, JOE. Fionn had some new dance moves to show us, and was able to tell us all about his favourite Mario games. It was wonderful.

Throughout it all I have been making time to sew when I had the energy. Having expressed some reservations about pinafore dresses in my last post, I've been on a pinafore-making tear and have made a whole bunch more. It's definitely a symptom of what I was talking about earlier of feeling a bit alien in my body - I haven't always been feeling like I can wear my usual brightly-coloured fit and flare dresses; not because I don't like them any more, but because I've been so much in retreat from myself that they have felt weirdly fraudulent to wear? Look I know it sounds like shit-talking. It doesn't make a lot of sense. It has been comforting to wear something that isn't really me when I haven't really been feeling like myself. 

That said, now that I am feeling a lot better, I am glad that I have these warm and comfortable and cute dresses to wear - my style hasn't changed, but is has expanded, and that's nice. After I made my red Pippi pinafore/Madeleine skirt hybrid dress, I used the leftover fabric to see if making the Ivy pinafore in the size 8 would be a better fit:

Red Ivy Pinafore from Jennifer Lauren Handmade, worn with rainbow striped top from New Look and Swedish Hasbeens Jodhpur boots

YOU GUYS LOOK HOW CUTE THIS IS. Honestly it is so twee but I love it. Real talk: I've had those boots for a year and they cut the shit out of my ankles every time I wear them, though. I might have to get rid of them.

I donated my original Ivy pinafore to my local charity shop and made myself another denim one... and then a mustard denim one for good measure:

Look I just really love that stripy top, okay?!

...and this stripy top too. The good folks at Seasalt have made some money from me this autumn, I tell you what.

The fit definitely isn't perfect. I'm sure the draglines there will tell you I could do a full bust adjustment. I could, but I won't - these pinafores look much better in real life, and also they are cute and comfortable and I like them fine. If I make any more - and like, I might. I can't promise I won't, I might consider it.

I also made another Pippi/Madeleine hybrid in indigo denim because I like my red one so much:

I actually bought two of those stripy tops, you know. 

Then I decided maybe I would give the real Pippi a go, so I did that too:

This might all seem a bit excessive. Perhaps it is. It's been sort of an iterative process in finding out what I like, but it's also been because it's just been enjoyable to sew with denim - I like the topstitching and I have been enjoying doing something a little different. I've been enjoying wearing them too, of course, and they're all doing good work in my wardrobe. So judge if you want. I genuinely don't care.

As always, trying to Be More Lucy.

The real Róisín is still in here, though. I made a Hallowe'en dress this year, going back to my One True Pattern, the Emery dress, because I finally got my hands on some Alexander Henry Bewitched fabric after wanting it for years:

My Wandering Days Are Over dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress and Orla Kiely x Clarks Angelina shoes

I don't give one single solitary shit about Halloween, seriously. I am not into it at all, but I do love these sassy sexy witches and I am a sucker for any pinup fabric at all, so I'm really happy to have made this and I love wearing it. I'm not watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix though - as much as I love Kiernan Shipka, I watched the trailer and it looked exactly like someone thought it would be a good idea to actually make that lame show Wichita that Gus works on in Love, but for real. I found Riverdale insufferable so Riverdale, But With Witches is definitely not for me. 

So that is the craic there. 

I am glad to be feeling more like myself. One of the things that has really sucked about the last few months is the way that anxiety has stopped me from doing things that I enjoy and blogging is something that I just did not feel able to do. So it is nice to be back.

But now I must go. Our friend Paul gave his his old Nintendo Wii and I have been playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and so now I have to go and rescue Chief Goron, who has been infected with an evil bug thing that is changing his behaviour... it's all very exciting. Until next time, my friends!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

You’ve seen them, the rappers, the rap singers. They’re on the on a lot of the adverts now. It might be a sausage, or some wool or something, and there’ll be a rap about it, about how good the sausage is.

Hello my loves! And how is September treating you all? I am still slightly in denial that it even is September, despite it being the 19th... it is often a trying month (despite it containing my birthday) and this September is no different, unfortunately. Still, there are lots of bright spots. We booked a holiday. My sister had a baby so I have a new nephew (his name is Noah and he is so squishy and perfect.) We bought some new pillows at the weekend that claimed to be from the 'luxury hotel collection' and I can confirm that they are extremely soft and fluffy. These are all good things.

We have been doing an autumnal equivalent of spring-cleaning in our flat, which has been lovely. A few weeks ago, our friends Amy and Barney gave us an excellent 70s sideboard that they were getting rid of because they are moving house. We got rid of a mis-matched set of Ikea Billy bookcases (they went to a local charity) and about 7,000 DVDs and revamped the corner of the living room where those things had been living:

We bought the retro ladder shelves from Amy's shop, Berylune. She lent us the drill to put the shelves up with and even delivered the sideboard - how lucky are we?! I am so happy with how this corner of the living room looks - everything is so much brighter and prettier. It also makes me happy that the sideboard lives on, as Amy had found it for the bargain price of £3 in the tip shop a number of years ago. I am so happy that it has found a place in our home!

Although the weather is still quite warm, I have been quite into sorting my autumn and winter wardrobe out. The fact that the winter of 2017/2018 lasted approximately 39 months has something to do with this, I guess - I am more motivated to sew cold weather clothing than I have ever been before! I have been really enjoying wearing my Madeleine skirt and the variety of stripy t-shirts I got to go with it (from Seasalt, mainly. The buggers have emailed me every day for the last two years so I guess their investment has finally paid off) so I decided to have a go at making a pinafore dress. I started with some more denim and the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Ivy pinafore, because I liked Zoe's version a lot.

Ivy pinafore worn with Seasalt sailor top and Swedish Hasbeens sandals

Now, real talk. I have some mixed feelings on this. It is cute and comfortable and I had fun making it. Nic loves it and I am pretty sure I will wear it when it gets colder - it will look great with tights and boots. It's a little out of my comfort zone, though. It is extremely 'Children's TV presenter in the 60s' or maybe even Sarah-Jane Smith...

Like, you KNOW Sarah-Jane would have worn the fuck out of this look in The Hand of Fear. So it's definitely not bad, it's just not something I am used to. 

I sewed the size 10, blending out to the 12 for my hips. I didn't use the lining and instead finished the inside seams with bias binding. I bought the two orangey-red wooden buttons from a local haberdashery (I really couldn't get Zoe's version out of my head) but I didn't end up making buttonholes as they are optional - the dress can be pulled on over your head.

I didn't sew a toile as the style of the dress isn't meant to be very fitted - in any case, it can't be, as you need to pull it on over your head - and as a result the fit could definitely use some work. I'm not going to show you a photo of the back, so you'll have to just take my word for it that the upper back is a bit off. I could possibly have gone for a size 8 in the upper half, still blending out to a 10 or 12 in the hips, but of course, over-fitting a dress with no closures would be a bad plan.

ANYWAY, reservations aside I am still very glad I made the dress. I am sure I will wear this on those cold, working-from-home days in the winter when all I want to do is wear something comfortable and cosy. Nic tells me that he thinks I am being over-critical, and that lots of women would love to be able to buy a dress like this in the shops. He's very sweet and this is exactly why I married him.

The pinafore fascination did not leave me after this experiment, though, so I took a different tack. I've been lurking Wrong Doll's Kwik-Sew/Madeleine mashup for a while and decided to have a go at my own version. I loved the shape of the bib on the Jennifer Lauren Pippi pinafore and thought that it would go well with the Madeleine skirt, especially as the Pippi pinafore has similar statement pockets. I bought some red cotton twill on ebay and off I went...

Wings of Hopeless Dreams dress - Jennifer Lauren Pippi Pinafore/Victory Patterns Madeleine skirt, worn with Seasalt sailor top and Swedish Hasbeens Katja sandals

HOW TWEE IS THIS THOUGH?! It is extremely twee. I am very, very happy with it.

The colour of the red twill is so saturated that it has blown all of the detail out - sorry! The Pippi pinafore bib is darted and comes in different cup sizes. I cut the size 10 c-cup bodice and I am really happy with the fit. I lined it and the pockets with some leftover Liberty Carline tana lawn:

I decided to go with the button closure because I think it's a sweet and unusual detail. I don't love dungaree clips and I thought that they would be a bit heavy for this fabric, which is medium weight. 

Maybe you can see the buttons a bit better in this selfie! If not, just enjoy my face once again.

This dress was so much fun to sew and it would have been really quick to make if I hadn't made so many stupid mistakes! I was tired and distracted, I suppose, and it ended up taking me three goes to get the waistband right. But I got there in the end, and a bit of time spent with the seam-ripper doesn't have to be a bad thing. The fabric was very easy to work, which reduced the boredom (for me) of sewing with a solid colour.

Here it is from the back. I do in fact have a waist! I cut this dress out on Thursday afternoon and sewed it on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. I put it on as soon as it was finished and wore it out for lunch, a walk and some wine in the garden of my favourite pub. I wore it to work with another stripy top (a navy and white one, also from Seasalt) today. It's definitely a winner.

Making the most of drinking wine outdoors in the sun before nuclear winter sets in for another 143 months.

I am sort of tempted to make another one of these - the cotton twill comes in a whole range of colours - but I'm not sure how many pinafores my wardrobe can take. Also, how would I choose a colour?! Maybe I should sew a red and white stripy one and just fully give in to the Sarah-Jane Smith vibes.

Anyway, that's the craic there. If you're curious as to where Famous Original Dolly Clackett has gone, fear not: I have two novelty print cottons (Tula Pink Death's Head Moths and some Alexander Henry Pinup witches) to make into dresses over the next few weeks, so she's still here. But the pinafores are fun too.

Now, those very fluffy pillows are calling to me so I am out of here. Goodnight, my loves!


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Frederick, I have an important question. Why do humans not like me, call me 'Craphead'?

Well hello, all you lovely lot. Nic is out this evening, I have a crappy film on in the background and I thought the time was right to do a little blogging. The film is We Need To Talk About Kevin and it is very, very crappy. Lionel Shriver is obviously extremely cancelled, but I have read the book and the film was 50p in CEX, so here we are. I'm probably not going to make it the whole way through the film, but I will try to make it the whole way through the post.

The craic here is pretty minimal. August is always a bit of an odd month at work because there is a lot to do, but no need to be in the office to do it, so I generally work from home a lot. This is good and bad - little need to get up early or to be on public transport, but a lot of time spent looking at various spreadsheets and reports and not talking to anyone all day long. And while I hardly ever get that Sunday night feeling on a Sunday night, it is the best way to describe how I often feel during August - a strange dread of the autumn and the changes it always brings. I am not emotionally ready to say goodbye to the summer - the prospect of nine or ten months of grey skies, rain and cold is in no way appealing to me.

But anyway, I don't mean to be miserable. I think Tilda Swinton's very distressing haircut in this shitty film isn't really helping the old creative instinct!

As the heatwave left us a few weeks ago, my mind began to turn towards autumnal and winter sewing. In the depths of last winter, when life was extremely stressful, I went to Topshop and I bought a denim dungaree dress:

Me, in December, stressed out to the max. I bought the dungaree dress out of curiosity, really, to see if I liked the style and it suited me. The whole entire sewing blogosphere had gone mad for the Tilly and the Buttons Cleo pinafore and I was extremely certain that I did not want to spend the time making and fitting one, but I was happy enough to spend £35 to see if the style suited me. I ended up wearing this (and a burgundy cord one that Nic bought me a few weeks later) a fair bit in the winter. It's not that I loved wearing it or that was was warm and comfortable, but I honestly think that in a very stressful and unhappy time, it was comforting to wear something that looked so childish. If I couldn't go back to the comfort and safety of childhood, at least I could look like I had.

I probably will wear this dungaree dress again this autumn and winter. I still don't have a lot of interest in making a Cleo dress because, whilst I think this style looks good on other people, I'm not convinced of it on myself. I liked wearing denim again though and a few weeks ago I started to feel the urge to get some denim into my handmade wardrobe, so I bought the Victory Patterns Madeleine skirt pattern and some nice denim from Ray Stitch.

It's not a new pattern but I had never considered making it before because I don't wear skirts. I haven't worn a skirt since about 2007 and I had just decided that they didn't suit me. So I'm not sure what it was that put this pattern into my head, but it got in there and it just wouldn't leave. Isn't it funny how that can happen? 

Anyway, the pattern and the denim arrived and then I faffed around for a while wondering whether I would be wasting my time making it. Like, would I actually wear it? It sounds silly, but I really got in my head about it. I can't even think why - maybe it's a side-effect of having spent too much time working from home! I had a few days off at the end of last week and decided to get cracking on it, and I spent Thursday morning and Friday afternoon sewing it. And I love it. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. 

Victory Patterns Madeleine skirt, stripy top from Marks & Spencer, Tatty Devine necklace and Swedish Hasbeens heart sandals

So yeah, I look goofy as fuck in this photo but I don't care. I really like how this skirt turned out!

The pattern is rated as suitable for beginners and I would say this is fair - it's a very simple design that is elevated by cute details like the giant pockets and the braces. I took my time over sewing it and nothing in it was very complicated. Although, do you remember I said I got in my head about making it? I did this about my measurements and which size to cut. The finished garment measurements put in me a 10, but when it came to cutting out the fabric I worried that it would be too small, so I cut out the 12... which turned out to be much too big! I ended up recutting the waistband to a 10 and then sewing large seam allowances at the side seams to get the skirt to fit the waistband. It wasn't a problem but I was pretty irritated with myself for making such a rookie error!

Braces, baby!

Really the only bit that caused me any grief was unpicking basting stitches, which I stupidly did in navy thread. I went out for dinner with my friend Charlotte on Thursday night and we shared a bottle of wine, for which the hangover gods decided to punish me whilst unpicking these bastard invisible basting stitches on Friday afternoon. 

To be fair, it wasn't as bad as all that. I'd only had a few glasses of wine, after all. Still, I needed a strategic nap, a cry and some hash browns before I could get back on it. But after that it was all smooth sailing!

Here is one of my pockets! I probably should have bought topstitching thread and a needle and all that to do the topstitching on this dress, but I didn't. I bought a few spools of Gutermann thread in this golden colour and played about about with the triple stitch a bit on my machine and used that. It's not super even, but honestly I think the skirt is quirky enough that 100% perfect topstitching isn't a huge priority (but hey, if you want to judge me for it, enjoy yourself.) The pockets are very large and they are not flattering in the sense that they draw attention to the widest part of my body (my hips) but that's fine. 

The braces are optional and removable. The pattern calls for two hidden buttons in the back of the waistband and two buttons on the front of the waistband. I have had these gaudy anchor buttons in my stash for years - like, I think I might have bought them in Walthamstow in 2011? I was very glad to use them, at any rate. The pattern has two different lengths for the braces and this is the short length. I think I could have sewed the buttonholes slightly further apart - wearing the braces makes this skirt quite high-waisted - but I have enough denim left over to make a second pair if I want them.

I do love how the braces look. I was a little worried that they would slip down the whole time and be annoying, but I wore the skirt for a day out on Saturday and they weren't an issue at all.

Here's me wearing essentially the exact same look on Saturday, pictured here with Delia Derbyshire.

I enjoyed wearing the skirt so much on Saturday that I wore it again on Sunday. It was extremely cold and rainy and miserable and I was unhappy about having to wear boots, but I styled it out:

Yes, my t-shirt DOES have Johnny 5 on it! Nic bought it for me from Underboard earlier in the summer - I didn't have anything to wear it with and it was too good to wear as just pyjamas. Maybe I made a skirt just so this t-shirt could get an outing?! You might not know this about me, but Short Circuit 2 is one of my favourite films ever. NOT Short Circuit, which is vastly inferior, but Short Circuit 2 - it is very problematic in some respects (Fisher Stevens in brownface... like, WTF) but as a story of an outsider trying to be accepted by society it is ICONIC.

Me, strongly feeling myself in my Johnny 5 t-shirt

So, a surprising success but a success. I am very happy with my skirt and I liked the denim so much that I bought more - inspired by Zoe's version, I'm going to have a go at making the Jennifer Lauren Ivy pinafore dress. I'm far less certain that it'll suit me, but it'll give me the option of dressing like a toddler when things get tough without me worrying about flashing my bum to the world because yeah, that Topshop dunagree dress is short.

There probably isn't room in my wardrobe for many multiples of the Madeleine skirt, but I do think it would look very nice in red. So perhaps I will make myself a red one... red denim, or red drill? I'm on the lookout for something suitable. A cheery red skirt might help see me through the dark days of winter. It might.

Look, no reason for this photo. It doesn't add much, but I think I look cute in it. This stripy t-shirt is from Topshop.

So that is the craic with me anyway. The terrible film is over and I have run out of things to say, so I'm off. Until next time, mes amies. Good night!

Friday, August 03, 2018

Police work wouldn't be possible without coffee. No work would be possible without coffee.

Hello my dears! Unsurprisingly, the dream of blogging more often has sort of fallen by the wayside in the face of a busy summer. But, sure, what can you do.

Anyway, things are grand here. I had a busy July at work with lots of meetings and then running a recruitment exercise on top of that so doing lots of sifting and interviewing. Spending long days in often windowless meeting rooms isn't optimal during a heatwave, but at least my wardrobe of 90-95% summer dresses and 18,000 pairs of sandals was up to the job.

Nic and I have just come back from a long weekend in Northern Ireland to catch up with my family. The last time I was home was in March and it was FUCKING FREEZING, so it was really good to have a few days in Northern Ireland when the weather was actually mostly decent. I am biased, but Northern Ireland really is very beautiful when the weather is nice and it has just been too long since I have been able to enjoy that. It was a brilliant, if utterly exhausting weekend.

On Thursday night, we went to the shore of Lough Neagh at Maghery, which is about half an hour away from my parents' house. My dad wanted to scope out where the moonrise might be as he wanted to take photos of the blood moon - sadly, he wasn't able to do this because the weather changed, but it was still so nice to get down to the loughshore on such a lovely evening.

On Saturday, we went to Belfast. It was actually quite a classic Northern Irish summer day - by that I mean it was cold, there were gale-force winds and it was shitting it down with rain. When I looked at the forecast for the weekend earlier in the week, it looked like it would be fine and dry so this change in the weather necessitated an emergency trip to Joules to buy a coat (for which I was scolded on Instagram by someone who told me I was stupid for not checking the weather forecast, and then that I must have been unable to understand it when I said that actually yes, I HAD in fact looked at the forecast. Ugh.) Naturally, I decided that this would be a great day to take Nic to the Titanic quarter. Love to be at the shipyards when there is a severe weather warning, what can I say?!

On Sunday, we went to Portstewart Strand so I could put my feet into the Atlantic. It turned out to be a reasonably stressful day trying to organise a large group of people who utterly resist any kind of organisation. It was worth it, though, for these views:

I MEAN. It was actually the first time I had been to Portstewart (growing up, we always went to Portrush because, Barrys, right?!) but I definitely want to go back so I can explore this beach without having to worry about pleasing anyone else.

It was really good to be back amongst my people for a few days - even if it wasn't relaxing, as such, there is something really special about going home and I love Northern Ireland a lot.

Me and my daddy in beautiful(!) Dungannon (which my computer tries to autocorrect to 'dungeon' like, lol)

That's the craic there. It's been a busy but good summer so far and I am looking forward to a slightly more relaxing August.

Clearly I have been sewing, so today I'm going to show you a dress I made recently. Last month, I bought Love Sewing magazine because I was intrigued by the pattern that was the cover gift:

The pattern is McCall's 7714, which has a cute princess-seamed bodice, an inset waistband and options for a full pleated or slim skirt. It's probably obvious to anyone why I liked this pattern, but I was also very into the fabric used on the cover, which is some cotton duck from Cath Kidston. I liked it so much that I decided that I had to have this specific dress. You can wring your hands if you want over my lack of creativity and I will not care. I loved this dress, I wanted to make it, and I could so I DID.

Mossby Strand dress - McCall's 7714 in Cath Kidston 'Whitby Waters' fabric, worn with Swedish Hasbeens Suzanne sandals

I've sewn enough McCall's and Butterick patterns now to be fairly familiar with their block and I find that it largely fits my body quite well with minimal adjustments. For this dress, I shortened the bodice along the petite lines and I took a little wedge out of the back neckline and that was it. I think there is an error in the pattern - the waistband piece for the size 10 bodice just did not fit the bodice pieces, and I'm not sure if the bodice or the waistband is out. I discovered this when I made a toile and was able to work around it - I just drew another waistband to the appropriate measurements, which was very easy because it is just a rectangle. 

Even though I made a toile, I found the finished dress to be a little big and after I took these photos, I went back and took it in by 5/8 on each side and I am much happier with the fit now.

The fabric isn't a dressmaking fabric - it's a heavier-weight cotton with no drape. That said, it is quite soft and is surprisingly comfortable to wear. It was easy to work with and takes the pleats really well. These Cath Kidston prints are usually around £20 per metre and are very wide, but I got this in the sale at £10 per metre and I bought 2m.

We live far away from the sea but I was able to take the dress for a dip in the local toddler pool - it was abandoned at this point because of the football.

I wish I could think of more to say about this dress, but I am a bit stuck for words! Apart from the annoying waistband thing, it was very straightforward to sew and I have worn it lots. Obviously I love the print - I am still not over my love of all things nautical - and, having avoided patterns with set-in waistbands for ages, I am delighted to have found a pattern that works on me. I also really like the v-neck, which is just the right shape for me!

There is an option for a round neck, which I will also make at some point. There are princess seamed bodices and princess seamed bodices, if you know what I mean, and this is one of the good ones so I am sure it will be put to work many times in the future.

The dress is named for a place I have never been - Mossby Strand in Skåne, Sweden. I've been working my way through the Henning Mankell Wallander books over the past few months, having watched and loved the Krister Henriksson television series last year. I have watched a few episodes of the BBC adaptation as well, known in our household as Brannander, but I'm not a fan - despite them being very faithful adaptations of the books, there's just minus craic in them. It's a shame, because I am overall quite a fan of my fellow countryman Branagh, but it turns out that he can't hold a candle to my One True Wallander, Krister Henriksson. Also, you know, I just CANNOT with Tom Hiddlestone, so there is also that.

Linda and Svartman. One of the reasons I can't get along so well with the BBC series is a lack of Linda as policewoman and no Svartman - the character was created for the Swedish TV series and sort of based on the Svedberg character in the books, but he is so great in the TV show for being a little bit crap. I love him.

I don't mean to be some Nordic Noir wanker and it's not really a question of authenticity or anything - my preference is largely down to the fact that the Swedish series is just much better craic. Also, because it starts with Before The Frost, the first 13 episodes and the final six episodes feature Linda Wallander as a policewoman. I loved Johanna Sällström's performance as Linda in the early episodes (she sadly died in 2007) but overall the Swedish version just has lots more women in it and they're all awesome.

Anyway, at around the time I was making this dress, I was reading The Troubled Man, and in it, Wallander reflects on a place that has become emotionally significant to him over the years:

Every time he came back to [Mossby Strand] he had the feeling that this stretch of coast, not very remarkable in itself, certainly not all that pretty, was nevertheless one of the central points of his life. This was where he had taken Linda for walks when she was a little girl; this was where he had tried to make peace with Mona when she told him she wanted a divorce. This was also where, ten years ago, Linda had told him about her ambition to become a police officer, and that she had already been offered a place at the police academy. And it was here that Linda had told him she was pregnant. 

I'm often asked how I come up with the names for my dresses and how I remember them and there isn't one answer to this question, but one of the answers is that they're named for places or moments or thoughts that I'd like to keep hold of, and this is one such example.

So yeah. That's the craic with me. I must go now and get on with my Friday, but I'm sure I'll be back soon. Have a good one!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

You are strong, you are a Kelly Clarkson song, you've got this!

Hello hello HELL-OOOH!

I hope you're all grand. I'm feeling pretty grand: I have been (mostly) enjoying the warm, sunny weather - on the one hand I do not enjoy the hayfever and the fact that I swell up in the heat (sooooo attractive, right?) but on the other hand I am getting lots of wear out of my large collection of sandals.

I'm currently feeling pretty good because my summer of horrible work travel is almost over - I am done with trips to Slough and Milton Keynes for the forseeable future and apart from one day in Doncaster, the summer is looking blissfully free of budget hotels in places I don't want to be. It's the little things, really. It's good to find happiness in the little things because, fuck knows, there is more than enough misery in the world at the moment.

I've been spending lots of time enjoying the sunshine, reading, watching TV and films and sewing. Towards the end of last year, when life was extremely stressful and I was very bummed out by the endless winter, I made a promise to myself to make time to read every evening before going to sleep. This isn't a big committment - all throughout my life, I have loved to read, but I had fallen out of the habit of making time to read regularly. It's something that is probably familiar to lots of us - I was spending time in the evening scrolling through twitter, which left me too exhausted to read but too wound up to sleep. Putting my phone away and making myself pick up a book instead was an easy solution and it didn't take long to make it into a habit again.

Since January, I have read 30 books, all but one of which have been books I've read for the first time. A lot of it has been comfort reading in the sense that I know the characters from TV - I've read a fair few Ian Rankin Rebus books and I've been getting into Henning Mankell's Wallander in a big way, but I've also read some great non-fiction and a few books I've been meaning to read for a while. It has widened my tastes in reading and while I've only read one total dud (Naomi Alderman's The Power - I hated it and I can't really explain why) I have read a few books that I really loved, like The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

Nic and I spent one rainy afternoon in Paris reading and drinking in a neighbourhood bar in Batignolles and it was perfect.

The TV and film situation has been good too, although I have been making less of an effort to only watch new things. Earlier this year, on a whim, I bought S1 of LA Law on DVD - Nic and I finally got to the end of NYPD Blue and I wanted to watch something else starring Jimmy Smits that wasn't The West Wing (wonderful, but too depressing to watch it given the monster that is currently in the white house) or Sons of Anarchy (lol but no.) In addition, I figured that something co-created by Stephen Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher with a theme tune by Mike Post would be right up my street. AND I WAS RIGHT. I love it.

I mean, what's not to like? I love a good legal drama, the cast is fantastic and the title sequence is literally a solid minute and a half of people walking in and out of conference rooms while synthesisers and saxophones play. It is SO good.

It's also very encouraging to be watching and enjoying so much something that was first broadcast in the late 80s - the next time someone hectors me for not having watched something yet, I will remind them that the current hot TV shows will still be around in a few years time. But also that I have less than no interest in ever watching Breaking Bad. That's even more of a lol, no than Sons of Anarchy.

Anyway... SEWING, one of my other interests and the thing that probably brings you to this blog. Today I'm going to show you a dress I made in May, from fabric that I bought last year. The craic with this dress is that last autumn, I fell in love with one of the fabrics from Gertie's range for Spotlight stores in Australia - this fabric:

Now, I'm not in Australia and Spotlight don't ship internationally, but luckily for me there is a wonderful international community of sewing people who will help a sister out. The amazing Colette kindly agreed to get hold of some of the fabric and post it to me, which just left me with the dilemma of what to do with it. Thankfully, Gertie herself solved that problem by way of her collaboration with Butterick:

Butterick B6556

I love border prints but I find they can be a little bit tricky to work with - working perpendicular to the grain rather than parallel to it changes the fit, and with such lovely fabric I didn't want to risk ending up with a dress that was a pain to fit. B6556 is the perfect pattern to use with a border print like this one, though as, judging by the grainlines on the pattern pieces, it has been drafted to work well with border prints.

I started by making a bodice toile, which showed me that I needed to shorten the bodice by an inch. Then I made a wearable toile with wax cotton from my stash that has the print running parallel to the selvedge:

Love Like Mine dress - Butterick B6556 in umbrella print wax cotton, worn with Swedish Hasbeens heart sandals

I didn't have enough of the fabric to use the skirt pieces from the pattern and I wasn't sure about the notched neckline so I straightened it. I don't love the finished article but I can't put my finger on why - I think it's just that I don't love the colours on me - so I have packed it away to reassess it at a later date. Because I had some reservations about the dress, I decided to make another one before cutting into my precious rose fabric, so I made another version with some fabric I got from Marie's destash:

No Tea No Shade dress, worn with Swedish Hasbeens Katja sandals

This time, I did sew the notched neckline and I had enough fabric to sew the skirt from the pattern and I LOVED the finished dress. Don't let the necklace fool you: this was love:

Amazing Nope necklace by my good friend Storij Designs

I was convinced, so I finally took the plunge and cut into my lovely rose fabric:

Games People Play dress worn with Swedish Hasbeens peep-toe sandals

There isn't a huge amount to say about the construction of this dress - I can't really speak to the instructions as I just glanced at them, but it all came together pretty much as you might expect. As you can see, I didn't sew sleeves on my dress - the photo on the envelope gave me the impression that they would be quite restrictive as the armscye looks to come quite far down the arm - I might be totally wrong about it, but it looks like it might be difficult to fit.

Look at that neckline!

But that note of caution aside, I do really like this pattern. I think the shape of the neckline is really sweet and I love the full, pleated skirt. The back neckline is also quite lovely:

A rare sighting of my back! I used a concealed zip rather than the lapped one called for in the pattern, just because this is what I prefer.

I really love the finished dress and I feel super fancy when I wear it. It had its first outing in Paris for a day in Montmartre. I took it to visit the Rue Caulaincourt pizza man:

You know he's serious about making pizza because he is wearing a vest.

I wore it to drink champagne on a roof terrace:

Me, the Tour Montparnasse, the Tour Eiffel and a glass of Laurent-Perrier

I wore it to drink rosé on a roof terrace:

The dress and I had a lovely day.

It feels a bit dressy for everyday, which is partly because of the fabric, which is cotton sateen with a bit of a sheen to it and partly because the neckline is a bit lower than I am used to. But, for the times when I can't wear it to drink champagne in Paris, I might make like Carrie Bradshaw, for whom the dress is named, and tell people I'm wearing it because it's laundry day:

This was one of my other inspirations for this dress, although I hope that wearing it does not result in having to have sex with Jon Bon Jovi.

So that's the craic with this dress, which really does feel like an international sewing blogger effort what with the design coming from America and the fabric coming from Australia. I didn't really contribute anything to it, to be honest, but at least I treated the dress right and took it on holiday to Paris. I'm good that way.

Anyway now it's time for me to scoot on and maybe watch an episode of LA Law. I'd normally insert a gif here but the show is so old now that it's hard to find gifs of it so instead here's Jonathan from Queer Eye because he is an angel sent to bless us with his sweetness:

Good night, honeys!