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!

Friday, April 26, 2019

An object lesson in the healing powers of obstinacy and a hostile disposition.

I had thought that my inclination for blogging had perhaps died completely as, after writing my most recent post in NOVEMBER LAST YEAR, I haven't felt in any way compelled to pick it back up. But evidently it hasn't completely left me, because here I am.

The thing that prompted me to log into my neglected blogger account is that it is now almost the end of April and next month is the 10th annual Me Made May, the 'wearing your handmade wardrobe' challenge hosted by Zoe of So Zo... Wearing my handmade wardrdobe isn't in itself a challenge for me, because I wear my handmade clothing most of the time anyway, so for the last few years, I have played along without making a formal pledge or really thinking about it much. I think Me Made May is awesome, though - I took part for the first time in 2012, when I hadn't been sewing for very long. I didn't have enough clothes to get me through the month, so I pledged to wear two handmade garments each week and to sew two more during the month. Without a doubt, Me Made May 2012 changed my relationship with my handmade wardrobe for the better and I've never looked back - if you follow me on instagram (and, you should; I am excellent) you can see that wearing my handmade clothes has become a big part of my life. It's brilliant.

I've been reflecting on that recently, because I've been in a bit of a funk when it comes to sewing. Honestly I am a bit fed up with - not the act of sewing itself, but a lot of things about the online sewing community that I used to delight in. As with so many other creative fields, the growth of the influencer industry has had an impact on sewing blogging and instagram and twitter - I know I am going to come across very much 'old man shouts at sky' here, but - fuck it - I am tired of being sold to ALL THE FUCKING TIME, and influencer culture and the instagram algorithm and end-stage capitalism have all worked together to mean that a lot of instagram sewing is now just being advertised to by the same people selling me the same old shit.

It's tiresome. I like to shop with small businesses and do my best not to feed into the giant tax-avoiding coporations but I am also heartily sick of commerce imitating community - businesses are not your friends, no matter how friendly the faces of those businesses might seem. I don't begrudge anyone making a living and using a free platform like instagram for advertising makes business sense, of course - but I really dislike this being spun as friendship and community. It isn't. That friendship and community is still to be found, of course, but it seems like you have to get past a lot of #sponcon and #ad and 'I was lucky enough to be selected to pattern test' to get to it and honestly I am disillusioned. I might catch some grief for this - there is a certain section of this 'community' that will dismiss as a meanie anyone who says anything remotely negative, but, fuck it. I'm tired of it and if you don't like that: the little x at the corner of the screen is a great remedy.

It isn't just sewing - as I have talked about here before, I have a very hard time coping with everything Brexit-related, in particular how it feels to be an Irish-identifying Northern Irish person living in an England that seems hell-bent on destrying any chance the North of Ireland has for peace and prosperity. That's a daily struggle that has affected my motivation to do literally anything apart from sit in my pyjamas and play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Mind you, I have been really getting a lot out of my time spent in Hyrule so that is something at least.

The trouble with being in a bit of a funk about sewing is that sewing is very good for my mental health, and not wanting to make time to do something that makes me feel good is... not great! So, I thought Me Made May 2019 would be a good time for me to address my bad sewing attitude. Here is my pledge:

I, Roisin Muldoon, sign up as a participant in Me-Made-May 2019. I endeavour to wear one handmade garment each day during May 2019. I will make time to sew during May and share my sewing in a way that brings me joy.

I will share my photos on my excellent instagram, as I usually do, but I might not take a photo every day - the start of May is pretty busy for me at work and our new offices don't have any good selfie locations (such a blogger problem) and for the second half of the month, I am going to be on holiday. Nic and I are going to be in Toronto for two weeks at the end of May and I am SUPER excited about this - it might seem like a random holiday destination but I have always wanted to go to Canada and Toronto seems cool. We will be staying in the Queen West area and are starting to plan the fun things we will do, including a trip to Niagara Falls because I MEAN OBVIOUSLY. So that will be super fun.

In between playing endless Zelda and shaking my fists at the sky, there has been some sewing over the last few months! I made two more Pippi/Madeline pinafore dresses, as well as a couple of straight Pippi pinafores and having the ability to wear them layered up got me through the winter, which was nice.
I made this Madeleine/Pippi pinafore from some indigo denim that I bought from...Ray Stitch, I think? I wore it all the time throughout the winter and I think it looks especially cute with these red Swedish Hasbeens ankle boots.

I bought this light denim from Fabricate Roberttown - for some reason this pinafore never photographs well but it looks much cuter on. You can't see it very well in this photo but my ankle boots are from Bertie and they have flowers embroidered on them.

I bought Simply Sewing magazine in February because the cover gift was the Cressida skirt pattern by Jennifer Lauren Handmade, and I made one of those with denim from Fabricate Roberttown. I love the skirt - it's such a cute pattern and one I definitely want to make again, and the denim I bought is such beautiful quality.

Jennifer Lauren Handmade Cressdia skirt, worn with top from H&M and Orla Kiely x Clarks Bibi shoes
This was a really enjoyable skirt to make and I love wearing it, so I am on the lookout for fabric to make another one at some point. I have been enjoying bringing denim into my wardrobe over the last six months or so - I've been enjoying wearing separates, even if it has become a sort of uniform of denim skirt + stripy Seasalt top! I still think it's unlikely that I will graduate to jeans or trousers but then I never really saw myself wearing skirts as often as I have, so really who can say?

I have also made a few more traditionally 'me' dresses - last autumn I found some Liberty Carline lawn in yellow on eBay and when we had those few freakishly warm days in February, I made a By Hand London Flora dress with a circle skirt - basically the same as my wedding dress, but in yellow:
Olenska dress - By Hand London Flora dress in yellow Liberty Carline lawn, worn with Swedish Hasbeens peep-toe sandals

On a freezing weekend in January when Nic was in Dublin at a conference, I listened to the entirety of the Uncover: Escaping NXIVM podcast and made this Butterick 6556 dress with beautiful Michael Miller fabric:

Arthur dress - Butterick 6556 in Michael Miller 'Sunset' fabric, worn with Swedish Hasbeens heart sandals and Cambridge Satchel Company 'Poppy' bag. This fabric was a gift from Fabric Yard - I emailed Alice to ask whether it was a border print or printed in panels (it's a border print, FYI) and she offered to send it to me as a gift to thank me for my custom over the years. I was really touched by that gesture and I love the fabric and the dress.

I bought some of that awesome ice-cream printed Art Gallery poplin from The Cornish Haberdashery a while back and made an Emery dress from it - very Dolly Clackett 101, but the perfect canvas for such a lovely print:

Ice-cream Assassin dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress in Art Gallery poplin, worn with Swedish Hasbeens 'Merci' sandals
I have plans to make a McCall's 6891 shirt dress this weekend in some Liberty 'Juniper' lawn: this dress is going to be an almost direct copy of a beautiful dress Sharon wore in the series finale of Catastrophe:

I have even bought green buttons, although mine are more of a lime green than apple green. My dress won't come with Sharon's amazing hair or proximity to Rob Delaney, but I am excited about making it and wearing it to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival at the beginning of May, where Nic and I will be part of the studio audience for the live broadcast of Jazz 625: For One Night Only. Nic is also part of the broadcast in that he did an interview a while back which will be included on the night - this work overlaps with his research and it will be very exciting to see him on TV as obviously my ambition for him professionally is to become the Mary Beard of Jazz.

Which I think is very reasonable, you know?

So that about sums up the craic with me in the last few months - I can't promise I'll return to blogging more frequently but I don't think that matters. It's just nice to have this space here for when I feel like chatting shit in more detail than either twitter or instagram allows. So, until a future date - see you then!

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!