Tag Archives: Sewing

And Sew It Starts

Dear Audy,

Two days in and going strong.

Well, not particularly strong, but going nonetheless.

Wednesday morning I was bouncing about filled with motivation. I managed to wake, eat breakfast and get in two coffees before beginning my Feldenkrais followed by sewing for 15 minutes plan. There are a lot of things that go along with sewing that take up much more time that the actual sewing itself. The project that I’m working on was only cut out, but still pinned to the pattern. Yesterday I cut out a piece I was missing and marked and removed the pattern piece from that part. Sorting out where I was up to and performing that one task took up my allotted sewing time.

My workspace. The dress I am working on is named Camille, I actually began her back in October, 2010.



Today was much more difficult.

Yesterday evening Sammy got a little bit sick (probably from a recent food change) and he needed to be bathed. Sammy does not go in the bath without a walk. I was on my own last night, so I needed to buck up, walk the dogs and wash the fluffy one before bed. I did as much stretching as I could fit in afterward, but it was still a very sore night for sleeping and an incredibly stiff wake up.

Minor setbacks don’t stop happening just because we try to plan around them. Physical tasks aren’t always able to wait until there is someone else around. In this instance I had to push through pain and exhaustion to take proper care of my furry little friend.

I am sore and fatigued, but not upset by this little extra challenge, even though it was on the day that I commenced my sewing challenge. When I am able to overcome something unexpected without an emotional breakdown, it is a good sign that my coping efforts are coming along nicely.

So, yes, today was much more difficult. I woke late, didn’t fit in breakfast, nor did I feel ready to do my 15 minutes of “work”. However, I did it anyway. I managed to motivate myself into my little work room just in time to get warmed up and start sewing at 11am. Just in time.

The 11am time that I have set aside for this sewing works well. It gives me a good reason to keep a regular waking schedule and to get my body and digestive system moving early in the day. It also provides a good deadline for me to aim for when I am feeling overwhelmed, like I was this morning.

I know that I can get things done when I have to. I know that I am capable of more than I currently do. These are the two main points that are motivating me to give this new plan a good crack. If I can find the right balance of physical activity and rest, I will be able to get more things done without setting off pain flares. I just know it.

Today, all that fit into my 15 minutes was marking and unpinning all pieces of the outer dress, bar the pieces that will become the skirt. That’s it. That’s all I could fit in.

One of the biggest parts of this challenge is stopping at the end, oh how much I would like to keep going! I’ve tried that, though, I’ve tried working too hard and I always end up in Flaretown. This time, I’m trying something different.

I plan to implement my sewing schedule from Monday to Thursday. I think this is enough to begin with. I usually have a Feldenkrais appointment on Friday mornings and I’m not about to start pushing for seven days a week straight off. Four will be fine. I started on Wednesday, so I might get excited and fit in an extra session on Saturday, I shall see how body pulls up after the work so far.

Love & Getting Somewhere Slowly,
Caf

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  • The Fanciest Of Fancy Dress Parties

    Dear Audy,

    Oh my, I have so much to tell you! I have been a little absent from blogging lately, on account of that I have been out having an actual life. Yes, off my couch!

    There are many things that I want to share with you; adventures I’ve had, books I’ve read, plays I’ve seen, progress I’ve made…things have been looking up and that’s definitely cause for celebration.

    Speaking of celebrations, today I wanted to share some pics from an amazing one that I attended last week. My friend Melissa celebrated her birthday in a rather unique way; the fancy dress theme was the 18th Century, the music was a fantastic mix of 1980s pop. Cleverly, she asked her guests to forgo gift buying and instead put that time and effort into their costumes. The result was amazing.

    I arrived to a room filled with colour, wigs, bustles and feathers. Many guests had hired spectacular costumes, some so fancy that I was not surprised to hear that one costume hire place had only recently acquired them from Melbourne Theatre Company. The decor was superbly fitting, mauve curtains, old fashioned seating and chandeliers. Melissa even had a Marie Antoinette inspired tier of adorable petite fours and a cake with icing grand enough for a queen. Which was fitting indeed, considering how stunning she looked.


    Photo by Dan O’Brien


    Me and the beautiful birthday girl:


    My dress is the result of op-shopping, imagination and my mother’s hard work. She sews super fast – adding all that trim would have probably taken me six months to do on my own! Thanks, Mum.

    I did my own hair, which was an adventure that started the night before with a bunch of curlers. I haven’t used those since I was a little girl! They did the trick though and I was rapt with the final result. I tried not to go overboard, but whitened it a little using the old theatre method of talcum powder and hairspray.



    My prince’s costume was the result also put together from thrifted pieces. I am most proud of his wig, which was a crazy rockstar mullet when we bought it home. I managed to work in some 1700s curls and a ponytail, which ended up with me thinking he rather resembled Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast.


    Photo by Dan O’Brien


    The night was wonderful. We drank wine, chatted and danced as much as I was able. Thankfully it was the type of party where sitting on the side and watching is just as entertaining as being able to move around freely. I loved it! It felt like being transported into a movie scene. Hats off to Melissa, organising such an impressive event took a lot of time, effort and perhaps even a little magic…it was just that good.

    The following are some more gorgeous photos by Dan:







    Love, Corsets & Bustles,
    Caf

    P.S. You might have noticed that the site is looking a little different. I wanted to switch up my fairly simple theme for an even simpler one. This one has lovely fonts and is easy to navigate. I have some more page updates in the works, but I mostly wanted my blog’s appearance to focus on the part that’s most important to me – the actual content.

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  • Loretta, My Love.

    Dear Audy,

    Loretta…my, what an adventure she has been! I love her though, it’s okay to love dresses, right? In an ‘I wanna get inside her’ kind of way? That’s how she makes me feel and I don’t care if the whole world knows it!






    (With the most expensive headband I have ever impulse purchased. I justified this purchase by recognising that I was unlikely to ever see another tiger lily headband!)


    When I envisioned Loretta, I didn’t know that she would take as much time to finish as she did. Thankfully, I got her done in time, just a couple of hours before the wedding that I wanted to wear her to!

    I went off-pattern a little, I am so happy that it worked out, although I did have to do quite a lot of learning along the way. I decided to add lining because I wanted to use the pretty, floral fabric, which, as a very thin cotton, would not make a dress on its own. I wanted a skirt that was fun to flounce around in, so rather than sew the lining in, I separated it and the outer fabric at the waist. To try and get a little more frou in my frou, I only sewed pockets into the outer layer and the effect is that the whole skirt flows out a little at the hip and into a lovely shape.

    I hit a hiccup when I went to sew Loretta a belt. I had the fabric all wrong and ended up in stretched-the-wrong-way Hell. After quite a bit of huffing and puffing, I decided to scrap the belt idea, make the most of the wonderful invention that is ribbon and get on with hemming the skirt. I knew that hemming would take quite a while. With all her pleating, Loretta has quite a fair distance around the bottom. I had decided to hem the outer layer shorter than the inner layer so that there would be red showing to blend with the red in the collar and around the waist. Also, after I decided my face should be a part of this outfit, with my new red lipstick.

    When I went to hem the lining, I realised that it certainly was a wonderful thing that I had messed up with the belt. I learnt that I really wasn’t going to get very far just sewing up the edge, there was just too much stretch. Instead, I discovered what binding is for! It took forever to pin in the binding, zig-zag the edge and then pin it up again for the final round of stitches, but it was worth every pin. The skirt turned out fabulously. Had I not done some learning at the belt stage, this might be a very different post!

    I had an absolute ball wearing Loretta to the wedding. Long skirts are comfy and fun to dance in. Yep, I danced. Yep, I am paying dearly for that, but jeez it was FUN! It’s a special occasion thing, but wine can really help with stopping me from worrying so much about the painful consequences of having a good time like that. Sometimes, I just need to let loose and actually move, even if it involves a few days of owies afterward. I am so happy that I am at the point again where that is an option, for so long the pain has just been too incapacitating for dancing to be possible at all. Not to mention, I am ever so lucky as to have a handsome prince who doesn’t mind dancing with me. I don’t even mind admitting that he has far better moves than I do!!

    I am exhausted after a long week of sewing and then partying it up, but really, the hard work just made the letting loose part that much more thrilling! I can hardly express how wonderful it feels to achieve things, to set goals and actually get there again. The pain still gets frustrating, but I am learning that I can let that go and still build up the happy moments.

    My goal for the next dress is to not be finishing it on the day of the wedding to which I am planning on wearing it. I enjoy sewing far too much to need to go into that high pressure stress zone. This time, I will give myself more time than I think I’ll need. Yes, I’ll just hand it out to myself, like the magic keeper of a magic clock, I will create time.

    Love & Excitations,
    Caf

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  • Pacing In The Grips Of Sew-Sew Fever

    Dear Audy,

    My goodness, doing things sure does take a lot out of me! I have been working hard at trying to pace productivity with pain. More than ever before, I feel committed to keeping on going, even when I feel like I am in more pain than I can manage. I don’t need to lament the wasted day, it’s not wasted. I simply need to play the cards that I am dealt by the morning goddess and continue healing and learning to cope more effectively. It’s not easy to make taking care of myself trump all my other priorities. I can feel a shift in my determination in regards to making better decisions, however the reality of living with chronic pain is still reality. I am very sore this evening, but I’m trying not to feel sad about it.

    All I can do is rest, recover and keep on going. Even when keeping on going is just sticking it out until bedtime without letting the pain claim my emotions. The monotony of needing to go through the same coping motions each day can be a source of upset, but I am trying to let that go. It doesn’t do me any good to get upset about having to deal with things, it’s far more effective to just deal.

    I am in the grips of sew-sew fever. I am constructing this dress (the blue-ish one) to wear to a friend’s wedding on Saturday. Her name is Loretta, she was in this many pieces this morning, but now she’s mostly together, lacking her collar and a zip.



    It has been a lot of little steps to get her together. I learnt a lesson from cutting out Penelope all in one go, which was that I had to pay dearly during the next few days! Pacing, oh yes. This time, I have been taking it more slowly, trying to sew for a couple of hours on the days that I can and trying not to get sad on the days that I can’t.

    The pattern is incredibly basic, which is good as I am still a basic seamstress and I am working with stretchy fabric. It’s going all well so far! Once I’ve put the zip in, it will be very easy to adjust to fit me properly (unless it magically fits straight off the sizing chart – unlikely!). After I’m finished with the main part of Loretta, I shall be venturing into belt-making, very exciting!

    I have been doing a couple of hours of Feldenkrais on most days. I have found that working through a few tracks in the morning, before I attempt to do anything strenuous, is highly effective. I am able to slowly let go of the stiffness that builds up overnight. Taking Feldy breaks during my sewing adventures is also a useful tool. Sometimes I feel like my body has had enough, but then I relax into a Feldy track and afterward I find myself able to achieve more, be that sewing or simply get through a few chores that just never seem to do themselves.

    It’s empowering, this feeling that I can lower my own pain without any sort of miracle pill. This feeling of empowerment has made it easier to push through when the pain spikes. I no longer feel as much despair during a flare, I know that it will pass and that in spite of my frustration at having to deal with it, I can deal with it. I feel pretty drained, but I keep thinking about all that I have accomplished with Loretta. It might take me hours to warm up and warm down, but I am getting things done. My back hurts quite a lot now, but it has calmed a lot since it started screaming earlier today. I feel like I am on the right track, now all I need to do is relax, recover and see what the morning goddess throws me tomorrow.

    Love & Pushing Through,
    Caf

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  • Operation Sew A Pretty Dress: Mission Complete

    Dear Audy,

    I’m very excited to announce that Operation Sew A Pretty Dress was a blazing success! Well, not literally, on account of who wants to wear a dress that’s on fire?

    The key for me being able to sew without setting off a funtown flare is soft hands. So often, I am tensing part of my body much more than needed and it causes me more pain than is necessary. I have been doing a lot of Feldenkrais audio tracks to break up my sewing periods and the result has been a much better reaction than the one that hit me the day after Operation Sew A Pretty Dress commenced. I am quite pleased and proud of myself for bouncing back from that flare and continuing the project, my determination to find a way to sew without increasing the pain too much has paid off in pretty dress goodness!

    20100815 Penelope Dress Funny Face


    I have named my homemade wardrobe addition Penelope. She just looks like a Penelope and I do like to name things.

    20100815 Penelope Dress


    I followed this Simplicity pattern. When I took my measurements I was shocked to discover that I was a size 22, when in the normal world I am sized 14-16, depending on how much the manufacturer wants to mock me. Numbers are just numbers though, so I went ahead and followed all the directions for size 22. I was super relieved to find that the sewing skills my mother bestowed upon me as a teenager have stuck. I wasn’t too sure if I would remember what to do, this was the first pattern I had tried to follow in over a decade! There are certainly a lot of failed clothing production attempts tucked safely away in the past, where they can’t horrify anyone anymore (and may I take a second to sincerely apologise to everyone forced to view the ever so loved by me fluffy, leopard print pants, circa 1999ish).

    Penelope didn’t come about via a sweet smelling walk through a rose garden. I had a slight setback when I followed the instructions incorrectly while I was sewing the bodice, not realising I was working on a vague assumption that the zipper would go at the back of the dress. Hindsight pointed out that this was especially clever of me, considering that every dress in my wardrobe zips up at the side. All was not lost, however, some careful unpicking and rearranging left me with a bodice that, thankfully, fitted onto the skirt.

    The second major hiccup came during a quick fitting check before sewing in the zipper. It was clear that Penelope was far, far too big for me. The sizing chart was a liar. That, or I am a bad measurer, or there is a third option… Penelope wasn’t meant to fit correctly straight from the pattern, she wanted to give me a little space to think creatively and make her fit, without destroying her in the process. I slept on it and would like to thank my morning brain for giving me the solution, like a trustworthy voice through a megaphone. The dress was pleated already, so there was opportunity for more pleating. I fixed my sizing issue like this:

    20100815 Penelope Dress Back


    I hemmed her to sit around my knees and then, hey presto! New dress. I was incredibly excited to have her finished in time to wear her to a beautiful wedding that I attended yesterday. I really didn’t wanted to drag one of my old faithfuls out of the wardrobe again. Penelope saved me from that undesirable plan B. Penelope is the bestest!

    I am looking forward to planning my next stitchy mission. It’s so nice to be in control of my pain enough to create again. I have missed this!

    Love & Zig-Zag Stitches,
    Caf

    P.S. Thanks for all the thoughts and discussion on my last post, I shall do some more thinking on that topic and elaborate sometime soon!

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  • Time Travel Without A Delorian

    Dear Audy,

    Oh Audy, lately it has been sucking to be me. It has been sucking to be me in a kingly manner (If you came in late….I have RSD in my right foot & ankle and I’m recovering from a hip operation on the other side). My stupid hip leg isn’t enjoying physio at all, to the point where now my knee isn’t tracking properly and the stupid thing is buggered from hip to toe…I hate my legs!! Audy, if your legs are OK, use them….use them now….use them much….appreciate them.

    Hence, with all my owies, I have been restricted from my sewing machine again! Poor Miss Bonnie (bag currently in creation) is not impressed. Neither is Ada, who is stuck on the easel waiting for me to be able to sit up properly. I am having an owie induced creative slump….stupid owies.

    And so….I have decided to take you back, Audy. Way, way back, into the distant past…when I was but a young novice….young, naïve, pimpled & pudgy. I wanted to learn to sew. I wanted to learn to make clothes that would fit and something different so that everyone would think I was awesome (teenage priorities). I experimented. Fluffy leopard print pants. I dabbled. Bright pink snakeskin pants. I ruled. Years passed…interests waned and ebbed. The day came when I wanted to make a bag. I wanted a pretty bag and I wanted it to be all my own.

    I rejected ideas to look for a pattern, to ask for help. I took my determined little self out and bought material, ribbon and some pretty buttons. I pinned out the shape I wanted, round, so I traced a kitchen plate. I wanted a frilly part and so I folded and ironed and pinned, folded and ironed and pinned. I barricaded myself in Mum’s sewing room. I interfaced and I stitched and I ironed and I sewed. Eventually, I had created my little treasure. This was pre my figuring out to line things properly and thus is full of little zig zagged edges….but it’s special to me and I’m thinking I’m going to rehash this design sometime.

    Candy-31.7.08

    Candy, Candy, Candy I can’t let you go. All my life, you’re haunting me, I love you sooo.

    Like you can say Candy without singing that.

    Love & Owies

    Caf

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  • A New Miss Potter

    Dear Audy,

    I’ve been longing to tell you all about The Beatrix for a while now, however it was designed for a gift and I could not show you before it had been given! The Beatrix was inspired by the film “Miss Potter”….which I loooooved. I loved this movie because Beatrix talked to her paintings and I talk to my paintings!! We are kindred spirits.

    I decided to go for some pretty floral material that has a vintage feel to it. Mixed this up with some white that was leftover from a ballgown I once made, a little ribbon and some burgundy thread and I was ready to sew. OK, not quite ready because a huge percentage of sewing time is actually pinning, cutting and ironing…so I did some of that.

    beatrix-construction-16.7.0

    Miss Beatrix is only a little bag, a pretty accessory more than a functioning tool, but the world needs pretty things…whilst she was acquiring her pretty ribbon adornment, she decided to give me some trouble. For some reason the sewing machine, cotton and ribbon just did not get along, they were pulling stitches all over the place and just plain coming up messy. I was not impressed. Out came my handy little blue unpicker and grumbling I set about pulling apart what I had just put together.

    Beatrix-unpicking-16.7.08

    I concluded that my only option as far as getting that ribbon where I wanted it was to use a needle and my hands. I stitched along the edges with a blanket stitch that kind of made the ribbon look special. I liked it, blanket stitched ribbon is the new black, but yet is fitting with an old fashioned type bag!

    And so Audy, may I present…..The Beatrix!

    Beatrix-16.7.08

    She had her picture in the garden because she likes to pretend she is just a little bunny….bags absorb at lot from what you watch during their conception.

    Love & Bunnies,

    Caf

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  • Back To The Drawing Board

    Dear Audy,

    I swear the weeks are on some sort of whooshy speedy uppy hyper pills right now! I seem to have had lots of things to do that kept me from the sewing machine…you know, those boring paperwork things that all catch up on you sometimes.

    On Thursday I was all geared up for my next bag creation, Miss Bonnie. It’s inspired by a dear little fluffy dog that I’ll introduce you to another time. I had drawn up the design and chosen my fabrics when I remembered that I had letters to post. I thought I’d be proactive and get it done…rather than getting lost in sewing world, a fate that might not see me found until well after postman-picks-up-o’clock. So, I bundled up against the cold (It is SO cold!), grabbed my crutches and hobbled on down to the corner, pleased to be getting my daily exercise.

    It did not go well.

    Typically, I hurt myself. More (For those who came in late…..I have a nerve condition called RSD in my right foot & ankle). I crutched wrong, Audy! Crutched wrong! I did something to my shoulder that spent the next couple of hours scaring me silly as it presented with sharp pains around my rib cage so that I couldn’t breathe properly. My partner came home and put me in the bath before giving my shoulder a rub. A weird little pop later and the sharp pains were gone! Woo! The soreness and stiffness is clearing up now….

    One shoulder down, I decided sewing would not be wise, thus I have headed back to the drawing board to get my creative jiggles off…

    Audy, I’d like to you meet Ada. Ada inspires my friend Melissa. Ada used to look like this:

    Ada-old-pic

    She was the 2nd imaginaiad to ever exist. Imaginaiads are nymphs of the imagination, they inspire their artists with colours, guiding them to create beautiful things. It began with my imaginaiad, Rella, but everybody has one and as my skills improve the world will get to see more of them.

    I’ve learnt a lot about guiding watercolour pencils in the past 6 months since Ada’s conception. Here’s a sneak preview at Ada Redux:

    Ada-sketch-13.7.08

    She’s hanging out on the easel right now…getting her colours and praying that Caf doesn’t mess her up!!

    Ada-on-easel-13.7.08

    Love & Shading

    Caf

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  • Birth Of A New Head

    Dear Audy,

    Phew, it’s been a big weekend! I went to stay with friends and to introduce Gilbert 2 to his dear little owner. An introduction that proceeded unassisted when tiny tot came trotting in from the other end of the house to tell us all that he had found his present! Found it searching through Aunty Caf’s bags he did….little scallywag.

    I am pleased to announce that Gilbert 2 came up roses! I was really winging it with this one and half expected him to turn into a big stitchy mess. I started by drawing out his parts, tracing around plates to get his sexy curves. I mixed and matched some raggy materials and interfaced those that were too weak to stand up to their role on their own.

    When I started sewing on the eyes, I knew my circles were just not going to be straight enough (I need more practise!). I decided to hand sew around the edges with a blanket stitch and because of the stretch in the yellow material, the circles smoothed out. It was fun honing in on those needle skills, they haven’t been out to play in a while! Bit by bit I added the parts of his face, remembering his eyebrows just in time!! His nose was the biggest challenge and the fact that it kind of came out puppy nose shaped was just a bonus.
    Stiched up and stuffed with beans something still looked odd about Gilbert 2. His cheeks were waaaaay to big, for some reason they made him look really lazy….so I sucked em in, stitched em up and HEY PRESTO I’ve made a Gilbert!

    creation-of-gilbert-2

    The journey of a toy is never complete until he take his place amongst his peers.

    Gilbert-2-in-toy-box

    He wasn’t getting along with that zebra when I left but I reckon they’re gonna sort it out….

    Love & Snoring

    Caf

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