Writing without pictures

I hadn’t realised quite how long it had been since my last post. There’s been some busy-ness but mostly a little frustration with managing photos. And thinking the camera was elsewhere and unavailable when it was actually put back in its proper place.

Then I realised I’d presumed I couldn’t post without including photos. So I thought of a post without pictures, and that’s when I found the camera. You can’t tell me that doesn’t mean anything.

What I was thinking about was in response to Janice Breen Burns’ article in the Sunday Age about the dangers of thinking/wishing you can sew. That is, the dangers of a teenager who’s done Home Ek and is therefore qualified to sew anything. In one afternoon, with outrageously inappropriate fabric, the sewing skills of a gnat and expectations of Karl Lagerfeld.

So I had Home Ek and Textiles flashbacks and realised that each was completely removed from the reality of baking or sewing or other DIY. I went into Home Ek in Year 7 thinking this could be good ‘cos I already know a thing or two about cooking. And it wasn’t any good precisely because I did know how to bake scones, cakes, biscuits and put together a basic meal for a family of six (even if it did involve a packet). The subject seemed designed to ‘professionalise’ cooking, to make it a science. That’s why it’s now called Food Technology. Anything I knew about cooking was clearly irrelevant to the subject because I didn’t discuss nutritional qualities beforehand or paste magazine pictures into a workbook to illustrate the effects of my cooking (happy, smiling, white families apparently). Quite bizarrely, Home Ek seemed to have bugger all to do with food. Or eating.

I went to a different school the next year where they didn’t have Home Ek (only because it had upper middle class pretensions and if you wanted that sort of thing, you could go down the road to that other girls’ school. ask innercitygarden). But my school did have Textiles and Art and a few hangovers which meant the Year 7 textiles activity was chain stitching your name onto the pocket of your pinny. I would have been happy to wear my sister’s pinny and confuse the teachers but that wasn’t Good Form. So I wandered around nameless for the next five years.

The major Textiles activity I remember was making a clown softie. We cut out the clown from a template and our creativity was supposed to come it in the decorating thereof. The challenge was to make clothes for it. I can’t say that particularly appealed to me because it didn’t seem quite difficult enough. So I was a complete smartarse and decided to go for Pierrot. It involved only one colour, minimal stitching for the face and (most importantly), no hair. If they were going to make sewing easy, I thought, I’ll beat them at their own game.  I’ve already said I was a smartarse.

I think I would have been a little more impressed if it hadn’t been so patronising. It really isn’t that difficult to construct a top or a simple dress and learn about measurements, form and garment construction on the way. And it would have been handy.

Because then you’d really know that trying to make an outfit in outrageously inappropriate fabric, with limited skills and the expectations of haute couture was only going to end in tears. But you’d also know that you could sew up a simple, flattering dress that looked good.

A vintage summer

I was temporarily defeated by my new latptop and media uploading, so the post two days ago did not see the light of day. That and I’ve had the most wonderful fun frying my brain at work every day, so the non-work words haven’t been tripping off my tongue. And yes, I know some of you just thought they still aren’t.

My summer wardrobe, or the complete lack thereof, has been occupying me over the last month or two. I’m over trying to find overpriced clothes that almost but don’t quite fit in a shade that is not quite what I was looking for. So I’m going vintage: a bit of fun, a bit of class and a whole lot of what suits me. Now I just have to sew the damn things.

This photo is sideways. And I can’t get it stay right way up. I promise not to do it again.

A possibility in Japanese double gauze (when the Aussie dollar goes up again)

A possibility in Japanese double gauze (when the Aussie dollar goes up again)

A little something for summer evening cocktails

A little something for summer evening cocktails

Just right in an Italian teal/orange/ivory print

Just right in an Italian teal/orange/ivory print

1971 was a very good year

1971 was a very good year

Perhaps a skirt with a modified jacket - maybe a mandarin collar

Perhaps a skirt with a modified jacket - maybe a mandarin collar

Linen or a Japanese cotton print (and the currency exhange..)

Linen or a Japanese cotton print (and the currency exhange..)

Here’s to a summer full of clothes I like. And fit. And suit me. A few champagne cocktails wouldn’t go astray either.

Vintage and a little bit of PoMo

I have a weakness for vintage knitting and sewing patterns. Not all of them because let’s be honest, not everything from the past is gorgeous (flares and gender inequality, obviously). I like them because there’s a more refined design sensibility and an assumption that if you’ve bought the pattern possibly you know how to sew or knit. And if you’re not sure, there’s always a handy manual. I’ve got an Enid Gilchrist sewing pattern book, published by The Argus sometime in the late 1940s or 1950s. It has hints, descriptions, diagrams and directs you in the drafting of the pattern. I’ve made a couple of items and it’s fabulous to be guided through basic pattern drafting in a variety of styles.

Most of my vintage patterns are from the 1940s and 1950s but these recent purchases are a little different.

They’re from Decades of Style, a pattern company that republishes vintage designs, regraded for contemporary sizes. So that’s definitely a 1930s butterfly wing blouse but it’s going to fit me without laborious pattern copying and regrading. I think it might also qualify for race day flair when teamed with a Japanese print similar to this (but better because it has ivory. mauve and touches of pink).

But I also like touches of the postmodern so I think this ‘fashion forward’ knitting site is fantastic – Metapostmodernknitting.

Happy, happy

I have a stash of gorgeous fabrics that were bought for me – not for kids’ clothes, crafting or anything else. Some were bought at Clegg’s, others at Tessuti’s but the one thing they have in common is that they’ve been lying in my cupboard for anywhere between 6 and 12 months. I love these fabrics so much that I’ve been very cautious about cutting into them. At the beginning of last summer I made a top from a lovely plum linen that was hideously big; linen trousers from a just-right-for-me olive green linen, also hideously big; more successfully a straight skirt from an Echino print with pleated detail. The skirt very nearly but not quite fit.

What I learned from this: I can’t trust a contemporary sewing pattern from the main publishers and the one item that came close to fitting me I designed and drafted the pattern myself. I cannot figure out how I’m a size 14-16 when I go to a shop but once I pick up a sewing pattern I’m considered a size 20 or 22 (WTF?). Add to that that I’m less than 175cm tall and I have an hour glass figure. Yes, indeedy, my waist and my hips are two totally different measurements. Goodness, that makes it tricky.

I’ve had more luck with Burda patterns. I prefer their styles and I don’t mind tracing out the patterns because it gives me more opportunity to tailor the fit. And the experience I’ve had with tracing patterns means that I’ve become a better sewer because I understand why this bit is shaped like that and how if I alter this it looks like that. So I’ve become a more adventurous sewer and more demanding in my standards. If I’ve spent good money on fabulous fabric I want it to look fabulous on me. Which explains why our living room floor looked like this last week:

Drafting trouser pattern

Drafting trouser pattern

I borrowed a pattern drafting book from the Melbourne City Library and got down and dirty with measurements, diagrams, tracing paper, pencil and rulers. I’ll use the pattern to make a muslin, tweak the fit and finalise the foundation pattern. Voila, I’ll have a pattern for perfect fitting trousers. And the measurements are in a spreadsheet so that when some of them change I won’t have to redraft from scratch.

Happy, happy.

Found object