Christmas Dress 2016

Hello all! I took a bit of an unintended break there for a couple months, huh? More on that at the end of the post, I want to get to that juicy sewing content first!

Here is my Christmas dress for 2016! I made one last year and at that point said ‘well how many Christmas outfits does one need?’ Naturally that meant that I decided three weeks before Christmas this year that I needed a new one. I couldn’t stop thinking about this vintage christmas card that Heather posted last year.

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I had an idle look for fabric that would work and found some in Lincraft – it’s part of their basic cottons line. The fabric is VERY crisp, for better or worse, so it doesn’t drape very well and it creases lots and also it was very hard to hand stitch the facing down without it being very visible. But you know, once a year I can live with that. I don’t think I’d make another dress out of this fabric but it would make an ok shirt, or kids dress. The collar is just white homespun or broadcloth or something from my stash.

Anyway initially I was planning to make a half-shirt dress – like this one that Lily has since posted over at Mode de Lis. But then I figured I’d really left it too late, I didn’t want to muslin anything so I’d go with a pattern I’d already made, which meant B6055, my now most worn make. I love this dang dress. Except that the sleeves don’t have great movement, and I’ve been meaning to figure out how to put gussets in it and I figured a christmas dress was a low-stakes way to do that.

Gusset innards with reinforcing organza

Figuring out the gussets was intimidating but fun! For the actual sewing part I used Gertie’s tutorial but since the pattern didn’t come with gussets I had to figure out how big to make them and where to place them. This was surprisingly hard to track down – lots of places say things like ‘just add a slit at the armpit’ but like… there’s a lot of variables there! After some googling I found a google book scan of a pattern drafting book which instructed on sizing and said to take the slice from the turn of the armpit in the direction of the shoulder point. So that’s what I did! It worked really well and was very fun. I didn’t finish the edges because the tute didn’t say so but I think I probably should have.

I also didn’t orient the stripes very well because I was spending my brain power working out which bit went where and didn’t think about it until afterwards. Oh well. The tute didn’t specify topstitching either but I thought it was a good idea. The gussets definitely make it much more comfortable and give much better range of movement – I still wouldn’t want to play tennis in it or anything but I’d say I have about as much movement as in a regular tailored shirt. I’ll definitely be using gussets more in the future.

Anyway the bodice went together smoothly, which it ought to because I’ve made it a tonne before. Except that I forgot it was meant to be cut on the fold so I cut it in two pieces and then had to sew a teeny seam allowance there – but it doesn’t seem to have made it too tight or anything. But then I ran into trouble with the skirt. I had decided to put in a waistband which I did by simply cutting the bodice 2″ shorter – and smoothing out the curve of it because as drafted it fits into a curved circle skirt – and then adding a 2″ plus seam allowance strip for the waistband. But I broke a bunch of my rules about sewing and made decisions before everything was together so I ended up moving the waistband up and then down again because the proportions were off. Note to self: ALWAYS put the skirt on the dress before making that decision, it will weight it down way more than you think. Because of this mucking around the skirt ended up an inch or so shorter than I’d prefer – I think the waist is actually maybe half an inch too high. Close enough!

I initially attached a gathered skirt because I wanted the stripes maximised. but I HATED it. I just do not like gathers on me, at all. I was also limited by the amount of fabric I had because I bought all that was left on the bolt so I found the gathers made the middle very bulky but the skirt was actually quite narrow and not floofy enough.

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NO THX

I think the best thing would have been to do big box pleats but I was coming down to the wire, time-wise and I also was kind of just done thinking about this dress. So I defaulted back to the pattern as-drafted. I tried to stripe match and to get the line down the middle to sit somewhere nice, with moderate success.

The cottons a bit sticky and also I was taking these hurredly on Christmas Day which was stinking hot so I didn’t get a good one of the side but the stripes line up pretty nicely. Please excuse the wrinkles – these are all after a full day of eating and sitting in a hot car for two hours. I think it held up pretty well! The collar is a bit off but I’ve since washed it again and now it’s lying properly – it takes a couple of washes for the interfacing to chill out.

I initially chucked in an invisible zipper because it was quicker but it wasn’t sturdy enough and it popped – also not helped by me deciding it was too baggy and cutting down the seam allowances before I put the zipper in! Dumb, breaking more of my own rules not to make anything drastically smaller before the fastenings are in. I then had to let it out again and use teeny seam allowances and it’s ok but probably could do with an extra cm or two, because it does ride up a bit when I sit.

Anyway I ended up going back and hand picking the zipper so I could get as close to the seam allowances as possible. This meant the zipper teeth show where the waistband is because it was too thick to turn under nicely, but that’s where I really needed the room so I went with it. I actually quite enjoyed hand picking and will definitely be doing that again in the future. It took a bit but it wasn’t as time consuming as trying to set in a zipper five times.

A not very good photo of the zip

I was also contemplating putting cuffs on the sleeves to mirror the collar but then decided I couldn’t be bothered. In the end I think I like it better without.  My cousin reckons it’s low-key enough that I could wear it on non-Christmas occasions, but I’m not so sure! Maybe with a black jumper over the top I could get away with it? Either way, it was a hit at Christmas, I felt very festive in it and my sewing-master grandma approved of the gussets. A win!

So about the break. I think I burnt myself out in October with a bunch of deadline sewing, and just haven’t been feeling it, so there’s been very little sewing and therefore no blogging. Initially I felt weirdly guilty about it but then I decided, you know, sewing is a hobby. It’s meant to bring joy. If I’m not feeling it, I’m not feeling it – although I’ve started to dip back in of necessity because I need some more warm weather clothes and sewing is the only way I get new clothes now. But I’m not putting any pressure on myself to either sew or blog, so I anticipate that things will still be a bit quiet around here for a bit, aside from a couple of FOs that I’ve finally gotten photos of so they will pop up shortly.

In the meantime I’ve still been doing crafty stuff – I’ve been catalouging my stash on the Cora app, refolding everything and getting rid of stuff I don’t love in an attempt to get all of my stash into the designated space in my craft room (there are a couple of secret boxes in the spare room wardrobe). I’ve started drafting a moulage using Suzy Furrer’s crafsty course and it’s going ok although she uses a lot of industry standard measurements with super don’t work for me, and I’m now at the part where I have to do all the adjustments to compensate for that and I’ve gotten a bit frustrated with it. I’ve also picked up a couple of stalled knitting projects and moved them to the next bit, which is satisfying.

I’ve also been extremely busy doing a new job at work – I go back to my regular position when I start back next year. I’ve been doing a similar job but the next level up (as well as training my fill in person at the same time) and it’s been really fun and interesting but definitely tiring, especially at the end of year panic where everyone realises they have to get everything done before January, and my manager was off sick and someone else was on leave and someone else left so I was the only one in my team there! Hectic.

I also started taking zoloft because I realised as we came out of winter that this one was really rough for me (and also tbh the US election news did not help my mental health at all. Yikes). I coped really well but doing that basically took everything I had. I’ve only been on it a week but already I am much less exhausted – I hadn’t realised how tired I was! I mean I knew I was tired but it had become normal to have absolutely no energy for anything. I am hopeful that zoloft will be the right drug for me and will help me get back to a better normal. I’m very lucky to have a great GP who is on the same team as me and determined to find the right thing for me, and helped me get over my weird reluctance to try meds – that internalised ableism will get you! But something has definitely been not right in my brain chemistry, and thank goodness for modern medicine, with all its downsides it sure has many upsides.

So that’s the story! As I said I suspect it’ll still be slow here but I’m getting back into sewing slowly so expect to see me around a bit in the New Year. Until then, happy holidays, whatever you celebrate, and here’s to a wonderful, safe, loving 2017 for all of us and everyone else.

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Last year

Last year felt like it went so fast, but when I think back to this time last year it feels so far away. So since I didn’t blog things as they happened,  I thought I’d  have a little ‘what I did last year’ post, to remind myself that I actually did things.

I joined a gym and went to it a bunch. Frankly, it’s a pain in the arse and I resent it, but I was just not getting enough activity through incidental things. My area isn’t nice to walk in and it’s too far from work to bike, and I felt cranky and creaky and tired. The gym has helped, although I would still prefer to have a life where I didn’t just sit in front of a computer all the time, could ride or walk places, and didn’t have to go out of my way to ‘do exercise’ all the time. Maybe one day, but for now the gym is good.

I’ve also done other things about bodies and energy. At the start of the year I found a GP. 2012 was the year of teeth (a new dentist, a bunch of fillings and crowns and my wisdom teeth out, hoo boy I wish I could have afforded a dentist earlier) and 2013 was the year of… the rest? I haven’t had a regular GP since I lived with my parents, and it took a few tries but I found someone really lovely. I got a bunch of checkup tests and found that my vitamin D was WAY low, which didn’t surprise me much because I’ve had an increasingly hard time the last few winters with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I had another round of SAD over winter, despite massive amounts of supplements, but my levels are now finally above the suggested minimum.

I also worked out that I am sensitive to gluten… and maybe other things. I got tested and I’m not caeliac, thank goodness. But to take the test you have to eat a bunch of gluten for 6 weeks and it was a total nightmare. I’d been eating mostly gluten-free before that, trying to figure out what was going on, and eating it again confirmed that it is an issue for me. It makes me feel tired and sluggish and bloated and, worst of all, really thickheaded. Zero out of ten, would not recommend. Not eating gluten hasn’t been as difficult as I would have thought, especially since it makes me feel so awful that I don’t really have much desire to eat it. I do have the odd craving for something specific, which generally I satisfy if I really want it, because it seems like I can eat a small amount without the consequences being too dire. This year I really should get a couple more tests and maybe find myself an endocrinologist or something so I can work out what the actual issue is. One of my cousins appears to have the same or similar issues, and is going through that process now, so I’m going to pick her brains about it. But whether I get to that in the short term or long term, I feel much better than I had for a while.

I considered going on psych meds a couple of times and ended up waiting and seeing, which turned out fine, especially after – here’s another thing I did – I went part time. But it was really nice to have a GP who I can talk these things over with, who has my back and who listens to and trusts me. I feel like that shouldn’t be a thing to feel so grateful about – surely that should be the norm? But it isn’t, so I am grateful. I also started seeing a psychologist, which also took a couple of tries to get the right person, but it’s been very helpful in dealing with my mother. Although I did just find out that my psych is moving states so I will have to find a new person. I’m tempted to not bother because I only found out from ringing up to cancel an appointment because I don’t need it right now and it feels like a waste of time and money. But I really should, to have a backup person in case I need that.

Here’s another thing I did – I didn’t talk to my mother at all for a good six months. It was lovely. I’ve since had dinner with her a couple of times and it has been slightly tense but mostly fine. The power has shifted a bit, I think – and she’s on her best behaviour. We’ll see how long that lasts. Ideally I’d rather not cut her totally out of my life but I’m still not sure exactly why I wouldn’t. But whatever happens I feel like I’m actually making decisions thoughtfully and on purpose, not just reacting, which is a big deal.

As I said before, I went part time from the start of the financial year. I now work 4 days a week and it is glorious. My bank balance took a hit but given that I went down a tax bracket and have stopped having to do things like buy lunch all the time because I’m exhausted, I’ve barely noticed. It’s so lovely to have time to actually DO things. Last winter was pretty long and dark, and a big part of that is that I felt like I never had time or brain space to DO anything, so my whole life was just ‘get up, go to work, come home, do dishes, repeat’. And then I would feel guilty about that because plenty of people have more work and more dishes and less time but hey, that was how I felt. (I’ve also struggled with the classic stuff of thinking I was being lazy when I was really exhausted, which leads to its own demotivating cycle. Still working on that. So much social conditioning to be ‘productive’ all the time, which is very undermining really). Sorting out body stuff has helped – when I have the time I actually have the energy to do things. But actually making more time is an important part of that.

I’ve dealt with relationship stress. S has had a stressful year, with his eldest going through year 12 and a bunch of the regular dramas as well as some extra special ones. Combine that with him living an hour and a half drive away, being a single parent and working in a school where he is stressed out and exposed to all the most lovely germs of the year so that every time I saw him in the winter months he was exhausted and/or sick… well, it put stress on the relationship, as well as accentuating my feeling that I never DID anything. There were a couple of times we almost broke up, where we had weeks 0f very stressful discussion trying to make things better – the problem being that none of the issues were about him or me, they were all external. Hard to fix them when they are out of your power! We weathered family issues and renegotiated present and future arrangements. But we did weather them. Who knows what the future holds but we spent a bunch of quality time together over the holidays and we’ve both been working on balancing our lives to have time and attention for each other and for now it feels like we are in a really nice place.I’m hoping to hold onto that for at least a while after we are both back at work.

Our gift to each other for Christmas was zoo memberships, and we’ve gone a bunch of times as well as going to the museum, and exhibitions, and generally doing things.

The South Australian Museum has some excellent megafauna:

Just your average giant wombat, thylacine and terrifying cassowary ancestor.

Not to mention excellent opalised fossils:

Opalised shellfish
Opalised belemnites horns aka unicorn horns.
A whole opalised plesiosaur.

Also did you know that meerkats are hilarious

And quokkas are adorable

And some of them are very friendly.

This totally made my year. I can’t stop talking about it. SO FLUFFY.

I formed and strengthened friendships. Mostly, tbh, with the aid of the internet. Mid 2012 I joined an online forum made up of women who had formed friendships on a particular website, ostensibly to talk about fashion. We DO talk about fashion but I’d say more than 50% of the conversation is about feminism. And sex. Feminist sex. Those ladies have become more and more important to me, have been an incredible support network and a central part of my life. They send me cards and gifts and food and give me good advice and sympathy when I need it the most. ❤ u, HFC. Also they have made me lift my selfie game like woah. I never took so many photos of myself – and it’s been very helpful for both my self esteem and my sense of personal style. It’s interesting to look back at photos of outfits I thought worked well but are just not doing it for me in retrospect, and vica versa. I feel a lot more well presented when I go out in the world, these days.

I look tired in a lot of them.

I also formed stronger bonds with my sister, one of my cousins, and some irl friends through our tumblrs. What a delight that has been. Because of tumblr, I started rewatching Star Trek ToS with my cousin. I’d seen most of it before and quite enjoyed it but HOLY WOAH I AM NOW OBSESSED. So that’s pretty great.

Part of my solstice gift from S. It will surprise none of you to learn that Spock is my favourite character.
I made myself a (gluten free) star trek cake. Then I neglected to get a photo of it finished. It was blue with a science symbol on it, and was delicious.

And of course, there were craft camps. It continues to be such a joy to know all of you, and to meet you, whether online or in person.

Here’s to more DOING in 2014, more friendships, more good things.

And more blogging (maybe?).