I found it pretty helpful to review the things I made in Winter 2018/9 so I’m going to review my makes from September, October and November 2018.
Corduroy cigarette pants
These trousers are certainly one of my most successful makes. I wear them all the time and think they are great. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have seen me complain that it is impossible to get a good picture of these trousers. I’m convinced they look fabulous in real life.
The corduroy seems pretty hardwearing thus far. I probably wear the trousers once per week. The texture on the cord is a little worn at the inner leg (which is where my trousers always wear out) but showing no signs of developing holes yet. I wonder if I should attempt some pre-emptive patching.
Reusable cotton pads
These make-up removal pads were a complete disaster and have been composted. They absorbed loads of liquid, which seemed wasteful, and I didn’t like the way the stranded cotton felt on my face. I replaced them with some washable woven cotton pads that I bought from The Source and I like those a lot better. However, I try to wash my face with water and a flannel where possible rather than using make-up remover.
Fortunately the other ‘zero waste’ item I made was a lot more successful. I use these cloths for washing-up and wiping down surfaces and they do a great job, I don’t have any pictures because they’re not that pretty. You’ll just have to trust me.
The hemp yarn isn’t especially strong, which means that the cloths develop holes now and again. My system is to rotate the two dishcloths that I made. Once one develops holes, I put it in the washing machine and then put it in the repair pile. It only takes around 20 minutes to repair them every month or so.
The dishcloth I made using larger needles was even more prone to wear and kind of an annoying size so it has been composted.
I did some work to fix up my zebra shorts, which were looking a bit shabby. They’ve certainly stayed in commission, though I don’t know how much more life they have left.
Really I need to make a second version of these shorts using a more hardwearing fabric.
This new feature has been inspired by ‘One year sewn’ on the Sewstainability blog. Her idea was to review the clothes she has made a year later to establish how they have held up, and whether they have found a consistent space in the wardrobe. I will be doing the same for all of the things I have made- hence not just stealing her hashtag wholesale.
Eventually I plan to review everything that I have posted about on the blog. I’m going to start with makes from Winter (i.e. December, January and February) 2018/9. I am going to go by when I published the blog posts about the garments despite the face that this does not necessarily reflect when I made them.
This is a very warm sweater so I can’t wear it as often as perhaps I would like. In fact, a learning point is that I probably have enough warm sweaters and should probably focus my energy on lighter-weight garments. Since I have broad shoulders, I tend to be apprehensive about garments that draw the eye to this ‘unfeminine’ part of my body. In reality I love the way my shoulders look in this sweater. I have used the inverted commas there because I think women (and possibly Black women in particular since we often do not conform to white beauty standards) are programmed to hate our bodies. Especially since cutting my hair I have started to notice that ‘femininity’ is a particular arena for self-attack about my appearance and I’m trying to notice and deconstruct that.
I was concerned about how well the buttery-soft Sugar Baby Alpaca yarn would wear. Actually it seems to be holding up well. The sweater is quite prone to pilling, but the pills don’t really show up against the black background and the zigzags still look great.
Even though I am pretty happy with this dress, it doesn’t make it out of the wardrobe that often. It doesn’t help that the dress is on the tighter side so I don’t feel as comfortable wearing this as other dresses I own.
Mending these two pairs of jeans extended their life spans by several months. However, both pairs are back out of commission since they need further repairs and I don’t have anywhere to use my sewing machine. Writing this post actually prompted me to search for sewing cafes in London so hopefully my jeans will be back in rotation soon.
I think this is an interesting thing to note because mending has fallen so far out of favour that it doesn’t even occur to people as a possibility. Two friends have reached out to me offering old pairs of jeans. While in a way it’s sweet that they’re trying to think of a use for them rather than just chucking them- and also aware that this is the sort of thing I care about- I also think it’s a bit weird to offer someone else your trash. My view is why not continue to wear them as jeans?
It’s so clear how fast fashion has taught us to think Something has a hole in it, time to get a new one. By the same token, if anyone reading this is aware of any cool projects that have a need for old jeans, please let me know in the comments!
Unfortunately shortening my League did not have the desired effect. Part of the problem is that I made the front a bit too short and the placement of the ribbing is now really unflattering. It’s a real shame because it used to be a garment I turned to quite often, though now I’m wondering if that space in my wardrobe has been taken over by some of my newer sweaters (like She Loves Wool) that I simply like more design-wise.
I am now contemplating whether to attempt another mod to this sweater or just pass it on to someone else. I don’t think I want to unravel it because I’m never been in love with the colours (hazard of buying on line, which I now seldom do). My concern with donating it is that the weird length will make it unsaleable. This is an issue I think about a lot actually- whether I should repair my clothes before donating them. If any readers would like to have this jumper, please do let me know.
December was a strange month for me. I was feeling super optimistic when I started drafting my review blog post. I had just got my new job and my life seemed to be on an upswing. Then, out of nowhere, I managed to break another finger. It happened at quidditch training, but it was strange because nothing actually happened. I threw a ball and all of a sudden my pinkie was pointing in the wrong direction. I thought it was a dislocation so it came as an enormous shock when, after three hours in A&E, I was told that it was badly broken and had my whole forearm put into a cast. I guess I must have had an underlying hairline fracture.
Breaking my finger affected me psychologically as well as physically. Having no use of my dominant hand left me feeling pretty helpless as well as unable to do what I normally would if I was ill- knitting. I couldn’t even cook for myself. Fortunately I wasn’t too depressed and managed to keep myself occupied by going to the cinema and reading.
A few days after the injury, I had to have surgery and now I have two metal wires in my finger. Although I was lucky that I had my operation under local anaesthetic (most surgeons do the procedure under a general, and I felt dreadful when I had one a few years ago), it took a lot out of me. I took four days off work, the most time I’ve had off in years. All of the plans I’d made about managing my last three months at my current job went out of the window.
Anyway, I did have some time to think about projects during my extended recuperation.
Current WiPs are my Ripple bralette, cat cardigan and these gloves, which are very nearly finished. I have a trip to southern Africa coming up and I need a suitable project to work on while I’m away. I have two projects in mind, but both will be gifts so I won’t write any more about them for now.
I’m planning to move again once I have settled in my new job, and one of my priorities will be finding somewhere with a sewing space. I’ve had several sewing projects cued up for some time. Hopefully this year I will manage to make my turquoise raincoat, at least one TC1617 blouse.
I’m also going to take my new job as an opportunity to slightly alter my weekday style and wardrobe. Since I’ll be in a more senior position, I think I’ll dress a little more formally. I’ve been planning for years to make a copy-cat version of my favourite pencil skirt, purchased secondhand a long time ago. I’ll use the Sew Over It ultimate pencil skirt as a starting point. I even have a remnant of nice navy blue wool ready to go.
If that works, I will also make a black version. I have a few shirts that don’t really work with navy blue (which is my main base colour). I even have quite a bit of magenta wool left over from my tulip skirt, which could also be pressed into use as a pencil skirt. While I wear the tulip skirt quite often, I’m actually not sure that the style really suits me.
While charity shopping a few months ago, I found a nice wool dress that was essentially a pencil skirt with a cropped boxy top layered over it. I didn’t buy it in the end because it was a bit too big, but I feel like it would be really cute to have a matching shirt for some of these putative pencil skirts. I love the shape of my short- sleeved Linden. I wonder how the raglan sleeve would work in a wool…
From my ramblings I’ve realised that I have the loose outline of nine items I’d like to make this year. I didn’t bother with a #2019makenine but I think I’ll do one this year to try and keep myself honest. I find making basics really boring so I have a bad habit of veering off and working on more fun projects. However, my basics get worn all the time so it’s time to buckle down.
It’s funny looking back on my review of 2018. While I haven’t actively thought about that blog post much, I have actually taken action in many of the areas I wrote about. In fact, I think this often happens to me- I reflect on something, then those thoughts slowly percolate in my everyday life and I make changes without even really noticing.
This year I slowly accepted how unhappy I was in my workplace. While I liked my colleagues and schools, I was generally unfulfilled and languishing in my career. I started putting feelers out and thinking about applying for a more senior position elsewhere. My confidence was knocked a bit when I didn’t get shortlisted for the first job I applied for. So it came as a bit of a shock when I did get an interview for the second job, and even more of a shock when I was appointed!
Fun fact: I realised on the morning of the interview that I must have donated my old navy jacket when I moved. So I wore the jacket I bought for my Joker costume.
Doing all the negotiation to change jobs proved super stressful, which is part of the reason why I have barely blogged in the past couple of months.
Another huge thing that has happened this year is finally embracing my natural hair texture. I cut all of my hair off in April and I’m so happy I finally took the plunge. One day I will write a full blog post about it.
Shall I mention craft now? As last year, my craft output has continued to decline. Part of the reason for that is practical- I don’t have a sewing space where I’m living at the moment. I finished sewing one dress in January, and that’s it for the year.
I do need to re-repair both of my pairs of jeans, so I plan to visit the Sew Over It sewing café soon. I will try and get a few repairs done but it may be a while before I have the opportunity to sew another garment.
Knitting-wise, I completed four projects. Three were gifts and the other is my Mermaid Humboldt sweater, of which I am very proud.
I’m proud to say that my purchasing has taken a huge downturn as well. This year I have bought three items of clothing new- a bikini, a cotton wrap and a summer dress. To be honest, I regret buying all three. I didn’t really need them and they were impulse buys. While I am comfortable with adding things to my life in a mindful way, this is not what I did with those items. It’s not something I’m going to beat myself up about, but I do want to keep learning and working towards living in the most sustainable way I can.
It doesn’t help that my craft time has been so significantly curtailed. Aside from the stress of changing jobs, I took on a trainee in September so my role was busier than usual anyway. In fact, I bought a skirt (secondhand of course) that didn’t fit properly and I took the decision to get it altered by a tailor rather than attempting to do it myself. Since I have such limited time, I really need to allocate those resources carefully. Deciding to outsource a tricky alteration means that I can use that time to do something else. It’s so funny to notice the change in the relative importance of time and money over time. I am in the privileged position of being able to choose to pay others to do some tasks for me, and I am so grateful for that.
This leads conveniently into sustainability, the other area in which I have taken significant action in my life this year. While I’m still more plant-based than fully vegan, I am proud to say that I have not cooked any meat in 2019. I’m not sure whether I feel the need to be a strict vegan or not. I like to have a bit of flexibility in my life in general, and give myself the freedom to choose non-vegan options occasionally. At the same time, sometimes I feel bad when I cave in, or at least I don’t enjoy the food as much as I would have thought. I guess this is just something for me to continue to explore and reflect on in the coming months and years.
Once again Halloween rolled around and once again it was a week before a party that I started thinking about a costume. I had a little time in central London so wandered around a ‘vintage’ store for some inspiration. I wanted a costume that would work with my teeny weeny Afro. Initially I was thinking Moss from the IT crowd.
As I looked at the dubious vintage items (a bugbear of mine is ‘vintage’ stores that are overpriced and have crappy, samey clothing), I started to feel inspired. I quite wanted to go for an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia costume but didn’t want to buy a new wig- maybe I’ll go as Ango Goblogian if I stumble across the right secondhand wig another time.
I had just seen the new Joker movie and wondered whether there was mileage in that as a concept. I’ve seen on Instagram (good targeted advertising I guess) that they sell hair wax that’s capable of producing vibrant temporary colour on Afro hair and doesn’t look crispy and awful.
Note: I’ve been meaning to write about the experience of cutting my hair but haven’t got around to it. I definitely surprised myself with how strongly my feelings about my gender were tied up with my long hair. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I felt much more drawn than usual to dressing as a male character.
Anyway, when I went charity shopping a couple of days later, it was the character of the Joker that appealed to me the most. I spotted a red jacket and went to look at some reference images. What would the odds be that I could find a red suit, green shirt and yellow waistcoat all in my size in five days? Would I become desperate enough to violate my ethics and buy something new?
I visited the secondhand shops near my work and came away feeling a little apprehensive. I made the decision to just buy any item I could find that suited my needs- more on this later. As I returned to my office after lunch, I recalled that nearby Chiswick High Street has a fantastic selection of charity shops. Since I had some containers and could pop into the Source as well, I hopped on my bike and went over that very afternoon.
Chiswick sorted me out beautifully. The first thing I spotted in the Shelter store was a bright red jacket for £15. I tried it on and it fit. I decided not to buy it immediately just in case I came across something better.
The next shop came up trumps with a pair of red trousers- I had to ask the volunteer to take them off a mannequin for me. Not perfect but definitely good enough for my needs, especially since they were £6.50. I bought them straightaway so the lady wouldn’t put them back on the mannequin.
The thing I was most worried about was the waistcoat. I’d hardly seen any waitscoats at all on my search, and is a yellow waistcoat an item anyone would want aside for for costume purposes? But the Barnado’s shop contained a golden floral one. Again I didn’t buy it straightaway. It wasn’t quite perfect and I had a couple more shops to visit.
I wandered down to the shop at the end of the road, where my eye was immediately caught by a green silk shirt. It was more olive than I wanted, but a beautiful silk shirt from Whistles seemed too good an offer to pass up at £20- it’s something that can definitely slip into my work wardrobe when spooky season is over and done.
I quickly walked back up the street to collect the waistcoat and jacket, which was a great match for my new pants. It seemed silly to waste time looking any further. I was irrationally terrified that other shoppers would have snapped my items up, but I needn’t have worried.
The only big misstep I made was with the very first item I bought; another red jacket. For the first time, I investigated a weird junk shop that’s opposite my office. There’s no indication of what it is on the outside, just some rails of clothing. I went in and there are hundreds of poorly sorted items and no lighting. It’s so strange. There were people wandering about using their phones as torches. I wish I knew the story behind it.
I found a red men’s jacket in there and hastily bought it for £15. In the gloom of the shop, it had looked okay if a little big. As soon as I tried it on in a proper changing room, I realised that it wouldn’t do. I looked like a little kid in their dad’s suit. When I bought the second jacket, I donated the first one at the same time. No sense bringing it home to take up space when I have absolutely no use for it. I hope that Shelter will be able to make some money back from it at least.
Overall it felt really serendipitous that I was able to get everything I needed within only a couple of hours. Normally my cardinal rule of secondhand shopping is not to go looking for something specific. But this time, it worked for me. As my friend Cayleigh pointed out, perhaps even the men’s red jacket was part of the magic of that day of shopping. There may be some reason that it needed to find its way to the Shelter store in Chiswick.
In the end I paid £49.50 (not including the stupid second jacket) for my costume, which I know is far from cheap. The silk shirt I know will go into my normal wardrobe. And, in fact, I felt really fabulous in the red suit. I wonder if there’s a viable market for renting a single costume only suitable for a size 10 woman. Actually, two costumes since I still have my Wonder Woman dress from last year. I feel grateful that I am fortunate enough to be able to pay a premium to live according to my principles.
The one thing I bought new was the hair wax for £11. I had to use around 1/3 of the pot to get decent colour on my hair. I quite liked the definition that it gave my curls, though it did make my hair quite hard.
Yes I did go out for dinner dressed as the Joker. And yes my two companions were wearing normal clothes.
It was so much fun to dress up in a completely different way to normal. I’ve never worn a trouser-suit before and actually I was living for it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn a suit as an adult full stop. I will 100% be looking for any excuse to wear my red suit again. The biggest surprise was probably how hot I was! I suddenly have a new respect for men in three-piece suits on the tube. Continue reading
Tatty Devine are having a retrospective of the 20 years they have been in business at the Lethaby Gallery in London. I entered a competition on Twitter, where they asked fans to share their favourite piece. I chose the rainbow necklace I made at another workshop I attended.
I was a little disappointed not to win, especially because I felt faked out when the gallery tagged me as the runner-up. Then there was a plot twist. The winner kindly offered me her +1 and before I knew it I was reorganising my Saturday plans so that I could go. Yeah, I guess I hadn’t checked my diary when I entered the competition.
I’ve actually been to a free bunting workshop at TD before. I just scrolled back through my Instagram feed to look for a picture and it was nearly four years ago!
I’d slightly hoped they might have some offcuts from the amazing acrylic they were using for another workshop available, but they didn’t.
I initially went for my default option of rainbow. However, since I know I’m pretty fast at making up the jewellery (I must have been to at least five workshops even though I haven’t blogged them all) I decided to spend a little longer at the design stage.
I laid out every colour of acrylic available, grouping them by the colours I felt went together. And this more pastelly option presented itself.
I also had a look around the exhibition- which I recommend if you are in the King’s Cross area for an hour or so. I first became aware of Tatty Devine when I was at university, so I’ve been well over ten years (god that makes me feel old). I remembered a lot of the collections. It’s interesting to notice how my tastes and personal style have evolved, and how that is reflected in the Tatty pieces I have been drawn to.
The founders of TD met at art school and I found myself, not for the first time, regretful about the way my life has turned out.
I don’t think the idea of studying art even crossed my mind when I was 17 and choosing universities, or even when I was 15 and choosing A’level subjects. I did art and graphics when I was at school. Back in those days, I think you had to choose a creative subject (art, music or drama) and a technology (my school was a ‘technology college’ and I think the choices were food tech, graphics or resistant materials (which once would have been woodwork and metalwork)) for GCSE.
Even though I spent more time on my creative subjects than all the others put together, I was raised with the idea that a woman has to earn her own money. Following my creative streak simply didn’t seem compatible with gainful employment. I ended up spending three wilderness years studying psychology at Oxford, then (after a couple of years of low-paid employment) a further three getting my professional doctorate to get the job I have now. While I don’t hate my day job, it’s also not a passion for me.
I tend to see some kind of second career in my future. I can’t imagine doing the same job for the next several decades. But at the same time, setting up a small business seems like an awful lot of work compared to the relative safety of my life now.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had to move house at the beginning of July. Moving is always an opportunity to sort through ones stuff and I am currently minded to own a lot less of it. I wish that I had kept a bit more of an inventory of what I got rid of- mostly clothes and shoes that I no longer wear, books and a lot of odd paraphernalia.
One category that I found quite tough to let go of was gifts. I have received a few things, like a crepe pan from my dad, that are actually quite thoughtful and nice items. However, I just do not need a crepe pan right now. Hopefully it will be purchased by someone who will give it the love it deserves rather than keeping it in a box for years.
I have also had a history (not for a few years now, mind) of buying things for ‘one day,’ which generally means when I eventually buy a house. For example, I have set of four or six heart-shaped teaspoons that I must have bought ten years ago. This illustrates why I try not to buy for one day anymore- my tastes evolve quite quickly. This is especially why I try really hard not to stash yarn or fabric. Heart-shaped teaspoons are just not something I would think are a good idea now. In fact, writing that paragraph has just motivated me to get rid of those bloody spoons.
I still have two big items that I haven’t managed to sell yet. Since I’m not in a rush to get rid of these items, I will simply move with them and wait until I am able to get the price I believe they are worth.
I took the opportunity to finally unravel two projects that have been hibernating for years. I was trying to knit knee pads out of the rainbow yarn. I think knitting is just not the correct medium for what I was trying to make. I was making a plain cardigan from the purple.
To be honest I’m not crazy about the shade of purple and the whole project bored me, hence the fact that it ground to a screeching halt. I have picked up a few cute sets of buttons on my travels, so I’m planning to re-make the purple yarn into a baby sweater.
A friend mentioned that she was in the market for some free yarn so I collected a big bag to give her. It’s yarn from my stash that I don’t see myself using, so I’m pleased to see it go to a good home. I put some yarn in my first batch of items going to charity and I’m a little concerned that it will end up in the bin. But what’s done is done.
While going through my knitting, I realised that I had a small moth infestation. I believe the source was the Clanger, which I have since binned. That Clanger helped to inspire me to go on this decluttering crusade, so I can’t be too cross. I think that the infestation was confined to one shelf and I have managed to freeze everything that was in the vicinity. Both of my handmade baskets had evidence of moth life. Even though they’ve been in the freezer, I am a bit scared that they may have been permanently sullied.
Actually moving was a bit of a reality check. Even though I managed to get rid of a lot of stuff, I still have an awful lot left. I’ve been lucky that the last two properties I have been in were houses, where my possessions could be spread out. Now that I am confined mostly to one room again, it’s much clearer how much I own.
I think I’m doing relatively well at not buying new things. I try to make all of my purchases thoughtfully, secondhand as far as possible. I am going to try and continue with a process of perpetual re-evaluation of my things, really thinking about what I use, am likely to use in future, and what I enjoy owning.