I decided to sit down and reflect on the year since my last attempt turned into a post about future intentions. 2018 has been very much a mixed bag for me. Work has been mostly very challenging and I need to put some serious time into considering the next steps in my career. It’s hard for me because my mother really hammered into me the belief that a woman must have her own source of income. I have worked really hard to have a decent job that pays quite well. Although one of my core beliefs is about the importance of excellent universal free education- it was the route to independence from dangerous families for both my mother and me- this job is simply not my passion. While I don’t mind doing it, I’m not excited to get out of bed on weekdays. What does get me excited is the things I write about here- making things and reducing my impact on our one and only planet.
It’s been a funny year in my craft life. My output has decreased every year, but I really see this as a positive. I want to focus my time on making a small number of items that are of the highest quality I can achieve, that meet the demands of my everyday life, and that last.
This year I sewed seven items. They are also a mixed bag and as follows:
The two Lark tees… meh. I have definitely learnt to stop buying jersey online. There are big variations in quality and that is the main issue with both of these tops. The cloud version does get worn sometimes but the black one is in the big bag of items I have that will one day be cut up into t-shirt yarn.
The Lindens… also meh. I love the look of the boat Linden but unfortunately the discrepancy between the weights of the fabrics did tell and the neckline has started to pucker. However, it has reminded me of how much I love pattern- and colour-blocking so I imagine there will be more of that in my future. The other Linden is nice enough, but just a bit boring. I don’t wear it much.
The olive blouse I was so proud of making does get worn, but I want to replace it with something better. The mistakes I made- especially sewing the neckline facing wrong and making a hole in the button band- mean that this is not going to be a garment that lasts for years. It was intended as a wearable toile, so I guess it served its purpose. While I really like the sleeveless blouse I made, I am very annoyed with myself for using cotton even though I know that I don’t like cotton tops.
The biggest win of the year was my corduroy trousers. Which is quite funny because it took me so damned long to make them. I guess it’s a reminder that projects that aren’t much fun to make can be great fun to wear. I adore these trousers.
So I guess that one of the main takeaways of the year has been to be super mindful about my fabric choices. I am very happy with my choice to state the costs associated with every make. It’s helpful for me to be clear about what I spend on craft. I wonder if it’s also interesting for non-crafters (though I’m not sure how many still read since Facebook links stopped working). People have definitely commented on how ‘frugal’ I must be since I make my own clothes. Of course they wouldn’t say that if they knew that my handmade coat cost over 600!
Especially when fabric comes out of stash, it’s easy to see it as ‘free.’ But of course, it isn’t. I believe someone has started a hashtag wherein she documents all the time it takes to make things too. I think that’s an interesting concept but I’m not sure if it would work for me. For sewing, yes. But knitting is generally something I do during ‘dead’ time such as travelling and watching TV. It would be logistically challenging to document.
I have spent time both on larger-scale alteration projects- such as unravelling two unworn jumpers to make a new one– and small-scale repairs that extend the lifespan of clothes I love. I have also made a few things in my zero waste journey, like my produce bags and dishcloths.
I have only finished one major knitting project this year- the sweater that took ten months to make. Again, I am happy to take more time to make better items rather than churning out loads of things of which I’m not that fond.
It’s been a good year for me physically. I only ended up achieving one of my three fitness goals, mainly due to breaking my finger. However, I know that I am stronger, faster, and better able to endure than ever before. I keep wondering when I will reach my fitness ceiling. However, my body continues to amaze me with the things I am able to do. This year I ran my first 10k.
Some of my fitness goals
- Lift over 100kg in lower body compound lifts
- Lift over 50kg in upper body compound lifts
- Unsupported handstand
- 5 pull-ups
- Enter at least two more races, aiming for sub-25 5k and sub-50 10k
Finally, I started bullet journalling this year. I like the way I have been able to record some aspects of my day-to-day life. However, I have really struggled with the planning/future logging aspect, which is actually what would be more useful for me. I was also hoping that the bujo would be a creative space, but I haven’t realised this wish.
I was looking back on some of my very oldest blog posts recently and I remembered how much I used to love making cards. I haven’t made a card in years, though I suppose I have also largely stopped giving cards. My craft life has exploded but this has been at the cost of my more artistic side. When I was at school, I spent hours and hours every week drawing and painting (I did art and graphics GCSEs).
It’s tough because there are only so many hours a day. I already work full-time, undergo psychoanalysis, play quidditch, go to the gym, knit and sew my own clothes, cook almost everything I eat, live a low-impact lifestyle, travel as much as I can and maintain a blog! That’s not even to mention socialising, life admin and rest/self-care.
However, as my weekly screen time reports attest, I do somehow manage to spend hours a day on my phone. I want to use the hours I have well.
I started out thinking that this post would be a review of 2018. Perhaps I will write that post elsewhere, but as I thought about what I have sewn this year, I found myself reflecting more on what I hadn’t sewn.
I would like to make 2019 my first official year of mindful making. I have loads of projects that I would love to make (and, importantly, I have all the resources) but they continually get bumped down the queue when something shiny catches my eye. One of my intentions for next year is to unsubscribe from all fabric shop mailing lists because I am a weak human being and when I see beautiful fabric I can’t resist buying it.
1. Kelly anorak
2. Pencil skirt wearable toile
3. Day dress
4. Monstera shirt
These are all garments that would fill very real gaps in my wardrobe if I would only sit down and actually make them.
While I have enjoyed taking part in the ‘make nine’ challenge for the past two years (2017, 2018), I will certainly be letting go of the aspiration to make an arbitrary number of items.
Something else I will be reflecting upon is the idea of ‘using up’ stash, i.e. king things with the primary aim of ‘getting rid of’ fabric or yarn I already own. While I think it’s important to use what you have before buying more, it is also important to use the right equipment for the job. I know all too well that a poor fabric choice is often the reason for a garment going unloved. Therefore my focus will be on using materials that will give the best chance of a great final product. Where I have stash (which fortunately has always been something I have generally avoided), I will simply accept that the item is in my life and wait for the right time to use it.
As examples, I have been planning to make a shirt with some of my Liberty fabric for a while. This would ‘get rid of’ some of the tana lawn I bought a few years ago in one of their sales. However, most of the shirts I love wearing are made from drapey fabrics like silk or viscose. If I make a cotton shirt, I’m not sure I will wear it as much as I would like. So I will now take some more time before deciding what kind of shirt I would like to make.
Similarly, I had planned to ‘use up’ the sweetie-print fabric I bought in that same sale as the lining for my Kelly anorak. The two fabrics don’t go that well together but it’s a way to ‘get rid of’ something I don’t have an immediate use for. After a re-think, I have decided to use whichever cotton I like best as the lining. The RTW raincoat that they Kelly will replace has been in my wardrobe for well over seven years. I want to look fondly on my Kelly each time I wear it rather than thinking that the lining isn’t quite right.
I’ll write a separate post about my knitting since this one is rather long already!
I have been using the same cheap(ish) watch for over four years now and last week the buckle broke. I don’t know if people are aware that Swatch offer free battery replacement for life on their products, but they also offer free replacement parts.
Having my watch fixed took me on a bit of trip down memory lane. I can see why watch manufacturers get celebrities to wear their products. In at least half of the pictures there are of me, you can see my watch. In fact, the watch must have the lowest price per wear of anything I own!
I couldn’t even remember the original of the thingy that holds the end of the watch strap down- you can just about see in the above pic that it was light blue.
I feel like the Swatch is a product that is at the same time disposable and sustainable. I think it’s wonderful that such a big company does something so simple yet revolutionary as offering free replacement parts.
At the same time, the man in the shop commented on the age of my watch when I took it in. I guess that reveals how few people take their watches back there. There is no inherent reason a plastic watch shouldn’t last for years. But I imagine that the relatively low price point encourages the idea of getting a new one quite often.
I myself look at the Swatches every time I am at the airport and have nearly replaced my model several times. In fact, I even bought a new Swatch two years ago only to have to return it.
Before I thought to ask if the Swatch shop had free parts, I had compared the models available online and chosen a replacement. It was quite hard to walk away from the watch I’d chosen to buy. While my current watch will eventually fall apart, I really don’t need a new one. But I would quite like one.
I commented in a previous post about how I naively used to deny the impact that capitalism and fast fashion have had on the way I think. I’m glad that I this is something I’m becoming more aware of.
Almost a year to the day after my thumb sprain, I have managed to break my left ring finger.
I broke it in the semi-final of Southern Cup and I have to say that I have very few regrets.
This injury has been a reminder of the importance of context. Had we lost the bronze medal match, I would probably be devastated and depressed about the finger. But since I broke it in the service of my beloved team finally achieving a podium finish (something we’ve been working towards for the whole three years I have been playing), it feels worth it.
That being said, I do have to accept some new limitations now that I only have eight fully functional fingers (the broken finger is buddy taped, which means I basically have one massive finger that I can’t bend). I haven’t been to the fracture clinic yet so I’m not sure how long my finger is likely to take to heal, but at the moment I’m estimating a month. I’m trying hard to eat well and rest to give my body the best chance to heal quickly.
I’ve been away a few times over the summer and mostly on holiday from blogging. It was a broken-up European tour encompassing France, Slovakia, Hungary, Finland and Spain.
Going away has made me much more aware of what being zero waste would mean giving up. It hit me when I was in a petrol station and wanted a pre-made chilled latte. The ZW option would have been to get a coffee in my keep cup and wait for it to cool down. When I’m at home, I’m happy to make an espresso frappe thing. But the idea of drinking a cold filter coffee was just too depressing to contemplate.
Apparently coffee is my main trigger because I had a similar dilemma later in the summer. ZW option: Nescafe. Preferred option: single-serve iced latte drink. I was too much of a snob to drink the instant. So many of my favourite tasty treats- crunchy Cheetos, Bugles, different kinds of chocolate and cheese- are packaged in plastic. I’m glad that my eyes were opened a bit more, even if I’m not sure how I will approach this dilemma.
I got my third OddBox the week I returned home properly. I didn’t use it for anything glamorous enough to photograph but all of it has been used a little under a week later.
Just before the summer I started having terrible sugar cravings in the afternoons. I realised it was because I had got into the habit of having a protein bar every day. Although the ones I have are ‘low sugar’ (AKA filled with horrifying chemicals that I almost certainly should not be consuming), they taste like a chocolate bar. Clearly my body had become accustomed to having its daily sugar hit. To be fair, I have always had a sweet tooth. I just don’t remember having such strong sugar cravings.
I picked up some more dates to make up some more caramel bite things to snack on instead. I bought the dates on impulse at the supermarket so they were inevitably packaged in plastic. Next time, I will get them at the Source. I added a ‘no single-use plastics’ item to my habit tracker and I haven’t been able to tick it off once. I’m quite strict and include everything like milk cartons and yoghurt tubs. Still a long, long way to go.
A disadvantage of trying to reduce waste is becoming hyper-aware of how wasteful society is. Here I share things that have bothered or worried me.
- I can’t seem to find a plastic-free moisturiser. Neither of the shops near me with bulk options stock one. I guess one idea would be to try something from Lush because they at least reuse their tubs in a closed-loop economy.
I managed to see another inspirational exhibition in Helsinki. My flatmate and I were visiting our Finish friend and I read that we were just in time to catch the Grayson Perry show at the Kiasma gallery. I went to see his exhibition when I was in Bristol for a conference less than a year ago but was still keen to see more.
Folk Wisdom contained some different pieces to the last Perry exhibition I visited. Again, I was impressed by how prolific he is as an artist and how he brings methods that might be traditionally regarded as craft into the realm of high art.
I love Perry as a cultural commentator. The image below is just part of one of his huge tapestries, itself part of a series. However, it really captures an issue that comes up a lot in my work as a psychologist.
I’ve been noticing how artists that inspire me have included my current interests in their work. For example, the textiles on show at the Frida Kahlo exhibition I visited. Similarly, I was taken by the garments Perry had made.
I have been getting more interested in beading since doing some work on the vintage jacket I picked up. I’m hoping to do an embroidery and/or beading class at the Royal School of Needlework soon. I noticed that part of one of Perry’s tapestries was beaded.
While in Helsinki we were staying near an adorable LYS called Snurre. Of course I coudn’t resist possing in and my flatmate was very patient while I looked at every single skein in the shop. I had hoped to get yarn that was linked to Finland in some way but they were a little low on stock. I ended up getting this, which I plan to use for some new fingerless gloves/mittens to match my planned Kelly anorak, if I ever get around to making it. I impulse-bought the buttons, which are made from coconut husk and would be perfect for a cardigan.
I also picked up this hemp yarn at the local craft store in my friend’s hometown. I’m planning to use it to make some plastic-free kitchen scourers.
Finally, we managed a visit to the national craft museum in Jyvaskyla. I highly recommend it. It’s got lots of interactive exhibits, which are always a plus for me. I resent not being allowed to touch stuff in museums. I tried my hand at the loom pictured and I’m even more sure that I want to have a proper go at weaving.
A few weeks ago I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibition that is currently on at the V&A. Titled Making Herself Up, it displays a lot of her personal artefacts. I believe that her husband’s will requested that Kahlo’s bathroom remain sealed for a number of years after both of their deaths. The exhibition explores how she created and curated her image as well as how she presented herself in her artwork.
I thought I knew quite a lot about Kahlo before attending the exhibition. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was under that impression. I never really studied her when I was doing art at school. I was going through a phase of antifeminism at the time and for some reason picked Roy Lichtenstein as the artist I studied for my GCSE art project. Many a regret was had.
Anyway, it was really interesting to learn about her life and how it influenced her as an artist. In particular, I had no idea that she was disabled.
One of my favourite parts was seeing the display of her clothing. Her personal style evolved quite a lot over the years and she seemed to be very mindful of her image. I liked the way that she wore traditional Mexican clothing.
Many of the pieces were embellished with beautiful embroidery or beading, which must have been done by hand. It was also interesting to think about how Frida’s dress enabled her to present herself in the way she wanted in spite of her health and physical challenges.
I felt quite an affinity with Frida through the exhibition, in particular a love of colour and being inspired by flowers and animals. I had chosen an outfit especially to wear to the exhibition. Sometimes I curate my image very carefully, but there are also days where I don’t bother. I generally don’t think that I dress in a notable way until I see a picture of myself in a group and realise that I am wearing every colour of the rainbow while everyone else is monochrome!
I tried to get a selfie with the Frida earrings I couldn’t resist buying from the gift shop. I discovered that, even with a machine designed to take self-portraits in my pocket, I’m not very good at it!