Sunday, May 30, 2010

In the immortal words of Take That... (Or: Anyone can learn to sew)

... "We've come so far."

Every time Ruby stays over at my parents' she comes back with something or other that she has begged, borrowed or stolen. Last week she came back with a little pink dress she had found hanging on a forgotten hook somewhere, the first thing I ever sewed for her.

It wasn't that long ago, maybe two years, but I'd kind of forgotten about it. I'd forgotten that when I started out I really didn't know how to sew. I just knew that I wanted to. Obviously the girl has grown in the interim so you'll have to forgive the fact that she looks like an extra from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but whatever allowances you make for that you will surely wince, nonetheless, to see the flaws in the shaping, the way the upper bodice gapes while the lower bodice barely makes it across her belly...

... the, um, generous armscye and the poorly finished seams.

The wonky stitching...

... the seams that didn't quite stand the test of time ...

... and the raw edges ...

... raw edges everywhere you look.

It made me really happy to see how for I've come in what seems now to be quite a short time. I've learned everything I know from sewing blogs, tutorials and books, from my marvelous mum, and from good old-fashioned trial and error. When I started I couldn't sew a buttonhole; I didn't know how to set in a sleeve. I had never sewn elastic, never used bias binding, never sewn a rolled hem or a french seam. Back then I didn't know what a placket was, let alone how to sew one. If something got ripped, or stained, or outgrown, it went to the charity shop, or in the bin. Now when Ruby outgrows a dress, I make it into a skirt. When my jeans don't fit properly, I alter them. I couldn't find a dress I liked enough to wear to my friends' wedding next weekend, so I am going to make one instead.

Two years ago I was no better at sewing than when I walked out of my last needlework class aged eleven. Now I feel as though I've always sewn. There is so much that I still want to learn, I'm standing right at the foot of the mountain, but it's not intimidating any more. I don't look at something I want to make and decide against it because I don't know how to sew in the zip, or what to do with the interfacing, or because I don't like the sleeves quite like that. Not any more. Now I look at something and work out how achieve what I want to achieve. I know that few things are as hard as they look.

So, that was the first dress I made for Ruby, which was only ever worn once or twice, which never really survived the wash, but which, like everything else I make her, was stitched so lovingly, with so much care. It was my prototype.

My other prototype turned three yesterday, but this one can't be improved upon. She's perfect just the way she is.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Carbon Positive blogging

I have to say, it has never crossed my mind that my blog could be generating CO2 emissions. Never even thought about it. Then I saw this post over on Eco-Strip Down and it made me think, so I pottered over to Ixpo which got me thinking even more.

Ixpo is pioneering the Plant A Tree initiative, planting one tree for every blogger who signs up, which means that this is actually a practical difference in the world that you and I can be a part of. I'll bet that the CO2 generated by your blog never crossed your mind either, did it? It may look like a tiny amount, but apparently someone highly intelligent has worked out that every visit to your blog causes about 0.02g of carbon dioxide (think computer usage, electricity hours and server cooler systems). That may not sound like much, but add it up and an average blog attracting 15,000 hits per month generates 3.5kg of CO2 a year. Now, I may not be attracting 15,000 hits a month (yet!) but here is the other beautiful aspect to Ixpo's initiative - it won't cost me a thing to offset my carbon emissions anyway, and you can do it too.

Click on the green "Carbon Positive" button on the right to add a button to your own blog, and Ixpo will plant a tree in your name. All you have to do is write a post about it and email them with the link, and you too can proudly wear your green button. I don't know why this concept appeals to me so much, but it really, really does. It's made me smile to think that because of something very simple I can do, there will be one more tree in the world that I am leaving my daughter, and in my mind that's enough to make it worthwhile.

Addendum: Sorry I've been a bit absent lately. There's a lot going on and it's taken over a bit, but normal services will be resumed shortly, I promise. x

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Insomnia-induced creativity

If jet lag is the mother of industry, then insomnia must, at the very least, be a distant cousin of productivity. I have forgotten how to sleep. My body seems to have forgotten it needs sleep. Actually, that's not strictly true. When I do sleep, I sleep really deeply and really well, but I am down to about five or six hours a night – four and a half last night – and I am a big fan of sleeping. I love to sleep. Until I had the small one, I was a nine or ten hours a night girl.

So, while I am not necessarily thrilled about this state of affairs, it is true that fewer sleeping hours mean I have inadvertently got my wish for more hours in a day – more waking hours at least – and I have been making and doing and fixing and... did I mention making?

I have very nearly gotten my act together and finished Ruby's room. I have finally screwed the dimmer switch, which I wired in over a year ago, to its back box. I have put up the roman blind I made for Ruby's room, with my very own drill. Yes, all right, it's pink, but it's still a power tool, okay? I am woman, hear me drill things! Rah.

I have bought and bravely ridden a bike, with my precious spawn on the back, on actual roads. This clearly was not done at night, so doesn't strictly qualify to be included here, but it is kind of a big deal for me, seeing as how I haven't ridden a bike in well over a decade. It was the shame and lasting trauma of failing my cycling proficiency that did it, you see.... So I am somewhat proud of my newfound roadworthiness, and thought I'd just squeeze it in there.

Sewing-wise, I have done loads (and thrown away a fair proportion of it on account of it being embarrassingly badly sewn tat, which perhaps goes to show that insomnia is not all good – but let's not dwell on that). Success stories include a shirt-to-dress refashion using this tutorial (I'll stick a piccie up when the girl is not asleep in such close proximity to said dress), a few nighties, since the girl, for no obvious reason, has renounced pyjamas, and a nice little bunch of summer dresses and tops, all from half yards I have been collecting.

This is my pick of the bunch:

A sweet little smock top made using Anna Maria Horner flannel;

A stripy pinafore dress....

.... with a cute appliqué on the back (which, because I quite like how the heart-on-the-bum-look turned out, we are going to pretend was not accidental);

And Ruby's election night dress, a lovely soft peasanty tunic, based on this tutorial, completed at about three o'clock in the morning when the reds and the blues were neck and neck, and I gave in and went to bed.

There's also a really awesome skirt, which happens to be in the wash, but you get the point. I think I have made more in the last week than I have in the last month put together. I have also learnt that lining and reinforcing things, while taking a little more time, makes oh-so-much of a difference to the end result. So, in conclusion, as much as I am wary as to what the long term consequences of sleep deprivation may be, as long as I can keep up this kind of productivity I am not going to complain. For now at least.