A soggy day in London town / Why I’ve been quiet

(Note: it was wet when I started drafting this post on Wednesday morning.  It’s since brightened up!)

Well, um…hi everyone.  I mean, hi to everyone who hasn’t given up on me after about three weeks of silence!  Sorry about that.  I hope you’ll believe me when I say I have a fairly good reason for being quiet.

I (sort of) alluded to some changes in a paragraph of my last post, but now I can explicitly say that my silence on here has been because I started a new job just over a fortnight ago!  The offer was on the table, and I’d accepted it when I last posted, but…you know how it is – or I hope you do.  I wanted to wait until the contract had been signed and I was a little settled, but time got away from me and before I knew it, April was nearly over.

FashionTechContract StaffGardenAs you can see, I’m now a part-time fashion technician in a busy London college!! 🙂 🙂  Incidentally, this college is a place very dear to my heart; I’ve been taking various FE courses here for several years and know it well.  Plus, working as a technician, or having some kind of technical role in industry or education, has been on my wish list for a couple of years now.  I had a fairly near miss at Central St Martins some time ago (this was a maternity cover post for a knitwear technician), and the experience and feedback was certainly enough to keep me on the path of hope.  I’m glad I stuck to my guns!  Typically for the first few weeks, it’s been a steep learning curve, but I’m far from bored – and most importantly, I’m VERY happy and grateful.

The last few weeks have been about establishing a new routine and working patterns for both sides of my professional life: I’ll still have my freelance teaching running alongside the technician commitments, but the one difficulty has been, and still is, working out how on earth I’ll fit in any design work.  At least a couple of commission briefs have come and gone (read: necessarily ignored) over the past few weeks.  The honest answer is that I’m not sure if publishing my work in magazines is feasible.  Any future designs will have to be intermittent and/or project-based.  I’ll just have to see what does and doesn’t work, and do my best as always – but the blog is ahead in the queue.  I’ll never stop writing!

So, that’s the big news.  Here’s a round-up of everything else:

SoniaDelaunayTicket WomenFashionPowerTicket

Last week I visited the Sonia Delaunay retrospective at Tate Modern, and nipped into the Design Museum to catch Women: Fashion: Power before it closed.  The latter exhibition had its good points; specifically the current and historical examples of how past and present high-profile women have appropriated clothing at pivotal moments in their lives, but it was a bit overstuffed and I think it needed more ruthlessly focused curation.  I ended up feeling as though I was just zigzagging (literally and figuratively) through a chronology of women’s dress history.  Fewer, more insightful and in-depth examples would have been better and created more cohesion.

Sonia Delaunay was also a big and spectacular exhibition, but I will definitely need to visit again and buy the catalogue!  I’ve never read about Delaunay in depth; only observed how frequently her name pops up and vaguely thought “I must follow that up” – and now I see why she’s heavily referenced.  I was completely bowled over by her life’s work and how prolific an artist and designer she was.  I’d like to write in more depth about this after the second visit, which I hope will be in the next few weeks.  Until then, JUST GO AND SEE THE EXHIBITION if you can.  Highly recommended.

ChouxJumper3 ChouxJumper4 ChouxJumper5The blue chevron jumper continues.  I’m now onto the second sleeve and might have that done by the end of the weekend – it’s a bank holiday so it’s likely to happen ;-).  The view from my window this morning demotivated me a bit (a cotton lace jumper in this weather?) but summer isn’t far away, and I’ll be glad of it then.  It’s my first summer knit, and at this rate it’ll be the only one!  But I can’t fall into the trap that many of my freelance friends have done and neglect my personal knits.  It is hard finding time to make something current, but personally speaking, part of the job is to model and inspire.  As a teacher, there’s almost nothing better than having a student or acquaintance ask whether you’ve made your jumper/cardigan/dress/etc and being able to say YES.  It allows newcomers to the craft to visualise what they can achieve, the kind of garments or accessories that they can make and how it can fit into their lives.  I wear something handmade to every class that I teach, even if it is just a scarf.  The possible kicker is when I do that, as was the case last Friday at Woman’s Weekly, and someone asks about my dress instead of my cardigan – or coat or scarf!  *sighs*

ColetteHazelFabric ColetteHazelLayplanI have slightly more chance of getting some sewing done, and have been organising and buying patterns for quick and easy summer dresses.  I downloaded and pieced together the Hazel dress from Colette over the weekend, and played around with the cutting layout this morning.  On the right of the shot is a metre ruler.  Yep, that’s right: I managed to get all the pieces onto a length of 150cm wide fabric measuring just over a metre long.  The entire cutting is 1.5m, so lots left over.  Yes, I do need four pocket pieces instead of 2, but the other half of each pocket bag will probably be made in a lighter, preferably cotton, lining fabric.  The fabric you see here is a light cotton lawn from Sew Over It, so not heavy by any means…but even so.  Old habits die hard!

Long overdue sharing is my 1960s coat (just need to badger someone into taking a photo, and more importantly, look vaguely presentable for said photo), and when the hem’s done, my very first jersey dress.  I squeezed onto the Nina class at Sew Over It and soaked up as much as possible of Sue’s expertise with jersey fabrics, and to get the pattern for this little number.  It comes together very quickly – always a bonus – and it’s easy to wear.  Shift dresses have a habit of being boring, but the ease and functionality makes them a practical, versatile choice.  Nina is perfect here because it has the comfort of knitted fabric and added interest from the side pleats.  Mine were quite drapey and a little Grecian because of the lighter-than-recommended fabric I used from my stash, but lovely all the same.  Thicker, ponte-like fabrics give a more structured, tailored look instead of a relaxed one.  Below is the grey I used for Nina 1; Nina 2 will be this funky little print I’ve had hanging around for YEARS.  The pieces are all cut out and waiting for me to do the necessary.  Patiently, of course…;-)

NinaDress1Fabric NinaDress2Fabric

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last to be shared are a few things that made me smile.  The first is the only thing I’ll post on here about the upcoming general election in the UK; the second is this sweet little cat’s effort to brighten up everyone’s day; and finally, some silly laundry symbols!  Until next time 🙂

FunnyLaundryIcons

 

Merry Christmas

Hello everyone! Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas; I hope your wishes come true. The festivities are fairly low key in my corner of the world, but here are a couple of photos featuring two very different but equally cute little trees in my household. They’ve put a smile on my face and I hope they do the same for you. Love, Natalie x

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Bite off more than you can chew…and then chew like hell

BiteOffMoreThanYouCanChewThe title of this post sums me up in many ways, besides explaining why there have been a few weeks between this and my previous post!  For as long as I can remember, I have been keen on shovelling as much food into my mouth as possible, making my cheeks bulge like a squirrel or chipmunk.  Food is delicious!  Why not eat it all at once?  I never gagged, never choked: just marvelled at how good I was at stuffing my mouth.  The main thing was that I could chew, and so long as that was possible, the food would be swallowed…eventually.  Bite-sized portions are for the fainthearted.

I think my hair will be completely grey before I understand the merit of breaking things down into manageable portions.  Digesting food is one thing; digesting work is another.  My latest commission has not been a manageable portion.  I decided I would set myself a challenge and design something large with relatively unusual features.  As I write, the final piece of the body has been cast off and the finishing touches await.  It has not been easy.  On the plus side, it’s lovely to see the garment so far bears a resemblance to the idea in my imagination.  But I am SO glad to have a break from it whilst the pieces block.  It has been a very intense process, and one of my most challenging knits to date.  We’re talking fairisle on a large scale – specifically, over 350 stitches on my needle at one point!

FairisleSneakPeekI’ve gained two things from this: one, a new appreciation of what it means to “break the back” of something; and two, attained a new level of stamina, fortitude and perseverance insofar as the design process.  Climbed a bigger mountain than ever before, scaled new heights – or plumbed new depths.  The kind of experience that gives you perspective when it’s over and makes previous challenges look easy, or at least make you think “maybe they weren’t so bad after all”.  And, of course, reaffirm your inherent creative madness!

Did I mention there was a deadline involved?  Not that I had to, I suppose 😉

Then, just to ram the point home, a little top I was sewing – the Sorbetto freebie from Colette patterns – went wrong.  It was only meant to be a quick fix, a little side project.  Ha!  It now lies embarrassed, unpicked and forlorn, waiting for my attention.  I hate unpicking.  I hate it with a passion.  Especially when the mistake is of my own making and seemingly avoidable.  In this case, it was a rookie error of not checking the measurements properly.

SadSorbettoThis irritation at unpicking is – at least partly – yet another symptom of perfectionism.  Creativity is its inherent fallibility and imperfection, the constant striving and perseverance to ensure that each project matches the imagined prototype and contains fewer flaws than the last; for that is a perceived indication or measurement of progress.  But is a flawless project a perfect project?  Perfection is a harsh, unyielding yardstick with which creative folk regularly beat themselves.  And yet, as you unpick and try to keep yourself from coming undone, it is impossible not to absorb the dedication, diligence and care that goes into garment construction.  It brings a new respect for and appreciation of how things are put together and the constituent steps and techniques that comprise the whole: the crisply pressed seams, the neat uniform stitching perfected over years of practice…out it all comes to be put back together.  Hopefully for Sorbetto, it will be a better fit than before, and my chest won’t be crushed.

There is something about undoing or unpicking that forces you to confront something chaotic about yourself, in a different way than you do when you create something for the first time, confronting the chaos within yourself and giving it form.  Undoing is often a revelation, retracing or retaking steps.  Is it irritation at not having got things right first time?  Is it frustration at having to go backwards, further away from the light at the end of the tunnel?  Is it a revision of old lessons learnt, little habits or niggles that you thought you’d mastered or tamed years ago?  A loss of or lapse in concentration due to tiredness, overload or interruption?  Something that you didn’t see in the moment, but now looks obvious now that a break or key juncture has passed?  Would I have messed up Sorbetto if I hadn’t already been chewing frantically – like hell?  I knew my mouth was already full, and I stuffed more in anyway.

In theory, these errors are preventable, but are they truly avoidable?  Can they ever be eliminated from all possibility?  I think not, but they don’t have to be one’s undoing.  I will always need to keep an eye on the portions I intend to bite off my fork; it is a personal chaoskampf of mine, a place where I walk the line between order and chaos.  I eagerly overstuff when I’m enthusiastic and the clock is ticking, but when I am relaxed, I eat slowly, savour every mouthful, and am last to finish.  Sometimes, there are rare singing moments when I get it right and am able to chew comfortably like others can.  It’s my plate, it’s not going anywhere, and there is enough time.  I just have to remember not to put too much on it.

 

3 days until the Fringe Christmas Bazaar!

Yes, that’s right, I am onto my second (and last) Christmas fair of the season!  This Saturday 7th December, I will be at my regular Muswell Hill haunt, Fringe108, for their shindig.  I’ll be demonstrating knitting and crochet techniques, people can stop by for drop-in sessions or advice, and I’ll also have some of my Frosted Flowers patterns for sale and the sample pieces available for people to see.  Those who’ve had a go at crochet and know the basic stitches can have a go at making this cute snowflake:

Snowflake

I’m particularly excited about being at Fringe this Saturday because it is more than just a knitting shop – it is a beautiful boutique filled with inspiring examples of artisans’ work.  Not only can you buy quality wool – you can also buy amazing crocheted wire jewellery, gorgeous hand-printed scarves and other textile or clothing items lovingly created by local designer-makers.

When I first visited Fringe, back in the summer, I had a great time poring over the displays and marvelling at the talents of other people; this weekend, these ‘other people’ will become names and faces as I finally get to meet them!  It’s a lonely life being a sole trader or designer/maker, and in between making crocheted snowflakes I’ll be doing my best to make sure I meet everyone responsible for making Fringe’s colourful, enticing shelves…well, colourful and enticing!  The shop is going to be decked out in all sorts of lovely decorations and I will do my best to capture some photos to share the Christmas spirit of the day.

As Advent has begun, I am now prepared to entertain the notion that Christmas isn’t far away; therefore carols and hymns and other festive things can take centre stage.  This also includes knitting Christmas presents.  I have drastically cut down on the amount of things I make for people at this time of year, and this year I was particularly grateful to have done so given that it has been an extremely busy six months!  Luckily I am blessed with patient friends and relatives, including the dear friend who’ll be the recipient of this cheerful yellow coat:

SunnyXmasCoatThe design you see is from Kim Hargreaves’ Smoulder and is called Holt.  There is no way that it’ll be done by Christmas – I told you my nearest and dearest were VERY understanding! – but it will be done before spring arrives; of that I can be sure.  The yellow colour is gorgeous and I can’t wait to start knitting with the yarn, it has been a while since I made anything out of Big Wool and the near-instant gratification offered by super chunky yarn is always a winner.  My friend is super-excited about her almost-Christmas coat, and I can’t wait to cast on!  ‘Tis the season to be cosy, cheerful and making something either snuggly or delicious…I’ve been told to look forward to the mince pies on Saturday 🙂  If you’re in the neighbourhood, do stop by Fringe.  It’s going to be a wonderful day!