Tuesday, June 28, 2011

the mending mentality

Do you mend stuff?
What do you keep? What do you throw out? How do you decide?

I don't think I'd ever mended a thing until about three years ago, when I first started sewing. I didn't grow up sewing or making or mending, so it just didn't occur to me to try it. 

Pretty shocking really, to think that until that point in time, it did not register that I could, and should, try to salvage my clothing. I have no doubt I threw things away for want of a new button, or altered hemline. I guess I really did think of clothing as essentially disposable. 

Now I have a dedicated basket for clothes which could use a patch, a stitch or a potential refashion. Some things sit in there for long periods of time. At the moment I'm finding myself delving in more frequently, when I have a spare ten minutes, because it's great to do something a little productive, a little resourceful, a little achievable; something that feels a little bit like creativity even though it isn't. 

I confess my mending is not neat, or pretty, or clever. Sometimes it doesn't work very well. Many clothes are too 'past it' to make them salvageable. Still, it's become important to me to try to give my family's clothing that second, third or fourth chance. Not because we are short of clothes or need to be frugal per se, but because we're working to build more of a make do and mend mentality. Respecting what we own, taking better care of it, avoiding the desire to toss things out or 'upgrade' just because. 

While I was stitching away at this rip in my husband's shirt, I felt a renewed determination to keep working at our ethical clothing pledge. I'll save an update on that for another time, but I've certainly been less consistent in the last year. The mending pile betrays some poor clothing choices on my part - next to the third-hand toddler jeans and the accidentally-ripped work shirts, there are items that were just ill-fitting, bad-quality, 'disposable' choices in the first place. They sit there awaiting some refashioning inspiration, reminding me to think harder next time.

Do you have any mending tales to inspire me with?

Monday, June 20, 2011

This Just In: Bonnets are BACK!

Move over beanies and bucket hats. It's all about the bonnet now.

What a charming way to protect a precious little head from the elements.

Until last week I was slapping hand-me-down beanies on Susannah when we went outdoors. Then Christy of little betty asked me to try out her sweet, reversible little bonnet pattern.

What, get to try a new pattern?
Complete a sewing project?
Make something pretty and functional?
Take gratuitous shots of my daughter?

I was so happy to oblige.

Susuannah herself was slightly less obliging in the modelling department...

Amore enthusiastic model was found in my friend's delightful girl, Baby V, who wears the little bonnet for you in both its forms below:

I think Christy's PDF pattern for her little betty little bonnet is first class. It comes with three pattern sizes (0-6 months, 6-12 months and 1-2 years), each of which can be made from two fat quarters of fabric. As you can see, the 0-6 month size I made fits newborn Susannah (loosely) and also 9-month-old Baby V. It looks adorable on both, if I do say so myself!

Christy's step-by-step instructions are clear, concise and easy to follow. I find sewing small, curved things a bit tricky but Christy included helpful photos, tips and explanations which guided me through the finer points to produce a well-structured, well-finished little bonnet.

I'd like to add that I think the pattern is quite a bargain at $6 USD from Christy's little betty etsy store

Of course you could just cut out the work and buy one of her gorgeous bonnets already made up - but then you'd miss out on the fun of choosing the fabrics out.

Speaking of which, I'm off to look through my stash to find fabrics to make another bonnet for a 1-year-old, and perhaps another one for Susannah lined with flannel, and maybe a softer one using some reclaimed embroidery... yes, bonnet-mania has struck!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mystery sewing

A month ago I started having recurring dreams. Each night I found myself transported back half a lifetime to high school. Each night I would bumble around innocently reliving my youth, until the inevitable horror struck. And each night, it was the same horror: I would find myself in a classroom, only to discover that I was about to sit an examination, in a course that I had apparently signed up for but failed to attend for the entire year.

I'm no interpreter of dreams, but for me that one is a no-brainer. It's a classic procrastination dream. Clearly there was something I was avoiding that I knew was going to catch up with me if I didn't acknowledge it pronto. Only I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I was trying to tell myself. Outstanding bills? Nope. Work deadline? Oh, that's right, I haven't had one of those for about two years now. Event horizon which is causing me stress? Come on, the only major event of the year was birthing a child, and that's done and dusted!

 Finally, last week, I got it. It was about the sewing machine.

The poor sewing machine. It's been packed up in a box since well before we moved. We parted on bad terms - it had lower thread tension issues, I had unpicking fatigue. I was waiting for the perfect time, the perfect project, the perfect motivation to get back on the horse. Of course there wasn't one, so  last week I plucked up the necessary courage and just did a spot of mystery sewing.

Here's what came of it... and it remains a mystery!

When I started foundation-piecing these kimono offcuts together, I think I was envisioning a scarf. Initially, I cut my patchwork into three long strips and tried them around my neck. But no, it wasn't quite right. So I sewed the strips back into one piece, but in a different order.

Then I thought maybe I'd go for an Obi. I added wadding, and backing, and two waist ties. And then I put it on my waist and realised that THAT IS THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH I would like to draw attention to at the moment. Particularly with a big, bright, thickly padded belt.

Now I'm flicking between 'table runner' and 'fancy baby change mat'. Except in either case, it's really not practical, as vintage silks and brocades are not the most washable of fabrics...

Perhaps you have a thought about where this mystery sewing could end up?

The sewing might not be going anywhere obvious, but the sewing machine is back in action and you'll be pleased to know that I'm not waking up in a cold sweat screaming 'what's the square root of Shakespeare?' anymore.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Self sufficiency? Not so much.

Let me present to you the pride and joy of the clutterpunk garden, the cream of the harvest so far this year:

Yes, that's it all right. A stumpy, warty-looking zucchini.

Anyone want a bite?

We have a way to go before we are dining out on homegrown food here. Since moving out of our two-bedroom, no-garden flat six months ago, team clutterpunk have harboured lofty ideals of 'living off the land'. 

Actually, our ideals aren't that lofty. We're not planning to become survivalists, but we do want to gain some gardening skills, spend time outdoors as a family and grow at least some of our own edibles. And given that my previous record with plants reads 'herbicide by neglect', I figure it's going to take some time to get the hang of things.

Our garden has an inner-urban Mediterranean heritage, with an 'Italian Lawn' (otherwise known as cement). So we've gone with a raised no-dig veggie garden. Ours came from the lovely guys at the Little Veggie Patch Co. Sadly, our first plant-out was disastrous (so sorry, Jon and Mat - our fault entirely). We've replanted for winter and have higher hopes for our garlic, leeks, onions, beets and swedes.

I guess, when you tend towards learning by intuition or feel as I do, mistakes are the way you learn. We inherited these lovely old laundry tubs, but have since learned about the necessity of adequate drainage - hence the mildewed zucchini. 

So we punched a heap of holes into the bucket o' rocket, and that seems to be thriving. Drainage... check! And now we need to learn about planting in succession rather than tipping the whole bunch of seeds in at once. 

Well, it's going to be one fine week of rocket when it happens!

But the failures are hardly failures. There is much pleasure to be had just in the process of creating and tending a garden. With the little bits of learning and activity and beauty it provides, the actual productivity is fairly secondary to us. A few months back the boys spent an afternoon with their Grandma exuberantly planting beans willy nilly throughout our containers. Who knows what they will produce, but it's a delight to see them climbing up the fence and spilling out of the herb pots.

And if nothing else ever takes off, we do have this glorious, heavily-laden lemon tree, poking through its hole in the cement. God bless the Italian migrant population.
Even with just the lemons and a handful of productive herb plants, I feel almost giddy with the potential of it all. I can dress salads! I can flavour pasta dishes and garnish pizza! I can make lemon cordial and lemon curd and put zest into everything! Imagine what I might feel like if anything else takes? Positively self-sufficient!

And now I might go and julienne that zucchini. Or grate it directly into the compost. Either way, I think my thumb is definitely looking just that little bit greener.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Creative Space

I don't know what this is yet. I'm just making for the heck of it.  This is the first bit of machine sewing I've attempted in over six months, and it was simply time to stop procrastinating and start sewing - just anything, anything to break the drought. Sew first, think later.

So I'm playing with kimono off-cuts and foundation-piecing, much like I did for last year's muff. I'm not sure what it will become or who it will be for, but I do like a bit of mystery sewing - I think it's how I operate best. Otherwise I would have stayed stuck in the thinking, choosing, tracing, cutting, measuring, and still not have cracked the machine out. Now it's done and the drought is broken.

I'm getting this bit of sewing and blogging in because it's been an early start to the day. The boys got up at 4:30am - FOUR THIRTY!! And on our busiest day of the week. I stayed in bed until the babe called for me at 6am, but when the Beloved left for work I switched on the TV without guilt or reserve and shut myself in my new craft room. (Yes, my own room - so novel, so fun, I can barely get my head around it!). Soon we leave for the day, and I can just leave this sew-your-own-adventure project out for later.

Creative spaces now meeting over here - hope to see you there!