Families can be cruel

This has not been a great year. Lots has happened, including a traumatic 6 months with a charity group that has seen me all but driven away from my sewing community, had someone monitor my online presence, and had strangers speaking about me like I was a criminal.

That I can deal with …. and I am. Its frustrating, but it won’t affect me for long.

But …. I feel so very powerless right now. Because my mother is suffering, and while I can help in small increments ….. I can’t make things all that much better.

Mum has been caring for her parents, for 20+years. Encouraged on by her siblings (family politics are savage) my grandparents have moved back to their home town, taking everything in the house, leaving mum the cost and work of finalising and cleaning the rental, and then demanded the bond. All she got was her personal stuff, and the few bits of furniture that they let her bring into the house …. and then only because my sister refused to let them take it. They have left her with nothing and homeless. She is staying with my brother, but its a massive blow to her self esteem, to be so rejected and savagely treated by her own mother. 

And today, the government department instead of transferring her from the carers pension to the aged pension ….. just cancelled her pension, including her health benefits card. She has no money, no medications, and she is living in her son’s back pocket. 

I can make sure she eats. I can make sure she has enough for her smokes, even if I think she needs to give them up. My siblings and I can save up to get her a new place to live, and buy her the furniture and stuff she will need. She doesn’t want much, a caravan big enough to live in, in a small country village not far from my sister’s place.  Something small, that she can call her own, in a community that she can fit in to.  She wants to stand on her own feet, look after herself, and do things for herself for a change, but it seems like the universe has it out for her.  I can do nothing for the crushing despair she is feeling, at the loss of her independence, at being stepped on by her own family and now the government …… And I am a long way away.

xmas 2011 037

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Breaking the rules

Rule breaking, especially when you sew, is usually a recipe for disaster.  But sometimes the universe works in your favour, and you find yourself having a win for a change.

I picked this skirt up in a second hand store. A lovely, well worn denim, with a really nice coffee coloured raw dye appliqué. It was a long skirt, and a couple of sizes too small, but I could immediately see what I could do with it.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

And here is my first rule breaking. I probably should have measured properly, to ensure I got the length right. Instead I folded the skirt straight across, til I got to a point where it would go comfortably across my middle. I figured that given how I carry my weight in front more than back, this would give me the ease I would need. Then, just cut it off. This gave me a skirt that was sort of midway between an A-line and straight skirt.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

A quick try on showed that it was a little firm across the hips to get away with just an elastic waist. I unpicked the side seam and inserted a zip.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

I roughly cut two pieces of quilting cotton the same shape as the waist. These were stitched together at one side seam, and the I bound the bottom hem with satin bias binding.

These I then attached to the waist edge, turned to the inside, and topstitched along the top edge.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

On the back, I measured a width, and then topstitched again 2.5cm down, to create a channel for the elastic. I anchored the elastic at the zip side, and then threaded it through until I came to the other side seam. Pulled up the elastic, did a couple of try ons. Once it was tight enough. I anchored that side down, stitching all the way to the edge of the facing.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

After ages trying to perfect fit, I have come to the conclusion that the shape of my hips just works better with an elastic back. And since I normally don’t wear shirts tucked in, I am not bothered by it.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

I am genuinely surprised how well this worked out. Its a wearable skirt, at a good (not frumpy) length.


Posted in Gifts and Sewing Galore | 2 Comments

Are you beautiful?

I’m not ….. I know that.

Now before I get howled down, about how I need to accept my inner beauty, be a beautiful light, and many other such trite’isms …. please be aware, acknowledging my lack of beauty doesn’t automatically mean I hate myself.  I appreciate that my features are arranged into a generally acceptable face, not inclined to instil fear in small children, but also not likely to inspire sonnets either.  My face is round, prone to being ruddy, and not particularly photogenic.  I certainly have never mastered my “camera smile”, which means I don’t particularly like smiling in photos.

Mostly, this lack hasn’t bothered me much.  I don’t come from pretty stock.  My mother’s family tend towards the mannish in looks, well leathered skin, and tend to age not very well.  My father’s family tend towards the pointy chin, wicked witch look, especially as they age.  I would say, that in the scheme of things, my siblings and I have done the best we could, genetically, with the chromosomes we were given.

I don’t hold much truck with models, and actors.  Like fashion designers think of plus sized women …. I tend to feel those in the public eye, are verging on not real people.  So I don’t compare myself ….. or should I say I try not to.

But, I am an active part of the sewing community.   And so I receive newsletters from various pattern companies.  Todays was from StyleArc, who make wonderful fashion forward designs.  They value their customer base, and regularly send out their newsletters with photos of outfits customers have made from their designs.

So todays photo was a beautiful woman, in a stunning lace dress.  She’s not a model, or actress.  She’s not super thin, or plus sized.  She is a normal person, in a lovely dress.  But also, well at least in my eyes, she was beautiful.  A stunning prettiness,  along with a glow that spelled health and happiness.

I work hard to be comfortable in my own skin, but I must admit ….. just a tiny bit of jealousy.  Not terribly proud of it.

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Lounge Room quilts

The first of two quilts, that I made for my lounge chairs.

I completed both quilts last year, and unfortunately, my friend, who was long arm quilting them for me, had a massive rush of jobs, along with a couple of family issues, so they have been waiting at her place to be finished, all year.

This is the first quilt, a set of charm squares in a range whose name I can’t remember now. Quilting is a pantograph of some particular name, I also can’t remember. I do know that I chose it, as the swirls are a great counter point to the linear nature of the quilt.

Lounge room quilt #1

A close up, because we always like to look up close.

Lounge room quilt #1

The second quilt just needs to be bound, and then it will be done also.

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Who would you thank in your life?

I would like to thank ……. Naked Margaret.

Yep … naked. As a 12 year old girl, with a depressed and uninterested mother who had left her husband (my father) for the last time, Naked Margaret was a surprising, brief but powerful influence in my life.

You see, Naked Margaret was the final mistress/girlfriend that finally convinced my mother that Dad was no good. I only met her once, on an access visit with Dad. She taught me about personal hygiene, brushing my teeth every day, wiping front to back, let me shave my armpits and legs, and yelled at dad when he tried to stop me wearing a bikini.

But what she taught me most, was that you must love your body for what it is, not what you want it to be. She wasn’t a model, she was curvy and lush, with a mummy belly from her own 3 children. But, while making the bed with her one day, I looked up to see her dressing gown open, and the fact that she was naked underneath (where she gets her name from me). There was no hint of shame, or enforced modesty. She was who she was. She wore a bikini, she wandered the house in her underwear, and she took no rot from anyone.  It didn’t take her long to see through Dad and his rubbish, so she wasn’t in his life long enough for me to get to know better.

As sad as it was to watch my parents’ marriage implode, I value Naked Margaret’s brief appearance in my life more than anything.

Posted in Family | 2 Comments

Its just a body ……… and its only clothes

My sister has a policy with regards to food, and her picky food hating toddlers ……. its just food, there is no point stressing over it.  She developed this attitude when her first boy was 2, and she was struggling with getting him to eat, like parents all over the world.

After seeing a discussion about certain styles of clothing, it occurred to me, that the same attitude could be applied to clothing.  Apparently there are body shapes that “should never be allowed” (not my words) to wear certain styles …… overweight 50+ women in sleeveless sheath dresses was one no-go zone apparently.  And certainly, its a major issue, if an overweight woman wants to wear a bikini.  (how on earth do I show sarcasm?  italics?)

I wear a bikini …. a skirted briefs bottom (because my genetics blessed me with a fair amount of body hair I am not 100% happy with), a halter bikini top (because I don’t need a padded top, I have enough padding already), and then a sun protection shirt (its Australia people …. the skin cancer capital of the world).   After a swim with friends, I got out, and the first thing I did was strip off the shirt, before drying off.  One of the ladies that I was with was horrified, that not only would I reveal my flabby belly, but that I would expose everyone to the massive scar across my abdomen …. like somehow the evidence of my fragile health in the past, could somehow traumatise people.

Its just a body …… and its only clothes.

Thats it.  Its not rocket science, its not an issue that will cause imminent social breakdown, immediate world conflict, tarnish the silver, or stopping cows from giving milk.

It is taking a piece of fabric, shaping it into something you like, and then covering your body for warmth, sun protection or personal modesty.  What others think of it, what society thinks it can dictate, what your mothers group or the bitchy shop assistant at the mall says, and ….. most importantly ….. what faceless internet trolls with 2 brain cells write from the safety of blog comments …. does not matter.  If you like your clothes, and you are comfortable, then the opinion of others matters little.

Its just a body …… and its only clothes.

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns | 3 Comments

I luuuurrrrvvvvveee tulle!

Well, me personally, no I don’t.  As part of this Angel Gowns experience, tulle is a pain in the bum.  Its too stiff, and no use what-so-ever on the gowns.  It makes packing the dresses for storage quite difficult too ….. I don’t have infinite space.

LittleMadam however ….. thought that the tulle underskirt I removed from a gown, was a load of fun.

I wonder, should I make her a tutu of her own?

Nah … she would probably rip it up.

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Removing Overlocker Stitch – a tutorial

Just a quick tute today.  After overlocking (serging) the shoulder seams of two gowns today, I realised that I actually needed to complete the vests first.  So, hence a tute on removing overlocker stitch.

Hope this helps everyone.

Removing Overlocking tutorial

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Angel Gowns – Gathered Organza skirt overlay

Wow, its been ages since I did a tutorial.

Okies, so my latest wedding dress included a beautiful organza overskirt, edged with beaded and embellished white and silver lace.  Lovely heavy lace, that didn’t shed its blinking beads when I unpicked it.  Although, I did discover a pin.  Is it lucky to get married with a pin in your dress?  Well, I say it is.

So, faced with an unfamiliar fabric, I had to improvise.  And I think it went well.  I went for  simple rectangles of fabric, edged with bias, and then gathered onto the satin gown, with the gorgeous lace applied over the top.

Gathered skirt overlay

I have been asked to do a tutorial for this method, and I am looking forward to all the fabulous seamstresses within Angel Gowns, who will take this simple method, and create stunning gowns with them.

Gathered skirt overlay tutorial

As always with my tutorials, feel free to pass on to anyone that makes angel gowns, and would like to use them.  My only request is that you don’t remove my name from the tutorial.


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Angel Gowns – Tutorial

When I started making gowns for Angel Gowns, I obtained the patterns from Michelle, who is the creator of the wonderful Angel Gowns by michelle (in america).  While the patterns were passed on to her by someone else, there is no doubting that they are well thought out, and a good range of sizes.

But, like all creative people, I can’t help tinkering with things.  The original pattern included instructions for a facing.  In such a tiny item, I much prefer using bias binding on a neckline, as I prefer the neater finish.

As I put the patterns out to the other seamstresses for Angel Gowns Australia, I was asked for instructions on this neckline variation.  So I have created a tutorial for sewing the entire gown.  Because I wanted to include nice big photos, the tute is a bit big, so I split it  into three documents.  The first one especially can be a bit slow to download, but they are all PDF’s so they should behave.  (please accept any typo’s as a symptom of me just turning 45).  ;)

Angel gowns Tutorial – Part 1

Angel gowns Tutorial – part 2

Angel gowns Tutorial – Part 3

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns, Isabeau | 3 Comments