Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happiness on a String

I've been learning a lot of personal lessons over the past year and a bit.  Important lessons about patience, humility, gratitude, and self-care.  And I ran away from these lessons as fast as my little legs could carry me.  I tried a new blog, deleted said blog, stopped blogging, and essentially slowed my crafting down to a tortoise's crawl.  Not such a genius decision for someone whose identity is heavily artistic. 

Learning to accept and care for myself as lovingly as I care for my family and friends was something I was determined to only give lip service; I was FINE, I didn't need this kind of thing.  'Pshaw on self-care! I laugh in the face of that!,' I said smugly.  Oi vey, was I wrong!  But like anything that is important to self-growth and awareness, those little lessons are tenacious buggers and eventually caught up with me.  They laid me flat out on my back for three months and made me pay attention.

What I learnt is that I have an incredible husband who loves me without reservation.  An amazing daughter who we have taught to be loving and nurturing.  Friends who totally understood me and were patiently waiting for me to stop behaving like Chicken Little and come back to myself.

And I did find my way back.  I did, finally, sit down and pay attention to myself and the universe around me and opened myself up to positive growth.  It wasn't always easy or fun, but it was damn necessary.  Those three months I spent at home on sick leave at the beginning of this year were a huge personal challenge.  But I got through it. I listened.  I learned.  And I finally accepted the importance of valuing myself and my own needs. I'm a bit late to the self-care party but I got there in the end!

It was very simple once I decided to stop fighting.  Simple acts and thoughts reinforced this decision, such as seeing a display of lovely glass bead necklaces in my local thrift store.  I have always loved glass beads - the way they feel cool in your hands and how they sparkle like stained glass when the light hits them.  So, I bought the necklaces.  I looked at them; hanging them near my windows so I could see the light and colour bounce around.  It made me smile.

Funnily enough, rainbows were consistently appearing to me during those months.  Not just after rain, either.  On Instagram, Pinterest, or on a t-shirt a girl walking by was wearing.  Later on, after putting together a small collection of neglected necklaces, I started to take them apart.  I restrung them, in rainbow order, and made them new.  I wore them with everything and it started to feel like I was carrying a rainbow with me; all that happiness that comes from the sheer amazement of a simple natural phenomenon.

I started making more and more; bracelets, too.  I added healing crystals, such as yellow jade (happiness in crystal form, essentially), as well as pretty bits and pieces.  The simple act of stringing beads on jewellery wire was so restorative; it was healing.  I made so many necklaces and bracelets that I essentially strung my way back to me.  The real me.  The pink-haired, quirky handmade clothes-wearing, Mary Jane shoe-loving me.  ME! I listen to music more, I listen to audiobooks that I love more, I visit my local yarn store for knit night and it's good.

As I was working on one the other night, I thought others may enjoy them, too.  Maybe they need a bit of rainbow in their life?  Maybe they love the way the light hits the colours and makes it sparkle like stained glass?  Maybe a bit of happiness on a string would brighten their day, too. So, I decided to list them in my Etsy shop.  Because the simple act of happiness should be shared, shouldn't it?

* * * * *

I am in the process of putting my blog back together.  I had a big email clean out several months ago - you know when you end up with 7 separate email addresses and have no idea how they got there? Yes. Like that.  In any case, after I deleted some of them, it totally messed up all the pictures on my blog - it removed them from all my posts. Oof!  Slowly but surely, I'm adding them back in.  :)

Thank you for hanging around here all this time.  I appreciate it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Yesterday, I finished knitting my first ever shawl.  I love it!

I had never knitted shawl before thinking that they would not be practical for my wardrobe and that they were generally knit with 'skinny' yarn that is hard on my hands.  I was wrong on both counts.

This is the Miami Vice shawl.  I knit is as part of Katie and Erik's Void Shawl KAL.  Sadly, I couldn't knit the Void Shawl as the twisted stitches and knit fbf increases were too hard on my hands.

Miami Vice calls for either fingering or worsted weight yarn but I chose to use a sport weight yarn from my stash.  This is Knit Picks' Wool of the Andes Sport in Red.  This had been in my stash for ages and I had originally bought it to knit Pomegranate.  Sadly, I have developed a sensitivity to wool of late and a pullover knit with this will most likely never get worn.  Shawls, however, are a layering piece and have minimal direct contact with my skin.  I count that as winning!

I followed the instructions for worsted weight yarn and added an extra increase row and lace repeat to get the size I wanted.  I also chose to bind off after an increase round as I liked the more solid look of the edging.

There are mistakes in the lace but my perfectionist self actually doesn't mind this time.  I wanted the experience of knitting a shawl to see if I like it, as well as to have practice accepting minor mistakes now and then.  I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to crafting perfection.

I knit this Continental style and I found the weight of all the stitches and fabric easy to work with.  I used a 4.5 mm circular needle as that's what felt best in my hands.  I played a mean game of yarn chicken during the bind off and managed to win by a 4" tail! Whew!  All told, I used 5 balls of yarn.  I love the impact of the simple lace pattern and rufflely edge.  I plan on bringing this piece with me when I visit England next year (cannot wait!!).
I knit this over a 3 week period, mostly whilst I was watching BBC's The Musketeer's final season.  I've named the shawl Sylvie after a very strong female character who I really enjoyed.  I won't post spoilers here just in case you haven't seen it all yet.  Trust me, though, watch it.  If you've never seen the series, seasons 1 and 2 are on NetflixTom Burke is magnificent as Athos.  I would happily pay good money to have access to BBC's iPlayer.  *sigh*

What's on your needles?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Wardrobe Architect Progress

I have been quietly working away on my own Wardrobe Architect (WA) over the last several months. In an ideal world, I would be a minimalist with a carefully curated home and wardrobe. While I am working on a balanced minimalist home, slowly and carefully purging our home of items that are not meaningful, useful, or joyful, when it comes to my wardrobe, I tend to be a more-is-more lady with a heavy dose of practicality.

Following Christine's journey through WA and using Pinterest as a visual guide, I have able to conclusively sort out my favourite colour scheme, patterns, and silhouettes.  I have a palette of neutrals with a few bright accent colours that I love. This has been so helpful and has made shopping for fabric and yarn a real pleasure - no more closet orphans!

I prefer very simple silhouettes.  How I feel in an outfit is often much more important to how I look.  Julie Arkell and Iris Apfel have been important in learning to embrace my quirky sense of style. My favourite silhouettes are:
  • Renfrew tees.  I've tried a lot but keep coming back to this one.  My ultimate layering tee.
  • Maxi skirts and dresses, particularly in jersey
  • Cigarette trousers or skinny jeans worn with tunics
  • Shift or empire style dresses.  I love Colette's Laurel dress and Made by Rae's Ruby Dress.
  • Pinafore dresses (Ruby Dress is my favourite)
  • Wide leg trousers worn with pullovers, cropped tops, or simple popover tops.
  • Cardigans
  • Scarves and handmade jewellery - particularly crystal and glass beads.

When I find a pattern that fits, I like to make several versions in different colours and prints.  I'm not afraid to hack well loved patterns into new combinations, like this 4 pattern hack maxi dress below.  I wear this constantly during the warmer months. 

My favourite striped jersey maxi dress made in 2015

Simplicity patterns are my favourite from the Big 4 as they require very little alteration to fit.  I have recently gone a bit bonkers for Marcy and Katherine Tilton's patterns for Vogue - such amazing avant garde designs. 

Independent designers like Marilla Walker, Rae Hoekstra, Christine Haynes, and Salme Patterns appeal to me for both their simplicity and ease of construction.  I like the impact they make because of their overall clean lines and relaxed fit.  I can install a mean lapped zip, but at the end of the day, bias ties, elastic, or shirring are really what I want to wear. 

With regard to pattern and fabrics, stripes and polka dots are my preference with a good Liberty-esque rose print thrown in for good measure.  Dark floral prints are a secret vice - you should see my stash!

Yesterday I dragged out my warm weather clothing and tried. it. all. on.  The bad news is that at least 2/3 either isn't my style any longer of doesn't fit.  The good news is that I do have some garments that I like and fit comfortably.  I ended up donating many of my 1950's style fit-and-flare dresses as they no longer fit and aren't really my style for everyday wear any longer.  It felt really good to pass these on and I hope whoever finds them in our local thrift store loves them as much as I did. I did save a small size bin of favourites that I just don't want to part with right now.  For some of them, the fit is off and for others, it's the sentimental value. 

I have invested in a few new patterns, including the Dottie Angel frock, which I like as a tunic, Marilla Walker's Roberts Collection, Christine Haynes' Lottie Dress, and a bunch of neat Marcy and Katherine Tilton patterns. I'm now at the stage where I'm matching fabric with patterns; trying to use as much from my stash as possible. I've had great luck with thrifting great quality fabric lately, including a 2m piece of grey striped French terry which will become an Astoria sweater. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wardrobe Architect

If Christine Haynes had not done her Wardrobe Architect (WA) series this year, I don't think I would have come back to blogging. The challenges started when I turned 40 three years ago and my body changed.  My figure changed and I felt as though I were a stranger in my own body ; weight distributed itself differently adding both curves I like and curves that I don't.  It was feeling tricky to find outfits that felt good.

Christine's unstintingly honest posts as she worked through the WA steps were exactly what I needed. I found myself eagerly awaiting the next installment.  I admired her almost clinical approach to distilling her style; it made sense to me.  After a while, I looked at myself with kinder eyes.  I felt my confidence in my abilities as a maker returning, little by little.

I even (finally) solidified my own style: Phryne Fisher meets SylieVartan meets crazy art teacher! 

I read about the Spoon Theory and re-evaluated what was truly deserving of my finite reserves of energy. I thought about social media and which ones were important.  I thought about blogging and how I wanted to approach it so it would fuel and not drain.  I wanted a personal place, a positive place, and a creative place.

Pushing the reset button has never felt so good.