What singing taught me about sewing

What singing taught me about sewing

Some of you know that I’ve been having voice lessons… for about six months now.

I’ve always wanted to learn to sing, but it’s difficult to summon up the courage to try a new hobby. I mean, the courage not just to try it, but to sustain that courage long enough, and keep practising long enough, to feel really good at it. Good enough to really enjoy it, you know?

Well courage is neither here nor there, now.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve been forced into voice lessons by a problem with my vocal cords. It’s not so much singing lessons as “voice rehab”… because although my singing is alright, speaking is a struggle.

I don’t know how it began – maybe stress, maybe a physical issue that cleared up and left bad habits behind; all I know is that I am physically fine – the doctors can find nothing wrong – and yet right now, my speaking voice is a croaky, whispery mess.

What does this have to do with sewing? Stay with me.

Every day I’m bustling

Every day I’m bustling

You’ve heard it before, I’m sure: you need the right foundations to get the silhouette right.

Sometimes you need them even when you re-purpose historical dress as everyday modern dress, and discard the corset.

I’ve been working on an 1890s wool skirt to just wear around the house this winter. I drafted it from an original set of instructions in the Keystone Jacket and Dress Cutter, with a smooth front, and a back that explodes in acres of gorgeous pleats. I should have guessed that this plan led to an engineering snafu…

Creativity and your mental health

Creativity and your mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week passed me by last week, ironically enough, in a haze of anxiety. Yeah, newsflash: I deal with this stuff too.

So many of us, from the everyday knitter, painter, writer or sewer to the celebrated household name, accept a terrible imagined bargain… that we must pay for creativity with our sanity. But despite my own issues, I have come to believe that I don’t have to take this crap lying down.

Having been there before and made it back to reality, I find these days that I know what to do. So here it is, for what it’s worth, my tried and tested bag of tools for maintaining good mental health (or regaining it when it’s eluding me). Borrow any that speak to you, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

How to Make Do and Mend, Victorian Style

How to Make Do and Mend, Victorian Style

I love wearing vintage, but sometimes I feel bad about wearing really old clothes… especially if an accident happens. 😖

My favourite vintage dress shirt has been hanging in my sewing room with a 3″ L-shaped rip for months… and I finally decided there was only one thing to do… mend it the same way its original owner might have done…

Why should you put yourself out there?

Why should you put yourself out there?

They say that winning isn’t everything; it’s about the taking part, right? Right. The “taking part” is a journey of discovery. It’s a trajectory that takes you places you’d never be able to go otherwise.

As far as I’m concerned, you literally can’t lose when you put yourself out there, in a competition or in any other capacity. You can only win. Isn’t that worth a little bravery?

1955 Dior-esque accidental Disney princess gown

1955 Dior-esque accidental Disney princess gown

I had so much fun making this dress, and it was remarkably comfortable to wear. The foundational corselette was made in breathable cotton bobbinet. It was hooked tightly at the back but not drawn any tighter than that (as a corset would be), so it felt like I was in my pyjamas compared to any Gala gown I’ve made in the past. Being strapless, my shoulders did not feel restricted, which is so often a pain point for me, and I genuinely felt like an ultra-femmey 1950s Enchantment Under The Sea dance princess. I could have worn this dress for days! So if you’re considering this style, I highly recommend having a go. I wouldn’t mind making another myself!

All the love and support you need is already here

All the love and support you need is already here

Tell me if this resonates.

You’re an artist – it’s in the fabric of your being. You have big ideas, beautiful ideas, and you love to get out those delicious materials and get “in the zone” whenever life allows, so you can make a little bit of the beauty of your inner world REAL in this world.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes your head is just in the wrong place. You get scared/anxious/blah/down, and the beauty stays inside you.

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s painful to keep it all inside.

So how do you create more “uptime”, get that creativity out of your heart and into the world, and minimise the challenging times?

Why is the bust so small? Dior and the H-Line

Why is the bust so small? Dior and the H-Line

You might make a lovely dress or corset from a reproduction pattern, and that’s great, but what if you could go deeper? What if you could look over the shoulder of the premiere at Dior’s atelier in 1955? What did they do differently from us, and why?

Like a curious five-year-old, try to ask “why?” just one more time than the next person. For example… why is the bust of this Dior evening gown so small?

Follow along as the Internet hive mind figures it out from primary sources… with surprising results.

“Hey, you should come to Paris with us tomorrow!”

“Hey, you should come to Paris with us tomorrow!”

In September last year, two friends came over for a geeky museum study day at Barrow-upon-Soar in Leicestershire, UK. Lowana and Karolina missed their train back to London… and in a delicious plot twist, 24 hours later I was alighting from a Eurostar train inside the cavernous Gare du Nord in Paris.

And the result was my current fabulous dress project…

Stop being so hard on yourself

I know I’m not the first person to say this to you. Friends or family members can continually tell you to be kinder to yourself, but here’s the thing… we rarely listen, you and I. We’re so busy trying to be “good enough” (whatever that means) that we just keep pushing, criticising ourselves, trying, trying, trying. You have to, right? That’s how you get the dress finished. That’s how you make your dream business a reality – or make whatever else it is you are creating in your life real and solid. You have to work. HARD. As hard as you can stand. No, harder than that… And it’s not that we don’t get it – we do. We know we should go easier on ourselves in theory, but if you’re anything like me, it’s a sort of “yeah, sure, I’ll do that tomorrow”, half-assed agreement. We don’t really absorb the advice, much less act on it. Or at least I didn’t… until I had a very strange experience this week. For the first time, I quite literally saw myself as others see me, and I GOT it. I really understood thoroughly, for the first time, that I really DO need to lay off on the self-criticism. Let me take five minutes and share this experience with you in person… maybe you’ll even try it yourself so you can see...