Time, Beauty And Achievement

Every now and again I will tend to write a little on why I continue to make and create, re-invent and imagine and, ultimately, why I still maintain this site.

The reasons I have had have changed somewhat over the years, from the previous incarnation of Eskimimi Knits being a way to contact the world through what was sometimes a fog of depression with the few rays of brightness in the form of things that I had created, through the flush of creativity found with new love, new joy and a new beginning to now, where it remains such an important part of my life.

Every New Stitch

I work a pretty normal office job. For eight hours a day, five days a week I sit at my desk and do my best to achieve what I can within my role, but my role is ever-changing, and I feel, like I am sure many people do, that whilst I am moving forward and doing great things it is often towards a constantly shifting set of goalposts. Work, for many people, is frustrating. I can feel personal achievement but can also feel overlooked and invisible. I can envy those people who feel valued, but I try to remember to value myself, and this is where what happens once I get home makes it such an important part of living.

Every single day I try to do something for me. This isn’t as entirely selfish as it sounds: If my husband wants one of his favourite but too-baggy t-shirts converted to something a little more slim-fitting (a recent brand-new shiny halo’ed skill of mine!) then I feel as if I have achieved something for myself, even though the recipient of the item is someone else. This is because it is an opportunity to use my skills, try new ones and learn something for my own growth – it is an achievement for me.

Sometimes I can return home exhausted. There have been times when the effects have been physically draining, and I know that for many people that I speak to this signals a time to it and absorb the television, passively letting the creations and images of someone else wash over and into them, and I think that if this is what helps you to relax, and is this is where someone finds their time of peace then that is perfect. But I just can’t do that. And maybe this is the selfish bit: If I get up every day and spend eight hours doing all I can to further things for ‘The Man’, I want to spend some of my remaining energy furthering myself and my life: making things more beautiful.

I can come home from a day in the office with my brain aching with figures, ideas, worries and problems, but I make sure that every single day I do something for me. This might be an hour knitting, cutting sewing pattern pieces, or just a few minutes pinning a seam together in readiness to sew another day. Sometimes it could be as little as ten little hand stitches before I put the piece down too tired to concentrate, but I still make sure I have made that tiny bit of progress, because every new stitch means one tiny achievement towards having done something for this person who is still finding herself and can feel her views and outlook changing almost daily.

Making Home The Most Important Place

The things I make are not always practical. Sometimes they are, and even those that aren’t I will make because I intend to use or enjoy them in some way.

I make things to use, own and wear because I want my efforts to go into building that life in the hours outside of work. This is where my husband and I can affect our most radical changes to make things better for us, where we can do things for no other reason than that they please us, so when I make something I try to make it beautiful. By making the ordinary parts of life beautiful (and beauty can be in the form of humour, or functional form; it doesn’t always have a relation to the ornate) then these moments at the end of each day, or at weekends, can build beauty into every experience at walking into a room.

Those Seams I Can’t Adjust

I have been trying to feel a little more brave in my convictions of the things that I make. If making an item of clothing I will invariably make that thing because something about it makes me happy: so polka-dot fabric with interspersed bunny rabbits and squirrel woodland scenes have both made their way onto my clothing recently, and I have had to almost psyche myself up to wear these things that I really do enjoy, as I run the balance of being thought of as maybe someone who is a bit eccentric. It’s a difficult decision each morning: I want to feel happy, and I want to feel happy in what I wear, and the things I make are the things that make me happiest… but at the same time I also want to fit in. Not blend in so much that I disappear, but also not be the ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ of the office. Add to this that I have terrible self-confidence issues about the way I look and my appearance, and some days I can get myself into a tangle judging whether I can allow myself to be ‘me’.

My website gives me a place to feel comfortable in myself, joy unrestrained in the clothes that I wear. This doesn’t make mean that I don’t get terribly anxious having my photo taken, or squint as I upload pictures so that I don’t look at myself too closely, but I am trying to almost force myself to just live with the way I look, and if I can come to term with the basic form of the person underneath then maybe I can just let my clothes be part of my personality. I had a comment left on my blog this week, not on my clothes but on the person underneath it, telling me something that was wrong and that I should change it. I’m just a soft-bodied creature like any other, and luckily these types of comments are rare, but my body and face are not things that I can adjust the seams of, change the colours of or take in or out a few inches like I can my clothes.

This website is part of my non-work achievement, where I get to talk about some of those parts of my life of self-accomplishment – the small goals made through single stitches that enrich life to give me something to look forward to every single day: ideas to sometimes keep me awake at night and new things to build life around. If you are kind enough to enjoy these little journeys of invention, creation, beauty and achievement with me, then I very honestly and sincerely thank you.

Love Crazy Cat Lady* (who doesn’t have a cat)

(But does have a Giantmonk.)


Time For The Greys To Make An Appearance

A few days ago, whilst I was sitting at my desk contemplating a thirds coffee of the day my colleague turned to me and asked ‘Mimi, did you make that top yourself?’ Much as I would like to think that this colleague and friend was paying me a compliment, I don’t think she was. I don’t think she was being cruel, more ribbing me a little, but I wasn’t too worried as the world would be a dull place if we all dressed the same.

As it happened, I had not made my top – I had actually bought it in a sample sale at a store called The White Stuff, where I had picked up a number of bargains. It was a white cotton top with an invisible zip in the back and short little sleeves. Simple and (I thought) cute.

When I got home I wondered what it was that made it look like something I might have made myself, which lead on to me wondering if I could have made it myself. Before I knew what I was doing I was knelt on the floor in my bra, tracing around the shapes of the blouse as best as I could to try and understand the construction. The front piece was made from two piece of fabric, the back was constructed from four more, and then there were sleeves and the collar: 10 pieces in total. Looking at the bits of fabric in my cupboard I found a single metre of cotton printed with trees and squirrels which I could just about squeeze the requisite body and sleeve pieces out of, though making the two collar pieces from an uninterrupted piece of fabric was going to be impossible – a problem that I would think about later.

I cut and pinned all of the pieces as best I could and set about the sewing. I’ve noticed that as I have been sewing each subsequent project that my work has started to grow neater and more refined as I start to re-assess techniques and the way that I finish my sewing. A very short while later and I had myself a little blouse.

The shape and fit of the garment are pretty much identical to the original blouse, which felt like an achievement in itself. I had to make a few changes to the original due to the issue with fitting the collar pieces to the piece of fabric. I could have made one of the two collar pieces from two pieces of fabric joined down the centre and used a separate plain piece of fabric for the underside of the collar, but due to the way the collar was fitted to the shirt this would in fact men that the collar seam ran straight up the front centre of the neck. My other option was to make each of the two collar pieces from three pieces of the fabric to avoid the centre seam – forming the collar from six pieces in total.

In the end I decided it was all too much of a bother and to do away with the collar all together. Far simpler.

The fitting of the collar actually seemed to give some stability to the neckline, which was lost without the additional fabric. I decided to combat this by bringing the neckline in slightly. I thought about adjusting the neck via the should seams, but I decided to go with a little creative fabric manipulation and cheat by making a little pleat to bring the neckline in and sit nicely over the collarbone area.

Ok, so it’s a bit of a shame that I couldn’t quite fit the collar into the length of fabric that I had, but I think that a blouse out of a single mere of fabric is quite good, especially when you consider the strongly directional nature of the print. Anyway, what the neckline lacks in collar it has made up for with stitches, because I found a double/twin needle in my box and realised that I had never used on of those, so threaded the machine and got to work with two perfectly parallel rows of stitches. I loved it so much that I also used it to sew the deeper hem at the bottom of the blouse.

And how cute are those squirrels? It might seem like I am on some kind of mission to make all my clothes from squirrel fabric at the moment after my Autumn Skirt and matching Tunic, but it’s a complete coincidence. I’ve had this single metre of fabric hidden away for quite a while, and now I have a full compliment of red squirrels and their grey cousins (and I know there is a lot of strong feeling in the red vs grey squirrel debate, but this fabric is so very cute either way.)

But this may be the end of the squirrel clothing line. I have looked at my remaining couple of pieces of fabric and there’s not a single bushy tail remaining. It’s probably for the best as my colleagues are likely think me a bit nutty.

No apologies are made for the above pun.

New Tunic With Split Sleeves – And More Bushy Tails!

After wondering what to make with the rest of the squirrel fabric left over from making my skirt last week, and then pondering what fabric to use to make a tunic from my new sewing books the obvious answer finally came to me. Actually, it had occurred to me as soon as I received the books, but I was doubtful that I would be able to get a top out of my remaining pieces of fabric – half each of the 1.5m of Squirrel border print and the 1m of accompanying small tiled print. But, as it happens, with a little bit of imagination and a few modifications I managed to get the pieces to fit and I have made myself a top which some might think is a little silly, but I don’t care as I love it.

I managed to keep the bottom hem just about straight enough for the yellow leafy border at the bottom edge of the fabric to remain in tact and at a pretty even depth all the way around the top, which was the one thing I was worried might unbalance the tunic.

The top itself was very simple to make, and the instructions easy to follow, though I had to make a few modifications to accommodate the smaller amount of fabric that I had. I had to shorten the design somewhat, and had to make the front and back each out of two pieces – using the small tile print up to the underarms and then the border print from the underarms to the hem.

I used the plainer fabric for the sleeves, also, which I think works really well as it keeps the design only to the main body piece, and stops the one-way print design from being confused around the sleeves.

I also made one further modification to the split sleeves. The original pattern called for the sleeves to be kept tied by making small string ties from the fabric.

I might have had enough fabric to achieve this, but I didn’t actually check, partly because I was feeling too lazy and partly because I thought the ties would probably eventually annoy me, especially if they ever fell open. Instead I decided to sew a few tacking stitches across the gap at the point where the tie would have been located and instead to sew a decorative button at that point, to finish the sleeve off nicely.

Unfortunately I never actually had any suitable buttons in my collection, so I had to make a couple from polymer clay, but I think the overall effect is quite good with the new buttons in place.

I have also made a few spare buttons in case I should wish to add another further up the sleeve, but for now I think I will wear it as it is, unless my arms start to get too cold.

Overall I’m very pleased with this top. The bright bold and cartoon-like print is fun, and most people wouldn’t think twice about wearing a similar print on a T-shirt, but that’s often wear people’s comfort with wearing such graphic designs tends to finish. I’m sure this fabric was initially intended to be worn by children, but I don’t mind raising the occasional smile, or eyebrow.