Sunday, October 18

One Hour Top.

Having sworn that I no longer wish to wear t-shirts the obvious move for me is to make one. Because I'm contrary. I'm pretty pleased with this, even though this picture did make me exclaim with horror about my um assets. I'm standing like that so you can see the batwing element of this t-shirt and have now made a mental note never to stand in this position again unless I wish to slightly scare someone. Still, sewing is supposed to be all about coming to terms with your body, isn't it? Actually I have much further to go in the department of coming to terms with photographs of my body, which also explains the lack of head. I'm wearing no makeup and my face bears the wrinkles of the pillow I just removed it from, so headless photos for you it is.

Do I look like I need the loo?

Back to the pattern. It's a freebie from Fancy Tiger Crafts. I was between sizes and my hip measurement suggested a large, but  I had a moment of genius and measured the bottom hem of another t-shirt which indicated a medium should be OK. It was a lovely easy sew, and probably would have taken me an hour only if I hadn't spent at least an hour staring at (swearing loudly at) my machine manual trying to work out how to do a stretch stitch. It turned out that the answer was 'stop sewing and read the manual again when you haven't spent all afternoon struggling to write an essay', because it was actually very simple: change the stitch width. The fabric came from the Woolwich Market man, cost £2 a metre and is probably synthetic. It's the kind of thing I would never in a million years buy to wear because usually I am scared of patterned lest I end up looking like a sofa cover. As it turns out I rather like the pattern which is pleasantly autumnal and I even seem to have centred it successfully. I carefully used a ballpoint needle to zig zag the seams after the thread kept breaking when I used the stretch stitch (didn't work that one out, just gave up on it). I had terrible troubles with the zig zag dropping stitches until I changed back to a normal needle. I'm a bit stumped by this, it could be the tension but I tried changing it several times and it still dropped. Fortunately by the time I got to the neck I'd changed so that bit looks reasonably OK, and the rest is mainly black so doesn't show much. I also used some Steam-a-Seam as recommended by Karen from Did You Make That? which did indeed make the hems much easier. With luck it'll also counteract the dodginess of the dropped stitches.

I shall be making another, I think.

Sunday, October 4

Pattern Paralysis

I have all these patterns and a pile of fabric but I don't seem to be able to start anything. Options include the Drapey Jersey Dress from the Great British Sewing Bee book (got some black ponte but is it the right ponte? What is the right ponte?) Anderson blouse from Sew Over It (will it suit a slightly wide middle aged person?) Aster Blouse from Colette (looks a bit hard), several freebie t-shirt patterns (I've recently decided I don't like t-shirts, after 25 years of almost continuous wear), numerous free patterns from the fronts of sewing magazines and let's not even think about all thise Seamwork patterns that  I'm not getting around to. It's too much choice, isn't it?

Pattern Paralysis. What's the cure?

Sunday, September 20

The Sutton Blouse of Doom

Let me state for the record firstly that I don't think there's anything wrong with the Sutton Blouse pattern. It's a perfectly nice pattern and I've seen some very lovely versions of it. I got my version from Indiesew, which is also a great site and quite likely to cost me a lot of money in the future. I hold no grudges with the pattern.

My version however is godawful on several levels and for several reasons.

Firstly: the fabric. It's a silk viscose mix that I got for £3 a metre (hurray) from the fabric stall outside the public market in Woolwich. It's bright red which in my opinion can never be a bad thing, and it has an embossed pattern which I think looks great on the roll, even if I wasn't entirely sure which was the front and which the back. However it was a bit of a bugger to cut out and being not the most entirely patient person in the world I probably could have made a better and more accurate job of it, which would have prevented a whole lot of pain later on.

I've also spent some time examining other people's versions of this blouse and come to the belated conclusion that it looks better made from a fabric with a print. However you swing it, this pattern does have a faint hint of the hospital scrubs about it, and in a plain fabric I think this is emphasised.

My next issue was the seam allowances. Oh god, 1/4 of an inch. As previously mentioned I'm on the less patient end of the spectrum and happily admit that being precise isn't high up my list of talents. So the 1/4 seam allowances properly kicked my arse, especially considering that the fabric was fairly slippery. Plus for some reason the thread kept breaking, so much swearing ensued. Swearing is high up my list of talents.

Now we come to the difficult issue of shape. Sutton Blouse: it's not you, it's me. I'm a fairly short (5ft4 on a good day) wide sort of a middle-aged person with broad shoulders and I give good chest. I spend a LOT of time searching for slightly short, slightly wide middle aged women with boobs wearing things I want to make on the internet to check that I won't look like a short cylinder when I'm looking at patterns and perhaps I should have looked longer and harder at this one. However I think the print thing distracted me. I suspect I could have got away with going down a size (always hard to work out given my shoulders), so then I might dislike the vision of boxiness I see in the mirror when I look at myself wearing this garment.

Let's not mention the fact that somehow I managed to make one of the back flaps (that is the technical term isn't it?) longer than the other. I have NO idea how. Please see accurate cutting. I think it stretched while I was swearing at the seam allowances, too. Frankly by the time I'd got to that bit I wanted the damn thing finished so that I could hide it in a drawer.

Here it is, then. Bear in mind that this is the most flattering photo I could manage to take of it.
It's always possible that like the Hollyburn Skirt that I made and loathed myself in, I will have a Damascene conversion about this top and decide it is the best thing ever. I'm not convinced.

Thursday, July 5

Drawing again.

It seems that artistically, I took May and June off. I'm currently fairly preoccupied by trying to find a job for September, as my contract at my current school ends at the end of this term. I came very close to getting a job that I really really wanted and it took me about a month to get over that. 'Does not handle rejection well' should be written at the bottom of my CV. Recently I've been joining teaching agencies like there's no tomorrow, so it looks as though I shall be supply teaching come September. This has never been part of my plan but I tell myself that it's an opportunity to go to different schools, meet different people, try stuff out. That's my inner Pollyanna talking. I shall probably want to punch her come September.

Actually, I lie: I have done some drawing before this week but it was on my (new: woo!) iPad. This was initially great, and then I realised that the iPad allows me to delete things far too easily. As someone who struggles to get going artistically I do not need to be working with a device that allows me to abandon my work at the touch of a virtual button. At least if I do a rotten drawing in a sketchbook it is still there in a months time, proving that I at least made the effort (and often not as bad as I thought). So at the beginning of this week I returned to my sketchbook. For the first time in ages I had no reason to stay  away: no apointments, no friends to have coffee with, no books that needed reading, no excuses. To use pencil on paper has been enormously pleasurable after the slippery iPad screen. Even the HB pencil with a rubber on the end that I found laying on the table. And it turns out that I'm quite skilled with one, too. I'm sure I could become as accomplished on the iPad if I wanted to, but I think i'll stick with the lo-tech option for the time being.

So, back to drawing (and blogging ) - good. Holidays coming up and therefore more time - even better. I'll leave you with today's drawing which actually I cleaned up using the iPad, so I haven't abandoned it as an artistic tool altogether. It needs a frame of some sort, but I haven't worked out how.

line drawing of a jug on a circular table with a plate of two figs
Jug and figs.

Sunday, May 6

How not to be an artist.

Starting something new is a battle that I forget about every time I've finished something. Flushed with the success of completion, I imagine just how easy it is going to be to make the next thing. A doddle! I've mentally finished before I even start.

And then it begins: the graft. Or in my case, the grumbling.

I've been trying to start a new painting since Thursday. First of all there was the impossibility of getting the right flowers. I phoned three flower shops, none of whom had anenomes. They've gone out of season apparently, even though there are some growing at work. I went all the way into town hoping that there'd be some flowers I liked up there. No. On the train on the way home I thought maybe I'd pick some lilac. There is a lot of lilac out of train windows at the moment. All the lilac I could find (in someone's garden so not strictly accessible) was going over, and not pink enough. I abandoned the lilac idea.

Then I remembered there are freesias at my local supermarket. I couldn't get to the supermarket until Saturday, because Saturday is the day I go to the supermarket and god forbid that I'd make two trips there. Still: when I did go the freesias were on offer, hurrah! As I was driving home I noticed the cow parsley on the verge and wondered whether that wouldn't be better. Better? More interesting. More something. More not the freesias that I have in my car and could start drawing when I get in, mainly.

I put the freesias in a jug. They are pretty. They smell nice. They look bloody hard to draw. I am a drawing wimp. Cow parsley it is then. For some reason (mainly my well developed procrastinatory skill), I didn't go and pick some there and then.

Today I managed to go and get some cow parsley in the rain (poor me!). I put the cow parsley in a different jug, as the jug I planned to paint is currently occupied by very pretty very lovely smelling still bloody hard to draw freesias. Actually I tried two jugs.One held too much cow parsley so was too hard (see: drawing wimp). On the plus side my mantlepiece is lined with jugs of flowers.

After much faffing about with cow parsley I sat down in front of the jug. Fuck! Hard to draw! So many little bits! Moaned to myself. Drew about three lines. Rubbed them out. Swore a bit. Moaned at my husband who is working doggedly as he always does: bastard. Moaned to twitter (however did I procrastinate before twitter?). Did a half-heartedly bad drawing. Moaned a bit more. Did a sligtly less bad drawing. Took a picture. Decided that I liked the picture and perhaps I should take up photography. Showed the picture to twitter.

cow parsley in a jug
Nice, isn't it? I should totally take pictures instead of paint.
Decided I was DEFINITELY NOT drawing the poxy cow parsley. Got the freesias again. Looked at them. Too hard to draw. Harder than the cow parsley, definitely. They smell lovely, though. Freesias back on the mantlepiece.

Put on a record (this takes me ages because we have Too Many CDs.) Then finally I got around to actually drawing the cow parsley. It isn't a brilliant drawing, but it's progress. I drew the cow parsely. The cow parsley is drawable.

So then I wrote a blog about it. God forbid that I should actually start a painting. That's for tomorrow. Probably.

Thursday, May 3

Hyacinths and Simnel Cake

oil painting of a jug containing blue hyacinths with a yellow teapot and a slice of cake
Hyacinths and Simnel Cake
I have decided to call this finished. There is not one inch of this painting that hasn't been repainted about four times (and three different colours). I'm aware that I could continue faffing about with it for weeks on end if I didn't just decide that is is OK enough to stop. I think it is OK enough to stop. I have learnt a ton of stuff whilst doing this thing and actually can't wait to start another, which is a brilliant feeling.

This painting mainly* owes it's life to a little black book called Steal Like an Artist. If like me you have been stuck in a creative rut I cannot recommend it enough. 7 or 8 years ago I stopped printmaking and this feels like the first image-related thing I have done since then that is properly creative and properly mine: not made to impress anyone, not made for some imagined and hyper-critical audience to buy, just made. The book has been enormously permission giving for me. Go on, it said: just make something you like. And so I did.

*Also largely to my friend Michelle, for her encouragement of me to get the paint and do it. Thanks Michelle x

Tuesday, April 24

Get back on the bike

Cycle of painting:

I think this is OK...
Oh bloody hell, I've screwed it up: it's terrible.
Pit of despair (aka sulking).
Small light of possibility.
OK I think I may have rescued it.

Repeat ad nauseum.

There is probably a parallel with life there, isn't there?

painting of jug with flowers, teapot and cake, showing overpainting
Painting during rescue mode.