Friday, 22 March 2013

New from old: skirt from dress 2: the skirtening

Since I went so well with the first skirt-from-dress, I gleefully attacked the other dress that has never fit me. I do try to avoid the 'I'll use this garment to inspire me to lose weight' trap that never works, but as you can see, occasionally it gets me. This dress I bought in Leura, again because I loved the print, but I also thought it would be a lovely light summer dress (when I lost that troublesome weight). Unfortunately, even when it did fit reasonably well, the style around the bust just didn't sit right. And it really was a bit tight around the back.

Side note: so many tops and dresses these days have a seam or detailing stitched into them just under where clothes manufacturers think the average bust line is, and they never ever get under my bust line. Ever. Even plus sized labelled clothes. Clothes manufacturers seem to think that most women have breasts that sit right up high on their chests and aren't affected by gravity at all. Maybe they do. Hmm. So I have to either just avoid those items of clothing (which rather limits the options) or wear things with a seam going across the middle or lower third of my bust, making it look like I have no idea how to dress myself.


Another thing I like about this dress is the waistband. And even though when I wear skirts I don't tuck in tops or wear short tops, I thought I could do something with this, rather than having an elastic waist.

I carefully cut the bodice off the waistband, and this time instead of taking out the zipper, I cut it down to shorten it. I folded down the waistband so the point was now pointing down, ironed it flat, top stitched around the waist and added a hook and eye to keep it all neat.

So now I have two lovely light skirts to take to Malaysia! You can't see it in this photo, so it looks like I'm just laughing at my feet, but the cat is sitting in front of me, admiring my handiwork.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Body snatchers

Love Pip Lincolne's reflections on the Body Snatcher mindset of our current society. Been doing a lot of thinking about this lately.

"Who cares about a quick renovation if the foundations haven’t been reinforced? Living in our bodies is totally personal, life-long project, meant to be tackled in our own unique way. Learning to live in our bodies takes time and care."

It's worth a read.

New from old: skirt from dress

I've had this Nobue dress for many years (I bought it in their shop in Paddington, and the dress seems to have outlived the brand...the shop has long gone and I have no idea if it even still exists as a brand). It's never fit me properly in the bust. It was always a case of squash into it and pretend that it fit fine. I love the fabric so never wanted to give up on it, but I finally admitted that it was never going to fit.

With my revived sewing passion I decided it was time to make this something I could wear instead of feeling sad about it whenever I saw its prettiness hanging in my wardrobe.

I cut the bodice off and unpicked the zipper for future use. I then sewed around the top edge, folded it over and sewed it down to form a casing for the thick elastic.

It was a bit harder than I expected to get the waistband flat;  I persevered with it but it's a bit messy and I think I have to make it a fraction tighter.  But it matters not! I now have a lovely skirt.

I also love the way the perspective in the bottom photo makes me look like a giantess in my courtyard. :)

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

This is why dresses don't fit

I've decided to start sewing clothes again, starting with easy things to get my confidence back up. The Simplicity patterns website is also having a sale (heads up, fellow seamstresses!), so that seemed like a good spur to get going. They also have a handy guide for working out your size, saying "Begin by discarding any assumptions you may have about what size you wear. Then think about the last time you went clothes shopping. Did every garment in "your" size fit you? Of course not!"

So I took my measurements and wrote them down and compared them to the chart and the absurdity of trying to find an off-the-rack dress that fits me well hit me. My hips are a full six sizes different to my top half. Six sizes.

image from here

It also highlights that my body type is definitely an inverted triangle, even though often I feel like an apple or hourglass.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


You may have had enough bra talk but I feel I have to report in on my first wear of the expensive bra. Seriously. This is the best bra I have ever worn. Doesn't dig in anywhere. Everything stays put. I'm hardly aware of it at all. This was a Good Investment.

That is all.


It's so much fun doing girly stuff from time to time. I couldn't do it all the time - the expense alone makes it prohibitive - but very once in a while it's nice to indulge my girly side.

Elsie was tossing up going into the city so I suggested we meet up and do our girly things together. So here's what we did.

Bra Shopping
I was in desperate need of new bras. I don't buy them often because nice well-fitting bras in my size are generally from Europe and are unbelievably expensive. Most mainstream shops don't go up to my size. E cups are getting more common, but I'm a few more letters down the alphabet and those hardly ever show up in department stores.

I don't even attempt to go buy bras in a regular shop anymore. It's just too frustrating and makes me feel ungainly and that I'm being told See these pretty little things, in gorgeous colours and styles? They're reasonably priced too. See how comfortable and yet stylish they look? Now STEP BACK. How dare you want to wear nice underwear? It's these beige monstrosities for you, bras that make even the most conservative of women weep. Actually no. Just put a sack on and get back into your cave! (I might be reading more into it than the shops intended) Also the department store bra fitters are often employed by a particular brand and aren't interested in fitting you properly or showing you a wide range of options.

These days I go straight to the wonderful women at More Than a Handful, just opposite Town Hall. I was keen to show Elsie where it was, just because I think it's a great shop, and it's kind of hidden away. These women know how to fit a bra! They get the size and fit spot on almost every time. I don't have any issues with a fitter being in the change room with me and adjusting things as needed, and the whole thing was very quick and easy. I didn't even look at the sizes til I got home, and noted I'm a bigger cup size than a couple of years ago; that used to make me cry, mainly because each letter higher you go in a cup size, the harder it can be to get anything to fit (note that even when I was losing lots of weight elsewhere on my body, it never moved from my chest, which was very frustrating). But now that I know I can buy underwear to fit, I don't even care what size I am.

However, although I got two beautiful bras and am very happy with them...they cost me $385. Ouch. Although, given how rarely I buy bras and the fact that I have to wear one every day, it does get the Cost Per Wear right down (this is also tangentially related to the Jee Taxi/Bus Fare Comparison Rationale, but I'll go into that another time).

I know it's a lot of money. But it's worth it. Believe me.

Side note: when I got home I checked online to see whether this high price was consistent across the board. In Australia and NZ, yes, the prices are all much the same. But in the UK you can get the same style for about $100 less. What's with that?! I guess that's the only time it pays to know what size you actually are.

I loved looking at makeup with Elsie. I hardly ever do this, and it's not something you can really do with most people. You have to both be into it and in the mood for it. Though that mustn't be the case for everyone; the Myer makeup section was packed. (There were also topless men at the Biotherm counter, which Elsie wrote about over on Jelssie, and who made us both feel a bit uncomfortable, and many other women who just avoided whatever they were handing out as well.)

Trying lipstick colours is fun. Elsie showed me many of her faves...I prefer subtler, earthy tones whereas Elsie loves the brights, as you can see from her testing hand.

We briefly looked at clothes, though that wasn't especially interesting (I bought a work top for 40% off). Then I got my eyebrows done at the Benefit brow bar, which I've kind of always wanted to do. I'm not shy about getting stuff done to my face in a public place!

The lovely Cecilia did a fantastic job and showed me how to use their Brow Zings kit, which I probably would never actually use but was fun for someone else to use on me (I secretly love getting my makeup done, mainly because I'm fairly crap at doing it myself and it's nice to have someone brushing your face with soft brushes). I also bought lip gloss but am reserving other possible makeup purchases for the duty free shops when I go to Malaysia next week.

Elsie got her brows done at her regular place on Pitt Street, and I had an iced coffee while I waited for her. Had the strange experience of an old Asian lady sitting down at my table and totally invading my personal space...another preparation for Malaysia perhaps.

We then walked down to the Japanese shop Daiso so Elsie could buy a couple of things (and I was remarkably restrained and didn't buy anything), quickly into Market City for a fruitless vitamins search for E, and then through Chinatown back towards my car. I saw people queued up for something called Emperor Puffs.

"They must be a thing, huh?" I said.

Elsie stopped. "You haven't had Emperor Puffs?"


"Even Jess Green has had Emperor Puffs and she's from the country! I'm getting some."

And so Elsie treated me to my first Emperor Puffs. Piping hot, sweet, perfect little balls of custardy goodness.

Then a little bit further into Dixon Street and Elsie said, "oh, I have to show you Extreme Gelato." And she did.

We shared a cup of black salted caramel and oh. my. goodness. It was amazing. Silky smooth, sweet, salty, creamy. One serve was more than enough for both of us. I can't believe I had never been there before!

After that, we had well and truly had our girly afternoon. Elsie headed home to study and I went to Lachy's for a night of chilling. After a couple of weeks where my mood has been really low, and three days this week when I was starting to worry even myself, today was just what I needed. Time with people who love me, doing fun things, not worrying about anything. I'm feeling much better tonight than I have for ages. I highly commend it to you!

PS. You can tell your boyfriend is kind of into sound when the sound setup far eclipses the size of the actual screen you watch your movie on:

Saturday, 9 March 2013

an imperative and a little red journal

I love making things, as you know. Sometimes I forget how much satisfaction making things can bring me, especially when I'm feeling down.

I was walking around Spotlight in Rockdale this morning and saw these words cut out of MDF and knew straight away what I could do with some of my washi tape. A 3D reminder to create, wrapped in six different washis is now perched atop my computer and I love it.

But that's not the best thing I made this week.

No, I didn't make this. This is a leather wrapped notebook I bought when I was on holidays years ago with my mum. We were in Florence, checking out little shops and eating gelato in almost freezing temperatures. We went into a tiny little stationery shop, which was stacked floor to ceiling with beautiful leather journals and books in rich colours. The man who owned the shop didn't speak English, but with the help of his wife (who didn't speak much more English than he), we managed to communicate and I learned he made all the books in an upstairs room and had been there for decades. The books weren't cheap, but I bought one and treasured it.

But no matter how many times I've tried over the years, I haven't been able to fill this notebook. It seems like the words within it ought to be important, not just the idle scratchings and thoughts of a sometimes-writer. Even when I was writing a lot, I would prefer less special books to scrawl in, and my red Florentine journal would just sit there, waiting.

The other day I was once more admiring Dodo Cases, but thinking I couldn't really justify buying a leather cover for my Kindle when I was more than able to make bags and things. If I put my mind to it, I thought I could probably make a leather book jacket, but I didn't know if I had the patience to do a good job. And I'd probably end up exploring a new craft and buying more materials that I really didn't need.

I read the description of the product and it mentioned that the Kindle is held in place with resuable adhesive, which reminded me of the double-sided Scotch restickable tabs I bought recently for another project. And I admired the art behind the line of copy that made me long for one of these cases: "Handmade in our San Francisco bookbindery by true American craftsmen and women" - I love unique things, handmade things, things whose every stitch and curve and cut has been rendered by one person's hands.

Then I remembered the Italian bookbinder and the little red journal.

I grabbed the journal off the shelf and held it up. It was the exact same height as the Kindle. Exactly. With surprisingly little remorse (for what use is it to keep an almost-empty notebook just for the sake of its cover?), I carefully cut the notebook out. I used some of the restickable tabs to mount the Kindle onto the endpaper/pastedown, which had remained stuck to the leather. (The restickable tabs are amazing things. They're clear and very sticky and if they lose their stickiness you just wash them and they're sticky again. Brilliant!)

Et voila! Or, because of the Italian origins, should I say, ecco? (I had to look that up) A bespoke beautiful object with a strong memory behind it, fusing the old and the new. It protects, it feels lovely, and I am finally using something I bought 14 years ago.

And so, my friends, create! It brings great joy!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Roses and dahlias

I love the flower markets. They are a whole other world. And they make me think of My Fair Lady.

I drive past them every day when I go to work, but it's usually already too late for flowers by that time; they get started early. But today I woke up at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep so decided to go to work early...which meant it was perfect flower-shopping time! You've got to be confident to drive into the Sydney Markets. There are trucks, forklifts, utes and other assorted vehicles all swarming around. The markings on the road are really just suggestions. You've just got to be patient and remember that the people who basically live and breathe this place have right of way...and keep your eyes open because you never know when someone will step or drive out in front of you.

 I actually just like wandering around the markets, even without buying anything (though I always buy something). The sheer abundance of flowers of all kinds is just so joyful. The vendors are mostly men, unshaven, no-nonsense. The buyers by 6am are mostly women, many obviously buying for weddings. There is a quartet of old Italian men sitting at a table, ignoring the activity swirling around them, playing cards.

After walking up and down all the aisles to see what's available, and becoming almost overwhelmed with choice, I just decide to go with what pleases me the most. There are also plenty of cheap bunches for sale - small, unscented roses for $4 a bunch, riots of gerberas for $3 a bunch, but I'm feeling like more decadent blooms. I choose two bunches of beautiful cream, pink-tipped roses with an incredibly heady scent. At another stall I buy two bunches of purple dahlias, a flower which will always remind me of my grandfather, who grew them in his garden. It costs me about $30 all up. What a wonderful start to the day!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

And then I went shopping.

I went to Paddington markets while waiting for mum who was visiting a friend nearby. I wanted to buy a necklace. Well I did. I also got two tops and a dress.

What an unexpectedly great shopping day! My sizes were there. I didn't have to fight with crowds. My choice was fairly narrowed as half the stalls were closed, given the bucketing rain. I was very efficient too, doing all this in half an hour.

Then I thought I'd better go sit in the car before I bought anything else.

(I don't know how to stand when modelling clothes. It's really quite an awkward thing to do.)

Mixed messages

A similar but slightly different angle on what I wrote in the last post - loved this video from 17-year-old Alice Wilder taking Seventeen magazine to task on promoting 'love your body' messages and the Biggest Loser at the same time. She's cool.

Although I didn't go on a diet when I was 10, what she said about her thoughts being totally taken up with thinking about food when she should have been concentrating on other things is exactly what happens to me whenever I try restricting what I eat. It is just all-consuming (and I think I intend that pun).

I think this is why I sometimes long to live on a farm with limited access to media and advertising. Though it'd still find me, I know it would. But I wonder whether it would be easier to be content in that area of life if you didn't constantly have messages from all different angles bombarding you?

The Amish might be onto something (AND they enjoy craft).

I had to thank Lachy last night for putting up with my neuroses. He said I seemed in an odd mood and I realised it was because I had caught a glimpse of myself in a window and mirrors when I went to pick him up, and uncensored, "You fat cow" popped into my head. What? When I had gotten dressed at home half an hour earlier, I felt great and thought I looked fine.

Retraining my brain not to have those ridiculous swings is a difficult process. I think that's a more worthwhile pursuit than thinking and stressing about food all the time.

I also wanted to mention the blog, Frocks and Frou Frou, which Elsie got me into. I love how the blogger, Lilli, dresses and looks. And after reading this post this week, I love how she thinks too.

Edit to add: Everyone should read this article Lilli links to, from Natalie Perkins, 'How to love yourself in 8 really hard steps'. I smiled at:"Throw out your scales – they are just little electronic demons squatting in your bathroom, making you feel rotten."