Long Time, No Post

It’s been a fair while since I last posted, & things have changed a bit around here since. But more on that later. For now: look! I made a skirt!

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It’s from an old pattern from my mother’s collection: Style 1961. (It’s worth noting that googling “Style 1961 pencil skirt” will get to absolutely nowhere, if you’re looking for the pattern…) There was a long and short option, with or without a waistband. I went for the long one (goes without saying when you’re 5’9″!), no waistband. I put together a toile from an old sheet, made a few adjustments aaand… didn’t touch it again for 2 months. Maybe even longer. In spite of having a lovely sewing space in the new house, I really lost my sewing mojo in the move.

So I did what many modern sewists would do in a time of sewing-related difficulty: I turned to the sewing community of Reddit for advice. Continue reading

A follow-up: New House, New Studio

I recently posted about how I’ve been feeling unusually optimistic about this particular New Year, not least because I’d just moved into a new house in a beautiful part of Co Sligo. Now that most of the unboxing and settling in has been accomplished, I thought I’d share a few images from my new studio.

It’s set up in “sewing mode” today, so the ironing board is up and the BurdaStyle handbook I got for Christmas is out. Current project: the skirt included in the book. (I’ve had some nice red light-medium weight cotton for ages now & it’s great to finally have the right project for it.) I’ve only just traced out the pattern & I’ve still to mark out the seam allowance (yawn!) & lengthen the pieces. I thought it’d be a nice quick project to snap out of the “sewing block” I’ve had for a while but hey, I may as well do it properly, right?

One important feature of any studio should be the pictures-of-your-heroes section. No? Just me? Right. Either way, my besties Polly Jean & Joanna are up in front of my desk to keep me company.

The best feature of this particular studio, though, is the best thing about this new place in general. The view. It’s incredible. We’re right at the bottom of a beautiful valley, beside a lake and surrounded by mountains. (Well, Irish-grade mountains, referred to internationally as “big hills”.) Anyways, it’s gorgeous. The weather is pretty changeable here, which makes for an ever-changing view. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to live somewhere this beautiful again!

This picture absolutely does not do it justice, but I’m sure it’ll give you the right idea. This is literally the view out of the window:

What’s your setup like? Do you have a studio, or just a corner of the kitchen table? What’s important to you in a workspace?

New Year, New Start – No, Really..!

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There’s something about counting down the seconds until midnight on New Year’s Eve that fills an otherwise rational person with dreamy notions of new beginnings & clean slates, daily workouts & chia seed smoothies. Usually I avoid making any resolutions at all at New Year’s – I mean, what’s the point, generally speaking? It’s a bit like my philosophy on Valentine’s Day: surely one should do nice things for their significant other year-round, rather than force an attempt at romanticism on one particular designated day? Just as one should set goals, make plans & stick to them at all times of the year, not just the very first day.

However, in spite of myself, I find myself completely swept up by romantic notions of new beginnings this year. This is for a number of reasons. 2013 was particularly tough, & I’m glad to see the back of it. I’ve just moved to a spacious house in beautiful valley near the sea in Co. Sligo, a part of the country I’ve never before lived in, with my boyfriend. I’m planning to launch Needle & Flax to the masses in the next two months, which will be my first attempt at running a business. I’ve also achieved a decent level of physical fitness for the first time since I was 13, and actually feel motivated to keep getting fitter. And so, as I counted down to the first virgin moments of 2014 in a noisy Sligo pub with friends, I found myself thinking about the year ahead. 2014: a year when so much will change, and for the better.

On New Year’s Day, like so many others, I sat down and wrote out some plans-of-action for the coming year. Or, as they’re more generally knows, Resolutions. Here’s the main gist of them:

  1. Launch Needle & Flax
  2. Train up to running 10k (currently capable of a very slow 5k)
  3. Make a garment each month – sewn, knitted, crocheted, or all of the above (!)
  4. Learn how to make sourdough bread
  5. Learn conversational German

The last dress I made – 12 more by 2015 would be great!

The thing is, I actually feel incredibly motivated to do each & every thing on this list. (It probably helped that I read this great piece on procrastination last night, and this one about using time wisely the week before.) From what I can tell, New Year’s resolutions tend to involve trying to “fix” things you don’t like about yourself – hence the diets, the gym memberships, and, ultimately, the failure. (There’s nothing particularly motivating about convincing yourself you need to do something because you aren’t a good enough human being yet.) This is the first year I’ve gone for a more constructive approach – maybe that’s why I feel less cynical about resolutions this year. This is what I mean by constructive:

  1. Launching N&F will be the culmination of a long period of preparation and research. I’ll be taking control of my work life and finances, and really trying to make something I care about happen.
  2. Aiming to run 10k is something I couldn’t dream of attempting if I hadn’t worked so hard to get up to 5k from zero fitness last year, so it’s a positive recognition of what I’ve achieved so far. The next step, as it were.
  3. I’m excited to get sewing again, but this goal is primarily due to having 7 weddings to attend this year, and wanting to see if I can make something for all of them!
  4. I love good bread, & I enjoy cooking & baking. Proper bread is an interesting challenge I’ve yet to attempt.
  5. I haven’t learned a language since I left school, and a good friend is moving to Berlin this year, so it seems like a nice project to try. A good way to get my brain moving again after a sluggish year.

Of course, there are a few other personal goals / intentions for the year that I didn’t write down as capital-r-Resolutions. I’ll be releasing a new album with my band The Ambience Affair this year, which will be a major thing for me, & a huge personal goal achieved. 2014 will also hopefully involve things like drinking plenty of good beer and getting out to explore my new, wild neighbourhood, though I should probably avoid mixing the two..! The List is just the few things I definitely want to get done this year, prioritised, so that 2014 doesn’t slip by like 2013 has largely done.

A year is a very, very long time, filled with so many possibilities, but it does have a tendency to zip past you if you’re not paying attention. Maybe making resolutions is a good way to go, after all.

A view of the new 'hood

A wintry day in our new valley neighbourhood – I love this place!

Pros & Cons of a Handmade Christmas (& a little thrifting…)

Last year my two sisters & I agreed that, seeing as we were all fairly broke, we would do our best to stick to handmade gifts for Christmas. It worked really well – I’m still wearing the knitted scarf that S gave me, M got a great knitting needle case from S and some sketchbooks from me for college, and S leads me to believe she wears the crochet collar I made her 😉 – and so we’ve decided to do the same this year. Unfortunately they both read this blog, so I can’t let anything slip about what I have planned, but suffice to say that a couple more weeks to work on everything would be welcome..! :-/

I can tell you that I’ve crocheted this cowl for my best friend (who thankfully doesn’t know this blog exists yet):

It’s made from Debbie Bliss Cashmerino wool in aran weight, which is such a gorgeous yarn – really warm & soft, with no itchiness at all. Plus the colour is fantastic. She’ll be getting a journal or two as well. (It helps that she’s a great writer, so I can actually justify using my bookbinding skills to give her things to write in..!) Continue reading

Crunching Numbers: 5 Pamphlet-Bound Notebooks

The hardest part of setting up a craft business isn’t actually making the stuff, it’s making it economically enough that you can actually sell it to people! The main cost in most crafty enterprises is usually the labour: the time it takes you to produce the things you plan to sell. I’m in the process of working out pricing structures at the moment. I made these notebooks today with a stopwatch (well, OK – a phone) on hand to see how long it would take to make 5.  Continue reading

Faux Leather Journal

You know when your day was turning out great, & then suddenly a couple of little things crop up & it goes all rubbish on you? Yeah. It’s been one of those. BUT at least I’ve just finished the faux leather journal I’ve been working on, so I’ve something to show for it!

I picked up the faux leather in the remnants basket of Hickey’s last year, & it’s good to finally use some of it. The tie is just a few colours of embroidery thread plaited together. What do you think?

Longstitched Card-Covered Notebooks

Today’s handiwork: two simple longstitched notebooks, with sheets of card for covers. A5.

The tutorial by Anya at sas-does.blogspot.ie was really helpful. You can find it here.

Now that I have the hang of the technique I think I’ll try tackling a faux leather one tomorrow.

That is, if the second-last run in my 5k training program doesn’t kill me first!