bound to you

Obsessions … they’ve always been the currency in which I deal – an escape from the banality of the day-to-day. Art, music, film … my approach to love or loathe … sink or swim – the middle ground and I were separated at birth. Thankfully aging has been accompanied by a distinct mellowing and an acceptance that for some things a ‘Whiplash-esque’ ‘good job’ will suffice. But I still embrace my passions – lindy hop, cycling, vintage threads and most recently sewing – as if engaged in a full throttle assault.

My third denim A-line skirt and it’s clear that I’ve been caught up in a Groundhog Day loop for the last month. Whilst I’ve changed things up each time by incorporating various finishing touches, an intervention is due and my next project will signify a step change for Summer. But first to tie up a few loose ends – time to consolidate learning and reflect on my adventures in stitch thus far.

I had intended to embellish my second Hollyburn using some green topstitching thread I greedily purchased on-line. However, I forsook the opportunity a real life purchase affords of a close up look and feel and was sorely disappointed with its lack of substance and visibility. Inspired by The Up Sew’s thrifty and inventive approach to dressmaking, I decided to mine my embroynic stash and put some scraps of glorious Hemminway Designs ‘Green Tulips’ to good use. Whilst far from a quick win, homemade bias binding was a most satisfying endeavour and a finish I will boomerang to again and again.

So … an A-line skirt, A-line dress and three denim skirts into my sewing journey and what have I learnt:

Preparation is KEY and directly correlates with enjoyment levels. Get fabric and notioned up and in true Renton style, prime your environment for the long haul. Research first before diving in –  the internet is awash with you tube instructional clips and there’s ample opportunity to hone your craft before butchering your fancy new threads.

Pre-wash. I was aware of this fabric fundamental but spiralling out with enthusiasm during my denim phase, I forgot to pre-wash my Hollyburns. After witnessing the results of chancing the first on a hot wash, I’ll be handwashing Hollyburn the second from here on in.

Know when to quit. I’m still working on this one to the detriment of my once regulated sleep pattern. I can start a project at the crack of dawn and still be at my steed gone midnight – nocturanal machinations are de rigueur these days. I am slowly beginning to accept this is counter productive and need to follow  the example of my fellow blogger and stitcher Twinks, who is up with the lark to embrace the day rather than eeking out every second of every minute of every day.

Investing in an overlocker and adjustable mannequin, marked taking my relationship with sewing to the next level. Having proved to myself this was no holiday romance, I treated myself to some tools of the trade. As my passion for stitch has well and truly taken it’s hold, I’ve had cause to reflect on what makes sewing my drug of choice.

Meditative. I’ve lived in both Christian and Buddhist communities. In the former, my hosts prayed for guidance before taking me in and all I can say is God must have been having an off day. I’m not religious and have grown increasingly wary of the cult-like tendencies that can accompany organised religion.However, I would describe myself as a spiritual person and Buddhist teachings have transformed my mental landscape. I’m a bit of a shit Buddhist – if quality is determined by ‘practise’. Formal meditation has always been a struggle but I have grown to appreciate that it’s different strokes for different folks and certain activities take me into a meditative flow. I can spend many an hour fully present and focused on the now, when engaged on a sewing project.

Creative. I had artistic promise in my youth. Scholarship entry into a world of privilege afforded by private school was a mixed blessing and made bearable by hours spent in the cloistered art rooms. I have meandered for years with only sporadic periods of creativity. Discovering the joys of sewing has taken me back full circle to where I was happiest – single-pointedly engaged and absorbed on a creative project for hours on end.

Solitary and social. I have been described as an extrovert – as if my predilection for bright colours and acute inability to adjust my volume control, is indicative of deeper personality traits. However, I am a resolute introvert and often find social interaction draining, craving an abundance of time alone to counterbalance the time spent with others. However, too much time alone and I can find myself burrowing down a rabbit hole of my own imaginings. The beauty of sewing in the social media age, is how an activity can be both solitary and social. WordPress, Bloglovin, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram … validation and an instant feedback loop whilst safely cocooned from real life interaction.

Sense of achievement. Looking around the office at work, I’ve come to the conclusion that my aspirations are non-standard. Societal success is often judged by your acquisitions and the reaching of certain milestones – a house, a car, a marital partner, a family, a high profile career – none of which I seem to have racked up. For me, success in life is measured in how liberated and free I feel and I count myself as extremely fortunate these days, in being able to steer my own happiness ship without heavily relying on others. However, I am not without ambition or the desire to feel accomplished. Sewing clearly satisfies a yen in me to see a project through to its conclusion and bask in the satisfaction afterglow that comes from perfecting a skill.

So, that’s a window into my sewing world so far and what propels me to continue. But what about you, fellow sisters (and brothers) – I’d love to know what binds you to our joint appreciation for sartorial adventures in stitch?

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4 thoughts on “bound to you

  1. I got cracking with sewing on the old family treadle in the fifties – now there’s a combination of hand, eye and foot co-ordination to conjure with, a skill in itself! As a lone parent my sewing skills were self taught and a matter of necessity. It was trial and error all the way. The ability to sew has been invaluable when altering charity shop finds to result in perfect fits. Don’t rule these out when looking for material as many vintage items end up there and can be cut up and recycled. I’ve just invested in a new “Pfaff Smarter 160” machine with automatic needle threading. It’s a real pleasure to use and comes with a half hour free lesson from my local sewing machine stockist in Bury. I wouldn’t say sewing is an obsession for me, just a lovely mind quieting hobby which results in something beautiful and unique to wear. I’ve also bought a foot for my machine which gathers – very useful when making rock and roll underskirts which involve such a lot of material. I’m looking forward to seeing your summer creations but the denims that you’ve made are just timeless.

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  2. Wowzers … that’s some image of you sewing on a treadle back in the fifties – a skill and a half. I’ll remember that next time my Jones is playing up. I’m resisting buying a modern machine as my relationship with the Jones carries emotional weight. But if it ever gives up the ghost I’ll be seeking your advice on a new steed – yours sounds very flashy – does it make your breakfast too?!. Did you see pictures of the new mannequin? She’s called Maude and a very welcome addition to the homestead. It’s looking less like a flat and more like a sewing studio but nowt wrong with that in my book! That gathering foot sounds interesting – my Japanese Summer smock project featrues gathering so maybe I’ll be following suit.

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    1. Yes, I’ve seen your new mannequin and love the bias binding trim on the hem and pocket lining. I see Maude has gone ahead and finally found somebody! There are great tutorials on line on making your own binding which beats buying the ready made boring ones. “Following suit” I like it.

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      1. Now schools out for the summer it’s ALL about the you tube instructional videos! And yes Maude has her ‘body’ which will keep her going until she comes into her own with her starring role. Maybe don’t watch this space just yet as it will be a while before wrong doll comes into full fruition.

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