wearing my insides out

For many years, my internal world raged silently, resolutely at odds with my external persona. Fitting a square peg in a round hole felt like a life-long battle I would never conquer. In a society where certain behaviours, aspirations and achievements are deemed the norm, it takes a confidence I lacked, to bang my own drum.

At first I took solace in academic achievements, riding the waves of self esteem measured in red pen. Β Hot on the heels of scholarly success, I metamorphosed into the serial girlfriend – validated by the stamp of approval implied by another’s affections. Good luck and a modicum of taste can propel you so far but when the familial hand of conventionality was extended, I knew that path would be my final undoing.

It’s easy to look at the fruits of hard won labours and assume they are the results of natural ability. I’m more inclined to believe that a skill has been so honed, that its seemingly effortless execution belies a lifetime of practise. Anyone who has learnt to craft with their own hands understands how time cannot be equated with monetary value. And on a personal level, it’s taken me the best part of 40 years to achieve a relative ease in my skin and come to a point where I can celebrate a road less travelled.

Over on Instagram I’ve been getting involved in some photo challenges, which is a lovely way to connect with fellow makers. Throughout September there’s #sewphotohop hosted by @houseofpinheiro, posting a daily theme to hang your hat on. And for those who prefer a gentler pace, #dressmakers52 is a weekly opportunity to share your sewing stories inspiredΒ by words plucked from a deck of cards.

This week’s prompt is ‘Proudest Achievement’ which got me thinking about my longheld desire to write – a vehicle to bridge the disparity between my insides and out. This blog has provided me with such a portal – sewing the platform from which my writing could springboard. For a writer needs a hook and my adventures in stitch induced an outpouring far greater than any existential angst ever could.

Learning to sew and writing about the journey, has been instrumental in solidifying a burgeoning confidence in charting my own path. Since childhood, I’ve had a strong sense of personal style and in my teens eschewed high street trends for magpie charity finds. With some basic skills under my belt and a proliferation of independent designs at my feet, the creative possibilities this craft affords are endless.

The Xerea DressΒ by Pauline Alice is the nearest to a sewing table quick win that I’ve encountered. With only one key measurement at the bust, I was pretty confident I could get away without a toile. The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by 2 inches. This was my first attempt at extending a pattern and it’s fair to say I botched it. To join the sections up on either side of the extension, I added and subtracted a tad here and there and totally forgot about the knock on effect on the accompanying pattern pieces.

Consequently I had to shave bits off the pocket and side pattern pieces during construction but happily Xerea emerged unscathed. Despite my ineptitude at pattern altering, she came together like a dream. This pattern really is a joy to sew. I particularly like the double fold bias bound finish on the neckline. So, much so that I’m almost tempted to wear her inside out.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought, there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there you read this and know that yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you” (attributed to Frida Kahlo).

Whilst I’m no Frida, writing this blog is one of the ways I’ve been able to connect with others who share some of my traits and values. I’ve been so humbled by the lovely feedback I’ve received from people with whom my words resonate. I’ve encountered such a generosity of spirit which propels me to continue tentatively wearing my insides out.

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30 thoughts on “wearing my insides out

  1. You are a good writer. I hope you will keep it up. As to feeling like you are the strangest person in the world, I think there are a lot of us that think that way about ourselves, at one time or another. For me, I am at a new phase in life that makes me feel like I’ve landed on an alternate universe where somehow I am just one or two steps “out of step”. Sewing is one of the things that helps feed my happy.

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    1. Thank you very much Melissa. It was the curse of my egocentric youth to feel everything so deeply! Thankfully I am much more aware of the universal suffering in the world these days and I don’t feel so singular. Ageing helps put things into perspective enormously I think. I like your turn of phrase ‘feed me happy’ and am glad you have that outlet – it’s been pivotal for me πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you Kate – I really appreciate you taking the time to read my words – especially as it takes an age to get to anything sewing related! Blue and green are my favourites – such warm colours. You look mighty fine in your blue rushcutter too πŸ™‚

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  2. Aimee that dress is beautiful. I adore the cut, it hangs perfectly, and I am sure its perfectly sewn. Your writing is as always so lovely, and as someone who struggled with writing up college work, I am rather envious of how poetic you write (we only had one essay/dissertation/thesis per year and it felt like I was just throwing random words on paper and hoping they stuck). Never came across that Kahlo quote – its really lovely. Well done again on the dress…… its has that japanese quality of ‘so’ (now why does that feel like a lousy pun – it really is not supposed to be)

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    1. Your feedback is always so generous and considered Eimear. Thank you very much. I am really pleased with this one – it does feel like a very me dress and is uber comfortable to wear. Lovely and simple to put together too and has a gorgeous finish inside and out. I appreciate your comments on my writing – I sometimes wonder if I am going to run out of thoughts and stick to writing about sewing. But that hasn’t happened yet and I’m over a year on! I’m going to do some unselfish sewing related things next which includes tracing off that Japanese box dress for you. Hope you are well.

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      1. All well here and in a world of denim…. I have made a denim 50s cocktail dress which took 3m and is a little bit heavy….thank you for that tracing – wow – looking forward to that (it looks so cool and arty). don’t know if I have any patterns you would like? actually just thought of one….i will email you the image!

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  3. You write so well Aimee, straight from the heart and so honest. The dress is a dream (including the V back!) and could have been designed for you! Great backdrop too. Having discussed our aversion to Vs, I succumbed to a major charity shop bargain at the week, a dress with a V neck! I am disguising it by wearing a top underneath!

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  4. What lovely feedback – thank you so much! That V back is a bit of an illusion as it’s two pieces sewn together – so it’s actually a lot easier to construct than it looks. I can’t believe you’ve gone out and bought a front facing V though – sacrilege!! To be fair I have been tempted by the odd one in the past so it’s not a blanket ban but most of the time they don’t cut the mustard. I want to see this one and why it’s tempted you to the dark side πŸ™‚ x

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  5. What a great post. Beautiful writing. It really resonated with me as I too felt a bit strange when growing up. Nothing that I valued or aspired was reflected in the aspirations of my peers and I was by nature a bit of an outsider anyway, preferring books to people. Add in the punk bit and it was a recipe for disaster. πŸ™‚
    I do think that when we are young we are the centre of our own universe, making it hard to see that everyone is probably also undergoing the same thing to varying degrees. Everything is magnified through a prism of hormones and uncertainty so we feel things very keenly. Now I am older I care not about fitting in and seem to have give my daughter the confidence to be her best (teenage) self that I lacked. Sewing always helps of course. That dress is a such a glorious colour and the shape is very “Japanese”. It is such a great simple shape that looks very chic. Xx

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    1. Thank you very much – I’m so pleased you enjoyed reading – and I’m glad you found some connection with it. I loved what you wrote about things being magnified through the prism of hormones – that is expertly put and so true. I definitely appreciate now that everyone was playing a central role in their own egocentric drama. The ageing process is one I’ve welcomed – loosening up on all that angst and finding things that bring me joy. It’s great that you’ve enabled your daughter to shine and enjoy her teenage years πŸ™‚ x

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  6. It was a joy to read your words this morning and actually calmed my frantic mind while it starts spinning into the whirlwinds of the day ahead. Nodding and relating to your words also was lovely. Thank you for sharing your creativity and thoughts . I often wear things inside out and that’s not just clothes! Can’t wait to hear more of your words. Tori x

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    1. You are so right. I was a bit obsessed with wanting to be normal when I was younger and I’ve totally realised the error in my thinking now. There is a mainstream conventional message out there but I’m not sure how many people it is actually working for. Thank you so much for stopping by to read my words πŸ™‚ x

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  7. Love the Xerea dress, it’s a great style. Have you see the new Birkenstocks? I bought a pair of black snakeskin (not real!) with gold buckles! They sound blingy which isn’t really me, but they’re not xx

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  8. Ohhhh I’ll have to have a look! Just love my birkies:) Thank you for stopping by – I really appreciate it. And the pattern is a corker isn’t it – clean lines and simple, whilst packing a punch x

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    1. Thanks Louise – I’m so glad it was worth the read – it means a lot to me when people stop by here and comment. Hope your sewing mojo is slowly returning and you are taking the pressure right off xx

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      1. Is this Amy? Its the Guitarist guy you chatted to briefly in washy the other week. Dont know much about dolls or sewing but thought I’d say hi.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read – it means a lot to me and I’m glad you enjoyed it. The older I get, the more I realise we are all beautifully flawed and just muddling our way through πŸ™‚ X

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  9. ‘Beautifully flawed’ is one of my favourite expressions. I can’t think of it having any connection to your fabulous sewing collection though. Normal and ordinary are categories which sound so boring, and are to be avoided at all costs. Your poetic command of our wonderful English Language and mastery of creating your own style to such a high standard puts you amongst the ‘extra’ ordinary. And the dress, as usual, is lovely.

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    1. Wowzers – that’s high praise from the most practised wordsmith I’ve come across – we all know where I got my way with words from. And yes – I have no compulsion to be normal or fit in anymore. I’m happy the shape I’m in. Thank you for your lovely words πŸ™‚ x

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