the divorced garden

 

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to my love of words. Of an evening, my mother’s drug of choice was the dictionary and a favourite pursuit opening a page at random and letting her finger fall upon a new discovery. Sharing her enthusiasm, I carried an old shoe polish tin around, waiting for the opportunity to use one of the words nestled within. A daily allowance of 5 words quickly escalated to 10 and whilst I’m sure this pastime did nothing to endear me to my peers, I’m grateful. For these words and an ever-expanding vocabulary, provided an infrastructure on which to hang my wildly oscillating emotions.

On visiting a friend earlier in the year, I was introduced to a descriptor which my childhood self may have struggled to shoehorn into everyday discourse. The ‘divorced garden’ is quite simply a garden which is separated from its house and a concept which set my imagination alight. Whilst walking up a lane to his little plot of wonder, I reflected on an inner conflict which I have only recently been willing to address – a strong streak of hedonistic wilfulness and an increasing desire to feel the ground beneath my feet. I extrapolated that the house was my chaotic mind and the path to its delineated garden, my seemingly never-ending search for solutions to tame it.

I’ve spent decades devouring self-help at a gargantuan pace, whilst reserving the right to press pause whenever the going got tough. Or to be more precise every Friday night, most Saturday nights and the occasional Thursday evening. And my panacea of choice, not my mother’s beloved words but wine ubiquitous wine. And why the hell not – life is bat shit crazy hard and respite with a large glass of Malbec was as good as it got … until it wasn’t. A habitual pattern of self-medication with ‘detoxifying’ forays into yoga and running was keeping me stuck in a perpetual loop of mental boom and bust. I finally worked out that part-time healthy living wasn’t going to cut it for me and I needed to approach wellbeing from a holistic perspective.

Dry January turned into sober 2017 and here’s the moment when I emerge triumphant like a phoenix from the ashes of my former self and tell you how wonderful it’s been. Except I won’t because it hasn’t and it would only make you want to stick pins in my eyes. What I am happy to report, is that not drinking has been surprisingly easy and the health benefits innumerable. Where it gets sticky is sitting with the feelings that lead you to drink in the first place and integrating into a society, in which every milestone and celebration seems intrinsically intertwined with social lubrication.

As the year progressed and my growing pains intensified, I found myself drawing inwards and yearning for warmth and comfort. The craft cottons I embraced at the beginning of my sewing journey were leaving me cold and a gaping hole of slouchwear alternatives revealed itself. I needed saving from the pyjama wearing, middle aged woman I was becoming and I knew just the person for the job – Wendy Ward with her portfolio of everyday clothes and no-nonsense approach to sewing with knits.

The Longely Cardigan is the first pattern I’ve sewn from Wendy’s MIY Collection. I was fortunate to win a pdf and initially my heart sank at the prospect of printing and assembling all those pages. However, the download comes with a full size copy shop pattern which I e-mailed over to Plancopy Online and they swiftly posted back for a song. For the fabric, I wanted something soft and luxurious and I splashed out on a couple of metres of Atelier Brunette Dazzle Night French Terry. There’s been quite some hype about this material, which in my opinion is completely justified. If you are a working woman looking for the comfort of sleepwear deceptively disguised as clothing, look no further.

I cut on a size 88-92cm based on my bust size and utilised a small arsenal of knit know-how to good effect. I used a size 14 ballpoint stretch needle, employed my walking foot at all times and notched the differential feed on my overlocker up to 1.5. Machine basting every seam before overlocking worked a treat, unlike using white Knit N Stable on the neckline which was a notable faux pas. In retrospect, I wish I’d trimmed it down to sit within the seam allowance and I ironed on some black knit interfacing to counteract the unsightliness. In an almost perfectly executed make, this was not my finest sewing hour but it did the job.

The instructions are fantastic for anyone harbouring a fear of knits, with lovely hand drawn diagrams and tips on sewing without an overlocker or any fancy equipment. The only tricksy part I encountered was attaching the hem band and this is purely down to my learning style. Sometimes I can find it hard to understand written instructions independent of the action itself. But all became clear as I walked myself through each step of the hem band sandwich. The italicised instruction ‘Make sure there is no gap between the folded edge + edge of the band’ is key, so it’s well worth taking your time here. The only alteration I made was to shorten the arms which were uber long on me. I took 3.5cm off the doubled over cuff and chopped another 6cm off the sleeve – a whopping 9.5 cm reduction in all.

Overlocking a cuff

When it came to attaching the cuffs I found some nifty instructions which resulted in a finish most pleasing to my eye. I was so enamoured with the technique that I’ve attempted to encapsulate it in a diagram.

Sewing up this Longley was an unadulterated joy and marked a gear change in my sewing trajectory. I faced my fears head on and made a garment befitting of my slouchwear fantasies. I’m going to go out on a limb and say my knit wear game is strong and I am itching to get my hands on Wendy’s long awaited third book – A Beginners Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics. I’ve also treated myself to a cardigan creation workshop at Sew in the City next year. The February date is fully booked but there are still tickets available for the March date if you’ve a yen to stitch under the mindful tutelage of the woman herself.

On discovery, the concept of a divorced garden had me reeling with delight – an escape to transport you from the vicissitudes of the everyday. The harsh reality is that for me, approaching life in this way creates a tension between two compartmentalised ways of living. I realised I would never fully reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, if I continued to cling onto my weekly re-tox cycle. Nearing the end of 2017, I’m thinking where the new year might take me and how to approach wellbeing from an integrated perspective. Having a creative outlet has been vital but sometimes the lure of quick hit can lead me on an acquisitive dance as dizzying as a high street splurge. In sewing as in health, I aspire to keep focused on the long game, making the clothes that I want to wear and creating a capsule wardrobe which reflects the tastes and values of who I’m becoming.

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16 thoughts on “the divorced garden

    1. What a lovely comment. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and letting me know what you think. It means a lot to me when I’m able to connect with others through my writing. Wishing you well on your path in the coming year X

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  1. Aimee you have such willpower. Yet again I will attempt Dry January with the intention of continuing into February and maybe even March. January will happen, probably not the rest. I can sit here with a real wanting to practice yoga everyday and to eat healthily but I find it far too easy to say I’ll do it tomorrow. I can talk myself out of most things.

    And as for my Dottie Angel dress, the pattern is still in the packet!

    I love the idea of the tin.

    A very happy 2018 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh thank you for your new year wishes – right back at you 🙂 As for willpower, I’m not sure of it’s actually that. I think I just got sick and tired of doing things in the same old way and feeling like I was in a kind of groundhog day. If it was all about giving things up I’d fail from the outset. I think of it as travelling towards something new and that keeps me motivated. I also changed the way I think about alcohol so I genuinely don’t even want a drink. But I do have all the feelings I used to have before having one! I think when our mind changes towards something then there’s much less resistance. Also I reckon sustained change comes when we are ready and forcing things doesn’t work for me. I wish you well wherever the coming year takes you and thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read my ramblings. Happy New Year! X

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  2. What a wonderful post Aimee. I love how you can relate your approach to sewing to your approach to the rest of your life and I often do the same, I liken it to my gym habit – lots of training and hard work eventually leads to great results, there are no gains to be had from going to the gym once a week and expecting to be able to run a marathon.
    I’m so happy that I’ve been able to play a small part in your embracing of the world of knits and creating a comfortable wardrobe of cocooning and soothing clothes that really can improve your everyday.
    Here’s to a wonderful 2018 and looking forward to seeing you at that class in February! x

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    1. Thank you so much Wendy! I’m glad it was an enjoyable read. I’ve been lacking in motivation recently on the sewing and exercise front. Getting my thoughts down has really helped crystallise my goals for the coming year and aspiration to live in a more integrated way. I put my trainers on this morning and ran to Forge Dam in celebration of a renewed enthusiasm! Really looking forward to the workshop and your new book. Happy new year Wendy X

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  3. You have found a new way of living through creativity and your alcohol free January. Not only a beautiful maker of clothes, which look so theatrical when you accessorize them, but a great philosopher.Your writing must be such a help to others who struggle to find the right balance for them in life. I stopped drinking alcohol and red meat some time ago resulting in a lot more energy. Happy New Sewing Year. XX

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    1. Thank you so much Terri! I’ve had the thoughts about this post in my mind for such a long time now. It was good to get them on the page. I’m looking forward to a new year of creating and writing. I’m glad you are feeling the benefit of tweaking your diet and lifestyle. So much love xxx

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  4. Your posts are always so thought provoking in a genuine, heart-felt way. I love Wendy Ward’s work as well – I’m in Canada so going to one of her classes in person I truly envy you for being able to do! Happy New Year to you – I wish you a better 2018 than you can even imagine 🙂

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    1. That’s a lovely compliment – thank you so much! And yes I know I’m very lucky to get to spend some time learning from Wendy herself. Your new year wishes are most welcome and I’m winging them back your way. All best wishes, aimee Xx

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  5. What a fab post. Being a middle-aged woman sometimes in pyjamas I hear you. I have spent a good part of 2017 self-medicating with a good white as work and life have definitely been out of balance. However, I will be joining in with Dry January and hopefully beyond. Your cardigan is lovely and that fabric looks amazing. I love the gold flecks. I have pre-ordered Wendy’s book having oft wanted to stick my toe into the waters of sewing knits but having been a little afraid. It looks great. Thank you for the recommendation and wishing you all the very best for 2018. Kelly Xx

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    1. Thank you for the kind words Kelly and it’s good to know I’ll have company in my second Dry January! It’s taken me a long slog to get to this conclusion and I really don’t make any promises to myself or anyone else. But I’m increasingly convinced this is the right path for me and my whole approach to drinking has changed since devouring a tonne of podcasts and literature – me extreme? never! Anyway – I wish you the best of luck on your journey. And I’m pretty sure you won’t regret buying Wendy’s book. Her style is so accessible and empowering – you will be on the knits train before you know it! A very happy new year to you xx

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  6. Congratulations on your sober year! I’m partaking in Dry January and have had quite a few dry months over the years. I started one in September which carried on through until mid-December. I love the feeling of waking up hangover-free and able to get on with life. I’ve also started knitting again, so have something to take my mind off it in the evenings.

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    1. Thank you! It is a great feeling being hangover free isn’t it. And I’ve caught the knitting bug as well 🙂 So far I’m swatching like crazy trying to amass some skills. Its way more scary than sewing! Hope you have a good booze free month X

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