the birds are upside down

Merchant & Mills - The Dress Shirt #2

There is something intoxicating about buying crafting paraphernalia- the virgin promise of unchartered and as yet unspoiled territory. But as my sister pointed out to me recently, there is a world of difference between a mind stimulated by the rush of acquisition and the mindfulness of being single pointedly absorbed in an activity. And whilst making things with my hands has had a hugely positive affect on my mental well-being, the syringe model bypasses the huge range of emotions that accompany my creative endeavours.

My aspiration is always impossibly high – to attain the perfection that has previously alluded me. And this desire is my downfall, as I inevitably make mistakes in the process of learning new skills and honing my craft. In retrospect, I can survey the back catalogue of my handmade wardrobe and embrace each item – its flaws mapping my journey from novice to competent seamstress. Time has distanced me from the pain triggered by each imperfection and my attention is forward-focused on the ever elusive prize of a make perfectly executed.

Which brings me to my second attempt at The Dress Shirt from Merchant and Mills. My first iteration is on constant rotation and I was keen for the revisit programme with refined techniques. Due care and attention resulted in a finely executed front pleat and I also took my time easing in the bulk around the bib to good effect. Instead of butchering the finish on the inside with my overlocker, I dug out my pinking shears for the bib edging and the side seams are neatly enclosed French style. It was all going so swimmingly until I focused in a little more closely on that subtle fabric motif and noticed that THE FRICKIN BIRDS ARE UPSIDE DOWN.

You think I would learned by now and ditched this quest for perfection. It’s been almost three years since I started this blog and began to document my adventures in stitch. That’s a serious amount of time to be oscillating on the same emotional rollercoaster.  But some of our behaviours and responses are so hardwired, I’m not sure it’s possible to radically change them in one short lifetime. Outwardly I’ve changed dramatically and shed habitual behaviours that were dampening my sprit. However at my core, my default setting remains the same and I propel myself into most days from a starting block of dis-ease.

I’d love to live in a world where people ask ‘How are you?’ and are open to the whole myriad of responses this question could engender. And where replies other than ‘ok’ are welcomed with curiosity rather than recoil.  If happiness is the end goal then I’m always going to suck at this living lark and I’ve come to appreciate that denying the depths of my feelings is akin to annihilation. But bleeding over everyone I meet isn’t the answer either, so sometimes I think it’s useful to employ a bit of shorthand so we all know the score, without having to plummet the depths.

In the past, I’ve referred to the dial of my emotional compass being set at ‘Father John’ – homage to the gig I couldn’t bring myself to attend for fear of actually having to interact with other humans. I’ve also been quite fond of scoring out of ten, which can serve to distance myself and others from the horrors of actually describing how we feel. The birds are upside down is my newfound euphemism of choice and interestingly wearing this dress throws the whole statement on its head, as it all depends on your perspective.

Don’t get me wrong – the reframe was far from instant and a swift boomerang from the brink is never my style. Emotions linger around me like perfume and there’s no fast forward button to escalate the process. But as I tried the dress on for the hundredth time, I looked down at the birds and began to view them through a different lens – as a metaphor for a life lived out of kilter and a celebration of swimming against the tide. When I shift my vantage point and relieve myself of the pressure to conform, the birds that face me are perfectly aligned.

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16 thoughts on “the birds are upside down

  1. Ha. I did the same with their Trapeze dress and the flowers are upside down. I’m not sure that anyone would notice, but I will.

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    1. It’s so funny how we hold on to these things that noone would EVER notice! I’m genuinely starting to like the fact that these birds are upside down 🙂 Hope you can say the same for your flowers X

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  2. Good points (as usual). When people ask me “how are you?” I tend to reply with “at what level are you asking?” Because most days I can say I’m fine, and I really am – on the surface. Underneath that is a whole other story. MS is a goddamned troll, but if people don’t want to be told I won’t tell. And in a way I guess we all have our trolls, in one way. I wish they’d burst in sunlight! 🌞🌞🌞

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    1. We do all have our trolls and I have to remember that when I am finding people insensitive that they have their own stuff going down. Thank you as always for taking the time to read and comment – it means a lot. I wish you well and might just steal that – ‘on what level are you asking?’! X

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  3. Loved this post Aimee, very uplifting. I made a Beatrice pinafore a few months ago and cut the back pieces upside down, was of course livid for a few moments but then realised I never see my arse end anyway. However, since making it I hid it in my wardrobe but took the notion to get it out last week and wear the blinking thing and I’ve had in on most days and it’s just hung up drying from it’s maiden washing – I didn’t thing about the upside down bum sections once. It’s good to embrace flaws in material things and processes, my Mum has been trying to tell me for years but of course I rebelled and get all finickity with my persuits but small steps and all that! No one else notices but us (unless they’re a really critical person and in which case we probably don’t really care what they think anyway) It looks like a splendid day over t’hills in Derbyshire (I’m just on the border so know how mint it is up there) and your Dress Shirt looks awesome, you get to enjoy the birds the right way up when looking down at the bib section which actually makes more sense! Have a super weekend X

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    1. We kick ourselves so hard when we spot our mistakes don’t we Josie! But really you are so right about the process being important and not the end result. I think I have to accept that I know this is true but my initial response will never be as measured as I would like! I have really gotten my head around the fact that the birds are in the right direction when I look at them now and this reframe has taken my fancy 🙂 Thank you for sharing your own upside down story and how little it matters in the end – as you say, it’s not often you are staring at your arse! I’m so glad you felt the post was uplifting – to connect with people in this way is a special thing for me. Have a lovely weekend yourself 🙂 xx

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  4. I love the dress including the upside down birds -its on my wish list along with the trapeze… I did a similar thing I carefully cut a top out, I stood back to admire the precision cutting and then it hit me I was so focused on the tracing and cutting I hadn’t realised I’d cut the front piece out with the pattern upside down, the back was as it was meant to be, massive learning curve!!! Your blog has now become my favourite sit down with a cuppa read. I totally get being out of kilter with the majority, still feel like it but I’m a bit more accepting of myself… Maybe !!! Xx

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    1. Ohh thank you for embracing the birds and what a lovely thing to say about my blog – I really appreciate that feedback – it means such a lot to me when I can connect to other people through my writing. One of the really great things about writing this blog is that I have discovered I am very much in good company and certainly not alone in some of my thoughts and feelings. Lets wear our upside down makes with pride as a celebration of who we are 🙂 x

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  5. You have made a beautiful dress and I am sure that it will only be you that notices that the birds are upside down. I can empathise with regards to the quest for perfection. I see every little flaw and squint stitch on the things that I make when they are not apparent to anyone else. I am sure that is a good metaphor for something. Anyway, remember the 2-foot rule. If you can’t see it from 2-feet away no one else will. Have a lovely weekend! Xx

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    1. Squint stitch – I love that! Thank you for the kind words about my upside down bird dress – we are reconciled now – it’s always just a matter of days and then I get to the reframe 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting as always – it makes my day to connect with others through words. The two foot rule is so much farther than our squint stitch though! Xx

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  6. This is hilarious – I have this same fabric and did exactly the same thing with it, having saved it for months “for special”!! I have since been assured that it’s not obvious, and your dress proves this 🙂 By the way, mine shrunk over time leaving my dress too short, so you might want to watch out for that.

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    1. HA!! That really is hilarious. Are you on Instagram? I’d love to see a picture. I feel so much better now 🙂 And thanks for the washing tip – I’ll be careful with it! X

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  7. Surely it’s not upside down, the birds are so it looks right when you look down right? As a kid I had a skirt my mum had made with ladies on it and I had insisted it be so I could see them correctly when I looked at them (It’s all about me after all!)
    The little mistakes are what make our makes special anyway so actually it’s good to make them (I’m especially fond of setting sleeves in back to front myself, I have that down as my speciality!)

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    1. Well that’s the conclusion I came to in the end! And the bird position hasn’t bothered me in the slightest since! I really love your speciality – what a great description of our quirks 🙂

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  8. I never fail to be absolutely shocked at the mistakes I make in sewing (I’m a “returned to sewing” sewist after a 40 year hiatus) Just the most unbelievable missteps. I can just imagine that sensation you felt when you tried on your dress for the first time and looked at the birds…upside down! I laughed. Such a familiar feeling. I made up a Grainline Farrow dress in beautiful linen recently – pleased as punch with my french seams only to realize that SOMEHOW I had failed to sew the wrong sides together first. That (now ugly) folded seam ended up on the outside. I had NO IDEA how I could have done that since I was SO damn careful about putting wrong sides together first. Clearly after all that careful rechecking and rechecking I had so discombobulated myself so much I sewed right sides together. You would think it would be an easy job to fix EXCEPT that I always sew the first part of a french seam on my serger then flip it right sides together. Unpicking really wasn’t something I wanted to do AT ALL. You’re so right – embracing our “mistakes” in sewing helps us embrace all those parts of ourselves that are just not perfect. Not even close 🙂

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    1. Ahh thank you for your comments – you made me laugh too! I can empathise fully with how you must have felt when you realised your mistake! And discombobulated is one of my favourite words ever:) It’s such a slow process for me, embracing the things that are less than perfect but I think it’s essential for my growth and for an increasingly peaceful existence. As a dyed in the wool perfectionist, I think it is always going to be a challenge but I’m aware of my tendencies and when I get through the painful part, I look back, reflect and am glad of the journey including all the mishaps along the way. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment – I really appreciate it 🙂 x

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