it’s a family affair

When I started sewing a few years ago, I set myself a couple of goals – to sneak my way into the pages of Love Sewing Magazine and join the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network. I managed the former with my Kelly Skirt and I’m beyond pleased to say I’ve now achieved the latter. I’m an official sewing blogger and my first post is now live over on Minerva’s website. And if that is a hop and a jump too far, here are the visuals:

the hours

‘ … but there are still the hours aren’t there? One and then another and you get through that one and then, my god, there’s another …’

Perhaps a strange film choice as balm for my sorrows but whilst there comes a time to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes, sometimes you just need to lie down with the wolves and seek solace in those who understand.

Many years ago when I watched this film, the words resonated so strongly with me, encapsulating the hopelessness of being trapped in a life interminable. Never mind getting through each day … what about the hours, the minutes the seconds. When time stretches before you and there’s nothing to fill it outside the darkness of your mental landscape, you look for ways to speed things up.

And when you find them, the world becomes a veritable playground with a plethora of options. I started early with all encompassing emotional attachments to people. But humans are slippery buggers and their desires have a habit of not coinciding with our perceived needs. I needed a back up plan – something I could pin down when the object of my affection evaded me. And it came in the form of one of the most pervasive and socially acceptable substances available – alcohol.

My elixir of choice has varied over time but in adulthood I discovered a dependancy that was both functional and aspirational – I’d affectionately dub the last two decades as my chardonnay years, except I’m starting to look back through a different filter. The intoxicating promise of that first glass – stalling the restlessness of the overthinking mind in the warmth of temporary relief. Sharp corners soften, time accelerates and social interactions are heightened in a fallacy of intimate connection.

This is my second dry January – last year I celebrated the achievement on February 1st, by buying the finest bottle of wine I could afford. I’m now thinking that perhaps I missed the point. Seeing the challenge as a hiatus in normal functioning – a race to the end with the promise of double points next month. This year, I asked my pals on Instagram for some tips on living more soberly. One thing I know is that deprivation and denial will never work for me as motivating forces. Whenever I make a positive change, I need to feel I’m moving towards rather than away from something.

One suggestion was to ask the question ‘How does this serve me?’ and reading those words was a lightbulb moment for me.

I’ve held so tightly on to my freedom as a self determining individual. To be able to say one thing and later do another according to my changing will, embrace spontaneity and eschew reason when faced with the lure of a chaotic diversion. Having spent years on a path of self discovery – and only from wisdom afforded by retrospect – I can honestly say this ideal has been a major cause of unhappiness. I’ve learnt that I function the best when I’m grounded by routine, stability, stillness, creativity and considered consumption.

And yet, despite all my focus on development, I’ve kept one small area off limits. Except it isn’t small – it’s an entrenched pandemic. And whilst I’m not outing myself as an alcoholic, I do think I have all the building blocks -genetic predisposition, life history, obsessive patterns of behaviour – to become addicted to a whole smorgasbord of substances. And whilst I’ve not yet fallen down into the abyss with a single ticket to oblivion, I do wonder what vice I would turn to if the shit really did hit the fan. And as the nature of life is to love and then systematically lose all the things you love, there’s no escaping that shit will come.

Which got me thinking, why not stop before it starts. I’ve been drip feeding myself health giving habits since my 30’s, easing myself in with bite sized chunks. And my 40’s heralded the arrival of new drugs of choice with gifts of unprecedented influence. Time thieves which swallow every second available – the hours which in earlier years stretched endlessly ahead, now dance before me like a prized possession. My waking hours are now delineated – time spent making and writing and time not spent making and writing. And all my energies focused on making more time for the former.

I started out this month focusing on my relationship with alcohol and asking whether it was going to be a dry month/year/life. Abstinence is not a word I’m drawn to but finding things that bring me joy are. And making the choice to do them for the long term gain is. So what next … I honestly don’t know. I’m trying to live life more in the day and less in my head and I’ve embraced this opportunity to really examine my habits of old and new and question the value they bring to my life.

Special thanks to @wholelifewithamy @hipsobriety @laura_mckowen and the Home podcast which inspired this post and has given me so much food for thought this month.

the kindness of strangers …

… or as a dear friend of mine likes to say … ‘friends we have not yet met’. Whilst my relationship with social media does not come without inner conflict, I am unreservedly grateful to have made connections with fellow creatives whose values I share. I’ve been truly humbled by the kindness of people I’ve met here on my blog and over on Instagram.

Part of what attracts me to my chosen craft is its solitary nature – hour upon hour spent absorbed in a project, liberated from my over-thinking mind. However, as someone whose glass is perpetually half empty, spending too much time alone can be counter-productive. Especially when a plan has unravelled and I err towards an all or nothing mindset.

Through social media, I’ve been on the receiving end of such generosity of spirit, which has encouraged me to continue making and writing about the process. I was recently gifted this self described ‘sketched trial’ from @thescentofwater, which sums up my compulsion to write and create in a way that I can’t in words. One woman’s sketch is another woman’s work of art – it’s something I will treasure forever.

And some more day brightening gems from friends I haven’t yet met: a feast of patterns in the latest issue of Ottobre accompanied by a homemade granola recipe from @mariangravemaker; a pin cushion and Linden pattern to trace (I foolishly cut into my original before copying) from the lovely @leemac36 and a photo of Maude accompanying one of my first followers Eimear, on a ‘semi-formal event’.

The change in seasons had me temporarily floored with my evenings disappearing into the darkness. Until I discovered the Danish concept of Hygge and decided to embrace the opportunities fall and winter bring. Whilst continuing to pear back my possessions, I’ve been cosying up my micro-living space and marrying function and beauty with a handmade ironing board cover. This project was the quick win I was looking for thanks to excellent tutorials from Tilly and the Buttons and Wendy Ward, along with some top tips from Eimear.

I’ve been watching Season Three of the absolutely brilliant Transparent and one of the stand out lines was Shelley’s proclamation ‘I’m a BRAND’ in reference to her one woman show ‘To Shell and Back’. It reminded me of the conflict I have with social media which is not the medium itself, but as with most things, my relationship with it. Having addictive traits, there’s real potential for me to get swallowed up in the ‘show and like’ aspect, thinking I am only as valid as my latest offering. So, I’ve been resisting the urge to bang out more makes and endeavouring to be more considered, when it comes to where my sewing adventures take me next.

I’d love to hear what projects you’ve got in the pipeline to take you through this changing light?

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.  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 inspired 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 Dress 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.

pass it on






What a response! I’m overjoyed so many of you connected with the idea of #patternrelay and got in touch both here and over on Instagram. It was no easy task to choose where Lisette goes next. After much deliberation I’ve decided to give it to someone, who like me, has a passion for the portfolio and has been searching far and wide for a copy.

Lisette’s next port of call is @abi_norman! I loved her enthusiasm for the project –  whether she received the pattern or not. I also adore her stylings, use of fabrics and colourways – hop over to her page and feast your eyes on her handmade wardrobe in glorious technicolour.

To track Lisette on her travels use #patternrelay over on Instagram and follow the next recipient so you can put in your bid next time she’s ready to set sail.

Bonne chance!