Tag Archives: Minerva

FO: the world’s oldest finished UFO* (or, the technostretch top)

26 Jun

*I have no actual proof of this. There has been no rigorous scientific testing (or indeed, any testing of any kind, scientific, rigorous, or other). But I’d like to posit that this ranks pretty highly.

Because I finished it in 2014.

And I started it in 2002. Give or take a year. I figure I can be vague on the details when it is more than a decade old.

Once again, lots of bedroom eyes because argh-the-sun-it-burns-it-burns!!!

Once again, lots of bedroom eyes because argh-the-sun-it-burns-it-burns!!!

This top was part of the transition from Making-Mum-Sew-For-Me to What-Do-You-Mean-I-Have-To-Do-It-Myself??? that occurred around the turn of the century, when my mum finally cottoned on to my devious undertakings. As such, I still hadn’t figured out a bunch of the finer details, such as the fact that the size on the envelope bears no relation to either (a) the size in your RTW or (b) the measurements the envelope suggests go with that size. I cut it, sewed it, discovered it was far too small, and shelved it pending a solution.

I also made this before my natural-fibre-snobbery had taken hold, and the fabric is a highly synthetic, very stretchy woven with a metallic sheen and a slightly plastic touch. The Arthur Toye of last decade sold it as Technostretch. My then-favourite RTW shop sold lots of pencil skirts and fitted tops and jackets in this stuff, and I was enamoured by it, so I coveted all the colours when I found it in Arthur Toye and finally bought this dark blue, shot with black.

When I moved to Wellington in 2003, this came too, and continued to languish in the corner while I fumbled around teaching myself things. Finally, in about 2005, I started going to weekly sewing group, which was amazing! It was a small group, and was not quite a sewing class. Each person made their own projects in their own way, but the teacher would provide advice, guidance, bail you out off difficulty, and provide some specialist tools. I decided to exploit her knowledge and asked her to help me fix this top. I dug it out and we had a look at it.

I used Vogue 7234 because I loved the panelling and princess seam details. The panelled nature of the top was my saving grace. I picked it all apart, and reconstructed it using 0.5cm seam allowances, and miraculously it fit! The suuuuper stretchiness was my other saving grace (are you allowed two? I’m having tw0). It’s a very forgiving fabric and this helps get the fit just right, without mock-up or adjustments (other than seam allowance). So between the changes it fit and I was stoked!

But… something still wasn’t right. The underarms gaped. So we shortened the straps slightly. They still gaped. We shortened. They gaped. Shortened. By now there was no more left to shorten  and it still gaped, so I abandoned it to my sewing cupboard, thinking I’d figure it out one day.

Stolen from the internet so I don't have to photo it, and uploaded to distract from a lack of photos

Stolen from the internet so I don’t have to photo it, and uploaded to distract from a lack of photos

I was privileged to meet MrsC and co-adopt each other in 2008. At some stage over the next year or two it occurred to me to ask Maryanne for her ideas on the technostretch top. Like the guru she is, she told me how to fix it! The top is faced with narrow binding and this had stretched a bit.  So I laboriously unpicked the binding and used her magical tape technique to stabilise the underarms. Tadah! It was now sitting great!

This highlighted to me the benefit of having lots of sewing mentors; and the difference experience makes. My teacher was a very experienced RTW machinist and taught at a fashion institute. She told stories of how when she started she had to sew 40 collars, 40 cuffs, 40 plackets, etc etc, and get them all perfect before she was allowed to start assembling garments. But as a RTW machinist, she’d never really had to worry about fit. MrsC on the other hand had garnered her experience from, amongst other things, theatre and custom bridal, where every garment is made to fit someone. She has all the tricks to making one garment conform to its matching body.

Once again heaps of thanks to Sarah for taking all my photos!

Once again heaps of thanks to Sarah for taking all my photos!

The downside of solving the underarm gape was that I realised the strap shortening meant the underarm binding now sat right up in my pits, slowly rubbing and driving me crazy. ARGH! Luckily one of the things I was taught a long time ago is never to throw out your scraps until a garment is completed (and I tend to hold onto them even longer than that). I had no scraps long enough to cut new straps BUT I did have one actual strap I’d made and left scorch marks on when pressing! I’d also recently  bought some rectangular rings** for bag making wit mum, and I realised that that was the solution! But the rings were at Mum’s in Auckland, and she didn’t know where they were. And I forgot to dig them out when I was next at her place. And forgot the time after that. And forgot and forgot etc etc yadah yadah yadah.

Finally, she found them and posted them to me! Yay! Of course, I then lost them for at least six months. And then sat on the project awaiting motivation for another, oh I don’t know, year, or two, or three.

And then about March I finally dragged the top out, unpicked the two straps at the front, sliced off the scorched part of my surplus strap, sliced the remnant in half and inserted the halves. Then I figured out where the rings go, cut off the surplus, stitched them in place, and WHOLLY FREAKING MOLY I FINISHED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, I then realised that the scorched strap was ever so slightly wider than the new two. And the straps are fractionally too long now. And it doesn’t quiiiiite have enough room for my ass so it rides up a bit at the back.

Butt induced wrinkles

Butt induced wrinkles

Don’t care. DON’T CARE. It is done and I love it. Now I just need summer to get here so I can wear it on days that aren’t freak weather anomalies! (Who am i kidding. It’s Wellington – I’ll need freak weather anomalies during summer too!)

**I am aware that by their very nature rectangular rings can’t be rings. But I don’t know what else to call them!

I'm still feeling guilty about the lack of photos, so here is Minerva being adorable. This is the chair in my sewing room she likes to sleep in while I work.

I’m still feeling guilty about the lack of photos, so here is Minerva being adorable. This is the chair in my sewing room she likes to sleep in while I work.


Looking back, looking forward

10 Mar

I drafted most of this about two months ago, so it was late then. Now it just seems ridiculous. But I’m going to go ahead and post it anyway, because I want to be able to read this next year and remember my thinking. Feel free to come back later when there are exciting sewing, knitting, and other craft projects to look at!

I’ve been enjoying everyone’s wrap up posts over January (edit: and a few in February!) but… I’m not doing one. Not like those anyway. I haven’t made enough to pick a top 5 of anything, and it’s getting on a bit (edit: a lot!)  in the year anyway! But I have been reflecting, as I always do this time of year, about last year, my goals and successes, and what I want to do this year and thought I’d capture it so I could refer back to it later. You’re welcome to have a read too if you’re curious.

Looking back!

Last year I had two major goals to help me make more room for creating in my life, and so I’ve been thinking about how well I achieved these.

Goal 1: Spend 15 minutes a day, at least, on creative endeavours.

This was to try and carve out a bit more time doing the things I truly love, and a bit less time surfing the net or snoozing my alarm or channel surfing. Was I successful?

Yes and no.

I used a calendar for the first few months to track my success. There were more days then I hoped when I simply dithered my way through the day and missed out. But also, when I took into account ALL of my hobbies – rock and roll classes, social dancing, burlesque classes and performing, and writing this blog, as well as sewing, knitting, and embroidery – I did cover a lot of ground. This was reassuring that my life was much more full of delight than I gave it credit for. It’s a reminder that confirmation bias creeps in and turns subjectivity into negativity, where confirmation bias is that I NEVER do ANYTHING FUN and my WHOLE LIFE is just BORING STUFF. My lesson is that I should take more delight in all the fun things I do do, and remember them when I am feeling down.

Yoda on confirmation bias

I also learned that if  I go more than a couple of days without doing something creative I get grouchy, and conversely that if I am grouchy or stressed that picking up a project or going dancing is the best relief. I know, right? Who’d’ve thought that doing what you love would have a causal relationship with mood. Yeah, you can all shut up now. For me, it was a revelation and something to remember when I need a mood altering experience.

Two great lessons! But the true goal –  of getting into the habit of squeezing creativity in here and there, of making it second nature to pick my sewing table over the computer table, to (quoting from last year) “feed the creative beast, just make stuff” made less progress. It was far more like binging. I’d pour hours into a project over a few days then go a few days without. So, this year I’m going to continue to work on this philosophy, to try to keep creativity active, alive, and constant in my life.

Goal 2: 52 moments of satisfaction.

I wanted, over the course of the year, 52 moments where I sat back and thought “hell yeah. That rocked. That was awesome. That was worth it. I DID THAT”.

You know that feeling. Yeah you do. I wanted more of it. But did I get to 52? In a word, no. But I’m not in tears about it. Because some of these moments were HUGE.

I made 36 cushion covers for one moment. Embellished three tees for another. I made (with help) an entire burlesque costume for another. All of my baking moments were days where I made three or four cakes and treats. I fixed six necklaces one day. And I fixed, or altered a bunch of things in my fix it box without even bothering to count them. So, if I count individual objects, I well overshot the 52 mark. And in terms of hours, some of those moments represent dozens of them. And there was some impressive progress made on some WIPs that didn’t quite make it onto the list. So it represents a solid year of work. (And I do have plans to blog several more items, once I get photos! I really need a camera…)

What was the final list?

1. Red knitted Peggy Sue cardigan
2. Banana seat cushion
3. Purple frankenCambie for best friend’s wedding
4. Three vinyl printed tees
5. Three red velvet cushion covers
6. Red necklace for Miss La Belle
7. Peggy-Sue leftover beanie (to be blogged!)
8. Corazones heart skirt (to be blogged!)
9. Yellow dragonfly skirt
10. Aviatrix hat (to be blogged!)
11. All of the cushions (36 to be exact)
12. Dr Who burlesque outfit
13. Dr Who burlesque performance
14. Turquoise pencil skirt (alteration)
15. Flocked denim skirt (alteration)
16. Bananarama baking day
17. Mama’s jewellery overhaul
18. Bead donation (to be blogged!)
19. Pink leopard rock and roll dress (to be blogged!)
20. White petticoat (to be blogged!)
21. Pink leopard capelet (to be blogged!)
22. Pumpkin booties (to be blogged!)
23. Green maxi dress
24. Lemon cordial, lemon krummeltorte, chocolate cake (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
25. Ohm sweet ohm cross stitch (to be blogged!)
26. Christmas banana baking (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
27. Christmas cordial (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
28. Grace’s pin-up cushions (to be blogged!)
29. Rockabilly aprons (to be blogged!)
30. All the repairs. So many repairs. (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
31. Passed gold medal rock and roll dance exam (do you want to know about this?)
32. Pink hummingbird top

Let’s break this down a bit. Cos pie charts are fun and a picture seems like a nice idea.

2013's moments of satisfaction. There's always an "other" category...

2013’s moments of satisfaction. There’s always an “other” category…

I’ll be honest, I really wanted to have a list of 52, just cos I said I would, so it’s not without a tinge of disappointment that I acknowledge that I didn’t make it. There are things that exist in my head that I wanted to exist in real life. And I really hope they exist in real life one day. 

But there is real pleasure from looking at this list and realising all the things that I did manage to do. For this reason, I’m going to continue to keep an annual list of satisfaction, to remind myself of what I manage to fit into a very full and busy life.

Looking forwards!

So, what about 2014? Anything new? You betcha!

While I’m going to take what I’ve learned from 2013 and work it into my daily life, I have a new focus for 2014. I’m not the first to come up with it, and I won’t be the last. But this year, I want to sew with a plan, known by some as SWAPing.

I have a stash full of beautiful fabric, a mountain of patterns, and a computer full of inspiration pictures. But I’m not able to dress myself from my wardrobe every day in an outfit that makes my heart sing. It’s not entirely a lost cause! Occasionally I’ve worn ensembles that made me walk with a swagger as I collected compliments and checked out my reflection in passing shiny surfaces (and got busted doing that once by a colleague. Whoops). But often I just feel, well, meh. I’m not naked or cold so I’m dressed functionally, but otherwise, well, meh. I want to change that. I want to get distracted by my reflection every day (although I’ll have to learn to be more subtle to avoid embarassing converstaions). I want to walk with a spring in my step because I know I look good. I want my clothes to reflect my personality and my lifestyle. It may seem vain or shallow to some but to me it is about bringing joy and fun and self and confidence into what I wear, which I think translates into everything else. My plans for SWAPing are formulating in my head, but I’m going to give them a post all of their own. And then, you know, eventually start posting about sewing and knitting and stuff. Stay tuned, your patience will be rewarded!

And as this is a very text heavy post with no exciting photos, here is Minerva being adorable.

How can you not want to rub this? But it's ok, because you can!!!

How can you not want to rub this? But it’s ok, because you can!!!

Then that Christmas thing happened…

12 Feb

Holy moly it’s been a while since I’ve got all chatty up in here. But you know, December happened. Complete with The Great Hard Drive Failure of 2013, All of The Christmas Parties, The Massive Paperwork That Comes With Our Busiest Business Period, The Holy Crap If Im Going To Fit 4 Relatives In My House I Better Do A Lot Of Tidying Housework Blitz, and The How Did Christmas Get Here So Fast? Shopping Mania.

But it did get here fast and I had a wonderful time. Mechanic Man and I stayed in Wellington for the first time since we moved here 10 years ago, and my parents and brothers came down and stayed with us. The weather was mostly crappy but the food, adventures, crafting, and especially the company were awesome. (I’d bombard you with photos but I’m sure you don’t care and I can’t be assed editing them. Use your imagination.) And now I’m slowly emerging from the chaos and getting my house and head in order for a new year.

And I got an extra special Christmas present I can’t wait to tell you all about!

Meet Minerva. Min, Minnie, or Minnie the Moocher for short.

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, that I used to list her on petsonthenet. She's not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she's adorable

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, which I used to list her on petsonthenet. She’s not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she’s adorable. Look at those extra long whiskers!

Min adopted us at Christmas. And by adopted us I mean turned up and demanded to live with us until we caved and said yes. I’m madly in love with her.

Let me tell you the story. (It’s a long story. I suck at short stories. Short on time? Here’s the short version. SPOILER: We got a cat.)

We often have neighborhood cats wander through our yard. Most of them are skittish or shy and if you get too close they run away. Occasionally friendly ones will come by for a pat and a play. Mechanic Man and I love cats but MM has always been reluctant to own one so we take the pats from local kitties when we can get them. But we’ve always strongly felt that encouraging someone else’s cat to stray is mean, so we never feed neighborhood kitties and we never let them in the house.

We thought Min was a neighborhood kitty. She’s super friendly and loves pats and would come by the yard every now and then for attention, and had been for a couple of months before Christmas. But we never fed her or let her in the house, and she never tried to get in.

A few days before Christmas she came by for a pat and was rewarded with an outpouring of attention from my four newly arrived cat-crazy relatives. She started hanging around constantly and was never far away. After a couple of days we noticed she was sleeping in our little lean-to by the shed. We thought nothing much of it at the time. But then it all started to change when a couple of days before Christmas she started coming inside. Every time she was promptly chased out. We had a family meeting and agreed to lay off the attention so she’d be encouraged to return to her family.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

She responded by turning up the demands. She came into the house constantly and started sleeping on our furniture. She’d mewl at us when we went past and started a new game where she’d run into the house then run straight to a different door so we’d let her out that side. I started to wonder if maybe she didn’t have a family after all.

Then on Christmas Eve she cried outside for ages, on both sides of the house, and we could hear her trying to get in our locked cat flap. On Christmas Day we emerged to find her asleep on the deck under the cat flap. That day she jumped though Punk Flatmates window three times. She cried again that night and slept in the lean to.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

We didn’t want to encourage what was obviously a friendly, experienced domestic cat to stray and wondered why she was so reluctant to go home. We surmised that maybe her family had gone away for the holidays and locked her outside with a bowl of food and she was simply lonely, and although I was worried we decided to continue to keep her outside and not feed her, but that we’d keep an eye on her to make sure she was ok.

She stopped crying after only a couple of days, but then she got listless. Previously she’d always come running if you called her for a pat but now she wouldn’t leave the little bed she’d made in the lean-to and if you went to her she wouldn’t really move. We wondered if maybe her owners hadn’t left out enough food or had a catsitter who was unreliable. Torn between our duty to her owners and our duty to her, we discussed and agreed to feed her, outside only, and decide what to do next after New Years.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she's still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she’s still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

She was delighted to be fed and after a day or two perked up, back to normal. We still thought she must have a family somewhere, probably on holiday, and it was a temporary care arrangement so she still wasn’t allowed inside.

Of course, that was quite irrelevant to her and we’d frequently find her in the house acting like she owned it. She was completely unafraid and attempts to chase her out were often met with a raised paw so she could lick her bum.

A couple of days before New Years it bucketed down. Worried about her, we moved her food bowl from the lean-to to our conservatory and made her a wee bed with an old towel, and left the conservatory door open so she could gain access, and she happily moved into the new pad. But she still wasn’t allowed inside.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I've since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I’ve since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

Over the next few days we put photos of her online at petsonthenet.co.nz, put an ad in the supermarket, and took her to the local vet to be scanned, which returned a nil result. I was reluctant to surrender her to the SPCA as they limit attempts to reunite to seven days, and with it being the holidays I was worried that wasn’t long enough to find her home. The thought of a family getting home from holiday to find their cat gone was enough to want to avoid this. So we kept feeding her, and re listing the online ad, and waiting.

On 11 January I decided that I wanted to have her in the house. We’d either find her owners and then we would know where to return her to, or we would keep her. I begged Mechanic Man but he was still reluctant. Feeling that adopting a fur baby requires both parties to be willing I let it be. Then out of the blue, the following day, he let her in and brought her to me as I was doing paper work and she slept at my feet for about three hours. I was ecstatic.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

That was probably the first day we started thinking of her as ours. But just in case she had a family nearby, after a week of having her in the house we put a collar on her with our number, assuming that they’d either cut it off or call. A couple of weeks later and she was still wearing our collar and no one had rung.

But the day we truly acknowledged that we are now owned by a cat was in late January, when we were planning our annual budget. Mechanic Man piped up with ” we better budget for cat costs”. Well, if she’s in the budget, she must be ours.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man's lap. He's such a softie.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man’s lap. He’s such a softie.

But no drama is complete without a twist at the end! As a new, responsible, budget-allocating pet owner we decided we’d get her checked out properly and microchipped. We booked her in with a different vet (not having liked the first one) for last Saturday. As a matter of course, the first thing they did was scan Min for a chip. And it beeped. We were shocked, but really pleased that we’d finally found her owners, as surely they were missing her like crazy. The vet rang the owners and told them we’d found her, and arranged to hold her in their care until she could be picked up. I was pleased and yet… I’d grown really attached to her. So I asked if I could say goodbye for a few minutes, and then once the vet left us alone I promptly burst into tears! I spent a few minutes patting her and gathering myself together, and when I saw the next appointment arrive, I popped her back in her cage, got my stuff, and prepared for the knock on the door. Sure enough, the receptionist gently tapped on the door and came in. But instead of ushering us our, she was holding the phone and said “the owner’s have just rung back. They have talked it over and want to know if you are interested in rehoming her.”

I was too emotional to speak so Mechanic Man took the call. Long story short, they’re virtually our next door neighbours! Min had wandered off a couple of times previously as she wasn’t at all fond of the newly-mobile toddlers of the family, and this was the longest she’d not come home. They decided that she was probably much happier with us! And so she came back with us to her new home.

And her original name? Vespa, appropriate, given Mechanic Man’s love of motorbikes!

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

But we’ve kept the name Minerva. Why? Minerva is the Roman goddess of sewing of course. And Minnie the Moocher is a great nickname, given she’s mooched her way right into our lives and love.

And that is my Christmas present from the universe. Minerva sleeps on our bed at night (although it took a couple of weeks for Mechanic Man to allow that), comes when she’s called every time, plays chasing games with us until we cry laughing, and meows around our ankles till we feed her. And she’s the only cat I’ve ever met who loves belly rubs. No tricks, no wait 30 seconds and then shred your hands, just purrs. In fact, if she’s outside in the sunshine she actively encourages belly rubs by stretching out on her back adorably. And she’s super mellow. We can tease her and she just relaxes and ignores us. We’ve spent hilarious minutes while she’s sleeping stretching out her legs and tickling her and patting her paws to see what will make her move. The answer is nothing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she'll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she's bathing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she’ll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she’s bathing. She just kept on licking.

She’s wonderful. And she’s ours now. Or more accurately, we’re hers. And she knows it.

Minerva is stretched out along the length of my body here, for an afternoon snuggle

Minerva and I stretched out together for an afternoon snuggle.