Thursday, 20 March 2014

Really good reasons why sewing is good for you

Our lives have changed so much since I was little. I think my mother made all my clothes apart from my shoes and socks! We did have some rather special store bought
 dresses which were gifts from a grandmother, but its the ones that my mother made that I remember the most. Nowadays clothing is so cheap,(and mostly from China,) that most people opt for the easy way, go buy it instead.... But I believe that making something for yourself or a loved one makes a difference. You are giving time and attention to produce something useful and (hopefully)beautiful. Somehow going out to the shops isn't quite the same.
LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF When I was about ten I started playing with the sewing machine and before very long was making clothes of my own.
I remember a cute little shift dress with orange ,black and white fabric and puffed sleeves, which I made as a school project. So very seventies!
Once I tried to make a pair of pink flannel pyjamas and got the legs and the body parts all wrong and my friends and I fell apart laughing at the strange sight of me in a very strange garment with a crotch depth of about a metre and two short legs. Lesson learnt!
Really bad mistake on making my pyjama pants!

My little pony dress, Juliet, aged 5
Picnic in the Cape,
 Evan wearing a Bart Simpson shirt and shorts
I made my prom dress, my wedding dress, my children's clothes.

A few shirts for my father, dresses for my mother,

My sisters wedding dress, (in fact there were two of those),
and all the bridesmaids dresses too. 

Curtains for a lot of houses we lived in.
I think that every time you make something, whether it is for yourself or someone else, you project a part of yourself into the garment.
A remake of an eighties pleated suit, made for Juliets 21st.

Don't you think that is really special?


Practice makes perfect.

 The more you sew, the better you become, simple.

Your confidence increases, and we all could do with a good dose of that.

 Learning a new technique is empowering.


When I lived in Durban I had a small business, called 'FASHION PASSION'. I had a small office on a fairly  busy street and I used to supply patterns to the CMT clothing factories. It was next to an old brothel, luckily they had moved out, but I did have a few strange fellows knocking on the door occasionally, but that's another story!

 I had a friend whose cousin was a stunt car driver who drove ridiculous trucks with huge wheels. I think he also moved to New Zealand, anyway he was about 6ft plus in height, and I made him a shocking pink and black jumpsuit with a strange Triangular Shoulder effect in black and pink stripes.(No photo, thank goodness!)

 When I think of it now.... Hideous! Well, it was the Eighties! It was made in awful polyester canvas fabric and I can't imagine how hot it must have been, Durban is punishingly hot and humid. I am surprised he is still alive... death by bad taste and overheating. Yes, it was ugly, and yes it was complicated to make, but I did it and it was fun doing it. 

Get out there...
 be creative. 
Try something new!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Who on earth sews on a HOLIDAY?

My mother's lovely old Necchi sewing machine

I am always making something. Actually most of the stuff I make isn't for me at all. Something I am trying to remedy!

 I have arrived at my parents house in the past, and been faced with a large roll of furnishing fabric, and a lounge suite. Dark Brown. Kinda velvety. Not my favourite but it was very forgiving fabric and I managed to do a good job with my mothers old Necchi sewing machine.
This machine has defined what I do in my life. Given to my mother before I was born, it was the first machine I ever used,at about eight years old, and the first thing I ever made were rolls and rolls of  crepe paper Christmas decorations.  Cut strips of the paper and place together with white on one side, red or green on the other. Sew all the way up the centre, then cut into the edges of the paper to form a fringe. Twist and stick up on the ceiling.  Ever so retro! They lasted for years and years. From then on the Necchi was my favourite thing. It has a book of patterns that you can produce by slotting a lot of cogs together. I was fascinated.

When my family left what was Rhodesia, and moved to the UK, I used to go to church jumble sales and buy things and rehash them. Good old Necchi sewed them up again. We lived there a year, and then we moved to South Africa, and I  wanted to study to become a physiotherapist. I really wanted to be a vet, but a very sexist male vet said girls were too weak to become vets.

I didn't get accepted. My Dad saw an advert in the paper, "Fashion Design as a Career" and so I did that instead. 

Clever Dad. He saw what I just couldn't see.

So, here I am, on holiday, using the same machine. (Now 56 years old!)

 She still purrs away, and if she wasn't so terribly heavy I would bring her home with me. She weighs 15kg!

So, this time, so far, I have sewn a new net curtain for my Dad's lounge window. The cat ripped the old one. I hate net curtains, but you know how oldies love them.....

Karen and Dad on her new section
My sister and her partner have bought a hill and they are going to develop an eco campsite in the Valley of 1000 hills, and will be living in a caravan for a while. For her birthday I re-upholstered the squabs, changing them from grotty smelly dirty brown floral fabric to more modern grey, and I'm halfway through doing the curtains. The caravan is a very mouldy smelling old seventies thing.  Curtains are in a knit fabric, a bit of an experiment, but material is already available, so that's what she wants to use. As Durban is so humid everything goes mouldy and smelly if things are closed up for long.

Valley of 1000 hills
CAT the cat enjoying her new cat blanket infused with catnip

These were her adorable kittens
The cat that has adopted my father is very sweet but I don't think she had much of a good time as a kitten. She was a stray that produced the most lovely kittens when my Mum passed away and she has stayed on with my Dad and is great company for him. I bought some catnip and have made her a few catnip mice and a cat blanket for her to sit on with some catnip inside. She has turned into a very crazy sexy beast! I think she must be stoned!

I'm going to make one for my sisters cat too.

But I have made something for myself. I downloaded a program that gives you free pants and bodice blocks. Enter your measurements and hey presto out comes the pattern that will fit you. Hopefully anyway!

 I have a new wide format printer at home so I had a great day getting the printing correct, and as I had run out of time and had to leave for SA I took my patterns with me. I found some black velveteen in the bottom of the very musty linen cupboard and made up the pants pattern. Well, I am on a diet. I don't think I have lost that much weight, but sadly the pattern was WAY too big.  I took off 4cm on the back side seams , all the way down the leg, and 4cm on the front and back waistband and they do fit very well now. I also removed the darts at the back, and moved the front dart over my hip bone, which I find is a much better place to remove excess fabric.
The pictures are awful. Ghastly!!!

 I was so proud of my new velveteen pants, now I'm not so sure!

they feel better than they look!
Hmmm... more sit ups required! and make them shorter!

So... two weeks down and another 2 to go. Whats next?
Adust some shirts for my Dad,I think. And then? I have no idea!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Look who came for breakfast

It's amazing what 'normal' is considered to be in different parts of the world. While here in South Africa, all sorts of things which were one normal for me, are now, in my eyes, completely strange.

While I am here, I am enjoying being able to jump in a swimming pool at any time, and, as I am definitely a morning exercise person, I choose to go and have a swim in the morning, to wake me up and for me to have that saintly feeling that I have actually done some exercise, even when I am on holiday, although somewhat incarcerated in a retirement home. Of course, the inhabitants of this retirement home must think that I am strange, going to jump into the pool when it is not a hot day, and they keep asking if the water is cold. It hasn't been cold until today, and it was so cold it gave me a headache!

On the way home, walking past the rubbish dump, and along the 12 foot electric fence, I saw them. Monkeys! A whole troupe of them. I haven't seen monkeys for a long time.

Now, monkeys are a nuisance. They can get in your house and steal your fruit. Therefore, people have security doors to keep burglars out (normal) but also to keep monkeys out. The big monkeys have become very clever and now send their babies into the house to get the fruit!

I stood quietly in the front of my fathers garden and asked him to pass his camera out so I could take photos.  (now that would not be normal activity for South Africans, monkeys are so commonplace here they would be chased away). I had a great time taking photos.
Hey you guys! come this way!

The family group... I love the babies
Berries for baby and avocado for mum. Delicious breakfast!

Little fella peering through the leaves at me
Who will get the bananas?
'CAT' the cat, is not even vaguely worried about the visitors

Of course,  I should have thought more about what is normal for South Africans who see monkeys, and stopped being such a tourist. Remember I said that monkeys are little thieves?

While I had been swimming, my Dad had been very organised and had made some morning tea and some jam sandwiches for the gardener, Paulus, and had placed it outside the kitchen door. He was busy looking at stuff on his computer, and had not done what he normally did, see monkeys, check the back door! They may get in the kitchen!

Guess who got the sandwiches?? The monkeys, of course!