Thursday, 26 February 2009

to clarify

Although for me this issue is really done with, I wanted to add a quick note here because a lot of commenters on my censure post have made some valid points I wanted to respond to.

Firstly and most definitely importantly, the decision to remove the post was mine. I thought about it a lot and decided I wanted to remove it because I didn't want to cause offence. Not because I thought the post was wrong but because I didn't want to waste airtime in debating and defending it.

A lot of bloggers defend to the death their right to say whatever they want. I don't disagree with that, but my blog is, for me, more than a soap box. It may have started out as nothing more than a diary of sorts - in fact a way of letting our friends at home get a glimpse of our big adventure over in Thailand in 2005 - but it has become something much more than that.

Through my blog I have become part of a community, and while there is most definitely a lunatic fringe around that community, in the main it is filled with wonderful people, many of whom have become friends in the very best sense of the word.

And because I value that community, so very much, I accept that I have responsibilities alongside rights. I took down the post because sometimes belonging means putting a sock in it, even if you think the offence taken is about them and not you. Sometimes the harmony and bonding of the community is more important than having a say or being 'right'. We all of us have our sensitivities and intolerances and ignorances and while to us they may appear obvious or righteous, the truth is there is no reason to think they are universally understood or agreed.

I recognise this is a fine line, and there would definitely be times when under similar circumstances I would not have removed a post. When I would have said, I have the right to my view and I don't care if I offend, that there is a principle at stake here and that I will not be censored. But this wasn't one of those times.

I used the word sadness in that post not anger. I wasn't complaining about my choice but it does make me sad that it isn't easier to be part of a community, that it isn't all plain sailing, in which we are all fully and completely accepted for who we are and spared from criticism and hurt and the pointing out of our flaws and differences. At the moment in which those differences are in high relief I feel very sad indeed.

But with time, and the kind words of others, the sadness fades, and I can be more philosophical. The price of community is worth it. The difficulties and negotiations and holding back are part of a cost that I am generally glad to pay.

Sometimes I have enough energy to try and barter a better deal, sometimes I am prepared to try and change the direction some of those negotiations go, or even how they take place. Sometimes I can stand up and be a leader in that community, or a builder of that community. Other times that seems to hard, too much to pay, the rules seem unfair and I feel like the outcast.

But community transcends. A time in the wilderness is always followed by a renewed embrace, and no doubt there will be a time somewhere over the horizon where I am plunged back into doubt. Hopefully that will keep me on my toes, keep me honest and humble, and appreciative of the moments of harmony while they last.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

bagged

With all the bag making going on around here, I've decided to right a few family carriage issues.

Wil has been carting around his childcare back pack like a shoulder bag for quite some time now. Completely wrong wrong wrong. He has to hold his arm high in the air to stop it from trailing on the ground, but he can't seem to accept actually wearing it as a back pack nor letting me put it in the pusher for the walk home. I feel so sorry for him and his tired high in the air arm.

So I put together a little satchel for his new school bag. I delved into my old stash of excellent hand print fabric by Lara, and some more of the Thailand broadcloth and whipped this up while the boy-o was asleep. I used a detachable and adjustable strap so it can grow with him, or even be used by me at some stage. It's only wee - just big enough for a nappy and wipes and a change of clothes. Super quick and delightful.

Next up was another project bag for me, it seems like whenever I have more than one knitting project on the go, one is inevitably stored in an old flour sack or (god forbid!) a plastic bag. Ew. Grey linen outer, cotton leaf print inner, machined star burst and cotton cord draw string.

Plus, and let's be honest here, I couldn't be fagged putting away the scraps from making Wil's hat on the weekend, so this one is entirely made from what was on my desk. I know it seems perverse that I should find making a bag a less onerous task than putting something away, but the overflow on my large scraps box is so depressing I can't bear to go near it let alone try and cram another thing in it.

I can see it won't be long before Amy will be sniffing around for her turn so I suspect another little satchel will be popping up here soon too.

Oh and what's in the bag?
A quick knit for a friend who's in the family way. The glorious and every popular Baby Yoda by Cari Luna, knit in a double strand of 4 ply baby merino from NZ. I'm using two rows of alternating undyed cream and the grey I dyed myself. Shaping up nicely, can't wait to block.

Monday, 23 February 2009

moving on

Thanks. Just, you know, thanks. Really. You see? This is why I expose myself in public, to get comments like you lot give.

Let me not dwell on our human shortcomings, my own foremost amongst them, and instead move back to cheery trivia.

Re-stash bag three. This one made using a seriously gorgeous embroidered linen table cloth (those colours!) I got from someone else's de-stash and some broadweave cloth I brought back from Thailand. Already been used in a project or two, it has been right on the top of my use it up pile. I'm hoping there's enough left over for a dress for Amy, if not a few more bags I guess.

A new sunhat for Wil. A prototype, but I'll need to let him wear it for a while before I work out what needs changing. I hate that little kids hats have such small brims, but the added sun protection has resulted in a definite safari look. Grey linen exterior, cotton leaf print interior (ikea pillow case). Totally cracks me up. Is it just me, because he's mine and all, or is he just too freakin cute?

And then I ran out of black thread and had to pick some up at Spotlight and they just happened to be pulling the new season fabrics off the truck so I was lucky enough to get in and score before all the good stuff got snapped by, well, people like me. Nice, nice. More sewing to come.

D is off again tomorrow for another stint up North (where it is cooler than here - how weird is that?!), so there may not be too much sewing for a while, but really I am so on a roll I may be doing it at night when the kids are in bed...

Sunday, 22 February 2009

censure

I'm having a bit more of an internal dialogue about what to write here than I normally would.

It seems I am offending with things I write, and while I am aware that in theory this is an everyday possibility, it is somewhat more confronting when the evidence is presented to me.

I would like to say that I find it easy to dismiss criticism - after all I fully accept the right of dissent, fully expect differences of opinion, totally understand that writing a blog is inviting in anyone who wishes to have a go. I get it.

But criticism gives me pause for thought even at its wackiest. It does make me question myself and whether it is OK for me to go ahead on my merry way. Often I will decide it is, sometimes I take lessons for the future from my deliberations.

But this week for the first time I removed a post and I feel really sad about that. I feel sad because although I don't wish to offend and thus removed my post, I feel completely misunderstood.

I feel that in the context of my life as it is here, and as I live it in a community, that I haven't been given the benefit of the doubt. That the things I do and the values that I hold haven't been sufficient for my words to be taken in the best light. I feel like my intentions and motives are transparent and good, and I assume that this should provide readers cause to if not overlook my irriatations then at least tolerate them.

I have been thought badly of, and I don't think I am that person.

It is the hardest part of being in a group this behaviour modification stuff, this tolerating the way people can rub and prickle you.

So you know, I feel I am treading carefully. I am writing posts and deleting them. Trying hard not be another whiny blogger all angst ridden about the cruel world and yet not censuring myself either.

But I keep coming back to why I blog and feeling like although the path feels somewhat rocky now, it will get better. The negatives will fall away as they always do and I can get back to the big adventure.

needle books


needle books, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Some felt, some batting, some braid and some stitching.

Some packets of needles and they are filled and ready to go.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

the second


re-stash bag 2, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Here comes another one, just like the other one...

Only this time with an external pocket instead of stitching.

I'm on a roll people...

Monday, 16 February 2009

the first

Look! Evidence of actual crafting! The first of my re-stash a crafter kit bags. I'll be popping in some yarn and needles, a few patterns, stitch markers, a wool needle and some scissors - everything you need to knit.

I've made the decision not to go on endlessly about Handmade Help and the re-stash a crafter project here. Despite the fact that my passion for it has almost completely swallowed my life in the last few days, I'll do my best to keep Handmade Help posts over on the Handmade Help blog.

So even though this project is for the re-stash project, I figure being actual craft, actually done by me, it is allowed to be here.

One of the really great things to have come about in the last few days, between sewing bees and the re-stash project, is a driving purpose to craft. I love making bags, and really you can make something kick arse in a surprisingly short period of time with very little. Normally I don't make many because, well, you only need so many bags in your life. But a good project bag is something every crafter needs, so production is kicking into high gear when I'm not answering emails and doing other organising type stuff.

This one is so simple, just two long rectangles (23cm wide and 78cm long) - one in canvas for the outer and one in a spotted seer sucker for the lining (love those spots!). They are folded in half, sewn up the sides and then the bottom squared off. I ironed the top edges in and then slipped the lining inside the outer.
Meanwhile I made some straps by taking two pieces of the outer canvass (12cm wide by 50cm long), folding them in half longways, ironing them, unfolding and folding in the two outer edges to meet int eh middle and folding it back in half. This gives you four layers of fabric with no cut edges showing. I top stitched four rows of contrast stitching to give it strength and stability.

I made the button flap with one piece of each inner and out fabric (7cm wide by 8cm long) and with a piece of thick round elastic caught in the seam. I slipped the handle ends and the button flap between the inner and outer and then top stitched the two together with two rows of stitching. Position and hand sew on the button for the flap.

Oh, and I did a little very quick machine embroidery on the outer canvas before I sewed it up, but you could well skip this step - particularly if you were using a printed fabric for the outer.
I chose the measurements to accommodate a good sized pair of knitting needles plus half a dozen or so balls of wool. If I was making a stitching project bag I might have rotated the orientation and had a wide base and narrow depth so it was easier to see in for picking out threads and so on as you work.

I'm looking forward to pumping out quite a few more.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

rainbow city


rainbow city, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Thankfully someone still has their head in the clouds around here.

The 20c admission charge (well worth it if you ask me) is part of Amy's drive to save for a Nintendo DS.

When quizzed about what Nintendo is (I am pretty darn sure she's never seen one) she says,

It's a box about this big and you play games on it and it makes you smarter.

So you know, roll up, only another 1,800 or so visitors and she'll be outsmarting me...

Friday, 13 February 2009

by my hand

Whew. This morning's little idea has really grown, I think I've fielded about 100 emails already. I even squeezed in learning how to use skype so I could coordinate with others in the Handmade Help community. I'm overwhelmed but I love that despite how different us crafters are from each other, we all seem to get that basic thing - crafting is important.

It can be hard in some moments to keep sight of that. I mean thinking about what people are going through, finding somewhere to sleep, getting food to eat, dealing with the memories that must be haunting them and the fears that must overtake them, craft can seem kind of frivolous.

To some people such unimportant contributions might actually seem like a kind of nuisance, an imposition on other people and a distraction from the real work. In between the flurry today I've been thinking a lot about that, whether it is right to be thinking about little things when the big things are still a mess. About whether a gift of something creative can ever be as important or meaningful as the gift of cash.

And you know, I'd never want to be in the way of important work, I'd never want to divert resources from essential services, or discourage someone from donating cash or serving meals in a relief centre in order to knit, or buy fabric or sew a pretty quilt. Getting people housed and fed and clothed and moving on is absolutely non negotiable. And so is the importance of people choosing what they want and not simply being given the stuff other people think they should have.

But Handmade Help is about something different, something for a different time. That time when the basics have been covered and moving on is about more than just surviving. When having something precious seems very important indeed.

When someone wishes the plain T-shirt they bought in a hurry in Target didn't look so bland, when they wish they had some earrings to wear, or a pretty tea towel to dry the dishes with. When the make do starts to remind them less about how lucky they were to survive and more about the treasures they lost. Grandma's doilies, the pendant they got for their 21st birthday, the tablecloth their daughter embroidered in year 10 home economics class, the photo frame they got for a wedding gift, their favourite handbag. The things they collected, the gifts they were given with love and pride.

Of course nothing can replace the treasures of the past, but the gifts made by hand and with the best of intentions can become part of a new era of lives. Tokens to remind them of how much people cared for strangers who had suffered great misfortune, of how powerful and meaningful community is. That they are embraced for no more complicated a reason than because they are human and deserve care. I think this is real and important, I absolutely do. Sometimes feeling touched by someone else can be life blood.

Crafting is and has always been a central thread of community, of building and rebuilding lives. It is no mistake that so many of our words and metaphors to describe coming together relate to the materials and processes of craft - the weaving, spinning, knitting and stitching that create the fabric, the thread, the web, the net; the forging, the binding, the blending and the seaming make us strong and solid and inseparable and resilient.

The Handmade Help project is something for the long haul. It is a call for crafters to get to work now to be ready for that time when people start to think about the next step in their lives. We need to fill that community chest, the glory box, so that when those families are stepping over that threshold into their new lives they have something special to bring with them.

For some that moment will come much earlier than for others - the process won't be neat and orderly, it won't be big and dramatic. It will take a long time, months and months. It will be hands and ears and mouths at work. A call from one person to the next that someone, somewhere, needs something. A quilt for a new bed, a table cloth, a handmade shawl. A child who needs a new special toy or blankie, a man who needs a good pair of hand knitted socks, someone who needs something to make them feel joyous and treasured.

And for some people it will mean getting them crafting again. Because it isn't just things that get lost in fires. It is also inspiration and the drive to craft, the collection of pattern books or knitting needles or a lifetime of embroidery floss, it's stash and tools and sewing boxes containing mum's old darning needles, a pin cushion, a box of beads, the button tin. And because crafting is healing and creating something where nothing was before.

So I feel absolutely no guilt in asking you to think about giving. Not instead of all the other really important stuff like cash and time, but as well as. In the background, over time. While life goes on.
  • To make that next project something for someone else. To knit and sew and smith and create the beautiful foundations of lives and homes.
  • To pass on some of your stash to a crafter who needs a little inspiration and a hand to start the re-stashing of their crafting life. Make a project bag or sewing box and stock it with the gear someone needs to get some crafting done.
  • To keep your eyes and ears and email inbox open for opportunities to touch someone - ask friends, colleagues, extended family - to find people who have personal connections in affected communities which might allow the right things to get to the right people.
Handmade and re-stash donations can be made at any time. The Handmade Help website lists a range of drop off points, as well as addresses for posting. It also has contact info if you have questions, ideas, a desire to help, have someone you think we should give something to, and tonnes of other information.

bundles

I've spent all morning getting bundles together.

Bundles of towels and blankets, bundles of old clothes, bundles of old toys and other bits and pieces. Things to go to the op shop to be given or sold to people who need them.

There's also a big bundle of new clothes for people who need them, including 40 pairs of brand new kids undies. God knows what the check out chick at Target thought I needed them all for.

There's a bundle of new toys too, things I've pulled from the present box and picked up from fund raising drives. Toys I put aside for a rainy day, an emergency.

And there's a bundle of handmade toys. Last night I cast off the bunny I started a few days ago especially for this purpose (lovely pattern by Kate Gilbert here, more details over on ravelry). I really wanted to create something with extra thought and love, something extra special. I know all the toys I make are special in their own way but this one was purpose made, for a child in my mind who is sad and needs a really soft and squishy friend to cuddle. A friend small and light enough to stick close by. I hope it finds a home soon and brings a little happiness to someone. It will be snuggling up close to a bundle of my other toys too and heading over to Pip at Handmade Help.

And as I was knitting it occurred to me how much of my sadness and feelings of helplessness I was managing through the knitting and the crafting for people. And then it occurred to me that there must be a lot of people affected by the fires who are crafters, and then of course it occurred to me that they would have lost their stashes and with them yet another of their coping mechanisms.

So I had a word to Pip this morning who agreed with me that a crafter without a stash is like a child without a toy, and someone who also needs our help. So in the blink of an eye I've got a new bundle of my own to care for, the re-stash a crafter project. I'm only just thinking this through, so forgive me while I collect my thoughts. But I hope you will all collect your thoughts too, and examine your stashes for things you might be able to pass on to help build a new stash for someone else. Some needles or hooks and yarn, some needlework or handsewing kits, a project bag, some beading gear, a box of pins, a stocked needlebook, a pair of scissors, a sewing box, maybe even a sewing machine you don't need. Get thinking and stay tuned for more details.

Email me at soozs[dot]com[at]gmail[dot]com if you have ideas about this project (especially about distribution), stash to give, wheels to ferry.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

another even easier way to give

It can difficult to sort through the various ways to give, but this one really appeals to me. Beyond pink and blue are putting together comfort packs for kids of all ages affected by the bushfires. Cloth bags containing a few items - a soft toy, a colouring book, a puzzle or game, a little bottle of bubble mix, a book to read, a new T-shirt, some undies (how much do I take for granted a clean pair of undies everyday?). Small and light.

Some comfort, some distraction, a moment of peace for the mums and dads caring for them in the chaos. Anyone who has every looked after a kid in any circumstances knows how little it takes to make a kid happy. And a kid who has lost everything is just waiting to be made happy.

It is so easy for anyone to help with this one. Make a stack of simple bags if you sew, buy some colour pencils or inexpensive books, make a toy, embellish some new T-shirts from Target or K-Mart. It doesn't have to cost a lot or take a lot of time. Nicole is even hosting a sewing bee on Saturday in Brunswick where she'll help sewers get going on simple bags. I hope some of you will make the effort and come, aside from being a good thing, it will be fun too!

There are drop off points for goods in Balwyn, Brunswick and Eltham, or you can post stuff in. Or act as a drop off point for others and do a group run of stuff so people aren't wasting valuable donation dollars on postage.

**edited to add - Of course, it goes without saying that cash donations are the best. Your money can be pooled centrally and deployed into the kinds of goods required specifically for each situation.

The Red Cross is inundated with donations of food and clothing, but other agencies, such as the Salvation Army is still collecting and distributing such donations. Best to check with various websites if you wish to donate goods.

The handmade help stuff is really the icing on the cake, for people who want to get ready to contribute something for the longer term, and who believe the things they make by hand give something more than the just the 'thing'.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

united we stand

Kim just did a post about the good bit in the fire crisis. When there's nothing standing between us and the inferno of nature, it's good to know that people really feel connected. It's hard to remember, in ordinary life, that in the end the only thing we have to rely on is each other.

But even more than the money and goods people donate (which is amazing in itself - $28.5 milloin to the red cross so far!), the institution which gives me the greatest sense of admiration for the human race is the firies. Whether they are paid or volunteer, whether in uniform or not, these people stand beside, and often in front, of those with the most to lose. They put themselves at tremendous risk, all too often they pay the ultimate price in the line of duty. Many let their own homes burn while they went to save the homes of others and help people out run the hot breath of death.

And they never give up, even when it is hopeless.

I've had the tremendous good fortune to work with a couple of firies in a previous job and they were as solid and reliable in good times as bad. They were great mates, good fun and bloody good at their jobs. I always had the utmost respect for them, and now that I am openning the news daily to stories of incredible sadness and destruction there remains threaded through it this wonderful glowing hope of what humans can accomplish when they stand united.

So you know, thanks. The only thing I can give you is gratitude, and I hope a sense of satisfaction in a job well done and so so much appreciated.

If you'd like to say thanks to the firies, head over to the firefighters union and leave a message of thanks. Let these people know that what they do counts, and that we all know it.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

2

Such a sweet boy.
Such a sweet sweet boy.
As I watched him playing at his first session at the kinder playgroup this morning I thought a lot about how things were different with Amy.
It's not right to only see your kids in relation to each other, but I can't help it.
Amy was all trial by fire, Wil is all soft and warm.
For better or worse it was Amy who made me into the mother I am, while Wil just gets to enjoy the ride. In some ways it really sucks for him that he never got that time when he were the only child and the centre of our universe, but in other ways he's better off for it.
I can't help but to look at him and smile.
With his cars and trucks and neat little lines.
Even with his tantrums and obstinance.
I can't help but look at him and smile.
Happy birthday little man. My love for you knows no bounds.

Monday, 9 February 2009

the goods

Hard at work. Such hard work.

Pays off.

Finally resolved green linen top (started on the last craft weekend and languishing in my UFO box awaiting much needed advice from a trusted sewing and style guru). I gave a bit of an explanation of how I made it over on flickr. Excellent.

New paper crane jacket in black pure wool 1x1 rib knit. Excellent, love it.

A wee wet pack for Amy's toothbrush and paste made from the left over scrap of the kimono fat quarter she chose at Kimono House for her grade 1 pencil case.

A new wet pack for me from gorgeous fabric also from Kimono House. Totally excellent, totally love it.

And a new handbag for me (a variation on my dashing out bag, made at the last February craft weekend, and a copy of the purple leather version I made oh so long ago), enhanced by the detatchable ipod cozy for the strap and the superior pocket array on the inner lining. The fabrics are by Bianca and Lara over at Ink and Spindle, and I freakin love them. Absolutely love them! The bag is also much improved by the use of various bits and pieces from Nicole's bag making supply shop. Kick arse interfacings and findings at really reasonable prices. I'm so in love with this bag I might have to sleep with it.

And a wee spot of stash enhancement took place at Pear Tree yarns in Torquay. They are having a fabulous sale of last year's yarns and I was able to get a few bits for some baby items and perhaps a jumper for Wil for a great price. Their yarn is seriously delish and I could way definitely sleep with it.

So you know, good gear.

Still reeling from the enormity of the fires and I know lots of us Melbourne bloggers are going on about it, which is boring for everyone else, but we're all in shock. Seriously shocked. I know lots of us are shedding tears left right and centre and feeling un accountably distressed and helpless.

But here's a gloriously easy way to help out for the crafty types, how about donating a toy you've made? There are a lot of kids with nothing, really nothing at all who could do with a new friend to keep them company in their makeshift beds and while they are out in a strange and sad world. I'll be getting out the yarn and pointy sticks (perhaps making a few of these), and the fabric stash to sew up a few cuddly comforting friends for kids with shattered nerves and too much loss. The post over at Toy Society also has a link to other ways of helping out so even if toys aren't your thing you might find another way of giving a little of what you've got to people who have nothing.

**edited to add - Gillian over at Silly Gilly is coordinating an ebay auction of hand made items to raise funds for people who have been devastated by the fire. If you can make anything at all to add in please contact her. More details over here on her blog.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

the best of times, the worst of times

I've just come home from a wonderful craft camp.

I had an excellent time, made some great stuff, laughed, ate, talked and learned. I even swam in the ocean without needing to keep an eye on children or their tired dad. I am blessed.

But after the hottest day on record, my drought stricken state has burnt up in an apocalyptic blaze. I'm old enough to remember all too well the ash wednesday/black friday fires of 1983. People close to me lost things close to their hearts and were filled with fear.

I remember visiting the very coast line I've just returned from mere weeks after ash wednesday. The beaches were black with soot and even after the clean up was long gone, the sadness clung to everything. My friend and I walked from Aireys to Fairhaven almost speechless the entire way.

I was a teenager and I just couldn't comprehend.

Well now I'm an old bag and I still can't comprehend.

My neighbours, good friends and firm fixtures in our lives were swimming in a dam in Kinglake on Saturday. Their son (who is a class mate and play dater of Amy's) was with his folks visiting his grandparents when the fires 40km away suddenly made a dash. He and his mum were evaced up to the CFA headquarters while his dad tried to do something constructive at the farm, but instead of being able to save anything he was very nearly lost himself.

He said in seconds the sun was swallowed by pitch black and the flames were 30 meters above the trees as they raced up the hill to engulf the farm. He and the rest of the family managed to escape, but only just. Their cars were burnt out, the farmhouse gone. He said there wasn't a splinter of wood that wasn't turned to ash. He said it looked like the surface of the moon.

And I could hear in his voice how shaken he was, how he knows his son so nearly grew up without a dad, how very nearly he hadn't made it, and still how hard it was to be grateful that he had when everything else has been lost for people so close to him.

How it is hard to see the bright side when your confidence in the world around you has been so jarred loose.

How fast a refreshing swim on a really hot day can become a fight for life, and the life you had could so quickly be forever changed.

It's easier for me to look on the bright side. To be incredibly grateful that tomorrow when Amy goes off the school J will most likely be there too, and if not tomorrow then soon enough. That J and his folks are still around to share a beer and a pub meal, to come over for a barbie, to be in our lives. The loss of all the stuff is awful, terrible, but nothing compared to the possibility of losing them.

There are people all over Victoria feeling like I feel tonight. People who have family or friends who lost something or even everything, but who kept their lives and tonight I am sure they are feeling grateful like me.

There are also a lot of people living in my state who have friends or family they can't find, for whom they fear the worst or about whom they have learnt the worst possible news. I can't even begin to say or even imagine what it is like for them.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

big day out for old people


big day out for old people, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Can't tell you how much fun we had.

A sea of 40 plus mums and dads reliving their youf, kids thrilled at staying up so late, young teens getting their first taste of the throb of the crowd. Everybody, and I mean every body up and jumping and singing along.

The best possible weather as dusk falls, animals calling out in the background.

And all over by 9.30pm.

How much more perfect could it have been?

hair and heels

So I did a post the other day over on the other blog about my hair. Basically about my lifelong see saw between long and short. And it occurred to me that those who have come to know me via the blog have pretty much only seen me with long hair. But for most of my life I have been a person with very short hair, and I still feel like this is the real me and the chick with the long hair is some kind of pretend version of me.

I frequently get positive comments on both lengths, so I don't think one is overwhelmingly the best choice. But the two sides of the coin represent really different things to me, much more than just what I feel I look like, and the dialogue I have with myself about my hair speaks to bigger things.

Very short hair for me is eminently practical and no fuss. I love that is clean and neat and requires so little care aside from regular cuts. I like that it comes with no paraphernalia, routines, thought or choices. It is what it is. And when I have short hair I think this is what it says to the world about my values, that I don't care to waste time and thought on my hair. That I have willingly given up a claim to traditional beauty (not all beauty, just the conventional kind) and have more in common with a Buddhist nun than a starlet.

And before anyone goes saying that it is no longer true that short short hair really means this, I have to say I absolutely think in a general way it does. I spent most of my teenage years arguing with hair dressers about how short was short enough (no, Lady Diana is not what I had in mind), or whether someone like me (?!) should choose a really short style. In the end I took to cutting my hair with clippers myself in desperation.

But you know, every now and then I get bored. I think it might be kind of fun to be able to choose a hair look that's different from one day to the next, to have a do. And when there's length there's colour, which is loads of fun, and you can go for months and months without a hair cut. I like wearing my hair in braids and with clips.

And, it's true, it's true, I feel more feminine and I think I come across as less scary. I am an assertive and large person and the harsh hair can exaggerate this and make me intimidating, which I really don't want to be. And though no one close me has ever been rude about me having short hair, people have discouraged me from getting it all cut off when it is long.

But cut it all off I always do. Because as much as the short hair became boring the long hair becomes oppressive in another way. I can't be fagged with the routines and the care and choices. I'm always looking for my favourite clips and pulling masses of hair out of the shower drain and tiring from the uphill battle to make more of my thin limp locks. I end up with it in a boring ponytail pretty much everyday and I don't think a pony tail is really my best look. I just want to be free of the burden of femininity.

So that's where I am now. With long hair I no longer like or wish to care for. And since I have so many burdens in my life I can't just toss (like trying to be a good mother to my children, trying to be a decent partner to the man I love, trying to be a good daughter to my wonderful mother, sister to my sister, worker to my boss and so on) maybe I want to just toss this one because I can. To show I can.

But three funny things happened on the way to the hair dresser.

The first was when I told my partner what I was planning and he said (in a very unassuming and non binding kind of way, after prompting from me), I wish you wouldn't. It suits you longer and more feminine. This was really unlike him, and the very baldness of it, the way it so clearly articulated my own inner dialogue gave me pause.

The second was a complex and vivid dream I had after the conversation above. I was at a big event (a wedding maybe?) and as I was getting dressed I realised that I had a pair of high heels to wear. Even in the dream I knew this was freaky, that I haven't worn heels pretty much ever, but certainly not for decades. But in the dream I put them on and they were actually comfortable, which was totally weird and surprising and I wondered if maybe I just had never found the right ones before. In the dream I was accompanied by a friend of mine, let's call her J, who in real life is someone I consider extremely feminine, not in a frou frou way, but in a funky model kind of way.

At the wedding there was some fuss about the cake and I was needed to solve it. In actuality there were three cakes, not one and I think I had to decide which one was right, although I had no idea why I should be doing this and since the cakes were all cut and had I think already been served, I wasn't at all sure what the issue was. So the first cake was some layered butter cake with a custard type filling. It looked very fancy (possibly Italian) and very enticing but it had absolutely no taste - like eating nothing at all. The second cake was a traditional home made passionfruit sponge. It was absolutely delicious but seemed really inappropriate for the occasion, too imperfect and too small to feed so many people. The last was a gingerbread thing. Not the traditional box house with a sloped roof, but a castle, or maybe a fort? And again, this seemed really wrong for the occasion. I found my friend J and asked her what she thought about the cake thing and she was all offhand and said she's tried some of the gingerbread and it was delicious.

In the next bit of the dream I was on the set of Top Gear, getting ready for the taping of the show. In the dream I was a regular part of the team of presenters, but in a third limb kind of way. The butt of all the jokes and clearly right out of place. In walks Clarkeson wearing a totally ridiculous beanie, all sticking up on his head like the teat on a baby's bottle (!!). I tell him the hat is terrible and he should take it off and he counters that I'm only saying that because it is handknit. Ha! but I knit, and love handknits, the hat is just awful, I say. And he walks off totally unconcerned about my opinion.

Next I am talking to Hammond about something and for some reason I have my foot up on the coffee table. Suddenly he spies my high heels and says HA! HA! and immediately I know I am in for a big shit stir. I look down and the black polish on the shoes has worn off and now they are a truly hideous mottled brown, the toes are an awful shape and they are about three sizes too big for me! I try to wriggle my toes down so they don't look so stupid and push my pants down to hide them, but it's all totally obvious. Hammond calls Clarkeson over and gets down on the floor and sweeps a pair of scissors under the ball of my foot, demonstrating something about the fact that I am standing back on my heels instead of standing properly in the shoes. I feel totally out of my depth and humiliated.

The third and most ominous thing is that my hair dresser has suddenly decided, without warning, to close on Mondays (my only child free hair cutting opportunity).

So today I am making cupcakes with passionfruit icing and contemplating my next move.

Monday, 2 February 2009

miss adventure

One of the excellent gifts I got for Christmas was Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. I totally love this book and was deeply impressed that D had managed to pick it off the shelf by supposed fluke when I had been wanting it all along. He knows me so well!

I love it because it exploits my most favourite knitting technique - top down in the round. But I also really love it because the whole attitude of the book is to encourage you to see patterns as starting points, not gospel. There's lots of tips and comment about customising designs and following your inspiration. Wendy's aim is to have you surpass the book and her patterns by gaining the skills to design your own stuff from scratch. A woman after my own heart.

Of course the key to all this is really understanding your own body, it's size and what kind of fit suits you best (on this last I also really learned a lot listening to Kelly's knit picks podcast on ease - really really helpful). And this is a lot harder than most people think. Once you start looking at your measurements and shape it is really easy to understand why so many garments don't work when you simply follow a standard pattern (this goes doubly for sewing).

So I've been thinking a lot about this, and over summer I was casting blocks for sewing patterns and reading Wendy's book and I got all inspired to make a dress form. The idea of being able to fit and create garments directly on me but to also be looking at me was mighty tempting. So I followed Wendy's directions for making a duct tape dress form (there are a lot of internet resources for doing this including some you tube videos of varying helpfulness, but a good all round written tute is here).

This was a really mixed experience for me, probably mostly due to less than ideal technique. Let me catalogue all the bad stuff:
  • It is an inherently uncomfortable thing to do. It is tight and restrictive and you have to stand pretty still for quite a while.
  • It was hot and because I was trying to get it done during Wil's nap time I was in a bit of a hurry.
  • The duct tape stinks of chemicals and combined with the heat I was wishing I had an oxygen mask!
  • The T-shirt I taped over wasn't long enough so my butt isn't really defined.
  • I used a lot more duct tape than they say, which given I am a lot bigger than any other example I have seen of this technique is not surprising, but still, we ran out.
  • I used a lot more stuffing than they said (see above) so I ran out twice and though I finally stuffed it all, it is now really much heavier and thus not really supported by the coat hanger insert.
  • I'm not at all sure the finished form is really like me - not in that oh my god surely I look better than that way, more in the this is what I might look like if I wore a corset way. And, uh, I don't. This is not just a size issue, it is also a shape issue - a large boob or sagging tummy can be pushed into a variety of locations and I'm not really sure how you can apply the duct tape to prevent bits being in places they usually aren't. Maybe we wrapped too tight, maybe we didn't use enough layers of tape, maybe we didn't apply the tape in the right configurations. But in the final product my bust looks enormously wide and my waist looks unnaturally slim.
And basically all this has taken a lot of the shine off the finished product. Although I can't quite face the prospect I think I need to do the exercise all over again, paying greater attention to the application of tape, to making it not so tight and thus figure distorting, using more layers, making it longer and using a stronger hanger, or maybe even getting a stand for it...