The Antipodean Artisan's Story

Monday, 18 July 2011

A cause for celebration

Just a quick note to you all

I am almost a British Citizen!!! 

Yes folks, I will be exactly 1/2 Brit and 1/2 Aussie by this time next week.  I still have some hems to sew, so I'd better get cracking so I have something to wear.  Must wear a dress made in the UK for my UK citizenship ceremony right? If only I had time to make a whole new one.  My sewing room is half packed up and my list of things to do before the movers come is huge!  If only I had time to make Gertie's dress... I think that's a project for when I get back.  Maybe I'll make it my frst one.  It will help the Nameless Cat and I get used to our new home.  Yes folks, she's coming with me.  She just might be called the Two Thousand Pound Cat once we are there....

Ohh... and I think I have a new name for the Aussie blog.  It's still a secret, but amazing how much time I've spent thinking of something good. I hope to blog more, and sew more as I'll be with the Fairy Godmother who is an awsome quilter, and near Patty and Jane who will be not far away and fellow sewing buddys.  Ahhhh I can't wait.  And for those of you in Australia.... I can't wait for regular trips to Spotlight and Lyncraft!  Does anyone know of any other cool fabric stores and yarn stores to check out? 

It's all getting exciting now.

See you soon


Friday, 10 June 2011


Just a little note to let you know I'll not be blogging for a few months.  I've decided I'm moving back to Australia, and I've got 2 months to sort everything out. 

I'll no longer be the 'Antipodean', as I'll be home, so whilst I'm thinking of living two summers in a row I'll be trying to think of a new blog name for me.  I also plan on doing a lot more sewing when I get home.  I've been rather lazy lately.  The decision to move back has been a big one and has occupied much of my time and head space so my apologies for not writing anything in a long time. 

Let me know if you can think of any good blog names for a wannabe artist living in Melbourne (again), who loves to sew, and likes all things retro. 

Thanks for all the folks who have read my tiny space online, and have sent me lovely messages.  I love you guys. 

I promise to keep y'all updated on the crazy move. 

See you soon


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

New Dresses

Hello again, and thanks to everyone who has commented on my blog thus far.  It's like an unofficial fan club.  My 15 minutes of fame.

During my Bali Belly days at home, after I had watched enough TV and caught up on enough films, I made some dresses. 
You may remember my pink skirt I made with gifted fabric.  Around the same time I also made a wrap dress out of the first bit of fabric I bought when I knew I was going to be getting a new sewing machine. 

I call it my merry-go-round dress
I used Butterick 5030, and made it to a size 14.  This is my way of sewing without making a muslin.  If I make it bigger I can just take it in and adjust the pattern ‘down’ so to speak.  Not a perfect way of sewing but faster than making a muslin, and cheaper with the current price of cotton in the UK. 
I’m quite long in the body, so I added an inch to the bodice in length and that is about all the adjustments I had to do.  It fits me almost perfectly.  If I made a muslin I would adjust the back to compensate for my slight sway back and make the bust a little larger, but I’m yet to master a full bust adjustment so that is for another project. 

I also made the McCalls 5975  inspired by a former project of Gertie's from last year. 

It was made with an online fabric purchase of gun metal grey jersey, which wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but lovely all the same.  Initially I lengthened the bodice too much (I can’t remember if it was an inch and a half or more… I AM long in the body after all) but I really couldn't be bothered to unpick the seams and fix it, and I put the sleeve pleats in the wrong place, which I did fix.  All I can say, is i love my unpicker/seam ripper.  It is every stitcher’s best friend. 

I also made a belt using Casey’s tutorial and some materials from my local fabric store (not actual belting, but something that could do the job) and a belt buckle from the local market which has lovely notions to covet and buy.

the little munchkin in the background in her beloved box bed in the corner of my sewing desk
I also want to make a little brooch to go on it and possibly do some beading on it, and thought of making a little rose or some kind of flower.  What do you think? 
As soon as the sun shines again (and I've finished the hems) in North Devon and I am not at my day job, I’ll make an effort and take some pics of them on my actual body and not my dress stand.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks again to everyone out there who inspires me to keep on sewing. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

My relationship with my body

Today I don’t want to show you any dresses I’ve been making, I wanted to talk about  body issues. 

For anyone who knows and loves me it’s no secret that I have huge issues about my  body, and I know I’m not alone.  In fact there’s not much I like about the look of myself at all.  I could give you an never ending list of things I hate, and things I would change. 

I’m sure it has to do with standing in a leotard in front of a full size mirror (a wall of mirrors to be exact) for over 20 years.  In fact I think this is a huge reason for my body non-love.  Light pink tights and tight leotards don’t go with jumping up and down and full length mirrors for the most beautiful of us.  

At my smallest I was a 6-8 with the only curves on my body being my hip bones  and my collar bones poking everywhere for all the world to admire.  At my smallest I was far from healthy and ate about one meal a day if that, but received many compliments about my body.  I remember dancing in a show when I was at my thinnest (49kg/7st 10 lb/108 lb – BMI 16.6) and wearing next to nothing and getting showered with verbal bouquets about my body.  Even thought I knew I was too thin, and verging on a full blown eating disorder, I couldn’t help but agree.  I loved my thin body.  I loved that anything looked good on my body and I loved loved loved my hip bones.  It was the only time in my life that I didn’t have a pot belly.

 Me at my almost thinnest                            Me at my absolute largest

Now I have never been what is considered ‘big’ or ‘heavy’ or even ‘fat’, and before my recent stint with Bali Belly I was the biggest I’ve ever been at around 67kgs (10 st 7lb / 147.7 lb) with a BMI of 22.6 (healthy weight range).  I’m currently a size 12, and occasional 10 or 14, depending on the shop.  Most of my clothes are a 12 and have been for about 10 years now.  I am 172cm (5ft 6.5inches) tall and about 60 kg depending on the day (my average weight for many years now).  My current BMI is 20.3 and well in the healthy weight range. 

My current measurements are:
High Bust: 35 inches / 89 cm
Bust: 37.5 inches / 95.5 cm
Waist:32 inches / 81 cm
Hips: 39 inches / 99 cm
Bum: 40.5 inches / 103 cm

So I’m generally pretty average.  Especially for a 38 year old. 

On a pattern sleeve, my measurements tell me I’m a size 16 Bust and Hipx and 18 Waist!  Yes folks!  Can you imagine the fabric left over for the scraps pile? 

I tend to make 14 and adjust down – I’m just willing myself to start making muslins and this is a good way of avoiding them.  I am an impatient stitcher after all. 

When I think about me in the perfect 50s dress, I am also thinking about the constraining undergarments that will give me the look I desire.  I am the owner of a pair of spanx, and both love and hate them. On one hand I love the way they make me feel (firm) and look (thinner), and on the other, they aren’t the most comfortable, and why should I alter the way I look?  I also have a few corsets and covet a made to measure Antoinette corset from What Kate Did   I should be happy with my silhouette.  I don’t have any overhanging fat, and although my pot belly isn’t as ‘cute’ as it was in my youth, it still isn’t huge, and even if I was a little bigger, that should still be acceptable too right? 

I spent some time working in a ‘skin heath’ clinic where we offered laser to get rid of scars, wrinkles, and sun damage, peels to make skin look younger and botox to rid a face of it’s lines and crevices.  We also offered other things, but this was out primary target clientele.  I enjoyed free treatments of all of the above, and again loved my face without it’s wrinkles and freckles.  I spent many an hour analysing my wrinkles and lines and found myself thinking "she'd look better with a little laser, filler and a touch of botox" whilst waiting for mine to return. After a while I started hating the job as I felt I was just perpetuating womens’ hatred of themselves, and enforcing the unrealistic image of what women should look like, and I eventually left. 

So what does all this mean and how does it relate to this blog?  Well at 38 I’m still trying to love my body as it is, (and I haven't had any children yet).  Enjoying the vintage look,  has helped my in my journey as it is kind to those of us with a bust and curves, especially the 50s styles.  Beginning to sew my own clothes after a long time has helped too.  It brings you closer to your body and makes you acutely aware of your size and shape. Not buying fashion magazines also helps, although as someone who has always loved fashion and more so fashion photography, I still buy some on occasion, but they never fail to make me feel ugly and fat.  As a photographer who used to shoot models and fashion (in my student days) I am acutely aware of how drastically the industry manipulates an image to make it commercial, but it still doesn’t stop me (and many more I’m sure) from desiring the same look. 

 So I’d like to thank my machine 'Bert' for bringing me closer to loving my body as it is even though i still have so very far to go, and the fashions of times past to making it easier to do so.

How about you?  Do you have issues with your body?  Do you have issues with clothing sizes?  Are your measurements the same size at the ones on the pattern sleeve you end up making?  How have you overcome your negative body issues? 

Monday, 28 March 2011

I've won my first blog award!

Yay I've been nominated by Sarah over at Narcoleptic in a Cupboard as a stylish blogger!!!!  I'm stylish!! Woo Hoo!!  And I only have 13 followers and 20 posts (If only I could give up my day Job).  Not bad I guess, or perhaps just lucky.

So the "rules" that accompany this award are to list 7 things about yourself then pass the award on to your 6 recently discovered great bloggers.

7 things about me
When I grow up I want to sing in a jazz and blues band.
I can no longer do the splits
I have a BA in Photography
I am in love with Inigo Montoya ... still after all these years
I once learnt how to play blues harp at a masterclass in Bristol with Eddie Martin and was quickly banned by my then housemate
I have moved houses 9 times in 9 1/2 years  living in the UK
I once danced  in only a flesh net body suit with three fig leaves to a crowd of 8 thousand people (I was way thinner)

My newly discovered stylista's
Sarah Elaine @ Ohhh Lulu who makes the cutest smalls
Hayley Lau @ Thinker Maker who makes me think about my shoe collection and gives great tips on green living
Katie-Louse Ford @ Katie-Louise Ford who is from my home town and makes beautiful dresses and has and Etsy shop to love
Michael Blamey @ Melbourne Today who takes pics of my home town and makes me want to be back there
Alice @ Crochet with Raymond with her tales of the lovely and delightful Ray and her delightful hooky creations
Tasha @ By gum, by Golly! who is a vintage Queen with knitting skills I can only dream of acquiring

Thanks again Sarah, and thanks for not banning me after my recent comment. 

Thanks also to all 13 people who read my blog.  Without you I would just become the crazy old cat lady even faster than I am.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

My first teaching lesson

Yesterday I gave my first sewing lesson.  Don’t get too excited, it was only to a friend, but she is an absolute beginner.  I mean a proper beginner.  She could barely thread her machine.  Her name is Lynne, and she purchased her new lady off eBay and taught herself how to load her bobbin and machine the few days previous to our lesson.  Well actually she couldn’t manage it and her husband of all people, actually read the instruction manual and they sat down and figured it out together.  Awwww what a sweetie.
After reading many hilarious facebook posts I offered my expertise, or my experience and said I'd give her a lesson.  Now i could have just gone to her house and given her a boring lesson on this and that, but i wanted to share the love of sewing with her so i had to think of something to actually teach. 

I thought there are three things you need to begin a love affair with stitching. 
One – enthusiasm to sew
Two – great fabric.   Now this doesn’t have to be the finest silk, it just has to be fabric that you love and want to make into something beautiful.  It could be an old tea towel or fabric from your favourite dress as a child.  As long as you love it, it qualifies as great.
Three – great project.  This has to be something that you are able to do.  It has to be at the right level with just enough of a challenge to make you feel like you have achieved great things, but not too difficult to turn you away.

After a little thought, I thought a bag was a perfect project.  It was easy, and wouldn’t take too long to complete, and Lynne would have a beautiful bag at the end of it.  What more could a budding stitcher want right? Off to the Burda Style website I went, and downloaded this pattern from Novita from Very Purple Person blog.  I stuck it all together and cut it out, and then I went and bought some gorgeous fabric from my local shop.  I also bought her a few goodies to get her started. Some pins, dressmaker's carbon paper, marking pen and every stitcher's best friend – the unpicker/seam ripper!!!!!

I went through all the basics and taught Lynne a few little shortcuts and introduced her to the automatic needle threader on her machine…. Then I taught her all about fabric and selvages and warps and wefts (without using the words warp and weft).  I went through basic lingo and pattern markings and she made her first cuts into fabric and her first steps to making a bag.

Next we went onto marking the fabric and pinning and sewing darts.  Yes… my beginner learnt darts in her first lesson.  She is a champion student. Then we began sewing.  I took Bert along and we worked side by side.  With some misdirection from me she even learnt how to use her seam ripper.  The most valuable lesson of all i think

After much pinning and sewing and quite a bit of gossiping…. we had both made a fabulous reversible bag each!  Lynn had gone from an absolute beginner to an accomplished bag maker in a few hours.  And all because of me!!!

It was so much fun, and I can’t wait for more lessons.  I thought we could make a pincushion for her stash, and a little purse and introduce the delightful zipper like Flossie or Tilly.  Any thoughts or ideas?  Maybe a cute little retro apron you know I’m so fond of and then  eventually we will make a cute vintage dress!!!!! 

Monday, 14 March 2011

A date with the unpicker

Well I guess you could say I’ve definitely got my sewing mojo back.  I was given this most beautiful fabric from my girlfriend Ness in Australia for Christmas (or birthday – they are very close together and in my old age it gets difficult to remember), and have been wondering what to do with it.

I wanted something to show off the fabric, and thought a shirt would look too busy and there wasn’t enough for a dress (would have made a perfect ‘Alice dress’)… so a skirt – with pockets!!!  I love pockets, and I miss pockets, and am going to put pockets in every dress I make, except for the slinky ones. Why do they take out the pockets once you’re a grown up?  It’s just not right.

It’s been a long time since i self drafted a pattern, so I adapted a vintage ‘style’ (1400) pattern I bought off eBay in a 70s lot pack.  Some of the others are just priceless.  It had a 13inch waist!!!!!  Who has that apart from Victoria Beckham?  So I made the waist bigger, the skirt less full, and added pockets. 

This should have been a one to two hour job from start to finish, but in my haste and lack of practice, I didn’t even try it on before I finished off the seams.  Stupid I know, but I really wanted it done NOW.  Alas, the skirt was way too big (or I’ve lost more weight than I thought), and the pockets were set far too low. 

So, many hours with the unpicker later, I eventually fixed my errors, and sat down and thought about what I was doing, tried the skirt on, pinned appropriately, and now I have one finished skirt (minus the hem – Nameless Cat isn’t too good with a ruler and pins). 

Ness I hope I made you proud.

Cheers, Cyd