Singer 201K

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Singer 201K

You might think that one sewing machine should be enough for anyone. I have a very nice, modern, computerised, Janome sewing machine (not to mention an overlocker for finishing seams and sewing stretch fabrics), and I’m very happy with it. It sews all kinds of stitches very competently (including zig-zag stitches), and has some useful features like stopping with the needle down (or up), so that you can easily pivot around corners, pulling the bobbin thread up automatically, and even snipping the threads automatically. And yet, I found myself browsing vintage straight stitch-only machines.

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Displacement activity: the French Dart Shift Tunic

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Maven Patterns French Dart Shift Tunic front

Well. That was a distressing, bewildering, enraging, and terrifying week. I don’t even know where to start with it. In response, I seem to have diverted into temporary displacement activity: who else would like to join me in a few moments of thinking about something other than the state of the world? I made a very red, very corduroy tunic: the French Dart Shift Tunic by Maven Patterns.

At the start of the winter, I had a plan to make a warm winter dress. My first idea was to make a corduroy pinafore dress, an idea that rather surprised me. I think I last wore a pinafore dress when I was about 5 years old. In fact, I have a photograph of me wearing it, with a ribbed polo neck jumper underneath, and a puddingbowl haircut with slightly wonky fringe above. I’m vaguely aware that they have become somewhat fashionable recently, but that wasn’t why I wanted to make one. I was after a dress that I could wear a thick layer (like a jumper or long-sleeved t-shirt) underneath, rather than covering up the dress with a cardigan. I was ready to try to draft something myself, when I saw another alternative that I could wear in the same way: Maven Patterns French Dart Shift Tunic.

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Parker 51

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Parker 51 capped

Once you get interested in fountain pens, there inevitably comes a time when you read about a pen and get curious. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already got a number of very nice pens — in fact that exacerbates the problem. The more you use different pens, the better you understand your own preferences. I try to resist these impulses when the pens are expensive, but is less easy to resist if the pen can be bought for a very reasonable price. That’s how I came to buy a Parker 51.

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Some recent favourite albums

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I hadn’t intended to take quite such a break in writing here, but by the time I got to Christmas, I my batteries were in desperate need of recharging. I had a good break, and enjoyed some time spent listening to music and reading. I’ll get around to the books I enjoyed at a later date, but I wanted to write a bit about the music I have particularly enjoyed recently.

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Ms Blue Cardigan meet Mr Blue Sky

2016 is certainly not getting any easier as it drags on, is it? Like many people, I’m finding it hard not to get anxious and disturbed by every new revelation or outrage on the news. There are certainly plenty of issues about which it is absolutely right and proper to get anxious, disturbed and angry, but there comes a time when you need to switch off for a bit. Personally, I find solace in both music and making things.

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Young Men by Balletboyz

I’m not really a ballet fan. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t go out of my way to watch it, either. I certainly appreciate the skill, athleticism and artistry of dancers, but somehow it doesn’t grab me the way that live music or theatre does. Maybe I’m just resentful that I wasn’t the kind of twiggy, graceful little girl who would have felt comfortable in a ballet class, who knows. Given this — shall we call it indifference? — to ballet, I was surprised to find myself watching Balletboyz ‘Young Men’, a ballet about First World War soldiers screened recently on BBC Two. I was even more surprised when I couldn’t stop watching it.

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Gingers for cycling

Front of cycling Gingers

My latest sewing project unites my love of sewing with my love of cycling: a pair of Ginger jeans made from showerproof, windproof, softshell fabric for winter cycling. I used the Ginger pattern because I’ve made it a couple of times before and know that it fits me well, and because it is intended for stretch denim, and the softshell fabric I bought has a similar amount of stretch. This is a project I’ve had planned for quite some time, and while I’m very happy with the result, it was a project fraught with difficulties.

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Kate Tempest

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Not long after it was launched, I subscribed to Apple Music. I know some people swear by Spotify, but I had tried it some time ago, and didn’t get on with it — I’m not entirely sure why. In many ways, I’m an old-fashioned music listener, and I prefer to listen to whole albums, most often in the order in which the artist intended. I found that Apple Music supported browsing and listening by album rather than song more easily, so that’s what I’ve stuck with. I still buy music in physical formats (most often vinyl), and so the ability to try out any album and play it multiple times to determine whether it is a keeper is very useful. I’ve also found that it has made me more adventurous, simply because I don’t have to pay per album, and can give something a quick try to see if it is my cup of tea. That strategy has led to me finding music that I probably would not otherwise have considered. So it was that I came across Kate Tempest’s album, Let Them Eat Chaos.

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Spacemacs on develop branch

It has been a long time since I’ve published anything, as I’ve had a frantically busy month or so at work. I’ve had barely any time for anything else. I haven’t sewn any garments for a while, and the only creative thing I’ve done with my hands is to start knitting a pair of socks, which I then had to unravel back to the start half-way down the foot when I made a catastrophic mistake. Things are getting a little quieter now and I hope to get back to my sewing projects, but the only productive, non-work thing I have done lately is to tinker a bit with my Spacemacs configuration. The first thing I did was to switch from the stable release of Spacemacs to the develop branch. This is slightly risky, because of course things tend to be in flux in development. However, the general consensus in the Spacemacs chat room is that develop is pretty stable and fine for everyday use with a bit of care. You do get the latest and greatest improvements, including a choice between using helm or ivy for completion. After trying ivy for a bit, I ended up sticking with helm, as I prefer the way it presents the completions and allows you to work flexibly with them.

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Listening to the landscape

At the weekend, we got back from a week away in our favourite holiday spot: North Norfolk. As ever, it was wonderfully peaceful and laid-back, but we also got nearly a full week of bright sunshine with almost no rain (which was unexpected). I had a lot of fun with my Fujifilm X100T, particularly as the weather was so co-operative. I’m starting to settle in with the focal length, and I’m finding that the creative constraint of having a fixed lens is making me see some interesting compositions, often before I’ve brought the viewfinder to my eyes. I certainly took a lot more photos than I have on recent visits, and you can see some of the best shots on Flickr here (the first 10 or so are from the same location this April and are with my Sony, but the rest are taken with the Fujifilm).

We managed a nice mixture of doing things and doing nothing1. On one of the doing things days, we re-visited a National Trust property called Felbrigg Hall. We’ve been there a few times now, and have enjoyed wandering around the extensive gardens and parklands, as well as seeing inside the house. This time, we noted that an event (the artists, Strijbos & Van Rijswijk, call it ‘physical cinema’) was happening at Felbrigg called Walk With Me. The idea is that you walk around the parklands and gardens wearing headphones connected to an iPad. The artists have planted geotagged sound beacons around the area, so that as you walk, you hear sound effects, music and dialogue, triggered when you enter the radius of one or more of the beacons. These overlap in quite an artful way, so the effect is usually natural and seamless.

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