Sunday, December 10, 2017

Continued sewing adventures with vintage style patterns

As promised, another blog post! And it's once again about sewing.

Does this sound familiar: You finally decide it's time to go shopping for new clothes, you brave the mall, then when you actually go to a store (or stores), you can't find anything you like?

This is me, almost always. It's so disappointing and frustrating when you can't find clothing you want to buy--especially when you've spent months saving up the money. Part of it for me is, I'm usually looking for something a little...different. In my teen and early twenty years, that meant super colourful. Now in my thirties, I think I'm looking for something with a vintage feel.

I don't remember when I first learned how to sew, maybe around grade 7 or 8? That's definitely when we had 'Home Ec' class, although come to think of it, I could already sew basic boxer shorts by then, so maybe earlier. My mom always sewed--for as long as I can remember. She didn't make whole wardrobes or anything, but she usually made me Sunday Dresses, and one or two other things. She sewed my wedding dress, too.

Although I've known how to sew for a long time, I am NOT an expert. I make mistakes, don't get my corners perfectly turned, or my seems exactly aligned. I get frustrated and rush things when I just want to get it done. But, I can still put together reasonable garment, that as long as you don't examine it up close, looks decent enough.

Sew (see what I did there...), without further ado, behold my next vintage-style piece:

Initially I thought I'd make the pants to start, but I mixed up the yards and metres, so I knew I'd have a ton of fabric leftover if I didn't go for the whole overalls. I went with a plain black, light denim fabric, but purchased some fun rainbow-holographic buttons to jazz them up.
Laying out the pattern, as my Mom taught me, saving as much leftover fabric as possible. Also, I have to do this on the floor, since we still have the same tiny Ikea table we had when we moved to Edmonton 12 years ago.
My sewing machine isn't quite the same vintage as my overalls, but it's still a heavy-duty classic. 1970 Kenmore sewing machine, solid metal and weighs a ton. It was my Mom's, but she's got a fancy-dancy computerized thing now.
As is often the case with sewing patterns, I don't fit nicely in a single size category, which can be something of a problem when I'm making a garment that has to cover me from top to bottom, like a dress, or overalls. I've got huge aerialist shoulders, a tiny chest, an average waist, and hips that are much more narrow than what pattern makers expect for my waist size. As I said, I'm NOT an expert seamstress, so figuring out how to make patterns work can be a tricky.

For the overalls, I cut out the size that was supposed to fit my waist, but once I sewed the pants together and tried them on, I discovered I was swimming in fabric. From there I took the seams in by 3/8 an inch on ALL SIDES. I might have over done it a tad, as the finished product is a bit snug. I continued to adapt the seam width for the bodice.

Beyond the sizing issue, my biggest problem was making the button side of the waist band lie flat. There's so much fabric in the spot where the waist band meets the top of the pants that no matter what I did (I only felt comfortable trimming the extra fabric so far) that I couldn't get a nice, neat seam. In the end I decided it was on the side of my body, and right where the buttons would be, so no one would really notice.

Hopefully I'm right.
Me! In the finished product.
The overalls are pretty comfy, even if I took the seams in a hair too far. I sewed the buttons as close to the edge of the button placket as I could, so it works. Honestly, the biggest downside with these overalls is there are 7 buttons to do up, plus 2 more for the straps, meaning I need to be careful with planning my bathroom breaks.

Next up, a 1950s style skirt (already complete), and bolero.



Monday, November 27, 2017

I am Wonder Woman

I don't recall how I came across this pattern. I was probably idly looking through the Simplicity website as I do from time-to-time, and saw it. I'm not a huge comic book geek (I do have a small collection of manga and graphic novels), but I do enjoy super hero movies, and as many others did, I loved the new Wonder Woman. So, I knew as soon as I saw this costume I needed to make it.

I soon discovered that Simplicity brand patterns are no longer available in Canada, so I ordered it online. About a week later it was in my hot little hands. I've never sewn something so complicated, but I was confident if I took my time and set small goals, I could have the costume done for Halloween.

I managed it. Starting at the beginning of September I made my first (of many) trips to the local Len's Mill Store, purchasing fabric for the shirt, shorts, hair band and bracers (I have awesome black boots and saw no need to make the boot covers). By perseverance (and probably a small degree of panic), I had the outfit done by October 27th (the night I was MCing a Halloween showcase at the studio where I teach).

I'm not going to go over the whole sewing process here. For one thing, I'm not a great seamstress. I'm reasonably happy with the job I did sewing the costume, but if you start to inspecting things too closely, you'll notice the flaws. For example, none of the zippers are even, or more precisely, none of the edges around the zippers are even. The other issue is, this was a pretty complex pattern. It would take me ages to write out my experience sewing it.

I've got four other vintage-style sewing patterns currently in my trunk. Literally, I keep my sewing and knitting supplies in an old steamer trunk, which acts as our coffee table (and general hide-the-mess space). I've got grand plans to sew some of my own wardrobe, we'll see how things go (I now find myself suddenly more busy than I'd anticipated).

I'm nearly done a set of 1940s style overalls, which I'll blog about next.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hello again...What's new? Not much

Hello again, dear reader. Yes, it has been a while. Seven months, I think?

What's new? Oh, not much. I'm still as uncertain, and indecisive as ever. Aerials, motherhood, writing, and librarianship all continue to fight for supremacy in my confused and befuddled heart and mind.

Andrew remains a wonderful support, although I know he's getting frustrated with me, a) because I can't seem to make a decision, or even in progress toward a decision; and b) because he can't help me. I'm not going to delve into this right now.

What brings me back to my little blog space? Well, it's NaNoWriMo,...which in the past I have despised (writing ridiculous amounts in a month does not make one a writer). I'm definitely not going to meet the fifty thousand word goal, but I AM writing. For me, that's pretty big. I haven't had a new set of characters to write about in over three years (hm,...wonder why). I haven't had a new story idea in three years either. I was beginning to despair that that aspect of my creative life was all over.

After a recent re-watching of Casablanca, I had an idea. Something about the phrase 'Everyone comes to Rick's, got me going. Any maybe I could take some of the elements of my favourite book, Sunshine, put then together and come up with something interesting? Whether anyone else will find it interesting remains to be seen.

So, I'm here to proclaim to the hill tops and back: I AM WRITING.

I will try to blog again soon about some other (non-writing) projects I've got planned for November and December.

My current self-published novels available on Amazon. Cimwai's Bay, The Cure, and Circus of Love, under my pen name, Peggy Fitz



Friday, March 17, 2017

Face Value: Or, the value of pounds and inches

In my effort to continue exploring my value, I thought I would take a few moments to consider my appearance and how I feel about it. As the saying goes, 'Beauty is only skin deep,' but I, at least, find it difficult to go about my day-to-day life without giving some value to how I look. I know it's not the most important part of Self Value, but it's one that makes an immediate impact on people. Before I open my mouth they see me as a Caucasian, average height, blue eyed, blond-ish female, and that can form a great many opinions that have nothing to do with my inner value.

I have never thought of myself as beautiful. Many years ago I told Andrew he was not allowed to tell me so.

I don't even really think of myself as pretty.

To be honest, I often don't think of anyone in such terms, except perhaps my daughter. Interestingly, Ruth has started to say, "I cute," surely something she's heard people say to her (I mean, WE'VE heard people say it to her). When she says this, we usually respond with something like: "Yes, you are cute, Ruth, but that's not the most important thing about being you." Then we list characteristics we think are important such as: being hard-working, caring, helpful, etc.

Personally, I think my eyes are a little too small, as are my ears. Once I learned how to live with my hair I have loved it, although it's changed a lot since Ruth's birth. I like my eye colour, although they're plain blue.

I tend to think about people more in terms of body shape. Does this mean I'm sizeist? Yes, probably. I was a plus-sized child and teenager, and none-to-happy about it. I was teased some, but not intolerably so. I was definitely aware that I was bigger than most of my classmates, and I didn't really know how to change this aspect of myself.

It is difficult to lose weight, and honestly, I did it by accident--mainly, by being stressed in my first year of university and not eating properly (which is also how a lot of people gain weight...I was the opposite). I continued to slim down over many years, then I started aerials.

Aerials completely changed my body. It can be difficult to find shirts that fit me right. I have a tiny chest, and massive shoulders and biceps. More than once I've had to do 'the worst striptease ever' to get out of a shirt in a dressing room. If I was a better seamstress, this would be the perfect time to start making, or at least modifying, my own clothes. I could corner the market of fashionable clothing for muscular women. Alas.

I love my rockin' biceps.

I also have abs. But here's how I describe my stomach: It's a washboard with a couple of light dedicates still on the board.

Why am I saying this? I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad, and I hope I'm not pissing anyone off too much. I'm saying this to demonstrate that even someone who is physically fit still has a lot of body-hate. I still look at other people in the studio and think, my stomach isn't as flat as theirs. Why do I have to love chocolate, and cookies, and ice cream so much? Maybe this is partially to do with my youth. Even though I shed the initial pounds 18 years ago, I still live in fear that I'll let them slowly creep back on.

Here's where I try to circle back to Self Value. I know that my appearance shouldn't matter one wit in how I value myself, but thing is, if I'm not comfortable in my own, fair, freckled skin, how can I have a high Self Value? I suppose I need to go back and reflect upon the statements I made in the fourth paragraph. I don't really think about anyone in terms of beauty, and when Ruth says she's 'cute,' Andrew and I rhyme off various things we think are more important.

So, regardless of what other people think of my Face Value, I value the following about myself: my creativity, my skills in the kitchen, my family, my good health, my skills to multi-task, my ability to be thrown into a project/situation and hit the ground running, and my strength.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Clearing one thing up: the afterward of the afterward

Gentle Reader, it seems that one or two of the commenters in Facebook may have made a slight mis-interpretation of part of my original post about Value. If 1 or 2 people in the comments made this mistake, another 5 or 10 who didn't comment probably also drew similar conclusions.

In my original post I wrote about how motherhood changed my view on my career, and how I want Ruth to know she is valued for who she is--and for her to value me. From this, it seems that a few people may have assumed that part of my 'Value Equation' included: What is the value of motherhood? This wasn't my intention.

I enjoy being a mother far more than I imagined I would have, and this is part of the reason why I'm reluctant to return to a full time career. I want to be present in some of the most formative years of my daughter's life, and so I have her at home with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I also want to be available to Ruth if she gets sick at daycare or school and needs to come home early, or be an occasional chaperone on field trips, etc. for sometime yet to come.

However, my not being sure if I want to return to a professional librarian career (full or part time) is related to my uncertainty of what I want to do with my life and not to having a daughter. I think it's fair to say I was never completely happy working as a research librarian. It was okay. I liked the people I worked with, and I didn't feel like my soul was being sucked by some horrid corporate mind-set, but I didn't exactly live and breath for research methods either.

What I meant by bringing up Ruth in my original post was that as she gets older, and she looks at Andrew and sees him as a University Lecturer with a PhD, and looks me and sees an Aerial Instructor (with a MLIS), I hope she doesn't see my choice of career as less valid. They are very different career choices, one fairly traditional and brings in the bulk of our family income, the other not so much--on either count.

Although, as a couple of people pointed out on Facebook, if there's ever a Parent-Career Day Visit Type-Thing at school, kids will probably be way more excited when I explain what I do, compared to most parents.

Does this make sense? Has this cleared up the difference between Value of Career, and Value of Motherhood?

Until next time.



Monday, February 20, 2017

Afterward...Finding my value

Well, Gentle Reader, I thought I'd better write a follow-up to my last blog post. I have many, many thoughts on what I need to discuss next, and I have no idea how I'm going to appropriately touch on each point that has been raised, but I will do my best.

To start, let me say how amazing my friends are. When you write a personal post like my previous one, you never know how people are going to respond. I wrote it with the sole purpose of explaining my feelings--mostly so I could work things through for myself. I didn't expect to be trolled, but I didn't know if anyone would read it, let alone respond. My friends did respond (on Facebook), in force.

Many friends reminded me I'm not alone in struggling with my sense of value, and thanked me for sharing my feelings:
"I think value is something anyone with a good sense of self scrutinizes often. I know I do. Thank you for sharing."
Some friends shared their similar experiences of setting aside a normal/more lucrative career for something their passionate about:
"I also have been feeling this- part of why I have stuck around in [my profession] so long is because I have an ingrained assumption that it is somehow more valuable to society than my other endeavors...even though I KNOW this to be untrue."
"As someone who went from gainfully employed to [an artist]... I HEAR YOU. All I can say is, the arts are IMPORTANT and motherhood is IMPORTANT. Don't feel like you're somehow worth less because you're not earning as many actual dollars as you were before. It's hard, though. I still struggle with it..."
Some friends shared their reactions to when they meet/hear of someone who has an alternative career:
"It is hard to accept the fact that you have worked so many years and are moving down instead of 'up' like your friends/peers...As for your work seeming frivolous, I ask you to remember peoples' reactions when they meet a yoga or dance instructor. Usually it is with awe and jealousy. "Man, I wish I could do that for a living!"." 
"There is one thing I ask myself that helps me in this situation: what would I think of someone else doing this? I don't know about you, but I admire people who find a way to do what they really love, whether they get paid for it or not. Including you!"
A fellow instructor shared her experience of how teaching Pole has changed her students lives:
"When I first starting teaching pole I thought it was just a fun job to do to keep me busy and fit. The first time I had a student come up to me and tell me about how pole and the studio community had helped them feel more confident in themselves and that they were taking steps to end an abusive relationship, I thought it was a fluke. The second time it happened, I thought it was an odd coincidence. The third time it happened I realized there was a lot more going on than I had ever realized.
Progressing in pole or aerial and being able to do things you thought you would never be able to do in a million years is such an incredible confidence booster, and confident people can go on to make incredible changes in their lives and the world around them.
As a fellow higher education nerd/"career woman", I can absolutely understand how you may feel less valuable now, but you're definitely not!"
And finally, someone I see as a successful business person who is also someone I admire, wrote this:
 "You are not alone. And if many/all of us can feel this then "value" cannot possibly be based in the job of the moment. It's somewhere else inside us -- elusive at times -- subconscious until one renders it otherwise by having the courage to explore it out loud. I am willing to speculate that you are overlooking the many elements which compose the aggregate value of who you are."
to borrow from someone much wiser (authorship in dispute)
"No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in the present little instant. Take peace! ... Life is so full of meaning and of purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find that earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage, then to claim it: that is all! But courage you have.."
Yes ... you have wonderful courage and that in and of itself has a value that cannot be compared to a traditional job. Good luck on your journey of thinking and discovery. Your willingness to say things out loud helps me -- and it seems many others."
I feel all the positive comments sent my way has helped to bolster my courage. I am still uncertain about my future path, but I feel a little better about my current footsteps. Hopefully, I can find a internal compass or a map to help me find my way. As a first step in orienting myself, I'm going to work on a series of blog posts to explore my feelings and experiences around becoming a professional aeralist, and what that means for my personal value.



As a final note:

I hope no one at home was worried that I was on the verge of harming myself. It occurred to me after the fact, that some of my readers may have been worried about my mental health. Let me assure you, I am OK. Not fine, obviously, but although I at times don't love my life, I do love the people in my life far too much, to ever consider harming myself.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What is the value of 1 Andrea?

Well, this blog has been silent for sometime. Not intentionally so, writing simply hasn't been high on my priority list. It's been high on my wish list perhaps, but when it comes to my currently lifestyle I run out of time for blogging.

I have been struggling sometime, Gentle Reader, with my sense of Value, and it is this struggle that is now motivating me to post. As I haven't blogged in many, many months, I need to explain.

In May of 2016, I became an aerial instructor, while my other sources of contract employment ended. I went from being involved in a variety of research projects, which relied on my many years of experience in medical research, evaluating medical studies, critical thinking, etc., to teaching people how to climb two pieces of fabric rigged to a ceiling. I went from highly paid work which, if not related to my Masters, at least benefited from my advanced education, to taking a hobby to the next level. I went from a real job to a...well, still a real job, but a not so..I don't you get what I'm saying?

I may be over-simplifying, or perhaps over-dramatizing my situation, but I am doing so to demonstrating my feelings. I am struggling to understand the Value of 1 S. Andrea Milne in the world today.

Not long after I started doing aerials I thought it might be fun to teach. At the time it hadn't occurred to me that it could be a career choice. I took a 40-hour workshop on Teaching Aerials at the New England Center for Circus Arts in February of 2014, but I still didn't imagine that teaching might one day be my sole source of income. I took the course so I might one day teach a couple of classes because I thought it might be something I might like to do.

What changed?

Many things. Part of it is, I became a mother--something I wasn't sure I wanted to be for many years. Even stranger still, I found I wanted to be at home with Ruth more than what I could be with a full time job. Throw in wanting to continue my aerial training and I wasn't sure how I would balance a hobby, a job, and a daughter. Another part was that Andrew and I returned to Waterloo, Ontario, our home territory, and Andrew was no longer a student. With Andrew making decent money, I didn't actually have to work full-time to help support our little family. All the while I was assisting Aradia Kitchener in becoming Brass Butterflies, Kitchener-Waterloo's home for pole fitness and aerial arts.

So, now I teach approximately seven classes a week, plus help with whatever administrative duties I can around the studio--a far cry from a once fully employed Research Librarian I was when we still lived in Edmonton. Was I happy then, either? I think if you look back over my blog you'll find that was in question as well.

Here's this question of happiness again, or what I've termed in this blog post as Value. I think my current struggle has more to do with my sense of Value than it has to do with my sense of Happiness.

I feel I have less value because my current occupation might seem rather frivolous to someone who is struggling to put food on their table each night, or is struggling to achieve mental or physical health, or is struggling against discrimination, etc.

I feel I have less value because I am earning a lot less than I used to.

I feel I have less value because I'm never quite sure how to answer the question of what I do for a living, and although I'm not necessarily embarrassed to tell people I teach aerial silks for a living, I feel like other people don't see what I do as a 'real job.'

I feel I have less value as an aerial instructor because I do not believe I'm as good as many of the instructors I've had in the past.

I feel I have less value as an aerial performer because I do not believe I'm as good as other aerialist I have known (both fellow students and instructors).

Less value than what? I don't know. Less value than my husband who teaches at the University of Waterloo, helping students to become useful members of society? Less value than other friends with PhDs who not only teach, but activity participate in protests against the present administration in the United States? Less value than family members who I know participate in charitable works in the community?

Yeah, less valuable than all those people. And more who I don't know.

This is my struggle. I don't have a good answer, or plan, or anything for how to proceed. I have to, that much I know. I have to for my daughter, for Ruth. At the very least I want her to know that we (Andrew and I) don't value her for her accomplishments, but that we value her for her. And she is Amazing, and worth valuing for the hard-working, adorable, caring little girl that she is.

I value my daughter, and I want her to value me.

Until next time.