Becoming Scarlett O’Hara

Lately I have had so much more energy given that I slept every night for almost three weeks straight (then totally forgot that I was all out of sleepers last night and surprise, surprise I am still awake at 7am) I decided it was time to use some of the fabric stash Lady Demelza grabbed for me & the girls to play with and try my hand at a pencil skirt. The instructions I found online seemed easy enough and I really thought going it without a pattern shouldn’t be too hard….right?

skirt #1

For the first try I decided to use some lovely navy-blue-with-polka-dots jersey I had lying around. I figured with the stretch I could avoid learning how to insert a zipper and just pull it on. I followed this high waisted pencil skirt tutorial on youtube. Of course I didn’t have pattern paper…just regular A4 (I hit up the massive box we have where all our wrong printing goes…so recycling…sort of). I figured that would be fine…all I had to do was tape it all together into a big sheet. Except we didn’t have any tape. So I got out the stapler…of course it kept jamming. Then I dropped it on the floor and the bottom part snapped off. I wasn’t off to a good start. Eventually after much frustration I had my big sheet of paper, took my measurements and attempted to follow the tutorial. I didn’t quite follow and I ended up with 4 pieces with the hip curve instead of just the two edges – grrr. Then I discovered I hadn’t left a seam allowance. As I had a limited amount of this material I figured I would just stretch into it. Then I decided I needed to complicate things and add a waist band as I HATE skirts without waist bands. So I attempted to follow this tutorial on youtube. But of course my smallest waist measurement was on the bottom part, not the waist band…meaning I made the waist band even smaller (as well as missing the seam allowance). By now the skirt is getting kind of ridiculously tiny…but I soldiered on. By the time I was done I was ready to tear my hair out. I realised there was no way I could fit into it…it would barely go around one of my thighs. Especially as I sewed the grain wrong on the waist band meaning it stretched up instead of out and without an overlocker I had to make do with a zigzag stitch. It was so small Miss 12 (who is a total waif) could barely squeeze it over her hips. It was still long enough for me at that point so I took the hem up and she walked away with a brand new skirt that she is already styling with wide belts, cardigans and braces/suspenders….and of course I am jealous as that was my plan for me *sigh*

After that frustration I decided to try something else. I have around 30 cardigans (totally obsessed) but I have been dying to go from hip length ones to lovely cropped cardigans like this one from Brora Cashmere

I haven’t had much luck finding cardigans that finish at the waist like this but I did have two identical navy blue glassons cardigans, a pair of scissors and a sewing machine. I grabbed that needed the sleeve sewn up out of the cupboard, had a quick look in the mirror to work out roughly how many buttons I would need to chop off to get it right and chopped off the bottom ribbed part. then I lined the two parts up and sewed them back together. I even ended up having the buttons perfectly lined up with the button holes on the other side. It was seriously too easy. Not as pretty as the cashmere ones but $25 vs 300 pounds …. I think I will just pay a visit to cocolatte and grab every colour of $8 cardigans they have and go at it.

Glassons Navy Button up Cardigan…original length (which looks shit on me)

My cropped version (note the bigger issue in this picture is that I desperately need a bra that fits…the ladies need to be sitting high to really show off my waist)

That done and having gotten some lunch into me I decided to do some more research on pencil skirts and see if I could possibly find a free pattern. After all I had these super cute kitchen curtains Lady Demelza sent me and a spare navy zip…they were just begging to be used and the sewing machine was already out.

skirt #2 – My Scarlett O’Hara Kitchen Curtain Skirt

This time I roughly followed these instructions on the Cotton & Curls blog. But determined to add a waist band I decided my brain could totally figure out an “easier” way than the first waistband video. I cut a long strip of my kitchen curtains about 8in wide. Then I lined the patterns up with the big bit of material and sewed on a “band” at the top. Then I folded the material in half, then half again and followed the cotton & curls instructions. I then unfolded it once and cut to make two halves of the same pattern. I then cut the back panel in half (I made sure to leave an extra inch on the back panel when cutting it out) and basting stitched it together before following this tutorial on adding a zipper without a zipper foot (I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a zipper foot til I googled “how to insert a zipper”). Once the zipper was in I sewed the rest of the back seam again with a proper sturdy stitch. Then I lined up the join of the waistband to the skirt on the two sides and sewed them together. Then I made a “hem” at the top of my waistband all around in one go so it was even and did the same again with the hem. By this time it was 10pm and I had been so distracted I hadn’t even had dinner. I was totally sure it wasn’t going to go on as it had almost no stretch and it looked too small. But sure enough…apart from a little wiggling to get over my hips…it fit! Not only did it fit, it fit like a glove. Then I realised I could barely sit in it … or walk in it (I had totally forgotten the reason I did the basting stitch was so I could leave a slit at the back for walking). Also without my spanx I look more than a bit lumpy. But for my second attempt ever, having “drafted” the pattern on my own (which became more and more difficult as the day wore on as I discovered between lunchtime and 8pm I bloated out almost 10cm on my waist….every time I remeasured the measurements increased) and having never put a zip in before. I am really quite proud of it.

A few things I want to do or things that I will change in the future now that I understand a bit better how it all works

  1. Buy some butchers paper/tracing paper/cardboard in a very large roll
  2. Make a pattern of the above skirt with said paper so I can re-use it (maybe make it a touch bigger)
  3. Use heavier material. I much prefer a heavier material with little stretch to pull me in. I love pencil skirts in wool and I have a bolt of Alannah Hill wool I got last year from clearit.com.au that would be just perfect
  4. Learn how to line a skirt. Again…I like a lining in my skirts and dresses the same way I like a heavier material.
  5. Buy a zipper foot. Too many times the thread snapped or the needle snapped or I couldn’t drag the zipper through (as suggested in the video)…it became incredibly frustrating and I almost threw the sewing machine on the floor a few times.
  6. Remember that I am just learning…the perfectionist in me was absolutely devastated and wanted to give up after my first skirt that was suppose to be an adults sz 16 ended up a childs sz 8. I need to keep practising with all the spare material I have lying around. Practice makes perfect…even though I think practice is stupid and I just want to skip to the perfect part.
  7. Buy a basic pattern and try it. It has to be easier than measuring straight onto material and hoping for the best. I think I am going to get out the pj patterns (once again given to me by the lovely Lady Demelza) I have in the sewing box. Pj’s should be easy right? Another option would be an apron…I totally need one now I am wearing “real” clothes around the house AND cooking again.

project:girl

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Pin Curling…and finding my groove

A few years ago when I came up with the idea for my “project:girl” I had no idea where it would lead. I hoped I would find my own style and some great looking clothes as well as learning how to do my own hair & make-up (beyond the pony tail & lip gloss). I have always admired vintage fashion and loved old movies but was never sure I could pull it off. Even then would I be able to give up my jeans? Or being able to shop at target? How the hell would I manage to do my hair so elaborately every day when some days I couldn’t find the energy to brush my teeth?

Last year I went to a vintage hair & make up workshop with a friend. I ended up being really disappointed. I felt I didn’t learn anything I couldn’t have found on youtube and I still couldn’t pin curl, apply red lipstick without looking like a clown or manage the winged eye liner. I tried a few times at home using online instructions but quickly became frustrated. At the time my hair was super long and given that I was still living my life in bed I had no energy. I could do maybe 1/4 of my head before my arms would be shaking. It seems getting fit, loosing weight and having more energy helps if you want to pin curl. After getting my middy plus hair cut done a few months ago (4.5in all over) I thought I would have more luck. Though I found I now had the opposite problem. My hair was too short for me to pin curl. Now clearly ladies in the past managed to do it at that length but as a beginner it was just too hard. So I forgot about it and got down to the business of exercising.

Then someone on the Fedora Lounge posted asking about getting Marilyn Monroe hair which led to these photos which show her and her fringe/bangs are put up in “standing pin curls”.  As I now had a very similar length hair to Miss Monroe I gave it a shot. I used this video from Lisa Freemont Street.

total crazy eyes…I was so excited I managed to put all my hair up in pin curls

And while I didn’t end up with Marilyn, I was super happy with how the set turned out

more 40’s peek-a-boo wave than Marilyn…but quite happy

But then I went for a run and my hair got all sweaty and I washed it out. Which led me to wonder how these vintage girls did it all. Did they really set their hair every single day? Again I turned to the Fedora Lounge where it seems everyone had their own “system”. Some people made their pin curl sets last days. Which got me thinking how many days could I get out of one set? Now for the sake of this “scientific” research I didn’t run for three days to stop my head from sweating…well that’s my story and I am sticking to it (I am sure it has nothing to do with the fact that it is 5 degrees outside and our ducted heating was finally fixed). I got three days without even really trying.

Day 1

worn with my 50’s headband/hat

Day 2

curls have dropped a bit…but still a really nice set with just a good brush first thing. Don’t ask about the face though.

Day 3

My hair was a bit grotty after two days of styling products to leave it down. But after a full year of struggling with upsweeps (also known as victory rolls) it turns out pin curling hair before hand makes a massive difference. I put the bottom of my hair into two little pony tails with ribbon & felt like “Dorothy” all day.

Knowing that I can get at least three days out of a set makes me much more inclined to do it. It also took about an hour the first time and only 25 minutes the second time. So I think with practice I can probably get it down to about 10-15 minutes. I do credit a few things to the lasting of the curls. Firstly I did a wet set. Meaning I had a shower, washed my hair and set the pin curls while wet and slept on them overnight (I wore a headscarf to protect them a little). Secondly I used my Lindy Charm School Setting Lotion which is amazing for setting hair (I spritzed it on each strand before I curled it up). Lastly my good old bryl creme (found in the mens toiletries aisle at coles) which I used for a bit of shine and to tame the frizz. I actually didn’t use any hair spray until I did my upsweeps and spent day 1 on the foreshore of Williamstown (windy) and Day 2 out in Point Cook (windier).

On day 1 I popped into my favourite dress that everyone always asks me if it is vintage (it’s actually only two years old and bought at target). It’s a really pretty 50’s inspired floral blue dress (flowers are red and pink) with a fitted bodice and full skirt. I threw on a pink cardigan as it was freezing, a red belt over the top to nip in my waist and put on one of my (ridiculously huge collection) vintage cardigan clips as a brooch. With my favourite 50’s headband hat and my hair I felt amazing. I popped on some brown mascara, some benetint pink blush and a little pink lipstick and I felt like a million dollars.

On day two I was forced back to reality as that is really the only vintage style I have left that fits me. So I threw on an old favourite Leona Edmiston dress (I have about ten), some stockings & my leather italian boots. I used to love the dress, but my stomach stuck out and made me feel like I shouldn’t be wearing it. But my tummy has almost gone and my boots finally do up around my calves again. It was the outfit I dreamed of wearing all last winter. But I felt miserable. I felt like I was wearing a sack. Not because it looked “bad” but because I wanted full skirts and cardigans and 50’s ballet flats. Hence the face in the day 2 photo. I felt ridiculous. For so long I avoided wearing the vintage look as I thought I would feel ridiculous, instead I felt at home. Happy. Like I had found a part of myself I have been missing so badly. In the modern clothes I would have died to look “good” in a year ago I felt wrong.

So it seems the further I progress with my “project:girl” I am discovering more about myself. I always imagined a wardrobe of modern jeans and dresses with a few vintage dresses thrown in to the mix for variety. Now I am rethinking my whole wardrobe. Of course the other issue is I can’t (well I guess I could…but I am not going to) run out and just grab a few things. This week I didn’t loose any weight at all…but I lost a full 4cm off my waist. Until my weight/size stops changing I don’t want to spend money on clothes that won’t fit me in two weeks. Especially as I have a wardrobe filled to the brim with sizes 14 -24. I have no physical need to buy clothes.

Instead I think I am going to use this “opportunity” to try my hand at sewing some pencil skirts. I have a bunch of tutorials, a sewing machine, tonnes of fabric (all my girls sew, which leads to tonnes of offcuts) and now I am sleeping at night and being awake all day I can use that time to do something productive. Then maybe moving on to a basic dress. If I can do those then really…I can make my own wardrobe.

But that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as spending hours on etsy looking at vintage

project:girl

Framed

I think I was around 4 years old when my parents realised I was having trouble seeing. I was already reading so maybe I was getting headaches or something. I definitely wasn’t at school yet so it wasn’t the blackboard…maybe my parents actually noticed something about me (probably not)…or maybe my nana, who is super observant, noticed something (more likely) or maybe it was a before school precaution. Either way I walked out of there in specs.

That means I have been wearing glasses for more than 26 years! My gran must have bought my first pair as they were quite fancy and expensive and my parents weren’t in to fancy or quality unless they were dealing with their choice of mind altering substances. Unfortunately for me…I was 4 and not used to having something on my face each day so inevitably they got lost. For the next 6-7 years it seemed they were always being replaced. I would loose them, break them, throw them out a car window (on the freeway) during a tantrum and once, just for kicks, I wanted to see what would happen if I used a hammer on them. After that my mum got jack of it. My gran wouldn’t shell out anything else when I clearly couldn’t look after them and by now dad was long gong. So government issued glasses it was apparently mums pension covered her for one pair of hideous chunky plastic glasses. Now this may be fine if I just had to wear them for reading, but as I am nearly blind I need them all the time.

Picture this – new school, first year of high school. Look around in the sea of tanned, athletic and blonde girls around me. I lived in a small beach side town in rural NSW. Then look at me…lanky and yet hippy. Already a D cup. Bright orange hair, freckles, pale skin and big old plastic glasses. As you can imagine things went downhill from there.

But I was a stubborn person. I never once asked for contacts as the thought of sticking my finger in my eye on a daily basis didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t really care if people thought I looked odd. I always assumed those who really liked me would accept me as I was. With that thinking in mind though, I was even more a social outcast. I refused to change anything about myself to suit the other kids and that made me stick out even more.

After awhile not only did my glasses grow on me (I developed a mad passion for reading which would have been impossible without them…so I stopped loosing them) and when I was 17 my dad offered to pay for laser surgery and I declined. But for some reason I still chose not to wear them on my wedding day…which completely baffles me as my glasses are so much a part of me. Not only do I look super strange in the photos, but I couldn’t see a damn thing.

In the last few years each new appointment (held annually) has seen my eyes get gradually worse. So I fell back into the midset of not spending money on myself and just grabbing a pair of $99 specsavers glasses. After all, I tell myself, they will just need to be replaced next year.

This year I finally realised how ridiculous that thinking was. This is something that I wear everyday. The first thing I do when I wake up is pop my glasses on and its the last thing I take off before bed. I have (literally) an entire wardrobe filled with shoes that I almost never wear and yet I wanted to skimp on something that is on my face every single day? No more. After all project:girl is all about learning to put my best face forward.

So after my appointment with the lovely (read: hot!) Salvatore (highlight of my year) I decided to splurge and get myself not 1, but 3 pairs of glasses. And I am actually thinking of grabbing a few more pairs as well. I can’t wait to pick them up!

First up is this vintage pair of cats eye glasses I nabbed from Etsy

Then I fell in love with the Gok Wan pair that are a similar (but more subtle) cats eye look in white (they also come in black)

And finally this pair of Red or Dead glasses as I absolutely love red

 

Now on top of those I really want to invest in a pair of prescription sunglasses as I can’t wear normal sunglasses at all (as I end up blind…no vision and everything is dark) and Salvatore informed me that my prescription can’t be made into contacts. I have always wanted a pair of glasses like Miss Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffanys

After a little bit of research (god bless google) I discovered that these were Manhattan frames by Oliver Goldsmith and what’s more…they are still made today. What’s even better is I can get them right here in Melbourne through their distributor Eye Candy Optics! Now I just need to decide whether to get them in black or tortoise shell like below. Well that and save up…

project:girl

Breaking in Leather Shoes…the cheats way

I don’t have the highest pain threshold..well that’s not exactly true. I gave birth to twins naturally without drugs. Maybe it’s a combination of being impatient and not having a tolerance for what I think is “useless” pain. You won’t find me in heels more than 2-3 times a year and even that will be a kitten heel when I will be sitting down 99% of the time.

Two years ago, after having massive issues with my feet hurting I decided enough was enough and I needed to actually spend more than $15 on a pair of shoes. So I started buying good quality leather shoes. I have about 20 pairs of beautiful leather flats sitting in my wardrobe now, and yet I always wear my black leather ballet flats. Why? Because they are already broken in and comfy. I hate the breaking in process.

So I found myself online trying to find out ways to break in my shoes quickly and easily. I found a few options…

  1. Stick a peeled potato into it and leave over night…ewwwww
  2. Wet newspaper scrunched up in it and again leave until it dried
  3. Submerge the shoe in water and then wear them until they dried (apparently they would dry moulded to your feet perfectly)
  4. Pop on thick socks, heat shoes with a hair dryer and wear until cooled

The first two really put me off. I just didn’t want anything gross near my pretty shoe collection. The 3rd sounded promising, but then I read a bit more about how water isn’t the best for leather and passed. That left me with number 4. I had the tab open for about 6 weeks before I finally decided to give it a go. As I am slimming up I am enjoying dressing up again and all those shoes were just begging to be worn.

Now a word of warning here – I have no idea what effect this would have on shoes that aren’t leather. I also read a number of warnings about heat and the soles coming off. Most shoes these days have the soles glued on…heat can melt the glue leaving the soles to come away. This hasn’t happened to me, but I take absolutely no responsibility if it happens to you…just so we are clear this is very much a try at your own risk.

I must have had the tab open with the instructions for a month or two until last night I decided to bite the bullet and try and break in my new Kilton Flats from Wittner. I actually don’t own any thick socks so I took out two pairs instead wearing one of the top. As per the instructions I folded the socks down so they didn’t cover my heel as apparently this can stretch the shoe length wise…and they fitted me fine in length (if your shoes are a tiny bit to short you might be able to stretch them half a size if you wear socks over your heels as well). Then I plugged in my trusty hair dryer and went to work INSIDE the shoe. I concentrated on the parts that were really stiff and the front of the shoe which was a bit tight. Once they were heated (about 30 seconds) I popped them straight on my feet. Then I aimed the hairdryer on top at any parts that seemed a bit tight. Then I walked around until they cooled. They were still a touch tight so I repeated this and then took my socks off and couldn’t believe how comfy they were. There was no rubbing, the leather had softened and they were almost as comfy as my well worn black flats.

To make sure it wasn’t a fluke I took out my beautiful Neverland flats (in nude patent leather) also from Wittner that I loved, but I really needed a size up on those. I repeated the above process 3 times and sure enough, they now fit. I would say the process not only softened the leather but stretched the shoes up to 1/2 a size bigger.

So if you are like me and HATE the breaking in process of leather shoes, or maybe you grabbed a pair on sale that are just a smidge too small…this may help.

project:girl

Health & Beauty

One of the slowest parts of my recovery process, since my diagnosis and then being medicated, seems to be physically looking after myself. I was so heavily sedated that it was too much effort to do anything. That is (very slowly) changing. I also got a kick up the butt when I got my diabetes diagnosis. So how are things going 7 weeks post diagnosis?

Well for a start I am under 90kgs! The last time I was under 90kgs was just before I went into hospital. I have managed to eliminate 90% of carbs from my diet as no matter how low gi the packet said it was, my blood sugars skyrocketed if I even looked at bread/pasta/rice. I was doing so incredibly well until I got really upset and binged on bread and 3 cupcakes. I hadn’t had any carb cravings in weeks and now, even 10 days on, I am still massively craving them again. I learnt a very valuable lesson there – the hardest part is withdrawal. After that it’s easy – so don’t fall off the wagon again!

As I am loosing the weight I am finding I have more energy. Being on half my original seroquel dose has also given me back some energy. Compared to last year I am busy, busy….but compared to life before bipolar I still feel like a turtle.

While I have energy, I am seriously lacking in motivation. Especially as it becomes colder. I spent 18 months curled up in bed in my jammies and outside just seems freezing. I also don’t take much joy in “typical” exercises. As I loved my burlesque dance classes so much I purchased a few DVD’s so I can do them at home…but I don’t like an audience (and am exhausted by the time the girls are in bed) so they aren’t getting as much use as I would like. So I think I need to bite the bullet and start attempting to get up earlier. The kids don’t tend to emerge from their bedrooms til around 8 (and if they do they eat breakfast and then head back to bed to read) so I could do it before they get up.It may even be the (painful) solution to me not sleeping well. If I get up early I am bound to be tired enough to sleep at night….?

After being inspired by Miss Directions I have signed up for Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation. I have already assumed I probably won’t be able to use most of the food plans (with the diabetes) but I want to be told what to do and when to do it…I think it could be the motivation I need to start moving again. It’s about the same cost as joining a gym and I don’t have to actually be at a gym to do the exercises. Wish me luck!

I am still loving the cold cream. I can’t believe how amazingly soft and clean my face feels using it. My massive pores around my nose are almost non existent now. The only change to this routine is at night I am no longer using witch hazel afterwards. I found that I like a bit more moisture on my face over night. I have also started using my rosehip oil again – this time mainly as an eye cream. My skin seems to be loving this less is more approach and knowing I can just duck in to the chemist across the road when I run out of something (as opposed to trekking to myer or david jones) is great.

After some more advice from a lady who is addicted to cold cream I invested in a japanese nylon polishing cloth. She uses it once a week when she slathers her whole body in cold cream and scrubs herself with the cloth. I am now totally addicted to this process and my skin is so silky smooth afterwards. But the main reason I love it is that it is long enough that you can hold either end and scrub your own back. There is a small square of my back that I just couldn’t reach before. I use it on my back everyday with some goats milk soap and am just madly in love with this product.

I have been staying strong with my no clothing purchases with the exception of a bra (target now has a – tiny – range of bras that go up to an F cup for $25 a piece…but they are pretty hideous, but functional) and a pair of size 18 jeans. I was pushing a size 24, so that was pretty awesome. It has been easy not to shop as I am slowly fitting back into some of my favourite pieces of clothing – yay!

project:girl