Tuesday, 12 January 2021

101 Things in 1,001 Days : Huge Overhaul

For the last few years, I've been on the 101 Things in 1,001 Days track. (Click that link or the tab above to see the full list.) My second cycle is due to finish this coming March. 1,001 days seems like a very long time -- two and three quarter years. Or, it used to seem like a very long time, anyway. Now, at the end of 2020 and all the things that happened (and didn't happen!), it seems like just a hop and a skip.

For most of last year, I forgot about my 101 Things goals. There were so many more important things to think about. I didn't feel like doing most of the things on the list, and some of them I wasn't even able to anyway.

Recently things started to look brighter, and I looked at my list again. It hit me that the end date of 13th March 2021 is only a few months away. And I'd only completed about 15 of the 101 items! That's a bit drastic!

Things I did do: played board games!

I've seen people online refer to 2020 as "the year that time forgot" or a "leap year" -- not in the sense that we had an extra day in February, but that it felt like we collectively skipped a year in our lives. So I've decided to do the same with my 101 Things list! I extended the due date one year, to 13th March 2022.

Remember when the seasons used to change?

Then it was time to look at the actual things I'd wanted to achieve. Soon after the first lockdown started, I'd already gone through the list and marked some items with the label 'Compromised'. This meant anything that I couldn't really do at home, like going to a drawing class, or getting a beauty treatment, or going overseas. (Yeah, that last one was a big one!) I had trouble thinking of a good word for the label, and I ended up choosing 'compromised' because it was halfway between things being fine and things being actually cancelled. I'm really glad I did that in the past, as it helped me to overhaul my list and not get too overwhelmed with all the things I have to let go of.

We had an indoor picnic!

There were also some new things I'd started that I wanted to be included in the list, so I replaced some old items with them. Here are some of the things I changed:

#8 - removed "make a gluten-free flour mix" and replaced with "keep a Morning Pages journal for 1 year"
I'm no longer eating bread at all (gluten-free or otherwise) so this goal is pretty pointless. I started writing daily Morning Pages last November and have been going steadily so far, so I thought I may as well make it a proper goal. A whole year seems like an intimidatingly long time, but I thought I may as well challenge myself.

#82 - removed "re-read the Harry Potter series" and replaced with "complete 6 challenges on The StoryGraph"
While I'll always like Harry Potter, I'm really over JKR's recent activities, and I just need a rest from her creations. I was in a bad reading slump throughout most of 2020 anyway, until I discovered The StoryGraph. Their challenges are a lot of fun, so I added this one in.

#56 - removed "go overseas" and replaced with "complete 3 writing challenges"
It was with a heavy heart that we had to cancel our trip overseas. We postponed it for 2 years to October 2022, which is too late to add into the current 101 Things list. It will hopefully be in the second one, though. I've been much more into writing again, so I replaced it with a writing goal. I've talked myself into and out of writing (properly) so many times, and I just want to do it! Or not do it! But either way, just make up my mind, haha.

I had a green-themed tea party in my backyard.

There were some things that I decided to reduce and/or modify, rather than replace, including:
❖ #44 - art/craft classes reduced from 6 to 5; also online classes count too
❖ #33 - finish current craft projects reduced from 12 to 10
❖ #74 - read biographies reduced from 10 to 8
❖ #49 - computer-free days reduced from 20 to 15

Example of unfinished craft project.

And there were a few things I was pleasantly surprised to find that I've completed! These were:

#15 - "decide on something to collect and do it"
I decided a while back to collect tea pots and tea tins. I visited my Mum once I was allowed to again, and she let me have first pick of all the knickknacks she was getting rid of. I chose 4 teapots and lots of other teawares for my collection. Added to the 8 or so teapots I already have, I think that's probably enough ... for now!

#77 - "read A Christmas Carol every Christmas"
I actually managed to do it before Christmas this year, too! I watched Townsend's reading at The Nutmeg Tavern on Youtube, and it was delightful. Technically now though, seeing as there's another Christmas to go before the new ending date, does that mean I still have one to go before I can tick this off? No, I think I'll give it to myself. We all deserve some self-kindness.

I'm still feeling hesitant to make any firm plans, and I think I'll review my list again in a few months. But just having done this much feels like a real achievement. Now I can get back to reading and writing and making art and crafts! And hopefully writing about it here more regularly. See you soon!

I've been doing a lot bit of drawing too.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Holiday Greetings! (and Goodbye 2020!)

I hope you have a safe and happy festive season!
May 2020 be gone forever and never return!
And may 2021 bring you everything that you wish for and more.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

2021 Hobonichi Diary Unboxing

Normally I make this yearly post in September each year, when the Hobonichi diaries for the next year go on sale. The Hobonichi company have an order holding service, so this year, with the turbulence in the mail delivery system, I kept my order on hold for as long as I possibly could. After that, it arrived very fast, as it came by courier. 

I'll just show the unboxing photos without too much commentary, as I didn't order very many interesting things this year. 

The Etsy shop I bought my covers from last year was no longer open, sadly, but thankfully Hobonichi were offering one cover I really loved (both outside and inside!). It's by Aki Kondo, the same artist who invented Rilakkuma! 


I also ordered these cute Astroboy pencil boards for myself and Husband. They have a holographic effect!

This year's fold-out has a guide to uses for the Hobonichi with lots of ideas! It's in English as well as Japanese for the first time, though now I have a translation app on my phone I could read it. It's amazing to think that didn't exist a few years ago!
Here is the page I did in this year's Hobonichi to celebrate the arrival of next years', and also the backlog of stationery packs from my Rainbowholic Patreon subscription. They were being held until the post could get through again, and I received 5 months' worth at once! I felt like a (stationery) queen!

Monday, 7 December 2020

What I've Been Doing Lately

I've never been one to apologise for not posting for a long time, but gosh, it's been ages, hasn't it? With everything that's been happening in 2020, I'm sure you can't blame me. Whether I post once a week or once a quarter, I'm always intending to keep on blogging.

I thought I'd kick things off with a little wrapup of what I've been doing these last few months:

An exhibition!
I was lucky enough to be chosen once again to hold an exhibition at NOIR Darkroom, called Before(During)After. It was originally supposed to be in April, but was postponed a couple of times due to the pandemic and the gallery not being able to open. The gallery allowed me to change the theme, which I did to something more current. It explores how my art has changed during the pandemic and my uncertainty about what the future holds (for my art, but in general, too). There's a digital gallery on NOIR Darkroom's website which has photos and also an artist talk I did. I managed to talk for quite a long time for someone so shy!

Art! and a Conscript!
More specifically art-wise, I've been working on a series I call my Codex Pages. They're inspired by the Voynich Manuscript, a medieval book written in a mystery language that no-one can decipher, with strange illustrations. I've been fascinated with it for years. I finally had the idea of trying to make my own version. I created my own constructed script (conscript) for it. I always find this a lot of fun. I say 'always' when I've only created one before, but you get the idea! I'm hoping to write a post on this in more detail in the future.

These ones aren't finished yet:

Building a City!
Not a real one -- I was furnished with a game called Cities Skylines. It's like SimCity if you've heard of that (but better, by all accounts). My city just hit 80,000 inhabitants, and is called Lavender Town. I know! But it's not named after the location in the Nintendo game, but the pre-made map I chose in the beginning, which was called Lavender Lake. It's just the kind of game I like, and I've been spending a lot of time playing it lately. Here are a couple of screenshots.

I was in a reading slump for several months, from about May to the start of December. I was given some ebooks to review, and of course whenever you're obligated to read something, it's no longer fun, so even though the books were good, I found it a little bit excruciating to get through them. (I still have 3 to go, oops!)

My friend Emilie started a Youtube channel a few months ago: Teacher Emilie in the Dining Room Library. She reads illustrated childrens books -- like an online storytime! It's kept me from having to admit that I read absolutely nothing in that time, if you believe that books usually for toddlers count! She often has wise comments to add as well. I recommend it.

I discovered The Story Graph a few weeks ago, and that's what really got me out of my reading slump. It's a reading community like Goodreads (but better, I daresay), with stats and graphs of books you've read. It aims to develop a really accurate and satisfying recommendations system. It's still in beta at the moment so you need to sign up to see everything, but for me it's definitely worth it so far. Reading challenges launched a few weeks ago, and members (including myself!) are enthusiastically creating and signing up for challenges.

Late last year I started a project to replicate my itunes library in Spotify. I ran into some hiccups at first which I won't go into (nothing to do with Spotify) but I've had lots of time to work on it while lurking in my cocoon this year. I'm working by artist and I've just finished the Gs, plus Eurovision working backwards from the present to 2004 so far. All the while I'm discovering new artists and songs. Who knew there was so much music in the world?
(The title of this playlist comes from a private joke of mine.)

Even through Winter there's usually something to do in the garden, but now that Spring (early Summer really) is here, it's all stations go! I'm barely keeping on top of the weeding, let alone planting new plants and re-potting old ones. But it's honest work and it makes me happy.

Well, that's about all I can think of for now. Hopefully I'll see you again soon!

Thursday, 3 September 2020

I Made a Skirt : the Novel

Here is the story of my skirt. I made it myself, and it's a tale full of twists and turns, anguish and triumph.

Prologue --

Every now and then, I want to get back into sewing, but then usually nothing happens. Last year I got to the point of actually buying some fabric. (Actually, it was the year before last, now I come to look it up!) I even had plans in mind for each of the five pieces I bought, but I ended up putting them aside again.

This has been happening for enough years that I've started to recognise it as a pattern -- every Spring and Autumn (the transitional seasons: interesting?) I get really excited about fashion and sewing, and plan to make lots of garments and cute accessories. I sometimes, as in the above case, even buy supplies, because you can never have too many craft supplies, right? Then I talk myself out of it for one or all of the following reasons: it's too hard and complicated, I don't have the skills and I'd screw it up, it wouldn't look good on me, I have no occasion to wear it, or the worst, I'd never wear it because I don't want to draw attention to myself.

I'll write more about that another time, but for now, let's tell this skirt saga!

I haven't sewn in nearly 10 years, so I thought I'd ease myself into it by making something simple -- a skirt with an elastic gathered waist. I was pretty sure I could cope with a ruffle as well. My first mistake was not measuring properly. I cut out a rectangle that was supposed to be my hip measurement plus 10 cm for some ease, and sewed it into a tube. I tried it on and realised it was way too big straight away but thought, she'll be right mate, the waistline will be gathered anyway.

Then I lost motivation and put it away for a few months. (This will turn out to be a recurring theme and is why documentation is so important!) By then I had forgotten it was way too big. I measured out some elastic for the waistband, forgetting that you need to make it a bit smaller than your waist measurement, otherwise it's too loose. I tried it on and it nearly fell off. So I unpicked the elastic and cut it shorter. I put the project aside for a while more, and by then I had forgotten that I'd already adjusted the elastic, so unpicked and re-sewed it again. The elastic was now too small!! But I had other issues...

Because the skirt itself was too big, the fabric was very bulky and made my waistline look much much bigger, as well as ruining the line of any top worn over it. I needed to reduce bulk around the waist, especially the front, so I sewed some big darts into the sides (at least I could remember how to do that, hah!). There was no need to add elastic all the way around the waist because the skirt was now much more fitted, and only needed the teensiest bit of staying-on power. So I cut a short strip of elastic (about 25cm) and just sewed it on at the centre back. Now I had a smooth area across the front.
Even though it looked totally awful and amateurish, I was determined to finish it ... after taking a couple of months off. Next thing was to add the ruffle around the bottom. I had made sure to order enough fabric for a good ruffle, so I cut the strips needed for this and sewed them into a big circle, twice the width of the skirt itself so it'd be nice and floofy. I measured the bottom hem of the ruffle all the way around (all 400+cm of it!), and folded and pressed it in place with an iron, before sewing a nice-looking hem. At least I got that right! Then I sewed it to the bottom of the skirt, and did an extra line of zig zag stitching to keep it neat.

I tried on the skirt -- and it sucked! It was longer than I'd wanted, and while the ruffle was indeed very floofy, the fabric is too heavy for that kind of treatment. The weight of it pulled down on the whole skirt, and it not only felt heavy to wear, but didn't look right either. As well, it was doing that thing where it hangs down lower in the front (do all plus size people get that problem, or is it just me?). I had forgotten that I need to adjust for that when making skirts.

I was so unsure of my own judgement that I put a poll on instagram asking for opinions: was it: too floofy, too long, both of the above, or just fine. I got about an even number of responses for all 4 options, so I had to decide for myself in the end.

I knew I had to do something because I couldn't stand it the way it was. So I cut the ruffle off, and cut about 12 cm off the bottom of the skirt. I sliced into the ruffle fabric and removed about 1/4, then sewed it back into a ring, ready to re-attach to the skirt.
To fix the low-hanging front problem, in the past I always adjusted it at the waistline, but I'd already had too many waistline issues, so I decided to try cutting the bottom edge into a curved shape along the front. Then I sewed the ruffle on again (which if you're a sewist you'll know is not the quick and easy feat that it sounds like!). I tried it on and guess what?! I had sewed the ruffle on inside-out! I didn't notice the whole time I was pinning it on, or the whole time I was sewing it! I took photos of this mistake but I was so disgusted with myself that I deleted them. Thankfully I had decided to try the skirt on BEFORE securing it with zigzag stitch, otherwise it would have been even more of a nightmare! As it was, I spent a nice Friday evening with a glass of wine and my quick-unpicker, who I decided to name Buffy to preserve my sanity a little bit.
After many tea breaks and lie-downs, I sewed the ruffle on for the THIRD time. After carefully checking it again, I did a final zigzag stitch along the ruffle seam to secure it. I was so excited at the thought that this was the final seam of this project, I can't tell you! However, the universe didn't want to release me quite yet. I ran out of bobbin thread and had to refill the bobbin. Then I ran out of upper thread and had to find a new (almost matching) thread. Then not long after installing it, the new thread snapped! I had to thread it again! All for one seam, though thankfully it won't show on the outside so no-one will notice all the stops and starts and slight colour variations.
Better, no?

Another thing I'll note: In the beginning I had tried to save time for myself by aligning the edges of the pieces up against the bound edge (selvedge) of the fabric, therefore theoretically meaning that I don't have to secure the edges with zigzag stitching or pinking shears, but it turned out to be more effort than it was worth and didn't really help at all. I had to secure it with zigzag stitch anyway and the thick selvedge edge just added bulk in most places.

I still don't really consider this skirt as 100% finished. I'd like to fix the darts in place with fusible webbing (I have some, just need to find it), and maybe add some lace to the bottom edge if I'm ever feeling brave enough.

There's the full saga of my Faux Patchwork Skirt, the first garment I've sewn in 10 years. It was pretty excruciating, I have to admit, but I have a feeling it's somehow broken a barrier and enabled me to think about what else I can make in the future. I ordered some more fabric this morning from a new-to-me shop and I'll report when it arrives!

It was extremely windy when I took these photos, so the skirt looks uneven, but it's actually just being buffeted by gale force winds. =D

Mostly for my own reference, but in case anyone is interested, here are the specs:

Fabric: quilting weight cotton ; Michael Miller "Indian Summer"
Length: 2.5 metres
Bought from: Kawaii Modes 4 U (purchased in 2018 - no longer available)
Cost: $42.15 (I'm glad I didn't remember how much it cost, or else I would have been much more upset and precious about this project than I already was!)
Pattern: n/a

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Tea Time: Full Moon by The Forest Witch

What is it? From the Forest Witch website: "A lovely and light tea. Floral hints, with juicy plum and a sprinkling of fennel mingle together, bringing you a cup with gentle mugwort to help with your Full Moon endeavours."
Ingredients: organic green tea, plums, organic fennel, organic mugwort, organic jasmine
Recommendations: My sample pack didn't have brewing instructions, but generally green tea should be steeped for 1 to 3 minutes.

About the Tea: Full Moon tea is created by independent tea blender The Forest Witch Mia, located in Canada. All of her teas are inspired by Celtic deities or fantasy themes such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Good Omens. Full Moon is from her spiritual collection.

The tea has a bright, straw-like flavour profile, with just a slight hint of sweetness, which comes from the fruit and jasmine flower. The version I have contains apple rather than plum, but I think it works just as well. Fennel and mugwort are classic ingredients in spiritual brews. Mugwort is the perfect herb for working with the full moon. It's other name Artemisia comes from the Greek goddess of the moon Artemis, and it's used for moon meditations and connecting with the feminine cycles that the moon also follows. Fennel adds strength and fertility, and is used for meditation and protection.

Full Moon is available online from The Forest Witch shop. I found the price (in Canadian dollars) very reasonable and the postage costs to Australia, too, especially compared with many U.S. sources. She also has an Etsy shop if you prefer. I loved dealing with Mia and look forward to making many more purchases with her. Her Instagram is here.

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Tea Time : The Norns by The Forest Witch

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Isolation Photo Project

Back in April, I took part in an online project hosted by NOIR Darkroom, a gallery in Melbourne. With (almost) everyone having to stay home, it was a welcome opportunity to look at the space around us in new ways. A prompt was released every day for about 3 weeks, and all photos submitted were posted on NOIR Darkroom's Instagram account.

It's a little bit belated, I know, but I thought I'd share them here for all the non-instagram folks, as well as a reminder to my future self. I've included my original comments, and further explanations in italics.

Day 1: Illumination
I know that I’m lucky to have a garden to spend time in. On sunny afternoons I lie on the grass in the shade of the fruit trees and breathe. This yellow leaf caught my eye as the first sign of Autumn.

Day 2: Still Life
aka how I spent my morning
I very rarely do my nails anymore, but I gave myself permission to do some things I normally don't feel like I have time to do.

Day 3: The Shadow
I can’t believe how well this turned out on my crappy old phone

Day 4: Repetition
Only 8 more to go!
I was making a stegosaurus toy for my friend's baby (24 plate pieces required) and this seemed like too good an opportunity to waste!

Day 5: Reflection
I’m surrounded by books and toys and games, but sometimes it’s good to just think.
This felt a bit pretentious to me, but people seemed to like it.

Day 6: Texture
[insert some artist waffle about contrasting textures here] Actually I took this the other day because #lazy and #nofilter because #brainfog #hair #grass #longhair
A couple of the photos were from the same session when I was sitting under my trees outside and mucking around with taking photos. It's unashamedly recycled from that.

Day 7: Out of Place
Out of Place is how I feel most of the time, so I thought it would be interesting to explore a visual portrayal of anxiety.

Self Portrait I lost track of what day it was after a while.
Because I’m not just how I look, but what I create.
Also, I'd done a couple of self portraits already and didn't want to repeat myself. It was surprisingly difficult to take an 'over-the-shoulder' photo of my hands without asking someone else to take it for me. I used my tripod but it held the camera so far away that the photo quality was quite bad. I think it adds a grittiness to the subject though. And yes, I'd really hurt myself on both hands recently.

Aftermath of the storm a few days ago
I wanted to do something a bit more psychological rather than literal, but everything I thought of didn't seem right. I remembered I'd seen a broken branch on my fruit tree the day before, so I took a photo of that.

I was mucking around taking some photos with my cat while I was trying to think of something for this prompt, and afterwards I liked the idea of a conceptual rather than visual symmetry.

I was bored, that's all I can say.

Moving Through
I wanted to give a sense of moving from indoors to outdoors, through the window. Maybe?

My inspiration was starting to flag, but I managed to come up with this idea for contrasting colours and textures.

The project went on for about another week, but by then I'd lost my mojo. It was a lot of fun though, and helped me to see my everyday surroundings in a new, deeper way.