27 November 2013

work and wear

Many moons ago, when the weather was warm, the days were long and time seemed plentiful, my best friend and I mooched around the galleries together. Along with hordes of people we squeezed in with the crowds swarming around Tate Britain's Lowry exhibition to peer at pictures of the industrial poor going about their daily business, always in a rush it seemed, whether it was to football matches or funerals. I'd never seen any of these pictures close up, and despite the pressing crowds, I found myself smiling out loud, so to speak, with their familiarity: altercations in the street, waiting rooms, the solemnity of funerals, and above all the energy of purpose. These were busy people, bent forward, squeezing life in.

I'd been thinking all summer about a green skirt that Salley Vickers' Cleaner of Chartres had worn, and found one in a charity shop, only to surrender it to a lady who had bent down to pick something up and looked devestated when she rose up and saw that I had picked it up off the rack. But around the same time, Kate wrote a post about her boiler suit which also struck a chord because I too love a bit of a workwear.

And with indoor stock coat*

With all these influences converging it was almost inevitable that I'd get over the green skirt dreams and so on a visit to Rye I found myself buying the Merchant and Mills Factory Dress pattern, made out of tough brown card and rolled up in a tube, beautifully utilitarian. Somewhat cautiously for me, I thought I should make up a toile before investing in expensive fabric. And so, with purpose and pleasure, my domestic workwear was cut out one night and made up in an afternoon from a second-hand gingham curtain, just as a try-out.

It turns out that the Factory Dress is an excellent dress for labour, around the house or on the allotment. For going out on the town - ha! -it is not quite right, at least not for me, though others here and there have fared better. It may be that because the pattern was a size smaller than my usual size it needs to be adjusted, at least made longer in the waist; or maybe I'm just more used to a more fitted style; or perhaps it's just inevitable that a dress made from an old gingham curtain might make you look like you really do work in an factory or  institution. Overall (sorry) the dress seems to work much better with sensible mary-janes and black hose, so a second attempt might be in order with a more drapey, woollen fabric. I thought I might get round to it in time to participate in the Wovember challenge to complete a woollen garment, but alas not - that jacket I started in September has taken its toll of my spare time with its tacking and catch-stitching, silk organza smoothing and sheepy-smelling hair canvas pressing.

There must be a moral to this lengthy tale but I've no idea what it is. Yet.

26 November 2013


One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I gave up the day job was this: get up, get washed and dressed right down to your lace-up shoes every morning before you even think of doing anything else. The advice came from the most organised woman I know, and she got it from this website. I dislike this website with a vengeance for being so bossy and goody two shoes, so much so that I can't bear to mention its name.  Mostly I dislike it for being so very right. I come from a family with a father who disappeared before sunrise and never returned until way after sunset and a mother who always saw us off to school still in her nightie. Even now I can call her at 10 or 11 o'clock and she will tell me that she's not dressed yet.

 It's not good. Even when I come down, as I do every day, to a waiting cup of coffee and a bowl of porridge, time just seems to slip through my fingers if I don't have those proper shoes on before breakfast. This has been what has been happening more frequently over the last few weeks, starting insidiously at first with the occasional lapse put down to the temperature, and building up gradually. The diary I have been writing since January so I could keep track of time has been sitting in all its jolly redness on the bedside cabinet, unfilled apart from a note of what I have been reading. And as for the blog, well the routine is all but broken. Resistant to opening the laptop  to avoid being waylaid by emails from Toast, Bloglovin and the quick crossword, the day rolls on into other obligations. Then once the light has faded, my eyes have to work harder in lamplight despite new specs and our unheated bedroom, just warm and bright enough to read, is no longer conducive to composition.

I fear these are all weak excuses. Sitting comfortably as I am now in front of the fire, one cat waiting patiently for supper, another sitting by the radiator, the half-painted kitchen (walls and ceiling: tick; everything else to do) a reminder of my indolence, I know that there is only one reason for this laxity. I don't get up in the morning and put on those lace-up shoes first thing.

11 November 2013

evidence uncovered

Apologies to all. Halloween came and went and the following day I waylaid my niece, who incidentally had been a cat the night before, and asked her to pick a name out of the cauldron for the giveaway. I wrote to the lucky person, posted the book, and got her reply saying that she loved the book. And I've only just remembered that I didn't tell you. Shame on me.

Congratulations Annie! And thank you all for being such good sports.