Archive for the ‘Other Ramblings’ Category

I’ve posted about sleep before – perhaps because I’ve struggled with it for much of my life – so I thought I’d share another interesting blog post I found today: scientists have long worked around the idea that sleep aids memory (I don’t know about you, but this would explain some pretty strange dreams I’ve had!), but this new theory looks at how sleep helps us process memories.

I’m a firm believer in the importance of a good night’s sleep – not too much and not too little – but it sometimes seems undervalued in the buzz of modern life.  People who drift off as soon as their head hits the pillow take it for granted (and are eternally envied by me!), while for busy types, it can fall far down the list of priorities.  Then there are people like me, for whom it doesn’t come easily – you lie there, eyes closed, trying to sleep … first it’s 30 minutes … nothing … then it’s an hour … then another hour goes by and you’re cursing yourself and the fact you’ve got to get up in five hours’ time.  But what if we’re seriously damaging our physical and mental health by not sleeping well?  And, if sleep plays an important part in memory, that must have implications for knowledge and education.

So, have a read of the article, it’s an interesting and slightly controversial theory, and make sure you guard your sleep time well.

Lady Sleeping, Franciszek Zmurko

Lady Sleeping, Franciszek Zmurko – NOT how I look sleeping!

As for my own sleep patterns, it’s not all bad: childhood insomnia is what made me such an avid reader from a young age.  My poor parents, I drove them mad, being unable to sleep and waking them up every night.  Then I learned to read and instead of bothering Mum and Dad, I’d consume book after book, re-reading them again and again when my supply of stories couldn’t keep up with demand.  Alas, these days I have more demands on my time and can sleep better, so I read considerably less than I used to, but, still, the pattern for reading was set at a young age, thanks to insomnia, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain.


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(It’s a bit complicated (and I’m very tired, so probably not explaining nor writing in the best possible way), but I’m posting this because I thought I already had posted it and I mentioned to a lovely lady from my corsetry class that she could find links on my blog.  Not sure why I hadn’t already posted about this because it is quite fascinating and intriguing and exciting and all kinds of good things!)

So, popular belief has it that boobs weren’t treated as separate entities and hoisted up in bras (as opposed to smooshed up in corsets) until the 20th century.  At the earliest, you could suggest that some Regency undergarments were close-ish to modern bras.  But discoveries in an Austrian castle that were only publicised earlier this year seem to refute all we believed.  Check out what they found:

There are plenty of articles on these amazing finds – fabric that have survived some 600 years and have the potential to re-write our understanding of undergarments – so I’ll let the experts fill you in better than I can (though, worth noting that they found pants and knickers [Edit – I did originally write ‘knickers’ here, too, but when I re-read one of the articles I found that actually the bikini-like briefs are believed to have been men’s pants.  Apologies, no knickers to see here.  Move on!] too – bonkers!):

Yahoo News

This one shows the knickers, which look suspiciously like tie-up-bikini bottoms – I think we need to re-think who invented the bikini!

More details later emerged in this article, which I found via the good Comtesse (who is definitely worth following if you like to be kept – ahem – abreast of history news (sorry to manage an oxymoron and pun in the same sentence – I’m sure that’s word-play overkill, but please let me off, I’m so tired!).

Hope you enjoyed this instalment of ‘Sleepy Writer talks Medieval Underwear’!


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Hello there!

I noticed quite a few people have started following JoaT, so I wanted to say a quick hello to my new readers!

Thanks for joining me here and feel free to chime in any time – I love hearing from you!

Also, a quick update on my writing – I’ve mentioned that I’ve been wrestling with some plot demons lately … Well, I don’t think I needed to worry.  I looked back over my plotting document (which has somehow reached 17,000 words – over-planning, moi?) and found that back when I wrote it, I actually did a much better job better than I thought – everything ties together and it all advances the plot.  Who’d’ve thought?

So, onwards with the writing!  Huzzah!

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So, last week (week commencing 11th April).  No sewing.  But I did have a big uni hand in on the Friday, and pretty much all my time at home was spent working on this, lesson planning, eating or sleeping.  I didn’t even do any cleaning or load the washing machine (and you could tell from the state the of apartment!).  The weekend was spent applying for jobs and writing something else uni-related.  In short, it was a stressfully busy week.

It’s now the Easter holidays, so no uni or work (teaching placement at a college) this week or next.  But, plenty of homework – meh.  So far this week I have had a day of well-earned relaxation (after weeks of stress with that uni project and covering teaching), watched The Other Boleyn Girl, bought the notions for a dirndl skirt made with fabric from The Textile Workshop (for £1!!!!), shortened the straps on my summer dress (it was gaping a bit at the front and I wanted to wear it in this lovely spring weather) and I began the Grand Clearing of the Store-Room of Doom.

I’ve been putting off sorting out the store-room for a loooong time because the enormity of the task made it so overwhelming (I could barely get the door open) and I thought it would take be a good couple of days.

It didn’t.

It actually took me most of Wednesday and I still had time to cook a yummy dinner (meatballs and roasted vegetables in a tomato sauce).  It’s very nearly finished – I just need some wall shelves putting up and for the guys to go through some stuff found in there.  And it looks amazing (but pictures another time – when it’s completed) – I can’t believe I’ve managed to cut down the junk and fit so much into such a small space.  I’m pretty proud of myself (and thankful to Ikea!).  It’s inspired me, in fact – I’m rearing to go and can’t wait to get a desk in there where I can leave my machine set up all the time, below a pinboard covered in fabric scraps and inspiration images.

I actually wanted to get started on the dirndl earlier in the week, but I was put off by getting the sewing machine out.  Yeah, lazy or what?  I also didn’t really want to leave the sofa, where I was spending time with the Gent.  Yeah, pathetic or what?!  Because he works nights/evenings and a large part of the weekends, our timetables aren’t exactly hamonious.  Some days I only see him when he gets home at 4am and when I get up for work a few hours later.  So sometimes the idea of getting up and going off to to the table to work at a noisy machine with my back to him isn’t exactly appealing when we could be watching a film together or putting the world to rights.

What I did do instead, was adjust those dress straps – it was hand-sewing, so I didn’t have to leave the Gent, or the sofa and I could carry on half-watching the film.  Result!

The Other Boleyn Girl was an OK film – I like Natalie Portman (though not Scarlett Johansson) and I’m generally predisposed to like historical dramas – though not great.  But the costumes, however accurate or otherwise were rather lush.  I’ve found myself warming to Tudor style lately (the earlier Henry VII stuff, not so much the Elizabethan ruffs) – I think it’s the square necklines of the gowns (such a lovely shape) and that triangular silhouette of women with those wide sleeves and skirts.  Oh dear, sewing attention deficit strikes again!  It was pretty late at night and I was planning to go to bed after the film, but it did get me thinking of stitching and costumes and even thinking about designing modern clothes with a Renaissance influence.

What I’ve Learnt (so far)

Scaredy Cat!

I psych myself out of projects.  I was overwhelmed at the thought of clearing out the store room and put off doing it.  I still haven’t made the Gent’s waistcoat: truth be told, I’m scared of cutting up the lovely, expensive wool I bought – and especially on a pattern I have made up myself.  I’ve got some silk taffeta and vintage brocade pre-washed and ready to go for any project I want, but I haven’t used them yet: perhaps I’m just too scared to cut into that pristine, lovely, expensive, difficult-to-get-hold-of fabric.  Ah-ha.  We might have hit upon something!

How to solve it, though?  Well, that’s the tough part and I don’t really know how I’ll solve it until I try, but I do know what I’m going to try.  I already prepare and plan copiously (I always make a toile, adjust the pattern and read the pattern directions over and over) to try to minimise mistakes, so I’ve already done all I can and everything else is just worrying.  And the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in life (but seem to have failed to apply to sewing) is that worrying doesn’t help anything.  Except for anxiety and no one wants that, right?  Right?  Right!  So, if you’ve got the fear, then do your prep and then get over it.

A Bird in the Hand …

I should always have a hand-sewing project on the go.  If I didn’t have those dress straps to sew, I probably wouldn’t have done any sewing that day with the dirndl skirt, even though I really wanted to.  Sometimes it’s a matter of practicality (getting a noisy sewing machine out when a group of you are watching a film is pretty anti-social) and other times it’s just my mood (I just want to relax and be productive, is that too much to ask?!).

Monkey See, Monkey Do (or make)

Seeing pretty gowns on The Other Boleyn Girl had my mind full of ideas.  Seeing pictures and films with lovely clothing inspires me.  Perhaps the problem is that a lot of the time, those pictures come via the internet and we all know that if it isn’t the Root of All Evil, the internet most definitely is the Root of All Distraction and Destroyer of Productive Intentions.  Damn you, internet!!!

Only joking, but it really can be a problem.  Even if I go online meaning to just look this up or do that one little thing, I will invariably find myself saying ‘oh, is it bedtime already?’ hours later.  Perhaps I can harness that inspirational power of pretty pictures and channel it away from the internet.  As a teenager, I used to have an inspirational notebook full of pictures from magazines (before the days of widespread internet use!  Yes, there was once such a time!  Yes, I am that old!).  Maybe I should start one up again and print out those inspirational pictures I find online and sketch my ideas and stick in fabric and trim samples.

And this is definitely a very good reason to add to my collection of films with lush costumes.  Huzzah!

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We all have days (weeks … months … years?) where we’re less than productive, where our motivation is non-existent and where we just can’t seem to muster the energy to do much more than vegetate in front of the TV or computer.  And there are those times where we seem to have been constantly busy, but don’t seem to have actually achieved much.  I hate those times.

Well, the lovely Tilly over at Tilly and the Buttons has come up with a rather interesting idea to see if we can combat this lack of productivity: The Sewing Productivity Project.  Essentially, it involves closely monitoring what you do over a couple of weeks or so, when you sew and how you feel before, during and after sewing and producing a report/series of reports on what you find.

Now, you’ll notice that I have been hugely busy with PGCE work since September (I have two ring binders plus a box file full of uni work, never mind all the marking, the lesson preparation, the meetings, the office politics(!), the reading, the theories, the feedback, the observation …), so I have been horribly unproductive in terms of anything non-teacher-related, including writing (A Thief & a Gentlewoman and this blog!) and sewing.  Though, I suppose that can be expected with all that work for the qualification.  You might also have noticed that I tend to set myself high standards and ambitious goals.  Add these two things together and the lesson for me is that in terms of productivity for non-essentials (that is, anything non-teaching/PGCE-related), I have to be realistic and not set myself unrealistic goals.  At the moment, any sewing productivity is an achievement for me.

In the next few days, I’m going to give some highlights of the past couple of weeks (even thinking back to before the Productivity Project started) and look at what I’ve learnt …

First off, I haven’t told you, dear reader, but I have been taking a ‘mixed craft’ class on Fridays taught by a friend from my PGCE course.  Yes, 2pm to 6pm on a Friday I have allocated sewing and crafting time.  The first lesson was on 1st April and we learned how to applique and she went over some basic sewing machine skills (there are only 5 of us on the course, but we have quite a range of skills – my friend on the course hasn’t used sewing machines before).  It was actually helpful to do those basic machine skills – I found out that somehow I’ve been putting my bobbin in the wrong way round all this time.  Really don’t know how I managed that!

The classes so far have been brilliant – they take place at The Textile Workshop, which has lots of different teachers, a shop selling lots of bits and pieces and there are even bins full of various scraps and pieces of fabric that are either free or 50p for a small piece or £1 for a larger piece.  The classes have left me very inspired afterwards and I’ve really wanted to get my machine out as soon as I get home, but so far I’ve been too busy with uni work to do anything outside of class.  We will be covering: applique, free machine embroidery, fabric manipulation, making a cushion cover, making a tote bag, wet felting and lots of other fabric-based bits and pieces!

On 7th April, I was lucky enough to win Abby’s giveaway over at Stay-ing Alive – wewt!  I have a $25 voucher for Burnley and Trowbridge – double-wewt!  This got me thinking about sewing, even if I didn’t have the time to do it (see below) and left me plotting and planning what to do with that voucher … I still have decided, but I have some ideas (zone-front pierrot jacket in this lilac taffeta, anyone?).

The craft lesson for that week was free machine embroidery: I made a picture of a tea set for my mum as a Mother’s Day present (sorry, I forgot to take photos before I gave it to her).

What I Have Learnt (so far)

Focus and A Time and a Place for Everything

Thinking back to my free machine embroidery class … I really enjoyed being able to work on one thing for almost the full four hours and our teacher commented that I had my head down and focused for the whole lesson, while others were getting up and taking breaks.  This reflects what I tend to do with uni work and what I used to do when drawing (which I used to do a lot) – once I get started, I keep going for hours with the bare minimum of breaks.  Once I focus, I work and work and work.  However, like clearing out the store-room and writing, it’s starting that is the problem for me.  Doing the mixed craft class means that I have invested money in making and that I have an allocated time and place, set up, ready and waiting for me, complete with friendly people also there to make and chat.  Having that dedicated time and place has made me sew and left me inspired afterwards.

Crafty People

The outside influence and company has also helped, I think.  That’s surprising, because although I’m quite a sociable and friendly person, I do have a tendency towards solitary pursuits.  Since I was a child, my favourite pastimes have been reading, drawing/painting, writing and various crafts.  Pretty much exclusively, these have been done alone.  The reading and drawing are often done with a person in the same room, but they will be doing something else and I will be focused entirely on what I’m doing.  In the craft classes, though, I have been in the room with others working on related projects and, while I’ve been super-focused on my work, I’ve still interacted with them, offering praise of their work, receiving comments on mine or just generally chatting while working.

But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by being motivated by working with others – after all, am I not constantly inspired and motivated by all those blogs linked to on the right?  And behind those blogs are people, bloggers, sharing their work and themselves with the blogosphere.  Reading and commenting on blogs is interacting with other people, albeit once removed.

I love Paperchase!

New Stuff

It’s probably not very healthy (and is certainly not at all healthy for my bank balance), but I like new things (new to me, that is, not necessarily brand new) and they get me inspired to use them.  I’m one of those people who, when they get new something new, has to use it now.  Really, I put on new shoes straight away.  I rush home from Paperchase to use my new pens and notebook.  I will even sit at home alone, hair unwashed, make-up undone, wearing sloppy jeans (or even PJs!) with my new bright pink lipstick on, just because it’s new and it would be rude not to use it immediately.  So, the thought of spending my Burnley and Trowbridge voucher has me excited and whenever I buy something new and sewing-related, it does get me productive.  Maybe I can harness this in a way that won’t bankrupt me … it’s certainly something I need to think about and work out a way of managing.

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A Very Proud Recipient

I am one lucky gentlewoman – the lovely Rowenna of Hyaline Prosaic has very kindly awarded me with my very first blog award … and my second!

Wow.  Thank you so much, Rowenna!  Though your other great winners have now added considerably to my blog-reading list – I don’t know how I’ll find time to, y’know, actually do stuff!  😉

Anyway, the rules for both awards are:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason!
  4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

I don’t think I read enough regularly-updated blogs to be able to pass the awards on to fifteen others, so instead I want to pass these awards to 7 blogs that haven’t yet received them, but that thoroughly deserve them:

  1. Mesmered’s Blog – A fellow masquerade-loving stitcher/scribbler.  She never ceases to amaze me with her constant curiousity about the world around her, her readers and the craft of writing.  To top it all off, this wonderful woman has a great way of drawing a reader in.
  2. American Duchess Apparel – OK, so I’ve mentioned her regular blog (which has received the Versatile Blogger Award) a few times now, but I feel that her fabulous clothing line deserves some attention, too.  I recently ordered one of her funky-pretty graphic tees and cannot wait for it to arrive.  And, I love grey and pink, so I REALLY can’t wait for her Autumn collection, which promises that very colour combo – huzzah!

    Grey! And pink! Divine! (c) 2010 American Duchess ApparelTM

  3. From one Duchess to another: The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century and
  4. Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: these twinned blogs were some of the first I found when I began seriously researching the 18th century high life and I’ve been enjoying the words of these two gentlewomen for over a year now.  They combine 18th century historical research with modern nods to that favourite century – versatile and lovely indeed!
  5. Now, ‘lovely’ is probably not a word my next blogger would use to describe her own blog, indeed, she describes herself as a ‘crabbit old bat’, but a person can be more than one thing and quite simply, Nicola Morgan’s generous writing and publishing advice means that she and her blog are lovely, whether she likes that or not!  Any writerly types out there who don’t already read Help! I Need a Publisher should start.  Now.  I mean it!  While I doubt she goes for the blog award type things, I’ve included her blog because it really is invaluable knowledge Nicola offers on her blog and will soon be turning into a book – another one for my shelf, methinks!
  6. Quaintrelle Life – Vivcore is a lady both lovely and versatile, beautifying our bodies with her clothes and her home with her keen eye for vintage detailing.
  7. Or perhaps you’d just like some pure and simple vintage sewing porn?  Great, because that’s what my final pick Sew Retro is!  And the versatility comes from the fact that the blog is updated by literally dozens of stitchers, all working with retro, vintage and sometimes historical patterns.  Lovely!

I hope you’ll enjoy these blogs as much as I have!

And as for me, well, we know I like lists, so here’s that list of seven things about me:

  1. I apologise if I ever say ‘lol’ (or hahaha/hehehe, etc) too much on here, but, you see, I do laugh a lot.  Fairly often it’s with a kind of gallows humour, but I like to think it’s a good thing to be able to laugh when the chips are down.
  2. I am a good liar.  Now I suppose some people might think of this as a blessing, but it’s also proven to be a curse: when you know you can do it so it believably, it’s far too easy to just lie yourself out of situations and responsibilities.  Many years ago I made a conscious decision to not lie anymore; these days I only tell little white lies (“no, dear, I’m not hiding something from you in this drawer”/yes I am, it’s your Birthday present!) or bluff, which brings me to …
  3. Poker.  I’m not a bad poker player.  We used to have poker nights when I lived in Portsmouth and I’m trying to institute them amongst our friends in Nottingham, and I would generally come in the top three (beating guys who play the game a lot more than me, much to their annoyance! 😉 ).  I put this down to the above bluffing skills being quite lucky with cards!  Which brings me to …
  4. Luck.  I seem to always have either extraordinarily good luck (playing Lord of the Rings Risk the other week, I rolled something ridiculous like seven sixes in a row!) or really terrible luck.  There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

    I am loving this Turkish Nazar Boncugu scarf - plus it's a lucky symbol!

  5. I nearly never existed.  I suppose this kinda comes under luck, as well.  When my Mum was very little, she was involved in an accident and almost died in hospital (it was looking so bad that they Christened her then and there.  Thankfully, she pulled through – love you, Mum.).  And, to cut a long story short: as a teenager, my Dad was visiting the village in southern Cyprus where his side of the family is from and nearly got shot as the troubles flared up between Greek and Turkish Cypriots – later he even went back and got the bullet that had grazed his ear out of the wall.  Luckily the neutral UN soldiers arrived in time to point out that as he was a British citizen, the Greek militia could not detain him (that’s what I call timing!).  Thanks to the UN and Red Cross, my father was kept safe and eventually pretty much smuggled back to the UK: for this reason I have nothing but support and admiration for those two organisations.  One day I plan to do a proper interview about this with my Dad and write a short story about it.  But, yes, I very nearly never was!
  6. I have an extra set of sinuses.  Unfortunately they do not grant me the power to breathe underwater, give me superhuman hearing or do anything useful, except for make me susceptible to ear infections and similar problems, which obviously isn’t useful … so, no, they do nothing useful at all!
  7. I love folding fans, but I am too much of a wimp to use mine when I’m out and about as I suspect I might look like a pretentious plonker.  How foolish is that?

How pretty is this 18th century fan currently for sale on ebay??? Shame it's £230 - ouch!

And that’s it for a little list of me.  Many thanks again, Rowenna, and also to my other readers – I value all your comments and those page-view statistics make me smile.  Thank you.

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