Sunday Sunday

Hello, autumn! Autumn is when I want to get down to business and organise my life. It’s either a hangover from the academic year or because some primitive part of my brain that wants me to get ready for winter. I’m in one of those moods where I want to sort out everything in my life and emerge a paragon of wonder and joy. Ultimate Fran* is what I call the version of myself that I am always striving to become.  Ultimate Fran does yoga every day, has a tidy and sparkling clean house, reads more books, wears proper outfits and lipstick every day, she looks nice in photographs and blogs regularly. Ultimate Fran would never waste a whole day flopping about on the sofa playing idiotic games on her iPhone. I am not Ultimate Fran by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to think I’m getting closer to her all the time!

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I have started listening to the audiobook of Les Misérables. Good grief Victor likes to go on. I was 2 hours in before Jean Valjean turned up! I love the musical so I thought I should try the original. The audiobook in 10 parts of at least 5 hours each so I’m in for a long slog, but I know I would have abandoned it after 10 pages if I had been was reading it.
  • I’ve started listening to The Teacher’s Pet. This is a true crime podcast about the disappearance of an Australian woman named Lyn Dawson. Her PE teacher husband almost certainly murdered her as she has not been seen or heard from since she disappeared on 8th January 1982, but to this day he maintains she went off to join some religious sect.
  • I’m (actual physical book in my hand) reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. It is a gorgeous book. I’ve been channelling Ultimate Fran and reading it on my commute instead of playing games on my phone.
  • It’s NaNoWriMo planning time! This year I am more determined than I have been in the last 6 years and I have started to plan and research properly. I already have an exercise book half-full of research and character profiles on my computer. I just need to come up with a plot… Depending on how well I get on, I might share some of my experience here. I anticipate a lot of time spent frantically typing in the early hours with this playing through my headphones.
  • For various reasons, I’ve not done much sewing in recent weeks. I have about 3 things that I need to finish off at the moment, but I’m worried I’m going ruin them.
  • AND FINALLY… Isn’t this necklace glorious? It was a collaboration between the goddess Laura Jane Williams and jewellery brand Zeal and Heart.

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So there you are! How has your week been? Do you have any big projects on the horizon?

*Is this weird?

Happy Monday

Happy Monday night! I have decided to start writing a weekly post on Sunday nights (today is a bank holiday so it’s basically Sunday) to try and combat the Sunday blues I battle with every week. My plan is to share a few things I’ve been doing or enjoying over the last week and update the side bar with my current favourite podcast, sewing project and book.

As this is the first one, I’m going to include things that I’ve been doing/enjoying in recent weeks too.

  • My usual pre-work blues have not descended today because I have spent the afternoon eating upsetting quantities of food with my beloved Laura. I made her watch Nanette and then we just talked and watched YouTube clips of musicals and Julie Andrews. Also… I only have 2 days of work between now  and 10th September….
  • I have literally just finished the last episode of Sharp Objects and I can’t really cope with how brilliant it was. I finished it less than 15 minutes ago so I cannot be articulate about it.
  • I love Angela Carter but I’ve given her a bit of wide berth since university when I wrote my dissertation on her. Then I watched Angela Carter: Of Wolves and Women on iplayer and reminded myself how much I love her writing. I’d recommend watching it if you don’t know much about her because it gives a nice overview of her life and the themes in her books – complete interviews with Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson. It’s prompted me to finally open the Angela Carter biography I received for Christmas!
  • My Favorite Murder was my gateway into the world of the True Crime podcast and I still love it very much, but I think my all-time favourite may be All Killa No Filla. Kiri Pritchard McLean and Rachel Fairburn are both professional comedians and they discuss their mutual fascination with serial killers between going off on hilarious, often filthy tangents. I just love them. I’ve listened to the podcast off and on but I’ve been listening constantly over the last few days while I’ve been doing housework and sewing and I am obsessed.
  • I’m going to a wedding on Thursday so naturally I am still working on my outfit… I’ve decided to make a By Hand London Kim Dress in a navy with an oversized polka dot. I’ve found it really enjoyable to sew. How well it turns out remains to be seen! I feel like I’ve got a bit over confident of late so I’m convinced this will be a dogs dinner and I’ll end up wearing something I already own or panic buying something on Wednesday.
  • This piece about Ed Sheeran made me laugh so hard. I think Ed Sheeran may be the most boring musician of all time and I really don’t understand his popularity.

And that’s been my week really! I hope you all had an interesting week and have some things to look forward to in the week to come.

What have been your highlights this week?

Sewing Entertainment – Three TV shows

In a different life, I would be a world-renowned professor of TV and give lectures on the influence of The Way We Were on the Gilmore Girls. However, in this life, all I have is this humble blog with which to share my exciting TV insights and opinions. So here are three of my current favourite TV shows:

Unforgotten

unforgottenThis may be the best TV show I have watched in the last year. It is a cold case crime drama and focuses on people more than the police investigation. All the suspects have a deep dark secret that they have been hiding for years, but the secret is not necessarily directly connected to the murder. I love any drama that’s about deep dark secrets. The idea that someone knows something is what makes famous cold cases so compelling and yet so frustrating. We know that there are people living today who know the truth, we just don’t know who they are. Unforgotten is about people who have done their best to hide their secrets only to have them come out as part of a murder case.

The detectives are played by Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar, and I really appreciate how compassionate and human they are. There are no traditional macho police characters in sight. And this is not the kind of show that’s about dead women with gratuitous shots of naked female corpses, so far only 1 season out of 3 has been about the murder of a young woman.

There are too many good things about Unforgotten to list so just get on and watch it!

Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix and ITV hub, and Season 3 is currently going out on ITV on Sunday nights (and you can catch up on ITV hub!)

Dietland

Dietland is an angry show for a terrifying time. It’s part story of self-discovery and enlightenment, and part feminist revenge fantasy. Dietland.jpg

Plum Kettle is a fat woman planning stomach bypass surgery so that she can be thin, and her real life can begin. She lives a small life, working from home and only leaving her apartment to attend weight loss meetings or visit a local café. Then one day she meets a young woman named Leta and everything changes.

Oh and there’s a feminist terrorist group killing rapists and dropping them from the sky…

Just watch it! Dietland is not perfect, but it’s just what I need when I am despairing of the world. Joy Nash is spectacular as Plum. Watch it and then follow Joy on Instagram so that you can gaze upon her beauty.

Dietland is available on Amazon Prime.

Keeping Faith

This is a bit of a wildcard because I’ve not watched a lot of this yet and I’m not sure what I think.

Keeping FaithFaith is a solicitor on maternity leave, seemingly happily married with three children and living in Wales. One day her husband disappears on his way to work, and she starts to try and work out what has happened.

Keeping Faith was originally on BBC Wales, but it was a bit of a word-of-mouth sensation, and people all over the UK watched it on iplayer. Now they are airing it on BBC One for people like me who missed out on it the first time around.

This is being shown on Thursdays on BBC One and the rest is available on BBC iplayer

The Frankie Shirt

homemade baseball shirt raglan sleeve purple mel stringer patch

A couple of months ago I did Design Your Wardrobe the Seamwork sewing planning program (I might write about this if I feel so inclined). The aim of it is to get you to plan your sewing the way a designer plans their collection – gathering inspiration and developing your ideas before selecting patterns and fabrics. It really made me think about what I like to wear, what I want to wear, and what I actually need in my wardrobe. The answer to all of these questions was CUTE CASUAL CLOTHING! So I went to all the inspiration I had collected and started to plan some non-basic basics.

I had added these tops to my mood board to represent the kind of casual clothes I’m looking for:

Toxic Masculinity shirt is from My Favorite Murder and available here / True Love shirt is from Ramblin’ Rose and can be found here

I have always loved a baseball skirt. I love the classic raglan sleeves and design opportunities they offer. I knew that a baseball shirt would be a nice simple make that I would probably knock up in an afternoon AND it had the potential to help me use up odd bits of jersey fabric that are too small for other projects.

As Tilly Walnes’s new book Stretch! came out around the time of Design Your Wardrobe, it seemed only right that I use Frankie as the pattern for my own baseball shirt (and it gave me an excuse to order one of the signed copies that were available).

Unusually for me, I cut a straight size 7 top. I usually blend between sizes because my waist is about a size smaller than my bust and hips, and I prefer to make sure everything has some kind of waist shaping. The pattern is designed to have a relaxed fit so I will definitely take it in at the waist next time. The only alteration I made was to shorten the top a little because a) I have a short torso and b) I wanted to make more of a feature of the curved hem.

Tilly and the buttons frankie shirt

Sewing up the top was nice and simple, so I managed to knock it up in a few hours. I actually found cutting out the trickiest bit of all. I think I managed to slightly stretch the fabric and so I had a wonky arm and had to recut. The finish of the top isn’t entirely perfect – the neckband is lightly thinner in places where I was sewing too quickly to keep it neat, and the white thread I couldn’t be bothered to change to sew on the neckband shows through a bit. But I think small things like this aren’t really noticeable for anyone except me, and I’ve almost forgotten about them already. Whenever I get too bogged down worrying about perfection in the things I’ve made, I remember that my colleague bought a playsuit from Primark that had the legs in sideways so that you’d have to twist your torso at 90 degrees to wear it.

When I was thinking about planning my spring/summer wardrobe, I noticed that I was pinning clothes with really great details. Clever or funny or just a bit different, I really love an embroidered motif or patch on a simple sweatshirt or t-shirt, so why on earth haven’t I been adding this to my handmade clothes?! This patch was designed by Mel Stringer for Lucky Dip Club about 2 years ago, and I have been hoarding it ever since, waiting for the perfect place to put it. I thought of using a couple of other patches (I’ve been hoarding them without any idea when or where I’ll use them) but I love purple, and once I decided to do the sleeves and neckband in a deep purple, I couldn’t resist adding this lilac patch.

mel stringer

In a nutshell – I bloody love this. It was easy to make and the perfect vehicle for excellent patches! I’m not sure it’s the most flattering garment I’ve ever made but I couldn’t care less about flattering! It makes me feel awesome.

Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa

Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose was recommended by lots of internet people I trust, and so when it came to compiling a Christmas list, I had to put it down. I didn’t actually know what it was about, but from the cover and the title, I got the impression that it was going to be the kind of book that is half poetry, half novel, with long lush descriptions of South Africa and beautiful, poignant bittersweet moments. It isn’t really anything like that.

Evening Primrose is actually a really angry political novel. It’s written as the diary of Masechaba, a young woman who has left her religious mother to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. However, the realities of being a doctor and working within the South African health system are not what she expected. As well as dealing with the pressures of being a doctor, Masechaba is also dealing with her own personal history, her brother’s recent suicide and the legacy of apartheid. She lives with a Zimbabwean doctor named Nyamba who opens her eyes to the xenophobia that exists in South African society, even in Masechaba’s own mother.

I was really impressed by how such a short book managed to explore gender, the legacy of apartheid, mental health, menstruation and more. The author Kopano Matlwa is a doctor herself and is currently studying for a DPhil and Oxford University, which makes the fact that Evening Primrose is actually her third novel all the more impressive.

I don’t want to give away everything that happens in the book because I found that not knowing what to expect made the book so much more shocking and moving. I finished the booked with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Mini Review: Pages for You by Sylvia Brownrigg

Pages for You cover.jpgI loved this beautiful, delicious book. It’s the kind of book you want to read in a day while lying next to a pool. It is about an intense affair between 17-year-old college freshman Flannery and 28-year-old grad student Anne at what appears to be Yale. Theirs is the kind of affair you (or at least I) expected to have at University – the kind of affair that turns you from a sensitive, thoughtful and gauche child, into a sophisticated woman. The kind of affair that will give you fuel for your novel, a couple of country songs, and will give you something to draw on when singing along with power ballads in the shower.

‘What would happen if I wrote some pages for you? Each day a page, to show you that I am finding our story, the story of how we might have been together, once. Of how we could be.’

The book is broken up into short chapters, about 2 or 3 pages long, which are the ‘pages’ in the title. They read like love letters or a sort of diary of the relationship – from the first meeting the breakup. The short chapters make the book feel like a collection of perfect little jewels of prose. Although it’s the kind of book you will want to gobble up within a few hours, the short chapters make it perfect for dipping in an out of throughout your workday – on your commute and lunch break.

Can you tell I liked it? There’s a sequel called Pages For Her which I have yet to read. I’ll report back.

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Jane Austen the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly

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I bloody loved this book. I bought it while I was on a book crawl with Laura and her book blogger pals. As soon as Laura pointed out to me, I knew it was the book for me. Reading this was a very intense experience! It’s the reason I decided to do my Autumn of Austen blog series and has made me feel justified in my decision to base everything in my life on my love for Pride and Prejudice.

The premise of the book is that most modern readers have Austen all wrong. Many of us have fallen for the image of Austen as a quiet, spinster aunt who wrote witty but unthreatening novels about young women who in love with wealthy men. Kelly argues that we have no reliable source for that idea of Jane Austen and that if we go to her novels, we see a very different woman. Kelly devotes a chapter to each of Austen’s finished novels, picking up on the references that would have been familiar to Austen’s first readers and filling in the social and political context that we are missing 200 years after Austen’s death.

Through her close analysis of Austen’s novels, Kelly paints the picture of a Jane Austen who was extremely politically engaged, concerned with the treatment of women, the hypocrisy of the church, the effect of enclosures on ordinary people and many other issues. Our lack of familiarity with things like the eighteenth and early nineteenth century Church, inheritance law, and the literature of the time, means that we miss many of her subtle references. Modern readers, for example, are unlikely to have read the Mysteries of Udolpho and therefore just don’t fully get how misguided Catherine Morland is in Northanger Abbey. Most of us are unaware that many of the characters in Mansfield Park share names with prominent slave owners, and we aren’t living through the Napoleonic wars with companies of militia taking over our towns. I will say that Kelly goes into some very in-depth literary criticism, which I love, but may not be to everyone’s taste. However, if like me, you are an ex-literature student, this will make you squeal with joy. It’s the best part of doing an English degree without even having to write an essay.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to all Austen fans. I will warn you that it may make you feel differently about certain characters and books (I’m looking at you, Edward Ferrars), but that might be worth it if you want to love Austen even more.