Welcome to Granny Corner!

Herewith begineth my Granny Corner:

First for Granny Corner: me 'n Daphne Guinness! There will be many ! in this post!

GRIDLOCK. daphne guiness, me.jpg

Sewing! This is my entry for the Gridlock Comp run by Tessuti. Many thanks to Daphne for lending me her head. The comp brief was simple - make an outfit with this fabric -  and they got a LOT of entries and no of course I didn't win and yes that's not the point; it was fun! This is the first sewing comp I've experienced and it was really lovely doing something within a community, being aware that I was making something in direct connection with a whole world of like-minded persons...cool group fun. Everything worked: the fabric was great, the price was good, the brief very open (stipulating only that the garment be 'daywear') and it felt like the whole escapade had a purpose; a purpose like a little club, all these people sewing away separately then coming together on common ground. There was an astonishingly varied response, quite amazing variations. Nice! I look forward to the next comp. Fashion, fabrics, sewing, yessss.

I made a pretty straightforward dress but with a natty sort of cape effect that I thought would flash the feature reverse of the fabric pattern. I suspect this is an Akira Isogawa fabric, it seems clever, original and lovely enough and it was a pleasure to sew. I used to have a studio in the same building as Akira's and paid a lot of attention to the shared industrial skip bin in the loading dock...but never got lucky. Dammit. Although his studio sample sales were a treat! The current Akira collection in store, 2013 Automne Hiver is as gorgeously beautiful as always. This label is beautiful clothes, Akira & his studio never miss the mark and its all so simple and clever and unique and timeless.

But more than that, its art meet fashion. And paper dolls!

Anyway, back to me. I made Vogue Pattern V8846 view A. Vogue patterns feature fractional sizing within each size group (8, 10, 12, etc) and the fit of this dress worked out pretty well with no alterations. I omitted the lining though, opting for a custom bias binding and I did narrow the collar down, it was a little too funnel neck for me. That's it, not hard at all but I still went to the 11th hour, sending in my entry at 11.30pm, half an hour before end of comp despite having had several weeks to complete a simple dress...Meh, that's the way I roll, y'all.

Note: here on Granny Corner, there lives no sewing guru. Nope, my sewing is pretty simplistic. Its my HOBBY. I do it because I like it; I'm not aiming for couture here, woof.

(But I'm very proud of my invisible zips, look here below, cant see it on the outside! I have been late to zips, having had a life long fear of sewing these, but it really isn't thaaaaat hard. And I do love making contrast bias bindings, I really do. The other thing is, I did learn that weighting the seams down after pressing, until the fabric cools, really does keep them laying flat! Wow. See? That's as complex as I get. Great hobby.)

Look! Here's me 'n Daphne again!:

GRIDLOCK. daphne guiness, me.3.jpg
Donna's gridlock jacket1.jpg

If I said before that sewing is my hobby, I should perhaps qualify this by adding that its my low-aspirational hobby. I'm keen on beautiful fabrics, but made into simple shapes, pretty classic really. I'm fussy about my stitching only if its really openly going to look bad; I'm not a technical wizard in the least. I do like the odd time consuming detail (custom made bias bindings etc) and do make up a fair few of my own patterns or adaptations to existing patterns but generally, my obsessive nature is stalled at 'mild' when it comes to sewing.

In this Gridlock competition, I was encouraged by the idea of lots of different makers making lots of wildly different things, all with a common denominator - the fabric - and then comparing. And by competing with my good friend Donna. This was a COMPETITION, not just a sewing love-in, sheesh.( I jest, I jest.)

Photo of my good friend Donna, left.

Hmmm. My good friend Donna is a very good "sewist" (so called because once you've seen "sewer" written down well, you've gotta switch to sewist, really, and she told me that) and her entry for this comp is staggeringly accomplished – look at those feature zipper trims on her jacket! Gah! I love sharing a sewing conversation with her; she always makes it seem so interesting! In talking together over our work, Donna & I continue a time-worn tradition as old as humans, of women creating a unique fellowship, aka "the sewing circle". There is a closeness that comes from quietly sharing these personal interests, regardless of our exterior lives. In many ways, Donna & I are nothing alike and yet we find a lot of common ground when we get talking; the talking only begins with the sewing, you see, sewing is the least of our concerns. Somehow the flow of conversation can move to just about anything, and always does. WE ARE VERY CLEVER.

She is also partial, Donna, to always having a book to read, like me, and recently lent me the novel she'd just finished reading with her book club, The Woman Upstairs by Claire Massud. One feature of the novel is the shared creative space between two women, artists, and how the creative flow between them fed and sustained their work. More than a few snippets in this book struck a chord of recognition with me and I was intrigued by something Donna said when she lent it to me, about being a 'woman creative' and finding the time for this within real life/family demands. When pressed for opinion, she elaborated: "I think art requires space and time to think through ideas and children/family fill that space. Any idea which does squeeze through is easily squashed by self doubt and the desire to be perfect."  And she's right. I do that battle on a daily basis if I'm to achieve anything at all. Astute, Donna is and way smart.

A few observations from the novel then, about this 'Being a Creative':

(Interesting side note: top of the top ten overused words on LinkedIn? CREATIVE. Don't believe me? See Google Ngram here.)

Alice Neel. Still life with fruit.

Alice Neel. Still life with fruit.

After years of not practicing 'her art', the protagonist realises: "I discovered that I wanted to work, much more than I'd ever realised, but I didn't want to work alone. The paradox was perfect: I didn't want to work alone and yet could only do my work alone." And when she wonders "knowing my own life and how little of what most matters in it is seen on the outside, how remotely my own outline resembles my reflection..." I recognise these thoughts. I've had them. And it certainly explains the proliferation of blogs out there; we need others, to see ourselves against, to gauge our heft, to find our own measure. And often to find it faulty, disappointing or just plain wrong. Which version, after all, has one presented and in which instance, against what backstory, to what end did one intend? Most of all, what was one wearing? I know I'm certainly not the first/only woman to think like this, that's for sure.

The first page of this novel is widely cited in almost every review I found online. Maybe this is so we all then get to write - in capitals, mind - "FUCK YOU ALL".

I know I enjoyed that.

So read this novel. Watch one of my favourite programs review it, here. Its not on my Best Of list, but it is good and like I say, has some keen and peculiar insights.

But *lastly, and weirdly, I cannot fail to note that the central character of this novel, The Woman Upstairs, the artist herself, makes dioramas! Oh dear, Ibsen references abound.

*In fact, this novel contains many quotable passages. One that's close to the bone? Try this:


Ouch. But this novel did prompt me to seek out the work of Alice Neel, and for that alone I am grateful. Her painting above. Another interesting note, below. The Guardian, in a couple of reviews, described here as "full-on psychologically and sociologically acute" and "disturbing and exhilarating". (Here and here.) She is decribed as " a painter of uneasy and diffident men, confident fathers and protective mothers, awkward pre-adolescent girls, of a critic in his underpants." How cool is that?! Look at these portraits below. Whilst Hartley, on the left, is all strong angled self-assured brushstrokes, sharp edged light on planes, Max White, to the right, is all solid, brooding and resonant monumentality.  Nothing is an accident, the painter is in absolute control. Shocking really. My word, that woman could paint.

Interestingly, her granddaughter Elizabeth Neel, is also an artist and I love this painting very, very much:

Elizabeth Neel. Almanac 2011.

Elizabeth Neel. Almanac 2011.

Its easy to love for the purely aesthetic appreciation of the formal aspects; it has nice balance, colours and there's landscape in the imagery. (I would like it in my house) But this painting, with the dark smushed areas of paint and tracery of tape lines - like underlying links that reveal only the bare canvas - speaks to me also of the undercurrent of thoughts and feelings, sometimes dark and messy, that are composed within. Within oneself. And how we try to connect these up to make sense, if we can, of the beautiful uncontrollable thoughts and feelings that float across the planes of our inner worlds. Sometimes with new, spontaneous, unique and unrepeatable results. Everything in life is always moving around and sometimes there's unaccountable blanks in experience or memory. We're just trying to keep it all together.

But that's just me. Elizabeth Neel says "life, and nature underneath it, is a baroque, mysterious thing that hangs precariously on a framework of elegant reason. "

See where a bit of sewing can get you?

Welcome to Granny Corner.

Gridlock comp 8.jpg