Wednesday, February 1, 2023

New Things


Slowly, I found myself disappearing from my blog. Hardly anyone reads my blog nowadays so there was no motivation or urgency to write any new posts. But I guess habits are hard to break so here I am tapping out a new post. 

End of last year I did 1 thing that the normal me would never do. I felt myself suffocating and needed a huge distraction so desperately that I signed up for a leather bag making class.

I've never had any interest in leather, not that I'm anti-leather. Plus I have sensitive skin so working with glue and leather is probably not the best thing for me. But I wanted something totally different from what I'm usually attracted to. Before the 6 day Tote bag class, I was a bit afraid I may not be able to tolerate the smell of leather or be unable to complete the bag. Too much overthinking. Working with leather turned out to be so freaking fun. There is so much to learn. The process of making the bag totally by hand was so enjoyable. We used saddle stitch, done using 2 needles and it sounds easy but you need to pull the thread in the correct direction to achieve the slanted thread look. Most importantly, all the hammering was extremely therapeutic. Bang, bang, bang, bang. I wish I had discovered leather earlier. Now with my commitment to so many hobbies, I don't think I can spare the time or money to explore it further. I'll probably attend workshops in future when I want to make anymore leather stuff. That way I need not invest in the leather making tools which, I kid you not, aren't cheap. What's best about the class is everything is provided so there's no need to pay for supplies. Plus the cost of the class was funded by grants and my education fund, so I didn't even pay a single cent. 

This is the leather bag I made. Originally I wanted to add a lining but I was quite slow and the tiny amount of time available to sew the lining at home was squandered so my bag is unlined. But I did burnish the edges so despite the lack of lining, it turned out alright. I use the bag all the time now. 

Since last year I've been trying out watercolour at home. I only painted in primary and secondary school using poster colours in art classes taught by teachers who knew nothing about art so as a result, I literally know nothing about painting. During my late teens to early 20's, I was obsessed with drawing but I used caran d'ache colour pencils. So no painting since secondary school if you don't count the "painting" I did on fabric. Hardcore painting with actual techniques has never been on my radar. Just mention blending and my eyes would go all glassy. 

But... I felt I needed a new hobby, one that I have no talent for so I'll be so occupied with figuring it out that I won't have any space left in my head for stress. (this is how my brain works) Anyhoos, I didn't choose watercolour. Watercolour chose me. Initially when I was looking for an in-person painting class, I searched for poster colour painting. But the classes were for kids. So embarrassing to join a kid's class so I widened my search. (I once attended a very basic bookbinding class and I was the only adult!) My next choice was acrylic but the location was not ideal. Eventually I signed up for watercolour because the cost, timing and place was perfect. It was once a week on a Saturday over 2 months. Thanks to a huge subsidy because I'm an old person, I only paid $56. I could have used my education fund to pay the $56 but I've wiped out my fund. All supplies are provided - a set of watercolour paint, one brush and a few sheets of watercolour paper. So, $56 is not a bad deal.

Watercolour sounds easy but believe it or not, mastering watercolour is extremely difficult as I have come to discover. You have to be the master of water to be able to control your result. And watercolour can be unpredictable when you are unable to Be Like Water. Me? I suck at watercolour. The students in my class are amazing. I heard some of them attend painting classes everyday so that might explain why their work is way better. Despite my lack of talent in watercolour painting, I discovered I really enjoy painting. And most importantly, when I sit at my table painting away, my mind is free of stress. 

I felt the teacher isn't very good. He's a bit impatient and doesn't try very hard. If he tries to explain something and he sees blank faces, he'll say, never mind if you don't understand. His attempt to explain temperature of colour(which I thought was important) was feeble. I wonder if anyone understood. The best part was he declared he will no longer paint in watercolour. So much for being an inspiration. To be honest, I was thinking of continuing with intermediate watercolour class to see if I'll improve. Now there aren't any follow-up classes so I guess I'll just do it on my own. 

These are the exercises I did in class. I dislike still life and realism style. I can't for the life of me do it well.

I've been practicing painting a lot and in the end, I realise I kinda like the ink and wash technique the most because it requires less skill and precision. The pic above - first I put some washes of colours for the cats, plants and birds. Then I use micron pen to draw the details. My teacher taught us to draw in ink first and colour later but I prefer to do the reverse. Doesn't the painting look like it was done by a kindergarten student? 

Last year I set myself a goal of 24 scrap fabric project. I ended up with only 10 because my interest fizzled and there was no inspiration.

These 2 were the last projects I completed last year. I've worn the fabric cuff many times and I love it so much I want to make a few more in other colourways. The duck quilt is something I tried using a different technique from my norm. I used fusible web to glue all the fabric down followed by sewing decorative stitches all over the seamlines.

This year, I'm going to continue using my scrap fabric, putting them in little fabric collages. I mean if I don't use my scraps, I'll have to throw them away, right? I think realistically, I can manage 10 so that's my target.

I sewed a blouse for myself using leftover fabric. Hubs says it's sexy so I'm going to make another one but I'll make it a dress with pockets.

Remember last year I had to go for a bone density scan? I waited 6 nervous months for the scan. Guess what? The results show I do NOT have osteoporosis! Wow, I was expecting bad news and when the doctor told me the result, I almost cried. I feel the Universe has given me a second chance so I'm making sure I take calcium supplement every day. And exercise too. No more messing around. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

June, July, August and September


Looks like another 4 months whizzed past just like that. Here's a roundup of what I've been up to.

1. In June, I attended a sourdough class. I won't tell you the name of the teacher because I wasn't completely happy with the class. It's not that the teacher sucked but she's quite mean. If you really want to know who the mean teacher is, you'll need to ask me privately. Since the class, my sourdough game has not improved at all. In fact, I'm quite close to giving it up.

2. In July, I attended a pasta making class. What a gamechanger this class was. In all honesty, the teacher wasn't that good. She was quite disorganised and did not practise mis en place which irritated me. So while she's cooking, she'll ask for this and that and someone has to go and find it for her. So annoying when she's supposedly a chef. Another thing I didn't like about the teacher was she kept encouraging the class to ask questions but when you ask something she'd already gone through, she f&*^%ing yells at you. There was a guy who kept getting yelled at and then on assessment day, my group asked me to clarify something with the teacher and yup, I was super yelled at too because she said she had already told us! And right after that, the teacher asked the class to ask questions if anything wasn't clear. Wow. Such people exists. (I wanted to smack her with a ladle or something but I didn't) Anyway, what was good about the class was the chance to make pasta from scratch. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and we also learnt to make a few types of sauce. Also, there was another chef who popped in for a visit and decided to stay. He was really nice and went around to make sure everyone was working the dough correctly and he was very encouraging. He came every day we were there. I think having him present made a big difference. The teacher on the other hand wasn't very interested in us once her demo was over. She only checked our cooked product and of course by then if you had made mistakes, it's too late. Since the class, I've made potato gnocchi once and it was so nice. Way better than the one at school. I've also bought a pasta machine and made fettuccine. My pasta sauce has also improved I think mainly because I gained a lot of confidence. So glad I took the pasta class! Making pasta from scratch is a lot of work so I alternate between store bought pasta and handmade pasta. Potato gnocchi is easy to make though. I want to eat it every week!

3. In August I attended a sewing class to learn to make cheongsam. The teacher was nice and knowledgeable. She had an assistant who was really the worst. She had poor knowledge and attitude. Once I needed help and the teacher told me to go to her assistant who ended up making things a hundred times worse, hindering my progress. I avoided her once I knew what kind of person she was. Overall, the class was hard and tedious but I learnt to get a good fit for my bodice. The teacher wanted us to sew at our own pace which sounds good on paper but she taught at the pace of the faster students so I found myself constantly playing catch-up. It was quite stressful. I did manage to finish the cheongsam. I don't look good in a cheongsam so I don't think I'll make it again. Maybe something similar but less straight jacket-like? 

4. I've been practising my pattern drafting but didn't go beyond what I had learnt in class. It is tedious, takes a long time and requires massive amount of fabric. So far I've made a few blouses and 2 shirts.

I made another pleated top for myself, similar to the one I had learnt in Basic class. I wanted to test my new bodice pattern and this top doesn't require a lot of fabric. I'm currently obsessing over fit and ease to find the right balance.

This is the same pleated top for my daughter but with sleeves. It might have been a bit too big.

I drafted another pleated top with sleeves for my daughter and I messed up. The shoulder and collar are a bit weird. 

Despite the flaws, my daughter has worn both tops to work. 

I made 2 shirts which I had learnt in the Shirt and Pants class. I made the blue one for my daughter and the green one for me. Even though the green one is made using my measurements, my daughter felt comfortable in it so I gave it to her. She has worn both to work. The shirt has a fair amount of ease so fit is not an issue. 

For a change, I made a knitted blouse - Adrienne Blouse by Friday Pattern Company. Unfortunately, it shows a bit too much shoulder so neither of us dares to wear it out. It'll be my stay home lounge wear.

Lastly I made this trial blouse with extended sleeve which I learnt in Basic Drafting class. This pattern is driving me nuts. I thought I'd finally got the sizing right but I realised I had forgotten to do this test - when I hug myself, the back width feels a little strained. I mean, this is a standard test for comfort, right? Hugging yourself? So I will need to redraft the back. Eventually I want to turn this into a dress. 

5. Remember my on-going scrap busting project? I only completed one more - no. 8. This one took a long time because it's all hand applique.

This scrap project was inspired by my childhood memories. When I think of the old days in my village home, I can see the giant star fruit tree that was next to my home. It was constantly bearing fruits and the smell of rotting star fruits is forever etched in my memory. If you know me now, it would be hard to imagine I used to live next to a forested area. I mean I'm scared of animals and insects. Yes, those were the days when we had pigs, chickens, a cat, a dog and me and my siblings hunted grasshoppers to sell to the bird shop. I remember the wild birds most. My house was close to 2 ponds and now and then we get to see really beautiful birds which were attracted to the ponds. I've kept the embroidery to a minimum as this project is all about the applique. 

6. In June I had an x-ray of my toe and it was 90% healed. The doctor said it should heal completely on its own without any treatment. I'm able to walk and swim without any problem.
I was more concerned about injuring my toes again. I've noticed I'm quite careless and absent minded at home and would walk into furniture quite frequently. I came up with a solution - Skechers crocs knock-off. I wear them at home all the time and they're so tough that I don't injure myself even when I walk into things. We don't wear footwear in our homes so it was quite a change for me to not go about bare footed at first. But now, my Skechers and I have become one.

7. Dealing with stress is still no.1 on my mind right now. It was only recently that I became noticeably less anxious. Before, I was constantly struggling with stress. Once, on a particularly stressful week, I had chest pain and I thought I was getting a heart attack. But it turned out to be just stress and I am fine. But it scared me so much and since then I've tried very hard to do stuff to help me relax. Guess what? I started doing water colour. I'm very, very bad at it but mixing the colours help me relax. I find that when I'm playing with the colours, I'm able to free my mind. I considered enrolling in a water colour class but I pondered too long and the class is sold out. I'm also doing breathing exercises and slowly trying to change the way I react to negative situations.

8. Since I started making clothes, my scrap fabric has increased by many times. I need to put aside some time to use up more scraps. Although I like the look of hand applique, I can't overuse my hands too much. So my future scrap projects might have to involve more machine work and less hand sewing. Recently I started sewing decorative stitches on patchwork held together by fusible webbing - no seams! It is extremely soothing listening to the sound of the machine going up and down. You should try it.

9. On my to-do list:
a. Pattern for a dress with extended sleeve
b. Pattern for a sleeveless dress
c. Remake the pants from Shirt and Pants class
d. Remake the princess seam dress from Dress class

10. Since August 29th, we went mask-free in Singapore except in public transport, clinics and hospitals. Not surprisingly, many people continue to wear masks. 

See you in December!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

February, March, April and May

I'm still alive. The past four months whizzed by so fast. My memory is pretty bad nowadays. I can barely recall what I did in February and March. What I do remember is it was stressful. My son was waiting to hear back about his internship application and I was imagining all kinds of worst case scenarios. Typical of me. Thankfully he managed to get hired and has now completed one month of internship. 5 more to go! Hubs was also going through his own crisis as well. Thankfully my memory is bad so I can only vaguely remember some of the tension and stress February and March brought me. Oh, I almost forgot. Hubs, daughter and I caught Covid. It wasn't super bad but still we did suffer for 1 week plus. The virus attacked our throats mostly. I felt tired and had no desire or energy to do anything. I ate ice cream all day. Of course I put on weight but it's covid weight gain so let's close one eye.

Remember I said I was going to work more on my scrap fabric turning them into applique art and my goal was 24 pieces of textile art in 2022? I stopped at no.7. It's already June. There's no way I'll make 24 this year. But I'll still keep going. I'm currently working on no.8 and it's a big piece so it's taking a long time to complete. The first piece - bird drink water - I really love and would like to make more of. The second one - a crazy patchwork embroidered zip pouch was made from a UFO, a remnant from my previous life. 

Since March last year I've stopped colouring my hair. As you know, I've been struggling with my grey hair for many years. Each time I stopped colouring my hair, I would immediately run to my hair stylist if one person calls me a senior citizen. Remember I bravely went grey when I went to Bintan with hubs and our taxi driver thought I was his mother? I almost died. So I was caught between wanting to look younger and getting tired of having to touch up my greys so frequently. It's not cheap, takes a long time for each colouring session and I get some reaction after each dye job - my eyes get swollen and my skin itch. Plus the worst part - when the first greys appear on the top of your head and you see one line of white hair - so gross. After many to-and-fro, I finally made the decision not to cover up my greys anymore. Like F O R E V E R. 

Of course the decision did not come easy. I made many consultations with the family until nobody cared anymore. I'll tell you a secret. Last year I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. 80% of my hair above my forehead is white. When I looked at the mirror, I saw a ghost. This year is better. I'm starting to accept looking old (I'm kidding. I'm never going to accept it.). I think I just got more used to seeing my white hair. Now when I look at the mirror, I no longer see a ghost. Instead I see a homeless woman. I think it's an improvement. Ghost to homeless woman. At least I see a human. I wonder what I'll see in the mirror next year?

Since I've gone grey, I've realised this: a woman's hair does not belong to her alone. It seems everyone who looks at her has a stake. Lots of people have told me to go and colour my hair. They're probably thinking it's so silly to look older than necessary when there's an easy solution, right? But I'm going to be stubborn about this and stick to my decision. And I hope that my MIL will stop colouring her hair so I won't be mistaken as her mom!

One of the reasons it took me so long to stop covering up my greys is I really feared being treated like an old lady by humans. Take this incident. Once I was at a pharmacy and I was queuing up to pay for 2 packets of quinoa. A sales promoter came up to me and offered to help me carry the quinoa. I told her I was fine but she said she felt uncomfortable watching me carrying the 2 packets of quinoa. So she grabbed the quinoa from me and queued along with me until it was my turn at the cashier. It was a nice thing for the woman to do (from her point of view) but I was uncomfortable because she probably did it on account of my grey hair. So grey hair = old lady = incapable of carrying 2 packets of quinoa. You might ask what's so bad about a stranger helping me out? Well, it just confirms what I fear. People associate grey hair with feebleness.

Last year I attended 3 bread making classes. In the first class, when I showed up in class, there were already some people in the class and I looked for an empty seat. We were supposed to sit in a table of threes. Guess what? The 2 persons at the table I sat at promptly got up and sat elsewhere. I ended up sharing the table with 2 latecomers who had no choice but to sit with me. In the second class, I was the last person to arrive in the class so the teacher assigned me a seat so no one could flee from me. In the third class, I did not arrive late but most people had already arrived. I sat at an empty table by myself. Soon a lady arrived and she sat at my table. Then suddenly she got up and joined another table without a word to me. Later a latecomer came and she too sat at my table. Again, she quietly got up and joined another table. I ended up sitting alone until a guy whom nobody wanted to sit with asked to be my partner. Maybe you think I'm too sensitive but I really felt like nobody wanted to sit with me because I looked old and useless. My course mates probably thought I would be a liability. It was no fun feeling unpopular. On the positive side, it is easier to get seats on the train. During peak hours though, it's every man/woman for herself. I've had my seats snatched away by younger people who avoided eye contact with me. 

Alright, enough about my hair. I know you're sick of it already. From April to May, I was super busy because I signed up for 3 garment drafting and construction classes. When I was young, fresh out of school, I had already gone through similar drafting and dressmaking classes. The thing with drafting and making garments is if you don't put it into practice, you forget nearly everything. 

Each class was only 5 days long from 9am to 6pm but it was so exhausting. Some days, I thought I was going to pass out. On the last day of each class we had an assessment which was pretty easy. The difficult part of the class is to make the garment according to specifications and on schedule. 

Despite my years of experience in sewing, it wasn't a piece of cake for me. I struggled. My first struggle - sewing in metric. I've been sewing in inches for 2 decades. To switch to metric was so mind-blowing. My second struggle - following the teacher's method of construction. I realised I'm not a visual learner. The teacher would do a demo and there's a video of the demo but when I go to my table, if the steps are unfamiliar, I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do. For me, I need instructions to be given in precise language or I'm lost. My third struggle - sewing to a deadline. At home, I take my time sewing between cooking and watching k-drama. One blouse could take me 1 month to complete. At the sewing school, it's go, go, go. You need to keep up with everyone else or you're left behind. The last struggle - using an industrial sewing machine. Actually I got used to the sewing machine quickly and I love how an industrial sewing machine sews so powerfully but I occasionally struggled when another student (from a night class or weekend class) messes with the tension and I have to fix it.

The first class was super easy because it's just a sleeveless blouse and skirt with facing. The blouse pattern was drafted using a slash and spread method. The neckline and armhole were finished using bias tape. The skirt had facing and invisible zip at the back. My skirt was a bit loose. I think it had too much ease. I wished the teacher had asked us to make pockets because a skirt without pockets is unwearable. 

I had a little accident at home on the day when I was on a one-day break from my first class. I had just reached home after a swim and I walked into my bed. The bed frame went between my 4th and last toe. The pain was unbearable. My left foot swelled up and I couldn't walk properly. It turned out I had fractured my 4th toe. I saw a GP who asked me to wrap my injured toe with a good toe with plaster. But it made it worse so I stopped doing it. Later I saw an ortho doctor who said I shouldn't wrap my injured toe at all. In fact he said he couldn't do anything for me except prescribe painkillers. But since I can't take strong painkillers due to my kidney issue, I could only take panadol and tough out the pain. The fracture will heal on its own. I only need to not walk into anything for at least a few weeks. The first 2 weeks were really miserable for me. I discovered that you need your toes to walk and balance. I've been taking my toes for granted all these years. I couldn't walk on my wet bathroom floor so hubs bought 2 bathroom mats which helped a lot. I had to depend on my family to buy stuff for me. The dependence wasn't nice. Plus, I had 2 more days of my first sewing class to complete. I don't know how I did it but somehow I managed to hobble my way to school and complete my module. Right now the swelling has completely gone down. I've been exercising my toes daily but it still doesn't feel like before. My doctor says I can't swim or run until he says so. 

Oh, I forgot to mention that my "personal physiotherapist" quit in March so I was physiotherapist-less as the clinic couldn't get a replacement. The ortho doctor referred me to a physiotherapist at the hospital. I've gone once and the service is different. It's mostly advice and exercise related. None of the "pampering" that my previous physiotherapist provided.  

By the way, it's totally hub's fault that I walked into the bed. Years ago, he had insisted on moving a sofa in front of our bed. Our bedroom is super tiny so there's very little room to walk around. Lately he kept kicking the sofa out of position and as a result the feng shui went haywire. About 2 months before, he had walked into the same part of the bed and bruised his toes. Of course his bones are super strong so he had no problems. Back then I had told him to stop moving the sofa out of position but he kept doing it and that's how I got a fractured toe. I really should go and pull out all his hair. Anyway, I have stuck some bubble wrap on the dangerous part of my bed and hopefully it works. Hubs said the positive thing that came out of my injury is that the doctor discovered I have porous bones. Isn't he the ever-positive guy? I have a bone mineral densitometry scan scheduled in October. (there's a long wait list) Meanwhile I have to take calcium supplements. Why is aging so hard?

The second sewing class was hard. Shirt and pants. You need precision when you sew the collar stand, cuffs, zip fly and waist band. I found the teacher's instructions very hard to understand. I kept questioning my own intelligence. In the end, I think I don't suit the teacher's style of teaching. Somehow I managed to cough up the shirt and pants. The pants fit but isn't very comfortable to sit in because it's a natural waisted pants while I'm used to a low waisted pants. (I have a tummy) The shirt turned out great!!! I will make one for my daughter. We had to stay in school overtime twice. I felt so tired and sleepy I wanted to cry. 

The last class was a princess seam dress. The teacher was very patient so it was a good experience. First we had to sew a dress bodice using calico fabric. Then we had to make alterations if any to the pattern. After that, we modified the pattern into a princess seam pattern. The drafting took a lot of time. The final dress had 9 pattern pieces. I didn't do the neckline well so I'll probably try to make another dress. The dress is fully lined and has an invisible zip closure.  

Overall I enjoyed the sewing classes. I've gained a lot of confidence in drafting and sewing garments. Believe it or not, I may sign up for a couple more classes!

By the way, my daughter has graduated. She's already gone for her "grad trip" to Australia and will start work next week. Both my kids work in the same industrial area and will probably go to work together. So cute! I'd better hurry up and make more blouses and skirts for her to wear to work.

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