Here we are again in the month of me-made-May; that delightful celebration of handmade and repurposed, mended and altered garments. I love seeing and reading about other people's makes, and I celebrate the emerging diversity of body shapes, pattern styles and sizes, sustainable fibers and thoughtful conversations around it. These blog posts by Felicia Semple and Meg McElwee are well worth reading!
With each year I hope to become a better maker - with less emphasis on acquiring new patterns and fabrics and more focus on recycling and mending, improving my sewing skills, altering patterns for a more satisfying fit. Basically to make less but better garments that I will actually reach for and wear over and over again.
In no particular order, some outfits of me-made things I am wearing often this month:
Cleo Skirts + Lark Tees
The Cleo Skirt is a simple pattern, with an elastic band at the back for a comfortable fit and roomy pockets. I've now made two versions with linen-cotton blends from my local fabric and haberdashery shop. I find the Japanese printed fabric of moons and stars particularly whimsical and up lifting. I love the Lark Tee pattern, and have made a handful of them now in cotton and wool jersey fabrics. I have managed to get some very affordable merino jersey from the Fabric Store by looking in their "remnant" sale - the pattern only requires 1-1.25m of fabric so it's not difficult to find a small piece to use.
Pictured here in my green Cleo Skirt (a colour reminiscent of the Lambs Ears that are growing in my garden) and black merino wool Lark Tee // Another day in my moon-print Cleo Skirt with a grey pointelle merino Lark Tee and my many coloured Vertices Shawl.
Eva Dress + Felix Cardigan
I recently made the Eva dress using a cotton-linen chambray fabric I had stashed away as a possible quilt backing that I never ended up needing. The fabric is exquisitely soft and shimmery. The dress shape has a lovely bell shape to it, and the construction was really enjoyable. As the weather cools I am wearing it with leggings or tights underneath and my cosy Felix Cardigan over the top.
You might remember I made Felix last year by unravelling an old (ill-fitting) cardigan and knitting it together with a strand of fine mohair-silk. The result is an incredibly soft and fuzzy, hard-wearing cardigan that I reach for day after day.
Trillium Dress + Sibella Cardigan
This is one my all-time favourite outfits. I adore the combination of my blue Sibella Cardigan (you might remember I made a golden-brown version a few years ago), my Trillium Dress in painterly blue cotton gauze by Japanese artist Nani Iro and my pale green-grey seaside shawl which bunches up nicely into a scarf.
All the textures and hues together make me happy, and with some warm leggings underneath is perfect on a crisp autumn day.
Trillium Dress + Coppélia Cardigan
Another outfit I love to wear. A sleeveless Trillium Dress again - this time in embroidered cotton and a very warm and snuggly wrap top - the Coppélia Cardigan which I recently made in this grey woven/knit fabric which contains wool, silk and mohair (a wonderful remnant find from the Fabric Store). The Cardigan is a clever wrap design and one I plan to make again in a lighter stretch fabric.
How about you? What are you making, mending, altering, wearing this month?
A week of me-made 2021
winter + spring making
I feel the season turning around and within. The trees becoming golden and brown, letting leaves fall and helicopter seeds. There's woodsmoke in the air, and the sight of zinnia flowers faded after frost and the recently prolific zucchini plants all soggy and shriveled. Many hundreds of forget-me-not sprouts and honeywort and lettuce and broad beans. I walk the same farm-worn path, around and around, and watch the rabbits darting for burrows, the rosellas in the hawthorn, and hear the bok bok of frogs. Our chicken guard dog, Eva, is wise enough to lie down in the midday sun and soak up all the heat it provides. I join her on the grass. These are the weeks of big feelings, of letting go, unleaving. And also the days of making, baking, reading, rekindling the flame.
+Easter is the season my heart and soul craves all year long. I am reminded once again to slow down. To give attention to the season forming around and within. The feel of autumn sunshine on my skin, the crisp of a cool morning and the sound of trees rustling and unleaving. I know the abundance of life and love given to me, mysterious and undeserved, and am thankful. I hear the goodness of God in the sound of raindrops on the roof after weeks of dryness. And in the efforts of baking, stacking the woodpile, covering eggs with tissue paper, keeping a candle-light vigil on the kitchen window sill, holding a book in my hands, peeling a quince, hugging my menfolk tight, tasting wood smoke on my tongue, singing in jolly abandon at church. Every year I hope in the promise of Easter - in the offering and the renewing, in the recklessness and the lament, in the anticipation and the sweetness - and the hope changes me.
More scenes from a special birthday weekend away with my friends: the lovely brown faces and speckled fleece of Polwarth sheep, beautiful yarn purchases from the farm gate shop (I opted for the undyed brown and grey which I hope to make a warm sweater from), our matching Wiksten oversize jackets, paddocks studded with oak trees, farm fresh figs, apples and honey, art in the farm cottage and electric pink amaryllis blooming everywhere...
Last weekend I had the enormous pleasure of getting away for my birthday with two dear friends. We booked accommodation at "Tarndie" - a heritage sheep farm about 2 hours drive from us - that produces it's own beautiful, soft woollen yarn. My friends are also keen knitters and crafters so we spent our days and nights drinking tea, chatting, eating good food and making by the fire. We also took walks around the farm and got to spy the gorgeous sheep...
the morning after rain
clouds are swirling
parting for the sun
feet sink into soft ground
and I can breathe in air
that's light and fresh
sweet with dampness
fragranced with grass
with creatures and wet earth
the morning after rain
hawthorn berries are glistening
finches dart for shallow worms
and in every direction
crows calling, magpies warbling
I can see the willows shaking off summer
thistles black and disintegrating
the morning after rain
paints a backdrop for the present:
our world awash with beauty
smothered with overuse
studded with grief
we hope still
Rhubarb + Strawberry Jam
This is my favourite kind of jam. I love the sweetness and fragrance of the strawberries alongside the tart and distinctive flavour of the rhubarb. The rhubarb also helps to thicken the jam.
2 cups fresh rhubarb stalks, chopped in cubes
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, quartered
2 cups white sugar
juice of one lemon
In a medium-sized saucepan combine all the ingredients and stir on a low-heat until boiling. Pour into clean glass jars or container and store in the fridge.
The Whole Beet Dip
This is an absolutely delicious, earthy dip using the whole of the beet - root, stalk and leaves - and is a perfect accompaniment to meat like kangaroo or beef . It is also wonderful scooped up with crackers and carrot sticks.
1 large beetroot (leaves, stalks, root), washed thoroughly
1 garlic clove, minced
handful flatleaf parsley, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup thick, unsweetened greek style yoghurt or labneh
Peel and grate beetroot, chop finely leaves and stalks. In a small frying pan gently sauté beetroot with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once softened, add crushed garlic and continue to stir until completely cooked (you may need to add a little boiling water if it gets too dry). Set aside to cool in a mixing bowl. Add parsley, lemon juice, spice and sea salt. Using a stick blender - blend beetroot mixture until it resembles a paste. Stir in yoghurt and season with extra salt or lemon juice to taste. Serve in a bowl with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Should keep for up to a week in the fridge in a well sealed container (not that it will last that long!)
Me Made May is a month-long festival of people wearing their handmade clothes. I so enjoy seeing what people are making, wearing, mending and rediscovering. A friend asked me to share some of my outfits so I decided to challenge myself to wearing handmade things for a whole week:
Lark Tee in cotton stretch fabric which I found at an op-shop for $1
Trillium (Washi) dress which I made last year, in beautiful blue double cotton gauze by Nani Iro
Sibella Cardigan which I also made last year using Ochre yarn's fair-trade merino-yak-silk blend yarn
Seaside Shawl which I finished earlier this year and is being worn almost every day! The silk-cotton blend yarn which I bought years ago at Bendigo Woollen Mills is very stretchy, light and soft and doesn't pill at all.
Lark Tee in a bark-coloured merino wool knit from the Fabric Store that my sister generously bought for me and which is incredibly warm.
Tamarack jacket which I made last year using a lovely brown linen-cotton blend from Robert Kaufmanm and some cotton gauze and quilt-weight wadding that I had scraps of in my stash. Each panel of the jacket was individually quilted before piecing them together and attaching bias by hand. Affectionately called "the dog jacket" it's rather warm but a little stiffer than I was hoping.
Lark Tee in striped polyester cotton that a friend gave me and was my initial test of the Lark pattern. Makes a lovely layer under dresses like this one - which is the Trillium (Washi) Dress in dark blue linen that I had leftover from another project. The generous, side-seamed pockets are the best bit of course.
My newly finished Felix Cardigan over one of the three Wiksten Shift tops I have sewn and wear all the time. This one is made from soft Japanese cotton that has these lovely little embroidered pink spots on it.
Channelling the Boy Scout here, and not at all sure if it works but going to try anyway. Lark Tee in cotton jersey and a well-loved linen skirt (see below for my modifications to it), with my Seaside shawl.
My striped Lark tee again with lots of warm woollens - Felix Cardigan, fingerless mitts I crocheted for Alex a few years ago and a recently knit Bisbis Beret in mohair and wool.
Late autumn is the sight of healthy mama cows and some seventy plus calves grazing the pasture as the sun sets // the crunch of leaves underfoot and the damp, dewy morning air // weeding out the veggie beds, and harvesting every tomato red, green and in between // it's the sound of boys playing cubbies in the ash tree and the smell of wood smoke, of fresh paint. on the walls of the spare room // It's the golden glow of dusk on the trees, the bonfire pile growing // and the cool wind whispering a slow, sad song of a season ending.
Much Loved by Mark Nixon (2013)
This is a book of photography and storytelling - of much loved soft toys and teddies and the memories they hold for us. I stumbled across this book by accident at the library and brought it home with the intention of reading it with the boys - some of the toys are so quirky, loved and threadbare that they are barely hanging together. It was later when I read it by myself in bed that I was moved to tears by the stories behind the much loved items. Mark Nixon's photography is simple and sublime.
Adam Bede by George Eliot (1859)
I have read some of Eliot's other works (Silas Marner being one of my favourite novels of all time) but never Adam Bede. It was her first novel written. I actually read it in a bookclub with my mum, sister and her partner and we shared our thoughts and feelings on it every few weeks via zoom. Who would have ever thought of a zoom bookclub a few years ago?! I found the story deeply engrossing and moving. Eliot is a master storyteller and she sets the pastoral scene and nuanced characters and conversations so well. So many of the issues she raises can relate to today - this quote stood out: " Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult... Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings - much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth"
Quarterly Essay 72: Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age by Sebastian Smee (2018)
Does a long essay count as serious reading? I think so. I was able to access a digital copy of the magazine through my library. Critic Sebastian Smee writes with wit and insight on the idea of "the inner life" as explored in art and culture and how it has been changed or lost in the wake of digitisation. He writes: “Every day I spend hours and hours on my phone . . . We are all doing it, aren’t we? It has come to feel completely normal. Even when I put my device aside and attach it to a charger, it pulses away in my mind, like the throat of a toad, full of blind, amphibian appetite.”
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (2019)
Reading the Smee's essay promoted my interest in reading this one by Cal Newport. Instead of reading the pages, I borrowed the audiobook from my library and listened to it, slowly, over two weeks while I cleaned the eggs. There is something appropriate, I felt, to digest this one carefully - to listen to it an hour at a time with ample space afterwards to contemplate his ideas. Cal Newport is not dismissive of the benefits of digital technology, but calls for a more holistic (and minimalist) approach to using it: one that places more emphasis on developing a sense of self, of leisure and rest, deep work and building relationship over mere connectedness, and aligning our choices about digital tools with our deeper values at the fore. He writes: "How much of your time and attention must be sacrificed to earn the small profit of occasional connections and new ideas that is earned by cultivating a significant presence on social media platforms?"
Wild Light by Robyn Mundy (2016)
An engaging, fast-paced novel set on a remote Tasmanian Island. I enjoyed the descriptions of the wild weather, lighthouse keeping and local flora and fauna best of all.
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison (2019)
I requested my library to buy a copy of this book and was so delighted when they did. I've been listening to nutritionist and journalist Christy Harrison's podcast "Food Psych" for a few years now and always found her conversations around food, shame, diet culture, intuitive eating and mental health really fascinating and insightful. She draws on so much good research and evidence to explore the perils of our modern obsession with diets, weight loss and wellness. It made me angry and sad, empowered and energised - so much better informed. She also draws on personal stories including her own and her clients, and offers practical suggestions for deconstructing the unjust and unfounded beliefs that proliferate about bodies and food. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Hold Your Fire by Chloe Wilson (2021)
Oh I just loved this one. It was one of those books I saw the cover of at the library and wanted to borrow on impulse alone. I stayed up way too late reading it bed because I just couldn't put it down. It reminded me how much I love short stories, and these ones by Australian writer Chloe Wilson are absurd, funny, dark and beautiful. Go and read!
Read my summer reading here //
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...