Tuesday, 31 July 2018

More pics of Graceful Threads dress

Like everybody else, I am hurled into a crisis of confidence and overwhelmed by excruciating embarrassment when I look at photos of myself. 

However, the dress Elizabeth made me is really good, so I thought I'd post some pics for you to get a closer look. The thing about it is, the elasticated waist and box pleat on the back make it excellent for doing housework, but the design overall looks formal enough to go out. If like me, you can't be faffed with incessantly changing clothes to suit the different demands of your day, this is good news.

So here it is. Please overlook foolish facial expressions and lamentable elderly figure. Look at the dress. On Graceful Threads, it's Eva's Yoke Dress. (Presumably prices will change over time)

Very similar to Lisa's Yoke Dress on The King's Daughters. Same pattern on lease, I believe.

Incidentally, though I always so much appreciate your kindness, there's no need to feel you should comment that I look glorious and divine — this post is really intended for people interested in similar clothing to get a good look at the reality. Many of the photos of such dresses online are on children or teenagers, and it's hard to figure out what the result would be on an adult, even elderly, woman. That's why I've posted them.

Looks good with an apron too. Mine is from Made In Hastings.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Sunday afternoon

So tired after preaching this morning.

Feet up.

Good book to read (thanks for the loan of it, Steph).

Afternoon tea.


Saturday, 28 July 2018

Raccoons release dress

Finally this morning I saw on the USPS tracking that the dress Elizabeth made me had struggled out of the customs shed and got to our sorting office here in Hastings.

I was supposed to wait for the postie to drop in the grey card with all the information, and take it with me to claim my parcel — but since Royal Mail had the temerity to post on the tracker that I had asked them to hang on to the parcel, I thought Well then, I can ask them to give it me, can't I! So I did, and the man at the sorting office was kind and helpful and cheerful as always, and I whizzed home with my package. 

New dresses really have to be washed before wearing, because they do shrink a little and are cut and stitched with that in mind. Fortunately today is warm and breezy, so I had it out on the washing line, then dry and back in to iron, in no time.

I am so pleased with it! Well done, Elizabeth — what a grand job!

It's pretty and peaceful and calm and very comfy indeed. I love it.

Lovely film about Canadian Hutterites, made in 1964

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Shed

So Elizabeth Lowell at Graceful Threads has made me this dress. I'll show you it when it gets here. Very exciting. I really love wearing clothes made by a person whose name I know, and I can see where she lives on Google Earth, and know a bit about her — that she is a woman of faith, and a soul of great kindness (I know this by how she speaks in her email messages). Also Elizabeth lives very near Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which in our house is a cue for a song. Her home is 1800 feet up in the mountains, so they get stuck there in the winter, because the hill paths are dodgy. Anyway, Elizabeth makes beautiful dresses, and she is making one for me.

This may well reveal how small and uneventful is the life I lead (it sure is) but I do enjoy following the tracking history of things I have bought from overseas.

This particular dress had a false start. Elizabeth sent me the shipment details, in which I spotted a tiny error in the address she had for me — not enough for a dress to get lost, but I thought maybe I should mention it. She was on it straight away, and whizzed back to the postie, who fixed it for her, and off it went with the label all correct. That was at the Post Office in Otis, Massachusetts.

The very same day it travelled on to the regional mail centre in Springfield, Massachusetts (we have a Springfield Road just round the corner from us, and an Amherst Road). Then it was in transit. The next place my dress went to was Jamaica, but not the Caribbean one, the one in New York where they have the international distribution centre. And from there they shuttled it across to Newark. Friends, I have been to Newark airport! When I had my big adventure and went to visit my friend Rebecca in New Jersey, so we could meet Diana from Innermost House when she came to speak at Stony Brook Quaker Meeting House. With snow on the ground and all the trees sparkling with ice, I visited Hopewell in New Jersey. It was all very exciting because on the way over my flight was cancelled and I had to get a plane to John F Kennedy airport and cross New York by myself on buses (I went through Grand Central Station, and I also saw Penn University from the bus, and there were Christmas trees with lights on in New York, and signs saying No Loitering right by the bus stop which was bit worrying) and find my way to Penn Station. Only when I got to America did I discover that my cell phone which was supposed to work fine in a different country, did not. But America has kind people in it who let me call Rebecca and give her an idea where I'd ended up, and at last we met (for the first time ever) in a car park somewhere and knew each other at once. And on the way home I flew out from Newark airport. And so has my dress!! 

Then it arrived at Heathrow airport in London yesterday evening, since when it has entered the profound silence of the English postal system. Heaven alone knows what they have in that customs Shed — I think probably raccoons, turning parcels over and over in their little claw-like hands, sniffing them with their pointy, whiskery little snouts, peering at them with their beady eyes, shaking them to see what's inside, what's inside . . .  what can it be . . . what??? And you have to pay the raccoons eight pounds just to persuade them to let the thing out of their Shed, never mind what else they slap on for customs and excise and value added tax and whatever else they can think of you might owe the Queen. A long, long time those raccoons clutch the parcels in their Shed. But soon, with reluctance, they will concede the time has come to part with my dress, and send it on to Hastings.

When it gets here, the tracking will assure me they have tried to deliver it to me, which won't be true. Because there is another raccoon Shed here where they hang on tight until I take my money.

But for now, my dress has entered its UK purdah of profound silence. It is, like all of us, like the dying and the child in utero, like every pilgrim and every falling star, in transit.

But soon, soon, it will be here. And then I'll take a photo for you to see.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018


It seems to me there's a basic divergence in approach when it comes to clothing.

Do you remember Trinny and Suzannah? They took a whole swathe of hopelessly frumpy women and re-clothed them to bring out their best features, allowing their elegance, beauty and sexiness to appear, showing them off to be the best version of themselves they could be. Amazed and delighted, woman after woman looked into the mirror on those shows at the big reveal, saying, "Is that really me?" 

Gok Wan did something similar, with the added feature of nudity — a (tasteful) nude shot was included at the end, to encourage the woman to see and believe that she, just as she was and in all her glory, could be beautiful. Plus he designed her a new wardrobe appropriate to the requirements of her life. 

Online you can find no end of websites to help you put together a clothing repertoire; you have to take into account your lifestyle, your personality, your figure, your tastes, your colouring, to get the right "uniform" from which to create your own personal capsule wardrobe.

So, one approach to clothing is to discover and reveal the individual. Show off your figure, bring out your best features — like the Colour-Me-Beautiful thingummy gets the best colours for your eyes, your hair, your skin. It's all directed towards letting you — the best version of you possible — be seen. As my beautiful mama says, "Be the age and the person you are, but be the best version of that."

But there is another approach to clothing. 

When someone enters monastic life, they usually have to choose something out of the kit they already have to wear while they live alongside the monastic community for a while, making up their mind if this really is for them. When the time of decision comes, it is/was traditionally marked by "clothing" — by taking the habit of the order. Entering the clothes designated entering the community.

Almost all social groups have uniforms, and if you want to belong you are wise to don the clothes. People read clothing, and assess you on the basis of what you wear. This can be a problem in a misogynistic society. For a while now, feminists have been strongly arguing that the responsibility for behaviour should rest with the person exhibiting it, not with the person towards whom it is directed. So, when considering the treatment of women by men, the argument is that what a woman wears is up to her, and the rape culture theories about a woman "asking for it" if she is "provocatively" dressed, and that she should "cover up" if she wants to be treated with respect, are void. I do agree with that, but also consider that people will still continue to read clothing as a message; that inevitably has outcomes, however unwelcome, violent, disrespectful and unfair.

It interest me that my husband, who strongly identifies as a businessman, loves to watch the TV serial, Suits. They wear his uniform; it's a drama about his world. People look for the ones who dress like them, and conform in their attire to the others in the group they want to join.

So that approach to dress is, in a sense, de-personalising; losing one's individual identity in favour of a group identity — no longer, "This is me": now, "I am one of these." Like a Muslim woman in her hijab, or an Amish woman in her cape dress and distinctive kapp — or, as a rape culture proponent might say, "she dressed like a whore" (or even more oddly, "like a hoe." In the UK a hoe is a garden implement.)

Here and there you get odd anomalies; I'm thinking of Sarah Chrisman and Isabel Penraeth. In her published work, Sarah argues strongly that dressing (and living) as a Victorian is her as she really is — her Victoriana allows us to see the real Sarah. And Isabel, during the years she identified as "Quaker Jane", dressed in anachronistic style not to be subsumed into a group identity but to make a clear statement of her sense of personal call/direction. In fact both Sarah and Isabel had to endure constant criticism and abuse from members of society who dress "normally", including, in Isabel's case, other Quakers. There are always those who will attack anyone perceived as different.

It interests me that Sarah and Isabel both followed a path of entering a form of clothing that yet created a strong personal identification and separation from the herd. Unlike a Muslim in a hijab, their dress did not allow them to merge with and vanish into a group; on the contrary, it made them very distinctive — yet not the Trinny and Susannah kind of distinctive, either.

In myself I find a sometimes inconsistent ongoing internal dialogue about dress. On the one hand, I love flowing and voluminous clothes, complete with hats or head-wraps, in which I can rest as in a refuge. I enter those clothes and they help me manage the oh-so-difficult-for-me world of social engagement. They are like the shell into which the hermit crab creeps. They wrap around me as peace. And then again, sometimes they make me tired because they have personality of their own, like a statement. Sometimes I just want my own hair, a dark grey t-shirt (long-sleeved, please), dark grey jogging trousers, a baggy dark grey high-necked, long-sleeved sweater. Little wonder, is there, that people so rarely recognise me — if they even see me at all (they often don't). I am either invisible or inside something else. I think, for me, clothes are a quietus — a shroud, a veil — in which to rest. A ship, a house, for the soul.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Made me happy

I may be simplistic in my personal walk, but I was all bogged down and tangled up in the complexities of humanity and church, and then this made me happy today. Made me smile. Made me dance.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Headwrap post

This is really for friends who like to head-wrap (or, as I keep typing by mistake, head-warp).

If you've followed this blog a long time, you may remember one summer a few years ago I posted about the kapps I like to make that I called "podvigs". Podvig is a word out of the Russian Orthodox tradition to do with intentionality and vocation, which made it feel apposite to headcovering.

I can't find the post now, I think I must have deleted it at some point. 

The podvigs are very simple to make. You just need a rectangular piece of cloth — I generally use an old tea-towel (for US friends, that's the English term for a wiping-up-washed-dishes-cloth) because they get to look a bit weathered and battered and I like my hats that way. They are also quite rough cloth, which means they stay put and don't slip, unlike synthetic fibres and smooth naturals.

You measure from just below one ear, up over your head to just below the other ear. Add a little extra for a hem on either side. That gives you the long straight edge of your podvig. Use the long straight edge of the tea-towel.  You then make a D-curve (draw it on the wrong side so it doesn't show later, so that you've drawn a D shape on your fabric.  Not a semi-circle, you go down straight a little way, then curve round, then up straight a little way to the other end of the long straight side. Are you with me? You just cut out a D, of which the long straight edge is a little longer than below one ear and up over your head to below the other ear. I can't give you measurements, it all depends on the size of your head, but if you do what I just said then it'll fit you.

So you cut out your D. I'm assuming the long straight edge is already selvedged or hemmed. Around the curve, make a tiny hem, just to stop any fraying along the raw edge. Then, again around the curve, make a deeper hem, perhaps a centimetre, to be a channel for elastic. Leave the ends open to thread the elastic through. Use knicker elastic type of width. 

Thread a length of elastic through, stitching it down at one end and anchoring the other with a safety pin to experiment until it is both tight enough and loose enough to wear comfortably. Then stitch down the second end of your elastic, and you have your podvig.

But here's the bright idea I had today. You can get online those fair-traded headbands from Nepal, inexpensive. Get one of those. Or any other headband you may have, but it must have a rough enough surface to create cloth-to-cloth traction (ie not slip).

Put the headband on first, to keep your hair firmly in place, then put the podvig on over the top. Because they are both rough cloth, it'll stay put.

I think it looks really good.

It's a lot easier than all the winding and knotting and whatnot that goes with most wraps.

And these are in a whole different league!!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Why, thank you.

Our cats.

So thoughtful.

Such presentation.

Such pride.

Right there on the rug dead centre in front of the hearth stone, a splendid gift.  O, the joy. 

Worth a photograph, I thought. I used the Dramatic filter: it seemed appropriate, somehow.