corduroy overalls-dress, plus an existential crisis

by Nicole on March 25, 2016

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I quit my gym. (Ha, you probably thought I was about to say job.) It kind of felt like a big deal because I’d gotten really into lifting, but then something in me just kind of snapped. Physically, it was getting difficult because I was getting to much heavier weights and it was clear my body didn’t love it. But mentally, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It probably sounds ridiculous to someone who has never done any type of physical competition, but SO MUCH, like I’d say at least 80%, of your performance depends on where you’re at mentally that day. You have to really harness your brain and focus, even through pain and fatigue and failure and the “I’m just not feeling it today”s. And the truth is that I was having way too many “I’m just not feeling it today”s. I was started to dread working out, not so much because it was hard physically, but because I just felt like I couldn’t care enough anymore and it was killing me mentally. Having to repeat a mantra, try my best to believe in it, and then lift hundreds of pounds was making me want to burst into tears each rep. It sucked. I couldn’t remember why I cared about doing it, why I was putting all that pressure on myself.

And the truth is, I had much bigger things on my mind. Real big. Like “what’s the meaning of life?” big. A bit of background…I’m an atheist. The truest definition of atheism is LACK of belief in gods, not DISbelief in gods. So I’m not saying there is no god and it’s provable, but rather just that I have not seen anything that’s given me reason to believe in the existence of any gods (especially the kind that would intervene in my life and have a specific plan for me). I believe that any meaning our lives have while we’re here on earth is meaning that we create for ourselves. And in general, I have no idea what mine really is. I don’t want children, I don’t care about being famous or remembered when I die, I don’t have a desire to make massive changes that make the world a better place. My main goal in life is really just to be happy and experience what I can before I die.

But life was starting to feel like I was just always chasing the next pleasure, the next thing I thought would bring me happiness. I couldn’t tolerate discomfort, whether from stress or sadness or loneliness or boredom or frustration. When things felt uncomfortable, I’d look outside myself for a fix, and more often than not, what I ended up looking for was alcohol. Because you believe the cure for a hard day at work is a glass of wine, because you believe margaritas are what make it a fun night, because you need something to help you zone out while you watch shitty TV, because it’s everywhere in American culture, because it just works so well at making life feel beautiful.

Until it doesn’t. At some point, I started caring about the effects of the drink more than the drink itself. I wanted to get to that perfect happy buzz, and for life to just stay that way. And when I finally realized this, no–when I finally admitted this–it scared me. I had been saying I just wanted to be happy and experience what life had to offer, but in truth I was doing the opposite. I wasn’t truly experiencing life if I was looking for a way to change it the second things got a little bit boring or sad. And I didn’t really feel happiness until I’d had that first drink. I wasn’t unhappy either, it was just that life just felt kinda meh all the other times, but knowing I had a bottle of champagne to open on Friday night held the promise of adventure, silliness, intimacy.

And I’ve come to realize that I think that’s what addiction is. It’s when you’re looking outside of yourself to something else, needing it to fulfill a need or fill a hole, and when it’s having a negative impact on your life. Yes, I do think some people experience addiction in a much more physical way, where their bodies literally physically depend on these substances, and where there is an actual physical withdrawal when taken away. But I think that when we only look at addiction as “Do I get the shakes if I don’t have a drink?” or “Am I homeless or jobless or did I get a DUI?”, then we’re really missing the point. Because things don’t have to get to that level for there to be a negative impact on your life. You don’t tell a person who’s 395 pounds that they don’t have a problem because they’re not yet 400 pounds. I think addiction is essentially when you repeatedly turn to coping mechanisms that you don’t want to do, yet you want to do them anyway. You know that they hurt your life, but it also feels like they give you life.

For me, addiction started out as sneaking Little Debbie snack cakes late at night and hiding the wrappers in the couch cushions; of realizing I could eat an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting; of being overjoyed to order the larger portions off the adult menu when I turned 12 and couldn’t order off the kid’s menu anymore.  As I grew older, addiction looked like buying six sandwiches from a fast-food drive-thru and sneaking them into my room so that I could eat them in peace without my roommates knowing. When I started drinking at 19, I’d skip dinner in favor of pre-partying and then the real partying, and I’d usually end the night drunk-eating breakfast tacos or cheeseburgers. Sometimes it looked like buying two bottles of champagne after a stressful day, not caring if I got blackout drunk, and hoping I could chug enough water to where I wouldn’t feel hungover the next morning. Sometimes it was believing I’d have just one, but knowing that would probably lead to two, three, four, who knows. Sometimes it was feeling like I would die of awkwardness meeting someone new, having to have a real conversation, if I didn’t have at least two drinks beforehand. Sometimes it was not drinking for a week, feeling smug because “see, that wasn’t so hard!”, but then feeling an inexplicable need to go out for beer to celebrate. Whatever the reason, it always felt like just what you needed in that moment, until the high wore off and you started to hate yourself. In hindsight, I can now see that all that self-loathing comes from realizing, at least on a subconscious level, that not only was whatever need you needed met not fulfilled by drinking or bingeing, but everything was actually worse now because you went and covered up the first problem with a new problem. And once this realization becomes more and more clear to you, you’re just tacking on additional problems because now you’re wondering what’s wrong with you, why you can’t control this, why you can’t just be “normal”, on and on. It’s misery, is what it is. You trick yourself into believing this thing brings you pleasure, but what it really does is keep you stuck. And feeling stuck, feeling trapped in a life that you know you have control over, a life that you know is honestly so very short, just makes you feel so small and helpless.

And so that’s why I don’t drink anymore. Author Sarah Hepola has this quote I love, “Probably what got me to quit was fear of inertia. I didn’t think: If I don’t quit drinking, I’m going to die. I thought: If I don’t quit drinking, I’m never going to change. That was the terror.” And that was my terror too. If all I have is this one life, I don’t want to just cover it up with things that only make me feel good temporarily but make me hate myself later. If I want to truly experience life, I have to sit with discomfort and be okay with it as part of life, not just run from it because it’s hard. If I want to add more meaning to my life, I can’t just be chasing fleeting pleasure after fleeting pleasure.

Things are still hard right now. Because even though life feels much easier by removing the problem of drinking from my life, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Now I’m having to actually learn to deal with all the discomforts, problems, and unfulfilled needs that made me want to escape in the first place. I’m still continually running up against the question of what makes my life meaningful, of how to make a life that feels worth living. And I have to learn how to deal with triggers in healthier ways, to make sure I don’t just choose some new escape, like eating dessert every night, or watching too much TV, to fill the void again.

Some of those healthier ways include sewing and knitting. So even though you wouldn’t know it from this blog, I’ve been way more productive in both of those areas. Having multiple creative outlets has been so helpful, because creativity really can cure almost anything–sewing a new pattern eases boredom, knitting a few lines eases anxiety–or at the very least, they can be good distractions when I’m feeling like I need to escape.

So in the most awkward segue ever, let’s talk about Marilla Walker’s Roberts Collection, yeah?

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This is View C, the “dungarees dress”. I really, really like this dress. I know it kind of looks like something a little girl’s baby doll should be dressed in, but I like to think it’s something a cool art teacher would wear. I don’t know, it feels very ME when I wear it, even though I’m an accountant, far from being a cool art teacher. I’ve already worn it twice since I finished it five days ago, so that’s a very good sign.

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This was a straight size 5, except that I shortened the skirt by 4 inches. I omitted the button tabs because one, I didn’t really need them for functionality as I can easily get into the dress, and two, I was so confused by the instructions at that part. There was no illustration either, and I haven’t seen a pair of overalls in so long that I couldn’t even picture what it should look like.

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Fun fact: I actually wore overalls until I was in ninth grade, which would have been in like 2001/2002. And no, overalls were definitely NOT cool then, but I’ve just always really, really liked overalls.

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And clearly I’m still not very cool:

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Yep, that’s how I’m gonna end this post because I’m out of words. You’re welcome.

tencel denim deer & doe arum dress

by Nicole on January 13, 2016

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Say hello to my current favorite pattern–the Deer & Doe Arum Dress! It’s no secret I’m a huge D&D fangirl. All of their patterns are exactly what I envision for my perfect wardrobe–super wearable, and a little sweet without being overly vintage-y or twee, with cute modern details.

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Arum is described as a “dress with kimono sleeves, subtly cinched thanks to princess seams in the back, adorned with a bust pocket.”  I’ve been wanting to make a simple dress like this for forever and have toyed with the idea of a Colette Laurel or maybe a Grainline Scout lengthened to a dress. But in the end, Arum won because D&D patterns fit my body well, I love the neckline, and the back princess seams are both pretty and super easy to adjust. Also I’m now into kimono sleeves because no sleeves to set in!

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Ta-da!!! Kimono sleeves!

I sewed this up on Christmas Eve to wear on Christmas Day. No lie, these photos are actually from Christmas Day; it was like 75 degrees! It’s actually cold here now, but luckily the dress looks equally cute with tights and boots.

I confess to slightly over-fitting the dress. I started with the largest size (46) and graded up to a 48 everywhere but the shoulders. I made a muslin, and then ended up taking the back princess seams way, way in. The resulting dress gets a little snug when I sit down, and also requires a bit of maneuvering over my bust when I put it on and take it off. But still, I really like it. I already altered my pattern to reflect where I took in the princess seams, so I’ll probably just sew them with 3/8″ or 1/2″ seam allowances next go-around instead of 5/8″. I did a forward-shoulder adjustment and took a deep hem (1.5″ folded over twice). I also made the neckline slightly more scooped, and chose bias-binding for the neckline instead of the facing.

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I think this dress has probably gotten me more compliments than anything else I’ve ever made. The fabric is great–it’s a tencel denim from Blackbird Fabrics (sadly sold out now) with cute little white polka dots.  The dress also feels very modern and RTW, so I think people are shocked when I tell them I made it. And the shape just works really well for me. I’ve always been more into fit & flare in the past, but now I’ll be looking at this silhouette a lot more.

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Cute little bust pocket detail. I topstitched mine in white to make it stand out a little more.

This dress is so easy to wear and makes me feel happy, so there will definitely be more in my future!

Since sewing this up at the end of December, I haven’t even touched my sewing machine! I’ve been doing quite a bit of knitting–I finished a Dreicke beanie, am almost done with an Effortless Cardigan (just need to finish knitting the collar!), and am about to start on a Gable sweater for my sister-in-law. What are you currently working on?

high-waisted ginger jeans

by Nicole on December 11, 2015

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Hi, friends. I have lots on my mind and lots to say, but I can’t seem to find the right words lately, so I’ll just launch straight into the sewing… I finally got around to making a high-waisted pair of Ginger Jeans! I previously made the low rise view once here and two more times here.

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This time around, I made several changes in terms of sizing and adjustments. My previous Gingers were starting to feel a little tight in the booty region (most likely due to the weightlifting routine I took up in late September), so I decided to cut a size larger than last time. When I did my basting check, the butt fit perfectly this time, but the waistline was really gape-y, so I ended up pinning out a giant wedge along the back waistband and yoke. I also slimmed down the thighs quite a bit by sewing a larger seam allowance (mostly taken out of the back thigh). I’m really happy with the fit now!

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I definitely prefer this high-rise view to the low-rise view. Since I don’t really wear my shirts tucked in much, the jeans are maybe a liiiittle bit higher than I’d like for everyday wear, but the back view on this higher pair is much more comfortable and I think is more flattering. What’s crazy is how different the high-rise view looks on my body, compared to the samples and other people’s high-waisted versions. I feel like the high-rise actually looks almost normal-rise on me??? But I can’t figure out why! Is my booty-meat lower than other people’s? Is it just that my butt is giant? Is it because my legs are short, but my torso is long? Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I think anything is wrong with my body. I’m just really curious why the fit is so different, so if you think you know why, do tell!

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The denim is just some cheapo stuff I got from Fabric.com a while back, but it has a neat subtle houndstooth-like texture:

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Anyway, I love these jeans and they’ve already seen a bunch of wear. And now I’m finally ready to cut into some of my Cone Mills denim! I’ll definitely make this higher-rise version, and I might experiment with shortening the yoke slightly, and adding what I remove back onto the back leg, as it seems ever so slightly off for my body. But I’m still ridiculously happy with them as-is!