This old glass-fronted cupboard in the living room used to be stuffed with books, but now it’s got a new job as a fabric display cabinet. In my old house I kept my stash of material hidden away in a spare bedroom, but the fabrics are so pretty that I decided to show them off when I moved here. There are brocades in shiny scarlet and jade that I bought in a dowdy but fascinating little department store in Hong Kong about five years ago. One day I’ll make them into padded jackets with a Nehru collar. There are lengths of cotton from the Northern Territory, block-printed by hand in powerful Indigenous designs, that I bought in Darwin on a work trip. One is going to become a dress, one a pair of fisherman’s pants and one a long skirt. There’s soft batik cloth from Indonesia, given to me by a friend, just begging to be made into a maxi-dress. It’s a warm reddish-purple, printed with flowers and leaves and bordered with paisley teardrops. And there’s fine, delicately patterned cotton brought back for me from India by my sister that’s going to be turned into shirts and tunics.
Less glamorous but of sentimental value are the remnants of old clothes, sheets and pillowcases that are too pretty to throw away. There’s also my much-loved deep red mohair throw that I put in the washing machine on a hot wash by mistake. Sacré bleu! It’s now a third of its size and twice as thick, but I’m hanging onto it to make it into a boiled wool jacket with chunky hand stitching. All these fabrics, with their various lengths, colours and thicknesses, wait patiently for their destiny. This cupboard, I’ve realised, is about potential. It’s also about the fact that I’m a little bit scared of my sewing machine and my sewing history is littered with failure: the terry-towelling bikini I made at school (had no elastic in it), the wrap-around skirt (so big it made me look like I was wearing a bustle) and the “ever so simple to sew” cotton top (front was a totally different size from back).
But failure makes you a better seamstress, right?! That’s the philosophy I’m going with in this brand-new year and…drumroll!…I’ve started a sewing project, with the help of this inspirational book: Everyday Style. I’m making a tunic out of one of the lovely Indian cottons and so far it’s working. The book does assume some knowledge of sewing, plus you have to trace the pattern onto your own paper, but going slowly and tweaking things where necessary seems to be the key. So far I’ve just cut the pieces out and pinned them together to see if the tunic fits and, to my great surprise, it does! Next step: learn to work scary sewing machine properly. Wish me luck! What are you working on at the moment? I’d love to hear about it!