Friday, April 13, 2018

Worth the Wait

I’m not sure what the title of this post will be, nor am I entirely sure of everything I intend to say.

When I left Glasgow four years ago, I was sad to leave Scotland, but I knew that it was important to go back home (Utah) and be with family. That decision has definitely been a blessing. I’ve been able to spend so much time with my mother, and the adventures my sister Beccah and I have had are priceless. Not to mention taking care of my two nieces.

The magical beauty of Kilmory Oib


When I went back for a visit to the UK last spring, I stood in a deserted village in Scotland and listened to the silence one can only achieve when in the middle of nowhere. My heart ached. It’s been aching ever since, and this past summer, I thought I’d found the answer. Do a PhD (involving writing, sewing and Dorothy Wordsworth) at Lancaster University. The stars seemed to align. I took an excellent online course about William Wordsworth. I contacted professors at the university and they were kind, generous and encouraging about my ideas. In late November, I submitted my application, and waited eagerly to hear back.

And waited. And waited. I finally got my answer in early February  (only a little over two months, I know, but it felt a lot longer!). It was ‘No’. I immediately emailed the one particular professor I’d been corresponding with and asked her advice. It was to apply for a masters degree first, then go on to do the PhD. She pointed out that academically and financially, it might be a better deal. I was convinced. So I applied for the masters program she recommended, and which would fit in with what I wished to study and accomplish.

So, another two-ish months of waiting, and I got an answer to my application.

It was ‘No’.

My kind family and friends tell me that something else better is in the wings. And I might still achieve my Dorothy studies in some other way, through another avenue. It is difficult, when o e had such a lovely plan, to have to start from scratch and come up with something new. It isn’t difficult to have your credentials, your references, your writing all politely declined.

Good thing I’ve already become used to rejection from literary agents!


But I have learned a few things from this agonising experience. Life is full of waiting. And I do want to get a PhD and become a professor, something I did not know about myself a year ago. I just have to go about it a different way. I’ll get there in the end, for I also know that anything worth having is worth the effort, worth the work and, of course, worth the wait.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Oh she’s my dear my darling one...Darby O’Gill Dress!

I’ve grown up watching the fabulously creative Disney film ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’(1959). It’s always been a family tradition to watch it every St. Patrick’s Day. If you haven’t seen it, go find it now! It is hilarious and delightful, and a very young pre-James Bond Sean Connery stars in it. What’s more, he sings! It’s magic.





The leading lady, Janet Muro, who plays Katie has a lovely Sunday best dress in the film that I’ve been wanting to recreate for a good ten years.

One of my favourite places to order fabric from is Denver Fabrics. They recently had a sale and I ordered a multi-coloured small houndstooth rayon to use for a Katie dress. Her dress in the film is more of an orange/ brown combination, but I was happy with my fabric choice, and knew I wouldn’t be making an exact copy anyway.

Two close-ups of the Darby O’Gill dress, and the fabric I bought. 


I used a pattern from the late 1930s which I’d used before and knew would turn out well, although I would be altering the bodice a great deal!



The original pattern instructs to cut the bodice on the fold, but I made it two pieces, as well as further cutting the front tabs, which in the original pattern are gathered details on the bodice. 


I also had to insert a panel with pin-tucks, which terrified me a little, as I’ve always avoided pin-tucks in the past. I also had trouble with the collar. My neckline was too wide for a traditional collar, so I ended up finishing it off with bias tape and lace and am quite happy with the result. 

I also made my dress shorter than the one in the film, which is ankle-length.   








Thursday, March 29, 2018

Approaching Easter: ritual, language and faith

I don’t often discuss religion on social media, though sometimes when holidays come around, I feel more of a compulsion to share my feelings with the small circle of the world outside which actually sees my small drop in the ocean.

William Holman Hunt, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet. Although I don’t believe Jesus was a ginger, I love this depiction of him as a strong, intense young man. 

I unabashadly love Christmas — it’s early traditions and it’s pre-Christian beginnings. I love the sense of holiness and wonder. I especially love the carols. I feel guilty that I cannot summon up equal enthusiasm for Easter, which is ironic. For without the resurrection, there would be no point in celebrating the birth of Jesus.

I think part of it is that there is ritual in Christmas, and there isn’t in Easter. Let me explain that statement. I’m a Mormon, and there’s precious little ritual in anything we do. Sometimes that makes me sad.

Ritual helps. It makes a difference. Again, at Christmas time, I love lighting the advent candles every Sunday, as I sing a song I learned from my friends in New York: “Advent Advent, the candles burn. First one then two then three then four, then stands the Christ-child at your door.” I have been lighting advent candles since a child, but I’ve realised in recent years,  that to other Christians, that is just part of celebrating advent.

One of my niece with the advent wreath, Dec. 2017


I hope I cause no offence when I confess that I have adopted certain rituals from other religions which have served to enrich mine, and have helped sustain my faith. In one of the Mormon books of scripture, called The Doctrine and Covenants, there is a verse which states, “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:118) I am confident that doesn’t just apply to the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I’ve come to realise lately that sometimes I am more spiritually fed by a passage in a novel than by a scripture. Again, I don’t think that is a bad thing. We are all vastly different, and God knows that different vehicles touch hearts in different ways.

Madeleine L’Engle, in ‘Walking on Water’ expresses this idea perfectly: “I don’t mean to water down my Christianity into a vague kind of universalism, with Buddha and Mohammed all being more or less equal to Jesus — not at all! But neither do I want to tell God (or my friends) where he can and cannot be seen.”

If I can learn, from Madeleine L’Engle, or Dorothy L Sayers, that to question and doubt is a beautiful part of my faith (indeed, faith by definition is not knowing), then surely that is a cause for rejoicing.

Today is Maundy Thursday. I don’t know much about how other Christians celebrate it, as Mormons don’t. But I was having a hard morning, and missing my dad who died a little over five years ago. From what I understand, it celebrates the last Passover feast which Jesus had with his disciples, and often involves washing of feet. As it so happened, my three-year-old niece devised a game with a small bowl of water and paper towels and she began washing my feet. I somehow feel that this was not a coincidence.

In the Passover Haggadah, my favourite part is the Dayenu — when each miracle that the Children of Israel were  blessed with when Moses freed them from the Egyptians is listed separately, followed by the word Dayenu: it would have been enough.

I am not doubting my religion. I love it, and the example and life of Joseph Smith the prophet is a constant source of joy to me. It gain much knowledge and strength from my brothers and sisters in the gospel, and from attending church. But I can honestly admit that there are elements of the church today which vex and trouble me. Therefore, lighting candles, singing songs, learning about myself and my God in new words is a blessing to me. None of us is perfect. My life is certainly not as I expected it would be growing up. I can admit my disappointments and surprises, and also the many joys I have experienced and am continually experiencing, and say, with a full heart, Dayenu.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Kilt Commission



Last autumn, my friend David asked me to sew two kilts for him. I’ve been sewing for about five years, but haven’t ever done anything too fancy, and certainly haven’t taken on a kilt. I was a bit apprehensive, but also welcomed the challenge.

I knew that Folkwear patterns had a kilt pattern, I didn’t know of any other, so I ordered that right away. It ended up being a fabulous pattern, and worked beautifully for both kilts.

Progress photos. The biggest challenge wasn’t the pleating, but the leather! Shudder! Leatherwork is hard!

So many pleats!


A glimpse of the lining. 

The First kilt was finished in time for Christmas, so I wrapped it all up nicely. 





The final product!I was beyond relieved to learn that it fit perfectly. I’ve mostly made things for myself, so I was quite apprehensive. 

Round two! I ordered leather tabs and buckles FROM SCOTLAND and they were much harder to sew! Eek! 


I made cloth tabs to go with the leather tabs from Scotland. 


The second kilt finished! Yay! This one was quite different from the first, and I’m glad they both fit properly!






Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February Progress Report

I began writing this in late January, and now it’s nearly a week into February already, and I still have not updated my blog! Shame on me! I keep hoping I can get photos of the fellow wearing the kilt I finished in December, but we shall still have to wait!

I have not, however, been idle. I’ve nearly finished the second kilt, and I also altered a Regency-era dress I made four years ago. I was able to use it for The Historical Sew Monthly, which I’ve not properly participated in for ages!

The photos I have from when I originally made the dress are not very good, I’m afraid, so I’ve compiled them into one photo.


This is the first dress I made entirely by myself, from a Sense & Sensibility pattern. Despite its flaws, I’m quite proud of it, especially as I didn’t have a machine and sewed it all by hand. 



I also removed the self-fabric tie and replaced it with tape, as well as adding a bit of lace to the sleeves. 

Apologies for the awkward selfie poses! I never seem to do these things when other people can be around to take pictures of me. 



Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Summing Up 2017 & Goals for 2018



I suspect, like most of you, that the past year has been a busy one, full of a mixture of triumphs, frustrations, sorrows and joys. For myself, I can say that 2017 has been one of my best years, at least when I look back on it from December’s perspective. 

In terms of accomplishment, I completed seven sewing projects, which makes me feel pretty good, especially considering the fact that I made a dress that failed completely (that’s not one of the seven), and I still have three unfinished projects waiting to be taken up again. 


The seven items I completed this year: 1. A 1910s skirt, 2. A 1930s dress, 3. A 1910s skirt, 4. A 1910s corset, 5. & 6. Ronja and Mattis costumes and 7. A kilt commissioned by a friend. 

In terms of writing, I have done quite a bit, most importantly, finishing a novel that I’ve been working on for several years (!), and which I’ve been sending out to literary agents since February. I’ve also nearly completed a first draft of a new novel. 

Many things have happened this year which have challenged me in new ways. I realise that’s a very vague statement. Most of those things are very private, and some I am waiting to write about in my blog at a future date. 




I was also able to go back to England and Scotland — my first time after having graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2014, and that was not only a blessing, but a thought-provoking and
 spiritual journey which I am still processing. 



For the coming year, I am hoping to accomplish just as much, if not more, including some of the following:

1. Sew a second kilt. 
2. Finish the three unfinished projects I began this year. 
3. Attempt a 1930s suit jacket. 
4. Sew 3 or 4 blouses. 
5. Finish my First Draft of my new novel. 
6. Read at least as many books as I did this year (25 so far). 

I think that’s a pretty good list to start off with! I hope you all will have many things to look forward to in the year ahead!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Trench Cake

I ran across a recipe for Trench Cake a year or so ago, and have been curious to try it. I found it on Pinterest (where else?) but it came from this Article  from the Telegraph. It’s a very simple recipe, and unusual in that it calls for margerine instead of butter, and vinegar in milk instead of eggs. I’m guessing this was for two reasons: first, and primarily, because of rationing. 


It didn’t make a large amount of cake, which also probably helped in sending it off to a soldier in France. 


Like most other things, WWII gets all the attention. Everyone knows about rationing in the Second World War. But I was in my twenties when I first realised that it was employed during the First World War as well! Secondly, a cake without eggs and butter probably keeps longer, if you’re sending it overseas!

So, a couple of days after Armistice Day (as I still like to call it, otherwise known as Vetrans Day in America) I made Trench Cake — with some help from my niece. 

Ready to bake!


The finished product!

I didn’t put in the peel, and I soaked the currants in hot water (with a splash of vanilla) but otherwise I followed the recipe. It didn’t look great, but I really loved the flavour. The hint of coco powder added more taste than I was expecting, so that was a good surprise. I would definitely make this again!