November 2018 | Mismatched Buttons (A Monthly Journal)
In line with November being a low-sew-jo month, I’ve struggled to be motivated about writing my monthly post for November. It was the end of the teaching year and I was tired, grieving and pretty much done with the whole goddamn year. I mean, I sewed one thing. I didn’t knock anything off my October to-do list. Maybe I should just put November on the scrap heap and not write my monthly blog post?
But after a little rest, and a return and surge of interest, I’ve decided I want the complete set of months, which means completing all the months, even the ones that are a bit sucky. So here’s a very much in retrospect glance at November, such as it was.
Siblings Sew and It’s the SHIT! (and my Wiksten Haori)
Actually, to be honest, this was one of the highlights of my year, and a salve on a pretty rough October. I was in the early stage of sewing up my Wiksten Haori when my baby brother, Jack, rang to say: BAM he was in town! Needed a place to chill for a few hours before his AirBNB was ready! Could he come around?
He does this, blows into town like an unexpected patch of summertime in winter, or like some sort of haphazard sailor happily knocked off course and into our midst. His visits are usually very unexpected and all too brief.
At ten-years my junior and as the youngest of the family, he’s whimsical and all the best parts of quixotic—as all baby siblings should be—as well as kind and gentle and charming and funny and mischievous. He’s artistic and musical, as well as insanely well-read: he never ceases to amaze and inspire me with his vast and omnivorous diet of books, while also finding time to do his own writing as well.
He’d come back from Berlin, where he lives, for our Granny’s funeral and was in Auckland for a couple of weeks more before heading back to Europe, but was down in Wellington visiting some friends. So he came around to mine, with book in hand to read while I got on with my sewing. When he arrived, however, with his usual enthusiasm for the new and for variety, he was immediately caught up in my sewing, exclaiming how cool it was! And that the pattern was awesome! And he wanted a jacket too! Slightly hesitatingly I said I could teach him to make one, and (even though I shouldn’t be surprised) he leapt at the chance.
Jack is one of the few people from my friends and family who know I sew, and who also know I have a secret side-identity, complete with Instagram account and blog. ‘Bibbity-Bobbity-Buttons’ is a true escape for me—a place outside my profession, mostly outside of my usual friend circle (apart from a few very crafty and very welcome exceptions) and outside the scrutiny of my other family members—except, of course, Jack. I’d told him that this side-identity existed, but never told him what my handles were, and he’s been long-intrigued in trying to find it out. So I dangled this as a little bait—if he finished his Haori and let me post about it on Instagram, I’d tell him what my handle is. Immediately, he raided my stash for his fabrics and got to work.
This led to the most hilarious weekend of teaching my brother—from a baseline of absolute zero, who had barely even held a hand-sewing needle—to sew his first garment. My usually calm and quiet sewing room was frequently punctuated with exclamations of, “HELL, YEAH!” and “YEEEAAAAHHHHH!” as he bombastically and good-naturedly knocked off challenge after challenge, and man, were there a lot of challenges that come from starting from scratch. Everything from how to read pattern pieces and the pattern itself; from cutting the fabric to threading the machine; from the difference between a presser foot and the foot pedal, even though they’re both called a foot—that one led to at least one pretty hilarious misunderstandings; the importance of ironing and pinning and grain line and notches and seam allowances. After most of a life-time of intuiting this skill, I hadn’t realised how much goes into even the most simple parts of sewing, but within the course of a couple of days, Jack showed a natural affinity to the skill.
Neither of us completely finished our Haoris (me because I made AAALLL the mistakes Jack miraculously managed not to, and he because, well, newb) but we got them close enough for a couple of excellent photos.
Jack’s Haori is made from some heavyweight Pickle linen from The Fabric Store, and the trim is some sort of silk I picked up at a remnants sale earlier in the year. It’s a smashing combo that I think I might have to copy… Jack spent the remainder of his time in New Zealand using Mum’s sewing machine to knock up a few Haoris for his friends and, apparently, deep diving into a bunch of sewing YouTube channels.
And, best of all, a little while after he got back to Berlin, I received this photo from him…
People, we have a convert! I’m so proud of my little brother branching out into this new hobby. I will keep you updated on his adventures with his new machine (if he lets me…).
As this teaching session was entirely unplanned, it was pure luck that Jack showed up while I was sewing up something sort of beginner-friendly and unisex. And this was a great pattern for a beginner! It’s mostly simple skills and straight lines, but there’s the occasional twisty, tricksy bit to stretch the skills. I’d say if a beginner has the basics down, then this is a very approachable project. Jack had less than the basics and it was a bit of a stretch at times, but he still totally got there in the end.
I made a size small—although I measured for a larger size—and, for reference, this was the same size Jack made. For the shell I used some beautiful Atelier Brunette Ochre Stardust double gauze from Miss Maude. The lining is constructed from remnants of some cotton taupe quilting cottons I’d collected over the years.
To be honest, I don’t love the combination together, although I do love each separately. I think each part is really lovely, but they overwhelm each other together—they each need a simpler partner. So to that end they’ve now been unpicked and I’m going to pair them up slightly differently. My Ocher Stardust is going to be lined with a similar-toned pale-oatmeal-coloured rayon-linen and my luscious lining will be teamed with a dark smokey green linen—stand by for results!
But for posterity, here’s my Wiksten Haori in its initial glory!