ollie the owl

Another post written in advance but waiting for the right moment to go up! I am so proud of this piece. It’s a gift I made for my darling friend Bonnie, upon whose spare mattress I have been inhabiting since I got back to Melbourne. Bonnie loves owls, and this seemed the perfect gift to express my unending thanks to the dear girl. I didn’t expect it to take 27 hours (yes, twenty seven, T-W-E-N-T-Y S-E-V-E-N, my fingers were so sore by the end) to complete — which I had to rush as I only had 3 days to make him.

Superhero James is also in town, and he made this gif for me so I could show Ollie off under every angle:

I made Ollie from a kit, as I am not quite talented enough to design my own pieces, but there is still a lot of love and effort that went into him and hopefully Bonnie loves him too!


having projects

Ages ago, I read somewhere, possibly in an interview in newspaper, that it was important to have stay interested and do new things, try new things, all the time. In fact, that it was more important to keep trying new things than to finish them — and this is why I feel no guilt in having started and abandoned, in no particular order:

– learning Russian
– sewing classes
– 100 push-ups challenge
– an online sociology course
– dozens of embroidery pieces
– a variety of art projects
– ballet
– taking the exam to become a certified French-English translator
– several “classics” which I never got into, despite being a huge reader — I have documented my struggles with Anna Karenina before
– passing my driver’s license (although I will probably have to come back to this one day)
– half a dozen blogs and tumblrs other than this one

I still get a lot out of every new endeavour, but abandoned them, fairly quickly, when I lost interest. What mattered was trying new things out. I need to make every day interesting, and what is more interesting than something new? besides, you never know what I will come back to eventualy. There are things I keep coming back to over and over again though, such as:

– learning Chinese (10 years and counting! never give up!)
– writing this particular blog
– running

Yes! it’s a sneaky running post again. I have started a training plan (via Runkeeper) for a half-marathon. This time, instead of 8 weeks, I have 23 weeks (TWENTY THREE WEEKS? WHO KNOWS WHERE I WILL BE IN 23 WEEKS?) to work myself up to 21.1km. This time, I’m following a specific, professionally-designed training plan, instead of the advice of a well-intentioned but ultimately crazy Taiwanese ultramarathoner. And this time, despite the longing for more, I will NOT run multiple days in a row.

It’s actually really hard. The bright sunshine wakes me up around 7am every day and I don’t get picked up for work until 9:15. This is perfect running time and I’m aching to go, but I ran last night (intervals, urgh, 5x 3min @12km/h, 3min @6km/h) and I mustn’t run again until tomorrow. Looking back, it’s easy to see how I got injured last year. Even though McArthur’s pushing me to increase overnight from 5-8km three times a week to 12-17km five times a week was insane and I kind of knew it, it was kind of like being told to eat chips for every other meal — I knew it was a bad idea but it felt really good at the time!

However, this time it’s easy to remember not to over-train. The pain in my shins and knees has never really gone away and if I try to push it, the pain increases dramatically. Also the memory of how miserable I was in January and February, not able to run, is fresh enough of a threat to keep me in tow.

And so I went swimming on my rooftop this morning instead… 20 easy laps.

wipe out

True to myself, there came a point yesterday (which may have been before the class even started, when I was playing my DS in bed and wishing I didn’t have to go) where my interest in the sewing classes drastically plummeted and I could barely bring myself to finished off the skirt.

Basically it didn’t look very good; I’m really glad I had the classes and I’m confident I can now use a machine and achieve decent results. But what I made looked really very average, due to us making it based on a pattern that was really sized too big for me (oh dysmorphophobia, quand tu nous tiens!), and then needed to be re-sized completely.

I’m kind of glad I made the mistakes I did because I understand dress-making a lot better for it, but as I don’t have a sewing machine or any plans to buy one soon, I don’t really feel like doing more classes soon.

That said, I have a really unpleasant flu-tonsil-thing going on, as I do every year, and I am fairly grumpy about everything. I’ll see how I feel next year when the new timetables go up. At least unlike with the yoga phase, I’ve not been left with a load of pre-paid classes…

My spare money is mostly going to driving lessons anyway. I’m reaching a point where I’m a little more confident about driving and am thinking of having a go at driving with friends! But not quite yet. Maybe in 2011.

whose side are you on anyway, miCoach?

Distance: 3.52km
Time: 21:58
Pace: 6:12min/km

Because it’s hard enough to get up and go exercise every other day, I took the decision last week to just concentrate on doing a minimum of 20 minutes for most of my runs and have only a couple of runs where I push harder. This way, I can’t use the excuse of not having time to run before work, or not feeling up to it. I “just do it”.

This means it’s all fairly uneventful. I am annoyed though, when I check the miCoach stats, to see that although it tracks my distance and route very faithfully, and of course my time (the most basic of stop-watches can do that so it’s nothing to write home about), it keeps dropping out when I’m running. I’ve always noticed it thinks I just stop, 2 or 3 times a run, and this really irritates me!

In other “Things I did for me” news, I have started making my A-line skirt in my sewing class, which I will probably (hopefully?) document at some stage. I also made crepes last night and they were quite decent, if a touch lumpy because of the wholemeal flour I used! I don’t think I’ve made them in years but for once I had all the ingredients so I was able to immediately act upon impulse and then stuff my face. Crepes and sugar and lemon are the best.

making it

On Saturday I had the zips, casings and buttonholes class (which was as unexciting as expected but I do at least know how to sew in a zip now — three kinds of zip, in fact). Today I did the much more exciting Module 3 — making a bag. It isn’t much to write home about but now I am definitely feeling more confident about cutting patterns, sewing seams, sewing darts and all that jazz. I am so tempted to get a sewing machine — even though I’m penniless — but the complete absence of tables in my home mean that I would have nowhere to put it. In a perfect world, I would pop by IKEA and pick up a cheap table, pop it in a corner and buy the Toyota currently on sale at Lincraft.

But I am supposed to be saving money (actually, I have no money to save. I am supposed to be not spending next month’s salary). And I am supposed to be getting rid of possessions, not accumulating more. And quite honestly, what am I going to make anyway, with this magical sewing machine? *sigh* Anyway I am looking forward to making the skirt. I can’t say how weirdly moving and satisfying it was to whip my bag inside out and see those darts looking so sleek and professional. Even just the word, darts! I used to read dressmaking blogs with such envy. Now I have 4 whole darts’ worth of experience to boast of.

Crappy picture, which doesn’t show off its reversible nature, but I’m too tired to take more.

Nothing much happening the next week or so… The Australian Masters generally spell hell for me so I haven’t scheduled much. I’m hoping to run with James on Tuesday, and really need to return to yoga this week or I will lose what little strength I have accumulated! I hope that by writing it here it will somehow happen…

flexing plastic

My friend Pip laughed at me the other day: “You are always taking classes!”. I remember saying the exact same thing to my dearest friend Rebecca, who encouraged me to do the same, with great results. I think taking any kind of classes is probably the best way to stay sane when you are sick of your job and there’s nothing you can change about it. Even if they end disastrously (like my ballet classes…), it’s the novelty of doing something different — my brain and body have both been doing the same things day-in, day-out for 2.5 years now — which makes it worth the while.

So I just signed up for 4 more sewing classes — Mod 2 (Zippers, Casings & Buttonholes; I think this is the equivalent of a grammar class, essential but rather dull), Mod 3 (I will need to buy fabrics to make my very own bag! so exciting!) and Mod 4 (two 3-hour classes at the end of which I will apparently have created 1xA-LINE SKIRT — watch this space). I am entitled to 2 hours of free practice time for every class I take (which means I already have 10 hours to waste on a machine if I see fit) but the studio isn’t really available at times when I’m not working.

I have also booked a spot next Wednesday morning for my LEARNER’S PERMIT test ZOMG. I have almost entirely given up reading my book as it is more dreary than a Chinese newspaper vocab list, and instead I have been doing tests online at work when I’m bored. I consistently score above 80% so I figured what the hell, I’ll just go ahead and book it. Then I can go ahead and start learning how to drive — driving lessons! yay!

Also attempting to dent my credit card: dentists and lawyers. I know they want to take all my money for themselves, but I want to at least be able to drive a car and use a sewing machine before selling off my kidneys to pay for wisdom teeth extractions, crowns, and Australian residency. Then I can be a travelling seamstress (minus kidneys).

EDIT: My supermate Cici is thinking about doing a leather workshop in Hong Kong… it’s expensive but look how fantastic their creations are(under the “blog” heading)! Unfortunately she’s still paying for make-up classes… aaaah classes!


This morning I had my first sewing class at Thread Den, which simply involved getting acquainted with the machine and the basic stitching process. It was a 2.5 hour class but time flew by. We had a play around/practice once we’d understood how to thread the machines, and then made little pochettes.

Practicing was very fun, although I was horrified when I looked up from my messing around and saw the other girls had all been “figure-skating” in contrast with my free-style: hearts and careful patterns and pretty designs everywhere! I guess I’m just not very creative, I was too busy concentrating on staying in control of the machine…

To compensate I kept my pochette’s design very simple (although I always go for small, fiddly bits and pieces… I think it’s cos of embroidery!) and refrained from trying too hard. I didn’t want to spoil the only presentable piece of work I’d be producing. Here they both are, albeit quite crumpled from being stuffed into my handbag after class:

My pochette involved appliqué-ing, interlocking, hemming and… well I guess that’s about it. Next week we can go back and learn zips and such but I confess, I wish I had a machine to just practice on first. Years spent learning Chinese has taught me how invaluable it is to master the basics before moving to the next level, and whilst you don’t need anyone else to do yoga, running or reading a stupid learner’s permit manual over and over…

…practising sewing without a machine is rather more difficult!