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Entries in Make better (7)


Esoteric embroidery

Before I even start to explain this project, I should preface it with something of a warning. Even Clarkie, who is reasonably used to me by now, looked askance at me and suggested this was a bit weird. But there's a peculiar sort of logic to it, honest! It all starts with Target...

See, we tend to buy the majority of our clothes in the States. Stuff is cheaper over there, and we have the time to do clothes shopping properly. This includes our underwear, which we buy in multipacks in Target. Neither of us has particularly fancy taste in underwear, but there is a set of reasonably strict criteria for me at least: boy shorts for cycling (no seams in awkward places), low-rise bikini otherwise, preferably no pastel colours, not white. Clarkie has her own set of criteria. This time, for whatever reason, we both alighted on the same multipack, and neither of us could see any alternatives we liked. 

Now, I am prepared to share a great many things with Clarkie, but there are some barriers to us sharing clothes. So we ended up with two sets of matching pants* (and various other non-matching bits and pieces) and came home. As I was sorting the laundry one day, I started thinking about how it would be great if there were an easier way to distinguish the two sets.

I thought about marking them with the fabric pen I own, and then remembered that the last time I used it I ended up with an ugly pair of socks I didn't want to wear, and if I'd wanted ugly there were other sets of pants I could have bought. 

Then for some reason, I thought about embroidery. Now, I don't have a long history with embroidery. I can chainstitch, but the embroidery threads I have are left over from making friendship bands way back when. So I'm not entirely sure where that idea came from. But once it arrived, well, it stuck. I thought I could chainstitch flowers on my set. So I started with the orange pair.

Orange pants, green flower

And frankly, I got bored with chainstich and flowers from there. I googled embroidery patterns, and my eyes were opened to the myriad possibilities. I stumbled across new stitches... And almost before I knew it, the dark blue pair ended up with a robot head on the back right. 

Blue pants, grey robot

(Mmmmm... Split stitch and some french knots.)

We were watching the Winter Olympics at the time. These next two pairs are therefore now my Sochi pants.

Grey pants, rainbow

Those french knots aren't quite as regular as I'd planned. Still, the effect was what I'd hoped. And I'm really rather pleased with the rainbow. 

By this time I'd got into the colour of the pants dictating what should be on them. The next pair was bright pink, and in homage to the small pink tank I once knitted... Well...

Pink tank pants

After I finished those I had a day off ill, catching up on some of the programs I've recorded that Clarkie isn't so interested in. One of which happened to be the embroidery episode of the Fabric of Britain. Split stitch took on a whole new significance. The next pair of pants were turquoise, which I chose to interpret as sky blue. 

Turquoise pants, yellow sunshine

Why yes, that is on the back of the pants. I couldn't resist.

That left just one more pair. A purple pair. I couldn't think of a relevant item. I googled purple, and got flowers. But then, from out of left field (further out than embroidering your pants, if you can believe it), there was a purple cow amongst the flowers. I was sunk. The next problem was drawing a simple enough cow that I could embroider it. Oh, and then actually doing the needlework.

Purple pants, cow

I'm kind of pleased with it, although I do think I over-stretched slightly with that one. Although, as Clarkie kept pointing out as I was muttering over it, it is just a pair of pants. 

So, I now have a set of seven pairs of decorated pants. I have to say, I'm actually rather pleased with them. And sorting the laundry is much, much easier now...


*Please note, I am English, pants does not mean trousers.


A new challenge

Last year I challenged myself to buy nothing. It was a really interesting experiment, and although I wasn't all that successful I learnt some interesting stuff about myself and my relationship with buying stuff. Turns out I do swap money and time, and expect rewards to be in the shape of stuff. Who knew?

At the end of the year we headed off to Florida, and I fell off the buy nothing challenge with a bump. In fact, we spent New Year's Eve shopping at the outlets. And I have to be honest, it just wasn't all that much fun. I filled some holes in my wardrobe, but ended up over stuffing a load of other drawers at the same time! It felt a little like I'd broken my shopping habit, and didn't really want to get it back again. 

So, what about this year?

Well, this year starts with a novel financial situation for me. I am finishing up my PhD, and although I am funded through to the end of March I received my last paycheque just before Christmas. I have almost nothing coming in now until I'm done and get a job (barring the odd bit of teaching work). I'm not that worried - I have enough savings to see me through a good chunk of time, I have a lot of clothes and toys to play with, and I'm generally pretty cheap to run these days. But it's still something to think about, especially in combination with not really enjoying the shopping much.  

This year I've therefore decided that instead of concentrating on not buying stuff, I'm going to spend my energy on the stuff I already have. I'm going to try and iron out minor irritations with stuff, like trousers being too long, or that irritating thing on my bike where my toe clip hits the mudguard on my front wheel on tight turns. I'm going to try and fix things I like to keep them in use, like darning the place on my running socks where my left big toe rubs holes, or repairing some seams, or truing my bike wheels. I'm going to try and learn how to alter some clothing too, so rather than being a bit meh it actually fits. 

Some of this will need bits buying. And that's ok. But where there's a choice between paying someone else to do it or learning how to do it myself, well, I'm going to get a little mustachian about it. And things don't have to end up perfect (perfect's too much pressure, although nice if it happens!). I'm just aiming for better than when I start. 

I guess you could call this the 2014 "Make it better challenge"? It may have similar outcomes in a way, but I'm hoping that by phrasing/framing it in a more positive way it will feel better!

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