Wednesday 28 September 2016

Minimalism and Sports

In my previous post on consumerism, fulfillment and "other means" I was talking about sports and how much I found out I need it in my life.

I believe we are made for physical activity and I believe our brain needs a certain amout of physical exercise. And the benefits of sports healthwise have also been very much explored and I don't think you find any doctor who would tell you that generally sports is unhealthy. :) Obviously everybody has personal preferences and needs and what is great for me isn't good for somebody else. Still I insist - doing sports is great!

Whenever I am reading online about minimalism and people sharing their ways and thoughts, there is usually sports involved. Whether it is a brisk walk in the forest, a climb, walking by the beach, sailing, skiing, going for a run, football, volleyball, cycling, kickboxing - whatever is appealing to you - go out and do sports, release endorphines that make you feel well, get fit, meet people, manage tension. And it does so much better than going shopping for the perfect tea cosy No. 20. :) Consuming does not make happy, no matter what the ads tell you. It's not a fulfilling hobby.

I personally recommend these podcasts for getting into jogging - you can use them anywhere, anytime and all you need are some comfy pants, a t-shirt and some jogging shoes. How about giving it a go?  Couch 2 5 K Podcasts

But also local sports clubs offer a variety of sports and you can meet other people, of you feel better with a group.

So - go out and exercise! 

Monday 26 September 2016

Dress to pullover

And it is Make and Mend Monday again! :)

Some years ago (to be precise in December 2013) I bought two really nice jersey knit dresses (in fact, it is the same dress twice...). They are black, made of a nice and soft cotton + cashmere mix knit and my favourite colour: happy black. There is/was a little bit of lace around the neckline. Unfortunately, washing them several times made them shrink lengthwise I think.
Anyway - they are too short now. Or maybe my body has changed. Maybe I've grown? Or my taste in dresses (length) has changed or whatever. The thing is: I love the material, but will never wear them again as dresses. I just know that. Because they've been sitting in the wardrobe for more than a year now. I've put them on several times again and again, with different shoes and tights and over trousers and all - nope, it's not going to work. 

I have several options now:
  • I leave them in the wardrobe for another 15 years until I have the heart to throw them out/give them away. (not really sensible)
  • I give them away to charity right away. (NO! I love the material! I don't want to give them away!)
  • I cheat myself by convincing me that they look alright and I will wear them the way they are. (which I won't and I am trying not to do that any more!!)
  • I try to alter them into something I actually will wear. (a bit of a gamble, might turn out alright or just horrible. But as the case is somwhat lost if I leave them in the shape they are - I've got nothing to loose, really!) 

As I want to give them a second chance, I decided to shortem them to be longish pullovers. I've got a pullover that is sort of similar to that style and I really like wearing it.  So, here's what I did:
  1. Compare length of existing well-liked and worn pullover to dress and mark length with needles
  2. Cut and serge and then make a broadish hem with a triple needle. 
  3. I've grown out of the lace. It turned out to be attache separately at the neckline so taking it off took just 5mins.
(As I liked the outcome when I did that with the first dress, I did exactly the same with the second dress). 

Now it's a pullover. : )

Wednesday 21 September 2016

The Fulfillment Curve and "other means"

So, today's post is crytically dedicated to the equally cryptical "other means" arrow from my beloved Fulfillment-Consumption curve:

See the little arrow up from the comfort zone?

The easy message from this diagram is: You can consume as much as you want, it won't take you any further in your feeling of fulfillment. 

The difficult message is: but "other means" will. 

So what IS this "other means" about??

Answering this is very personal and very individual. We are all different, we love different things, we do even the "same" things differently. 

The first question is: What is fulfillment? Simple 3 word question, that has been tried to answer for thousands of years from philosophers. So don't expect me to give you an easy answer. :) I think the most common answer to "what do you want in life" would boils down to "I want to be happy". I personally prefer the word "content" because "happy" seems just too perfect and "all smiles" to me, whereas with the word "content" I am acknowledging certain flaws and imperfections that exist in my life, but don't destroy the general feeling of contentment. But whatever term feels comfortable for you is fine for me. :) Whether you feel you have a happy, or fulfilled life or a have a feeling of contentment regarding your life now- important is the positive feeling towards it.

The second question is: How do I reach fulfillment? 
Obviously the diagram is using a short cut. I love this. "Other means". So down to earth yet so vast in its possibilities. And of course the two questions are linked. I've read and searched a lot (online, in conversations with people, in the library...) and the answer is: There is not "ONE" answer for everybody. For my personal life there is only my personal answer. 

I believe, that the key to answering the above questions is to understand who I am, what I love, what I need in life. And also to understand what I will never be (or don't want to be), what I don't want in my life. I find it takes a lot of effort to be very honest and truthful with yourself. But it is also very rewarding. 

When I was thinking about consuming and emotions I was mentionning a "void" in my life that I filled with stuff. I hadn't found my balance within myself, my way. I didn't feel I had found the right way, the right rhythm in life, my purpose seemed rather vague. (I think part of life is that you are always on that way, which is a pleasant thing, I like the thought of travelling. A static or frozen state of mind and life seems rather frightening to me).

So, what changed in my life? I found love. I found love with my husband, I experience love as a mother. I find love in friendships. And I experience the feeling of being appreciated in a community. I think humans are not made to be alone, we need others. Maybe not all of the time around us (I need quietness around me very much sometimes), but I genuinely believe in love and that it is possible to find it. Just not maybe quite where and how you expect it. We need people in our lives. We need people in our lives that are good for us, that bring us positive feelings. I would like to emphasize that.

I personally need sports and being outside. Sounds trivial, I know. But I found I really need it for my inner balance. (I am not the only one how believes so, you can find tons of stuff on the net). In fact, there is even evidence, that exercise helps efficiently against depression. I love jogging. And I have to admit, I used to hate running. Yes, totally hated it. Because whenever I started running I completely failed and felt really horrible And then, my ingenious husband suggested this NHS Couch to 5 K Program (podcasts) which is brilliant and ever since then I am running (ok, I do have breaks, but I always get back into it easily with the podcasts, which brings me back on track for 3 runs a week). I also do Yoga every week, I have a DVD (Ursula Karven "Yoga Everyday", no, I don't get any money for mentionning this, I just really like the program) and that's best for me with my weird work hours and two children. I also LOVE climbing and used to climb quite a bit before the children, but with the pregnancies I stopped (belly got too big...I did try until I was 7-8months round, but it got to difficult and possibly risky) and I am waiting  now until the children are big enough to go climbing outside.Oh, and walking, we are walking a lot. :) Nature, forests, trees, skies, the sea ... it's just wonderful to breathe fresh air while you go for a walk. Or run. :)

I like doing creative stuff. I don't always do the same things, but I am alwas doing something artsy and cratsy. I am sewing. I am sometimes knitting or crocheting. I have the plan to go to an oilcolour painting course because I desperately want to learn that. I also love going to museums ( I love the Fondation Beyeler, they have brilliant exhibitions!). Music is an important part in my life. I play the piano (I enjoy Satie and Einaudi at the moment). I have an electrical piano (25 years old and still going!) so I can use headphones and play in the evening when the children are asleep, otherwise the piano is hijacked... I also love dancing (which is a combination of creative and sports, I'd say). When I was a teenager and young adult I did a lot of dancing (couple dance), it is now changed to a less perfect but still very fun "hopping around with the children" version. We mostly dance Salsa now. I don't always do everything with the same intensity depending on what is going on in my life, but some of this is always there. 

And I am very lucky to have a job that I like. I work weird hours, but that also means I sometimes get a day off during the week which is great. I find my job purposeful and it offers challenges, which I find important. 

Have you got something that really fulfils your life? Would you like to share it with us?

Further reading (just a little bit)

Monday 19 September 2016

The "American Neckline" Disaster

With my Make and Mend Challenge I had promised to reduce my fabric stash, so if I feel like sewing something, I have to address the stash. 
I've still had some interlock jersey knit in red and white and some dark blue single jersey (stretch) so I thought I'd make something. I've always liked the "American neckline" of the baby t-shirts and bodies of  the Little Misses. So I decided I'd come up with my own pattern. (No idea what that kind of neckline is called in America... or anywhere else... this is what we call it in Germany).

I used the Milchmonster Martha pattern as a base, because it fits quite well and I like it. I had to shorten the upper length and extend the shoulder seam line 1/2 inch (anyway, not just for this project).

And then I put it together like I usually do and ended up having lots of issues (see picture).


  1. The interlock jersey doesn't contain Elasthan, so it stretched... and didn't go back. The Shirt ended up quite really really wide (tried to fix it, now the side stripes don't match any more...)
  2. The seam underneath the bust looks really odd with the stripes.
  3. The pleats from the underbust-line look really odd with stripes
  4. The neckline is a complete disaster. I think the reason for this is the wrong edgeing technique. I just applied a strip of single jersey (with stretch) as usual (with the kids' shirts), but because the neckline ins curving in AND out, it went wrong. I stretched it the wrong way basically and the band is too wide for the neckline, making this problem worse. Additionally, this pulls the neckline the wrong direction (apart form standing away oddly), so I had to attach 2 (strawberry) buttons to keep it in place. 
  5. When I set in the sleeves I was obviously absent-minded -> the stripes and wristbands don't match at all... (not visible on picture)

HONESTLY!!! what was I doing?? I like the shirt, but don't feel comfortable wearing it due to all the above mentionned issues.

(Will try to make a shirt like this again, though... at some point... without the underbust seam and witout the curving of the neckline)

Wednesday 14 September 2016

4 People and what car?

And then we got a car.

Now, I have to tell you, we've bought a car recently. We've been living without one for the last 5 years. But now we felt, we needed one. Yes, we came to the conclusion, we actually needed it. So we asked ourselves the magic questions:

1. What purpose does this item serve?
- It will carry the kids to kindergarten, me to work, it will carry the shopping for 4 people for a week (we've tried to carry the shopping or use the bicycle, it's getting too much and too heavy and we have to go to the shop every 2 days), we can visit friends, we can make day trips.
2. Have I got something at home that serves the same purpose?
- Well, we have bikes, but we can't carry both children on the bike at the same time and they are still too small to cycle themselves. We have (had) a public transport monthly ticket, but while it does take the kids to kindergarten, it doesn't help with the shopping (still too heavy), and it doesn't help us to see friends (too far away) and we've made day trips with public transport, it took ages and you can't get everywhere. Also my way to work will be 25kms once we've moved, there is no public transport at that time (I work odd hours...) so I would have to turn up 1 hour too early for work and also the bus takes twice as long. So, no, it's not really a feasible option.
3. How often would I use it?
- Daily. Several times. Actually all of the family will use it. 
4. If I don't get this item now, will it make my life difficult?
- Yes. in fact it makes our life a lot easier to own a car.

Decision made. Huge decision made.

Now, cars are something that is really difficult. What kind of car would be good? what size? new? used?  Diesel? Petrol? What brand?

We had the following criteria:

1. Budget. Before doing anything we set a budget.
2. Safety. BIG important criteria. You can check this site for safety and crash tests   Because I am a bit weird, I also checked the internet for pictures of cars after bad accidents. And car magazines reviews, too, of course. But as we are living in Germany, the German brands always win in our magazines.... :)
3. Economy (diesel versus petrol, average litres/100km)/maintenance/tax/insurance cost and environment (Euro 4 or 5)
4. Size (has to fit 4 people, 2 of which need children's seats and a week's shopping in the boot), will mainly carry me to work and all of us for eventual trips. So a people carrier (like a Kia Carens, fab car, but huge) is out of question as it is not exactly what we need. We need a "smallish car".
5. Life expectancy of car (We want to keep it until it eventually breaks down...) (choice based on brand, statistics of ADAC, absolute age and km/year on tachometer, a bit of a gamble though...)

As a result from these criteria new cars were out of question (budget) and big cars too. :) And I didn't want to lease a car. We did choose to go for a short term financing service for part of the price, but we hope the car will live longer than that.

Actually there were not that many cars left at all after we filtered for "budget"... Which is an advantage, because it means you have to think less. :) In the end, the choice was fairly easy.

Monday 12 September 2016

Silk Sorbetto - Colette Patterns

About a year ago I had bought two small pieces of a vintage japanese silk, possibly remnants of a kimono. I had initially intended to make a small summer dress for little Miss No 1 from it, but when the fabric arrived I just couldn't see it as a child's dress... the silk seems to be handpainted/printed with leaves and the thought of chocolate ice cream on that made me cringe. So I let it mature.
Some months ago I stumbled over this free pattern Sorbetto by Colette Patterns. 

I made one big change - I inverted the front center pleat and only closed it up to the height of the darts to make the whole shirt nice and wide and airy for summer. 

The fabric was just enough to make the pattern (I couldn't cut the pieces on the fold though, but as the pattern is quite lively, it doesn't really show). I used french seams so the inside would look and feel nice and it was just enough fabric to make self-fabric bias tape for the neckline and the arm holes. 

I really like the outcome, although the pattern of the fabric is far more lively than what I usually wear. The silk is flowing and cool, although it is quite thick and not see-through at all. It was also very forgiving while sewing. :) 

I didn't seem to be able to put on a normal face while the picture was taken. Sorry for that. Concentrate on the shirt. 

As for the pattern: The sizing is very accurate and there is not much ease (just right) in it, so I recommend to make a mock-up from cheap fabric first to make minor changes. Apparently Colette Patterns drafts their sizes for a C-Cup, but I didn't have to make any changes that way. Possibly my wish for a very loose fit had something to do with that.
Instructions are clear, I can definitely recommend this pattern.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

How many clothes do I really need? An inventory.

After starting the Make and Mend Challenge  in June (2016) I started thinking about what kind of clothes I regularly wear and what I really need. Then when summer started I noticed how very faded my linen trousers were and redyed them (and then discovered one had got really thin and is see through in the crotch area, that's not cool... because of the overall thinness it is not really worth mending it, I am going to trace the trousers for the pattern though). I was really gutted about that. And noticed: black linen trousers is obviously something I really wear often. (2 indicators: feeling and worn thin trousers). 

Anyhow, I repeatedly thought about what kind of clothes make sense for me and of course had a look online at what other people thought about it... (288 things:  interestingly the minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn owns (according to his own list) "Casual Clothes. 79 items, including jeans, hoodies, T-shirts, button-down shirts, etc. Dress Clothes. 50 items, including suits, ties, dress shirts, etc. Clothes (Miscellaneous). 58 items, including shoes, socks, underwear, belts, gym shorts, coats, etc." - that means 65% of his possessions are clothes! WOW!)

So, a wardrobe is something very universal but at the same time something very personal. I've searched around a bit and found a lot on the "5 piece french wardrobe" Link1 and the "capsule wardrobe". (Link2Link3,   Link4)

I liked this jpg

And on the whole enjoyed the stylish pictures of the people that wrote them. 
My main problem is: Most of those wardrobes seem to assume that
  • You wear businessy-like classy stuff all of the time
  • You have the built and disposable income of a top model (Ballerina shoes for 350 Euros? Really?)
  • You have 4 seasonal wardrobes (!?!?)
  • You constantly think about fashion and how to perk up your wardrobe
  • You don't have babies or toddlers that cover you in all sorts of stuff 

None of that is me. (Although that above list is a good starting point, as ist this German link: Weltreise mit Handgepäck) And this is quite useful, too Capsule planner And considering just a basic wardrobe is a good effort, too:  Basic Wardrobe) Soo... althought the above links help to understand about style and combining clothes, they still suggest to buy a lot of clothes new. Hm. Doesn't really agree with me any more.

So obviously if I don't identify with those lists, I have to come up with my own.

  • Enough clothes for a week (we do weekly washes and due to the children I have to change everything daily (at least once, (on all of us) although sometimes I don't bother... *smile* )
  • At work I get clothes and I have my work shoes there, so I don't need much work stuff
  • At home I am with children that paint, have sticky fingers, want to move around with me a lot - clothes have to be washable (a lot) and comfortable
  • We go outside for walks (forest, hills)
  • Sometimes I need to look respectable :) Very rarely, though.
  • I mainly wear black. Tried other things. It's mainly black and it stays mainly. Or REALLY weird and childish patterns. :) But, mainly, black. But let me assure you, I am wearing only the very happiest black!
Theoretically you could argue, that I could just wear sweats at home with the children, I suppose, and then end up wearing them all of the time. The thing is: I don't like sweats, although they are comfortable. While wearing practical clothes that are easily washable I would also like to maintain a minimal amount of casual chic. If an active Mum ever has casual chic.

I was working very long on this list. And I've kept it to the absolute minimum. And I am also sure, it's not for everyone. But here we go anyway. 

This is my list

This Basic Wardrobe list is meant to be the minimum stock of my wardrobe, so if you own a few more t-shirts, it won't matter that much. Especially if you don't wash every week. Onthe spot. And everything dries immediately. :) So this list is certainly open for personal adjustments.

I admit, my actual wardrobe doesn't only contain what's on this list. I made it thinking about what I actually use regularly in my daily life and admitting, that my wardrobe is filled with WAY more clothes than I actually need. It made me realize that is wasn't just the odd "extra" T'shirt. It was way more. It's basic because it is meant to be open for small adjustments that occur. E.g. you'll find there is no "fancy stuff" on the list. We don't go out much at the moment because of the children, so I don't really need fancy stuff. But everybody has different needs, habits and lives. So, grab a pencil, think about your needs, habits and life and

Make your own list! Share it!

Monday 5 September 2016

It's all part of my life...

I was thinking about my blog and my posts the other day and those of you who have been following my blog because of my sewing are probably surprised to find so many posts on a simpler lifestyle and consumerism there at the moment and not so many about sewing. 

Those of you who started following my writing because of what I have to say about a simpler lifestyle and consumerism are probably a little confused about the posts on random sewing - historical sewing, sewing techniques, moderns sewing, sewing for children, ... 

I was thinking about seperating those two things at first, but then decided against it. Why? I felt that if I separated the minimalism posts from the post about other things I do and think, it's a bit like setting up this "minimalist" world and living another life next to it. Which I am not. I am trying to simplify my lifestyle considerably, but I am not stopping everything else. I am still a mum, I am still sewing and doing other things. But I am also changing things. 

So, I invite you to be part of my life and enjoy the mix! :)

PS: Just a short note on the side: In a conversation it was remarked, that my historical sewing isn't exactly minimalist. Because it is silk and frills and all that. I would like to point out 2 things.
1. Sewing is my hobby and the dresses don't represent my modern lifestyle, but the time they are inspired by. I enjoy the act of sewing as much as thinking about how to make the dress, and the fitting etc. I am not making them, because I wish for a life in 18th century silk and frills.
2. There is no minimalism in that sense in the early 19th century or before. Because also the culture of consuming wasn't there, because frugality, prudence,´and thrift were values and shopping wasn't considered a hobby.

Saturday 3 September 2016

3 Months down the Make and Mend Challenge!


It's 3 months since I started the Make and Mend Challenge and so far I've only very nearly flagged once. Shirts with stripes and dots... with bateau neck... but then again, there is a life without them and I am very proud I didn't give in. :) Apart from this one temptation it's not been really hard, it does help me to think that I could actually MAKE these shirts and funny enough I then usually find I don't really need them that desperately. :)
I have made a few small bits and bobs though (which should appear on the blog soon, whenever I manage to get a picture taken...), namely a silk shirt and a cotton t-shirt (complete fail...).

Other than that  - I'll keep going! :)