Thursday, 4 December 2014

Making and Changing: Keeping a Busy Brain Occupied

I have never identified as a girly girl and in my mind this would mean dressing like Katy Perry.  Since I am not interested in sparkle or glitter or bright pink things, high heels, manicures or cupcakes I used to think I was not feminine. It takes me all of five minutes to do a full and dramatic (for me) makeup and I rarely do it.   I do not meet the typical definition of a girly girl but I am quite feminine nonetheless:  I adore shoes and throw pillows.  Believing that I could potentially be ignored if I didn't dress boldly, I shunned any sort of soft look most of the time, doing my best to ignore the fact that I simply am soft looking and have a soft personality too.  In teaching I was surrounded by bold and dramatic people.  I tried to fit in with that.  I am not dramatic, exotic, sporty or in any way suited to angular lines, graphic prints, dramatic touches or red lipstick but I think many teachers are and that was the world I was caught up in.  I thought that I was in danger of being ignored, not taken seriously, not noticed at work, not authoritative when I needed to be, and so I denied my inherent softness.  I forgot that soft does not mean there is no strength.  I tried to make myself spiky and sharp, edgy and tough, and I built an armour with defiant short hair and lots of black clothes.  I tried to prove that I am fun and creative, just look at these bright colours I wear! 

I have been an introvert trying to dress herself like her idea of an extrovert, afraid that soft meant weak or boring or too young or old and frumpy. Soft can be very strong though.  Soft may bend but not break.  I have been making things in my wardrobe softer and more suited to me.  Not wearing black does not mean only wearing pale colours.  I am embracing brown and grey because I have always loved them best.

 I began with boots and a handbag, but as is typical with me I didn't think to take before pictures of everything.  I had a cognac coloured shoulder bag I loved for it's style and size and a pair of cognac boots I also loved but I was not enjoying or feeling right in cognac.  So I dyed them both a deep, dark brown.  I have always loved this colour despite the funny looks I get when I say so.  It's a smelly and messy job, this leather dying and I never think to put gloves on so my  hands have really been suffering.  They are dry and cracked and a strange orange colour with brown stains under my nails.  I look very dirty. I don't normally wear nail polish on my fingers but I might have to for awhile to look cleaner.

Dark brown boots and shoulder bag: This has always been a brown that I love.  Seriously, it moves me like black does not. I get a little catch in my breath and my heart skips a beat over distressed dark brown leather. They still need a few touch ups perhaps but I rather like them looking imperfect. I think I will scuff up the toes a bit more.

I made some faux-boot socks to put with these boots, using a thrifted pure wool sweater I felted, cut up and added a bit of tea-stained lace to the tops.  I like my boot socks a bit slouchy and loose.  These give added warmth to my legs and visual interest without adding bulk to my feet inside the boots. Again, the colours are not quite accurate but they are close. The lace is more beige than white after tea staining, and just to explain how inaccurate this colour is-that wall in the background is more gold coloured and yet looks grey-beige here.

This is a better image of what the tea-stained lace looks like.  I took this photo while I was still working on sewing it.  I hand stitched it, of course, but here it's just pinned.

I love these camel coloured boots for comfort and style but not the camel colour.  It was too butterscotchy yellow for me so I got brave and dyed them a deep grey-blue colour.


After:  I am pleased with the results.  Still a bit 'distressed' looking but with grey tones now.  I used a dye meant for suede and it took a lot of dye to do these boots.

A thrifted wool cloche needed a little bit of a repair.  Someone must have tossed it in the wash and the flower had become felted and was a sort of lumpy ball that did not look much like a flower but mainly like, well, a lumpy ball of felted wool.  It was glued on quite aggressively but I managed to cut it off without damaging it and then I spread out the pieces and folded and rearranged the 'petals' until it looked like a nice flower as I assume it did once before.  I sewed a silver button in the centre and glued the new flower back on to the thick glue spot that was still there on the hat.

Speaking of flowers, I recently made a couple of purple silk flowers from a blouse that just wasn't working for me.  Here I have the flower pinned to a tee shirt. The colours are not actually as bright as they look here but I can't get an accurate picture in the indoor lighting lately.  The choices are too dark or too bright.

And then I made a pair of socks into some fingerless gloves.  I would do a few things differently next time but mostly I like how these turned out.  I do not have any chance at a career as a hand model.  The sock was cut into two pieces and sewn together.  I added decorative buttons which you can barely see but I'm not sure how I like the look of them.

The rounded toe caps I cut off looked like cute little hats for dolls but I don't know anyone with any dolls.

And speaking of troubles with the indoor/winter lighting, here is a somewhat dark picture of a trial outfit.  There is no black here though nothing is pale.  The colours are somewhat muted though the waterfall sweater is getting to be more jeweltone.  This is a dramatic look for me and I would not wear the necklace or belt if I were just staying home.  The main trial here is the waterfall cardigan.  I love it in theory but am not certain about wearing it. 


  1. That was brilliant! I really love what you've done with your leather things - boots, a purse... They look beautiful and perfectly distressed/aged - I adore them all! I too prefer brown boots - I don't have any black boots and only two pairs of black pumps/ballet shoes. I think, with me it's a reaction against my Soviet upbringing and post-Soviet times when everything was in deficit, and when we had a chance to buy something, it often was black (or gray), practical and "going with everything"...

    Loved your cozy fake socks with lace, so creative, and the fingerless gloves - amazing!

    I also have similar feelings about waterfall cardis - love them in theory, not sure how to wear them. I like your belted look, it suits you, Shawna!

    Keep getting to know yourself and creating - you are truly inspiring! I read that gifted/highly capable girls have a tendency to want to fit in, it's a common trait - they want to feel accepted, more than gifted boys for instance. It's probably one of reasons why some women start pushing back and change their life boldly in their middle years, despite the fact that they prefer soft colored clothes. :)

    With love and amazement xxxxx

  2. It's funny to me because I think many women experience the opposite and feel forced to be soft when they are truly vibrant and get told to tone it down. It has been opposite for me; I felt I must not be soft, I must not like pretty things. I wonder if it has any connection to the second wave of feminism.

    If I read that correctly you just implied I am gifted/capable. Wow, what a compliment. I shall happily take it. :-) I think it is accurate to say that I have always known myself but that for a long time I denied myself. I will focus all my admiration for rich, vibrant, stunning WOW looking women on you and stop trying to be you. I will be me. :-)

  3. For years, I wouldn't allow my true girly girl out. I feared I would not be taken seriously in the professional world. When I finally let my authentic self reign, all was well. :) Love those gray boots! T.

  4. Those dyed boots look amazing!!

  5. Those boots look great, dying stuff is so rewarding!
    As a woman not interested in babies, weddings, chocolate, shoe shopping or love stories many of my mates say I should have been born a man. xxx

    1. But you would not get to wear such fabulous vintage maxi dresses as a man so feck that! Or you could wear them but rather I am assuming that they might not fit quite as well. ;-)

  6. wow shawna!!!!! you really got a hang on DIY!
    your leather dying jobs are gorgeous! love the colors and and the uneven look adds to the desired softness i think.
    and you needlework is awesome! you are very patient! those flowers!
    the purple sweater/cardi cries to be worn over flowy dresses, long skirts or palazzo pants. the common idea to add skinny bottoms to wide tops ends mostly in dis-balance...
    and again i shook my head about the all american idea of femininity as a frilly, embellished, pink colored and half naked (but nipples covered!) being. or for the "working girl" a - of cause body con - power suit. always in tiny pointed high heels.
    you swim yourself free from this - as we say here. embracing your softness makes you stronger. it did already.
    p.s.: try rubbing with lemon juice for the mis-colored nails, after that a good cream/oil treat.

    1. Thanks, Beate. I do not lack courage, but possibly skill. LOL Yes, it does feel as though that cardigan wants a skirt or a dress. I don't think I have the right type for it at the moment but I have an idea in my head of what it needs.
      I don't much like swimming but I do like being free and I like being me.

  7. I agree, the grey boots are killer! Closely followed by the brown items. You're following through on the soft vibe. I agree it seems more you, in a strong to the core kind of way! Loving all the creating you are doing. Keep at it!! xo JJ

  8. Despite my love of dresses, I don't think of myself as particularly feminine.
    I can't do pretty (I'm not, never have been) or girly (I am too strong-featured) so I aim for striking instead!
    Your DIY projects have been really successful, Shawna, the silk flowers and the grey/blue boots look particularly good. Loving the purple cardigan on you too. xxx

    1. You are feminine, but your feminine type is bold and striking. I think we have to embrace different types and ways of being feminine. Otherwise it's too limiting. I don't think of myself as 'pretty' but I don't seem to pull off striking or bold or rich or exotic and I am attracted to pretty things. I do think of myself as soft, I have just been in denial about it and thinking that soft was bad.
      Thanks for you supportive and positive comments, Curtise!

  9. Wow I'm pretty impressed with how the boots turned out. I've seen people dye suede before but not leather.



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