Most of my time has been consumed with making new tiaras for Fancy Lady Industries, but I’ve done a couple of drawings and practiced a lot of uke.
A few of my pieces are on Society6 now if you are interested in prints.
I’ve been recording myself playing and singing every few days and posting them on you tube so I can track my progress throughout the year. This is At Seventeen, by Janis Ian. There’s a few more on my channel, if you’re interested!
People seem to have this weird barrier between digital and non-digital life. Naively, the general consensus is that life away from the screen is “real life”, as if what you do on the internet doesn’t count. Online bullying has serious consequences and I think bullies carry on abusing people because they don’t consider themselves bullies if they do so via a keyboard. Employers admit that people aren’t hired on the basis of their public social media profiles, and crowd-sourcing campaigns have the power to significantly change someone’s life. Real life is digital life too.
So my beef today should not be dismissed as “Internet stuff” because it closely mimics the interactions women have with each other in face to face socialising; and while it is certainly not bullying or overt discrimination it contributes to a culture of feminised body shame. I follow a couple of fabric stores on facebook, hoping to be the first to hear about a bargain, however most of the time my feed is full of “cutesy” images about dieting and exercise that make me want to see if I can run my iPhone through my own sewing machine.
I run my own pages, and I’m the first to admit my community building is pretty non-existent, but I absolutely abhor online community building targeted at women that leans heavily on the body, and how flawed it apparently is. Instead of building rapport with audiences about your products, inspiration and projects it seems the easy way out is to fall back on that time-honoured feminine adhesive: how to be skinnier, or at least look it. In my own life I refuse to engage in this topic with family and friends, and it’s really bloody hard to feel part of a group when you cut out body-snarking conversation filler.
It goes from “this food is just empty calories” to “god she looks like an anorexic velociraptor!” and all of it serves to redirect your focus away from meaningful living towards how desirable you can make your body, presumably for men considering the hetero-centric culture we live within. Facebook page owners continue this distraction seamlessly via humorous images that have us chortling “oh carbs, you fiends!” and hitting like.
I prefer to see actual products, the ways people have used them, inspirational photos relating to the topic of interest and most of all, discounts and special offers. Coming back to fabrics, and sewing as a skill, how is it that there is a lack of material to discuss on a page for a fabric shop? There’s a truly immense field of techniques to learn, with a rich history reaching back thousands of years. When people reduce sewing to a mere women’s past time it raises my ire, and conflating it with de rigueur body shaming hits not just angry buttons but shame switches too.
Just tell me what you sell and how useful it will be to me, and I won’t unlike your page.
“I just noticed you haven’t been blogging!”
At the risk of indulging in some navel gazing and completely turning away those of you who hadn’t already written me off, I thought I might make a low key comeback by interrogating myself and asking why I haven’t been blogging.
When I wrote about fatshion blogging and the sticky web it is weaving with brand partnerships and how it is mirroring fashion in mainstream media, I got a lot of flack. People didn’t want to have these tough questions put to them and accused me of ruining the fun, personally insulting them, and being a no-fun hack. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience and I gained little from it. I don’t even think fatshion bloggers paid much attention at all, because at this stage I still see that pretty much every blogger, even the ones just starting out, are going for brand appeal. In my mind, success as a blogger was breaking through to mainstream media and increasing my audience, and the way to do that was to participate in a culture I did not agree with – ergo I could never be successful as a blogger.
My decision to drop the sponsorship and advertising meant far less content. My financial situation meant far fewer new purchases, and in turn my outfit posts dropped as well. At the same time, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on medication; as easy as it is to say that the medication affected my ability to write, I can’t fully pin the blame there. We bought a house, and that meant even more financial struggle. My focus changed to figuring out how to make money as a person with disabilities, and a person who has self-taught skills and a fairly rigid set of values. (I am, if not anti-capitalist, definitely a doubting capitalist.) I wasn’t going to get a book deal from blogging because I was saying things people didn’t really want to hear, my audience was dwindling, and I’m not actually a very good or disciplined writer.
After five years of focusing on fine art, I decided to review my situation. No one was buying my original art because it was too expensive for the small circle of really lovely people who populate my audience, and I was struggling with the gallery system due to a lack of social skills and ongoing mental health problems. If no one has ever destroyed the troubled artist trope for you before, please allow me to do it now. Mental illness is a barrier to success in the art world. There are a number of artists who deal with illness and have found success but by far, the majority do not ever get there. So I needed to reconfigure my product and tailor it to my lifestyle. I already had Fancy Lady Industries so it seemed natural to expand! And for the last year that has been exactly what I’ve been focusing on.
Running Fancy Lady Industries has been full time and then some. I sketch, design, trial, produce, and put all the products together; I document my processes; I take product photos and write descriptions; I run the shop; I pack orders; and Nick and I promote on social media. I’ve been able to develop my stock and my business on my terms, and it is incredibly fulfilling and meaningful work.
Oh but I have had time for other things that aren’t especially interesting on a former fatshion blog! I’ve been taking care of my brain, playing ukulele, sewing, gardening and decorating my house. I’ve been drawing and painting as well, but for me, rather than for ~fine art~. I document all of this on Instagram and Twitter, and see little reason to repeat myself on this blog.
I’m still trying to figure out where definatalie.com fits in. I don’t write as much anymore because I have lots of stuff to do, but I have also lost a lot of concentration and word-finding ability on Lamotrigine (the med I take for bipolar). I don’t believe I need to shut down the blog because I hate the idea of never writing again, or never posting another photo of myself wearing clothes. I still believe representation of fat bodies is important! This will never be a daily content blog in the foreseeable future, because I see little value in an obligatory blogging schedule when I have naught to say. You will see me now and then when I have something I need to elaborate on. That’s the value of blogging in the current sphere of social media. You get my quick quips on Twitter, off the cuff snaps on Instagram, largely unedited rants and other things I like on Tumblr, but here on my blog you will be able to consume something longer, and a little more considered. (But probably still kind of inflammatory/ provocative/ charming?)
Where have I been? What have I been doing? These are questions you might be asking. Heck, I’ve been asking that of myself! I’ve actually sequestered myself in my study making lots of things, far from human contact (not really). Last night I launched the biggest update of Fancy Lady Industries in history and I figured, “hey why not tell people about it?” Obviously my social/ marketing skills are a bit rusty.
I hope you’ll come by the shop and check out what I’ve been busy doing!
I’ve been busy giving Fancy Lady Industries a complete overhaul, tinkering with its innermost workings and fine tuning the whole shebang so I can bring you new stuff in different ways. The most electrifying development amongst a cast of thrills is GOLD GLITTER fat necklaces! I’m running a presale for this limited edition of the fat necklace until May 29, so go get one.
While you’re over at the new shop, you might notice there’s a bunch of new things and some of them are available IMMEDIATELY! I’ve designed three embroidery patterns with a distinctly political flavour; each pdf comes with stitch suggestions and diagrams of common stitches so even if you’re new to needle work you can start with confidence. Fancy Babe is the first of a line of printable paper dolls and comes with clothes, hair and shoes so you can mix it up in your cubicle at work.
You want more? Ok! You know how I love to doodle when I really shouldn’t? I’ve decided to doodle on cards so you can keep one for yourself or send it to a nice person with lovely words inside it. The current bunch of art cards have bright gem powa designs and are named after cute minerals from the earth.
The last item I’m proud to show you is one of the collars I’ve made. This “Fat Doll” collar is made from burgundy vinyl and backed with felt; I’ve drafted this especially for people with bigger shoulders and necks. It’s a beautiful hand made art piece to embellish your carefully curated fatshion wardrobe.
Go browse the fance and don’t forget about pre-ordering your gold glitter fat necklace!
I’ve been drawing more and more with markers lately, and not even the fancy alcohol based ones. I only have a few of those (some Copics but mostly Shin Han Touch pens) and the few I have are running out of ink fast. A couple of weeks ago I saw Office Works had a tub of 50 Faber Castell Connector Pens on sale so I scooped them up and have been merrily doodling away the last few weeks. The difference between alcohol and water based pens is huge, you can blend and layer ink with the alcohol markers but if you put too many layers of ink down with a water based marker you’ll pull up a bunch of paper fibres. So they aren’t a proper substitute but they’re the substitute I can afford. For the price of 50 connector pens I would only be able to buy two or three alcohol based markers! These drawings use both types of markers; and the ability to layer and blend alcohol markers is evident in the first drawing.
My mother-in-law once said my drawings were rude and ever since then I’ve been self conscious about it. Considering a nude body as vulgar speaks of prudery and shame. I draw a collection of lines organised in a way that makes the brain conclude that it’s meant to represent a body, but there are other lines and shapes on these bodies that signify other things too. Art shouldn’t be read like a mirror, it’s more like a map. I really object to my drawings being read as titillating or erotic, as I’ve seen them put into that context on some tumblr blogs. It says a lot about the lack of respect for women’s bodies and the absolute disregard for consent, that an image of bare breasts is considered pornographic. I’m also reminded of all the boobs in ads targeted at men that are uncensored while images of breast feeding are considered offensive. I’m rolling my eyes directly at you, straight guys.
Since I was blessed with my bipolar 2 diagnosis a lot of things have started to make sense. I don’t want to make light of mood swings and behaviour changes, but I can identify with oscillating between saccharine whimsy and eye-rolling cynicism and it’s pretty evident in the sort of things I make. I also tend be more prolific when experiencing hypomania; I used to think my periods of frenzied output were just me returning to a normal functioning life (though these periods never lasted longer than a week or so), and so when I crashed into depression afterwards it was compounded with feelings of frustration and shame that I could never sustain this “normal” functioning mode.
When I am hypomanic I tend to speak more. Witty repartee rolls out of my face with ease and I feel like I sparkle with charisma – whether or not this is true is immaterial because I am right, and you are wrong. The ideas I have must be caught and put down on paper before they fall out of the air and plop into the bog of eternal stench (and depression). I notice the things I create are generally more light-hearted and amusing, but even if I’m dealing with difficult issues I will approach them with extreme whimsy. Hypomania as described by me sounds delightful, doesn’t it? I still have difficulty regarding it as not-normal because I have fetishised the normal functioning life other people seem to take for granted and enjoy so casually.
I have been medicated for about two years, and have experienced minimal mood swings for a lot of that time. I sometimes miss the flurry of ideas and activity of higher moods but I definitely do not miss the depression that I have experienced for the majority of my life. Coupled with mental illness, there’s a lot of bad stuff that’s happened to me so feeling higher than usual is a welcome change. People with bipolar 2 largely experience a majority of low moods and are a higher suicide risk amongst the spectrum of bipolar patients. The new normal for me is unravelling and I’m getting used to it, but I still experience swings however they aren’t as extreme.
So that’s the preamble. It might go a way towards explaining why I get caught up in whimsy, and in superficially delightful things even if they aren’t Adult and Serious. I think I’m nearly done with cynicism. There’s been enough crap I have to continually deal with, so any way I can make shit more wonderful I will do it.
My name is Natalie, I’m 32, and I have flowers all over my bike. Also I bought a ukulele (and I will never apologise, Helen Razer!)
Crochet patterns for these flowers are below if you want to choke people with joy as you cycle past:
Puffy nondescript flower
Here are a couple photos of Miffy for those who want to know how she’s healing after her enucleation. Her eyelid has healed beautifully and the hair is starting to grow back. It’s still a little weird when I look into her eyes and realise there’s only one there. I keep anxiously testing that eye and worrying about glaucoma claiming it as well, but for now she’s back to tearing around the house after her ball and playing tug of war with rag scraps.
Welcome to my sheet dress! Mum gave me this old floral sheet the other week and I was surprised at how heavy it was; I’ve never had the pleasure of sleeping on sheets of such quality! I pretty much never wear light coloured clothing so I’m baffled as to why I was so enthusiastic about using this sheet for the second of my self drafted day dresses, but I’m actually quite pleased with it.
I used the same skirt pattern as the spotty dress and added a few cute scalloped details on the sleeve and pocket. Pop over here to this tutorial on scalloped hems and you’ll get the gist of it. Once you can do scallops you can do a few different shapes and you’ll never have a boring hem again.
I had been wearing this dress all day when these photos were taken, so do excuse the creases. Next time I need to be sure to reduce the neckline gaping because I always forget about it until it’s too late. Nonetheless, it’s a very comfortable dress to wear around the house and I’m pretty chuffed.
I’ve wanted to draft my own properly fitting sloper for a long time, and over the last five years I had a couple of good attempts but was always foiled by formulas that completely collapsed when you used larger measurements. Lots of people seem to use this bodice block method by gedwoods on BurdaStyle but I’ve tried it and a number of others like it and it always ended with a mighty weird looking block. My fat body seemed to explode every damn sloper method it came across.
Upon tracking down this front and back sloper method on madalynne.com I knew within ten minutes that I was on a winner! It took me a couple of hours to plot out all my measurements, then a further few days sewing up about five different muslins in order to tweak the fit (using Fit For Real People); but when I tried on that last muslin I broke out into fits of Elaine Benes-grade joyful dancing!
Inspired by this Modcloth dress, I came up with a design to suit me. The neckline and the wide straps could stay, but the gathered waist was banished in favour of an a-line skirt. I wanted to include pockets but felt like I could do better than simple patch pockets for this dress. One morning a copy of Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear mysteriously turned up at my place (thank YOU Poliana!) and after ecstatically thumbing the pages I came across some rad side pockets that wrapped around to the back skirt. Yep! Let’s do that!
For those who’ve experienced the joys and frustrations of the design process, we know that design outcomes very rarely turn out just exactly as they are conceived. It’s not actually a terrible thing, and often you can trip across beautiful solutions to the little problems that are posed across the process. It turned out that I didn’t have enough polka dot fabric to execute the pockets as planned, but I did find a navy striped material that would provide a smashing contrast at the hips.
I will be tweaking this pattern slightly – I will narrow the width of the neckline because the straps are set just a little too wide. I also need to remove a little fabric from the back bodice height because of my sway back. I could stand to bring in the waist a little but I’d rather be comfortable – this is a day dress just for wearing at home and doing little errands. It’s fully cotton and the bodice is lined (with the striped fabric!) so after a few washes I expect it to be soft and very easy to wear.
Pattern drafting is a skill I’ve long been mystified and entranced by. Taking the human body, a very complex set of bumps and curves, and mapping it in two dimensions is very cool to me. I love drawing, bringing lines and shapes together to make meaning, and pattern drafting is an extension of that. That I can take lines and shapes, transfer them to flat bits of fabric, then transform that flat fabric to garments that envelop my body and accompany me through periods of my life… it’s just a very profound thing to me.
And that’s the story of my spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.