Fantastic Mrs Fox Dress

Fantastic Mrs Fox Dress, Tilly & The Buttons Martha Dress, Fantastic Mr Fox Outfit, Wes Anderson

One of the many excellent things Michael introduced me to were the films of Wes Anderson. He admired the impeccable styling and always wanted to host a Wes Anderson theme party where everyone dressed up as a character. In homage to this I recently had the idea of making a series of dresses inspired by each of his films. They will be a mix of dresses replicating the style of particular characters or using fabrics and prints referencing  favourite elements of each film, since my aim is to create fun but wearable dresses rather than exact costumes! Halloween weekend seems like the perfect time to start with my first dress, inspired by the animated film Fantastic Mr Fox and the dress Mrs Fox wears. I think Michael most wanted to dress up as Mr Fox in his dashing corduroy suit, and from what I’ve seen on Pinterest it’s a very popular couple’s Halloween costume!

Fantastic Mrs Fox Quote

Fantastic Mr Fox was one of our favourite films as Michael also loved the original Roald Dahl book. When we first moved to London he would say “Hello Fantastic Mr Fox!” to any fox we saw! We even chose the soundtrack to the film as part of the playlist for our wedding.

Fantastic Mrs Fox Dress, Tilly & The Buttons Martha Dress, Fantastic Mr Fox Outfit, Wes Anderson

I actually had the idea to make Mrs Fox’s dress a few months ago when I first saw Tilly & The Buttons Martha dress pattern. The collar and shaping of the dress instantly made me think of Mrs Fox, so I picked up a copy of the pattern at Tilly’s stall at The Handmade Fair in September.

1. Spoonflower  /  2. Benartex Red Apples from eBay /  3. Japanese Twill from Miss Matatabi  

Mrs Fox’s dress is mustard yellow with red apples and after hunting online I found a few similar options. The best replica is a print I found on Spoonflower, but it was just a bit too expensive by the time I factored in VAT and shipping in the amount I needed to make the Martha dress. I was pleased when I found a similar and more affordable alternative on eBay. It’s a little bit more beige and less yellow in real life than it looked on the screen, but I think it still obviously references Mrs Fox’s dress. Annoyingly, just as I was finishing this dress a few days ago I stumbled upon another excellent possibility from one of my favourite Etsy sellers Miss Matatabi which is very close to the actual print, and on sale too! Oh well!

Fantastic Mrs Fox Dress, Tilly & The Buttons Martha Dress, Fantastic Mr Fox Outfit, Wes Anderson

I styled it with my foxy eye mask which was a DIY from an early Lucky Dip Club box, a badge I found on Etsy to replicate Mrs Fox’s cameo brooch, and some bright orange tights from We Love Colors.  All in all, a cussing great outfit!!

Fantastic Mr Fox

Etsy Wishlist: Fantastic Mr Fox edit

As well as the many incredible costumes I’ve seen inspired by the Wes Anderson films, there is also so much great fan art out there and I’ve put together a wishlist of foxy Etsy products I have my eye on!

1. Ash brooch by Sayonara Baby  /  2. Print by Fable & Black

3. Fox Knitting Kit by Sincerely Louise  /  4. Running Fox necklace by Layla Amber

It was a lot of fun making and styling this dress and I know Michael would have absolutely loved it. I’ve got lots of ideas for my next dresses inspired by Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom (my personal favourite) and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m missing off Bottle Rocket since I can’t really decide how to do it, and it was never really our favourite, so I think I can forgive the exception. All just a bit of fun, but I’m sure Michael would have loved to know I was doing this. He was actually working on a few Lego projects inspired by Wes Anderson buildings, which I might share pictures of in the corresponding posts too.

Happy Halloween!

Lucy x

Advertisements

Blanket of Hugs Raffle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am delighted to launch a raffle in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund to win one of the beautiful #jennysblanketofhugs blankets!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Blanket of Hugs measures approximately 1.35m x 1.55m and is made up of handmade squares in a mix of pinks, reds and oranges, all joined together with bright green yarn. The squares are a mix of plain, striped and bobble stitches, decorated with a scattering of handmade flowers, hearts and butterflies. The blanket is finished with a bobble stitched edge and a fabulous giant pom pom in each corner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Raffle tickets are only £3 each and can be bought by making a donation on Just Giving. Multiple tickets can be bought by making donations in multiples of £3, e.g. 2 tickets for a donation of £6. The winner will be drawn at 9pm on Wednesday 9 November 2016 and announced on Facebook and Instagram. PLEASE NOTE this raffle is open to UK entrants only. Sorry to any international friends, I’m afraid the blanket is just too big to justify international postage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The story behind this blanket is truly wonderful. The Blanket of Hugs is the result of a wonderful appeal to the crochet community to create a blanket of hugs for our friend Jenny, made up of squares (or mini “hugs”!) handmade by people all around the world. The response was so incredible that as well as a blanket for Jenny and her wonderful Mum Amanda, an extra 5 blankets were created, and Jenny selected 5 charities to donate the extra blankets to. I was delighted when Jenny chose Michael’s fund, and we decided to raffle our blanket.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jenny’s lovely Mum Amanda is the creator of the fabulous crochet subscription box, Little Box of Crochet. Amanda began her business not only from her love of crochet and creativity but also from personal need, as her beautiful daughter Jenny had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. When Jenny’s cancer returned for a third time, and with so many friends following their story, Amanda and Jenny’s friend Kate (of Just Pootling) wanted to find a way for the crochet community to show their support. Jenny needed a blanket, a blanket of hugs, that she could wrap herself in to feel all the positivity and love that everyone was sending from all corners of the world. And so the idea for #jennysblanketofhugs was born.

img_4595

Kate put out a call on Instagram and her blog and was immediately inundated with responses. She set to work choosing yarn in Jenny’s favourite colours and designing three different styles of squares to make up the blanket. People from all around the world wanted to take part and send Jenny their love, and the demand was so high that suppliers quickly started to sell out of yarn in the chosen colours! Over the next few weeks parcels started to arrive from Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, Germany, America and so many more countries  – literally all the corners of the globe! By the closing date Kate had received over 1,000 squares! To use Kate’s words, it was “TOTALLY AMAZINGLY FABULOUS!”

img_5200

After weeks of sorting through all of the squares and pinning them up into blankets (using no less than 3,000 safety pins!), Kate, Amanda, Jenny and a group of 20 crochet friends who volunteered to help arranged a gathering to join all of the squares up into blankets. Our blanket was then finished off by Clare, who added a fabulous bobble trim and huge pom poms on each corner!

So not only is this blanket a work of art, it is more importantly a global expression of love and support. I can’t quite describe how overwhelmingly wonderful the blanket is knowing just how much love and countless hours of work from people all around the world has gone into it. Now you have the opportunity to call it your own and wrap yourself up in hugs, whilst helping to support an incredibly important cause.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killers of children and under 40s yet receive less than 2% of the national spend on cancer research in the UK and so funding for this research is vitally needed. All proceeds from the raffle will be used to fund research into high grade brain tumours in the hope that we might reduce the harm caused by brain tumours, improve survival and one day find a cure.

img_5158

I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this and I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to my dear new friends Jenny and Amanda for choosing Michael’s fund to receive one of the blankets, to Kate for organising #jennysblanketofhugs, to everyone who contributed a square, to the fabulous ladies who helped join the blankets together and to Clare for finishing this blanket off so beautifully!

So head over to Just Giving to buy your ticket now! Thank you for your support!

Lucy x

(If you would like to learn more about #jennysblanketof hugs, you can read the full story here or scroll the instagram hashtag here)

Tip Top Like Soda Pop! Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well this might just be the most perfect fabric for me yet – it’s Tip Top Like Soda Pop! As regular readers will know, this was my Michael’s number one catchphrase and something I have used as inspiration for our fundraising line of products to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund. So when a very lovely new friend came to visit last week and gave me some of this gorgeous fabric from the Michael Miller Sodalicious range, knowing how perfect it would be for me, I was over the moon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tip Top Like Soda Pop! dress: made by me in Michael Miller Lotsa Pop fabric in Lime from the Sodalicious collection, using the By Hand London Kim bodice and Flora skirt / Custom necklace: Punky Pins / Enamel pin: Smile & Make / Headband: made by me / Petticoat: Palava / Yellow clogs: Lotta from Stockholm

I used some of the red fabric from the Sodalicious range to make Tip Top wall pennants to sell, and I had been hoping to make a dress from it someday too, so it was a wonderful surprise to be gifted the fabric I wanted in the perfect amount to make a dress with. The shape of the soda bottle in the print is almost exactly the same as the Tip Top Like Soda Pop pin I designed using Michael’s drawings ( shameless plug here… there are still a few pins available in my Etsy shop, and all proceeds go to support brain tumour research through The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund). So it will come as no surprise that this fabric immediately leapt to the top of my sewing pile as I couldn’t wait to make it into a dress!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As this print has an American Diner feel I thought it would suit a cute 50s dress with a full skirt for twirling in, and I have been wanting to try combining the By Hand London Kim dress bodice with the flippy circle skirt from the Flora dress to create this effect. I’m really pleased with how it turned out – just how I hoped it would look in my head! And whilst I intended it as a fresh summery dress, I hope this lovely shade of green will be equally at home styled with a mustard yellow cardi and brown woolly tights for Autumn/Winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This dress has a circle skirt, and usually when you make a circle skirt it is best to use an all over print rather than a pattern which runs in one direction, as otherwise the print will not run level across all of the fabric of the voluminous skirt! As you can see this pattern is very directional with the soda pop bottles running in stripes, so I decided to cut the skirt in panels to keep the stripes running fairly level all around the skirt. This worked particularly well with the Flora skirt pattern as it has knife pleats at the front and box pleats at the back, so I could hide the seams joining the panels of the skirt together in the folds of the pleats. The only down side of using panels is that the skirt has lost a little bit of the drape it would have had if I’d cut it as a complete circle as none of the fabric has been cut on the bias, which is what gives circle skirts their lovely float and movement. I still think it was worth it to keep the print even across the skirt, and it looks fabulous with one of my pouffy Palava petticoats underneath!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So there we have it, a Tip Top dress! I’m off to sip on some soda pop and twirl around the living room…

Lucy x

Finding my feet

10150266776365874

If grief is the negative image of love and if it hurts just as much as it was worth then pain is a form of remembering” – author Julian Barnes, in conversation with Robert Peston.

This is a post I’ve been wanting to share for some time but I wasn’t quite sure how, or even if, I should write it. I hesitated as although I have written about loss and grief before, I have tried to do so in a positive voice, because I believe that is the best way I can honour Michael. This is a lot more honest and personal than anything else I have written and I’m not sure if this is something anyone will want to read, but I feel it is important for me to write this now, partly because I find writing so therapeutic and also because I am learning that modern society is horrendous at dealing with bereavement, especially in younger people, and if we don’t talk about it that will never change. I also often worry that I’ve become so used to being strong and putting on my brave face that I make all this seem easier than it is, or as if I’m coping better than I really am.

Something I am still finding incredibly difficult is having to speak from my perspective alone. Talking about what I feel and what I have lost seems insignificant when the biggest loss of all is Michael’s – the life he should have lived, the years he should have filled with his infectious personality and immense capacity for love. But I know I have to learn to talk in these terms, so here goes.

It’s been just over 7 months since Michael died and somehow I am surviving the days and tentatively taking steps into this new world without him. For anyone, the loss of a partner is life altering. Your entire future disappears; not just the love and companionship of the partner you have lost but also the hopes and dreams for the life you planned together. As we were at a very particular point in our lives when Michael was taken ill where everything we had been planning for was just about to happen, the extent of the loss was magnified.

1917964_670141214839_5182945_n

Before Michael became ill, we were a young married couple and life was full of possibility. We met in Oxford, fell in love, moved to London together, got married, left London for new jobs in Nottingham, and were desperately saving to buy our first house and move back to my hometown of Newcastle-under-Lyme ready to start a family. Then in January 2014, the day before we were due to sign contracts for the purchase of our first house, Michael had a seizure which led to the discovery of a Grade 3 cancerous brain tumour, and our world was turned upside down.

Above all else Michael needed me and I had to be by his side, and so from that day I did not go back to work. We had to let go of the house we were buying while he focused on getting through surgery, and so we put our dreams on hold. At first we hoped it might just be for a few months while he recovered from the surgery and got through a gruelling course of radiotherapy. Michael and I both loved to plan, and had so far approached our life together with endless enthusiasm and ideas for how to make the most out of each chapter. This was to become an important coping mechanism for us, and so we began to adjust.

We took the leap of moving Michael’s care from Nottingham to Newcastle-under-Lyme so that we could still relocate as planned. We moved into a small rental property close to the hospital so we could easily walk to his treatment sessions each day. We unpacked our new home, filling it with happiness and colour. We embraced all of the extra time we now had together, even if it was mostly spent either at home while Michael rested or on tentative trips venturing little further than our own postcode. We scaled back our dreams and looked at smaller houses we might buy once he got through the treatment and we could both gradually go back to work. We talked about new careers and options, trying to embrace the silver lining of this life altering change, and we clung on to hope.

photo

But the treatment didn’t work and the side effects made Michael incredibly poorly, so a few months turned into a year, with more surgery and chemotherapy planned. Again we tried to adapt to the change. We moved to another rental house within walking distance of my parents, family and oldest friends so we had the support we needed on our doorstep. We stopped talking about buying houses or trying new careers because it all seemed too painful, but the dreams were still there in our hearts and our secret shared Pinterest boards. We cherished every moment and tried to continue making the best of the time we had. And we hoped.

At the beginning of 2016 Michael became more unwell and we were told there was nothing more we could do. Seven weeks later I lost the love of my life, the other half of my whole. Suddenly there was no more hope because we couldn’t save him, and there was never going to be a silver lining.

p1010900

I moved out of our rented house and back home with my parents, not just out of necessity but also choice. I am fortunate to be incredibly close with my parents and they were by our side every step of the way from the moment Michael was first taken ill, so it was a natural decision. I don’t want to live alone now and I couldn’t function without my Mum and Dad’s love and support, and their loss was just as significant as they loved Michael deeply, so now we look after each other while we find our way in these dark days. I decided to take some time out rather than trying to go back to my previous career, largely because I was a Solicitor specialising in preparing Wills and dealing with the administration of estates when someone dies, which I obviously couldn’t face now. My job also feels like part of a life that doesn’t really belong to me anymore.

Despite not working, in the months that have passed I have kept myself busy. I packed up and moved out of our house, dealt with all of the painful practicalities of loss and decorated and settled into my bedroom at my new/old home with my Mum & Dad. I discovered some artists’ studios available in Stoke and, feeling like trying something new, I signed up for a creative space to share with my Mum. I set up our beautiful studio with the hope that once I feel ready we might start hosting fun creative workshops in the space, but until then as a place to take time out from the world and heal. I’ve learned dressmaking and made 36 dresses and 2 jumpsuits, and started to learn pattern drafting with a view to potentially selling the dresses I make.

Most significantly, I have set up a fund with The Brain Tumour Charity in Michael’s name to raise money for brain tumour research which is drastically underfunded and has little public awareness, then created and launched a range of fundraising products inspired by my Michael, organised a fundraising auction, and took part in two wonderfully successful fundraising events organised by Michael’s friends, so that in total we have already raised over £10,000. So you could say I’ve been busy, and all at a time when I am in the murky depths of grief and it takes most of my energy just to get out of bed each morning.

p1020886

I’m not saying any of this to blow my own trumpet, but more as a small acknowledgement of what I have achieved at the hardest time in my life, and I guess a justification for why I haven’t just gone back to work. I know that my life is different to most people my age (29, in case you were wondering). I knew it would be from the moment a doctor in A&E took me into a side room to show me the MRI scan revealing a brain tumour. I’ve experienced the extremes of life in a way most people will, fortunately, never understand and I am a very different person because of it. To borrow from the brilliant writer Nora McInerny Purmort (who I have raved about before as everything she has written about her own loss has helped me immensely):

Yes you are thankful that you had it at all, that you were loved and seen, that you lived your vows fully, that you witnessed life and suffering and death while all your peers were like, I don’t know what you were doing but probably just something more normal and sometimes hi I hate you for that I can’t help it I’m sorry I’m in therapy. Sad isn’t the right word. It’s bigger than that, so much bigger.

So now I’m trying to learn how to acknowledge the difference, and try to cope with the anger and jealousy I often feel for anyone who gets to live the life I should have had. What I wanted was a calm but happy life, with a husband and a family, a decent job, a nice house. That is not going to be my life now. There are no more rules to follow and it’s time for me to tentatively start treading my own path. I am determined that Michael’s legacy will be what shapes my life rather than ruins it. I am fighting every day to try and establish an existence holding on to what I can from our plans for our life together, in so far as is possible now I have to go it alone. And most importantly I have a huge responsibility of living for the both of us now. That’s what helps me to take on each day even when it all feels too much.

lucy_michael_w_296

Whilst I am starting to rebuild my life, I am not trying to “move on”. I am learning that Michael’s death isn’t something I will ever get over, and nor should I, and that grief for the loss of my soulmate will become part of who I am just as much as his love is.

When you lose someone, you are often routinely offered platitudes and clichéd phrases about time being a healer and how someday you will move on. In most cases such comments are well meaning and really no-one’s fault – as a society we are terrible at talking about grief, and most of us instinctively want to say something cheering and positive in the face of sadness. Yet I have found this approach to be unhelpful and incredibly difficult when you are talking to someone who is bereaved. You cannot fix the problem or cure their grief and chances are they don’t want you to. Michael and I loved each other so intensely that it would be completely wrong for me to do anything other than feel this pain. What I need is for people to just be there experiencing it with me, and trusting me to let it shape the type of person I want to become. You don’t have to make it better. You just have to be there, and not look away. The best anyone can do is to show up, sometimes to help me to escape it or other times to just be at my side in the darkness. As Megan Devine wrote in the Huffington Post, “when we don’t see grief as a problem to be solved, but instead as an experience to be supported, loved, and witnessed — then we can really talk about what helps.

So what comes next? Right now, I’m just trying to take my time, and every day is still a challenge. I know that I can’t yet give all of my creative ideas for the future quite the attention they deserve, so for now our studio will continue to be a place to while away a calm and peaceful afternoon at the sewing machine, and hope that perhaps next year I might be ready to give it a go. I’m also having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the internet at times. You all know how much I love the Instagram community as I’ve gained so much friendship and support from it, but it can be intense, overwhelming and hard to keep up with, so I’m working on finding a better balance.

I’m also  going to be taking a little bit of a slower pace with fundraising for The Michael Barry Fund over the next few months. Setting everything up and turning my initial fundraising ideas into a reality has taken a lot of energy. Whilst the charity work is incredibly important to me and something I am making a lifelong commitment to, and a huge part of what has saved me these past few months, I’m realising that I also need to take a little more time to figure out my own life in the midst of it all. But I have so many more ideas up my sleeve once I’ve had a little rest, and I know our friends and family will be keeping up the sterling fundraising in the meantime. I’ll also be continuing to sell my Tip Top wares through Etsy and occasionally in real life too.

I’m sure this has been an incredibly heavy going read, and I know that my little blog is usually a place where people might like to stumble upon pretty pictures of dresses I’ve made. But writing about Michael and our story, both the magnificence of the love we shared and the horror of the illness which took him from me, is really an inseparable part of all this. It’s the reason I’m writing this blog and trying something new rather than sitting behind a desk in my old life, and I hope this gives a little more context and understanding, so please indulge the interruption.

Lucy x