Starting 2018 off sewing

In the past five weeks I have been questioning a lot about myself, my life and the path that I’ve been on. One thing that has led to is the conviction that I need to get back into sewing. I’ve missed it dearly and honestly, it’s what I’m best at. I will write a whole post about it at some point. But for now, here are pretty things.

I made these two reconstructed dresses over the past week.
The first is reconstructed from a skirt and a top which I never wore, with other scraps added to it. I love how it turned out so much! It’s so cute and comfy. A perfect dress for a casual lolita look, but could also be dressed up with a blouse and petticoat and everything.

DSC04839 copy

DSC04841 copy

Despite all the layers it’s really light, which I love.

DSC04843 copy

I got the middle strip of lace from a second-hand market last week. Antique lace is the loveliest.

DSC04844

This old, ill-fitting Queen of Darkness skirt and an ill-fitting thrifted top formed the base of the dress:

DSC04836

I took this skirt apart almost completely, while I kept the top basically intact, save for the closure. (Yes, the skirt was beautiful, but I’m a punk crafter and have no remorse.)

DSC04837

This second dress I reconstructed from a vintage dress I’ve had sitting in my closet for years. I got it from the Brick Lane market in London, back in 2012. It was a shapeless maxi dress with embroidery and long sleeves. Not the type of dress I would have usually considered, but the dye-job on this was absolutely gorgeous.

Because of the dye-job I sought to make it work. I already altered it a bit back then: shortened the sleeves and took in the waist with elastic. It didn’t help much. So it sat in my closet. I only took it out again last week, and now I’ve finally managed to salvage it.

DSC04828-copy2

It’s super flattering, comfortable and has pockets! I can see myself wearing this a lot in the summer, and on my next trip to the tropics.

DSC04830-copy2

DSC04831-copy copy

DSC04834 copy

The little things I added are all old things from my scrap heap. The stringy thing for the bow I made myself, back when I was in fashion school (2010?) and had to research different textile techniques. This method was a sort of knitting; it’s called “punniken” in Dutch, I have no idea what it is in English. At long last, it’s gotten a purpose.

This is what the dress was before:

DSC04826 copy

Thanks for looking!

Advertisements

Video – KILLSTAR unboxing

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in a month! NaNoWriMo is a terrible excuse. I will get back to regular blogging soon. For now, here’s a nice & frivolous KILLSTAR unboxing video. Filmed this last week & painstakingly edited today.

All from the official KILLSTAR site.

The items I ordered:
Stockholm Syndrome cardigan
Nu War Hood maxi dress
Dye Fast crop top
Nisha harness
Rayne Mesh maxi skirt
Hell-O Platform booties

My NaNoWriMo 2017 participation

tea+candle+notebook

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, it’s a contest in which writers from all over the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000 draft of a novel in the month of November. I wanted to write something new and the timing of that coincided with NaNo, so here we are. If I’m not as active on my blog this month, that will be why.

Last year I made a video about the pros and cons of this contest. I think my conclusion was that it was a great initiative, but for me the cons outweighed the pros. It’s too focused on word count, which does not work well for me personally. I had to scrap over 26,000 words of vomit that resulted in my previous attempt and was left with only the idea of a novel. And yet I’m doing it again this year.

I’m more laid-back with my participation this time though. I’m not as obsessed with reaching the word goal. Sure, 50,000 words would be nice to have at the end of the month, but I’m more concerned about the time I’m investing in my writing. NaNoWriMo has a nifty new feature where you can input personal goals, which can also be hours instead of words.

I’ve challenged myself to work on my novel for 82 hours this month. That’s 3 hours a day, with some wiggle room. Those hours include both planning/outlining facets of my novel and the writing of the novel itself. So far I’ve been doing very well with my hour-goals. Only last weekend I didn’t put in as many hours as I liked, but otherwise I’ve reached or surpassed the 3 hours a day. I’m behind on the general word goal, but I don’t care as much as I usually do.

I’m writing a new novel. Something brimming with a lot more promise than previous things I’ve written. I’m working on it every day. It’s taking concrete shape. This is how NaNoWriMo can be immensely valuable. Bend the rules, personalise it to fit your own goals and watch the magic unfold.

Video – My top 11 favourite spooky books

Books mentioned:

1. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
The most original haunted house story out there. It’s deeply psychological and genuinely scary.

2. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
The classic story of the mad scientist and his creature.

3. Dracula – Bram Stoker
The classic story of the evil count and the people who band together to bring him down.

4. Drawing Blood – Poppy Z. Brite
Trevor McGee returns to his childhood house in Missing Mile where his father killed his family and himself. There he meets Zachary Bosch, a hacker on the run. They fall in love, even as the house and their past threaten to destroy them.

5. The Bloody Chamber and other Stories – Angela Carter
Dark, twisted retellings of fairytales and legends like Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast. There are no innocent maidens here.

6. Dracula’s Guest: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories – edited by Michael Sims
Vampire stories from a period in which vampires were actually scary. Stories with their roots in Eastern European peasant superstition, romanticised accounts which emphasise the erotic, plus an omitted chapter from the most famous vampire book in history.

7. The Complete Tales and Poems – Edgar Allan Poe
Collection of stories and poems from one of the most beloved darkly inclined writers.

8. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
“A deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the dramatic struggle that ensues when an unexpected visitor interrupts their unusual way of life.”

9. The Vampire Chronicles – Anne Rice
The mesmerising, richly detailed stories of the most seductive of vampires: from Louis, Lestat and Claudia to the mother of them all.

10. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black
In Tana’s world vampires are part of everyday life, though they are generally quarantined in deceptively glamourous ‘Coldtowns’. Tana survives a massacre by non-quarantined vampires, along with her infected ex-boyfriend and a mysterious captive. Determined to do the right thing, Tana takes them to the nearest Coldtown.

11. We Are Wormwood – Autumn Christian
“Ever since she was a child, Lily has been pursued by a demonic girl with wormwood eyes. As Lily struggles with her schizophrenic mother’s decline into insanity, the death of her somnambulist childhood love, and her own painful, disturbed adolescence, she must face the strange girl that haunts her. Yet something is chasing her that is much more dangerous. A darkly surreal, drug-coated romance, We are Wormwood tells an inhuman love story, and the transformation that results from affection among monsters.”

Short story – What I wish I could have done

Couldn’t get all the me-too’s and sexual harassment/abuse stories I read about yesterday out of my head. This morning I opened up my word processor and this came out. Based on a personal experience.

Night_train

It had been a long night. I put my headphones on and played some calming, melancholy music. Two hours till the night train reached its destination. It was pitch black outside. Only every once in a while, a light flashed by.

I took out a book, even though I felt too tired to read. I placed my bag on the seat next to me and stretched my legs out. I comfortably occupied almost the whole four-seat area. If only I had a cup of tea. A cup of tea would have made this perfect.

I saw some movement from the corner of my eye. Someone pushed my legs aside. I looked up from my book. A young man sat in the seat opposite me. He smiled. Almost the whole coupe was empty and this guy had to force himself into my cosy space. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t sit somewhere else.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“Fine,” I mumbled and turned back to my book.

“You’re very pretty. You have a unique look about you. Not like the other girls.”

I ignored him. Hopefully he would get the hint.

“Can I have your number?”

I kept my eyes fixed on the page.

“Those are cool shoes. I’ve never seen anything like them.” He touched my knee. It felt like a hit from a sledgehammer.

I wiggled my legs away.

“You’re very pretty.”

I glanced up reluctantly. “If you don’t mind, I would rather be alone right now.” I cringed at the polite words that came out. I should have said: ‘Get the fuck away from me, creepy motherfucker!’ Why am I always compelled to be polite?

“Can I have your number?” This asshole already had his phone out.

“Please, I would rather be alone.” I still had my headphones on. I couldn’t believe this was happening through the divine tones of Lana del Rey. I hoped I wouldn’t associate her music with this creep later.

“Give me your number.”

I stuffed my book in my bag. “Fine, I’ll leave.”

He shot back, his eyes widening. His mouth fell open with puckered lips. For a moment, I felt guilty for offending him. I hated that guilt.

He recovered. “No, don’t. I’ll leave.” He inclined his head towards me and took my hand between his. “I’ll leave.” He sounded so earnest. Yet he didn’t let go of my hand.

White-hot rage boiled up inside me. With my free hand, I reached for something in my bag. The lights crackled.

*

Half an hour later the conductor walked past. “Tick—What happened here?” She gasped.

I looked down at the cleaver in my hands. It was red and sticky. My lovely floral dress was ruined too. The seat opposite me was the worst though. Like a red waterfall had crashed over it. Then there were the body parts…

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I didn’t mean to make such a mess. It was just—He wouldn’t leave. Why couldn’t he take a hint?”

“He harassed you?”

I nodded.

“Oh, honey. Are you alright?” The conductor’s eyes were full of sympathy.

“I suppose. It could have been worse.”

The conductor shook her head. “Don’t say that. These things should never happen. No woman should have their safety compromised for merely being outside and alone.”

The cleaver was still warm.

“Look, there’s a bathroom up there. Why don’t you go and get yourself cleaned up? I’ll take care of this.” The conductor motioned to the carnage.

“Thank you.” I smiled weakly. “Thank you so much.”

The conductor shrugged. “Like I said, these things should never happen.”

My favourite vampire movies

Ah, October. The most magical month of the year. The leaves are turning, the winds are howling, and Halloween is just around the corner.

One of the things I enjoy doing in October is to bundle up inside, with someone I love, cinnamony snacks and a pot of chai, and watch spooky movies. Most of the spooky movies I like seem to be vampire movies. These are my favourites:

Only Lovers

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

This is not just one of my favourite vampire movies, but one of my favourite movies of all time. It’s a beautiful story about two long-term lovers and how they survive in the modern world. The characters, atmosphere and soundtrack are fantastic. I can never get enough of watching this.

Interview-with-a-Vampire-interview-with-a-vampire-12423170-1280-720

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

What goth does not love this movie? Who has not fallen in love with the brooding, dramatic Louis, perfectly devilish Lestat and deceptively sweet little Claudia? This movie celebrates everything we love about vampires with all the flair and panache it can muster. After twenty-three years, it remains unrivalled.

lettherightonein2

Låt den rätte komma in / Let the Right One In (2008)

Like Only Lovers, it’s primarily a love story. It’s also highly driven by the characters and atmosphere. The protagonist is quiet 12-year-old Oskar, who is relentlessly bullied at school and obsessed with true crime. He meets a mysterious girl who is new in the neighbourhood. Coincidentally, a string of violent attacks start to occur at her arrival. The horror is certainly there, but as a whole it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

dienacht3

Wir Sind die Nacht We Are the Night (2010)

With all the brooding vampires around, it’s refreshing to see vampires who enjoy, and even revel in, being vampires. More so when those vampires are women. In Wir Sind die Nacht all vampires, in fact, are women. Doesn’t that make for an intriguing premise? And isn’t Wir Sind die Nacht a killer title?

nosferatu

Nosferatu (1922)

A classic. I have seen this several times in a theatre setting with live music and every time it scared the shit out of me. No vampire movie has scared me quite like the almost century-old Nosferatu. It’s all in the atmosphere and portrayal of the vampire.

dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

If I believed in guilty pleasures, that’s what I would call this. The special effects, the acting, the soundtrack, the costumes; It’s all completely over the top and ridiculous, but I love it.

Hotel-Transylvania-3

Hotel Transylvania (2012)

I’m not generally a fan of (children’s) animated movies, but my girlfriend suckered me into watching this. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a really cute story about a young vampire girl, her hilariously overprotective father, and a human boy who she falls for. In an interesting twist, the monsters in this world are scared of the humans, instead of the other way around.

wwdits

What We Do In the Shadows (2014)

Another kooky one in the mix. This is a mockumentary style film that follows a group of vampire roommates in their daily (nightly?) lives. It shows their struggles of dividing up the chores, getting dressed without a mirror, having to feed on massive amounts of blood and other ordinary things. It plays with the clichés in the genre brilliantly.

Series Review – Girlboss

girlboss-jacket

Girlboss is about twentysomething misfit Sophia and how she builds her vintage clothing business, Nasty Gal. While building her business, she has to deal with a hernia, unsatisfied customers, neglected friends and other vintage sellers who disagree with her methods. The show is full of colourful characters and fantastic fashion.

From the beginning the main character, Sophia, is insufferable. She walks over everyone else to have her own way, acts like she knows absolutely everything and expects others to be endeared by her quirks. Her best friend, Annie, is not much more likeable. This made the first couple of episodes hard to get through. And yet, there was something about the show that made me keep watching.

The story was intriguing enough and the aesthetic fantastic. Watching Sophia go through all that vintage clothing, while well-dressed herself, inspired me to go back to my favourite thrift shops and experiment more with my own style myself. Also, to get my bangs cut again. And go to San Francisco.

girlboss-computer

Her entrepreneurship was very inspiring too. She’s not a girl you expect to succeed, but she turns out to be highly resourceful. She actively solves problems and is shown to have good business sense. Together with showing her vulnerability, she becomes a lot more likeable over the course of the series. In the final episodes I was happy to see her succeed with her business and really felt for her when she was unexpectedly betrayed.

Unfortunately, only snippets of the building of her company are shown. Most of the storyline seems to be about Sophia’s personal life, her relationships and struggles (unlike what the trailer suggests). I would have liked to see more about the business side of it. The best episodes are the ones which center on some facet of Nasty Gal, like ‘Ladyshopper99’ in which Sophia goes through every resource to satisfy a disgruntled customer. The ones which are more about Sophia’s relationships, like ‘Top 8’ and ‘The Trip’, I could have done without.

girlboss-shane

The humour in the series is here and there. Sometimes it’s hilarious, like in the dialogue or in the portrayal of certain characters. Other times it completely misses the mark. In the already mentioned ‘Top 8’ for example; I kept waiting for those outlandish flashbacks to become funny, but they never did.

It was inconsistent in tone too. The text messages and sales popping up on the screen, to name some, seemed out of place. Those didn’t fit with the rest of the tone/aesthetic the series was going for. In ‘Vintage Fashion Forum’ the incorporation of the internet was brilliant though. I loved how they showed the interaction between the characters on the forum and in the chatroom.

If you like stories about female entrepreneurs, vintage fashion and Wes Anderson type humour, give Girlboss a shot. Even if you don’t love the main character, you may find yourself binge-watching it late into the night.

Lessons learned in a clothing distribution centre

rack_jimkillock

For the past five months I worked full-time in a clothing distribution centre of a fairly big Dutch clothing brand. I packaged orders at the webshop, threw products onto a conveyor belt, unpacked and put products in storage, etc. It wasn’t my first choice of jobs, but, you know, writers also have bills to pay.

I learned a lot from my experience there though. Here are some of the things I took away from it:

  • ANY job is better than no job. Even if all you do is sticker price tags all day, it’s still better than sitting at home useless and parasitically living off other people.
  • Any work can be fulfilling if you’re continually learning new things and getting better at it.
  • If you have nice, fun colleagues it vastly improves your general experience. They are invaluable in this kind of repetitive work.
  • Repetitive actions, like folding and storing clothes, can be meditative and calming; they also give you an excellent opportunity to come up with solutions to problems in your creative projects.
  • Any attempt to wear cute clothes and chunky jewellery when you do physical work is futile.
  • Learn from others who have been at the job longer. Try methods that you see others use, even if it seems illogical to you. It will help you in the long run.
  • Make tasks as easy on yourself as possible. Doing something the hard way won’t impress anyone.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask men for help for something that requires physical strength. You may think you’re strong and tough and can totally do all the things the boys can, but sometimes you’ll just unnecessarily injure yourself if you lift something that’s too heavy for you.
  • A lot more clothes can fit in a box than you expect. Sometimes, you’ll think no, it’s way too much, there’s too big a pile sticking out at the top, it’ll never fit. Just close the box; it’ll fit.
  • Always wash new clothes.
  • The best way to wake up on a work morning is by putting on some cheerful music and singing along loudly. At work, cheerful music is also great to keep motivated.
  • Speaking of music, what the Dutch call fout (‘wrong’, meaning something like guilty pleasure) music is significantly more enjoyable than the modern pop shit on the radio.
  • A positive mindset improves every experience (one of those lessons that you have to learn over and over again).

Picture by Jim Killock

Music Review – Stray From the Path’s Only Death is Real

strayfromthepathonlydeath

Say what you will about the current political situation, it does make for some damn fine music.

Stray From the Path’s Only Death is Real is a relentless attack against the present U.S. administration, and its supporters, from start to finish. SFTP have made brutal, confrontational political music before, but not to this degree.

Only Death wastes no time in engaging the listener and demanding them to pick a side. “You with us or the enemy?” in ‘The Opening Move’. This polarisation is characteristic of the album as a whole. Every song shoves SFTP’s political views down your throat, leaving you no room to breathe. It sounds great if you agree with them. If you don’t… Well, you probably won’t listen to this album for long.

Musically, SFTP have not changed much. Rage Against the Machine influenced riffs, punishing breakdowns that make you yearn for a moshpit, vocals that are more rapped than sung. The first couple of songs on Only Death sound very exciting. But then they tend to bleed into each other. The only standout tracks are ‘Goodnight Alt-Right’, ‘The House Always Wins’ and ‘Only Death is Real’.

There are some gems in the long-running stream of vitriol though. The opening of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ for one: “Everything has its price, but the price is wrong bitch.” SFTP do have a knack for creating killer opening lines. Lines that you can’t help but belt out as loud as you can wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. I also love the breakdown in ‘Plead the Fifth’, with the lyrics “Welcome to the melting pot motherfucker. If you don’t like it, then get the fuck out.” And, of course, Keith Buckley kills it in ‘Strange Fiction’.

Only Death is a good album overall. However, it doesn’t have the same replay value as SFTP’s previous couple of albums. It’s too specifically political and has too little innovation.

Rating: 7/10

Recommended for fans of Rage Against the Machine, Hatebreed, Stick To Your Guns etc.

The best thing about travelling

LucMercelis_rome

There are a lot of nice things about travelling. You get to temporarily escape your daily, hopefully not so dreary, life, explore new, exciting places, meet new, inspiring people; just to name a couple. I enjoy all of these. But what I consider to be the best?

The necessity of living out of a suitcase, or backpack.

It sounds trivial compared to what I mentioned first. It probably sounds like one of the more irksome parts of travelling too. Hell, I used to hate being confined to a suitcase when I went on vacation as a kid. I always thought I needed ALL MY THINGS all the time, so I overpacked my battered suitcase within an inch of its life. I would have to jump on it with my full weight and beat it closed, while desperately battling the THINGS spilling out of all three open sides. Then of course I could barely lift the thing and it would be too heavy for the airplane and I had to take crap out and there would be arguments with my parents. Oh, these vacations never started well.

I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve become more critical about my values. I’ve gotten less materialistic, I hope. Now, whenever I pack for a trip I don’t start by piling all the convenient things in a suitcase. I start by considering how little I want to carry around. Over the years I’ve come to loathe carrying around too much crap. Have you ever gotten horribly lost on your way to a ho(s)tel with painfully heavy luggage in your hands? Nightmare.

When I pack for a trip, I think more critically about what I truly need. About what I truly value in my life. Do I really need a different outfit every other day? Both my laptop and my tablet? A whole grocery bag full of snacks in case I have trouble finding vegan food?

MantoPrestipino_luggage

My space is limited, my personal carrying capacity is limited. What I take with me has to be worth the space and the hassle. I’ve found that there are rather few things that are worth that.

The suitcase I have now is almost half the size of the suitcases I used to take with me on vacation. I once bought it for a short trip to London of about a week, because my regular suitcase was too big. I was hilarious, really. For a week-long trip I could now live out of my school backpack. The suitcase I once considered small is now my go-to suitcase for all longer airplane trips, and WGT. I usually have room left in it*.

It is unbelievably freeing to travel with as little as possible. When you’re not as weighed down with THINGS, an infinite amount of roads seem to be open to you. Your personal limitations seem to dissolve. You seem to have more space to breathe.

I wouldn’t trade that freedom for anything in the world. Not for my beloved gothic lolita wardrobe, not for dozens of my favourite books, not for any convenient gadgets. When I have to live out of a suitcase, or backpack, I realise again and again how little all those excess material things mean to me.

Sure, it’s nice that those things are waiting for me when I get back home, but it’s nicer to know that I could do without.

* The exception, of course, is for WGT. Goth vanity kills me.

Pictures by Luc Mercelis and Manto Prestipino