Monday 26 December 2016

The End.

Today, the Pineneedle Collective domain ( expires. Because of that, I thought that it was a fitting time to make a post tying up things here at the Pineneedle Collective, and officially call this "The End" of the blog. This space will still exist - but you can find it at its old blogspot domain, It's probably obvious to most readers of this blog that I no longer make posts here, but that's because I've moved onto bigger, newer things. I have loved my time having this blog - it's been a really important place for me to grow, to express myself and my style, to share my nerdiness with the world, to hide from the day-to-day effects of my chronic illness, and most importantly, meet wonderful people from around the world, many of whom I now consider friends!

I started this blog on the 22nd of July, 2011. At the time, I was working a pretty boring full-time job as a receptionist and also frequently unwell - I kept getting struck down by mysterious migraines and "flu-like" symptoms. But because I had some spare cash for the first time in my life, I was buying a lot of new clothes and, having always considered myself fairly good at "fashion", I wanted a place to share them. After brainstorming names that were vaguely "indie" and suitably "fashion" with one of my friends, it got named "The Pineneedle Collective" after her pub trivia team.
My first post - I'm such a baby-face!
Less than one month later, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune vasculitis, Takayasu's Arteritis. Suddenly, I wasn't able to work as much (although I persevered full-time in total exhaustion for a couple of months before realising it was too difficult), and I wasn't able to go out and party anymore, which is what I had previously spent all my spare time doing. Instead, I put all my energy and time into styling cute outfits and writing posts on this blog as my creative outlet. The "blogosphere" became my place to escape - the place where I wasn't sick, didn't have to deal with the side-effects of medications, or think about my constant doctors appointments. Looking back at that time, I was so scared - but this was the one place where I could switch off that part of my brain and just be me. It took a few years for me to start talking about living with a chronic illness publicly, and now that I'm older, and wiser, I talk openly about living my life with a chronic illness (on my instagram posts) and I'm glad that I do. But I'm also glad I had this space to disappear from it all when it was raw and new.

It was in 2011 that I also discovered the wonderful world of DIY. I had previously learned some very basic hand-sewing skills from my grandma when I was 8, and also attempted a short course in sewing in grade 8 (which I sucked at), but this was the first time that sewing had ever really interested me. With a pair of scissors and some thread, I could modify my clothes to look any way I wanted them to! My first DIY projects were pretty horrendous simple, but I look back at them very fondly!
First ever DIY project- a "galaxy" t-shirt made with a spray bottle of bleach, a black tee and some scissors. And below, one of my first "cutout" attempts! I LOVED that dress.

Da da da! The first dress that I ever made! (It was pretty awful... as you can see below in the video I made. But I was very proud of it at the time).
5 years ago, on Christmas day, my dad bought me a sewing machine. I immediately fell in love with it. I scoured the internet for sewing tutorials and tips. You can see many of the first things I made in the video I made recently below.
I continued blogging my outfits, DIYs and science facts (starting in 2012) for 4 years in this space. I went through a lot of changes in my life - my body changed a lot due to medications/growing up, many friendships fell apart and others grew, I fell in love, I moved out of home, I started studying science at University and worked in a lab, and went overseas for the first time in my life, I started and stopped countless medications. But this blog was the one really constant thing in my life that I could come back to, the one place that never really changed.
Because of this blog, I also got to both meet and collaborate with some really amazing creative people from around the world - both online and in real life. I think that was one of the best things about it. I'm a was a very shy person who found it really, really difficult to meet up with new people - so this was a really important part in my growth as a person!
Meeting the gorgeous Ashley Dy 
Meeting Eilidh, a fashion designer and business owner from Book of Deer - who inspired me to become a business-owner more than she'll ever realise!
Some other really cool things happened - I was on the cover of a magazine, and ever since my older family members have been convinced that I'm famous. I got to write for feminist online-and-real-life-magazine, Birdee (now also closed down). I got to be on one of my favourite science podcasts. All thanks to this blog.

Through the blogging world, I also discovered the concept of "fast fashion" and why it was a real problem (thanks Ragini/curiousfancy!), and started making a real effort to only source and promote secondhand or ethically-made clothing. I started realising that I had a voice, a platform, and had some power to spread a positive message. And I was no longer going to be responsible for the mindless consumption of cheap, poorly made clothing sold by companies using slave labour. Today, this is such an important factor in both the clothes that I wear, my worldview, and a big part of my motivation behind sewing and DIY!

In 2014, after having taught myself how to sew almost exclusively through youtube tutorials, it seemed fitting to make some video tutorials myself. In the beginning of 2014, and at the request of a couple of blog readers to turn my photo tutorials into videos, I made my first video, showing how I made a simple circle-skirt dress! My sewing skills have improved immensely since them, but I'm still pretty proud of that first tutorial!
My first video!
Well, that youtube thing kind of took off. Thousands of people started watching my videos; which was pretty damn overwhelming, unexpected and, well, cool! I also realised that I liked making videos even more than taking photos! Side story: while I was growing up I used to make silly videos, bribing my brothers into co-staring in them, and would edit them together, burn them to DVDs, and force the whole family to watch them. In fact, back in 2006/7 I even uploaded a couple to youtube - but don't bother trying to find them because they're on "private". But I was able to make use of those video-editing skills that I learned 8 years later!
Yes, this is literally what one of those videos was called. No, I will never ever "un-private" it. Be content with this screenshot. ;)
Then, in 2016 I decided that I was going to try and make this "working on the internet as a content creator" my full-time job. At the time I was mostly getting income from Youtube Adsense - so it was a pretty risky venture. But after launching a Patreon page in January - and receiving some support from generous human beings, both friends and strangers - I was able to cover all my basic expenses for the channel like buying materials and having a studio space to film in! And, at the end of 2016, I can proudly say that I am a full-time content creator (hey buy my merch and help me continue this full-time thing it's super dooper hard haha ;) ;) ;) ;) )

It was also in 2016 that the Pineneedle Collective became, well - abandoned. Making youtube videos fulltime is... a lot of work, and I was also trying to cram in part-time study and dealing with awful side effects from medications as well. I get the occasional stab of guilt for abandoning my baby - the place that started it all - the Pineneedle Collective. But it hasn't ended. It's just grown into new things. It's become my Youtube Channel and new website. It's become a community of amazing DIY'ers across a couple of facebook groups. It's become a worldwide community of people who have come together over their love for sewing and crafting, fashion, thrift-shopping, their body-positivity, or their experiences with chronic illnesses. It's become such an amazing thing that I can't even comprehend. I've been on the cover of local newspapers. I'm going to Vidcon Australia as a featured creator next year. I collaborated with one of the people who TAUGHT me how to sew. If 2011-me had any idea that this was going to happen she wouldn't have believed you. And then she probably would have gone and hidden away somewhere. And never come back out.

Lastly, if you've been a reader of this blog over the past 5 years - thank you. You just being here has meant more to me than you'll ever know. I've read every single comment ever left on this blog (which is 12,286 by the way - and I meant it. I read every one). Your encouraging, kind, witty, heartfelt thoughts at the end of my posts have really helped me through a lot of difficult times, and given me a place to belong when I often felt trapped or lost or confused in the "real world". You've been my extended family, well-wishers and confidants and I wish that I could meet and hug you all.

It's also going to be really nice having this record of this section of my life to look back on in the future. So, with that - Pineneedle Collective, I bid you goodbye.

Lastly, let me leave you with some of my favourite blog photos from the past 5 years, in chronological order:

Much love, always,

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Wednesday 31 August 2016

What I've Been Up To!

Hey friends! So my blog has basically become the place where I unload and go over everything I've been up to over the past couple of months. It's like therapy. You're my (unpaid) therapist now, blog reader ;) Isn't this what blogging used to be, back in the days of LiveJournal? I'm just making blogging old-school again. Yeah.

So the last few months have been intense, exciting, difficult, scary and amazing all at once.

I did my first ever public speaking gig(!!) where I got to talk all about second hand and ethical fashion. The event was a "Second Hand Fashion Parade" hosted by Rozelle Markets and Ciao magazine. I also got to meet a couple of people who follow me on the internet and love my work, which was probably the most fun part of the day!

I have pretty bad general anxiety, and I never want to do anything like this again - I spent the weeks leading up to the event planning how I could get on a plane and run away so I wouldn't have to do it. But at least now that it's done, I know that I CAN do things like this! Because it would be awesome to be able to do stuff like this in the future. Anxiety can bite me.

BIG HAIR NEWS(!) - I am growing out my fringe! My fringe that I have had for the past 10 years (because I never liked my forehead as a teenager and that insecurity carried itself well into my 20s).
A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

I also started dressing more androgenously and I feel more like "myself" wearing more androgenous clothing, but still being girly when I went to. I definitely feel much more confident in myself because of how I am dressing - and that's been awesome.

What else - I started a medicine that I've been trying to get on for about 2 years now (as it's the most modern and therefore expensive medicine for my illness on the market, you're made to try literally every other horrible drug before you can start it!) and even though it's only been a few days since the first infusion, I am already feeling so much stronger and more like "me" again!

The one scary thing about this new medicine is that I'm now SUPER immunosuppressed. Walking around the world without a good immune system to protect you is frickken terrifying. I notice every cough and sneeze. It's like being in a battlefield, and everybody around you is wearing full body armor and bullet-proof vests, and all you've got is a paper shield. But I did get myself some super cute face masks, which have helped me feel a bit better about the whole thing:


What even is life, people. What even.

I also reached 5 years since my diagnosis. There's a not-insignificant amount of people who never reach the 5-year milestone after being diagnosed, so it was an extremely emotional time for me. The supportive comments that I got from people who don't even know me made me cry. A lot. But they were happy tears!! So thank you if you were one of those people.
*serious post incoming* It is exactly 5 years ago that I was given a diagnosis, and my life changed completely. 19 years old and just starting my life, I sat terrified in a doctors office as a surgeon apologised profusely for having to give me this news and then said two words that I will be hearing constantly for the rest of my life, "Takayasu's Arteritis". It's been 5 of the hardest years of my life. I had to learn how to live life more slowly. To live with pain and exhaustion, anxiety and depression. To accept uncertainty. To accept that there's some things I'll never be able to do. To live with a disability. I lost a lot of friends who suddenly didn't know how to act around me. Didn't know what to say to me. But its also been the best 5 years of my life. To escape my life as the "sick girl", I started sharing my life and outfits with the Internet. On days where my pain and fatigue was too high to leave the house, I learned how to sew. That has evolved into a successful YouTube channel with half a million subscribers, and just this year, my job. I made much stronger friends with the few who stuck it out with me. I made many friends with likeminded people from all over the world. I also started university and pursued my passion for science. I have developed the closest bond with the most amazing man, who I know I want to be with for the rest of my life. And I have emerged a stronger, more resilient and more positive person because of all I've been through. 5 years later and I'm still not in remission. I am still in pain. I still don't know what my future holds. But I've survived. I've gotten through it all, the bad days and the good. I've endured 3 years of chemotherapy. 5 years of steroid therapy. 5 years of total uncertainty, a bajillion doctors appointments, hospitals, blood tests, scans and feeling like a total science experiment. Kicking butt throughout it all. I am a fucking badass. 💪
A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

Luciano made his first ever appearance on my channel, as a 500K subscriber special! And people's comments about him have made my day! Honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm the only youtuber with a nice, supportive comments section. It scares me to go on the comments section of other youtubers. How did I get so lucky?
Anyway, the video is here and you should watch it because Luci is a super funny human being and I'm so happy that I finally got to share him with the world :)

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on
My younger sibling has also been really sick with chronic pain for the last few months, so that's been taking its toll on me emotionally. Having a sick family member is so distressing - and so of course it's brought up a lot of guilt for all the stress I've put the people who love me through when I'm really sick. *Sigh*. But hey, we all love each other and I think that's the most important thing. I just have to keep telling myself that time heals, and be hopeful that things will get better over time.

So here's some more good news, because that all got pretty serious: I appeared on the cover of my local newspaper, Ciao Magazine! I think that my friends and family probably took about half of all of the copies that went out - they were all very excited about it ;) Being recognized locally for the stuff I do is helping to "legitimize" this as a job for me. There's a lot of stigma that goes with running your own business and being a "youtuber" - a lot of people still don't consider it a real job that you should be proud of! But I put a massive amount of work into what I do so god damn it - I'm going to be proud of my job!
A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

Annnnnd I'll finish this post off with a couple of my favourite outfits from the past two months. Because, you know, this was once a fashion blog and all.

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

#ootd wearing a DIY crop top made by me, @eejewellery necklace, thrifted bag and @uniqloau pants 👌 I spent all day yesterday looking for a good, comfy pair of pants, walking around with @goodonyou_app constantly open, and was surprised that uniqlo actually have pretty solid labour standards for their manufacturing! They rate a "B" on the baptist world aid 2016 fashion report for good transparency and traceability & strong systems in place to make sure nothing's made using sweatshop, child or forced labour - although they could be doing better and ensuring that *all* their workers get a living wage. However, what was super shocking was the shopping centre I was at also has stuff like Armani and Givenchy (not that I could ever afford that, I was just curious) and they had *terrible* ethical ratings according to @goodonyou_app 😮 they're worth so much and you can't even be sure they're not from a sweatshop?? What the heck.
A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

I hope that you're all doing well. Sending you all love and positive vibes,

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Monday 18 July 2016

Outfits of June & July!

Big news: I've been feeling much more myself lately & haven't had to use my mobility scooter for almost two months (wooooo). Because I've been feeling more like myself, I've been able to both dress up again and take a lot more photos of my outfits! My style has been "evolving" lately away from short skirts and cutesy/kitschy into... I don't really know what to call it. But it's different. I literally just donated half of my wardrobe to an op shop because I don't even like much of it anymore! Yeah. I said goodbye to pretty much most of my cutesy dresses. Annika of 2 years ago would have killed future me.

Anyway, here are my most recent outfits!

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

A photo posted by Annika Victoria (@littlepineneedle) on

I hope you're all well :)

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