Saturday, February 28, 2015

Two Nova Totes and Yet Another Sewing Machine.

Here's something you can make entirely on a vintage straight stitch machine while your regular machine is in the shop: ThreeOwls' Nova Tote.

Nova Totes

These are actually belated Christmas presents. Yeah, yeah, it's the end of February. I'm not great with deadlines, as you know. Better late than never, etc.

Nova Totes

These were really fun and fast to make, just like my first one. The best part is choosing fabrics for the pieced front. For the one on the right, I made a size "medium" and chose a mix of fabrics with pinks and blues in them to provide a pleasing visual contrast to the red canvas. My favorite part of that one is probably the awesome Dewberry gray woodgrain binding. Faux bois all the things!

Nova Totes

For some reason I didn't get a great in-focus photo of the second one, but I probably don't have to even mention that I used Sarah Watt's Cotton + Steel fabrics for that one. Y'all knew that. I really love how the darker colors compliment the pink canvas I used for the straps and bottom.

Nova Totes

I bound the raw edges with double fold bias tape on both bags. These aren't particularly fancy bags, but I use mine all the time for packing picnics, farmers' market produce, and bringing projects to my occasional ladies crafting parties. It's a simple and practical tote.

My new old machine - Singer Touch and Sew

In other news, I have a "new" old sewing machine! Remember Mr. Grumpy, my eccentric animal-loving neighborhood sewing machine repair guy? When I dropped of my regular machine for him to look at, I had seen an old 60s Singer taken apart in his workshop and said, "Oh, I learned to sew on a machine just like that!" Before my current machine, I sewed on a 70s Singer Stylist for more than a decade.

Well, Mr. Grumpy told me that my recent model Singer wasn't worth the money and time it would cost to fix it, what with all of the crappy plastic parts, etc. I was disappointed but I said I understood.  I know a lot of sewing machine purists, and I can appreciate that Mr. Grumpy doesn't like working on newer machines.

When I went down there to pick up my old machine, I brought my Elna Grasshopper to show him.  As I mentioned in my last post, it stitches great but it's a bit sluggish and I have to turn the fly wheel to get it started, so I thought he might be able to get it going a bit faster. Even though he's a Singer guy, I figured that these things are like a VW Bug: anyone who knows about sewing machines should be able to figure out such a basic straight stitch machine.


When I got there, Mr. Grumpy (whose name I may have to change one of these days) had pulled out this lovely old Singer "Touch & Sew," complete with its original manual and accessories. He said it had been sitting in his shop for almost a year, and that since it was similar to my first machine and I was comfortable sewing on it, I might be the "perfect owner." And then he offered to sell it to me for a great price considering everything was there and he had already tuned it up and put it in great working order.

I'm no fool. I bought the machine and bashfully took it home, where I think my husband rolled his eyes so hard it hurt. 


It is not exactly the same as my old machine. The bobbins are different, and the bobbin actually winds in the bobbin case! This would be especially convenient for piecing a quilt and other operations where you're likely to need lots of bobbin winding all with one color thread, because you barely have to interrupt your sewing to wind the bobbin (the needle stays threaded during the whole process). That's why this was called the "Touch and Sew." The only down side to this is that I will need to buy some new bobbins for this machine, it does not take regular Singer bobbins.

The other "big" difference is that this machine used cams for hem-stitch and other non-basic zig-zag stitches, instead of having a dial on the face of the machine. I'll be honest, I use those stitches so rarely it may be a while before I even try out the cams. 99% of my sewing calls for straight stitch and basic zig zag (varying length and width, of course).


It does have a free arm, which comes in handy now in then.


And THIS. This was worth the cost of the machine alone in my opinion. These old Singer buttonhole attachments make the best buttonholes, better than anything a modern machine can do in my experience. This is the holy grail of buttonholes, and this particular buttonhole attachment actually looks like it has never been used!

What this means is that even though my regular machine is still in the shop, I am back in business for apparel sewing! With a basic zig-zag and buttonholer, there's nothing I can't sew at this point. Wahoo! I'm almost excited to make something with a lot of buttonholes now.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Green Machine.

In lieu of a more fancy blog post this week, I am sharing a few cell phone pics and WIPs. Thursday night, Maggie went to bed early and I delightedly sat down to do a little sewing (uncommon on weeknights). Unfortunately, I also seem to have done something bad to my sewing machine, which won't take a single stitch now. The upper thread is getting stuck in the bobbin contraption below. So instead of spending a nice evening sewing and relaxing, I spent the evening tinkering and swearing. Friday I reviewed some YouTube videos on Singer bobbin case issues and did several more hours of cleaning and tinkering, to no avail. The machine still wouldn't stitch one single stitch.

I will be honest: at this point, tears were shed. Steve told me I was upsetting Joe and needed to pull it together. I took myself to bed.

The next morning, feeling a bit less fragile, I researched sewing machine repair in my area, and decided to try someone new, a notoriously eccentric local guy known for his abrupt (some would say rude) demeanor. I decided I could handle abrupt and rude if the man would just fix my machine, so I dropped it off with him. He was indeed quite abrupt and eccentric, and informed me that the only decent Singers were made between the years of 1940 and 1965 and that everything since then is a "plastic piece of shit." Which I freely acknowledged is probably true. One of my gifts in life is an appreciation for and an ability to charm eccentric grumpy old persons (make that an appreciation for and ability to relate to eccentric people, full stop; I myself plan to be very eccentric when I am older) and when I discovered that his adorable cat was named "Peaches" I knew he wasn't all bad. (When faced with a highly eccentric older person, you can never go wrong complimenting their pets.)

Alas, it was not to be, and he called me yesterday to say that fixing my machine wasn't worth it and basically, did not interest him. So now I'm stuck with the other local place that takes weeks and weeks and charges $90 minimum and last time, didn't actually fix my machine on the first try. Sigh.

I am not naming Mr. Grumpy by name because I actually quite liked him, gruffness and all, and the poor guy has enough negative Yelp reviews. If I had an older Singer I would go back to him in a heartbeat. I have long appreciated vintage sewing machines and sewed on a 60s Singer for years before getting my more modern machine. I must say, my current machine may not be as sturdy and long-lasting a machine as the oldies, but I do love the automatic needle-threader, stretch stitch, and other modern conveniences it offers. I also do not believe it is hopelessly broken; I think it probably needs a few new plastic parts and it will run for another few years. But I can appreciate that Mr. Grumpy prefers to work on older machines and I don't necessarily begrudge him that. He was at least quick in getting back to me and did not charge me anything for his opinion. 

So my regular machine will probably be out of commission for a good while, a very sad thought. Yesterday I pulled out my "backup," my little 1951 Elna #1 (a.k.a. the Grasshopper) and got her running.

She's a bit tedious to thread, and a bit slow and pondering (you can see I was trying different drive belts to see if I couldn't speed her up, but I think she was over-oiled and the motor parts may be slipping; I hope she'll sew better as some of that oil burns off).  But you can't complain about the stitches themselves, the tension is absolutely perfect. She's a solid little straight stitch machine.

The "problem" is that the Elna doesn't do zig-zag, and I don't have a zipper foot or buttonhole attachment for her. So this will limit my options as far as apparel sewing considerably. No knit fabrics (can't do zig-zag or a twin needle), nothing with buttons, and unless I hand sew them in, no zippers. But she's great for quilt piecing and sews through canvas and denim like it's butter, so I think I can enjoy sewing on her for a few weeks while I wait for my other machine to hopefully get fixed.

And here's a sneak peek of the project I just finished, a gift for a friend. I am in love with Sarah Watt's designs for Cotton + Steel. I'm not normally that into designer lines, but this one just really tickled my fancy. Watch out, I might have several projects using it in the works!

Maybe my next machine should be a Singer made between 1940 and 1965, eh? 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Procrastination Sewing: Linden and Manila.

Linden Sweatshirt and Manila Leggings.

I took a long weekend (Monday is Presidents' Day here in the US) with the purpose of starting to dismantle, sand, prime, and paint my kitchen cabinets. It's a huge job. My cabinets are old and janky and most of the hardware is rusted or painted shut. It took me an hour just to pull off three doors and some of the screws are just stripped beyond use (Steve has magic ways of dealing with stripped screws; or at least, it seems magic to me!). The insides of the cupboards are all painted as well, and let's just say I've never really given them a good scrubbing in the eight years we've lived here, and I doubt the prior owners did either. You can imagine. I don't mind painting, but the prep (especially in detailed areas) is blaaaaaaah.

With a nice four day weekend and that giant and dirty task facing me, I did what any redblooded creative would do: I procrastinated. First by sewing up a shirt and shorts for Joe, and then (while the walking foot was hot) by sewing a few comfy items for myself.

Thrift Score - Izod Sweatshirt 2x Mens

The other day, I was sent to the grocery store on my own (always a mistake), and I just couldn't resist stepping into the neighboring Goodwill, which was advertising a Presidents' Day Sale. I found a cute pair of pants and cardigan that I will wear as-is, and I got also got a pile of clothes to refashion. One of my best scores was this gorgeous gold Izod sweatshirt, in Men's 2XL. I don't even have words for how beautiful and soft this sweatshirt fleece is. It is a sad fact that most yardage still pales in quality to really good RTW. In addition to being my favorite shade of "glorious yellow," this fleece is like golden fluffy clouds. When I grabbed it, I think I uttered a gutteral "MIIIIIIIIINE," to the surprise of my fellow Goodwill customers. 

When I got it home, I immediately set about trying to coax a Grainline Linden Sweatshirt out of it, which was tricky considering the original sweatshirt was not raglan, and even a 2X men's sweatshirt sleeve isn't as large as your average raglan sleeve. I managed it by shortening the sleeve significantly (preserving the cuffs as-is), which turned out totally fine and makes me wonder why the Linden sleeves are like five inches longer than this - clearly too long for my short arms. Otherwise, this is a straight size 12.

Izod to Linden
The little Izod logo was preserved.

I reused all of the ribbing from the original shirt, which was great. Ribbing is another fabric you can't seem to find in decent yardage. I have ordered a variety of ribbings from different sites, and they mostly ... pretty much suck. My local fabric stores have nicer quality, but only carry black and white. Whereas the ribbing attached to cheap clothing at Target is so much nicer. What is going on there? Anyway.

The final result .... well, I'm not going to pretend this is the most flattering item of clothing that I own, but ahhhhhhh, fluffy cozy warm golden cloud! So comfortable!

As far as the Linden pattern, this was my first time sewing it up. I bought it, somewhat against my better judgment considering it's just a simple baggy raglan after all, basically because I want to be Jen when I grow up. Her style is just so cool! She just looked so comfortable and hip in her boxy sweatshirts and skinny pants (and super great hair, and ... and ... I think I have a bit of a girl crush here), I couldn't resist. True to my expectations, this was an extremely easy and fast sew on the serger, and the shape is really cute and relaxed. I can't speak to the instructions, because I barely followed them; this is not my first raglan rodeo. I am looking forward to trying the pattern out with a softer jersey for a more figure-conscious relaxed tee. If I were to be perfectly honest, the pattern is probably a bit overpriced; then again, I tend to use simple patterns like this so much, I get my money's worth from them. The same can't be said for more fussy styles.

Given the cost of sweatshirt fleece these days, I was glad to try the pattern out on a $3 thrifted sweatshirt. The fact that said sweatshirt was about 500X nicer than any fleece I could ever buy by the yard just sweetened the deal! This was a very thrifty make!

And the virtue doesn't end there. I also grabbed this Merona turtleneck (another $3) because I liked the striped knit.

Thrift Score - Turtlebeck

And made it into this:

From Turtle to Tee

This was a simple upcycle. I cut off the turtleneck, lowered the neckline a smidge and used the turtleneck fabric (pieced) to bind the neck. Then I shortened the sleeves, took it in a bit at the sides, and reshaped the hemline to a curved shirt tail style. I can't stand wearing turtlenecks, I'm super weird about things touching my neck (and you wondered where Joe got his sensitivity?). Plus I feel like they look frumpy on me (but maybe that's just because I feel so squirmy and uncomfortable). Cowl necks are okay, because they're loose and don't touch the front of the neck, but real turtlenecks are ick.

Manila leggings and repurposed thrifted top
The kitchen walls are painted now. Next I'm working on the painted cabinets. Eventually I want to paint the wood ones as well.

And finally - yes, I know this post is long, but all of these were really quick sews! - a pair of Manila Leggings from Colette's "Seamworks" magazine.

Manil leggings, cuff detail.

For these I used some black rayon ponte de roma I bought at Stonemountain to make another Mabel Skirt. The good news is that I still have plenty for the skirt! (I chronically overbuy, I know.)

Again, this was my first time sewing this pattern. Based on my measurements, I cut out a size Medium, but graded to a Large at the waist. That turned out to be unnecessary, and you can see that the waistline actually gathers a bit. I could have done a straight medium.

Manila waistband

What I love about this pattern: The nice high rise, the cute cuff detail, how fast it sews up. The inseam length of this pattern was perfect for me, which was awesome. (I'm only 5'4" and have short legs, so if you are taller you definitely want to make sure these will be long enough.)

What I don't love about this pattern: It is obviously not made for my body type. The thighs and bottom turned out too roomy for me, and the calves are weirdly tight! Now, I grant you: I do have freakishly muscular calves for someone who barely exercises. And pear shape I am not. So if you are a pear shape with more ample bottom and thighs and narrow calves, this is your pattern! But I had to trim down the hips and thighs considerably to make these more wearable, and if I were to make these again I would forget about grading out in the waist and grade out in the calves instead. Ha! Luckily knits are very forgiving.

But hey, awesome new leggings! The ponte is thick and sturdy enough that I feel I could get away with wearing these in lieu of actual pants, at least on weekends (I admit I am not yet at the point where I feel comfortable wearing leggings instead of pants to work). Yay for comfy weekend clothes!

And now I should probably get back to scrubbing and prepping those damn cabinets. Procrastination sewing is the sweetest sewing!

Do you engage in procrastination sewing?

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Sporty Pocket."

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Another special order for Joe, and another Ottobre pattern! As you know, Joe shuns pants and will only wear shorts. No matter how cold it is. Admittedly, Oakland winters are pretty mild, but still, I'm pretty glad to be wearing pants these days!

When we were fabric shopping for Joe's Log Triangle Shirt, this crazy Riley Blake rainbow chevron knit caught Joe's eye. I have to say, Joe really seems drawn to chevron prints! He definitely loves bold and geometric patterns. Of course, I find these rather "loud" tastes to be rather adorable; so different than the sedate navy and gray you find in the boys' clothing department at your local big box!

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

So when Joe saw this fabulous rainbow chevron come up on the screen (he's pretty familiar with the concept of "internet shopping," which cracks me up), he asked me to buy some and make him "soft shorts ... like PJ shorts!" Of course, I am putty in Joe's hand, and two yards were duly ordered.


In all my scrolling through Ottobres recently, I noticed a cute sporty knit shorts pattern in Ottobre 3/2013. It's #10, and called "Sporty Pocket." (Is that model adorable or what? That tummy!)

(I don't know if that singular tense is an adorable mistranslation or refers to the one pocket on the back? Either way, it reminds me of my favorite donut shop on the face of the earth, the Vietnamese-owned "Fluffy Donut" in Davis, California, where I went to law school. Dudes. Fluffy Donut donuts are AMAZING. Plus they also sell pad thai and bánh mì. I love California! But anyway, the pattern actually has three pockets. And there is more than one donut to choose from at Fluffy's. Which totally reminds me of "Waldo's Discount Donuts," a skit by the Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers!! "We have all kind of donuts! Chocolate ... chocolate ... " Okay now I'm deep into inside jokes; if any family members are reading this, they will appreciate that. Moving on.)


I know these aren't exactly "PJ pants"; since Joe pretty much wears the same shorts to school that he wears to bed, I figured it would be fun to add some extra details, like the pockets and racing stripe on the side. This is how I keep myself entertained, right?

Ottobre instructions are minimal, but I managed to figure these out. I have never done a pocket like these cool inset pockets, but it wasn't hard at all. Much easier than a welt pocket (which is what it looks like) and frankly welt pockets aren't that bad (thanks Liesl for teaching me!). While the pattern called for a woven fabric to be used for the side-stripe and back pocket, I used knit and it turned out great.

I'd love to try these shorts in a soft, stable sweatshirt knit, and I have a few thrifted 3X mens' sweatshirts with repurposing in mind. Since Joe won't wear pants, I guess he should at least have warm shorts, right?

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

If you thought my stripe matching skills were bad, let me introduce you to my chevron matching skills. Cough cough. But seriously, can anyone match chevrons well? I think it might be impossible to follow a pattern and match your chevrons, because they're always going to be at different heights at the seam. Anyway, Joe really wanted this super loud fabric, and it's loudly NOT matching. That's life.

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Dang, he's a good model. Where does he learn this? He's like, yeah, I'm just a cool dude, hanging out with the empty propane tanks and astroturf, like cool dudes do.

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

I used a funny overcast stitch on my sewing machine to imitate coverstitching on the front pocket. I don't know how successful it was; I might just do zig-zag next time, seriously. But it was fun to try something new. The waistband is green ribbing from the stash for the full rainbowy effect.

You may notice that the side stripe matches Joe's shirt perfectly. Why yes it does! I used the same light blue jersey for his Field Trip raglan. And I still have lots more!

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

Ottobre 3/2013 #10

The best part? Joe loves his new shorts! He's been wearing them all day!! And doing ninja moves! I could practically jump for joy! I wouldn't say this pattern is difficult, but it has lots of details and I was pretty worried that Joe would reject the final project, which is ... well, pretty discouraging. But he loves his super loud rainbow chevron "Sporty Pocket" shorts! YAY!

Ottobre 1/2015 #11

I also whipped up a rainbow chevron t-shirt using the same Ottobre 1/2015 pattern I used for the Log Triangle Shirt, but I will discourage Joe from wearing these together! For the sake of humanity! And our collective eyesight. Joe may have different ideas, though ...

Monday, February 9, 2015

Log Triangle.

Why hello there, readers! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of house activity, without a lot of sewing. I'm currently painting my kitchen! The walls are done (I chose SW Agreeable Gray, the same color I picked for our living room), and next I have to tackle painting the cabinets (in Behr Swiss Coffee). It is so. much. work.

But all of this is for a good (and a little bit scary) cause: We are considering listing our house for sale this spring or summer!! Cue total panic attack, right? I have never sold a house before and the idea is daunting, to say the least. There are just so many moving parts. Not to mention the fact that until recently, I believed that we were, if not "underwater," definitely not in a position to sell. But the market is quickly changing! So the idea of selling has required a complete mental turnaround from last year, when I focused on the idea of staying in our house indefinitely and making the best of its quirks and issues.

(Imagine loud clunking and grinding sounds coming from my brain while I tried to process this change in situation. I'm not as nimble as I used to be!)

This is a positive development! But there is a lot to think about and plan for and it's mentally taxing.


Okay, so I know that last week was KCW, and I so enjoyed seeing what all my bloggy friends were sewing. I was too busy with work and painting and other things to keep up with a regular sewing routine last week, but y'all totally inspired me, and yesterday I decided I had painted enough and sat down at my sewing machine for the first time in several weeks.

Ottobre Triangle Shirt

One of my sewing goals for 2015 is to buy less patterns and use the patterns I have. One great source of patterns at my disposal is my Ottobre subscription. I've had this subscription for over a year, but I am ashamed to admit, I never sew from my Ottobres. Time to change that! There are so many hip, cute, fashionable, and current styles in Ottobre, and for a wide size range. As much as I love indie patterns and want to support all of the great indie pattern-makers, the cost does add up. Ottobre has many of the latest shapes and styles, albeit without the excellent instructions that smaller pattern-makers provide, and whereas indie patterns are indisputably biased towards girls, the selection of boy's patterns in Ottobre is really excellent. Each issue could be used to sew an entire wardrobe for your children, no kidding.

When I got the January issue of Ottobre, I happened to be sitting next to Joe as I perused it, and I asked him if he liked any of the clothes. When I opened this page, with the pieced triangle shirt, Joe sat up in his seat. "I would love that shirt, mama." Well, okay! It is pretty darn cool. I can work with that.

Upon further conversation, it was clear that Joe wanted exactly this shirt (Ottobre 1/2015 #13), with the same colors and everything (unfortunately for me, he did not want the pants, which I thought were totally cute; he is still anti-pants). So I looked around the nets and found some Riley Blake black striped cotton knit and some Kaufman Laguna knit in black and orange. I already had some white knit in the stash. When the striped fabric arrived in the mail, I realized the stripes are wider than what's pictured in the Ottobre magazine, but it was close enough.

Ottobre Triangle Shirt

And here it is! Exactly (or almost exactly) like the picture!

In its basic form (which can be seen on this page of the magazine), this is a really simple t-shirt pattern with a dropped shoulder. I measured Joe to figure out his size and decided he's a 110 cm with a 116 cm length, which makes sense because Joe has a really long torso. It's clear that this shirt is intended to be roomy and relaxed; unlike my TNT t-shirt pattern the Flashback Skinny Tee. Since Joe is so sensitive about clothing these days, this is probably a good thing (although he happily wears his Flashback Tees too). It would also make a great sweatshirt in a heavier fabric.

That said, this version turned out pretty big! Next time I would do a size 110 cm and possibly not add any seam allowance. As it is, he has some room to grow into this shirt. The sleeves were so long I decided not to bother with the black cuffs and just hemmed them.

Ottobre Triangle Shirt

The (only) tricky part of the pattern is the "log triangle" effect (like a log cabin, but triangular, get it?) of the front, which of course was Joe's favorite part! The pattern provides lines for cutting up the front into six pieces with grain lines, creating a cool diagonal effect with the stripes. I thought this might be difficult but it went really well with the serger, and any waviness created by differential stretchiness was easy to press out. I tried to line up the stripes cleanly along that diagonal line and match the stripes on the arms and sides: it's not perfect but it looks pretty good. Stripe matching is not my forte, but knits do make it easier. Even if your cutting is a little off, you can just stretch those bad boys till they match!

Ottobre Triangle Shirt

Joe had eaten a blue popsicle before this photo shoot, and was very proud of his blue tongue as you can see.

My only problem with this project arose from "user error": I tried to do a bound neckline like the pattern calls for, but it just looked awful and wavy, even though I used my walking foot. I started trying to rip out the seam, but tiny black stitches on black fabric - ugh!! So I just cut the neckline off and started over, using a wider piece of black knit, and attaching it like a ribbed neckline. That worked out a bit better, although the neckline is definitely wider than in the shirt I was copying.

I need to figure out how to do a nice looking bound neckline in knits. I'm learning that while knits are easier than wovens in many ways (stripe matching!), there are certain skills that really require a TON of practice and the right tools. Necklines are one of those.

Ottobre Triangle Shirt

Joe seemed pretty pleased with his new t-shirt, at least in concept. But after wearing it for a few minutes, he complained that the seam allowances on the triangle piecing inside were "itchy." That's the bummer about the pieced front - there are a lot more seams on the inside of the shirt. The pattern called for topstitching them, but I didn't want zig-zag or double needle topstitching distracting from the fun lines of the shirt, and topstitching might make those seam allowances even stiffer and scratchier. I am hoping the shirt will soften with a good wash, but I am also thinking I might be able to tack another piece of jersey over that section of the shirt on the inside (probably by hand) if that doesn't work. Worst case, he could wear this over other t-shirts. He frequently layers t-shirts in the wintertime anyway, so that's not the end of the world.

My sensitive, some might say "demanding" boy! It's a good thing he's so cute.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On economic recovery and the apple-picking dress.

When my lawyer work load goes through the roof, I may actually manage to keep sewing a bit here and there, because sewing keeps me grounded and sane, but blogging goes in the toilet. There is only so much time I can stand spending typing away at a computer in a week, apparently. Actually, I can stand quite a lot of time, it turns out! (Hello, internet addiction!) But there is a limit and I've been hitting it.

I wish I could say my workload was lightening up, but it's not. This is actually good news in a way. I'm a land use attorney, so my work load ebbs and flow with development. The economy is thawing out everywhere. I think most people feel the load of the deepest recession of my lifetime lightening up a bit, even if we are still complaining about rising costs and stagnant incomes. Economic development is actually a thing again.

It's funny to say that - twelve years ago, when I became a land use/local government attorney, I would have looked at you incredulously: "When is economic development ever not a thing? This is California!" Remember, property values just keep going up and up and up, right? Sure thing right there.

To my former self, I say: "Oh, honey."

And with that, we grow older and more experienced and more jaded.

So, yes, the economy is thawing. THANK GOD. I have been so blessed to have a job throughout this shitstorm. Our house was underwater for a solid seven years, but we paid the bills. I admit, I wondered a few times if my choice to practice this area of law was a mistake (clearly, bankruptcy law is where it's at! that, my friends is what we call gallows humor). But I was lucky to graduate from law school when I did, back when there were jobs aplenty, and I entered into the recession with years of experience under my belt. I have the deepest sympathy for newer attorneys who graduated into a world-without-jobs; a lot of my resilience is just pure luck and timing.

I wonder what impact this "Great Recession" will have on our generation? Will we be scarred like my grandparents' generation was by the Great Depression? Will we stash our money under our mattresses? Because we know, banks can still fail messily. Markets are fickle and cruel. Will I ever feel like home-ownership is an "investment" again? Will I be warning my poor grand-kids: "Don't buy more house than you can afford! You never know when the market might crash again!" while they roll their eyes at old granny? Will I save every rubber band and newspaper "just in case"?

Only time will tell. I definitely feel like these hard times have changed my outlook, but maybe that's just middle age creeping up!

Where was I? Yes, my workload, which is so dependent on new development or redevelopment, is going through the roof! Yay? "Mixed feelings" doesn't even cover it: Relief, a certain amount of nerdy and lawyerly joy, excitement about hopefully seeing some changes in my city (both the one I work in and the one I live in), caution, uncertainty, wanting to be optimistic but not daring to be, a little bit of exhaustion. I think so many of us are experiencing serious budget-burnout. For crying out loud, when will be able to SPEND SOME MONEY? Years of economizing and driving beater cars and jerry-rigging fixes to the roof. So much deferred maintenance!  It's exhausting! The recession supposedly ended five years ago, but we see the results of the foreclosure crisis all around us still.  Frugality seemed fun there for a while, but the shine is seriously worn off. I'm ready for a spending spree.  


Okay, thank you for indulging me. Recently I've been thinking about blogging, and my current blogging slump, and I decided that I need to talk about what's on mind a bit more, rather than limiting my posts to just the more shallow stuff (pretty sewing and crafting!). I used to actually have opinions on my blog! Ha. I think there's the fear of oversharing on a blog, which is a pretty public space after all. But there needs to be a balance.

With that, my first sewing project of 2015!

Apple Picking Dress

The Apple-Picking Dress! As y'all know, I am trying to work through my oliver + s stash this year (actually, we're in year # 2 of that project), and this pattern has been in my stash for well over a year now. This pretty pink calico has been in my stash for at least as long. As you can see, "Project: Make Pink Clothes For Maggie" continues in earnest.

Apple Picking Dress

This dress is a more complicated make, with the neck bow, placket and little sleeves. And frankly, the end result is a bit on the fussy side by my standards. The amount of floof (floof = ruffly, puffy, floppy) - it's a bit out of my comfort zone! When I finished it and put it on Maggie, I couldn't help but feel that she looks a little like an old lady in a 1980s dress (it needs shoulder pads!). I think the long sleeves and double ruffle skirt may be just a bit ... much.

Of course, Maggie's choice of accessories probably increased this effect. She's very into her necklaces these days.

I really admire the vintagey style of several bloggers who have really made this dress shine, but I just don't know that it's "me." Perhaps I would like it better in a less fussy fabric, or perhaps it's just a bit too floofy for me. At any rate, it is always fun to sew a new oliver + s pattern, so I don't regret it. I just don't know that I'll be making a ton of these in the future (that said, my very ruffle-centric niece would probably love this dress).

Apple Picking Dress

Of course, Maggie would be adorable in a paper sack, so little old lady dresses? No problem.

Apple Picking Dress

Initially, as you can see, I used covered buttons on the placket, but they were a MASSIVE FAIL. I don't know what I did wrong, but they started falling apart almost immediately. I had pushed them together with all of the finger strength I possess, but it clearly wasn't enough. I decided to scrap them and switch them out with some more casual wooden buttons which I actually like quite a bit better than the covered buttons anyway. Stupid covered buttons: I spent so much time making them!!

Apple picking dress new buttons

After I finished sewing the new buttons on, I showed the dress to Maggie, and she said "I don't like it!" and turned away. Huh. These opinionated children!

I've put it in her drawer and we'll see if it gets any wear. It is pink, after all.

Are you feeling the economic recovery yet? Or maybe you never felt the recession to begin with? Do you feel like the years of frugality and austerity changed you?

And what's your vote: Cute, or old lady?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Recap: Sewing!

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. We had a lovely Christmas, and my children made out like bandits (of course). And Joe lost his first tooth the other day! My baby boy is getting so grown up!

And I got a fancy new car - this was not part of the plan (sadly, my last car, a Toyota Matrix, died an untimely death when its transmission went kaput after only 110k miles), and financially it's kind of a bummer. But ... but my new ride sure is purty! It's a white Toyota Camry Hybrid. My daily commute (48 miles round trip) adds up fast and it will be nice to buy gas less often. It might even be worth economizing a bit more on fabric and patterns.

So it has been exciting times here. All in all, a positive start for 2015!

I love reading everyone's year-end round-up posts, so of course I have to do my own as well, complete with mosaics! And a bit late as always. This year I am going to do two round-up posts: one for sewing stuff, the main focus of this blog, and one for house stuff, which has been a major focus for me this year and definitely feels like a big (maybe the biggest) accomplishment of 2014!

Last year I made some sewing resolutions which I then naturally forgot all about. But looking at them now, I'd say I did pretty well. I did not learn to put in a zip fly, and I did not complete any major smocking projects (maybe this next year is the year!), but I did sew a bunch for myself, and I did sew a lot of patterns from my stash.

1. Sewing for me.

I think I did quite well with this in 2014. I made myself six t-shirts (two were never blogged and not included above), which I wear quite frequently (and I'm still wearing last year's t-shirts too). Of these, my Plantain t-shirts are easily the most frequently worn me-mades. The neckline and swingy fit really suit me. Love that pattern. I need more! My least favorite tee, not including muslins and practice versions, is my Breton Tee. I'm afraid that even with my modifications, the neckline is too high. It's not comfortable. I've considered trying to fix this, since the fabric is very nice and I do like the stripes, but in the meantime it lingers unworn.

I made two blouses, a Josephine top and a Bess. My rayon challis Bess wins that contest hands down - it is deliciously light, flowy, and comfortable, and looks great tucked, untucked, under a cardigan or jacket, or on its own. I've worn it with jeans and dressed it up with a suit. The perfect garment! I need more of those too!

In contrast, the Josephine feels rather square and boxy larger bust. Nonetheless, the fabric is very nice, and it looks good with a suit, so it did see some wear this past summer.

I also made five skirts. Of these, my most frequently worn is definitely Liesl's Everyday Skirt. Another great pattern that has stood the test of time for me! It's comfortable (that elastic back is the best!) but polished enough for business casual days at work. The fabric I used was good quality and washes well, so that helps too. Sometimes simple really is best. My second favorite is the Mabel skirt. You just can't go wrong with knits!

I made two dresses this year, an Alder Shirtdress and a Washi dress. I will confess, I rarely wear my Washi dress. It only looks good belted and it's just not very comfortable. It looked good in photographs, but I don't feel that it's very flattering in my everyday life. I know so many seamstresses love this pattern, but I think I've decided it's just not my thing. I made the Alder dress late in the year, so it hasn't seen a ton of wear, but I'm hoping that will be a go-to item when the weather warms up. I was very impressed with Grainline patterns generally and want to try more of them.

In general, I have learned that I am more of a "separates" person. I just don't wear dresses very often, and when I do, I want them to be easy and relaxed. In 2014, I mostly sewed skirts and tops, which worked out well, because that's what I actually wear most days. While not every item here was an unqualified success, I learned a lot about what I enjoy wearing and the truth is, I probably wore at least two me-made items on an average week, which is a big increase for me. So that's great!

For 2015: I want to continue sewing basic, comfortable, everyday garments for myself. While it would be great to learn to fit a party dress or tailor a suit or sew jeans, I don't know that this is in the cards for this season of my life. But I know I can expand my wardrobe a bit with some more very wearable and comfortable items.

And my Nova Tote! I use that thing all the time! That was definitely a hit. I have a couple more in the works for gifts. 

2. Sewing for Joe
Joe remains a tough nut to crack, and he disliked as many projects as he embraced this year. I find this pretty frustrating and upsetting so I honestly don't want to sew for him as much as I used to. That said, I made him a handful of things this year. 

Joe mosaic 2014

At the beginning of the year, I made two pairs of Jacob pants for Joe. I loved this pattern, and especially, all of the potential for incorporating piping! Too bad Joe swore off pants entirely shortly after these were made and hasn't even considered wearing these since. Sigh. They are really cute.

Similarly, even in knit, Joe took a dislike to the Sketchbook Shorts I made for him. Oddly, he was willing to tolerate the Sketchbook Shirt a bit more, but does not wear it often (and that shirt was so much work to make!). He wore it to my cousin's wedding, and that was the important thing. Moving on.

The hits of 2014 were t-shirts and knit shorts. Joe wears all of his mama-made t-shirts frequently. I recently lengthened last year's green Field Trip Raglan and whipped up a new Field Trip raglan for him. I didn't get around to blogging the project (and it's pretty basic) but Joe wears these two shirts all the time.

Joe loves his zig-zag Flashback tee and knit shorts, and even enjoys wearing them together!

Another big surprise hit was Joe's Robot! He sleeps with every night! Major mom-score on that one.

For 2015: Resign myself to the fact that t-shirts are Joe's thing even if I find them relatively boring to sew. Maybe try a henley or polo necked tee for kicks? Definitely let Joe pick out more fabrics. Joe has really fun taste.

3. Sewing for Maggie.

Maggie sewing 2014 mosaic

Maggie made out pretty well this year! I count eight tops, eight bottoms, and five dresses in addition to a swimsuit, backpack, bonnet, and undies! It's no secret that I love sewing for little Mags, even when all she'll wear is "PINK PINK PINK!"

One of my resolutions last year was to sew up more of my stashed patterns, especially vintage and Oliver + s, and I did pretty well with that. I sewed a couple dresses from vintage patterns (here and here and here), and I tried a couple of Oliver + s patterns for the first time, including the Sunny Day Shorts,  2+2 Top and Skirt, the Playdate dress, the Class Picnic Shorts, and the Roller Skate Dress. I also revisited some favorites, including the Sandbox Pants, Hopscotch Top, and Class Picnic Top.

For 2015: I'd like to keep trying to sew through my Oliver + s stash this year. I already have some cool-weather plans for the Mags (pink culottes!). I have a feeling I will be sewing more Roller Skate Dresses, Playtime Leggings, and Class Picnic blouses this year - they are such easy pieces that Maggie loves to wear. I also have a couple of vintage patterns that I'd like to make this year. In general, I don't really need sewing goals for Maggie sewing - she's so fun to sew for, it just happens!

4. Misc. Other Sewing.
Miscsewing 2014

And here area few "other" pieces I made this year. Cushions for the couch, a roll for my crochet hooks (not yet blogged), and some Christmas sewing! Yes, I made stockings for both the kids this year. Whew! I've also worked on some miscellaneous quilting, embroidery, and smocking projects this year, finished a quilt for my niece, and taught myself to crochet and finished my first afghan! And that's not even trying to document the many dresses I made as gifts ... I guess it was a pretty productive year! (It's funny, looking back, I do not feel like it was an especially productive sewing year for me, or a great blogging year, but I guess I did make quite a bit of stuff!)

And with that, I will conclude with a couple of goals for 2015:

1. Sew down the fabric stash! It is currently out. of. control.
2. Sew from the pattern stash. Stop. Buying. Patterns. (Haha, we'll see!)
3. Sew more for the house. It's actually pretty fun!
4. Keep sewing for myself and expand my dressmaking skills.
5. Continue to work on my crochet skills.
6. Finish Maggie's quilt this year. I clearly need to incorporate some pink into it.
7. Finish my smocking/embroidery WIPs.
8. Have fun and don't get down on myself if I don't make as many things as I feel like I should!

And with that, here's to a fantastic 2015! What are your sewing goals?