Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Farm Security Administration Color Photos, 1939-1944.

I'm listening to an audio version of The Grapes of Wrath on my weekly car commutes for work (let's see: 315 tracks, at a rate of twenty tracks per week ... so I'll be finished by ... August!). It is stark, depressing, and beautiful - everything I was promised, basically.

It has also inspired me to look up some images from the Dust Bowl. Which is how I stumbled on the Library of Congress' collection of color photographs from the Farm Security Administration on Flickr. Most of the images I've seen from this era are in black and white, so these color images just leap off the page (or, okay, screen).

There is so much sadness in these photos, so much pride, so much hard work. Absolutely stunning.

(And they make me want to sew more cotton frocks and even more aprons.)

Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico (LOC)
Oh my goodness, look at the bias tape on this beauty!

Orchestra at square dance in McIntosh County, Oklahoma (LOC)
The hat, the socks, the dress, the guitar!

Young woman at the community laundry on Saturday afternoon, FSA ... camp, Robstown, Tex. (LOC)
From a labor camp. This dress and apron are so lovely.

Winner at the Delta County Fair, Colorado (LOC)
Gingham, check matching, piping, bias tape ...

Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Ga. (LOC)
Wow, is it possible that anyone actually farmed in dresses like this?
At the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC)
Three girls dressed from the same bolt of fabric, or the same patterned feedsack?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Leprechaun shorts.

Whew! The 7th Annual Golden Gate Singing was FANTASTIC, but I am still in recovery. I need another weekend to recover from my weekend and nurse this tickly cough that I've acquired.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photographs of my dress OR my apron OR my shoes OR the giant pot of macaroni and cheese that I whipped up for the singing. Apparently I was too busy actually singing (and, okay, eating). I've been trolling Facebook hoping someone else got a photograph ... I'll let you know.

Green shorts.
Cute shorts: Easy. Getting Joe to stand still for a photo: Not easy.

Sometime after the apron, but before the singing, I made yet another pair of shorts for Joe, from yet another Oliver + s pattern, the Sketchbook Shorts. These are incredibly easy and fast, and I fully expect to bore y'all to tears by making a gazillion of them.

This first pair is in a bright kelly green heavy-ish cotton (almost a light canvas). The pockets are "real" but the button fly is "mock." It's such a classic cut - it reminds me of British school boys with knee socks and red, scraped up knees. Although, in bright green, it has more of a leprechaun vibe.

See what I mean?

I learned something: Joe is a size 2T, not 3T, which explains why the Sailboat Pants I've made him (in 3T) are all falling off of him, whereas these are just perfect. But of course, this means he'll probably grow out of these shorts in less time than it took to sew them up, which is a bittersweet experience to say the least (ask me how I know this). So I can't decide if I'll size up the next pair ...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day: I got an email from Clorox Bleach!

As you may recall, last week I blogged a book review of Ellen Sandbeck's awesome book Green Housekeeping. Her book suggests many simple changes that you can make to green your home and lessen your cleaning load, but I listed just a few that we have adopted. One change I've made, based on the advice of Ms. Sandbeck and others, is to strictly limit my use of chlorine bleach in everyday household cleaning, because it is especially harmful to the environment.

Now, I'm not an ecologist, biologist, chemist, or any other kind of "ist." My statement about bleach was based entirely on the recommendations of others, who do have credentials. But I didn't think it was a particularly controversial statement, since I have never heard that bleach is good for the environment.

So you can imagine my surprise, when I received the following email on Wednesday morning:

Dear Inder,

We saw your post “Book Review: Green Housekeeping” and wanted to follow up with information about the safety of cleaning with bleach. On behalf of The Clorox Company, we certainly understand your concern for the environment, so we’d like to address some common misconceptions about bleach.

In your post, you talked about how bleach is detrimental to the environment. However, everyday consumer and commercial use of bleach as directed in laundering clothes or in disinfecting surfaces around the home or public places, such as schools and hospitals, is not harmful to the environment because bleach breaks down into salt and water.

In addition to being safe when used as directed, EPA-registered bleach products actually have health benefits. Here are some of benefits of using bleach:
·         Some EPA-registered bleach products, like Clorox® Regular Bleach, kill the pathogens most commonly found at home including E. coli, Salmonella and Influenza viruses.
·         Clorox® Regular-Bleach plays a critical role in your home, the hospital, child care centers, and other places throughout your community where killing germs that may cause deadly infections like MRSA is critical.
·         Bleach is one of the most widely available and affordable disinfectants on earth with a variety of uses that range from its role in helping to protect public health to preserving endangered species of frogs to cleaning up spacecrafts upon their return to earth. 

I hope you find this information to be helpful. Please feel free to pass this information on to your readers. To learn more about the common misconceptions about bleach, please visit and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Thank you for your time.

On behalf of Clorox

My first reaction to this email was "OMG! Someone reads my blog!!" (Even if it is just a bot, seeking out the word "Comet" on the internet.)

My second reaction was whoa, this must be part of a major marketing effort, if Clorox is going to take the trouble to email me, a small-time personal blogger with only a couple dozen regular readers.

Third. I need to blog about this issue! Too bad I'm not a scientist!

So, what the heck? I emailed Ms. Ellen Sandbeck herself. (She has a blog, of course. I love the modern world.) I forwarded the email from Clorox, and asked her if she would like to respond to their claims regarding the environmental safety of their product. Also, what's this about protecting endangered frogs?

I was delighted when she responded almost immediately and very thoroughly! Here is Ellen Sandbeck's response:

Hello Inder!

I am so pleased that you like Green Housekeeping! And frankly, it is a little scary that the Clorox Company is hunting down everyone who mentions bleach online. WOW!

I just looked up chlorine bleach in relation to preserving endangered frogs, and I believe the Clorox Company is referring to the fact that scientists who are monitoring endangered frog populations that are threatened by fungal diseases, use chlorine bleach to disinfect equipment so they don't transport frog diseases from one body of water to another. According to the Lake Monitoring Equipment Disinfection Protocol published by the Sierra Nevada Network: "We elected to use a chlorine bleach disinfection procedure. The alternative disinfectant is Quat-128. Quat 128 is not used in this protocol because it is a source of nitrogen contamination. We recognize that chlorine bleach is a source of sodium and chloride ion contamination. However, disinfecting is a necessary step, and, given our objectives, potential sodium and chloride contamination was the better of the two options." From other reading I have done about this topic, I gather that the one real hope for frogs seems to reside in beneficial bacteria--apparently some frog populations are naturally resistant to fungal diseases, and researchers have traced that immunity to these frogs' endemic bacteria. There is now a program to culture these beneficial frog-skin bacteria in order to inoculate vulnerable frog populations--the hope is that these beneficial bacteria will protect the inoculated frogs from the fungal diseases.

The frog researchers  are using miniscule quantities of bleach to clean out their equipment.
[In response to the contention that chlorine bleach breaks down into salt and water,] of course for millennia, armies have used sodium chloride as a very effective weapon of conquest: invade a country, salt the fields, and the populace starves. And even though chlorine bleach eventually breaks down to salt and water, along the way it reacts with every bit of organic material it encounters, and the product of these reactions are quite frequently carcinogenic. This is why the USDA was working to figure out a way to disinfect beef carcasses without using chlorine bleach.
The fastest effects, of course, are the chlorine gases that are produced when chlorine bleach combines with almost any other household cleaner. Chlorine gas and chloramine gas can both be deadly when they are produced in small, badly ventilated room, for instance a bathroom
in the winter...

The "Safe when used as directed" is all very well, but as far as I can tell, I may be the only person on the planet who always reads warning labels every time I use a potentially hazardous product. (Which frankly, isn't often, since I avoid all discretionary use of dangerous chemicals.) [Here is the MSDS for Regular Clorox Bleach.] Chemical producers know very well that approximately zero percent of customers actually read warning labels. Because the truth of the matter is, that if consumers actually read the warning labels on dangerous products, most people would be too terrified to use those

Methinks the Clorox Company protests too much. They must really be running scared.  There are lots of much safer ways to disinfect hospitals than by using chlorine bleach!

Thank you again for writing to me!


Thank you Ellen!

Readers, I hope this got you thinking about the everyday use of bleach in your home. You can do your own research, and make up your own minds.

Now, I understand that when it comes to living as "green" as possible, we all have to make compromises. Like the researchers who are studying those endangered frogs, we may sometimes choose to use a product because it is the best product  for the job, and in certain circumstances, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. And of course, there are different schools of thought on the environmental safety of particular chemicals in particular circumstances.

I think it's important to remember, however, that infections like MRSA are generally understood to be the product of overzealous use of antibiotics and disinfectants, which kill all but the strongest and nastiest of bacteria, leaving a breed of super-bad-bacteria in their wake. Furthermore, when we use bleach and other strong disinfectants, we may indiscriminately kill bacteria that is beneficial to humans and other wildlife and actually protects us from illness. Not all germs are bad. In fact, I was just enjoying a few of the yogurt-making variety this morning.

Let it be known, I am a big fan of modern medicine, antibiotics, and disinfectants (I've read too many Victorian novels to have any false nostalgia about life before the development of the germ theory) - these tools literally save lives every day. In my non-expert opinion, the key is to use these wonderful tools judiciously.

Which brings us back to everyday cleaning of our homes. I'm not an expert, I'm just a regular person trying to reduce her environmental footprint just a teensy bit. One thing I know: Chlorine bleach is poisonous, and I wouldn't want my very curious almost-two-year-old getting into a bottle of it. And I don't need bleach. For everyday cleaning, I can use other less poisonous products, with less scary warning labels.

It's as simple as that. I will continue to avoid using chlorine bleach in my home.

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New "Dress" Apron!

Protect and Serve Apron.
That's not a dirty kitchen in the background, that's a hard-working kitchen.

Here it is! My very own "Protect and Serve Apron"!

Since this was my second time making this pattern, I was able to iron out (har har) some of the issues with fit that I encountered (too late to remedy) with Rebecca's apron.

And since I've now done this twice, I can say with even more certainty: This pattern requires a crapload of bias tape! So. Much. Bias. Tape. That's basically the whole pattern: (1) Get bias tape. (2) Tediously apply bias tape, in huge quantities. (3) Repeat.

Throughout this project, the bias tape kept going missing, along with other miscellaneous sewing notions. Each time, I would find it in Joe's top-secret stash spot, the cupboard under Steve's grill in the back yard, usually along with a fleecy sleeper, several dog leashes, and a great collection of sticks. I'm sure this makes perfect sense to Joe, but I admit, I'm a little baffled. But if your measuring tape goes missing in my house, that's the first place I would check.

By the end of my apron sewing, I wasn't even bothering to bellow, "Steve! Have you see my bias tape?" (Steve doesn't even know what bias tape is, mind you.) Rather, I would just put my shoes on and trudge out in the rain to check the stash spot, and there it was. I'll give Joe this: He applies his wacky logic very consistently. If he could talk more, I'm sure he'd inform me, in condescending tones, that bias tape belongs in the cupboard under the grill. And then roll his eyes at my inability to grasp such a simple concept.

Protect and serve apron, back.
It's the back that really makes it old-timey.

Back to the project. I used vintage bias tape that I bought on eBay; you can't tell from these photos, but there are actually three subtly different shades of yellow bias tap in this apron. I've raved about vintage bias tape before, but I'll do it again: It's usually 100% cotton! And it comes in a world of beautiful, jewel-toned, Springy colors! And you can often get a whole box of the stuff (with some rick-rack, seam binding, and other notions) for dirt cheap! And using vintage sewing notions is green, and can help assuage your guilt at constantly purchasing new fabric!

I opted to go for a more practical, and less bias tape-intensive, pocket shape than the flower suggested by the pattern. Seriously, the idea of binding those little flower petals in bias tape ... well, it would involve a lot more trips to Joe's stash, for one.

I tried to pick fabrics reminiscent of Depression-era feedsacks. I don't think they are historically authentic, but I love them. And when Joe sees me in the apron, he makes the ASL sign for "flower." Aw.

So I'm all set for the big singing this weekend. (Except that I woke up with a sore throat today. Waaaaaaah!)

Apron, with Joe's face peeking in.
Love that sneaky munchkin on the left.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Slow-Cooker Yogurt.

I have fond memories of the homemade yogurt my mother used to make when I was a kid. I remember, it was a little runny, and a little tart, and very delicious. But I also remember that it was a bit of a pain to make, and involved carefully monitoring the temperature of the mixture, for hours.

As you know by now, I love the challenge of making ordinary things (dinner, clothes, bread, vegetables) from scratch. There is a unique sense of accomplishment that you get in doing something "the hard way."  But until recently, even for me, yogurt-making seemed like a lot of work and babysitting for a product that (a) I don't eat  that much of; and (b) isn't that expensive.

What changed? Well, yogurt is now one of the five foods (or is it four?) that my incredibly picky toddler will actually eat. And you know what, it is kind of expensive, especially if you buy two cartons of the organic kind every week, because it makes up a quarter of your child's diet.

So I recently started eying internet recipes for "slow cooker yogurt." This supposedly foolproof method seemed easier than the more old-fashioned method, in that it does not require that you closely monitor the temperature of the milk. According to the hype, you just have to set a timer. Warm up the milk, cool it down, add the starter, go to bed.

So two weeks ago I tried it. And it was a massive fail. I woke up the next morning excited for yogurt and found completely uncultured milk, still sweet, with only the slightest tang of yogurt (doubtless from the half cup starter I added). It was spoiled. I poured it down the sink.*

It turns out I only like to make things from scratch when it works. When it doesn't work, I get really, really whiny. Just ask Steve.

Let it never be said that I only blog the positive, right?

But a particular Facebook friend taunted me with stories of her delicious, thick, creamy homemade yogurt, which she was serving with homemade granola, oh yum, kill me now.

Well, I was not going to let a half-gallon of scalded milk beat me!

So I tried again. But this time, I did extensive research on the ideal environment for culturing yogurt. I broke out the candy thermometer and, you guessed it, monitored the temperature. Since I was a bit anxious about this second endeavor, this meant checking the temperature approximately every five minutes for five hours straight. I was trying to make bread at the same time, but in my yogurt-obsession, forgot all about the bread and let it overproof (it turned out fine - yeast is a lot more forgiving than those persnickety little yogurt bacilli).

If you want the technical details, it went like this: I heated a half gallon of milk in the slow-cooker on "High" to 180 degrees (about 2.5 hours). Then I let it cool slowly, stirring occasionally, to 115 degrees (another 2-3 hours). Then I added the starter (a half cup of plain yogurt), tempering it first with some of the warm milk. Then, after I baked my bread, I wrapped up the crock pot and stuck it in oven (warmed to about 115 and then turned off) to culture overnight.

This morning, when Joe woke me up, my first thought was "Did my yogurt set??" Oh, please ....

My hands were trembling as I removed the cover and saw ... TA-DA! Yogurt! Unmistakable, thick and creamy YOGURT! A little bit runny, and very tart! I danced around the kitchen with joy. Joe wasn't sure what we were celebrating, but he's a good sport and joined right in.

Homemade yogurt.
Stored in one of our many extra yogurt containers!
So in the end, making yogurt turned out to be just as fussy and finicky as I remembered from my childhood.  But though this may look like a just homely quart of plain yogurt (the batch made two quarts, by the way),  to me, it tastes like success. Delicious.

Next: Homemade granola!

* To be fair, the timing-only method probably works great for people who, you know, heat their homes. I suspect that my first batch of milk cooled much more quickly than the recipe accounts for in my drafty old house, and thus, it was too cold when I added the starter for the culture to grow.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Golden Gate Singing Necessities: A "Dress" Apron.


With the 7th Annual Golden Gate Sacred Harp Singing* coming up in a week, two extremely important questions are weighing on my mind: (1) What will I wear? (2) What will I cook?

(And coming in distant third: What song(s) will I lead? Priorities.**)

So, first things first, what should I wear? The (unspoken and certainly not mandatory) dress code for Sacred Harp singings is, as they used to say, "Sunday Best," or "dress as you would dress for church." But of course, hardly anyone dresses up for church anymore and the term "Sunday Best" has lost its meaning. So, in simpler and less archaic terms: Wear whatever you like, but ... *cough cough* ...  you won't find many better occasions for wearing a nice dress (or shirt and tie) than a Sacred Harp singing. Do with that information what you will.

In the spirit of the resourceful, hard-working folks who kept the Sacred Harp tradition alive in the South for a century, I think I will go home-sewn this year and wear my "Learning Curves" dress. It seems like an appropriate choice for a Springtime singing on the eve of Easter.

So that's settled, leaving me to obsess about accessories.

Since hospitality and "dinner on the ground" is such an important part of singing events (again, think Southern church potluck absolutely overflowing with delicious dishes), my mind immediately turned to ... you guessed it ... an apron!

I am currently reading Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England, where I have learned that in Victorian England, middle-class housewives usually had several aprons. For dirty tasks, they used a simple apron made of coarse, sturdy materials. But for lighter housework and serving guests, they donned a "dress" apron. Some very well-to-do women even used a separate "fancy work apron" for "fancy work" like embroidery

(Unfortunately, my Google searches for "dress apron" only came up with dresses that look like aprons. Sigh. That's called a pinafore or jumper, not a "dress apron," people. What is the world coming to? )

While I don't think I need an apron especially for sewing fancy baby pants (I prefer to sew in my pajamas), I like the idea of having a "dress" apron for nicer times when I am playing hostess. My "everyday" apron is functional, but a bit ratty.

Okay, really? I just needed an excuse to sew myself an apron just like the one I did for Rebecca, using the Decades of Style "Protect and Serve" pattern. Now, Rebecca and I can both wear our aprons to the singing! And be unbearably matchy! Won't that be great? (Barf.)

So that's what I'm working on right now. A "dress" apron (in un-fancy fabrics reminiscent of Depression-era feedsacks) to wear over my dress while I help with food at the Golden Gate Singing. Yippee!

Next: What should I cook?

* More information about The Sacred Harp and shape note singing may be found here. More information about the Golden Gate Singing may be found here. Come on down! No singing experience required!

** Priorities shamelessly stolen from Rebecca. But you see, I just agreed so heartily!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: Green Housekeeping.

Previously published as Organic Housekeeping.
I'm not exactly a neat-freak. My primary housekeeping goal is to avoid having my house nominated for a reality show.  I take a lot of comfort in the "hygeine hypothesis," which goes beyond the old maxim "dirt don't hurt" to postulate that exposure to dirt and germs (and even enormous quantities of dog fur) actually helps developing immune systems.

That's right, folks, too much cleaning is bad for your kids.

I love science.

So, anyway, I came to Green Housekeeping with a fair amount of skepticism. I was hoping to glean some tips on being "green" but fully expected to skip the parts about "housekeeping."

But Ellen Sandbeck is my people. From the moment she pointed out that if you don't like mopping your kitchen floor, you should consider getting a dog, I knew I was going to enjoy this book. That's my kind of housekeeping! (Note: Dogs are especially handy when you have a messy baby who eats in a high chair.)

So, if you want to read a book that will make you feel bad about your lousy housekeeping and shame you into becoming neater, this is not it.  I hear Martha Stewart has written a few of those. Is it just me, or does it seem like most housekeeping advice is written by crazy neat-freaks, for an audience of equally crazy neat-freaks? Like, thanks, but I really don't need help creating a beautifully organized linen closet - I don't have a linen closet! I'm in need of more remedial help. Or a cleaning lady.

Whereas Green Housekeeping actually made me feel pretty good about my housekeeping. Ellen Sandbeck starts right off with helpful tips for extreme hoarders (like, you really, really need to throw away some of those newspapers, preferably before the city comes and does it for you) that helped to bolster my ego ("Hey, I'm not so bad! At least I haven't kept every single rubber band I've touched in the last twenty years - just the last three!"), and actually motivated me to make improvements to my home.

I've read it twice. For reals.

So far, this book has inspired the following changes for our household:
  1. Major, major decluttering. It turns out that having less stuff means ... less stuff for Joe to destroy, which means ... less work for us! I sold most of my books and all of my CDs. I admit, the purge stung at first (I'm definitely a collector), but it made my life so much better.
  2. I have stopped using sponges (which studies have shown are often the dirtiest items in the whole house! like, dirtier than the toilet brush! ick!) and switched to machine-washable dishrags and a scrubby brush. Less waste, less money, less food-borne illness!
  3. Similarly, I am trying to reduce our dependence on paper towels, and now use rags for all but the nastiest of messes (read: dog poop).
  4. I put up a clothesline. Nothing fancy. Literally, a piece of rope strung between a tree and a pole. And I use it, at least some of the time, when the weather is nice. It's fun, it gets you outside, it saves energy, and it leaves your towels pleasantly crunchy.
  5. I am trying to stay away from bleach and Comet, which are just terrible for the environment. To be fair, this isn't too hard for someone who never cleaned that much to begin with. For those of you who actually scrub your tubs, may I suggest Bon Ami? I've also incorporated some other old-fashioned and non-toxic cleansers into my routine, including baking soda, vinegar, and castille soap, although honestly, water is pretty great, all by itself. (Random tidbit: Pour boiling water from the kettle onto the burned-on food on your stove top. Walk away. Come back later and scrub a little. Admire results. Make spaghetti sauce and start the process over.)
  6. I got a rubber broom. According to Ellen Sandbeck, the rubber broom is a one-broom-show that can completely replace your regular broom and mop, give your vacuum cleaner a run for its money, and you can even use it for cobwebs! I'll give her this: It's absolutely brilliant for those dog fur/dust bunny tumbleweeds that mosey across our hardwood floors. It sweeps up the fur without blowing it around, and without getting tangled up in the bristles. It's pretty awesome.
  7. We installed carbon monoxide detectors (unfortunately, this move was also inspired by my friend Melissa's recent bout with CO poisoning, eek!). And I made Steve go around checking batteries on smoke detectors.
  8. I bought some Borax. I'm still a little unsure about what to do with it, though. The box is still sitting unopened. I am wondering if it could help somehow with our annual summer flea-infestation? Unfortunately, poor Steve is very delicious.
  9. So, wait, here's a radical idea: If you maintain a clean house, by cleaning up after messes and doing small things here and there, you can save yourself a ton of time and effort in deep cleaning and spend more time goofing off and making baby pants?? Who knew?
And that's just a start. Ellen Sandbeck suggests so many simple, small changes that us regular, "I'm too creative and interesting to clean!" folks can make to green our homes and simplify our space

You might want to start with that enormous collection of National Geographics that is currently blocking your front door.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Signs of Spring.

Some signs of Spring here on East 23rd.

Sunning pit bull.
Sunning pit bull.

Clothesline, back in operation.
Diapers drying on the clothesline.

Chard, getting bigger.
Swiss chard, growing.

Steve's going nutso with tree trimming. This was a GIANT branch.

GIANT BRANCH on the ground.
It's going to take about 20 years to get this into the green bin.

I love that face.
Gratuitous cuteness.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How not to make an internet tutorial, part 2.

Continued from part 1.

Step 16. Make pants. Do not document this process in any way.

Step 17. Talk about how cute they turned out.*

New shorts, front.

Love that Oliver + s Sailboat Pants pattern! It's so cute, right? I'm a total convert to these patterns. In fact, I just ordered their Sketchbook shirt and shorts pattern. Shhhh. Please don't tell my husband. I sort of fell off the ol' sewing budget wagon last week. Oh. Hi Steve! I promise I won't buy any more sewing stuff for at least this month. Ahem.

And I love the bright red buttons. Thanks Andrea (my consultant in all things sewing), for getting me out of my brown button rut. Next time: lime green.

New shorts, back.

The shorts turned out too big. I need to cinch up the elastic a bit more. The Gap pants were an awesome source of fabric, though. It has a slight stretch, but is simultaneously super crisp. It holds a press perfectly, yet doesn't wrinkle (much)? Awesome!

Posing by the fireplace.
Joe's "Blue Steel" look

And they are too long. Not so much "shorts" as "clamdiggers."I wonder if they'll be a little shorter when I tighten up the waistband ...

Posing by the fireplace.
(This pose reminds me of an old portrait. He just needs a sword or walking stick.)

Yeah, okay, they're definitely too big! Shoot! But Joe will fit in great with the Oakland gangsters, whose shorts are so baggy, they have to be held up (a gesture that always reminds me of a Victorian woman gathering up her skirts) in order to walk.

Whatever. I love them.

* Sorry folks! I don't think I'm cut out for this whole internet tutorial business!

Monday, April 4, 2011

How not to make an internet tutorial, part 1.

Step 1. Decide to make your toddler some shorts using an old pair of pants.

Step 2. Take pictures of pants. These are an old pair of slightly-too-short and now too-big Gap pants that I got a good amount of wear out of despite the length issues.

Gap pants.

Step 3. Cut pants apart through the crotch.

Cutting apart.

Step 4. Show cutting layout. On the floor, of course, because that's where cutting happens in your house. It's not like you have a separate dedicated space for sewing or anything, right? Nope. It all  happens in the dining room. (I used the Oliver + s Sailboat Pants pattern, cut off short. It was a tight fit, but I squeezed the pieces onto my pants.)

Cutting layout.


Cutting layout.

Step 5. While you are doing this, allow your toddler to entertain himself by tossing a tennis ball around the room. Sip your morning coffee and lay it next to your cutting.

Step 6. (To be completed by toddler.) Aim tennis ball at mother's coffee cup. Throw. Follow up with "uh oh."

Step 7.  (Back to you, mom.) OH CRAP. Run for rags.

 Total disaster.

Step 8. Holler to husband for back-up. Refer to toddler as "YOUR SON."

Step 9. Run around like a chicken with its head cut off, sopping up coffee with rags, unpinning the soaked pattern pieces from the soaked fabric, etc.

Step 10. Ask yourself, why didn't you trace the pattern instead of folding it carefully down to size 3? Why? (Congratulate yourself for putting the fancy camera AWAY from the cutting.)

Step 11. Try to iron out pattern pieces to dry them out a little bit. Let the smell of burning coffee permeate the house. Use masking tape to repair tear caused by hasty unpinning. (At this point, you don't have time to adjust the settings on the camera, and bad photos result.)

Surveying the damage.

Step 12. Throw the cut and now coffee-saturated pieces of shorts into the washing machine ("Quick Wash," with soap, warm/cold).

Washing pieces.

Step 13. Assess the final damage. Not too bad. Those pattern pieces will permanently smell like coffee, but they are usable.  The coffee was super fresh, so it washed right out of the fabric. (I haven't been drinking coffee for 20 years without learning how to remove it from clothing.)


Step 14. Apologize to toddler for freaking out. Explain that you understand that he was just bored because mom was ignoring him and making an internet tutorial, and he didn't really mean to upset you. Kiss plump cheeks.

Step 15. Go crack open a beer.  Decide to come back to this project at a later date.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Warm day.

It stopped raining and the sun came out (at least temporarily), so I have been very busy in the garden, planting greens, parsley, and cilantro. All I can say is: finally. I feel so behind!

But here are two cute blouses I recently sewed up for a couple of little girls in my life, my niece Helen and my friend Anne's little girl, Maeve. This was my rainy weekend project last weekend.

Ice Cream Social blouses

I made these using the Oliver + s pattern, "Ice Cream Dress." Everything you've heard about Oliver + s patterns, it's all true. They sew up like a dream. And I love the classic styles. Their patterns remind me of the clothes you see in old children's books.

Both of these blouses used some reclaimed fabric, and some fabric from the stash. For Helen's blouse, I used an old stained apron from the 1950s I found at a thrift store. I had to cut around some pretty ugly stains, but I love that pretty print! It has a lovely old flour-sack look.

Helen's blouse.

Maeve's top uses a pretty deep teal voile print that was once a women's blouse (it never fit me, sadly). I used the same deep red calico for both dresses.

Maeve's blouse.

Reusing fabrics from grown women's clothing to make clothes for little girls makes me feel so insufferably virtuous! Look at me! So "make-do-and-mend"! I can hardly stand myself!

I'm pretty sure the blouses are both too big for their recipients. I knew I was taking a stab in the dark when I chose size 18-24 months for a ten month old and a seventeen month old, respectively. They'll grow into them at some point.

I love  the old-timey vibe.  And look, our clothesline is back in operation! SUN!