Saturday, November 30, 2013

Old School

I've had a couple of ladies goggle at me when I transport my goodies around via dishtowel, so here's an instruction.

First you must start with the good dishtowels.  The ones your grandmother embroidered.  This is vital.  (Okay.  You can use any dishtowel so long as it's thin and bigger than your dish.  Terry-cloth toweling need not apply).

You may *line* the dishtowel with terrycloth if the dish is particularly hot. 
And then you simply tie the ends together diagonally over the top of the dish.  Tie them in good square knots, not slipknots.  (Important!)
Whee!  You have your very own handled dish-carrier!  :)  Yes, I really use the knotted bits to carry the dish, although of course I test it first. 
Item two:  My back has been killing me  - I have short legs, am short generally, and tend to flop myself into my computer chair, which ends up with truly abominable posture.  My daughter has been angling for a rolling chair - so I snagged the dressing-room stool we'd had from MIL out of a corner, and gave DD my rolling chair.  I'll report back - it's a couple inches too long, but so far... it's better. 
 In related news, I'm starting a blog up for my corseting adventures... because of the subject nature, it will be a bit more "blue" than I keep things here at TBL.   I'll have a link on the sidebar here later.  Wore a ready-made corset yday and it helped the back a good bit.   You ever get the feeling that we moderns think we're so smart but we might be missing a few things?  :p 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Learn to Sew!

I've had a couple of folks ask me for resources in learning to sew, so I'm going to put up as exhaustive a blog/link source as I can. 

First, the blog.  How have I learned to sew?  I learned the basics of sewing when I was in school, we used to have this class called "Home Ec".  I'm not very fast at learning muscle-memory tasks, so I wasn't a straight-A student... but I did get the general idea.  And my Home Ec teacher wouldn't let us *touch* fabric until we could sew curves and corners flawlessly.  (We used pictures of cats, as I recall - sewing without thread on the outlines).  Mom sewed, so she showed me a few tricks.

But basically I started sewing with my own machine knowing:  1) how to thread it, 2) how to sew a straight, basic seam, 3) that you have to press between stages.  I was able to struggle through making very basic cotton curtains for my son's first bedroom...

So, how did I get what learning I have?  (I'm no couturier!) 
1) I just started sewing.  I started with very basic items - I think I started with an A-line wrap skirt.  This is absolutely the way to start!  Little fitting, no closures, and you still end up with a finished product.
2)  I read up on bits as I went along.  "How do you put in a zipper"? 
3)  I started reading sewing blogs.  Almost all the bloggers will put in instructional bits and bobs occasionally - some do it regularly.  Bloggers have helped my sewing more than anything else - that's how I found out about the cardinal "interface under every zipper you sew" rule - it's *not* in the pattern instructions!
4)  I challenged myself progressively, and was willing to do it over in six months or so and try again. My first clothes weren't that great, but they were wearable, and I *wore them*.  Which motivated me to improve.
5)  When I decided to pick up more specialized skills, I hit online classes.   You pay for these, but not much.
6) When my sewing machine got upgraded, I went to all the sewing classes that my sewing shop offered.  I learned a *lot* about my sewing feet that I'd not known, and it has made a very great difference in my sewing acuity. 

Things I would pass along to folks wanting to learn to sew:
- Go ahead and make that first skirt from quilting cotton.  It's cheap, it makes a great A-line skirt (it's crisp, it holds out well) and there are a lot of cute patterns to play with.
- But switch up your fabric as soon as you're pretty sure you're not going to make a total botch.  Lightweight denims are easy to work with, as is linen and shirting weight cotton - and so is lightweight washable wool.  Okay, wool is a total dream to work with.  And a "real fabric" won't be a tell that you've made it yourself.  I know the embroidered denim with the twee flowers would make a great skirt - but it's going to feel SO homemade.  (BTDT). 
- Start learning to fit your figure as soon as you're comfortable sewing that straight seam.  Fit is *everything*.  
- Joanne's is a fine place to buy thread, most notions, and constantly has its patterns on sale.  The fabric is really hit or miss - and it's expensive.  See if you can't find somewhere else to haunt. 
- Online fabric stores are the bomb, once you know what you're looking for.  Fabric is such a tactile thing... :p
- You need one basic book about sewing.  The older, the better.  It's a reference book, it can be totally boring. 
- A meticulous nature is a blessing.  I don't have one.
- Make sure to cut carefully, and on-grain.
- Start cruising the online sewing community, and bookmark the sites that give you good info/sew to your style.  Read, read, read.
- Buy good scissors, good hand-needles, keep everything sharp - and if your sewing machine is wonky, have it checked.


Tilly has a very straightforward style, and has *the most basic* learning to sew instructions that I've found online.

Not updated with as many lessons as it was before she started sewing professionally, but her archives are useful, and she's got a lot of eye candy. 

She's specializing in knits these days, but she's very careful about fitting her patterns to most body types, and she's extremely pleasant reading. 

Specializes in historical sewing, with historical accuracy.  Does a lot of historical sew-alongs.  Beautiful clothing, lovely attitude.

Specializes in patterns for the pear-shaped figure.  Very cheery writer, cute patterns, clear explanations.

As I go along and see good instructions (or just instructions for something I've been wanting to try) I pin them to my sewing stuff pinboard.  You'll have to sift through the other things there, but there's quite a list:  Pinterest has a lot of tutorials, look around!

I picked up some good information from watching the Great British Sewing Bee on youtube.  :)

Surf around - most of the blogroll stuff on most sewing blogs tend to be extremely safe viewing and you'll come upon gems.

Collette patterns have good clear instructions, fwiw.  They don't fit me well, but the instructions are good.


Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book:  If you can find a vintage copy of this book at an estate sale or thrift store - snag it!  I have two, very slightly different copies, and they're worth their weight.  Really good instructions, very clear.

I have a few fitting books, none of which make me blindingly happy... but I think "Fast Fit" by Sandra Betzina is the best of the lot.  (I have high hopes of the craftsy course I bought on fitting - it gives a new approach.  I'll post back about my work in this area - I have a very hard-to-fit figure, so if it works for me - it works).

Threads Sewing Guide is a good overall guide book.  If you can't get a vintage Better Homes - or if you just want to add to your library, it's recommended.  Lurvely pictures, it has.

I *really* like Sewing Machine Classroom - I didn't think it would be all that helpful, since I know how to use a sewing machine, but I was very wrong.  It's one of the more useful books in my collection.  Put that with the Better Homes and get going.

Hopefully all of this helps someone out.  I love sewing.  It's not the fastest thing to get amazing results with, but once you learn anything, no one can take it away from you.  :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blog Party: Thankful for our Hubbies: Day Five

It's day five of being thankful for our hubbies... and it's Thanksgiving Day here in the States.  :)

In other words, it's a good day.

I *could* gush about my husband some more.  After the past four days, you've kind of gotten the point that I think the world of him, right?  But I want to hit something that's been hitting me.

I am thankful that my husband has my back.  And that I have his back.  And that we're going in one direction.

That's really the point of being married.  You have one another's backs.  You're one flesh, you go one direction.  One person fills in the holes that the other person has.  Now, my hubby and I are extremely traditional in our gender roles.  He won't even LET me do some of the "boy stuff" that I learned to do as an only daughter.  And that's totally fine... you know he does it 10x faster and more efficiently than I could.  Why duplicate effort? 

But if you deify who does what... you're getting the point backwards.  We do this because this works for us.  And we're trying to accomplish the same goals. 

People who know us peripherally are forever telling us that we have nothing in common, they don't know how we stay married.  -eyeroll-  Maybe because we have the same goals, the same values?  Maybe because our parents and grandparents were married 'til death did them part and that's what we regard as normal?  (Speaking of things to be thankful for....)

I love my husband a hairs-breadth short of idolatry. 

And I'm thankful for him, every single day. 

To all my readers - Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful for our hubbies, blog party day four


I am thankful that my husband knows how to use his hands.  It is but to mention to my husband that X is out of whack to see it get fixed (this *always* disorients me).  I'm pretty sure that my hubs could build a house with a helper to help hold the other end of the heavy bits. 


He decided we needed a walkway up to the front door.  So he busted the concrete lip we had on the bottom of the lawn. 
He decided that our patio (that he and his mom built) needed to be stucco'd and have glass windows put in.   So he did that. 

Here's the walkway, after he put in the bricks.

He tiled the entry.  He put in the laminate floor. 

He's painted every wall in this house, he's rewired a few of the lights, the flooring has all been put down with his two hands, he considers major home repair a pleasant weekend's work. 
My husband is good with his hands, and I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful for my hubby: Blog Party Day Three


I am thankful for all the usual things that we are thankful for, when we have good husbands.

I am thankful that he works hard at his job.  (I am thankful to our Lord that he has a good job to work hard at!)

I am thankful that he loves our kids and spends time with them.

I am thankful that he is more than willing to be the heavy with the kids!

I am thankful that he comes home every night.

I am thankful that he loves me.

I am thankful that he makes me laugh.

I am thankful for date nights and the time he chooses to spend with me.

I am thankful for the way he makes me feel.

I am thankful for his strength.

I am thankful that he's a man of his word.

I am thankful for our love and for our marriage.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful for my hubby: Blog Party Day 2

Blog Party here:

The second thing that my husband does for me is encourage me in my self-improvement projects.

You're thinking, "aww... that's so very fluffy".  But "support" in this case means that he approves the project, gives me a budget, and reminds me that it's okay to work on whateveritis instead of polishing the cat. 

Then he pokes me to make sure I keep going.  And teases me about the things I am *still* not very good at (maintenance), which makes me a bit better at them.  (a bit).

He laughs at me and doesn't take me too seriously.  He *doesn't* think I'm all that and an apple pie.  He critiques my work all the time... and I end up going back and grumblingly redoing it, because I know that he's right. 

He pushes me to be better by giving me intelligent feedback, and he's not afraid of my sadface when his feedback isn't positive - he knows that's part of honest feedback. 

He makes me better.  And I'm thankful.  :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thankful for my hubby: A blog-party

Velvet is hosting a blog-party, inviting us to post five days of things we are thankful for in regards to our beloved husbands.   Linkie Joy Here:

Start at the very beginning... the very best place to start....

The very first thing that my husband did for me, literally the first words he spoke directly to me were to compliment my appearance.  I've never had a good self-image (to put it mildly) and he's always made me feel pretty - in a very real, very practical, very earthy way. 

He took this girl:

Gotta love the 80s... there were two choices for glasses for girls.  Bad, and worse.  I'm about 12/13 here.

And turned her into this girl:
15, not quite 16 here.  Why I forgot to take my retainer off for the picture... :p  But you get the idea.

Take a look at the posture in the first picture, if nothing else.  Slumped and apologetic.  And yeah, that second picture might be a tad too much cleavage for school, but DH enjoyed it...

So.  Day 1:  I am grateful that my husband makes me feel beautiful.  Being told that I'm beautiful makes me want to work harder at being beautiful, so that I can keep making him smile. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Morbling: Long Dark Denim Skirt

I cut this denim out quite some time ago, and this is my tried & true A-line skirt pattern... what took so long? 

Eh.  I was just being lazy.  I sewed a bit, stopped a bit, sewed a bit. 

Note:  Sewing through this heavy a denim (the heaviest fabric I have used to date) is gnarly.  I broke THREE needles today - one flew towards my eye, making me grateful for eyelids and the "close eyes at sudden noises" reaction.   The drag made the topstitching weird, and it's also laying a bit oddly right now.

But - it's denim.  It'll settle.  This is the heavy blue denim you see in men's 501s.  It's meant to soften over time, not start out soft.  I wear my other denim skirts constantly, particularly the lighter blue denim that I made a year or so back.  Same pattern. 

Differences:  Because I used a darker denim, I chose to topstitch in ivory.  It matches the topstitching on the dirndl I made.  (Same fabric).  I might try wearing this as one of the dreaded "double denim" outfits.  Or not.  ;)  I used the same shamrocks for the hem topstitching. 

I put in a waist stay - there is no way I'm going to try to have a skirt this long and heavy (it is quite heavy!) that doesn't have a stay.  It would just slither down my nonexistent hips and find an uncomfortable spot to squish.  (This has happened, can you tell?)

Knowing how much use I've gotten from my other denim skirts, I expect to get a tremendous amount of use out of this one.  These are my "jeans", and they get that much wear.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


An idea.... what if we brought back trousseaux for our kids? 

Hope chests!  :)  I think both boys and girls (or both young men and ladies) could benefit by a hope chest slowly being filled throughout their teenage years.  They could add to it, their parents could add to it, and when the young lady married or the young gentleman went out on his own, they could take it along. 

I have a 13yo boy, so I think about what would be awesome to put in a hope chest for him... first, I probably wouldn't get a cedar chest, I'd see what I could do to find a trunk.  Trunks have a much higher coolness factor for guys.  Then - maybe put in a nice tool every year?  Like a cordless drill, and a really great hammer or... yeah, I have no clue about tools.   A set of kitchen things (cast iron frying pan, a good chef's knife, a dutch oven).  I don't know that the boy would want linens.  A throw might be nice, if it was utterly masculine.  Dunno. ?

I do have a daughter... and I'd love to make her a traditional hope chest.  Cedar, 'cause I *would* stuff it with linens and nighties and things.  (Yes, a trousseaux was originally all the clothes the bride would need for her first year of marriage - after that it was the husband's problem to provide them - and no, I wouldn't do that because of the way we run things these days).  A couple of pretty chemises.  The same set of kitchen equipment that the boy would get. 

I think it would be awesome if I could make a quilt for both of the kids prior to their wedding day.  Of course I haven't yet finished my own wedding quilt (18 years later) so - ahem - this may be my brain outrunning my fingers yet again.  But it would still be awesome.  ;)

At any rate - the hope chest and the trousseaux are NOT out of date - not if we don't want them to be - and they help keep our kids' eyes on the marital prize

What do you think?  Cool or crazy?

Friday, November 15, 2013

CaliGirl Hair

It was time to get the highlights re-lit.  Okay, I was massively overdue 'cause the beginning of the school year was super busy and it takes for-ev-er to highlight hair my length. 

My stylist got happy and sat me down for a full head of foils today.  LOVE IT.

Before (yeah, massively overdue for the cut too):
After.  With a blow-out.  I could do without the blow-out, but they won't let you leave the salon with wet hair.  :p
Front.  One of my online friends told me I looked really scary.  I find this moderately amusing/pleasing.  You always have to watch the quiet ones!

Probably the best pic of the various colors.  I know it came out lighter than my stylist was expecting - I got her talking!  I have bits that are nearly platinum blonde.  But it looks very CaliGirl cool.  If it doesn't wash and settle in with my natural self, I can always get a tone-over dye.  But ... I like it.  LOL.  It looks like "me", you know?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Old School + New School = Awesome

Yesterday I was thinking about how old-school my choices are, and I was wallowing in the fabulousness of clotheslines, feather comforters, fireplaces and dirndls.

I'm glad that I have a dryer, because when I throw my dog bed through the dryer, it kills all the flea eggs.   This is a good thing.
I'm glad that I live now, because when I want to wear a dirndl and a skirt to my toes, no one cares.  Back in the day, fashion was more conformist.
My dishwasher - I <3 my dishwasher.  And my clothes washer too.


We should be more conscious of our choices.   If something in life isn't working, look at it - hey, even when things work, if you have time, take a look at them.   Humans invent things endlessly, that's kind of what we do.  You're a human, you can do it too! 

But don't just look forward for your choices.  Maybe what worked for 1000 years still works.  Maybe whatever it is is best suited for a certain climate or set of conditions... so if you try it and it sucks, then go on to the next thing.  Like, I am forever blinking at people doing handstands to keep the sun off their skin here in the Southwest.  Um.  There's a climate like that in the Middle East (SoCal is quite Israeli, from what I hear).  So... why not check out what they wear?  Oh, long.  Loose.  Light colored.  Want to try that?  Yeah, pretty comfy.  Maybe we should do *that*. 

People might have already solved the problem you're looking at... why not check out what's come before?  It takes less time than coming up with something out of the blue, and you're likely to know the consequences (environmental, time and upkeep, cost, etc) of whatever it is. 

For instance, I'm planning to learn how to make corsets in the new year, as my sewing skill of the year.  (Learn or Die).   But as I'm looking at corsets, I see that the super-waist-nipping corsets weren't always the thing, those are fairly recent.  What *was* the prevailing thing was a ribcage-covering corset.  So, maybe after I learn to make a corset-corset, I'll reinvent and rework stays?  Because I don't always want something carving into my waist, but bras are very poorly engineered for allday, everyday wear, at least for those of us who are busty.  (Divots in your body, not a good sign).   But my dirndl?  Soooo comfy.  That tight ribcage thing takes the weight off my shoulders and distributes it across my back - giving me better posture while it's at it.  Better. 

I focus on clothing because I like clothing.  But maybe you're into something else.  Think it through.  Look back, look forward, think of new ways of doing things. 

(Hat Tip:  Mrs.  Johnson -

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Color Psychology in Practice

I've been musing over that David Zyla book I reviewed a few months back ( and how it might be most felicitously applied to everyday life.   See, I bought a new bedcover this summer, and very shortly thereafter, I realized that I hated it.  I hated it to the point that it made me uncomfortable and vaguely angry whenever I went into my bedroom. 

Well.  *That's* not good!  I changed a couple of the other colors in the bedroom - used different sheets, changed the curtains... still hated it, but I wasn't on edge any longer.  Then my new kitten was diagnosed with giardia and sentenced to quarantine for nearly a month.  We quarantined her in our bedroom, since that's where she'd started out her stay in our house - we have an attached bath with a eensy showerstall that is perfect for a cat zone.  And the very bored, 9 - 10 mo kitten took care of the bedcover that I hated so much.  (Thank you kitty!)

Today, kitty finished her meds, and I changed the bedding to our winter feather comforter with cobalt blue duvet.   (Kitty can now be summarily dumped in the hallway for midnight transgressions against bedding).  Ahhhhhh.... peace at last.  But what happens when I change back to summer-weight blankets?   I started shopping around.  Having been burnt by the burgundy/gold coverlet of anger, I started thinking, "Well, what colors are supposed to be tranquil for me?  How about hubby?"  (You have to think about your spouse too!)

According to Zyla, my tranquil color is supposed to be the lightest color within my iris.  That'd be a light aqua.  What's DH's?  A light aqua - or perhaps a baby blue (depending on his mood - you know irises).   Blue is a soothing color for most people... a relaxing color. (Blue)  Mixed blues, with aqua predominating... that would be awesome for a coverlet. 

And then I started aching to sew a quilt.  Well.  Not to sew one, but to craft one.  Because I adore making beautiful things and getting exactly what I want is a pain... and also I can't bear to throw away fabric scrap, so I have drawers full of the stuff.  :p

And this.... this is how pinboards are born. Will I make a quilt by June, when the grey cloudy days of Spring give way to the heat of summer?  Stay tuned...........................

Thursday, November 7, 2013


An important Christian virtue is hospitality - it's one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I used to be super hospitable, my door was always open, but not so much anymore.  Not that the door has closed, but I've stopped inviting folks.  Life got busy, I got focused on perfection... eh. 

So DH and I decided to stop fliffyfluffing around and start just DOING IT - opening our doors to folks, inviting them over.

I was going to a women's Bible study for quite some time, and it's stopped... I was meaning to invite a couple of the girls over for coffee.  I finally got that done today.  Yes, I have all the gear to go completely insane... but I didn't want to do that, I wanted to have folks feel at home.

So I brought out my teacups and my coffee and sugar and cream (yes, I have china, yes, I use it).  I put out the white tablecloth on the end table I pressed into service as a coffee table.  I invited a couple of the ladies over... we sat and chatted for a couple of hours.  It was nice!  Not earth shattering, but nice. 

The other night, we had a family about the same size/constitution as our own over for dinner.  Again, not earthshaking, but it was fun. 

I like doing this stuff... it's fun to get back to it.  No, the cleaning and prep is a pain, but having folks over?  Yes please.

And I like to feed people, which should surprise no one.  :)  You know, you don't have to get all fancy or expensive when you offer hospitality.  This was candied ginger and pecans - both of which were in the pantry.

In both cases, the invitees were *thrilled* to be asked to come over.  People are so very lonely these days.... you really don't have to be perfect to offer up some fun. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Direction?  Taken.  :)

DH thinks I look cute, but where is his beer?  -lol-

Details:  Heavy weight denim, about the same as you'd find in a pair of Levi's 501s.  (I bought it for a six-gore skirt, which I cut and then had enough left over for this vest). 

Pattern:  Folkwear Drindl pattern

Changes:  I didn't use the facings, since I was using a heavy-weight denim and anyway I don't like facings.  They'd have made major marks after getting worn in a bit (this denim will fade/soften with wear, it's all-cotton).  I used bias tape as facings instead, and sewed it down within an inch of its life.

Additions:  I embroidered topstitching on the hem, neckline and armholes (although the armholes are only in blue, so you won't be able to see those until the denim starts to fade).

Comments:  This was fairly easy to fit (thank you, Craftsy class) and sewed right up.  I ignored the directions.  I will almost certainly make more, my husband really likes me in this kind of thing.  Next time I'll make the underbust version of the dirndl, which was what I think he was hoping for, but boning and more advanced fitting... well, a girl has to start somewhere!

Friday, November 1, 2013


I don't do Halloween, but I do take the kids to the church carnival so they can have the fun of dressing up and acquiring candy.  I dressed up in my normal clothes, but in a combo I wouldn't ordinarily put together.  (Vest, peasant blouse, long wool skirt).  DH liked it so much that he thanked me for wearing it last night before we went off to sleep.

This is absolutely unprecedented.  DH tells me I'm pretty all the time, but he's not particularly into any of my clothes.  (I pester him about this pretty often, hoping for some direction). 

I knew I looked good - it's a good silhouette for me, even if it does look a bit costumey... but oh.  You liked it that much?  Pity he couldn't see me blush 'cause the lights were out.

Well.  Hon, you just gave a wife with a sewing machine clear direction.

This, now THIS is going to get dangerous........................................