Saturday, May 31, 2014

Happy Babble

I've had my eyes on this adorable pair of shorts (err, shorts pattern) for ages.  And ... I was looking at my current skorts on the line and they're really sad.  Really really really sad.  I know I only wear them to do yard work, but yikes.  (There are holes).

So.  Finally sucked it up and bought the pattern.  It is soooo cute.  I want you all to picture me waving this at you and squealing.  Here you go:  Now.  "Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!"  Also, bounce.  ;)

Oh sure I don't have them MADE.  And I have quite the sewing queue .... but still.  Aren't they just darling?

Yes, those are really shorts.  Shorts with big huge box pleats so that it looks like you're wearing a mini-skirt, but it's shorts.  :D

What's really cool (for me.... muahahaha) is that she's going to stop selling paper patterns for a while (she still sells downloadable patterns) to concentrate on her RTW line.  But I have a paper pattern.  Muahahaha!  And it's cute.

She's even localish - so I'm shopping small business and local.  :D  Yeah, nothing bad here.  Oh, except I gotta make 'em.  ;)  But that's probably not bad.

-bounces happily off to daydream-

Make it better: Button Change

I don't make *everything*... my son needed a shirt without small print/plaid/with a collar, preferably medium in tone.... for a film he's going to be in this weekend.

I ran out to Penney's since we'd just been there to supply a growing boy with clothes.  Found a great shirt... except the buttons were awful.  Just - awful.  It's not so much the color (I quite like buff with blue) it's the flat plastic blah.  (They look much better in this picture for some reason).

I have a button stash that fills a gallon-size bag.... no problem to snag some better buttons.  These are the usual mottled plastic, only they're green instead of brown.  Nice for a boy with blue eyes, I think.

A fix that took me perhaps half an hour while watching youtube... and it makes a big difference.

It's in all the older style books - you can do this too.  If something is great, except the buttons are awful - get new buttons.  Easy peasy - and you wouldn't believe how beautiful some buttons are these days.  -swoons-

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hair up

I found a new way to wear my hair for the summer.

I add a scarf 'round the top or a flower pin most of the time, even though that's one of my standard cover-combs, it's not QUITE enough... but anyway.  It's cute, comfortable, and easy to do.

For those of you who think long hair is hard to deal with or invariably gets in the way?  No, not so much.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Invidious comparisions

My mom is someone who values good clothing (HER mom did the same, leading my mom - who cheerfully admits that her mom chose her clothes - to be voted "best dressed" in her class).  She was a professional, with a professional wardrobe - and that level of polished plain was what I grew up thinking of as "normal".  (The suits in the basic colors accented by blouses and interesting jewelry - all helped by what used to be called a 'good figure for clothes' which mostly means my mom's idea of something not falling right is a 3 second alteration).

I shopped with my mom for all that '80s power wardrobe stuff.  I can tell you what to look for in a good suit.  But because my lifestyle doesn't require good suits, sometimes I get a bit confused.  And my mom spends bank on good clothes!  So... I thought that was normal.  I've been trying to make $200 clothing for $30 and getting mad when that doesn't quite work out.  You mean not everyone has one flannel nightgown... that lasts in rotation with one other flannel night gown for two years?  -blinks-  (If you buy good quality, this is what you can expect for wear - even my silk nightgowns manage a year before they get sad.  I have three that I rotate).  This is my normal.

Things that make me laugh at myself.... when I realize that what I do, all too often, is compare the quality and workmanship of a $100-$200 item with the price of a $15 item, and wonder why I can't combine the two, feeling like a failure because I can't make that happen.

I remember going to the seamstress with my mom too, especially after we came back from China.  Mom's no dummy - she came back with a steamer chest full of silk.  (Including the silk for my wedding dress).  Back then, Mom had a regular seamstress.  Back then the mall had a fabric store.  (Honest!)  And the mid-range clothing.... well, you could make it cheaper.  (Honest!)  Having it made only added a bit to the pricetag.  They used to have lists of local seamstresses at the fabric store.  (Honest!)  You could ask at the cutting table... and you'd take your fabric, your pattern, you'd drop it off and come in for a fitting or two and voila!  (I had my wedding dress made like this.  That's why it fits like a glove.  It cost $300 to make.  Even then wedding dresses were over $1000).

You're getting the idea that *everyone* was better dressed back then, right?  It's true.  Other than the polyester tragedies (and ... well, you have to say that clothing that lasted over a decade was probably made pretty well, even if it did feel like withered plastic bags), people were just generally well-dressed.  I remember that people didn't have a lot of clothes - Easter at church was always fun, because all the ladies would show up in their new summer style.  (I generally had two church dresses).

Home sewing *did* tend to be tragic in the '80s.  I speak (softly) of the Laura Ashley knockoffs, in quilting cottons, and sometimes (softly, dahlings) mother-daughter matching.  /shudder.  You were expected to be able to sew basic things - every woman could run up a set of curtains - but couture?  No.  That was for the pros.

And then I ran off to life.  College and buying the cheapest "office" clothes I could manage - since my salary was .50c more than minimum wage and I was supposed to dress professionally.   You know how it is.  You expect things to stay the same... but they don't.

And you come up for air and you compare your skills to what you consider skilled clothiers, and you are firmly in the "home sewing" category.  But I went away... and the home sewn category is now much nicer than the stuff you buy in stores.  I keep looking for the well-made stuff, and all I see is too-thin knits held together with serging.  Yes, my seams would be that neat if I owned (or wanted) a serger.  And I could do the twin-needle thing if I had a twin needle machine.  (The "ready made" mark you see in clothing is nearly exclusively technological).

I have to change my expectations - I do good work.  I'm not a couturier - not even a hobby couturier - because my life involves NO need for wool suits or wiggle dresses.  I made a nice jacket once... I've worn in three times?  But I make things that I wear.  In fact, 2/3 of what I wear was made by my hands.  Sure, I bought the $5 tanktops to go under my shirts.  But the shirt itself?  Made it.  The skirt?  Made it (I own two "bought" skirts - both bought some time ago and worn very seldom).  The dress?  Made it.  Nightgowns.  Daughter dresses.  Daughter skirts.  Son jammies.  And now, starting to make husband shirts.

Things that cheer me up... staring at the clothesline and realizing that most of the clothes you see were made by your own two little hands.  And that, while not perfect, they're good.  And they suit the people wearing them.

I am someone who makes her own clothes - and I don't have to apologize for the fact that I bought those tank tops or the five shirts in my closet that didn't come from my machine.  My clothes are nice clothes, they suit me (and my family), they are the right colors, the right fabrics, they fit, they're comfortable, and they wear well.  It DOESN'T have to be couture - I homeschool, I have two kids, four cats, a dog, a house to keep in order, a life... if I'm going to keep up with my families clothing *needs*, I'm only going to have intermittent time to play with couture.  And that's okay.

And when I do have time to play?  It's time to stop holding myself back because I'm not to the top of the hill YET - and let myself fly.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dress Finished, and more musings

I finished the dress... was a bit bummed, the leftover lace I'd planned to use on the hem wasn't long enough.  So we went to plan B and used a bit more embroidery to enhance it.

Pleased with the construction - french seams throughout, and I put wee triangles of embroidery at the bottoms of the pockets for extra strength.  (10yo girls USE their pockets, you know).

 (I'm trying out new ways to photograph my makes... .)

You know I'm really lucky that I don't have to fight with my daughter about wearing clothes like this - she likes this "younger" look.  If she wasn't outsized of the kiddie clothing, maybe it would be more of a problem (heaven save us from the clothing offerings for girls seven and older) but ... yeah, she likes wearing loose dresses.  For all the messing, this is a "go to school, go to the grocery store, look decent and unstained" dress, it's not meant to be fancy-wear.  (She will occasionally still sleep in these).

Up next - it's time to make shirts!  :D  I know I have other things cut and waiting for me.  Your point?  ;)  No, seriously.  The hubby's shirt collection is sad, and I keep buying shirting for him.  It's only a savings (and it IS a savings) if I make them up!!  (I've been able to find ONE place that sells shirts for 6'4" men that are slim-cut ... they run $40+.  And I just checked... they don't even carry the tall+slim shirts anymore.  We're to "slightly tailored").  A shirt, even for my tall husband, is 2.5 yards or so in the short-sleeve... well, you do the math.

My current shirting stash.  One pattern.  I'll get all this cut at once.  The plaid will be a bit of fussing (a bit...) but the other two should cut right out.  (Both blues are linen.  100% linen.  I wonder if he knows how spoilt he's going to be??)  Remind me how happy I am that the regular blues don't have stripes to align?

DH has a term for my sitting in the corner stuffing my feelings in a box:  Chewing my nose.  It gives you such the picture.  But if I do this thing where I say "Oh no worries, me last!" all the time... yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing.  Unnecessary, unwanted martyring.  -eyeroll-  No one MINDS me going after being good at things... except me.  Because if I say, "I'm doing this" or "I'm a seamstress" or even, "I designed that!"  (which I do occasionally when I get really happy with the frankenstiening process) that's a step up from "I sew some of our things".  It puts me out on an emotional ledge.  It makes me feel like I've got to get my game up.  You know?

Anyhow.  Time to drug the dog and tell the 10yo to go to bed... :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An experiment that worked well

I'm really pleased with how this lace-effect from my machine came out.  More perfect attention to stitch alignment could have been achieved, but all in all?  This is CUTE.

Hopefully I'll get the skirt put on tomorrow and we can have a whole dress to show.  Skirts usually aren't much of a trial.

Not taking yourself - and your skills - very seriously

I figured out something about myself this week.  I don't take myself very seriously.  I don't take my skills very seriously, and other than my annual push to learn something radically new, I don't take my sewing very seriously.

There's a lot of guilt-push-back on that, you know?  If I take my sewing seriously, then I'm going to pour more of myself into it, and then how am I available for my family at the drop of a pin?  It's a bit scary.

But.  I think it's time.  Because people keep telling me to "do something for myself" and you know what?  I don't WANT to lie in bed eating bonbons and watching romcoms (sorry).   That's not who I am, not who I *want* to be.

What I want is to be a skilled craftswoman.  And I want to make some money so that *I* feel serious and valued.  I can be all philosophical about this, but ultimately money is a symbol of value.  It's not my family that doesn't value me.  It's not my friends.  It's *me*.  So philosophizing about the value of wife/mother/homeschooler is ... moot.

I joined the American Sewing Guild yesterday, which is the only place that garment seamstresses congregate in my area.  A step in the right direction.

And I did quite a bit of sewing yesterday... some of which was instant gratification, and some of which was art.

I made a slip of the fabric I found ... just a simple, instant gratification project.  I'm not sure that I won't take the elastic out of this and replace it with a drawstring so I can put the fullness where I want it (and not where I don't) but.... here you go.  VERY quick and easy and thorougly satisfying.  (Also, for Maeve).

And I started work on my daughter's last dress.  Progressing and seeing what my machine will do.  I trimmed the edges last night (time consuming) and I think I will make a double-row of this "lace" effect at the base of the bodice to look like a strip of lace.  (There will be real lace at the hem).


Saturday, May 17, 2014

I wanted to sew this week...

... but it was too hot and my patio sewing area smelled like an ashtray.  :p

I did buy fabric!  LOL.  Attack of pinterest.  I found the most GORGEOUS fabric for a dressy shirt for my husband, and I had no choice but to attack it and make it mine.  I need to sew the shirts up, you know... bought enough to make this one long-sleeved.  He's going to look amazing.  I'm really excited about buying shirting for him.  The styles/colors available for tall skinny guys are VERY minimal.  Pretty much I can only get shirts at LL Bean.  Nice shirts, don't get me wrong.  But... it's boring.  HE doesn't care.  I care.  Shouldn't he be devastatingly handsome at all times?  *I* think so.  ;)

Red Shirting Fabric

I think my summer resolution is to spend a lot more time in the sewing room.  If I have to move my sewing back to the dining table on hot weeks... then that's what I'll have to do.  I've missed two weeks of the last three because it was just too hot out there.  I don't mind cold so much (although I will skip evening sewing) because I can bundle up.  But high heat?  No thanks.

If the ashy smell knocks off today, I think today would be a good day to go out and play...  :)

That and bake a birthday cake.  But that's easy-peasy, I got the girl to agree to the super-fast, super-yummy chocolate cake from the Hershey's box.  (If you have never used this for chocolate cake... use it.  It's so easy you can do it in your sleep, and it gets raves every time).

Hope everyone is having a beautiful day!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Fire Fire..

Fire is a normal part of the life cycle of the chaparral that used to cover Southern California.  SoCal folks are used to periodic fires, generally in the fall.  (YOU have nice fall weather, I have an oven).  Yes, sometimes houses get burnt - but basically those houses are either newly built in areas still surrounded by chaparral, or way out in the boonies (aka also surrounded by chaparral).

This year the rules have gotten switched up.  It's May.  Generally speaking, May and June are (at least as close to the water as I live) relatively cool and - well, to be frank, disgustingly perfect.  Gentle breezes, soft sunshine, temperatures in the low 70s... yeah, it's a nice time of year.  Hey, people pay silly sums of money to live here for a reason!

This May ... well, a week before last, we had a week in the high nineties, and the humidity dropped to 3% for a couple of days.  Then last week we had normal weather.  And this week... well, today it hit 96.  Low humidity.  High winds.  Brush and grass that didn't get enough rain this year to truly green up in the first place.

So - we have fire.  (Picture out my front door, of the smoke from the nearest fires).

The fires themselves (at least at the moment) aren't too horrible.  And we're expecting normal weather again starting this weekend, which will quell them.

But ... but... it's MAY.  This is normal September behavior.

I'm fine - but I'm concerned.  This isn't good.  Unless God intervenes, this is going to be a very nasty summer.

Just to mess with Maeve

Lacework much?  :D

I was at the fabric store, theoretically just to get corset supplies.  And I walked up on this GORGEOUS lace on-60"-wide-cotton batiste.  It was begging to be a slip/petticoat.  Begging.  I think I heard it cry.

Well, of course it was crying.  The whole bolt was marked in stripes around the lacework with a weird yellow stain.  I thought, "eh.  I can tea-dye it".  But we always wash our fabric before anything else... even if we're going to dye it.  Yes, yes we do.

It washed out.  Totally.  I'm just going to make a simple waistband and hem it.  It really doesn't need anything else.  And I'll have enough left to make a cami that matches.  :)

Speaking of pretties... I put the embroidery pattern on my whitework shirt and have started work.  It's not the finest embroidery in the world (my handwork isn't what I'd like) but I think it's going to come out well.

So - that's what I'll be putting over the corset.  :D  You asked!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


So... I saw this pin on pinterest that alleged that if you ground up eggshells in a coffee grinder and sprinkled them among your plants, they'd work much like diatomaceous earth... getting inside the exoskeletons of garden-raiding insects.

I eat a lot of eggs.  This is a resource I have in abundance.

So - what could it hurt?  I just used a rolling pin though (probably won't be as good, but we'll see).

If nothing else, I'm adding needed calcium to my veggie soil.

Did I say that I/we eat a lot of eggs?  Yes?  Good.  ;)

Last year my lettuces looked like lacework.  I have lettuce planted in between my tomato plants, and I'd dearly like to eat it this year.. wish me luck!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Picking a Pattern

How do I decide what to sew?

First:  Figure out what skill level you have.  I mean, most people don't start learning to sew by constructing a white silk-velvet wedding gown.  It's possible, but ... seriously?  If you need a formal and it's your first go-round, have it made.  So - don't pick anything you can't sew.

Second:  And that means don't pick anything that you can't fit.  If it's a dress that's make-or-break with perfect fit (like a sheath dress), even if the pattern company rates it "easy to sew" - that only means the technical sewing skills, not fitting.  Word to the wise.

Third:  Figure flattery... this is where it gets fun.  But easy-fun.  Pretty much every book on style has a "what to wear/not to wear if you have X figure".  Use those - preferably the older the better, as they tend to have more specific instructions.  Also, drag the stuff out of your closet that looks incredible, and look at the style lines.

For me - I'm not easy to figure-flatter, and that's why I tend to have something of a uniform.  I'm 5'2", I'm busty, I have a prominent abdomen, short legs/long torso, square shoulders, and a short neck.  There are clothes I simply do not wear, mostly because I don't burn to look like a candy apple.

There are fine details - did you know that the busty among us do not look well in kimono/dropped shoulder seams?  We don't.  We need the definition.  Shawl collars for the square of shoulder?  Ugh.  So there are any number of fitted vintage patterns that simply go into the "next" pile in my brain.  I know that I *must* have a shoulder seam at my shoulder.  New books might have this information... or they might not.  Check a vintage style guide to get your ideas.  (I have a great one by Edith Head that is oh-so-helpful).

Know your sartorial limits.  And don't be tempted by the clever fabric, the new lines... or even worse, the styling.  I have an entire book of patterns that is virtually unusable, as the person who wrote the pattern book and I share almost no figure points.  She looks great - and I like her look.  But when I try to pull off the road she took to get there?  Oh dear.

Fourth:  Colors - I've written about this before, and I'd truly enjoy figuring out what colors look best on anyone who wants to send me a well-lit picture.  (If this floods, I might take that back, lol).  But wear your colors already!  :p  Don't cheat.

Fifth:  Texture - I find I look best with a bit of texture.  Satin and I don't get along.  My best friend nearly makes you cry if you see her in chiffon, it suits her so perfectly.   Work with this.

Sixth:  Fabric content/drape - use the weight of fabric recommended on the pattern unless you're very experienced, in which case, why are you reading this?  Fabric content - I'm a natural fibers snob, but truly - if you're going to get it dirty, it had best be washable.  If it's going to the office, I guess you can wear polyester.  If you want to do that.  -shudder-  It's cheap and it comes in lots of patterns/colors.  But make it work with what you're making.  Unless you're ready to break all the rules - day clothes are cotton/linen.  Office clothes are silk and wool and shirting fabric.  Evening clothes are shiny/special.  Use something that makes you happy - but something you'll get some use from.

Hope that helped someone, I got a bug in my ear to write a bit about the style lines, having flipped through a few pages of vintage patterns just now.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Yeah, they know me

My people hooked me up for Mother's Day....


And good Jasmine Green Tea.....

Hope everyone had a good day, regardless of your maternal status.  I had a great Sunday, it was extremely Sunday-like, and was thoroughly enjoyed.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dolly-Stuffing (this may be slightly NSFW/small eyes/boys just by nature of content)

We're going to talk about dress-forms... and fixing yours so it fits you.  That means you're going to stare at a fake torso wearing lingerie... and I'm going to talk about lingerie and torso shape, in detail.  If that's not for your eyes, or someone around you shouldn't see that, click away.  Betsy is normally properly dressed - but not today.

I call my dress-form Betsy.  Like most off-the-rack dress forms, Betsy is a small B-cup with no abdominal fat.  That's fine.  I'm sure we'd all like to look more like Betsy.  (With less pillow-fluff leftovers, lol).

However, the point of having a dress form is that it is more-or-less your shape and size.  I can't quite get her padded out perfectly without doing a lot more work than I'm willing to - but I need to do something.

So I use bras, bandages, and pillow fluff.  Oh, and a tank-top to keep her decent.  ;)

Betsy was due for an upgrade, she's been the same size for some years, and I'm no longer that size.  The bra especially had to go.


And when I remeasured me, and then remeasured her... some of the ab fluff went too.  (That is always cheering.)

This time I used a bra that I bought about a year ago - the last bra I bought.  It fits my breasts ***perfectly*** - and I found out the first time that I wore it, it digs into my sternum and makes me miserable.  I've worn it a few times with a cotton ball stuffed between the wires and my skin, but that's not nice, so it mostly sits in my drawer.  But - if I want something that nails my current form?  Hm... better than not getting used anyway.

So Betsy got restuffed (the stuffing comes up a bit over the cups because so do I.  Usually she wears a tank-top on top.

My method is to measure all the usual suspects - B/W/H, and then back-width, front width, distance from shoulder to bust apex, distance from apex to apex, distance from sternum to waist, abdominal measure (different than hip measure, especially if you're fluffy there).  I adjust Betsy as much as possible, then stuff her with pillow fluff to make up the difference.

And then I put the tank-top back on because I find having a mannequin wearing lingerie staring at me while I'm trying to sew somewhat offputting.  And my neighbor can see into my patio, so that's sort of embarrassing.

This method is way easier and faster than you'll find out in the wilds, and it works well enough.  Gives a good first fit for my sewing, even if I have to final-fit on my real body.  But that's normal.

I'm working on re designing the next corset (see ALU if interested) so I am using Betsy to mock up some pattern changes.  I don't use her nearly as much as non-sewists seem to think, but she's handy.  :)

Hope this helped (or amused) someone out there!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crows are persistent

You'd figure they'd be eaten by a possum or something by now.

Nope.  They're fine.  They're not HAPPY, but they're fine.

They have been engaged in a days' long climb back up the hill from where we'd stuck them (about half way up).  They finally made it!

In celebration (well, really because my son thought he saw one of them with its feet stuck in some chain link fencing we have stored up there) I got their nest down and put it next to them.

Who knows, maybe they'll climb back in.  That would be nice, wouldn't it?

They're up there behind the top roll of chainlink.  Somewhere.  I climbed up once, I'm not going up there again.

Particularly not in my corset and ankle-length skirt.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Weekend Adventures: Photojournalism

It's been hot and dry this week.  It peaked at 96 degrees and 3% humidity - everything was scorched.  So the gardening I'd planned to mosey through during the week got put off until today. (Today it's 73 and 55% - a civilized experience).

But meanwhile, our neighbors called their tree service people to have their palm trees defluffed.  I'm not sure if it's the caliber of all the service people these days or just the caliber of people that they hire .... but I was, as usual, seriously annoyed.  I'll skip most of that, and just tell you about the birds.

Now, if you trim palm trees for a living, you're going to come across crows' nests all the time.  That's where crows live around here.  So, presumably you'd have something you do with the baby birds?  You know.  Something sensible.  Merciful?  

Nah.  What you should tots do is stick the nest on the neighbor's side of the fence, somewhere they'll have no protection from anything.  (This is on top of our retaining wall).

My husband moved the birds' nest to a spot on top of our hill, but apparently the parents didn't like it and yelled at the baby birds until they tried to fly out, they rolled down the hill, and we stared at them for a while and then he stuck them in a bush, where they've been for the last 24 hours, more or less content.  I guess they're content anyway - they lived through the night.


On to the gardening... California is in the midst of a major drought and if you don't have a veggie garden going - get one.  Produce is going to cost this year.  So this year, instead of the usual heirloom tomatoes and interesting plants that I get - this year I'm going to get hybrids that were the favorites of my grandmother.  Plants that will give me LOTS of food.  (Heirlooms give you awesome food, but they're fussy and prone to disease.  Totally worth it if you have plenty of room to plant lots of plants.  I don't).  And I'm making a choice to plant things that we eat, not just "oooo! Pretty!" or things I like to eat and no one else does.  (Or why although butternut squash grows like gangbusters in my yard, I'll skip it this year.  DH and 9yo don't like it).

This is what my normal dirt looks like (contrasted with my grey Siamese cat) and this is what the dirt in the veggie boxes looks like.  I added chicken manure, organic fertilizer, and compost to last year's compost + yard dirt, which frankly didn't do very well.  I'm hoping the manure and fertilizer will help things along.

Tomorrow/this week I'll go and get my plants (I'm skipping the seedlings bit, because it's late and because I do want hybrids mostly) and put them in.  I'm planning to plant:  Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, replace the chard, kale, lettuce - and later this year I'll put in a melon vine on the hill.  (Remember that  it will stay *hot* until well into October here - yes, I'm getting a bit of a late start, but that will be fine).  All the things that are pricey to buy in quantity and that will grow in my boxes.

I feel a bit naughty working like this instead of being all super crunchy, but it really is about getting produce from the yard instead of paying through the nose.  And the produce - even from our very good local grocer - has lacked in flavor.

After DH finishes with the patio, we're talking about a grey-water system and some more fruit trees - we have the warmth, and may as well use the water from the laundry for something useful.

So - that's where it's at.  Hope you enjoyed the break from endless sewing adventures... there will be more of that soon!  :D