Friday, January 31, 2014

Why 2014 is Going to Get Better (part 3)

Albert: "Oh, yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them.”
~ Terry Pratchett

So, 2014 isn't off to the greatest start...  It's still January, and I have already lost my grandmother and my gallbladder.  (For the record, I miss my grandmother more.)  

But I'm hopeful that things are going to get better.  (After all, the bar has been set pretty low and I'm out of grandparents and getting low on unnecessary internal organs...)  

So, for the rest of this week I'm going to post 3 big things that I'm looking forward to in 2014.  


The third big thing that I'm looking forward to in 2014 is attending the Handweaver's Guild of America's Convergence conference this summer!  

I've signed up for an incredible array of events, including a tour of the American Textile History Museum, and 5 weaving classes covering fabric analysis, weaving draft software, understanding why and how to turn your weaving draft, perfecting your selvages, and cutting into your handwoven fabric...  

By the time the week is over, my brain will be leaking weaving knowledge!  

And, hopefully, a college friend will be joining me for some portion of the trip - making the whole experience just perfect!  :)

You see, despite its inauspicious beginnings, 2014 is going to be a good year.  :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why 2014 is Going to Get Better (part 2)

This is my depressed stance.  When you're depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand.  The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold you head high because then you'll start to feel better.  If you are going to get any joy out of being depressed, you've got to stand like this.  
~ Charles M. Schultz

So, 2014 isn't off to the greatest start...  It's still January, and I have already lost my grandmother and my gallbladder.  (For the record, I miss my grandmother more.)  
But I'm hopeful that things are going to get better.  (After all, the bar has been set pretty low and I'm out of grandparents and getting low on unnecessary internal organs...)  So, for the rest of this week I'm going to post 3 big things that I'm looking forward to in 2014.  

The second thing that I'm really looking forward to this year is our vacation.  We always have a special trip each year, but this year is promising to be even more special than usual...  In May, we are going to...  

Machu Picchu!  

Can you believe it?  

I barely can...  We've talked about this trip for years and last year my husband said that we should do it this year, "...while we still can."  

I was like, "Yay!!  Wait - what?!?!  'while we still can' - what's THAT supposed to mean?  I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not getting any older with each passing year..."  

Well, whomever is right, the end result is that we have planned an amazing trip to Machu Picchu...  :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why 2014 is Going to Get Better (part 1)

When things go wrong, you'll find they usually 
go on getting worse for some time; 
but when things once start going right 
they often go on getting better and better.  
~ C. S. Lewis

So, 2014 isn't off to the greatest start...  It's still January, and I have already lost my grandmother and my gallbladder.  (For the record, I miss my grandmother more.)  

But I'm hopeful that things are going to get better.  (After all, the bar has been set pretty low and I'm out of grandparents and getting low on unnecessary internal organs...)  

So, for the rest of this week I'm going to post 3 big things that I'm looking forward to in 2014.  The first is a trip to Mexico, to visit Ana.  The trip isn't until March, but I've already got my big suitcase packed full of gifts for the kids!  

Here are some pictures from previous trips:  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Picture I Didn't Want To Have To Post

Sigh...  I am in the hospital...  In the wee hours of the morning on Monday I woke up my husband and asked him to take me to the emergency room.  Turns out I had gallstones.  In fact, the surgeon's exact words when describing my gallbladder were, "a big bag of rocks."

The surgery was laparoscopic so hopefully the recovery will be relatively easy. 
 Please send good wishes this way.  


Friday, January 24, 2014

Yin and Yang

Countless words
count less
than the silent balance
between yin and yang.
~ Laozi, Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching

It seems like the most powerful moments of life - those times that capture the essence of what it means to be human - contain both suffering and joy, intertwined.  

Amidst the sadness of saying goodbye to Grandmommy, the process of going through her things (which we have barely started doing!) brought many happy memories and wonderful discoveries.  

Like this picture of her cousin's wedding:  

The groom is her cousin and the couple standing behind the bride are her aunt and uncle (father's brother).  I don't know the year, but I would imagine that it was before her wedding, in 1937, as I have the sense that she was one of the youngest of the group...  

Doesn't it just take your breath away?  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Grandmother and World War II

Neither rain nor snow nor glom of nit 
can stay these messengers abot thier duty.  
~ Motto for the Ankh-Morpork Post Office
Terry Pratchett

During World War II, my father's family lived in Portland, Oregon.  My grandfather was a welder at the Navy shipyards (during the days) and, for a short time, my grandmother worked at the ship yards too, in the map room (at night).  Here is a picture from that time period:  

My grandmother is the shorter of the two women, on your left.  (Notice that they are holding hands.)  

She had a lot of stories from that time in her life.  For example, she used to talk about the rationing.  There was a Mormon working in the same office who used to give her his allotment of coffee because he didn't drink it (it was against his religion) - she thought that was so nice of him, until the day when he made it clear that she owed him and he expected her to go out with him!  Needless to say, she declined...  

She talked about how she and my grandfather would save up their gas coupons for weeks, just to have enough gasoline to go for a Sunday drive.  

And how they were only allowed one pair of shoes per year.  

There was the cigarette story:  My grandfather smoked and, because he worked during the day, she was the one who had to wait in the long, long lines to buy his cigarettes.  One day she got fed up with the waiting and told him that he would have to buy his own cigarettes.  He waited in that line exactly once, before he gave up smoking for good!  ;)

Her favorite job during that time was in the U.S. Post Office.  Oh, she had wonderful stories from that job!  One of my favorites was about the time when a woman came in with a framed paining wrapped loosely in newspaper and twine.  It was heavy and clearly still had the glass in the picture frame.  The woman wanted to mail the package and insure it.  Grandmommy agreed to ship it, but refused to insure it, because she did not believe that it had been wrapped properly.  

Well, the woman threw a fit in a haughty way and said that her mother had wrapped the package and her mother did everything well.  If her mother said that the package was wrapped securely, then it was wrapped securely.  They went back and forth for quite a while, until Grandmommy finally said that, if the package was wrapped so securely, then there was no reason to insure it.  

The woman sniffed, but she had painted herself into a corner and had to agree.  So she paid the postage and handed the package to my grandmother.  Grandmommy placed it on the table behind her, where the packages were stacking up.  

Now, this was around Christmas time and the post office was very busy - so some sailors were there to help out.  As the woman was walking away from the counter, one of the sailors grabbed the package and tossed it into another pile.  The sound of glass breaking could be heard throughout the entire room.  

The woman flinched, but kept walking and never looked back...  

I wish I had video-taped my grandmother telling her stories.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

Cat, n: Lapwarmer with built-in buzzer.

A rare sight indeed - Oliver curls up on my legs for a warm, furry, purring nap...

Friday, January 17, 2014

A (Sewn) Piece of Family History

The content of a house can trigger all sorts of revisions to family history.  
~ Louise Erdrich

Seventy-two years ago, in 1942, a young woman and her five year old son accompanied her husband to Missouri, to visit his family.  The weather was unseasonably cold and the little boy didn't have a jacket with him.  One of his aunts - his father had three older sisters - pulled a remnant from her fabric stash and - without a pattern - whipped up a little coat for him.  

In my grandmother's memory, the coat was red.  

While going through one of her trunks last week, we found it...  

She hadn't mentioned the stripes, and the red has faded in a dangerously (for a five year old little boy) pink direction.  

But I have grown up on stories of the amazing sewing skills of my dad's aunt Esther.  Look at the underside of this sleeve - it is a two piece sleeve!  (Without a pattern!)  

And this facing - done in the style that I hate doing because - even WITH pattern pieces - I can never get to line up just right...  

According to my grandmother, there was a fancy children's clothing shop in town and the saleswomen used to hate to see Esther come in, because she would never buy anything.  She would look over the latest styles and then go home and re-create them, on her sewing machine, for her daughter.  

Look at the adorable belt and tiny pleats she put on the back:  

And the fancy seams (flat felled?) she put in:  

I love having this little piece of our family's history.  In this case, I don't think any family history revisions are called for...  

I just wish I could find a picture of my dad, at five years old, wearing this jacket...  Wouldn't that be perfect?  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is It Contagious?

A child's smile is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.
~ Author Unknown

One of my friends, knowing I could use a smile, sent me this picture of her beautiful daughter wearing one of the skirts that I made for her.

It worked.  :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Not Ready to Say Goodbye

... grandparents are God's gifts to children. 
~ Bill Cosby

My grandmother passed away last week.  One of her final wishes was to be buried in one of the flannel shirts that I had made for her.  I don't have the words right now, to try to explain what she has meant to me, to try to say goodbye...  Please excuse me if it takes a few days to return to the "real world" - which has lost a bit of light...  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tablet Pouch

'Packing light' wasn't possible.  
'Packing light enough to not stall the train engine' 
seemed a noble goal to Evie's way of thinking.
~ Kelly Eileen Hake

Confession time - the reason I only finished one of my husband's Christmas Hawaiian shirts over the weekend is that I squeezed in a project for myself.  For Christmas, my husband gave me a seven inch Kindle Fire tablet.  I really like it!  But it doesn't fit in my purse.  So I decided to make myself a quick little pouch to carry it in.  You know, because my motto is "pack light"...  ;)

Recently, I have been very tempted by the pre-cut fabric bundles for quilting projects, and so I picked up a set of five fat quarters with black and white prints.  I rummaged through my scraps and found a grey fabric for the lining.

I cut 2.5 inch strips from the five fabrics and stitched them together with 1/4 inch seam allowances to make a panel.  I attached two of these panels to create the outside of the fabric pouch.  Then I "quilted" the outside of the pouch to some cotton batting, to provide a bit of a softness and substance to the pouch.  

I didn't do any fancy quilting - I just re-stitched along the seams connecting the strips.  

Next I added seven loops - four, two-inch lengths of narrow elastic to attach the pouch to my purse and three, four-inch lengths of narrow elastic to make button loops.  

Here you can see where I attached five of the loops (the three long ones in between two of the short ones) on the left half - which will become the back of the pouch:  

And here are the two loops on the right half - which will become the front of the pouch:  

Next, I stitched the lining and the outer fabric, right sides together, along the top edge:  

I pressed open the seam and laid out the fabric with the right sides up.  

Then I folded the fabric back over itself - with the lining piece doubled onto itself and the outside fabric piece doubled onto itself:  

I stitched around the outside, leaving a hole along the short side of the lining fabric:  

Using that hole, I turned the pouch right-side out:  

I pressed this and stitched the opening closed:  

From here, I opened the mouth of the pouch and pushed the lining inside:  

I carefully pressed this and stitched around the upper edge of the pouch.  You could also attach the lining at the bottom corners with a couple of hand stitches, but I didn't bother.  (We'll see how that goes.)  

Here is my purse:  

I used two small carabiners to attach the fabric pouch to my purse:    

Here is a close-up shot of the two short elastic loops at one end of the pouch (one on the front and one on the back), slid onto the carabiner:  

This is how it looks with my tablet in the pouch, attached to the purse:  

Here is my tablet being slid into the pouch:  

Top view of the purse and the tablet in the pouch:  

The crowning touch - three beautiful buttons!  

The final dimensions are approximately 10 inches by 7 inches - larger than my tablet.  But there is room for me to slide the tablet in and out WHILE the pouch is attached to the purse, and there is room for the power cable too.  So, overall, I'm pretty happy with it.  :)

Now, I have got to finish that second shirt for my husband!  ;)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Undoubtedly, philosophers are in the right when they tell us that
nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.  
~ Jonathan Swift

You may remember that I've been experimenting with a new pattern for my husband's Hawaiian shirts.  Being a total sweetheart, he agreed to pose in three shirts, each one made from a different pattern.  

  • The Simplicity pattern is the oldest and the simplest.  It has a one piece collar (no collar stand) and no yoke.  It is too simple for me.  
  • The McCall's pattern is the fanciest - it has a two piece collar and a yoke.  It is too fancy for my husband.  
  • The Kwik Sew pattern is the new one I am testing now.  I have been hoping it would be a good compromise - a yoke for me and one piece collar for him.  

Here are the front views (all three were sewn up in size "Medium"):  

And here is the back view:  

Besides the obvious first thought - Wow, he's hot! - (or is that just me?) - what do you think?  

We are both happy with the Kwik Sew pattern.  The Simplicity pattern is too shapeless and the McCall's pattern is too fitted.  

The only thing I'm going to do differently has to do with the back pleats.  The McCall's pattern has a center back pleat and the Kwik Sew pattern has two back pleats over the shoulder blades.  I prefer the look of the center back pleat.  I think (fingers crossed) that I can modify the Kwik Sew pattern to have a center back pleat by myself.  

I think we have a winner!  I am so happy!  :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Buttons and a Label

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.  
~ Jack Kerouac

Well, over the weekend I was able to finish ONE of the two Hawaiian shirts that I'm making for my husband for Christmas.  

One interesting thing about this Kwik Sew pattern is that the buttonholes aren't marked on the pattern - instead, you are told to start at the top button loop (which didn't make it into this shirt - my husband won't miss it) and then work your way down, adding a buttonhole every four inches.  

I checked it against some of the other shirts I've made, and while this didn't line up exactly the same, it seemed reasonable, so I went with it.  

Another interesting bit - this pattern suggests that you align the buttonholes horizontally - my other patterns suggest a vertical alignment.  Do you have a preference?  

So, have I ever shown the way I align the buttons with the buttonholes?  First, I put the shirt on my dressmaker's dummy, to get the 3-D effect of being on a human body.  Then I "button" the shirt with straight pins:  

Next I "unbutton" the shirt, leaving the pins in place, and use scotch tape to attach each button over each pin:  

You can easily stitch through the scotch tape, trim the threads and then remove the tape!  :)

Finally, the finishing touch - my label:  

It looks like it says that this shirt represents a hug from me.  But, loosely translated from Welsh, (and I mean VERY loosely - as in, using some of the least common meanings of the words), it says "blessed cloak."  So, this gift to my husband represents both a hug from me and my wish to wrap him in a cloak of blessings.  :)

Tomorrow I'll show you the comparison between the three patterns I've used to make shirts for him.  

I hope you had a wonderful sewing weekend!  :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Collars and Pockets

I saw a startling sight today, 
a politician with his hands in his own pockets.

Well, I wasn't able to finish them before going back to work, but I did make some more progress on the Christmas, Hawaiian shirts for my husband.  In particular, I got the collars attached.  

What is so significant about this step is that I pretty much hate this method of doing collars:  

At least the Kwik Sew pattern has one small point in its favor - they don't instruct you to clip the collar until after you have aligned the facings.  This way, you are guaranteed that the clips will be in the right place.  An outcome which I generally do not achieve if they have me clip the collar along some marks printed (optimistically) on the pattern pieces themselves...  ;)

I find that the last step, of turning over the clipped bit and stitching it down, works much better if I use my dressmaker's dummy to line everything up in 3D.  Trying to make it all work together when the fabric is flat is another disaster-in-waiting (DIW) for me.  (You can see my red-headed glass pins in the photo below)

In the end, I think the collars came out pretty well.  Here is the black, Route 66 shirt (front view):  

Here is the brown, national parks shirt (front view):  

And here is the brown, national parks shirt from the back - you can see the yoke and the two tucks (pleats?):  

As always, one of my favorite parts is deciding how to set up the pockets.  For the national parks shirt, I chose to highlight the Grand Tetons, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.  

My favorite pocket is on the black, Route 66 shirt.  I love how the New Mexico postcard fits diagonally, with the two Route 66 signs in the corners:  

So, I still have to put in the sleeves, do the side seams, the hems and the buttons and button holes - hopefully I can finish both shirts this weekend.  :)

I hope you enjoyed the holidays and are ready for 2014.  :)
Because, ready or not, here she comes!  ;)