Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ending 2010

As 2010 comes to an end, I cannot say that I am sad to see it leave. This has not been a bad year, but there are many ideas that I wanted to develop and, to date, they remain unfinished. I expected myself to be more advanced, proactive, and satisfied than I actually find myself. On the bright side, my self-awareness has increased. I found plenty of new interests that once experienced weren't all that interesting after all.

So here I sit, facing my computer screen and contemplating what I want to do next. I suppose I should feel discouraged for the lack of "success" in my planning. I am not discouraged though. I am excited at the adventure and growth that has occurred. It doesn't really matter to me if I try and fail--at least I tried. I have found another activity (or two) that I don't excel at, and I am accepting of that fact. At least I made the effort to explore the possibility.

I can almost feel 2011 staring at me. The New Year stretches before me with a myriad of possibilities. Like Columbus in search of a new route to the Indies, I will continue my quest for satisfaction and passion in my life. I know it's out there, and I am determined to keep looking for it.

If you wonder what I am talking about, I am diligently exploring my future now that my children are grown and independent. I am not in the middle of some form of midlife crisis--I think I went down that road when my eldest went off to college. I am trying to put my feet back on the ground now that they are completely gone and on their own.

For so many years, I was a mom. My life revolved around my family. Child-focused activities and events ruled everything. Piano lessons, band practice, birthday presents, and sleepovers kept me busy. I worked and lived according to their schedule. Now, I only have mine, and I am not sure what to do with myself. I realize that I am rebuilding my life as they are building theirs.

Thankfully, I am neither scared nor sad. I accept this phase of my life for what it is. I enter a new season of possibility.

Will I sew in 2011? I doubt it, but if I do I will try new things. My sewing experience for 2010 flopped. If I try sewing again, I want to do something useful and functional. I wonder if I should try my hand at upholstery?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Fork in My Road

Well, the July conference sewing was a bust. My floral shirt looked good and fit well. The pink top is too pink and the gathering under the boobs is disgusting. The white slacks fit good, but the linen pants stretched out and wrinkled and looked like crap when I wore them the first time.

My interests have changed tremendously since my last post. After the linen trouser fiasco, I put sewing to the side. I spent the summer enjoying my eldest daughter who is currently teaching in Afghanistan and my youngest daughter who lives in Lubbock, TX. I happened to watch a video that we made for work, and I was shocked by how fat and outta shape I appeared. So, I bought P90X and have been working out. Unfortunately, I got the stomach flu with all the trimmings and my workouts got postponed for 2 weeks. When I got back on the horse, it was a whole new experience. I had no stamina at all!! So, this week, I started back up again.

If asked, I would have to say that I am a very simple woman. I don't need a lot to keep me happy, and I don't complain a lot either. However, being majorly pragmatic, I hate to waste anything: time, money, etc. Right now, I have a ton of sewing experience, minimal sewing talent, a closet full of fabric, a million patterns (give or take 100 or so), and a job that requires that I look at least semi-professional.

I want to get in shape (which assumes that I will get slightly smaller). I want to use of the fabric that I have to fashion usable, wearable garments that are appropriate for work. I want a mix and match wardrobe that is functional. Sewing is a pleasure for me, so I would rather sew than shop; however, I only will wear clothing that fits and is attractive. Shopping offers the advantage of fitting before buying. Sewing offers the advantage of easily avoiding colors that are unattractive and focusing only on colors that compliment my coloring, body shape, etc.

So, where do I go from here?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Weekend to Sew

This is my weekend to sew. I am attending a conference in Las Vegas next week and have absolutely nothing to wear. Fortunately I have a closet full of fabric. So far, I have made 2 pair of slacks, 2 t-shirts, and 3 dresses. I plan on wearing the slacks, a tank top dress, and one of the tops. I still need at least 2 more outfits. Somehow, though, I keep going into the closet and coming right back out again. There are so few patterns that I have used previously which makes me really uncomfortable. I hate to wast a piece of fabric making something that doesn't fit. As it stands, though right now, I have sewn no failures.

I plan on taking photos tomorrow.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back at the sewing center

Well, I graduated and officially have a master's degree. I am proud of myself, but not full of myself. It is hard to get too conceited when it has taken me most of my adult life to achieve this accomplishment. I have chosen to work, raise daughters, have a successful partnership/ marriage for nearly 30 years, and attempt to enjoy my life despite my circumstances. I think I have done that fairly well, my daughters have both launched successfully, and my husband and I are still married after all these years. Those are not small accomplishments.
So, now that graduation is over, I am back at the sewing machine. I have two goals: replace the old, worn out clothes that exist in my closet and use up at least half of my sewing stash---and back to the sewing cabinet I go. I think that anyone who sews should have a decent workplace to create without having to stress out about the "mess" that they are making. Thus, I took a computer cabinet and converted it into a sewing cabinet. The entire space closes up, so I can hide my work. There is even a chair that folds away. Now I must admit that the chair is more of an annoyance than a blessing (the back folds down on me when I move the chair around). BUT, I never have to use a crummy chair to sew--I have my own personal, crummy, sewing chair, which makes me feel really special.
As you can see, my sewing space is really small. What you cannot see is that I share the area with a drum set and a piece of exercise equipment. However, humble, this is my area and no one messes with it but me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Duct Tape Dress Form

Here are pictures of my Mother's Day dress form. My oldest daughter asked what I wanted for Mother's Day. As I have said before, I have not sewn for myself in a really long time, and I lack someone to help me fit and measure patterns BEFORE cutting into the fabric. I decided that a dress form would be just the ticket. However, when I began to price them, I was shocked at the cost of a good one and the poor reviews of the cheaper ones. So, I began to search the Internet for alternative ideas and came across an old Threads magazine article about duct tape dress forms. After reading through the directions, I knew I could do it but decided that my daughter would be a better taper than my husband. When she asked what she could do for me for Mother's Day, I had my answer ready.

For those of you who have never done this, let me provide the simple directions: You put on an oversized t-shirt with your usual undergarments and have a friend (preferably) wrap you in duct tape until the entire torso is covered. Then, they split the back with scissors to cut you out of the tape. Once out, you splice the back together again, stuff with a filler (I used newspapers), create a cardboard bottom to allow it to stand up, and voila' you are forever captured in duct tape.

I expected this to be a painful ordeal, but I must say it was not too bad. The entire taping took a little over an hour to accomplish. The duct tape was constricting, but my daughter was careful enough to leave the tape slightly loose to allow the occasional deep breaths that I needed to keep my brain adequately oxygenated. Also, with the layers and body involvement, there is a loss of mobility--which means that I could not sit down or move my arms or shoulders. My legs got really tired and slightly achy, so I walked around the livingroom a couple of times to get the blood moving back toward my heart and avert venous stasis development (always the nurse).

Once out of the wrappings, I spliced the back together again and began stuffing myself with crumpled newspaper. I found that the slick paper from coupons worked the best around the edges, slipping right into the various curves of my torso. My husband walked through twice and watched the proceedings but had little to say. That was probably a good thing, since the visual of myself was shocking. I knew that I had gotten bigger over the years, but how big could not be ignored--duct tape does not lie. Talk about a rude awakening--that was enough to put me into a bad mood forever. However, I saw no benefit from pouting. The truth was there in sticky silver--I have gotten too big and cannot excuse myself anymore.

Once packed, my husband cut cardboard ovals to use as an inner support and a base. I told him to make the inner one slightly smaller. He started to answer, then probably thought better of it. I know what he was thinking: what's the difference? She's as big up here as she is down there, but God love him, he kept the comment to himself. A very good plan on his part!

We secured the cardboard with more duct tape and set the headless monstrosity on a bar stool stand. My daughter commented that a beheaded Mom torso was quite troubling. I thought that a fat beheaded Mom torso was the pits, but I kept my thoughts to myself, too.

I did fit the pink top over the dress form. It is a little snug, so obviously the thing is slightly larger than I really am. However, that is no consolation prize. The truth is, I have to get back on track if I want a smaller statue come the fall. I know one thing: this is probably the best motivator that I have ever had. If this doesn't get me to drop 10 lbs or so, nothing will

The Promised Pictures

OK, so I promised to post pictures from the Simplicity pattern 4273. This is my practice top. I used knit instead of muslin to prevent waste and an additional trip to the fabric store.

I don't know if I mentioned, but there are no sewing stores in my town. There is a Hobby Lobby that has some limited fabrics, but not much that I would want to purchase for clothing. Their selection is mostly cottons for quilting and home dec fabrics. The nearest fabric store is about 20 miles away. I realize with modern transportation, this is really nothing; however, if I don't have to make the drive, I won't. Besides, I have so much material on hand, it seems silly to purchase more just to make a sample. Isn't that a waste of my precious sewing time, too?

The picture is pretty awful. I had taken it about 30 times and each one was worse than the previous one. I finally got so frustrated that I decided to just stop. So, this is the early morning look in the pink practice top. I gave up trying to take a picture in the lavendar dress. Though the hanger does not do it justice, it really looks nice on. It's a good summer look for me that basically cost me nothing since the material was straight from the stash.

Unfortunately, that was all I got to sew over my 4 days at home with the dog. I had such high expectations, but foolish things like dinner, groceries, laundry, and cleaning 7 years of crud off the kids' bathroom baseboards somehow became a priority. I think it has something to do with the eldest daughter's boyfriend coming to visit for a week in June. I don't want us to look like total slobs--just partial ones!

I did cut out a work t-shirt, but have not done anything else. Perhaps this week will be more productive.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Simplicity Pattern 4273

One of my dogs had to undergo eye surgery on Wednesday for an ulcer on her cornea. Normally an outside dog, she is confined to the kitchen for two weeks. To get her used to being in the house and get the healing started, my husband and I will be taking off work for the next week to tend to her. I decided to use this opportunity to sew. Since I have several events scheduled over the summer and absolutely nothing to wear, I thought the four days that I am home would be a good time to try some of the patterns that I have accumulated over the years. I began with Simplicity pattern 4273.

Now the biggest problem that I have had sewing for myself is fitting patterns. Twenty years ago when we first moved to Texas, I was a perfect pattern size 10. All fitting required was shortening the length. A year or so ago, I was a perfect size 12 (and still am with knit patterns). Again, all I did to make clothes fit was shorten the length. Now, well I am bigger than a 12. Size 14 in Simplicity pattern 4273 fit perfectly. I have to say, I was not happy about the size change, but my measurements speak for themselves, and if I want to make wearable clothing not rag bag donations, I have to get over it and sew the size that fits. So that is what I am doing.

The second thing that I hate about sewing is trialing the pattern in muslin. For some reason, that seems like such a waste of time and fabric. I began this session by using old knit material that I have had for years. If the pattern does not work, I am not really out anything since this was fairly inexpensive material to begin with. Also, if the pattern fits, I have a sample that is useful rather than useless.

I began with the blouse option. For me, the center front needed some adjustment so the top did not look so baggy and my cleavage not so apparent. I took in 1/2", which on the subsequent dress that I made was a perfect adjustment. The dress was a lengthened version of the top, and I used a lilac single knit that I have had for years. I like to press my creations as I go, so when I am finished sewing, I could put the outfit on and walk out the door. So, by the time I was ready to hem, I know if the fit is right, and I get a feel if I would really wear the outfit or not. This one is a keeper!!

Sewing time was a couple of hours each, due to my pressing and seam finishes. In the top, I stitched the seam, then stitched again 1/4" from the first stitching and trimmed off the excess. I chose this option, though it is one a seldom use, because the fabric did not ravel or run. Since the color is a hot pink, I did not have enough thread to use the serger, and in the past I have serged the seams with gray thread, I really don't like that look in a top. With the dress, I did use the serger, because the wrong side was light, nearly white in color and white thread was already in the serger.

I have not decided if I will make the jacket or not. I have a pink linen look that would be beautiful with the lavendar dress. However, the material is very limited, and I am not sure if my pattern would fit what I have. I could leave off the pockets since I don't use jacket pockets anyway, but I am not convinced if this is the best use of my material. I will wait and think on it. No real rush at this time.

I love the tulip skirt in this pattern, but have not tried it yet. When I do, I want to make something that would go with my hot pink top.

I will add pictures later. I took some with my phone, but don't have the USB connector with me to allow me to download them. Will have to wait until Monday when I go back to work to make the transfer.

I am tempted to make another dress, but I really don't wear dresses much. I think another top would be a better use of my time and provide me with a new addition to my work assortment. I do think that I will copy the front and back pieces to interfacing that I can use as pattern pieces. This way, I have separate blouse and dress pattern pieces and don't have to keep cutting them apart then re-taping.

Well, time to get back to sewing.

The vet did call to check on Trixie this morning, and I did take her back to his office for a re-check. Unfortunately, she lost the contact lens that was placed as a protection for the surgical site and had to undergo more surgery. He reassures me that she is doing fine, and I will be picking her up after 4. I know that I probably sound crazy worrying so much about a 9-year-old dog, but she and her sister have become our kids since our own children have grown and moved on. Besides, she has been my loyal friend all these years--always happy to see me and never comments about my weight or any other topic that I am sensitive about. (She doesn't care if my pattern is a 14.) I know that these are the latter years of her life, and my husband and I are as devoted to her care now as when she was young. We can't help every dog out there, but we sure can give a good home to the ones that we do have.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

So many patterns; so little time.

OK, so I got up early this morning and decided that I would get a jump on my new wardrobe. First, though I had to mop the kitchen floor because the little dots that develop overnight when we are asleep were driving me crazy! I have thoroughly convinced myself that the garden gnome comes in during the night and drips gnome juice all over my floor, because when I ask my husband what happened and who made the floor so dirty, it isn't him. Now, I have a habit of losing things, but I am far from forgetful. Drips on the floor I would definitely remember. So, it has to be the garden gnome. Maybe he conspires with the two dogs . . . .

After the floor was mopped, I cooked dinner. Tried a new recipe for pulled chicken cooked in the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is my new found love. I just had to have one two years ago and fortunately had a coupon to Linens and Things (before they went out of business). I purchased the thing on sale and with a coupon!! (Woo! Hoo!) but was afraid to use it. I remember horror stories from my grandma about women who were horribly burned with the thing exploded. Worse yet, they ended up cleaning chicken off the ceiling for months! So I could not get the courage to cook with the lid on--though I did use it as a large saucepan, which is really silly because that makes it the most expensive saucepan in my kitchen--possibly the entire neighborhood. Anyway, thanks to my wonderful friend, Janice, who cured me of my fears over the phone. Now, I use it religiously and love the way I can make a major meal in an hour or less.

Once dinner was cooked, it was time to walk. Sunday has been designated as my Big Walk day, so I headed out for a 5 mile walk through the neighborhood. Today has been a beautiful day with puffy white clouds in an endless blue sky. My walk would have been perfect if there were curbside bathrooms in residential areas. I scurried home with my knees locked together, refusing to sneeze for fear of a flood of epic proportions. Thank goodness, I made it home and the first bathroom is just on the other side of the garage door. My architect was a genius!

Walking made me sweaty, so a quick shower was in order. Unfortunately, the warm water on tired muscles resulted in delusions for napping. To quiet the urge, I stretched out on the bed and talked on the phone for an hour. I must admit, though, I do feel energized and ready to go.

So my dilemma: what do I want to sew? I have a trip coming up in June that I need new clothes for and would love to wear items that I have made. I sit here and look at the pattern stash and become overwhelmed. I have such cute possibilites to choose from. Maybe I should start with the fabric that I want to use and work backward to an appropriate pattern.

My fabric stash is almost as bad as my pattern stash. I have leopard silky, Hawaiian print, cotton, knit, camouflage, spandex, denim, and suiting. OK, back to what do I need?

Graduation is in 3 weeks, and I have a summer dress that will work fine. I need to purchase shoes (the satin pink slippers with the rhinestone flower that I bought to go with the dress is just a bit over the top for such a serious occasion), but that can wait until next weekend when I am getting my hair cut and styled, too. So, nothing to sew for graduation.

That brings me back to two places: work and the pending trip. I have a gorgeous cotton knit that would make a lovely summer tank top-style dress. I cannot remember when I washed this fabric. I think I did that in the fall when I was going to make long sleeved t-shirts. Just to be sure, I will run the fabric through the washer first.

OK, choice is made. Off to wash and cut out I go. Isn't sewing fun?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Blog

Well, here I am, blogging. I have toyed with the idea for some time. Now, I have decided to take the leap. I wanted to share some of the joys (and frustrations) that I experience from sewing. I found several other blogs online and enjoyed their musings, that I wanted to become part of the process, too. So here I am, blogging.

I began sewing when I was 8 years old. My grandmother, who never purchased a pattern in her life, taught me to sew on an old Singer sewing machine. I remember to this day my first project: a blue cotton dress with set-in sleeves. The first time I wore it, the right sleeve came loose. When I got home, I realized that I had basted but forgot to sew the sleeve a second time. Even though I had a slightly embarrassing moment, I was hooked to sewing. Thus began the many adventures and misadventures that I have had in more than 40 years behind the wheel.

When my children were small, I did my most sewing. I made all their clothes from birth through high school. Last month when my youngest daughter came home for a visit, she pulled out all the old prom and Band Banquet dresses and tried them on. She was thrilled that they still fit. We laughed about all the stories connected with each dress. If was a fabulous mother-daughter bonding time that would never have occurred if I did not sew.

Now, I am in a new phase of my life. In a few weeks I will graduate with my master's degree and begin a new phase in my life. In this future professional capacity, I will need to dress differently. I have decided to sew my new wardrobe and share this experience with anyone who may be interested. I don't know if I will be successful or not, but I am willing to try. One fact is certain, I have a closet full of fabric that must be used.

With those details in place, let the sewing begin!