Monthly Archives: September 2011

Done So Soon?


Hard to believe I was resistant to the Self-Stitched September challenge last week. Boy, does time fly. I found myself saying this morning, “Can you believe it’s over already?”

Today I wore a sleeveless, empire waist tank top I made from a Frankenpattern. The section below the waist seam is cut on the bias. I finished the armholes and neck with self-fabric bias tape.

Then I styled the whole thing with a hospital gown. I do wish I had a photo for you, but at least you can still see my fancy “bracelets”.

"Hospital Style"

Yes, I had an EGD today, or in simple terms, my stomach was scoped. I don’t have any esophageal damage (no acid reflux) or stomach ulcers. Yay! I do have gastritis, so they took a biopsy to ascertain why, and to decide what meds would be best to clear it up. I am relieved.

I told them I am very sensitive to the sedating medications they use, so they went easy on me. I woke up as soon as the procedure was done, but I was pretty dizzy and drowsy the rest of the day.

So the rest of the morning (is 1:20 p.m. still morning?) I styled my outfit with bed covers. Yawn.

I’m up now. For reals. I have my new favorite cardigan on. Just a simple gray thing from Kohl’s, but it does the job.

Gray cardigan, different blouse

The nurses told me for the rest of the day not to work in the kitchen, not to drive, and get this: Not to shop online!! Perhaps I should not blog, because I am sure this is loaded with typos.

Nahhhh. That would be boring. So without further ado, here are some things I liked/learned/loathed about the SSS Challenge.

  1. I have a lot of summer tops and skirts, and not enough things to carry me through cooler weather.
  2. My self-stitched garments are all made of cotton quilting fabrics. While I love the colors and patterns on the fabrics, quilting fabric is not always a good choice for clothing. It can work. But not always. It isn’t drapey, and it can stand away from the body.
  3. A subset of #2, really. My clothes are all “youthful” due to the fabrics I chose. I am drawn to modern geometrics, polka dots, and paisleys. However, these patterns on quilting cotton do not always project an image of elegance or sophistication when worn as clothing. This is normally not a problem because I am a stay-at-home Mom. There were a few times, though, when I needed to attend a public event, and I had nothing that shouted, “I am competent in the business world.”
  4. I do not like wearing skirts past summer. My legs get cold. The skirts and dresses I own do not work with tights or leggings.
  5. I think I have enough stuff already. I should be satisfied with 10 blouses and 2 cardigans. However, (perhaps because I didn’t want to wear the same thing over and over again for my blog photos) I caught a serious case of the Wanties. I don’t need 30 different tops! I had to keep repeating this to myself! Instead of “This again?” I had to say, “I love this blouse!”
  6. One of the reasons I think I felt bored is because I don’t have a variety of garments for my bottom half. I wore jeans or capri jeans. The end. It’s very hard to style a blouse differently without changing the bottom half too. (Also, my jeans do not fit well — I will address in another blog post.)

Not very business-y. Especially the barefoot part.

So what will I do to change my wardrobe? Minimally I would like to add the following:

  1. Two pairs of pants that can help me style differently for everyday looks.
  2. Two skirts that are tights-friendly to stretch my summer wardrobe into Fall.
  3. Two pairs of dressy pants that I can wear to my “Board of Director” meetings.
  4. Three new long-sleeved blouses that work for Fall (McCall’s 5433, New Look 6179, and Butterick 5612).
  5. One Fall dress that works with tights.
  6. One pair of comfortable and stylish black shoes that work with dressier outfits.
  7. One pair of jeans that fits my body (McCall’s 5142?).

I am very grateful to So…Zo for challenging me in this way! I am eager to take a more planned approach in the sewing room (and add some new fabrics and patterns to my stash). And I promise to wait until tomorrow to start the online shopping. Nurses’ orders.




We are almost done with Self-Stitched September! I didn’t think I was going to stick with it when I hit the wall last week, but I managed to make it all the way through. I will save lessons learned for tomorrow, because today is also Thursday Think Tank.

For SSS, today I wore a wildcard — my Diorama. I’m not sure I like it on me, or if it needs some adjustments, or maybe different styling. You can see more about my modifications and yarn at my Ravelry project page here. My blouse is from several seasons ago, Eddie Bauer. The only reason I kept it in my closet through the purge is because Husband LOVES this one. I think it is a little masculine for my taste, but I try to do nice things for Husband.

The photo on the Ravelry link has a different styling

Now, let’s switch gears to TTT. Rebecca over at MakingRebeccaLynne has inspired me to spend some time each week thinking about my projects. Since “retiring” a few years ago, I have had the luxury of giving up my over-functioning ways. No more jam-packed weeks, impossible task lists, or dreadful meetings.

Perhaps I slid too far into the under-functioning side of life. I think I needed it for a little while. I was always an overachiever, and I was just burned out. I needed to reprioritize. Scratch that, I wanted NO priorities. (I know, unrealistic.)

Hobby-wise, this led me to just pick a project at whim and have a go. I had a lot of fun, I joined some crazy groups with members that made me laugh and gave me ideas, and I allowed myself to make things I would never actually use. Shhhh. Nobody wants to hear again about that teal shrug.

What matches this shrug?

I have realized though, that a little forethought would be good. I need wardrobe items that match and that fit my lifestyle. I need quilts that can be given as gifts that the recipient would like to receive (nevermind my ideas about purple being fine for boys). I need coasters that actually keep the water off the table while looking stylish. In short, while it’s great to just do whatever seems fun at the time, I feel a little scattered, a little too eclectic. I need more, gasp, plans.

Glass = not functional; crocheted = Old Lady's house

So why not spend time once a week reviewing plans? It’s so easy when someone forces you you join an -along group. There is that happy reminder every Thursday in my Google Reader from Rebecca, showing the Thursday Think Tank icon. I love -alongs. Another reason it’s good to have a list. Just how many crochet-alongs, quilt-alongs, and blog-alongs can a person do? The list helps me stop from jumping on board without thinking it through.

Is it a coincidence that today my son and I talked about impulse control?

Today the TTT renewed my energy to finish my baby quilt already. What sashing works? I took a million pics with different fabrics from my stash, just to narrow down the color. I need to take a few squares in to the store, I think. Green is my favorite, which was totally unexpected.

I’m thinking now, maybe the squares are a little too different. Maybe I need to separate them for two quilts; one with the fall color and one with the brights. I’ll let you know how it works out.

The pattern photo. Squares are pastel, alternate squares are creamy with a small dot pattern.

Yellow sashing

Orange and Pink


Oooo, Monkey Like Shiny


First, the SSS check-in. Yesterday I wore my Lacy Baktus over a ready-to-wear blouse and jeans.

Today I am wearing my white peasant blouse under a cardigan from Kohl’s.

What is this shot? "Oh my, Rhett Butler! I do declare!"

Ok, now onto the real meat of this post.

I’m very easily distracted lately, and not in a good way. Where is my mind? I don’t know. I feel like I’m being the same thorough person as always, but in this month I have done things both harmless (e.g., leaving the house without hair product by mistake) and dangerous (e.g., cutting off other drivers I did not see. Twice.) I am making myself nervous.

I’m also just flat-out distracted by all the blog reading I have been doing. I’m sure others have been in this boat. There are so many wonderful ideas out there, so many pretty things to look at, so many funny people to follow. But I realize I am not actually *doing* anything myself.

I have several excuses such as the following:

  • My craft room is a little torn up and will become more torn up when the energy auditor comes to add insulation in the attic.
  • I need new ideas, just another 10 minutes online.
  • I only have  _____ amount of time before I have to ______________.  I could never get anything done in that short time!
  • My son needs my attention.
  • I have all these errands to take care of.

But the truth is, I am just allowing myself to be distracted. I need to hunker down, set a timer for computer-related fun, make a list, and start getting ‘er done. The less I do and the more I sit, the more I realize, I am a little depressed, lethargic, listless, distracted. Without a set of goals, I am rudderless and just too easily pulled off task.

I also found out this week that the one and only pair of dress pants I kept during the closet purge, well, it doesn’t fit either. So I had an event to attend tonight, and I had nothing to wear. I could not even motivate to go buy a pair of pants! I wore something that was good enough — not fabulous. I am going to use the opportunity to clarify my sewing goals.

So, here are my tasks for the week:

  1. Review sewing/wardrobe plan to include business-appropriate clothes.
  2. Buy some business-appropriate pants material and a pattern.
  3. Pick out a new knitting project.
  4. Compile a list with Husband of all the home-related chores, errands, and projects that need accomplished.
  5. Make an appointment to get my eyes checked.

Still Paying It Forward


A few weeks ago I agreed to participate in the Pay It Forward challenge, which I found at Making Rebecca Lynne. Today I am happy to report that I have my first respondent: Lee Ann from Windings.

There is still room for two more. Do you want to play? Join on! Here are the “rules” as I found them.

Pay It Forward Blog Game

  1. I  will make a little something for the first 3 people that comment on this post. It will be a surprise and you will not know when it will arrive.

  2. I will have 365 days to get this surprise to you. The catch? To get a goodie from me you must play along too! Share the giving love on your blog by promising to send a handmade goody to the first three people comment on your blog post.

  3. You must therefore have a blog!

  4. After commenting on my post, you have to go post this on your blog.

Easy, right? Don’t be intimidated. It’s not a competition. Just make a small project with love and send it on. The recipient will love it.

So, Lee Ann is my #1. Who else is in? Leave me a comment!


One More Week


I have to be honest, the Self-Stitched September really dragged for me last week. I am tired of wearing summer blouses and freezing, and I’m tired of all the alternatives: wearing summer tops over a t-shirt, summer blouses under a cardigan, summer blouses with scarves, summer blouses with coats. I get it: I need to make something other than summer blouses!

I thought I would wear some of my knitted garments and accessories, but honestly, the things I have are too bulky and warm for this weather. I did wear this Calorimetry while out birdbanding on Sept. 23, but only for about an hour.

See the unhappy bird?

I’m also dying to wear some of my fun Fall clothes that I haven’t worn in months, but I want to be true to the challenge, so I will wait. Begrudgingly.

Someday I will have a photo of this being worn

I went traveling over the weekend, and I packed light. On September 23, I wore a refashioned peasant top over a long-sleeved tee. The blouse used to have three rows of narrow elastic on the bottom, but I could not stand wearing the blouse that way. Every five minutes the elastic crept up to my waist, exposing my tummy. The elastic section was actually made separately and the entire 2″ piece was attached as a hem on the bottom. I used my trusty seam ripper to just take the bottom elastic section off, and then I sewed a narrow hem. On September 24, I wore the peasant top again, this time without the tee.

Worn Sept. 25, maybe for the last time.

On September 25, I wore a different refashioned blouse over the long-sleeved tee.  The neckline, sleeve hems and bottom hem all had a hemp-like blanket stitch embroidered on the edges. The blouse also had tassels hanging from a faux drawstring at the neckline. After several washings, the tassels were mangled, and the neckline edges were stretched and gaping. I removed the embroidering from edge and cut the tassels off. Although I think the blouse looks good as new now, it no longer fits well, so I may have to purge it anyway. Sad!

BFF socks

Today, September 26, I wore all ready-to-wear except for my socks. I had to make a business presentation and everything I have made is too casual. Also, things really narrowed down when I put on the one pair of dress pants I own. Uh, too tight! So I had to find something that A) matched chocolate brown and B) was work-appropriate enough to gussy up my casual cargo pants. I guess what I wore was good enough, and when I came home I slipped on my handknitted socks. I intended to change, but everything ran late, and I never really felt like changing.

I am also currently wearing a hand-painted apron because I am writing this while waiting for my lemon cookies to bake. However, the paint is almost completely washed out, making the apron pretty darn plain at this point. Also, the cookies are not good. No recipe will be forthcoming.

Instead, here is a better view of the bird we caught at birdbanding.

He's calmer here. But when I take away my hand, he flutters wildly.

I’m thinking, I’m thinking!

Some days my brain is so full of ideas, I don’t know where to begin. I have two knitting projects on the needles, and a sketch of a third. I have a baby quilt half finished, and four patterns lined up for sewing. I have a knitting design book on hold at Barnes & Noble. And, I have about 179 starred items in Google Reader that I am going to make “next”.

Other days, I feel frustrated by my projects and want to chuck it all. Projects don’t turn out right, fabrics don’t wear well. It’s enough to make me throw up my hands and say, “I can just buy one at the mall!” Today is in that category. However, it is Thursday Think Tank with Making Rebecca Lynne. So instead of giving up, I am going to think on it. And I need your help.

My baby quilt wannabe project is on hold because the energy auditor is scheduled to make a million updates in three weeks, all taking place in my craft room. The squares are done, but I need to pull out some fabrics to decide how to sash them. Any thoughts? When I can get to my stash again, I’ll let you know.

That leaves the Dreaded Dining Room Chairs Redo — Part 2. I have a gorgeous dining room set that includes a buffet, a smaller table with drawers, a dining room table with six chairs, and a liquor cabinet. The set was my Aunt Diane’s forever, then my mom and dad’s, then my Aunt Diane’s again, and now mine. Auntie actually tells me that it was her friend Barb’s first, so I am guessing it is a nice antique vintage.

Liquor cabinet

I re-covered the chairs when they came to me about 10 years ago. No big deal. Unscrew the seat from the legs, wrap new fabric around, staple in place, re-screw seat back on legs. Easy.

Recently it became quite clear that the fabric needed replacing again. My child is not a neat eater, so the chairs were very stained. In addition, the front edges of a few chairs were worn completely through to the fabric layer below. Not to worry, I thought. I borrowed a staple gun from my friend Richard from The Authentic Experience, pulled out some fabric from my stash and went about unscrewing the seats from the base.

That's a lot of fabric layers

There were three layers of fabric on the seats now, and hardly a place to put new staples. And since the last layer was worn through, I thought a next layer might look uneven or wear more quickly in the bare spots. So I began pulling out old staples and tearing off layers of fabric.

Oh my goodness. What a mess. The layers were unbelieveable filthy, for one. But worse, when I removed the bottom layer of fabric, I found that the padding had turned to a layer of mush. Whatever it was (actual horsehair? shreds of paper?), it was disgusting. It was matted and dusty, and disgusting. I took it outside for fear of giving my family cancer with the airborne particles.

Bottom (original) fabric layer. Note the beautiful edges where it was stapled to the bottom.

Chair left a dirty mess everywhere and fell apart in my hand when I tried to remove it.

No problem, I thought. I will merely replace the padding. I am famous for my pluck and perseverance. Ahem. I did a quick google search and read about 427 tutorials on recovering chairs. However, even when the information included replacing the padding, it gave no indication whatsoever about what to use for padding. Surely, nobody sells horsehair mush anymore?

What *is* that stuff? Do I want to know?

I brought my boy to Jo-Ann’s where we put the three varieties of “padding” on the floor and took turns sitting on them. I do so wish I had a photo of that. We decided to bring home the “high-density” foam in the 1″ and 2″ variety. I also made a cushion from three layers of crappy polyester quilt batting, because I’ve recently decided to upgrade to better batting and wanted a good use for the old stuff. Then we put one cushion on each of three chairs and made Husband try them out with us. We had our own “The Three Bears” play. I also draped the fabric over each sample and simulated the way the chairs would look when made up.

We unanimously chose the quilt batting. There was no dicernible different in comfort. The foam cushions were too high and fluffy for the chair, and they were $8 each (without a coupon) x 6 chairs. Stash quilt batting = free. Pleased with our choice, I moved forward with the project.

I was very happy with the way they turned out.

New chair cover on left. The right still looks good, but that is the "company" chair. And still...wait til you see how dirty it really is.

Gross, right?

Beautiful new chair! Yay!

You know that’s not the end of the story, right? Was it the “Part 2” that tipped you off?

About a month later my parents were visiting, and my dad said, “Why are these chairs so hard all of a sudden?” I had to face the awful truth. The batting completely lost its loft after being used for that very short time. It was like there was no padding at all. Of course, the fabric that I so carefully stretched over the padding was now billowy and loose.

Can you see the loose fabric?

And most sad of all, where the icky shredded padding of old had filled in all the nooks and crannies of the antique (read: pieced from cheap wood) seats, the new padding did not, and you might pinch your bottom (in a bad way) if you got caught in a crack. Eek.

Mind the gap! I never felt that crack before now.

So, I’m thinking of what to do next. And thinking. I went back to Jo-Ann’s for their coupon extravaganza and brought home three 1″-thick high density foam pads (at 40% off). I have left mine in the plastic, but have been sitting on it on my chair for the last few days. So far, so good. I am concerned with how ridiculous the chairs looked with the poofy, high cushion, but like everything these days, I am willing to sacrifice a little style for a lot of comfort.

I promise not to keep using it this way for longer than 1 week.

And I am throwing the rest of my polyester batting in the garbage. Please, any suggestions for chair batting are welcome!

Did you think I forgot about Self-Stitched September? Nope. Yesterday on Sept. 21, I wore my Eddie Bauer knockoff over a Gap long-sleeved T-shirt and cropped jeans.

Today I am wearing my second make of Simplicity 2255 (View D) with Old Navy jeans.

So please help me out, readers, for Thursday’s Think Tank. Do you have any suggestions for my chair padding? I would be willing to entertain all ideas, short of going to the stable for hay and, you know…horsehair.

One Last Hurrah?


First things first: The weather was supposed to be 74 and partly sunny today here in Michigan. So for Self-Stitched September, I dressed in my Patchwork Skirt, knowing full well this may be the last time I put on a summery skirt until next May. I wore it with my thrifted Mossino top.

Today my arts and crafts friend Kathryn is coming to play. She is mostly arts and I am mostly crafts. Today we are going to have a “Studio Day,” which I hope is the first of many. We were discussing recently (ok, last night on Facebook chat) how we don’t have (don’t make?) time to design anymore. And we lost our passion. We used to be fearless! We designed knitted sweaters and vests; we drafted our own skirt patterns. What happened?

My Flower Power design.

For me, I think it’s that I have developed an overly snooty outlook. When I started out as a sewist and knitter, I didn’t notice how shoddy my workmanship was. I was so thrilled to have created something all my own. I was tickled that I deviated from the pattern to change the collar, or the cable pattern, or the suggested color. I could not believe when the owner of my local yarn shop told me that something like 90% of knitters make the garment, not only in the same yarn but in the same color as the pattern photo. What? But I don’t look good in lavender. Whenever I tried something new, I marveled at my cleverness, simply overlooking that part where the seams didn’t match right or the collar stood up funny.

Flower Power undone. I thought it didn't look "good enough".

However, as I became better, I came to have higher standards. This can be good, but it can also be crippling. I started to notice all my imperfections, and it ruined the fun for me. I would look at a Norah Gaughan pattern and think, “I could never do something so amazing.” So I stopped trying anything at all. How sad!

I am also impatient. Very Impatient. I didn’t want to have to swatch. I didn’t want to have to reknit a part that came out wonky. I wanted to make it perfect the first time out of the gate. Which, mind you, is in stark contrast to the things I say to my frustrated child: Be patient! Nobody is born knowing how to do these things. Practice makes perfect. Blah blah blah, not taking my own advice. Gee, and I wonder why he was such a perfectionist?

Enough! In the last year, I have started kindling that creative spirit again. I drafted a simple skirt pattern (see above), and I made two scarves (here is one) with Firefly yarn using a pattern I improvised from an old stitch dictionary.  In August, I took a Designing Triangle Shawls class at Stitches Midwest. And I have been glued to my Google Reader, following (ahem) dozens and dozens of blogs admiring all of your determination, skill and creativity.

I imagine Studio Day would be a regularly scheduled play date where we actually work. Not stitch and bitch, not order lunch, not finish up tying in ends while we gab. We will help each other work out a design idea. We will help swatch or test drive a pattern. We will pull out our design books and our notebooks full of dreams. We will critique construction methods and design details. We will share secrets that make the job easier, such as using spreadsheet software to chart our patterns. (Duh. Thank you Brooke Nico for that idea.) Do you want to play?

Boy, maybe I should figure out how to make a badge for Studio Day!

I added this shot at the end of the day… it was a touch chilly for my outfit so I added a cardigan (from Kohl’s). Husband says he isn’t sure it works. I probably won’t have a good reason to wear a cardigan with a summer skirt in the future, so it’s probably not an issue.