And the Rains Came

I have a couple of friends who live in Marble Falls (about 40 miles from Austin) and then there is a local knitblogger, Rhonda who lives there as well.  They’ve had a rough go the last couple of days and there is more rain predicted through the weekend.  We went through the flood of ’98 in Seguin, TX when we lost about 2 dozen citizens.  We had no water from the city for days.  We collected rain water off the roof to flush down the toilets.  Life came to a standstill.  It was surreal.  It was very scary.  I know exactly how the Marble Falls folks feel.  Helpless and thankful that it wasn’t any worse.  We did get a storm last night that dumped an inch and a half on my poor water-logged garden.  So I will keep watching the sky.

For_liz Tomorrow we’re having a baby shower for a friend and co-worker, Liz and her husband, Jason who also works at the agency and I made a baby bolero and booties.  We also made them a very pretty baby quilt as a group that will definitely start the water works at the event.  Can’t wait.  I’ve started another bolero for my new Niece, Mina in Korea, the booties are already waiting to be shipped.

Baby Bolero from One Skein by Leigh Radford
Blue Sky Organic Cotton in the green colorway.

Basic Baby Booties by Therea Gaffey, design #17
I used leftover yarn from the Red Cross Commerative Sock kit.

The gender of this baby will be a surprise so I tried to make it something they could use for either one. 

In the pursuit of healthy food I cooked some quinoa (KEEN-wa) last night and it turns out that some of us really like it.  Abby, however took exception, so I’ll just have to figure a way to sneak it into other things.  It is one of the oldest cultivated grains and it is also the most nutritious, and lower in carbs.  Rinse it well before cooking, the plant is covered in a natural resin which is bitter and protects the plant from pests.  Otherwise it is cooked much like rice, but with a standing period.  It was very tasty with some butter and veggies tossed into it.  I’m having more for lunch today.

Gown Abby is picky about her food, but she likes the clothes that I make for her.  This is one of 2 gowns I made for her this week, the other is striped.

My Sewing Projects Need Knitted Friends

My most recent finished sewing project items need some help.  They are boring and need some knittng to perk them up.  I have a deficiency in choosing colors – I have some great patterns, I just don’t have confidence in my ability to choose a color that is complimentary to my wardrobe.  Also, it has been made very clear to me, we have no photographers in my family (thanks for trying, Kandis).  There are times that I really envy Staci her Ann Boleyn.  Skirt2 I made a navy houndstooth skirt (that pattern really played havoc with the camera) and I have these super comfy Italian pumps I got that work with it, but it really needs a sweater to perk up the pairing.  I think it should be a funky color that contrasts well with the rather conservative appearance it has on it’s own.  Help me pick a color.  Blk_dress I also made a black rayon crepe dress that needs a shawl or stole – but what color?  Kandis also thinks I need high heels – she thought the flattish slides I had on didn’t help the look.  There might be a DSW trip in my future next week.

About the sewing.  Well, setting a goal for myself of a garment a day was a bit ambitious.  Mostly because of the things I forgot about…like cooking meals, shopping and washing and folding the clothes…oh, and then there’s the full time job.  The month isn’t over yet and I will continue to complete the items I have already cut out – and there are several – and I am still waiting on some purse rings to arrive that I got on Ebay to complete a very cool bag I want, but to be perfectly honest, I am not going to make it.  I did however make a serious dent in my pile.  But I will never be finished, because every time I pass a fabric store, I will buy something else and the pile grows again. 

Some of you have been very tolerant about having to endure sewing projects and some of you, well, maybe you stopped coming by because you thought maybe I didn’t knit anymore.  But knitting does continue – I just have nothing to show yet, though maybe tomorrow as there is something blocking right now. If you have an opinion or idea about colors for knitted things to wear with the new rags, please share. 

Returning to the Well

Black-eyed susan Sometimes when life is overwhelming, slipping into the knitblog community is an escape.  Getting lost in other people’s lives and projects can, for a while, be a distraction.  It can also provide some perspective and a sense that perhaps things aren’t so bad.  There is no doubt that I often turn to this community for inspiration and encouragement.  I’m not sure what I did before it came along – probably relied more on my few dwindling and scattered friends.  Something about working full time with a family and living semi-rural-ly causes friends to practically vanish.  Even fewer were the friends I could talk to about the crafts I enjoyed.  As much as I loved my friends, none of them shared my knitting/sewing enthusiasm.  The knitbloggers get it.  And then there’s Ravelry.  Holy crap y’all, is that not the very best web app ever devised?  I mean, seriously!  I have new friends, and new ideas and a queue that I will require my retirement to complete.  But it’s such a great place to go and clear cobwebs and ease frustration.  There is so much creativity and talent in there that I can hardly contain myself.  We need to have a party when when they open up to the public.

Butterfly weed I’ve been sewing and have a few things to show off if I could get some ideas on how to photograph myself in a black dress.  I never had a little black dress, but I do now.  And a navy houndstooth skirt (I had new navy pumps that I had nothing to wear with) and Abby has a couple more nightgowns – she really seems to like the ones I make for her – I try to find the softest cotton I can.  She has never worn commercially made PJ’s that are made of that crappy flame-retardant fabric.  Whose idea was that anyway?  No, it doesn’t burn, it just melts on the body.  I think the polyester/acrylic/nylon industry lobby must have had a hand in that legislation.  You can buy cotton knit sleepwear for children so long as it is snug and close-fitting and she has some of those. 

Square_play_3 I’ve also been knitting.  I picked up a UFO, the Square Play top from Knitter’s that has been marinating for over a year.  Once I started working on it, it’s moving right along, I finished the front yesterday and started the back – I have done 8 of the 29 squares, so it won’t be long till FO status – though I do still need to sew the skirt that will go with it(it will look sooo much better when it’s blocked). I had to cast on an emergency baby bolero last night for a shower next week – there will need to be booties too. 

I’ve gotten some good feedback about Abby’s anemia and a co-worker turned me on to these little spinach nuggets that were really good and we’re going to be getting some of these for the house.  We will continue exploring the world of nutrition for picky children. 

Plumerias are blooming.  Man, you should smell these things!  Happy beginning of Summer.

Plumeria_white Plumeria_pink

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Abby’s fever finally broke after 4 and 1/2 days.  The doctor said she had amemia AND a viral infection.  The infection is probably all gone now, however getting over anemia isn’t so easy OR quick.  It seems to afflict the women in my family particularly hard.  Kandis was anemic while she was pregnant.  I have been anemic off and on my whole life.  But the idea of a high energy 6-year old being anemic was too much.  We always lived by the rule that you shouldn’t force children to eat what they don’t want, but to offer variety and quality.  Well, Abby is about the pickiest eater I have ever seen.  I am often surprised at what she will eat and perplexed at what she won’t.  Anyway, the doc said to get her some high quality children’s vitamins with iron and to get some leafy vegatables into her.  Yeah, right.  She hates vegatables.  Well, not all.  She likes beans.  But that’s about it.  So I decided to do a little research and go grocery shopping with a vengence. 

First thing I did was Google "hiding nutrition in children’s food" and guess what?  I found a site with some really good suggestions.  And then a friend referred me to another page about the specific foods that are good for anemia. So armed with some information I went shopping.  I bought some cabbage, brocolli, swiss chard, and eggplant, raisins, prunes, whole wheat bread and enriched breakfast cereal.

IChard_soup found a couple of recipes online and decided that Abby might be more inclined to eat new food if she helped prepare it so I asked her to separate the swiss chard leaves from the ribs because we were going to make 2 different recipes; one for leaves and one for ribs.  She did a splendid and meticulous job.  And when both recipes were done, we had lunch and I have to say I was absolutely shocked that they tasted sooo good and that we all ate all of our lunch, even Abby.  I think I am going to plant some Swiss chard in my garden, I can’t believe I never had any before. 

Chard_cream The first recipe was Barley Lentils and Swiss Chard Soup, but there is even more stuff in there and it is all good!  Now, when it comes to soup, all I need is a list of ingredients, I’ve been making soup long enough to be able to figure out the amounts on my own, but you should really try this soup.  And it’s loaded with stuff that’s good for you. The second recipe was uber simple though they probably would not normally be served together.  It was Sauteed Swiss Chard Ribs in Cream which is served over pasta.  Very simple – I added garlic to the sauce and of course we added Parmesan cheese at the table and it also was just delightful!  Very Alfredo tasting.  Anyway, I am very excited to find new food that we all like.

Dads_day2 Father’s Day was nice, though Tom had to work, I grilled and we ate as soon as he could join us.  And he got to hold his grandson for a while.  Cooper may not remember much about it, but that’s okay. 

Dads_day And here is a gratuitous shot of my girls and my boy.

I have been sewing and knitting and updates are coming soon.

the Best Laid Plans…

Things were going pretty well with the sewing and all and then…my Ravelry number came up and whooo boy! Can that thing suck up a lot of my time!  No complaint though, it’s beyond my expectations.  It’s like having knitters in your head.  And then finding out that you are in their head.  Dude, kinda like an alternate reality.  Okay, maybe that’s going a bit far, but it’s very cool and I can’t wait till everybody is in it. 

And if that wasn’t enough of a distraction from my sewing committment, Katy Blogless decided to come to town and join me for a workshop with the prolific, talented and very British Louisa Harding over at Hill Country Weavers last Sunday.  Katy and I each bought one of her books.  It was great fun, great food and we got to make a bag with 5 different Louisa Harding yarns and I’ll show it to you when I finish putting it together.  I totally enjoyed myself, and Katy’s visit.  Oh and she brought me the most beautiful skein of MadelineTosh Hand Painted sock yarn in the color Lily Pad.  I have been admiring Madeline’s stuff for some time as she is one of my favorites on Flickr – she takes great photos of stuff I like.  Check out her stuff, it’s gorgeous!

And then the six-year-old came down with a fever.  For 3 days.   Today we’re going to the doctor.  No other symptoms but the fever.   So while she  lounges on the floor in front of the Food Network, I’ve been getting caught up with the sewing.  I wish to ammend my commitment to say I will "sew an average of a garment (or accessory) per day".  I think I can still do that. 

Here’s my progress so far.  2 more dresses and 2 gowns and a skirt for Abby and a skirt for me.

Pattern: New Look 6195
Fabric: 100% cotton lawn

Pattern:New Look 6850
fabric: 100% cotton

Pattern: McCall’s 4113
Fabric: white cotton batiste with pin-tucks/pink and white paisley cotton plisse

Pattern: McCall’s M5159
fabric: 100% cotton pink daisies

Mom_skirt3Pattern:Simplicity 3834
Fabric: 100% cotton sateen

Okay, back to sewing, taking Abby’s temperature photographing yarn.

The Ties that Bind: Stitch, Trim, Turn, Press

Wrap_skirt Wrap_skirt_side I purchased one of the most basic patterns, New Look 6637, an Easy Two Hour pattern in order to sew a simple wrap skirt.  And it was a pretty quick sew, as long as you have all the tools at hand AND the knowledge of how to use them.  This wrap skirt has thin ties at the side where you tie it closed (it has twill tape ties on the inside to tie the other side too).  The instructions say to fold the tie pattern piece in half lengthwise and stitch, trim the seam, turn and press it.  Once it is stitched, this piece is about 1/2 in. to 5/8 in. wide.  I knew what to do, because I have years of experience, but what is a novice sewer to do?  You can’t just turn the thing like a sock, it’s woven not knitted, so there is no stretch and it’s about 15 inches long.  Now, I have a bodkin, but sometimes I can’t get it to work, it just can’t find a purchase inside the tube to grab securely enough to pull it through the length of the piece.  What I have learned to use instead is…a straight knitting needle (what do non-knitters use?).  I use the blunt end of a long smallish gauge needle and starting at the closed end of the pattern piece, start ooching (one of my favorite words) the needle end inside the tube, spreading the fabric out so the needle can clear all the sides at the end.  Once it is started, it’s pretty simple work to slide the fabric down over the needle and voilĂ , the tube is right side out!  Then you can take the pointy end of the needle and push it upthrough the tube to puch out the corner points nicely.  Then press.  Bodkins work much better for things like spaghetti straps made out of fine, lightweight fabrics, where a knitting needle would not be as helpful.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at patterns lately and have noticed a few things.  First of all, the major pattern companies are starting to recycle pattern designs.  Maybe they’ve done it all along and I am just now clueing in to it.  Sometimes they own up to it and advertise the pattern as a Retro or Vintage pattern.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of "everything old is new again".  But sometimes I think designers either just run out of ideas, or they offer some designs on a dare.  Vogue is the worst offender in this.  I like Vogue, I used to be a real snob and prefer to sew Vogue patterns, they were somewhat more sophisticated than some of the more main stream pattern companies.  But there are a couple of recent additions to their line that just bare mentioning because of the sheer gall  the company exhibits in publishing them at all.  I used to respect Donna Karan, she has created some classic designs in the past but honestly, WHO would this flatter?  And I understand he is a brilliant artist, but I think Koos van den Akker may be getting too old to design for fashion.

So as not to leave you with those images as the last thing you leave here with, I found a pattern that I think I might get (Hancocks is having a pattern sale in a couple of days) because I have always liked the old fashioned "shirt-waist" dress. I like this, what do you think?

Buying Patterns: Size Really Does NOT Matter

If you are new to sewing, and buy patterns based on the size advertised on the package, you might have been a little dissappointed in the finished fit.  I have no idea why they even print a size on patterns since there is no recognized industry standard and I suspect they pull that stuff right out of their asses.  Every pattern also offers a measurement chart, sometimes on the back, sometimes on the envelope flap, but that is what you need to look for and go by in finding patterns that will fit.  Know your measurements (or those for whom you sew).  When faced with an incongruity of sizes compared to your own dimensions (what, you mean everyone is not the same size?!), always go with your largest measurement as to what size to buy.  In other words, if you you want to make a skirt, and you have a thicker waist and smaller hips than those for a given pattern, buy the size to fit the waist, it is much easier to cut down in the hip area than it is to add inches to a too small pattern, especially if you already cut it out before you realize this. In the bust area, this is particularly true, so if you are big busted, always buy a pattern that accomodates that measurement.  All this is true of children’s clothes too.  I cut out a skirt last night for myself and I had to cut the size 18, though I typically buy a 12 in the stores where I buy clothes.  I try not to take this personally.

I did manage to meet my sewing goals over the weekend, even though there was an unexpected plumbing emergency to deal with which had me staring at the underside of my kitchen sink for an hour on Sunday morning and a trip to Home Depot to buy and install a replacement fawcett.  I also felt the pull of the garden and needed to stake the tomatoes and plant some okra and canteloupe. 

Daisy Pinkpolkadots I finished another outfit for Abby like the last one, only this time, in pink polka dots.  I have one more of these outfits cut out from last summer.  Something distracted me and I never sewed them after cutting them out.  I am determined this will not happen this year.  Tonight, I’ll sew something for me.  I asked Abby to try on the blue daisies outfit for a photo and she wouldn’t take it off all day.

Garment 1

Daisy_top_2 I Daisy_back finished this little top for Abby before 10:30pm, when I promptly went grocery shopping.  I should finish the matching shorts before I leave for the knitting meetup in the morning.  Yes, this one was easy and already cut out, but I did work all day and fix dinner before ever sitting down to the machine.  They won’t all be this easy.
Pattern: Simplicity 5497
I may get a modeled shot tomorrow.

Planned Insanity – the best kind

Bag_pattern I sew. As long and as much as I have knit. I was taught when I was twelve by a great aunt who recognized a teachable moment when she saw one. I still remember that first dress, sleeveless yellow gingham A-line with a standup collar and an invisible zipper. Once my friends found out, I was making them all mini-skirts. In high school I sewed costumes for the drama department.

Patterns1 Being tall and having long limbs, it was hard to find store-bought clothes that fit sometimes and sewing allowed me to fit myself. As a young mother I sewed clothes for my daughter. She chastises me in adulthood for the humiliation she endured from having to wear Little House on the Prairie dresses to school as a kindergartener. McCalls came out with about 4 different patterns inspired by the popular TV show at the time. I bought every one. I don’t know what she is complaining about, she looked adorable in that bonnet and pinafore. The knickers might have been a bit devious of me though. At one time I worked in a sewing factory. It was an interesting experience. I have worked in fabric stores and as a private seemstress. I have made prom dresses, wedding gowns, cruise-wear, curtains and drapes, even a cape for an Elvis inpersonator. I also Patterns2 made a couple of men’s suits, but I won’t be doing that again. Whatever price the store asks for a man’s suit – pay it. It’s worth it.

So, for the month of June 2007, I plan to make a garment (or accessory) a day. Some are for Abby and some are for me and a couple for Kandis.  Weekends will see more substantial progress because I still have a full time job. The big impetus for this project is that my cutting table has been up in my kitchen for a couple of months now and I’m tired of it being there reminding me that I have work to do. A couple of months ago, JoAnns had pattern sale on McCalls – that’s when I buy patterns. Patterns3 NEVER pay full price unless it’s an emergency (sewing emergencies do happen) or you have more money than good sense because they are always going on sale. BUT, $1.99 per pattern is a fabulous sale and I had several that I had on my wish list and they varied between 14.95 and 17.95 each. Well, I stocked up. And there were others in my pattern stash.

Patterns4 Now I also like to find bargains on fabric and the end of the season is the time to do it. Also if you browse frequently you can snag some real finds. Even Walmart (yeah, I know) has a few goodies on the Dollar a yard tables. You have to dig and be open-minded. It helps to know fabric by it’s feel because they don’t always disclose the content if they are giving it away for a buck. The plan is to sew and post photos and maybe along the way share some advice or suggestions. I have learned a lot of tricks after sewing for some 30+ years. And I have some favorite tools and techniques.

Bernina To start with, my sewing machine is an older model Bernina, electronic, but not computerized. Margene posted hers the other day and I think mine is a bit newer, but not a lot. I don’t require an expensive machine, this one was gifted to me by my mom when she learned someone had one they weren’t using, she bought it. I have used up a Kenmore and a Brother. I just kept putting new motors on them when I burned them up. I prefer simple machines that don’t have a lot of hooha on them. I do mostly construction and not decoration so simple is better. There is a trick to keeping a machine working well for you – it’s simple too, learn your machine, get cozy with the tension and KEEP IT OILED. Get out your manual and follow the instructions on oiling it regularly and it will preform for you for years.  Kinda like a car – my dad always said, "oil is cheaper than metal", of course, he didn’t live to see 3 dollar a gallon gas, but I think the principle still holds up.

Tpwd_tom Now, lest you forget that besides sewing and knitting, I am also a naturalist and our office borders a state park and well, sometimes wildlife likes to kinda hangout with us.  This guy is a wild tom turkey.  He likes to strut up to the glass windows and puff himself up and display for that fella he sees in the window.  Makes for a fun place to work.