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A bit disappointed that Hugh Laurie didn’t win an Emmy for his role in The Night Manager. Boo!

My co-author and business partner said she didn’t mind if I used some space on our server to host my blog, so I spent an evening last week reinstalling a backup copy of my blog to the new host. A couple of times I was ready to pull my hair out, but I find walking away and taking a break usually resolves the (human) error. I liked Blogger’s platform, but it broke all my permalinks, which cost me some traffic. Not that I get tons of traffic here, but a couple of my posts get a lot of hits because (I hope) they’re helpful, so there was that.

Last Saturday I drove down to Connecticut with my son for a family meeting. My stepmom’s best friend from high school was there, and she let us pick one of these pot-holders made from felted sweaters. I thought they were so cute and clever. (I picked one of those teal birdies.)

K worked in theater costume design for years, so I’m excited that next month when I drive down to North Carolina for a business meeting I’ll be spending a night at K’s house in Baltimore, which is roughly half-way between Boston and Research Triangle. I’d been agonizing whether or not to make the 12-hour drive in one straight shot, but when K invited me to spend the night at her house–quilts, sewing, fiber arts–no way was I going to turn that down. It’s nice because the part of the trip I was dreading has turned out to be something I’m looking forward to. I don’t really have any friends who are as into sewing and knitting as I am. They appreciate it, but they don’t want to talk about it to the degree I do.

Warm and rainy here today. Beautiful sunset in the evening as we drove back from Lexington. O wouldn’t let me pull over to take a picture. It kind of looked like this:

Kwik Sew 3614 shorts … and September!



Way back in July I noticed a dearth of shorts in my wardrobe. I’m not a big fan of shorts … specifically, I’m not a big fan of how shorts look on me. Mostly because I don’t tan at all and my white legs scare people, but also because I don’t like wearing anything higher than just above my knee. Since I have a spiffy new sewing machine, I decided to make some shorts that met my requirements and I feel comfortable wearing on the hotter days of summer.

Enter Kwik Sew 3614, a pattern I first read about on Sewn. Elizabeth had mentioned how members of Pattern Review raved about the fly construction instruction on these shorts, and after making a couple pairs, I have to agree — fly fronts can be tricky, but it’s smooth sailing with this pattern.

My first pair was constructed out of lavender-colored cotton twill I purchased a few years ago from Fabric Place. I traced and cut a size L and followed the directions for view A (the longest version) exactly, making no modifications. The shorts came out well and I’ve worn them a lot this summer. My only dislikes were having hook and eye closures on the closure tab. I decided with my next pair I’d use a button and buttonhole.

My second pair are the ones I’m wearing in the photos above. I can’t remember where I got the fabric, a navy blue cotton twill … either Joann’s or Sewfisticated Fabrics in Framingham. The button/buttonhole closure works much better. For future shorts I plan to use a contrasting facing on the waistband, as well as softer pocket fabric. I used matching twill to make pockets for both pairs of shorts. They’re fine, but maybe a little bulkier than I’d like.

This is a great pattern and I will definitely get my money’s worth from it as I have plans for olive, white, and red shorts for next summer.

Since I took a bit of a blog break for the last six weeks, here’s what else is going on. My mother and I took a week-long trip to central Maine in August and had a wonderful time. I didn’t take any pictures (bah!) except for a shot of my yarn haul from Halcyon Yarn in Bath.  I’ll do a run down of what I purchased in a separate post.

I’ve been a bit down because my father and stepmother are going through a painful divorce. It’s not a bitter one, just very sad because of the circumstances. I’m hoping that once the smoke clears, things will get better.

Then my husband’s car died. We were down to one car for the last few years, so it has been necessary to do some car shopping. It looks like I’ll be getting a new VW Jetta by the end of the week. It’s funny because VW was not on my “car-buying radar” until I rented one a couple weeks ago and fell in love. Even better, my son loves it and my husband, while not a fan of practical four-door sedans, admits that it’s a smooth, responsive ride.

And oh, that cat you see above? That’s Winston. I’l write more about him in another post, but we decided after a year of having no cats it was time to welcome a new cat into our home … and hearts. We adore Winston … he is a sweet, lovable, friendly guy. And even better,  he doesn’t chase my yarn.

What have you been up to this summer? Are you glad it’s September?

One more day

Hawk on walk

Yesterday during our walk to pick up the car at the repair garage, I spotted this hawk fluttering around the ground. We couldn’t figure out if it was injured or hunting … we could also hear some angry birdsong coming from the firs. I wanted to get a little closer, but those talons!

So yes, one more day! Tomorrow I’m picking O up from camp. I miss him so much and can’t wait to hear of his experiences. I did get a letter from him on Wednesday, and I was surprised by how long it was. It looks like he kept adding to it each day. He’s a very good and entertaining writer. It sounds like he’s had a good time, except for the swimming. Although the weather has been warm here in New England, lakes and ocean water really don’t get warm until August … and even then, I wouldn’t call them “warm” … more like comfortable. Plus, O is not the most enthusiastic swimmer. He said the two weeks at camp would have been the best two weeks of his year … except for the twice daily swims, which he says ruin everything for him.

I would feel sorry for him, but I took swimming lessons as a child in the cold Atlantic Ocean. No pity party here. 😉

Camp pickup is between 9 and 11, so I’ll leave Boston around 6ish, which should give me time for some coffee and exercise breaks (need to stretch out my back frequently). I’ll be giving O’s local friend a ride home, too, so we’ll make a brief stop at my father’s house on the lake to say hi and pick up Aunt Pam’s yarn :-), then be back on our way home.

Crafting

I finished sewing a pair of shorts yesterday, waa-hoo. They came out great! When my head photographer returns home, I’ll get some good photos for my review. I am not a big shorts-wearer, but on especially warm days they’re necessary. I love these shorts because they completely cover my thighs but don’t make my legs look like sausages. Flush with success, I dug out some olive green twill from my stash for a second pair. But first, I want to finish a gift project (silk pillowcases). This is a wedding gift for a friend who is now pregnant, which gives you an idea how behind I am in sewing!

Knitting … not much to report here. I spent a couple hours yesterday tinking three rows (over 400 stitches each row) of my Pebble Beach shawl as I had two extra stitches. The problem was a wrong increase stitch. Sigh. When will I learn? Anyway, all is well, though I will probably not finish the shawl this weekend.

I discovered a new-blog-for-me this week, Ikatbag. This mother of three has craft skills that are a-m-a-z-i-n-g — she’s a whiz with cardboard and all sorts of crafts, but also sews without commercial patterns. In fact, she has never used a commercial pattern to draft her clothing! Oh, and she studied physics in college and does all sorts of cool science projects with her kids and creates the most stupendous birthday parties for her daughters … seriously, I would get palpitations doing half as much as she does in a day!

I’ll leave you with a video of me trying to get a hawk’s attention by talking to it as I would a cat. D’oh.

Hawk on ground

Hydrangea season

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I told my dentist last week that I see hearts everywhere. 🙂

The hydrangeas in the front of the house are spectacular this year, such a vibrant blue. Two years ago I had cut them back too severely so that last summer we only got a couple blooms.

I have not heard a peep (i.e. received any mail) from O since we dropped him off at camp. He had told me not to expect anything because he doesn’t like handwriting letters (the camp doesn’t allow computers/e-mail), but his counselor assured me I’d get a couple letters anyway. I’m trying not to get antsy about it … as long as he’s having a good time, that’s all that really matters. Plus the camp does a great job updating their blog every night to let parents know what’s going on. I can tell from the activities they describe that O is most definitely enjoying himself. He’s not super athletic but he’s “sporty” and loves to run around and participate in physical activities/games. They had a “marathon” the other night where kids could run a course through the woods, and I can guarantee he was ALL over that.

I’m picking him up this Saturday. I can’t wait to see him and hear all about his adventures!

Crafting

Melody and I are becoming fast friends, maybe even BFFs! Last week I took one of those “get to know your new sewing machine” classes at the dealership where I bought her. A lot of the class was fairly basic–how to thread the machine, how to wind a bobbin, etc.–but I did learn a few tricks and became comfortable with some of the advanced functions on the machine. Like buttonholes…as I said to my husband last night, I will never get sick of watching Melody sew a buttonhole!!! What used to be an exercise in frustration is now a matter of letting her do 90% of the job…my only task is to move the fabric around and press buttons. It couldn’t be easier.

Kwik Sew 3421Kwik Sew 3421

This week I finished the Roman shade for the dormer window in our bedroom and a pair of swimming trunks (Kwik Sew 3421) for my husband. I’ll talk about the Roman shades in my next post as I need to take photos. Both were straightforward projects, except for sewing the power mesh lining on the trunks. So slippery and fiddly and tricky to work with, especially when joining elastic around the leg holes. Luckily that part of the suit isn’t public. I used a medium-weight cotton twill I bought on sale at JoAnn’s for the outer fabric; my husband does not like synthetics, so cotton it is. Today’s job is to purchase a navy cotton drawstring to finish them off. The pattern, like all Kwik Sew patterns, is easy to follow. The only thing I would do differently is use my own way of inserting elastic in the waistband casing (sewing up the casing except for a 2″ gap, threading the elastic through as one long piece, sewing the ends, then sewing up the gap). The KS way is to sew the elastic into a circle then wrap the casing around it to sew it into place. Too fiddly for me!

Now it’s time for some selfish sewing. Today’s project is preparing fabric (lavender twill) for a my own pair of shorts.

I’m just over 80% done on the Pebble Beach shawl, which should be finished over the weekend at the rate I’m going. Each row is over 400 stitches long, and there’s a picot bind-off.

At last week’s knitting group I got my yarn to knit a 12″ x 12″ block for a blanket we’re making for an ailing group member. We get our choice of stitch patterns and I’m pretty happy with the one I chose. As soon as the block looks like a block, I’ll snap a photo. My goal is to have the block complete by next Thursday’s meeting.

Sequence Knitting got an excellent review at Knitter’s Review. Now I am tempted by Susan Crawford’s vintage Shetland knitting project/book, which is being crowdfunded. She has reached her goal, but is still accepting funding. I could have the book in my hands before the holidays, but honestly, will I really get around to knitting Fair Isle before then? I don’t think so.

I missed our Forrest family reunion and my Aunt Pam’s interment up in Vermont this weekend–my back was giving me trouble, then the car started making funny noises–but I did get to talk to my cousin Sherry at some length Saturday night. She said she sent an enormous amount of Aunt Pam’s yarn home with my father for me to have. Wow, I was so touched! I’ll probably pick it up on Saturday when I get O from camp…she says there’s a lot of it, so maybe I’ll have to make two trips. My Aunt Pam was a spectacular craftswoman; not only a first-rate knitter, but she painted, did cross-stitch and crewel embroidery, and quilted … and other crafts/art endeavors, I’m sure! At some point I will show you some of the projects she did. They are truly beautiful.

 

The Yowza Weigh-it Shawl

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I finished knitting this beautiful shawl by Susan B. Anderson last month during a week where it was cold and rainy and I’d already shut off the heat for the season. It was a pure delight to knit–it wasn’t completely mindless because every couple seconds there was a new color change to ooo and ahh over. While knitting, I listened to the Serial podcast put out by PBS. Can’t wait for the next “season” to begin!

I’m a huge fan of Susan B. Anderson’s blog (and vlog, too!), and when she introduced this pattern in May, I dropped what I was doing, ordered the pattern, and promptly broke my yarn diet by ordering the exact color yarn she’d used in her sample (Miss Babs Yowza! Whatta Skein! in the colorway “Perfectly Wreckless.”) I made a mistake and ordered the colorway “Berlin” (which is very pretty, too), but the people at Miss Babs were nice enough to correct my order … that’s what I get for ordering yarn late at night.

Speaking of nice…that’s one of the main reasons why I love Anderson’s blog and vlog. She seems so darn nice, not to mention talented. While I don’t mind reading snark, I can only take it in small doses. I much prefer blogs, podcasts, and vlogs where the hosts leave me feeling a little happier after having read or watched them.  Anderson’s blog is definitely a cheerer-upper for me. 🙂

OK, back to the shawl. Yes, the colors are as vibrant IRL as they are on your screen. The shawl appears to have a woven appearance because of the garter stitch, yet it’s soft and squishy around my neck. I was going to wash it and pack it away for the summer, but discovered last week that it was perfect to wrap around my shoulders on a cold and rainy day … plus, those lively colors cheered me up. I even got a couple compliments on it when I wore it out shopping at Whole Foods. The reason why it’s called “the Weigh It Shawl” is because rather than count rows, you weigh your yarn as you go along and start wrapping things up when you are down to a certain number of grams. I still had quite a bit of yarn left over, but that’s okay because I like having odd balls for my blanket knitting.

Ravelry details here.

I’m off for the holiday weekend. Happy July 4th to my American blog readers, and to everyone else, have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

p.s. Forgot to mention, but I also made the pink cotton lawn blouse underneath the shawl. It’s a bit wrinkly as it had been freshly washed but not ironed. I thought the shawl would look better styled with a blouse.

 

Stormy weather

Rolling thunder woke me up Wednesday a.m. Welcome July!

My sugar fast continues and I’m feeling well, a little better each day. I didn’t need a nap on Tuesday, and on top of this, two nights in a row I stayed up long past my regular bedtime of 11 to read. I do still have sugar cravings in the early evenings, but nothing like the ones I had the first day.

We continue to get O ready for camp … yesterday he got his hair cut and today his camp sheets should be arriving, which will need to be washed and folded for his trunk. This morning I woke up and realized how much I’m going to miss him while he’s away. This will be the longest O’s ever been away from me, and there’s no phone calls, no e-mailing allowed … handwritten letters only. Which I don’t mind–being the loving mom, I will write every day!–but I’m not so sure I’ll hear anything from a 13-year-old boy in return.

Was sad to read that the rumors of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce were true. They seemed like a nice couple, very family oriented. Marriage is tough business, for sure, especially it seems in Hollywood.

Crafting

Lessons learned while working on the Pebble Beach shawl:

  • A lifeline is a must once I get past 100 row stitches of lace.
  • Save lace knitting for the mornings when my mind is fresh.
  • Point protectors are my friends.

I spent an hour+ on Tuesday night tinking back two rows (250+ stitches per row) to fix a massive mistake. Then I carelessly left my knitting on the couch, and when I came back found that some stitches had slipped off the needles and created a mess I couldn’t figure out without ripping back. Another hour later all was fixed but I made zero progress on the shawl as a result. On Wednesday, I put in a dental floss lifeline … took me all of five minutes.

I cut out the contrast fabrics for O’s board shorts on Tuesday night and then cut out the main fabric on Wednesday a.m. I’m normally not a big fan of using rotary cutters and weights to cut out pattern pieces, but because the microfiber was unstable, the rotary cutter made short work of the job. Later that night I got the fronts and backs of the shorts sewn up. I’m not completely happy with my topstitching, but I doubt any of the boys at camp will be scrutinizing it.

When I was catching up on my blog reading Tuesday night, I noticed that Ann at Gorgeous Fabrics gave a terrific review of Sewaholic’s Thurlow shorts/pants. As she said, “…the Thurlow’s welt pocket instructions and draft take something that other pattern companies butcher, and make it crystal clear.” I am in desperate need of some nice trousers, as well as shorts, so I promptly ordered the pattern, esp. since I’m pear-shaped and Sewaholic patterns are built for my shape. (Bonus: there was a Canada Day sale going on and I got a discount!) The shorts look a little too short for me, but I suppose I can lengthen them a bit. Once I finish O’s camp sewing, I’ll give the Thurlows a go.

By the way, I’m getting more and more comfortable with Melody the more time I spend with her. She is so quiet! And little things like speed control, automatic threading/thread cutting, needle down, and the knee life make my sewing so much more accurate and enjoyable. Every time I finish up a sewing session, I tell my husband, “I have to say it again … I LOVE MELODY.” (Half of his office in my sewing studio. Lucky him!)

Weekend update

When I write that, I think of “Saturday Night Live.” 😉

We ended up getting an emergency pediatrician appointment for O on Friday. When he woke up that morning, his face was so swollen with the poison ivy, he was almost unrecognizable. The doctor was baffled because O said he was only walking through the woods, which would have kept the plant oils near his lower extremities yet he was covered with the stuff.

O mentioned later on that the friend he was with also had to go to the doctor, so at that point I said, “I’m going to call his mom.” I noticed that O got a little quiet when I announced that. Hmm.

I finally got M’s mom on the phone the next morning. Come to find out, her son told her they’d cleared some ground in the woods and built a campfire. A-ha! That explained it. I was pretty annoyed to hear this because O should have given his doctor this bit of information. When I confronted him with what I’d learned, O was like, “Oh yeah, we were.” First, I was mad he was making campfires, but even more mad that he didn’t tell the whole story. Breathing in urushriol (the allergenic substance in poison ivy) via smoke can actually kill! At least it explained the systemic reaction he experienced.

The doctor prescribed five days of steroid pills. We noticed a huge improvement on the first day. It is now the third day and O’s face looks completely normal. We told him he’d be getting punished as a result, but after talking it over with my husband, we decided the agony of the rash was almost punishment enough. (We also made him research the penalties for starting campfires on conservation land.) His rash should be cleared up by the time he leaves for camp next weekend.

That has been the other big part of our weekend: getting camp ready. He’s going to be away for two weeks, so we spent part of today doing an inventory of his clothes and toiletries. Tomorrow we’ll be heading out to buy some more t-shirts, underwear, and socks. I also ordered a camp sheet set and started work on the board shorts he’ll be using for swimming. When we checked the packing list the camp sent us, I noticed they wanted boys to bring two pairs of swim trunks, so it looks like I’ll be sewing two pairs this week.

My weight loss has stalled. I noticed I’m eating much more sugar than I should, so this week I’m going sugar free to see if this helps get the scale moving again. Even fruit is off the list.

Very happy the escaped NY convicts are accounted for. Just heard they got the second guy alive. Maybe we’ll get some more details how they pulled off that somewhat impressive escape!

Crafting

Melody and I are finally getting to know each other a little better. I sat down Friday night and hemmed/repaired a pair of my husband’s chinos. Then I re-hemmed the sleeves on his favorite shirt (they were raveling), removed a frayed collar, and used the darning foot to fill in some holes. I don’t know how my husband gets so many holes in his clothes, it’s crazy! Then today I repaired another pair of chinos — more frayed hems — and then sewed up a huge hole in the pocket of his favorite pair of shorts using the overcast stitch/foot. Everything was very easy and came out looking great. I think even my husband can see how much better Melody does with his mending. 😉

This week’s big sewing project will be the board shorts I talked about earlier.  I’m a little nervous about them because I’m sewing on microfiber, which can be a little tricky.

Did a fair bit of knitting this weekend. I started by Pebble Beach shawl on Thursday night and just passed the 15% mark. It’s a very enjoyable knit. The pattern provides a nice chart that lets you check off each row and tells you when you’ve hit 5%, 10%, etc. I went up to Hub Mills in Billerica yesterday to buy a new #6 Addi Lace needle. The needle I had was way too slippery for the laceweight merino I’m using, and Addi Lace needles, although metal, are somewhat grippy (maybe because of the coating?). The new needle is making the project even more enjoyable so it was worth the capital investment.

I’ll take a picture tomorrow. I’m using a gradient yarn and the cream color is about to switch over to a pale mint.

Kristie, I love love love your Hudson Bay baby blanket. I read your blog via Feedly so I missed the photo in your blog header and am glad you wrote about it. Now I’m eager to knit one!!

 

Oh my aching tooth

I decided last night that I’m going to post more regularly, if only to keep a record of my days, so fair warning!

This morning O woke up with his face red and swelled up. A closer inspection showed tiny blisters all over his face, arms, legs, neck, back, etc. so the culprit was determined to be poison ivy. He and his friends spend a lot of time in the woods climbing trees and building forts, so it was only a matter of time before he ran into problems with this noxious plant. (We since found out the friend he was with actually had to go to the doctor today as his poison ivy was even worse.)  Poor O was in misery, so I gave him some allergy medication, then headed off to CVS downtown and dropped $40 on assorted creams, sprays, and washes. Once he applied them he felt much better, and after a couple hours, the swelling and redness had been reduced significantly. In the meantime, I stripped his bed of sheets, blankets and pillowcases and gave them a good long wash in hot water, and also did the same with the clothes he was wearing while he was in the woods. Although the oils in poison ivy don’t seem to bother my skin, I know repeated exposure can cause a reaction, so I made sure to use rubber gloves. That’s all I need, a new medical condition!

So … we had to cancel O’s hair appointment this afternoon, and instead he headed off to a friend’s house for a sleepover. I guess he was feeling well enough to go see Jurassic World with him tonight.

Tomorrow I have an appointment to get a new crown on one of my back teeth. My dentist told me the old one needed to be replaced, even though it wasn’t bothering me. I grit my teeth (no pun), shelled out the $1200, and last week went in to get a temporary crown put on … and darn, wouldn’t you know it, but I’ve had a toothache almost every day since then. I’m hoping when the new crown goes on tomorrow that the pain will go away. Tooth pain makes me exceedingly cranky.

We’re planning a family reunion for July 11 up in Vermont that I’m very much looking forward to, along with a memorial service for my Aunt Pam, who passed away in January. I started a private Facebook group to keep everyone posted about times and gathering places, and wow … almost 40 family members have joined! I often hear people complain about family reunions, but I love them. Part of it is I like knowing that I belong to a tribe, but it also makes me feel connected to family who have passed away and who I loved very much. Those memories are precious, and I think it’s important to keep memories and stories alive, moreso as I age.

Crafting

I finished knitting a feather and fan baby bonnet last night/early this a.m. (I couldn’t sleep because of said tooth) and plan to give it to my knitting group friend K for her daughter’s Girl Scout project (sending knit caps and mittens to Syrian refugees). I knit one a couple weeks ago with a pink ribbon, so this one I’ll festoon with a blue.

Feather and fan bonnet

I’m between knitting projects, except for a pair of “vanilla” socks, and am itching to cast on for a sweater. I did some swatching last week for an Amy Herzog/Custom Fit sweater (“Charlie’s Cardigan“), but haven’t yet mustered the energy to do all my measurements. Plus, I’m still waiting to see if anyone from my Thursday a.m. knitting group wants to knit along with me. Now I’m toying with the idea of knitting Meg Swansen’s Garland Necklace Yoke sweater. I have a bunch of cream Paton’s wool, and was thinking a delft blue wool would look nice as a contrast.

Last night during my late owl web surfing on eBay, I ordered two vintage 1960s Reynolds knitting pattern books I’ve had my eye on for some time. When they come in, I’ll do a review.

As for sewing, there’s nothing to report. Still giving Melody a wide berth. My husband left a pair of chinos and two shirts for mending on the back of my chair. (I love to mend/fix/repair stuff … it’s in my frugal Yankee nature.) These tasks don’t seem so daunting so I’ll get on them after my dentist appointment tomorrow.

Speaking of mending … I noticed that Jean Miles had ordered a new book called Sequence Knitting, which sounded interesting. About five minutes later, I stumbled upon a comprehensive interview with the author, Cecelia Campochiaro, on Tom of Holland’s mending blog. I think this is the Universe telling me I need this book. Sixty dollars is a lot but I like how the author put her book together, with a lot of care and detail.

Knitting for Syria

The daughter of a friend of mine from my Thursday morning knitting group is embarking on a very worthwhile Gold Award Community Service Project for Girl Scouts, and when I learned about it, I volunteered to help spread the word … er, a month ago. (I apologize, K!)

But here I am, and here’s what she’s doing: it’s a charity knitting project called Warm Hands, where knitted items are sent over to Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, and other countries. Along with the knitted item — which can be mittens, hats, sweaters, blankets, socks, whatever — she asks that you include a handwritten note of encouragement for the recipient. The items will be sent to a school on the border of Turkey and Syria, where they will be gifted to families in need.

More details about Jules and her inspiring work here and specific details on what she’s looking for here. I have already completed one hat and am hoping to get to a pair of mittens within the next week.

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In other news … what a month we’ve had around here! I’ve been running back and forth to Connecticut to care for an ailing family member, managing my son’s busy social schedule, and trying to keep up with all the pressing household tasks that need doing, especially now that spring is officially here and I’ve got that burning need to tidy my life up. My knitting time has been reduced drastically, although I have finished a couple projects that I just haven’t had time to photograph, and now that warm weather is here, I find myself heading to my sewing studio (a/k/a a corner of my husband’s home office). I’ve sewn four tailored shirts so far, and this week started a pair of (drumroll) JEANS. Like I’ve been preaching here for the last year or so, I want to sew clothes for the life I have now, not the life I wish I had, so jeans make total sense for me. Plus, wearing an awesome pair of well-fitting jeans makes me feel like a million bucks.

Making jeans...the fly front.

I’ve finished the hard part of the project — the fly front — as well as the front and back pockets, so all that’s left to do is seaming and topstitching. Unfortunately, my Viking 400 started suffering some internal distress while I was zig-zagging, so I packed it up yesterday and brought it to the sewing machine doctor for some TLC. I could have continued the project on one of my–ahem–four other machines, but decided instead to carefully pin all the seams together so I could try them on. The bad news? They were huge on me. The good news? They were huge on me. I’ve got a fair bit of work to do to get them to fit me just right.

The pattern I’m using is from Angela Kane’s members-only website. I’ve been a member of her site for a couple years, and for $5 per annum, it’s a real value. I’m also augmenting the instructions by watching Angela Wolf’s jean-making class on Craftsy, which I also highly recommend. Angela Kane doesn’t get into distressing the denim, so I’ve learned a lot of good stuff from Angela Wolf, who is the Distressing Diva.

If these jeans go well, I plan to make another pair … with a decidedly Anglophile twist. 😉

Spring has … sprung?

You wouldn’t know it from first glance at our front yard. We didn’t get to do our final fall lawn cleanup because our first snow came early here in Boston, so there’s quite a mess awaiting me this month. By late March, we usually have a few croci but I have yet to see one poke up through the ground.

Or maybe I’m avoiding looking at the mess in our border gardens!

This winter kicked my butt, mentally and physically. I was sick most of March and still don’t feel like I have my energy back. That said, I’ve managed to get quite a bit of craft work done while recuperating and hiding out from the snow.

My big project of the season was mastering the tailored shirt:

Kwik Sew 3555 women's shirt

Kwik Sew 3555 women's shirt

 

Both shirts were created in Pam Howard’s excellent Craftsy class, The Classic Tailored Shirt, which I highly recommend if you have any interest in making (or wearing) custom tailored clothing. One of my strange fascinations is with men’s tailoring … I can spend hours watching YouTube videos about old Sicilian tailors or the future of Savile Row. When my husband and I honeymooned in Italy, I swear I was more excited about his getting a custom tailored jacket in Milan than he was.

A hand-tailored shirt can run into hundreds of dollars, and there’s usually a minimum order, which means unless one has thousands of discretionary dollars sitting around in a checking account, this kind of clothing is out of reach of most ordinary folks. I am definitely “ordinary folk,” but I do have some mad sewing skillz, so this winter I decided to master shirt-tailoring. My ultimate goal is to fit and create shirts for my husband’s wardrobe, and my interim goal is to master the details that go into fine shirtmaking by sewing shirts for myself. The pink shirt was my first attempt. It’s made of linen, which was lovely to press and sew, but a bit too ravel-ly for the flat-felled seaming I had to do. The blue shirt is cotton chambray, and I definitely improved on this second attempt. Each shirt took me about a week to complete; I would spend a couple hours each night on one facet of construction, such as cutting fabric, sewing the collar, or felling seams. This schedule worked out great for me as I never felt rushed or tired, and each night I could see my shirt taking shape.

The pattern, btw, is Kwik Sew 3555, view A.

I have been sewing since I was in junior high/middle school, and although I was always enthusiastic about creating clothing, I was never very good at it, simply because I had no patience and wanted to wear what I was making that night. Cue a lot of wiggly seams and ill-fitting attire. The turning point in my sewing career came when I started knitting. See, it can take months to knit one sweater and a week to knit one sock. However, sewing an item of clothing, even when I’m patient and methodical, can take just hours. Sewing feels F-A-S-T to me now, even when I spread those hours out over a week or two.

Still, knitting is my true love, and I’ve been knitting up a storm. Here’s a peek at a sweater I just finished but haven’t properly photographed:

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I’m using notions and trimmings from my stash, so I decided to go with the plaid, which ended up being a great choice for the thistle color of the wool, don’t you think? Very Highlander. 🙂

Some odds and ends … I have been thinking about a blog post entitled “Buying is Not the Only Way to Engage,” written by Samantha at A Gathering of Stitches. This part really struck me:

“Look at your stash. Yes, right now, go look at it, really look at it. Pretty nice,huh? Wouldn’t it feel really good to just pull it out, piece by piece and start using it? What are you saving it for? Don’t buy more, until you use some of what you have! Buying is dangerous. It is a temporary exchange. Once that thing comes home to you, you adapt to it and become de-sensitized to it, and it is no longer as satisfying as you thought it could be.  So you push that button again and buy something else…. A vicious cycle ensues…. “

I am guilty of this kind of behavior, thinking I can’t start a project because I don’t have the right thread or that my creative life would be so much richer with a Juki F600 on my sewing table. Samantha’s post made me realize how much possibility I have already, and it inspired me to get back into my sewing room and work with the riches I already have.

Next — a couple days ago I got a nasty paper cut on my left hand, which has now gone all itchy. I’m convinced I’ve contracted an MRSA superbug and will shortly be losing my hand … okay, I’ll stop with the drama. My research led me to this interesting PBS news report that a medieval treatment of garlic, wine, and cow’s bile can kill MRSA bacteria. Here’s the video: fascinating!

Lastly, are you watching Wolf Hall on PBS? I had a terrible choice Sunday night: Mad Men or Wolf Hall, and I went with Mad Men because I knew I could watch Wolf Hall later on my PBS app. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with Tudor history, and as an adult, I’m still a little nerdy about it. I watched the first episode twice, and next Sunday I’ll probably save Mad Men for another night. I’ve read the book, but have yet to read its sequel. On my reading list …