Jan 112014

Barely into the second week of January, I have my first finished project of the year, though I suppose this is cheating on my goal of finishing two sewing projects a month in 2014, as I began work on this project in November of 2013.  If you recall, I had done up a muslin for S1882 and was critical of my handiwork (though, you all had nice responses; thank you for the encouragement!).  Based on my learnings from that version, I crafted this dress.  I would have finished it months ago, but I had some extreme serger frustration that compelled me to take an extended break (if memory serves, I was also extremely stressed out at the day job (lots of presentations and other anxiety-making things) and I couldn’t handle the idea of possibly adding to my stress.  Upon returning from my vacation, I couldn’t really remember what I had done to make this dress or what had been stressing me out about it, but I was able to finish piecing it together in no time.

All in all, I am very happy with how this dress turned out.  I ended up hemming it shorter than I had intended to, but it’s fine (particularly with some tights).  I don’t believe I had to make any alterations to the pattern – this was some sort of magical pattern that fit me right out of the envelope. These Amazing Fit patterns have individual pieces for each bust cup size and then skirt variations for average, slim, and curvy fit. I used the smallest bust cup size with it’s curvy fit skirt.  I also cut a larger size sleeve because I always tend to require some extra room there.

Here are my fabrics. They are both linens that had been in my stash for several years.

I tried matching the plaid along the seams but missed.  I had to cut the sleeves along the bias because I didn’t quite have enough fabric for the dress otherwise.  I also had to cut the yoke in the contrasting fabric because I didn’t have enough plaid.

The pockets are amazing, placed at the perfect height and are a really nice depth.

The bodice has princess seams that fit me really well and I think the shape of this dress is very flattering to my figure.

Here is a view of the inside of the dress.  I ended up lining the entire dress, which was a challenge for me because I’ve only lined one or two dresses in my life.  The lining was also a stashbusting experience for me as I was able to use up all of this dotted lining fabric that I’ve had for years, but didn’t have enough so I randomly used another lining fabric for part of it. I was able to line the bodice in the navy linen contrast fabric.

Here’s a close up of the neckline, princess seam, and sleeve. You can see how I totally failed to match my plaid but I do like my nice clean neckline.

As for my next sewing project, my Saturday is young and there is still a lot of time for me to do more sewing. I’m excited to work on a simple button up shirt.

Jan 082014

Mentally existing in a different timezone from the holiday vacation and still trying to catch up on sleep, I haven’t quite returned to the groove of normal life. The good news is that the relaxation I achieved during the vacation has continued. I vaguely remember being stressed out about stuff at the Day Job before the vacation, but now it just doesn’t seem to be worth my time to feel stressed about it.

Looking back on 2013, there were some high moments for me:

  • I learned how to run and enjoy running.
  • I got chickens and managed to keep them alive!
  • I had my biggest vegetable garden to date, and harvested broccoli, cabbages, onions, leeks, parsnips, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and other goodies.
As for my crafting, I feel more disappointed in it than anything. Despite spending a lot of time knitting, and starting many many different projects, I was only able to finish six things, four of which were quick-to-knit accessories.  Boo!

Sewing was more productive. I made 15 pieces – 6 tops, 2 trousers, 6 dresses, and 1 coat – most of which I wear and enjoy wearing frequently.

My basic knit tops are what I seem to wear the most. I’ve been wearing the long sleeved tops a lot during the colder weather. Renfrew continues to be my most tried-and-true pattern – - I love making them and I love, love, love wearing them.

I made two more pairs of Thurlows that were very successful.  These two tops came out nicely as well, though I’d like another Jasmine blouse in a better fabric. And I made a fleece coat that I wear all of the time.

I also made several dresses, some of which got more wear than others. My most worn has been the flowery Truffle dress on the bottom left, and my least worn is the other flowery Truffle dress on the top left. I’m thinking of modifying the red and white polka dotted dress to be a top with a peplum, because it feels a bit too Minnie Mouse when I wear it as a dress.

My goals for 2014 are:

  • Crafting: Finish more of what I start. Particularly with knitting, I tended to start a lot of projects and not finish them. One strategy that I’m going to adopt to help motivate me to finish my projects more expeditiously will be to no longer blog about my WIPs. I always feel so excited to show off what I’m working on, but this year, I’m not going to let myself show anything off until I actually complete it. Part of finishing more of what I start has to do with just being more efficient with my crafting time. And so I’m going to assign a somewhat arbitrary metric to this goal: Complete 2 sewing projects a month and 1 knitting project a month, for a total of 24 sewing projects and 12 knitting projects. Believe me, this is not an unrealistic goal – it just means making better use of my crafting time and focusing on one project at a time.
  • Gardening: Josh and I are both highly motivated to increase the yields from the garden so that we can produce more of our food throughout the year. Our backyard is almost a quarter of an acre and most of it is water-guzzling Kentucky Bluegrass. I was beside myself with glee when Josh mentioned using a lot more of the space to grow edibles. I have been spending this winter going through seed catalogs and devising strategies and plans for the garden. One of my hopes is to participate in a weekly “Harvest Monday” blog-hop where bloggers inventory their harvests. My goal for 2014 is to harvest 1,000 pounds of food from the garden.
  • Fitness: In general, my fitness goal is to do something active everyday. Exercise tends to be the number one thing that I can do for myself to feel good, both mentally and physically. In 2012, my fitness soared to new heights, but then I slacked off in 2013 and sunk lower than I’ve been in a long time. I think one of the major things that was detrimental to my fitness was the idea that I was exclusively a cyclist. Eventually, I got bored and burned out on cycling and since I didn’t have much else in my vigorous-exercise repertoire, I lost a lot of fitness. Adding running to my repertoire has been wonderful to give me more balance to my exercise options and is also a great activity to do during the cold weather. Once I started running this fall, I immediately noticed an improvement in my physical and emotional wellbeing. As for metrics, I want to run 800 miles this year and complete the Race to Robie Creek (13.1 miles and over 2000 feet of elevation gain). That race is extremely popular and has limited registration, so if I am unable to register, I aim to at least be fit enough to complete it on my own. For biking, I want to ride my road bike 3,000 miles and my mountain bike 1,000 miles, and race in the Barking Spider mountain bike race, the Bogus Basin Hillclimb, and the Four Summit Challenge.
  • Emotional Wellbeing: Finally, I would like to work on some mental refocusing and learn how to worry less about things that I cannot control. I tend to be a very high-anxiety person and am constantly worrying about everything, most of which is completely beyond anything that I can control.  I lose so much sleep over things like climate change and whether Josh will be killed while riding his bicycle. Before I went on vacation, I felt incredibly stressed out and worried about all of these things at the Day Job, most of which were actually other people’s behavior, not anything in my sphere of control. I don’t know how I could measure this as a goal, but if I could figure this out, I would be a much happier and well-rested individual.
Jan 052014

Returning home after an extended vacation always feels both relieving and bittersweet.  Relieving because it can be exhausting and worrisome to be away from home for so long, and bittersweet because the destination might so idyllic compared to home.  Josh and I spent 11 days on the coast of Southern Florida, where our average daily temperatures were 75 degrees, visiting his family.  Below is the view from the condo that we shared with his mom, one of his brothers, and his brother’s partner.

My favorite part of the vacation was enjoying the glorious warmth along the beautiful beach.  I took a lot of long walks and runs across the sand and through the water.  The water was unbelievably warm!  I swam, tried to catch some waves on the boogie board (unsuccessfully), and frolicked to my heart’s content.

Walking along the beach with others was a lovely way to spend time.  Below are Josh and his mom, Kathy.

I rose at the crack of dawn every day to watch the sunrise.

And was grateful to be an early bird, rather than a night owl.

Besides enjoying the glorious weather, my second favorite activity was having the opportunity to go to Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.  I have always been very interested in astronomy and this was such an exciting and interesting experience for me.

Outside, there was a beautiful Rocket Garden, showcasing many of the different rockets and vehicles of the space program.

Beyond the Visitor’s Center, the complex covers a large area.  We were able to take a bus over to the launch area for the shuttle and see an interesting exhibit about the shuttle program.  Despite the cancellation of the shuttle program, everyone seemed to be very positive and proud to be a part of NASA.

(I took a bazillion photos, but I only had my cameraphone and all of my indoor shots came out poorly).

On the way to see the Saturn rockets, we went by the launch pad and saw the Crawler, which is the vehicle that they use to transport the shuttles and rockets (and other ginormous things) to the launch pad.  It weighs 6,000 pounds and, when fully loaded, its max speed is 1 mph and it needs to travel 3.5 miles to the launch pad.  I’m not interested in monster trucks or other oversized vehicles, but this was really cool.

We also saw the Vehicle Assembly Building, which is the largest single story building in the world, and requires a special ventilation system to reduce the formation of clouds and rain inside of the building.  I’ve always been very impressed with the space program, but after seeing the enormity of some of these things I’m really blown away.

Despite spending almost an entire day there, I wasn’t able to see everything.  …I guess I’ll just have to return one day.

I enjoyed some amazing food throughout the vacation. I had fish or seafood for almost every meal and LOVED it.  One of my favorite restaurants was a breakfast place just a 20 minute walk along the beach, where I enjoyed crabcake benedict, and fried green tomato benedict with grilled shrimp (below)… multiple times.  Despite all of my walks, runs, and frolics along the beach, I packed on some extra pounds during the trip and am now having a hard time fastening my trousers.  But it was SO WORTH IT.

We celebrated both Christmas and New Years during the vacation.  For Christmas, I knat Josh a hat with mountain bike riders.  For the family gift exchange, we had drawn names, and I knat a hat for my giftee as well.

For New Years, we set off fireworks along the beach and toasted champagne.

I chillaxed and was able to accomplish a lot of knitting.

We saw some wildlife, including lots of neat birds and even turtles and alligators.

We also saw alligators at the flea market, along with a lot of really bizarre trinkets.

We saw even more interesting wildlife at the Bavard County Natural History Museum, our activity during the one rainy and unpleasant day.

We rented bicycles.

And rode them through some neat neighborhoods.

Every single day, we did something enjoyable and made some memories.

It was a wonderful vacation.


Dec 222013

If you’re anything like me, you had a rude alarm call last week when you realized that Christmas was coming up fast and that it was probably time to start your holiday knitting.  I don’t do a lot of holiday knitting, but when I do it’s always at the last minute and overly-ambitious.

In my previous post, I mentioned how Josh and I are going to Florida (leaving Christmas Eve and returning several days into the New Year).  Our incredibly friendly neighbors have agreed to care for our animals while we’re away and I am beside myself with gratitude.  As a ‘thank you’ I decided to knit them up a pair of hats.  Knowing their preference for cult horror films and the macabre, I thought that using the skull colorwork motif might be a big hit with them.

It’s always a little unnerving knitting something for someone when you don’t know their exact measurements, so I made my best guess about the sizing.

For the smaller hat (upper left) I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes sport weight in Fedora an Mink Heather, and the larger hat is in Knit Picks City Tweed (DK weight) in Orca and Snowshoe.  For both hats, I cast on 180 sts and worked in k1,p1 ribbing with US 2 needles, then switched to US 3 for the main body and colorwork.  For the decreases at the crown, I kind of improvised doing 18 decreases every other round.  Were I to knit another one of these hats some time, I might make a more inspired crown section, as this one is pretty boring.

Anyway, I still have A LOT more gift knitting to do in a short amount of time.  I’m looking forward to finishing up my deadline knitting so that I can catch up on my millions of backlogged knitting projects over the trip.  We got another big dumping of snow (though, fortunately, the temperatures have warmed up significantly) and I’m looking forward to leaving winter behind during our trip.  It seems like it’s been a long time since we took a real vacation and I’m very excited about taking long walks on the beach in the balmy 70 degree temperatures.


Dec 092013

There’s a bit of a chill happening in my world.  That’s me down there at -2F/-19C right at this moment.  Yesterday at 10:00 a.m. it was -6F/-21C.  On Saturday night, we were getting windchill at -14F/-25C.  BRRR!!!  The good news is that it’s supposed to start warming up.  Today’s high is predicted to be a whopping 23F/-5C, which sounds balmy compared to what it has been.

I can’t help but look at this map and feel jealous about that orange swath of Florida.  This is where Josh and I will be headed in about two weeks and I am very excited.  About every other year we visit his family in Arkansas, but this year they’ve all decided to meet in sunny and warm Florida, where one of his sisters lives along the coast.  I think this is a BRILLIANT idea and am looking forward to long walks on the beach and temperatures well above freezing!!!  I’m currently trying to finish up a secret knitting project and am hoping to bring my big pile of WIPs down south to click away at while relaxing at the beach.

We’ll be gone for 10 days and I am feeling anxious about leaving my feathered and feline friends behind.  I’m particularly worried about Kiko because she’s so shy but also loves her humans.

Anyway, chickens are well.  We received a dumping of snow last week and the ladies are completely uninterested in tromping around on it.  I shoveled a walkway from the coop to some of their outdoor hangout areas and Josh spread a layer of straw, so they’re able to enjoy the fresh (albeit, frigid) air.  The chickens never cease to amaze me.  I honestly feel like I would die if I had to sleep in their coop under these temperatures, but they just puff up their feathers and nestle into their naturally occurring downy warmth.

Here are the two Barred Rocks soaking up the sun in their straw (the one on the left is actually taking a dust bath, so she’s a little obscured).  Florence is still molting – in fact this morning, there were a lot of her feathers under the roost, but despite a significant feather loss last night, she has chosen to relax outside in the sunshine rather than in the coop.  The two Rhode Island Reds are still laying eggs (in fact, they were both in their nest boxes while the BRs were outside catching some rays this morning).

As for the garden, I really have no idea if anything is going to survive the winter.  Everything in the beds is all “cold hardy” but I don’t know if it can handle this kind of cold.  At this point, it’s just an experiment.

In a way, I have been appreciating the cold weather as a forced hiatus from gardening and yard work.  I had definitely gotten a little burned out on everything I was trying to do this year and it’s nice to be able to reset myself.  Josh and I have been spending a lot of time talking about our ideas for beautifying the whole yard.  This past year, we did a lot of must-repair and basic foundational work, but now we think we can move forward with making everything more aesthetically pleasing.   For example, our big shed is a huge eye sore and we’re trying to brainstorm ways to either hide its ugliness or enhance its appearance.  Additionally, I did a lot of different experiments with so-called “chicken-friendly landscaping and plants” this year and I have a lot of ideas for how to incorporate many more plants.

Winter is a great time for dreaming!  Seed catalogs have been arriving in the mail and I’m getting excited about next year’s edible garden.  I placed a big order with Pinetree seeds (which has many of the fancy heirloom (non-GMO) seeds of Baker Creek and Seed Savers, but are a fraction of the price) and am creating a list of other seeds to buy.  According to my seed starting calendar, I should be able to begin starting certain seeds soon after we return home from Florida.

With regards to my last post about running, I’m disappointed to admit that I haven’t been running since my “long run” last week because of the cold.  I have an indoor cycling trainer that’s been getting a lot of use, but it pales in comparison to outdoor recreation.  This is unfortunate for several reasons, including the fact that vigorous outdoor exercise is generally the best method for me to relieve stress, and I have been having an extremely stressful month at the Day Job.  Without my normal vigorous exercise this week, I don’t seem to be handling stress quite as well and am losing a lot of sleep because I can’t turn my brain off.

Because of this stress, I have had zero interest in working on my latest sewing project because I had had a few stressy moments with my new serger (including two broken needles) and I just cannot handle that right now.

Do you have any ideas for effective ways to relax and relieve stress during the winter?

Dec 022013

My knees hurt today, my quadriceps are sore, and I can barely walk down stairs, but otherwise I feel no worse for wear.  A few posts ago, I mentioned how I was experimenting with running (or, as I clarified, “trotting”) as a nice way to get some exercise and enjoy some fresh air during the cold winter.  Compared to cycling, trotting has several advantages, particularly for the cold weather (ie, going for a trot when it’s cold isn’t nearly as involved and potentially miserable as going for a cycle).  At the same time, trotting isn’t fun like cycling is fun (yeah sure, trotting feels very satisfying and can even be enjoyable, but trotting doesn’t give me the same THRILL as cycling does).   So I don’t imagine that trotting would ever replace cycling as my first outdoor recreational love, but it might be a nice balance to it.

Anyway, yesterday I went on my first “long run” and am pleasantly surprised that it didn’t kill me.  In fact, it has only heightened my desire to go on more long runs.

A Bit of Backstory

Last week, I watched this Outdoor Idaho program about the Boise Foothills on the local public television network (you should all watch it, BTW!).  They didn’t show many of my favorite places in the foothills, but I did find it uplifting to learn more about how this community has set aside space for people to commune with nature that housing developers won’t be able to bulldoze over.  At some point in the program, they mentioned the annual Race to Robie Creek, which is a running half-marathon up and over dirt roads, ascending 2,072 feet and descending 1,692 feet, and pegged as “the toughest race in the Northwest.”  The race course goes up Shaw Mountain Road and over Rocky Canyon Road down to Robie Creek, which is a route that I have ridden on my bicycle hundreds of times.  After watching the program, I got it into my head that I wanted to start training for the race.  Considering that the race is extremely popular but has limited registration space, it isn’t likely that I would actually be able to participate, but I can certainly train and make it my own personal goal.

Having been casually trotting around for about a month, I haven’t been keeping track of my running stats.  Generally, I run for about an hour, but I have no idea what my distance or pace have been.  I am confident, however, that I am an extremely slow runner.  Actually, I have been specifically trying to run slowly to gradually increase my capacity to run somewhat reasonable distances.  When I set out on my first run a month ago, I could barely run a few blocks before getting winded.  Now, I can go out and run several miles with only a few short walking breaks, so I feel very satisfied with my improvement.

With regards to training for the half-marathon that goes up and over a mountain, yesterday I decided to get some baseline data.

Specifically, I decided to run a portion of the race course and challenge myself by running a much longer distance than I ever have before.

Baseline Data!

Here is the link to my Strava data.

Total Distance: 9.92 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,057 feet
Total Time: 1 hour 59 minutes

For the route, I essentially ran the first half-ish of the race course, and then turned around and ran back.  Sort of, not really.  Distance-wise, I only needed to do 3 more miles before I would have run the full half-marathon, but I still would have needed another 1,000 feet of elevation gain to get the full climb for this particular race.  So I suppose this isn’t too shabby for my first longish run in my month-long experiment with running.  In looking at last year’s race results, it’s hard to compare yesterday’s run with the race results since I only did the first 4.5 miles of the race and then ran back (there is actually a logistical challenge with trying to replicate the actual race because it does not form a loop or even an out-and-back… the race is from point A to point B, with point B being 13 miles away from point A – - during the race, they actually have buses to transport racers and spectators away from the finish line, so if I were to try running the full race route, I would need to arrange for someone to come and pick me up in an automobile).   Anyway, it was definitely a good run!

Below is the elevation profile with my pace comparison.  After about half a mile of a warm-up along flat sidewalks, the course goes up these windy neighborhood streets along Shaw Mountain Road.  You can see how I was able to run almost to the top of that first climb without walking (except for the big spike (which represents a drop in the pace) at the beginning of the run where I had to stop and adjust something).  After a 30 second walking break at the top of the first climb, I ran down to the base of the canyon and then proceeded to run up and up Rocky Canyon Road.  I’m pretty sure that those spikes where my pace dropped to around 23 were other short walking breaks, but otherwise, I really did manage to trot most of the almost 10 miles, although my pace isn’t very consistent.

Arguably, I am a very slow runner, even by trotting standards.  Below are my mileage splits.  The next time I go out and do this run, it will be interesting to compare my pace across each mile.

Overall, I feel excited about how I was able to do this longer run without dying or without being in too much pain.  I’m going to do some reading about effective methods for training but I envision doing this run to compare my performance every other week or so.  Specifically, now that I can run a reasonable distance, I want to work on increasing my pace.  Also, while I was running, I experienced some knee pain and tightness in my IT bands.  During the descent, I took a five minute break to stretch out my muscles which helped a lot with the tightness.  I’m not sure if my knee pain is due to a muscle imbalance or tightness but I’m going to see what I can do.  I could also just be that my knees aren’t accustomed to the impact of running, having been primarily a cyclist for many years.

A Final Word About Hydration

One of the convenient aspects of cycling is that a bicycle frame generally has one or two mounts for water bottles.  You may also add additional mounts onto the seatpost and even the handlebars.  Running, unfortunately, has no such convenience.

I’ve been experimenting with different methods of carrying water on my runs but it’s been hard to find something that isn’t annoying.  I’ve talked to runners at the running shops and have done some online sleuthing and have determined that most runners apparently don’t carry water with them.  I suppose for a short run that might be just fine but for my plan to do longer distance runs, I feel very strongly about having water.

For my run yesterday (and also for my future runs), I bought one of these Nathan Trail Mix hydration belts.  I have no idea how this one compares to others, but it was the only one in stock at the local running shop so I bought it.

I was pretty skeptical about it but it actually worked well and was minimally irritating.  I was able to cinch it tightly around the smallest part of my waist and it didn’t move or bounce at all, which greatly exceeded my expectations.  The water bottles (which I had filled with an electrolyte replacement) were mostly easy to get out of their holster and back in while running, though I did find it challenging to actually drink from them while running.   The only thing that disappoints me is that I haven’t been able to force my telephone into the pouch.  Especially for longer runs into Rocky Canyon Road, which is isolated and has all kinds of wild animals (like wolves and cougers), I would really prefer to be able to carry my telephone in case of emergency (or, more likely, photo opportunity).  So I might try to somehow expand the pouch using some scissors and my sewing machine.

Well Readers, do any of you run and have any advice about dealing with knee pain, carrying water, or increasing one’s pace?

Nov 242013

Well Readers, I am humbled.  I thought I was doing so well with the making of this dress, but it is so riddled with errors that I cannot imagine wearing it in public.  Readers, I would appreciate your thoughts about this dress.  Keep in mind that it’s not actually finished… the sleeves and skirt still need to be hemmed and the seams pressed.  I was working on this dress last night when I got to this point of being able to try it on as a mostly finished garment and it wasn’t until then that I noticed all of the errors.  Josh had a male friend over for a social engagement and when I showed them my dress, they assured me that no one would notice the errors… but I’m pretty sure that anyone who sews or has an eye for garment construction would notice, and would be appalled.

First off, I need to do my normal apologizing for my photos.  Not only is the black fabric hard to photograph, but behind me on the wall is my dark green decorative ruler holder which makes it look like there is something strange going on with my left shoulder.

Anyway, I’d like to start off with the positive… I love the fit of this dress!  The pattern is Simplicity 1882, which is an “amazing fit” pattern that has separate pieces for each bust cup as well as separate skirt pieces for “slim fit,” “average fit,” and “curvy fit.”  I used the piece for the A cup and the “curvy fit” skirt piece and the dress fits me very well right out of the envelope.  Which is very awesome!

The black fabric is some stretchy twill that I’ve had in my stash for about a year.  I am very happy with the pairing of this fabric and this pattern – - the fabric has a nice slinky drape that is well suited to this dress and it feels very nice to wear.  Even though I don’t need anymore fabric, I would like to procure some more of this fabric and make a well-made dress.

As I’m looking at these photos, I’m wondering if there is excess fabric at the front of the skirt or if that’s just how I’m standing.  hmmm…

Here’s the side view, where one of the errors is pretty obvious.  Josh and his friend said that this particular error is not a big deal, but I think that it is a big enough deal to actually be a deal breaker and I’m kind of annoyed that I didn’t even notice it until I had the dress almost fully sewn.

Back view.  I’m sorry that this fabric is not very discernible in these photos.

Yeah, there definitely seems to be excess fabric at the front of the skirt.  I wonder what is up with that…

Anyway, except for all of my errors, I love all of the style and construction details of this dress.  It has a contrasting collar and flaps for the pockets (OMG, I love these pockets!), princess seams that actually fit and flatter my bust, and a really nice waistband that works well with my proportions.  The sleeves are funky and I’m going to change them next time.  I also like the degree of fullness of the skirt.

Now the errors!  (And again, I haven’t yet done a pressing on the seams and the fabric is covered with fuzz from the sewing / serging process, so ignore those for now).

Here’s a close-up of that error from the side view photo.  Somehow on just one of the pockets, I have the wrong side of the fabric on the right side.  If I had done this on both pockets, then I don’t think it would be as bad, but to have the wrong side showing on just one of the pockets I think is a big deal breaker for the wearing of this dress in public.  I’m wondering if I need to get a better light to have next to my sewing table… the only reason I can fathom for how I did this without noticing until the dress was almost finished was that perhaps my lighting isn’t good enough.

This next photo shows four errors, but I’ll only discuss two now, and the other two with the following photo.

One PAINFULLY OBVIOUS error is that I did a very poor job at matching up some of my seams.  This is one of those sewing skills that I need to do research on how to do better.  For the front bodice, I had to rip out and re-sew the princess seams and the waistband several times before they were satisfactory.  But this particular seam, which is where the front bodice and front skirt meet the back bodice and back skirt, don’t match up at all.  Part of that is due to another error that I made (discussed with the following photo).

Another PAINFULLY OBVIOUS error is that my stitches are showing through and I obviously forgot to check the tension on my serger.  Perhaps if I had used black thread rather than white and purple it wouldn’t be as painfully obvious, but this is still a grave error to make.  Shame on me!

This is all really embarrasing, by the way.  I feel really ashamed.

The next two errors I don’t think are as painfully obvious, but they do significantly impact the other errors and the overall appearance of the dress.

The first error was somewhat intentional.  After I had cut out what I thought were all of the pattern pieces, I realized that I hadn’t cut out the pieces for the back bodice and that I had cut everything out in such a way that there weren’t big enough fabric pieces leftover for my two back bodice pieces.  I returned to the fabric store from whence I had procured the original black fabric (approximately one year ago) and procured a somewhat similar fabric for the back bodice.  I couldn’t find an exact match but convinced myself that this new fabric was similar enough that it would be okay.  Well Readers, even with my sometimes low standards and lackadaisical approach to stuff, it is not okay.  It looks like crap!  It looks like my pocket with the wrong side showing.

The other error, that I also didn’t discover until it was too late, was that I somehow forgot to attach the back waistband pieces in between the back bodice and back skirt until after I had already installed and fully finished the seams of the zipper.  For me, installation of a zipper is a point of no return.  And let me just boast that I did a really good job on this zipper.  And I used my serger to finish all of the seams.  There was no way that I was going to rip this out.  I rip out a lot of seams in my sewing life, ripping out zippers is too much.  So on this dress, I have a finished front waistband and no back waistband… no wonder my front and back didn’t match up at all.

I would like to direct your attention to how I managed to match up the darts on my back bodice and back skirt.  At least I can do something right.  And I love all of my serged seams!  The twill fabric was actually very prone to fraying, so the finishing of the serged seams worked very well.

As with most things in life, there are some good things and some opportunities for improvement with this dress.  I’m trying hard to not be disappointed with all of my errors and focus on the positive (a dress pattern that fits right out of the envelope!).  I’ve already started cutting out the pieces for version two.  Both fabrics from my stash, I’m going to have the below plaid linen as the main fabric and the navy linen as the contrasting fabric.  I intend to take on the challenge of matching the plaid across seams, as well as improving the quality of my sewing from the error-ridden black dress to this one.

What do you think, Readers… any words of wisdom? Words of sympathy?  Have you ever all but finished a sewing project only to realize that it was filled with egregious errors?

Nov 172013

I feel silly for making a big deal in my previous post about how I was excited to show you my latest sewing make, when it is “just” another Renfrew, but I think this might be my favoritest Renfrew to date!  A stripey ‘frew!

I sewed this up using my new serger and it came together SO FAST!  I did somehow screw up the serging of the neckline and had to re-serg it… therefore, the neckline is wider than the pattern would have it, and I think I even like it better.

And look! I even tried to match seams!  I’m happy with the pattern matching across my body seams, but I failed on the upper part of the sleeves.  Bah!  I think part of it was simply because I’m still so new to using the serger – - I think that if I had been using my trusty sewing machine that they might have matched up better.  Oh well.  Also, I apologize for my hem being folded up in these photos… I really need to consult my appearance in a mirror before snapping photos!!!

Anyway, not much else to say about this except… TAH-DAH!  I love the way it turned out.  Also, this fabric was something that I bought for one whole dollar at the thrift store and I had just barely enough yardage to make this ‘frew.

My current project is Simplicity 1882.  This is an ‘Amazing Fit” pattern which I’ve never tried before… it has pattern pieces to customize for “average fit”, “slim fit” or “curvy fit” as well as separate pieces for each bust cup size.  I’m pairing the A cup bodice piece with the “curvy” fit skirt piece and am excited to see how this turns out.  My fabric is a stretchy twill (that has been in my stash for about a year) and it’s going to be a “little black dress” with the dotted fabric for the contrast pieces at the collar and pockets.  If this dress turns out well, I think this pattern could be one that I will make over and over, as I feel very inspired by its stylishness and utility.

I bought the above pattern at the pattern sale happening now, where all Simplicity patterns are $1.  I also procured the below patterns for $1 each.  I am presently feeling very motivated to make more dresses.

Nov 162013

This morning, humans, kitty, and chickies woke up to the first snowfall of the year!  I’ve been meaning to post a mid-fall garden update for a while… in fact, yesterday, I even took it upon myself to snap some photos (which you may enjoy in this post!).  I hope you don’t think I’m bombarding you with postings, but I’ve also finished a sewing project and will probably write about that later today.

A few weeks ago, Josh created an outdoor shelter area for the chickens under our shade structure.  We had been getting a lot of rain and the area underneath the shade structure was the only place in the backyard (except for the coop, of course) that remained nice and dry, now that the leaves have all fallen from the lilac bush (which is the ladies’ favorite resting area).  We had those slabs of wood from when Josh re-roofed the shed/coop, so Josh used them to make a wind-break.  The bale of hay and scattered pine shavings are to help create some warmth.  While it is no replacement for the beloved lilac bush, the ladies have taken to spending a lot of time in their outdoor zone.  What is particularly nice about this space is that it gets the morning sun right away, which has been extra warm for them as we’ve had our colder temperatures.

This morning when I went out to open up the coop and let the ladies begin their day, they were particularly concerned about the unknown substance on the ground and refused to leave the coop.  To encourage them to abandon their fear, I physically carried each one to the outdoor area.  As of this writing, only one of them has dared trespass onto the snow.

Here is a photo that I took yesterday of them enjoying the morning sun in their outdoor space.  I know it looks warm in the photo, but the frost on the ground had only just thawed.

Florence is trucking along with her molt.  Here are the two Barred Rocks for comparison.  Florence is on the left and Josephine is on the right.  Notice how Florence’s comb and wattle are much more pale than Josie’s bright red ones.  Florence is also significantly less fluffy and I think she’s lost a bit of weight.  Last week, she was completely bald on her head and neck (including for a night that got well below freezing) but those feathers are coming in very nicely.  She’s also lost a lot of feathers on her body and has some bald spots.  I feel really bad for her that she’s losing her insulation right when it’s starting to get cold, but so far she seems just fine.  I’ve been feeding her extra protein and some high calorie things to help her maintain her weight and cope with trying to regrow all of her feathers.  I think giving her extra treats when the other ladies aren’t around is helping her to bond more with me.  Last night, for example, she was the first one up on the roost (like always) and I was giving her some mealworms and she hopped onto my shoulder and nestled her head into my hair.  It was very endearing!

The garden is still growing, despite my not spending much time tending to it.  I’ve been very lazy about covering my beds at night and there were a few times that everything got hit with some frosts, but it’s all cold hardy stuff and seems to be just fine.  Last night, I somehow had the motivation to cover everything (not knowing that it was going to snow) and I was glad that I did.

These next photos are ones that I took yesterday morning.  Above is one of my beets, still with frost on its leaves.  I’ve written ad nauseam about the problems that I’ve had trying to grow beets — previously, I thought it was an insect eating my beets though I had no success with any control measures — however, after putting up netting around my beds to keep the damn squirrels out, I have noticed that my beets are all surviving quite well.  Coincidence?  I have no idea, but I am looking forward to my garden grown beets.  I have two that should be ready to harvest very soon!

My broccoli plant that I started from seed in June is putting out lots of side shoots that I intend to start harvesting.  I have quite a few other broccoli plants that I started from seed in September but they are a long way from producing any heads.

My parsnips are also ready to start harvesting!  The one on the right looks like it’s going to be HUGE!  Having never before grown parsnips, I’m not sure how best to retrieve them, now that the ground has frozen solid.

I have harvested quite a few leeks that I started in… May (?).  They were all wonderfully delicious and I’m excited about growing more.

I also have several heads of cabbage to harvest, and have harvested a few already.  They have smaller heads than store bought green cabbage, but their flavor is wonderful.

Last weekend, using a cabbage and two leeks from my garden, I cooked up a batch of some AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS soup.  I consulted a few recipes for inspiration but I didn’t feel like going to the store to buy ingredients that I didn’t have, so I ended up just using some stuff that I had on hand.  Below are some notes about how I made it.  It was so delicious that I have since procured the same ingredients for to make another batch of it this weekend.  The quantities listed are estimates, as I didn’t actually measure anything that I was adding to the pot.  Also, the soup was garlic-heavy, which is how I prefer most all food.


  • Butter – 3 tbls
  • Onion – 1 large Sweet Spanish or other tasty varietal, chopped
  • Leeks – 2 leek stalks sliced
  • Garlic – 3 tbls minced
  • Cabbage – 1 head, shredded
  • Potatoes – 10 smaller red potatoes, cubed
  • Chicken Stock – 2 Quarts
  • Water Cress – 1 cup, chopped
  • Whipping Cream – 1 cup
  • Worsteschire Sauce – 1 tbls
  • Tapatio Sauce  - 1 tbls

In a heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the onion, leeks, and garlic in butter for about five minutes.  Then add the cabbage, potatoes, and chicken stock and simmer for 25 minutes.  Add the watercress, whipping cream, worsteschire and tapatio sauces and cook for another 5-10 minutes or so.

I had been planning on doing a bunch of yard work today (ie, raking up the leaves and mowing the front lawn one last time) but with the snow I am excited to spend the day with my serger and sewing machine.  I finished a project last night that turned out really well and started working on a new dress that I am excited to tell you all about.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Nov 112013

Over the weekend, I whipped up two long sleeved knit tops for the cooler temperatures.  The pattern is V8323, which I’ve made successfully before.  It features princess seams and a shawl collar, and I’ve been wearing the one I made last winter a lot lately, so I made two more tops from this pattern.

This purple one is from a really nice interlock that is so soft.  I’m not sure if all of those ripples in the fabric show in real life or if that’s just the photos, since I was posing with my hips kicked out a bit and shoulders leaning back.  Either way, the top is VERY comfortable.

I also made a green version out of some knit fabric I bought from a thrift store for just a few dollars.  I like that these tops have a bit of positive ease, it makes them feel more comfortable and relaxed.  However, I do think they are a bit large in the shoulders.  I had also tried to do a small-bust-adjustment on the princess seams, but that may have done something funny to the shawl collar, I’m not sure.

Overall, I’m very pleased with how these turned out.  Perfect for the cooler temperatures!  Also, they came together VERY quickly, in part with the help of my new sewing friend, which you can see in these photos.

Yup, I bought a serger!  And I feel like such a copycat…  Connie recently wrote about getting a serger and it gave me pause to wonder if perhaps I, too, would find my sewing life improved with one.  I then consulted with my friend Amy (who acquired a serger about a year ago) and she was quick to affirm my suspicion that a serger would be a great asset to my sewing experience and also recommended to me the same model that both she and Connie have.  Geez, twist my arm already!

Now that I’ve finished these two tops, I’m thinking about doing a parade of Renfrew tees.  I also want to make a wool coat.  And several more pairs of Thurlows.  And some dresses.  Decisions, decisions!

I have also been knitting A LOT lately.  My current project is a secret but I am very excited about it.  I’m trying really hard to get it done because I want to work on not-secret projects.  In particular, I bought the pattern for Kraken Knuckles for the giftalong and am hoping to join in on the fun.  This is, of course, completely ridiculous of me because I keep buying patterns with the assumption that I will have time to work on them.  Several months ago, I wrote about how I bought the patterns for Ginkgo , EliaAmbergris, and Manu and am still very excited about knitting all of them, but it has been as though TIME does not grow on trees.  Then two weeks ago, I bought Monomania and Hitofude, despite the fact that I have no time.  And now, I want to make these gloves.  Life is hard when there is so much awesome but so little time, yanno?  If there ever is enough time, I was thinking of knitting the gloves in purple and orange Koigu, what do you think???