Monday, March 31, 2014

Food rut

Do you ever get in a food rut? Where you’re eating and/or cooking the same things day after boring day? We are in such a rut at The Little Yellow House. Our current boring dinner rotation includes pizza, baked potatoes and eggs. At least we aren’t eating delivery pizza, Kent makes our pizza from scratch.

Lunches are boring right now too as we come to the very end of winter. We’ve been eating spicy vegetable soup or lentil soup for lunch almost every day. While we love the soups, they are most definitely winter lunch staples and with luck, winter weather will soon be a thing of the past.

But all of that adds up to boring meals. You’d think that breaking out of the rut would be fairly easy – we are decent cooks and we enjoy cooking. But for some reason, we’re both just flat out of cooking inspiration. Couple that with our various pickinesses (I am far more picky than he is about the food we eat, I fully own that complicating factor) and the lack of interest and what do you get? Why, you get pizza, baked potatoes and eggs, that’s what you get.

So I’m scrounging through our cookbooks and favorite online recipe places to find one dish meals or super-fast and easy meals that we will like and eat. Got any suggestions? If so, just remember I won’t eat any strong tasting dark green vegetable (looking at you, kale, spinach and the like) and he hates sweet potatoes and liver, and isn’t very fond of carrots or Brussels sprouts (which I also detest). But don't be afraid to suggest recipes that do use the dark greens. I'll just leave them out.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cranking out the sewing

Yesterday, Kent and I made real progress on the Easter clothes for the grandkids. I got both the boys’ pants done, and he’s nearly finished with their shirts. We had a very subtle plaid on hand that we’re using for the boys’ shirts and for our granddaughter’s dress. You can see it in this picture on the left where the shirts are hanging on the back of a chair. All day, Kent kept saying “teeny tiny sleeves!” or “teeny, tiny collar!” I’m sure he’ll say something similar when they’re done (“teeny, tiny shirts!”).

This picture shows you the pants plus the first pair of shorts I’d made for the middle grandchild. The elastic was a bit tight in the waist so our daughter-in-law sent them back so I could fix that problem. I left the pencil in this picture so you can get an idea of scale.

And this final picture shows Kent's thought process in taking the boys' measurements and lining them up with the measurements given on our pattern. He ended up having to do some drafting to make both shirts longer and our middle grandchild's shirt bigger around. That's part of the problem when you're using out of print patterns, you can't just go buy another one. 

I'll get our granddaughter's dress cut out tomorrow, and with luck also get a lot of the sewing done. Easter is around the corner and I want to have enough time to fix any fit issues they might have with these clothes. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I haven't got time for the pain

I’m so incredibly sore, and it’s a very good thing.

My biggest complaint with so many exercise DVDs is that they don’t offer a solid, must-try-hard work out. You’ll get, say, three ab exercises and maybe do 12 each. That’s just not going to do much in the way of toning and strengthening your abs.

But I stumbled across Cathe Friedrich’s workouts on Amazon and figured I would try her abdominal DVD. Oh my word, it’s hard. I’m sweaty and tired after doing any one of the three routines on there.

Intrigued by the first DVD, I asked for another one for Christmas – the core cardio – and got it. That one is also super hard for me, I am flat out exhausted after it and can’t do a couple of the exercises without modifying.

So I asked for a third DVD, this time for my birthday. Kent obliged and so now I have the Cathe Friedrich's Low Impact Series: Total Body Tri-Sets. Good thing I know he loves me and isn’t trying to kill me because OW! I did the lower body workout yesterday, and folks I am incredibly sore. As in so sore, I didn’t run today because I didn’t think I’d be able to make it back up the big hill. This workout completely got my hamstrings, my glutes and even my inner thighs.

Yes, I’m sore, but I’m really happy. And I'm such a fan of her DVDs. I want more.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

There's a hole in the bucket

If I had a bucket list (which I don’t), I’d be able to check off “sew a garment out of silk.” I finally finished the top version of Simplicity 1699 (dress version here) and let me tell you, silk and I will probably never be besties unless someone else is doing the sewing.

Eddie (L) and Wally (R) wanted
to be photographed.
I did a lot of reading online before ever laying scissors to fabric, which led me to run out and get some things just for this project:

  • Bought new dressmaker scissors that will only be used on silk and the like
  • Bought new silk straight pins and a different colored magnetic pin holder – I even cleverly wrote “silk pins” on the side in case the other sewist in my house gets confused
  • Placed the fabric on top of paper
  • Cut out all pieces in single layers (groan)
  • Serged all edges – which was another groan because that stuff wants to move
  • Pressed and ironed this garment probably seven times more than normal (and it still needs more pressing)*

I mostly like the top but will probably redo the hem. I added a band of fabric cut to match the peplum at the hemline (it’s some lining material) so that the hem would float and boy does it. So I think I will unpick my hem (can I get another groan? It took me 30 minutes to hand stitch that hem), cut off all but 5/8 of the fabric, re-serge the raw edge and redo the hem. If that doesn’t stop the floating, well then the top will just have to float. I don’t want it any shorter.

Made this skirt too, New Look 6082
In really exciting news, I won some amazing fabric from Sew Melodic and it arrived today. Isn’t this gorgeous? Now I need to figure out what to make that will showcase the fabric and look good on me.

Kent hadn't heard of the song "There's a Hole in the Bucket" so just in case you haven't either, here you go:

*I read somewhere that you should spend about three times as long at the ironing board pressing and ironing your sewing projects as you do at the sewing machine actually sewing them. This project blew that proportion right out of the water, plus I spent a crazy amount of time carefully pinning and repinning everything.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The only good thing

About our return to winter weather is that I can wear my finished coat without looking ridiculous. In the end, I went with buttons and embraced the straight nature of the coat. The finished tie will just hang on the hanger, and live a useless life.

I was tempted to try to do my button holes by hand (and Melody very kindly provided me with a helpful link) but in the end, I quailed at the amount of work involved and buckled down with my sewing machine. Even though I couldn't make the key hole button holes because of how thick the fabric is, these turned out fine.

Also, I was photobombed by Eddie. What a ham he is.

I kept blinking as Kent took the photos so
this is my attempt to open my eyes WIDE.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Works in progress

My silk top is cut out.

I cut it out in single layers, what a pain.

All done.
Kent is making good progress on shirts for our two grandsons.

He calls his machine "pretty peacock"
because it's got art on the front

Two tiny collars!
I’m on tap to make their pants and our granddaughter’s dress and little jacket. These will be for Easter so we have a little time. Since they live in Virginia though, I’d like to get the clothes done and there in plenty of time so that if there are any fitting issues, we can get them fixed.

Finally, Eddie has been supervising us in his typical laid back way.

He's in a box of fabric. Of course.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Missed the deadline

But I have a great reason. I flat ran out of time today to cut out my silk top because I was too busy finishing a wearable muslin from the same pattern I’m going to use for the top.

One of the best things about following other sewists’ blogs is that often they will see potential in a pattern I’ve rejected as unsuitable or ugly or whatever. Sew Ruthie did that a couple of years ago with a New Look jacket pattern – after seeing her version, I made it up for myself and it’s still in rotation.

This Simplicity pattern is another one I’d similarly rejected, until I saw how Sew Melodic had sewn it up. Mostly I thought it wouldn’t be flattering or that I would have a hard time getting the dress or top to fit properly. I was wrong on both counts, I’m happy to say. I tried something different for this dress: I cut a 12 on top and graded to a 14 at the waist. And the top fits beautifully. I do wonder though, if these sleeves fit so well because they are raglan. I suspect set in sleeves in a 12 would end up being too small. But that’s not the case here and although I don’t have a picture of the back of the dress, I can tell you that I have no neck gaping going on.

I'll get the top cut out tomorrow and maybe completed, too. The dress was an easy enough sew and now that I've made it once, making it again as a top should go pretty quickly.

As a side note, I’m very glad to have a photographer living with me. He very kindly photoshopped out the marks left by my socks, which I took off just before he took these pictures. Now that is love.

Friday, March 21, 2014

More pants

But this time for me and without pictures. I don’t think the internet needs photos of my butt floating around.

I had already decided that 2014 would be the year I expand my sewing skills and start trying to make things I’ve been nervous about making in the past. That’s partly why I went ahead and made the coat I wrote about earlier this month. I’m also going to make a slip and panties in another sew along that Gertie will be hosting. In the same vein, I decided to make this pair of Burda pants, but without the appliques.

I’ve always avoided making pants because as someone else once commented about herself, I suspect my body was made by committee. It’s hard to find RWT pants that fit me properly. I am short waisted, have a butt with some tiny saddle bags, and am fairly slender through the front area. My waist to hip ratio means that buying pants that fit my hips generally results in a lot of gaping at the waistband. So I buy pants with a lower rise to help with both the gap issue and my short waist.

Before cutting out my pattern, I read all the reviews on Pattern Review, which is where I go every time I’m considering a pattern. Almost every reviewer said that you should make the size of pants indicated by your hip measurement, because this is a close fitting pant without a lot of wearing ease. So I traced out that size and did exactly that.

The pants mostly fit my hips (although they are a little big – based on the reviews, I expected a closer fit at the hip) but they are too big everywhere else. I took in three inches from the back center seam starting at the waist band and tapering down to my tailbone. That helped but the waistband still gaps a bit in back. I would need to do more altering with darts to get a better fit, but that would affect the pockets on the pants. The biggest fit issue is in the front of the pants. If I pull things up and together a bit, the crotch angle is good, but there’s just too much fabric there.  I almost think I need to make a full size smaller in front than in back – tried that on a skirt pattern once and it worked pretty well. I’m sure it’s not the proper solution, it’s more of a hack. Finally, these pants have a higher rise than I prefer.

I’m sure a lot of these fit issues are operator error, and I may also be asking this pattern to be something it isn’t. So my quest to make good pants continues. These are at least wearable. They just aren’t exactly what I’m looking for, and that’s a lot of the reason I sew.

Next up, I need to plan out which top I will make with the silk I showed you a few posts ago. Tomorrow is the day to cut into the fabric that scares me.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cat fail

They should be ashamed, our kitties.

Last night I heard one of the cats playing with what I thought was a toy. Only it wasn’t a toy – this morning when I was moving a small blanket from the door stopper (I use the blanket to keep cats from making that boing! boing! sound at night), I saw what I thought was the toy. Then the “toy” moved.

Yes, we had a mouse.

I confess I shrieked like a little girl and then it scurried under the closet door. We had to empty the closet to catch that thing – it was fast.

Once caught, Kent took it out to the back of our yard and tossed it toward a tree. He said that thing landed on a branch perfectly, like a little acrobat.

We had a mouse in our garage last fall. Hopefully this was the same mouse. If so, I’m sure it will probably be back in the garage and looking for the route into the house again by noon. I just hope we aren’t thoroughly infested with the critters. I haven’t seen mouse droppings and there are no signs of chewing in any of our food packages so maybe we had just the one.

In the meantime, we've been telling our cats how much they failed in their duty as cats. They don't seem to care. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ballroom blitz

In high school, my mother made some of my dresses for our various formal dances. She always did a great job and they never looked homespun or somehow less than good enough. But she also had four kids, a husband who worked very long hours and so it wasn’t always possible for her to sew my formal dresses.

I think we got this dress pattern intending to make it for the senior prom in my sophomore year. Normally, I wouldn’t have gone to the senior prom – you had to be a senior. But I’d been invited by a boy in his senior year, so I needed a dress. Looking at it now, it’s clearly a child of the 70s, but gosh I thought it was just so gorgeous. My mom and I had picked out some coral-pink satin stuff for the bottom and a sheer, lighter shade of the same color for the top, plus the required trim.

Life intervened, though, and the dress never got made (I don't remember what I wore, I didn't really know the boy very well and honestly never went out with him except for his prom). The fabric and pattern languished in my mother’s sewing closet for years and even got lugged from Missouri to Idaho. She finally gave it to me but I got rid of it in a purging frenzy sometime before we moved to Boston. It’s just as well, otherwise it would almost certainly have been ruined by water in our first flood.

I always loved that pattern and last week, God knows why but I went looking online to see if it were as wonderful as I remembered. And wouldn’t you know it – one copy and one copy only was for sale, and it was even in my size, in someone’s Etsy shop. I dithered for a day or so because (a) it’s not a dress that suits my lifestyle and (b) seriously? When am I going to wear a skirt that takes seven yards of fabric to make? But I wanted it, oh how I wanted it.

In the past, I would never have gotten this pattern. I would have thought it was silly to buy something I probably would never use. I don't keep things around that aren't useful to me now and I generally never have keepsakes, either mentally or physically. I don’t really want keepsakes now but I did buy the pattern. I may never ever make it, but I could if I wanted to.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It’s been lovely but I must scream now*

This has been a weird week.

I’ve had nothing but frustration on the coat front. I decided to add buttons but didn’t have anything suitable on hand so I ordered some. When the order arrived, two of the three packs were missing.

So many buttonholes! White thread was on Kent's machine, 
and the black thread was on mine.
In the meantime, I practiced and practiced and practiced buttonholes on the same combination of fabric layers and interfacing as my coat. Our two machines each have an automatic buttonhole option which means you only need to get the first one right in terms of length and style and then the machine will make all the rest the exact same way. Only . . . well not really, not when you’ve got to make the buttonholes up close to a seam, which is where these need to be (I checked on a couple of RTW coats). So the automatic buttonhole feature was out, and so was the keyhole buttonhole which is what you see on RTW coats. In fact, the best buttonhole of all the practices ones I did was the one I did with the manual buttonhole foot. Well OK then, I decided, no big deal. I can make five buttonholes easy-peasy. But not until my buttons get here.

As usual, the switch to DST has messed up my sleep cycle which in turn affects my running. Monday morning when taking the trash barrels to the curb, I realized it would have been a beautiful day for a run if only I hadn’t overslept by an hour. There’ve been so few good running days that I hate to lose one to something as stupid and arbitrary as the switch to DST. I slept late today too but ran anyway. I don’t like to run when traffic gets heavy. Unlike Boston, where the pedestrian/runner rules and car drivers pay attention, Kansas City only pays homage to cars. I have to be incredibly careful when traffic is heavy because the car drivers here really don’t look for pedestrians.

A quick note about the new badge at the top of the right column. I have a bad habit of getting fabric I love and then being afraid to do anything with it (see also my coat fabric, which I had for two years and also the Diary of a Sewing Fanatic give away fabric, which I also had for nearly two years). A few weeks ago, Kent and I were able to get some fabric from Kaplan’s before the store closed for good. This fabric is silk, I forget which designer (because that’s all Kaplan’s carried) and the thought of cutting into it makes me very nervous. But that’s just silly and so by March 22, I will have either a top or dress cut out and ready to go. I only have a yard and a half of it, although it’s 60” wide, so finding a pattern that works will also be a challenge.

*Today's blog title was on a bumper sticker I had for a while. I thought it was funny and it perfectly describes this week. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

And a wool skirt, too

I’d mentioned I had enough material left over from the window pane plaid give-away material to make a skirt. I’m happy to report the skirt is finished.

Wearing a black T under the
jacket & standing by the gnome
I made it using Simplicity 2451, view C. I’ve made this skirt twice before. The first time I sewed it up as is but realized I wasn’t a fan of the pleats. Plus the pockets are ridiculously tiny so really what’s the point? So the second time I sewed it, I traced out a front that didn’t have the pleats or the pockets, held my breath and sewed it up. To my surprise, that black wool skirt became one of my favorite skirts, including my RTW skirts. So that’s what I did here.

Of course I had the added complication/burden of matching all the plaids. I’m about cross-eyed from doing so but they are pretty well matched, including from the front yoke to the front of the skirt. Yes, I realize you can’t see that – but my photographer wanted to take the pictures outside where it was a chilly 39°. Of course today would be the day I french braided my hair. My ears got cold!

Next up is something different for me. Pattern Review is holding a fitted shirt contest. I prefer not to enter contests so I won’t. Instead, I’ll treat this as one big sew along and I’ll make myself a fitted shirt, probably from Vogue 8772, view D. One thing's certain, I am done matching plaids for a while.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Just in time for spring

I’ve finished my coat. And just in time for the warm weather we’re expecting this weekend. Yes, I do want credit for the change in weather – I’m positive it’s entirely due to me making a coat in the last four days.

I’m mostly pleased with the coat. The wool is amazing and the lining is wonderful. I was looking at the inside of a dress coat I have from Ann Taylor and one Kent has from Banana Republic and I have to say, the linings on both those coats is clearly thinner and inferior to the stuff I used in my coat this week.

I am undecided if I like how bathrobe-y it is. I am considering putting buttons on the front and just embracing the straight, no shape nature of the coat. Fortunately I don’t need to make that decision just yet.

I will say that my back vent is not a thing of beauty. I need someone to hold my hand and walk me through that process with really clear directions and lots of patience. I got it done but I’ll never brag about it.

I’ve got one more wool item to sew before spring officially arrives. I had enough of the windowpane plaid left over to cut out a skirt so that’s next. Then I’m moving on to fabric suitable for warmer weather.

Without the sash and in front
of the little bit of remaining snow

Showing off the lining -- but not the vent

Excuse the goofy expression, Kent
made me giggle. Here it is with the sash.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Two out of three pumpkin heads agree

Adding pumpkin to their food is helping with the weight control:

This is GREAT progress. Between the Science Diet Lite (thank you, Jeanne!) and the pumpkin, they are drifting down to good, healthy weights.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mostly fussy and unadorned

Last December, I read this article about jewelry and about what styles we each like – the author has pulled together what she calls a sort of Myers-Briggs profile, only for jewelry. Based on the article, I’m fairly fussy and fully unadorned. In fact, I think my fussiness comes from how unadorned I prefer to be. That’s not to say I don’t like jewelry or don’t wear it because that’s not the case. It’s more that the jewelry I do wear is more pared down, and generally simpler. You would never call my jewelry blingy, although I do appreciate bling – on others.

The same thing can be said about my clothing. I’ve finally realized that what draws me to a particular piece of clothing is not so much the design but the fabric. I’ve bought some really not so great pieces, all because I love the fabric so much.

I got this material from Fabric Mart probably two years ago from the first year we belonged to Julie’s Picks. What I like about Julie’s Picks is that I can not only see the fabric but touch it. This is a Marc Jacobs brushed wool and it’s black with an almost twilight/cobalt blue pattern to it. It feels absolutely amazing.

At first, I thought I would make this Marcy Tilton coat. But take a look at it – there are a lot of fairly blingy features in this coat and I know myself. I’d feel really weird wearing something with all those design features, or else I’d leave out most of them. Then I found this Vogue coat – perfect for me. All I needed was coat lining and courage. The coat lining was easy – I got it from the Chicago Vogue Fabric Store (whatever did we do before the Internet?).

La Sewista just finished making an amazing cashmere coat. She made a comment about the pattern she chose – she said it was rather like a bathrobe. Well her pattern isn’t exactly the same as mine but it’s pretty darn close. And I can make a bathrobe, I've done it before several times. So I found my courage.

I cut it out yesterday using my painfully dull scissors. The wool is really thick and it was difficult to cut, and my scissors didn’t help. I tried my Fiskars and they were wretched. So I turned to the scissors you see here. The ones on the left are a pair of Wiss scissors I bought when I was 19. They cost $30 which was a lot of money for me then, and they’ve been worth it. But that was – yikes – 1979 and they need to be sharpened. The pair on the right are made by Marks and are from my grandmother. They also need to be sharpened. But I got through the ordeal, not without some swearing I will confess. And today I started sewing.

I’m about halfway done and so far, it’s going well. My secret hope is that I finish the coat and warm weather magically arrives and I don’t need it again until next November. Hey, a girl can dream.