Saturday, April 10, 2021

Ready Thread Go

When I first moved into this house (almost 2 years ago now!), I unpacked my sewing supplies and called it done. But I really didn't organize a lot of it to my liking. Since I haven't been sewing regularly for a while, I just grimace through it when I do dust off the machines. But my thread was irritating me just a bit too much and I realized it's been a mental roadblock keeping me from sewing more. So I decided that today was the day I would finally tackle it instead of forever searching the rows for the right color, or more likely, just ignoring sewing altogether. 

It only took a couple of hours and it's not like I haven't been inside this house most of the last year with time on my hands, so I don't know why the procrastination, but I'm guessing we've all accumulated a lot of those feelings lately so I'm not going to offer any specific excuse except to say, oh well. 

I meant to take a pic before I started pulling spools off, but whoops. I did remember after pulling off the whites and browns. 
And here are the racks completely empty. Same as when I was in my rental house, I hung the racks using Command Velcro strips. I love those for this. First, no doors are harmed, and second (and almost as important), no measuring is needed to get everything lined up. I've found that using the Command strips on some painted walls hasn't turned out as well, but a wall is a lot easier to fix than a hole in a door.  
I pulled off all the spools and arranged them in groups of colors on a blanket pulled across my bed (which is about 5 steps from the door). Also, see my treadle makeup table? I really don't have room for it anywhere else but I also don't want to get rid of it. Makeup table it is. Although what IS makeup anymore?

And then I stared at the piles for a while, trying to decide how I wanted them to run into each other. 
In the end, I went with whites/beiges at the top, going into grays and then blues, greens, black, yellows, pinks, reds, oranges. I ended up with empty rows for expansion and weird stuff on the bottom row like nylon thread, fusible thread, etc. Because of my coverstitch machine, I tend to buy multiples of the same colors. For many of those, I use straws over the pegs so I can stack spools. For basics, like blacks, whites, grays, and browns, I keep them single so I have room to expand within a color range using the straws if needed but without having to move the entire collection of spools up or down. 
And since we're on thread, serger cones are kept in 2 drawers of an IKEA unit under my machine table. 
And bobbins in Bobbin Savers behind my sewing machine. 


And that's probably more than you wanted to know about my thread.

I have a pattern printed and taped together, but I don't think I have fabric in the house that is suitable. So, another small project today will be getting into some fabric bins in the garage. I actually got rid of a lot of fabric when I moved so I'm not even sure what's out there, but I really, really do NOT want to turn looking in those bins into another organization project. I think I'll take my phone out there and just take some general pics so I have some record of what's there and call it done. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

In Quick Succession, Another Niagara

I trust most of you have recovered from the shock of seeing a post from me. 

Seriously, thank you for all of your kind comments. While I sincerely appreciate them all, Janet's comment of "While you were gone, I stopped by for 'advice' a couple of times" cracked me up for a good few minutes. And Bonnie@SewPlus, how did I not know about your blog before this week? I spent HOURS reading through it, wanting to make everything you've made, watching your daughter grow up (and you grow DOWN!) — and reliving a hurricane or two. I think we're almost neighbors, right? And Carolyn, I'm out of "retirement." This one's for you. :-) 

So, while the pattern was still on the cutting table, I quickly cut out another Niagara and sewed it up over a couple of days/nights. I made a couple of construction changes on this version, but that's it. 

Instead of front/back facings for the upper bodice, I made it single layer and bound the neckline opening. We're quickly heading into hot temps here in Florida and keeping the polyester layers to a minimum should be cooler. (Who am I kidding? There's no such thing as "cooler" in Florida summer.) 
This is an ITY knit from Fabric Mart a couple of years ago. It's much brighter than it shows in the two pics above. More like the right side of the pic below. Unless you're new here, I'm sure you know how I love bright colors.
No pretty enclosed seams this time, but I'm OK with that. It's faster, lighter, and uses less fabric.
And here I am, with my Old Navy joggers. Not sure if I'll ever be able to wear office shoes again. Also, see that OTT light in the background on the left? I found out that if I have it and my iron on at the same time, I'm blowing a fuse/circuit breaker. Every time. So, the light will be on its way out. I've got an LED bulb in my coverstitch machine which is plenty bright, even for my old eyes, plus another regular lamp over my sewing machine/serger so I'm really not going to miss the OTT. 
* * * * * 
Now to catch up a little on some non-sewing, mundane life news. First is my car, below. Alex was driving it to pick up some dinner and got sideswiped. (Minor accident; he's fine, but boy was I hungry by the time he finally got home.) I took it into the local dealer (not where I originally bought it) for body work and a couple of service issues. They had it for three and a half weeks and I finally got it back last night. Except they missed a couple of things so it's going to need to go back. Ugh. They promised me a free rental this time, but truthfully, I hardly missed it those three weeks. Thanks Covid. 
See this reflector where the arrow is pointing to below? That's one of the things they missed. Or two, actually, since there's one on the other side too. There's also an area where the bumper meets the tail light that needs to be re-aligned better. And I asked them to replace the wiper blades and they missed the one on the back. I'm not overly thrilled with this place. The pic below is from when my new fridge was being delivered last year. I got it right before the lockdowns and before all appliances were selling out. Thankfully dodged that bullet since the new fridge was a need, not a want. OK, it was a want too, just earlier than expected.
House update:  Shortly after moving here, we had a garage built in the back yard. It's really more workshop than garage, and it's really nice to have all the extra space for junk and projects. 
Alex update:  We're still sharing this house, but over the past five or so years, he's been building a real estate "portfolio" of rentals. In December, after selling one that he had rented out for about three years, Alex bought two more fixer-uppers in New Port Richey, which is about 45 minutes north of Tampa. That makes five houses he now owns. 

We've been spending many weekends updating floors, kitchens, paint in Alex's latest additions. Below, is the tile that was in place throughout one of the houses, but it was coming up in places, cracked in others, and not very stable.
Alex jackhammered it all up and is replacing it with vinyl plank (below). After both "new" houses are rented, the plan is to put similar flooring in our house. I don't know if my old knees can take that.
To save my knees, I've been mudding the drywall of a wall and closet we added to what was a second living room, to enclose it for an additional bedroom. The light "fixture" you see is really a new ceiling fan, just with the blades removed. The closet area used to be a pass through to the kitchen. We also added french doors to the left of this view, but I didn't get a pic.
And, finally, the project supervisors … sleeping on the job. I'm glad we don't pay them by the hour.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

576 Days

Five Hundred Seventy-Six Days. That's how long it's been since I last posted. I have no idea how that happened. But I also have no idea how the last year happened either. Holy Toledo! (But I'm pretty sure you're as happy as me to get those damn plates of food off my blog landing page!)

It hasn't been quite that long since I've sewn, but it feels close. And with mostly wadders to show for the effort, I just gave up for a while and watched all that Netflix had to offer. Tiger King anyone? Fun fact:  Tiger King is actually a local story here in Tampa, and a couple of street scenes were filmed just a few blocks from my house. I found lots of "new" or returning favorites too:  The Queen's Gambit, Good Girls, The Crown, Queen of the South, Greenleaf, Bridgerton, Longmire, and many more. 

Thankfully, I've kept my job and have been able to work from home since last March, and like most everyone who's been working remotely, I've been working/living in casual tops and stretchy pants. I had ordered some joggers from Old Navy and a few tops from Amazon after I realized that the "I can make those" sewjo just wasn't happening. I even resorted to RTW undies, for the first time in at least 15 years. 

Finally, the sewing fog is beginning to lift. Is it Spring? Vaccines on the way? A new Administration in D.C.? Yes. Life is far from "normal," but I'm beginning to think that light is actually the end of the tunnel and not an oncoming train, and the AWOL sewjo has started whispering. 

So, what's the new outfit? Stretchy pants and a casual top. Hah. Although I didn't sew the pants (Old Navy again, and I'm actually impressed with the quality of these joggers originally bought on a whim in a different color. I have them in black, navy, gray, and now this light green. No pilling or visible anything after months of constant wear! I even bought duplicates.). 

But I did sew the top, from a new-to-me Indie pattern company I came across by accident when I clicked on a random review on PR. The name of the company is Pattern Niche. At some point in the recent past, they were New Horizons Designs (which is currently how to find them on PatternReview) but  the company? owner? someone? changed names after Nintendo started using New Horizons or something like that. I really have no idea if that's correct, but I sorta saw something about it in their Facebook Group. Also, I hate Facebook Groups. 

Anyway … the pattern itself is great. (I'll get into what I *don't* like later.) The price is good (I paid U.S. $9.95). The download was fast. The PDF is well-organized, sizes are layered, and the pattern sheets are NO TRIM. Let me say it again, NO TRIM. I think every single digital pattern company should switch to NO TRIM, and PRONTO! This is not the first time I've used a NO TRIM PDF pattern so I've loved them even before now. But it was the first time I printed a PDF pattern on my home printer, instead of the (free) work printers. I have an HP 5660 inkjet and the print-out was perfect, which isn't always the case on the work printers. From the home print, everything lined up perfectly, and assembly was very quick due to the NO TRIM feature. Did I mention NO TRIM? The whole PDF, including instructions, is 57 U.S. letter-sized pages. The pattern itself is 27 pages. I have no complaints about the PDF. And I still have (free) work paper. :-) 

The pattern is the Niagara Top and Dress, line drawing below. As you can see, there are multiple views and combos, which can be combined for many different looks. The sleeveless views are not just the sleeved views without sleeves. There are different armhole lines on the pattern for the sleeveless option. I cut the tunic length with the scoop neck and short sleeve options. However, I decided the tunic length was too long in my cotton/Lycra fabric (butt Velcro), so I shortened it about 3 inches shorter than the tunic length. I also lengthened the short sleeves about an inch to be less cap-like. I think I'd like to try this dress length for summer, maybe with some color blocking and a faux button placket (the pattern has a real button placket).

The sizing seems to be accurate and the drafting is good. I used my measurements and TNT to compare and blended from the 18 upper bodice to the 24 hips. My hips and tum have seen some "expansion" during this, Our Year o' the Pandemic.

Front view on good ol' Zillie:

Back view:

Where things had me starting to grind my teeth were in the instructions and terminology, as I'll describe later. Nothing impacted my sewing of the pattern because I'm experienced and know better, but if one doesn't know what they don't know, well …. 

So, here we go.

The upper bodice is double-layer (faced) and is sewn/turned using the "burrito" method, once for the front upper bodice and then again for the back. This is a good method and the instructions and diagrams for this are fine, although "burrito" is never mentioned. Which it doesn't have to be, but it would be nice to add it in for those newer to sewing so the term becomes familiar to them since it's becoming ubiquitous. 
Here's the inside view:
Here is where I understitched the wrong side of the upper bodice. This step is NOT included in the pattern instructions. I think this is a necessary step. (Apologies for the blurry photo.)
Also not included is edgestitching the right side of the upper bodice. This is not an absolutely necessary step but it should be at least mentioned as optional. 

And then there's some questionable terminology:

  • Calling the upper bodice pieces just "bodice" and the lower bodice pieces "skirt."
  • Calling the upper bodice facing a lining.
  • Calling basting "two long straight lines between the markers."
  • Calling notches "markers." Especially when sometimes they are called notches in the same instructions.
  • Instructing to hem from the wrong side by "edgestitching." I guess this helps keep things straight, but then say it's a option if you're wobbly but also give real hemming instructions.

I often read Indie pattern instructions and feel like they really need a good editor, someone who is an experienced and properly educated (either formally or self-taught using standards) sewist. (Sorry purists. I hate the word "sewer" when reading.) The solution would be to have such a tester just for instructions. Personally, I would probably do this just for a "free" pattern because I think I'm good at it and I'd much rather edit than sew tests on a deadline. Pattern designers - want a ruthless editor? Hit me up. LOL

Lastly for this pattern, here's the top when it was still tunic length before I added the sleeves and trimmed off about 3 inches. I didn't know where else to stick this pic. :-) 

In other sewing news, I finally bought myself a clear foot for my coverstitch machine. Obviously, if I felt a huge need for it, I would've bought one years ago. But it's nice to have it and it was nice to just order it to arrive to my porch instead of trying to find a dealer with one and making a special trip. Especially in These Uncertain Times. 

In life news, especially for my "oldie" readers … last July we said goodbye to Dani (b/w dog on left below). She was almost 14 and her heart was failing. Our hearts were broken, but we knew it was time. We loved her a lot and still expect to hear her bark at dogs on TV.

About a month before we lost Dani, this big goofy pit bull found us. Her name is Cali. She looks ferocious but …

… this is her true self. 

And her best friend.

And yes, I did get on the mask making/wearing bandwagon. Stay safe out there! I'll be back soon. Definitely less than 576 days.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Dinner is served (aka meal prepping)

(Not sewing related, unless you count the possibilities of extra hours which can then be spent sewing.)

I am NOT affiliated with anything I'm talking about here. I just stumbled upon this Meal Prepping plan and the related digital cookbooks, tried one out, liked the results very much, Instagrammed my cooked dinners, and had requests to share (both the recipes and the actual dinners! Hah!). So here I am. Sharing.

Meals above, left to right, top to bottom (which is the reverse order that I cooked them):
  • Sweet & Spicy Pineapple Chicken
  • Pork Loin in a Creamy Basil Sauce
  • Barbecue Paprika Chicken
  • Carnitas
  • White Chicken Chili
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken
  • Asian Fusion BBQ  Chicken
  • Korean Beef Tacos
  • Thai Peanut Chicken
A few words about the website where these recipes/booklets live. It's and the recipe booklets can be found here. Although I had not heard of her before stumbling onto the recipe booklets via another completely unrelated website, Lauren Greutman markets herself as a frugal-living, "Personal Finance Expert" and she has appeared on numerous American TV talk and morning shows and has been featured in various magazines. I say all this not because I care about all that stuff but because YOU might care and think I'm getting a kickback or affiliate fee from her. I'm not. I get nothing from this plug. I'm just sharing something I like. Like with sewing patterns, only this time, it's dinner.

The recipes/meal planning stuff Lauren sells fits into her "frugal living" lifestyle but you'll mostly see other stuff, and not these recipes, on her website pages until you start digging. I make no judgment on the financial info and associated planners, etc. she markets. I just know that I think her recipe booklets are well worth the $5.97 each they cost. And here's why.

Lauren estimates in her booklets that she spends about $150-$165 for the 20 meals. But she shops at Aldi (famously inexpensive U.S. grocery store); I don't. Her pricing is from years ago; mine is from August 2019. She also didn't include some "pantry items" (those things you usually have on hand); I had to since I had just moved and had been not keeping stocked up in anticipation of the move. Finally, she made 20 meals; I made 18, because I just didn't think I needed to crockpot-cook spaghetti and meatballs, so that was the one meal from the booklet that I didn't make or eat . I still feel spaghetti/meatballs as a crockpot meal is kind of pointless but the other meals and the methods overcome any imaginary points deductions for that one. And hey, I guess *she* likes spaghetti/meatballs in the crockpot and it's her book, so ….   :-)

I didn't track every last dime because I went to one regular grocery store and also the local farmer's market and I also bought a few other things not intended for the crockpot (drinks, toiletries, dog food, useless junk, etc.) and I wasn't doing this to save money. I spent about $220 total, so deducting for non-dinner items, that's still pretty good for 18 dinners and many take-to-work lunches. But it's not really the cost that has me sold—it's the method of putting together the meals and the daily time savings and mental space freedom from NOT needing to decide what's for dinner every night and then making it. That, to me, is nearly priceless.

The method is essentially one big assembly line of adding ingredients to freezer bags. Once I got home from the store(s), the whole process took me about 2-3 hours. But I haven't cooked a dinner from scratch since and we've been eating some delicious meals. There is some "side" prep work, such as cooking rice or noodles, or adding an ingredient or two the morning of or when it's nearly cooked, but that's it. Those "side" preps take maybe 15 minutes.

The booklets include complete shopping lists that you can re-print as needed. And they include the "one touch" assembly line cheat sheets for assembling the freezer bags. This is the genius part because you deal with each ingredient just one time and then move on to the next. You do not assemble each meal separately. Instead, you create an assembly line of freezer bags and add ingredients to the bags as you move through the cheat sheets (which are grouped into categories such as Meats, Spices, Liquids, etc. to make it even more organized and easy). When done, each bag contains a full meal (2 of each meal). And surprisingly, my kitchen wasn't even that messy once I was done. I just had to wipe down a cutting board, put away the remainder of the dry/pantry ingredients, and load the bags into my freezer. If you have helpers (spouse, partner, kids), it would go even faster than the 2-3 hours it took me alone.

Photo credit:

After the cheat sheets/assembly line pages, each meal has its own page with a photo and instructions specific to that meal (crock times, any "side" prep, etc.). The booklet also includes a regular (non-assembly line) recipe for each meal should you want to make it by itself at a later time.

As I write this, it's been a little over 2 weeks since I made the freezer meals (August 4) and this past Sunday we started getting into the repeats. I usually take leftovers for lunch at work and some meals have been enough for 2 nights *and* my work lunch, plus we ate out (sushi!) and opted for pizza for 2 Friday nights. I figure I'll need to go "big" grocery shopping again this coming Saturday morning and do the prepping after. So, from August 4 to August 24, I will not have thought "What's for dinner?"and instead, it will have been ready to go when I get home from work. I love that.

I started out with Lauren's Meal Plan 3 booklet because when I was deciding to do this, I thought it had a good mix of recipes. I've now purchased the other booklets because I didn't want to take any chance of not being able to. Again, I am not affiliated. I do not benefit from anything I've written here in any way. I just really, really like the way Lauren's method is organized, how much time it saves, how tasty the meals are, and even that I'm saving money—although that was not my main goal for doing this. Just having good dinners ready to go after work was my desire. The other benefits are a bonus.

It seems as though Lauren has been doing this a while, going by references I've seen on her website to other booklets beyond the 1-4 currently for sale and the way the PDFs I bought are named. I don't know why those others aren't available any more. I would definitely have bought those too. Hah.

Let me know if you have any more questions and definitely let me know if you try this and what you think. I'm obviously a fan!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Hidden Gem - Cashmerette Cedar Dolman Top

First things first. Yes, I have been absent from the blog for a freakin' long time. With that out of the way, soon I'll be buying myself a new home computer, so that should get me posting more often instead of waiting until I can "sneak" in a post from work (it's not really sneaking, but finding time because my work days are usually very busy). I've missed having a home desk.

Speaking of home … that's the biggest reason I've been MIA. I have moved yet again. (That's the new house from the listing photo below.) But this time (and hopefully the last for a LONG time), to a home I own. Relatively speaking because the mortgage company would probably have a bit of a say in actual percentage of ownership at this point. But it's good to be a homeowner again and in control of my living situation. I'm still in the City of Tampa; just a tiny bit further north. Instead of 7 minutes to work, it's now around 12 because of 2 additional traffic lights to get through. The new house is great. Lots more room all around. I won't have a dedicated sewing room (gasp!) but my bedroom is big enough to accommodate all of my regular bedroom furniture AND all of my machines and still feel roomy. It will work great for me … that is, as soon as I can finish unpacking and organizing.

This is the view from the LR into the dining area and kitchen, just after moving day. It looks a little better in here now, but not much. I want to hang shelves on the walls for books and a few deco items (very few since dusting is not my priority these days), but I haven't found the right shelves yet. I also need shelves in my bedroom so I can deal with my sewing stuff. I'm highly motivated to get on with those shelves, even if I have to settle for temporary versions, because not having them is holding up so much unpacking. And sewing.

So, on to the last sewing I did before I embarked on months of house hunting, packing, buying, and moving.

It's the Cedar Dolman Top by Cashmerette. And, for me, it's a hidden gem for two reasons: Letting it sit too long and not immediately looking past the envelope styling suggestions. Oh, and a third — nice fit! I'll have to double-check when I unpack this pattern again, but I believe I blended from size 16E/F at shoulder/bust to a 20 at hip. Whatever my blend was, it was straightforward going by my measurements to pick pattern sizing. I never have to adjust this mostly unfitted style during the day. It stays in place and doesn't slide forward or back as would a RTW loose-fit dolman that doesn't really fit, because my custom Cedar fits at both my shoulders and my hips instead of fitting one area and hoping for the best in the other.

I was given this pattern in PDF form by Cashmerette months and months ago, with no strings to test, review, photograph, or anything. And it sat in my download folder gathering digital dust. I finally opened the file, printed it, and brought it home. Where it sat collecting actual dust for a while longer. I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to at last have a go at it, but I did. I think I chose it because it looked fast and easy (spoiler alert: It is!) and because I was seeing lots of hem-tied tops out and about and I wanted in on that.

Looking past the pattern meant concentrating on the line drawings and not the athletic-wear styling and fabrication. I wanted a knit top I could wear to the office and out on the weekend. I'm so glad I finally cracked open the Cedar Dolman using some ITY dottie b/w knit because I have worn this top at least once a week since I finished it. I love it! It's comfortable. It's even trendy. And when I can finally get back to my machines, a second version is going to be the first thing I make.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I swapped out a "self-drafted" (using that term very loosely) vee neckline for the pattern's scoop neckline. I didn't find anything wrong with the pattern's scoop shape (except for my dislike of neckline facings in knits); I just prefer vees. I would show you the pattern piece with my changes, but it's still in a moving box somewhere. Below you can see the top on Zilly posing in a corner of my new bedroom.

Below is the inside view. I changed the order of construction a little bit by (1) sewing fronts to backs along the shoulder and overlocking, (2) turning and coverstitching the neckline, and (3) sewing the CF seam and pressing the unfinished seam allowances open. I then picked up where the pattern instructs to attach the tie and hem facing, which is a very nice finish for the ties and gives extra oomph to the hem, and well-drafted so it all fits together perfectly.

Here I am in a mirror selfie in the former house. Photobomb by Chili. It was still pre-summer temps because I'm wearing pants. It's now near 90°F every day. And so, so steamy. Ahhh. Florida.

And here I am last week in work bathroom selfies with matching skirt. Because if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know about me and my 2-piece "dresses." Plus, I needed to use up the extra fabric instead of packing it. The skirt is actually the very last thing I sewed before packing up all my sewing tools and supplies. It's McCall's 7386, version too-many-to-count.

And OMG that bathroom lighting does me no favors. I can't wait to get set up for pics in my new back yard. It's going to be great — brick pavers, natural light, tripod, privacy! (None of the stuff in the photos below is mine; these are more listing photos.) If only I could get Gillian to come down and take the photos! :-)

So that's what I've been up to. Plus work. You can also catch me on the Curvy Sewing Collective doing Pattern Roundups! See you soon!