Recycled shell shirt

Remember those old style sleeveless blouses that were worn by women up until probably the 80s or 90s that were essentially just a plain old button up cotton blouse, only without sleeves? Cool, comfortable, and not sold anywhere for ages.  This is all about recreating those shell blouses by recycling a men’s button up shirt.

A few weeks back, while surfing, I ran into a tutorial that recycled a men’s shirt to make a tank top. Summer was insufferable about then, and while I didn’t have any shirts suitable to recycle for me, I did have a stack that were about the right size to recycle for my daughter.

There is something gleefully destructive about taking a pair of scissors to a men’s shirt that hasn’t been destroyed somehow. I felt almost guilty as I plunged the shears into the job, whacking away sleeves and collar. In consulting with my daughter, a petite adult,  I’d already learned that she preferred something more like a shell top than a tank top, with wider shoulders that would actually cover a bra strap. Because this would also be a casual shirt, one she’d wear for fishing, camping, housework, and errands–she also wasn’t interested in a plunging neckline and preferred something a bit more modest.

That meant not doing a great deal of cutting besides just removing the sleeves and collar. Then, it was somewhat wide in the neckline, so a few small pleats, in the center back and on either side in the front,  took care of making it smaller there. The sleeves yielded plenty of fabric to cut into facings that matched sleeves and neckline, along with some scrap interfacing to give the very thin poly-cotton blend a bit more body for the facings.

I’d not done any reconstructive surgery like this before. If it looked too crude, she’d never wear it.  It was to be a comfortable shirt, but not one that screamed “I am a recycle project!” when she wore it.

We had hemline options too. As a men’s shirt, it had the typical shirt tail. Did she want to keep it, modify it, or completely do away with it and make a square bottom? She opted for keeping it, which makes it hip length for her. It also meant fast reconstruction for me. It actually took longer for us to make our decisions about what kind of things we were going to do to it than it did to make the pattern facings, cut them out, iron on the interfacing, and stitch/top stitch the facings into place.  It was an easy recycle project.

Okay, so it’s not runway material. It’s a cool, comfy and slouchy kind of shell in a deep forest green that compliments her eyes perfectly, in a thin poly-cotton blend that has been worn long enough that it’s really thin and soft. (It was a vintage shirt that I whacked up.)  The only way to get a fabric worn that smooth is to recycle a vintage shirt that has been worn often.

So, for less than $2, even if I went and bought the interfacing and thread, I had a cool summer shirt for her, since I already had the vintage shirt in a donate pile at my house, making its cost zero. I’m not an expert seamstress, so this was within the realm of any brave beginner who has mastered facings or is willing to go into the arena with some bias tape to cover raw edges. Fast & easy plus recycling–my favorite kind of project, and it got even better with its really low cost!

Biting off too much with a sewing project?

Ever bite off more than you should have for a project?  How about for a sewing project?

Being disabled isn’t something I take happily. I push the envelope as much as I can, but it doesn’t always kind of work out the way I hope.

Once upon a time, in that previous life, I could sew about anything that I put my mind to sewing. Sure, I might have to rip out now and again and resew something–doesn’t everyone? I only had a few areas where I’d always been afraid to go–like using the blind hem stitch on the sewing machine. I had always hemmed by hand. So I mastered that stitch this year finally.

But I had not tried to sew a pair of pants since my accident. Since I’ve also gained a lot of weight since then, pants weren’t fitting me too well off the rack, so I thought that I’d sew a pair of pants for myself.. Off I went to buy an indie company pattern that I liked.  I usually prefer indie sewing patterns, as their designs are fresh and their  sewing directions are usually very good.

That was like July. The pattern arrived quickly, I picked up the fabric to make that first test pair of pants, and started on the sewing project.

Now, we’re over 2/3 of the way through September. The pants are not done, despite working on them for a bit almost every day. It took over two weeks just to prepare the pattern and cut out the pieces of fabric. I’m not sure how long I’ve actually been sewing them, but I so want to finish them! I want to take out the heavy needle I’m using for this fabric and put in a “regular” one to work on some fun projects. The pants have ceased being fun. It’s now becoming an endurance contest, and I’m in danger of losing!

The fabric is heavy. (I’m using a twill fabric.) I’ve now got the vast majority of the pieces connected (we’re up to doing the zip fly) and everything that has to be done on them is a huge chore just hanging onto the fabric. Plus size jeans and my normal sized sewing machine are having continual arguments. The machine is starting to skip stitches, indicating its time for a trip to the repair shop. Another unanticipated expense!

Since I learned to sew by teaching myself from books, magazines, and patterns, I do very well with written directions. However, Hot Patterns, the company I bought the pattern from, is not strong on clear and concise directions, requiring me to hunt down tutorials (when they do exist) for the various portions of their directions when an unfamiliar technique has been used to assemble things. (Back pockets were a nightmare–I even emailed the company for directions, but got no response.) I finally just made patch pockets the way I was familiar with making them, skipping their ambiguous directions which SEEMED to be telling me to make a welt pocket and top stitching it to LOOK like a patch pocket. (Others who sew know what I mean!) I happen to hate welt pockets because of their tendency to sag–I was stuck with them in uniform pants made for men for years.

For two days, the zipper fly defeated me. I could not make heads or tails out of the directions. Important details were left out–like whether to stitch the zipper to the raw edge or the finished edge of the zipper protector. What edges were I supposed to baste together? Even the diagrams were ambiguous. The pockets had no video tutorial, but they did have a general universal zipper fly assembly tutorial. I think I’ve figured it out now…

We’ll see. I’m going to try and accomplish it today. All ten million pounds of pants and the two pound sewing machine.

Once upon a time, I would have whipped through the finishing tasks on these pants in an afternoon. Heck, I could sew a coat in two evenings! The agony I have gone through the past few weeks as the pieces grew steadily larger (and my work sessions shorter and shorter) is somewhat depressing.

I should be able to do this, is what I tell myself. My husband says I have bit off more than I should have chewed. He might be right, but to quit now…no way. I’ll keep plugging at it.

But will I make a second pair?

Don’t ask me that now. That’s like asking a woman in labor if she wants to have another child after this one is born.

Wedding attire and marriage

Long, long ago, back when I was much more innocent and in my late teens, the topic of marriage often came up with my peers.  We’d outgrown Barbie and her wedding gowns, but…we now imagined our own weddings and what we’d wear.

I said I wanted to get married in overalls and a flannel shirt.

Now my friends would giggle, thinking I was just illustrating my own aversion to dresses and dressing up, but it was really far deeper than that.  It was even deeper than my own issues with gender identification.  It was actually a very deep and heartfelt comment, not about attire so much as what I wanted from anyone I’d marry.


I wanted to be accepted for who I was, not simply judged as deficient for who I was not.  Sure, I didn’t want to wear makeup, fuss over my hair, or wear ruffles and lace, but it was so much more than that.  I wanted to be able to explore who I was without fears about being judged by the one person that I needed to count on as believing in me.

My spouse.

It wasn’t an easy search either, no matter how simple it sounds.  I dated a lot of guys who thought I was cute and sexy, then immediately started working on changing who I was and how I dressed and acted. I even tried it, more than once.

They didn’t like who I became, and I didn’t like who I was pretending to be

Society in general kept trying to shove me into a pigeon hole, one that I was ill fitted to fill, as well as one that was excessively confining.  I gradually began to define my own parameters.  I certainly was not able to conform, long before I discovered the term “gender non-conformist” as a comfortable label.

My first marriage was a disaster, although it was one that looked quite pretty from the outside, I suppose.  I wasn’t anything he wanted, apparently.  I certainly did not fit his ideal of a woman or a wife.  Obviously, that came to an end, with far more drama than I liked as well.  Some things are just like that.

I then resumed the dating game, somewhat changed.  I was in a whole new phase of my life, and my dating tactics showed it.  I even used dating websites, both for research and for actual personal relationships.  I learned a whole lot from that too.

Eventually, my best friend and I decided to get engaged.  We started that off by living together for several years, telling ourselves that we couldn’t afford to get married.  One day, we realized that if we waited until we could “afford” marriage, we’d likely both be in nursing homes!

So, we planned a wedding.  I had a goal.  We were to have a wedding that cost less than $200 and we could still entertain our friends and family.  That price tag was for everything: food, wedding cake, marriage license, blood tests, wedding rings, official to officiate, venue, food for guests, and honeymoon.

Nobody thought we could do it, and we almost did it.  We had a last minute glitch—the friend, who was an ordained minister, who had been going to officiate, could not actually attend, as her mother became critically ill.  With a frantic search for someone at the last minute, we went over our budget—I was not in the mood to negotiate for rates.  We got a minister who was nearly perfect, and for that I was grateful enough to not mind that it was the “over $200” portion of the wedding bill.

We had a beach wedding under a pavilion at a fishing pier, complete with restrooms and parking…for free.  (Check out the public pier at Waveland, MS in Hancock county—it’s the only county that is dog friendly at the beach too!)  Our dogs could attend.

We had DIY wedding outfits for our hippy themed wedding.  Tie dyed matching t-shirts for us to wear as well as our granddaughter, our micro-sized “flower girl”.  (She was just over a year old then.)  Friends brought chairs and portable tables.  My mother cooked the pulled pork for sandwiches with my daughter’s help.  My daughter made the wedding cake.  Friends brought some food, and I even cooked pasta salad and baked beans.

We went camping, to Tishomingo State Park in northern Mississippi for our honeymoon, which was short but very nice.  I’d always wanted to visit that state park, and it was drop dead gorgeous despite rainy and cold weather.

And what did that all illustrate?

I married a man who married all of me.  Not the pretty part, or the money-making part, or the creative part, or the motherly part…but all of me, good and bad, nice and mean.  He accepted me as I was, without feeling a need to work on changing me.  He doesn’t even gripe (too much, anyhow) about my messiness or aversion to closing cupboard doors while cooking.  He married me after my accident that completely redefined what I could or could not do.

Of course, I reciprocate.  I know he hates mornings, that he can’t braid my hair for me, that he hates my hummus, no matter how I make it.  I know he is going to rant about something for the first hour he’s up in the morning and that he swears loudly whenever he works on something.  I know I’m going to trip over his shoes, as well as that there are certain things I have to nag about to make sure they get done.  That’s okay.  I adore him most of the time and still love him even when he has me madder than a hornet.

That’s a good relationship.  It’s built on mutual respect, seasoned with a dash of admiration for the other’s qualities, with a big dollop of humor to deal with their deficiencies.

That’s because nobody is perfect.  I’ll guarantee if you DO see someone as being perfect, either you are looking through rose tinted glasses or something else isn’t right, because everyone has weaknesses and flaws.  The best we can do is find out whether or not we can accept those flaws with the rest of the package.

Thankfully, we can.

Our wedding attire, while some would claim that we lacked reverence for the vows we were making, was chosen for specific reasons.  Neither of us saw any reason to spend an inordinate amount of money on clothing for one single occasion, regardless of where it was held.  We also saw no reason, in the light of a struggling economy, to encourage our friends and family to buy dress clothes for an occasion that would not benefit them later.  A hippy theme meant that nobody needed to buy anything, although we did buy the t-shirts and dye to do our own matching shirts.  I also bought the fabric for my rainbow veil, along with the tie dyed bandanas that completed our head gear.

Neither of us was young, and we had no one to impress.  We wanted everyone to have fun and have fun celebrating a very special day with us, as we publicly announced our relationship as permanent.  Our commitment to each other had been made long before, and the day was signifying a legal agreement more than our commitment.  Laws don’t recognize personal commitments, but they do recognize a marriage license.

Greg and I were marrying each other’s whole self, including the self that thought of others, of budgets, of costs, and of sharing fun and laughter.  That whole self is something that we feel comfortable sharing, both the good and the bad, the fun and the not-very-fun-at-all, along with the whole in sickness and in health.  He’s been my one man cheering team when I didn’t think I could make it through the next hour, let alone my allotted lifetime.  He’s been there when I released a novel and other books.  He’s also been there when I have been sick, shaking and crying from the pain.  I’ve been there when he’s been sick too, and I was there when he needed to go to the hospital with his heart attack.  Sure, we get aggravated with each other.  We spend far more time together than most couples, and there are times when we start to rub each other the wrong way.  We’ve learned how to manage that too.

It’s not easy sometimes.  We’ve had some times when we really didn’t like each other much, but thankfully, we moved past those successfully.  We have to work at keeping our relationship healthy, just like all couples do.

I’m glad we do.

But sometimes, I’d be glad if he finally got around to some of the things on the honey-do list, like FINALLY putting that new bed together or fixing that overhang by the back door.

He’d probably be glad if I finally got things put away, and figured out an effective pseudo pantry.  Or the Good Housekeeping Fairy showed up–I don’t think he is picky about who gets things done.  He might be glad if I finally forgot to refer to the time when I came home after an overnight trip and he greeted me with “can you cook me a hamburger?” instead of a kiss and “Glad to see you, I missed you.”

He might be glad when I finally quit coming up with wild schemes that make Lucille Ball look like she never came up with insane ideas…even though hers were theatrical and mine are real-life schemes.  (I’m just glad that he never does the Desi Arnez mimic thing.)

But it is really great to have been so very wrong about my own life, even while I was very right about some other things about it.  I’m glad I get to share each and every day with my best friend.  I just wish that everyone was so lucky.

Just don’t ever think that our relationship is perfect.  It’s not.  We both came with baggage and issues and quirks and fears and relatives and hopes and dreams and flaws too.  We work at gluing it all together all the time, and then, something will come along and throw a wrench in our plans and we get to frantically re-assemble everything with another liberal dose of glue.


I still love him.  Best of all, he loves all of me.  Even when I’m fat, sick, grumpy, gray, wrinkled, hairy in the wrong places, my feet hurt, and I’m whining about something.

That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?

Anybody can find fault

Anybody can find fault.  Fault doesn’t seem to get lost very often, and it usually doesn’t really hide that well either.  Sooner or later, fault always comes marching out, demanding to be recognized by someone, anyone, guilty or innocent.

But there sure are a lot of people who devote their lives to seeking out something that never was lost to begin with.  Why are so many people absolutely thrilled to find those faults and be the first (or even among the hundreds) to point out those faults so that everyone knows that they spotted them and recognized them.

Like get a life, dude.  (Or dudette!)

You don’t need a degree or any special training or even to be above average in intelligence (or anything else) to find those faults that weren’t really hiding.  These internet trolls that seem to delight in exposing each and every flaw and then dissecting it with minute attention to detail seriously have some issues.  Above all, they remind me of chickens.

I’m not being a smart alec about that.  Seriously, they do act like chickens.  I realize that most of America has never been intimately acquainted with chickens.  For many people, their closest exposure has been at a petting zoo or even just a news clip on television.  In reality, there’s nothing cute about a flock of chickens, especially if they have decided that they don’t like one of their flock mates.

It’s horrifying to see what they will do then.  They will literally, over a period of time, peck that chicken to death, while also driving it away from food and water and otherwise making their lives as miserable as possible.  It isn’t all of the chickens in the flock that do this, just a handful out of the group participating in this “troll” behavior is enough to result in the pecked chicken’s death.

Hence the expression of “henpecked” that we have often heard used to refer to a husband who is being micromanaged by his wife to an oppressive degree.

Sure, there are lots of theories about why these chickens will do this.  Usually, overcrowding and other stress factors will get the behavior started.  It can happen in free range chickens, but it’s far less common.  As a country person would say, “once in a blue moon.”  In confined and crowded conditions, even when the chickens have the recommended space and ability to go outdoors into the sunshine, it can really get started though.  The more stress and crowding, the more the behavior shows up.

Maybe mankind is just like a flock of chickens.  We’re getting more crowded and stressed, and we’re seeing more outbreaks of “troll” behavior.  On occasion, this behavior accelerates and becomes violent rather than just verbal (or written) attacks.  When this happens, the usual cry is to restrict access to potential weapons.

Gun control isn’t going to change the behavior, folks.  Chickens commit homicide regularly, and have never figured out how to use firearms.  I have a gun and have had guns most of my life, yet I have not committed murder, nor even shot at anyone.

I have worked armed positions in my lifetime.  I’ve also been threatened with a gun on more than one occasion, although not while working.  Usually, the threat was by a police officer of some kind.  Was the threat warranted? No, I wasn’t armed, wasn’t threatening the officer, was not committing a crime, and usually had no idea what was going on or why I had a gun in my face.  Each time, it turned out to be some kind of mistake, quickly resolved, and I was not handcuffed or arrested.

I must have some caveman DNA floating around and connected to my violent genes.  My weapon of choice has always been throwing rocks.  I’m pretty good at chucking them too or was before I got hurt.  Southern Mississippi, however, is starved for rocks.  Our rocks have to be imported from elsewhere.  I guess that’s why I haven’t done any rock chucking in a long time.

But I digress…

This troll behavior is an indicator of a deeper problem or fault in our society, one that we need to address.  It’s just as real as any tectonic plate’s fault on our planet’s crust, and indicative of an equally deep flaw in our society.  Fault in this sense is a very real concept regarding what is happening today.  This fault is an early sign of henpecking that can and eventually will turn homicidal in some individuals.  Granted, not all of these individuals will ever become physically violent in person.  Many of them may be too intimidated in person to even say “boo!” to a stranger, let alone become verbally confrontational.  Even so, they feel that they have the right to do so, often in very unpleasant ways, on the internet.

I’m not sure that the spirit of the right to free speech includes the right to say things just to hurt other people, whether it is merely an emotional hurt or any other kind of hurt, even if it is commentary based on truth.  I certainly do not think that condoning troll behavior and allowing them to surf the cyber world in search of fault which they can then use as their war cry as they begin yet another flaming attack on some unwitting soul.

Do I think I would turn homicidal? Not with the current level of stress and crowding, but I know that even I have certain points where I may well rationalize violent behavior if I am honest about myself.  Remember, the word stress is just another word for stimuli.  Breaking into my house when I am home is going to qualify as a stress.  So is attacking a family member.  Heck, even attacking my dogs is a stressor!  I also tend to get rather confrontational if I feel my home turf (aka house and yard) is being intruded upon, something I came to grips with last year when a neighbor’s dog tried to claim our backyard as his personal turf.

We have to find new ways of adapting to living in smaller spaces, to working closely with others, to living closely with them.  We have to identify individuals that have reached that magic red line that defines when they are going to become violent, and then come up with appropriate intervention.  All of that without causing new stress by stripping away personal freedoms and rights.

It’s a tall order, but the end result is worthwhile.  It means creating a society that encourages supportive and nurturing behavior rather than glorifying confrontational and violent behavior.  It means doing away, worldwide, with the concept of war too.  It means creating a worldwide society that encourages growth, on each and every level, as well as celebrating diversity and individualism.

Yeah, I know—it sounds like Utopia.

It really is Utopia, I suppose.  It’s not impossible  though.  Gene Roddenberry  dreamed of it with his Star Trek world.  I’m not the only dreamer.  The world just needs a lot more dreamers, a lot more people who are willing to ostracize and discourage those who want to be trolls, and willing to encourage people to be something they all possess the ability to be.

With a heart.

Maybe we need to remind everyone of our mothers’ old adage while we’re at it.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Dear Troll, a letter to internet trolls

Dear Troll,

I know that you enjoy cruising the cyber universe to deposit your droppings of wisdom on everything from news to reviews.  You probably don’t care if you hurt others, but for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to pretend that you do.

My sanity has had a precarious hold lately.

Oh I know it’s not your fault.  You haven’t attacked me directly.  That is much too direct and confrontational for your tastes.  You would not dream of looking at your victim in the eye and behaving that way.   It is only on the internet that you feel so brave and faultless.  The truth is, you are the kind of coward that makes me fear the future of humanity.

To put it in language that even a troll can understand, here it goes…

Troll, you are a lily livered chickenshit yellow backed prick without the manners of a herd of hogs at a hog trough.  You don’t care who you hurt, as long as you are the very first hog that wallows in that trough of delicious destruction.

You are the very lowest of mankind, and I am ashamed to be from the same species as you.  In fact, your continued existence is the only reason I am sincerely hoping that I am really an alien hybrid resulting from my mother being kidnapped and inseminated with alien sperm.

Okay, that would horrify my mother too.  But seriously, I’d not mind finding out that I was not really from the same species.

These trolls are appearing everywhere, and now, with the continued spiraling out of control of governments and religions warring on the innocent, I am half-convinced that trolls are taken over military and governments across the globe.

Once upon a time, the country of Israel was created to create a homeland for Jews.  Now, we need to create a country, I guess we’d call it dungeon since Trolls are supposed to like dark and dank places anyhow, just for the world’s trolls.  There, they could snipe and find fault with each other, and do whatever else keeps trolls happy.  I have no idea if they reproduce or not.

Some things, I just don’t want to actually think about.

Like troll sex.

It’s hideous-sewing a peasant blouse

Sewing can provide a lot of satisfaction.  Sometimes, it can also provide ample humor though too.

Such was the case of the brown fabric with white dots and the pattern for a peasant blouse I bought.  I used it for sewing up the muslin of the pattern.

Now keep in mind, I hadn’t bought the brown cotton fabric with the white dots because it was totally awesome and had great feel, which is why I like to buy fabric.

I bought it because it was dirt cheap, and a great fabric for sewing a “muslin” out of.

So what is making a muslin?  It’s a test garment, usually made from throwaway fabric, although sometimes it is made up to be a wearable muslin as well.  It’s always cheap fabric.  Ideally, it has the same general characteristics of weight and drape as the fabric intended in the final fabric, so if you are sewing a knit top, you would use a cheap knit to double check the fitting and make adjustments prior to cutting out and assembling the fabric.  Making a muslin is the time to make any alterations to the pattern, as well as to learn any new techniques used in sewing the pattern.

I live in the South, and I like both sewing and wearing cotton and other woven fabrics that tend to be cool and lightweight.  I’m also menopausal and deal with chronic pain, so the key here is cool and lightweight!

I had chosen the peasant blouse pattern from Hot Patterns because it looked like it would be both easy sewing and easy to wear.  I had hoped that it would also be easy to modify into a blouse with short, loose sleeves for summer wear.

So, I whipped out my $1 a yard cotton weave fabric and started sewing that pattern.

Oh, is it hideous!

The measurements on the package are slightly off—I should have made a paper version first to check general fit.  So, the blouse that made me feel like I was sewing a tent really isn’t that far off from tent-like proportions.  I’m already plus sized, so I sure was surprised that it was TOO big.

It’s also on the short side.  I’m not afflicted with a very long torso, but I am on the long side of “normal”, at least according to clothing manufacturers.  This is more noticeable since I have gained weight and joined the plus crowd too.  Apparently, you are supposed to have a shorter torso when you are wider of girth.  To hit my ideal length, I’d need to add 3-6”, which is a substantial alteration in length for a blouse.

At least I can get the extra from the width, in this case.

Then, there is the narrow collar.  I’m not too crazy about how that looks after sewing it in.  It uses a different-than-the-usual construction method of sewing the raglan sleeves, front, back and collar and the end result seems…messy?  That method would work better with lighter fabrics with more drape, but this cheap cotton fabric has too much body, resulting in an odd effect at the neckline after sewing it.

It was so awful when it was done that my husband didn’t expect me to finish it off by sewing in the collar and cuffs.  Believe me when I say that if my husband thought I was sewing something hideous, it’s got to be pretty awful.  He has zero fashion sense, for me or anyone else, himself included.  He will wear things made out of fabrics that make this brown fabric with white dots look like designer stuff.

I joked about it with my daughter on our phone conversations.  I said I was sewing my personal tent.  Then, when I was there, I brought it along for her to inspect as well.  She agreed that it was hideous, but questioned my decision to keep it as a work shirt for cool weather and camping.  She actually thought it was too awful even for gardening or the woods!

We then played a horrible trick on my poor son-in-law.  We told him I had been sewing him an “old fashioned” shirt, especially for him.  We then got him to put it on and model it for the camera.  He had to be “nice” about something someone had been sewing just for him, right?

Yeah, I know…pretty awful, huh?  I was impressed, he never commented on its hideous nature, and I know he was thinking it—even if he hid it very well!

Here’s the photographic evidence that I speak the truth, both of sewing the blouse and conning a poor innocent son-in-law into modeling it.


Now keep in mind, I’m no fashion guru.  My biggest criteria for clothing is that it is comfortable to wear followed by easy-to-put-on.  I think that this shirt, after washing out the sizing and making it nice and limp, will likely qualify.  It will still be hideous though.

I don’t care what my clothes look like, in general.  I’m not trying to make a fashion statement in my every day attire.  I do care how I feel when I am wearing something though.  This isn’t feel-good fabric, even if you are inside of it instead of looking at it from the outside.  It’s hideous from inside of it too.

I’m disappointed in the results, and I’m not sure yet whether I’m going to be sewing this blouse up again.  It was easy to follow by using the combined directions with the YouTube videos showing how to assemble and sew it.  I’m also uncertain about using video tutorials for sewing directions.  I’m kind of old fashioned, and really like diagrams and written directions for sewing too.  Still, after having spent uncounted hours puzzling over a set of directions with diagrams for sewing a pattern, the video tutorials are a nice addition, even if cumbersome to watch.  I mean seriously, who has a computer alongside their sewing machine?  I may be among one of the first who wants it all lined up together!

Mixing it up and using the creation option

I tend to get single minded about things sometimes.  While that can be a good thing, there is also a tendency to go overboard, perhaps.  The truth of the matter is, too much of anything is not a good thing.  So, focusing on variety being the spice of life, I have mixed up things a bit more around more.  I do at least two things every day, and which two things can vary.  I write, almost every day, in one form or another.  Other days, it might a whole list of options that are considered.  One that has been at the forefront has been the act of creation.

Something about creating something, whether it is written text or an object  of some kind, seems to give me joy.  It’s even better when it’s something that gives other people pleasure.  This act of creation is a fantastic outlet for me.

So I have been busy with that creation stuff.  Like I made a trio of simple skirts for my niece’s oldest, along with matching hair barrettes.  I altered the pattern to be more creative and use that creation option too.  Several skirts for my granddaughter have come out from under the needle of my machine.  I tried my hand at a bit more fussy sewing with a set of mother-daughter aprons (shhhh!  She hasn’t gotten them yet, it’s her birthday gift, and I’ll deliver them tomorrow!) and a lined messenger bag with specially sized pockets, also for my daughter’s birthday.  The messenger bag was an act of determination, multiplied by dynamic creation, and infused with love too.

I don’t know if I’ll ever sew another apron requiring miles of bias tape.  I also don’t know if I will EVER make another lined bag.

Now I know from years of sewing that free patterns, whether from magazines (in the old days) or online (the modern day), does not mean quality patterns.  Anybody can post a pattern, and that does not mean it’s a good one.

This wasn’t a particularly good one.  The directions gave me headaches, and the finished example used to illustrate the article looked somewhat…sad.  I should have known better, right?

Yeah, well maybe I missed the brain train.  Lord knows the pain train pulls into my station regularly, I may have been confused that day…

I’ve also had serious computer issues.  I use a laptop (long story) and my “new” one took a dump and quit on me about 6 months ago.  Without being able to afford a repairman (it’s not a simple issue, it won’t power up at all) it has sat, waiting, after Greg removed the harddrive and cloned it onto another one, which ultimately went into my old laptop, which he had repaired from it’s near-fatal blow from some kind of malware attack I had received via a chat client I used to use.  (I don’t anymore, btw.)  So, I was happily working away, although regretting the loss of the faster computer with more RAM and thus better able to cope with my continual multi-tasking, and just dealing with the occasional freezing that such a tendency induces in older and underpowered computers.

On Saturday morning, I had a notice on the laptop that it had received a Microsoft update and had restarted.  Okay, no big deal, right?

It told me it was personalizing my desktop, and stayed that way.  Nothing we did resurrected it—it would not boot up.  I was on the verge of a melt down and we’ve not managed to drink our first cup of coffee yet.

Greg’s pretty patient, except when I’m melting down on him, then he’s not a very happy camper either.  He managed to pack me off to the office with my sewing machine, and he proceeded to try and solve the issue.  I took a nap.

A really long nap.

I guess melt downs wear me out?  It also gave him the peace he needed to work on solving the problem.  According to the flashing light on the cap lock, it was telling him that the CPU had crashed and burned.  That’s not a quick fix either, especially since it’s a laptop, which is really hard to work on.  We have no parts, nor do we have diagnostic tools to work on a laptop.  With Greg though, there is no such thing as defeat.  He also says there is no living with me without a functional computer AND my files, so he had a plan b to work on while I was snoring away.

He dug out his old laptop, which he had finally managed to repair.  (It was also damaged, but much more severely, by malware via the same chat client.)  It was the same brand as my old one—a Compaq.  He popped the harddrive from the laptop I had been using into the new one, added some RAM, and booted it up.  There were a few things to tweak, but soon, I was awake and had a computer I could use again.

But it had a really odd looking screen, and that was a clue as to what was coming next.  The video card driver on the harddrive was not compatible with the actual video card in the new old machine.  Should be an easy fix, right?


HP’s repair gizmo won’t install. Drivers for the video card don’t seem to exist.  Okay, I can live with an oddball looking screen, distorted pictures and all.  But that wasn’t the end of the video card driver problems.

The blue screen of death.

Yeah, we’ve all seen it.  The trouble was, I was seeing it often, and then the new old computer wouldn’t boot up either.  I was starting to feel like some kind of computerized jinx.

I’m testy, and I’m sent back to the office to talk to my sewing machine and play with my Kindle.  I start dreaming of embroidery machines and new laptops, but Greg manages to save the day despite my frazzled nerves.  He also attaches an external harddrive so I can back up the critical files: documents & pictures.  We even worked out a way to get it done easily without me freaking out and getting frustrated over complicated procedures.

Like the Cloud.

He couldn’t understand my objection to using the Cloud for backing up files, but Comcast, in their usual manner, managed to illustrate it in living color.

Our intermittent outage issues had been plaguing us all day on Sunday.  Sunday night, however, it’s a total no-internet-at-all situation resulting in a call to Comcast, where he started off the experience with a 30 minute wait to get to a human.

Keep in mind, we’re paying by the minute for this privilege, despite Comcast’s continual offers of telephone service (they can’t get the internet right, how would they get telephone right?) and then he gets “service is out in your area due to an accident.  It should be restored by 7 am on Monday morning.”

Now he knows why I do not like my files on the Cloud.  I cannot access them when the internet is down.  Just like I couldn’t access anything when I had no way to get to my harddrive and the data it contained, only with no cloud access, my computer is working just fine.  Sure, the cloud is fine for a general back up, but that’s not where I want my files kept.

He was thrilled.  Seriously thrilled.  But now, he understood what my objections were and why they were something that I was so adamant about.

But that sent my brain off onto another tangent too.

If a woman could sue McDonald’s for a cup of hot coffee scalding her, can I sue Comcast for frustrating Greg to the point of giving him another heart attack via their crappy customer service?

That’s the kind of thing I start to wonder in the wee hours, as I look at a screen that thinks it’s really a 16” CRT monitor but is really an LCD laptop screen…I think it’s a 17” one? (Heck I can tell you the model number, and have no idea what size the screen is.  Sad, huh?)  So, now I’m going to mix it up, wander off, and try to take a photo of the lovely messenger bag.

Or not.

I might wait and do it tomorrow, along with the aprons, when I have a model.  Actually 2 models.  Beautiful Daughter & her Mini Me, the spitting image of her mother, only with better hair.

See that’s another side of me too.  I am an official grandmother and I’m every bit as gaga as any grandma could be.  Plus, she’s my one and only, so I am seriously gaga about that little girl.  I have to keep a firm hand on myself to prevent me spoiling her excessively.

Yep, there is an “excessive” point when you are grandma too.

But she is a darling, most of the time.  When I see that less-than-endearing version, I am so disappointed too.  After all, as MY granddaughter, she is supposed to be perfect, right?

And since I do have to get up early to go see my darling, I’m going to leave it at that.

So tune in again tomorrow…or listen to me on the radio from 8-10 pm Central at  Oh, and go buy a book or two at  I’m trying to fund my project development for the next book, and could use some extra sales.

Just don’t forget–I really appreciate everyone who reads my blog posts, and for that, you deserve an atta-boy and a creation bonus point.  Create something, even if its something small.  It can be food or art or crafts or a really great poem or the best lawn mowing job that has ever hit your neighborhood.

Creation can be many things.

Here’s a cover of one of my books–my daughter and granddaughter were on the cover.

Kindle Parent handbook cover

You can find it right here.


Sewing: Pin or Weights, which is better?

When working with patterns, it’s necessary to make sure that nothing slides around while cutting the fabric for the design.  That leads to the question of whether to use pins or weights.   Traditionally, pins are used to hold things in place.  With that said, using pattern weights to hold things down quickly & easily isn’t new either.

They sell special pattern weights.  I’m sure they are wonderful.  I’m seriously cheap though, and I’ve never bought them, although I have weighted many patterns over the years.

Long ago, I made a lot of small stuffed creatures, for gifts and for sale.  They ranged from a tiny stuffed rocking horse about 4” tall (for a Christmas decoration) to large stuffed dolls.  This is when I used  a lot of weights in laying out patterns.

But have you ever cut out a gusset or ear for a 4” tall stuffed horse?  Neither pin nor weight will actually fit.  Heck, a DIME won’t fit!  For those pieces, I would cut out a template from thin plastic or cardboard (disposable food container lids are great, as are cereal boxes) and hold that down with one finger, while I drew with a pen right on the fabric.  Not a special pen either, just a plain jane black ink pen, the kind you use for writing with.  Then, I’d cut out the pieces following the marked cutting lines.

But for weighting those patterns when I was churning out a batch I used food cans, straight out of the pantry.  Anything would work, but I favored tomato paste cans (small diameter) and tuna cans (short).  Tomato sauce ran a hot third in the weighting contest.

When would I weight instead of pinning?                  

I would only weight when it was a relative small, simple shape, especially if I was cutting multiples.  I also had to be familiar with the pattern.  I rarely would opt to use weights if I was cutting out a new pattern to make a prototype design.  I also would not be using a tissue paper pattern—they are too prone to floating, flying, fluttering and inspiring other “f” words.  I always cut out a sturdier paper pattern for a pattern design that I will be using repeatedly.  For those heavier papers, weighting works wonderful, as long as your table is big enough to lay out the pieces and weight them into place without having to shift fabric this way or that way to get at it.

Weighting also meant not using any tailor marks, which was part of the reason I had to be familiar with the construction of that particular design.  I personally found that transferring tailor marks on a weighted pattern was a situation that invariably resulted in disaster.

At the same time, weighting made a project’s construction much faster.  Eliminating 2-3 minutes of pinning may sound inconsequential, but when you are trying to cut, sew, and assemble a dozen of something after a long day of work, that 2-3 minutes may be enough time when it is multiplied over that dozen to actually put one of them together.

On the other side of that is the simple fact that saving 2-3 minutes of pinning on a garment can cause problems to appear in construction that could have been avoided if the pattern had been more accurately cut out after pinning it in place before cutting.  Don’t do it—you will regret it!

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