The end of 2013

Good-by 2013. 

2013 has sped by as fast as the years before it. Like all of the others it has included good and bad. This is the year my mother faced cancer. Luckily, even though it required surgery and a major stay in the hospital with plenty of unexpected complications she is doing well now and beginning chemo. All of the scans are clean so it is a milder form of chemo, not the aggressive chemo that brings all sorts of complications of its own. It was hard to write during the worst of this so there were a few less blog posts. 

Later in the year I added dining room furniture to our small apartment, which forced me to move the sewing area. It is still quite a disorganized mess because when I decided to make the change I had to move all of the sewing tables, machines and tools quickly. I am working through it now to reduce some of the stash, re-organize the tools and make sewing a planned and purposeful event. I have to include set up, clean up, and breakdown time. It also has to work around dining schedules now so it has become a much more disciplined activity than before. I think maybe I have even been sewing more in spite of the extra steps.

I miss having everything set up and ready, but I do like that each project is pretty special because of the extra setup and breakdown involved. I am also learning which tools are most important. The down side is the table height. Working on a counter height table for laying out and cutting patterns is nice and I miss that but the dining table is longer than the cut table, so there is extra space for fabric on either side of the cutting mat. A long time ago this was how I worked on all projects. Once I have everything organized, I may be able to use a smaller version of my cut table again. 

This year I looked up word origins to go with projects during the year. I have not yet decided what I might include next year. I would like to say that I would blog on a more frequent basis, but then I would probably be spending more time writing than sewing.  Anyone have any special New Year's Resolutions?

From Online Etymology Dictionary:

review (v.) Look up review at Dictionary.com
1570s, "examine again," from re- + view (v.). Meaning "look back on" is from 1751; that of "consider or discuss critically" is from 1781. Related: Reviewedreviewing.


Last Minute Gifts

My daughter called to let me know she was planning to spend part of Christmas Eve with me. So we planned to go to the mall, have a chai and watch the last minute shoppers hurry about. Before I had children I would do this with a good friend each Christmas Eve. I had to explain the "tradition" to my daughter.  

Pillows with Dog Images
While we were out I asked if she had finished the gifts she was working on. She had decided to make some decorative pillows for her boyfriend's family. They were customized with silhouettes of the family's pet dogs. She said she had not finished them yet, but would be working on them tonight. I thought sometime around midnight she might be calling to have me help finish them, but I did not hear from her. 

On Christmas Day, I had just placed a turkey breast into the oven when the phone rang. It was my daughter asking me if I could help her with about five minutes worth of sewing because she was having trouble with her machine. At first I asked if she wanted help with the machine but she just wanted me to sew instead. I said I would help her, but I knew the five minutes estimate was just lunacy.

When she arrived she was already an hour and a half late to her original destination, so I hoped that she was going to be able to be patient while I helped her finish the pillows. She wanted me to stitch around the designs, sew in the zipper and sew up the pillows. There were four pillows, so four zippers and several dog designs on the pillows. I zig-zag stitched over the designs, added the zippers, sewed up the sides of the pillows. She trimmed the corners and turned the pillows inside out, added the pillow form, and gift wrapped them as I finished each pillow. 

All the while, I was having my son check the timer I had set for the turkey breast to cook. As the time counted down I was telling him which item to add to the oven, or start working on. It took a couple of hours for me to finish all of the top stitching and sew the pillows for her. By the time we had finished working on the pillows Christmas dinner was ready to serve and all I had had to do was start the turkey and make the gravy after everything else was finished. That was probably the easiest holiday meal I had ever made, thanks to a lot of help from my son.


I think my daughter's pillows turned out pretty nice too. I wonder if she will need help again the next time she decides to make something.

From  Etymology Online Dictionary

lunacy (n.) Look up lunacy at Dictionary.com
1540s, "condition of being a lunatic," formed in English from lunatic + -cy. Originally in reference to intermittent periods of insanity, such as were believed to be triggered by the moon's cycle. The Old English equivalent was monaĆ°seocnes "month-sickness."
assist (n.) Look up assist at Dictionary.com
1570s, "an act of assistance," from assist (v.). In the sporting sense attested 1877 in baseball, 1925 in ice hockey.
assistance (n.) Look up assistance at Dictionary.com
early 15c., "act of helping or aiding," from Middle French assistance, from assister (see assist (v.)).
assistant (n.) Look up assistant at Dictionary.com
mid-15c., assistent "one who helps or aids another," from Middle French assistent, adjective and noun, properly present participle of assister (see assist (v.)).


Happy Holidays

Scarves for co-workers
For this year's group gifts I needed something impressive. The first time I had time to work on anything was after December 15th. That means it had to be quick, easy, impressive and fit within my budget - inexpensive. 

What is easy to make? Scarves! Yes scarves. I stopped by the local fabric store, without my coupons just to check out what was on sale. I figured there might be some red tag fabric available if nothing else. It must have been my lucky day because everything in the store, well, everything I looked at in the store, was on sale 50-60% off. Simply silky fabrics, red tag fabrics, remnants. All of it on sale. 

I needed 1/2 yard each for six people. I saved so much I picked up a sheer curtain fabric remnant which is about 90 inches wide to make little gift bags to hold the scarves. If you need a quick idea, try this.  

Simply silky prints are about 60" wide, one of the few fabrics that has not been reduced to 54-58 inches instead of the 60 it should be.  One half yard is 18".  By making the purchase of 1/2 yard I did not even need to trim the fabric, except for cutting the selvage edges, before I narrowly hemmed it.  (There were some uneven cuts from the store that I did correct.) 

If you have a narrow hem foot this is a good project to use it, but I found it easier to just roll the fabric and straight stitch it.  When I finished the scarves I made a drawstring bag that allowed the scarf colors to show through. 

Instructions for the gift bags:
  • Trace around a folded scarf, add enough fabric to fold back one side for the drawstring placement. Mark the drawstring placement on the pattern. (Pattern is on the left above.)
  • Place the pattern on fold so width is double that of the pattern drawing. (See the place on fold mark above.)
  • Serge (or zig-zag stitch) along one end side. (Top of the white bag, pictured on the right above.)
  • Bring the sides together, serge (or zig-zag stitch) these edges together. (You can see the vertical seam on the right side above.)
Pattern, drawstring hem area folded back,  seams on cloth bag.
  • Center this seam, then serge (or zig-zag stitch) the bottom of the bag.
Button hole placement 

  • Make a button hole on each side of the bag. 
  • Fold the drawstring hem edge down and stitch around the bag above and below the button holes. This forms the track for the drawstrings.
  • With a bodkin, or a safety pen, thread one cord beginning at one button hole, all the way around and back out the same button hole. Then thread another cord from the other button hole, around and back out the same button hole. 
  • Tie the cord ends together. When the strings are pulled on each side it will close the bag. Use the excess string to tie a bow.

Gift Bags with Scarves and Name Tags

Now  you can give your friends these presents. If you have picked the right fabric they will really be impressed and the gift bag becomes a second present.

On line Etymology Dictionary

present (n.2) Look up present at Dictionary.com
c.1200, "thing offered, what is offered or given as a gift," from Old French present and Medieval Latin presentia, from phrases such as French en present "(to offer) in the presence of," mettre en present "place before, give," from Late Latin inpraesent "face to face," from Latin in re praesenti "in the situation in question," from praesens "being there" (seepresent (adj.)), on the notion of "bringing something into someone's presence."


Change is Good

Dot helped me draft a skirt pattern this week. 

Just before Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to acquire a large formal dining table and matching china hutch. It was an opportunity that I really had to consider. If I took the table I would have to use the living room area as a dining room and it would displace my sewing area. What to do, what to do?  

My living area already feels small and cramped, because I downsized to a two bedroom apartment from a house that was much larger. It has been quite an adjustment. My car has taken a beating in door dings, bumper scrapes, scratches and other maladies from fellow tenants who must not know how to drive, or maybe just don't care. Then there is the upstairs neighbor who vacuums the floor after midnight and stomps around scaring Dot. If I was already in bed sleeping that might bother me more, but I am usually up late too.

I decided to take the table and hutch. It did displace the sewing area, but it gave the living area a much better look and somehow made this apartment feel more like a home. With the leaf in the table it is slightly longer than my sewing table. It holds the cutting mat nicely, although much lower than the counter high table. I was worried that it might make sewing more of an ordeal because it would require that I lay out the cutting mat, cut the fabric, then pull out the sewing machines, set them up, sew, then take them down and stow them away, each time I wanted to sew. It has brought a little discipline to the sewing front and really makes me sew with a purpose. Twice this week I have had reason to sew and it really has not been that bad.    

Because my sewing table was made with Ikea Lack tables, I have been able to set it up like a storage shelf unit in one corner of the bedroom. It is grouped differently and still stores all of the tubs that were under it before. The major project for this weekend will be to cull a lot of unused items out of my closet and see what can be condensed into a smaller storage space.

From Online Etymology Dictionary

flexible (adj.) 
early 15c., from Middle French flexible or directly from Latin flexibilis "that may be bent, pliant, flexible, yielding;" figuratively "tractable, inconstant," from flexus, past participle of flectere "to bend," of uncertain origin. Related: Flexibly.

comfortable (adj.) 
mid-14c., "affording mental comfort," from Anglo-French confortable, from conforter "to comfort" (see comfort (v.)); also see -able. Meaning "offering physical comfort" is attested from 1769; that of "in a state of tranquil enjoyment" is from 1770.

comfy (adj.) 
1829, colloquial shortening of comfortable.


Holiday Season

Sorry it has been a while between posts. I am doing more baking a the moment than sewing. Today I think I will be making some chewy ginger cookies and maybe some white chocolate holiday cookies. These are also ginger flavored with white chocolate chips. If I get really ambitious, I may also make some snickerdoodles.

The first thing the recipe instructions say  is "1 cup butter softened". It is so cold here the butter will have to sit on the stove top for a while to soften. It has been hovering above and below zero here for days and it looks like it will be several more days before it warms up. Baking will make the house feel warmer and cozy.

I did do just a little bit of sewing yesterday. I have been really busy getting everything ready for the company winter party and it dawned on me that I had better figure out what I was going to wear. I knew I wanted it to be warm, and I did not have time to deal with a lot of pieces or details or have time to go shopping. This was a time for tried and true and stashed fabric to save the day.

McCalls 6468 was on top of the pattern stack and I had made view C this summer to go with a summer dress. Besides having sewn one of the views earlier, it is a loose flowing top- no fitting needed. I picked out view D and started looking for some fabric with the proper drape. The first fabric I found was a leopard print. The drape was good, but there was not enough fabric. The second choice was an extra piece of fabric I had purchased because the bolt had been double wrapped when I purchased a piece for a blouse earlier this year. The pattern called for more than either of the double wrapped pieces were alone, but I got a good deal by purchasing both pieces and getting the remnant price for the little bit that was not quite a yard in addition to the first yard. As it turned out the fabric was wider than I expected and I did not end up using both pieces. I also did not have a plan for the second piece so it was in the stash, waiting for a purpose.

I cut it out Friday evening before I went to bed and sewed it in the morning. It took about two hours to sew, mostly because of hems. There are eight total pleats on the front shoulders and four seams. The hems took most of the time, but even that did not take long. It is a slick fabric and dark, so I used tailor tacks to mark the pleats. This was quicker than locating a light marking pencil and easier to see on the dark navy print. The cape like top was just the right touch to keep me warm.

Tailor's tacks

Happy Holidays!