Popping in

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season!  Mine has been predictably busy, and it’s not over yet – we are going to see Marc’s sister this week, and my family has one more gathering.

I wanted to post about my Christmas present from my husband because I think it proves how awesome he is!  I sadly lost my engagement ring earlier this year (well, I’m still hoping it may turn up, but it hasn’t yet, which is a bad sign.)  He decided I needed a new one, but knew I wouldn’t want a diamond or anything traditional.  So here is what I found under the tree:

Engagement ring

 

Why yes, that is the Star Trek insignia in ring form!  And yes, it’s upside down here, I was excited!  The ring comes from this etsy shop.  It’s silver and white gold, and the stone is a sapphire.  I’m very happy with it – it’s non traditional, but to anyone who doesn’t know what it is it probably just looks like a (slightly odd) regular ring.  In fact, I put it on Facebook and I’m pretty sure people who had no earthly idea what it was were commenting.

We’re also painting and re-doing our bathroom this week.  I’ll return with photos in a few days!

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Pillows and updates!

Although I’m a bit of a dud in the posting department lately, I have been sewing!  Right now I’m still sewing mostly home dec, as I try to get to the end of my summer project.  I’ve finished my Dala horse curtains and my painted rug, but photos will have to wait until I get them set up!  In the meantime, I made some pillows:

 

The fabric is one of the Tannis Keefe reproductions that Michael Miller put out recently.  It’s a linen/cotton blend, around the weight of a Japanese cotton/linen print if you’ve ever felt those.  I bought it as a nameless, boltless fabric during my trip to Minnesota this summer – how could I resist those adorably evil kitties?  It’s sold out lots of places, but I was able to find it on Etsy, if anyone is looking.

These are simple envelope back pillows over a down insert.  I have to use down on the leather sofa because it can be stuffed into the corner – anything else is forever falling off!  I make my envelope pillows in one piece – you cut a piece of fabric the width of your pillow exactly by the length times 2 plus 6″ (for the overlap).  Hem the shorter edges, then pin the overlap back to the front (RS together).  Make sure it measures the same as your pillow length.  Sew the two side seams, turn right side out and you’re done.

 

I made two.  You can also see the lamp I remade in the back.  It was a dated rubbed bronze paint base with a cheap tiffany style shade.  I applied gold leaf spray paint to the base and replaced the shade with a modern ikea version.  I love the way it looks now! Better than the old shade:

 

I’ve started my floor pillow.  Here are some of the fabrics:

 

The big piece is for the back.  All the fabrics are Amy Butler’s Cameo collection.  So far the pattern has given me one issue – it’s hard to get in the center without shredding the fabric!  I worried it wouldn’t be secure, so I cut the wedges to 3/8″ instead of 1/4″.  I may get a little hole in the middle at the end, but I can close that up easily, and it will be more secure.

I haven’t had much time to post lately, so I thought it might be time to mention what’s up with me!

I’ve started a new job, teaching applied voice to University students.  I’m an adjunct faculty member – not a professor exactly, but it’s very exciting!  I’m doing that very part time right now, and teaching at home the other days.  I don’t plan to give up my studio, this is just something that I’m doing for me.  Many of my friends work there, and it’s great to leave the house to work occasionally!  My husband also got a new job, which he loves, so changes are abounding.

We’ve had a ton of visits and social events this summer – my best friend even came up from Florida (where she lives) for a week!

Last week we took my in-laws to the state fair.  They’d never been, which I thought was crazy, but I realize that having grown up in Louisville it was easy to go every year.   It’s not the biggest or absolute best fair in the country, but it’s a fun afternoon.  We saw lots of giant vegetables, saw some goats being paraded around a ring by their seven year old owners, and ate this year’s disgusting fair food:

 

What is it?  Why, a Krispy Kreme burger of course.  A hamburger with two krispy creme donuts as the bun.  I mean, I didn’t eat it, but my husband did – please note, this photo is from before he tried a bite.  Me, I stuck to my favorite, the Grater Tater.  I don’t know why it’s so good, but I basically look forward to it all year.  The nacho cheese is not optional.

We saw the textiles of course, which I always love.  There are never very many things to my taste, but that’s ok – I admire the traditional work too! My husband made me take a picture with his favorite quilt:

Yes, I thought was odd too, but I looked it up, and apparently making crafts out of Crown Royal bags is a thing.   Marc offered to sacrifice and switch to Crown Royal if I wanted to make my own, but I told him that was all right.  It was enough to take the photo.

One last photo that encapsulates the fair for me:

The blue ribbon winner in the “Little Critters” category, which seems to involve anthropomorphic vegetables.  To the left is a vegetable (a parsnip?) wearing a paper towel diaper that reads “change me”.  This, like much of the fair, is a mystery to me.  Who makes these?  What is the judging criteria?  But I don’t know… honestly, it’s sort of sweet in a wholesome, old fashioned way.  Reminds me of the film “State Fair”, which I love and watch every time it comes on Turner classics (although I am sad that I missed the jam judging – if you’ve seen the film you know what I mean!)

 

 

So many thanks

Thank you so much to everyone who wrote me about Sarah Jane.  I showed the comments to my husband, and I know they made him feel  better as well.  I wish I could respond to you each individually, but right now it’s too difficult for me to talk about her.  Know that your words and prayers were truly appreciated.  My friends and family have been wonderful throughout this time – truly I did not know how much support we had, and I am very grateful.    I am feeling at peace with our decision, and every day gets a bit easier.  My other cats are a comfort – Leon (my Maine Coon) who has always been my cat, has taken to lying close to Marc on the sofa, almost as though he knows how much my husband misses having a cat by his side.

People cope with sadness in different ways.  Routine is very comforting to me.  I like to be busy (in general, but especially at difficult times.)  I find talking about my feelings to be extremely difficult.    My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ, which explains a lot about me!  My husband and best friend are all the same type, and we all have this issue.  Which is all a very long way of saying that, though it feels a bit frivilous, I have been taking my me-made-May photos.  It makes me feel better to continue with a project.  I missed the few days where I was the most upset, but otherwise I’ve been trying to get through.  Here are the newest photos/pattern reviews: not my best, but I’m pleased that I took them!

Friday, May 4th

Me-made item: Vogue 8231

Comments: I didn’t finish the entire dress, but I did finish and wear the top on Oaks day (KY derby eve).  I wore this to play the piano for a fundraising brunch.  Funny story: I arrived at the venue on time, having set up my borrowed digital piano the night before.  It worked fine then, but when I turned it on Friday morning I got an error that could not be cleared (something having to do with the soundbank.)  I ended up sending my husband on an emergency piano retrieval mission, and had to play a Casio digital keyboard.  It was not my most shining moment (really, could anything be shining on a Casio keyboard?) but we got through!

I don’t really like the top with these pants.  I was going for a sort of retro cigarette pants look, but I think these pants aren’t quite skinny enough.  This is a place where photos  really help me out – I thought they were ok in the mirror, but I didn’t like any of the photos.  Oh well – I will finish the skirt soon!

After the brunch I changed clothes and went to a cookout at a friend’s house.  Alas, I did not wear anything I made there, but I figure I had met my goal for the day.

About the pattern: well, obviously I haven’t made the skirt, so I’m not doing a full review yet.  I can tell you my alterations:  I used double fold bias tape to finish the armhole and neck edges, and I eliminated the sleeves (I really love bias tape by the way – it makes everything so neat!)  I removed 1″ at center back and tapered the side seams in towards the waist, as it was a bit boxy on me.  It does wrinkle a bit, but not as bad as I initially feared!

I used self-fabric covered buttons on the back.  I cannot recommend buttons on your back unless you never lean back… cute, but not super comfortable!  I will do a full review later, when I finish the skirt.

Saturday, May 5th

Me-made item: Jalie pleated cardigan

Original post: here

Comments: Derby day!  Note my lack of giant hat.  I went to a party and then out for drinks with friends in my neighborhood later, and my goal was to be comfortable!  At most derby parties you tend to sit around, occasionally watch races, and eat lots of little foods, so comfort is key!

Pattern comments: I really like this cardigan – it’s comfortable and long, but not sloppy.  Unfortunately, the pleated detail is lost in this fabric, but it’s still nice!  I would make it again, but my pattern is lost.  Maybe I will buy it again someday.  My fabric is wearing out – not that it’s bad, but I’ve worn this to death!

Sunday, May 6th

Me-made item: McCall’s 6069 

Original post: Here

Comments:

I can’t get over how much longer my hair has grown this year!  And yes, I picked this photo because Leon was in it – he has to be around when I’m taking photos!  Today was mostly for catching up on things – I went grocery shopping (and made an excellent roasted sweet potato/apple salad with sweet balsamic dressing.)  I also took a nice long walk and met my Mom for coffee to discuss plans for my graduation next weekend, and I did a new set of gel nails (the last ones lasted over a week without chipping, but I got bored – I think I could easily get 2 weeks!)

Pattern comments:

I think I might like it more now than when I finished it.  It’s casual and comfortable, and it’s easy to wear in lots of situations.  The back can be a problem – if I don’t watch, and the shoulder seams fall back, it exposes my bra strap.  I don’t think this is a pattern failing – rather, I needed to shorten the armhole length.  This has become a common alteration for me – it seems that I have a short armpit – shoulder length.  The cowl drapes stay in place, even though I didn’t sew them down.

I spilled dressing on this at dinner, but luckily it washed out.  I still may go back and add some hems to this dress, but it’s wearable as is – this was before I had figured out a strategy for hemming knits.

That’s all for now.  Hopefully I will have time to work on my graduation dress tomorrow, so that  I can finish it this week!

Random obsession of the moment: tea

I am possibly a little bit obsessive.  Ok… possibly more than a little!  Maybe you’ve noticed, if you’ve been reading for awhile.  I can’t just try to learn something, I have to set out to know everything possible (see: knitting, sewing, cooking, fitness etc).  I don’t suppose it’s a problem, as I do function quite well in everyday life.  I basically have two types of friends: geeks (mostly of the computer type) and classical musicians.  I myself am a musician married to a computer guy.  I think those two groups have more in common than you would think – namely, high intelligence combined with a level of obsessive focus that is not always socially acceptable, but which leads to being really good at something.

Not all of my interests are all life changing the way sewing was for me, but every few months I do develop an interest in something new.  This month?  Tea.  Real tea, the kind that doesn’t come in a bag.  When I was growing up we always had a few boxes of Celestial Seasonings tea in the house.  Sleepytime tea has a lot of fond memories and good associations for me, and I still drink it.  I don’t recall ever having black tea.  When I went away to college I developed quite a coffee habit (still with me, sadly) and was looking for a way to replace some of that with another hot beverage.  I happened to be rewatching Star Trek: the Next Generation at that time, and Jean-Luc Picard’s constant order of “Earl Grey, hot!” led me to buy a box of Twinings at the supermarket.  Earl Grey tastes rather like perfume, but as it turns out I love bitter or perfumey tastes!  I’ve been drinking the Earl (as I like to call it) ever since (and it’s possible that I may own a set of glass mugs like the ones on the Enterprise… not saying).  I really like Earl Greyer from The Republic of Teas.  It has rather a lot of bergmot, and thus I like it.  In time I branched out to chai (mostly Tazo, because I like the peppery burn) and English Breakfast teas.  I was still using bags, as early experiences with a tea ball had not been good to me.

For the past few years I’ve been attempting to eat very clean – I eat very little meat, lots of fruits, vegetables and grains, and very little processed food.  At this point, I pretty much prefer to eat this way.  Processed food doesn’t taste right to me, although I am never giving up coffee, chocolate, or wine.  I’ve been trying to cut back my coffee a little though – I don’t think too much makes me feel great.  So I turned back to my old friend the Earl of Grey.  I got online and started reading about teas, and found a whole community of people who are really into tea.  I decided I was interested in trying out loose teas, and even some types of tea (like green tea) that I did not care for in the past.  I placed an order for samples and an infuser from Upton Tea, and it arrived today!

The teas come packaged in individual containers with labels and steeping instructions for each tea.  I wish they could be closed – the samples are large enough for quite a few servings!  I also got their current catalog, which is old fashioned and full of awesomeness.  I’m pretty impressed with the way it manages to make drinking tea into a lifestyle!

I also got a permanent filter basket.  I love this thing – it holds all the leaves in, and it’s easy to clean.  Best of all, it fits in my Star Trek mugs!  I’ve already made myself a cup of their Bond Street English Breakfast and it was lovely.

If anyone has any suggestions for teas I’m all ears – I especially love spicy or perfumey blends (I ordered a chai that has pieces of chili peppers in it… I am looking forward to that!)  I want to like green teas, but they always taste like grass to me (I do like green jasmine, again with the perfume.)

So there you go… my obsession of the month.  My husband says that life with me is never boring!

Happy New Year!

It’s that time again – time for my annual year in review!  This year I’ve decided to highlight my favorite posts and projects from the past year.  Let’s get started, shall we?

January

I discussed Sewing rules and how I break them.  I still break all of those rules with gleeful abandon, and I’m sure I’ve added a few new ones!

I made a tutorial for hemming a full skirt.  I have to tell you, I use this method of hemming on over half of my garments and it’s great!  I’ve become more anti hand-hemming this year.  It’s not that I think it looks bad, or that I can’t do it, but I find that I am always having to redo them when stitches come loose!

February

I made Butterick 5523, which probably wins the award for most warn garment.  I can also recommend the Sophia knit (from fabric.com or vogue fabrics) because after many washes it has not pilled like many double knits!

Vogue 1225 (Tracy Reese) wins the award for the garment most likely to garner comments from non-sewers.  That’s funny because I wouldn’t consider it my best finished garment ever (I have yet to put in a real hem!)

March

I traveled to Italy with my chamber group.  I cannot say enough good things about my experience singing in this ensemble – musically it is wonderful, the members have become dear friends, and I got to go to Italy!  We may be traveling to Spain and Portugal next spring, and I’m looking forward to my adventures.

While I was in Italy I completed Me-made-March 2011.  It was a challenge, but I enjoyed it – I certainly put more thought into the mixing of my separates!

April

I made my three favorite projects this year: Vogue 8728, Butterick 5491, and Simplicity 2219.  The last one is my favorite sewing project ever!  I love the fabric, the style, the color… everything about it!

May

I developed an obsession with the 1970s and made Vogue 2343 (Diane Von Furstenberg.)  This dress is lovely, but I must confess that I don’t wear it too often – it has a regrettable tendency to grow, as the matte jersey is quite heavy.

June

I blogged about the connection between sewing and body image, in a post with the most comments I have ever gotten.  I was so touched my the comments and support.  What a great community we have!  This post led to…

July

I was sad in July – one of my best friends moved away, and I was depressed.  Looking for a way to distract myself,  I thought back to my June post, and I resolved to make new healthy habits.  I started working about for the first time in years, and to my surprise it has become a favored hobby in the second half of the year!

I made McCall’s 6277, continuing my obsession with the 1970s (not a vintage pattern, but in the style.)

August

I only completed one project, but I did go to the world’s best estate sale!  Right now I am making a dress from this collection.

September

I have been making a lot of knit projects this fall, including Vogue 1258.  This dress took forever, and sucked up all my time for weeks, but I love the finished project!

October

I made Butterick 5672.  I’ve worn this quite a lot this fall/winter.

November

I resolved to make some tops.  After a  year of wearing mostly dresses I was concerned I was in a style rut, and was honestly a bit bored.  The solution?  Adding some new silhouettes into the mix.  I made McCall’s 6167, which I love so much!  I’ve been wearing a lot of leggings and ponte pants, and even found some skinny jeans that I love (from The Limited, in case you were wondering!)

December

The holiday season is always busy, but this year was crazy – I had a ton of concerts, and I am also preparing to go back to school!  I made McCall’s 6084 to wear in the holidays, and it was a big hit.  Unfortunately, it accidentally got run through the drier, and is just a bit tight in the shoulders, but nothing that can’t be dealt with!

Coming up (goals, not resolutions!)

1. Graduate!

This is a big deal to me.  I should be graduating in May!  This coming semester is going to be busy – I have class 3 days a week, I’m still teaching full time, and I have all my performing groups.  It will all be worth it I know, and I can’t wait to get started (The semester starts January 5th!)

2. Exercise at least 5x a week

I’ve actually been doing well with this, getting 6x most weeks, but I’m setting 5 as my goal since I will be busy!  I’ve completed my Ballet rotation, and I’ve started Chalean Extreme (yeah, I know, the name is terrible, but the program is decent!)  I like the idea of heavier weight training.  I’ve completed the second week and feel stronger already!  I really wanted to try P90X, because a good friend of mine had amazing results, but I know I’m not ready for that yet.  This program is challenging, but lets me ease into the weights!

I’m doing a hiit(high intensity interval training)  workout 1x a week , often the ones at Bodyrock.tv.  I do some other sort of cardio either 1 or 2x a week, and take one day off.  I average 45 minutes a day.   I still cannot believe that I actually enjoy all this!  I notice improved energy and mood overall since I started working out in July.

3. Sew things that I actually wear!

I really do wear all those dresses, so I don’t mean that.  What do I mean?  I plan to continue focusing on what I actually wear, and to make choices based on that.  I’ve been doing really well at that.  Since I started considering what I liked, I’ve had very few unworn garments!

4. Stay Organized

I feel better when my things are organized, but I’m not always good at putting them in order!  Right now my sewing space is clean, and it feels great.  I want to try to remember that feeling, and not allow myself to let the clutter take over!

5. Stay true to myself.

I have made great strides here, but it’s always a goal.  I am happiest when I am true to myself.  I’m not interested in playing a role, or in pretending to be some way that I’m not.  The people in my life love me for who I actually am, and those who don’t?  Aren’t worth it.

2011 was a great year for me, and I’m hoping 2012 can keep up!  Thanks to everyone who reads and comments – even when I don’t have time to answer every one, I appreciate them all.  See you in the new year!

 

 

 

 

Exciting things afoot!

I’m very excited to finally tell you all that I’ve been published!

 

I was asked to interview the featured designer for the Winter 2011 issue of Knitscene magazine.  I had a great time doing the interview and writing up the profile.  Alexis designed the  Figurehead shawl, which I mention starting in the article.  I love her designs in the issue, in particular a really neat sweater dress.  I recommend checking it out!

I have long harbored a secret dream of writing for publication, and I’m hoping this is the first of many opportunities.

My other news?  I’m going back to school!

Due to several issues, I left college with one class remaining for my degree.  Yes… I am that person.  I’ve finally decided that now is the time to finish what I started, so I will be taking my last class and graduating in the spring.  I have felt ashamed for years that I didn’t graduate, so embarrassed that I avoided dealing with the problem for years.   I have several friends who have been instrumental in convincing me that this is where I need to be, and I am very grateful they are in my life!

I had planned to work on getting my sewing room back together this weekend, but I traveled to sing a wedding instead.  I’m hoping to get things in place, because I’m really feeling the itch to make something!  I’ve been knitting on my Kirra sweater, but it’s slow going and a lot of waffle stitch.  I hope to finish soon, because I keep imagining what to wear it with.  Not to mention, it’s been cold, and I’m ready for some sweaters! .

I hope you are all having a lovely weekend, with more crafting that I have managed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working out at home?

Back in the 90s, I had a few workout videos which I would occasionally attempt when I was feeling bored – I can particularly remember an LA gear aerobics video that came with a pair of shoes – I’m pretty sure there was a lot of neon and spandex involved! (I actually spent time looking for this video on youtube, but alas it seems to be lost to time.)

Some of you suggested I give videos a try, and I figured why not?  The university gym has an inconvenient class schedule, and as much as I love the pilates class I just don’t want to go downtown at lunch.

Cats don't understand exercise

So I cleared a space in my living room, getting rid of the eternally messy coffee table, bought a mat and weights, and went to see what was out there.  I’ve been very pleasantly surprised – it isn’t all step aerobics with bad synthesizer music anymore, though that can be fun also (I took step aerobics as my PE elective in college… I can do them,  but they aren’t my favorite thing.)

First I started with my netflix subscription.  There are a few workouts on watch instantly, and I’ve gotten some others through the mail.  Here are the ones I recommend from watch instantly for my fellow beginners:

Crunch “Pick your spot” pilates – (amazon link, but available on watch instantly.)  This was the first video I tried, and I loved it!  The instructor, Ellen Barrett, is very encouraging without being perky.  I know some people enjoy a more militant approach to exercise instruction, but I don’t – I want to be encouraged!  It doesn’t assume previous pilates experience, and it’s broken down into three 10 minute segments – for abs, thighs, and rear.  Almost the entire thing takes place on a mat.  Highly recommended, as it isn’t too terribly long!

Crunch Super SlimdownBy the same instructor as the first video – I just love her, and in fact I ended up buying two of her studio dvds !  This is a blend of yoga and pilates, but not exactly either one.  This wasn’t my favorite – it’s bit harder and longer than the first video above, but still totally do-able (though I wouldn’t do it without understanding a bit about pilates and yoga first, as there isn’t as much focus on form.)

I bought or borrowed the following dvds:

Leslie Sansone’s 5k with a twistWhen I first heard about indoor walking videos, my first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  I borrowed this from a friend, who assured me that it was awesome.  I walked with this tape last night, and it was more fun than I thought!  The music is upbeat, and Leslie herself is very positive and encouraging.  She does chatter pretty much non-stop, but that’s fine with me – I want to be distracted!  It’s not all walking – you also do step touches, kicks, and grapevines.  Each mile finishes up with a 2 minute burst of running in place, to get the heart up.  She’s also very clear about modifications for the more high impact parts (if you can’t jump/run etc.)  I’m interested to try a different one of her walks – some of them use handweights etc.

Ballet Body WorkoutApparently I’m not the only one who harbors childhood fantasies of being a ballerina.  There are a ton of these ballet inspired workouts out there!  This particular dvd is nice – it only requires light weights, but has a ton of plies, and some pilates-like floor work.  I feel very graceful doing it, which I love!  I bought it with one of those “buy both dvds for X price” from Amazon with Xtend Barre.  I haven’t tried that one yet, but it looks more intense – it uses a chair as a faux barre.   Barre workouts are very popular… there is a pure Barre studio here, but it’s super expensive, so I won’t be trying that – I’m glad to have found videos!

Slim Sculpt and Fat Burning FusionThese dvds are led by Ellen Barrett, the instructor from the first two above.  They are a blend of ballet, pilates, yoga, and toning work.  Slim Sculpt has a great arm section, while the other is more lower body (and faster paced.)  I love them both – I like that I don’t have to hyperventilate to feel that I have worked hard!  I’d recommend both of these to people who – like me – dread the idea of exercise.

That’s it!  As you can see, I haven’t yet ventured into real cardio workouts at home.  I’ve been using the elliptical at the gym, which I love because it’s no impact, or walking.   I went to a zumba class, and I know everyone loves it, but I think it’s not for me.  It’s not that it’s dance, it’s that I am latin dance challenged, and I don’t really like latin music very much.  I do plan to try some other dancey type classes or tapes, and if anyone has any recommendations for dvds that would be great!

I leave you with a photo of my next project: Vogue 1250.  I felt left out, so we will see if I like it!