Whatever May

. . . . There is something about the month of May that begs for puns. No other month is so open to them. Sure, you can March over to April, but once you have done so you’re out of it. May has a bit more range.

But I’m not really writing about May. Nor am I writing about writing, if you can believe it, nor Spring, nor plans future, nor any such wishy-washy excuse to ramble. No. I am writing about a belt.


I can not fully remember life before the belt. I thought of it barely two months into my new job, as my boss casually pulled pliers, screw drivers, and wire strippers out of the pouch that clipped to his own belt loops. His phone handily mounted beside it. His multitude of keys dangling from a carabiner on the other hip. I myself ran back and forth from whatever tool room was closest, and struggled not to walk so far from my phone that I couldn’t hear it vibrate. I have no pockets worth mentioning, and exactly zero functioning belt loops. To acquire either would mean radically renovating my wardrobe and, even more, abandoning the haphazardous collection of silhouettes that constitutes what might be termed my style. Doggedly I struggled on, all the while dreaming of the perfect belt. A work belt. A belt of pockets and loops. And then, finally, after a year of minor frustrations and inefficiency, I buckled down and made it.


That was in September. By November I had stopped pretending any kind of civilized fashion sense and had started wearing it out all places, even to church. I wore it to a wedding too, over my Little Black Dress (my excuse was that I was also playing the bartender and so, technically, since I wasn’t a guest, I didn’t have to be in full formal attire). It’s quite amusing to remember that the number two reason I hesitated to make it in the first place was feared self conciseness about how it would look. Pooh. Practicality once again has ground my vanity into the dust with a contemptuous laugh. Besides, I’ve gotten compliments on it. Not just “how cute” either, though those are nice, but the slightly more grown up “how clever.” The only draw back to the later is I can’t really remember how I made it, and so can’t be sure if it was really clever or some combination  of luck and an uncured predilection for hoarding.


The belt has saved me a lot more than missed work emails and a few thousand extra steps to track down tools. I made a vow to myself last year that if I didn’t show some initiative and make something useful, sewing wise, by the end of January, 2017, I would pack my sewing kit up and give it all away. The belt was a such a success that even if it hadn’t been followed by two much smaller creations the room would have been spared. In a lot of ways it seems like such a minor victory, when my goal is always public-acceptable clothes, but if I stop and think about it, even a well made shirt would only be worn once a week. The belt gets worn six or seven times that.


Okay, for those who care about such things, here’s a very non-technical write up of my process for making it, as far as I can remember. The material I used was the waistband and part of the pant leg of a pair of second-hand capris I purchased four or five years ago. The original intention was to make a skirt, but honestly I bought them becasue the buttons were so cute and I loved all the little details. I had some extremely complicated ambitions for the belt originally, but by the time I’d completed them the plan had been reduced to two rectangles. The top rectangle was both longer and taller than the back piece. Since there was a flat felled seam running about two inches from the bottom of my fabric, I decided to make that the bottom edge for added strength and structure – this also brought the tops up to a similar height. Serendipity. I’m not sure if I actually realized I would need a 3D structure in order to really fit things in these pockets, perhaps I hit upon the idea of tucks simply becasue the  top piece was so much longer than the back and I was too lazy to cut it, or maybe it was because folding the felled seam down to the bottom edge created an excess of fabric that had to go somewhere. Either way, once I had the pleats down everything else was history. The inclusion of the pants’ coin pocket was another conceit of accidental brilliance. I included it becasue it was too cute to toss aside, but it has turned out to be indispensable for holding mini USBs, quarters, screw heads, and VGA adapters.


The hard parts were all in attaching the binding and cleaning up the edges of the waistband – I had hacked it off without really thinking a whole lot about how I wanted it finished and didn’t really leave myself much space for seam allowances. I ended up binding it with fabric from the leg. It works, becasue of the nature of the item, but is neither professional nor elegant. The pocket strip, too, was a little tricky to attach to the belt, and the depth of the pockets meant there was more weight in them than my original seaming could hold. I ended up supplementing it with safety pins until around December, when I went over it with enough stitches to keep King Kong tied down. I have a multitude of plans for remaking these, and most of them involve a strip of only three pockets – more space really is less, I’ve found. For a more sophisticated interpretation I would love to make a zippered pouch on the underside, perhaps in the band itself, for passport like things which shouldn’t be openly advertised.


Already this belt is showing signs of, shall we say, excessive love. My flawed but pretty bound edge has been worn open in a half dozen places, and in one of the places I reinforced with extra stitches the fabric itself has given out and formed a hole. Strangely, I’m not really saddened or alarmed by these ominous signs. The knowledge that this garment can be, if not recreated, at least replaced is rather delicious, and though I might put it off longer than is really wise, I’m still looking forward to the challenge.

Fall into Observation

Here’s another Camera 360 shot. It contains basically everything I hate in a FO (Finished Object) photo. That is, my posture is akward, the colors and lighting have been played with mercilessly, and look! On purpose blurring! What is this, a cover for Vogue?

Leaning Into the Fog

The picture was taken by the Geekette’s sister, who is awesome enough that she deserves her own name (the mad editing is my own). We three had a crazy-fun, impromptu photo-shoot with her iPhone a week or so ago. A hasty request last night, a short text, and suddenly I have photos of the belt in action. Yes, the belt is the thing on display here, reader. Here it is in a more utilitarian shot:


I’m rather pleased with it. The pattern was discovered simply by searching for “obi,” and you can get it here. I modified it in that I cut out double of everything, sewing all the pieces right sides together and then turning them out to hide the seams. The pattern was easy, but I still managed a couple of beginner mistakes. The most obvious is that I didn’t change my thread from pink to green. Who’s going to see it? I thought. So now I have delicate pink stitches peeping out from the edges of my deep green belt.

I eventually gave in and rethreaded the machine, but not the bobbin

Luckily they seem to be pretty invisible from a distance. I’m also having an on-going issue with puckering seams. I assume this is some kind of tension/feeding problem, but none of my knobs are fixing it. I have a sinking feeling my sewing machine needs its under half cleaned and oiled. My other trouble was with matching sides. I still have no idea what actually happened, but at one point I seemed to have four tie pieces, all with the right side exactly the same (instead of having two of them flipped). I think I spent twenty minutes trying to figure out how this was possible, and ended up just pinning up two pairs and cutting new tips.


The other change I made was lining the stomach with an awesome light-but-stiff purple fabric, which I think of as acrylic organza. I was gifted a whole bolt of it. It’s quite special to me, as it was used as the back drop for a wedding between two very dear long time friends. I like thinking that little bits of their commitment are being used here and there around my house, as if by such constant incorporation their bound is being strengthened. Poetics aside, my intention was to stiffen the belt so that it wouldn’t scrunch or wrinkle as easily. Though the organza helped a bit, next time I make this belt I will definitely use a heavier fabric. I would also shorten the stomach by an inch. My notable areas are quite brief, and the belt spreads beyond the borders of my waist, giving it another excuse to fold up at the edges as I move throughout my day.


Random Vegetable Stew: Pool of olive oil, one onion, three cloves of garlic, a medium bit of potato, four stalks of celery, a handful of turnip and kale greens from the farm, two mild peppers from the farm, three pepperoncini, a dollop of remaining frozen spinach, bonito stock powder, miso, fish sauce, random seasining from an instant curry kit now stored in a glass jar.

No, this is not a belt





Seven Hour Socks

No, I havn’t started a foot-focused knitting project. In fact, I haven’t really started any knitting project at all. This post is strictly about the sewing. Or possibly it’s about procrastination, and is only masquerading as a post about progress. Which takes us back to the title, I suppose, becasue really I do feel as if I’ve slipped on a pair of seven league boots, only instead of traversing many miles in a single stride, I’ve managed to walk briskly from August right into October. This feeling is supported by the fact that time spent working (read: sitting at a desk) goes. So. Slowly. But all the little in between bits pass by in a blur.  Sometimes it feels like I’ve merely stepped out of my car in one week and entered it again in another.

The feeling has been growing since the beginning of August, about the time I started this apron. It was going to be simple. Easy. A way to ease myself into the sewing world, since the half a dozen unfinshed garments I have stowed cleverly out of the way seem to be telling me that jumping in head first only works when there is water in the pool.  Things were looking good. And then I decided that I wanted these pockets. And that, of course, meant embroidery. So I got a stitch dictionary out from the library and amused myself with making a spoon and several teaspoons worth of sugar crystals.  This was done realtively fast for me, and I predcited the apron would be done before my birthday.

Or I did, right up until I realized I had to do something for the other pocket. I spent days and days agonizing over what it should say, and when I finally did decide, September Happened. At least, I think it happened. It’s all a little hazy and I don’t really have anything to show for the time I spent there, which makes me think I spent the whole month trotting around in my seven hour socks. The long and short of it is that, at the beginning of October, the second pocket looked something like this:

Well, Monday night I was at Bible study and, in an effort not to fidget during the endlessing notes, I put my hand in my pocket and found, drum roll, the above, folded, with a needle stuck carefully through it. I unpicked my unfortunate attempt at stem stitch and made a simple ‘R’. Yesterday I picked it up and put in the N, E, Y, J, O and heart that completed the pocket. Just like that. Maybe two hours, tops, and suddenly the thing I had been putting off becasue I was sure it would be boring and difficult was done. I tripped happily up the stairs to sew the backs on both pockets.

The happily delusioned can stop reading here, x-out of their screens, and just float away in a cloud of ignorant contentment, confident that this story ends with me happily hand sewing the pockets to my apron front. Those already embittered with the world, or trying to find out how to get the magic out of their own dimension-defying-footware, have probably already guessed what happened next, for it is exactly the thing that would happen to someone who left their sewing machine out, untouched, for three months. Thirty minutes after tripping up the stairs, with the bobbin finally full and loaded, I put my foot to the pedal and heard “whirr, whirr, bliiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.”


I think I’ll come back to this project later. Maybe after a short walk?

The Non-resolution of 2013

One of the things I feel quite strongly about it is making resolutions you know you are never really going to keep. That’s too much like lying to my taste. Also, I really, really hate to lose.

I always lose when it comes to resolutions and and other goal-like promises.

But I also hate sitting and saying “not gonna'” just because you don’t think anything you do will ever bear fruit. Like just sitting there is any better of an option, at least failing gives you something to laugh at, if not learn from. So for 2013 I’m, not resolving, but pledging to be part of The Cationess sew-along. It’s specifically geared toward stash busting, which is hardly my problem, but the more laid back nature of using up unwanted extra fabric is quite inviting. I only have 1.5 weeks left, what do you think I should make for January?


I haven’t accomplished much today, but I have that very satisfying, full-up feeling that seems to wrap itself around my spine whenever I have enjoyed a book, and I have definitely been enjoying a book. I obviously need to extend my circles, for I had not heard of Georgette Heyer until a week ago, even though anyone who knows me must realize that anything taking place in the Regency period is sure to elicit, if not absolute delight, at least a little polite amusement. Even in the realm of science fiction, some of my favorite works have been described as “space regency.” Oh, just the idea of dinners, and etiquette, and giving someone the cut all while piloting spaceships and discovering plots of intergalactic espionage . . . well, whose heart wouldn’t give a little leap?
       Just because I haven’t been productive today (or the day before that) doesn’t mean I never get anything done, and it is to prove this that I present to you The Kindle Case:

Design: my own.
Execution: my own.
Awesomeness: the fault of the orange and blue, plastic coated fabric which takes the place of honor on the outside of the case.
          Inside is providence, in the form of some blue fabric scavaged from wht I’m am informed was once a curtain, though surely I can’t remember my family ever having curtains of either this style or shade. I still need to affix the closure, in the form of a hook and eye, to the tab and front flap. Also, having used it to read Cotillion this morning, I find that it might be sensible to add a small strap for my glasses to hang off of, and perhaps a small pocket for that most necessary of companions, the tissue. I can’t seem to go anywhere without wanting one eventually, and as of yet, my wardrobe is singularly lacking in pockets. Yes, I often feel like Corduroy.
          I’m loving my kindle, despite my passion for the feel and smell of it’s ink and paper counter parts. I love that when it turns off it shows me pictures of Agatha Christie, Jane Austin, or Charlotte Bronte, as if it knows that these ladies are particular favorites of mine. The knowledge that I can lay it aside to transfer a load of laundry, or nuke a plate of pancakes, without having to worry about finding my place is quite comforting. I slide the switch to the right and the green light flickers on as the screen hesitates. I catch my breath, will my page be lost? I know that if my kindle’s recall fails the chances of me finding my page will be wholly dependent on my patchy memory and dexterity in querying. I can only feel apprehension as the page loads. Slowly the ink dissolves away and then reforms itself. Letters, words, in truth the exact page I was perusing not a moment before, restores itself to my sight. It makes the necessity of bookmarks quite unnecessary, which is good. I am out of the habit of using them, even for really long, ink and paper books, and it has been many years indeed since I dared crease a corner for the purpose. I might stow a tissue in between the pages when interrupted suddenly from time to time, but I can usually navigate the pages of a book without any such aid.
         In fact, the only bookmarks I use with any kind of regularity are those found on the internet. These I find quite useful, and employ them to the point where they are almost a collection. I have some that are older than my current computer, and some that were added just yesterday, and the task of keeping them properly organized is my constant delight. Some of them deserve more than to be stored in my dusty files (though, I suppose there is no dust in an electric folder). With this in mind, I propose to introduce them to you in hopes that, even if they don’t end up on your own list of bookmarks, they will at least be a little aired out.

                             (Emily Dickinson, another favorite, as I too have “never seen a moor.”)