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.

Oh.

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.

Awl That

I finally went to Art Things yesterday and found myself an Awl.1 I’ve been looking for one passively for the past few months. Back in March I found myself in a lovely little stationary store and asked the Lady at the counter. “Oh, that’s something they would probably carry at Art Things, have you been there?” She asked. “It’s really cool.”  And it was indeed really cool. Crammed to the brim with everything from clay to handmade paper to blocks of beeswax and Asian ink stones. There were brushes and pens and a whole cabinet of glues specifically for paper; and they have the cleverest little bureaus with deep, wide, shallow drawers filled with a mind numbing array of paper options. And yes, they even had a book awl, for putting holes in paper.

In fact, they had three – round and wooden, straight and wooden, and medium – and not only did they have it, and know right where it was, but the kind lady who found it for me knew that the round one was for working in by hand and the straight one was for pounding in with a hammer.

So I made my first little booklet.

This is a basic Japanese Stab Binding, which you can either google or go to this slightly spammy page. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I one day reached this level? But as you can see, I am not there yet. I used one of my flimsy plastic cutting boards instead of a mat, sliced 16 sheets of letter paper into fourths using the simple expedient of folding the pages rather than measuring them, and didn’t precisely line my papers up before stabbing away. The effect is rather homey.

Also homey but not shown: the teapot I discovered on my desk when I cleared a spot for the cutting board.

One day I will master precision.

Awl that to say, I’m excited to have a little notebook to carry around again! I think it’s been at least a year since I filled up my last Fat Book and SO much time has been wasted, waiting around without pen and paper to hand. I mean yes, I could always pack a sock to knit . . . . Hahaha. Who am I kidding? The shawl trapped in my desk drawer would leap out and throttle me if I picked up another set of needles!

 

Pen and paper are much safer companions over all.

 

Gotta love flexibility

Socks Off    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Or is that, “in Awl”?

Skipping a Beat: Or, the Tempo Revs Up

Dear Readers,

I have been thinking of you quite often over the past few weeks. For one thing, I really wanted to post at least once every month this year, and was all ready to pop in on the last day of March, even if my entry only said “Made it!” And yet, somehow, I missed it. For once it is productivity that is stopping me, for now when I have both energy to do something and time to do it I find a dozen different projects lie happily at my feet. Thus the theme of this blog, I suppose. A woman of many hobbies, and devote of none.

To show how much I’ve thought of you I have some pictures. They prove my intent to share these mini-milestones, for I certainly do not take them for myself, and I have yet to start instagraming. See, here’s one from March showing the first little seedlings:IMG_0687

Behold, arugala (I’m pretty confident about this, but considering the lemon balm/lime basil incident. . . . ). There are also little poky leaves which are either cress or borage (or lemon balm, I suppose). Now that they are developing real leaves I’m siding towards borage. The dill is coming out too now, its seedlings like little blades of split grass. A volunteer army from last years horridly lanky pair. Saturday I went out and “weeded” as an excuse to stare deeply into the dirt and soak up the beautiful warmth of the sun. I did a little thining, and confirmed that the mundane looking seedlings in the door-wise corner are indeed cilantro, as I hoped. The seedlings smell of it all ready, and I wait in hungry anticipation for the summer. All I need now is for some of the winter thyme to show itself and my joy will be complete, as far as the large box goes.

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Look, whales!

Oh, what is this picture? Knitting? Yes, do not be shocked, this is a glimpse of a Christmas present for the Geekette. Finished in March and given hastily before I could find yet another thing wrong with it. I am really happy about them, but those decreases on the left hand! Finishing wool mittens in March was an excellent strategy to chase away the chill weather, but not a good idea if you want immediate confirmation of their long-term comfort. That’s okay, they are done and it’s not her birthday. I can cultivate a little patience for the weather’s whims.

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Now this is really for you, I have been learning HTML and CSS. Prior to this I’ve picked things up mainly by poking into themes and making Decollate – fun but maddening. This time I am trying to learn from the ground up. I have watched the first few videos of Do Not Fear the Internet, interspersed with the appropriate lesson section from Code Academy. Here is my review of Code Academy after completing their basic website course: they make things quite easy to follow and allow hands on application to drive each point home. I love this way of learning, their use of badges and percentages, and their general layout. Only three things have annoyed me so far:

1) The window where you get to see your changes magically manifest is buggy (in Safari) and instead of scrolling you have to select the contents and drag in order to see anything below the top two inches.

2) The website likes to refresh and Boot You Out. I googled it and, for once, I’m not the only one with this problem. Frustrating but not really a big deal (it usually saves your progress).

3) The course I’m taking is how to make a website. We had just gotten started on the topic that I really, really care about – positioning – when they pulled out the magic wand and shouted “Bootstrap.” I think bootstrap is cool and all, but not in a class. Please teach me how to actually position things first, and then introduce me to possible shortcuts. I’m taking their HTML & CSS language course next and I’ll let you know if it covers the subject any better.

Between these two sites I am learning quite a bit, and you can keep up with my progress here (when I finally insert a link ^_^ EDIT: Done!). Eventually I will be able to make my own theme, and then there will be no stopping me (bwhahaha!). Look forward to it!

 

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A more recent picture of sprouts.

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:

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Right Pocket

With Pockets and Ruffles

Apron at Last

That’s right, I have a finished non-food object for your wondering eyes to feast on. Or is that wandering eyes? You remember of course that pocket, which I referenced as recently as, what, three posts ago? Well, after being taken up, taken out, put down and laid away the two pockets have finally been stitched to the skirt of their intended apron, the skirt edges finished, the ties atached, and the bodice allowed to crown the whole thing, bringing it into completion.

It does feel rather nice to finally finish something, and something useful at that. But better than all else is how relaxing it was to sit and hand sew the pockets to the skirt. (Aren’t they clever? I got them from By Gum By Golly). I wouldn’t say that the activity was fun or enjoyable – certainly not as intoxcicating as, say, marathoning a TV show, or staying up until three finishing a book. Yet sitting in my own living room, with the christmas tree finally subdued in one corner and Karen Savage’s soothing accent readingng out Persuasion from the speakers, what more could be wanting for a peaceful evening (and morning and afternoon) of employment?Right Pocket

I discoverd a lot of things while making this apron, most of them things I had quite on purposely swept under the rug of memory. For instance, I don’t like measuring twice, mostly becasue I find it difficult enough to measure correctly the first time. There is a bit of wonky stitching on the ties from where I haphazardly ironed the folds without any measuring or desire for consistency. This led to trouble when I went acros the bodice and couldn’t see both sides of the ties. Whoops. Missed a spot.

More interesting, I found that I like hand sewing a whole lot more than machine sewing. I’m not any neater with my stitches when I sew by hand, but when I’m at the machine my greatest desire becomes Being Done and all my efforts focus toward speed. Hand sewing is soooo much slower by comparison that, even if I do think up a short cut, there is usually enough time to realize the flaws before I get there. What’s more, as long as there is something to entertain my mind – like music or a book or, if trusted myself more, TV – I find I actualy like the process of hand sewing. The movement of the needle in and out of the fabric, the glint of silver, the clash or blending of colors, whichever it may be. I discovered this kind of contentment while crosstitching too, which is of course unfortunate because I can’t help but think of cross stitching as one of those pretty but inherently dead-end arts, and hand sewing one’s own clothes, while impressive, sounds dangerously close to, say, climbing mount everest with only one granola bar or watching paint dry in a room without proper ventilation.

At any rate, here is an apron as a testimony that we can focus and get things done. That hand sewing can be the highlight of your week. That Persuasion has more angst behind a single “good morrow” than a trunk full high school dramas. And that, yes, not even ruffles can keep you from getting flour stains.Not wrong

These are from when I “tried it out” by making cupcakes. I only reazlied it when I was eating them later (and reading the last chapters of the book, becasue reading is faster than listening) but the characters in Persuassion spend a bit of time visiting Lymes, England and I happened to make Lime, Cupcakes. If you think it’s rather limp as a connection, I have it on good authority that lime can be used to crisp things up too – though that’s mineral kind, and usually in relation to pickels. Anyway, I wish I could remember where I first read about lime cupcakes. I was going to make lime something for dessert anyway, because I had them languishing in my firdge, but I don’t think cupcakes could have come to my mind without help. I used this recipe, utilizing all the juice from two limes (and using lemon-milk instead of buttermilk). I made the frosting too, but I couldn’t taste any rum in and it was too sweet to put on already sweet cupcakes. Plus, depsite loving fat in all its forms and having no qualms with sneaking it out of the mixing bowl, I still cannot get past the idea that eating this type of frosting = digging into a stick of butter. I haven’t had the desire to do that in the past, oh, decade or so (the last time I did my dad caught me. Enough said).

So, the stats for the apron:

Pattern:  Kitchen Confection’s Pleated Apron

Fabric: Random bits that came from other people. The skirt, for instance, is left over from a history fair table cloth. The fabric for the pockets is from my Grandma N’s collection.

Cost: All material I had on hand, so no cost at all.

Modifications: I couldn’t figure out the purpose of the bodice pleats. They were dashed awkward, so I took them out. Then I forgot all about the pleating when I sewed on the pockets and ended up leaving that off too because it made the fabric near the pockets lay weird. I didn’t line the skirt, but put the top between the right-sides-together waist ties and sewed the ties’ sides and straight across. Then I turned them right-side out, ironed down the still open edge, stuck in the bodice, and top-stitched the whole shebang.

First worn: Saturday 14th, making Cupcakes

Make it again?: Yes. The bodice is too wide for me at the top, and probably too long too. Plus, whoever heard of a kitchen with only one apron? I already know what colors I want for my next one.

Hmm, what’s better? Tasty cupcakes, tasty aprons, or finally getting something out of your workbasket?Tkae Heart