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March 30, 2012

How does she eat?

Caitlyn has lost yet another tooth, bringing her count of currently missing teeth to four: three on top, one on the bottom. This time, she bit down on a cinnamon roll rather injudiciously and knocked the tooth sideways. When straightening it didn't quite help with the discomfort, she agreed to let me pull it. She spent several minutes mentally preparing herself for this trauma, sucking on ice cubes, being held by Mama.

Caitlyn, March, 2011

The tooth came out easily. Caitlyn squawked like a kid getting ready to cry, paused long enough to realize that it didn't hurt at all, and busted up laughing.

She still has another really loose tooth on the bottom, one that's been really loose for weeks. You can kinda see it in the photo; it's the one next to the center two bottom incisors that doesn't quite line up with the ones next to it. How she managed to eat the rest of her cinnamon roll without this one coming out as well is one of life's little mysteries.

So to answer the question: Messily. Caitlyn's about out of biting teeth these days, although she's got four new molars coming in so chewing isn't so much of a problem. We had falafel burgers the other day, and Caitlyn needed hers cut into bite-sized portions. Fun times!



March 28, 2012

(Circus) Graduation Day

Last week, Caitlyn had her last class with Leslie, her circus coach of at least two years. Time to move on to Circus 2B!

I don't often bring a camera to circus class. Most of the time, parents are gently directed to an observation room. Because of the way SANCA has grown, these days the observation room overlooks only about half the gym, resulting in about 2/3 of Caitlyn's circus time happening out of view. But every twelve weeks, out come the folding chairs for "Demonstration Week." I brought the camera and followed the class around, ignoring the chairs and watching everything through the viewfinder. Classic parent moment.

headstand
Every class starts out with warm ups and then tripods to headstands.

handstand
Then something they call "kick ups", followed by handstands against the wall.

trampoline
Caitlyn loves the trampoline. But it's really hard to get good photographs! The class has worked up to a "trampoline routine" involving seat drops, dropping to hands and knees, dropping to a flat on-the-belly position, and rotations while jumping. They all tend to travel a bit as they jump, but they all have remarkable control when it comes to freezing on command and walking off the tramp.

tightwire
It's not circus without a tightwire! Caitlyn can get about two, sometimes three, steps down the wire before wobbling and leaping off. I think she'd do better if she slowed down and didn't try to race to the other end!

rope climbing
Climbing might be Caitlyn's favorite activity. She is pretty pleased with how high she can climb, but so disappointed she didn't make it all the way to the top, especially since this is one of the activities I almost never see from the observation room. I think she made just a little bit further up than this, about 14 or 16 feet off the mat, before heading down. After this summer, she'll be old enough to think about specializing if she wants to, focusing more on aerial work or tumbling skills.

At the end of class, we took a class picture (since there were all these parents with cameras) and the kids arranged themselves in a pyramid. Caitlyn was in the center bottom position, sharing the weight of two of her classmates with the other two in the bottom row. They stayed like that for several minutes it seemed, which is pretty impressive strength and balance for a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds.

Saying thanks to Leslie
Caitlyn made a drawing just for Leslie and wrote out a thank you note, which we packaged up in another of In Color Order's lined drawstring bags. I got to use my new Fasturn tools to make the drawstring, too! Caitlyn's bummed that Leslie won't be her coach any more, but she's already looking forward to her new class (new coach, new friends, new skills, longer sessions) on Thursday.





March 26, 2012

Picking through The 100

Since I'm thinking about wardrobe improvement these days, I checked out The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own. Coletterie had recently posted about this book, asking about what 100 pieces would be in readers' personal essential collections.

First off, what's with the word "stylish"? Every person has a "style" - maybe it's trendy or sloppy instead of classy or elegant, but it's still a style. How did "stylish" come to mean "style worth copying"? Why is "stylish" associated with looking as though you have nothing better to do than drink cocktails and inspire people to wonder how recently you last had sex?

I do appreciate author Nina Garcia's note in the introduction: this shiny silver book of 100 items is her list of 100 must-haves, and other people's lists are probably different. Since I sincerely doubt I can come up with 100 fashion-related things I couldn't live without (and I'm not sure I would like myself if I could), I am instead viewing this list as a list of suggestions, things I might consider as part of my Wardrobe Improvement Project. If I want to get out of my rut of faded jeans and floppy shirts, perhaps the Must-Haves of a New York fashionista can be the perfect source of inspiration.
1. A-Line Dress: Something to think about trying. I don't think I've ever worn one, since I like to highlight my waist. It's also a common profile in dresses for toddlers and preschoolers, so I'm a little concerned that this profile isn't appropriate for me. Also, I'd probably want it a little longer than is properly "stylish". Maybe it's something to look for on those rare occasions I find myself shopping.

6. Bangles: I've always liked the idea of bangles, ever since the popular girls wore loads of plastic jelly bracelets in fifth grade. Still, I'm not sure I'll go shopping for bangles. Maybe I'll luck into some nice ones someday.

7. Belts: Since my waist is a part of my body I'm not trying to camouflage, it's perhaps surprising that I have only three (strictly functional) belts. I did just discover that A Fashionable Stitch sells belt kits, though, so maybe more may be in my future.

10. Black Opaque Tights: While mine are probably not as opaque as Ms. Garcia would recommend (since I can't bring myself to spend $80 on a pair of tights), these are my choice for leg-exposing cool season outfits.

11. Blazer: I had one in college. Loved it. It's gone now, and I've no idea what happened to it. I'd like to replace it, probably with a more fitted version.

13: Brooch: I'd like one, if only to keep shawls from automatically falling off 30 seconds after wrapping them.

17. Cape: I have one, and I made it. It almost never comes out to play, though, since in Seattle, cool enough for a cape is almost always also too wet for this particular cape. Perhaps one day I'll make a new one, in something less likely to soak up every tiny raindrop.

18. Cashmere Sweater: I'd love one, thanks! Not that I'm sure how it would fit into my life (how does one wash cashmere?), so I don't really see this as an upcoming purchase.

26. Denim Jacket: Somehow I made it through the 80s without acquiring one of these. Still want one, though.

28. Driving shoe: A "more fashionable option to the loafer". I have two pairs of black 8 hole Dr. Martens (one for yard work, one for everyday), a pair of black pumps, a pair of black knee-high boots with minimal heel, and a pair of walking sandals. Once upon a time, the Docs were all I needed. These days, I'm thinking maybe I should branch out a bit. Perhaps a "driving shoe" could be an option. Only if they come in black, though.

36. Gloves: Someday, I'll have a pair of properly fitting leather gloves.

38. Hobo Bag: Would this "Go Anywhere" bag work?

42. Jeans: The foundation of my current wardrobe. And since I'm not going to throw out something that's working, jeans will probably remain a key piece of the clothing puzzle. I plan to try making my own, since I'm officially tired of jeans (like everything else) being too short.

45. Knee Boots: I love tall boots, but finding them without a sky-high heel is hard. Maybe if I wore high heels more often, they wouldn't hurt so much. But this is one of those areas where comfort is going to outweigh fabulous. I simply cannot feel amazing when my feet hurt!

48. Little Black Dress: More versatile than the Evening Gown (# 30), even I know about the importance of the little black dress. Doesn't mean I own one, though.

53. Man's White Shirt: I stole one from Ian years ago.

62. Pajamas: These are are my Make Someday list.

65. Pencil Skirt: Like the A-line Dress, I think I might want to try this, just because I never have. Push my edges a little. Just because really full and really long has been the standard skirt for me doesn't mean I might not be stuck in a rut and in need of a little shake-up.

73. Robe: Before I went to college, I asked for a robe. My grandmother, bless her heart, bought me a green terry cloth robe, size small. On me, that means that it's just past my knees, with 3/4 length sleeves. Someday, when I'm a grown up, maybe I'll have a robe that fits.

97. Wide Leg Trousers: Much like the pencil skirt and A-line dress, I'd like to try these just to see how they look on me. I think I need a digital version of myself I can dress up, so I can try these things with minimal up-front investment.

98. Wrap Dress: See above.
So there it is. Twenty-one items that appeal, seven of which I'm likely to work on (belts, blazer, bag, jeans, LBD, pencil skirt, trousers). The list didn't include basic tops (I can't really count cashmere as a basic), and my project definitely includes these.

Raise your hand if you think I'm biting off more than I can chew!

March 23, 2012

The Blocks of March

It's Block of the Month round-up time!

Blogger's BOM - Feb
First up, the block for the Blogger's BOM. It's really February's block, but since new blocks are announced late in the month, I just make them the following month.

In Color Order's HST BOM - Mar
This block looks like February, what with the pink/red/purple thing. I guess I wasn't thinking things through all the way when I picked out the solids for this block. Mostly I wanted to be sure that I wasn't leaning too hard on the yellow, orange, and green I'd used in the last two blocks. I started with blue instead of the pink, but it seemed there wouldn't be any bright spots that way. So, pink.

Still, this block makes me happy. Lots of fun to be had with Jeni's HST BOM. And I'm super excited about my plans for putting these together into a full quilt... I'm having a hard time waiting until the blocks are done!

Crafty BOM - Mar
String blocks! Craftsy's BOM focused on string blocks this month and I'm in love! I've been pinning string blocks on my Quilt Inspiration board and now that I know how to do them (how did I not know how to put together a string block before this???), all I can think about is string quilts.

Crafty BOM - Mar
This "broken spider web" block would make a wonderful quilt. It could go totally scrappy but I'm thinking more about using strips with a narrow range of colors, like this:
spiderweb quilt mock up
... or maybe make each "spider web" a slightly different color.

I also want to do this:
string quilt mock up
Again, totally possible and cool with random scraps, but so lovely when the colors are limited! Or what if the colors in the "squares" were shifted a bit so the end effect was a spectrum made out of these on-point strings? I bet it'd be pretty, although the planning might make my head explode.

Realistically, I'll probably start with a scrappy version. It'll be too late for Stitched in Color's Festival of Scrappiness, but when the pile of skirts and dresses for Caitlyn is finished, I'll have tons of bright scraps to work with.



March 21, 2012

Not for me

This one is Ian's. And it's not black!
blue flannel for Ian

This is a shirt of firsts.

It's my first plaid. I'm absurdly pleased with myself for how closely I got the stripes to line up. The hardest part was more the fault of the fabric than the plaid. This is a rather loosely woven flannel, with a tendency to wobble. So the stripes may line up, but they aren't totally straight.

blue flannel for Ian
It's the first time I did anything more to finish off an edge beyond zig-zagging it. I flat-felled just about everything, making it the first time I paid as much attention to the inside of something as the outside. I was a little afraid I would feel this process was taking too long, but instead I'm finding I'm really pleased with myself. Sure it took longer, but it was time taken to do something right. As a bonus, these seams should be super durable. Maybe not so much a consideration for Ian but a good thing when making clothes for Caitlyn.

It's the first time I properly used the overlock feature on my machine, after stumbling over a post out there on the interwebs which explained how the overlock stitch was supposed to work. I've just used the zig-zag stitch in the past for finishing raw edges. Maybe now I'll go find out how the blind hem stitch is supposed to work.

blue flannel for Ian
I used almost all my presser feet: walking foot for long seams, which helped with the wobbling fabric; regular foot for other seams; overlock foot for finishing off the armscye; blind hem foot since I could treat it like an edgestiching foot; and the buttonhole foot. I didn't use the zip foot (no zipper!) or my new quilting foot. It's the first time I've been that conscientious about using the right foot for the job.

Label in a shirt
And I now have labels! Not that Ian needs a reminder of where this shirt came from, but I'm really liking the polished feel the label gives. It's going to be fun working these labels into Caitlyn's clothes, future quilts and other projects. Thanks, Cassie!

Next up: quilt blocks and then clothes for Caitlyn. I've had to retire one dress and there are others not far behind. I don't think we're going to be able to hold out for Elsie Marley to hold a Spring version of Kid's Clothing Week!

March 19, 2012

Way to be "On Message"

To the gentleman representing the Star Kids movie in front of Central Co-op:

I appreciate being passionate about your art and your project. And, believe it or not, I've got some idea of what's involved in making a movie and how much money is needed.

However, I don't appreciate being harassed on my way into a grocery store. It's the end of the day, I've a first grader who needs to get home, and we're out of milk. I don't particularly have the time (or frankly, the interest - I've heard the Star Kids pitch on my way into a lot of grocery stores in the last several years) to do anything but walk on past you.

And I especially don't appreciate your comments when I refuse to allow you to give random free stuff to my kid. No, I don't want the plastic animal, the bubbles, or the coloring page. We have enough of all of those things. (Not to mention that giving kids bottles of bubbles before they enter a grocery store seems pretty much a setup for disaster.) I'm attempting to teach my daughter that she shouldn't expect free things/gifts/surprise toys/sample doughnuts whenever we're out of the house. You don't know if we have allergies, if my child is on some form of disciplinary restriction, or if we have faith-based guidelines that require us to eat organic and shun plastic.

So, hollering, "Gee, it sucks when you can't give free stuff to kids!" after us as we entered the store was particularly uncalled for.

Star Kids claims to be about inspiring kids, to "teach positive values and show positive role models." Well done. In your efforts to be inspiring to kids who might see your movie, you've completely forgotten to be inspiring (or gracious or well-mannered or respectful) to the kids and parents you see right now.

March 15, 2012

My notes from the Sewing Expo

I'd heard about the Sewing and Stitchery Expo before, but this was the first year I went to check it out (thanks, Kelly!). This is a very long post that I'm writing mostly for me, so that I can remember all the cool stuff I saw! The Sewing Expo is huge, two buildings at the fairgrounds with fashion shows, classes, demos, and a floor full of booths selling fabric, patterns, tools, books, sewing machines and more. If I don't get this stuff down, it'll end up in the pile of Things I've Forgotten.

You can read it if you're into sewing or quilting, but I'll totally understand if you want to come back some other day. No hard feelings.


Fabrics:
Starr Fabrics -- specializing in hand-dyed fabrics and knits. I limited myself to one fabric purchase while at the Sewing Expo and got a scrap bundle from Starr. They had some beautiful quilts on display - so hard not to buy more fabric than I did!

Shabby Fabrics - They caught my eye enough that I wrote down their name. Of course, now I can't remember why!

Indonesian Batiks - Lots of batiks in rayon and reasonably local to me (Anacortes).

Shibori Dragon - a relatively local-to-me resource (Lakewood) for Asian-style prints. I also found Texture Magic at their booth, which could be a fun thing to play with someday.

At the booth for Sisterhood of Quilters, I was finally able to check out some fabric from Connecting Threads. They've been sending me quarterly catalogs for about a year now and I've been tempted by their fabrics, but I've been hesitant to order anything since I'm a terrible judge of fabric quality when I only have a picture (one of the big reasons I've not gotten into buying my fabric online). Now that I've been able to see it, I might get around to ordering from them someday.


Patterns:
A Little Somethin' Jacket by CNT Patterns, noticed at the Indonesian Batiks booth. I'm thinking about flexible layers to replace my shapeless sweatshirts. This has potential, although I might hold out for something a little more shaped.

Great Copy Patterns is an alternative to the big clothing pattern houses. I don't know that they are a good match for me at this time but good to know about, all the same. The same is true of Lorraine Torrence Patterns.

I've run into clothing patterns from Birch Street Clothing at Pacific Fabrics and other stores, sometimes thinking perhaps I'd give them a try. But their pattern envelopes only have drawings of the garment, no photographs. They had finished versions on display at their booth, but I think I'd still like to see the real thing on a real person. I did pick up a roll of their Swedish Tracing Paper, in the hopes that it would be of use in my wardrobe improvement project in making necessary fit adjustments to regular tissue paper patterns. The package claims you can sew up a version of a garment with the tracing paper, so I think it's somewhere between paper-fitting a la Palmer/Pletsch and making a muslin.

In addition to wandering the show floor, we took in two fashion shows. The first featured patterns from Simplicity with a guest appearance of Suede from Project Runway. If I watched the show, perhaps that would have been more exciting. There were some interesting ideas, but I generally came away feeling like most of the pieces wouldn't really work for me or my lifestyle.

I did enjoy the Palmer/Pletsch-McCall's show that immediately followed. I've collected a lot of McCall's patterns and I'm almost always pleased with the result. I'm just getting started with Palmer/Pletsch, but I appreciate their accessibility when it comes to making adjustments to patterns. Lots of pieces caught my eye in the show, but the best parts were the periodic appearances of Pati Palmer in some customized variation of what had just been shown. Most of the regular models were, well, built like models. Ms. Palmer isn't, yet she was showing how the same design could be adjusted to fit and look good on anyone. Very inspiring!


Tools:
I watched a demo of the Tonertex embellishments (glue, glitter, foils), then picked up the starter set. I was thinking of Caitlyn at the time, perhaps doing an embellished something for her, perhaps making it a collaboration. The parent company (Bo-Nash) was giving demos at least two other booths and also has a heat-activated bonding powder I might check out sometime.

I thought a bit about picking up a full set of Marti Mitchell rulers, but decided to wait for project-specific needs. I already have the Kaleido-Ruler; the Flying Geese ruler and the new Kite ruler look like fun!

It was so hard to not get books and templates at the Miller Quilts booth. There were some amazing and beautiful quilts on display there! I may yet get the templates (or some group of them) or a book. Someday.

If the quilting foot I picked up for my Bernina works out the way I hope, I might do more than think about the stencils from Full Line Stencil. They've got lots of continuous line quilting stencils and a nifty chalk "pounce". Super easy marking for quilting patterns!

At the FasTurn booth, I fell for the demonstration (given by a grandfatherly sort - he actually said he thought I looked like his granddaughter and wondered what I was doing there) of the FasTurn system. I am now prepared to make itty-bitty fabric tubes of all sorts. Making my own drawstrings need never be a headache again! And, perhaps even better, I can now make and turn right-side-out narrow black fabric tubes for making stained glass quilts or Celtic knotwork quilts. I may be slightly giddy about this!

Since Quilters were one of the three main audiences at the Expo (fashion, quilts, machine embroidery), I saw least three booths where someone was demonstrating a long-arm quilting machine. I mostly ignored these booths since there's no chance of me getting a long-arm. I did pick up a flyer for Handi-Quilter's Sweet Sixteen. It's not a long-arm exactly, but it's got the deep throat space of a long arm and the side-ways rotation, two of the features I find appealing to a long-arm but without the enormous space requirement or the sticker price.

But I had to stop and check out the Multi-Frame System from the Flynn Quilt Company. Now I wish I'd sat down and played with it, although at the time I felt that if I didn't then there would be no chance of me impulsively buying it. I think it's a set of frame ends and knobs that you pair with some PVC pipe to rig up a quilting frame similar to the frame on a long-arm. Put it over some additional PVC pipe and it rolls side-to-side easily, enabling a regular sewing machine to work a little like a long-arm. It breaks down into easily store-able parts and is even more affordable than the Sweet Sixteen. If I go back to the Sewing Expo someday, maybe I'll sit and play with a Multi-Frame for a while!


Books:
I spotted Power Sewing Toolbox 1 and 2. Wish these were available from the library! I'm not sure that I want to own more books with sewing how-tos, but I'd love to be able to read through them once to see what I can learn. I've settled for checking out More Power Sewing (it's from the early 90s and looks it!).

I made a note that I think is about another book, Kaleidoscope Paper Piecing, which I also can't get from the library. I'm also not 100% sure that this book is what I meant when I wrote my notes, but since there are some neat pictures associated with the book's Amazon page, it's not a bad thing to have discovered it.

I did check out the only Margaret Miller book from the library last week, Smashing Sets. When I finish all the sampler quilt/block of the month projects I'm working on this year, this could be a good resource for layout ideas than the standard grid with sashing arrangement.


So, there it is: my Sewing Expo notes! If you read all the way to the end, congratulations! More interesting stuff to come (I hope!).

March 12, 2012

Elsewhere...

There was a spell a few years back where I got into cheese-making. There were several batches of mozzarella, mascarpone and cream cheese, and a gouda, a Monterey Jack , and a traditional cheddar. Equipment was acquired, including a small fridge that is supposed to pretend it's a cave.

I didn't make cheese at all last year. I still make yogurt once or twice a month, but that's about it. It's not that cheese is difficult to make, exactly, but it is time-consuming. The hard cheeses didn't quite come out the way I wanted, probably due to cheese's sensitivity to subtle variations in temperature. Generally speaking, the process for making cheese is pretty consistent between varieties, with the major difference being how hot the milk gets for how long at which part of the process. And it's a lot of time invested (all day + pressing time + drying time + aging time) for a couple pounds of cheese. I'd need, at the very least, a large and steady supply of surplus milk, and possibly some additional equipment to handle the volume, to make regular (hard) cheesemaking worthwhile.

I still don't have goats. I'd have to move to be able to have goats. And, when it comes down to it, I'm actually pretty sure I don't want goats. I'm just not excited enough about the perks of livestock (milk, fiber, meat, eggs, cuteness) to sign up for the responsibilities (feeding, milking, mucking, shearing, butchering, keeping the does knocked up, miscellaneous veterinary tasks, etc).

But fresh cheeses, those are way less of an investment. Spend a little time (some of it sometimes actually happens in a yogo-therm and requires very little participation from me) and I can have cheese ready to eat in a matter of hours. I really should make cream cheese more often!

Or this cheese:
lemon cheese

This is a lemon cheese and it's so easy! Heat milk to 175 degrees, add approximately 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (just enough to get it to thoroughly curdle), then let it drain for a few hours. Soft, crumbly, just a hint of lemon flavor. It's tasty on a robust pasta sauce. It would probably go well in a lasagne. It'd be awesome on tacos or enchiladas.

Thanks to Sustainable Eats for the dairy themed month in the year-long Urban Farm Handbook Challenge and to Eating Rules for the lemon cheese how-to. Just the reminder I needed to try a simple cheese that's been on my list for a while. And a nice reminder that I don't need to always go for the complicated projects; the periodic fresh cheese is just as valid a cheesemaking experience. And it's got that almost-instant gratification perk!

March 09, 2012

Further experiments in knits

Remember this top? The one I made in a knits class with unshrunk fabric? I sent it off to my sister (who reports that it works fine for her) and I've finally got around to trying again.

Ta-da!
green top

I pre-washed the fabric this time and happily the finished shirt still has lovely long sleeves. I'm not 100% sure I've got the fit right, but at least this one is wearable. The armscye might not be totally right and there might be too much fabric in the back. It's hard to tell when I'm twisting around in front of a mirror trying to see it.

green top
I don't have a serger, so this is all done with a zig-zag stitch. It's not a bad look, but I don't know that I love it. The zig-zags don't feel as polished to me as the two-needle coverlock stitch common on purchased knits. I may have to borrow a serger sometime...

I've also finished three of these tank tops.
white under tank top

The pattern for these is self-drafted and based off of some tanks I have from Eddie Bauer. I finished the exposed edges on all three differently. Last one is the best one, naturally.
white under tank top
No extra bulk but a bit more finished looking than just turning the raw edge in.

These tanks are intended for layering for winter warmth, not for regular (visible) wear. The fabric is a cozy but very snug dance knit; wearing one of these is a bit like having an all-day hug. Adding one to an outfit doesn't significantly change the look (minimal added bulk) but does improve my cold-weather comfort level. Hooray for being warm without looking like a walking pile of bulky sweaters!

The green top is my first official project for my Wardrobe Improvement Project. It'll probably be a while before I get around to tackling the next project - Caitlyn's wardrobe needs more attention!

March 08, 2012

Procrastination and Serendipity

Does this ever happen to anyone else? I mean, I've got a stack of works in progress and Caitlyn is fast out-growing several things in her closet and I'm part way through a shirt for Ian. But did I work on any of those with my fragmented available time?

Nope. I went and started something else. Sure, it was the project that was most appealing, most likely to make me happy. But gee whiz, probably not the wisest course.

Oh well.

I started with this:
strips

And a week later, I finished with this:
Serendipity

Just so you know, seams that are 800 inches long take a really, really long time to sew!

I've wanted to do one of these "Jelly Roll 1600" quilts ever since I saw one in person at Pacific Fabrics ages ago. Last fall, Jackie at Canton Village Quilt Works posted pictures of several versions, and I picked up a strip set the next time I was at a fabric store, just in case. I've been saving it, thinking I'd do this eventually, when other things were finished.

Things aren't finished, and now, neither is this!
Serendipity

It's an absurdly easy top to piece. Just take a really long strip and keep folding it in half until you have something quilt-sized. I randomized the strips when I joined them, but now I'm curious what would happen if I left them all light-to-dark the way the strips were packaged. I almost want to try this again with 2 strip sets and see if the resulting panel could be turned into a skirt. Hmm...
Serendipity

Can't you see all sorts of neat things made out of this? I see more projects in my future!


March 05, 2012

Everyone needs a Plan

I have a closet of clothes that are either showing their age or don't fit me well. It's already known that shopping and I are not friends. I thought I'd written up a more recent rant than this one or this one. The short version: I'm tall, I'm reasonably narrow, I tend toward classic/minimalist style with a touch of romantic/bohemian, I'm excessively practical. End result: very little ready-to-wear clothing actually fits me and I'm endlessly frustrated by poor quality and trends that assume I have nothing to do except look pretty.

My clothing should not require special handling (no regular trips to the dry cleaner), be flexible in function (dress up or down; be comfortable cooking in the kitchen and appropriate for errands and chauffeuring) and season; and be reasonably durable (while I don't expect a high ROI on my clothes, I do expect them to last).

My clothing should fit me as I am. I would like long sleeves to pass my wrists and long pants to touch the top of my shoes. My shirts should have some shaping to them, so that I'm not swimming in fabric boxes, without being constricting. I'm a mother of an almost-seven year old; I don't have the bust of an 18 year old nor that of a nursing mother, and my necklines should be flattering without being revealing. Tops should also be long enough to avoid the accidental exposure of my midriff. I have a waist and I don't mind highlighting it as long as it stays fully covered. The lower portion of my hips are no one's business, and pants or skirts should not hug my bum so closely that I have to worry about lines.

I could dedicate the next several years to a lot of shopping. I know what I want and I know what I like, but these things are hard to find (otherwise I'd have them and this would all be moot). I'm nine inches taller than the Average American Woman and although we're in the same general area when it comes to weight, I'll bet doughnuts that it's distributed differently on my frame than it is on hers. I'd need to find just the right collection of boutiques to have even a hope of meeting half of my ideal clothing criteria. Might as well order couture.

Or I could just make it all myself. I already make most of Caitlyn's clothes and Ian's shirts. I've not tackled anything like jeans or fitted styles, but if I can make this, surely I can figure out this.

So this is the plan: Make it the way I want it. I suppose I'm making my own version of the Seamless Pledge. I'm going to make a solid effort to make most new items entering my wardrobe, except things like socks, tights, underwear, shoes, things that require knitting, etc. I expect I'll need to learn some new skills, like more extensive pattern adjusting and how to recognize when a style just won't work for me. For sanity's sake, I'm not going to say "12 new items for my wardrobe in 12 months!" or set air-tight expectations that can't bend with life's unexpected curve balls. I'm not planning on taking up vintage fashion creation. Just basic, classic pieces that fit me and my life.

Welcome to my Wardrobe Improvement Project! I intend to chronicle my Misadventures in Fashion for my own education and the general amusement (and maybe inspiration?) of others. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

March 01, 2012

Appearances Matter (news only to me)

I'm a freelancing, work-from-home techie mom, a crafter, and a gardener with small-scale urban homesteading tendencies. I cook, I clean, I do a lot of laundry. I'll usually make the first attempt at various home maintenance tasks. I tend three gardens: the ornamental front yard, the edible backyard, the p-patch plot down the street. I can spend a large part of my day at my desk with my computer or at my other desk with my sewing machine. Most days, the farthest I travel is all the way across the street to the mailbox. When I travel further, I'm usually ferrying Caitlyn to ballet or circus class, then stopping for milk on the way home.

I'm not seen by very many people. I have very few I need to impress. Add in my wide practical streak, and I bet you can imagine my daily wardrobe:

Jeans, in various stages of disrepair (patches on patches!), and an increasingly ancient collection of knit shirts, about half of them oversized and super baggy, all of them faded. When it's cold, I have a handful of sweatshirts for an extra layer, all of them shapeless.

While these habits are, if nothing else, supremely practical, it's gradually become clear that they haven't done anything good for my view of myself. It's easy to think of myself as schlub and as not really worth knowing when I routinely see a ragamuffin in old clothes in the mirror. Sure, I'm ready to take on moving top soil in the garden or recaulking the bathtub at the drop of a hat, but I'm never really ready for people or fun.

So, for the last several months, I've been quietly experimenting. If I take the time to put some care into the clothing selection for the day, does that change how I feel about myself? Do I lean more toward positive adjectives for myself if I make sure my clothes are not falling apart or hanging off of me?

It's been a rather unscientific undertaking, with no notes and no controls and very little consistency. I've not tried to make sure it's all about the clothes and not about dessert or extra sleep. But I think the answer has been a yes. It does make a difference.

(Admitting this makes the anti-consumerist in me cringe. Why should it matter what anyone wears? Isn't finding value in a nice appearance just buying into marketing messages that want me to buy more stuff? And what about the people who don't have the resources I do? If appearances matter so much, aren't I guilty of prejudice?)

The good news here is that I have found I feel less like I'm slouching through life, like I might actually be interesting and appealing to other people, when I invest some time and energy in my appearance. The bad news is that I've started paying more attention to my closet. Nothing quite like deciding to care to make one realize just how many times I've told myself I'll just make do with something that doesn't quite work: a shirt that should be long-sleeved but isn't on me, pants that look like I'm expecting to go wading, etc.

But don't worry! The story isn't going to end here. I have a plan!