Thursday, February 28, 2008

look out...i'm on a roll

Wow, I don't know how long it's been since I actually posted two days in a row. Spring must be coming because my mood is slowly lifting, and I'm feeling more like doing stuff. The sunlight is noticeably returning, thank heavens.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm anxious to start Daughter's Easter dress because Easter is so early this year and will be here before we know it. March 23 in Buffalo is not known for being warm, but I'm making Daughter's dress short-sleeved nonetheless. She has a very nice fine-gauge cream cable-knit sweater that has seen precious little wear, which will go nicely over the dress. Plus she can then wear it through the Summer and early Fall.

I'm using this pattern:

New Look 6745, view c-ish, size 2

This is fast becoming my favorite dress pattern. It's fun and easy to make, has a brilliant back facing/finishing that results in stabilized buttonholes with little effort, and fits well. A miracle! I made it in flannel last fall and Daughter has worn it to death.

Using this very simple little pattern has taught me two main things. First, don't be afraid to Frankenstein your patterns. The exact dress I want doesn't actually appear as any of the presented views. I want a short-sleeved dress with a full, solid skirt. Luckily the bodice is exactly the same for all views, so it's possible to put together any combination of pieces to get what you want.

The second thing I've learned is not to always just blindly trust and follow the pattern layout and cutting guide the pattern company gives you.

Here, look how the company thinks this dress should be cut out:

Wha-? I took one look at this and said "awwwwww crap." This is view A/B, which I want to use with the addition of two sleeves. I know I have enough fabric to make the thing, but this layout makes me nauseous. I am ALWAYS wary of any layout that has you chopping up your fabric into multiple pieces. And looking at this layout I couldn't quite figure out where I'd fit the sleeves in. Using this plan you cut two of piece #2 separately, which I also hate because then they won't ever be exactly the same.

I decided to just fold the fabric in half, selvage to selvage, to see what would happen.

Well lookee here:

It's a tad hard to see because of the white pattern-ease and the sunlight, but all the pieces fit just fine using the traditional selvage to selvage layout. I even have a few inches left over.

So. There's my sewing tip for the day, I guess. Always check and see if there is another way to lay out your pattern pieces before just whacking the yardage apart with your shears. You can't put it back together, so it's worth trying other ways, especially with tiny kid pattern pieces like this.

I'm going to try and get this cut out and marked before naptime is over. Then it's off to the machine!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

alert the media!

I actually finished something!

I call it "very cherry." It's the first thing that popped into my head and I'm too lazy to try and come up with another name.

This is a very wide, swingy tank with wide, comfy pants to match. The fabric is 100% cotton from Joann's, but it has a nice weight - it's one of their higher end cottons. The ruffle is maybe Michael Miller? Not sure. It's red with white pin dots.

It was a bit tedious because of that biiiiiig ruffle and the fact that the neck and armholes are all finished with bias tape rather than a facing (for the record, I prefer facing!), but with a working serger the pants were super fast and it all came together at last.

This outfit will be listed over at BonBons along with a few other Spring items, but I am waiting until I have several things ready so I can do one major update.

In the meantime I will reward myself by starting Daughter's Easter dress. I hope to get the pattern traced tonight. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 25, 2008

back in business

Hark! What have we here?!?

Egads, it's a serger and a sewing machine, both in working order!

That poor serger is certainly not new, as you can probably tell from the sex-ay brown and orange decals. It was given to me (!!!) by a great lady I used to work with, because she bought a new one and knew I did not have one at all. I have sewn probably hundreds of thousands of stitches on it over the past 3 years, until a couple of weeks ago when it finally just quit forming stitches. I could get it to work for a few inches of sewing, and then threads would break, and I was making more of a mess than anything. So I put it away and figured it was probably just finally dead.

But then I went back to old finishing methods (pinking, mock-french seams, double turned hems), and while those methods are fine, mostly I find them tedious and less-than-professional. Plus, I want to finish up a bunch of things for my etsy shop and without serging, they just don't look as nice nor will they hold up as well in the wash. Yick.

So I figured I'd bite the bullet and take it in for a tuneup. I had some birthday money left, and figured I'd just use it for the machine. If it required more than a tuneup, well, then I'd have to learn to live without a serger. But I was able to accept the $80-$100 it would cost to get the machine working again.

I took it in on Friday to the shop where I used to work. All the ladies working there are my old friends, and they said they'd try to get it toward the front of the line (the usual wait for machine repair is anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months - there aren't very many places to take machines around here so they get very busy). Turns out the woman who fixes sergers (also an old friend) took a look at it right away on Friday, determined that it did not need a full tuneup, adjusted a few things, cleaned all the fuzz and gunk out, and only charged me $20 for 1/2 hour of labor. I had the machine back on my sewing table by Saturday afternoon.

Sometimes I feel very blessed, indeed.

Since I had been fully prepared to spend close to $100 but did not, I felt justified in picking up a few cuts of calico for Daughter's Easter dress. This was no small expenditure (what is UP with $10 per yard for freaking calico?) but I think I will end up coming in at about the same cost as a store-bought holiday dress. I think it will be short-sleeved with a gathered skirt, with the main dress made from the dots and maybe the neckline and sleeve edges bound with the stripe, cut on the bias. We'll see.

I apologize for the lack of photos and lack of project talk in general around here. I thought 2008 would be a bigger year for making stuff, but I've felt very unfocused so far. There are lots of irons in the fire, but I keep flitting from one thing to another and not getting very far. Over the weekend I was reading two mind-blowing sewing blogs and I did start to feel a spark of inspiration and energy returning. Check them out and see if they don't get your creative juices flowing:

Laura's Sewing Room

Hungry Zombie Couture

These ladies can literally make themselves any garment they want. Go back through the archives and just look at the gorgeous wardrobes they have created. I wish I had someone to show me some of the wonderful tips and tricks and methods they use. I know zilch, for example, about lining/underlining, different methods for stabilizing fabrics, or resizing commercial patterns to fit me (or Daughter). I don't even know a lot about the different types of fabrics out there and how to use them appropriately (yes, I worked in a fabric shop but it was all calico for quilting). Some older ladies used to come into the shop when I was working and ask what happened to the tricot and stretch laces - they were looking for supplies to make their own underwear. Goodness, I wouldn't know the first thing about making undergarments.

So I ask those of you who sew reasonably well: who taught you? Did you take a class (or classes)? Did you learn from your mom? Your grandma? Do you just read books, or the internet, or subscribe to sewing magazines? And if you do know and use advanced methods, where do you find your materials? Because I am stuck with Joann's, Joann's, or Joann's...which I find ridiculous for a place like Buffalo. We are not so backwater that we couldn't handle one or two different fabric stores. Sheesh. There is always the internet, and sometimes the deals there are awesome, but I do like to fondle my fabrics before purchase, don't you?

I sort of have the wild idea that I might like to audit some classes at Buffalo State College. They offer textile classes and some fashion design, as far as I know, and I might be able to learn a lot that way. But more than that I wish I had an older grandma-type who could sit me down and just take me through some projects the right way, with care and patience and good materials.
I mean, I don't want to short-change my mom, who taught me all the basics and still helps me out here and there. I guess I'm just looking for some more advanced stuff.

Le sigh. I daydream. I guess I can ponder all this further while I dive into the giant ironing pile that awaits me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

trying to be a money saving mom

I complain a lot about being "poor." And then I write a post about how jeez, I shouldn't say that, we're not really poor at all and we have everything we need, etc, etc. And to really clarify it, we are certainly not poor. We live in our own house, drive two nice enough cars, have plenty to eat, have hot water and electricity that are in no danger of being shut off, wear decent clothing and shoes, and don't really want for any necessities. We have a decent savings, a few investments, no credit card debt (we use CCs but pay them off each month) and we do not fritter a lot of money away on toys or trips. To many, many people we probably appear pretty flush. And we are definitely very, very lucky that we can make life work on one salary so I can be a stay-home mom.

But the way we do that is by being extremely careful about how we use our resources. My husband works really hard to earn his paycheck, and we made the unspoken agreement years ago that I would be the steward of the finances for our home. Thus it is my job to make sure the money he earns is spent and saved in the most responsible manner possible.

Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved Sunday mornings because that's when the paper comes all loaded with ads and coupons. My sisters and I would sit at the kitchen table eating breakfast - er, brunch - and pass the ads around the table as we finished looking through them. Back then it was "what can we spend our babysitting money on? Who has makeup on sale? How about jeans?" But then in college it became more about necessities like shampoo and soap and school junk for the next semester. I used to cut the coupons for my mom and I loved it. In fact, I still remember when the coupons came perforated so you could rip them out without scissors.

It became an obsession, and it lives on. Last fall my sister brought her fiance home to meet the family, and we all came to my parents' house for brunch on Sunday. I dove straight for the newspaper ads, and he just watched with wide eyes as we 3 sisters divvied up the stuff we wanted. He said he'd never seen such a frenzy over the ads.

As a young wife I would trudge out to the car on freezing winter Sundays to drive up and get the paper from the corner supermarket. I'd ensconce myself in a corner of the sofa while Hubs slept in, merrily clipping coupons and combing the ads for the best deals on everything from cleaning supplies to groceries to personal care items. Then I'd shower, hit the stores, and come home crowing about my deals - I'd often save upwards of $20 on groceries, and get stuff half-price at places like CVS or even Target. I thought I was awesome.

I've continued to do that as a stay-home mom. We have student loans to pay down, and lots of bills (just like everyone), so I save where I can. But I am not nearly as awesome as I thought I was.

I recently discovered Money Saving Mom. I've spent many naptimes and evenings poring over her site, absorbing all she and her readers/commenters have to say about being wise stewards of the family's resources. And while I don't agree with every philosophy she shares (for example I think credit cards are perfectly fine as long as you use them wisely), I have learned A TON about getting better deals from her site. She lists all the best deals for the week for many major chains, and I'm especially fascinated by "CVS-ing" (which, I'm sorry to say, doesn't apply to everyone because CVS isn't nationwide). I have always shopped at CVS here and there, when the ad and the coupons matched up to give me great deals on stuff like toothpaste and deodorant. But it turns out you can do so much more for your budget by shopping there wisely, which I have started to do.

If you're interested, read here to understand how the CVS extra-bucks program works. It's really quite fascinating if you're a math and savings nerd like me. Basically, CVS will pay you to buy stuff at their stores. Seriously!

On Sunday I went there armed with coupons and a list. I got two 35-count packs of Huggies diapers, one package of feminine products, one 4-pack of D batteries, one 12-roll pack of t.p., and a bottle of detergent. All were name brands, and I had coupons for just about everything. My total came to $38 and change. I used lots of coupons (and they take internet coupons, by the way), and $11 extra-care-bucks from the last time I shopped there, as well as a $4 off $20 coupon I got by giving CVS my email address. After all that, I paid $15.86 out of pocket and got back $15 extra-care-bucks to spend next time. So in essence I am only out $.86 for the trip. WORTH IT JUST FOR THE 70 DIAPERS!

If you read through Money Saving Mom, you can see how she really makes the system work for her family. She somehow feeds her family on an astounding $35 per week, and that includes her CVS budget. Now, I'm not seeking to get my family down to that level or anything, but it sure would be nice to cut the $100-ish we spend each week down a bit!

Part of me feels a little embarrassed to talk about this stuff, but I know I shouldn't be. Our goals are to increase our savings and investments, put away some money for Daughter's education, and pay down our stupid student loans. (I recently made the horrifying discovery that if we don't increase our payments soon, we will finish paying off both our loans one year before Daughter starts college. There are not enough bad words to describe my reaction to THAT little discovery. Time to make some changes!!)

Plus I like the idea that if we have more, we can give more in many ways, which is a central theme of Money Saving Mom's site. If I have surplus stuff I can donate it when our church has drives for various missions. At Christmas we can get a really nice gift for the child we choose from the Church mitten tree.

And just in general, if we have a bit more socked away we don't have to live in fear of the car breaking down or the fridge or washer dying or the roof springing a leak.

America is truly a consumption-driven country. I have recently taken a vow to fight that tooth and nail, and to try to teach my Daughter that it isn't important to always get every little thing you want. We got our taxes done the other night and wow, the urge to spend, spend, spend just grips you when you hear you're getting a big refund, doesn't it? Yikes! That money is going straight into our savings account, dangit. And have you thought about what you're going to do with your big George Bush stimulus check when it comes in May? How many of you have it spent already? Hubs and I briefly allowed ourselves to fantasize about a short vacation, but then agreed it will go IN THE BANK.

Well, I hope that didn't come off as too preachy or anything. This is just what's on my mind this week (and always), and I thought I'd share my thoughts. I know everyone has very different views about budgeting and spending - these are just some of mine.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Whoa, yesterday was my 400th post! Wow. 400 posts and not one interesting/important/relevant thing to say. I sure can prattle on about nothing!

First things first: the bed.

It is awesome.

Daughter was totally into helping Daddy put it together:

"Here, let me help you with that support beam."

Problem is, then she wants tools just like Daddy. So we give her a screwdriver with removable tips...and we remove the tips:


Why no, I don't comb her hair. Thanks for asking.

Le Bed:

Why yes, my bedroom is the size of a closet. Obviously, this shot is a lot nicer a) in daylight and b) when the bed is made and stacked up with colorful pillows.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the mattress as it arrived at our house. It was a rolled up tube about 15 inches across. I was petrified that when we cut the straps it would just be a limp little army-cot looking thing, but shazam! It explodes right up into a 10+ inch mattress! Very cool. The frame, if anyone is interested, is a solid pine platform. It's raw pine, which we may or may not stain in the warmer months. For now it smells fantastic...but then again, I like the smell of fresh-cut lumber. Your mileage may vary.

The bed was supposed to be our Valentine's gift to one another, but Hubs had apparently already ordered these before we decided on the bed:

So pretty. He also included a little teddy bear for Daughter, which blew her mind when it was delivered to our door. I told Hubs no flowers and we decided a long time ago to declare a moratorium on any new stuffed animals coming into the house, but I guess I can't always be a scrooge. And besides, Hubs told me, "I never get you anything for Valentine's Day because we're always saving money, and I'm starting to feel like a real a**hole for ignoring this holiday!"

Daughter, who hadn't even heard of Valentine's Day until last night, got into the swing of things with this beautiful Valentine for Daddy:

Totally her own design - I just put the glue where she told me to. Right now there is enough glitter all over my kitchen floor for about ten more Valentines, but it was so worth it. She can't wait for Daddy to come home.

And finally, apropos of nothing, I was thinking of the little blessings that appear sometimes when you least expect them. Now that we've finally purchased the new bed, we'll be tightening our belts for a month or two to recover, so not much fun stuff is in the pipeline - no new yarns or fabrics for me.

But one of my mom's best friends has just moved away to a warm climate and brought all her yarn over for us to take what we wanted. There were lots of partial skeins of stuff I didn't need or want, but this sang out to me:

It's 2 full (and one partial or possibly full) skeins of Tahki Twiggy Tweed. It's a pretty mushroom-y brown color with flecks of gold and rust and blue. I've never heard of it before, but it's quite rustic and pretty so I figured I'd try to make something of it.

Anyway, just a nice thing to happen considering I don't have funds to be yarn shopping at the moment.


Quick announcement: I finally finished up a size 3 apple print jumper for the shop, and hope to have several more items up before next week. Please do check it out. Karen's sewing machine must be smoking...nay, on fire!...with all she has been making. Her stuff is selling fast, go take a look!

**Edit: Just below this post, the same post title is appearing. I had a problem publishing the first time...thought I'd lost the entire post, and now I'm scared to try deleting that for fear I'll lose everything. Sorry about that...please just ignore it!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

playgroup 'n stuff

So have I mentioned that we're still doing the Wednesday morning playgroup? I must say it has grown on me, and I really like the woman who runs it. Last session (in the Fall) I was so in love with it because Daughter made a little friend who we then met up with at the playground some days, and her mom totally rocks. She's a lot like me and I don't meet many women who are a lot like me. She even looks kind of like me. Weird!

But she went and had a baby just after Thanksgiving and didn't bring her daughter back to playgroup this time. Something about not wanting to subject a newborn to freezing temps, or whatever. Pffffft. I see how it is.

They will be back in the Spring session, she said, but by then Daughter will be 3 and likely moving up a group, and her daughter won't be 3 till August, meaning they will miss out on 2 entire sessions together. Poop!

The current playgroup isn't wonderful, but it's bearable. There's a sweet girl and her daddy who came back from last time, and an adorable little shy boy whose mom is very nice, also from last time. And there's us. Everyone else is new and some of them are...odd. Like the older mom of boy/girl twins who brings grandma along - I guess because both children together are too much to handle? And the boy? Totally plays in the toilet.

What's up with that?

On the very first day this little dude raced into the bathroom and started splashing around in the wee potty. Is that, like, a common thing? I have truly never seen a child so psyched about playing in toilet water. Eee-hew.

And I always wonder about the couple who come together with their daughter each week. I find it interesting that neither one of them seems to have to, you know, go to work. Oh well, I'm sure they just have a different schedule. Still, I wonder about people. Don't you?

There's one mom who's really cool and funny and inspiring...she's a bit older than me and has 2 bio children and several foster children that she has adopted or is adopting. She brings the youngest, currently being adopted, to playgroup. I love this kid. He has maybe the cutest little face EVER and he's a force of nature. Not even 2 yet and you just can't stop the kid. Plus, last week we ran into each other at McD's and totally just looked at each other and laughed over the kids' happy meals. Ah, kindred spirits.

So, you know, it's ok. We keep going back.

Story hour is pretty corny, though. That's Friday morning. We'll see what happens there this week and perhaps I'll report on it. Ay-yi-yi.


IN OTHER NEWS: we got the memory foam bed!!!!!

Enough people said it rocks, go buy it, don't wait, it will change your we bought one. It came today, as did the platform, and we assembled it all just after dinner. Tonight I will be hopefully having the most glorious night of sleep EVER. At least that is what I've been promised. I'll definitely report back on that one.


Ummmm, what happened to the Blogger's spellcheck feature?

Friday, February 08, 2008

dude, where's the knitting?

I know there has been woefully little knitting and sewing here in the past couple weeks. I'm sorry for that, it's just that I've truly been struggling with some seasonal...down-ness, I guess you could say. It's been hard to get motivated and my hands just haven't felt like picking up needles. It's odd, because at times there are so many things I want to knit I practically lose my mind and start ten things at once. But right now I've been pretty content to lounge on the sofa at night watching political coverage, sans knitting. I did start a wee pair of socks for Daughter last night at knitting guild, so maybe that will jerk me back into the swing of things.

And as for sewing, I've pulled myself together enough to sort all my garment fabrics and match them up with patterns. I have a bunch of things I want to whip up for the shop, and my thoughts are turning to Spring and Summer in a big way. Hopefully there will be some pretty things to share after this weekend.

Also, just because I feel like complaining, my serger and my oven are both dead. Dear George Bush, please expedite my 'economic stimulus' check because my home is falling apart. Thanks.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Ok, sorry about that post yesterday. Guess I was in a foul mood. Today is looking slightly better, anyway.

And now, I need some input! Even if you've never commented before, please oh please if you have any insight into what I am about to say, do leave me some words of wisdom.

Hubs and I are about to buy a new bed. It has taken me 5 loooooooooong years to finally convince my husband to do so, and we want to choose wisely. Our old mattress and box spring is absolutely trashed and desperately needs to go, and in its place we are considering one of those newfangled memory foam mattresses, with "viscoelastic memory foam." That's the one where you see the girl on the commercial jumping around in her nightie while a glass of wine sits undisturbed on the other side of the bed. People, I am that glass of wine, and my husband (who is almost twice my weight) rolls around all night. I bounce around like a freaking pinball when he tosses and turns and it is seriously impacting my sleep.

So we're looking at a queen size, 10" foam mattress and a platform bed. What I'd like to know is, do you have this kind of bed? Do you love it? Do you rue the day you bought the horrible thing? If you know anything about these beds, please share!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The crushing weight of these cold, dark, gray, dreary days has effectively broken my spirit. I must say - again - I don't know if I can bear to live here for the rest of my life. Anyone who has visited and/or lived in Western New York knows we have a lot of really beautiful weather from, say, May through September. But the rest? Ay-yi-yi. It's bleak. I needs me some vitamin D.

Here's a question: what does it say about my skills as a mother when my kid is currently amassing every single toy in the current McD's happy meal set? We've got 3 FurReal Friends so far. And that's after I railed against crap food in this very space. Shameful. At least we ran into another mom/kid from playgroup so I don't feel too badly about it. I do feel kind of guilty about eating a double cheeseburger when literally every other person in the place was eating a filet-o-fish sandwich. It is Ash Wednesday and I'm a horrible, horrible Catholic. Although, hang on, does McD's really count as "meat?" Eew.

Between playgroup and McD's we stopped at Joann Fabrics. I needed sewing machine needles, so we got those, and then we wandered the aisles of fabric. The only teeny spark of inspiration I experienced was when I saw that Joann's is finally carrying some sweet print knits...not the thermal ones (don't like those) but the nice, soft 100% cotton interlock. I didn't buy any, though. Sheesh, you know you're down when wandering Joann's does nothing for you. All we bought was the needles and a bag of (overpriced) m&m's for Daughter, who stayed dry all night and asked to go potty at playgroup before doing a dribble first. (It's been a battle to get her to inform us.)

Guess I'll go clear the dirty dishes from the sink. Then stare into the freezer waiting for dinner to jump out at me. Then switch loads of laundry.

Oh, the monotony.