Friday, April 30, 2010

yet another reason to dislike joann fabrics

I've been sewing my little fingers to the bone lately, but most projects are in some final stage of completion...awaiting buttons, hook 'n eye closures, a little soon as I can get finished and take photos, I'll have some great summer wardrobe updates to share.

In the meantime, a story:

Yesterday I took my children with me to Joann Fabrics. I needed some large white buttons to finish up a skirt, and found nothing appropriate in my stash. Now, my children have both, since birth, spent A LOT of time in Joann Fabrics stores. I would say I am there on average once a week. When I am stressed out, I will often head there after the kids are in bed at night, just to wander the aisles, see what's new, browse pattern books, whatever.

Plus, they're the only game in town. There is almost literally no other place to get sewing supplies in my area. WalMart has eliminated their fabric department, and now carries only limited notions. Hancock closed their doors 4 years ago. Other than a few small specialty quilt shops and sewing machine dealerships, there is nowhere to shop for sewing supplies, and certainly no other store to get the specific items one needs for garment sewing.

So yesterday we cruised in, Daughter walking, son in the stroller. We looked at one aisle of buttons, and finding nothing to my liking, I steered the stroller around the corner to the next aisle, maintaining conversation with Daughter so we'd both know the other was still there. I couldn't see her, but I could hear her. She was looking at a new rack of beautiful hand painted buttons while I browsed just opposite her.

Suddenly I heard a woman's voice saying, "little girl! excuse me, LITTLE GIRL!" and my head snapped up because I thought, oh my goodness, something is wrong with Daughter. I rushed around the corner as the Joann employee went on, "you can't do that! You have to STOP taking all those buttons off the rack!"

Which, ok, yes. Daughter had taken about a dozen button cards down and was making a neat pile on the shelf. She should not have done so, and I take responsibility for not giving her that explicit instruction. I am not offended that the Joann employee spoke to her.

But she went on.

"It's going to take us AT LEAST A HALF AN HOUR to find where all those buttons go!"

Ok, um, really? It's going to take you 30 minutes to replace a dozen very distinctive buttons which are also numbered? I immediately apologized to the woman, and said of course we would put the buttons back. It took Daughter and I about 45 seconds to replace them all, and while we were doing so I gave her what-for in her ear, mostly because I was embarrassed that someone had to speak to her. But she didn't even understand what she had done wrong...she just kept saying, "I'm sorry Mommy, I was just picking out the pretty ones to show you."

What really frosts me about this occurrence is not that the woman spoke to my kid - I have worked retail and it sucks when some kid (or adult) comes along and destroys a display. Many people would let their child make a big mess and just assume the employees will clean it up because "it's their job." I am not like that, but there's no way that woman could know that about me. So I do not fault her for that.

What frosts me is that last part she felt she needed to add...that snarky, nasty comment that it would take a half an hour to fix what my child had done. Seriously? Was that necessary? The poor kid is only 5 years old. She was not strewing buttons around madly, throwing them hither and yon just for the sake of making a mess - she was neatly stacking a few cards to show me the prettiest ones. She was being quiet, and not causing any problem or disturbance. I had half a mind to go back to that woman and speak to her, but I thought that would be setting a bad example for Daughter.

It just brings to mind the general lack of customer service and basic kindness you find in Joann Fabrics stores. How many times have I been treated nastily by one of their employees? MANY. I have been huffed at while at the cutting counter, told I am buying the wrong item for the project I'm doing, been treated badly when trying to use a number of coupons to save a little money, and just generally get the idea when shopping there that I am majorly inconveniencing the employees. The women at the cutting counter will literally turn their backs on you, or walk away when it is time for their break while there is a line of customers. Heaven forbid you ask for an item you can't find, they will look at you like you have six heads and sigh deeply.

If they all hate working there so much, they should quit and get another job.

More importantly, if working at Joann Fabrics is so miserable, what is wrong with the company? Obviously something is really lacking in the work environment, or compensation package, or training, when not one employee appears happy to be at their job. And they are taking it out on the customers!

I spend a lot of money at Joann Fabrics. I like to touch fabrics and yarns before I buy them, and I like the convenience of running to the corner for a zipper or sewing machine needles or whatever, when I need it. But I could be persuaded to stop going in there and simply order what I need online. I can make up the difference at Michael's and AC Moore, for the most part. But I really don't want to do that. I like the store. They just really, really need to do something about their people.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

modern day pram set

My sister is almost 7 months into her first pregnancy, and the excitement is building! I can't wait to meet my nephew, and I'm psyched that my kids will finally have a cousin.

Unfortunately she lives halfway across the country and I can't make it to the shower, so I had to hurry up and finish my gift so I can ship it.

I've always been intrigued by the "pram set" that you often see in old knitting books (1940s and 1950s era). But it is typically knit in very fine yarn, and often seems quite "girly" in my opinion. I know that in the old days people dressed baby boys and baby girls in much the same fashion (day gowns, lacy knit/crochet garments), but that is certainly not the case today. And knowing my bro-in-law's love of sports, this kid will be a masculine baby.

Still, they walk their enormous dog every day, and even bought a special super-duper stroller with a mega telescoping handle for the very tall daddy to push, so I know they could actually make good use of one of these sets.

So I made one!

The baby is due in the middle of summer, so I made a 6 month size for fall and winter use.

The sweater is my old standby, the Knitting Pure and Simple neckdown cardigan. Seed stitch edgings instead of ribbing, as usual. I haven't put the buttons on yet because I'm still debating what to use. The yarn is Hobby Lobby's "I Love This Wool" in navy, which I used because I couldn't find any other reasonably priced navy wool worsted weight yarn. US size 7 and 8 needles.

Little Turtle Knits picky pants in medium. I used Knitpicks Swish Worsted in the Dublin colorway (it is a much deeper, truer green than this photo shows). And I ran out just as I finished the crotch seaming! Luckily after completing all the other parts of the set, I had enough navy wool to make the I-cord drawstring. These were knit on US 8 needles.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Ganomy hat, rather heavily modified to fit a baby head - I used smaller needles (US 7) and lighter weight yarn than she calls for, which appears to have worked to reduce the size of this hat. It's not perfect, and I don't love it, but it came out pretty cute and I really wanted the earflap feature to cover baby's ears when they go for family walks out in the cold. The pom-pom on top is actually made of the Hobby Lobby navy yarn and a bit of Knitpicks WOTA worsted in jalapeno, which I purchased to make a sweater for AJ. It just happens to be almost exactly the same shade as the Swish, so I borrowed a little from my son's sweater-to-be.

And finally, booties. Do you know how hard it is to find a bootie pattern in a size beyond newborn? It's hard! I have umpteen baby knitting pattern books and none of them had what I wanted, so I just took a pattern from a Leisure Arts booklet that was written for sport weight, and gave it a whirl using worsted yarn and slightly larger needles. It seems to have worked! I wouldn't recommend trying this with just any pattern, but for these baby booties the proportions held. You can't see it well in the picture, but there is a little cable running down the entire bootie below the ribbon tie.

So there it is, a modern day pram set for my upcoming nephew. Squee!

Friday, April 16, 2010

butterick 4176 (X2)

Just a quickie today...lots to do on this rainy gross afternoon. It's been so nice all week that I ditched all housekeeping in favor of playing outside, going to the zoo, etc. and now I'm paying for it. The house is a wreck!

After spending the days playing, at night I've been forcing myself off the couch to get more summer sewing done.

After the last dress failure, I was hoping for success with the next...and yes, we have a winner! Butterick 4176, size 4 cut to size 5 length:

Sorry about the blur, the camera was set to a lower resolution and I forgot to set it back.

This is a very easy, simple dress to construct. 6 tucks across the bodice absolutely make this cute dress. They are slightly time-consuming but not at all difficult. Then the fronts and backs are joined, the armholes and neckline bound, and a closure and decorative buttons are added. Super simple!

Here's a less blurry shot. The fit is excellent and I'm glad I sized down one full number (she turns 5 on Monday and right now the size 4 commercial patterns are perfect).

This fabric has been in my stash for 10 years and I'm so glad to finally use it. I didn't have any red bias tape in my collection, so I cut my own bias strips from the same fabric to bind the neck and armholes. I wasn't into making a thread button loop for the back neck closure, so I used some seriously vintage (they were my Grandma's and the whole card cost 25 cents) hook-and-eye closures for both dresses.

I also made one in this cherry print. Daughter chose the flower buttons for decoration as we cannot seem to find my little mixed box of juicy red buttons!

We will definitely be using this pattern again. It comes with options for a tank, a shirt, a dress with short sleeves, shorts, and capri pants. The shorts are up next, and I'm seriously eyeballing my stacks of pretty cotton for more outfit ideas. Great stashbusting pattern, too - the dress takes only 1 yard of 44" wide calico. Or you can make a matching set (shorts and top) with 1.25 yards. Love it!


My mop bucket calls.

Monday, April 12, 2010

the childhood obesity problem is worse than I thought...

Bad news, friends. The problem of childhood obesity in this country has gotten so bad that the pattern companies are now drafting their patterns for enormous pre-schoolers.

Ok, that's an exaggeration. But seriously? WHO ARE THESE PATTERNS FOR?? Over the weekend I made this for Daughter:

Sorry it's sideways. You get the idea. I made view B (the blue floral in the above pic), thinking it would be such a great quick-n-easy sundress for summer. I could use up a bunch of cottons in my stash and Daughter would have a rack of easy-to-pull-on garments. The pattern only really has 2 pieces, a front and back. You make a casing, then put something through it to make the shoulder straps (for this one I used the fabric itself). Pockets are optional, but Daughter did request them. She picked out both fabrics.

What we got is this:

The view on the hangar does not do justice to the ENORMOUSNESS of the dress. It is a sack. The whole thing is so wide it barely stays on her shoulders, and it sags down in front something awful. It might work over a t-shirt with some leggings as a tunic, but as a dress? FAIL.

Oh well, that is what I get for trying to shortcut my time and effort. Luckily we used cheapo "Quilter's Showcase" fabric from Joann's (on sale for $1.49/yd), which, by the way, I would never showcase in a quilt. It's junk. So essentially we have a wearable muslin which taught me that I do not wish to waste good fabric on this pattern ever again. Anyone want the pattern? It's uncut (I traced). If you think you could do something with it, leave a comment.

I started a new dress yesterday and it looks much more promising. Details are really everything with these little girl garments, and the sweet tucks on this dress should save the day, fit-wise:

Isn't that fun? Buttons go between the center tucks for interest. The ghosty white lines are just the chalk from drawing the lines for the tucks. I've already hemmed, so I just need to finish the neckline and armholes, put a button on the back, and voila! I think it will be great. And I feel good about using this fabric purchased many years make this wee dress. I had more than enough left to make this frock. I might even be able to squeak out bias binding so everything will match perfectly. What do you think? Round red buttons? Or should I go in search of cherries? Cherry buttons might be too busy. I think juicy round red buttons will do.

Let's see, what else? Well, we made good use of the leftover Easter egg dye, I think:

Or maybe not, depending on your taste! This year we decided to try the McCormick "neon" food coloring. Ummm...eew. No likey. The eggs looked just ok. Of course Daughter loves all the colors, and she is thrilled with these tiny hanks of wool. We got the Knits for Barbie book from the library, and I've promised to make a few little doll garments out of this stuff (100% wool fingering weight).

And I kind of hate to say it, but I've been purchasing a bit of yarn lately. I've decided to stop feeling so guilty about my stash. Yeah, I have quite a bit of yarn, but I'm not nearly as bad as some people. I like to buy at my price, and then I have what I need when something comes up. Lately people are having babies like mad, and I like having a few skeins of pretty baby-color yarns stashed away. Now that I've made a February Baby sweater, I'm itching to make more in different weights, fibers, and colorways. These were only $1.50 each, so can you really blame me?

This is 2 skeins of Caron Spa (sport) in 'green sheen', 2 in 'naturally', and 2 skeins of Caron Country (worsted) in 'renaissance rose'. Each colorway should be enough to make one baby sweater; the green and the natural are suitable for either gender. Yay, a baby sweater for $3! As an aside, I don't just do this because I'm cheap - I do it because I can give more when I spend less. If the sweater is only $3 to make, then I can throw in some little matching clothes, accessories, and books without breaking the bank.

Off now to brew up a strong caffeinated beverage so I can make it through the afternoon (another aside: so, so excited for Iced Dunkin' Dark Roast this summer). I must fight the urge to curl up in the sunlight coming in the patio door and sleep away the afternoon...must make use of naptime...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

pulling it together (sort of)

I've been exceedingly frustrated with my total inability to finish ANYTHING lately. Like, to the point of anger and sadness. For the past 10 years or so, I've been extremely dedicated to creative endeavors, and despite a few quilt wips upstairs in bins, I've been pretty good about getting stuff done. But lately? Oh my gosh, lately I've just been letting stuff pile up on the dining room table and fighting to keep my sanity day-to-day.

When I am not able to dedicate time to being creative, when I lose that meditation, I can really, really tell the difference. And it's miserable.

Luckily, tomorrow is Easter, so I was forced to clear off the dining room table. I sewed the button back on AJ's yellow cotton cardigan (which was originally Daughter's...cotton ease yarn holds up well) and I patched my very favorite jeans:

The knee was ripped from seam to seam. I ironed mending tape to the inside of the rip to hold it together, then took a piece of regular cotton calico and sewed it right sides together, turned (like making a pillow), pressed, and topstitched the whole rectangle around the giant tear. Hopefully it will hold awhile, as these jeans are so awesomely comfortable.

Problem is, they are quite literally disintegrating all over. The denim is totally shredded at the hip. I used the same method here, just trying to make them last a bit longer. You can't buy comfort like this. I had to try something.

I finally hemmed the sleeves and stitched the buttonholes and buttons for this silly dress. Sometimes I like to buy those bags of coordinating buttons at Joann's (Favorite Findings, maybe?), which is where these brown plastic buttons came from. They are super inexpensive, and this way if one is lost or broken, it can be replaced quickly and easily. Just have to tie off the thread ends (I sew buttons on by machine), and this one is done.

And finally, these sweet "dublin" green Picky Pants (Little Turtle Knits pattern) for my sister's baby boy due this summer. I've finished approximately ZERO knitting outside of Etsy orders over the last month or two, so this feels really good! The only problem is, I used almost every inch of the yarn for the knitting, and that little swirl of yarn on the right of the photo is all I have left. I need to make a drawstring. I'm making a dark navy cardigan, hat and booties so this will be a modern-day "pram set" and I guess the pants will have to have a navy drawstring. Unless anyone has a bit of Knitpicks Swish in the dublin colorway they want to send me...ahem.

Anyway, they are city dwellers and have a gigantic dog which requires daily walks, so I wanted to make up a really warm set for the baby to keep him nice and cozy in the stroller this autumn. I'm also working up a plan for either a quilt or a knitted or crocheted blanket. I'm leaning towards quilting because my mom is making a blanket. Or perhaps I'll make both, who knows? But I need to bust a move because the shower is mid-May and I want my gifts ready then.

So I feel a little bit better having finished up some stuff. I still need to figure out a way to incorporate more meditative time into my days to keep me calm and sane. The kids are beating the crapola out of each other constantly right now - I mean I can't even turn my head without one of them pushing, smacking, pulling hair, shoving,'s awful! Hopefully with the nicer weather coming we'll get outside, work out some pent up energy, and quit it with the violence! We'd like to get the sandbox built this weekend, and I'm hoping to go BIG so there's something awesome to do in the backyard. Daughter tends to be really lazy without me goosing her to get up and do something, but she LOVES to dig (I often find her outside underneath trees, digging, digging, digging), so here's hoping a great sandbox will encourage more outside play.

I'd better get the day started. My parents have picked up Daughter for breakfast and the baking of Easter bread dolls, so now Hubs and I need to clean and prep for tomorrow's brunch, the eggs need to be dyed, and the Easter cutouts need frosting (I have the Wilton 101 cutter set, so we made eggs, crosses, bunnies, etc). Gotta cook and crumble the bacon for my quiche lorraine, and get out the dishes we want to use. Grandma's china? Not sure yet.

Happy passover, happy Easter, happy Spring! Have a wonderful weekend, all.