Friday, May 29, 2009

Stepping into the Sewing Time Machine

I remember being a high school junior and realizing that I hated most of the pairs of jeans I owned. Step into the way back machine and try to remember what jeans looked like in 1987. They were tight, really tight and tapered, really tapered. I can't be the only one who remembers having zippers on the ankles of her jeans because they were so tapered you couldn't get your heel through.

So there I was, 16 years old with four pairs of jeans that were straight leg (GASP! The social horror of it all!!!) Buying more jeans wasn't an option, my measly summer camp counselor job and babysitting money weren't going to cover that. I vividly remember having an epiphany as I realized I might be able to alter them. I wasn't sure what the correct way to accomplish this was so instead, in the words of Frank Sinatra, I did it my way!

I turned my jeans inside out, put them on and pinned them the way I wanted them to fit, making sure I could get my ankle through. It wasn't much fun wiggling my way out of a tight pair of jeans pinned from the knee down but a girl can make such sacrifices for high fashion when she's 16.

Since I had no sewing machine, I sewed the jeans by hand, a tiresome task to say the least, especially since I sewed each seam 4 times to make sure I didn't wind up splitting my pants. (It's cool to say look what I did, only if it doesn't leave you half naked in the school lunchroom.) Then I cut the excess fabric off and did one more seam over the rough edge to prevent fraying.

The project was an overwhelming success. I never did split my pants open. Those seams held long after the denim began to wear out.

Flash forward 22 years (where did that time go??) and last night Leen came to me asking if I thought I could make a pair of her slightly flared jeans into "skinny" jeans. For anyone keeping track, she's 16 and a junior in high school. (Weird, very weird.)

She put them on inside out but instead of pinning both legs the whole way down, I opted instead to put a start pin by her knee and a finish pin by her ankle on one leg only. When she took the jeans off, I drew a line connecting the two pins and then pinned along this to create my seam line. Then I measured and replicated the same seam line on the other leg.

Since we machine sewed Leen's jeans, I opted for straight stitching the seam two times and zig zag stitching it once before trimming the excess off. The result is a happy teenager with a "new" pair of jeans.

History really does repeat itself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Now Here's Someone Serious About Color & Texture

Suddenly my obsession with combining multiple strands of yarn doesn't seem so extreme anymore! Check out this video, Rachel John, Extreme Knitting, 1000 Strand Knit.

The Beach Bag is Complete

For anyone looking for the exciting conclusion of the beach bag tutorial, look no further. The straps were made out of the same fabric as the bag itself. I suspect there are simple ways of making the straps than mine but here's how I did it.

I started with 4 pieces of fabric that were 25 1/2" x 2 1/2". These measurements included seam allowance. I pinned and sewed these into two tubes, leaving either end open to accommodate overlapping the edge of the bag on both the inside and the outside. In retrospect this was needlessly fussy since my daughter is not likely to use the bag inside out. However, doing it this way does make the bag reversible if you wanted it to be.

Here's a closeup of the stitching.

I did all the stitching on the strap, except the part that is actually attached to the strap, prior to attaching it to the bag. When it came time to attach the strap I just continued the stitch pattern to create a strong anchor point. I'm no fan of basting but I did baste initially to attach the straps to the bag. The pins needed to hold the strap in place made it almost impossible to use the sewing machine, hence the need for basting. I did my basting in bright red to make it easy to see what stitches needed to come out when I was done.

Sew what's next? Two more beach bags, one for Tasha and one for Leen's best friend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This Isn't How I Planned It!!

A big week of entertaining starts tomorrow and I'm not even showered yet!! I'm not a total lazy pig, I just got back from teaching a step class and I haven't had time to yet. I'm feeling so far behind that I even broke my own rule (never go anywhere after you teach without changing first) and went into the bank. Gross, I don't think that teller is ever going to help me again!

I've got to shake it off. I'm supposed to be packing a car, organizing meals, creating a shopping list for tomorrow...!

My menu planning daughter ditched on me so I'm on my own. Must get planning!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Beach Bag Tutorial

Although my beach bag isn't completely done, I feel I must at least start putting together my tutorial. If I don't post it I'll have guilt, especially since I started using the rag rug tutorial that Ruthie shared in exchange. I'm hooked on this rag rug! Thanks for sharing Ruthie!!

Since the bag is for Leen, we started with measurements from a bag her friend had that she felt was the perfect size, 14" wide, 16" tall and 7" deep.

She wanted the bag to have alternating stripes which were 2" wide on the front and back of the bag. Since the final bag was to be 16" tall, we'd need 8, 2" stripes (plus seam allowance) for the front and back of the bag. The two sides and bottom would be one continuous solid yellow piece for stability.

This paper was like gold to me as I figured out how this would all fit together. Feel free to click on it to enlarge it, you can pretty well see my thought process.

The Final Cutting Measurements which include 1/2 seam allowance on each side:

Side/bottom/side 8" x 47" yellow heavy cotton fabric, 1 piece
Stripes 3" x 15" yellow heavy cotton fabric, 8 pieces
Stripes 3" x 15" white heavy cotton fabric, 8 pieces

Pin and sew the stripes together for the front and back. Remember 8 stripes equals one side. I did one straight stitch and one zig zag stitch for extra stability.

Once the front and back pieces are sewn you need to attach them to the side/bottom/side piece. I'm not crazy about the way I did this and I strongly suspect there is a more fluid way to do it. Please feel free to make suggestions. I started by marking the side/bottom/side piece so I would know where to place the front and back pieces. Then I stitched the front and back pieces on using the same straight stitch followed by zig zag stitch. This went smoothly.

When I went to attach the sides of the bag to the front and back, I wasn't crazy about the way the corners came out. I fiddled with it until it worked but I'm in no position to tell anyone else how to do it.

For the liner, I used a single piece of fabric cut to approximately the same measurements as the overall bag if it was totally flattened out, plus seam allowance. My measurements were 22" x 41". I actually allowed 2" of "screw up room" in the larger of the two measurements because I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to attach it to the main bag. As it turned out this was a good choice because of the way I did the top edge.

I opted to start by folding over the top edge and sewing it.
Then with right sides facing each other, I sewed the sides together. I was able to make a much better bottom corner on the liner of the bag than on the bag itself as you'll see here.
Again, I'm not certain how to explain this maneuver so I'm going to leave it to the more eloquent to do the explaining.

I slid the liner into the main bag and decided to attach it by folding the top edge of the liner over and letting it peek out.I did two seams once very close to the bottom edge and one nearer to the top.

Here's the bag so far, straps are on today's agenda.
Don't let my ideas tie you down. Figure out what you have on hand, what you need it to do to be functional and then make your own version that's even better!

Friday, May 15, 2009

You Know You're Getting Old When...

...both of your teenage daughters have their licenses. Tasha just passed her road test this afternoon. I'm only 38, I'm too young for all this stress!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

An Honest Mechanic is Worth His Weight in Gold!

The beach bag is coming along nicely. Ruthie, I want that rug pattern so I guess I'll be sharing my beach bag pattern. Right now I'm working on the liner. Once the straps are done I'll share the whole process.

We've had quite a bit of contact with the Honda dealership that services two of our cars. Oh yeah, I guess I should back up and mention that Leenie got her license Monday and Tasha is taking her road test tomorrow. Both have bought their own cars, Leen a 2001 Geo Metro and Tasha a 2000 Honda Civic. Both cars are financed through the bank of Mom & Dad but this bank doesn't fool around. We even went so far as to draw up a contract, although we aren't charging interest. So about that service department at the Honda dealership, we just saved a boatload of money because the service department was totally honest with us.

When Tasha bought her car, we were told by the person selling it to us that her mechanic said it wouldn't pass inspection without a new catalytic converter. This allowed us to talk the price down by $1,000 from what she was asking. Even needing this repair the car was a great deal. We brought it in for an inspection and the catalytic repair and prepared to pay everything we saved on the purchase price. That's when the service department called me.

They wanted to know the back story on the car, specifically why we wanted them to replace the catalytic converter? I won't bore you with the details of the conversation but the outcome is simply this. We didn't need a catalytic converter at all. We did need a new battery and there was a piece of metal that was rubbing when we made turns that needed to be bent out but aside from that, the car was in great shape. Our thousand dollar problem was solved for a little more than two hundred dollars because our mechanic was honest.

So go find an honest mechanic right now!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sew This is What's Going On

It seems that my worries about the asparagus were baseless. Just about all of them have made a showing. Now if only those potatoes would start sprouting... Oh well, I think this is what the life of a gardener is like. You worry about each and every seed, crown and bulb. Slow sprouters spawn the worry, "did I screw that up?" So far the answer is no but the season is young.

There are weeds breaking through the hay that surrounds the elderberry bushes. I'm planning to deal with that today. My seedlings have been getting acclimated to the great outdoors the last few days by hanging out under our deck in the dappled sun. So far they're holding up well. Next week they'll go in the ground. Of course the ground isn't prepped yet but that's another days work.

Spring also means it's time to go through the boys' outgrown clothes. Two huge bags were donated this morning. I only kept the outgrown jeans for the quilt project and 2 sweaters to unravel. Everything else went out. If I don't get those last two denim quilts made soon, I fear my denim stash will be in danger. It's grown to dangerous proportions. Maybe I'll get a few rows sewn today.

Leenie doesn't know it yet but her beach bag is high on today's agenda as well. There's a possible tutorial coming but I'm not so sure the world needs another bag tutorial so we'll see.

In other frugal news, Memorial Day weekend is rapidly approaching and we need a menu since we've got half the world spending the weekend with us. This job goes to Leenie. I wonder if I should have told her first before posting it here?

I'm off to start the rest of my day.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Little Rant for Your Friday

Welcome to Friday! I wonder if I'm the only one who feels utterly brain dead from the week? Things always ramp up to an insane pace as the school year ends. I can't wait for summer to hurry up and get here.

Amid the insanity of getting ready for proms, graduations and trying to get in a few extra hours at work before I stop for the summer, I'm trying to keep the house running smoothly. Honestly, I don't think I'm doing so well. Oh well, everyday is a new opportunity to get it right.

One thing I think I am getting right are my yoga classes. I've been able to keep my prices low, making it more available to a wider range of participants and I've been able to cover my costs. At least I was until yesterday when I got a bill from a school district I'd been teaching in for almost 2 years.

After two years of no rental fee because I was servicing only their staff and their special needs students, I was hit with a $78-$130 rental fee PER CLASS!! (The $78 is if I commit to more than 11 weeks of teaching, the $130 is for less than an 11 week commitment.) I don't take in even half of that per class because the groups I teach are small (3-5 participants). Talking to the person in charge did nothing which surprised me. Surely some rental fee is better than no rental fee at all? (I had offered to pay a percentage of my per person class fee). Apparently in this school district it is not, so unless a miracle occurs, I will no longer teach yoga there.

Will I lose the students? Probably not, since they've already asked if we could continue in an alternate location. Still the inflexibility and greed of the situation bothers me. My goal is to make yoga accessible to everybody not to make a killing at it. To pay room rental fees that high I have to either have more students per class than I am capable of giving adequate attention to or dramatically increase my fees. I don't feel willing to do either.

BTW, just to give perspective on room rental rates in my area, I pay about half of the lower room rental fee at a community center in my area and the gym where I work charges room rentals a percentage of their per person fee (usually 20-30%).

I need to take a few deep breaths and let the whole thing go...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Keeping Sweater Poop at Bay

The thing about unraveling sweaters is that the process leaves "sweater poop" all over the floor in your knitting space. This becomes socially unacceptable if you do some of your unraveling while watching your sons' swim practice. It also takes time to unravel and roll into balls.

I had this great cotton sweater that I wanted to use the yarn from in my mother's day dish towels. I didn't see myself having the time to unravel and knit. I decided to get the unraveling started. This means getting past all the weird, impossible to unravel parts that exist in the neck of some sweaters. Once I was able to get a solid strand of yarn unraveling smoothly, I began to knit while I unraveled rather than rolling the unraveled yarn into a ball first. To keep the sweater poop at bay, I kept the piece that was unraveling as I was knitting in a bag. This worked out very well. The bag is a sweater litter box keeping my floor sweater poop free. (I'd show you but that would ruin the surprise so you'll just have to wait!)

Friday, May 01, 2009

I'm thrilled to report that the lonely little asparagus now has 3 friends. (Perhaps Ruthie was right and I buried them too deep. I swear I followed the instructions but...)

I've been on a cleaning spree inside as we try to integrate the summer clothes into the closet and store away the winter things. Robert is now almost as tall as I am so things are a little interesting in the clothing department. I swear he grew about six inches since this time last year! I'm going to see how creative I can get to deal with this.

This weekend will include more gardening as well as working on this towel pattern for Mother's Day presents.