Friday, July 28, 2017

A New Skirt

Nine years ago, a friend suggested the book Sew What! Skirts by Francesca DenHartog. She had been making loads of skirts using the book and thought others would enjoy it. I bought it in May of 2008. Then, I never made a thing. When we moved, it got lost. Maybe, I gave it to my sister. Who knows? I just know I didn't have it anymore, and I wanted to use it. Finally. So, when I found one at Half Price Books, I picked it up, even though that was not what I was there for. I'm so glad I did. I made a skirt! Without a pattern!!! I love how it turned out. Had my sewing machine not decided to be angry at me, the skirt would have taken only a couple hours start to finish. Sadly, I had to make the buttonholes by hand, so it took longer. Those buttonholes did give me an incredible sense of accomplishment, though. I'm excited to try another skirt option. I have fabric that needs to be used, and a dearth of clothing, so I need to sew myself a wardrobe.


I added darts to deal with a swayback.
*Shirt is from Threadless. Photos were taken at the Fort Lewis College campus because we live right down the hill, and it's beautiful.
Affiliate link. If you buy this book, I'll get a small portion of your sale.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hand-stitched Buttonholes

Today, I thought I'd show you how to hand-stitch a buttonhole in case you need to make buttonholes and don't have a sewing machine, or yours decides to be difficult like mine. This is a photo heavy post, as it is (mostly) a photo tutorial. At the end, I do include a video I made of how to make a blanket stitch for the purposes of the buttonhole. Enjoy.

First, you need to mark your buttonhole placement. Personally, on this particular project, I had no problem just drawing it on my fabric. On a more delicate fabric, I might not have done that. Use straight pins to keep the edges of the buttonhole stable until you have stay-stitches in place.

Cut your hole. I start the cut by folding the fabric in half and cutting a small hole. Then, I slide my scissors* tip into the starter hole and cut the rest of the hole.
Stay stitch the one end.

Insert your needle into the edge of the stitch line, while holding your thread up and out of the way.

Pull your needle out through the hole.

Make certain that the needle comes out over the working thread.

Pull it snug. You want that loop to sit snugly, but not tightly against the edge of the hole.

Once you get to the end of one side, make a couple stay stitches at the other end. This is what your buttonhole will look like after one round of stitches down one side. Turn your work and continue down the other side. Make certain that when you pull the needle point up through the hole on this edge that you don't catch the other side's stitches. Repeat all of this a second time to make a nice tight buttonhole.

This is what your buttonhole should look like when you're finished. You'll notice that the loops make the edges of the buttonhole.

A video of me doing blanket stitch for a buttonhole.

*Do you say scissor or scissors? I'm just curious.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Just Keep Knitting. Just Keep Knitting.

When I started school in January, I was only 3 blocks away from being done with Gabriel's Geekalong blanket. Now, I'm only 2 blocks away from being done. Argh! Really, though, I love school. And, while school was going on, it was pretty much the only thing I was doing. That's just one of the realities of managing fatigue. I do think I'll get done knitting his blocks before school starts, and probably even start joining them. Here's hoping I can finish all three blankets in time for Christmas. Honestly, I was on track to finish them for Christmas last year before we moved. Moving just takes up so much time and energy! It's a good thing I like moving.

This is a queen sized bed. The joining technique I'll be using will make the blanket 8 inches wider and 14" taller. We may add an extra block and make it 5x5 instead.

This is the stack of blocks completed for all 3 blankets.

My most recent finishes.

I had to buy more stitch markers to make these.

Sometimes, I get a weird need to sew, and go off the knitting rails. This week, I'm making myself a skirt. It was a really easy skirt to make, right up until I got to the buttonholes. There's a reason I have two sewing machines. That reason is that the machine I've had for years keeps getting messed up. Something is wrong with the housing for the bobbin case and it doesn't allow the machine to work properly. I've had it in and out of the shop. Out of desperation, I bought a new machine. Happily, my new machine is a dream to work with. Sadly, because of the type of machine it is, it only does straight stitch. So, I'm doing my buttonholes by hand. It's actually been rather satisfying. I am anxious to finish it, though. I suspect I will do so today.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Bunch of monkeys on the deck.
When our furniture was first delivered and stuffed into the room.

Current configuration

When we moved to Colorado, we downsized from a 3400 sq ft house with loads of storage, 2 living rooms, huge kitchen, large dining room, a sewing room, a workshop, 4 bedroom, 3 bathrooms... it was big. Now, we live in a 1000 sq ft apartment with little extra storage, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and an almost nonexistent kitchen. Honestly, I'm extremely thankful for the amount of buy-in we've gotten from our children for the change. We kept both our couches when we moved, and they barely fit in our living room, but they were old, worn out, and extremely uncomfortable. 

A couple weeks ago, Gary and I abandoned our children for the day and went to the larger city about an hour away to look at furniture. We had already decided to replace our couches with multiple recliners to allow for maximum flexibility when moving out of the apartment. Of course, when the chairs were delivered, they really didn't all fit in our living room. We ended up moving 3 bookshelves to make room. Not only did that make extra room, but it opened the room up to the kitchen/dining room, making the room look better.

A couple weeks ago, we moved our dining room table onto the balcony to give us extra room in the kitchen area. We plan to install a rug, more lighting, and maybe some other things to make the balcony seem more like a room, but it works. We'll add plastic to the balcony come winter to insulate it. In the meantime, we're now looking for something to add to the dining area to make more counter space. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eighteen Years

Eighteen years is a lifetime. It's the amount of time we consider sufficient to make a man out of a boy, or a woman out of a girl. It's the amount of time we consider sufficient to teach a person what they need to know in order to make an informed decision on whether or not to smoke, and who to vote for in an election. And, it is the amount of time that has passed since my brother died.

I'm not the sort to continually mourn. Most years, this day passes with a slight hiccup, just a small reminder that he's gone and not coming back. This time of year doesn't bring a special pain, just that reminder. 

Instead, my grief comes in small doses, when I want to ask for his help knowing how to comfort a child much like him. My grief comes when I look at my child and know that he would have enjoyed knowing his uncle, or my nephew knowing that he should have had his father. The grief comes when my son wants to talk math or physics and I know that my brother would have loved talking about that with him, or when the boys are playing D&D and I know he would have enthusiastically joined in.

The grief is brief. My mourning is done. But today, I remember my goofy, irritating, smart, slightly neurotic brother. RIP Frank III. I love you.

If you would like to read about the day he died, I wrote about it 4 years ago.

Husband, Glorious Husband

Gary and I have joined the Instant Pot cult. Well, really, Gary has joined the Instant Pot cult. I'm just along for the ride. Frankly, anything that gets delicious food in front of my face is a go for me. In the interest of supporting Gary's Instant Pot habit, I joined a group on Facebook that shares recipes and tips. Sure, 90% of the posts are about yogurt and boiled eggs, but that's okay. We've found some amazing recipes. Tonight, Gary made lamb stew in the Instant pot. Oh. My. Word. That stuff is like crack. The lamb is literally melting in my mouth. He did adjust the recipe to include a quart of broth (that I made in the Instant Pot a month ago and canned in my stovetop pressure cooker) instead of 3 tbsp. It actually makes it difficult for the IP to come to pressure with less liquid.

The Instant Pot puts me in mind of my grandmother, though. Nonnie used her stovetop pressure cooker to cook quite a bit. It seems to me that we've lost some skills through our rush out of the house and into modern day cooking. And, in talking to people in this Facebook group, we have made cooking so mysterious that people are afraid to try things. The Instant Pot takes away the fear that a stovetop pressure cooker seems to give so many people. I suppose that I have the benefit of having grown up with Nonnie, learning to can, cook, bake, and so do not have that fear. Then again, I rarely have fear of things of that nature.

All of my fears are about not getting a 4.0. Sigh. I do love good grades.

If you're interested in the Instant Pot, I can suggest some good blogs that have excellent recipes. And, you can always join the Facebook group. I am especially a fan of a blog that translates Indian recipes into Instant Pot recipes, including an excellent recipe for tandoori chicken. Any other fans? Do you have favorite resources for recipes?

Hiking and Pain- a backpack review

Gary and I have enjoyed hiking for a long time. When I got sick, hiking really came to a halt. Once I started feeling better, we started doing short hikes in terrain that involved little elevation change, mostly at Creasy Mahan, a lovely little nature preserve in Oldham County, Kentucky. The one constant before and after has been back pain. I have never had a backpack that fit me correctly. Mostly, I just had Gary carry whatever we were hiking with, and since those hikes were mostly short, in consistent weather, it was fine that I didn't carry my own pack. Now, however, I need to carry my own pack, and have no desire to experience loads of back pain. Enter Dominic's back pack.

Last fall, when we bought the boys new backpacks, Dominic chose a women's backpack because that's what fit him best at the time. Now, however, he's grown about 6" and it no longer fits him properly. Fortunately, it fits me like a dream.

Yesterday, after we had been hiking for about 2 hours, I realized that I didn't feel as though I'd been carrying a backpack for 2 hours. In fact, I didn't feel like I'd been carrying a backpack at all. The backpack design actually seemed to help support my back instead of pulling down on my shoulders. Glory be. Seriously, I've tried on so many different backpacks in the various outdoor stores we've visited throughout our marriage (Gary's been a member of REI since long before we met) and never found one that fit quite right.

Not only did I not experience any pain, but I was able to shove everything I needed into that backpack- poncho, snacks, hiking boots, socks, sweat shirt, leggings, water bladder, camera, phone, first aid supplies, tissues... I think that was all.

The only pain I have from yesterday is a little hip pain from going up and down the trail. I did roll out my muscles on a foam roller last night and this morning, but this is a huge win for me, especially considering that we hiked for 4 hours with an almost 2000 foot elevation change. Gary wants us to be 14ers. I may just try, but first, Ice Lake.

The backpack I used is an Osprey Mira AG 26 Hydration Pack. I am now looking at their trail packs in the interest of doing some trail camping next summer.

A couple downsides- It squeaks. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong. If someone can walk into a sliding glass door, they can do something wrong with a backpack. But, reading other reviews on Amazon tell me that this is a common problem. I'll take it, though. It's not loud (to me) and it wasn't irritating. Secondly, at some point, Dominic managed to break off the magnet that holds the bladder spout to the strap. I'm not sure if it's a flaw in the design or if Dominic played with it a lot. Regardless, it doesn't reduce the functionality in my eyes.

*Affiliate links

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pass Trail

Warning: This is a picture heavy post. In fact, all those pictures are the main reason I'm blogging today. Mom needs to see the pictures, no?

This morning, I bounded out of bed at the extremely early time of 9:45, and said to Gary, "Let's hike Engineer today!" To this, Gary responded, "Ummmm, I think it's going to rain." Still, he agreed, and I raced down the hallway waking up children in the hopes they'd go with us. (By this time it was around 11, since the actual first thing I do in the morning is eat.) All 3 of our children replied with definitive nos. So, we set off, Gary, Bear, and me.

Then, we took the wrong trail. I was planning to take the easier, but longer, trail. We really haven't had a chance to do much hiking since getting out here, and I wanted to ease my way into it. Sadly, that is not what happened. Thankfully, it was totally worth it. We had a glorious time, even if we did get caught in a hailstorm. (Maybe I should listen to the man who's been forecasting weather for over 20 years.) Because of the storm, we stopped a short way before we got to the summit of the trail and headed back down the mountain. Sadly, Bear did not get to play in the snow. Next time, Bear.

We did, at least, pack just right. Knowing that we were gaining an elevation of about 5,000 feet from our house, (almost 2000 from the trail head), we brought warm clothes to layer. We also brought rain gear because, well, Gary's a weatherman!
On the way

Started the day in shorts, Chaco sandals, and short sleeves. Ended the day in this and a poncho.

That is snow.

Some of these flowers were taller than me. It felt like walking through a tunnel of flowers.

Wiped out. Filthy. Wet. Loved every minute.


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