Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year In Review, Part One: Revolutionary Heroine or Disturbed Trouble-maker?

Interesting non-conformist or irritating agitator? Charming individualist or borderline sociopath?


Last weekend was a five-day vacation for me: five days of sweet, sweet freedom from the hellish nightmare of endless toil and sufferin-- er.  I was off from work.  And I knew that at least some of that time I would spend sewing.  Or I hoped so.  I had two pairs of jammies, a shirt-dress and a blouse all half-sewn on the table.  I also had two knitted skirts, completed up to about row 8 and two knitted earwarmers,completed up to about... row 8.  (Row 8 seems to be pivotal for me in some way.)  These were all, of course, supposed to be Christmas gifts.

By December 24 at 4:00 pm I had completed one earwarmer. 

I did, however, complete the jammies and the shirt-dress by my last evening off.  And once again, I went whizzing around on the "Why do I stress myself out about a leisure pursuit?" merry-go-round.  I know, I know, we all take a spin on that particular ride now and then.  Usually my little trips are pretty uninformative.  (I do have an amazing ability to combine deep introspective thought with a pathological refusal to acknowledge or alter my self-destructive behaviors. I'm special like that.)

This time, however, I actually came to some conclusions. It's amazing how cogent you become when you've actually had some sleep for three or four days in a row.

Conclusion #1: I think everyone should wear unique and interesting clothes. Or at least my kids should.

Conclusion #2: I actually do have to make TLo's clothing. And in that case I should really make at least some of The Big One's too or she'll get a complex.

Conclusion #3: Artistically speaking, I am a colorist. I always have been. Apparently in garment-making, this translates into wanting to make simply-styled clothes with lots of funky, bright fabric combinations and not highly-detailed, complicated designs with muted, subtle fabrics.

Conclusion #4: I feel compelled, in the interest of keeping myself interested, to make clothes that are either challenging to design or challenging to construct.

Conclusion #5: Conclusions number 1-4 do not combine well with making uniform-appropriate clothes.

Conclusion #6: I really really really hate the school uniform policy.

Hmmph. I don't like my conclusions.

But of course in typical fashion, I did not decide (as perhaps a more mentally sound person would) to just stop making clothes I don't want to make.  No, instead I resolved to even further attempts at twisting and torturing completely inappropriate patterns into something that I could at least nominally call School Appropriate.  Regardless of their actual appropriateness.  I told you I was special.

Which is all to say, I had an idea and I'm not sure it works.

IMG-env-frntB4217-design-changeSo what do you think? Can a surplice knit dress have a collar arbitrarily added to it and look... Not Crazy?   Because The Big One has some serious surplice love since way back and I thought I might try to use her favorite pattern to make a school dress. 

Please vote.


edit: Thanks to everyone who commented and voted so far (and everyone else, please keep voting!)

Uniform Policy Refresher Course:



shirts/blouses/dresses: collar, sleeves
solid color (any)
jumpers/pants/skirts: navy, brown, black, khaki

indoor jackets/sweaters:

solid color (any)
socks/tights: solid color (any)

Monday, December 27, 2010


I don't watch Late Night. In fact, I don't know that I watch anything on network tv. However, I found this both funny and sort of impressive: Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) and The Boss (as himself) singing Willow Smith's highly-annoying "Whip My Hair".

(Sorry, can’t embed a copyrighted clip without the commercial at the beginning.)

That's one good impersonation.   Which I realize is a somewhat dubious distinction, but still... gotta hand props to Jimmy, right?

edit: I did look up the “History of Rap” and it was funny!  I love Justin Timberlake, he never seems to take himself too seriously.  I might have to start DVRing “Late Night”.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ahhh… Don’t You Just Love A Fanatic?

I do.  This year we’re having a smallish Christmas with (as far as I know) just the immediate local family—which is to say myself, The Husband, The Evil Monkeys, The Parents and The Grandparents (the only two of my original six that remain).  We hold all such gatherings at The Parents’ house because, quite frankly, their house is a veritable mansion and mine, veritably, is not. 

We’re having a very casual meal for Christmas Eve Dinner and I decided to bring some additional sides.  So I chose green bean casserole and ‘some type of bread product’.  I had originally intended to just make my standard (albeit tasty) whole-wheat loafs.  I even contemplated making lefse, inspired by Joy’s fabulous foray into the making of krumkake.  But then it occurred to me that I hadn’t made soda bread in a long time.  A really long time.  So long a time that I couldn’t remember the recipe.  And thereby discovered that I also couldn’t remember where I’d put the written version.

Doh!  And yet…. there’s a reason Google was put on this earth, right people?  Surely I could find a nice, simple, traditional soda bread recipe.  We just put “soda bread” into the search engine and….

Good.  Grief.

I have never seen such a jumbled and confusing mess of useless links.  Maybe nobody makes real soda bread anymore.  Perhaps they’ve all been seduced by the siren-song of “honey-glaze” and “dried mangos”, which seemed to crop up disturbingly often in my search results. Perhaps we were doomed, doomed to eat plain old yeast-risen bread after all.   I despaired. 

And then, I saw it.  A web address tantalizingly called  Wow.  Seriously?  They have their own website?  This I had to see.  And I was not disappointed.  I now have proof that there is someone emphatically-to-the-point-of-bordering-on-maniacally endorsing literally every possible thing on the face of this planet.  So meet my latest discovery: The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread.

You heard me.  A flippin’ society, people. 

Now I will say, they do have a point that some of these new-fangled ingredients (Sun-dried tomatoes?  Garlic? Chiles??) are not traditional.  Plus, they provide a seemingly exhaustive quantity of information about the history of soda bread.  I personally never in my life expected a soda bread to be desert, but apparently there are heretics out there who do.  And the Society does have a nice, simple, traditional soda bread recipe.  Which I fully intend to desecrate by –gasp– adding raisins.  And possibly a tablespoon of sugar. 

Don’t let the SPISB know.  They’ll probably hunt me down and beat me with a ten-day-old loaf wrapped in a sock.sodabreadwhite

I’m so glad I didn’t decide to make lefse after all.  I shudder to think what a Society For The Preservation of Norwegian Lefse website would look like.  There’s only so much gastronomic zeal I can take in one year, however well-intended.  Plus, I’m too lazy to rice all those potatoes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why, yes. One of my children IS Amish.

Why do you ask?


Poor TLo.  A dedicated reader will already be aware that TLo has very little in the way of Clothing That Fits, due to her -ahem- Sturdy Build.  So I added several jumper patterns to her SWAP list, hoping to have at least two or three for school.

I was really excited to make this BurdaStyle pattern (1-2009 #136A), which I've been eyeing since it came out.  BurdaStyle 1-2009 136ALittle did I know the shock and horror that would ensue. 

BurdaStyle 1-2009 136A

Look at those happy little urchins, just frolicking deceptively in the snow.  They are so totally not telling the truth about this jumper!  Evil, evil urchins.

The first shock came when I finally traced out the pattern pieces and suddenly discovered (I'm a little slow) that the yoke is ONE PIECE.  Seriously, this is a freaky piece of design work. 


It makes the jumper completely Not Adjustable, because the fit of the jumper is necessarily limited by the size of the head-hole.  Since I was up-sizing this a little for TLo, much mathematical confusion ensued leading to a highly typical round of sheer guesswork.  Would TLo be able to get her head through it?  Who knew?

The second shock came when I began assembling said freaky-head-hole-yoke-piece. Sadly, I decided to make the jumper in a fabric that one could only call "inappropriate".  I'm pretty sure it's a Haggar remnant. I got it online for a very good price and if I was making mens' trousers I'd probably be in clover. Sadly, I was making a little girl's jumper.  The results were... unpleasant.

Besides my poor fabric choice (much too stiff and egregiously prone to wrinkling), this pattern was a P.I.T.A. to put together.  I mean, I'm a quilter.  I’m not completely unfamiliar with a curved seam... but this one kicked my butt.  The trauma of it all has rendered details hazy, but I seem to recall that you sew the upper curve of the yoke and facing together whilst sandwiching the two straps, then stitch the (heavily pleated) skirt to one piece and topstitch the other down.  Much as you would any yoke-and-skirt combo, but with y'know, horrifying curves and hugely bulky pleats.  Oh joy.


Wrinkling.  Much, much wrinkling.

It didn’t really get any better from there.



I still make TLo wear this to school.  I’m sure I’ll be sorry in ten years when I have to pay her therapy bills.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So Maybe All Of Life’s Problems Can’t Be Solved By YouTube. Maybe.

You know how sometimes you’re looking for something, some indefinable thing, and you just can’t seem to find it?  That’s how I’m feeling lately about… almost everything.

I didn’t find what I wanted on YouTube.  I did find this, however.  A pretty darn good clip of Ike&Tina.  You always gotta love Tina (not to mention those crazy backup singers, those girls are workin’ it).

I did spare your delicate sensibilities from the horror that is a clip of Tina on “Shindig”.  I mean, really?  White girls in go-go boots?  Glenn Campbell on guitar (that is Glenn Campbell, right)?  It’s sort of like watching Aretha Franklin on the Lawrence Welk Show.

You remember the Lawrence Welk Show.  “And uh-von and uh-two… everybody polka!”


Lawrence Welk was from North Dakota. 

We’re so proud.


(Ha.  I shouldn’t be ugly.  North Dakota has every right to be proud of Lawrence Welk and virtually every other 19th century pioneer who managed to survived a winter there to go on to do… well, just about anything.  You made it through the 60-degrees-below-zero winter with all your fingers despite living in a sod house and having no food?  You deserve commendation.  You play that polka music, dude.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Not Always Thankful

Last Thanksgiving, my dad threw away the wishbone.  You have no idea the horror, agitation and pain this caused.  For TLo and The Big One, at any rate.  For the next 365 days, they made sure to remind us all that they must have the wishbone this year.  Or else.

My mother (being a mom and therefor a bit more on top of it about these things), duly saved the wishbone from her (flippin’ huge) turkey.  When we got to my parents’ house on Thursday afternoon, there it sat on it’s own platter like a temple icon, waiting for TLo and The Big One’s grubby little paws.

TLo won.

After 7 hours of family-and-friends goodness (and in The Big One’s case, a dinner made up exclusively of 8 chocolate chip cookies and 5 buttered rolls), we headed home with two very tired little girls in tow.  As we walked from the garage to the house, TLo began a strange and curious series of contortions in the security light.  Was she having a sugar-induced seizure?  Had the 6 straight hours of TV she watched actually melted her brain, just like I kept telling her it would?

Not exactly.  When questioned, she stopped her body-bending and all was made clear.  She was looking at her shadow.

“Mom!  Grandma said if you wish on the wishbone, your wish will come true.  She said it.”


“I’m looking to see if my fairy wings have started to grow yet!”

Oh dear.  Grandma is going to have a lot to answer for.


Monday, November 22, 2010


I heart me some Modwear.  Seriously.  I mean, I stopped watching Project Runway halfway through two seasons ago and I’m actually almost sorry because I missed out on this guy:


And of course the anti-social rebel in me felt compelled to create a mod dress for TLo’s school uniform.  Because that’s exactly what school uniforms need more of: Mod.

In that vein, I attempted to make this dress for TLo.  It (technically) conforms to the dress code: sleeves, collar, solid color.  Right?  RIGHT?

Ottobre 6-2010 #26

Ottobre 6-2010 photo

Unfortunately, in my brilliance I decided to not (as recommended) use felted wool but instead use a slubby sort of linen-lookish cotton that I got... from somewhere.  (Probably from Fabric Mart in that bundle of stuff that included the Anna Sui Harses-Harses-Harses border print and the surprise pink dotted-swiss voile.  Just guessing.)

Anyway, I made the dress very specifically not from felted wool (and given that today –two days before Thanksgiving-- it's 81 degrees outside, that was probably not an unreasonable decision).  Which is fine.  Until I realized that one of the reasons felted wool was probably a good choice for this dress is that the ruffles on the collar are unfinished.  Which obviously works fabulously in felted wool, but not so fabulously in cheap linen-lookish cotton.

Oh, the humanity.

This tragedy might have been avoided by simply overlocking or zig-zagging the edges of said ruffles... except I didn't have any orange thread. And wasn’t about to go and buy some.  I could have used the white thread I used on the rest of the dress, but it would have really stood out and possibly made it no longer so “solid colored”.  So I didn't attach the ruffles.  Which immediately begged the question, then why make the dumb thing in the first place? 

I know.  It's a good question.  A mod dress with no mod ruffles... is just a plain boring dress.

I did make an orange fabric rose pin to stick on the front, thinking it would at least add some visual interest.  But it's too heavy and droops in a very unbecoming manner.



Here's TLo, not particularly looking fabulous in said ruffleless dress.


Plus, she wouldn’t wear the white go-go boots.

I've decided Mod is not good for us.

But here’s a Mod-ish blast from the past… if your past includes early 90’s Canadian hip-hop.  Mine does.


In our next episode: BurdaStyle... apparently they think we have monkey hands for feet.  It's the only explanation for their belief that assembling this dress is possible.

BWOF 1-2009 #136A

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today TLo asked loudly (at the crowded skating rink), “Mom, how old are you?”

To which TBO replied (in a bellow), “She’s 53.”


Thanks.  No.  Really.  Thanks.


Time for some music.  Unfortunately, watching this video makes me feel… about 53.

Good grief.  Baby-faces.  Remember when you were that young?  It’s slipping away from me.  But then, apparently I’m 7 years younger than my own mother.  I probably have some kind of dementia.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Love Bits… No wait, “Bites”

Google “Def Leppard – Love Bites” and see how many hits you get tagged “Def Leppard Love Bits”.  Seriously.  It’s pretty entertaining.

Did you know that Def Leppard -collectively- hail from Yorkshire?  I like to bring this up periodically in conversation with The Husband.  Because it irritates the crap out of him.  And I'm the kind of person who feels compelled to irritate her husband.  It’s for his own good.

The Husband will claim that Def Leppard annoys him because they're "a bunch of untalented wankers who couldn't get real work, just like the rest of us".  In reality Def Leppard annoys him because they were a bunch of untalented wankers who couldn't get real work just like the rest of them and proceeded to make millions of pounds selling records.   Which means many, many people must have liked them.  Many, many old people.

This is for Angie A.  She’s one of those old people.


And Angie A, you inspired me to write a poem:

Emo Is Dead

Emo is dead.
Get over it.
And get a sense of humor
While you're at it.

What, you’re like twelve, right?



Hmmm…. I think “Emo Is Dead” is a great name for an all-girl punk band.  Feel free to use it for your next musical venture.  No charge.  A gift from me to you.


PS The brilliant verse above isn’t about Angie A, just in case that’s what you were thinking.  Well, because for one thing, she’s not twelve.  I did say she was old, right?  Right.  (heh heh heh… Ang, you’re still younger than me, for what it’s worth.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Bird In The Hand…

I went to Hancock's last weekend with the specific purpose of buying some appropriate patterns for TLo, as I have very few patterns in her size.  Given that most Big4 children's patterns are laughably large and my children are comically short, it didn't occur to me that I would need anything above the size 6 range for some time to come. I was wrong.  TLo is now in a size 12/14 width in RTW, which even in the world of Humongous Big4 Patterns is a 10.

TLo and I went to the store together, partly because I was hoping she would enjoy picking out her own patterns (with subtle guidance from yours truly) and partly because The Husband was taking TBO to soccer practice on that side of town anyway so I thought we could all go in one car.  I figured TLo and I, left to our own devices, could easily spend an hour and fifteen minutes in the fabric store.

This was poor reasoning on my part. TLo begged the entire time to be allowed to peruse the button section on her own, which is as far away from the pattern area as you can get and is completely obscured by row upon row of towering fabric aisles.  She was not allowed to peruse.  Or at least, not until we'd sat at the pattern table and looked through the sale books.  Apparently this is a breathtakingly tempting activity when you're not allowed to do it, but mind-numbingly boring when the siren call of the button section sings it's temptress song.  Much whining ensued.  And (despite what you're thinking) not all of it from me.  Pattern selection became a hasty process.

I relate all of this to you, Gentle Reader, in an attempt to excuse what happened next: When I saw this pattern was on sale, my heart skipped a little dance of happiness at the perfect fit for TLo's school uniform.  McCall M6156, size 7 to 14.

McCall's M6156

Shirtdress styling? Check!  Adjustable empire waistline with drawstring? Check!  Cute as a button? Check!

M6156 line drawing

Perfect.  I forced (her words) TLo to help me find said perfection in the pattern drawer and, with our seven other pattern selections, we made our giddy way to nirvana-- sorry, the button aisle.  All was right with the world.

And then today I finally got around to photo-copying the technical drawing insert for October’s BurdaStyle.  Which I have already pored over a half-dozen times in the past month.  At least.

Burda Style 10-2010 #147B

Um.  Girl's Shirtdress.  With adjustable drawstring empire waist.  Size 134-158. 


Monday, October 25, 2010

Did You Know….?



… that pressing hams are really cat pillows?

I did not know that.

Cat For Sale.  Cheap.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In Which I Wander Around The House Shaking My Head In Confusion

People.  This morning I wrote a post.  It had photos.  It had arbitrary ranting about other people’s clothing choices.  It had deeply-felt self-deprecation at my own foolishness in the ways of choosing pattern sizes.  It was a good post.

And then, in the interest of keeping you, Gentle Readers, yes you well entertained and fully informed, I decided to try my latest creation on TLo.  Just one last time.  Just to take pictures and thereby astound and amaze you with the madness that was my latest sizing choice for her.  Because on Friday, people, Friday it did not fit.  Not even remotely.  It was too small.  Too tight across the chest.  Unwearable by TLo.  And I created a whole lovely post about that sad fact, rife with photos of poor TBO having to wear a hand-me-down shirt that was entirely too large for her.

And this afternoon?  It fit.  I mean, it fit TLo.  The person I made it for and who tried it on with little success.  On Friday.


I’m pretty sure my children are conspiring to drive me mad so they can inherit my fortune.  Which would consist of a 10-year-old minivan and roughly six acres of fabric.  They are evil.

Anyway, here’s the blouse in all it’s glory:

go to It’s Ottobre 1-2007 #34, which I’ve been just waiting for one of my kids to get big enough to wear.  Uh.  And of course TLo jumped right from the bottom of the size range to a whopping 146.  (Yes, you heard me.  One. Forty.  Six.)  I’m hoping I get more use out of it, because I think it’s the perfect school uniform blouse.



Straightforward construction, cute details, cheap-but-nice fabric… Plenty to like.  Still, the fit mystery is… well, a mystery. 

Now, in all fairness, when I tried this on TLo on Friday, I hadn’t completed the buttonholes yet.  Buttonholes are not my friends and I prefer to ignore them until the last possible moment.  So TLo tried on the shirt and I merely held the plackets closed.  It was tight.  Very tight.  Too tight to wear.  Much cursing was to be heard.

I am so glad I decided to try it on her again today.  TLo is in desperate need of blouses.  And this ended up being just right.




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ramble On


ram·bling v. ramb(ə)liNG

1) to move aimlessly from place to place; to explore idly
2)to talk or write in a desultory or long-winded wandering fashion
3)to grow or extend irregularly


Hey, I was just reading Heather's blog and she nominated me for an award.  Awwww....  And this one doesn't require you to say anything about yourself except what you like about your own blog.  Awesomeness.

But you know what?  I have a complaint.  Not about Heather or her award, of course.  No, this is a complaint about Blogger.  Because you know how in WordPress, you have the option of replying to comments?  Why doesn't Blogger have this?  It is soooo annoying to have to post new comments on your own blog, just to answer someone's question.  Seriously.  It disturbs my deeply entrenched sense of hierarchical order.

For instance, someone called "Anonymous" asked, "So, your faolks not from Minnesota then? Or is all that 'expletive deleted' from the Drak Side of Minnesota?"  To which I had a clever and witty reply (long since forgotten in the hazy mess I like to call my brain).  But which I would still just like to answer by saying, "No. My parents were actually from South Dakota, which not only isn't quite as Nice as Minnesota, but also my mother is not one little bit Scandinavian (which is something of which she is inordinately proud).  My mother is ½ Irish which is a whole nuther ball of wax, people.  The Niceness mostly comes from being, y'know, Nordic.  Also, my mother takes after her dad, who swore like a sailor.  Literally since he was, in fact, a sailor during WWII.  Sadly, I take after my mother in this respect. Amongst others."   (And just to keep it all in sync, “Nordic” makes me think of my all-time favorite Mad Men quote in which Betsy is told, “You are so profoundly sad.” To which she replies, “No.  My people are Nordic.”  That almost made me choke on my tea.)

And several people commented about Mad Men Peggy possibly making her own clothes in the first season, and I was going to reply that after I posted I started mulling it over and decided that it was entirely likely (as stated or alluded to by several people) that Peggy’s mom or sister made her clothes for her, which would be totally in keeping with the time and the characters.  But it would be nice to see.

And Kathryn commented the other day, “Your blog is so funny I tend to forget that you can actually really sew....”  To which I reply, “Aha!  My clever deception is working!  Because of course, I don’t sew so very often and I have to keep you all from figuring that out somehow---"  Er.  Oops.  You did not hear that.  These are not the droids you’re looking for.

And so forth and so on...

So to answer the question, "What do you like about your own blog?" I will have to say, "I like that I can blather on like this with no apparent purpose or reason.  Now, why you all like that is not 100% clear to me.  I guess you're gluttons for punishment."

Oh and I'm supposed to make a list of ten blogs to nominate.  But really, if it's on that list over there on the side, then you can be pretty assured that I like to read it.  And so, I hereby nominate everyone.  I'm egalitarian like that.

No, I am not lazy.  I'm egalitarian!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Even Gooder Value. “Gooder.” It’s A Word.


So remember last week I showed you the very cute and highly flattering “Good Value skirt” that I made for TLo?  That is one brilliant skirt, I’ll tell you now.  The cotton gabardine washes amazingly well and the whole thing just looks great on TLo (which sadly, can’t be said for all of her school clothes).

Well, I made another one.  You may not be aware, but apparently these days grade-schools have Casual Fridays.  Honest.  I guess they all wear jeans and wander around pretending to do work for most of the day in the hopes that they can go home an hour early and have accomplished nothing whatsoever.  Or maybe I’m confusing that with Casual Fridays at places I used to work. (And doesn’t “Casual Fridays” sound like the worst generic-american-food-served-with-obnoxious-themes franchise ever?  It’s like T.G.I.Friday’s only you know, with crappier, more casual service.)

Anyhoo, poor TLo only had one pair of sad sad sad denim shorts to wear on Fridays.  Oh yeah, you know them as the Smoke On The Water Shorts (a.k.a. Ottobre 1/2009 #23).  Those ones.  I finally felt sorry for her and made her another Good Value skirt out of denim.  Um.  That same free denim that we’ve been flaunting for the past year (oh man, you just have no idea how far 24 yards of ugly denim will go).

Here it is, Good Value Skirt #2.

frontI drafted a coin pocket.backSame back.

interiorSame interior.


I did use the rivets I bought last winter (I’m a little slow).

I didn’t use elastic in the waistband of the first version and it’s a little loose.  So I put in buttonhole elastic in this one, which bunches up the back a little but does make it fit better.

back-wearing tantrumfront-wearing

Although it’s hard to tell from Tantrum Girl’s poses.  She had a fit about being scolded for not getting ready on time, which inevitably caused her to be even more Not Ready.  Stomping and screaming ensued.  Eventually, she was overcome by her own temper and had to get a tissue half-way through to comfort herself (since she wasn’t getting any sympathy from me).  All this before 7:45 am.  And I wonder why the day seemed so long?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Mad Mentality


First off, Gentle Reader, I'll just tell you now that I'm a season behind on Mad Men.  We're slow like that.  So this commentary is only valid up to Season 2, Episode 6.  If there is something relevant that has happened since then DO NOT TELL ME.  Or I will hunt you down.  With vengeance.   I have access to stat counters.  I can find out where you live (uh... within, you know, 150 miles--- BUT THAT'S ALL IT TAKES FOR SOMEONE WITH A GRUDGE TO BEAR.  Remember this.)   If you haven’t watched Mad Men, then this may be really boring.  But I (being a good person) won’t tell you anything that will ruin it for you if you do start watching it.  Just saying.

I mention all this because I just spent fifteen minutes scouring the interwebs for a specific screen shot from Season 2, Episode 1.  I actually thought about taking a picture off my own TV.  (Seriously.  How pathetic is that?)  Because I saw something in it that made me think, "Aha!!  SEWING."  To be honest, this isn't my reaction very often when I watch TV.  So it was memorable.

"And what did you see?” you ask.  Well, Gentle Reader, it was a shot of Peggy sitting in church with her sister.  The sister is holding a toddler and when she stands up to go to communion, she hands him to Peggy.  And I realize, the sister and the baby have on matching clothes.  He's wearing pants made out of the same fabric as the sister's dress.

"And your point being?" you ask in a sardonic voice.  (You, Gentle Reader, can be somewhat snide.  Or at least, that’s how it comes across in my head.) 

My point is simply that despite my habitual lack of thinking about sewing while watching TV, I have once or twice mulled over the fact that so far none of the women in the show seem to sew.  Which is interesting, given the period and context.  Is it that none of the women are in a position to need to sew, so they don't?  Joan is not the sewing type, granted.  Betsy could be, but she's wealthy.  Peggy is relatively poor, she could certainly do well to sew for herself but doesn't seem to.  Is it because she's a working girl (not in the, you know, prostitutional sense... unless you count copywriting, which in fact I think you could be forgiven for doing)?  She maybe doesn't have time to sew.

But clearly the sister does.  That makes me happy.  Because I think sewing is a pretty substantial part of being a woman in 1962.  Take the following story, as related to me by my mother last week:

In the summer 1968 my parents - 18 years old, freshly married and toting a 6 week old baby (that's me) -  moved from South Dakota to Minneapolis.  They possessed virtually nothing, just enough to fit into a tiny little U-Haul trailer that could be pulled behind their crappy old car.  Shortly after moving into their new apartment, my dad announced to my mom than his work pants needed hemming (at this point I could already see where this story was headed, but then I know my mother).

Dad: "My work pants need hemming."

Mom: "And..."

Dad: "Uh."

Mom: "----"

Dad: "Well, get out your sewing machine...."

Mom: "What the (deleted expletive-deleted expletive)?  I do not own a sewing machine!"

Dad: "-----"

Mom: "You helped pack up everything we own in a 4 foot by 4 foot trailer.  Did you see a (deleted expletive) sewing machine?!"

Dad: "----"

I may have paraphrased.  My point is, in 1968 my dad could not conceive of a girl who did not own a sewing machine.  Or at least know how to hem up pants.  (Now granted, my mom probably did know how to hem up pants, but she would not have volunteered that piece of information willingly and probably didn't own a needle or thread.  I do know my mother.)

To my mind his assumption isn't so surprising, as every other woman around me from that time period did know how to sew and my mom’s mother and several of my parents' aunts made their own clothes.  It was what you did if you didn't have a lot of money or you had a difficult body-type to fit (or possibly, although it wasn't readily apparent to me in any of these instances, if you just enjoyed it).

So while my view of Mad Men is skewed by my own personal recollection of people who wandered around in the 60's, I'm glad to see that somewhere buried in there amongst the stylish clothes and drama are some sewing women. 

Props to Peggy's Sister and the Matching Toddler Pants.

Singer 1965 Touch-and-Sew

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Suppose Your House Could Use A Little Paint, Dontcha Know?


Recently Joy at 21 Wale mentioned that someone had made a "Minnesota Nice" comment.  This sort of made me homesick.  One of the hardest parts of moving away from Minnesota (and her up-tight, even-more-nice sister, North Dakota) is the lack of Minnesota Nice that seems to pervade the rest of the world.

The wiki article linked above made me laugh:

“Sometimes area residents who move away, or otherwise come in contact with others who don't subscribe to the ideal, say that they have to shed their ‘Minnesota nice’ in order to interact properly with others or get out of troublesome situations.”

I do have trouble in other cultures (for example New Zealand or Texas) getting my point across sometimes.  Apparently people there don't perceive a gently spoken, "Well, I suppose the lawn could use a little trimming..." to mean "Your lawn is a disaster.  Don't you ever mow that thing?  Your neighbors must hang their heads in shame. As should you."

People in other places also apparently don't take three hours standing on the front driveway to say goodbye to people they're going to see again in four days (this, by the way, is known as the "Minnesota Goodbye").

And people in other places (at least the ones I've been to, which is quite a few) don't seem to be quite so obsessively concerned with The Greater Good (theeee grreeeeaater goood....).



You have got to watch "Hot Fuzz" if you've never seen it.  GOT to.  It is hilarious.  It’s for the Greater Good.


I heart Simon Pegg (and-to-a-lesser-extent-Nick-Frost). 


Annnyway…. Sorry I'm waxing nostalgic and random.  Autumn always makes me homesick here, with it's 90 degree heat and utter lack of frosty mornings or cozy sweaters or colorful leaves. 

Huh.  My husband is a British citizen.  We could still emigrate to Canada, right?  They totally get Minnesota Nice (although I’m sure they’d tell you they invented it and it’s called “Canadian Nice”… if they weren’t too nice to say so.)


Bonus Joke: 
Q:  How do you know when you step on a Minnesotan's* foot?
A:  She apologizes.

*You can put “Canadian” in there if you prefer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Old Timey Goodness Or Progressive Modernity? Neither, I’m afraid.

Did I ever mention that I'm a genius?  I've mentioned that once or twice, right?  I'm sure I must have.  Well, just in case: I'm a genius.

Um.  Sort of.

We live in north Texas.  Which is basically to say, "We live in a high-plains, desert-like hell the likes of which could inspire Dante to further greatness."  Er.  Or something.  My point being, in summer it is hot.  Really really hot.  And windy.  Really really windy.  It's also, not coincidentally, sunny 342 days of the year (I made that up, but it's fairly accurate). This perpetual sunshine is, in fact, one of the reasons we have the only joint NATO air training base in the country.  Lots of flying days.  Which is great if you're a Turkish pilot.  Or my laundry.

See, when we moved here from New Zealand, I swore as God as my witness, I would never dry laundry outside again!  (You have to imagine, y’know, big sweeping music and me ripping laundry off the line like so many curtains from the decrepit home of Scarlett O'Hara.)  And of course in Texas, nobody expects you to hang your laundry outside so it was oh-so-easy to comply with this heart-rending goal.

Except, there's all that fabric.  Soooo much fabric.  And it's been sitting in yard bags while I get around to washing it all.  You remember the whole my-cat-has-fleas-from-our-neighbor-kid scenario, right?  Well, when I realized the cat was sleeping in my fabric closet, out it all came into yard bags.   And there it all sat until I could get around to washing it.

Because that's allotta fabric to dry, people.

Enter the Husband, a power drill and three retractable clothes lines.  Up go the yards of fabric as they come out of the washer.  And, people!  Do you know how fast laundry dries in hell??  Super fast!  Like, if it's sunny and breezy, in about 15 minutes (as opposed to, oh let's say, six days in NZ). 

Good grief!  Why didn't I ever think of this before?!   Of course, new fabric I still have to machine-dry, because there’s always the possibility that I’ll machine-dry a garment I make from it.  And we don’t wash in hot water.  Although, if we’re going to start hanging the laundry, I guess we could start washing in hot water… hmm… so many laundry conundrums…  hot or cold water?…  To bleach or not to bleach?… What about the liquid fabric softener?!  Oh, the pressure.

Anyway.  Hanging the laundry.  I like it.

And here's a bonus: It makes an awesome design board.  This is what I pulled out of the bag randomly and yet look how pretty all that looks together.


A total fluke that it all coordinates (that floral has orange and purple in it exactly the colors of the knit and denim hanging next to it).  You get such a better overall picture when the fabric's extended full-length, don't you?   Of course, if I had my way, the entire world would just be one backyard strung with clothes lines and hung with pretty fabric.

I should get my way more often.

I know, it's really dumb to be proud of thinking to hang up the laundry.  But honestly I don't know one person in this town who would even consider such a thing.  And in all fairness, hanging laundry here can pose some difficulties.  For one thing, all that sunshine and wind does produce a lot of dust and dirt blowing around.  So you wouldn't want to leave your clean clothes out for too long or they wouldn't be clean anymore.  But for 20 minutes?  Brilliant.

The Big One "posing"

TLo doing... uh... something

It also makes a great backdrop for backyard silliness.

Friday, September 10, 2010

“Contritionem praecedit superbia.”

If you're an avid blog reader like me (by which I mean you spend endless hours avoiding the cleaning of bathrooms and kitchens through the reading of blogs), then you'll probably remember this post by the Slapdash Sewist, in which she gushed (quite understandably) about her recent FabricMart purchases.

Ahhhh FabricMart. Your bounty knows no bounds.

After reading said gushy post by TSS, here is what I said:


And here is what I found ten minutes ago when I opened my long-awaited box from FabricMart, eagerly anticipating my Anna Sui Harses Harses Harses print:


Hubris, thy name is Beangirl.


(I did also get the Anna Sui print… and, uh, some other stuff.)

edit: To dash hopes (I’m mean-spirited like that) – No, it did not just appear magically.  Apparently after taking it out of my cart two times in as many weeks, I then put it back in again.  And promptly forgot that I did.  It wasn’t until I opened up the box that I realized I must have ordered it to make up the 10 yards needed for that category.  Doh!  I haven’t taken it out of the dryer yet, but it seems like it’s going to wash up nicely.  So, you know, just what I need.  Three more yards of lovely lawn.

Oh.  And the Latin was just to give you a chance to use your Google translator.  I’m helpful like that.  Always thinking of others.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The New Phone Books Are Here!

The new phone books are here!

Or maybe not.

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again.  Spring Fashion Week. But have you seen the new Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week website? If you’re like me (and I know you are), you’ve been waiting breathlessly for days on end for 9:00 AM Thursday September 9, 2001.  The start of the First Show.  Because they’ll have pictures, lovely lovely pictures of everything that walks down the runway.  Right?


As of this moment they have the first two shows up.  And that’s it.

Aw, man. Work faster, evil minions of fashion.  FASTER!



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good Value

The Evil Monkeys attend one of three schools in our entire school district which require a uniform.  Three.  We are just that kind of lucky.

Now, those of you who've been around for a while may remember that last year I wasn't particularly unenthusiastic about the whole uniform concept.  I mean, sure, making polo shirts like an under-aged sweat-shop employee has it's ups and downs.  But considering how flexible our particular policy was, overall I was pretty ok with the requirement of A School Uniform.


How cute is all this stuff?  Cute, right?  Admit it.  It's cute.  And not one thing can be worn to school.  Except the brown leggings.

So now I'm wondering how we managed to get stuck with the one principal who is downright dogmatic about the uniform policy (and there's a reason why all but three schools, and likely next year all but one school, have dropped the uniform policy... namely, that it doesn't work).

The real kicker is that I have patterns and fabric that I could use to make all of that cute stuff.  But since the girls can't wear it to school and they spend most of their day (not surprisingly) at this very same school... is it worth it to make a bunch a clothes that they'll wear for two hours at a time, if at all?  Hmmph.  Not really.

It’s annoying, people.

However, in pondering the many, many, many unusable patterns that I own and the many many many unusable patterns I’m likely to acquire in the next five years or so, I realized that there is one set of patterns that I've gotten true value for money from.

Ottobre Design, issue 4-2006.  I love this issue.

cover 4-2006

I'll bet I've made at least a ¼ of the patterns in this issue, which is quite a lot for me.

And here's the latest:

4-2006-36 lineOttobre 4-2006 #36




At a rock-bottom price of $4.00/yard, FashionFabricClub declared this fabric was “twill”.  Which I guess technically speaking is accurate.  But in fact it is, of all things, a cotton gabardine.  Honest.   Unfortunately, as can be seen from the photo of the back, it still presses poorly like wool gabardine and left shiny press marks on all the seams.  They came out with washing, thank goodness.

I pretty much made this straight out of the box with no changes (a rarity around here, I can tell you).  I cut a 128 and added 1" to the width at the front for some extra hip room.  I was fervently hoping that a "miniskirt" for a child 128 cm tall would work as a "normalskirt" for a cubical midget.  And look!! I was (for once) right!

Cheerleader pleats in the back?  Check!


Good fit in the front?  Check!


(Relatively) flattering fit and conforms to School Uniform Policy?  Check!


Of course, TLo immediately declared her favorite feature was…. pockets.


And the “Chinese button”.  TLo is all about the Chinese stuff.