achievement unlocked: cross stitched cat necklaces

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Every year, I make a New Year’s resolution to be more on the ball with the birthdays of my loved ones. Send cards, make gifts, throw Ramona a decent birthday party, etc. The people who benefit most from this resolution are always the people born in the first half of January, because I suck at actually achieving this goal. Sorry, friends born in December. Sorry, my only child, born on November 30 & constantly getting the birthday shaft because you’re not only born at the end of the year, but also at the end of the month.

My friend Robin was born on New Year’s Day, & my sister’s birthday is January 14. I made them each a cross stitched cat necklace. The next birthday is coming up on January 29th & I have no idea what to do for it. If you have any brilliant ideas for a 40-something male librarian, let me know.

Robin’s necklace is the one with the gray cat. Her cat is really more cream-colored with some gray tiger-like markings, but cream wasn’t going to show up very well on my white Aida cloth. Ultimately, I should have erred on the side of lighter gray colors & a mix that helps the markings stand out more (you might not be able to tell, but I used three different colors of gray to mimic his coloring), but hey, live & learn.

My sister’s cat is black & he has a snaggletooth. That’s the white thing sticking out of his mouth.

I used 18-count Aida cloth & made up my own pattern for the cat faces. I used two strands of floss, & used just a single strand for the pupils of the eye, the mouth, & the whiskers. I bought the wooden pendants & chains in the jewelry-making section at Michael’s (Jared gave me a gift certificate for Christmas, which was AWESOME) & attached the finished cross stitch with craft glue. Making both necklaces, start to finish, only took maybe two or three hours. It was really nice to tackle a project that was essentially instant gratification after spending so long on Ramona’s birth portrait.

I think my sister’s necklace will be arriving in today’s mail. Robin posted on Instagram when she received hers.

I can think of a few more people who might be receiving very similar gifts from me as the year progresses…Assuming I don’t just tap out at the end of January like I have always done in the past.

& in cancer news, my hysterectomy has been scheduled. For Valentine’s Day! I could have picked a different day, but that was the earliest date they offered (& I really just want to put this whole thing behind me ASAP), & I thought it was just kind of hilariously apropos to have my uterus & cervix removed on Valentine’s Day. It’s also the anniversary of my first ever colposcopy, way back in 2005. Oh, the memories. I remember feeling so sorry for myself that day, that while other people were out on romantic dates, I was stuck at the hospital having an overgrown Pap smear (because it was scheduled for the evening, for some weird reason).

If all goes according to plan, my surgery will be laparoscopic, & I will spend one night in the hospital. Recovery at home sounds like it will be long & difficult, maybe even worse than my Cesarean because this time, actual body parts are being removed. Not just a baby. & since I am losing my cervix, the surgeon has to create a “vaginal cuff”. & we all know how challenging cuffs can be, hahaha. I started reading up on vaginal cuffs the other day, & whoa. A potential complication is a “vaginal cuff tear,” which can result in “pelvic organ prolapse” (!!!) & potentially deadly systemic infections. I took to my bullet journal to doodle my anxieties away.

I am really torn between being all stoic & saying, “It’ll be fine, whatever,” & being very melodramatic & wanting everyone to feel sorry for me. I mean, this whole thing is a pretty big goddamn deal…but it will also all probably be fine in the long run. My uterus is really acting up today & reminding me why I won’t be sorry to see it go. I actually took  Percocet because the cramps were so bad, but not before Googling the idea & reading a bunch of people saying, “Don’t do it! You’ll get hooked! I started taking Percocet & before I knew it, I was up to forty pills a day & my life was in ruins!” Considering that I still have Percocet left over from my Cesarean more than four years ago, I am not too worried about devolving into junkie-dom.

I’m still figuring out what I need to get ready for the recovery period. I’m putting together a list of TV to watch (I’m open to recommendations; bear in mind that I don’t like sci-fi/fantasy stuff). I bought a fancy heating pad. I bought a really nice lap desk…after seeing it linked on someone Facebook as a bougie garbage thing that only people with more money than sense would ever buy. What about people that are going to be spending a lot of time in bed? The top lifts & can be locked in at different angles so you don’t strain your neck by looking down too much. It’s really nice! & the little bracket that keeps my laptop from sliding off can be removed to turn it all into one flat surface for writing in my bullet journal.

Everything I read says it’s helpful to keep a small pillow on hand to help support the belly/pelvis when coughing or moving around in bed or whatever. I’m thinking about making myself a uterus-shaped pillow. Just for laughs. I am also wondering if I have enough time to whip up a couple of bralettes. I have only worn a bra like twice since October because I’ve been so sick, but the twins are feeling pretty ache-y. I’m wondering if it’s because they are getting zero support. I’m also wondering if it’s breast cancer, because, you know…I got diagnosed with cancer once! So now I am convinced that everything is cancer. I saw a doctor once for some dizziness & numbness I was experiencing & he was like, “Okay, do you think it’s cancer?” & I was like, “…No?” & he was like, “I just ask because you seems really anxious about this.” Uh…should a woman in her mid-30s really just be going around fainting & losing the strength to turn door knobs? I mean, it did kind of seem concerning to me. That doctor was kind of an asshole. Anyway, now I would be like, “Sure, why not? Cancer happens, bro.”

If anyone reading this has ever had a hysterectomy, feel free to hit me up with suggestions & recommendations. I am all ears!

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achievement unlocked: pink madras Archer shirt

Let’s take a deep dive into history & talk about a shirt I made sometime in June.

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This is the Archer shirt from Grainline Studio, which is currently up for consideration as a plus-size pattern of the year over at the Curvy Sewing Collective. Um…what? Sorry, guys, this is really not a pattern for plus-sized sewers. The size range is fairly limited. I added multiple inches to accommodate my size, & my measurements when this photo was taken were 44″/39″/46″, which I consider kind of small-to-medium plus. This is pretty much the most flattering of the dozens of photos I took. I know we could have a whole complex discussion about larger bodies & the concept of “flattering”. My goal is not to somehow use my clothing to trick anyone into thinking I am skinny or in possession of a flat belly. But all other things being equal, I’m still not super-stoked about leaving the house looking like this:

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Just for shits & giggles, let’s compare the above photo to this one:

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From when I was 24 weeks pregnant with Ramona. Granted, she was a pretty big fetus.

This pink madras Archer was a “wearable muslin” I made in preparation for the white pintucked number I blogged about over the summer, so obviously, I did tweak the pattern some more after this & make it again. I even have a third version cut out & ready to sew. So it’s not like I think this pattern should be doused in kerosene & set alight. I just think there are other patterns that would probably suit me better. I am tempted by Chasmerette’s Harrison pattern. I think princess seams work a lot better for me than boxy shapes like the Archer.

Some plus-sized sewers who have made the Archer have added darts to accommodate curves & give a little more shape. I did not, because I was actually going for a boxy, slouchy look. It turns out that it’s not a look I actually like to wear, but it’s not the pattern’s fault that I sewed a silhouette I don’t like. I knew what I was getting into. The pattern itself is fine. I was annoyed by the fact that it has separate pattern pieces for the left & right fronts, because one side has a button band that is cut-on & folded under, & the other has a button band that is sewn on. Why? I’m sincerely asking if there is a legitimate reason for this, if it sets the stage for some sort of improved final product. I much prefer the construction of, say, the M6696 shirtdress, which has mirrored front halves & sewn-on button bands. I also found the shirt cuffs strangely fiddly to sew, but that ultimately didn’t end up being a big problem with this shirt, because:

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Yeah. That is one excessively short sleeve. Totally 100% my own fault. I had read that the sleeves on this guy ran long, especially with the larger sizes. (That classic assumption that plus-sized sewers must have arms that are also proportionally longer.) I measured my arm & cut my sleeves accordingly, but I made two utterly idiotic mistakes: 1) I measured from my armpit instead of my shoulder point. I mean, how dumb can you get. & 2) I didn’t even stop to consider the necessity of ease for movement. When my arm is down, the cuff just brushes my wristbone (so, too short), but when I bend my elbow to actually, you know, use my arm, the cuff rides halfway up my forearm.

Honestly, this whole post is just a celebration of my sewing incompetence. You’re laughing with me, right? Not at me?

In case you wondered, that red tattoo on my arm says, “Don’t mourn. Organize.” More relevant than ever to our political climate, wouldn’t you say? I got that tattoo back in 2001. Little did I realize then how much worse things could get.

I made some other dumb mistakes with this shirt. I completely forgot to interface the collar. Not sure how that happened, since interfacing is generally the first thing I do after my fabric is cut, but it happened, so my collar is very limp & sad. It also may have been smart to use some some kind of interfacing, like a strip of Heat N’ Bond or something, on the hem, because the madras is VERY lightweight & the hem wants to roll up. I hemmed my white Archer with narrow bias tape, so everything stays very smooth & tidy. My sleeve plackets could be better. I really should have spaced my buttons better because my shirt needs a little help in the belly area (though I did manage to eliminate my usual bugbear, bust gaping).

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I also intentionally skipped the breast pockets because I hate breast pockets. I have enough going on up there, I don’t need useless pockets drawing attention.

On the plus side, though, I did a pretty nice job with my plaid matching.

The nitty gritty: I made view A. No butt ruffle for me, thanks. I cut a size 16 & did a full bust adjustment of some inches (two? I honestly don’t remember) using the slide & pivot method. I kept the added width through the waist & tapered back down to a 16 at the hips. I added an extra inch of length (which was obviously not quite enough). I think I shortened the sleeves 3″, which was way too much. I got the fabric at Hancock before they closed. The photos don’t show it, but it has silver Lurex threads woven through it, so it glitters a bit, but doesn’t contain enough Lurex to be itchy. The fabric is really lightweight & fairly loosely-woven, so fraying complicated the process a bit. I used translucent pink plastic buttons.

I’ve worn this shirt a bit, especially since I got my cancer diagnosis & lost a bit of weight. But obviously the fit is not the greatest, the collar is terrible, & I can only wear it with the sleeves rolled up, which presents a challenge. The weather needs to be cool enough that I can tolerate a woven shirt, but warm enough that I don’t need a second layer. The shirt also kind of requires a tight-fitting bottom. I tried wearing it with my gray twill wrap skirt a few times, but the boxiness on top combined with the volume on the bottom just wasn’t working for me.

Moral of the story: I’m glad this pattern was purchased for me as part of the Indie Pattern Month pattern swap. & I’m also glad I tried it. Even though it didn’t turn out great, it shed some light on what I like in a button-down shirt, & practice with pattern-matching is always appreciated. Sewing the curved hem was really fun, & I think the shape of it is lovely, even though the shirt overall is too short. I don’t plan to use this pattern to make a standard button-down again, but I am willing to experiment with making it even bigger & slouchier for kind of a boyfriend/90s-style flannel silhouette, to wear over other shirts.

& this goes to show that even projects that didn’t turn out very well can be enlightening…& funny.

 

 

achievement unlocked: feminist Ginger jeans

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Allow me to preface this post by stating upfront: I LOVE THESE JEANS. Not only are they the best-fitting pair of pants I have made so far (including pajama pants!)…they may be the best-fitting pair of jeans I have ever had in my entire life.

This was my third go with the Ginger jeans pattern. I made a black pair in February & a gray pair with black topstitching in June. I cut these dark blue jeans out approximately thirty seconds after finishing the gray pair, but I quickly lost momentum with them because I was disappointed with the fit of the gray jeans. I had sized down with them a bit because my black pair had turned out kind of big, but I over-did it & made them a hair too snug. I actually popped the button off once when I bent over to put on my shoes! That was just a superb moment in which I felt super-great about my body & my sewing skills.

I had cut these jeans about the same size as the gray ones & really considered just tossing the unsewn pieces. Making jeans is kind of arduous & time-consuming. I like doing it, but it’s a lot of work to sink into something that is likely to be unwearable. I stuffed them into a plastic gallon bag (where I stash works in progress) & put them aside. It was summer anyway–too damn hot to wear jeans.

October rolled around & I was desperate for some new jeans. I hadn’t tried my gray jeans since the whole button-popping incident (though I had repaired the button), & my black jeans were being worn to tattered rags. I dug out my cut pieces & decided to baste them together & try them on before giving up on them.

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Lo & behold: they fit like a motherfucking glove! The only bit that gave me pause was that the back waistline gaped a little (which is also an issue I’ve had with my last two pairs of Ginger jeans). I knew it could be addressed by contouring the waistband a little bit more &/or taking a wedge out of the yoke, but all my pieces had already been cut & the scraps tossed out months earlier. I decided to experiment by cutting a tiny bit off my yoke pieces in the center–literally like 1/4″. & I stretched my waistband a tiny bit when I sewed it on so it would nip in a little more through the waist. The result: SHEER PERFECTION. 100% comfort & no gaping whatsoever.

Okay, I am going to admit something really embarrassing about the construction of these jeans. When I made my last two pairs, I somehow glossed over the bit about easing together the front & back legs through the hips & thighs. If I recall, the hemline did come out wonky, but I just chalked it up to user error (which it was, technically, just not the kind of error I thought) & cut off the excess to make it even. The finished jeans are all right, but there is a tiny bit of leg-twisting in both pairs. I think I got away with it because I have disproportionately slim thighs, & this pattern is drafted for a more generous hindquarters. If I had a little more badonkadonk, missing this step may have made those first two pairs unwearable.

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Anyway, I caught on to the proper construction techniques with this pair, with stellar results. These babies don’t twist at all. They don’t pull across the thighs when I walk or sit. They are like a second skin! I really can’t say enough good things about them. They are maybe my favorite thing I have sewn so far.

I think the denim is by Robert Kaufman & I got it from fabric.com, which is proof that you don’t need to splash out on $25/yard denim to get a pretty great pair of jeans (though I do still dream of trying Cone Mills one day). I lined the waistband & made the pockets bags from the fabric I used for one of my very first real sewing projects, the covers for my last zine. It’s a cotton/linen blend printed with elephants & it was NOT cheap. It cost at least twice as much as the denim. I also once again sewed the pocket bags the wrong way around so the wrong side of the fabric is facing out when the jeans are inside out. Curses! I mean, it doesn’t matter, no one but me will ever know (& now anyone who is reading this). It’s just not what I intended to do.

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(Sorry these are super-wrinkly from being worn. Honestly, if I waited to take photos at some point when they are fresh out of the dryer, it would never happen, because I wear them all the damn time.)

The only other construction snafu with these is that I topstitched the BACK inseam instead of the front. I just spaced on which side gets topstitched & was too lazy to double-check, & then too lazy to rip it out & do it again when I realized my mistake. Again, probably not noticeable to the casual observer, but it irks me a bit.

I also experimented a bit with the back pockets. I bought a new sewing machine last spring, & it has a lot of monogram stitches. I used them to spell out “feminist killjoy” on one pocket & “trust no man” on the other, surrounded by some goofy heart-shaped decorative stitching. & of course I used pink thread for the topstitching. The glory of making your own jeans is that you can use whatever colors you like! I love pink (I used to dress exclusively in pink: pants, shoes, coat, hoodie, hair, everything–I really stood out amongst the black bloc at protests), so I like having a little pop of it on these perfect indigo jeans.

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Details: I made view A, the low-rise with the stovepipe legs. I added about 1″, grading to nothing at the side seams, to the front rise, for belly accommodation. I’m pretty short-waisted with a major swayback, so that small change made these mid-rise, which is my personal preference. I cut a size 20 to start, but I’ve fiddled with the side seams so much, they’re probably more like a 16 at this point. For reference, the last time I took my measurements, I had a 37″ waist & 45″ hips. Though my weight has been fluctuating wildly for the last few months due to the whole cancer situation. Those gray button-popping jeans? They fit now. The black jeans? Multiple inches too big. (I still wear them though.)

I am currently at work on my FOURTH pair of Ginger jeans, in super-fine wale black corduroy. The fabric is a lint magnet, but whatever. I’m doing a ridiculously time-consuming back pocket treatment, so this pair may not be finished until after my hysterectomy (scheduled for Valentine’s Day–is that too perfect or what?), but I’m really trying to finish them by the end of January.

I guess I’ll reflect on 2016 after all.

Okay, I guess I’m going to go ahead & do a 2016 sewing wrap-up after all. I spent the last few days catching up on all the sewing blogs I haven’t read since like mid-November & I guess it inspired me.

TOP 5 HITS

  1. feminist indigo Ginger jeans img_1012I haven’t blogged them yet (working on it), but I am obsessed with the third pair of Ginger jeans I made. I absolutely nailed the fit this time & I wear them literally almost everyday.
  2. pink sleeveless gingham M6696 shirtdressIMG_9977Mysteriously, this dress came out bigger than all my previous M6696 shirtdresses, but that wound up only being a good thing as the looser fit, sleevelessness, & seersucker fabric made it a dream for hot weather. I wore it constantly all summer.
  3. polka dot shorty overalls 27747416030_a215f12a90_z
    Who knew I’d end up wearing something polka dotted so often? I guess it helps that they really pindots. These filled a gigantic shorts-shaped hole in my me-made wardrobe, with the bonus that I could get away with not wearing a bra & no one really had to know. Basically, if I wasn’t wearing my pink gingham shirtdress & the weather was over 75 degrees, I was wearing these.
  4. Mariner pa’u skirt        IMG_0829Or this. Maybe I spent the summer cycling through only three different looks, but it’s tough to branch out when they are all so comfortable & easy, yet stylish.
  5. Vintage Valentine Shelley bra & undies IMG_0392
    I made a lot of bra & undies sets this year, but oddly, this set is my fave. I wouldn’t have anticipated that, given that it is very frilly, bordering on downright impractical. Also, red, polka dots, & flowers, three things that are not at all my usual go-to choices. But if I have to wear a bra, this is the one I reach for first, & I love pairing it with the matching undies. It’s really comfortable & the fit is perfect.

TOP 5 MISSES

  1. black velveteen Luffa jacket (never blogged on its own)IMG_0494I really, really, really should have muslined this jacket properly. I did some alterations to make it a little bigger & just slightly longer, & it was a giant fail that completely fucked up the style lines. & it’s lined, so fixing it will involve a lot of unpicking. & the lining is pretty jacked up too. I had a hell of a time getting it to lie flat & it pulls the hem in a few places. I don’t think I have worn it out of the house once.
  2. black glitter chambray Marigold dress (I don’t even have a photo of this thing, because that is how long I can stand it to be against my skin)
    Such high hopes! I’d been hoarding this gorgeous black glittery chambray for just the right project! I used really pretty crystal buttons & made the sleeves out of scalloped lace! But there’s a reason I’ve never blogged it. The fabric is so itchy, I have to tear it off my body after wearing it for thirty seconds & then rip all my skin off because I am so uncomfortable. I guess I could address this by making a slip to wear under it, but the waist is also just high enough to make me miserable every time I have to move in it.
  3. black corduroy Alberta skirt  27635042483_e5f337572d_z
    Turns out I was right. I don’t wear pencil skirts. I’ve tried this skirt on a few times with the intention of wearing it, but I always feel weird & immediately change into something else.
  4. gray twill Ginger jeans27452113904_f3831e0c53_zThese are more or less fine, I guess, but there’s something about the hem that really bothers me. It’s like 1/8″ too short or something. It’s maddening. I still wear them though. Just not nearly as much as I expected to.
  5. black & fuchsia Shelley braIMG_0167Major bummer alert! This bra is so pretty, & I’m so proud of the construction. But the straps dig into my shoulders like whoa. This is the last bra I reach for, & I have so many self-sewn sets now, that means I never reach for it. I think the issue is that I made the straps from one layer of Duoplex lined with sheer tricot. It’s just not enough support.

TOP 5 HIGHLIGHTS

  1. I entered the Bust Out the Bras bra-making contest organized by Bramakers Supply & placed third in my category! That was pretty damn thrilling, especially given that I entered only like the fifth bra I’d ever sewn (the Vintage Valentine set). I also really cleaned up during Indie Pattern Month at the Monthly Stitch, placing in four of the five challenges I entered.
  2. I learned to cross stitch! I love it so much, & it has been so helpful with my anxiety.
  3. Ramona started preschool & she absolutely loves it. She’s making friends learning new things & getting to do all kinds of super-fun stuff she probably wouldn’t get to do if it was all on me to arrange it. & it’s really nice for me to get a little breather a couple of times a week.
  4. I guess I never mentioned this, but Jared & I went to see Flight of the Conchords live back in July. We got delicious Ethiopian food before & the show was really fun. My friend Rebecca babysat for us, & when we got home, she had basically reorganized the entire downstairs of our house so it looked like a spread from “Real Simple” magazine. It was incredible.
  5. Jared got his PhD! Such an amazing accomplishment! & Ramona got to see him graduate! She was a real trooper for sticking it out through a ridiculously long ceremony that started at her usual bedtime. She stills talks all the time about how graduation parties are a lot of fun because you get to eat ice cream. (We went out for ice cream after the ceremony. She got blueberry ice cream.)

REFLECTIONS

  1. I mean, 2016 kind of sucked, let’s face it. On a personal level, we started off the year with frozen pipes because our landlord had never heard of insulating tape, & we ended it with a cancer diagnosis & plans for a hysterectomy. Mixed in there was a whole mess of shittiness, from moving into a too-small house to Trump winning the election. The phrase “dumpster fire” comes to mind.
  2. But I tried to up my parenting game this year. I enrolled Ramona in a no-parents-allowed drop-off gymnastics class & she loved it. That gave me the courage to enroll her in preschool. I love watching her become more herself & more independent, but I also love that she is still such a cuddlebug.
  3. My sewing skills have demonstrably improved. My fourth sewiversary is this spring & it blows my mind how much I have learned in such a short time (not that I am now a master couturier). Sewing was fun when I was just starting out, but it’s fun in a different way now that I can zip through a project & not spend an entire month on it because I have a million mistakes to fix.
  4. I need to accept that I can’t do everything. Before I sewed, I read A LOT. I tried to maintain that pace, but it’s just not possible. Throw some cross stitch into the mix, & the demands of an active young child (I started sewing when Ramona was a tiny baby who just slept all the time)…I need to just pace myself with the time I have & not expect that I’m going to be able to spend two hours at the playground & finish a cross stitch project & sew a pair of jeans start to finish & finish my book club book in a single day. (This is totally a throwback to all of my unresolved “I don’t work” guilt that pushes me to try to make it up with volunteering or “being productive” somehow, even though there is a perfectly good reason that I don’t work: I can’t hold down a job due to depression & anxiety, so why should I expect those things not to bog me down when I try to be “productive” in my own way?)
  5. Have I mentioned that I love cross stitch? BECAUSE I LOVE IT! I’m working on a waste canvas project right now & all those teeny tiny holes definitely up the difficulty factor, but it’s still really fun.

GOALS FOR 2017

  1. I still have two big wardrobe holes I need to fill with self-sewns. There are two garments that I wear constantly, that I did not make: my hoodie, & these snuggly black sweatpants that are super-comfy jammies on cold night. I’ve been on the hunt for a hoodie pattern for a while, but have had trouble finding anything that doesn’t have a bunch of extraneous bells & whistles.
  2. Maybe branch out from black? I swear, 80% of my wardrobe is black. The project I am working on right now is black. I’ve heard people say they don’t wear black tops because it’s too harsh a color so close to their faces, & I was like, “Pffft, amateur.” But I watched this little video that Jared took of us the other day, in which I am wearing my trusty black hoodie & black Ginger jeans, & I was like, “Hmmm, that is a bit much.” Maybe make a pink hoodie?
  3. Cross stitch a portrait from each of Ramona’s birthdays. I already did her birth portrait, & I’ve started her first birthday portrait. I have photos to copy chosen for her second, third, & fourth birthdays. Kind of a weird project, because those portraits are a ton of work & all I’m going to do with them is hang them on the wall, & when Ramona gets to be, like, 14, she’s going to be like, “Ugh, Mom, stop being so obsessed with me.” But whatever! When she’s, like, 35, she’ll be like, “Wow, my mom really loved me.” (I hope.) (Also hoping she won’t be talking about me in the past tense, as I will only be 68 then.)
  4. Accept that at least the first half of this year is going to be tough. I’m three weeks out from my first cancer surgery & just starting to feel better-ish. It’s still pretty easy to over-do it. But I’m having a hysterectomy next month & that’s going to be a pretty big deal. I’ve heard that standard recovery time is around two months, & some people don’t really feel all the way better until they’re a year out. & then I will have to get used to the changes that come with being uterus-less. I get to keep my ovaries, so I won’t be plunged into menopause, but I expect there’s still going to be some weird stuff to get used to. It’s hard, for me & for Jared & Ramona (poor Jared has picked up so much of my slack in the last few months), but I need to accept that the #1 priority is to just get through this & get healthy again.
  5. Keep the fabric stash at net-zero for the year. I started tracking fabric in & out last year & it was depressing. I think I ended the year 25 yards up (though, in my defense, I barely sewed anything for the last few months due to being so sick). So much fabric compulsively purchased & earmarked for a very specific projects, all necessary threads & notions procured…& then everything just languished in the stash. I did sew a lot last year, I achieved my goal of making one new thing (even if it was just a simple t-shirt) every week, on average. But I have enough fabric & all attendant notions, patterns, etc, to see me through at least six months without having to buy anything new. Maybe longer. I’m not going to force myself to resist the lure of the new & shiny completely (for instance, I don’t have any pink sweatshirt fleece for that proposed pink hoodie…), but I am going to make a real effort to sew what I buy, or at least sew equivalent yardage from the stash.

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my starter bullet journal

I added my blog to Bloglovin’ a couple of months ago, making a monumental effort to overcome my distaste for that name. They really couldn’t have come up with something that didn’t make me think of raw biscuit dough? I got my blog update from them this morning & it said I am -1 subscriber for the week. Thanks, Bloglovin’. Not information I required. I just like to imagine that whoever unsubscribed was like, “Ugh, I came here for sewing posts! Not all this depressing cancer stuff!”

I’m going to risk losing a few more subscribers by boring you with my bullet journal. I am pretty stoked about it! Let’s go to the photo montage:

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Resolutions! Note that there is nothing on there about losing weight. One bummer thing about having fallen down the bullet journal rabbit hole just in time for the new year is that so many people are sharing their “weight loss trackers” & weight loss goals. I was a Radical Cheerleader in the early aughts & we had a cheer that went:

You’re not my ideal/Your hips don’t set the score
‘Cause sticks & bones ain’t what I’m striving for
Flipping through “Vogue”/What a bore
Ladies, please ladies, let’s eat more!
I got booty in the back & a lot up front
My secret is: I eat lunch!
Now I’m in control & ready to riot
Against your demands that I need to diet
I will take up space & love my size
‘Cause fat & fabulous is on the rise
Oh yeah! Fat & fabulous is on my thighs!

(Anyone who is tempted to say anything about “skinny people are oppressed too” has come to the wrong blog. Sorry ’bout’cha.)

I cross stitched that 2017 thing & affixed it into the journal using spray adhesive. Turns out I am getting a lot faster at cross stitch. This design was the first cross stitch I ever tackled & it took me like five days. This time it only took a few hours.

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Index & key. I have a Facebook friend who is a really talented artist & she clued me in to blending colors & shading starting with the lightest colors & working out to the darkest, so I tried it on my key. Probably nothing to write home about, but a major game changer for me!

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Future log. Helpful for remembering birthdays, preschool volunteer days, & various doctor’s appointments that scheduled months into the future.

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This is where I will keep a list of books I read & sewing projects I complete. So yeah. Right now, it looks thrilling.

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January at a glance. Things that are actually scheduled are on the left, & various goals & priorities are on the right.

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Dailies & habit tracker. I have tiny handwriting, so I knew it wasn’t crucial to have an entire page for each day, but I also wanted more space that weekly layouts offer. So I made a Dutch door so the habit tracker is always visible when I’m on the daily pages. I only included habits that I really need to be reminded to do, so it’s really helpful that they are always there. I’m also using cute little weather stamps to track the weather, inspired by Jared. He is a historian who specializes in floods. He uses a lot of journals & logs as primary sources & he likes it when they note the weather because it’s useful for his flood research. Not that I think anyone will be writing a dissertation on my journals in 200 years, but you never know.

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Jared & i don’t have a joint back account, so I’ll be using the mini page with piggy bank to track money we owe each other. The facing page is for addresses so we can send out cards, gifts, etc.

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Ramona-themed gratitude journal. I’ve been keeping some version of this since the day Ramona was born. Some days are easier than others. Right now I am waiting out an insane tantrum Ramona has been having for the last 45 minutes over the fact that all of her blue pants are in the wash. Apparently no other pants are permitted to touch her body. The mere suggestion that she maybe try some gray pants, or some blue overalls, is met with the kind of shrieking you’d expect to find the eighth circle of hell.

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Pretty self-explanatory. I’m keeping this separate from my actual completed project log because I generally have a lot more ideas than I have time to execute. Plus it was another opportunity to try some color blending with that spool of thread.

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Also self-explanatory. I closed out 2016 about 25 yards up, which isn’t great. I’d really like to keep the stash closer to net zero.

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I don’t know how the hell it happened, but I am so behind on reading. Books, magazines, blogs…so this is where I’m going to write everything down & try to catch up. Or at least stay on top of the new stuff.

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Mood tracker. I snaked this idea from the internet rabbit hole. I got about halfway through drawing out the grid & it occurred to me that this book is likely to be filled before the year is over. Not sure what to do about that, but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Yeah, I know there are all kinds of colors & stamps & stuff in here. I like that kind of thing. Within reason. I admit that I don’t really understand people who set aside multiple hours a week to make YouTube videos about their weekly planning & sticker hauls & all that stuff, but…to each their own, I guess? I suppose there are people who don’t understand why I would bother to sew all my own clothes, or cross stitch portraits of my daughter instead of just buying prints from Shutterfly or whatever.

Off I go to try to convince Ramona to have some quiet time. She has finally been persuaded to wear gray pants, in case you are following along at home.

 

good cancer news

I saw the oncologist yesterday & got the best possible news under the circumstances: she was aggressive when she did my cone biopsy & took A LOT of my cervix.She thinks she got most, maybe even all, of the cancer with that procedure. There were a few iffy spots on the margins, & in any case, I have adenocarcinoma, which can be sneaky. To be on the safe side, we’re going to follow through on a simple hysterectomy (just cervix & uterus) in February. Assuming the pathology on that comes back cancer-free…I will be DONE! No chemo, no radiation! I’ll just follow up with my regular gynecologist once a year! Obviously no more uterus means no more kids, but I’ve been making my peace with that for the last couple of months.

I am still recovering from the cone. It’s going pretty well, but recovery is just harder than I expected it to be. I finally sent Jared out yesterday to fill my Percocet prescription because I’m having a hard time dealing with the pain. It’s not bad if I just lay around & do nothing, but the last week has been busy, with his family visiting us for Christmas. The oncologist took out the sutures yesterday & I’ve been kind of miserable ever since. Just imagine sutures in your cervix. No fun.

This news is a big relief though, & I’m finally starting to look forward to the new year a little more. There are certain things that are still terrible (like one big orange thing that starts with T & ends with rump, which is certain to kill us all & I probably actually 60% believe that to be legitimately true), but I’m trying not to dwell on that. At least that is terrible for all of us together.

Now that I have a more clear picture of what I am working with, cancer-wise, I am trying to put my life back together. Things really kind of fell apart in late October. Not just because of the cancer. Also because of the infection I got, which now looks to be maybe an especially vicious bout of acute bronchitis. I am still recovering from that too. I got an inhaler a few weeks ago, which is an enormous help. But then I also sank into despair after the election & haven’t been able to bring myself to follow the news, which is really unusual for me. I glanced at the headlines in the “New York Times” this morning & it said something like, “Putin won’t retaliate in such & such a way against Obama’s action,” & I was like, “Wow, I have no idea what is happening in the world right now.”

I decided to start a bullet journal in an effort to get back on the ball of being a semi-functioning member of society. Any bullet journalers reading this? Holler at me, because this is my internet rabbit hole of choice right now. I first heard about bullet journals a couple of years ago, probably not too long after the entire concept was “invented”. But I found the whole index aspect wildly intimidating & was like, “Whoa, that is way too complex for me.”

Fast forward a couple of years & you don’t see me exactly having my shit together, do you? A few weeks ago, I made a coffee date with someone & then…just forgot about it. I don’t know what the hell I was doing instead, but whatever it was, I had let my phone die, so my coffee companion was calling & texting me & I had no idea. She legit thought I had to be in the hospital or something. Clearly, I need a more functional system that my current set-up of “write stuff down on the backs of envelopes & then forget & recycle them”.

So I’m taking the plunge. I’ve been experimenting with it a bit in a starter notebook & it’s just a really intuitive system to me. I’m actually writing things down! Like invitations Ramona is getting to preschool birthday parties, & library book due dates! (Let’s not talk about the fines I accumulated this year by forgetting when my library books were due & being too sick to walk to the library. I learned that the library cuts off access to your account when your fees get above a certain number. You can’t even renew books until you pay it down.) It’s really nice to have one central dumping ground for everything from people’s birthdays to ideas for projects I want to sew to books I’m reading to reminders about feeding the cat.

I’ve never been a big fan of pre-printed plannners/journals/whatever because there are always “features” I don’t use just taking up valuable real estate, & all the pre-printed lines & boxes are always a weird size for my extraordinarily tiny handwriting. With a bullet journal, I get to include what I’ll use & jettison the rest, & customize it to my own requirements. There’s the option to get all cute with it, with stamps & fancy headers & stuff (which I enjoy, to a certain extent), but ultimately it’s just about functionality.

So don’t worry, I don’t have plans to transform this blog into nothing but shills for acrylic stamps & photos of elaborate weekly layouts that take an entire afternoon to draw. Not that I am above admiring those things online.

I’m also not going to do any of those “top five” round-ups that are so popular in the sewing blogosphere. But I am hoping to be more on the ball with this blog in 2017. Not only do I still have garments I made as long ago as May that have yet to be blogged (some of which have been photographed & everything! I just need to write the posts), but I also have a million comments I’ve never replied to. I just want to thank everyone who reached out to me after the cancer diagnosis. I was literally overwhelmed (in a good way) by support. I’m really sorry if I never personally acknowledged your words. I will try to do better.

achievement unlocked: Ramona’s birth cross stitch

I’m still alive! I’ve just fallen deep down the cross stitch rabbit hole. This is my latest creation:

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It’s based on this photo of Ramona’s birth:

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Let the record show that Ramona is sitting next to me as I write this. She looked at this photo & said, in a very concerned voice, “Mama? What am I covered in in this picture? Is it…red sauce?” Yes, baby, it’s red sauce. Nothing but a bit of marinara.

I stitched this on 16-count Aida using 75 colors of floss. It took roughly 250 hours. “How is that possible?” you may be wondering. “Didn’t you just learn how to cross stitch last month?” Yes, I did just learn to cross stitch last month. I’ve just gotten really, REALLY obsessed with it. It’s an amazing anxiety management tool, & I have had a lot of anxiety lately. I was stitching literally ten or twelve hours a day.

I’m pretty pleased with the way this came out. I’m not 100% happy with the flower border, which I kind of freehanded. But I really like the numbers, which I also freehanded, & the image itself turned out well.

My goal is to cross stitch a photo of Ramona every year from her birthday. I’ve already started on the image of her first birthday. I’m doing a few things differently with the new project, based on what I learned from this one. I started the birth project in the middle of the cloth & worked outward. Apparently I prefer the “cross country” method of cross stitching, working one color at a time, instead of plodding along row by row, switching colors as necessary. For a project like this, row by row would have been nightmare-ish. There were sometimes as many as fifty different colors in one little ten-stitch by ten-stitch square. I don’t trust myself not to get a bunch of parked threads tangled into a giant mess, so I’d rather just work one color at a time, even if it requires more counting & thus greater risk of accidentally stitching one row or column off (which did happen several times).

Since there’s so much counting involved, I drew out a grid on my new pattern & numbered each ten-stitch by ten-stitch box. I drew a corresponding numbered grid on my Aida cloth using a Frixion marker. (The lines disappear with the touch of a hot iron.) So this way, I can be like, “Okay, there’s one stitch of color number 986 in box 17, two up from the bottom & four to the right.” I don’t know if this makes sense, but it really does make the process a lot faster & easier. I can sit & carry on a conversation or watch a TV show even while I’m working on a ridiculously complex 75-color 70,000-stitch project.

I also added the extra step of scanning the pattern prior to each new color & making list of all the boxes that need that color. It’s a little more prep work, but it makes the stitching go faster because I can just consult the list & go, instead of having to scan each box, stitch, scan the next box, stitch, forget if I finished the last box, re-scan, etc. I guess some people use the double highlighter method, but my lists work for me, for now.

I’m also working on developing the habit of stitching without using knots. Knots are a no-no in cross stitch. They distort the fabric & make things lumpy, & especially for a complex project, the knots can really get in the way of adding new colors & maintaining even thread tension. This is a big departure from the kind of hand-stitching I’m used to, but I’m getting there.

& with the new project, I’m also working on parking my stitches if there is more than a five-stitch gap between stitches in the same color. Cross country stitching is totally my jam, but running the too far across the back of the project is a waste of thread, & it can also create too much bulk on the back of the project & cause difficulties as stitching progresses. For example, I had run a lot of brown thread across the back of the birth project while I was working on the outline around Ramona’s head. When I added the off-white thread on her forehead, some brown fibers got pulled through. It’s barely perceptible. I’d probably have to point it out before anyone else, especially someone who doesn’t cross stitch, noticed it. But I see it, & I’d prefer to avoid it, so I will be more patient about parking stitches.

I also decided to experiment with the order of colors added in my new project. With the birth project, I just added whatever color I wanted whenever. I worked from the middle & didn’t necessarily finish a color all in one go. But this time, I am trying to finish off each color before I move on to a new one (easier said than done with literally thousands of stitches in a project), & I’m starting with the darkest colors & working toward the lightest. I’m hoping this will make the lighter colors pop more, & also reduce the possibility of the lighter threads getting a little grimy before the project is completed.

I’ve been really anxious because I had my first cancer surgery in mid-December. It all went pretty smoothly & I am recovering pretty well, but obviously this has all been really stressful. I’m seeing the oncologist tomorrow to get the results. Hopefully we will be able to definitively stage the cancer based on that surgery & decide on treatment. It fucking SUCKS that I am going into 2017 with this whole cancer thing hanging over my head (along with everything else, like Trump), but it will be good to have more information & a plan. Best case scenario: the cone biopsy showed clean margins, the cancer is mostly likely limited to the cervix & endocervical canal, I can have a hysterectomy & we’re pretty much all good. But if the margins are not clean (meaning the portion of cervix they took was just part of the tumor), we may have to do more imaging to see how invasive it is, & I may have to have chemo &/or radiation to try to shrink things down. I don’t know. We’ll see.

 

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