achievement unlocked: beaded Miz Mozelle dress

There are two reasons that I haven’t been posting much: 1) I haven’t been sewing much. Several of the projects I have tackled thus far in 2017 have been really time-consuming–the cross stitching on the pockets of my corduroy Gingers, & the beading detail on the dress I’m showing today. & 2) Something went wonky with Flickr’s editing software & they are really taking their sweet time sorting out a replacement. I barely know how to use computers, full stop, so brightening up photos, pumping up the color, & blurring out obvious evidence of double chins using Aviary is pretty much the extent of my photo editing skills. But those tools have not been available, so I’ve been procrastinating. But now I say, fuck it. Let us all bask in the majesty of this raw, unedited footage!

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The garment I am showing today is another Miz Mozelle from Jamie Christina. I think this is my fourth iteration of this pattern, but honestly, the only one that is ever really going to be worn. My bacon print Miz Mozelle was one of the first dresses I ever sewed, before I knew about things like full bust adjustments. The waistline just comes up way too high because the bodice is too small to accommodate my bust properly. I had the same problem with my Miz Mozelle sailor shirt, & the neckline finish on that shirt was such a disaster, I really don’t know what happened. By the time I made my black jersey Miz Mozelle tee, I knew what the fit issue was, but I didn’t alter the pattern because I was making it in a knit (it’s actually specifically a knit pattern) & I wondered if the stretch & drape would resolve the issue. Surprise! It didn’t. & I managed to cut the peplum at an awkward length that somehow feels too long & too short at the same time.

I didn’t do an actual FBA for this dress. Instead, I put on the back dress & waved my arms around & measured the difference between the spot the waistline came to rest & my actual waistline. It came out to 4″! So I added 4″ to the front bodice, grading to 2″ at the side seams, & nothing in the back.

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I also swapped out the elastic waistband for shirring (I’m still contemplating more shirring, maybe all the way up to the lower bust? Feel free to weigh in), I added side-slant pockets to the skirt, I eliminated the keyhole & collar, & I ditched the sleeves. I tried the bodice on before I finished the armscyes to see if they needed to be scooped out a little, & I wound up shaving off about 1/4″. I finished the armscyes & neckline with self-made bias tape, & I think it’s one of my best applications yet. It looks so neat & tidy! Several years of lazy bias tape application has taught me that you just really can’t skimp on the pressing if you want that kind of finish to look nice.

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Neckline & armscyes.

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Close-up of shirring.

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Pockets!

But obviously the main focal point of this dress is the skirt. I altered the shape just a hair to use a border print, & then I spent weeks beading it. I really don’t know exactly how many beads I used, but I estimate around 4000. I also don’t know how long it took me to sew them in place, but probably around 25-ish hours? Which is like 25 times the time I spent on the actual dress construction. I think I listened to every single episode of “Lore” while I beaded (but only during the day, because I’m too chicken to listen to that podcast after dark). & I only spilled my dish of beads once! Actually, Ramona spilled it. She knocked it over while she was throwing her giant stuffed crocodile around. (She considers him to be her brother.) (She also has an imaginary sister. It’s truly shocking how much she & her imaginary sister fight. I thought avoiding sibling scuffles was the one guaranteed benefit of having an only child, but alas.)

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In a perfect world, the skirt would be maybe 1″ shorter? I knew adding length to the bodice might make the skirt a little longer than I wanted, but I decided to just try it & see, & then I couldn’t hem it shorter because of the border print. Oh well!

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This photo shows where I had to piece the skirt together to keep the border print continuous. The skirt has a surprisingly wide sweep. I really used every scrap of fabric I had.

So yeah, all that beading definitely seems like a metric shit-ton of effort to put into a pretty basic dress. I mean, it doesn’t even have darts. It’s made out of quilting cotton. But I’ve been really intrigued by textile embellishments lately, & this seemed like a low-stakes way to experiment with beading, which I’d never done before. The verdict: I love it! I want to bead everything now! I checked out every book my local library has about bead embroidery (…all five of them), & bought a Craftsy class on the topic using a Michael’s coupon. I spend an embarrassing amount of time dicking around online, drooling over beaded, embroidered fabrics that cost like $150 a yard. Think of the money I could save by embellishing fabrics myself! I mean, yes, it’s time-consuming, but I like a good mix of ambitious, time-consuming projects & instant gratification basics. It will be interesting to see if I’m getting in on the ground floor of a hot new trend in the sewing world, or if I’m just a weirdo outlier.

I survived the hysterectomy!

Hey! I’m still alive! I haven’t posted in over two months, since right before my hysterectomy. I have been sewing a bit since then, & have some new garments to share in future posts, as well as the handful of things I never blogged from 2016. But this will just be a general life update, so feel free to skip if you’re only here for the sewing.

The hysterectomy went well & I am slowly healing. I expected recovery to be long & hard, but it’s been considerably longer & harder than I expected. Even though I just have four small incisions, recovery has been a lot harder than recovery from my Cesarean was. I spent literally weeks in bed almost full-time. It got to the point that I was so BORED with watching TV & reading. It took a long time to heal & build up enough strength to get back behind a sewing machine, & I’m still not even recovered to the point I was at before the hysterectomy, which was still considerably worse than how I was feeling, say, a year ago.

I spent one night in the hospital after the hysterectomy, which is standard. I had hoped for a private room, but it didn’t pan out. I had a really difficult time shaking off the anesthetic. While I was in the recovery room, I kept hearing people come by & say, “A private room just opened, if she’s ready,” & I would try to wake up & say, “Yes! I’m ready!” but then I would instantly fall asleep again. I have a vague memory of being wheeled down a hallway on a gurney & Jared being pulled aside to sign some kind of visitor paperwork, & me trying to say, “He already did that,” but then I fell asleep again. Jared reports that they kept him in a visitor waiting room for like two hours after that. They just forgot he was there. Which sucks for him, because even after all that time, I still couldn’t really wake up. So he kind of stayed for no reason. I slept for a solid 24 hours after the surgery.

So, here’s a pro-tip if any of my readers ever end up having hysterectomies of their own: the big thing you have to do before they discharge you is that you have to pee, in order to prove that everything is working as it should in that area & there hasn’t been any damage to the bladder or ureters. This is easier said than done if you have crippling pee anxiety, like I do. I drank like three gallons of water (not even exaggerating) & spent hours the morning after surgery pacing around the ward, trying to make it happen. Even though I felt like I was going to explode, it just would. Not. Happen. I made many tearful trips to the nurses’ station to inquire after private bathrooms. They actually let me to use their staff bathroom, to no avail. I was preparing myself to have to stay an extra night, because I still wasn’t meeting their pee expectations even six hours after I should have been discharged, but they finally got a new attending physician on shift. She took pity on me & set me free, & it’s been smooth sailing in that area ever since.

Aren’t you glad we can have these little talks?

Another bummer thing is that my body is expending so many resources healing from the surgery that it just has nothing left over to fight off illness. & illness is rampant when you have a four-year-old who attends preschool. I got sick again this past weekend, making three separate bouts of respiratory infection in the last month & a half. Jared is truly at the end of his tether with taking on the extra child care & housework while I’m sick. I mean, he’s been flying nearly solo on it all since October. He was also offered a teaching position at KU the week after my hysterectomy, so he’s been trying to balance it all with grading, lecture-writing, etc, for the last two months.

Ramona also got very sick a couple of weeks ago. Her doctor was really torn on whether to treat at home or admit her to the hospital. She had bronchiolitis, which is an infection of the upper airways, caused by RSV & fairly uncommon in kids as old as Ramona. It mostly affects kids under the age of 2. & she had an incredibly severe case. Her oxygen sats were hovering in the mid-80s & she was falling asleep simply from the exhaustion of trying to breathe. Her lips & fingernails were purple & her skin was gray. It was pretty scary. But her pediatrician prescribed a nebulizer & that helped A LOT. She turned the corner the day after he first treatment, & although she missed a solid week & a half of school & still has a lingering cough, she’s doing a lot better.

The lost Beverly Cleary book, Ramona & Her #Nebulizer. Poor kiddo is pretty damn sick.

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We also signed a lease on a new house for August, so I guess we’ve committed to at least one more year in Lawrence. I am REALLY excited about the new house. It’s a house I have noticed before while driving around town, & I’ve always thought it was so cool & wondered about the people living there. I assumed it was some rich, old couple who had been there for thirty years, judging by the posh neighborhood & general awesomeness of the property. I was gobsmacked to learn that it was a rental property. There’s a living room, dining room, kitchen, full bathroom, & two bedrooms downstairs. The upstairs is a big open loft, with a room at one end that can be closed off with French doors. The house is set into a hill with the basement dug into it. The basement is also the garage. There’s a nice yard with big evergreens, a wraparound porch, a huge deep barn sink, original wallpaper (circa the 1920s), & a fireplace. It’s a giant step up from where we are now. Jared has agreed to let me use the loft as a sewing space, & there is SO MUCH room up there for my cutting table, pressing station, sewing table, & all of my fabric stash. Ramona is going to use the room with the French doors as a playroom. That space has deeply sloped ceilings & two windows set in close to the floor, so it feels like a walk-in dollhouse: really, a perfect playroom for a child.

So, that’s that! I’ll try to post some sewing soon!

want to know about my impending hysterectomy?

No garments to share today. I just wanted to share some life news: my hysterectomy is scheduled for Valentine’s Day. I have less than 48 hours left with my uterus. What a bizarre feeling.

I did a little last-minute anxiety sewing, to knock out some Monthly Stitch challenges & generate some comfy garments to wear during my recovery. In fact, I am wearing one of my newest makes right this second. I’m just not really on the ball about taking photos. Both garments really could have gone better. I made a pair of “joggers” (I mean, they’re sweatpants with tight ankle cuffs, let’s be real) & a raglan tee. The issues with both were almost entirely user error. I haven’t been sewing much in the last few months (understandably, I think), & as it turns out, you kind of need to keep doing it regularly in order to maintain your skill set. The raglan tee in particular was an absolute SHITSHOW. I could have turned Ramona loose on the project & it would have turned out better. I did manage to cobble together a wearable garment that was pretty close to my original vision, but I made every mistake possible, up to & including starting with THE WRONG FUCKING PATTERN! I really can’t wait to write that one up.

I’m just not sure when I will get the chance to write those posts. I’m going to try to get photos taken before my surgery, but I’m not sure what to expect from recovery. Maybe I’ll be chilling in bed with all the time & energy in the world for writing. Maybe I’ll be posting everyday! Or maybe I will just sleep for the next six weeks. Hard to say.

In case anyone is interested, I will be have a laparascopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (I think–to be honest, the terminology is a little bit confusing). Uterus & cervix will be going for sure, along with a touch of the vagina. I mean, sorry if that’s too much information, but not that sorry, because it’s not your vagina, you know? The tissue will be rushed to pathology while I am still in surgery, & depending on the results, my oncologist (who is also my surgeon) may dissect a few lymph nodes. There’s also the possibility that the whole laparascopic surgery could turn into abdominal surgery is she doesn’t have room to maneuver her tools due to unanticipated masses or adhesions. I won’t know the details about how the surgery was conducted or what exactly was removed until I wake up in my hospital room.

That’s another fun piece of the puzzle. Apparently, I can request a private room, but the anesthesiology nurse was straight with me. She said, “You can always request a private room, & nine times out of ten, the nurse will say, ‘I’ll do what I can,’ & then she will snicker behind your back because there’s no way we will have any private rooms open.” So I’m steeling myself for the likelihood of a hospital roommate. I told Jared that I’ll just have to lay down the law with them. I will announce, “Listen up, pal, & listen good. I’M the annoying roommate around here. Now gimme that remote, we’re watching ‘Frasier’.”

Haha, not really. I’m just crossing my fingers that my roommate isn’t too loud, because I plan to sleep a lot.

Assuming all goes according to plan, I will only have to spend one night in the hospital. I’ve been spending the weekend preparing my space for recovery. I’ve set up my lap desk next to my bed, along with a small bin full of magazines, logic puzzles, & fun library books. I’m making sure that all my comfiest pajamas & favorite socks are freshly laundered. I’ve made a list of TV shows I want to binge on Netflix & Hulu. Hulu is especially helping me out by streaming all seven seasons of “The Golden Girls” starting tomorrow! It’s like they knew I was going to be spending a few weeks in bed!

I have a nice big heating pad & a prescription for Percocet. I have laid in an ample supply of Girl Scout cookies (twelve boxes, delivered this morning). I have Jared handling all offers of meals & child care.

There was some sturm und drang over whether or not this surgery was really going to happen. I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago with an ingrown toenail. Again, sorry if this is too much information. But it’s not your toenail, right? & it fucking hurt! The nurse practitioner was like, “Okay, here’s your billionth prescription for antibiotics in the last year” (seriously, when we get to the antibiotic tipping point where they don’t work anymore & people start dying of paper cuts, it will be at least 5% my fault) “& you need to see a podiatrist for that toe.” I was like, “Okay, cool. By the way, I’ve been having a bit of chest pain, maybe from anxiety or something?” & she was like, “OMG YOU’RE GONNA DIE.”

She instantly ordered an EKG, which was normal. So she ramped up the hysteria & ordered a nuclear stress test. In case you are not a senior citizen & don’t know what this is: you are given an injection of some kind of radioactive medication & then you go chill for an hour so it can saturate your entire bloodstream. Then you are scanned to see if the radioactive blood is pumping through your heart properly. Then your heart is “stressed,” with either exercise or exercise-mimicking medication, & you’re scanned again. Then you are released to go eat something, because you haven’t been allowed to eat for like 12 hours, & then you’re scanned one more time.

It SUCKED. I was already developing a food- & caffeine-withdrawal headache when the test started, & I had to wait three hours before I could eat. My doctor ordered me the exercise-mimicking medication, which was so much worse than being on a treadmill. Imagine running a mile in under five seconds. That’s what it felt like (I imagine). Then I got to eat, so I ordered a grilled turkey & Provolone sandwich from the hospital cafeteria. I know it’s just because I was so hungry, but it was THE MOST DELICIOUS THING I’VE EVER TASTED. I keep scheming about how to sneak away to the hospital & get another one. I also got the drink coffee, ie, the elixir of the gods. Then I went back for the last scan.

If any abnormalities had turned up, surgery would have been canceled & I would have started treatment with a cardiologist. But, just as I anticipated, I went through all this nonsense for nothing. My heart is great. Which is good to know, I suppose, but it was a lot of stress & hunger for no reason. Anyway, with that final hurdle cleared, I am all good for surgery.

Wish me luck!

achievement unlocked: feminist killjoy corduroy Gingers

This is my first completed project of 2017!

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It’s some pants. To be more specific, it is the Closet Case Patterns Ginger jeans, made from black corduroy. This is my fourth pair of Gingers, so not much to write home about here…Or so you might think!

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Kapow! These pockets are pretty much everything.

When I got into cross stitching a couple of months ago, I was like, “Okay, this is awesome, but how can I incorporate it into garment-making?” It occurred to me that the feminist cross stitch I was working on (my very first cross stitch project) would fit really well on the back pocket of some jeans. I knew that it was possible to cross stitch on to clothing because my sister cross stitched a portrait of my dearly departed cat, Charlotte, on to a onesie while I was pregnant with Ramona.

Maybe people already know this, but here’s an overview of how it works: there’s this special cross stitching cloth you can buy for cross stitching on to other fabrics. It’s called waste canvas. It is woven differently from your usual Aida cloth in that the weave is looser, but the fibers are also a lot more stiff. You baste it on to your fabric & cross stitch away. When you’re done, you laboriously pull out each individual fiber of the waste cloth, leaving behind your lovely cross stitches on your onesie or pillowcase or jeans pocket or whatever.

Sounds simple enough, right? Um…it’s not, really. I don’t know if I necessarily did it “right,” because I’d never done it before, but I chose to stitch into the teeny tiny corners on the edges of the waste canvas squares. They are smaller & hence more difficult to access than the holes in Aida cloth of the same count. & because I was also stitching through cloth that was not pre-perforated, that was another added layer of difficulty.

Not saying that it was necessarily difficult. I’d classify it as fiddly, perhaps. I didn’t enjoy the process as much as I enjoy working with Aida cloth. In fact, it took me almost three solid weeks just to do the “feminist” pocket because it was so fiddly & unpleasant. I was consumed by anxiety the entire time because the corduroy had some stretch to it (a necessity for the Ginger jeans pattern), & I’d chosen not to interface it before stitching because I wanted to preserve the stretch for when the jeans were actually constructed. I didn’t want a too-tight non-stretchy pocket giving me some kind of weird quad-butt effect. But the corduroy stretched & wrinkled as I stitched & I was so worried I was stitching permanent distortions into the fabric.

Miraculously, after I pulled out all the waste canvas fibers, my stitching looked great & the corduroy was perfectly unwrinkled! I don’t know if that was just dumb luck or if that’s part of the weird black magic of waste canvas, but either way…hooray!

Before I got to that point though, I had to pull out all those damn fibers.

Pulling off the #wastecanvas is the worst. #feministcrossstitch #thiswillneverbedone

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UGH. I hated this process! Even though I used tweezers, it took hours, & by the end, I had enormous blisters on my thumb & index finger, & had lost all feeling in my hand. The tip of my index finger is still flat from squeezing the tweezers, & I finished the pockets four days ago. The trick is to just be patient & methodical. Line up some podcasts, get comfortable, & just go one fiber at a time.

My goal was to finish these pants by the end of January, for the “not stashed” Monthly Stitch challenge. The waste canvas was the most recent sewing thing I’d bought. I ordered it from the Nordic Needle in November, but it sold out & wasn’t restocked & delivered until late December, by which point I had lost steam for tackling a waste canvas project. I know I would have just stashed it until the end of time if not for this challenge forcing me outside my comfort zone.

I cut out the corduroy during breaks from the cross stitching, so everything was ready to roll as soon as the back pockets were finished. I completed them on Friday, January 20, & I realized that if I hauled ass, I could get the jeans finished in time to wear to them to the Women’s March in Topeka the next day. & I did it! I tragically do not have a photo of me modeling them that day because I felt weird asking Jared to take a photo of my ass at a feminist event. But I do have a photo of Ramona at the march:

Because I sewed them so quickly…they are not my all-time best sewing. I didn’t ease the legs enough through the hips, resulting in a tiny bit of twisting on the left leg. I accidentally snipped a hole right under the zipper fly, which I fixed with a little patch of interfacing on the back & some satin stitching on the front. It’s not really visible when I’m wearing them, but, uh…

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You can definitely see it here! You might also be able to tell that the waistband is not exactly the same width at the button/buttonhole. I don’t even know how that happened, since it wasn’t even close to being an issue with my previous three Gingers.

I also didn’t trim the seam allowances in the waistband, since it always causes issues with seam enclosure. It looks fine, but it feels lumpy. Not on my waist, just when I’m folding the jeans or something. It might just be an example of me being too critical of my own sewing.

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I did remember to sew the pockets the right way round this time, so the print is visible on the inside. The edges are finished with bias tape because I tried to follow the pattern directions for installing the pockets &…well, I guess I’d never tried to use the directions before, because they made ZERO sense to me. I ripped them out & re-sewed them like four times before I just gave up & did them my own way, by which point the edges of the strawberry print cotton were looking pretty raggedy. I finished the fly shield with bias tape too to try to make it all look kind of intentional. If I hadn’t been rushing, I would have taken the time to make my own bias tape, but I was hustling so I just went with some store-bought yellow stuff from my stash.

If we’re being real, my indigo Gingers with the pink topstitching are still my faves as far as comfort & sewing quality. I do regret rushing this project, because I could have done a better job if I’d taken my time more. But those back pockets pockets are PERFECTION, & you know…These pants are good enough. In both politics & sewing, this is really no time to let perfection be the enemy of good enough.

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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.