June 21, 2016

The Lady Skater Dress

I wrote a few weeks ago about my first experience sewing knits.  I had a great comment from the momma that pointed me in the direction of Kitschy Coo's Lady Skater Dress.
And that was when I realized I had found the perfect dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderfully written pattern that is so easy to follow, versatile and flattering while being so very comfortable.

I thought I would have a hard time using an online pattern, but the parts that needed to be printed were perfectly done, and the online directions were thorough and simple to understand.  There were also a ton of photos and visuals and that helped me so much.
The pattern gives you all kinds of tips and explanations that taught me about how to use and work with knits.

Making a muslin is recommended.  The thing, that in my ignorance, I didn't realize was that a muslin doesn't have to be muslin, but is a first draft of a dress.  Don't use actual muslin, especially when it is a knit pattern (please don't ask for photos or any other explanation).

Next I learned that all stitches are not equal... there are different knit stitches on my machines and some of them worked better than others.
The pattern discusses all of this, but I still found it helpful to see how the different stitches worked with each fabric.  Ironing also made a huge difference as well.
I found that my first thoughts weren't the best and I played around with the different stitches in different places.  I found that the 'triple' stitch worked well for most seams while a narrow zigzag was great for the hem (green dress).  The 'lightening bolt' stitch seemed to pucker more and didn't seem as strong (I used it in the purple dress)

I had a hard time finding knits I liked at the store, so I actually ordered some online from fabric.com.  I was wary of ordering online, but was pleased at the options.
The ones I chose are 95% cotton with 5% lycra for stretch.
I was concerned they were too thin when they initially arrived as they are like a good t-shirt fabric, but they worked perfectly.
The pattern specifies fabrics, and using the categories to select fabric type and content along with stretch was very helpful in figuring out what would work for this dress.

Also remember to not get overly excited by new fabric,and make sure to wash it before sewing. Yes.  fabric will shrink.  Especially cottons.  And when you cut a dress per the pattern and are taller than average at 5'8", chances are it could end up being a tad short.
I found this out when I excitedly completed the purple dress, tried it on and it fit well then I realized I had a deer in the headlights moment... I hadn't washed the fabric.  It's short, but my husband calls it cute, so I'm just going with it.
I will also add that since losing weight I still have issues with wanting to make things larger than I probably need.  I cut both dresses a size or 2 larger than what I measured, but the purple shrunk and is a better fit than the green for this reason.  The green does have some extra fabric and 'bunching' under the arms which would have been eliminated if I had made it the correct size to begin with.

I'm definitely still learning, but this dress is very quick and seems like it will be a good addition to my wardrobe.
My daughter has also requested a couple of these as they are just easy to wear.
I'm also looking at making some with the longer and 3/4 length sleeve variations included in the pattern as well.  It is just warm where I live and short sleeves are practical for a good 6-9 months, or so, of the year.

And since I realized I never seem to smile in photos, I tried to get some where I am more 'me'.  I'm not photogenic as I seem to always be moving, but that's just me on a windy summer day in Georgia, and yes, I keep my piano on my front porch.

June 20, 2016

Sewing: Legend of Zelda, but Subtle?

My kids are Zelda fanatics.  I really don't get the whole video game appeal, but then, I'm old and my brain has never liked moving at the speed of nintendo.
My kids love wearing boxy, game t-shirts.  Personally, I never went through this phase in life and don't really get that either actually.

We were at the fabric store one day when we came upon a couple of gems.....  Legend of Zelda prints.

I immediately saw a cute fabric shell in my mind for the black, and thought a sundress would be great for the tan.  Both kind of unexpected, the subtle and grown-up versions of a game t-shirt.

The top is a Burda pattern 7051.  It was my first time sewing from this brand, but I was impressed at the bulletpoint presentation.  It was clearly written and was a very quick project.
There are a couple of neckline and fit options.

The dress is pattern S0742 from Simplicity from their Project Runway inspired superhero collection (???).
I'm not big on taking a ton of words to say something simple. There are a ton of directions and an 'inspiration' sheet included.  I think they just want you to feel like a designer for being able to pick which top option you wanted to go with the skirt.
The directions were actually really clear and the multiple drawings provided were great as I'm very visual (and I don't know that I've ever sewn a wearable dress for an adult before?) and the techniques were along the beginner level.  That said, I did change some things to make it work better for me.  I also thought the skirt darts were weird and too structured so I changed them as well.

I'm still working on solving fit issues and the hardest thing is understanding how our figures are all so diffferent and what works best for different builds.  This could have been tailored better, but I'm still learning how to get the best fit before I'm finished.

June 13, 2016

Reading: Gold, Silver and Mirth.

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset.” 

I was in middle school when movie The Outsiders came out in theaters.  The teen-hype filled magazines and posters led me to the belief that this was a shallow story full of predictable angst.   It was many years later before I finally got over myself, and gave it a chance.

It has been decades since I saw the movie, but had always heard that the books by S.E. Hinton far surpassed the movies made..

“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren't looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” 

This book is my pick for the book I "should've read in school" category of the MMD 2016 challenge.  This book is a simple and beautiful telling of growing up when it isn't easy.  It's about not fitting in and friendship. 

The Outsiders allows us to see a glimpse of a life that has layers.  It shows us the hopes and dreams that are in each of us.  This wonderfully written story makes us feel that pain that comes with not fitting in and feeling limited by nothing more than who we are.

I admit that I love YA reading.  I love the emotion and tone.  I love that there is usually one overwhelming issue.

This book reminded me of the 16 year old that is inside each of us.  It reminded me that I still need to remember who I am on the inside and remember to appreciate all that is in my life.  That I need to see the uniqueness and beauty in each day.
I picked up the audio download from the library site and listened while I sat and sewed one afternoon.  The audio was well done and really brought this story to life.  I also bought a copy for my kids to have for 'required reading' this summer as well.

“I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it's a good way to be.” 

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.

"She was realizing for the first time that a woman's dignity may cost more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it."

I really, really wanted to like this book, but it turns out that it is in the running for "a book I hate" status.  I selected this book to read after hearing it as a favorite on the MMD podcast.  I was expecting a classic filled with social intrigue, witty writing and a commentary on the time.

What I found was sadly, pathetic characters with a writing style that I'd call uninteresting.  I did not find any of the beautiful prose I was expecting in this story.  There were details upon details, and just so many words that seemed to have no point.

"Miss Farish could see no hope for her friend but in a life completely reorganized and detached from its old associations; whereas all Lily's energies were centered in the determined effort to hold fast to those associations, to keep herself visibly identified with them, as long as the illusion could be maintained."

I thought about giving up, but kept hoping it would become better.  The writing and tone did seem to change in the last 10% of the book and the characters finally seemed to develop, but it was too late for me.
I do admit that I appreciate getting to the point, and maybe that's why I enjoyed the style of the ending a bit more.  It was more to the point and quit going on about all the meaningless details.

This story takes place in the 1890s in New York society.  It follows a poor, but well-born lady who continues to make foolish choices in life time after time.  She is abandoned by society and must start to work, but realizes she lacks any real skill or knowledge.  It goes down from there.

The flat, one-sided characters didn't lead me to empathizing with them as their shallowness was so overwhelming.

It has been years since I read Gone with the Wind, and this reminds me somewhat of House of Mirth.  GWTW is not one of my more favorite books actually, and they may strip me of my "Native Atlantan" banner for saying that, but the story is long, overly-detailed with an unsympathetic heroine.  I think the difference between the books is that Mirth gives you someone who feels defeated, while Scarlett never gives up.  The characters are in similar circumstances, but their temperments lead them to handle things differently, and the passivity in Mirth really bothered me.

I realize that I come from a different time and sensibility, but I think I just have a hard time with understanding this mindset and culture. The book didn't draw me in, but seemed to shut me out.

“I have tried hard - but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was no use anywhere else. What can one do when one finds out that one only fits into one hole? One must go back to it or be thrown out into the rubbish heap - and you don't know what it's like in the rubbish heap!

After this book I needed something to get the taste out of my head.
I had The Silver Lining Playbook on my Kindle and decided to read it.  I had never seen the movie and had no idea what the plot involved.
I hate giving a book synopsis as you can find them everywhere, and I'm more interested in the why behind someone did, or did not, enjoy a book... and I'm also always worried I'll give more away than I should.
This book was a great read.  While it was as long as Mirth, it only took about 3 days to read compared to the 3 weeks of toiling away I spent with Edith Wharton.   

"If clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds me to keep on trying, becase I know that while things might seem dark now, my wife is coming back to me soon."

It is a quick read about people working through the issues of life.  Yes, some of it was predictable, and what it says about living with mental illness is sometimes uncomfortable (at least it was for me, but not in an overt way?), but this was an uplifting story about people just trying to make it through life and be their version of happy.

The characters were real and well-written, ifnot always likeable. They made poor decisions, but there was a glimmer of hope for something better here.

"But I do know that sometimes people say and do what they think others want them to.  Maybe Tiffany really did not want to have sex with you, but only offered something she thought you would find valuable, so that you would value her."

On the surface, this story of Eagles football, a dance contest, and mental illness might not be one that draws you in, but the writing immerses you in this world, and you enjoy it.

I am already looking to find more books by the author, Matthew Quick, as I enjoyed his perspective here and his writing style was interesting. 
I'm hoping that my library gets his new YA book, Every Exquisite Thing, soon as it sounds like it would be a good read.

And just to put this out there... I googled the movie synopsis, and it would seem, that like the Outsiders, the story in the book is much different and deeper than the movie.

This post is linked with the Modern Mrs Darcy June Quick Lit post. You can find more great reads for the summer there.

June 10, 2016

A Homeschool Diploma

I figure that we didn't have a traditional school, so why have a traditional diploma.
Yes, I did take the wording from samples, but I wanted to create something meaningful that my daughter would be proud to hang on her wall.
The background is a painting that my mother did from a photo I took back many years ago.  This avoids any copyright issues, I hope.  I used PicMonkey to add the wording as I'm fairly technically illiterate.
This place was very special to us and this was taken the first week we started homeschooling (because isn't going on vacation the first thing you think of when you start homeschool?).  I hope that Shawn will find it meaningful as well as she remembers her time in school and how much we love her!

June 9, 2016

Sheep Balls, Because just saying it is fun

Seriously.  Sheep Balls.  Sheep Balls!!!
This isn't necessarily a new, mommy version of profanity (though it could work, I'd guess), but a cool way of doing laundry naturally.

There are so many options for natural laundry soap available with most becoming more and more affordable.  You can make your own or buy some great brands at most stores.
But drying.  
Dryer sheets are a nice thing, but contain so many chemicals and nasties.  The natural ones seem to be very high in price, or at least more than I care to spend.

So I started researching options.  I'm not going to hang my laundry outside because I really don't have time for that, and I have set laundry days and don't care to deal with rain or cold.
Then I found  Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls on Amazon.  **this is not an affiliate link, and I'm only saying Sheep Balls because I enjoy it**

They are balls of wool that help to shorten dryer time and naturally soften clothes.  They make your clothes soft without any smells or perfumes.
I have to admit that I love these things.  I don't know that I've seen a significant change with dryer times, maybe a few minutes per load, but the clothes are much softer and static is also decreased over using no softener at all.  Even nylon-y workout clothes come out pretty much static free.
I do tend to have a sensitivity, not allergy, to wool, and I've been able to use these for about 4 months without any issues.

It has also been a great help in teaching my little guy to do the laundry.  He gets to help search the clothes to find the balls, and then runs, screaming "sheep balls" as he goes to put them into the dryer for the next load.

Here's a link to the company's site.  I'd encourage you, if you google, to search for "smart sheep dryer balls".  Sheep balls might take you somewhere you don't want to be online.

Sheep Balls!!!

June 8, 2016

Honey, wheat germ soap with oats

I spent yesterday at the water park watching my toddler slide down the same slide about 1000 times.  Last week I got some great time kayaking on the river.
The thing is... I'm a very white, white girl.  My skin fights the urge to tan each year despite all efforts.
Right now my skin needs some love.

Despite being a product junkie for all things lotion-y and soap-y, I still end up making my own.
But sometimes you realize that simple is best.

I wasn't sure this soap was going to turn out as it is a much softer bar than I've made in the past.  I thought I went overboard with the wheat germ oil at trace, but turns out, this is a lovely, nourishing soap.
My stressed skin is thanking me right now....

Please consult a site like MMS for checking your lye amounts and be safe!

Honey-Wheat germ Soap with Oats
8 oz coconut oil
20 oz olive oil
2 oz castor oil
2 oz wheat germ

9 oz water
4.35 oz lye

1/2 T ground oats
1/2 T honey
1-2 tsp wheat germ oil