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May. 30th, 2013

Captain Obvious Strikes Again

So many people want to "help" me. They believe that common sense belongs to an elite subset of humanity and that most of us--me in particular--must be guided through each event in life by those possessing this Wisdom of the Ages.

And now I will provide an example.

I have very, very curly hair. It is thick hair, and it has its own ideas about how it wants to look on any given day. Therefore, I have to wash it each morning to undo the painfully twisted, half-squashed, half-frizzy posture it has assumed while I was asleep, and force it into a style professional enough for work.

But then I decided to grow it long, because I was in my mid-50s and did not wish to rue my ultimate demise on the grounds of not having at least one more go-round with long hair. Now that it's long enough to mess with, I bought a flat iron and have been experimenting with this wonderful tool. Had I owned one as a teenager, I would have been much more popular, I think.

So I was at the office, swinging my long, straight hair around, enjoying every moment of it, when my co-worker (the really, really annoying one) asked, "Do you straighten your hair in sections?"

Since it is tricky (read: impossible) to straighten one's many hairs all at the same time, I said, "Of course."

My annoying co-worker, eager to "help" me (although, truth be told, since my hair on this day was straight and shining like the sun, I obviously needed "help" like a I needed a tail) then said, "Because you have to put up some of it and do the bottom first. Then you take down the top and straighten that."

"Yes, that's how it's done," I said.

"Do you have big clips? You need big clips."

"As a matter of fact, I do have big clips."

"So you pile your hair up and use the clips to hold it and...blah blah blah."

Welcome, Captain Obvious!

And here is another example:

A gentleman who volunteers quite often at the synagogue where I work happened to mention that Harry Truman was a haberdasher.

"Really?" I said, relishing this bit of trivia.

"Yes," said the man. "Before he was president!"

Now, entire books cover the life and times of Harry Truman. I have not read any of them (although I've digested several about Jefferson and Lincoln), but, I dare say that if the 33rd President of the United States had taken up hat making after leaving office, we, as a nation, would be well aware of it.

So, again, I fell victim to a completely different Captain Obvious.

And, last, I give you another anecdote from my work (where all of the really "helpful" live):

A member of the Board sent me an e-mail asking that I change his cell phone number in our database. So I did this and wrote him back to say that it was done. Later in the day, he came to the office and asked me, "Did you see my e-mail about changing my phone number?"

"Yes, I've already done it."

"I changed my cell phone number," he said.

"I can see that."

"It's completely different."

"It's different," I replied, not knowing what else to say.

This guy is a CPA. He travels all over the world. All things are good and solid in his mind, as far as I know, but he felt the need to make sure that I fully, completely, totally understood what happened here. HE CHANGED HIS CELL PHONE NUMBER. IT IS NOW DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE HE HAD BEFORE. COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

I am constantly interrupted at work. People wander in, people run by, people grab things off my desk, people call, they ring the doorbell, they make deliveries... and that's all pretty much okay. But when a co-worker or a Board member treats me like I've got sand for brains, well, that's just another annoying chapter in the Adventures of Captain Obvious.

Game of Thrones Senior Moments?

While watching "Game of Thrones"... I do not always know why someone is somewhere or what someone is doing. I forget who is allied with whom. There's bastard sons and real sons and estranged bastard sons and estranged real sons. There's incest--I do get that. But, anyway, it's a very interesting and exciting show. Sometimes spooky, too! I just can't seem to grasp the thing as a whole. Maybe if I Wiki it...?

Apr. 16th, 2013

Ignoring Reality

I'm not going to comment on Boston. Just like I didn't comment on Sandy Hook. Not because I don't care. I do care. Deeply. That is why I take medication for generalized anxiety disorder. Some think that I am too self-indulgent, that I run to the doctor for pills when some "little thing" bothers me. I would hardly define a clear-eyed reaction to horrific events a "little thing," but there you are. I care to the point of insanity.

But it's been two months since my last post, and I was going to write today anyway.

My bathroom is being replaced, which has put sewing on hold for a while on account of the dust. Also, my clothes dryer died and, after a series of First-World-Problem-Type events, the new one is coming in a couple of days. It's been about 7 weeks since I did laundry.

That whole joke about washing jeans only when they get dirty enough to stick when you toss them against the wall? Is true.

Feb. 16th, 2013

Winged But Not Down

Anyone ever had a condition called "frozen shoulder"? Adhesive capsulitis? It starts with a small strain or injury and over a period of time blows up into lots of shoulder pain and stiffness and, guess what? It can take a couple of years to resolve. Mine feels particularly bad...whenever it wants to. Like today, for instance. Don't feel sorry for me! My weakness is empowering! I have discovered entirely new ways to lie in bed all day entertaining myself.

Okay, so, just a note about clothes that fit.

I'm like a lot of girls who have...girls. If something fits across the bust, I'll buy it. That's pretty much the yardstick I use for ready-to-wear. That and whether or not the zipper goes all the way up. It the zipper goes all the way up, I don't even care if the hook-and-eye closes, ya know? I might need that quarter inch, for God's sake.

Which brings me to the big (for me) question of how to put a post-menopausal body into this dress:

The  answer is something called "foundation garments." The sad thing is that nowadays women are expected to have (or create for themselves via surgery and/or exercise and/or something else) a body that can accommodate a fitted bodice without the help of God Spandex. This is just plain wrong. We need to embrace the assistance of long-line bras and girdles if we Of a Certain Age and Build want to look svelt enough for vintage clothing. Because back then the long-line bra and girdle were ubiquitous, part and parcel of the Dior Look. Every time I watch "Mad Men" and the couple close the door behind them and rip off their clothing, I know the women are thinking, "Thank God I can get out of this underwear!"  The first thing my mother did when she got home from work was to take off her girdle.

Oh, yes! I've considered a tummy tuck. Why not? Until I saw the YouTube videos--women on there pulling down their pants to show the scars--and I came to my senses, much as someone planning to take a cruise might re-think that whole thing, what with wall-to-wall coverage on CNN concerning the Good Ship Triumph.

However, most women of my generation don't really care about these things, so I'm speaking to an empty forest.

Jan. 20th, 2013

No Doldrums Here

Onward we go, ignoring politics and other upsetting things. Within La Casa IAmRightHere, nothing invades the benevolent calm except the usual Weird Neighborhood News: family of 20 purchasing 3-bedroom, 2-bath home down the block.

But we won't go there. Not today!

For your--and mostly my--delight, we have The Pansy Tunic:
Pansy Tunic
Sister-in-law Mary Lou really knows how to take a picture. Note, first of all, that it is in focus. This in and of itself marks her as a genius, since no one else given the chance has managed to do this, even though they were handed a freakin' auto-focus camera.

So well, the original impulse to get a good sewing machine stemmed from trying to locate a decent tunic in regular stores. I like leggings (lots of stttrreeetttccchhhhh) and wanted something to go with them that was neither too short nor too long nor too bulky nor too anything else. Although I live in a shopping mecca (small M for clarity), the Targets and Marshall'ses and TJMaxxes and Macy'ses and Lords and Taylors, for all their bounty of Chinese-made goods, could not provide me with a simple, oversized shirt to wear over not-pants (referring to the meme "Leggings are Not Pants. Go Put on Some Pants").

This tunic ought to have been sewn using a flowy fabric, but I decided to go with something pretty. Why are the cutest fabrics all quilting weight? I do not know, but I sew with them anyway, even though they drape for shit. In the end, I like the style and the colors and will make this again sometime in a rayon or lightweight linen--just like the pattern envelope says.

Okay, so a short while ago, I was at work cleaning out a closet with my boss. She will keep everything in the world until the day that a Sudden Impulse hits her. This is what I call these things. As she storms around on a total warpath about some mess or other that she has been aware of for months but only now has decided to take on--with me in tow, listening to her loud complaints about how everyone is such a pig, I will ask, "Are you having a Sudden Impulse?"

Where was I? Oh yeah... So this Sudden Impulse yielded a 10-yard piece of aqua cotton broadcloth plus a huge chunk of dark-blue star-patterned quilting cotton. I work at a synagogue--blue is their color. My boss said, "Just throw these away!" And I said, "Over my dead body."

Voila! Quilting cotton is good for structured dresses:

Fitted DressIt's rather more fitted than previous things I've made, a good pattern on which to practice alterations. Pretend that this photo is in focus.
Fitted Dress BackA view from the back. Pretend that my purse and whatnot are not all over the bed. I swear, does no one except my beloved sister-in-law know how to snap a pic to my best advantage, or are they just trying to embarrass me?

This dress has an accompanying jacket, for which I purchased the interfacing and shoulder pads and whatnot. But I seem to have lost the directions, which makes me wonder whether I am smart enough to put the item together without being told how to do this.

One of these days I will remember to take the pattern envelopes to work and scan the fronts.

Today's project is a princess-seam dress. This is my first time fitting this sort of thing. Bought some nice rayon challis at G Street and even took a one-day pattern-fitting class. We'll see what happens next!

Dec. 24th, 2012

The Solution is the Problem

Honestly, if armed guards at schools will keep our kids safe...what about the tens of thousands of deaths and woundings that take place outside of schools? Like the four firefights shot today--two fatally--at a fireground? What about the mass murders that have taken place at shopping malls, movie theaters, etc., etc. This is a national problem, a national tragedy, and the people who support unfettered acquisition and carrying of guns have to re-think the meaning of freedom.

Dec. 16th, 2012

Childish Chemise

Hello, again. Well, I've been busy with another project, this time a button-down shirt. This is the first time I've done a full bust adjustment, which took five freakin' hours!

Since I'm learning to fit patterns correctly, this one benefitted from Fit for Real People by Pat Palmer and Marta Alto. They use a tissue-fitting method, as opposed to the measure-and-slide method. It was quite dodgy cutting out the pattern, taping the curves, marking the seam allowances, pinning the darts, and, for crying out load, pinning the pattern over half of my body. But I'm nothing if not persistent.

Trying on the pattern the first time, it seemed pretty okay, The front had no ease at all, though, so I hauled out my scissors, markers, tape, and various rulers and went to town.

Sewing 2012 002
Sewing 2012 004I taped paper under the sliced pattern areas and re-drew the darts. All of this took quite a long time, but I understand that the process speeds up as one gets the hang of it and gains more experience and confidence. Not unlike learning to do CPR, I think, but quite a bit less stressful!
Sewing 2012 006This was also the first time I worked with voile. I didn't realize it would be quite so thin, although I can hardly complain about fabric costing only $4 a yard on Fabric.com. Anyway, it was fairly easy to work with, although the loose weave kept getting off grain. I eventually stay stitched most of the pieces right after cutting them out to prevent them from shifting as I sewed.

Feeling a little expansive during the holiday season, I bought myself some new presser feet--a hemmer, a pin tucker, and a ruffler. I used the hemmer on the floopy cutts and along the bottom. It's quite a time saver, since it eliminates having to do narrow hems all over the place. I didn't do a perfect job using the foot, but, again, experience is important with these things.

And so voila! The shirt!
Front of Completed ShirtBack of Completed ShirtIt's a bit too youthful for a woman of my years, perhaps, but if one is going to learn pattern fitting, then starting with shirts seems like a good idea, and this was one of the 30 patterns I got for $15 last fall on Ebay. It really fits perfectly--doesn't pull or sag anywhere--and the darts bring it in close to my body, which keeps it from looking too "middle-agey."

My next project, for which I've already done up a muslin, is a fitted dress. After adjusting the pattern to narrow out the shoulders and decrease a big gap in the underarm, I found that the back simply won't do. It's way too wide. Fitting a back is not at all easy, as it's hard to see and manipulate fabric there. I also have a shoulder issue that prevents me from reaching behind me. So this time I'll be going by measurements only, as many other sewists do, and pivoting pattern pieces to alter them. Progress report to come!

Dec. 7th, 2012


Today I show pix of a couple of things I've sewn recently.

First off we have the overdress/underdress number, the pattern for which I got on Ebay. (I wouldn't own anything if note if it weren't for Ebay.):

Double Skirt Dress004Sweet, isn't it? Noting that the bodice had a bit of empire about it, I lengthed it about an inch to sit at my waist. According to the measurements, I'm a size 14 with some extra padding about the waist (I come from a long line of apple-shaped women. Only by sheer daily effort do I manage to keep my middle from blossoming into an obvious spare tire.)

The first run looked like this:
Sewing 2012 045It's hard to see in the pic, but the underskirt fabric, a simple cotton, has orange, red and yellow fireworks on it. The overdress is, of course, orange with tiny red spots. From a distance, the dress looks okay. Unfortunately, I didn't fit the pattern beforehand (because I hadn't yet learned how), and in reality the dress is way too big on me:
Sewing 2012 048(And I realize that my hair is a fright and that I really need to explore the whole makeup thing. Again.)
After reading a couple of books and watching a lot of Youtubes about fitting, I was able to alter the shoulders, upper back, and high bust areas so that the second time around came out looking quite a bit better.
Sewing 2012 054This was after I decided to open the curtains and let some freakin' light in. I'd been all weekend sewing--not this dress; something else--with the curtains drawn, rather like an obsessed hermit, venturing out only to buy diet soda. For this try, I used a crinkled cotton underskirt and rayon challis for the overdress.

Next up, the Peter Pan-Collar Dress:
Peter Pan-Collar Dress003I made the flowery one in the back there but added the Peter Pan collar to it, because Peter Pan collars are Just So Me.The shoulders needed to be narrowed and a little armhole space reduced. Other than that, it was easy peasy. The hard part was finding a belt to go with it.
Sewing 2012 039Seriously, I walk into Marshall's or T.J. Maxx, Target, etc., trying to find a belt and, jeez! Who--tell me--who would buy a piece of turquoise plastic with metal studs all over it and a silver-colored plastic buckle with big fake stones glued on? It took forever to find a simple, white leather belt with a simple buckle. Instead I pawed through some of the most God-awful dreck.

Enough about that. Look at the dress. The dress is calming, the dress is The Happy.

Sewing 2012 It's made out of a fruity dress-weight cotton from Fashion Fabric Club, my new internet home. I could parse through that site for hours. Sorry about the dim photo. DH needs to get on the stick about snapping pix for my blog. I said, "It's going on the Internet! It has to look good!" Then I felt so bad I even made dinner a couple of nights later.

My sewing space is a 4' x 4' area of my bedroom. (In the TMI department, but DH and I finally gave up the ghost on my snoring. He has his own sleeping quarters. We meet in the hallway for trysts and conversations. Marriage at its best.) Anyway, I do not have the luxury of a sewing room, but have tried to make do with the space I have. On any given Saturday, my room looks rather like this:
Sewing 2012 034The wire behind the ironing board is my XM Radio antenna. It seems to like that window best. Over to the left is my precious Bernina, Bernice. On the bed is a nifty bulletin board, which I use when a flat surface larger than an ironing board is needed. At the end of the day, everything is put away nice and tidy. So you see, one doesn't need a fancy-big sewing room with bolts of fabric and geegaws on shelves. I buy fabric only for whatever project I'm going to work on. As the child of a hoarder, I am very careful about that!

More sewing pix later, folks!

Oct. 19th, 2012

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

My poor departed mother is haunting me! Rotator cuff problems in both shoulders, a brand-spanking-new backache, knees hurting--what the hell is going on? Seems like I've grown old and decrepit overnight.

Sep. 25th, 2012

Laid Low on Kol Nidrei

After a week of sore joints and stomach issues, I took to my bed with a fever and will arise only this afternoon to attend to a few last-minute hectic matters concerning Kol Nidrei (also known as Yom Kippur Eve) at work before going back to bed for another 24 hours. Very inconvenient timing! I had hoped to withstand the deluge of responsibility at least until tomorrow.

In April my mother got sick(er) and then died a month later, followed by a whirlwind effort to get her property in order in advance of the busy High Holy Day season. Everything timed out perfectly.

Despite "pshaws" from various corners, I was in fact able to empty Mother's apartment, have it repainted and cleaned, have some appliances replaced and new carpeting installed, all for under $10,000 AND before August 1, when the High Holy Day rush began.

The condo sold last Friday. Now I have to find new homes for the dragon collection, the arts and crafts and sculptures and paperweights and paintings. They sit in my basement, patiently waiting for the High Holy Days and my acute nervous exhaustion to end so I can think of clever ways to disburse them to caring new owners, as if each piece were a tiny, helpless kitten. Hard to imagine a hunk of twisted, tormented glass (signed by "the artist") being precious in any way, but my mother loved it and now I must take care to find it a new home.

But there I go, worrying about the future again. Compartmentalizing has worked so far: Mother, memorial service, estate, condo, High Holy Days. Tilting back towards her estate will be more difficult, since all I really want to do is lie in bed with the cat, the books and the laptop for the next month or so.
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