Monday, October 11, 2021

The Ruby Peacoat- A Gem of A Pattern

Red winter coat with buttonsAs an ambassador with 5outof4patterns, (this post contains affiliate links) I publish something I  make each month from their patterns.  For October, I thought I’d give the Ruby Peacoat a whirl because it looked like a nice winter coat.  I knew right away I wanted the shawl collar and not the hood, and I knew I wanted the outer fabric to be something other than fleece.  I have my limits with fleece, looking at other people wearing it and wearing it myself, so I looked in the home dec section of the fabric store, thinking there might be something that would look nice for the outer fabric.

I found this red tweed, almost a brick red, and knew right away this would be a great color.   I knew that finding any kind of coating fabric locally would be impossible and I didn’t want to play games with fabric swatches from online companies, when I wasn’t really sure what something might be like.  I hadn’t given myself a lot of time to get this coat muslined, adjusted and then sewn up for October,

For the lining, I knew I wanted fleece and probably something fairly thick because the the tweed will give no protection from cold or wind.  With the ridiculously huge assortment of fleece options at Joann fabrics, I was shocked at how difficult it was to actually find what I was looking for.  Some were too thick, not smooth enough (I kept remembering I might want to wear a sweater under it and trying to imagine getting my sleeves in and out) and some textures didn’t have a color or print I liked,

I chose this red flowered fleece and spent the next few weeks questioning that decision.  For one, it’s fairly thick so I knew cutting it was going to be a challenge. I was pretty worried that it would not be flat enough to cut well and I’d have a poorly cut lining in what might be an already tricky project.  It actually cut really well, except for the fuzz.  Lesson learned- if I ever use this kind of fleece again, I will use a pinking blade on my rotary cutter.  I immediately serged all of the fleece pieces so I didn’t chase fuzz for the whole project and that really saved my sanity.

Another concern I had is the softness.  I’m one of those weird people who touches chenille and feels like it’s always wet.  This is a similar softness and I worried that I’d always feel like it’s wet.  So far, working with it, it doesn’t have that wet feeling.

The print  is a little loud and I knew I wanted to expose it on the shawl collar, and I thought maybe it would be juussssst enough. I think it is.  

The pattern is so much easier than I expected.  I am a pretty advanced sewstress, so I never let a pattern get the best of me, but because this is a coat, I kept thinking it would be outrageous.  It was a breeze and in many ways, it was far easier than some of the workout tanks I’ve made.  You basically make the same coat twice, sew it together and through some amazing magic, turn the whole thing out through the arm seam and everything is exactly where it should be.

The instructions are wonderful, and as always in a 5outof4 pattern, there are links to each new thing you might want to add such as the hood or the collar, so you aren’t running through a pattern, trying to figure out what you do or don’t need to do.  There are videos that I did not use but I would imagine if the pictures and words don’t make things clear enough, you’d get what you’re missing from the video.

I chose the side seam pockets because I pretty much can’t stand any other kind of pocket for my coats.  They feel great (that fleece lining,) and they are spacious, but they give the coat a slightly bulkier look than I was hoping for.  I also completely forgot I had done them and when I first flipped the whole coat right side out, I felt these squishy thing near the hem and though I had left something inside the coat!

I’m very short through the torso, so most tops have to be shortened anywhere from 2-4 inches, depending on the pattern,  I took this one up 2 inches at the shorten/lengthen line and I’m glad I did.  The original length wasn’t bad but the pockets did feel slightly low and the whole thing looked a little loose.  Pulling it up these two inches out the pockets exactly where I wanted them.


I really struggled with the type of closure on this.  I knew I didn’t want big toggles and I thought I wanted big buttons like a typical peacoat.  Once I got it finished, I knew making those buttonholes was going to be quite a chore and I really worried about the fleece.  I decide to try magnetic snaps on the inside of the facings, with buttons on the outside just for decoration.  Other than forgetting the metal tabs on the inside were so close to the edge and breaking a needle on one as I topstitched the facing, I’m pretty happy with them.  The first snap went closer to the edge than I wanted, so that meant all of them did.  If I had thought far enough ahead, I would have added them earlier in the process and put them further from the edge.

It’s not cold enough in my neck of the woods to wear this yet, so I haven’t had a chance to see how warm it is.  I think with that fleece lining, it should be really warm.  The one spot I’m worried about is that open neck.  I thought the shawl collar would pull in a little closer in the front when it’s buttoned, but it doesn’t.  A scarf should help with the cold air there.

If you’ve been contemplating making your own coat for the winter, this pattern is a good one to try for your first attempt.  There are so many different options and things are so clearly spelled out, it seems like there’s something for everyone.  Here’s my affiliate link to go check out this pattern and many others!


Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Virgina Tank Hack

Virginia tank front view

This post contains affiliate links.  When I do yoga, I like a top that can be somewhat close fitting but also flowy, depending on the moves.  I've seen a lot of yoga tops that tie in the back and I tried a few patterns but they weren't quite right.  Then I saw Loni at www.havinsewmuchfun.com post something similar to the back I was looking for so I asked her how she did it.  It's a very simple hack, so I will share what I did, based on her suggestion.

I like the Virginia Tank by 5outof4 Patterns (affiliate link) so I took that pattern and adjusted it to make it a tie back.  Find your favorite tank pattern, or use the Virginia Tank like I did, and follow these steps.

You only need to adjust the back.  Most backs have one piece you cut on the fold. In order to make this work, you need to cut two pieces, not on the fold, so you'll have a back seam.   I did not add any seam allowance to mine because I serge it pretty closely, but you might want to calculate in some seam allowance if you think it will make a difference.


Pattern pieces for Virginia tank hack

Trace the pattern onto some paper that is longer than the current piece.  When you get to the bottom,
you're going to want to extend it so you'll have the tails.  I chose a length that seemed like it would let me have the tails to tie it back, but they wouldn't hang too long and be in the way.  The longer you go on the bottom point, the longer your tails will be.

If you look closely, I made a mark that says "sew to here".  You need to stop sewing to allow the tails to hang freely for future tying.  I found the spot on my back where I wanted the tie to sit and determined my stopping point there.   There's not a lot of math to this.  It's something you need to feel out for yourself.

Once I serge the back piece and stop at the indicated stopping point, then I treat the back as thought it were the original piece, cut on the fold.  I do not change the length of my neckband.  

Once I've sewn the front and back together and added the neck and arm bands, I do a narrow hem on the front and back and also up one tail, to the center of the back and down the other side.   

And that's it!  I don't tie it all that tight so when I want to release it if we are doing poses on our backs, it's easy to just untie before I lay on it.

I sometimes wear these tops on super hot days when I don't want anything confining and I don't tie it, I just let it flow.  Try it out and let me know how it goes!  





Sunday, April 11, 2021

Playing Carpenter in My Garden

I’m not a carpenter, but I do sew.  And there are many, many similarities in how both trades function.  The tools are some of the scariest differences and why I don’t normally pretend to be a carpenter.   Sometimes I can barely handle scissors so saws are not really my thing.   I’ve held many a board while it was cut or screwed in and I’ve had many cockamamie ideas that I’ve tried to have come to life through other peoples carpentry skills, so I do have some ideas about how wood and screws come together.

Homemade cage

This time, the man was too busy to help this one come to life and I knew enough of how I wanted it to look, that I thought maybe I could do it myself.  I knew this would involve cutting wood.  The man has a battery powered small circular saw that seems much safer  to me than a table saw or a skill saw, both of which get plugged in.  The battery powered one requires that you press two things at once when using it, so the second you dismember yourself, the remaining fingers will let go of anything and the saw will stop.  

Sounds safer, right?

I knew I wanted to make this out of strapping, which is not as thick as 2x4s, so easier to cut and deal with and lightweight.  And less expensive.  For this task, I didn’t need something highly durable.  I’m not trying to keep animals in or out.  Once we bought the bundle of strapping, I explained the bones of my idea to the man and he told me which screws would probably be best and off I went to the hardware store for screws, hinges and a latch.

Little did I realize that all of the hardware cloth (the metal stuff) that I thought I had at home had already been used last year in a project, so I would have to buy a bunch of that to complete this.  But that came later.

The first task was to get the frame done, which I did between work and dark one night.  The doors were a puzzle to me from the outset and I didn’t like any of the suggestions the man came up with.  This is about convenience.  I didn’t want to be lifting anything or making hatches that were going to need to be propped up if I opened them.  

The man also couldn’t picture how big this was going to be.  

At one point, he said I should make the top removable so I can just reach inside.  I still can’t stop laughing.  I can’t reach all the way inside with this on the ground, nevermind up on this raised bed.  I knew from the beginning it would be about 3 feet tall.  I’m still laughing.

The next day, I needed to get hardware cloth and as with pretty much everything I want, nowhere in my area had the size I wanted.  If you’d like to know the expensive way to do this, I’m your man.  Had I put some thought into that part of it and been a little patient, I would have ordered a roll and saved a lot of money but I had neither patience nor enough forethought.  

I did discover that there is 1/2 hardware cloth and 1/4 inch.  1/4 inch is what I knew would make this better, but the dimensions in 1/4 were less available than half inch.  The steam coming out of my ears as I did some math to decide the lesser of all evils could have powered a city.  As it was, I forgot how long 10 feet really is, so I ended up having to run out and get one more roll but in a different size because it was a different store.

Again, patience was not for me that day.

I went to bed that night with all but the doors completed.  I started looking online at how homemade doors look and it didn’t help much.  I asked the man for millionth time how I was going to do the doors.  He told me to think about it and then look the next day at what I’ve made and what I can do that would work.  For a second I thought he had become a teacher without my knowledge.  That’s a very teacher like suggestion and one I would definitely make to a whiny student who didn’t want to solve the puzzle herself.   Not the man’s typical behavior, but it worked.

I ended up finagling doors that open and close.  They are not completely straight and it makes me mad but I also didn’t use a tape measure for most of what I did so I won’t complain .

The only thing I haven’t figured out is a latch.  The one I bought won’t work because when the doors are closed and latched to each other, they open a little bit together.  I need to think about that some more.

So what is this?  A chicken coop?  Rabbit hutch?  Play yard for the cats?

It’s this year’s attempt to keep the cabbage moths away from my cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli and whatever other brassica I manage to grow.  Last year’s farce didn’t work at all.  Every year, I get tons of them started only to have the caterpillars get the upper hand and I lose a lot.  

The cage is portable so I expect that another year it will be moved somewhere else so I can change what grows in that bed because I always rotate crops.  Most plants can’t be covered because they need pollinating but not the brassica family.

Brassica seedlings
Here are some of the babes that will get to live in the cage as soon as they are bigger.  There are kohlrabi and cabbage in this group.  

For the time and money that went into this, I hope it works!  

Not a single digit was lost, not a scrape to be had.

And there wasn’t even that much swearing.  Except when I had to “sew” some of the sections together with wire because I needed to do them in Pieces. There was a lot of swearing then!



Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ye Olde Outdoor Shower

Outdoor shower article

Today’s newspaper had this  article on the front page.  Clearly, it was a slow news day.  But it brought to mind the baffled expressions I’ve seen on people’s faces who don’t live  here, when I mention the outdoor shower.  People think it’s a joke, or they think it’s a ridiculous idea.  Sometimes, they think that because so many houses here are really old, it means we still have houses that don’t have indoor plumbing! I also think some people think it’s just a glorified hose so the water will be freezing,   I guess unless you have a lake house somewhere or live near the ocean, the idea of an outdoor shower seems peculiar  

Based one on of my non local friend’s refusal to take a shower in my outdoor shower, I think the biggest confusion is that people think they will be exposed.  Even though there’s a fence around it and you’re totally in seclusion, those who’ve never taken an outdoor shower fear they will be walked in on, seen from an upstairs window or spied on in some other way.  

I can’t 100% rule out any of those possibilities.  

We are near an airport, so small planes are constantly flying overhead.  If a passenger can identity my naked body in the shower from that height, I don’t even care.  Plus, most of my showers are at night so I can’t imagine being seen and identified  from a plane.

We do have upstairs windows and though we placed the shower 20 feet away from the house (most have them right next to the house) you could spy from upstairs.  

There is usually a door on an outdoor shower (we are in the process of redoing ours so the door is actually not there) but someone opening the door is always a possibility but highly unlikely in my yard.  

Most people who have outdoor showers say it’s so people can rinse off after going to the beach and no sand gets brought inside.  I completely agree with this and wonder why we never had one growing up.  With swimming lessons for many summers, I think my mother would have loved saying “get out of the car and go right to the outdoor shower and rinse off”.

We added an outdoor shower in the early 2000s and here’s what I can tell you about why it’s the best thing we’ve ever done:

1.  No steam in the bathroom to encourage mold.  Probably my #1 pleasure of having an outdoor shower.

2.  No soap scum to clean.  

3.  No long hair stuck on anything or clogging a drain- there’s no drain.  The floor is trek recycled decking and below is stone so the water spreads out and absorbs into the ground.

4.  Taking a shower in the sun is pretty great.

5.  Taking a shower in the dark, under the stars is pretty great.

6.  Taking a shower in the freezing cold but under hot water is spectacular.  This is a labor of love.  It’s not weather proof, so the water has to be shut off in the winter.  The man runs down cellar to turn it on and off each time he takes a shower in the winter.  Every. Single. Time.   That’s the worst part of a winter outdoor shower.  I will take one outside in the winter under two conditions:  there can’t be any wind and it has to be a day I wash my hair so I can put my head under the warm water.  Once fall arrives, my showers are mostly indoors again until evening temps are back to the 50s.  I will occasionally take one on a calm night in the winter but not every night, like the man does.

7.  Taking an outdoor shower on a hot day when the sun is out and then sitting in your towel for a minute in the patio while you dry is pretty spectacular.

8.  No worries about splashing water, flinging shampoo as you’re sudsing up, etc.  Imagine the joy of coming home from some kind of FILTHY job or activity and just going right to the outdoor shower to get undressed and shake the dirt out and then clean up before going inside.

9.  You might have a little frog friend that lives in your shower for a little while.  

10.  If you need to wash something with hot water but your sinks and bathtub aren’t going to work, the outdoor shower can handle it,  it’s my preferred way to wash the litter boxes.  Sometimes the hose isn’t enough because you need nice, hot water and the outdoor shower has that.

There are some drawbacks:

1.  They really aren’t legal.  If a building inspector comes, they can tell you to remove it.  I’m not sure anyone really would remove one or that a building inspector has really told anyone to remove them, but they aren’t technically allowed.  And there was one instance locally of a fire that supposedly started in an outdoor shower because a mirror caught the sun and started a fire.  Another reason not to have your shower right up against the house!

2.  Wind is a serious issue you’d never think of in an indoor shower.  Even on a warm night, wind can be a nuisance and spoil the joy.  Our shower happens to be in the most wind prone part of the yard and many a time I have thought it wasn’t windy only to get out there and have freezing gusts blow over me.  Wind also knocks over shampoo and soap bottles and extreme wind, which we have a lot, will scatter things all over the place.

3.  Bar soap is a tasty treat for mice and they will scratch at it and eat it if not covered.  We no longer use bar soap!  This has been the most bizarre discovery!

4.  Guests who aren’t used to outdoor showers think you’re weird.

5.  Bugs.  Anything that likes wet places will visit your outdoor shower, especially if it’s located in a damp area.  Ours gets sun for most of the day so it remains pretty dry but there have been a few hair raising spider encounters and I refuse to take an outdoor shower at night without a light on.  

That’s it.  The pros far outweigh the cons and I would advocate for outdoor showers forever.  We are currently doing a remodel of ours and it hasn’t been in use for a few months.  I’ve gotten so used to not taking a shower inside after another person has taken a shower inside, that when I enter a steamy bathroom after the man takes a shower, I can’t stand it!  Spring is here and the outdoor shower is calling.  We will have it redone by summer but I definitely would use it tonight if it was up to snuff.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Channeling My Secret Inner Designer

I’m not a pattern designer, I don’t pretend to be one and I really don’t want to have the ability.  There’s so much thinking and life consuming work in designing a pattern to then sell to the masses and I’d be devastated to see someone interpret my design differently than I intended.  Or worse, see someone struggle with my design and not be able to help.  Instead, I buy the patterns and mostly follow the rules, until something whispers in my brain and I have to change things just a tad.  Because I’m human.

Halfmoon 101Jeans
A few posts back, I raved and raved about the Halfmoon 101 Jeans from Halfmoon Atelier.  They are far from skinny jeans.  They remind me of 90s jeans.  No stretch.  Real denim.  But with a rise that doesn’t touch my throat.   Because short torso and high waist equal a strange corset-like monstrosity.  These are nothing like that.

As I made my second pair, I got to thinking how great it would be to have a denim skirt that fit through the hips the same way.  And I started perseverating  on how I could make that happen, as I started ripping out all of the man’s older, ripped jeans.  That really is some nice denim and it frustrates me that it’s hard to find. My second pair of jeans was made from off the bolt denim and as it gets worn, I swear it’s getting harsher and more burlap-like.

Sometimes, I have some divine intervention that steps in and my wild ideas turn into exactly what I wanted. I was so excited to share, I didn’t even wait until daylight.  I stood on a stool and hit my head on the ceiling so I could capture these beauties.

Jeans skirt

Jeans skirt

Jeans skirt

It took a lot of thinking and lots of studying skirts I already have so I could see their construction.  I pulled out two denim skirt patterns that I already have but both use a different fly method and I just couldn’t figure out how to transfer that method to this pattern.  Eventually, I winged it and I like what I have.

This is from upcycled denim so it has some dark patches and the fronts are actually two different brands, which I didn’t realize at first.  I’m debating making another.  As I’m writing this, I’m wearing the current one to see how it relaxes as it gets worn.

I didn’t hem this.  I’ve been on a non hemming kick.  I topstitched right at the edge so it will fray and then stop because that’s the kind of casual mood of this skirt.  It doesn’t have a lot of room for climbing big steps.  Climbing on the stool for pictures was risky enough.  But that’s how I like a denim skirt.  I don’t like them all shifty and acting like a silo around my body.

Come back soon and I’ll tell you all about my new favorite sewing machine foot that made this a breeze!


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Talking Books

Talking book playerLet all my gen Z and millennial friends gather ‘round while I tell a riveting tale of life before hand held computers.  Way back when I was a kid in the 1900s, I had a record player in my room and lots of records to keep me entertained.  It’s hard to believe that a little kid could handle placing the needle on the record (and I know it’s hard for some of you to even visualize “placing a needle on a record” but we did and it worked) and not destroying it but my sisters and I seemed to manage it and spent years listening to songs and books.  
But before that, I had the latest and greatest in technology: the talking book.  Do you remember this this?  Fisher Price had their act together around 1980 when they made this foolproof device.  
You bought books that had a magic little circle on each page and when you put this thing on it, and
Talking book
pressed one of the brown buttons, it read aloud.  This was no robotic voice, it was a pre recorded audio book that was somehow impressed into the little circles and this thing would let it play!  Just the words for that page were on the circle on each page.  Anyone could do it.  Chubby toddler hands, arthritic grandparent hands.  You just put the player in that green circle and it would somehow play it.  I think it was somehow like a record.  
This came up recently because I mentioned Gertrude Mcfuzz, a Dr. Seuss character.  I vividly remember the book and the page where she had too many feathers and couldn’t fly.
This page traumatized me.  I hated how the other birds had to carry her and everyone was miserable.  

When I mentioned it to my sister, she said she never heard of her and the more I described it, the more we wondered why.  It was a very strong memory of a book that I didn’t like to read because I’d get a stomach ache just thinking about it.

I googled Gertrude McFuzz and one thing led to another and when I saw this page with the little green circle,  4  decades of a memory crashing through to 2021.  I almost remember what I was wearing the day I heard this book, the memory is that strong.

Gertrude McFuzz isn’t her own book.  She appears in Yertle the Turtle, which I know I’ve never read.  And, she’s a main character in Seussical, the musical, which I’ve never seen.  So how do I know Gertrude and why did she upset me?  

I hadn’t read the book and no one had read it to me.  I had played it with my magical device and it was the woman’s voice reading it that I remember.  I was bothered by Gertrude eating the berries to get more feathers and I didn’t like how the birds were like slaves carrying her home.

Oddly, Fisher  Price created a book that is her story, as a stand alone book, and narrated it for the Talk to Me line of books.  If you google, you’ll find a whole collection of books and I bet some of you will suddenly remember!  I didn’t recognize any of the other images that came up but I do remember having several of these books.  How ahead of the game was Fisher Price back then ?  Before audiobooks on cassettes or CDs.  Before expensive cassette and DVD players.  

I’ve never asked anyone if they had one because it was something I’d forgotten about but now I wonder who else had this? 




Thursday, February 18, 2021

Frozen in Stainless Mode

My refrigerator died
When my 25+ year old refrigerator gave up the ghost this week, I had to buy a new refrigerator.  I’m a big fan of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so I haven’t even considered replacing any of these appliances that are all 2 decades old or more.  Living in an old house, size is a serious issue and with all of the perks and newfangled gadgetry these days, trying to choose an appliance is like cramming for a final.

Refrigerator
Saturday morning, the old refrigerator had let the butter get soft (that sounds like a new way to say someone is near death, doesn’t it) and something in the freezer melted, but not everything.  We took that as a hint to get started on the idea of buying a new one.  I trekked off just to look at what’s out there, seriously doubtful  that I would find what I want, in a size that fits the doorways of this old house.  The new standard refrigerator is 36 inches wide and there’s no way that would fit the current space, never,ind trying to find a door to get it through.

My requirements are simple: a) not stainless b) bottom freezer c) single refrigerator door.

A)I just don’t like the look of stainless.  It’s an old house and while my decor may not be consistent and mostly questionable, stainless just screams “I don’t belong here!”  I wanted beige.  Almond.  Cream.  Bisque. Apparently I’m the last soul on earth looking for almond and no one wants black or white so they aren’t stocking them.

B)  I like a bottom freezer so the top has more space for refrigerated goods.  We have a stand alone freezer so freezer space in my refrigerator isn’t a big deal to me.  I freeze a lot of glass jars and bowls so having the bottom freezer reduces the likelihood of them slipping out of the freezer and breaking themselves, my foot or the tile floor.

C) I am capable of getting my hand caught in double refrigerator doors, no matter how they are made.  I can’t explain how it happens but it’s happened enough that I hate double doors.

At my first stop, I discovered that appliances are still not in stock and hard to come by, so when I found a few models that would fit and had at least one of requirements, I sat in my car and googled the model numbers until I found a place that would deliver within 3 days.

Good thing because by Tuesday, the old refrigerator had written its final will and testament and had become nothing but a giant cooler, stocked with ice packs.

Behold, my entry to the 21st century.

Stainless refrigerator
Ok, maybe I’m only halfway there because of my almond dishwasher right next to it.  That will be my next replacement because it’s also doing strange antics signifying it’s just about done.  And the stove is getting close to 20 years old so I’m sure there’s room in the grave for that one too.

And now I’m locked into the stainless mode for the next 2 decades. 

Who am I kidding.  Today’s appliances last 10 years.