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.

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.  

Monday, February 15, 2021

My Fabric Garage

Years ago, I bought these hanging sweater holders to organize my fabric.  I call it the Fabric Garage.  .  The  quilting cottons are in rainbow order and in the middle, I have some knits and wovens for clothing.

Fabric organization

Recently, a friend asked me if I’d like some fabrics that she didn’t have time to use.  I never turn down fabric!  I figured it would be a few pieces, maybe a bag full.  It was one bag and one box but I never expected all of this.


Once it was all washed, dried and ironed, I brought it to join the rest in my Fabric Garage.  I organize mostly by the main color in a fabric with one pile of very specific prints that don’t fit anywhere else.  I also have a bookcase with bins for scraps that are too small to bother putting in the bigger holders.  The bins of scraps are in Rainbow order too.  It’s what I do.


I always wash, dry and iron fabric before putting it away because I don’t want to have to wait to do that once I decide on a project.  I wasn’t expecting to have such full bins after this haul but wow, do I have a lot of awesome fabric now!    I’m excited because I have a few scrap quilts percolating in my mind and now I have so much to choose from!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Being A Responsible Blogger

I’ve learned so much in my decade of blogging: from how to select a theme, to what a widgets, to how to embed code.  I love all of the things I’ve figured out and how easy blogging has become over the years.

Something not a lot of people consider is accessibility.  I’ve learned a lot about the limits of accessibility and how important it is so that everyone can access what you’re putting out there.  In my position in technology, I have to be sure our school websites are accessible.  You’d be surprised how much still in inaccessible to people with disabilities even with all of the amazing technology we have.  Yes, there are screen readers and text to speech, but as far as we’ve come with these technologies, they are not always fabulous and in so many cases, they are laborious and tedious.

As a blogger, one thing you can do is alt text to your pictures.  This allows a screen reader to explain the pictures when hovered over.  It will say whatever you type, so be clear in what you write.  You might have noticed this on Instagram lately.  I see a lot of auto captioning now in videos and it’s because people are choosing to allow it to auto caption so people can read or be read to.  Again, it’s not perfect and mistakes abound but it’s a step in the right direction.  

Explaining how to add alt text
I know this will astound you, but I use plain on Blogger for this amazing blog.  When I add a picture, I get this:
I simply type a brief statement about what is in the picture and when touched or hovered over, the text will appear or be read aloud.  It isnt perfect, but it’s something that takes an extra minute that you can do to help those who don’t have the same access that you might  have.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Best Way To Draw On Your Fabric

There are lots of tools out there for marking fabric and I’ve tried most of them: chalk, special clickable pens with disappearing ink, Crayola  washable markers.  For a long time, I thought I could just pin at the marks on a pattern and call it a day.  But, when serging knits, pins become tricky business, especially if you put the pedal to the metal as I’m inclined to do.  They make clips that you can use instead of pins, but particularly on cuffs or neckbands, they are more of a hassle than necessary.

Enter my new favorite way to mark fabric.  That’s right!  Raid your child’s playroom and get all of the washable markers and claim them as yours.  They are bright, rich colors and I have never had them not wash off a fabric.  Instantly. Without even needing soap!  I no longer hesitate to make all kinds of marks, lines, dots and even and R or L on a piece if I know I’m going to confuse them.  These are the regular fat markers but the thin ones would be just as nice.  This set is called ultra clean washable, so maybe that’s why they disappear so quickly.  I love marking fabric now!  Maybe I wouldn’t use these on precious bridal gown fabric just in case, but I’ve used them without hesitation on all of my me makes and I
Haven’t had any trouble yet.

But what to do if the fabric is dark, heavy and just won’t let the colors show?

Chalk pencils
Enter the previously suggested method of using chalk.  You can use chalk for a chalkboard (if you can even find that anymore) or the tailors chalk you can find at sewing supply stores or you can get these chalk pencils which I really like.  They sharpen like a pencil- I use a handheld eyeliner pencil sharpener so I don’t ruin my electric one.  Because they are wooden, with chalk on the inside,  you don’t end up with chalky hands.  Best of all, It’s like they were meant for denim, darks, and heavy weights.  They show up so well! And like the markers, the chalk will wash off.  Or you can just brush it off.

I found that the disappearing ink pens disappear too quickly for me.  Because they are designed to either evaporate on their own after 48 hours or with water, when ironing, they vanish.  The washable markers mentioned above don’t disappear unless I am using a ton of steam or spray water directly on them. 

As every home ec teacher just have bellowed from the rafters (I have no idea because I never have home ec) you really need to mark your fabric for the best precision and there are a ton of options out there.  Washable markers have been a game changer for me.  And I’ll leave you with a hard learned lesson:

Marked underwear pattern
When you’re being really smart and you mark fabric for underwear, choose something other than a red marker  🤯.  And don’t use brown, either.  And always wash them before wearing just to make sure there is no color left at the crotch markings.  And refrain from red thread on your underwear unless your fabric or elastic  is red.  No one needs that trauma.  

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Flashback to 90s Era Jeans

With a modern rise!  

Did you suffer through the high waisted, heavy denim jeans of the 90s?  The button flys?  Did they climb to your chin by the end of the day, like mine did on my 5’2” frame?

The rebellion to those, as we all can’t possibly forget, was the dawn of the 1 inch rise in the 2000s, where midriffs and far more were on display.  I was pretty excited that someone lowered the height of the jeans waist, but it was short lived because no one wanted their muffin tops showing.

Enter stretch denim.  My nemesis.  I never minded the heavy denim in ye olden days, so as stretch denim has taken over, I’ve been less and less happy with ready to wear jeans.  I find a pair that fits for a minute but after a few hours, they’ve stretched and I chase them for the rest of the day.  And, I still find the rise to be too high for my tastes. And don’t even get me started on belts.

I made myself the Ginger Jeans in a stretch denim and they are just ok.  I don’t love them.  I don’t hate them.  But I’ve never been excited to make a new pair.  I need some alterations and it just gives me a headache to think about.

And then Meghann over at Halfmoon Atelier debuted her new Halfmoon 101 Jeans pattern.  I was so excited because they sounded EXACTLY like the jeans of yore but with a reasonable rise that would not choke me by lunch time.  And I loved how they looked on her.

I toyed with the idea of buying the pattern but again, the thought adjusting jeans just makes me want to cry, so I kept putting it off.  I started seeing posts on Instagram where people said they made minimal changes and they looked pretty good, so I bit the bullet.  And then I debated what to do about denim.  

The man has a tendency to tear his jeans in the same spot getting into his truck, so I have amassed a collection of not all that stained jeans of his, waiting for a project like this.  He’s a foot taller than me and twice my weight, but color me surprised when after dismantling his jeans, there wasn’t all that much extra fabric to play with.  I was able to cut out what I needed, except for the waistband, from one pair.

I knew the dark denim behind the pockets would be an issue for me on the pair I made, but I wasn’t worried because I planned to wear them as working in the yard/being at home jeans, anyway.  I needed something real beyond the Muslin fabric (ALWAYS make a muslin )  so this would be perfect.

Due to every activity I’ve ever done requiring strong thighs, my thighs are full and always pose a problem with jeans.  I didn’t want to go too high with the size because I was worried I’d have to make too many adjustments, so I went with the size most of my measurements fell into.  The thighs were very snug and the crotch was unhappy so I added a quarter inch on each side of the front and back mid thigh to the crotch area and that seemed to be just enough.  

I’m not worried about the lines under my butt because these are jeans, not chinos and I know that over time, they will stretch anyway.

As you see, the former pocket marks are ridiculous for the eye as you look at the actual pockets on these jeans, so I would think twice before I’d up cycle jeans for real every day wear, for just this reason.  You can also see here how the waistband is a very different color and personally, if the waistband would be a different color, I think it should be darker, not lighter!  I’m not happy that my belt loop in the center back is slightly off center but it’s not worth undoing the waistband to fix it.

I made the insane loops design on my pockets freehand, and I really can’t explain myself.🤷🏽‍♀️  I also just realized the chalk is still there, but that should wash away soon.  These were the original pockets, cut down to the pattern template.  I kept the original top hem but top stitched the rest myself and the color is a little different, but no one will look that closely.

Speaking of washing away, I have started using Crayola washable markers for marking fabric and it has been a lifesaver.  I did use chalk on some of this because the chalk showed well but sometimes chalk is impossible and those markers are a lifesaver!

I’m thrilled that the rise is below the belly button and for the first time ever, I don’t want to reduce the rise.  I’ve never had a skirt, shorts, or pants that didn’t need a shorter rise so this is baffling to me!  Also, there’s something a little strange with the zipper covering that I hope will straighten out with a washing.  I’ve put in quite a few flys but I’ve never had that little loose situation happen like I see here.

Other than adding a little to the thighs, the only major adjustment I made was for the knee.  I notice more and more that pants always pull when I bend my knee and recently discovered that knees might be placed lower than where mine is and thus, it pulls on my thigh.  Meghann is so smart to actually show where the knee is on the front and back of the patterns, so I took advantage and moved mine up about 2.5 inches.

What a difference!  I can bend my knees and I don’t feel any pull!  The only drawback is that when I pulled the legs up, I didn’t add anything to the bottom, assuming I wouldn’t need to, but now I can’t hem this pair for it to be a normal length.  That’s fine, but I will add a little for the next time so I can do a proper hem.

No jeans would be complete without pretty guts, so here are mine.

The waistband is genius and I love how it topstitched.  I chose to use something other than denim on the inside, more substantial than the pocket, but not quite as heavy as denim.

I also always put a little interfacing at the back pocket top corners due to expected wear and tear.

None of this would have happened without my trusty Bernina 1001.  This machine topstitches through denim like that’s it’s job!  My Bernina 350 is fine for assembly but it’s not a fan of heavy duty topstitching.  I didn’t have a double denim needle so I did two rows each time on my own and I will definitely get a double needle for the next pair. 

I can’t say enough about how great this pattern is.  It feels straightforward and clear, with great pictures showing what to do.  And the adjustments I made were minimal enough that I didn’t have to worry about them or keep ripping out and trying again.  If you’ve had enough of skinny jeans, this is your next pattern!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Taking Tweezers Into My Own Hands

Do you clean and oil your sewing machines yourself?

With my original Bernina 1001, I used to vacuum it out once in a while and put the drops of oil where the manual said to- when I thought about it.  In 25 years, I’ve had it professionally cleaned only once.  😮

When I bought my new Bernina a few years back, I thought maybe I should listen to what everyone says and oil it regularly and clean it more, etc.  

I forget how long ago, but at some point in the last year or so, my needle threader stopped working,  I started thinking about it the other day and decided to try to fix it.  A few YouTube searches revealed that you can pop it off and put on a new one, so I ordered one today and voila.

I was so thrilled that this was such a success, I decided to go ahead and do a deep clean like one of the guys in a video did.  I had no idea I could take this part off myself!  I also took out the bobbin hook and was able to remove some caught fuzz that I never would have seen with just my usual routine.  I took tweezers and pulled out some gunky stuff that was probably slowing things down.  

The best part is I was able to get it all back correctly and it works and sounds totally normal!  Nothing came flying out or shattered the needle- a total win in my book!

Now to attack my sergers.  When they are running well and nothing is giving me a hard time, the last thing I want to do is I thread them to clean them , only to discover I can never get back the magic I had.  And when there’s a problem and I have to retread, I’m never in the mindset to stop everything and clean.  It’s such a dilemma!