I’ve finished my quilt. It’s a hot mess, just like the women’s movement I’m honoring – in a good way.
The quilt is made of four modules, each using only fabrics, threads, batting and other materials I had in my stash. Many letters were scraped together from scraps of projects as far back as 20 years ago. I chose colors for each that were opposites on the color wheel, both to symbolize conflict and to make the letters stand out more against the background. The pattern is “The Proverbial Quilt” by Denyse Schmidt.
The textiles are mostly quilting cottons, but there are scraps of ultrasuede, silk, linen, African wax print, brocade, batiks, denim, shirting and upholstery fabrics in there too. Each quilt contains some fabrics that have metallic accents, and each has a bit of an overall rainbow-gradient fabric to tie them together. I 100% used stash fabric, batting and thread – truly a sustainable project. This meant that I had to compromise a bit on some fabrics and colors. Compromise is meaningful – some fabrics a teenage girl would like, some fabrics my grandmother would like, and all kinds in between. Kind of like the women’s movement. We don’t have to love every piece of it; we just need to love the overall message and the energy that sustains it.
I call the pink and green one “Preppy Is Forever,” because this color combo was big during the preppy fashion fad in high school. It’s for a friend who’s a bit preppy.
It was a little challenging to make this one because I didn’t have a lot of pink or bright green/lime fabrics in my stash. I resorted to some charm squares leftover from a quilt I made my nephew 14 years ago.
You can see the echo quilting pretty well on this one – I stitched in the ditch along the letters in lime green thread and then echoed those stitches out 1 cm to the end of the quilt.
I call the orange and blue one “Sunrise to Sunset.” It’s for a friend who’s had a lot of physical, emotional, financial and relationship challenges in her life – she works every day against some major obstacles to keep going.
The orange, gold and lilac African Dutch wax fabric in here is leftover from a quilt I made for her 20 years ago. She lost it in a fire at her house last year. I am happy I still had a bit to use again. I was short on orange fabrics so I had to use a bit of coral. And I didn’t have enough to do the binding all in one fabric, so it’s pieced.
The purple and gold one is the prettiest, I think.
It’s titled “Family Endures” because most of the fabric came from family sewing projects over the years – scraps from niece’s and nephew’s quilts and Halloween costumes, a vest I made my mother, a craft project for a great-aunt, a quilt I made a cousin for her wedding, a Hanukkah table runner I made for my in-laws, linen pants made for myself, our Christmas tree skirt, fabric from kitchen curtains and placemats I made when I first was married. It’s a gift for my sister.
The final one, titled “Blow Through Stoplights” was for me:
The color scheme matches my sewing room and I had planned to hang it on the wall above the shelf where I keep my threads, manuals, buttons and whatnot.
But then a friend called me and she was really down. So I decided to give it to her instead. I’ll miss it, but I can always make another for myself. I still have scraps to spare, but not as many!
Self-improvement plans – what else would we distaffers do on January 1?
A few quick resolutions then, before we get to work:
Style: I did Me Made May for the whole month last year (even while on vacation) and for most of the year, really. Now that I have a reliable jeans pattern, there’s nothing stopping me from wearing Me Made Everyday. So I am going to go for it!
I got started this morning with a nice long walk in the park with the hubs and the dog in Me Made Jacket (Simplicity 8843), the Jasper Sweater from Paprika Patterns, and hat by Green Pepper Patterns.
I made the sweater last week out of some poly-cotton blend sweatshirt fleece with a muted plaid design.
To add interest, I did the cuffs, side panels and collar on the bias.
2. Gardening: My vegetable garden really put out this year. Amending the soil in my two raised beds helped so much. I found a reliable set of tomato plants and other veggies to grow from now on. I was kicking myself for not doing a better job of tending to the plants and harvesting. So I am planning to do less, but put more effort into what I have and not let anything go to the bugs or go bad on the vine.
3. Fitness: Seek out a real posture plan. I played around with various posture exercises and finally found something that seemed to work. I need to hire the trainer who did this workshop for some private sessions, to make this a regular thing. I am hopeful that I can stop my hunchback development and maybe even undo some of the damage I’ve done.
4. Housework: I have one simple goal. Keep the kitchen floor clean! With a dog around, it’s a chore. I always feel like my home is at its best when the kitchen floor is vacuumed and scrubbed. So that’s the big goal here. Exciting, right?
5. Sewing: For sure, I am going to continue with my “sew edgy” look for the office. I need to find a simple dress that I can make a TNT. I also need a few blouses, and I really need to make a proper suit. For casual wear, I will perfect the jeans. I realize that while I have been playing around with a lot of indie pattern companies, I have been disappointed with some results compared with results from Big 4 (although there are exceptions), so I am going to focus more on Big 4. I have plenty of fabric and patterns at this point – so I am going on a “fast” at least for the first half of the year.
6. Sustainability: A friend who’s a sustainability consultant really made me think about the nature of consumption and waste. I am proud that I don’t do fast fashion and that I will mend and alter clothing. I take public transportation, walk or bike most places. I have a few “upcycle” and “refashion” sewing projects in my head for this year. I feel I could do more, however, when it comes to food. We are doing Meatless Mondays as a family, and on my own I will do more meatless meals (my husband will be challenged to do Mondays as it is). I also am going to buy fewer prepared things in plastic containers – I am talking to you, deli soups and salads! Seriously, it’s not hard to make soup. I’ll probably save $100 a year! I sewed up some simple reusable bags for produce, and I always use tote bags at the store. And I am going to stop buying the occasional to-go coffee unless I can get it in a reusable insulated mug. I already do this with water – why not with coffee?
7. Diet: I just gotta kick sugar. I feel that very badly. I can go for weeks without any, and then I have some, and it’s just a spiral from there. I am not sure how to tackle this one, except to go cold turkey. I need to research more, but it’s happening.
8. Career: I started last year doing a weekly work reflection on Friday mornings. I’d write down a few accomplishments, networking wins, personal achievements and other notable events from the week. This is a great idea because at work, weeks turn into months, turn into years, and then you have to get a new job, and you go to update the resume and you can’t think of what to say! This exercise takes 5 minutes and it really helps. I am getting started by updating my LinkedIn profile and resume with key accomplishments from 2019. Also, I am trying to network more. I need to be “heads down” at work and more collaborative and social.
9. Family: This is a tough one. I feel that I have neglected my husband and family at times, especially my in-laws. There’s no excuse – we live so nearby – but weeks go by without a word to or from anyone. Even with my husband, we have well-established routines that make it tough to break out. So I am going to make more of an effort on all fronts. Sometimes a simple call to say “hi” or an impromptu date night is all we need to get out of the rut. I will take care of my mother when she has knee surgery later this month, so I can use that time to visit a bit with others to get the year started off well.
10. Reading: I have done well with reading more female authors, but I feel I need to do more to read writers from different nationalities and races. I got a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, so I plan to pick up a few things to get started. I general, I am going to try to read more and do less “faffing about on the mobile” while on my train commute. Now that my grad school is done, I will have time to open my mind more in other directions.
11. Giving back: We made an effort in 2019 to give more to charities, and we succeeded in increasing our contributions by a thousand dollars over the course of the year. I also have done a bit more charity work with groups I support by in-kind contributions of time and expertise. In fact, I won an award from one charity I support with weekly editing and coaching of college students. I miss volunteering with local groups, though – I managed one event in 2019 – a bike-a-thon – so I am going to try to do two events in 2020.
12. Activism. I will admit it: I dread 2020. I am terrified that Trump will get re-elected. I have little confidence that the Democrats will get their shit together. I worry that the economy will thank, and while that would hurt Trump, it’s going to hurt a lot of other people too, so I don’t exactly wish it. After he was elected, I made a plan to so something once a week to #resist. I wrote letters to Congress. I attended rallies. I got educated on the issues. I sewed a shitload of pussyhats. I donated money to groups under siege – Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League – I could go on. I have kept up some of these activities but have let others slide. This is a do-or-die year. I need to step it up.
Thank you for reading! I wish you all a happy healthy 2020! (Except Trump.)
Let me start off by saying that sewing toys and little fiddly things is not my jam. I have little patience, for one thing, and I find that no matter how I try, something store-bought is going to look 100 times better than what I can make.
That said, when I heard about The People’s Sewing Army on Instagram, I signed up. It’s a group that aims to use scraps of fabric and other stashed items to sew for good causes. The December challenge was to sew items for homeless children in Oregon. I happened to have some suitable scrap fabric, leftover polyfill and one stuffed animal pattern in my possession, so I signed up.
I feel that these stuffed animals are sad to look at. I am reminded, however, that my most-loved toys as a child were things my great-aunt and grandmother made for me – a little lumpy and bumpy, asymmetrical and awkward, but loved literally to pieces. I hope that’s the case for these.
Three little dachshunds
All in a row
The pattern came from an issue of Simply Sewing magazine. It’s supposed to be a dachshund. I think it looks more like a mouse or a rabbit or a mammal from some fever dream in 1975. Anyway, I did the best I could, using leftover chambray from these pants, cotton shirting from this shirt, and gingham from a bathrobe I made back in the 90s. The polyfill is leftover from Halloween costumes I made for my niece and nephew when they were little (they’re teenagers now). And the buttons ribbons and trims have all been hanging around for years.
I made these in one day, then switched gears to something for older kids. They often get left out of charity drives because it’s easier and more fun to buy or make for little ones. I had some Harry Potter-themed flannel left over from a PJ project many years ago, so I had the idea to make them into little tags the older kids could put on a bag or jacket.
Template for shield-shaped tag
Final tags – one for each Hogwarts house
The fabric had these Houses of Hogwarts shields on them, so I made one for each house. I cut out each shield piece with a 1 cm seam allowance, then cut a frame out of other bits of the fabric. To the frame pieces I sewed some clear hard yet flexible plastic that I salvaged from a box of Christmas ribbons and bows. I made paper tags that the kids can remove to write whatever they want, and finished them off with ribbon ties.
That’s all I had time to do, so I boxed the lot up for shipping to Oregon. Of course, the damn post office was closed by the time I got there yesterday. I’ll try again this week.
Looking at other people’s contributions on Instagram, I felt pretty lousy. I mean, many sewists are more talented than I am at this type of thing. Still, I tried. I feel good about trying. This is not exactly what I had in mind when I was seeking sewing projects outside my comfort zone, but I learned something anyway. And I hope someone will love or at least use these things.
I’m making more Pussyhats for the Women’s March in New York on January 20th. Last time, I made 22 hats out of remnants of polar fleece, about half from my stash (leftover from my niece’s Halloween costume) and half purchased off the Joann’s remnant rack.
This year, in the spirit of environmentalism, I am upcycling fabrics for the hats:
Upcycled from a thrift store
Upcycled from my old bathrobe
On the right you’ll see the old hooded bathrobe I retired this year after faithful service left it with too many stains, tears and pills to be quite decent anymore. Each hat takes about a fat quarter’s worth of fabric, so I estimate I can get about 12 hats out of the robe. I will definitely use the striped front band as headbands for the hats, and I may do something creative with the hood.
The pink garments on hangers are two items I bought at Goodwill for $5.25. The item on the left is a tennis dress in French terry that has a little stretch. The item on the right is a short nightgown in four-way stretch jersey. I estimate I can get 8 hats out of both, maybe using the nightie’s lace and rouleau straps creatively.
I got both items at my neighborhood Goodwill store. I have donated many times to this store but have never bought anything there. I was disappointed to find no sewing supplies or yardage on sale, just a sad-looking Singer from the 1970s.
As I perused the clothing racks in search of suitable fabrics, it occurred to me that my sewing project might pose a hardship to someone. I found a couple of pink sweatshirts, but I thought, “It’s so cold. Maybe someone needs this sweatshirt to stay warm. Is it right to buy it?” So I chose items that I imagine no one needs, at least not in January in Connecticut. Maybe this is presumptuous of me? Anyway, it’s done.
I plan to make 20 hats in all. I already have orders from a few friends and neighbors who missed out last year, and I imagine others will roll in. A bunch of us, including my sister, are going to New York on the train for the day. A friend from PatternReview.com has drafted a hat for this year’s march. If yo want to try that pattern, send me a message with your email and I will send it – it’s on a .pdf. I am going to use it instead of the free “Fleece Fun” hat I tried last year. While it got the job done, it was rather inelegant and ill-fitting.
Oh damn. The year is almost over. Time for reflections on what I did and didn’t do. Let’s start with the positive, shall we?
My #1 lesson learned from 2017 was to make more simple, wear-anytime items. Previously, I used to make mostly complex, expensive, time-consuming items, such as lined blazers for work, party dresses and other things like that. I’d love them and wear them occasionally, but I realized I could enjoy my sewing projects more (and save money and time) if I sewed more everyday things.
Top 5 Hits: The 5 most worn or most loved makes from your year!
My Top 5 Hits are (right to left):
Kwik Sew 3452 – This simple OOP jacket/sweatshirt has been worn almost weekly since I made it this fall. Love the color, the lightweight 100% cotton fabric and the fit.
New Look 6498 – I made this crazy dress from sari fabric I bought in India. It was my most creative project of 2017. It’s a bit over-the-top, but I like it that way.
La Mia Boutique Camicetta 20 and Simplicity 3688 – OK, this is two projects in one picture – I’m no martinet for the rules. I am proud that I think I finally conquered fit on pants and on button-down shirts. My previous sewing machine sucked at buttonholes, but my new machine makes perfect ones, so I no longer fear the button-down shirt.
Simplicity 8174 – This is my big, extravagant, complex project for 2017. It has 23 pieces and three zippers, made out of ultrasuede with a silk charmeuse lining. The fit is perfect and it’s RTW quality, IMHO.
Lesson learned #2 – Sergers are good things. Lesson learned #3 – Knits are fun. I’d avoided both for years. I thought sergers were complex and expensive, and giving a “cheap” result. If I was going to invest in the time to make a garment, I was going to make it right, using couture seam finishes or linings. I got a serger for my birthday and started using it with hesitation just to finish seams. This fall, I used it to make the two knit garments seen above. I’d avoided knits because both of my sewing machines didn’t like them very much. With the serger, the knit garments went together quickly and the quality was very good. I will still do couture seam treatments when the garment calls for it, but the serger fits well into my “everyday” wardrobe plans.
Top 5 Misses: These are all dogs.
S8058 version in crappy ponte
Simplicity 8137 – This lined wrap top is just OFF – my biggest time and money waster of 2017, by far. I have worn it a few times to work, after pinning closed the bodice, so it’s not a total loss but still a huge disappointment.
This Edith blouse from MariaDemark has been in the “UFO” pile since spring. I cannot get the darts even, despite many tries. I blame the poly crepe fabric (the fault couldn’t lie with me, could it?) I rarely have a UFO. If I start something, I almost always finish it. Lesson learned #5 – It’s OK to give up and cut my losses once in a while. The frustration is not worth it.
This bag from Burda 2562 (OOP) is just a hot mess – a true C-in Home Ec effort. I slapped it together from the leftover ultrasuede from the moto jacket project as part of the PatternReview.com Sudoku Wardrobe contest. Lesson learned #6 – Don’t make stuff just for contests. I participate in many contests and sewalongs because I love the camaraderie, I’ve made friends, and I love a good deadline, but I’ve also wasted time and money. I have used this bag a couple of times, so it’s not a total loss, but it’s embarrassingly poorly sewn.
This Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 8058 had all the makings of a disaster. Cheap fabric. Tricky design. Exposed zipper on a knit. Way too short. I should have stopped when I cringed at the fabric, bought on sale online. I forged ahead nonetheless. I lengthened it 4 inches, ruining the designer’s line. Despite the stiffest interfacing I had, the center front detail curls and warps the second you sit. The zipper is a hot mess. I will call this a “wearable muslin” that was worn exactly once. I would like to try this again in better fabric and without the piece that juts out at the tummy.
Finally, the #1 make of the year:
Pussyhats. I made 22 of these hats from a free pattern from Fun with Fleece for the Women’s March on Washington. I constructed them on the serger in an assembly line and sent them to friends protesting Trump in California, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. Not the fanciest or best-sewn project, but the most meaningful for me. I was inspired to see the distaff side of humanity, brought into sharp relief by Trump and his ilk, who regard women as either sex objects or subhuman property, use their gifts to say to men who rule over us: WE RESIST.
I am thinking some more about my goals for 2018. See you in the new year.
Do you have lots of random scraps of things in your stash – bits of fabric that are too big to toss but too small to use for much?
Make hats! For charity! Or for yourself or your family or friends or for kids in the neighborhood. Whatever… if they have a head, put a hat on it! For about a fat quarter of knit fabric each you can have… all this!
Green Pepper Patterns “Scrap Cap”
Green Pepper Patterns “Mountain Cap”
The pink hat is the “Scrap Cap” from Green Pepper Patters F822. It’s made of fleece left over from the Pussyhats I made for the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. Damn Trump is still the damn president and we women have even MORE to march for this year. I made this for the daughter of a friend who’s marching with us in New York in January.
The duo of white hats is from Simplicity 1566 – a pattern envelope with an entire wardrobe for a baby or toddler. This is a great package of patterns for gift-making or for kitting out your kid with cute, simple, easy-to-make styles. My favorite in this package is the little hoodie. This hat is OK – I wasn’t crazy about the shape and the ribbon ties. I decorated them with some trims I’ve had in my stash for 10+ years. The hats are made with leftover cotton jersey from a T-shirt project. I’m donating the hats to a charity that collects winter clothing for the needy.
The trio of blue, white and black hats also will go the charity. These are made from leftover border-print viscose knit and rayon jersey. The pattern is “Mountain Cap,” also from Green Pepper F822. These go together very quickly on the serger – I think I made all three in under an hour. I made one child size, one teen and one adult just to see how they fit. The teen size is perfect for me. I added a little cuff to it, just ’cause.
This week’s Artist’s Date – solo adventures meant to inspire creativity – was to an old haunt of mine: a linear park perfect for walking, jogging, cycling and rollerblading.
I used to come here all the time. First, when I was dating my husband, we’d come here to rollerblade or bike. We did a lot of sporty outdoors stuff when we were wooing one another. Now, not so much.
Then, when I used to work at home a lot for my old job, I’d come here for a rollerblading workout after work or during my lunch break.
Over the years I’ve walked here with a pregnant friend, walked with her and her infant daughter in a stroller, walked my dog, and just walked.
The last time I was here was a couple of days after the US election when I was despondent about Donald Trump’s election victory. I wanted to go someplace where I could really think, alone. I am not a very political person. I became a political person that day.
The election encouraged a lot of soul-searching in me. I used to be a journalist, so while I am very well informed about the issues, I rarely have an opinion about them. I can see both sides, and I avoid getting caught up in day to day debates. I read widely, I always vote, but I don’t belong to a political party. Even though I have not been a journalist for years, I had always told myself that I should remain neutral in case I ever want to get into journalism again.
Who am I kidding?
I felt physically ill about Trump. I couldn’t sleep. I would think about him and my heart would race with anxiety. I had never had such a reaction in my life. I realized that I have been very fortunate in my life, selfish and privileged. I realized I need to do more to share with others, to stand up for what I believe in, to educate myself about issues and speak my mind.
I have tried to do that. It’s hard and sometimes depressing. It’s easier just to avoid the newspaper and talk about fun things and laugh at the Trump impersonation on “Saturday Night Live.” But then reality sets in and I get angry and anxious again.
On my Artist’s Date yesterday I thought about this as I rollerbladed along. I have done several political things I have never done in my life. I marched in protests, wrote letters to congress members, donated money to political causes, signed petitions, and spoke out whenever I felt I should. I have alienated some relatives and a few friends, but I feel good overall. It’s time to pick sides.
I also thought yesterday about what to do next. I am going to give a speech about civil liberties, which have been under siege under Trump. I crafted out the speech in my mind, and next I need to write it and practice it. I’ll give the speech before an audience at my Toastmasters club later this month. It’s my way of informing people, giving back and letting people know where I stand.
The Artist’s Date has been an excellent boost to my thought processes and desires for action so far. Where should I go next week?
Today is International Women’s Day. In recognition of the day, in the US, activists have called for a general strike by all women. The strike means:
No work, either paid (a job) or unpaid (housework, caregiving)
Don’t spend any money
Wear red in solidarity
I am doing all these things today. Why? Let me lay out my reasons:
I don’t like being taken for granted.
I want my voice heard about inequalities in the workplace and in the home.
I want to demonstrate that women are a big part of the economy.
I want to continue the momentum from the Women’s March in January.
Many women I know are on board and many women are not. Here are some common criticisms and my responses:
Q: How nice for you that you can take a day off from work with no penalty. Doesn’t this “strike” smack of privilege?
A: Yeah, it does smack of privilege. So what? I am able to take off a day from work without taking a hit to my bank account or imperiling my job. I am fortunate. I am speaking for those who cannot.
Q: You’re not in a union. You like your job and you’re well-paid. Why take out your political frustrations on your employer?
A: Even if you are well paid and well treated at your workplace, you can bet that others are not. Some women at your workplace are paid less than men for doing the same work. Some women didn’t get promotions or plum assignments or other opportunities because they’re women, a mother to young children, pregnant, or caregiver for someone. Some women at your workplace have to deal with sexism, bias, hostility and harassment. You are affected by these things even if you don’t personally deal with them every day. Speak for those who cannot, those who are silenced by trauma and fear.
Q: Why take this out on people who need you, like your husband, kids or parents?
A: Don’t tolerate emotional blackmail. If your husband has to cook and do the dishes, he’ll live. If he does not “get” the purpose of the strike, you have bigger problems in your marriage to worry about. You’d be surprised what your kids can do on their own if they have to. Any child over the age of 3 or 4 can dress themselves, feed themselves, use the toilet and other basic tasks. Your kid may be dressed weird or may have cereal for dinner, or their hair may be messy or their teeth poorly brushed, but again, for one day, they’ll live. Older children can help younger ones. If you’re truly the caregiver for someone helpless – an infant, an elderly parent – then of course it’s not right to let them suffer. Get your husband, brother or son to do whatever they can. You do what must be done but no more.
Q: Doesn’t the “no spending money” hurt woman-owned businesses too?
A: Of course. Some strikers have decreed it’s OK to spend money on a woman-owned business, but I disagree. No business is going to go under because women don’t spend money there for one day. It’s about demonstrating our economic power. Often, businesses that cater to women – the hair salon, the boutique, the yoga studio – are really owned by men anyway. Be sure you know who owns the businesses you frequent! Some friends and I came up with a list of women-owned businesses in our city, and we pledged to use these businesses whenever possible.
Q: Wear red? Really?
A: OK, I think the whole “wear this” directive is kinda juvenile, but I suck it up and do it because it’s part of the visual statement we need to make. One of the reasons the Women’s March was such a success was because all the pink pussyhats made a major statement. I would prefer that we stuck with pink, but whatever. I have my red sweater on.
Q: So, basically, you’re just going to be lazy for the day, right?
A: Yes and no. I am taking some “me” time today to work on a sewing project. I did a good workout at home this morning. I will enjoy a glass of wine tonight when my husband makes dinner and cleans up. But I am also taking action, including writing this blog, and going to a demonstration later today. Do whatever you want! You’ve earned it!