Resolutions for 2020 – Distaff Style

Self-improvement plans – what else would we distaffers do on January 1?

A few quick resolutions then, before we get to work:

  1. 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.

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Me Made Cold-weather outfit

I made the sweater last week out of some poly-cotton blend sweatshirt fleece with a muted plaid design.

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Paprika Patterns Jasper Sweatshirt

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.

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Tomatoes anyone?

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.

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Sew Edgy office outfit – a favorite

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.

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The last pie, for a while anyway

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.

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Biking for charity – $500 raised

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.)

More Pussyhats for More Fresh Hell Ahead

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:

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.

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Are you marching too?

 

A Year of Reading Books by Women

My rekindled feminism, brought to a blaze in my disgust over Trump’s election, hit my Kindle reader right away. I resolved to read only books by women in 2017. I read 14 books in all, 13 by women, one book by a man and some short stories by women and men.

I started the year by rereading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it first in high school (25 years ago, but who’s counting), so I wondered if it would pack the same punch. It did, even more so as I imagined how many of our right wing lunatic political leaders would love a United States where the rule of law is gone and instead the government runs on biblical bullshit.

After that, I needed some escapism, so I read books 6, 7 and 8 the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. These books are, frankly, not that good. I got into them last year because of the TV series, and I got in to the TV series because of the fabulous period costuming by Terry Dresbach. The first three books are good, the fourth is OK, and then they go downhill – recycled plots, little character development, way too many inconsequential actions. I stuck with them because I expected a big payoff in Book 8 and it was only “meh.” It kept me a little entertained during my 15-hour flights to India, anyway.

I needed reality after that fantasy binge, so I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  Diana Gabaldon’s experience writing the Outlander books also fueled this interest. I have always wanted to write fiction but I have not succeeded for various reasons (here and here if you want to know more).

Then I read another series a friend had recommended, The Giver books by Lois Lowry. The dystopias Lowry created are similar to Atwood’s in some respects – in one society, a group of young women is judged by its ability to have babies. These are young-adult novels and not really my speed either, but I feel that I learned something from them about how our desires to protect ourselves from pain and harm may leave us feeling nothing, which is worse. They were good summer reads anyway.

At this point, I was reminded of some short stories I read by Alice Munro, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013. I reread a few of them that had influenced me as a young woman. I never felt that I wanted to have children, yet all women I knew except for one great-aunt had children. Her stories confirmed for me that it was OK to have a childless life.

My next book was “Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners”  by Therese Oneill. A blogger I like had recommended it. It was very laugh-out-loud funny in places and pretty gross in other places. I later read a female historian’s account of all the ways the book is wrong. Entertaining – both points of view.

My last summer read was “The Woman Upstairs” by Claire Messaud. This was my favorite fiction book of the year. It followed on the themes from The Artist’s Way – the protagonist is a frustrated artist who finds her muse, only to be betrayed. Messaud is a hell of a gifted writer and I am planning to read more from her in 2018.

I realized at some point that I’d read only books by white women so far in 2017 and I had wanted to continue my efforts to read more African American women, so I read “Strategize to Win” by Carla Harris. She’s a high-ranking banking executive who’s made a name for herself not just for thriving in a white man’s industry, but also for giving solid career advice. I wish I’d read this book 15 years ago. It was instrumental in my decision to enroll in graduate school, classes starting in January 2018.

I reread “H Is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald, just because it’s beautiful.

My final female-authored book for 2017 was Emily Wilson’s translation of “The Odyssey.” I read about it in a profile in The New Yorker and I was captivated by her direct, insightful language in translating the Greek classic. It was very good, maybe missing a bit of the poetry of other translations, but doing a great job of making you care about the characters and better understand the ways the ancient Greeks lived.

I read three things my men. In October, to get the spirit for a trip to Baltimore, I read and reread some short stories and poems by Edgar Allen Poe. We visited his house and grave in Baltimore on Friday the 13th and got into the Halloween spirit. I was reminded of what a genius he was – the stories are well worth reading if you haven’t touched them since high school. I also read some short stories by Haruki Murakami on and off this fall. They were not that good. Long-form fiction is more his style.

Finally, I am reading “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire” by Kurt Anderson. This is my #1 nonfiction book for the year. If you want to understand how Trump could get elected president, read this. Anderson’s premise is that there is something in American culture, from its earliest days, that promotes and encourages magical thinking. Maybe it was the wide open spaces of the New World, or the religious nutjobs who first colonized the land, or maybe its the American embrace of new technologies, be it printing press or Internet, but our Constitutional freedoms have curdled into something dangerous for the future of American society.

For 2018, I will be starting out with college textbooks, I guess. I’d like to read more from African Americans and other cultures. And I will probably read one more series over the summer, just for fun.

Top 5 Hits, Misses and Lessons Learned in 2017

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.
  • Great British Sewing Bee Breton Top – Another very simple project that has been worn and worn since I made it out of lovely 100% cotton jersey.
  • 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.

 

  • 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.
  • Madalynne Noelle bralette – Another waste. Lesson learned #4 – Free patterns are rarely worth it. I never wore this. I will never do another free indie pattern unless it has plenty of positive reviews.
  • 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 contestLesson 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:

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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.

Stash Busting for Charity – Put a Hat on It

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!

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.

An Artist’s Date on the Linear Trail

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.

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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?

First Time for EverythingI

I have never been in a protest march in my life. Even in college, when classmates would gather to demonstrate against whatever or for whatever, I’d skulk around the fringes or hide in the library.

I was studying journalism and I became a journalist.I was convinced I needed to maintain objectivity, so learned to set personal opinion aside. Sometimes, I honestly didn’t have an opinion at all, and often my opinions were mixed anyway. I could not understand why some people were so angry and upset. I am not a fearful person, and so I guessed that it was fear that really motivated these protesters – fear that something bad would happen, or fear that something good would be taken away.

I attended the Women’s March on Trump Tower yesterday and came to feel the fear first-hand. Since the day Trump was elected, I have felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. It hasn’t gone away. When we was sworn in as president Friday, I downed some Maalox and got back to work, then finished preparations for the march Saturday.

At the march, fear met joy head-on and got run over by a pink tide. I marched with women who made uteri out of cardboard and women who drew fallopian  tubes on their pink pants. I marched with women young enough to be my daughters and women older than my grandmother, some inching along with canes and walkers. There were men, too – plenty of them.

No one got violent, no one got arrested, no one so much as stepped accidentally on someone’s foot without saying “sorry” or “excuse me.” Here is the scene outside Grand Central Terminal, the main train station in New York:

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Lots of people made signs. I met up with a guy dressed as Gandalf whose sign said “You shall not pass!” Of all the signs I saw, this was my favorite:

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I couldn’t catch up with the young woman holding it. I hope she doesn’t mind that I shared her artwork with everyone.

Today I am tired an achy and a bit anxious again. Yesterday we had our fun. Today the real work begins.

“What are you going to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the rest of your life?”