OK, there’s no “Saint Distaff.” Although, any woman who had to wield a distaff when spinning wool or flax is a saint in my book.
Rather, “St. Distaff Day” is Ye Ole Catholic Church’s way of saying: “Get back to work!”
Back in the day, Christmas partying lasted until the Feast of the Epiphany (it still does in some Christian cultures). You know, the old Twelve Days of Christmas” racket.
The day after the Epiphany, the fun was over. Women picked up their distaffs again and resumed their lives of ceaseless toil. Men resumed their ceaseless pastime of tormenting women, which on St. Distaff Day included stealing the spun wool and flax and setting it on fire.
There’s even a snatch of doggerel to mark the merry moment:
“Give St. Distaff all the right;
Then bid Christmas sport good night,
And next morrow everyone
To his own vocation.”
I am on a business trip, so no textile work for me!
October 11 is “International Day of the Girl Child,” a day the United Nations designated to to celebrate girls and to raise awareness about their challenges and triumphs. Since most cultures on earth greatly favor male children, and since girls have to persevere despite inadequate health care, education, discrimination and violence, it seems like a worthy “day” to me.
It also sounds like a great day for a male-dominated business to make a buck, don’t you think?
Steam, the PC game platform that’s overwhelmingly male and that hosts plenty of antagonism against women, offered a big sale today on “female protagonist” video games. “Ooh,” I thought, “let’s check that out!”
On sale were seven games. Seven. Out of the tens of thousands of games available through Steam, these alone were notable for their female protagonists. And I already had played four of them – all first-person adventure types of games where the protagonist is a young woman. Here are some quick reviews:
Gone Home – A college student returns home to find an empty house and no sign of her parents and sister. Players explore and follow clues to figure out what happened. The story unfolds slowly and builds to a climax, sort of like a novel in video game form. The game includes some lesbian themes. This game is a bit basic, but I liked the story.
What Remains of Edith Finch – A young woman returns to her ancestral home to investigate a so-called curse on her family. She steps into the shoes of various relatives – from infants to old men – to learn about how the curse affected them. This is a gorgeously made game – full of laughs and tragedy in equal measure, with a good surprise at the end and some deep ideas about the unbreakable bonds of family ties.
Life Is Strange – A high school student navigates the intersection of school, friends and the supernatural in this game, which unfolds somewhat in a “choose your adventure” style. Players decide how good or bad they want to be, interacting with many complex characters. Actions have consequences. This game includes disturbing episodes of violence against women. It also makes many strong points about the nature of lifelong friendships. I enjoyed playing it, although it was difficult to take at times.
Tacoma – In this game, from the makers of “Gone Home,” the female protagonist investigates a mystery on a space station. It’s gorgeously and inventively made, including good, diverse characters (race, sexuality, body type, ability) and some good female roles. This game also includes some lesbian themes and unfolds much the way “Gone Home” did, but with more wit, inventive gameplay and imaginative detail.
Who made these games? Only Fullbright (the makers of “Gone Home” and “Tacoma”) has women in leadership positions (the privately held company’s leaders are half women, half men).
The developers of “Edith Finch” were all men at the company Giant Sparrow. A female-led company, Annapurna Pictures, published it. Annapurna is better known as a film production company, whose president, Megan Ellison, has been nominated for Academy Awards for producing “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Her,” and “American Hustle.”
“Life Is Strange” also was developed all by men (Dontnod Entertainment) and published by SquareEnix (all men, yet again, but you knew that already). The developers say that other publishers pushed them to make games with male protagonists and that they weren’t trying to “make a statement” by using a female lead. Having played the game, I can tell you they needed to make the protagonist female, because otherwise the whole violence-against-women theme would not pan out. So, yeah, no statement to be made here.
When I play a first-person game, I play as “me.” With most video games, “male” is the default. Why? Because men don’t think it’s important to have a female character, and because they’re afraid that men will be turned off by anything with whiff of “girly.” They’re trying to sell to men, so the characters are men. If women want to play, that’s fine, but it’s playing in a man’s shoes. Aren’t most animated things like this? Why are all the Minions “male”? Why is there only one female Smurf and one female cartoon M&M? And why does the one female character have to be sexy?
Some games let you choose an avatar for your character, and I choose a female character then. So do a lot of men, only when the avatars can be sexed up in ridiculous costumes. If they play games were they spend a lot of time looking at their avatar’s backside, they’d rather see a woman’s backside in a thong. This is not progress.
If you want to explore games with female characters and feminist themes, I highly recommend the “Nancy Drew” series from HER Interactive. HER is largely run by women.
Nancy’s a feminist icon, to be sure, and she’s fearless and capable in the games, too. The games have a kids’ mode and an adult mode. They’re popular among parents because there’s no sex or bad language, and the violence is pretty benign compared to most games (Nancy gets trapped someplace and has to escape, or has to flee some threat). The games usually have equal numbers of male and female characters of various ages, races and body types, and a recent game had a lesbian character. I also like the games because they display remarkable affinity for rational thought. Nancy’s often called to help solve mysteries where someone attributes a problem to the supernatural – you know – a ghost is haunting a house or whatever. Nancy is clear that she doesn’t fall for ghosts and other woo-woo but rather sticks to the facts until she uncovers that – just as in real life – people use others’ superstitions or religious beliefs to cover their own misdeeds. The games are great stories to bash magical thinking.
It’s interesting to note that even when there are female protagonists, they are thin and young. Would the entire gaming world explode if a game featured an overweight 48-year-old protagonist?
I have satisfied another resolution I made at the new year – to attend a sewing retreat. I went to PatternReview Weekend in early June in Stratford Ontario, Canada. I am glad I went, because I wanted to meet in person many people I’ve known only through their comments and sewing projects on PatternReview. But, the whole event was not really my cup of tea, so I don’t think I will attend again.
I also really enjoyed a tour of the Stratford Festival Theater’s costume shop. We were allowed to only look at most costumes, but at the end of the tour we could try a few on.
This costume had quick-change ability to turn from black and white to color.
So many costumes…
Trying a few on
My friend Olga gets her style on
We marveled at how well-made the costumes were for durability, and how many fancy trims and techniques were used. I really would have loved a tour of the sewing workroom, but that wasn’t on the tour. Boo.
The rest of the event was OK. There were a couple of demonstrations, but it was hard to see well. I am more a hands-on learning type. Also, I am not a very sociable person, and since it was my first time at this event, I didn’t know anyone there. About half of the 80-odd attendees had been before – some multiple times. As is inevitable with all-female events (one man attended) cliques formed and first-timers ended up together, trying to make connections.
Deepika, founder of PatternReview, welcomes us.
A ukelele band!
Camp shirt contest
Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Some organizers of the event were “ambassadors” who did a great job of seeking out newcomers and chatting them up. All the same, it was a bit exhausting to have to introduce myself over and over, and to try to make connections with people. This isn’t a complaint – I am just better in a small group than in a large group.
One of the highlights of the event is a pattern swap. Attendees brought in patterns they didn’t want anymore, and all the donated patterns, books and magazines were piled onto tables. Then there was a rush at the swap table to take away whatever you wanted. I donated five patterns to the swap – a suit pattern that was part of a lot I got from eBay, a free dress pattern from a magazine, a dress pattern I bought in the wrong size by mistake, a jacket pattern I knew I’d never sew, and a home dec pattern for a project that a friend asked for, then cancelled.
I decided I’d rather eat lunch than peruse the swap table at first. I am not much of a “stash” person. Most of the time, I buy the patterns and fabrics I want for specific projects. I seldom buy on spec or just because something’s on sale. I realize I am VERY spoiled in this regard – I can shop at the Garment District in New York anytime I want, there are Joann’s nearby for basics and cheap patterns (sometimes at little at 99 cents apiece) and a very good fabric store in Connecticut if I don’t want to go into NYC. Speaking with sewists from rural places, who have to shop online, and from Canada, where patterns seldom go on sale, I appreciate how fortunate I am. Still, I didn’t want to take things just for the sake of taking them.
I visited the table later on and took five patterns – a vintage skirt, a Style Arc top (been meaning to try Style Arc), a couple of dresses that seem suitable for me and a coordinates set of officewear. In my goodie bag was a voucher for a skirt pattern from Deer & Doe and the Vogue “5 Easy Pieces” pattern – a great haul, all in all.
The goodie bag also had coupons for discounts on fabric and patterns, gadgets such as measuring devices and snips, decorative pins, info about area attractions and other fun stuff.
There were two contests with prizes – making a camp shirt and making sleepwear. I made a camp shirt for the contest and wore it all day Friday, since I thought it could be judged anytime. It turned out the shirts and sleepwear were judged in the evening only. I had changed out of the shirt for dinner since it was pretty sweaty and rumpled from being worn all day in a stuffy church basement. The contest judging took a long time and I found myself getting pretty antsy to get out of there.
Saturday was a shopping extravaganza. We piled onto school buses and toured three sites – Len’s Mill (a warehouse-like place for fabric, yarn, housewares, crafting supplies and what have you), downtown Hamilton, ON, which has several great fabric stores along a cute commercial street, and Ann’s Fabrics in Hamilton, which sells mostly knits and activewear fabrics.
The only thing I really needed was lining fabric – I really like to stash that so that I don’t have to think about it. I scored 12 yards of nice 54-inch Bemberg in four colors at a shop in Hamilton, European Textiles.
Otherwise, I was shopping for fall and winter. Yeah, summer just started, but my summer sewing plans are spoken for by now.
At Len’s Mill I found this cute cotton Canada-themed flannel, which would make good PJ bottoms for my husband (he’d requested some earlier this year). I also bought some nice quilting cotton with a Liberty feel for a top to go with new pants I just made (I am thinking about a wearable muslin of the very popular Butterick 5526). Finally, I got 3 yards of a wine-colored suedecloth in anticipation of a work blazer for fall, possibly from Vogue 1418. It was lightweight and odd, so I may regret it. Or it may be fabulous.
Sign for Len’s Mills bargains
Len’s also had some interesting buttons – I bought a giant one for who knows what (a bag? a poncho?) and two cards of red and black handpainted wooden buttons for a thrifted leather jacket I’ve been thinking of upcycling.
At Ann’s I found some heavy knit with a border stripe that would make a cute long-sleeved T-shirt, maybe without the overlay from McCall’s 7247.
My favorite place was Marina’s Fabrics in Hamilton, because it reminds me of the small family-run places I know in New York, complete with a jumble of unusual fabrics, negotiable prices, and a talkative but grumpy immigrant lady behind the cutting counter.
It’s where I found two interesting pieces: a light wool loose houndstooth suiting in white and wine that would make a wonderful summer shift dress (probably Deer & Doe’s Arum dress – and would coordinate with the suedecloth too if I have fabric left over for a bolero or such) and a border print in a knit of some kind – probably poly/acrylic – in black, gray and cobalt blue that would be perfect for a high-waisted pencil skirt from Simplicity 8058.
I had budgeted to spend $200 on fabric and other sewing materials, and I managed to do it – 16.5 yards in all, plus two books and assorted other items. Looking at my take, minus the Bemberg, I wonder what kind of fabric magpie I am. None of this makes sense with anything else. That’s the problem with stash shopping – the thrill of the hunt doesn’t mix well with a coordinated plan.
I started on the prewashing chore when I got home and then I got to work, making the PJ shorts for my husband.
I wanted badly to sew something, after just talking about sewing for two days! That’s the main problem with PR Weekend for me. I prefer a hands-on event much more than an event where you mostly shop, eat and drink, and socialize. Still, I am glad I went. If it’s nearby again (next year it’s in Portland, OR) and if there’s some hands-on activity, I might go.
Picture this: a Kwik Sew sewing pattern envelope from the 1970s. View D is a white woman with a brunette bob, wearing a flesh-colored bra and a long green slip. View C, a white woman with a blond bob, is also wearing a bra and slip, but this slip has a slit in it. View A is a white woman in a short, lace-trimmed slip, arms crossed over her bare chest.
Miss View C says to Miss View A: “Come on, Blair! Do you want to pledge Chi Omega or not?”
So that’s what the models on sewing pattern envelopes are saying to one another! Passing along weed and birth control. Expressing their sexuality. Tormenting their siblings. Plotting against enemies. Expressing feminist positions instead of vapid fashion statements.
Kossar started this book as a Tumblr a few years ago. I looked forward to new ones coming out every few days. Kossar has compiled many of the best into this book.
Kossar and sewing did not get along. As a child, she’d been bored many times at the fabric store, as her mother pored over pattern catalogs, and she could never get the hang of sewing. “Girls who liked sewing were weak and boring. And I refused to be one of them,” Kossar writes.
She saw sewing patterns in a different light when her mother asked her to find a vintage pattern online. A simple Google search bombarded her with thousands of pattern envelope images, including many that expressed outdated ideas about gender, race and class. She started thinking of putting these models into a new conversation. “The juxtaposition of the vintage images with modern dialogue generated a strong message of social growth and change,” Kossar writes.
If you like what you see and want more, please leave a comment below to enter a giveaway to win a free book! From all the comments received by 8 p.m. US Eastern Time on Tuesday, May 1, I will randomly draw one winner for the prize.
You know things are bad when I start touching up my gray roots with brown mascara.
Every month, I go through this phase when my hairline isn’t gray enough yet to shell out for a color touch-up at the salon, yet I can see it and it looks awful – like some old Frankenstein staples on the crown of my head.
I resort to various cover-ups. I can part my hair in a different place. That usually buys me a few days. A ponytail looks OK too, although not for the office. And then I hit the area with some mascara or brow powder… just to get through the last few days until my salon appointment.
I used to pull out gray hairs when I saw them. That was a long time ago. If I did that now, I’d be bald.
I used to color my hair myself at home. That worked pretty well at first, but it smells bad and I ruined quite a few towels, pillowcases and shirts. Over time, my hair color became this strange mix of layers, like sedimentary rock formations at the Grand Canyon.
Nowadays, my stylist Tiffany is happy to take two hours of my time and $100 out of my pocket for a touch-up every six weeks.
Once in a while, pondering the hours and the expense, I consider going gray. Then I get together with my friend, Sharon, who said “fuck it” when her kids went to college and let her gray hair grow out. She looks old. She doesn’t care. I wish I could be as zen about it as she is.
Almost every man I know my age has some gray hair. Unless they’re bald, in which case they’d probably take gray hair, no questions asked. (File this in the “Count Your Blessings” bucket.) I know one man who dyes his hair. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, and then I ran into him at a party. His hair looked so ridiculous I nearly had a stroke from holding in the laughter.
I guess I will dye a little longer. Maybe say “fuck it” when I’m 50?
People never say “I can’t read!” But many will say “I can’t do math!”
Ridiculous. Of course you can do math. And if you practice, you can get better at it.
I used to be one of those people who avoided math. I struggled with math as a kid, and I was led to believe that math was hard for me because I was a girl. Other parents who watched their daughter sob over arithmetic at the kitchen table might have helped, might have hired a tutor, might have called the teacher to see what was going on. My parents didn’t care. They didn’t think anyone needed math beyond the ability to calculate a restaurant tip or estimate a grocery bill. And so I suffered at the kitchen table, math book open, for years.
My school system grouped students according to their general “smartness” – the smartest kids in the “red” group, middle kids in a “white” group and the dumbest kids in the “blue” group. (Can you tell I grew up the 70s?) These groups never mixed. I was in “red” because I was really great at reading, writing, social studies, science and everything else but math. I got pushed along with the rest of the “reds” through elementary school and was grouped into a similar system in middle school.
Things fell apart in high school. My struggles overwhelmed me and I got a C’s and even one D in Algebra II sophomore year. I had thought about studying medicine as a kid, but I knew you needed great math to be a doctor, so I shelved that ambition and focused instead on what I was good at – writing and reading.
Instead of continuing with the “red” crowd into Trigonometry and Calculus, junior year I downshifted into a remedial math class. I wanted to study what was on the SATs (a college entrance exam) so I could get a decent score and get into a decent college. The remedial class basically drilled you on the SATs – you know, “volume of a cone,” simple algebra, and crap like that. In higher math, I was destined for more C’s and D’s, but in this class I stood a chance. My guidance counselor told me this class would mar my transcripts for college, but I didn’t care. I was cutting my losses. Besides, I thought, I really want to learn this stuff.
To my amazement, I did well. The teacher was great and something just clicked in my head. Math was a lot easier for me after that. I actually got 10 points more on the math than the verbal part of the SAT. I really enjoyed physics. Who would have thought?
I use math all the time on the job. As a journalist, I cut a niche beat for myself in data-heavy analytics. When I joined the business world, I learned how to read companies’ earnings reports. I deal with statistics every day.
I also practice all the time. If you want to get better at math, you need to flex your muscles. Here are some ideas to help you:
Calculate tips in your head. This is very easy! You do not need a calculator! Let’s say your bill comes to $82.50 before tax, and you want to leave a 15% tip:
10% of $82.50 is $8.25 (just move over the decimal one place).
15% is just 10% plus 5%. So cut the $8.25 in half ($4.13) and add it to the $8.25 = $12.38. I usually round up to the next dollar, so leave that waitress $13!
If you want to leave 20%, just double the 10% = $16.50!
Estimate your grocery bill. (This would make my parents proud, anyway.) Just an estimate is OK:
Weigh your produce and other items weighed at checkout (there’s usually a basic scale nearby) and estimate the cost. If those tomatoes are $2.99 a pound and you’re buying 2.5 pounds, that’s $7.50 for tomatoes!
As you shop, keep a running tally in your head of everything you buy. Bread, eggs, milk, etc.
Subtract any coupons or special sale prices offered at the register.
See how close your estimate gets to the actual tally.
BONUS ROUND: If your estimate is off, it might not be you. Maybe an item rang up incorrectly. I have saved myself many dollars over the year by knowing about what I should pay and spotting errors on the receipt.
Calculate sales taxes. Taxes vary depending on where you live. If you don’t know what your standard sales tax is, find out. Whenever you go shopping, calculate that sales tax in your head based on what you’re buying. For example:
A $50 shirt, $20 belt and $80 pair of jeans = $150.00 worth of stuff.
Let’s say your sales tax for clothing is 7%. You can calculate this the same basic way you did for tips, or make it easier by adding the tax up in 1% increments.
1% of $150.00 – $1.50 (move over the decimal two places). $1.50 times 7 = $10.50. That’s 7%!
If you like to work with even numbers, maybe think of it this way: $1.50 + $1.50 = $3 – that’s 2%. Do this twice more, for $9 (that’s 6%) And add that last 1% for $10.50.
Add the stuff and the tax. Total you owe for fashion = $160.50.
Calculate the true cost of sales items. Lots of times a sale will offer, say, 30% off the full price of an item, and then you might have a coupon for an extra 10% off. You can’t just add those two discounts together to get 40% off. Many people try to do this. They are wrong. The store is going to take the 30% off the full price first, then take 10% off of the discounted price. Sneaky, eh?
Let’s take our $150 clothes example from above. If the items were 40% off, the discount would be $60 and the items would cost $90.
The real way discounts happen, it looks like this: 30% off of $150 is a discount of $45, so the items would cost $105. Then an additional discount of 10% would equal only $10.50. So you’d pay a total discounted price of $94.50. Still a deal, but a bit more than you might have thought if you hadn’t done the math!
BONUS ROUND: Calculate the tax!
I could go on and on. Try it! Exercise those math muscles! The world runs on math. A basic competency will get you far in life – beyond just knowing how much to leave the waiter, you’ll understand the true cost of mortgaging your house, or paying off a car loan, or figuring out a savings plan.
Five years ago, I found myself at a crisis point in my career. I was feeling restless and dissatisfied. I vaguely felt underpaid and underappreciated, in a male-dominated industry and company. While I had been successful, I was stuck. I didn’t know how to move forward, nor did I have the energy or courage to move. I had started looking for my next opportunity, but without any firm direction or goal.
I read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg shortly after it published, five years ago this week. So had a couple of work friends. We each invited five women to be part of a “Lean In Circle” at the office, to follow up on the book’s advice. A group of about 15 women met for two hours every other month to work through the program and support one another.
“Lean In” changed my life. Today, I am at a much bigger and more prominent company, in a bigger job, with more pay, responsibility, challenge and energy. “Lean In” didn’t do this alone for me, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone, jump-started my career and opened my mind to what was possible.
A lot of people like to disparage “Lean In.” I wonder, did they actually read the book? They complain that Sheryl Sandberg approached the topic from a place of extraordinary prestige, wealth and privilege, as a Harvard graduate and COO of Facebook. Yes, she did. So what? I don’t understand how that invalidates what she has to say, as if the only “legitimate” women’s viewpoint on careers has to come from some hardscrabble perspective. And I really don’t understand why a “women attacking other women” viewpoint in op-eds and blogs is somehow more valid. There is a special place in hell reserved for successful women who don’t help other women succeed.
Here are several real-world examples coming from me, who came from a hardscrabble background, of how “Lean In” opened my eyes and helped me move forward:
Sexism: My manager at my old job was an older British man. I liked him and we got along well. But he did three things that really bothered me:
He insisted I get a mentor.
He socialized after work only with other men on our team. Me and other women were never invited.
He said that me and another woman I worked on a project with lacked “gravitas” to present our project findings on the big stage at a department-wide offsite, so he recruited a man to present with us.
At the time, I didn’t see these things as sexist, but “Lean In” opened my eyes:
Sheryl Sandberg wrote a lot about and how older people are always encouraging young women to get mentors. This push makes young women feel inadequate and forces them into artificial relationships with senior people who… you guessed it… make them feel even more inadequate. Mentors can be wonderful, but such a close relationship must develop organically.
By not being invited to after-work events, I missed out on valuable face time with the boss. The men had better relationships and more insight into what the boss was doing and thinking.
“Gravitas” is a fancy way of saying “you won’t be taken seriously.” The man who my boss pushed into the project ended up doing some harm to it because he had to throw his dick around.
Equal Pay: I pushed for better pay when I joined the company, but I was told “this is our offer, not up for negotiation.” I was getting paid more than at my last job and this was a big opportunity, so I accepted it. Once I got promoted into management, I got a small raise because it was in the middle of the budget year, with a vague promise I’d get more later. I wasn’t happy, but I was naive enough to trust the system. Then two things happened:
I realized that most of the men who reported to me made more than me, and the lone woman on the team with equal experience to the men and at a higher position made even less. My complaints got me nowhere. I was never made whole and each year I sank a bit further back in pay equality because new people were brought in at higher salaries.
I was a top performer and earned raises and bonuses regularly, but I still was underpaid. I earned about 85% of what peers from the “Lean In Circle” earned. And they were underpaid compared to men in similar positions.
“Lean In” opened my eyes:
I didn’t understand how compensation works. If you are underpaid today, you will always be underpaid. The compensation system is rigged against you and no one will fix it.
If you want to be paid more, you need to know your value and negotiate hard. I learned how to negotiate and how to calculate my value to get better pay and other perks at my new job.
Taking Risks: I am by nature rather risk-averse. I don’t seek thrills or take many chances in life. “Lean In” made me realize I was too comfortable where I was, not challenged enough or interested enough to find fulfillment at my job. I noticed a few things:
My job was in a female ghetto – an operational role that was viewed as a cost center, not revenue-generating or otherwise contributing much to the bottom line. My boss took another job and I had a new female boss, who in turn reported to a woman, “Big Boss,” who was one of only two women leading our entire division. Only human resources had a higher proportion of women than our group did. Men made the decisions, and we women (for the most part) executed them.
Women at my level within this group were moved around like chess pieces to satisfy whatever demand at the moment fell on Big Boss’s ears. These lateral moves were good for gaining experience, but they never seemed to lead to promotions or big opportunities, rather just putting out fires and shoring up crumbling walls. Some women had been at these types of tasks for 5 to 10 years! Strategic decisions came from a higher level they didn’t penetrate.
Because of “Lean In” I realized I needed to take chances in my career. The longer I stayed where I was, the harder it would be to move. There was a reorganization and Big Boss wanted me to take one of these lateral-move jobs. I had a meeting with her, where I laid my cards on the table and told her flatly what I wanted. She said no. So I left. I never would have had the courage to do this without “Lean In.”
Leaning In at Home: Sheryl Sandberg inspired the most vitriol with her insights into how to manage a work-life balance. Such a powerful and big earner of course could have endless nannies, maids, assistants and other helpers. She didn’t understand the struggles of single mothers, or of women whose partners also have demanding jobs and are unwilling or unable to take on more responsibilities at home. This is a valid criticism. And Sandberg herself viewed these challenges through a different lens when her husband suddenly died a few years ago. Also, I don’t have kids, so I can’t comment on the working mother dynamic. But this doesn’t mean that all of Sandberg’s ideas are bullshit.
Just like at work, at home you also have to ask for what you want. Your partner and kids won’t read your mind.
Your husband needs to be an equal partner, or you will tote around resentment along with all the housework, shopping, cooking and child care responsibilities. If he won’t meet you halfway before you’re married, you have no hope after you’re married.
Don’t put your career on hold because you might get married, might have kids, or might have to care for aging parents. Do what you need to do at work. If personal life throws curveballs later on, deal with them then.
When I took my new job, which has a long commute and longer hours, I told my husband that he must take on some responsibilities at home, such as making dinner two or three nights a week (including cleaning up after), vacuuming, paying some bills and shopping for groceries as needed. He doesn’t like it, but he does it, and he acknowledges it’s fair. “Lean In” helped me craft these discussions with my husband, to get to a satisfactory agreement.
I think I will reread “Lean In” this month to see what else I could learn or other places where I disagree with Sandberg. I also wonder what other women think. Have you read the book? Did it help you?
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.
I spent the afternoon at a baby shower for a friend. Is there any thing more “Distaff Side” than a baby shower?
Cucumber sandwiches? Check.
Mini pastries? Check.
Fancy teas served in real teacups, with saucers? Check.
I spent a lot of time figuring out what to wear. The mother-to-be is about 15 years younger than I am, so I fell into the trap of decisions – do I dress younger, to fit in better with the 30-something friends, or do I dress a bit older, to blend in with the moms and aunts? Also, it’s an artsy crowd, so I needed to avoid anything normcore.
I went for a “High School Art Teacher” look, with a Babette asymmetical white blouse, my wide-leg black jeans from Simplicity 3688 and my red bomber jacket from Simplicity 8174. I wore Cole Haan booties and this big heavy necklace made of some iridescent stones. The necklace was a big hit. You know you hit at least one right note when some Art History Ph.D. asks you where you got your necklace.
If I am close to the mother-to-be, I will sew up a little gift or even a small quilt. I am not that close to this friend, and I wasn’t sure how well “handmade” would go over with her anyway, so I bought something from her registry – this “Boppy” pillow thing. Whatever is it for? I couldn’t say.
It was a nice party. Thankfully, it was not one of those showers were everyone sits around for an hour watching the mom-to-be open presents. Rather, there was a little speech by the grandmothers-to-be, and otherwise we all mingled and snacked. I met a lot of fascinating people. It was fun to be among all women, of different generations, bumping in to one another and finding common ground.
I don’t have kids, so I don’t get the cultural parts of motherhood. One of the grandmothers-to-be speech was about this greeting card that she got back when she was pregnant with the expectant father. The card depicts an illustration from The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Turns out, the other grandmother-to-be got a photo album with the same image when she was pregnant. And two women among the guests got the same album when they were pregnant. Of course, this album was purchased as a gift for the shower. (Image: source)
Everyone held this story up as proof of some cosmic connection we all have. The way I figure it, if you’re an artsy type, you’ll buy your cards and gifts at art museums, and art museums probably have a few staple cards they’ve sold forever, based on items in their collections. So when you have a bunch of artsy people together, voila! Coincidences!
I bought my card at Walgreen’s, so what does that say about me?