Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year...again

A few other bloggers are revisiting their resolutions from last year to see how they did, so I thought I'd take a look at mine.

1. Blog more often - In 2007 I posted 64 entries and in 2008 I posted 66, not counting this one. That's not blogging more often. At least it didn't go down! I blame part of it on Facebook. I joined it this year and sometimes updating my status on Facebook trumps updating the blog.

2. Lose weight. Meh. I stayed about the same but I didn't work hard at losing weight. Without a 9-5 job, I really should get to the gym more often. I did go a handful of times in November and December. Maybe I'll make it more of a habit in 2009.

3. Embrace my hobbies. Without that 9-5 job, I certainly am embracing my hobbies. Although I sewed about the same number of garments as last year (8 this year, 9 last year), most were completed in the last few months due to that lack of 9-5 job thing. I did knit a lot more but I still have the problem of not actually finishing the items. Gotta work on that.

4. Think before I buy. I've done relatively well with this one. There's still too much stuff in the house but I think I've done well to keep shopping to a minimum and only buy what's needed. My fabric buying was down this year except for two bouts of travel-fabric buying, one in D.C. with fellow patternreview sewing friends and one in NY because what sewer can resist an opportunity to shop in the NY Garment District? My yarn buying was not so restrained but I knit a lot more things this year so that's good, right?

5. Find the good in my work. Well, the J-0-B ended and I have my sanity back. It was tough in the last few months but I dug my heels in, went to the office every day (instead of hiding out at home and telecommuting), and finished up the work I needed to finish. On my last day my co-workers took me to lunch and the manager even gave me a memento of the project. The lay-off from the contracting company was partly voluntary and I know they would have wanted to keep me if there had been suitable work. So it's all good.

6. Nurture relationships. I think I did ok with this one but I know I could do better. There's always room for improvement here.

I think I'll just repeat these resolutions for 2009, except #5 becomes slightly modified into "Find good work" And I really want to keep the word "good" in there because I don't want to find myself in a difficult situation again.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fun with my new tablet

My husband gave me a really cool computer tool for Christmas - it's a Bamboo writing tablet (no it's not made of bamboo - that's just its name) by Wacom. ***I've updated this post to alert any other tablet users of a known bug that causes a conflict between tablets and HP printers with Windows Vista. If you get the error message "hpqscnvw has stopped working" when you try to scan a document, go apply this patch: here's the link.***

I've been playing with the tablet today by using it to modify the picture of the purple dress to see what the dress looks like with various changes.

Here it is with just a hemmed neckline and sleeves (click on all pictures for a larger view):

Here is with a lowered neckline:

Here is with a lower neckline and trim added:

Here is with a lower neckline, trim and buttons:

So what do you think?

Merry Christmas Eve

Since I had more time at home this year before Christmas, I decided to put out a few more decorations than I normally do. These are little cardboard houses that my family put out with our Christmas train layout. They're fairly old. Perhaps from the 30's or 40's? They are hollow with holes in the back, sized to hold a light.

Christmas houses

When I was in my early teens or so I attempted to "fix up" the houses by removing the old, torn cellophane windows and doors, which had been poked at for years by little children's fingers (mine included). Of course I probably shouldn't have done that and certainly not with the red cellophane I used. It's also my "artistry" on the front doors.

Christmas houses

I loved these houses so much that when I was first out on my own and celebrating Christmas thousands of miles away from family, I found and purchased small houses to decorate my own Christmas layout. This year I put up both sets, but the old houses are safely away from the paws of little cats. I only wish the old houses had been kept safe from my hands as a child.

As a child I was always making things and of course I continue today. Last week I took a class to learn how to make fabric baskets. I chose some Christmas themed fabric and created this basket. It's made by wrapping strips of fabric around cotton cording and zig-zag stitching the cording together. You start with the bottom and work you way up to the top, shaping the basket as you stitch.

Fabric basket

I was warned that making these baskets is addictive and I believe it! I already have fabric combinations picked out for some more.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Party dress or prairie dress?

I worked on a dress last week in hopes of wearing it to a Christmas party last Saturday night, but I wasn't happy with the results. I have thoughts on how to improve it but decided against trying to incorporate them before the party. Instead I wore my Burda dress from October with a black jacket.

The un-finished party dress is Vogue 8509. I made a muslin so I could modify the princess seam fit. The muslin looked like a dress for the 5th wife of a FLDS polygamist. I had (some) confidence that the finished dress would not be so prairie-like because I was using a rayon crepe instead of crisp cotton muslin. As I sewed up the rayon, the dress looked promising as a party dress...until I sewed in the sleeves.

Too matronly

I don't want to make another sleeveless dress, so I thought about ways to improve the look. The first thing that popped into my head was to add a ribbon below the bust. I had some black petersham (the dress is a deep, deep purple) so I pinned that on.

Better with a black ribbon?

I bought some purple velvet ribbon from Britex and tried that on the dress:

Better with a purple ribbon?

I think I like the velvet ribbon the most, although I think I pulled it a little tighter than the dress actually is. The neckline is still unfinished and is supposed to be bound with bias tape. I planned to make a bias strip from the fabric and use that. I'm also thinking about lowering the neckline. Opinions on which ribbon and whether I should lower the neckline would be greatly appreciated! Also, I'd like your honest opinions about the dress. Is it still matronly? Anything else I could do to fix it?

Here's a parting shot of one of my silly kitties. Poor baby is cold. I don't know what he would do in a real cold climate.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tiny woodworking

I am in awe of the miniature woodworking by William R. Robertson.

Someday I would like to make miniature textiles by weaving and knitting and maybe even bobbin lace. I remember once using straight pins as tiny knitting needles to make a bit of knitting for my Barbie. I guess Probably the only reason I've not gone down the (miniature) rabbit hole is because just making full size versions take up more than enough of my time. There's a woman from either North or South Dakota (some place with long, cold winters) who comes to Stitches and shows off her miniature sweaters that are done to scale with the correct gauge as full size sweaters.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The scarf that has no end

This is the scarf that has no end
It just goes on and on my friend
I just keep on knitting it
Because that's what a knitter does
Now I'll continue knitting it forever just because...

But it DID end and here it is

Cashmere scarf

Cashmere scarf

This was my first full-scale lace project. I enjoyed the knitting to a point. I got pretty sick of the pattern after a while but I found that if I didn't work on it, I'd make mistakes. So I decided to just finish it. It kept me occupied on at least 6 airplane flights, four of which were 5-6 hours long. I read somewhere that if you want economy in knitting, either knit with thick yarn because it knits up quickly and you don't need a lot of it, or knit with really thin yarn because it will occupy you for a long time. At this point I can't imagine knitting a full size lace shawl. I have more lace-weight yarn in my stash. What was I thinking?

I forgot to mention that this is cashmere. Scrumptious indeed. This of course made the knitting more enjoyable.

To preserve my sanity, I did switch gears for four days and knit this beret

Showing off the hat

Click here to see a picture that shows the hat better, but I liked my smile in the photo above. It's hard to take a photo of yourself - camera on the tripod, remote in hand, smile and act like a model. Hehe. Anyway, the pattern is called the "Starflower Beret" and it was the featured one-skein project from The Swift Stitch yarn store in Santa Cruz during the Yarn Shop Hop in September. I knit it as a Christmas gift and it's going to be hard to let it go. The yarn is Chasing Rainbows (55% wool, 45% mohair) and is delicious. It was a quick knit (hence I was done in 4 days). Here's a view of the top (it's also in the first picture, being blocked on a dinner plate).

Starflower Beret

On to the next knitting project!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Big Apple

Hotel room taxis

Click for larger. You can see more pictures from New York City on

During the first week of November I tagged along with my husband on his work trip to New York City. I had a great time except that I wore my feet out. I thought I brought comfortable shoes but I guess they weren't.

I grew up a few hours from the city (in South Jersey) but only managed to make a few trips there and I never got a chance to really explore the city as an adult. And now that I'm a grown up and travel pretty much wherever I want, it never really crossed my mind to take a vacation to NYC. I'm afraid Paris, London or Rome or lots of other cities I haven't been to are higher on the list. But the opportunity came up and I'm glad it did. I had fun playing "tourist" and fulfilled most of the "must-see/do" items on the mental list I'd made.

  • Hang out in Times Square. It was a mob scene, especially on election day but it was great to experience it. I don't think I'll ever go there for New Years however.
  • Eat at one of those delis with sandwiches named after celebrities. We ate at the Stage Deli; however, I didn't eat such a sandwich because they were monstrous. I had a hamburger and milkshake instead.
  • Walk in Central Park
  • Ride in a NYC taxi cab
  • Take the subway
  • Check out the reading room in the library. Quite spectacular.
  • Go to the top of the Empire State Building
  • Visit Grand Central Station
  • Eat a hot dog from a street vendor (and I'm still alive!)
  • Have a slice of NY pizza
  • Eat a soft pretzel - also bought from a street vendor
  • Buy an "I ♥ NY" shirt (5 for $10!)
  • Buy a $5 pashmina/silk shawl from a street vendor - which is actually kind of nice!
  • Window shop on 5th avenue
  • Shop at Mood and all of the other fabric and trim stores I've heard about - of course I bought fabric
  • See the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Have some NY cheesecake
  • Watch the skaters in Rockefeller Center (and Central Park and Bryant Park too)
  • See a NYC rat -- well, not actually on my "must see" list, but we saw one run out of a planter and try to scale the side of another stone planter.

I didn't visit the Statue of Liberty but would like to some day. I also didn't take a carriage ride. We almost did the carriage ride on Saturday morning, but my foot hurt too much for me to walk to Central Park and it was starting to rain anyway. Seeing a Broadway show would probably be on most people's lists, but it's not really on mine. I've seen shows in L.A. and could see them in San Francisco too. For me it's more about seeing the show and not that it's in New York. We really didn't have a lot of time to see one anyway.

I enjoyed the city more than I thought I would. Of course it helped to be staying in a nice hotel in a prime part of Manhattan. After the first night I even slept through the honking of horns and the blare of emergency vehicle sirens. There's so much energy from all the people walking everywhere, all of the time. The hotel was a-buzz too, first with NYC marathon runners (we arrived in the city a few hours after the marathon completed) then with convention goers. It was a kind of energy that sweeps you up and urges you to go somewhere and do something. I went fabric shopping (and visited the FIT museum) and had a great time!

fashion district

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

These are my Halloween cats I've been collecting. It all started with the third one from the left (click to see larger). My husband says the cat is wearing "candy corn pajamas." And no, I did not knit the Jack o' lantern sweater for cat #4.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm on a roll

I sewed this top yesterday.

Burda 8735

It's Burda 8735, which is unfortunately out of print. I used a polyester knit that I bought a long time ago at Stone Mountain and Daughter. I'm pretty sure it was a sale fabric in their upstairs room. It was perfect fabric for this top. It is snuggly without being too bulky. The top has raglan sleeves and was very easy to put together on my serger. I wrote up a full review on here.

And check it out! I'm blocking Lara in preparation for sewing up the seams.

Lara is a Debbie Bliss pattern (from her book Alpaca Silk). I used Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk yarn, which is scrumptious. The sweater is knit in one piece, from the cuff of one sleeve across to the other. So all that's left is to sew the collar to the back neck and then sew up the under arms.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Not enough hours in the day

How is it that even though I'm not spending 8+ hours a day at a job, I still don't have enough time to do all the things I want to do? Do you think my expectations are a bit high? I think so. But I'm certainly not bored!

This month we traveled to Atlanta to attend my niece's wedding. The wedding was very nice, the bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, and it was wonderful to see some of my relatives again. An added bonus was that my sister-in-law lives in Atlanta, so we stayed with them for a couple days and took the opportunity to visit the Georgia Aquarium. Here's a little bit of video I shot (not very good because it was shot from my little camera). It shows the whale sharks, which is their "main draw." My niece works at the aquarium and assisted with the transport of one of the whale sharks from Taiwan.

I liked the exhibit shown in the video and I also like a few other exhibits, but overall I have to say that I prefer the Monterey Aquarium. I suppose I'm biased since I live nearer to Monterey, but the Georgia Aquarium resembled a mall to me, and I was disappointed that except for the large tank with the whale sharks, the views to the tanks were rather small and there really weren't that many. I did like the wide range of habitats they displayed (river, cold water, etc.) but each one is heavily sponsored and it showed. I also think I like the Monterey Aquarium because it is near the water and relates more to nature than the Georgia Aquarium, which is in downtown Atlanta. I'd say if you're in Atlanta, go visit it but be prepared for the high ticket cost ($26 - ok, it's only $1 more than Monterey) and a bit of commercialism.

Here's another video to show you what we did the following weekend. I apologize for the poor videography. It's just a little video camera I use and it's not meant for high quality videos. I also tried to shorten the video but gave up - you of course don't have to watch the whole thing...or any of it for that matter!

This was the last race of the American Le Mans Series and it was held at Laguna Seca raceway, which is only an hour or so from here. It was the first time we'd been to this track but I don't think it will be the last. We had a good time and it was very easy to see the race. After going to the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans in France four years ago, we have both become fans of this type of racing. They race four types of race cars at the same time: two types of LMP, or Le Mans Prototype cars (the low, "Indy" or Formula 1 looking cars built just to race) and two types of GT, or "grand touring" (modified Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, etc). The different speeds of the two types makes it challenging in the corners and for passing. This race at Laguna was four hours long and started in daylight and ended in the evening, with darkness, fog and much cooler temperatures. Before the race they let the spectators out on the track to view the cars (and drivers) close up. We were able to sit in the grandstand for the start and finish of the race and then we could wander all over to view the race at various curves and from different vantage points. The video shows the view from our chairs on a little hillside. We did wear ear protection!

Now that I'm home, I finally finished the knit top I was working on and thus have completed the outfit from Diana Couture magazine. First, a big thanks to everyone who commented on my dress. I meant to mention that in my last post. I'm not so great at leaving comments on other people's blogs even when I think in my head what I'd like to tell them, so I do appreciate your comments. So here's a picture of the outfit, although I'm not sure I'll wear it all together - the ties on the top sort of interfere with the bolero ties.


Here are the individual pieces:

Bolero top

Tiered skirt

T-shirt top

I wrote reviews for them on patternreview: bolero, skirt, and top.

I do enjoy having the extra time to sew and already have a few patterns cut out or traced for my next projects. I want to add a few more, warmer things to my wardrobe because we're going to New York City - it's a work trip for my husband and I'm tagging along to play...look out Fashion District, HERE I COME!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dress review

Here's a review of the Burda dress. I have more to write about the wedding, Atlanta, and what we did last Saturday, but first things first.

Pattern Description:
Knit, sleeveless v-neck dress with gathered, belted overlay.

Pattern Sizing:

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, but I made a few changes.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes and no. I got a bit confused and ended up sewing seams too early ( I consulted my favorite resource Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques when I needed help sewing the facings.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?The gathered belt across my stomach was what drew me to the pattern. I also chose it because of the many favorable reviews of it here on PR. It looked to be an easy and quick dress, that was also flattering and I think that turned out to be true on all counts. This is a great pattern!

Fabric Used:
An ITY (I think) knit obtained through a fabric swap at a BABES meeting (Bay Area Bash Expressly for Sewists - we all met through PR). The fabric came from Georgene.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
The one obvious change I made was to add a black edge to the neckline. I cut a one inch strip of black jersey, folded it in half, and sewed it in the seam like you would piping. I used 1/4 seam allowances as I usually do with knits, so this left about 1/4 inch or less of the black showing. This did add bulk to the seam, so I graded the seam allowances.

I omitted the back zipper like everyone else did and also raised the neckline one inch, lowered the hem two inches and graded up a size from the waist down. Before sewing the side seams on the serger, I basted them and tried the dress on first. I ended up taking in the upper waist quite a bit so that the overlay wouldn't sag.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would except that there are so many other dress styles I want to make, so I probably won't.

Lessons Learned:
1. When time is tight, go with what I know. I needed a dress for a wedding but time was running out. I decided against using a Butterick or New Look pattern in favor of Burda WOF. Although I hadn't made this particular dress, I've made many Burda WOF knit tops with success, so I knew I could make it with my usual alterations and not have to make a muslin first. However by adding the piping, I made the construction with the facings a bit more difficult and that cost me a lot of time.

2. I can (and should) be a designer and add my own touch. I liked the fabric but when I draped it on the dressform to approximate how the dress would look, I felt it needed something more. I decided that a thin piping of black along the neckline edge would really pop and draw attention up to my face as well as coordinate with the black buckle.

3. Small swatches may not be enough and "expensive" isn't always better. I could not find a buckle at Joann's or Hancock Fabrics (surprise, surprise) and it was too late to order one from the internet, so I drove up to San Francisco (over an hour a way) to Britex. I had a small swatch with me and one of the buckles they had looked like it would work pretty well. It was green on one side and black on the other. The green was a little shimmery and also looked a little light for the fabric but I thought if it didn't work, I could use the black backside. The buckle was fairly thick and round, but it had a 2-inch bar, as called for in the pattern. It was also $13. They also had a thinner, black plastic buckle with a 1.5 inch bar. I bought that one too just in case and because it was only $3. Guess which one I used? It turned out that the big green/black buckle was too heavy and the green was not right once viewed with the whole dress. The small one was perfect.

4. If there's a technique I'm not familiar with or well-practiced on, I should find some better instructions and read them. Thoroughly. As we all know, Burda WOF is not known for detailed instructions so I consulted another source to help me through the facing, but it was after I'd sewn the center back seam. At least removing serger stitching is not impossible, it's just time consuming.

5. Thank goodness for Spanx and Flexees. Enough said. :-)

6. I'm probably the only one with a camera bag that matches her dress. After I set up the serger I tried it out on a scrap of the dress fabric and unintentionally ended up with a little pouch. It was the perfect size for my camera, which didn't come with a case, so I figured I'd use the pouch to protect the camera when it's in my purse. I wonder if anyone noticed and wondered "how'd she get a camera bag to match?"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Whole dress

The dress is done. I don't have time to write anything else, much less write a review of the pattern. I'm wearing the dress to my niece's wedding on Saturday and I need to go pack!

Burda dress

Friday, October 03, 2008

Rediscovering the library

I hadn't been to the library in years but today I visited one of my local branches and discovered what I'd been missing. You can rent a movie...for FREE! You can get a book on tape to listen to during a workout or while gardening or doing some other task that you need to do (thank you Janet from knitting meetup for that suggestion). You can borrow a book you'd like to look at but shouldn't buy because it will be out of date in a few years. You can also borrow a book you've been thinking about buying but now you can see if it's really worth the limited book shelf space you have for knitting books.

This branch is a brand new building so it's spacious, well-lit, beautiful, and it even has a coffee shop.

Hooray for the library!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Half a dress

First, we had a pretty visitor to the back yard:


My current sewing project is a dress to wear to my niece's wedding, which is in 9 days. Thank goodness I'm not working and I can sew! Right now I have "half-a-dress."


I'm in the middle of cutting it out, which is the part of sewing I like the least. It makes me nervous to cut into the fabric. Cheap fabric, expensive doesn't matter. I dislike cutting so much that I had to take a break from it so I thought I'd write to my blog and share the photos.

Cutting out

The dress is #104 from Burda World of Fashion magazine, 5/2008. It's been reviewed numerous times on patternreview and seemed like the perfect dress to make in the short amount of time I have. It's knit, is pretty simple in construction and it seems to be a flattering dress, so it seemed like a good choice. I also have had good experience with Burda patterns so hopefully there won't be any fit problems like there might be with a Butterick or Vogue pattern, since I have less experience with those. Tracing the pattern took a lot of time because I had to make some adjustments like raise the neckline 1 inch, lower the hem line 2 inches (can always shorten), and grade out for the waist and hips (hopefully enough!). Then because the Burda WOF patterns don't have cutting lines, I had to decide how big to make them and make sure I didn't mess up anywhere by making them too small where they need to be bigger, like hems. I usually do 1/4 inch seam allowances on knits because I use the serger and that's what I did on this one. But this has a facing for the top and I hope that the serger finish isn't too lumpy around the neck and armholes. Fortunately I have enough fabric to make two dresses if I wanted, so if it's awful or too small, I can redo it.

So I'll take a deep breath and finish cutting out the rest of the pieces. The easy part will be sewing it. I hope.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Santa Cruz'n

If I'd known the beach was only about 30 minutes from here I would have gone a lot more over the years. Although the drive down Highway 17 to get there would be a lot nicer without the maniac drivers...and I wasn't even going with the regular rush hour traffic. Of course I went on a Wednesday afternoon, not a weekend when I'm sure both the drive down and the beach are more crowded.

I'd been planning to go to the beach and today was hot. I also felt the need for a little reward because this morning I went through the bags of junk I brought home from my old office. I was able to condense all of it into one small box, ready to move to my next office, whenever and wherever that may be. Taking a cue from the organization and "clean house" shows on TV, I labeled 5 grocery bags with: trash, recycle, keep, donate, and sell. In the end the "keep" and "recycle" bags were full...not so much in the others. I'm still feeling weird about taking a break from work, so going through the stuff was a little hard. Part of me wants to go back to work right now because that's all I know but part of me is also enjoying the time off.

The beach was pretty empty. Being that it's late September, there were few tourists. I almost got to watch someone get arrested though. Santa Cruz unfortunately has a large population of homeless and drug addicts and one young kid, who was no doubt affected by some substance, was walking along the beach yelling, waving his arms, and barking like a sea lion (lots of sea lions hang out on the Santa Cruz pier and from the beach you can hear them barking). If the kid was just acting out, oblivious to others, that would have been one thing, but he was yelling at people. He wasn't swearing but yelling at them to "go in the water", for example. I think some people got nervous when a group of young girls, about 8-ish, all stopped their play in the surf and stared at him as he walked by. Fortunately he didn't interact with them but afterwards I noticed two cops on the beach waiting for him to come in from the water. He eventually came out and the cops walked with him and talked to him and then tried to restrain him. He freaked out and got away and the two cops, along with two others who showed up, started to make chase but then stopped and let him go. Drama on the beach!

Other than the impromptu episode of Cops, I just sat in my beach chair and knitted a sock for about an hour and a half. I'm sure other people on the beach thought I was strange for knitting on the beach. One guy approached me and I was expecting him to say something about my knitting but he asked if I knew where he could change his clothes. I suggested the bathroom in the Arcade and afterwards realized that he might have been expecting there to be cabanas like on European beaches. I'm just guessing because he had a Scandinavian accent and looked surprised that I'd suggest a bathroom for him to use as a changing room.

Afterward I walked on the pier and had a bowl of clam chowder and an ice cream and watched the sea lions lounge about. We like to call the sea lions "sea cats" because they are fat and sleep a lot and have whiskers.

Since I've not spent much time in the area (and yet it's only 30 minutes away!), I drove along the coast to Capitola to check out its beaches. The beach area is very quaint with little shops near the beach and it seems like there's very little parking nearby, though there were signs about a larger parking lot somewhere else. But since it's post-season I easily found a parking space. I fed the meter a few more quarters and dragged out my beach chair for 20 minutes more beach time. The ocean was extremely calm today so the waves weren't roaring. I do love a roaring surf, but the gentle swish-swish of the tiny waves today was nice too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Knitting projects in all stages

First we have a finished project (hooray!):

Bonita finished

and the back view...


Pattern: Bonita from Rowan magazine #41
Yarn: Artfibers Rush in colorway #1 (green/gold); 7 skeins used
Needle size: US 2 and US 4
Started March 2007 and finished Sept 2008

Here's a picture of my current project, Jaywalker socks in Blue Moon Fiber's Socks that Rock, colorway is "Lucy." This was taken during our little vacation to the northern California coast and redwoods. We stayed at a hotel just over the border in Oregon and right on the coast - this was from our balcony.


I'm to the heel on the second sock and have discovered that I will run out of yarn before I finish it (rats!). I think if I rip the toe of the first sock and redo it in a complimentary color I should have enough yarn to get to the toe of the second sock (and of course do the toe of sock #2 in the complimentary color). Naturally I don't have a complimentary color in the same weight yarn in my stash so it looks like these socks won't get done for a bit. I'd buy more yarn but here is what I added to my stash as a result of the LYS Yarn Hop. Yikes. More projects.

I had a great time shopping (and hopping). All of the stores had special 1-skein projects with a free pattern. I ended up buying 6 of those although I may not use the yarn for the intended project. Most of the projects were hats, socks or small bags, as expected since that's about what you can do with one skein. It was fun to visit all of the shops and I really enjoyed my trip down to Carmel and Pacific Grove. Here's a picture of where I ate my lunch in Pacific Grove.

Pacific Grove

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm on a break!

I'm taking a break from work, not from this blog, although my lack of posts in the last couple weeks sure makes it look that way. And I'm not just on a coffee break while I write this blog entry. I'm talking about a real break. The contract I was working on for over 5 years ended last Friday...successfully, I might add. There isn't other work for me right now and that's ok because I can really use a break. I'm hoping I can have a few months off, nothing more than that and I really hope nothing comes up too next week or something. I have a gazillion things I want to do in addition to recharging my mental self.

My first week of non-work has been quite busy. Actually I'm using up vacation hours, so I'm not really unemployed yet.

Monday I drove my husband to the airport and stopped by the hardware store afterward. In addition to some grass seed/fertilizer/mulch mix which I plan to use to fix the bare spots in the front yard (plain 'ole grass seed didn't seem to work), I bought a beach chair that was on sale since it's post-season. I hope to spend some time with my feet in the sand, hearing waves crash and the seagulls laugh, smelling the salty air, and relaxing with a book, my knitting, or just watching the ocean. I did get to the beach this week but I didn't get to use my chair - more on that later. Monday night I went to my knitting guild meeting and learned how to read cables (and cable charts) from Cookie A.

Tuesday I stayed at home and it was insightful. I don't believe I've ever taken a vacation day where I just stayed home by myself. An entire day without going anywhere, where I wasn't sick or working from home. It felt odd and I wasn't sure what to do with myself (despite the gazillion things I want to do). That night I dreamed that I found a new contract I was eager to work on. Off work for two days and I'm already dreaming about going back. Pathetic, I know. It was a productive day though. I did a bit of cleaning and some laundry - I've decided that unless I'm out of the house all day I'm going to spend an hour cleaning or fixing something in the house. It'll be fine if the hour turns into a bigger project because sometimes I just need to get started, but if all I can manage is an hour, that'll be fine too. I didn't want to overdo it on Tuesday so after about an hour of cleaning I rewarded myself by sitting down to finish a sweater I've been wanting to get to. I only had to sew up two side seams but it was tedious work and I of course wanted it perfect. The rest of the day was "wasted" on the computer playing games (guilt-free solitaire!), reading blogs, and just surfing.

Wednesday spinnity and I went to San Francisco to the Legion of Honor Museum to see the Women Impressionists Exhibit. The exhibit features works by Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, and Marie Bracquemond. I really enjoyed seeing their paintings and getting a peek at how they viewed the world around them. My favorite style of painting is actually the realism of Flemish 16th century artists, such as Bruegel, but I do enjoy the mood conveyed by Impressionistic art. I'm always amazed at how a few brush strokes can look like paint smears up close but step back and you see so much more, even more than the image the paint is replicating.

Wednesday night was a knitting meetup and I finally had something for "show and tell" - the sweater I finished on Tuesday. I took pictures of it (Bonita, from Rowan magazine #41) this morning and will post them soon...I promise. I'm just too tired tonight to mess with photos and write anything about the sweater or the knitting.

I'm tired because today (Thursday) I drove all over the place to visit yarn stores as part of the Peninsula to Pier LYS Shop Hop. No, I don't need more yarn and yes, it was impossible not to buy any, but I figured that since I wasn't working and it was a nice day, I should give it a go. The idea is to visit each of the 19 shops and get a "passport" book stamped at each store. As an incentive, there's a drawing for a grand prize of $500 if you get all the stamps. While that would be nice to win, I must be practical and look at it more as an incentive to visit stores I have not been to and probably woudn't visit because I have shops closer to me. So today I set my course for the stores located south of here in Carmel, Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. I did the hop on my own partly because I was on a mission to try to do all 19 stores today and tomorrow and partly because I just wanted some alone time (but not alone in the house) to go and do whatever I please. And I had fun! In Pacific Grove I ate my lunch at a picnic table with a gorgeous view of the ocean and drove the twisty windy road through the redwood trees to visit a store in Felton. I took the long way back via Highway 1 so that I could savor the late afternoon sun over the ocean. I managed to squeeze in three more stores by closing time. Actually the last one was a few minutes after. I saw there were other shoppers (hoppers, actually) in the store and even though the sign said "closed" the door wasn't locked and they happily stamped my book and chatted with me about yarn. Knitters and yarn store owners are, with very few exceptions I've found, very nice people.

On Friday I hope to run around and visit the remaining 10 stores. Fortunately all of them are much closer. I also know where they all are because I've been to all of them before. Another good thing is that because they're closer, I won't feel like I have to buy the gorgeous yarn I see because I know that if I really want it I can get back to the store without driving a great distance. Maybe I'll leave the credit cards at home just to be safe.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Update on my projects

I'm *this* close to finishing the top for my outfit and will post pictures and reviews of all three pieces when the top is done. But I'm having some issues with hemming the sleeves on the top and I won't have any time in the next week or so to work on it so don't expect any pictures or reviews until late next week at the earliest. I thought I'd just turn the edge of the sleeve under and stitch it down (I plan to coverstitch), as it appears the pattern calls for - remember, the instructions are in French! But I guess I didn't add the seam allowances correctly. The sleeves are not separate pieces and are just little extensions on the front and back pieces, but somehow the transition from the 1/4 inch side seam to the 1/2 inch hem I wanted on the sleeves is not working out. I might explore what it would look like if I bound the sleeve edge, like I bound the neck edge. The top is the last piece to my outfit that consists of a tiered skirt, which was a UFO started 2 summers ago, and a knit bolero top. I really wanted to get them done to wear next week, but that's not looking likely with this sleeve problem.

It's football season (Go Nittany Lions!) so that means lots of knitting while the games are on. I'm almost finished the first of a pair of socks in the "Jaywalker" pattern. I know I should be seaming one of the almost-finished sweaters I knit but I hate seaming.

I may have a lot more time on my hands over the next few months, which would be a good thing. I have so many projects and it'll be nice to have time to work on them. Maybe I'll actually get those sweaters finished!

Friday, August 22, 2008


I actually have some willpower. Every time I get an email announcing a fabric sale at, or Gorgeousfabrics or emmaonesock, I delete it! I'm sorry merchants, but as much as I would love to buy your fabric, help your bottom line, and boost the economy, I can't. So hooray for me for having some willpower. Finally. When one of those emails shows up in my inbox, I visualize the tower of plastic bins in sewing room #2 and hit the delete button and don't look back. These bins I am talking of contain relatively new fabric and I think it's finally my breaking point of fabric buying. If they were my only bins of fabric I'd have too much, but there are bins in the closets of sewing room #1 (also known as the computer room and the office), bins in sewing room #2 (which is supposed to be a guest room), and bins in the cargo trailer in the front driveway.

These are the ways I'm combatting the stash:
  1. Sew more. I find that when I'm not sewing, I shop. When I am sewing, I realize how long it takes to use up one piece of fabric and my sewing hasn't kept up with the buying.
  2. Don't buy. fabric in > fabric out = stash. It may be simple math but it's hard not to buy. To avoid buying, I delete the sale emails, avoid buying more patterns (another stash in itself) because once I'm in the store it's hard not to look, and I visualize how big my stash already is.
  3. Use from the stash. How do I know what's in my stash? I swatch the fabric. The swatches help me from buying duplicates and also help me shop from the stash. I recently re-organized them by color and fabric type, which makes shopping the stash much easier.
  4. Give it away. We have another BABES meeting tomorrow, where I get together with sewing friends I met through the internet and ASG. One highlight of our get together is to give away or trade fabric, patterns, books, and other sewing stuff we no longer like or want. The challenge is to not come home with anything or at least less than you brought.
  5. Recycle the scraps. It's hard not to "waste" fabric but in all honesty, I will probably not use them. I have good intentions of turning the scrap into doll clothes but those projects are low on my "to-sew" list. A challenge I have is what to do with the pieces that are 1 yard or larger. Those could be turned into a matching tank top, scarf, or trim for a coordinating piece.
  6. Live with it. There are worse things in life. I do not spend money I don't have on fabric, I can still get into sewing room #2, and the bins in the cargo trailer are not the only things stored in there. I like 98% of the fabric I've bought and my only regret is that I may not sew it all. I just don't want to add (unnecessarily) to it*.
*I will allow myself an out. Just as it's not a good idea for a dieter (who's dieting for weight loss purposes) to deny him or herself a treat now and then, I will leave room for travel fabric. Travel fabric keeps me from buying stupid souvenirs because I view the fabric as a reminder of the trip and it's fun to find the unique fabric stores in town.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A loopy problem is solved!

Audrey commented on my last post and diagnosed the problem as the knit being stretched as it went through the serger and then rebounding afterward (thanks Audrey and yes, Diana Couture is the French version of the German Diana Moden). I had also done some searching on the internet for anyone discussing the same problem and as a result joined the Babylock serger group on Yahoo where I found I wasn't alone with my loopy problem. The solution to "serger loops that fall off the edge of the fabric" is to simply set the differential feed. That's it! Just by moving one notch into the "compress" direction of the differential feed, my loopy problems were solved and the stitch is just about perfect. I guess when I think of using the differential feed it's for obvious things like serging the cross-grain of a knit where it's very stretchy or going the other direction with the differential feed to intentionally make lettuce edge finishes.

On my Babylock Evolvé there's a lever that is set to "A" for wide overlock and "B" for narrow. An additional "fix" for the loop problem is to use a wide overlock but set the lever to "B". Apparently this lever controls the rate at which thread is let into the stitch. So it makes sense that a narrow stitch has less thread coming into it and I can see where using "B" for a wide stitch might help if the differential feed setting isn't enough. In my case I didn't even have to make this adjustment. My loopy problem was solved with just a simple change of the differential feed by one notch.

Last night I serged up the seams to the bolero top so all that's left is to cut out and stitch on the binding. Then it's on to the next project.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Serger frustration

Although the "French skirt" is finished, I haven't posted any pictures yet because I haven't taken any. I wanted to wait until I finished a top to go with it so that I can show the outfit and also so the dress form doesn't look half-naked with just the skirt on it.

I'm making two knit tops to go with the skirt, both out of Diana Couture. One is a simple t-shirt type that's just two pattern pieces so the sleeves are just a little extension off the shoulders and not set in. It is gathered a bit in the front with drawstring. I should take a picture of the line drawing or photo but I'm lazy. The other is a little bolero that has to go over something else. I selected a peachy type fabric for the bolero because I thought it went with the skirt by picking up the more orange-y colors of the fabric but now I'm not so sure.

The fabric for the bolero is cut out (well, except for the binding pieces, but I'll get to those). I was hoping to sew up the shoulder, side seams and sleeves last night but the serger wasn't cooperating. I don't think it was the serger though. The problem is that the looper stitches hang off the edge of the fabric, which isn't terrible, but it's not pretty. My machine, a Babylock Evolvé, is auto-tension but there is one adjustment that can be made, which I tried it but it didn't make a difference. I think the problem is that the fabric is a bit slippery. It's a "tissue-weight" polyester knit I bought at I actually like the hand of it and it's not poly-icky but my serger doesn't seem to like it. I confirmed that the serger works fine on a piece of cotton; it just doesn't like the poly knit. I consulted my vast sewing library and according to "Easy Guide to Serging Fine Fabrics" I should widen the stitch. I had started with a narrow 3-thread overlock and even with the knife edge all the way to the right, there were still little "loopies" off the edge. So I reset the machine for a wide 3-thread overlock and while there are still little "loopies" off the edge, more of the stitching is on the fabric so I guess it's better. But I'm not satisfied.

Next I'm going to try stabilizing the seam with some paper. It's worked in the past but I don't look forward to picking out the bits of paper. I suppose I could stabilize it with wash-away stabilizer or spray starch and then wash it afterward. At least I know this fabric is poly and not rayon and it can be washed!

However, the bolero and the other top will have to wait until next week. My husband comes home from his work trip today (yay!) so I'll be spending time with him and not sequestered in the sewing room. Perhaps I'll work on some knitting while we catch up on TV.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Birds and bees

This morning I fed the cats, as usual. Then I saw the hummingbird feeder was empty so I mixed up some nectar and refilled it - after hosing it down to get rid of the ants. I had neglected to keep water in the ant moat and a "thousand" ants were having a party. Then I saw the pond fish were all staring at me waiting for their meal...well it seemed like it at least, so I tossed in a handful of fish food and they gulped it up. I tend to forget about the fish because they get a lot of natural food from the pond. I had bought about 10 inexpensive feeder fish a year or so ago and thought they'd all died because we never saw them. Then last spring we suddenly saw fish in the pond. Either someone snuck in and restocked it or seven of the feeder fish hid out under the waterfall for a year. While I was standing on the patio watching the fish eat their breakfast, a hummer hovered about 2 feet from my face. I was happy to see him but a bit startled - the blur of his wings and the long, pointy beak were a little too close! I guess he wanted to drink from the feeder and I was in his way. We've had a large number of hummingbirds in our yard this year. We have lots of flowers for them to feed off of so I don't normally keep the feeder full. However last month I filled it with the leftover sugar syrup from canning peaches and since then it seems we've been the rest stop on the hummingbird migration highway.

The plants and pond in our yard attract lots of birds and bees. We've seen some HUGE carpenter bees that could pass for small hummingbirds! If there were more room in the yard, we'd probably have bee hives and maybe chickens. I'd like a goat too. And maybe rabbits. That would be fun. A lot of work though.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Good: I'm almost done with my French skirt. It's from a pattern out of the sewing magazine Diana Couture, which is in French, and the fabric is from Paris (the one on the far left in the below photo). I'm really liking the way the skirt is turning out too. I started it two years ago, right after I bought the fabric, but when summer turned to fall I put the skirt aside because it was a summer skirt. But by the next summer, the tiered-skirt style was sort of "out" and I didn't feel like finishing it. But this year I decided to complete it because I didn't want to waste the fabric and also because I've seen a few tiered skirts in the RTW ads, so it hasn't completely gone out of style.

Travel Fabric

Bad: The "house" phone is on the fritz. The display on the phone says "line in use" and there's no dial tone, only a loud, static-y electronic noise. It's affecting the DSL (slow or no internet access) and when I turned on the DISH TV there was a notice warning that we'd be charged for not being connected to a phone line or broadband. Great. We had some issues with the inside wiring, which we thought we'd cleared up but either we didn't fix it, something else is wrong, or the problem is external to the house. So no internet, which means more time for sewing, right?

Bad: I'm still not over my killer cold. It's been 2 weeks and I'm still having sinus problems.

Good: I'm feeling better than I did a week ago!

Good: The garden is producing lots of fruits and veggies. There are hummingbirds flitting around, lots of little tiny yellow birds (Lesser Goldfinch, I think) attracted to the plants that have gone to seed, and there's a Black Phoebe who seems to have chosen this as her (or his?) territory. I would too - lots of plants and a pond with moving water in it. It's a nice environment that is very much alive.

Bad: I haven't been able to keep up with the summer harvest and haven't been feeling up to cooking anything. At least our compost...and the squirrels are being fed. I do hope it's squirrels and not rats. Someone devoured all of the little yellow squashes and also sampled some cucumber and they're also nibbling on the nectarines and white peaches. I moved the squash vines up onto a trellis in hopes that will keep the developing squash out of reach. Nothing I can do about the fruit I guess.

Good: The nectarines are delicious and haven't all been sampled by the wildlife so I've been able to enjoy a few.

Good: Knitting meetup tonight! I'm going to work on my Jaywalker socks. I have some sweater finishing to do but that's too tedious for a meetup.

Bad: I ran out of yarn making a baby sweater that was supposed to only take one skein. Dilemma - do I buy more yarn to finish the collar and cuffs (the yarn is discontinued so I'll have to find something to compliment it) or do I rip it and do something else with the yarn. I don't really want to add more yarn to my stash!

Good: Overall, life it pretty great and I can't complain...even about the so-called "bad" things. But I really would like to get over this stinkin' cold!

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's done, it's DONE!

This poor jacket's been sitting on my dress form for months and all it needed was the snaps! How pathetic is that? I finally put them on today and the jacket it DONE!

Rayon jacket

Here's my review:

Pattern Description:
Knit jacket with notched collar and flounces on the 3/4 length sleeves and bottom hem.

Pattern Sizing:
36-44. I made a 42 in the bust, grading out to a 44 in the waist and hips

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, pretty close I think.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I didn't really follow them. I didn't even use their suggested pattern layout because I cut out the fabric on a single layer. This allowed me to keep the knit fabric smooth for all pieces and also attempt to keep the pattern even across the front. I did ok, I think - I was only off a little. I traced the pattern with 1/2 inch seam allowances.
As far as construction, I applied fusible straight tape to the shoulder seams and used a 4-thread overlock. I put the sleeves in flat instead of "set-in", but still had to put in a gathering stitch before sewing them because the sleeves had more fabric than could be eased. For the notched-collar, I consulted Vogue/Butterick Step-By-Step Guide To Sewing Techniques , which has very good illustrations and instructions for basic sewing techniques. I didn't trim the seam allowances completely though. I learned from another knit jacket project that a 1/4 inch seam allowance can sometimes be lumpy so I only trimmed at the points, gradually going out to the full 1/2 inch seam allowances I used. I pressed the collar well, using a press cloth so as not to damage the fabric. I used lots of steam and my wooden clapper to get the collar nice and flat.
I used a 3-thread narrow overlock on the edge of the flounce. I tried a lot of samples first. I found that a 3-thread rolled hem pulled away from the fabric and when I stabilized with a washaway I was surprised to find I was working with a rayon knit and not polyester as I had thought. This jacket will have to be "dry clean only", I'm afraid. Next, I tried stabilizing with fusible tape but the result was too stiff. I then decided to just use a narrow overlock. After reading Nellc's review for this pattern, I tried wooly nylon in the top looper and I liked the results.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked the trendy style and the fact that it used a knit.

Fabric Used:
Rayon burn-out knit with fusible tricot for the interfacing. The fabric was purchased a few years ago from G-Street Fabrics in Virginia.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
The only alteration I made was to grade from size 42 in the bust to size 44 in the waist and hips. I changed the buttons to snaps as used on the nearly identical jacket style 120 and used 4 snaps instead of 3 since mine were a bit smaller (size 24) than called for.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes! Originally I wanted to make this in a thick, red jersey but was disappointed to find I didn't have enough fabric. The flounces take up a lot of fabric, so you need about 2 yards for this jacket.
This was a learning process, as I think all projects are - even if they're little things.

  • I learned that even when I think the fabric is polyester, I should check and prewash at least a sample.
  • I learned not to trim every seam allowance if it doesn't need it.
  • I learned that samples are important when trying a new technique, such as a rolled hem.
  • I learned that jackets can be knit and they don't have to be difficult.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Organized Chaos

I have a lot of sewing and knitting projects that are either in progress or are queued up. With such a large stash of fabric and yarn, I get a bit anxious when I think about the next project to work on so I thought I'd try to better organize and manage things.

With knitting projects, I have an assortment of bags that I use as "project bags," so I just keep the in-progress knitting projects in separate bags. That way I can grab the type project I want at the moment - although I have to admit that most of the in-progress projects are at the finishing stage and that's my least favorite part of knitting. Plus I have a fear of the project not fitting or working out and if I don't finish it, I won't find out. Pathetic, I know. I obviously enjoy the act of knitting more than the desire to have a knitted item.

With sewing, I don't tend to have multiple projects going at once because I'd rather not rethread the sewing machine or serger more than I need to. However, I'm always thinking ahead to what the next project will be and with far too many potential projects, I get anxious thinking about it. There are just too many!

So I've found a way to help me cope with the sewing projects. I believe I got the idea from patternreview to use bins to store each project. I find these plastic bins are just the right size to hold the fabric, pattern, and notions for each project, plus they stack. I bought six bins but I quickly filled them and have more projects identified.

(click for larger)

Being a Virgo, I need organization, so this simple solution has made me so much happier. Now I can prewash multiple fabrics at once and keep them separate from the rest of the stash, so they don't get lost and I don't get sidetracked by a new fabric purchase. I can also trace off multiple patterns at the same time and now they won't get misplaced or separated. I also like seeing the fabric and pattern together as a project, so I can see what's coming up and which items work well together.

What's in those baskets? Well, starting in the upper left, the very bottom bin has the rest of the fabric for my Burda wool jacket that's been on hold for too long. The bin on top of it has fabric and pattern for a shirt I promised to make for my husband...a long time ago. The top bin actually has two projects in it: both are mesh knits for tops - one will use a Butterick pattern I've used before and the other will use a Simplicity pattern. To the right is black gauze fabric for a skirt to go with the jacket I made (which just needs snaps but I haven't built up the courage to do them just yet - the snaps are not sew-in, so they have to be right the first time). The bin in the upper right contains the fabric for the Diana Couture skirt I started in 2006 with cotton embroidered fabric I bought in Paris. The skirt has lingered because it's a 3-tier skirt and I read that style was out, but I've decided to finish it anyway because I'm not a slave to fashion and I've seen a few tiered skirts in the current RTW sales ads. The bottom bin on the left has fabric and pattern traced from Diana Couture for a little knit bolero top to go with the skirt. The two un-binned projects are tops to go with the black gauze skirt and the Paris skirt, respectively.

Do I expect to actually get to all these projects? Well, I hope so now that they're organized.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Hot sewing

It didn't cool down all that much last night but with the windows open and the whole-house fan on, it was manageable. I actually finished a sewing project! No, not my Burda WOF jacket that only needs the snaps put on...I finished a baby blanket. I sewed the decorative stitching on my husband's co-worker's baby blanket #2. It gave me some fits because I used rayon embroidery thread in the bobbin, which I'd only filled halfway and then ran out 3/4 of the way through the perimeter of the blanket (drat!). Then I had trouble trying to get it stitching correctly, not to mention trying to match up the stitch pattern of little hearts. But it's done and now I can move on to other sewing projects! I might post a picture of the blanket tonight, but it's not all that interesting: picture baby-print flannel with hearts stitched in pink around the edge. Exciting.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Too hot!

I'm back from the east coast and my work monitoring the satellite instrument, which is performing perfectly and providing data to scientists. Yay! Click here to see the blog, if you're interested.

Since I worked nearly 120 hours over the last two weeks (not counting the travel to get there and back), I'm taking today off. I had hoped to sew today but it's 107 degrees outside and 82 inside. I think I'll wait until this evening when it cools off a bit! I do really want to get to some sewing though. I need to use some fabric before we're buried by it. I bought more fabric, beyond what I got at the PR gathering at The Fabric Place. I had to stop by G Street Fabrics in Rockville, especially since they had a 30% off holiday sale plus an extra 25% off coupon good on one item. I bought a remnant piece of knit mesh in a purple swirly print and used the coupon on a gorgeous $30/yard white cotton eyelet. But I didn't stop there. While visiting my mom over the 4th, we shopped at the G Street Fabrics in Centerville where I bought 2 yards of green and white silk for a blouse...using the coupon of course. I can't pass up travel fabric and big time savings! Thankfully the weight limit for your first checked bag on Virgin America is 70 lbs and I had a big bag, so I didn't have to ship the fabric. By the way, thumbs up for VA in-flight service but thumbs down for their check-in counter at Dulles. I had checked in via the internet the night before but still had to drop my bag at the counter. It was chaotic, frustrating, and not well planned out. Tempers flared, people cut in line. It was just not good.

What was good was being able to finish my green Rowan sweater on the flight home. I'm naming this one "Gamma Ray" and hope get blocked and sewn up soon so I can wear it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Satellites and fabric shopping

I believe the stars, moon, planets and satellites all aligned to let me join my sewing friends at A Fabric Place in Baltimore, Maryland today. I happen to be on the east coast right now, supporting testing and operations of the instrument we just launched; however, I'm working 12-hour night shifts. But I lucked out with a day night off today, which allowed me to go fabric shopping instead of sleeping this morning (well, I slept after I got back). Why would I deprive myself of sleep to buy fabric, when we all know that my stash is huge and I haven't exactly been sewing up a storm lately? Well, this was not just ordinary fabric shopping, this was shopping at the brick and mortar store of Michael's Fabrics, the online supplier of high end designer wools and silks at fabulous prices. And this was an opportunity to meet up with my internet sewing friends, most of whom I've only met on line. Michael was there to greet us, give us a tour and feed us with snacks. He also gave us a generous discount, which of course I couldn't pass up.

I didn't splurge on any designer fabrics (not that I'm aware of), but I did find some that I "needed" to have. Clockwise from the top, colorful print, the fabrics are: cotton, linen/cotton, polyester (but it feels like linen) and the brown and white is a cotton from Switzerland.

I took pictures in the store, but they came out pretty awful. I may be a rocket scientist, but I can't seem to figure out why my little camera gives me grainy photos sometimes. It shouldn't, it's a new Nikon Coolpix, so I believe it's operator error. There are much better photos posted by other people on patternreview. I do wish I'd been able to go to lunch afterwards with the gang...and do more fabric shopping, or so it appears by the pictures on patternreview that I recognize are from G Street! But I'd been up for nearly 24 hours by that point and had an hour drive to get back to the hotel, so it was for the best that I didn't stay.

I am looking forward to finishing up the satellite work next week and then spending a few days with my mom over the 4th before going home. At least I'm getting a lot of knitting done during the lulls at work. I've just about finished both sleeves of the Rowan Capri sweater I'm knitting and if the instrument behaves itself like it has been, I may get the front done. It's been interesting to see the reaction of my fellow rocket scientists to my knitting. Some get it, some don't. If you're a knitter, you probably know what I mean. For those of you who aren't, knitting keeps me focused, which is contrary to the assumption (I think) by co-workers that I'm not paying attention.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Been working on...

I finished one of two flannel baby blankets I'm making for my husband's co-worker. I completed the decorative stitching on the first one, so it's done. The second one still needs the decorative stitching. I used a variegated thread to stitch the stars, which is why it looks dark and light.


I blocked my Rowan "Bonita" sweater - finally!! Next step is to seam the shoulders and then pick up stitches and knit the neck edge.


I worked more on my Rowan "Capri" sweater. The yarn is Rowan Calmer (the one called for) and it's really coming along nicely I think. Very summery. And yes, I do seem to like Rowan patterns (and yarn), don't I?


I made chocolate covered cherries using the delicious Bing cherries from our tree and Valrhona 71% dark bittersweet chocolate. I used a cherry pitter to pit the cherries but found it impossible to leave the stems on and pit them, so I used a toothpick to hold the cherry while I coated it. I melted the chocolate in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup. One 100 gram (3.5 oz) bar of Valrhona coated about 2 dozen cherries. I've refrigerated half and then froze the other half to try to preserve them as long as possible. Yes, of course I could just eat them all!

I love having a garden. For the last few weeks I've been able to go out in the morning and pick fresh blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries for my breakfast yogurt. The blackberries are just about finished now but the blueberries are still ripening. Last night for dinner I went out into the garden and picked some lettuce and made up a nice vinaigrette dressing and added a sweet pepper (not from our garden...yet) to make a yummy and fresh salad.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sewing Links

Here are some links to great information on fitting and alterations:

An alterations guide from Kwik Sew: download the pdf here

Lots of great articles on fit from Threads

From the Pattern Review site, Sleeve Fitting by Kenneth King

From the Sewing Divas, Adjusting for Full Bust on a Wrap Top, by Gorgeous Things.

Also from the Sewing Divas, Raglan Sleeve Cap Height Alteration, by Els.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We have lift off!

Watch the NASA video

Will we have lift off?

Tune in tomorrow (June 11) at 11:45 EDT to find out:

GLAST, which is a gamma-ray telescope, is the project I've been working with for the last 5 years.

It was due to launch last week but there were delays with the launch vehicle. Now we only have the weather to worry about.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Yves Saint Laurent Exhibit

As members of the de Young museum in San Francisco, we get a glossy publication in the mail that gives us notice about the upcoming exhibits. I was thrilled to see there will be an Yves Saint Laurent exhibition from Nov 2008 through March of 2009. The exhibit is currently at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through the end of September and its only other showing will be at the de Young.

Another cool exhibit that's opening next weekend at the de Young, not fashion related but certainly fine art, is the Chihuly glass, which will be on exhibit until September. And while I'm there I'll have to check out the Turkmen Weaving exhibition to marvel at the fine weavings from Central Asia.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I always seem to pick the expensive one

Fashion magazines sometimes will show a lineup of similar jackets or dresses or pants and I can always seem to pick the most expensive one. It just looks better. I don't know whether it's more fitted or there's more detail, but often (not always), I'll pick the one I like and read the fine print only to see that it's the one in the 4-digit range. The designer jacket trumps the Target knockoff nearly 100% of the time...even when Isaac Mizrahi designed the Target frock.

And so it is with cars. I've been sorta, kinda thinking about getting a little sporty convertible. Maybe it's my mid-life crisis or we're financially comfortable enough to splurge...or both. But I don't know what I want and I'm not convinced I should buy one anyway. But I can still look. I'm always looking around at what's out there when I'm driving around. There are a few that catch my eye but one day I spotted this gorgeous little dark blue convertible during my morning commute. I saw it again this morning and for about a minute I was behind it and got a good look. It was perfect. But oh...I can definitely spot the expensive one. It said "Vantage" on its beautifully curved rear end. As in Aston Martin. As in 007 James Bond. As in $150K. Ok, we're not that financially comfortable!

Sometimes I do pick the Target jacket, based on looks alone. But then I try it on and sadly decide to save my money for something that fits and feels better. I say "sadly" because who doesn't want to save money and still get something that looks good and has value? Take the Saturn Sky (aka Pontiac Solstice). Love the styling, love the price, but I don't like the interior and the fact that is has zilch in the way of storage space. And based on past experience, I'm not too keen on Saturn. So I'll keep looking. Looking for that beautiful blue convertible on my morning commute too.

Friday, May 30, 2008

20 lbs

We picked over 20 pounds of cherries from our tree (some never made it into this trug). This is by far the most we've ever harvested. This is an old tree, perhaps an original orchard tree from before the houses were built in 1967. But wow, this was a bumper year for cherries.

We need a taller ladder. These are the ones we couldn't reach.

And if cherries aren't enough, here's a mouthwatering bowl of cherries with black raspberries and strawberries...also from our garden.