Thursday, July 23, 2020

Lots of sewing

Since starting to sew bras, I’ve been motivated to sew more frequently. Then of course pandemic sewing hit me with a vengeance. I was giving up sleep to get scrub caps and masks done. I was looking at dream machines and prices in early June. “Too much,” I thought. I sent an email to a semi local dealer (my closest dealer is about 65 miles away). The machine I was eyeing (MOST harp space! FASTEST stitch speed!  BIGGEST DC brushless motor in a domestic, resulting in strongest needle punch strength! Blah, blah, blah!) was listing at $8,000. And I told her I’d buy it with all the listed accessories for $6,000. I never dreamed they would even reply, but she told me if I would buy in the next week, I could have it for $5,000.  I am a working woman who raised 5 kids without any support from anywhere or anyone, and I’m still recovering and don’t have money like that, but what was I supposed to do? I was unlikely to run into a deal that good ever again, and I just had my 60th birthday (can we say present folks?). If I was going to put that complex of a machine through it’s paces and get some good mileage, time is ticking. So I got a loan and bought it.

It’s a damn ocean liner. Here it is perched atop the cabinet for my singer 403A, where I formerly kept my kenmore and my serger side by side. I can (and do) take off the extension table, which gives it more room and a less ridiculous appearance. I did quilt a quilt (TOLD you I’ve been sewing!) with it on, and that was nice, but not as nice as having a machine dropped flat into a table. That’s a possibility down the road, but would require some contemplation and then machine eviction. I picked it up just a few days after George Floyd’s murder. Days later, the black lives and black makers matter movements were blowing up and I thought I might have to send it back.  Janome was dragging feet about offering support. Thankfully, it looks like they are trying to reach out to show some inclusiveness though they’ve got a long way to go.

So, thoughts on the machine. It is well engineered. I would expect so, and it is. It’s quiet, smooth, and fast, and so far amazingly not finicky. I had to slip some knit fabric in for a quick job and did not change the needle, it sailed through it. So, I applied elastic to a sports bra that I had been wearing without the bottom band done, and wow, not a skipped stitch in the knit or elastic with a Janome purple needle, their recommended for free motion quilting and heavier fabrics. I don't particularly love having to scroll through screens to do some things, for instance, the zipper choices. I can just adjust my basic straight and zig zag to do most things, like put in a zipper. However, I’m a little bit appreciative that the zipper application knows just where needle clearance around the zipper foot is. I got tired of the company bragging about the ease of popping in and out the needle plates, but there are three of them for use with different feet, and if they weren’t so easy to switch I might be inclined to do it less. The bobbin winder on first try did this:

I of course had already joined the Facebook group for M7 owners and they were all there to tell me it happens, and that disc takes some coercion but is removable, making the thread easy to remove. Whew. Has not reoccurred. I don’t like that they try to force me to buy Janome needles. I hear rumors that they are just different enough to cause the automatic needle threader not to work. Also, only Janome feet are stressed, I was told using a different ruler foot would void my warranty. I would very much prefer the clear view ruler foot and do wonder, how would Janome know. I’m not big on buying things for my things, and I really revolt on needing to buy specific brands of things. Last note, I found a supreme slider unnecessary on my vintage Singer 201, but there was serious drag with the surface of the ship. I put my old slider on and it helped but was of course too small.  So I bought a bigger one from sew steady that looks like a cutting mat as well as some Sullivan’s 946 silicone spray. Haven’t used them yet.

So, sewing! I’ve managed to get some bras, panties, and even a pair of swim shorts done, all without photos. The shorts are of supplex, probably not the best choice as I understand it doesn’t dry very fast. The comfort level is incredible though, I could walk, sit, bend, stretch, get up and down from sand, swim, get beat in surf and probably never need to tug them back into place once. I’d go so far as to say, having this style and this fabric available for my fat ass almost makes living in such a crazy time....nah. Not even. But, I love the shorts and I’ll do some in swim fabric hopefully soon. Then a grand baby was born a month early, and I had to hop into baby sewing because I should have already been doing it!

The pattern is The Storytime Quilt from made by Rae and is free. I had the charm squares in the stash, but not enough stash fabric for contrast and backing. I bought this tomato solid from a local quilt shop via internet photo and probably would have chosen something else had I been able to see the fabrics in person. I did have the fabric for the binding on hand and feel like it made a significant positive impact on the color scheme. I was about 6 charms short, can you spot them? I did free motion, rulers, in the ditch with Janome bragged about accuflex foot (a glorified walking foot), AND used some of the pretty decorative stitches you never get to use unless a grand baby shows up. I am not in love with this quilt, but I was thrilled with the turn around time. This grand is using cloth diapers so next I moved to diaper inserts with Zorb inside. I thought that would be quick and easy, WRONG!  Pre soaking was recommended to increase absorbency, so I washed and they twisted and bunched. Quilted them down and between the thread and the sackcloth covers, they seemed way too scratchy to put next to an infants butt. I added a flannel final cover, which my serger had trouble chewing all the way through. Washed those and changed the blade on the serger. FINALLY those were ready.

When I thought I was getting done the first time, hahaha.

Finally, I had not intended making an outfit to coordinate with the quilt. I’ve had that lovely octopi fabric for a couple years. This child is living one block from the ocean in Portland Maine and it seemed right. The pattern, Criss Cross Pinafore and Bloomers by Melly at Blank Slate Patterns is reversible and free if you subscribe to her newsletter. I didn’t make the bloomers because I think this child’s momma is having too much fun with her diapers and covers. I did add a wonderful and again, free! pattern for a reversible baby bonnet from Purlsoho. I’ve made several of these and just love them. Although my adult kids make snide comments about Amish and prairie bonnets, if you see how well they protect the head and eyes against sun and wind the function of these beauties can’t be beat.

The homemade piping and bonnet ties are made from the orange red contrast fabric of the quilt.  How nice of Janome to give me a new seamripper. Like they knew I would use it.

Now, maybe it’s time to sew for ME again! Though I’ve got more grands to sew for still.

Monday, June 1, 2020

In a time of pandemic and racial intolerance

Me and mine, circ 1992 or so...

The pandemic is winding down where I live. Racial is not to be tolerated. Of course it’s not new. Just about the time white people’s boots hit the ground in the new America’s we started trying to get the upper hand on the “natives”, and very quickly imported dark skinned people in chains to do the labor. We used everything the Chinese would give us on our rail roads, we locked up all the Japanese in WWII. After emancipation we never let things get better for black folks, we tore down successful communities, we wouldn’t allow flourishing. We stole from them, flooded their communities with drugs, locked up their men. Stole their freaking cells from them, thank you Henrietta Lacks!

I don’t know why we bothered to start teaching our kids about racial equality if we were still going to perpetuate all the shady shit in the dark. 1970 I was 10 and Ray Stevens was singing everything is beautiful and my next door neighbor and constant companion was a little black girl named Harriet. Her sister spray painted “I’m black and I’m proud” on the underside of the slide on the playground at our housing area on Reese AFB TX, but when I asked Harriet about the rest of the song she whispered, it’s secret.  I knew a little bit about Martin Luther King, I knew there were riots about race, but by 1970 I was pretty sure racial injustice had been wiped out. Through the rest of my Air Force brat childhood I was aware that the military mandated racial tolerance and equality be practiced by our fathers and by us, and we were a little ahead (maybe in the Deep South, WAY ahead; Panama City Florida I’m looking at YOU)! I joined the army and spent 8 more years in that artificial environment. I might have been aware there were racist in the ranks, but they were very quiet about it, especially after I married a black soldier. I thought racism, for the main part, was over. There were LAWS about it EEO and fair housing, school integration. I’m not the only white person, privileged white person, to suffer with that delusion. Why did we as a society decide to hide it, when in reality it was still a daily thing for so many people of color?

I heard a bunch  of times, if you marry that black man and have children, they won’t be accepted by any race. Well, that was silly. They were accepted by my white family, and pretty much by all black people. There were some alarm bells about white people through the growing years. I took two preschoolers with me house hunting when I was about to get my RN and was ready to get out of the projects. That realtor showed me substandard house after substandard house, exposed electric, no central heat crap! I got a babysitter and a different realtor, talk about white privilege fix!!  My first grade daughter had school work with red pen bleeding over the papers and then about 8 weeks in, a note from teacher recommending her for special ed. I marched in there fresh from my nursing course on childhood development and quizzed teach on Steph's milestones and spouted names and theories on childhood development. She is getting great grades in her third year of college now at Delaware State University, a historically black college and university (HBCU). My middle school son was arrested in school for scratching his friend’s neck sitting in the chair in front of him with a paper clip, not even drawing blood, just dumb distraction. The shame faced principal told me the kid’s father insisted on it, so they had to blah blah blah. I wonder why it was ever enough of an issue that the kid’s father was notified, how much discussion happened before my son’s parent was called.  Another son arrested with pot in the middle school, they called me and told me to come on down because they were probably going to charge him with trafficking and expel him and those were felony charges. I walked in and the school’s assigned officer had worked with me at the prison, and he said, ohhhhhhh, he’s yours??? And it all went away. Privilege. Mine, not his. Not theirs. Now they are grown, and I can’t walk in and save them anymore. From being black.

Even with my own experiences, and there are many more and the stories got worse once they were adults, the full reality of it didn’t really hit until Trump took office. He disgusted us with his permission and at times blatant encouragement of intolerance and even violence for minorities, and all those people came out like cockroaches when it’s quiet with the lights off, except now they were happy to do it with the lights on. It wasn’t all trump’s fault, the hate, the violence, and the acceptance of it was always there. My black family knew it, I knew of some of it, but unless you are blinded by a whopping dose of degenerative hate, pretty much everyone in the US has to see it now. They were protesting for Mr Floyd in London, Paris, and BELGIUM this week! I am sick for this country. 

I do a lot of white people education, and try to be civil in hopes they can hear me better. Sometimes I’m an asshole, hoping to get deeper under their skin and make a longer impression (a therapist once advised me to act as if! to change my beliefs, I’ll make some people act AS IF). I don’t have lots of dollars to contribute, but I have and will continue to put some where it can help especially black families. I don’t know what else I can do, except I was a prison nurse and an advocate that way for 12 years, maybe I could volunteer for men either in or coming out of the system. White people, we’ve all got to do more.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Black Lives Matter

My heart is sore for our nation, with the hundreds of years of pain and fear because of race.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Pandemic life

Of course, as a nurse, I’m obsessed with this pandemic. I am so grateful that with my age (nearly 60), overweight status and fairly advanced COPD, my current nursing situation is probably worlds safer than grocery store clerk. 8 hour night shifts in 2 client’s homes, mostly at the house where fairly strict quarantine measures are going on. Conversely, I feel both guilt and (because nurses ARE a little crazy) some envy that I’m not deep in the local ICU with my fabulous daughter. I was a soldier once, but nursing is my vocation. Covid 19 should have been my war, but I was sidelined.

So, I’ve been supporting where I can. I knew my daughter didn’t want a stinkin’ homemade mask, but I offered and she almost grudgingly took a few scrub caps with her to work, somewhere around their first two or three positively diagnosed patients. Phone call the next morning, “Mom, your caps are a hit!”. Apparently shit hit the fan. The infectious disease doctor had a fit when he found no head coverings or shoe covers on the floor. He spotted her cap and asked if I could make him one. Then all the working nurses were asking, then a supervisor was asking about outfitting the hospital staff because they were all sold out online. Of course I am a slow sewer, working full time, and unable to promise the hospital, but I thought I could do her ICU. Caps and caps and caps and caps. Then the opinion on fabric masks for the public changed. So I was sewing caps and masks and masks and masks and masks. I didn’t stop to get many photos, none of the caps.

You know how it goes. Pretty pretty fabrics, all the colors and prints, different patterns like some alternate quilt fabric universe where maybe quilt making was suddenly illegal. You know how it goes. I would get tired of those masks, pull some patterns and fabric for another project, but! Another critical request for masks from people I cared about would come in and escape plans screeched to a halt. A nurse at Rhiannon’s hospital has a quilt store and brought in fabrics for mask and cap use. Onto the cutting table. Free downloadable patterns! Onto the table. Man, that dog needs diapers or I’m going to kill him, fabrics and patterns, onto the table, till my table and stash wall looked like this!

Ok, so the mess behind the table and on the shelves isn’t covid’s fault. Mostly mine. Still, if I weren’t “essential” and I was quarantined....well, I think I read that didn’t cause mass cleaning across America so I guess it would still be a mess. I’m mostly ok with it, I find fabric when I look for it.

Something I don’t begrudge: Though I made my masks and caps free, I’m happy for people who sewed and made money. Especially any who had income affected by the virus. Maybe not so much people who had no need for extra cash.

I seem to see some blooming with the kids in my client’s houses, benefiting from home schooling and strangely less stress. Again, I am a little envious of their time off. Still, I’m very glad my income didn’t drop. 

I saw a downloadable diary I thought would be so cool to use and record how this pandemic has affected me, I thought, how cool! But those damn masks were what I would hit when I slumped out of bed, however many times I tumbled out in my sometimes unhealthy night shift style. I see people writing in blogs they’ve left alone for years, or more frequently in ones I enjoy regularly. I thank all those people and thought I’d throw my own entry out there.

One more thing before I go, Herman Stokes III I’m glad I found you again, so sorry that you’ve gone. You deserve that beautiful Jesus you saw so clearly.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Fix a poking wire in a bra

As previously promised. So easy it’s more of a tip than a tutorial really.  Start with the poking wire.

We all know this pain. Sometimes you can wiggle it back into the casing where it might stay for a time. Eventually it is back, stabbing, poking, scratching at you. The best cure is cheap, fast, and easy! That’s a recipe you don’t often get to work with!

Moleskin! Sold in the foot section of stores to cushion and smooth callous or bony areas on feet in shoes. Pictured is Walmart’s brand, Dr Scholl’s looks very similar. It is backed with a paper covered adhesive and has a cushy, fuzzy padding.

Cut a square a little wider than your channel and long enough to keep the patch down securely.

I had tried just zig zagging over this wire, a shoddy and brief repair before I picked up the moleskin.

Now I lay this patch over the hole. I guess lots of non sewers stop after taking off the paper and holding the adhesive down to set it for a few minutes. I much prefer to secure it with some machine stitches.

You can see the ugly zig zag stitching. The two lines of straight stitching along the channel edge is barely noticeable. I promise it’s effective and very comfortable.

There are always more luscious bra kits from many venders. This beautiful one is from Brabuilders. A helpful person did not send the clashing elastic I mistakenly ordered and sent the correct shade of yellow instead. Thanks, Sue!

Incidentally, I was wearing one of my recent (and still unphotographed) tops this week for a sightseeing trip to DC with my visiting brother and family. I got complimented on it in a little candy shop by a hip, urban young woman! This is an unusual experience for me, well I guess being in the presence of a hip urban person is too. It felt really good to blurt out, “thanks, I made it”! She was really impressed!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


From night shift...

Still here, and actually sewing very productively, for me anyway. I gave that Maya bra 3 tries before admitting it was just not working for me. I loved the versions I saw, and really wanted my orange and white scheme to work. It seemed very medical emergency colored, appealing to the nurse in me. But alas.

Wires, foam versions and without foam, pattern adjustments, and I just couldn’t get it right. The breast should not look like a lumpy orange in a sack and the back band shouldn’t be so out of proportion. So, I washed that first Shelly previously posted and suddenly it became extremely comfortable, although the ugly stitching remained. I made a second Pin Up Girls Shelly bra in lemon yellow with white lace that worked very well too, though it never made it to a photo anywhere. I’ve worn it so much I have a wire poking out and need to repair, which I can do effectively with some Dr Scholl moleskin. Maybe when I do it I‘ll snap some tutorial photos. Then I purchased an Eve bra from Porcelynne, a pdf that you buy band separate from cup to get closest to a personally drafted pattern. It was a great fit as well.

    Eve bra from Porcelynne. Duoplex and power net and everything else in one of Brabuilder’s lovely kits.

For a bonus round I made a House of Morrighan PDF Poppy bralet. It definitely needed elastic under the cups for support and I had to trim the longish line because it rolls on me, but now it’s so comfortable and useful- because I’ve pretty much outgrow those first three. The weight is a red flag health issue at this point, but I’ve still got to dress. I’ve just purchased more lingerie supplies and another pattern. Soon I’ll have new and better crafted bras. In any case, I exceeded my goal of three.

I went on and made two long sleeve tops, functional and YAY, well fitting, again a lack of photos. I’m sorry, I suck at the blog thing. One top is the wonderful and FREE PDF pattern from LoveNotions patterns, the Classic T. It comes in extended sizes from small to 3xl AND has a full bust adjustment front piece already made for those who need it. Which meant all I had to do was extend the length for my 5’11” height and needn’t fret about my 58 or 60” full bust. The sleeves were fine. The fabric was cute, my stitching, seams, hems, pressing all worked, but I couldn’t seem to get my hair combed and some eyebrows on and still have enough energy to put the top on and snap.

I managed to get my hair and nails blue. Man, blue fades fast. I like the journey from electric blue to putty gray. 
ANYWAY, the second top- I feel a little clever about it although I failed again with the photos! I had a Style Arc top, the Kendall.

I made this top maybe two years ago, straight from the pattern, epic fail! I had made another Style Arc top and didn’t think I’d need a full bust adjustment. I certainly did. I don’t know what I measured then, but less than 58”.  This round, I was puzzling how to do the alteration with the criss crossing bodice and had just finished the basic t....... hey! So, I mashed up the bottom front S.A. and t, then mashed up the two top pieces. Kept armholes the same as SA, increased that cowl neck....SUCCESS! Both tops were from double brushed poly, which I’ve never sewn or worn before. I’ve been strictly natural fibers. This stuff doesn’t seem too hot or moisture trapping, it’s soft and stretchy and easy enough to sew. I made my first pair of self drafted panties from leftovers, from Beverly Johnson’s Craftsy/Blueprint online class. Serious love for those. They are full, high waisted briefs and humongous but once on they stay where they are supposed to, they cover it all, they don’t bag or twist, droop, wedge or in any way misbehave. THAT’S why so many people are making their own undies!!!!

I outgrew all of my medical scrub tops, and Walmart doesn’t carry the size up that I went into much. I searched online and it’s slim pickings there too, and they’ve got the nerve to mostly charge more if you can find a big one. Then, after you pay shipping and wait for arrival, there’s no guarantee the damn things are going to fit, especially if you are buying from several manufacturers. I never dreamed I’d be sewing scrub tops again, it has been so not financially feasible for most of my career. Much cheaper to buy great ones rtw. I found a great deal on lots of great quality cotton on craftsy, and made myself 5 new tops for about $9. each.

And look I managed a photo! This is after wearing for a shift. I’ve since sewed up some of the vent at the bottom hem, leaving only about 2” rather than 5. It is wonderful to have scrubs I can take a deep breath in, bend over and keep stuff in my pockets, and keep my belly and ass crack covered (I need bigger pants. They’re planned). I impressed myself getting 5 done in one week, I am a  s l o w sewer. I still finished ever seam, did the pressing, careful top stitching. Guess I was motivated.

If I could figure out how to arrange smaller photos I’d show other fabrics, they’re pretty. But I can get the photos smaller and not next to each other. I could figure out how....

I’ve moved this poor neglected baby to a quilt dedicated area I’ve arranged downstairs with my repo’d Singer fashion mate 237. It’s going to be a top soon, then a sandwich and I’ll finally be in the quilting stage again, my favorite!

I started this blog post on the job, and got on a scale for the first time since last September in the morning. 330 lbs. Now I’d rather loose weight than sew for that poundage!!! But as stated above, I must dress. Maybe I can do both. Off to sew something.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The free Maya Bra

I’d like to get three wearable bras made before I move on to cold weather garments. The Shelly I showed in my last post fit rather well, but the wires were off just enough to bug after a few hours, and the lace on the top cups was as scratchy as sandpaper!  I’m not sure if I threw it out or buried it, but it isn’t going to count as one of the three. I am giving the Maya pattern a spin this time because it’s one of the patterns that I like best. Kind of amazing that it is also free. I am under the impression the designer plans to return to the instructions at some point, but as of now the outline is complete but the tutorial stops after the band and cups are done, but before straps and elastics. I’m pretty confident I can complete it and I’m trying to record what I’m doing all the way through, so I can make improvements for my next Maya and possibly do a sew a long video for people who might like some additional guidance on that particular pattern. I’m no expert, but it could still help someone.

The bra is downloadable at AFI atelier. Measure carefully according to directions, don’t imagine your RTW size will work. You can cannibalize wire, strap rings and slides, and a back from another bra. You will still need the right elastics and unless your stash is very versatile, the right power mesh for the backwings. Also a sturdy lining fabric for the front, that frame is where the support comes from. Might as well head to a great lingerie supply store and get all of the right stuff, and WIRES that fit correctly are the most important part of the well fitting bra. Most suppliers have sizes you print out and compare to the measurements you have taken, best discovered by bending some flexible wire around each breast (they can be different enough for you to need to know). If you don’t find good instructions at the first place, look in a second. Also, not all brands of wires have the same measurements for the same size. I know, fun. I am not willing to pay for overseas postage, you can probably find a vendor in your country to help with that expense.  The cloth habit blog  has an excellent post breaking down some sources by world wide location. She should get a prize for that post! 

So, without further ado, some things I’m discovering as I sew my first Maya:

Don’t skip stitch testing on duoplex! It would be pointless to show you my first 15 minutes of testing needles that wouldn’t put a single rotten stitch in! With my previous bra, the Kenmore demanded a Microtex 70 needle. The Viking said, No, Ma’am! I swung over to the Kenmore and she blushed and giggled like she’d never heard of duoplex. I went through many hoops to get these final acceptable stitches, with a universal 80/12 needle, of all the choices. After we settled that, hardly a hiccup except for wanting to suck down fabric through the bobbin hole at the start of each seam. Hold onto those thread tales and start slow.

While the ribbon covering inside seams is very decorative, I could have skipped some bulk and potential scratch factor by sewing my lining like the outside, then sandwiching the foam between lining and fashion fabric. I had cut the lining with the pattern pieces called “lining”, which already had seam allowances trimmed. So it had to be tacked to the foam and sewn by zig zagging over the butted pieces. Therefore, I’m renaming the lining pattern pieces  “foam” and using the same pattern pieces for fashion fabric and lining next time.


There was an awful lot of this going on. She warns you to not mix up which piece goes where! I cannot leave sewing out in a nicely arranged setting though. There is a small child in my life and stuff that I don’t want to share HAS to be put up. My solution for this will be to add some markings. I need to be sure which is top, bottom, right side, wrong side. I decided to leave a cup with one piece showing the “wrong” side. I’m not sure that I didn’t cut two pieces alike rather than opposite for a left and a right. I can’t blame that on the Maya.

So much of this going on. Good thing they are all short seams. Good thing duoplex is such hardy fabric.

These little needle nose pliers reclaimed from my old jewelry making phase are wonderful! Not only are they essential for pulling out tight threads that tire seam ripping hands, they are a relief from the repetitive tiny pinching movements too. Also good for pulling and pushing hand needles through multiple layers when basting.

Toward the end of the project I found a supply of Gutermann Mara thread that I had specifically purchased for the duoplex. Well, I know where it’s at now. It may help with consistently nice stitches. There is an assortment of colors, including white, which I think I prefer over this blend in orange. At the end, the bra was not well enough fitted to wear and I’ve already torn it most the way apart. I can reuse the straps, fasteners, rings and slides. I can use the power mesh and elastics for fitting muslins in other bras, not in a new bra. I have enough fabric to start this over again in orange, this time with white elastics and straps. I have high hopes this one will fit well and be a keeper, then if I like it I’ll do one more, different fabric, for a video. Hoping to build some speed too, I have other things I’d like to make!