Monday, August 31, 2009

'Tis a gift to be simple

Would it be churlish of me to say that I really dislike, nay, HATE is not too strong a word; I hate Simplicity's new website. The way the patterns are displayed is counter intuitive. The What's New section has everything all mixed together regardless of category, so I have to wade through the costumes and kid clothes to see the new women's clothes. And what happened to the line drawings? I used to display the line drawings and the back of the envelopes to decide if I wanted a pattern or not. Now I can't find those - if they are even still there they are well hidden.
Also the website is clunky, and it has so much going on it takes forever to move on to next thing. I used to like looking through the old site and deciding what new patterns I needed. It was quick and easy! SIGH - I liked the way it was before!
What say you, fellow sewistas? Do you like the new website? Or do we have to go back to looking at the books of patterns in the fabric store?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bundles of Love

Today my goal was to put together a bundle for Iraqi Bundles of Love. To read all about it, click on the name.
I espcially love acts of charity that are in the true biblical spirit of caritas; also as we know from the success of microloans, helping women directly is the best way to help a country get back on their feet in the world community.
I think I have more than one box of goodies for the bundles. Mr. Hunting Creek is packing the boxes now, and he will drop off at the post office tomorrow.
Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Since I can't go out...

Since I can't go out in the heat (MS sufferers can't take the heat; if it weren't true it would be an excellent excuse to crank up the air, but it is in fact, true) I might as well post some new patterns. I've put up 12 new McCalls and Butterick Vintage patterns with more to follow. Halloween decorations, costumes, classic dresses, tops, Home dec and more. Just go to what's new on the website and enjoy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Always Something

Sometimes life is perfect and we don't realize how lucky we have it until fate gobsmacks us upside the head and changes everything. When my neurologist showed me the lesions on my MRI and started handing me DVDs about multiple sclerosis and booklets on auto-injectors, I just really couldn't take it all in. Then suddenly I was getting calls from a nurse named Maria to set up an appointment to teach me how to give myself shots. I joked that the only needles I really liked were sewing needles. The kind that you get shots with? Not so much. But Maria was very encouraging, and soon I was giving myself shots like a pro. I learned all about MS treatments in an intensive 2 week course. It's been educational.
I thank all of my Gentle Readers for their wonderful and thoughtful reading suggestions. I suddenly have much more down time to spend reading, since right now I am having trouble walking far. Through all of this personal turmoil, I'd like to note that sewing and reading about sewing has made me feel calmer and more in control of my fate.
Back when I was in high school, I took a Wilderness Survival class, mainly because the teacher said when they announced the class that it was for boys only and that girls weren't tough enough to do "real backpacking". I enlisted my mom to make a few calls to the school board, and suddenly I was going backpacking too. A few other girls signed up as well, and we proved on that trip that we could do anything that the boys did. (I'd like to also point out that we were also cleaner and brought better snacks.)
I have pictures to prove to my kids that I really did do rapelling, rock climbing and swimming in ice cold alpine lakes. At the end of the trip, the instructor told me he thought we had true grit. High praise from a sexist pig. I hope he learned something too. Grit and determination aren't attached to gender.
I learned that summer that when you are tired you can still go farther. You can do more than you think you can do. I am learning this summer that I need to pick my projects carefully. I only have so much energy and strength and so I need to choose wisely what I do every day. But really, isn't this a lesson that we all must learn eventually? Time's a-ticking. We won't always have unlimited time or energy or strength to do everything in our lives that we have planned. We must Choose Wisely.
If you do, you'll be prepared when and if fate gobsmacks you upside the head. Now where did I put my hiking boots...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Need new reading supplies

Oh no! I'm sick and the Dr. says I have to rest and stay in bed. Please send reading suggestions for a poor sick person, who needs to read something cheerful. Or a cool mystery.
Or a historical novel with lots of interesting characters. Mr. Hunting Creek will go to the library for me and bring back the goods.
Consider it a medical emergency. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fitting Issues

I love old patterns for both the actual patterns and also the anthropological aspects. Here we have the primary sources of an era, so to speak, with the attitudes of that time frozen for a moment and laid out before us. Who can not look at this lovely tableau and not know that women of that time were deeply concerned with their weight and appearance? (as my history professors would say, the more things change the more they stay the same). Whenever I read a statement that says, "Oh women in the 50's were lucky, they could have shapely figures," I want to laugh hysterically and point out that these are the people who brought you the girdle.
I have been thinking about weight and sizes recently because I have lost weight and now none of my clothes fit. And I was whining to a friend about how now I have to resolve all of my fitting issues all over again and how lucky she was that she was such a small size and could just buy off the rack. (every time I am in Banana Republic, it seems like all the cool stuff is in size 6. C. says whenever she is there, everything is size 14.) She quickly set me straight. She said that even though she is a small size, nothing fits her in RTW either. And my former boss, who is tall and slender (and looks like Malibu Barbie) also revealed that she has the same problem.
(So if these clothes fit no one, who buys them? A puzzlement. I am so glad I know how to sew.)
We discussed our sewing fitting challenges and it was a revelation to me that every single woman I know who sews had the same challenges. Even tall skinny people have fitting issues? I guess we are all in the same boat.
In my fantasy RTW design company, all of the clothes would come in every size. There would be no size apartheid as practiced now. The poor plus size people and petite people would not be made to feel like social outcasts. And the blouses and dresses would also be available in ABCD and DD cup sizes.
Oh yes, and while I am fantasizing, all of the patterns would come with these adjustments as well.

Simplicity made me cross recently by printing a super cute dress pattern without the bust adjusted bodices. They have a whole line of patterns with them. IMHO, all patterns should come that way. And this dress is so cute, but the way that the bodice is constructed it looks like it will be a Rubik's cube puzzle to figure out how to upgrade, so to speak, to a D cup. (Also they changed their website and no longer feature the complete line drawings. Grrrr).
It would be nice if we as consumers could put a little bit of pressure on the pattern making companies to expand their offerings to all include the bust adjusted option. I've given up on trying to change the RTW companies. I just make my clothes instead.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Are you happy now?

(Sorry, couldn't resist using the title of my favorite Richard Shindell song in a post about creative happiness.)

Nancy K wrote a post earlier this week asking if we were happy with our sewing, and if not, (or if Yes) why?
I'm happy now, but I haven't always been happy. When I was in college I was of course young and fit the patterns right out of the envelope with very minor tweaking. I liked to sew and made most of my clothes.
Then later on, when my kids were small I did not have much time to sew at all, so my projects were small and easy to achieve. I wasn't happy at all. I had almost zero time for myself and hardly any time to make anything. And I learned an important lesson then: don't bite off more than you can chew. Or, as my mom would have said, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
So I scaled back. I made simple stuff, just for fun. I remember making simple wrap skirts, cute clothes for my daughter and her first communion dress. But after that I mostly made Halloween costumes and holiday decorations for a few years until the kids were old enough to no longer needed high intensity supervision (they no longer desired to eat glass or play with knives), AND I finally had a sewing room! Only then did I have a safe place to leave my things out, and make a creative mess. I admit it; I work messy. I have pattern pieces and fabric and scraps everywhere when I am in my creative frenzy and I don't clean up until I'm done. Then when that project is done I survey the wreckage and clean up. After I had my sewing space and room and time to experiment I was MUCH happier. I was able to work on more complex projects that stretched my skills. I had a few missteps, but being a former teacher, I know that mistakes are part of the learning process. I think most of my mistakes in garment sewing at first have been in not really understanding what would look good on me and why. This is difficult for many people to learn. What I like and what looks best are not always the same thing.
(I confess that I sometimes have the fabric selecting skills of a five year old, and that my inner five year old has to be restrained at all times. She wants Princess Fabric. If she is let loose all of my fabric would have sequins, or be shiny or gold lame or otherwise be appropriate only for circus wear. The practical grown up me needs a khaki jeans skirt. The five year old me wants a laminated linen one with metallic accents. You see the problem.)
Fortunately, any woman with a grown daughter and son has a built in "Fashion Death Panel". They are very strict. I once was admiring a black and white paisley knit with 3D sparkle dots.(Sparkle Dots! Yes! Shiny! says my inner 5 year old) One Death Panelist came over and said, "Are you going to wear that pole dancing? If not, you don't need it." (see how mean they are?)
Of course after a few failures I am better at picking my projects. (She says, while knocking wood), I think I do best when I try on a similar item of RTW and see if it looks good on me before I make something similar.

My rules for successful garment sewing follow (your mileage may vary)

1.Make a muslin. It matters.
2.When you make a successful garment, make more of that same pattern and change it up each time. No one will know it is the same pattern.
Plus you learn new skills every time you make a change.
3. Read all about the skills required to make your garment before you start. Read the directions. Make sure you understand them. Read sewing books to amass more skills.
4. Practice new skills on scrap fabric before you cut the crazygood stuff
5. Sometimes things don't come out the way you want them to. This isn't a failure, it's a 'design opportunity'. As Tim Gunn says, "make it work."
5. Sometimes if you set a problem aside, you'll think of a solution later.
6. Be nice to yourself. This is supposed to be fun!

Also when I am stuck in a garment sewing rut, I mix it up and make a shirt for Mr. Hunting Creek, or a baby quilt or something super easy to build up my self esteem. Then, afterwards when my kids aren't looking, I sew something shiny.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mastering An Art

I loved the concept of Julie and Julia. Who hasn't cooked their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one recipe at a time?...What? you haven't? Oh...I have. (Except for the recipes that contain liver, which Mr Hunting Creek refuses to admit is a food. I had to adapt those) It was back in the Dark Ages, when the internets were but a teesny gleam in Al Gore's eyes. I was home that summer of 1988, because I had no job (the company I worked for had gone out of business) and there were few new jobs to have (during the Reagan Recession). I had a 3 1/2year old to watch. I did not watch daytime TV except for Sesame Street, Mr Roger's Neighborhood and, yes, Julia Child.
There is nothing like copious amounts of butter, fresh cream and galettes of potatoes to help mend a broken heart. My mother had passed away that spring, after a long illness, and we were all still recovering from that. Concentrating on making dishes like Poulet Roti a la Normande, with perfect stuffing, a first course, sauce, vegetables and dessert every day is an excellent way to move on with life. I did not cook my way through the book the way Julie Powell did; it would never have occurred to me to just plow through front to back with such single-mindedness of purpose. (all soups one week, all chicken the next, step by step.) Also, Mr. Hunting Creek would have objected to Tarte Tatin for dinner and nothing else, no matter how delicious it was. (He is pretty much stuck in that traditional balanced meal must-have-meat-and-vegetables mindset. This is why I don't have a book deal, I tell him.)I made actual meals, with courses. It was fun, and what with doing that and keeping an eye on a young child, there was no time for brooding. Every day was scheduled: breakfast, clean up, job search during nap time, lunch, clean up, and then cooking all afternoon. It was fun. It was educational. (How many people do you know who have made real boudin blanc?)
This book is serious. It does not talk down to beginning cooks. The authors assume that you take the subject of mastering French cuisine as seriously as they do. If you cook through it and follow the excellent instructions, you will have something wonderful to eat. And maybe feel better about getting on with your life. (That's Julia's genius. You thought that this was just a cookbook? Au contraire!)
Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Future Shock

When I went away to college about 30 years ago, there were no laptops, no ipods, no Apples, no GPS systems. Mr. Hunting Creek and I had to find our way to Berkeley alone. Our parents did not drop us off or attend any orientation functions. We were on our own. Parents in those days threw some money at you and expected you to figure stuff out. Sink or swim, people!
Of course among the many things I packed, besides clothes and sheets and towels, were cookbooks and my sewing machine and patterns. I forgot to bring scissors, so one day I walked down College Avenue and bought a pair of Gingher shears that I have to this very day. I am reminded of this by articles in the paper today of how expensive it is to send a kid to college. I didn't have anything that the kids have now except sheets and pillows. (If I had had a computer, I'd have my doctorate today, because I was world's most reluctant typist and only the fear having to type constant twenty page papers held me back from a life of academia.)
We liked to cook our own meals, so we shopped and cooked from scratch. We entertained our friends. We came from families that cooked, so we believed that if we could read, we could cook. Just follow the recipe. Michael Pollan writes in today's New York Times that no one cooks any more. Can this be true? He didn't ask me. I cook. My husband cooks. My dad and brothers and sister cook. My daughter makes the best Toll House cookies on the planet. My son specializes in amazing sandwiches. He took a cooking class in high school, and would report back that they used Bisquik to make their pancakes, "Not like you, mom." (And of course, that the pancakes weren't as good as mine.)
Is it true? Does no one cook any more? I know lots of people who do. The only takeout that ever graces my kitchen is Virginia barbecue from the Virginia Barbecue company in Ashland, VA, or (lucky, happy day!) barbecue from Pierce's Pit Barbecue in Williamsburg VA, when Mr. Hunting Creek makes it his business to find business near Williamsburg.
If Michael Pollan would like to come to dinner, we'd be happy to make whatever he'd like. In the interest of journalistic integrity of course, to show him some people still know how.