Friday, April 30, 2010

Have I got a deal for you...

ADDENDUM: Thanks folks. I've had a great response to the fabric giveaway and now I have to close enrollment. The boxes will be going out in a few days.

I was cleaning out and organizing my sewing closet today and I'm red-faced with embarrassment about how much fabric I own. When did it get so out of control? Part of the problem is that the storage is limited, and with all fabric, especially longer cuts, stored in plastic boxes, it isn't apparent without some serious digging exactly what I have. I bet that I have bought stuff because I couldn't find an acceptable substitution in the stash closet.

My fabric collection consists of everything from yardage to small scraps left over from cutting out past projects. The leftovers can be anything from a scrap the size of my hand to almost a yard. I'm not really eager to use a lot of them in new designs because I'm tired of them. I thinned the ranks three summers ago and donated bags of fabric to a senior center quilting group, but it appears that just like rabbits, fabric reproduces rapidly!

Every few years I get the urge to clean out closets and reduce the piles of stuff that seem to accumulate, including my sewing supplies. This is looking like one of those years! I have already taken a huge load of clothes to the women's shelter, and have more to go. Some of these were smaller sizes from over 10 years ago that I hung in the guest room closet for "someday". Well, "someday" came with the weight loss but the clothes look ten years old in style and now I don't want some of them! (Boy, how fickle we can be!) So they're going, with some housewares and other stuff. The hardest thing to find a use for is fabric that I don't want anymore.

I'm sure everyone has fabric like that - you've used it one too many times, your tastes have changed, or you simply look at it and wonder "When I bought this, was I on drugs?" Since I can get a charge out of cleaning closets that would rival the best pharmaceuticals (I'm my mother's daughter, all right), I want to dispose of some of my stash.

So, I have a proposal to make that will especially appeal to scrap quilters. If you are willing to take a chance on what you receive and pay postage, I will fill a flat rate box with selections from the stash closet and send it to you. There are several choices of flat rate box sizes. The smallest are 8 5/8" x 5 3/8" x 1 5/8" that ships for $4.95, or 11" x 8 1/2" x 5 1/2" for $10.70. I could get a nice amount of fabric into either one.

I couldn't guarantee what sizes of scraps or what colors, unfortunately, but if you gave me a color preference I would try to meet it.

I also found a quilt kit I bought five or six years ago that I don't want anymore and doubt that I will make. It's "Pansy Park" by Thimbleberries. The kit contains all fabric for the top and all the instructions. I'll sell it for $50 plus postage.

ADDENDUM: The quilt kit has been sold.
This is what it looks like. The border fabric is printed with stripes of small trees. It's a big quilt, too, large queen size. It's pretty but I'm just not up for really large projects right now. One online store is selling the kit for $245, which I certainly didn't pay for it, but I guess scarcity drives the price up. Except here. So do I have a taker?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Of sewing, sizing and "what size am I, anyway?"

I know what my measurements were in high school, because they were announced for the whole Home Ec class to hear. This moment is fixed in my memory.

Freshman home economics always taught sewing in the spring semester. We were going to make a simple A-line shift dress. It was the mid 60's, and that was what girls wore. The most daring thing about our attire was how high you could get the hemline before you earned the baleful glare of the principal as you walked through the front door of the high school. Heck, we couldn't even wear pants to school.

On the first day back after Christmas vacation, the Home Ec teacher announced that today we would measure each other and determine what size pattern we needed. Oh, boy, here it came. Back in my teen years, I wore a misses' size 14, or very occasionally a 12 if we bought anything from Cox's Department Store. The first year in college, I bought a dress at Gidding Jenny, a rather tony place for me to shop except during sales, and it was a size 10. I was giddy, but realized it was the case of a fancy store using "vanity sizing" (the more expensive the clothes, the smaller the size) and I shouldn't take it seriously. Even back then, at a size 14, I was officially a "pudgy girl". Remember "Size 5-7-9 Shop" at your local mall? "The small size specialist", as their jingle proclaimed. If you were fashionable and thin, you shopped there, like all the majorettes and cheerleaders (with the exception of Jane, God bless her) who were mere wisps, with the requisite long blond hair, Pappagallo flats, monogrammed sweaters and Etienne Aigner purses. That was not me. Mom and I made 95% of my clothes and the trendiest thing in my closet was a pair of Bass Weeguns, which were the second shoe of choice.

The Home Ec teacher paired us up and passed out tape measures. I briefly thought of telling her I already knew what size I was, for heaven's sake, because I had made the dress I was standing in at that moment. I even remember it. A gold paisley short sleeved shift with a v-shaped front yoke and covered buttons. I sewed it myself, and I had been making my own clothes for several years before I ended up in compulsory Home Economics class. I could already cook, so fall semester had been pretty boring, but this semester promised to be excruciating.

The girl who was my partner passed the tape measure around me and wrote down the numbers. 36-27-37 1/2. Butterick patterns size 14. Duh. I could have told her that. But then, the teacher called over to us and asked for the measurements so she could fill in the order form for the pattern. Before I could just tell her the size, the other girl piped up and rattled off the numbers.

I could have died.

Now, here's the thing. I just looked up the Butterick patterns size chart, as well as the one from JCPenney, which is pretty representative of mass merchandising. 36-27-37 1/2 translates to between a size 12 and 14 pattern still, but a size 8 at Penney's. When I was those dimensions, I couldn't have fit half of me into a size 8. Methinks there's something going on here.

Just about the time I was in high school, the major pattern companies reworked their sizing to be more in line with mass marketed clothing, and there was pretty much agreement in sizing. You bought the pattern size you bought in the department store, and there weren't any surprises. Some time in the last 40 years, a major shift has occurred in clothes sizing, and it's interesting. Back then, samples were made in a size 6, and that was the size most models were. Remember Twiggy? She caused such a stir partly because she was even smaller than that. Size 6 was an x-small, itty bitty. It still is in patterns, which haven't changed. Look it up.

But now we even have size 0. (And in some specialty stores, size 00, like we're at a roulette table or something. As in "I'm so thin I'm nothing, I'm less than nothing." Today's size 0 is even bigger than size 6 back then. Talk about "vanity sizing".

It's true that people in general are larger than they were 40 years ago. And what would be more depressing for the clothes shopper than to have to steadily march up the size chart as time goes on. But now, you're still a size 14, but a size 14 is more like a size 18 when you were a teen. You could do a lot of lying to yourself with this system.

I got to thinking about sizes while reading an article in this month's Harper's Bazaar entitled "From A Size 14 To A Size 4", detailing the weight loss program of some socialite who was, gasp, not a size 0. Unheard-of. What caught my eye was that at 5'-8 1/2", she said she weighed 190 and wore a 14 before her diet. Pudgy, I'll give her, but huge? No. But to hear her say it, she was beyond the pale. Her picture in the society pages humiliated her. So she starved and exercised herself to be able to fit into all those designer duds.

Nowadays, anything above a size 8's a "fat girl". In her social circles being that large was truly painful for her. Today's size 8 is the equivalent of my measurements in high school, so I guess things don't change much. You know, I can relate to her "before" picture, and honestly, she didn't look that bad (I would have picked a different dress, though - really, nobody looks good in a shiny strapless number. Would you have hated yourself less in an elegant little black dress?). I've lost some weight in the past few months, and I'm still losing. If I got back to the size I was in high school, I would lie on the floor and cry with relief. But above all, I am a realist. Ain't gonna happen. I've been a big girl all my adult life, and even though I'm smaller now, I will never be small. But I'll take a size 14, today's version. Even if she doesn't want it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quilts are definitely easier

I think I've found the absolute worst clothing altering job you can do - removing the waistband from a pair of pants, fitting the waist and replacing it. I still say I would rather make something from scratch than alter it.

I've been losing weight recently due to the diabetes, my diet changes and my stepped-up exercise program. Right now I'm between two sizes, which is really aggravating. Eight or ten pounds or so I will be back in some clothes from 10 years ago but for now I'm buying a few things and making alterations as needed. Some of the things I had to alter were several pairs of Lands End and L.L. Bean khakis, which I live in most of the year.

Each had its own problem. The L.L. Bean pants were too tall in the rise. You know the situation, where you slip on the pants and the waistband is hovering slightly below your bra band? That doesn't seem to happen too often anymore, but these were "classic fit" in the world's worst "Mom jeans" fashion. So I removed the waistband completely, lowered the top line and refitted them with darts and taking in the side seams. Then, back on with the waistband and all the belt loops. It sounds so simple but let me tell you, picking out seams from factory-made clothing is a total pain. It took two hours to do one pair of pants. I spent the evening doing both pairs.

Then it was on to the Lands End pants, which have their own problem. I had bought the ones with elastic in the back waistband because pants that fit my tush are always too big in the waist, but these were a whole different category. I swear, you could get two people in the waist of those khakis! So I removed the front waistband, tailored and darted the front, and sewed them all back together this morning. It was definitely easier than last night's job, but not a picnic.

So at least I have a few pair of pants that mostly fit while the treadmill does its magic. I'm using the pants from 10 years ago as a measuring stick. First it was - ooh, can't even put them on. Then - well, they're on but not zipping. Then - I can zip them but I can't breathe! Right now, they're close, very close. Some people would even wear them as they are, but I can't see myself in tight pants. Not at my age!

Meanwhile, I'm working on some 3" blocks using the pattern from Bonnie Hunter's latest Quiltmaker "Addicted to Scraps" column and a charm pack of Moda's "Harvest Home". They are cute, if a little tedious.

Not even really sure how they will be arranged, but once I get all 72 made we'll hit the design wall and see what comes out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another reason not to live here

Well, in addition to topography that can best be described as "bowl-shaped", which traps any and all particulates in a cloud hovering over the city, this part of the southeast is blessed (cursed?) with a plethora of pines and oak trees which are busily churning out various pollen granules to bedevil those of us with less than perfectly behaved sinuses.

I give you this as an example: That mess is pollen from a southern red oak tree. Which I have. Right next to my house. There's clouds of the stuff all over the yard, my roof, clogging my gutters, covering my sidewalks.
You can see what a mess it makes of the mulch.
And it's been windy, so some of it has already blown away. It was worse yesterday.
I even have oak pollen tumbleweeds rolling around on the lawn. Oh, good grief.
I need a refill for my Astepro prescription.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Take my money, please

Mom is still picking up the pieces from her recent burglary. She is supposed to have a dusk to dawn light installed in the back yard. She's got the 16 foot tall pole and the fixture, just not the electrician to install it. He keeps putting her off. Bad economy or no, I assume that work up there is so good it doesn't matter whom he ticks off. There will always be another job around the corner. Pitiful.

And now she's trying to have the siding replaced on an outbuilding. It's like standing in the middle of the street waving a big stack of bills that no one want to take. She's called three siding installers and can't get anyone to commit to do the work. The first guy quoted the job and now won't call her back. The second wouldn't even come out. The third was there today, came up with an outrageous figure and couldn't tell her when he could get to it. When she tried to negotiate, he just jumped in his truck and drove off. Another case of his figuring there's a sucker on every street corner waiting to be fleeced so he doesn't have to deal with the ones that actually expect work done well, for a reasonable rate, and on time.

My sister-in-law claims this is a peculiar trait of the area; there are fewer of all kinds of craftsmen in that little town, so they get used to calling the shots due to lack of competition. I'm not so sure. I live in a metropolitan area with half a million people. The phone book is full of every type of resource you'd want, and you can't get a job done here either. When I remodeled my kitchen six years ago I must have called twenty contractors. Only two even came out to give me an estimate, and one of those wouldn't call me back. I finally latched onto the father-in-law of a co-worker, who was sort of a pain but at least finished the kitchen. I took a grim enjoyment out of the fact that several of those nonresponsive contractors aren't in business anymore. Gee, wonder why?

The trim on the outside of the house needs painting this spring, and I'm already dreading the search. If it didn't involve ladders and painting over your head twelve feet off the ground, I would do it myself; unfortunately, I don't have a death wish. What I do have is the phone number of a painter at the business where I used to work. I think he moonlights.

Photo adventures

Catsinger recently blogged about her experience at the DMV (which I am sorry to say are universally wretched). I got to thinking about the last two "photo opportunities" I had, my new driver's license and my passport renewal picture.

First, I want to make it clear than a ravin' beauty I ain't. I consider my appearance serviceable. All the features on my face work - well, my eyesight isn't what it could be, but that's another tale. I have two of all the bilaterally symmetrical parts, and my nose is centered where it should be. I have no vanity.

But my driver's license picture was the final insult after a terrible day waiting in lines followed by dealing with insolent employees followed by more waiting in lines. How to describe it? Grim might be a word. And haggard, in that special fluorescent-lit way - her camera flash did nothing to color balance the result. I'm praying I never get pulled over because not even a policeman should see that picture.

I realized last month that my passport will expire in July and figured that I should get a jump on the process and have the photos taken soon. So I thought, aha, I will circumvent part of the inherent problems in this situation and get the picture made right after my hair is cut and fixed. At least one problem solved.

So that's what I did. Right after I left the beauty shop I stopped at the local camera store that takes passport photos. Well, that didn't turn out like expected.

This guy was in a hurry. A big hurry. He took my ten dollars and motioned for me to sit on a stool in front of his backdrop. I was almost settled on the seat when - snap! went the camera, leaving me to sputter that I wasn't ready. Did that matter? Nope. One shot, one shot only.

He counted off the time and peeled the polaroid off its backing. Oh lord. It was dreadful. My mouth is set in a sort of rictus, every bit of my crepey chicken neck (gee, thanks for that gene, Mom) is exposed, and my eyes are sort of bugged out, probably from being startled by the flash. I took them in a kind of "Well, gee THANKS" way and slunk off to the car. If possible, it's even worse than my driver's license. The photos are sitting in my jewelry box until I get up the courage to try again.

But my hair looked fabulous.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Flowers and tomatoes and herbs, oh my!

Just a few terrible pictures of my handiwork. Sorry, I took them through the sliding door so they're not very good.

The flower bed/tomato patch: Patio planters:
Here's a close-up of one:
That's not all, but it gives you an idea why I'm tired and pretty sore from crawling around on the ground yesterday.

Requiem for a really unlucky squirrel

I was sitting at my computer this morning, eating a bowl of Cheerios while reading my email when BAM! suddenly there was a loud explosive noise from the backyard and my desk light went out. The UPS on the desktop computer started beeping. Oh darn, power outage.

I took a look out the back door but didn't see anything awry except for something that looked vaguely different about the transformer on the power pole behind the house which I couldn't pinpoint. I couldn't tell how many houses the outage impacted either. So, I looked up the power company outage hotline number (for the second time this month - there was a power interruption on Easter Sunday too) and reported it.

It wasn't more than 45 minutes before an electric company truck pulled up in front of my house. By then I was outside working so I walked over and told him what I had heard. He headed for the power pole on the back property line where my house feed originates. One look told him what was wrong - and what had done it. There's a type of fuse on the transformer, and it was blown. It would be a quick fix. The dangling disconnected end was what I had seen without realizing what was different. Then he pointed to the yard behind me. "Squirrel."

Yes indeed, there the poor thing lay, stiff as a board. It had evidently gotten on the top of the transformer and shorted across the poles with its body, the result being it was electrocuted immediately. Probably never knew what hit it. The power company guy said he had 10 or 12 of these happen a day. Man, it's hard being a squirrel.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gardening - day one

Everything is planted except my manger baskets because I forgot to buy new coco fiber liners. The pots flanking the driveway were a nightmare. Roots from last year's ferns were so thick that I dumped the entire clump of dirt out on a tarp in one big pot-shaped mass and attacked it with a garden fork. I could only reuse about half the soil from each pot. The rest was more roots than dirt. That took far longer than I planned, and that's why I didn't get to the furniture today. Well, that and loosening the dirt in my flower beds. Gotta love that Garden Claw!

And I filled the birdbath, so tell the birds, the pool is open!

Let the gardening commence!

Well, I'm on my way out to work in the yard. I've got flowers and vegetables to plant and patio furniture to wash and set up. Let me see, have I got everything?

Sunglasses? Check. Sunblock? Check. Box of Kleenex (it's pollen season)? Check. Towels for perspiration? Check. Cordless phone, thermos of water, extra key so I don't accidentally lock myself out? Check, check, check.

Gee, what a load. I'm only going 50 feet from the house, after all. Oh well, better to be prepared!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Now you see it (design wall), now you don't

Just finished a little cutie in yellow and purple - not a color combination I normally try but the cat and bird Project Linus quilt got me thinking in that direction. I stuck it up on my now not-portable design wall (more later) and took a picture. This is a bit hard because the design wall is mounted in the hallway which is only 42" wide, so getting enough distance to capture the full quilt is a problem. This photo was shot a little from below, causing the trapezoidal effect. And here is is folded on my desk with its backing and binding. Isn't that backing fabric something else!The benefit of having a portable design was was beginning to be outweighed by the drawbacks. I got tired of leaning it against the kitchen wall or the bedroom closet doors, and wanted somewhere I could leave projects in place without it being in the way. The design wall is a 40" x 60" piece of foamcore covered with batting and white flannel, by the way, so it doesn't take much room. It's good for small quilts.

Then I thought of the wall behind the quilt rack in the hallway. I could hang it there with some of those nifty Command adhesive picture hangers and camouflage it with the quilt on display. So here's how it turned out.

Now you don't see it:
And now you do:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why didn't I finish this sooner?

Here's a quick view of a Project Linus quilt that I started piecing, oh, about 1 1/2 years ago. Why didn't I finish it then? Who knows? It's very cute fabric called "Brazen Blue Birds" by Timeless Treasures, which has these adorable nervy birds bedeviling an orange kitty. I like the little bordered center pictures in the star blocks which came from a panel, and I love the effect of the sashing, which came about because I had two possible yellow florals for the sashing and decided to use both.

Anyway, I've gotten it to this state and now it resided in my "Geez, I've got to start quilting" drawer. I'm wondering if I could find someone with a longarm machine in southeastern Tennessee who would like to collaborate on these. It would be sooooo much faster than my machine quilting. Any takers?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The new Quiltmaker issue

I've got some things on my mind today that I needed distraction from thinking about. It's not about me, so I don't feel comfortable talking about the details, but suffice to say I needed a project. The new Quiltmaker had arrived two days ago, and in it I found just the thing.

First, I made the new Bonnie Hunter scrappy blocks for my planned sampler quilt "Patriotic Fervor". This month's block was 9" and is seen in the photo below with the other two blocks, which are 8 1/2" and 6":

The final quilt is going to be one of those mad arrangements of many different size blocks, assembled with pinwheel, flying geese and four patch blocks. I'm looking forward to it. But I need to learn how to use EQ's custom format mode.

Then, last night before I went to bed as I was flipping through the issue I came upon the pattern for "Summer Siesta" on page 16. Well, well, I mused, I have some scraps in those colors. I slipped out of bed and pulled a few pieces from my stash closet. Then this morning I cut out all the pieces. It was completed a couple of hours ago.

The quilt is 48" square. Here's a photo of the quilt top, backing and binding folded on the guest bed:Aren't the colors just scrumptious? This will be a great donation quilt for a little girl.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Car troubles, part 2

I just made a few calls to local garages and found out that fixing the knock sensor on my husband's car will run closer to $1100 than $700. Yipes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

And the hits just keep on comin'

On top of everything else that is happening, I took my husband's car for emissions inspection yesterday and it flunked. The code reader said it had a bad knock sensor (what the heck is that?). Husband says it will cost over $700 to fix. Rats. We also need to get the blower speed control replaced on the A/C (only the highest speed works right now, so it's a bit windy and very noisy when you run the fan), so we won't get out of the repair shop with less than a $1000 bill.

This is what you get with a 14 year old car (even a well maintained low mileage 14 year old car). The fact that it's an Infiniti isn't going to help. Their parts are ridiculously expensive. My friend owns one too; his car had a broken dash clock. He said several years ago it cost $200 to buy the part, not counting installation costs. $200 for a clock?

Distracting myself

Well, this is one of those posts that's in the interest of full disclosure - or, as my mom says, The Truth Will Set You Free. This drawer contains pieced small quilt tops waiting to be quilted and finished:Wow.

On the left is my bag of bindings, then sixteen small quilt tops ranging in size from 16" x 20" to 60" x 60", one Project Linus quilt that's 50% pieced, and then two queen size quilts that are 25 - 30% pieced. Some of them are from last year, but quite a few are 2010 projects.

I guess you can tell from this that I like the piecing a lot more than the quilting. But I suppose there's more to it than that.

Sewing is my relief. As well as sewing to accomplish projects, I sew to relax and to distract myself from stuff on my mind. It's soothing to feed patches through the machine and watch blocks and then quilts emerge. And if you are working on a quilt, you have to concentrate or things will go awry. It's a nice thing to do to keep yourself from brooding on problems. And since the first of the year, I've been dealing with a new problem.

I had my yearly check-up on January 5th. That evening, the on-call doctor from the practice called me at home and asked me to come back to the office the next day for some more blood tests. "What tests?" I asked. I figured that my cholesterol, which was trending higher, was up and they were going to try to talk me into taking cholesterol lowering drugs (which I was leery of).

"We want to redo the blood glucose test," he replied. "Yours was over 300."

300????? In case you don't know, that's BAAAAAAD.

I have to say now that this was out of the blue. The results of my physical twelve months before were perfectly normal. I had seen the doctor during the summer and fall because he was watching my cholesterol test results, but they did the blood chemistry panel then and my blood sugar wasn't high.

So back to the office I went in the morning. The lab tech stuck my finger and showed me the results on the meter. 345. Oh my. The doctor's nurse came and got me and set me in an examining room. Doc came in shaking his head. "Well, we have a problem."

No kidding. And what's that "we" stuff?

He told me that I had developed type 2 diabetes, the insulin resistance kind, where your body's beta cells may be producing less insulin as you age, but the main problem is that your body is not metabolizing it correctly, allowing your blood glucose to rise. He was going to do another blood test call an A1C, which would show percent glucose levels in my red blood cells and, since red cells stay in circulation 2 to 3 months, would give a snapshot of historical blood sugar levels better than a one time test.

He also gave me a diet guide, a coupon for a free meter, booked me into a diabetes education class and wrote a prescription for a drug which you take my mouth that helps the body metabolize the insulin you make. If your body is not making insulin, this drug will not help, so it's also a way to see if it's an insulin resistance problem or an insulin production problem. You can also do a blood test called a C-peptide test to assess beta cell function, but luckily I respond well to the medication so I guess my little beta cells have not pooped out yet.

So that's my life now. My blood sugar is back in the normal range, my A1C result (which was absolutely awful in January, by the way) is almost back to normal, and I have finished the classes. I walk two miles a day on my treadmill. I've adapted my diet to the new rules, which wasn't very hard except for just about giving up bread and cutting out any refined sugar completely. I've always been a big veggie eater and we almost never eat out, so my cooking didn't really change. I don't want to downplay the difficulty of the transition; it does turn your life around. So that's why I've been sewing so much - to think about something else for a while.

It did hit me a few weeks ago that I don't get a birthday cake this year. I think I need to figure out how to bake with Splenda. I made my husband a German chocolate cake a few weeks ago (just because I can't eat it doesn't mean he has to do without) and that was difficult. Makes me realize that I'm a taster when I cook!

I have a routine in my meals, exercise and such. I check my blood sugar several times a day and I've even gotten used to pricking my fingers. I guess I had a lot of practice with all the pins I've stuck myself with through the years.

And I've lost 20 pounds since January. As my husband says, "The way you're eating, you'd HAVE to lose weight." This is not a diet I recommend.