Saturday, April 27, 2019

Life Unexpected

Over the past few months, there has been an explosion of conversations about inclusion-exclusion over such topics as diversity, color, gender, sexuality, size, etc. I have chosen to sit back and listen to all that was being said before sharing my two cents, so here it is I am a 62-year-old black woman working at in a job I am over qualified and grossly underpaid for, and a completely undervalued maker of all things. So to say I check all the boxes in this conversation is putting it mildly. I titled this post "Life Unexpected"  because by most standards I am just that poor I have never been anything but poor, I am part of the society that is living paycheck to paycheck. When I first moved to Virginia I sustained my family of 4 which included my elderly mother myself and my two boys who were 11 and 1 on $900 a month. I took the job because it had the benefits of health care for my children. I also continued to make things, going from craft show, after craft show, hoping to make ends meet ,or at least be close enough to wave, all with children in tow, driving from town to town in an old station wagon I managed to buy for $500 in change I had brought with me by way of an old glass water cooler jug. Bootstrapping at it's finest wouldn't you say, isn't that how the saying goes "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" only what is not said that the rules are different when you are a black woman, a single parent with two children, there is a societal boot that is always on your neck, making it very difficult to pull yourself up.

When I first moved here I was told over and over that my education " ain't gonna help me here"! Except, it kinda did, only not in a conventional sense, I used what I knew to open a little shop in town where I could care for my youngest son while working at the shop.  Then when my oldest came from school he took care of the shop while I went home cooked dinner.  then I went back to the shop to close up. Our evenings consisted of dinner and care for everyone, then once they were all in bed I would make things for the shop. Life, like this, continued for two years until I was rewarded with the above-mentioned job. Now I know what you are thinking I could have done something else gotten a different job etc... but I had wanted to be more involved in my children's lives. I am pretty sure my oldest is scarred for life after going from wearing and shopping at Neiman Marcus, to shopping at outlets. Yes, I know how ridiculous was I to be shopping for a child one of the worlds most expensive stores, but BV (before Virginia) I could and I did. Sorry, back to the topic even back then I was not what most would call even Middle Class, I was just a higher class of poor, but man what I would do with that income now it sure shit wouldn't be shopping. I was able to get this job making $900 per month with a bachelor's degree, so in order to feed my family, I would make things at night to sell. My days would look something like this I would go to my day job, come home cook, check in on my mom who was looking after the youngest, check in with my oldest about school and such, then when everyone was asleep I would stay up making breakfast stuff for the next day like breakfast biscuits that everyone could heat and just grab and go. Prepping meals in the crockpot for quick dinners. That was my life for 10 years then it was brought to a grinding halt with the loss of my day job. By then the children no longer babies, oldest is out on his own and the youngest is in high school. I have never been one to panic, so I looked for a job closer to home, but I couldn't find one so I travel to where the oldest is, which happens to be three a three-hour drive and I find a great job while staying with him during the week. I was working 4-10-hour days so that I could drive 3 hours home on the weekends to take care of my aging mother and teenage son, all of which was done for a whole year leading up to my mother's passing. I stay home to take care of my son who is a junior in high school. I get a low paying job, quit, cause I can barely put food on the table, I was really skinny though, starvation can do that for you! I persevered  I get a really terrible job, but the pay is better, but I leave after a year. I find a better job stay for about 5 years then a change in administration makes it impossible for me to stay, prejudice rearing its ugly head. I  decide moving out of town is the answer only to return a few months later, some lessons are hard learned, Luckily I was able to the come back to the house I now owned and go back to school to get my Master's all the while my youngest is attending college too. I have no idea what I was thinking except I had always wanted to do it, so I did.

Each move I reinvent myself I would leave behind something I thought I needed only to discover It was a want, not a need, each time becoming a simpler version of myself.  When I decided to move I got rid of everything, put the house up for sale and drove away from that life only to then boomerang back a few months later, with 3 pieces of furniture, one of which was my bed.  So as some of you look at my Instagram stories and comment on its loveliness keep in mind that everything came to me as a foundling that I reused and remade, and that it took two years before I was able to remake the first piece of furniture. I have come to think of my life not in terms of dollars and cents, but in the quality of my life. I love that every piece in my home has been made, or remade, given or stitched by those I call a friend. 
The children are out living lives with families of their own and have become very fine men. As I listen to all the stories shared on Instagram I begin to wonder, with all that I have am I poor, yes, by some standards, but I have a roof over my head and food to eat, versus really poor with neither of those fundamental tenets. So much is being said about zero waste life, I think I have that covered.

So I guess the takeaway here is, don't compare your life to those around you, because that is a sure way to feel dissatisfied in your own life. My life has not been "easy" but then I wouldn't be who I am now if it had. embrace who you are not who others think you should be. 

Live Simply

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Cleaning in Twenty Nineteen

Can you believe it, it's January 31st already and another year has officially begun! I took the month off from making, as self-care. One of the things I do is clean, crazy right, I love the freedom to not have to think about anything but the task at hand.

Recently I am finding myself drawn to using all natural handmade cleansers, such as small batches of *cleaning vinegar, I cleaned my ovens with just baking soda and my newly made cleaning vinegar, Which cleans so well I was quite amazed. Sorry I digress back to the pillows.

I decided I would make new seating for this, so off the cushions came little did I know how dirty they were.
Once I removed the covers this is what I saw, badly soiled, but perfectly good pillows.

I don't know about you but I tried once before to clean my pillows and it didn't very well. Never one to give up I thought I would give it one last try before I ditched the pillows.

In my front loading machine, I placed one pillow, I tried two at first but only one got clean, so one at a time it is. I used a small amount of seventh generation detergent and I added some of my recently made kinds of vinegar this one was lavender scented instead of bleach. I have a sanitize setting on my machine but I chose to use the towel setting instead. Changed the water setting to warm and the soil setting to high closed the door and pushed the button to start. Once it's finished you will have a clean fresh pillow. Now to dry, I used the air dry setting on my front loading dryer that already has three wool dryer balls inside or if you have the room leave them in an area to dry, or if you are lucky enough to have an outdoor space in the sun that is always is the best.

Fresh clean pillows for my guest room, and to think I almost went out to buy new pillows for my arriving guest.

*Cleaning Vinegars are simple to make. Fill a glass jar with the peels of lemon or oranges then cover with white vinegar and in this case, I add a few sprigs of lavender for the nice smell of spring. You can also add cinnamon sticks or a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme. Place the jar in a dark room I put mine on my pantry shelf and leave it for at least two weeks. Remove peels and strain. Pour into a spray bottle half filled with water, the rest can go back into the pantry for refills or a variety of other uses.

Happy Cleaning

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Self Care Over 60

I was thinking last night about a new post for here, and I think the perfect subject would be self care.
 I am currently inching my way towards changes, changes that will improve my quality of life now that I have reached a milestone of being over 60. Now let me just preface this by disclosing that I have never spent much time taking care of myself, only doing the usual wash my face, brush my teeth, use lotion maybe I was never much of a makeup girl.  I will discuss my own routine that works for me. 

On my face, I suffer from keloid scarring, which according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, an estimated 10 percent of people experience keloid scarring. Men and women are equally likely to have keloid scars. People with darkly pigmented skin, such as African-Americans, are more prone to keloids. I always thought that any type of scrubbing would cause more to form, I have since learned better.

My morning routine for my face is I wash my face with Philosophy's daily exfoliating wash followed by a small amount of renewed hope in a jar refreshing and refining moisturizer. Teeth: I brush with Tom's of Maine Botanically Bright fluoride-free Whitening Toothpaste.  My night routine for my face is I wash with Philosophy's purity one-step facial cleanser followed by a small amount of renewed hope in a jar overnight recharging & refining moisturizer. I stack the jars white on top for morning black on bottom for the evening, then reversing, so at a glance, I will know that I did each step. Teeth: I use a pea size amount of Crest pro-health toothpaste followed by a tiny swish of the pro-health mouthwash.

Bath time is another self-care routine for me using Archipelago Botanicals Milk Bubble Bath, body wash and a scrub of the Milk Soy Protein Exfoliating Body Polish using one of my own 100% cotton spa cloths followed up by a generous amount of coconut oil from neck to toes. 

Hand care: Butter London Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator on Sundays followed by Hardwear P.D Quick Topcoat for the next 7 days before bed.
Now before you say I don't have time to do this, it takes a total of 10 minutes, 5 minutes wash and moisturize face, 2 minutes to brush teeth and finally 3 minutes to polish nails and allow to dry. I have also recently removed all electronics from my bedroom except for now my phone, which I keep under my pillow,  after having watched Open House on Netflix I'm too  scared not to hahahaha. I also started walking 4 miles 3 times a week, try to get 8 hours of sleep, and to drink at least 12 glasses of water everyday. I'm not here to tell you it's not hard sometimes, I hate getting up at 6 a.m. three times a week, but I feel I'm worth it.
This is not a paid advertising I am only passing on information about what has worked wonders for my health and well being. Remember it takes 90 days to form a habit, Ask yourself this If you don't take care of yourself who will. Find your ritual and give it time, and be good to yourself.

Be well

Saturday, July 7, 2018

A Summer Of Reading

If you follow my Instagram account you have will have noticed a serious uptick in my reading. I have always been a voracious reader, and I recently discovered Overdrive, an online source to not only your local library, and others as well. I also returned to my local library with a renewed sense of wonder. My journey down this reading rabbit hole all started with 3 free books from Audible, yes they snared me with Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight a prequel to her YA City of Bones series, next David Lagercrantz who took up the task of continuing the Lisbeth Salander sagas, then finally Stephen King's 3rd book in the trilogy End of Watch.
 I've always maintained two cabinets filled with books that serve as nightstands, so a bit before summer began I sorted them not only according to authors but also in series order and I began to read. I am not going to give reviews, but I will give you the titles so that you may explore them if you wish. 

Here is a list of what I have read or listened to:  The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye David Lagercrantz, Immortalist by Chloe Benjamin, Deja Dead, Death Du Jour, Deadly Decisions, Fatal Voyage, Grave Secrets, Bare Bones, and Monday Mourning Mourning all are from a new series to me by Kathy Reichs, Stephen Kings Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch the Bill Hodge trilogy. I have been reading the Alex Cross series by James Patterson since forever so I pick them up where I left off and started with Cross, Double Cross, Cross Country, I Alex Cross, CrossFire, Kill Alex Cross well you get the idea I have finally made my way through to this year The People vs Alex Cross that I am waitlisted for on Overdrive. Along the way, I have discovered two more series The Women's Murder Club, and Private both by James Patterson and other authors. I've rediscovered Dan Brown's, Robert Langston's series after having read the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons so long ago. I read this series totally out of order, turns out it didn't make too much of a difference. I started back with Origin, then Inferno, and I am currently reading Lost Symbol. Finally, my returned to Dean Koontz with The Husband, The Good Guy and I am waitlisted for The Darkest Evening of the Year.
I have about three more weeks before I return to work so I hope to get a few more books in before closing out my summer of reading. I hope you give Overdrive a try it's truly life altering. If you still like the feel of holding and reading physical books do like I did visit your local library and fall in love with books all over again.

Happy Reading

Saturday, May 26, 2018

PDF Pattern Printing

Many of you have heard me voice my dislike of PDF patterns. My dislike stem from the fact that upon purchasing the said pattern, you are then directed to print for use. For that reason alone I flat out avoided PDF patterns until now! I have finally found a solution to this dilemma and I am going to talk about three here today.
One PDF pattern 96 pages

First up is Staples who offers Blueprinting service here. You can upload the item you want to be printed and have them printed in three standard sizes 18 x 24, 24 x 36, and 36 x 48  with the pricing starting at $1.79. This is great but because I wasn't always sure of the size to choose and the only way I could be sure is to go to the store, which was an hour drive one way, I admit I have only used their service once, the prints were nice and inexpensive, just one large sheet of what feels like rolled copier paper.

Staples blueprint pattern the crumpled one on the far left

Next up is Patternsy run by a lovely couple Mark and Su in the UK. I had first discovered them through a mention on Instagram, so at the time I had just a few patterns in PDF form, but I had just purchased Sew Liberated's Metamorphic Dress pattern so I uploaded that to be printed. Now they provide, what I call, the Cadillac service of pattern printing. When the pattern arrived folded and in a plastic ziplock. I discovered it was printed on a not too heavy tissue paper. Perfect right, but unfortunately this perfection came at a price £11.40 GBP or $13.29 US which for a pattern that cost $14.95 bringing the total to $28.34 for one pattern, ouch. Way more than I could afford on a regular basis. The silver lining is, I happened to win 50% off of printing on their IG feed by being the first to comment, so I decided to go for it, getting 10 patterns printed at the discounted cost of £35.33 GBP or $46.98. Which when averaged brought the cost per pattern down, also most were free downloads, to about $5.00 per. I discovered they are also able to print tiled patterns and put them together on one sheet like you see below with my very first PDF pattern purchased. As I said the Cadillac pattern printing.
Tova Top and Dress Pattern Tiled pattern

My latest Patternsy haul

My final discovery is PDF Plotting who is located right here in Virginia and have great customer service by way of Mike Barnes, Vice President of Operations. He walked me through all the steps of ordering. Your patterns will have to be AO or print shop ready for them to print, however, they are unable to print the tiled ones. They also have a minimum shipping of $6.99 so I wanted to order enough to justify the shipping. The site is very user-friendly I needed help because unbeknown to me I need to view the patterns in Adobe to find the size and page per pattern, I work on a Chromebook and Adobe is not available as an app. I ordered a total of 10 patterns one of which happened to be the Sorbetto and somehow requested all the sizes. even at that, the cost including shipping was around $15 US. They arrived fast in a cardboard triangle shipping box and in perfect shape.

PDF plotting printed pattern

PDF Plotting Patterns are the three neat printouts to the right
I hope this helps in making a decision on what to do when you love the pattern but don't want to spend time taping 96 pages together BEFORE you can begin to cut out your fabric.
 I have also added a few pictures of how I store my patterns once they have been cut and used. 

Happy Sewing

Swedish Tracing Paper

Previous PDF Patterns

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Me Made May

I love when May rolls around for two reasons 1. It heralds the beginning of warmer weather. 2. #MeMadeMay the one month I consciously think about what I need to add to my #handmadewardrobe.

 The patterns I used from the left are: Lisette Diplomat Simplicity 1878, 4 Cynthia Rowley Tea Dresses Simplicity 2215, 2 Scout Tees Grainline Studio, 7 Dottie Angel Frocks Simplicity 1080, 1 Carson Dress, and 1 Carson Dress Coat Paddleboat Studio, 1 Self-drafted Denim Jacket, 1 Tamarack Jacket, 4 Archer Button-up Shirt and 1 Archer Alder Mashup all Grainline Studio, 4 Lisette Portfolio Dresses Simplicity 2245 (out of print), 1 Self-drafted summer top and pants, 1 Denim Skirt again the Cynthia Rowley pattern, 2 Marcy Tilton Pants Vogue 8499.

I will continue to make more adding and subtracting as I go, but so far I am very proud of my effort at having an entirely handmade wardrobe. I also have a growing sweater chest, but that will have to wait for another post.

Happy Sewing

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Carson Dress

Sew Days

I put off making the Carson Dress pattern for a while because it only comes in PDF form. Now the last thing I want to do is tape a bunch of 8x11 pages together, but I kept seeing all these really cute versions on Instagram I decided to go for it. After I taped together the 38 pages for the pattern I proceeded to cut out the L first for the dress, then size XXL for the coat hack. I had some lovely olive linen and Lotta Jansdotter print both from Fabricmart. Directions are very clear and it would be a great pattern for a beginner. I chose to do pleats, to add fullness to the front and back I moved the pattern pieces 2 inches from the fold on the skirt pieces.
*UPDATE* the Carson Dress pattern is now available in AO shop printing version.
Finished Carson Dress

Contrasting pocket

Carson Coat Hack

Instead of placing the front pieces on a fold, I put the pattern pieces, both 2 inches from the selvage this would now become my button plackets. I also made facings the fronts and back. The finished pieces went together very easily, I clean finished all the edges with a  zigzag stitch over all the edges.

Front Facing and Button Placket

Side View
Back Facing

Finished Carson Dress and Coat Hack
Finished Coat Dress
Back Detail