Category Archives: DIY journal and projects

Pajama Pant Sew-along: First Steps

pyjama sew along 2I promised to post the first steps on June 1st.  Here we are and I am not done photographing and writing instructions for making adjustments to the length and crotch depth of the pants and was sweating getting this done in time to post by this afternoon – because I just might not be able to do it.   While I’m writing up the instructions for making pattern adjustments you can get started with the first couple of steps you have to take before that point.  Either this evening or tomorrow I will post the full first tutorial including the instructions I’m putting in this post to get you started.

The first thing you need to do is some laundry.

How to pre-shrink your fabric and when you should do it:

Whenever you sew clothing out of natural fibers you need to pre-shrink your fabric unless you only plan to dry clean them later.  Polyester and other synthetic fibers don’t shrink and blends that have a large percentage of synthetics don’t generally shrink either.  Cotton shrinks at first.  If you don’t preshrink it before cutting out your pattern you may end up with a garment that doesn’t fit you.

Wash your fabric with a like-colored load.  I have not had a problem with fabric dye bleeding in years as most dyes are truly fixed but if your fabric is red or red is a dominant color in a print – I would wash it by itself to be safe.  Wash the fabric exactly as you will be washing the finished garment.  If you always use cold water and delicate cycles – do that.  If you wash on hot or warm – do that.  Dry the fabric exactly as you will be drying the garment when it hits your laundry pile.  Be sure to remove the fabric as soon as it’s done drying to prevent deep wrinkles from setting in it and iron it right away.

Cutting the tissue pieces out:

Unfold your sheets of tissue and look for the pants pattern which are numbered 8 and 9.  You will notice that they have included the cutting lines for pajama shorts.  If you want to make shorts instead of pants go ahead and cut along the lines for the size you’re making.  If you are making the pants – note that the shorts hem protrudes out of the side of the pants’ cutting line.  If you can eyeball cutting right through it go ahead.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing that here’s how to deal with it:

cutting out pattern 2Using a clear ruler (you can use an opaque one but it is much harder to see what you’re doing) connect the cutting line above and below the shorts hem and mark that line with a pencil.

cutting pattern out 1Now you can cut the whole piece out and the cutting line is unbroken and easy to see.

cutting out pattern 3Cut both pieces out.  Disable the steam function on your iron and iron the pattern pieces.  I can promise you that this is not a wasted step.  Crinkled pattern pieces can cause your fabric pieces to be misshapen and not sew well together.

That shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes since you only have to cut two pieces out.

Please don’t cut your pattern out of the fabric yet unless you already know that you don’t need to make any adjustments to it.  Later today or tomorrow I will post the full tutorial including how to make simple adjustments (if needed) and show how to lay out and cut the pattern out of the fabric.

Those of you who are experienced and just joining for the fun – go ahead at whatever speed you want.

I’ll be back with more soon!

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Introduction and Supplies List

pyjama sew along 2If you have been wanting to learn to sew clothes but don’t know where to start or are intimidated and need some guidance – this is the place to begin and I am here to help you. Sewing clothes can be fun and rewarding and the more experience you gain the more control you’ll have over the details that make it worthwhile such as custom fit and custom design elements.

Pajama pants are an ideal simple pattern to start with.  You’ll learn some basic sewing terms and skills and end up with a comfortable pair of pants to lounge in.  C’mon – let’s make a pair together!

If you’re an experienced clothes sewer but you want to join this sew along for the fun of it – you are welcome to join!  The instructions will be completely geared towards absolute beginners but you can ignore what you don’t need and speed ahead and meet us at the end for the show and tell.

pyjama pattern“B” is the pattern we’ll be sewing but if you would like to make “C” instead – it’s the same pattern but shortened and I’ll be sure to explain how to shorten the pattern if any of you want to make the shorts.

How the sew-along will work:

The sew-along starts June 1st.

I will divide the project into 4 instructional posts that will be posted once a week.  If you want to sew ahead because you can or you want to try – go for it.  But it’s totally cool to take this project in small doses week by week – which I highly recommend for new sewers.

Tell me you’re joining in the comments section.

You can join without even telling me – just get the supplies and follow along.

When the project is finished everyone will submit a jpeg image of their finished pajama pants to my email (angelinawilliamson1(at)gmail(dot)com)and you will be entered to win the pair I’m making in XL in that adorable red fox fabric seen above.  No photo of your finished pants – no entry.

But the most important reason to submit pictures of your finished project is so we can all share and enjoy each other’s work at the end.  No judgements – just the fun of having made something together.

Supplies you will need to join this sew along:

A sewing machine or access to one.

An iron and ironing board.

Sharp fabric scissors.

Simplicity pattern #5314 in either in AA  (S, M, L) or BB (XL, XXL, XXXL)

100% cotton fabric in the amount indicated for the size you’re sewing.

1 spool of matching thread.

1 yard of 1/2″ width elastic.

1 7/8 yard of 1/2″ twill tape.

How to choose your pattern size:

Forget about what size you are in off the rack clothing. It bears no relation to what size you wear in commercial patterns.  It’s all about measurements.  For this pattern you need to know what your waist and hip size is.  Look on the pattern envelope at the “Body Measurements” section.  Find the size that comes closest to your measurements.

How to take your body measurements.

A tip: if your waist is larger than your hips – choose the size that matches your waist measurement.  If your hips are larger than your waist – pick the size that matches your hips.  If you’re measurements are between sizes – always ALWAYS pick the larger size.  It is much easier to cinch a waistline in than to adjust the pattern to make the waistline bigger.

This is not the time to be vain about numbers.   You’re going to put your time and energy into making something fabulous for yourself – for it to be truly fabulous it needs to actually fit you.

How to choose your fabric:

You want to choose any fabric that is 100% woven cotton, light to medium weight.  You’re going to be lounging and/or sleeping in this pair of pajama pants and while you could make them out of a cotton polyester blend – I can’t recommend it.  That stuff is not healthy.  Especially if you have the horrid misfortune to get caught in a fire while wearing it.  Also avoid using fabrics that have been treated with a flame retardant.  It may retard flames but it may also retard other things like biological functioning as it is toxic crap.

Quilting cottons will work great.  Lighter weight novelty cottons will also work great.  You can find the content of any bolt of fabric at the very top of the cardboard bolt.  You can also find out the fabric width there.  Most 100% cotton quilting and novelty fabrics are 45″ wide and this is perfect.

The amount of yardage you need will depend on what size you’re sewing and what width of fabric you’re using.  This information is always listed on the back of the pattern envelope.

Choosing elastic and twill tape:

Everyone knows what elastic is unless they’ve been living in an elastic-free monastery.  It doesn’t generally come in very many color choices in the fabric store so it’s usually going to be either black, white, or natural.  Choose the black for any medium to dark colored prints or solid fabrics.  Choose white for any light colored solids or printed fabrics.  You can use the natural for any of the light colored solids or printed fabrics too – except for solid white.  A natural unbleached elastic may show through a light weight or medium weight solid white fabric and for the most professional results you don’t want a darker elastic showing through your casing.

Not as many people know what twill tape is so here’s what you’re looking for:

half inch twill tapeLike elastic – it doesn’t generally come in many color options so use the same rules for twill that you do for elastic.  If you have a darker print or solid fabric and can’t find a matching or even dark twill tape – then go for the natural.

I always choose natural unbleached things when I can for two reasons – the less bleach in my life or on the planet being used – the better for all.  But more selfishly than that – I hate white.  I ruin white things.  White depresses me in wall paints, carpets, and furnishings and I can’t tell if it’s because it’s so stark and blinding or because I know if it was in my possession I would destroy it in a matter of hours.  While white clothing can sometimes be fetching – I am especially skilled at spilling things or sitting on gross staining things when wearing white.  So I don’t ever wear it. 

But you may like white.  Maybe white cheers you up or makes you feel bright and sunshiny.  That’s cool.  Go with what works for you as long as you first pay attention to the details above.

Choosing thread:

I know I said polyester is the antichrist but when it comes to thread I always choose either a cotton/poly blend or 100% polyester thread unless it’s for a quilt.  The reason is this – most 100% cotton threads are weaker than a blend or completely synthetic.  The downside of polyester thread is that irons like to melt it on hot settings so you need to be careful.

Does brand matter?  I only use two brands of sewing thread for my regular sewing machine (I am less particular about my serger threads) and I don’t think of one as better than the other (though I’m sure you can find people who passionately prefer one over the other).  I either use Coats & Clark Dual Duty or Gutermann.  Coats is generally much less expensive than Gutermann.  Joanne’s frequently has sales on thread so be sure to check for 40% coupons which you can print from their online site.

A 300 yard spool is fine for this project if you have a serger to over-cast your edges with.  If you don’t have access to a serger I’m going to show you how to use your zigzag stitch to keep your edges from fraying – so if this is you – you’ll need a larger spool with between 500 and 600 yards of thread on it.

Matching your thread to your fabric.  If you are not good at matching colors – bring a friend with you who is.  Having your thread match your fabric is one of the most important ways you can make your garment look professional.  If you’re using a printed fabric you want to match the main color in it.  If there’s a background color that’s prominent – that’s what you want to match.  If there isn’t a distinctly prominent color then look for threads that when you hold it against the fabric seem the least noticeable.  You want your thread to look as invisible to the eye as possible.  Unless you are purposely using contrasting thread as a design feature.  But that’s not what you’re doing with this project.

Do you really need sharp fabric scissors?

Yes.  You do.  Unless you actually enjoy tearing your hair out in frustration.  If you have a pair of super sharp scissors that aren’t specifically meant for fabric – feel free to try them out.  If they aren’t meant for fabric – even if they work well at first – they will dull quickly and you will hate them and you will hate sewing and you will probably become a menace to anyone standing nearby.

If this is your first project and you don’t know if you’ll ever do another one – don’t buy them – borrow a pair from a friend.  You are almost certain to know someone who has a pair who will lend them to you for this project.  They aren’t horribly expensive considering their value to you in this endeavor and you can sometimes get them on heavy discount.  I personally think that this is one of those things everyone should have in their homes anyway.  You never know when you’re going to need to cut up some sheets into bandages in a post apocalyptic situation and woe is the person who has to do that with paper scissors.

Iron and Ironing board:

Technically speaking, you don’t have to have an ironing board.  You can fold a towel across a non-meltable or flammable surface (like wood or metal) and iron on that.  I don’t recommend it.  But if that’s what you have to do – it will work.  You can sometimes find super cheap ironing boards at thrift stores or at yard sales if you’re looking for the cheapest option available.  If you get one used – be certain to test it out before buying to make sure that it can be brought to its full height and not collapse when you put pressure on it.

You cannot sew clothes without an iron.  I mean, you CAN, but you shouldn’t and I won’t endorse it.  One of the most important tools in sewing is your iron.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy but it needs to get hot and have a steam button.  You probably already have one.  If you don’t, you need to buy or borrow one.

If you have any questions about things I didn’t cover or that are still unclear – please leave your question in the comments and I will answer them.

Okay – go get those supplies and we’ll get this project going!

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: First Steps

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 1

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 2

Pajama Pant Sew-Along: Part 3

Polka Dot Shirt and Striped Pyjamas Show and Tell

all those polka dotsI said I was going to make myself wear patterns again.  I told myself that if people out in the world want to think a large lady shouldn’t wear polka dots or loud prints then let ‘em!  I’ve been hiding for so long now in shame because I hate my body so much.  It has deprived me of the joy I experience wearing patterns.  Especially stripes and dots.  It has made dressing a dreary affair.  My clothes are all exactly the same.  I look like I wear the same thing every day because I do.  I have 3 of every shirt.  Now, the pants I wear are still the only ones I’m going to wear for comfort.  I like them.  It’s a style I wore before I got really fat so until a day comes when I’m not this size I will continue to wear the exact same style in the same fabric.

However – I am making tops in patterns, as you have seen here already.  The Cannibalistic Hot Dog Over-shirt and the Sherbet Top with striped details have taken me way out of my comfort zone.  I photographed the cabbage rose smock too but lost them with the great computer erasure.  I will photograph them again and show you.  But today I am showing you the polka dot knit top I made.

new bold outfitIt looks much nicer on my dress form than on me but I don’t care.  I love this outfit.  I love this pattern of dots.  It’s from the Doodles line of junior knits.  I got it from Joanne’s.

polka dot top stitch detailI have been experimenting with my Pfaff’s knit stitches since I don’t have a cover stitch machine.  Zig-zag stitches give clothes a homemade amateur look so I don’t like to use them.  This is my favorite knit stitch on my machine.

tunic pants unironedMy tunic pants.  I usually only wear them in black and brown.  I cut this pair out at least a year and a half ago but never finished them.  I finished them yesterday.  On all my previous pairs of tunic pants I’ve left all the hems as serged edges.  While I like this look it allows the hems to shred over time which makes my clothes look shoddy.  Doing knit hem stitches on my machine is tedious – it goes very slowly – but I’m now making myself hem everything so it all looks nicer and lasts longer.

striped pyjamasRobin wanted to see my striped pyjamas.  Here they are!  The sleeves aren’t different lengths – I promise.  I just didn’t adjust the shirt well before taking pictures and didn’t notice until I was editing the pics.  So – the pants are the same pattern than I use for my tunic pants but without the skirt.  Very comfortable.  I may end up wearing the shirts as clothes and make two more pyjama tops that aren’t polyester.  I made a huge error, one I rarely ever make, and thought this fabric was a rayon with spandex blend (95% and 5% respectively).  I know I looked at the bolt end but somehow I got it in my head that it was rayon.  I don’t wear polyester.  Polyester is an awful fiber.  It doesn’t breath, it’s essentially made of plastic chips (I got to see polyester in its original state in a fiber exhibit years ago), it will not break down in a landfill until the earth explodes, and if you get caught in a fire wearing polyester it will melt onto your skin.  Your skin will not recover from that.

close up striped pyjamasBut I have two of these shirts now and I don’t have much of a fabric budget so I will wear these.  The summer weather is arriving early this year, though, and sleeping in a fiber that doesn’t breathe is NOT NICE.  I do love the way this stripe looks.  For my real pyjama tops I’m going to buy some cotton t-shirt knits online.  Cotton breathes much nicer and so is better for sleeping in.  Well, it’s better for everything.

Today I’m going to cut out new tunic-pants in black since all of my pants are full of holes and the hems are pitifully shredded.  I love the look of my pyjamas so much and they’re so comfortable that I think I’m going to make a few pairs for day-wear and then make some drapey tops to throw over them.

If you have any projects you’ve just finished – show them to me!  Link them in the comments so I can see!

The Black Smock with Striped Seersucker Details

bandw shirtThis is my favorite of all the smocks I’ve made recently.  I admit that it’s largely because it’s mostly black.  With stripy details.  I should have washed my cotton gauze before sewing this because when I washed it the black bled into the seersucker a little bit.  It’s not that I don’t know about pre-washing, it’s that I’m insanely lazy and the one piece of housework I loathe with every fiber of my being is laundry.  I hate it.  I avoid it.  Here’s the other thing – I love ironing seams and hems flat but I don’t like ironing yardage because it’s unwieldy.

back bandw shirtBack detail.  I love the black and white stripes.  I want to do a jacket in pillow ticking.  I also want to do one of these over-shirts in solid black.

front facing bandw shirtThe facings continue to give surprise enjoyment.  So do the buttons.  I’m using buttons I’ve had around for ages.  No button buying for me.

pocket detail bandw shirtLove the pockets.  However, last night I ripped the damn pocket which got caught on a door knob.  I destroyed the first shirt by catching its pockets on a door knob too.  I mended it but it will never be the same.  So these big pockets are a design flaw.  What sucks is that I really love them – perfect size for shoving my hands into and for putting tissues and lip balm in when taking walks.  On future smock-shirty-things I need to consider either putting the pockets on the side seams or putting them inside.  The other option is to put a button and button-hole on the pocket to keep it closed.  But then I can’t just shove my hands into them without fussing with buttons first.  There’s nothing insouciant about that.

How to Make Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry detergentLaundry detergent is very easy to make and costs a lot less to make than buying the eco-friendly and natural detergents that I use.  If you are used to buying really cheap detergents with lots of perfumes and unnecessary chemicals then you may not see much of a cost savings.  My friend Sharon and I made a batch of this detergent and have some notes to share about it:

  • You use 1/4 cup per regular load, more for heavily soiled loads, but if you want to get stains out you may still need to treat stains before washing.  Sharon’s son’s white school uniform shirt did not come entirely clean with this soap.
  • This works for high efficiency and front loading machines (that’s what Sharon uses) but you need to put it directly in the load rather than in the compartments you might normally put your detergent in.
  • The bar soap you use may make quite a difference in the finished detergent.  Most recipes call for either Fels-Naptha or Zote – both are really heavily perfumed and have ingredients I don’t want in my laundry but I know Fels-Naptha is a great stain remover so your detergent may not need stain treatment pre-wash if you use it.  For this batch we used Trader Joe’s tea tree oil soap because it’s cheap and natural.  When I used it in a “handwash” load in my machine it left some residue on a dark shirt – so this may not be the best soap for the job.  This did not happen with my last batch.


  • You do not have to use distilled water but it’s better to use water with no added chlorine or other chemicals in it.


  • The cost for this batch was $6.39.  How long it lasts will depend on how many loads of wash you do a week and how much detergent you generally use.  I usually spend $11 or more for liquid detergent that lasts less than a month.  The last time I made this detergent a gallon of it lasted a month and a half.


  • It is NOT dangerous to work with washing soda if you refrain from getting it in your eyes or mouth.  So don’t eat it or wipe your eyes right after you’ve hand your hands in it.


  • Sharon had an old Parmesan cheese grater and this worked so well I want to get one to grate my soap with too.

I based my recipe on one I found in the homemade laundry detergent recipes post on Tipnut but my method is a combination between Tipnut and my friend Kathy.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent


  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups bar soap, grated
  • 2 gallons distilled water


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Once water is boiling, add the grated soap and boil until all soap is dissolved then turn off the heat.
  3. Add the washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved.
  4. Put a lid on the pot and let sit over night to let it set up.
  5. If the detergent is soft and gelatinous - go ahead and put it in the containers you plan to store it in.
  6. If the detergent is hard - stir it by hand until it's broken up enough to allow an immersion blender to do the rest of the work. Blend it until it is in a pour-able state, then put in storage containers.
  7. Use 1/4 cup per regular load, 1/2 cup for heavily soiled loads.
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IMG_3827That cheese grater was awesome!  The last time I made detergent it was a pain to grate the soap.

sharon adding sodaWe learned an important lesson: turn the heat off before adding the washing soda and borax UNLESS you use a huge canning pot like my friend Kathy does -because it boils up really fast.

IMG_3853This is how we found it the next day.  it was very stiff like a jello with too much gelatin added.

super lumpsWe broke it up with a spoon but the clumps were big and it was a lot of work trying to break them up.

lumpy laundry detergentThe clumps were too big for this to be easily scoopable.

resorting to the immersion blenderSo then Sharon had a brilliant idea: use an immersion blender!  It worked.  It still has a clumpy look to it but is now pourable/scoopable.

bottling it upI store my detergent in half-gallon jars but you can use old liquid laundry detergent containers or any other glass or plastic container with lids.

Cannibalistic Hot Dog Over-shirt

hot dog shirt necklineThere’s little hot-dog men eating hot dogs while their olive-headed wiener dogs loaf around, as they do, and I have to wonder if the hot dog the hot dog is eating is ACTUALLY a barbequed dog?  Or some third-party wiener?

I think of these over-shirts I’ve been making as smocks.  Philip doesn’t like the word “smock”.  He prefers “over-shirt”.  Both the over-shirt and smock are ideal words to describe a garment meant to hide my formidable ass but I like “smock” better because it’s a word of action where-as an over-shirt is an inherently lazy garment.  You put a smock on to DO things in, often creative things.  You put on an over-shirt just to cover yourself.  hot dog shirt front

I think, however, that most people feel that a smock is not a garment you wear out in public whereas I have every intention of wearing mine in public.  So let’s call it either and be done with it.

Again – remember that my dressform is much smaller than me.  My shirt is a little less roomy on me.  From the last version I have added some width to both the front and the back and made the shirt a couple of inches dog shirt cuffI cleaned up some pattern issues and changed the back.  This newer version comes together more smoothly.  I trued all the seams – a really important step in pattern drafting.

hot dog shirt buttonThese particular buttons aren’t vintage but are part of my stash.  No button buying for me for a long time.  I’m on a use-what-you-have button diet.

hot dog shirt problemsThis picture illustrates the issues I’m having with my pattern in the front of the shirt.  I need to fix this so that the curves match in the overlapped part.  I also might need to move this button so that it holds the top and bottom more closely aligned.  It’s an easy fix and I’m pretty lazy and not likely to keep the top button buttoned so fat chance I’ll fix it.

hot dog shirt backHere’s the new version of the back.  I definitely considered doing away with the contrasting fabric but my desire to see the hot dogs next to the polka-dot won me over.  I like contrasting fabrics.  I’m happy with this.

hot dog shirt back detailI now have 4 over-shirts done (I’ll do separate posts for the other two) and I have the two linen ones left to do.  Then I have pants and pyjamas to make and I’ll be done sewing clothes at least for a little while.  Which is good because I’m quickly exhausting all the Midsomer Murder videos my video rental place has.

Santa Rosa better get ready because I’m putting this shirt on right now to head to the store!

The Sherbet Over-Shirt

shirt pattern

I need some over-shirts to cover my fat ass and they need to have pockets so I can take the dog for a walk without having to bring a bag.  I get overheated easily and can’t wear sweaters or jackets for walking.  Searching for a pattern to work with was predictably (and ridiculously) hard.  I wanted set in sleeves and a loose fit and long enough to cover my ass but not fuddy duddy and golf-y looking.  Forget it!  As usual I realized I was going to have to make my own design.  I don’t have slopers for my size and it would just depress me to spend tons of time making them (plus, I lack an obese sized dress form – and I only know how to make slopers using dress forms).  I needed a pattern to alter.  This is the one I chose – I thought it matched most of my starting needs until I got it home and saw that the sleeves aren’t set in.  Drat!

started out as

It was on sale for $1.99 so I didn’t have to worry about cutting up the pattern.  I set about making it wider at the hems in both the front and the back because I am always larger on the bottom than the top (even when I was a regular-sized person).  I lengthened the sleeves a little because I wanted them long enough to roll the cuff up.  Forget about those side vents.  I also drafted pockets (3 tries and I still have to alter the ones you’ll see below) and did away with the collar.

pattern work

This shirt has already taken up quite a bit of dot paper and my re-draft will take even more.  I have to either order it online or beg some off of my friend Autumn who owns the corset company Dark Garden.  Dot paper is the perfect weight for drafting – it’s light enough to allow pleating and folding and then also using to cut fabric from but heavy enough that you can trace around it and it doesn’t tear easily.  The markings on it are  in a grid making it easy to line things up and use your ruler to good effect.  I want a whole roll of it but it weighs a ton so shipping is really expensive.

the sherbet shirt

So here it is!  It bears almost no resemblance to the original pattern.  I’m happy with the front, though I still need to make the hem a little wider.  This looks much better on my dress form because she’s several sizes smaller than me.

whale of a back

That pleat is there because of a pattern problem.  I do NOT like the contrasting back panel.  I’m also not a fan of my curve line there which is not flattering on me.  When I try this shirt on the front looks okay but in the back I look like a whale-backed Alfred Hitchcock shaped sherbet popsicle.  I’m already short-waisted so that curve should be the other way around – or the seam between top and bottom should be straight.

back and cuff detail

I am very pleased with the cuffs.  Though on the next version I think I will make the contrast piece much longer so I can fold up the cuff and still have some of the contrast be on the inside.  I’m not sure how to explain that.

pocket detail

I have rarely intentionally worked with directional patterns for design effects.  I was pleased with this even though my stripes don’t match up perfectly.

clean stitching

Pardon me – this picture is superfluous.  I only include it because I like looking at that clean stitching and how I managed to sew that facing in without this recalcitrant fabric puckering or bunching.

front and button detail

The buttons are vintage.  My button holes are a little shaggy.  My sewing machine (Pfaff 2046) doesn’t like doing button holes so I have to cajole and trick it.  In every other way than that my machine has met my expectations.

facing and button detail

That is my favorite detail.  I’m so pleased with the facing.  I love a stripy surprise!  I often find facings tedious to sew but this one I made myself and it came together so well and I actually enjoyed sewing this one.  It was tricky (as I mentioned above) working with the wrinkly gauze but I managed it.

So it’s back to the drafting table with this pattern.  I will do the next sample in a black with white pin dots and then I will buy some yardage for another couple of them.  I need about 3 of these guys for my wardrobe.

Also finished this week: 4 knit shirts with different hem stitches (I think I’ll post those too)

Still to make after the over-shirt project is done:

1 pair knit pyjama bottoms

1 knit pyjama top

2 pairs knit pants with no over-skirt

2 pairs knit pants WITH over-skirt

2 more knit tops (tunic length this time)

1 coat

That’s a big list.  But it’s necessary.  All my clothes are full of holes and looking embarrassingly shabby.  For me to concentrate on writing and gardening and exercising I need to not have to be depressed about my clothes.  It’s been a long time since Stitch and Boots had any stitches posted on it!

Behold My Inspiration Doors!

My friend Sarah suggested that I start an inspiration board to help me keep my weight-loss goals in my mind.  I thought it was a great idea except for the fact that my office is nearly all windows (it’s a windowed-in porch) so I have nowhere to hang any boards.  An idea came to me, I’m not sure how, that I could make a free-standing board that could be decorated with fabric swatches and garments I love and want to wear again, and magazine pictures.  And then I realized that what I really needed was the equivalent of closet doors to hang outfits on for inspiration.

So I went on a quest to find a couple of old doors.  You might not be amazed to know how many hideous doors there are out there and how much the cool vintage ones cost but I was kind of surprised.  I ended up lucking out at a salvage place (and don’t think “junk”, this place has crazy cool and $$$$ stuff in it) in Petaluma called Heritage Salvage.  I saw an exquisite turquoise hobbit door with a metal grill in it for $600 but Philip said I wasn’t allowed to sell Max just to have a gorgeous door.  I did find two old doors that suited my purpose perfectly and paid a total of $40 for the pair.

Missing doorknobs, peeling paint, and dirt all included in the price.

Plus rusty paint-clogged broken hinges.  But the best part you will see in the last picture: two hooks for hanging things on!

One door was taller than the other so I had to cut it down with my banged up circular saw.  I did an alright job, not my best work, but it served.

Then I hinged the doors together.  This was easy to do but not easy to figure out.  I didn’t want to take the old hinges off because I like them but then I couldn’t use those sides of the doors for the new hinges and the hooks on the front of the one door made putting the hinges on so they wouldn’t be visible impossible.  So I just put them on the inside where they are all super shiny and ugly.  Who cares?  I might paint them later on.

I do have some wood that I plan to cut down and fashion into “feet” to stabilize the doors so that I can open them up all the way when I feel like it.  For now I’m fine just keeping the doors slightly bent.  I love them!

I spent (including the lumber I haven’t used yet) a total of $70.  I know a cork board is less than $30 but not nearly as cool as my old doors!

Cleaning Out Your Child’s Room: How to Decide What to Keep and What to Throw Away

There are many parents who believe that every drop of glitter-covered glue their child recklessly throws down on a piece of paper is a precious relic of their child’s life.  From the age of two until the age of eighteen, when one hopes their child will be packing their bags for college, a child will accumulate a staggering amount of artwork, toys, homework, clothes, papers from school, notes, projects, and mysterious crap that defies categorization.  Every single year my son has gone to school I have ended up with at least two grocery bags’ worth of paper crap from the school year.  That’s a lot of crap.

Those parents who view everything their child touches as a precious relic and never throw anything away will not benefit from the advice I’m about to give.  There’s nothing wrong with keeping everything if that’s what’s important to you.  In the early days of parenthood I found it incredibly difficult to decide what to keep and what to throw away.  If I threw away any of Max’s pen scribbled “art” would he resent me when he grew up?  Would it make me a bad mom if I didn’t want to keep the piles of returned Kindergarten homework I accumulated?

Let me tell you right now: what you keep or don’t keep of your kid’s stuff is NOT a question of good parenting versus bad parenting.  So if you’re keeping everything your child spit on because you’re afraid that throwing it away makes you a bad mom – stop it!  And if you’re the sentimental kind of mom and you see someone like me ruthlessly throwing my kid’s stuff away and you wonder if you’re hanging onto things you shouldn’t – stop it!  There is no judgment of parenting here.

I happen to be pretty sanguine about throwing stuff away.  I am easily overwhelmed by stacks of paper and cartons full of old toys and clothes and I start to feel choked by the accumulation of things.  So for me it’s important to curate my son’s belongings every year.  Especially the accumulation of school stuff.  If you’re like me and want to save some things for your child but don’t want to save everything and you don’t know how to decide what to keep and what to toss, I have some guidelines that may help you.

How to decide what to keep and what to throw away until your kid is old enough to help make these decisions with you:

Favorite baby toys.  Pick just 2 or 3 to pack away and ditch the rest.

Save just the most loved ones.  “But Jonny loved ALL of his toys equally!”  No he didn’t.  You know that’s not true.  Pick two or three to represent the lot.  Donate the rest of them to: other friends with kids, social workers who work with kids who have no toys, the Good Will, or your church.

Clothes.  Only keep a few items to remind you of how tiny he/she was.

I have kept a tiny t-shirt my sister gave to Max when he was born and his first pair of Vans shoes that my brother gave him, and a silly felt strawberry hat a friend made for him.  That’s it.  Everything else he’s grown out of I either threw away (because they were in a mostly destroyed state) or I gave to others who needed them.

Curios.  Not toys but not relics either… what to do?  Save no more than one book sized box full over the course of your kid’s childhood.

My son loves to pick up rocks and screws and rusted things and save them forever and ever and ever.  I’ve saved enough of them so that when he’s an adult going through his kid stuff he’ll see that he was the kind of kid who liked rusted nails.  But I definitely throw out the bulk of it.  He doesn’t notice this culling of his things because there’s always still some of it around.  I throw out all the plastic doo-dads that he brings home from kid birthday parties and classroom events.  Those little 1 cent cheap-ass stupid plastic thingy-ma-bobs.  Let them hang around for a year and then throw them out.  I promise your kid will not remember that little plastic parachute guy.  Or the other 20 of them either.

School work.  Save everything that has personal information that will be interesting for you and your kid to look at when he/she’s grown up and toss the rest.  Such as:

  • Keep:  star student posters with a snapshot of your kid (probably with a fake smile plastered on his face) and that funny information the teacher asks them such as what they want to be when they grow up and what they like to do with friends etc.  Saving these shows you how much your kid changes every year and are interesting.  Other examples of this are “all about me” type projects.
  • Keep:  short stories or personal essays from school.  These can be very enlightening about your child’s imagination and they will probably enjoy reading them as adults because they are often very funny.  Only save the ones that shed some light on who your kid really is.  Generic assignments are toss-worthy.
  • Keep:  school art projects that required some muscle flexing creativity.  Foam boards with a bunch of foam stickers?  If you really love them, keep one.  Focus on keeping drawings and paintings where your child was using their imagination.  You’ll have a lot of those too.  If there are 20 that all look essentially the same (like my son’s paintings he did when he was a toddler) keep only 10.
  • Keep:  cards made in school for mom and dad.  Keep the ones you love the most.  Especially where they have written something for you.  I found a few generic construction paper hearts with glitter on them and threw them away.   It was clear they were meant to be given to mom and dad but they aren’t personal enough to warrant taking up space.  I keep all the ones with notes to me or his dad on them.
  • Keep:  cards from other kids to your kid and cards from relatives to your kid.  If your kid wants to throw them out when he/she grows up – let that decision be on them.  Cards are reminders of the people who liked/loved your kid as they were growing up.  We can all use those kinds of reminders once in a while.
  • Toss:  homework drills.  All those papers where wee Madyson’s hands were first practicing how to make the letter “a”?  That’s just work your kid had to do and I’m not convinced she’ll want to be reminded of every assignment she labored over while wishing she was doing something more fun.
  • Toss:  assignments stapled up in construction paper and full of cut and pasted information gathered for a report on tarantulas?  Unless you think your kid will never learn to use Google and will need to go back and reference that quaint report.  They don’t reveal anything personal about your kid.  Not even if they got an A+ on it.  You have report cards to trace their grade history.  Unless there’s a memorable story attached to such pieces of school work they shouldn’t take up valuable closet space.

Awards, ribbons, trophies.

I think these are always worth holding onto because achievements, even small ones, are worth celebrating and remembering.  But you didn’t need me to say this.  It’s just that the list would be incomplete if I didn’t include this category of stuff.

Books.  Set aside your child’s favorite books from the baby years.  Just a few.  You know which ones they are.

Max told me that he wanted to keep his favorite kid books to give to his own kid some day.  He’s only 11 years old right now but I thought that was a reasonable request.  I involved him in the sorting out.  I promised him I wouldn’t throw any out that were important to him but that we needed to pick some to give away to other kids to enjoy right now.  We weeded out about half of all his little kid books and are keeping the rest of them for him until he grows up and either wants them or really doesn’t.  Now he’s collecting books in his own right and it will be up to him to decide if he wants to get rid of any at all from this point on.  There comes a time when they start having a very strong sense of what’s important to them to keep or not.  Max had no opinions on this a couple of years ago.  He didn’t want to get rid of ANYTHING.

And that’s the thing – once kids get to be about 10 or 11 years old they should get to be part of the culling process when it comes to their own stuff.  When they’re babies up until about that time they have little sense of discernment about what stuff will be valuable to them when they’re older and what stuff is just going to molder and take up space and depress them when they move out and mom forces them to deal with it all.  So your job until then is to be the curator of their relics.

I hope that this guideline helps keep this task from being overwhelming.

The Handmade Lotion Trials: Second Batch

Look how pretty this lotion is – so creamy and smooth.  I scented it with rose and bergamot essential oils.  I actually prefer a lotion with little or no scent but I had to mask the distressing animal scent of the shea butter.  Shea butter is NOT made from any animal parts.  It comes from a tree.  However, it smells and repells me like lanolin does.  The point is – isn’t this lotion pretty and doesn’t it look perfect?

One hour later it has hardened and separated.  What the hell?!  What happened?  It was so smooth and perfectly emulsified!  From what I’m reading this may be because the water and oils weren’t at the same temperature when emulsifying.  I don’t have a thermometer.  Actually, I have two but neither of them are working.  The candy thermometer never worked and my digital one is so confusing to use that I’ve given up.

Before the gross disaster occurred, I used a little of the lotion and I liked it better than the first batch.  It has a slightly sticky feel to it which while not ideal is more preferable to me than the slick greasy feel of the coconut based first batch.  For the sake of remembering what I used I will record ingredients and amounts here:

1 tsp yellow beeswax

1/2 cup distilled water

1 tbsp glycerin

1 1/2 tbsp shea butter

2 tbsp sweet almond oil

1 tbsp wheat germ oil

enough rose and bergamot essential oils to mask the unpleasant odor of the shea butter.

This recipe is based on the Cocoa Butter and Rose Cream from the book “Natural Beauty Recipe Book” by Gill Farrer-Halls.  I couldn’t get my hands on real rose water so I used distilled plain water instead.  There is a worldwide shortage of jojoba oil right now so I didn’t want to contribute to that shortage, instead I used wheat germ oil which is used in a few other lotion recipes in this book.  After doing a lot of reading about the various butters I concluded that shea butter was the least greasy and best option for my skin, so I used that instead of cocoa butter.  The essential oils called for were rose, frankincense, and chamomile oils.  Each of these oils is very expensive.  Way out of my price range.  Luckily I already happen to have some good quality rose oil so I used that and then found I had bergamot which I love in combination with rose.  By this time – as you can see – it is barely the same lotion as the original but I kept all proportions of oils to waters the same and followed the instructions.  Except for the part about hand whipping it.

Here are my notes on making lotion up to this point:

  • I have a strong aversion to the less refined butters – the smells are repugnant to me.  This bothers me because the less refined they are the more nutrients they have to offer my skin.  The less refined a butter or oil is the stronger its scent.  So in future, if I want to have an unscented or very faintly scented lotion I’m going to have to buy the ultra refined de-scented oils and butters.
  • I might need to figure out how to reset my digital thermometer.  Or buy a really reliable non-digital one.
  • Lotion making is easy, except for when it’s not.
  • Hand whipping the oils and waters is ridiculous.  I’m all for doing things without having to plug anything in but I was whipping and whipping and nothing was changing.  No magical emulsification was happening.  My blender knows how to GET IT DONE.
  • Even when the scent of something is pleasant to me (rose and bergamot) I am bothered by it being too strong.  Luckily for me (I guess) pure essential oils (particularly the citrus ones) lose strength much faster than their synthetic counterparts.  I remember how I used to wear perfume and smoke cigarettes and I loved all that strong scent around me*.  Not so much any more.
  • What lotion works for your skin is highly personal.  You may have tactile preferences or your skin may be drier or less dry and this will dictate what feels good on it.  My mom much prefers the first batch of lotion because she likes the greasier feel of it.  The slight stickiness of the second batch bothered her, whereas I didn’t mind it so much but was super bothered by the slick feeling of the first batch.
  • So if you plan to make your own lotions, expect to do some experimentation and trials of your own.  Do smaller batches (such as half batches)** so you don’t waste too many ingredients at a time.  If you don’t like a batch for yourself have your friends try it and if any of them like the ones you don’t – give it to them.
  • Take notes on what you do each time.  If you give a lotion to a friend  because they really like it – they may want to make it again so if you can tell them precisely what you did (any substitutions or deviations from the instructions) they can remake it and you will have effectively spread knowledge and skills that individuals should not lose to industry.

What’s up next: today I will attempt to re-heat the separated lotion and re-emulsify.  I’m hoping that if I heat them at the same time in the bowl they’ll be at the same temperature when I blend them.  All lotion making instructions have you heat the two elements separately and then blend so this might not work.  However, when I make my creamy mustard vinaigrette I put all the ingredients in one container and then emulsify – they’re all at room temperature… but why can’t I heat them together so they’re continually at the same temperature and then emulsify?  Why shouldn’t that work?  Well, today I’ll be able to report on whether it does or doesn’t.  I know one thing – those essential oils when heated can lose their scent which is why you always add them last when the lotion has cooled.  So I’ll have plenty to report after today’s experiment.

Stay tuned for the results!

*No lie.  I have always loved the smell of fresh cigarette smoke and when mixed with Opium perfume – so wonderful.  Or, at least, I used to love it.  There is a lingering nostalgia for me in those two scents but no longer any real pleasure in them because they are so poisonous to both people and the environment.

** There is a slight issue of batches being too small to be effectively emulsified in your blender so if you do half batches of recipes that are already somewhat modestly sized, you may need to emulsify by hand.  Good luck with that.