A Mess Out There

It has been March for most of 2018. 

I know, it's not really March yet, but based on the weather, it certainly seems like it. March is the month of endless freezing and thawing, rain, sleet, snow, slush, and perpetually filthy cars. We have had that since about the second week of January. It makes me wonder what the actual month of March is going to bring. 

I am planning on doing some work in the sewing room tonight. I was too tired from driving when I got home on Monday. Yesterday afternoon, I went to town to get chicken food and human food and last night, I wanted to finish a really good book I was reading, entitled Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown:

I will read, eagerly, anything else that Amy Belding Brown writes. This was so good that I had trouble putting it down. That happens only rarely anymore. 

I'd like to start working on that Ravenwood Messenger Bag. The pattern has had time to marinate in my brain and I think I am ready to pick fabrics. The exterior will be sage green waxed canvas. I'll have to look at Jo-Anns this weekend (because I don't have any in my stash) for a nice flannel in shades of green and navy blue. Several of the sample bags used flannel for the lining and I thought it added a nice masculine touch. And it will let me experiment with topstitching on the sage green with navy blue thread for contrast. 

Even though I am not designing a bag, there are still a fair number of design decisions that go into making a bag. Chief of these is the fabric, of course, but there is also the lining, thread, and hardware to consider. I must miss designing at some level, because I really enjoy pondering those choices. 


It's almost time to order seeds. I made a first pass through the Victory Seeds catalog last night and marked off all the staple crops—things we do year after year after year. I had a moment of panic when I couldn't find a listing for the Oregon Star paste tomato, but a check of their website indicates it is still available and in stock. I have tried all sorts of paste tomatoes—Amish Paste, Roma, San Marzano, etc.—and the only one that produces reliably for me is Oregon Star.  We'll add Cherokee Purples to that and maybe one other variety. I like a mix of varieties for my sauce. 

We're giving up on onions. They take a fair bit of space and they almost never do well. Ditto on carrots, at least for this year. The ground is too rocky and they require thinning and weeding. I can buy a 10# bag of organic carrots at Costco in the fall for canning. (I did that last year and we'll have plenty for another season yet.) 

The husband will have his cantaloupes and watermelons. I want to try out some dry shelling beans. We eat so many beans in soups and stews over the winter that it would be nice to grow our own. We planted one variety last year that did really well, but the plants got intermingled with other stuff and I didn't realize until it was too late that they were actually shelling beans and not eating (like green) beans. 

We will plant potatoes, of course, and cabbage and broccoli and shelling peas and zucchini and cukes and collards and swiss chard. Sweet corn. Pumpkins. Acorn squash for my sister. And lettuce—lots of lettuce. This is the time of year that I really start to miss salads. 

We've reserved another half dozen piglets for this spring. They will likely arrive in May. I would love it if some of my Buff Orpington hens would go broody and hatch out some chicks. We'll probably end up getting chicks, as we usually do, from the farm store, but honestly—the ones that the hens hatch out and raise themselves are much easier. And I need one or two replacement roosters. 


A link to an article about working from home popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, so I went and took a look. I work from home. I can always use help on maximizing my time. The author of "10 Ways to Stay Motivated When Working From Home" had some interesting things to say. Some of the suggestions—get up early, make a schedule, get dressed in something other than PJs—I already practice. (I could be better about staying off Facebook.) When I got to suggestion #10, though, I just about spit coffee all over my computer monitor. "Have a side project to fill the dead space," the author suggests. After all, working from home and foregoing a commute can turn a 9-5 job into a 9-2 job, so it's important to make sure you have something to fill those three hours of dead space. 


Apparently there are people who work from home who—when their workday is done—spend 3+ hours binge-watching Netflix. I never seem to have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on my to-do list. I would happily take those 3+ hours of dead space from those people and actually use it for something productive. 

Truly, people, don't waste oxygen. If you have that much free time, do something to improve yourself—or better yet, improve your community. Spend some time visiting residents at a nursing home. Volunteer at a food bank. Sew pillowcase dresses for naked little girls in Africa. I don't care what you do, but there are a thousand things better than binge-watching Netflix all afternoon.

What have we come to?

I have to say that my job, which I have always liked, has been even more enjoyable ever since Dr. Mumbling Dictator left the clinic. His absence has re-ordered the queue a bit and I am getting to transcribe doctors I haven't had quite as often. (I also suspect that there was some cherry-picking going on by some of the overnight people that resulted in the daytime transcriptionists getting left with the the lousy dictators.) And since I am not spending so much (unpaid) time trying to decipher what he is saying, I have days where I am making more money. 


This is a longish post, but I will leave you with a picture of the husband working in the shop (he's not binge-watching Netflix):

He is in the process of welding a new bar at the end of the flatbed on his truck. Last fall, when he went to hook the gooseneck stock trailer up to this truck, he discovered that the bar that he had on the end of the flatbed didn't allow for enough clearance, so he's modifying it. It's good that he has a project out there, because #11 on my list of how to stay motivated when working from home is "Don't get distracted by the shiny toy." 


Across the State of Washington and Back

I've lost track of the number of times I have been over and back across Washington state in the past seven years. (DD#1 started college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma in 2010.) I am sure these road trips number well into the several dozens. DD#2 and I added to the total this past weekend with a trip to see DD#1 and her boyfriend in Seattle. 

I am spoiled having one kid in Spokane; it makes it easy to break up the trip. I worked Friday morning and left around 11 a.m. It had snowed about 4" Thursday night and was in the process of changing over to rain. By the time I got out of Flathead County, though, it cleared up and warmed up and getting to Spokane didn't take long. I took DD#2 and her boyfriend to dinner at a little place called Wisconsinburger. It's right around the corner from the hotel where I stay and is also where DD#1 waited tables when she was in grad school. They serve interesting things like cheese curds and fried pickles. The hamburgers are phenomenal. I had mine with a side of potato salad topped with bacon jam. That's a thing. Who knew?

DD#2 and I left bright and early Saturday morning. It took us about 4-1/2 hours to get to Seattle. DD#1 and her boyfriend are living in a tiny (500 sq ft tiny) apartment just a few blocks from the University of Washington, where Arne is in his second year of dentistry school. He did his first year in Spokane as part of a program to train doctors and dentists to work in rural areas. They would have preferred to stay in Spokane as it is much cheaper, but he has to do his second and third years of study back in Seattle.

Their apartment is in a wonderful little neighborhood—very walkable, with lots of shops and places to eat. Arne either bikes or takes the bus to school every day. DD#1 will be driving his car back and forth to work in Bellevue. Her car is still here at our house. It would have cost a ridiculous amount of money in insurance and parking for them to have two cars there. Also, her car is a stick shift and those are not fun to drive in Seattle (ask me how I know). 

The apartment is tiny, but recently renovated with an attentive landlord. I was intrigued with all the creative uses of space. Still, it's over $1000 a month. They only have to be there for a few years, though, and they're young. They will make it work. Fortunately, neither of them is a slob. 

We went to the nearby University Village to meet my cousin Lucy for lunch. She is a buyer for Nordstrom and lives not too far from DD#1 and Arne. Her mother and my father were sister and brother. I am the oldest of the grandchildren and I think she's the youngest. She's a lot of fun and we always like spending time with her and now I have an excuse to see her more often. 

The kids and I spent the afternoon wandering around the outdoor shopping area. It was raining, but that doesn't deter people in Seattle from being outside. The shopping center had bins of umbrellas strategically placed every couple hundred feet, too. Shoppers are welcome to use the umbrellas while they are shopping and leave them when they are done. 

I had to laugh at myself—this is what happens when a country bumpkin from Montana goes to the big city. I spent most of the time walking around the stores exclaiming about all the stuff that I didn't know existed (like bacon jam). Yes, I suppose I could order a lot of it online, but it's hard to find things online if you don't know that someone actually manufactures the thing you need. And there is something to be said for actually being able to pick up and examine a product. 

I didn't go overboard. I bought some garam masala seasoning and some smoky Earl Grey tea at Williams-Sonoma. (I really like W-S's garam masala.) I bought a tunic at H&M, which is not a store I usually frequent. On rare occasions, though, I can find something worth buying there, and this tunic got the DD#2 seal of approval. I picked up a tube of conditioner at Aveda. That was it. 

By late afternoon, I was tired and it was time to go check into the hotel. DD#2 and I stopped by Seattle Fabrics on the way there. I'd like to go back some time when I have a list of what I need and I am not so tired. It's a small store and while I am sure the owners know where everything is, it's one of those places where stuff is piled on stuff and the whole effect is disorganized and overwhelming. It reminded me a lot of Tioga Fabrics, in York, Pennsylvania. When the husband and I lived there right after we got married, my MIL and I used to go to Tioga fairly often. They carried mill ends of mostly home dec fabrics but also some garment fabrics. Unfortunately, they are no longer in business. I could have a field day in a place like that now. 

We found an authentic Asian noodle place for dinner. My kids are all fairly adventuresome when it comes to food, especially ethnic food. I must have raised them right. 

Speaking of food, DD#1 and Arne took us to one of their favorite places to eat for brunch on Sunday morning. It's called Portage Bay Cafe and it's just a few blocks from their apartment. The place is so popular that it requires reservations at all times. We got there at 9:00 and it was full. They source as many of their ingredients as they can from farms within 25 miles of Seattle. We eat good here (I use local ingredients from my own property) but I can safely say that the Dungeness crab omelette I ordered was the best thing I have eaten in quite a while. 

DD#2 and I got back on the road after brunch and headed back to Spokane. DD#1 starts her new job tomorrow. I know she's excited. It's good to see her so happy and settled. I don't think she and Arne will stay in Seattle—he grew up on Kodiak Island and they both prefer less populated areas, but for now, they are where they need to be. 

I spent Sunday night in Spokane again and drive home yesterday morning. The roads were clear until I hit Flathead County again. (It was 37 and sunny in Libby, Montana). It's still snowing here at our house and we're expecting another storm on Friday. I keep telling myself that we need the moisture. 


February's offering from the Bag of the Month Club is the Ravenwood Messenger Bag by Betz White:

It's made out of waxed canvas, so of course this went up to the top of the queue. I suspect it is going to be a long-term project, though, as it has lots of moving parts. It certainly won't be an instant gratification project like the Wool + Wax Tote. 


A Finished Wool + Wax Tote

I am a huge fan of Anna Graham's Noodlehead patterns. The love started way back in 2012 when she released her Open Wide Pouch pattern/tutorial. I made 19 (!) of them for DD#2's cheer team in school colors, and another half dozen in various permutations for family members. I really like her design asthetic and the fact that her patterns are well written and heavily tested. In addition to the Open Wide pouches, I've made the Zip Top Tote from her book Handmade Style, the Explorer Tote, and now the Wool + Wax Tote. I have patterns for the Super Tote and Caravan Tote. I am kicking around adding the new Range Backpack to the queue. 

As I mentioned, the Wool + Wax Tote is a quick, instant gratification project. I cut it out Sunday night, put the main bag together Monday night, and finished it last night. (I didn't sew Tuesday night.) 

It's a bit wrinkly here from being turned inside out; I like the crinkly look of the waxed canvas, but I have also discovered that taking a hair dryer to the waxed canvas will smooth it out. It looks better in person. This was at 8 o'clock last night and I just don't have a good spot in my house for indoor photos. I ended up going with the webbing handles. I decided I liked the way they looked with the navy blue canvas. 

The topstitching. Oh, the topstitching. I adore that Necchi industrial:

That's one row of topstitching done with the 1/8" compensating foot and a second row done with the 1/2" compensating foot.

The lining was a remnant (naturally), of which I had exactly enough:

I thought it was perfect. It had the navy blue and teal with that shot of coral to give it some pop. On the next one, though, I will cut the length of the lining down by at least half an inch. The instructions for this bag have the lining cut in one large piece with no bottom seam, which is where I usually make a larger seam to take up some excess. I should have sliced off half an inch from the top of the lining when I was putting the bag together. It pools a bit at the bottom. Next time. 

The front pocket got lined with navy blue Kona because there wasn't enough of the triangle fabric to line it, too. 

Great bag, great design, fun sewing. 


Tuesday night, because I had gone to town and was too tired to sew, the husband and I watched some YouTube videos. I was looking for one I had seen a link to about sewing a welding jacket, but I am still trying to find it. Instead, we watched a series of videos by a guy who decided to make himself some welding hats. They are cotton skull caps with a brim worn inside a welding helmet. 

This guy obviously has more experience welding than he does sewing, but I said to the husband that I would give him a B+ on his welding hat. He was a beginning sewist with a basic machine. It was clear, though, that he had made an effort to research proper sewing techniques AND he had an iron and an ironing board, which is more than a lot of sewists bother with. (Seeing unpressed fabrics in sewing tutorials is one of my biggest pet peeves.) He didn't run his sewing machine at 150 miles per hour. Despite his inexperience, he ended up with a perfectly serviceable welding cap which—as the husband noted—was going to be filthy right after the first welding project was done. It certainly didn't need to be constructed with heirloom sewing techniques. 

I had to giggle when he said he was going to "weld—uh, I mean sew," the fabrics together. Sewing and welding are actually pretty similar, I think. 


My mother got her glasses case yesterday and pronounced that it "works perfectly." I still need to make one for myself, but I can cross that one off the list. I still need to do a generator cover...


Stuffed Animal Emergency Room

I've got a Wool + Wax Tote almost put together. That is a great instant gratification project. There are four exterior pieces and three interior pieces, and using waxed canvas, the only pieces that need to be interfaced are the interior lining and pocket pieces. I used teal canvas for the main part of the bag and navy blue for the bottom. The navy blue is so dark that it is almost black. I have black waxed canvas, too, and I had to take both pieces of yardage outside in the natural light to figure out which was which. Right now, I am trying to decide what to use for handles. I love the leather handles but they are expensive. One set of handles is between $12 and $15 dollars, depending on length. And of course, they can't be had locally unless I want to get a saddlery shop to cut them for me or I buy a whole hide and do it myself (and neither option cuts down on the price a whole lot). I even did a quick tour of thrift stores looking for some I could cut off bags. Real leather handles are hard to find. It's all polyurethane/vinyl out there. 

I am stuck in that spot between making the occasional bag for myself/friends and full production. I make enough stuff that paying retail for supplies gets expensive, but I don't really qualify for wholesale discounts (yet). I could do what some people on the Creative Bagmaking group do and go on Ali Express and order direct from China (or India or wherever) and then wait for 3-4 weeks for items to be delivered. I'm still thinking on this. In the meantime, I might try some navy blue cotton webbing on this bag for handles and see what I think.

Janet's Mending and Alterations continues to be open for business. I patched a pair of my friend Anna's jeans for her this week. I also fixed a stuffed animal. The other night, Ali and her little guy stopped over followed by Elysian and her little guy (he just turned 4). I whipped up some Redneck sausages and fried potatoes and a salad and we all sat around and visited and the two little ones played with the trucks. Elysian's little guy had come in holding a stuffed cat. He handed it over and said to me, "Can you fix Kitty?" Kitty had been abducted by Elysian's dog and its ear was coming off. I sewed it back on and it looked as good as new. I am not going to say no when a little kid asks me to fix a stuffed animal. The husband said I should change my name to Janet's Mending and Alterations and Stuffed Animal Emergency Room. 

Home maintenance continues. The husband got up on the roof the other day—it was a rare sunny and dry day—and changed out the bulbs in the motion detector lights:

It's too messy to pour concrete, although that hasn't stopped people from calling about jobs. The husband said he got four calls about new jobs the other day. He's already been out to look at a couple of jobsites. I talked to my friend Twila's husband at church on Sunday—he is a builder, too—and he said he's been experiencing the same thing. People want to get their building jobs scheduled for as soon as the weather improves. 

I'm supposed to go to Seattle this weekend to deliver a load of stuff to DD#1. She flew there a few weeks ago and couldn't take everything with her. The plan is to leave Friday after work and spend the night in Spokane (DD#2 is going with me to Seattle), but I am keeping a close eye on the weather. It looks like we might get some significant moisture that day—rain in the valleys and snow over the mountains. I'll have to see what it's doing Friday morning. I can always go the northern route, which isn't quite as awful as driving over Lookout Pass but takes longer. The problem is that if I don't go this weekend, I can't go again until March. I have a board meeting via video next Friday and then hospital list the following two Fridays. We'll see. The temps are supposed to stay up in the high 30s, so once I get out of Montana, it should just be rain. I am experienced in driving in lousy weather but I also know better than to take stupid chances if I don't have to. But if I make it to Seattle, we're going to have lunch with my cousin Lucy on Saturday and I am hoping to squeeze in a quick trip to Seattle Fabrics as it's only a couple of blocks from the hotel (yes, I planned it that way). 


An Eyeglass Case and Finally Some Decent Lighting

One does not argue with one's mother. When she tells you that you need to make her an eyeglass case, you make her one. Eventually. 

This story goes back a couple of months. My mother and I both have (had) these fabric cases for our cheaters. She picked them up at a craft show years ago. I have never seen a pattern for a similar style. Hers finally fell apart. Mine is on the way out. She decided that I should make replacement ones. They are basically a fabric tube folded back on itself with an inside divided sleeve for two pairs of cheaters. They have a velcro closure. 

Because she reminded me in yesterday's comments that I still hadn't gotten around to making her a new one (too busy making bags), I got the fabric out last night and attempted to reverse engineer my glasses case. I was fairly successful:

The outside of the case is a remnant of some prequilted cotton from Jo-Anns. I used Kona for the inside sleeve. The tricky part was getting the three pieces—the outside, the lining, and the sleeve—layered together properly so that when I sewed it together and then turned it inside out, everything was where it needed to be. (The velcro pieces get sewed on first, so they have to end up being able to hook together.)  That took two attempts. It didn't take three or four attempts, so I call two attempts a win. I did take notes for the next one. The prequilted cotton has two sides to it, so I am not entirely sure that I need all three layers, but I wanted to stick to the original construction for the first iteration so I could understand how it went together. 

[The little community where I live has a craft cooperative made up mostly of the women who are in the Mountain Brook Ladies Club (like my friend, Arlene, that I keep running into at Hobby Lobby). They have a very successful craft show every November and they hold it in our church's fellowship hall. Maybe I should see about joining the cooperative and selling some stuff there next fall.] 

I am sending this to my mother today so she has one to use, but there will be a Glasses Case 2.0. The prequilted cotton is a bit thicker than what was used in the original case. I need to add a smidge to the length to compensate. For the most part, though, it turned out as expected and didn't take all that much time to make. 

I also cut out the pieces for a Wool + Wax Tote. You have to love a bag that has only has four exterior pieces and two interior pieces. It's going to go together quickly. I used some more of the teal waxed canvas for the body and navy blue waxed canvas for the base. 


I've mentioned before that the lighting in my house is less than optimal. When we built our house in 1996, we were on a pretty tight budget. The bank had given us four months to get it done—over the winter, no less—and this was in the days before the Internet and the Big Brown Truck of Happiness that would deliver whatever you ordered from Amazon in two days. Kalispell had no Costco or Home Depot or Lowe's then. I was limited to what lighting fixtures I could find at the local Ace Hardware. And let's face it, subbing out the placement of the lighting fixtures to the person with limited spatial perception abilities was not a good decision. As a result, the lighting in this house has always been slightly anemic. In the winter, when I have the insulated curtains on the windows, it's rather like being in a cave. 

My office has three fluorescent light fixtures. Last week, one of the fixtures started flickering and then went out completely. Our friend Chuck had mentioned to me that Costco was selling replacement LED bulbs for fluorescent fixtures and that they worked really well. I picked up two replacement tubes on Saturday when I was there and the husband put them in for me yesterday morning. The difference in light output was amazing. Not only did the LEDs give a warmer spectrum of color, they gave a whole lot more of it. I was like someone had flooded my office with sunlight—but only in one corner. I said to the husband yesterday morning that it was going to make me nuts not to have LED lights in all three fixtures, so after church, I went back to Costco and bought four more replacement tubes. I now have a WHOLE LOT OF LIGHT in my office. The husband says it is like a supernova in here (the star, not the sewing machine). 

I don't feel like I suffer much from seasonal affective disorder—I like winter and being able to hunker down for a few months—but I enjoy being in my office a lot more now. The only downside is that now I can see how very dirty it is in here. It needs a thorough cleaning. 

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