Friday
May252018

I Went Shopping for Jeans

I have three pairs of Wrangler Aria jeans, a style so old that they don't make them any longer. I suspect DD#2 was about five years old when I bought them (she'll be 21 in July). They long ago became my gardening jeans and have been washed and dried so many times that they are falling apart. (Which, apparently, is the point at which people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for jeans in stores.) In particular, the buttonholes have self-destructed and I can no longer button them and reliably keep them in place around my waist. I dislike belts.

I've got some Charter Club jeans which have been my daily apparel for two or three years now. They are firmly in the "mom jeans" camp, however, with baggy butts and "relaxed" fit, and they will now be moving on as my gardening jeans. I don't expect them to last very long, though, given that they are a much lighter weight cotton.

Thus, I needed to suck it up and look for some replacement jeans for daily wear. Part of the issue I have with pants is I HATE SPANDEX. I am very sensitive to it and wearing jeans, especially close-fitting ones with Spandex or Lycra, makes me feel like I have ants crawling up and down my legs, not to mention the fact that after a few hours of wear, they are misshapen and falling down. Finding 100% cotton jeans over the past few years, though, has been like looking for a needle in a haystack. I am also what I would describe as "curvy," with a well-defined waist that is narrower than my hips. I can't wear men's jeans. I can't wear "boyfriend" jeans. Basically, I can't wear any pants that are cut straight through the hip and waist because if I get them to fit in the waist, I can't get them over my hips and if I get them to fit in the hips, the waist is enormous. I would also prefer a waistband that comes up, if not to my actual waistline, at least somewhere nearer my waistline than my crotch. Low-rise jeans are not flattering on middle-aged women with stretch marks and a C-section scar.  

I had to get chicken feed the other day, so while I was at the farm store, I decided to check out their selection of jeans. Wrangler is still making 100% cotton jeans, and I found two styles. The first, Wrangler Cowboy Cut Slims, are ones that I used to wear all the time when we first moved to Montana. It took a few tries to find my current size. They fit mostly the way I remembered, although the waist was really high. Really high. So high that when I sat down, I felt like I was strapped into a corset. WTH? 

The other style is called Wrangler Cash (subtitled The Ultimate Riding Jean). I don't ride. I do sometimes wear cowboy boots. The fit was good, although the front waist was lower than I would like. The only thing that saved them was the fact that whoever designed them figured out, rightly, that the back of the jeans needs to be much higher than the front of the jeans. Promote that person to the head of the design department. No one wants plumber's crack when spending the day on a horse. The jeans stayed put when I sat down, which was a pleasant surprise. 

All of this took the better part of a half an hour. I stood in that dressing room wondering why this is such a trial. It is too much to ask for a pair of 100% cotton jeans with a rise that splits the difference between the 4" gap I found between those two styles? One was high and the other one was low. Can't we have something in the middle that covers up the stretch marks but doesn't make you feel like you're wearing a medieval torture device? And doesn't come with baggy butts? 

[I related this whole sad tale to the husband at dinner last night. He said he had no idea that this was such an issue. Of course, the laundry fairy keeps track of the state of his pants and when they eventually wear out, she goes to the farm store and buys a few more pairs of 35 x 34 Wrangler Riggs work pants that magically appear in the rotation, no dressing room required. Clothing procurement is easy for him.]

I ended up with one pair of the Cash jeans. They will be okay provided I wear a long enough shirt. I still have several pairs of the absolute best-fitting jeans I have ever had; the crotch seams have split and they aren't fit to wear in public, but one of these days I will take them apart, draft a new pattern, and make myself a whole wardrobe of 100% cotton jeans that actually fit my body. 

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Tomorrow is our 28th wedding anniversary. One of the drawbacks of having gotten married over a long holiday weekend is that I am usually traveling. This year I am managing to be absent for both the husband's birthday (I was in Spokane) and our anniversary. It's okay—we celebrated early. We've actually been together for 31 years, which sometimes blows my mind when I stop to think about it. 

I guess we're officially an old married couple.


Wednesday
May232018

Officially Team Trace

The Self Sewn Wardrobe group on Facebook has an ongoing good-natured battle between #TeamTrace and #TeamCutThatS---Out. The cutters gleefully chop up their patterns. The tracers trace. I used to cut patterns out, but now I am firmly in the tracing camp. Part of that is because almost all indie patterns now are digital downloads that need to be printed and taped together. I can't stand working with taped-together patterns. Part of it is also because tracing allows me to make adjustments without wrecking the original pattern. 

[Some indie designers offer, as part of their downloads, files that can be taken to print shops and printed on large sheets of paper. That's fabulous, but not all of them do it.]

I started tracing the Margaret Tunic Shirt pattern yesterday afternoon:

It's going okay. I don't have a working color printer, so the printout is black and white even though the PDF is in color. That makes it a bit hard to see some of the lines for the size I am making where they converge because of the grading. This is going to be a knit top with some forgiveness and stretch, so I am not making myself nuts about it. I don't expect the first iteration of this shirt to come out perfectly. My goal, however, is to find two or three knit top patterns that look good (even if I have to customize them a bit) and are easy to make. 

I do have a color laser printer, but it's currently serving as a very large paperweight on my desk. It's emblematic of everything that irritates me about disposable electronics. Back in the early 2000s, when I still had to print paper copies of my knitting patterns for some of my vendors, I bought an HP laser printer. It was not cheap, nor were the four separate ink cartridges it required, but it was a necessary evil. Unfortunately, that printer only lasted about two years. (Two years! For an $800 printer! And I wasn't even close to the heavy end of the duty cycle.) I replaced it with a Xerox Phaser color laser printer. That one lasted a bit longer, but it, too, eventually went kaput. I isolated the problem to a bad electronic control module. I could get a replacement ECM for about $75 and replace it myself using a very detailed YouTube video—I am not the only person whose Xerox Phaser has gone kaput, apparently—but that is just one more learning curve I don't feel like climbing. I have kept the thing around because one of these days, DD#1's boyfriend will be here and he will need a project. He has thus far fixed her old laptop and a large-screen TV that someone left in the garbage near their apartment in Seattle, so I have no doubt he can fix this printer. 

In the meantime, I continue to use the black and white HP LaserJet 1200 that I bought in 1996. Yes, it is 22 years old. It has printed hundreds of thousands of pages and I have never had a problem with it. I'm just so tired of planned obsolesence and disposable electronics. 

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Someone in the Creative Bag Making group on Facebook posed a very interesting question yesterday. She asked, "What's stopping you from being a vendor at a craft fair?" The answers ranged from "I don't have enough inventory" to "People are too cheap where I live" to issues having to do with booth fees and the costs of traveling to shows. I know I don't want to do craft shows, but it was interesting to read about other peoples' experiences.  

For me, it all still comes down to keeping sewing as the thing I do for relaxation. If the universe somehow manages to drag me in the direction of selling some of what I make, I'll go, but I may not go willingly. I still like my day job too much to quit it, and how many people can say that? 

A vintage industrial serger—one of the models on my short list—popped up on Craigslist in the Tri-Cities, Washington (Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco) for a really great price. The husband asked me if I was going to stop and get it on my way back from Seattle. (He reminded me last week that one of his work trucks still needs new seat covers.) It would require a detour of a couple of hours, as the Tri-Cities are southwest of Spokane. Retrieving that machine is doable, but I am still left with the issue of where to put it when I get it back here. It's in an enormous table with a heavy-duty clutch motor. I would have to put it in his garage and there really isn't room. I think I am going to pass. 

Tuesday
May222018

The Sandbox Party

The husband called me Sunday as I was on my way home from church. He wanted to know my ETA, because Ali had finished building the sandbox and he was taking the dump trailer over to place the sand. He thought I would want to watch. (Such a thoughtful guy.) About fifteen minutes later, this happened:

That's Ali's existing garden to the left. Some friends of hers from work put a crew together to come over and double the size of the garden. They were putting in the fenceposts while the husband was placing the sand. The sandbox will be inside the garden and thus a safe place for the little guy to play while Ali tends veggies. We stayed and visited and watched the proceedings for a while. The little guy was thrilled with his sandbox and immediately brought out a couple of his Tonka trucks. 

As it turned out, the husband had gotten enough sand for two sandboxes, so after he filled this one, he headed down the road to where the little guy's cousin lives. She will be three in the fall and she needs a sandbox, too. He hadn't planned it that way, but it was serendipitous that it worked out.

It's fun having all these kids in the neighborhood. Our renters have a little girl who will be two years old soon. She loves to come over and feed the chickens. She was here last night and I got a couple of handfuls of scratch grains for her and she threw them to the chickens and watched them eat. 

[These kids' parents are not afraid of germs. These little ones will all have robust immune systems.]

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I apologize to those of you who check in hoping for sewing content. You may have to wait a few more days. It's just one of those weeks when I don't really have spare time to work on projects. I did print out and start taping together the pattern for the Margaret Tunic Shirt, from IThinkSew. I really want to start making some tops (and using my serger and coverstitch machines more often) and I decided that nothing was going to happen unless I started making some movement in that direction. I found a print in my stash to use for the lining of the McGregor Field Tote. That's as far as that project has gone, though. It's a bit frustrating to me to have to put some of this stuff on the back burner but it comes with this time of year. 

I also bought and downloaded the Made to Measure Leggings class from SewHere.com. I am a subscriber, so I got a special deal on the class. Leggings aren't necessarily a large part of my wardrobe (although I do wear them in the winter for added warmth), but this pattern is infinitely customizable and everyone who has made them and posted pictures to the Facebook group looks smashing in them. That is not always the case with Spandex, ahem. 

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We got the corn and beans planted on Sunday. The husband also got out all the seed packets from previous years (because we keep them) and planted everything he could find. We have no idea what—if anything—will come up but any additional plants will be a bonus. 

I am having trouble believing it will be June soon. This year is almost half over. I know part of this stems from me losing a month due to being sick, but time seems to be speeding by. 

Sunday
May202018

Cathy's Cows

The husband and I had date night last night, part of which consisted of a hike through a meadow to take a look at my friend Cathy's herd of cows. We stopped at her place so he could take a look at their property and offer his opinion on a new barn project. I hadn't had a chance to see her cows in person yet. She took us out to visit them and I took a selfie:

The brown one was a bull calf that Cathy bought for breeding purposes, only to discover that the seller hadn't been forthcoming about a problem with it. The defect isn't something that Cathy wants to propagate throughout her herd, so she castrated him intending to raise him for beef. The problem is that he is very personable and loving. I only spent a few minutes with him and I wouldn't want to send him to the processor, either. Flocks of sheep often contain a castrated male—the bellwether—but I've never heard of that being a thing with cows. Maybe Cathy can start a trend. 

The little black one is a heifer calf born in February. Cathy bought her mother, already bred, from one of our neighbors. Her mother is a fine-looking 12-year-old cow and Cathy is hoping to get a few more calves out of her.

The husband was trying to be helpful and took some pictures of Cathy and me on my phone, but he had accidentally set the phone to slo-mo video instead of still pics. There are two slo-mo videos of Cathy and me discussing the back end of the steer (the defect is with his tail). They are hysterically funny, but I don't have a good way to embed them here in the blog. You'll have to use your imagination. 

Cathy's husband, Tony, was away at a seminar in California. He is a pulmonologist and was one of my doctors when I was in the ICU in February. I've mentioned before that Tony's youngest brother is married to a woman that the husband and I went to college with, which is how I met Cathy. Small world. 

Cathy also gifted me with a set of cams for my Singer 319 sewing machine. She bought them at a thrift store when they lived in Texas. 

It was a gorgeous spring evening and meeting the cows was a lot of fun. After we left Cathy's we went to Lowes, where we always seem to end up on date night. I needed some new roller shades for the bedrooms upstairs and the husband visited Tool World. 

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The snake is still hanging out in the greenhouse. I talk to it when I go out there. I talk to the hummingbirds, too; there are two males and they have a tendency to fight with each other. It's like having a couple of miniature flying roosters. I have been able to control this excess testosterone problem in the past by having two separate feeders on the porch. One of the feeders broke, though, and I wasn't able to replace it with the same style. The new feeder looks different and so far, neither of the males has claimed it. They are still fighting over the old feeder. 

No giant toad sightings yet. That's a blessing. 

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I got the waxed canvas pieces for the McGregor Field Tote cut out yesterday afternoon. (I spent the morning cleaning the house and then cut the grass in the backyard, so I rewarded myself with some fabric time.) I haven't decided what I want to use for the lining. I have some gray twill, but that just looks so plain to me. A look through my stash yielded up some possibilities. I am not sure I have enough of any one remnant, though. Oh well. This may be an opportunity to be extra creative. 

I used my Bramble Bag as my purse for the first time when we out to dinner last night. I really really really love it. It's the perfect style (it could be a skooch bigger, but it works) and there is just something cool about using a purse that you've made yourself. 

Friday
May182018

Sandboxes and Tonka Trucks

Our neighbor, Ali, is building a sandbox for her little guy. The husband went and got the sand for it yesterday afternoon:

He doesn't mess around with bags of sand. He hitched up the dump trailer to his truck, went to his concrete supplier, and had them load it up. He took this picture to send to Ali so she could show the little guy. The little guy loves heavy equipment. 

I know a lot of parents want to raise their kids in gender-neutral environments (and for the record, how other people raise their kids is really none of my business), but I remain convinced that at least some of this is hard-wired into kids from a very young age. The little guy's favorite thing to do at Auntie Janet's house—besides sleep, when he was really little—is to watch heavy equipment and monster truck videos on YouTube. I blame the husband for that. We were babysitting one time when the little guy was about nine months old and I had to run back over to their house across the street to get something. When I came back, the little guy and the husband were parked in the husband's recliner watching heavy equipment failure videos. With rapt attention. It's all gone downhill from there. 

The little guy will have a really nice sandbox for all of his Tonka trucks soon. He is going to be three years old next month. He's not even my kid and I'm all like, "Wait, how did he get to be three already?" I have to order his birthday present this week. 

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I'm in the midst of musical sewing rooms right now. DD#2 went back to Spokane yesterday, freshly minted adult driver's license in hand (Montana has a special license for kids under 21), so I changed the sheets on her bed and will move the cutting table and supplies back into her room. Then I have to move some fabric boxes out of DD#1's room to make space for the houseguests that are coming next week. Last night, I finished a really simple top made up of 5" x 5" squares. I have a whole plastic shoebox of them in various prints and solids. This top will go to my friend Elaine, and she'll knot it into a comforter at Thursday quilting at the church. It will find its way back to me eventually for binding, and then get sent to Mennonite Central Committee for distribution. 

Some sewing is happening, just not anything complicated. That hasn't stopped the ideas from percolating through my brain, though. 

I've been trying to figure out some way to finish the edge of the gardening apron I made out of the husband's old work pants. They are a heavy ripstop canvas and regular bias binding wasn't going to work. Googling for sewing supplies is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the internet opens up a world of possibilities for finding some of these more esoteric supplies that can't be sourced at Jo-Ann Fabrics. The trick, though, is knowing what search terms to use. I have a good idea what I'm looking for because I have seen it on commercial items. I Googled various permutations of canvas binding, polyester binding, nylon binding, twill tape, etc. Finally, it occurred to me that searching for "carpet binding" might yield up what I needed. It did—in limited colors of black and white (I was looking for brown and dark green). I then Googled "rug binding" and hit the jackpot. Ah, the vagaries of search engine optimization. I found a supplier that had what I needed and I could buy it by the yard instead of in 40-yard rolls. 

[Etsy's platform is open to to suppliers from around the world, and a lot of these searches led me there. I am not terribly interested in ordering from Hong Kong, though, and waiting 3-4 weeks for items to be delivered. I much prefer to find US suppliers.]

I still think I am going to end up designing some bags, because despite all my efforts, I cannot find existing patterns for some of the styles of bags I want to make. I've fallen down that slippery slope before. That's how I ended up writing three knitting books, because the ones I wanted didn't exist. 

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