I Finished My First “Outfit”!!

I started the 2014 RTW Fast in January with an evaluation of my clothing needs.  First up on my list was flannel pajamas because mine were in dire need of retirement. I hated to give them up because the fabric was so cute!  See?

I hate to give up this fabric!!

I hate to give up this fabric!!

But, alas, they had certainly seen better days so I cut them apart to use for a new pattern.  This was my first lesson of the new year:  to challenge myself to make my own patterns.

Making a new pattern

Making a new pattern

This really did not take as long as I expected and I look forward to tracing more of my favorite pieces. I carefully added seam allowances and other features.

While working on this, I ordered a gray leopard fabric from Fabric.com.  Imagine my surprise when it arrived and the design was tiny leopard spots!! It was okay but my second lesson from this garment:  make sure and get a swatch if it is important to know the exact scale of a print or the “feel” of a fabric.

I washed the fabric and LOVED the softness. It is a high quality fabric compared to the flannel I used in the baby doll blanket. It was a joy to sew and will be a joy to wear!

My next step was the cutting out.  I only made one mistake when I cut the cuffs too narrow and had to redo them on the fold of the fabric. Luckily I had some to spare. Lesson number 3:  Measure, measure, measure… then cut.

My next lesson involved adding ready made pink piping to places to add some “pop”. I chose to do this because when looking at fun pajamas in the marketplace, I noted they   all have piping along the design features.  So I added piping to cuffs on the legs, sleeves, the pockets and along the edge of the front facings and collar.  This involved cutting my facings into two pieces rather than just folding them back from the center. I really like the pink on the soft gray and white fabric.

Once the sewing began, I had no problems although I did take my time to make sure the piping was sewn as closely as possible and other details done right.  I enjoyed “slow sewing” vs. rushing through the project. It added a new dimension to my sewing experience to slow down and enjoy the process. I did have to catch a few minutes here and an hour there to do the work taking MUCH longer than usual for me, but I am quite pleased with the quality of my work.

The only change I would make to this pattern is to make the pockets larger.  I doubt I will use them for anything, but with my size, they need to be a bit wider to balance the front.  As you can see, I am clearly a plus-size and these pajamas are cut to make a roomy, comfortable fit:

My Finished Pajamas!! First Clothing Project for 2014 RTW Fast

My Finished Pajamas!!
First Clothing Project for 2014 RTW Fast

I LOVE them! I cannot describe how comfortable and soft they are.  I am looking forward to a cozy night ahead as this may be one of the last cold nights of 2014.


Snow Days Bring Sew Days!


The Snow Storm of February 2014 has hit us hard here in South Carolina but I have been fortunate enough to keep my power which means I can finally sew something!!!

Yesterday when I realized there would be no work, I announced to the world that I was sewing all day!!  I wish that I could say it was something for me to wear, but I had another project that I had to do first… a baby doll blanket for my next door neighbor who turned two yesterday.  I saw this cute project on Pinterest on the Riley Blake Designs Blog called “Baby Doll Pouch Blanket Tutorial”.  It can be found at http://www.rileyblakedesigns.com/blog/2013/12/04/project-design-wednesdaybaby-doll-pouch-blank/

Of course, any sane person would have bought Riley Blake fabric and used it to make the baby doll blanket, but I had bought flannel for this project.  I used a polka dot flannel for the back and cut up matching 5 inch flannel charm squares to make smaller squares.  Here is what the front looks like after I sewed it together:


This was a chance for me to brush up on my rotary cutting skills.  I need to learn to slow down as I tend to think of rotary cutting as “zip zip” and am not always as accurate as I need to be.  I KNOW this, but still catch myself slipping when I cut my squares.

Next I lined up all my squares in a pattern and then carried them to the sewing machine as a group.  This helped me to speed sew the squares together. I did notice my sewing machine is not too good at feeding the material under the presser foot… a good excuse to buy a new machine if I decide to quilt!

Once I had the twelve strips sewn, I sewed those to each other being careful to keep the seams in the right direction.  I am NOT a quilter, but I have learned some of the things you are supposed to do.  Because my skills are “so so”, I did not have exactly perfect squares which would bug me to death if it was a true quilt. I don’t think the baby doll is going to notice but I would… can you tell I am a perfectionist? Just wish my skills were perfect, too… ah, but sewing is a learning process.

After the top was finished, I trued up the top, the batting, and the bottom to a square and quilted it by sewing in the ditch. Of course, this wasn’t perfect either when my squares were not all lined up as they should have been, but it looked fine due to the busyness of the pattern on the front and the back looked great with the squares of quilting.

I debated buying a ready made bias binding but didn’t like the look of the cotton with the flannel.  I decided to make my own… another skill I need to work on.  I cut my flannel on the bias after much internal debate on whether to cut it on the grain or on the bias. I only had one little piece of flannel left, so it made me very nervous to mess it up.  Luckily, I did the right thing as it made oodles of bias strips to work with. I went to the ironing board with my new gadget to make bias tape and realized that I probably should have cut it twice as wide due to the thickness of the flannel.  It turned out to be exactly what I wanted, but took a lot of time to attach. I machine sewed it to one side, turned it over the edges, and hand sewed it down on the top side.

Last, I had to go buy another piece of flannel for the baby pocket inside the quilt.  Luckily the snow was melted and I could get to Joann’s.  I bought a cute baby pink flannel that had the words “baby” printed on it. Came home and washed it so it would shrink up as the other flannel had been washed prior to sewing.  Well, the words almost disappeared in the wash.  Sad because that was the attraction of the fabric!

Sewing the pocket onto the inside of the baby doll blanket completed the process:

Baby Doll Blanket Pouch

Baby Doll Blanket Pouch

Here are the end results:

DSC03747I delivered it this week and it was quite a hit!!  A K immediately went to her room for her baby to put into the baby doll blanket.  It makes all the time and effort worthwhile to create a one of a kind birthday gift for my sweet next door neighbor!

Now on to the next project…


When Life Gives You Lemons…



I thought last week was a challenge, but this week has it beat!! My Dad became very ill with what we thought was a stomach virus but has turned out to be much much more. Not sure what yet because even the doctors are stumped. I had to drive up from SC, take him to the ER, and now we are in the hospital (fourth day) awaiting answers. My Dad is 92, has had two major heart attacks, and battled lymphoma last year so this is no simple evaluation. He will probably need surgery which will make this a life or death situation. However, he is strong and determined and he is holding up his end. In the meantime, we wait and wait and wait.

Needless  to say, no sewing for me. I was all set to begin cutting out my first project and now this. I certainly think being with my Dad is way more important, but it is hard when you are gearing up to jump in with both feet and it comes to a screeching halt. Or has it?

I started to think how I could change this to a positive instead of a negative and this is how I have:

1. I have my new iPad so I can follow along on the RTW fasters Facebook page. Because  I have a lot of waiting quiet time, I can delve into all the details and enjoy seeing everyone’s creations.

2. I can make a list of what I want to sew and look at patterns and fabrics online.

3. I can imagine how I am going to sew my first garment so when I do start, I have a mental image of how to do it. If I think there will be a problem I can look at YouTube to see how to resolve it.

4. I can check out Ready To Wear for sewing ideas. I just saw a cute designer color block tee for spring that has my wheels turning.

5. I can knit! Yes, luckily my knitting was in a bag ready to go, so I grabbed it on the way out. Maybe I will be able to make progress on it. Here is a picture:

Knitting my sweater!

Knitting my sweater!

it may be hard to see but it is stripes of hot pink and red. Quite cheerful!


Life Happens!!!



Many of my fellow RTW fasters are quickly completing their first items… but around here, our life has been full of other adventures.  My 20 year old son had his four wisdom teeth extracted on January 2 which led to a very full day of nursing and hovering on my part.  On Friday and Saturday I was involved with a wedding of the son of a close friend so those two days were full.  And then on Sunday I had an active role in my church worship service, brunch to lunch, and a vision meeting afterwards.  That doesn’t mean I was unable to do anything Home Economics related, however.

I was able to cook and freeze 2 pounds of black eyed peas, 2 pounds of red Kidney beans, and 2 pounds of white Navy beans.  I already had 2 pounds of black beans in my freezer.

I forgot to take pictures of the whole process, but I know you can find many sources online to tell you how to cook beans.  I first “clean and pick through” the beans (looking for bad ones or rocks), then cover with at least 1 -2 inches of water to soak overnight.  The next day I rinse them well and cover again with fresh water.  Then I cook them for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until they are soft.  One lesson I have learned is DO NOT ADD SALT or they will never soften properly. Here is a picture of my poor stock pot after a batch of beans:


Here are the beans after draining (I do save some of the liquid to add to the freezer packs):


After cooking, I put about 2 cups plus some liquid  in quart size plastic bags for freezing.  This time I used my Food Saver to make the bags and seal them (because I was out of freezer baggies):


I lay the bags flat on a cookie sheet and freeze:


After they freeze, I “stack” them on the shelf or put them in baskets like this:


Then I place the baskets on the freezer shelf like this:


Now I am ready to use these beans and peas for lots of recipes.  We usually make a soup or vegetarian meal with these about once a week. Having them on hand makes the process simple.

Here is a Bean and Bacon Soup that is going to taste really good on this ice cold night!

1 pound dried navy beans                                                                                                 6 cups water                                                                                                                 2 tsps. salt                                                                                                                                               1/4 tsp. pepper                                                                                                             2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                              1 bay leaf                                                                                                                     4 slices bacon                                                                                                               2 medium onions, finely chopped                                                                                   1 small green pepper, finely chopped                                                                             1/2 cup finely chopped carrots                                                                                       1 8 ounce can tomato sauce                                                                                         1 tsp. minced fresh parsley

Prepare dried beans as directed adding the salt, pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Since I did not do this, I am going to add these to one pound of my beans while cooking the soup and start it while I prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Cook the bacon until crisp; remove bacon, reserve drippings.  Crumble bacon and set aside. Add onion and green pepper to drippings; saute until tender.  Add onion, green pepper, and carrots to beans.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for one hour. Add tomato sauce and parsley to soup and simmer an additional 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf. Ladle into serving bowls and sprinkle with reserved bacon. Yield:  About 3 quarts. (Source: Southern Living 1983 Annual Recipes)

This will be a good soup for tonight, for me to share, and for me to freeze for one of those days when I am sewing and don’t want to stop to fix dinner.

Stay warm!


Closet Reveals Real Issues!



My quick list of what is in my closet revealed some real eye-openers.  First of all, this is how I did it:  With a pad and pencil I just listed all that I owned under three categories:  LOVE, LIKE, REPLACE, and REDO.   I only listed my winter clothing even though I had some fall and spring stuff in there.  I can tackle them at a later date.  Do you know what I found?

1) I have plenty of clothing to fit my needs. (See below for how I determine this).

2) I have only a few things on the LOVE list and a whole lot in the LIKE, REPLACE, and REDO  categories.  The main reason I have so much on these lists is because of: poor fit, items are worn or faded,  items need something to go with them for better wear.

This determines my sewing strategies for the coming year because I really want all of my clothing to be on the LOVE list.  I want to enjoy getting dressed every day and feel my best.  And, most of all, I want my clothing to be colorful, energizing, and fun.  That is the way I like to live so I really want my clothing to reflect my personality.

Wow! I have my work cut out for me!!!  It may take awhile to accomplish this but I am so excited to have a direction to go.


Part Two:

Do you have problems matching your wardrobe to your lifestyle?  Here are some ways to accomplish this:

1) Take last year’s calendar, a note pad, and pencil and list what your activities were that were clothing related. Just jot this down.  Examples include:  Sleeping, down time at home, work outs, hobbies that require clothing (such as tennis, yoga, skiing, etc.), work business dress, work casual dress, social events formal, social events casual, church. List any and all activities that you had last year that needed clothing (if you do not have your calendar, just try to come up with them in your head and in the next few weeks you can adjust as you see your needs).

2)Beside each category, list how many items you need for this activity.  You may want to have 10 different clothing choices for work and three different clothing choices for sleeping.

3) Now compare your list with what is in your closet and drawers. (It may help to write  your current clothing under each category on your list). Do you see gaps? That is where you need to spend your time sewing or shopping (if you are not on the Ready to Wear Fast).

Another method for helping with this is to list what you own in categories such as pants, skirts, shirts, blouses, jackets, sweaters, etc.I did this once and discovered that I had about five times more tops than I had bottoms.  No wonder I had a hard time finding something to wear!

Remember that you do not need to have 10 separate items if you need 10 different outfits.  You can always mix and match clothing to stretch your options.

There are many “lists” going around on the internet right now for wardrobe planning and sewing … such as the 8 way wardrobe.  I know this is a good way to corral your sewing into a simple formula.  But if you don’t need those 8 items, it still isn’t going to solve your  “I have nothing to wear!” problems.

If you follow the plan above, I guarantee you will have exactly what you need when you need it.  And that is the magic of a good wardrobe!

Happy Planning!

Happy New Year!! January 2014 Ready to Wear Fast Begins!

I am starting the Ready to Wear Fast at http://www.goodbyevalentino.com today and am beginning this blog so I can report my progress.  It truly is exciting to have this new challenge to spur me on with my sewing!!  However, like the true Home Economist that I am, I first want to look at my existing wardrobe and decide what I have and what will fill in the blanks.

Most sewists love their craft so much that it never dawns on them to evaluate their needs –  so they end up with a lot of clothing that they never get to wear. Other folks are able to find endless amounts of cheap clothing in the marketplace which invites them to purchase too much and to house way too much. I realize that most folks do not have a good idea of what is actually in their closets and feel like this is an extra step.   But it truly will become such a timesaver in the end.

Here are some photos of my closet:

The top half of my closet

The top half of my closet

The bottom half of my closet

The bottom half of my closet

Although you can’t see all the nooks and crannies, this is basically all there is… small by today’s American standards! And even though I do not have all my clothing in here at the moment (some is in the laundry), this is basically what I own.  I do have my out of season clothing stored in another location and I do have a bureau of my undergarments, nightclothes, and workout wear. I also keep my coats (winter and rain) and special occasion items in our hall closet.  And the wig you see is my Halloween costume!!

You can see by the picture that it is pretty neat and organized.  What you cannot see in the picture is that some of these items are not useful to me because they don’t fit or I no longer wear this style or they never have worked with my wardrobe.  So the first step in my Ready to Wear Fast is to decide what I truly can wear, what won’t work, and what I can do to change the “won’t works” into “will works”.  If they can’t be changed into “will works”, then off to charity they will go!

As I ring in 2014, I am off to count my blessings (eh, turtlenecks).  Hope you will join me in this new adventure!