Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why Can't I Be Different From Everyone Else?

Cruising through my reading list this evening, after almost a week of being unable to access it (thanks, Blogger), I came upon two posts that were written by two sewing bloggers.  One I've admired for a long time (Sarai from Coletterie, and one I've just recently discovered (Jody Pearl from Sew Outside The Lines).  Both of them touched on things I've been mulling over myself in the last year while on hiatus from writing my own blog.  Primarily, the questions/considerations center around 1) why do I sew? and 2) what is my focus, or what should it be?

Sarai recently did a series on her blog about streamlining your wardrobe by considering what your style is, or what you would LIKE it to be, and outlined steps you can take to get there.  From the comments she got during and after the series, it sounded like a lot of us are floundering when it comes to our personal style, so I'm no exception.  But I end up sewing so little for myself because I have had to take in so much sewing for others, just to help make ends meet.  So, I end up lurking around local thrift shops, scouring for duds that I can spruce up, remake, refashion, tailor, or use for parts & fabric.  And those pile up around me also, since I'm pretty tired by the end of my sewing day (4 hours most days, six if I can really push myself - check out the National Fibromyalgia Association website for details about why - it's too much to explain here).  It's not that I ever run out of ideas - anyone who's haunted my Pinterest board about refashioning knows that, LOL - I just run out of steam.  What little steam I have, I have to devote to the sewing that brings in income.  Sigh.

I love helping out by taking in sewing, but I've given some really serious thought to backing off from that, because I miss - I REALLY miss - sewing for the creative outlet that it brings, whether that's sewing from scratch, or remaking something to make it my own (refashioning).  I believe in reusing and repurposing things, and have done that for years.  What I didn't realize is that those concepts are part of a broader philosophical notion known as wabi sabi.  My favorite quotes from Wikipedia about it:  "If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi."  (Juniper, Andrew, 2003.  Wabi Sabi:  The Japanese Art of Impermanence.)  And, "Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realitites:  nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."  (Powell, Richard, 2004.  Wabi Sabi Simple.)  

Those last three notions really sang to me.  Nothing lasts.  Nothing is finished.  And nothing is perfect.  Really sums up both why I love to sew for myself or create something of my own to offer the rest of the world, and why I love refashioning.  And why I'd love to pursue both of those as an expression of myself (and hopefully, result in unique goods and/or clothing that others would be keen to purchase).

Sarai had a checklist on her post, offered as thinking prompts, that I have copied and put above my desk to help me pursue exactly WHAT I want to be saying, both to myself and to the world:
  • Who am I?
  • What am I like?
  • How do I want others to see me?
  • How can I express myself in a way that feels true and creative?
  • Why can't I be different from everyone else?
  • Why do I have to take myself so seriously?
I will be devoting some serious thinking time to pursue what my goals are for developing my personal style and the style I would like to present to others.  In the meantime, I stole some time out of my work schedule to remake a top from the Assistance League (the AL).

Here's to being different from everyone else!  :)

I started with an XL knit top  (on my larger dress form) that I snagged when the AL was having their 50% off sale.  Beautiful fabric, and I loved the colors. I try to look for things that have enough fabric or working room in them to remake.  If I can't fit a pattern into the top as it is, often I will cut it up to use in a color blocked shirt. The other thing to keep in mind when you go thrift-store-hopping:  check the condition of the garment very carefully.  Make sure there is no pilling, stretched out areas, discoloration, fading, stains, or holes.  Unless you either want to incorporate that into your look, or you know you can cut around it or over dye it.
 Check out the Reigning Queen of Over Dyeing.
I've folded the top in half at the center front, matching side seams, and now
I've pinned the pattern I'm using to the top, placing the pattern on the center fold and matching the armhole area as much as possible.  When you decide to use a pattern for
your refashion, you need to audition it a bit on the garment, deciding how best to use the existing garment's seams, hems, neckline finish, etc, keeping your finished garment idea in mind.
Sometimes the garment itself dictates what you can do with it.
It's okay.  There are no refashioning police.

Here's a closeup of the pattern up around the neck area.  My shoulders were still
joined, so I have pinned it beyond the seam approximately the distance of the seam width (5/8"), placing it from the center front fold, and not worrying about the neckline - I'm going to leave that as is.


Here is a very blurry closeup of the shoulder/neckline area. I've already cut around the new armhole, being careful not to cut into the sleeve or the sleeve seam allowance. It just barely fit into that area, amazingly. 

Cutting up the sides - I was able to trim out about 4 to 4.5" of excess fabric on each side.  I like this pattern because it is shaped on the sides, where some are just straight up and down from the bust line to the hem.  You can see that the armscye just fits around the existing sleeve curve, right at the seamline.  
And...nothing is perfect.  (Remember my new mantra?)  Here's where you can make an executive decision.  Mine was to use the existing hem, so I didn't worry too much about where to place the lower edge of the pattern.  I was aiming to keep the upper neck/shoulder area as intact as possible instead. 

Now that the front was cut, I folded the back in half, matching the shoulders and the side seams.  Again, I pinned the shoulder of the pattern 5/8" beyond the top's shoulder seam, since I wouldn't be needing the seam allowance, and placed the center back line on the fold of the garment.

Ah.  Here is a better closeup photo - you can see the shoulder edge of the pattern pinned beyond the existing seam.  I continued cutting the sides and the sleeves, leaving me with a front/back which was already finished at the neckline and the lower hems.  All I have to do now I cut the sleeves, set them back in, and finish up.


See?  It's like magic.  Now I won't have to do so much work to have an all new shirt.
Here was what was left after cutting the side seams from the front & back, and the sleeve cap area.  


This dangling part was just about all that went unused - so now I don't have anywhere near the waste I would have, had I purchased fabric to cut this pattern from.   Not bad. 
I had to determine what I needed to use from my pattern, and how it fit into the existing sleeve.  I cut the armhole of the bodice out using the pattern, so I should cut the sleeve cap from the same pattern so they fit together.  If I tried to use the existing sleeve cap as is, you can see there would have been a real fitting issue.


Cutting the sleeve cap to match the cut
armscye of the bodice.
Still had plenty of room left at the
lower edge of the sleeve, and the
pattern length was a bit short,
as it's meant to be a 3/4 sleeve.
 So I used the existing hem and that
left it a wrist-length sleeve.
I know, I know.  I'm a petite person
living in an average-sized pattern world.

I didn't take a photo of attaching the sleeve cap to the bodice, but after I serged them, there was a jog between the sleeve cap and the armscye in the upper bodice area on each sleeve.  That was due to having to pivot the pattern just slightly to get it to fit into the shoulder & neckline area.  I opted to serge along the sleeve (in the upper part of the picture) and then taper from that jog toward the side seam allowance (in the lower part of the photo), cutting off a small triangle.  I may have lost a bit of width in the upper bodice, but since the fabric is knit it wasn't as critical.

BEFORE                                                   AFTER
And here you have it - a shirt that looks brand new, with lovely commercially finished hems and neckline, but tapered and fit to my measurements.  Alternately, I could have just taken the top in all the way from the sleeve hem down the side to the lower bodice hem, but when you do that the shoulder seam ends up falling off the shoulder into the upper bicep area.  Not too flattering - and in a light colored shirt like this, really obvious.







Not too sure about this bringing on a serene melancholy, but it definitely fit the spiritual longing part.  It may not last, it was definitely not finished in it's original state, and it certainly isn't perfect.  But because I don't want to take myself so seriously anymore (I have to create a garment from scratch!  I have to do everything, from start to finish!  And it has to be perfectly sewn!), it fulfilled a need to have a result that feels true and creative, and better reflects the philosophy of wabi sabi.   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bonus Points for Not Skipping to the Next Blog!


It's incredible how much time has elapsed since my last post.  Apologies to any of you who have been lurking around the edges, hoping to see something new and exciting coming out of this quarter.  So much has happened between then and now, and for awhile it seemed like all my reasons for wanting to do a crafting/sewing blog in the first place went out the window.  I decided I needed to stop posting work from my production clients online, in order to preserve their right to get their items out to the public first, before anyone else sees the idea on my site and jumps the gun.  That left work from what I call my independent clients, but I figured people get bored with too many of the same type of posts (altering, tailoring, hemming, repairing, and repeat), so I sort of lost steam for a long time. My client base has steadily grown as well, so when I did have time to post, I was usually too tired to photograph and upload.  I've really been wanting to get back to writing and having a reason to practice my photography again, so - ready or not, here I am!

There's no way to get you caught up on so much - your eyes would be rolling back into your head around the 15th paragraph or so anyway - so what say we start fresh?

One of the things I love to do for clients is embroidery.  For years, I've been using a Viking Husqvarna Designer SE.  There are plenty of things that this machine can do that makes it worth keeping, but unfortunately, embroidery wasn't one of them.  Oh, I had high hopes in the beginning.  It seems, though, that I appear to have purchased a bit of a lemon.  Either that, or my repair gurus aren't being very truthful about other SE's coming in for the same repairs, over and over.  I have read several other blogs and reviews that mention some of the same issues I have, so I'm not going to sit here and dis Viking.  I do know that I'll never buy another one, though.  The biggest issue with the SE is that between the constant (and unpredictable) tension problem and the absolutely USELESS thread cutter (imagine a little gnome yanking your fabric through the throatplate, whacking repeatedly with a machete in the approximate area of where the thread should have been and shredding it nine ways to Sunday, all the while making horrid mechanical retching sounds), embroidering on this machine is just a nightmare.  I have ruined several onesies for my biggest production client, and it was getting embarassing to have to keep calling to ask for yet another shirt to replace the one the machine just ate.  The shirts ended up so holey, the pope was considering them for canonization.

My husband got really tired of hearing me cussing and fuming about the SE, but we both knew there was no way I was going to trade up to a Diamond because we could think of several other things we could do with that kind of money.  Like invest in another car, let's say.  I started haunting Craigslist, hoping that I could find a better quality machine - and lo and behold, my patience (or lack thereof) finally paid off - I found a gently used Brother PR620 being sold by a couple of college students.  They were majoring in marketing & branding, and had bought the machine to use for projects and embroidery orders for the marketing company one of them worked part time for.  It was in great condition and came with a boatload of extras, so my husband was good with helping with the financing.  Not keen on it, mind you - he's semi-retired now so big expenses like this one are kind of nerve-wracking at this point.  Since he is semi-retired, though, and because we have another son in college now, I really needed to pick up more work - and this machine promised results that were both higher quality and speedier than anything I'd been able to embroider before.

Also, this is the first machine I've purchased that was bigger than me.

The proof.  

So far, I haven't had a single issue with it, other than a bit of a learning curve.  It's a six-needle machine, which means that I don't have to sit and change threads for every color.  It's a SMART machine, which means that I don't usually have to babysit it, finger poised over the STOP button, waiting for that gnome to start cranking out those horrible sounds.  When it detects an issue, whether it's an incorrectly cut thread (are you listening, Viking?), a knot, missing bobbin thread, tension differences, or misalignment, it STOPS and notifies you there is a problem.  So I can actually sit at another machine, or go to my cutting table, and get other work done while it's merrily embroidering away.  My PC links up to it beautifully.  I never, ever could get my software - my VIKING software, mind you - to do the same with the SE.  I don't mind walking from one desk to the other with a flash drive, but...really?

First time I was actually able to introduce the Brother to my laptop was just this past week, when I had a rush job (not quite an overnight job, but only just) for a local high school's sports banquet.  (Friends from FVHS, if you're reading this, I make my apologies now.  It was for Edison.  Don't hate me - they were desperate, and willing to pay cash.)  With dozens of blankets needing every athlete's initials, and only a day and a half to get this done from digitizing to final finishing, I didn't have time to keep popping back and forth between the laptop and the machine with the flash drive.  Too many files loaded onto the flash drive, and it takes too long to sort through them on the onboard  touch screen.  Link the PC to the Brother, though, and BAM - all the files were transferred over to the Brother in mere seconds, and they were all there to use one after the other.  Sorted, alphabetized, and ready to rumble.

Word.  



Heavy fleece blankets.

The Brother is a champ.  I've never been so excited to turn a machine on before.  It has a narrow center arm (the "bed"), which keeps me from having to sit and hold a onesie inside-out, stretched beyond capacity, hoping that I'm not going to get my fingers caught in the needle of the flatbed unit on the SE while trying to maneuver the fabric so IT doesn't get caught and sewn over.  Now I can just hoop the onesie and slip it over the center arm.  No more jockeying for position.  It stitches fleece, heavy beach towels, thin cotton knits, heavy canvas aprons, hats, tote bags, jackets, you name it, all with the greatest of ease.  (That's a seamstress joke.)  I've nicknamed it The Beast.  Actually, it could be Beauty (or Belle) as well, it does such lovely things.  

Felt patches for the scooter repair/custom build shop where my son works.
Aprons, both heavy duty...
(Note: I did NOT do the Steelers logo.  It was already on the apron.)

...and a lighter weight.
And yes, I know. Those photography skills.  I'm working on 'em.
A onesie and a matching Minky blanket.  Like Buttah!
Heavy duty beach blanket, a keepsake for a client taking her daughter, her daughter's best friend, and her god-daughter to the Bahamas.  Unfortunately, they were not able to fit me into a carry-on, even though I asked pretty-please.  (Rats.)

CAPS!  I CAN DO CAPS NOW!  (And hats, too.)

Suffice to say, this is hands-down one of the BEST investments I've ever made in terms of becoming more professional with my sewing services.  

Unless you count the coverstitch machine I just bought a couple of months ago...but that's a story for another day.  

And for those of you who follow the Sewing Assistant's progress, he's still here, fat and sassy. 


Not very good at Selfies, though.

 I've been taking in so much more work now, though, he's had to hire an Assistant's Assistant.  He's still in training.
Didn't need much, really.  As soon as he was able to jump, he was up and on all of my clients' garments...
...and in every open bag he can find.
Meet Perry.  Affectionately known as Pee-Wee.
The Sewing Assistant's Assistant.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Floral Trip Down Memory Lane

Prom season.  Usually, I have a ton of dresses to work on during this time of year.  This year was an exception - the only dress I worked on was for my oldest son's girlfriend.  She inherited the dress from a cousin, who had had it redone by her mother at some point.  It wasn't the best alteration job, so most of what I needed to do was repair the work that had been done to that point, and to hem it and take it in just a smidge for her.

The saddest thing about it is that my son doesn't even get to attend her senior prom.  She's 18, but he's 21.  Too old to be an escort because he is of legal age to buy alcohol.  Never mind that my kid doesn't drink (and most likely never will).  The school has to do what it has to do to try their best to prevent tragic accidents that you read about in the papers every year.  But it was still a little sad for the two of them, since this is her senior prom.

She decided that she was just going to go with a bunch of girlfriends who also didn't have dates (a move that I heartily applaud - I wish we'd had that option when I was in high school - it sure would have beat the stigma of not being asked and not having a date...).  While doing the final fitting on her, it occurred to me that since none of these girls would have dates, that maybe none of them would have corsages.

You can't go to prom without a corsage.  You just can't.  I think there's a law about that on the books somewhere.

I asked her if her parents were buying her some flowers, and she was pretty sure they weren't.  Then I asked her if any of her girlfriends were getting flowers from their folks, and with one exception (she was takin' herself to prom, so she's buyin' herself some flowers, darnit!), none of the other girls would have corsages, either.

A brief conversation with my son later, we figured that since he'd be working while they were going out to dinner, that he might as well at least buy her and her friends some flowers.  He actually wanted to learn how to make the corsage himself (and he's not that bad with flowers, remember?), but there just wasn't enough time to teach him how, with him working all day and going to class at night.

Heck, I didn't even know if I could remember how to make a wrist corsage, much less teach someone else to do it.

Off to the local floral/decorators warehouse I went.  Wrist corsage bands, check.  Floral tape, check.  Floral wire, check.  Ribbon in colors to match all three girls' dresses, check.  Up to the register, check.  Oh, wait - they don't take checks.  Cash.

When he got home from work last night, off to the grocery store we went to check out their floral department.  I usually go to Trader Joe's to get the flowers that I put into arrangements for tables (you can hunt through my posts for anything labeled floral and you can find some examples), but last night they were just about wiped clean.  So off to Ralphs grocery store we went.  Luckily, they had a little more than T.J.'s, but still not very much.  He finally settled on some purple striped mini carnations, some white roses, and some baby's breath.  No greens available there, but my neighbor had gifted me with several cuttings of her leather fern plants years ago, so no worries.

Until I got home and realized that my husband had just that day decided that he needed to cut all the plants back, nearly to the roots.

Sigh.

We don't have any more ivy (too many places for rodents to hang out and party hearty), so I cut what I could from what was left.  And decided to use ribbon accents.  Lots and lots of ribbon accents.  (LOL)

Dark blue ribbon, to match the girlfriend's dress.  I only made this photo large because I was so proud of myself for actually using the macro properly.  

Dark purple and gold ribbons to match the other two girls' dresses, plus the blue one (to the upper right).
Sure hope they can tell the difference tomorrow night when they put them on. 

I love roses.  I just wish I could grow them.

And off to prom they go.

The prom this year is being held at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.  Attendees are allowed to go into the ballroom where the dance & food will be, but they also get to wander through about three floors of the Queen Mary and see some of the displays & rooms.  Hopefully, no ghosts.  If she ever gets a copy of the photos they take there, I'll post a photo of the finished dress - we didn't have time to take a shot while she was here and I like them better when they're all dolled up for the dance anyway.  :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Do Rhomboids Dance?



Crazy.  Busy.  I can't believe I haven't posted since February - I'm sure my absence sent the blogosphere into a frantic tizzy. Just kidding! - but my disappearance was mostly due to MY being in a frantic tizzy for about 4 months.  Let's just say that my Sanity-Meter was tipping precariously toward "In-" and leave it at that.

I may have mentioned this before, but this is my younger son's senior year of high school.  Originally, he was planning to participate in the marching band in the fall, and then instead of doing percussion in the spring, he wanted to take a break from the constant rehearsals and competitions and move over into the Wind Ensemble instead. Things didn't work out that way, though, so we just got finished grinding through another spring competition season, which culminated in an incredibly jam-packed trip to Dayton, Ohio for the WGI Percussion World Championships.  Which meant mom was plenty busy measuring for drumline uniforms & measuring for custom drum covers, followed by plenty of pattern drafting, manufacture, and repair work thrown in for good measure.  Add in driving to competitions (some of them were nearly 100 miles away, one way), providing meals on the run, a sudden (and most welcome) upswing in client orders, one custom wedding anniversary dress, another VW bus refashion, sewing for charitable needs, and one of the most unusual costume requests I've gotten in awhile, and you have one very busy seamstress.  (Disclaimer:  You are not permitted to ask about housework.  Just sayin'...)

Obvs, I can't write about all of it at once (or you'll fall asleep at your desk or wherever you happen to be picking up my sudden reappearance in BlogLand), so I'll keep it to one topic for this post - and bring you up to speed a bit at a time.

Because I know all 9 of you have been fretting worriedly about my sudden drop off the edge of the Web map.  (Here there be monsters - right?)

The percussion ensemble up at the high school was bumped up into the World Class category recently, which is saying a LOT - these are very talented, very dedicated kids that take their percussion work very, very seriously.  And their spring show provided an insight into just how dedicated these students are - the theme was derived from the last 10 miles of railroad track that was hand laid in preparation for setting the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, UT in 1869 (an amazing and - to date - unparalleled track-laying feat that you can read about here), creating the first transcontinental railroad.  The indoor percussion show required a costume that would be reminiscent of the "coolie" type clothing that a lot of the chinamen wore during the track laying - but something ephemeral and slightly ghost-like as well.

Front Ensemble members with their instructor, after World Championships.
The drummers and the cymbal players out on the floor mat were required to hit the floor - literally, as well as figuratively - and often on their knees with a bit of a twisting motion.  You can probably guess what was coming down the pike, since these uniforms were made of a cotton muslin that was thinner than Osnaberg.  Most of the time at a competition is spent NOT competing, but rehearsing parts of the show, over and over, usually in an outside lot.  Without the floor mat.  Loosely translated, this means that these kids are now on their knees, twisting & grinding the fabric into asphalt.


And yes, they were all wearing knee pads under the costumes.  That helped to keep them from getting injured, but didn't keep the fabric of the pants from shredding.  It would have been nice to have ordered the costumes with that in mind (reinforced knees, anyone?), but sometimes at the beginning of a season you don't always know what all is going to get thrown into the show at a later date.  

By the end of the season, nearly the entire drumline had patched up knees that looked like this:

Dude, this knee isn't going ANYWHERE now.  Well, unless you count the one bass drum player whose knee ripped RIGHT NEXT TO all the stitching you see here.  The day after I had just repaired it.  Sigh.

Luckily, the thread immediately picked up the dirt & grime from the asphalt they were practicing on, resulting in a patch job that more or less resembled the spray paint that had been applied to the costumes in the first place - even with the newer "color," it all still blended in with the overall aesthetic.  Works for me.

We almost decided to just leave the holes in the pants, figuring that the students would look more and more like the original coolies that had worked almost non-stop on that historical day.  You know, they wouldn't have had a seamstress standing by back then to repair their workclothes....so it would have made historical sense NOT to repair the knees.  The only problem with doing so would have been that all of their kneepads would have shown through the huge holes in the knees - and they weren't all wearing the same color pads.  Black or buff would have posed no problem, but some of them had bright blue ones - that would have been a distracting jolt of color out there.  When you're in World Class, sometimes competition scores come down to the hundredths of a point difference (yeah, sort of like Olympics scores), and that's when the visual effects scores can make or break your ranking.

To make the repair job blend in and last as long as possible, I ended up fusing two layers of tight-weave muslin fabric together.  Then I applied more fusible web to the outer edges of the resulting patches (or used fabric glue - it depended on the shape and size of the original tear) and adhered it to the wrong side of the pants material.  After turning it right-side out again, I used the darning/mending stitch on my Viking machine - a thing of beauty, once you get the hang of it.  For some reason, the programmers opted to have the darning stitch sew a continual 14-row darning patch, after which you can reset the machine to start where the last group of stitches left off. Only each row in that 14-row group moved diagonally up and over a few stitches.  Which meant that you ended up with a rhomboid of stitches (yeah, sorry - hopefully that term's not dredging up nightmares of high school Geometry tests - you can look it up here) - and that makes it a little hard to match up the next group of stitches, especially if your tear isn't as symmetrical as the programmers seemed to think it should be.  If you look closely at that repair photo, you can see about a dozen rhomboids dancing across the knee.

Do rhomboids dance?

The Sewing Assistant SO does not care if rhomboids dance. 

Patchwork on the knees held up through World Championships - thankfully - because it would have been a bit difficult to get my sewing machine through TSA...although I will admit to packing a patchwork repair kit, complete with a travel iron, on board the semi before it drove off to Dayton.  Just in case.

Next Post:  How many calculations go into making a whole set of custom drum covers?  Or, Why I Suddenly Needed To Renew My Painkiller Prescription.  (Hint: it has something to do with headaches.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Time To Get Cracking!

Dear whomever is in charge of determining how many viruses a person gets in the space of about 6 weeks:

STOP.

Thank you.

So where did we leave off?  Oh, yeah.  Neko (AKA The Sewing Assistant) was about to launch into my dog blanket project...literally.

Operation Blankets of Love is an organization that collects blankets, towels, pet beds, collars, leashes, clothes (for dogs), food dishes, grooming supplies, etc for shelters, rescue groups, wildlife & farm sanctuaries.  They are also a partner service provider for The American Red Cross.  The amount of items that they collect and distribute for animals in need is pretty impressive.  If you'd like more info, their website is:  www.OperationBlanketsofLove.org.

Last year I helped a Girl Scout with her service project for her gold award.  After she was done, she donated the rest of the fleece material to me (since she was going to the Czech Republic for a year)...I cut it up into lots and lots and lots of little squares, thinking I'd piece them together to make patchwork blankets.

What was I thinking?

Well, things slowed down over the holidays and for the past 6 weeks or so (other than catching all these darn viruses, anyway), so I decided it was time to start finishing my stock of UFOs.  The blanket project is the largest and most obvious UFO in my stash - it is literally taking over about half of my living room.  (Remember this?)  I've sent the smallest ones over to the young lady's mom to work on, but I still have the medium pieced ones here, as well as a huge lawn & leaf bag full of larger sized cuts.  I tried piecing the first one together but the seams from the combined fleece parts were too bulky for my taste.  I still wanted more than just the one layer for protection (some of these dogs have nothing but cement to sleep on).  So I decided that just zig-zagging them down to the base piece would be better - especially since it meant that the overall blanket would be flatter and have less bulk, but still have a couple of layers.

That was going amazingly well, unless you count how slow it is to get multiple layers of fleece through your feed dogs.  Once I started the zigzag (using my walking foot) it went faster, but it was still slow going.  It didn't help that Neko decided that he had to do Quality Control on each and every blanket.

Sometimes while I was still working on them.

Ummm....Neko?  I can't turn the corner with you on the blanket.

Neko?  NEKO?  Hello?  

"You can't move the WHAT?"

"Wut?"

Okay, now he's scaring me.  (LOL)
Quality Control on Soft Substances.  It's what he lives for.

Hmm, maybe it was time to switch gears and let him have that blanket (pins and all - did you notice that? - he's really dedicated to his job) and do something else for awhile...

My younger son is in his first relationship, and Valentine's Day was looming with no idea what to do for or give to his girlfriend.  I made a few suggestions but he still wasn't sure.  With only hours to go, I finally recommended just giving her flowers (plus a vase that she could use again) and calling it a day.  We bought the flowers at Trader Joe's - they usually have a pretty decent selection without the ridiculous prices - and bought the vase at the nearby Dollar Tree, along with some plain M&Ms to tuck into the arrangement.

Oh, yeah - the glittery hearts were part of a bunch of "silk" flowers we bought at the Dollar Tree.
The flowers went immediately into the Goodwill pile.  

Mmmm....M&Ms.....

Thumbs up!  Must be an okay gift!

These roses were just amazing.  They looked like they'd been
set on fire.  Appropriate, since his girlfriend is in percussion with him
and the band's fall show (if you've been following the blog) was FIRE.
She was very pleased with it, and the entire thing probably cost around $15 to make, not including the Oasis that I already had stashed away (for last minute panic-gifts such as this).  I saw on one of the local channels that you could order a dozen roses ON SPECIAL! for "only" $75.

Valentine's Day is such a racket.

My older son knew exactly what to do for his girlfriend.  He "borrowed" my colored pencils, found a picture online of a couple of baby ducklings and drew a picture of them on a small chalkboard thing that my husband had saved from an illustration job he worked on years ago.  It came out really nicely - and she loved it.

I did have to go down the hall to get my pencils back, though.

Now things are picking up again work-wise, and I have several really interesting jobs coming up:  an anniversary/wedding vow renewal custom dress; drum covers for the Percussion unit (they are two competitions into their season already); costuming for next year's fall show (shh, shh.....you didn't hear that and I can't tell you anything more about it until closer to the season, darn it); another VW revamp (I am STILL waiting for the last guy to send me photos of his!); and - hopefully - some of my "own thing" and maybe even some refashioning.  I miss doing that.