Sunday, September 27, 2015

the view from sunday

A boy gave me flowers. His name is Trader Joe.

Did you ever read the E. L. Konigsburg book The View from Saturday? I loved it in grade school, feeling that it was clever and brilliant and loving how it taught me that posh once was an acronym for "port outward, starboard home." Right now, I'm remembering all these books I loved as a little precocious reader because I have a little precocious reader in my first grade class.

I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the vastness of my to-do list (which could span a dozen pages, at least) and the importance of most of it. Some of it is only reading for classes, but I also have a number of things for my teaching certification. My lifetime, will-I-graduate-and-be-able-to-teach-and-be-a-successful-adult things. So this Sunday I am trying to clamber to the top of my to do list and feel like I'm staying afloat, instead of slowly drifting to the bottom of the pool.

Today is a day for buying a delicious cup of coffee, grateful for kind friends and gift cards. It's a day for walking around in the grey mistiness.  It's a day for getting one thing at a time done. It's a day for lighting a candle and breathing in the sweet smell of evaporating stress to the tune of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. It's a day to think of picking up writing and creating again.

It's also a day for lesson planning and for slowly ticking off things I need to do, for making beans and tea and feeling like my budget will survive this moment. When those things, the practical things of my life, are paired with calm, I feel less like crumbling into a mess of worry.

It is easy for me to pretend that next week, next month, next year, will usher in a season of my life that will be easier to handle. But living in the future will not help me with the very real here and now. Here and now, I have a life, a good life, full of joy and wonder, if I can only stop long enough to see it. Yes, it is on a strict budget. Yes, it's full of things to do and complete and finish. Yes, it's busier than I would like. But it's also more fulfilling than anything I have ever done before in my life.

The view from Sunday is not as bleak as it may have seemed Saturday night or Thursday morning. The view from Sunday demands taking a deep breath and accepting this here, this now. This is my life now, and from Sunday, the view is pretty spectacular.

Friday, September 18, 2015

finished: the changeling sweater

Two years ago, I made a sweater. It was beautiful. I loved it. And I promptly sent this mostly wool sweater through a dorm room wash-and-dry cycle. It now fits my younger sister beautifully. I'm finally returning to the pattern, after a fully appropriate two year mourning period. Same beautiful silk/wool fiber and everything, except now in wine, instead of blue.

This time, though, the fey folk got involved. During the process of working the body, I frogged from almost the armsceyes to the waist twice because of silly little mistakes. Then the same nightmare happened with the sleeve caps. My current theory is that the changelings are mixing up my work at night, because it couldn't possibly be that I have knitted the entirety of the sweater in my living room with varying levels of chaos, at varying levels of alertness, with a constant stream of reading material or videos to distract me. Nope. It's definitely the changelings messing up my work.

Pattern: Lepidoptera
Yarn: Knitpicks Gloss Lace in Port

Also important note: I left my house. These were taken in the alley between my house and the house next door. Don't they have the sweetest giant plant? Sometimes (as in a few weeks ago) it has the most gorgeous giant pink and white flowers. Those beautiful, beautiful flowers inspired me to take pictures of this sweater outside, but then I dragged my feet, and the flowers died back. Typical.

I feel like a lot of my thoughts on this sweater, this fiber, and this pattern have already been said. To be sure, this time the changelings inspired me with all kinds of mucky ideas about the sleeve cap, and now it lays funny (I sense yet another unpicking coming up), but for the most part, it's the same lovely, comfortable, elegant sweater last time around, just red as the wine sitting in my fridge.

So I'll just leave you with a deluge of pictures--most of which, to be perfectly honest, came out super weird. Like this one. Look at that weirdo!

Long story short: I love the sweater. I love the color. I need to redo those sleeve caps, so that they stop feeling funny. Also, some days I can't take a normal person picture to save my life. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

finished: fourth of july shorts

I didn't actually wear these on the Fourth of July. I did, however, cut them out that day. Also, high waisted shorts instantly feel vintage and a little forties-style patriotic to me--I decided on the styling for these photos while cutting out the fabric!

I may have then suddenly realized that the forties/vintage/patriotic poses that worked so well in my mind didn't really feel like they worked in photos. At least, not this time, with my camera self-timer ticking precariously away atop a kitchen chair.

The deets
Pattern: Simplicity 5499, copyright 1982
Fabric: 7/8 yd denim, maybe 1/2 yd of random lining fabric my little sister let me use
Size: 12 (26-1/2" waist, which explains a lot about that waist)
New techniques: "round derrière" alteration, waist alteration, fly zipper, making trousers in general?

Inspiration {sources: 1 (the pattern), 2 (Nina Leen), 3}
I found these beautiful shorts on Modcloth towards the end of the semester, and fell in love--the sweet, subtly vintage styling possibilities were just too much. Unfortunately, I'm a broke student, and I don't have $40 plus shipping to spend on one pair of shorts, especially because I can't wear them this fall for student teaching--broke chispitas gotta prioritize. Obvious answer? Make them for less--yes, sewing can still save you money! But I'd never made trousers before, and I'd never really tried to do serious alterations. And with a round, full bum and a distinct pear shape, alterations are not an option for me when it comes to trousers. Here, I did a "round derrière" alteration (maybe a little too much of one) and took in the waist (not enough--I probably really need to do a sway back adjustment).

The guts--also look at the Fourth of July pockets!
The pattern itself was great just because it walked me through every possible trouser alteration. I totally could have looked up trouser alterations in one of the multitude of sewing books somewhere around the house, but I really appreciated having the alterations right there in the pattern, specially tailored towards pants with a back yoke, like jeans, as opposed to darts. While I still ran into some problems (probably stemming from lack of belief that I would need to take that much out), the instructions themselves were excellent. (Fun fact: My mom made these pants waaaay back in the day, when the pattern was much, much newer. She even had the little card she made of her measurements and planned alterations inside the pattern envelope. It was so much fun to see! And also made me understand where my pear shape comes from.)

Do these fit perfectly? No. You can see the little roll of fabric above that is either too much of a FRA (Full Rear Adjustment--I'm not saying round derrière again) or proof of my sway back. Next time-- and there will be a next time--I'm going to do a sway back alteration and make that waist fit tighter. But with a belt, they fit pretty well, especially around my bum. And my mom told me that they were really slimming and flattering on me (take that, all you advice for pear shapes that say I should never wear high-waisted trousers!).

I love these shorts so much, even with the little extra fabric round my waist. I feel so unobtrusively vintage-y in the best possible way. And for the first time since maybe sixth or seventh grade, I feel good about how I look in a pair of trouser-y shorts, particularly from the rear. While doing the FRA, I kept thinking about how sad wearing pants has made me feel, ever since I started developing hips and a round bum. The spandex-y jeans just make me feel like I'm too big, too curvy to really wear jeans. But these make me feel okay about myself. They make me feel like I can be beautiful in a pair of shorts, instead of feeling like I should go back to hiding.

Classic Lisa blog photo--had to have one!
In other news, if all goes as planned, I'm teaching a math lesson for observation (eek!) as this post goes up. Student teaching has so far been an amazing process, and I can't wait to keep learning so much from my cooperating teacher and students. Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

building a wardrobe

all from my pinboard here

This fall, I start student teaching, which is beyond-possible-words exciting. Except I need to be able to look like an adult five days a week. And for the past three years, I have grown to rely on the fact that A. people who see me on Tuesday don't see me on Friday (repeat outfits), B. I'm an adult and can keep myself fairly clean (unlike children who can and will spill who knows what on everything), and C. leggings with a long sweatshirt can form acceptable attire. Essentially, I can wear whatever I want, within reason of course. But in the classroom, I have to look like a professional teacher while wearing machine washable clothes, because I'm working with first graders. On top of that, most of my store-bought clothes are cheap/secondhand finds from before my freshman year of college, and they're falling apart at the seams.

My goal is to plan and make a wardrobe that is comfortable and clean and cleanable and professional. I looked at it from the perspective of trying to make capsule wardrobes: one for warm months, one for cold. 20 items each for some variety. Then I somewhat randomly assigned quotas for tops, bottoms, and dresses (which I love and will just pair with shorts to make them appropriate for the classroom). And then I realized just how big the holes are in my wardrobe. Example: I do not have a lightweight cardigan. I just don't. Which is frankly ridiculous, considering how much I love cardigans.

In true Internet fashion, I've started a pinboard to collect all my inspiration and ideas. More importantly, I've started a couple of projects this summer--including one that's already to show off to the internet!--but my main goal right now is still to nail down exactly what I'm looking for, style-wise and to fill the holes. Right now, I think I'm going to try some of the exercises in Colette's Wardrobe Architect to kinda solidify what I figured out from my first capsule wardrobe drafts. I want to be extremely intentional about how things work together, so that I have a wardrobe, not a closet full of individual pieces. I'm really excited about this challenge (and let's be honest--about the opportunity to make a lot of stuff)! I'm hoping to really get a lot out of looking at my closet and trying to figure out how to make it work better for me.

Monday, May 4, 2015

finished: basic-but-not-boring tee

Confession: I really like hand-sewing. I love it, in fact. This doesn't really ever seem to help my mending pile, unfortunately, but sometimes it leads to me making clothes or storage to hold all my medicine.

I finally finished my Plantain recently, despite the fact that it's not winter. Spring is here, and I'm yearning for short-sleeves and bare legs and running around in the sunshine like a tiny little toddler. Yet here I am, willingly wearing a long-sleeved, winter colored shirt. Then again, I don't really wear spring pastels. So there's that.

Pattern: Deer and Doe's Plantain
Fabric: mystery Amazon jersey, used earlier in my magic switch-y dress
Size: 36 (no alterations)

The pattern itself was a bit of a challenge. Not because the actual construction was difficult--I didn't even need the instruction. But wow, PDF patterns can be tricky. The taping together, the trying to match sides up correctly, it made the cutting-out-part of the pattern much tougher. Add to that a slippery jersey that folded and scrunched and stretched under the paper and my carpet floor turned into a cutting surface, that was very much not my favorite part of the pattern.

But the pattern is also beautifully designed. The scoop neck is graceful, the sizing is accurate, and the A-line, hip-skimming cut is really elegant. I even liked the fabric, which for a dirt-cheap Amazon buy holds up pretty well and is super soft. Sure, it's probably 130% polyester, but it's still cozy and comfy, while still looking pretty nice. The look in general suffers a bit on close inspection from the typical pulling I always find with my hand stretch stitching, but I think that's because my stitches are a little too big still.

I did piece the neckband, because I didn't have enough fabric in the right direction to cut it in one long piece. But I don't think it's too noticeable. And the biggest secret of all the secrets: despite taking the time to hand-finish every single inside seam, I have not hemmed it. Sleeves or the bottom.

All in all, I know the product is an extremely wearable tee (proof: these pictures were taken on three days when I actually, in fact, did wear it). Also, several of these pictures are super out of focus, but three. times. taking. pictures. I got bored of putting on a shirt that was too warm for the day just to take pictures.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

february things

Fun fact: almost all of January I had a post sitting here, just waiting to be posted, but then I went through a little moment of questioning the narcissism of posting things about my life online and then a moment of I'm-really-busy and now I'm just tired and bored of reading fifty page documents about classroom management, while waiting or class to start. I know February's only been for like two days, but here we are, and the month is short, so, yeah... Sleepy brain doesn't write too well.

Recently I've:

...cast on for a pair of mittens to replace the ones that let in more wind than they keep out.

...cut out a Plantain from the leftovers from this dress. First PDF pattern, folks. I'm branching out into the 21st century.

...cut myself some DIY bangs. That's very recent, 'cos I did that this morning with my new fabric shears in front of my bathroom mirror. I've done it before (several times in fact), but I found this tutorial super helpful for stepping up my bang-cutting game this time.

...rediscovered makeup blogs and vlogs and tutorials. Feels very vain to say that. Oh my gosh so much narcissism in one little post! The Financial Diet cover to cover (end to end? first post to last post? I'm gonna stick with the bookworm description) like a dork, because the advice A. feels fairly relevant to my status as a broke college student living on a very fixed income, B. makes me feel like a grown up. Even if I still can't purchase wine.

...made some delicious muffins loosely based off this recipe, but very, very changed. I might actually put the recipe here because they were so good and I want to make sure I get the recipe down.

...made a social studies journal, invented several math games, and played with water-based markers as alternative watercolors and with actual watercolors as watercolors. Oh, education classes I love you so.

...consumed a lot of tea and a lot of coffee and a lot of chocolate. None of this is probably that great for my health, because it's being done to counteract being on campus for weird hours and sleeping like a baby (not like the proverbial baby who sleeps peacefully for a perfect, refreshing eight hours, but like a real baby who wakes up every two hours starving and then can't fall back to sleep and therefore looks at recipes on Pinterest.)

...found out just how much fun a pair of "teacher shoes" (the kind with heels that make the click-clack sounds as you walk down the hallway) can be. Guys. It's like an instant power/confidence boost, as long as you stay within the limits of what you can walk in.

(Forgive me for the really bad collage at the top. I was trying to illustrate this! This is the source for the makeup photo.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

why homemade?

(I wrote this essay of sorts a while ago, and I've realized it's kind of a great mission statement for the kind of handmade life I want to lead. Just thought I'd share it here, as I set goals for the new year.)

I can admit that I'm proud. Proud as a peacock with all his new feathers. I'm very proud of being able to say, yeah, I made that. From a piece of fabric or raw ingredients or a pile of cardboard and string. I'm even more proud if the end result looks or tastes good.

But I don't just make things myself for the rush.

I can admit that I'm a bit of a purist. I like starting from as close to scratch as I reasonably can. Starting with quality, adding my highest quality labor, ending with higher quality than I would get in a store. Fewer preservatives, less polyester, better flavor, better drape.

But I don't just make things myself for the higher quality.

I can admit that I'm a very small bit of an activist. I cry for the mistreatment of overseas textile workers, for the closed doors and sometimes maltreatment of the meat industry, for steamrolling of small farms and industries by big business. I get mad about mystery synthetic chemicals that lace our food and for the complete disconnect that our society has for the sweatshop worker in Taiwan when we pick up a $5 sweater in Forever 21.

But I don't just make things myself to avoid a culture that ignores the dangers to ourselves and the world around us caused by our desire to consume.

It's all that and then some. I believe there is intrinsic good done when you take raw materials and do the processing themselves, whether that's growing their own food, knitting their own scarves, or crafting their own decor. I believe there's nothing more empowering than learning a skill that can be used in your day-to-day life, like cooking or sewing ('cos you wear the garments or see the pillows on a day-to-day basis). I love the act of creation that pushes my mind to think critically and creatively to discover new solutions to the problems I pose in my head. I love that it's so different from the culture of academia, where I feel like the goal is sometimes just to consume as many articles and texts as possible and then to spew them out upon command. It connects me to my ancestors and helps to keep what could be dying crafts alive. It also doesn't hurt that making my own stuff saves a pretty penny over buying the same quality products, which makes my college student budget much, much happier.

That, all smashed together and mixed up and super-glued at the edges, is why homemade.
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