Simplicity 4097 in the Fall of the Year

Combine 2.5 m of beautiful wool-blend Prince of Wales suiting and Simplicity 4097 and what do you get? The perfect fall jumper!

016I’ve always wanted a jumper, something easy that I can just pull on over top of leggings and a blouse (or a full set of long johns, lol!)

026It isn’t the most flattering outfit, I suppose, but I don’t care. Since when have I ever been a walking fashion statement, anyway?  Three people have already complimented me on it, and one (a total stranger!) said, “you must have made that because I haven’t seen a proper jumper in years. I’m going to pull out my sewing machine and make one for me, too!” I hope she does!

028This jumper pleases my little hippy heart and it’s both physically and emotionally comfortable. Since I’ve gained a bunch of that dratted weight back, I find that it’s harder than ever to find something to wear that I feel comfortable in. And not just physically, but emotionally. Because when you’re insecure about your body, being emotionally comfortable in your clothes is very important to how happy you are in your skin. Believe me when I say this is a struggle for me. My middle-aged body is…well…middle aged.

051Since my goal is to someday become an accomplished sewer-of-my-own-wardrobe, I’ve been trying to challenge myself with each new project. This time it was fitting the back bodice and matching the plaid. Actually, pattern matching went so well that I forgot to take a picture of it, lol! Trust me, it’s pretty darn close to perfect. :)

055The bodice is lined as per the pattern instructions, but they didn’t specify what to use for lining. So I used the same wool since I had enough. I also cut the bodice and the pockets on the bias. It was a bit tricky, as this cloth really stretched on the bias. But knowing that, I was extra careful which resulted in no problems at all. Yay!

049I’m also learning about fitting a pattern to my own body. My shoulders and upper back are narrow and my waist is wide. In fact, my shoulders are two sizes smaller than my waist, which requires some pattern adjustments.

I cut the back bodice an entire size smaller than the front bodice, and it was still too big. It might be time to learn how to do a sway-back adjustment.

013Since the bodice was already finished and lined, there wasn’t much I could do about the back. My solution? A box pleat and a vintage covered button to take in the excess across the mid-back.

059Was the box pleat a professional way to fix the problem? No, and thank goodness for long hair, which covers up some bits of messiness that I’d rather you didn’t see. However, you have to admit, the button adds a bit of charm. I adore buttons. There is a button on every piece of clothing I’ve sewn so far, whether one was required or not.

042Because it’s such beautiful fabric, I wanted it to be especially nicely finished on the inside. So I zigzagged every seam and then pinked them. I’m not going to show you any pictures because there are so many that are much more interesting than a bunch of pinked seams, lol!

044So, are you wondering what my fabulous fall jumper cost to make? I’ll give you a hint: everything came from the thrift store. Fabric & pattern: (insert drum roll……) $3.25.
047Thanks to my wonderful Creative Mr.C for taking the pictures at McGuire Lake park in downtown Salmon Arm.  This is what November looks like where I live now.  Love it!


Posted in Blog Categories, Creativity, Made by Me Clothing, me-made clothing, Salmon Arm, Samson, Shuswap, Thrifty | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Worst Job I Ever Had was Pulling the Heads off Dead Chickens

After I graduated from high school, and after all the cap-throwing and after-grad partying was finished (about 3 days later), my parents decided that I needed a summer job. After all, I’d be heading off to university in the fall; it wasn’t unreasonable to expect me to make a financial contribution. I had a student loan and my parents were chipping in what they could, but they were right when they said I needed to earn some money of my own.

Apparently my babysitting career was not adequate to the task, and so my parents announced that they had done me the marvelous favour of finding me a job. A real job. A job in a chicken processing plant.

So much for the wonderful freedom of adulthood.

To be fair, I doubt my mother realized exactly what the job would entail when she found it for me, and I never held the awfulness of it against her. Just sayin’ so there aren’t any hurt feelings, okay? Anyway, there were to be no lazy summer days for me! No sipping tea and yakking on the phone with Sally, no taking off for the lake. Nope! The summer between high school graduation and first year university was to be spent pulling the heads off dead chickens.

Now, what does one wear to work in a chicken processing plant? And what exactly is a chicken processing plant, anyway? I had absolutely no idea, so I dressed fairly nicely in a new pair of bell-bottom jeans (it was 1979) and a peasant blouse. I think it was rust and orange, and it had little ties at the neck with bells on the ends. And embroidery. I do recall it had some embroidery on it. Because, you know, it was a job! A real, grown-up job.

When I got there, I was led into a room containing several long tables and lockers – the staff lounge, apparently. Not only did I have a real, grown up job, I had a job with a staff lounge! How bad could it be? There, I was issued a largish white apron and a hair net. Suitably outfitted, I was escorted across a muddy parking lot to the plant.

Just as we reached the plant, a large truck drove up to the far end of the building. A truck full of…chickens. Live chickens packed neck to claw in boxes, so tightly together that the truck literally bristled, like a giant chicken pincushion. I don’t know what my face looked like, but I expect I must have looked very alarmed, because the manager – a man – assured me that I would not be killing the chickens myself. Someone else did that part.

And so we went into the part of the plant where I would be working. to my horror, I was given the job of tossing the headless, featherless, dead-but-still-warm bodies into a giant dumpster of ice.

The room was set up in an assembly line. At the far right-hand side of the room, an overhead belt of dangling meat hooks emerged from a wall of hanging plastic strips, circled the room, and disappeared back into the wall again; an endless twirling loop. Chickens were unloaded from the truck, killed (I don’t know how), then gaffed (or whatever you call it – my memory is a bit selective) and sent through some sort of furnace where the feathers were burned off. When they emerged onto my side of the plastic strip wall, they were met by a small army of immigrant workers who performed a variety of indignities upon the corpses. When the poor birds finally arrived at my station, they’d been gutted, de-feathered and were sans head. All I had to do was take them down and toss them into the dumpster.

Pretty simple, right?

Anyway, I wasn’t fast enough, and chickens were whizzing past my head and returning back through the plastic curtain faster than I could snag them down. (Years later, a bellydance teacher taught us how to swoop our veils by imagining that were plucking potato chips off of an overhead line, dipping them in yummy sour cream and chive dip and then putting them back on the overhead line. She called it the chips & dip maneuver, and it was a useful metaphor for most people. When I taught it to my own students, I never mentioned the chickens.) Anyway, I probably managed two out of three, but it wasn’t good enough. After a while, one of the immigrant workers came and got me, much to my relief. Maybe I’d be sent in to do office work, instead. After all, I’d gotten an A in typing, could manage an electronic typewriter like the best of them. I could file, too – in alphabetical order and by subject.

But no such luck. She led me to the front of the line, where the chickens were emerging, fresh from the feather-burner-thingy. She handed me a knife and then demonstrated with a quick flick of her wrist how I was to slice a circle through the skin, all around the neck. Sort of a garrote, I guess. I actually don’t remember even trying, I was so horrified just by the experience of being in the room at all. This is what a chicken processing plant was? I’d had no idea. I must have proved completely inept at chicken-garroting, because she gave up and led me down the line a bit further. Here, I was shown how to grasp the skin above the cut, and then…pull the head right off. It came off inside out when she did it. She must have thought that part of the job was easier, I don’t know.

Now, she didn’t actually explain anything to me in words that I could understand. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak whatever language she spoke. She demonstrated and then expected me to repeat the action. I stood there in front of the chicken dangling on its hook and I understood exactly I was supposed to do. I did! And I couldn’t do it.

I was a good girl, and this job felt like such an awful punishment to me. It wasn’t that I thought I was better or more special than those immigrant women I was working beside, not at all. I was just a very naive 17 year-old girl who hadn’t even known where chicken in the grocery store came from. What can I say?

Being pretty much useless at everything else, I was eventually sent back to tossing the corpses into the dumpster of ice.

Back then I was a pretty militant born-again Christian. You know the girls with long flowy hair that used to raise up their hands and sing Kumbaya O Lord in public parks? The ones always pushing pamphlets into your hand when all you wanted to do was get to your bus stop? Yeah, that was me. So there I was, tears soaking my pretty blouse under my by now not-so-clean white apron, keeping it all together by sheer willpower and by reciting the Lord’s Prayer under my breath the entire time. I think I got my chicken count up to 2 per recitation. Pretty good, actually.

After what felt like forever, it was time for lunch, and I followed the women outside and across the muddy parking lot to the staff lounge break room. The women sat in groups, drinking coffee, eating food from paper sacks, having a smoke. They looked at me out of the corners of their eyes and laughed. I took off my apron and hung it on a hook. Then I went into the office, and with all the dignity I could muster, I quit.

I drove my mother’s car to the mall where I hung out until it was time to go home. I knew I was going to get into big trouble, and I did. But later on I found a babysitting job. I earned $850 that summer, which was about one semester’s tuition, so it was all okay in the end.

Those 4 hours changed me. I’m not a vegetarian, though I’ve dabbled at it. I don’t eat a lot of flesh, and I don’t eat pork at all because pigs are too freakin’ smart for me to feel comfortable eating one. I have a tremendous amount of respect for life and the lives of the animals that are raised and slaughtered to feed us. I also have a great respect for migrant workers and those who do the jobs nobody else wants to do.

I don’t know what possessed me to write this story today, but there you go.   What was the worst job you ever did? And did you end up a better person because of it?

Posted in Blog Categories, Just Write, Memories, Writing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

A Vogue-Moneta hack

Do you remember the Vogue wrap dress I made last year? No? Hahaha, I don’t blame you. That dress never really worked for me. The waist sat too high, meaning I was forever tugging it down. And the bodice had these odd little tucks …NOT flattering.

So rather than keeping a dress that I was never going to wear, I decided to cut it up and make it into something else.

I cut the skirt off. Yup…hacked it right off with scissors. Then I cut the bodice apart along the seams. No seam picking for me, nope! Scissors all the way.

I got out my Moneta pattern, and took stock. The two cross-over pieces became sleeves. The ties became a collar. 004I had enough fabric for the bodice front, but not enough for the back, as you can see in this picture:

002That’s where my quilting brain started working. The back of the bodice is done in patchwork!

This is what was left over:005Voila!003All that’s left is the hem and I’ll have a dress I’ll actually wear.

Oh, and yes…these pics were taken last summer.

Have you ever turned one dress into another?

Posted in Creativity, fabric, Made by Me Clothing, me-made clothing, sewing | Tagged | 2 Comments

This post is about books (because I can’t think of a better title)

I went to the library last week and came home with four books.

Only four?

Well…I still had four on my desk that I hadn’t read yet. And they’re going to be due soon, so I thought I’d better limit myself. Here’s what came home with me:

011I’m a pretty eclectic reader.

I adore the library. One time about a year ago when I was feeling kind of blue and homesick, I went into the library and the librarian remembered my name. She also happens to be the librarian who looks a lot like my Whitehorse friend Carrie-Lynn. Anyway, I cried a little bit. Yes, it was kind of embarrassing to have to wipe my tears at the library check-out desk. But that’s only one reason I love the library.

Mostly I love the library because it’s full of books.

There is one thing that makes me twist my mouth sideways, though and it’s this:

Terry Brooks and Ben Bova do not belong in the same section.

It’s impossibly annoying to sift through all the Fantasy in search of a new SciFi to read. Especially because there’s like 50 Fantasy books for every SciFi one, which is shameful. Even more shameful is the fact that they’re all lumped together on the same shelf.

C’mon! You wouldn’t shelve Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl in the English History section just because Henry VIII is in it, would you? Of course not!

Now, some people are going to disagree with me, but it’s my blog so I can say what I want. And what I want to say is this:

Fantasy Fiction and Science Fiction are not the same thing. Ben Bova and Terry Brooks do not write the same thing. They are not even similar. The only thing Bova and Brooks have in common is the word Fiction…and both their last names begin with the letter B.

Terry Brooks writes fantasy fiction.  The world in a Fantasy novel includes magic swords, elves, epic quests to save the kingdom from the evil druid, like that.

Ben Bova writes science fiction.  The world in a SciFi book is built on technology. Maybe theoretical, way-far-out advanced technology-of-the-future, but technology all the same.

Maybe human beings will never advance their technology to the stage where we create cyborgs who take over the earth, but for sure an elf with a magic sword is never going to be the one to  save us from them.

Issac Asimov himself said that “science fiction has its groundings in science and is possible, whereas fantasy has no grounding in reality, and so is not possible,” and I’m gonna stand by my man on this one.

No response required. You know where I stand.



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Stolen Summer Kisses in my October Garden

We are greeted by a thick bank of lake fog every morning, lately. Some times we can’t even see the far side of the lake, it’s so thick. The air is chilly and everything is dripping with dew.  By noon, though, the sun has burned off the last wisps and the air is clear and bright.

The rest of the country may be deep in the thrall of autumn; but here in Sunnybrae, my garden is reveling in stolen summer kisses.

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Posted in Beauty, Blog Categories, garden, outdoors, Salmon Arm, Shuswap, Sunnybrae | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

To Write or Not to Write (…what was the question?)

Both Elizabeth Berg (Escaping into the Open) and Carolyn See (Making a Literary Life) advise against telling people that you are writing a book. Why? Because then people will, of course, want to know what it’s about. It goes like this:

You: So, what do you do?
Me: Oh, nothing much – this and that
Mr. C: She’s writing a book!
Me: (argh)
You: Oh! What is it?
Me: just… a novel.
You: What’s it about?
Me: Um……
Mr. C: She’s really good!
Me: (sigh)

At this point my muse runs for its life and I’m going to have to spend the rest of the week coaxing it out of hiding. It’s a fact that somehow having to articulate what your story is about causes your brain to freeze up tighter than the Yukon River in February. And not just momentarily, either. It will freeze up and stay that way for days. Possibly weeks. When the muse runs away, self-doubt and insecurity rush in to fill the void. And insecurity is as hard as…(insert favourite cliche here.)

This morning I discovered a website for insecure writers. In fact, it’s actually called The Insecure Writers Support Group. How great is that, eh? Sounds right up my alley. Obviously I’m not the only insecure writer out there. There are apparently enough insecure writers to have their own society!

I haven’t spent any time perusing the website yet, but I’m sure I’ll need to do some procrastinating pretty soon, so I’ve bookmarked it. There are probably hours and hours of good procrastination-enhancing posts in there.

So, why am I telling you all this? Because words have power. How can I be a writer if I don’t call myself one?

(insert sound of crickets)

See what I mean? So I’m coming out of the closet. No more calling myself a dabbler. I’m a writer.

Scared Me: But Nita, how can you call yourself a writer if you haven’t published anything?
Writer Me: I figure you don’t have to be published to be a writer. Maybe to be an author…but not a writer. Probably some of the best writers out there have never been published. But then, we’ll never know, will we.

Truth be told, I actually have been published. I published an article in a couple of bellydance magazines that no longer exist – years ago – back in the dark ages. So far back that it doesn’t really count. Yeah, okay…lame. I know. But if I did it once, I can do it again. And maybe get paid next time.

What have I done so far to establish myself as a writer besides hiding in my house, writing? (Or procrastinating about writing?)

Two small things I did yesterday:

  • I set up a twitter account (nitacollinswri2) so that I can follow other suitably writerly folk and start building contacts. (so far twitter is a big black hole with nothing in it. I need my son to come home for a weekend and teach me how to use it)
  • I set up a new email account from which I will be able to send and receive writerly email.

Also, (Very Important!) I decided that I am going to use up one of our precious Air North tickets to fly to Whitehorse to attend a publishing workshop in November. Here’s the workshop blurb:

Cynthia Good, former publisher of Penguin, and literary agent Ron Eckel will present a 2-day workshop at the Whitehorse Public Library in November. Participants will get a rare insider’s perspective on how to get published from two of the top professionals in Canada. Ron and Cynthia will critique query letters, discuss Canadian publishers and literary agents and help writers develop a marketing plan.

Whitehorse weather can be dicey in November, so I hope it will be cooperative and conducive to opening the cabin for a week. Otherwise I’ll be couch-surfing.

Is it too soon to start learning about query letters and who publishes what and how to go about getting published? …And a Marketing Plan? What? Eee Gads, I haven’t even got a completed manuscript yet!

Scared Me: How can you spend that much money (money you can’t really afford to spend) just to fly to Whitehorse, just to go to this workshop when you haven’t even finished your first manuscript yet? Are you crazy? There are going to be real writers at that workshop!
Writer Me: I’m a real writer, too. And when I do finish the book, at least I’ll have a better idea of what to do next.

Scared Me: Aaaaaaaaak!
Writer Me: Aaaaaaaaak!

Have I left anything out?


Okay. As soon as I finish my tea, I’m going to take Sammy out for a walk. And then there’s a quilting project I need to organize. And laundry to fold. And that website to browse.

Ha ha, just kidding!

As soon as I finish my tea, I’m going to take Sammy out for a walk. And then I’m going to open up Scrivener and get to work.

Posted in Blog Categories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments