Head and Shoulders, Knees and…Elbows?

Dear Vi,

I hate to be a complainer, but I just have to tell you:

Too much hand quilting, knitting, typing, and gripping heavy weights at the gym have given me tennis elbow in both arms and caused the arthritis in my hands to flare up.

It’s my own fault. I let it go too far. I let it get away from me. I let it get to the point where it hurts to even pick up a cup of tea.

And that’s not all. Poor ergonomics in my sewing and writing life are affecting my shoulders, neck and back, which (not surprisingly) has worked it’s way down into the knees.

‘It hurts when I cackle!’

Because I’m a writer, I’m often at my laptop for several hours a day. If I want to continue, it’s imperative that I address the ergonomics problem.

Fortunately, I know what I have to do to fix it.

Yesterday I went to Staples and bought myself a properly adjustable office chair. My lower half notices the improved sitting situation already, but my shoulders are still complaining because the keyboard is too high.

In a perfect world, I’d buy a properly adjustable computer desk. But the reality is, we all have to work with what we’ve got and live within our means. Whatever modifications I make to my writing space cannot infringe on the rest of my very small house, and they also have to fall within my fixed-income budget.

Installing a sliding, adjustable keyboard tray (and new keyboard) under my sewing table and using my laptop like a desk computer may be the best solution.

The laptop can easily share real estate with the sewing machine. Both are lightweight & portable, and can easily be unplugged and set it aside to make room for the other. Mr. C will have the final say on whether or not the sewing table can be modified.

It may take a month or more, but getting back to my home yoga practice, doing physio & massage therapy for the elbows, and making these ergonomic fixes will hopefully take care of the worst of the problems.

Have you ever suffered repetitive strain injuries or dealt with ergonomic issues when sitting for long periods at the keyboard or sewing machine? Has knitting or hand quilting ever given you tennis elbow?

Do tell!

The Tunic Bible and an Orange Shift Dress

Hey, Vi… look what I got!

The Tunic Bible: One Pattern, Interchangeable Pieces, Ready-to-Wear Results. by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr

Here’s the back-of-the-book blurb:

The only tunic pattern you’ll ever need. Create chic, ready-to-wear tunics with a multi-length, graded pattern and expert construction tips. Choose your style–casual, preppy, boho, or glamorous – with interchangeable sleeves, neck plackets, and collars. Get advice on shopping for fabric and trims, guided by a huge gallery of inspiring tunics.

I can attest to the fact that everything they say in this blurb is true. The instructions are easy peasy to follow, and there are dozens and dozens of pictures of different tunics, along with a description and fabric used.

In the mood to sew, I rummaged around in my stash and came up with this orange stripe quilting cotton by Robert Kaufman.

I don’t know why I bought it, to be honest. What was I thinking?

I remember buying it on a dreary rainy winter day. I remember holding it up to myself and feeling happy. But really, an orange dress???

Well, as my mom said, I could always wear it on Halloween, lol!

Happily, it turned out great! I feel happy in this cheerful pumpkin and cream shift dress. I don’t feel like trick-or-treating at all!

For my first tunic, I chose the  “Outside Facing V-Neck Placket,” and made it a bit longer so I could wear it as a shift dress.

A shift dress is far from the most flattering garment. But it is my absolute favourite for comfort.  I could wear a shift dress every single day, especially during the summer when it gets so bloody hot.

You can MOVE in a shift dress.

With all the orange stripes, I was worried I’d look like an escaped prisoner, so I wanted to do something creative to break up all the vertical lines. Cutting the placket and the bottom band on the horizontal was an easy fix.

The best and most important thing I can say about The Tunic Bible is that this pattern fit me with no alterations. None. Zero. Zip. This is the dress straight off the pattern. I know! That never ever happens. Not to me, anyway.

The only change I would make next time is maybe to raise the bottom of the armscye as it’s a bit low on me. But not dangerously low…no fear of flashing or anything like that. And actually, when it’s really really hot in July and August, that extra ventilation might just be welcome.

I predict many tunics in my future. I want to make the maxi-dress version, and a hip-length one with fabulous trim around the neck. Oh! and the ruffled version! Yummy!

The Tunic Bible gets five stars!

Hands2Help, Vogue 9057, row quilts, novels and knitting

Dear Vi,

Put your hands together and wish a happy 7th anniversary to the Hands2Help Charity Quilt Challenge!

Sarah has graciously reminded us that this weekend is the first linky party to show our progress on our quilts.

Yes, I’m one of “those people” who wear socks with their Birkenstock sandals. I wish I could say I’m sorry, but I’m not. I choose function over fashion just about every time, much to the dismay of certain fashion-oriented members of my family whose names I will not mention, lol!

I’ve gone through my box of orphan blocks and picked out 12 that go together fairly nicely. Add some sashing and a nice, wide border and soon it’ll be a lap-sized quilt perfect for donating to the chemotherapy ward at our local hospital. Since chemo makes the patient so ill – and so cold – it will be very welcome, I’m sure.

And remember in this post where I said I was going to sew a top?  Well, I did, and here it is:

Vogue 9057

It actually turned out pretty nice, and I’ve even worn it out in public a couple of times. It does have a few issues, though…mainly that the neck is too wide. I need to put in some back shoulder darts to keep it from sliding down and showing off my bra straps.

The next time I make this pattern, I’ll cut the neck & shoulders a size smaller, then grade out for the body. You can always cut the neck bigger, but you can’t cut it smaller, so there you go.

Oh, and you’ll notice that I haven’t hemmed it. That’s because I can’t figure out how to hem the points. Ha!

What else…

The quilt guild I belong to is doing a row-by-row round robin, and I’ve really been enjoying it. Each person has chosen a theme for their row quilt, and each month we pass along our work to the next person on the list, and then make a row according to the “owner” specifications.  This is the row I made this month for Beth. I think it’s my favourite so far. Sam certainly likes it!And are you wondering where I’m at with the novel?  (insert big heaving sigh here)I’ve been working on my query pitch. OMG who’d have thought writing a query pitch would be harder than writing the entire novel?  Eee gads.

So while I’m pondering how to entice a literary agent in under 200 words, I’ve been knitting. What else would I be doing? Don’t I always knit when I hit the writing doldrums?

This is a sock knit in the most lovely yarn called Regia, which is made in Italy for the German Schachenmayer yarn company. This particular skein is from their special edition Kaffe Fassett design line. Doesn’t it just scream “spring?”

What a mishmash of a letter today. But it pretty much sums up how my life has been going this last month.

And to top it all off, I complete forgot the A-Z in April challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you’re doing better with the mental organization than I am these days, lol!

 

Slow Sunday Stitching (Vogue 9057 and small handwork)

Dear Vi,

Today it’s snowing again, one of those dreary low-light days where you just want to hibernate and read a good book. You know the kind.

I don’t have anything new or earth-shattering to share, so I’ll just catch you up on what’s going on in the sewing room, okay?

I’ve been feeling the urge to sew a piece of clothing. This piece of clothing in particular:I just can’t decide if I want the two sleeves to match or if I want one sleeve to be different, like in the picture (view D). What do you think? Does one contrasting sleeve scream middle-aged woman trying too hard to be funky?”

But then, I kind of like being a little bit different…

Anyway, stay tuned…in a day or two I just might have something to show you!

I’ve also got a new quilt on the go…a Very Secret Project. But I’ll give you a hint:Isn’t this bowl of roses sweet? It’s a technique called broderie perse, or chintz applique. I wanted to learn something new, so I gave it a try. I found a piece of fabric with a dense rose print, cut out the individual flowers, then used fusible web to rearrange all the flowers and buds into a new design.  I sewed them down with my machine.Very fiddly. But effective, don’t you think?

Another thing I’ve been working on during TV time in the evenings are these little hexi-flowers. English Paper Piecing with 3/4 inch papers.I’m using my smallest Kaffe Fassett scraps. Happy, happy fabric!

Some are being made into bookmarks for eventual gift-giving. That’s about it for me. Today I’m linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching over at Kathy’s house. Pop on over and say hi!

What are you working on these days? Write back and tell me all about it.

Love,

N.

A Splendid Sampler Update

Dear Vi,

I can’t believe how many letters I’ve written to you in my head. Just about every morning I wake up with an idea for a letter, and then poof! it’s gone. So today I thought I’d just stop trying so hard to remember what it was I wanted to say and show you what I’ve been up to.

002

I’ve been talking about writing and knitting so much lately, you probably forgot that I’ve also been working on these crazy little six-inch quilt blocks.

009No kidding, Eh?

006

I’ve made 90 so far. Yup. I’m ahead of the game, since only 88 have been published. How is that possible?

008Well, you know how I am, Vi. I like to do things my own way.

007

If you’re also doing the Splendid Sampler, you’ll notice that there are blocks in here that aren’t “official,” along with some that I’ve personalized. Maybe they’re not officially splendid sampler, but they’re officially Splendid Nita, lol! 010

And in case you ever wondered just how small my kitchen is, this picture should give you a pretty good indication. I’m standing on the dining room chair to take the picture:003Yesterday I made two more:011That’s it for today. What have you been working on?

Write back soon!
All my love,
N.

Shorts! A thrifty refashion

As you may have figured out, I love experimenting with non-traditional fabric choices, and I love a good thrift store find.

I found these goddess-sized stretchy jeans at the thrift store for $1.50. They didn’t look like they’d ever been worn. I loved the yoga-style waistband. Well, I could use an extra pair of shorts, so home they came.

pants before

First I cut off the waistband and set it aside. Then I used my handy Christie Brinkley shorts pattern as a template. I had to fudge a bit here and there, but I made it work.

pants after

Finally, I cut down the yoga waistband to fit the new shorts and sewed it on.

shorts

I have enough fabric left over from the lower legs to make a skirt.  Another day, though…right now it’s too hot to sew.

 

 

A letter to my grade 8 Home Economics teacher

Dear Mrs. Rudd,

I hope this letter finds you well and still sewing.

You won’t remember me, but I was one of the fourteen-year-olds in your eight grade home economics class at Keithley Junior High in the fall of 1974. That was the year after girls were first allowed to wear dress slacks and pant suits to school instead of skirts and dresses. No jeans…those came a year or two later. That was also the first year that a boy was allowed to take home-economics and a girl was allowed to take shop.

14 years old

You taught me how to follow a recipe and plan a menu. I still have my recipe box from the cooking portion of the class.  It’s crammed to capacity now, full of 42 year’s worth of recipes, including cards in my mother’s and my grandmother’s handwriting.

recipe box

You taught me how to iron. And by the way, I am the only person I know who actually loves to iron. I will happily spend a Sunday listening to Cross Country Checkup on CBC radio while ironing everything in the house…cloth napkins, tea towels, pillow cases, every shirt my husband owns.

You taught me how to use a sewing machine and read a pattern. And for that alone, I will be forever grateful.

I remember that we had to choose a pattern and actually sew an item of clothing. My mother took me to the fabric store and we browsed the pattern books together. I decided on Butterick 4265. It was an ambitious project, and I remember my mother trying to talk me into something a bit more simple. You and my mother were both concerned because I was adamant that I didn’t want to sew an apron or a simple pajama bottom. But no…I wanted to sew a pant suit.

In the end, I agreed to just sew the top and leave the pants for later. It was my first ever attempt at sewing anything. Ever. Complete with set-in sleeves, patch pockets, top stitching and a zipper. I don’t think I actually wore it anywhere…I hadn’t done a very good job, really. But it didn’t matter to me…I was so proud of myself!

I remember my mother coming into the home-ec classroom for a parent/teacher conference. I remember how you discussed my completed project with my mother, your finger tracing a line along my uneven top-stitching as the two of you remarked with pride on how I had tackled and completed such a big project.

I also remember that I did not feel discouraged by your critique, which tells me that it was delivered in a careful and loving way, the way a valuable teaching experience should be.

You taught me that putting in a zipper properly and stitching a straight line were things that one can improve upon. Things that can be mastered.

What I learned went so far beyond learning to follow a recipe for a casserole, how to sew a patch pocket and balance a checkbook. No…what I took from your class was a fearless belief in myself.

I’d like to say that again: A Fearless Belief in Myself.

Thank you for that, Mrs. Rudd.

Now…that pant suit pattern. I was in the thrift store the other day and you’re not going to believe this, but staring up at me from the bin of patterns for .25 was the exact one that I made in your class.

And guess what…it’s in my current size. I might even sew it up for old time’s sake.

butterick pattern

I wanted to tell you that I have been thinking of you almost every day these past couple of weeks as I embark on re-learning those skills you introduced me to more than 40 years ago. I feel you leaning over my shoulder, your finger tracing the line of the zipper, reminding me to line up the notches, showing me how to tie off the threads at the end of a dart by hand.

When I think about the women who influenced me in my life, you’re up there in the top ten.

I know you’ll probably never read this letter, but I wanted to say thank you.

Mrs. Rudd, 1974.

Mrs. Rudd, 1974.

 

 

A Collette Crepe wearable muslin…and the letters T & U

Presenting….the Crepe dress by Collette!

muslin

A summery wrap dress that wraps at the back! And no worries at all…there’s a lot of wrapping back there. I’m not worried about any stray gusts of wind at all, thank goodness!

collette crepe 023

I’d read a lot of pattern reviews before choosing this dress. They all said there were issues with fitting the back, so I expected that. And wow! Were they ever right! It was huge on me!

I took excess fabric away from the back bodice pieces by drawing a wedge that tapered from the inside seam to 4-inches on the outer edge like so:

muslin back

The back still has issues, but I’ve no idea what to do about it. I wonder if I should have take a rectangle of fabric out instead of the wedge…if that would have made a difference. But then, the front and back sides wouldn’t match anymore. Has anyone out there made this pattern before? If you have, and you know how to fix this…let me know!

collette crepe 015

There is a lot of stress on the seam joining the tie to the left bodice piece. When I snugged it up, I heard it tear a little. Oops. I’ll have to reinforce that! collette crepe 022

There’s a little pulling at the underarm, but I think that’s because the underarm is a little tight. Next time, I’ll cut the arm holes out a little lower. They’re snugged right up there. Not uncomfortable…but not comfortable either. Does that make sense? I’m aware of them.

I graded from a smaller size at the shoulders up to a bigger size at the waist. I’m so glad I learned how to do that! The bust darts sit right where they’re supposed to, I think (accomplished seamstresses & seamsters, feel free to chime in here! I want to learn!)

collette crepe 010

I took everyone’s excellent sewing advice and made a muslin (test garment) first, using a duvet cover that I got at the thrift store for $2.00.  When I have all the bugs worked out of the pattern, I’ll buy some nice fabric and make a “real” one. But for now, I think this wearable muslin will be fine for hot summer days kicking around the house.

collette crepe 019

And Mr C likes it. What else can I say?

Once again I’m behind on the A-Z blogging in April challenge. That means you get two letters today: T and U!

T

Tree Pose

Balance poses are great, especially as we age.  Having good balance means less chance of falling.

www.

www.yogaforkids.com

Start by simply lifting one heel off the ground. Sort of like using your foot as a bicycle kickstand.

 

 

 

 

estudiobabo.com.au

When you feel stable, move your free foot to your ankle or shin. That’s all the higher you have to go, really. It’s about working your core and balancing…not about how high you can lift your leg.

 

 

U

Upward Salute

This pose is related to the Tree Pose. It’s a nice stretch for your tummy and the area under your arms.

 

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/upward-salute/

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/upward-salute/

 

It’s also good for shoulder mobility…something else you want to have in good shape as you age. 🙂

 

 

 

Indy sewing patterns…and King Cobra for the letter K

I’ve been spending my allowance on sewing patterns this last month, and they’ve been arriving like hotcakes! Is there anything better than getting presents in the mail? Not much, let me tell ya!

Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case Files

Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case Files

 

These pajamas are going to be so awesome  –  I can’t wait to make a set or three. This is an intermediate level pattern, so will stretch my skills with collars, cuffs, button bands and piping.

Closet Case Files is located in Montreal. The Carolyn pajama pattern has gotten great reviews.

 

 

I really do want to learn to make my own clothes. To that end, I’ve purchased a couple of Craftsy sewing classes. Bonus: they come with patterns!

vogue 8793

vogue 8793

Vogue 8793 is by designer Katherine Tilton.

…and Vogue 9057 is by her sister, designer Marcy Tilton.

The Tilton sisters co-teach the class. I’ll do a review of the class once I’ve done it.

Both will be great additions to my winter wardrobe.

Funky!

vogue 9057

vogue 9057

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s mail brought a parcel from Collette Patterns, in Portland, Oregon.

The Rooibos Dress – fabulous design details:

cp1006-rooibos-06-large-9547fae8f1b92c230f476549b6121597ff771a00ae600016224aa3427498dbd8cp1006-rooibos-03-large-5644b68bfd33110eec439a72ff66940befe79af772cae7e5b2b9d672b2d586e8

The Lily Dress – more fabulous design details:

cp1020-lily-06-large-05520e8c7871c5f568f0b2b99524dc07a1f855f058fc66657da6892313ecb342cp1020-lily-03-large-3fc4efb27f4fa8b86dd996672d984ae2d231c56bc1c6af81b3929736cbfd2f3e

The Laurel Dress – classic shift with lots of options:

cp1025-laurel-12-large-818764633d8862d1b4da235e826b82d41eb9dd463e3a1806080ef1627cb793cbcp1025-laurel-01-large-7d8eb2c14b5758fe0e40d7e6a149286ca32dd7c10e92c37e6cd199e58d264988

The Crepe Dress – a wrap dress that ties in the back:

cp1013-crepe-08-thumb-86754aafe3be4c73f403ee95e4a13e83135f6f29756f2fbf8f535032206f756acp1013-crepe-06-large-b74c45a22b8d8d004196276e54b496808d9e70c6f87a9631cba90e50189667b0

That should keep me going for a good long while, eh? 🙂

…and now for the letter K in the April A-Z Blogger’s challenge:

KKing Cobra

This is the advanced version of the Cobra pose: King Cobra.

A lovely pose that I am content to admire from afar. 🙂

 

tribesports.com

tribesports.com

 

Mending…and Janusirasana for the Letter J

Hello!

Today’s letter is a very short one. Also kind of boring, actually. Sorry.

Here goes: the other day Mr. C asked me to mend his jeans.

sew1

I knew that my little Janome 2030 wouldn’t have enough jam to sew over the heavy denim seams that the repair required, so I pulled out my antique Singer hand crank machine.

sew2

This baby will sew through anything! And in half the time that fussing with the electric variety would have taken! Who would have thought doing the mending could be so much fun?

sew3

 

See me turning the handle? 🙂

And finally, in keeping with the A-Z Blogging Challenge, I present to you the only yoga pose I was able to find that begins with the letter J:

J

Janu Sirsana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)

This is a pose that you see in all types of athletic activities, from runners to dancers. And yogis, of course. 🙂

Support the bent knee with a pillow if needed. Lean forward over the straight leg, any amount.

 

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/head-to-knee-forward-bend/

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/head-to-knee-forward-bend/

http://www.theyogaposes.com/yoga_poses.php?input_page=yoga-head-to-knee-pose

http://www.theyogaposes.com/yoga_poses.php?input_page=yoga-head-to-knee-pose

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?

DIY: a thrifty alternative to the screen door.

I love screen doors, but I hate having to open and close them all day long, every time a cat or a dog wants in. Or out. Or in again. Years ago I devised a solution…curtains instead of screens!

018

I love the way they waft in the breeze.

Dogs, cats & people go in and out as they please, all day long. Okay, a few bugs, too, but not too many. Not even enough to wrinkle your nose at.

014We needed a new one for the front door, so yesterday I went to the thrift store, spent $2.00 and came home with three lace curtain panels.

016The one I decided on for the front door wasn’t quite long enough, so this afternoon I sewed a sleeve from a fun pink and yellow print from my stash. The colour of happiness is pink (with yellow.) Did you know that?

013And because it’s so friggen hot today, I couldn’t be bothered to pull out my Janome and fuss with setting it up. All those cords, and a foot petal and all. Jeeze, Louise.   I used my pretty Singer hand crank instead.

009I like the way the pattern sort of mimics the lace. And I love the bright colour of the quilting cotton.

006Do you want to make one, too? Here’s how I did it: I used a tension rod on the inside of the door frame. An 8″ strip folded in half makes a generous sleeve. Be sure to leave at least an inch of space between the bottom of the curtain and the floor; otherwise, people and pets will step on it and pull it down. Don’t worry, it’ll still keep 99% of the bugs out.

021Voila! Beautiful and under $2.00. My little hippy heart is so happy! Take that, retirement budget!