Monday, May 12, 2014

Oh my goodness ...

... where to begin?

This place has been empty for a year because I got swept along another journey.
One that was still quite creative ... I learned a lot about Word Press on that journey!
(But here I am on Blogger!! :D)
And even search engine optimization ...
Although frankly, what does that matter since things in THAT world
things change at the speed of light. Who can keep up??
Well, actually, some geniuses can. I worked for a couple of those geniuses.

Anyhow, time to be honest.
This blog was started as part of a case study.
I was actually paid ... a real life salary ... to blog all about my threads
and the fun and lovely things I could do with threads.
A dream job to be sure, but it was still *only* a case study.

Things changed, at the speed of light, and all of us
working the blogs that were part of the case study network got switched over
to a different task -- one that would hopefully fund our salaries.
We gave it our best shot.
One year later, almost all of us have been let loose.
Laid off.
Whatever it's called. It doesn't matter.

So here I am.
Back again.
My life in threads.
But that is NOT a bad thing!

Threads are easily woven into wonderful fabric.
Truly, it is an easy process.
It's not rocket science!

So, in the past 1+ years, here are some new threads.
New threads other than the job shift
which was eventually followed by the job loss.

Meet Ava Lillian.
My deeply yearned for granddaughter was born on Oct 10, 2013.

She joins her two beloved brothers, Caden and Jace who are
also very deeply beloved by me.
The only difference ... she's my outlet for all my threads!!!
Boys aren't too happy to wear frilly, lacey things.

The other most significant thread of my life
is being not only grandmother to three amazing grandchildren,
but also mother-in-law to their beautiful mother
who is now fighting for her life
because she was diagnosed three weeks ago
with stage 4 breast cancer.
She is 29.

Her name is Lynette.
She is one of the most gracious young women
you could hope to meet.
She is my hero.

So here I am again, hopefully to be here for the long run.
But who knows?
The blogosphere is filled with abandoned logs and diaries.
I hope to keep this going.
I hope it brings the reader something to think about,
to smile at, to be inspired by ....
even better yet ... to inspire me!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Just sayin' ...

Click to Enlarge Image

CustomMade Buying Local Infographic

Why Buying Local is Worth Every Cent Infographic by CustomMade

Needless to say, I love this.

Sorry for being AWOL.
I do contract work for a very dear and wonderful employer
and we are deep, like up to our necks deep,
in a new start-up business.

It's a small business where the team is more like family.
The work is tedious, but the pay is good and the appreciation
from management is even better.

The world is rife with trouble.
And there isn't a whole lot a single person can do
to solve all the troubling issues
except, maybe, to buy local.
You may not be able to make *the* world a better place
but you can make *your* world a better place.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Further thoughts ...

The good will poured out by those who were not hurt,
and the race staff along with the men and women whose jobs are to respond,
definitely a positive much larger than the evil that planted those bombs.

And ... not to diminish in any way those who lost limbs,
and the families who lost their loved ones
or who have the long road of recovery ahead to help their loved ones ...
I truly feel for all those thousand of runners who were not able to complete their runs.

The clock at the finish line show 4:09+ if my memory serves me (4:11?).
Which means the world-class gazelles were all through the finish line
well over an hour, perhaps two hours, before the two blasts.
Those who were nearing the finish line, and those thousands
and thousands who were pulled off the course
and not allowed to complete their 26.2 --
and I do understand why they had to be pulled;
the finishing area became a bloody, awful crime scene --
but those thousands and thousands were the average Joes
and Josephines running the course of their lives.

The average runner must to qualify to run Boston,
unless they are among the fortunate ones invited for special purposes.
It take a LOT of hard work to qualify.
Running Boston is a BIG DEAL.
For many runners, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event.
It's high on their Bucket Lists.
They were robbed.

I have no doubt that all those who could not finish
have their thoughts and minds on the victims of the violence.
We all do.
But I do understand that deep, deep down inside their hearts,
they have suffered a grave disappointment.
At these early moments, they no doubt hesitate
to express that disappointment for fear of sounding selfish.
All those runners occupy a good chunk of my thoughts.
I think I understand how they feel.

And what is more ...
my thoughts are with all the people on this planet
who have to deal with terror
every single day of their lives.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Devastated ...

... my heart is bleeding, aching for Boston.

I used to run ... well, more like slog. As in slow jog.
But I've gone as much as 19 miles in a training run.
I had dreams of marathon
and I've done a number of 1/2 marathons.
I belonged to a couple of internet running groups ....
Dead Runners Society
where I became acquainted with the Penguins
and embraced them.

Some of the people with whom I've shared the road
have run Boston.
It's a big deal for the average runner to qualify.
It was never on my horizon,
but I loved reading the posts of my fellows
who were getting ready for the Big One.

I wish I stayed in touch.
I hope that those I have personally met
and shared water, beer and sweat ...
I hope they were no where near Boston today.

Boston, you are in my heart and prayers on this day.
And you are the reason for the tears that won't stop.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Channeling my inner tortoise ...

So, the tortoise wins the race, right?
I hope so, because when undertaking a massive
cross stitch pattern like this one,
one can only go at the speed of tortoise.

If you're new to my blog, you can see what the finished
product will be here.

The number color changes within a section is rather
large, if not quite astronomical.

This is the result of 2.5 pages complete.
And this is what has been occupying a whole heap
of my time since my last blog post.

I realize I should have been blogging a bit more ...
but the threads tangle my mind and my will
and I have a hard time putting the frame down
and getting out of my big, comfy chair.
Doesn't the chair look comfy??
Trust me, it is!!

Notice the bottom left knob of the frame is missing.
I bought some extra knobs, but they don't fit.
I think the metal spikey thing is what the manufacturers
set into the wood of the original knob to anchor the rod.
When I'm done with page 3 I'm going to reposition
the piece on the frame so that metal spikey thing doesn't jab me
when I'm working on the project.

My work station!
One nice thing about the cross stitch hobby
is that its footprint is relatively small.
It's very easy and quick to gather everything together
and move to another spot in the house when needed!

Oh, and the little empty dish ... that's my chocolate dish.
If I've been really, really good on my carb intake for the day,
that holds 1/4 cup of Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate morsels
for my indulgence whilst stitching.
Good stuff.

Hobbies can have hazards though, other than
gobbling up large chunks of one's time.
This is the cross stitch hazard ... I use my middle finger to push the
needle when the going gets a little tough.
And when you have a large number of color changes
pushing the needle in certain areas can get a little tough.
I try to use my nail instead of the pad of my finger,
but the mind is not always focused solely on the task at hand.
This is actually better than it was too!
After weeks of jabbing my finger,
there has been some healing and a bit of a callous forming.

But I also dug up my all-time favorite thimble.
Definitely not your grandmother's thimble.

I've had this for years.
It's quite handy when quilting too.
In fact, I think I got this at a quilt shop.
My finger can breathe and the metal coin made
this particular thimble better than the other leather one
I used prior to finding this one.
And leather thimbles are much, much better than
our grandmother's thimbles!
Except ... leather thimbles stretch over time.
I'm going to have to keep my eye open for a replacement.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A sewing saga

I grew up sewing; taught by Mom and later
supplemented with lessons from Girl Scout activities
and the Home Economics classes at school.
I got good enough to do this:
I made this dress on my Mom's sewing machine and I did
a blog write-up all about it here.

I sewed a little after getting married -- what I could
with a full-time job.
Eventually, I stopped sewing.
The sewing machine I had for myself (not my Mom's)
took a nose dive off the top of the car where 
it was strapped on my move from Missoula, Montana
to Los Angeles, California where we lived
right after marriage.

After moving to Texas in '93, 
I was able to cut back work to part-time.
And being here in Texas, quilting is a big deal
and one day I walked into a quilt shop and just about died.
Fabric heaven.
So I decided to pick up quilting, but doing it the old-fashioned way...
all by hand. 

By that time, I also got pregnant with my third and last child,
who happened to be a girl.
My Mom thought: "Hilary needs a machine!" and promptly
found one at a garage sale or something.
An old Singer pretty much like her old Singer,
which at the time they were sold as new, 
were top of the line!
So she got it cleaned up and brought it down to me.
I gave up sewing quilt pieces by hand
and used the machine
and sewed darling little dresses for my baby.

On a road trip to Montana when my daughter was 6 years old
my Mom took me into her BERNINA shop,
supposedly to find fabric for me to finish a quilt top
that I was going to leave with her.
I kept trying to find just the right fabric and she
kept calling me over to where she and the dealer
were running a fancy-pants sewing machine that embroidered
along with the typical sewing features.

After the fourth time I head her say:
"I wish I had a machine like that when you were Lelia's age!"
I knew I was being set up!
She looked at me and asked: "Do you want it?"
I just had to ask back: "Are you paying for it?"
since the cost of the machine was a price of a decent used car.
At least, that was what my 15-year old son told me.

Of course she paid for it as she IS the best mother in the world
and certainly wouldn't set me up for a hard fall.
So that is how I got my fancy-pants sewing machine
12 years ago.

I was able to make some really darling dresses for my daughter!
And I sewed a bit for myself.

But sewing for myself became a challenge.
I found that patterns no longer fit me.
Especially around the bust ... so I took a class
from my local BERNINA dealer on
altering patterns for "Bigger than a B" cup size.

That's when I learned all patterns are designed for women
who have b-cup sized busts. Which is what I used to have.
Way back then!

Eventually, I quit sewing for myself.
I even quit sewing for Lelia and spent my sewing
time make quilt tops.
I finished a few quilts, but not many.
But I have a LOT of tops.
Sounds like another blog post should be made
on all the UFO's in my life.

But now, for some reason ... frankly I blame
the PBS show Downton Abbey because of all the 
fabulous vintage dress ... and Project Runway ...
I find myself itching to sew for myself.

I took the opportunity of my daughter's BFF's wedding
last year to sew up something nice for me to wear.
I was cocky, figuring it's a lot like riding a bike
(and frankly, it is, I retained almost all of my skills)
and spent about $245 on silk and gorgeous buttons
along with pattern and notions
and whipped myself up a beautiful, sophisticated dress.

Now I do not have size shock in buying patterns.
I know their sizes are nothing like America's ready-to-wear.
So it didn't bother me too much that I was needing a 
size 22 to fit my bust, waist and hip measurements.
In ready-ready-to wear, I best fit a 14W.

Unfortunately, when I put the finished dressed on
and looked in the mirror, I just about screamed.
I did cry a bit.
The thing looked like a sack!
It made me look huge!
And though it fit the bust, waist and hips,
it was practically falling off my shoulders!

I was so upset and bewildered
and felt like a complete failure.
The wedding was the next day so I had to go with Plan B.
At least I got to wear the most gorgeous shoes I've
ever purchased for the wedding since Plan B
was a dress hanging in my closet that was a perfect
match for the shoes.
I need to get a photo of those shoes and post
it one of these days.
The shoes kept me from complete misery.

I was so upset about the $245 gunny sack
that I thought I should give up sewing garments.
But at the time, I was working for BERNINA
inside Hancock Fabric and knew I could figure something out.

There is software sold by BERNINA to draft your own patterns.
And there are plenty of "draft your own patterns"
books and classes out there.
And I may avail myself of those resources.

But one day I was browsing the craft section of 
my favorite bookstore and stumbled upon this:
Pattern Fitting with confidence by Nancy Zieman

Patterns are not just based on a B-cup sized bust,
but their entire structure is based on an average
bone frame (and height) of a woman who happens
to have whatever particular measurement you're using as your base.

In other words, I was buying a pattern the size to 
accommodate my DD-cup bust and ended up with 
a garment that is meant for a 6'1" woman with
the corresponding larger bone frame!
I'm only 5'6"!


So now I get to learn a whole new set of skills.
Maybe I'm a size 14 after all!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sewing again!

It's been a while and the itch to sew has been begging to be scratched
for a couple of weeks. 
I need to finish this skirt for my daughter that I started a couple of years ago!
Fortunately, it's a style that doesn't require a whole lot of fitting ---
nor is it a tailored skirt so it will still work for her.

I will get better pictures of the entire skirt once it's finished and pressed.
Right now it's in a rather wrinkley state.
The skirt is a bunch of 2.5" strips of 100% cotton fabric
serged together into one rather large tube.
The pattern maker recommended using a serger so sewing AND finishing 
all the seams (I think there are 52 strips in this version) 
can be done with one pass, saving oodles of time.

The strips alternate and you decide which ones will be
the inside of the box pleats.
I chose the darker fabric to be the inside portion.
The box pleats are stitched closed for the top 6" of the skirt.
I'm topstitching the closed pleats in the first photo.
My machine is a BERNINA (I used to work for them
so I still have a tendency to type their name in all caps per their
preference and demand) and I'm using foot #10 Edgestitch Foot 
which makes topstitching a breeze.
I keep the guide you see in the middle of the foot
sliding along the seam.
The needle position is 3 clicks to the left of center.

Here's my baby:
This used to be the high end Bernina back in 2001!
My Mom bought this for me because there was no
way I could have forked out that kind of money.
Even now the thought of replacing it with the current high-end
chokes my brain!
But I can dream, can't I?

My 180 also has the embroidery module, but the programming
is so old tech that it's not easy to use the current
digitized embroidery patterns, unless I get the Designer Software
which isn't cheap.
But then, nothing in the world of Bernina is cheap.

There, I'm able to type the branch name without using all CAPS!
See? All caps.
Even in memos for internal use, the word was all caps.
But notice the name of the machine model is all lowercase.
Guess it's an artistic thing ...

The third line gives you a hint as to why nothing in the Bernina world
is cheap.

Their machines are still made in Switzerland.
Switzerland never joined the European Economic Community
and their franc has been very strong against both the euro
and the dollar for decades.
Hence the higher cost to obtain their exports.

But I do love the brand.
I know there are quality machines sold by other brands
and those brands have their extremely loyal customers.
But I can't imagine myself sewing on anything other than a BERNINA.
My 180 is 12 years old and stills sews beautifully.

Which brings up the subject on what to buy in a sewing machine.
You really do get what you pay for.
If you buy a cheap machine to learn to sew on
the chances are high you will get frustrated and quit.
I've talked to a number of women who have tried to learn and gave up.
Almost 100% were using cheap machines.

Cheap machines are loud. They clang. They bounce.
Their timing is easily knocked out, and once the timing is
out on your machines, your stitches will look like crap,
if it stitches at all.

Even the high-end quality machines can have their timing knocked out
and require a professional service person to get it back into perfect timing.
But quality machines hold true timing much, much longer!
I sewed for years with my 180 without ever having a timing issue.

BTW -- fixing the timing requires specialized tools so 
don't bother watching YouTube videos or reading "how to"
guides on the internet, unless you have an older mechanical model.
The older machines which much easier to fix at home.
Today's computerized models require a professional
if you want it done right.

Now I realize that most people who want to learn to sew
aren't completely sure that they are going to love sewing
and will spend the rest of their lives putting their machine to use.
So the thought of forking out anywhere between $500 - $10,000
on a machine seems a bit daunting.
Perhaps even ridiculous?
But there's the rub ... try to learn to sew on a $100 machine
and I can promise you that you will more than likely toss the thing out 
within a year. And never sew again. Which is sad, really.
There are so many wonderful things to do with sewing machines.

So my advice is to look at several different options.

#1 is to learn to sew at a store that will let you use one of their machines.
#2 is to find a teacher that will teach you on her (or his) machine.
#3 is to find a good used machine.

A used machine is a good way to get started down
the road to a life time of sewing bliss.
You'll be better off purchasing from a dealer, 
but you may find a jewel at a garage sale or on Craigslist or eBay.
Do your homework researching which makes and models hold
their value and quality over time.

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