Knit dress tutorial ~ by Sam

What I want to do here is attempt to walk you through the steps I used to make myself a cute, easy-fit knit dress based on an existing dress I own.

I have a cute dress that fits me well, and I had some knit fabric that I loved (I want to say I had about 2.5 yards of it, which was plenty. The amount you need will vary, and I wish I could tell you exactly how to figure that out, but I am not sure, other than laying out the pieces and seeing if it will work. Maybe read through this and see what you think. It will depend on a) your size, b) the style and length of your dress, c) features like the length and cut of your sleeves and skirt.) The point of this post is to give you an idea of the process I used to make my new dress. Hopefully, it will be helpful should you decide you want to try this.

I started with a dress that was fairly simple in shape, and also knit. I like sewing on knits, because it is forgiving, but some people find it challenging. I’ll offer a few tips I’ve learned as we go.

The fabric I chose was lighter weight than the fabric of the existing dress, but I thought it would work out all right (and it did). I decided to make a few changes in style to my new dress: I wanted the neckline slightly different, the sleeves shorter, and I decided to skip the pockets. My sister may never forgive me for purposely making a dress without pockets, but I felt the lightweight fabric would hang better without pockets, and I wanted simple, clean lines. I also decided to make the dress slightly less fitted…but only after I accidentally made it that way and decided not to adjust the size because I like it. Sometimes, an accident turns into a design choice.

Here we go. I took lots of picture, which I hope will help clarify the process.

Here’s the dress I owned. It’s cute, comfy, and fits me well.

The first step is to wash and dry your fabric exactly as you intend to launder the finished article of clothing. Always prewash you fabric before you sew to take care of any shrinking before you start cutting and sewing. If necessary, iron your fabric. You can find washing instructions on the end of the bolt of fabric when you purchase it (I sometimes snap a pic).

Now, fold your fabric lengthwise, so the selvage edges are together on one side (I hope that makes sense ~ you should have a fold on one side, and both selvages running the length of the other side). It will be a long, narrow rectangle.

*For all of the the cutting steps, you could, instead of placing the dress directly on the fabric and cutting around it, place it on paper, draw a pencil line around it, and create actual paper pattern pieces you can use again. You can buy a roll of paper that is specially made for creating patterns ~ or you can tape together smaller sheets of paper, ask for paper bags at the grocer store and cut them open, or (one of my favourite low-cost options) pick up a roll of wrapping paper at the 99-cents store. I sort of wish I had created a paper pattern for this one, and I might have to draw up one for future use. But ~ here’s exactly what I did:

You are going to cut your skirt front and back first. turn your dress inside out, so you can see all the seams. Carefully fold it down, right where the skirt meets the bodice (at the waistline), tucking in the sleeves. Trying to keep everything as flat and even as possible. It helps to work on a flat surface. I used my floor, because it is the largest flat surface I have. Next, carefully fold your skirt (because it is now basically a skirt) in half lengthwise, tucking all of the other bits (bodice, sleeves, the whole shebang) inside, being extra careful to line up side seams, hem and waistline, as best you can. Place the fold of your “skirt” right on the fold of your fabric, and cut all around the shape, being sure to leave a seam allowance (How much seam allowance? What do you like? I usually leave about 5/8″ seam allowance, but I think I cut about a 1/2″ here, which is how I got a more relaxed fit. I just kind of eyeballed it. After you’ve cut one this way, move the skirt down, being careful not to unfold it, place it along the fold of the fabric again, and repeat the cutting process. Congrats ~ you have cut your skirt front and back!

Place folded “skirt” along fabric fold

Cut skirt leaving seam allowance
Move down, repeat

The bodice is a bit trickier, but you can do it. The first thing I had to do was figure out where on my fabric I could cut two bodice pieces. I unfolded my fabric and folded each selvage edge in toward the center. (Sorry, I don’t have a picture of this: open the fabric out flat, and then bring the selvage edged to meet in the center, instead of meeting on one side, so you now have a fold on each side to work with)

Unfold your dress. Tuck in the sleeves. Try to get them as flat as possible, and really isolate the shape of the armhole. Now, fold your dress in half lengthwise, again, trying to get it as flat as possible. Place it on your fabric, so the fold of your dress lines up with the fold of your fabric. Remembering to leave a seam allowance, cut around the neckline, armhole and sideseam. Then, fold the skirt up and out of the way, so you can cut along the waistline. I feel bad that I somehow neglected to get a picture of cutting along the waistline. If I make another dress soon, I will add a pic here.

Fold dress and place on fold of fabric
Leaving seam allowance, cut around edges, folding skirt up and out of way when necessary ~ you’ll get a shape that looks like this.

You’ve cut your bodice back. Now, I cut my bodice front differently. I should probably have folded it in half, just like I did the back, but that didn’t occur to me, so I’ll show this method, and you can decide which you prefer. Depending on the style and fit of your dress, you might find this method works better.

I unfolded my dress leaving the sleeves tucked in, and lay it halfway on top of my fabric, using my tape measure to make sure the neckline and waistline were both resting at their midpoint on the fold of my fabric. Then, I cut around it exactly as I had cut the bodice back.

This is how I cut the bodice front. This is also a good pic, because you can see how the fabric is folded ~ see the selvages meeting in the center?

Now, I had to cut the neckline for the front. I decided I did want kind of a V, but slightly gentler, and not quite as deep. So, I measured the original neckline, and then, based on that measurement, I made some adjustments. I measured down from the center of the neckline and made a mark (use tailor’s chalk or a pin), then folded my front bodice in half lengthwise. I then cut a line from that point to the point where the original neckline I had cut (which was actually the back neckline) met the shoulder. I gave my line just a tiny bit of a curve, rather than making it a straight diagonal. You can draw your line first, if that helps. I just cut. (I also forgot to take pics before I cut, but hopefully these ones help)

Measure, and draw a line where you want your neckline to end (how low you want it)
Fold bodice lengthwise and cut neckline
Ta-da! My finished bodice front!

Next up: Sleeves! We finally get to pull out those sleeves. Leaving your dress inside out, pull out your sleeves. You should now see your whole dress, inside out. For your sleeves, you will need to find two places on your fabric that you can fold and place your sleeve on the fold to cut. I cut mine one at a time. You might be able to cut both at once, but I found this easy. Lay your sleeve so that the top edge is right on the fold of the fabric. (I knew I wanted my sleeves a little shorter than the original dress, so I let the sleeve hang over the edge of my fabric, and cut my new sleeve a little bit shorter. If you want yours the same length, obviously, you will need to cut around the entire sleeve, and add a hem allowance.) Leaving a seam allowance, cut along the bottom and wrist edge of your sleeve. Now, carefully flip the rest of your entire dress up out of the way (you can pin the sleeve to the fabric, if you are afraid it might move) and, leaving a seam allowance, cut along the curved edge of your sleeve (this is where it will attach to the armhole).

Place the sleeve…
Cut along bottom and wrist edge of sleeve…
Carefully flip the rest of the dress out of the way, so you can see this curved seam where the sleeve meets the armhole. Leaving a seam allowance, cut along this line. This is the same method used for cutting the bottom of the Bodice Front & Back

After you have cut one sleeve, you can use it as a pattern to cut your other sleeve. Simply place it on your fabric, making sure the fold of your sleeve is right on the fold of your fabric. Remember, this sleeve is cut to exactly the size you need, so there is NO NEED TO ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE. Cut the 2nd sleeve exactly the same size as the first.

Use sleeve 1 as a pattern to cut sleeve 2. Cut them exactly the same size.

Well, I think this is cause for celebration. You have now cut all of the basic pieces for your dress. You can lay them out and admire them. I did.

Wow ~ it resembles a dress!

So, now you get to pin it together. Right sides together.

Pin skirt front to skirt back, just on the sides.
Pin Bodice Front and Bodice Back together at the sideseams (under the armholes), and the shoulders.
Pin the sleeves just across the bottom.

This is when I realized I had one piece left to cut. I needed a facing for the neckline. So I measured the neckline as best I could with my measuring tape, and added two inches. I think I should have added more. I decided, to cut a strip 22.5 inches long and 2 inches wide for my facing, but I think a 1″ wide strip would have worked better because I ended up trimming a lot later. In the end, I wished I had cut a separate facing for the front and back bodice, and, although this worked, I did find it a tad fussy. I’ll give directions for what I did, but I might come back later with an update on a better way to finish a neckline like this.

Measure neckline to determine length of strip needed for facing. (You want to measure the entire neckline ~ I multiplied this by 2, the measured the back and added that number.) Add a couple of inches, because it going to need to move around curves
Here it is, my fancy strip.

And NOW, you can finally start sewing!

Here are some tips for sewing on knits that I have found helpful:
I use a zigzag stitch, and that works just fine, but I know there are other stitches that work well, too. You can check your sewing machine’s manual to see what is recommended for knits
Use a needle that is made for stretch or knit fabrics.
Do not push or pull your fabric through the machine ~ both can cause bunching.
If you’ve never sewn on knits before just try a little scrap first to get a feel for it. It’s really not that tricky, but if you’ve never done it before, it might feel different.

You just need to sew everywhere you’ve pinned: Skirt side seams, Bodice Front and Back (side seams and shoulders), and sleeves (just the bottom seam). When you’re done, you can turn it all out, and hang it, or put it on a dress form, if you have one (I pinned the sleeves in place to get an idea of how it would look). Alternatively, you could try it on. This also gives you a chance to check and adjust the fit, and make decisions about things like skirt length, sleeve length, neckline and collar, should those things need to be adjusted.

 

Sew everywhere you’ve pinned
Check your dress for fit & style, and make adjustments as needed

Sewing in sleeves can be a bit tricky, so I had Kaia help me take pics. I will try to explain, too. Start with your bodice inside out, and your sleeve right side out. It will be helpful to mark the center top of each sleeve with a pin, tailor’s chalk, or something similar. Hold the armhole of your bodice open.

Hold armhole of bodice open
Place sleeve inside armhole

When you get the sleeve inside the armhole, match the sideseam of the bodice to the seam of the armhole, and match the center top of the sleeve to the shoulder seam of the bodice. Pin those in place first, then pin the rest of the sleeve in place inside the armhole. If you find the sleeve gathers a bit that is okay, just distribute the gathers as evenly as possible between your pins.

It’s hard to show this, but this is the sleeve down inside the armhole.

Once you get it all pinned in place, you can sew your sleeve into your armhole. I sew a 5/8″ seam, then move in and sew another seam inside the seam allowance very close to that one, because sleeves sleeves take a lot of wear and tear, so I like to give them a reinforced seam.

Sewing on a sleeve
The finished sleeve, reinforced w/ two seams

After you get both of your sleeves sewn in, turn your bodice right side out again. I found it easy to work on my dress form, but you could hang your bodice, or place it on a flat surface.

Fold the long strip you cut in half, and pin the center to the cent front of your bodice, with the right sides together. Now, carefully work the facing to fit around the edge of your neckline. You can stretch the facing to fit, but DO NOT STRETCH YOUR NECKLINE. That’s a little bit tricky. Use LOTS of pins and make sure it is laying flat against the neckline. (I overlapped my ends and sewed right through them, because they didn’t overlap much at all. If yours do, you can cut off the excess.)

Pin center of strip to center of front neckline
Continue pinning strip in place all the way around neckline
Stitch in place.

You can release tension and help your facing turn and fit better by clipping the curves. Make small vertical cuts through both layers of fabric, within the seam allowance, and not all the way to the seam, as below.

Clip curves like this to release tension. You can make many little clips like this along the curved edge.

Turn facing to inside and press (iron). I found that, in order to get my facing to lay perfectly flat, I had to make a vertical cut in the facing right at the point where it met the V of my neckline (but not all the way up to the seam), and another vertical slit near each shoulder.

IMG_3329
                                  Facing turned to inside

Pin facing in place along edge of neckline.

IMG_3330
Pin facing in place all around the edge of neckline

I stitched 5/8″ from the edge, using a straight stitch.  Then, I moved over and added a second row of stitching about 1/4″ inside that seam (closer to the edge). Trim close to stitching.

                 Sew two rows of stitching about 1/4″ apart, then trim off excess facing.

Mark the center front of your skirt (with tailor’s chalk, or a pin.  I did this: 

IMG_3334
           I marked the center front of my skirt with pins (you could use tailor’s chalk)

Turn your skirt inside out.  Turn your bodice right side out.  Now, fold your bodice in half lengthwise and turn it upside down, so the waistline of the bodice and the waistline of the skirt meet, and the top of the bodice is down toward the bottom of the skirt.  IMG_3336
   This is how your pieces should be lined up ~ Waistlines and center fronts together.

Pin center front of bodice to center front of skirt, then slip the bodice inside the skirt, and unfold it.  IMG_3337
               This is the best picture I could get of the bodice inside the skirt.

Pin side seams to side seams of bodice to side seams of skirt at waistline, then pin the bodice and skirt together all along the rest of the waistline.  IMG_3338
                  Bodice and skirt, all pinned together and ready to sew.

Now, all you have to do is sew all around the waistline, and your dress will be pretty much a dress. 
IMG_3339
                                 Sewing the waistline.

Well, I’m at the end now, and I realize I got no photos whatsoever of hemming the sleeves and skirt, but that’s what you have to do now.  So, turn your dress right side out and take a look at it.  Try it on and/or put it on your dress form.  Decide how long you would like your sleeves and skirt.  My skirt was already cut to just the right length, so I turned it up about 1/2″, used my iron to press in place the hem, pinned, and stitched it in place.  For the sleeves, I decided to go with a slightly shorter length than the original dress.  I cut an additional inch off my sleeves, then turned them up about 1/2″, pressed in place, pinned and stitched.  

IMG_3346
                                        My finished dress! 

I decided to use a contrasting colour thread so the stitching at the neckline and hems would stand out instead of blending in, and I like the effect. My stitching is not perfect, but I’m still happy with the finished product.  
IMG_3347
   I used contrasting yellow thread to add a subtle detail.

I was able to finish this project in a day, and I am very happy with the result.  I hope you will find this tutorial helpful.  If you decide to make a dress of your own, I would love to see it.  

IMG_3356
         Me in my dress, the day after I made it.

 

Leveled ~ by Sam


5/2/19

The Little Blue House (before sod)

The Little Blue House is gone.

Shane told me this evening, while we were sitting in the parlour, of our bigger blue house ~ the one that we own, and that we had painted blue, with white trim, exactly the way we wanted (even if the wall out front still hasn’t been painted to match, and the ironwork is rusting because some of it should probably be replaced).  He said it like it was just a casual remark, something you might say about any old place.

“So, the Blue House has been torn down.”

I think I asked him to repeat it.

The Blue House.  Our Blue House?  The Little Blue House?  Yes, he told me, he drove by, and there was just an empty lot there.  It’s been completely leveled. 

The Blue House.  The Little Blue House.  Our Little Blue House. 

Not ours, really, but…

It was the first house we ever lived in.  I will never forget the day Justice and I first saw it.  We were coming home from school one day when we happened to drive by and see a “For Rent” sign out front, so we decided to stop in and check it out.  We always loved visiting open houses, but we always knew we wouldn’t buy a house.  Not anytime soon, anyway.  But this house was for rent.  It wasn’t far from our little apartment, and there were three large trees out front, and a nice front porch, just like I’d always wanted.  The owner happened to be there cleaning up a bit, and he let us come in and look around.  Two bedrooms and one bath, just like our little apartment, but with a large playroom, and a paved backyard with a covered patio area, a basketball hoop, a fenced in-ground swimming pool ~ and a poolhouse that was divided into two separate areas: one for storage, and another that would make a nice office space.  It was too perfect.  Some of the rooms had built-in storage.  There was a fireplace, and a pantry, and the dining room was tiny, but charming.  I absolutely loved it.  We convinced Shane to take a look, and he loved it, too. 

At about this time, I was expecting our third child, so we needed a little more space, and, while the house didn’t give us any more bedrooms or bathrooms, it did give us much more space, and a yard (albeit a paved one).  It was beautiful.  The Little Blue House, ‘though it was a rental, was our home.  Our landlords were so kind, and we adored them. This is the place where Shane put down sod while I was in the early stages of labour with Kaia, while our friend Lauren helped me with the kids, until it was time to go to the hospital. We had a beautiful lawn and a beautiful baby ~ it made perfect sense.  It was the house we brought Kaia home to when she was born, ‘though I don’t think she remembers it at all.  It’s where I held her in my arms in the swimming pool, where she took her first steps, threw her first birthday cake on the pavement ~ sorry, honey, I didn’t know yet that you didn’t like fruit on your cake.  It’s where I used to sit and rock her on the porch and sing to her.  It’s where Justice planted her apple seed, and Hallie used to run in a loop through the living room, dining room, kitchen and playroom.  It’s where the kids hosted the very first ever Island Day with their cousins, the year Kaia was born.  It’s where my sister-in-law, Amy, saved Kaia’s life when she was a tiny baby. 

This is the house where the kids arranged the two loft beds at different heights and Kaia’s little toddler bed to all interconnect, so their bedroom was almost like a tree fort.  It’s where the enormous…what even was that thing?  Was it a mosquito??  Some huge flying bug got into the house, and I whisked all of the kids, including our friend Makenzie, into our bedroom with a pizza; and we all piled onto the bed and watched a movie until someone braver than us arrived to help with the giant bug situation.  It’s the house where our friend Geoff lived with us for a while, staying in the poolhouse ~ one of my favourite memories of which is overhearing what I think was a jumping contest with little Hallie in the kitchen one evening.  It’s the house that was just so incredibly full of crickets, but I loved it, anyway.  They say crickets in your house are good luck, right?

It was great for hosting parties, because of that big playroom, even through it wasn’t a very big house, and it had that nice outdoor area in the back that was fenced separately from the pool.  It was good for shooting hoops with grandparents (or parents, if grandparents weren’t around), and making chalk drawings, and lots of messy arts and craft projects, and rollerskating, and setting off 3-2-1 Blast-Offs, and swinging on the little wooden IKEA swing ~ careful of the wooden patio edge!  Where camellias grew out front, and almost nothing grew out back, because of all of the pavement (I’m exaggerating. There were plants along the fence by the pool) ~ but there was that amazing swimming pool.  It hosted birthday parties, pool parties, tea parties, and sleepovers.  It’s where grandparents met their youngest grandchild.

It was the first place our kids got to hang their stockings “by the chimney with care…”  You know, actually by the chimney.

Our little fireplace

Just yesterday, we were driving on the cross street at the end of that block, and I was telling Justice about how, when she was young, I remember giving her cash and careful instructions, and then walking out and standing on the sidewalk to watch her cross the street to the market there so she could pick up an item or two that I needed for dinner. 

It was just a rental, and so, it wasn’t really ours, but, in so many ways, it was our first house.  Even in just a few short years, so much of our life happened there.

It was our Little Blue House, and we were very happy there.

I am heartbroken to hear it is gone.  Like a memory has been erased.  I used to like to drive by it, sometimes, just to see it, and remember those sweet, happy days. 

Our Little Blue House is gone. 

If I had known it was going, I might have bid it farewell. 

Just Too Sensitive ~ by Sam

I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern over the years in which spaces that are meant to provide support ~ groups that were formed as a means of support, or social connection specifically for people seeking, ostensibly to support one another (and, in my experience, this has often, but not exclusively, been women’s groups of this nature) ~ have a tendency to become cliquish and unsupportive, even ostracizing to certain individuals, or to certain segments of a community, and I have always had difficulty understanding this. Throughout my life, I have struggled to understand why people feel the need to put down or exclude others, and how in the world doing so could possibly make them feel… I don’t know. I was going to say “better,” but is that the right word? Is that what they are feeling? Does it make them feel better about themselves or their situation to put down others? Somehow, if someone else is doing a worse job of parenting, succeeding in business, managing their health or their particular situation (whatever it is), then are they doing better, and are they, perhaps, somehow superior? Because, I thought, in a situation in which people came together to support one another, people would be there to, you know, support one another.

This wasn’t brought on by any particular incident recently, in case anyone is trying to decipher what I am saying and figure out if they did or said something that upset me. I’m not that cryptic. Most of the time, if I am upset, you can probably tell. It’s honestly just a thing I have noticed. It’s happened to me, to be sure, but I have watched as it happened to many others over the years, and even in speaking up have felt fairly powerless to stop it, which has been frustrating. I haven’t always found my voice when I should have; and, in some cases, even when I did, I felt it didn’t matter, in the end.

It’s a thing I just don’t get, and never have, this clique-mentality that develops within a group and weaves a web drawing in others near it, normalizing behaviours that, in another context, would seem abhorrent. When we were young, we were taught that excluding others, gossiping about people, saying nasty things behind people’s backs, and any of that sort of “othering” behaviour was wrong. But suddenly, as adults, we’re doing it again. To me, it feels especially wrong in the context of something that is meant to be a support structure. That’s specifically what I am talking about here. I’m not saying we have to be friends with everyone we meet. That would be preposterous. (‘Though, I would argue that, while we needn’t be friends with anyone, I honestly can’t see many reasons to be unkind to most people, and absolutely none to say anything behind anyone’s back that we wouldn’t say to them. If a thing is true, and not something we shouldn’t be talking about, why wouldn’t we say it? So, if we wouldn’t say it to the person in question, perhaps we shouldn’t say it. I know. That’s not always easy, but maybe it’s kind, and maybe the world needs more kindness.)

I am talking about a very specific situation: groups that have been formed, online or IRL, in which members commit to providing support to one another. So, a member joins, and, for whatever reason, other members ~ often members who have known one another, and already formed bonds, or have certain ideas about some things that differ from the new member’s ideas ~ decide the new member just doesn’t “fit” with their group. But they don’t say anything to the member. They just leave them out of invitations, talk around them, talk about them behind their back. This behaviour usually starts with just one or two members, but then other members start to join in, even if they did not, initially share these feelings, until it seems everyone agrees in their negative opinion of the new member. But still, nobody tells them. The problem is, they can tell. They can tell they are not liked…or they have a feeling they aren’t liked as well as other members, because it’s clear that everyone else has a closer bond, and seems to be doing things without them, or it feels like people are talking about them, or that people don’t like them…but…maybe they’re just being paranoid…or maybe they’re too sensitive…

If they ask anyone what’s going on, that’s what they’re likely too hear: they’re just too sensitive. If anyone has anything negative or unkind to say to them, that’s the problem: they’re just too sensitive. Even if those same people wouldn’t dream of saying the same unkind things to a different member of the same group (because this is a safe space, where we support each other). I went through this a lot when I was younger, and it still happens now, sometimes, but I think am quicker to recognize it and walk away (which means not getting the support I need, in those situations). As I said, I know I am not the only one who has encountered this, because I have watched the same scenario unfold time and time again with other people.

Then there are the situations that come up in conversations (both online and IRL, but often, these days, online), not just in the aforementioned groups, but even with close friends and family members, in which people will say and do things that I cannot imagine having said and done even just 10 years ago. I do think this is more of a problem online, specifically, but lately, I notice it happening more and more In Real Life, as well, and this worries me (because I am Just Too Sensitive, remember?). I think, maybe, we are getting so used to this idea that we can just say anything to anyone ~ is that a product of the digital age, when a screen removes us from the face-to-face reality of our living, breathing audience? ~ that we are losing touch with our sense empathy and compassion. We’re forgetting to take into account the other person’s feelings, to think before we speak. Which is funny, because I think half of things I see posted on the internet are some version of somebody’s homemade sign/craft/digital art about exactly that (“Before You Speak, Think!…” “Classroom Rules:…” “In this house…”) So, I feel like there’s solid evidence that so many of us are trying really hard.

In fact, I keep feeling like I am trying super hard to live up to those standards; but I also keep just missing my mark. It’s disheartening, and sometimes defeating, because I do truly try to lead with my heart and take all of these things into account. I’m aware of all of these things, and yet, sometimes, I just don’t get it right. Sometimes, I act (or speak, or type) before I think. Sometimes, I have been on the wrong side of those situations, before I even realized they were unfolding, and I hate that, because I know how much I detest them when I’m on the other side. I know how much it hurts. I know how hard it is, and how bad it feels, and how it can impact a person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth, and even their health and well-being. I am aware of all of these things, because I really am exceedingly sensitive. And still, sometimes, I fail.

So, I keep trying to be mindful of all of these things. I keep trying to do better. I keep saying I will lead with Kindness; but, like, really, am I doing it? I want to try harder.

Nah. That’s a copout. (I know, because Yoda just came over and smacked me in the kneecaps with his stick ~ I know, it’s not called a stick. Get off my back. Like…literally.)

I want to DO better.

So, here’s a thought (and, I know, I have mentioned this before to many of you, but here we go again): What if we’re not too sensitive?

What if, just maybe, the rest of the world needs to pause and consider that sensitivity is normal, and not a fault, and our mamas were actually right when they taught us that if we didn’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything at all?

What if we all started pausing to consider the consequences of our words and actions BEFORE we put them out into the world, taking into account our own sensitivity, and how words and actions like them might impact us (“Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”)?

What if we all decided to lead with kindness and empathy?

What if we forgave ourselves when we failed?

What if we forgave others, too?

Those last two parts are super hard for me sometimes (especially that first one), but I think they might be the key to my success here.

I was taught that peace begins with me, and that the only change in the world I can make is change within myself; so I am working on being more mindful of how I interact with others in what I say and do ~ how my words and actions impact people. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It seems we talk a lot these days about being the change we want to see in the world. I think that’s a great idea. The change I want to see is one toward kindness, empathy and greater understanding.

2019 ~ by Sam

Well, here we are. It’s the 5th of February, and I haven’t updated since the New Year. We’ve been busy…ish.

The end of the year found us scrambling to get a new roof on the house before the rainy season. I know, I know ~ the rainy season? In L.A.? I’m joking, right? But, really, I’m not. Because, honestly, any amount of raining inside your house, is not great. Also, we kept hearing there was actually going to be a Rainy Season this year. Maybe even a RAINY SEASON by L.A. standards, and that, without a rainproof roof, did not sound like a Great Idea.

So, while trying to get lots of other things ~ like Holiday shopping, and decorating, and baking, and gift-wrapping, and packaging and mailing ~ done, we were also trying to do things like get roof estimates, find someone who could take down the solar panels and put them back up again, decide who to hire, work out all of the details and figure out how to finance all of this… And you know, get the kids to school, and still do all of the usual day-to-day stuff, too. So, you know…it was a little bit hectic. You might say. But we did some things, anyway. We didn’t necessarily get everything done in a timely fashion (we might have mailed out “Happy New Year” gifts ~late, very late ~ instead of Christmas gifts), and I definitely didn’t remember to come over here and write about any of it. So, I thought it might be good to come back and do a little bit of a check-in:

I looked at my last entry, and saw this (I’ve added notes about my progress in parentheses):

I will:

Accept that I am a work in progress. (working on it)
Balance the books and pay bills every Monday. (need to do this)
Strive to buy coffee out only 1x/week, and remember my reusable cup when I do. (eh…this needs work, too)
Exercise at least 3-5x/week, and do my PT at least 5x/week. * (um…2-3x/week, so far. But that’s better than none! I’ll keep trying)
Play my banjo every day. (not every day, but not none!)
Accentuate the positive. (um…probably also needs work, but I’m trying)
Focus on forgiveness. (I think I’m doing okay here)
Breathe, drink water & eat real food. ** (Girl Scout Cookies are not imaginary)
Read every day. (YES ~ nailed it!)
List stuff on my etsy shop within 1 week of making it. *** (Haven’t made anything new, but did list a bunch of stuff I had already made!)
Work in the garden at least 1x/week. (Okay, it’s been POURING, but I did work in the garden a little bit when it wasn’t, and I potted a couple of indoor plants)
Try to be more present & attentive. (will always need more work, but I’m doing it…the trying part, I mean)
Sew/knit/crochet or otherwise craft/make something every week. (100% doing this ~ I don’t finish a project every week, so far, but I am always doing something creative)

I will NOT:

Beat myself up if I fail. (still needs a little work)
Give up because I miss a step (week, day, whatever). (yup, got it. It’s hard)
Care what other people think about this list, me, or anything I’ve written here. (uh, huh. Pretty much doing this, most of the time. I still have my moments)

So. Here, in no particular order, are some things I have been doing:

I made some fun cookies with these adorable cookie cutters to send to friends and family. Kids helped with some of the decorating.

I made this set of pillows for my sister & brother-in-law.

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing with my mentee, and I finally started working on this dress. Several years ago, I bought this fabric and pattern. As soon as I got home, I washed the fabric, cut all of the pieces from the dress fabric (but not the lining ~ it will be fully lined), and then put it away and never got around to sewing it. Now, I am finally actually sewing it. Slowly but surely, because I keep getting distracted by other things, but at least I keep working on it.

It doesn’t have wings. My dressform, Mädchen, just wears them, sometimes.

I have been working on finishing a large single crochet blanket I started last year, then set aside. When I ran out one of the yarns I was using for that blanket and had to order it online, because I couldn’t find it in stores, I started working on another, smaller crochet project (probably just a throw), because I found some yarn I loved while looking for the other one.

Blanket #1

Blanket #2

I am still painting the Little Free Library, and trying to get it all ready to open. It’s ridiculous that this is taking so incredibly long. We have books and everything! It’s almost done! I am so excited. But still really slow. (Who knew it would take so long??) I really wanted to have it up and running before the end of last year, but promised not to kick myself if I didn’t get things done. (I’ll wait to post a picture until it’s done.)

I visited The Last Bookstore with Shane and Justice, and the Museum of Tolerance with Kaia.

We all went to the King Tut exhibit at the California Science Center.

I drove Kaia to an animal shelter to drop off 4 pet beds and 20 cat toys she’d made for the animals there.

There are so many other things I am forgetting. No wonder I’m so tired all the time. Now that I see it all in black and white, I can see that I’ve actually been rather busy.

So, now, we are just trying to get back into the swing of things. It seems like there is always something else to do. The laundry room is mostly painted, thanks to Shane, and we have settled on a colour for the next project. I am sure, by the time we get that one done, we will have figured out something else that needs work.

I think, at least for now, I am beginning to feel like I’m settling into something like a routine. It’s not the same each day, and it still needs fine-tuning ~ for instance, I have to include more exercise, if I want my foot to hurt less, and I want to include more banjo-playing, and I should include more housekeeping ~ but I am hitting my marks (or at least landing somewhat close to them) more often than I used to, and that feels good. At the end of the day, I feel like I am making progress, and that’s what resolutions are all about, aren’t they? I never expected to just immediately achieve all of those things. I set out to work toward my goals over the course of a year, with the hope of someday achieving them. I’d say I’m doing all right, by my standards.

A Fondish Farewell

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As 2018 draws to a close, I find myself, as always, trying to make some sense of what’s been.  This year, more then most, however, I’m thinking, “Why?”  Not the big “WHY?” Not the WHY to end all Whys.  Just, “Why?”  I mean…why do that?  Why bother trying to make sense of everything that happened in the past year when, you know, it’s over, and what I could do, instead, is move on?

Of course, I get it.  There will be THINGS.  Things that carry over into the Brand New Year that will need to be Dealt With.  Things that Continue.  Things of the past that impact Future Things.  Like…you know, that’s Life.  In or out of the Big City, by the way.  Not that I have actually lived very far out of the Big City in my life, but, I assure you, people have lives absolutely everywhere on Earth, and they all probably function in roughly the same way.  We all meet challenges, and we all deal with them in whatever way we do.  And sometimes, we get it right, and sometimes, we don’t.  Sometimes, things work out well, and sometimes, they don’t.  Sometimes, things are easy, and fun, and pleasant, and great, and sometimes, they aren’t.  Sometimes, there are unexpected bonuses, or prizes or perks or vacations ~ whee!!  Sometimes, there are unexpected bills, penalties, fees, illnesses, layoffs…*sigh* (or cry)  And that’s how life goes for everyone, everywhere, I think.  Which is not to say that any of our problems are not important.  I just think, maybe, as I get older, I am starting to feel more like these are all just cycles, like waves in the ocean.  I am learning to accept that there will always be ups and downs, highs and lows, and just to try to relax and ride along with all of it, as best I can.  Which is not to say I can’t have goals and aspirations, or work toward achieving things.  I do believe in working hard and doing the best I can to be the best possible version of me.  That’s what I can control.  It’s more about learning to accept the things I can’t control, and weather those storms as they come along and disrupt my plans.  I’m not giving up on making plans.  Just accepting that my plans are always going to be more of a loose framework than actually set in stone.

So, now.  My plans, moving into the New Year are fairly simple, really.

I will:

Accept that I am a work in progress.
Balance the books and pay bills every Monday.
Strive to buy coffee out only 1x/week, and remember my reusable cup when I do.
Exercise at least 3-5x/week, and do my PT at least 5x/week. *
Play my banjo every day.
Accentuate the positive.
Focus on forgiveness.
Breathe, drink water & eat real food. **
Read every day.
List stuff on my etsy shop within 1 week of making it. ***
Work in the garden at least 1x/week.
Try to be more present & attentive.
Sew/knit/crochet or otherwise craft/make something every week.

I will NOT:

Beat myself up if I fail.
Give up because I miss a step (week, day, whatever).
Care what other people think about this list, me, or anything I’ve written here.

*This should be more, but I am being realistic.
**You’d think these would be no-brainers, but I’ve met me.
***This is after listing all the stuff that’s already waiting to be listed!

So, there you have it.

So long, 2018.  You have been a helluva year.  Laughter, tears, challenges and triumphs, to be sure.  You’ve brought with you another adult child, a new roof, and a lot of life and homeownership experience.  You weren’t a bad year, altogether, but you weren’t exactly and easy year, either.

So, with a still-stiff shoulder, and great hopes for the future, I bid you a relatively fond farewell.  Please take all your germs with you, as we are all hoping for much greater health in 2019.

Thank you.

Just one box ~ by Sam

Are you tired of boxes yet?

I’m sorry.  I never get tired of them.  It might be a problem.

Well, I am still cleaning and organizing ~ I know, I know, super exciting! ~ and I happened to come across this box I just had to show everyone.  Recently, I bought a new pair of sneakers.  Am I the only one who still calls them sneakers?  Well, I bought them, Inkkas, which I was lucky enough to find on sale for $30.  They’re white, wtih silver stars, and very comfortable for walking, which is what I needed.  They came in this box:IMG_7794

Wow.  Scintillating, I know.  I often save a shoe box, or two, just in case the kids have a project to do that involves a shoe box.  I know, I know, my kids are in high school and college, but two of them actually needed shoe boxes just last school year.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  So, I opened this box to take out the paper and this is what I found:IMG_7796.JPG
Hmmm…intriguing… Upon further investigation, I discovered that the entire box could be very easily disassembled, turned over and reassembled.  Like this:
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Here’s how it looks reassembled, from several angles:IMG_7798
Not bad-looking, right?  (Elvis says, “Thank ya…thank ya verra much.”)

It happens to be exactly what I needed for this shelf in our bedroom, and too nice to turn into a box project, anyway. IMG_7802 So, thanks to Inkkas for the great sale, which is the only way I could possibly have afforded to buy the comfy shoes, and the great reusable box with the striking, attractive graphic.  If you get your own pair of Inkkas (did I mention that they’re comfy?  Definitely worth keeping an eye out for sales, in my opinion), maybe you can find other ways to repurpose your box.  I think it would make a cute gift box.  You could get creative and add colour, cover the top (perhaps with fabric or paper).  I might cover the lid of mine later.  For now, I think it looks kind of cute up there as is.

What a nice little surprise this was, and an easy way to reuse something instead of just throwing it into the recycling bin.

I promise I will write about something other than boxes soon.

Boxing, part 2 ~ by Sam

So, that was done.

Sort of.  We still had some things we wanted to store.  You see, Kaia is 15.  When she moved in to her bedroom in 2012 (which was actually 6 1/2 years ago, not 5 1/2, as I said in the last post, wasn’t it?), she probably didn’t mind having bins full of things like puppets and American Girl clothes taking up space in her room, but let’s get real.  I, personally, love my American Girl doll, but, at 15, I probably would have needed my shelf space for something other than storing all of the the entire household’s American Girl doll clothes and accessories.  And puppets!  Do you people even know how many puppets we own?  Seriously, we needed to free up that space for things she was actually using on a regular basis (which doesn’t mean we don’t still love our puppets, says the drama teacher inside me).  Besides which, it’s her bedroom.  She should get to keep her stuff in there, instead of stuff that’s kind of community property.  I think, again, in our haste to move, we just never reorganized that shelf after we moved it into her room, and, since she was the youngest, it made some sense for toys to be stored in her room, at the time.  Now, on the other hand…

Well, I needed just a couple more large boxes, so I headed back to Michaels, and, as anticipated, all of the good 80% off boxes were gone.  But I did find two very lovely ones that were 40% off, and that was okay.  I mean, it felt a little splurgy, after the 80% off boxes, but I guess I’ll survive buying boxes at 40% off, just this once.

After all, they are the perfect boxes for treasures.
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They fit perfectly into the space I had for them (if you ignore the fact that one overhangs the shelf just slightly), and they were the right size to hold all of our puppets.

When the old bins were empty, I removed the old tags from them, knowing Kaia wouldn’t need them anymore, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw them away yet.  Is that silly?  It’s just…it’s the end of an era, isn’t it?  I know, it’s the beginning of an exciting new one, too, as my three little babies, little no more, continue on their journey through life.  Two in college already, and one a sophomore in high school.  You know, I always believed those people when they told me the years would fly, but I didn’t understand how it would feel until I was folding all of the little dress up clothes, having weeded out the ones that were just beyond repair and not worth saving.  I didn’t get it, until I was carefully tucking the matchbox cars into their boxes, and trying to remember their names, making sure the puppets weren’t too crowded, and no one was getting smushed…and I could hear their little voices just like it was yesterday.

“Today, I’m going on an adventure!”

“I’m a pirate, so I need this hook, and I need to get on my pirate ship…”

“Hey, sisters, sisters!  Look at what I found!”

And now it’s quiet.  The boxes are all put away.  Justice is at school tonight.  Shane is not yet home from work.  Hallie, of course, is living on campus this year.  It’s very quiet, except for the faint sound of one voice, not so little now, talking and laughing with a friend on the phone.

Pizza’s ready, so I go to pull it out of the oven, and there on the counter, I see them.

I still haven’t thrown these away.

IMG_7805

I’m thinking, maybe, I’ll keep them for a while.  It’s silly, isn’t it?  But then, I’ve always been sentimental.