Friday, August 21, 2009

Great Homesteading Book!

Okay, I know I've been away for a few days but I have been extremely busy. A good busy, matter of fact a great busy, and yes, I have finished the the apron. More on that in a moment. Since I last wrote I have been homeschooling my son, closing on homes, setting up a new real estate blog and learning to tweet on twitter. You can check out both at the following: I like this twitter thing (not sure what form of speech to call it. I suppose it is a noun or is that pronoun and when you twitter is that a verb right?). It is quick and easy and allows fast communication all around the world. It is amazing. Anyway, back to the topics at hand. I do have the apron done and it has turned out oh so cute. I hope to have the pics up on that in a day or two. In the meantime I wanted to pass along to you a great book I found on homesteading. The book is called "The Backyard Homestead" edited by Carleen Madigan for Storey Publishing. Check for it in your local library first, although I think once your read it you'll want your own copy to keep for referencing for years to come. Here is an excerpt from the back cover. "The Indispensable Guide to Food Self-Sufficiency from a quarter of an acre you can harvest 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork and 75 pounds of nuts. Put Your Backyard to Work. Enjoy fresher, organic, better-tasting food all the time. The solution is as close as your own backyard. Grow the vegetables and fruit your family loves; keep bees; raise chickens, goats or even a cow.'ll learn how to cook, preserve, cure, brew, or pickle the fruit of your labor." I poured through this book like nobodies business. It was a real page turner for me. Yes, maybe I'm a geek, so be it. I love this book! I want to try it all: making cheese, making wine and beer, growing grain and turning it into flour and on and on it goes. Right now those that know me I'm sure are having visions of Eva Gabor from Green Acres. That's fine, just don't refer to my dog Lego as Arnold the pig, I think he might take offence to that. If you have any inclination at all to want to know the least bit about even one aspect of homesteading, this is your book. After you check it out let me know what you think!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reproducing A Vintage Apron - Part 3

Welcome back. I've been sewing away at my quickly becoming cute little apron and I can't wait to start wearing it around the house as I clean and cook. Before I tell you about how that's going however, I want to selfishly mention something I did totally unrelated to sewing yesterday. When I told my husband I was going to blog about it he gave me a funny look, not quite understanding why I would feel compelled to pass along such seemingly unimportant information. I told him it was a girl thing and that the women out there would understand. So here it is...yesterday I chopped off my hair, and I do mean chopped.
Okay, so I do have an appointment with my hairdresser Tuesday, but I didn't want to wait until then (any surprises from those that know me - I figured not.) I had decided several days back that on my next visit to the salon I would get my hair cut into a short chin length bob, similar to what Katie Holmes has so brilliantly been sporting. I don't know if it was the oppressive heat or just me (probably the latter) that possessed me to just get it over with, kind of like pulling a bandage off quickly, either way that is exactly what I did. Late yesterday afternoon I went into my bathroom, brushed my hair then put it into a low pony tail. Got out a very dull pair of scissors my husband uses to trim his beard and started cutting. It was so thrilling, even through the gnawing and sawing sounds of the dull scissors. When done I threw the detached pony in the trash, washed and dried my hair then fixed supper. My son didn't realize I had cut my hair and when questioned about what was different with it he just said it looked fluffier - and it did. When my husband came home first thing out of mouth was "Whoa, you cut your hair. I like it." He then proceeded to tell me three more time between then and this morning how much he liked my new hair cut. (See smile on face here.) I concur.
Now, onto the apron...
After putting the bodice all together the day before, it was time to start assembling the skirt. I sewed the side seams and then zigzagged the edges once again for extra protection before pressed the seams open. Next I did a double-hem for the sides of the skirt, pretty easy since it is a straight edge. Then it was time to attach the skirt to the bottom part of the belt. So once again I swapped out the yellow bobbin with the blue so threads would match fabrics, pinned the two right sides together, sewed a straight stitch and then once attached, finished with the zigzag on the raw edge before pressing open. I'll be completing the apron today and passing on the info to you probably tomorrow. Until then use my radical hair cutting tale as an inspiration and go do something that you've been wanting to do lately but haven't had the courage (please nothing dangerous) indeed you'll find it quite exhilarating and most surprisingly liberating. Ta-ta!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reproducing a Vintage Apron - Part 2

While the dog days of summer may be barking at the door, I'm inside thankful for my air-conditioning. This is the first summer since we have lived here in Raleigh that I remember such an oppressive stream of humidity. Usually it is hot and somewhat more dry due to the blessing of an ocean breeze blowing across our part of the world. Seeing as how we have had rain on and off now for over a week (another thing to be thankful for compared to last years drought), I suppose the humidity it has brought with it should be of no surprise. No worries however, I love summer and the warm weather and therefore willing to accept with it the good and the sometimes unpleasant.

Lucky for me, amongst my parenting, homeschooling and wife tasks, I've had the wonderful vintage apron to work on inside my comfortable, climate controlled home. It is coming along swimmingly. Let me catch you up to speed on what I've done so far.
Last we spoke I had finished cutting the pattern pieces out and then I believe I remember something about a refreshment break. The next step was to start sewing. First I had to put the four darts in the front of the bodice. Easy enough. The next step however proved to be a small challenge but one I was easily able to overcome. I needed to sew a double seam around the front and back bodice edges. Not a big deal until I arrived at the rounded borders that would become the shoulder straps. Turning in a 1/4" and pressing with an iron then sewing in place I was able to make them look presentable, but then I had to do it again. I realized this time my hand-eye coordination alone would not be enough to make a smooth rounded edge on the straps. Patients is a must when doing this kind of detailed work. This being one of those things where you just need to take you time and it will turn out fine. I ingeniously fashioned a template out of cardboard, then pressed the second hem in around it and sewed.
Everything was moving along just nicely at this point. I then repeated the process on the back straps (the part that looks like an H.) Of course I could have used bias tape to finish off all the edges, this would have made for a clean and nice look but I had decided to stick as close to the original pattern and therefore chose the double-hem instead. Once this was completed I needed to sew the front bodice and back straps onto the belt made of contrasting fabric. Here I ran into a few snags. First, I wanted the blue thread in the bobbin so that when I put the two pieces together I would have the yellow thread on the toile fabric and the blue thread on the blue polka dot fabric. Okay, simple enough. After pinning the pieces to the belt and carefully checking that I had them all facing the correct direction I sewed them to the belt. When I removed the fabric however, I noticed while the top stitch looked nice and neat, the bottom was loose and ugly. Ah Oh, my first thought went straight to a tension problem, and when it comes to sewing machine I am deathly afraid of tension problem. While that may be sad considering the fact how many years I have been sewing it is none-the-less true. I usually end up sending my machine out to have tension issues resolved. But then I remembered that I had just swapped out the bobbin, so with fingers crossed I opened the cover and inspected the casing. Yeah, the bobbin was not firmly seated in the casing and so with a slight adjustment we were off again.

I removed the gargled stitches, laid down a knew set, and since I don't own a seam serger, chose to finish off the raw edges with a zigzag stitch. The directions had actually told me to go ahead and make the button hole and sew the buttons on for where the shoulder straps meet. I decided to hold off on that. I would prefer to see where the finish product hit me and then customize the placement of the buttons. Stay tuned however on that issue, because I believe I might be adding a slight twist on that one. Not sure yet.
Well, that's it for today. Tomorrow I'll be putting the skirt together and before the weekend is here I will have a brand new apron to wear, I'm so excited. See you then everyone...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Reproducing a Vintage Apron - Part 1

When I was a little girl there was, as with most kids I suppose, a limited number of toys amongst the vast supply I received over the years, with which all the anticipations and excitement leading up to Christmas or my birthday was more than worthy of. Two particular gifts that still stand out in my mind as being splendidly delightful and of which I made most important use of was a red typewriter and a pink and white sewing machine.
The first was a semi-toy typewriter I received one year for Christmas. I'm not sure if it was a lucky guess on my parents part or if they really knew how much I would enjoy my very own typewriter, perhaps it was the fact that I was always using my mom's Smith-Corona that gave it away. My parents weren't aware of it at the time, they were simply just trying to keep me from using theirs, but that little red typewriter would transform and shape my world and the way through which I related to it. That was the beginning of my nonprofessional writing career. It was an amazing toy.
Now it didn't have any synchronized movement like the modern Wii game or even dare compete with the edgy and some might argue too realistic (that's-not-what-we-want-to-teach-our-kids) latest version of the electronic Monopoly game with real cash card and all. No, it wasn't wired to the Internet, nor did it use electricity, heck it didn't even need batteries. But that was the cutest darn little typewriter I had ever seen. It was red with the type of keys you actually had to bang. The keys would get stuck in the strike position and I would have to pull them down manually, my fingers often lodging in between keys when they would slip off. And get this, you still had to use a return bar back in those days. Go ask your parents if you don't know what that is, then you can ask them to explain what a rotary dial was and better yet, how you used to turn all thirteen TV channels using a pair of pliers. Like Charles Dickens so eloquently opened in A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Ah yes, but it was my time.
Occasionally my transcripts would consist of fictional stories, more often than not however I would report on things I observed and learned from the world around me. I always did and still do prefer non-fiction over fiction. Can you tell that by the fact that I'm writing a blog, a perfect format for me to espouse about whatever inspires me that particular day. None-the-less, like all "famous" authors I went through different periods. At one time I was rewriting the part of the Encyclopedia Britannica that covered various titles of information on horses. Obviously I was unaware of the word "plagiarism" back then. No fear however, that particular piece did not end up getting published. I then went through one of my most memorable phases, the poetry phase. I would write,type, rework and then type up again up all these great little poems, no Beowulf mind you, more like poemets (yes I made that word up), and them create a crude pocket sized book out of them. I eventually wore my precious little typewriter out. Now, looking back thirty years or so, I see where it helped inspire and shape my life. I've never stopped writing. In fact I have been writing ever since.
I wrote letters to my son for the first few years of his life and tucked them away in a place where they still remain today, for him to read when he is older. I've written romance stories, children's poems and tales, as well as anthologies of appreciation. However, what I've with out a doubt written the most of is simply the passing of time in this reality and our coordinated dance between fellow humans, nature and our own self imposed beliefs. What I've learned - get out of your own way if you want to enjoy life. Which brings me to my blog today. At least now, for good or bad, after more than three decades someone is reading these humble lines of words I chose to string together in an attempt to put a put a smile on an anonymous face.
The second toy was a white and pink sewing machine, the first of several I would eventually own. This one was way cool however, because it didn't sew with a needle and thread, oh no, this one sewed with glue. You inserted a little bottle of glue similar to today's Superglue, and then as you sewed a tiny rivet of it would come out drying instantly. So instead of your child piercing themselves with a needle, they could instead glue their fingers together requiring medical separation.How cool was that. With it I received the supplies to my first ever sewing project, a yard of cotton fabric that had a printed image of a curled up napping cat on it. When you sewed it together the front of the pillow had the front of the cat and the back, well, was the back of the cat. It was a simple cutting, sewing and stuffing project. I remember my mom taking the time to show me how to do each step correctly and I'm sure I was just impatient to get on with it. I was so darn proud of my little cat pillow.
From there I moved on to a real sewing machine with needle and thread, from various ones my mom owned until I got into high school and enrolled in Home Economics. Yes, I was one of those geeks in Home Economics and loved it. It was my hangout. There may be an L on my forehead for this one but that's okay, I've got big shoulders. When I wasn't in class I was in the Home EC room sewing. Besides making my own clothes I also volunteered to help sew costumes for the spring musical. Years later I went on to sew my own wedding gown, draperies as well as other interior accessories for our home and the quilt I laid my infant boy to sleep with every night in his crib. Sewing has served me well.
And here we are (I just realized that opening statement sounds like something a college guy dressed in lederhosens would say just before telling you to watch your step as you get off the ride at Disney World), after years of sewing and writing for no one but myself, I've decided to take it to the streets in the form of a blog. This blog is something my son will be able to look back on someday when I'm dead and gone, read and say, "Yep, mom was as crazy as I remember her to be."
So, on to the vintage apron project, enough reminiscing. As stated in the previous post, I came across this vintage apron pattern which probably dates back to the 1940's. In particular I love the fitted style, after all, why wear loose and baggy when I get on that darn treadmill practically everyday for an hour. As for me, this is the style in my head that evokes images back when women wanted to look good for their husband. They did. I do. And my husband likes it as well. That's my reasoning and I'm sticking to it.
First thing was to read the old pattern directions and try to figure out what the heck they were talking about. Okay, scratch their directions and I'll make up my own. I warned you, I'm a Gemini, therefore there is that part of me that wants things done correctly and exactly right (or that could just be my German heritage) and then the part of me that says - "eh, who needs directions." And off I go cutting, chopping and doing it my own way. So, that's kind of what I did here but not so severe. I read the directions and then decided to use it as a loose guide.
The fabric I chose was a yellow and blue toile that I actually already had on hand so no need to purchase any additional and an accent pattern of blue with yellow polka dots. See how that works, yellow fabric with blue pattern accented by blue fabric with yellow pattern. Pretty smart - yeah okay, your not impressed. Then I washed them to preshrink the fabric. While I really wanted to dive into the project, prewashed fabric is always recommended if you don't want your item to shrink the first time you launder it, especially important if you are going to wear it.
So once I had it washed and dried I then ironed the fabric. I know, another step where you all are screaming "just sew already". But like most things in life, it is also so with sewing (please pardon the pun,) an ounce of preparation goes a long way at holding off hours of a headache. By ironing your fabric first before cutting out the pieces one should be able to avoid the unwelcoming surprise of having widened, or worse yet decreased the fabric from the original pattern shape. This should give you a true exact replica of the pattern piece you cut out. That is as long has you haven't finished off half the bottle of wine yet at this point. In that case, all bets are off and be warned it might fit your dog when all is said and done.
Once all the tedious prep work was done I set about to pin the pattern to the fabric. Not sure what was going on with the vintage instructions, if I had followed their plans I would have been chopping and piecing things together with the toile image going in different direction. So instead, I opted to just figure out my own layout. Those who know me well are not surprised by this in the least. Layout done, pattern cut. Okay, that was enough work for one day, I need a 64 calorie MGD now.
See you tomorrow for Part 2.