wonderful things

1. This has been a LONG time coming: I budgeted my final credit card payment this month!

I have been meaning to talk about how epic and life-changing it has been to find a budgeting system that WORKS. (And when I say that, I really mean it’s a system that changed my habits: empowered me to make intentional decisions about my money, and then made it very easy to follow those decisions day to day.) The system I use is You Need A Budget, and even though I can’t use the pitch I depended on before (“It’s life-changing and you only have to pay for the software once!”), I trust that their new annual-fee program is incorporating some fantastic improvements.

2. Related to Thing 1, I’m finally discovering the wonder of saving money! Here’s what’s amazing: when you set aside money for something like, oh, I don’t know, a 3-month cushion (guess what I’m saving money for?), and then you reach that goal? YOU HAVE THE CUSHION AND THEN YOU GET TO START SAVING FOR SOMETHING ELSE! It’s, like, blowing my long-time debt-laden mind that I can have these monthly savings that ACCUMULATE, instead of this monthly payment that I send out into the void, seemingly, which never seems to end.

Saving > Debt (mind blown)

3. I’m going to add another point to this stream because, omg, I can’t stop taking about it.

I love that the process of saving is ALSO a process of dreaming. Do you know how many times, in the past 10 years, I’ve said to myself, “Oh, that sounds like a nice idea, but I can’t even entertain it until I pay off this debt.” THAT WAS A LOT OF DEFERRED DREAMING! I HAVE SO MUCH CATCHING UP TO DO!

And I’m sort of pumped that I get to do it NOW instead of 10 years ago, partially because I am so much smarter and more interesting now. Of course, I’m also more cautious, which is something I’m trying to push against just a bit.

This year is the year of Dreaming Big. I don’t plan on making any big actions (because remember: saving for a 3-month cushion) but I love that I’m finally in a place where I’m allowed to realistically entertain these ideas.

4. I meant for this list to be about more than just budgets. (Whoops!) Here’s a photo of some finished quilts:

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I’m mad at this dress.

It should have been a slam dunk.

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Instead, this photo inspires me to come up with various mullet analogies. (Tall drink of water in front; shambles in the back.)

I was essentially replacing a dress that I’ve worn to pieces, using an updated/fitted version of the pattern. I was thoughtful about the materials, spending a bit more money on a brightly-colored woven fabric with better drape than a quilting cotton.

But sometimes, the closer you get to right, the more obvious your near-misses are. At least, that’s the lesson I think I’m learning from this. Instead of dramatically declaring that it’s useless to even TRY if your efforts to solve problems are obfuscated by NEW problems. Or, I don’t know, wishing for an entirely different body because THESE CURVES ARE IRRATIONAL. (Self talk: your body is strong and capable and beautiful and your curves are not something to be ashamed of.)

Okay, back to the DRESS, which is something that can be easily changed or discarded.

Looking through my archives, this is a pattern that has ALWAYS caused me to look at my backside and wonder what’s going on. And not in a positive way. Though, really, WHO IS LOOKING AT THEIR BACKSIDE ON A REGULAR BASIS? (Ha ha ha. You guys, I’m going to want to delete so much of this blog post, but I also want to be honest about both the difficulties of sewing things to fit your particular body AND the struggle to be body positive.)

But, I argued, this was one of the first things I sewed! There was room for improvement! This could be a major win! I made a winter version of this that was really charming. (Though, no photos of the backside.)

A few notes, in case I really want to continue down this rabbit hole. (Stubborn optimism leads me to believe IT WILL HAPPEN.)
-I took out the front seam of the skirt, wanting a cleaner line. But I forgot to reduce the pattern width when I cut it on the fold. I ended up adding two little pleats. The first time, they were facing in, and that was weird so I unpicked the waistband and adjusted them to face out. This is still wonky – it has the appearance of off-seam pockets without the delight of pockets. I’m tempted to unpick the waistband AGAIN to convert these to gathers, but that’s paying too much attention to the front of the skirt when the back is a problem.
-The zipper I used was too long. I realize that this isn’t helping with the line of the bodice. What is the best zipper length? Ending just before the curve at the bottom of the spine?

For reference, and to remind myself that these fit problems probably have more to do with the pattern than my skills, I’m including photos of the original dress as well.

Original version, without alterations:

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Updated version, with lengthened and fitted bodice:

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Comparing these, I can see the improvements! There is still potential for this dress. I should be thankful that it’s helping me to see that I am OVERDUE to learn how to address fitting issues in the back of a dress. Honestly, I’m only a few years into learning how to fit my bust, so it makes sense that the rear would be next.

let’s talk about sewing, baby

Recently, a friend introduced to me the concept of friction in projects. Or, more specifically, the idea that a well-designed workshop or workflow helps you to reduce friction. Perhaps the friction of sewing would be setting up a table, or pulling out a sewing machine from the closet, or finding all of your bits and bobs and threading the machine. Honestly, now that this concept is in my head, I find myself noticing friction everywhere!

In my sewing room, I’ve figured out ways to reduce most friction. I have a table dedicated to projects, a machine that is always sitting out, a few boxes nearby that hold all of the notions. During sewing seasons, my ironing board is standing in the middle of the room, and the extension cord for the iron is just barely kicked under a dresser (out of sight enough to spare me from tripping over it or stepping on it, but obvious and accessible). My hand-quilting projects are ALWAYS sitting right next to an armchair, so I will pull them out and stitch a little while watching shows on my computer.

So, I know that friction can be reduced. I’m quite adept at noticing and dealing with it in the physical realm. The friction that I can’t seem to address is right here, in the internet realm, where I have a blog and want to share stories, but always seem to find a million miles of sandpaper between me and the end goal.

Does anyone else feel this? Perhaps not those people who are posting entertaining, inspiring, awesome things on a weekly basis. Or, to be fair, perhaps they DO feel it and have figured out how to reduce their friction. They probably have blog posts about blogging, which I’ve probably read. So then I have to be honest that one of my biggest personal frictions is that I don’t want this blog to be work. I want this blog to sit here, waiting for me to drop things when the mood strikes, asking nothing of me and costing nothing. But then I also want it to be a place filled with deep thoughts about all the things I spend too much time obsessing over. I want to have a coherent summary of how I’ve spent my time. I want to be able to point to one page that explains why I’m a chaos muppet when I sew but an order muppet in every other area of life, because you guys, that’s something I’ve been thinking about this week, and I wonder if other people experience this dichotomy!

So, I don’t know where to start. Or, to be more honest, I don’t know where to finish this conversation. I don’t know where it’s going. I feel like it’s going to shoot off in a million directions, which could lead to a million blog posts, all which I’d like to have linked to each other in an orderly way with interesting images in every post (my own expectations of blogging perfection: FRICTION).

For now, I’m going to do two things:

-I’m going to pay attention to the friction. I’m going to write it down and maybe, at some point, decide if there are ways I can reduce some of it. But more importantly…

-I’m going to ignore the friction. I’m just going to write. It’s going to be incoherent. I’m probably going to ramble, a lot, or reference fully formed thoughts that I haven’t yet shared with you (and possibly never will). I’m going to just let this be the messy jumble of things that fall out of my head, which is what the old header of this blog used to say, because I needed to confront that specter* of blog perfection every time I came to this page.

*FYI if you google that word to make sure you’re spelling/using it correctly, you’ll discover that there is a new Bond movie coming out this year. I’m not sure why you’d do such a thing, or whether or not you’d be excited about such news, but that’s a thing that happened. #blogrealness

November thoughts

I’ve had the urge to post on this blog more often, so I’m just running with it.

There might be a new (and short-lived) series hitting your screens/faces in the near future. (Hint: it includes more mirror self-portraits, because I am never not thinking about my wardrobe.)

I LOVE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME! Some people think it’s awful, but I kiss the air and dance for joy and generally talk about it every day during the weeks before and after because WAKING UP WITH THE SUN IS MY FAVORITE!  Yes, walking home from work in the dark is rough, but I find it breaks my day into two clear-cut segments – it’s already dark when I’m home, so the setting sun doesn’t confuse my hunger or sleepiness. I just turn on my Happy Lamp (that’s really what it’s called) and work on projects.

Since I’ve never once had a desire to write a whole dedicated post about my double vision, I’ll sneak it in here – yes, I still have double vision. I know. I KNOW THAT IS CRAZY. It’s been over two years now. Bringing it up is like opening a whole can of worms, but I’ve made peace with some of those worms in the past year. I’m not okay with how awful the medical industry is, and how I’m expected to be my own champion through this whole ordeal, and somehow it’s my job, as the layman, with a highly personal and conceptual idea of the problem, to help these highly-educated and logical professionals understand this journey WHEN I ALREADY SENT THEM A CHART WITH PAGES AND PAGES EXPLAINING THE PROCESS IN MEDICAL LANGUAGE.

Now that I think about it, this explains why one of them said, “I feel like the process of getting a diagnosis is more stressful than the actual double-vision,” because IT IS. I can make peace with a medical anomaly (which is what I meant to talk about here), but I didn’t expect to need medication to help manage the anxiety I now get every time I have to see a doctor. The system is broken. I’m experiencing that. My heart aches for people who don’t have the option to say, “This doctor thing is too stressful. I’m going to just focus on living my life instead of searching for an answer.”

But, obviously, I want an answer. I want to have normal vision again. I am haunted by the thought that someone out there knows how to fix this. I want to find them, and I wish it wasn’t so difficult.

life

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Hey there, vegetables from our local farm! You are so beautiful. Potatoes, I was surprised by your redness when I finally washed off all your Virginia dirt! Tomatoes, NEVER CHANGE! Peppers, now that I think about it, you probably didn’t come from the local farm, but I still think you are darling.

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Look at how pretty and delicious you are when placed in a dish together! You smell good, too.

(This recipe, called slumgum by my family for no discernible reason, is just potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, ground beef, salt, and pepper. You bake it uncovered at 325 for two hours. It’s hearty and satisfying.)

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HELLO, dress that I cut out months ago, before I started making custom patterns for clothes so that they’d fit more accurately, and that I’ve spent most of the last week lovingly assembling! I’m really proud of how well-assembled you are.

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I’m NOT proud of the way you don’t fit my body in a flattering way. It’s not your fault that my fit expectations increased exponentially while you were waiting to be assembled, but I’m still mad at you right now. I’m going to put you in time out for a while, so I can decide whether it’s worth it to rip you apart in a few places and make franken-corrections.