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Make a Muslin: Fixing the back

This is going to be a very short post (holiday weekends and all that). OK, let’s hop to this, going from top to bottom:
1. The shoulder seam is too long; that needs to be shortened.
2. There is too much fabric between the shoulders and the waist; that length needs to be shortened as well.
3. We’ve got the same straining across the hip area.

Shortening the shoulder seam (done at the shoulder edge, not the neck edge) is easy enough. Feeling for the knobby sort of bone in the shoulder, I marked that spot and left myself about a half an inch for a seam allowance and cut away the rest. This is a fix that needs to be both on the bodice front and on the back, and needs to be graded into the armscye.

The too much fabric length, in this case, is a simple fix. In this case, I took a half-inch tuck (which takes down the length an inch) from the armscye on the left all the way to the armscye on the right. Now, of course this not only reduces the length of the back bodice from the shoulders all the way to the waistline, it also reduces the size of the armscye circumference in the back as well. which pulls that up a little bit in the back.

Now the next step is to get the sleeve into the new armscye and see how that looks and feels.

Make a muslin month: Fixing the front

Now, to refresh our memories, here is the photo of the first round on the muslin for the jacket. There are a number of issues here and, starting from the top, we’ll review:
Shoulders: The shoulder seam is too long; it’s hanging out over the shoulder joint. That needs to be shortened.
Armscye: There are two issues here – one which we can see in this photo and one which we can’t (you’ll have to take my word on this one). The first one, which you can see, is the flap of fabric hanging out there. This is caused because a) I’m short, so the distance between my shoulders and my bust point is shorter than it would be if I were the height of an ‘average’ woman wearing this particular size. This is a problem I have…every…single…time. Just part of the game and has to be dealt with. If the amount of extra stuff there was less than 1″ (that is, if I pinched the extra together and it was like a dart that was 1/2″ on each side), then what I’d do is I’d frankly…cheat. I’d ease-stitch around the entire length of the front part of the armscye and ‘eat up’ the extra that way. This, however, is NOT 1″. This is like 2″, so (sigh), I can’t cheat. I have to find a way to reduce that distance. There are multiple ways to doing this, and in my case, I’m going to do a combination of things. (more…)

When do I transplant seedlings?

If you are just starting out growing plants from seeds on your own, you might have some questions about how quickly or soon to transplant to the next size pot.

The secret here, to be blunt, is to concentrate on what’s going on AT THE BOTTOM; not what is happening at the top. As long as the roots are kept properly hydrated, they will keep the top growing. On the other hand, if the plant is stuck in water all the time, there will not be the proper exchange of oxygen in the soil and the roots will rot and the plants will die.

Roots are everything, truly.

So. The trick is to frankly pick up the pot or six-pack or whatever you are growing in and as soon as you see little white roots starting to stick out of the drainage holes in the bottom (you do have drainage holes in the bottoms of your pots, right?), it is time to transplant to a size up. If you have a lot of time between when you transplant and when you will be transplanting the plant out into the garden or out into its final growing place such as a large planter, a ‘grow-bag’ or whatever, you might even consider moving the plant into a container a couple of sizes larger than what it is in right now.

For example: The tomato plant in the photo at the top was in a four-pack (I’m not really a fan of ‘six packs’ – I feel I get more time and a better root system with a larger original growing container). Four-packs have a seedling space that is a cube of 2.25″x2.25″x2.25″. I have taken all of my seedlings that are four-packs (or single seedling pots of the same dimensions) and moved them into 4″ pots. This will give them enough space that if the rest of the spring continues for us here at Chez Siberia in the same way it has so far this spring (read that: cold and rainy), I will be giving myself some extra space and time so that the plants will not end up with roots all tangle around one another at the bottom of the pots, or running around the outside edge, which is not good for the plants in terms of when you plant them in the ground.

If you have seedlings or plants that have been in the pots too long and have become ‘root-bound’ like that, the thing to do (and I know it’s a little bit scary but it’s necessary) is to take a knife (or your hands) and either slice the rootball at the bottom in several places, spreading it out in the hole and then covering it with dirt, or tearing it apart with your hands and doing the same thing. To be quite blunt, yes, you ARE damaging the root system. The plant will respond by growing my roots from the ‘hurt’ spots and the plant will end up stronger and healthier as a result. If you just take the root-bound plant out of the pot and chucking it in the hole, the tangled and intertwined roots will never untangle themselves and the plant will not be able to achieve it’s growth destiny as a result.

So, if you pick up your seedlings and start to see roots, transplant them into something slightly (or more than just slightly) larger, give it a good drink and keep it going. Don’t just leave it in the pot to become root-bound. If you feel you will not have enough pots, then use household items such as milk cartons, yoghurt or cottage cheese containers (with holes punched in them) and so on. They will hold up nicely in the meantime and get your plants the space that they need until the weather is more conducive to putting them into the ground.

New top pattern and a sew-along!!!

Yes, Yes, I know, your Aunty is in the midst of doing a muslin for a jacket, but sometimes you also need something that is easy, simple and will clean the brain. Yes, I do more than one project at a time; it actually helps when I am doing something more complex like the jacket and am having some frustrations to do something as something to keep ‘the mojo’ up there.

And this is IT — a brand new knit top pattern from Hot Patterns. Very clever, with a neat and tidy tee-top in the front, with a nice, loose yoke-blouse look in the back, for light weight knit fabrics. Love it. Great for the hot and steamy summer. PLUS – and I love this part – a sew-along. What’s not to like?

If you’ve never tried a Hot Patterns product, now is the time to do it – there will be the fabulous Trudy there to hold your electronic hand through the entire thing. When the sew-along is over, you will have your top completely done — no UFOs!! Make new friends! Learn new skills! Plus videos and all sorts of help from Trudy herself.

Home sewing can be a very isolating experience – most of us have to snatch little bits of sewing time for ourselves and many times we get behind and end up feeling defeated. Commit to the project. I’ll be doing it too!

The sew-along starts on May 21st (plenty of time to get your pattern and get fabric or search the stash for those great knits you’ve been, like me, hoarding), so here you go! Getcher pattern right here!! Blouse-back tee and sew-along!

Make a muslin – jacket first try

I always feel like one of those pictures in my junior high health textbook when I do these shots; all that is missing is the black bar across my eyes.

So, going from top to bottom, what are my issues here? And I say it that way because they are MY issues, not the pattern issues. The muslin went together smooth as silk; everything matched up. I know a lot of folks do changes on a tissue first before they cut out the muslin, but I don’t because I want to get a complete view of how the thing comes together. Once I start ‘slicing and dicing,’ all sorts of things can happen so I want to know how the garment came together before I do that. So, from that perspective, the pattern works really well. When I laid the whole thing out on the table after I’d sewn it together and ironed it, it literally looked exactly like the diagram on the envelop. (more…)

I hereby declare this month to be “MAMM”

OK, so this month out there is everything from “Me Made May” to “International Business Image Improvement Month” (which could use it, I admit) and I am going to totally avoid the entire thing and declare my own celebration: MAMM, which stands for:

MAKE A MUSLIN MONTH

I know there are folks out there who have been sewing since we were slapping laundry on rocks down by the old mill stream and avoid making a muslin of a new garment like the plague (and I suspect that most of them either have a sloper/block/tried and true pattern that they use religiously, OR they are perfect size whatever and have figured out which size in the Big Three fits them). I am not one of those people. I have physical issues that preclude whipping the tissue out of the envelop and just cutting out. I’m short, stocky, stout, short-waisted, broad in the back, have a tummy, big upper arms, and a rear-end you could set a potted-palm on. I also have arms like a T-rex (as in even petite size stuff is several inches too long in the sleeves) and low knees. I don’t like making ‘wearable muslins’ because by and large, this does not work for me; I end up with things that are too big in the shoulders with the waist in the wrong place, the armscye is way too low and the sleeves do not fit. And I will have ruined a piece of fabric; I’d rather work out all the issues on muslin first. (more…)

Best bang for your buck at the garden center

Not everyone has the time, space, inclination or ambition to grow the flowering plants for their garden from seed on their windowsill. This leaves people buying their plants and sometimes these can get pretty pricy. I haven’t had the time or space to start my flower box plants this year, so the DH and I went to a local greenhouse to pick up a few things.

I always find that getting plants in six-packs is a bit of a disappointment. The plants are so small that it takes a very long time for them to get big enough to fill in the space and make a show (which, of course, is the whole point, right?). So, to get enough plants to fill in, I end up buying probably 4 times the plants that I really have budgeted for – very expensive. Since I won’t be putting my plants into the boxes for another month then, it really pays me better to get a larger plant and split it. This is something anyone can do as long as you have some pots, potting mix, a sharp knife and some rooting hormone. You don’t need a greenhouse to do this; once you’ve potted up the cuttings, you can just stash the pots someplace in a bright room, out of direct sun. Keep the potting mix moist and you are all set. (more…)

Why the needle and thread ain’t dead yet

There are things that are worth repairing..and there are things that perhaps are not worth repairing(cheap knit tops from big box stores come to mind).

On the other hand, your Aunt Toby is not asked to do repairs very often, and even less often by the DH, so when he handed over what looked like a dearly departed silk tie with a sniffle, I couldn’t deny the request. After all, it was a gift from ME, for heaven’s sake. One hundred percent silk, famous name on the label. Hubba Hubba. But, a wreck, nonetheless. A testament to how often the DH wears it, this tie had a lower half that frankly looked as if someone had taken a piece of sand paper to it (see photo above). The hand stitching which held the edges together had loosened and come apart and the bottom half (which as anyone who wears a tie knows, is the part that goes to the inside, against the wearer’s shirt and goes unseen) had, in being worn, rubbed against the DH’s shirt (who knew the fabric from men’s cotton dress shirts could eviscerate silk?) and had literally shredded and worn away. (more…)

Weekend thoughts on the garden

Since it is literally in the low 40s outside, and raining, and generally miserable (we don’t call this place Che Siberia for nuthin’ folks), your Aunt Toby is forced to working inside today to get whatever can get done, done, so that when the weather improves, which it will eventually, we are ready to go.

This week has not exactly been a barn-burner in terms of good weather either, so even with plastic on the garden bed, it has not gotten above 49 degrees F. That means I can’t put in my seeds for the early spring crops like kale, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, chard and beets. Boo, hiss. Super annoying. If we could just catch a break and get a couple of warm, sunny days, that garden bed would warm up. Just..one…more…degree..of…warmth…in the soil will do it. Hope, as they say, springs eternal.

In the greenhouse, even though it is a bit chilly, things are moving along pretty well. I continue to be impressed by heritage pepper ‘King of the North’, given that these seedlings are in an unheated (and rather chilly this past week) greenhouse. They continue to grow and do not seem to be effected by the rather negative growing conditions. Tough guys for sure. The plum tomatoes soldier on as well. In the mail this week, I received the potatoes and onion plants that I ordered from Territorial Seeds. The potatoes are one we have grown in the past which have dealt with our rather iffy conditions and negligent care rather well — German Butterball and the onion plants are a mixed bunch chosen for northern areas (always important when dealing with day length and night time temperature issues).

And, from the ‘never say never’ school of thinking: I was out in the greenhouse with our 16 month old grand-progeny for a little gardening fun (that kid will water anything that appears to be in a pot), and put out a salad tub with potting soil in it so that we could plant a few basil seeds. I handed her an old packet, thinking a) there were not many in it and b) they were OLD so no matter how many she scattered in the tub, I figured that germination would not be all that bad and we’d end up with a few.

This is what happens when you have a 16 month old child whose idea of ‘planting a few seeds’ consists of flinging her arm out and dumping the entire packet (which turned out to have a LOT of seeds in it)in the tub. Anyone need basil seedlings? I think I might have enough for..everyone.

What do I grow?
For those folks who feel a bit overwhelmed by choices (and goodness knows there are a huge buffet of choices out there) in their gardens, let me suggest one guideline that might narrow things a bit: The Environmental Working Group’s list of ‘the dirty dozen.” This list of fruits and veggies consist of their results of testing standard fruits and vegetables bought in standard US grocery stores to find which ones have the highest levels of pesticide residues on them. Now, the issue is that standard US kitchen sink washing methods do not do a very good job of removing pesticide residues, so their suggestion is that if you have a limited food budget, that you make sure that these items are the ones you spend your ‘organic food dollars’ on. Here’s the list:
Apples
Celery
Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumbers
Grapes
Sweet and hot peppers
Imported Nectarines
Peaches
Potatoes
Spinach
Strawberries
Kale and collard greens
Summer Squashes
EWG Dirty Dozen Plus

Now, ok, if we are not going to go to the trouble of putting in trees and vines to grow apples, grapes, peaches and nectarines organically (growing strawberries at home is something that is worth getting into, along with asparagus and rhubarb), we can grow the other things and actually quite easily (and that includes celery, which is wonderful straight out of the garden). So, if you want to get a twofer out of your garden – make sure you grow the stuff on this list organically. A lot of these can be grown EASILY with organic methods – and if you are super lazy the way we are here, that includes ROW COVERS (which basically prevent bugs from getting to your veggies to eat them or lay their eggs). You can go full-on with hoops over the beds, but it’s just as effective to just lay the spun polyester (or old sheer curtains if you have them or can get them) over the plants and tuck them into the soil at the edge of the row. This is something you can find at any home and garden center or big-box store in their garden department.

Frida Kahlo and her skirt

And, we move ahead to the next piece of traditional clothing: The skirt.

Now, we should probably set our parameters right from the start: A ‘skirt’ is any piece of clothing that starts somewhere in the vicinity of the waistline and ends somewhere within reach of the knees and the feet. I realize this is a rather broad region, but if we are going to take in everything from a 1960s mini to today’s maxi, that’s what we’ve got to work with. Also, a ‘skirt’ can take in anything as simple as a sarong/lavalava (that is, a piece of fabric that is wrapped around the waist and held up either by itself or some sort of tie) all the way through 18th Century ‘structures’ which require wood, wire, padding, hoops, and probably a birdcage, and probably weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 30-50 pounds. “Skirts’ can include every sort of fabric manipulation known — pleating, gathering, ruching, gores, embroidery, slits, you name it. (more…)

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