Repurposed Men’s Shirt Apron

Once upon a time, thi20170529_125418_HDR-1s was a men’s long sleeved Faded Glory shirt in size XL that I bought for $2 at a thrift store.  I’m fascinated by aprons, even though as far as I know, only one or two people I personally know actually uses one.  I don’t even use one.

I added about a yard of red gingham fabric for the bias trim and ruffle.  I reused the sleeves to make the ties and the cuffs became a mock waist.  This project taught me lots of things.  First and foremost, I hate binding.  HATE it.  I don’t want to hand sew one side, and I’m not good at catching both sides neatly with the sewing machine. I keep thinking practice will make it better, but honestly, if there is a way I can avoid this in the future, I will.  Applying binding to this has made me question the entire project because it’s not perfect to me.

I am satisfied with the end product though, considering I winged this project.  I didn’t have a pattern or a step-by-step blog to follow.  There are lots of blogs and pins you can find on Pinterest, but I relied a lot on just watching a bunch of YouTube videos to get me started.

I have got to start selling some of the stuff I make.

Arbor Day

Here’s a random memory that came to me today. Way back in second grade — I don’t even remember what school I was going to — I had written a story for Arbor Day.  Somehow my story won a school wide contest and I won a tree from a local nursery.  We were homeless so I never got my tree.

I don’t know how to process this memory now, but here are some pictures from my yard today.

 

Japanese Maple.  I bought this on a Home Depot clearance for $10 the summer I worked part-time watering plants.

 

And while not trees, my bushes on the west side of the house.

Summer Wine Ninebarks.  We bought them distressed on clearance in gallon buckets, and they thanked us by thriving.

We have more, but my trees are my favorites.

Digital Break Time

My senses have been assaulted.

Politics has turned the Internet, a fun past-time, into a huge, oppressive black cloud of information suffocating me every day. I’ve gone from “wow,” to “that can’t actually happen,” to “what the fuck,” to now, “what the actual fuck,” to most of the nonstop storm of information and opinions scrolling past me. I care about people, issues and politics very much. I worry about healthcare, immigration, women’s rights, social security, foreign policy, the environment, lost pets, puppies and kittens and the everything else I see. But right now it’s too close, and it’s not healthy. I get information that makes me worry on a very, very basic level — will I have a job and will I be able to pay my bills? I can’t get past that one because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it except worry.

informed

David Sipress, The New Yorker

I can’t do it anymore. I reached the point where I can’t even watch the evening news. My filters have failed.

Our Holiday Table


One of my son’s favorite parts of the holiday season is the gathering around food in a warm kitchen with family and friends.  The smells are heavenly, the air is warm and comforting in the kitchen, and for just a little while there’s nothing else to think about but the comfort of home, and the people you’re with.

So many of our holidays have been spent with other families.  Grandma Glenda and Grandpa Willie, Nanny, Barb — they spent a lot of years sharing their traditions with us, as well as those of my Aunt Rebecca and cousins.  The memories are priceless and from those gatherings, our own holiday traditions have grown.

Growing up with these gatherings, Matt developed his own vision of what “his” Thanksgiving or Christmas meals should look like; what makes him happy.  For my part, his memories of our holiday meals are one of my gifts to him for the rest of his life.

moms-recipes-coverOver the years I’ve accumulated a number of favorite recipes for the holidays and this download is that compilation.  None of the recipes are truly my creations, but they’re my recipes taken from many sources that I’ve tweaked and improved for our family.

I hope everyone enjoys their holidays and if you find something delicious to try, share with me!

Just Call Me a Sewing Machine Mechanic

Music to my ears, the purr of my old sewing machine.  My old White/Universal metal baby was purring no more though.  Locked up solid, she has been living in my closet for the last year.

20161018_234710Made of all metal shafts and gears, I had bought my old Model 4400 in 1984.  It was my first machine, and over the years it had made pillows, curtains, purses, pouches, costumes, aprons, even clothing back when I wasn’t so “curvy”.  Computerized machines with a zillion fancy stitches  are nice and all, but I never use much more than straight and zigzag stitches anyway, and the computerized models just won’t do just plain old straight sewing well, through any kind of thickness, and the stuff I make tends to have thickness or heavy seams.  Beep, beep, beep. Fist pounding.  Curse.

20161018_234741If you have an old machine sitting around, they aren’t that hard to figure out.  Metal parts need lubrication, and eventually parts can just freeze in place.  I’m not the most mechanical person, but I had hoped if I could find the spot that was locked up, I could point someone who is mechanical in that direction to fix it.  And besides, it was not working anyway, it’s not like I was going to hurt it.  So I took off the top and side covers of the machine, removed the hand wheel and just watched what happened when I pressed the foot pedal.  Nothing happened.  The motor whirred, but nothing moved — at all.

20161018_234751So I started with the belts and flywheels near the motors — or are they pulleys?  I don’t know, they’re round and weren’t spinning.  Thingamabobbers.  Whosie whatsits.  I tried to turn each of the two flywheels by hand, and found the culprit.  The bigger of the two wheels, the one on the left, wouldn’t budge.  I braved a pair of pliers, grabbed the wheel and gently twisted.  It broke free pretty easily.  Once free, and after a good oiling, it was spinning like a top.  I oiled the rest of the drive shaft and gears because everything had gotten pretty tight, even with standard oiling over the years.  My biggest snaffu was the research required on how to put the hand wheel back on properly.  I finally figured out there was a washer that I didn’t notice had fallen off the hand wheel cap, which as it turns out is a really integral part of the whole thing.  Not only is it integral, it has a top and a bottom and has to be installed correctly oriented.

My old machine has a new life, and has started to purr again.

There wasn’t a lot of instructional videos on YouTube that talk about these 1970s/1980s metal machines.  Either you were repairing the antique Singer machines, or you were troubleshooting a new, computerized machine.  I highly recommend the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Sewing Machine Maintenance Guide, for some basic info on how these simple 1970s style machines work — and to point out there’s a washer laying around somewhere you just might need, and that little mark on the washer means “top”.

Now to figure out tensioning.  And to get my nails re-done.  Turns out sewing machine oil dissolves gel polish.

The Essentials Only Cross Body Pouch

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I carry a cross body bag daily, but like most purses, it tends to gather what feels like rocks.  I don’t know why, but it’s always overflowing with just stuff, most of which I don’t need to lug around all the time. If I have a lot of walking to do, I prefer to be hands-free and to carry just the necessities — phone, credit card wallet and coin pouch.  To that end, I created my own smartphone cross body pouch — designed to hold just the essentials when I’m out running around from the grocery store, to garage-saling, or to a craft fair.

This pouch is tall enough, and more than wide enough, to fit my Samsung Note 4, one of the biggest smartphones out there.  Lined with no visible seams, this bag is simple to customize.  Experiment with by combining different fabric colors and patterns between the three main outside pieces, different closures, and different straps, all in the same pouch.

You’ll need:

  • Outer fabric
  • Coordinating Lining fabric
  • Coordinating zipper, at least 8″ long (we’ll cut this down)
  • Fusible Fleece
  • KamSnap, button, Velcro or some other closure for the flap.
  • Two small swivel hooks.
  • Download the  essentials-only-cross-body-pouch-pattern. All pieces are on one sheet.  Print three copies at 100%, and cut out the pieces A through D.

Piece A – the back and flap.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece B – upper front.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece C  – lower front.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece D  –  Pieces B and C, for pocket lining.

Cut 1 lining

For the strap tabs, cut two rectangular pieces 2″ x 3″ each.

  1. Cut Outer and Lining fabrics, and fusible fleece, as noted above.
    cutfabric
  2. Prepare the tabs. Fold tab in half lengthwise and press.  Fold the edges inside, press again.  Resulting  strip will be 1/2″ wide.  Topstitch to close.  Set aside.
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  3. Iron fusible fleece to the outside pieces A, B and C.
  4. Attach zipper to front pieces, B and C.  Lay the Lining piece B down, right side up.  Lay zipper, face up, on top edge, aligning edges.  Lay the Outer piece B on top, right side down, aligning all, creating a “zipper sandwich”.  Stitch.
    20161010_132500a.  Fold back the outer and lining fabrics so they are both right side out, and press, exposing the unsewn edge of the zipper.

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    b.  Repeat step 4.a. for the other half of the front, piece C.  Take care to sew the straight edge of the fabric to the zipper, not the curved corner side.

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    In this step, be sure to match patterns better than I did.  I realized when I got done, I’d put the top portion of the pocket on upside down, so the chevron pattern didn’t match properly.  But, I kind of liked the look and opted to leave it alone.

    c.  Fold back the outer and lining so they are both right side out, and press.  Topstitch along the edge of the zipper teeth on both sides.

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    d.  If you’re using Velcro as a closure, now is the time to sew a rectangle of Velcro down in the center of the top portion of the pocket.  If you’re using a KamSnap or button, skip this step.

  5. Lay pocket lining D wrong side up on front zipper panel, also right side up.  Trim the pocket lining at the straight edge if it’s too long.  Stitch.  Turn under and press.  Topstitch.
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  6. Open zipper halfway and baste pocket lining to pocket front to hold in place while finishing.  Double stitch over the zipper to secure.  Snip the excess zipper on both sides.
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  7. Lay fold one tab from step 1 in half, and lay with loop toward the center on the front of the pocket piece.  Baste in place.  repeat on other side.  Trim ends.
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  8. If you’re using Velcro, now is the time to stitch a rectangle to the top center of Piece A Lining. If you’re using a KamSnap or button, skip this step.
  9. Lay piece A, Outer Back down, right side up. Lay finished pocket on top of back, right side down.  You can baste stitch the pocket to the back at this point if you want, but you don’t have to.  Lay piece A, Lining Back face down on top of all.  Pin or clip in place.  Stitch around the entire outside edge, leaving a 2″ or so opening in one side of the flap so you can turn the entire piece when done.  Trim seams, clip curves.
    (A cute customization idea, during this step try sewing a simple loop in at the center of the top of the Back flap, when you can then attach to a button sewn to the front pocket of the pouch as the flap closure.)

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  10. Turn the pouch right side out through the opening left in the flap.  Turning is tedious, and there’s some bulk that will have to go through the hole you left.  Once turned, press the entire pouch flat, turn the raw edges of the hole you left to the inside and press flat.  Whip stitch closed.
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    (Optionally, if the fabric is not too thick, topstitch around the entire perimeter of the pouch and flap, including closing the opening.  If you choose to topstitch, don’t topstitch over the zipper.  Topstitching is usually a nice finish, but in this case I think it makes the whole pouch appear kind of flat, a look I didn’t care for after I did it.)
  11. If using a button, add a buttonhole to the completed flap now. Sew down a button to the top of the front pocket.  If using a KamSnap, apply it now similarly positioned.  I used a KamSnap on this pouch.  If you used a loop closure, sew your button down to the top of the front pocket now.
  12. Create a strap using complimentary fabric. A good length for the strap when used by an adult, is 50″. There are lots of options to attach the strap.
    – Try sewing a small D-ring into the loop to attach a swivel hook to when adding the strap tabs to the purse in step 7 above — or leave the loop plain.
    – Try leaving the loop plain and slipping the end of a rope or very narrow sewn strap through the loops, then tie a knot in the end right under the loop, and tack the knot down to the bag for a “rustic” look.
    – For this purse, I opted for a narrow strap and swivel hook attaching directly to the loop.
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Have fun experimenting with different scraps of fabric, different patterns and colors, and making a patchwork style pouch.  If you’re into machine embroidery, the back is more than suitable for an embroidered monogram, as is the lower part of the front pocket. Change up the shape of the flap.  These would make great gifts for anyone — I can envision shortening the strap for a teenager and using their school colors.

Thanks for trying out my very first tutorial and if I can answer any questions, leave me a message.

Milady

The Letter

I really enjoy a good romantic suspense novel. Some stories have a a mysterious letter from the past in them, a letter hidden long ago that reaches into the present, saves the day and explains all.

Turns out, my mother wrote a letter in 1962 that I am just now seeing for the first time. Unfortunately, it isn’t a great letter of love or sacrifice. It is quite the glimpse into the self-absorbed, narcissistic world my mother lived in. It has created more questions than explanations.

My aunt very reluctantly recently shared the letter from my mother to herself and my uncle. She’s had it tucked away in her things for the last 54 years. I think she was and is embarrassed by it. My mother tended to behave in an overly dramatic and often bizarre way in life. It took me a long time to give up ownership of her actions and not be embarrassed by her behavior. Regardless, my aunt saved the letter and finally shared it with me. I hope she understands that she has nothing to be embarrassed about. She and my uncle were the victims in this letter, and I’m confident they didn’t do anything to even suggest that such a letter should even be written. It is just another example of my mother’s strange mind connecting dots that didn’t exist to reach a preconceived conclusion, and making up stories to fit.

The Letter=FanAlthough undated, we know the letter was written sometime shortly after I was born in March of 1962. It is written neatly, in mom’s perfect penmanship, not a single misspelling, with full and complete sentences. Her words and syntax were carefully chosen to be grand and elaborate. She seemed to be was on a grandiloquent mission to punish self-perceived wrongs committed against her. It is incredibly over-the-top. It is also angry and full of jealousy.

The story is this letter was a result of a request my mother made of her brother that could not be fulfilled. My mother never named my father, not to me, not to her brother, not to anyone that we know of. She was unmarried, single and 32 years old when she had me. Details of that time of her life are purposefully sketchy, but what we know is just a couple of weeks after I was born, my mother showed up at my uncle’s home, which she often just did.  Along with her she brought newborn me, and a man, described by my aunt as having blonde/reddish hair and blue eyes. He seemed to care a lot about me and had purchased baby things for me, including a stroller. This was the first and last time this man, whose name no one remembers, ever came around. My aunt was under the impression he was not my father. Not long after that visit the red-haired man was apparently gone. My mother contacted my uncle asking him to please contact a “Mr. Turner” on her behalf. Mr. Turner, as my aunt remembers, was a music teacher who lived Independence, Missouri, but she doesn’t believe he was the red-haired man my mother brought with her that day. Mother wanted my uncle to contact Mr. Turner with the message that he was to come and get her. These details are not in the letter, but lead up to it.

After what I can only imagine was probably a lifetime roller coaster ride of of emotional manipulation and abuse at the hands of my mother, my uncle told her no — no, he would not contact Mr. Turner, she would have to do it herself.

Who Mr. Turner was, what he may have meant to her or to me, if anything, and why my mother couldn’t contact him herself are all mysteries. But my uncle’s refusal to be drawn into my mother’s latest drama, seemed to have left her feeling very out of control of her situation. She fired off this “goodbye” letter, and seemed to be attempting to punish my uncle and aunt for her situation. She said grand things like, “Never again are we to see or speak to one another,” and “There now exists a complete severing of all relationship.” She carried on about how she felt as if she’d been purposefully made to seem small and insignificant in comparison to her brother. It was clear she was very jealous of my uncle and his life. It felt to me to be manipulative and narcissistic. As one of my cousins noted, it looked like she was attempting to engage my uncle and aunt; as if by engaging and getting a response, she still had an “in” to a relationship she could control. But she was terribly frustrated in the end having lost control, and that obviously upset her.

Everyone will take what they want from mom’s letter, but what stood out to me was that as a brand-new, first-time mother, she did not anywhere in this four page rant mention concern for her child, or that she even had a child. Her brand new infant was completely absent. It was totally about her.  She also did not bother to mention why it was so terribly important to contact Mr. Turner.

The self-imposed severing of the relationship only lasted about two years. The story is Mother just nonchalantly reappeared one day in my uncle and aunt’s lives, without a word as to where she or I, had been. She never mentioned the incident in 1962, and according to my aunt, acted as if the entire episode never even happened.

I had mentioned the mysterious music teacher, Mr. Turner, to a friend at work who remembered from her childhood The Turner Music Store on the Square in Independence, Missouri. It was a family business and was operated by Mr. Turner, and his wife. Mr. Turner died in 1989 according to Mrs. Turner’s short obituary from 2003. There’s absolutely no evidence this is the Mr. Turner my mother was so interested in, nor should any relationship be implied.  There’s nothing  good that would result in pursuing any of this all these many years later.

This letter and any clues around it will have to rest in peace; nothing has been saved, and nothing has been explained.

The Contents of a Box

I tend to hang on to things that I see as having some value to someone. I like to “fix” things and make them work or be useful again. I’m not to the extreme of being a “hoarder” but I still keep too much stuff with usually good intentions. What generally happens is after a long while the stuff winds up being donated somewhere, which is exactly what I should have done from the start.

This past weekend it was clear, I needed the space in my house that my mom had occupied the last couple of years of her life back, without her or her stuff in it. After she died, I had gotten rid of a lot of things, furniture had been reused elsewhere or stored, but there was still some baggage there, both literally and a little bit emotionally.

So this past weekend I started cleaning. Two do20160513_144113[1]nation loads later of trinkets, her “pretties”, full perfume bottles still in their original boxes, clothing she’d never worn, bed sheets she’d saved for years, blankets, even a fur hat in a beautiful hat box, I found a box I’d forgotten I’d kept. It was all of her makeup. The stuff that she’d touched almost daily for most of her life. She loved her makeup. She loved to put it on and stare at the transformation in the mirror. She bought cream after cream reliving conversations and events of her lost youth and her young, single life. She was always searching for the perfect match to her skin tone, the prettiest blush, or the best lip color, but never really found it. She’d shop for hours at the makeup counters of Macys, or at the drug store. She’d put little smudges of foundation or lipstick on the backs of her hands and look at the colors under the lights all afternoon. She lived for the potential of what the makeup could do for her and the happiness it could potentially bring her. And after she bought it, it took her an hour every day to apply her makeup. She’d sit at her vanity and carefully apply each item, examine how she did, think about what it all meant, and then move to the next thing. She’d smoke a cigarette in between, sip her coffee and have imaginary arguments with the past and people that weren’t there that this makeup would have won over. She didn’t display pictures of me, of family or even her grandson, but she had her makeup, her things and her hopes and dreams.

After dementia had really started to take its toll on her, we moved her to our house. I made a special effort to make sure her pretties came with her, so she would feel connected to something familiar in her new space. We moved her vanity as it was with all her makeup and her things arranged in it, and put them right where she could see them and she could possibly enjoy them. I don’t think she ever did though. She was too far along by then. She rarely bathed in her last few years in her apartment, refused to wash her hair, and couldn’t remember to brush her teeth or when to take her medications. After we moved her, she was bathed by aides, took her medications when we gave them to her, ate when food appeared, and she slept when she was tired. She stopped trying to be pretty on the outside anymore. I don’t think the face in the mirror matched the face she saw in her mind anymore, it was a stranger in the mirror. She mostly sat on her sofa, in a quiet, dark room, by herself, smoking and having her conversations with ghosts.

When she died, I’d just dumped her vanity drawers into a box to get it out of the way. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away then, but it seemed important to her memory to keep it. It’s who she was. This stuff meant something to her.

There is was, in20160513_122255-1[1] the back of a closet, where it had been for the last five and a half years. I’d already sorted through and donated a lot of her trinkets, her Avon perfume collection, boxes of table cloths, sheets and some of her purse collection that day, and there it was, her makeup. All the things left that she intensely cared about as a younger woman, that defined who she was, that she used ritually for years and years before dementia took over. As I threw all the makeup in a trash bag and stood back and thought about it, I felt sadness and loss. There were hundreds of dollars of things here, money all spent years and years ago, but that wasn’t it. It was the stuff my mother had placed her hopes and dreams of happiness on. I had a realization that she was a really unhappy person who didn’t know how to be anything but unsatisfied with herself or her life.  I also realized how much she was used that unhappiness with others to get the validation and necessities she needed to survive. Her legacy was a box of makeup that couldn’t in death make her any happier or content than she thought it might do for her in life. The feelings I felt looking at that trash bag were completely unexpected.

I don’t regret getting rid of everything, it needed to be done.  Mom’s ashes still occupy a box in the closet. I saved her partial plate, a little black stuffed dog she’d grown attached to in her last years, and a pillow. One day soon, I’m going to gather the family that wants to go, and we’re going to do something with this little bit that’s left. What memories of my mother we have will live on in me, and my son, her brother, nieces and nephews and they are what they are. Sadly, with or without makeup she was unhappy in life, and it’s all she knew how to be, and that’s the memory most of us will have.

Godspeed, mom. I hope you’ve found the happiness there that you could never find here.

Grief

flowersI cried when my son went off to college. I mean CRIED. A lot. I grieved for days.  I still smother him, much to his chagrin, even long distance.

Time moved on.  I got used to him not being home every day.  I talked to him about taking his room for my office and finally moving my work-from-home space out of our finished, but dark, basically windowless basement to upstairs a couple of months ago. He was fine with it.  He knows he’ll always have a place here, a room to himself downstairs when he’s here. I never followed though with the move though. His room, even if he isn’t in it, is still HIS room.  It has been for 21 years.

So as a surprise gift for me today, MartMan spent the whole day taking down the few remaining things our son had left in his room and packing them, taking down his bed and moving it, cleaning everything, and then moving my desk, printer and the things I use to my new office. He set it all up so neatly with a view out the front window, bought me flowers and waited for me to come home.

I love what he did. It’s bright and sunny, there’s not 10 tons of hobby stuff around me, and I’m no longer in the dark basement, where I spent 20+ years when I worked every day from home.  I can open the window and feel a breeze.  I can see outside.

But I sat and cried and cried. CRIED. Again. Then I cried more. My son has been in this room every day of his life from the day his dad and I brought him home from the hospital. 21 years. His crib was in his room. His toddler bed. His bunk bed/futon. His adult bed.

I worried about will he feel comfortable when he comes home for the summer, holidays, weekends? What if he wanted to come home for a while? Will he feel like he doesn’t have a place at here anymore? Will he feel pushed out? I have to keep reminding myself, he’s 21 and does not need me to have a shrine in my house. As long as he has a door, his bed, Internet,  his parents (hopefully), then he’s FINE and it will work out.  This is always home.

On the plus side, MartMan was prepared. He already knew I would sob. You just have to grieve, I guess. And it’s okay to do it.

You would think after you get through the whole kindergarten debacle, you wouldn’t grieve as much.

Fun With Flags

Hello.

I am Milady, and welcome to the premiere episode of IAmMilady Presents Fun with Flags. Tonight, you and I are going to explore the dynamic world of vexillology.

What is Vexillology, you ask?  Vexillology is the study of flags.

Tonight we will learn about the garden flag.  The garden flag is a piece of cloth or similar material, typically oblong or square, attachable by one edge, known as the hoist, to a pole or rope and used as the symbol or emblem of a home or yard and used as decoration.

Take for example, these garden flags.  This flag design is machine embroidered on a burlap field using in fun colors and displaying welcoming words, and customized with the name of the domicile they will proudly fly on …

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Whoa, I’ve learned so much.