It's here!!

My new sewing machine is here!!

It's kind of a misnomer to call it "my new sewing machine" since I never had an old sewing machine, but it's new and it's mine, so it works. It came on Thursday night. I was gone all day Thursday with training and orientations at the school, so Matt agreed to stay up and wait for it to be delivered.  The poor guy had only had about 2 hours of sleep but still said he'd stay awake until it came.  He waited and waited, but it never did come. When I got in about 7:30 p.m. to find a very sleep, not terribly happy hubby telling me that it didn't come, I checked the tracking which said it was out for delivery.  Poor guy seemed genuinely concerned that I'd be upset, which I was. Then, not ten minutes after I walked through the door, here comes a knock. It's FedEx delivering my package from Amazon.  Matt like to pull his hair out, but we were both glad it got here.

So, I unpackaged it, but I've not had a chance to use it yet. I only paid about $100 and I got the machine, a plastic hard case, and a pack of 10 plastic bobbins, which aren't here yet.  I want to make something, but I also want to do it right, so I'm waiting until I have time.  It's not been easy, let me tell you!  So here it is...

Isn't it pretty?! I had more meetings on Friday, so afterward I headed over to Melanie's and we went to Wal-Mart. I got scissors and all of the stuff I'll need to get started.  I also got three patterns. Two garments and one handbag(s).

I'm going to attempt the bag first! Not the messenger bag, but the other one (bottom left/top right).  I think in the long run, it'll be the more simple of the two because it doesn't require quilted fabrics.  With my experience being limited, I'm going to start with something a bit simpler. I got this really amazing fabric to make the bag.

The brown fabric with teal circles is going to be the outside of the bag, while the teal fabric will be the lining.  I considered brown lining, but I just love the way the teal looks!!  The brown fabric is actually a light corduroy, so I got some heavier weight needles because I've been assured that this fabric is hefty and will break the regular needles.

Unfortunately, though I have everything I need to get started, I can't actually start until next weekend. School's starting back tomorrow (August 30th) and I have both my classes and my the basic writing for my assistantship to attend during the week.  I have to get text books, order a new stove, go to work and study. So, sewing will have to wait until I have a free moment, which won't come until the weekend. Melanie and I are going to get together and have a sewing party, wherein she holds my hand *ehh hmm* offers me guidance through the process. She'll probably get a heck of a lot more sewing done than I will, but I'm glad I have here here to help me when I get stuck.  I'm really looking forward to it.

In the mean time, I've been hunting down apron patterns online because I really want to make some vintage aprons. Turns out you can get upwards of 50 different apron patterns on the web, for free.  Many of them aren't actually patterns, but rather are just instructions and measurements, but I think I could follow simple instructions... maybe.

More pictures coming when that fabric is actually a bag, and not just fabric.  By the time I get good at sewing, y'all are going to be so tired of hearing about sewing and my sewing projects.

So, Sew!!

When I was a 16 or 17, and learning to sew, my mother gave me a pattern for a halter top.  I loved it and set out to make it, even though I've learned in the intervening years that heavy-chested women shouldn't necessarily wear halter tops.  I got all the pieces cut out, set up the sewing machine, and went to work.  I probably worked on that top, a fairly simple pattern, for four or five hours and when I was done, I ran to the bathroom to try it on.  Imagine my surprise when my awesome halter top didn't fit right.  No, that's an understatement, it didn't fit at all.  It gaped open in the front, showing my ta-tas to the world, while the armpits were restrictive to the point of painful.

Rather than taking it off, I stormed into the living room, one arm over my chest, and frowned at my mother.  Mom burst into laughter and when she got that out of her system she informed me that I had sewn the armpits together in the front and the front to the armpits.  You see, the top was three parts, the torso and two breast pieces. The breast pieces had a long side and a short side.  Rather than sewing the short sides together at the front, I sewed the long sides together, which accounts for the gaping chest area. I spent an hour and a half ripping out all the seams on the top and pinning it back together the right way.  I got it fixed, but that story's stuck with me.

So, why am I regaling you with my tale of halter tops gone wrong?  Simple, I'm going to dip my toes in the sewing pool once more. I'm going to attempt to learn (re-learn?) to sew!  I don't currently own a sewing machine, but I plan to buy one this week.  I'm going to get the Brother XL2610 from Amazon.com.  It's gotten excellent reviews and it's pink (that's it over there on the right), what more could a girl want?!  I've been looking around and I think this is the best machine for the money.  I thought about getting a Singer, which is what Melanie has, or a Kenmore, which is what my mother has, but I really like the Brother the best. I consulted with my local sewing sage (read: Melanie) and she agrees that it's a good machine.  Yay!!

I'm ordering it from Amazon, rather than buying it locally because it's not available here and the Amazon price is great.  Once I get it, I'll go shopping for accessories, like scissors, pins and pincushion, things like that.  I can't wait, I'm really excited to pick this back up.  While I never was great at it, I think that now, with a bit of attention to detail, I could be really great at it.  I find I'm much better at things now a days then I was when I was a teen.  I mean, I couldn't cook and now I'm a really good cook.  I couldn't cross-stitch and now I'm pretty okay at it, even though I never do it. I think this will be the same.

I plan to start small, with straight seams and make things like bags, aprons or simple skirts, things like that. I also don't plan to wear anything I sew until I'm good at it and can have faith in my ability to make something that will hold up. I'll definitely take pictures when I finally do get started making something!

Ultimately, a lot of the reason I've decided to take up this particular hobby is my grandmother.  My grandma Wilma was a great seamstress, she was really, really great at it.  My mom is also a great seamstress, though I don't think she's sewn anything in years.  When we were kids, mom use to make us these really cute baby-doll shirts that we loved.  Now that my grandma's gone, I feel myself drawn toward this hobby because it's something I can learn that will help me feel close to her.  I've been assured that doesn't sound creepy by both Matt and Melanie, so if it does, I'm sorry, blame them.

Besides, screwing up simple patterns has been a fond childhood memory for me.  You should hear the story about the palazzo pants!  I'm the only person I know who can repeat the same damn mistake over and over.  I kept sewing one leg on inside out, I did it four times before finally giving up on those stupid pants. Never making pants again, no joke there! No really, even now... never making pants again!

Off to shop for sewing books and dream of my first sewing project.  Good night!

Encouraged

I wanted to share these pics I took on the way home from Plainview. We were on Texas Highway 6, between Carbon and Gorman when I spotted a rainbow.  There had been a summer storm in Central Texas just before we'd made it there and  Matt said he had been able to see the rainbow from the Interstate, but I'd been asleep.  I took some while the car was moving, but none of them came out well. So, because Matt had driven the entire drive home and was tired, we stopped to switch drivers at the side of the highway and I took these pics before moving on. We were only about an hour and a half from home.


As always, you can click the images to see them larger if you like. I thought they were pretty and honestly, I felt very encouraged seeing that rainbow given that we had just attended my grandmother's funeral. When I downloaded the pics from my camera today, I felt fairly encouraged again.  So, I wanted to share. I used photoshop to balance the photo's levels so it would be more crisp, but overall my camera takes pretty good pics!

What Doesn't Kill You...

I slept in late today and woke up thinking how grateful I am that this last week is over. Its been a long, hard week and though its meant being able to see my family, something for which I am always thankful, its also meant grieving. Grieving makes me tired, not just physically, but also emotionally, never mind the long drive to Plainview and back, only to turn around and have to go to Waco. All trips were fairly nice, as short trips go, and taken by themselves would have been fine, but all together made for a nightmare week. I actually feel bad feeling like that, though, since my folks left home last Saturday, drove all the way from California to Texas over the course of two days, stayed two days, and turned around to drive all the way back to California. They had a much more tiring week than me, I'm sure, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm tired.

Part of the problem, I think, is that its been such a terrible summer.  Matt and I have struggled these last three months more than we ever have before.  The weekend after I decided not to go to school over the summer, which meant for the first time in 5 years we wouldn't have summer financial aid money, our range/stove died.  I should have taken it for a sign of horrible things to come, but as pissed as I was and as little as I could ignore the irony that literally days after I decided not to go to summer school for the first time in years something bad happens, I still went ahead with the plan to work all summer and skip on classes. Classes I didn't at all need, mind you, as I'll already be well over the number of hours required for my MA by the time I graduate.  No point in paying for something I'm not going to need anyway.

It's not even just the stove, it's the fact that my glasses have been going out of prescription for nearly three months but I've not really had the time, or money, to go to the eye doctor.  Work has been jerking me around, school financial aid has been being uncooperative, and my tooth got so infected that I had to bite the bullet and go to the doctor only to find out that I need a root canal, which are very freaking expensive!  My grandmother's been very sick, which meant taking trips to Plainview.  Those trips were actually one of the higher, and lower, points of the summer because I got to see my Grandparents, my folks, my sister and my aunt, but the circumstances sucked.

School's finally back in on August 30th and I've never been so happy to see a semester coming, especially one where I'm going to be taking 9 hours and working as a grad assistant.  I'm going to be busier than I've ever been before, but maybe that's what I need.  What doesn't kill me makes me stronger... right?  So maybe running the summer gauntlet has prepared me for what's to come?  Yeah, okay, I don't really believe that saying, I also don't think this summer prepared me for anything but being thankful that it's nearly over!

I'm taking this next week off work, I need the time to recoup from the summer from hell before school's back in.  Instead, I'm going to do the laundry, clean the house, and go through the dresser and get rid of old clothes I don't wear to make room for the clothes I do.  It isn't like I'm going to be sitting around all week doing nothing, I'm just not going to be sitting in front of the computer all week.  Maybe I'll also work on my novel some.  I might write a little bit, I need to get an article submitted for Blissfully Domestic so I can stay active with them, and I might write a bit for demand, but only when I feel like it. That way, it's less of a job and more of a hobby... ah, the things I tell myself to get by.

Back in Plainview...

I'm sitting in a Best Western in Plainview, TX blogging from my netbook. The room is dark and frigid, the air conditioner's loudly buzzing in my ear and Matt's listening to CNN on the television. Tomorrow's my Grandma Wilma's funeral, she passed away at 4:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. Though we got here with about 15 minutes to spare, I decided early on that I wouldn't be attending tonight's viewing, I just simply couldn't do it.  I'm so weak sometimes.

When the funeral's over, we'll be around for a while before heading home. While the trip out here today was long, as long as before, it didn't feel as long.  Matt and I got along the whole way, which is unusual for us these days.  Not that we argue much, but when we take road trips we tend to bicker.  Today's drive was still, almost somber, but that's expected given the reason for the trip.  He's really been amazing through this, there to hold my hand and make me feel like it's okay to grieve however is comfortable for me.  I really have an amazing husband.

My girlfriend Melanie has been amazing, too. She altered Matt's dress pants.  She also brought me chocolate cupcakes, Reese's peanut butter cups, mini oreo's  and two bottles of wine on Saturday night.  She knew I was feeling bad and went out of her way to make me feel better.  She's a good friend.  She's also looking in on Ani today and tomorrow, while we're gone, which is awesome.  The poor dog was throwing up this morning, which made me feel even worse about leaving him, but it makes me feel better knowing Melanie's looking in on him.  He's in good hands.

So for now, we wait for my folks to get back from the viewing. Matt's fallen asleep watching CNN, though I can't say I blame him. Poor guy couldn't sleep last night, got up at 6 a.m. and worked out, then drove most of the way here.  He deserves a nap.

I think I'll go lay down with him, my head is (still) killing me!

L is for Letterpress

While researching last week for an article I never got around to writing, I was struck with an immediate interest in the topic. The article was supposed to be about letterpress at home, which I found was a much larger topic than could fit the article parameters, so I abandoned the title.  Title abandoned, my interest would not be deterred.  I spent hours searching around the net looking for information about letterpress, the plates, the process, the history, etc.  I was completely enamored by the prospect of learning to letterpress. What a beautiful and complex art form, I thought, something I might like to try my hand at.  I've always been creative, though in recent years every ounce of creativity spills into my writing with very little left over for aught else.  I need another hobby, something to take my strained eyes away from the computer, a hobby with which to actively engage apart from my keyboard.  Letterpress, I thought, could easily be it.

In my research I learned a few things:

  1. I learned that letterpress is one very expensive hobby. A table-top platen press will run anywhere from $5,00 to $5,000 and then you have buy the plates, which at first seem relatively inexpensive, until you realize that you're paying about $10 for one letter or symbol. Inks and brayer are also expensive, but not so much they're unaffordable.

  2. I learned that it takes an immense amount of training to learn to letterpress. Books, classes, and seminars are available to learn about the process of letterpress, but going it alone without help can be an exercise in futility.

  3. Finally, I learned that letterpress professionals and enthusiasts are not a very welcoming bunch. Blog after blog, forum after forum it was much of the same thing, letterpress proficients rejecting letterpress hobbyists as amateurs without a chance of making anything of their expensive new hobby.


The third point is the one that really got me. You would think that if someone enjoys a hobby, they would want to share that hobby with others, no matter how difficult, expensive, or time consuming it may be.  A labor of love is a labor of love, regardless of the effort, after all.  It seems to me, however, that most of the people getting offended at letterpress hobbyists are those who making a living as letterpress professionals. I got the feeling they were threatened by the idea that others might enjoy letterpress, too. Many letterpress professionals have an education in letterpress, years of experience, and with these credentials cannot accept that others might enjoy letterpress without the formalities.

This almost turned me off to it... almost.  I can see how those who consider themselves artisans (and letterpress certainly is an artisan skill) would take offense to amateurs treading on their craft, but I think many letterpress proficients fail to remember that they themselves were amateurs once, too.  Some of them have an education in printing, while others took it up as a hobby, became enthusiasts and learned by trial and error that they were damn good at it.  Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with trial and error. An education in printing is not open to, or practical for, everyone and why on earth should that stop someone with a dedicated interest in letterpress from pursuing that interest?  Short answer, it shouldn't.

There seems to be a particular uproar in the letterpress community about the Lifestyle Crafts L Letterpress.  Some in the letterpress world have gone so far as to call this little machine a glorified stamp machine, while others defend its validity.  Is it really so important?  It's not like anyone is going to take the L Letterpress and make a living printing with it.  It's a home craft machine which, due to it's relatively low price, is a good place for those with a beginning interest in letterpress to try their hand before forking over $500+ on a platen press only to find that they suck at letterpress in a major way.

Frankly, I'm considering getting it to do just that, to try my hand and see if maybe, letterpress on a larger scale might be for me.  I have an education and it's not in printing, nor is an education in printing in my future, but my interest in books and printing makes letterpress a realistic hobby for me. As much as I'd like to buy a tabletop platen press and give it a go, it's simply too much money. I am going to check around at local antique shops and keep my eyes open for one, who knows right?  Until then, I'm going to order some letterpress books from Amazon and learn what I can away from the net, because what I've learned on the net is that you're not likely to find a lot of help from the letterpress community.  This doesn't mean they're all unwelcoming, but it does color my initial impression quite a lot. The thing is, I really, really, really don't want to dislike them. Some of them do the most beautiful work, work I envy. I just wish they were more willing to cut new letterpress hobbyists some slack.

Wherein I Rant About Work...

Wow have I ever failed at blogging this summer!  There are things going on, but every time I sit down to try to write about them my whole person recoils in rebellion.  I think writing for work is killing my writing spirit.  I'm finding that while I like working from home, I don't know that I particluarly like the primary client I'm working for -- it's just so inane sometimes and I find myself thinking "if I have to write one more article about [enter stupid topic no one cares about], I'm going to scream!"  It's not a good sign.  I'm thinking that I might need to find another gig, or a few other gigs, that pay as well as this one does.  That's the trick right there, this one pays pretty good as freelance web content markets go.

Part of my problem has to be the changes they've made recently.  It's killing my grove. Since starting with the client I'm working for, I've written primarily home and garden titles. A few other things have slipped in there, but that's been my primary focus.  I enjoyed writing home and garden titles because that's where my interest lies.  It goes back to my childhood when I wanted to be an interior decorator when I grew up.  Since then, I've planted my feet firmly on the ground, where the only people who grow up and become interior decorators are people who can afford to be whimsical. I can't afford whimsy, but I like to indulge my imagination with titles about decorating.  That was, until the home and garden titles started drying up.  The system went from having several tens of thousands of titles, to almost nothing... over night.  So where did they go?  I, like many others, started to freak out.  This was my livelihood they were (are?) messing with!  Turns out they opened a new division by invitation only and put the home and garden titles in that division. The rest of us could apply, but they're only accepting a small number of the applicants.

The problem comes where I applied to write for this new division and they rejected my application after making me wait for nearly three weeks.  They said they were sorry, thanked me for applying, but that they couldn't accept my application because I didn't have the necessary experience. Okay, frankly, that's bullshit!  I've been writing home and garden titles for them for months and suddenly I don't have the experience.  What makes it worse is that a quick look at the forums have taught me that other people with absolutely no home and garden writing experience have gotten on without even having to ask for an invite.  One woman was so happy she got invited, saying she had never written a single home and garden title, but that she was going to give it a try.  Other people are getting accepted with less experience than I  have, less time working for the client, etc.  There're no freaking standards and it's infuriating!

It's also affecting my ability to work.  Not just because I can't find titles, but because I'm feeling discouraged. I can't do anything that requires even a scrap of creativity when I'm discouraged.  While this job is fairly technical, as in, do the job and follow the rules and churn out 400-500 words per piece, it also requires the part of my creative brain that houses my internal thesaurus. I have to creatively come up with synonyms so I don't say the same things over and over, but they also don't allow us to use words like "popular" that are subjective and opinion based.  It can be such a pain in the ass sometimes. Yes, I'm upset and I don't see that changing any time soon.

So, needless to say, my "let's see if I can make it as a freelance writer experiment" for the summer hasn't gone according to plans.  I did get on at Blissfully Domestic, which has made my summer so much better and I'm still writing for Suite101, which I love, but otherwise it's not gone great. I want to say it did, but I can't.  I want to say I'll do this for a living, and I hope it's true, but I can't say that.  I want to blame my lack of productivity on the fact that I'm having to work in the damn living room, but that's not the whole problem.  So many things are to blame and while some of them are my fault, others are simply not.

School will be back in on August 30th and I'm looking forward to going back.  For me, right now, that says a lot... especially to those who I've been talking to about school.  I'm ready to go back now, honestly, but I have to wait until the summers out... Boo!!