Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Developing style

(This is the second in a short series of posts in which I aim to focus my thoughts towards creating a useful tool in order to be more conscious of my clothing selections, making them both useful and meaningful to my lifestyle)

I've been on a quest for a different holy grail, the definition of my style. A way to not only express who I am, but to feel comfortable in the clothing I choose. Once upon a time I could pluck a dress from the rack that would work for me without a second thought. Now, not so much. What was once easy had become a chore. In fact, there were years where I couldn’t imagine what the store buyers were thinking of when they ordered the clothes that hung on the racks.

I looked for a collection of photos and sketches that illustrated the type of clothing that fits the life I enjoy. The pictures I looked for were, in reality, images in my mind. Trying to find something similar in print proved to be difficult. Picture Katherine Hepburn in trousers and a cashmere sweater. Or Meg Ryan, but replace the sweater with a button-down dress shirt.

Somewhere on the internet I read about Style Statement, a concept developed by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte. Their premise is that your style is an 80/20 combination of the core of your being and your creativity. I borrowed the book from a local library and buzzed through it in a few evenings, answering the questions on scrap paper. There were a lot of good questions. The answers very quickly show where your values lie. The underlying messages that ran through my answers were "traditional", as in traditional values and family traditions, and "nature", like the seashore or the mountains as opposed to skyscrapers. So tradition is the basis of my foundation and nature is what inspires me, making something like "Traditional Nature" my 2-word style.

But sometimes this doesn’t capture the “whole” person, or brings up the wrong image. I don’t wear loose, flowing sand-toned woven cotton dresses. They’re nice, but I’m not drawn to them. So sometimes two words don’t say enough. They don’t tell this:

I’ve worked late shift hours, enjoying life after most are asleep. Whether for celebrations and dancing, or chatting at the diner in the wee hours of the morning, or just driving home down the empty streets when all are tucked into bed, I’ve felt the peace that exists when the world is at rest.

On the other hand I’ve waited tables, serving breakfast and lunch to some of the most wonderful, real people I’ve ever known. Working side by side with the best crew you could imagine in the midst of the hustle and bustle, topping off coffee cups while business deals were being made one booth over from children dipping fries into ketchup puddles on their plates.

I’ve worked from home doing piecework; either hand-quilting on commission, or knitting hats and sweaters for the ski crowd. The pay wasn’t enough to make a living, but it helped and I enjoyed being in control of my hours.

I’ve worked in several major industries, navigating office politics and making sure the product was everything it was supposed to be, or that supplies arrived where they needed to be, on time.

I grew up during the 50’s and 60’s, graduating high school in the early 70’s. ‘nuff said.

I love to build and rehab things. My years of DIYing house projects with my ex gave me the confidence to buy a little bungalow that needed a decent amount of work. From painting the outside, clearing out years of overgrowth, repairing the wood siding, replacing lattice on the back deck and installing bead board in the kitchen, I helped bring it back to life. I have the confidence to know I could do it again, and more, if I so choose.

I listen to and read the news, I do my homework, and I vote.

And when given a bunch of plums, I make jam ;)

It’s kind of that “I will survive” attitude. Or maybe a feeling of enjoying what life has to offer. A mix of free spirit and blue-collar worker.

So, if my Style Statement was a bit longer than two words, I’m thinking it’s more like “Traditional Nature with Strength and Ability”. If I want to feel comfortable in my clothing choices, I’m supposed to keep that in mind when I go shopping. Maybe it's time to take a walk through a few stores.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keeping my word

My apologies for not posting anything related to sewing for the last few days of September. However, since I do not intend to wimp out of my committment, I will create and post a few articles of clothing in the next calendar month. I seem to recall a men's purple plaid dress shirt that could use some ruffles, and a length of red knit fabric waiting to be stitched.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I had passed the hundred-mile mark on my trip before the sun rose Friday morning. The full moon had not yet faded from view. Soon the heavy mist gave way to a beautiful day. I enjoyed being a leaf-peeper in New England in Fall.

If only I had a flatbed truck, a winch, and a few strong men with me, I'd have come home with one of these...

There was quite a breeze, and those little ripples on this lake weren't so little.

This is one of those roads that keep going up

and up

and you wonder

when will it start going down?

Everyone rode the gondola to the site for the ceremony.

How about the view for the wedding?

With respect to the bride and groom, no photos of the wedding ceremony are being posted :)

I needed another snapshot or two of the foliage from my ride home.

An old wringer washing machine, and a very old baby buggy. I would have loved to have seen what was inside the store but it was closed when I drove through early on Sunday.

This moment in Autumn doesn't last long. The leaves turn color and drop. The sun sinks a little lower. The air cools quickly. Then it's gone for another year. Enjoy it while it's here!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 years

>530 miles round trip

5 hours driving time each way

3 days away from home

2,450 ft elevation

13 minute gondola ride to the summit

8 wild turkeys on the side of the road

numerous happy guests

2 wonderful people

1 tremendous wedding

30 years in the making ;)

I wouldn't have missed the joyous day for anything! Photos tomorrow, sleep tonight.

Oh, by the way....last night there was an earthquake in New Hampshire. This is what happens when my family gathers to party ;)

Rock on!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Self-Stitching for the first day of Fall

Let's skip over Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday since I've been wearing repeats, and fast forward to Thursday, the first full day of Autumn. I'll be wearing my vest (doesn't this look like the first day of school?!) ...

... refashioned from this 1970's style bias-cut skirt.

I used some black moire from the box-o'-stash for the lining. And I salvaged the 7-inch skirt zipper for future projects (waste not, want not.)

I'll be away for the weekend, and bringing casual homemade clothing. There won't be any "new" old outfits. I'll catch up with everyone next week, but tomorrow I'm off to see some colorful foliage and find a bucketful of new apples. Have a wonderful first Autumn weekend!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just take a walk

I walked down a beautiful footpath filled with "dedicated" bricks etched with names and sayings. Most of them were simply engraved with the name of a loved one, or a family. Some were quotes.

At this one I stopped walking. The name needs no introduction. Between an autobiography and television shows, we know all about this woman who "dared" to live a life more full than most. My own troubles disappear when I think of how difficult it was for her to manuver (physically, mentally, emotionally) through her life.

Daring. Dared to beat the odds. Overcame obstacles. Determined. Persevered. Leader.

This brings to mind the question,"If you knew you could not fail, what would you attempt to do?" Do we let small, or perceived, handicaps hold us back from doing what we really want? Whether it be a sport or a career, how many of us let things stand in our way? Certainly, I can create a list of reasons not to try something. Whereas, the list to try it is small, but more founded in reason.

I think I'll go walk down that pathway again. Care to walk along?

Have a wonderful (and thoughtful) day!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's not what we knew, but when we knew it

This isn't a politically motivated post. Rather, it focuses on a different aspect of learning.

I've often written (ranted, complained, whined) about the change in educational focus as regards to English and reading. It would be remiss of me not to mention that my education was lacking in History.

I've often listened to a news report that would that would refer to past events or leaders like Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and wish I could make the connection. Unfortunately, between memorizing when Magellan crossed the equator and learning about emerging countries in high school, there is a blur where there should be facts. Having A's on report cards for Algebra and Geometry have surely helped in my work career, and I wouldn't trade my comfort with numbers for anything. But I wish I knew more about the New Deal, the Cuban missile crisis, WWI and WWII, the settling of the Northwest territories and Alaska, French and Italian governments (I vaguely remember Charles DeGaulle), and why the troubles began (and continue) in several African countries. I often wonder what finer points I've missed due to this weak spot in my education.

I've been stocking up for winter. Putting in supplies to keep me going. However these supplies are fuel for my mind instead of my body. History books. I've been gathering some older secondhand books and hope to have a small collection of 15 to 20 by November. Chances of reading all of them by spring are light, but I plan to read some and use others as starting points for future research. This is my collection as of today:

Franklin D Roosevelt and the New Deal (Wm E Leuchtenburg)
The Wilderness Hunter (Theodore Roosevelt)
The Roosevelt I Knew (Frances Perkins)
The Story of America in Pictures (Alan Collins)
The March of Democracy (James Truslow Adams) 2 volumes
A History of the United States (Wade, Wilder, Wade) a schoolbook

Of these, I would begin with The Story of America in Pictures and A History of the United States. I will also use the resources at the local library. Any suggestions of reading material will be welcomed and added to my "wish list."

Realistically, I will not be able to read these cover to cover, but I'll focus on the areas (eras) where my knowledge is the weakest.

The Old Farmer's Almanac is predicting a colder winter for the Northeast. I plan on being ready.

What a beautiful end-of-summer Sunday morning! It's quiet here except for the falling acorns. Later I'll be going for a ride at the shore, then baking some whole wheat bread and crackers. Rest and Relaxation. I hoping you have a peaceful day, too!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

S3 for Fri, Sat, Sun

I've found that I underestimated the effort necessary to create a wardrobe of self-stitched clothing large enough to fill an entire month. My evenings at the sewing machine have dropped off a bit, so I will be wearing more "repeats" this coming week. My admiration for all those who wisely had self-made stock on hand before SSS began!

One Friday I wore the blue refashioned men's dress shirt, light and easy dressing for a casual Friday at work.

I found a vintage dress that I loved for it's sweet simplicity. The lightweight knit has a small floral design, and the shaping comes from a slight gather at the neckline and waist detail.

It's too casual for the office so I turned it into a bodysuit to be worn with jeans. (I still haven't found the fold over elastic!) This is my Saturday outfiit.

For Sunday, I'm wearing a sport top and getting on my bike. No pins, no scissors, no thread. Just the sun and the wind.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Aww, nuts!

This is why we have so many squirrels...

I've been hearing acorns dropping for the past week. They don't seem like they'd make much noise, but I was quite surprised when the first few fell. When they hit the dirt, they make a thud. But when they fall in the brush you can hear a quick rustle in the leaves. It's actually quite nice to listen to Nature here in the city.

Monday, September 13, 2010

S3 Mon thru Thurs

I found this black dress at the secondhand store.

It's some sort of jersey-ish knit, smooth and very stretchy. I guessed that there was a lot of usable material in that dress. So I made this:

a headband. Ta-da!

Well, actually, I made this first:

a bodysuit using this pattern as a general guide

My intended redesign was sidetracked due to the center front seam in the dress. The front of the bodysuit couldn't be cut in one piece, but I was able to cut a front yoke in one piece, and then fashioned pieced mid-front and pant sections. The pattern called for a 20 inch zipper but because the fabric is so stretchy I used one that is 7 inches, and probably could have used none at all. I want to find some fold over elastic to replace the elastic casings on the leg openings. JoAnn Fabrics doesn't carry it so I'll have to look online.

I love the feel of this fabric. The fiber content label had been cut from the dress so I'm just guessing it's some sort of poly/something/blend. It hand washes easily. I'll be wearing it today with black pants and a grey jacket.

For Tuesday I'm wearing a blouse made from two men's shirts, one white and one plaid.

Refashioning has unique obstacles, especially when the pattern pieces take more "square footage" of fabric than you might imagine. Sometimes you have to be extra creative, or just fudge it. Like this bit with the front and back sleeve pattern pieces. I pinned them together and cut them as a single piece.

But I'm happy with the outcome. And the collar really stands much nicer when it's sitting on real shoulders ;) (I skipped the front and back neck facings, opting to just make a piece of bias binding to cover the edges. And I used the existing front buttonholes on the men's shirt to make it really easy.)

I'm going biking with friends after work on Wednesday, so at 5pm I'll be donning my white sport top.

And my re-sized dress is lined up for Thursday, so that I look smart for the annual condo association meeting.

My apologies for the repeats, but I am sticking to the "something self-made every day" pledge. I'll be scattering in new items as they are stitched.

Be sure to hop over to check out what other happy stitchers are whipping up for Self-Stitched September!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The squirrels were out early this morning

Friday, September 10, 2010

S3 for Friday and the weekend

I would feel like a slacker, except I know about my big project that going on in the background ;)

So please excuse my unimaginative line-up for the weekend ...

Friday was cooler, so it was perfect to wear the posey-festooned sweater I made last month. AND the matching shell I found at the thrift store last week! How about that?! An ivory colored top of the (almost) same knit to the former men's two-button pullover that I snipped and stitched into a light cardi. Now I have a sweater set.

Saturday and Sunday will be a mixture of errands and long walks by the shore, so I'm just repeating any of my hand-made sport tops that I've been wearing and you've seen in previous posts.

Next week you'll see what I've done to this dress ...

You won't recognize it ;)

It has cooled down a bit here. We've definitely got "get outside and do something" weather! I hope that's what you've got this weekend, too. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What would you be willing to give up?

My car radio isn't tuned to a single station, instead I push the "scan" button regularly. Whatever catches my ear is what I'll listen to. If I'm in the mood for music, it might be jazz but it could just as likely be an alternative rock station. I'll happily drive to work with Lionel Hampton on the vibraphone, and walk in the front door smiling. Or sing along with Stevie Nicks on a Saturday morning when I'm heading to the farmers market.

But when it's not music that I'm after, quite often I stop the scanning on any NPR station. I like to listen to the other sides of the news stories, the ones you don't hear on the major networks. I'm not talking about liberal vs conservative news stories. I mean the stories where I actually learn something. Last weekend I listened to an inspiring news story about a group of fishermen in Port Clyde, Maine who are fishing less. Facing a decreasing fish population and lower prices for their work they grew a new business model. They sell direct to the customer via their own processing facility, eliminating the "middle man". They have developed CSFs, which are the aquatic equivalents of CSAs.

But what caught my attention was that they are doing all this to keep fishing sustainable. They limit the amount of fish they bring in by using nets with larger holes than mandated so that smaller fish can escape and reproduce. In order to prevent overfishing they also have days when the boats don't go out. They realize that in order for the fishing industry to be around for the future generations the industry methods must change, and that the health and supply of fish depend on this change.

They gave up their traditional livelihood to be more ecologically correct. And it seems to be working. The response by customers (including restaurants) is positive. Their website includes an extensive list of where you can find PFC fish which is mostly in and around Maine, but also at the Brooklyn Kitchen in NY. You can listen to the original story on the NPR website or read some of the news articles about them here or here.

Would any of us be willing to give up the safety of our regular jobs in support of a more ecologically sound future, with no guarantees? Are these (and others like them) the new pioneers, leading us to a better life? What would you (or I) be willing to give up to ensure continuation of a healthy world?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

After hours

I hope you enjoy the view!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Self-Stitched September line up for the week

This is what I will be wearing for the next few days. Made of my own hand (well, partially) ...

Monday was a no work day so I wore a white top cut from the same Simplicity pattern as the green top I wore on Friday. The original sport shirt that this was cut from had some black detailing, which I couldn't avoid. I incorporated that into the neck trim. I also took it in a smidge because the green one is a little loose. It worked.



Tuesday I'm expecting a long day at the office so I'm wearing a simple, fuss-free dress that I made earlier this summer. Considering the weather is going into the mid 80's, this will work for me.

Wednesday, another warm day, another light dress.

Thursday, here's one you haven't seen before! I've always wanted a skirt from this material. It's that summer-at-the-club stuff, blue and white striped seersucker-like cotton. I found it in a button-front skirt that was too long so I did a refashion.


Using an older pattern as the base, I omitted the waistband and cut it lower so that it's more of a hip-hugger fashion. Instead of making facings, I put a small band on the edge, then stitched up most of the front. Only the top three buttons work, eliminating the need for a zipper. And there's a small unstitched section at the bottom, creating a flap. This white (secondhand) blouse will complete the outfit.


Next listing will be on Friday. That means I've got some stitching to do :)

Check out the other participants of Self-Stitched September, and their creations. Sewing machines are humming all over the world :)

Meanwhile, I made a visit to the Goodwill, and could have brought home a carload of clothing to refashion. I had to keep putting things back, because it was too easy to fill the cart! I only bought the items of which I could picture definite refashions in my mind. I may be coming up short on 30 items for Sept, but I'm plugging away at it! Oh, there were also some books and other stuff that ended up in the cart ... don't know how that happened! ;)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The messages we leave behind

Just a short note on something I saw today.

It was time to replace the summer flowers at the cemetary with chrysanthemums for the fall, which seemed a shame since the summer flowers were still blooming nicely. But, this is what we do ... we make sure things are pretty. I bought two small bright yellow mums with filled with tight flowerbuds. They'll be sure to last until it's time to plant the daffodil bulbs for spring.

As I drove through the cemetary I noticed a gathering in the area I was headed. An interment was about to take place so I stayed away, out of respect for the mourners. Instead, I went to one of the oldest sections of the cemetary and walked among the headstones. It is full of immigrants from Ireland, Poland, and Italy. My Irish grandmother is in that section, so I stopped by for a moment. Then I read a few of the nearby stones, something I had never done before. It surprised me that so many of the Irish immigrants listed the counties that they came from, showing the pride in their beginnings.

"Parish of Dundalk
County Louth Ireland"

Others had sweet poems on them, like this one:

"Like a rose it's fragrance shedding
Faded their dear ones away
They have gone to bloom in Heaven
Where they wait us day by day."

However, I had to read this one twice, then smiled as I read it the third time. (names changed to protect those involved...)


Died 1894

Aged 68 y'rs


His wife

Died 1881

Aged 60 y'rs


His wife

Died 1910

Aged 80 y'rs

It made me wonder if someone had the last laugh ..... Ah, sweet mysteries of life!

I do believe I'll be going back again to look at more stones. Have a great evening.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ah, the weekend cometh

Yes, it's Friday! And for most of us in the good ol' USA that means the next three days are work-free since Monday is recognized as Labor Day, and the unofficial end of the summer. Sigh. It may have been the longest summer I have ever lived, the high temps starting early and still hanging on. But because of that, it certainly was my most unproductive. The bike came off the road in August. Even in the evening hours it was too hot and humid to ride. Lunch hours were spent working for the same reason. I am hoping for a small stretch of warm (not hot) weather before Autumn checks in. I still want to go for rides with sleeveless tops and catch the breeze on my shoulders. I'd like to sleep with the windows open instead of using the air conditioner or a fan.

I love the color of this green men's golf shirt. Luckily, it was large so I cut out the pieces to make a top from this older Simplicity pattern.

The fabric was a dream to work with, and I took advantage of the hem, keeping it intact and using it for the hem on my new top. The original shirt had interesting sleeve details, which works well with this top. Talk about comfort! I wish I had found this pattern years ago! I'll definitely be making another one from this.

This is kinda stretching the "business casual" dress code at work, but I really want to wear it today. Think they'll notice? ;)

I'll be wearing my bike tops on Saturday and Sunday. (Hopefully, I'll be on the bike, too.) The pink flowered one was from a women's knit housedress. The purple and white one blends two tops together.

We may or may not be getting heavy rains by the time you read this. If the weather is too rainy this weekend, I'll be inside ... sewing and bread baking :)

Have a great Friday! And sneak in some fun ;)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I am running so behind today! Please excuse me. I think I stayed up too late last night, checking all those sewing blogs ;)

For convenience sake, and not to be overly redundant, I will start displaying my Self-Stitched September posts on Mondays and Fridays. Each post will have the photos of what I'll be wearing for the next few days. This will leave the other days open to other endeavours and interests.

Oh, and I made the most comfortable top! I like it so much, I've got another one ready to do. You'll see it tomorrow :)

This is what I'm wearing today. (You've seen it before.) I found a brown leather belt and will pick out some gold-tone jewelry. We're getting together after work, so this dress will be comfortable at the computer, and casual enough for tonight. Especially since it's going back into the 90's again today!

Have a wonderful day, everyone! Stay cool!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Self-Stitched September - day 1

Here's my first SSS day! I'm wearing an oldie but a goodie. This was a gentleman's shirt from Land's End which I de- and re-constructed about a year ago. I took it in, shortened it, re-set the sleeves, and removed the collar. I've worn it to work many times. It's semi-casual, and the best part is that it never needs to be ironed (Yay!) The fabric is so soft and comfortable, which is a blessing since it's going back into the 90's again today.

Okay, so please excuse me. I have to fix my hair and get ready for work. Please check out some of the other creations of the Self-Stitched September group! They're an incredibly talented buch of sewing enthusiasts! Many thanks to Zoe for being the inspiration behind this challenge.

It's Wednesday, everybody ... have a great one!