Return of the Two-Timing Hobbyist

You know the scene at the end of the Avengers when Marvel’s finest are gathered at the shawarma restaurant, eating, exhausted–but with an attitude of quiet triumph mixed with a heaping helping of disbelief? Did that seriously just happen?? 
This–not to over-dramatize (I would never do such a thing)–is how I feel right now.

I, for people who aren’t aware, am the yearbook adviser at my school. This was my first year. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I also taught writing to around 230 middle school kids. I’m not even going to talk about that struggle. But, here we are–deadlines are past. Essays are graded. The school year is winding to a close, and it’s time to sit back and reflect on our accomplishments as my small but lazy plucky staff and I methodically stick spring supplements into the main books.

To say that I’ve been busy and therefore unable to sew is both an understatement and a bold-faced lie.

I have been very busy–overwhelmed and overworked at times. I’ve stumbled home and immediately tucked myself into bed more than once. I’ve stayed at school working until the custodians have come and gone leaving the halls empty and creepy and dark. I’ve spent weekends grading and attempting to caption tiny little faces in group photos.

That is all true. But, I’ve also had over four full weeks off since school began. I’m usually done with work and rushing out the door right at 3:30 in the afternoons. I’ve had several weekends where I’ve done absolutely no work at all.

So, no, I haven’t been sewing all that much (just a few things here and there), and, yes, I have been quite busy and tired, but, no, it’s not all because of my new job.

Truth be told, there is only one reason that I’ve been remarkably unproductive these past few months. Two words:

Dragon Age.

Two more words:

Mass Effect.

Some more words:

BioWare owns my soul.

(People who are not at all interested in video games, feel free to skip to the end. Thanks for stopping by!)

I wouldn’t necessarily label myself as a “gamer girl”–that is, unless the definition of “gamer girl” is a girl who plays video games. Which, I am. But, I don’t do online co-op or any sort of MMO stuff. I can see the appeal, but I’m not interested in hooking up with strangers to shoot aliens or zombies. Not my thing. The closest I’ve ever come is in Journey when you randomly run into other players who happen to be playing the same time as you. But, there’s no chat or screen names (until you get to the credits–and then it’s oddly poignant to read the names of the strangers you traveled with–or maybe that was just me).

But, my love of the game sort of died off for a while (after multiple attempts to slog through Final Fantasy XIII. Don’t even get me started). It wasn’t revived until early November when I googled a list of the best RPGs for the PS3 because I was in the mood to play a little something, but didn’t know what was out there. And there on the list in a modest position (somewhere in the teens) was the newly-released Dragon Age Inquisition. I watched a trailer and watched some gameplay and was intrigued. But, DAI is the third in a series. And if there’s anything you should probably know about me, it is this: I have to start at the beginning.

So, I hopped onto the PSN store and bought Dragon Age: Origins. 

Hundreds of glorious gameplay hours later, I have played and re-played all the Dragon Ages and (because of my severe depression upon completing DAI and needing something else to arrest my attention) all the Mass Effects. Now, I am slowly rising from my descent into BioWare madness and attempting to rejoin the living and productive world around me.

I have enjoyed taking an extended break from sewing and blogging. And for a long while I thought I might just be done with both. But the idea made me so sad that I knew I would be back. And now that spring is here, my fingers are twitching to sew up some new warm-weather wear. Fabric has been ordered, patterns have been chosen, and spring break is right around the corner.

But first, I need to finish sewing my sister’s Christmas presents. I bought her a whole batch of fabric and let her choose what she wanted me to make. So far, I’ve cut most of it out. And that’s it. Yes, I am both the best and worst sister ever.

P.S. If you are interested in geeking out over any of the aforementioned video games, I AM YOUR GIRL.

Update: This is my 200th post! I had no idea. I should have done a thing! Oh well.

It’s Sunday!

Hey, hey, y’all!

Just a quickie to tell you who can be expecting some free patterns in the near future.

After a random drawing (with which the cats refused to assist), congratulations to Elizabeth!

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Elizabeth, just use the email address or form on my “Me” page to send me your mailing address, please 🙂

I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween (I stayed in and watched movies–so mine was exactly what I needed)! And can you even believe it’s already November?? My goal is to survive until Thanksgiving. It’s going to be a busy few weeks!

And hopefully, I will find the time to make myself a decent pair of pants!

Once Upon a Time. . .

. . . On a blog far, far away, every Sunday I would write a silly list of random thoughts (I called it Sunday Smorgasbord until I just started calling it random dessert names). I’ve been thinking about that old blog a lot recently, and I find that miss the silly random writing. So, while I’m easing myself back into blogging and waiting on a decent time to do a marathon photo sesh, I think I’m going to revive that old tradition–at least for a while.

1. While we’re talking about blogging. . . I often think of starting another blog to celebrate my crazy YA reading habits. There is nothing more fun than publicly relishing the absolute absurdity of most of today’s YA offerings. And to admit that I’ve been very inspired by one of those absurdist YA’s wherein the main character is a book blogger (think Twilight except with aliens instead of vampires–holy cow, the whole thing’s a train wreck!) would just lead me into a mire of Inception-y thoughts, so we’re just going to move on. . .

2. Part 2 of why I’ve been inspired to restart my book-blogging ways is that I’ve recently acquired an iPad. I got it so I could grade papers digitally (because who wants to keep tabs on 200 middle school rough drafts?? NO ONE EVER), but it has led me down a whole different digital path of unrighteousness. I have always been one of those old-fashioned gals who believed that paper books were the only way to go. I swore I would never own a Kindle because they were single-handedly destroying the libraries (and subsequently, the minds) of America! It all started innocently–I wanted to read a book my friend had recommended, and I didn’t want to wait for a delivery. “I have an iPad,” I thought. “I can just check iBooks.” And I did. And I was never the same. Do you want to know how many books I’ve downloaded in the short two months I’ve had the iPad/book-fetish-enabler?

24. And that’s not counting all the samples. Out of those 24, I’ve read all but 4. And you wonder why I haven’t been sewing. . .

3. My birthday is next week. It seems like the older I get, the more it sneaks up on me. I’m turning 33. What an awkward age.

4. I got a fabric shipment a couple days ago. Let me just warn you–you’ll probably be super bored by my fall sewing. It is uber-practical which means lots of solids and neutrals. And pants.

5. So my friend got me addicted to Borderlands–a bleak, darkly humorous, stylized shoot-em-up. I think I’m looking for some sort of treasure. I can’t be sure. I do know that I can’t be trusted with a sniper rifle.

6. I watched the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey and laughed. There’s one worldwide phenomenon train I’m happy I never boarded. Though that new version of “Crazy in Love” is super lush, and I will absolutely be Spotifying it.

7. Maybe it’s because school life is hardwired into my brain, but autumn always seems to me to be the perfect time to Begin. It’s all about fresh starts and new people. Winter is a mixed bag of holidays and survival. Spring is a desperate fever dream with one theme: Summer’s coming. Summer’s coming. Summer’s coming. And then suddenly you’re looking out over two beautifully empty months and you just. . . breathe, probably for the first time since August.

This is one reason I love teaching: every year has a beginning and an end. And before you start again, you get to take time to refresh and recharge. There aren’t that many professions like that out there. So, even though it’s been a rough start, I feel that things are evening out. I know what I’m dealing with now, so I can plan better. And that means more quality time with my sewing machine (seriously–this girl needs some pants!).

Farewell, lovelies! I have Columbus Day off, so if anyone needs me I’ll be making eyes at my camera.

Back to School!

Greetings, Lovely People. I have not died. Although–ask me again on Friday, I may have a different answer.

Regular readers (you guys are the bestest) know that I’m turning teacher this year. I’ve been madly dashing around Doing Things for the past couple of weeks (this includes a hop-skip-jump over to Arizona to learn how to do my job), and we have finally reached the point of culmination–the First Week of School.

Technically, classes don’t start until Thursday, but there are all sorts of goings-on in the days before. And, because I don’t know how to leave well-enough alone, I am slowly trying to revamp my classroom in colors more suitable to my personality (my color palette, for those who are interested, is aqua, coral, navy, and bits of gray. Delish!). I’ve ordered fabric for a new drapery panel for my window and a skirt for an end table to hide some storage. I am also planning to reupholster an office chair that’s been lurking in my parent’s basement. I have fun yet sophisticated fabric for my bulletin boards. I’m even planning to do a fabric panel under the shelves on my desk.

And, of course, I’m also doing lesson plans, developing curriculum (this is what happens when you create a class from scratch!), making copies, learning new software, and attending meetings upon meetings. If you didn’t want to be a teacher before, I bet you do now, right??? 🙂

All that to say. . .

It’s probably going to be quiet around these parts for the next few weeks. I have over a dozen post drafts just waiting for pictures, but I simply can’t focus on that right now. Priorities!

For now, it’s back to work. I spent all day yesterday spray painting a file cabinet. My hands and feet might be permanently turquoise–I can’t get it all off! I haven’t sewn a stitch all week–too distracted–but I will be sewing today. I need a khaki skirt for Tuesday night. And there are a couple other projects I’d really like to get done this week.

The sewing bug is biting! I’ll catch you guys later!

Fool Me Twice

Friends. . . sigh. . .

Remember this top? The top that would have been a dress, but because of terribly off-grain fabric, there wasn’t enough for the skirt?

It happened again. This time, I paused for pictures.

Off grain jersey

Here you see some cotton jersey which I purchased from Girl Charlee (which still is my favorite source for knits!), the same place I got the watercolor jersey for the not-a-dress peplum. I have finally gotten it folded on the grain. You see the problem? Of course you do! It has been cut wildly off-grain.

In this case, the problem begins with the fabric itself. The pattern, while it seems to run true on the vertical grain is actually running on a diagonal cross-wise. I guess that was intended since the patterns themselves aren’t crooked.

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Unfortunately, whoever cut the fabric seems to have been unaware of this as he or she used the pattern, not the grain, to cut the fabric. The result is that of the 72 inches I purchased, only 49 of them are usable. Which means that the sleeves I really wanted for the shift I’m making (Simplicity 1776, take two!) will not be happening.

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So, if this is not the first time Girl Charlee has conned me out of fabric, why do I still love them? Well, I’ve bought many, many yards of fabric from them, and most of the time, the cuts are good. I love their selection, too! I think that next time I’m buying the slinky, springy jersey (which seems to be a struggle for them to cut properly), I will add a friendly little note for them to please, please cut it on grain!

I suppose in the end it’s okay that I can’t add the sleeves to my knit shift as a sleeveless dress is much more Georgia summer appropriate!

Speaking of summer, I am now officially on summer vacation! Yay! It’s my first summer break in three years and I am going to make the most of it. And by “make the most of it,” I mean I’m going to lay around and watch loads of Netflix and play video games. And sew, of course 🙂 I do also have a trip to Arizona planned in July–school business. Other than that, 100% chill for two solid months.

I haven’t been around much lately as I’ve been finishing up school and getting ready for next year. Also, my very good friend moved to Texas last weekend, so there were a couple weeks of farewell get-togethers and general “hangs” that took precedence over blogging (naturally!). But, I have been sewing quite a lot, and now that things have calmed down, I hope to get posting again.

Now, I am going to finally finish my navy Archer, the last item left on my winter sewing plan. Don’t know why I’m dragging my feet on this one–I really want to wear it!

Liebster Level Up

Liebster Blog Award

Liebster Level: 6.

When I get to level 10, I think I get special blogging powers! (You can go here to read about my previous nominations, if you wish.)

Another lovely person has nominated me for a Liebster award.

This time my Liebster comes courtesy of the eclectic blog Delightfully Peculiar. I especially encourage you to read her recent post which takes a look at how fashion has been influenced by film.

We all know by now that I’m not great at following rules, specifically ones attached to blog awards, it seems! But, I will answer some of her questions, like a friendly person 🙂

1. What do you enjoy the most about blogging?

Simple: writing. Having people drop by and say “hello” is a bonus!

2. If you lived in a comic book, would you be a super hero or a super villain?

I wish I could be a villain, but I know myself too well. I’d probably end up being a random person who stumbles into the bank that the super villain is robbing.

4. If you were a garment, what would you be?

Pajamas

5. What do you want to be when you grow up? (I’m assuming that none of us is an adult yet,hehe)

I actually want to be a teacher. I used to teach Middle School English before I left to explore. Now, I’m ready to teach again.

6. Close your eyes; what’s the first thing you see?

Penguin paperclips

7. You are going to a remote island and you are allowed to take only three things with you, what would you take?

I’m assuming that I know I’m going to this island and that I will be able to return home when I wish. I’m also assuming that there will be food and shelter and no wifi. So, I’d take chapstick, my iPhone (for the music and the books), and a dog. If there’s no power there, I’d substitute the phone with a book by L. M. Montgomery (probably Anne of the Island or Rilla of Ingleside).

8. If you could meet a famous personality of the past, who is no longer alive, who would it be?

Nathan Hale

9. Name a cherished childhood memory

Any memory of visiting my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. I loved it there and always had the BEST time.

10. Imagine you had a Tardis, where would you go?

Oh wow–I don’t even know! I think the only correct answer here is, “anywhere with David Tennant.”

Thank you for the nomination and for the fun questions! I would love to offer the Liebster to anyone who wishes for it, but that would be a super cheaty way to fulfill responsibility. Instead, I choose to shirk it altogether 🙂

I will, however, ask a question–one which was asked by one of my former Liebster nominators–which I invite you all to answer: what five people–alive or dead, real or fictional–would you invite to your dream dinner party? Bonus question: what would you wear to that dinner party?

My New Best Frenemy

I got a new machine, y’all!

You may remember that I was having trouble with my Brother CP6500, not once but twice within a few months. I was able to borrow a friend’s machine, but I really wanted a new machine of my own.

I had just a few non-negotiable must-haves on my list: 1. Adjustable presser foot pressure (an absolute necessity for sewing knits as I am NOT a fan of the walking foot). 2. A decent backstitch button (I HATE backstitches that are slow). 3. Freakin’ reliability for Pete’s sake.

After shopping around for a few months (yes, I took my time. Go me.) I finally settled on getting a Janome. I’d read and heard great things about the brand and felt confident investing in a low- to middle-grade Janome machine. I found my machine on Ebay and since it seemed like a really good deal (free two day shipping and some bonus goodies thrown in) I went ahead and bought it.

Janome

I was super excited when it arrived and immediately set it up and starting playing around with the stitches. It quickly became clear that sewing with this machine was a whole different experience than using my super user-friendly, super cheap Brother. If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that I was disappointed that first day.

I think that it’s something like adjusting your diet. You decide to switch out all your candy and eat fruit instead. At first, the fruit doesn’t taste nearly as yummy as the candy. But, after a while, when you start to see the positive effects of eating more fruits and you stop craving all the processed sugar, you realize that the fruit is pretty awesome after all.

Now that I’ve had it for about a week and have sewn my very first Archer with it, I can tell you that the disappointment is gone and my new Janome and I are beginning to understand each other a little better.

First, some details: it is a Janome Sewist 500. It has adjustable presser foot pressure, a decent backstitch switch, and seems to be very sturdy. And powerful. Granted, I haven’t tested with multiple layers of denim or twill–not yet, anyway. It doesn’t have very many stitches–the most notable absent stitch is a narrow zig-zag. But, it does have a stretch stitch (a whole array of stretch stitches actually, most of which I will never use) that will work just fine. I can also play with the regular zig-zag, adjusting the width and length to see if I can get close to a narrow zig-zag. (Update: after playing around with it, the narrow zig-zag is entirely possible. And so fast!)

Janome Stitches

I have been missing two features from my computerized machine days: speed control and the automatic needle down function. I find that I am having a hard time learning to start gently. It seems that there’s a very fine line between not moving at all and doing a thousand stitches per second. So, I’m having to retrain my foot. I miss being able to set my speed and just mash on the pedal to my heart’s content.

I’m not missing the needle down function (this is the one that will cause your needle to always end in the down position–great for pivoting and lifting the presser foot without causing unwanted shifting) quite as much as I was initially because I have discovered a little trick to help me not overshoot my mark even when I don’t end in the down position. All I do is roll my stitch length dial to zero, sink my foot with the hand wheel, and then roll the dial back to wherever I was (usually between 2 and 3). The process takes about three seconds and has almost become second nature.

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Customizing my stitches is actually quicker than with a computer. I don’t have to beep-beep-beep-beep little buttons to get where I want to be. I do have to remember to check my width and length every time I switch to a new stitch because it doesn’t automatically change to a standard length/width like a computerized machine would.

I’m not a huge fan of the one buttonhole that the machine will sew. I discovered that I could fiddle with the stitch length and width and adjust the look a little bit. But I have to stay alert and stop sewing when the buttonhole finishes because the machine will not stop itself. Also, I have to remember to reset the stitch after each buttonhole. Sometimes I forget and the needle just wants to zig-zag all over the place. Not great. I have been thinking that eventually I’ll get my Brother fixed and use it solely for buttonholes (it had more choices) and fancy stitches. With less use, it should last longer. At least, I would hope so. . .

Metal parts! No cheap, flimsy plastic for this girl!

Metal parts! No cheap, flimsy plastic for this girl!

All-in-all, this machine requires that I be more engaged in the sewing process–if that makes any sense. And I’m actually enjoying it! So, yes, it was a little disappointing to lose some of my favorite features, but I traded them for durability and I think that will pay off more in the long run.

This Means I Should Drop Everything and Go to the Beach, Yes?

Is this the most tragic thing you ever did see?

Last Stitches

No?

Well, what if I told you that what you’re seeing here is the death of my sewing machine?

Okay, sure–my sewing machine stitching its last stitches is probably not high on your list of Things to Cry About Later. But it does leave me with a dilemma.

I’ve been working on some maternity clothes for my sister–a couple t-shirts, a couple of skirts, and a dress. All knits. I had mostly finished one tee and partially finished the second tee when the motor on my machine started locking up every few stitches. Normally, this would be caused by threads being tangled in the bobbin case. However, in this case, no tangled threads. I tried rethreading the machine multiple times, rethreading the bobbin, cleaning every tiny bit of lint I could find, changing the needle, using different stitches–nothing helped. This is the same thing my machine was doing back in February when I had to take it in (for two months!!!).

More topstitching than I normally do.

More topstitching than I normally do. I have since learned that a longer stitch is so much more attractive. 

So, here’s the dilemma: I could take the machine in to get fixed again, but I have a problem with getting the same issue fixed more than once. If they couldn’t fix it the first time, how can I expect them to fix it the next time? This time, of course, my machine is no longer under warranty, so that means I’ll have to pay who knows how much for what I think is only going to be a temporary solution.

Option 2 is to get another inexpensive “starter” machine just so I can keep sewing for now. This is good because not only am I working on clothes for dear sis (who, let’s face it, will only be pregnant for so long) but I am also starting a new job in a few weeks and I have no appropriate clothes to wear. Of course, the downside, as I have learned, is that cheap starter machines aren’t always the greatest value if they’re going to start falling apart within the first year. Also, if I buy a new machine, that’s a lot of fabric that I can’t buy.

Like this super-delish navy cotton knit. Perfect for a maxi skirt which would be perfect for the new job.

Like this super-delish navy cotton knit. Perfect for a maxi skirt which would be perfect for the new job. Also, Neville thought this tee-in-progress was a primo spot for napping. 

Option 3 is to just suck it up and wait it out while I save up money for a decent machine. I do have friends who will let me borrow their machines that they don’t use. So, that will keep me sewing for now. I just hate having someone else’s machine for that long.

While I’m waiting to get my hands on a working machine, however I go about it, I do have a lot of planning and organizing to do. Maybe I’ll magically become a better blogger and actually get some posts up.

In the mean time, I’m might just perform a small autopsy. I’m pretty good at taking things apart. You hear that, machine?? I HAVE A SCREWDRIVER AND I KNOW HOW TO USE IT!

It’s Because It’s Wednesday, Isn’t It. . .

And the crap just keeps happening. It is relentless.

Apparently, I’m going through one of those prolonged phases of my life where things just Won’t Go Right.

Let’s call it the “Charlie Brown Phase.”

CBP happens to us all, I’m sure. When your time comes, I am prepared to pour out the empathy like rivers of water on your poor, parched soul. For, I understand.

The latest of my recent mini-tragedies is that my computer, due to a faulty power cord, is unusable. This happened last week. After a frantic web search (on rapidly depleting reserve battery power–my laptop needs a new battery as well, bless its little heart. . . ), I ordered a new power cord with expedited shipping. It’s supposed to be here tomorrow.

Will it be here tomorrow?

No.

I’ve been fanatically checking the tracking information every day since I ordered and to my very great chagrin and irritation, the package, which had been crawling around California, was delivered yesterday. . . back to the seller.

My immediate reaction was to send a terse “Where the crap is my stuff, you jerks???” email. (Okay. I didn’t call them jerks out loud (in print?)–only in my soul. After all, it might not be their fault.) So far, I haven’t heard back.

I find I am fairly bereft without my computer. Web surfing and blog reading and posting on my phone is all very well (it’s not, really), but it’s not so great on my eyes. It’s possible that I need glasses. But this also means no Netflix or YouTube (I’ve been watching a series of LPs on YouTube recently) or emergency tutorials or inspiration-gathering. What’s a girl to do??

So, I’m tossing up this quick post from my computer at work just to let you know that until this power cord issue is resolved, it will probably continue to be quietish here on the blogfront. If you’re just dying to know what I’m up to, you can follow me on Instagram (@jennylcarver) where I’m trying to be better about posting. (By the way, kudos to WordPress for finally letting us have an Instagram widget!)

I’ll catch you guys on the flip side of the Power Cord Disaster of 2013. Until then, Godspeed.

Fifth Time’s the Charm

Guys, it happened again. Another Liebster. People love to give me the Liebsters! This one is my fifth, but I’m just as pleased as I was with the first 🙂

One of the really lovely things about receiving blog awards is that I often get them from readers whose blogs weren’t previously on my radar. This time I got to meet the lovely Michelle of Eclectic Threads. I haven’t been reading her blog for very long, but I love her writing style. Her posts are well-crafted, thoughtful, and (of course) eclectic! Hop over; give her a read!

You guys know how I feel about rules, right? But, I’m going to a be a good girl and answer some questions anyway.

1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Hmmm. . . while there are lots and lots of places I know I’d like to visit (Japan, France, England, Scotland, Australia, Costa Rica, the list goes on. . .), the only place I know I’d like to live is the country. I need lots of land and trees and air to be happy.

2. What is the favourite age you’ve been so far?

11 was pretty fun.

3. What was your favourite subject at school?

English; grammar was always easy, literature was interesting, writing was a challenge.

4. If you could go back in time and live in any era, which would it be?

This is tough because I love Regency era clothes and manners, but I’m also a big fan of plumbing and clean teeth.

5. What is your fail-safe dinner-party recipe?

Hahaha–me giving a dinner party. That’s hilarious!

6. What animal are you most like?

While I am not one to play with small rodents until they give up and die, I’m probably most like a cat. I prefer to be clean and dry, I’m a fan of relaxing, I, too, am most active in the mornings and evenings, and it takes a while for me to warm up to people.

7. Do you have a life plan, or do you prefer to coast along and take things as they come?

A little bit of both. I know too well that over-planning only leads to disappointment and discouragement. But I do have life goals.

8. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This would be a very, very bad thing. I would get sooooo tired of eating the same thing over and over. I should choose something healthy, but the truth is. . . pizza.

9. What is your most treasured possession?

I don’t have one. I’ve never been sentimental. To me, things are just things. But my most used possession? My iPhone.

10. What is your favourite Disney film?

Beauty and the Beast. Belle is feisty, the Beast actually has a personality (how many Disney “princes” can claim that?), and he gives her a library. A LIBRARY.

11. Name five people, dead or alive, fictional or real, that you would invite to your dream dinner party.

Sharon Creech (because she’s my favorite author), C. S. Lewis (because he was brilliant), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (because he’s adorable), Nathan Hale (because he was a teacher turned spy), and my friend Anna, just in case things get awkward. And if I had J G-L over and didn’t invite her, she might never speak to me again 😉

 

Thanks, Michelle!

And don’t worry–I have big plans to get a-nominatin’ soon. Gotta spread the love!