Friday Roundup

Hello again! Time for my weekly “things I’m loving” roundup ūüėÄ

1) Side Hustle School

I started listening to this podcast around Christmas last year, after hearing it mentioned on yet another podcast I listen to! I’m a little addicted to podcasts, I’ll admit. I tend to have one running most of the day. Side Hustle School is short (10-15 minutes), so I’ll save up a week’s worth and listen to them all in one stretch. It’s not difficult to do, because Chris Gillebeau has recorded an episode every. single. day. since January 1, 2017.

For those of you that don’t know, a “side hustle” is an income-generating activity that you do in your “spare time”, without quitting your day job. I love this podcast for a bunch of reasons. I think first and foremost, I like the host’s presentation. I’m a sucker for corny jokes and puns. Plus, he’s a cat person (and he thanks his cat at the end of every episode). Each episode profiles a person who has come up with a unique– and sometimes really weird– side business that earns then at least $500/month. When I say weird, I mean “hand-sewn chicken armor” levels of weird. I love the focus on “lessons learned” in each profile. The idea here isn’t for listeners to go out and replicate the business idea, but to take these lessons– which Chris draws out as part of his own analysis– and implement them in translation, so to speak, in their own original business idea.

Side Hustle School has the added benefit of making me feel even more productive while I’m listening. I’m learning! About how to make extra income! Yay! It’s the perfect thing to listen to while I’m walking or painting.

2) Early Morning Play Time

I am currently responsible for the care and feeding of a 6-week old infant, which means I’m keeping some less than ideal hours. But I’m trying (keyword: trying) to take advantage of the early morning wake-ups to squeeze some more creative time out of the day. I’ve been making an effort to drag myself out of bed after the little one’s last nighttime feeding, rather than roll over and go back to sleep. I do a short yoga practice, and then sit with my morning cuppa to play in my sketchbook for at least 15 minutes. Let’s be real, 15 minutes usually stretches into 30, unless my 3-year-old wakes up early. The 15 minute “limit” is just so I can say “come on, why are you hesitating? it’s just 15 minutes!” and then get my butt in the chair.

This week, I worked on a spread using some scrap paper from my big manila folder o’ collage paper. I was inspired by some images I saw in a magazine recently of simple, eclectic stuffed animal toys. While I was playing with those shapes, I came across the Shanghai skyline that I had printed and cut out years (years!!!) ago after visiting (in 2001!!!!!). On a whim, I glued it to the opposite page. I really loved the color palette I was playing with, and decided to do some triangles in the sky above.

Like I said, playing. No real rhyme or reason, but it was good practice in telling the voice of hesitation (and planning! and over-thinking! and analysis!) in my head to pipe down, and just get to work cutting and gluing. It was quite meditative!

3) Spice Dragon Red Chai

*These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase via these links, I will receive a small commission. Thanks for your support! ūüôā¬†

I went on a bit of a hot cocoa bender during my recent pregnancy (and immediately after, TBH). To wean myself off of excess sugar, I’ve been trying to drink more herbal teas instead of cocoa (bonus points for hydration, right?). Since I drink them without sweetener, they need to be robust and flavorful enough on their own for my tastes. I am sad to say that the pickings for tea in my area are pretty slim. I’ll often stock up on unusual varieties, such as Stash Tea’s Gold Cup Chai, when I’m visiting my parents or mother-in-law in larger metropolitan areas. I recently had a some Amazon points to spend, and decided to try a new flavor of tea. My criteria are pretty strict: in addition to being decaf, the tea can’t contain any added flavors, artificial or natural. My main reason for including natural flavors in that criteria is that I¬†hate the taste of Stevia, and it’s often included under the umbrella of “natural flavors”. And artificial flavors… well, they just taste “fake” to me.

Enter Spice Dragon Red Chai. Let’s get the criticisms out of the way: I know that chai is the Hindi word for “tea”, and the traditional drink is not associated with Chinese dragons, or China at all, for that matter. And rooibos, which is the primary ingredient in this beverage, is from South Africa. Let’s just call it… multiculturalism, okay? Okay. Because I really like this tea.

It’s warm and spicy, and since it’s rooibos there isn’t even a tiny bit of caffeine in it (purists will argue that that’s because there’s not even a tiny bit of tea in it, but who cares about purism?!). The flavoring comes from actual cinnamon and cloves, not “cinnamon flavor” or “clove flavor”, thank goodness. I think it’s the perfect late evening beverage, when I want something that is almost-dessert-but-not-quite. Because let’s be honest. When I want actual dessert, I’m just going to down a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Happy weekend, all! Hope you are finding lots of little things to love as well <3

Work in Progress Wednesday

Welcome to Work In Progress (WIP) Wednesday! With this series, I’m trying to keep myself accountable and avoid expanding my UFO (unfinished object) collection by documenting what I have going on at any given point in time. So, here goes! This is what I’m working on this week:

1) Blanket for Baby #2:¬†I started knitting this back in… November? October? Honestly I can’t remember. It’s¬†this pattern¬†from Purl Soho, knit up in slightly different colors. I made a blanket of my own design for my daughter when she was born, in a much, much smaller gauge, and it took me forever. Like… I finished it around when she turned two. Yes, it became a toddler blanket. When I started this one, I vowed it would be finished by the time the baby is born. Well, I’m happy to announce that baby #2 is still happily growing on the inside, and will ideally stay put for the next 2- 5 weeks! (I’m guessing he’s going to arrive a little early, but I’m also not placing any bets. Babies are unpredictable critters.)

Project Status: ALMOST done! Just need to weave in the ends (visible in this photo) and block it (maybe).

2) Epic Knits Yarn Quest 2018– The Steam Age Begins Knit-Along: It’s a bit of a knitting bonanza over here, isn’t it? Confession: I hate knitting scarves. They’re so boring! But when I saw a post about Epic Knits’ annual RPG knit-along, my little nerd heart was intrigued. If you’ve never played a RPG (think: Dungeons and Dragons), the idea is… well, kind of complicated, actually. You make up a character based on some guidelines. You’re given a story line. You roll one of several die, depending on the story line. Your characteristics determine how you “react” to the die rolls, and you end up choosing your own adventure. (Okay, that wasn’t *that* complicated.) In this knit-along, everyone ends up knitting a slightly different variation of the pattern, so no two scarves are alike.¬† The charts you knit are determined by your character and your die rolls.

This is a double-knit scarf, which was particularly interesting to me. It’s my first double-knit project, and only my second time attempting stranded colorwork! I’m honestly not a big tabletop RPG player (and my MMORPG days– that is, online gaming– are somewhat distant in the past), but I do enjoy the premise and camaraderie. And the knitting is a fun change of pace from the (relatively quick, mindless, and relaxing) baby blanket I’ve almost finished. And I love the yarn I bought. I’ll be purchasing some more for socks when this scarf is complete!

Project Status: Started, but sloooow going. I’m a week behind because I ordered my yarn late, and am only 1/2 way through the first of six charts for week one!

3) Simplicity 2317– Family PJs!¬†This one has been hanging over my head for a while. I made it a (probably not realistic) New Year’s goal to complete all of the projects I’ve promised to make for my husband over the past 8 years (which is… a lot of projects) during 2018. This is one of them. I’ve had the fabric for a very long time, and there should be enough here to make a set of matching PJs for my daughter after I make his. I also just ordered some more (!) in a different pattern to make a snap-front flannel night shirt for myself for nighttime nursing when the baby arrives.

Project Status: Not actually started. But I finally got my husband’s current measurements and figured out what size to make him! And the fabric is washed. Cutting the pattern out tonight, and hopefully the fabric as well.

Last-minute Gift Sewing: Elephant Stuffie

Ever since my daughter went to the Memphis Zoo with her grandmother back in September, she has mentioned– off and on– wanting an elephant toy. It wasn’t the first time she visited a zoo or saw elephants, but for some reason the idea has really stuck with her. In November, when I had to travel for work, she told my husband that she hoped I would bring her “an elephant toy to color” (fwiw, although I was near the National Zoo on my trip, the trip itself had nothing to do with animals or zoos!).

Several weeks went by without a mention of an elephant, so we gave up our half-hearted search on Amazon for a suitable gift. But then, of course, on Christmas Eve, she tearfully told us that she really really wanted Santa to bring her a stuffed elephant. This was after expressing extreme trepidation that Santa would actually *enter our house* (stranger danger!) and telling us that she didn’t WANT Santa to come AT ALL if he was going to come inside. Oh, boy.

(IMHO, smart kid. I don’t want strangers in our house, either, no matter how many toys they’re bringing us!)

So what did I do? What any sane person (ahem) would do in such a situation. Pull out the fabric stash and get to work!

Okay, first I went on Pinterest and Google and did a little research. It turns out, there are a TON of hits for “free elephant stuffie pattern” out there. Go figure. I settled on the¬†Fat Quarter Elephant project on The Sewing Directory (pattern by The Make It Room). I thought it was a nice combination of cute but not-anthropomorphic, and judging by the amount of fabric it called for (a fat quarter) it would make a toy roughly the size I was looking for.

I had some fuzzy gray knit (I guess technically it’s fake fur? plush?) as well as this sparkly pink fleece in my stash that I snapped up at a sale several years ago. I had intended to make a hat and pants for my daughter out of it, but when fabric is on sale I tend to purchase in bulk. Like… really bulk. I had enough to make a whole herd of these elephants. And a whole fleecey wardrobe for my kid.

I started sewing at around 9pm… and finished at roughly 2am. Worth it?

TOTALLY worth it.

The cutting and machine sewing went very quickly… I’m just a slow-as-molasses hand-sewer, so attaching the ears, stuffing the elephant, and sewing the pads of the feet on to close it up (you stuff through the legs) took me for.ev.er. It might have gone slightly faster if I hadn’t been watching some late-night TV with my husband at the same time (he stayed up with me in solidarity ūüôā ). It might also have gone faster if I hadn’t re-sewn the ears and rounded back. Twice. (Perfectionist, much?!).

So, how did the lucky recipient react?

She was underwhelmed. As I should expect an almost-3-year-old to be when faced with a pile of other brightly-colored, noise-making new toys from her favorite TV show (wrapped in crinkly plastic boxes, no less) and a house full of grandparents on Christmas morning. Alas.

I am still inordinately thrilled with the results of my last-minute project, and the elephant has now taken up residence on my daughter’s bed (where he gets about the same amount of love as the other non-favorite stuffies do… which is still quite a bit).

As an aside, my husband very sweetly posted a photo of the elephant on his Facebook page and a little note about how impressed he was <3

One of his friends commented, “Wait, so your wife just happened to have a sewing machine, some plush fabric lying around the house, and the ability to sew this up at the last minute?!”

Why yes, yes I did. +1 for sewing skills and a “healthy” fabric stash!

If you want to make an elephant stuffie of your own, the free PDF pattern is available at The Sewing Directory.

Summer Sewing Plans

When summer finally rolls around, I have a bit more free time. So… it’s time to line up some seasonal sewing projects! With the rather sudden arrival of much¬†warmer weather, I’m¬†discovering some gaping holes in my wardrobe. Namely, I have no¬†shorts. I also lack warm weather tops that aren’t form-fitting, sweat-showing knit. On the less practical side, I’ve got a friend’s wedding to attend and am excited for the chance to do some special occasion sewing. Finally, I love wearing skirts and dresses in the summertime, and that area of my closet could use some size/ color updating. Plus, I have two projects that have been languishing in my drawer for far too long, and need to be finished.

I’ll link to finished projects as I post them!

PS. the links included in this post are not affiliate links, they are just for image credit/ information.

Seamwork Harrington

Harrington short in linen, by Seamwork

I have four pairs of running shorts in frequent rotation, and exactly nothing made of anything other than parachute material. So. Time to sew some shorts!

Yes, I know this pattern is intended to be made with athletic material, but I loved the linen version shown on the pattern page. I bought a few yards of Robert Kaufman linen, along with some dotted chambray (after seeing the cute chambray Seamwork shorts another sewist made) and plan to make a couple of pairs for myself and my husband.

(Images + fabrics from Fabric.com… images link to fabric purchase page)

I’ve been a Seamwork subscriber for seven months already, but I’ve only sewn one pattern so far (the Akita blouse).¬†I’m a little nervous to sew this one up, because I cannot find a single blog or review of this pattern anywhere online. I’ve read extensive accounts of Seamwork patterns being hit-or-miss, especially in the fit department.¬†The Harrington shorts are intended as a men’s pattern, and I usually like the way men’s pants and shorts fit me. I plan to sew the pair for my husband first (he’s one size up from me) to see how the overall fit is, and make adjustments from there. Don’t worry, he’s a willing guinea pig.

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

(Prefontaine Shorts pattern for women and kids available on Etsy.com)

I might have plenty of running shorts, but all of them are lined  with compression unders and are not terribly comfortable for just lounging around in (or running errands, or using as a bathing suit cover-up, or whatever other casual non-running activity I have going on). My daughter is also in dire need of shorts. She has several pairs, but she is between ready-to-wear sizes and the ones I bought her for this season usually end up falling off her tiny-even-when-diapered booty.

While I was perusing reviews of various Seamwork shorts patterns, I discovered the Prefontaine shorts reviewed on Sie Macht. Pretty much everything appealed to me about this pattern: retro styling, pockets, long-enough inseam, suggested use of upcycled materials, just ONE yard of fabric (hellooooo stash-buster!). And there was a bundle discount for the women’s and kids’ patterns! Score!

I think these will get made this very week, so stay tuned!

Shantung Dress with Roses from¬†Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book

I love an excuse to wear a fancy dress, especially since such excuses come around pretty rarely in these parts. My husband’s one bachelor-holdout friend is getting married at the end of the month (on our wedding anniversary!). It will probably be the last wedding we’re invited to for a while, unless people start getting divorced and remarried, or unless we make some more single friends. Neither of those things seems terribly likely right now.

My husband is also in the wedding, and will be wearing a tux (!!!!!), so I decided to make something a little special.

(Note: this is the first time ever that I will see my husband in a tuxedo in person– he wore a regular suit for our own wedding)

(image via Pinterest, links to book purchase)

I have about 2.5 yards of baby blue dupioni¬†from a dress I intended to make for my own rehearsal dinner but never got around to. I checked with the store where I bought it 5 years ago to see if they could match it. There was a similar-looking swatch on their website, and they very kindly said they’d send me a sample. Pending being able to find more of that fabric, I plan to make the Shantung Dress with Roses from Gertie’s most recent book. If I’m not able to get more of the fabric, I will likely make the pattern I originally intended to use, Vogue 1242. I’m not super excited about the idea of a sheath dress, though… it feels a little too “cocktail party”-ish rather than “fun summer wedding”-ish. Or maybe it’s just that the lady on the envelope looks older than me, and I don’t want to feel older than I already am. Fingers crossed for the fabric!

Seamwork Akita

This will be my second Akita blouse– the first that I made has become a wardrobe staple. I wear it at least once a week, and I’m sure that my students are getting sick of seeing it. One of them even commented that I seem to coordinate my PowerPoint slide patterns with the print on my shirt. She wasn’t wrong.

I *might* like this shirt so much because of the amazing Cotton + Steel rayon¬†I picked for it. I love absolutely everything about this fabric. The texture, the drape, the pattern, even how it seems to be fairly wrinkle-resistant fresh out of the dryer (at least, I haven’t ironed it yet…). It’s a dream to sew with, and I would like every blouse I own to be¬†made from it, please.

(Image + fabric from Fabric.com, links to fabric purchase page)

For my second Akita, I stuck with the C+S rayon, but went with a floral print this time. They have several collaborations with Rifle Paper Co., and this design is from the first collection. There are a couple of tiny fit adjustments I’d like to make on this second iteration, but otherwise I’m hoping this will be a straightforward project.

Colette Aster

As I said above, I’ve been a Seamwork subscriber for seven months. And I was super psyched when they started letting subscribers use their pattern credits for Colette patterns, because I had accumulated quite a few.

(Cotton + Steel Poplin Navy Diamonds via Fabric.com)

One of the patterns I selected was the Aster. I need some new tops that can double as¬†out-in-public weekend wear (with jeans or shorts) and classroom-appropriate wear (with a skirt and cardigan). I plan to do a combination of version 1 — short sleeves, with version 2 — pleated bodice. And I have more C+S rayon, naturally.

FYI, there’s also a sew-along available here.

McCall’s Pleated Skirt (M5591)

These last two projects have been sitting in the docket, with all necessary supplies, for more than three years. I have several really good excuses, I promise! You see, I had a baby, finished writing my dissertation, and then moved cross-country. Twice. So, not much summer sewing since 2013, I’m afraid.

Actually, I first learned about this pattern from this blog¬†post, which means this project has been sitting in my drawer for FIVE. YEARS. Oof. Okay, well… this month. I’m finally going to sew it.

(Day Dreamer by Benartex Fabric, no longer available)

I found a mini-bolt of this fabric at a quilt shop where my mother-in-law lives, and should have enough left over to make a skirt for my daughter, too. I plan to make version C, most likely without the trim.

McCall’s Shirtdress (M6696)

This seems to be a pattern with a solid reputation among bloggers (understatement!). Like the skirt above, it has been sitting in my drawer for far too long. Last but definitely not least, I plan to make version A in a lightweight pink ditzy print cotton from Jo-Ann Fabrics (which is sadly no longer available).

Instagram + The 100 Day Project

I joined Instagram not too long ago in an attempt to diversify my social media diet. Other sites were becoming a bit too fraught for me, and I found myself being sucked in to a negative vortex when I visited them. I had heard good things about the positivity of the creative community on Instagram. As a visual person, the idea of filling my brain space with pretty pictures was appealing.

I’m a total Instagram newbie, and it was like being exposed to a whole new culture. How do hashtags work? What’s the following etiquette? How do I even find people to follow, or get people to follow me? Is it weird to comment on strangers’ posts? I had had a private Instagram account before in order to share images with my family and friends, but this was an entirely new thing.

I like to think I picked up the basics pretty quickly. Perhaps I’m showing my not-quite-young-enough-to-be-millennial age here, but one thing that I found endlessly confusing before joining Instagram was hashtags. I’m still not the most adept hashtagger out there, but I’ve managed to find a few that I consistently like. One of the things I think it is the coolest is the way hashtags can be used to create ad hoc community groups, contests, and collective projects. I had no idea that this is how they worked!¬†The 100 Day Project is one such collective project (following? movement?) that I was excited to discover through hashtags.

The 100 Day Project with Elle Luna: http://the100dayproject.org

The 100 Day Project was first started way back pre-Instagram by a Yale art professor to get his students thinking about their own creativity and creative processes. After several years of running it as a graduate course, a group of his students banded together and posted their projects on Instagram, and it has since grown into the huge project it is today. The idea is simple: pick a creative action that you will do every day for 100 days. It needs to be something you can be consistent with, so it forces people to evaluate how much of their time they are reasonably able to commit. Inevitably, it will become something that stretches people creatively, as you’re forced to come up with something relatively novel each day, even when you don’t feel like it.

Doing the same thing day after day for 100 days becomes tedious, no matter what thing you’re doing. If you persist past the tedium, you begin to see what you’re doing in a different light. It can be freeing– who cares if one iteration is crap, you’ll make another one tomorrow! But there’s also pressure to keep going, to keep creating, to not break your chain. It’s just the right amount of balance (for me at least) between that freedom and pressure.

For my project, I opted for super-simple and open-ended. I decided to create 1- 4″ x 6″ postcard each day. I can use any medium, and can mix it up at will.¬†I just have to do *something* on the card.

I’ve wanted to develop a sketchbook practice for a while now, but have had trouble getting started. I think part of the issue is that I’m intimidated by my lovely leatherette-bound, mixed media paper-filled, $20-sketchbook, and am afraid that I’ll somehow mess it up. Incidentally, this is also part of the reason why I have a collection of still-blank lined journals sitting around.

My postcards are an unbound sketchbook. A pack of 100 cost me $2 at the craft store, and they’re really nothing special. I can feel free to experiment on them, to be lazy and just mush stuff around on them, or to be a little crazy and glue plastic gems to them. If I mess up, hey, no big deal. I’m out 2 cents and get to try again tomorrow. And yes, I still post the “mess-ups” to Instagram, because my project is all about the process over the ultimate product.

That is the hardest thing for my perfectionist brain to wrap around: it’s about the process, not the product. Heck, the process IS the product. There have been several instances where I’ve been tempted to skip posting,¬†mostly out of embarrassment at my fledgling skills in a particular medium, or because it’s not exactly what I pictured when I started, or from¬†fear that people will be disgusted and unfollow me, or because I’m worried about violating some unspoken rule about never posting first drafts (all of my postcards are the one and only draft!). But as it happens, there are plenty of people out there interested in sharing the messiness of the creative process.

For me, being able to acknowledge and embrace just how messy that process can be is the only way to move from planning to actually doing any of my projects.

It has been exciting to dive in and see how other people are progressing with their own interpretations of the 100 Day Project. As we approach the half-way mark, I’m really proud that I’ve stuck with it this long. I’m especially looking forward to¬†finding ways to keep the momentum going after the project officially “finishes” on July 12.

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