Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lunch Buckets soon cometh!

Hello, friends!

I am astounded at how quickly this school year has flown by. Remodeling the house surely contributed to the general sense of having lost sizable unaccounted-for chunks of time, but I suspect it's also because the kids are older, and their days fuller. And the more I quantify where their energy goes, the less I am able to wrap my mind around the time that has elapsed while trying to observe it all. 

Voila.  It's quantum physics applied to parenthood. Very loosely applied, I'd better disclaim*. 

But let me translate that into parentspeak:

Manic children's activities = not enough mental space to even feel time being siphoned off into the nether.  


"My minivan is a black hole. I get in and drive some kid somewhere and buy two things at Target and when I get out again, fifty thousand hours have passed."

*Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: energy-time variation.

But I digress. In the tradition of random updates, I have three things to share:

1 Lunch Buckets
Are being made! Some for the kids' teachers, as we do every end-of-the-school-year, and some for the shop. Thought you might like some in-progress shots. Here's a nice, posed picture:

And here's one that's more like what goes on in real life:

Thank you for writing and convo-ing me to ask about the buckets throughout the year. I am excited to say that they will be available soon! Hopefully by the first couple weeks of June. Watch the shop (and this blog for announcements)!

2 Newfangled Sewing Light
I cannot remember where I saw this, but I've had Sewing Machine Darkness for years and I'd secretly coveted this as a possible cure. But it wasn't until we had under-cabinet lighting installed during our kitchen remodel (which was exactly the same as this sewing machine lighting system) that I was convinced something like this would actually work.


A strip of LEDs that you stick under the arm of your machine to light up that area of the machine bed that no table lamp, no matter how cunningly angled, would ever satisfactorily illuminate. That black wire leads to a switch, and the switch connects via more wire to a wall outlet. In other words, you're using socket power, not batteries, but you can control it via a switch that's stuck to your machine with adhesive tape so you don't have to walk over to the outlet each time you want to turn it on or off.

I love it so much. I can see now! Whoo!

3 Most Rewarding 8 Hours of Sewing In A Long Time
True story: so last week, I spent a day altering a neighbor's daughter's prom dress. Let me say right at the start that the outcome was utterly worth it. Even though I don't, as a principle, perform alteration (and for good reason, because look: it took eight hours; also see my previous alteration ranting here).  But this was a lovely neighbor, and it'd taken them forever to find a dress, and then they'd brought it to a professional alteration seamstress to be taken in, and it had come back tight in all the wrong places, and the poor girl was three days to her prom and unable to breathe or move her arms.

I couldn't bear it - both as a fellow mother and a sewing person. Drafting people have a calling in life: to rid the world of unfittingness, one poorly-drafted garment at a time. This was not a hem job, people. This was creating ease where there was no fabric to let out and no seams to shift; I ended up putting in new bound armholes and an invisible zipper fabric extension in a prom dress with beaded and appliqued detail overlying the seams. Did I know if I could do it? Yes (or I would've been bonkers to have volunteered to try, right?), until about half-way through, when the original zipper was unpicked and lying two feet away from the original dress, and I thought, "Ulp. Good intentions or no, if I mess this up, the girl will have no dress, which is arguably worse than an unfitting dress."

But now we come to the happy ending: the dress fit (better) and there were much embracing and tears of joy. And I was soooooooooo happy to have given my neighbor those hours of my time because there is nothing more rewarding, more gladdening, more Yes! than knowing I helped someone with the work of my hands. I was also reminded and  - because I do this so infrequently - surprised that something as tedious as altering a garment could require so much creativity and lateral thinking. I know of people who claim there are particular "fixes" for certain fit issues and while that's a helpful starting point, it can be dangerous (and disastrous) if we stop there, and thereafter indiscriminately apply these 'standard' fixes to all garments with apparently similar symptoms.

For instance, let's suppose that we have an over-plungy neckline. Taking in the shoulder seams, which is a very common go-to alteration fix, is not necessarily the best course of action. There are a myriad of other causes - and corresponding corrections - for such an unsatisfactory neckline, including but not limited to:
  • its excessive width
  • its excessive scoop
  • overstretching of the neckline during original sewing process
  • the wearer's incorrect bust cup size for that neckline, 
  • wrong position of bust darts, 
  • insufficient (or absent) upper bust darts or equivalent seaming/contouring, 
  • incorrect shoulder slope, 
  • incorrect shoulder width, 
  • an overly-forward or overly-backward shoulder seam for the wearer's particular shoulder issues,  
and combinations thereof, none of which would be anywhere near 'fixed' by "taking up the shoulder seams by x inches". Further, not only would taking up the shoulder seam not fix the neckline, it could also shrink otherwise-okay armholes practically to sphincters, lift your waistline to your ribcage, your hipline to your waist, and your bust line into your armpits. There is no universe, friends, in which that kind of alteration would pass for an "improvement". Nada. Zilch.

In my universe, at least, there are, in fact, only two rules in alteration:
  1. Do no harm (no more harm than already had been done by the presenting ill-fitting garment, I mean).
  2. There are no formulae; the garment must fit better after the alteration than before, and we do what is necessary to that end.
Of course, if you can avoid alteration altogether by custom-drafting from scratch instead, choose that - garments always fit better if, from the start, they are made specifically for a particular wearer. But if you can't, then open your mind, think outside the box, and be prepared to try new ways to fix old fit issues. It's hard work, but it's good work, and worth it.

And here I must leave you for now, and return to Bucketmaking. I will be back soon with photos!!!


  1. Of course. If anyone could fix that prom dress, it would be you! Hats off to you for even considering it! And congrats on the success! Wonderful story!

    I considered lighting like that, but instead I ended up with a small LED lamp with a flexible neck that attaches to my machine via a magnet. It was a bit cheaper, but still works very well and I can position it where I want it. THEN I discovered I could get an LED bulb for my machine itself! That was revolutionary, and since getting that I rarely need the other lamp, though when sewing on dark fabric at night it still is helpful.

    Ahhh... the buckets... brings back memories.... ❤️

  2. Ooooh lights! Electical gremlins have attacked my machine light so that is only works occastionally. This might be my solution. Thanks!

  3. Your sewing machine lights worked perfectly!

    Also, I loved your prom dress story. In high school another similarly kind mother helped me fix my dress. I had bought a pattern and followed it exactly, but of course the pattern wasn't made for my particular proportions. My friend's mother's help took the night from self-conscious to fun.

  4. Those sewing lights are SO EXACTLY just what I needed, that I interrupted your lovely post to order them on Amazon! Thank you!!! :D

  5. The LED lights are pure genius. I'm ordering some today. I've moved from a lovely top floor sewing room with lots of natural light (and views), to a gloomy ground floor study with next to no natural light. I need all the light help I can get.

    Lovely story about the prom dress. I recently remodelled a ball dress for a friend, and her delight was a great reward. Would love to see a photo of the finished dress!

  6. OOOOH, prom dresses are a sensitive topic to me right now! Just last evening the last of 45 to 50 prom/debutante ball gowns exited my home! I am the head seamstress for Fairy Godmothers of Greater Rochester (all volunteer organization that helps financially strapped young ladies acquire the prom gown of their dreams). For the donation of $5, the young ladies can purchase their prom gown, alterations included! .......A few years ago, one young lady went into a melt down when she found our largest size 26/28, was much to small for her. With creative thinking & plenty of TLC, Fairy Godmothers was able to calm her down & gave her hope. Basically, this size 26/28 dress was made into a 5X dress, by opening the side seams & adding 10" on each side, using the matching shawl as the extra fabric needed (her bra size was a 52 "I" cup). Many hours was spent re-beading the dress, to make the final product look like it was the original plan. I guesstimated that 60 to 70 hours was put into that dress, but it was worth it all, when she felt like a size 8 princess!!!

    Since that dress experience, I've found you have to stretch your skills & think outside the box, to do what you have to do. Yes, it can be stressful encountering these challenges, but it's soooooooooooooo worth it to watch the girls twirl around the room in their dream dress.

    Just last week an emergency was brought to my attention, where a young lady needed a Fairy Godmothers Miracle. The young lady's aunt had sewn her 2017 prom dress from scratch, but the dress was PURPOSELY damaged beyond repair - by the girl's mother. I didn't ask for any details, I just applied TLC & some creative alterations. When she left, this very appreciative girl wasn't thinking about the damaged dress, but how beautiful she looked & felt!

  7. I trust you read Mrs Mole's Fit for A Queen blog about bridal alterations. Same story, only for paying clients. At some point, you have to get a cup of tea and think exactly what you wrote: this needs to be done, and it needs to be beautiful. And if you can think that, then you are exactly the person for the job.
    You're right about the van. Time and space. Needs research grant.


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