Monday, January 28, 2013

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

This morning I had a slight disaster, that turned out not to be a disaster at all. Let me explain:

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but my new favorite article of clothing is a pair of tights I ordered from Sock Dreams. They are brown, and 40% wool. I got them for $22, and that's quite a steal for wool tights, even if they aren't 100% (shipping is free!). Normally they cost twice that much. I need another pair!

These things are cozy brown inches of awesomeness. The tights are ribbed so they fit a pretty wide range of sizes. My feet are too small to fully fill out the shaped footies of these tights, but I don't mind in the least- I get shaped footies!. I have finally figured out how girls can get away with wearing short skirts in the winter time. I have discovered that wearing skirts in the winter is MORE comfortable than wearing pants. I need skirts along with my second pair of tights on the wishlist.

These things arrived in the afternoon and I admit, I was too chicken to try them out the following morning at -3 degrees Fahrenheit. I DID, however, try them out that afternoon under jeans. It didn't take me very long at all to fall in love with them after that. Yes, at 14 degrees my legs DO get cold enough to stop being entirely comfortable. But, those of you who were reading along last year might recall me getting painfully-cold legs at 20 degrees with silk and leggings and jeans. This is 14 with only ONE LAYER! The tights feel like softness personified- every time I move my legs in a pedal stroke, I felt coziness at the same time as chilliness. At normal temperatures, these things really shine, though. 32 degrees is downright comfortable in these tights. I've discovered an aversion to my jeans- my most comfortable pants- because they just aren't the same. Somehow the denim transfers cold- and at warmer temperatures that feel perfectly fine with just the tights feel oddly sweltering at the same time as cozy. Did I mention these tights are cozy?

But, I only have the one pair. I also, for comfort reasons, prefer not to wear underwear due to my bicycle commute. They aren't kidding when they say wool is the best material to wear next to your skin, by the way! Anyway, I wash my tights every night. I simply throw them in the wash with other clothes, but I make certain they do not get to meet the new dryer my parents brought. They go over the shower rod to air dry instead, and they are ready to put on first thing in the morning when I want to get dressed.

Guess what didn't happen Sunday? Right- I forgot to start the washer before we went to play Pathfinder. So, I started that last load of laundry when we got home, a bit later than I like to be in bed on a school night. Jamie forgot to swap the machines for me before he crashed into bed a little later, so I woke up to wet clothes still in the washer.

Panicking that I wouldn't be able to get them dry and would have to suffer the day without my tights, I still did not give in to the temptation to toss them in the dryer. Over the shower rod they went. The rest of the clothes went into the hotbox, and I proceeded to get ready for work. I brushed my hair, checked the weather, made some icky oatmeal. In case you were wondering, strawberry jam is NOT a proper substitute for the blueberries that you were planning to use but had mold in them. Finally, there was nothing left to do but take the dogs outside, and I figured I really should be dressed to do that. I put on damp tights (they are never really "wet" out of the washer- always just damp).

Somehow, in the 7 minutes or so it took for my old dog to do both orders of business, I realized that the cold wasn't as bad as I had feared. When I got back into the warm house, I realized that the legs of the tights- damp when  went outside- were now almost completely dry. I was comfortable.


So I went to work, damp wool-tighted feet stuffed in my sneakers. My feet didn't get cold either, but they took the entire morning ride to dry- I think they were still not quite dry when I took my shoes off back at home. Oh well, I don't care!!

<3 my wool tights!

In case you were wondering- my other favorite things include my husband, my cloak, my bike, my dogs, my Mooncup. The color green. My cloak, at least, will be reviewed in another post soon- but I'll give you a hint- Every day I've worn the tights, I've also worn the cloak!

Happy Monday!
(No, this wasn't today- it was last week)

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Froggy Cloak and Perfect Sewing Space!

Well, my cloak is finally done! I'm happy with it, but honestly I'm more excited about the presents my mom and dad brought over this Saturday. I have achieved organization!

The dryer we have been renting from our apartment complex people recently developed a very ominous rumble-grinding noise as it spins. It also has a history of violence toward clothing. It will try and eat anything with a string, and/or burn whatever it can't devour. It's sort of a game of roulette with that thing and this was the last straw for me. My mom recently retrieved all of her stored possessions from Florida, so I figured I'd ask if she still had any laundry machines. Of course she did! I was also excited because my dad had found some weird plastic cube-things in a dumpster and when I visited for Christmas, he said I could use them. A trip to deliver laundry machines meant those could come too, and I definitely had a plan for them.


And a bonus!

Isn't that just the prettiest sight ever? Everything has a home, now, and it is NOT on the flat surface of my sewing desk. I was really hating my cloak while working on it because of all the stuff that had nowhere to be but in my way while I'm trying to maneuver this gigantic blob of fabric in every conceivable angle underneath that sewing needle. Whatever wasn't wedged beneath that ever-shrinking arm space of the sewing machine was instead wedged up against a stack of sewing supplies- neatly arranged though they were. You can see the stack behind Mia in my Aimee-Day picture showing off Mia in my green jumper dress (because dressing Mia up is flat-out fun!). Now, the only thing on the desk top is my Brother, and it's cover with two greenish canisters on top of it and Thing 2 reclining against one of them. The machine cover will likely find another place to live, too.

The plastic cubes, it turns out, are sold for display purposes as pedestals to "add height and dimension to your displays". They aren't meant to be turned sideways like cubby-holes, but with the opening downwards. They stack rather nicely in any direction, though. With these now providing valuable storage space, I can definitely see the appeal in those modular walls with pull-out totes. That's basically what I've built here- complete with a pull-out drawer just like those! All my patterns are in that green fold-able tote, too. I love it. I may have to order more! Or maybe build some.

Ok, now on to the cloak.

For a reminder- this is McCall's pattern M6446, which is supposed to look like:



And here is mine:

Please forgive the bathroom mirror pictures- I'm lazy..

The lighting is horrible, and I was surprised to get better pictures without any flash at all. You can tell that the hall light is a yellow old-fashioned bulb, while I have a nice bright daylight bulb in the desk lamp turned up toward the ceiling. 

It looks very wrinkly, but I honestly don't notice that as much in real life. The fleece makes the inside feel very cuddly, although now that I've attached it to the Babyville Boutique exterior fabric, it doesn't floof around me as much as when it could wander freely under there. A couple of the bound buttonholes had to be re-done because somehow the sizing got off. They are a little bit taller than just the slit I was aiming for. You can also see that I've turned the pocket welts upside down. It seemed silly to have pockets which would catch rain or snow or anything else following gravity.

I still need to add the loops for my hands to go through in order to hold the cloak out from me while riding the bike to protect my legs from rain or snow that might be falling. Also, imagine a strip of reflective tape around the hem, at least. I couldn't find the black trim with a reflective stripe in the middle at Hancock's, so I'll have to order some. That is the reason I went ahead and used black buttons and contrast stitching- with that trim being black anyway, why not?

My husband says it looks silly. I think the idea of a cloak at all is silly to him, not just this one. The arm slits throw him off, he says it should either be a cloak with sleeves, or a cape without any sleeves or openings. I'm just excited to wear this thing and see how it does out in the cold. Just trying it on for my parents during their visit, I got hot in it, so we'll see tomorrow morning. The weather-guessers predict a low of 21F. That sound perfect for experimenting- not too cold in case things go badly, but cold enough to give a good test. The high should be 61- so it will also warm up drastically- likely I won't need the cloak for anything but the first ride in before dawn.

Wish me luck!

I love comments, so if you have a thought, please feel free to share it with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fighting Fleece

Firstly, I would like to say that I love fleece.

I first got some in order to make my froggy Halloween costume. I had lots of green fleece left over, and very cold hands during my bike ride in to work as the temperatures started dropping. So, I literally traced my hand and made myself some very simple mittens- more like hand pockets, really. I also cut a strip off the bolt to use as a scarf. I am continually amazed at how much fleece can do.

I wore my frog suit for Halloween. The temperatures that day got up to 74 degrees, and while I was definitely hot, I was not suffering. I did not feel sweaty because fleece wicks moisture to its outer surface like wool so it's not next to your skin. I also could feel a breeze through the fabric when it blew.
Now, temperatures have been as low as -3 degrees. I admit it! I wore my froggy fleece onesy pajamas to work. I was SO comfortable! I had jeans over the lower half, and my upper half never gets unjacketed in the morning anyway, so no one knew unless I told them. My legs survived -3 in one layer of fleece! My hand-pocket mittens got an upgrade for that temperature, but the original version works great from 50 down to 15. To brave that extra-cold morning I cut a flap out that would cover my fingers by folding over them from where they meet my palm and ending somewhere at the back of my hand so that my knuckles were protected from wind. Comfy hands at last! At -3!!

So I love fleece.

My current project is reconstructing my green rain cloak to give it a fleece lining. I didn't like not being able to wear it due to the PUL fabric having that plasticy rubbery backing. I figured the cold would cling to it and transfer it to me whenever the fabric touched me. Also, eventually we might have wet snow here that would stick to me instead of this dry powdery stuff that blows around- so I need to be able to wear it. I decided to fiddle with the cloak.

Now, I know nothing about installing lining, I'm sort of winging it here. I think I made it more difficult than it had to be. Instead of simply creating a second cloak and just attaching it the insides of the one I have, I wanted it to be secure. I've re-done the arm slits to have an invisible zipper so they can be closed. I added the pockets that were skipped last time, but the flaps are upside down so water or snow won't get in there. I like the pleat in the back panel, so that was sewn special and the yoke is the attachment point for everything. That made everything more difficult when it came to finishing up the neckline, but I've got it done, if not perfectly.

What's really annoying me this close to being DONE, however, is that my sewing machine refuses to sew button holes into fleece. There is something about it that makes the top thread not catch the bottom thread at all, and so I spent a VERY long time last night ripping out a bungled buttonhole.

I was very mad.

But, now, after Googling just a little bit, I've found a solution. It's called a bound buttonhole, and it's pretty much exactly how I was instructed to install the arm slit welts and pockets. Here's how to do one, since I thought it was pretty awesome. I got my directions at this website.

Cut out a square of fabric. I just cut out a big one because I plan on trimming it anyway.

Pin it right sides together where you need a button hole.

Draw a line to represent your buttonhole.

Sew a rectangle around your line. In my case, I thought it easier to sew on my line.

See, a rectangle.

You'll need a seam ripper...

...To do this. Truely, you should also clip to the corners at an angle, but since I'm making the holes as tiny as possible, I just ignored that part.

Now, turn your fabric square inside out through the cut.

Like that.

It'll look like this on the back.

Pull out the square and pin it flat like this.

Now you'll topstitch around your button hole opening.

Like that!

View from the back side.

And now trim the extra off. I can go really close because my fabric won't fray.

Inside view of the finished button hole.

Yucky outside view. 
Hey, it's better than not being able to close my cloak.

Stay tuned for a post about my new cloak! It's almost done!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Yay! A route, and snow!

Well, today is Friday, yippee.

I would be happier, except I'm an idiot, and bid on a double-run field trip for tomorrow. It has a 5:45 AM start time- oh joy. I can honestly say I won't be making that mistake again EVER. Being a double run means that I get up that early to take them to their destination, but then I don't get to sit around knitting and making money while I wait on them- I get to go back home unpaid. But, I'm not sure when they'll need to be picked up because there is a tournament- so if they lose, they'll go home early. I'll have to make sure they understand that there will be a 30-minute commute involved, not to mention driving time from base to their location.

My route itself is rather easy, and I'm very glad to have it, but I hope they figure out just exactly what I need to be doing every day soon. In the 5 days I've run it, I think we've done something different (or tried to) 4 days. The start time changes with the addition or subtraction of students, so my sleep hasn't been the greatest in the world, and it makes me grumpy. Our one boy that has been a constant, though, seems very nice. I love his teachers, who introduced themselves the first day and always look happy to see the boy and us. They gave us chocolate! Little silver Hershey nuggets wrapped in yellow printed slips to make them look just like little buses. They were in a little package that declared "We wheelie appreciate you!". With a greeting like that, what's not to love about my job- seriously? Any gripes above are strictly the sleep deprivation talking.

Taking winter break off (plus some, since I was a substitute with nothing to do) was a REALLY bad idea. I should have made a point to go pedal somewhere just to stay in shape. I'm exhausted, and not really looking forward to tomorrow morning's trip, even though somehow against my own estimation, I do eventually pedal those last few feet to the bike rack at work or the mailboxes outside the apartment. I'm not quite sure how it happens, because the whole way it feels like I'm never gonna make it. IN the dark morning hours, there is the added drag from my light system, and it the daylight there is the added drag from having studded tires. I don't grumble too much about the studs though- they save my bacon on the road by our apartment. That sucker is STILL covered in ice two weeks after the Christmas snowfall and one of those had all above-freezing temperatures with several days in the 50s. The tall houses keep that road in near-constant shadow. I'm grateful for my studs.

This afternoon, we had snow! It successfully distracted me from my aching legs. There will likely be snow tomorrow too. I got pictures.

But first, I forgot about these pictures of a squirrel. He was foraging at this tree while I kept Jamie company at the garage as he worked on our roommate's car.

Isn't he just adorable!?

Ok, now snow pictures.

It got very slippery out there. I admit, I could feel the wheels slide a few times. So, I would be sure I could stop very early, and then just creep forward to close the distance. Obviously this hasty picture was snapped as we were creeping. I'm surprised it's straight!

I just had to ask my assistant to snap this one. With visibility like this, I was not surprised as we passed a van on it's side across the ditch with several other vehicles of the flashing-light variety gathered around. Luckily, they weren't on our side causing onlooker delays, just cautious slowing.

You know, it's very hard to take a picture with the camera above your head? I like the first one better, I think.

And this is me, hoping that my face is in a smile, because I can't really feel it. 
Hey, look- it worked!

And of course, Zoomie in the snow. Over by the apartment it got deeper- about an inch at least. 

You may have noticed that my cushion is gone, and the tool bag. While I'm not complaining too loudly about the drag of studded tires and occasionally lights and my stupid weak legs, I DID take off the extra weight of the cushion and a few unneeded heavy tools from the bag. It turns out the rest can roll up in the saddlebag perfectly. 

I brought my cape to work, but decided against wearing it home. The snow didn't seem to stick very much, so my fleece was fine and my leather jacket wouldn't get soaked. There was also a slight wind. I had fought strong winds both home and then back to work in the middle of the day, and did I mention I was out of shape? I honestly didn't think I could handle any extra resistance at this point. I had seriously considered taking a bus home (I found out where the stop was and that it takes just as long as my winter bike ride does- 32 minutes according to Google. I just didn't figure out when the bus gets there. I even had the $2.25 fare in my pocket! Just in case.) 

My scarf was originally just over my ears like I always wear it, but I quickly remembered that snow floats and hits your face, is cold, and kinda hurts. So, I pulled the scarf forward so my neck and chin were more protected. If the day was colder (30-28F on the way home), I might have redone the wrap completely to cover my face, but I wasn't that uncomfortable, my nose is very runny, and I'd rather not fight fogging glasses on top of that.

Overall, a nice ride home. 

Rides usually are nice, especially after the fact. During, it can be difficult while you're forcing your legs to keep moving somehow and cursing the wind for blowing RIGHT AT YOU WTF! and wondering if taking the studs of the tires out would really be that bad and how much it might hurt if you fell because maybe that would be worth it... You think all that during the ride, but somewhere along the way you also notice that the weather really isn't all that bad, and that the pedals aren't exactly as hard to move around in circles as they seemed. Those studs make a sort of pleasant buzzing sound and you AREN'T slipping and sliding all over the place in this snow that's falling so prettily.

And then, against the wind that sprang up again (argh!) during the last stretch to home and uphill, you pass a Honda that had come by you earlier just to beat you to the stop sign, and with your heavy studded tires you BEAT IT up the hill and not only that, but you pull in to the mailboxes at home way ahead of it because it has no traction in the pretty snow. That's when you really love your bike, you love the weather, and you love your decision not to be lazy and ride a silly bus home.

<3 Zoomie.

Happy Friday everyone!