Friday, August 26, 2011

dress to apron, part 1

Although it had been nearly 9 years since I nursed a child, I'd held onto this linen dress because it was soft and comfortable. Over the years, it also became shredded and stained and no longer useful as a garment. I thought I might dye it to cover the stains, and then I thought I could at least rip it apart and make napkins...and then the idea of a linen apron hit me. I have had the same apron for over 25 years. A change might be good.

The first step was to dissect the dress into panels. I'll apologize in advance for the terrible photos in this post. They're just awful, I know.
Because this was a nursing dress, there was a nursing bodice under the front flap. I'd thought I could simply separate the two pieces until I realized that the binding around the neckline held both layers together. So instead I stitched up the nursing slits and made it double thickness on top.
At this point, I had to stop sewing for a bit.
When Miss Lava woke up, I impulsively decided to use the ruffler attachment* that had come with my old Singer 201. I've never had reason to try it out, and the idea of doing something completely new is always appealing. Plus, a completely flat apron felt kind of severe. I thought a little bit of gathering in the skirt might lighten it up a bit. Here's the ruffler:
And here's the skirt panel with the gathers on it. This was attached to the aforementioned double-layered bib.
With all the fabric from the back half of the dress still left, I was free to cut straps on the wide side: 4-3/4" before they were folded in half and sewn with a 3/8" seam. When turned inside out and ironed and topstitched, they became 2" wide lengths. A shorter length became the neck, attached to the ends of the bib neckline. Two longer pieces became the apron strings. These were attached as shown below, leaving enough width to turn the entire piece under and topstitch for strength.
To be sure the curve was consistent on both sides of the bib, I cut a simple pattern from cardboard—
—then marked the width of the seam allowance I wanted (1") and moved it over before trimming with a rotary cutter. When this side was done, the pattern was simply flipped and moved to the other side.
Then these last edges were turned under and sewn down—and topstitched again. I also shortened the hem a little. Before & after:
This is not a full tutorial, because it is unlikely that you'll have this same dress or want this same apron. It's simply about process, a process which is often the same from project to project: you start with an idea, dive in, realize you have to alter it a bit, take a break, try something new, improvise, and then finish it up before you get sick of the whole thing.

I'm still thinking of coloring it, since a pale apron is ridiculously impractical. That will be part 2.

*Pdf instructions for all the old Singer attachments, along with video clips can be found here. How I wish I'd found this page before I did this project!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

facelift for an old sewing cabinet

Back in April, I thought I might go ahead and finish the star quilt on the Singer 301.

Then I took took out the Singer 201 and changed my mind.
The Singer 201 is, as you may have guessed, the predecessor to the 301, manufactured primarily through the 1940s. It also came in handcrank and treadle versions, and in later years with an aluminum body—but the steel body with the potted electric motor is probably the most common. It is large and very heavy, not even close to being portable. It was meant to fit into a solid wood cabinet.

This 1947 electric is my old favorite, found a thrift store for $60 and somehow hoisted, cabinet and all, into the back of a minivan with two small children in tow. That's what infatuation will do for a person. This is a machine with exceptionally pretty lines.

But as thrilled as I might be with the machine, I could never deny that the cabinet looked rough. The finish was scratched, water-stained and dried out. I'd always meant to spruce it up, but didn't get around to it until last spring. All that procrastination, and it turned out to be a quick and straightforward weekend project.

First, a trip to the hardware store. This paint sample, although purplish in hue, was a perfect match for the face frames.
Dr. Woodwell took care of the rest.
"Dr. Woodwell Wood Elixir" sounds a little like snake oil, and the website looks like a midnight infomercial. But I have used it on a few projects over the years, and it is a genuinely wonderful product for cleaning & revitalizing old wood.  

Thus we went from this
to this
And from this
to this
The machine head, though it has nicks and chips in the expected places, is timelessly gorgeous. Like the 301, it sews an exquisite straight stitch with a quiet hum.

Time for the last push on the star quilt.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


As they grow bigger and older, their eggs will get bigger, too. The eggs in back are from the older girls. I didn't set this up—the chickens like to share laying boxes.

Fresh eggs are no good for hardboiling (they won't peel well), but they poach perfectly. Simmer water in a pan, slide the eggs in, turn over once. When done, lift out with a slotted spoon. Season. Mmm.
Update: Since writing this, I've seen Jules' poached egg experiment and tried it myself. Take a look at what a difference a little glug of white vinegar makes:

I'll definitely be adding it to the water from now on.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

peach pops

I made these weeks ago and carefully noted measurements just for Sam...but alas, illness has wiped all memory away. Thank goodness for photographs, from which much can be deduced.

Place 4 loosely-packed cups of sliced peaches (these were frozen, but could as easily be fresh) in a blender.
Use the blender to finely chop the peaches.
And add 1-2 cups of yogurt and 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (notice the hedge with measurements here—all I remember is that I deliberately made it a round number so it would be easy, but really, quantities can be flexible and to your taste). Blend once more.
Finely chop another peach (this one was fresh) for texture.
And stir into the mixture.
Pour into molds.
And eat!
These pops are slightly tangy, due to the yogurt, and we found them very refreshing as an afternoon pick-me-up. If you prefer something milder, however, you can always substitute milk or cream for the yogurt and take out the cinnamon. You'll end up with something like peaches 'n cream on a stick—also yummy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

where we've been (ashland, for one)

This blog has been idle for most of the summer and while there are all sorts of reasons for this, the main one has been pneumonia. It has sapped me of energy, both physical and mental; and though I'm definitely recovering, it's been hard to get back on track. The summer plans I had for cleaning out the garage, tidying up the yard, and putting up a bike shed are postponed for now; it's enough to get through the ordinary day of feeding and watering, cleaning, laundry and errands. And don't get me wrong—I'm grateful to be able to do that much.

Another thing I was glad to be able to do was take the kids back to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I considered not going, but C offered to help drive if necessary, and I knew I had the option of sending the boys to a play by themselves if I needed to rest.

And everything turned out just fine. We rested plenty, but also walked down each evening to the Elizabethan Stage for 3 different plays. Here is the set for Loves Labour's Lost, as stitched together on my aging iPhone:
There is nothing like sitting outdoors with 1000 other people on a balmy Ashland evening, all cheering together as the flag signaling the start of the play is raised, and then becoming so immersed in the show that there's no memory of when the sun sets and the stars rise overhead.

It was only our second year in Ashland, but we already found ourselves returning to some favorite places. There was Lithia Park, which starts just behind the Festival square and has miles of wooded hiking trail.
Bloomsbury Books, an independent bookseller on Main Street, with a thoughtful selection of titles that we can't pass by.
And our favorite eatery, Dragonfly, which calls itself Latin-Asian fusion food. C made a special request for lunch in the garden here on our last day.
Oops, I have no idea how this picture got in here! Dagoba...? Is that some sort of Star Wars place?
Okay, okay, yes, we went here! Twice, if you must know. (And if you go in summer, remember to take a cooler to pack everything in for the drive home. Not that we filled a cooler, of course—just offering a friendly tip, ahem.)

Where have you been this summer? Does your family have a favorite destination with places you look forward to returning to, or do you aim for ever-new experiences?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

interview on The Sattvic Family

Elizabeth at The Sattvic Family contacted me with a request to be part of her Unschooling Moms series (her husband is doing a parallel Unschooling Dads series on their blog, as well).

I met Elizabeth through Twitter, where I have been able to follow their family travels in Asia and their current life in Phuket, Thailand. Though our email interview was short and sweet, I am grateful that it gave me the chance to really explore The Sattvic Family blogsite, an incredible resource for traveling families, holistic and spiritual living and of course, unschooling.

I'm going to link to the home page, which currently has my interview up but will certainly be featuring other unschooling parents, travels, and thoughtful writings in the future. Be sure and take a look:

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