30 August 2009

Your friendly bag lady

As always, click on the photos to enlarge. I just finished these today. I want to keep them all for myself, but they are part of the inventory I'm making for a campus craft fair in a couple of months.

I even made a little lunch tote with a pocket.

All bags bear the xbohica brand, embroidered on the inside lining.

23 August 2009

Storm photos from my 'hood

Click to enlarge - it's difficult to see what's there otherwise.

(The last photo is from our back door. The others are from the 'hood across Old Temple from us.)

I was tweeting during this crazy little storm that went through my neighborhood. Here's the tweets, peeps.
---- Crazy storm cell... Downdraft winds in excess of 60mph. At least 2 big sections of our fence flew!
---- S WACO/HEWITT Trampoline from 1 neighbor's backyard flew... and maybe sticking out of the windshield of another neighbor's car!
---- Our subdiv: one house struck by litning and roof has huge hole. A man had heart attack during storm. TV crews in the 'hood.
---- So... worse things that the trampoline in the car windshield across the street!
---- S WACO/HEWITT Plus, live wire down and sparking. Another house on fire. Older houses across Old Temple lost roofs.
---- My husband is the dramatic type. He was flapping his wings: "The sky is falling!" I was: "Oh poo." He was kinda right.

22 August 2009

TUTORIAL: The art of assembly line sewing

I meant to post an item about this when I was working on the newest coffee sleeves, but I forgot.

When making several similar items all at the same time, use some simple strategies to maximize your time and effort.

Even though I'm not a cottage industry seamstress, I have experience in constructing multiples of many things. My granddaughter (Caille, aka "C2"), my mom and I make new Christmas stockings for everyone in the family each year on an assembly line system. I have been making cloth shopping bags by the dozen to give away to my friends and use myself. I make matching shirts for my grandsons.

When my Mom is visiting we have more than one machine out at a time. But assembly line sewing can be done by an individual, too.

Your system should start in the fabric store (or your personal stash). Buy/choose enough materials to make several copies of your project. The more complimentary/similar hues, the faster the assembly process with be in the end.

Wash and dry all fabrics (don't mix light/dark colors, of course). If you skip the wash/dry, you'll end up with a finished item (whatever you're making) that looks amateurish. New fabrics have sizing on them. Most of what I use is cotton and it shrinks. Always wash/dry the fabric first.

Now, cut all the fabrics at once. If you are using a pattern, make some tracing copies of the pieces if necessary. If using a rotary cutter and mat, cutting everything at once helps me keep my thoughts organized. I make fewer silly mistakes. (We all make silly mistakes!)

After I cut all of the fabrics, I cut any required notches and make all of the markings I need for darts, trims, etc. Again, doing all the marking at once keeps my head in the game and I make fewer mistakes.

Figure out what thread color you'll use on each. It sounds trivial, but the fewer times you have to change the thread on your machine, the more efficient you're going to be. Arrange your fabric in order -- a stack that will allow you to go from one item to the next with the fewest thread changes.

While sewing, I do a set of actions on each set of materials, then move on to the next set. For instance, sew the side seams on all of them, then take them all to the ironing board to press at once, then sew all the shoulder seams, then take them all to the ironing board at once. Sew all the straps at the same time, do all the embroidery at the same time, etc. Take the time to give it some up-front thought. You want to maximize the assembly line actions, while minimizing thread changes and minimizing the number of times you have to change any machine attachments (like an embroidery bed) or feet.

Sometimes my mind tells me "it's taking so long to get a bag done." If I make things one at a time, I get more immediate satisfaction with *a* finished item. But really, I'm doing it so much faster. And when it's done, there are *lots* of them done.

Happy sewing!

16 August 2009

The jasmine isn't blooming yet

The jasmine isn't blooming yet. I planted it a few months ago. It's starting to climb the trellis nicely.

(Seals and Crofts: Summer Breeze)

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind

Coffee doesn't have arms, but here are more sleeves

Working on building (sewing) an inventory of my creations to sell at a craft fair before Christmas. Here are the latest 10 (um, correction: 11) coffee sleeves.

Yes, you do see Elvis. And the Miami Dolphin. And several Hawaiian prints left over from our trip to Hilo a year and a half ago.

Again, these are all made from fabric scraps. Time, plus batting, velcro and thread are my outlay.

08 August 2009

At 50, all warranties expire: a bio-rhythmic low of cosmic proportion

I feel guilty for neglecting the blog for so long, but I had good cause. You see, this has been the summer of hell. I think I may have reached a bio-rhythmic low of cosmic proportion.

A couple of months of terrible stomach aches and nausea came to a crisis right after Memorial Day weekend. While getting an ultrasound that showed my gallbladder full of stones and more blocking my bile duct, the nurse sprang another piece of news on me: she could also see a cyst on my ovary (which happens to be my only remaining female part).

After waiting (in constant writhing pain) for a few weeks to get an appointment with a surgeon, I ended up going in the very next morning for procedure #1: having the stones removed from the bile duct and having opening of the bile duct entering the stomach snipped larger. This is supposed to be an out-patient procedure.

Things went to hell.

My bile duct is mis-shapen. It's narrow and curly-queued. It took the doctor 3 hours longer than it was supposed to take to be able to finish the procedure.

At which time I woke up in full-blown pancreatitis. For those who are curious, this sensation can only be described as -- being impaled with a huge stake -- straight through the stomach and out the middle of the back. It is more excruciating than either of my childbirth experiences. I. Do. Not. Kid. You.

I was admitted to the hospital. They started giving me dilaudid. I cannot deal with that drug. I started wretching. This made the pancreatitis worse. Which got me more dilaudid. Which made me wretch uncontrollably. Which... You can see the spiral of hell here, right? This is what the next 4 days of my life consisted of. For a couple of those days they shoved a suction tube up my nose, down to my stomach, to try to keep the wretching down. Stupid nurses never could make the suction part actually work, though, no matter how many times we asked why it didn't seem to be working.

By the way, I have my daddy's veins. They are too narrow for the needles. They submerge. They roll. They explode. They collapse. So on top of the "spiral of hell" brought on by the dilaudid and pancreatitis, I also had to deal with the bloody bruised reality of being a human voodoo doll. I can deal with a few sticks in a row, but when it's 5 or 6 or 7 sticks, all with a needle DIGGING around, trying to get into the vein, I just lose it. Finally, they left orders that only the nursing supervisor or some hotshot in the ER was allowed to even try. Even then, it took an average of 4 sticks per success. Unfortunately, because my vein would collapse - sometimes a couple of times in a day - I'd have to go through it all over again.

So, 4 days later the pancreatitis finally eased. This is when the surgeon removed my gall bladder. By this time I was practically begging, "Just take it away! Take it out now!"

In the meantime, my back became covered in what looked like chicken pox. My feet and hands swelled up. Must have been an allergic reaction to something. Not pleasant.

When I awoke from this surgery, my voice was very hoarse and my throat was sore. That was almost 7 weeks ago. It has not gotten better. I still sound really hoarse and my throat hurts all the time. Went to an ENT specialist. Got scoped (ugh!) with a video camera and he let me watch the footage. My left vocal cord is paralyzed. He says it's not common, but it does happen occasionally. The breathing tube damaged my vocal cord nerve. We still don't know if it's permanent. I have to get needles stuck into the nerve in a couple of weeks to determine that.

Some of you may be aware that I have a weekly radio segment on our local NPR station that is also available as a podcast. This is part of my job at Baylor. (It's not a huge part of my job, but I've been doing it for several years and truly enjoy it.) I am not sure how this voice thing is going to impact my job. I'm sick about it... well, yes, literally I guess.

Thank goodness, the cyst isn't urgent and will probably wait a few months.

And here's the cymbal-crash-ending to this story. The week I was in the hospital Mike stayed with me. He called his boss every day and was told "No problem. You should be there with your wife." But a day or two after he returned to work, he was let go. The result? Mike unemployed. The consequences? We are living together for the first time in 6 years. I know, weird, right? We've been married 15 years and the last 6 we've lived in separate cities because of his job. As you can imagine, there is some serious adjustment going on in this household.

Turning 50 sucks, people.