All posts by June

Good intentions

For the past couple nights, I tried to bring a little extra functionality to this site by replacing and tweaking the WordPress theme, but I ended up breaking the site completely. Whoops! Even with Matt’s help, it still took hours to bring everything back and make it run again. Sorry, hon!

In December, I attempted to put together my 2014 retrospective (4 times! I tried to write the darn thing 4 times!), but I lost a good friend to cancer last spring, plus I have not been too healthy this year, so remembering all of that only made me melancholy. Let’s just say that last year was sh*tty and I hope that this new year will be awesome. I’m prioritizing getting more sleep and making more happy in 2015.

With the recent Ten on Tuesday about books, I enjoyed seeing others’ book lists and realized that when I visit someone’s house, I’m nosy as hell about what they’re reading. For parity, I’ll jump in and show what I’ve read since I started keeping track in 2013. Links are in the sidebar (scroll down to “Reading List”). Word of warning – I read almost no fiction.

My laptop got a spendy makeover last week (new logic board, twice the RAM, new solid-state hard drive, fresh install of the OS), so my intolerably sluggish beast has been transformed into a sleek, rocket-powered machine. Altogether, this site is finally easier to update, and I’m excited about sharing more with you. Also, I am frequently posting on Instagram (@twosheep) and invite you to join me there; the “Glimpses” box in the sidebar show the most recent ones, if you’re not on Instagram.

As always, I thank you for reading, reaching out to me, and sharing a bit of yourself. Wishing you the best in 2015 – let’s make this a terrific year!

FO: T-shirt revised yet again

I finished a new t-shirt! I took the last pattern iteration and made it just a tiny bit better, and I’m pretty happy with how it fits now, despite the drag lines under the bust. (Something to work on for the next time!)

Pardon the indoor nighttime shots, it’s winter in Minnesota and likely will remain so for the next few years.

The major changes were at the upper chest and sleeve. I slashed a fisheye opening across the chest and add another half inch of length at the bust level so the shirt does not ride up in front. I also widened the sleeves by about 1/4 inch.

Actually, I originally made the shirt with 3/4 sleeves. But it was just Too Much Stripey.

Not impressed

So I hacked them off and was happier.

Obligatory back view:

Coverstitching around the neckband, still very much in awe of how well the Babylock machine (BLCS-2) performs.

But there’s something about the shirt overall that bugs me… Here, let me show you what I mean:

You see where I’m going with this? Ha! What was I thinking?

This summer, I was inspired by SunnyGal Beth’s cheerful striped shirt, so much so that I immediately popped over to the vendor and ordered a couple yards. Except – I unintentionally purchased completely different fabric! Wah-wah!

I thought I could make it work… but the stripes are all wrong and even Meredith (my precocious 6-year-old) studied me and said I looked like I should be selling popcorn. Argh…


In the past month, I’ve had a few instances in which I wanted to share something simple, quick, without requiring a full-fledged blog post. I decided to join Instagram… because people need to know more about my life? Whatever. Ego aside, I’ve added a little sidebar widget; I’m still tinkering and configuring that because I’m not crazy about the carousel setting. But if you’d like to glimpse the “smaller” goings-on, there it is.

FO: Blooming Crystals Bracelet

Some years ago, I’d wandered into the local Northfield bead shop, Glass Garden Beads. (They’ve since closed their physical shop and now are an exclusively online merchant.) I’m completely ignorant about beaded jewelry, having made only a couple of stringing projects previously, so I’m not sure what possessed me to buy an expensive kit for a hobby I knew nothing about.

I hung onto the kit for probably at least 5 years before daring to open it up. As far as beginner’s projects go, they did a really nice job with the directions and seemed to assume that the person putting together knew nothing about beads. The kit included thread, a needle, very explicit instructions, and enough beads to make a bracelet at least 1 inch longer than I actually needed.


Once I stop being intimidated, it was actually pretty easy to put together. I worked on it during sporadic lunch breaks over most of the year, but each individual segment actually did not take that long to create, I would guesstimate maybe 30 minutes per flower. I seem to have made the newbie mistake of running the thread too many times through the beads for reinforcement, the resulting bracelet seems a little bit stiffer side. I also had barely enough thread, probably from excessive knotting.

All that remained

I think it turned out really lovely. The flowers are made of Swarovski crystal beads, and they give the bracelet a nice heft, plus they’re very sparkly!


In the sunlight

Action shot – like I said, this was my lunch-break project

OK, so I was pretty dissatisfied about the quality of the above photos. Everyone raves about the iPhone camera, but it seems to distort faces and the colors are all meh.

Here I am trying again with my dSLR, I think the colors came out much more true to life.

FO: Flirt Skirt

As I’ve gotten older (lazier), I’ve come to appreciate crafting kits. Someone’s picked out a pattern and found the right fabric to go along with it? Terrific!

I’ve always loved maxi skirts, even as they came in and went out and came back into fashion (mmm, gettin’ old), but I especially love maxis with a little something extra. Last February, I splurged on Craftsy’s Flirt Skirt sew-a-long kit. This maxi, with its fishtail back, is a winner! It’s a simple pull-on skirt with an elasticated waist. The kit has been discontinued, but the pattern alone is here (NAYY). The fabric that came with the kit was Kaufman Essex Linen, a cotton/linen blend.

It is a little wrinkly here (after wearing all day at work, sorry), and it looks like I’m bending my knees weirdly under the skirt when I’m not. Never noticed that until the pictures, though.

The .pdf pattern was 13 pages to be cut and taped… Screw that nonsense, my time is better spent sewing, so I used Inkscape to stitch the .pdf back together into a giant sheet and had it printed at a local printers for another $10.

I actually made a toile of this pattern, included horizontal balance lines and everything. From that, I made 2 main changes to the pattern. The original pattern calls for the front to be cut on the fold, but I decided to add a center seam, redraw the grainline, and cut the front as 2 pieces. Also, 5-foot-4-inch me actually had to lengthen the skirt by 2 inches (I know!) for it to extend appropriately to almost-the-floor. I cut the pattern approximately in thirds and added an inch at each cut, blending the seams to a straight line.

One minor change – I made a low-bulk waistband following Pam Erny’s tutorial here. It’s not the most beautiful thing, but to my eye, it looks a little better than a full casing.

I’m not entirely sold on the pull-on skirt concept because the waist has to be the same size as the hips for it to work… Before I made this, I thought that the straight shape would look decent on someone like me (waist:hip ratio of >0.8), but now that I see it, I think it would look better with darts, a real waistband, and an invisible zipper on the side. Hm. Or maybe it could be made up in fabric with a little lycra in it, so that it can stretch over the hips and still snug up at the waist. Tuck those thoughts away for a future iteration, I guess.


I love walking in this skirt – it has a little swishy drama going on back there, but the best feature of the fishtail is actually that it doesn’t hamper my walking stride at all. Not that I take enormous steps or anything, but I hate feeling constrained by clothing, so I especially appreciate being able to walk freely in a long skirt.

Because maxis cover the shoes, I tend to wear boring flats with these kinds of skirts, but these specific shoes are worth mentioning because they are barefoot shoes – like the Vibram 5-finger type, only less freaky looking. Here’s a better view.

It feels sooo strange to walk in these, I can feel every pebble and cigarette butt on the sidewalk, I am extremely aware of how hard my heels pound when I walk, I feel bumps in the lawn and not only hear but also feel leaves crunching underfoot, etc. This particular pair is made of “vegan leather,” which traps moisture, plus the back bites into my Achilles tendon slightly, so I can’t wholeheartedly endorse these shoes; still, I like them overall. I suppose I won’t wear them when it gets very cold out, I don’t think I’d enjoy walking barefoot on icy sidewalks!

That’s all I have to say! Go make yourself one of these fun skirts! The full review is here.

Ten years

Today is a joyful day for me and Matt, it is our 10th wedding anniversary!

What’s happened in 10 years between the two of us?

  • Added 3 lovely daughters to our family
  • Said sad farewells to family, friends, and a pet
  • Bought a house, sold a house, bought a house
  • Changed jobs 3 times
  • Enjoyed pretty good health (no major medical anything)

OMG, how can I sum up 10 years in a few bullet points? No, you’re right, I can’t. It’s been a great life together, and I couldn’t imagine having a better partner (I mean, OK, maybe he could put away his shoes sometimes, ha ha). But we’ve stuck through thick and thin, good times and bad, and we’re still here, still happy, and still so damn glad to be married to each other.

I was a little shocked to see it’s been >2 months since I last posted. I have been SO. BUSY. AT. WORK. I don’t know what got into me, other than possibly guilt over taking a 2-week vacation in August, but I took on too many projects at once in Sept, which turned into a nightmarish slogathon of 50- to 60-hr work weeks that has not yet relented. (Yeah, I know some people work like that all the time [HI, MARCIA], but I have not been one of those people since I finished grad school.) The end is in sight, I think, but I have done nothing but cycle through ||:work and parenting and cleaning and sleeping:|| for what seems like forever.

With my oldest now in elementary school, we’ve had a lot of changes at home, too, including flexing my work hours to be at home when school is out and making up the lost work time on lunch hours/nights/weekends. We’re doing (relaxed, informal) homeschooling on top of regular school homework, and it has been challenging on multiple fronts. Teaching young ‘uns is a tough gig, no joke! Altogether, my current schedule of zero free time is starting to feel unsustainable to me, so I’m going to shake things up a bit and see how they settle out.

Hazards of living with little girls

Washed a dress with glued-on sequins at the wrong temperature – the sequins washed off the dress, but enough glue remained such that the these dots, temporarily liberated, successfully adhered to socks, dress shirts, underwear, and the dryer drum interior. They are impossible to remove now.

One daughter has a penchant for shredding books in her room when she’s supposed to be resting quietly. It’s been worse than what you see above – one morning, I looked in and thought the floor strongly resembled hamster bedding. Every few months, we ban books from her room, but they creep back in and then BAM, hamster nest.

This is the detritus of small children. When they are searching for a particular toy, look out, ‘cuz nothing is sacred. Of course, they lose interest in said toy about 45 seconds after they find it. Nothing motivates them to clean – not praise, threats, hugs, bribes, candy, yelling, adult help, clean-up songs – nothing. I’m at my wits’ end. When I absolutely can’t stand it anymore, I put half of it away and throw the other half away (take it to the trash or storage). They cry and tantrum as I toss out their stretched neon slinkies, lens-less kaleidoscopes, worn out glow sticks, and kids’ meal plastic crap toys, but they STILL don’t clean up. We’re doomed.

Clothing labels

These are the labels that I now use in many of the clothes that I sew.

The red mark is made with a Japanese hanko that I bought via ebay from an American living in Japan. (It is my name, if that wasn’t obvious.) Clothing size is printed using a metal stamp set that I think is intended to be used for stamping metal jewelry. My set is like this but also came with numbers.

The ink is set by the heat of an iron and seems pretty washfast. The cotton tape frays like mad if the ends aren’t tucked under or sealed.

I know I could have custom labels woven (um, if I really wanted 1,000 of them), but I really like the look of a hand-stamped label, it reminds me of old-school typewriters.

FO: Geranium dresses in triplicate

I finished the girls’ summer dresses last week! Aren’t they adorable?

The pattern is the Geranium dress by Made by Rae. The girls and I went to Joann Fabrics late last summer, they unanimously agreed on a popsicle print (a now-discontinued Lisette poplin in 100% cotton), even though I begged them to each pick out a different fabric.

I cut the pieces in August, but summer ended before I could sew anything up. I had somewhat anticipated the delay, so I cut size 4 dresses for Jordan and Casey and a size 6 for Meredith. (Yep, had to buy both versions of the patterns to get both sizes.) I am not experienced at pattern matching, so I tried to ensure only that I lined everything up horizontally.

Thanks to Deepika’s reviews of the dress (here and here), I knew I wanted to change the back to an invisible zipper. I followed the tutorial she recommended and cross-checked it against this tutorial, but I ended up with a weird bubble at the top of the zipper.

OK, I said I didn’t really attempt to match the pattern, but can you see how beautifully it accidentally lined up across the invisible zipper?

You can see it better if you look down from the top.

When the zipper is open, the 2 dress halves lay flat, so I knew it had to be the width of zipper pull itself that was forcing the fabric to buckle.

I checked in with Mrs Mole, who advised lowering the zipper and adding a hook-and-eye closure at the top, a standard solution that I have seen many times in RTW (I have a few dresses with that myself!). I mulled that suggestion over but could not force myself to do it because I have an intense (and admittedly irrational) hatred of hooks and eyes. I sought and found a different solution here. (Aside – I am so sad that Sherry no longer updates her blog. I learn so much from her tutorials!)

Yes, the zipper insertion process was time consuming, but I am very happy with the results! It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s a huge improvement over the earlier iteration.

Different dress than the one from above. See, popsicles not matching vertically at all. Think anyone will notice?

Now it will lay flat against the back neck.

Here’s a view of the inside.

Aside from changing the back of the dress, I also did a minor modification of the hem. Instead of machine stitching across, I pulled out my blindhemmer and put in an invisible hem. You can’t see it here, but the hem has a lot of skipped stitches. I ordered some new needles, hopefully that will fix the problem.

OK, the girls loved their dresses (and bragged that their mom made them to anyone who would listen) but were unhappy about posing for pictures.

But then I promised them jelly beans (on a Sunday morning, before breakfast!) if they would do a silly dance for me.

Candy bribes FTW!

The full pattern review is here.

Embarrassment of riches

It’s my 40th birthday today. Good. Now that’s out of the way.

I’m buried in work this week. But I’m OK with that, too. I like editing grants, even though they typically require twice as much work in half as much time, because if they bring outside money into the institution, how can it be a bad thing?

My health is good. My family is around me and loving. My 16-year-old diabetic cat is still alive. I remain giddily happy about the house we bought last year. I’m looking forward to eating dinner tonight and having a slice of pie.

And, for those know their vintage sewing machines, in the past month-ish, I am suddenly the happy owner of a Bernina 830 Record (paperwork indicates the first owner purchased it in 1977), a Bernina 1030 (circa late 1980s?), and a Husqvarna 6460 (paperwork indicates first purchase in 1979).

This is gonna be an awesome year.