Streams of consciousness, about my mama

I spent a little time updating my About section today and though I tried to keep it focused on the theme of this site, on sewing and working with others, I kept talking about my mom. I can hardly think of sewing without becoming nostalgic. It all comes back to my mom, to wanting to know all the things she knows, do all the things she knows how to do. Every object she touched, cared for or made was better for it. I remember thinking that she knew everything, in the best way. I wanted to be able to do that, too. She made being smart, knowledgeable and fastidious the bar by which I set my life goals. Learn to do something new, learn it well, build on it. She taught me to sew on the same machine she’d made my baby clothes on.

A few years ago I found a Kenmore Zig-Zagger of my own. It just felt like the right machine. I told her I was interested in finding a Singer Featherweight and after she and my stepdad found one at auction, she wanted one of her own. Now we both have Kenmores and both have featherweights and spend 70% of our calls talking about our current projects in progress.

Satchel Featherweight.jpg

I visited home for a few days last month over my birthday and we began a collaborative project; she’s been picking up hand-embroidery and I asked if she would be willing to do something for me. I thread traced out the shirt front piece of my favorite shirt pattern. We found images online to start creating the motifs and she gave me guidance on what would work and what wouldn’t. She walked me through the transfer process and making sure the embroidery would sit in the right place on the body. I love the finished shirt so much! Even in the planning stages I knew this would be an heirloom and started thinking about what I would do if/when I no longer want to wear the shirt. I want to preserve this object that we both handled so much, that bears our labor of love.

She’s precious and I love her and I am so grateful she’s my mama.


Me-Made May 2019, my pledge and plan

The Super 101, how does fiber become fabric?

The Super 101, how does fiber become fabric?

Over on So, Zo… Zoe’s shared out her Me-Made May pledge. I don’t usually write down my commitment to #MeMadeMay, I wear me-made clothing every day. It’s my normal. It’s gotten to the point that those around me either expect or cannot tell that I am wearing “homemade” clothing. Occasionally I have shared snippets about the way sewing machines work, specific garment constructions or finishes, industrial textiles and finally, textiles analysis. This year, I want that to be my focus.

I, Sarah Jane, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2019. I endeavour to share insights and peeks behind the home sewing and textiles curtain 3x/week and continue wearing my robust memade wardrobe during May 2019.
It is my great joy to share learning with others, empower them to believe in their creative and imaginative power. Sewing is magic but not a mystery!

Come see me on Instagram as May approaches and rolls along. I’ll share behind-the-seams excitement throughout the month.

Making a mala, jasper, lava and citrine with a cotton tassle, also made by me.

Making a mala, jasper, lava and citrine with a cotton tassle, also made by me.

Changing in place

Consumables of life.

Consumables of life.

Chag Sameach! We are halfway into Hanukkah this year and so much has happened lately that I needed to put it down on paper. You know what I mean.

First, we’re not moving! I’ve been craving a move for a long while and felt really ready to move to a new house at the end of our lease this year. We talked about it as a family and decided to move. We even started talking about possibly buying a house. For years I’ve lobbied against us owning a house, I don’t want the responsibility for all that can go wrong. But I started thinking about our golden years and having no equity…

I began to obsessively scroll Zillow, calculating mortgages and savings rates and what we could safely and responsibly manage. I favorited homes and even attended an open house. I made an appointment to learn about our options for a mortgage through our credit union. I am a deep diver, I soak up information like a thirsty sponge and then I am able to finally see the full picture and feel confident about my decision making.

Christmas is coming and we are traveling East to be with my family. We’ll take J to NYC and eat bagels, see art, the big tree and all the decorated windows. We are mostly covered for gifts for J but we would both like to give her an experience, too. Mike thought maybe other travel together.

Then our friends in Hawaii put out a call for help on their house building project. Could we do it? What about timing? Cost? How long could we go? It wouldn’t be a good trip to bring J on. How does it line up with my teaching schedule and Mike’s…

Mike’s job. Mike has begun the process of transitioning out of his role at his current company. We don’t know what he is doing next but he can’t keep doing what he’s been doing.

I was spinning. I was making inquiries on all sorts of possibilities, 3 different trips, Mike’s change in income, moving. I couldn’t see it working. I can’t see it working. One night after J was in bed I laid it all out for Mike, how much I want this job change to go well, for us to be able to roll with the changes but that we can’t do all the things at the same time.

So we are not moving.

Olive paw

Olive paw

I don’t think I could have handled the conversation even a month ago. My depression has been slowly creeping into all aspects of my life. So slow and insidious that I did not realize it was really happening. I wrote it off as stress, too many things going on, work stress, busyness. For months. I have been losing interest in… everything. I’ve not been sewing or interested in making things. Whatever motivation I had was used up in getting life done; groceries, bills, work, sleep, showering.

A couple of weeks ago I visited my doctor and we decided to makes some changes to my meds. I hoped only to blunt the worst of the thoughts, I didn’t see anything more than that as even possible; I could not be happier to be wrong. A couple of weeks in, the changes are coming and I have some kind of clarity again. Life isn’t magically better but I don’t see us stuck in a rut of never-ending mediocrity. Where nothing is ever as good as it used to be. I can see now how far I was sliding.

morning sunrise en route to bus stop.jpg
pocket designs.jpg

The first signs of better days came in the form of a beautiful sunrise on the way to the bus stop and a days-long obsession with pocket forms. Being able to see beauty, beauty that brings me to a stand-still, well… it’s been an awful long time.

Sewing projects have felt like obligations. For the first time in months I want to make something for the pleasure of the details. I missed this.

So we’re not moving but we are changing. And staying in the same place.

What saves us, savings and spending

I wrote this in the midst of chaotic emotions as a means to cope. I am grateful that I did not publish it before. I've edited some of the harshness away, I don't feel those feelings anymore. We have absorbed the experience and in some ways it's made our communication better, clearer, less emotional. It's so easy to be emotional about money and responsibility for me. I do want to share the experience though. Financial health is a great elephant in the room for our culture. Despite all the self-help books, course and guidance, we don't speak easily about our finances, how we manage them and what happens when things go wrong. 


From February:

Today my family returned from a weekend away where we enjoyed an escape from the Superbowl hubub, stayed in a fancy hotel and vacationed in our own Midwestern backyard. What better way to bask in our homecoming than dig into some financial housekeeping? 

A bill collector called while we were away, saying we were overdue on a store-based credit card. I was indignant, I handle our finances with a scrupulous eye, catalogue each bill and payment meticulously, keep us paid up and ahead of our needs. The collector was calling about a card in my husband’s name so I got all of the info, logged in and started digging. I was shocked. I learned that not only have we NOT been paying the debt down, it skyrocketed in October when the promotional period expired. The initial debt was made on an limited term offer. 

I had NO IDEA we owed so much. The current balance is higher than the total purchases ever made on the card. When the promo period ended the total interest was added onto the principal and the payments I had been making were no longer even covering the interest. Digging through months of statements I was fuming, ready to call the company and rail at them to cut the interest, remove charges, file for fraud. As I dug deeper though it became clear...the fault was ours. My husband’s actually. He had not paid attention to the terms or that they were ending. He wasn't the one paying the bill. I was mortified, embarrassed that this has happened despite my close monitoring. I was embarrassed I couldn’t talk my way out. I was horrified that we owed nearly twice as much on this card as I believed we did.

I should insert here that shortly into our marriage my husband and I had a come-to-the-river conversation about finances; we would never dig out of debt if I did not take over our finances. And so I did. I hate the feeling of responsibility for our total family, the feeling of holding purse strings, of “allowing” each of us to spend or not spend money. We do not see eye to eye on all financial things but that’s exactly the problem that led us here; I am goals-driven with finances, my husband is comfort-driven. The end goal is the same, a happy and comfortable life, the means of getting there are different.  

My husband had to attend a work event when we got home and I discovered the extent of this debt alone. I did not know how I would address it when he came home but knew it could not wait. I couldn't hide my distress and just moments after he walked in the door it all came pouring out. I told him how angry I was; angry that I was on the hook for thousands of dollars, angry that so much of the debt came from simple lack of awareness, that my faith in his honesty, in his investment in our financial health had been severely shaken.  

I cried and shook when I told him. I told him about my anger, my embarrasment, my fear. I did not apologize. I did not tell him it was going to be ok. He was embarrassed and apologetic and made no excuses. I don’t have a neat, tidy, happy ending to share.

We’d been making so many plans to spend money; travel, replacing and upgrading things in need. We replaced our cars and phones this year. We had plans to travel to with friends in April and I told my husband that we can’t go. I wrote our friends and made our apologies and hoped painfully they’d not made any investment in the trip yet. 

I know we will get through it, that this won’t change our ability to get to work, feed ourselves or pay critical bills but it hurts. I want so badly to believe that we’ll wake up tomorrow feeling as confident in each other as before this came to light. But it is going to take time.  

**Update, June 2018**

Now, several months later the pain of discovery and my fears have abated. We have healthier, more frequent conversations about money. I am the one doing the math and sending payments but I no longer feel so much like I'm holding the purse strings. We have adjusted plans. We talk in more detail and frequency about where our money is going. It's still a work in progress. But we are working on it together. 



Minimalist lust

I go through bursts of enthusiasm for different things; new ideas take over and I obsess about them, search them out, read blogs, forage through Pinterest, create new boards, collect ideas until I somehow, some way, satiate that desire and it gently tapers off. Though I have many of these idea bursts going on concurrently I find they all last different intervals and some seem to just while away as life marches on, ebbing and flowing and not really knocking off. 

So it is with minimalism. 

Whenever I develop one of these new obsessions I, at some point, dig into why I want so very badly to know all that I can lay my eyes and hands upon about it. Frequently it is the need for newness, for stimulation and inspiration. And sometimes it is more about a desperate desire for control and calm in my life. Minimalism calls to this ongoing, burning exploration of what I have made of my life and what I really want from it. I am drawn to the perceived simplicity, the financial freedom, the clean homes, streamlined wardrobes... but I sew. And I love antiques. And I have no control over the material-loving hearts of my family. 

I lust for a tiny house with streamlined belongings, roaming wherever we choose to go. Parking in Julia's future neighborhood for extended visits while we snowbird our retirement away. More travel, more family, less house cleaning, less cold weather trapping us indoors. I daydream about capsule wardrobes and how to fulfill my maker heart while also cutting out my over-productive, stuff-creation down. 

How is it that learning and experiencing, for creators and makers, must be so stuff-intensive? What can we do to reduce our consumption, our impact and still unwrap the boundless joy of making and creativity? 

Time for a change

It's been a while and as the summer kicks into high gear I am dusting off and shaking out my site. It's a time for change! More changes to the blog and site coming soon but in the mean time...

We live in a neighborhood in NE Minneapolis that has been under substantial construction this summer. The streets have been torn up, sidewalks blasted apart, intersections an explosion of rules and expectations. 

the chaos in progress

the chaos in progress

One night, the gas meter man came knocking. On our window. During dinner. It was time to move our gas meter outside of the house. And time to pack up my sewing space to make room for the work to happen. 

Travesty? No! Opportunity! I've been wanting to have 360 access to my main cutting table for some time now. Now's the time to re-assess my needs to space, storage, access to electricity. My arrangments of resources. I also have a few challenges to contend with. Here's one, her name's Olive. 

this is Olive

this is Olive

I'm looking for inspiration. For ideas. For help. My alloted sewing space measures about 7' x 10'. A blessedly fixed and permanent space I can use as I see fit. What are your must-haves? What are the things you hate the most in a craft space? The hunt is on!


<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

The pendulum swing of minimalism?

"I cannot control anything outside myself."
-Jon Jandai

I've been thinking a lot about minimalism. In style, in food, in life, in my home. The urge to purge is strong with this one. I cannot control the possessions of my family. I cannot control the environment and utilization of space and resources in my work office. I can control my own belongings, my personal spaces at home and at work.

I love small spaces. Efficient design. Paired down and focused collections of needed things.

I do not love cleaning, de-cluttering and having to pick up every day. I do not like chores, crowded surfaces, closets and messy spaces.

I am inspired by popular TED talks, books and blogs on reducing, de-cluttering, having and buying only what you need and love, what is beautiful and brings you joy. I listen to talks about living in smaller spaces, reducing the amount of space you need, the money it takes to maintain it, how living smaller means reducing stress, being more free.

I cannot help but feel like I am riding an emotional pendulum and the swing is bound to reverse. I start having visions of Bladerunner, Fifth Element, Ready Player One and other crowded visions of the future. I see humans packed in side by side, having less but somehow, somehow, consuming more. Being more. Taking up more space, creating more humans, tipping the ecological scales toward ruination with sheer volume, mass, hoards.

And I wonder, when will the minimalist trend slip from lofty goal (freedom, space, health, opportunity) to opportunity for condensed consumption (sardine living, destroyed ecology, fewer opportunities, overwhelming choice)?

Do you ever... just try it?

Sewing takes a lot of planning. If you don't know your order of operations ahead of time it's hard to make a beautiful, well-constructed garment, regardless of style. Working with a new pattern, for me, regularly requires pattern adjustments and muslins. As much as I love sewing I sometimes get stumped and lose motivation when those challenges stand between me and making a garment I want to wear.

My Pinterest boards are full of ideas for now and future garments. Lately I've been crushing on Eileen Fisher and minimalist style garments.I think a lot of it has to do with the season. Wearing fitted bodices makes me want a wardrobe change before I've even come home from work. I've been craving more A-line and cocoon like silhouettes. 

The silhouettes are clean and easy to wear. Looking ahead to winter I see them as great layering pieces with leggings and tights. And man-o-man are they quick to sew up! All of which has led me to crave details. Elegant solutions to necessary design features.

Clockwise from the top left: my favorite keyhole back I've seen, from Straight Stitch Designs, apron-style pockets insets at the waist instead of the side seam from Sew Different's coccon jacket tutorial, a bib front and cuffed sleeve on Merchant & Mills The Dress Shirt and a last, a popover placket tutorial from Craftsy. Incorporating details like these into my tried-and-true patterns gives me a chance expand my skill set with a little bit of a safety net.

This weekend I worked through 3 separate dresses, a bodice muslin and a pair of knickers. Yay holiday weekend sewing! I'm slowly whittling away at my mental to-do list, which seems to grow at the same rate that I knock things off!

One of my favorite makes of the weekend is this simple, black twill  t-shirt dress. I used my TNT t-shirt pattern a while ago to start experimenting with a-line silhouettes and t-shirt dress shapes. Now it was time to try some new things. I worked in the popover placket and apron-style pockets at the waist line. For both I followed the direction pretty closely of the above mentioned tutorials.

The pockets were so easy and satisfying! The assembly is essentially the same as any in-seam pocket construction. I serged all of my edges before assembling and sewing together was a breeze.

The placket was one of those things that made not a lot of sense while looking at the tutorial but I had a feeling would be easy to follow along and learn by doing. So easy! I would make the tail a bit longer next time so that I might make a neater, prettier tab at the end.

I can't wait to make this same configuration in another color, maybe a print! Such a good opportunity for color blocking! Or a contrast pocket lining. Or a contrasting/complementing placket. Excited to try it all again soon!

Getting Engaged, what a trip

In November I experienced the fascinating transition from living-together-couple status to engaged couple status. The proposal itself was pretty low-key. I had an inkling of what was coming when Mike asked to borrow some money and didn’t want to pony up any of the reasons. He finally spit something out about working with my mom on something followed by a quick, “Now don’t ask any more questions!” On the night of the proposal he asked me to make dinner for him (he does most of the cooking in our house) and we were having a nice time sitting together when he got up and shuffled around in his messenger bag. He came back to the table with a goofy look on his face and I made some lascivious comment about getting to touch him now and he said, “Nope, now it’s time for you to say yes or no!”

We spent the evening sucking on cough drops (both of us were under the weather) and giggling and poking each other and day dreaming about what we wanted our wedding to look like. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing and saying, “You want to marry me!” Much joy and giddiness. As we daydreamed I learned that there is no end to getting to know someone. I wanted a small wedding, he wanted big. I wanted no bridal party, he wanted us to have a bunch of folks stand up with us. He wants a tux. I don’t want to wear white. On and on. Some things were surprises and some I expected. It was fascinating to hear about these things since we’d really not talked about any of it before. I asked him why that was and he replied, “You can’t give all of your cards away, you’ve gotta play some of them close to the chest.” What a funny response and what an accurate portrayal of parts of our relationship. I don’t know that we will ever know everything about each other but I look forward to learning as much as we can.

The best part of all of it? We get to be funny old people together! Almost immediately I wanted to start calling him my husband but first we have a few things to take care of. Like deciding who to tell first, and how. And we get to plan this big party.

One our watercolor rainbow splash invites. These were a lot of fun to plan and design!

As joyous as our engagement is, it comes with the necessity to share our news sensitively. Mike was married before and J’s mom will always be part of  our life. I’ve invested a lot in having a good relationship with her. As we discussed sharing news of our engagement J’s mom was second on the list. (J was first!) We didn’t want her finding out from our kid or on some social media site. Mike shared our news and once we knew that she knew we were able to share with the rest of our family. Like my mom.

As it turns out, I hardly needed to tell my mom. I learned that my mom and Mike worked together to have my ring made. My mom lives in NJ, we’re in MN. When Mike asked about any family rings my mom offered up the stones from a ring that my father had given her. The ring was a gift purchased when my dad won a pretty penny in the lottery. Having something sentimental is bigger for me than anything. My mom has a jeweler friend who helped turn the old ring into a new one with all three of them in cahoots unbeknownst to be. When I called my mom the day after the proposal she heaved a huge sigh of relief. She’d sent the ring via certified mail and Mike had been so full of nerves waiting for it to arrive that he couldn’t wait to give it to me, thus the casual at-home proposal. We talked a lot about how sneaky they’d been.

I sent a picture to my best friend with the question, “Want to go for a manicure tomorrow?” and the rest we mostly let happen as people “noticed” things. I look forward to sharing some of the oddness that is being an engaged couple. Like how everyone wants to know about the ring and how big it is. Or how much you plan to spend on the wedding. Or the questions, the constant questions, about what the wedding will be like. What about the marriage? The wedding is a day, a big party and a lot of money. With the wonderful goal and result of actually being married. When I’ll be able to actually call him my husband. And in the words of our kiddo, “Now you’ll be my real stepmom!”

Closet cleaning when you live la vida handmade

I feel a nearly unending desire to create. I draw, paint, organize, fabric shop, garment doodle, project plan and dream. I am a prolific sewist. I can create a new dress in a day, sometimes two and frequently have multiple projects in works. My to-do list is long and purposeful. At some point... my closet simply cannot keep up. 

My closet is packed to the gills. If I want to keep making, some things must go. I feel peculiar about simply donating my dresses to charity and thrift shops. As a plus-size sewist I know that my creations are a rarity. As a vintage-loving lady I know that thrift shops are where plus-size clothing goes to die. I don't want my dresses to die. And so, I consign, I sell and I instagram. 

This summer I also had the chance to participate in a vintage yardsale with a host of other vintage-loving Minnesota folks. I confess I was nervous about including my dresses. I felt very confident of bringing my hats, purses, jewelry and fabric. I felt confident that the pieces I loved so much and that had such size-neutral appeal would go quickly. I felt unsure that any fat woman would come to the sale. I felt unsure that any fat woman would be as large as I feel. I was shocked. 

I mocked up my sale table and felt great about my presentation. I am organized and have an eye for style. I have a good sense of space, composition and balance. I balanced out my rack of me-made garments with some amazing Lilly Pullitzer dresses I had found for a steal...

And here is how the day went: I sold a couple of hats. No bags. A little fabric. No jewelry. I sold HALF of my own dresses. I sold none of the true vintage clothing I'd brought. I was stunned. And tickled. One of the women who tried on my dresses came back from the dressing room with a dress clutched to her chest. I smiled and asked how it went? She smiled a timid smile and nearly whispered, "It fit perfectly..." Like the truth was delicate and fragile and speaking any louder would break the words and make them untrue.

Hearing that and seeing women try my clothing on made me feel like I was filling a void; I made them feel pretty, included, attractive and special. They found things there were special, that fit, that stood out from the oversized prints, patterns and shapes of modern plus-sized clothing. It made me want to go home and keep sewing.