Friday, August 7, 2020

Sewing and Weight Loss

This is a topic that I didn't really think much about until it came up on Gillian of The Sewcialists Instagram feed. She was asking for people's tips on sewing for a changing body, meaning how to sew if you are getting larger, and I sent her a message telling her my experience in the opposite direction. Shortly after this is when everything with Covid19 got really crazy, and I completely forgot to send her my blurb, but the idea stuck with me and I decided to post about it here. So if this isn't your thing, I give you permission to skip this one :)

Over the last year, I have lost 55 pounds. It started as not having any appetite due to stress last July - I found out my husband was cheating on me. Before that point, I had reached the largest I had ever been due to OTHER stress - I was in the process of adopting twin infant girls and for a while I was lucky to eat anything, let alone anything that was remotely healthy. Previous to the girls I had dealt with my husband's drug addiction for years of relapses and rehab, and food was my only comfort. When everything went down between my husband and me in July, I weighted 225 lbs and I was miserable. I had several health problems that were weight related, plus my weight had always been something I was very self conscious about given that I have been plus sized for most of my adult life, meaning despite my best efforts to remain "body positive" my physical looks self esteem was very low. When I stopped wanting to eat for about a month due to depression and stress brought on by the early process of divorce, I decided I was going to try and make the best of the situation and use it as a boost to finally lose the weight that doctors had tried to get me to lose for 10 years. After the initial month of not eating much, I did it all the healthy way. I became super vigilant about what I ate and kept track of my calories/proteins/sugars/fats/etc. I started exercising regularly several months ago. I have now managed to lose 55 lbs and I am still going (now I'm more focused on toning things up than losing weight, but that's a different story.
It's very strange to see these two photos side by side. In my mind, I still look the same, but photos don't lie. Gosh, it's bizarre to think that's me.
Me at my largest - I stopped buying clothing at a size 18, but I believe I reached a US size 20. This was April 2019. I believe my measurements were 43" bust, 42" waist, 50" hip, but I was not able to sew in that time and some things were tight, so it could be slightly higher numbers than that.

So what does this mean for my sewing? Well, anyone that had followed my blog once upon a time (back when I was still making things to show), they will possibly now understand the drastic decline in my sewing output over the past 2 years. I had been on a steady weight gain for the past 10 years, gaining much faster over 2018. Many of the things I had sewn when I first started making my own clothes in 2014 no longer fit me and I had sized out of even some of the things I made in 2017. I was so exhausted with suddenly being the caregiver of 2 adorable but drug addicted infants PLUS working full time PLUS trying to keep my house clean,etc PLUS dealing with the ramifications of my then-husband's addiction PLUS things being more strained between us and finding out he had someone else. I didn't even factor my size or eating habits or health into the equation - there was just no time or mental space for it. But it did mean that I had to buy my clothing since I sized out of my clothes and didn't have time to make any more. I made very few things in 2018 as a result.

Once I noticed my body getting smaller in about September of 2019, I started making small alterations. I lucked out since I tend to pack things away in hopes of being able to wear them again one day, plus I love to thrift shop, so I supplemented my wardrobe as best I could at the time with preowned clothes. I altered the burgundy skirt you see in the 2020 photo above and took 5 inches out (I now have to take it in again). My other makes are sitting in a box anxiously waiting for me to either alter them down or to donate them to be appreciated by someone else. I've wanted to sew SO BADLY for the past 2.5 years, but even once my girls started to be less stressful and time consuming, I was losing weight and didn't want to make things only to have them not fit a month or so later. I am still stuck in that limbo. I wish I could sew clothes, but aside from a few holiday makes I have not sewn anything for me to wear. I do still knit, just going down from the size I previously was making since knits tend to be fairly forgiving and I enjoy making sweaters. I've also been tackling several old non-clothing projects (bags, a quilt, an apron, etc - to be blogged soon!), but clothing is my real love and I've enjoyed planning what I want to make once my size levels out. I'm hoping that will be soon, but I have certain goals I want to hit before I stop and who knows what size I will be by then.

My advice on sewing for a changing body? Avoid designs with side seam pockets. My Melissa Skirt was the greatest example of a perfect design for altering. I just unpicked the top stitching, sewed the side seams in as far as I needed, serged off the excess, then redid the top stitching. I haven't done this to anything with side seam pockets simply because it's so much more of a hassle. Also I'm still pretty surprised at how forgiving elastic waists can be, even when going smaller. Almost all of my elastic waist skirts still fit me reasonably well. Also t-shirts are a very simple alteration as long as the shoulder width hasn't changed much. You can just start at the hem and sew all the way up the side including the sleeve. Very easy. 

Anyone else out there having any big physical changes? How has it effected your sewing? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Mending: Shoe Repair!

As a person who 1) can sew, and 2) is cheap, I have developed quite the personal pride in being able to fix my belongings that I use regularly if something goes awry. Usually this means I patch holes in clothings and whatnot, but I'm also no stranger to fixing my shoes. In previous years, that has always meant various types of glue - e6000 and ShoeGoo are favorites - but this time, it required a bit more sewing prowess to make some of my favorite shoes wearable again.

Back in March of April, I noticed the little elastic pieces holding the buckles on my beloved SoftSpots Huaraches had stretched out and lost its elastic. This didn't prevent the shoes from fastening, but it made the buckling process a major headache and made the shoes loose enough on my narrow feet to be annoying and I stopped wearing them. While I was at home during quarantine in about May, I decided to finally buckle down and fix my comfy shoes that went with everything. Luckily, I had already purchased the 1/4" wide elastic from Hobby Lobby before the elastic raze happened, so I had everything on hand to get this done.
I started with the broken right shoe of my black pair. I used my seam ripper to carefully unpick the top stitching beneath the elastic - I then had to use the seam ripper to separate the outer leather from the inner layer as it was glued together. I used the old elastic piece to cut a new one, put the buckle on, shoved the excess elastic into the shoe, and then worked on top stitching the new piece in place. I was careful to stitch through the same holes that were already in the leather to keep it clean looking. 
I repeated the same process for the white pair - I had to fix both shoes here. Sadly, I only had the off white colored heavy duty button thread and didn't realize this pair used all white, so once I got it stitched back in place I was slightly bummed, until I buckled it up like it would be worn:
And as you can see - the color of the top stitching thread is a complete non-issue once the shoes are put on and buckled :) 
So I was able to salvage 2 pairs of my regularly worn shoes all by myself with just a little sewing knowledge and some elastic and thread :) I was pretty pleased with myself. I've worn these shoes at least once a week since fixing them and the repair has held up great, even without redoing the glue between the layers. This is why I love leather shoes - it's a material that will last and therefor it is worth the effort to fix them when they break. This little fix saved me a couple hundred bucks, honestly. How can you argue with that?

So I hope this helps inspire others to try their own shoe repairs in the future. If it's not something you want to tackle, why not go to a shoe repair shop? The repairs are usually very affordable and then you keep using good shoes instead of them ending up pin a landfill somewhere. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Watercolor Painting: Supplies and How To Buy Them

So, if you've been around for a while, you may know that I've been very into watercolor painting the past few years. It started with casually watching videos on Creativebug, which lead to me buying a bunch of cheap supplies from Chinese eBay stores thinking I was so smart to beat the system on expensive supplies. I quickly learned that I wasted that money, lol. Friends, I'm the cheapest person alive and I never spend money on the name brand fancy products because I can always thrift or deal shop or just wait patiently and I will always find things much cheaper than I should. Watercolor painting is the first hobby that has proved this mindset wrong for me. Sure, my paint "painted", my brushes "brushed", and my paper was "paper", but it really solidified how much my supplies were working against me when I did the 31 Flowers to Paint with Yao Cheng daily challenge in 2017. My colors didn't mix well and usually looked unnatural, my paper buckled like crazy causing pools of water that ruined many a flower, my brushed never seemed to hold enough water so I would have to re-wet them all the time, which get annoying very fast. Not only was I trying something new that I had zero confidence in to begin with, but my materials were causing my results to turn out much worse than they needed to. Halfway through that challenge, I bought the Kuretake Gansai Tambi 48 Watercolor Set and some Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor Paper, which definitely helped me finish the challenge but both still had limitations of their own. It seemed that no matter what, I was not going to be able to get super far with the supplies I had purchased, and since I wasn't getting the results I hoped for, I stopped painting for a time. 

Fast forward about a couples of years. It was my birthday and I had recently become obsessed with Josie Lewis, a watercolor painter and all around awesome artist you should check out. She released a custom watercolor set, and since it was my birthday I justified the splurge. Friends, this seems to have opened the art supplies flood gates for me. The paints were fine - I loved the colors - but again, I just wasn't getting the results I saw others getting in the online classes I watched and whatnot. SO, I decided to take the leap into professional grade watercolors like they used in these classes. I started off with the Daniel Smith Introductory Set of 6, which was great, and then grabbed the Daniel Smith Secondary Set, and the rest is history...
I am now a collector of watercolor paints and supplies, lol. And it's the nice stuff. Since making the jump to the professional grade, I've never once wished that my supplies could be just a little bit better or easier to work with. Between the various introductory sets I've grabbed to try out different brands (SchminckeDaniel SmithWinsor & NewtonSennelier, etc, etc), I've jumped WAY in to this rabbit hole. I love the Meeden Palettes you can get on Amazon - they are great quality for a great price - and it just feels so fancy to be making my own pans of watercolor from tube paints. I'm still as cheap as possible, so I love to buy the bigger tubes (which makes them more economical in the long run, plus watercolor paint lasts seriously forever) from Blick.com or Amazon - these sites can be great for sets as well like the ones linked above. I price compare between the two places on anything I am interested in buying. I have an "Art Stuff" list on Amazon, where I save things I am interested in buying so I can easily check the prices to see if anything has dropped. This has paid off incredibly for me and I was able to get a set of Sennelier paints for next to nothing. I also love to get my Winsor & Newton colors at  my local Hobby Lobby when it's a color they have in store since you can use the constant 40% off coupon on them, making that the cheapest way to buy them. I also recently discovered how much cheaper Jackson's Art is on Schmincke paints. It's such an amazing difference that it's even worth paying the shipping from the UK and you still get the paints cheaper, plus they have a better selection. Thanks to various YouTube artists I watch regularly and my obsession with getting the best deal, I have been able to try most of the main brands on the market, and my current mixed palette is quite the combination. Collecting watercolor supplies has turned into a separate hobby by itself, lol. So in this time that I have not been sewing clothes, and therefor not spending money on supplies for that hobby, I have replaced it with watercolor paint supplies. 
Word to the wise - until August 7th, Jackson's Art is running a sale on their Schmincke paints. They are already about half the price we get in the US, and now there's an additional discount on top of that, plus there are some new limited editions colors I have yet to see from any of the other online stores and they are on sale too. I just made an order myself on a few colors I've been dying to try but haven't been able to justify the almost $30 per tube I would have to pay in the US. I also grabbed some White Nights tubes (for $3.32 each!) and Aquarius pans because you cannot buy them in the states at all and I've heard they are great. Overall, Jackson's is looking to be another favorite store of mine for certain things. 
So now that I've written an entire post about shopping for watercolors, I'm curious: is anyone interested in more info about watercolors in general? I have amassed a lot of different brands and information that I would be happy to pass on through reviews and whatnot. If you're interested in learning watercolor painting, I cannot recommend the classes on Creativebug enough and they have a promotion right now where you can get 3 months for $5. You can't beat that, and all of the watercolor classes are great (I know, I've watched them all). I'm redoing the flower painting 31 day challenge throughout July for World Watercolor Month now that I have better supplies and more experience. So far the results are much improved :)

I've thrown a lot of affiliate thinks out there, but please know that every single one of these things I've linked is a product that I have purchased with my own money and enjoy so much that I want to share it with others. If you're anything like me with learning to paint with watercolor, my advice would be to skip the student grade and cheaper products and just try to get the professional grade supplies at the best price possible. You will be much happier with your progress because your tools won't be fighting against you. And please, if you have any questions about supplies, don't hesitate to ask and I will try to point you in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

FO: Copycat Jaywalker Socks

This is a sock knitting tale of epic proportions (for me) (as much as a sock knitting tale could be, I guess, lol). But first, let's start by gawking at some pretty cool socks...
This project started years and years ago when I saw this project by Shilao on Ravelry. I saw it in passing and thought it was a super cute color combo. Then when I saw Knit Picks was having a sale on their Felici sock yarn and this colorway was part of the sale, this project officially came into existence. Knit Picks is a great yarn company that I've bought from for years, but at the time they were discontinuing their Felici yarn and selling it off. That was back in 2017 and happily they have brought their Felici yarn back since then, but since it seemed the yarn would be no more and I had always hear people sing its praises, I bought a bunch of different colorways for my stash. This is the Jamboree colorway. The original inspiration used the Jamboree and Salt Water Taffy colorways, but I knew this pattern would still look cute with only the one colorway. Anyway, I happened to have Cascade Heritage in Dark Plum on hand, so this pair of socks was born.
I started knitting these in February of 2018. At first, all was well. I knitted the ankle of the first sock, used my beloved Smooth Operator Socks pattern for the heel to keep the stripe pattern uninterrupted (I also used this for the toe), and then continued knitting down the foot. I was almost to the toe of the first sock when I tried it on ... and realized that the double decrease that makes the chevron pattern put a line of bumps directly down the center of the bottom of my foot. It wasn't outlandishly painful or anything, but it was a bit uncomfortable to walk on. I knew this would be a problem with wearing these, so I made the decision to pull out the entire foot of the sock and try again with making the bottom of the foot plain. This took some finagling of the pattern. I thought I had it figured out, but honestly I was always just trying things on the go since this was my take along project for a while and I never sat down to really count the stitches and decide the best course of action. So I knitted along, got to the same part just before the toe, tried it on ... and I had been subtly decreasing the entire foot :/ As in now the sock was too tight. This was a rookie mistake and I should have known, but even so I had to pull it out AGAIN and reknit the foot. This third time, I figured out that on one side of the upper foot I was decreasing, so on the opposite side I had to increase to compensate. This made the sock stay the same size, but it caused the design to spin around the foot, lol. In the end, I figured no one would notice it but me, so I just kept knitting and finished the sock. I DID NOT want to pull it out yet again. I doubt anyone will see it when I wear the socks anyway. But now that I tell you, I'm sure you will see it in the photos.
For the second sock, I figured it out before I started knitting the foot. What a novel idea, right? I'm a lazy knitter, what can I say. So the second sock basically turned out perfectly, while the first sock actually leans to one side when it's not on a foot, lol. I'm just happy that the chevron design stands out like it does, which I think hides my little adjustment, which looks like this:
When I noticed that the pattern was swirling, I had to compensate to prevent the pattern from ending up on the bottom of my foot again, so I moved the decrease over every other line as I went for a time. One of the times I moved the decrease, I went one stitch too far and I wound up with an odd little jog in the line of decreases. Again, I had ripped this out enough times and it wasn't bad enough for me to rip it out again. It's on the side of my foot. I will be the only person seeing it. Done is better than perfect!
Lol eventually on the swirling sock, the pattern did wrap to the bottom of the foot a little. It's no big deal, folks. The socks are finished. I do love the stripes of this yarn though and they look so clean on the bottom of the foot. This yarn is also very soft - more soft than their Stroll yarn, which I have knit before as well. 

So that's my copycat pair of socks :) Socks are one of those things that I enjoy making in theory but really aren't super practical for this Floridian life. I will definitely make more in the future thought. I'm up to 4 pairs now, I think. Not a shabby representation for a knitter. Now I have another cuddly soft pair of socks for the few months when it's chilly enough to want to wear them to bed! Yay, socks!

Summary:
Yarn: 1.6 skeins Knit Picks Felici yarn in Jamboree - $7.68, 19 grams Cascade Heritage in Italian Plum - $4.95
Pattern: Jaywalker by Grumperina - Free
Time: 2 years, 4 months
Total Cost: $ 12.63

*This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own and all items were purchased with my own money.