hot medium-brown wool action!!!

Brown Wool Blazer

Yeah that’s right, you have entered BLAZER COUNTRY. Who knows how many damn blazers I’ve sewn. All I know is, after I made this one (since Nels had grown out of Nolan, although it was still going strong!) I decided to trace one of my most-used blazer patterns in every size (that’s seventeen pieces by eight sizes, so one hundred thirty six pieces) and then color-code and cut and punch and reinforce and hang them all. And then I decided once I finished this rather ambitious project, I would reward myself by sewing a blazer. So now I’m almost done with a new blazer different than this one.

SOMEONE SEND HELP

Brown Wool Blazer

OK so here’s a cool detail – elbow patches in a wool/silk blend. I hand-embroidered the concentric ovals, then cut the patches, fused them to the sleeve, black-zig-zagged them firmly to the coat, and then hand-embroidered the very outer oval. Adorable and I think they will look even cooler as they wear!

Brown Wool Blazer

Blustery day! … and, a few more details:

Brown Wool Blazer

Bound buttonholes. Here you can barely see the chalk marking the center-front of the blazer – the buttonhole extends 1/8″ in from that mark. You can also at top-left see the pink basting stitch I used to affix the underlining fabric to the wool.

Brown Wool Blazer

More elbow patches – and along the bottom of the picture you can see the purple triple-stitched topstitching line I used for most of this coat’s edges.

Brown Wool Blazer

The bone buttons, nine in all (I bought two extra of each size) cost more than the rest of the garment (in part due to how good I am at finding good fabrics on sale). I bought the buttons from M & J Trimming and they shipped quickly! You are also seeing the back side of the bound buttons here. I used a black silk organza for my facing’s buttonhole “windows”.

Brown Wool Blazer

My preferred pocket method – a fully-lined pocket, interfaced at the top, and then applied by fell-stitch. Here you are seeing the pocket before I turn it right-side out, then stitch the opening at lining and facing closed.

Brown Wool Blazer

Here’s that hand-stitch I just referred to – inside the pocket. When it comes to a simple coat my kids are going to wear the hell out of, and I am not looking for a print or texture, I use slipper satin from Fabric.com for coat linings. It is a nice weight for a medium or heavy coat, it wears well, and feels very nice.

Brown Wool Blazer

Echo-stitching on the collar. Basically free-handed. Echo stitching  here emulates the elbow patch detail – but it also gives a stiffer hand to whatever you are echo-stitching (in this case, the collar), and gives a great, rugged look and wear.

So there’s Nels’ newest jacket.

Now listen. I’m not going to go into why a blazer really is a killer garment. I’m not going to elaborate on how long and how well my versions hold up. Or even how awesome it is you can pull one off in so many fabrics –  lightweight linen, classic raw silk, homey corduroy, handsome waxed canvas, bad-ass melton wool – GAH!! Basically you, blog readers, are in for a blazer-fest this summer and you just need to settle in and DEAL. Will I be sewing other things? Why yes, of course.

Probably.

Oh – and here is the end result of my pattern-tracing efforts for blazers – all marked, color-coded, cut, punched, reinforced, and organized. At left is the pattern, yardage, and sizing information in a clear cover sleeve.

Pattern Tracing, Marking, Color-Coding, Cutting, & Hanging

But now I *SOLEMNLY SWEAR* not to sew with wool until the fall. I promise. No, really.

So who’s got some fabulous linens they can point me to?

you’re motoring / what’s your price for flight?

My dog Hutch and I have some kind of bromance going on. But it’s not one of these rude, crass, and fumbly kinds like you’re seeing in so many films today. No our bromance is like – Appaloosa‘s. Or Casablanca‘s. Or “ST:TOS”‘s. Like we’re talking TOP NOTCH bromance. A classic one.

Ralph and the kids are camping this weekend and I’m still sick, and stumbling around like I’m high. Today I was too ill to do much but drink water, eat food brought to me, and care for the pets. As it was, the walk for my dog just about did me in.

It’s ironic – or maybe it’s not, because I never really do “get” what irony is – that the first weekend in a very very long time I have it to myself, I am too sick to do anything really. To sick even for the modest assignments I’d given myself – housework, a sewing project, a few gatherings. Tonight a girlfriend invited me out to a dishy movie and I’m too sick to sit in a theatre. That is just: BALLS.

I’m patient, though. I no longer think of being ill as some persecution or trial. It is rather practice. Practicing patience. Today I had the opportunity of helping out a few friends who called me, and one acquaintance who wanted to borrow something. In fact it was rather odd that just by breathing in and out, and being willing to take calls, I was still able to help people – even in my weakened condition.

Lights out on the porch: windchimes and a summery balm to the air. I’d like to be out running around but it’s okay to be in and having a fever too. #sanguineAF, that’s me.

we r ok

Standing Tall

My lovely daughter – standing tall.

Kitchen Sink, Frosty Morning

Cleaning my sink – morning, cold outside.

Backyard, Frosty Morning

The backyard.

My Hot Little Sandwich

My hot little sandwich! Sleeping in until an astonishing hour.

Patience

Hutch tries his hardest to control his mind, waiting patiently for me to take a picture. HE WANTS TO BE RUNNING SO MUCH. So much running. Running running running.

Flag Flying. Dog Pissing.

A majestic fort, complete with “flag”. A dog marks his territory.

For Bun-Bun

Nels retrieves bedding for Bun-Bun.

"The Seasons", Four Drawings For Jessah

“The Seasons” – a set of four drawings Nels completes for his new “nanny” J.

with Tabasco

Ralph and I sit on the bleachers and watch our children in the pool. My son is so tall and so thin but still has that baby face. To me, anyway. Despite the fact he wears his pants at near-waist, his swim trunks are always hanging exactly low enough that it is precisely just-barely decent enough for public attire. He doesn’t seem to mind a bit. He runs up and holds me close and gives me “a hug for safety”, his warm wet little otter-body a welcome grasp.

Our daughter is growing too. Tonight a friend asks, “Does Phoenix need new clothes?” Good god the answer is Yes, and I think I’ll be answering thusly a while. Watching her now her bathing suit looks fit to burst; I sewed it only a few months ago. She shakes the wet hair out of her eyes and smiles at me. She is a tender little sprig and I’m so fortunate to have her in my home.

My mom flies in from the Seattle airport and then drives home; she’s back from laying my Grandfather to rest and celebrating a mourning Thanksgiving with the extended family. Only a little over a week ago I heard news he was ill and now he is gone. My close friends are giving me the support and the consideration I need during this time. I am still considering the loss. I have so much to say about it now, but I do not know if now is the time.

I find myself with few elders, an estranged family, and painful memories.

Oysters on the half-shell in a restaurant. Reminders. My grandfather liked the oddest foods – amongst them I remember hardtack and hangtown fry. Hangtown fry! I am trying to think of something more odious but it is hard. Maybe I will make up a mess of it and do an offering, then feed my dog, who would surely be interested in the fragrant meal.

Tonight is a time for reflection. Trying not to think of the bank account for this evening. A few slim bills for groceries over the next ten days but I was able to pay all our other bills and for that I am grateful.

Black beans soaking on the counter and tomorrow will be another day.

pumpkin seeds roasting, check. stealing candy from the bowl while handing it out – CHECK

Halloween 2013

Nels’ Mario costume turned out so perfect it almost made up for him bitching for ten straight minutes about the spirit-gum application. No one can bitch like Nels can. Promise you.

SO ZOMG I made my son’s costume in the last twenty-four hours. The entire costume. Hat, “overalls”, and shirt. Like, the overalls? Started them this AM when I rolled out of bed. The straps on the overalls are easy-to-remove so after he’s done having a costume he’ll have a long-sleeved shirt in organic cotton, a pair of Carhartt-esque jeans (in a yummy selvedge denim) – and the “M” Mario hat, which I’m quite sure he will want to wear as-is.

My daughter – her costume was easier. And faster. I spent $8 at a thrift store last Saturday. She is a pleasure to work for. Today at school she walked in sans mask and her teacher said, “Huh. You a Canadian?”

Nels’ ability to Mario-pose is freakishly uncanny. He also does the voice. The at-the-very-least-culturally-insensitive Italian Mario voice. He is like a phreakish Mario-parrot.

They’re currently out in the neighborhood getting candy loot; I’m off next door to my mom’s for our tradition of handing out candy on her awesome front porch.

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2013

what hath night to do with sleep?

It’s cold and I’m cold on the ride home. I’m cold on the bike most the year, especially on my return trips. I think I get chilled on the trip out, then I sit in my own sweat a bit and get clammy indoors, then back on the bike. Barring proper cycling gear that’s just how it is. For now. I was bringing quarts of hot water which helped a little but not much.

Just after eight, before I set back off to Hoquiam, my friend Charlie accosted me about biking. “You got any protection?” he asks all surly. He means like, a firearm. He’s seventy-something, grew up in the Appalachian mountains, and he is hardcore. He still plays with guns. He’s been shot. By friends and enemies both, I think. Anyway now he says he’s worried. “I”m worried someone’s gonna grab ahold of you,” he tells me. Yeah, I’m thinking. “It hasn’t happened yet,” I tell him, hiking my leg over. “No – but it could!” He is stubborn. He’s a little pissed. “Yeah…” I say. “There are a lot of sick people out there. – Goodnight!” and I’m off.

The streets are cold, crystal-clear, a great big moon. Near-deserted. Past Myrtle and there’s a loud altercation. I can hear angry screaming, abuse, for a full mile. I am sobered at the thought of all the suffering in the world.

Across the bridge and I pull up to Simpson and a red light; another person on a bike is waiting as well. He turns in partial profile and I recognize him. I got to know him a while back when he had a spell clean and sober. He’d put on weight and lost the hardened look in his eye and he was becoming that sweetheart he is, the one that lives within.

Now though, he doesn’t look great. He’s attending a huge plastic garbage bag with presumably all his belongings, somehow balanced on the bike’s handlebars. He turns and I smile at him and greet him by name. He’s trying to figure out who I am and I notice with a crystal-clear delight two items in his overstuffed backpack – a pair of miniature dachshunds peeping me with large, liquid eyes. I ask about the dogs. He tells me their names – mother and daughter. He asks me how he knows me and I tell him. I tell him I have an eighty-pound dog and can’t pack him in a backpack.

The light turns. I tell the man to Take Care and I’m off into the night. Amber streetlight. Smell of ozone and deep green grass. Almost home.

I pull up to my house to a crumpled dog hair-infused afghan swaddling a huge pile of leaves on the porch. Fancy, I think. And sure enough when I walk in the door my nine year-old tells me: “Mama did you see the leaves I put on the porch? Because they are fancy.”

I lean the bike against the coffee table and stride into the kitchen and greet my husband. And I stand at the stove and eat like three lentil tacos and take a swig of Mexican Coke.

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

A "Fancy" Porch

Nels, Pho

letting it rain

It’s like, already enough of a slog to get by bike to the treatment center in the rain. A lot of rain. Over the Riverside bridge the storm is severe enough to threaten my balance. I’m thinking, OK well through the town streets it might not be so bad. I just have to proceed more slowly, with caution.

I’m leaving a little late, too. I don’t like being late. So knowing what time it is, and deciding not to obsess about it, I settle into acceptance. I practice knowing I will get there on time. Even if I’m late, I am actually on time, because I cannot be there sooner than I can be there. About this time, just starting out on Cherry, I realize my back tire is pretty flat (I’d been thinking my sluggish pace was the wind). That’s when my sense of humor kicks in. Biking on a flat isn’t super-fun. Especially in a biting-cold storm rain.

The way I go, I disembark and walk up Scammel. No matter how much I bike, my knees don’t benefit from biking up hills. So I walk the steep ones. The tree-lined hill is blowing fierce with that warm storm wind – it’s quite thrilling in fact, and for a brief moment I feel very alive. I am amazed only a short time ago I was biking in as little clothing possible, to withstand the heat of the ride.

Treatment center work is a rock for me. For a few minutes I can get out of my own troubles. I cannot believe how grateful I am that I didn’t shirk on volunteer work while life was really good. I cannot believe how much I could have screwed up, if I had.

Today I am grateful because the weather created both perilous driving conditions (earlier in the day) and biking ones as well. Today I am grateful we are all safe, we are at least safe today. I try to tell myself this even if I don’t believe it.

Gratitude is not always effortless, I am finding.

Nels, Pho

Earlier in the day: pho with Nels. Nels who is my absolute treasure. Nels who got up this morning and came in the kitchen. And I said, “Someone rumpled you.” And he said, “It was you, Mama!” as he then hid in my arms for a hug. Nels who is now almost up to my shoulder in height and who’s hair smells dusty-sweet. Nels who one day will live out in the big scary World and incredibly that’s what’s supposed to happen.

I can’t exactly handle this but I literally pray that one day I will be able to.

“I thought of that while riding my bicycle.”

It was difficult saying goodbye to my cargo bike, but as I might have imagined, my new bicycle has already gifted me as it is so much lighter and swifter. I have found myself riding even more than previous. These past few weeks, riding has been a wonderful exercise in patience, persistence, courage, and acceptance.

Bicycling is patience-building. Patience with the weather; rain is experienced as unpleasant, and headwinds reduce my speed by many minutes. Patience with my body, which still groans in pain here and there. My body gets stronger and more used to the bike’s stance, but I still walk up Scammell Hill, for instance. And on this hill, I rest a bit while I walk. I just give myself enough time that I can rest when I need to. Why not?

Persistence is manifested, for me, in the fact I ride the bike even though I have a working car (and sometimes, people asking me for rides in that car!). It is a real practice on my part, to commit to a longer travel time instead of darting around in the (mistaken) belief that I “must not waste time” and should use the car. It is also a real practice for me to say “No” to those who want rides! Over the last few weeks I have noticed that the supposed time-saving benefits of a car are sometimes disingenuous or not real. My bike never needs gassing up, for instance, and is easier to park every time. And if the winds are working with me it can be as swift to bike as to drive, depending on where I go!

It takes courage to bike, for me, because cars and car-drivers are not 100% safe, and also people seem to be often telling me how unsafe it is to bike. Due to a little bit of factual danger but probably due a lot more to cultural naysaying, the bike experience can sometimes feel more vulnerable. In a car I have the illusion of safety and control; on the bike, I do not. In a car I am unlikely to get shouted at or sexually harassed; on the bike, I am more likely to get stared at or accosted. Even then, though, things aren’t all that they seem. The more personal/”vulnerable” nature of the bike is mostly a very pleasant thing. I make a lot more eye contact on the bike, smile a lot more, am smiled at in return, can have conversations easily and get to see deer and kitties and puppies and children and people and foliage and our cities’ beauty a lot more. Two days ago I found an enameled ring on the road and gifted it to my son, tying it around his neck by a cord. All in all, the intimacies of the bike are a experienced in a pleasurable way, not a painful one.

When I get home, I submit a prayer of gratitude that I’ve had a safe ride, yet again.

I practice Acceptance when I ride my bike on all the things aforementioned – but most profoundly with my experiences of impermanence and Not-Self. The ride puts me in the moment in a way the convenience of the car leads me to not experience the moment. Bike riding helps me recognize that my ego and my circumstances and my thoughts are finite, limited, impermanent, and in their way, full of suffering. I have a brief bit of time I can meditate and experience the Now and when I do, I touch the infinite, the limitless, the joyful, and I smile at the mystery of my suffering, which is still with me after all these years.

Acceptance and Gratitude permeate my thought-stream while I ride, and even after I get home. I’ve put a couple hundred miles on the bike and due to some pain issues I am ready to take it in and talk about possible adjustments or changes. I find I’ve been thinking about how much I’d greatly enjoy a YMCA membership so I could treat myself to some swimming or yoga or weight lifting to help balance my body from the unique stress of and performance of riding – to un-stiffen my body (and of course, I’d also like a membership so I could take the children swimming!).

But even there, the bike reminds me things don’t have to be perfect for me to be Okay. I can practice acceptance, courage, patience, persistence and gratitude without having the whole thing figured out. I can enjoy my riding even without the perfect geometry, the best biking gear, a pain-free body, or the sometimes-coveted Y membership.

Riding my bike teaches me to smile at The Way Things Are.

“May I do the honors and have a nice slice of chocolate cream pie? It’s ‘honors’ because it’s the LAST PIECE.”

"JESUS <3s YOU" Bus

I first saw the “JESUS <3s YOU" bus as I biked past the laundromat this afternoon, returning from some voluteer work. And I thought, wish I had a camera, but I didn’t, so. Later in the day the very singular vehicle was parked on a side street we drove down – and I snapped this picture. The long-haired blonde man out front playing guitar through some amplifier shouted a compliment at my dog, in the back of my mom’s truck.

Today was a good day.

Tonight I tell my son. “I apologize.” “For what?” he asks. “For not getting you ice cream today.” “That’s okay,” he says. “There’s always tomorrow. Do you like my folder?” – holding up a semi-misshapen bit of crafting paper taped up like no tomorrow.

I like his folder so much. I like how tenderheartd my children are. I like today when we got a furniture delivery how helpful and kind the children were, and how when we left to get our groceries, Nels turned to his sister and sighed, “We have a good life.”

Oh and today I heard the best meth-story today involving a nap and a sandwich, a story from a recovering addict. I won’t type it out here but if you run into me, go ahead and ask.