the harder [we] work, the luckier [we] get

Car trouble rears its head again. Ralph’s had my vehicle for the week so the kids and I have been walking, bumming rides, and riding the bus. Today, two trips on the transit. Lots of drug addicts and alcoholics clearly still in active addiction, some people with problems either tacitly or obliquely advertised. A white man grim and silent and with that hard-eyed look and holding his two year old who stays equally silent. A young woman tiredly and loudly on the phone, begging / nagging the father of their child to assist in raising their child. She gets off at our stop and takes herself and the babe to the domestic violence shelter. My kids walk alongside me making up imaginary games and helping one another carry the big backpack full of books and binoculars and Pokemon accouterments they’ll put to use while I do some volunteer work.

But in general, we like riding the bus. I get a little nauseated, is all. I have to look out the window. The kids lean against me and we jostle gently through the streets I feel I’ve known forever.

On The Bus

Phee took her first “job” and started this week. She’d wanted to rejoin the swim team after a few years’ hiatus. We didn’t have the tuition, so she made a proposal to my mom for a work trade. Weekdays now Phee works at my mother’s here and there when she’s needed, then hits her swim practice. It seems to be a very satisfactory arrangement. Phee is getting that age she really can do quality work, and my mom is often overwhelmed by her home and garden and other responsibilities. I wish them both the best. I have a great deal of faith in my daughter and don’t meddle. Those things are probably related.

This evening as dusk falls Nels stays behind and waits for his father to get home and cook dinner. Phee and I catch an evening bus to get to the Y. My daughter asks, “Are you going to watch me swim?” and I say, “Every time.” She leans against me and kisses me. I decide I will be there no matter what. It’s easy enough to make this happen. It’s just a new thing I get to say Yes to.

On The Bus

In the pool she’s friends with every child and adult. The swim team is huge, three large sessions of kids. We’re in the earliest session of the evening, the beginner kids I think. There’s all that annoying sport parent stuff I won’t detail here. What matters to me is watching my daughter. She is a natural, friendly and walking up and down the lane, encouraging her team members and clapping for them, she knows their names already. She’s the most sportsmanlike child out there this week. I wonder if she’ll stay that way. I’m proud of her.

For a client, another SteamPunk Pika hat. I would make custom wool hats for a living if it could work out. Nels models:

Nels, Model

LOL at my kids in these pictures. Looking all grim and dystopian. Or is that merely my projection, as winter hit us hard all of a sudden?

A Little Gift Tag

Home and sewing and cleaning up and feeding animals. Baking a pie for a friend who celebrates a special milestone. Cold but we’ve heat and food and one another.

felicitations from the shore one last time

Sartorial awesomesauce.


Nautical / Naughty

Farmer’s Market.


Pho (from Olympia).


More horseplay.


Splish Splash

More Hamilton (photo by Phoenix).


Captain Surly.

Li'l Surly

Nels is angry. He couldn’t engage the boat into gear. He had to paddle back to the dock. Then, only a few minutes after this picture, a group of people in a Party Barge motored over to ask us about this boat (it’s a battery-operated duck-hunting boat I remember from the last 25 years – it’s probably from the 50s). They also admired Nels’ competency navigating the craft. So he was pleased as punch. Then a few minutes after THAT, while he motored around the throttle’s knob snapped while ON and he started jetting across the lake – and screaming for his life (I mean – he was quite terrorized). Before we could mount a rescue, he figured out how to disengage the motor, pulled his shit together, then paddled back. After docking he came inside and grabbed some food. When I asked him if he was shaken up by his equipment malfunction, all cocky-like said he would do the whole thing over again.

Packing up, today.

Packing Up

We had a lovely time. And it’s nice to be home, now.

just fine / bling-blong!

Check the coat.

Wollen Jas Blauw, Nels

You wanna know more about the coat? You can read about it here. My Flickrstream contains many pictures and construction details. I’m happy to share any tips or advice on making one; the pattern inspiration is originally a size 6 months to 5T and good for beginners (if said beginners are cool with asking questions – the directions are quite sparse). I’m thinking about making up a smaller version in a poly fleece. So if you’ve got a size in the toddler region, and an initial, I can make the test garment up FOR YOUUUUUUUU


We had a walk today out at Bowerman Basin, as we’ve done many times before. On the way we got talking about survivalist strategies which of course (because we’re weird) soon got to cannibalism and whose body would be most practical to consume. It was all fun and games and laughs until:

Nels’ eyes fill with tears and his cheeks flush. “Mama isn’t even one pound of delicious MEAT!” he yells, suddenly very upset.

"They're Not Fightin'"

I will not bore you with how many million times Nels and Phoenix wanted us to take pictures of the insect life they found. You can check my Flickrstream for an extremely truncated photo series. Bugs this, bugs that. Hey look I found another bug! REALLY.

Nels + Bug

Salmonberry Blossom (I Think?)

Ralph, Tree

Beetle (more bugs)

A little time perspective out at the boardwalk. Today, 2012:

Kiddos, Bowerman Basin



Lurve 4


They Do Science
(That last picture is in August… Nels will be blonding up again accordingly.)

At home, a work station – just before finishing the facing back of bound buttonholes, and sewing on all eleven buttons:

Evening, Workspace

please support your local stitcher, there aren’t many of us doing our thing

Buttonholes / Tailor's Tacks

I’ve been sewing lots. Here are a few pieces:

First, Peter’s Retro Shirt (listed at Homesewn).

Peter's Retro Shirt


Just these last couple days I’ve worked up Winter Wool Pants #001 and #002 (#003 are on the way!):

Happy Pants

Belt Loops

They are beautiful pants – wool, and lined in silk – designed in every way for comfort, ease of movement, and durability. If your kids are as active as mine, I guarantee these will be a quick favorite.

So. Tomorrow through Sunday I am going to have a booth at the Schafer Meadows Fiber Festival, hosted at the Elma Fairgrowds. It would mean a lot to me if any locals reading this would stop by and talk to me and see my stuff. I’ve worked my tail off to create a booth and put together some literature on what I’m about and what my portfolio entails. The Fiber Festival is amazing in its own right, with all sorts of local talented artisans (mostly knitting, wool, spinning, carding, crotcheting-based) coming out of the woodwork!

The hours of the event are Friday, Noon – 5pm; Saturday, 10am – 5pm; and Sunday, 11am – 4pm.

I thought a lot about buying a space at my first-ever trade fair, or whatever you want to call it, as I am not able to make the time commitment of a full-time business but I definitely would enjoy more exposure. My current goals as a seamstress include pursuing my craft with all my heart, being able to purchase and explore higher-end fabrics and materials, making parents/carers and their children deliriously happy over their most favorite garment of all time (Phoenix put on the brown pair of wool pants – lined with silk and built with knee gussets and a low-bulk super-soft waistband! – and said, “These are MARVELOUS pants. You should make every kid a pair!”), stretching myself creatively, finding a community of garment-makers (quilters and crotcheters and knitters abound), and sharing my skills with those who appreciate them (including teaching!).

Anything you can do to support me is appreciated. It’s hard out here for a stitcher, competing with massive corporations, sweatshop labor and the abuse of environment and peoples for the bottom line. True also that many would like to experience the joy of learning how to create – but so few make the time.


I’ve sewn sewn sewn away but haven’t given you all some pictures lately. Here are a few goodies:


A hoodie with secrets! The idea here is your iPod (or whatever) is snug in a secret inner pocket. It stays out of the elements and the cord snakes up through the neckline, where it is secured by little earbud holders! Observe:

Earbud Holders

This way the headphones won’t get caught or pull on anything. Also the little safety-pin deconstructed sleeves, which Phoenix loves – and a secret sleeve pocket. The entire garment is lined, no seams felt on the inside.


Not-So-Scary Red Monstre

Not-So-Scary Red Monstre
Commissioned for an expectant couple down in L.A. Outer shell is wool, inner shell super super soft Michael Miller cotton knit. YES HORNS TOO. & mittens. Tiny, wonderful-to-knit, mittens.

Brown Bear!

Brown Bear
A relatively conservative design all my own. Reminiscent of a very early bunting I made Nels so long ago.

oliver twisted (version two)

This morning I was emailed by a friend to tell me I totes got mentioned on Craftzine’s blog today.* So that gave me a smile.

And on the sewing front I’ve got another coat finished for The Boy. Let me tell you, over and over again I sew the thing up and the kid grabs it and runs outside! I have to chase them to get a picture, and sometimes I don’t even get that far.  But in this case:


(He’s holding Felix Jr.)

This is a new version of his Oliver Twisted coat (thanks for the name inspiration Robin!) made from a wool/nylon, underlined in natural bull denim, and lined with a 100% silk twill.


This is the fourth time I’ve made this coat. Nels wore last year’s version to death. He wore it in the blistering hot, in the snow, on cool wet days and warm dry ones. He wore it so much that as his arms lengthened over the year (he grew five inches in one annum – save me!); the lining and sleeve hems merely pulled apart and the sleeve ran ragged. He wore it any time I said “get a coat” and any time he felt he needed one. The only coat he liked close to as much was a green twill version I made from the same pattern.

I think I currently enjoy making structured jackets more than just about any other sewn thing. I am always surprised by what I learn.  In this case, although I did a better job constructing this year’s version, (holy damn that collar application! Are you kidding me?) the truth is, I rather favor last year’s version of the coat. This is mostly due to the fact the fabric used last time – a 100% poly suiting from JoAnn’s on sale – had an amazing texture. Still, this version’s wool/nylon is very suitable, the slippery nature of this lining is superior to quilting cotton from last year, and I did do a better job with technique. So there’s that.

I am also a little bemused I made a nearly identical colorway to the previous coat. What can I say, I am  an Unoriginal Ass. I am in a difficult position as the vast majority of my fabric is either gifted to me or purchased online. Things I order aren’t always what I originally expected.

This morning Nels and Phoenix, after breakfast, ran outside to do some kind of garden work/spontaneous house construction. I looked outside and there was Nels hoeing away – in the coat.


You can read a million nauseating details of the garment’s construction at my Flickr tagset.

In other news, the playfully cool-then-warm weather and gentle sunshine has been perfect walking weather.  Walking with the children is amazing and humbling because they are more present, genuinely joyful, and charming conversationalists over anyone I’ve met. And in the view of Ralph and my all-time favorite tweet, every time I take the kids on our walks I have to laugh at how, well, sketch it can be around these parts.

Snakes In The Grass(Not shown in this photo: heaving piles of concrete, “glass parade” – Phoenix’s term – and used condoms.)

* yes I say “totes”, and arse off directly if you have a problem with this.


Today I had my first visit to a physician I hope will become my primary care provider, Dr. Cheryl Plaza from the Northwest Center for Natural Medicine.  This meant a drive to Olympia and back, about forty five minutes each way.  I took Nels and let Sophie stay home.  By prearrangement she woke to a clean, quiet, and ordered house, a note on the table (instructing her as to the yogurt in the fridge, to feed and water our baby chicks, and that her carseat was on the porch), and spent the late morning and afternoon with my mother.  I let the two of them make their own arrangements together.

Nels was exasperated at having to travel to Olympia.  He didn’t want to go.  Perhaps because of his resentfulness at being taken on this errand, he did not respect the hour appointment I had.  Interestingly, the doctor was someone who did respect children, which made it easier for everyone involved.  Another employee, working up at the front desk, was of a more typical ilk – irritable.  She talked sharply to my son for ringing the doorbell (“Don’t do that!”), then called him “that child” to someone else in the waiting room.  Funny how so many people treat children poorly and it’s assumed to be okay to do so (I noticed this employee was not categorically rude to adults).

Fort, Hidden Away

While in the car we passed a man holding a cardboard sign.  My son said, “Mom, did you not see that man? You should have given him something.” I said, “His sign said he was asking for work.  I didn’t have that to give.”  Nels spotted, a block further, a young woman holding a sign that said, “ANYTHING”.  When we came abreast I rolled my window down and asked if she wanted anything to eat.  She came forward and I handed her a new bag of dried apples, the easiest thing I had on-hand.  She had brilliant, troubled blue eyes but wouldn’t make eye contact.  She said “Thanks,” quietly, then stepped back to her curb.

“Is that what you wanted me to do?” I asked my son.  “Yes,” he said.

I love that my children see people who need help. I really do love this.

My mother and Sophie met us back in Hoquiam at the hair salon at 3:30.  Sophie had been carsick because she had been reading an encyclopedia during their entire drive back from the beach.  She was very pale in this greenish way she gets when she’s ill.  But she was such a pleased, happy, engaged child.  Later at dinner when I became upset she followed me into my bedroom and put her arms around me and stayed with me.  I find it categorically true that the better I take care of my children – by giving them freedom and unconditional love, a consensual way of life – the better they take care of me and eachother.  Clearly I need to stop assuming Nels will and can accompany me on trips, just because it feels more convenient for me to take him than to let him decide what to do.

I’m learning every day.

Kids, Bundled


Yes, Nels would happily spend the day outside in just socks. And likely nothing else but underwear, when I think about it.
Yes, Nels would happily spend the day outside in just socks. And likely nothing else but underwear, when I think about it.

This winter has dipped into what feels like record-cold and I wanted to make coats that would work for the kids.  Nels’ is from a no-wale corduroy; Sophie’s, a pre-washed and dried wool flannel.  Both are underlined in a wool blend and lined with a silk twill.

I’ve made many an Ottobre coat (off-hand examples 1, 2, 3, and 4, the latter of which is the same pattern as these two). I think I love making a coat almost as much as a baby bunting. It’s so structured and there’s so much work that goes into it that many people don’t see and can’t fathom. So I guess I’m actually a little sick in the head, when you think about it.

I also finished a couple hats to more or less match their outer gear:

Maltese Fisherman's Hat by Elizabeth Zimmerman.
Maltese Fisherman
Maltese Fisherman's Hat by Elizabeth Zimmerman.
Maltese Fisherman
He wore this all day today and ran and scratched and meowd, too.
He wore this all day today and ran and scratched and meow'd, too.

I barely get time to take pictures of my creations. In fact, I probably only photograph about half of them. In the time I’ve been sewing the kids have loved the things I’ve made: usually whipping them on then dousing them with mud, peanut butter, and soy sauce. If only I could just sew, sew, sew and have someone else take pictures – because I’d love to keep a record. Oh also? Maybe someone else to raise the little buggers and cook for them and clean up after them every now and then.

I suck at embroidery! You cant tell my work from my 5 or 7 year olds!  (Hint: Nels did his own l).
I suck at embroidery! You can't tell my work from my 5 or 7 year old's! (Hint: Nels did his own "l").

You can see the detail shots of these creations at my Flickrstream.