Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Roundup Continues

Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post--both about the FOs and about The Brain's pay cuts. I know we're not the only people going through this (not by a long shot!) so it's nice to hear that people aren't so jaded by everyone's problems that they can't offer sympathy or support.

But enough of that. In my grand tradition of exposing all of my embarrassing quirks and foibles, I have another story for you:

The Brain and I were invited to a barbecue at one of his colleague's places last night. It was to be a small gathering: three other profs and the husband of one of them. I have been working this past week on getting back into the habit of running every day, so I was quite proud of myself for doing my full workout three days in a row. "I went running for three days this week!", I told myself, "I'm going to look so slim and sporty at this barbecue! People won't even notice that I'm the only one there without a PhD because they will be marveling at my poise and the special radiance that can only come from such a healthy specimen of the human race!" ... Then we got there. Conversation turned fairly quickly to cycling (The Brain rides with a local club), then trail running, then triathlons. Turns out that everyone else present at the gathering could kick my ass in just about any sporty endeavor you can imagine. I wasn't fully deflated, however, until the (only other) woman casually dropped a line about participating in the IronMan competition a couple of years ago. You know, while also struggling through her first year as a faculty member. So she didn't have a lot of time to train. *gulp!* Yeah...I've been unemployed for over a year and my major accomplishment is that I went running for three days in a row this week. LOL!

Must. Set. Higher. Goals. :-P (Speaking of which, is there anyone else in the San Diego area who might be interested in doing some trail running? I'm talking super beginner stuff, not those crazy-ass ultra-serious groups who meet up at 5am on Saturday mornings and run for 6 hours straight. If you're also proud of running for three days in a row, I bet we could work something out.)

Aaaanyway, I wanted to continue with my roundup of things that have been going on over the past couple of weeks. Guess what...I got a sewing machine!!! I was browsing around on Craigslist a couple weeks ago, and I came across a posting for a sewing machine in my neighborhood. This woman was moving to a smaller apartment and didn't use the machine any more, so she was happy to get rid of it. She was only asking $30 for a Kenmore machine, so I emptied my bank account and headed over to her place first thing in the morning because I was worried that the machine wouldn't last very long. It was still there, and the woman even threw in a tote bag full of never-used patterns, batting, tracing paper, safety pins, etc. She plugged it in and sewed a few things for me so I could see that it works well. It's missing a few accessories, like part of the button foot thingie, but right now I am such a newbie that I don't think I'll be sewing anything but crooked lines for a while.

I'm super excited to learn to sew now! I need to get some bobbins and a couple tiny pieces for the machine, but I have the major hurdle over with. I just got a Jo-Ann flyer in the mail yesterday with an ad for Vogue patterns at only $3.99 apiece and the usual 40% off coupon. I'll have to head over there next weekend to see if I can pick up a couple of patterns. Next time I have cash, I can get some fabric. Little by little, I'll learn to sew if it kills me!

Speaking of learning, does anyone have any recommendations for learn-to-sew books? I have checked out a few from the library to do some comparisons. So far, I have the Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing, Vogue Sewing, and The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing. If you have any opinions on these, or any other books, please weigh in!

Oh, and if anyone can explain to me what the heck a "fat quarter" is and what you use it for, that would be cool too!

Sorry for such a long post! I need to post more often so I can avoid this verbal explosion.

P.S. A super huge thank you to Dana who, after I posted about wanting a sewing machine ages ago, actually offered to sell me her Kenmore for the cost of shipping. Thank you so much, Dana! Your kindness has not been forgotten. :)


pacalaga said...

Usually they sell yardage as measured from the cut edge. Most fabric is about 45" wide by however long you get it. If you get a quarter of a yard, it's only 9" wide by 45" long, which isn't terribly useful. A fat quarter is twice the width and half the length, so roughly 18"x22". It tends to be a more useful shape. You can use it for mostly anything, sampler quilts, charm quilts, little bags, applique pieces, etc.
And also, I think you should be proud that you ran 3 days. Everyone starts somewhere. Smaller, more achievable goals are what keep us from getting frustrated and quitting.

Julie said...

Well, if it makes you feel ANY better I only dream of working out 3 days a month let alone 3 straight! I can't really help with any books, but a fat quarter is just a remnant fabric that they sell folded up. They are pretty small (maybe 18"ish), but they're great for quilts or in my case clothes for my little one. Sometimes they're big enough for bags too. At Joann they're back by the cotton quilting fabric (at least at mine) and folded into little squares.

Yarndude said...

Congrats on your sewing machine! I thought you had just picked up a cheap one at Target. As far as goals go, I have practiced every day for two weeks in a row now - I don't think I've ever done that in my life! Way to go on your three days, it's just the beginning...

Michelle said...

For learning to sew try some easy projects. The Sew Mama Sew blog/forums are great and will point you in the direction of tons of free patterns. I really like Weekend Sewing, it might be at your library. Good luck with your new addiction!

Anonymous said...

Yaaayyyy for the sewing machine find! You're off and running now. My sister has a good book or two she used recently - will ask for the names and report back. As far as inspiration goes, the angry chicken blog is a fun one to follow. She covers more than just sewing (it'a all entertaining), but her tutorials on sewing projects always leave me itching to learn and try.

KGLO said...

I think it's amazing that you ran three days in a row. I hate running enough that running one day in a row is a feat of fortitude.

Congrats on getting a sewing machine! Now we can sew crooked lines together! I recommend playing with the machine, honestly, on fabric that you aren't terribly attached to. I got a lot of fabric by taking apart funky old clothes, sheets, and curtains from the thrift store, so if I mess it up, I don't feel quite as bad as if I'd messed up pretty neatly-cut fabric from Joanne's.

Also, a fat quarter is a quarter yard of fabric that quilters usually use, because they only use bits and pieces at a time. And then they can carry around the little bits of fabric and compare to other fun colored bits of fabric, instead of a whole (skein?) roll....thing....

Jacey said...

Congrats on the sewing machine!
I see people have already answered your fat quarter question, but you can easily make a zippered pouch with one FQ, or a pillow or bag with a couple of them.

By the way, the party-goers might not have been impressed on your three days of running, but I am!

Dana KBS said...

YAY for your machine! It would have cost more to ship from up here (I checked).

I wonder if there are any great learn to sew DVDs you could get through Netflix or your library? But really, if you can navigate the world of knitting sweaters and/or socks, you can read a pattern and run a sewing machine. It just feels scary because there are motors and electricity involved.

ChrisC said...

I am also really proud when I run for 3 days in a row, so I've had a hard time finding people who will run with wussy old me. Too bad I live in Northern CA and not Southern. :-)

As for sewing, a couple things. First, the Vogue patterns are lovely, but they are not very beginner friendly. In fact, they're usually the most difficult patterns in the store. If you want something more beginner friendly, I'd actually start with something from an independent designer -- the directions tend to be more user-friendly. One of my first projects was the Amy Butler Birdie Sling bag. Lots of steps, but mostly very easy and SUCH a great result! Also, the nice thing about starting with projects like purses is that they don't have to fit properly :-) My first clothing project was a shirt by another independent designer, Mahnee Titus. Easy pattern, easy shirt to fit. I know you can get the patterns at

For books, I love Weekend Sewing, which someone else recommended, but I actually don't think it's very beginner-friendly at all. I've made a few projects from it now, and I've found the instructions rather confusing in places. If you want to make clothes, you might try Sew-U, which is designed for beginners. Also, it might be worth it to take a class. I took one called "crash course sewing" at a local studio when I first started sewing last year and it was invaluable in reducing my frustration as I learned!

leann said...

oh, how fun!!! I don't really have much advice to offer on learn-to-sew books or anything, because I tend to just jump in with both feet and either sink or swim. In case you haven't noticed by my knitting tendencies, lol.

For quilting, you might try any of the "Quilt in a Day" patterns/books. They're really simple, and utilize "tying" versus "quilting", which is great for beginners. Basically, you use DMC floss and tack the quilt in certain places to hold it together instead of quilting it all down by machine/hand.

Hilary said...

Congrats on your new sewing machine, and here's to lots of sewing adventures with it! I unfortunately don't have any books to recommend...though I should probably invest in some. Also...exercising 3 days in a row would be a HUGE accomplishment for me! I'm lucky if I get in one run per week.