26 January 2009

Thanks, I Needed That!

'Tis the season for awards and although I know I'll never get nominated for a Golden Globe or an Oscar, I apparently rate highly enough to be a "Kreativ Blogger." Merci beaucoup to Kathy, Ann, Mardel, Dawn, Connie and Elle for kindly bestowing this honour upon me.

Right now, I am elbow deep in exam papers. First semester is at an end and the finals are being written. I'm not sure who dreads this time of year more - the students that have to write the exams or the teachers that have to mark them. Either way, it will be nice when the exams are finished, although I don't get much of a break before second semester starts. The last exam day is tomorrow, we have one free day to mark and then second semester starts on Thursday. There really is no rest for the wicked.

On the bright side, the countdown to summer vacation can begin in earnest now...

21 January 2009

Is it Spring Yet?

Man alive, do I hate this time of year! It's cold out (as in "I've only been outside for two minutes and I can't feel my thighs" cold), it won't stop snowing and I haven't seen the sun in weeks. It seems like it has been winter forever and it's making me cranky. To make things worse, the kids are all sick with various diseases and instead of staying home, they come to school to infect the populace. I held out as long as I could and for a time, I was one of the few uninfected souls. Then last week, the plague finally caught up to me. I knew I couldn't hold out forever. Well, let me tell ya, this is one nasty cold. You know the kind that feels like your sinus cavity is filled with cement? The one where the pain behind your eyes makes you suspect that there is a small deranged man in your skull pounding away with a tiny sledgehammer? Blech.

Needless to say, I have been focused on merely staying alive and unfortunately I haven't blogged in a while. I still don't feel stellar, but I got such a wonderful award that I just had to post. JustMeriMaat, of In Flux, bestowed upon me the "Nice Blog Award," with some very kind and complimentary words. Well, talk about a pick me up! So, thank you, thank you, thank you!

10 January 2009

Old Dog, New Tricks...

The other day, I read post on the Simple Dollar blog that resonated with me. Trent, the blog master, had a conversation with a friend. Below is an excerpt from the post:
We were simply talking to each other about our reflections on the past year - both personal milestones and otherwise. I reflected on the true birth of my writing career and the growth of my children (especially the change of my daughter from a newborn to a walking, talking toddler), while he related some of his own personal successes.
Then he asked me an interesting question. What will you learn this year?
I didn’t really know what he meant by that, so I asked him to elaborate a bit. He told me that each year, he chooses a particular skill that he wants to learn and devotes an hour a day minimum to learning it at an adequate level, with a goal of devoting at least 500 hours to the skill over the course of a year.
I was struck by the question, "What will you learn this year?" because this is a philosophy I have always had, but I had never formally voiced it to anyone. I love to learn new things and I enjoy the process of attaining a new skill. Unlike Trent's friend, I don't guarantee a set amount of time will be spent on my knowledge acquisition, I just let my level of obsession with the topic guide me. Over the years, I have allocated large amounts of time to the pursuit of knowledge on a wide variety of topics.

For several years I was obsessed with all things related to outdoor gardening - I would spend months at a time focused on specific subcategories like shade gardening, xeriscaping, native plant gardening, hostas, daylilies, irises and hummingbird gardens, to name a few. I even worked for a friend's landscaping company for a few years (in addition to my regular teaching job). I can still rattle off the Latin name for many common garden plants, shrubs and trees. (The photo to the left is a small portion of my shade garden - some of the hostas I collect can be seen.)

My biggest obsession to date has been with sewing - big surprise, eh? Although I began sewing in my late teens, I was never truly interested in the technical aspects until recently. Over the last four years, I have read about every nuance of garment sewing and with hands-on practice, I have become a skilled seamstress. (To the right is a sewing wordle that I created based on my blog - give it a try, it's totally addictive).

After reading Trent's post, I realized that I haven't focused on a new skill in a while. So, the beginning of 2009 seemed like a good time to set my mind to a challenge. I have decided to relearn calculus. I always loved calculus in university, but without practice for the last 12 years, I have lost my abilities. I have already made it through chapter one in my calculus book and I hope to complete one chapter per week until I am finished the book. The book has 40 chapters, so even if I lag a bit, I should still finish by year's end.

So, dear reader, what have you always wanted to learn?

3 January 2009

Purple Haze

Let me state this right up front. I don't wear purple. I used to wear purple. But, then I stopped wearing purple. Why, you might ask? I don't know. So, it was time for some purple.

The skirt fabric is a wonderful RPL that looks like a tropical weight wool - it's heavy and drapey and spongey and gorgeous. It has a reddish brown background and flecks of purple throughout. The top fabric is a mottled copper/purple lace with a small amount of stretch. I bought both of these fabrics from Julie of Timmel Fabrics. Let me just take a moment to mourn the closing of this business. It was so nice to have a Canadian fabric supplier. The fabrics were wonderful and the customer service was exceptional. Paying in Canadian dollars and reasonable shipping costs were just an extra added bonus. I would say that a third of my sizable stash came from Timmel.

The skirt is made from a TNT skirt pattern, Simplicity 4599, that I have made at least half a dozen times (a couple of previous versions can be found here) and I am never disappointed. The skirt pattern does not call for a lining, but since this was to be a winter skirt, I added one. The lining adds warmth and it allows me to wear the skirt over tights with out worrying about the skirt catching on the tights when I walk. The lining is a silk brocade that I got in a bundle from Fabric Mart.

The top is New Look 6838 and it is another TNT pattern. I go for this pattern when I need a simple, clean top that lets the fabric shine. The lace is see-through so I underlined it with a brown knit.

I'm glad I rediscovered purple because I really like this outfit. It is comfortable, yet appropriate for work.

1 January 2009

Back in Black

Happy 2009 everyone! May this year bring happiness, health and joy to you and your loved ones. But most of all, may the sewing gods smile down upon each and every one of you!

Now, on to the sewing...I have wanted to make cardigan 103 and skirt 118 from BWOF for a while now. Considering the issue is from September 2005, I do believe I allowed the patterns to age the appropriate amount of time before use. Well, I could just kick myself now - why, oh why, didn't I make these patterns up sooner? I am madly in love with the cardigan and I have a fairly serious crush on the skirt!

To test the fit of each garment, I made a wearable muslin in some less expensive fabrics I had in the stash. The cardigan was made from a black boucle knit fabric and the skirt from some black RPL suiting, both from a Wazoodle flash sale. I made size 36 for both garments, with no original alterations. This proved to be perfect for the cardigan, but the skirt did require a narrowing of the yoke to fit my waist better.

I love the cardigan so much I have already made it up in another fabric (I'll show it you in a future post). I have plans to revisit the skirt as well, although the next time, I will be making a shorter version - the amount of fabric in the longer length is a bit overwhelming on my short body.

I also made a top to wear under the cardigan. I used the free pattern, Lydia, from Burda Style. I love this style of top, as it can be made in a wide variety of fabrics and each version will look different. I used up a remnant of a fabric I had used in my SWAP 2007.

So, here are the finished garments. The black garments are basically dark amoebas in the photos so I tried to lighten them up a bit. Alas, this only helped marginally, but here goes: