March 31st, 2014

Oh me.

It has taken me a good long time to get around to writing this post.
 
 There are several reasons for this. One is that I haven’t wanted to examine the factors about which I would be writing so closely. Another is that just as soon as one obstacle was safely behind, another popped up in its place. My mantra for the past four months or so has been “if I can just make it to the end of the week…”
 
 Suffice it to say, it’s been a rough time. And since this past “end of the week” is the first time a true end actually arrived or felt even applicable, now I take the time to write. I’ll try and start as close to the beginning as possible.
 
 On November 9, I found out I was out of a job.
 
 My boss had gotten married and decided to move out of state, and just didn’t want to be a business owner anymore. All fine, of course, but it sure would have been nice to know that he was thinking seriously in that direction a few months earlier (at least for my stress levels). I worked through the end of the month, and felt decidedly un-Thankful around the holiday. But it was a great one nonetheless, featuring my K’Frank as my dauntless sous-chef and a record-breaking 17 mouths to feed.
 
 When December set in, so did the unemployment. And the depression that accompanied it. I applied for a handful of jobs at companies I was really passionate about (Etsy, the NYPL, etc.) and heard nothing back. I tried to fill my days with constructive work at home and exercise, but despite my best efforts I was in a serious funk. The light at the end of the tunnel of idleness was the promise of a new show. Rehearsals were to begin on February 8, and I was ready to have something to do with my time other than bake and knit and watch TV.
 
 I spent half of January in the same malaise, and then, miracle of miracles! Not one, but TWO jobs on my horizon. Then came the stress of having to choose between them, worsened since I infinitely preferred one position to the other which had been referred to me by a close friend who was desperate to bring me on board. And on the day I made my choice and accepted the offer from the job I liked better, we found out Dragon was seriously ill.
 
 We’d noticed a decrease in his appetite and that he seemed in general uncomfortable, so we’d taken him to the vet (a new vet, since the last one had been criminally unresponsive on numerous occasions). After the first visit, they recommended a urine test. After the urine test, an ultrasound. There was something terribly wrong with our sweet little guy’s kidneys. When the ultrasound results came back, the doctor who read them was pretty sure it was lymphoma, which was good news. At least lymphoma was treatable.
 
 So the day after the urine test, the Husband-Dude left for a week-long trip to Peru. And the day after that, the ultrasound came back, along with the subcutaneous fluids I would have to administer every day and the antacid to help stimulate his appetite.
 
 That Saturday, I started rehearsals.
 
 And the following Monday, I started the new job.
 
 So there I was, working 18 hours a day and then coming home to singlehandedly manage our very sick kitty. By the time Husband-Dude returned, I was completely exhausted, a debt of sleep and mental rest that still hasn’t been paid off. With two sets of hands the doctoring got easier, and easier still was that Husband-Dude could take over the myriad vet visits we had to keep making to get the little guy his fine needle aspiration and other diagnostic tests. But I was still working nearly around the clock, a circumstance exacerbated by the horrible timing of routine subway maintenance that doubled the time of my late-night commute home.
 
 The diagnostic tests came back inconclusive, and the pet insurance I got at a discount thanks to my new job hadn’t been purchased in time to cover the costs of the biopsy that would be the next step (a next step, the vet told us, that might well kill Dragon in the undertaking, weak as he was). He had progressed to having accidents around the house, and would barely move from his place on our bed. The vet had given him a blood transfusion to try and lessen the load on his barely-working kidneys, as well as a low-protein diet and even more medicines. We decided that we were willing to keep going with the fluids and the pills and the liquids as long as he was.
 
 And then, on my birthday, he decided he wasn’t. The sweet, tired boy who had borne every prick of the needle and mouthful of foul-tasting liquid with his usual placidity was fighting us, HARD. When we finally got enough into him to justify letting him go, we just looked at each other and cried. Dragon had been perfectly clear. He didn’t want any more help. Not of that kind, at least.
 
 So the next day I left work early and took off from rehearsal, we went to the vet, and we petted and talked to our sweet little guy until the drugs took effect and he was gone.
 
 It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
 
 The post-mortem would show that Dragon had a rare disorder, one about which almost no literature exists and that was completely untreatable. It is a poor comfort, but a small one, to know that we saved him some suffering by helping him die. But when I pass by one of his favorite bedding spots still covered in hair or notice the water dish he used to pull toward himself every time he wanted a drink it is no comfort at all. Forever-home for him was only a year and a half. Not nearly long enough for us. Nor Cougar, who despite treating him like the veritable leper while he was sick cried at the door after we came home without him and now more than ever follows us from room to room, as if afraid that if we leave her sight we too will never come back.
 
 The weeks after we put Dragon down were hard. Coping with his loss, back to working long hours with no respite, dealing with a dying hard drive that I wasn’t financially prepared to replace, and then the death of a former coworker from cancer. With news of James’s passing, I was pretty much convinced that nothing good would ever happen again, that I was stuck in a grim loop of sadness and strife. This is of course untrue, but it didn’t change the effect this mindset had on my physical and emotional state. Times were tough. I was running on fumes and pretty much tired of fighting what felt like an unwinnable battle.
 
 I still am, really. But the show has completed its run, so I have a little more time to myself now. Thanks to wonderful friends and the most wonderful guy in the world, I made it through. No one else had died. Yet. Hopefully I will be able to recoup some of my normal equilibrium before the next tragedy.
 
 And in the meantime, I will get some therapy. Craft therapy.
 
 Be on the lookout for some FO posts, folks. They’re coming.

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November 23rd, 2013

Now Playing: The 90′s. Booyah.

When at work, Spotify has become my new best friend, and I’ve had a lot of fun putting together my own playlists. And, because I’m an egotistical jerk, I thought perhaps these lists should be shared. So, if you use Spotify and would like a little new music, may I present:

The 90′s. Booyah. (link)
132 tracks

It’s nostalgia time again, folks. I did a lot of coming-of-age in the 90′s, so this music holds a special place in my angst-ridden teenaged heart. There were three rules for this playlist: it had to have been released in the 90′s (duh), I had to remember the song primarily from the radio, and I had to be able to sing at least the chorus from memory. I will confess that this playlist is still growing as I occasionally remember songs that I forgot to add, so it’s in no particular order and benefits from a good shuffle. It spans all the genres I listened to at the time, from pop to rock to hip-hop (no country, sorry dudes).

Playlist might inspire you to drink, reminisce, and get into loud arguments with friends about the relative merits of Metallica and Steve Albini. Consider yourself warned.

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November 15th, 2013

Making a list, checking it twice…

So my various Ravelry communities are in the full swing of swap season, I myself am readying the lists for holiday shopping/making, and it suddenly occurred to me.

What do I want for Christmas?

My favorite holiday gifts tend to be the things I really want or need, but that I never remember to get myself. And since I figured I may not be the only one doing all my sneaky holiday planning at the moment, I thought I’d post a couple of suggestions here. For your consideration, I submit the following:

Colette Patterns – You would be hard-pressed to find something on this website that I wouldn’t want to sew, but the newest crop of patterns are on my must-make shortlist. Cooper, Albion, Negroni, Zinnia, Hawthorne, and Laurel would all be most heartily appreciated. Just no downloads. ;)

Slippers – slippers are a winter staple for me, and my current pair have nearly reached the end of their life. A slip-on style with a rubber sole is great, and I would love a pair I could toss in the wash when they get icky.

The Alien Quadrilogy – How do I not already own this? That is all.

Books – For my fiction needs, I’m trying to go as paperless as possible. But for my crafting/home reference library, there’s no beating hard copy.

Gift Cards – I know, I know, these are the cop-out of the gifting world. But in all honesty, a little ready cash to spend at Amazon or Etsy would seriously come in handy.

Charitable Donations – Stuff is nice and can be helpful, but a donation in my name (or not) to Doctors Without Borders, New York Cares, or the ASPCA would be a humbling and most appreciated gift.

A French Rolling Pin – Yup.

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November 7th, 2013

Now Playing: Wha the Funk?

When at work, Spotify has become my new best friend, and I’ve had a lot of fun putting together my own playlists. And, because I’m an egotistical jerk, I thought perhaps these lists should be shared. So, if you use Spotify and would like a little new music, may I present:

Wha the Funk? (link)
39 tracks

This playlist starts with a song called “Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky From Now On.” I don’t know that there’s anything more pertinent I can share about it.

The list is a collection of big hits from some of my favorite funk acts (most notably Parliament, Sly & the Family Stone) and some funky songs from some not-exactly-funk artists (like Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers). It will not be possible for you to sit still while this list is playing, so you might want to save it for a day when you really need to boogie down. I definitely put some time into the track order, so it’s probably best if you turn off shuffle for this one… the 12″ version of Flashlight might blow the roof off your place if you play it too early.

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November 5th, 2013

Finished: The Little Black Dress

Nancy and I are on a roll, people.

v1235front

 

My second finished item for the weekend? A little black dress. I finally own a classic LBD that I can dress up or down as the occasion demands; that’s easy to roll up and take away and toss on any time I need to. It’s perfect.

And best of all? It’s a knit! A gorgeous black wool jersey for the dress, and a stretch satin for the belt. No zippers, no buttons, just pull it over my head and go. The pattern is Vogue 1235, and I’m fairly certain I will be making another one at some point. Despite there being a lot of detail to this pattern (just look at those tucks in the bodice, man), it was easy as pie to put together. The whole shebang only took two days.

The pattern included a back facing, which most of the wise and noble ladies on Pattern Review thought was total bunk. They advocated instead just cutting 2 of the back piece and creating a facing that way, sandwiching the back strap portion of the front pieces between (the pattern instructions told you to just stitch them on last). So I did that. I also didn’t use elastic for the shirring on the shoulders, because I wanted the straps to have some structure. So I instead cut strips of my jersey on the non-stretchy grain and used those to hold my gathers and keep the straps nice and firm.

I applied a little fusible web to the narrow hem along the neckline edges for extra support to prevent gaping, and while this was a good call (another helpful tip from the PR ladies), Nancy did not like stitching through that sticky stuff. I had to stop several times to remove the lint that collected around the top of the needle, and after I was done with the web I gave my needle a good rubdown with some rubbing alcohol.

For the last of the minor changes, I skipped the zipper (fabric was stretchy enough without it) and did a narrow hem along the bottom instead of the “t-shirt hem” recommended.

And my one big change? The stretch satin I’d gotten for the midriff section was far too thick for the gathered cummerbund idea the pattern had in mind. So Iv1235back cut the midriff panels in half and just improvised a belt, lapping the ends at my left side and attaching it at the side seams as instructed for the original midriff. While it looks kind funny and droopy when the dress is on the hanger, it fits perfectly on, and provides just a little more waist definition and visual interest than the dress would have without it. I also like the texture change; I feel like it dresses the jersey up a little.

Problems? Very few. Doing a narrow hem on the stretch satin was harrowing, especially since I wound up just slicing it all off with my rotary blade once I determined the drafted midriff wouldn’t work. I also need some more experience with sew-in elastic. I just kind of screwed my eyes shut and winged it, but I’m sure there’s a better way.

Fit issues? This was a pattern I bought before the great “holy crap they put ease in things!” revelation, so I only had the larger size range. For the ease they recommended, I should have cut the 18, but I cut the 16 instead for about an inch less ease, and I think it was the right choice. There’s still a little bit of gape under my arms (you can see it in the front view above). I do see the wisdom in attaching the back straps last, as it would have allowed me to take them up a little bit in response to the weight of the skirt pulling them down my shoulders a bit, but it’s honestly a negligible issue and I prefer that they’re neatly encased in my back facing “thing.” And for what it’s worth? I totally did muslin the bodice. I am a good girl.

So all-in-all? A raging success. I am super-happy with this dress. It’s comfortable, fits well, and is a great addition to my wardrobe/easy to style with all my existing “stuff.” I am one step closer to an entirely me-made wardrobe. And it feels good.

Of course, being wool, this is purely a fall/winter LBD. I guess that means I need to start looking for a warm weather version!

 

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