Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do . . . Three Out of Four Ain’t Bad Because my Family Refused to Do Without.

One thing of note has happened for our family during the past few weeks that my daughter will probably remember for a long time.

We replaced our TV.

My great-aunt bought me a TV the summer of ’91.  It had a 16′ screen encased in one of those huge black boxes with a “handle” that bit your hand down to the bone, but allowed the manufacturer to lay claim that it was “portable”.  It weighed a ton.

In my family of origin we don’t replace an appliance until it stops working so it never occurred to me to upgrade.  Visitors would come to our house and quietly stare at the set.  Once we had a pastor offer us the brand new TV of a recently deceased church member and we were astonished.  Incredulous, we declined the offer and thought “Now why offer us that?”  But once my daughter starting having little friends over, they in their youthful innocence would exclaim “THAT’S your TV!”  – we started to get it. 

People thought our TV was old.

Having tasted the first fruits of media technology at her friends’ houses my daughter began a campaign explaining how due to the decrepitude of our timeworn TV, that it could not accept a Wii, which was our loss.

I asked her if there was sewing Wii or knitting Wii, to which she said “No”, and I replied, “Then how much fun could a Wii be?”

Because by that time my husband and I liked our old TV and wondered how long it would last. It became a curiousity.

My daughter demonstrating how tiny our screen had shrunk.

As so often with a beloved elderly pet the final illness began with mild but relatively untroubling symptoms.    The screen began showing a dark line at the top and bottom.  Since rented DVD’s always showed up in this letterbox format we didn’t especially notice when both TV shows and DVD’s began looking the same.  My husband remarked that “Damn,  somehow it has gotten reset for letterbox!”  Too lazy to delve deeper we thought nothing of it.

Then the “letterbox” began to shrink.  This was mildly bothersome but I largely ignored it.   My family grumbled a bit but I was learning to live with the restriction.  Then one night watching a BBC fantasy/drama show called “Merlin” I noticed to my family, “Boy all of these actors sure have gained weight since last season.  Especially that Morgana.  She looks downright short and pudgy. Maybe they should change up her wardrobe from all of those medieval-ey dresses.” 

The young actress/model who plays Morgana in reality is tall and slender, however when viewed through a 4 inch screen her figure had changed remarkably. She looked like a dome, her head abnormally small for her waistless triangular form.   Sadly I thought, “Her runway days are over!”  Right upon the heels of that sad pronouncement another niggling thought emerged –  it just might be the TV.

Just for grins I measured the image screen before ditching the TV. You can barely see the tape but it we had only four inches of height left.

Taking this new information in I explain to my family that ever since broadcast switched to HD it has changed the TV screen.  You see we have an old TV and it can’t “read” those kind of airwaves. ”  You see it’s those new airwaves, not our old TV.

Astounded by the glib scientific acumen of an English major, my husband stared at me for a second and then uttered the sad truth that would break through my denial.  “The picture tube is going bad.”

The picture tube. . . . . . . You don’t say. 

It took a few days for me to make peace with the reality of the situation but it was either a new TV or resigning myself to our screen distorting actors into increasingly extreme images of shortness and pudginess. Even though I felt a little guilty since the TV still technically “worked” (my husband asked me what I considered working to mean)  I finally gave the OK to purchase a new set.   Upon announcement it became clear to me that my family had wanted to put the old TV set out of our misery for weeks. 

Lest I in a burst of nostalgia change my mind, my husband hustled the family into the car and off we sped to our local big box appliance store.  The TV’s are now so flat and clear and lightweight.  In just twenty minutes my  husband popped one set onto his shoulder and off we went to the cash register.  My daughter asked for a Wii seventy-five times on the ride home.  (She is now using fitness Wii as an inducement as she knows I am still working off those pregnancy pounds. Clever child.  Still no Wii.)

 We get home, turn it on and Voila!  It is beautiful and all the sweeter for the wait. The picture and sound are terrific. No more squinting at tiny misshapen images. But you know, for me I am still getting used to it.   Having grown attached to seeing their shorter and pudgier versions the actors have returned to being consistently enviably tall and thin.  Every time I turned on the old set I was reminded of the loved one who purchased it.  All of those comments about how outdated it was, made me laugh to myself and reconnect to the value of frugality passed down from my great-aunt. 

I think out loud, “Maybe in another twenty years this new TV will be as good as the old one.”  My daughter just gives me a dirty look. And asks “When are we getting a Wii?”   


What sewing techniques do you avoid learning?

The January 2012 Threads “Designer Spotlight” (page 22) interviewed Kenneth King and this is what he had to say when asked what advice would he pass along to others interested in couture sewing:

Persistence, practice, persistence, practice.  When you get a technique “in the hands’ as my teacher Simmin Sethna would say, its quicker than using a shortcut.  A shortcut may seem faster, but in the end, doing something correctly from the beginning can save far more time.”

Though I am a big fan of shortcuts myself and love to sew using RTW methods,  Mr. King’s point is well taken. In both persistence and practice I have been remiss when a technique does not come easily. I would love to master the tailoring details that go into a pair of classic tailored trousers.  However making great slacks means welt pockets and perfect fly fronts.  I know that I should just grab some scraps and start practicing but something in me pushes back.  My sewing time is so limited that to “waste” time practicing means I will have to forego some finished garments in designs that sew more quickly.

At least that is what my impulsive mind tells me.  But Kenneth King is asserting that if I would just practice with persistence it would cut my work time in the end.  Something to think about.  It almost makes me want to pull out one of my sewing references and cut some welt pockets.

What sewing techniques do you feel you should learn but find yourself avoiding to do so for some reason?

Pattern Review:McCall’s 5678 Baby Sling Option B

McCall’s 5678 Baby Sling Option B

McCall's 5678 Baby Slings

Option A, the green one the man is wearing, does not look like you can free your hands so I didn’t bother making it.  I have something a friend gave me, a serendipity wrap I believe it is called, it is about twelve feet of bright batik green fabric; if you wrap outdoors the fabric drags on concrete and my husband will not wear it because it the print is too feminine.  (But I included the  link just in case it works for you as it looks really cool on the babywearing site. ) Baby is approaching separation anxiety stage meaning I have to wear him to get anything done.  Option B looks like a rectangle with ties attached and I thought it would work up quickly and allow me to use up some of my stash.   Also my hands could be free at least some of the time.


  1. After you make the first sling, you will find ways to shorten the process.
  2. You can make several in different fabrics having fun with various print and color combinations.
  3. It is washable.
  4. It can be adjusted to fit each individual unlike some of the commercial baby carriers where once you have the straps adjusted it is a pain to readjust if you want your husband to carry the baby for awhile.
  5. Your hands can be free some of the time, at least long enough to use a broom or mop.
  6. After you learn the technique it makes a great baby gift, though you will have to teach the recipient how to wear it, and remind her that it can only be used after the baby is 4 months old and can hold up his/her head well.

    Clearly I wasn't prepared for a photograph and I had to hold the camera at a strange angle but you can see the denim sling and that it does safely hold a baby.


  1. Looks are deceiving.  This is not a beginner project.
  2. The instructions make it take longer than need be.
  3. The body is sewn like a pillow right sides together. On the final sew-around all four straps plus the padded top are shoved to the inside and keeping all of that stuff out of your line of seaming can be tricky.
  4. Babies have strong opinions on their slings, and you could spend the time making it to find your baby hates it.  My firstborn hated every sling we tried, but I had not used one like this which resembles a mei tai sling. (Here are some photos of that type.)
  5. You cannot bend forward with this sling.  You must bend at the knee with your back straight.  This is tiresome when doing certain household chores.

Some Assembly Required:

The instructions have you baste the fleece onto the straps before completing them.  Do it per the instructions the first time, but after that an intermediate sewer will quickly see how it can be done in one pass.

I took the extra time and basted the fleece onto the body both times as it is several layers of sewing on this piece. 

After inserting straps and padded top, create a double line of seaming topstitch the straps down inside the body for extra strength.


The body can be a bit stiffer than the straps but regular cotton will also do.  I recommend quilting cotton for the straps as you will be tying these and will need some pliability. I used denim and batik for the first sling, and a fanciful quilting cotton for the second.

The second sling in fun fabric. I forget who gave me this fabric with a print of dogs posing as cowboys but this is the only use I can imagine using it for.


I used some of my stash for these two slings, but finding yardage long enough for the straps was a bit hard.  You can piece the straps towards the ends, but I would want one solid piece near the body.

Will I Sew it Again:

Maybe.  Depends on how long these two last.  I have a friend who is pregnant and I hope it is a little girl as I am dying to make one of these up in coordinating girlie pink fabrics. 🙂

Advice to Others:

You must give me grace because the baby kept hitting the camera though it wasn't quite this blurry on my digital screen. Hopefully you can still see my mistake where the red doesn't quite meet up with the blue. I should have taken more care in pinning and cleaning up the edges of my strap.

Remember after you sew the straps to tidy up the edges or you may have some skips in your seaming because your stitch line just missed the fabric edge. 

Mark the top of the body because once you take off the pattern you won’t be able to figure it out.  It is a little counterintuitive but the smaller end goes on bottom, so the baby’s legs can stick out, and the larger side goes on top to surround the baby at the shoulder.

If you have a post-partum abdominal separation (diastis recti) or weak upper back muscles you must remember to pull your shoulders back and down, and your bellybutton up and in when wearing the sling.  Check out Julie Tupler,  a physical therapist who helps pregnant and post-partum women get back into shape and reduce their bellies.  She warns that care must be used when wearing front carry baby slings.

 Overall Style Grade:  A, This could be very cute, especially if you bought some designer quilting cotton.

Results Grade: A, for advanced beginners or beyond.  If I were new to sewing I might find it a bit frustrating.

At What Age Did You Begin Sewing?

My daughter's sewing machine which I have been "borrowing" for the past two years.

I was nine, in third grade, when I began my first machine sewing project.  It was a tank top made of some horrible polyester and had facings, a term and technique that really bemused me, because as a nine-year-old I could not for the life of me see where these funny curved things had a face.  Much of my learning to sew has gone along these lines.  And I vowed to myself that I would teach my daughter so she wouldn’t have to undergo the agonies of the self-taught.

After my daughter’s first experience with machine sewing she decided to take a break.  A few years have passed and she is now seven and feels she is ready to face the machine again.   This is her first project completed with supervision.  (I serged the inside seams.)

Here are the photos.  She took the pictures.  They are very blurry but she was so proud of her pillow I told her I would post the photos.  

Little mermaid on one side.



Angelina on the other side.



Hello Kitty ribbons to close pillowcase.

I am curious.  Not only how old were you when you began sewing, but how much help did you receive?

I received very little help and it has left me unsure how to teach sewing to a young girl.  A family member helped me when she could but it was not often that I was at her home.  4-H at the time was not offering  much hands-on instruction in sewing, at least that was my experience.   Most of the easy sewing projects I can imagine for my daughter would he half her work, and half mine, for them to come out successfully.  If the sewing isn’t strong enough to withstand use, she won’t be able to enjoy her completed projects, and I fear she won’t want to continue sewing.   I don’t want her discouraged with poor results, but I also want her to own her victories when a project comes out well.

Did you have someone to lean on, or are you mainly self-taught?  If you had a teacher, how did your teacher go about teaching sewing?

Trying Out a Magazine from Threads I Haven’t Seen Before.

Quick Stuff to Sew Winter 2011 from Threads Magazine

Found this at the store yesterday. 

I browsed through and it seemed right along the lines of what I need right now. 

This week I have completed so many errands that I have had little time to sew, but I do have some projects.  I am working on a template for the poncho mentioned under Inspirations on a recent post.  Also I have finished one baby sling, and have another on halfway completed.  I will review the pattern soon.  Sadly no photos yet.

The poncho wearable muslin came out well and I am looking forward to taking my daughter fabric shopping this weekend so she can choose her fabric.  I hope we can find something she likes.  I am looking forward to the time spent with her and on finally buying some fabric!

Have a fun weekend!

Fat Tuesday Celebrations

Normally I cook a special meal for Fat Tuesday replete with all kinds of fattening luxuries like cream sauce and cake.  However this year I am getting over the stomach flu and am enjoying a high carbohydrate diet of only the blandest foods.   Plus my husband has to work late and my daughter has dance.

So much for the Fat Tuesday feast.

Furthermore the day’s normal festiveness was to be replaced by fussiness as I started the morning with a doctor’s appointment for the baby where he got his 4 month vaccines.  Thinking he might be cranky for awhile I wanted to walk with him as he likes to be pushed in his stroller.

So I decided to do something I rarely do. 

I went to the swankest mall in town.

Luck was with me and I got a primo parking spot right in front of the door to that mall’s poshest department store.  And the day kept going along those lines.  Here is little journal of today’s adventures.

Inspiration from the Nordstrom Girls Deparment

Trapeze dress Girls Department Nordstrom Cincinnati Feb 2012


Sweatshirt Poncho Girls Department Nordstrom Cincinnati Feb 2012


Window shopped.

Anthropologie Summer Tank Feb 2012

Tried on some perfume.

Anthropologie perfume: My favorites were Collette and Bianca.

Stopped for a treat.

Happy Fat Tuesday!


Top Knit Picks for Spring/Summer 2012

Taking it easy on sewing lately due to baby care.  Though I am sorely tempted to try out those pattern sales, I do feel that I have enough patterns at home and that I should withstand the temptation to purchase some patterns that I might not have time to make.

So here are the picks from the pattern stash. 

Simplicity 3790

I have made both the surplice and the yoked top before.  Here is the review of the surplice which I have decided looks deplorable on me no matter how well fitted.  But the little swingy top flatters me and I still have my wearable muslin which I have worn to bits.

Simplicity 2283

And I have made the vest of this pattern but not the tops.  Definitely sewing the vest again.  I looked for my previous review but could not find it.  The top looks cute but I wonder how much time it will take.

There they are.  Unusual for me to only have two patterns in the offing but it is kind of refreshing to have just a few designs to focus on.  As Sister from Dr. Fun Living la vida loca commented on my last post, the anticipation is half the fun. 

Now I can enjoy rooting through the fabric stash and see what can be found there. 🙂

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