Dutiful Sewing and a Car Ride

Good morning! It is 9 am. I am up and have coffee made. Whoop whoop! For a retired girl this is pretty good. Nice thing too, because we have a lot to do today.

Being Dutiful First, we are going to tackle some dutiful sewing. A while back I read and started following a suggestion from the Threads Magazine readers tips. The suggestion was to keep your sewing project in a basket or plastic container. This way, everything is in one place and it is easy to haul it around if you do different tasks in different parts of the house. I LOVE baskets and have a ton of them so this tip was right up my alley. Until I discovered the downside. Keeping things in a basket if perfect if you are actually working on the project. However, it is not-so-slick if you start stashing unfinished projects in baskets to get to later. Because then you have baskets all over your sewing room filled with not-done’s that call out pitifully to you when you sleep. (BTW, I also learned from Threads readers tips the term UFO, which means UnFinished Objects AND FABLE, which means Fabric Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy. I have both of these things!!!). Today, my dear friends we are going start chipping away at one of the baskets. With luck, this will inspire you to tackle something cluttering up your mind and project room. Go ahead and get it out. You can work on it while I sort though my baskets.

As we begin being dutiful we have choices. Which basket should we work on? There is a shirt and scratchy ribbon-y fabric that I want to put together into something cute; or a sweater vest that needs something to cover the underside near the neck; or the Marcy Tilton basket. Door number 1, 2 or 3? “I chose 3 Monty” (that’s Monty Hall from “Let’s Make A Deal”; a game show that started in 1963 and used to be on during lunchtime when I was a kid). The Marcy Tilton basket is a PERFECT choice! First off, it has been sitting there the longest; about a year and a half. I got the fabric on a trip and I bought the pattern because I loved how it looked. Also, I have a secret crush on Marcy Tilton, the designer. Marcy is half of the amazing Tilton sisters (Katherine designs patterns for Butterick) and in 1976 she and a group of friends drove from Denmark to Kenya. The trip took awhile (I think a year) and when Marcy’s clothes wore out she sewed replacement clothes by hand from African wax batiks found in the markets. She used newspapers to make her patterns. From there a career was born. See why I have a crush on her?

My maiden Marcy Tilton pattern. How exciting!!!!

Anyhooo, I have at least a half dozen Marcy patterns, None of Which I Have Made!!! Am I the only one who does this? I will buy patterns for the sewer I want to be, not necessarily the sewer I am. With Marcy patterns, I am a little intimidated. First off, it is put out by Vogue and when I was a girl learning to sew, Vogue was out of my league. A nice girl from Richland, Washington sewed Simplicity patterns. Maybe McCall’s or Butterick if she was feeling racy. Not Vogue. Now days Vogue has a Very Easy line which is totally doable, and Simplicity can hold its own in the complexity dept, but early impressions run deep. Also, If you ever read Sewing Pattern Review, people who use Marcy’s patterns make it sound like….well, like Advanced Trigonometry sewing! And let’s face it, I am an Algebra 1-A girl. “Oh! they exclaim while wiping their brow……It was so hard!!!! I struggled through the collar and the facing made no sense but thanks to my ADVANCED LEVEL skills I worked through it all and came out with an impeccably sewn dress/top/pants/jacket.” Hmmmm, not happening at my house.

But none-the-less, I cut it out. It is in the basket. It is time to sew this thing. We are not going to be in a hurry with this project. To get anything done will be better than having it sit in the basket. So small progress will be our goal. In each post I will update you on the progress with the Marcy jacket. And eventually it will be complete. Then maybe we’ll have a party.

An decent start. I am happy so far. Can you see how much the fabric frays? That will be exciting………

UPDATE 1: So far, not bad. The pattern has 32 steps and I made it to 12. Thus far, I attached a really interesting pocket and put the basic bones of the jacket together. I will tell you more about the pocket in a minute, but first, let me describe the fabric. I am not sure what it is. It’s brown, woven and it has shiny patches in the underside that make beautiful cranes and flowers in the front. It cuts easily but if frays like crazy!!! I don’t really have a classification for it. It isn’t a Beast or a Bear but it certainly isn’t a Dream. It is….Finicky. For example, it started out destroying my polyester thread like it was eating pork-chops and spitting out the bones. But once I switched to cotton it was fine. It wants a universal needle, but all the stitches are straight, no skips and easy to tear out (which I have had to do PLENTY of times). Like I said, it frays—in fact, it kind of shreds and the edges get almost furry feeling. You know, the fabric reminds me of my cat!!! That is its classification; it is “Mitzie-level Finicky,”

Whew, I am glad that is settled. Because the fabric is so finicky I plan to pretty much mind Marcy when it comes to directions. If she says press, I press. If she says stay-stitch, then that is what I do. This is not only good for the fabric, it also gives me time to pause and think about project while I work with it.

Not having enough fabric was not a problem. I just pieced spare fabric together and cut my pocket from that.

As I said, the pocket was like no other and super interesting. It was also the first step of the pattern make. Right off the bat, I had a small problem and had to improvise. When I laid out my pieces I saw that the pocket was missing. And THEN I realized I didn’t have enough fabric for it. What to do? I decided to take the left over fabric I had and piece together a section large enough to cut the pocket. This required some time and fiddling. I thought, how did I want the pieces to lay, what designs did I like together?? I laid stuff on top of/next to each other until I was happy, stitched it all together with a 3/8 inch seam and zigzagged the edges so they wouldn’t fray). I also pressed, because Marcy was really into pressing. Then, I cut out the pocket piece and started to work on the pattern. Marcy had me fold and attach the bottom of the pocket to the bottom hem band and then attach the band and the pocket to the front of the jacket. I made a few errors and had to rip things out, but the pocket ended up looking really cool. And I am telling you, IT TOOK NO SPECIAL SKILL to put it together. I am still an Algebra 1-A seamstress. Just one who went slow, ripped out her mistakes and plugged along. Diving in to the deep end of the sewing pool…….

Time for a Car Ride

I promised you a car ride today and it seems like the perfect reward for being dutiful. You need to wear warm clothes that can get a little muddy. Bring your gloves and a jacket. Oh, the Blog Dogs are going with us. Ready?

Olalla We are headed to Olalla. Because I was a teacher we have to learn a little bit about Olalla before we go there. Olalla Road and Creek are located about 10 miles from where I live. They are part of the Olalla-Lookingglass Watershed and home to one of Douglas County’s major dams, Berry Creek Dam, which forms Ben Irving Reservoir. The term Olalla is a modification of Olathe, the original spelling of the creek name. It is a Chinook jargon word which means berries, or salmonberries. The most common land use in the Olalla/Lookingglass Watershed is forestry (76%) and some agriculture (19%). The area was originally home to the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribes of Indians. Do you have all of that? Good. Now let’s load up. I hope you don’t mind if the little dog sits on your lap.

Load Up!!!!

We are going to Olalla because there is an old logging road where the Blog Dogs can run like demons. When I got Mocha from the Humane Society they told me, “She’s a runner.” I smiled smugly and thought, “Not after she moves in with me. She will be so loved she will never want to run again.” Boy was I wrong! Mocha is half German Shepard and half Malamute. That means she is smart, persistent and designed to pull a dog-sled. I have no dog-sled. This is a problem because Mocha needs exercise. A LOT of exercise. If Mocha doesn’t get enough exercise she mopes around the house and harasses the cat. However, walking doesn’t cut it for Mocha. She was built for speed (I have clocked her at 20mph) and walking at “people pace” does nothing but frustrate her. She pulls on the leash, fusses at neighbor dogs and generally behaves like a pest. Ahhg, what to do? One day, my Sewing Sister’s Sweetie (Triple S) suggested I take her out to Olalla. “I used to log there and I ‘m pretty sure you could find some unused roads where you can drive the car and have the dog run behind you.” Well, that sounded like fun. I decided to try it.

See that blur in front of us……It’s Mocha.

Now we run every day we can (or every day I want her to leave the cat alone). If I break the details down, we drive down Highway 42; turn left on Olalla Road and unroll the windows (rain or shine) so the Blog Dogs can inhale the smells of horses, sheep, goats, ranch dogs AND a donkey. At about 4 miles, we turn left on Berry Creek Road and stop 2 miles before Ben Irving Reservoir. On the left is an unpaved road marked 29-8-12.0. At this point we let Mocha out of the car. She runs in front of car (again at 20mph) and scatters any dangerous squirrels or pheasants that might try to attack us. I work to not to get stuck or slide off the road. Where the road is blocked by fallen trees we park, walk one mile down, one mile up and sometimes a little more. While Dunkin and I walk, Mocha runs up, down and around the mountain, occasionally dashing by for a check-in. After we all make our way back to the car, I drive down the road with both of the dogs running behind like wild things At the bottom, everyone piles in. Usually the Blog Dogs are muddy, wet and happy. The car is filthy/the dogs are delighted. It is worth the trade off. My personal goal (besides wearing out the dogs)is to be able to go down and up the hill at a decent clip, without being winded. When I can do that, I plan to go cross country skiing with my friend Angie. Of course, you can come with us when we go!!

Scenes from Hiking with the Blog Dogs

How does this tie in to Sewing????

Oh, I’m so glad you asked!!! You know, we don’t do things randomly at Sewingjourney! Everything has a purpose. Even hiking with the blog dogs. Besides flora, fauna and beautiful views, do you know what Road 29-8-12.0 has? Rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. And do you know what rocks are perfect for????………Pattern weights. That’s right, pattern weights!

Pattern Weights? Remember in blog two when I told you I grew up old school using pins to cut out patterns? Well, I have noticed that many modern sewists (you adorable kids, you!) use pattern weights instead. They are fast, easily moved and they don’t pull your fabric when you apply them. I LIKE them. So I wanted a set for myself. The thing is, I didn’t want to spend time making them (little cotton squares filled with rice or lentils) and they were kind of expensive at the store. Then one day I was watching a Mimi G video and noticed her pattern weights looked a lot like large washer rings. That intrigued me. I ran to the hardware section of Bi-Mart, got some washers and brought them home. The ones I bought were too small. Big sigh. Again, my Sewing Sister’s Sweetie (Triple S) came to the rescue. He said, “You know what would work? Plain old rocks. Just get some rocks, clean them up and you have cheap pattern weights. Heck, you could even write on them.” And that dear friends is exactly what I did.

Here are a sample of my pattern weights. I make themed collections out of them. First we have the Aretha Franklin (the Queen of Soul):

Then, a collection in honor of my Sewing Sister:

And finally, Famous Designer’s First Names (because we are all close like that…..):

I am working on the Love Collection but didn’t get if finished in time to “go to print”. Hopefully I can show it to you in my next post.

What do you think? Cool, huh? Makes you want to run out and pick up rocks doesn’t it? I thought you would love it. Aaaa-nd they were the easiest thing ever. I washed them and used a sharpie to write. “Voila” (as the dogs would say). They are now my new gift-of-choice for friends who sew. If you know me, expect some rocks!!!


In the last blog I promised Ann I would talk about Guatemala. Here we go. Guatemala is a sewing journey that has stolen my heart. I first went there last year with a group of friends from my church. We went up to an area called the Ixcán which is in the in the north. It is a rural jungle-y area close to the border with Mexico. In the Ixcán you get to stare into the face of how geography and economy shapes life experience. I left overwhelmed by the amount of “STUFF” I live with, and discovered I don’t need half of what I think I need. I have lots I can share. It made me humble. In the Ixcan I got to sleep on concrete and help Guatemalan families build compostable latrines. It was AWESOME! I could talk about the marvels of compostable latrines for hours….but let’s save that for later.

Image may contain: 10 people, including Kristi McGree, people smiling, people standing, tree and outdoor

A group of my friends are headed to Gautama today and I’m sad I’m not going with them. They plan to build water filters, bring a medical team with a pediatrician, teach pastors and encourage and support the local public schools. I may not be with them today, but I’ll go on the next trip. Today I’ll share the story of Guatemala with you, and let you know how lovable the place and people are.

some spare fabric going to our Sewing Sisters in Guatemala

One of the wonderful things I got to do in the Ixcán was meet a group of women who joined together to relearn their traditional art of weaving. From 1969-1996 Guatemala suffered unrest and a civil war that caused destruction, homelessness and displacement for people who lived in the Ixcán area. During that time, a generation of women lost the knowledge and purpose that came from traditional weaving. My friends in Guatemala are helping to bring that back. A person who has played a key role in this is Hilda. She is considered a master weaver in her town of master weavers. She travels 10 hours from her home to Ixcán villages so she can teach, mentor and encourage others. She is amazing. The women have also started sewing so they can create durable clothing for their families and to sell. Last October I got to visit and work with women on sewing and watch Hilda weave. There is nothing better my friends. I also got to do some other things that I will share in a later blog. For now, I just wanted to introduce my love of Guatemala and let you start imagining the people and the area.

Time’s Up. Where has the day gone? We have emptied one of our UFO baskets; tackled a project that felt intimidating; gone on a car ride; hiked with the Blog Dogs; made the world’s coolest pattern weights; and learned a little bit about Guatemala. Phew! I’m ready for a nap. I had a great time with you today. Can’t wait to talk next week. Remember, “Life Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful.

Published by kristimcgree

Hi, my name is Kristi. I love to sew, write and travel and I think having opportunities to be creative is the greatest thing ever!

6 thoughts on “Dutiful Sewing and a Car Ride

  1. Loved seeing the dogs and your kitty. I’m not much of a sew girl, but I have done it enough to appreciate the work. Keep it up. Love reading about your adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

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