I acknowledge that I was never the smartest kid in class, but I am smart and have always been a good student and a hard worker. I would say I’m also pretty good at not sweating the small stuff, little failures aren’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I had trouble learning to read when I was little even though I love books, and even now I’m not a fast reader but I still love it. No, what I’ve always been good at is math and spacial visualization, which I personally think goes hand in hand with sewing. So I spent 7 years getting two degrees in engineering and I’ve been working as an engineer for almost 4 years. I love it. I love problem solving and building useful infrastructure. I can easily say being an engineer is part of my identity now. I am a good engineer too.
Last fall I sat for the Professional Engineering exam and failed.
I still get sad thinking about it. It’s hard to describe how upset and shaken I was. I was so depressed because being a good engineer is part of who I am, but this is supposed to be a test of your engineering skills and I failed. I feel like a part of me was crushed, like one leg was swept out from under me and all I could do was hop around aimlessly. Passing the PE is such an important step in any engineer’s career, I literally cannot be promoted at my current job until I pass. To make it worse, coworkers who I know I’m a better engineer and smarter than, passed on the first try. I didn’t check my score online that day until I got home, which was good because I was sobbing and shaking so hard my cats were confused and just stared at me from a safe distance. It’s a good thing my cube at work is kind of in a corner because I definitely started crying at work a couple times. I went home sick at least once because I just couldn’t do anything. People kept telling me that I was probably just one right answer away from passing or that it was probably just bad luck that the fall test was especially difficult (they don’t tell you what a passing grade is because it varies each time, in fact the test can vary in difficulty each time also). And it probably was just one or two wrong answers that tripped me up, but that doesn’t make it better. This is a pass/fail test, it doesn’t matter if you almost passed, you still just fail. People kept saying they were sure I’d pass this time and I’d get so mad and upset because everyone said the same bullshit the first time and it didn’t happen. I told people to stop saying that sort of thing but apparently it’s hard for people to lay off the “encouraging” words even when you flat out tell them to stop. It doesn’t help, it didn’t help. It definitely just made me feel worse, because I’d just keep remembering how they said the same thing before and it didn’t happen. I understand that they meant well, but it was actually pretty hurtful.
I will note, for anyone worried, I never thought about suicide. I did think about quitting my job and living in a cave for the rest of my life, but never self-harm. But I like buying star wars action figures and drinking hot tea too much to live in a cave.
I tell you all this not for pity or to say sorry for not posting for 5 months or however long it’s been (in fact, I’m not sorry at all for not posting), but because it’s important to talk about these things because it’s normal to fail and it’s normal to be sad. And because it really put a damper on my sewing, something that makes me happy. When what little motivation you have for life is being forced into studying for a second time for the biggest test of your career and you’re already feeling hopeless, there just isn’t much room for inserting zippers or sewing darts. But being creative is also an integral part myself, and I was sad I couldn’t do it. So very very slowly I’ve been working on a quilt. Thankfully I chose a very simple half square triangle scheme long before I was even thinking about the PE so it wasn’t very taxing to arrange and sew them together.
I wish I had dated my original sketch because I’m pretty sure I started planning this quilt in 2015, after I finished my dad’s monk robe. I chose to do an all blue quilt, fading from white through shades of blue all the way to black, only because blue is my husband’s favorite color. But now that it’s come to embody a lot of my struggles in the last year, it’s kind of fitting that blue is the color associated with depression, i.e. “feeling blue.”
I think anyone who gets into sewing of any kind finds out pretty quickly how relaxing and meditative it is. To not think about what else is going on in the world or around you, just focus on arranging bits of fabric, sewing seams, trimming corners, pressing allowances, it’s a great reprieve from bad thoughts. I would say that quilting and embroidering (the two things I was able to do) are the best when you’re really depressed because it was daunting to me to try to think through the sequential steps involved in making a dress, even though normally that is easy peasy for me. But quilting is just a few steps repeated over and over again. Cut, sew, press. Cut, sew, press. Or because I’m an obsessive organizer: cut, cut, cut, sew, sew, sew, press, press, press (and then sewing and pressing on repeat until the quilt is together).
I retook the PE exam last Friday. Results won’t be posted for 6 to 8 weeks. My quilt is not done, but I have a complete top. I just need to make a backing, baste it all together, quilt, and bind it. So maybe in another year or two I’ll have a finished object to show off, but for now, this feels like an accomplishment.
Like last year, I don’t really feel like rehashing what I sewed last year. I’m pretty sure my sewing slowed way down in 2016 and I don’t see it picking up anytime soon. So instead here is a list of books I read in 2016 and briefly what I thought about them (order is just chronological to when I read them):
- Cat on the Edge – this was a really fun book. It’s a murder mystery with talking cats (who solve the crime). I believe it’s the first of a series of mystery books about the main cat character, but I doubt I’ll read the rest of them.
- A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi – novelizations of the original 3 star wars movies. I’m lumping them together because the book I got had all 3 printed in one binding. I would say these are just meh, the movies are better but it is kindof funny to notice the differences because the movie wasn’t finalized when these books were written. I’m pretty sure I remember the book describing Yoda as having blue skin.
- The Force Awakens – another novelization of the movie, this one was much more consistent with the movie, well written, and had just a little bit more in it about what some of the characters were thinking. But nothing very important. I’m seriously considering getting immersed in all the new star wars books after seeing Rogue One.
- Leviathan Wakes – This is the first book in the Expanse series that was recently made into a really awesome TV show. The books is also very good, but this is a complex story set about 100 years in the future with multiple plot lines. Basically humanity has colonized Mars, some moons of Jupiter, and the asteroid belt, but because of differences in gravity humans are evolving differently in different locations. There’s political drama, space ships, interplanetary war, and possibly aliens. It’s really well done and I do plan to read more of the series, but I have a hard time getting into really long book series that have no end in sight. Everyone should at least watch the TV show, it’s amazing.
- Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk – A book of short stories about animals by David Sedaris. Nearly all the stories are full of dark humor. It wasn’t my favorite, I was hoping for a little more light heartedness.
- Death Comes to Pemberley – This is sortof a sequil to Pride and Prejudice, except obviously a different author. But it’s also a murder mystery. It was a very fast read, and I enjoyed it all the way up to the end. But the ending was pretty disappointing.
- The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill – these are the first 4 books in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. When these first came out I was probably just a little too old for them, I read the first 3 books and just didn’t think they were funny, just depressing (I tend to internalize a lot of things I read and watch on TV without realizing it, for instance scary things will definitely give me bad dreams if I watch them too close to bedtime. Like zombie movies or true crime shows). My mom loved them and had the whole series of books, but she was going to get rid of them because she wasn’t going to reread them so I took the books home (although I’m missing book 7). I still think they’re depressing, and not especially funny, but I can appreciate them more now and I’m determined to read them all before watching the new Netflix show. Mainly I just really want to know what happens to the Baudelaire orphans in the end.
Currently I’m part way through The Austere Academy (book 5 of A Series of Unfortunate Events), Little Women, and O Pioneers. Which is pretty random combination, but I seem to jump around a lot between genres anyways.
I couldn’t find a picture related to books so here are my cats sleeping:
So most of these are a little old, but now that I’m done with the PE exam I can do things for fun again!
- See, men’s fashion does change! just not as fast as women’s. Or does it, it’s honestly hard to tell.
- I’m sure you’ve heard about the New York Times profile of the McCall’s Pattern Company by now. The term Do-It-Yourself really gets on my nerves though, it implies that normally we aren’t capable of making things or, in my mind, that the thing you’re making is shoddy quality. I don’t DIY my clothing, I construct it myself, for myself.
- The real Bob Ross
- The Hugo Awards short story winner this year is about an AI who loves cat pictures. Really, what more could you ask for from a self-aware computer system?
- Yet another discriminating thing to watch out for – math can be biased against women and minorities. Really, it’s the algorithms, which are written by people with biases (everyone has biases), but still don’t ever take “big data” as complete truth because it’s probably missing something important.
- Embroidery is apparently very trendy right now, even better when done yourself in my opinion.
- I wasn’t really paying attention to the Olympics when Flo-Jo was racing (having just been born around that time), but she looks so cool in her hooded bodysuits.
- How gymnastics leotards are made
- Tim Gunn and Christian Siriano on NPR
- This is the best Banned Book Week idea ever, wish it wasn’t just in DC!
- The age old question: are quilts art? Mary Fons (the author of the article linked to) also keeps an interesting blog, mostly about her life, that is a nice departure from the typical craft blog because she almost never blogs about her sewing but she’s such a good writer.
- Back to the topic of all things Olympics from this summer, here is a little history of the American uniforms and branding.
- How Obama’s female staffers made their voices heard
- The presidential campaign may be over technically, but I doubt anyone is going to stop being upset. At least some people are pretty decent.
- Some behind the scenes on making star wars action figures for the most recent movies.
You know when you find fabric that you just really like but have no idea what to do with it and you still buy it anyways? That’s this dress. I love the green/blue colors, but the tan isn’t my favorite. But a southwestern style print like this isn’t something I normally wear even if I love it. So I paired it with a dress pattern that I wanted to try out. I think the fit is a little weird, but I’m not too bummed because I was so unsure about the fabric.
I actually finished sewing this dress in July or August probably, didn’t wear or photograph it until late September and now that I’m done studying for the PE I finally have the mental space to post about it!
Pattern: New Look 6097
Fabric: Rayon-lycra jersey from SR Harris
Design Likes/Dislikes: I think this might be my first mock wrap dress and I actually really like the idea. I like wrap dresses too but with this one you don’t have to think about if the wrap is going to fly open ever. I also liked that the pattern has a couple variation details like the collar and sleeves.
Sizing and Fit: I made my usual size 10 but the fit feels a little weird. You can see it in the drawing above that the waist seam isn’t on the waist. It feels weird to me, and when I finished making it I was ready to just get rid of it because it was too weird. But I left it in my closet for a couple weeks ( or maybe months) and decided I had to at least give it a chance by wearing it to work and after wearing it a full day it really didn’t bother me as much. I don’t think this pattern will become a favorite, but it’s not bad.
I should have used the silly sleeve tabs though because the sleeves are too loose on their own to roll up well.
Changes: I used the longer sleeves, no tabs, and no collar, but the only real change was to shorten the skirt.
For Next Time: I’m not making this one again, but I might see if I have any other mock wrap patterns or look around for a good one.
Oh, that’s not how the saying goes? When you’re just going to a highly historically inaccurate renaissance festival, no one dies and you can have mead and a turkey leg if you want instead.
I finished my dress for the fair earlier this summer and a couple weekends ago my family came to visit so we could all go together. Only my mom, dad, and I dressed up, but it sounds like everyone wants to go again next year so maybe my sister and nephew will dress up next time also. My mom made a quick elastic waist skirt and laced up vest (from leftovers of my dress #matching) and my dad wore the monk robe I made last year. It was raining for the first 30 minutes or more that we were at the fair, so that was kindof miserable because none of us had prepared for rain. But it was great once it stopped raining, probably cut down on the crowd too. Next year I’m making a cloak or a big hat.
Pattern: McCall’s 6940, View A with modifications
Dresses (close-fitting through bust) have princess seam detail, long, wide sleeves and sleeve bands. A: Partially lined, wrap, tie ends, and appliqué. B: Boned, and back zipper. Belts have backing. Belt C: Seam detail, purchased lacing for closure. Belt D:elasticized pieces with hook & eye closing.
Fabric: Dark blue linen (from SR Harris) and printed blue and white cotton linen blend (from Hancock’s, RIP). I hadn’t totally decided what to do with the sleeves yet when I was buying fabric (didn’t even have a color scheme picked out until I found the blue and white print), so I followed the recommended yardages. Since I obviously didn’t make giganto sleeves, I have plenty left over.
Design Likes/Dislikes: The sleeves didn’t look very practical for anything other than posing for pictures and there was potential for hot weather so I pretty much nixed the sleeves as designed, I’ll go into more detail below about my changes. I was also not sure the ties would be enough to keep the dress closed. Besides the outside ties, the pattern calls for one interior ribbon going around the waist with thread loops. I didn’t do that, instead I secured the inside wrap with 4 buttons sewn to the seam. This worked pretty well and I didn’t have to worry about my dress coming open at all during the day – but I did wear shorts and a tank top underneath just in case. I’m not a fan of the odd shaped belts in the pattern either, so I didn’t make them.
And here is my dad and I “fighting” with imaginary light sabers, showing off his sleeve pocket, and kindof showing the interior buttons I added to my dress. I feel like my voice sounds really funny in this video (shot by Pedro).
Sizing and Fit: Size 10, the sleeves are a little tight around the armhole but otherwise the dress fit as expected.
Changes: I added interior buttons like I mentioned above. I also changed the sleeves quite a bit. I used the upper sleeve pattern piece but extended it to be full length. Originally I was just going to have a normal straight sleeve, but then I started getting worried it would be hot and I would die in dark blue long sleeves. So I cut them up the center and bound the edges with bias binding. If I feel like it I might go back and add some lacing or a ribbon tie at the wrist to make it more fancy.
My belt is just an unfinished strip of thick, blue leather (just one of those things you randomly have lying around “just in case”)
For Next Time: I think I can safely say I won’t be making this again, I’m not sure why I would need two of these dresses, but I do think I could make some modifications to this dress for the next time I wear it. I need some sort of pocket, I’ll have to think about where the best place to put that would be. Laces or ribbon added to the sleeves. And a tie or ribbon that I can use to hitch up the skirt. It was very muddy at the fair because it rained in the morning so I was constantly holding my skirt up (which one hand, because I was too busy eating and drinking). I think just a tie that starts from the inside waist seam on one side would be enough.
The fair itself was fun, pretty much just as I expected it to be. This fair in Shakopee, MN is a permanent set up and I think one of the larger fairs in the country (I could be wrong, haven’t been to any others). The buildings are really well done to look aged and all the actors/performers/workers are costumed and spoke in English/Scottish accents (which honestly was the weirdest part to me. I know we didn’t have a medieval period in America, but it’s just weird to pretend to be English for a renaissance festival. Does anyone in Europe even have renaissance festivals? seems like one of those weird American ideas). There was theatrical jousting, jesters and acrobat type people, and a royal court that seemed to just wonder around. It can get expensive though, but they serve mead and turkey legs and you get to dress!
Work has been crazy busy this spring/summer and now that I’ve decided to take the Professional Engineer licensure exam in October, the summer and fall will probably be busy too… which leads to not much sewing (and an seriously warped sense of time). But, I finished a dress to wear to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival because my dad needs an excuse to wear his monk robe, obviously. Not going to bother posting about it until we go in September though.
- The Met Gala was a while back now but there were some really interesting (and not interesting) outfits worn on the red carpet. My favorite was Kate Hudson’s dress, which I then loved even more when an unexplained photo of her in the bathroom holding a wrench popped. How to accessorize your Gala dress? With a wrench obviously.
- I also loved Lupita Nyong’o at the Met Gala, but her hair do seemed to cause some confusion. I wish I knew the structural physics of her hair. How did she sit in the car to get to the Gala?
- Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad will be the first athlete to compete for the US Olympic Team while wearing the hijab.
- Most of the people reading this probably know that throwing clothes in the trash is a bad idea, but it seems to be sinking in with everyone else more too. Although this interview still doesn’t tell us what to do with our fabric scraps or clothing that really truly is worn to rags (I still feel bad sending exceedingly crappy stuff to charity and force them to sort through it). I should probably just call the Salvation Army and see if they care or not.
- These crosswalks are so cool, but I think I’d freak out a little if I wasn’t expecting them while driving.
- Electron microscope video of a needle on a vinyl record.
- What will tourist wear in space?
- This is so cool: spider silk stays taught when pushed and pulled!
- Optical illusion body painting by Alexa Meade.
- It always confuses me when people don’t have hobbies of any kind, or maybe they just don’t know that practically anything you’re not being paid for but enjoy doing is probably a hobby.
- FIDM has an Online Collections Database
- British grandma sends cute tweet
- Cats are actually scientists, this explains so much.
- These pictures aren’t new by any means, but seriously, Obama is the best president ever. Michelle should run in 2024, after Hillary’s 8 years are up.
Guest Post by Bia (Molly and Pedro’s mom)
I should guest post more often, but Molly might tell me to just get my own blog!
I just finished a quilt for my sister, Samantha. The family has always called her Sam or Sammy (or Sambrino or Sam Hill, as in “Who in the Sam Hill is that?”). When I spied Dr. Seuss “Sam I Am” (from the Green Eggs and Ham story) fabric a couple years ago in Grand Island NE (at Material Girl), I had to get it! I only bought one yard of each – orange big white dots, green with green dots, white with black Sam I Am words, green with green Sam I Am words. I added in plain white and came up with a plan.
Close-up of front (above).
The backing is a very cool border, found it on sale in an awesome small shop in Lincoln NE, Crafthouse in the north part of town.
Back of quilt (above).
And the happy recipient! Some quilty details: Finished size ~70″ x 82″. Batting – 80 cotton/20 polyester. Machine pieced and quilted by me. Rectangular block. Lots of fun to make!
Until next time I guest blog – ta ta for now — Bia