Summer of Sewing: Preparing for Me Made May.

Sarah's Summer of Sewing

It’s that time of year again — time to take the Me Made May pledge and focus on sewing for a while. So, without further ado:

‘I, Sarah L. Crowder, of codenamesarah.com (and @codenamesarah on IG) sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2018. I will do my best to wear a self-made garment every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday during the month of May. I will also use this month as an opportunity to finish a couple of lingering UFOs, but I also want to get back into the habit of sewing more regularly — just for fun, with no pressure.’

I’m not promising photos this year, neither here nor on Instagram. I will be wearing many repeats from last year, and I don’t want to make a fuss over taking pictures this time around. I will do my best to photograph newly sewn items and a few things that I’ve never shown on IG, though. Of course, being me, I have to take things even further…so I’m going to use this year’s Me Made May to kick off an entire summer of sewing.

I genuinely enjoy sewing, but I haven’t been making time for it. It’s true that my energy level is especially low right now (particularly since I had the flu), but I make time for other, less important things — so why shouldn’t I get a little more sewing in? I spend so much time thinking about sewing, but so little time actually doing it. That’s what I want to change. I’ve finally gotten my writing into a useful daily routine — now I want to do the same thing with my sewing practice.

When we moved to this accursed apartment (that’s a whole other rant), I specifically made room for a dedicated sewing area. The only things I have to get out and put away are the iron and ironing board — and I can leave those out most of the time, too. I really have no excuse for not sitting down and spending 20 – 30 minutes a day sewing. Even that little bit of time really builds up, particularly as I tend to make simple garments. Just to be clear, though — I’m approaching this as fun, not as a self-imposed duty. I like to sew, and I love clothes; this is really just another form of self-care for me.

Aside from one design-concept-to-finished-item project that I have in mind (that will likely require multiple muslins), I just want to keep on sewing the simple dresses and basics that I usually do. But I want to actually do it, not endlessly theorize about it, as I am wont to do. So I’ve decided to dedicate the next several months to sewing, and have christened it “Sarah’s Summer of Sewing” because I am, as I have noted before, overly fond of alliteration.

I do use the term “summer” loosely here, though. I mean, I’m starting this in May and will likely continue through October because this is a subtropical zone. It’s already 80 – 85F here, and temperatures will remain at least that high until October at the earliest. So summer here lasts a good long while and has little to do with the traditional 20 June – 20 September temperate calendar. Also, it’s my thing, and I can be as loosey-goosey with it as I want.

I’ll do my best to check in here at least once a month, just for accountability — and more often if I have something notable to show off.

So here’s to a fun Me Made May and a successful Summer of Sewing!

Dye eggs, make salad.

We usually dye eggs for Easter every year — despite not actually celebrating the holiday. We just enjoy seasonal crafts. (We also enjoy the post-holiday clearance candy, but that’s another story.)

With all of those hard boiled eggs sitting around, egg salad is almost inevitable. This year’s mix was especially good, so I thought I would share it here.

Just eyeballing amounts for the most part, use:

  • 4 – 5 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 – 3 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • Dill pickle relish (not sweet)
  • Dried dill
  • Salt and pepper

Serve over greens. If you truly don’t have a feeling for the amounts, this very basic recipe is a good place to start.

Enjoy!

(With apologies to my vegan friends, though. Sorry!)

March list.

Never skip your flu shot.

I was completely out of commission for two weeks in March, thanks to an unseasonably late case of the flu. (It was the influenza “B” strain if you’re keeping score.) Poor Lennox got it, too. We were a mess, and we’re both still coughing and very fatigued. I spent my birthday flat on my back with a fever of 101F, so my tea party was of course canceled. I missed two weeks of work, too; it was a less-than-fabulous birthday month all around.

Although I sign up for pretty much any retailer’s e-mail list that will give me some form of birthday coupon, I was only able to take advantage of about half of the ones I got this year — mostly because I was too sick to leave the house. I do wait to shop with several retailers until their coupons come in and rarely make purchases just because I have a coupon, so at least I only spend money I plan to spend. It’s not an excuse for a spending orgy, is what I mean to say! Heh.

Anyway, despite my mostly-wasted month, in March I:

  • Paid for all but one of my Patreon pledges using money earned taking surveys.
  • Was given a packet of feminine hygiene products by a relative who got the wrong kind. They were the exact sort I prefer, except that I normally use the store brand knock-off! (She whispers: “Gonna have a plush, name brand period!”)
  • Got to enjoy the Blu-ray of “Thor: Ragnarok” that Lennox bought for only $3 using a combination of coupons and Best Buy gift certificates from his credit card points. (That man is a hell of a bargain shopper!)
  • Used a $10 off any purchase coupon (for my birthday) to reduce the cost of a couple of bras at Torrid. They were also on sale.
  • Used a $15 off any purchase coupon (again, for my birthday) to purchase a comforter insert at IKEA. We needed to replace our old one, and the coupon made it half price.
  • Used a code (yet another birthday coupon) to get a free Red Box rental.
  • Used one last birthday coupon to get 20% off at Jo-Ann Fabric. Unlike their regular coupons, this one worked on both regular and sale price items. That almost never happens! I only bought things on my list — thread, elastic, and 3/4 yard quilting cotton to make floral bias tape — but I saved $4.95 with my coupon.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card — but was too sick to redeem my free birthday drink before it expired! Oh, well. Better luck next year, I suppose.
  • Read 21 ebooks and 5 physical books from the library. I also read one free Kindle book…but then spent $44.85 on other books (good heavens), so like…still not a great month for the old book budget.

I definitely spent too much in March, both personally and for the household. A lot of the household expenditures were unavoidable due to our illnesses (we ordered lots of take-out while we were both too ill to cook), and though I’m grateful that we have the wiggle room in our budget to do this when things are difficult, I hope we’ll do a little better in April.

Next month I hope to get some sewing done; I intend to make a few things for myself for Me Made May and a pair of wild leggings for my Mom for her birthday. I’ll also be participating in Camp Nanowrimo, so I hope to make decent progress on my current novel. (I have been doing well there, at least! I’ve been writing steadily every single day, except for the first week of that terrible flu.) I also plan to finish our personal tax return before the deadline in April. I haven’t had to take out an extension in over ten years, and I mean to keep my streak intact! I know this seems like a lot — okay, it is a lot — but I know I can do it…if I can stay healthy. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

February list.

Pollen's comin', yo!

Actually, the pollen is already here — it’s just nowhere near its peak yet. Allergies are the worst. Ugh.

Here’s a short list for a short month. In February I:

  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Did my shopping at Sprouts one week instead of ordering groceries from Instacart. Not only were grocery prices lower there — I also avoided paying a service charge or tip. Although I love the convenience of Instacart (and the way it frees up my energy for other activities), I can’t deny that it’s an expensive choice.
  • Got a free Clif Bar for Lennox at Kroger, and a box of store brand cereal for only $1 with a coupon.
  • Found a gravy boat on clearance for $3.49. I’ve been looking for one for a long time, as we usually host Thanksgiving dinner for my family, and this was exactly the sort I wanted.
  • Realized I had an overabundance of canned pumpkin in the pantry, so I made pumpkin muffins — and will make some pumpkin spice cookies soon, too.
  • Managed to stay close to my $15.00 ebook spending goal. I was on target to spend far less than the $15 I’d allotted (I was looking at a record low, in fact), but had forgotten a full-price Kindle book I had pre-ordered! Whoops. My actual total spending was $15.07 for the month. However, $2.15 of that was a gift for my Mom, so it technically came from our gift budget. Still, a 7 cent overage is pretty danged good even counting my oversight and a gift!
  • Read 26 eBooks from the library, and watched one library DVD.

I did fail on one front, though. I purchased 2 1/2 yards of fabric to replace some yardage used in a botched sewing project. (It was the same fabric, right down to the color. I plan to try again using a better sewing pattern.)

Next month I will hopefully have lots of birthday freebies to cash in, and several useful birthday coupons, too. Keep your fingers crossed that the oak pollen doesn’t do me in before I can use them all!

January list.

January is always the worst month for bookkeepers, and this month was especially trying. I may be wiped out for weeks to come, but I made it — and only had to extend one set of 1099s.

In January, I:

  • Paid for my Seamwork subscription and one Patreon donation with money earned doing surveys.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Gave myself a haircut using an online tutorial, saving time and a little bit of money. (It looks perfectly fine, too.)
  • Took advantage of a one-day-only coupon to stock up on $0.99 shredded cheese at Kroger. Also got a free Lara bar with a coupon on my card.
  • Organized our tiny above-the-refrigerator freezer. It was such chaos in there — it doesn’t even have a shelf and the ice maker takes up about 1/3 of the interior space — that I found duplicate cheese purchases and several badly freezer-burned items. By adding stacking containers I’ll be able to save money by keeping better track of its inventory and avoiding purchasing duplicates again. As a bonus, I’ll be able to remove needed items without causing an avalanche. Win-win.
  • Renewed our annual membership to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Though this is pricey, we more than get our money’s worth in free or reduced admissions. Our dual membership costs $80, but admission for both of us to just one traveling exhibit would be $40 or $50 dollars without it — and we go to about four exhibits a year, not to mention our other visits to the museum. This really is a case of “spending money to save money,” and we also feel good about supporting the MFAH.
  • Ran an errand further from home than usual, so took the opportunity to stock up on gluten-free items at a nearby Aldi.
  • Used a free shipping credit for an online fabric purchase. (It had laser cats on it. Laser cats. I wasn’t going to pass that up!)
  • I reconnected my FitBit to my Walgreens Rewards account to earn discounts more quickly.
  • We bought discount gift cards at Costco for a restaurant we like. It seems weird to buy gift cards for personal use, but it’s an easy way to save a little bit. I mean, if you’re going to eat take out you may as well pay less, right?
  • Swapped an Olive Garden gift card I’d gotten for Christmas for an Amazon gift card. I guess this is the modern-day equivalent of exchanging a sweater at the mall.
  • Got a free tomato soup and a free sample of artificial sweetener from Instacart.
  • Read 14 ebooks and 3 physical books from the library, but spent $51.09 on other books. Ouch! Surely I can do better than that next month.

My primary goal for February is simply to rest up, but I also plan to refrain from purchasing any fabric (with or without laser cats) and to keep book purchases under $15 to make up for January’s extravagance. Wish me luck!

Late to the party.

Here are all of the projects I chose for the 2018 Make Nine challenge. From left to right, top to bottom:

  1. Burda Robe 01/2017 (#126). I have needed a robe for a long time, and I really like the gathered detail on this one. It’s also made of knit fabric for extra comfort.
  2. A Seamwork Arden dress. I intend to alter this to sleeveless. Almost no one seems to have made this pattern, but I’ve always liked it.
  3. A Baktus Scarf replacement. My old one got a couple of big moth holes in it (a lesson to be learned regarding proper storage there), and it was the first thing I ever knitted with “good” yarn (Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed). I also loved the shape of it. I don’t knit much at all these days, but I loved that scarf. This will probably be the only thing I knit this year.
  4. Something green for my birthday. My birthday is St. Patrick’s Day, and although I don’t really celebrate the holiday I do wear something green every year. I have two very different bright green fabrics in my stockpile, but haven’t decided which I’ll use this year — or which project I will use for either fabric. This is fairly hazy, I know — but it has an obvious deadline.
  5. A Concord t-shirt swing dress. I am just as in love with the Concord Tee as pretty much every other plus-sized woman who sews, and I really need some more easy dresses for hot weather. Two of my favorites are pretty much worn out and I’ll be really sad come spring if I don’t make at least one replacement.
  6. Simple trousers, to be determined. Another vague intention, I’m afraid — but I haven’t settled on which trousers I want to work on. I think I will stick to a pull on stretch woven style, but since I have failed with at least three of these patterns at the muslin stage, it might be time to try something else. I just ordered the Fast & Fabulous Miracle Pants from Hot Patterns (goodness, their pattern titles are always so breathless), but we’ll see how they test.
  7. A Heidi Purse from I Think Sew. Confession time: I’ve had this cut out for months, but never got around to sewing it. I really hate inserting magnetic closures, and that’s probably the whole reason for my procrastination.
  8. A Springfield top. I’ve tried other woven tanks and never can get them to fit very well. My pattern alteration skills just aren’t as far along as I’d like, but this pattern has so many positive reviews that I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
  9. A Suki Kimono from Helen’s Closet. Yes, that’s another robe. I don’t have any robes at all right now, and I spend a lot of time in sleepwear or loungewear and I’m trying to up my game in this area. I mean, I can be comfortable, but why can’t I also pretend to be visiting someone’s country house in the 1930s? Exactly.

None of these projects are too hard — and several are very easy — so I hope I can make some good progress on these. I do want to focus more on my sewing this year. I am less and less satisfied with most of the clothing I buy, so I’m fairly motivated to make more of my own stuff. I’m going to try to be more diligent about posting pictures of finished projects to Instagram this year, too — and to the blog here if I have anything particular to explain in detail.

Here’s to a productive (yet peaceful) 2018!

December list.

Happy New Year, sort of.

Happy new year! Now take your creepy plant and GET OUT. I have no idea what this picture is about, frankly — but I feel like shutting the door on 2017 is probably the right thing to do.

I did way too much shopping in December, more than I had planned to do and a good bit for myself (not just gifts). We’ve been dealing with some serious family stress resulting from the car accident my Mom and Grandma were in in November, and it looks like Grams will have to go to an assisted living home after all. I think that this sort of sapped my willpower for savings. I was also very, very busy with work.

In December, I:

  • Paid for my Seamwork subscription with money earned doing surveys.
  • Used a few more Seamwork credits to buy a digital Colette sewing pattern.
  • Redeemed points on two credit cards for cash back for holiday shopping. We do this every year — it’s one of the reasons we use a credit card for most purchases even though we pay them off in full every month.
  • Used coupons on my Kroger card to get the following for free: a roll of Mentos, a Sunkist soda, Jell-O pudding mix, and store brand frozen green beans. (The really funny thing was that just before I got the Mentos coupon I had the old theme song stuck in my head for several days, and didn’t even know they still made them!)
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Used a Groupon to treat my elementary school aged cousins to a trip to the science museum while they were visiting on holiday break.
  • Used a coupon code to get a free 8 X 10 photo print at Walgreens.
  • Used a coupon code to get 40% off at an independent clothing retailer, and used cash gifted to me by my grandma for the rest. Yeah, there really was a lot more shopping than usual this month. At least I looked for bargains!
  • Bought some cherry-filled Hershey’s Kisses and a hard-to-find gift item on holiday clearance. I’ll put the Kisses away for Valentine’s Day and the gift away for next Christmas.
  • Watched 3 DVDs from the library, and read 7 physical books (including one interlibrary loan) and 17 eBooks from the library. I still spent $28.12 on books, though, so that wasn’t as impressive as it could have been.

All in all, December wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t super impressive, either. I really did shop more than I had intended. Here’s hoping for a more productive 2018.

November list.

This is a Twin Peaks joke.

I’m pretty glad that November is over. It wasn’t a disaster or anything, but it was stressful. I bought more fabric than I intended last month, and I also probably spent too much money on clothing. I did a little better cooking earlier in the month (and we did have a nice, small Thanksgiving at home), but I was kind of sick in the latter part of the month and I let some stuff slide. It was a mixed bag, I guess.

In November I:

  • Made pumpkin oat bar cookies, technically on Halloween — though we didn’t eat any until the next day. It’s almost always cheaper to bake your own treats, especially when they need to accommodate food sensitivities or allergies. I also made Funfetti-equivalent cookies using a gluten-free boxed cake mix I’d gotten with a coupon, and leftover sprinkles from last Valentine’s Day.
  • Paid for half of my Patreon payments using money earned doing surveys (again).
  • Had another sports-related free taco (and $1 drink) at Taco Bell with my Mom. I think somebody stole a base during the World Series? And that magically produced free tacos. I don’t know. I don’t make the rules. I just eat the free tacos.
  • Was given free tickets to see “Escape to Margaritaville,” the Jimmy Buffet stage musical. I took my Mom, who is a huge Buffet fan, and enjoyed it more than I expected. There was a dance number featuring zombie life insurance salesmen! (No, that didn’t make much sense even in context; it was a character’s LSD flashback — and my favorite part, especially when they tap danced!)
  • Skipped getting groceries one week in order to clear out some pantry and freezer space.
  • Went to see a movie with Lennox and friends in another part of town, so we took the opportunity to stop in at Aldi. We stocked up on individual Greek yogurt cups and gluten-free items, including gluten-free french fried onions for Thanksgiving. Green bean casserole is back on the menu for me! (I’m from the Midwest. Don’t @ me.)
  • Filled a spice jar with $0.20 of dried sage from the bulk bins at Central Market.
  • Shopped a couple of Black Friday sales. Lennox bought a few Blu-rays at rock bottom prices, and I bought a couple of digital sewing patterns I’d had on my list for a while. I also bought some very inexpensive knit fabric on sale over that weekend (as low $1.65 a yard, which is unheard of).
  • Ran out of one of my favorite Adagio teas, and was delighted to receive two generous samples with my replacement order — one in a tiny collector’s tin. (It worked in their favor, of course — I’ll be ordering the Thai Chai I sampled.)
  • Watched two DVDs, read one physical book, and read 17 ebooks from the library. I also read one book for free from Prime Reading, but I spent $33.00 on other books…so that was kind of a bust compared to last month. Still, I’ve read 337 books so far this year, but have only paid $346.38 — for an average of approximately $1.03 per book. Considering the amount I read, it could be much worse! Thank goodness for the library.

They say that people who perceive themselves as having good luck are just more aware of and take advantage of small opportunities. Being frugal is the same way, I think. Don’t ignore the big things, but the small things really do add up over time.

With that in mind, here are a couple of things I’d like to improve:

  • Work lunches. I only go in to a physical office two days a week. My Mom and I go out every single Wednesday for lunch — and have for over 10 years, it’s our weekly tradition and is already in the budget — so I only need to worry about Mondays. I really liked the restaurant downstairs from our office, so I use to eat there every week…but they recently moved to a new location. There is only one other restaurant I like within easy walking distance, and even it is too far on days when I don’t feel well or when the weather is uncooperative. I also know that it’s ridiculous to spend over $40 a month on this when I can bring my own lunch with only a little forethought.
  • Holiday gifts. Most years I shop year round — taking advantage of sales and buying unique items when I come across them. I put these gifts away in a box in the closet, but when I checked the box in early November I only had one gift put away so far this year! I had lower-than-usual income through the spring and summer, so I’ve been shopping a lot less than I normally would. (I used to make most of my gifts, but my current energy level no longer allows for that.) I definitely need to be more proactive about this next year, but I will also need to simplify my expectations (and budget) for gifts this year.

I need to focus on client work in December, so January won’t be so overwhelming — but I also intend to continue on the novel I started writing last month for National Novel Writing Month. I didn’t come anywhere near 50,000 words, but I got a good start and I really like the story I’m telling. I’m also going to mull over what projects I intend to do in the new year — both work-related and otherwise — so that I stay on track in several areas of my life. I really only write these lists for my own use, but since that’s the case I may add different tracking parameters next year.