Finally, Ready for the Rainy Season











Whew.  I don’t think I’d make another raincoat anytime soon .  While the vinyl fabric sewed up nicely, bulky seams were difficult.  The sticky vinyl would grab hold of my needle and pull it out of the machine.

I switched to a titanium-coated needle and same thing.  It got to be a bit of a wrestling match.

In general, I’m pleased with the result.  More than that, I’m pleased that it is done.

I may go back and tweak a thing or two.  Doesn’t everyone?

Happy Easter, friends.

The Beauty of the Cranes

In almost any culture, crane sightings are meaningful.  They are signs of joy, life, wisdom, beauty, elegance, and grace.

My family drove out to see the Great Crane Migration.  In case you are not familiar, every year between mid-February and mid-April, 80% of North America’s Sandhill cranes come to eat and bulk up in a 50 mile span of the Platte River in central Nebraska.  The area is estimated to feed around 500,000 cranes.  This year, the experts thought there were even more than that.

Jane Goodall rated it as one of her top ten nature attractions in the world.

The birds spend every night in shallow water – the Platte River. It offers them protection because any predator could be heard splashing as it approaches.  But during the day, the cranes spread out to all the local farmer’s fields.  They will gain approximately 32% of their body weight in preparation for the rest of their journey.  Eventually, the cranes will spread out over North America, including arctic Canada and Alaska and some will travel as far as Siberia to roost and lay eggs.  The young will grow to full size in the summer and travel the whole distance back with their parents in September.  Like many birds, cranes mate for life.

Sanchill Cranes in flight. Keep in mind, these birds are almost 4 ft. tall.

Sandhill Cranes in flight. Keep in mind, these birds are almost 4 ft. tall.

We spent time in a bird blind, waking at 4:30 am.  This experience itself is almost supernatural. We awoke in the dark and joined others at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary.  It was 17 degrees outside with a straight 20 mph wind.  The sanctuary has no lights outside, as that might disturb the birds.  The guides walk you down the half mile to the river in pitch blackness, with an occasional red light so no one falls.  Everyone must silently enter the blind making as little noise as possible.

Unfortunately, on our day, someone the night before had used a flash camera and so the birds got spooked and were a bit of a distance from the blind.

But as dawn approached, the birds began to stir.  The sound is incredible.  As they take flight, their sheer numbers are nothing short of amazing.

During the day, you really see them everywhere.  In the sky, in the fields.  The behavior is fascinating, as they never seem to change.  This has been going on for 600 years, maybe more.

If you’d like to see them yourself, visit

Watch the crane cam around 7-8 pm at night as they gather to rest, or 7-8am in the morning as they take off for the fields.  You get a real feel for the auditory experience as well.

The lesson for me is to recognize our role in nature. We belong, but we don’t own.  We can celebrate it, but never control it.  Peaceful harmony is the goal.  And it only took 500,000 cranes to remind me.

Cranes eating in corn fields.

Sandhill Cranes eating in corn fields.

Cranes take flight in the morning.

Taking flight in the morning. My view from the blind.

The Making of a Raincoat – Part 4 – Slowly but Surely

Like most of you, time is the culprit on all projects.  And with this one in particular, I take one step forward and one step back.  Learning curves:

–Patterns can be perfect. Patterns can be imperfect.  It’s not always easy to get into the head of the designer.

–The Teflon foot is great on vinyl-covered fabric.  Regular feet work even better as long as I’m working with right sides together.  A big hangup at that point is the vinyl-covered seam allowance running against the bottom of the machine.  It sticks.  Wishing someone would invent a teflon stitch plate.

–The zipper foot with dual feed is almost as good as it gets for attaching piping.

–Don’t rush.  It’s miserable to backtrack.

It’s looking more like it might actually become a coat.  All that’s left is to attach the hood, sew the lining and coat together, then finish up the hems and topstitching.  Still a lot of work but I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.



The Making of a Raincoat – Part 3 – A Tale of Two Sleeves

Just as anticipated, the answer to the sleeve dilemma appeared when I least expected it…in the form of a petite white-haired woman who walked into the store.

We chatted for awhile, and I invited her to join some other customers in having a little cookie treat in the back classroom.  I sat down with a cookie myself, and almost thinking aloud, I mentioned  the “speed bump” I had run into using vinyl-covered fabric.  It’s actually a dream to work with.  It sews and folds and presses just fine (with a pressing cloth).  But vinyl-covered fabric doesn’t have a lot of “give”.

When setting the sleeves on the muslin and on the lining, I had no trouble because I could ease the fabric.  Not so with this.  So I ended up with two sleeves that appeared to be too big for the armhole.

The petite woman looked at me.  “Why don’t you undo the sleeve seam and the side seam, attach the sleeve, and then sew up the sleeve seam and down the side?”

I looked at her, disassembling and reassembling the coat in my mind.  It was an obvious solution – and I never would have thought of it.  “That just might work…”  I said slowly.

“Mmm-Hmmm,”  she said, taking another bite of cookie.  “I used to do a lot of garment sewing, and you know, you can forget about pattern instructions.”  She waved her hand dismissively, with a twinkle in her eye.

Sure enough.

The next day I went back to work on the project, and tried what she suggested.  Voila!  Two (almost) perfectly set sleeves.

IMG_1329[1]Onward to the next set of challenges.

And a special shout out to all the women who help other women every day.  You make the rockin’ world go ’round!

The Making of a Raincoat – Part 2 – The Saga Continues

Even though I don’t have much time to work, I’ve been diligent. At this point, I have completed the lining and facings, as well as the hood.









So far, so good.  I also got most of the piping created, as shown below.


Yesterday, I started on the body assembly.  I had to stop last night because no matter what I did, I could not get the sleeves to fit the bodice.  I finally put down the work and went to bed.  Unfortunately, it will be a few days before I can get back to it.  I’ll have to think about what is happening with the sleeves and see what adjustments can be made.

Never fear.  At this point, it’s just frustration.  I haven’t stitched a bit of the sleeves, so no “unsewing” yet, just pinning.  A day or two from now, it will all become clear.  So I will wait until the project is ready to advance.  I suppose it’s good practice–learning when to step back, take a break, and wait.

I’m not good at stepping back or waiting.  I’m good at barreling through.  So for now, I will let the rain coat take the lead.  I will let it rest.  And when we’re both fresh, we’ll pick up where we left off, and the rest will be easy.

The Making of a Raincoat – Part 1

I’m nervous.  I’m nervous because I have never made a raincoat before.  I’m nervous because I’ve never used a fabric quite like this before. And while I’ve made some t-shirts, skirts, vests, things like that, I don’t consider myself much of a garment sewer.

But there’s a time for everything I guess. And I plan to learn.

This particular pattern is in the current issue of “Stitch” magazine. The fun part about getting a pattern online is that you get to print it out one page at a time and piece it together. This pattern was 66 pages…nice round number. But a heck of a lot of sheets to get in perfect registration and piece together!


It’s impossible to work from a pattern that’s taped so the next step is to trace the master and create solid pattern pieces — both lining and main fabric.




Next comes the task of sewing out a “muslin” or a test pattern.  My muslin is of the outer fabric only.  I just want to make sure it will fit properly.

I have a “body double” which I used to work on the assembly.  So far so good.








Once I got the main pieces sewn together, it was obvious that it was too long.  The rest of it seems to fit OK for a jacket. I wanted it to be roomy.



Muslin is complete, but I’ll have to lop off about 3 inches from the hem–I am slightly vertically challenged.  Stay tuned. Ready to start with real fabric!  It’s supposed to rain for the next two days.

Maybe that’s a sign.

One Month Away








In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free.
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.


Today I visited the community garden plot–one month away from the day I can start digging.  It’s a perennial plot, which means it doesn’t get tilled over every year unless I do it. The local park district tills all the annual plots.

This picture shows the remnants of last year’s kale, and the promise of next year’s raspberries.  I  don’t know what it is about gardening, but I’ve noticed that many people who like to sew also like to garden.   I’m not sure that the inverse is true. I am not an elegant gardener. (I am not an elegant sewist either.)  But if determination counts for anything, then I’m in with the best.

It’s getting harder these days to till everything by hand with a pitchfork.  I bought a Mantis rototiller a couple of years ago and I get my strong young nephew to help haul it and plow.  Last year, halfway through the plot he stopped and turned to me.  “This is hard work!” said the high school football player.

I laughed.  Kid, that’s just the turn of the soil–way more work to come.

Of course food is work.  For centuries, as human beings, we did nothing else but work for our food.  We survived long enough to reproduce and then teach our kids how to work for food.  Now our kids are all playing Minecraft–because food is in the pantry or just a run to the grocery store or the drive-thru.

Ah, but in the summer.  In the summer, food comes from the ground.  We share it with the ground squirrels and the birds and the bugs.  But we share it just the same.  And this fallow time of year is quite a reminder that the promise of new life is just around the corner.   Guaranteed.