The Mask Controversy and Senior Hours

I’ve been asked to share my mask pattern with you and it’s so simple, you won’t believe it.

But first, I want to talk a little about cloth masks.

Infection Control Specialists are not big fans of cloth masks, even though we all know how these have been all over the internet. Many will tell you they are worse than no protection at all.They tell me that cloth holds too many germs. People tend to touch their faces more when they are wearing a mask. Hospitals have no protocols for washing cloth masks, and, of course, viruses are so small that they will penetrate basically any paper or cloth mask. As you know, that’s why our health professionals must use the N95 masks when treating COVID19 patients. That’s why we have a shortage.

That being said, some doctors have agreed that they can be used in the short term (in non-coronavirus situations) when no other option is available, to capture droplets. But the public using cloth masks needs to follow a couple of rules.

  1. Don’t wear a cloth mask for more than 2 hours.
  2. If it gets wet for any reason, even from your own breath, you need to change it.
  3. Put them directly into a washing machine and wash in hot water with soap or bleach.

That’s the end of my Public Service Announcement. Knowing that, if you are on this blog, you are likely someone who sews, and anyone who sews can make masks out of their stash. I did not have elastic on hand for some of the patterns I’d seen, and then I ran across this video of German women making masks. They are using what appears to be a layer of muslin, another fabric, and then the ties appear to be cotton.

I made my masks out of white fabric so that anyone using them could bleach them. Please pre-wash your fabric before you start to assemble. I’m sure any color would be fine.

I start by cutting 8 inches along WOF (so 8 x 44). Then I make four cuts of 2 inches WOF.

Trim the 8 inch fabric to 8 x 15. You should end up with 2 pieces of 8 x 15 which will make 2 masks. You’ll use 2 ties (2 x 44 each) for each mask.

Fold the 8 inch fabric in half right sides together and sew with a quarter inch seam. Turn it right side out and press with the seam at the bottom.

Start adding pleats that are approximately 1/2 inch deep. Fold it over and press. You do not have to measure, You do not have to be precise. Just keep them basically even, and you’re good. You’re making 3 pleats.

Press all three pleats down nice and secure. Then I run them under a 1/8 inch seam just to hold them in place.

I use an edgestitch foot for this, (my favorite!) and move the needle as far to the left as I can. Remember, you’re making two masks at a time with these instructions, so you’ll make 4 seams, on the short pleated sides only.

Next we’re making the ties. Take a 2 inch strip and press it with both long sides folded into the center. I usually do one side, and then the other.

Then fold down about half an inch from the top and give it a press.

Then you give the tie one more fold in the middle and press it really well. I usually use steam at this point. Next find the center of the tie…remember, it is approximately 44 inches long, so somewhere around 22 inches. This does not have to be precise. Just fold it in half and find the center. Put the center in the middle of the short side of one of your masks and wrap the tie around it. (See pic.) I use 3 clips for each side–like a binding.

Start at the very end of the tie, and sew across the top of the tie and then down along the side. Again, I use an edgestitch foot. This time with the needle moved all the way to the right. This secures the tie and attaches it to the mask. Do this on both sides and you’re done.

Again, the pieces we just cut will make 2 masks. If you’re like me, you have tons of yardage lying around that was meant for a quilt a long time ago, or that was on sale. I heated up some water for tea and Iiterally had a mask completed and my tea was still warm enough to drink.

Please keep in mind the precautions I set forth in the beginning. We are all truly in uncharted territory.

I am *almost* a senior…not quite. But you might be.

Here’s a good breakdown of hours for grocery stores.

The best advice we can all take right now is this:

  1. Stay home.
  2. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. If you don’t remember the last time you did it, wash your hands.
  3. Social distance. This is not a joke. Assume everyone is spreading the virus and stay away from them.
  4. Clean commonly used surfaces regularly with disinfectant wipes or bleach water.
  5. Don’t touch your face. Just don’t. (This is hard.)

As of this writing, we’re looking at another month or more of this isolating behavior. This is our new norm and we need to recognize that we are not alone. The entire world is battling this and it is our job to give the scientists, epidemiologists, doctors and nurses time and money and supplies to help us, and find a vaccine or cure. If my biggest hardship is staying at home and sewing, I am truly lucky.

I am also sending food via local restaurants to hospitals for the workers. This has the double effect of sending business to local restaurants and giving a gift to those on the frontlines.

I have no words of wisdom here. But with all my heart I am praying that you and your loved ones, and me and mine, will all be well.

#StayHome #StayHome #StayHome

How’s everybody holding up?

Everyone I speak to is frightened, anxious and agitated about the future. We have no road map for this pandemic. But I think this much is clear.

We are permanently changed–physically, psychologically, financially, mentally.

Perhaps the way we were “doing” everything before was not ideal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am changing my daily life. First of all, I stay close to home. I don’t run around unnecessarily, I don’t shop at 5 different grocery stores to get a little bit of everything for each person in my household.

Second, I’m not spending any money now on things that are throw-away. I’m not purchasing that cute top that I know will only last a season. I’m not buying earrings that go in and out of fashion like the wind. I’m using the fabric that I already own to make things other people need, instead of catering to my own whim and fancy.

Third, we are wasting less. Do we really need to use that many paper towels? Do we know when we will be able to get more? What about that food? Time to make something with what’s currently in the pantry or the fridge because going out for something else is not much of an option. We are eating home-cooking more.

Fourth, I am caring deeply, anxiously, and actively about others. My mind is constantly on healthcare workers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, mail delivery people, folks who keep the lights on and the water flowing and even the Internet bubbling and Netflix churning.

Of course, I am worried about all those who now have no income. Can they move their business online? Can the local plant shop or chocolate shop or quilt shop be nimble enough to move online and are we all willing to purchase online to keep our friends and neighbors employed?

What about restaurants? I don’t have the answer here, but I certainly think we should be able to order takeout. Have the days of crowded, chattering, noisy restaurants passed us by? Maybe not for everyone, but for those of us getting up in years or with health problems or compromised immune systems, the answer is yes.

What will the future look like? I think that’s the question that torments me the most. It almost certainly will not look like the past. As I said, we are permanently changed. And if we are not, then we will learn lessons the hardest way possible.

How about this paper device created by Chinese company Meituan? You can order takeout to eat at your desk, but every meal comes with this paper shield that protects your food from any droplets that might be shed by a passing stranger. I don’t know how I feel about that, but at least it’s the way China is starting to think and create, as they begin to reopen their economy VERY slowly.

The doctors are thinking that even after this first wave, the virus will head to the Southern hemisphere and then be back for round two next fall. That may or may not give us enough of a reprieve to prepare with equipment, masks, gowns gloves, respirators etc.

But for now, I am still creating masks for local nursing homes, assisted living centers and anyone who wants them at the moment. For the first time in my life, I ordered groceries for delivery. My area of the country has been identified as a growing hotspot for the virus. I have a husband who still must go in to work three days a week.

May we learn how to live a little better together on this planet. May we learn to care for one another. May we learn how absolutely interdependent we are on one another.

And may we all be well.

Serger Dreams

I did it.

I bought a new serger. I am not very good at videos, so here’s an unboxing blog. But before I get into that, let me tell you why I purchased what I did.

This is a Babylock. Babylock sergers have been the best in the industry for years. They lead the way in “air puff” technology, making it easy to thread those loopers. I trust that they know more about sergers than basically anyone else in the industry.

My all-time most popular blog post is about where sewing machines are made. You can check it out here.

This Babylock serger is made in Japan, where Babylock actually owns factories.

I already own a Babylock Imagine serger. It’s a solid machine, still has a great stitch, and will become my back-up serger. But it’s well over 20 years old.

The new machine is an Accolade, which as I understand it, is the updated model of the Evolve. It has a cover stitch and that was the main selling point for me. I have never owned a serger with a cover stitch. On top of that, I got a promotion that included 15 different serger feet, handling everything from beading to ruffling to binding. To be honest, I have no idea how to use most of these features, so it will be an interesting learning curve for me. A real growth opportunity!

Of course, I purchased from a reputable dealer with a series of classes available. This is something I recommend to anyone purchasing any machine.

I was also given limited-time access to a full range of Babylock online classes, including all the instructions for my serger PLUS lots of technique and project classes.

Serger instructions are terrifying. They will frighten you. But you cannot let fear guide you. It’s just a mechanical machine, and it works more mechanically than any sewing machine you have ever used. That’s all. Mechanical machines like things done in a certain order. You can do this. Before I did anything, I watched the online video for the Accolade on Babylock SewEd. I have guide classes set up for next Saturday. But in fairness, I’ve owned a serger and after the video I only glanced at the instructions once.

It’s not as difficult as the instructions make it look. I promise.

I immediately set it up for a 4 thread overlock, my go-to stitch. I wanted to hem my husband’s pants, which were frayed from dragging on the ground. But first, a test stitch.

Ladies and gentlemen. Perfection right out of the box.

And that, my friends, is why I purchased a Babylock serger.

I went ahead and did the finishing stitch on my husband’s pants before I hemmed them on my Bernina. Could I have finished them on the serger with a cover stitch?

I think so, but danged if I know how yet.

Something exciting to learn!

In this time of slow fashion, slow food and environmental awareness, making one’s clothes is coming back around to be a thoughtful move toward sustainable living. I don’t want to throw everything in the garbage any more.

These pants and others now have new life. And I know that doesn’t change the world.

But it’s a step in the right direction.

Machine Embroidery Buddies

Tell me why you sew, and I’ll tell you who you are. Isn’t that the truth? These wonderful ladies, friends of mine, wanted to learn machine embroidery. We won’t talk about how long they have had their embroidery units neatly packed away in boxes with all the best intentions in the world.

We’ve been talking about getting together for years to learn the ins and outs, tips and tricks of the trade. Finally — we did it.

They came over to my house for a day and and I gave them the basic Embroidery 101 lessons. Someday, I will write it all down in lesson form for this blog. I know there are plenty of others out there who have an embroidery unit packed away somewhere, hoping that they will use it eventually. Or maybe you gave up on embroidery entirely.

I am here to re-inspire you. Machine embroidery is truly fun. And the more you know, the more you can experiment, and the more you are inspired to try new things. The hardest part? Getting started.

You can see from these pics that one of the biggest impetuses (is that a word?) for machine embroidery is, wait for it, grandchildren. And children as well . But I think the grandkids get the machine embroidery lovin’. Why? Because they are fun. The things we do for them is done with pure love with no expectations for anything in return.

That’s also why I teach. I want to share what I know, so that others can enjoy this craft. I also want us to use our hands, machines, brains and ideas to make things and to inspire each other, and maybe that will spread into the world and make a difference.

I don’t know if it will. All I know is that they will be coming back for another lesson next week. I hope it inspires you to dig in, as well.

The old saying goes “You can’t take it with you.”

No you can’t. But with any luck, we can quilt it, sew, it, embroider it and leave some of it behind and hope it does some good.

It Was a Very Good Year

I’ll end the decade and year the same way I end every year, with a gallery of projects, moments, photography and meaning.

We all only have one life to experience, one world to cherish. May the new year and new decade bring us closer to appreciating the fragility and beauty of both.

Happy, Peaceful, Worthwhile New Year, friends.

Kimberbell For the Finish

Can you have too much Elvis in Graceland? Too many lights in Vegas? Too many labrador puppies?

I think not.

And you can’t have too much cute in Kimberbell. If you are going to do these designs, then you might as well go all the way. Get the dingle balls, the glitter paper, the froufrous and the doodads. Go all in.

I purchased the ornament designs recently to make for a group of quilty friends.

After one attempt, I realized that if I wanted them to be perfect, I needed to find not only the proper shade of gingerbread felt to highlight the features, I also needed the hoops, the accessories, glitter paper, a hot glue gun, and some patience.

Kimberbell is an exercise in excess and if you can’t do it at Christmas, you can’t do it at all. I am understanding the addictiveness of the Kimberbell phenomenon, but I don’t think it’s my permanent state. I love it at the moment and for special occasions. I’m not sure it’s my style forever and always.The same with Elvis and Vegas and labrador puppies.

Maybe you can have enough.

But for now, I’m on cuteness overload.

Have yourself a Merry Little Holiday.

Used a glue gun in 2019. Check. On to 2020.

P.S. After all the elaborate accessorizing of Kimberbell, I went back to simplicity for my holiday wrapping. I’m a realist. This stuff needs to be reduced, reused and recycled. Simple brown paper with scraps of fabric. The fabric can be saved and made into a quilt at some point, and the paper can just be folded and reused or recycled. I think we, as sewists, can balance adorable with sustainable. At least I’m going to try.

The Joy of Choosing to Ignore the Mass Market

Have you ever spent hours on Pinterest? Wandered through quaint little shops in a seaside village or a charming midwestern town?

I’ve spent some time in local shops and in large home decor stores. I’ve browsed online and been to craft shows and art shows.

And I’m discouraged.

I am missing originality and I am as much a consumer as everyone else. Where are all the original thinkers? Where are the creatives out there doing what’s never been done? Am I just missing it? How can I go from an exurb of Chicago to a small town in Wisconsin, and find basically the exact same products?

I loved the inspirational script messages at one time, but to be honest, aren’t they getting old? If one more piece of wood or vinyl sticky for my wall tells me to “choose joy” I’m going to scream. (What does that mean anyway? Choose joy. Instead of eating chocolate? Instead of crying? Instead of reading the newspaper? Instead of choosing to make a change? Instead of choosing to work out?)

I even have a little houseplant pot that bears the message “grow.” The plant is suffering. And I think it’s because the pressure is too great and the obvious command on its outer shell is intimidating and off-putting.

I might also be watering it too much.

Nevertheless, it serves as a reminder that these constant, script-y, positive messages are numbing us to the reality around us.

If you are INSPIRED to paint the face of a cow in purples, oranges and teals, bless your heart and the artwork will be beautiful. But if you are purchasing the same one that’s shown in a chain of stores across the country, because…umm…”farmhouse”, well, what’s the point?

And I say this with love in my heart for all things farm. I’m descended from farmers.

But anyone who thinks that farmhouse style begins and ends with anything but manure and straw and hay is kidding themselves. And the farmhouse I knew was cramped. We didn’t have a whole lot of decorative items. Most of them were practical. You needed a broom nearby to chase the bats that flew in at night. You needed a vacuum cleaner to get at the flies that swarmed the window sills in the summertime. You needed plenty of logs in the basement to keep the house heated all winter. You needed hooks and pegs for jackets and boots and fishing poles. When I was out in the barn no one ever had to tell me to “choose joy.”

Joy showed up uninvited. So did laughter and tears and hugs.

This week, let’s all go out and find something original to do. Something one-of-a-kind.

That’s the beauty of sewing. We can make things that no one else has made, and make memories that no one else has experienced.

Let’s be more authentic. And let’s ditch the mass market.

Slowing Down

Not sure if it’s my age, or my season of life, or the times we live in, but these days, I’ve been thinking a lot more about SLOWING DOWN.

I used to see how many quilts or projects I could finish in a year. How many blog posts? How many pictures taken? How many trips? How much fabric? What’s next? And next after that? And after that?

I’m not that old.

OK, I’m a little old. Old enough to realize that maybe we’re not meant to live our lives in such a constant hurry.

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, has me thinking these days about what he calls the first half of life vs. the second half. The first half of life is pretty frantic…working, working, working to establish oneself, to acquire, to achieve and to “become.”

The second half of life (if we do it right, according to Fr. Richard) is when we’re better at giving it all back. Re-packaging, adding wisdom, paying it forward. Now, I’m certainly in the second half of life (even farther than that, unless I plan to live well into my hundred and teens), so I am feeling the need to do just that — down-size, slow down, appreciate more, waste less and generally live a bit closer to nature, to my origins. To leave a smaller footprint. To listen to what the world needs and not just the raging, never-filled loudness of my own concerns.

I think those of us approaching “elderhood” owe it to the next generation to be examples and thoughtful guides.

So with that in mind, I’m going to spend more time appreciating what is, and thinking about what needs doing vs. what I want to do.

Of course I will keep sewing and quilting. I have a room full of fabric that would be criminal to waste.

But what else needs doing?

That takes time, listening and contemplation.

I’m not an expert at this second half of life thing. Quilting friends will understand. I’m a UFO.

An Un-Finished Object.

Kraft-Tex Update

As you know, I have a lot of fun with Kraft-Tex products.

In a prior blog post, I talked about using embroidery for yard flags or signs.

This time, I decided to try a little acrylic paint on it and see how it holds up in weather. The previous sign that I did has been out in rainstorms, thunder, wind and more, and looks just as nice as it did the day I put it out there.

To be honest, I’m a little shocked that it held up so well.

So this time, I pulled out my acrylics and painted up a patriotic floral for the Fourth of July. I have not added any finishing, like Mod Podge or varnish of any kind.

For the record, I asked Kraft-Tex for more information about their product. It is recyclable, and therefore biodegradable, but doesn’t fall apart in the rain. It is OEKO-TEX certified, which is standard in the textile industry in that the end product is certified to be non-toxic. It also holds an FSC accreditation (Forest Stewardship Council) Essentially, this means that the product is regulated to be using forestry resources responsibly as defined by the highest industry standards.

I’ll be getting back to my wool and quilting momentarily. But for now, I’m having a great time with outdoor decorating and garden crafts…using my sewing machine.