crafts · Sewing · workouts

Taking my (sewing) medicine, plus fitness update

I love to sew, which is probably obvious from reading this blog!  Having said that, there are some parts of the process that I love more than others.  For example:

I love:

Ironing seams

Sewing fast

Narrow hems (I’m weird)


I… don’t love:

Cutting, both the pattern and fabric

Sewing on buttons

Trying to adjust gathers evenly


Out of those, I hate cutting the most.  In fact, when I’m not sewing it’s often because I can’t face up to the idea of cutting something out!  I use a rotary cutter, which is easier than anything else of course, but even so I hate all the pinning and marking.  Patterns are tedious too, but not as bad as fabric.  I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about this issue – I hate to miss out on  sewing time because the part I don’t like comes first!

I’m off work all week, as I don’t teach on Thanksgiving week.  I am not going out of town for the holiday this year, so I decided to try an experiment:

I brought my cutting table into my living room, put on some tv I’d been meaning to watch (Stephen Fry’s “In America” on Netflix) and set myself to cutting.  Cutting is much more fun with something to watch!  I’m also trying to train myself to use pattern weights for smaller pieces, to avoid pins. I don’t have a cutting mat that is as large as my table, so that only works with small pieces, as I need to scoot the mat sometimes.  I’m way to cheap to pay as much as the large ones cost so far, but eventually I may get one!

After I cut the pieces to a pattern, I marked them (with my chalk pen) and removed the pattern pieces.  I put them in zip loc bags with the pattern.

This way, when I want to sew I can just pull a the pieces out.  I’m still working on cutting my winter wardrobe today, and then I have a rehearsal tonight, but tomorrow I plan to start some sewing!

Finally, I thought I would post a little update about my progress on the exercise program I committed to (Ballet Body Periodization.)  I’ve completed 2 months of the program out of 6.  Each month gets a little harder, but I am (mostly) enjoying the challenge.  I’m very excited to have upper body strength for the first time ever (thus this ridiculous photo!)

Ok, so I won’t be winning any bodybuilding competitions, but if you look really closely you can see actual muscles!   I don’t have a body type that builds easily on my upper half, as it is naturally small, so this is exciting.  The plan has a ton of plank and pushup work for upper body.  At first this made my wrists ache, as I have tendinitis, but after awhile I actually felt my wrists strengthening.  It has actually aided in my playing – I used to get aches in my wrist after a long session, but not anymore!

I also made a full body collage of the changes I’ve seen.  Having a visual record of progress makes it easier to continue on days that I’d rather just nap!

The biggest change is core strength, as I think you can see in the top row.  You should be able to click and make the photo bigger, I know it’s small.  I’m not dieting (or changing my diet really) so any change is due to the plan.  I actually know singers who refuse to do core strengthening exercises, as they believe it will form a ring of muscle that will impede their breathing and lung capacity.  I don’t find this to be the case, though I suppose it’s possible that overtraining might cause a problem, especially if you overtrain only one part of the core, if (for example) you only did traditional crunches.  My knees have strengthened as well.  I used to get pain in my right knee sometimes, but as I’ve strengthened the muscles around the knee that has gone away.

The biggest change, though, is in how I feel.  I have more energy overall, and my self-esteem has increased.  I think my body is healthier – I got my usual November/change of the weather cold this week, and it was gone in 6 days (plus I never got as run down as I usually do.)  I exercise for an hour on average, 6 days a week (it’s actually longer than an hour on strength days, and less on cardio (I do 40 minutes, as I’m still working on endurance.)   I am telling you, if I can do this anyone can.  I have not seriously committed to a plan like this in my entire life!  I used to dance, but that was different – and I was not a super great dancer either!  I did exercise when I was dating a trainer, but it wasn’t for me, and I didn’t see great results.  I plan to continue with the plan, and after that is over try a different plan.  I’m trying to make this a lifestyle change!  I’ve bought way too many exercises dvds, and my husband is getting me an x-box Kinect for Christmas.  I tried out one of the dancing games, and it’s a great workout – I love to dance, even if I’m not the best!

I hope to be back later this week with some completed garments – hopefully even some pants!

crafts · workouts

bloggy topics

I always know I’ve gone too long without blogging when people start emailing me to make sure I’m ok!  Don’t worry, after 6(?) years of blogging I’m not likely to give it up!  Silence usually means that I’ve been spending all my time doing non bloggy things, and somehow I feel sort of guilty when I bore you all with my life.  But here I am, about to bore you!  First, a little sewing content:

I finally managed to find the Fall Butterick patterns on sale – I’ve missed the last few, but they were at Joann’s last week.  My favorite is this dress, which I’m making from the purple leopard ponte knit I found at  The actual scale of the print is smaller, but I didn’t feel like taking another photo to get it to work.  I really like the pleating on one side – let’s hope it looks good in real life!  I’m not using a lining (suprised?  I didn’t think so.)  I am making the version with sleeves, because I don’t have many dresses that have them.

I hope to get to work on this cut tonight, and maybe sewn on Friday and Saturday.  I seem to not have weekends lately, due to performances and socializing, and that’s when I usually do my sewing!  I’m also pretty uninspired in these in between seasons – I don’t want to think about the cold yet!

So what else have I been doing?

I’m still on my exercise plan – I know, I can’t believe I’m sticking with it either!  Right now I’m doing the Ballet Body Periodization plan.   It’s a series of internet downloads that you string together into long workouts.  They build on each other, and you get to do your own choice of cardio every other day.  I really love the workouts – it’s kind of a combo of Lotte Berk/Callinetics style barre with some yoga and pilates.  There are a lot of body weight resistance exercises (planks, pushups etc.)  I’m getting some real strength gains, which is pretty exciting to me!  I never thought I could enjoy pushups after my high school gym trauma, but here I am, doing them a few times a week!  I’ve been doing dance and step aerobics a lot for cardio, which is required 2-3 days a week on the plan.    I didn’t think I would like step, after having done it in the 90s, but I found some fun videos, and even bought a full sized step (my old one is smaller than the ones in the gym.)  I keep the height low (4 inches) and have no knee problems from it.  I actually think the combo with barre is making my knees stronger.

If you are interested, here are the dvds I’ve been using for dance/step:

Christy Taylor: Mission Possible is what I started with.  It’s half dance aerobics and half step.  The music is super fun, and it’s not hard to catch on (keep in mind I have a dance background, so… YMMV, but this is the one that was recommended to me as her easiest.)  I also have Fit to Dance, which has step and weights, which includes a techno version of Dance of the Sugarplum fairy from the Nutcracker.  I do love weird techno mixes.

For dance I also recommend Petra Kolber.  I have Bootcamp Boogie and 123 Dance, and they are both fun.  Kind of medium level choreography I think.  Bootcamp Boogie is the easier of the two.  The music is ok – better than many, not as good as the Christi Taylor dvds!

I have some others (I put out a call to my friends for dvds, and you wouldn’t believe how many people want rid of exercise dvds… less guilt that way!  I’ve also been hitting garage sales on weekends.)  I have two of those infomercial sets – Turbo Fire and Rockin Body.  Rockin Body is mostly hiphop type dance, and it’s fun and easy – too easy for me I suspect, as I actually like choreography.   I haven’t tried Turbo Fire, which is a sort of kickboxing with pretty good music.  It’s very fast, and I haven’t done kickboxing since the 90s – might have to brush up with one of my ancient Tae Bo tapes!

I’ll try to be better about updating!  It may be more dithering, since I haven’t had time to sew, but I do find that I miss the blog when I haven’t written in a week or two.


crafts · patterns · Sewing · workouts

Weekend finds, dress opinions needed

I put my Vogue 1250 into timeout for a bit after trying it on.  I knew going in that I might not love it – I like to emphasize my waist, not my hips.  So when I tried it on I wasn’t happy – I don’t think it makes me look large, but it does have a bit of a rectangle effect:

After a little distance I feel a bit better – I think if I take in the sides above the waist by a few inches I will be happy.  The reason it looks off is that it’s simply too big up there!  I also plan to shorten it by an inch and hem (it isn’t hemmed above.)  And then maybe wear it with a belt?  But maybe I’m kidding myself… do you think I should finish it, or accept that it isn’t meant for my body shape?

On a more cheerful note, I had a great weekend of bargain hunting!  On Saturday we went to an estate sale.  It was in sort of a not good neighborhood, and there was no one there, just us and two other people.  The ad had specifically mentioned sewing patterns, so I made sure to go!  Here is what I found:

I love the sundress on the left.  The other pattern?  That’s a housecoat – how fancy!

A lovely dress with gathered cap sleeves, and a skirt with inseam decorative pockets.


Two nice jackets from the 1940s.  The seamstress really loved her patterns – when the envelopes fell apart she carefully made new ones!

Vogue patterns.  All of the patterns I got are roughly my size (34 bust, I can go either way in vintage patterns.)

Carded buttons.  The green buttons have little handpainted tulips on them.

A pattern already cut out in a rayon print.  I may or may not make it up, as right now it smells of mothballs.  I’m airing it out, so we will see.

A complete set of Ladies Home Journal from the 1960s.  I plan to resell these.

I bought all of the above for $20 – a great deal!

Then on Sunday, Marc was browsing random Craigslist ads and found a Fluidity Bar for $25, including the dvds!

It’s basically a portable ballet barre – great for the ballet workouts I’ve been loving!  It’s very sturdy, and much nicer to use than a chair.  I saw the infomercial for this, but it was quite expensive, especially after shipping.  I figured that eventually one would turn up on Craigslist!  I plan to store it against the wall behind the sofa table, which isn’t pretty exactly, but it is easier than trying to lug the entire 55 pound thing from under the bed a few times a week!

So, it was a great shopping weekend, abut a less great sewing one.  I’m looking forward to starting my fall sewing soon, if not necessarily to the cold weather!

crafts · Life · Sewing · workouts

Working out at home?

Back in the 90s, I had a few workout videos which I would occasionally attempt when I was feeling bored – I can particularly remember an LA gear aerobics video that came with a pair of shoes – I’m pretty sure there was a lot of neon and spandex involved! (I actually spent time looking for this video on youtube, but alas it seems to be lost to time.)

Some of you suggested I give videos a try, and I figured why not?  The university gym has an inconvenient class schedule, and as much as I love the pilates class I just don’t want to go downtown at lunch.

Cats don't understand exercise

So I cleared a space in my living room, getting rid of the eternally messy coffee table, bought a mat and weights, and went to see what was out there.  I’ve been very pleasantly surprised – it isn’t all step aerobics with bad synthesizer music anymore, though that can be fun also (I took step aerobics as my PE elective in college… I can do them,  but they aren’t my favorite thing.)

First I started with my netflix subscription.  There are a few workouts on watch instantly, and I’ve gotten some others through the mail.  Here are the ones I recommend from watch instantly for my fellow beginners:

Crunch “Pick your spot” pilates – (amazon link, but available on watch instantly.)  This was the first video I tried, and I loved it!  The instructor, Ellen Barrett, is very encouraging without being perky.  I know some people enjoy a more militant approach to exercise instruction, but I don’t – I want to be encouraged!  It doesn’t assume previous pilates experience, and it’s broken down into three 10 minute segments – for abs, thighs, and rear.  Almost the entire thing takes place on a mat.  Highly recommended, as it isn’t too terribly long!

Crunch Super SlimdownBy the same instructor as the first video – I just love her, and in fact I ended up buying two of her studio dvds !  This is a blend of yoga and pilates, but not exactly either one.  This wasn’t my favorite – it’s bit harder and longer than the first video above, but still totally do-able (though I wouldn’t do it without understanding a bit about pilates and yoga first, as there isn’t as much focus on form.)

I bought or borrowed the following dvds:

Leslie Sansone’s 5k with a twistWhen I first heard about indoor walking videos, my first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  I borrowed this from a friend, who assured me that it was awesome.  I walked with this tape last night, and it was more fun than I thought!  The music is upbeat, and Leslie herself is very positive and encouraging.  She does chatter pretty much non-stop, but that’s fine with me – I want to be distracted!  It’s not all walking – you also do step touches, kicks, and grapevines.  Each mile finishes up with a 2 minute burst of running in place, to get the heart up.  She’s also very clear about modifications for the more high impact parts (if you can’t jump/run etc.)  I’m interested to try a different one of her walks – some of them use handweights etc.

Ballet Body WorkoutApparently I’m not the only one who harbors childhood fantasies of being a ballerina.  There are a ton of these ballet inspired workouts out there!  This particular dvd is nice – it only requires light weights, but has a ton of plies, and some pilates-like floor work.  I feel very graceful doing it, which I love!  I bought it with one of those “buy both dvds for X price” from Amazon with Xtend Barre.  I haven’t tried that one yet, but it looks more intense – it uses a chair as a faux barre.   Barre workouts are very popular… there is a pure Barre studio here, but it’s super expensive, so I won’t be trying that – I’m glad to have found videos!

Slim Sculpt and Fat Burning FusionThese dvds are led by Ellen Barrett, the instructor from the first two above.  They are a blend of ballet, pilates, yoga, and toning work.  Slim Sculpt has a great arm section, while the other is more lower body (and faster paced.)  I love them both – I like that I don’t have to hyperventilate to feel that I have worked hard!  I’d recommend both of these to people who – like me – dread the idea of exercise.

That’s it!  As you can see, I haven’t yet ventured into real cardio workouts at home.  I’ve been using the elliptical at the gym, which I love because it’s no impact, or walking.   I went to a zumba class, and I know everyone loves it, but I think it’s not for me.  It’s not that it’s dance, it’s that I am latin dance challenged, and I don’t really like latin music very much.  I do plan to try some other dancey type classes or tapes, and if anyone has any recommendations for dvds that would be great!

I leave you with a photo of my next project: Vogue 1250.  I felt left out, so we will see if I like it!