Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Serging away

An impulse buyer I am not, especially where pricey items are concerned.  Plus, Mr. C and I tend to keep things forever, so buying the right thing always seems imperative.  I consider, debate, agonize and research online before I acquire a possession.  None of which I did when I bought my serger in September.  Since we were going out of town for a week it seemed the ideal time to take my beloved and ageing Pfaff sewing machine in for some preventative maintenance.  Just in time, as I discovered the couple who owned the Pfaff dealership were retiring and the store was closing.  Everything was half price!

There were three sergers, and my eye fell upon a Babylock Eclipse.  I had long wanted a serger, but I kept putting off taking the time to really find out about all their features, and which would be best for me for the money.  Two things stuck in my head: self-threading and Babylock.  So here was a serger that was both.  But was it really half price?  Was it a good buy?  What features did it have?  Would I regret not buying one with more features?  The owners were focused more on their closing business than on making a sale, and the manual for the serger was nowhere to be found. I stared at the little white machine, I fondled it, I talked to a helpful serger-owning customer.  Mr. C, who is inclined to frugality, nevertheless said to buy it if I thought I really needed it.  (Sadly, he didn't say the same thing about a top-of-the-line Pfaff sewing machine which weighed in at several thousand dollars even at half price.)

But, as I said, I am not an impulse buyer, so somewhat regretfully we left the store and drove back to our part of town to go eat.  And the farther away we got, the more I wanted that serger.  Before someone else snatched it up!  So as soon as we sat down at the table, I pulled out my phone and called the store and charged it.  It was mine!  After we returned from our trip, a day before the store closed, I went to pick it up along with my rejuvenated Pfaff.

It stayed in its box for about a week until I sat it and myself down in front of the TV and tried it out while watching the DVD that came with it.  What it does is so final compared to a sewing machine: It cuts off fabric!  It lays down a thicket of thread!  But after serging scrap after scrap it was time to try it out on an actual garment. I had cut out this Marcy Tilton knit top before I bought the serger, and the directions even say to sew the seams first and then finish with serging.  Perfect!  And, yes, that's just how it turned out.  So easy to use!  Such lovely little seams!  The inside of the top is as tidy as can be.  I love it!  I also love this top with its neckband that adjusts by means of little pleats on the outside as decoration, as I've done here, or more subtly on the inside. You can read my Pattern Review here. Then I immediately whipped out the pants I'm wearing here in ponte knit.  They're from an OOP Sandra Betzina pattern, Vogue 1061. You can see them better below in the black version that I made years ago and have worn often.  They're pull-on pants and what's unique about them is the waistband that uses negative ease instead of elastic, so very comfortable.

The purple top is the same Marcy Tilton pattern with the neckband made in a sheer knit burn-out, with the adjusting pleats sewn on the inside.  I also added cuffs of the same knit burn-out.  This is from another project that I'll post here soon.  The burn-out was a perfect match for this very inexpensive, lightweight knit.  Unlike the green top which is a very drape-y, stretchy rayon-spandex knit, I think this one is all cotton and doesn't have a lot of stretch, so I would have been better off cutting it a bit larger, but it's okay.

 I signed up for a basic serging class on Craftsy, and then Craftsy offered the advanced serging class for free, so I've signed up for that also.  I've watched the introductions, but I've yet to proceed any further with either one.  When I do I'm hoping to expand my serging repertoire beyond the basics, but for the moment, the basics are just fine.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ready to read

Last year's eleven books have been read and discussed, and now a new slate awaits.

I appreciate being part of a group of readers who are willing to read out of their comfort zone. Occasionally there are some grumblings about the number of "depressing" books we've chosen over the years.  So why do we choose to read them, these stories about desperate lives, dangerous places?  Interestingly, if you do a Google search for "depressing books" you'll find a host of responses, some arguing for their various benefits, others swearing off of them altogether.  One blogger said she was glad she read "tough" books when she was younger, because they improved her in various ways, but now all she wants is to be entertained.

Well, don't we all like to be entertained?  I like mysteries, which usually involve a violent death, not really a pleasant subject when you think about it, yet definitely entertaining if well written.  But what I want out of my precious reading hours more than entertainment is enrichment. I want to fill my mind with knowledge and understanding of other lands, other cultures, other times.  I want to see them, experience them through narrators and characters different from myself, or sometimes much like myself.  And often that world within the book is one where I would not want to be in actuality, but that may be exactly the point.  Why is this world the way it is, and what do I learn from that? 

I came across a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article in the Telegraph in which the author suggested that dark and depressing novels ought to make people glad about their relatively benign lives.  " Try 400 volts of pure Thomas Hardy and count your blessings that you're not Jude The Obscure."  I think that all of us in my bookgroup would agree with that.  After reading about a slum community in contemporary India in Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a memoir of life in war-torn Vietnam in The Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham or the settling of Australia's New South Wales in Kate Grenville's The Secret River, we certainly have a greater appreciation of our own good fortune, as women living here in this time and place.  We also believe that these books are important for opening our eyes to and increasing our empathy for the infinite variety of other lives. 

Do I feel like all the books that we've read have been "worthwhile?"  I must say that there have been some I'd only force my worst enemy to read (except  he or she might like them!), but, once again, the great thing about a book group is that we can discuss things in the books that disturbed us, that we disagreed with, that we disliked.  And someone else's point of view might just give us a different and illuminating perspective on a "difficult" book.

 Of course, who would really like reading if reading were only about books that were "good for you"?  I also found in The Telegraph a list of 100 novels everyone should read, of which I've read about half.  Some, such as My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk and Austerlitz by WG Sebald, were bookgroup selections, but many others – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki – I read because I wanted to know what was in those renowned books, and I read them enthralled from first page to last.

Some books do take getting into, adjusting to their unusual rhythm, altering your expectations.  And sometimes a book just plain disappoints. Even when that happens I tend to slog through to the end.  (Maybe there's a correlation between that and eating everything on your plate, something I happily did without being forced to.)   As always, I'm looking forward to reading all of these books, even the ones I didn't vote for.  Discovering a good book that I would never have considered on my own is also one of the pluses of being in a book group.  I invite you to come join us on our reading journeys, in person if you happen to live in the Dallas area, or wherever you are in the world online. 

 Here's a look at our selections for the past three years.