My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

I have to eat what? June 30, 2012

Filed under: Broken/Repaired,Random thoughts,What's happening — blankenmom @ 5:53 pm
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I’ve been having stomach problems for years…. and years.  After several docs just chalked it up to nothing I gave up.  However, that didn’t make it go away.  So I recently went to a naturopath in our new town and she put me on the “Elimination diet”.  Don’t look at me like that – it’s about eliminating food from your diet, not from your body – Ew!











The main portion of my diet for the next month will be rice, rice and a little more rice.  YUM! 









Ok, I can have chicken and veggies/fruit, but all the side dishes will be rice, rice noodles and potatoes. 









Day 2 and I’m starving!


It’s all for a good reason thought right?  You’ll keep reminding me of this while I’m on vacation with the in-laws and can’t eat all of their good cooking and yummy restaurant foods…. RIGHT!


A few things keeping me happy are the decaf she’s allowing me and the soda water in juice (no sugar juice).  Mmmm!





I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if I actually knew how to cook.  I could come up with all kinds of tasties, but no, I have no cooking abilities and the first-born is gone on a missions trip, so he can’t even save me with his yummy cooking.  So I’ll just keep myself distracted with projects.  I’ve got several that are attacking me at once. 









On a lighter note – the second-born thinks this is hysterical; now he can actually eat more foods than I can.  Show off!


Perspective June 25, 2012

Filed under: Family,Hubby,Random thoughts — blankenmom @ 10:26 pm
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Often times what we think is going on, is all about what we see and when – perspective. 












I hate crowds because all I see are “butts and boobs”; neither of which are good when you’re in a crowd.  My dentist man doesn’t mind them (crowds that is) because he can see over all this and get to where he’s going.  Where-as I don’t mind traffic because it gives me a minute to think about where I’m going, he doesn’t have the same appreciation however.










Two different perspectives on the same situations.  We’re both there, but we see things completely different.






Have you ever had a day where you thought you were lookin’ good?  Your outfit looked great, your hair cooperated, your wrinkles took a day off – you’re hot and you know it!  You pass by several people you think are into you and you nod a big “Hey, what’s up!”  You get home and you see a giant boog hanging out of your nose…… yeah, awesomeness.


Perspective, it’s all about what you see at the time.






After our long three years in “that house”, with a crazy bully neighbor and a horribly run town, I thought I had been defeated.  Even though 99% of the people we met were absolutely wonderful and I can’t imagine life without knowing them, one or two people still ruined our entire experience.  And when I mean ruined I mean, ulcer causing, panic attack inducing, my kids are afraid to go outside, hand me another drink, ruined!  After asking the Lord to give me the words and wisdom to counter this attack on my family for the whole three years, I felt I was being met with silence.  Nothing….


…… or so I thought.


It’s been almost 2 years now since we’ve been gone and I’m starting to really recover.  The boys playing out front in the street no longer cause me to panic that they’ll get yelled at.  People passing my window no longer cause me to turn and look in fear of someone looking in or police pulling up.  Seeing or hearing a similar truck no longer makes my stomach turn and someone knocking at the door no longer fills me with dread of another court date.  Still, this whole time I had thought I had missed something.  Maybe I hadn’t been listening?  I did something wrong in the whole situation?


Again, perspective.


The other night I was reading about Job and his trials.  He never lost his faith in spite of everything that went on around him.  He questioned.  But he never lost his faith.  As I read that, my perspective changed from “Why didn’t I hear you Lord.  What was I doing wrong?” to “I survived.  Was made stronger and can make it through just about anything! ”  It wasn’t a test or a trial, it was a teaching moment.







As we moved out there, I hated the whole place.  It wasn’t anything I wanted and frankly I wasn’t quite sure I could keep up with the craziness.  Realizing now what I’ve gotten out of it; not only could I keep up with it, I surpassed it!  I dealt with craziness on steroids!  Yes, it may have roughed me up, but I came out of it none-the-less!  I learned so much and met so many people who have helped us in so many ways.  It turns out that it was a blessing!





The little man in his little town, will always be there.  He’ll always be bitter, mean and angry.  I could choose to keep his issues, or I could hand them back and walk away with the lesson and gifts I got out of it instead.











The Lord wasn’t ignoring me; He was there the whole time.  He gave me people to hold me up, help me through and to take care of; laughs when I needed it and family to share it with.  He didn’t say He’d take us out of the bad situations; He said He’d be there with us through them.  After all, it’s in the fire where the clay get’s stronger, burns off the imperfections and get’s us to where He wants to be. 









I may still be smoking but I’ve moved on to a better view.





Give me some fiber… June 23, 2012

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 10:20 pm
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….we’re talking fabric here!









I won’t even pretend to know everything there is to know about fabric.  I won’t even try to say I know half of what there is to know about fabric actually. 





I see… I like… I buy.


Well – except there are certain fabrics that you can and cannot do things with.  There are weights, among other things, you have to take into consideration. 



In general:




Quilting fabric – Quilts, tops, small dresses, crafts (tends to not breath so well, so you may want to avoid using it for bottoms)







Sheer/light-weight – Curtains, top fabric over another fabric, see-through tops and gowns (to be worn over another piece)








Top/light-weight – Tops, soft/light dresses/skirts, lined shorts (or else you’ll show everything)








Suiting/medium-weight – Suites, pants, jackets, tailored dresses/skirts, shorts








Bottom-weight – Tailored jeans, pants, jackets, shorts and skirts








Coating/heavy-weight – Coats, jackets








Upholstery – Upholstery, outdoor furniture, pillows, table clothes, curtains, (also great for costumes)









Heavy-duty – Awnings, outdoor furniture, sails, upholstery, curtains








Two great books to assist you with a lot of this knowledge are these Sandra Betzina books.  I own the second one and it’s been very helpful.


However, when you’re standing in the middle of the fabric store with pattern in hand, the book doesn’t do you a whole-lot of good!  So I’m going to give you a crash course in buying fabric.  It won’t be perfect, but it will get you out of the store without crying.


I showed you last time the back of a pattern.  One section shows you suggested fabrics.  For starters stick with the suggestions.


You’ve gone through the whole store and finally found the correct fabric suggested (it’s ok to ask for help), in the color and/or print you like.  If the store doesn’t allow you to go through and touch the fabric (short of *very* expensive fabric) you don’t want to shop there!  Pull the bolt out, feel the fabric, check the top for price, content and width.  It’s the one – Now what?


In every fabric store there will be a cutting table.  In most cases, look for a long line of really bored looking people, also holding several bolts of fabric, and place yourself at the back of it… I suggest a shopping cart if one is available. You may be there a while!  (Make sure to take a number if available – or you’ll get the look of death from your fellow line-mates). 





Make sure to have your stabilizer (if needed), any ribbon, lace or trim that is by-the-yard with you also so they can cut this at the same time.  The side of the spool or the shelf will tell you if it is or not.

When you finally make it to the front of the line, you’ll put your bolt out on the table and the person will ask you how much you want.  You can either show them the back of the pattern and they’ll be happy to help you figure it out or you can let them know how much you need if you already know.  They’ll unroll the fabric from the bolt and start cutting.

*Make sure to watch as they’re unrolling it.  Sometimes fabrics have catches, cuts, marks snags, stains or other blemishes that you can’t work around and you’ll want that piece removed.


*Money saving tip*  Sometimes you’ll get to the end of the bolt and there will be slightly more fabric left over than you need.  Some stores will offer this extra bit for a discount – take it!  You can always use the extra for *something*!


After it’s cut, they’ll hand you the cut fabric back, take the bolt to a storage bin and hand you a slip of paper that says how much fabric you just had cut.  You’ll bring that to the front of the store to buy once you’re all done getting your things.


(If you do happen to forget something and have to go back through the line to have something recut – that’s fine, you’ll just have two tickets when you go to pay.)




Now walk over to the thread area and find a matching thread color from whatever company you’ve decided you like or want to test out.  If you can’t find the exact shade, go for the darker shade; it hides better in the fabric…. unless of course you want the thread to show up and then pick whatever color floats-your-boat!





*Side note*  Now, I stated before that fabrics don’t actually measure up to the stated sizes.  Usually bolts are marked 35–36”, 39”, 41”, 44–45”, 50”, 52–54″, 58–60” and 66”, 72″, 96″, and 108″ (Wiki).  They usually come in at about an inch or two less than what the bolt says.  Knit fabrics tend to come in tubes however.  I have been researching my bum off and the best I can come up with are these two pages




cloth-yard 93.98 cm 37 inches = 1 yard A cloth-yard was used to measure cloth. It is an inch longer than an ordinary yard. A natural way to measure cloth is to hold one end in one hand, and measure along the edge to the nose, then repeat, and these would be cloth-yards. I measure thread for making lace in the same way. A cloth-yard shaft was an arrow a cloth-yard long.
ell 114.3 cm 45 inches = 1 ell
5 spans = 1 ell
32 ells = 1 bolt
An ell is derived from ‘elbow’. It started off similar to the cubit (see above), but the English ell was 45 inches or a yard and a quarter. It could have been measured from elbow to elbow. Other countries had different lengths for their ell. There was an old saying “Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell”. As the ell fell out of common use, the saying got changed to “Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” (which makes less sense).
bolt 36.58 m 32 ells = 1 bolt
40 yards = 1 bolt
Another measure of cloth. Cloth is stored in rolls, which are still called bolts.



 – and here. 


From what I’ve been able to gather – it’s due to manufacturing variances from country to country and on each bolt.  So it depends on where you measure it on the bolt and where exactly it came from.  What a boring reason.

But the above article does explain why some of us still measure “yards” from our nose to our fingers!  (Have you ever seen the part in Cinderella?)





Ok, I know, that’s all boring history stuff.  Back to the nuts and…. bolts.  (Couldn’t help it)






Now you’ve gotten all your fabric and notions purchased and you’ve made it home.  Don’t even THINK about cutting that fabric yet!  The manufactures treat fabrics with chemicals, sometimes as strong as Formaldehyde, to keep the fabrics from degrading, being eaten or rotting during shipment.  Do you really want that on anyone you know? 

The other reason is that most, if not all, fabrics will shrink or warp some while washing and you want to allow it to and find out how much, before you sew it – not after.  That would be bad!  And some fabrics that say “dry clean only” can actually be machine washed on gentle or hand wash cycles if you wash them before you make the item.  But if in true doubt and the fabric was expensive and fancy – dry clean it or do research (or do a swatch test where you run the swatch through the wash to check it).  I don’t want you coming back to me crying because the satin wedding dress you made just shrunk down to the flower girls size and left a huge water mark on her bum! 



Once you wash and dry your fabric, make sure to iron it out if needed.  Yes, I know we all hate ironing (except that one person… but we don’t like them anyway), but you can’t sew on wrinkled fabric and it’s really simple without any corners, nooks or crannies!  This is a good time to cut off the strings that come off the edges and check for any problems that may have shown up during the wash.








Lay out your fabric selvage edges together.  These are the uncut edges that are usually stiff and often white and have die marks or the designers name.  These won’t be used in your pattern.  It doesn’t matter if you put the wrong side or the right side touching at this point, as long as you stay consistent through-out the pattern.  On a woven fabric, the wrong side is usually not as bright or has no pattern at all.  If it’s a knitted fabric, the wrong side will be “purl” stitches, the right side will have “knit” stitches (will look like little V’s).  Some fabrics it can be hard to tell and others, you may actually like the “wrong” side more.




I’ll get into cutting patterns next.  You can sit and enjoy your fiber!





Keep on the sunny side…. June 22, 2012

Filed under: Boys,Family,Hubby,Military,Moving,Navy,Places,Random thoughts — blankenmom @ 10:14 pm
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….. always on the sunny side. 


*music plays here*







We (three of our four boys and my dentist man, that is) drove the country side of our state and looked for a suitable home, if there was one, if we choose to leave the Navy. 





We came back with more questions than answers….  figures.

The other side provided some sun though, which was a good thing since we were all about to kill each other (with kindness of course…..) from lack of vitamin D. 





We could only agree on one location out of about 10 and only partially on the one.  We did however find numerous homes to drool over for when we we’re ready to wrangle a few sheep and yarn bunnies. 

The boys loved the amusement park their dad decided to throw in to the middle of the trip, on Father’s day no less.  (‘Cause that’s what every dad wants to be doing on their day right?)





Along with seeing snow in June and dust devils, desert, driving through the clouds, waterfalls, actual flowing waves of grain and more fruit than you can shake a stick at – we have seen just about everything of our state. 











The biggest thing I got out of this trip:  You know how you drive past little towns on the way to where-ever it is you’re going?  They’re just a blur in your window, maybe a quick bathroom stop, but they’re so small you don’t even really notice them?  Yeah, these are the towns we were looking at.  And the thought crossed my mind that the majority of people here in the beautiful little towns were born, raised, married, gave birth and died in the same town.  Some may have visited a few other places, for a week or so.  Maybe even four years of college or a short stent in the military, but majority of their lives were in the same town…… this is foreign to me. 





What a great life for them!  These are the people who feed us, clothe us, make sure we have the building blocks for the products we need.  Field, after field, after field of what ever they know best to grow.  Day in and day out.  Amazing!





However, I’m not sure I’m there yet.  My 10 or so chickens, a couple of sheep and yarn bunnies are still not quite the dreams I want them to be.  I think there are still too many things outside of this quiet life I still want to try – although, this could possibly afford me more space to try things that moving couldn’t. 










I love that I could get a small glimpse into their lives.  We even ended up accidentally driving through one of their parades one day – right down the middle of it!  We got to see just about everyone in their town, sitting right there on the side-walk.  I’m sure after that many days of driving, we were quite the sight to see too!











While we’re deciding, my dentist man will be out on another cruise.  The boys will be at various church functions, camps, soccer events and a few other outings, while I’ll be keeping on the sunny side of life.


Sew many projects June 9, 2012

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 6:01 pm
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You’ve sewn your paper, your spare fabric and maybe even your fingers and you’re still thinking you want to try this whole sewing thing.  Well that’s good, because you’ve already invested a good amount of time in it already, so marching on is a great idea!


But what should your first project be?


I usually tell my student’s to start with something simple.  If they’re more into crafting, a pet bed or curtains.  If they’re more into fashion an “A-line” skirt, no zipper (elastic waist).  If they have children, a blanket or very easy top/dress.  Easy enough projects, but without a pattern on your first try, not much progress is going to be made unless you’re one of those genius freaks, but then you wouldn’t be reading this!


There are A LOT of pattern companies.  I don’t even know most of them, but I can give you a heads up on the most popular ones and a few of the lesser known ones.  From there, you can go and explore their sites and start drooling over projects.  I can help you with a lot of things, but picking out your sewing pattern isn’t one of them.  I’ll point you in the right direction, but from there it’s all personal!


When you’re looking at their sites, you can usually look at the front and back of the patterns.  This will give you all the information you’re going to need before you even get to the fabric store.

I want to make an important note for when you’re looking at patterns – don’t look at what’s on the cover and judge by color or the pattern on the fabric.  That’s the perk to sewing.  You get to pick the color and/or pattern (or lack-there-of) on the fabric!  My boys do this.  They’ll see a pattern I have and say they don’t like it, until I show them the fabric I was thinking of and then they start to like it.  This also goes for length and width for the most part.  If you see a pattern you’ve fallen in love with but something bothers you about it, you can change it!  With practice, you’ll be able to take a few inches off or add on, a few inches in or out, change a collar, pockets, sleeves or change buttons to a zipper (or visa versa). 

I’d also like to say – you are NOT going to be the same size as your RTW (ready-to-wear… aka: store-bought clothing.), you WILL be a bigger size in patterns.  Get over it!  No on will know – there’s no tag!  I am about 4-6 sizes larger in patterns, I’m fine with that.  (If it makes you feel better – sew in a tag that says a smaller size.)


Here is how to take your measurements before you head off the to the store –






Popular patterns in the US:

  • Simplicity – Very easy patterns, youthful, very popular.
  • Butterick – Easy patterns, classic clothing, very popular.
  • McCall’s – Easy patterns, stylish clothing, very popular.
  • Vogue – More difficult patterns, very nice clothing, very popular.
  • Burda – Easy to difficult (your choice), trendy, very popular.
  • Jalie – More for athletes, sports or “undies”, more difficult because of the fabrics.
  • Green Pepper – Very easy, not as well-known.
  • Folkwear – More vintage wear, great for costumes.
  • Kwik-Sew – Easy patterns, great for lingerie, very popular.
  • Marfy – Easy patterns, nice designs, becoming well-known.
  • Ottobre – More for children (I believe it’s German?), very cute.
  • Onion – Easy to sew, lesser known company.
  • Amy Butler – She also has her own line of fabrics, very popular, very cute stuff.


(Here is a whole list of several more – most I’ve never heard of, but DON’T let that stop you from checking them out and loving them!)



Most patterns will include a hem allowance, which is usually 3/4″.  They will tell you on the pattern if they’ve included this or not, or if they’ve changed the amount.  It doesn’t make it any harder to use, it just adds an extra step to your cutting.  Not an issue! 

Some companies include ALL sizes, not just a range.  Which is nice if you’ve been elected to sew your entire flag teams new uniforms.  You don’t have to buy 2-3 sets of patterns to make them all!


Simplicity is just like it says, simple.  So this may be the one you want to start out with – as opposed to Vogue, which tends to add extra pieces or in one such case I’ve come across, only included French directions…. I don’t know French?  (They do have a great feature that tells you which patterns should look best on your body shape however.)  And Burda on occasion omits the seam allowances and that may be burdensome for your first time out.


All but a few come with picture directions, which is great for people like me who are visual, and for people who are just starting out and need to see what-the-heck the designer is talking about!  An even smaller amount don’t include any directions, just the patterns.  (When patterns first started, it was just the directions and measurements!)


*Money saving tip here*

Joanns craft/fabric store will have pattern sales every so often.  Either 5 for $5 (limit 10), 10 for $10 for Simplicity, Butterick or McCall’s or $1.99 – $3.99 for Butterick, McCall’s or Vogue – a great time to stock up!!  When this happens, go to the pattern companies website, pick out the patterns you want and then head down to the store.  Make sure to write out your list with at least 5 extra wants on there because a few on your list may not be there any longer.


Once you’ve picked out your pattern, you have to decipher the “coding” on the back.  I promise they’re not trying to keep anything secret, once you understand what they’re trying to tell you, it’s all good things!


Over the next few weeks, we’re going to cover pattern instructions – today we’ll just go over the back cover, so you can actually walk out of the fabric store with your fabric and notions in hand.

(Patterns are copyrighted, so I’ll be taking my best care to make sure I protect that while attempting to show you the information you need.)




Pick out the pattern envelope that has the most correct measurements. If you fall all over the place, go with your largest measurement since it’s easier to take in a pattern, than enlarge it.








 *It will tell you on the front cover what size you are buying.



Let’s take the top section – It gives you the description of each of the items that can be sewn from the pattern you’ve chosen.  While it doesn’t mean you *have* to sew it exactly as it’s stated, it’s what the patterns included will give you.  They are in letter order on the cover, instructions and pattern pieces to help you identify what you are working with.  Pieces can be used for more than one item and include several sizes. 


Fabric suggestions section – Most pattern companies will give you suggestions as to which fabrics will work best with the pattern you’ve picked.  While you can pick any fabric you want, sticking with their suggestions, especially in the beginning, will make your life much easier.  If you don’t use the right fabric for the item you’re making, it may not sit, drape, fold, turn or tuck correctly.  There are often ways around this however. 

If you don’t know what these fabrics are and want to stick with the suggestions exactly, you can either look up the suggested fabric on-line or one of the employee’s at the fabric store will help steer you in the right direction.


Size section – just let’s you know what size categories you can get in the envelope.


Yardage section – tells you how much fabric you’ll need for each item you want to sew and for the size you plan on sewing. 

Fabrics come in varying widths, usually 45″ – 60″ (90″ – 150″ also).  If you were to actually measure the widths, they don’t actually fall exactly on these measurements, but this is a universal measurement everyone goes by.




The top of the bolts of fabric will tell you all the info you need. How many yards it originally had. What it’s made of. How to wash it. How many inches it is. Where it was made and how much it costs. Sometimes it will have how many yards are left.




If you’re making dress “D” in size 14 with 45″ fabric, you’ll need 2 and 7/8 of a yard (that’s 2 yards and 7/8 of a yard).  If you are making dress “A” in size 20 with 60″ fabric, you’ll need 2 1/2 yards.

The stars next two the bolt yardages are with or without nap.  Nap is like when you vacuum a carpet.  You go one way and you can see where you’ve vacuumed and you go another way and it looks different.  Fabric can do that too, not all, but a lot of fabrics.  If you place the pattern pieces going in different directions, it will be noticeable. 



You’ll notice that the fabric looks two different colors. This is the same fabric, going in two different directions. While it can be an interesting effect – this wasn’t my plan and can be very embarrassing on a pair of pants!



The interfacing they talk about is a fabric like fiber that comes in varying weights and colors.  You place it behind your fashion fabric to stiffen and stabilize it to make sure it doesn’t shift, stretch or misbehave.  It comes in sew in and iron on.  Your pattern will tell you which one you will need.



These will come on bolts or in packaging – bolts are more economical. If you can’t find them in the store, ask where they’re at – they’re usually near the cutting counter anyway.  The tops of the bolts will tell you weight, and whether or not they are iron on (fusible) or sew in style.



The notions section – tells you if you need to buy elastic, zippers, buttons, hook & eye’s,  how much and what size.  It will give you this information for each piece that needs it, by lettering again.  In this case – only “A” needed these notions.  It will also remind you to buy matching thread.


Finished garment section – tells you how the garment will fit (unless it’s not to be worn, such as a pillow or curtains, then it will either describe how it hangs or won’t have this description).  When you are wearing an item, there is a certain amount of “ease” – how much room is left over between you and the clothing.  You want this so not everything is skin-tight (or huge) – unless you like that?  Stretch pants you want 0″ ease and a nice, comfy blouse you’ll want several inches of ease.  It also tells you how long it will end up.

For top “B” size 6, your keester (hip) measurement is 32 1/2″ or so and the finished measurement around that area will be 55 1/2″.  That leaves an extra 23″ to move freely in.  (That’s just a few inches from hip to shirt, after you distribute it all the way around your body) This is good to know if you plan on making pants and the bottom finished measurements are more boot cut than you’d like or if a dress bottom is a bit smaller than you’d be able to walk in. 

This is also good to know length wise if you’re going to walk up the front of your dress if it’s too long – that could be embarrassing!


Front/back drawing section – a drawn description of what you’ve chosen, front and back.  You never know when there will be a detail hidden in the back that you weren’t prepared for!  (Nothing like a big, hideous bow on your butt to throw a beautiful dress off!)



Well few!  That comes off much quicker in person – but I think I covered it all?  If I’ve left you wondering about something, please let me know and I’ll be glad to fill you in on it. 



Now go forth and shop!