All posts by Andrea McDowell

Banana Pants: Burda 4/16 Pants #106C

If only I’d sewn these up in July! I could have used them for the Smarty Pants challenge at Monthly Stitch. Alas, these were finished in June.

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They are pretty Bananas. I’m not sure about Smart.

And I’m posting them in November. Oy.

These are purple rayon palazzo pants. They’re totally ridiculous. I can’t justify any kind of need for them. But I love them so.

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The pattern has an invisible side zipper, an angled front yoke, and some truly roomy front pleats. I needed most of 2m of rayon to cut these out. But they are truly delightful to wear. It’s like having an air conditioner on my butt, they’re so light and cool. This was great in July and August, though it’s not so great in November. Maybe I’ll make these again in something a little warmer? We’ll see.

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Slash hip pockets–and I wasn’t as careful as I was with the final version of the pink pants–so there’s a bit of gaping. Sigh. And I think one of the back legs is a bit off grain. :/ They’re pretty swishy so the only time it’s visible is when I’m standing still, posing for pictures.

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I can’t even tell you how much time I spent fussing with the hem. I’d press it to what seemed like the right length, pin it, try it on, and one side would be crooked or too long or short. Then I’d do it again. I’d compare one side to the other and mark a line where they should be equal, press and pin, and try it on again, and they’d still be uneven, so I’d do it again. And again. Etc. Hemming pants on one’s self is a PITA at the best of times; and there’s a lot of fabric here to hem. I thought I might spend the rest of my life on that one step. But here we are, hems done and, if not quite perfect, hard to see what with all the purple rayon swaying about my shoes. Good enough, I say.

Sizing Note

According to the Burda size chart, I should be a size 40/42; these are a 38/40 (waist/hips) which for me is standard in Burda sizing. I made my standard corrections to the crotch curve and depth; otherwise, they’re as-is.

All about the selvedge: B6100

I was so wrong. I have all kind of summer projects I haven’t posted yet. Dear lord.

On the other hand, we now get to see green growing things here on the blog for a little longer, and there isn’t too much of that left in real life at the moment.  Sigh.

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Anyway: This is a project that started as a pile of Mariner Cloth, the neon pink colourway. The colour is so fun, and the texture is very cool, and I thought this would make a really great casual shirt.

I was determined to use the selvedge in place of hemming:

Look at that lovely hem matching, too!

Because it is so pretty with all the loopy bits. And it did eventually work out, but first I needed to find a shirt pattern that had a nice straight hem, would work with wovens, and was pretty casual.

I could only get two out of three: I went with Butterick 6100.  It’s meant to be fairly fancy, but it’s also meant to use the selvedge edge of lace fabric, so it did have a good straight hem.

I made a few key changes to the pattern:

  1. I wanted it less boxy than it would need to be as a straight pull-over with only a keyhole closure, so I added an invisible side zipper under the left arm.
  2. The sleeves from the pattern were incredibly constricting and narrow and very puffy (it doesn’t show in the pattern photos but mine looked like Anne of Green Gables) so I subbed in an altered Scout Tee sleeve instead.
Side Zipper

This is a custom cup size pattern, but the D wasn’t quite big enough, so there is a small FBA in addition.

The Side

And without being too baggy at the hip, either.  There’s a facing and a button-and-loop closure, both of which worked out well:

Facing

The facing is from a cotton voile scrap, with the raw edge serged.

I got lots of wear out of it in the summer. It’s a very lightweight fabric, perfect for steamy days, and turned out very comfortably. Of course now I just need to pine for summer so I can wear it again. Sigh.

The Back

It is pretty boxy, but that’s what I wanted, so hurray! And the edge hits right on the high hip, which makes them perfect for high-waisted pants or shorts.

Sizing Note

In Butterick, I should be wearing a size 16/20 for tops according to the body measurement chart. This is a size 10, custom cup size D, with a small FBA, and a slightly raised hemline so it would hit me at the high hip.

Burda 2/18 Shirt #120: Second Time’s the Charm

I tried making this in the early spring in a very cool polyester with one maroon side, and one peachy coral side. It was slinky and soft and fabulous and of course the shirt was a total flop.

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The Front, in motion. But still pretty.

The neckband would not go on right. It twisted no matter how I attached it. And the sleeves were just long enough that when I bent my arms, it pulled the shoulders off.  And the front was too poufy. I’m still sad about the loss of the fabric.

In part it was the FBA: I’d added my regular 2″ per side, but then rotated them into the pleats and gathers on the neckline, and it was Too Much.

And in part it was failing to mark the notches correctly on the neckband, so I couldn’t get it to line up right. The neckband is on the bias; you need to stretch it to sew it on right. And getting the right amount of stretch is critical to the way it slightly stands up or lies down, depending.

So I revised the pattern to put some of the neckline pleats and gathers back into a small side dart, and retraced the neckline pattern, and found this lightweight poly print for $3/m.

And tried again, about three months later.

The Side.

There wasn’t enough of the print, so I used a solid black for the neckband and tie. I think the contrast is a nice touch.

I shortened the sleeves by about 1″, and that works better for me, too.

The Back.

I don’t know if you can tell from this photo, but I accidentally sewed the back piece backwards; the wrong side is facing out. Oops. When I was sewing it up, it was dim in my sewing space and it didn’t look like there was much, if any, difference between the two sides, so I didn’t pay much attention to which side was in or out. And then in daylight the next day it was quite clear that it was lighter on one side than the other–only I didn’t have enough fabric to recut and wasn’t sure the pattern would even work so didn’t bother to unpick and resew.  I still love it, and wear it a bunch,

One suggestion if you’re going to make it up:

Cut the neck band out about 3″ longer than the pattern says. Even on the bias this fabric was not stretchy, and the original length was not going to work: especially in the back, the neck would have been gathered rather than smooth. Give yourself the extra room, pin it to the neckline, and then make it smaller if you have to.

Now that I’ve proven I can make this pattern work in something cheap, maybe I can try it in a silk crepe de chine?

Sizing Note

I should be a size 40 in the waist and size 44 in the bust according to Burda’s size chart. This shirt is my standard size 38 with a 2″ FBA on each side.

The Age of Angry Women

I’ve been keeping journals since elementary school, and they are, generally, what you would expect from journals: hard-back notebooks filled with lined pages covered in a not always legible scrawl of to do lists, New Year’s Resolutions, goals I had or things I wanted to try, quandaries I was trying to work through, and of course, what was going on in my life and how I felt and what I thought about it.

Or, often, what I thought I should think about it. What I thought I should feel about it. In my first journal from elementary school, I’d gotten the idea that girls were supposed to write about their crushes in their diaries, so I invented crushes so I could write about them in my diary, but not all of the things I thought I should think or felt I should feel were so entertaining. Often it was things that made me sad, or angry: I wrote about those feelings in the hope and expectation that by getting it out I wouldn’t be sad or angry anymore. It never worked.

In January 2017, I stopped writing in black and blue ink and brought out the coloured pens. I started to make charts, draw sketches, record dreams I’d had, write down quotes from books or poems I’d read.

This is one of those things that’s very awkward to say, and which I’ve been told is scientifically either implausible or impossible so I don’t mention much, but: I don’t have many memories of my childhood. I remember some friends, some teachers, school trips, other kids’ birthday parties, summer camp, the cottages. I have a handful of memories of my Dad and my brother. Of my mother, I have one clear memory before the age of 14, and a handful of other extremely unpleasant memories of things that involve her or where she was present–I know she was present–but her presence in that memory has been wiped clear as a white-board. For me, narrative memory starts sometime in middle school. Before then, I have my journals, and things people have told me, and weird snatches, and lots of stuff that doesn’t involve my family, and that’s it.

This image, for instance, does not resonate with me at all. I don’t have a childhood self to return to–though if you do, that’s great, and I’m happy for you. Apparently it resonates with a lot of people because it is all over my FB feed.

So early in 2017, in addition to watching the world slowly side into a dumpster-fire the size of Jupiter, I also was tired of trying to figure out what was in those missing years, who I would have or should have been, how I turned into who I am. Unlike most other people, I’m not tethered to a remembered history. It’s odd, it’s often uncomfortable, but it’s true, so I may as well make myself up. And my journals became a way to do that: to construct myself.  I still wrote to-do lists and plans and quandaries and what I thought I should think and how I thought I should feel, which still never worked, and pages and pages of — questions, quotes, the bits of myself that I inherited from trauma and wanted to keep (eg. loving nature), the bits that I inherited from trauma and wanted to change (eg. fearing people), the bits that might actually have nothing to do with trauma at all (eg. sewing), and what exactly I wanted to put in the empty spaces between them (eg. dancing).

We all engage in self-construction somewhat. The difference is, if you had parents who loved you, you had people from your earliest memories mirroring back to you a version of yourself you could flourish in. You might outgrow it, you might need to stretch or bend it, but there was part of that mirroring you could live in. When your parents hate you, the version of yourself they give you is ugly and contorted. If you try growing into it, it kills you.


In October of last year, I read through Adrienne Riche. Here’s some bits I wrote down:

it’s your own humanity you’ll have to drag
over and over, piece by piece,
page after page
out of the dark.

Which was as good a description of my project as I could ask for. But then, in relation to all those feelings I was trying to write away, this:

Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me
as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider’s genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere–
even from a broken web.

Maybe, I thought, I didn’t have to write them away. Maybe the anger isn’t the problem. Maybe I can let the anger be?

This, of course, is not a problem unique to me: We live in a world that delights in convincing women that we don’t have the right to feel our feelings, and if we do, we don’t have the right to express or act on them, and if we choose to anyway, we can’t expect anyone to take them or us seriously. We are hysterical, we are emotional, we are too sensitive, we are irrational, we are illogical, we are hormonal: if we want to be taken seriously in almost any context, we need to strip ourselves of any evidence of emotion, and then be labelled “cold.”

On the one hand, my upbringing made this worse: I lived in the same misogynistic culture, and was brought up in a misogynistic fundamentalist Church, and had a deeply abusive family. From all quarters, I got the message that I was not valued, and not valuable. It was awful. I won’t sugarcoat it. I’ve struggled with suicidal depression since elementary school (for which I was also blamed).

On the other hand, it’s meant I had nothing to lose in walking away.

Oddly, I’ve come to view this as a gift. Though maybe that’s the wrong word, because it came with a very steep bill.

Regardless, when I came across the message–and when it then proliferated across the literary landscape like a climate change-fueled wildfire–that my anger was not the problem, I could embrace it, without facing unpleasant pushback from people in my life who would tell me that the anger was ugly and uncomfortable and I should shove it back in its box.

In June of this year I fell into Jan Zwicky again. I don’t know why she isn’t a better-known or more-loved poet. Here’s some bits from Beethoven: Op. 95:

…You were right: stupidity
surrounds us, and our own
splits the skull most sharply.
Also: that nothing
is achieved without the grimmest labour
on the slenderest of hopes. …

…you were right
about discipline, and politics,
the steep well of fury, and finally
what the fury goes through to: love
like a hand through the wall of the chest,
like a hand in fire, fire
tearing itself, in the hand’s flame
a heart, in the heart’s fist
an ear.

That image!

What the fury goes through to: love like the hand through the wall of the chest.

There’s been, also, approximately a hundred books written very recently by women about women being angry and getting shit done using that anger as fuel, and I’ve read three of them: Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper, Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister, and Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly. I recommend all three, and I recommend reading them close together because they bolster and complement each other beautifully. Rage Becomes Her is approximately 250 pages of all the shit making women angry followed by 50 pages of what to do with it; Good and Mad is a historical and present-day journalistic narrative account of women using their anger to achieve positive change for society; and Eloquent Rage is a personal exploration of the uses of justified rage in the life of one Black Feminist activist. As well, all three provide an intersectional viewpoint that, while not complete, at least makes a conscious effort to broaden the scope beyond the most privileged.

Spoiler: they’re solidly pro-anger. Anger is justified, anger is fuel; anger tells us what’s broken and gives us the energy to try to fix it; and we live in a world that veers between discomfort and vilification where angry women are concerned, where it is hard to believe in the validity and uses of our anger. Where we still feel the necessity of bottling it up and slapping a smile or a joke on it. Where if you aren’t angry whatever happened didn’t bother you that much and if you are angry, you’re the problem.

Chemaly, Cooper and Traister would all like you to be angry, to express that anger, and to use that anger to propel activism in service of making a better world.

Cooper:

“This is a book by a grown-ass women written for other grown-ass women. This is a book for women who expect to be taken seriously and for men who take grown women seriously. This is a book for women who know shit is fucked up. These women want to change things but don’t know where to begin.

“To be clear, I’m not really into self-help books, so I don’t have one of those catchy three-step plans for changing the world. What I have is anger. Rage, actually. And that’s the place where more women should begin–with the things that make us angry.”

Chemaly:

“See your anger not only as a possible symptom but also as a way to recover yourself. If you are among the millions of people who have experienced abuse in childhood, for example, or physical and sexual violence in adulthood, anger is inevitable. Women who suppress this anger suffer more deleterious effects related to that suppression. Recovering from these assaults and their memorizes is hampered by ignoring what your anger represents as an agent of better health.”

“Anger is an assertion of rights and worth. It is communication, equality and knowledge. It is intimacy, acceptance, fearlessness, embodiment, revolt, and reconciliation. Anger is memory and rage. It is rational thought and irrational pain. Anger is freedom, independence, expansiveness, and entitlement. It is justice, passion, clarity, and motivation. Anger is instrumental, thoughtful, complicated, and resolved. In anger, whether you like it or not, there is truth.

Anger is the demand of accountability. It is evaluation, judgement, and refutation. It is reflective, visionary and anticipatory. It’s a speech act, a social statement, an intention, and a purpose. It’s a risk and a threat. A confirmation and a wish. It is both powerlessness and power, palliative and a provocation. In anger, you will find both ferocity and comfort, vulnerability and hurt. Anger is the expression of hope.”

Traister:

“‘It’s so powerful and kind of reminds me that the other side of the anger is the hope,’ Morales wrote to me. ‘We wouldn’t be angry if we didn’t still believe that it could be better.’

And if it gets better in part because of women’s ability and willingness and need to feel their anger and to let it out into the world, then what we would be living through right now would not be a trend or a fad or a witch hunt, but an insurrection–a righteous revolution, led by angry women.”

These books are fabulous and necessary and inspiring and, yes, enraging. I graduated from tea to wine to whisky while reading them, because believe me, they made me want to burn the world down. Traister, Cooper and Chemaly are right: women have a lot to be angry about; and our anger is not only justified and useful but necessary if we are going to fix the mess(es) we’re in.

But they missed one thing.

Anger isn’t just accountability and revolution and hope and optimism and power and independence and motivation and clarity and purpose and the place we should begin. It isn’t just good for our health and our souls to feel and own our anger.

Anger is love.

Fury is love, the hand going through the wall of the chest to the heart.

What you are angry on behalf of is what you love. If you are only ever angry on your own behalf, you only love yourself. If you are never angry on your own behalf, you don’t love yourself. Everyone I know who is never angry is a victim of abuse, usually starting early in childhood, that convinced them that they’re not worth defending and it’s selfish to defend themselves and it’s hopeless to even try. My father never got angry at the way my mother treated him, or very rarely, because he’d been convinced and then continued to convince himself that it was wrong and bad to value himself enough to feel anger on his own behalf. There are others in my family who are much the same–all women, mind you.

Think of when you have been angry in your life, and why, and look behind that anger, and you will find what you were defending–what you love. Anger on behalf of the poor, the exploited, on behalf of victims of assault or abuse or misogyny or racism; anger on behalf of children, of the environment, of the future, is a positive expression of love. You can’t love those things and not be angry when they’re threatened.

(And yes, the white man who only ever gets angry when his comfort and position are threatened only loves himself, and his comfort and position. It is absolutely a reflection of a person’s values and their heart.  Similarly the person who only ever gets angry on behalf of victims who live on the other side of the world, and can’t be bothered to react emotionally to victims in their own life.)

Anger is an angel. Anger is tenderness. Anger is what allows us to spin and weave a better future, even from a broken web. Fury goes through to love like a hand through the wall of the chest. Be as angry as you need to be.

Burda 6443

We’re coming to the end of the summer projects, Dear Readers. I have, I think, one more in the queue, and then it’s off to fall–pretty much just in time for winter. But I haven’t been doing as much sewing this fall as I normally would, at least not for myself; I made one (one!) garment for me in September, and so far in October have nearly completed one (one!) more. They’re both on the complex side, and I’ve been sewing a few things for Frances some of which are also on the complex side, but still.

With all of my newfound free time I’ve been reading up a storm. I’ve read ten books since the beginning of September, including all three of the recent “women and anger” releases, which you may hear about here soon since I am full of thoughts and have a paucity of completed sewing projects. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something surprisingly inspiring, I recommend Coyote America: in which we threw our most advanced biological weapons, poisons, aircraft with guns, helicopters, and scalpers for decades at them, and they largely rolled their eyes at us, expanded their range, and increased their population. I mean if you’re looking for a poster animal for extreme resiliency, coyotes would be hard to beat. The US literally has spent millions of dollars on eradicating coyotes, and they’re basically like, “whatever. We hear LA is nice. See you in the hedgerow!”

Anyway. Summer sewing project: a faux-wrap dress and shirt. I love wrap dresses, but the FBAs for them are such pains in the ass, particularly if your boobs are situated a bit higher up on your rib cage, that I normally don’t bother making them.

And this is a petite pattern, but as I’m a bit short in the torso I thought I could make it work, and the nice wide band on the neckline looked very promising for making a faux-wrap top less scandalous than they normally are.

I tested it out with a very cheap poly jersey ($3/m) from Fabricland in the dress view without doing anything but an FBA. It worked well and went together nicely and has a bit of a waist tilt in the front–not surprising. Otherwise it fits.

The Front

And you can definitely see me coming on a dark night. It’s a very bright orange/pink/white geometric print.

The Side-ish

The second try was a rayon jersey–also on sale from Fabricland for, I think, $3 or $4/m–with this very cool stripe/botanical combo print. It’s super soft and very comfy. This time I altered the waistline to bring it down just a smidge centre back and about 1 1/2″ centre front. I think it was a bit too much, mostly because the rayon jersey is so much softer and more stretchy than the poly that it hangs farther on its own, without any pattern alterations.

 

Generally, both garments stay closed centre front and cover a regular bra.

The Side

Both made up very quickly on the serger with the coverstitch for hemming.

Sizing Note

This is a size 19/20 with an FBA. Petite size 19/20 is equivalent to regular size 38/40, which is my standard in Burda.

Burda 6429

I picked up this blouse pattern for the sleeves and simplicity rating, and decided to make it up in a silk-cotton voile I got on sale at Fabricland. Not a normal test fabric, but I bought a bunch of it for 75% off, so I figured it was best to just go ahead and make the blouse with what I actually wanted, rather than doing a test first.

The Front

I’m glad I did. It worked out really well, I like wearing it and it’s so lightweight that it’s perfect for super-hot summer days. By the time you read this, we will likely not be having too many hot summer days–at least not here–but I really appreciated it in July.

The Side. You can see how the sleeves are a bit short in front.

And there’s so many colours in it that it matches everything.

Everything matched up and went together well. The zipper gave me conniptions in the back; even with interfacing, it did not want to lie flat. We got there eventually.

Mostly. The Back.

I love the all-in-one facing. It matched up to the pattern pieces perfectly (note: I did have to retrace the front portion after the FBA) and, once sewn in, stays put beautifully. The facing, incidentally, is sewn in white silk-cotton voile scraps.

The Facing, from the inside

There’s not much else to say about the construction. Seams were sewn, then finished with the serger. The fabric pressed beautifully and behaved well.

Sizing Note

This blouse is my Burda standard 38 with a 2″ FBA on each side. Body measurements should put me into a 40/44. The only change I would make is to lengthen the sleeve over the shoulder so it’s even front and back.

Quick Fix: V8946 Takes 2 and 3

So I figured out how to make the back work on Vogue 8946:

The Back. Not perfect, but so much better than the first one.

Make it up in a really stretchy jersey and get rid of the back zipper.

This is going to be a mostly-photos post because I don’t have much to say about these versions that I didn’t say about the first version, except: why do pattern companies keep putting zippers into jersey dresses? The only time I’ve ever found it necessary or worthwhile is on stable knits like ponte.

The Front

This version is a lightweight poly jersey–the same poly jersey I made into dancing leggings in the winter. I don’t think I ever posted that version, but I wore them to dance class a lot. And then had lots left over, enough to make this dress and still leave me with about 1m in scrap.

The Side. Look how much flatter the back is without the zipper!

This version has no lining: it’s just a straight-up pullover dress with front pleats. It’s lightweight and stretchy so good for dancing, and quite comfortable, and looks nice.  Initially I just basted the back seam together to see if it would pull on ok without the zipper, and yep. It sure does.

The only thing I’m not thrilled with is a slightly wobbly neckline, where it stretched out during hemming. I keep meaning to thread a running stitch through it and gentle it back into shape. We’ll see if I ever do.

This version will be a strictly dancing dress. It’s stretchy enough to be very comfortable, but I can’t imagine anything that would make the cut and print work-appropriate. I’m open to suggestions, though.

I then made it up again in a rayon/linen/spandex blend fabric I’ve had in the stash for years, this time with a lining because I was concerned that the white background would be too see-through.

The Front, In Motion.

Again, basted up the back seam to make sure it pulled on ok without the zipper. It sure did. And it looks so much better without it. Plus you save the cost of the zipper.

The Side. So much better!

I didn’t have quite enough to make this in the original pattern length, so it’s quite a bit shorter, but I think it works. The fabric had an amazing large-scale print on it with those gorgeous turquoise flowers growing horizontally across the fabric, and I cut the skirt to position them mostly towards the bottom and on one side, and cut the top to be mostly white. The sleeves were then cut individually to put the print close to the shoulder seam to match the bodice, at least somewhat. I think it worked out quite well and takes advantage of the print nicely. And now I can actually wear this fabric, instead of sporadically petting it in my stash.

The placement of the print along the waist was completely accidental. There’s actually a diagonal seam running through that–I couldn’t have planned it if I tried. And the placement of the print along the bust is also completely accidental, though less happily. I think it’s ok though.

And one where I’m standing still so you can see the print better.

This version I am planning to wear to work as well as dancing. I think with a cardigan or jacket, it’ll be perfect.

Sizing Note

I should be a combined size 14/16/20 in BMV patterns, and this is sewn up mostly in a size 10, grading to 14 at the hips, with a pivot-and-slide FBA to give 2″ per side across the front.

A Climate Professional Tries to Mow the Lawn

I don’t know how all of you feel about carbon, but let me tell you, when you work in climate change, carbon guilt is real.

I very rarely fly anywhere (maybe 2x in the last ten years), bought a very fuel-efficient car and live as close to work as I can, walk when I can, purchase renewable energy for my home at an additional cost (Canadian readers, ask me if you’d like more info on that), read a truly alarming number of climate books and articles, etc. etc., and still it feels like it’s never enough.

And scientifically, it isn’t.

Mind: I am not about to tell anyone else what to do about their carbon guilt, or even that you ought to feel carbon guilt. All I am saying is that I feel a lot of it, myself, and do my best to manage it.

This is the context in which I bought my first lawn mower when we moved into our home six years ago.

It’s a big lawn. It’s a 1965 suburban corner lot for a side-split detached house. It takes 45 minutes on a good day when the grass hasn’t grown much.

And we live in a time where spending ungodly amounts of energy creating an environment were weeds thrive* yet are not legally allowed to grow and where you are required to grow a plant that sprints upwards at the mere thought of rain yet must be kept below 8″ (eg. grass) or fines will follow. I truly think future civilizations are going to look back at by-laws about lawn maintenance and think we were the stupidest people ever. We’re worried about peak oil and petro-states and climate change and energy costs and fossil fuel consumption, and yet we have actual laws that necessitate people to spend rising amounts of money on increasingly scarce energy with disastrous environmental and social outcomes to give our real estate a regular hair cut. There are wildfires burning out of control all over the world, spurred in great part by climate change, but is there a single municipality thinking, you know what? Grass could be a great carbon sink and all of those gas mowers are not helping. Maybe we should loosen the noose a bit.

Nope.

So here I am, a single mother with limited time and a lot of carbon guilt, legally required to keep the grass growing but not more than 8″ tall, and determined not to use any fossil fuels in the pursuit of this.

In the six years since I’ve moved in I’ve owned THREE battery-powered lawn mowers.

Do you know how much a climate-friendly tool has to suck before I’ll hate it?

It has to suck a lot, Dear Readers. Let me tell you how much.

First Mower

Black-and-decker plug-in. It worked for a few months, then wouldn’t start. At this point it was still under warranty, so I brought it in. It was the charging cable. It took weeks, in which my lawn continued to grow, and I received some warning letters from the local by-law office. Thank you, neighbours!

It worked again for a few months, and then stopped. Now out of warranty, so I had to pay for the new charging cable myself. This time, I also hired someone to mow the lawn while it was being repaired so I wouldn’t get a fine.

Then it worked again for a few months.

And stopped.

Nuts to this, I thought. It’s cheaper just to buy a new mower.

(This model is no longer for sale. I can’t imagine why.)

Second Mower

Ryobi, where the battery charges indoors and the machine folds up so you can store it in a shed. It has a five-year warranty. This should be better, thought I.

91 days later, one day after the Home Depot return period, the mower would no longer start.

Home Depot wouldn’t take it back, and Ryobi told me that even though the machine was obviously defective (91 days!) I had no recourse but the warranty. There is no service email address on their website; the service contact form doesn’t work; and the folks answering the service phone line are obviously told not to say or do anything that might incur any sort of obligation. There was no way to take it up the ladder.

The service company is 40 minutes from my house and only open during business hours and on Saturday mornings. Grumbling, I brought it in.

Repair guy tells me he sees this with Ryobi mowers all the time. Several weeks later, I have it back. Several weeks in which I have once again been paying someone to mow the lawn so I don’t get a ticket. It is, by this time, late in the south Ontario mowing season, so I mow the lawn once or twice and put the machine away for the winter.

In the spring, it won’t start.

Again.

I take it back to the service centre.

And, knowing that calling, emailing and filling out forms on their website are useless, I resort to twitter.

This is going to get expensive for you, if I have to take this in to have it repaired twice a year, was the essence of it. You would have been better off allowing me to return or exchange the mower when I first called.

And I kept it up. Politely. They shared with me an email address–that doesn’t exist anywhere on their website; you can check–to get resolution. I emailed, and waited. No response. Tweeted again. This went on for a while, and then finally someone from the company wrote back.

We can send you a new mower, they said.

Great, I replied; but what is the warranty on it? I didn’t trust the machines at this point and thought I was most likely to end up with a dud, and no receipt for getting it repaired.

No reply.

Send us your address, they said.

Great, here it is, I replied; but what is the warranty on it? How does that work?

We’ve mailed you the new machine, they said.

Wonderful, I replied, and thank you, but what is the warranty on it? What do I do it if it breaks?

There is a full warranty, they replied.

Third Mower

The new mower is fancier than the first one, which is a nice touch: it’s self-propelled.

Not so nice?

It worked once.

I mowed the lawn with it once.

I mowed with it once, folded it up to put it in the shed, and the very next time I brought it out, it wouldn’t. I tried it with two fully charged batteries (I checked them in compatible devices–no problem) and two keys.

Email: Hey. I just went to use the mower for the second time, and it wouldn’t start. Same issue I had with the first one. Honestly you guys really need to address this problem in your machines. In the meantime, I’m going to need a receipt or something to take it to the service centre.

No response. Ten days pass.

On twitter: Hello. I emailed the service person I’ve been talking to. The replacement mower is broken and I need paperwork to bring it to the service centre.

THEY BLOCKED ME.

Dear Readers, I can’t say if my experiences with the actual machines is typical or not. Maybe I have the only two fragile, persnickety, battery-powered lawn mowers ever manufactured by Ryobi. It’s possible.

But I leave it to you to determine for yourselves if anything about this scenario reflects how you would want a company to respond in the case of defective products.

A service contact form on the website that doesn’t work–an email address only given out in case of twitter complaints–beleaguered service call centre staff who aren’t allowed to help people who call in or forward complaints on to management–and then when someone’s twitter complaints makes you look bad in public, providing them with a replacement machine and no warranty paperwork.  And then when the replacement machine has the same issue the first one did, blocking them.

On the plus side, I’d already brought the first Ryobi mower in for servicing, so it is working. For how long, who knows?

What I normally hear is something like, “LOL, just get a gas mower!” Please don’t. I am completely opposed to burning any kind of fossil fuel in the pursuit of anything as trivial as grass length. A better indictment of the values of 21st century North America than “sure we’re running out of gas and oil and yes the planet is on fire and definitely we’re losing biodiversity and pollinators and of course energy is increasingly expensive and all of this is awful and terrible and we care so! much! But we’re still going to pass laws to require you to spend ever more money on fossil fuels to destroy your property’s biodiversity while contributing to the climate emergency. Here’s your fine.”  It is actually a hill I’m prepared to die on, and would be prepared to pay a whole lot of fines to make a point. Though of course I’d rather not.

~~~~~

*All of the plants defined as weeds for the purposes of early 21st century lawn maintenance are what’s known in ecology as colonizers: they have a need for lots of sun and lots of space, can’t tolerate shade, and can grow like the dickens. They do very well in clearcuts, after fires or rocklides or other natural events that clear out the tree canopy and competition, and they really really love lawns. If you really want to get rid of weeds, what you need to grow are trees–lots of them–because weeds hate shade.

Insulin Pumps & Social Dancing: M6173 etc.

This may be of interest to three people, all of whom know the answer already, but just in case: as a T1 diabetic with an insulin pump who likes to go out dancing in dresses without pump-friendly pockets, What To Do With The Pump is a real question.

Actually, What To Do With The Pump is a question to be answered every day, but some situations are more challenging than others. You need to keep it attached to you somehow, within the distance of the tubing.

And I have two answers: one for narrow skirts, and one for wide.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, my insulin pump is about the size of my palm and weighs slightly more than my cell phone. It has a tube about 18″ long that connects to a catheter  in my hips or abdomen, about 1cm long, that moves every few days to prevent scarring. It keeps me alive, so I’m fond of it, but little puts a damper on a dance experience–or other experience, for that matter–like finding your artificial pancreas on your shoe.

It can’t stray too far from my waist–the tube isn’t long enough. Regular skirt pockets aren’t sturdy enough to hold something this heavy (though pants pockets work fine) and it’s tricky with the tubing anyway. I keep telling myself that the next time I make a dress or skirt from something sturdy with pockets I’m going to add a buttonhole inside the pocket to feed tubing through so I can use it for the pump, but I haven’t tried that yet.

In the meantime, I make what I call pump holsters.

Narrow skirts:

With a narrow skirt, I’m just worried about keeping the pump in place, strapped to my leg.

There is an insulin pump in this picture.

I used to buy the holsters made by pump companies, but they never were quite right. They were almost always too loose, and even when they were tight enough, they’d slide down just with walking. The expansion and contraction of the leg muscles would work them down from upper thigh to knee in pretty short order, and the holster fabric tended to be slippery, which didn’t help. Many days I would pull the holster up five times in ten minutes, and then give up, and walk to work or wherever awkwardly clutching the holster through my skirt to prevent it from slipping any more.

So I bought the kind of stretchy nylon you’re meant to make supportive undergarments with in beige, and a couple of metres of sticky elastic.

9″ works for width for this model of pump

I cut just over double the width of the pump, and the length is a bit less than the circumference of my thigh. I sewed the narrow ends together, and on one half, I sewed by hand using a cross-stitch two lengths of sticky elastic.

Serged the narrow ends together
Stitched on the grippy elastic on the upper half, outside
Inside cross-stitching

Then I folded it in half width wide, sewed a pocket into it, and sewed the two raw edges together except for the pocket edges.

Folded in half, with pocket sewn in

It’s just the right size, and the sticky elastic helps keep it from slipping down. I can position it however it makes sense, and it stays nicely in place through a whole night of dancing (or a whole day in the office).

Wide Skirts

Wide Skirts have the insulin pump problem, and the underwear problem: when you spin, the skirt flies up. I can handle a bit of accidental flashing. But I prefer there to be a point to wearing the skirt, in that at least my underwear is covered more often than not. With a lot of spinning in a wide skirt, you can’t count on it.

Enter Modified Leggings or Bike Shorts.

I used McCall 6173 for this, as it’s a very basic leggings pattern with only one seam in the legs. I raised the waist by about 1-2″, and folded the fabric at about the spot on the legs that would give just enough length for the pump. This makes no sense at all. Here are some pictures:

Fold line drawn on the pattern, at a depth that is slightly greater than the length of the pump.
Pinned. Fold line is placed about the same distance from the edge of the fabric.
Top cut out.
Uncut fabric folded up at the fold line
Then legs cut. They look very odd at this stage

See? They’re shortened, but not just shortened, because there’s a spot in the legs where you’re meant to fold them up to make a pocket.

I then assembled them per instructions, and folded the legs up on the inside, and sewed in pockets on the inner thigh, much as I did in the pump holster, above.

Fabric folded up on the inside, sewn around with a zig zag stitch for most of the top, and a pocket formed that is just over the width of the pump, by zig zag stitching to the hem

Added the elastic waistband, and voila: a functional pair of something like bike shorts that has a pocket on the inner thigh on both legs just big enough for an insulin pump.

With the elastic waistband. They look weird, but they work.

It works beautifully. Exhibit A:

You can’t imagine how glad I was to have been wearing the yellow pair on the day I found out I’d been photographed by the local paper dancing at the Pier. Otherwise, my colleague’s question wouldn’t have been, “Andrea, was it you I saw dancing in the yellow dress in the newspaper?” It would have been, “Andrea, was it your underwear I saw dancing in the newspaper?” Which from a friend, mortifying; from a colleague … NO no no no nono.

It did a fantastic job holding the insulin pump, too.

I have a white, black, and yellow pair, and will likely expand as wardrobe dictates. And very likely wear them to work in the winter, because the regular pump holster is not as grippy on tights; I think these might work better. The white and yellow are made from a regular poly jersey: cheap, but not particularly breathable, which is an issue, but not as much of an issue as either misplacing my pancreas or displaying my undies for any journalists in the vicinity. The black pair is made from an athletic, wicking spandex, and is accordingly more comfortable.

Sizing Note

The first holster is self-drafted. Just use a tape measure and you can make a good size for you.

The second is based on M6173. According to my body measurements and the BMV sizing chart, I should be a size Large. I made up a size Medium, took it in a bit, and it is in no way too tight for the purpose.  Any leggings or bike shorts pattern would do, though. There’s no magic to this one.

Objects are less pregnant than they appear: Burda 5/17 Top #110

This was actually meant to be a test top; I wanted to make this pattern in the Mariner Cloth with the stripes going different directions. But I wanted to try first with something a bit less expensive, so this swiss dot cotton voile–again on sale from Fabricland. It’s super soft and I love it.

The Front

Generally the pattern went together well. I did a 2″ FBA on each side, leaving the giant side dart alone and removing the waist dart from the side seam to keep the proportions approximately the same. White cotton voile bias strips were used to finish the neck and armscyes.

I moved the ties down about 1″ as it was a bit too empire at the original position, and I probably could move it down a bit more. And I think the FBA lengthened the front a little too much; I might take some of that length out if I make this again.

Overall I love the shirt. It’s soft and cool and comfortable and extremely comfortable. But there’s no getting around that it makes a bit of a baby-less baby bump on the front that I’m not super keen about, and which would probably be more pronounced in any stiffer fabric. So it wouldn’t work for the Mariner Cloth. Sigh.

The Side, and The Problem. I am not pregnant.

The princess seams in the back and the side seams are all perfect; the thread loop and button closure at the back neckline worked out well, though I don’t think it’s strictly necessary. I never bother to undo it when I’m putting it on.

It’s a good pattern that went together well and I love the colours and how well they match everything, but choosing a fabric with lots of drape is essential to heading off any baby bump issues.

Sizing Note

This is my standard Burda 38 with a 2″ FBA on each side. I left the side darts in, and rotated the waist darts out of the side to reduce excess volume. And good thing, considering there was plenty of volume regardless!