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Saturday, July 25, 2020

The 1 Year Challenge, So Far So Good

A friend recently posted a lamenting photo on Instagram with the Beatles' song, "Yesterday" attached. It was all about what we aren't able to do because of the pandemic. That simple little post prompted me to think about my summer, and as I thought about this summer versus last summer, it occurred to me that I am having a fabulous summer! Yes, I'll be the first to admit that I miss going to outdoor music festivals. We have some of the BEST here in Chicago. And all the glorious neighborhood festivals that we have every summer. But, as I thought about last summer, I realized that it was rather horrible. Two of the "highlights" were that I ended up with a case of shingles, and I had to say goodbye to my precious dog, Gracie.

This summer I am doing a lot of flying. I have been encouraged to get my flight instructor rating. I should be ready to take the first of a number of tests in 2 weeks. A little scary, but exciting at the same time. 

Believe it or not, my little challenge of doing a year of my handmade garments is another highlight. I am learning so much, and just having fun with the process.
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I made this black and white linen dress last summer, but never wore it. I have no idea why because when I put it on, I loved it. Go figure! This project was part of a challenge I did with Becky of Trail Balloons . You can see my post on this dress HERE
    

Becky gave me this beautiful piece of fabric from Malaysia. Believe it or not, the pattern that I used for this dress is the exact same pattern as the black and white dress. I wore this on July 10th. It was blazing hot outside, so the cool, cotton fabric was perfect!


This was my Saturday dress. And NO!!!, I did not wear those shoes all day. I actually wore a pair of white sneakers. But, I just had to slip on the heels for the picture. I soooo miss wearing heels.


My friend Jill of The Denver Sewing Collective recommended the Vogue Vena Cava pattern. We were together when I purchased the fabric panels that I used for the dress. You can see my post on the dress HERE


I like trying to keep Sundays special. Here again, I did not wear those shoes all day long. A while, but not all day. This is a piece that I designed. The neckline has an asymmetrical drape. When I posted it on Instagram, I asked for opinions about whether to shorten it or not. The consensus was to leave it long. I have an idea of how I can shorten it, and leave it long at the same time. If it works, I'll post my idea :)  


You've seen this before, but the challenge is about a year of handmade garments, not a new garment everyday. The pants are the Barb pants from Style Arc, and the top is from Tessuti Fabrics, the free Zoe Top pattern
 

The next day was super casual, a pair of Helen's Closet Avery Leggings, and another free pattern from Tessuti, the Athina Top.


This dress was more like outfit of the evening, rather than outfit of the day. We met some friends for dinner, so here was my opportunity to wear those heels!!! This is another of my own designs. The fabric reminds me of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. 


The following day, I was back out at the airport, so my favorite Closet Core Patterns Ginger Jeans, and another top of my design.  


This is another outfit of the evening. We met a friend for dinner, and here again, I am not going to miss an opportunity to wear heels!!! I am in love with this pattern. As you can see from the pattern picture, there's a fabulous gathered piece in the back. The dress literally floats about the body. This is on my list for at least 1 more, and maybe 2!!! It's Vogue 9237


Last Saturday was another blazing hot day. Makes me all the more grateful for air conditioning! Sadly, I don't think this pattern is still available. It was a free pattern from Marilla Walker, her sailor dress. I love the triangle insets on the shoulders, and there's a little square gusset at the armpit. Sweet little details.   


Once again, Sunday :) We went to an outdoor cocktail party. The picture shows the shoes I wanted to wear, versus the shoes I wore. Pumps are just not the best in a garden. The dress is the Nico Dress from Fabrics-store.com. Just a simple bias dress. I love the fabric. It was a piece that I purchased at a Nancy's Notions seminar a number of years ago.  


Monday was an incredible day! I ended up at a small airport outside of Indianapolis. I'm wearing another outfit that you've seen before, the Clover Pants from Colette Patterns


The best part was that I got to wear this too for a little while!!!


Last Tuesday, I pulled out a favorite skirt. This is another pattern that I don't think is available. I actually made this skirt 6 years ago!!! HERE'S the post I did on how I put it all together.  


I don't wear shorts very often. As you can see from my photos, I'm just more comfortable in a dress or skirt. But, every once in a while, a pair of shorts just seems to fit the bill. I had a lot of fun making these. I piped the yoke and the pockets, and then did a bias trim on the side seams. I also lengthened them to a walking short length. The pattern is from Dixie DIY, and the pattern is the Garnet Shorts.  


Earlier this week, I was going through a bin a things that I haven't looked at for a while, and I found the outfit below, all cut and ready to be sewn. I have no idea of how long it has been in the bin. So, I got busy and put it together. I think the pattern is now out of print, but there's always Ebay and Etsy! 
    

So, that's my fashion show for the last few weeks. My official start date was July 1st, but I decided to give myself a running start, and begin June 22nd. So, I'm a little over a month in at this point. It's a great challenge as it has made me focus more on what's in my wardrobe. I've gotten rid of a few pieces, and I'm much more focused on what I really want to add. I highly recommend giving it a try, even if it's just for a week. Do a private little challenge, and take pictures for a week, and see what you learn!

Until next time...
Sew On!!!
 Rhonda




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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday Night Reflections/Had It Not Been For You


A few days ago a friend called and told me that his cousin had just committed suicide. He hung himself. As my friend talked, I knew that what he was trying to do was find an explanation as to why he would do this. He said, "He was smarter than me! Not only was he an attorney, he was an accountant." It had been a number of years since I saw him, but I remember him as being quite intelligent, very attractive, and having a wonderful sense of humor. As my friend talked, my thoughts went back to a very dark time in my own life.

At the age of 23, I felt that I just could not go on. I saw absolutely no possibility of a future. I was able to get a hold of a bottle of pills that I knew would end my life. I sat down, and poured the pills out on the table. There were so many events that lead up to this moment, and each one seemed to be crushing in on me at that moment.

When I was only 15 years old, I gathered my meager savings, and purchased a ticket on a Greyhound bus in order to escape sexual abuse. I knew that if I could get to my grandparents, I would be safe. And so I rode, all alone for over 1200 miles. When the bus pulled into the station in my hometown, my grandparents were there waiting for me. They looked like angels. They had no idea of what I had been through, and I never told.

Five years later, I had married and found myself in a nightmare. He was extremely abusive. After the last beating, I knew that if I didn't get away, I would not be alive for very much longer. Once again, I found myself on the road in the middle of the night, headed to the safety of my grandmother. My bruises and my swollen face told her all she needed to know. Thankfully, I knew a wonderful couple who had connections with a woman who could help me. I went into hiding for a while. When I emerged, I tried to get a divorce, but at the time, in the state of Texas, I needed his consent. There would be no divorce as far as he was concerned. 

After a few years had passed, I decided that it would be best to move back to Chicago and be close to my mother. Before I made the move, I came to Chicago, found an apartment, and told the landlord that I would be back in two weeks to move in. What I didn't know is that he had sold the building, and left the city with my money. So, I had no apartment, and my money was gone. Welcome to Chicago. My timing could not have been worse. There was a horrible recession and jobs were quite scarce. Interview after interview resulted in nothing. One interviewer had even asked me why I would leave Houston where due to the oil industry, things were booming and come to Chicago. I wondered the same thing. 

With my money quickly disappearing, I had no idea what I could do, and to be honest, I was so very tired of fighting. So, I sat down with every intention of ending my life. As I picked up the first handful of pills, the phone rang. A company that I had interviewed with two weeks prior asked when I could start. There was my light, there was hope.

To say that the phone call ended everything for me would not be the truth. Depression was a constant companion for many years. I once asked my husband what he prays for when he kneels at church. He said, "I pray that you'll find peace." 

What I could not see on that day was that all of the good things of my life were just ahead of me. I was only weeks away from meeting my husband. I could not even imagine that I would one day learn to fly. That I would be able to host thirteen exchange students from all over the world. I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to fly over 500 inner city children and introduce them to aviation. I had no idea that my precious dogs would come into my life and love me so unconditionally. And the list goes on. 

When the COVID virus began to heat up here in the United States, three of my former exchange students called to see how I was doing. Each of them reminisced about their time with me. Two of them now have small children. They asked how old I was when they lived with me, and were shocked to here that I wasn't old enough to be their mother. They were all the more in awe of the fact that I was so much younger than they are now, and they are having difficulty with babies, while I dealt with teenagers. Each of them told me how grateful they were for the time they spent with me, as it had changed their life.

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful actor. In every play I saw him in, his talent just blew me away. But here he was in a very small town theater. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why he didn't venture out, he was so much better than where he was. I was told that he worked at Starbucks. So, one morning, I went in, ordered a cup of tea, and told him that I think he is an amazing actor and that he should be doing so much more than local theater. We actually became friends. During a conversation he told me that he was a big fish in a small pond. I said, "oh, you aren't even in a pond, you are in a puddle." A year later we met for coffee. He was so excited. He had left the small town theater, and moved on to a much larger company where there was great exposure, and had just won a very prestigious award. He said, "Rhonda, had it not been for you, this never would have happened."

When I hear of those who have been successful at committing suicide, I wonder why I was saved, why did that phone call come at that exact moment? Where was their phone call, why weren't they saved? Of course there is no answer. 

There are so many who are suffering at this moment in time. It seems that there is no end in sight. Will life ever be "normal" again? I will say this, once I was sexually abused, my life did not return to "normal." Once I experienced physical abuse at the hand of my ex-husband, my life never went back to what it had been before. But, it has become better. 

If by chance you are reading this and feeling that there is no hope, there is! Your life matters. My life has been of no great significance, but I am so grateful that in some small way I was there to make other lives a little better. I think that one of the greatest gifts of my life was to be told, "had it not been for you." There is someone waiting for you to make a difference. There are gifts that are waiting for you. I now believe that by the very fact that I am still here, my greatest days are still in front of me, and they are for you as well.      



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Friday, July 10, 2020

Fancy Pants Without The Hassle/Wrap Pants Tutorial

I'm going for a record here!!! ;) Three posts in 3 days, unprecedented! 

This past Wednesday, I posted a favorite pair of pants on Instagram, my outfit of the day :) A number of people wanted to know how I made them. They are beyond simple to do.


They are basically a wrap style of pant, somewhat anyway. 


The over panel has ties that hold the panel in place.


In the above picture, I've untied the panels and I am holding them to the side. What you can't see is that there is a panel in the front and in the back.

You get a better picture of the pants in the video below. 


While I enjoy a challenge, I also don't like for things to be anymore complicated than they need to be. I began with this free pajama pant pattern from Martha Stewart. It's really just a good, basic elastic waist pant pattern.  


*The front and back overlay panels on the pants are just 2 rectangles. Nothing more. For the panel width, I measured from the side seam to the midpoint of the opposite leg. 

*For the length of the panels, I measured from the waist to the hemline.

In the picture below, you can see that the panels extends from the elastic foldline to the hem foldline. 


Make 2 ties and attach them to the edge of the rectangle at the waistline. The ties should be approximately 18" long. The ties are the very last thing you will do, so I recommend using a length of ribbon that is basted to the edge of the panel to determine just how much length you will need for your tie. You want enough length to tie a nice bow.  


Like I said, this design is so very easy to do. I had the border print and thought it would be fun, but this looks just as lovely in a solid. There are so many possibilities. You can do a sheer overlay. Maybe use something really special for an evening pant. The fabric that I used is a rayon batik so it has a lovely drape. Silk, light weight cotton, a lovely poly would all work beautifully.

If you give it a go, by all means let me know...and send a picture! I would love to feature your make :)
Rhonda



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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Will It Ever Stop?

I would like to introduce you to one of the most talented, high achievers that I know. His name is Chris Kenny. You can read all about him HERE

Chris is an extremely gifted artist, a baritone. He won the top award from the American Opera Society of Chicago this past year. He likes to say, "I yell pretty." Does he ever! 


But, he has another passion, aviation. A wonderful pilot that I have the pleasure of being able to spend time with. Lucky me! 


A few days ago, Chris and I met to do a little flying. Little did I know that he had taken this picture of me, and posted it on Instagram with his own little inscription. There's a story behind the picture.


While Chris and I were getting the plane ready for our flight, a man walked into the hangar, looked at me, literally turned his back to me and started talking to Chris about what he thought was Chris' airplane. Chris quickly jumped in and told him that he was just along for the ride, the plane belongs to her(me). And yet, the man still couldn't turn and address me. I said nothing and just went on with what I was doing. 

When I was a student pilot, I was signed off to take a long trip on my own, part of my requirements. I got my weather briefing, and all looked fine. As I left Chicago, the clouds were no where near as high as I had been told. Looking to the south, it looked like they were building. I felt that I could probably make it to my destination, but would I be able to make it back? So, rather than keep going, I decided to stop at a small airport that has a wonderful little restaurant where I could get a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup. While I was sitting at the counter, an older man came up and sat next to me. He asked if I had flown in. I told him that I had, and that I was a student pilot. I went on to tell him that I was supposed to do a cross country flight, but the cloud deck had come down, so I decided to stop for lunch and try another day. He looked at me and said, "you are going to make a wonderful pilot. You made a decision and you stuck with it." As the conversation went on, I found out that he was none other than Mr. Clow, the owner of the airport, and a highly decorated WWII pilot. At one point he asked me to tell him about the day I soled. I felt a little intimidated telling this decorated pilot my simple little story. He insisted, and I obliged. Once I finished, he said, "the first day that you climbed into that plane and flew by yourself will never be topped by anything else you will ever do in your life. Everything depended on you, everything." He then went on to say, "I want to tell you something. There are a lot of people who feel that a woman has no place in the cockpit of an airplane. But, you do. Whenever someone says something to you, regardless of who they are, hold your head high and know that you worked so very hard to achieve your ratings. No one gave you anything."

Mr. Clow is sadly no longer with us, but his words remain in my heart. There have been so many times that I have felt him sit on my shoulder and whisper those words in my ear. He was in that hangar a few days ago. 

While Chris and I were out flying, I asked if he had noticed what happened. In that big booming voice of his he said, "how could I have missed it?" Then he told me that when he came back from the restroom, and saw me working away as I do, he took a picture and posted it to Instagram. When we landed, he showed me the picture. I had to smile.

Sadly, there will always be people who think that because of your gender, your race, your age, and so many other crazy reasons, that someone doesn't belong where they are. I've learned that I am not going to change their mind. But, what I can do is live my best life, and do my best to show who I am.

A few years ago I got into an argument with a priest about going for ashes on Ash Wednesday. I told him that there was nothing he could say to convince me to go. I told him that if others don't know who I am the other 364 days a year, then me walking around like a martyr on Ash Wednesday makes me a hypocrite. He had to agree. 

None of us can be perfect, but we can be a light in the world, shining brightly through our words and through our actions.       



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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Challenge Worth Pursuing

Well, once again, missing in action. I could easily say that I have been too busy, but the truth of the matter is that I can always find time. Yes, I'm still working on my friend's estate, which takes up a lot of my time. Thankfully, the biggest jobs will soon be over. I sold her house(SO HAPPY!!!), but now there's the issue of the furniture, and clearing it out for the new owner. I have just a little over a month to make it all happen. I'm determined ;)

I love setting goals for myself. But, like most, some get accomplished, and then others languish. Last year, I set a goal to read the Bible from cover to cover. No studying, just read it as a book. It was something I have always wanted to do. I found a guide online that I could print out. It prompted me with how many chapters I should read each day, and I could mark off my progress. It was great for keeping me on track. While I learned a lot, and discovered things I had never known, the greatest gift was the accomplished dream. I did it!!! And what I have found a little strange is that it gave me a tremendous sense of confidence in what I am capable of doing. A little secret to the success was having that daily reminder. Since I write each and every morning, I kept my goal sheet in my notebook. So, when I opened my notebook to write, there was my sheet reminding me that I had chapters to read. 

I had another goal last year that did not get accomplished. It may seem quite silly, but I wanted to do a year...a complete year of a me made wardrobe. I broke my arm, and I just seemed to lose steam in regards to that goal. When this year rolled around, I thought of it once again, but just didn't move forward. Then, participating in Me Made May this year reignited the desire to make this goal happen. But, I think that I allowed all that is going on to stifle me. I'm so very fortunate to have a friend that I talk to every week. We use our time to encourage each other. Since we begin the year by sharing our goals, it's easy to help each other stay on track. But, this goal I had not shared, and yet it somehow came up in our conversation. She strongly encouraged me to go for it. Her words played on my mind until I finally gave in!

I decided to give myself a running start, by beginning June 22. My friend had encouraged me to begin July 1st. So...here goes!!!  


Anytime that I want to feel a little floaty and free, these are my go to pants. My own design.



Another piece that just floats about the body is this super simple little skirt. It's just a rectangle that has an elastic waist. The outer skirt is gathered and twisted into the underskirt. I think this one needs a tutorial as it's so easy to do, and yet looks special. I actually took Berkley for a hike in this skirt!!!


On June 24th, we met friends at a wonderful Irish bistro here in Chicago, Chief O'Neil's. They have an amazing outdoor garden. It was the first time I've been to a restaurant to eat since March 14th. I was beside myself with excitement! Like, ball gown excited ;) But, I opted for this self-drafted dress.


The following day, I had a number of errands to run, so I slipped on the ruffle skirt, and shimmied through my day. You can find the tutorial on the skirt HERE.   


I made these pants a few years ago. For some reason I had left them in my laundry room. Decided to give them a go, and I am so happy that I did. The pattern is from Colette Patterns, the Clover Pants. I lengthened mine, and added a cuff. I paired the pants with a basic purchased tee.  


The top I'm wearing was made with scraps. I had the ruffled fabric and the matching knit left over, and felt that it was enough to possibly make a top. It worked! The pants are the Barb Pants from Style Arc Patterns

The next day, I was out at the airport. I wore another pair of Barb Pants, and a stylized tee. This is another piece that I should do a tutorial on. It has an inset of chiffon down the back making it another fun, floaty piece :)
  


The following day was June 29th, and I had to be up and out quite early, so I pulled on a pair of linen pants with a gathered leg and a Helen's Closet Elliot Tee.  



It was a hot, sweaty kind of  a day, so once I got home, I jumped in the shower, and changed my clothes. I made this fruit dress quite a few years ago, but just keep pulling it out every summer. It's cotton, so it washes well. By the way, I never put it in the dryer, and I think that is what has saved the fabric. A sheath dress is so perfect for summer. This one reminds me a little of a Lilly Pulitzer piece.



June 30th, the last day of my gearing up. It was hot, so I pulled on my Closet Case Patterns Amy Jumpsuit. The fabric was a gift from Becky of Trial Balloons. If you have not checked out her blog, by all means, do!!! She will truly inspire you.  


I kicked of July with a pair of Ginger Jeans from Closet Case Files. I will never buy another pair of jeans. I LOVE this pattern. The tee I'm wearing is from iCandy Handmade, the summer tee. I modified it a bit, but just at the hem. It's a free pattern by the way :)    


My second day of July was spent in a pair of border print pants and another self-drafted top. I started doing videos as I think it's nice to see how the clothes move. The top is yet another piece that deserves a tutorial. It's easy to make, and easy to wear. A winning combination in my book.


The following day was spent in a pair of Helen's Closet Winslow Culottes. Such a fun pattern. I love that you have the ease of a pant and the look of skirt. The top is another self-drafted piece.


On July 4th, I went kayaking for the first time this summer. It felt so very good to be in the water. After I came back home, I just wanted to be in something nice, but easy. This sarong style skirt fit the bill!



I miss Sunday's being Sunday. I miss going to church. It would be easy to just wear my pajamas all day, but I like to get dressed just as if I am going out. I did not wear those pumps all day! But, just like Sundays, I miss wearing my heels. It was fun to have them on for a while. The dress is the Magic Bias Dress from Fashion in Harmony. I love this dress!!! 


On Monday, I was back out at the airport. I wanted to wear this pair of cargo pants that I made last summer. I usually wear the long sleeve Molly Tee from Pattern Union with the pants, but I knew I would burn up. Thankfully, I had enough scraps to make a short sleeve version. You can see the post I did on the pants HERE.



I did a video of the dress I wore yesterday, and I'm having a problem with downloading it, so it will come in my next post. So far, so good! I'm a full week into my 1 year challenge. 

As we all are too aware of, things can happen that truly throw us off track. But, this is something I really want to accomplish. It feels a bit like a journey, a journey that is going to teach me so much. 

I am using Instagram as my daily reminder of my goal, as I post my outfit there, and keep myself on track. But, if you are not on Instagram, my plan is to do a weekly round up here on the blog. And who knows, maybe I'll inspire a few of you as well :)
Rhonda 



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