White Coat Woes

Not every dietitian (even in my company) wears the dress-code mandated white coat. But I do.

Me in my lab coatI wear the white coat because it gives me an extra dose of professionalism, because it differentiates me from visitors, because it has pockets to keep my essentials handy.

Mostly because it has those pockets.

But finding a coat that fits me can be an issue.

If I choose a women’s coat, it’s generally intended for someone much shorter than I–and usually has a band that’s supposed to fall at the waist but instead falls inconveniently just below my bust.

If I choose a man’s coat, it’ll be long enough, but tends to fit rather like a bag on my otherwise shapely figure.

I was thrilled to find a coat that fit a little over a year ago, although I was a bit disappointed to find that it was branded “Grey’s Anatomy”.

When I went back six months (or so) ago to get a second coat to replace the one that was starting to get ratty, I couldn’t find one in my size (medium). I bought an extra-large and cut it down to size.

Unfortunately, the next time I went back, it was to discover that the particular style of coat that actually managed to fit me was no longer being sold.

My new lab coat
What’s a girl to do?

I’m not sure what most girls would do, but this girl went to Walmart and bought some white twill curtains on clearance.

Then she carefully cut her old coat (the first one, size medium) apart and marked each seam and fold. She used the old pieces as a pattern to cut a new garment from the twill and painstakingly pieced it together into a replica coat.

Finally finished, she loads her pockets and takes some pictures before preparing for bed.

(The first picture is of the store-boughten coat, the second of my newly homemade coat. I think I like my homemade one even better than the store-bought one.)

Snapshot: Sewing

It’s been a while since I last sat down at the sewing machine–and I was definitely due.

It just so happens that I saw a tutorial for a very cute credit card holder when I was browsing through Pinterest–and thought it would be a wonderful easy project.

Credit Card Holder

Of course, being myself, I couldn’t just make the holder as described. I decided this would be an ideal time to try out my idea of using fused plastic bags as interfacing.

Turns out, it is possible to use fused plastic bags as interfacing, but it requires some modifications. You have to sew the facing in, a slightly more difficult task then ironing it on (not a biggie.) And, you have to do any ironing after sewing on an EXTREMELY low setting so as not to melt the plastic further.

Credit Card Holder

I’m not unequivocally excited about the fused plastic bag interfacing idea, but I’m pleased enough with the results that I’m ready to try it again with more non-clothing sewing (wouldn’t want unbreathable plastic interfacing in your clothes, ICK!)

Bargain Fabric

Once upon a day, sewing your own clothing was cheaper than buying it pre-made.


That’s not always the case.

At four or five bucks a yard for fabric plus notions, you can easily shell out thirty or more bucks for a dress–not to mention the time you’ve taken to put it all together.

Starts to make you wonder if sewing your own is a fanciful hobby for the comfortably-well-off.

Thrifty seamstresses, don’t lose heart.

It just so happens that I know JUST the place to find bargain fabric.

Goodwill. (Or Salvation Army. Or whatever your nearest second hand shop is. Garage sales are also great.)

Bedsheets. Tablecloths. Curtains. All of these are wonderful sources of large sections of fabric that can be obtained at a fraction of the price a fabric store would charge.

Fabric and yarn

My Goodwill charges $3.25 per sheet.

A twin sized bedsheet provides a little over four yards worth of fabric (it’s wider than a bolt of fabric, of course, so you’ll have to rearrange your pattern on the fabric a bit–but inch for square inch, it’s over four yards worth of 45″ fabric.) That’s less than a dollar a yard!

A king sized bedsheet provides a whopping seven and a quarter yards of fabric! And at my Goodwill, a king sized sheet costs the same as a twin. So that’s less than 50 cents a yard!

Garage sales often have great fabric sources for even cheaper.

I have grand plans for my newly purchased bargain fabric.

I’ll be using the white fabric on the left to make new pillowcases–using the pretty lace edging to also edge my pillowcases.

Edge fabric

I’ll be saving the next two for use as quilt backings or quilt components (can never get too much solid gender-neutral colored fabric!)

The blue check and pink stripe will become pajama/lounging pants.

Fabric and yarn

And the pink floral (jersey knit) will become a medium length summer nightie.

I also found the yarn for a steal ($7.50 for the whole lot). I haven’t made plans for the sparkly acrylic to the left, but the cotton on the right will make wonderful washcloths and face cloths.

Now…I used to be not at all queasy about used store stuff–whatever it was.

Then I learned about lice and scabies and bedbugs.

And frankly, it’s made me a bit wary.

But, as you can see, that doesn’t mean I’ve quit buying used store fabric.

Why not?

Because all it takes is a little space and a little time and you can wave goodbye to the little buggers that bite in the night.


Just dump your new (old) fabric in a trash bag, tie the top (so that the bag is airtight), and throw it in a closet for two weeks. When the two weeks are up, pull it out, open it up, dump the contents into the washer, and wash in hot water.

Voila. Bug-free fabric.


Come one, come all, come pick up some bargain fabric–coming soon to a used store/yard sale/second-hand shop near you!

The Closing Bell (L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge)

Carrie has official sounded the closing bell for the L.M. Montgomery reading challenge–declaring that it’s time for everyone to link up.

The bell caught me by surprise, with plenty left unfinished.

Despite frantically reading a bit more this afternoon, I am still not through with Anne of Green Gables.

Anne of Green Gables

I did, however, read and review Much Ado about Anne by Heather Frederick Vogel. I also wrote some reflections on a quote from Anne of Green Gables.

But I did not complete the first piece of the project I had hoped to unveil at the end of this challenge.

I’ll share it anyway.

A bit of background…

When I was young, the American girl dolls were all the rage (I guess they still are in some circles). In those days, the company that made them was called “Pleasant Company” and the only dolls you could get were the historical ones that had short chapter books that went along with them.

I got “Addy”, a young girl who escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad (chronicled, of course, in Meet Addy), when she first came out.

And I spent hours poring over the Pleasant Company catalog, with its outfits and accessories that matched the books.

I was simultaneously in love with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess. I adored how Sara Crew and her indulgent Papa went to pick out the doll “Emily” and outfit her in the very fanciest of clothing.

I dreamed of a wardrobe for my doll, a complete set–and one that matched a book.

But the Pleasant company outfits were much to expensive for my (or my parents’) budget, and I had little patience to do any quality sewing in those days.

So I made do with the clothes Addy came with–and the few garments Mom made for her.

But I still dreamed of a complete wardrobe, based on a book.

I grew up a bit and decided that I wanted it to be based on a REAL book–not books that were written in order to sell doll clothes.

The Anne series.

It was perfect. Anne was the right sort of age, Montgomery goes into detail about her clothing and accessories, and I just happened to love the series.

I would make a complete wardrobe for Addy using the Anne series as a starting point.

And so I began to make lists of every object mentioned in the Anne series. The vivid chromo of Jesus blessing the children, the chocolate brown voile with its puffed sleeves and pintucked waist, the navy blue broadcloth jacket made by Marilla, the yellow pansy cut from a catalog that Ella May McPherson gave Anne to use to decorate her desk. I have a list of every object–and some only alluded to (the red and white triangles Anne had to work at before she could go out to visit with Dianna–what might that quilt have looked like?)

I started collecting bits and pieces of fabric that might be suitable for the project.

And, this month, I started sewing.

My first project has been a dress to approximate the dresses Marilla made for Anne to replace the dreadfully skimpy wincey:

“Well, how do you like them?” said Marilla.

Anne was standing in the gable room, looking solemnly at three new dresses spread out on the bed. One was of snuffy colored gingham which Marilla had been tempted to buy from a peddler the preceding summer because it looked so serviceable; one was of black-and-white checked sateen which she had picked up at a bargain counter in the winter; and one was a stiff print of an ugly blue shade which she had purchased that week at the Carmody store.

She had made them up herself, and they were all made alike–plain skirts fulled tightly to plain waists, with sleeves as plain as waist and skirt and tight as sleeves could be.

“I’ll imagine that I like them,” said Anne soberly.

Perhaps it’s a bit of a depressing place to start, but that is where I have started.

And this is what I have so far.

Anne's plain dress

Nothing exciting, but it’s a start to this project I’ve been dreaming of for nigh on 15 years.

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeVisit Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge to see what others were saying/doing about L.M. Montgomery this month.

A Coat for the Cold

Today is the first truly cold day of the year for Nebraska (pretty good to get all the way to the end of November.) Yesterday, a front blew across the plains, bringing with it cold–and for some parts of Nebraska, snow.

For my part, I’m thankful that amidst the busyness of the last month or so, I’ve had opportunity to make alterations on my coat so that I have a nice, snazzy, warm winter coat.

New coat

Once upon a time, this coat was double breasted style in a size much too big for me. My sister was giving it away–and I had it along with several items in the back of my car to take to a used store drop-off. For whatever reason (probably that it wasn’t bagged like the other items), I failed to put it in the drop-off and ended up taking it home.

Eventually I moved it to my trunk, figuring it would be handy if I got stranded somewhere without a coat. If that were to happen, who cares that it’s much too big for me and in a style that is completely unflattering to my figure?

Then I started hankering after a nice coat–a real working woman’s coat rather than the hand-me-down parkas and sweaters I’ve been cobbling together. The thing is, coats can be expensive–and I’m cheap.

That’s when I remembered the coat I had sitting in my trunk.

I thought, “I wonder if I could alter that.”

Now realize, I’m pretty bold when it comes to crafting–but tailoring is not really my forte. It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable creating clothing–and I’m still not sure that I’m really there.

But the lure of saving a hundred bucks was too much to pass up–so I took out my seam ripper and got ripping. Double breast to single breast, remove an eight inch panel from either side of the coat, recut the sleeves and sew them back on, re-attach the buttons, figure out how to deal with that pesky lining.

Scary? Yes.

But the results are worth it. For pennies (in thread) and four or five hours worth of work (several of which I did while nominally watching a football game), I have a “brand new” coat for the cold.

Book Review: “Handmade Home” by Amanda Blake Soule

My friend read it and loved it.

“You’ve got to read this book,” she said.

I dutifully placed it on my TBR list and waited for it to become available at my library.

It took awhile. It’s a popular book.

But once I got it, I knew why.

It’s filled with gorgeous projects for re-purposing old items into new “pretties” (and “usefuls”) for your home.

Projects range from bags and pillows to children’s toys to “green” items (cloth diapers and women’s cloths) to clothing items to curtains, banners, and table runners.

And there’s the lovely towel rug that I decided to make for myself. I have dozens of vintage towels I saved from my Grandmother’s collection, intending to repurpose them into something. I originally thought I’d make a throw–but for the last year or so, I’ve been thinking I’d use them to make some easy washable bath mats.

Towel rug

Soule’s towel rug, made with a towel and a garage-saled pillowcase, fit the bill perfectly. Having made this one, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more garage sale/thrift store sheets and pillowcases. ‘Cause I don’t think I’ll be done until I’ve made a whole set of these!

Towel rug

Rating: 4 stars
Category: Sewing Crafts
Synopsis: 30 Household Sewing Projects from Amanda Blake Soule, blogger at SouleMama.com
Recommendation: Lovely projects, pretty pictures, engaging commentary. Sewers and crafters will want to take a peak at this book.

Visit my books page for more reviews and notes.

Tutorial: Produce Bags

I like to pretend I’m eco-friendly and I do what I can to reduce waste (I hate to throw things away–I’d much rather just not bring them into my house in the first place.)

Several years ago, I made myself some fantastic canvas grocery bags, and I use them faithfully whenever I go shopping–but I still found myself bringing home way too many plastic bags.

Why? Because I still had to use those little produce bags for my produce and my purchases from the bulk bins. Never mind that the first thing I do when I get them home is transfer everything from the bags to bowls or storage containers–I still end up with all those little bags in my house. What’s more, these bags are doubly annoying because they can’t really be reused (except in a really tiny trashcan.)

I’ve seen half a dozen hundred little tutorials for produce bags online–and have quite a few of them bookmarked. But then, rather than using one of those, I just whipped up a modified version of my own in an afternoon. (I was able to make a dozen bags in under 2 hours using this technique.)

Several produce bags full of stuff

Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Select fabric

I used a sheer fabric that I already had on hand–and an old sheer curtain. You could also use netting or tulle (tulle can be purchased very inexpensively.)

Step 2: Cut to appropriate size

There are a few options for cutting.

  1. You can cut two rectangles approximately the size of your finished bag (so for a 12″ wide by 15″ long bag, you would need two pieces of fabric approximately 12″ by 15″)
  2. You can cut one rectangle so that the “fold” will be along a side of the bag (so for a 12″ wide by 15″ long bag, you would need one rectangle 15″ long and 24″ wide)
  3. You can cut one rectangle so that the “fold” will be along the bottom of the bag (so for a 12″ wide by 15″ long bag, you would need one rectangle 30″ long and 12″ wide)

I used all three of these methods at different times in order to best use the fabric lengths I had. You can, of course, adjust the dimensions to make bags of different sizes.

Cutting sheer fabric for produce bag

Step 3: Overlock stitch a two inch length in the top corner of your fabric.

Stitching produce bags

I have prepared a little diagram that shows where to stitch (in red) based on the cutting method you chose in step 2.

Stitching diagram

Step 4: Sew side and bottom seams.

Now you will want to align your already stitched edges so that they overlap, with the right side of the fabric together.

Stitched edges aligned

The following diagram shows where folds should take place with each cutting method (folds are indicated by dotted lines and arrows).

Folding diagram

Now you will want to sew together the sides and/or bottom using overlock stitch. The sides you will stitch are indicated using blue in the diagram above. (Note that you will not restitch over the area stitched in the previous step.)

Step 5: Fold down top casing and press.

You should fold down approximately one inch (or one half of the approximately two inch length you stitched in Step 3) of fabric and press it into place

Pressed casing

Step 6: Sew casing down along bottom edge using overlock stitch.

Casing sewn down

You can see how this leaves a nice casing with a finished edge at a corner.

Step 7: Turn bag inside out and thread ribbon through casing.

Completed produce bag

I used leftover ribbon from my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. You can use ribbon, twine, yarn, whatever you’ve got. Tie or sew ribbon together at the end to make a loop and you’re done!

The finished result:

Produce bag on grocery scale

It’s difficult to see, but I weighed this bag at my grocery store to see if it would be adding too much weight to my produce or bulk purchases. This bag weighed .02 lbs. I don’t think I’m too concerned! (Of course, if you used string or lighter weight ribbon, you could probably reduce that weight.)