Where domestic skills + creativity meet, tempered with a dose of procrastination.

Sick of Being Sick

So I was actually keeping this up to date in February. It’s now April. I just posted about the little girl’s coat – a draft that had been sitting around for ages. What happened?

Getting sick happened. March was a write off – a miserable month. Fatigue and upper respiratory infections. Finally had allergy testing done. Texas, ya got me. I discovered I’m allergic to a variety of pollens from Texan plants. Plus molds, dust, dustmites, and horse dander.

Horses I can stay away from fairly well… but dust? Dustmites? Ouch! I have to be houseproud! Pollens & Molds? Yikes it’s everywhere. This diagnosis proved to be a bit of a shock. I had no hayfever-like symptoms. But I was told the never ending fatigue was the symptom, due to the immune response being overburdened, and getting constant colds, upper respiratory infections also a sign as the immune system is too overburdened to fight the things it should be fighting. The food allergy testing also showed up food sensitivities which may add to the burden of all the inhaled allergens and make it all worse for me overall. I was advised to go on a 4 week elimination diet. 

So, I’ve been dealing with the fatigue. And this diet of no dairy, wheat, beef, turkey, bananas, fish and clams. (Clams?). Oh and no black pepper also. It’s been ok, but sometimes I know a forbidden food sneaks in. Do I feel different? Hmm. Not sure. I have a little more energy then a few weeks ago. 

Dealing with this has meant that other activities have taken a backseat. I go to work and that’s about it. No sewing. No music. No going out. Not much socialising, as I’m sleeping instead. 

Thank goodness I’m not allergic to cats or dogs. Otherwise these 2 would be in trouble.

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This little girl’s coat was supposed to be a Christmas present for my singing teacher’s little girl, Molly who is almost 4. I cut it to a size 5. I finally finished it at the end of January. At least it was still winter and still the same winter!

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This is made out of Polartech that was on sale at Mill Yardage LLC.  The little girl likes pink. This was what was on sale that fell into the pink end of the spectrum. I like the rich berry colour,  the honeycomb texture and the price! It was on sale as 2nd quality – but I couldn’t see any flaws.

lining & buttonsBecause of all the seams edges on the inside I wanted to  line it but was unsure of what to use as lining that would be easy to wash. I ended up using a polycotton from Joann’s – not the usual thing to line a coat with, but I liked the butterfly print and was delighted to find matching buttons at the same store.

   coat under collar   I had some green satin  - it was a skirt picked up for free last year, in all the costuming frenzy to  perhaps use for the fabric. Well it wasn’t enough for a lining, but I used it for the underneath of the collar, and put strips of it inside the cuffs for fun. cuffs


I also made bias strips to do the bottom edging. The polartech doesn’t fray of course, but the lining needed some kind of finishing. It would’ve been too bulky to turn up a hem, so I’m pleased I thought of the bias binding option. Ended up doing a lot of hand sewing – hemmed the satin cuffs and the bias strips – I didn’t want stitching to spoil the look of the edging. I should’ve cut the bias strips a little wider, 1 1/2″, not 1 1/4″. It was a little fiddly and the inside finish isn’t perfect.

 

The only alteration to the pattern was to ignore the extra bit that was the front facing – ie, the coat extended and you turned it under and that was the facing for the coat front edging. Otherwise the pattern pieces were kept the same, except for that I lined it.  Used size 90 needle and straight stretch stitch (tongue twister!) on default settings.

Making up the pattern was done a little differently to the instructions due to the lining – the collar had to be sandwiched in between the lining and coat. I attached the lining along the front edges and around the neckline then turned it the right way,  and top stitched down the front edges of the coat.

I procrastinated about the buttonholes for a while – had never  used the buttonholer stitch and attachment on my Kenwood. But it works pretty well – so the couple of years avoiding buttonholes has proved to be rather silly. Sometimes though the buttonhole stitch goes the wrong direction, and I still can’t figure out why. The top buttonhole ended up being a bear. The 2nd and 3rd turned out nicely 1st go., but I unpicked the top buttonhole several times. It’s still not aligned vertically with the others – it’s out by 1/8 inch. Due to the extra thickness, the fabric doesn’t feed through at the rate it should, so you have to pull it fast enough so that you’ll get the 1 1/4″ length button hole needed for the 1 inch buttons. That sounds easy when typing it but not to actually do.

The other bugbear about taking so long to do this coat was that cat hairs ended up on it. The ginger tabby, Loki, has hair that ends up everywhere. I have learned that it pays to have some kind of dustsheet for garments I’m in the middle of making.

So the topstitching isn’t perfect and that top buttonhole doesn’t line up with the 2 beneath it. It is though a warm and pretty coat and both mother and daughter are delighted.

 

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So February is up and that means the 4 weeks of my self-inflicted music challenge have also come to an end.

I was aiming for 12 hours of music practice a week. How was Week 4′s effort?

Thanks to the 2nd day of Winterfest I almost cracked the 12 hour mark. And that’s even missing a day!

11 hours and 35 mins was achieved. So close! If I had been paying attention and tracking the time I would’ve made up that last 25 minutes. Or if I hadn’t skipped a day…. oh well…

Day 22: Autoharp 2 hrs; dulcimer 2 hrs, pennywhistle 1 hr
Day 23: dulcimer 15 mins; voice 15 mins
Day 24: voice 1 hr 45 mins
Day 25: dulcimer 15 mins; autoharp 1 hr 30 mins
Day 26: nil. What happened? Too tired and went to bed early.
Day 27: pennywhistle 45 mins
Day 28: dulcimer 1 hr 10 mins; autoharp 40 mins

Breakdown:
Voice: 2 hours
Dulcimer: 3 hrs 40 mins
Piano: nil
Pennywhistle: 1 hr 45 mins
Autoharp: 4 hrs 10 mins

And because it’s fun to do a pie chart I did one. After all, who can say no to pie? 

music dozen challenge pie over 4 weeksImprovements:

Voice – not so much that’s noticeable. I’d need to be more consistent with the exercises (ie daily) to improve breath control.

Dulcimer: Definitely. Flat picking control has improved, ie hitting the right string without looking down all the time. Corresponding fingering while flat picking also improved. Chord positions not memorized, although I now have to include that 1.5 fret, so getting used to that. Sight reading of tab has improved. Beginning to relate standard music notation to the fretboard. Chop chords improved greatly – not perfected – but getting there.

Piano: Bass clef easier to read – not automatic though. Improvement in remembering the fingering for scales, small improvement in dexterity.

Pennywhistle: This was the surprise outsider – huge improvements made here, from memorizing fingering, slurring, to improved agility switching between certain notes. Upper register notes still iffy, but those very high ones are hard and I’m reluctant to go over and over them in an apartment.

Autoharp: Late entrant proved an easy instrument to see instant improvement. That is, I went from knowing nothing to being able to do some simple strum patterns and melodies of some simple tunes.

Ocarina: Only a 15 minute curiosity play. Managed to get pleasant sounds out of it.  It smells funny though.

Conclusion:
I’m glad I did it. All that forming good habits stuff works. It’s also encouraging to hear /feel the improvements after  only 4 weeks.

I discovered these very important criteria/facts:
1. Instrument, music, music stand etc must be accessible and organized.
2. This means having organized spaces that are kept free of other clutter, including where I sit and where tab/sheet music is stored. Maintaining these spaces is ongoing.
3. Small chunks of time add up over the week.
4. Getting enough sleep is really important!
5. Practicing when tired is still doable, if all I do is some scales and technical exercises. I have energy for that, but no more energy to put into playing a tune. Go figure that one.
6. I used to do more vocal exercises all the time when pottering around. Why did I stop? Shouldn’t have stopped!

If anyone reading this suffers from guilt trips about not practicing enough. Don’t feel guilty, instead look at how you use your time and aim to change some of the daily habits.  Yes, attending Winterfest certainly boosted the practice hours, but I discovered how pleasant and relaxing it is to do some practice after dinner and even better, how uplifting it is to practice in the early mornings before work. As long as it doesn’t make me late for work of course, practicing music puts me in a very cheerful mood to start the work day.

Week 3: Music Dozen

Well, Week 3 (last week – 15th to 21st) was interesting.

Breakdown:

Day 15: Voice 15 mins; Ocarina – 15 mins
Day 16: Voice 1 1/4 hours; Piano – 1 1/2 hours
Day 17: Dulcimer – 15 mins
Day 18: Dulcimer – 1 1/2 hours
Day 19: nil
Day 20: nil
Day 21: Voice – 1 hour, Dulcimer - 2 hours; Autoharp – 2 hours

10 hours total practice time. But I feel I should explain myself.

Ocarina?

I bought an ocarina, a strawfire seedpod-shaped Alto C ceramic ocarina from these people.  It arrived and so I had to test it out. Being strawfired – a process where the ceramics recieve an extra ocarinafiring packed in burning straw - which gives them lovely earthy tones, but also makes them smell. Some folks like this smell, I don’t, but I’m told it will fade. The last thing I should do is attempt to wash it out. Put up with it and let it fade over time. Anyway, burnt grass smell aside, this ocarina has a beautiful tone. Ocarina tab, however, is annoying to read, and so I need to memorize the fingering so as to use standard musical notation instead.

The 2 days of no practice were due to unexpected life things getting in the way. Can’t control those!

Autoharp? Yes, I am learning a little autoharp now. The why and where and who will be explained in it’s own post soon.

The 5 hours of music practice on the last day of Week 3, was achieved because I went to Winterfest – a 2-day gathering of workshops and performances by some very talented players of various folk instruments. Winterfest is an annual event organized by the Lone Start State Dulcimer Society. All kudos to those people!  I went to both days and I’m very glad I did. (It also saved what would’ve been a very poor week, practice-wise.)

This covers 8th  to 14th February

Day 8: Voice 15 mins, Piano – 45 mins. Saturday night I did spend more than 45 mins on the keyboard as I was trying to figure out how to transpose some music.  As I was practicing arpeggios I  did some vocal exercises at the same time. Efficient!

Day 9: Pennywhistle – 30 mins.
Day 10: Dulcimer – 1 1/2 hours
Day 11: Voice – 15 mins, Pennywhistle – 30 mins
Day 12: Nil. What happened? I was tired and had no motivation.
Day 13: Piano – 45 mins (scales, arpeggios, sight reading), Voice – 10 mins
Day 14: Pennywhistle – 40 mins.

Total:  4 hours 20 mins.
Breakdown: Voice –  25 mins, Dulcimer – 1 1/2 hrs, Piano –  45 mins, Pennywhistle – 1hr 40mins

So what happened?
Barbershop rehearsal that week was cancelled due to weather – that would’ve been about 1 3/4 hrs. I didn’t go to choir practice either – another 60 mins lost – and no singing lesson – another 30 mins lost.
Then I was feeling a bit tired and not particularly motivated the rest of the week. The pennywhistle ended up with the most because it’s easy to pick up and play. The piano (keyboard) got  more time because of new sheet music to sight read. Also, the table where the keyboard is, was kept neat enough to be usable without too much tidying up first effort.

So…. already I can see that having an organized space to practice in is one of the challenges facing me. I spent yesterday tidying/rearranging things, but the “music table” got everything dumped on it while I was working on other areas. Straightening that out will be today’s priority. Getting to choir practice today is also a priority. Can’t help bad weather though!

Well, to recap – I declared that I would challenge myself to practice music for 12 hours a week. This began on Feb 1, and so here its the end of the 1st week already. How did I go?

Day 1: Voice – nil, Dulcimer – 1 hour, Pennywhistle – 15 mins
Day 2: Voice – 1 3/4 hours, Dulcimer – 15 mins, Pennywhistle – 20 mins
Day 3:  Voice 1 3/4 hours, Dulcimer – 35 mins
Day  4: No practice
Day 5: Voice – 30 mins, Dulcimer – 1 hour, Pennywhistle – 30 mins, Piano 30 mins
Day 6: Dulcimer – 45 mins
Day 7: Dulcimer – 30 mins, Pennywhistle – 15 mins

Total hours practiced: 9 hours and 55 mins. Not 12 hours, but not too shabby, eh!

Being a total obsessive nerdy sort, here’s the breakdown:

Total Voice: 4 hours
Total Dulcimer: 4 hours 5 mins
Total Pennywhistle:  1 hour 20 mins
Total Piano: 30 mins

Comments:

Pushing to use time in little chunks isn’t as easy as it sounds. By nature, I am lazy and easily distracted. It’s that old story of being tired when you get home from work etc. No surprises that the pennywhistle was the easiest to pick up when I wasn’t in the mood – nothing to set up – no accessories like picks etc to find. Sometimes I got up early and practiced before going to work. As long as everything else was done (lunch packed, shower etc) this worked well.  I gave up caring about whether it was too noisy or not!

 

 

Well getting lots of sleep makes such a difference!

Dulcimer – 1 hour, Piano – 30 mins, voice – 30 mins, pennywhistle 30 mins.

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