Hot Patterns Blouse Back Tee: Woven / Knit Combo

20150615-DSC_0064 photo 20150615-DSC_0064_zps9yfrxjh8.jpgYo, I had like the best hair day today. I wasn’t even going to blog these shirts again. But, my hair looked so good I wanted to memorialize this day. I gave myself a little hair trim and have been doing some new things to it and it totally paid me back today #TeamNatural.

Now, to the sewing: I’ve managed to step away from my knitting machine for a few days. Mostly because I don’t have enough clothes for our trip to Canada in two weeks! And, my casual summer work wardrobe is lacking. So, I figured I could whip up some fast tops to take. And, this Hot Patterns Blouse Back Tee might be a near record for me. I’ve made it up four times now. And, I can’t promise this will be the last. For the two  (navy blue and teal) I’m posting today, I took some of your suggestions:

  1. Used a woven sheer for the back
  2. Went down a size for the front
  3. Made my FBA with darts
  4. Decided to keep the original length of the back hem from the pattern.

20150615-DSC_0100 photo 20150615-DSC_0100_zpsblswhr6t.jpg I really like these versions too. I mean, I like this top because it goes together fast, is visually interesting and because it hides a multitude of sins. 20150615-DSC_0105 photo 20150615-DSC_0105_zps8xi1ydzn.jpg Both the sheers are from Kashi at Metro Textile (purchased with MMS photos and texting I might add) were supposed to be beach coverups. And, this navy was supposed to be a University of Michigan shirt for Jordan. So much for that…

Construction Notes: To stabilize the gathers at the back yoke, I used clear elastic. I was concerned that the woven vs knit friction might make stitches pop out if stressed. The clear elastic nicely reinforces my stitching and allows the woven to ‘give’ more. 20150615-DSC_0059 photo 20150615-DSC_0059_zpstmdcv2lr.jpg The rolled hem on the teal went beautifully. Not a single problem. The rolled hem on the blue and white was a nightmare. The hem wouldn’t catch, but I was trimming away at the seam allowance with each pass. I had to shorten the knit side seams on the navy version by four inches to get it to match the woven hem when all was said and done. 20150615-DSC_0098 photo 20150615-DSC_0098_zpstcvag3gr.jpg On the teal, I didn’t have enough fabric to to bind the neckline. So, I just turned it over and coverstitched. I wish I had done it a bit narrower as I have non existent shoulders to begin with. 20150615-DSC_0034 photo 20150615-DSC_0034_zpsyvsi6s1q.jpg For the navy, I did have enough fabric and I finished the sleeve band and the neckline with a bit of trim and coverstitching. Both the fronts are also hemmed on my coverstitch. Looks like I could have pulled that neckband snugger too.

FBA or No?

After my last post on this top, a few suggested I do an FBA with darts. I thought, why not? I’m not a big ‘cheater FBA’ person. I like to do things ‘right’ even if it’s the slower old fashioned way. So, I made a 1 inch darted FBA in the teal version first and felt I could see it rising at center front (below). For the navy version I made a 1.5 inch FBA and think that’s the ticket for me. I added more length than width though. But, I was playing around with the navy version in the mirror and I think I need a larger dart to address some of the drag lines. 20150615-DSC_0083 photo 20150615-DSC_0083_zpstvgiiauv.jpg Anywho, People LOVED these tops on me. I have two knit versions and no one said anything about them. But, out and about the last few days I had people stopping to tell me how cute they were.

Both of these tops were posted on Instagram. But, I know not everyone is one it. And, I can’t babble on like this for a photo site now can I? 20150615-DSC_0089 photo 20150615-DSC_0089_zpsm7zm1ckr.jpg

I Totally Dig Machine Knitting

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to start my knitting machine lessons yesterday. I’d been looking forward to it for a month. I’ve set up the machine on a metal stand in the dining room (I’m just out of space anywhere else)  And, I’m happy to report that I really liked it!

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My instructor came to my house and my first lesson was about three hours.  I decided I wanted to learn on my Brother KH-830 (a standard punchcard machine) versus my bulky knitting machine (Kh-230). Most of the class was spent with me casting on and knitting (and learning to unravel. And lord have mercy did I ever spend time unraveling) so I’d be able to complete my homework assignment before my next lesson. She also checked out my machine to make sure it was in good working order.

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It’s very interesting learning a new skill like this. At this point, I take my ability to sew for granted. So learning something from the ground up is a new experience for me. My first project is a baby afghan with handworked mini decorative ‘cables’. The afghan is five panels. We made one panel together and the other four she left me to complete on my own.

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I’m happy to report I was able to knit two more squares on Sunday with just one phone call in the morning to my teacher for help. I mean, I won’t lie. These are the two that turned out. Let’s just say I have several wonky coasters laying about. I’m glad I’m taking lessons. I know there are many videos online. But, it’s terrific to have a local resource I can ask for help and who has experience teaching. I didn’t find myself sitting in front of the machine struggling from the start.

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What is just great about machine knitting is how consistent the gauge is and how much faster it is! I mean, I knit 275 rows for each panel in about ten minutes. Well, it took ten minutes once I got the machine going. heh.

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My next lesson is tentatively scheduled for a month from now (she’s traveling, I’m traveling) so I’m moving at a nice leisurely pace.

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Party In the Back: Hot Patterns 1170 Fast & Fabulous Blouse-Back T

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48 hours before we left town for a long weekend in Charlotte, NC I decided I needed a new shirt. Well, I’ve been needing summer tops and I decided to sew ALL THE SHIRTS before I left town. I picked the HP Blouse-Back T because it promised to be both Fast and Fabulous and available for a PDF download. Plus, I saw Lori’s version for her daughter and was all over it.

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Pattern: I usually hate PDF paper taping. I’m all about the copy shop pattern copy. But, this was not bad! I taped while talking to Trena on the phone on Tuesday night. Cut and sewed on Wednesday night. And made a second version in red and white (not photographed) on Thursday night. I timed it the second night and it was less than 90 minutes from cut to hem.

Fabric: Hoarded lightweight stripes from PR Weekend in Montreal five years ago (can’t wait to go back to Montreal in a month ) and solid navy cotton from FabricMart. It was destined to be something else, but when I saw them together I was like, ‘duh’.

Since Lori let me know her daughter was 5 ft 9, I knew I’d want to shorten the back a bit (I’m barely 5 ft 6). Now, seeing photos, I might add the length back for skinny jeans.

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Please note in the blue and white stripe version I did the shortening all wrong. I shortened the back at the waist line rather than at the hem. Which means it was too short at the sides so I had to improvise a bit and blend the hem lines on the front and back. And the center front has a curved rather than straight hem because of my changes.

Other Deets:

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I measure into a 14 but sew a 12 in HP knits going by my underbust measurement (34 inches). I contemplated using stripes at the front and totally copying the fashion drawing. But, I was worried about the stripes not being level if I didn’t make a good FBA. I don’t normally need an FBA in HP. But, this time I chose to do a dartless FBA (using the method in ‘The Perfect Fit’ from the Singer Sewing Reference Library) because of fears of it riding up in the front with stripes. I added one inch in length and 1/2 inch in width.

I went with a dartless FBA because the shirt has an easy vibe to it. If I sized down one more, I might make a FBA with darts. But, I’m honestly really pleased with how this came out.

I also narrowed the width of the neckband by two inches.

And chickened out and put the stripes in the back anyway. Partly because the solid navy is heavier than the stripe fabric and the flowiest fabric should be in the back so that it hangs correctly.

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I really really love this little top. Let me know if you think my FBA worked. Or if you think I need more anything before attempting some stripes at the front :-) I plan to make a few more this summer for sure.

I’m Needlepointing. Yes. Seriously.

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If you can believe it, I’ve started a needlepoint project. You can’t believe it either can you? It all started while helping someone find a needlepoint shop and a finisher for a very cute needlepoint belt. After visiting the store several times, I thought needlepoint might be just the ticket for something to do while watching TV or traveling. And, with trips to Charlotte, NC for Memorial Day and Montreal for the Fourth of July, I have plenty of upcoming time on the road.

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After scouring the internet for something ‘fun’ and not too Stepford Wives, I settled on the Kristine Dickerson project, multicolored Union Jacks. I chose this one because, duh, they are Union Jacks. And, because the colors are bright, the needlepoint holes are big and the design lines are clear (i.e. no shading for this beginner).

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As you may surmise, this will likely take me a few years to finish. But, it’s the perfect thing for me to work on in bits and pieces.

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I’m doing all the crosses of St. George first (the biggest cross). Then, I’ll do the colored background / corners of the cross of St. Andrew. The colored St. Patrick X will be next to last and I’ll finish all the whites in the X for the Cross of St. Andrew. I honestly came up with this course of action by picking biggest swaths of color to smallest. I figure by the time I get to the end, I’ll have mastered the stitches and it will make ‘finishing’ even faster because I’ve saved the smallest bits.

I am also obviously someone who separates their Skittles and M&Ms into colors.

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And, if you’re wondering what I’m going to do with it. Wall hanging for sure. I am not a needlepoint pillow person. But, it will look terrific in my house as wall art. I’ve also committed to ONE needepoint project at a time and NO Christmas ornaments (They are not my style. I will not get sucked in.).

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So, hip hip hooray for expensive new hobbies.  And, um, check this space in two to three years for a finished product.

Needles for Miles

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Well, I actually got two via Craigslist. One is a Brother KH-230 and KR-230 ribber and the other is a Brother KH-830 and KR-830 ribber. The 230 is a bulky with no patterning – very basic. The 830 is a standard with punchcard patterning. There are also two four-color yarn changers and a Knitleader (a system where you can draw your pattern onto graph paper — essentially). They came with some of the manuals and two coursework books on the machine and ribber. I also found a zillion books and manuals online and got a neat book on hand techniques for the machine from Jordan for my birthday last month.

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Deteriorated spongebar

I spent a big chunk of the weekend cleaning the 830. It was sitting at least ten years in storage and is almost 40 years old to begin with. I replaced the sponge bar with weather stripping and cleaned all the needles. Some of the mechanisms were stuck. But, nothing a all-purpose machine oil and Tri Flow couldn’t fix.

Both machines are older and more basic than later versions that came out. But, they are perfect to learn on.

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Replacement sponger using weather stripping from the hardware store


With 200 needles I got really tired really fast of putting them all back in the machine after their denatured spirits soaking. So, I got Jordan to help.

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With a clean machine, I’m ready to get started with lessons. Well, first my instructor is going to look over the machines and see if there are any other problems or repairs I need to make.

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Tampa 2015

When I was uploading photos for this post, I realized I was in Tampa this exact same time last year.

I’m back from my dad’s wedding weekend about an hour north of Tampa. This time, Jordan came along and we spent two days in Naples, Florida lounging about a pool before driving up to Tampa for the wedding. On our way to the exurbs of Tampa, we met up with Stitches and Seams‘ Debbie Cook!! I’ve been reading Debbie’s blog since I found out there was even sewing on the internet. She’s helped me fix at least one dress (can’t find the original post about it. weird.)  and even mocked up different front door colors for me six years ago. So, it’s no surprise that I felt like I was meeting a friend! Between sucking down a pitcher of mimosas we talked about sewing, Tampa and blogging. Thanks Debbie!

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Vouge 1086 blogged here

They say weddings are nice because it’s a good time to see family. So true! This trip was the first time my dad had all his kids together in seven years. Look at that, the kids are even in age (and apparently height) order! Gah. Florida is not oily skin + makeup friendly….

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Despite all my talk, I did not make a dress for my dad’s wedding. I wore my Burda knit bubble dress. And, it fit perfectly in with the peach, pink, purple color scheme. Below I’m standing with the son and daughter of my dad’s new wife. She was her mom’s attendant so we looked coordinated in wedding photos.

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And, I’m only posting this photo below because Jordan looked so dapper! He’s wearing a cream seersucker suit that I slightly altered for him last summer. I took in the jacket and pants at the waist and hemmed the pants. There are no words for how much I despise alterations. But, he looked very sharp. I’m not sure if it was more of a Matlock, Colonel Sanders or Diddy White Party vibe he was rocking.

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Two Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan Dresses

I forgot how much I love the Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan Dress. And, I am apparently never going to make good on my commitment to swear off poly knits.  I made this dress twice over the weekend and twice about seven years ago. Spring is slowly coming and I wanted to try this dress out again in poly before I cut into silk jersey.


While OOP, it’s readily available on Etsy and Ebay (and I suspect a lot of stashes). A newer alternative might bethe Lady Skater dress. Very similar lines I think.

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  • Bust darts for the win!
  • Defined waist band with great shaping.
  • LOVE the scoop neckline.
  • Somehow, no ‘real’ FBA needed for me. But, I added 1/2 inch of length to the bodice on the blue and gold version. The waistline  seam wasrightundermybewbs <– See what I did there?

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  • Shortened bust and back darts by 1/2 inch
  • Raised neckline by 2.5 inches (might lower it 1/2 inch)
  • Made more of a U than V shape to the neckline
  • Added five inches to the shorter length (might cut that an inch)
  • Cut the back on the fold

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Construction Stuff:

  • Skipped the facings and self-lined the bodice and waistband. I wanted a beefier top so my newly acquired back ripples aren’t on display.

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  • Used $1 a yard tricot to line the skirt. I hate clingy knit skirt. Not cute.
  • Did not hem a t’ing. It’s a knit! I hate hemming knits. Even with a coverstitch.
  • Reduced the enclosed seam allowance at the waist and neckline to 1/4 inch
  • Sewed on my sewing machine and finished on my serger

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Both fabrics were purchased and sewn within the last six months. The grey is a poly knit from FabricMart (no longer available). It had a coordinating mini print too. That would have been my waistline and sash (or sleeves too??)  But, PEOPLE BOUGHT ALL OF IT before I could get some. The blue and gold is from Jomar in Philadelphia. I like the composition of the grey fabric better. Much beefier. I like the colors on the blue and gold better (and they are my sorority colors Eee-Yip!).


I’m still working on the shape of the neckline. I want a very distinct U. I might cut the bodice one last time from some scraps to see if I have got the look I want.

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No ‘real’ photos of me in the dress. Sunday is a hair wash day and it’s still too dark to take photos when I get home from work in the evening. But, here’s an elevator pic I posted on Instagram. Still wearing boots in the end of April if you can imagine. I got a gabillion compliments yesterday. Probably because I’ve only worn jeans and sweaters the last six months.


And for those of you who have texted, tweeted and emailed about the truly sad and sobering state of affairs in Baltimore city right now and the foolishness that persists, Jordan and I okay. I’m at work. We’re walking our dog at night and sleeping in our home.

I Totally Want a Knitting Machine

A few years ago there was a train wreck of a reality show about a knit bikini designer in LA. All her samples were made on a knitting machine. Until I got a glimpse on that show, I had no idea knitting machines existed. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting one for myself. But, a few ‘issues’. Only two companies still make metal-bed knitting machines for the home market (which would allow me to do ribbing). One is a newish Chinese company that clones Brother knitting machines and the other is Silver Knitting (Silver Reed/Studio/Singer) which has a long history of machine making. But, after seeing a machine knitting demo today, I think I want a pre-owned Brother with ribber. A new machine is just way out of my budget. Used machines appear to be plentiful on eBay, easy and Craigslist. But, finding one in good working order can be harder. And, I’m not really clear on what they should cost. Especially considering I know *nothing* about how they work. And, they don’t seem as easy to repair as vintage sewing machines. I decided it might be best for me to get a demo from a knitting machine instructor, so I would at least know what I was looking for and what gauge knitting machine (standard or  bulky) I would want. I went to Woolstock north of Baltimore City where the owner, Leslye Solomon, is a machine knitting instructor and author.  photo IMG_20150411_114659352_HDR_zpsn8712bjn.jpg It was a GREAT demo. I mean, I have no idea which gauge machine I want because I liked them both for different reasons. But, the instructor is a big fan of Brother knitting machines (no longer made) and sells the Chinese clone. I feel totally iffy on spending that much money on a new hobby and really iffy on buying a clone.

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Standard gauge with fair isle motif

So, I’m on the hunt for a vintage Brother knitting machine and ribber that actually work (the nearest knitting machine repair shop is two hours from me in Pennsylavania). I’ve got a few online searches set up for one and hope to find a late model Brother and ribber by the end of the year. Gauge? TBD. But, After this demo, I know at least how the machine should work (which I didn’t be fore) and what it should be able to do.

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Bulky gauge with fair isle on the left and sample ‘lace’ and cables on the right

Unlike sewing blogs, machine knitting blogs don’t seem to be as abundant? I’m guessing because machine knitting’s hey dey was in the 80s and before and the women who machine knit aren’t really into blogging? Within my own feed though, I did find four machine knitters, Rachelle at Smoking Needles, Petit Main Sauvage, Kay The Sewing Lawyer and Kathryn from I Made This. Plus, this really interesting article by Karen at Did You Make That? The machines don’t seem to be as popular here on the east coast of the US. But, in the pacific northwest and midwest, business is booming! Plus, in the UK and Europe, there seem to be quite a few machine knitters. I’m assuming the climate has a lot to do with this. There’s also a super active Yahoo group and Facebook group. Great for inspiration photos. I also found a slew of people to follow on Instagram to see their knitting machine work.

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Ribbing along the bottom and stripe sample above

So, what are my machine knitting goals? Pretty modest I think. 1. I’d like to make a couple of scarves a year. I love scarves and manage to lose them more often than I care to admit. Jordan likes scarves too in bright colors but short of cashmere ($$$) good scarves seem hard to find 2. Two sweaters a year would be amazing to me. I LOVE sweaters. I’ve been buying vintage from the 80s sweaters from ebay and the thrift store and trimning them down to size. Why? Because they were actually made of wool instead of cotton or acrylic.

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20 rows in less than three minutes!!

3. A pair of socks every now and then. In winter, I live in wool socks from REI and such. I wear boots most of the winter and would love warm, cute socks. 4. Occasionally, my own knit fabric to do cut and sew projects from. I am able to get great sweater knits at Mood when I go to NY. But, the pilling factor is a gamble. I don’t know how often I would do this. But, it’s nice to know I might have the option of making my own fabric.

Don’t worry. Sewing is still my first love! And, as Amanda pointed out to me yesterday, yarn is expensive.I also muslined my Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan dress over the weekend. I need to raise the neckline another 1.5 inch and shorten the darts. And, I want a slightly less ‘scoop’ to the neck line. So, I’ll do one more version in a poly knit before cutting into my silk jersey.

20150411-DSC_0125 photo 20150411-DSC_0125_zpshp0jhky9.jpg Unfortunately, it’s too low cut to keep as wearable. But, I really ended up liking the scrap fabric combo! And, I could not love this pattern more. So, any other machine knitters out there? Any advice for me?

That Time I Found *Exactly* What I Wanted in the Garment District

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My girl’s trip to Santa Fe was cancelled at the last minute and I decided to go to NY for the day to see the Lauren Bacall exhibit at the Museum at FIT. I was in a chat with Karen and Claudine and they both came in to the City too.

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The exhibit is housed at FIT which also had two other excellent exhibits. One of St. Laurent and Halston’s influence on the 70s style and another on counterfeit and licensed copies in fashion.

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I never thought I’d be into 70s fashion. But, seeing this presentation definitely made me change my mind. I also wanted to fondle every t’ing.

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After seeing the exhibit, I’m totally motivated to make some simple knit shirt dresses. I actually had this in mind over the winter. But, now I see exactly what I want to do.

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Of course, I had to do a little fabric shopping. I bought two of the three things I was looking for and like four things I wasn’t!  But, the one that makes me *the* very happiest is this turquoise silk jersey from Mood.

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It’s 55 inches wide and the perfect color for me to copy this Michael Kors dress seen here on Beyonce. Do you want to jump up and cheer for me? Because, I get giddy just seeing this!!


I’ll be using the Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan pattern when I get around to making this up. But, I honestly squealed when I found this fabric!! It’s what I’ve been looking for a couple of years now.

And, guess who we found in the Garment District? Lauren of Lladybird! And, by found. I mean: Guess who I messaged on Twitter when I saw she was going to be in New York and asked if she wanted to meet and go shopping together?

IMG_20150319_152328385She is as petite and as southern as I thought she would be. And funny. And, a really specific fabric shopper. I should take lessons. I just start salivating and buy all the things. Also, I came home and told Jordan I wanted a nose ring. Well, I’d been telling him since I left my government job that I wanted a tongue ring and he was (horrified) ADAMANT that it was a terrible idea. I thought the nose ring would put the tongue ring into perspective. But, instead, he just reminded me that I’m ten years past either being acceptable. I’ll just have to stick with crazy colored nail polish as my silent protest of really being a pretty standard issue buppie. Who am I kidding? I almost passed out watching a friend get a belly ring in the 90s.

I feel I also need to explain these photos.


After I got home, from our last trip, I decided I was going to buy a Selfie Stick. Yes, I know. It’s RIDICULOUS. But, I hate asking people to take my photo when traveling. And, I personally hate looking at other people’s travel photos when they are just of buildings and not of them or of people. And, apparently, it’s rude to ask people to take multiple photos until you’re happy with the one they took. So, I got a selfie stick and thought it was time I used it in the wild. Everyone (but me) felt RIDICULOUS and somewhat horrified that we were using a selfie stick in the middle of Mood. We couldn’t stop laughing at how RIDICULOUS it all was. But, you know what? I got a good photo out of it. Selfie Sticks for Everyone!20150319-IMG_20150319_145221692 photo 20150319-IMG_20150319_145221692_zpscf776116.jpgI couldn’t get this starry blue and brown silk jersey off my mind. I think it would be perfect as one of those 70s style shirt dresses. I may have asked Lauren to look for it when she went back to Mood. And, I may have also called Mood and asked them to send me some. I bought a bunch of other stuff too that I’m too lazy to photograph. And, knowing me, they won’t get sewn until my retirement.

It was an exhausting but fun one day trip into New York. I really need to make myself do this more often.

And now, I leave you with some Mondrian from the Museum

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