Just Me is Just Fine.

This Valentine’s Day, I celebrate the love I have for myself, and the courage it takes to be alone.

I love my life as a single lady.

It was 1998 when my very short-lived marriage ended, and I was devastated. Not because my marriage failed, necessarily (because that was a train wreck from the start) but more from the collapse of my own image of what it meant to be married. More so, what it meant to be one half of a couple committed for life. Or, supposed to be anyway. I thought that through partnering, there would always be someone who had my back, someone who would work with me toward shared goals. The reality for me was the socially enforced stereotype, which was miserable.

I had been raised to believe all the stereotypes. Women stayed home and took care of children. Men worked outside the home and controlled the money. Women needed to be associated with a man to have any value. It was an idea pushed on me from a very young age, when a common question became, “Do you have a boyfriend?” By High School, it was expected that I would always be dating someone, and shamed when I wasn’t. When I announced my senior year that I would be going to prom alone, my folks absolutely forbade it. What would people think if they saw me without a date? My childhood is punctuated with lessons of how important it is to be defined as a man’s ball and chain. His old lady.

Because that’s totally flattering.

I was raised by people who speak in bumper sticker and have cliché ideas about what constitutes gender-appropriate behavior. No copyright infringement intended.

So, I got married at the age of 21, and the disappointment grew quickly. All of my marital experiences were like a wall of expectations crumbling around me, crushing my spirit with each falling stone. When I got my paycheck, we would agree to save for a house, and the next day the money would be gone. I’d come home from work at 10pm to a house full of people playing games and eating our groceries. We had to go to his parents house every weekend and spend the night. Everything was a battle, and there were no winners, especially me. It didn’t matter what was said, or what was agreed to, he always did whatever the hell he wanted to do anyway, and I was expected to dutifully go along. I had no control over my own life. There was no working toward shared goals. Most of the time it was as if I didn’t even exist.

I was the only person in the relationship working to keep it together. The only thing keeping me in that relationship was the terror of being alone. I had convinced myself that normal relationships were supposed to be about constant communication failures and struggles between partners. I convinced myself that the stereotype was just a fact of life to be tolerated. I was supposed to just have fun with the fact that I was cleaning up adult pee off the bathroom floor and putting another grown adult’s dirty laundry in the hamper. I had convinced myself that all the frustrations were a price to be paid for coupling. Eventually I made the conclusion for myself that if that’s what relationships are supposed to be about, I’ll pass.

If this is part of being married, no thank you. Just… no.

I spent the better part of three years asking for my needs to be met, listening to empty promises, and feeling like an after thought in the relationship. It was deeply saddening and utterly infuriating. The disappointment was crippling, and I often dreamed of running away in dramatic fashion. The fighting and constant struggle left permanent scars.

So when the fog lifted and I found myself alone for the first time, I realized that being alone wasn’t the worst thing in the world. After all, I had been going through the motions of two people for the past three years, now I could put that energy into myself. I was initially surprised by how much energy I had, now that I wasn’t in a constant state of marital chaos and disrespect. I forced myself to go out alone to restaurants and theaters. I went camping alone and took myself on vacations both near and far. And I had fun! I was able to do the things I couldn’t do while I was languishing in a one-sided relationship. I was ending each day feeling unburdened. I was fulfilling my own needs and it was glorious!

On one of my many solo adventures, I came across this historical site and caught a glimpse of my future. Dinosaur National Monument https://www.nps.gov/dino/learn/historyculture/josiebassettmorris.htm

That’s not to say that I did not occasionally date, because I did. Unfortunately, I saw the same irritating traits in nearly all the men I dated – I could easily identify their relationship issues in the stories they told about their exes. It was a Groundhog’s Day experience of poor communication and attempts at mind games for several years of short-term dating before I grew weary of it. Was there such a thing as a partner who had my back and worked with me toward shared goals? I wasn’t finding it, and from what I heard from my girlfriends in relationships, they hadn’t either. I lost hope. Like a balloon running out of air, I let the dating lifestyle wane, like my youth.

It isn’t deviant to be single. It’s delightful and fulfilling.

I’ve been on my own for 23 years now and my biggest regret in life is once believing that marriage and partnering is about constantly giving, with only receiving an occasional, obligatory gift of flowers or chocolate in return (on a holiday, or after an argument, of course). I regret ever believing that it was my responsibility to take care of a man, much like a mother cares for a child. I regret not putting myself first. I regret ever trusting that a partnership would help me achieve my financial goals. My experience was that relationships that adhered to the traditional stereotypes were simply not enough for me.

Being single has far more positives than negatives for me. I don’t have to clean up after another adult. I don’t have to financially support another adult. I don’t feel like an after thought. I don’t have to convince someone to love me. I don’t have to compromise on anything. I could have saved myself a lot of time and heartache if I had embraced when I was younger, what my heart has always known. I do not need a partner to have a happy relationship. I can always be in a happy relationship with myself.

Cuddle Body Picture Tutorial

This cuddle body has attached arms and legs. Not Jointed.

I was in need of a new project, and it was suggested by my cousin that I try making a pattern for a doll body with jointed arms. I did some research and used up a twin size sheet practicing the pattern, but I have not yet mastered the jointed doll. Instead, I have developed this pattern for an infant doll body. The pattern features a wide neck with a casing for a zip tie, and 3D feet that will fit regular booties and shoes. This pattern also contains two options for hands: fingers or mittens.

General Information:

Sew with 1/4″ seam allowance.

Use a short stitch length (between 1.5 and 1.7 works best) and sew slowly, especially around fingers and thumbs.

You will need about 3/4yard of fabric. For this tutorial, I used flannel which can be sourced at fabric stores for around $4/yard and up. Alternatively, a flannel sheet or receiving blanket will also work just fine.

Stuffing – your choice. A bag of polyfil can be purchased at your local stores for around $10. A substitute could be an old throw pillow ($1 thrifted, washed and high-heat dry), or shredded fabric scraps.

To Begin:

Download and print the pattern. Depending on the size pattern, there may be assembly required. Simply tape the pieces together at the shaded area, matching notches. TIP: Trace the pattern pieces onto freezer paper. The shiny side of the paper can be ironed to the fabric, providing for a more accurate cut. Freezer paper patterns can be re-used indefinitely!

To assemble pattern:

Overlap matching pattern pieces at the shaded area. The triangle notches should relatively match up. Tap the pieces together.

Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and cut. Be sure to cut the notches for the best fit. When all the pieces are cut, prepare to sew by threading the machine with a complimentary color thread. Sew all seams with 1/4″ seam allowance (eyeball it on the fingers) and a short stitch length between 1.5 and 1.7, if possible.

Next, it’s time to sew:

Begin with the legs. Pin two legs together with right sides facing. Sew only the shin area. That will be from the edge to the black dot indicated on the pattern.

Open the shin seam and press with steam. with right sides facing, sew the foot top to the ankle. Match the notch on the foot top to the shin center seam. Slash the curves of the ankle, but not too close! Fold the leg pieces with right sides facing.

Match the ankle seams and pin. Position the leg pieces and pin. Sew the sides of the legs, leaving the top open.

Slash the seams at the curve of the knee, front and back. Don’t snip too close!

Place the soles right side up. There should be a left and a right. Pin the notch of the heel to the heel of the foot and move to machine. Slowly sew the sole to the foot top, ease the fabric as it is stitched. Slash the seams around the edge of the foot. Turn the leg and foot right side out and stuff.

Match the leg seams and pin the thigh in place. Set aside.

Arm Option 1: The Mitten

Pin two arms together, right sides facing and sew around the outside. Sew slowly around the thumb, pivoting as needed. Stop the machine, lift up the presser foot and adjust the angle of the fabric with the needle in place. This will prevent the fabric puckering that can be caused by pulling the fabric under the presser foot. Pulling the fabric will also weaken the integrity, causing it to fray in the thumb area.

Slash the curves of the hand and the elbow, inside and out.

Turn the arm right side out, gently pressing out the thumb area with a blunt object: I recommend using a 5.5m crochet hook handle. Be very gentle, as the tip of the thumb is easily breached with force. If the area is torn, use a hand needle and thread to repair it later.

Match the arm seams and pin. Set aside.

Arm Option 2: The Hand

For the hand, cut around the fingers in a wide mitt. Cut more than you see in this photo… as it turns out, it wasn’t enough. Trace the handprint on the mitt of two pieces, on the wrong side. Make sure you have a left and a right. Pin two arms together, right sides facing and sew around the outside. Leave the top open. Be very careful sewing the fingers. Sew inside the pencil lines, but less than 1/4″ from from the lines. At the tops and bottoms of the fingers, stop the machine and lift the presser foot. Pivot the fabric underneath and continue sewing. Do this every 2-3 stitches to keep the rounded parts even.

Trim the fabric around the fingers, but not too close! If there is too much fabric, the finger will not turn. If there is too little, the fabric will split along the seam. Slash the seams along the curves of the elbow, inside and out. Be careful not to cut the seam!

Carefully turn the arm right side out using a blunt object on the fingers. I recommend using a 5.5m crochet hook handle. Press very gently, as the handle may poke through the fingertip. That’s a bummer, but it can be repaired with a hand needle later, if needed. It’s not ruined!

Match the arm seams and pin. Set aside.

Sew the Body

Sew the belly.

Open the seam and press. Place right side up and pin back to front at shoulders. Sew.

Open the neck hole and create a casing for a zip tie. You may want to adjust the length of the neck for the head you intend to use. I recommend folding down 1/2″ to start and baste. If the length needs adjusting later, it will be easier. to do.

Place a string our length of yarn under the folded casing. This will make it easier to install a zip tie. Just tie the string or yarn around the head of the zip tie and pull it through!

Line up the back pieces. Pin into place and sew. Do not sew the yarn or the casing at the top of the neck. Press the seam open.

Fold the front onto the back with right sides facing. You will notice the front is bigger than the back. It’s supposed to be like this. Line up the pieces on one side, then pin. Flip the piece over and match the other sides. Pin. The front is bigger to accommodate the tummy, but he pieces still fit nicely. Sew from the armpit to the hip, leaving the armholes, and bottom open.

Slash the curves.

Attach Limbs

Place the body with belly up.

Insert the arms into the armholes. Position the arm so the thumb is pointing to the neck, and the hand is raised upward. Make room for it by poking it through the neck hole. Sew the arms into place.

Examine the legs. Make sure the left and right soles are in the correct position. Place the legs into the body with the toes pointing up (the body should be belly up).

Pin the middle seam first, then position the thighs in place. Pin and sew.

Turn right side out.

Attach the head and it’s Playtime!

Get the pattern. See the video tutorial here:

The doll used for this tutorial has the following measurements:

Shoulders to feet 19″
Neck to Crotch 10″
Shoulder Width 6″
Inseam 6.5″
Foot length 3″, width 1 1/2″
Shoulder to Wrist 5″
Waist 14.5″
Wrist 4.25″
Ankle 4.5″
Thigh 7″
Upper Arm 5″
Neck Hole 12″ Casing size adjustable

My No Spend January Journey

It didn’t go as planned, and that’s ok.

After two weeks of being pretty good at the no spend January, week three was a wash. I lost my motivation and splurged beyond my set budget (but not by much) on some tasty foods and wine. It’s funny how it is easier to stay on the budget when everything else in my life is going well. The uncertainties of my job and financial future, along with some family arguments this week, sidelined my efforts. I just wasn’t strong enough under duress.

Unemployment ended for many on December 26 and while the new platform is created, those of us who rely on this income just have to make due. There is no ETA other than “in a few weeks or so.” In the meantime, the jobs claiming to be hiring, aren’t really hiring. It was another week of no callbacks.

In a fog of serious anxiety (sometimes dulled by wine), I paced the ~800 sq feet of my apartment, and mindlessly scrolled social media like a zombie. It’s scary when the simple things of life are out of control. The degree I worked hard to get is both the key to a good-paying job, and a detriment if good-paying jobs aren’t available. The grocery store doesn’t seem to be interested in a middle-aged cashier with a master’s degree. To make myself feel better, I broke down a shelf to throw away. The dismantling of a wobbly wooden piece of furniture was somehow satisfying. Once that was done, I filled a garbage bag with old student projects and various classroom supplies that I no longer needed. It was hard to let them go, but I don’t plan to return to teaching in a public school. The purging distracted my attention and felt like progress in a world where everything else seems to be standing still.

This is one of three projects I saved. There were stacks of old projects I had saved as examples for subsequent classes. I have decided my career as a public school teacher is over, so they no longer serve their purpose. Maybe I’ll teach in another capacity, but never again in a public school for adolescents.

The purging of old things started to snowball by the 21st. I got it in my head that I had to make up for the money that I spent over-budget in the last week. I had failed at the no spend in the third week, so maybe I could make it up to my psyche by offsetting the loss. There were plenty of things around me in the apartment that I didn’t need… perhaps I could sell them and maybe not beat myself up over my perceived failures. I listed an old guitar and some children’s books on marketplace, thinking that with any luck I may just sell them each for $10. I haven’t had a lot of luck selling things in the past, but I was determined to give it a try.

Within an hour they were both sold. It was the inspiration I needed to get out of my funk. I started scouring my apartment for what else could be sold. I came up with a desk, a chair, a mirror and a framed poster. All of these things have been lying around or displayed, but not necessarily used or appreciated. They were covered in a stubborn dust and begging for a useful purpose. I snapped a few pictures and waited for more people to take away my stuff.

Now, selling things on marketplace is a lot like internet dating: there are a lot of inquiries, few of them are quality, and most people just disappear after they express interest. It took a few days, but most of the items sold, and brought in $65. There are a few more things I’d like to list and sell, but I’ll wait a few days. In the search for things to sell, I also removed a few more bags of trash, which made me feel better despite my spending. One area that needed a lot of downsizing was my craft stash. I have a tendency to hold onto things with good intentions.

I drastically reduced the size of my craft stash.

So while the no-spend part of my journey did not go as planned, I did learn a few things along the way! It is difficult to not spend on comfort items during times of duress. The stress and anxiety of unemployment compounded by a pandemic has wrecked havoc on my self-control when it comes to the simple comforts of fatty foods and wine. My journey to save money will not end when the calendar flips into February, but this first month was definitely a learning experience in self-control. I wasn’t surprised to learn that is an area in which I need a lot more practice.

I did really well with my goal in the first two weeks, but the last two weeks were sidelined by overwhelming anxiety and the need for creature comforts.

Budget Snapshot: I have a lot of work to do on limiting my creature comforts. For the month of January, I budgeted up to $200 for groceries, and nothing else. While I did buy a few items from the thrift store for crafting purposes, the total between that and groceries was still under $200. I am ending the month with a small surplus… and a long way to go to achieve my goal.

It can be hard to keep the end goal in sight, but a vision board helps.

Learn to Sew Inexpensively

Sewing can be an expensive hobby, unless you know these tricks.

One of my earliest memories, around age two, is watching my mother sew. As little as I was, I remember being mesmerized by the whirring machine, the crinkling of pattern tissue, and the glinting of strategically placed pins as she guided fabric under the arm of her pale green Kenmore machine. I was always fascinated. She shooed me out of her way and was full of reasons why I couldn’t help. Fabric is expensive. We couldn’t afford for there to be any mistakes.

Very rarely, my mother would tire of my begging to learn, and hand me some scraps of fabric and a needle with thread. She showed me how to thread a needle and make a knot in the end. The rest I learned from watching, or failing, or through sheer imagination. I taught myself by sneaking the packets of pattern pieces from the off-limits sewing area, and secretly studying the diagrams; reading and re-reading the directions with intense interest. I was sewing in my imagination as I read through the steps of putting together my dream dress.

I love to read the directions for a sewing pattern.

By the time I was a teenager, I was secretly altering my clothes by hand and cutting up other clothes to use as fabric. I got away with it for a little while, but once I cut up a white sweater, even the vacuum cleaner could not hide my extreme offense. You see, while the family was aware that I had a strong desire to sew, it was not a hobby I was allowed to pursue until my teenage years. After the horrible sweater debacle of 1989, I was given an old sewing machine and a job sewing smocks for a nursing home.

There is no hiding it sometimes. Fabric scraps and thread end up everywhere when I sew. I do rake the carpet before vacuuming in the sewing area.

You may be wondering why I was not allowed to pursue my interest in sewing… Well, on its most basic level, my family felt that sewing was too expensive. When people learn to sew, a lot of things go wrong; there is a lot of waste of both fabric and money. To buy fabric for a full sized garment at the the fabric store is often more expensive than buying a ready-made garment at the big box store. It was hard for me to explain that I wasn’t so much interested in the final product, as I was the process. When I asked to get fabric for a dress or skirt, it wasn’t because I wanted the garment, necessarily, it was because I wanted to make the garment. This is still a concept hard to grasp for many people. I like picking the fabric, tweaking the pattern, and puzzling it all together with the steam of the iron pulsing lavender scented starch into the air. It’s a sensory experience.

Thrift stores are a great place to find quality fabric at an affordable price. I shop the housewares section.

As I followed my mother through the fabric store, I would rub my fingers over the different textures of fabrics and wonder how each one would fall over the human form. What it would look like if it was pants, or a hat, or a wedding gown. I thought too much about how cutting the fabric this way would make it hang differently than cutting it that way. I am still fascinated by darts, flounces, pleats, and pin tucks. Sewing a garment is like completing a puzzle. I even like the math of sewing. While I like looking at the end product of any project, it is the process that brings me the most joy.

It’s a hobby that I admit is expensive. I was given a new sewing machine at the age of 21, and it was easily the most used gift I ever received. I wasted a lot of money trying to sew clothes for my infant son and curtains for my little apartment. The budget was tight and even though sewing was my hobby for decompression, it was too expensive! I started buying sheets at the thrift store to try a pattern first, so I didn’t destroy expensive fabric. It was my answer to the traditional “muslin” and cost about $3 for a king sized sheet. For that amount of money, I could test patterns to my heart’s content. So I did.

When I began to teach sewing, I utilized the sheet method for students to make garments and practice sewing. With ten students in a class, the $3 per sheet added up! I needed to downsize the projects, but still be able to teach students the basics of garment construction. The idea to teach a doll clothes class was born! For some classes, the students used Barbie dolls (not much fabric, right?) and for others, we used an 18″ doll (American Girl sized).

In both cases, the garment pieces were too small; particularly for the younger sewists, aged 6-12. It was difficult to attach facings, or install hardware. The dolls used by the students were plastic, so the garments could not be made without hardware, unless it was made from stretchy fabric. Stretchy fabric is a really bad choice for beginning sewists. Students were frustrated with the logistics, but still interested in sewing. The challenge was for them to practice their skills without the frustration, but also keeping the costs reasonable. It became my mission to create a plush doll that could be used as a standard model in the sewing classroom.

The doll had to be large enough so pattern pieces could be easily manipulated during construction, but only large enough so that pieces could be cut from old clothing. This would eliminate much of the cost of inevitable mistakes. The doll also had to be plush so that I could teach basic construction without the added frustration of closures. Zippers and button holes can be difficult skills to master. To avoid the frustration, younger sewists will enjoy finishing a garment and quickly squeezing a plush doll into it without the need for closures. Plush dolls are forgiving with fit, and can be encouraging for young sewists who might otherwise become discouraged by the process of fit.

If you have read any of my previous posts, you may be aware that I have a borderline addiction to vintage patterns. I scour shelves and bins at thrift stores and garage sales looking for ancient gems at a quarter a piece. As I did when I was a child, I unfold the large newspaper print directions and entrance myself with the diagrams and directions. I wish I could make them all… just to see if I can.

And I can try, very inexpensively! The pattern pieces are printed on the front page of the directions. When scanned, these images can be enlarged to the size of a… yup, a 22″ doll. I can learn new techniques while practicing classic patterns without spending any money. In my middle age, I am still cutting up clothes to use as fabric. I often will purchase garments at the thrift store for a couple bucks because I like the fabric. For a couple bucks, I can alter it and wear it. When I’m tired of wearing it, or it becomes damaged, I cut it up and test patterns.

It’s my hobby and I love it. As an introvert, I prefer the quiet of home to any social activity. The thinking power required to sew (in my opinion) is equivalent to solving puzzles and keeps the mind sharp. I like to think it’s a combination of problem-solving and math that keep the neuron connections healthy. Like flexing the brain!

So the (over told) story of the doll, in short, is my desire to make clothes without spending a bunch of money. I’m sharing it for any parents who may have a budding fashion designer at home. You may find a sewing machine cheap to get the hobby going, but soon realize how expensive it is to buy fabric that will most likely end up in the trash in a pile of cuts and broken thread. I’m sharing this to give parents and sewing enthusiasts a way to practice this dying art without spending a bunch of money in the process.

Go to local thrift stores and church sales to scope out bags of thread spools and remnants of fabric. I often find yardage at the thrift store for a dollar or two. If there isn’t a fabric section at your local thrift, browse the sheets, pillowcases, curtains, placemats and tablecloths for fabric. Need fur? Look in home décor for throw pillows (wash and use the stuffing, too) or furniture covers. Patterns can be very expensive unless you can find them at thrift stores and garage sales. Keep a flyer for your local fabric store – sometimes there are $1 pattern sales, and it’s worth it to stock up!

It is easy to go overboard on sewing supplies, and there is no shortage of them available. Cutting mats, rotary blades, quilt templates, sergers… I could go on and on. While they all have value, there is nothing better than getting started with the basics and building up to a stash of sophisticated tools. The truth is, it doesn’t require a lot of equipment to get started, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune to nurture the interest of a budding designer!

No Spend January: Week Two

An exercise in self-restraint.

My vision board helps to focus my actions each day when it comes to spending money.

I’m not going to lie… this week was tough. Week two of no spending tested my will power and forced me to confront the unhealthy relationship that I have with my budget. I went to the thrift store to apply for a position, and I couldn’t help but browse. It was my misfortune that the fabric and pattern display was FULL of goodies that I could use. While temptation was there, I left the store with one purchase, a $1.39 antique saucer to pair with a gift I was giving that day (and no job).

I love shopping the housewares racks at the thrift store. Sheets, blankets, towels, placemats and tablecloths all make great fabric for sewing projects, and cost very little to purchase. This is ideal for any beginning sewist who doesn’t want to make a huge investment to learn how to sew.

This was my last week of unemployment payments, so I have been a bit more mindful about the money I do have put aside. While there is the promise of more stimulus money to be issued, and extended unemployment on the horizon, the money has not yet been approved and the unemployment system is mired in technological problems preventing the flow of funds to those of us treading water. This was an added stressor this week, and in the back of my mind each and every time I opened my wallet.

Unemployment is rushing to update the system and implement the new stimulus, but it is slower than the need.

Because of this situation, I spent more on gas this week than I had hoped. The months of online applications for a new “job” have yielded exactly ONE call back (a job which will not be available until July). I reasoned that any job was better than no income, and spent some time this week driving around dropping off my resume for minimum wage jobs. The cost of looking for a job this week? $20 from my budget.

The general consensus is that the unemployed ought to go out and get a job regardless of the pay. Unfortunately, many of the hiring positions are low-skill and minimum wage. As soon as they see my education level (Master’s degree), they pass on my resume. I have not had the best of luck in getting employers to respond to me, or offer an interview.

Until I am able to find another job, I will continue to use my “free” time to embrace minimalism; clean and downsize my junk. I’ve also had the time to tackle a home improvement issue – my kitchen walls. With a giant bucket of joint compound ($10.51) I retextured the aged, bowing walls (built in 1940s). In the process, I found about five other things that need to be done in the kitchen, only one costing money – painting. This week, I took money from my grocery budget to spruce up the kitchen and put my nervous energy to work. Giving the walls a good “frosting” was just the therapy I needed to get my mind off this terrible pandemic fall-out. While I feel the money spent on improvements wasn’t absolutely necessary right now, it was an investment in my sanity.

It took two days to retexture the walls in my kitchen. It was a cheap and easy way to hide the imperfections of an old home.

This week, a friend of mine celebrated a milestone birthday. I know that she has been feeling a little lonely lately working from home, and I wanted to brighten her day with a gift. I like to keep a few crafted items and extra plants on hand to give as gifts on occasions like this, so buying gifts isn’t necessary. I was pleased to give her a potted lemon tree (with the antique saucer for drainage catch) and a container of homemade soap. She mentioned that she would be having dinner with her grandchildren, so I threw in a couple of stuffed Yodas that she could give to them as well. Downsizing and gifting!

When I eat fruits and veggies, I try to save and plant the seeds. It’s always a good idea to have a few extra plants on hand to give as a gift. This lemon tree is about a year old, planted from an organic Meyer Lemon seed. For best results, plant organic, non-hybrid seeds.

One thing that felt particularly good about this week was cleaning out the clutter. I took two large blue IKEA bags full of books and empty binders to the thrift store after cleaning the living room and removing a shelf. I also purged two globes and two garbage bags of clothing! My son cleaned out his closet and I set aside any clothing we would add to his memory quilt. All these clothing Items are stored in a plastic tote; occasionally I work on making the blocks and piecing them together. It’s a great way to save memories in a practical form – a very warm blanket!

Sentimental clothing items are turned into quilt blocks. I work on the blocks whenever my son cleans out his closet, and when I have enough of them, I attach them together. The first quilt I made for my son took 18 years to make and had all patches on front and back. It is the perfect ongoing project.

Today is day 15, and the first thing I did when I woke up was to check my bank balance. I don’t know why, because I know exactly how much is there. I did the math in my head and tried not to panic as I stand on the edge of a financial cliff. I’m trying to stay positive by keeping busy with cleaning and improvement projects around the house. A new administration will be taking over in 5 days, and while I don’t have a resounding faith in our system of government, the promise of change is keeping my spirits raised.

I try not to think about the fact that I could have saved a bunch of money if I had only spent thoughtfully!

Budget Snapshot:

My discretionary funds for the month of January are $289.33. At the end of week one, the balance was $260.90.

At the end of week two, the balance of my discretionary funds is $213.25. $10.51 was spent on supplies for a home improvement project, $20 on gas, and $17.14 on grocery items.

I got a couple of unexpected deposits this week, too! $85 from unemployment (the remaining balance of my benefits) and $17 from Etsy sales.

22″ Doll Sewing Directions

Step by step directions to sew the body, hair and face of a 22″ original pattern doll.

Get the pattern here. See the video tutorial here. Get the clothing pattern here. See the clothing video tutorial here.

Materials needed:

2/3 yard of preferred skin color flannel (recommended) or other cotton fabric with minimal stretch (A twin sheet from the thrift store will make 3-4 dolls for a few bucks)

2 squares of felt in preferred hair color (33 cents each at the box store)

2 eyes, or felt in colors to make eyes and facial features (upcycle from stuffies, or available online- listed as shank doll eyes)

Thread in flesh and hair color

Stuffing (deconstructed stuffies and throw pillows work great for this!)

1/4″ seam allowance on all pieces, except the sole of the foot

All seams will be sewn with 1/4″ allowance; the edge of (an average) presser foot will touch the edge of the fabric.
Where indicated on pattern, cut out a notch. This helps match pieces together.

Though not necessary, I recommend tracing the printed pattern pieces onto freezer paper. One side of the paper has a thin film of plastic that can be ironed to the fabric for a nice fit. The pattern piece easily peels off the fabric and can be reused, infinitely, it would seem! I keep these pattern pieces in labeled envelopes. Here’s a tip: trace commercial patterns on to freezer paper. Without cutting, all the sizes of the pattern can be used. This is especially useful for children’s patterns. They grow so fast!


With right sides facing, pin two arm pieces together. Sew around the outside of the arms, with the edge of the presser foot touching the edge of the fabric. Go slow and pivot as necessary. Try not to pull or force the curves of the arms through the machine.

Slash the curves of the arms, careful to not cut the stitching. This keeps the fabric from binding and puckering when the piece is turned right side out. Turn the piece, press with an iron and stuff. Set aside.


The leg pieces are cut on the fold. Unfold and press with an iron. Pin the foot top to the ankle area of the leg piece. It is the end that is not completely straight. It will be an awkward fit, but don’t worry. Sew slowly and back stitch at the start and stop to secure the piece. Be sure right sides are facing!

Fold the leg pieces in half, matching the ankle seams.

Attach the soles to the feet. The notch on the inside of the sole is to indicate the left and the right. This is especially important if you are using a fabric that does not really have a “right side.” The notch at the back of the sole will be pinned to the seam of the leg – the heel.

Pin the sole to the heel of each leg – just one pin. Now, check to make sure there is both a left and a right foot before sewing. Place the seam of the heel, with the sole attached, under the presser foot. Sew slowly, easing the foot top to the sole. Be careful not to stitch too close to the edge of the fabric; fraying will occur.

When the sole is sewn to the foot, check to make sure the stitching isn’t too close to the edge of the fabric; it can fray and cause the doll to fall apart. If you find stitching too close to the edge, put it back in the machine and sew a new seam (see the red circle on the left). Turn the legs right side out and stuff. Set aside.


Pin the lower half of the back and sew in place with a 1/4″ seam (don’t forget to reset the needle for this!). Do not sew the tab at the top. This will be the area where the entire doll will be turned right side out. Open the piece and press well. The tab pieces should be press in place as shown below.

Open the body front and press well with an iron. Place the front on the back, right sides facing, and sew the sides and shoulders, as shown below.


Mark the eyes on the face before removing the pattern.

Use one pin to match the side head piece to the face piece at the notch.

Ease the side head onto the face; sew slowly and adjust every few stitches. (see video)


Open the neck of the body. Match the notch on the face, with the middle of the neck of the body. Be sure the middle of the neck is aligned with the middle of the face, it will determine which way the doll will look when finished. Be sure to sew a straight line when connecting the neck and the face, it determines the tilt of the head.

Place the doll with the back facing up. Insert the legs into the body with their seams facing up, towards you. The toes should be facing the table.

Pin the legs in place. Be careful to line up the edges of the fabric for the legs and the body. Uneven placement of the legs will cause feet to angle or legs to splay. Clip the corners of the seams to ease in turning. Bring the legs right side out, but leave the top of the body as it.

The top of the body will still be wrong side out, as shown. Insert the arms.

For the arms to fall to the sides, the arms seams must be positioned opposite of the shoulder seams. The picture on the left shows the arm and shoulder seams matching. This will result in the doll that can’t put it’s arms down. On the right, the seams are opposite, resulting in a doll with natural posture.

It may seem a little confusing, so imagine the shoulder opening as a clock. The shoulder (body) has seams at noon and six. The arm, once it is inserted, will have seams at three and nine.

One in place, pinch the shoulders down and match the seams. Pin in place and sew. Backstitch a bunch and really make sure that piece is in place. Dressing and undressing the doll will put extra stress on the seam, so make sure it is plenty secure.

Turn the doll right side out and place the eyes. You can skip this step if you are planning to sew on flannel eyes, or have some other master plan. I have a variety of eyes that I bought cheap at a box store. These eyes are also available in small packs of a particular color, and some specialty shops sell them by an individual pair. Another idea is to salvage a pair from an old stuffy or doll and give them a new body. The ones I used have a textured shank to keep the eyes in place. It works for my personal purposes. Use whatever works for you, keeping in mind that any features may cause a choking hazard for some.

For a cat eye effect, cut felt pieces and insert eyes through them.

Turn the head inside out and match the seams of the neck. Pin the back of the head in place and sew. Stuff the doll, beginning with the head. Stuff as much as you like, but to keep the head upright, it is essential to stuff the neck well. The stuffing used is a personal preference. I had some stuffing set aside from old stuffies and pillows. It was slightly matted from use, so it required some pulling apart and fluffing. This would be a great job for a kid – tear apart clumps of stuffing.

Sew the back of the doll with a hand needle and thread.


Now that the doll is done, it is time to give it some hair, if that’s your plan. The included pattern creates a skull cap from which to build your hairstyle. Sew up the hair the same as the head of the doll. Match the notches and ease the hair side onto the hair crown.

Put the hair on the doll, like a hat, and trim your desire hairline. Pin the hair to the head. Using a needle and thread, hand sew the hair to the doll head.

Hand sew the hair to the head. Be advised, the hairline shown is trimmed for the purpose of her unique hairstyle, and is not the actual shape of the included pattern.

For this hairstyle, I cut squiggles of felt and pinned them to the scalp. When the scalp was covered, they were removed, and each stitched around the edge with a running stitch. The thread was pulled tight to create a rippled effect for each lock of hair. The hair was then stitched to the scalp. Bangs were added, and partially sewn to the scalp to allow for some movement. a ponytail was created and sewn to the back of the head.

For this hair, I cut long rectangle pieces of felt with a pinking shears., leaving the tope of the piece intact for a hair tract effect. Layers of tracts were secured to the scalp to create a bob effect. One rectangle piece was attached to the part line, by the middle.

For this short hairstyle, two large squares of felt were joined to the scalp at a part and the hair was cut once it was in place. The strips of felt can be twisted to create a styled look.

Braids are particularly easy. For this Laura Ingalls look, I attached to felt squares to the scalp at the part line. The squares were then trimmed into strips, while on the doll. Each of the strips were stretched to give it some texture, but be careful not to break the strips if you do this. To prevent breakage, each strip should be wider than 3/4″. One the strips are cut and stretched, they can be braided and secured with a knotted piece of felt.

Another option for hair is to use yarn. This takes considerably more time, but the results are nice. Cut lengths of yarn that are double the length you would like for the hair. Fold them in half and sew them directly to the scalp in rows, starting with the neckline; ending with the bangs.

Options for the face are endless. For the Lizzo doll below, all the features were cut from felt and handsewn. It is delicate work that can have amazing results if you are so talented and time rich.

I found it best to glue a felt smile in place. If it falls off, it can be easily replaced, and it doesn’t leave those unsightly stitching marks around the lips.

For a nose, cut a shape of felt and glue it on. The great thing about using felt to build features, is that it will stick to the flannel body easily. It makes placement easy in that you can stick the feature to the face and step back to have a look from different angle before making a glue commitment.

(Video Pending)

Free Healthcare Worker Clothing Pattern: 22″ Doll

This pattern fits a 22″ doll and includes drawstring pants, a raglan sleeve top with a back closure, a drawstring scrub cap, a pair of shoes, and a mask. Video tutorial included.

This pattern is great for beginners who have some knowledge of sewing basics.

You will need:

The Pattern

2/3 yard of fabric (I used an old full size sheet. It made 4 full outfits)

Closure (button or hook and eye), optional for the neck of scrub top

Drawstring for pants and cap

Seam Allowances:

All seam allowances are 1/4″. The presser foot will touch the edge of the fabric while sewing.

Click here for the doll pattern.

Print the scrubs pattern and cut out the pieces.

Assemble the pants pieces. Tape the pieces in place at the shaded area, matching notches.

Tip: Trace the pieces onto freezer paper; The shiny side of the paper can be ironed to the fabric, giving a more secure fit when cutting the pattern. Cut the pattern from your choice of fabric (use cotton for best results). I used a cotton sheet and made four sets of outfits.


The front piece has a tab – fold it in (wrong sides together) and press it down with an iron. Place the pants front on top of the pants back with the tabs facing up, and sew the side seams. Right sides of the pants pieces should be facing.

Open the side seams and lay the pants pieces on top of each other, right sides facing. Sew the rear seam. This is the rounded section without the tab.

Open the pants and fold down the waistband 1″. Press well with an iron. Fold up the cuffs on the pant legs 1″ and press well. Fold the pants in half the make sure the hems are even on both legs. Sew 3/4″ from folded edge.

Fold the pants in half again and sew the front seam. Do not sew the drawstring casing.

When sewing the front seam, stop at the drawstring casing.

Match the crotch seams and pin. Holding the crotch seam, stretch out the leg and pin the cuffs. Sew the length of the seam, reinforce stitching at the crotch for strength.

Cut a 15″ strip of fabric, ribbon, or other string and thread through the waistband casing. At the back of the waist, sew the drawstring in place at the center seam. Reinforce.


This top has raglan sleeves, which are much easier for beginner sewists. Be sure to cut the notches on the pattern as shown for best results.

Unfold the top front and press the crease in the middle. Attach the sleeves. One side of the sleeve has a notch. This notch indicates the back of the sleeve. Pin the non-notched side of the sleeve to the curved area of the top. Sew the sleeve to the top front and open

Prepare the edge of the top back piece. Fold in the tab (wrong sides facing) and 1/2″ of the bottom edge; press well.