Sewing With Cotton

I grew up sewing with cotton. When knit fabrics became available to me, it was in the late 1960s. I made a mess of most of my projects. Neither myself nor my sewing machine knew how to handle the new knit fabric. Today, I think the industry has done a better job supplying us with more user-friendly fabric and thread. I still prefer sewing with cotton. And wearing cotton. But 100% cotton has been fading away. A lot of the modern fabrics feel like plastic. I love to sew though so I do the best I can with what I find. Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

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The Pattern Says Zipper… Can I Skip It?

Take a look at the dress on the front of this pattern. See how low cut it is? I made it out of a stretchy knit. There was no reason for me to bother putting in a zipper. It fits right over my head. Another option I could have used, would be to leave a five-inch opening in the back where the zipper should go and add a button and a loop. The same goes for bothering with buttonholes. If a blouse pattern is low-cut, the neck opening is huge. You can sew buttons onto the front, skipping the buttonholes and just slip it over your head. If the neckline opening is huge AND the fabric is stretchy, it lends itself well to being a slip-on. If you’re making a skirt and the pattern says zipper, you can instead, stitch a long sash along the waistline, leaving two long ties and tie it. If you’ve ever bought clothes from third-world countries, you will see that they improvise ways to avoid installing zippers. Sarongs wrap around the neck or tie around the waist. These short cuts are especially easy to accept when we’re making casual clothes. Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Too Little Fabric? Here’s a Sewing Tip

The bias of the fabric is important. Study which way the fabric “gives.” Pull and stretch on it and remember which way it stretches the most. That’s the bias. Once you understand what the bias is, you can make your own bias tape by cutting fabric into strips. Cut the strips diagonally (with the bias) so that the bias tape stretches and gives. You can also substitute bias tape for facings. That’s kinda easy. Facings can take a lot of extra fabric. If you have a small piece of fabric that you’re anxious to use but it’s short for the pattern you have in mind, you can use bias tape in place of the facings. It won’t have quite the thickness and support as facings but in many cases, it works just fine. You can also save two or three inches of fabric by using bias tape on the bottom of pants, instead of folding the fabric and having a typical hem.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Is Your Diet Boring You? Get Grooving in the Kitchen…

Believe me, I know how hard it can be to pull yourself to the kitchen counter to prepare a meal. The easiest thing to do is to pull out a microwave meal from the freezer but hey… that’s no fun. And not as nutritious as something you whip up from fresh ingredients. And those meals usually have way too many calories.

On difficult days, boil some whole wheat noodles and make a salad from spring greens. Throw a handful of sunflower seeds on top of the noodles on the plate, as a garnish and to add protein. Add avocado and tomato to the salad, sprinkle apple cider vinegar on the salad and soy sauce on the pasta. A dribble of olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper on the pasta will make the meal complete.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

Food and Cooking: Nothing Moo Under the Sun

I’m reading, “The Day the Bubble Burst: A Social History of the Wall Street Crash of 1929” by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts. As I do, I see parallels with 1928 and what’s going on today. Believe it or not, even cows offer nothing new under the sun. Just as they did in the days before the Great Depression, they’re very much in the news. And somehow, they’ve managed to work their way into the political discourse.

Henry Ford did not like cows and he let America know it. To Ford, cows never stopped eating and they left their slurry everywhere. He believed that crime and health could be attributed to a person’s diet and his reasoning was that people who filled up on steak were more likely to steal than those who didn’t fill up on steak. And those who indulged in butter fats, he said, were more likely to get sick. “Bad food causes crime,” was his rallying cry, believing that if people ate right, they would act right. To Ford, eating right meant no beef and no butterfat.

Henry Ford didn’t win that battle and isn’t it interesting that the meat/no meat conversation continues today. One decade a substance is bad, the next decade it’s a miracle food. Makes for plenty of apathy for those of us who’ve lived more than a few decades. But if you’re looking for ways to decrease your meat eating, I’ve got just the book for you. Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

 

 

Sewing: It’s OK, Make Your Buttonholes by Hand

The reason I do so many things by hand is because I trust that I can do it right. I don’t always trust my sewing machine, or my ability to operate it perfectly, so sometimes, I make button holes by hand. I have an old Singer from the 1970’s that does zig zag so I use that most of the time, but I am not opposed to doing them by hand. It’s relaxing to sit and watch a movie while making handmade buttonholes. The feeling is a lot like doing embroidery.

Don’t slice your fabric until AFTER you’ve made the buttonholes. Hold the button up to the fabric, so you can tell how long to make the buttonhole. Make it just a tad longer than the button. Check which side of the blouse is the correct side. Although it’s silly, for some reason, it’s different for men than it is for women. Basically, your reinforcing the fabric so that it won’t rip when you button and unbutton repeatedly. Look at a ready-made blouse as a guide.

Use what’s called a buttonhole stitch. Look at your computer keyboard. Strike the key for zero. See what that looks like? Don’t make your stitches any further apart than that. An even smaller hole is preferable. After you’ve made the buttonhole, use a seam ripper to splice it open. After you’ve slit it, slide your button in and out of the hole a few times to loosen it up. You’re good to go. Don’t forget to tie your knots so the thread doesn’t come loose.

When she’s not sewing, she’s writing. Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era romance, Rose Thorn. Available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Sewing Can Be Funky and Fun and Look Nice Too

I’m not afraid to take short cuts that some would think are funky. Why spend hours doing something that’s not necessary? The women of my mother and grandmother’s era were fussy, fussy, fussy about everything being right. When I came of age, the Grunge era was taking off. Enjoy yourself, don’t worry about the past and how they did it. It’s not the Victorian era. Make something!

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CNWG6QU

Book Two, Blue Violet: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Book Three, Black Lilac: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKJMTKA

Too Old to be Generation X… Too Young to Be a Baby Boomer… Call Me a BoXer…

I don’t care what the cutoff date is, I’ve never felt like a Baby Boomer. I went to college late in life, surrounded by Generation X. They were younger, but they were my peers. Nonetheless, I wasn’t part of that classification, so I’ve decided to take it upon myself and create a new group. I’m going to call them BoXers. Boomers with an X. Here is a little criterion for being a BoXer:

You feel a generation gap between yourself and Baby Boomers.

You relate to both Generation X and Baby Boomer culture and music.

You panic when someone asks you to go in-depth about the politics of Vietnam. Watergate makes you waffle too.

You feel like a little kid around Boomers. They can be intimidating, especially if they ask what YOU were up to during the sixties. They’re proud of what they did. And should be.

In 1965, you stood in front of the dime store with a furry coat, tight, TIGHT pants and a rat-tailed comb sticking out of your back pocket.

You know what the Bump and the Hustle are, and you were a BG’s fan.

Your place in history is not behind the millions of Boomers, it’s at the beginning of another era. An era in which we embraced nature. Even hugged trees. Literally. We became vegetarians when no restaurants provided meat-free alternatives. We watched people die of AIDS. We stared at the TV when David Bowie did weird things on MTV and if we were lucky enough to afford a ticket to see the Rolling Stones, we watched Mick Jagger ride on a giant inflatable penis. We were children when JFK died, I remember, but I remember that I didn’t understand. We watched as colored people became Blacks who fought for their rightful place in American society. While Black musicians provided us with the best music to dance to. Ever.

I will never be a Baby Boomer. I have friends who feel the same way. And I cannot for the life of me, understand how such a cool, intelligent, fighting force of young people, allowed themselves to be called Baby Boomers. Perhaps the time has come for them to revolt against that title. Because as we all know, these were the young people who were excellent at revolution. I see them all the time. Still leading the way. I tip my hat to them. Better yet, I take it off and wave it. They knew how to create excitement and make change. They deserve a more dignified title. They are no longer babies. They never were.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Chimney Fire. Available here: https://www.amazon.com//dp/B00XDCPLEW

 

Mediterranean-Style Eggplant with a Vegan Twist

My mother-in-law makes delicious eggplant sauce. She bakes the eggplant whole, making sure to blacken the bottom to impart a smoky flavor. She blends it with lemon, salt, pepper, sour cream and a little mayonnaise. It’s very good.

My husband won’t eat even a little mayonnaise, nor will he eat sour cream. So, on New Year’s Eve, I baked an eggplant on a cast iron skillet (50 minutes in a 350 degree oven did the trick). Whirled it, skin and all, in the food processor. Scooped it into a bowl and added one-third a container of Tofutti (plant based) sour cream. That’s it. Only those two ingredients. The sour cream and eggplant were tasty enough, on their own. I served it with toasted sourdough, Greek olives and baby spring mix salad.

This Vegan version worked for both me and hubby. If you want to try my mother-in-law’s version, you can find it in my cookbook, “Poor Jonny’s.” Happy New Year!!!

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

 

 

 

 

The Diversity Within Our Families… Americana 2019

American families are interesting. There is no shortage of diversity. My husband’s Jewish uncle, is married to the divorced wife of a Christian minister. Thinking she was an attractive Jewish girl, the former preacher’s wife caught uncle’s eye. “No,” she told me, “Polish ancestry. Not Jewish.” She descends from Polish immigrants who settled in Indiana in the 1800s.

Anyone who has read my books, knows that I raised an eyebrow and considered that uncle’s wife’s family tree might have Jewish roots. Whatever the family history, uncle married a beautiful woman, inside and out. Uncle is a proud Jew who loves to call and wish us, “Merry Christmas,” and the Christmas cards they send, leave me with the sense that he had more to do with it than she did.

When they called yesterday to wish us, “Happy New Year,” I grabbed the calendar to see when Passover was, so that we might meet up with our Jewish family members. To my embarrassment, Passover was not listed on the calendar. An error? I thumbed back to December and could not believe that Hanukkah had been omitted too. Christmas was there. Cinco de Mayo was there. “Oh,” I told them as they remained on speakerphone, “it’s an anti-Semitic calendar.” They laughed.

All my life, these two Jewish holidays have appeared on calendars. Even the White House has a Hanukkah party. I’ll bet that the individual who thought these two Jewish holidays were unimportant, descends from ancient Jews, somewhere on his or her family tree. Odds are high that they have an Old Testament name, like Hannah, David, Jacob or Rachel.

Yes, I called my favorite grocery store and spoke up about their calendar. Together, the customer service rep and I, constructed a letter to the president of the store. And the more I think about it, what about Kwanzaa and all the other days of significance? Doesn’t the store want everyone to feel welcome?

Yes, I know, Israel uses a completely different calendar. I can’t do anything about that. Although, I could call the grocery store and shout, “Don’t forget to  include Jewish New Year!”

2019 promises to be interesting, doesn’t it? Hang tight and have a happy one.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082