A Holiday Review

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I finished the stocking with 2 days to spare. The last backstitch was completed the evening of the 22nd and the stocking assembled and sewn on the 23rd.

The kit came with some poly-felt for the backing, but no instructions for assembly, so I took a good look at the ones my Grandmother made and worked from there, using some pre-made piping and leftover linen for the exterior and some muslin for the lining. After nearly 21 months of work, it was proudly filled with goodies by Santa on the 24th, and somewhat anti-climatically put into storage on January 1.

I also managed to complete a toddler sweater and an apron, a large batch of cookies, several pounds of peanut brittle, the assembly of a wooden play kitchen and, with some finishing help from Bristol Ivy, a knit hat for Mr. Cleaver.

With a list like that it's no wonder I took the week after Christmas to relax and watch old movies (Charade and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - both highly recommended!) and Doctor Who on Netflix. I also managed to clear up some of my sewing project backlog, but more on that for another day.

Though last year was LMC's first Christmas, this was her first year with some understanding about the holiday and we really wanted it to be magical and mindful of both sharing in the traditions we grew up with (Handmade stockings! Toutiere on Christmas Eve!) and building new traditions of our own.

Christmas music was played, the Nutcracker was danced to, stop-motion animated films were watched, and food was shared with family. We took her to see Santa, who she was rather uncertain about until he gave her a little teddy bear, and then he was a great guy. We drove to see the lights and decorated together. It was enjoyed by all of us and I gained a great deal of respect for all that my parents did when I was child to make Christmas something special for my brother and me. 

Usually, when the decorations are packed up and put away on the First of the year, it always felt a little barren to me, but as we shift to this new year, life just feels so full - in the very best way possible, that it couldn't possibly feel barren at all.


PS -

New year - new site!

I've built a shiny new MsCleaver.com and the blog now resides at http://www.mscleaver.com/chronicles/ or you can find the rss feed at http://www.mscleaver.com/chronicles?format=rss or Follow my blog with Bloglovin

So please update your bookmarks, feed readers, etc.!

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My Apron Collection

A few weeks ago, Casey of Elegant Musings asked for fellow bloggers to join her in a blog tour of Cherished Collections and having previously mentioned my "wicked apron collection," and made no secret of my love of aprons, I jumped at the chance to share my, wait for it....... aprons as part of the tour.


I'd like to say my love affair with aprons began in my middle school home economics class, when our final sewing project was a simple bib apron. In true 90's style, my featured sunflowers and was sadly lost in my first post-graduation move after college. But in truth, my apron obsession probably came because I lost that apron and needed a replacement.

I picked up another bib apron from ebay, in blue gingham, which I still use, but it was then I discovered the adorable half apron, of which I have now amassed eleven. I used to have an even dozen, but I passed one featuring a chicken off to a friend.


My first, and still on of my favorites, also came from ebay and features adorable pockets in fishy fabric, which I later recreated the shape of for a Christmas gift, when I lived in Chicago.


Surprisingly enough, only one of my collection is one I made (yellow gingham),  with most of my apron sewing skills having been put to gift-making.


A good chunk of my aprons have come from antique stores, where I grabbed them for around $5-6 dollars (black & white and embroidered pink). At least one has come from a garage sale (grey gingham with chicken scratch). A few I can't recall where they came from.


But my most precious one are the ones that have been given as gifts, including the Christmas bells from a roommate, the green hostess apron from a knitting friend, and the rose hostess apron from a co-worker- perhaps my most precious one, because it was her grandmothers. As was the plain white one I embroidered with Raggedy Ann.


And I use each and every one of them, because as they become dusted with flour and sugar, they become all the more cherished to me.

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Roadtrip: American Textile History Museum

Textiles are Special

On Sunday my knitting group took a field trip out to the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. Tucked in the back of a former mill along with the Lowell Sun Newspaper and some loft condos, this jewelbox of a museum winds through  textile production, fashion, history, and innovation.

Our Intrepid Band

Some exhibits made more sense than others (I guess bicycle frames are a textile...), but it was a fun afternoon and I learned  how baseballs are tested and how linen goes from plant to fabric (Winnowing! Retting! Scutching! Heckling!).

Loom Room

The loom room.

Spools of color

Measuring warps.

Like Jewels

Circular Knitting Machine

A circular knitting machine.

Lacy Underthings of Other Eras

Bloomers and bustles.


We went to the museum specifically to catch the last day of a special exhibit "Aprons: Fifties Functional Fashion." We all wore aprons in honor of the event (and got a surprise $2 off admission!)

Apron Exhibit

The exhibit consitsted of about 50 or so aprons and I was glad to see the majority of pieces in the exhibit were homesewn, and some were quite dashing,



Christmas Kitsch



or busty!

Because sometimes your apron needs boobs.

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Portland Pumpkin Tour

Jack and Ms. Cleaver

Happy Hallowe'en!

Jack and Ms. Cleaver

This is my costume for today - not so much a costume as my actual clothes, but hey. Whatever works right?

Tree-lined street

It was really nice earlier this afternoon, so I'll take you on a pumpkin tour of our neighborhood.

Frightened Jack and Traditional Jack
Growlin' Jack
Keeping Watch
Winkin' Jack
Happy Ghostie
Geometric Jacks
Coniving Jack
Cheery Jack
Here Lies Some Clown I Don't Know
Yellow Leaves
Smilin' Jack
Vintage-styled pumpkin
The Friendly Ghost
Smooshed Jack
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Getting Back in the Swing

The Booth

I certainly didn't intend to take a month-long hiatus, but life, as it is wont to do, often does it own thing. Having now had an entire week of evenings to do whatever I want to do with them I finally felt ready to come back.

Generally, I knit a lot and sew a little in the cooler months and sew a lot and knit less in the warmer ones. Despite tonight's frost warning, we are definitely edging into those warmer months here in Maine and the sewing bug is hitting me hard.

I made  pair of aprons back in March for my new York trip, but the last item of clothing I made was this skirt, back in December, which I don't think I ever showed here. 


Before I could jump into new projects though I made myself tackle my small mending pile first, so Saturday morning I sewed on some buttons and darned one of my handknit socks while making gardening shows on New Hampshire PBS. It was rather relaxing. Later that day Mr. Cleaver and I headed out to the theatre to watch a pair of readings and then went to try the famous fries at duckfat, which are seriously good.

Sewing Buttons

On Sunday, I started (and finished!) a new sewing project, as well as put something together that was nine-months in the waiting. Both of which I'll share later this week, when I've taken some photos.

It's good to be back.

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Lent Weeks 5 & 6, or I am a Human Chain Letter

I didn't realize it until a co-worker mentioned it today, but this is my lest week of Lent. It really flew by me this year. Maybe because I was working in two-week increments due to paychecks, but yeah, I can't believe I have only 3 more days (good thing too as my Pro Flickr account is due to expire come Sunday!)

Without further ado, Week 5:

Shiny New Haircut

A shiny new haircut courtesy of Nina at Bei Capelli, which I am quite fond of, which is a big deal if you're me - at least according to Mr. Cleaver.

Travel Essentials

Some travel essentials from Hannaford's (our local grocery chain). Where did I travel, you may ask? I spent a lovely weekend in New York City visiting friends, which brings us to...

Lent Week 6:

I'm going to preface this by saying my solo weekend in NYC, despite some plane delays and a vigorous rainstorm was incredibly awesome thanks to the lovely friends I stayed with and who guided me around the city. I had a blast - I had so much fun that I didn't take many photos - I think I took something around 42 before I deleted any out of focus ones, etc. The hardest thing I find about photography, aside from feeling a little awkward about whipping out my large SLR is that I feel like I can either be in the moment or I can document the moment - and this weekend I was far more about being in the moment.

AIrport Water

Airport water and some  snacks from home. 

After a long airport delay I finally reached JFK and took a cab to Monica's (a friend from the Chicago days), where I was met with freshly baked cupcakes!

Apron 1

Monica with some tasty cupcakes in the apron I made her.

French Toast

The next morning we went out for breakfast, which for me meant French toast and Fresh Apples juice at Gracie's (?- the diner at the corner of  86th and 1st). 

Monica had to go to a performance for school around 1pm, but before depositing me on a train to my next meet-up she took me to a 107 year old bakery neat her apartment.

B&W Cookies

Tied up with String

I bought a 1/2 lb of black & white cookies for Mr. Cleaver (which I'd never had before and thankfully my husband is the sharing kind) from Glaser's Bake Shop, whose payment policy was right up my alley (see below)

Et tu!

After I left Monica, I met up with Susie, a friend from high school I hadn't seen since we graduated back in 2001. 


She toured me around the East and West villages with stops at Purl Soho and Purl Pactchwork, the latter of which I bought some awesome rooster fabric; downtown yarns where I got the wine-colored malabrigo lace-weight; Lupe's Kitchen for some mexican food (another cash-ony establishment); and Strand, where I eyeballed several books, but decided after a day of carrying all my possessions around New York that I didn't want to add any further weight.

Crafty Purchases

We also stopped at lovely little tea shop for lavender and camomille tea, but unfortunately I have no clue whatsoever what the name of it is, though it does have some awesome wallpaper in the back.


Continuing as a human chain letter, Susie deposited me on the F train around 6:30 and sent me off to Brooklyn, where I met up with college buddies Jenna and Rebekah for a very tasty three-course dinner at the Vinegar Hill House, to celebrate my visit and Rebekah's news about her job at a summer camp in Maine. Our meal lasted for about 2:30 hours, when once again I was placed on a train and delivered to Washington Heights and Brenna, a roomie from my first go-around in Portland.


The next morning we headed out for brunch at Good Enough to Eat, where you knew if must be good because we had to wait in line to get a seat. And good it was, my apple pancakes, though not quite my Katie Cakes, were delicious.

Shop Dog

Because my friends know me well, Brenna and I headed to another yarn store, Knitty City, which lives up to it's claim of being the friendliest yarn shop in NYC.  I picked up some of my beloved Lorna's Laces Shephard Sock in the new Andersonville (my beloved neighborhood) colorway. 

Street Art in Brooklyn


Street Art in Brooklyn.

We then rode over to Williamsburg for some vintage shopping and hipster watching at  Beacon's Closet. Though the  stock is overwhelming I didn't find anything to my fancy. Around this time we both realized we had to go to the bathroom and started the great Brooklyn bathroom hunt.

We stopped in Penny Licks bakery for a cookie and found their bathroom out of order. We kept peeking into shops hoping against hope and meeting no luck until a friendly store employee sent us to a nearby bagel shop. 

When we made it back to Washington Heights it was around 6 and we were both pooped so we picked up some snacks at a convenience store, ordered a pizza, watched chick flicks on HBO on demand and knitted socks.

The next morning we ate bananas and bagel and I took a cab to the airport, reaching a waiting Mr. Cleaver at 2:30pm. 

I didn't visit Time Square, Central Park, or the Empire State Building, but I had the best New York trip I could have imagined.

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Three Panel Apron: A tutorial

As you may recall I made a promise to a friend/coworker that I'd make me an apron, and that my first attempt didn't work out as well as I'd wished.

Three-Panel Apron

Well, week or two ago, I drafted out some more well-thought out plans and came up with this:

And I'm quite pleased with the final results, so I packaged it up and gave it to my coworker - who quite liked it!

I've recently gotten into posting stuff on BurdaStyle (sorta like Ravelry, but for sewers), and someone wanted to know how I made this apron. It's easy enough, so I thought I'd oblige with a simple tutorial. (Note: I only took pictures of the first half of the process so this is largely text-based)

Planning the Apron

You'll need the following:

Two fabrics, with thread to match each, as well as 10" to 20" of trim (or more depending on how you want to fancy it up).

All seams are ½ inch.

Cut list:

Main Color (in my case, the blue)

  • one 21"x19" large front panel
  • one 11"x19" small front panel
  • one 27"x7"  waistband

Contrasting Color (in my case, the yellow)

  • one 11"x13" pocket
  • one 11"x19" small front panel
  • two 23"x4"  ties

Press all pieces

My Iron Needs Cleaning

1. With matching thread, make a ½" hem the top of the pocket.

2. Add any trim to front of pocket.

Adding some Trim

3. Pin pocket to matching apron panel with back of pocket on front of panel and baste pocket on. Press.

4. Prep ties. Hem three sides of each tie, folding over one end to a 45° angle, if preferred - if you do this make sure you make a left and a right facing strap)

5. Baste two lines of stitches inside the seam allowance along the un-hemmed side of each tie. Gather slightly.

Back of Apron

 6. Change to main color thread.

 7. With right sides facing, stitch pocket panel to the right hand side of the large front panel. Press and finish seam.

 8.  With right sides facing, stitch the smaller main color panel to the other side of the pocket panel. Press and finish seam.

Pocket close-up

9. Hem the bottom and sides of apron body. 

10. Baste two lines of stitches along the top of the apron within the seam allowance, this will be used to gather the top of the apron.

11. Take the waistband piece and fold in half. Press.

12.  On the back half and sides of the waistband, press in seam allowance.

13. With right sides facing, place the apron body on the front half of the waist band (if you want a little extra length, you can place it shy of the fold). Adjust gathers so apron fits to waistband.

14. Sew together apron body and waistband front together. Fold waistband over the apron body and press. 

15. Slip stitch the back half of the waistband down. Do not sew the sides closed.

16. Insert tie into the opening in the waistband, with the front of the strap facing the same direction as the front of the apron. Adjust gathering to fit. Stitch opening closed, thus attaching the tie. Repeat for other side.

17. Give your apron a final press and you're done! Give to a friend or enjoy for yourself!

Please note that all patterns and tutorials are for personal use only and should not be distributed or produced for sale without the written consent of the author.

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Busy Bee!

Busy Bee Apron

A few weeks ago somebody asked me if I really liked yellow. 

At the time I was a little confused, "Why do you ask?" I said.

"Every time I see you you're wearing yellow," she said.

At the time I passed it off as a good combo for the green I often consciously wear, but as I though about itI saw she was right  - yellow is creeping more and more into my wardrobe. Nor is it the first time. The first pair of shoes I ever really got excited about was a pair of bright yellow Adidas with blue stripes I had in high school  (the school colors at that!). 

Another case in point this apron:

Busy Bee Closeup

This apron's life started shortly after Christmas when a co-working, hearing I had made an apron for a Christmas gift, asked me to make her one before the summer was out. Being as this co-worker is the #1 best thing about my current job and I was given a long lead time, I happily agreed. Fast-forward several months later and I'm in my favorite fabric store where I discover this fabulous section I'd never looked in before: Ribbon. Spools upon spools of fantastic ribbon!

First, I spotted some lovely cherry ribbon, which I snagged a few yards of, then I saw this bee ribbon and it was all over for me. I practically had to run out of the store to prevent coming home with a car load of ribbon, it was all so wonderful. Of course I knew bees and cherries would make perfect adornments for that apron I had agreed to make and so I picked out the blue and yellow gingham you see above to complete the project. 

I will admit that when I started making this apron I fully intended to give it away, but being as this was my first designed-from-scratch piece, I made allotments for the seams, but not the hemming/edging, so my apron ended up being a little smaller than planned, so this one works as a lesson learned (and a little something pretty for my apron collection.)


Glamour Bee

The good news is that this apron only took me a weekend to complete (including finishing every seam so there are no raw edges - as inspired by Bitter Betty), so I should be able to make a new one fairly soon, though it'll likely be a variation on this one, just to keep things interesting. :)

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Sewing Update or The Seven-Year Itchy Wool Dress Part II

So I'm still playing post-Christmas catch-up here, but if I keep my nose to the grindstone, I figure I might get all caught up by the end of January. 

That said, here is the sewing-centric companion to last week's knitting update.

Project #1: Christmas Apron

I wasn't one of the many bloggers who made the handmade pledge because I already knew what I wanted to get my husband, and while part of it was handmade by me (record bowls) and part of it handmade by someone else (Wilco silkscreen), the rest was not and it wasn't really an idea I wanted to give up. 

Mr. Cleaver's Presents

Not entirely handmade, but certainly appreciated by the recipient. 

That said, I did do some additional hand-made gifting, namely the apron below (on left). The pattern was based on a vintage apron I had (on the right). This was pattern-making at its, uh, well it involved some paper bags, a lot of folding and some high-class technical eye-balling and guesswork. 

Apron Buddies 

Apron buddies! 

I didn't have enough material or know-how to make bias tape for the edging, so instead I did some decorative zig-zagging. All in all,  I think it turned out fairly well.  

Apron detail

Lord love the zig-zag stitch. 

And what did I get? In an awesome "Gift-of-the Magi"-but-in-a-totally-better-way turn of events, Kasey got me The Apron Book!

Apron book

That is 100% Pure Excitement there. 

 Project #2: Plaid Wool Dress

 It took seven years to get the dress made, so it's no surprise that it's taken me so long to post about the completion of this project.

I finished the dress about a week and half before Christmas and have worn it several times since then, including for my Breakfast at Tiffany's book club meeting, but every time I wore it I forgot to take a picture. Hopefully I'll remember next time and can post a photo of the dress actually on me, but for now, I leave you with this:

Completed Plaid Dress

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