Travel Recommendations from a Road Warrior

This summer job has made me a road warrior.   I spend four days each week on the road.   Every Thursday night I appear at home with dirty laundry and Monday by 6, I am heading out for another week of work.   Organization is everything in this kind of lifestyle to make sure you take everything you need  when you leave home for work.  Many of the places I visit don’t have much more than a couple of restaurants/bars, a gas station and a grocery store.   No place to buy socks if you forget to pack them.

The surprising but indispensable travel item for me this summer has been my collection of eBags packing cubes.  As a sewer I seriously thought about trying to personally engineer a collection, but in the end I bought mine.    I love them.   My bag has a certain number and size of cubes.   On Sunday, I pull them out and pack each of them and when they are all back in my luggage it means I am ready to go.   Some of my cubes have a spare pair of socks or underwear in them to remind me of what goes in each.  For this job each cube holds one of the five pieces of clothing I put on each day, but I used to be a business suit traveler and think that each cube could just as easily carry your daily outfit.   There is nothing worse than the last day of a professional business trip and realizing you wore the wrong blouse with the wrong suit and the one left does not match the suit you intend to wear tomorrow.   Ranger Sir and I will sometimes travel with just one bag if we go for a night or two.   It is not usually a pleasant experience.   I am thinking a second set of cubes in his own color may solve that problem.   Shop around for your set because the amount the retailers are asking you to pay varies widely.

Everyone has their favorite bag for toiletries based on what they want and need.  Most of us take some supplies from home.   My favorite choice for this is the GoToob products.   First reason for recommending this product is that it is easy to fill.   It actually has an opening you can put shampoo in without it traveling all down the sides.   Second is they stand behind the product no questions.   I broke a top, emailed them and I got a new top.   It is a one time purchase.   Lastly if you travel via airlines it was designed with that in mind.   The only negative is it is designed with words like soap, shampoo, lotion, conditioner on the neck.   Without my glasses in the shower I can read that stuff, so I had to shop around to get assorted colors to work for me.    In spite of that I really do like these the best of all the travel containers I have ever owned.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

The fabric I used in this pillowcase always makes me smile because it is so crazy unexpected.

My last recommendation is a pillow case from home.   I have made a collection of bright don’t forget me pillow cases, but anything will do.    Pillow cases from home can be used to cover and double up hotel pillows to simulate your personal pillow.   Pillowcases from home can also be used to keep your face and skin away from the harsh hotel laundry soaps.   It also puts another barrier between you and the pillow that hundreds of others have slept on.   Lastly this is what I put all my dirty clothes in to take them home.   It is like having a personal laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes from soiling your luggage and anything you may have clean left in your bag for your next stop in your travels.

What To Do With Hotel Shampoo-Soap-Conditioner-Lotion

What do you do with hotel toiletries?

What do you do with hotel toiletries?

What do you do with those little mini one use size bottles and bars of soap you get in hotel rooms? Most folks who travel regularly already have a bag with their personal toiletries.   We bring from home our preferred personal care products for an assortment of reasons.   You like to use the same face cleanser you use at home.   You are trying to get the most mileage from your last salon visit and use a special shampoo and conditioner.   You may have sensitivities to ingredients or scents.   No matter what the reason those little bottles either go unused or worse yet brought home and still never used.   There is an alternative.   Bring them home and turn them in to a local shelter.   You can collect all those little odds and ends in a box in your home and turn them in a couple times a year to a shelter.   That is what I used to do when I lived in Minneapolis years ago and traveled lots.

This job has put me back on the road tons and once again. I found myself collecting hotel toiletries. I got to thinking about the local woman’s shelter, and how I imagined many of them left with little and what extra they did take was likely for someone else, their kids. I know that organizations that help folks in these circumstances are prepared to help and work with people who leave with just the clothes on their back.   They have donations and supplies that they give out to the folks they help, and the folks they are helping are probably keeping things in garbage and zip lock bags. It inspired me to take a different approach to my travel goodies this year.   Rather than just turn them in,   I wanted to put together not only a travel kit, but a bag that might be used to keep things together for them.   I know how much I appreciated my travel bag that keeps all my personal care products together.

First I had to make or buy the bags for this use.   I had some odds and ends of fabric from quilts I had made, zippers from projects planned never finished and some quality vinyl that I had no idea how it ended in my stash.   I worked up a design and made personal toiletry bags.   Each was unique, some bright and some with more subdued natural colors.   All of them were designed to zip tight for storage.   One side had the vinyl so that you could see all that was in the bags.   It was a little bit of a trial, but I loved making them and seeing all the wonderful fabrics that were sitting around collecting dust take on a new life.

Once I had finished the bags, RangerSir and I loaded them up with the hotel goodies I had brought home this summer. It was then we then we realized that we had several collections of dental visit “prizes.”   There were not enough dental kits to do all the bags, but we added them to as many bags as possible.   This was the moment we realized it was in our power to make these more than a bag with hotel freebies in them. We headed to the local K-Mart to shop.   We got darn lucky in that they had some full-sized toothpaste for $1 each.   It was more than the travel size and less expensive. We had gotten nice things for less than we had planned to spend.   We were now inspired and on a roll.   We stocked up on single package toothbrushes. We found a dental floss on sale.   We found multi-pack combs and bought a couple sets so we could tuck combs in each of the bags.  RangerSir found travel pack Kleenex that I had not thought to include.   Finally we added razors to each one.

My decked out travel bags for the women's shelter

My decked out travel bags for the women’s shelter

These bags will be going to a woman’s shelter here in the local county.   I was thinking of lots of other things that could be added to my bags, but we know not if the recipient will be young or old, alone or in the company of family members.   So I stopped and hope that this is enough to get a person started and know somewhere out there someone is thinking of them and wishing them the best in what is likely a very bad situation.

Yes I Own a Sewing Machine

It seems when people know you have a sewing machine they think that you want to do their mending, alterations and hemming.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked to repair or rework someone’s clothing. I almost always tell folks no I can’t do their little job.

I have been sewing in some form for as long as I can remember. I am not exactly sure when I started, but I know by the time I had my first home ec class in junior high school that the first project, an apron made out of a quarter-inch checked fabric, was too simple for my skill set.   There were girls who must have tore their seams out ten times.   The whole concept was new to them. I was done several classes before the other girls in my class. So I was expected to not only sew an apron but embellish it with embroidery.   Over the years I have made clothing, quilts, curtains, slipcovers and about everything in between. I like to sew. I have always had a place to sew and a nice machine.  That being said I hate rework…mending…alterations…hemming.

I have been short with a non-standard body all my life.    When it comes to store-bought clothing nothing fits off the rack.   When I worked a corporate job, all my clothing went directly from the department store to the lady who had a shop that did alterations.   She hemmed the sleeves of my jackets, linings and all. She not only hemmed my pants and skirts, but reworked the waist band because my hour glass shape was not what standard clothing manufactures expected, my bottom was way too big for my waist.  This woman was priceless to me and though I had a sewing machine, she did what I could not.   My tailor’s  skill was an art; she made my clothes fit properly and they did not look re-made.   I valued her more than I did my hair stylist.   There were many more stylist to pick from than tailors. I don’t have many tailor clothes any more, but when I put them on I do miss that perfect fit that she gave me.

Now I am getting ready for my new job that puts me out in the field.   I will be wearing cotton jeans every day. I have been scouring thrift stores for new jeans (I don’t want low rise or big legs for work).    I have already hemmed four pair and this morning I just cut off excess fabric on four more pair that I will hem today.   I still don’t like hemming but I am managing to get through the process.   I am not however adjusting my waist bands, I just plan to cinch that belt a little tighter.

It all has made me reflect a little about that tailor with her little shop back in Minnesota.   I had not thought about her in a long time.   She was part of a dieing occupation, like so many others like shoe repair, small engine repair and others.   It makes me sad when I think about it.   I bet there are lots of folks who wish they could make a living at those things, but in our changing society it just doesn’t seem possible any more.

A Gift of Love done

amber-doneI have finished the baby quilt I made.    I had lots of fun doing it, and sharing the progress with all of you.    It was a project of love.   I have now given it away to be used by a little baby girl  who will be here soon in the loving arms of her father, mother and big brother.

It was lots of fun to get back in quilting.   Now I am wondering if I can find more time to sew and quilt.   I have plenty of fabric to do so.

Time to Get on the Stick and Quilt

quiltI have made what seems to me  like zillions of baby quilts over the years.    All my contemporaries and even their children are  done with little ones.      I have not made  a baby quilt for years.

A business associate found out this spring that she was unexpectedly expecting another second child.    I was by accident one of the first people she told via text, picking the wrong Diana in her contacts to break the news too.   I knew at that time I was going to be making another baby quilt.   This little one was a blessing this family had wanted and thought was not going to happen.

This baby quilt  has sat on the back burner for months and now is the time to get on the stick and get it done.   I have found my favorite baby quilt pattern with notes written all over it, pulled out my stand-by baby quilt fabrics, got my ruler and cutter ready, and oiled my sewing machine.   Daylight is burning and I have to put the pedal to the metal.

Using Forgotten Talents – Designing a Window Dressing

I have been working on designing new window dressings for our living room.   I am not sure why we have lived here for nearly 13 years and not had curtains yet.    We let the blinds down at sunset and raise them as the sun comes up in the morning.   Softening the look of naked windows has never been a high priority.   It makes it easier to pull this kind of stunt this when you have no neighbors.   Only if you have strong field glasses and are determined pervert are you going to know what goes on in our house.

I had lots of helpers as I thought about how to best approach this project.

I had lots of helpers as I thought about how to best approach this project.

Recently our window coverings failed and the manufacturer no longer makes that design.    It meant that we were going to get completely new window covering in the living room.   I chose Roman shades this time.   Some how that made it seem like it was time to make some window dressings for these new shades.

I knew what I wanted, but also knew that nothing ready made would really work for windows the size ours are.   We have two different sized, over-sized windows in our living room.     I have designed curtains from scratch before and learned to let some one else design the curves when possible.   I purchased two  patterns at the local Joann’s each with some of the elements I wanted.    One had jabot and one had swags.   I wanted some pleats but the pleats in neither  patterns were  going to work so I was going to have to do the math to get that right. The pattern was designed for a window 36 inches wide, ours was 81 inches.     Adjustments were in order, serious adjustments.

I then got my 40% off coupon and headed to Joann’s again, this time for a bolt of true-grid.   For those of you unfamiliar with tru-grid, it is a lightweight poly/pellon type  fabric with one inch grid all over it.   I always use it when making window coverings or other home dec items.   It has enough body to allow me try it out like an old-fashion muslin pattern.   I like it better than muslin  because the grid allows me to keep things square and in alignment.   It also is transparent enough that I can fold a pattern for a window in half and make sure that the right and left  sides are symmetrical.   I have taped things together when I need to slip a additional piece in when my math has been wrong. .   I have stapled pleats before  to try out a look and then pulled them out to cut the actual fabric when I knew I had it right.

Pieces from two different patterns, tru-grid, pattern weights and a ruler.

Pieces from two different patterns, tru-grid, pattern weights and a ruler.

The first window pattern is underway.   I added three swags, with the middle one center in the large window.   I have tested the symmetry and have somehow gotten my jabots out of sorts.   That needs to be resolved before I move on.      I have left room for the pleats but haven’t yet decided if I am going to do them as innies or outies.   The stapler will let me get a better feel for that.

The second smaller  window is going to just be two swags with a jabot on each end.   I am hoping that I can just pull out the middle swag and make a few adjustments in the pleats and let ‘er roll.

I share this with you not because you likely care about my windows, but to inspire you not be afraid to try your own creative window coverings.   I don’t recommend that your first project be the living room, but if you can use a sewing machine you can likely make a window dressing.   Maybe a guest room, or your home office would make a great first project.    There are lots of patterns out there.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match.   Tru-grid doesn’t have to be bought  by the bolt, but it makes that trial window covering a great way to figure out really how much of that window fabric you need and if your idea is going to work out as you see it.  Fabric is expensive and it saves lots of heartache.   Be inspired.  Be creative