News from the Department of Random

So. Something you may or may not know about me is that I like to bike.  A lot.  And between my husband and myself, our stable of bicycles currently  has 7 trusty steeds in it (and yes, they ALL get ridden regularly!).  We also just moved to a new place that is literally a two-minute walk from the nearest light rail station/bus hub, and a 30 minute walk from the next closest light rail station/bus hub.

It was kinda on purpose.  You see, the assumption that I need a car is one that I’m not entirely convinced I believe.  Sure, it makes late night Target runs darn convenient, and I do love me a good road trip to the fabric warehouse on the far side of the cities, but I don’t necessarily need to make those kinds of trips on a regular basis.  And the kinds of trips I DO need to make on a regular basis can easily be accomplished via transit or bike.  (Yes, even in crappy weather!)  At least that’s my theory.

So when our ’01 Jetta crapped its little car pants earlier this month (and by that I mean, let’s just say that in the last 60 days, that car has had four new tires, a new starter motor, $200 worth of re-wiring, and a blown clutch and/or transmission that I refused to shell out yet another $1,500 to fix), I’d had it.  We pushed the moneypit on wheels home from the shop (well, we had some awesome friends help, too!).  And then John and I had the “do we really need a car anymore?” conversation.  And while we agreed it is a convenient thing to have (when it’s not broken), we couldn’t really come up with any way that life would be absolutely awful if we didn’t have it.

We mulled it over for a few days, and came up with a cost-benefit comparison worksheet with some shocking numbers…the Jetta is costing us an average of $7,000 a year to run and maintain (not counting the $1,500 repair it currently “needs”).  A new car (assuming a $200 monthly car payment) would be around $6,000 annually, if it were mechanically perfect.  Unlimited transit passes plus a couple weekend car rentals and an HourCar membership would cost us $3,000 for a year.  And that’s assuming that we take transit everywhere we go, and use HourCar a couple times a month, which probably isn’t an accurate assumption, since we enjoy biking and ride year round as it is.  So we decided to test the assumption that we need a car.

For pretty much as long as we’ve been together, we have been a single-car family.  My co-workers think we’re kind of looney, but I say the logical next stop from single-car-ownership is no-car-ownership!  Maybe taking transit or biking for all your errands doesn’t sound super glamorous, and truth be told, I haven’t had to bike to Target in stupid hot weather or the cold rain yet, so my tune may change come adverse weather.  But we’ve discovered (through a lot of Google Maps directions searches–love that app!) that we live within 20 minutes (biking distance OR transit!) of several grocery stores (including the always awesome Seward co-op!), our CSA delivery drop, Target, hardware/home improvement stores, etc.  And our neighborhood has tons of great restaurants and shops, libraries (yes, plural!!), and post offices, so our basic needs are pretty well covered.

It turns out that we actually have several transit options for getting to work, too.  That surprised me a bit, to be honest.  The main difference between the options is the length of the trip (and Murphy’s law would have it that the shortest trips are also the earliest trips, but we still have several convenient possibilities!).  And we also have lots of transit options for getting around the cities proper.  The suburbs are a bit of a different story, as buses out there tend to run on the hour, and several routes don’t even run on the weekends.  So a visit to my in-laws takes an extra bit of planning, but I think it’s still doable pretty easily.

I’m sure we’ll have an adjustment period, but our plan (so far!) is to try the car-free method through at least one solid month of winter commuting and see how we like it.  That gives us the next 4-5 months to decide whether we need  a car, and gives us 4-5 months blissfully free of sudden car repair costs!  I also suspect it will be rather good for our health to be walking and/or pedaling around all summer!  In any case, I’ll probably throw the odd update on here for funsies–my current conundrum is how to secure the sewing machine to my bike rack so I can still make it to social sewing events–any ideas? 🙂

Cold Shoulder Alteration

I bought a super cute dress to wear to a good friend’s wedding…

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…And it was super cute when it arrived, and fit like a dream…except, in that dream, my torso is apparently 2 inches taller than in real life.  Wah wah.  Side effects of this reality include seeing the top 1/2 inch of my bra, and looking generally quite frumpy from the waist up.  Not cool.

But it was cute, and I decided I would just alter the dress (since it arrived about a week before said wedding, I had *some* time…).  I started pinning in the side seams of the bodice, but that didn’t fix the bra-showing problem.  I tried on every bra I own, and all of them peeped out above the neckline–boooooo.

So I unpinned everything and debated 1) bra-less or 2) different dress.  If only the neckline were higher!  And then it hit me!  Pin up the shoulders and make the neckline higher!  I press-ganged John into helping me pin up the shoulders and poof!  It suddenly fit!  Turns out the waist was a bit low, too, come to think of it.  But!  Alas, the necklines do not match front to back…the straps in the back are much wider just a little ways from the shoulder seams:

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So pinning up an equal amount front and back did not look so hot.  For serious.  I turned to the trusty Google and looked at several tutorials (of varying degrees of quality…some folks may not mind seeing the former straps haphazardly hand-stitched under the new seam, but um…I’m not one of those people).  There are lots of good tutorials out there, if your front and back strap are the exact same width.  Or if you speak Chinese.  There are lots of tutorials where the pictures looked promising, but they were talking a million miles a minute in Chinese.

I finally landed on this awesome tutorial (from a local lady, no less!) that explained how to take the shoulder seam apart, That got me thinking.  If I took the seam apart, then took up the excess and sewed the seam back together, I could do a little whiz-bang reshaping on the neckline and be done.  (My deep-set fear of messing with armsyces had me a little afraid to reshape anything on the arm-seam side of the shoulder…plus, I didn’t want to lose the nice vertical line you get in a sleeveless dress like this…best not to poke sleeping mountain lions).  This was my basic plan….

UntitledTaking the seam apart didn’t take long…I ripped out (carefully!) about 3 inches on each edge from the shoulder seam back.  Then I pinned my new seam together on the fashion fabric (thus removing about 3 inches total) and sewed it together (right sides facing) using my sewing machine for a nice straight seam.

Then I tucked under the lining until it fit the new seam.  Hand-sewing now, I used the mattress stitch to attach the lining back to the side of the arm hole, first, since I wanted that to be super invisible.  Then I tackled the neckline side.  To fix the different widths that the straps now were, I tucked the back neckline in on itself ever so slightly to make the edges meet up, then hand-sewed the lining down on the neckline side, too!

Once the sides of the lining were firmly attached, I hand-stitched the folded edges of the lining together and poof! It looked like you’d never taken the shoulder apart at all!  I top-stitched (in black thread, b/c I didn’t have any navy–oops!) where I’d taken out the top-stitching when I pulled everything apart and it looks awesome!

The second side was super easy compared to the first (the mental gymnastics were already done, so that helped, I’m sure!).  And now I have an awesome dress that fits super well!  The only thing I didn’t think of…raising the shoulders an inch and a half ALSO raises the hemline and inch and a half!  So instead of being knee-length, the dress is now just above.  But it’s still cute (and totally appropriate for most occasions, though I might not wear it to a super formal affair!).

Overall I’m pretty happy with the alteration.  It sounded complicated, but I think if I had more time (i.e. not starting the alterations two days before the wedding!), I’d have been less stressed about it!