Friday, December 30, 2016

Daily Action: Community Bond Funds

Friends, in November I was made aware of a great Chicago organization: Chicago Community Bond Fund. On their website, they outline the unjustness of bonds, specifically as it relates to Cook County Jail:

While there are signs that bail and bond policies around the country are beginning to change (as shown in Washington, DC in the John Oliver segment above), there is still much to be done at this moment to help individuals who are cannot afford their bond today.

If you're interested in donating to a bond fund charity, please see the list below from Bail Bond Network. They've also created a great infographic that outlines exactly how your donation will be put to use.

Massachusetts Bail Fund2161 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Brooklyn Community Bail Fund195 Montague Street, 14th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Just City MemphisMemphis, TN
Phone: (901)206-2226

 Northwest Community Bail Fund1245 10th Avenue East
Seattle, WA 98102
Phone: (206)323-0300

Chicago Community Bond FundPO Box 479015
Chicago, IL 60647
Phone: 1-844-363-2663

 The Bronx Freedom Fund360 East 161st Street
Bronx, NY 10451

Connecticut Bail FundNew Haven, CT
Phone: (203)340-1116

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Daily Action: Countable/Speaking Out Against Mandatory Sentences

Friends, I love the app Countable. Today, I'm going to show you how you can use the app to make your voice heard to your representatives, especially in regards to a bill requiring mandatory sentences that is making it's way through Congress right now. (You can also use the desktop version as well for the following steps.)

 When you first download the app, after inserting your preferences for what topics/bills you would like to see come up in your feed, you'll have access to scroll through bills that are currently pending in Congress. 

The bill we are going to be focusing on today is Senate Bill 1762, which is attempting to make into law a five year mandatory prison sentence for anyone who re-enters the U.S. illegally.

Once you select the bill, it will open to a page where you can view all the details, as well as a summary of bill listed on the top of the page.

As you scroll down, you'll see arguments for Yea, Nay, and further details.

In the details section, you can see who is the sponsor of this bill, what the bill number is. and a cost breakdown of the legislation.

You'll also be able to read on the impact of the bill, as well as a further description of the bill.

For Senate Bill 1762, the description offers us a chance to see what the mandatory sentences would entail.

A explanation for why the bill came to be is often included:

There are also further links to news stories regarding the bill, and it's official title.

Finally, you can see where the bill is at in Congress. 

After reading all the details, if you'd like to express your opinion, you can select the Yea or Nay options at the top of the screen. I selected Nay, and the next screen prompted me to add my opinion. This part is optional, as your response will be sent to your representatives with or without your adding an opinion. You can also send a video message if you prefer.

Not sure who your reps are? Once you've logged into the app, you'll need to input some of your personal details (like your address if you live in an area with lots of districts), or just a general area. Your representatives will then appear under the Account tab.

If I click on Dick Durbin, the below screen pops up with his photo, phone number, as well as his Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and official website. It also shows me exactly how he's voted on any previous issues, and where those bills are currently at in the process.

If you're curious to see if I ever actually hear back from my reps regarding issues, I do, and on a regular basis, too! Below is an email that Sen. Durbin sent to me after I expressed displeasure in the nominee for Secretary of Education:

 Friends, I highly encourage you to download this app, or just use the desktop version if you prefer. Either way, if you are as horrified as I am regarding the policy of mandatory sentencing, I ask that you please contact your representatives to express your displeasure in this bill, and encourage them to vote against it when the time comes. If you're curious as to the damage that mandatory sentences do to communities and the US as a whole, I recommend checking out the documentary 13TH, directed by Ava DuVernay. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Currently Watching: Ava DuVernay's 13TH

The 13th constitutional amendment was ratified in 1865 and stated: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

I would venture to say that this film is essential viewing for every person living in the United States of America, especially those of us who are white (we have A LOT to learn in order to be effective allies in our communities). Currently, you can only watch it on Netflix, though several clips can be found on YouTube. 

The next several posts will focus on issues raised by this documentary: mandatory sentencing, ALEC, and what companies are still profiting from prison labor, as well as actions we can take to push back against mass incarceration, discriminatory policies, and racial injustice in our communities.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Daily Action: Sign Up For Bystander Intervention Training

Friends, if you're interested in bystander intervention training, I've just signed up through Hollaback! They are hosting online webinars that directly address how to avoid being a passive bystander when you are witnessing harassment. I've included a graphic from the training page below, and here is the link if you would like to sign up for a webinar ($5 minimum donation requested):

Street Harassment: A Bystander's Guide Infographic

Monday, December 26, 2016

Daily Action: Using for Good

Friends, I confess: I became an Amazon Prime member last year, and I use it constantly. It's especially great when I run out of crafting materials, and I would like something to be sent to me as soon as possible. I'll admit, I'm not a patient person, but I want to make sure that some of the money I am spending is going to a good cause. 

When I log onto Amazon, I make sure that I am using the website Amazon Smile takes part of your purchase (on Amazon Smile eligible items) and donates it to an organization of your choice. Currently, my donations go to Planned Parenthood of Illinois, and Amazon has a list of hundreds of charities and organizations that you can select from. If you're interested in making donations through Amazon, I recommend reading through all the information here: how to use Amazon Smile

Amazon has also recently launched an effort with Goodwill that makes use of your empty Amazon shipping boxes. Currently, I have three sitting in my sewing area. This new program asks that once you empty your boxes of the shipped merchandise, you fill it with items from your home that you no longer want/need, print off a free shipping label, and USPS or UPS will take it to the nearest Goodwill facility. My first box contains some sewing and crafting supplies that are no longer needed: extra crochet hooks (I have 12 extra hooks, in all various sizes) and patterns that I thought I liked at the time, but upon further reflection, nope. It also includes that glass juicing dish that I bought two years ago and has moved with me twice but I've never used. If you're looking to clean out some space in your life before the new year begins, here are details on how to get the free shipping label: Give Your Amazon Box New Life.

Finally, my relatives gave both my partner and I Amazon gift cards for Christmas. After assessing what we could possibly buy on Amazon, both of us realized we really didn't want anything at all. I feel pretty satisfied, as does he, with the amount of possessions in our home. Our cabinets have food, we have all the socks we need, and I'd just restocked all the cleaning supplies before the Holidaze party. We decided we would rather spend those gift cards on local organizations who have Wish Lists set up on the site. An easy way to find a local organization's wish list is to either check their main website, or look them up by name in the wish list directory. You can also type in your city, and search that way. We are hoping to donate to Habitat for Humanity - Chicago, Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children's, and Chicago Books to Women in Prison. On their pages, I selected the link "Ask Your Friend to Update This List.". Some of the items were added a few years ago, and this is a good way to let the organization know that I want to help by donating exactly what they currently need. 

Friends, I hope you found this post helpful. If you have any further suggestions for how to use Amazon for good, I'm all ears! Let me know in the comments :)

Much love to all of you, and I wish you all Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 23, 2016

Crafting for Good: Holidaze Party (Act III)

Friends, my favorite time of year is the holidays, when I host my now annual Holidaze party. It gives me such tremendous joy to have people I love dearly filling my home with laughter. I get so excited about this party that I usually send out the invites for this December event in July/August. This year, in the invite, I asked friends to answer a poll about what size shoe they typically wear. For this party, I like to have a handmade gift to give each person when they arrive, and this year, I wanted it to be slippers. My original intention was to knit all the pairs of slippers, one for each person who answered the poll and RSVP'd, but I ended up being sick for about a month, so the plan changed. I ended up having a mixture of sewn and knit slippers, one for each person, 51 in total.

The plan also changed a bit after the 2016 election. In the past two years, I've given away the Holidaze gifts to partygoers without asking for anything in return (except hugs. I love hugs). This year, I asked my fabulous friends to please donate to a local LGBTQ center in the city and show me proof of their donation in order to receive a pair of slippers. They did not let me down: we ended up raising $565 for the center!


Slippers in action!

One of the most exciting things about the party (besides raising lots of money for a great cause and knowing my friends would have warm feet this winter) was seeing the fabulous Vicki again! Here she is in all her chicken dress glory, with Liz, Michelle, and I. Sewing people are some of the best people I know :) 

I didn't get many photos at the party (because hostessing), but I wanted to share some photos of this amazing vintage dress I've had in my possession for years and finally decided to wear. It spins beautifully.

I love all the colorful stripes!

 Once the party had ended and all the guests had gone home, I was left with quite a few pairs of slippers. Not everyone came, and I had overmade in case some slippers fit better than others or more people showed up than I planned, so I managed to fill an entire bag with the leftovers.

I took the leftovers to a local community charity, which delivers food, clothing, and counseling services to my local area. These slippers will be part of their free clothing closet. I'm so excited to think of a child wearing these Feet Eater slippers :) 

Friends, have you ever raised money for charities with things you've made? Let me know in the comments - I would love to hear what you did!



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Prepping for 2017

Friends, 2016 was one of the most difficult years I've ever experienced. There were some incredibly crushing defeats, heartbreaks, and moments of complete despair. There were days when I thought about blogging about crafting, but knew I couldn't do it without mentioning other things that are happening in our world and my personal life, and so I didn't say anything at all. 

To put it mildly, the 2016 election completely changed my worldview (and many of my relationships). I'm no longer content to sit in silence, and instead, find myself doing anything and everything I can to make positive changes in the world around me. This is my true passion now. Those who are friends with me on Facebook may have noticed a lack of posts about sewing or knitting, and I am sorry for that. This space will also be changing. While I will still talk about crafting, it will mostly be in relation to activism. The majority of my posts will be in regards to the actions I am taking on a daily basis to endorse positive change in my communities, and if you'd like to join in and take action with me, or suggest actions that you think I could take, that would be greatly appreciated.

I've always valued and loved the sewing and knitting communities I've found here on the interwebs. If you decide that these further posts aren't your cup of tea, I want you to know that I appreciate you and your opinions and want the best for you in the future. 

Thank you for reading, and be excellent to each other.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Refocusing and Pledging

Friends, I cannot believe it's already April! Where have the last four months gone?! I've been sewing and knitting up a storm, but haven't had much motivation to post my items. With a third of the year gone, I'm refocusing my efforts. I signed up for the fabulous Vintage Pledge, but did not mention it here (which makes it more official, right?).

So I, Meg the Grand, will be making ten vintage garments, and will make at least one of those garments an exercise in redrafting a pattern to fit my measurements,

Also, as it's April, that means Me Made May is right around the I, Meg the Grand, pledge to wear one me made garment a day for the entire month of May. 

While I don't anticipate much blogging happening during the next several months due to some personal things happening in the background, I will be posting my makes on Instagram. I hope to see your lovely makes over there as well!

Much love,

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Apple Cider Nettie

*note: you can also see this post over on the Monthly Stitch!*
Hello, Friends! When I saw this month's challenge of Cheers for New Years! drink themed projects, I knew it was time for me to stop standing on the sidelines and join the Monthly Stitch once and for all. This challenge was especially appealing, because it pushed me to make a pattern I purchased almost as soon as it was released: Closet Case Files Nettie Bodysuit. After seeing multiple versions on the interwebs, I became convinced that it would be a perfect item in my wardrobe for the Chicago winters. After all, there is nothing worse than your shirt coming untucked and a draft of arctic wind blasting across your bare skin! 
Several years ago, I purchased some apple printed thermal knit, with the goal of eventually making a bodysuit with it. Once this pattern was released, I knew it was a perfect match! 

This bodysuit took two days to put together - not because it was difficult, but because I kept getting distracted by other things that needed to be done at home. The pieces went together easily, though there are some things I would change for next time:
  • My fabric doesn't have quite the stretch that the pattern calls for, which I should have taken into consideration when cutting out the neck and leg bindings. I ended up stretching those pieces to their absolute max to get a good fit. It worked out, but I would rather not fight so hard next time!
  • I used a straight stitch to put the pieces together, and zig-zagged in the seam allowance. This seemed to work out fine, and any waviness added to the seams by the zig-zagging was easily remedied with some ironing.
  • I cut a twelve for the bust and waist, and fourteen for the hips. I would definitely go up to the 16 for the snap area, just to give myself some extra length to snap the closures back together.
I would also like it if there wasn't a vertical line from the apex of my bust towards my waist (as in the photo above), though I imagine a fabric with some spandex and a little more give in it might resolve that issue. 

Now that we are in the thick of winter, I can definitely see myself making many more of these, and someday even making a daring backless one (when the weather gets warmer, of course)!
What are you sewing to keep warm this winter? Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Stashbusting Quilt

Dear Friends! Thank you so much for your comments on my last post. After reading some of your suggestions, I donated some fabric and patterns, as well as reassessed my organization in the room. I also decided to buckle down and tackle one project that was on my sewing to-do list, and happened to be taking up the most room in my sewing area.

The bag at the top of this photo, filled with blue fabric, is GONE! (The other piles are still there, unfortunately.) I decided to finally tackle a scrap quilt, and since I had so many blue pieces, I thought making an all blue scrap quilt would be really amazing. 

I bought Sunday Morning Quilts about a year ago, and had yet to tackle anything from it, but the quilt on the front cover stayed in the front of my mind. 

It's called Candy Coated, and for a beginner quilter (like myself), it seemed relatively simple. I will say that I initially made some pretty huge errors in cutting out my strips, as I couldn't find a recommended width for strips. I quickly learned that cutting out the recommended number of strips at 1" (when you would need 1/2" of that for seam allowance) would mean cutting out more strips at wider widths as you went along. 

In my mind, the skinnier strips make a nice visual break between the thicker strips, but oh man, getting the full length pieces to the required width required quite a bit of extra cutting (thus using up the whole of the scrap bag).

Once all the strips were cut out, then came the fun part of putting everything together. I made smaller sections of strips, squared those, and then stitched into the longer strip. I found the squaring process very satisfying!

This quilt top is full of fabrics that I have been carrying for YEARS. The polka dot fabric was a dress for Kitty, the royal blue surfer fabric has been living in my Mom's stash since my childhood, the yellow and green plaid was left over from a pair of shorts I made myself five years ago, the navy Hawaiian fabric was a dress Mama Grand made me in high school, the white with navy medallions was from my friend Claire's stash, the light blue floral is from a Jasmine blouse I made, the navy elephant fabric is from my most recent Oakridge blouse, Doctor Who fabric from my C2E2 dress last year, the teal Hawaiian print was a pillow from the 90's ... the list goes on and on.

There wasn't much rhyme or reason to putting the strips together, but I made sure not to have too many of the same fabrics too close together. Some of the fabrics did end up matching in different rows, but I actually enjoy those little coincidences!

I found myself staying up late at night to work on the quilt top. I was so excited to see how it was going to turn out, I just wanted to keep on working on it. This project fully revived my lagging sewing mojo and got me thinking about future sewing projects - something that hadn't been happening much lately.

For the backing, I'll be using these amazing twin sized flannel sheets that I stole from my parents' house AGES ago. I had thought to make them into Carolyn pajamas, but my apartment is too warm right now for anything more than a tank top and shorts. Also, I think using these sheets as part of a quilt that already has so many memories is more fitting :)

Once assembly began, I was ecstatic. The colors and patterns looked so so good together! I confess, I didn't yet have all the strips put together before I started assembling, but I was eager to get started on the next step.

Because the smaller sections of strips still needed to be finished, I made the two larger sections with the finished strips (which actually made ironing the whole thing A LOT easier).

The smallest section was used to stitch the two larger pieces together, and once I was finished ironing...


I'm totally in love with it, and I am so excited it's done! The final measurements of the quilt will be 64" by 88", so not large enough for a queen, but definitely for a twin. This will be a blanket for the couch, and will be large enough for two people to snuggle quite comfortably. The next steps, batting and backing, are relatively new to me. I have the backing (the flannel sheet), and I actually have the batting as well! It was part of my grandmother's stash that was given to me, and if I'm able to find enough binding in my supplies, this will be a quilt made completely from my stash! Perfect for my goal of getting out of debt and stash busting :)

Friends, have you ever made a scrap quilt? I'd love to see your versions, if you don't mind posting a link in the comments! 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Resolutions: The 2016 Edition

Friends, every year I make New Year's Resolutions, and sometimes they stick (yay for flossing more often!) and sometimes they don't (sew/knit for 30 minutes each day - boo). But this year, I am determined. My 2016 Resolution (and there is only one) is to get out of debt. I don't have a tremendous amount of debt, but enough that I find it annoying and would love to use the money for student loans to go traveling instead...or buy yarn/fabric without having that nagging, guilty feeling in my stomach. It's time.

This lovely print can be found here
So, in preparation for that, I've started keeping a finance journal. I bought this notebook when I was in London in 2005 (!!!) and have never wanted to use it (lest I mar the loveliness of it) - until now. I have something pretty to write my goals in, and it makes the whole situation less painful. I have a financial goal every single day, because every article about resolutions I've read says to make your resolution specific, and break it down into manageable pieces. So far, it's working. I've noticed a significant difference in my attitude and accounts already.

Aligning with my goal of getting out of debt is my goal of using up my fabric and yarn stashes. Not only do I not want to divert any funds from the debt payoff to buy new fabric or yarn, but more than that, where would I put it?After moving to the new apartment last month, things are still in a state of disorganization. As much as I would like to say I am settled in, I sometimes have issues focusing when I am surrounded by the chaos of my crafting areas. So many projects planned, and so little time. 

To combat some of the chaos, a goal for January is to create ten garments. So far, I have made four Oakridge blouses, two Renfrews, and one Veronika circle skirt made (pictures to follow once the weather clears). Before the month ends, I'd love to finish two Granville blouses, as well as a yellow Veronika skirt which would be amazing with any top in my wardrobe. All of these items were cut out prior to moving, and I'm ready to finally have these pieces in my wardrobe instead of in plastic bags.

In the meantime, I am doing everything in my power to reduce the piles. The large blue plastic bags hold mostly scraps, as I've always wanted to make a quilt. In fact, I have plans for three or four quilts - but the bags might be overtaxing my brain before I can even get started.

Friends, how do you cope with fabric storage issues? And where do you start when your space feels overwhelming? 


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Holidaze! Part II

Friends, every August I send out Facebook invitations to my friends for a lovely little party I like to host in December, "Holidaze." August?! you may say. Why, yes! Because every person at the party gets a handmade present, and I need time to put that together. There is no greater stashbust than Holidaze for me, and now that I am making it an annual thing, I use it as a way to purge scraps of yarn and fabric all year round.

This year I ended up with over fifty presents. I felt very accomplished, considering some of these were getting made while we were in the process of moving apartments. Also, because we were moving apartments at the last minute (and I had sent out the invites in August...), my darling friends offered the use of their house for the party. I owe them a big one!

I stash busted those awkward color zippers that had been floating around my sewing area, as well as some iron-on patches from the 1980s, and made some cute zipper pouches using this tutorial.

The peppermint scented heating pads were a big hit at the party, so much so that I made some for Josh's parents as part of their Christmas present. Grab some essential oils and find the tutorial here. The flannel all came from my stash, and it was exciting to see friends running around with pieces that matched my pajama pants. WE CAN ALL BE COZY TOGETHER, YOU GUYS!

I have so much lavender left over from when I taught a class on sewing and we made sachets for our class project. I love this tutorial, and it helped use up bits of fabric and ribbon from my stash (including Doctor Who fabric!).

I also took peppermint scented rice and made hand warmers out of bits of flannel and cotton from my stash - these are super helpful when dealing with Chicago winters. Basically, I try and make things that I think my friends will use. Often, they are things to keep them warm, organized, or smelling delightful :)

The High Line hat, Capucine, Incognito cowl, and a zippered pouch with a fabulous iron-on pear. 

The peppermint scented heating pads, as well as some zippered pouches, and beach balls for the friends with wee babies. Michelle got my favorite bag - an amazing purple floral fabric. I think I need more purple florals in my life :)

Some fabulous zippered pouches, as well as one of the 12 Balls of Christmas.

Bags and pouches, and a stegosaurus from 1983.

Hand warmers require hilarious poses!

Sachets and hand warmers were popular (especially with the lovely Liz and Felix)...

but not as popular as the Space Princess Hat. Travis took it and wore it the entire party. Much envy was had by the other party goers.

This past Holidaze party was a ton of fun, and I've already started making things for next year! I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to my gift making, but it's secret, so the participants don't know what to expect :) I'm so sneaky!

Friends, did you do any holiday gift making this year? Let me know in the comments!


PS. Thank you for your super kind comments on the Significant Other sweater! Both Josh and I appreciated them very much :) Yay for breaking the boyfriend sweater curse!