Thursday, November 20, 2014

Make it Better: Mending Tights DIY

I live in tights from October through April. I have lightweight ones I pull out first and return to storage last, as well as nice, thick woven pairs of stockings, which get pulled out with the serious winter wear.

I usually buy cheap tights, but I do love a pair of pretty woven tights mixed into the options. Unfortunately, it's funny how those generally more expensive woven pairs often don't last as long as the cheap ones. Still, it is still nice to have a choice of texture to mix up the choices a bit.

As I pulled out my down coat, hats and other serious winter clothing recently, I noticed I had runs in a few of these woven pairs of tights. I'm not sure if I knew and ignored the runs at the end of the last cold season, or if I missed them as I put them away for the summer, but either way I like them too much to just throw them out. I've heard that people used to darn socks over old lightbulbs, but when I fix a pair of tights, I find it so much easier to do while wearing them. Of course,  the obvious drawback is the needle hitting skin, but I've found it's actually pretty easy to get the hang of weaving a needle in and out while limiting the number of times I stab myself with the needle.

I used a darker thread here because I wasn't too concerned about the spot showing in its well-above-the-knee location, and because it was the best match I had in my emergency kit, but one of the benefits to mending the tights while wearing them is that they are stretched out to the correct degree. With this stretch in place, one knows if the thread is too light or too dark -- not something that is evident when the tights are not being worn. Also, thanks to the stretch, it's easier to tell how much slack each bit of weaving through the fabric will require so as to not add additional strain on other parts around the hole.

As for the method I use, it's actually the same as the one used for sweaters -- after all, whether it's fixing sweaters or tights, the woven fabric still requires a nice -- darn -- weave.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

L.L. Bean Totes Sizes and Monograms

The other day I absentmindedly looked at sale items on L.L. Bean and found a couple things I found interesting, but ended up loosing interest and leaving the screen behind without making a purchase. Later, when my wife said "I just looked at the computer and saw something disturbing," I knew she had opened up to the page I left behind… A picture of a hunting knife. I laughed, because it certainly was outside of my usual window shopping style, but she continued, "I saw that you're looking at more of those L.L. Bean totes."

It's true -- I have amassed a bit of a collection over the years. I find them to be ever useful, and can always find something that can be corralled easily into one or another. I use them for travel and for storage, and one even became a dog bag for our pup. I have a few different sizes and colors, and while most of them are plain, I've also tried out a few monogram styles.

The monogram sizes vary quite a bit based on the font chosen. The blue bag and the red bag are both size medium, but the "MRM" in Times Bold monogram is 1.25" high by 3.75" wide, while the "B" in Heirloom single letter is huge at 2.5" high by 3" wide. The yellow bag is a size extra large, and the three letter monogram in style Classic monogram is just the right size at 2" high by 1.75" wide.

The sizes of the bags are shown in a couple pictures on L.L. Bean's site, but they are from the front, so hopefully this view also helps show the sizes in a different way. In this picture, the red bag is size medium, the blue bag is size large, and the yellow bag is size extra large. They all have the regular length handles, but as can be seen here, the handles vary in size because they are all proportional to the bag size.

I use the extra large bag mainly for carrying large items. It is perfect for taking Christmas presents on the train, or carrying items which would otherwise be awkward to hold. It is also the bag I always bring to events such as benefits or parties when I'm involved in setting up -- not only does it hold everything I need, but thanks to its open top, no one else helping to set up feels uncomfortable going into it for tape or scissors. Once the event gets underway, I can toss my sneakers and anything else in it and easily shove it into a corner. For this size, I find that the regular handles are just right. If it isn't packed full, I can still put it over my shoulder, but if it is overflowing, the handles aren't too long to hold at my side.

The large size is the one that I sometimes travel with, as it is the right size for either sheets and towels or food and wine. The zip top makes it easy to keep things inside, and actually adds just a little bit more room above the top of the bag if I've got a lot to stuff in. While at home, the zip top versions come in handy for storing things like fabric for sewing and off-season items -- the ability to close them makes it easier to stack them in a closet.

The medium size is the one I used to make the dog bag, and the long handles are necessary for carrying him on my shoulder. This red medium has a zip top and regular handles instead, and in this size the handles don't go over the shoulder easily. As shown in the picture, they're just a little smaller than the handles on the larger bags. In the long handle style, I've used both the small size (not pictured) and the medium size as summer purses, and both sizes work very well either with or without the zip top.

They come in so handy that mine are rarely empty, but if they are, unlike rigged storage or travel options they can be folded down and tucked away into a drawer or even into another bag while traveling. As many as I have, I don't regret having any of them… And I'm still always tempted to get a couple more.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Product Worth the Price: Uniqlo's Heattech

Uniqlo Heattech Slip & Shorts
We had quite the drop in temperature over the weekend -- all of a sudden winter arrived with full force! Unlike many places outside of the city, Manhattan only saw a couple minutes of flurries followed by rain and gloomy skies, but we certainly felt the drop in temperature.

The funny thing about that first really cold day each year is that I always forget how to dress warmly, and Saturday was no exception. Somehow it hit me really hard again this time -- as though I had never experienced the cold before -- so, I went home and pulled out my warmest hats and scarves. But more importantly, I pulled out my collection of Uniqlo Heattech items, and placed them within easy reach.

As someone who often is cold enough to turn on her space heater when co-workers are warm enough to open a window, I believe my body temperature likely runs on the cold side. In the winter, I enjoy taking hot showers and baths in part because it is the only time my toes fully thaw out. Add in that during nearly any time of year my hands are always, always cold, and I feel I am pretty qualified to evaluate the warming power of any item. There are so many I take full advantage of all winter long, but even so, Uniqlo's Heattech stands out from the crowd. To anyone who says she hates the winter's cold, my first response is always "Uniqlo Heattech! You've got to try it." In fact, I shout it from the rooftops so often that I was shocked when I realized I had only barely mentioned it here -- I certainly feel as though I'm driving friends mad with how often I rave about it.

There are a lot of clothing options that increase warmth, and I bet they all work pretty well, but the reasons I really like Uniqo's versions are because of the prices and the way they are incredibly resistant to holding in smells. According to the materials listed, they are made from just a blend of polyester and acrylic, but the combination works very well to take just a tiny bit of heat created by one's body and keep it in for warmth. I never really feel much of a benefit while sitting still, but the moment I start to move I can feel it working, and the more I move, the warmer it gets. There have been times when I've been wearing a Heattech item on only half of my body, and I could actually feel the difference in heat from the bottom to the top.

Besides working well, Heattech does a surprisingly good job of not holding in smells. With a layer of clothing holding in heat and not letting that slight perspiration escape, one might think that clothing would get a little unpleasant, but somehow it does not. It also does not hold in the smell of smoke from a smokey bar, the smell of spices from an Indian restaurant, overwhelming perfume, or anything else a regular piece of clothing does.

Uniqlo Heattech Shorts with Waist Warmer
For a few winters now, I have not left the house between October and April without at least one Heattech item on. Each year I add to my collection, which now consists of multiple pairs of tights, gloves, camisoles, turtlenecks, knit shorts, a slip and even a dress. I have found that the Heattech items work best when worn against the skin, so the camisoles are my favorite go-to items, but for extra cold days, I sometimes layer them under my turtlenecks. Out of all of my collection, the two pieces I got last year are my absolute favorites. Last
year, I wore dresses and skirts for a good deal of the winter, and I know this was only possible because of my favorite secret weapon: a Heattech slip and a pair of Heattech shorts. Sadly, neither style is available this year, but the shorts have a new version available with a "waist warmer," which certainly sounds promising.

Honestly, I have yet to be disappointed in any of the items I've purchased -- they have all done a great job at keeping me warm at a great affordable price, so I'm already planning a stop by Uniqlo to pick up a few more options.

And with all this talk of Heattech, I think I'm beginning to remember how I dressed warmly last year after all... Just in time for the chilly days ahead.

Friday, November 14, 2014

High / Low: Bedspreads

Picture from West Elm
For the city folk with tiny homes and no washing machines, go low end.

As we learned the hard way in our apartment, if you send your laundry out for cleaning, here is no way many of your items will last as long as you'd like. Don't get me wrong -- I certainly am happy to send it out when that choice is the best of those available, but one of the major drawbacks of not having one's own machine is that the heavy duty washers are quite harsh on what they wash.

Bedding should be something to invest in because it will last a long time, but our lovely quilt required much more care than we could provide, and has literally shredded in just under five years. It's terribly sad, especially considering it was a wedding gift. At least the silver lining is that we learned this lesson on a quilt that was not irreplaceable -- it came from West Elm. Had it been handmade, it would have been far more upsetting.

As the quilt started to show some wear, I began to teach myself more about quilt care, and what I learned is that it really comes down to being very, very gentle. Unfortunately, there is an unbelievable amount of dust and soot in New York, so bedding must be washed more frequently than may be required in the country.

Although I greatly prefer the smooth look of a quilt to the fluffy look of a comforter, we've realized that a comforter with a removable duvet cover is the best option for us at this point. Not only is the removable duvet lighter and easier to wash, but it's not as expensive as a quilt or a regular comforter, so if it does end up falling apart, it won't be as bad to replace it.

We picked one from West Elm. What do you think? It's a good thing we both like stripes, or we may never have found one to agree on!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You, Veterans

On this Veterans Day, if you'd like to honor our vets by supporting a charity, here are a few that have the highest rankings on Charity Navigator, as well as a little about what each one does from their mission statements.

Image from here
The Semper Fi Fund, and its program America’s Fund, provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.

A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors... 93 percent of total donations to Operation Homefront go directly to programs that provide support to our military families.

Founded in 1969, the National Military Family Association is the leading non-profit organization focusing on issues important to military families. We believe that all military families deserve comprehensive child care, accessible health care, spouse employment options, great schools, caring communities, a secure retirement, and support for widows and widowers.

Founded in 2004 by an Iraq veteran... Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has quickly become the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing new veterans and their families. Over the last decade, IAVA has become the leading advocate for its community. It pioneered historic changes, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, VA funding reforms, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and more. IAVA is now leading the charge on combating veteran suicide, improving support for female veterans, ending the VA disability claims backlog, and defending veterans’ education benefits.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is a leader in supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. Begun in 2000 and established as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2003, the Fund has provided close to $150 million in support for the families of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans. These efforts are funded entirely with donations from the public, and hundreds of thousands of individuals have contributed to the Fund.

Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) is a privately funded 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization building specially adapted, mortgage-free homes nationwide for the most severely injured Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of these Veterans are multiple amputees, paraplegic, quadriplegic or suffered severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). These homes restore some of the freedom and independence our Veterans sacrificed defending ours, and enable them to focus on their family, recovery, and rebuilding their lives. Since its inception in 2004, over 90 percent of donations to Homes for Our Troops has gone to directly support Veterans.

Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.

The Armed Services YMCA is a top-rated military nonprofit designed to make military life easier. Programs are offered at no or low cost and require no dues or membership fees.

Photo from The Guardian
P.S. Have you seen the amazing pictures of the ceramic poppies planted at the Tower of London? It's such a moving piece of work, isn't it?