Zipper Pouch with divider and pen holder

My latest sewing project introduced me to

  • changing the foot on my sewing machine
  • using a zipper foot
  • sewing a zipper
  • modifying instructions without making additional pattern pieces or a mock-up

I looked at a lot of zipper pouch tutorials and then mostly followed these two:

I wanted to do a quick learning project that would also result in a gift for my mom’s cousin, author C’Anna Bergman-Hill and which would use a fabric she really liked from my remnant finds at Shaukat Fabrics in London.

This was fortunately on my mind last month when I went to Fabric Outlet, so I remembered to bring the remnant and get a matching thread and 9″ zipper. The next step was to decide which fabric to use for the outside of the bag. I wanted something sturdier than the light, almost-chiffon of the remnant to help give the pouch some structure. I hadn’t bought a fabric intentionally for this on that shopping trip, but a brown linen remnant I’d bought then (intending to try making fabric coasters with it) turned out to be perfect. I recommend fabric selection as a lovely “last thing of the day” activity; I went to bed that night feeling happy about the upcoming project.

Because I am kind to my future self, I had already washed both fabrics before putting them in my fabric storage area. Thus when I was ready to get started all I had to do was iron. Being a little nervous that ironing, even on the wrong side, might make the linen shiny, I tried using a piece of muslin between it and the iron as a pressing cloth and that seemed to work fine.

A narrow white table with a plush bath towel draped down it. A bright flowered print fabric and a plain white muslin are atop the table, with an iron to the right of the towel and various bits of sewing-related stuff pushed out of its way.
No ironing board, but a thick towel on my worktable is fine.

The idea of changing zipper length is a bit daunting, so I chose a pouch design where the pieces are the same length as the zipper tape (the fabric part of the zipper). I used that as the width and then decided on a height based on wanting to be able to fit a little notebook and a short pen pocket inside. I made one paper pattern piece for that and cut out four pieces of the lining (since I wanted to add a divider inside to create two pockets) and two pieces of the outer fabric using it.

Rectangles of bright flowered fabric sit on a white table. Blue tailor's chalk  has been set down after marking around a green paper pattern sitting atop uncut fabric. The point of a pair of tailor's shears sticks into the picture from the right.
I thought just holding the pattern piece down and then using tailor’s chalk would be precise enough for this, but next time I think I’ll at least put a few pins in, mark with chalk all around being more careful to keep the chiffon from shifting around, and cut more carefully with longer strokes. It’d just be a little easier in the later stages when lining up all the layers to have their edges very regular.

Then I cut out two 2″ squares to cover the ends of the zipper and a piece to become the pen pocket.

Rectangles of bright flowered fabric (in a pattern of gold, green, and coral colored dahlia flowers on a sky blue background) are neatly arranged with three smaller pieces beside them. A cheerful hot-dog-mustard-yellow zipper rests above the flowered fabric and the edge of  dark brown linen fabric rectangles is visible at the left of the picture.
Here I’ve got the divider pieces stacked and I’m playing with the pen pocket piece, folding over the ends so I can give it extra toughness to help withstand the pressure of having a pen shoved in, grabbed quickly, and rubbing on things while the pouch is inside a purse and moving around.

I gave the pen pocket a lot of extra folded fabric around the bottom where it will experience the most strain.

Dinah's fingers hold down the pen pocket piece in progress. It is a rectangle folded lengthwise to make a tall sleeve open along three edges. The top and bottom edges have been double-fold seamed, and the bottom edge has now been folded over again that same amount, ready to be sewn into that position.
Double fold seams sewn at the top and bottom of the pen pocket and then the bottom folded over to be sewn again.

Next I pinned the two divider pieces wrong sides together, stitched across the top, and flipped them around so I could attach the pen pocket by one edge (on a right side of the divider fabric) by stitching along its righthand side and bottom.

The pen pocket piece, pinned to the divider layers, is on the sewing machine. Its folded edge is under the needle, ready to stitch down the long side and around the bottom (in a reversed L shape), leaving the open long edges of the pocket even with the side edge of the divider where it will later be stitched into a seam. Dinah's fingers are holding the tails of the needle thread and bobbin thread out of the way to the left.
I’m still getting the hang of keeping my thread tails out of the way when I start, so that I don’t end up sewing one into the end of a seam or making a lump. Getting better bit by bit!

The folded design results in a two compartment pen pocket.

Dinah's fingers hold up the two folded sides of the pen pocket piece, now stitched to the divider layer, to show how they form a double pocket (the divider piece acting as a backing).
Such a lightweight fabric won’t hold up forever, but this ought to work for a while.

Note how it is placed on the divider piece as high up as will comfortably allow a small pen to fit in there (I tested with the pen I’ll be gifting with the bag) and will allow room to shorten the divider in the next step for a good fit.

Press the divider piece flat, wrong sides together, as it will be in the finished pouch. Then trim a bit off the bottom to allow clearance for the zipper to be used without constantly snagging on it.

On top of the plush towel, with the iron's edge just visible at the side of the photo, the divider piece and one of the side lining pieces have been arranged edge to edge, right sides up. The top edge of the divider has been positioned about half an inch shorter than the lining. A steel ruler rests in line along the bottom edge of the lining, sticking across the divider piece and indicating where its bottom edge will need to be trimmed. White tailor's chalk and large, shiny metal tailor's shears are ready to mark and trim.
I just eyeballed this, but it worked pretty well. I’d probably go another .25″ shorter in future, but this works fine.

On the top is the divider piece, on the bottom is one of the lining pieces. Remember that the divider bottom is still unfinished and will need to fit into the seam between the lining pieces later, so make sure there’s some seam allowance room under the pen pocket.

Yes, my tailor’s shears are a work of wonder. I love them so much. And they return safely to their private storage box when I’m done cutting fabric so I never use them on anything I shouldn’t or knock them on the floor. You can watch how they were handmade in this wonderful 5-minute documentary. Supporting craftsmanship like that is very important to me and these make me happy every time I touch them.

The next step is when I started to feel myself pushing into new territory. I wanted to be sure I didn’t bring the sewing machine needle down on a metal part of the zipper, so I was ever so careful. First I put a pin into one of the little 2″ squares right at the zipper stop, the fabric’s right side is toward the zipper. And stitched as near that as I could without hitting the pin.

Yellow zipper tape ends protrude from under a pinned piece of bright flowered fabric which has just been stitched on.
Don’t hit the pin, you don’t hit the zipper stop.

Then I folded it back over and stitched it down again, now being able to see and avoid the metal stop. I just put a pin in there to keep the zipper tape ends flat and even and keep the square nicely placed.

The bright flowered fabric has now been folded over to show its right side, revealing the bottom stop of the zipper, and pinned so it can be stitched into that position.
You can see where I wasn’t happy with my first try at attaching this and seam-ripped it out. Perfectly fine to leave it rough like that since that bit of fabric will be inside the walls of the bag and never seen.
The zipper and small piece of flowered lining fabric after that stitch,  showing a neat finish that matches the lining which may or may not show on the finished piece (but looks much better than gapping zipper tape ends if it does show).
And that’s how it turned out.

The business end is a bit trickier, but here’s how I did it. First, I noticed that there are are stop pieces at that end too, they’re just more subtle.

A small square of bright flowered fabric sitting beside a partially unzipped yellow zipper.
Unzip a bit to get the pull out of your way.

Use your fingernail against those to figure out where to put your pin holding the tape ends and 2″ square (right side down!) to the zipper tape.

Dinah's fingernail pressing down just over the top stops of the zipper, with the square of flowered fabric under her finger and a pin just put in to secure it in that spot.
The needle of the sewing machine ready to descend into the pinned piece, about as far to the right of the pin as the pin is from the top stops.
I thought I was keeping as close as on the other end, but I think I placed it a bit too far beyond the zipper end.
The finished zipper piece, with flowered fabric squares hiding the tails at each end, sits in front of the sewing machine.
Perfectly fine, but still could be a bit prettier at the top end (on the right in this shot). In future, I’d pin at the top stops so that the stitch comes down about half as far from them as it did here.

Next it’s time to make the zipper sandwich. Just keep looking at your work, flipping things back, imagining the finished piece, and thinking about right and wrong sides of the fabric.

Dinah's hand peeling back a layer of lining fabric over the zipper layer over the exterior fabric layer.
So much mental gymnastics going on as I imagine the stitched result and flipping it open and using the zip!

I found it helpful to spin that around and pin the pieces with the edge I was about to sew facing toward me. It helped me get the pieces lined up evenly.

Lesson for the future: consider the position of the pen pocket in relation to the zipper opening. My concept had been that you’d unzip the bag just a bit and there would be your pen. When I’d pieced it all together and stitched it, I realized I’d put the divider the wrong way round and the pen is all the way at the foot of the zipper. Well, it’s less likely to get lost that way, right? 😀

The pinned pieces—exterior side, zipper, lining side—sit in front the sewing machine. The machine's manual rests in the open space in the body of the machine.
Notice also how, knowing the next step requires the zipper foot, I have stuck the manual into the machine to remind me to change feet before sewing the next part.

Those green lights in a wooden block on the top left are my Make Time Clock by Chap Ambrose. There’s a lovely metal push switch at the top that starts a light flashing while I do a session of making and when I’ve completed it, that light stays solid. When I come into the room and see all six lights shining, I know it is a good week. 🙂
The clocks are, alas, no longer available to buy, but I don’t blame Chap; as he says, “I walked the fury road of Kickstarter fulfillment and came out stronger on the other side.”

My first time with the zipper foot was an adventure.

ALWAYS LOOK AT THE PRESSER FOOT BEFORE YOU FIRST REMOVE IT AND THEN IMMEDIATELY TRY PUTTING IT (NOT SOME OTHER NEW FOOT) BACK ON.

I did not do that and so, having pulled off the presser foot with much more ease than I expected, I tried sticking on the zipper foot and was totally confounded. First I tried locking in the wrong end of the foot, then the wrong part of the right end of the foot (it’s the wee bar you’re locking onto it not any of the part of the foot behind that). I went back and forth with the manual, my fingers getting sore and nearly in tears afraid I’d break my machine pushing too hard. It turns out the Janome MOD-19 feet don’t so much “lock in” as “kinda softly sorta snap and you’re hardly sure you’ve actually attached it”. Sigh. Thank goodness for YouTube videos and extrapolation from other machines to my poorly documented model.

To help, here is a nice big picture of sewing with a zipper foot on the Janome MOD-19 sewing machine.

Fabric ready to be sewn rests under the sewing machine's zipper foot. The foot has two sections at the back part so that the notch the needle goes down into in the front metal plate can be just to the left or just to the right of a zipper.
See how just below the point of the needle there’s a gray plastic piece (that’s the foot holder) with a dark horizontal line in it? The horizontal line is the bar on the foot—you can see one in the righthand side of the zipper foot. THAT’s what you’re “locking” on to the Janome MOD-19 foot holder. Sigh. If only I had looked at it more closely and verrrry slowly removed the presser foot to understand this better the first time. Learning!

One of the videos gave me the tip about using the front part of the foot to target my seam (and I’m focused on the structurally solid part of the fabric to the left of the selvedge threads).

And here’s a zoom and enhance of that Janome MOD-19 sewing machine zipper foot.

A bar comes down from the sewing machine case and has a large screw attaching the foot holder made of gray plastic. There is a notch at the end of the foot holder that's fairly deep, but actually it's the very front of the notch that grabs the little horizontal metal bar in the foot. The needle comes down just a bit in front of that bar, going through a gap in the foot to reach the fabric. Under the foot, the jagged "feed dogs" move the fabric along ready to receive the next stitch.
The gray plastic foot holder is just holding the little metal bar of the zipper foot in its soft gray beak.

Oh my gosh it worked!!

Two rectangles of brown linen are connected by a bright yellow zipper, with floral fabric covering the tails of the zipper at top and bottom. The spacing between the pieces is slightly narrower in the middle part and wider at the bottom, but not by a lot.
My first zipper pouch top is looking pretty decent!

And from the other side…

Flipped over to show the flowery lining side, the wider spacing along the bottom part of the zipper is more obvious, but fortunately no one will ever be looking at this from the bottom of the inside of the bag. Ha!

Okay, so now we split the fabric types again, lining to one side of the zipper, outside to the other. That is “Refold the fabric so the matching sides are together”. And yes, partially open the zipper before the next sewing step.

Below we see layer 1 of the lining side, let’s call it “bag lining left” as we imagine looking at the finished bag edge on with the zipper at the top. “Bag lining left” will have its wrong side to the wrong side of the outside fabric of the bag.

A good view of the big bold flowers of the lining fabric at this step of arranging everything neatly to be pinned and sewn together.
Layer 1

Then we add layers 2 and 3, the divider.

You can see here I was lucky with my cutting (and the fabric design) to be able to beautifully match the flower pattern of the pen pocket so that it flows right into the pattern on the divider layer below it.
Layer 3, with its attached layer 2 under it, everybody’s edges all lined up.

And finally layer 4, a.k.a. “bag lining right”. Pin all four layers together, being careful to keep the pen pocket smooth.

Line up the outside fabric and pin it too.

The reverse of this fabric is more muted, but it's still pretty bold and exuberant. The sedate brown linen is a good visual rest from the stimulation of the flowers.
Here we see two white pins marking the correct location of the gap to leave in your stitching.

And this is where I goofed up. Because Life Sew Savory had put two versions of the bag in the pictures at the top of the page and reversed the fabrics between them, I kept getting muddled in her pictures between what was the interior (hot pink, it turns out) and what was the exterior (stripey green). So I thought I had the gap marked wrong and flipped it over to the exterior. *sad trombone*

ALWAYS PAUSE AND THINK THROUGH WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE NEXT STEPS AFTER YOU SEW THIS ONE, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE FIGURING OUT WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO LEAVE THAT LESS ATTRACTIVE PART WHERE YOU TURNED SOMETHING RIGHT SIDE OUT AFTER STITCHING.

I did correctly turn the zipper end flaps down toward the lining side at least.

The zipper end cover sticks out to the side of the lining piece. It is folded down in this step so that its near end is stitched to the lining edges. The far edge, sticking out, will fold down into the bag when the outside is turned right side out around the lining portions.
The little 2″ squares that were used to hide the ends of the zipper pulls leave flaps that stick out on the sides. If it was a stiff fabric I would have trimmed it, but this stuff is so light it only adds a tiny bit of structure to the bag as it tucks into the body here.

Well, I turned it right side out and looked at that gap in the exterior and thought about seam ripping all the way around and if it was a fancy thing and not my rather imperfect first try at a zipper pouch, I might have. But then I thought, “Eh, C’Anna won’t mind and I’ve been wanting to try out decorative stitches on this machine anyhow…”

A simple brown linen rectangle with a stripe of bright yellow-gold zipper at the top and coordinating stitching across the bottom edge in a pattern of arrowheads pointing up.

One part of the bottom edge sticks down a little below the decorative stitching.
Good enough! And that orange on brown stitching looks really nice.
The flip side; the part that sticks out, where the gap was, looks a bit messier on this side, but it's okay.
Flip side. Yeah, oh well. Could be better and the next one will be!

Given how plain the fabric is—in a nice Shaker simple sense—even when I do this pattern correctly in future, I’d be tempted to add a decorative stitch to the outside fabric pieces before putting it together.

But the inside is a great success:

Looking into the bag from the top, the two sides of the interior compartment, with their soft, cheerful flowered lining are inviting to the eye and pleasant to the hand. The color of the zipper brings out the color of the matching flowers (one third of which are that same golden yellow).
Two sections!
Looking inside, at the foot end of the zipper, is the hidden pen pocket.
And a pen pocket!

Okay, C’Anna, it’s going into the mail to you Monday! 🙂

Sewing!

Hooray! I’m blogging again—at last the huge work of migrating over 8,000 posts on this blog plus all the associated media from Typepad to WordPress.com is complete. (Big thanks to the fabulous concierge team at WordPress.com for all their friendly and highly competent help!) It’s so exciting to be revitalizing MetaGrrrl.com and the first thing I want to write about is something that has been revitalizing me over the last year and a half.

Advisory: this post is huuuge because I’m catching up on all my projects, with instructions in some cases. In future I’ll do separate posts per project.

In June 2017 I did the Basic Sewing safety and machine basics session so I could use the sewing machines at TechShop, the makerspace here in San Francisco (now known as TheShop.build). During the class (which turned out to be a 1-on-1) my instructor taught me to make a clever little flip-top bag.

Janome New Home sewing machine on a bright red table next to Dinah's TechShop badge.
Sewing machine at TechShop.
A simple rectangular bag with one end folding over to form a closure. It is made of red cotton fabric with small, irregular, white dots and has a friendly, casual feel.
It’s a bit longer than a sunglasses case, and wider.
The same bag turned inside out, revealing the seam stitching.
It’s a little easier to understand how it is made when turned inside out.

It’s just a long strip of fabric (4x the finished length plus an inch of seam allowance) which has been sewn right sides together to make a loop.

Next the loop is flattened out with wrong sides together and the loop seam positioned as the inside top edge of the bag—at right edge in picture above—where it is least likely to be worn out by things stored inside the bag later.

Last, you stitch down along each side to make the bag and turn it right side out.
The top of the bag held open to show how the part that folds over is arranged for stitching.
Here’s the detail of how to arrange what will be the top of the bag when you stitch the side seams. The “lid” is folded down first, with the front of the bag overlapping it just a little. When you turn the whole thing right side out, it makes the top closure work even without a fastener. (Not secure enough to keep things in if you shake the bag, but good enough to be put in a purse or backpack without disaster.)

I went back the next day and did more sewing, but I didn’t take notes (or haven’t unearthed them yet). I tweeted something the next day saying that I worked on two projects, but which? Probably it was this sewing tools caddy, which is super handy:

A flat board with three tiers of pockets across the front. The pockets contain a variety of sewing tools.
I didn’t have all these things at first (though the machine needles envelope was from my Basic Sewing class at TechShop) and I already had the fabric scissors and the two cases of hand needles. I’ve added bit by bit as I went along and am very pleased with how this caddy has accommodated my needs from the expected (a seam ripper and tailor’s chalk) to the unplanned (like the fashion curve ruler and the pinking shears).

(I figured out how to make it just looking at pictures and playing around with paper a little, but there are patterns available such as this one and this one. It’s basically a big flat bag with three folded over flaps of different heights sewn into the base and side seams as you make it. It gets its stiffness from cardboard slid down inside the big flat bag part. I could add on a little strap to keep it from relaxing completely flat if not leaned up against something, but so far I always have it at the side of my worktable with supportive things behind it.)

and that day I definitely worked on this Triplet Tote (made from a great online tutorial by The DIY Dreamer), because I have a picture of cutting it out.

A fairly flat blue bag with soft straps and bits of green peeking out at the sides of the bag.
You can see both my ability to carefully measure and mark out the pieces for cutting, and the quality of the fabric scissors at TechShop left something to be desired.

I recommend adding interfacing inside the handles and making them a bit longer. They squish up a bit over time, as you can see, and you want to be sure they’re long enough to sling the bag over your shoulder, even if it’s not your default way of carrying it; you’re going to need to juggle it, something else you’re carrying, and a set of keys at some point.
Dinah's fingers separate the top parts of the bag to show the three (fairly flat) compartments, the center in the same fabric as the exterior of the bag and the other two in the "lining" fabric.
Three compartments! Great for putting your tablet in the middle, or reserving that for your “live in the bag” items while switching out the side pockets for today’s book, that mail to go in the postbox, etc.
Traditional subtle arrow-patterned Japanese fabric in off-white on dark blue. The fuzzier, bright moss greeny-yellow lining fabric shows at the side.
Detail of the fabric pattern. Loved it on sight! It’s not as black as it appears here, the photos above are more accurate.

I must have gone to Britex Fabrics beforehand and raided the remnants bin, because that’s where I got that fabulous African-print wax fabric for the sewing caddy and the lovely Japanese fabric that is the blue part of the tote. (I hadn’t learned yet to wash fabric before sewing.)

A table with a cutting board on top of it holding unironed blue fabric with an intricate pattern like arrow feathering. The edges of the fabric are held flat with little pink sandbags and there is a pair of scissors beside the fabric.
About to measure, mark, and cut for the triplet tote. I also hadn’t yet learned to properly iron fabric before cutting.

Doing creative projects was a huge emotional release for me after all the heavy work through the latter half of 2016 and the first half of 2017 as executor of my biodad’s estate and volunteer with MoveOn Text Team. I wasn’t feeling able to do much in the way of creative writing, so being able to exercise my creativity and see a project to completion was an enormous lift.

Janome New Home sewing machine on a bright red table next to a small red bag with white dots and some bright green and yellow African print fabric.
TechShop sewing machine with a completed project and the fabric for future projects beside it.

Around age 19 I knew how to sew well enough to make myself a complete set of Elizabethan clothes for working at the Northern California Renaissance Faire, but all those skills had pretty much evaporated. Given how much more patient I am now, it is for the best that I am beginning again from scratch and learning to do things right.

In June and July 2017, I visited SCRAP, a fantastic scavenger paradise of materials for projects. In their fabric area, I found a cool embroidered table runner along with some other remnants. This turned into my next project, another tote bag, this time with an interior pocket and a very pretty strap made out of a necktie off the racks at some discount store like Marshall’s or Ross Dress-for-Less. I think the table runner cost something ridiculously great like $1 while the tie may have been $10, but it was still a good deal for the nice bag that resulted.

A flat, green fabric bag with a handle made from a flowery Hawaiian print necktie.
Table runner folded over “wrong sides” together, stitched up the sides, and then turned right side out to make a very simple flat bag. Flap and strap added separately.
The same bag flipped over to show how the flap was a separate piece stitched on afterwards. Some decorative embroidery from the table runner it was made from shows here.
The flap as a separate piece. And the embroidery of the table runner.
Dinah's hand holding open the bag to show the interior pocket and soft lining, and where the tie ends are stitched in to secure them as the bag straps.
Ah, right! As I look at this I remember I did something sneaky with how I made the lining, but I’ve forgotten the details. It was a tricky puzzle for a new sewer, though. The pocket is at an angle on purpose, to make it easier to access when wearing the bag. At least I think that was on purpose. The tie-as-bag-strap thing worked amazingly well and the bag is holding up great. Joe used it a week ago to carry an iPad for doing crossword puzzles together at brunch.

Not sure now (in January of 2019) when I began the work on turning a cool locally-made bag with cork ends which had worn out into a new tote, but it might have been the same day I made the table runner tote bag.

A project in progress: The bag portion is partially stitched together and sits on a table with the cork top (with straps) and footer above and below it, and a button for looping a fastener beside it, waiting to be sewn on.
A bit funny that the lining and exterior of the cork-detailed bag wore out before the cork parts. It was a prototype(which Joe bought something like eight years ago at a little SF shop called Peasants and Travelers, out of business as of the last few years alas), so I bet they changed materials.

I trimmed off the fabric which had begun to shred itself. The plan is to do another triplet tote. The body is mostly ready, I just need to figure out how to attach the cork pieces both securely and attractively.
The material is folded back to reveal the whimsical fabric inside with little drawings of Mt. Fuji, a whale, a torii gate, passport stamps, etc. on a gridded background like white graph paper.
The exterior is very understated, but great bags often have surprises inside. When I saw this Japanese travel-and-graph-paper-themed fabric at Britex I knew it would be a source of future delight. I think my skills have just about improved enough to finish this pending project.

My need for stress relief grew, while, unfortunately, my energy to get out of the house or do projects reduced. Like a lot of folks, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were pretty rough for me.

On August 4, 2017, I received a diagnosis of the mouth form of an autoimmune disorder, followed by diagnosis of the skin form in January 2018. Dealing with that medical stuff ate up most of my non health and wellness project energy, though in fall of 2017 I did do a massive change to our backroom, where our desks and potential guest space are. I added eight Ikea Besta cabinet columns on two walls, with a two part work table extending from one of them. That was the foundation for the lovely sewing project area I have now.

No sewing, but thinking about sewing… On June 16, 2018, I got various soft knits and other fabric remnants for about 2/3rds their regular price: 1 5/8 yards taupe cotton, 1 3/8 yards white bamboo/lycra, and something else from the bin, plus from the new bolts 1 yard of another cotton knit for $8.99. Looking back from January 2019 I was perhaps over-hasty in getting knits without knowing how to sew knits yet, but at least I was thinking about sewing and how I might be able to make more comfortable clothes for myself. I will be using these soon.

In mid November 2018 I bought myself a sewing machine; a Janome MOD-19, but didn’t unbox it until the start of December. I eyed the box all around Thanksgiving-time with anticipation tho’. 🙂

A friendly looking white sewing machine with some decorative geometric patterns on the body near the dials

(This machine was the recommendation from Wirecutter in their “The Best Sewing Machine for Beginners” article, which pick I agreed with after some additional research.)

I also bought a used copy of the (alas out of print) book Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner’s Guide by Diana Rupp. It’s a great intro and useful even if you find one where the paper patterns in the envelope in the back are missing.

My first project as the machine and I got acquainted December 2, 2018, was a pincushion. I made it out of a leftover end piece of that table runner I got at SCRAP. 🙂

A tiny pillow-like pincushion with a variety of pins and needles sticking out of it.
It’s a pretty stiff fabric, but I expect with use it will soften up and the sturdiness will be good in the long run.
The same little pillow pincushion tilted up to show it has some embroidery from the table runner it was made from on the underside of it.
Embroidery from the table runner source of the fabric.
The same pillow pincushion tilted the other way to show the inexpert hand stitches in white thread where it was closed up after being turned right side out and filled with stuffing.
Not exactly elegant hand-stitching and I didn’t have the right thread color, but I made a thing I still use all the time!

I also finished up the open end of the back support of the sewing caddy I’d made back in 2017.

On December 13, 2018, I had the pleasure of another trip to Britex, this time with a shopping list derived from my readings in Sew Everything Workshop.

A shopping list divided into sections "Thread & Notions" and "Fabric" with detailed notes.
The recommendation for Coats & Clark or Gutermann thread came from Diana Rupp’s book and I’ve since seen the same recommendation from others. I stocked up on some basics—bias tape, interfacing—so I’d have a better chance of being able to dive into future projects without having to make a shopping trip.

When I bought the oilcloth for the sewing machine cover, I asked if I’d need a special foot for the sewing machine and she said no (and turned out to be right). I skipped getting the velcro because I realized I wasn’t sure I was going to immediately make walker bags (which I’d picked as a good practice project I could then donate to the senior center a block away).

Because I haven’t gotten the filling for it (the dust-free kitty litter), I haven’t made the draft dodger yet. Nor have I worked on pillows, but I did steal fabric from that for making part of a toy for my nephew.

This is when many of the items seen above in the sewing caddy picture were purchased. I also got a bunch of fabric, some with a plan and some remnants with only the vaguest plan, and four cool graphite-colored rectangle buckles for attaching the straps of a bag. Along with a dust-resisting solution for my sewing machine cover project, I got two charcoal gray fabrics with intent to use them for a new laptop bag, (the shinier, silkier one for the lining). I also got a bright orange flannel intending to use it to pair with a bright print I found in the remnant bin to make a microwaveable heat pad for a relative (but over the holidays, after not doing the project in time for gifting, found out they already had a couple of them so I ditched that plan).

The next project was a better illustration of why I got the machine. I began reclaiming my comfort in clothing by converting a pair of “yoga pants” which have a waistband I can tolerate* but which make me feel dorky into something I’d happily wear through an airport. (*I have a rare autoimmune disorder which makes my torso very sensitive to the pressure of elastic bands and other tight constrictions.)

TSA Pants

Waistband is great—wide and soft—and they have pockets…

The top of a pair of pants made of very soft, stretch fabric in charcoal grey.

… but the cuffs are gathered into a narrow band which insists on settling about three inches above my anklebone. Not elegant. The cuffs must go!

Two legs of a pair of pants of soft knit fabric, one cuffed, one with a ragged edge where the cuff has been removed.

Fortunately, I have a seam ripper. 🙂

My pincushion sits beside a large piece of shiny charcoal gray fabric held down with little faux stone blocks. A rectangular paper pattern sits atop the fabric.
Dwarven Forge miniature terrain elevation blocks make great fabric weights.

More skill practice: I made a paper pattern and used it to cut out the new cuff pieces.

I added a band of the shiny graphite-gray fabric (originally planned for a new laptop bag) which makes them just a little dressier, while actually also making them more comfortable. Slept in this on a red-eye flight in a lay-down seat and they were great. Success!

The same pants with shiny cuffs in a matching gray color. One of them is a little uneven along its bottom edge.

It took me hours to do this very simple project and there are definitely errors, but I learned so much! Very proud of myself for letting go of perfectionism and for making something I really needed.

The other side of the pants showing the unevenness from the other side and a bit of unintended gathering at the join between the leg and the cuff.

I followed this guide to lengthening pants. In the course of this project I learned these new (or completely forgotten) skills:

  • “Stitch the ditch”
  • Pressing as guidelines for later pinning and stitching.

And re-acquired these skills:

  • Making a paper pattern piece
  • Taking something from idea to plan to measured to pattern pieced to cut to pressed to completely sewn in one session (with a dinner break).
  • Going slower when it gets challenging

My “oops” moments included not cutting TWO fabric pieces for the cuff as I have TWO legs and letting the combo of knit fabric and slippery silky synthetic take over when I was going too fast stitching the ditch on the first leg and having to seam rip about 3 inches. (If it was a fancier garment and higher than the ankle it would have been necessary to seam rip the whole piece as it is a bit twisted compared to the other. I may re-do with a longer, better sewn cuff at some point.)

Still, not bad for sewing knit and slippery fabric when I don’t know how to work with either!

That was a luxurious day of getting to work on my own projects, so I also began making a sewing machine cover, following the instructions in Sew Everything Workshop. It was another success and another source of learning.

A sewing machine under a cover with a pattern of cute cartoon foxes.
Isn’t that oilcloth fabric fabulous? How could you not want to go play with a machine under a cover like that? The pattern is “Fabulous Foxes” by Andie Hanna, part of the Robert Kaufman Collection. I got it at Britex in San Francisco.

This one went together very well. I slowed down. 😀

Still need to learn how to wrap bias tape for a more finished look around openings. I cut separate pieces and stitched them down and the gaps show.

It came together in three stages on different days:

  • Marking it up to cut using tailor’s chalk directly on the wipeable side of the fabric, cutting the pieces, creating and finishing the handle opening, and then assembling the body pieces onto the top.
  • Cutting the cord slot and pinning the bottom seam. (Double folded seam style, folded over and then over again, so when you stitch you leave a clean edge on the interior.)
  • Sewing round to finish the bottom edge (which I did on January 8, 2019, after the bustle of the holidays and travel).

Making this was so fun, I want to work more with BPA-free PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabrics. I had no problems with the sewing machine feeding this even though I wasn’t using a special foot, I guess because I was going slow. I’ve got a bit left so I’m thinking of making some little zippered pouches.

I was definitely hooked at this point. Went back to Britex on December 20, 2018, where I bought an “ironing ham” (used for ironing curved things like sleeve cuffs), zippers I could use for making pouches of various sorts, cotton cording for lacing for other small projects, polyester fiberfill, and more remnants. (I looked at thin, cheap quilt batting, but then didn’t find the kind I needed so I skipped it.)

We traveled to London over the holiday time and I made a special trip to Shaukat Fabrics, which I knew from Erin McKean’s Dress A Day blog (which I’ve been re-reading) as a great source of less expensive Liberty fabrics.

Stacks and stacks of Liberty fabric. This section is labeled "Liberty Poplin £18 per meter".
So much lovely fabric…
One shopping bag of loot in hand, a dazed Dinah emerges to the sidewalk.

I bought 5 meters of a Liberty cotton poplin and 3 meters of a Liberty lawn I plan to use for garments for me once my skills permit me working with something that’s £18 a meter. I also bought 28 remnant pieces (mostly about 8-10″ strips around 45-55″ wide), about a third of which were gifts for my mother. For a few I found two pieces. These are all amazing fabrics and will be really fun to use, even in small amounts.

Intricately patterned fabric in a variety of styles, from subtle earthtones to splashy pinks, many of them with motifs of flowers and foliage.
These intricate patterns make me very excited about sewing!

On January 8, 2019, it was a pure joy to have things so well set up that I could just turn on the lights and the machine and start sewing when the mood struck. This is when I finished the sewing machine cover. Only took about half an hour. I turned off the machine, covered it up, turned off the worklights, and went on with my day. Glorious!

My next projects were organizing my sewing materials and making a toy for my nephew Charlie, beg pardon, Space Commander Charles G.

An orange flannel space rocket with curved brown twill fins standing up on its flat base (and kept vertical by the even spacing of the fins)
I used this pattern from sewgrown.blogspot.com. Their pattern includes flames that tuck into the bottom and can be extended on blast off, but I left those out for safety since Charlie has a very little brother.

The tricky bit for me with this one was cutting the pieces of the fins since the fabric for those had a distinct right and wrong side. I had to recut one piece, but fortunately it was small and didn’t waste much. (This fabric was originally going to be used in repairing the pillowcases in our front window, but I know I can get more and it was ideal for a sturdy section of a toy like this.
I also wasn’t paying enough attention to lining up the direction of the diagonal pattern of the right side of the twill while I was cutting these, but fortunately 2-year-olds aren’t too fussy. 😀

One tip when using poly fiberfill: stretch out a glob of it a little to make a flat pad rather than a lump and place that flat against the sides, then when you’re jamming into the center at the last to finish filling it up entirely full, the flat pads keep lumps from forming on the exterior. This of course will also make the rocket more aerodynamic and require less fuel.

Along with having a good sewing day, I ordered some pieces from Ikea (storage boxes for fabric, an organizer for notions, extra shelves to make the cupboards work better) and threw in two cheap duvet covers that were on sale at a price making them a great price for printed cotton fabric. One of those is a fun fabric I’ll be using for my first clothing project (see below). Ironically, the fabric storage boxes have been lost by FedEx twice between Ikea and my house, but the rest is turning out fine.

On January 18, 2018, I gave myself the treat of a visit to a new-to-me fabric store, Fabric Outlet, on Mission Street. Very friendly staff and I was such a happy Dinah puttering around and finding things. I got fabric and buttons for a present I’m planning to make (shhh, for now), fabric and twill ribbon to make myself a new apron that’s proportioned correctly for me (no more apron-side-boob!), a flamingo pink satin remnant that will be perfect for the belt for my next project (below), some linen and twill that may work to make coasters, fusible interfacing (a proper, non-remnant sized piece this time), thin batting, and a few interesting remnants.

On January 20, 2018, I began thinking through a more complex project, my first complete pieces of clothing: a set of lounge pants and a matching kimono jacket for an upcoming trip to very warm weather. (I’m sure these will also come in handy this summer, whenever we get one. It was never entirely predictable in San Francisco even before climate change.)

A pair of soft, loose lounge pants lies beside an open notebook with a pen laid by from making notes. Next to it is a piece of green craft paper with the edges folded over like a seam allowance.
Thinking through how to add a soft, fold over waistband and using a piece of craft paper to work through my ideas.

I washed the fabric, and while that was going I figured out the best of my current pairs of lounge pants to use as the basis for a pattern.

(Yes, these are pretty fabulous pants—best of all I bought these tropical wonders at Marks & Spencers in Yorkshire!—but the elastic top isn’t comfortable for me these days.)

Figuring out how to get this three dimensional object to lay flat enough to be captured in two was a real test of my wits and patience, but, taking breaks when I needed, I did succeed eventually. I marked and cut all the pattern pieces and will take a photo of those when I write up the sewing part of this project in a future blog post.

A quick and rather silly project was my diversion on January 22, 2019, when we had to cancel our usual D&D game and I had bonus time. I used a faaabulous girl’s t-shirt I found on clearance to make a pool tote.

White t-shirt with a pair of pink unicorns with gold horns under fluffy blue clouds.
Why don’t they make more stuff like this in adult sizes?
This was one of those shirts where the back fabric is a bit longer than the front. I used this to my advantage to create the base of the bag.
With the shirt inside-out, I lined it all up so that the shirt was smooth and the back was flat.
Then I folded the longer part of the back over the front, and pinned it.

After I stitched across to secure this bottom seam of the bag, using a flamingo pink thread to match the unicorns and removing pins as I sewed of course, I had to do two separate small bits of pinning at each side to close up the gaps of the shirt vents. (I sometimes bring a pen and notebook to beach or pool and don’t want the pen escaping through a little hole in the bottom of my bag.)
Then I cut off the sleeves, being careful to leave the seam that had attached them to the body of the shirt intact. This will add body and stability to the straps.
Next I used tailor’s chalk and an oval dish of the right size to mark where I’d extend the neck opening to create the other side of the straps. The goal is to use as much of the shirt’s shoulder strap as possible width-wise and to bring the opening down parallel with the armpit of the shirt. (If I hadn’t had the ideal oval dish, I would have used my curved fashion ruler.)

Cut out on the oval, pinning if necessary to keep the cut even on the two layers.
Do a double fold seam around the rough edges of the former armholes and neckhole. Go very very slow, probably hand-turning the needle, as you pass over the thickness of the seam at the top.
If this were anything but a cheap, loosey-goosey, rather silly pool tote, I would have pinned it, but for this I just folded the double fold as went along (playing the part of a double fold machine foot, I guess).
Despite being very slapdash, it turned out dandy. I look forward to laughter and envy on vacation with friends.

I’m still working hard on learning the basics. Figuring out what the different kinds of seams are (plus using more professional-looking techniques for the one I’ve been using most, the double fold hem).

And I’m really happy!

Dinah, wearing overalls and smiling in front of her sewing machine as she works on the fins for Charlie's space rocket.

Good Enough

Okay! I’ve looked at every single post at least briefly in comparing my site on Typepad and here in its new home on WordPress.com. Things look a little different, but all the content is here.

Lots of work to be done making it look prettier—when and if I decide that’s the best use of my time—but it’s good enough to start posting here again.

It’s bloggin’ time.

Test Post

Working on fixing some formatting issues as I proof my migrated data.

Finding a display issue with how the old !more tag is handled.

—-

After more looking it seems like:

– you can’t search for HTMl like that tag in posts on wordpress.com, wait, no, I’m (delightfully) wrong and you can.

– I did a sneaky thing for a while in 2004 and on by styling the excerpt but not hiding it on a subpage to create a different look for my short linky blog posts (which look like nothing so much as tweets, a couple years before Twitter).

– debating how to deal with this now in the migrated content… and deciding to edit them all to remove the excerpt tag now that I’ve figured out how to find them all.

Election Slate November 2018

State Offices

Governor: Gavin Newsom

He’s been working well with Jerry Brown and is ideally positioned to carry on that work. The Governor of California is an internationally significant role—5th largest economy in the world—and Newsom can take the heat. I’d like to see someone less corporate-cosy in this role, but Newsom is vastly closer to what I’d want than John Cox!

Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis

Wish Bleich had made it this far because this role’s involvement in state environmental issues makes Kounalakis’ and Hernandez’ oil money in their campaign coffers leave me a little nervous about who has this seat on the California Coastal Commission. Also gets a seat on the University of California Board of Regents. Of these two, I’m going with Kounalakis because of endorsements by Vote Pro Choice, Emily’s List, and the election guide from bay area locals Edie Irons and Janet Cox.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

Easy choice here. Glad to have him keep fighting to protect our voting rights.

Controller: Betty T. Yee

Another easy one. Delighted to have her long experience with state financial matters continuing to serve us. Endorsed by MoveOn’s membership.

Treasurer: Fiona Ma

Sound financial background and has a seriously impressive endorsement list.

Attorney General: Xavier Becerra

Becerra has stepped in very well since being appointed by Governor Brown in January when Kamala Harris went to the U.S. Senate. He’s successfully managed legal challenges maintaining California values and policies against the Trump/Pence administration.

Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara

His opponent Steve Poizner’s got the experience, but Poizner’s anti-immigrant stance in his 2010 campaign (back when he was a Republican) took him off my list in the primary. Despite some compelling counter-arguments you should consider in the election guide from bay area locals Edie Irons and Janet Cox, I’m going with the Vote Pro Choice recommendation and voting for Lara.

Board of Equalization Member, District 2: Malia Cohen

Whether California’s Board of Equalization, the only elected tax board in the country, should exist at all is definitely a question. Certainly we need more protections against money flowing as campaign contributions to someone who may make a judicial decision for the donor. But while it exists we need good people elected to it. Cohen’s goal for the position is to conduct any remaining business for the BoE as transparently as possible, while rebuilding relationships between remaining staff and county assessors. She can be very beneficial in transitioning the BoE to an improved role.

Federal Offices

U.S. Senate: Dianne Feinstein

With a different administration in Washington, D.C., and another candidate that offset the potential loss of Feinstein’s experience and Senate rank, I might consider an alternative, but we are fighting for people’s lives against Trump/Pence and we need to keep her power working for us. Remember: if Dems take back the Senate, she will be the chair of the Judiciary Committee, a vital role during any impeachment proceedings in Congress. To my relief, Feinstein has moved left on some issues and has been a strong force for good in the Senate over the past year, so I’m not holding my nose here.

(I continue to oppose Kevin de León because of his lack of action against his former housemate, sexual harasser Tony Mendoza.)

U.S. Representative, District 12: Nancy Pelosi

Again, we need this experienced, powerful woman continuing to fight for us at the national level.

More State Offices

State Assembly Member: David Chiu

Always a delight to vote for Chiu. He was great here in SF; he’s been great at the State level. He works hard and smart.

Judges:

Judicial elections are bad. Judges should not be in the business of campaigning, raising money, and so forth; they should be appointed to life terms by the political branches, removable for cause. But here we are nonetheless. In California, justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, with periodic referenda on whether to “retain” them. Justices are almost always retained.  Between 1934 and 1986, no justice ever failed his or her retention vote. In 1986, three justices of the Supreme Court were voted out (arguably) because of their principled opposition to the death penalty. No Justice has failed a retention vote since then.

So, vote yes on retaining appellate judges! The fact that there’s a vote at all is bad, but the least we can do is vote “yes.”

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California: Corrigan (no vote)
Corrigan dissented in the 2008 same-sex marriage case. In line with the above on whether we should even be voting on retention at all, I’m not voting No, but I am skipping this vote. I’m not a lawyer—I don’t know the grounds of her dissent (which may have been purely procedure-related rather than on the issue)—but that sure seems like a no-brainer she got wrong.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California: Kruger YES

Presiding Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 1: Humes YES

Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 1: Margulies YES

Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 2: Richman YES

Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 2: Miller YES!

Presiding Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 3: Siggins YES

Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 4: Streeter YES!

Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 4: Tucher YES

Presiding Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 5: Jones YES

(Miller and Streeter get an exclamation point because people I trust respect them as smart, fair, and careful.)

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony K. Thurmond

Good endorsements and solid experience with budgeting and politics, both of which play a big part in the job. I particularly appreciate his commitment to quality public school education and teaching critical thinking rather than a “teach the test” approach. I believe he’ll do better than his opponent at laying a foundation for further improvements and adaptations of public education in coming decades.

Regional Office

Member, Community College Board: Selby, Rizzo, Oliveri

Four candidates running, of which we vote for three. The school emerged last year from a risk that it would lose its accreditation (over allowing its financial reserves to get dangerously low). It lost a lot of students while that threat loomed (and with them lost their state funding) and continues to lose students despite the Free City arrangement that offers no-cost classes to San Francisco residents (which expires at the end of this school year).

  • Davila is the current board president and is pushing for more robust vocational and certificate training. That she missed 10 deadlines to file required disclosures for campaign finances and conflicts of interest since joining the board in 2014 is rather concerning and, given the other candidates, that makes her the one I don’t vote for.
  • Selby and Rizzo are on board and are both pushing to make Free City permanent (as is Davila) and to build a Performing Arts and Education Center. Selby is pushing a public transit pass for students and Rizzo is pushing building some student and teacher housing.
  • Oliveri is the newcomer and has some smart-sounding structural suggestions to make things more fiscally sustainable. See http://www.sfexaminer.com/ccsf-board-hopeful-challenges-three-incumbents-november-election/

 

City and County Offices

Member, Board of Education (choose up to 3): John Trasviña

There are 7 seats on the board, of which 3 are open this year. No incumbents are running. Hot issues are: whether/how to change school assignment system (currently a lottery which is not working as intended to prevent school segregation); how to house/support teachers in this expensive city; and whether to offer algebra in the 8th grade (con: it raises achievement gap as up to half of students of color failed in 8th and had to retake in 9th grade, where now only 10% have to retake with it introduced in 9th. pro: its unfair to hold back students who are ready for it in 8th grade and force them to squeeze 5 years of math into 4 years of school so that they can get Calculus in before college and not be at disadvantage on college applications. Here’s a good article for more on the con side: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/06/13/a-bold-effort-to-de-track-algebra-shows.html and another general article here: https://www.thebaycitybeacon.com/politics/squaring-the-circle-eighth-grade-algebra-and-the-school-board/article_5baaac8e-cb2c-11e8-b048-dbcd72b52bba.html )

The first issue was slightly sidelined in late September by two leading members of the current board introducing a resolution to abolish the district’s school assignment system: https://www.kqed.org/news/11693522/two-s-f-school-board-commissioners-to-introduce-resolution-ending-lottery-system

I don’t have a horse in this race, not being the parent of a student in SF’s system and will only be voting for that one candidate I found particularly compelling in my research, but I can identify candidates not worth considering for you if you’re diving into these turbulent waters:

  • Zhao: withdrew too late to remove from ballot (also made transphobic and anti-LGBTQ comments, which is totally unacceptable given the many kids in SF schools who identify as such).
  • Kangas: not a serious candidate; hasn’t responded to issue questionnaires. Also, and this makes me wonder if he also works as a cab driver (and recently transported me), according to one of the folks at the event Joe attended, he keeps calling one of the public school system legal team with concerns and info about the Kennedy assassination. Moving riiiiight along…
  • House: also no serious response to questionnaires about his issue position and takes no stance.
  • Thompson: little info available.
  • Satya: little info available, wants to keep algebra out of 8th grade.

One last comment: the endorsements for this board which you’ll see on various Democratic-affiliated mailers listing a wide variety of elected positions are indicative of the clubbiness of the very local party. These recommendations sometimes seem to be a lot more about “I know you from your long-time activity with our party” and a lot less about the issues or the skills this person is bringing to this particular role. Remember that local positions like school boards are often a candidate’s first experience with elected office; this is great for bringing representation up from the grassroots and growing a person’s skills, but can also be exploited by political parties to move loyalists up to higher offices. If I were a parent, I’d be making damn sure my school board members were there because they care about that work, not planning to spend their time with their eye on the next stepping stone up.

State Propositions

1: Housing Assistance Bond YES

An easy Yes. California needs to make affordable housing a priority. Every major paper and group supports this, other than the Republicans and tax-haters. Also, this is a legislatively referred bond measure, which means it was approved by the state legislature, which is required to refer bonds over $300,000 to the voters, which means it’d be approved already if not for that rule. (Further note in its favor, when I looked up “who is Gary Wesley”, the author of the lone argument against this proposition in the sample ballot, the first result is an LA Times article, “The Lone Dissenter Rides Again”, from 1986. This guy just has a 40—FORTY!—year hobby of writing ‘No’ responses.)

2: Bonds for Housing for Mentally Ill YES

Another easy Yes. This has background relating to past conflict over whether 2004 Prop 63’s funds should be used for housing. The legislature put this year’s Prop 2 on the ballot for the voters to confirm that creating housing for people with severe mental illness is compatible with the intent of Prop 63. Since there’s definitely a huge interrelationship between homelessness and mental illness, this more holistic approach makes good sense. (The opponents fear that people other than the long-term severely mentally ill could be given housing with these funds and that that would overall reduce resources for treatment, but the opponents also seem to be generally opposed to bonds.)

3: Water Bonds YES

Opposed in the sample ballot by people who LOVE dams. Damn, do they love dams. And they hate taxes. Hello, Central Solano supporters of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who’ve been messing up California since Prop 13 in the 1970s. Though I’ve seen some general concerns flying around about oversight on this that started to lean me toward a No, I was flipped back to a Yes by Janet Cox’s full-throated endorsement. Decades of experience with California environmental and water policy? I’m listening!

4: Bonds to Improve Children’s Hospitals YES

On the one hand this would definitely save lives (both the kids who receive access to better care and through increased earthquake safety), on the other hand this proposition did not go through the legislative budget process and will need to be repaid with interest.  But on a whole bunch of little tiny hands, including many that are poor, brown, or undocumented, recall that children’s hospitals treat seriously ill children regardless of their ability to pay. Plus I tend to support bonds because they put money out into the state economy now and make good things happen sooner rather than later. I say Yes. (Opposed by Gary Wesley! Everybody drink!)

5: Prop 13 Portability NO NO NO!

Prop 13, passed in 1978, required that property taxes be based on the assessed value of the home when it was last sold, not on its market value. And that value goes up only at the overall rate of inflation (under 2% a year) not based on increases in the fair market value of the home. Thus folks who bought a home a long time ago pay a LOT less than their current share of taxes in their area. To solve the problem of (mostly older) people having a disincentive to move to a smaller, cheaper home and having to pay more property taxes than before, in Prop 60 passed allowing homeowners over 55 to carry over the assessed value of their old home to a new home, so long as they buy the new one for less than they sold the old one for.

So what’s this new Prop trying to do? Allow home buyers over 55 to keep their old, low assessed value even if they buy a more expensive house (with the delta between the two being paid at the new rate). And if they bought a less expensive house they’d pay even less than under the currently biased deal. AND it removes the limits on how many times they can transfer the taxable value. (And removes some other limitations.)

Who does this hurt? County governments, who will face a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars. And we have seen what already-squeezed local budgets mean for parks and libraries; this would be grim.

And the realtors who are the main ones funding this? In this economy? They do not need a damn handout of a bunch of new business as those with the most resources flip around the real estate market. This proposition will not help solve California’s affordable housing crisis and will probably make things worse. Vote No on tax breaks for up-sizing, while acknowledging that, yes, this is going to make life more complex for some older folks in areas which have seen massive rises in home prices.

6: Gas Tax Repeal NO NO NO

No way am I supporting this attempt to eliminate vital state transportation funding. Guess who is pushing this? It’s our old foes the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, along with various other Republicans. And they’re attempting to kill this funding with no plan for what to do instead to make these vital functions work. Hella no.

7: Allow the Legislature to Change (or Eliminate) Daylight Saving Time YES (oh thank goodness YES)

Yes! It’s here at last! Your opportunity to get the ball rolling on ending the need to change your clocks twice a year and have your sleep messed with! Federal law says states can opt out of DST, but in 1949 California, in the bill that established DST, said it can only be changed by a vote of the people. This would change that and allow the legislature to change it with a two-thirds vote. The initiative process is not the best way to decide the ideal solution; let’s put the legislature on the job of deciding if we should go with DST year-round or with standard time year round, and with that decision eliminate having to change our clocks. (Opponents say “oo, but this’ll put us out of sync with other states that still have DST and be confusing”; I say the writing is on the wall for DST and somebody has to start the dominos falling.)

8: Cap Profits of for-profit outpatient kidney dialysis centers NO

I’m going to point you again at Edie Irons and Janet Cox’s compelling argument for why this issue is too complex to be solved with the initiative system. The risks of this causing patients to lose access to nearby (for-profit) dialysis centers that keep them alive, while not solving the sub-standard conditions in centers with problems are too big a risk to be worth supporting this measure.

9: Removed from ballot. Skip!

10: Repeal Costa-Hawkins restrictions on rent control YES

Costa-Hawkins is a 1995 law that restricted cities’ ability to enact or expand rent control. As Edie Irons and Janet Cox say: “Passing Prop 10 does not create any new rent control laws. It just allows an incredibly important debate to happen in cities around the state, and hopefully some common-sense legislation will be passed where it’s most needed.” Huge number of groups I trust are supporting this and I am a fan of rent control as a backstop against housing being pay-to-play.

Even in San Francisco, with its rent control protections, there has been a wave of people driven out of the city by rising costs every tech boom; we need to make it possible for people who aren’t getting rich on the latest boom and who don’t own a home to keep their (rented) homes as times change around them. Forcing people with fewer resources to uproot their lives every time the hot light of gentrification shines where they live only increases inequality. (Now, should we have income tests for rent control to weight things differently for folks who do have resources? Yes, and that’s the kind of fine-tuning to rent control which I think will start coming out of these incredibly important debates to come.)

11: Prohibits real breaks for ambulance drivers NO

Are we kidding? First responders need to be rested and alert to do their incredibly challenging work and, no, they aren’t ignoring calls while they take a Candy Crush break. This law, which was proposed by ambulance companies, is opposed by labor. If they don’t have enough staffing, they need to hire some more drivers; jobs are good.

12: Specifying cage sizes for livestock YES

Does one square foot of space per chicken create a happy chicken? No. Is it better than there not being a minimum size? Hell yes!

As Edie Irons and Janet Cox suggest, educating yourself about the conditions of the animals who make up the products you buy seems like a better way for an individual to influence animal welfare than voting no on a proposition because it doesn’t go far enough in the right direction.

City and County Propositions:

A: Waterfront Seawall Safety Bonds YES

Critical infrastructure for something that is only going to become astronomically more costly the longer we wait. Only on ballot because the amount exceeds what the city can pay for out of regular operating funds. SPUR, YIMBY, SFBike, League of Pissed Off Voters all support. (Who’s opposed? The Libertarians, whose motto seems to be “I wouldn’t pay a tax for lifeguards if my own mother was drowning.”)

B: City Privacy Guidelines (skip it)

Non-binding guideline that doesn’t actually change anything. It also overlaps with the recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act, a real, binding, state-wide privacy measure that goes into effect in 2020. No reason for this feel-good thing that doesn’t affect the real world to be on the ballot.

C: Gross Receipts Tax for Homelessness YES

This measure would impose an additional tax on individuals and businesses in San Francisco that earn more than $50 million in gross receipts (total income) per year in order to fund homelessness services and housing. The money raised would nearly double the funds currently spent to address homelessness, and at least half the funds would go to housing people and keeping them housed (rather than to temporary shelters and services). Those who are opposed are concerned about oversight on how the money is spent, but even less-than-perfect allocation of funds is necessary. This is a crisis and a big move like this is the kind of game-changer we need. Also (as was pointed out at the ballot discussion Joe attended), unless fixed, homelessness is probably going to drive away more businesses than this tax will.

Wealth inequality is what is causing people to fall through the safety net. I’ve lived through multiple booms in this city and the crazier the tech wages and fancy condos get, the more people I see suffering on the street. This is an equitable way to address the problem.

(Who is opposing C? Republicans, Libertarians, Katy Tang, realtors, business organizations.)

D: Big-Business Cannabis and Ecommerce By Non-SF-Based Companies taxes YES

Neighboring cities like Berkeley and Oakland already have imposed taxes on cannabis businesses. The money raised is intended to assist the city with cannabis-related costs and programs. And the tax doesn’t go into effect until 2021. And it gives the Board of Supervisors the ability to amend the tax to respond to changing conditions. A tax on ecommerce sites that are making more than $500K a year in San Francisco seems like a reasonable thing to level the playing field for local merchants.

(Who opposes D? Republicans and Libertarians, who hate all taxes.)

E: Hotel Tax Set-aside for the Arts YES

This doesn’t change the hotel tax rate, it just dictates that 8% of that money instead of going into the city’s General Fund, would go to arts related projects.

Con: It’s an end-run to get a budget increase for those things, basically. Forced set-asides for non-essentials which tie the hands of the Board of Supervisors when designing yearly budgets seem counter to the overall goal of representative democracy.

Pro: The Hotel Tax has always been associated with funding for the arts since it was established in 1961. This is just restoring funding which has been diverted over the years.

This has nearly unanimous support from SF elected officials, arts and community organizations, and even the hotels. Having sat through Board of Supervisors meeting where desperate art organizations were begging to retain a fraction of their funding in leaner years, I’m a Yes.

More City and County Offices

Assessor-Recorder: Carmen Chu

A solid public servant doing really good work for us. Let’s keep her at it.

Public Defender: Jeff Adachi

Sure. I’ve had points of disagreement with him over the years, but he does fine as public defender and his work with reforming the money bail system in SF is great.

 


As usual the Sample Ballot booklet has tons of other useful info tucked in between things. A few highlights:

– inside cover: Important Dates including early voting hours at City Hall which began October 9th and weekend voting which begins October 27th and 28th (I love my city!)

– page 5 When and Where to vote

– page 6-8 How to mark your ballot and do ranked-choice voting

– page 35 Ways to share your subject matter expertise and best thinking to help transform this city

– page 40 Info on being a Poll Worker on election day

– page 73 an actually great FAQ

– page 93 Voter Bill of Rights

– page 118 an actually useful index

– Page 119-120 Ballot Worksheet

– Back cover Vote-by-Mail application

 


Particularly helpful in my thinking this time around:
– conversation with my wise partner, Joe Gratz, and the info he shared from a gathering of friends which he attended to discuss ballot propositions
– this voter guide from Edie Irons and Janet Cox https://edieirons.ca/nov-2018-voter-guide/

Low-Spoon Mastodon Migration

Probably you’re hearing about a less toxic social media environment you’d like to or are being encouraged by friends to try, but the idea of restarting in a whole new thing exhausts you. Don’t worry. You can save your spoons and take this in very, very small steps.

The first step is to know that it is your choice and you can do it if and when you want.

If someone you follow is moving to Mastodon, ask them for the URL to see their toots (the mascots are elephants not birds, so toots not tweets). It’ll look something like this: https://mastodon.cloud/@metagrrrl

Knowing that you won’t lose touch with friends who switch to Mastodon can really help a lot with taking this at the pace which is most comfortable for you.

Another step you can take is to watch this couple minute overview, so you’ll know what they’re talking about:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPSbNdBmWKE

Mastodon runs on many independent servers, called ‘instances’. I find it helpful whenever they say “an instance”, to hear “a community”.

Because each community (instance) sets its own rules, it is possible to find one which matches your values and, most importantly, values you as a member.

Everyone should base their Mastodon account in a community (instance) which will protect its users in the ways which matter most to them.

Finding the right community (instance) seems like a huge task, but it’s not that bad. It’s kind of like choosing your email host; yeah, it’s bit of a pain in the butt to change later, but it’s not the end of the world if you decide to do so.

A great way to start thinking about where you might want to have a Mastodon account is to look at the rules for the communities (instances) where your friends have theirs.

Remember: just like email hosts, you and your friend don’t have to be with the same one to communicate with each other.

Finding the rules for a Mastodon community (instance) is easy because they have a common URL style: just add /about/more to the end of the base URL.

For example, https://mastodon.cloud’s rules are at
https://mastodon.cloud/about/more

You can see some other communities’ rules at
https://mastodon.social/about/more
https://social.tchncs.de/about/more
https://cybre.space/about/more
https://mastodon.art/about/more
https://anticapitalist.party/about/more
https://mastodon.xyz/about/more
https://wandering.shop/about/more
Some place more restrictions on acceptable behavior, some fewer.

Next you might want to explore why this effort could have a payoff for you. Along with the opportunity to be in a less toxic community than Twitter, as far as the rules are concerned, there are some differences in the way things work which help to reduce or eliminate harassment and other negative experiences.

Perhaps the most subtle and important difference is between Twitter’s retweets and Mastodon’s boosts. Boosts don’t include text from the person doing the boosting. There’s no ‘boost with comment’, thus no performative aspect, avoiding “Heed, my followers, how I dunk on this fool!”

That doesn’t prevent someone sharing screenshots or linking, but because Mastodon’s reply functionality only broadcasts to people who happen to follow you both, one person’s massive follower count won’t unbalance the conversation.

I described this difference as subtle and important because when the design doesn’t enable and encourage pile-ons, people behave differently. Some of what makes Twitter so often unpleasant seems to be the default behavior of the tool, not necessarily that of the user.

That’s the subtle stuff, though, and there are big, obvious differences which are under your control in Mastodon, and which allow you to change your experience for the better.

You can adjust how public any individual message is.

A toot can be
• Fully public, appearing to your followers, the public timelines, anyone looking at your profile;
• Unlisted, appearing to your followers and on your profile, but not in the public timelines;
• Private, appearing only to your followers and people mentioned in it;
or
• direct, appearing only to people mentioned in it.

Also you can “lock” your account overall, requiring your approval for a new follower to be added.

Beyond that, on Mastodon you have much more ability (though less need) to hide things. Since it’s not commercial, you won’t see ads in your timeline. And your timeline is just messages as they come out from the people you follow and only that — no algorithm messing with what you see.

On Mastodon, if strangers are bothering you, you can block notifications from people you don’t follow. You can also block or mute individuals. You can even hide everything from a specific community (instance), so you don’t see them and any of your followers from there are removed.

Text filters are coming, but are perhaps less necessary than on Twitter because most Mastodon communities have a culture of using Content Warnings. And the content warnings actually mean something here, because of the way they are built into how messages are written and read on Mastodon.

As you write a toot, you just click the ‘CW’ at the bottom (next to where you’d add an image or set how public the toot is) and a separate field appears for you to write your warning. When the toot appears in anyone’s timeline, only your warning appears with a “SHOW MORE”/”SHOW LESS” toggle to reveal the rest of your toot.

What is purely delightful is that another part of Mastodon culture is the use of CW for all sorts of things, including jokes with the punchline hidden. 🙂

That’s not even all the hiding controls. You can learn more on this incredibly helpful page: https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2018/07/cage-the-mastodon/

You can try Mastodon without making any commitment to switching over to it. In fact, that’s what I recommend. Find a community with a set of rules that feel good enough for you to hang out at their gathering for a while. Go to the about page of their community (like https://mastodon.cloud/about) & look for a signup form & its big blue button. Create your account and personalize your profile just a little, probably making it match your Twitter account so it’s easy for friends to recognize you.

Then ‘toot’ something like, “Hi, it’s me. You may also know me over on the bird site as [your Twitter name].”

On Twitter, you can tweet something like “I’m playing with Mastodon a little. You can find me at [your new Mastodon page]” or DM that to friends. If you’re making a public announcement, you might want to put your Mastodon page in the bottom of your Twitter bio.

It is absolutely fine to just let that ride for a little bit. People join Mastodon all the time and if you don’t have connections over there at first, you will likely find them joining you over time. So that they know you are hoping to meet with them in Mastodon, you may want to toot a little something every now and then.

You’ll automatically be set up to follow the administrators of your community and some of them are quite fun. (Eugen of mastodon.social, for example, is an avid booster of cat pictures. Though my personal account is in a different community, I follow Eugen for the cheerful kitties.)

To find others to connect to, try searching for the names or usual usernames of people you know from other social media sites, or for hashtags of things you like. You can even save a hashtag as another timeline column in your view of Mastodon. (I have #mastoart there, for example, and so I always have cool art to look at.)

There’s a lot more you can explore—and I’ll link to some things below—but the steps I’ve described are plenty to dip your toe in the water and find out what this whole Mastodon thing is about.

Personally, though it took me a little while to find the spoons to get it set up, I find it so much nicer an experience that I have more spoons using it than I do using Twitter.


Bonus stuff:

You can learn a bunch more about Mastodon here: https://joinmastodon.org/

In a nutshell, the Mastodon interface is laid out in columns, with compose/search on the left and details (selected toot, user profile, search results, etc.) on the right. Between them are other columns with timelines, the leftmost one being the toots of all those you follow. You can add columns for hashtags you’re interested in by searching for that hashtag and then, when it’s the result on the right, using the controls icon (shaped like sound board sliders) to “+ pin” it. You can choose to have the local timeline (everyone from your community’s toots) and/or the federated timeline (local plus everyone they follow from other communities’ toots) visible, but frankly I find them way too busy to look at. If you’ve ever used Tweetdeck, Mastodon is going to feel pretty familiar. (There are other interfaces for Mastodon, but I haven’t explored any yet.)

One important thing to know about your privacy and Mastodon is that everything you post, even direct messages, are theoretically visible to the system administrators of that Mastodon community (instance) and any other community (instance) to which your toots or direct messages travel. This is not very different from email; odds are extremely slim that anyone would ever access it, but it is technically possible. Fortunately, because all the users of Mastodon are spread across many communities and thus for any community the ratio of users to administrators is much smaller, you can get to know your admins instead of them being some faceless employees of a distant, giant corporation.

If you are someone who’s been a victim of harassment, you may want to limit how public your posts are and “lock” your account so that you can be aware of the rules of the communities where your followers are before you approve them, allowing your posts to appear in the federated timeline for their community (which is made up all the toots from those in that community plus the toots from those they follow, thus potentially you).

In general, people use content warnings in the traditional sense for “US politics”, “violence”, “injury”, “hate speech”, “self-harm” (including suicide because even the word suicide is a drag, so lumping it under “self-harm” is helpful), as well as for “alcohol” and “food”. They also will use the CW feature to be kind to others by hiding very long toots—Mastodon allows messages up to 500 characters—under a short description, and, of course, to hide spoilers relating to shows or sports. (I’ve been especially grateful for that cultural norm as it means I don’t have to wade through pontificating about shows I don’t watch!)

My favorite description of the subtle design decisions on Mastodon is this from https://fosstodon.org/@codesections, “Mastodon makes it as easy as possible to talk *to* other Mastodon users, while making it harder to talk *about* other Mastodon users.”

Oh, and yes, Virginia, there are friendly, funny, and pretty bots still on Mastodon. Not as many as there were on Twitter, but with the recent API changes over there, I expect increasing migration. My favorite, which I heartily encourage you to follow to make your timeline visually nice every day with lovely old illustrations of fruit, is https://botsin.space/@pomological.