Author Archives: marliesethomas

Resting on my Laurel

What happens when life influences art?

So, I have a developing obsession with comfortable yet professional items of clothing. This leads to Laurel, a long-admired design from the always-wonderful Colette Patterns. Semi-fitting, all-season, easily modified, it would be quick to sew and a great canvas for experimenting with style and pattern.

Caribbean Laurel

I’m also currently in a mood for bright colors and borders prints. Imagine my delight when I found this print on sale at Hancock Fabrics. Despite a snobbery against anything synthetic, I couldn’t resist.

A border print!

I could immediately see my dream dress, even if it is a little summery for September. But, this is The South, and it’s not like I’d be wearing white shoes after Labor Day. While a version of the pattern included an interlining (backing for lace, for instance), I wanted a true lining. Thankfully, the softer lining happened to be on the clearance table and marked down to $.88/yard. Hard to pass that up!

There were some slight alterations to assembly to accommodate the lining. For instance, I only lined the bodice, not the sleeves. Rather than add more bulk with a French seam or bias binding, I opted to sew a reinforced seam and finish with pinking shears.

Lined bodice

On the positive side, the lining allowed me to cleanly finish the neckline instead of messing with facings. After sewing the neck with the lining and shell right sides together, I pressed and topstitched it to lay flat.


A zipper is always a great opportunity for accent! A shock of pink, perhaps? But no, this lace-edged design perfectly coordinated with the scrollwork of the print. Of course, it means modifying the pattern to accommodate a top-stitched zipper. In order to keep continuity of the large print, I sewed the zipper in place from the right side of the fabric, then cut and folded back the fabric underneath. Wash-away basting tape made this a breeze.

Applying the zipper

After securing the cut away fabric with another pass along the zipper teeth, I hand stitched the lining in place.

Finishing the Zipper

All that was left was the hem! Both the print and lining were a slippery polyester, but I decided to give the narrow hem foot a try, rather than press up anything bulkier. To my relief, it performed beautifully.

Hemming the lining.

And that’s it! The pattern, true to Colette standards, was super straightforward with excellent directions. If that weren’t enough, Sarai Mitnick has created entire booklets for download on ways to modify Laurel. I’m looking forward to many more of these comfortable yet appropriate dresses joining the closet. Perhaps with a touch of smocking or an inverted box pleat at the center back?

Egged into Cooking

Egged into Cooking

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but boredom is the impetus for creativity. Having run out of junk food during Snowpocalypse, I am resorted to actually cooking. Results: probably the healthiest breakfast in months. Scrambled eggs with mushrooms, Stilton, and thyme; iced coffee with organic fructose and cream.

Feeling Helpless and Hopeful

Winter Storm Leon, better known as Snowpocalypse2014, brought on a slew of unexpected situations and emotions in 48 hours. For those of you not familiar or in the middle of sludge, go read this piece by Birmingham resident Brian Barrett. Now.

Everyone back? Great.

I was really, really, really lucky. My flight back from Philadelphia (its own experience in ice and wind) landed safely around dinner Monday. I was home with prescriptions refilled, lots of dirty laundry, and a happy kitty, and I still maintained the bedtime of a preschooler. Tuesday morning was slow, warm, and a phone call from my mom prompted my first look outside.

Geez, I thought, that’s falling pretty fast for our normal “light dusting”. Quickly the road outside my house was blanketed, and the lawn disappeared. Maggie was little fascinated with the falling flakes and more irked that her daily sunshine was missing.

Maggie is unimpressed with snow instead of sunshine.

Maggie is unimpressed with snow instead of sunshine.

Thanks to social media, I found out how big a problem this was going to be for the majority of Birmingham. Various reports of schools and offices closing were rather delayed but still run of the mill. I even joked:

However, that changed to complete gratitude for my circumstances as friends and strangers faced driving and walking in freezing weather and only office-type clothing, separation of children and parents (though teachers were true heroes making sure charges remained safe), friends stuck at work and worried about pets who lack the ability to ask for help, and untold amounts of property damage. I was safe, warm, entertained, and well-fed. 

Pictures like this flooded Facebook, making me grateful for safety and uncomfortable to not help others.

So, why wasn’t I happy?

To say my privileged circumstances caused guilt would be overly simplistic and not accurate. I have earned the job and money that pay for my situation; I wouldn’t ask for a lesser quality of life. And this isn’t by any means “poor me… look at all I have”.

Helplessness was almost overwhelming at moments. As one friend faced a night in her car, another knew his dog would spend the night alone, more than one already in the hospital, and countless more friends and strangers made the best of circumstances or trucked on for safety, there was nothing I could do to help. I would share my home and blessings, but the road here is no less treacherous than any route. My car, reliable and roomy, was no ATV to maneuver the icy roads. My blankets no good to anyone on the highway. In Emergency Response Team training, the overarching policy was to help to the extent that one does not endanger him/herself. If a volunteer takes undue risks, he/she can become as much a part of the problem as existing victims.To do anything would be to put myself in danger AND would have been no real help.

Facebook and Twitter were full of stories, both horrifying and uplifting – people disconnected, of others helping move cars, delivering much-needed food and water, providing warmth and safety to complete strangers. I remembered pictures from my church of STAIR students getting new coats and thinking what great timing that was… and that I hadn’t contributed. I wanted to help; I wanted to do SOMETHING.

Both wonderful and sad, some neighborhood kitties took refuge on my porch.

Both wonderful and sad, some neighborhood kitties took refuge on my porch.

The best I could do was be thankful my family was safe and none of us needed to travel for work, food, or any other assistance. And that’s a lot. I tried to refrain from posting about my blessings at the risk of offending those who were forcibly without. It would be insufferable to be embarrassed by privilege, but I’m not embarrassed.  And some of you may think this entire post is a giant humblebrag. That’s not the intention, not in the least. In fact, I debated a long time before posting. But I needed to express this sense of dissatisfaction – not with my life or my possessions – but my inability to act. Social media is amazing for its ability to inform, to share when friends are in need, and to hear of wonderful acts of kindness. But it is frustrating when you don’t want to simply observe.

I am also fortunate in my church leadership, that they provide comfort without even knowing. Our head pastor, Rev. Dr. Conrad Sharps, posted just last week about using your abilities to make a difference in the world.

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to rule over our hearts and actions as we seek to demonstrate compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, generosity and love that Christ first showed us. – Dr. Sharps

While not all of you are followers of Christianity, and I don’t mean to force my beliefs on anyone, the meaning is clear: do what feels right and moral not only for yourself, but to show by example how others may also be. In a recent sermon, another IPC leader, David Seamon, talked about giving of yourself, but not so much that you promise more than you can deliver. I don’t remember the verse, but that was interesting. And relevant to remember, as I can only do what is within my power to do. I cannot volunteer if I’m not accessible; I cannot donate if it will add to a credit card balance.

Now, to find some way to participate in the recovery. I don’t have much extra money or time between work travel, but there are sure to be groups that need the occasional pair of hands. While I’m not home enough to foster a homeless pet, maybe the Greater Birmingham Humane Society could use an afternoon of assistance or kitten snuggling.

How Do I Love Winter?

How Do I Love Winter?
(A Southerner’s Point of View)

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love Winter? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My comforter can reach, when feeling out of light
For the early sunsets and time’s change.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most coldest breeze, blowing left and right.
I love thee wholly, with Orion in the night.
I love the crocus, blooming from the dirt.
I love thee as my heater blows another fuse.
The dryness of the air, the straightness of my hair.
I love thee in the South, which I choose
For all seasons. I love thee with the dream
Of snow on the ground; and, if Spann proclaims,
I shall continue to love thee as we move into Spring.


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