Monthly review: September 2015

Following up on the research I did in August, I had a lot of fun sewing in September. I tried out many free printable patterns with inexpensive fabric, and I found quite a few I liked. I’ve also been learning about drafting basic blocks based on measurements, but I still have a long way to go before I’m comfortable with those. The more comfortable I get with making things for myself (and the more I enjoy the benefits of customized clothing), the more I’m motivated to put in the effort to learn even more.

It was an excellent month for consulting, too: built lots of little prototypes and reports. =) My fiscal year ended in September, so I’ve been getting a head start on tax-related paperwork. Even though I fell out of the habit of updating my books weekly, it was easy to catch up on transactions and crunch the numbers for last-minute decisions.

I made it out of hermit mode a couple of times, hanging out with friends and meeting interesting people. Aside from that, I’m back to long walks, hooray for feeling better!

Also, lots more cooking, tidying up, and going for errands. We’ve started keeping tapioca pearls in the pantry, and bubble tea is now well within the realm of a possibility for an indulgent afternoon snack. A few other firsts this month, too: making udon noodles, making tapioca pearls… Mmmm.

We’ve completed the story missions for Borderlands 2 on Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode, so I’ve been able to dial down the intensity of my video-game playing. W- bought the season pass, so we’ve been playing our way through the downloadable content. I usually join him for story missions, but I sometimes pass on optional missions and challenges. Instead, I’ve been spending a little more time drawing and thinking, taking advantage of the fact that my fuzzy brain has cleared up a little.

October: More sewing, more paperwork, more consulting, and more awesomeness (I hope)!

2015-10-06a September 2015 -- index card #monthly #review output

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Category Last month % This month % Avg h per week Delta (h/wk)
Unpaid work 2.6 7.8 13 8.7
Personal 14.8 19.7 33 8.2
Discretionary – Productive 8.6 11.7 20 5.2
Business – Build 1.8 3.1 5 2.2
Business – Earn 5.2 5.9 10 1.2
Discretionary – Social 0.0 0.4 1 0.7
Sleep 40.1 40.5 68 0.7
Business – Connect 0.4 0.5 1 0.2
Discretionary – Family 8.7 2.1 4 -11.1
Discretionary – Play 17.8 8.3 14 -16.0

Learned how to replace a zipper

One of W-‘s winter jackets had a zipper that started to separate at the bottom. In retrospect, I should’ve tried squeezing the slider with pliers to see if that simple fix would take care of it. Then again, W- had probably already tried that before checking out zipper replacement tutorials on Youtube. Besides, replacing the zipper would also let us swap out the coil zipper for a plastic molded zipper (or what YKK calls Vislon zippers), which W- wanted.

There’s a tailor near us that charges $1/inch for replacing zippers, but I figured I’d give it a shot first. Free opportunity to learn a potentially useful skill, after all. I used a seam ripper to open the zipper-related seams. One of the sides came apart pretty quickly, but the other side required reaching through the lining of the jacket in order to loosen a few stitches before I could cut the rest of the threads.

Since I had the lining open anyway, I figured it was a good time to unpick the over-zipper flap’s hook-and-loop tape segments so that I could replace them with snaps. (Velcro is not a good idea when you have three cats.)

Yesterday I went on a long walk downtown to pick up supplies, since the fabric warehouse near us didn’t have the zippers or snaps I was looking for. I wasn’t sure what length to get and I forgot to bring the old zipper along, so I bought a 24″ zipper and a 26″ zipper from Fabricland – both one-way separating locking plastic moulded zippers. I bought rust-resistant snaps from a small store on Queen Street near Spadina.

I spent most of today learning how to replace the zipper. I took the time to baste both sides, which worked out well. I was a little concerned about the holes for the bottom snaps letting in wind and water, so I hand-sewed some polyurethane film behind the bottom snaps to catch some of that. My machine-stitching was a little wobbly because of the thickness, and there were parts I still needed to hand-stitch with the help of a thimble. Maybe next time I might hand-stitch the whole thing so that I can line things up better. The underside of my machine-stitched zipper wandered a bit. Still, I’m sure W- won’t mind!

Sewing the zipper and installing the snaps took me about five hours, but I’m sure that will get faster with practice. It was good to see things take shape, and the time passed quickly enough with Youtube videos in the background. I might take future zippers to the tailor if I’m pressed for time. Today, though, it was good to cross off another unexpected addition to my bucket list. =)

Weekly review: Week ending October 2, 2015

My tiny corporation’s fiscal year ended this week. I did a dry run of corporate tax preparation so that there won’t be any surprises when I file. Reconciled bank statements, corrected transactions, compensated for the exchange rate, followed up on stuff… Looks like it’s all ready to go once the final statements come in.

In terms of sewing, this week I focused on learning more about patterns. I used tmtp to write Python scripts that drafted basic shirt patterns, but I still need to sew muslins to test whether the patterns make sense. (Some of the pieces look a little weird…) It’s been a slow week because things still feel pretty theoretical, but maybe I’ll spend next week knocking out a few small sewing projects so I have more of that feeling of accomplishment.

Also, I got to chat with cool people about Emacs and life. =) Thanks to Bill Z. for reaching out!

2015-10-03a Week ending 2015-10-02 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (16.2h – 9%)
    • Earn (11.7h – 71% of Business)
      • File September invoice
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (4.6h – 28% of Business)
      • Drawing (0.1h)
      • Paperwork (4.4h)
        • Enter transactions into Quickbooks
        • Doublecheck tax installments
        • Do Paypal USD conversion
        • Credit back personal amount for telephone expenses
        • Sort out GST/HST Payable account
        • Fix depreciation
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (5.7h – 3%)
    • Meet Bill Z
  • Discretionary – Productive (21.6h – 12%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
    • Renew
    • Sewing (17.1h)
    • Writing (4.6h)
      • Try creating a Python pattern
      • Pattern-making: Generating SVGs for sewing with Python and tmtp
  • Discretionary – Play (15.3h – 9%)
  • Personal routines (30.5h – 18%)
  • Unpaid work (15.2h – 9%)
  • Sleep (63.4h – 37% – average of 9.1 per day)

Pattern-making: Generating SVGs for sewing with Python and tmtp

I like sewing simple clothes, and I’d like to be able to continue doing that even as measurements change without having to rely on commercial patterns that would need to be manually adjusted anyway. I also want to experiment with computer-assisted cutting, like the way the laser cutter at made it super-easy to precisely cut the same top in different fabrics.

In sewing, there’s the idea of drafting a pattern based on a set of measurements and a few calculations. You could do this with a large roll of paper, a ruler, and some way to draw a smooth curve (French curves, hip curves, or even tracing around the edge of a plate). There are software programs to do this as well, but the commercial ones tend to cost a lot if you want one that automatically drafts the rest of the pattern based on your measurements. Still, you can translate the manual instructions to digital form by drawing the appropriate lines and curves in a vector drawing program such as Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator.

While researching open source options for pattern-making, I came across Tau Meta Tau Physica (tmtp). At its core, it’s a Python script that produces an SVG based on a programmed pattern and a set of measurements. With a little fiddling (downgraded pySVG, fixed some case sensitivity issues), I got it working on my system.

Both documentation and actual code samples were pretty sparse, but I figured out the basics by reading the library code and the test patterns. I spent the day working on translating some of the basic patterns from Cal Patch’s book Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Pattern Making Simplified. So far, I’ve put together plausible-looking replicas of the A-line skirt and the basic shirt.

One of the nifty things about writing programs to draft patterns is that I can use the library functions to calculate the lengths of the cubic Bezier curves I’m using for necklines and armholes. This is handy when calculating collar length or adjusting sleeve caps. In particular, it’s neat to be able to use a loop to adjust the sleeve cap by offsetting the bicep point, although I’ll probably tweak the algorithm because it might be good to balance that with other ways to adjust that sleeve cap length.

I still haven’t tested the patterns, though, and I’m not even sure I’m collecting all these measurements correctly. At some point, I’ll print them out and sew a muslin yet. It would be good to test the sleeve cap. But the patterns look reasonable, so that’s a start.

Here are some screenshots based on my current measurements, and some links to the patterns on Github:

A-line skirt: My default measurements have this skirt sitting at my natural waist, although I’ll probably drop the waistline a bit lower before sewing it.

2015-09-29 20_57_39-foo.svg

Basic shirt: Totally untested. Would be interesting to see if this sleeve actually works, or what needs tweaking.

2015-09-29 20_59_55-_foo.svg - Inkscape

I’ll work on encoding the Burda bodice block, and then I can use that to sanity-check the shirt. Then there’s figuring out poster printing, taping up the pattern, and trying it out. Looks promising, though! I’m still boggled that the math I did for squaring lines seems to actually work. Now if only I can figure out proper seam allowance calculations instead of leaving that as a post-processing step in Inkscape or on paper…

My Github fork of tmtp

Weekly review: Week ending September 25, 2015

This was an excellent week for making things and for getting things done.

We spent Saturday reorganizing the pantry and freezer, throwing out things that had long since expired. We dedicated an eye-level area for snacks and things that weren’t too far past their expiration date, and we’ve been making excellent progress going through these. The new system seems to be working well.

Two sewing milestones! I modified a pattern to add a zipper and a gathered section, and that worked out nicely. I also sewed my first buttoned shirt. It looks recognizably shirt-like, hooray! I want to make a few comfy flannel shirts, but a wide-ranging search of fabric stores didn’t turn up the kind of flannel I was looking for. Oh well, I’ll just keep looking. In the meantime, I’ve added quite a few yards to my stash. I look forward to sewing my way through them. I’m also curious about generating SVG patterns based on measurements, especially if I can use them (with a little modification) for laser cutting.

A couple of new things for cooking, too. We’ve settled into a bubble tea / ginataan routine at home, both nice afternoon treats. I learned how to make tapioca pearls from scratch, too. I made corned beef steamed buns using a bun mix from the Asian supermarket. The dough needs a little work, but the filling was perfect. Yum.

Motivated by a podcast session on Friday with Daniel Gopar (we talked about the Emacs community), I finally got around to splitting up the Emacs Conf 2015 videos into individual talks and assembling them into a playlist.

Whee! Next week: Paperwork, sewing, and hanging out with people…

2015-09-28a Week ending 2015-09-25 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (11.3h – 6%)
    • Earn (5.6h – 49% of Business)
    • Build (5.4h – 47% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (0.4h – 3% of Business)
  • Relationships (0.0h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (24.3h – 14%)
    • Emacs (6.2h – 3% of all)
      • Process Emacsconf videos
      • Announce Emacs Hangout
    • Check out open source tools for patternmaking
    • Sewing (14.6h)
      • Make buttoned shirt
    • Writing (1.6h)
  • Discretionary – Play (13.9h – 8%)
  • Personal routines (31.0h – 18%)
  • Unpaid work (22.2h – 13%)
  • Sleep (65.1h – 39% – average of 9.3 per day)

Bubble tea and tapioca pearls

We’ve been on a bubble tea kick at home, inspired by Peaceful Cuisine’s video.

Well, W- and J- have been having bubble tea. I’ve been enjoying my allotment of tapioca pearls in ginataan along with some bilo bilo (glutinous rice flour dumplings). Yum.

The only supermarket that carries tapioca pearls near us is a short drive or a 40-minute walk away. While browsing through the bulk food store that’s closer to us, W- discovered that they carry tapioca starch. It turns out that all you need to do is add 1/3 cup of boiling water to 1 cup of tapioca starch, knead it until it’s a smooth dough, and make whatever shapes you like. Here’s the video I picked up the instructions from:

A package of tapioca pearls is $2.39 for 250g, or $9.56/kg. The store-bought pearls contain food colouring and other additives. Tapioca starch was on sale today at $2.78/kg, and the regular price is $3.27/kg. Kneading the tapioca dough and rolling it into small spheres was fun and relaxing, so even the labour is worth it. Besides, it’s nice to know that even if I’m not near an Asian supermarket, I can make these little treats.

2015-09-26 19.09.29 2015-09-26 19.08.58

The bulk food store also carries soy milk powder, so we were joking about stocking up. That way, in an emergency situation, we can still have bubble tea. Bwahaha!

Hmm. Now I’m tempted to experiment with making soy milk from soybeans – these instructions look pretty straightforward…