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My vacation is now over, and all I have to show for it is a t-shirt.  Well, a t-shirt and lots of pictures of my baby niece, most of them a little dark, cuz, well the whole vacation was a little dark.  That’s what happens when you lose power just about as soon as you arrive, and don’t get it back… well, we never did get it back where we were.  We had to go home to enjoy the benefits of electricity again.

It was ironic, since if only the place had electricity, it would have been perfect for our family vacation.  A huge kitchen big enough for several people to cook at once, enough bedrooms that everyone could have a bed, and each family could have its own room, enough public spaces that you could get away from one another when you wanted privacy, but not so much that you couldn’t find other people when you were ready to hang out.  A Eucharistic chapel right off the main rooms (perfect for blowing Jesus kisses as you went about your business), a living room with big couches, perfect for watching movies together, and an indoor pool.  That pool was really our saving grace, as the temperature climbed every day, and there was no relief in sight.  Even without electricity, it was pretty awesome.

The reason we had no electricity for as long as we were there was because we were part of the wide swath of eastern US that got its electrical grid taken out by the freak storm last Friday.  There were over a million people without power, some without water either, which makes it hard to complain about little things like trying to figure out how to keep food for fourteen people from spoiling, and soothing a slightly cranky four month old who is too hot and doesn’t like it.  By comparison, we did just fine, with a pool that saved our sanity, and general determination to just make things work.

If you asked me what I did on family vacation, well, when I did anything at all besides nursing my ankle like a good little gimp, I sewed.  Not long ago I came to the realization that my wardrobe was in serious need of refurbishment.  The last time I’d gotten any new clothes (besides my lovely, lovely polyester uniforms, which don’t count) was last fall when I was in sudden need of more professional apparel.  While I had enough nice things for cooler weather, now that we’d entered the truly sultry part of the year, my wardrobe was looking pretty thin.  And, being the crafting geek that I am, it didn’t occur to me to, say, start hitting the thrift stores or scoping out what was on offer at the mall.  No, instead I bought fabric, and started planning sewing projects.

First there was a couple of pairs of pajama shorts (stripes matching ftw), and then one of my beloved full 50s style skirts (dark gray stretch cotton sateen), and then the pair of jeans that had always been too long for me that suddenly morphed into a skirt.  I had plans for a spaghetti strap sun dress from the bold black & white print stretch cotton twill I got way too much of for $1 a yard, and more sleep shorts, and maybe even a camisole or two.  But then I followed a link on a blog (not even sure which one anymore), and discovered the awesome hand-sewn knits of Alabama Chanin.  And while there’s no way that I could ever afford one of her items (even if they came in my size), the website also offered books on how to make one for yourself.  And you know, they weren’t that expensive.  So I bought one, and when it arrived, found myself captivated by this whole new approach to sewing with knits.  I wanted to try it, but I didn’t want to take the time to grade up one of the patterns that came with the book.

About the same time I found the free pattern for the Blank Canvas Tee, which conveniently already came in the size I needed.  So this year when I headed off for family vacation, I brought with me a tote bag filled with a couple of yards of knit fabric from my stash, the printed off Blank Canvas Tee pattern, fabric shears, needle and thread.  All weekend I sewed, and when I came home it was with a brand new shirt.  And it’s a pretty sweet one.  I modified the neckline to be more of a scoop neck, felled the seams to the inside, and used herringbone stitch on the neckline and armholes.  I haven’t gotten around to embellishing it (I think some tasteful stenciling on the back of the right shoulder is in order), and I’m not completely satisfied with how the binding on the neck turned out (I think I needed to stretch the binding a little more when I was sewing it on), but all in all I’m very happy with it.  It’s always a little bit of a miracle to me when a flat piece of fabric becomes a finished garment.  This time it was extra amazing to see it grow under my hands from cut apart bits of cloth into a finished garment without using any machines on it whatsoever.  I’m already planning another!

And now vacation is over for another year.  This morning I got up way too early, rummaged through my clothes to find a clean uniform sweater (ask me how much laundry I did while I was off…) and one of my lovely polyester skirts, and headed back to work.  It all felt a little surreal, as if I’d spent a month away instead of just a week.  And then, as I was heading in to the building I heard reveille being blown on the base on the other side of the highway, and I knew that I was really back.