Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Cat worth his weight in Gold

We interrupt this sewing blog in progress to talk about cats!

Last September, my cat Sam wasn't eating one weekend, so I took him to the (one) veterinary hospital  in the city. They did an exam, noted how skinny he was, then asked to do an x-ray. Here he is relaxing a few weeks before that visit:

So, the x-rays come back, and the vet was quite shocked.

"All Sam's organs are in the wrong place," she told me. She took me in to see the pictures in question. All his important bits (stomach, kidney, liver etc.) were all up in his chest, compressing his lungs. As best she could tell, he had only one partial lung working at all.

This was quite a shock to me, as the lounging guy above was a seemingly healthy cat who loved to run around outside. She sent me home promising that a radiologist would review, but it didn't look good. The condition he had is called a Diaphragmatic Hernia, and he'd probably had it for quite some time. I think I know when it happened. There was a time when he was a kitten when he stopped eating. I took him to the vet (we lived up island then), and she poked and prodded him, and thought maybe it was worms from being in the SPCA. I fed him the de-worming meds, and he started to eat again, but after that he was always extremely skinny.

Back to last fall, I got a call from the vet the next day. The specialist had looked at the x-rays, and the diagnosis confirmed. In the meantime, I'd booked a consult with my own vet. The clinic vet was quite pushy, wanting me to bring him in for surgery immediately, which seemed like the only option. But after I took him home he was eating again, so I thought it unlikely he would die in the next few days.

At my vet, I heard that the x-rays had been making the rounds locally. Apparently most viewers were shocked that this was a living cat. During the exam, I felt horrible as he pointed out all the cute behaviours Sam had, like lying on his stomach with his chin out, were not so much cute as ways to breathe more easily.

He outlined the options. He was strongly recommending surgery, but I knew that would be quite expensive. Apparently without treatment, Sam could keel over dead quite quickly, as something could shift internally. In the meantime, the specialist surgeon who was apparently quite good was going on vacation. I had three options: wait a week for him to return, have one of the clinic vets perform the operation, or do nothing.

I picked option 2, figuring my best chance was with the specialist. Thankfully Sam was fine for the week we waited. So the week before Thanksgiving (Canadian, that is), I took him to the hospital on the Monday morning and met the surgeon. He told me the surgery was risky, given the age of the injury, but that if everything went well Sam could live a normal life. I left him there, and went to work.

The surgery seemed to go well, and I got a good report from the vet that night. When I went to see him, he was pretty beaten up, but otherwise OK.

But the next day he did not improve. He couldn't keep any food down, he just regurgitated everything they gave him. He stayed on the IV fluids. On Wednesday, the surgeon put a camera down his throat to see what was going on. His esophagus had slid back up through the diaghram opening and into the chest. They recommended another surgery. When I went to see him that night, this is what I found:

That is the face of a cat without many resources left. He kept snapping awake at every sound which happened often in a busy vet hospital. He couldn't seem to get comfortable, so I tried propping the blanket up underneath him, but nothing made him happy. He barely responded to me. I left the clinic and cried all the way home.

The next morning, my Mom came down to meet with the surgeon with me, and he convinced us that Sam could live through another surgery, and that he could fix him. We went home to wait. (There was no way I could work that day.) She and I sat and sorted a giant button container while we waited for news.

Around noon, the surgeon called. He was in the middle of the operation, and he was concerned that Sam's stomach seemed dead, that it completely lacked motility. If the nerves were completely gone, he would not be able to survive. Did I want him to continue with the operation? I had a minute to make the decision, but I figured I had to pay for the operation anyway, we may as well keep going.

He went back to the operating room, and Mom and I went back to waiting. During the surgery, as planned, the vet put in a feeding tube right into his stomach, to bypass the throat and esophagus. He also needed a blood transfusion, as he'd lost too much during the operation.

That night I went to see him again, and amazingly, he seemed improved.

The next day, they told me he'd managed to keep some food down, fed through the tube. I might be able to take him home that night. A few hours later, they called me at work to tell me that I should pick him up that evening. When I went to get him, they showed me how to feed him through the tube, which was pretty stressful. Then they sent me home. I later learned they put his chances at 50/50, but figured they could do nothing more for him. It was the Friday of the long weekend.

He looked pretty worse for wear, but happy to be home. I set him up in the living room to heal, as I didn't want him trying to jump up on the bed. I slept on the couch the first few nights with him, for comfort. That first night, after I fed him through the tube, he was so tired that as soon as I lay down he climbed on me, shoved his back under my chin, and fell deeply asleep.

In the morning he looked a little better.

That day I kept feeding him through the tube, but he was hungrier and hungrier. By the end of the day, it was hard to feed him through the tube, as he kept twisting around trying to get at the food. I started giving him some in a little bowl at the same time, even though that was days ahead of schedule.

Close up of the feeding tube, which snakes under the tape, around his body, and out of the side of the stomach. The little snuggy is to keep everything from shifting around.

The next night he was much improved already.

Tuesday I had to go back to work, and left him alone. When I got home he'd ripped his little snuggy off, and I had to take him back to the hospital to get it replaced, since I couldn't let the feeding tube hang on the ground. By then he was eating like a champ, and the vet's assistant thought we could maybe take the tube out earlier than later. The week saw great improvement, and he was eating more and more each day. Friday came and the surgeon agreed to take the tube out, which he did, and I think both of us breathed a sigh of relief.

After that, he healed really well. I kept him in another few weeks, but eventually I started letting him go outside. He started slowly, only staying out 20 mins or so at a time, but his stamina has gradually improved. Even better, he's gained almost 4 lbs. He was just over 7 at the time of the surgery, and he's nearly 11 now.

His fur is growing back nicely, but he is always interested in snuggling by the fire.

So why is he worth his weight in gold? Because OH MY GOD that was expensive. Like, wiped out most of my savings expensive. More then my car is worth expensive. But it's hard to know when to stop. I had my own grumbles when things went way over even maximum estimates, but once I'd started, it was pretty much impossible to say stop if there was still a chance he could live through it.

I can live without a ski trip this year. I can replace my savings. And when I look at that happy face, I guess it was worth it.

Anyway. Related musings on the economics of it all:
Worthwhile Canadian Initiative: The economics of health care: lessons from the animal hospital

Grainline Archer - not for me

I had my doubts about the Archer, given its lack of shape. But I wanted to try making a 'proper' shirt, and I'd already bought the pattern. Inspired by the Craftsy course on shirtmaking, I went for it.

This one is actually Archer #2. I made another plaid one for my mom as a Christmas present. This one was supposed to be first, but I ran out of time. I totally have not sewed the buttons on yet, but the plaid should line up across the front.

These cheap flannels from Fabricland though were hard to work with. Kept twisting way off grain - so frustrating! I ended up making new pattern pieces for anything on the fold line, since I absolutely had to cut in one layer, or I'd have lost my mind.

Yeah, it's kind of...shapeless on me. I think I need darts, or something. Even with the sleeves rolled up, and the shirt hanging open, which let's face it is how I will wear it, the look is not great:

Here's the back view:

Yeaaaaaahhhh. I need some waist definition.

Anyway, I'm pleased with my work. I flat-felled all the seams, including the armhole, which was a pain but ultimately worth it. My mom really likes hers, and it was a good experience.

Thurlow Trousers - coming back around!

I made these last year, in June according to my spreadsheet. (Yes, I have a spreadsheet. What?)

It took 3 muslins to get to that point. Honestly I think I made pants before I was ready to make them. And yet I wear these quite a bit, so go figure.

These were made of a super-cheap unknown fabric blend, and are somewhat stretchy.

The waistband is skewed, and there are funny things happening at the crotch, yes. But actually compared to RTW on me the fit is not too bad!

The back, I don't know what happened here. After all those muslins the back was GIANT. At the center back I took them in nearly 2", which ended up skewing the whole thing oddly.

Anyway. These are coming back around, since I have decided to focus on pants for the month of February! If all goes well, I will make 2 pairs. I am all ready, with my Craftsy courses watched already. I took the 2 Sandra Betzina ones on Pant Fitting and Pant Construction. I think I will use the pattern that came with the course first, then come back and sew another pair of Thurlows.

The Christmas Party Dress - Simplicity 1873

So, a friend brought me back a magazine from London that had this pattern in it, and she bought it because she thought the dress would look good on me. So what else could I do but make the dress for our company Christmas party?

I bought some sweet silk dupionni from Gala fabrics, and went to town. First, I made a full muslin out of an old duvet cover. I'm glad I did because the pleats were very tricksy.

I made a few minor bodice changes, mostly adjusting the darts, and took a little in at the side right under the armhole.

Then it was time for the silk!

A few tests showed that this fabric was impervious to most marking options. My washable marker didn't show up at all. The sheen on it made chalking impossible too. So I ended up marking everything, including all the pleats, with thread. I even used different colour thread for the pleats, bringing black to red. (Or was it red to black? I forget. Not that it matters.)

This was ultimately a good idea but it

Anyway. Sewing it up was pretty easy. I found advice on the internet somewhere to try spraying silk with diluted vinegar while pressing to get a good crease, and it worked perfectly. (Yes, I did test it first to make sure it didn't discolor the fabric.)

The bodice actually fits better than this. A friend took my picture at the party, and he was contorting me into weird arm positions.

The bodice was lined with bemberg rayon. I put an invisible zipper in the back, and managed to machine stitch the lining so it looked OK.

All in all, this is, to date, the finest garment I've made! And I will probably not wear it again, since I am not really a silk party dress kind of girl in my daily life.

But I am glad I put the effort in!

Cardigan City - the Jalie Cardigan

This one is Jalie 2566, which I think is now discontinued. Which is a shame, because this is an awesome basic pattern.

I first made it in a white cotton sweater knit, that I totally messed up on. I didn't test the stretch direction, and with this one there was 0% stretch across the grain, and around 25% stretch parallel to the selvege edge. Why?!? No idea.

Anyway, it's not comfortable to wear, particularly, since there is no stretch around the body. Or the sleeves for that matter, which I think is worse.

This one was take two, and it's a winner. It was a cheap polyester sweater knit which actually has a pattern which totally didn't show up in the pictures. I wear this 2 or 3 times a week. Which definitely shows there are gaps in my work wardrobe!

For version 2 I also shortened it by somewhere around 3", and changed the sleeves to use bands instead of the twin-needle hem.

It does button up, but I didn't have enough buttons to go all the way to where the v-neck starts.

Less-Cool Cowl - the 2nd attempt

I made the In-House Cool Cowl again, this time reducing the cowl substantially. I also took around 2 inches out of the length, and brought the armholes up quite a bit, since there was a lot of my bras showing under the arm in the previous version.

I still had to tack it slightly at the neckline.

Love this fabric! The shiny bits are actually embossed metallic bits. Super fun! I wear this top a lot, especially under cardigans. Wait, is that a thread under my arm!?!

Back view is better. If I ever make this again though, I would change the armhole shape even more.

Mabel and Cool Cowl - the Orange Sherbet outfit

I bought these two fabrics together at Fabricland, and yes, they are hilarious together. I rarely pair them, but I do get compliments.

The In-House Cool Cowl, I think I bought this because she is a local pattern maker, and I wanted to support that. I do like it, but wow is the cowl scandalously deep. In another version, I reduced the cowl substantially, but this one is as-is, and I had to tack it together at the neckline for modesty.

The Mabel is good. I screwed up the kick pleat, but had trouble unpicking, so I left it that way. :) I need to fix the hem stitching. For some reason my twin-needling was unravelling.

But I do like both of these pieces.

Why yes, that does look like a giant scarab beetle climbing up my chest!

I took care to center the pattern at the front, but it's a giant fail at the back. Oh well!

Belcarra, or Grandma's Curtains

I found this cotton at Fabricland and fell in love with it, but my friend and colleague Sheila thinks it looks like her Grandma's curtains. Apparently this is meant as a compliment, but I dunno...

So, Belcarra. This was largely a success. I did unpick the neckband, and resew the front raglan seams, taking in more than 2 cms on each side. I took a small tuck in the back as well. I think it fits quite a bit better this way, and the neckline isn't so wide.

My main complaint with this pattern was how wide the original neckline was. I think this is a grading issue, honestly, since if I look at it the larger sizes come out quite a bit. Do bigger women have giant necks? Not really!

No back photo, although I think the fit is OK.

This is another of my go-to tops for work. Comfy and it only took 1.75 m of fabric! More of these definitely in the future.

Summer Staple Dresses

I got the April Rhodes Staple Dress in the pattern parcel (number? can't remember). At first I didn't think it was my thing, but I was interested in trying the whole elastic thread shirring procedure, so I gave it a whirl.

This fabric was from an old stash, something I picked up maybe 8 years ago during one of my more fitful attempts to get back into sewing. I LOVE it. It's a light-ish cotton, and the wavy water pattern makes me happy. I have a little more. Maybe a blouse? It made a perfect summer sundress.

Lots of people style these with belts, but I don't love them. My torso is so short they generally make me look chopped up weirdly. So the shirring had to be enough. I sewed this with french seams, and stupidly omitted the pockets. Why?!? Never again! The front was fine, although I think I sewed the shoulder seams again to pull up on the front and raise the neckline.

The back is less good:

I did put in two shoulder darts after the fact, and resewed the neck band, but not much can be done about the pooling fabric in the back.

So Staple Dress #2 I made out of this totally fun print from Fabricland, which I underlined with batiste since I hate wearing slips in summer. On its own, it was almost see-through.

It was my first experience with underlining, and I think I did a good job, but HOLY COW that hem is awful. When you live alone, hemming is always an issue. I try to wait until my mom is coming by, or I'm going to her house, which is how I managed on version 1. This one I wanted to wear, so I did it myself.

Sigh. Lesson learned. Yes, it is somewhere around 3" shorter on the right side. But I didn't want to shorted the left to match, because it would be crazy short then.

French seams on the shoulders, but I serged the pieces before I sewed them together on the body, since I couldn't wrap my head around doing french seams around the pockets. (Which, now that I think about it, was probably the reason I left the pockets off the first time around.)

The back. Look at that fabric pooling above the waist! Grrr. Man, I really have a short back.

Anyway, I see lots more of these in my future for summer 2015.

Colette Sencha 1 and 2

At some point in this personal sewing renaissance, I decided I wanted to do like, a proper shirt with buttons. So I picked the Colette Sencha. Not sure why. The fabric store which happens to be conveniently (or dangerously, depending on the day) in the same block as my office has a "Garage" section where fabrics go to die, or be purchased by people to make wearable muslins. This brown was one of these. I think it was $3 a meter. I did the keyhole version.

I actually kind of love it. It turned out really soft, and the print is fun. I did french seams, since it was a bit thin for serging, which changed the sleeves slightly. I was reasonably happy with the fit on the front, although it needed some tweaking.

The fit on the back though, was not good:

Gaping at the hips, way too much fabric above the waist on the back. Many changes were in order!

So for Sencha #2 I decided to do an underlined white eyelet, and just put a zipper in the back. (Which is generally unnecessary, since I can pull both versions on over my head.

French seams again, and instead of a facing I just used bias binding at the neckline. The underlining I think was cotton batiste. I wear this one a whole lot!

The back is better, but still not perfect:

Still some more fabric above the waist to take out!

I put the Sencha pattern on hold for a while, and moved on to other things.

Cake Tiramisu dress in dreamy bamboo

My epic spreadsheet says I finished this on May 10, 2015, conveniently 4 days before I went to France for 3 weeks. I think I wanted to wear this to the opera in Paris, which I did.

I like the dress a lot, but if I made it again I would do some alterations to the bodice. It gapes pretty badly, and I always have to wear a camisole. I think shortening the two front pieces would work.

In the bamboo jersey, it feels like going to work in my PJs. I love this, but it was kind of expensive.

I added another with the brightness blown out so you the seams are actually kinda visible.

Aaand the back.

I actually wear this quite a bit, usually with a scarf or something to jazz it up. Very useful black dress!

One of several Sewaholic Renfrews

So, last year around March, I had the urge to sew a garment. I sewed quite a bit as a teenage, but very little as an adult. Oh, I picked it up fitfully. A skirt here, a dress there, but I never really got back into it. Until last year! What was different? Space, I think. In this apartment I have gobs of it, much more than the old house I owned.

And now I've even converted the spare bedroom into a sewing room. Fast forward 10 months, and I am even embarking on a Ready-to-Wear fast for the year. I've been mostly off RTW since last spring, but the odd piece here and there. I don't plan to retroactively document everything I made, since that would be tedious. But I thought I would create some posts for my favourites, and keep going. (Also, I bought a tripod after Christmas, which helps enormously.


This Sewaholic Renfrew was I think the 2nd of 4 so far, with another on the cutting table right now. The first was a purple one that was part of the ridiculous purple pyjamas, which I will never photograph, but still wear.

This one, the 2nd, was my foray into pattern matching. It was...somewhat successful. I look at it now and cringe, but honestly I wear this quite a bit.

Yes, the paisley is defintely off-grain. And the neckline is wonky. Sigh.

Since then I've made a cherry red one in organic cotton that I wear as another pyjama set with my matching Sewaholic Tofino pants, using this paisley as the piping and tie.