Friday, September 30, 2016

The zipper helper or I glue, I glue

One day I opened a drawer on my sewing table and discovered in my stash a 1/4" Washaway wonder tape. I can't remember where I bought it or why I bought it. I studied the instructions and realised that the Washaway Wonder Tape is really double-sided tape. Like the kind we use for sticking paper together. Except it washes away. (the washing away part I can't verify because I haven't tried to wash it)

The instructions say:
"Great for home sewing or crafting. A double-sided, transparent tape that disappears after first washing. Can be sewn through without gumming up your needle. Perfect for holding together seams or hems before stitching."

And I thought it's perfect for zippers and I'm sure I'm not the first person to think this. In the past, I've always thought to myself: why can't someone manufacture and sell double-sided tape for sewing? Apparently it is a thing already and you can find several brands at Amazon like this*.

Previously I used 1/4" fusible web but this requires ironing to adhere and that's waaay too much work.

Remember the zip pouch I made recently? I used wonder tape to stick the zipper to the fabric before sewing. I usually pin or baste the zipper to the fabric. Using wonder tape is so much faster. It is temporary adhesive so that means your placement can shift so you need to be careful. On the other hand, this means you can make adjustments!

I love this product. I wish I had discovered it when I was doing the craft market circuit. Man, I could have sewn a lot faster.

* affiliate links

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sometimes I throw, sometimes I flick, sometimes I wander into an alternate universe

You guys know I suck at knitting, right? Despite that, I keep trying. I'm not sure why. It's not that I can't follow instructions. I can, I can. I know all the mooves involved in knitting - knit, purl, knit 2, bind, cast on, etc. The problem is I do it so slowly because apparently I have 2 right hands. You've heard of 2 left feet? I have 2 right hands.

Everything is fine if I do all the moves in slow motion but that would take me years to complete a simple project. When I try to knit at a faster pace like regular human beings, both my hands compete for dominance. My shoulders get very tight and sometimes my elbows join the action too. Occasionally I engage the help of my chest, tummy and my right toe.

Some time ago, Bethany of Sweet Bee Buzzings fame introduced Very pink to me. Apparently, the teacher uses a different way to knit. I took a look and was keen to try it out but life got in the way. Or maybe I forgot about it. This week I was working on a sewing tutorial but wanted something shiny to distract me. So I studied very pink tutorials.

Very pink is owned by Staci, a woman with incredible eyebrows. I wanted to email her and ask where she purchased her eyebrows but I'm too shy. Does anyone know?

Anyway, Staci uses a method of knitting she calls FLICKING. Previously, I knitted the continental way. Flicking is very different from the continental way. It's like the English method of throwing, except you don't let go of the right needle EVER. This is supposed to make knitting go faster. Check out the video here and here. I studied the videos like I was preparing for my GCE 'A' levels.

To practise the flicking, I made this dishcloth. Yes, kinda sad I'm still making flat knitted stuff.

I'm pretty sure I got it. I'm pretty sure I know what I'm doing. Yet... sometimes I throw the yarn, sometimes I flick and occasionally my mind wanders into an alternate universe.

Maybe it's my index finger. This finger is crucial for flicking. Maybe my index flicking finger is too short. What's the standard length for a index finger? Mine is 3" excluding nails. I don't know. I keep losing the tension of the yarn. So I end up pressing the right needle against my tummy to facilitate the flick. Or I just do a throw. I mean what's the worse that can happen?

You know what's the worse that happened? A number of times, I used TWO DIFFERENT SIZES needles to knit. Also I knitted the dishcloth over one week. So my tension is crazy uneven. It didn't help that I used a $2 acrylic yarn and it made my face and nose itchy. So I was constantly rubbing my face and nose while trying to control the tension and remembering to flick and not throw. And I forgot to leave last 4 stitches to bind off and had to undo. That kind of messed up my ending.

Well apart from all the mistakes, it does look like a dishcloth, right? Right? I promise I won't gift it to anyone!

p.s. meet my latest doll, Graduate.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Let's talk about cancer

Dear friends,

After going through the gallbladder ordeal, I told myself I would live my life differently from now on. Apart from exercising and being selective about the food I eat, I am arming myself with knowledge.

Recently, I saw that the Cancer Society was hosting a free talk on Gastric/Stomach and Colorectal cancer and I immediately signed up. In the past, I would never attend such talks. I'm glad I went for the talk because it was informative.

Firstly, are you aware that you can lower your risks and possibly prevent yourself from getting stomach and colorectal cancer? I did not. I somehow just lived my life not really thinking about lowering my risks of getting cancer. I kinda thought you're born with the tendencies to get cancer. There is a small percentage of the population who have inherited cancer syndromes and these increase their chances of developing stomach. But the most important thing to know about stomach cancer is the risk factors.

The Risk Factors for stomach cancer:
• Infection with Helicobacter Pylori Bacteria
• Diet which is high in salty, smoked and preserved food
• Diet which is low in fruits and vegetables
• Family history of stomach cancer
• Smoking

There are other risk factors but the ones above are the major ones. The important thing to do is to know if you fall into high-risk or average-risk. If you have first-degree relative such as parents, siblings, children who have stomach cancer, you are considered high-risk. If you smoke, yes you're high-risk. If you eat salty, smoked and preserved food most of the time, you are high-risk. If you have Helicobacter Pylori bacteria infection, you are high-risk.

The tool against stomach cancer is screening. Stomach cancer affects people 50 and above so you gotta catch it early. The problem with stomach cancer is it's usually caught at a late stage. Stomach cancer is actually curable if detected early.

Some symptoms of stomach cancer:
• Pain/discomfort in abdomen
• Persistent indigestion/heartburn
• Bloating after meals/feeling full after eating small amounts of food
• Feeling that food gets stuck in your throat while eating
• Unexplained weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Blood in stool

Unfortunately, early stomach cancer stage doesn't always present itself in specific symptoms.

The tests to detect stomach cancer are:
• Gastroscopy (more accurate)
• Barium meal x-ray

Remember I had a gastroscopy done last year? The results were negative for Helicobacter Pylori bacteria infection and there weren't anything suspicious in the linings. So I feel very happy and secure. By the way, having Helicobacter Pylori bacteria in your stomach doesn't necessarily mean you will develop stomach cancer.

At the talk, someone asked the doctor presenting the talk if eating kimchi INCREASES risks of stomach cancer since kimchi falls under salted, preserved food. The answer is YES. And it's not just kimchi. It is salted preserved food that some people eat EVERY DAY as a side dish like pickled fruits. It's also the salty, fermented stuff you put in your stews. Some Chinese love to eat salted fish, salted vegetables and these are high-risk food. If you use salted fermented products to cook your food, that's high-risk food too.

Interestingly, guess which country came up top in stomach cancer WORLDWIDE? This is based on a 2012 study. Go here to see where your country stands. For both sexes, Korea had the highest rate of stomach cancer. Mongolia was second and Japan third. For women, Korea also had the highest rate of stomach cancer. Second was Guatemala, third Mongolia and fourth Japan.

In Singapore, stomach cancer (2010 to 2014) was the no. 7 cancer for men and 9th for women.

Why did Korea come up top in stomach cancer? I don't know this for a fact but it's possible diet plays a part.

If the food is bad for you, shouldn't you stop eating it or eat less? That's asking for the impossible. I can imagine the outcry if Koreans are asked to eat less salted, preserved, fermented food for their own health. Like what happened in Singapore in May. The Health Promotion Board chief executive wanted locals to eat less white rice to reduce the risk of diabetes. He suggested increasing whole grains and brown rice. The way the locals reacted it was as if he was asking the people to stop eating white rice completely.

So this is what I'm doing to prevent stomach cancer for myself. I will eat as little salted, smoked and preserved food as possible. Yes, I'm looking at you sausages, bacon, ham, luncheon meat, kimchi, salted egg yolk and pickled food. Freshly cooked food is the key. I will also regularly eat food which are whole grain and fruits and vegetables which contain Vitamin A and C. The key to food consumption is moderation. By the way, I told my kids they should stop eating bacon and they said I was being ridiculous. I haven't even mentioned ham.

The talk also covered Colorectal Cancer. Guess which country came up top in stomach cancer WORLDWIDE based on a 2012 study. Yes, once again Korea is top for both sexes. Slovakia was second and Hungary was third. Singapore came in 16th! For women, Norway was first, Denmark was second, The Netherlands was third. Korea came in fifth and Singapore came in 13th.

In Singapore Colorectal cancer is the NUMBER ONE cancer for men and for women, it's the number TWO cancer. (Breast cancer is number one for women)

What does this mean for me? Colorectal cancer is far scarier than stomach cancer.  This cancer usually strikes those 45 and above. A small minority get it aged 20 and younger and it is usually a inherited form of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer may not have any symptoms at an early stage but these are some symptoms to look out for:

• change in bowel habits like persistent diarrhea/constipation
• feeling full/bloated
• blood in stool
• persistent abdominal pain/discomfort
• lump in abdomen

The risk factors for colorectal cancer are:
• age - 50 and above
• personal history of colorectal polyps
• personal history of IBS
• family history of this cancer in first degree relatives (siblings, parents, children) or polyps in the colon
• low fibre and high fat diet
- Red meat, processed meat, meat cooked at a high temperature, animal fat, tobacco and alcohol consumption increases the risk of getting colorectal cancer.
• obesity
• sedentary lifestyle

The tests to detect colorectal cancer:
• Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
• Colonoscopy
• Sigmoidoscopy

Screening is a very important way to prevent/catch colorectal cancer. If you detect this cancer early, there's a good chance of cure. If you remove the polyps at colonoscopy, you can prevent the cancer.  But first, you need to know if you fall into the high-risk category because the frequency of the tests you do differs. People with polyps, previous colorectal cancer, family history of colorectal cancer, inherited polyps, IBS condition are considered high-risk.

FIT needs to be done once a year. This is a disgusting but necessary test. You collect your poop, use the kit to jab at the poop, seal it and send to the lab for detection of blood. Two samples (different days) within one week are required.  Blood in your poop doesn't always mean cancer but it means you need to do other tests to find out what's wrong. If you are someone who simply refuses to do any follow-up tests, doing a FIT is a waste of time.

For average risk, a colonoscopy is done once every 10 years. This test lets the doctor look at your large intestine using a long flexible lighted tube. During this test, tissue samples can be taken and abnormal growths removed. For high risk cases, it can be done once every 5 years or more frequently. For high risk cases, their doctors are the best persons to advise on frequencies of tests.

A sigmoidoscopy is done when the sigmoid colon needs closer inspection.

Looking at my lifestyle, I can't say confidently I won't develop colorectal cancer. I love eating meat cooked at high temperature!

But I will do the following to reduce my risks:
• No more overeating
• Exercise regularly
• Eat less processed and red meat
• Eat more vegetables and fruits
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Increase fibre in my diet

And I have done my FIT for this year. Hubs has done his as well. (his came back negative) Hopefully mine will come back negative as well. Fingers and toes crossed. As for colonoscopy, I have not been advised to do one yet. Hopefully hubs does one first so he can tell me about it.

p.s. Obviously I'm not a doctor and you should see your own doctor if you have any questions regarding your health.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A drawstring pouch for a suona

One day, my son came home from school and asked me casually if I have any spare lunchtime pouch lying around. Yes, lying around.
He's referring to this lunchtime pouch which I used to sell at craft markets years ago and I have a pattern for it at my Etsy shop.

My son is in his school's Chinese Orchestra and he plays the suona.
This is a regular size suona. It has a mouthpiece but it's not shown in the image above. To carry it around, the wooden piece is kept in a long plastic tube thingy while the metal horn is kept in a drawstring pouch.

My son currently plays a larger size suona.
Actually it's huge. It comes in a big sturdy trunk.

Anyway, I have no idea how it came about, but my son wanted to either sell or give a girl in his Chinese Orchestra a lunchtime pouch to keep her suona metal horn.

But I don't have any lunchtime pouch lying around. Seriously I don't. Well, except the one I made for my pattern and that one I'm taking to my grave.

So I offered to make her one. That was a while ago. Having stopped sewing for so long due to my previously on-going saga with my digestive health, I found it hard to start sewing. Finally one day, I felt ready to start sewing and then my gallbladder incident happened. Last week, I felt I had fully recovered from my surgery and I started measuring the horn and it didn't take me too long to complete the pouch.

I used a linen polka dot I have lying around and for the lining, a big polka dot cotton I have remnants of from my craft market days.
It's a little different from my lunchtime pouch. Just a bit.

It's more important it fits the horn.

 For no particular reason, Bear wanted to make an appearance.

As you can see, I'm abusing Bear again.

And here's the new owner of the pouch. Hope she likes it!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pattern shop updates

Recently I made a change to my Etsy shop to accept Direct Checkout. To my customers, it just means more methods of payment are available.

Previously, I only accept payment by paypal. Now you will see 2 options - the default points to the card you have registered with Etsy. After you click "proceed to checkout", there is an option to change the card and you can also pay with Etsy gift card or Apple Pay where available.

The second option is Paypal. If you prefer to pay with your paypal account, that option is still there. Nothing has changed. Through the Paypal option, you can also pay using a debit or credit card (without having to own a paypal account).

Hopefully, this will be a win-win for me and my customers.

In other news, my other shop at Luulla will be slowly phased out. Most of you probably don't know I have a Luulla shop. I haven't sold many patterns at this site so I don't feel motivated to carry on. Plus this ancient site still does not support instant download so I need to manually email every buyer. Recently I needed to relist a pattern and discovered I had run out of store credits. At Luulla, you can pay by month and relist as many as you want or you pay as you go. To do that I used to buy $10 store credits. Now the minimum is a $30 store credit. I decided I don't want to give Luulla my 30 bucks. So once I sell the remaining patterns or they expire, the shop will be shut.

Anyhoos, I still have my Craftsy shop.

Monday, September 5, 2016


It's been 18 days since I had my gallbladder removed. When it first happened, everything went so quickly I did not have a chance to feel afraid or wonder if it is the right decision. After the op, I had a lot of time to think and reflect. Especially those 4 long nights in the hospital when I literally stared into space.

One of the thoughts that kept entering my mind was I need to take much better care of myself. Although the doctor said there is no definitive answer as to why some people have problems with gallbladder, I think my lifestyle must have contributed in one way or another. I struggled with digestive issues for most of my life. As hubs puts it, "food is my enemy." If I had been more persistent in seeking out the right doctors earlier, perhaps I could have saved my gallbladder. Another factor that could have contributed is I don't eat in moderation. I don't mean I eat a lot. Because I don't like a large variety of food, whenever I like anything, I would eat a lot of it, like daily until I get sick. Did I ever tell you the time when I lived with my mother-in-law? One time she went on an overseas tour and before that she cooked me a huge pot of curry chicken because you know, I lurve curry chicken. Guess what? I ate the curry chicken every single day for one week. And I got sooooo sick. That's the kind of person I was when I had my gallbladder.

Today I went for a post-op check-up at the hospital. My doctor said I'm healing very well, wound wise. Also, great news. My gallbladder, according to the pathologist is not cancerous. Honestly, that wasn't even on my mind at all. I do feel well although I can't eat as much as before at one sitting. It's no big deal. I just eat more times a day than regular people. Ha ha, I'll probably get fat again. The issue with my taste has not been completely resolved. Thankfully, the bitterness and ultra saltiness have disappeared. However, food does not taste as good as before. The doctor says this post-op effect on the taste is not common but should go away on its own. If not, I'm screwed. (my words, not his) Hubs thinks I should eat food I don't usually eat instead of eating food I used to like and finding I don't like them anymore because the taste is different.

So I've occasionally ventured out of my comfort zone and ordered food that I would never eat before. Like this braised duck noodles. It doesn't taste bad but it's not something I consider enjoyable.

So yeah. I've started eating in moderation. I try not to eat the same food 2 days in a row if I can help it. Fruits still taste great which is one area I could go nuts. But I've been very disciplined. I've allowed myself one orange a day. Those days of eating several oranges a day are over. I also allow myself one other fruit like apples, grapes or bananas. Ideally, I will eat a fruit that I normally don't eat at least once a week.

Another thought that has been occupying my mind lately is clutter. After spending 5 days at the hospital owning so little material stuff, I have started to resent the clutter in my home. In all honesty, it's not possible for me to simply throw our stuff away. However, I have started decluttering some areas in my home. It's not much but it's a start.

I started with the fridge.
We have this system for our fridge: the top compartment is for hubs' stuff. Next is mine and the third compartment is for our kids. The last two drawers are for vegetables and meat.


Most of the junk in our fridge are packets of sauce and takeaway chopsticks, forks and spoons. I was too lazy to go through the expiry dates of the packets of sauce and seriously we don't need any of the takeaway chopsticks, forks and spoons. So I threw them away.

This is the after photo of the fridge. Actually not much has changed!!!

I am the only person in my home interested in decluttering so it's quite an uphill task doing it on my own. I do intend to tackle a small area in my home every day until I'm satisfied. It'll probably take me one whole year at the rate I'm going.

One other thing I've been thinking about in relation to decluttering is not to buy more stuff. Having said that, today I totally went nuts and bought 3 pairs of sandals. I had given my black Teva sandals to my daughter and my current 10 year old black ipanema sandals was in danger of splitting into two. It's going to be hard - this not buying more stuff.

I have come up with a list of stuff I will absolutely not buy unless my life depends on it. (I did not include sandals and shoes!)

• craft books
• any book
• fabric
• magazines
• pants
• craft supplies
• new hobby stuff
• notebooks
• containers
• bags

Hopefully, this will help control the clutter in my home.
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