Monday, October 31, 2011

back from the void

October 31--Happy Halloween!

My apologies to my faithful throng of followers. I know that the thousands of you out there have just been waiting with baited breath for my next dispatch from the Wasatch Front! It's been a rough ten days or so out here, so thanks for holding on (er, that is presuming you are still out there? Anyone? . . . the sound of crickets chirping . . . . ).

So, lots on the crafty front. First, given the holiday, here is our household's proudest collective accomplishment: Miss Zoey and Miss Sophie's superhero superpup costumes! It required me to get another toy, er, bit of sewing technology: the handy-dandy walking foot so that I could wrassle less painfully with my fake satin material. As an aside, can I say how much I love that my sewing machine has parts called "feed dogs?" All I can say to that is "woof." Not surprisingly, the girls seem to kind of love their costumes. I think they've had their superhero dog-selves waiting to come out all along. Don't you agree? Zoey is the brown border collie/choc. lab mix in the cape and Sophie is the black lab/blue tick hound mix in the girlie girl wonder woman skirt. They had superhero wrist bands to match, but those were not apparently dog approved, as they were ripped off within seconds (although you can still see them in the photos which were one of the first shots taken). Next year I might do bloomers for Sophie, as I don't think a girl should be running around with her skirt flying up around her ears!

Next, I finally finished my mug-ugly rug. Ta dah! After three goes of it, I finally mastered the binding. I was so ready just to have the $%&#@ project finished (please excuse the potty mouth!) when my dear sweetie intervened, seam ripper at the ready. I wasn't sure whether I was appreciative or not at the time! But now that I redid it for the fourth and final time, it looks just dandy, and I have FINALLY figured out how to do a binding (which is a good thing since I'll have to do that for the tablerunner which is rushing up fast and furious!)! Not the most beauteous thing in the world, but for my very first machine quilted anything, let alone my first mug rug, I feel pretty good about it. Now to figure out what do to with it! Debating between a mouse pad for my ever wily too-fast Mac mouse or for my sewing machine pedal which keeps skedaddling away from me on the slippery hard plastic mat I put on top of my carpet in my office (kind of weird option, I know).

Third, I made a work basket for all my mobile crafty tasks. I inevitably end up taking my various knitting, embroidery, and other sundry crafty things for when I'm watching TV or for car rides and such. Rather than just letting it explode and propagate as it's been doing, I thought I'd create a craft bag in a basket to try to contain my chaos. I found a clearance basket at Smith's Marketplace for $1.50 and took some fabric, and shazam!

Also, lest my Christmas tablerunner swap folks think I'm falling down on the job (which I may be, given that some are already finished--yikes!), I finally think I've figured out the paper piecing technique and redid my first tree, which now looks like something made in elementary school. I've now done two of my three trees, and one of my three trees. I also finally conquered the pre-Halloween lines at the various fabric stores and finally got my linen fabric for the centerpiece of my tablerunner. My partner does not, I don't think, like a lot of white, for various reasons, on her tablerunner, so I'm hoping a natural linen will do the job. So hard to guess someone's preferences when she is so far away and someone I've never met!

So, hoping to make lots of headway on this runner this week now that I have this fabric. I also spent what seemed like FOREVER and laundered ALL of the fabric I was going to potentially use for the tablerunner. There are a lot of dark reds and greens and I was terrified they were going to run. I have a bunch of individual mesh laundry bags, but it still took a long time to sort the laundry by color, send it all through the washer and dryer, cut all the fribbly edges off (my new word for that thread debris), and then iron the big pile. So now, back to the start and ready to dig back in!

And currently on the work pile--other than keeping on with the tablerunner? I've finally broken the seal on the stocking for Purple Panda's great stocking drive for kids, and am hoping to finish it up by tomorrow. If I can get in the groove, I'm hoping to do a few. In my family, every one had his or her own special stocking (not handmade, but special nonetheless), and it feels important to me to make these foster children something special for them to have all for themselves. There are some great giveaways associated with this stocking drive, which you can check out on Purple Panda's site, but for me the best gift is doing something for a child without a permanent home or family.

Also on the list, I've signed up for Pamela at French Knot's two-day sewing retreat in November in Utah. I was totally bummed I couldn't do the Sewing Summit (count me in next year!), so I just had to take advantage of this opportunity to get together with some crafty folk and whittle down my Christmas list (it doesn't help that in my household my significant other is also a sewer, so secret projects may sometimes be jeopardized by innocent walkbys and offers of help!).

And so, for anyone still actually reading any of this, on non-crafty news, I actually broke free from the bubble that is my neighborhood last week. My sweetie and I drove what is known as the Alpine Loop. It's only open another few weeks (until it snows). It goes up to about 8,000 feet or so and winds through the mountains. It was totally beautiful: changing leaves, amazing stone outcroppings, beautiful aspen groves. It was one of those very clearly needed mental health days! Amazing to think this is only a 45 minute drive away!

Okay, so now ending the world's longest blog entry!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Is Halloween Coming??

October 21

So apparently Halloween is like a national holiday or something among crafty folk. I guess I should have realized this, really. I follow a couple of blogs, and all the ones I categorize as "crafty" (as opposed to "quilty" or "DIY" or "general interest," etc.) have been obsessed with Halloween since July. I didn't know it was possible to make so many Halloween-related objets (spiders made out of chocolate dipped oreos, mummies made out toilet paper, and god-knows-what else made out of ric rac, always ric rac!). Now, I have nothing against Halloween, mind you. I have, in fact, quite fond memories of dressing up as quite a dashing asparagus for Halloween years ago. I just can't quite imagine blogging day after day with boundless excitement about ghosties made of cottonballs.

All this to say, don't go to Joann's Fabric on Friday evening two weeks before Halloween! Not if you want to buy fabric, that is! I just wanted to buy a few yards of fabric for my tablerunner, but apparently it was the evening to buy tulle, butterfly wings, satin, faux fur, etc. Definitely not the time to stand in line at the fabric table with a looming migraine!

I think I've got it!

October 20

Phew! I complete ripped out every last stitch from the house I finished last night, and redid it today. I think I finally figured out paper piecing. I still want to go back and finish up some details on my house, like putting on a window and wreath on my door, and some detail (maybe a window box or shutters?) on the window, but it is so so much better this time around! I'm still a bit amazed, and a bit proud that I actually designed my own paper piecing house and figured out how to do the darned thing all in a few days! Heck of a steep learning curve, to be sure! Now hopefully my partner for the tablerunner swap will like it! Only three more houses and several trees left to go!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tablerunner progress

October 19

Short post today. Definitely using sewing therapeutically today. My mother used to (affectionately) call me Madame Defarge when I'd knit, referring to the woman in "A Tale of Two Cities" who was knitting the names and fates of men and women of the French Revolution into her knitting. Not sure my work is quite that intense, but I think all my frustrations with various people (they who shall not be named!) were going into my paper piecing on my house for my tablerunner swap. I love the colors and placements, but I'm still struggling with the stitching, so I have a lot of cleanup. But here's how it's looking so far:

Thought I'd like the border stitching, but it just looks messy, so I'm going to undo it and start again. I never do start simple!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Works in Progress

October 17

Phew! So, who knew how much of blogging actually entailed re-entering and re-moving items I had already taken care of?! This reminds me of my old job managing a fundraising database that had been struck by lightning; every day was a new surprise!

I'm starting to discern a theme in my activities, whether it be blogging, quilting, writing, work, or working out: before I can get down to business I inevitably need to reorganize my entire space (and sometimes several times over!). It's either incredible work avoidance (an entirely reasonable hypothesis) or else some kind of deeply rooted nesting impulse that requires me to ensure a perfectly ordered environment before I can create. It's always been that way--I've always had to recreate my space before I could create something new. It has certainly guaranteed bruises, if nothing else!

This time, however, I must insist that the creative space makeover was actually not my idea (although I had, admittedly, just settled in, for the second time, into my basement sewing are)! My sweetie was perhaps worried that I was taking on Unabomber tendencies with all my basement dwelling, and so suggested that I transform my upstairs office into a work-of-all-trades space.

A little heaving and ho-ing (two flights of steep Victorian stairs!) and my crafty items were transported upstairs. That table top on the left? A finished solid oak slab rescued from the garbage. Wicked heavy, but total score! I'm a bit embarrassed to show the work in progress shot, but I'm so excited to no longer be a cave dweller! I may have to wear the sunglasses for a bit longer until my mole-eyes adjust! Stay tuned for finished makeover photos!

On WIP updates, I am getting the hang of the hand quilting. How the heck folks actually hand quilt (in a timely manner) full-sized quilts, I have no idea! It took me a full-length movie to do what I am proudly calling my mug-ugly rug! I am totally proud of having taken on techniques that were challenging and totally new to me (asterisks, hand quilting, the chain piecing, inset seams . . .), but I don't kid myself that it's neat and tidy! By the time I had the energy to rip out the seams and line up the pieces that were a bit "quirky," I had already gone too far past to fix it. Such a helpful learning experience though! Here's the little "beauty," minus her binding (which I'll probably do in the red):

That bottom asterisk is beyond wonky. I love that asterisk style, though, and want to play with that more. I need to get much better at sewing before I get too bold with such narrow cuts, especially with my 1970 Singer pedal. It reminds me of the first clutch car I drove! I also love the chain design and want to keep playing around with that, as I think there's a lot of potential in that as a border or a whole quilt design, but with more subtle colors.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

October 15

So I have been battling a stomach bug, my sewing room, and learning how to get the blog up and running all this past week, so excuse the radio silence!

I'm amazed and impressed by how prolific my fellow bloggers are--not only are all quilting and sewing and crafting your fingers away, but you are also capturing it all on your blogs! Certainly setting the bar high for me!

Anyway, I'm trying to dip my toes in the water here by at least throwing my hat into the ring! I first wanted to share a picture of my very first quilt. I've always love antique patchwork quilts. I've always loved the stories they carried through their worn fabrics. I loved the ideas that the quilts were made from someone's dress shirt, sunday best dress, favorite school skirt, and that by having a passed down quilt I possessed a part of someone's family's history. My family wasn't lucky enough to have any quilts passed down through our family, so the first quilt I owned was bought with money saved up from babysitting. She is a 1904 bowtie quilt from Ohio:

She has a gorgeous rosy patterned back:

With that first purchase, I was hooked! I've made a few quilts by hand, but only recently have I begun to quilt in earnest. Now that I've actually learned how to use the sewing machine my parents gave me for Christmas when I was 15 (more than a good decade or two ago!) I've discovered that sewing is shockingly easier with it! It's a steep learning curve, but I'm starting to get the hang of things.

So, before I lose whoever my 1 or 2 faithful readers so far may be, let me quickly wrap up! First, a big thank you to Susan who was my benefactor of my very first giveaway! I was the lucky recipient of yummy fat quarters! As I'm in the throes of just building up my stash (and, frankly, who isn't really always looking for just "one more" fat quarter to flesh out their stash??), I was thrilled to get these great fabrics in the post just this week! Many thanks, Susan!

And, finally, I have joined the Modern Christmas Tablerunner Swap, led by the aforementioned, fabulous Susan. After some hemming and hawing, I have settled in on a design with some wonky trees and houses (if you're wandering this way, secret partner, and do have a change of mind, do speak up!). I did a practice paper piecing tree today and wasn't half disappointed with myself. The bottom wobbly part needs to be cleaned up a bit, but I think the colors work okay, and I quite like the Tufted Tweets bird fussy cut up at the top of the tree. I think once I get it framed in the main color fabric, it should look sharper. Whaddya think?

Okay, off to tackle the hand quilting on my God awful mug rug. For another time, but apparently I try to bite off more than I can chew (shocker there!) and just had to try difficult inset seam piecing before I was ready. Not a pretty sight. I'm trying to let it just be a learning piece, but I may screw up my courage and let go of my pride and take a pic for the blog. Happy Saturday all!

In Search of My Own Garden

October 14

This was originally supposed to be a broader philosophy statement, but rather than keep it on the blog as a treatise, I think I'll just post it and move on . . .

I've started this blog, in a very practical way, as a means of communicating with a group of other like-minded folks engaged in a craft swap. It provides a focused and controlled way for me to share my information in a way that is easier than Flickr.

In a much broader and more meaningful way, however, this blog invites me to share a part of myself with the world that I usually keep fairly quiet. And yet, that part is, in its essence, the most expressive part of myself. Expressing myself through the act of making things with my hands or voice.

Years ago, I read "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens" by Alice Walker, which powerfully related how generations of women before us were artists denied creative outlets. Without access to paint and canvas or clay or pen and paper, these women instead turned their creative spirits to the materials that were within their grasps. They sewed quilts of breathtaking beauty and complexity (many of which now hang in museums), the tended exquisite gardens, sang gorgeous songs. For many, these great works would be known only to themselves and their families, leaving no other trace of their creativity.

This essay has stayed with me all these years, reminding me how primal the creative drive is in all of us. It has brought me back to the few antiques in my life, a few old quilts, a few pieces of furniture, to consider the stories behind the individuals who made them. In a time of countless craft blogs, I am interested in not only considering some of the "how tos" of craftiness, but also the deeper wonderings about how society privileges who can express their creative spirits more easily by making things (while others may have less access).

So, these are some of the questions I am interested in exploring, in addition to the usual stuff o' life. I love doing lots and am skilled at nothing in particular, so my projects will likely range from knitted socks and scarves to quilts to sewn projects to cards to refinished furniture to baking. Nope, never gets boring around here!

Saturday, October 8, 2011


October 8, 2011

So, this is my first entry on my first blog. Supposed to be profound, right? I'm supposed to expound on my worldview, establish my blog agenda for taking over the blog-iverse, etc. Sorry to disappoint. That I have a blog, and that I've managed to defeat the evil tech pixies who seemed to want to keep me from having an "about me" section seems accomplishment enough for today!

I also have a pesky tablerunner to design for this swap to do. And I do mean pesky in that loving, excited way, for all you swap-following folks! I am plenty excited! Just a bit daunted as well -- there are some way amazing folks in this swap whose work is what has inspired me in the first place! Yikes! Yes, that is "under pressure" by David Bowie you hear in the background!

. . . Okay, deep breath was taken, split pea was made and put on the stove to simmer, biscuits baked (nothing like a good carb to calm one's anxiety!), now I will head off to sew!

(and, may I say, that for all who know me, the fact that I'm heading off to sew will probably shock most folks. But we'll save my voyage into a crafty critter for another time!)