Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year in Review

December 31, 2011

I know it's not quite the end of the year yet, but I'm betting that I won't knock off a ton of new projects in the next 12 hours, so I think it's safe to summarize the year's projects! I'm actually excluding knitting projects, but since most of my knitting projects this past year have been socks, I'd mostly have to pry well-worn socks off folks's feet to show them off and that seems somehow less than appealing both to me and to you, my faithful reader!

This does not have the same visual appeal as some of the amazing displays out there in the blogosphere, but all in all, I'm fairly proud of my very steep learning curve this year, especially since I really only started sewing seriously this summer. I'm actually kind of floored that I was bold enough to tackle paper piecing AND a tablerunner AND my very first swap all at the same time! All this, and I only sewed the needle through my finger once! Ouch!

I'm not exactly the type for New Year's resolutions, but I do have some goals for the new year, some of which I'll throw out here:

1) Learning how to do curves!
2) Sharpening my FMQ'ing skills
3) Doing a full-sized quilt!
4) Finishing the Christmas tree skirt
5) Keep learning new things!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New and Old Technology

December 28, 2011

Cool photo, eh?! Karen has been doing a phenomenal job with her new (used) camera. I think Santa did good! I am so amazed by how much she has learned in just 4 days! I have a good hand-held digital camera, and I thought that if I just figured out what I was doing wrong, my pictures would get better. Well, I figured out what I was doing wrong . . . I was using a camera with limited resolution! This new camera makes such a difference! Of course, now I have to get used to the fact that at any moment I may be photographed! This is me making one of the Keyka Lou's nifty envelope clutches. I'm a bit behind on a few Christmas gifts, so I'm still cranking out a few last gifties!

I've also spent the past day cleaning out my sewing room from top to bottom, trying to recover from the Christmas crush. So much fabric, so many scraps, so much dust! I did succumb to a sale at Michael's on craftie organizers, which has helped curb a bit of the chaos . . . for now!

I'd also like to introduce "Plunkie." Karen gave her to me as a birthday gift last year. I'm not exactly certain why, but I've wanted an Underwood typewriter for a long while. I learned to type on a manual typewriter (yes, I'm that old!). Actually, my typing class had only enough electric typewriters for half the class, so we traded off between the manual and the electric typewriters. My mother had an old Underwood from college, and I loved the feel and the smell of the ribbon and the keys. I loved the way the keys stuck if you typed too quickly . . .

So Plunkie joined the family last summer and has since been spruced up and is fairly functional. She is named in honor of my grandmother (her childhood nickname), who typed all her family letters on an old manual typerwriter (kind of funny, no?!). She is a sweet reminder to me of many stories that I have yet to write!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Boxing Day!

December 26, 2011

I think Sophie best captures the essence of this day after Christmas with her intense afternoon snooze, because, after all, playing with all her Christmas goodies was quite exhausting!! She and Zoey made off like bandits--between Santa and their Uncle Christopher, I'm not sure a chewie, frisbee, yum-yum, or stuffie was left ungifted (although don't tell them, but a lot of their gifts have been hidden away so as not to spoil them all at once)!

As the vastly improved quality of my blog photos suggests, Santa brought a new camera to the household, so my sweetie has been taken shots of everything around the house. What a difference a quality camera makes! I can't wait to see what it does with fabric!

I did get back to the sewing machine today--I just couldn't stay away! I finished a project I had hoped to get in the mail before the holidays (but had run out of time and steam). I tried my hand at FMQ'ing which was both better than I had hoped and still a cause for some entertainment and/or frustration (depending on the particular moment!). Clearly more practice is in dire need!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Sewing Room is Finally Silent

December 24, 2011

The sewing machine is off, the fabric is put away (kind of!), and I've resigned myself that no more Christmas gifts are getting made before tomorrow! I managed to get a few more things finished today (details omitted to protect any remaining surprises!) under the wire, and gave up on a few over reaching projects.

The Christmas tree is looking plumper, now that she is harboring a few more gifts beneath her branches. The mantle is completely filled with gifts for Zoey and Sophie--Santa and Uncle Christopher have clearly been spoiling them this year!!

Poor Karen has succumbed to the same bug I've been suffering from, so we are now officially a household filled with tissues and cold remedies. While I so wish we could be with family this holiday, perhaps it's for the best that we're keeping our germs to ourselves!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. I am so grateful for all the love, friendship, and blessings in my life, and I hope everyone's year ahead is filled with peace, joy, and happiness!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Munki Munki Christmas!

December 22, 2011

I'm such a sucker for Heather Ross's Munki Munki fabric. I think she conveys such a sense of whimsy and storytelling. Funny (and frustrating) though, that the Munki fabric can only be found in pajamas, so bits like this end up in the form of sleeves or with buttonholes! I love this flannel strip with the Christmas tree lot: the mom and her two kids looking for the perfect tree, the man sawing the end of a tree, a man falling in love with his perfect tree (the heart!). I keep pulling this out with myriad projects, having squirreled it away to save it for the PERFECT project, but hoping each time that maybe THIS time it'll be the time. Not yet. . . sigh. I just haven't found the right setting for this yet. Perhaps some of this may find a home in the tree skirt I'm working on? But I'm not sure. Any suggestions?

I've gotten one crazed wave of Christmas sewing done with, with my package now mailed off to the East Coast. I'm taking a day's breather to let my body recover a bit from this sinus infection, and then back again to the salt mines to finish up on projects that are, shall we say, targeted for closer to home. I've had to scale back some of my ambitions, but I'm pleased at how much I've actually been able to punch out in a short amount of time. Definitely want to get things knocked well in advance in the future, though! No more sewing marathons!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paying it Forward -- there's a giveaway!

December 19, 2011

Okay now, so this is clearly not a Christmas picture, at least not here in Utah in December! This is a photo I took several years ago when I was fortunate enough to be able to travel from Beijing, China to Lhasa, Tibet on a train and I saw this rainbow. The entire trip was extraordinary; this rainbow just a symbol of how remarkable every interaction and every place we stopped was along the way. Before I began sewing and quilting over this past year, I was drawing and working with colored pencils, trying to capture the intense colors that are depicted in the amazing religious and cultural art of the Tibetans. I'll share some of that in some of my future blogs. The colors and images are stunning--lots of vibrant colors used both in religious art and also to depict nature. I've started to think about using textiles (which the Tibetans also do), but through a modern quilting approach to capture some of the Tibetan images and colors which are still swirling around my head.

Tied to this project idea for me is also the idea of gratitude and generosity. The Tibetans have experienced (and continue to experience) oppression and occupation at the hands of the Chinese (although there are dissenting perspectives on the history of the relationship between these two lands), but the grace and persistence and generosity of the Tibetans I met was extraordinary. I had powerful interactions with men, women, and children there during the too short time I visited and the deep spirituality and presence of those people stay with me.

This leads me to my wanting to find more ways in my life in general to give more of myself to others to improve the condition of the world around me. Karen and I participated in a very modest way recently in a Christmas drive organized by an amazing young teenaged woman who works at a favorite cafe of ours. On her own she spearheaded a drive to get toys and items of need for children and their single moms who were re-starting their lives after difficult circumstances. Proving that one person can make a significant impact, this young woman inspired enough volunteers to contribute enough to support almost 100 families! In addition to the toys and other goods that we donated, I made Christmas stockings for the children and their mother, so that they would have something special of their own every year to pull out to remember that they are special. I have so enjoyed the personal gratification of designing and creating new things, but I am mindful of how fortunate I continue to be in my life, so I am committing this year to donate a good portion of what I sew to charity.

With this idea of paying it forward in mind, although perhaps in a slightly different way, I'm picking up on Janine at Rainbow Hare Quilt's
'pay it forward' post, and offering my very own goodie giveaway! First, I suggest that you check out Janine's fabulous blog. She's so creative and has been a wicked busy bunny sewing away in preparation for Christmas (sure, just make the rest of us look bad!). I participated in something like this last year through Facebook and I was floored by the amazing painting that a friend sent me. Nothing more special than a handmade goodie, especially when it comes unexpectedly sometime during the year!

So, here's the deal:

1. I will make a handmade goodie for the first Three people to comment (I'm trusting I have that many people who stop by occasionally to read my blog??!). I will happily send internationally.

2. The goodie will arrive sometime during 2012 (when you least expect it!!)

3. You've gotta pay to play . . . you must commit to send a handmade goodie to the first 3 people to respond to the blog post that you will post on your own blog

4. You must have your own blog (so that you can post your own pay it forward post!)

5. When you leave a comment, I'd welcome a suggestion of how we can add a twist to this pay it forward "game" that includes a pay it forward to the universe element . . . .

Not Quite Ready for Santa's Lap!

December 19, 2011

Alright, I have to confess straight off that this, in fact, a photo of last year's Christmas tree, but I think it is just such an amazingly adorable shot of Sophie and Zoey that I couldn't resist!! Sophie (on the left) seems to take her photo shoot so seriously!

We have put up Stella (don't you name your Christmas trees too?!), and have hung the lights, but we're waiting until later today to hang the ornaments. I've been told that the house smells wonderfully of evergreen as well as of the cookies that Karen has been cooking up all weekend, but my sinus infection is keeping me from enjoying the smells -- but not the sights -- of Christmas preparations in the house. I finally buckled and went to the doctor and am now armed with all sorts of good (and legal) drugs with which to combat this monster of a Christmas cold that has invaded my poor little sinus passages and lungs, just in time for the holidays. It has, unfortunately, weakened my holiday craftiness and shopping drive quite a bit, although I'm trying to soldier on!

Meanwhile, Karen has been a Christmas baking champ! She has made her family's amazingly fabulous and famous carrot cookies, chocolate espresso wafer cookies (some of which I will whisk away to become a chocolate whipped cream Christmas log, recipe to follow!), and sugar cookies with lemon and orange zest. Meringues and biscotti coming up! We hit Costco and bought one of those monster bags of flour and are steadily working our way through it (that would, of course, be "we" in the royal sense, since I, in my germy state, am keeping miles away from the scene of all baking--except from the mandatory taste-testing!). Sophie is being a fabulous sous chef. Have y'all seen Ratatouille? I think Sophie secretly dreams of being a chef, not quite realizing the obstacles facing a Blue Tick Hound-Black Lab mix wanting to be the next Iron Chef!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Work in Progress

December 17, 2011

I did this cathedral window a while ago, but thought I'd use it for some visual interest. . . definitely more interesting than the in-progress shots of my works-in-progress (WIPs), which are mostly piles of fabric at this point! Karen's Grandma Opal was had an amazing gift with cathedral windows and apparently would just sit and whip them out with invisible little stitches. Mine are not so invisible, but I'm working on it! I'm not yet sure how I want to use the windows, but I'm thinking of some funky, modern way. I have some Lilly Pulitzer fabric, so I thought maybe I'd use that?? I'd welcome suggestions!

Okay, back to Santa's salt mines! This wicked cold of mine is not helping! It came out of the blue and is one of those nasty 10-year colds that just feels miserable. Okay, pity party over, sewing recommences!

Oh, and before I forget, while I'm sure I've "won" none of the neat little giveaways from the Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway Day, I so enjoyed reading everyone's amazing blogs! I especially loved reading everyone's stories! Thanks so much to everyone who participated! I'm so impressed by everyone's generosity and talent! I'm committing myself to participate next year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O Christmas Tree!

December 14, 2011

Santa's workshop continues to bustle! This is a pillowcase I'm making for my mom. Because I saw her in CA last week, I gave it to her (in progress) early, then took it back so I can complete it before sending it back later this week. That's my Sophie pup on top of the packages looking up at the star. As those at Pam's recent sewing retreat may remember, I got the inspiration for this from a cute Christmas card I found at Whole Foods (of all places!). I'm using this as the demo for a tree skirt I'm making next. For that one I'll add Zoey (our border collie/lab mix) at the bottom of the tree. As you can tell with the tree, I'm still wrestling with curved piecing. What a monster to figure out how to do!!

Now that I'm finished with the hand quilting and have added a border, I'll machine quilt the front, then add a back to the case then send her back east to mom before the holidays! I had been struggling to find the right yellow/gold fabric for the star, and then I discovered the Star of Bethlehem shaped star right in the purple Anthology fabric--how cool is that?!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa's Workshop

Tuesday, December 13
Crack-a-lackin! Now that I'm back in town and back to the sewing machine, no messing around! Santa's elves have a long list of to-dos still to do!! One has to be discreet, with inquiring minds snooping--er, possibly inquiring--about, but I will give a peek into one project I've been busy with:

Given my poor camera skills, for those who reasonably might not be able to make this out, it's a canvas tote bag with the adorable dog fabric I found on Etsy. Suffice it to say, there may be a few other tote bags lined up on the assembly line (and it may have been in the line of tote-bag-duty that my finger was skewered!). Once I figured out how not to sew the handles upside down and inside the lining of the bag (harrumph!), the pattern was completely easy to follow. I'm using bijoulovelydesigns's pattern, which I found on Tipnut's posting for 50+ reusable grocery bag patterns. I've skipped the bottom plastic insert (which provides helpful structure for grocery use), as I'm intending these bags for more day-to-day "soft" use. I'm making this large size, but I love these so much I'm now contemplating some cute handbag sized ones (about 5x5). By the way, how cool is it that folks share their patterns for free online! Thanks Bijou Lovely and Tipnut! My Christmas wallet is thanking you!

On other project fronts, I'm also cranking out (theoretically speaking, of course!) Keyka Lou's easy envelope clutch wallet. It is a perfect fit for a smart phone and cash and cards, and is a really quick sew.
(photo credit to Keyka Lou--this is from her site. My own wallet has already been used so much it doesn't look this tidy, and I want to hide away the ones I'm making!)

I love love love Keyka Lou's patterns--they're easy to sew (and that's saying something coming from a newbie like me!!), and totally affordable! This envelope clutch takes almost no fabric, so completely affordable. An aside to family who might possibly read this post: please don't think I'm cheap; just saving up for the big gifts! ;-)

Now, I don't want to sound ungrateful for the solid and dependable service that my stolid, 40 year-0ld Susie Singer has provided me, but my yet-to-be-named Oh Brother! has totally changed my sewing! I can actually FMQ with her (and it doesn't look laughable)! I can sew in straight lines without wrestling with the fabric! I'll go back to the free-motion quilting phenomenon, because that blows me away. I thought that was going to take years and years of practice; I hadn't realized how much a steady machine (with really good, reliable tension!) really mattered! Yay technology!

And now, finally (for now), a shout out to my friend Arpana! Karen and I met up for a very quick catch up with our friend Arpana who was in town at the Y (that is BYU for non Utah folks, not the YMCA!) to give a few academic talks. We haven't seen her since the wedding (more than a year ago!) and it was so so wonderful to be able to reconnect with such a dear friend!! Time passes far too quickly and it's hard when we're living in different parts of the country!