Sunday, March 26, 2006


I've been trying to get this child using a sewing machine since she was 7. Picture her holding her nose and wrinkling her brow. "I hate sewing!" she'd say.

Today we had a Destination Imagination meeting and suddenly two pieces of fabric required connection. And lo, I heard the words I've been waiting for all this time..."Moooooooom! I need to use the sewing machine!"

And here is the proof! Posted by Picasa

It's Golden

Somewhere in my second reading of Art and Fear, I had an epiphany about what I'm doing. I'm making stuff for other people, not for me. Not just in the "that won't fit me" sense, but in the "what would people think about this" sense. And for me, that's a huge barrier to finding a creative voice. If creating stuff is supposed to make me saner and healthier, I'm going about it all wrong.

So I decided to pay attention to what I said a couple of posts ago: that the process of traditional quilts is fun for me, but not the product. I'm going to go back to basics for a while, but I'm going to NOT make useful objects - if I know for certain they can't be for anyone, I should be able to let go of what others think. In essence, a crash course in How to Make Things I Like.

A&F was also useful in helping me to see that by placing no constraints on the stuff I make, I'm driving myself crazy. The reason kids like Lego sets that make something in particular is that it gives them a challenge that can be objectively met. Creativity is all well and good (and most Lego users I know also create a lot of from-scratch objects), but there's a place for knowing where you're going before you start. Paint by numbers kits can teach you a lot about painting, if not about art.

About a year ago, I read a book called The Golden Ratio - it delves deeply into phi (1.618...), a number that, when used as a ratio for length to width, is supposed to be very pleasing to the eye. The Greeks used it in many architectural settings, Da Vinci was big into phi, yadda. I thought it was fascinating. I remembered the book while I was pondering constraints, and so decided to use golden rectangles as the parameter for useless objects for a bit. The Fibonacci series approximates the golden rectangle when taken to the nth degree, and the F series is nothing but an oddly-shaped log cabin, when you think about it.

Here's the first UO (a 5 x 5 grid of golden rectangles, creating a larger one - hard to see beaded embellishments are above - click on the photo to see better). Just a plain ol' wall hanging that goes with nothing in my house, so won't get hung.

It was, predictably, a LOT of fun. And a solid learning experience.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sick, sick, sick

That's what I am, just sick. On top of the head full of snot, croaky voice, coughing, asthma and tiredness, I am very, very weepy. I don't know what that's about. My eyes have been super sensitive since I got sick on Sunday, and maybe this is just their way of being fed up?

Started the new job yesterday, and it looks like it will be interesting but more time than I bargained for...I'm feeling totally overwhelmed about how I will get everything done, but I guess that's par for the course. I think we will be eating a lot of sandwiches for dinner. But I did get a 38 cent per hour pay raise without even doing anything (they adjusted the payscale the week I started), which is better than a poke in the eye.

Some sick bed time has been spent reading Art and Fear, which is an awesome, short, inspiring read for anyone who is making anything approaching art (something, in my mind, that is creative, requires a learning process for the creator and isn't necessarily a useful object). Writers, hobbyists, and anyone who deals with perfectionism - all would benefit from reading this beautiful book. $10 at Amazon, hecka deal.

While reading it, some new quilt ideas have sprung to mind, so maybe if I ever have two healthy minutes to rub together, I can create something! I did make a knit hat to go with the sweater this week, but my heart wasn't really in it. It was just to keep warm (and guess when the weather miraculously turned better?)

And here is Typhoid Larry, the child who spread the illness to me, his sister and all of his friends before heading off to Arizona to visit his grandma (although in his defense, I did hear of one other person who travels in his circles who had it first, and presumably gave it to him). He's feeling much better, which gives me some hope. This snowman was lots of fun, as has everything else he's been doing. Being treated like the prince you are by your grandma is a Good Thing.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

An Oldie

I tried yesterday to finish the quilted picture frame, and it was so dreadful that I ripped most of the seams and tried to start over, but didn't have the fabric I needed to get it right. (Can you imagine? Not having the fabric you need?) I'm thinking that I'll just start a new project entirely...argh.

Then there was getting my son ready for a week-long trip away, a Destination Imagination meeting and all of a sudden a monster head cold. I'm stuck in bed, watching Poirot/Sherlock Holmes reruns on Biography and drinking soup. And I don't even have anything to knit...

Picasa is good for moments like this - I can surf through photos from way back. Here's a quilt I completed about 18 mo ago, a baby quilt that I actually bought fabric for. It's notable because it's one of my rare attempts to free motion quilt. From here, that attempt looks OK. Up close, not so much. But it was fun in that I'd learned a lot about perfect piecing techniques just before I did this one, and the points are pretty near perfect. One of those things that non-quilters don't notice, but that thrills people like me no end. I really don't like the products of traditional quilting much, but the process is fun when it works. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 13, 2006

Speed Knitting

I don't think of myself as a fast knitter, but this went together in just over two weeks, which seems pretty quick. As you can see it needs blocking, and one seam also needs to be redone, and I need to lose about 15 pounds and have breast enhancement surgery, but other than that, it's DONE!

It got worn this afternoon even though it hadn't been blocked because it was 57 degrees everywhere in my house except the living room (home of the thermostat). We coastal Californians do not do cold weather (or hot weather, for that matter!) well at all. It's COOOOOOLD.

And this is, after all, the Whine Country. Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Second Sleeve Syndrome

Stefaneener told me not long ago that she loves all sweaters (being knitted) right up until the second sleeve begins, and then she hates them. I just finished sleeve number one on my Skully knock-off, and have to agree. I think the thing with sleeves is that they look so small on the worn garment, so you think they won't take long. In truth, though, they are almost as big as a back, and take forever!

My son came down with the bug that's been going around our circle, putting the kibosh on several great plans we had for today. The silver lining is the neckband and first sleeve of the sweater, which is what I got done with the movie-watching-hanging-out time I had instead of the family-gym-going-soccer-practice-birthday-party day I had planned. And I did a three needle bind off on the shoulders which looks smashing.

My daughter nicely obliged a quick model of the sweater for a photo, and we liked the way it looked with the sleeve as a trunk and the back and front as ears. Fun, but I think I may like it better the regular way.

The picture quilt is not done...hopefully Sunday. Tomorrow I am Soccer Mom, volunteering at the local registration drive for the soccer league. Experience suggests that no knitting, sewing or other crafting will get done.

Tonight my husband and I are bickering about the grown-up movie choices (Gosford Park vs. Oliver Twist), and either way I'll hide the yarn ends, sew up the side that's done and get a start on the evil second sleeve. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Velvet Picture Quilt

Before there was inkjet fabric, there were picture quilts. And since (don't throw things, now) I think 99% of the inkjetted quilts I see are absolutely hideous (Look! A picture of Grandma at the nursing home, with a border of kitties - and the block is set at an angle! Wow!), I'm just a Luddite about photos and quilts. I'd rather stick an actual high resolution photo into a quilted frame.

And lo, there is Upper Canada Quilt Works, with a number of patterns for doing just that! This is their very first one, titled (ready?) #1.

It's not quite done yet, despite about 3 hours spent on it so far. Want to know why it's not done?

I mean, it's a simple square within a square, no big.

Because my friends will not do an intervention with me and velvet. I need to go to velvet rehab, and clearly I'm not able to get myself there. Almost all the blue you see here is not just velvet, but upholstery weight velvet...I'm frikkin' out of my mind. But once I'd cut it there was no turning back, despite having to rip 2 out of every 3 seams out and a whole lot of 1/4" seams that aren't anywhere near that (fortunately it will hang on the wall in a non-quilting home).

At any rate, it's almost done - I have to finish the inner border, throw on a (cotton woven - NOT velvet!) outer border and quilt 'er up.

It's a gift (shhh) for my son's DI team manager. I seem to be on a gift jag lately, but it gets me sewing, so I'm not going to try to stop.

Tonight is NOVA night, so I get to knit! Whee! My life is just a whirlwind. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 06, 2006

Pattern for Messenger-Style Bag

I'll try to do this without diagrams, just pictures and text...I have no decent drawing program on this computer, and I'm too lazy to throw my son off the other one, create something, and then send it here. If you'd like to try it but are struggling, let me know. Click on any photo for a larger view.

This is the third one I've made, each with different dimensions. This one is 8" wide by 12" tall, with about a 36" strap. These last two have been envisioned for a certain young miss who is turning 11 this week - she's not fond of fussy things, and I was trying for an earthy pouch to carry her cool stuff in, but I seem to keep coming up with lovely bags for adult women instead. She may be getting a gift certificate!

To make this one, you'll need 4 pieces of your outer fabric. I used a denim-weight decorator fabric from the 1960's, and anything that weight or lighter will do. Heavier and you'll be breaking needles left and right. The pieces are as follows:

21" x 13" (A)
9" x 13" (B)
67" x 3" (C)
67" x 3" (C)

You can seam together strips for the long, thin pieces. When you put them together (they will form the strap) make SURE the seams aren't on top of each other, or you'll be sewing through a zillion layers of fabric. Stagger them.

For the lining you'll need 2 pieces:

21" x 13" (A)
9" x 13"(B)

Lightweight batting:

20" x 12" (A)
8" x 12"(B)
66" x 1.5" (don't piece this with a seam - if you need to piece two pieces of batting, use a zig zag/darning stitch with no overlap) (C)

1. Fuse, spray baste, safety pin or otherwise attach batting A to wrong side of outer fabric A, centering it.

2. Put right side of fabric A (with batting attached) to right side of lining A. Pin if necessary (it will depend on what fabrics you're using), and stitch with a half inch seam around the perimeter, leaving a hole big enough to turn piece inside out.

3. Clip corners, flip right side out, remove safety pins if used.

4. Using steam-a-seam or fusible hemming, close up the hole (you'll be stitching over it later, but you'll really want it held firm during that process, so I highly recommend you don't skip this step!)

5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 with outer fabric B, batting B and lining B. You should have two spiffy little rectangle quilts.

6. Place batting C, centered, on the wrong side of one piece of outer fabric C. Using an accent thread in your bobbin (it's gonna show), stitch all the way down the center of the fabric and batting, to stabilize it.

7. To make the other side match, now stitch all the way down the center of the other outer fabric piece C.

8. Put both outer fabric pieces C right sides together and stitch around the perimeter, leaving a very large (18" or so) hole for turning along the middle of one long side. You will miss the batting by a long mile while stitching, which is correct. You don't want the batting to get in these seams at any point.

9. Flip the piece right side out, and close up using steam-a-seam as above.

10. Being careful not to twist the strap, butt the two ends together and stitch with a tight zigzag darning stitch, once forward, once backward. You'll now have a closed loop. Click on the photo at left to see an enlarged version of what I mean.

11. I highly recommend a denim needle, some eye protection and lots of patience from here on out. If you've done things correctly (not getting the batting involved in the seams) it should be OK, but be careful going over areas on the strap where you have a join! Center the zigzagged join at the bottom of fabric/lining piece A, on the lining side. Stitch with a quarter inch margin, being very careful (going very slowly or even hand-turning your machine) going over any extra seams.

12. Now stitch the strap up the sides of piece A (still on the lining side) 8". A small gap at the corners (you won't be able to fit the folded fabric under the presser foot) is fine. You're not trying to hold water, here.

13. Now attach the front in the same way, bottom first, then the sides.

14. Almost done! Now you need to finish edge stitching the flap and the rest of the straps. This makes it look more polished and will keep your batting from flopping all over if you decide to wash the bag.

And there it is! You can go for the hard-edged look, or flip it inside out for a more rustic thing.

This is a great way to use up scraps of left over dress fabric, and the whole thing goes together in about an hour and a half (if no broken needles!). Posted by Picasa

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It's a Knitting Blog! No! A Sewing Blog! No...

The weather and the midwinter blues have conspired to keep me out of my cold, damp and drafty sewing space, and a movie marathon last week plus the Oscars last night have made it possible for me to get in some long periods of knitting, - so that's what I've been doing. Perks the serotonin level right up.

This sweater is for ME, based loosely on the Skully pattern from Stitch 'n' Bitch, using Sierra from KnitPicks in Coal and Pool (black and blue). I had to work some to get the gauge right (read: rip 20-odd rows three times), but I think I've got it.

I've added stripes (to show off my lack of waist!) and will probably skip the skulls on the sleeves in favor of either a circle or more stripes. You see here the front (sans neck band) and the first third of the back. It's ending up looking like a 1920's swimsuit, but once the sleeves are on it should be OK.

Saturday was our regional Destination Imagination tourney - the kids were fantastic. My son's team took first in their division and age group, and the team I manage (teenagers) second in theirs. Which means we don't get to put the props and sets away, we get to keep rehearsing for the state level tournament next month. I'm delighted for all concerned, and feeling like I will need a long, long soak in a very hot tub when this is over.

I have been offered the job I interviewed for, sort of (they told me when they want me to start, but still have to check my references and tell me what they'll be paying me). I have some significant concerns about working for a very small amount of money (I know the scale, and it goes from almost nothing to almost nothing plus 30 cents an hour), but it's just 'til the end of May, and then I'll start this fun and exciting process again! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bored Housewifery

Some housewives have an affair with a neighbor when they're feeling itchy. Some are closet spenders, some kick out with a drug habit.

Me? I have dry ice issues.

I have a whole morning sans kids this morning (they're in classes at our charter school). I hadn't done my normal FlyLady routine this week because of the craziness of getting ready for our Destination Imagination tournament, so that's what was on the agenda for my "private time". While straightening I found a half brick of dry ice the DI kids hadn't used in yesterday's rehearsal, and knew just what had to be done. By the time things got to this point, I was giggling out loud and totally freaking the dog out. I wish the photos would do it really needs a video to show the wonderful waterfall that developed and flowed all over the floor. Now I have mist I have to wipe up everywhere, but it was very much worth it!

The car has been procured, and I am in car heaven. It does NOT made scary noises, it does NOT emit scary smells (except the new car smell), it does NOT whine when I turn left. I did NOT get a great deal on it, but I am content nonetheless.

Next sewing project will be a handbag to take to my interview on Friday. I bought a brown pin striped suit, some nice suede mules and a groovin' violet blouse. I took a quick look at handbags at the store, but didn't see anything even halfway nice, and at those prices, well. The stash calls. Hopefully this afternoon, after I clean up the dry ice mess and pick up the kiddies. Posted by Picasa