Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mermaid coin purse - too cute

One of my students had the *cutest* item attached to her backpack: a mermaid coin purse/keychain.  I promised I would take a picture of it and blog about it, because it is just too darn cute.
The head is the coin purse portion, and the zipper pull is her ponytail.

OMG, how cute is that!  Probably going to have to put this on my list of things to make myself.  What materials would I use, I wonder...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Something borrowed, something new

Finally finished a pre-2012 project that had been hanging out for years.  Had fabrics, pattern, and article-to-repurpose.  Just never got around to working on it.  Part of the issue was with poor directions in the pattern: not quite sure what got cut out, or how exactly it was all to go together.  Plus, I knew I was making a knee-length dress, not some ankle-skimming lounge gown, and would need to alter things to make the colored skirt panels turn out right.

I knew it would get done eventually, because I *love* mixing fabrics.  My favorite jacket pattern calls for 6-8 different fabrics, and I have made it 3 times.  Also I'm a sucker for bags that use a variety of fabrics.  This project promised to use 4 coordinating fabrics, along with "a shirt" for the bodice.

Name of pattern: Something Borrowed, Something New (Indygo Junction)

Raw materials:
Denim jumper from my younger days.  Was too short for my aging body, and too tight in the thighs.
An assortment of rayon scraps: from a hippie wedding dress, from a flapper Halloween costume, from a dress I made one of my girls (size 6-8? way long ago), from a summer frock of similar little-girl vintage.

The result:
A denim jumper for summer, for me.  Yay.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I choose love

Poster seen around the high school:
I took a picture in the morning, when I first saw it.  By afternoon, many of the strips at the bottom were missing.  I am hoping they were taken with sincerity, and that the seekers can find a little bit of what they need in the act of reaching out for it.

I choose love.

Be certain in the religion of Love there are no believers or unbelievers. Love embraces all.     --Rumi

Sunday, May 27, 2012

1930's: is it big enough?

During this month's Stitch-n-Bitch (aka evening open sew at The Crow), I was able to put the pre-prepared borders onto the 1930's reproduction quilt I have been working on (on-and-off since January 2011, when I won 21 blocks in a block challenge).

Is it big enough?  The central portion is a 4-by-6 layout of 12-inch blocks.  Too narrow, but long/tall enough, so I made the scrappy piano-key border for just the sides-- 6" wide (so essentially, adding another 12" block to the width.

Now I just need to save up enough money to send it to the quilter.  I so want to be able to count this project as "done", but I'm guided by Stashbuster's rule: you can't call it done until the binding has been tacked down and the extra threads clipped.

But it might be done in 2012...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Buck-a-block for May

I remembered to take along my camera to capture the buck-a-block design from the shop sample this month.
The Americana colorway is so not my favorite this month.  (I kinda like the 1930's prints on the left--but then again, I am partial to them anyway.)

Flower Garden - envisioned in Americana

This month's pattern is "Flower Garden Patch" from The Farmer's Wife.  Our cutting and sewing directions have this pattern made from a nine-patch.  I had trouble seeing it at first.

It's time for me to make a block in red/black/pink, but I'm really not feeling it.  Don't like the blue I received this month, either.  Drat.  Here's my major beef: I think the strong diagonal lines in red will detract from whatever else is on the block.  (Which is funny, because I totally loved the strong red frame in this other block.)

And I'm not digging the rectangles along each edge.  Am I just too picky?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Secret sewing: grandma's bedspread

Sweetie is gone for a few days, so I pulled out my secret sewing project.  (Really, it's not so secret; I just don't work on it when anyone else is around.  It's more of a size issue than anything else.)

I inherited 3 things from my grandmother when she passed away: a charm bracelet, a vintage floor lamp, and her bedspread.
The bedspread was floor-length, sort of a muslin background with embroidered flowers (daisies?) over the entire surface.  The flowers are about 2" across.

I decided to put batting and a backing on the bedspread, and cut it down to coverlet size.  I also decided to hand-quilt it, in big stitch meandering between the flowers, with perle cotton (I am using DMC size 8).  I have been working on it for going on two years (dragging it out every few months when I have room to leave it laying out for a few days at a time).
I have not been consistent about working on this.  Nor have I followed any sort of system for quilting: meander describes where the stitches go--but also where I move the hoop and put my needle in each time I rethread it.  But last night, after working for an hour while catching up on tv shows that were languishing on the dvr, I realized I am well over halfway done.  Wow!  Sense of accomplishment: slow and steady may yet complete this project.  Perhaps even in 2012!
Backing fabric is a soft yellow flannel.  I haven't chosen a binding yet.  Maybe I should start looking, just in case I come across something.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Buck a block April complete

Sewing on my block on the day of buck-a-block: not recommended.  Too stressful.  I don't do well with sewing deadlines.

However, I had done so much towards the block already that it came together rather quickly.
My block is on the left.  Another version of the same block (using the actual fabrics provided to us) is on the right.  I just loved seeing everyone's different ways to put together the same base pieces!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My semi-organized fabric

I had to trek to visit the auxiliary fabric storage this week, looking for some lining fabric for the dress I intend to finish this month.  Thought I'd share my organizing scheme--in hopes that I can motivate myself to get rid of the auxiliary stash (in the garage attic), or at least bring it into the house where I can visit it more easily.
Most of my fabric yardage is stored in Xerox paper boxes, labeled with a title like "red heart" or "gold star".  These are on a top shelf along one wall of my sewing room.  There are ten boxes there now (room for only 3 more boxes).
The key to knowing what is in each box is a fabric swatch, along with measurements and other identifying details, that I keep in one of those photo albums that you aren't supposed to use anymore for pictures.  You know, the ones with "magnetic" plastic overlays.
An example of items stored in the "red heart" box.  I always include width and yardage information; sometimes the card also gives fabric content, date and place purchased, or a project I intended to make with this fabric.
The Xerox boxes contain yardage that is larger than half-yard.  For quilting projects, I have fat quarters and scraps stored in clear plastic shoeboxes, arranged by color.  Here are the [orange/yellow/brown], [blue/green], and [white/cream/tan] boxes of scraps.
Any quilter's cotton smaller than half-yard and larger than about 12-by-12" is folded in one of the "fat quarter" shoeboxes.  These don't have an organizing scheme--but I only have three shoeboxes of fat quarters, so it doesn't seem that important to put them in any sort of order.  The shoeboxes stack and store nicely on open shelves in the sewing room.

There you have it.  I have seen other fabric storage methods, but this works well for me, both for the quantity and variety of fabric that I have, as well as the available space to store things.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First anniversary: romantic paper escapade

Sweetie and I celebrated our first anniversary by taking a class together: we made books!  I contracted with my handmade-book-artist friend Tree to have a custom class where we could stitch together our own creations.
I chose an Anne Geddes poster to use as the front and back covers.  The finished book size is 8-1/2" wide by 6" tall.
The bookmaking class was spread over two evenings.  The first evening we decided on sizes, cut our covers (cardboard) and glued the coverings on them (the photo above is the inside of the back cover).  We also assembled all the pages, which were hand-torn from larger sheets of paper.
The second evening (after the covers had fully dried) involved punching holes in the covers and the signatures (what you call a grouping of pages, all folded together along the spine) and sewing everything together.
Oh, my camera does nice close-ups, doesn't it?  The stitching was fun and relaxing: we had time to chat and sip our tea as we worked.  I only had to undo things twice.  And the finished product is a lovely, blank journal.

I looked online for directions to bind your own book, but I'm not sure I'd recommend trying anything without hands-on instruction.  Tree is a fabulous, patient teacher, and comes with all sorts of supplies and equipment that I wouldn't want to have to purchase (two kinds of awls, a set of curved needles, bone folders, and glues for every possible purpose).

And I would show a picture of Sweetie's book, but she already shipped it off to her best friend as a birthday present.  Easy come, easy go.

Isn't the second anniversary supposed to be about leather?  Wonder what we'll do for that...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What if I had to move?

Several ideas floating around in my head lately coalesced into a horrifying thought:  What if I had to move, and clean out my classroom to pass it along to someone else?  Aack!

The view inside my cupboards is scary. 

I am a behind-closed-doors hoarder of all things paper-related.  (Peter Walsh had me pegged in a recent article in Oprah's magazine; it's the perfectionist in me that wants to find the best possible way to organize all those papers.  Until then, I'll just keep stacking, piling, and boxing them up inside the various closets in my life.)

I was looking for a hard copy of tomorrow's quiz.  (God help me if I have to write a new quiz tonight.)  I opened the cupboard with the most organized version of my statistics stuff. 

Underneath that crate is all the materials from the previous incarnation of the class. (Why do I still have that stuff?  Because I haven't incorporated all of it into the class I now teach.)  No luck in either crate.  But wait... don't I have another pile of statistics stuff somewhere?

Oh, for goodness sake: this whole pile is other miscellaneous stats materials?!?

I am in deep trouble.  If only spring term weren't already a train wreck of disorganization! I feel mentally ready to tackle my closets (and drawers, and bins).  I just need a routine (thank you, Bonnie!) to start picking away at the backlog.

Maybe next week.  I gotta go write a quiz...

Secret motivational picture: my colleague's cupboard. 
Apparently not everyone fills up every inch of space with unsorted paperwork.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Quilter's Choice

Buck-a-block for April was introduced as "quilter's choice".  Sure, there was a pattern, and cutting directions, and an illustration showing what the finished project might look like.  But the component pieces could be put together so many different ways.
This is what the picture on this month's pattern sheet looks like (and you can see which fabric got the nod for the lighter-colored flying geese rectangles).  But I was hoping to see more of a star shape from the placement of the turquoise.
Now that's more like it!  All I did was rotate the four outer corners, and suddenly those turquoise triangles form a star that stands out.  What other combinations might I make?

Still cute (on left).  And not-so-cute.

I kinda like the right hand one of these two better.  Like the square-within-a-square effect in the center.

This is just like the first two arrangements, with the rows of flying geese swapped, turquoise for tan.  I still like the version where the star-effect shows up better.

At some point I stopped to ask myself: how many different combinations would be possible?

The mathematician within me has a solution...  (It's based on combinatorics, but don't let the name scare you.  I had a college professor describe it as "counting without using your fingers and toes", so it can't be too awful.)

Take the number of choices at each location and multiply them.

***Non-quilt example: I have 5 possible shirts [times] 3 possible pants [times] 2 possible shoes (assuming everything goes together) [equals] 30 potential outfits.

***This quilt block: 2 positions for the corner pieces [times] 2 colors for the inner flying geese [times] 2 positions for the inner flying geese [times] 2 colors for the outer flying geese [times] 2 positions for the outer flying geese [equals] 2-to-the-fifth-power, or 32 possible combinations!!!  Glad I didn't stick around to photograph them all. 

But which one will I choose?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rant on poor directions

I read a book recently that stressed the importance of clear directions, if you were to write up your patterns for others to use.  (Publish Your Patterns! How to write, print, and market your designs, by Nancy Restuccia)  The author, who has several successful patterns under her belt, broke down the process into simple steps.  Most important, in my mind, is to have someone follow your written instructions and try to make your item using only the words and drawings you have provided.

I witnessed the painful process of deciphering unclear directions at last month's stitch-n-bitch (otherwise known as Late Night at The Crow).  Kennette, the shop owner, was struggling with directions for a kit that she wants to sell in her store.

And then there is my own tale of woe:  Argh!

I *hate* the directions in this pattern.  Maybe it's not fair to single out Indygo Junction for poor directions.  Maybe I have just been unlucky with the 3 patterns of theirs I have tried (all were garment sewing).  Maybe their quilt-y pattern directions are better. This is a very old pattern (copyright 2000) --maybe they have gotten better at writing (and illustrating!!) directions over time...

The entire directions, cutting and sewing, fit on a single sheet of 8-1/2 by 11 paper.

In frustration, I started making my own set of instructions.  Note the number of illustrations I used.  This is only up to step 6, where I got completely lost.

The offending step.  "Sew pocket pieces to skirt back on each side RST.  Sew around pockets RST as shown to mark on pattern."

And here is how the pocket looks from the inside.  After sewing, ripping, sewing, ripping, and sewing one more time.  Still have no idea how it was supposed to go together.  The "mark on pattern" wasn't needed, at least the way I ended up sewing it.  Wonder what it was really for...

In praise of clear directions: Black Cat Creations.  They have a pattern editor who makes beautiful symphonies out of the individual designers' notes and sketches.  If I ever try and make a pattern for the masses, may my directions be clear like these!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Project report for April

Another month, another single project complete (the napkins).  Which is not to say that was the only thing I worked on.  In fact, I was working toward finishing a second project--but it will have to wait.  (And there was thesis writing that got in the way.  Blast that educational goal!)

Sneak peek: got one of the paper-pieced daisies put together.
Still have to quilt it, so it is far from done.  But cute!  And it was all about learning a new skill anyway.  The project piece was secondary.

I noticed something as the end of the month approached: thinking about completing projects actually kept me from working on longer-term efforts that will not be done anytime soon (1930's reproduction quilt is a prime example).  I know any larger project takes sustained effort over many months, but right now I want to see instant results.  Oh, I am an impatient sprite these days!

Monthly project count...
Completed projects this Month:  1
Completed projects Year to Date:  5
New projects this Month:  none
New projects Year to Date: 6
Discarded/donated projects (farewell!): 2 (this month's discard: rayon capri pants)
Net Project Count for 2012: -1

Ooh, look!  The net count has finally slipped into negative numbers.  I love me some negative numbers: it means I now have *less stuff* than I did at the beginning of the year.