Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spring cleaned!

Photos from my newly spring-cleaned sewing room! (Still, alas, the dining room.)

I did a major overhaul of my fabric stash and kept only the fabrics I loved or thought would be really useful. "I might use it someday" is no excuse for hoarding items that could be used right now by somebody else. Now I can see what I have and I'm not bothered by the nagging thought that I should be working 24/7 to use up my stash, and using boring or ugly fabric to boot. See how nice it looks in my cabinet?

Then I went in and organized my ribbons, rick rack, pins, needles, elastic, thread, bobbins and other notions. It's easy to find what I need now, and it's easy to clean up, too, because everything has a place to go. I also un-teetered the piles of books that surrounded my sewing table, and organized them roughly according to category. I can't wait to get them upstairs to the new studio where there are real bookcases!

So what to do with the boxes and bags and tubs and baskets of fabric left over? I sent seven (yes, 7) boxes, mostly flannel but some terrycloth and an amount of quilt batting, to TLC for Angels -- they make blankets and clothing for "needy babies" and were happy to accept my donation. I have another seven bags of quilting cotton to give to my church's Prayer Quilting group. But there were still boxes and bags and tubs and baskets full of fabric -- fat quarters (kind of small for the prayer quilters), holiday and novelty prints, home decor weights -- plus a gazillion skeins of yarn and several more boxes of crafting odds and ends. What to do, what to do?

Obviously, this was the perfect time for D's parents' church to hold their annual flea market! We sold all of the fabric and nearly all the yarn, a few of the doodads and even a few handmade-by-me items: 3 small tied quilts, 2 patchwork-covered Moleskine notebooks, and a number of rice-and-lavender heat therapy bags. (We also sold: some clothes, a tv, vcr, dvd player and stand, and presumably some other things since our total intake was over $90, which is pretty darn good for a yard sale. We're still debating over what else we might have sold; it's kind of a mystery.)

And now -- onward and upward! Look for posts about my current projects, some new furniture, painting, thrifting, and more...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Making a change

I've been looking around my house lately and realizing that it has a bad case of the matchy-matchies. Take the master bathroom, for instance. The level of pink-and-green-ness in there is truly nauseating. I think I caused that to happen, over time, because of a needlepoint picture my great-aunt gave me that I hung in there, but really, there's such a thing as overkill. I'm going to need to do something about it.

Recently we replaced the cat-scratched slipcovers in our tv-room with inexpensive white ones from IKEA. I was a little apprehensive about doing this but decided to push ahead with the assurance that we could wash, and even bleach, them whenever we needed to. And we have. We've put in a multi-colored checked carpet and have covered the arms and backs of the chairs with the various afghans, quilts and throws I've made over the years, and I like the way it looks and feels. I'm thinking I'd like to do more of this.

I've already purchased inexpensive white slipcovers for the dining room chairs, but I'm holding off using them until we start using the dining room as a dining room again. I think I'd like to make/buy/otherwise acquire white slipcovers for the living room as well -- I'm really loving white these days, and since the furniture is still perfectly good (except where the cats have dug in) there's no reason to replace it -- though a part of me wants to ditch it all and go with secondhand. I want to decorate with color and texture and freedom and things I love, and not worry about whether anything "goes."

I'm collecting vintage fabrics and am hoping to replace some of my bedroom and bathroom linens with handmade items -- in particular, I want to make a duvet cover out of pillowcases and a shower curtain from a 70's bedsheet (which means I will need to learn how to make buttonholes -- a new skill!) I think I will also make some new napkins and dish towels, and think about what to do for a tablecloth or place mats. And then there is the question of what to do with all of my old matchy-match things -- the sheets and blankets and towels and such -- how can I repurpose them? So much to think about!

What changes would you like to make in your home?

Ride 'em Cowgirl!

I'm filing this one under Live and Learn.

K's Spring Concert was last night and she needed an Outfit.

The Rules were: The top had to be white. The bottom had to be Dark Blue or Black (and could have red accents) but Not Jeans. (K also wanted something she could wear for the Fourth of July.) The Kindergarten and Pre-K were to wear Cowboy Hats if they could obtain such.

I looked first at K's wardrobe and found a pair of dark blue stretch pants and an old white t-shirt. No good. I looked at Target and found a soft white smocked blouse. Good. A short black skort. No good. Tight black lacy leggings. No good. K does have a cowboy hat with red trim. Good.

I checked my fabric stash. Many Fourth-of-July novelty prints but nothing suitable. Feeling fairly certain that the local fabric stores would turn up with nothing, I took a ride out to Jo Ann Fabrics. Looked at linen, denim, silk charmeuse, flannel, homespun, gingham, calico, muslin, organic cotton -- back to the linen, which was soft and in a lovely blue, bought 3/4 of a yard of it along with some bandanna print ribbon, an actual bandanna and some black non-roll elastic, and headed home.

I washed, dried and ironed the linen. Started the Lazy Days skirt pattern and worked slowly and carefully. Noticed that the linen was not 45" wide as called for in the pattern, but 60" wide, but didn't worry about it too much -- figured that the skirt would just be fuller. Oh, how wrong I was! When I threaded the elastic through the waistband, I saw that the extra fabric caused there to be less gathering, not more. So I cut the elastic smaller and sewed it back together. And in my haste I cut it too small. So I cut the elastic apart. And in my haste to remove it, I pulled the elastic all the way into the waistband, rendering it extremely difficult to retrieve.

At this point I began to have serious doubts about whether a 5-year-old would even consider a linen skirt to be acceptable Fouth-of-July or Cowgirl attire. I rooted through my stash again and and found some blue starry quilting cotton, not really of clothing quality by my standards but it would do for a cowgirl costume. I began working on the Lazy Days skirt again, slowly and carefully. All the way to edge-stitching the bandanna ribbon to the hem of the skirt.

Satisfied, I began to iron the finished product. And the ribbon began to fray and pull away from the skirt! Oh no! Nasty cheap craft store ribbon! I couldn't cut the ribbon hem off of the skirt and try again with different trim, because the skirt was already as short as I was willing to make it. I looked through my notions bin (a total disaster area!) for some narrow red trim to sew over the edges of the cheap ribbon. I found some rick-rack and some grosgrain ribbon that would work. Not stopping to think, I pinned the rick-rack on, ran it through the machine, and did the same with the grosgrain. The end result was both sloppy and silly-looking. The trims didn't quite match in color, and why hadn't I thought to use the grosgrain twice, which would have given a more polished look? I was really disappointed. But time was running out. It would have to do.

Unless -- I took my loop turner and pushed it through the waistband of the linen skirt, hoping to catch the elastic with its hook. Instead I poked a hole through the fabric. Done! I ironed the starry skirt and hung it up on a hook to wait for K.

The verdict? "It's weird, Mama."

Could be worse!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Making things to wear

I could not be more excited! I have made two things for K to wear on our trip this weekend to E's graduation from college! First is a smocked sundress from Weekend Sewing, which I made at the largest possible size to accommodate my big girl, but which I may have made too short -- we'll see when she gets home from school -- I was too keyed up not to post these pictures now!

Next is the Lazy Days skirt from oliver + s, which Soulemama pointed to in a post earlier this week. I used the Amy Butler fabric that I bought at the fabric store downtown (it's so great to be able to buy locally!) and some ribbon that I picked up there yesterday when I got the bug to try the pattern. I love it so much, especially the ribbon hem binding, that I'm thinking of making a matching one for myself if only K will agree to it!

So tomorrow we're off to Indiana for the weekend, and I need to be thinking about crafting I can be doing in the car, and things to keep the little one busy. Here's hoping the sun comes out and everyone has a good time!

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Catching up

It's been a crazy couple of weeks -- I'm thinking I need to modify my weekly plan to include some flex days where I can concentrate on housework and errands and bill-paying and not so much on creative work, important as that is.  There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day.  But despite all the time I've had to spend catching up on those things I've managed to give a fair amount of time to creating; it just hasn't always been what I've wanted it to be.

I put in a few hours making birthday gifts for K's friends.  First was an unsatisfying hoodie towel for a 6 year old boy.  There just wasn't any flannel in the fabric store that I liked, and it didn't come out looking right.  Then came an unimpressive art-to-go bag for a 5-year-old girl.  The straps came out uneven and I decided it was not a good enough gift, so I kept it for my own use and made her a very nice felt pencil roll and included some watercolor pencils and a brush -- I think she'll like them, I must remember to send them to school with K today as she missed the party last week.

Also, for the last week I've been working on my Secret Quilt Project, which can now be Not So Secret since I've decided that it won't be a gift for anybody because it is clearly a Practice Quilt so I will be keeping it for home use.  I am using the "Go-to Quilt" pattern from the Katie Did blog, with chartreuse and pool blue as my solid colors and a medium-scale floral with those colors and a darker teal for my print, and dark grey thread.  It's attractive to me but I'm not sure it would be to anyone else, and the stitching lines are kind of sketchy and look more like bolts of lightning than straight lines in places and rainbow arcs in other places.  I think that perhaps attempting a queen-sized version of this quilt for my first try was a mistake.

I have also been collecting materials for other projects.  Yesterday I went to Village Thrift in Pennsauken, a wonderful source of vintage materials that I can't remember if I've mentioned before, and collected a pretty 1970's pillowcase and a (slightly itchy) rose-pink wool blanket.  The pillowcase goes with a small collection I'm growing that I hope will become a patchwork duvet cover for my bed; the blanket will become, among other things, a throw for the tv room, a hot water bottle cover, and possibly a pair of slippers. 

In the works:  dawni's quilt, a miniature schoolhouse quilt for K's teacher, baby gifts, some small things with the linens from Philip's, a couple of drawstring bags to hold tights and slips and other unmentionables, hoodie towels for K to take to day camp and if K has her way, boots and umbrella for a 3-inch-tall kitty -- keep dreaming, kid!