Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Saturday sweater

Here is the "cobbled together" sweater I talked about in my last post. The blueprint for it comes from Crispina ffrench's The Sweater Chop Shop: Sewing One-of-a-Kind Creations from Recycled Sweaters. It comes from the best parts of three huge felted sweaters and is melty-soft and big enough for me to swim in and warm enough to sleep in on a frigid winter night. I love it.

True, the colors don't move me that much, but they'll look good with jeans and with my gray sweats, and what else do I wear on Saturday? I saved the pretty-pretty sweaters for later projects, when I have more experience "cobbling." Soon I hope you'll see zip-cardigans and hoodies and kangaroo pockets and more. And it's all hand-sewn! Amazing!
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In the works

I have way, way, way too many projects in the works these days, and I have been admonished several times by my daughter to stop buying new craft supplies until I have used up some of my existing ones. I have only been bringing home thrifted/foraged/secondhand materials with the exception of some wool sewing yarn, but it does add up.

So this weekend I finished two felted wool baby blankets, which I plan to send to a therapist friend who treats women with postpartum depression and likes to give handmade gifts to her patients who deliver. I hope she likes them, because I could happily supply her with many more! I'll tuck a few cashmere bunnies in the package for good measure.

Projects I'm working on include:
  • A hand-sewn felted wool blanket done in 5" squares, truly beautiful!
  • A "cobbled" felted wool pullover sweater -- more on this later
  • A huge tied quilt made entirely of thrifted pillowcases and backed with a thrifted bedsheet
  • Finishing up the second edition of the beach blanket
  • A new pattern for pajama pants that I hope will fit me better but that I'm a little afraid of
  • My alpaca sweater
  • Various things I won't mention because they're perpetual works in progress
Not to mention trying to keep the mess in order and finish decorating!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Beach Blanket Botch

Well. It seems I have made another cat bed. This one competes in popularity with the ridiculous pink wool messenger bed I made earlier in the summer.

What you see here is the back of my Beach-Blanket-To-Go, my first attempt at a project from Amanda Blake Soule's Handmade Home, a book whose release I've been eagerly awaiting for nearly a year now. It's full of intriguing possibilities, and the beach blanket looked like a no-brainer to this moderately experienced crafter/sewer. Frankly, I'm perplexed as to what went wrong, but the layers went lumpy and the binding got twisted somehow and the whole thing just looks wrong.

I have some ideas for things to try differently in attempt #2, including making my own binding instead of using purchased bias binding, and trimming the edges after machine basting the layers together so the binding goes on evenly. We'll see how it goes. I'm not completely discouraged, but I am sad that I won't have a blanket made with my pretty gold chenille bedspread that I found while antiquing with D last weekend.

Well. Chalk it up to experience and give it another go.

In the morning kitchen

I love cake for breakfast, almost as much as I love pizza for breakfast. Leftover birthday cake is the best, but any cake will do, even if I have to bake it myself. This morning we had Lemon Glazed Poppy-Seed Cake, a variation on the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book Busy Day Cake recipe that I conjured up. It was so quick and easy and D rated it thumbs-up so I'll put it here in case anyone's interested and so I'll remember what I did.

I've rarely been in a kitchen that didn't have some edition of the BHG cook book in it, so I won't post the whole recipe. All I did was add about a teaspoon and a half of poppy seeds (I think I would go for the whole tablespoon next time) and make a glaze out of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp. vanilla and 3 tbsp. lemon juice -- which was actually thicker than glaze consistency, It was more like paste; I thought it would melt more when I put it on the hot cake but it tore the cake instead, so 4 tbsp. lemon juice next time. We let it cool down for half an hour and dug in.

Quite tasty. Not gourmet, mind you, but it took all of 10 minutes to mix up and 30 minutes to cook and used 1 bowl (well, 2 if you count the glaze.) And we had cake for breakfast.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My sewing stool

So I was walking past Philips Furniture in town this afternoon and instinct told me to cross the street before I came to his outdoor display -- invariably when I take the time to scan his offerings I find at least one that comes home with me -- but I thought no, there's nothing I need, I won't find anything. Then of course I saw something I needed. Desperately. For real. On Sale.

Here's my new sewing stool. It is just the right height for me and has a nice low back so I can take stretch-breaks without leaving my chair. I love the green vinyl seat and the fact that it opens up for extra storage. And since I had been sitting on my (albeit sturdy) side table I can now reclaim that piece of furniture and have a cup of tea by my side when I am reading or hand-sewing in my comfy chair.

Note how the avocado green coordinates with my Aunt Anne's vintage knitting basket in the corner. Does it get any better than this? I never thought I'd find the perfect sewing seat, but it's like this was made for my body. I love it!

Where do you sit when you craft or sew? What would you like to fall over when you're walking down the street that would make your crafting more pleasurable or productive?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, G.G.!

I made my grandmother a silk shantung Bias Blossom pin from Cynthia Treen's Last Minute Fabric Gifts to celebrate her 90th birthday. "This is different," she told me when she opened the box. But she wore it all day just the same. And everywhere we went, I got to tell everyone that she was my grandmother and that today she was Ninety.

I made her a memory board instead of giving her a card. I was a little worried that she wouldn't like it, that she would think it was weird or different, but she was immensely pleased with it and became very concerned about finding a proper way to display it in her home. Taking a photograph of the whole thing did not seem right somehow, but I did snap a few snippets of it. Here are two:

This photograph has been a favorite of mine for nearly twenty years, possibly because I compiled the album G.G. is browsing through while she sits in the rocker in my parents' dining room. It's full of faded snapshots from the Seventies, and the colors of orange, brown and green seem to dominate. The person you can't see in the photo is my great-aunt, another extremely special person in my life, for whom my brand new niece was named.

This one was taken on a sunny but frigid winter day not long after my daughter was born, and it will always be a treasure to me. There are other photographs from that day of me playing joyfully with my child, and of my mother and my great-aunt holding her, but the series of G.G. talking with her namesake and becoming her great-grandmother is most meaningful to me.

So happy Nintieth, G.G.! You are strong and funny and sharp and capable, and you have always done well in this world. I am proud to be your granddaughter.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Working glimpse

Here are a few more peeks into my studio. I'm hard at work in here, really!

My computer workstation needs a bit of work to become functional -- I have to face the fact that my studio will also be a small home office for dealing with financial matters and general paperwork, and I'll have to allocate some space for that. Hopefully the cabinet in my secretary desk will hold most of that, with maybe a file cabinet to replace the plastic crates we've been using to file papers in since we were in college. Not my favorite part of sprucing up the place, but a definite necessity.

Over by the window, my comfy chair, which I very rarely sit in as it's usually covered in whatever projects I'm working on at the moment. Now that I'm right next door to the washer and dryer, I can be felting sweaters and pre-washing fabric while I'm ironing, cutting out quilting squares and sewing patchwork pieces together. It's a dream come true! And I do love to se eall of my favorite books on the shelves behind the chair -- they are so decorative as well as functional.

Here's the picture I promised of the finished Felted Wool Baby Blanket on the back of the comfy chair. I like it better as I look at it more, and I think I can learn to live with imperfection. When I get frustrated I need to remind myself that I haven't taken lessons, I've only been sewing for a short while, and I will get the hang of it in time. I feel like it's important for me to continue to be fearless and keep trying new things, because that's how I will learn -- and I am learning, and how exciting it is!

Felted wool baby blanket

Where does the time go? I've been sewing up a storm and have many projects to show you, some of which are in the washing machine right now so can't be photographed, but here's the latest sort-of triumph: A felted wool baby blanket with a soft fluffy flannel backing, another project from Betz White's Warm Fuzzies. Here's a picture of the work in progress, where I'm trying to decide which color thread to use for embellishment. (In case you were wondering, I went with the blue. It's a little hard to see in the picture of the finished product, which I will feature on the next entry.

I really like the color combination, but I was unhappy with the finishing touches, not shown here. The edge-stitching looks relatively even on the front, but messy on the back, which happens to me a lot in projects like this, and I just can't seem to figure out how to fix this problem. I think possibly I rush too much at the end because I'm so excited to see the project finished, and that taking my time would result in a neater completion.

Anyway, the cat likes it, and it's soft enough and fluffy enough that perhaps some baby will too.