Tuesday, May 27, 2008

From tablecloth to summer skirt

Nothing says "summer" like a cool cotton skirt, and here's one I plan to enjoy a lot over the next few months.

It started as a circular muslin tablecloth that I picked up at the thrift shop for all of a dollar. It came complete with a crocheted edging and it really called out to be made into a summer skirt.

Inspired once again by those clever gals over at Wardrobe Refashion, I cut a wide arc out of the circle, then cut the bottom off of an old white T-shirt to add a stretchy yoke. A couple of seams and two button holes on the yoke later, the thing was ready for trip through the washer with some Rit dye. I love the soft apricot color that resulted - it's just exactly what I wanted. A ribbon tie through the yoke finished the whole thing off.

It's already proven its worth as fun, comfy weekend wear. Do I love the skirt because it's great, or just because I got it for pocket change? Matters not to me!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Summer begins

Hope everyone is having a relaxing Memorial Day weekend.

The main theme of the newscasts this weekend, besides the presidential race, has of course been the high price of gas and its ripple effect on the price of everything. Of course there are tons of extremely serious consequences from this, but Dan and I were talking yesterday about some positives that could come from it as well.

The news has focused on the fact that more people are staying home this weekend and are planning to stick close to home all summer. We certainly are.

And I fully recognize the fact that Dan and I have the option of driving less. We don’t have Little League games to drive to every week, and we live in a small town where we can both walk to work every day. When it comes to avoiding driving, we’re extremely lucky. We can do it.

We were out chatting with some neighbors in the yard last night and everyone seems to be taking a similar attitude toward facing a summer of soaring gas prices. Nobody likes paying more at the pump, but we’ll enjoy being home instead.

And if we're enjoying our homes more, paying more attention to our yards and gardens, reading on the porch and puttering around pulling weeds...this is not a bad thing.

If I'm passing up a quick trip to the mall on a Sunday afternoon because I've realized I'm almost out of my favorite shade of Clinique lipstick -- and instead I admit that I can get along perfectly well with the three nearly-unused tubes of similar shades I already have...this is not a bad thing.

If we wait until a special occasion to try out that new restaurant in town, and instead stock a little extra beer and wine and cheese in the fridge at home so we can spontaneously invite neighbors over when we feel like it...this is not a bad thing.

If we consolidate errands, walk more, budget carefully, simplify, repair instead of replace, and remember to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of our area...these are certainly not bad things.

So I'm not being taken in by the alarmists on the news. Certainly the current economy is having devastating effects on many people, and I'm not meaning to minimize that. But here at our house, we know we've got abundant opportunity to enjoy our own little patch of the earth much, much more. And this summer, that's what we plan to do.

I'm starting right now by going out to check on the new rose bush I planted yesterday. It's laden with buds that should be opening soon. By not driving as much, I'll have the time to stop and smell them!

Friday, May 23, 2008

One word only!

I always enjoy reading the latest from Devorah over at Squid Knits. I thought I'd pick up her "one word" challenge. How about snagging it to do yourself, too? Just copy, paste, do your one-word answers and post. Remember - One word only!!!!

  1. Where is your cell phone? ………….. purse
  2. Where is your significant other?………………….. kitchen
  3. Your hair? …………………………………….. messy
  4. Your parents? ……………………………….. beloved
  5. Your dream last night?………………….. Uganda
  6. Your favorite drink? ……………………….. Appletini
  7. Your dream/goal?………………………….. retirement
  8. The room you’re in?…………………….. family
  9. Your ex?……………………………………….. forgotten
  10. Your fear?…………………………………….. tornadoes
  11. Where do you want to be in 6 years?…….. RVing
  12. Where were you last night?………….. Charlotte
  13. What you’re not?………………………….. Republican
  14. Muffins?………………………………………..Corn
  15. One of your wish list items?………….. iPhone
  16. Where you grew up?…………………….. Nebraska
  17. Your favorite thing? ................... family
  18. The last thing you did?…………………..yawned
  19. What are you wearing?………………….. pajamas
  20. Your TV?……………………………………….. reruns
  21. Your pets?…………………………………….. Abigail
  22. Your computer? …………………………….. Dell
  23. Your life?……………………………………….. enviable
  24. Your mood?………………………………….. tired
  25. Missing someone?……………………….. daughter
  26. Your car?……………………………………….. truck
  27. Something you’re not wearing?…….. lipstick
  28. Favorite Store?……………………………….. fabric
  29. Your summer?……………………………….. busy
  30. Like(love) someone?…………………………….. absolutely
  31. Last time you laughed?……………….. tonight
  32. Last time you cried?……………………….. Monday
  33. Who will re-post this?…………………….. dunno!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Of Ashton Kutcher, Toby Keith and Baby Gavin

On my flight to Charlotte Monday afternoon, I was seated next to a couple with a little boy who had just had his first birthday. He was awfully cute. He looked exactly like Ashton Kutcher must have looked as a baby. Considering he'd been cooped up on various planes and airports most of the day, he was handling the trip pretty well -- but was understandably restless and just a tad bit fussy. His young parents, who called him Gavin, were frantically trying to entertain him for the last leg of what they told me had been an all-day journey. And for the most part, they were pretty successful. I doubt anyone besides me was even aware there was such a young child on board.

I tend not to chat with fellow passengers all that much when I travel, so I was knitting and listening to my iPod during the flight. (I've just discovered the KnitPicks podcasts. What fun!) Eventually, the baby became interested in my iPod. His poor parents had already distracted him with every other gadget they had with them, and I told them I certainly didn't mind if some chubby little hands wanted to play with my iPod for a little bit. There was literally nothing he could hurt on it, and nothing that could hurt him. He seemed to have fun playing and watching the images change rapidly in response to his patting and rubbing on the touchscreen. And he very successfully entertained himself for the rest of the flight. I wished his exhausted parents the best and went on my merry way.

About 2 o'clock the next morning, I jumped awake in my hotel room to the sound of Toby Keith blaring "How Do You Like Me Now?" I stumbled groggily out of bed and lunged toward the sound, rummaging through a pile of travel papers and yesterday's clothes. And there was my iPod, with the screen lit up in "alarm clock" mode.

What the...? I didn't even know my iPod had an alarm clock mode. I certainly had no idea it was capable of playing music I could hear without twisting in the earphones (which always makes me feel a little squeamish.) At that hour, I could barely remember how to turn it off, but a few random jabs at the touchscreen did the trick -- and I went promptly back to sleep.

It was halfway through the next day before I remembered Baby Gavin and realized that he must have set the alarm with his own little hands.

So if he could do it, why couldn't I? I managed to figure out the setting that night. I wasn't nearly as cute doing it as Baby Gavin was, but the alarm worked great for the rest of my week in Charlotte.

It's the best travel tip I ever got from a one-year-old.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quilt guilt

This weekend I'm exhibiting a quilt in a local show.

I do not love this quilt.

I feel pretty guilty about not loving this quilt, because the two of us have spent a lot of time together these past couple of months. Well, actually, there've been three of us. Me, the quilt, and a seam ripper.

I had great plans for this project initially. My guild's challenge for this show was to create a quilt inspired by a poem or a song. What a great challenge for an old English major! (Which I seem to be mentioning a lot lately, for some reason - maybe because I realized it's been exactly 30 years this month that I graduated from college. But anyway....)

I spent ages searching for just the right verse to transform into a quilt design. I went back through the classics. I dug through anthologies I hadn't opened in years, looking for just the right metaphor, the perfect image, that could then be expressed through quilting. I mean, I really beat it to death to a ridiculous degree.

Then I stumbled across the works of the contemporary American poet Mary Oliver. And without question, I knew "Wild Geese" was the poem for me. It was a celebration of diversity -- that everything has a place in this world. And of course the traditional Flying Geese block would set everything off perfectly. Bingo.

I envisioned a whole collection of traditional American blocks and motifs, pieced in a wide variety of fabrics and "embraced" by a sweeping arc of flying geese, giving a place and a purpose to everything below.

But despite charting everything out on graph paper, I had the darndest time getting everything to fit together. The cohesive, everything-has-a-place-in-this-world effect I was going for just didn't ever click. Even as I was sewing, it started to feel too 80s-country to me. Ick.

I finished it and submitted it for the quilt show anyway. It looks OK -- just OK. But it won't become one of my favorites.

Poor quilt. It's not to be blamed for turning out this way. But now what do I do with it?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A little ragged around the edges

I went to a class a few weeks ago on the Bull's Eye quilt technique. It was a really fun day.

The actual technique seems to be under copyright protection since it appeared in this book some years ago, so I won’t go into specific instructional details. (Just Google it for tons of examples.) But you can probably figure out just from looking at the photos that basically, you start with a foundation square, then layer concentric circles of fabric on it, stitching each one down and leaving the edges raw. Slice each layered square into quarters, mix them up to re-assemble, and you’ve got blocks that look like this.

No, the edges don’t match. The fabrics don’t coordinate, with the exception of the foundation squares. The stitching isn’t precise. I used up odds and ends of both fabric and thread. This was very much a “let loose and don’t worry about it” sort of project. In other words, definitely NOT designed for the perfectionist!

When the whole thing is pieced, layered with cotton batting, quilted and bound, you throw it immediately into the washer and dryer. Those raw edges fray and curl just a bit, and you end up with a pretty cool-looking, if very informal, little quilt.

I was sort of going for a scallopy look, using half-circles for the border. It didn't totally turn out to have the effect I was going for, so next time I'll break it up with a solid inner border before adding the half-circles.
(And here's Dan, just looking adorable...)
The cheery woman who taught the class said that once you’ve made a Bull's Eye, it will end up being among your most-used quilts. The frayed edges make it so cozy and inviting, always ready to scrunch up with you when you’re sitting on the porch or lounging on the couch. And she’s absolutely right, because that’s exactly what’s happening with mine right now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fun with geometry

I had a bag full of 2 1/2-inch fabric strips in blue and white after a swap last year at quilt guild. I wanted to whip up a quick gift recently and thought I'd play around with some different ways to use the strips.

Years ago I made one of those neat kaliedoscope quilts with the wedges cut out of strip sets and sewn together into octagonal blocks. I had used a special ruler to cut the 45-degree wedges but of course couldn't find the ruler when I wanted to use it again. It was easy enough to just use the 60-degree angle markings on my regular ruler instead, though. Turns out that six equilateral triangles fit together perfectly into a full hexagon, so I guess my high school geometry teacher, Mr. Hutton, really did know what he was talking about!

The gaps between the four 16-inch-wide hexagons filled in perfectly with more strip sets. I sliced one dark-blue strip straight down the middle to make a narrow inner border, then used more strips for the mitered border. It made for a cute, different, and very easy little quilt design and if you're looking for something unusual to do with those 2 1/2 inch strips, I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The language of business casual

I'm not a very good "business casual" kind of gal.

I wear suits and nice skirts and high heels to work most every day. On weekends, it's pretty much jeans or a denim skirt and flip-flops. Not a lot in the closet that in-between. And not much need for it, really.

Next week I'm going to an out-of-town conference where the dress code is clearly designated as "business casual." Which, I guess, is supposed to make it easier for conference-goers. But which, instead, threw me into a mild panic.

I'm always game for a little clothes shopping, though, so I cruised around online for awhile tonight to see if I could find a few pieces to get me through. A bright summer cardigan seemed like a good idea, and I kind of liked this cute set from Talbot's. But what's this ridiculous thing about "choosing a concept"?? When did a size category like "misses" or "petites" become a concept? Sheesh. The pretentiousness of it all made me grumpy. Sorry, Talbot's, no sale for you.

Then came J.Jill to the rescue, with a not only some items that were just what I needed, but a use of language that appealed to me just as much as that of Talbot's had turned me off. Consider the sale section, so cleverly named "Summer for a Song." Or the "splendid" linen pants. J.Jill, may I place my order now?

Silly, sure -- but somehow you just never get over being an English major!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reel exciting

Last night after work, Dan and I went to Lowe's and bought a reel lawnmower.

Our current house has a fairly small yard, and firing up our 6 hp, gas-powered, self-propelled mower every week was just feeling inappropriate and very non-green. So we thought we'd give the reel variety a try. And this evening, we did exactly that.

We're totally enamored with it! It didn't exactly produce a classic manicured cut, but we're not big fans of that look, anyway. It was lightwight and very easy to maneuver around. The whole lawn was finished in less than 30 minutes, and it felt great to be pushing a mower that wasn't gulping gasoline or belching smoke. A few observations:

  1. It took a much different "hold" than a gas-powered mower -- I had to be conscious not to push downward on the handle, or I'd raise the reels up in front too high to cut.
  2. Rather than taking the classic back-and-forth laps around the yard like I'd do with the old mower, the reel mower seemed to perform best with more vacuum-cleaner like motions -- it didn't leave tracks, so no weird patterns in the lawn from mowing that way.
  3. The mower came with a detachable fabric tray to catch clippings, but it seemed to handle much more easily when we took the tray off. The blades in the reel seem to shred the clippings pretty finely, anyway -- and even though the grass was pretty long, the mower didn't leave any discernable clumps of cut grass behind. So we have the added benefit of leaving those shredded clippings behind as good, natural nourishment for the lawn.
We'll probably have to mow a little more frequently than we're accustomed to in order to keep the lawn looking neat, but this mower was such a pleasure to use that it shouldn't be a real chore. We're pretty easily amused, aren't we?!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Starting up again

Wow, I'm totally out of practice blogging. But I've missed it and thought I'd start up again after letting everything go stale for the past seven months. A few friends have wondered if I'm OK. Why yes, I'm just fine! I just sort of lost steam back in the fall and didn't feel like writing that much.

And of course once I stopped, I couldn't seem to jump-start myself to pick it up again. But rather than shut things down, I thought I'd redesign a little and give it another go.

I'm also going to broaden my approach a bit and let myself write about whatever I'm thinking about. When I first started to blog, I was bound and determined to keep my content very focused on sewing and knitting for community service, and providing ideas that might be useful to other crafters interested in similiar projects. Very organized, very to-the-point, very English major. But as time worn on, to be perfectly honest, posting only about these projects was starting to feel like a bragfest or a rather tiresome litany of "oh, look! I did this! I did that!" Ugh. I don't know really why I felt that way, because I adore reading about other people's projects, but somehow I was getting self-conscious talking about my own and nothing else.

The blogs I really enjoy reading have lots of crafting content, but others are more general in nature, too -- so I may just relax things a bit and have fun writing about anything that occurs to me. That will include lots and lots of sewing and knitting, of course, but also gardening (because things are coming to life in our yard so beautifully this year), and other general stuff that inspires, perplexes, or entertains me.

That said, I'll return to sewing right now to share the final outcome of the blocks I wrote about last fall. Didn't this quilt turn out great?

Best of all, it's being enjoyed every day by this lovely lady. Happy Mother's Day to the mother of the wonderful man with whom I am so, so fortunate to be sharing my life!