Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Reward

This morning Will took the kids to his parents' house, and they ended up staying there for most of the day. I organized, vacuumed, mopped, and did laundry. When they weren't home by 2pm, I decided I could stop and do something fun. A few weeks ago, I bought some fabric I adore - Erin Michael's Lush - to make pillows for two chairs in our newly finished den. I'm hosting my book group on Monday, and my plan for this weekend is to try and whip up some pillows. My book group witnessed our den renovations that took two years, and while the room isn't quite finished I'd love to have as many finishing touches done. Pillows are easy, though I had never sewn any before today. I used a pillow with a pocket back sewn by my mom as my prototype, and made sure I reinforced all the corners. I sewed the last stitches as I heard the door open and voices call out "We're home!" If I'm lucky, I'll get that second one sewn tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nashvegas Snow Day

I woke up to freezing rain and an email from Ely's school saying it was closed for a snow day. A snow day for rain doesn't impress me, but strangely enough within 10 minutes huge sticky flakes were pouring from the sky and actually starting to pile up on the wet grass. We seem to be having more and more preemptive snow days here ever since a couple of years ago the weather got really bad around 10 am and quite a few students were stranded at school late into the night because the buses couldn't go out and their parents couldn't make it to school. The heavy snowfall was a good sign for a real snow day, and it was nice to have a morning where I didn't have to rush everyone out the door, even if the first task of the day was to drag two kids to work with me for the am catalog review. By the the catalog review was done and the Polar Express was watched, the snow was gone and the rain had stopped. Unless it gets colder and the rain starts again, I think the winter weather is over for today.

It's not a real snow day without baking cookies or making hot chocolate in a warm kitchen. I've made several batches of homemade hot chocolate lately (basically heat up some milk or cream with a chopped up dark chocolate bar, add a pinch of salt and enough honey or sugar to make it slightly sweet, then let it cook until it thickens), so I think cookies are the better option. One of my favorite chefs, Martha Phelps Stamps, who owns and cooks at Martha's at the Plantation included a recipe for snickerdoodles in her food column in today's local newspaper. Snickerdoodles aren't my favorite cookie in the world, but I do like them a lot and they are easy to make. Will loves them and Ely loves anything that is even remotely sweet, so the boys will be happy. And since it is a recipe of Martha's, I know the cookies will be delicious. As soon as my two sticks of butter are soft and the kids are awake, we'll get started rolling our little balls of dough in cinnamon sugar.

And maybe, just maybe we'll get a chance later on to roll little balls of snow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cross Another One Off

Last night, I finished my over-the-arm-pincushion from the (where else) Alabama Stitch Book. Since ASB projects use needles and thread I don't use for regular sewing, I thought it would be nice to have a special caddy to store my notions. I mostly sew at night while watching movies, so the pincushion is perfect for my perch on the sofa. Plus when I'm done for the evening, I can easily put all of my supplies away, pick up the pincushion, and store it on the mantle away from little, curious hands. For this project, I used some of my yardage of the organic cotton jersey. It feels so wonderful. The pincushion is supple and heavy in my hands. I'm pleased with the colors of the cotton jersey I chose, and I want to order more of it. Or at least a color card to tide me over.
Next up - a table runner.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Good Day

It's nice to end a really good day with a movie and some hand stitching. Champagne and coffee bean ice cream makes it even better.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sewing Can Change Your Life

Color week about did me in. It wasn't that hard, but with the 365 project I'm doing this year it made for a lot of images to look for and photograph each day. From now on, I think I'll limit myself to only one photography project at a time.

I live in a 1950s ranch house. You know the type - brick house, 2 car garage, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, and a living room. Boring, but the yard is flat, everything is on one level, and all of the floors are hardwood. Some time ago, a former resident turned the garage into a step down den with small laundry room. Two residents ago added a master bedroom suite onto one end of the house. The house is much larger now than when it was built and much longer too. A strange space was created during the master suite addition - a tiny L-shaped room with a brick wall along one side (the former outside wall) and a built in shelf where a window used to be. The people we bought the house from used this space as a home office, and we figured we'd do the same. For a long time, this space housed unpacked boxes, my unused darkroom and photography equipment, and our ironing board. At the beginning of 2008, we finally cleared out the room and relocated our office/sewing room from one of the bedrooms. The baby-was-coming-soon-and-the-rooms-needed-to-be-shifted project was in full effect. The perfect shade of lavender was chosen and the walls and trim were painted. Somehow we figured out how to arrange two tables (one for the computer and one for my sewing machine) and a bookcase in the small space, and still leave enough floor space for 2 people to work and 2 kids to play all at the same time. I quickly took over the bookcase and built in shelves with my sewing and craft materials and books. A bulletin board and art were hung on the walls, and the room looked pretty good.

However, there was one ugly spot in the room - the circuit breaker box for the master suite. We could have painted it, but they never end up nice with paint chipping off at the hinges and handle. The people we bought the house from had hidden the breaker box behind an armoire which looked great, but to access the box you had to move a large and heavy piece of furniture. Not so good in an emergency. There was always the option of hanging a piece of art over the box, but the art never hangs flat against the wall and my behind the scenes museum experience would not allow such an atrocity. When flipping through Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing, I realized I should sew a fabric wall organizer, and hang it over the breaker box. The ugly box would be hidden but remain easily accessible, and the wall organizer would be a great addition by the computer.
Will came up with the idea of putting button holes in the top section, and using the screws in the top of the breaker box to secure the fabric organizer to the wall. Lotta has a tube at the top of hers and uses a wooden dowel to hang it. I left the open tube, so I could use an alternative hanging system if the wall organizer was relocated. Besides the addition of the button holes, I adjusted the overall size slightly so the breaker box would be entirely covered. This was a simple sewing project, but did require hemming a lot of small pieces, then lining up and pinning the pockets on the large background fabric piece. It tuned out great, and the only thing I wish I had done differently was to put a heavier interfacing in the top tube as the edges of the caddy tend to curve outwards when the pockets are filled with paper, pens and other accoutrements. Sewing the pockets on through both layers of fabric would prevent the pull as well, but then the back side would not be seamless.
The day I hung up the caddy, I was so happy that I knew how to sew. A few years ago, this perfect and easy solution could not have happened.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stripes and Plaid

Stripes were a cinch. We love stripes in this house. I didn't even bother to look for plaid.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


It was coooooold today and will be even colder tomorrow. I realized a lot of my winter wear is pink.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Yellow has never been my favorite color, but I found snatches of it in many places today - baby toys, a favorite painting, and salt and pepper shakers from Italy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Okay, this was harder. Luckily there was a purple house next to where I ate lunch today.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm not official, but I saw it's color week this week. Monday is blue, an easy color for me since I love blue and have lots of it around me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

All Clean

I finally cleaned up my sewing corner today. I should have done this about 3 months ago.
Now, to tackle that unfinished sewing projects pile...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Notes on a Corset

I just finished my first garment from the Alabama Stitch Book. And when I say "just finished", I mean 30 minutes ago. I spent the 30 minutes between then and now trying it on, trying to photograph myself wearing the shirt without the aid of my tripod, and trying to fuss with the photos on the computer so they looked a little better.

I picked out the deconstructed t-shirt as my first garment, mostly so I could check the sizing of the corset pattern before I attempted a labor intensive corset with an all over reverse applique. Through the Alabama Stitch Book Project flickr group, I had read that many found the corset to be a little low cut but the sizing chart in the book seemed correct. I measured myself and the medium seemed to be the size that would fit me the best. The low cut-ness worried me, since I sport a pair of nursing boobs, and gave me more reasons to make the deconstructed t-shirt. One of the shirts Will gave me last weekend was his t-shirt from his middle school band - Koma - days and it seemed perfect for this project as shirts with graphics make more interesting deconstructed t-shirts. The shirt, unfortunately, is a cotton-poly blend, but I decided it wouldn't matter for the test pattern.

This shirt, for me, was just as fun to hand sew as the journals and took about two movies to finish. The medium size is correct for me, but the shirt is low cut. I'm going to alter the pattern and add 1-2 inches to the neckline before I sew another one. I really dig seeing the construction on the outside through the exposed seams and knots. I chose a grey thread which shows off the construction more than if I had chosen red. If I had wanted to emphasize the graphic more and the seams less, I would have chosen red.

A few general thoughts as I work though this book and it's patterns:

- I've found that most of the patterns won't fit on a shirt smaller than a man's large or x-large. I couldn't fit all of the corset back pattern pieces on the large shirt of Will's, and I had to take some liberty with the grain direction to get the corset front pieces to fit. I had to use another shirt (Will's old bright yellow boy scout troop shirt) for the corset back middle piece. The same was true when I tried to cut out the pieces for the over-the-arm pincushion. I decided to order some yardage of the Southern grown, spun, knit, and dyed organic cotton jersey from the Alabama Chanin store for the projects that require a long piece running in the same direction as the fabric's grain. The organic cotton jersey did cost less than the cotton jersey I found at my good local fabric store and with 25 beautiful colors, I didn't need much incentive to place an order.

- you are better off giving away any Old Navy maternity t-shirts than using them for an Alabama Stitch Book project. I imagine the same is probably true for all Old Navy t-shirts. Enough said.

- Florence, AL is only 2 hours from me. I am so at the next Alabama Chanin factory sample sale. Even if I can't afford anything, at least I could check out (molest) the beautiful clothes and textiles.

Now I have a pattern to re-cut. I've been dying to deconstruct Will's prized Virgen de Guadalupe shirt he got at the swap meet in Mexico, ever since he added it to my pile saying, "it's cool, but it's way too big and I never wear it."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gift Tags

Ten years ago when I started giving hand knit gifts, I bought a big box of manila tags from a big box office supply store. I would tie a tag to every knit item, with "Hand Knit by Jennie" written on one side and yarn make up and washing instructions on the other. Now that I don't knit much anymore due to lovely pregnancy and baby hauling induced tendonitis, I wanted to do something with all the blank tags I had left. I decided to glue on some of my favorite fabric scraps and edge them with a brightly colored zig zag stitch. This turned out to be a great way to use up those small scraps you can't bear to get rid of and to finish off a spool or bobbin of thread. These tags could still be used for knit items, but they are also great as gift tags or tags for sewn items. Quite a few ended up on this year's Christmas gifts. A simple, easy way to transform something plain into something fun. Just remember that sewing on paper dulls your sewing needle quickly. Plan on making a bunch of these tags at one time, or else set the needle aside and label it "for paper" so you can reuse the same one when you are ready to make more tags.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

To Accomplish

I usually write my list of what I'd like to accomplish in the new year sometime in the first week of the year. Last year I had pages and pages of stuff I wanted to finish in the before the baby arrived; most of it didn't happen since Agnes was a little more than 3 weeks early but a lot of it did happen by the end of 2008 including create a blog. This year I am keeping the lists simple. Maybe some of last year's list will get done too.

-paint hallway, dining room, and bedroom in that order
-get non-working doors fixed and install doors for guest bedroom closet
-get chimney evaluated
-get crawlspace evaluated
-re-screen back door

-plant an oak tree for Agnes
-plant fruit and nut trees
-plant some some berry canes
-create a small square foot garden
-make and set up rain barrels
-prune prune prune before it gets warm

-do one photo a day (a 365) with the digital camera
-process one roll of film a week until they are done
-shoot at least one roll of film a month
-read my camera and flash manuals
-take a digital photo and/or photoshop class at the community college

-finish all 2008 (and beyond) unfinished projects, especially quilts
-sew some garments for myself
-sew some garments for Agnes
-use my gocco
-sew Christmas stockings for the whole family
-open an etsy store

-make a banner
-spiff it up

-get my eyes checked as I probably need new glasses
-go to bed earlier
-be kinder
-be more generous
-waste less and reuse more

I think that is all doable. Now I'm off to process the very first of 365 daily photos.