Friday, December 27, 2013

Going Back to Cali

I did it.  I took my toddler on a cross-country flight, all by myself.  I'm not sure I would've done it if I'd known we were going to add 3 hours to the flight so we could "refuel in Salt Lake City due to the strong headwinds," - an excuse I still don't believe, given I've flown this route a million times since 1992 and never encountered that issue.  But luckily we had an absolutely charming 10 year old boy sitting behind us who was willing to copy every noise J made for hours on end.  This was her feet through most of the flight, trying to scale the back of her seat as she air kissed, spit and squealed at her new friend.

The red-eye return trip kind of sucked since (as I learned later) my girl had mild pneumonia, water in her lungs and a double ear infection.  If there's a prize for observant mothering, I apparently am not winning it!

But the point of the trip was to see some of my west coast family for a pre-Christmas Christmas because none of us wants to travel during the real week.  It's nice: you get a tree together, play Christmas music, open presents and pretend it's the real thing. And I took pictures of none of these things since I was for once living in the moment and forgetting to record it!

Which gets me to the MADE part of the post.  You may remember I made this lovely wallet for myself earlier this year.

It's a great pattern from Blush Bunny that you can get here - and though time consuming (some hand work), totally worth it and not that hard since the instructions are so detailed.  I'm going to say it's about a five-hour project from ironing to final thread clip.  Seven if you're making two!

This time around I made the credit card slots a quarter of an inch narrower (my cards fall out sometimes because the slots are a touch too wide) and I used a medium-weight interfacing, which gave it a more structured feel than mine has.  For my sister I used this really pretty muted fabric with maroon accents.  In case you hadn't noticed, that pink/lavender color is my favorite right now.

For my mom, who like me does not fear the bright, I went with this fabric.

A little modern, but one of my favorite color combinations.

I was practically finishing them on the way to the airport so I didn't get any photos prior to wrapping.  When I grabbed them a few hours later to take pictures, they had both already been filled by their respective recipients.  I'm taking that as a compliment.

Hint for next year: start the Made gifts in November.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Let's Hear It For New York

Sometimes you have to take a little break from creating to fill the inspiration well - and there's no better place for that than NYC.  I went to school there and have been back many times, but you can only visit the old haunts so many times before it gets repetitive.  The key to keeping it new, we've found, is to have a project in mind.  We've dedicated past trips to baking supply stores, specialized spices (Kalustyan's!) and Christmas windows.  What always gets me about New York is how all-out it goes on everything.

With Windsor Button shutting down in Boston this year, there is just no good shop for ribbons and notions in my neck of the woods.  Sure, every fabric store carries the basics, but sadly the largest selection you'll ever find here is at Joann's.  So this weekend, the hunt was on for buttons and ribbons.  We started with some basic fabric shopping, but in the garment district it's just too overwhelming.


Wool suiting.  Almost makes me want to be a lawyer again.

Then we hit the notions stores.  M&J Trimming was my favorite and had the best conversations to eavesdrop on ("What are you thinking? It's for a tweed coat, not a caftan!").
One of many button walls

The grosgrain ribbon wall.  Take that, Michael's!

Aha, where Carrie must have shopped on SITC

The fabulous rotating wedding cake display

I also loved B&J's around the corner - so many feathers and fake flowers it made me consider millinery.  Another sweet shop, with less selection and an older feel was Tender Buttons.  A long, narrow, hallway of a store with excellent selection and antique buttons on display:

After all the fabric and button shopping, Mr. Responsibility got his day at a REAL museum and we checked out the new Islamic Gallery at the Met.  We both like Islamic art, but I've always been more attracted to the swoops of the calligraphy than to the geometrics:
Tughra (official signature) of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificen 
The mother of all chevrons
Soaking in this exhibit it hit me for the first time how easily the geometric patterns could transfer to quilting, and I developed a new appreciation/obsession.

It was a lovely weekend - but the best part was being able to order appetizers and meals and dessert and coffee, knowing there was no toddler getting antsy in her booster seat.  I ate a pound of gruyere in one sitting in honor of J's Grandma, the frenchy cook.

Showing respect
It was a great weekend - now back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I have such mixed feelings about fingerless gloves.  On the one hand (heh heh) they just look cool. You can't argue with a trend once Hermione embraces it.

and Spiderman:

and edgy Siberian hackers:

And it's not just an emo/superhero thing.  This whole web page is gamers seeking advice on how they can "modify" Grand Theft Auto Four so that Nico wears fingerless gloves:

But on the other hand, they just seem so impractical - like I care if my palms are warm when my fingers aren't.  There's a reason why people wearing fingerless gloves always seem to be cradling a cup of coffee.

How/why then, would you own fingerless gloves in New England?? You get them because you are known and loved by a knitter who is too impatient/unskilled/tired to knit fingers.  That's why my friend Kelli is wearing them:

I did the pretty lace swerve from this free ravelry download.

Kelli's got a little bit of superhero in her, so I'm not too worried about frostbite.  Maybe she should get herself a hot cup of coffee though, just in case.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Measure Twice, Knit Once

I plan ahead.  I'm the kind of person who knows whether I'm going to get a cart or a basket before I even pull into the grocery store parking lot.  My list of creative to-do projects is so long and thought out it includes things like J's fingerless drumming gloves (come middle school she'll be practicing in our cold garage).  I just like to know what's coming.  The trouble is, while I know what I'm going to make, I don't always calculate the supplies correctly, and my shopping can predate the actual project by years. My Orange Peel quilt required four trips to the Cambridge Quilt Shop due to miscalculations, but at least the fabrics were still in print (on the up side, Lynne and Monique know me by name now).

I've mentioned before that whenever I take up a new craft I immediately commit to making a *insert time-consuming project* for each of my nieces and nephews. I did my first Christmas stocking six years ago when I first learned to knit:

My youngest niece is now three, and she's next on the stocking list.  There were five nieces/nephews in front of her, so she had to wait patiently.  I wanted to do a matching but contrasting color for her so I just switched it up:

Of course the problem is, I bought the yarn two years before actually starting the stocking.  When I started to run out of the red I panicked - there was no way to get a second skein from the same dye lot. I'd have to use a slightly different color to finish the toe (Naooooooo, as j would say) or start over (I don't do that, ever.  It's a patience/perfectionist gene I was not born with.)  I made do with what I had and cut corners/rows wherever I could.  I could've waited to give this gift in person, but I sent it through the mail so my sister can explain to Daria why she gets the small one.  She has much more parenting experience, so she probably won't say "because Santa likes DJ better," but I can't wait to hear what she comes up with.

After knitting a big sock, I was in the mood for a newly conceived project, not one that's been stuck in the closet forever.   A hat for a toddler seemed like something that could just be whipped up and I liked this cloche from ravelry (free download!).  I've never done anything with thin fingering weight yarn or tiny size 3 needles.  Always seemed like a good way to get bored and develop arthritis.  But, I loved this yarn that matches J's eyes, and so did she.

It came out pretty cute.  Doesn't quite cover her ears, so she'll only get to wear it for a couple more weeks, but I'll round up some super chunky and size 15 needles for the next hat!

I think I'm still in a knitting phase - it's such a nice way to make watching TV feel productive. Maybe I'll just relax and see what kind of inspiration next week brings!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cutting Corners

It is so COLD out there.  Mr. Responsibly kept saying we should get the yard stuff done last week "before the cold comes" all Little-House-On-The-Prairie style and I nodded and went back to my e-mail, because how cold was it realistically going to get?  Cold. Like, lonely playground cold.  Where do the toddlers go when they don't go to the park? This is my big question.  Do other people have children that are content to stay home when you explain what a 45 degree diaper change is going to feel like?

I know, I know, this is the season I was asking for.  I got that mailer from Trader Joe's with 62 different pumpkin-flavored products you could buy, so you can probably guess what I did.  I liked the pumpkin yogurt, pasta, ice cream, and poptarts (well, I would have liked the poptarts, if they were in stock), but this is what I was most excited to try:

I'm not one for mixes usually, but I'd heard people rave about it - warm, yummy bread, with just a flick of of the whisk.  I baked this from-scratch version too, for comparison:

They're similar, but with TJ's I stop after one slice.  With the other stuff, it's two to three slices before I'm done (advantage/disadvantage, haven't decided yet), and it's apple sauce instead of oil.

On a craftier note, I've been trying to practice my FMQ (free motion quilting) but am always scared to do it on something that's already taken me hours to sew up.  I remember Malini, a skilled FMQer from the BMQG suggesting you practice on a panel fabric instead of a quilt top that you've painstakingly pieced - and then you end up with a quilt but it's not that big a deal if you mess up.  The quilters version of using a box-mix cake to try out your homemade icing recipe.

I picked up this 1940s table cloth at Brimfield last year.  Very pretty but it' s for a square card table, which I don't have and don't plan on getting.  As Alidiza pointed out (it's Guild shout out day!), Bridge is much harder to learn than FMQ anyway.  This also had lots of curvy lines for practicing feathers, and flowers I could outline - the tablecloth was totally asking for it.

I used red minky for the back, which is so soft and wonderful, but I really should have used white. It pulled right through the batting and loose weave of the tablecloth, highlighting every mistake in pink (I was going for some nice, subtle white lines!).

In the end though, if you don't look too closely at the details and just take it as a whole, I think it came out pretty well.

It's going into J's crib, because whatever doesn't fit a real bed ends up there eventually.  I've struggled with satin binding all year because she likes satin so much, and I hate working with it.  This time I made 10" wide double binding and it came out the way it should, except for the corners, which I mitered.  A mistake.  If I ever have to do satin again, I'll need to learn a different method for corners.  Luckily the recipient maintains standards as low as her mother's.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spa Week

September and October are always productive months for me - I think it's that residual back-to-school effect. It's like I'm still trying to impress imaginary teachers who haven't figured out that I'm a slacker yet. So I was particularly disappointed this month when my sewing machine demanded a week at the spa for cleaning and oiling, interrupting all my big plans.

I turned to some no-sew activities like Halloween decorating - this was easy, since I went crazy last year (by "crazy" I mean I bought my own jigsaw and hand-painted my own tombstones and sewed wings for my handmade golden snitches that I'm too tired to even put up this year).  I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, so that's the theme:

And because I hoped if I claimed the acronym first, J would always think it too lame for a tattoo:

My only new additions this year were the perishables:

And this Smash replica that had even HIM confused:

And of course J's costume.  She'll be my little witch and has totally embraced the role:

I was relaxing into no-sew week very nicely and then, on a date with my baby/mama group, my friend Zita showed up in this:

And I was like, "Is that the Hourglass Sweater that's only supposed to take 8 hours to knit, but actually takes 18?  Did you MAKE that?," and sure enough she had.

A little history here: I have attempted only one adult-size sweater in my life, and this was it.  I got sooo close to finishing it three years ago.  But then I had to tear out some rows (apparently "boat neck" in this pattern meant the neck would be as wide as a real boat), twisted the stitches by accident when trying to modify it, and threw the whole thing in a corner in defeat.  After seeing Zita's I dug it out, and this is what it looked like.  Decidedly not as cute as hers:

Part of the problem was that it was totally shapeless and way too short.  Some might even call it 'cropped' ("you can pull it long when you block it," encouraged Zita).  The other problem was the twisted row that had made me cry, back in 2010:

Luckily I have significantly lowered my standards in the last three years and now I can't remember what all the fuss was about.  After some dunking, pulling and blocking, I even got the thing to grow a few inches.  And now I have officially knit a grown-up sweater:

Here we are living the dream: a couple of for-real knitters, hanging out in our hand-knit sweaters.

Ah well, apparently my machine isn't one for long holidays and relaxing because Daley by the Yard got her all cleaned up in less than a week.  Back to the sewing table.