Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Craftacular

Even if you love Christmas, there are some years that just make you feel like this:

I couldn't even get the stupid melted-snowman cookie right. This is what it's supposed to look like, in case you're shaking your head wondering why this cookie is even a thing.

Go HERE, to learn from a pro.

Last year I dealt with December Depression by ignoring Christmas altogether and watching Die Hard.  This year I'm taking a different approach. I'm hitting my X-mas Pinterest Board like it's a piƱata on Nochebuena.

First up was the holiday village.  I've wanted to make one for years.  My family had some of these old glitter houses growing up, and I used to love setting them up on the windowsill with little bottle brush trees, a light stuck in every one.

Put your exacto knife away, this lady sells them here.
Mr. Responsibility and I were trying to curb our nightly TV marathon, so we turned to the most logical alternative: building a village together.  Unfortunately, we (re)discovered that I can be a bit of a micromanager.  He did get a couple of roofs and some windows cut before I kind of took over. We've gone back to the Mindy Project at night, but I managed to finish these guys - all of the plans came from this fantastic site:

Papers came from Paper Source, but all the rest can be done from the cereal boxes and Elmer's you already have. I think the Dutch liquor bottle houses are a nice touch.

Then there are the hand-knitted mini-sweaters.  These seemed so cool and unusual when I started making them five years ago.  Now they sell cuter ones at Michael's for 99 cents.  So I finished up the white one this year and decided to call it a day.  Each one took at least two hours for some reason, so they aren't even a satisfying speed:




Next up were winter napkins - I'm a big believer in decor you can use for a whole season (in New England the cold one lasts for eight months) so I tried to make these more winter, with just a hint of Christmasality:

They're reversible, so I can go straight red on Christmas day.

Back on that Pinterest board, I scrolled past this wreath for the 54th time and decided 2014 was the year.  This is hardly a craft, since it was someone else's idea and all I did was buy a wreath, this gnome (you can get just about any hair/skin color combo), and glue gun the whole thing together with some polyfil for snow, but I love it, love it, love it, and will be happy to hang it on my door for years to come.

She's like an Olive Kitteridge gnome, made in Maine and everything.

My final projects are J's stocking and  my winter quilt, but I'll save that for the next post - I mean, we're only half-way through December, right?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vivian, Redux

Remember Vivian

Well, Boom.

And Boom.

Maybe not the most flattering pose for ladies in their forties. Let's try it standing up.

Hood Up Vivian

Hoods up Katie and Julie

Both of us are very happy with the outcome, but we still appreciate a little affirmation, so feel free to compliment us next time you see us wearing our sweaters (which will be the next time you see us since neither of us plans to remove the sweater, ever).

I guess these aren't *technically* done, since neither of us has been able to find the right color zipper in the right length, but I did reach my goal of finishing the knitting in September.  I don't think these pictures really do either sweater justice, but had to get this up and move on!

 Final assessment: Hate the pattern, not the sweater.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

If you give a Ninja a purse...

I'm having a hard time figuring out how to introduce violence into my child's life.  I don't mean it like that. It's just that I:
1. Don't want j to play at murdering people with toy guns;
2. Don't want her to play at beating and murdering people in violent video games; and
3. I don't want her to think of violence in TV shows/movies as entertainment.

My parents' approach was very straightforward: murder is awful, so it's not funny to make light of that by pretending to kill other people.  As far as I can tell, my sister is having no problem raising her own kids with this same philosophy.  You should hear her go off on the recent glorification of the pirate ('Why are people dressing their kids up as murdering, thieving rapists for Halloween? Pirates are cool now? Tell that to the fishermen of Somalia!')

My issue is, I believe all that too, I really do. But...
1. I love games where you actually shoot someone with something: laser tag and paintball;
2. My husband has completed, I mean, gotten 100% on multiple versions of Grand Theft Auto; and
3. There is something about ninjas that seems really cool to me, even if they were basically spies that assassinated people for money. Samurais, probably better people with their sense of honor and strict code of conduct, but somehow not as cool to me (or anyone else - I've never seen a samurai on Halloween). I like the guys with the masks and the swords and the pretty stars that they throw so gracefully (I know, into peoples' foreheads).

How am I supposed to handle this as a parent?  Luckily, I don't have to figure it out yet (although I'm very open to suggestions... and justifications).  I hesitated, but did not resist buying this fabric a while ago.  I mean, I was just going to stick it in my stash.  Why does that have to be a big ethical dilemma?

As we were packing for Seattle I realized I'd only made a hostess gift (those napkins) for my friend, but had nothing for her 7 year-old daughter.  Somehow I don't remember 7 being an age when I was really into pretty napkins. Can you see where I'm going?

We haven't spent a lot of time together in the last few years, so all I knew about her I'd learned from her mom on Facebook.  And that amounted to: she just went to Disneyland and she likes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I went for this reversible purse, which was a quick 50 minute project, including picking fabric and ironing!

I figured, when she's feeling a little Disney, she can use it this way:

And for her ninja days,

Girl after my own heart, once I gave the purse to her I never saw the polka dots again.  What does she carry in it? A book called Unlikely Friendships about different animal species who have sweet friendships with each other, of course.

For a minute I felt weird about bringing the ninja thing into someone else's house - it's like giving a girl her first Barbie and wondering if you aren't giving her a first shove towards anorexia... but then I saw her wooden ninja sword (that she's not allowed to touch people with, otherwise it will get thrown away).  I've got no answers, I'm not sure her mom does either.  But I have a feeling ninjas are going to make their way into my house soon enough, and I've got at least half a yard of that fabric.

Monday, September 15, 2014

An Ape, a Rainbow and a Hostess Gift

Every summer should end with an epic trip home - especially if you grew up in Seattle.  It's the only time you might actually see some sun (no need to get defensive, Seattleites), and even if you don't, you've at least gotten three months of it somewhere else.

After a year of non-stop Goodnight Gorilla I was excited to finally take j to a zoo - but I've been holding out for Woodland Park (think 'habitats' in place of cages). The Gorillas were fine, but it was an Ape that swooped down from a tree to show j some love.

Love Connection at the Woodland Park Zoo
 And here's a quick summary of the rest:
Short cloud break before we were covered in fog again (Orcas Island)

If you ever want to find a silver lining, you got to have a cloudy day
(we listened to Kacey Musgraves non-stop)

Best place to stay with a kid: Pebble Cove Farm, Orcas
Bouchart Gardens - on my list of places to see for over 20 years!

Victoria stole my heart with fleurs everywhere.

In Canada, the toddler playground has pygmy goats and limitless brushes

The Seattle leg of the trip was pretty short, but the best part was staying with an old friend.  You know you've got a connection when you can cover 1. What you believe about god, and why it's important to figure that out; 2. What country makes the best legos; 3. What love language you speak; and 4. How and when to potty train, all in one conversation.  What gift do you bring for her, when in addition to the spare bedroom and good company she throws you a party and makes her seven-year-old play with your toddler for hours on end?

Well.  I'm really into these Kokkas - I can't get away from this fabric line.  So I put together a hot pad/trivet and some napkins:

This is my favorite way to do napkins now: sewn pillowcase style (leaving a three-inch hole), turned inside out and topstitched. So much faster than a traditional mitered corner,

 and cuter,

and reversible, so you can mix it up!

All-in-all it was a great trip, but even restaurants and ferries can get old.  We knew when it was time to come home.

And while we couldn't reschedule our flight for that day, we did get back here eventually.  Now it's all 60 degrees and bags of apples at the grocery store.  For those of you keeping track, I have about two weeks to finish my 40 sweater, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Time To Bag It Up

It all started with a goodbye present for j's teacher.  This was my first Noodlehead Open Wide Pouch, and it was addictive.  It's a one-afternoon project and requires very little fabric.

Then the cousins came to visit and I wanted a short, sewing project to do with them.  I mean, we also needed time to bake an eight-layer chocolate cake and learn to do Dutch braids, which are different from French braids.  Not sure why I thought something with a zipper was a good first sewing project, but they were good sports about letting my micromanaging hands take over during that part. Amari decided she wanted hers to be pencil size, so we cut the original project down by a third for hers.
A very productive day.
At this point it was becoming second nature, so when my Artist's Way Group folded at the end of the summer, it was an obvious gift. I'm really into the Japanese fabrics at Gather Here these days.  If it says Kokka on the selvage, I would like three yards, please. Sew satisfying to whip these out:

But just like with friendship bracelets in 8th grade and my salsa egg recipe in college, I think this recipe/pattern has run its course.   Time to move on to the next new thing!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Recycled to Modern

I remember going to the Denyse Schmidt show at the NE Quilt Museum awhile back and an older lady whispered to me "There's no such thing as modern quilting, just new quilters that don't know we've already done it all."  At the time I thought maybe the chip on her shoulder was causing her to oversimplify, but after checking out the recent Quilts and Color exhibit at the MFA a few times, I have to admit she's got a point.  I mean, yes, there are new interpretations of old patterns and techniques, new ways things get put together, new color combinations and perspectives, but all of it has some foundation (piecing, ha ha) in what's already been done.  

What I realized at Quilts and Color is, that's what I LIKE about quilting - none of it's new, but it's all new to me, and I can make it without the calico.  My favorite moment of this exhibit was when I came around a corner and saw this quilt from the 1840s. 

You can't tell from the picture, but that's a red calico!

How had the modern Orange You Glad You Married Me quilt I made for my husband last year gotten onto a wall at the MFA?  I mean, I'm flattered, but I remembered sleeping under it just last night!


After this discovery I started comparing all the quilts to things I had made. The wedding rings picnic blanket I did for a friend?

This 1940 unknown African-American quilter from Missouri version seems, well, more modern:

My economy square?

That pattern's been around since at least 1840, albeit without the cats:

I don't mean to come across as a complete narcissist - after I got done comparing all the quilts to my own, I just stood back in awe of the color combos (that was the point of the exhibit)

That border, with all those skinny stripes echoing the inside!

I love this border - I will recycle this idea soon!

I actually don't love this quilt, but I'm in awe of it

My favorite color combination of all time

And the mind-blowing handwork.  Can you imagine piecing this star so precisely by hand? I can hardly imagine doing it with a machine.  That's a life's work there.  Just amazing.

And the applique quilts without the use of fusible web, spray baste or a machine set on zig-zag? I dedicated two months to my first needle-turn project - the corners are unbearable, the patience and precision are just... well it was just awful.  It's nice to feel like the pain of that project is finally serving a purpose.  Now I can look at a quilt like this and realize how close to inhuman the workmanship is.  It's a new experience for me - to get emotional over a piece of art, not because of what it looks like, but because I understand the love and determination and patience that must've gone into creating it.  It makes me a little sad that the quilter doesn't know her work is hanging in the MFA right now.

I mistook this Mennonite for a Hawaiian.
Who knew they had so much in common?
It was an education in color theory for sure, but this exhibit was also inspiring in so many other ways.  Feeling grateful to be learning all that I am.