A little end of summer pretty

I just picked the last bouquet of hydrangeas for the season.

Hydrangeas have become my favorite flower. They're gorgeous in every step of their life cycle.

These won't be staying in my house--they're for the mother of the groom (my MIL). I'm glad to be able to share the last bounty of beauty with her on this momentous occasion--her baby boy is getting married tomorrow!

Stash Report Week of September 22 2015

What went out of my studio/office this week:

  • 400 pages of reading
  • two papers
  • one wedding outline (for my BIL and SIL-to-be whose wedding I officiate Friday)

What came into my studio/office:

  • Two new ink cartridges
  • Two reams of printer paper
  • Binder clips
  • A multi-pocket folder
  • My favorite new stapler in the world

Oh stapler, faithful stapler,

How you have served me for lo these 25 years or more

Stapling two, nay, even four pages together at one time.

I could forgive you the occasional jam.

How do Stapler Years compare to People Years?

25 years old in stapler time equals 75 in human time? 145 years? 

I would jam too.

It's not your fault--not really--that you just were no longer up to the task.

You couldn't wrap your little stapler jaw around 30 pages at once. 

You're too delicate. Too dainty. You only want to chew small bites at the dinner table. So polite.

Happy retirement, O Stapler.

Welcome, O New Friend Stapler--open your jaw wide! 

The office is a No-Etiquette Zone.

30 pages? Bring it on! 40? Chomp it all down!

May we have many happy years of stapling doctoral reading print-outs together!

One of my DMin cohorts posted this picture in our cohort GroupMe today.  968 days...if we stay on schedule. Just keep taking it one day at a time...one day...at...a...time...

It's not much, but I have gotten a little done...


This is a few weeks old now but I didn't have much of a chance to post pics until now. I wanted to make a quick mug rug as a gift for a friend so I decided to use some of my bright felted wool that I bought at the AQS in Syracuse. My blanket stitch around the outside edge isn't as even as I usually get because I was working in such a hurry, but overall, I was fairly pleased with the results.  

It's a little hard to tell from the photo but the scattered leaves around the flower in the center are a metallic green thread so it has just  little sparkle to it.  

Not my most impressive work, but fun to do.

Sadly, that's about all I've gotten accomplished recently, at least in terms of textiles. I've pulled out my embroidery supplies all of about twice in the last three weeks. Another couple of weeks of mayhem and then, hopefully, things will settle into more of a routine. Still busy, but more predictable. I'll take it!

Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking about...

2015-09-02 17.02.21.jpg
  • my daughter looking at my newest school-related purchase: "What is this, some kind of an iPad stand?"

Umm, no, sweetheart. Remember those things called "books?" 

Goin' old school for school.

Craftsy Class Review: Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags with Joan Hawley

It feels odd for me to be saying I just took a sewing class, but there it is. In my attempts to conquer my dislike of fiddly bits, I've just completed another bag-making class on Craftsy.

If I'd been able to go straight through this class in one fell swoop, it probably would've only taken a weekend. It only took me as long to finish the class as it did because I'm deep into coursework now, so I only take random chunks of time to sew when my brain fritzes out from all the reading. Consequently, the sewing I do needs to be as close to mindless as possible (as I have few functioning brain cells left by the time I put down the books).

Enter Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags with Joan Hawley. I've been a fan of Joan Hawley's Lazy Girl Designs for awhile; I own a couple of her bag patterns although I've never actually gotten them made. The three bags featured in the class were cute as well as seemingly functional. When it comes to physical things like this, I'm a much better visual learner so when I can watch someone do something rather than trying to read a pattern, I'm happier. Joan's step-by-step instructions on the video as well as the written materials that come with the class were very easy to follow. 

First, there's the "Runaround Bag." I finished this one a few weeks ago and blogged about it here. I think the bag took me less than two hours to make, and that was only because I was closely consulting the video lessons all the way through to make sure I didn't go horribly awry. Plus, I did a little fussy-cutting, which always takes a little longer.

I was able to use the bag immediately after I made it, which was a plus in my book.


The second bag in the class is the Nikita Bag. This is a basic boxy pouch--there are a boatload of patterns for doing boxy pouches out there and I'm sure they're all probably fairly similar when it comes down to it. But once again I found Joan's way of putting it together very easy to follow. I got this one done in about an hour and a half, all in. Again, that was with a lot of referring back to the video. It would go a lot faster next time.

I absolutely loved the fact that I was finally able to use some of my Marcia Derse fabrics. I bought a couple of panels and several coordinating fat quarters years ago at the show in Houston--If I recall, it may have even been the first year her fabrics were introduced. (She had her own booth and I paid her in person for my fabrics, which always makes you feel a little more connected to those fabrics, doesn't it?) I'd never found the right project for them. It works really well for this.

This if my favorite bag of the three. I really like the design of this pouch and could see me making more, although at the moment I don't know exactly what I'll be using this one for. Wait until my next trip when I'm looking for all the best containers for the tchotchke that always has to come with me.

The third class project is the Bendy Bag. I'm not such a fan of this design--I'm finding it a bit hard to work the zipper once it's all put together. I know that part of that is user error--I needed a slightly wider space between the zipper teeth and my seam. I used the same needle position I had on the other bags, but in this particular design I could've used a little more breathing room. Still, that bend doesn't help.

I used a half-yard of fabric I'd bought while in Hawaii in 2008. I've got a couple of other half-yards of the same print in different colors. I'd had half a thought of using all three fabrics in a fast lap quilt as a souvenir of my trip, but the quilt never got made and I've got plenty of lap quilts now, so this is just as good a way to use it. It's the same fabric outside and lining.

So--all in, I had no difficulty whatsoever making any of these bags. I would have no concerns about deciding I wanted to make any one of them again, maybe two or three times even. (I have a lot of fat quarters I'd love to use up!) The one least likely to get made again is the Bendy Bag, but if it proves itself to be the perfect travel bag for cords or adapters or any of the other multitude of electronic gadgets that travel with me, I'd even be willing to give that one another go.

Joan Hawley is easy to follow and now that I've done her class and several of her bags, I'd be willing to revisit the thought of making one of her patterns that I own. On the flip side, having now done two and a half bag-making classes--and yes, I do plan on finishing Annie Unrein's!--I've also gotten more comfortable with the idea of branching out and making other bags. 

Mind you, I still don't enjoy doing it the way I enjoy doing art quilting, hand-dyeing, or embroidery. But I can do it, and that's all I was shooting for. I do still avoid patterns with too many fiddly bits, though. Still not a fan.

The Basics

  • 7 lessons, ranging from 18 to 30 minutes.
  • Lesson 1 reviews the three bags in the class, gives some advice on choosing zippers and fleece, then talks about presser feet and needle positions. (Do pay attention to the needle position thing, and write it on a post-it note. You reference those needle positions frequently throughout making the bags.)
  • Lessons 2 and 3 are the Runaround Bag; Lessons 4 and 5, the Nikita; and Lessons 6 and 7 are the Bendy Bag.
  • Each lesson not only gives instructions for the bag itself, but also offers some nice take-away tips that would be useful in other places. 
  • Class materials are full step-by-step instructions with plenty of photos for making the bags.

If you're a beginning sewist or a beginning bagmaker, I definitely recommend Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags with Joan Hawley. Great entry-level stuff. If you're more experienced, you may still enjoy her tips and tricks, plus the bag designs. 

(Note: Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thanks!)


A Finish! Zippered Tote

I have very little time to spend in my sewing room these days so fast finishes are of appeal. Plus, as I've said before, I have a sickness: I keep buying bag and tote patterns even though I really don't enjoy making the things. I am in a constant search for the perfect travel bag and I really want to use up some fabrics from my stash that I love and want to keep around, but don't want to commit to turning into a quilt. So bags are sort of the perfect solution, if I can get around my dislike of the process. Since I knew I'd have a few hours as fabric therapy at my disposal this weekend, I decided to make myself something useful given the travel I'll be doing over the next couple of months. To whit: A travel carry-on for flights that would also be fine for normal running about and trips to libraries and coffee shops for school work.

I've posted the pic of a couple of the bag patterns I bought from a vendor at AQS Quiltweek in Syracuse. As soon as I got home, I started digging through my stash to see if I had fabrics that would work well with either of the patterns. I found a winner: I'd bought three fabrics from a collection a few years back, then found another fabric that worked beautifully with them. Then they sat on my shelves. And sat. And sat. They were enough for this bag pattern plus enough leftover to make a coordinating wallet or some such should I decide to do that later on.

Final results! This is the "Laura's Zippered Tote" pattern from The Creative Thimble. It really is pretty straightforward. I took my time with it and still had it done in something like 4 or 5 hours all-in. As a still-not-confident bag maker, I didn't run across anything that gave me the heebie jeebies.


Here's the inside. The pattern calls for pockets on only one side of the interior; I added another set of pockets on the other side as well. The more pockets, the better. 

I measured the divisions to fit my Kindle, phone, and some pens, etc., on the one side. 

The other side of pockets were less specifically measured but divided slightly differently to give myself more options. I also  added some little velcro dots to two of the pockets. Why dots? That's all I happened to have on hand. So I used three dots attached to each other to make it about as long as a regular rectangle of velcro would be. I didn't bother changing thread to white to attach the velcro because at that point I was tired of changing thread colors and I figured that, other than this blog post, I'd be the only one ever seeing it. So yes, the velcro is attached with burgundy thread. I can deal with that. 

There are two things I'm not thrilled with about this design. The first, and main thing, is that there's a raw edge seam at the bottom of the interior. You can see it in the above photo. The instructions have you zig-zag the edge and I used Fray Check as well, but still n' all, I'd prefer a hidden seam. I'd have had to completely re-do the pattern to get rid of that seam and that's just not my thing. So I'm living with it. 

The second thing is that it uses Pellon Decor Bond (809) as the stabilizer. It does give it good structure, but I didn't really like working with it. Plus, the fabric puckered a little when I was fusing it to the Decor Bond. Were I to make this pattern again, I think I'd probably use Annie Unrein's Soft and Stable. I really like the way that one felt when I was using it for the EIIP bag; I don't think using it on this design would make a noticeable different to the process of making the bag.

I did skip one part of the pattern--when you box the corners, the instructions have you folding those corners back into the inside of the bag and gluing them down to give the bottom more structure and stability. I don't have any glue on hand that would work and, again, I wasn't keen on a bunch of stuff hanging out in the bottom of the bag that loose coins and such could get stuck under, so I just cut those off as you normally would. 

And one other note: The numbering of steps is incorrect in one part of the pattern. I had to read it a few times to figure out why I couldn't quite figure out how she'd gotten from point A to point B, but it didn't take too long to see where the mistake was and just move on from there. She doesn't have that error posted in the corrections on her website so I need to remember to email it to her. Other than that, the pattern was pretty easy to follow, even for a noob like me. 

By the way, those are outside pockets as well--six in all. And the straps are the perfect length to carry it comfortably over my shoulder. Finally--a good carry-on bag for airline travel that zips on top so I don't have to worry about stuff dumping all over under the seats!

And I just love that I could finally use these fabrics--they've been on my shelves for a couple of years and now I get to keep looking at them in a far more useful form.

Overall, I'm pleased with the results and am giving myself grace on those parts that are less than perfect. 



AQS QuiltWeek Syracuse

I got this half written before skipping town for Boston, but wasn't quite able to pull off getting it posted. I took some photos of the quilts but not too many; my friend Lori took a lot more. If you're interested in seeing some of them, here's a link to her blog post about the Wicked exhibit, and about the rest of the quilts.  Meanwhile, here's my belated post about my purchases at AQS QuiltWeek in Syracuse.


First--the fat quarters I needed to fill out the current project I'm working on. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to find (1) any fat quarters at all and (2) "standard" (more traditional) ones. Few vendors had fabric, most was on bolts, and the fat quarters that were available were largely batiks or brights that wouldn't work in this quilt at all. This small pile represents three different vendor booths. Weird. 


Some Valdani perle cotton from the Primitive Gatherings booth. I think I visit their booth at every show! I'd thought I was getting all size 8, but when I got home I realized some of this is size 12. I didn't have any 12 at all before this triip--now I've got lots! (More in a bit.) No particular project in mind--just colors I don't have and really liked. The lower right is a deep teal--it looks black in this photo. 


Some more new embroidery threads. It's like candy. In fact, these were so gorgeous I did joke with my friends that I just wanted to eat them. These are from the Akoyne Kena booth--all their products are Fair Trade. So I have gorgeous threads and I supported artisans at the same time. Wait--let me buy more!

These are Perle 12's, one small collection, and then the other is a larger collection named "Summer." I also bought a collection of Perle 8s named "Spring"--they were more pastels. 


And embellishments! Yummy yummy beads, some ribbon lace, and an applique that will work on my butterfly project (no, I haven't forgotten about that one!). Plus a couple of new sets of needles. 


I did succumb to a demo of this funky ruler. I think it was probably first made for woodworkers, then perhaps made it's way through the scrapbooking world, before now hitting the quilt market. The guy doing the demo referenced both woodworking and scrapbooking, and since I've been to a lot of vendors over the years and have never seen this ruler, and the instructions have a copyright date of 1991, I suspect it's only "new" to us quilters. It'll be pretty handy for drafting quilt designs and such. 


I also picked up some pretty, pretty bright felted wools. No idea what I'll use these for, but they were too fun to miss. The vendor had a ton of colors--I just went for a selection of the brightest ones I could find.


And a couple of patterns for totes I couldn't resist. Remember? It's a sickness. I may not enjoy making these things, but I'm constantly in search for the perfect travel bag so I keep buying patterns. That being said, you'll see another blog post with a continuing story about one of these...


And finally, I found a Mama Bear. The Everything in Its Place bag that I made in Annie Unrein's class is great for embroidery supplies. However, it's really too big for airplane travel. It would take up too much room. Before my June trips, I picked up a cosmetics bag from Target that works well for travel, but it's pretty small. It's perfect for holding a small handful of embroidery flosses, a small hooped project, and a few supplies. But I quickly realized that for some trips, I needed something in between. I started thinking of the EIIP bag as "Papa Bear," the cosmetics bag as "Baby Bear," and I needed to a Mama Bear bag. Lo and behold, as BFF/BQF Katie was talking to a vendor about magnified natural lights on stands, I looked behind them and there was a notions display wall that had some supply cases hanging on it. Sure 'buff, there was my Mama Bear!

Similar to my EIIP bag, it has pocket pages inside--I can purchase more pages as needed, but too many more and it would be too big for travel. So at the moment, I think I'm sticking with the pages that are in it now. 


Banned Books Week Challenge 2015

It's that time of year again!

Banned Books Week is September 27-October 3, 2015.

Tanesha of CraftyGardenMom Podcast/Blog and I are once again hosting our annual...

Banned Books Week Challenge! 

You may find information on the issue of censorship, lists of what books have been banned or challenged, and other resources on www.bannedbooksweek.org or the American Library Association website at www.ala.org. You can find lists of Banned or Challenged Classics here, and the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 here, and the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books 1990-1999 here.(Those dates, by the way, are when those books were banned/challenged, not when they were published.)

My 2014 challenge quilt "Subversion," based on the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

My 2014 challenge quilt "Subversion," based on the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

You are challenged to create a small wall quilt that somehow represents a book from the banned/challenged book list that you have read and particularly loved, found meaningful, or otherwise want to celebrate. How you choose to represent the book is up to you—it could be a scene from the book, words from the book, or just represents the book in some way.

            Please be aware that book cover images and illustrations in books are copyrighted art. You would need permission from the publisher/artist to depict those images exactly. You may, of course, use them as inspiration for your own artwork!

The Deets

  • Create a small wall quilt based on a book on a banned/challenged book list that you read and enjoyed. Really, the quilt can be any size, but thinking under 16" keeps it manageable. You can do a mug rug if you want! No specific sizes required. (See "Here's another idea" below, however.)
  • Use any type of quilt techniques you enjoy, any type of surface embellishment you choose--whatever flips your switch! 
  • Post pictures of your completed quilt(s) in the Flickr group for this challenge. We're using the same Flickr group as in years past, so please clearly label your post with "2015" in the title so we know what the new ones are!
  • Include your artist's statement in the description of your photo in the Flickr group. (Or, should you be a blogger, just include a link to your blog post about the quilt in the description.) The artist's statement should include the title and author of the book, why you chose that book, and anything else you want us to know about your mini-quilt.
  • If you finish your project before the week of September 27 and really can't wait to post it to the Flickr group, feel free. 

During Banned Books Week, Tanesha and I will be blogging/podcasting about the entries and there will be...yes!...prizes!  

Here's another idea: For the last several years that we've been doing this challenge, I've arranged for my local public library to display during Banned Books Week quilts from our any local artisans who participate. It's always wonderful to see how the library does the display. Why don't you ask your local library if you can display your finished project there? If so, you'll also want to check with them on a suggested maximum size to make the quilt easier to display in their space. Spread the word--get your local quilty friends to join in!

Tanesha and I are looking forward to seeing your work!

If you want to get some inspiration from previous challenges, here's the Flickr group link again. Beautiful work displayed!

A finish--woo!

Okay, so this completion isn't such a big deal as it only took me about 90 minutes start to finish; and it only took that long because I wanted to fussy cut a motif and had to keep checking back on the instructions to make sure I had it facing the right direction. 

Also--normally I wait to do a reveal on a class project until I do a review of the class. But since it may be awhile since I have another finish, I couldn't wait to crow just a little bit. 

I finished something! Woo woo woo woo! 



This is the Runaround Bag by Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs, as appears in her Craftsy class Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags.  (The pattern is available elsewhere as well; you don't have to take the class to make this bag.) She calls her zipper technique "ziptastic" and I have to say--it was stinking easy, at least in this design. 

It gave me a nice way to use a couple of fat quarters from my stash--which was my main purpose for forcing myself to get more comfortable with purse-making in the first place.  

I misjudged the front fussy cutting just by a couple of inches; the print on the fabric was a little tricky in terms of isolating the motif easily. I had a sense I should adjust it a little bit but I wasn't totally convinced I knew where it was going to end up. Having done it once now, of course, I'd know better next time.


I did a lot better fussy cutting the back pocket.  

If I do this design again, I would probably put a little bit of velcro or something on that back pocket. It's a good place for a cell phone but I'd want it a little more secure if I used this regularly.  


By the way, the lining is the same fabric as the top accent (see last photo). I used an invisible zipper because that's what happened to be sitting in my drawer that was the right color and size for this project. I've decided I don't like working with invisible zippers. It was okay to sew, though I had to do a lot more by feel than sight, but mostly it was very difficult to unzip after the sewing was done in order to pull everything through right-side out. For some reason, that zipper was very stubborn--I finally resorted to pulling everything through a half-open pocket. Once it was right-side out, the zipper worked fine again. 

You can't really tell from these photos but it has fusible fleece on the back to give it just a little bit of structure.  

I do like this bag; I used it immediately last night going out for dinner with my husband. It's nice to do a simple design that's actually functional. It's a good little bag for times when you don't want to carry a lot around. 

Of course, the first thing I thought as I was putting my stuff in my bag to go out to dinner was, "I think I need to find a wallet design now." My usual wallet is too big and heavy to work in this bag well. So if you've got any favorite simple wallet designs that make a smaller, lightweight, but functional finished product, lay it on me! (Tip: I don't want to have to fold my money in half to put it in the wallet, so I've already nixed several possible patterns.) 

There are two more bags in the class, so stay tuned... 

(BTW, there's a Craftsy link in this post that will help support this podcast and blog if you use it--so thanks in advance if you do!) 

Progress and Goals--Week of July 18

One point of progress I made this week was finally finding a small armchair to fit in the corner of my office. Woo! $40 at Good Will. Double woo!  I buried my nose in the upholstery while in the store to make sure there weren't any lingering odors that would drive me nuts (just a bit of Attic Musty), and I inspected it carefully. Plus I hit it with a dose of Lysol when I got home to be sure, and to get rid of the Attic Musty. 

Yes, there are a couple of rips in the upholstery on the back, but as it's only in my office (read: I'm the only one who will really see it/use it) and the back is towards the wall most times, until I spin around to use my windowsill as a footrest, I'm good with that. If I ever decide I love this chair enough to make it have more aesthetic presence, I can get it reupholstered and it would likely still be less than buying a new armchair. It's now my official school-reading chair, as well as a place to take a short break when my back or shoulders start complaining about spending too much time at my sewing machine or cutting table. Not that "too much time sewing" will be an issue for the next few years, I suspect. 

In any case, back to the topic at hand:

Goals for Last Week

  •  Accessories: Small, fast project TBD. I didn't get this finished, but I did get myself organized for it, have all my supplies, and started cutting. I decided to do a new Craftsy class and, after doing the first half of Annie Unrein's class*, this one should feel like a breeze. By the end of the class, I'll have one small "run around" purse and two zippered bags. Good way to use up some more fat quarters from my stash, not to mention the random collection of zippers I own, based on going through a spate of doing Humbug Bags about 15 years ago. There: I do actually have bagmaking in my past. I made a bunch of those one year as Christmas gifts for my daughter and assorted nieces when they were all early elementary-school age. It's a great pattern, pretty easy to follow, and I don't recall having any difficulty with the zippers. Unfortunately, my next couple of forays into the whole bag-making adventure were dismal, horribly frustrating failures and set me off the genre for years. 

Shake it off...move on...

  • Quilt Project: Get pieces sub-cut for Jacob's Ladder. I made good progress on this yesterday, and hope to get the (420 of them, yikes) 4-patches done today. I guess I sort of mentally shifted this goal a little bit; Rather than subcutting all the pieces (4Ps and HSTs), I'm getting all the 4Ps done first, then I'll tackle the HSTs.

This is a nicely quiet week for me (fingers crossed it stays that way). No evening conference calls, no need to be anywhere other than at home. I'll have some more reading and writing assignments to work on as our online classroom is supposed to get set up sometime this week in preparation for our on-campus study session starting August 4. Hence, I'm still keeping my goals fairly small, but I should be able to manage this much this week...

Goals for This Week

  • Accessories: Get the first class project done (small purse).
  • Quilt Project: Get 4-patches completed. Get half-square triangles sub-cut, if not completed. 
  • Embroidery: Go back to working on my crewel embroidery project that I'd started back in early June, now that the other project is completed. I had to give my neck a few days of rest but it's feeling better now. I still feel like I should whip off the heatable neck wrap pattern I've had saved in Pocket for months--that was my original thought for my fast accessory project last week. 

*I do have plans to finish Annie's class, which means making the cosmetics bag. I just need to attended to more time-constrained projects first.

(As always, using Craftsy links here helps support my podcast and blog. Thanks!)

Progress and Goals--Week of July 13

I warned you it would be a few weeks! I got home from my second trip on Friday and took the weekend regrouping, restocking the refrigerator, and finishing up a time-constrained project. Today I'm finally able to start looking at the next few weeks and figure out what I might be able to get done. 

Goals for This Week (from June 14)

  • Embroidery: Three butterflies. 

Okay, so my goals were minimal. I was apparently being very (and unusually) attuned to my schedule limitations.

So, that being said, I'm not even sure at this point if I got three butterflies done. I think I did my usual 1 1/2 before I left, but I honestly can't remember now. My primary focus was the gift project. And now, having spent the whole weekend polishing that off, I'm setting aside embroidery for at least a couple of days until my neck loosens up after being frozen in position staring at the hoop in my hands (and staring at the book and highlighter in my hands).

Strangely, that gift project didn't even make it onto the goals list, even though I knew that's what I'd have to be focusing on. So although I'm not sure I got my stated goal done, I did get another biggie goal completed. So there's that. 

I can't post pics of the completed project at this stage. Waiting until it's been duly gifted. I'm pretty sure none of the parties concerned read this blog or I wouldn't even be talking about gift projects but just to be on the safe side, my lips (and camera lens) are sealed. 

I'm in the mood to give myself a little change of pace and doing some sort of fast project. But my class reading has kicked up a notch and I'm still trying to figure out how to get exercise back into my schedule, so my goals will stay pretty, shall we say, realistic.

Goals for This Week

  •  Accessories: Small, fast project TBD. Maybe a microwaveable neck pillow, maybe a zipper pouch, maybe a tool holder...haven't settled yet. I won't get to my sewing machine for another couple of days anyway so I've got a little time to ponder. I'm looking for something I might reasonably get done in just two or three hours (one or two nights). I just want some instant gratification, and maybe a little minor stash-busting, before diving into my next more intense project.
  • Quilt Project: Get pieces sub-cut for Jacob's Ladder. I just realized that, when I did my initial list of categories for a short list, I left out any possibilities of ever doing straight-up new "standard" quilt projects. Hmmm. Shows you where my head has been at. Hence, a new category: generic "Quilt Project." I really need to get started on my Jacob's Ladder project. I don't have anything going on this weekend, so it's a good weekend to get a running headstart. I've already cut all the strips I need--my next step is doing some serious subcutting.  Using techniques from Debbie Caffrey's Craftsy class, Cut to It: Strategies for Smarter Quilting, I should be able to knock it out a little more quickly than usual. I'm also considering going to my guild sew-day on Saturday--what better way to deal with a fairly tedious task than to do it in the company of my peeps?

And that's it. Here's hoping I can get at least that much done! 

Home again, home again...

We had a great vacation in Nova Scotia last week. We spent a little time on Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, and the Eastern/Northern shores of Nova Scotia--basically, Halifax area. Both my husband and I had been there on family vacations as kids (my family went twice that I recall), but we had never gone together. It's just a lovely as I remember and, of course, we both probably appreciated the scenic views a lot more as adults. ("Dad, when are we going to stop driving???")

Here's my Steller album of the trip. 

We got home around dinner time on Friday so we'd have all weekend to regroup before heading back to work. On Saturday, I spent about four hours straight doing embroidery. I'd taken my current project with me on both my work and vacation trips with the goal of having it finished by the time I got home--I didn't get as much embroidering time as I'd hoped, so now I'm doing a full-court press this weekend so I can take it to the shop for framing tomorrow or Tuesday.

This morning, my daughter and I decided to head to a big flea market about half an hour south of us. It opens at 6:30a. Neither of us is that dedicated. We got there around 8:30a and it was not really crowded at all, but by the time we left at 10:30a, I was thrilled to be heading out of the parking lot instead of into it.

She achieved her main goal: She's got a yen to try her hand at refinishing furniture, as well as knowing it may be the most cost-effective way for her to furnish an apartment whenever she gets to the point of being able to afford to move out. She picked up this very nice little cabinet--and didn't do too bad a job bargaining, although neither of us is that agressive about it.

It's got nice bones, and really interesting dove-tailed joints that are a dove-tail-esque design I'd never seen before. She's debating several options about how she'll redo this--I'm looking forward to seeing what she finally decides on. She's waiting until I head to my on-campus weeks at BU so she can take over my side of the garage for the refinishing process.

I didn't have any firm thoughts in mind about what I was looking for. I was just along for the fun. I did miss out on a little folding cabinet kind of thing--about the size of a small briefcase--that would've been great embroidery storage, something that looked nicer in the family room than my current collection of bins and bags. Since I'd have had to do some work to it for it to really look nice and I'm just not sure I have the time to do that these days, I decided I'd think about it instead, knowing it would likely not still be there when I went back (thereby making my decision for me). When we made our way back to that corner of the flea market again, sure 'nuff, a woman was looking at it. The only thing that burns me a bit is that I'm quite sure I heard the vendor tell her it was all of $2.00. Well, dang. I know the cardinal rule at flea markets is to pick it up when you see it because it's most likely not going to still be there later. I just wasn't 100% convinced it would really be all I was hoping it would be once I got it home. So I'm okay. But still. $2.00. Dang. 

I consoled myself with tchotchke. 

The citrus juicer in the handled bowl came home with me for $6. Saved a whole dollar--can't you stand it? My daughter and I immediately noted how much easier this will make my next margarita party, as I do margaritas from scratch with fresh-squeezed lime juice. I won't pony up for an electric juicer, but this will be a step up from my hand-held juicer. 

The four bracelets were from a jewelry designer vendor. I have a love-hate relationship with bracelets. Love the way they look, can't stand to wear them. They drive me nuts when they bounce all over the place or bang on my keyboard while I'm typing. I only manage to wear them for about 10 minutes before I yank them off in frustration. I have high hopes for these! They're actually elastic but done in such a way that you can't see any of the elastic between the beads when it's on (and my wrists aren't as small as they used to be). It fits very comfortably, but doesn't roll around on my wrist; they're also really light-weight. I was in love the first time I tried one on. I wore the blue one all morning and kept even forgetting I had it on--it was that comfortable! 

The other little bottle is just an aromatherapy blend named "Breathe," that smells better than the current "Breathe" blend I've been using. Sinuses, donchaknow.

Then I hit the vendor selling warehouse summer tops and dresses. 

The dress is of a fabric that would also be fine over a swimsuit, so good for poolside lounging. Not that I'll have a lot of time for that this summer, but a girl can dream. And it was only an $8 dream.

The silk wraparound skirt can supposedly be worn "100 different ways." I tried three of the ways demonstrated on the tag. Nope, it'll just be a skirt. It's two skirts layered over one another so if nothing else, it's reversible. And it was $10. So I don't mind the 98 other ways I won't be wearing it.

And this pretty embroidered shirt has ties in the back to give it a little more shape, but I like the looseness of it. 

I'm wearing the $8 dream now. I have hopes of lounging poolside later this evening. If the bugs don't drive me away.

So that's my adventure of the last few weeks. I'm actually going to be in a routine between now and August 4 when I head off to campus. Routine is good. You might hear from me a little bit more.

But for the moment, I'm off to pick up the embroidery needle again...




June Craftsy Class Update

I didn't burn up the track in Craftsy classes, but I did get one of the biggies done! I'm actually writing this a little over a week before it'll post because I can guaran-dang-tee I won't be finishing any more Craftsy classes before the end of this month. I'm about to head out of town for a work trip and there's no time for watching classes in that circumstance.


Interior shot of my EIIP bag from Annie's class

Interior shot of my EIIP bag from Annie's class

New Completions


Classes in Progress


Classes added this month--0

Classes To Be Completed

Current count: (12, down 1 from last month) 

Completed Classes

Current count: 60 (+1--and I hit a nice round number!0

Some other random finishes

My May journal quilt project was embroidery on one of my hand-painted silks. 

I talked about this in this week's podcast episode and all the difficulties I had with it, although I learned a lot in the process; so from a learning value perspective, this was a great project. I learned that silk requires a much different treatment as a background than other fabrics I've been embroidering on. I learned that certain threads don't really play nice with silk. (The spiral center was the Razzle thread and it was just way too slippery to combine with the slippery silk. No end of headaches with that one.) 

I learned how to do the "magic chain"--a chain stitch with two threads where you alternate the colors. Cool beans.

You can see I skipped a couple of stitches in this example--that petal was a very-late-night-can't-sleep attempt. I learned I shouldn't embroider after midnight.

I also learned I shouldn't use a chalk pencil for an embroidery design. Couldn't for the life of me see what I was supposed to be doing. Hence, some very whonky flowers.

After I finished this, I started doing some crewel embroidery on a piece of my hand-dyed cotton. Lookie so far! (Okay, I snuck a WIP in here. But one flower is finished, so it counts!)

I love crewel. I'm a crewel girl. 


And...on the spur of the moment...I decided I wanted an iPad case with a couple of pockets to hold my stylus and the little (very easily lose-able) packet of extra stylus tips during all my travels this summer. I talked about this on my podcast episode too--but the short story is that I decided felted wool would be the quickest approach, and I have a fair amount of wool. 

I actually took out my 3-in-1 color tool when I was choosing which wools to use; everything but the green flower button cover actually fall into a particular color scheme. Can you figure it out? (The green button cover is close, but I'm not super-keen on it. May change it later.)

I just took the "quick and dirty" approach in sewing these pieces together. The beauty of felted wool is that it doesn't really fray, so you can just stitch that puppy together. Depending on the type of wool, though, it can be a little stretchy. You can see where the chartreuse pocket got a little polygram-esque rather than rectangular as I stitched it on. It's a looser weave so had more stretch to it. Still, it works. I just need to figure out how I want to close the two pockets on the front so they're more secure. There's a patch of Velcro on the top under the little flower button cover. I may add Velcro to the larger pocket; would need to do more of a flap thing on the stylus pocket. Pondering. But, to all intents and purposes, it's done.

These may be my last finishes for awhile...

Product Review: Janome Free Motion Couching Foot

Recently I read an article from Quilting Arts Magazine when I was in a bit of a weak spot, I suppose, and I immediately bit and ordered the foot it spoke of, without reading any reviews of the foot first. Fortunately, I wasn't overly disappointed--I think I've probably used enough of these tools now to know none of them is perfect. The product in question is a free motion couching foot for Janome machines*. Couching is when you hold one larger cord or yarn down on fabric by crossing back and forth over it with a smaller thread--you can do it by hand, of course, or you can do it with a sewing machine by using a zig-zag stitch. I've done it by machine a handful of times; it works okay, but it's hard to do tight or really smooth curves by the standard methods. I thought this FMQ couching foot may be the answer. 

It is, partly. I give it maybe a 6 out of 10--possibly a 7 if I have more practice with it.

I talked about this foot on my podcast episode this week, so here are the photos that may help illustrate some of the drawbacks I talked about.

It comes with two sizes of feet in the package; one with a slightly larger hole and one slightly smaller. It would probably take some trial and error to figure out which foot you need for the yarn/cording you're trying to use.

Here's how you thread it--it was a little tricky to get the yarn up and over from the back of the foot. It involved lots of bending over and squinting, but I persevered.

You have to pay attention to the settings the package tells you to use for your needle. I broke my first needle. Oops. There's a very tight little hole for that needle to zig-zag over the couched thread so you've got to make sure the zig-zag settings are correct. 

The package suggests to allow the cording/yarn that you're couching to "pool" behind the foot. Believe them. It really needs a lot of slack to work right--every time it used up the pool and started feeding right off the little ball of yarn I had, it would start skipping stitches and missing the yarn altogether. This might be tricky if you were couching on a larger project that would limit the amount of space you have for pooling the yarn; I was just doing a small test piece so I didn't have any problem.


As long as you move slowly and work with the limitations, it does actually work. Here's some of what I was able to do. This is all free-hand; I didn't sketch anything out ahead so I was truly, truly free-motioning. 

Normally I'd probably use an invisible or matching thread so the thread wouldn't be visible; I used a beige thread because that's what happened to be in my machine at the time, and this was just a test. Plus, I thought it might be helpful to be able to see the stitches. (The metallic thread you see sticking out is actually part of the yarn.) 

The stitch tended to shred this particular yarn--it would work better with a tighter ply, or a cording. Still, this sort of "foamy" look could be cool if that's what you're going for. Just test any cording you're planning to couch with this foot first to make sure you're getting the results you expect.

The foot works remarkably well, really, given that the concept of couching and the concept of free motion quilting are sort of counter to one another. The only consistent time I had problems (other than when the yarn wasn't pooled loosely enough behind the foot) was when I moved left to right. It missed the yarn just about every time. That's where I'd have to do more experimenting to see if I could figure out a way to counterbalance that.

Anyway, using the free motion couching foot worked better than doing the same thing with a regular foot. It still has weaknesses, but with what I'm doing, they probably aren't huge weaknesses. The long and short of it is, I'm glad I got this foot; I think it'll be fun to play with in the future.

*There are also FMQ couching feet for other brands of machines. Just Google!

Craftsy Class Review: Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers with Annie Unrein


Once again, I'm doing the class review before I've finished all the projects from the class. I'm doing that in this case because it took me nearly 6 months to get the first of the two projects done for this class. Given my current schedule, it's likely to be another 6 months before I get the second project done. So, here's my review of Annie Unrein's Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers class. 

If you're a blog follower, you've already seen my reveal of the first project, an organizing bag she calls the "Everything In It's Place Bag," or as I abbreviated it, the EIIP bag. If you follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcast, you've heard me whine. A lot. With great passion and commitment to my whining.

This isn't a particularly easy project, especially for those of us quilters who didn't come at quilting out of garment sewing. I've only had limited experience doing bags or any type of accessories, and much of that experience hasn't been particularly positive. I'm not a fan, as I have pointed out on many an occasion, of fiddly bits. 

And boy, did this bag have more than it's fair share of fiddly bits. Namely, vinyl. More about that later.

It also had zippers which were a bit tricky at first. I've done a small handful of zippers in the past, but this was the first time I'd used zippers-by-the-yard, which raises the quotient of fiddly-bit in the zipper equation. I'll say, though, that by the end of doing this bag which had a grand total of 12 zippers and 16 zipper pulls, zippers no longer give me pause. I can also see the beauty of using the zippers-by-the-yard that Annie sells on her website; I'll advise, however, that you wait to watch where she talks about using those zippers before making your first zipper, which actually comes in the lesson before.

That's on my one knock on this class. It's not Annie's fault that I don't enjoy making bags. And it's not Annie's fault that I still don't enjoy making bags after taking her class. She helped me become more comfortable with certain things, but becoming more comfortable with something doesn't necessarily mean I'll start loving to do it. In any case, the one thing I will knock the class on is that once in awhile things are a hair out of order. You make the first zipper in one lesson, and then in the next lesson she explains how to work with the zippers. I was watching and working my way through the lessons so when I got to the one making the first zipper and didn't know how to put a zipper pull on a zipper, I spent 20 minutes on YouTube trying to figure it out. Then I get to the next lesson, and there she is, talking about how to put on a zipper pull. There are a couple of places like that, so just do what I didn't do:

Watch all the lessons all the way through, before starting the first step in the first lesson. 

The only thing that I really struggled with was the vinyl. That was brutal. I spent a lot of time reading through the class discussions to see if others were having some of the same problems I was having and what the suggested remedies were; I found some helpful things there, so be sure to read the class discussions as well. (I talk about that in the previous blog post about this project.) Mostly, I was being stubborn and refusing to buy a Teflon foot when I wasn't committed to the idea of ever using vinyl again. That Teflon foot probably would've been helpful. I used Scotch Tape instead. It was okay.

Annie is clearly very experienced at teaching. I had no complaints about her style. Her instructions are very thorough as well. I kept the class material print-outs in front of me while watching the related steps on video--the two pair well. Her website is great--she has great bag designs and very helpful kits for making many of them, plus she sells all the bag-making supplies separately. More helpful, though, are her YouTube tutorials (also on her website). So if you're into making bags, she's the one to get to know: www.byannie.com. I do really like her supplies--I like how the finished bag feels, using her stabilizer and such. So if I am inclined to make bags in the future, I'll definitely be going back to her site. 

So, to try to objectify this and review the class as a class, my personal feelings about bag-making aside, I'd say two thumbs up. She really takes you through a complicated process by breaking it down into very small, pretty manageable tasks. She explains and demonstrates pretty much everything; there are a couple of steps that she talked about but didn't demonstrate, and it would've been helpful to have those on video as well, but they weren't deal-breakers. I do feel pretty confident that I'd be successful at the cosmetics bag as well, whenever my schedule allows me to work on that again. And that's more than I'd have said when I started the first step of the first bag, so that's a mark in the plus column. 

The Basics

  • 7 lessons, ranging from about 18 to 52 minutes, mostly in the 30-minute range
  • The first lesson offers a short introduction, but then gets right into making the Everything In Its Place Bag.
  • Lessons 1-4 are for the EIIP bag, lessons 5-7 are the cosmetics bag.
  • Class materials are extensive--very clear, step-by-step instructions for each bag. In fact, at the start I found her instructions a little confusing because they are so complete; I'm not used to that. Once I figured out her approach, I did find them really well done. 

Annie's bag designs in Annie Unrein's Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers class are great. Can't beat the functionality. So here's to my perseverance sticking with me to get the second of the two bags done sometime before I retire. 

(Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thanks!)



Thinkin' about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

This little critter has been joining me for morning coffee every morning this week. (Taken through my living room window. The dogs have, so far, remained oblivious.)

This little critter has been joining me for morning coffee every morning this week. (Taken through my living room window. The dogs have, so far, remained oblivious.)

  • that it's nice to feel definite improvement in my knee after roughly three months of PT
  • how I've now "graduated" from PT 
  • that I need to figure out some way to keep myself going on the PT exercises without that weekly appointment I'm working towards
  • that I'm not burning up the track on exercise in general
  • how I really need to fix that at some poin
    • but it won't be anytime soon
    • because I'm getting on a plane again in a few days
    • and then another plane a few days after that
    • but the second trip is vacation and we usually do a lot of walking
    • so we'll see how well this PT thing really worked
  • how I got my syllabus this week for my first doctoral studies residency session in August
  • that I immediately stressed out when reading it
  • how my response to stress is to go into task-oriented-mode
  • how that works well in this situation, at least, because I therefore scheduled out all the readings and papers on my task list with deadlines n' all
    • and immediately felt better
    • as long as I only thought about it in one day increments
    • because there's a boatload I'm supposed to get done before even showing up on campus in August.
  • that this is likely going to be my last Thinkin' about It Thursday post for awhile
    • See above

CSA Tuesday--Week 2

Remember how I said it seemed like an awful lot of food for our first week compared to other CSAs? Yep, it was. Turns out there was a mix-up at our pick-up location around half-shares compared to full-shares and some of us half-share folks (like myself) ended up with a full-share, meaning, sadly, some of the full-share people got short-changed. I'm sure the CSA made it up to them somehow. That's the risk of a CSA dropping food off at a location and not having someone from the CSA physically present to manage the pick-ups. On the flip side, live and learn--I suspect they'll send out more information ahead of time to avoid that happen again. And, I'm happy to say, this week's delivery feels far more manageable for me!

So, what happened with last week's (full-share) delivery? 

Roasted kohlrabi

Roasted kohlrabi

Out of the 4 kohlrabi, I've used two so far. They keep well, so I'll be able to use the second two sometime in the next couple of days and be fine. I peeled and diced the kohlrabi, then tossed them in a flavored olive oil I have named "Tuscan Garden," with some salt and pepper, and roasted them in a 400 (or was it 425?) oven for about 25 minutes.  

They were quite good. It's somewhere between a potato and a turnip, I'd say--most of the flavor comes from the seasonings. I'm thinking I'll roast the other two, but then maybe puree them into a soup. On the other hand, what you see in the picture is both kohlrabi, so I'm not quite sure it's enough for a soup--or, at least, not enough to bother with the extra work soup would involve. (That's a turkey burger with goat cheese and roasted red pepper on the right--nummy.) I will say, however, the whole peeling process is a bit tricky as it's a thick skin with pokey things so, forasmuch as I enjoyed the kohlrabi, I'm not sure I'll be out buying them at farmers markets every wek or anything.

I missed the window of opportunity on using the kohlrabi leaves; I'd have had to use them in the first couple of days and just couldn't pull it together to do that. So I can't report on them. 


My daughter used some of the snap peas and garlic scapes in a very tasty fried rice. She also added some red bell pepper we had kicking around. I hadn't added any soy sauce yet when I took this picture--I thought the colors were too pretty to ruin yet. I did, however, add it later; glad my daughter learned how to make fried rice, although I was eating it for a week. (She has the same problem I do of not really knowing how to scale certain dishes for any less than an army.) 

The rhubarb is still sitting in my refrigerator. I'm hoping it's still good; it's just been a lot busier lately than I thought it would be.  

We also still have a lot of snap peas and garlic scapes left, but they're also lasting well. We gave about a third of the snap peas to my mother-in-law, and about half of our apples. I'm still eating apples too. Makes me glad that I'd decided to only pay for the half share this year; if we got that amount of produce every week, we'd be turning green!

Week 2 Delivery

Week 2 delivery

Week 2 delivery

This week, we got (our half-share) delivery that includes: 

1 red leaf lettuce

1 green leaf lettuce

1 bunch radishes

2 zucchini (and so it begins) 

More snap peas

1 basil plant (in a pot) 

2 celtuces

Right. That's not a typo. Celtuces. Never heard of them before. Even the CSA folks said they were new to them too. Apparently they're big in Asia, though (they're also known as "Chinese lettuce"), which means it's quite possible I ate them somewhere along the way and just didn't know it. Here's a link to a description. Apparently you don't eat the leaves so much as the stem. When I looked at them, my first thought was, "I wonder if I could shave this lengthwise and cook it up as shavings?" Sure enough, check out this article from Huffington Post. I really am getting the hang of this cooking thing--woo! So that'll be fun to play with.

The radishes are going straight to my MIL as none of us are radish fans; the basil plant is also going to my MIL because I just put four basils in the ground about three weeks ago here, so I'll be awash in basil in no time. Everything else is going to be used up quite easily, though. Love me some red and green leaf lettuce, and you already know how we feel about snap peas. Although, frankly, we'll probably be glad to see the last of them with all the snap peas we've gotten the last couple of week.