Thursday, April 30, 2015

Something old, something new, and something cool on the other side of fear

Every time I go outside, I walk around my yard to look for flowers and it always seems to me as though there are never enough. It really is a whole lot greener out here, but what I really want is more purple, more yellow, more blue, more red, more everything. So every year, I plant more. Some things make it, some don't, some just kind of barely hang on to dear life until they either throw in the towel or until I figure out that they need more sun or better soil or something of that nature. Where am I going with this? I don't know. Flowers are pretty. There should be more.
And I have a thing about irises. These buttery yellow ones came from Bekah and the ones that came from Mom are about to bloom.

There are also muffins-- lots and lots of muffins. I found a basic recipe that uses a tablespoon of baking powder, which is really great if you're trying to get rid of baking powder. It's almost Thargelia and I think one more pass through the cabinets and the freezer and I can get rid of most everything that's more than a month old. I never can get quite everything, but I do seem to get a little closer each year.

This is the perfect time to cultivate new things growing and to transform old things into new things. That's where I am in Project Make as well. 
The project bags I'd started are still sitting draped over my sewing machine, waiting to be stitched, mainly because I've started on the eldest's Spring Formal dress. It feels like I'm training for prom because the dress, which is really a top and a skirt, is meant to be beautiful and elegant. The color is perfect for her and she will be the most beautiful princess at the ball.

My only concern is that it's sleeveless and to be held up by gravity, friction, prayers, and a little boning. It's not so much that I'm not sure I'm up to the task as far as technical skill, but really more that my baby is thirteen and I simultaneously have the urge to purchase a firearm and feel a little like a bad parent for making a bustier for her. 
Of course, that said, she's a confident young woman and I'm looking forward to the challenge of this particular design. The pattern is an old one from my pattern stash and I'm glad she found one from there that she liked. I'm looking forward to watching this transform as I work. 

And I have new yarn. I saved my spending cash for quite a few weeks and managed to go to Stitches South with about three times my normal budget. This is the entirety of what I came out with, aside from a pear-scented Lo-lo bar from The Barmaids. The best part of the trip was hanging out with my besties, meeting the most delightful people that I'd only previously known online, and watching yarn vendors flirt with Bu. The yellow yarn on the far left was from such a vendor, A Hundred Ravens, and happens to be in a colorway named Apollo

When I started Project Make, I thought I might be tweaking my sewing skills a little, learning some more about weaving, or maybe trying a new heel or two on socks. I didn't think I'd be taking on something as daunting as planning a circular shawl. I've never done it before and have a great fear that it'll suck as a design, but I'm poking along anyway because there might be something cool on the other side of that fear. 

This week's technique is the cast on I'm using to start the shawl. If it has a name, please do tell. I just kind of made this up as I went. Because I wanted to work it from the center out, I started with just a few stitches and increased from there. The intended shape is twelve-sided, but you could make any number of increases with this method. For the dodecagon:

CO 3 sts
1. As though knitting I-cord, kfb in all three stitches (6 sts)
2. Continue as though you were knitting I-cord and knit all 6 sts
3. kfb in each stitch, transferring stitches to three DPNs as you go (12 sts: 4sts/needle)
4. And all even rounds Knit around
5. (k, yo, k) into each stitch (36 sts)
7. *k 1, (k, yo, k) into one st, k1* repeat around (60 sts) (If desired, transfer to four DPNs: 15sts/needle)
9. *k2, (k, yo, k) into one st, k2* repeat around (84 sts)
11. *k3, (k, yo, k) into one st, k3* repeat around (108 sts)

And so on, adding one to the number of stitches on each side of the increases.

I'm also working on transforming myself. Week 4 of couch to 5k hasn't killed me yet, so I'm going to keep on truckin'. I can't wait to see what blooms next.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Seams, Madam? I know not "seams."

I'm so excited about this that I can't even. I was taking unnecessary trips to the garage just to look at her. My loom has been in pieces since we moved and I've only just put it together this week. That's almost three years of not weaving and I can't wait to sink my teeth into learning how to make her sing and dance. I never really learned how to weave; I just started doing it to see if I could figure it out. Like with spinning, I managed, but I know I can do better. The garage is more organized than it's ever been and though the space is still not ideal, it is at least workable and that's good enough. Hopefully soon, we'll get to the part of Project Make where I start weaving again, but I'm having a Da Vinci Disorder flare right now and I don't know when I'll actually get to it. I want to do all the things all at once, including petting my loom.

I'm also making some little outfits for little Bu and I've been working from this pattern. Even though about half of the items are just variations in trim, I've decided that I want to make one of each anyway, partly to remember why it is I sew the way I do, if I skip parts that are necessary, or if my way really is better or more efficient. I finished the two shirts I'd cut out last week and the process has had the fortunate side-effect of helping me work out some of my awkward work flow issues.

My sewing space is not ideal, but it'll do, and if there's anything I'm good at, it's efficiency. If the space I have isn't the best, I'll do what I can within those limitations to be as efficient as possible.

Say "rocks!"

This is one of the two that were finished this week and when she tried them on, she decided they were comfy. The other one is virtually the same, but with no ties at the front and a bit of lace at the bottom instead of ric-rac.

Of course, if there's any use at all for ric-rac, it's for little girl clothes and Starfleet rank markings.

I love that it's comfy and a simple enough pattern that I could put it together without fighting with it. The only problem I had was that since the sleeves aren't separate pieces, there's a corner to turn at the underarm that's a pain in the butt. Other than that, it was quick, easy, and an excellent use of some funky but cute stash fabric.

After this, I'll be working on the skirt and top for the eldest's Spring Formal dance, which is going to be a fair bit more complicated. There's boning involved and it's been a bit since I put boning in anything.

This week's technique is an actual sewing technique that has little to do with philosophy unless you want to apply deep meaning to which side of the fabric you want the stitching to be.

Flat-Felled Seams

I always finish my seams in a garment, unless I have a good reason not to. If a seam is hidden, I'm not necessarily going to bother, but generally, a finished seam just looks a hundred percent more professional and wears better in the long run. By and large, I just zig-zag the edges of each side of the seam, but I wanted to try something new-to-me. The shoulders looked like a good place to put something like a flat-felled seam:

For the shoulders of Bu's little shirts, the stitching is reversed from what's shown in the video, mostly because I did them from a vague memory of a sewing show rather than watching the video before doing it, but I like how they turned out and it looks very neat. I'm having fantasies of sewing my own jeans and this is a skill that might come in handy.

I've also been working on:

  • Leto in Knit Picks' Shadow and Misti Alpaca Lace 
  • EZ's Seamless Saddle Shoulder Pullover in Knit Picks' Wool of the Andes superwash
  • Several rectangles that are meant to be project bags in the nearish future, though the Police Box got no love this week.

My violas and pansies are doing well  and the roses are leafing out nicely. The berry bushes look like they intend to flower and I'm aching to plant about a million more things. I wish I were as enthusiastic about running and housework, but you can't have everything. Also, I signed up for the mother-daughter dance for Iris' recital. She's the oldest kid there and taller than me. This should be interesting and challenging for both of us. In other news, her pointe qualification is this afternoon and she's both excited and nervous about it. Break a leg, kiddo.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

If you start singing, I'll understand.

Now seeds, start growing!
My sleep schedule has been a little off-kilter lately and I'm going to bed early and tired, but it's all for the best reasons. I'm taking this excellent energy that comes with springtime and turning it into a cleaner house, more projects, a tidy lawn and garden, and a healthier me. I started Couch to 5k again with Bekah (contemporaneously, not colocationally, as she would say) and I've made it halfway through week two. I'm not to the place where I love running and want to do more just yet, but right now, it's about moving my body and trying to meet the challenge. I do love a good challenge and if I stick with it, I might even start enjoying running again.

I'm poking away at the TARDIS project bag and it's slow-going because the fabric doesn't want to sit still and there are a lot of parts to it. I've already got five hours in it and there are some kinks in the design that need to be worked out, but when I lay it out on the table, it looks like I imagined.

The rest of the blue silk finally made its way onto an embroidery hoop to become a sampler, of sorts. I'd started to design something, but it ended up being overdone and too many elements in one design, so I tossed it. Sometimes the challenge of Project Make is not about planning something to the nth degree, as with the TARDIS bag, but about knowing when to let go and let the art just happen.

If you were to start singing "Let it Go" right now, I'd understand.

In other sewing news, I've been riffling through my fabric stash and came up with a stack of pinks and blues.

Some of these are in very small amounts and I don't yet know what they will be, some are in large enough amounts to become project bags, and a few of them are in sufficient quantity to make some little shirts for my littlest person.

I'm starting with the funky floral pink in the center of the second picture. I've already cut two little shirts and the outsides of two quickie project bags that I want to do up assembly-line style later.

Also in my stash was a nice bright purple ribbon and a matching purple ric-rac. I may pick up some eyelet lace, too.

Bekah pointed out earlier this week that two years old is a fine time to receive handsewn garments and I've been planning to both improve my skill with patterns and to start really learning how to make things without a purchased pattern. Making small things for small people or even doll clothes is an excellent way to learn without investing a whole lot of time and fabric into an adult garment.

In spite of all this sewing, I've been knitting, too. I'm at the point where there's enough progress that new pictures are necessary, but I haven't taken them yet. I've been working on:

  • Leto in Knit Picks' Shadow and Misti Alpaca Lace 

So it's been a little bit of everything. 

This week's technique is more philosophy, I'm afraid, but came to me as I was cutting Bu's shirts:
Do not stop for thrift. 
This is one of the Delphic Maxims, #122 to be exact. As religious texts go, it's more of a list of pretty good ideas rather than a set of hard and fast rules. Calling them commandments overstates it a bit and they're meant to make you think about your life choices instead of making those choices for you. Anyhoo, for years, I have been marking the pattern, removing the paper pattern, and cutting the fabric, just in case I wanted to use the pattern again in a different size. That's how I was taught to do it, so that's how I did it. 

It took me thirty years of sewing to figure out that I can replace a pattern for a dollar when they go on sale and my time is far more valuable than that. Yesterday, with this in mind, I let go and cut the paper pattern.

If you were to start singing "Let it Go" again, I would still understand.

Dear Bekah suggested this one means "If you see a Goodwill, keep driving," which I thought was pretty great, even though that's not how we roll here at the House. The TARDIS blue silk is actually a Goodwill find. Hers was not a serious suggestion, but it did give me a chuckle. I think I would rephrase this as "Evaluate your return on investment." If something like couponing is fun for you and you're saving a significant amount of scratch, great! If your duds come from Goodwill or if patching worn clothes makes you happy, that's perfectly okay. But if those things don't make you happy and aren't worth the time, thrift is not a good enough reason to continue. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Practicing Patience and Persistence

With the cleaning and painting of the eldest's room finally done, I've moved on to other things and those other things have mostly been quilting. There's really not much to see here, though I've quilted 14 blocks out of 81. That's 17.28% of the quilting done (nevermind the binding and finishing), but it's a fair bit more than I'd had done at the beginning of the year.

Like Iris' room, this is an exercise in patience and persistence. I've written a master's thesis and it was a daunting project that went very slowly at times, but I did finish. Certainly, I can finish a quilt.

Really, it's just a whole lot of the same thing over and over again, but the journey between here and arĂȘte oft traverses tedium. Slow progress is still progress, right?

It's getting to be too hot to quilt now, so it's time to move on to smaller projects for a few months. After having picked up quilting again I've already learned (or re-learned) that thimbles are not for the weak and that quilting hoops might be useful.

A couple random asides for this week:
  • On Monday, I was on a local radio station with our interfaith group. It went surprisingly well.
  • The eldest has once again expressed an interest to learn how to sew, but I remain skeptical. I mentioned that she wants to have learned how to sew and she seemed to think that sounded accurate.
  • I started Couch to 5k again this week. So far, so good.
  • My family is adorable and I'm keeping them. On Tuesday, Bu put a napkin on her head and said "I'M GOING TO SPAAAAAAAACE!" There was much silliness on Tuesday and everyone played along. 
I was going to find a quilting video for this week's technique, but I couldn't find a good one, so that will have to wait. This week is for practicing patience and persistence (and other virtues that start with the letter "P" like "punctuality").

I've also worked on:

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A Passel of FOs

Gratuitous photo of spring flowers. 
I had almost forgotten what day it was and nearly put myself to bed without posting. It's been that kind of week and it's not been a bad week, just a busy and productive one. You see, it's spring break and I told Miss Fluffalo that I'd help her paint/organize/clean her room. This has been a long time coming and there has been a fair bit more angst about it than I really want to get into just now. When we got down to it, the actual painting and cleaning hasn't been that bad as far as cooperating with a teenager goes. Fluffalo has been diligent and hard-working, so she's been rewarded with frozen yogurt and will be with a trip to Goodwill later-- both to drop off stuff she no longer wants or needs and to look at fancy dresses just because.

I'm painting her sulking corner. I swear it was her idea.
(If I am very still, no one will see me.)
Her room still looks like a mess, but it's the mess of an organization project that's still underway. We'll get there and hopefully by the end of the day after this posts tomorrow (Thursday). Disney songs and a fair bit of mindfulness are the only thing getting me through this. I'll get to that in a little bit.

Last week, I had some FOs that I didn't post, so here they are:

This is Summer's Hanky, a commission work. I still need to pack it up and mail it out, but it's been washed and pressed and is now pretty much ready to go. This is hand-embroidered with various cotton and metallic threads on what was once one of my husband's work shirts. The 1/4" seams are also hand-sewn.
What I could have improved upon: I would have liked to have used a different stitch for the middle of the wing because the double herringbone made me go cross-eyed. I'd also liked to have done both wings at once instead of one and then the other. If I had to do it again, I'd try to make it more symmetrical.
What I did well: The hems are very neat and I'm very pleased with the color choices and the stitch choices overall. I like that the color isn't flat and how pairing different threads gave each layer of feathers a different look. Also, Miss Summer is happy with what she's seen so far and that's the biggest thing that matters to me. Overall, I like it and I'm pleased with how it turned out.

I've also finished a Paisley Fabulous Project Bag for Project Make that matches the DPN roll from late February. I'm very happy with this one, though I want to add a line of stitching through the middle of the casing at the top so that it looks nicer and closes more neatly.

It's actually reversible, but there's a big wide pocket that will just do better as an inside pocket than an outside pocket.

I loved using every single scrap of stash fabrics and I am absolutely in love with the red drawstrings and how they pick up on the red in the paisley. Because the green twill has a nap, the patchwork picks up light in different ways, depending on the direction of the fabric and which way you're looking at it. You can't really see that in the photo, but it really is very cool.

For this bag, I looked at some tote bags I really loved and figured out how the bottom was constructed. The lining tucks all the seams neatly away so that nothing is visible and the bottom of the bag is such that it will stand up with a couple skeins of yarn in it, though not completely on its own. This project was more about refining skills I already have than about learning new ones, but this particular construction is not one I've tried before.

And the Sheep of Unknown Provenance is finally finished! The left was dyed with privet berries and a few leaves and twigs. That's 4 skeins and 7.7oz of fingering weight, fractal spun using the natural colors of the fleece and then dyed. In person, the color is a rich bronze with a bit more warmth than the photo can convey. The right is 4 skeins and 8 oz of fingering weight, gradient spun. This one was too pretty to dye and so I've left it the color the Gods made it.

Because this one is also for Project Make, the making of it has taught me quite a bit: mordanting, dyeing, gradient spinning, fractal spinning, using a drum carder, patience, and persistence.

I'm also working on:
  • Leto in Knit Picks' Shadow and Misti Alpaca Lace
  • Genevieve's Tube Socks in Crystal Palace Maizy Print
  • Iris' rainbow quilt
  • A little something in TARDIS blue silk

Before I go, I want to leave you with This Week's Technique:
  • Mindfulness of emotions.
    It's really hard for me to manage my emotions around cleaning and organization. There have been occasions, this week actually, where I have a complete and total meltdown about something that isn't clean or organized, particularly when it's a recurring or very large mess that I am not in control of. I have OCD and this is how it shows its face. I'm not "a little bit OCD" in the colloquial sense where I'm really neat and organized (I'm not, actually). I have to be very careful how I clean so that I don't binge-clean until I cause myself physical harm.

    That's a long set-up to say that anxiety feeds the compulsion and if I can manage the anxiety, I can manage the compulsions. The audio that follows is part of an introduction to meditation series from Audio Dharma and it's over an hour long, but this sort of thing has been very helpful to me and is worth a listen. This is the way I've been able to re-wire my brain so that I can keep my cool and prevent myself from tumbling into a full-on binge clean or meltdown. I don't always do a great job of it, but my emotions are no longer the boss of me 90% of the time and I've been able to keep the OCD under control. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.