In which I commit acts of sewing

This hot and humid summer (and my increasingly close approach to menopause) has finally broken my longstanding resistance to wearing sleeveless tops for something other than running. I finally have reached the age where I DNGAF* about the condition of my upper arms and just want to be as comfortable as possible in a house with no AC and an office with substandard AC.**

So I looked around for sleeveless tops for a grown-up. My office-mates don't need to see my bra straps. I don't want to wear some weirdo blend that pills when you look at it crooked. And I want to look like a woman in my late 40s, not like one in her 70s. 

Once those limits were applied, the racks were empty.

Which is when I realized I have a sewing machine, a desire for a project that doesn't take weeks to finish, and some meager sewing skills. I poked around a bit, heard high praise about Grainline Studios, and picked up the Willow pattern. When Scott and I went to NYC a few weeks ago, I bought fabric and thread at Mood. And when I had a few hours, I committed some sewing. 

Top number one: 


Apologies in advance for the bathroom mirror pixs. I worked with what I had.

The fabric is a cotton/linen blend.*** It's cool and comfy and only touches my body where it absolutely has to. Thumbs mostly up. 

Top number two:


Yes, the cotton fabric has moths on it. How could I not buy this? 


My supervisors were sleeping on the job.


The artsy shot.


The obligatory bathroom shot.

On the whole, I am pleased with how they turned out. As long as you don't look too closely at the bias binding, these home sewn garments look like actual clothes, which is progress. Also: I discovered that bias binding is super fiddly but worth it. 

These little experiment went well enough that I'm pondering committing more sewing. Any patterns/designers you'd recommend? 


*Do Not Give a Fuck

** We're not great with air conditioning in this part of the Northeast. We can efficiently heat the bejeezus out of anything enclosed, mind. But cooling is not in our wheelhouse

*** While cutting the fabric for top number one, I discovered my eldest child had used my fabric scissors to cut granite or something so there was a pause while I waited for new scissors to arrive. 

this time, I sew

I am a huge fan of the souvenir craft project. Sometimes, it involves yarn bought at, say, a delightful shop in Portland or beads bought in Prague. Not only will the finished object always remind me of the trip, working on it will, too. Couple that with my Liberty Tana Lawn problem* and the reality that one of the few items sold by their London shop that I can afford are pillow kits....


This pillow lives in my work office. I picked up a kit when I presented a lecture years ago in Cambridge at Anglia Ruskin** and spent an extra day kicking around London. Sometimes, life is pretty sweet.


I finished this little guy over the weekend. He lives on our window seat (for now). It's a souvenir from our February trip to Edinburgh and London that I finally got around to putting together. I can't look at it without remembering the Teen and I having a blast in Liberty; then getting moderately (and amusingly) lost in Soho. Again, life can be sweet.

Tomorrow I'll have a project-to-be that you won't be able to resist.**


* we all have our vices. Some are just more obscure than others.

** Sometimes, I have to brag. It'll pass.

*** The corgi enjoys eating my throw pillows, which is why the blue one is in my campus office where no corgis tread. She hasn't munched one for at least a year but I'm totally ready to move the purple one up on campus, too, if it will extend its life.

****I chose this word carefully

bees’ wreath

I’m still in craft clean-up mode because I’m still waiting for info on a couple of other work-related projects. So .... 

I’ve made a few Paper Source wreaths for our front door and switch ‘em out every change of season. I didn’t have a true summer one, though. Now I do.


The kit itself no longer exists on their website, which isn’t that much of a surprise since I’ve had it for at least a year. Maybe two? No more than three, certainly. 

I like the finished product okay but it seems a little clunky to me. And, just FYI, those honeycomb shapes are a massive PITA. Still, happy to have finished it. 

You’ll get another craft tomorrow. And, likely, on Friday. I’m excited, too.

actual crafting content

Over the holiday break, I started three bead and tassel necklaces from Purl Soho.* Click on that link if you want pics of what the kit and finished product look like. I just snapped some detailed shots, not an overview. Because I'm all artsy and stuff.


It's an easy, zen-like project and satisfying. 



* I have a Purl Soho problem. Something about the orderliness of the kits and the soothing tones of the site pleases me. One of these days, I'll pull the trigger on one of their quilt kits (even though I don't really quilt but love the Liberty fabric soon much.)

not knitting but still craft. sort of.

Not sure exactly how it happened but I managed to scratch some projects of off my long-term project list during the past few weeks. A few are still in progress and/or really not ready for their close-up. Two, however, are.

Like this cute, little pillow:


I picked the kit up during my quickie pilgrimage to Liberty London this summer. I could have spent the better part of the day in there, frankly, and it's best that I didn't because I would like to be able to send the kids to college. Still, a pillow kit was a) affordable and b) packable. And so it went.

The biggest challenge was finding a pillow form to fit said cover. The closest craft store is an hour from here so I dove into the internets. The first pillow form -- the size the kit told me to get -- was waaaaaay too big and is the white blob beneath the finished pillow. It's not worth the hassle of returning it so it looks like there's at least one more pillow in my future.

From this point forward, I would like to be addressed as the Pillow Tsarina, thank you very much.

The other big project was to attempt to make puff pastry from scratch

Yeah. I know. You can buy it. Here, however, I can only get the Pillsbury kind, which tastes like chemicals.* Plus, it's not that hard to make your own, just slightly tedious and a little scary. It's a low-stakes project, too. If I'd screwed it up, I'd be out less than $10 in ingredients. 

I didn't screw it up:


These are the off-cuts, which I baked with cinnamon and sugar.

What I really made was an almond galette a la Mary Berry:


It was good -- but could have been better if I'd rolled the pastry thinner. Next time.

So what have you been working on?


* in my opinion.**

** please do sue me.

mittens + ties

The mittens just keep coming!*

These are from Tracey in Arlington, VA. (Confidential to Tracey: I have Opinions about the Space Before the Thumb Gusset, too.)


These were handed to me at work at The Green Toad on Saturday. The same knitter also made these.


(If you're asking "why mittens?," click here. And thanks.)

Months ago, I linked to a blogger who'd made headbands out of old neckties. My Dad just happened to have some old neckties and sent them to me. I finally got around to doing something with them.


This is only maybe one-third of the bag o'ties. I pulled out all of the stripes to start with, because I love a good stripe. I drafted the Girl to model:




I'm wearing one myself right this second, too. You'll have to take my word for it, though.


* Which is surprising and wonderful and awesome. You guys rock.

the turkey that resisted smoking plus craftiness

Scott* has gone from tech week to tech week to tech week this semester. It's been a bit of a schlep, the sort where you're carrying 6 bags of groceries home while being pelted by hail. But we realized that he'd have a dark day** on Saturday and decided to test run our Thanksgiving turkey plan. He wanted to smoke one this year.*** The bird, however, resisted.


He was prepping the bird, which I had dumped into a cooler full of brine the previous night, when the smell started. Like all experienced cooks, he figured that the trash just needed to be taken out, which he did. But that wasn't it. It wasn't the bird itself, either. Then the garage light switch, which is inexplicably in the kitchen, released its magical blue smoke.


And just like that, there was no power to the garage, which is where the smoker was.

To make a long story short, my husband is MacGyver. The bird got its smoke on, eventually. 


The blond strip is where the bacon was. And, lo, it was good.

I don't know if we'll actually smoke this year's bird -- it was cold enough here that it was difficult to get the smoker up to temperature and keep it there -- but it was a noble experiment where even a failure would be tasty.

On Sunday, since his rehearsal didn't start until the evening, I decided to get my craft on. As you do.

I'd purchased a Paper Source wreath kit from their store in the big city last time I was there. Yes, I am completely unable to resist a paper goods store, especially Paper Source.**** My only goal was to get it done before fall ended. 




Stalwart (and sleepy) companion by my side.


The kit itself couldn't be better made. The only real challenge was finding a bone folder. I know there is one in my house somewhere that was misplaced by a kid, which meant that I had to buy another one, which was hard to find locally and seemed like too small a thing to get online.***** 


The finished product, in situ.


And now, back to tech week. At least there is leftover turkey this time around.


*a.k.a. "The Featureless Saint" or "my husband"

** a.k.a "no rehearsal"

*** I know. Make the jokes now and get them out of your system.

**** I'm trying to convince myself that I don't need gnomes and mushrooms on this year's tree. But their siren call is strong.

***** Locals: Artware has 'em.

I dabble

I sew a little bit. I'd like to sew more - but am hampered by being self-taught.* Thanks to the new fabric shop in town**, I took a lesson last night and made a tote bag.***


The class was taught by Elizabeth (above (I think - and hope someone lets me know if I'm wrong) and Betsy (below). They also have a blog and a business and, incidentally, other jobs. Elizabeth, for instance, is a gynocologist, who told us at least one joke about her field.***



A convenient pin cushion.


My finished bag. 


The lining.

The trick now will be not putting my newly won knowledge into craziness, like sewing slipcovers or shirts or luggage or something. But the totes. Oh, the totes. So quick. So easy. So purty.


* actually, I'm also hampered by living three cats, one dog, and two kids in a relatively small house while also holding down about four jobs plus knitting, reading and running.... let's just stick with "hampered by self-taught" and move on.

** Project Anthologies. The owner Melany is working on the website. A better sense of this cute and lovely shop is here.

*** Word to those I know -- you may all be getting tote bags for Christmas.

**** I can leave it in the comments.

because it seemed like it was time

Given the bedlam of the past few days - quick update: Maddy is back in school, we seem to have won this battle but the war's outcome is still uncertain therefore we are constantly vigilant and interpret every last itch as a Bad Sign - I thought it time to start this:


Supplies and pattern was purchased from the Strawberry Sampler. The floss is WDW Monkey Grass and the fabric is some sort of linen of unknown provenance.


It's a quick stitch, which is exactly what I need right now. 

(An aside: I would like patterns that pay more attention to typography and less attention to Jesus. I can't be the only one.)

Also, McGregor would like me to get all of my stitching crap off of his window seat so that he can lay down. Because he's simply exhausted.


chicken sans head

While I am not doing any holiday knitting, I did decide to make a little something as a gift:


Fabulous, isn't it? Any guesses as to the final design?

In other news, for the last minute holiday shoppers, I'd like to point you to some things I have made that you can also read --

The Shaken or Stirred ebook, which is all about kids and parents and the intersection of the same, is available at Smashwords or Amazon. The cost is a mere $7.99.

For the knitter in your life, Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously makes a great present. For the mentally ill person in your life, Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood could a be strong choice, depending on the flavor of that person's particular illness.

(Barnes and Noble links provided for the sake of convenience. Please support the retailer of your choice.)

And on that self-promotional note, I am off to get the last of the gifts in the mail. This makes me happier than I can begin to describe.