Saturday, June 30, 2007

Big Eyes

(Tiny Dancer, at 9 months)

So when I was growing up, my mother always said that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I did have a tendency to load up my plate with more food than I could possibly eat. (Apparently, in recent years, my stomach has grown to accommodate this habit.) The truth is, this is the case not just in the food department. I really do have "big eyes" - wanting more than I can manage, in almost every arena.

These days, it is especially clear that this is the case when it comes to making stuff. There is simply no way I will ever work my way through my to-knit list and my to-sew list. And that would probably be okay if I could find a way not to make myself crazy in the process.

On Friday morning, we left town for an almost four-week trip. Right now I am writing from our hotel room in Washington, D.C., where we are for a denominational meeting. We were going to get here Thursday night instead of Friday night, but a major issue came up at work that required lots of time and attention and delayed our leaving by a bit. It was really good that we waited, because by Wednesday night, we were both so strung out there was no way we were fit for travel (and we couldn't have gotten everything ready for the trip without an all-nighter; as it was, I was operating on an average of 4.5 hours of sleep a night).

I had big plans of the things I was going to have made for this trip, sewing-wise. I even got some of them done, and will be showing pictures here eventually. But at one point, when it became clear how much we had to do before we left, My Old Man did say that I probably was going to have to stop sewing. I didn't stop, but I did scale back. A bit. Here's the breakdown:

  • beachy wrap skirt (my own version of a Sew What! Skirts skirt)
  • 2 beach hats (Amy Butler Blue Sky Hat)
  • khaki twill shorts (Simplicity City Short pattern 3867)
  • white crinkled shirt (my usual Simplicity Built by Wendy pattern)
  • yet another A-line skirt, black with cherries (this has been done for awhile, but is meant to go with something else I've been making, so I haven't shown it yet)

  • navy eyelet sleeveless top (Simplicity 3867) - I'm really disappointed about this, b/c I had intended this to be a fun July 4 top)
  • white city shorts (Simplicity 3867) - to go with navy top
  • eyemask (from Amy Butler's In Stitches)
  • Tempting - though it is done now (finished on the road), and let's just say I have had a major disappointment with how it has turned out
  • Syrian Lace Shawl (but I gave up hopes of having it done for the trip a long time ago - I basically chose to work on Tempting instead, which I guess I now regret)

Meanwhile, remember that modest little summer to-knit list I posted awhile back? Just had six things on it - two pairs of socks, the Syrian shawl, Tempting, and two Tomtens. (I say "modest" but when I look at that list, I realize I won't get nearly all of it done as it is). Well, I can't stop adding to the list. OF COURSE. Because, you know, I have big eyes. So already, I've added the Swallowtail Shawl (I link to Minty's, because as far as I'm concerned, hers is the definitive version), because when I got this yarn from Nova, I simply had to. But then, I had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, and I'd been eying this yarn of Collette's for awhile, and I could no longer resist:

Merino Supersock Superwash fingering weight yarn, 425 yards
Brown and Pink
(possibly my favorite color combination)
This isn't a great picture. For a better glimpse of the color play, look here.

This is for socks for myself. Given my current lists, I believe they will be done by spring of '08.

There will be much to blog in coming weeks, both craft-wise and life-wise, but I'm unsure what my online access is going to be. I'll write when I can, read blogs when I can, and otherwise enjoy my vacation (we leave from DC on Monday for North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama - Little Buddha has been rehearsing the whole itinerary, while Tiny Dancer keeps asking to go home). Oh, and I don't generally give crafting tips because I consider myself still a novice. But here's a little travel tip for ya: If you are driving 538 miles to Washington, D.C., and looking at the odometer you notice that you only have about 20 miles to go, and you then notice that you are still in Pennsylvania, and you then remember that you have to drive at least 75 miles through Maryland to get to D.C., chances are good you missed your turnoff about 100 miles back and will be getting in approximately 3 hours later than planned. You will, however, have afforded your children the opportunity to drive through 4 tunnels that they otherwise would've missed.
Mathematical equation:
2 grumpy adults + 2 high-energy 3 year-olds x 3 extra hours drive time + 4 tunnels - 1 missed opening conference meeting and registration + 1 mother's high-anxiety = "well, this will be a fun memory someday"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ready for summer

pattern: Simplicity 4149
fabric: turqoise-ish batik, 100% cotton, from JoAnn
notions: none
modifications: none, but I am going to go back and add darts to the back waist to give a slightly more fitted look
verdict: Love it. I struggled with the neckline a bit, but overall it was quick and fun, and I'm thrilled with the outcome. It puts me in mind of the Emerald Coast, which is where I'll be in 10 days.

I wanted the batik striping to go vertically (duh), which meant adjusting my pattern-cutting. This was a first for me. I'm a bit of a rule-follower (which might surprise some people who know me in real life) when it comes to: knitting patterns, sewing patterns, and recipes. So to go completely on my own for the cutting made me a tad anxious. I survived, though, and am pleased with the results.

Also new for me:

Bust darts.
They make for such a great fit, especially with something that could otherwise be boxy. Darts, to me, are like magic. They really change everything about the fit of a garment. Let's here it for darts. Woohoo.

Thanks, y'all, for all the haircut love, and Simplicity 4111 love. Y'all make me feel so good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

She's not.

So last month, I posted about a shirt I made that I feared would cause people to ask the question, "Is she or isn't she?" (pregnant, that is). Nancy, whose version of the shirt (Built by Wendy, Simplicity pattern 4111) was the one that first inspired me to give it ago, agreed that this pattern tends to give that look. She told me that she thought it worked best with really light materials. I also got great advice from Deborah (on Wardrobe Refashion) to look at the finished measurements of patterns, rather than automatically using what the pattern suggests is my size based on my measurements. This is the single most helpful advice I have gotten since someone showed me how to thread my machine. So with Nancy's advice, I chose a gauzy embroidered white cotton fabric. With Deborah's advice, I ended up going down two sizes. The result?

My favorite thing I've ever made.

And look - it doesn't even look like a maternity shirt.

This was honestly the most gratifying project I've done to date. One really awesome part was that several people complimented my top without knowing I had made it. Of course my enthuasiastic response to such compliments was a bit over-the-top. The day after I made it, My Old Man and I took CJ out for her 30th birthday. I got dressed and came downstairs right after our babysitter got there. Here's how the conversation went as soon as she saw me.
babysitter: I love your top!
me: I MADE IT!!!
(twirl around)
babysitter: Really?
babysitter: Wow. Cute buttons.
babysitter: Cute.

I might have used more exclamation points than that.
I guess I'm kind of lucky she didn't leave after that.

Honestly, though, it was really cool to feel like something I made looked just as good as some of my favorite bought things in my closet.

pattern: Simplicity #4111, Built by Wendy
fabric: thin embroidered white cotton, from JoAnn (non-machine washable)
notions: super-cute buttons on clearance at Hancock's
modifications: none
verdict: I think it's obvious. I'm kind of crazy about it.
I did learn, though, why it's important to follow the directions when they say to stitch the armholes and then stitch them again. By the time we got home that night, I had a little hole in one of the underarms.

Isn't this fabric dreamy?

My favorite part.

As you can see, I'm pretty dang happy with it.
(Or am I laughing at the fact that over my head is the caption, in Italian: Chicken! Soup!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Orange you glad I didn't say banana again?

Well, orange you?*

Y'all, I made the most fun skirt I've ever owned.
Just a simple A-line, side-zipped cotton skirt, with a little rickrack trim.
And it makes me fantastically happy.

I found this yummy orange print at JoAnn on clearance for $2/yd.
Two dollars a yard!
I had spied it earlier in the season and thought it was cute, but I didn't think I "needed" it. Once it showed up on the clearance rack, though, I couldn't resist. This little skirt only used about a yard and a half. So I call it my $3 skirt (okay, okay, plus rickrack and a zipper - I guess that makes it my $6 skirt).

pattern: Sew What! Skirts, A-Line Skirt, Fitted Waist
This book doesn't really do "patterns" per se. She teaches you how to draw your own skirt patterns based on your own measurements and specifications. It is an awesome book. I first read about it here. I would highly, highly recommend this book for anyone even thinking about sewing a skirt. It was by far the simplest skirt effort I've made (I much prefer the size-zip to the back-zip of Sew U, though with Sew What! you can choose to do back-zip if you prefer. Basically, you can do anything you want.) I added the rickrack trim that the book shows on the "Singing the Blues" variation. I LOVE rickrack.
fabric: 100% cotton, orange print.
notions: black medium rickrack, black 7" zipper.
modifications: You can't really call anything a modification since the whole book is based on modifying everything to your personal fit and tastes. Still, after all was done, I did have to add darts to fit my waist a little better. In fact, I should probably go back and add a couple more. It's a tad loose (and I can't figure out why, since I thought I measured myself pretty accurately).
verdict: I LOVE this skirt. It is comfortable, cute, and a little bit sassy. I've gotten so many compliments on it that I just want to make more, more, more. The best compliment of all, though, came from My Old Man, when he declared it "perfect." Not bad for a few dollars and a couple of hours of work!

My original plan had been to embellish with an applique on one of the lower corners of the skirt (I've never really done applique). I cut a circle out of black fabric (about the size of a navel orange) and then cut a smaller half circle out of the orange fabric. I was going to applique the half circle on top of the black circle and then applique the black circle onto the skirt. But once My Old Man declared the skirt perfect as it was, I decided to stop there (I was a little nervous about my first applique attempt anyway). Now I'm having visions of maybe making an appliqued totebag with the black and orange fabric. In my head, it looks awesome. We'll see if I actually pull it off. (making totebags is kind of far down on my list right now since I have so many clothing items I want to make first)

Close-up of the rickrack.
I loooovvve rickrack.

So, there ya go. My first summery skirt. Can you tell I'm freakin' proud?

And now for something completely different.
Look what I did.
Or, I should say, look what I had done.
Kind of by accident.

I went in for a pre-vacation trim.
I walked out two hours and a few inches later.

But I kind of like it.

*This is the punchline from the aforementioned knock-knock joke.
Who's there?
Banana who?
Who's there
Banana who?
Who's there?
Banana who?
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say banana again?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Spackle

I know you think that everyone in the blogosphere has already done the 7 Random Things meme. But I haven't. In fact, I didn't even realize I'd been tagged last month until last week (hi, KB!). And even though I suppose this particular meme is so last month, I'm doing it anyway. I only like to do trends when they're not trendy anymore anyway. Besides, I feel the need to blog even though I'm behind with picture-taking (meaning I can't currently blog my most bloggable stuff). So you might as well just have to read more random stuff about me. Because 100 things last summer wasn't enough, right?

You know the "rules." Post 7 random things about yourself and then tag 7 more people to do the same. Funny thing is, nearly every one of these memes I've read, the blogger has declined to tag anyone else (which has made me wonder how this meme has made it around at all). Not me, man. I'll be tagging folks for sure. You know, gotta buck the trend. ;)

Without further ado:
  1. When I was five, my mother taught me how to say the alphabet backwards. I always found this a very clever trick, and have been known to show it off at parties. Because there is nothing cooler at a party than a sober chick saying her alphabet backwards.
  2. Since a very young age, I have been extraordinarily interested in dreams. In 8th grade, I did an independent study project on dreams. It was during my research that I discovered some books in the library by a guy named Freud (which I first thought was pronounced "Frood.") As a part of my project presentation, I enlisted three students to act out the id, ego, and super-ego, so as to demonstrate to the class Freud's theory about the subconscious. The teacher was duly impressed. (If only I had also said my alphabet backwards for her!) I still like to analyze and sometimes record my dreams, and they sometimes help me figure out important stuff going on in my psyche. I have occasionally dreamed of things happening before they actually did.
  3. I am a little bit addicted to reading about true crime, especially of the unsolved and/or serial killer variety. I recently found a first-rate true crime blog that is stoking the addiction.
  4. I only have 27 teeth; this is not the result of having had any adult teeth pulled. I have never had lateral incisors (the ones on either side of the top front teeth), one of my 12 year molars, or any wisdom teeth. According to x-rays, I will never get wisdom teeth in (they are not in my head). This makes me highly evolved, right?
  5. I own all 10 seasons of Friends on DVD. And I'm not as embarrassed as I should be about that.
  6. I ran cross country and track (my event was the 2-mile) in high school, but then stopped running after a knee injury my first year in college (side-tackled by a guy in a "friendly" game of Capture the Flag). After an 18-year hiatus (that's half my life now!), I just took up running again last week (thank you, Couch to 5K). I have been enjoying it far more than I remembered - actually finding myself smiling as I run. It has also provided me with some major flashes of deja vu - the way the wind feels, the way my shadow looks, the way the air smells early in the morning. It just brings it all back. I half expect to end the run by meeting up with my trackstar boyfriend and my galpal running partner to spend an afternoon eating chips, listening to the Pet Shop Boys, and watching Evil Dead 2 on video.
  7. In college, I briefly sang and played guitar in a band called Random Spackle. The other singer/guitarist and I named the group by putting together our two favorite words. Mine was random and his was spackle. Hence the title not only of our band, but this post.
So many things you never knew you didn't know about me and now probably wish you still didn't. Now it's time to hear seven more from seven more. I'm going to tag dickie and Amber first, in hopes of luring them back into posting. Miss you! I was going to do the same with Becky, but she started posting again without the lure. Still, Becky, you're tagged! Next I'm tagging a couple of other MDC Knitters Sarah and Melinda. And to round things out, a couple of non-knitters (or, in my optimism I will call them not-yet-knitters), and people I actually know in real life: Sarah and CJ. CJ has just dipped her toe into blogworld with a biking blog, so stop by and give her a little shout-out. Of course she's at the beach right now, lucky thing, but stop by and say hey anyway.

ETA: I'm a total dork. Melinda did this meme just a few weeks ago; I just forgot. So I'm hitting someone else with this meme - someone I meant to include in the first place but, again, I forgot. I guess I'm getting old. Anyway, I'm tagging Lauren, another blogger I know in real life.

One last random thing, because I'm on a roll now. And because it will set up my next post. My favorite form of humor is repetition. A perfect example of that is my favorite knock-knock joke as a kid:
Who's there?
Banana who?
Who's there
Banana who?
Who's there?
Banana who?
Who's there?
Orange who?.....

Stay tuned for the answer to this and other pressing questions....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I had no idea.

Seriously. I really didn't know how much fun it would be to wind my own wool with my new wool winder. Positively addictive. In fact, after I wound my first one, I simply had to do another, and then another. I found myself frantically scrounging through my stash in search of any yarn that needed to be wound. My boys both wanted turns winding, which they did get - briefly. But soon enough, I was (gently) shoving them out of my way, insisting, "Mommy's turn! MOMMY'S TURN!!"

Nevertheless, the boys enjoyed the spectacle, even though they didn't get to play with my new toy very much. When I first opened up the swift, they called out "Umbrella!" which I thought was very brilliant of them. (For awhile I was trying to teach them to call umbrellas "umbershoots" but it didn't really take, I guess.) When I finished my first winding experience, I pulled the yarn off the bobbin and showed the boys my yarn cake. When they heard me call it that, they insisted I put a candle it. Of course I obliged. It was a festive afternoon.

My Old Man really did right with this gift. I am possibly a little difficult for him to buy presents for. I have very specific desires, and I make a detailed list (with URLs and Amazon wish lists and everything) for him. Which sort of takes the element of surprise away. But I never asked for a swift and winder because: 1) they are so expensive, 2) I thought I just didn't need more crap to store, and 3) I thought I could just keep making do with winding by hand. But once or maybe twice My Old Man heard me say, while I wound by hand, "I could do this a lot faster with a winder." It wasn't a hint, honestly. It was just me complaining while taking a whole hour to wind a single hank of yarn.

So right before my birthday, he snuck off to my (awesome) LYS and inquired about such a contraption. It ended up being more involved - and more expensive - than he had imagined, and at one point he started to just give up, saying he wasn't sure it was something I really wanted. But the (brilliant) LYS salesclerk asked him, "How much does your wife knit?" "Oh, she knits a LOT. It's like her thing. She even has a blog where she writes about her knitting and shows pictures of what she's made." The (fabulous) salesclerk (wisely) advised, "If she has a knitting blog than she definitely needs a swift and winder." So he bought it. When I opened that surprise, I think he got the single best gift reaction that I have ever given (and as you might have noticed from yesterday's post, I generally react very positively to good gifts!). It was a happy moment.

So anyway, the yarn in the picture above is for my Sockapalooza socks. It is my first-ever Etsy purchase. 100% Blue-Faced Leicester Superwash wool, hand-dyed by Collette. The color is Stellars Jay, inspired by a bird Collette sees a lot when her family camps in the mountains. Isn't it gorgeous? I thought this color would go great with jeans. I am still trying to decide on a pattern. My first pair of Monkeys only whet my appetite to make more of those, so I may well decide to go with that (I think that pattern would be a great match for this yarn). But I'm also spending time with Favorite Socks to see what else might inspire me. I suppose I ought to cast on sooner than later, given how long it is currently taking me to finish knitted objects. And now that I know how much fun it is to wind yarn, I just have one more thing competing for my attention....

Monday, June 11, 2007


Nova rocks, y'all. A couple of weeks ago, she held a little contest - the question was which anniversary she and her husband were celebrating. Well, I guessed wrong. But she sent me a gift anyway, because my comment made her laugh. How freakin' cool is that? Not to mention how generous. Really, how many times in your life do you get something nice just because you made someone giggle? When I opened my mail on Saturday, this is what I found:

Dude. I had to snap this pic quick because I knew about half this stuff would be gone before the day we out! In addition to a beautiful little handwritten card, Nova sent me some yummy taffy (called Dewar's, which led My Old Man to believe it might have Scotch in it, which it thankfully did not, not that My Old Man got to try and piece and see), a Crunch bar (! I love Crunch!), and Green & Black Organic Chocolate bar - dark chocolate with orange (!! I LOVE dark chocolate with orange!!!), and - the one thing that won't be gone by the end of today - a skein of Misti Alpaca laceweight yarn in the most delicious red color.

Isn't it beautiful? I think it wants to be the Swallowtail Shawl (click here to see Minty's gorgeous version). I think something just got added to my summer knit list! I'm a little obsessed with lace right now, so this is really perfect timing.

Thank you, Nova!!!! You are so generous and kind! (and I'm not the only one she was generous with - check out Rachel's equally extravagant gifts, also for making Nova laugh) I have to say that being the recipient of such a great package makes me inclined to do a contest of my own, and soon. I'd already been pondering it, but now I'm really wanting to spread the love. Stay tuned....

I know that last time I promised another sewing FO would be right up (I know you've been holding your breath all weekend), but I haven't gotten just the right shot of it yet. In the meantime, I finished two more sewing projects. Perhaps I'm a tad manic with the machine. (and yet I still can't keep up with all my ideas and goals.) But I'm trying to crank out several pieces of clothing for my summer vacation, which starts at the end of the month (plus I know that once I leave, it will be a few weeks before I get to use my machine again). I signed up for another 6 months (6 months!!) of the Wardrobe Refashion, so if it's not shoes, undergarments, or a bathing suit, I'm having to make it myself!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Where the Mojo Goes

There are, I suppose, a number of reasons I have struggled with my knitting mojo lately. But one of those reasons is this: I've got Sewing Mojo going all over the place. I haven't actually made anything in the last 10 days or so (Dude. I've had birthdays to celebrate left and right. Thanks for all the kind wishes for us all!). But before the birthday-induced hiatus, I was banging out projects one after another.

First up, another Built by Wendy top.

Easy as (Cherry) Pie
pattern: Built by Wendy, Simplicity 3835, top
fabric: cheapy cotton cherry print from JoAnn
I haven't mentioned this before, but I am crazy about cherries on anything, and have actually begun to accumulate quite a stash of cherry fabric
mods: none
verdict: This is the simplest thing I have sewn so far. Elastic neck and sleeves means no facing, no fuss (I don't know why, but for some reason doing interfacings always stresses me out. I have a complicated relationships with fusible web.) Thanks to some advice I got online - to look at the finished measurements of the pattern, as opposed to judging size by my body measurements - this thing actually fits! I made it two sizes smaller than I have been going with.
The only thing is, when I saw this top in some candid photos and video, I realized that it isn't exactly flattering. It's sort of blousy in a sort of chubby-making way. That's a bummer because:

I had barely gotten the first one hemmed before I cast on, er, um, cut out fabric for a second one. This one actually doesn't blouse quite as much because the fabric is an eyelet that's maybe a tiny bit lighter and more sheer. It's weird - I don't really wear yellow, but I was drawn to this cheery fabric. Turns out, that when it comes to fabric, I'm buying all kinds of things I don't usually wear. Like this:

It was just so spring-ish and happy, I had to buy it.
I turned it into these:

Garden Pants
pattern: Simplicity 4023 (an It's So Easy pattern - and it is)
fabric: cotton fabric, JoAnn
mods: none, but when I make these again I'll be changing the waist
verdict: mixed. I love the wide legs on these. The waist, though, is not quite right for me. They are low, low riders (like, show-my-tattoo low), and so not what I'm used to wearing. Also, the waist is a drawstring-elastic combo - I wish I'd used more elastic than the pattern calls for. They sort of feel like they are falling down all the time, even when they are not. When I make them again, I'll use more elastic and lengthen the waist. This is a super-easy, really cute pattern that I think I will be using again and again.

I have one more fun thing to show, but it deserves a post of its own, so maybe tomorrow. I have to say that having Sewing Mojo really does adversely affect the Knitting Mojo, and not just because sewing takes away time from knitting. It's because in comparison to knitting, I can get so much more done sewing, which makes me more inclined to sew when I have a little time. I have so little crafting time these days, and sewing gives a huge bang for the buck, so to speak. These three items took me two afternoons and maybe a little bit of nighttime fabric-cutting. I know that knitting is not about Getting Things Done - in fact, for me, it's the opposite, it's definitely a way to slow down and forget about the To-Do List for a bit. Still, when I've got a little bit of free time, that sewing machine beckons: "Look at all that you could Get Done!"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

How to Have a Happy Birthday: Lessons Learned Upon Turning 36

1. Get up a couple of hours before everyone else, so that you can start the day - and the year - on your own terms, and quietly.

2. Stop and smell the flowers -
especially if they are sweet peonies from a friend's garden

3. Give good hints.

4. But be open to surprises!

5. Let yourself be serenaded.

6. Review your year, and see how it compared to your hopes.

7. Look forward to another trip 'round the sun!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

How to Have a Happy Birthday - Lessons I've Learned from two 3 year-olds

1. Greet the day by announcing, "Party time!" and "Where's my cake?"

2. Eat early and often

3. Let people celebrate you

4. Keep your eyes on your cake (serious focus required here).
If necessary, stake your claim by sticking your hand in the frosting first.

5. Act appropriately thrilled when opening gifts.

6. Party yourself under the table.

7. Say lots of thank-yous.

Thank you for all the kind wishes for my two little boys. It was a great day for them, and for me (though my old body is still recovering from the chaos of celebrating). I read the boys' birthday post* to them, and when I was done, Little Buddha finished it off by saying, "And they lived happily ever after." I hope so!

*[In that post, written in the early morning hours without enough java, I failed to say where I got the poem "Little Boys of Three." A 91 year-old saint in my church mailed it to me last week, with a note saying she had found it while cleaning out her things. She didn't know who had written it (I did a Google search and think it may be by a poet from the 1930s/40s named Monty Blandford), but she had held onto it since her own boys were three, and after all these decades passed it on to me.]