Thursday, December 30, 2004

Me and my big mouth

My husband and I have been ripping out the beige-ish carpet in our house room-by-room and refinishing the hardwood underneath. Well, we've refinished the hardwood in the dining room and hallway so far - in the other rooms the hardwood is bare but not refinished. Someday. Well, that day is nearly here for the computer/sewing room. This was the last room that had carpet over hardwood. The goal for our Christmas break was simply to remove the carpet, then I suggested that we might as well redo the room. I thought just paint the walls and rent a sander from the big orange DIY store to sand the floors and then stain and seal them. That alone would be a big job. "But what about lighting", asked my husband. "Do we want to insulate the back wall?" he asked. Which means tearing down and replacing drywall, but then that wall would be smooth and the other's would have knockdown texture on them. Redo all the walls? Major, major mess not to mention that this project would then stretch beyond this week. It's back to work next Monday. So we decided to leave the walls alone. The ceiling, with it's ugly popcorn, will also stay - well, almost intact. We decided to put in recessed lights. Last evening we cut six 5 inch holes in the ceiling which meant a shower of messy rock wool insulation. Messy. But we're making progress. The wiring for the lights is almost complete. Then we can clean and paint the ceiling (white) and the walls (a dark purplish blue called Mysteria). Then we can get to the floor.

Meanwhile, all crafting/sewing/knitting projects are on hold. So much for finishing my grandniece's baby blanket any time soon! The guest room is piled high with supplies, sewing books, fabrics, and other assorted project goodies. I have so much stuff! We both agreed that finishing the room is a good move and in doing so we will revisit and hopefully thin out our stuff. My husband with his computer stuff, me with my craft stuff and both of us with the large volume of paperwork that just somehow accumulates over time. But I don't know how much of my craft stuff I will part with. When I was moving the stuff to the other room it brought a smile to my face to imagine the projects I'd make with it. There might be one or two books I could get rid of.

I will post pictures when I figure out how to do it from this laptop.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Like making brownies from a box mix

I finished a holiday project!

But I have to admit that this was from a pre-printed fabric panel. All of the pieces were printed on the fabric and I only had to cut them out, sew them together and stuff with fiberfill. I think it's a little like making brownies from a box mix but given that I don't have the time nor talent to do something like this on my own, I'm just glad to have finished the project. I've had this printed panel and another one for a snowman (that'll be next year's project) for a number of years.

Not spending so much time in the sewing room gave me time to bake and cook. I made this lemon meringue pie on Saturday and I made Norwegian Pancakes on Sunday. This is the recipe my grandmother made for my Norwegian-born grandfather. I like them best with butter and sugar...mmmmmm:

Norwegian Pancakes:

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 cups milk
6 eggs

Mix milk and eggs (one at a time) into flour. Mix lightly with mixer on slow speed. Spoon into pan to coat bottom. Serve with butter and sugar, syrup or jam.

Christmas was nice - just my husband, me and the four cats, who loved their cat toys. I'm finding them all over the house.

Santa was pretty good to me too, but I had to help him pick these out at the quilt store a few weeks ago:

I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet. I just liked 'em. The only other craft-related item I received this year was Stitch and Bitch Nation.

Oh and my nephew's pants fit! Yippee! I thought for sure the size medium would be too small but he assured me on the phone that they fit and that he loves them. Score! My mom liked her scarf but she's come down with a really awful head cold and couldn't celebrate the holidays with my sister as planned. She could barely talk on the phone. She went to the doctor today and I'm hoping and praying that it is just a cold and doesn't develop into pnemonia. She's 74 and lives 3000 miles from me so all I can do is worry...and pray.

And I will also say a prayer for the victims of the tsunamis. Just horrible.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Santa Baby

Do you think I liked Santa?

And now for some other, long-promised photos:

Here are some cat toys I made last week:

The Eros scarf:

The kitty bed, complete with kitty model.

And just to show you how much he likes it, here's another picture:

The Patons Devine scarf:

And finally, my first progress:

I currently working on a second cat bed. I ran out of yarn with just five (5 !!!) rows to go. Now this is actually a bit of yarn because the bed is 28 inches in diameter. I guess I could frog back five rows and just make it with shorter sides, but I really don't want to. Unfortunately Michaels is out of the yarn. I've been to three Michaels stores and none had it in stock. Their shelves are really bare! Has there suddenly been a knitting frenzy? The latest kitty bed is in charcoal gray and cream. I found some light gray and I may use that for the last few rows.

I also bought some, ahem, fabric. But not fashion fabric, so I'm not including it in my 2004 fabric tally. I bought some fat quarters for quilting or craft projects. Actually, Santa talked me into it. I'm going to put them in my stocking. I've been soooo good these last few months and this is despite some great sales at,, and I looked, I even clicked and filled a cart, but I didn't purchase. Visions of the many (many!) plastic bins of fabric I have danced in my head.

I haven't been really able to sew during my time off from work, except for the cat toys. We're ripping out the carpet in the sewing/computer room so things are a bit of a mess right now. Plus there's been Christmas decorating and cookie-baking to do. We were hoping to tile the kitchen backsplash next week but the tile we ordered won't be in until January. I spent (a lot) of time working on the tile plan so we only just were able to order it yesterday. But that's a start!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas cards and presents - check

The cards are in the mail and the packages are enroute and I feel good! I even made a batch of cookies in time to include some in the packages. Whew! This year I was only able to make two gifts. I have many more handmade gifts in mind but in order to stay sane at this time of year (and get them shipped in time), I have to make some limits. It's hard because I'd love to make things for everyone. But I also need to sleep and go to work. Every year I vow to work on gifts throughout the year and I actually did start an intended Chrismas gift last spring. Unfortunately that was the only time I worked on it so it is not one of the two gifts this year.

I did finish my nephew's baseball-print flannel pants but I really think they will be too small for him. I wrapped them up anyway and enclosed a note with an offer to make him a pair that will fit (and in his choice of print in case he thinks the baseballs were loony).

I even finished shopping for my husband! Most of his gifts were à la but I did buy him a few other gifts when I was out shopping last week. I may venture out again and pick up a few small things to put in our stockings. We're going out at lunch today to buy my gift. Of course I would rather have been surprised by it on Christmas morning but there is no subtle hinting with him. He's too afraid of buying me the wrong thing - or worse, getting his feelings hurt by buying me something I don't like.

I guess technically my gift-sewing is not over. I want to make some catnip toys for the cats. I saw some toys at the pet store recently that made me want to run to the sewing machine. Imagine this if you can: take two pieces of felt, sandwich with small lump of catnip, stitch around said lump (preferably in the shape of rectangle, circle, fish, etc), trim with pinking shears. Or pay $3.49 at your local pet store. That is about the extent of it. I could glue wiggly eyes or felt shapes on the outside but they'd probably just get pulled off and eaten. I may make mine with corded tails since my cats love string. And they'd really like it if I used bright pink or red felt. It seems they respond best to those colors.

Now that the Christmas gifts and cards are done (again - YAY!), I may actually be able to make some of the Christmas decorations I never seem to get to. My "rule" for sewing/knitting/crafting at this time of year is to first make the presents that must be shipped, then make the presents that are local, and then work on decorations and stuff for me.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I still have to finish that baby blanket I started for my grand niece. And there is the faux fur throw that I was going to make for my husband and started but never finished. It's boxed up somewhere. And there are more cookies I must make. I have a tradition of making the cookies of my childhood and some of them are rather labor intensive. Call me crazy.

There will be pictures of the aforementioned gifts. I just have to download the pics off the camera and get them on the internet.

I started knitting another kitty bed. It's the perfect TV-watching, multi-tasking project. I'm almost half-way through already! Pictures of the first one are also on the camera. At least two of our cats really like it. The one cat gets very jealous if he catches the other cat sleeping in his bed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I knew this. It's refreshing to see a resurgence in crafting, no matter how bizarre. I grew up in a crafting family so I didn't think it was odd that my mother made things from "Pack-O-Fun" magazine.

Popcicle sticks, oatmeal containers, construction paper, acrylic yarn - these were our crafting materials. I was forever making things for my Barbie dolls. I made food out of Play-Doh. I taped a small square cut from a plastic bag onto the side of a gift box and inserted pictures cut from magazines and Voila!, a "TV" for my dolls. We longed for carpet in our bedroom but my mother said no because we were forever cutting snips of paper and dropping bits of glue. We had this "Make-It" book that gave us hours of pleasure just paging through it.

There were instructions for making walking stilts out of coffee cans, puppets out of washcloths, a stick horse out of a sock, and all kinds of wonderful things for which we never had the right materials but we dreamed of making.

Crafting has only recently become hip. In the preppy-suburban environment I grew up in, it was not considered cool to make things. The belief was that you made things because you were too poor to buy them, not because you wanted to be creative. Knitting, quilting, and sewing were considered pastimes for back-to-nature hippies and grandmothers. The fabric and yarn selections were pathetic and consisted mainly of synthetics. Paints were for artists or kindergarteners.

There was no internet in the 70's over which one could communicate with other crafters and share creations. You Gen-X-crafters (and Gen-Y and Gen-Z, if there is one) don't know how good you have it! Go make stuff!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Sewing Project Progress

I put my knitting needles down and ventured into the sewing room to tackle some projects that have been languishing. Here's what I worked on:
  • Finished basting the kitchen curtain panels together and serged the seams. Left to do: hems and top casing.

  • Cut out flannel blanket and fleece backing for grandniece. Embroidered her name and birth info on it. Left to do: sew on binding and maybe do some sort of quilting to hold it all together.

  • Cut out and sewed up flannel sleep pants that are a gift for my 18-year old nephew. He's a big-time baseball player, so when I saw this baseball flannel I immediately thought of him.

    I sure hope they fit. My recollection is that he's tall and thin, yet athletic. I used Kwik Sew 2687, which I've used to make sleep pants for my husband. I made my husband's in large and they are a bit big, so I cut a medium for my nephew and added 1 inch in length. I guess if they don't fit, my nephew can give them to his girlfriend and I'll make him a new pair. Left to do: elastic casing and hem

I also did some knitting and finished the Christmas gift scarf. Now I just have to figure out how to block it. I saw someone on another knitting site pinned her knitted pieces to some pink styrofoam slabs I've seen at Home Depot. It makes sense to me to use it for blocking. It's about an inch thick and is used in construction, so it's cheap. I've never blocked anything except the kitty bed and that wasn't pinned flat. But this scarf could use some blocking I think. I will have to consult one of my many knitting books or the internet. I'm sure I'll find some info there!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I ♥ SF

We had a wonderful time in San Francisco. We drove up and got there late in the afternoon on Friday. We checked into our beautiful hotel and then trekked down the few blocks to Union Square. It was bustling with people who were shopping or waiting for the tree lighting. We walked around a bit and then staked out a spot on the sidewalk across from the square to see the huge tree turn from green to a mass of twinkling white lights. I felt 5 years old again. We spent the rest of the evening walking around and did a little shopping. There were kittens in the windows at Macy's:

How much is that kitten in the window? Posted by Hello

The Sony Metreon was an asault on the senses and made us feel very old indeed. The bookstores were more our style. One of our purchases was this book on historic walks. We did three walks on Saturday and three more on Sunday. Whew, did I get tired! The hills were steep, the skies were blue, the wind was brisk, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We fantasized about buying a condo that we could escape to on the weekends to enjoy the city life, but then we looked at the real estate listings. We're better off booking a hotel room each time we want to go.

I did not make it to Britex or Artfibers. So sad. They're both near Union Square and only a few blocks away from each other too. My husband did offer to go do something else while I shopped, but I would have felt rushed and I also didn't want to miss out on spending time with him exploring the city. I've been to Britex before and really don't need fabric and although I've not been to Artfibers, I don't really need yarn either. I'd rather go up there on my own or with another sewing/knitting friend.

I felted the kitty bed and it's currently drying over a towel-encircled Tupperware serving platter. The smell of wet wool is at the same time nice and repulsive to me. I don't know why that is. I hope the cats like the bed and I really hope it doesn't get peed on...again. I left it out, unfelted, while we were gone and it was christened. I hope it was out of spite because we left them alone over the weekend and not a sign of territorial wars.

I'm continuing to work on the Patons Devine scarf. It's getting longer, but slowly.

Although I brought my newly knitted hat to SF, I didn't wear it, so no touristy picture of me in the hat. However the weather here has turned cold and I wore both the hat and a scarf I knit last year. A little overboard since cold here is not all that cold, but the thermometer did read 29 this morning, which is about as cold as it gets. Today it might not make it out of the 50's - oh my! We covered our Jade plants and brought in the Bird of Paradise but we forgot about our citrus. Oh well. Frozen lemons and limes anyone?

Friday, November 26, 2004

A project finished

I reknit the hat I frogged the other day and it turned out great. I came very close to running out of yarn. Very close. No, no pictures. Maybe I'll get one of me wearing my fab hat this weekend on our mini-vacation to SF. I was surprised at how quickly it went, but then I did nothing but knit and watch TV this weekend. I was on a mission when I realized I could get it done and be able to wear it this weekend. It was simple to knit - cast on 56 stitches, knit for 7", and decrease regularly until you're done. I won't give you the details on the decreasing because this is the knitting store's pattern. The hat is super soft in the Plymouth Sinsation yarn. I chose black and it looks rather curly lambskin-ish.

I also did I tiny bit of sewing. I basted two more panels of the kitchen curtains together. Woohoo! Such progress. I'm torn between working on the curtains, since they're almost all ready to stitch and I've been putting them off for so long, and working on a Christmas gift. The Christmas gift should be the first priority, especially since I have to ship it, but the serger is all set up for the kitchen curtains and despite being the easiest serger on the earth to thread (a jet-air Babylock), I'm lazy.

And about that mini-vacation to SF. Britex is having a sale. I will have to stop by. I just have to. We'll be near Union Square anyway. I've been soooo good at my fabric diet, maybe I'll allow myself one piece. And I want to check out Artfibers, which I hear is a great yarn store. They have their own custom-dyed yarns. But I don't want to dominate the trip with visits to fabric and yarn stores, my husband would certainly not be happy. This is his vacation too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Too much of a good thing

I apologize to anyone checking back over the last few weeks to see if I've posted anything new. I haven't posted due to a combination of procrastination, the elation at being maybe pregnant for a day (a very faint line on the test) and then the sadness when it turned out not to be, having a terrible cold for a week (achoo!), and well, just procrastinating again.

I have been knitting...a lot...and now I think I have carpal tunnel in my left wrist. I think I will have to force myself to switch to some sewing projects for a while.

Here's what I've been working on. I really wanted to take pictures, but you know there's that procrastination thing I have a problem with.

  • Hat in black, Plymouth Sinsation yarn. I "finished" it and then decided I wanted a longer brim. My attempts to frog it back to the brim failed because due to the black yarn it was impossible to see the stitches I needed to pick up. I tried just pulling the yarn out and reinserting the needles but somehow I wound up with one extra stitch and after knitting a few rows discovered a hole. Rats. I tried again to pick up stitches and it just didn't work, so I frogged the whole thing. It was really easy to knit so I'm not too upset.

  • Scarf in burgandy Plymouth Eros. Done.

  • Scarf in brown Plymouth Eros. About 1/3 done. Decided to put it on hold while I work on other things.

  • Kitty bed in brown and cream Patons Up Country wool. It's done and waiting to be felted. And waiting and waiting and waiting.

  • Scarf in blue Patons Devine. I'm 1/2 way through. This is a gift and the project that's probably responsible for my wrist hurting.

  • Socks in brown and blue Lion Brand Magic Stripes. I'm about 1/2 way through the first sock. These are my first socks. I'm using the sock pattern from the label and I'm not all that happy with it. When I got to the heel I had some trouble understanding the instructions but the internet came to the rescue. I honestly did not understand when the instructions said "turn" but I hadn't finished the row. Thankfully someone, somewhere wrote in plain English that you just do as they say. Turn the work around and continue knitting. Those unknit stitches are eventually picked up. Now that I see how it makes the heel, it makes sense! I also had trouble with the heel flap. The instructions said to knit for 2 1/4" (28 rows) so I knit until the heel flap was 2 1/4". Then it expected me to have the right number of stitches to pick up on the side. Hmmm. I frogged it and started over, this time counting the rows. But then I seemed to come up a few stitches short when I went to pick up the stitches on the edge. Picking up stitches is also a new thing for me. At any rate, the socks are going to sit awhile until Christmas gifts are done and my wrist feels better.
Lots of projects!

My kitchen curtains are still in pieces on the cutting table. The serger is all set up and ready to join the panels. I only have one basted together but procrastination and perfectionism is holding me up. I want to join the panels so the pattern matches and I'm not sure I can be so accurate on the serger.

And in the midst of it all, we need to tear out the carpet in the sewing/computer room, which means moving some furniture and lots and lots of stuff. We've been slowly removing the carpet in hallway and bedrooms to reveal the hardwood floors. Partly because we like the look of hardwood and partly because we have a cat who thinks the world is her litterbox - or at least the carpet is. Eventually we'll refinish the floors. We did refinish the dining room and hallway floors and they turned out very nice. The sewing/computer room is the last room with carpet. Well, the family room is carpeted but alas, no hardwood underneath, just yucky linoleum tile. We'd like to put hardwood in there as well. But the issue with the sewing/computer room is STUFF! There are two IKEA desks, a large IKEA bookshelf, my sewing machine cabinet, and a large woodworking bench that I use for all my crafting stuff (it was quite a find at Costco - solid wood, lots of full-slide drawers and even a built-in vise!). Then there's also my dress form, a Rowenta steamer, and lots of sewing stuff on the floor like pattern boxes and bins of fabric. The room is just a bedroom, so you can imagine how full it is! Fortunately we have another bedroom, where my cutting table is semi-permanentely setup, where we'll be able to stash stuff as we tear up the carpet. And since we're not refinishing the floors at this time, we won't have to move everything out, just move it aside to get to the carpet.

But this is not a job for this weekend. We're planning on taking a mini-vacation. Hotel, restaurants, shopping, siteseeing. It'll be fun. And I don't think I'll bring my knitting. Well, maybe. We're thinking of taking the train instead of driving.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

mmmm, cupcakes Posted by Hello

And I also present to you, Felix the ferocious yarn-eater.

That yarn looks sooooo good! Posted by Hello

My yarn! Posted by Hello

Friday, October 29, 2004


"I'll just glue it. I don't know how to sew"

Heard in (the very very very long) checkout line at Hancock Fabrics. I doubt the two guys holding the stack of multiple colors of felt yardage (and who look like they could play for the 49ers) sew either. Or the guy on the phone (to his wife, I presume) asking if he should get the pattern even though it's a children's pattern and not an adult's. And the guy holding two skeins of thick, brown yarn (that looked kinda like hair) was probably not going to knit it.

Yes, it's that time of year again. At least all the once-a-year Halloween costume "sewers" bring in revenue for our fabric stores. That's a good thing.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Cats + Yarn + Leather Couch = AAAAARGH!

My night started out just fine. My husband and I went to the nice downtown area after work so I could stop at the LYS and get some size 13 dpns. Quite pricey little things. I couldn't find any cheapie ones in that size at the craft or fabric stores so nice bamboo ones it is.

Once home, I immediately cast on for the kitty bed and was pleased at how quickly it went. However, it was a constant battle to keep the cats out of my work. The female queen kitty isn't the problem - she just watches intently and sometimes decides that when I knit it's a good time to sit on my lap. The male tuxedo-cat is the problem. He wants to attack the yarn. I really should take a picture of him. He looks possessed. During one of the times I pushed him away with my foot, he grabbed onto the arm of the leather couch and...oh, I'm going to be sick. It's not just a scratch. It can't be buffed out with leather conditioner like the half million other scratches he leaves when he races around during kitty-krazies. It didn't go all the way through but it's definitely cut. About 1 1/2 inches long. My husband says leather repair is expensive (can't be as expensive as this sectional couch was). I searched on the internet this morning and learned some stuff. Mainly that the DIY leather repair stuff doesn't really work. A professional can fix it but when I read that it involves sandpaper I quickly knew this was not something I would attempt on my own. A professional can and will fix it...eventually. Since the scratch isn't bad and isn't on a cushion that would get stressed (but could be taken to a shop for repair), I will leave it alone. I'm sure there will be more and we might as well wait to call in the professionals.

I try to keep the cats' claws trimmed but don't always remember to do it. Like closing the barn door after the horse gets out, after the couch got clawed I got out the cats' nail clippers and trimmed some nails. The tuxedo-cat protested and bit me through my sweatshirt sleeve, leaving a nasty bruise.

As for the kitty bed, I'm about half-way through. I'd like to think that the cats' fascination with it is because they somehow know I'm knitting for them. But they've also responded this way to the scarves and hat I recently worked on. And they know where I keep the yarn.

Oh, and I must add that although the bamboo dpns (Crystal Palace) were expensive, they're worth it. I noticed a big difference when I switched to the Clover bamboo circular needles - nice, but not nearly as nice as the Crystal Palace.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Some pictures I found...

Here's a picture of one of my great knitting projects. Yeah, impressive, isn't it? I also hand stitched the edge of the fleece blanket.

Booties Posted by Hello

And here's a picture of me knitting. It was about 4:30 am and I was "babysitting" a 250 million dollar satellite. Yes...really. It wasn't a very intense job, hence the ability to knit 'n sit. I was there in case something went wrong during the initial two weeks after launch. Nothing did. And that was a good thing for both my knitting and for you. You probably see the pictures from this satellite when you watch the weather forecast on the evening news.

Night shift Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

No pics

Ok, so I’m not a very consistent blogger. And I’m even worse at posting pictures. I didn’t even take a picture of the scarf like I said I would. But my knitting streak is going strong and someday I’ll post some pictures of my accomplishments.

I finished my hat and promptly decided to rip back and make it longer. I have extra yarn, so I might as well.

I made some stitch markers because I just couldn’t bring myself to buy and use the boring plastic rings. I bought 16mm metal split rings from the jewelry making section of my LCS. I already have plenty of beads and wire in my craft stash. They’re fun to make and it’s great to use up those odd beads.

Encouraged by the knitting in the round for the hat, I decided to make a cat bed. Since the bed is to be felted, I needed to use 100% wool but I wanted to do this on the cheap. The last cat bed I made was peed on repeatedly until it had to be thrown away. Well, it probably had something to do with the fact that our elderly cat took his last breaths in it. Maybe they knew this or maybe it smelled odd to them (despite machine washing it). The little kitten sitting in the offending cat bed right after I made it is Abby - a formal feral whom we adopted at 5 months. She's still afraid of humans, even two years later.
If I make another of these cat beds, I will make the fabric separate from the foam so it can be washed easier or the foam can be replaced. But these knitted beds look cozy and my cats have been telling me they want a soft place to sleep. I was able to find 100% wool chunky yarn at my LCS – the only stuff they had that wasn’t mixed with acrylic or nylon. I bought enough (probably more than enough) to make three beds. We have four cats – the fourth bed might be a mish-mosh of the leftovers. When I got home I realized that although I had the right circular needles (13), I needed dpns to start and the only large dpns I have are size 10. I tried knitting with these and worked my way up to about a 5” diameter circle before deciding that it was just too tight and it would look bad to transfer to the 13 circulars. So I frogged it, much to the astonishment of my husband who saw that I was knitting during the whole time we were watching the Office special on TV. C'est la vie! So today I might go out for break to my LYS and buy the right dpns and start over tonight. By the way, this was the first time I ever knitted with dpns – it was a bit awkward at first, but I think I got the hang of it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Round and round I go, but to the left

Who knew knitting in the round would be so fun? I sure didn't. I started knitting my Sinsation-yarn hat and I can't stop. I honestly have never knitted in the round and I've only knitted with my circular needles like you knit with straight ones. The circular needles are very convenient to use on the airplane - no accidental (well at least very minimal) bumping of your neighbor or worries about getting smacked by the beverage cart. The hat pattern is just a simple one that Fengari gave me when I bought the yarn. The Sinsation yarn is oh, so soft but at $11/ball, it wasn't in my novice knitting budget to make anything larger than a hat, which still takes two balls because there are only 38 yards per 50 gram ball. I just started on the second ball. A few more rows and I can begin to decrease. I'm going to need to refer to my books to see how to decrease properly. Do I just pick up two stitches and knit them together? I can't remember.

I've been reading Stitch 'N Bitch and discovered that I knit left-handed, English style. When I taught myself to knit in college, I used a book that had pictures for left-handed and right-handed knitting. Being left-handed, I naturally followed the left-handed pictures. In hindsight I wish I'd stuck with right-handed knitting, which is how my great aunt and grandmother taught me a long time ago. It'd be easier to follow patterns if I knitted right-handed. The author of Stitch 'N Bitch suggests lefties learn right-handed Continental style, where you work the right needle into the left but hold the yarn in your left hand. I've thought about trying to change but I'm afraid it's too late. Perhaps not too late, but I am just so much more comfortable working the left needle into the right.

There are many things I've learned to do "right-handed" but over the years I've switched to doing them left-handed and I am so much more comfortable. Here's the list of what I do right and left handed:
  • Using scissors: right-handed. When I was 5, my grandmother had ordered me left-handed scissors, but I couldn't wait and learned to cut right-handed. I still have the un-used left-handed scissors. Given my penchant for sewing scissors, it may (or may not!) be a good thing I learned right-handed.
  • Cutting with a knife: left-handed. I'm no chef, but chopping, slicing, and dicing are all easier with the knife in my left hand.
  • Writing: left-handed. Well that's an obvious one. I don't think one could write right-handed and call themselves a lefty! Once in 5th grade I injured my left hand and had to write right-handed. Not good.
  • Hand sewing: left-handed.
  • Tennis: started out right-handed but now play left-handed. Actually I once used a bizarre combination of the two. I used to switch hands to avoid using the backhand stroke. I served lefty though. I don't really play tennis. I've had a few parks and rec lessons and my husband and I messed around with it when we were dating.
  • Archery: my brother taught me right-handed but I switched to left-handed when I discovered my left eye is dominant. Yes, I can shoot a bow and arrow - and pretty darn well, thank you very much. My brother taught me (he tried to make me into the little brother he never had) but I also took it in college to fulfill a gym class requirement. I chose archery because I didn't have to run, which I hate. The class consisted mostly of local guys used to deer-hunting. They were surprised a girl could master a bow and arrow. And so was I, so I signed up for another non-running gym class...
  • Shooting: left-handed. In my gym class I shot a 22-rifle and made Marksman. In the Air Force I shot a 38 caliber handgun and missed earning my Expert badge by a smidgen. Yup, the left eye is definitely dominant.
  • Swinging a bat: right-handed. I blame my brother for teaching me that way, but at least I didn't "bat like a girl." In fact, the boys in the fifth grade were quite impressed that I knew how to swing a bat.
  • Throwing a ball (or anything else): left-handed.
  • Catching a ball: right-handed (i.e., in my left hand). I blame my brother and a lack of left-handed gloves. I'm a rotten fielder so it's a good thing I don't play softball. The rare times that I've played, I've had to take the glove off to throw the ball. I could probably catch left-handed, but since I always have to borrow someone's glove, it's almost always a right-handed glove.
  • Kicking a ball: left-footed. No, right-footed. Gosh, I can't remember. It's been a long time since I kicked a soccer ball or play ground ball, but I think I used to kick it with my right foot.
  • Ice skating: left-handed. Another gym class I took in college was ice skating. In that class I don't remember going much beyond front and back skating, but years later when I took classes again, I advanced to single jumps and spins and discovered quickly that I skate left-handed. My natural tendency is to turn clockwise while most right-handed people are more comfortable turning counter-clockwise. Sarah Hughes, Johnny Weir, Todd Eldredge, Rudy Galindo and the pairs team of Tiffany Scott and Phillip Dulebohn are all clockwise skaters.
  • Using a computer mouse: left, then right, now back to left. This is an odd one for me. For a while I used the mouse on the left but when my left shoulder started to ache, I switched to the right. I also found that getting used to using the mouse on the right was helpful when I needed to use someone else's computer. But at work I recently switched the mouse back to the left and I'm more comfortable with it there. At home, the mouse is still on the right. I have my own computer and my husband has his, so it's not a matter of having to compromise with my right-handed husband. The really odd thing is that when I use a laptop, I find myself using my right hand to control the cursor.

So there you have it. I imagine that most right-handers don't even give it a thought as to which hand or foot they use or which way they'd spin on the ice. But I guess when I look over the list, I'd say that I should probably stick with left-handed knitting.

And speaking of knitting, I'm really looking forward to starting those socks now. Round and round and round...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Tangled Mess!

Yesterday evening I had a little time before dinner while my husband was de-stressing from work on the XBox so I wandered into the spare bedroom where I keep my cutting table and a lot of fabric and yarn. I didn't emerge for a few hours. Needless to say, dinner was late...and quickly prepared. My husband was still engrossed in his game (no, he's not addicted to it, now is he?). So what was I doing in my room of fabric and yarn? I wound three hanks into balls. Yes, it took me that long and I still have one more left. This is yarn my mother-in-law bought me in New Zealand and while it's a lovely dark green mohair/merino blend (quite a nice surprise, coming from her), she failed to understand the concept of dye lots and I have three in one lot and one in another. Oh well. The hanks are 100 grams each, so maybe I have enough of the one dye lot for a sweater or something.

I don't know whether the hanks were already a mess or whether they got that way from my less than careful storage. They were still in the tissue-filled gift bag I received them in. I think at the time I received them, in the mail as a Christmas or birthday present, I wasn't in a knitting phase so I didn't pay much attention to it. But last night I felt the urge to spin it into balls. I have a ball winder, so that makes the job very easy. The hard part is dealing with the hank. I don't have one of those umbrella-looking gizmos (haven't a clue what they're called) because it's very rare that I buy hanks of yarn. But the ball winder was a necessity to produce balls with a center pull for my (unused) knitting machine. I did my best to sort out the hanks, but they had gotten twisted and confused as to which yarn belonged on which side of the hank. This is why I spent hours untangling. I'm a master at untangling. I have patience and a strong need to do the job perfectly. Did I mention I'm a Virgo? If it weren't for the cats, the hours would have been pure Zen. Strange but true - I was lost in the work. And the cats? MEOW! I WANT THE STRING! Need I explain it any further? I tried booting them out but our tuxedo kitty scratched at the door and wailed. I would periodically open the door and squirt him with water, but that only silenced him for a few minutes. Then he was back. The girl kitty gave up and decided it was more fun to harass tuxedo-boy.

So I have one more hank left. More Zen tonight I think. I think I will sneak in the room while the cats are eating, but I don't think it will fool them.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Knitting and sewing weekend

Well, not so much knitting, but shopping for knitting - that's always fun, right?

First, the sewing. On Saturday my darling husband pushed us forward a tiny notch on our home improvement projects. He hauled out the drill and the curtain rods I bought last month and put them up in the kitchen. So this prompted me to pull out the sheer polyester fabric I bought at G-streets in Rockville, Maryland last summer. The fabric was a bargain at $2.77/yard and there were 7 yards of the 56" wide fabric. I decided I wanted to a do a sort of valance, just a simple rod pocket at the top, one piece along the entire window, with a length of 24 inches. Anything longer and the cats will mistake it for something they can dig their claws into. The drape's only function is to provide some color and texture since there are blinds on the windows already. I calculated the fabric repeat and factored in the width of the two windows and by some miracle I had exactly the amount of fabric I needed for drapes that are 2 1/2 times the width of the window. I've only gotten as far as cutting the panels (cheers for the serrated Ginghers - a perfect scissor for sheer fabrics!). I ran into problems figuring out the best way to join the panels. I'm inexperienced at this, but I think I will serge the panels together, on the advice of my mom. I was going to use a French seam because the fabric frays easily but that makes joining the pattern even trickier since the first seam sewn is not the final one. Plus mom thinks the French seam may be too stiff. I'm concerned about matching the pattern exactly, but mom says it'll be lost in the folds of the drape and not to worry too much. I didn't get any further on the drapes because my husband needed me to help finish the planter box we started last weekend and plant some plants. He was on a roll with the home improvement projects.

I woke Sunday to rain - the first storm of the season. I was glad we'd done the planting the day before. A rainy day seem like a good excuse to do some sewing and knitting but I ended up doing some shopping instead. My husband was called into work so I tagged along and dropped him off at work and then visited a quaint downtown nearby. There was a sidewalk arts and crafts show going on but it was fairly dismal due to the rain. Of the displays that were up, most were covered in sheets of plastic. I browsed the art but was mainly interested in going to Knitter's Studio and not just to get out of the rain. I walked away with some new bamboo needles for my next project (a hat from Sinsation yarn) and this book on knitting socks (you're right, Alison, it's just knitting). It took some restraint but I managed to avoid buying any more yarn. I visited my stash yesterday morning, reclaimed the yarn from the unfinished baby bunting, and fondled the other skeins I purchased for projects long forgotten. There's barely room for my fabric stash - I simply can't afford space for a yarn stash too!

To fuel my current knitting urge, I cracked open Stitch 'N Bitch last night and began reading. It's a fun book so far. I also might sign up for a lesson from Knitter's Studio. Believe it or not, I don't think I've really knitted in the presence of other knitters. I honestly don't know if I'm knitting correctly. Even if I am, I could probably benefit from some help in how I'm holding the needles, throwing the yarn, or how tight or loose I'm knitting. I specifically asked if they could help a lefty knitter and they say one of their instructors can. I hope so.

Friday, October 15, 2004

One down...

I finished knitting the burgundy scarf (hopefully I'll post a pic this weekend) and cast on a second. I'm using the same yarn, but in brown. This time I put some yarn aside for the fringe. I didn't make fringe for the first one but I decided to try it on this scarf. I haven't decided whether to give the burgundy or brown on as the gift - perhaps the decision will be made for me if I don't finish the brown one in time.

I like having a TV-knitting project and am already thinking about the super soft yarn I bought at Fengari to make a hat and the sock yarn (also from Fengari) to make, well, socks of course. I've never knit socks before and I'm a little intimidated by the thought. I'm a self-taught lefty and don't even know if I'm knitting correctly. I think that's why I'm afraid to take a class or join a knit-along. I'm afraid people will point and laugh and tell me I'm doing it all wrong. Oh, I know they won't. Knitters and sewers tend to be very nice people, but I'm still afraid to find out I've been doing it all wrong.

I haven't knit too many things and certainly haven't finished many. I used a book to teach myself how to knit while I was in college (drove my roommate nuts that I had time to knit). My first project was a garter stitch scarf. It wasn't half bad. The gauge only sorta-kinda got out of whack! I don't remember the exact order of my next few projects, but they were much more ambitious: baby sweater, pants and booties for my nephew, vest for my mom (out of yicky craft store acrylic - sorry mom), and a vest for myself (haven't worn it in many, many years but it's still in my drawer). Then a series of unfinished projects began. Most were too ambitious and thus un-finishable for a novice knitter.

I attempted an argyle pattern sweater but my gauge was wrong and it was never going to fit. I think I knit the front and one sleeve and threw it away during one of my moves.

I tried to knit a big, soft sweater in a graphic black and white pattern with a huge cowl (yeah, it was the 80's) and remember knitting almost the whole front (or back) during a blizzard in Colorado, but again I screwed up the gauge and had trouble changing colors. I ripped it out but I still have the yarn. If I recall I made at least two attempts to knit the thing.

I attempted to knit a bunting for my sister-in-law's baby shower (my niece is now 7) but my tension seemed to change between back and front pieces and because I'm a lefty and followed the instructions exactly, the front pieces ended up reversed. Not knowing how to fix the pattern has prevented me from trying anything non-symmetric ever since. I don't have to tell you that I didn't finish it.

I started a baby dress for no one in particular but I was hopeful that I'd have the baby who would wear it. It remains unfinished and is a reminder both of my infertility and of the days I spent sitting in the family room with my dad while he was dying from liver cancer.

Then I started on another sweater, for me, from a pattern out of Knitter's magazine. I worked on it during many coast-to-coast flights I took for my job. It's a complicated stitch, of course, and not something I can just pick up and start working.

I have actually finish some things: baby booties for a friend's baby and another scarf. Last January we took a road trip where I spent 3 days in the car, so I went to Walmart and bought some chenille yarn and some knitting needles and, well, knitted.

So scarves are more my speed right now. I have enough complicated sewing projects to make me nuts and the simple knitting is just perfect for TV watching.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Christmas gifts

Every year I have great plans to make things to give as Christmas gifts. I always bite off more than I can sew, knit, embroider, needlepoint, bake... This year I thought I'd start early. Well, I may have started, but I didn't finish. I only exchange with one of my sisters (and her family) and a sister-in-law (and family) so at least the list isn't too long. I also try to make my mom something even though she doesn't "do gifts." This year I planned to knit a scarf, sew two small paper-pieced quilts (to be framed), and I always have ideas to embroider shirts, bags, towels. One quilt is started but no where near finished and the scarf is coming along ok. I worked on the scarf last night while watching TV but progress is slow. Good thing I'm not knitting a sweater!

As Christmas approaches I prioritize my gift making. Highest on the list are the gifts that must be sent - unfortunately, with the exception of anything I may make for my husband, everything must be shipped this year. Next on the list are local gifts and finally, if I still have time, I work on the Christmas decorations I hope to make every year. Needless to say, I haven't ever gotten to the stockings, or embroidered table runner, napkins and placemats I'd like to make every year!

And then of course there's my never ending list of garments I'd like to sew or knit and quilts and home dec items (I have the fabric for curtains for nearly every room in the house and I need to hem some purchased curtains for the den). Yesterday I received my Burda WOF and there were so many things in it that I wanted to make. I lamented to my husband that I had no time to sew them and he suggested I quit my job. Yeah, but then I'd have no place to wear them!

So I guess I will just continue to slowly work on one or two projects at a time and remember that I have made quite a few things, either for myself or for gifts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Baby blanket

I'm slowly working on a baby blanket for my niece. She's actually a grand niece but I feel really old writing that, so I'll stick to just niece, thank you! The blanket is simply one yard of flannel and one yard of fleece with the corners cut on a curve. I plan to embroider her name, birthdate, birth weight and length on it and bind the edges with fleece binding. It really shouldn't take so long but anything I sew takes a long time. My niece was born in late August, so I really don't want to let this go too long.

This is the first lettering I've done with my new Pfaff embroidery software. Actually, this is the first embroidery that I've done with it at all other than trying some of the tutorials. I haven't stitched it out yet - I said I was slowly working on this! It took a while to fuss with the software and figure out how to do what I wanted. It turned out to be a lot easier than the old PC Designer software. Last night I had a spare 30 minutes so I decided to try sending the design to the machine. I found the cable, hooked it up to my Pfaff 7570, turned it on, fired up the File Assistant software and got "Communication has not been established with the machine. Ensure that the machine is switched on, and the cable is connected between the computer and machine, then click OK." Hmmmm. Machine is on. Cable is connected and it must be talking because the display on the machine changed to the computer and sewing machine icons. I tried different com ports. I rebooted. Same error. Rats. I thought about trying different (lower) baud rates for the com port, thinking that the older 7570 may need a slower connection vs. the newer 2140 and 2144 models. Rather than disturb my Monday Night Football-watching husband who would turn this into a 4-hour computer project, I turned to the Pfaff website instead. After a few minutes in their FAQ, I found the problem. File Assistant does not work with the 7570. But I can send designs to the machine using the VIP Customizing software. (This Pfaff software has so many modules - I can't keep them straight: Stitch Editor, Stitch Artist, Customizing, File Assistant, Digitizing...) The File Assistant looks useful, but alas, not for the 7570. But I was able to transfer the design using Customizing, so all is well.

Next step: sew a sample of the lettering

Shopping:yes, sewing:no

I hit the sales this past weekend at both Joann's and Hancocks. I bought the three 11 1/2" doll patterns I wanted and also picked up this Japanese Kimono pattern. You never know when you might need to make a Kimono and for 99 cents...well, I couldn't resist.

After Joann's I ventured over to Hancocks. A Kohls store just opened next door and it was quite a zoo. Why is a new store such a draw? It's just another discount store. The parking lot was nearly full with crazed shoppers. I parked over by the Hancocks, on the side of the building where it's normally empty but Saturday it was full of Kohl's shoppers. And the crowd spilled into Hancocks as well. Hancock's put a table of remnants and sports fabrics out front. They're not dumb. I'm sure they got quit a few new customers in there. They had all the cutting tables and registers manned. I specifically went there to buy a set of Mundial scissors. Not that I need more scissors, but it was a great deal: bent dressmaker and small scissors for $15, vs. normal $36 price. I plan to use the dressmaker scissors for cutting fleece because I'm leery of ruining another pair of my nice Ginghers. I think I ruined them cutting poly fill but now I'm also swearing off fleece as well just to be safe. Interestingly, the small scissors are exactly the same as a pair I bought at a quilt shop a few months ago for $14. The small scissors are slightly serrated and work great for trimming seams. I didn't need a second pair, but then I don't really need half the scissors I do have. I seem to like scissors. Here's my inventory:

  • 8" Gingher knife edge - cheetah handle
  • 8" Gingher knife edge - damaged and waiting to be sent for sharpening (one of these days...)
  • 8" Gingher serrated - a must for cutting chiffon
  • Gingher pinking shears - don't use these so much now that I have a serger
  • Gingher applique scissors - fabulous for trimming seams
  • Gingher tailor points - a must for clipping and trimming bulky seams
  • Gingher machine embroidery scissors
  • Gingher stork embroidery scissors
  • Gingher large handle embroidery scissors
  • Gingher thread nippers
  • Mundial 8 1/2" dressmaker shears
  • Mundial 5 1/2" hobby/craft scissors - pink
  • Mundial 5 1/2" hobby/craft scissors - blue
  • Bohin blue Dressmaker scissors - trés chic - bought them from Martha Stewart catalog
  • Weiss embroidery - came free with a order a few years ago
  • Weiss embroidery - came free with a order a few years ago
  • unknown bent embroidery - purchased from Nancy's Notions before I appreciated nice scissors
  • 7" Olfa stainless steel - purchased in the clearance bin at Hancocks - a great all purpose scissor
  • Fiskar - 8" bent scissors - these are my paper scissors
  • unknown 5" scissors - ordinary scissors but they fit in my little thread caddy and are handy

Happy with my scissors I decided to go ahead and buy the fabric I almost bought a week ago when I encountered the new Mr. Hancock Employee. Fortunately he was no where to be seen so I bought 2 1/4 yards of a camel colored poly suiting and 1 1/2 yards of a chocolate brown stretch polyester.

I came close to sewing and even cleaned off most of my cutting table in preparation to do so, but I got sidetracked helping my husband fold clothes - he's not exactly skilled in that department. I do think he just doesn't want to learn to fold a fitted sheet so that I have to do it. Attempts to sew yesterday were also thwarted by the need to do some yardwork. We made a trip to the hardware store and bought wood to build a raised planter, which we didn't quite finish on account of darkness. Well, that's what happens when you start outdoor projects at 4:00 in the afternoon!

Thursday, October 07, 2004


My Barbies arrived yesterday. I felt weird opening them. I tried to be careful not to rip the packaging just in case I decide to sell them later. I don't know why I was doing that. I thought I made up my mind that I wasn't going to do the eBay thing, but still, there were so many twisty-ties, rubber bands, thread, and tape holding the dolls in, I felt like I was committing a crime by releasing them from their plastic prisons. The model doll's hair was actually sewn to a piece of plastic to keep it spread out behind her in the box. Both dolls' heads were connected to the box with plastic ties like that used on clothing tags. The Paul Frank doll's hair is slightly a muss. She has a pony tail with hair wrapped intricately around it but it's not hair that can be undone without disastrous results. One piece is sticking out that's supposed to be wrapped around. I don't want to go through the fuss of returning the doll over a bit of mussed hair, so I think I will try to fix it myself. I may email them for suggestions - for example, do I glue it? Would a little vaseline keep it in place?

The model doll isn't as poseable as I thought. Not that it really matters. Her arms have more pivoting at the shoulders than normal Barbies. The right arm is permanently bent at the elbow and the left is straight. The legs do not bend at all - one is slightly bent and one is straight. The packaging for both dolls come with certificates of authenticity and the model doll comes with a bio. It appears that she was "born" in Brazil, is a Scorpio, likes the beach and shopping and dislikes being inside. Yeesh. She's 11 3/4", and has more slender hips and smaller breasts than Barbie. I think the extra 1/4" was added to her (too thin) legs. Her hair is long and straight - thank goodness she doesn't have any intricate ponytails! The dolls also came with stands so I won't have to buy any to display the dolls. My husband asked me if I was now going to need to buy a case for them. I'm not really sure how he really feels about me spending over $100 on Barbie dolls. However, he curiously checked out Barbie and in the act of disrobing her (I guess men's minds are always there), he discovered that she wears molded panties. I was surprised to find that his sister never had Barbies, so he missed out on that element of being a brother.

The clothes rack that came with them as my gift for spending over $75 is very cute. It's just a simple black metal stand but it has four wheels and they actually roll. Cute.

Joann's is having a Simplicity pattern sale this weekend so I plan to pick up a few more doll patterns. I have my eye on this, this, and this. When I was 13 I made a prairie dress for my Barbie, complete with bonnet, petticoat, corset, and stockings and entered it in the local 4th of July fair. I sewed the whole dress by hand without a pattern and attached seed beads all down that back as buttons. I won a blue ribbon. The next year I attempted to make a medieval dress like something from "Romeo and Juliet". Again I didn't have a pattern. I think I won a second place ribbon that time. Those ribbons meant so much to me because I didn't play sports or entered competitions where I could win trophies or ribbons. I always wanted to display ribbons on my bedroom wall and I did. They got good and faded too!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Help wanted

Both Hancock Fabrics and Joann’s have Vogue patterns on sale right now. Hancock’s are 75% off and Joann’s are $3.99 each. The new Vogue catalog is out and I’ve been chomping at the bit waiting for the sale. Yes, I know I could have paid the usual 50% off price they sell them at every day, but if I can get if for less, I will. To a point. Last night I decided I wanted to buy a new shirt at the mall after being frustrated wearing a just-a-bit-too-small shirt yesterday. The shirt was uncomfortable and I was frustrated that I’ve gained some weight over the last year. The mall is across the street from Hancock Fabrics whereas Joann’s is a few miles farther away. I also prefer Hancock’s to Joann’s. So saving a few dollars was not worth driving out of my way and having to deal with surly management. My plan was almost perfect.

As I approached the entrance of Hancock’s I saw the “help wanted” sign but didn’t think anything of it since they always seem to be advertising for help. However, when I saw the bolts of fabric stacked on the cutting tables I knew it was trouble. But I wasn’t there for fabric, I was there for patterns so I made a beeline for the back of the store where the pattern catalogs are located. I silently cheered when I saw the new Vogue catalog and when I found the patterns I wanted. I should have headed straight for the register but nooooooo! This is a fabric store. I can’t get out that easily! I browsed for more patterns but nothing caught my eye. Then I wandered over to the fabric (mistake!) and found some nice looking camel colored suiting. It was poly but for $5.99/yard, I thought I could make some muslin pants that might just be wearable. Next to it was some chocolaty-brown 4-way stretch poly. As I walked to the cutting table, I envisioned a trendy crossover top, a Jalie tee or something like that. The cutting table (still piled with bolts) was not a good sight. A young, frazzled, very naïve looking young man was cutting some brightly colored fleece for a customer. He was about to hack off a yard (with his cheap, dull scissors they give their employees) when the customer informed him that he needed to cut at the end of the panel, that they’re printed like that because they’re supposed to be blankets. A very bad sign indeed. There was another woman ahead of me, clutching a spool of ribbon and a few other items. Right in front of her was a tall pile of bolts of fabric. I prayed that those weren’t hers or the current customer’s, because at the rate Mr. Hancock Employee was cutting…I didn’t want to think about it. I considered just how badly I wanted the fabric. Fabric I surely don’t need. The current customer’s kids were getting antsy and climbing over the cart. She feebly attempted to entertain them in between instructing Mr. Hancock Employee on how to cut fabric. I gave up. I put the bolts back and went to the checkout. At least the other employee, a young girl I’ve seen there before, was manning the register. There were no problems or questions when I produced my American Sewing Guild card for my 10% discount. My transaction went quickly and smoothly. She stuffed some Hancock publications in my bag along with a flyer announcing a “big sale” coming up. “We’re going to be open late that day”, she chirped. I glanced at the flyer that said: open 9 am to 8 pm. “Oh, it must be a Saturday”, I replied, knowing that they close at 6:00 pm on Saturdays and I often run out of thread at 5:59 pm. I hope they hire some help by then.

I dashed off to the mall to buy my shirt. After trying on what felt like at least 296 items I finally found three shirts and a pair of pants. I was discouraged by the wild variations in fit of the pants but absolutely dismayed at the poor sewing. On one pair of dress pants from a well known manufacturer’s “second line”, the waistband was puckered and sewn slightly twisted. The “stitch in the ditch” sewing missed the ditch. I refuse to spend $55 for a poorly sewn pair of pants. I just can’t. If I were a faster sewer, I’d have been better off spending the time at the sewing machine than at the store.

I hope to find time to sew this weekend but we have some yard work to do. So if the weather has cooled down, then that’s what I’ll be doing – when I’m not watching the college football games of course.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Sometimes I love being a DINK (dual income, no kids). I can buy toys for me! So I bought myself a Barbie. Well, actually two and it's all because of monkeys. My husband likes monkeys so he was naturally drawn to the Julius monkey that's popped up on hip clothing and accessories over the last few years. I happened to snag a few yards of the actual Julius-printed flannel fabric and made him a pair of sleep pants. He loves them. I had just enough extra to make a pillow case for a small travel pillow.

Then I saw a blurb in the newspaper about this new Barbie:

Tiny monkey pajamas! Posted by Hello

How could I not get this. I rationalized that I could make tiny clothes for her and then I decided if one was fun, two would be better. So I bought this:

Strike a pose! Posted by Hello

She's sort of a Barbie but not the garden variety toy for little girls. This one is made of something they call "Modelmuse" and she's apparently more poseable. She also has a bit of a different figure. I will have to alter the patterns for her. Great. I have a enough trouble altering my clothing patterns and now I'm going to alter tiny doll ones? At least I don't have to worry about her gaining weight and not being able to fit into the clothes I make.

Oh, and there's more. There was an additional offer of a tiny clothes rack with hangers when you spent $75 (ahem, I said these are not your garden variety little girl's dolls), which was another reason I thought "monkey Barbie" needed a girlfriend.

Such fun! I played Barbies for hours on end when I was growing up. I would spend all day setting up an elaborate house for Barbie on my bed only to have to dismantle it so I could go to sleep at night. Kleenex worked well as sheets. My transistor radio stood in as the Hi-Fi. I was always on the lookout for Barbie-sized items for her house and made many things out of paper, Play-Doh and other materials. And of course I sewed clothes for Barbie. Awful looking things, I have to admit. My sewing skills didn't go much beyond a running stitch on scraps of fabric. I didn't know the concept of a dart but clearly Barbie needed one. I just folded the fabric and stitched - the fold ended up on the outside but I didn't know any better.

At one point I had a huge family of dolls consisting of many Barbies, Kens, Francies, Skippers, Tuttis and "Little Kiddles." Unfortunately I didn't realize they weren't all "mine." One day, while I was in college, my older sister took back the ones that were hers. She later gave them away to a neighbor girl. Can you tell I'm still bitter? I was left with a Malibu Barbie whose hair I melted with the hair dryer, another Barbie with wirey blonde hair that you were supposed to be able to style, a 70's era Skipper (my sister took her much cooler Skipper and Ricky), a mod Ken doll with a waist that pivots (he's supposed to dance on a stage that got thrown out long ago when the batteries corroded inside), and a Tutti and some Kiddles with wild hair. All the dolls are well worn from being played with and bathed countless times. They also got a bit damaged after years of being packed away in my parent's attic. They melted. Not into a pile of molten plastic, but some of them have flattened spots where they melted to other plastic things or dolls stored with them or even to their own appendages (the legs to the butts). But there's no loss of potential eBay revenue, as it seems that the market is quite swamped and prices are not very high for ordinary dolls and certainly not for well-played with dolls. There are high priced dolls being auctioned but there are also a lot with no bids at all.

I had considered buying two Paul Frank dolls to sell one later on eBay, but I'm not interested in doing all that work (and not to mention storing the darn thing) for $20 profit. I'm not even going to check eBay to see if it ends up being a hot item. I'm just going to enjoy my new dolls and dress them up in little outfits (like I have time to sew for Barbie???). What about the old ones? They're packed away with what's left of their store bought and hand-sewn outfits and accessories. They're so play-worn that it would just be a reminder of my childhood and not a fashion doll for me to dress. They'll understand. AAARGH, they're inanimate dolls for goodness sakes. I shouldn't feel guilty that I bought new dolls! Besides, I'd much rather post a picture of a beautiful dress I've sewn on a doll with un-melted hair and limbs.

Can't wait for them to show up. It'll be like Christmas.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Expo time!

I didn't do any sewing over the weekend, but I did do some shopping. The Sew-Quilt-Embroidery Expo was in town! I looked forward to a few hours of seminars and shopping but was disappointed to see that they were charging for the seminars. Last spring when I went, the seminars were free. I only had a few hours and it was the last day of the show so I chose not to go to any seminars. I was interested in the 1:00 seminar on sewing lingerie, but I had just arrived and wanted to shop instead and I had just paid $7 parking and $6 entrance fee so another 10 bucks for a seminar I just heard about with someone I didn't know wasn't all that exciting. So I shopped.

My strategy for these kinds of vendor shows is to browse the whole thing first and then go back through more slowly and make purchases. The first time I went to a vendor show, it was the yarn and fiber show called Stitches. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of fiber in one place that I nearly hyperventilated! The show yesterday wasn't as fiber-rich but it still was a thrill for this fabric/notions/yarn shopaholic. Alas, there were no yarn vendors except for one who only brought a small inventory of fru-fru yarns for those who like embellish garments, not knit them. The show had a good turnout from sewing machine dealers, local quilt shops and some independent pattern makers like Birch Street, LJ Designs, and Unique Patterns. The Ott-light guy and the "miracle" ironing board cover vendors where also there. There were only a handful of non-sewing or quilting vendors selling scrapbook and stamping supplies and a large gift wrap and paper goods vendor who is always at the show. There were a few more jewelry sellers than last time (lots of costume jewelry bling bling), a nail polish vendor, and a few others that I forget because I passed them by. I don't think it was a great show but it was certainly better than past shows that seemed to be dominated by non-fiber crafty sellers.

So what did I buy? In past shows I tend to buy lots of fat quarters and quilt patterns I'll never get to. I did buy about 5 fat quarters for $1 each, a special foot to sew perfect tubes for my Fasturn tubes, some felted wool and a needle, and glass buttons from Czechoslovakia. But this time I also hit the big stuff. No, I didn't buy another sewing machine or serger (though I'm sure they have some good show-only deals). I bought this rolling case for my sewing machine at a pretty good deal and it came with a free bag for my serger:

Tutto bag (see Posted by Hello
Yes, mine is the cool lime green color too!

And, after much thinking and pacing, I bought this from a local sewing machine dealer:

They simply had a show special I couldn't pass up. I never see these thread chests on sale and they are even excluded from the online sales and coupons at Nancy's Notions or Joann's. By 4:30 I was still undecided about the thread chest and wandered back over to the booth to think about it. Lo and behold they dropped the price another $8 for a "show closing" special. I caved. Good thing I bought the rolling cart too because the chest is heavy. The cart comes with a bungie cord so I used it to secure the box to the top and I was effortlessly on my way.

So I left the show happy with my good deals and my new toys. I also learned some things. I saw how to work with felted wool - my mother-in-law bought me felted wool from New Zealand a few years ago and I didn't know what to do with it. I think she didn't know what she was buying and thought it was for my knitting. When I saw the felted wool booth I asked about it and was shown how to make figurines. Apparently teddy bears and dragons are big with felted wool artisans. Not for me. But I did see a cute sheep and thought that I could at least make one or two or a whole flock of those. My wool is pretty vibrant colored so I bought a small ball of black for the legs, head and ears. The needle is barbed so what you do is move it in and out of the wool, which draws the fibers together. You can make it as tightly or as loosely packed as you want.

The other lesson I learned is how to use my Fasturn tubes more effectively. I can count on one hand minus a few fingers the number of times I've used them and I think I've only made drawstrings. Someone told me how you can use it to make cording (you put the cord at the end of the tube and when you pull the fabric through the tube, it "sucks up" the cord). The demonstrator also showed how to make piping. Simple. You sew the bias strip with wrong sides together and the width of the piping cord (I'd make it a bit wider to allow for a tighter seam when you sew it in place). Use the Fasturn to turn it inside out. Then use the Fasturn again to turn it right sides out but this time, "sucking up" the cord. And there you have it! Piping. You can also use the Fasturn to stuff a flat piece with fiberfill - bast the fiberfill to the strip and turn inside out with the tube.

So all in all, the Expo was a success for me. I had a good day, learned some things and bought some things.

Friday, September 24, 2004

TV Sewing

Not much going on. I've been rather lazy in the evenings and have just been watching TV and going to bed early. Boring, I know. Sometimes I remember to work on my knitting while I watch TV - the scarf is growing. I've also been trying to clean some "Sew Much More" episodes off the PVR. I record it every day and at 5x week it can add up fast. I think the show is helpful and so much better than the first year it came out. I do think Susan, the host, is a bit too rushed at times but at least she does mostly garment sewing. Whenever I see a cool technique or hear some good info I jot it down in my cute sewing-themed journal.

If it's a really good show I can watch it on the computer (we have it connected to the DISH receiver) and save it as an mpg to view later.

I browsed a bit in Macy's yesterday and I thought there was a tweed explosion. I have to say that if it weren't "in" right now quite a few of the tweed coats are reminiscent of things my grandmother wore - at 70 years old. Add a big 'ol brooch (and those are in also!), some white gloves, and oh my.

It's a cute coat, but I'm not a stick thin model. It reminds me that I need to visit the stores more often and try some things on - not to buy but to see how they look on me. I have a feeling that the tweedy coats and suits might just be a little too matronly looking on me. But I hate shopping. My browsing yesterday was very brief. It also confirmed that I have many of the right fabrics and patterns in my stash to create similar trendy garments - I just have to find the time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

New stuff

I didn't do any sewing last week or over the weekend, but I did do some shopping! Joann's had one of their fairly-often pattern sales last Thursday through Saturday (you're nuts if you pay the regular 50% pattern price at Joann's and just stupid if you pay full price somewhere else!). Butterick and McCalls were 99 cents each and Vogue was 75% off. Unfortunately they did not have the latest Vogue patterns out yet and this led me to an obsessive search of Joann stores in the area. I visited three and none had the new ones. Yeah, I know, Joann's is having yet another pattern sale on Sept 30 and Oct 1 but I really want this pattern. And this one too. I did finally find this one - it was sold out in stores #1 and #2. Does Joann's ever restock patterns? I doubt it. The patterns are probably discontinued before they'd have a chance to reorder. For a buck each, I decided I needed this and this but I goofed on the last one and picked up the wrong size. I misread the envelope where it says "size" in French as "Taille" and thought it said "size - Tall." And I took two semesters of French. Ha! I spent way too much time walking around the store(s). I couldn't decide what to use my 40% Joann's coupon on. Fabric? NO! Way too much of the stuff at home. But it was nice to look at and fondle. Thread? Don't need any right now. Buttons? Didn't go prepared with any swatches and I have enough projectless buttons at home. Small Rowenta iron? Coupon not good on it (rats). Decorative junk for the house? Not on your life. I refuse to support Joann's sale of non-sewing items. Notions? Probably have them all. I finally decided on an awl, which is about the one thing I don't have. I can use a sharp pointy thing every now and then but actually want to use it like a stiletto to help guide the little itty-bitty pieces of fabric when I sew my miniature quilt.

I ventured out of Joann's on Saturday to go to some other stores. I picked up a nice pair of wood knitting needles at a swanky yarn store with the hope that they'll be less slippery for my scarf. I tried them out and they are. They are beautiful needles. I got a few more rows of the scarf done while watching TV on Sunday. It was a rainy (and hailing) day - good for movies and knitting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Happy Birthday to me!

Let’s see, it’s been a busy weekend. I went to a Creative Memories party Friday night. I ended up buying scrapbook stuff with the crazy notion that I would go back through my old albums and redo the photos. Apparently they are bad, photo disintegrating plastic albums. I’ve been taking photos since I was 8 and won a cheap plastic camera. My dad helped me develop the film and I guess he saw a budding photographer in me because he gave me a real camera (a Kodak Pocket 110) for my 9th birthday. Anyway, I have lots of photo albums but I’m having second thoughts about turning them into cutesy scrapbooks. I don’t have the time and I think it would take away from the history and feel of the photos. If I had kids and took lots of photos of them, then I could see making up scrapbook albums because it’s the “in thing.” But it wasn’t a fad in the 70’s and I think my photos will look out of place next to construction paper cutouts and stickers. Am I wrong? I think at the most I will remove them from the plastic albums, arrange them into the new album, and include some words. The old albums have no place to describe the photo, so this would at least be beneficial.

My birthday was yesterday. I was very depressed about it and the whole gift thing. I was hurt when it seemed like my husband wasn’t going to buy me a gift. Oh, he’d buy me something, but only if I’d pick it out. This is a problem because there’s not much that I want. I don’t wait for gift-giving times – if I see something I want, I get it (within reason of course). There was one thing I thought was extravagant and didn’t really need but kind of wanted: an expensive collection of embroidery threads in a 3-drawer wooden box. I think I was more excited about it because it came with a free tote bag for my sewing machine. Then hubby declared the tote bag ugly and questioned why I wanted it. So I convinced myself that I didn’t really need the thread after all (I really don’t). There went my husband’s “perfect” gift that he’d be sure I liked because I picked it out. Then on Saturday, my husband suggested that we buy a Japanese Maple for my present. Wow. My husband remembered that I liked them. Not exactly what I thought of for a birthday gift but since he came up with the idea all on his own, I decided that if I ever want another gift from him, I better accept it. So we bought a tree. My spirits lifted by the birthday gift, I suggested we go to an art and wine festival that just happened to be located where a quilt shop was that just happened to give 25% off on fabric on the day of, day before and day after your birthday. I never need an excuse to buy fabric but I felt like making one anyway. I bought about eight or so 1-yard pieces of various cottons just because I liked them. No plan in mind (except for one I thought would make a nice vest), I just bought them because I liked then.
On my birthday I gave myself another present. I stayed home from work. My husband encouraged me to do so and I’m so glad I did. I actually had a good day! I felt great even though I spent the morning shopping at Target (curtain rods, but also a nice suede jacket and some much-needed socks). I stopped at the sewing machine dealers to pick up vacuum cleaner bags and of course browse the embroidery goodies. I almost bought a design packet but decided I ought to instead use my digitizing software to make the one design I want. In the afternoon I watched some TV and did some sewing. I like the tweedy Chanel jacket look that’s in style this fall and decided that I should get moving or the fad will pass me buy. I have a nice raw silk suiting that I think would be nice as a lightweight jacket I could dress down with jeans. So I traced off Simplicity 4954 and made up a muslin. It almost fits well, but the princess seam isn’t quite right in front. There’s too much fabric above my bust and it seems a bit snug right at my bust. I tried pinning some out of the upper chest but that just created diagonal draglines to the side of my breast. After consulting some fitting books, I concluded that the princess seam silhouette of this pattern is not right for me. The bust apex is too high, which makes sense since it looks like they targeted this pattern at a younger crowd. There’s a Chanel jacket sew-along on right now and at least one other person has concluded the same thing about this pattern. She’s decided not to use it but I’m torn between altering the princess seam or starting over with a different pattern. This Vogue pattern looks promising, but I’m afraid that it won’t fit better and I’ll end up doing adjustments anyway. What to do, what to do. Meanwhile my blouse muslin sits and languishes, a victim of fitting woes too.

And more birthday presents arrived in the evening. My husband came home with some books and a DVD “wrapped” in the shopping bag. I also “opened” the non-wrapped wish list gifts from his sister. One gift was Borders, Bindings and Edges: The Art of Finishing Your Quilt by Sally Collins. I already knew I was getting it, which took away the surprise - besides the fact that I asked for it on my wish list. I’m bad. I peeked and looked at the “purchased items” a few weeks ago and saw it on that list.

So I really enjoyed my day off and wish I could have more. I wish I didn’t have to work. But then I wouldn’t have the money to buy fabric and patterns and I wouldn’t have anywhere to wear the clothes I’d make. So I guess I will keep working.

Oh yeah. Almost forgot. I changed my hairstyle. I decided I was bored with the old look and why not make a change for my birthday. I like the new cut but it does require more work in the morning. Along with some gel and spray and fussing. I didn't radially change it, I just got layers cut and am trying to grow my bangs out. Yeah, been there, done that and went back to bangs!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I actually got out my knitting last night! I was going to sew, but overwhelmed with what to work on: miniature quilt, blouse muslin, xmas gift I need to finish..., I decided to knit instead. It's a scarf out of this yarn. Not the easiest to knit but it's just a simple garter stitch.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Fitting Frustrations!

I had hoped to do lots of sewing this holiday weekend but a variety of things got in the way.

  1. It's HOT! Over 100 yesterday and today and near 100 on Saturday. We don't have a/c, so we tried to do as little as possible.

  2. Doing as little as possible was all I could do Saturday. I somehow hurt my back and it started spasming so I spent most of the day on the couch with ice on my back. At least the ice kept me cool. Fortunately the combination of ice, rest, and some nice little white pills did the trick and by night I was almost back to normal. The only thing I can figure is that I moved a rib a bit when I watered plants Saturday morning. Good thing I have a chiropractor appointment on Wednesday.

  3. College football on TV. Had to watch Penn State start the season off with a win. Yippee. Colorado State didn't do so well. Bummer. But other teams I root for (Stanford, Michigan) also won. Also watched a few movies. Not an entirely bad way to spend a few days off.

I finally go to my sewing today, but the heat and some annoying fitting problems made at least my garment sewing short lived. I spent alittle time working on my miniature quilt. This quilt is a project that I will have to work on bit by bit over the next year.

So...the fitting. Ugh. Lets see, so far I have a size 14 muslin with the side seams let out 1/4 inch and a size 16 muslin with a narrow chest adjustment. Without sleeves, the 16 is kinda big and the 14 is fitted. But I forgot that this pattern has a tie in the back so the 16 looked like it might fit better. That is until I put the sleeves in. I hate set-in sleeves but I spent the time to do both sets on each muslin. I'm glad I did. The size 16 narrow chest adjustment that seemed fine without sleeves was awful once they were in! It definitely pulls and tells me I don't need the adjustment or I took too much out. The 14 actually fits better - nicely fitted across the upper chest and shoulders. But there are some drag lines coming from the bust. It could just be that this is the wrong time of the month to be fitting things in my chest, if you know what I mean. I fear that the size 16 without bust adjustment will be too big in the upper chest. To address the drag lines I think I need a bit more room in lower part of the armscye. But I'm not sure how much more time and effort I want to spend on this, let alone how to do such an adjustment. The fabric for the blouse is inexpensive cotton from Joann's but I was hoping to make more New Look blouses, so understanding the fit would be beneficial. But at this point I was too hot to deal with it...or any sewing. So I took a break and later on I worked on my quilt.

    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Fitting woes and art supplies

    Well, I tried going up a size on the New Look blouse and then doing the pattern adjustment for a small upper chest but the blouse was too big overall. Hmmm, I guess I'm between sizes. I tried on the smaller size to compare and think that I will now try to let out the side seams 1/4 inch and see if that helps. The blouse has front and back vertical darts and should be fitted. Too large and it will just emphasize the "homemadeness." Too small and the buttons in front will pull and I definitely won't be comfortable wearing it.

    That reminds me of an incident I witnessed at work a few weeks ago. I work in a predominantly male field so women are scarce and due to the nature of the field (science and engineering), usually not fashionable (sad, but true). I was at an all-day review and noticed one woman, who has a fairly boyish figure and was dressed rather plainly, was wearing a blouse that was too small across the front - even with her A-cup. As a result it gapped a bit. What shocked me though was the guy in the next row had casually turned around for something but his eyes locked on her. Not on her face, but the gap in her blouse! He was staring at the bit of bra or skin he could see! He didn't just do this once either! I was sitting in the row behind her and I saw him turn around again and stare. Blatently. What a perv! I'm glad I don't work with this guy.

    Anyway, back to sewing...

    Or art. I went out last night to a buy a frame but had an alterior motive - the 2-day pattern sale at Joann's. Since I'm trying my darndest to keep from buying more fabric, I'm indulging in patterns instead. I ordered eight at Wazoodle's Kwik Sew sale and picked up two last night at Joann's. Then I went to buy the frame but had to browse the art supplies. I love art supplies. I always loved art in school and try to dabble in it now and then. I recently bought a portable easel at Costco - it was a good price and even came with a blank canvas, brushes and acrylic paints. I have some watercolors at home and even took a watercolor class but I've not painted with acrylics. I can't even remember if I used them in school. So I bought a book to learn about the materials and methods of painting, some more blank canvases for practicing, and a sketch book for trying out ideas (I think I'll use colored pencils or even crayons). Yeah, I know, like I need more hobbies. There's just something about art suppies, fabric, patterns, etc. that makes me want to create. The problem is putting brush to canvas and scissor to fabric.