Monday, August 30, 2010

The Key to Follow Through

Quick action. Don't ponder it too long or you'll never get it done. For once, I took this bit of advice to heart. I wanted to turn last week's yardage into a dress and I did.

I almost sabotaged myself though. I had picked out the pattern and started that whole process where I imagine how the dress will look when it's all done, what I'll wear it with, where I can wear it to, and, most importantly, how terrific I'll feel the first time I wear it. Because, people, there's nothing like the first time wear. I was caught up in all that as I ironed the fabric when I suddenly started doubting that I should necessarily make a dress. "Maybe I should make a top," I thought. "After all I don't wear dresses that often." Or "maybe I should use the fabric for pillow covers or quilt backing or to wash my bike." I was getting completely distracted from my original plan and that was not only bringing on a bit of anxiety, but making this whole follow through thing really hard. Finally, I said something I often say when I veer off on tangents like this, "stick with plan A." I am a firm believer that 9 out of 10 times you can't go wrong if you just stay with the original plan.

Plan A involved this pattern with a few minor modifications. The original pattern calls for straps that tie at the shoulders. I personally think that's problematic should you ever want to wear a cardigan over your cute, little dress. So, I reconfigured the straps so they would emerge from a buttonhole in the center front and be tied at that point. I even considered using a bead to hold the straps in place, but just didn't happen to have one on hand. I'm going to hold on to that idea for incarnation #3 of this dress.

Yes, that's not a typo, I've made another version of this dress. But, before you rename me Miss Lickity Split of the Sewing Machine(though, truth be told, I kind of like that title), I made the red version back in May to wear to a friend's wedding. The first version uses Anna Marie Horner's cotton voile fabric and is the "B" version of the pattern. This past weekend's dress is the "C" version.
The first time wear of the red version was particularly memorable because I'd gotten the fabric in trade for some tutorials I created for Sew,Mama,Sew. The first time is always special, but all the more so when the fabric is free.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Cupcake Quilt

I had every intention of finishing this quilt so that I could gift it to some friends on the occasion of their new baby. As time got near though, I realized I wouldn't finish it in time for a big celebration they had planned to welcome their new little one. I opted to make the baby a Strips and Bricks quilt instead. I only had a few pangs of guilt as I handed over the quilt. Maybe it wasn't even guilt so much as just a slight shift of expectation. Anyway, they were very happy with the quilt they received and I was happy because I'm a firm believer in handmade gifts, especially for babies.
As the weeks went by and the original quilt remained unfinished, it started to bother me. Apparently wasting time, money, and resources is an even better motivator for me than a sweet, baby face, so I went ahead and finished the quilt.

Being that the the making of the quilt was originally inspired by a little cupcake, I decided to title it The Cupcake Quilt.

Also, if you like this pattern and think you might want to make one in the future, I'll let you in on a little secret: It's a lot like one of the quilts I designed for my new book.
Consider this a wee little teaser.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One out of 613

So I was searching around wondering how I was going to begin discussing what I think is a very important topic when I happened to scroll down the page and noticed that the are exactly 613 folks who follow this blog. Now, if you're Jewish or even if you're not, you know that in Judaism, 613 is a very significant number. If you were to count up all the mitzvot or commandments mentioned in the Torah, you would get the number 613.
Guess what? Many of these commandments apply even if you're not Jewish. Love your neighbor as yourself. Sound familiar? Be generous to those who are less fortunate. I bet that rings a bell too.
There's a much quoted Jewish text that states, " You're not required to complete the work, but neither are you entitled to abstain from it." The work referred to here is making our world a better place. No one single individual can fix all that's wrong, but we're all obligated to be part of the effort.
I hope to be part of the effort by participating in an online fundraiser sponsored by Alissa of Handmade by Alissa fame.
Many of us are familiar with Alissa through her wonderful quilted creations, but this week her claim to fame has to do with a special project she has undertaken to buoy the efforts of her sister, Cate, who works for the non-profit organization, Action Kivu.
In a recent email, Alissa described the work of Action Kivu and her impetus for getting involved:

The conflict in Congo has taken the lives of over 5.4 million people since 1998. Rape is used as a weapon of war, with estimates putting the number of rapes in the hundreds of thousands.
Action Kivu provides some of the Eastern Congo's victims of violence with the opportunity to rebuild their lives on a foundation of hope, dignity, and economic self-sustenance. Their approach is spearheaded through two programs. First, they run a sewing workshop that teaches women who are victims of the conflict to sew. This leads them to be able to support themselves and their families. Secondly, they pay for children to go to school which is not free in Congo. It costs $40 a year, per child. That's very little money that makes a big impact.
Needless to say, this specific organization, with its link to sewing and women, really strikes a personal chord in me. Our online sewing community is so blessed to be able to pursue our love of sewing as a hobby, career, or just for fun, but for these women, learning to sew will be life changing and give them hope for their futures.
The Action Kivu sewing workshop of course costs money to run and they need supplies - sewing machines and more. They do not need the goods themselves, but the money to buy them.
If you are wondering why we can't just donate our old sewing machines, there are a few reasons. First, getting supplies to Eastern Congo is no simple task and would cost more than the value of the goods. Secondly they need very specific things. For example, they don't always have power so they need trundle sewing machines. Lastly, it's best that they buy the supplies there, putting the money into the local economy. You can imagine that buying a sewing machine helps not only the woman who sews with it, but the person they buy it from and the money trickles down from there.
I am launching this fundraiser to raise the money the Action Kivu sewing workshop needs for their supplies and I hope that you'll join me.
Action Kivu is run in Eastern Congo by a Congolese man, Amani Matabaro, who Cate knows personally and who is amazingly passionate and committed to his cause of helping women and children in his country. As an orphan who lost his parents in the conflict, he was driven to try to do something to help. He currently works as an interpreter for the UN and runs Action Kivu in all of his spare time.
Amani has specifically asked for these things - we will not be throwing this money into the wind, not knowing where it's going. Through photos and emails with Amani we will be able to see the immediate and concrete results of our fundraising.

Alissa's sister Cate put together this amazingly powerful video that introduces us to the conflict as well as to Amani Matabaro.

Action Kivu: Sewing Workshop Fundraiser from Action Kivu on Vimeo.

I was particularly struck by what Amani had to say regarding the distance between the US and Africa. He rightly states that though our countries are far away from each other, we here in the US can do something to empower and better the lives of the people of Kivu. We are so lucky to have that opportunity.
So, I ask you, encourage you, implore you, to click on this link and donate. Be part of the work to make the world just a little bit better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yardage on my Mind

I recently unearthed some really big buckets, the kind that paint comes in, but can be purchased sans the paint at hardware stores. The ones I have never had paint or nothing in them, but were given to me by a friend who was friends with someone who owned a barbecue restaurant. My big buckets used to store pickles, so I've always referred to them as the pickle buckets. Thankfully, the pickle smell dissipated years ago. I'd pretty much ignored these buckets in favor of dishpans for my dye work and that meant that I had to limit my fabric lengths to about 1/2 yard.
Lately though I've been getting quite a few requests for larger pieces. Couple that with the fact that I just patterned and dyed 3 yard lengths to make curtains for my daughter and her college roommate and I've been rethinking using the pickle buckets.

This is the latest piece to emerge from said buckets. I'm planning on using it myself to sew a new dress or top. I haven't decided which yet. But, I'm all about sharing the love, so I'm going to start offering larger lengths in my shop as well. I'm starting with my striped fabrics such as this, this, this, and that. Oh, and this too.
Also, though I know better and I should hold on to these for the Austin Area Quilt Guild Show, I'm adding a few bundles to my store as well. If they go I guess I'll just have to make the pickle buckets, of course.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Proof Positive That I do Read the Comments

For those who are wondering, I did survive the college drop-off and was definitely buoyed in my survival by your great comments and encouragement. I made only one teeny-tiny error during the weekend. As we were sitting in the large gym of the Woodruff PE building I spotted what I thought was a guy dressed in a chicken outfit and yelled out, "Hey, what's with the guy dressed up like a chicken?" This was deeply amusing to everyone around as the chicken was actually the Emory mascot, Swoop the Eagle. Oops.
Despite my not recognizing him for the celebrity he is, Swoop still agreed to be photographed with me.

Apparently, he doesn't hold any grudges.

That, however, is not the proof that I read your comments. This is:

In the past, when I've released patterns, folks have commented that they'd love to see a kit that included pre-cut fabric as well as the instructions. I have created patterns specifically geared to a group of fabrics, but never a complete kit wherein all you add is your own thread and sewing machine. The reason for this is that it has to be cost effective for me and you as well as simple enough for even beginning sewers to do. Also, it would be great if the kit project didn't take loads of time to complete.
These coasters are my answer to that. Actually, I should say they're my first answer because I'm planning at least three more kits.
But first the coasters.
This kit was inspired by all the small squares of hand dyed and patterned fabric I seem to accumulate. I've fashioned them into my own projects and thought it would be fun to use them in a kit.
My first thought was to include randomly selected fabrics for the coaster tops and standardize the backs and bindings.

I like this set, but I think that most folks want to know what they're getting and it would be incredibly difficult to meet every individual request.

So, I crafted this set instead.

In this second version all four coasters are made from the same six fabrics. The top and backs are from my hand dyed cottons and the binding is a commercial solid. My plan is to dye five coordinating patterns and colors in half yard lengths, match those to a solid commercial fabric, and release the kits in limited edition color ways. The instructions will obviously remain the same.
By the way, these coasters are super-easy and super fast. I made all four, including cutting the fabric, in under 40 minutes. You'll be able to make them even quicker because the kits will come with pre-cut fabric and batting. How great is that?
So, when will they be ready for prime time? They'll be available in my shop and in person on September 17 to coincide with my being a vendor at the Austin Area Quilt Guild Show, September 17-19.
If you're interested in a little preview of what I'll be offering at the show as well as an opportunity to win two free tickets to the show, stay tuned here because all that is coming up in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

Remember that scene from Fiddler on the Roof where Tevya's eldest daughter gets married and he and Golda sing about how quickly she went from being their little girl to a grown woman? I'm experiencing a little of that myself these days. I've been furiously (and I mean furiously) rushing around trying to finish all manner of projects and assignments before my husband and I head out tomorrow to Atlanta, Georgia. My sweet,little girl who's now 5'10" and 18 years old is headed to Emory University. I'm not going to sugar coat it. I will be crying. I've already cried. I know that this is great and she's starting her own life and isn't it wonderful that she has this opportunity. I've got all that. But people, it's weird and unsettling and I don't think you realize just how weird and unsettling it is until you're right there on the threshold of your child leaving home. She's always lived with us. She's always been a kid. Now...well not so much.
I'm coping with it the way I cope with everything. Partly I avoid thinking about it until it's smack dab in my face and by making stuff.
To that end I dyed and patterned several lengths of fabric for closet curtains for my girl and her roommate. I planned a knitting project that I hope to complete during the car ride because, I may be a little sad, but there's no way I'm going to waste 30 perfectly good hours of uninterrupted knitting time. And I finished a mini quilt to donate to the silent auction at my synagogue this Sunday evening.

I won't be at the silent auction because I'll still be on my way back from Atlanta, but hopefully this little quilt will find a good home.
I'll be back next week with more hand dyed, homemade goodness and at least one extra room in my house.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Which I Review Two Books

I'll get to that in a minute...or two.
First, our two randomly selected giveaway winners are Monika and Christina. Yay! I've already sent both of you an email with the PDF of the pattern attached, so enjoy and congratulations!
Next, the obligatory picture. This has nothing to do with this post and, truth be told, I could have shot some related photos because both the books I'm going to review I also own. But, my camera battery is charging and my dog ate my homework, so I'm posting something completely different.
Here it is:

I guess it's not that far afield. Both the books I'm discussing are craft/fiber books and that's a picture of some fabric, also a fiber, so I guess I'm still on topic.

Now, I'm really going to digress, I think...possibly.
I might have mentioned before that when I sew or dye or knit I like to listen to the radio. But, I don't like to listen to music, I prefer talk. I'm very picky about the talk that I hear, so I listen to NPR. I prefer to limit my name calling to when I'm driving my car, so I'm not interested in standard talk radio. This is all well and good when my local NPR station, KUT, is playing All Things Considered or Morning Edition or Fresh Air, but the majority of the programming is music. I thought I had solved that problem by purchasing an HD radio. By the way, apparently HD doesn't stand for High Definition. It doesn't stand for anything. Anyway, on my HD radio I could listen to the HD NPR station which was devoted to all sorts of talk programs around the world. I happily listened to Talk of the Nation and enjoyed the lilt of Neal Conan's voice as he said, "Bye-bye," to callers. I heard what can only be labeled as British Tabloid News on the radio when I listened to BBC's World Have Your Say and marveled at how many folks from the small nation of Ghana seem interested in calling into this show. And I discovered what can only be termed as Slow Radio when I listened to Diane Rheem S.L.O.W.L.Y. interview all types of movers and shakers. With my HD radio in my studio, I was a happy and productive camper.
Sadly, after less than a year, it broke. I was at a loss. I know I can live stream these programs from my computer, but that meant bringing it upstairs and making sure it was plugged in and, frankly, the live stream included a fair number of music programs. I was pretty despondent until I my youngest gifted me with an ipod and I downloaded an audio book. Not, just any audio book, but Steig Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I love, love, love this book. What a wonderful, suspenseful story with an incredible twist at the end. Over the course of one week and while doing an amazing amount of work, I listened to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. Even better, I've listened to all three books again.
Now, in the course of my exhaustive research into the benefits of crafting while listening to audio books, I've also listened to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I can't rave as much about that one, despite the fact that the book runs at least 35 hours, quite the bang for your buck. I particularly wanted to like it because it's part of a series and I figured if I enjoyed Outlander I was set for audio book entertainment for a while. I found the book to be pretty much a soap opera set in 18th century Scotland with, albeit, some AMAZING sex scenes written in. But, my studio is accessible to my kids and I had a little trouble explaining the blushing.
Right now I'm listening to Colim Tiobin's novel Brooklyn. I'll let you know what I think when I've finished.
What I'm prepared to review right now(see, I segwayed back) are two newly released craft books, New England Knits: Timeless Knitwear with a Modern Twist by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa La Barre and Craft Hope: Handmade Crafts for a Cause by Jade Sims. I'll be succinct because I've gone on for a while here, but both books are worth your time and attention.
New England Knits features the knitwear designs of two of my absolute favorite designers. As I'm typing, I'm wearing one of Cecily Glowik MacDonald's designs for Quince and Co. Yarn and I've made two of Melissa La Barre's Designs, the Tea Leaves cardigan and two versions of the Tea Leaf tee. My admiration goes back a bit and I was not disappointed with this book. The designs are not only wearable but doable, that is I can see myself sitting down and, with ipod headphones firmly planted in my ears, knitting these patterns.
I had a different but nonetheless powerful reaction to Jade Sim's book Craft Hope. I was deeply touched by it. She does such a wonderful job of communicating the value and joy inherent in combining a love of making with a passion for helping others. There's such an array of projects and each one is paired with a charity that want, needs, the work of our hands. I don't know that I can pinpoint exactly how Jade inspires the reader to get involved through crafting, but that message is palpable. More importantly, it's not said in a finger-wagging sort-of-way, but with kindness and sweetness. I think you should get this book, pick a project, make it, and donate it. I can't see how you would ever regret it.
Also, if you do make these projects, whether from New England Knits or Craft Hope and simultaneously listen to a great book, pass that recommendation on to me. I'm definitely in the market for my next, good listen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's Ready!

Quick question before I start: Why does everything always take longer than I think it will?

This first part is primarily aimed at folks who are familiar with metro Dallas. Remember that building that went up along Central Expressway about 20 years ago? The one that looked like a giant letter I. When the building was nearing completion the developers put up a huge billboard along the freeway in hopes of promoting the building to renters. The billboard read," It's Ready!" with the letter I replaced with an enormous picture of the building. Ever since then, I can't pass the building without exclaiming, " It's ready!" Now, seeing as I don't really care for Dallas anyway and try to avoid visiting as much as possible, I don't have many opportunities to use this now well-worn phrase. So, I'm applying it here. It's ready! Except, the "it" I'm referring to is my updated version of the Strips and Bricks Pattern.

I've added the illustrations and updated the text and, most importantly, finished my own version 2.0.

I've also added several copies to my store, so if you're interested in the pattern, head on over there.

Or, if you'd like, leave a comment and you'll be eligible to win one of the two copies I'll be giving away, no previous familiarity with the "It's" building, Central Expressway, or Dallas, Texas necessary.