Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is it wrong to be jealous...

Wait! Before I finish that thought, I have to say how much I enjoyed all your Joann's wisdom. It has given me a new perspective on using the coupon effectively and made me feel that I'm not alone in being perplexed by the coupon/marketing strategy at Joann's.
Thanks for chiming in.

...of other people's potholders? I don't know, but I was definitely feeling envious when day after day images from my flickr contacts included pictures of crocheted potholders. The Potholder Swap 2010 is in full swing and I am daily encountering images like this and this and this. I just couldn't take it.
Before you tear up over my lack of handmade potholders and perhaps even start a nationwide campaign to right this obvious wrong in my life, I should say that I do own several handmade potholders.

But, none of them were NEW. I've had them all for quite a while and they've gotten stained. I wanted new potholders, dammit!

So, I made some.

And, while I do feel a little better, I've got this nagging feeling that I'm not alone; there are others who would like to grip the handles of hot pots and skillets not with store-bought, terry cloth potholders, but ones crafted by an individual. Raise your spatulas if you're with me on this.
I am therefore proposing another potholder swap geared toward those of us who are more inclined to sew our heart's desire than crochet it. Of course if you like to do both and would like to participate, that's OK, too. No judging here.

Here's what I propose:
1. Every participant should commit to making a pair of potholders. After all most folks have two hands and they tend to be equally sensitive to heat.
2. You can construct the front and back of your potholder in any shape, pattern, patchwork you desire, but let's use heat resistant batting in the middle layer, OK? Good news! Heat resistant batting (Insul-Brite) is available at Joann's. Get your coupon ready. It's also available online. Just search under Insul Brite batting.
3. The first full week of May, May 3-7, is mailing week. Send out those potholders by May 7.
4. Let's include our friends overseas. I mail a lot of items internationally and USPS International First Class is really not that expensive.

If you're interested in The Great Sewn Potholder Swap of 2010, leave a comment and include your email address as Blogger does not supply me with that information. I'll take addresses through Friday, April 2 and send out swap info the following week.

I've never organized something like this before, so I'm a little nervous, but the thought of all of you clutching piping hot tureens of goulash with the aid of beautifully crafted, handmade potholders...Well, I think you know how I feel.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Something to Contemplate While Hanging the Wash

Warning: This whole "hanging the wash" thing is just my attempt to link the text of this post to the pictures. Also, you all should know this isn't even my wash or my clothesline, but my neighbor's. She has the most amazing collection of vintage aprons, a fact that's worth contemplating, but not what I'm contemplating today.

I went to Joann's fabrics today to buy a few necessaries like muslin, batting, and interfacing. I wasn't buying anything exciting, but it was a bit of a momentous occasion because I actually remembered to bring the coupon that they periodically send me in the mail. I can't even count the number of times I have been asked by a Joann's hostess (I assume they are hostesses because all the customers are referred to as guests) if I have my coupon. Once I admit that I don't they usually follow up by asking if I'm on the mailing list. "Yes," I say, "but I never remember to bring the coupons you send."
That might be a wee bit of an exaggeration. I suppose I have remembered a few times, but not often.

Most times I've realized that I'm sans the 40% off coupon, I'm more than a little disappointed that I won't get to enjoy the savings. However, the few times I have come armed with my coupon I've found it very difficult to apply it to any of my purchases. This is because almost everything at Joann's is at least a little discounted and therefore not eligible for the whopping 40% off coupon.

Mind you, I'm not complaining about the prices at Joann's. It serves its purpose well. What I don't understand and what I have tried to analyze as I walk uphill both ways to the banks of the river where I will, with washing board in hand, scour aprons clean and then hang them to dry in the sun is what's the point of this little bait and switch game. If the powers-that-be at Joann's want to offer nearly all their products at a discounted price, why take the time, money, and paper to mail out coupons? I would suspect that folks like me who regularly shop at Joann's for various crafting items don't really need the coupon to incentivize them into the store. Also, if I were new to the store and came in just because I had a coupon I think I'd find it a little frustrating that the only full priced item I could apply my 40% discount to is the $1.99 thimble. Said thimble would then cost $.79, but not necessarily make me feel like I'd gotten an amazing deal.

Here's my advice to the movers and shakers at Joann's: Either make the coupon truly worth the effort of bringing it into the store or stop offering it.
Just my 2 cents. With the discount coupon that's 1.2 cents.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not a lot of words...

...just some pretty pictures.

Oh, and a quick shop note. There will be new bundles in the shop tomorrow and next Thursday, April 1, will be the launch date for the pillow/bundle "kits".

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Little Unplugging Help

In yesterday's New York Times there was an article about the National Day of Unplugging which begins tonight at sunset and ends tomorrow at sunset. The focus of this day is to turn off technology and reconnect with your family, your environment, and maybe even yourself. We Jews call it Shabbat or the Sabbath and it's not exactly new. Actually, it's at least 3,000 years old. But the concept of slowing down our lives just one day a week is probably even more necessary today as it was when Moses came down from the mountain.
I did not grow up in a household that unplugged or slowed down on Shabbat. This is sort of ironic because as native Hebrew speakers we referred to Saturday as Shabbat but didn't treat it that way. It was as good a day as any to run errands, set up lessons, and take care of all the necessities of life.
When I got married we continued to treat Saturday as just another day of the week. Until a few years ago when we made a conscious decision to change Saturday back into Shabbat. We started to be regular Friday night synagogue attendees and even the occasional Saturday morning. We made a point of having dinner together as a family and including friends at our table. We began lighting candles on Friday night to mark the beginning of Shabbat and, though I'd not grown up baking or watching challah being baked, I started baking two loaves of challah every Friday afternoon.

Nothing helps you take the deep, deep breath that signals Shabbat like walking into a room and smelling fresh, baked challah. But that deep breath would be hollow without the knowledge that tomorrow you're not going to do all the usual stuff. You're not going to check your email, or stress about work, or plan out your retirement. You're just going to be. It's amazingly liberating.

One of my favorite things to do on Shabbat is read...all day. I love having hours of uninterrupted reading, knowing that I don't have to stop at an exciting point in the story because I need get something done. And I like to get started on my all day reading early. I get up before anyone else in the family and eat some of the leftover challah while curled up in a chair with my book. Add some nutella to that challah and...oh just doesn't get any better than that.
So, in honor of the National Day of Unplugging, I'm sharing my challah recipe with you. It's not really mine, but excerpted here from Beth Hensperger's Bread Bible. I should note that in the recipe, the challah loaves pictured are round rather than braided. That's because this recipe is geared toward challah intended for Rosh Hashannah or Jewish New Year. You can shape yours like the ones in the picture or braid them like mine. Either way, they're a perfect accompaniment to an unplugged day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Question: Meaning of Life

I figured since you all were so adept at answering my Target/Liberty of London query, I should take advantage of your collective wisdom and hit you with the really big stuff. :)

It was very enlightening and actually comforting to learn that the Liberty line at Target is not crafted out of the same cotton that's available from fabric stores. I feel a little less idiotic. Especially since I absolutely love, love, love the fabric that I used for my top. This cotton is the most amazing cotton I've ever worked with. It's more like a rayon in terms of drape, but you get the ease of sewing with cotton. I did a little online searching for a retailer that has an extensive collection of Liberty prints and found this. I'm not convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that the fabric merits $36-38 per yard, but it is amazing stuff. I can't buy it everyday or even every month, but I will be buying Liberty cotton again.

Leftovers of my own fabric which, despite being hand patterned and dyed by me still doesn't cost as much as commercially produced Liberty cotton (hmmm? something seems wrong there) have inspired me to make some new striped coasters for my shop.

I've made three sets of four squarish coasters, all improvisationally pieced so each one is unique.

As I was uploading the coaster images to my store it struck me that I've never made a round, striped coaster. I've made striped coasters and round coasters, but never combined the two. You know, like peanut butter and chocolate. I think I'll test this idea out and see if there's a good reason to avoid mixing stripes with circles or if I've hit upon the fabric version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

One other shop note. I've added several bundles to Ye Olde Etsy Shoppe, several of which include a couple new fabric designs in new color ways.

This one is the only one I have pictures of, but the other new design/colorway is this design in shades of chartreuse and orange.

OK. That's all for now. Have a great day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

I don't get it...

...and I'm turning to you all to explain it to me. Yesterday I discovered that you can buy items made with Liberty of London fabrics at Target. There's a variety of stuff, from apparel for men, women, and kids to home decor and accessories.
Now, I'm all for items made out of high quality materials available at easily accessible places like Target. What I don't understand is the prices. They are so cheap. OK, before everyone starts chiming in with buying in bulk and specialty lines created just for a lower end market, my question is a wee bit rhetorical. But my irritation is genuine. I just don't know exactly who I'm irritated with.
To explain, let me back up a few steps. As I was perusing the online Target site, this top caught my eye. "Cute," I thought. Then I checked the price and my jaw pretty much dropped. $19.99. That's what they have a top sewn out of Liberty of London cotton fabric priced at. I figure there's about 1 1/2 yards of fabric in the top, plus the cost of labor, and transportation. Add to that the cost of carrying it in the store. You also have to factor in retail markup which is usually about 100%. That means that, wholesale, the top cost a little less than $10.
I am perplexed, befuddled, confused. How can this be? When little ole me wants to sew something out of Liberty of Lawn cotton, I pay around $38 per yard. That's just the fabric. I haven't accounted for my time, the other materials, electricity, wear and tear on my sewing machine, or even the cost of shipping the fabric to my home.
Something just doesn't add up. I understand that the fabric manufacturer can cut Target a really good deal and the Target can scour the globe for cheap labor to sew these items. I understand why things at Target are inexpensive. But, if Liberty can afford to sell to Target so cheaply, why is it the most expensive cotton fabric you're likely to encounter. It's not just a little more expensive than the designer cottons or the Japanese fabrics. It runs about twice as much per yard. And, please don't tell me that it is 54" rather than 45" wide. That doesn't quite cover the price disparity.
I should add that I know that Liberty is fabulous stuff. How? Because,about 6 months ago, after lusting after it online for a long while, I broke down and bought 1 1/2 yards of a Liberty print. It has been sitting on my shelf, waiting for just the right project. Seeing that Target top yesterday reminded me that I had a similar pattern. I'm lucky that it was already late last night when I made my Target/Liberty discovery because the sun could not come up quickly enough for me to get started on my own, much more expensive, version of this top. I needed to make it to prove a point.

Don't let the pretty peach blossoms distract you.

I understand that those of us who sew or knit don't necessarily do so to save money. Many times I've bought yarn for a sweater that cost more than I would pay in a store for an already existing sweater. I get it. It's about the process and the pride that goes with making it yourself. I expect to pay a premium for quality materials and that's exactly why I bought the Liberty cotton in the first place. But I become very suspicious when I see that Liberty of London can lower their prices to meet Target's pricing criteria, but still waves the banner of paying for the quality of Liberty when it comes to selling it's fabric to home sewers like me...and you.
So, I ask you, dear friends, explain it to me. In short, simple sentences. Because right now I'm feeling like a bit of a sucker.

Friday, March 12, 2010

For the Love of Stripes

I love stripes. Not so much for wearing. I'm more of a solids with the occasional prints kind of person. But I like piecing with stripes. They're so directional and you can manipulate that and that's fun.

Also, they're probably the simplest pattern to create with wax. Just draw lines and add dye. Perfect.

I had hoped to have this quilt ready to show today, but it looks like it will be finished over the weekend. Maybe I'll craft a few little items out of the wonderful pile of striped scraps leftovers.

What about you? What are you loving to make this weekend?

Have a good one!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let me run this by you...

I was cutting some fabric yesterday for my fabric bundles and started thinking about what a person could craft out of the 18,5" squares included in every bundle. I know that a lot of you buy my fabrics with a plan in mind, but I wondered if I might inspire someone on the fence about buying a bundle by offering some suggestions on how to use the fabric.
Anyone familiar with this blog or my online store knows that I not only pattern and dye the fabric, but use it in a variety of projects.
Like this:

and this:

In the past, I've offered the bundles as an entry into my hand-dyed fabrics. For a little money you could get a variety of patterns and colors and hopefully be as enamored of hand dyes as I am. The bundles were comprised of at least 4 different colorways and/or patterns, but they didn't necessarily coordinate together. They were usually leftovers from whatever I happened to be dyeing that week.
I want to take these bundles in a new direction by offering coordinated groupings of colors and patterns that are specifically geared for use with the bundles. I should stop right now and say that I'm just starting to work on this idea. Hell, I only came up with it yesterday. But I've already have my first project and will hopefully be able to officially roll it out in the next couple weeks.

This pillow top is crafted out of 16, 5" squares. It's very simple to sew together and, because each bundle has 18 squares, it features a pieced backing so that every bit of hand dye is used.

I'm currently describing this bundle grouping as "acid" colors, but if anyone has a better or more enticing name, please chime in. My plan is to have 2-3 different bundle groupings that have the same color theme, but might not all consist of the same patterns. Make sense? Right now I'd like to include this grouping as well as one that focuses on reds and aquas. Again, suggestions appreciated.
When I add these bundles to my store, I'm going to include a free pattern detailing how to make this 18" square pillow for those who purchase a bundle. In the interest of making the pattern accessible to all, I used a commercial cotton for the remainder of the pillow and binding. That information will be included in the pattern along with detailed and illustrated instructions. The PDF instructions will be emailed.
I'm also working on a baby quilt that uses 2 bundles for the top. I love the idea that you could make something out of hand dyed, one-of-a-kind fabrics for the price of a couple bundles and some solid commercial cotton.
It's probably a marketing faux pas to talk about this before it's all ready, but I don't care. I like to think of it as building anticipation and also, I'm so excited about it I don't really want to keep it to myself.
Back with more about this soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I might need a 12-step program

For perfectionism. I know the first step in solving my problem is admitting that it exists. I've never actually denied it, but I may be powerless before it. My latest bout of perfectionism has reared it's head because of this.

The pattern is Bias Blanket by the very talented Jennifer Casa and there are currently 4 versions of this pattern being knitted by various folks in this house. Honestly though, I'll probably be the only one who finishes any sort of blanket. My girls don't always have staying power when it comes to knitting projects. No matter, once they officially throw in the towel, I'll tear back the 1/3, 5/8, or whatever fraction of a completed blanket they have and reclaim the yarn. More for me.
I'm afraid though that before I rip back their blankets, I'll rip back mine. I love so much about this blanket, the easy, carefree knitting, the bold diagonal stripes, and the soft cotton yarn. What I'm not loving has more to do with my own excessive sense of perfectionism than the pattern. My blanket is not turning out square, but more diamond shaped. Most likely I made some mistake along the way or the fact that the blanket combines garter along the edges and stockinette in the center doesn't work for me because my tensions vary too much. Whatever the reason I'm not crafting the polygon I want and I'm starting to obsess about it.

When I first started knitting the blanket I didn't have a recipient in mind, just a lot of worsted weight cotton yarn. Now, however, I not only have an intended giftee, but a deadline. It's not next week, but April, so I've got plenty of time to re-knit the blanket, but only if I act decisively now. No hemming and hawing and trying to convince myself that diamonds really are a girl's best friend. After all my the soon-to-be born recipient is a boy. So, though I should stand in front of you all and declare, "Hi, my name is Malka and I am a perfectionaholic," I'm going to give in to my addiction just one more time and make this blanket exactly like the semi-compulsive me envisioned it.
After that I'll quit. Because I can. Anytime I want.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Bit of a Pickle

So I have a bit of a dilemma today. And when I say dilemma, I like to pronounce it Die-lem-ah. Why? I don't know. I just like to play around with word pronunciations. It's sort of my recurring joke; the same way my husband always responds to requests like, "Could you please make me a cup of coffee?" by pointing his finger and saying," Poof! You're a cup of coffee." Yeah, that could get annoying, but that's his little joke and I like it.
Anyway, my dilemma (remember the pronunciation) is whether to post a new little story or tidbit for which I don't have any pretty pictures or to just update you all on my crafty endeavors over the past week.

On the one hand I do have a few funny/mildly neurotic stories to tell, but on the other hand I have taken some lovely shots of new work.

The only thing that keeps me from going whole hog into update mode is that the work I've photographed these past days is not complete and/or not something totally brand new that I've never shown before.

I could solve my problem by posting the pictures and telling the stories despite their total lack of connection, but that's like walking and chewing gum and I'm not good at that.

So, I think you see my quandary.

Let me know if you have a solution and, in the meantime, could you please make me a cup of coffee?