Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Personal Loss and Waiting for Sadness to Soften

Last Friday, my family lost my maternal grandmother.  She was a really wonderful, loving person, and we've been feeling the loss keenly.  It was sudden and unexpected, and while that is a blessing in some ways, it came as a shock.  I know that time will mellow the sadness, but you still have to put in those tender days, one at a time...

Though I've given crochet doilies to a handful of people-- and they've expressed what I'm sure is genuine appreciation of the time and work that goes into them-- Granny was one of my most enthusiastic doily recipients, and I'm sure I'll always associate thread crochet with her.  It had become a tradition for me to crochet a doily or two for her birthday and Christmas gifts, every year.  There's a pang when I remember that she won't be here to unwrap one this May, but I'm trying to focus on the happy memories instead.

The day after Granny passed away, I spent a few minutes (trying to grasp some sense of normality) looking through one of those quilting magazines Mom gave me, back around Christmas.  Almost the first thing I saw in it was a letter from a reader who had sewn memory quilts from the clothes of her mother-- one for each of the adult grand-daughters, based on the topic of the eulogy each had given.  The last one was themed on one of her grandmother's favorite sayings-- "Home again, home again, jiggety jog."   

Granny used to say, "Home again, home again, jiggety-jig," when we turned down her driveway after being away, shopping or such.  It may sound strange, but it really did feel like I was meant to see that right then, and I tried to take some comfort from it.  A confirmation that all was well-- that she had gone with joy and peace to her spiritual home, where she was greeted by loved ones already there.  At the very least it was a reminder that this experience is one we all endure, sooner or later.  Loss, sadness-- but also an eventual return to the happy, everyday routines of life.  Bittersweet memories softening surely sweeter, until you can face them without tears. 

This morning, my mother told me that she wants to be sure we set aside some of Granny's clothes to sew into a memory quilt.  (She and one of my aunts sew beautiful quilts, and you may remember that I'm just beginning to quilt, too.)  I thought immediately of the magazine-- and "home again, home again, jiggety-jig"-- and I couldn't quite trust myself to speak about it, so I just nodded in agreement.  It's a good idea.  Granny would have approved. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

To Dye For

(Ah, dyeing!  What other crafty pursuit offers such rich opportunities for puns?)  

I've dyed yarn for the edging of the Catherin Wheel scarf (a.k.a. the Rhubarb Scarf Wannabe, which in almost no way resembles the inspiration scarf).

I took my last skein of "soft white" Deborah Norville's Premier Serenity Sockweight Whatever-It's-Called yarn... a microwave-safe bowl... a little white vinegar... and globs of No-Taste Red and Royal Blue Wilton food dye (gel form).  I followed the same basic procedure for microwave dyeing that I described (at length) in this blog entry-- only all the yarn went into a single bowl.  (Not fussing with multiple colors and mini-hanks really speeds up the process!)

Dyeing Yarn

Here's an "in-progress" photo:

Dyeing Yarn

And of course, when I gently rearranged the hank to check that all the yarn got some dye, I realized that there were undissolved blobs of red gel at the bottom of the bowl.  So now there are some highly saturated red spots.  And I have to wonder if the red just never completely dissolved or if this is a sign that I used too much vinegar (precipitating the dye), and the yarn will bleed during rinsing.  :o/  In short, there might be a little more work to do before it can drip dry...

It'll be a while before it's ready to use, in any case, but that's ok.  (I'm not even sure yet what edging pattern I'll use.)

- - - - - - -

Luna kept me company in the kitchen. 
She's on probation because of bad behavior this morning.  Somehow she still hasn't fully grasped the concept of letting us know when she needs to go outside.  It's just too bad for us, if we don't happen to read her mind or notice that she's walking/sniffing the floor in a suspicious manner. Most of the time, letting her out on a regular basis (preemptively) works well enough, but for those more unpredictable or urgent calls of nature...
...It's a good thing she's cute.  ;o)


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

No-Photo Chit-Chat Post

I spent much of yesterday working in the yard doing the kind of work that doesn't make a big visual impact.  Pruning/shaping.  Taking down a small (and leafless) tree or two.  Weeding.  Tidying. The kind of work that after hours of it, you can step back, take a look, and think, "Hm.  I guess it looks ok.  Pretty much like it looked before."  If not for today's mild aches and a fresh pile of "garden debris" waiting to be burned, I might question whether or not I actually did yard work at all.  Barely made a dent, in other words.  Also, because I was working mainly in the front yard, where I don't tend to spend much time, I noticed several new tasks that have crept up and must now go on the To Do list.  (Clean the front door stoop of old webs, dirt-dauber nests, etc.  Repaint the front door.  Re-caulk around the front windows.  Re-fasten a couple of the shutters that are coming loose.)  That's life, I guess!  

- - - - - - -

I've added several more hexagons to the Simply Soft afghan.  I'm not sure why-- the uniformity? the lack of scope for color play?--  but it feels like really slow progress.  On the upside, there won't be any joining or endless tail-weaving at the end of this project!

It's fine for crocheting while listening to the TV or similar, but I'm feeling my attention begin to wander... (Again.)

- - - - - - -

Regarding the faux cathedral windows denim quilt, allow me to present you with the mental image of my eyes bugging out (comically).  I may have spoken too soon about the Singer behaving itself.  Since writing that, there have been Issues.  Breaking thread... Jamming... More jamming...  The occasional muttered curse and short shriek of pain.  (The muttering and shrieking are coming from me, by the way-- not the machine.  In case that wasn't clear.  It's not a haunted/possessed sewing machine-- maybe just a somewhat temperamental one.)

I think the difference is that, last time, I was working on relatively small pieces of the quilt.  They weren't that difficult to maneuver, compared to the longer strips that resulted from joining the small pieces.  Now the quilt is just two big ol' pieces.  There are a lot of pins to prick my poor, defenseless fingers.  There's also a lot of weight and bulk to move and manage-- and this quilt (the way I'm sewing it, at least) requires a very great deal of moving and turning.  It can be ever so slightly frustrating.

...But I feel like I "have" to keep with it until it's done, because if I set it aside now, I'm never going to want to finish the darn thing.  It needs to be finished.

So I'm sticking with it, despite all impulses to the contrary. 
Every stitch brings it closer to finished!  ;o)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sewing Machine Cover & Faux Cathedral Windows

I finished the sewing machine cover for the Singer yesterday!

Maybe it's not worth the exclamation point.  The cover's pretty simple, and it's not perfect, but it fits!  That is worth a small celebration, since 3-D sewing is tricky for some of us.  ;o)

Finished Sewing Machine Cover

I might possibly add some embellishments.  (I'm thinking crochet lace doo-dads of some sort...)  However, it probably won't be very visible, most of the time-- just sitting on that shelving unit to the right of the sewing table-- so maybe it's not worth the effort... Not to mention that with such a busy print, not just anything would be very visible...

Now that it's done, I should think about making a cover for the new machine, but I'm still not gung-ho about that particular project.  It needs to be done, though.  I don't want the new machine getting dusty-- and the cover for the Singer won't fit it.

- - - - -

Of course, with the new cover for the Singer finished, I promptly sat down to work on something using the old machine, rendering the cover (temporarily) useless. 

That "Faux Cathedral Windows" denim quilt I mentioned in passing during the craft room clean-up post?  I looked it up, and apparently I began it in January 2010.  So, five years later, I'm finally picking it back up.  (Sounds about right...)  I want to see the thing finished soon.

Since it's heavy denim-- and since I started it on the Singer-- I decided to continue sewing it on the Singer.  (I'm trying to save the new Brother from undue strain, whenever possible.)

I had to play around with the settings a little to get the zig-zag stitch the way I wanted it.  (I'm still not sure I have it set just right, but it'll be right enough.)  Then I had to figure out what path I would follow to eliminate as much stopping/starting and thread-cutting as possible.  I think I have a system that works, now.  I'm sure there's a better one, but this should be fine.

I finished sewing the parts I had all pinned and ready from last time-- and then I had to puzzle together the pieces.  I think I know what I was intending, back in 2010, but it took me a couple of minutes to... not so much remember as understand. (g)  (I should have made notes!) 

Here are all the pieces laid out on the floor.
There are eight partially completed "mini-quilts" now, waiting to be sewn together into strips, and then one big blanket.  And somewhere in there, I have to pin, then sew squares of fabric into all of those empty "windows"!  ...Should be a snap!  ;o)

Faux Cathedral Window Quilt

This is a fairly "primitive"-style quilt.  (That's my excuse for the sloppy sewing.)  There will be some fraying-- and that's perfectly fine.  Gives it that primitive flavor, you see.

The denim is all from old jeans.  The fabric in the windows will all be the same.  (It's a favorite old sheet with a pale green and blue floral print.)  I'm using black thread and no batting. 

Faux Cathedral Window Quilt

I can't wait to see it finished.  I don't think I'll ever want to make another quilt like this (or at least not in the near future), but I do really like the aesthetic.

The Singer is behaving nicely (~knock on wood~), but I miss the needle-up/needle-down setting from the Brother-- and the little sneak-peek window that lets you see how much thread is left on the bobbin.  I'm already spoiled by that handy feature. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Hexagons & a Sewing Machine Cover

I think I'm just about to the finishing point of the length of the Catherine Wheel scarf/cowl, but because I didn't heed my own advice, I've yet to dye the yarn for the edging.  (Maybe I'll do that today... Shouldn't be time-consuming, but getting back into dyeing mode takes an effort.)  That project's on the back burner, now.

- - - - - - - 

When I put away the scarf project bowl, I pulled out the basket of yarn for the Simply Soft hexagon afghan. 

Crochet Hexagons

It doesn't look much different from the last time I photographed it, but I've added several more hexagons since then.  Progress is slowed by the need to stop and deal with the loose ends, every now and then, but there's also no sense of urgency to finish the blanket. 

Crochet Hexagons

Crochet Hexagons

- - - - - - -

I've also begun to sew a cover for the old sewing machine.  I don't have much experience sewing three-dimensional objects, so I thought that this could provide some practice before getting down to the real challenge-- sewing a cover for the new machine.

I'm not really following any pattern or tutorial, though I've looked at a few for inspiration.  I'll be happy if it just fits, at this point!  There's not much wasted, even if it doesn't work.  The floral fabric was a freebie (and not quilting fabric), and the white lining is just a piece of an old sheet leftover from when I sewed curtains for the kitchen.  

WIP: Sewing Machine Cover

- - - - - - - 

Crafty interests aside, I'm feeling the urge to get some things done outside, before the cool season is over.  There are some major plans to be put into action.  I don't expect we'll get most of them done this season, but some of it... I know it's only January, but our plans have a way of taking forever to implement, so I'm starting to panic that mosquitoes and wasps and snakes and humid heat are just around the corner! (g)  

We may not completely clear the paths through the woods... We probably won't purchase/put up the new fencing (and gates and arbor)... But we must put in the gravel paths (because until we do, we and the dogs are tracking more dirt than usual into the house, I'm convinced-- and it's driving me crazy), and I will rake and haul more pine straw to mulch the flowerbeds.  If not all of them, at least the new beds in the "cottage garden" part of the yard.  (Supposedly, true cottage gardens don't need much mulch, because they're so crammed full of plants that there's hardly room for it.  Let's just say that my "cottage garden" isn't quite to that level, yet...)

It's fairly chilly (by our standards), right now.  The high is only projected to get into the 40s (Fahrenheit)-- but I could still rake pine straw... Or maybe start burning some of the limbs/small trash trees we've already cleared from the forest... I think they should be dry enough to burn, now...

A few photos from the trails already on my grandparents' and parents' property, which we have the very good fortune of being able to enjoy:

January 2015

January 2015

January 2015

January 2015

January 2015

...And this beautiful live oak is down at the bottom of our own couple of acres.  This would be a pleasant spot for a bench or picnic table, someday...

January 2015

Time to stop thinking and start doing!

Sunday, January 4, 2015


There's not much to show from the past several days, craft-wise.

The Catherine wheel scarf grows row by row-- but slowly.  (Note to self:  It's not too soon to dye the yarn for the edging so it'll be dry and ready to use by the time I need it.)

While sorting fabric during the reorganization, I came up with a few more scraps for the "Crumb Box", so I treated myself to some more crumb block sewing.  That was fun, but before long it became evident that I need a greater variety of crumbs.  The blocks are starting to all look alike!  I can space them out in the final quilt design, of course, but they're more fun to sew when there are plenty of options.

Here are the fifteen I've completed so far (the new ones with the old):

Crumb Blocks

Yesterday, I took out the watercolor supplies and spent some time playing.  No photos from that, yet, but soon. 

I'm feeling restless lately-- not sure where to place my focus.  There are a variety of crochet/knitting projects already in progress.  The string quilt blocks can be sewn together any time, now (once I settle on a layout).  I'd still like to make a sewing machine cover, too!  There's no denying that I could use more practice with the watercolors, as well.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg-- but it seems to be one of those times when it's difficult to settle down and do something.

Oh, well.  This too shall pass. ;o)
In the meantime, enjoy this photo Donald took of Luna:


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Spontaneous Craft-Room Reorganization! (Now with Photos!)

When the last entry closed, I was thinking happy thoughts of playing around with the sewing machine, right?

Then I thought maybe I'd tidy up the craft room first, because clutter's been accumulating.  A quick tidying up and then craft-time as reward for a job well done!  Sounded like a good idea.

Of course there were a few minor distractions along the way:
-- moving things to another room, seeing stuff that needed to be done there, and oh, it'll just take a minute...
-- going into full purge mode in the closet of another room and ending up with a stack of board games and puzzles that we never-ever use...
-- writing an e-mail on the possibility that someone else in the family might want the games and puzzles before they are donated...
-- composing a list of a few other items that might be worth selling online... 

Then I got really started in the craft room.
Ugh.  Lots of stuff that needed to GO somewhere-- but where?  Decided to roll up my sleeves and get some serious clearing out done.

In the back of the closet I found the removable seat from the PT Cruiser.  It had been in there since we got the car, years ago.  Well, now we have a garage, and one of the benefits of having a garage is that you can use it to store oddities like removable seats from cars.  The darn thing is heavy, so I got Donald's help moving it out of the house-- and moving a new shelving unit from the garage and into the house.  It would go in the closet, where the old seat used to be, and provide some wonderful (out of sight) storage opportunities.  Yay! 

We got it inside, almost into the closet, when it dawned on me that, oops, it won't fit there because of the built-in shelf/clothes-hanging thing.  Noooooo.  We didn't want to take that down, so it was back to the drawing board.

After thinking and moving things and thinking some more, I came up with the current arrangement.  The shelving unit is still in the room, but it's out in the open.  The process of sorting and deciding where everything belongs on shelves, in or out of the closet, etc. took several hours spread out over a few days. 

It'll work, and there is undeniably more storage space now than when I started, but it's funny how a ten-minute sprucing-up turned into a major project!

There are still a couple of places that need attention (the long-neglected clay station, mainly).  The "wall art" element of the room is sadly lacking, and I'm thinking of putting a simple curtain around the bottom of the small table (to hide the stuff underneath).  Every now and then I think about painting the tops of the tables (if not the legs) white to brighten up the space, but realistically, that's unlikely to happen soon.  (There are so many things already waiting for paint!) Oh, and don't remind me of the stuff that still has no real "home".  I moved a lot of things into another, lesser-used room.  Boxes and bags of it are waiting to be donated (next week?), but that still leaves too many frames and prints (unpaired, mostly)--and shelves that need to be painted-- all waiting for that glorious day when they'll go up on the walls.  (I'm going for the record on that-- Most Years Procrastinating the Hanging of Assorted "Wall Stuff".  Every time I think about doing it, the task feels so overwhelming that I put it off for another day.  Time for a "just do it" mentality.)

- - - - -

Phew.  This has turned into a long-winded post, written over the course of days.
It's New Year's Eve, now.  A fitting time for reorganizing and clearing out the old to make way for the new.  The decorative touches will have to wait a while, probably.  I have a little cold (or something sinus/head-related)-- not bad enough to keep you in bed, but sufficient to slow you down a bit-- so I've decided to call it good and snap a few photos.  It may be lacking the finishing touches (much less the elegant, cohesive design of some of the more covetable craft rooms), but I'm already looking forward to spending some time in my freshly organized crafting space!  :o)

Here are the photos!

Craft Room Reorganization

I want to repaint/re-paper the bulletin board.  It wouldn't take much to make it pretty again.

Craft Room Reorganization

Those bulletin boards over the clay/ironing table need to be repositioned.  They're off-center, now that I moved the table further down.  The thing is, I don't think I even want them there at all, any more.  Not sure what I'll put there instead...

Craft Room Reorganization

That table with the clay oven and stereo on it is the one I'm planning to give a "skirt". 

That grey thing in the corner is the back of one of several mirrors.  A couple were put in the bathrooms by the builder, and we replaced them with something nicer.  I'm not even sure where the others came from, but I'm ready for them to move out.  Maybe one or two can be worked into the garden... Faux windows?

Craft Room Reorganization

The closets are pretty full.  Most of the acrylic yarn has moved into the one on the right (where the car seat was, before).  That big white "pillow" is a bag of bean-bag-chair filling (tiny styrofoam balls) that I got from a deep-discount place.  (It seemed like a good idea at the time...)

The closets are connected, and in between the two doors, facing the bean-bag filler, is a small filing cabinet where paper/scrapbooking supplies are stored.

Craft Room Reorganization

The denim cathedral-window thing draped on the back of a chair is a quilt I started working on a long, long time ago.  I ought to spend some time finishing that, but I hesitate, because I feel like I ought to use the old sewing machine for that, and obviously I want to use the new sewing machine.  So....

The jaw-dropping works of art on the easel... ;o)  It's a work-in-progress based on something I saw on Pinterest.  When I finish them, I'll share all the pertinent information.  They look a bit odd right now, but I have hopes... 

I think that covers every angle-- and I can't wait to get in there and craft!

I wish you all a very happy, prosperous, and creative new year!