Friday, March 29, 2013

Forsythias after Rain

A few minutes of sun between rainstorms.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Little Alpaca

In honor of Felix's travels in Peru I brought home this plastic alpaca from the toy aisle. With his happy face and big eyes, he reminds me somewhat of Felix . . . .

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Secret Academic Life

Yes, I have a secret academic life--I'm taking a class in Advanced Formal Poetry Writing at the local university. I adore it with all my heart and will be so sad when it's over. 

I've written blank verse, a sonnet, a villanelle, rhyming quatrains, and a poem in trochaic meter. 

It's my Useless Superpower: the ability to write absolutely anything using only iambs. If you need something redone in iambic pentameter, send it my way. I'm your man.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: Beaded Chain Stripe

And here is an appliqued stripe stitched down with seed beads threaded onto a chain stitch (done in button & craft thread). 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: Random Ruffle Stripe

This is not the first time that I've tried a simple-looking technique from Natalie Chanin's book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and been bowled over by how fabulous it looks in real life.

Here is the random-ruffled stripe, a half-inch wide strip of jersey and appliqued onto the base fabric with a running stitch down its middle. Every few stitches, you take a couple of gathering stitches which you cinch up before sewing them down to the fabric.

It's so easy and it makes such a gorgeous textural effect in real life. Try it!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Anna's Garden Dress in Midnight

Surprisingly only a two week project--I've been wearing it and loving it for a week. All that quilting and snipping was fun, fun, fun! 

This stenciling was messy--I've done another project since and it came out much better since I  abandoned the sponge for a stiff paintbrush, and didn't try to water the paint down at all. I used a sponge here, and watery paint, and I had some leakage and some weird shapes happening, which I ignored. I love this stuff! I'm keeping on.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Early Morning Ironing

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Not in the Done"

"At the heart of . . . artistic avoidance is the denial of process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or on having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in doing.
I am writing a screenplay is infinitely more interesting to the soul than I have written a screenplay."
 --Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Too Cool for Color Scrap Quilt for Baby

This is my Too Cool for Color baby quilt--done in long columns of strips rather than in log cabins--not for any particular reason, except that sometimes a change is nice! I hope someone out there is a great connoisseur of neutrals, and visits my etsy shop for their super-cool baby.

Monday, March 18, 2013

In Search of Spirea

Spent this past warm Saturday afternoon at the greenhouse buying out all the spirea, as my plan is to finish out the Only Spirea Hedge Visible from Outer Space.

I own it, now I have to plant it. 

I also enjoyed inspecting the beautiful succulents. Are they in style now or something? My eye goes right to them.

Just like it does to any turtles that bob their heads up in vats of water hyacinths.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Graceful Jersey Dress for Clara: Burda 7082

Remember when I was enjoying this pattern? I enjoyed myself again this week fitting it for Clara. I made it up in this gorgeous cornflower blue,  a perfect color but a dubious fiber--from a little hole-in-the-wall shop in Chicago where the proprietor assured me too quickly that *all* the jerseys were *all* cotton. However, it was cheap and made a great muslin for the pattern.

And now I can make the next one up in quality jersey, with fitting assurance.

As with my own dresses, the front inset belt is simplified and narrowed, the side zipper closure is omitted, and the front skirt was laid out to remove four inches of fullness from the center gathers--I think it's plenty full without. And just as I did for myself, I removed about an inch of ease from the midriff, after choosing the "correct" measurements on the pattern envelope.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Two Things to Do with a Butter Yellow Tee

First, you can cut it off below the armholes, and gather that length onto a smaller piece of pale pink cut from a different shirt in the scrap bin, so it will be a long enough skirt for a little girl. Sew a casing for elastic in the top,

and trim the bottom with matching velvet ribbon and a rosebud from the box of rosebuds you made while sitting with your mother when she was recovering from surgery. There, that's a good skirt for spring.

Then take the rest of the jersey and cut it into four long strips, each an inch wide. Pull them out into jersey ropes. Find a pretty straw bag at the thrift store for $1.00, one with a cheery yellow gingham interior, and cut the ugly vinyl straps out. Make new straps out of your jersey pulls, and give the purse to a girl with a yellow skirt.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Gentleman with the Beard of Gold

Felix reports in from Peru that the travel ban for Americans has been lifted (whew!), that he's planning a trip to Manu National Park where he will quite possibly see parrots at a clay lick (among many, many other exciting birds), and that his host mother has given him the uber-awesome nickname (in Quechua) of, "The Gentleman with the Beard of Gold."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Clara's Knitting: Ruffle Scarf

Clara finished her ruffle scarf, made from some hand-dyed yarn from Purl in the fantastic colorway Poprocks. I think she pulled the pattern off Ravelry--I love how it drapes itself.

And the hyacinths are blooming!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Young Ladies Lunching

That's right, it's spring break for someone! Lots of knitting, resting, cooking, talking, kissing of Daisy. messing with kitties, and laughing.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Tea Party Wedding Shower

Our young lady friend Aimee is engaged to be married in June. Having invited her to many a Sunday afternoon tea party over the years, hosting her wedding shower and disguising it as yes, a tea party, seemed just right.

I broke out the thrifted tissue paper wedding bells--they all hung from the ceiling fan (it was off).

Ham sandwiches with tiny pickle slices, roast beef sandwiches with tiny radish slices, cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches.

Assorted daffodils, so convenient.

And now we'll talk about cake. The girls and I made six cakes from Jane Brocket's Vintage Cakes, a treasure of a book. Only one had frosting; they all presented themselves with old-fashioned restraint, which allowed guests to taste several kinds. Above you see Victoria Sponge filled with cream and strawberries. Below is the Lemon Drizzle. And that picture up at the top was the Coffee-Walnut layer cake.

We also made Tea Loaf (a huge favorite here, and Clara has figured out that she can make it in the dorm kitchen! It just needs an egg from the corner market), Nutmeg Cake,

and these Almond-Raspberry Slices, which were outstandingly good and presentable.

To actually serve tea to thirty people at once, I cheated by making several pots of different kinds, brewed up twice as strong as they needed to be. After pouring a half-cup for a guest, I topped it off with almost-boiling water from my coffee urn. I think it wasn't quite hot enough but these Southern ladies didn't seem to mind. Of course, that could have been just their Southern politeness!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Alabama Chanin: Violet Paisley Applique

This violet jersey dress for Bella has been finished for a long time--just forgot to photograph it. I used Alabama Chanin's "Paisley" applique in a slightly darker shade of violet, then stitched two rows of beads inside each shape, in lavender and pale green. Oddly this made the paisley shapes look like sea creatures. You just never know.

It's still a great dress.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Jade Plant in Milk Glass

In my newlywed days I had a jade plant that suffered greatly from overwatering--it dropped all its leaves and ended up a sad bare stalk. I'm going to try again with this one. My orchids have taught me to trust the "water sparingly" directions, which go against my nurturing instincts. Less is more, perhaps, for these succulents.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Little Bites

I squeeze my creative endeavors into my life in little bites. Once or twice a year I might have an uninterrupted half-day to myself, but generally all my sewing, writing, painting, and decorating get squeezed in among the daily things of caring for a family and home.

And here's how.

1. I don't like a lot of projects going at once. One machine sewing project and one hand-sewing project, *maybe*. I like to start something, keep after it, finish it, bask in the glory for a moment, then start something else. (In the winter I always have two things going because sometimes the sewing room is just too cold to hang out in. Then I have to do handwork by the fire.) If you stick with just one or two sewing projects, and do something on them every day, you will come to the end eventually. Finishing creates its own energy!

2. Every morning, I sit and write three pages of longhand in a notebook. Far from recording anything profound, I tend to note the tiny creative achievements of the day before, and mull over what I might get to do today. This makes a huge difference in helping me to spend my free moments productively: I planned them at dawn!

3. I am so not a perfectionist. More and more I love the process, but I have never held myself to some impossible standard of precision or accuracy. I love almost everything I make, forgive the discrepancies, and move on.

4. I don't mind taking tiny bites. Five minutes of hand-stitching. Reading over my current writing and thinking about it while I go for a run. Stitching in a dart. There's always tomorrow, and I know that I *will* get back to my dear projects.

What works for you?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Anna's Garden Reverse Applique

Making a very wide border of reverse applique and embroidery for a blue jersey dress. The blue is laid over a lining of black, the shapes are stencilled on with fabric paint, then stitched around with button and craft thread, then the inside of the shape is snipped out with much holding of the breath. I'm almost done with the front of the skirt, then I'll do the back, then I'll put them together!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Frederick, Soft and Gray

Here's a greeting from Frederick, just because he's soft and gray. I'm so lucky to have him. This is what he looks like when he's keeping me company in the sewing room in the very early morning while we tidy up.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Late Afternoon Daffodils

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Reflecting Pool Log Cabin Quilt

This log cabin quilt is named "Reflecting Pool." It was inspired by Eden Gardens State Park in Florida (hence the smattering of flamingos). I just love the overgrown, can-we-pack-any-more-in-here aesthetic of that type of garden. Live oaks, Spanish moss, the formal pools that are never quite clear . . .

Friday, March 01, 2013

"A Person with Eyes to See"

"You don't have to go out into the world to do something useful, she told herself. For a person with eyes to see, there is always something close at hand. Misery, loneliness, sickness, fear. . . ."
--Emily Loring, I Take This Man

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