Monday, June 30, 2014

Chairs, pillows, design

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I recently found a pair of chairs in a thrift shop.  They weigh a ton and they look like thrones, and I am mad for the dusty pink velvet upholstery, but they’re presenting a challenge; namely, how to keep them from making the whole room look like Barbie’s dream house.  I spent five minutes making some eensy pillows using wacky upholstery samples and a skirt that didn’t fit me anymore, which seems to be helping.  

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I don’t know a thing about design, so this is how the process works for me:  if something is too glamorous or pink or frilly, I feel it’s time to add something brown or beat up or weird, just to bring things back to center.  My lack of design skills frustrates me a lot, actually, because I really want to be good at it, and I just stab around in the dark and get lucky sometimes, and fail mostly, but I am so intrigued by it all.  When it works, for anybody, I really love it, and then I think How did they ever know to use that blue?  and I know I never would have thought of it, and part of my trouble is that I kind of like everything.  Sparkly Victorian chandeliers?  Yes.  Granny blankets in every color?  Yes!  Funny taxidermy?  YES!

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Figuring out how to reconcile all that into one little house is how I have fun in this life. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Getting quilty

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I’ve got a long and daunting list of things that need to get accomplished—those cherries aren’t going to pick themselves—but I’ve dawdled too long at Pinterest, and in Jane Brocket’s beautiful book, and in all your lovely blogs, and now I feel inspired.  The black and white quilt patiently awaits its (wool!) batting, so in the meantime I guess I’ll start another.  Okay, two.  How many is too many?  So much fabric, so few hands to sew it with all at once. 

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I’m also flying without a harness and have cast on a new sweater without checking Ravelry first.  I know.  It’s so pretty, and if the pattern is a train wreck, I don’t want to know about it yet.  I’m just doing it, and I also haven’t done a gauge swatch.  (What???)  I refuse to learn from my own mistakes.  

In other, unrelated news, I can’t stop singing Peter Frampton songs.  Ever since my friend M&M and I plied the miles and saw him play last week, he has filled my head with this and this and this, and that’s how I remember him—here he is now, and if you want a treat, watch this one.  You’ll get that song stuck in your head, but you could do a lot worse.  My love of the 70’s is boundless.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Full

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The weekend.  I have the best weekends around here these days, with my clan all around me and friends and wine and long bike rides beside the canal (my legs are utterly shattered today, ugh; must move around more) and lemon sorbet and strawberry pie, and a cold, sweet watermelon and an enormous steak cooked for me by my boy on his own birthday.  I eat steak roughly never, and can hardly make a dent in one, but it was tender, both literally and figuratively.  My boy will cook his mom a steak, and you can cut it with your fork. There were hours spent in the sun with a book (more Ann Patchett, who will teach you how to write if you listen) and a still-small but new and interesting crochet project.  I worked on the black and white quilt top, then went out to spent an hour cleaning in the attic, where I came across a bag of muslin fabric scraps inside which was a half-pieced block from the very same black and white quilt (what?) and the entire still-folded piece of backing fabric, which has spent thirteen years sitting out there waiting for me, which I don’t remember having, and which revealed itself on the exact day I needed it.  Slightly miraculous, but it’s been one of those weeks.  I made the jersey knit skirt without the mathy pattern and then wore it and it was perfect, and I felt the full strength of my own ability to know what I want.  The doctor fixed the brakes on the car.  The cat had a bath, to which he submits with controlled rage, but which fluffs him up like a baby bunny.  We basked in the full-on summer-ness of June.  These days of breakfast outdoors and eating barely-ripe cherries straight from the tree are what I dream about when the snow is blowing against the kitchen windows and we huddle miserably against it.  I am full to overflowing.

You’ll want this pie recipe.  Believe me.  Make it now, when the berries are good. 

Strawberry Honey Pie

1 1/2 quarts strawberries from the farm, roadside stand, or your garden 

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (or 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, if you must)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened

1 baked 9” pastry crust.

Make your favorite pastry crust, and bake it empty.  While it cools, wash, hull and mash enough strawberries to make 1 cup.  Wash and hull the remaining berries and set them aside.  Mix 1/4 cup honey and mashed berries into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring.  Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 1/2 cup water, and whisk it in to the berry mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Cool.  Beat the cream cheese until smooth and add 1 tablespoon honey.  Spread the cream cheese mixture into the cooled crust.  Fill with the remaining whole berries, arranging them in circles, and then pour the cooked berry mixture over the top.  Refrigerate 3 hours, or until well-chilled.  Devour. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Halfway, maybe

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There are fifty-two of these now, which seems like about halfway to a blanket.  So much yarn still remains.

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I know I could’ve worked these squares all together in long strips, like scarves, and then just had the long seams to join at the end, but this way I get that frisson of accomplishment each time one gets bound off.  They stay manageable, they fit in my purse, they take an hour.  It’s the little things. 

I was going to make a jersey skirt today, with instructions from this book.  I’ve been meaning to make that skirt forever, but every time I look at the pattern and see again all the math and measuring, and even though I assume it will be easy enough once I get going, and even though I’m not even going to do all that wonderful reverse applique but am just wanting a plain old brown knit skirt (to keep the drafts out while I wear the hippie tablecloth skirt over it) I keep putting it off.  Tomorrow, I’ll do it; I’ll do the math and measure myself, and I’ll track down my ball-point machine needles, and I’ll persuade Miss K to sew jersey knit fabric again.  She’ll do it, she’s a good egg. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Miss Scarlet

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I finished it!

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It’s huge!  Ahhhhhhh!  I think it’s 85” x 94”.  And heavy, whoo.  That cotton batting.  That’s got some heft to it.  It isn’t dainty.  I hope it doesn’t bend my feet as I sleep.

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I can’t stop looking at it.  So satisfying.  More than (almost) anything else I’ve done, I can look at this quilt and think, I made that

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I wanted to make a quilt using scraps, and I definitely did not want to iron them all before I cut them out.  So I didn’t.  I just filled a basket with a couple handfuls from my scraps bin, collected together a needle and thread, two pins, a pair of scissors, my little fabric wastebasket, and a 2” square of cardboard.  I simply chose two scraps at a time that looked good-ish together and then cut out five squares from one and four squares from the other, by holding the cardboard template against the fabric and snipping around it.  Some of the fabrics were kinda wrinkled, but I didn’t iron anything, or trace around anything.  It was quick and dirty, and it worked fine.  I know myself, and having to iron everything first would have skunked the whole deal.  So then I just threaded the needle and started sewing little squares together, three rows of three squares, then sew the rows together.  Slowly, while I sat cross-legged on the couch, over many, many episodes of LA Ink, they accumulated, and I occasionally got out the iron and pressed them in batches.  When there were 200 blocks, I hand stitched them together in rows alternating with red squares (Legacy cotton, “scarlet”) and then I hand stitched the rows together to make the top.  I sat outside, underneath the crabapple tree.  Birds sang.  It was peaceful.  This was Slow Craft, perfect for someone like me; someone who loves the workbasket, self-contained with all necessary tools, portable and neat. 

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I hand-seamed two lengths of Kona cotton (“khaki”) and when it fell short by an inch (seriously???) I hand stitched a strip of something else from the stash to the end.  Then I pin-basted the three layers together (cotton batting.  No fun.) and hand-quilted it using a crewel needle and #5 crochet cotton, and attached the binding.  By hand. 

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When I first started talking about this project, somebody pointed out how willing we are to spend weeks or months on knitting a sweater or a blanket, but we want to make a quilt in a day?  Right on.  What’s the rush?  Now, there are times when speed is of the essence, I know, but for the most part, in my crafting life, there is time.  I’m not saying I’ll never again make a quilt with a machine (especially not since the doctor just found a fabulous 1970’s Viking Husqvarna 6030 at the thrift shop for seven dollars) but I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed this process of handwork—just me and my needle and a spool of thread.  It took a long time, and I loved it. 

Are there still enough scraps for ten more just like it?  Yes!  You know how scraps are. 

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I made that. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Alice’s Skirt

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I once had an after school babysitting job working for some hippies.  Well, he was an architect, so I don’t know—they had all the “Foxfire” books and their kitchen glassware was homemade using ginger ale bottles.  The kids and dogs all had names that made you think of Olivia Newton-John songs.  They had carob-chip cookies and a bathtub full of spider plants.  They were hippies with money, which seems kind of ideal to me.  Anyway, they had some curtains made of burlap, undoubtedly crafted by some artiste one of them knew, or maybe purchased at an art fair, but their living room curtains looked like this skirt.  I kept thinking of them the whole time I was working on it, wondering if they still remember the time the little kids ended up walking downtown by themselves when I forgot to go get them at the bus stop because I was all engrossed in watching Phil Donahue. 

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So this is the Sunshine Skirt, by Mari Lynn Patrick.  The third time was the charm, but it was still sort of a struggle.  It is meant to be worked in two panels with gradual decreases at both edges, and then seamed at the sides, but I just couldn’t make it work.  I wanted this skirt, though, so I kept trying, and eventually decided to work it in one piece, in the round, and just figure it out as I went.  I started with double the chains given in the pattern, marked the two sides, and joined to form a circle.  Then I just worked the different stitch patterns as given, eliminating all the instructions for side shaping and instead just winging some decreases.  I just kind of decreased occasionally, and I did not keep any notes about where or how.  I found a skirt I already had that is known to fit me well and put it on the work table, and now and then would lay the crocheted skirt over it, to check that my shaping was approximately close.  I tried to remember to turn the work after every round, but sometimes I forgot.  I don’t think it matters.  When I got to the top, I ran a twisted cord through the last row of loops, and tied it at the front.  See the bizarrely foreshortened view, below:

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It, obviously, is made of crochet, and therefore is full of holes, and therefore, obviously, must be worn with something underneath it.  I’m still on the hunt for something perfect, and I might have to make my own, but for now, the black jersey skirt underneath is working pretty well.

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There was originally another panel of the scallops at the waist, but after blocking, it was way too long, so I unraveled that part and presto.  It fits perfectly.  Almost as if it were made to fit me…oh, that’s right, it was!  I love crochet.  

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I used three skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine in color 1208—call it “Pale Burlap”—and a US F crochet hook.  I might make a gray one now.  I think I finally have this pattern figured out. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Thisclose

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The hippie tablecloth skirt is this close to being finished.  Which doesn’t mean it won’t still be a huge fail, but I’m trying not to focus on that at the moment.  If it is a fail, it will be because I am over forty and can’t figure out how to wear it, not because it didn’t work.  I made it work, with my superpowers.  I think its success will depend upon my dye pot, a small amount of unraveling, and maybe a trip to the thrift store.  I totally want to wear this skirt, stirring some lentils and singing Alice’s Restaurant, while some long-haired hobo I’ve never seen before plays guitar in the corner.  That’s the dream!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Quilt in progress

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Pieced, basted, ready.  There was a cotton batting already in the house, so I’m using that, although two stitches in and I hated it already—hand-quilting through a cotton batting with the big needle and big cotton thread is Un. Fun.  [note to self—learn this, wouldja?]

One of my secrets for sewing happiness:  that little fabric bowl there?  That is a miniature (and cute) (and crafted) wastebasket.  All those ravelly threads and snipped-off ends that usually end up on my pants, socks, and the floor?  They go in there.  Somehow that makes the whole thing nicer for me by an order of magnitude.  Before I figured that out, I was spending twenty minutes picking little pieces of thread off my clothes trying to get presentable again—precious seconds, people!  I’d rather be sewing! 

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The red is so red it is practically pulsating.  It is not ordinary.  It is the least ordinary color I can imagine.   I’m glad about that, too; this is my hand-pieced quilt—I even hand-pieced the back-- and it is right to be making a splash. 

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Now I need an unbroken rainy day or something.  When the sun shines in June, I can’t be indoors.  I can’t. 

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Quilt?  What quilt?