Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Coldplay Rocks the Sewing Machines

Thought this blog post about Coldplay was hilarious.  Go on with your bad selves.

Charmingly Slapdash? Applique for the Time-Starved

This project was whirling around in my brain at around 4 a.m. this morning. I'm not sure if the results look homemade in a cool way, or in a sloppy way, but it was a new technique for me. Sort of a poor man's applique. (or woman-sewing-during-nap-time applique).

I really like tea/coffee images if they're modern and not sort of Victorian. I love the Kaffe Fassett rice bowls quilt, which reminds me of tea cups.

But today, I went for it. Just something to put my coffee mug on. Roughly modeled on the coasters I made from Bend-the-Rules Sewing pattern. They're really a little big for coasters, because I was thinking about a cup of coffee and a biscotti or toast and tea. I think I prefer the "tea cups" to the coffee mugs, just because there's something fun about the coasters.

I also tried my hand at writing with the sewing machine. Not great results, but at least I know I can do it. This whole sewing thing is really an exercise in learning through doing.

If I have time tomorrow, I might make a drawstring bag to keep them in.

Goodbye, Dave Freeman

A friend and former boss of mine, Dave Freeman, died. He's in the news because he wrote the book, "100 Places to See Before You Die," but I didn't even know he wrote that book. I just know he could crack anybody up and he always seemed kind of fearless.

I remember one day, I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed at work. Dave had recently become my supervisor and told me that he would be as hands-off as I wanted him to be, until I didn't want him to be. Well, I was cracking. He suggested we take a walk and we ended up in a city playground, blocks from the office. I sat on a bench and started babbling about how overwhelmed I felt. I cried. I mean, there may have been blubbering. Dave listened, told me I was doing a good job and probably cracked a few jokes.

Then Dave quietly went into action. He got me an assistant, had a heart-to-heart with my client and really, just stuck up for me. He heard me. He helped me.

Yeah, he was a really cool guy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Looking up

Summer Trees
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
I read a post about rejoicing in the everyday. Not the first, not the last. It moved me though. Literally.

I shut the laptop. Grabbed the boys and told them to come with me now. Actually, I had no plan in mind. They followed me to the front yard.

It was dusk. We laid on our backs in the middle of the front yard. It's a leafy view with a chunk of sky in the shape of Florida, right through the middle. I figured something would happen, or at least, we could just listen for a few minutes. Nature came through.

Bats. We counted about 17 of them in five minutes or so. A few swooped rather close to us and others made crazy circles right into the trees. The boys thought that was so cool that we had bats in the yard. Really, I had no idea they were there.

Sometimes you just have to stop and look.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tom Hanks Beach

Big Beach
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
This is the beach in our town. Yup. Never thought I'd be able to say that. It's also the site of the Zoltar machine that Tom Hanks found in the movie Big. When I took this photo, I was looking at the beach, but when I see it, I can't stop looking at that sky. Isn't it funny how we can sometimes miss what's in front of us until we look at the picture? Or is it the opposite, that we miss what's in front of us because we're looking at the little picture in the back of the camera instead. As much as I love documenting our days, I have to make sure that I'm in the picture as much as capturing it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Over the Shoulder Boulder Holder?

I always thought that was a funny description for a bra. Anyway, the next bag in a now obsessive stream: Amy Butler's Frenchy bag. This pattern was very easy and quick. I used a quilted sew-in interfacing that was, frankly, easier than all the iron-on interfacing I've been using. However, with two layers of home dec weight fabric, I really didn't need it. I think I'm going to give this one to my friend Tonya for her birthday. She made the mistake of admiring my orange birdie sling, and well, mental note, she's now on the gift list. She lives in Cleveland, so if she doesn't carry the bag, I'll never know. 

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday at the Farmer's Market

Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
Here we are in action at the very small farmer's market. I thought when we left the city, we would be tripping over farm stands along the road. I suppose, not on this densely-populated suburban road. Oh well. I still support the market because I believe in farmer's markets, love the food and truly hope it will someday expand.

Expanding Palates

I am trying to get my kids to eat a wider range of foods. I have twin eight-year-old boys, who consult with one another before trying new things, and they have quite a limited range of choices. With this month of camp-free-summer left, I'm trying different strategies (heh, heh, heh, heh). None of these are particularly original, but I suppose that may be why they seem to be working. Two ideas that seemed to work today:

1. Take them with me to the Farmer's market.
It's so much easier to leave them at home with dad, but this parenting journey is not for the faint of heart. Or, as I said to my husband before I went into surgery for an ectopic pregnancy (long story, another time), "I'm no shrinking violet."

2. Leave the food out.
My nice clean kitchen now has all the farmer's market produce on display, including things that really should be in the fridge, in the hopes that someone comes along and eats it. So far, A has eaten two carrots and two peaches and M has had a handful of yellow grape tomatoes.

New or nearly new foods eaten today by said eight year olds:
1. Pickles
2. Yellow grape tomatoes
3. Saturn peaches
4. Parsley

OK, baby steps.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Well Loved

Well Loved
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
After my grandmother died, it took my family and I many visits to clean out her house. She lived there for 30 years, having never cleaned out everything from when her mother lived there and my father too. She had a five bedroom house and three of the bedrooms were known as the "junk rooms" because they were just filled to the doorway with stuff that she couldn't part with. When her cousin Vaughn died, much of Vaughn's things went into the junk rooms as well.

I loved trawling through those rooms. I would disappear for hours just treasure hunting and eventually trounce downstairs with gems for my grandmother to catalog and identify. I can even remember asking her if I could have certain things when she died.

Anyway, after she died we spent weeks cleaning it all out and we probably threw away much treasure with the trash just to get through it. I did save a chest filled with quilts that drew me in. Even at 23, I loved the idea that people had made them, that they had a history, a heritage and a connection to my grandmother.

Grandma never quilted. She was a knitter. And a collector. And I loved her fiercely and I still miss her all the time. Grandma Kingsley and her magical junk rooms.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Red tote for Teach

Red tote for Teach
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
Bag #6? I made this one at the end of the school year in a mad frenzy to make gifts for the teachers. One of my neighbors saw this tote and she said, oh that would make a great teacher gift. I laughed and said that I hoped she hadn't given totes (our kids had the same teacher) but she said that this year, she gave aprons. She made Max's teacher an ocean-themed apron for working in the water tank at school (very Miss Frizzle.) Ocean-studies are big in second grade.

I think I'll do aprons next year.

Blog again

Patchwork Tote
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
I did blog about this bag already (see below) but for some reason the link disappeared from my post. It must have been something I changed on the blog layout/links page. More tinkering...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Patchwork Tote- Full frontal

Patchwork Tote
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
Here's the tote in all it's glory. I made ultra suede handles for the first time and this baby's loaded with interfacing. I need to scotchguard the fabric though. It's an upholstery weight sateen finish that may not hold up too well for a tote (more of an evening bag). Actually, this fabric had a life as a table runner first. It enjoyed some spring supperss in our dining room. I sent it back to the craft room for some reason and now it lives again as a tote bag.

Definitly using the Jeans needle for this one. This bag may be a little loud for me in real life, but I like it in pictures. I used a tomato red canvas for the lining. I'll take some shots of the pockets, because the pocket-within-a-pocket layout is kind of cool.

The bag does fit over my shoulder. I'll get a shot or too of the bag in action later. I'm sure you can hardly wait. Oh, that's right, I'm the only one reading this. Well, I can hardly wait.

A new bag

Quilting detail
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
here's another tote. This one is the L2 pattern from Sewing Workshop. I'd say it was the hardest project I've done so far for several reasons. First, the instructions are more vague than the very detailed Amy Butler's that I've become accustomed to. Also, this pattern has some cool new (to me) details I've never attempted before. A good learning experience. The bag hold a lot. It's rather huge actually (like laptop-holding size). Time for me to make some smaller bags again.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Truly a Last Minute Patchwork Gift

Bag #5. I made a lot of these totes. They're quick and easy --- Perfect for instant gratification and a good beginners project. You really don't need a pattern for these, but for a newbie, it helps.

What I learned: How to do linings. This is really a lesson in basic bag construction.

Lots of room for personalization yet to be explored.

Bag #12

Frenchy Handbag
Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
A little out of order here. Another Amy Butler pattern (my third). As everyone knows, her patterns are very easy to follow and she loves interfacing. She also is quite generous in the fabric allowance. I would do it with less fabric next time. I'm definitly making this one again. I'm going to do the shoulder bag size next with Denyse Schmidt's country faire.

There's loads of interfacing in this one. More than necessary (and more than the pattern called for). I wanted to see what would happen. It definitly holds its shape. A jeans needle makes sewing this much easier.

What I learned: New handle attachment technique, new pocket application (not one I find functional)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Teaching myself to sew

Originally uploaded by Grey Cottage Studio
I've decided to go to sewing school. Meet the faculty: Joelle Hoverson, Amy Butler, Amy Karol, Lotta Jansdotter, Indygo Junction ladies... I'm going to sew as many different bag patterns as I can so I can learn the ins and outs of sewing bags. I plan to document what I learn from each one. For the final exam, I think I'll design the perfect bag for me.

A successful bag must meet three criteria: constructable (doesn't have to be super simple, but certainly not over complicated), cute (not cutesy. Can you tell it's handmade or does it look homemade?) and functional (can I find my keys? do the handles stay on my shoulder? does everything fall out in the car?)

Here's my tote from Last Minute Patchwork Gifts. I now realize that you really don't need a pattern for this bag, but as someone new to this, it helped. I made several of these bags, this one being my favorite. I made another one with the same fabrics and took it with me to lunch with a friend for its maiden voyage. She complimented me, and in the rush of my enthusiasm for my new hobby, I gave her the bag on the spot. (Well, after lunch, I had to put the contents in the car). I hope she liked it as much as I did.

This pattern has you cut three pieces and teaches you how to do a lining. Also teaches you how to use a bias tape maker to make the handles. Now I know that I really didn't have to buy that to make this bag, but good to know how to use it.

Overall, I'd say this bag is easy to make, cute and functional. Lotta jansdotter simplifies the construction, but I don't think her proportions are as attractive. Skip buying a bias tape maker for the handles. Just fold,press and seam.