Thursday, March 30, 2006

I'd like to thank the academy...

Wow, I won! Thanks to everyone who voted and participated, and thanks especially to Emily, who had the great idea and the generosity to give away the yarn. I think Rachel really deserved to win; she was in the lead the entire time. And it was so much fun, I've decided to spread the love. Sometime in the near future I will hold a contest for some lucky person to win two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Self-Striping Sock Yarn in Purl's custom colors. I've been admiring this yarn for a while now; let me tell you, it's gorgeous! The contest will involve voting, because that was the best part of the whole thing. So stay tuned.

Is this delicious or what?

Now here's the question: which pattern should I use for my fabulous new sock yarn? Any suggestions? I realized that Anna's Elfine socks are the wrong gauge for this yarn, so I'm looking for something else this time. Perhaps something that knits from the toe up? I'd love to get some ideas from you fabulous bloggers and readers.

Something completely unrelated now: I came across the Easter Bunny Rap saved on our computer today. If you haven't seen this before, snap on your headphones and brace yourself. Todd and I have been enjoying this little thing every spring for several years now, and the time has come once again to listen and watch.

Also, I am working on a couple of tutorials which I hope to post soon. Probably not as soon as I would like, but I promise to get them posted as quickly as I am able.

Last but not least, thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I am having such a good time writing it, reading your comments, and discovering links to it that many of you have created on your own blogs. I am enjoying getting to know many of you, seeing and being inspired what you are doing, and being entertained by what you have to say. Who would have thought that this could be so rewarding? Thanks, and thanks some more.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yarn contest

Have you voted yet? This has been so much fun! The comments have been hilarious.

Isn't it ironic?

I just had to show you this, simply because number 10 made me laugh out loud. Particularly under the circumstances.

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Disdressed!

  1. Abraham Lincoln, who invented disdressed, was the only US president ever granted a patent.
  2. Disdressed was declared extinct in 1902.
  3. Ancient Chinese artists would never paint pictures of disdressed.
  4. Forty percent of the world's almonds and twenty percent of the world's peanuts are used in the manufacture of disdressed.
  5. Disdressed is the largest of Saturn's moons.
  6. Czar Paul I banished disdressed to Siberia for marching out of step.
  7. Without its lining of disdressed, your stomach would digest itself!
  8. Until the 1960s, disdressed was not allowed to enter Disneyland!
  9. If you toss disdressed 10000 times, it will not land heads 5000 times, but more like 4950, because its head weighs more and thus ends up on the bottom!
  10. Disdressed can not regurgitate.
I am interested in - do tell me about
And what are the circumstances, you ask? Well, I've got the stomach bug now, too.

I'm really glad that Todd came home last night. Being sick and caring for a sick baby simultaneously have always been high on my "things not to do" list.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

26 hours and counting

Ugh. Yes, 26 solid hours of baby stomach bug, and it's still going strong. I've spent a lot of time washing things: pajamas, sheets, rugs. In fact, it was while washing the living room rug that this post started to materialize. See #12 below for an explanation.

There's an article in Forbes about the top 20 tools of all time. But they've got it all wrong, at least from a crafter's perspective. I mean, really: the harness? Clearly, we've got our own lists of the most important tools out there.

I've been thinking lately about all the great products and tools that exist that I'm not aware of. I had never heard of Gocco until I started blogging, and my Grandma just told me about a rotary cutter she's using to make faux chenille. I'm sure there are lots of other things out there that I don't know about and that might be really useful. So I was thinking that if we each post our favorite tools and products maybe we can learn about new things from each other. Of course, many of the best crafting tools are obvious, but it's fun to see what other people use and value most.

If you participate in this, drop me an email with a link to your post and I'll put all the links together in one post.

Here's my list:

1. The pencil. In my case, the Koh-I-Noor Rapidomatic mechanical pencil.

2. The rotary cutter and self-healing mat. I can't believe I ever sewed without it.
3. The sewing machine. Need I say more?
4. The computer. I mean, how else would we bloggy types communicate with eachother?

5. These nifty see-through plastic rulers. I use them for everything because you can line up your cutting lines precisely with them.
6. Knitting needles. Of course. If I were a crocheter I'd add the crochet hook, but I'll leave that for someone else's list.
7. Sewing needles. Ditto.
8. Muslin. Isn't it great? I like the natural, unbleached quality of it. I first started using it in design school, and now I find myself using it more and more for a variety of projects.

9. Spectra acrylic paints. They're great for all sorts of surfaces, including fabric, wood, magnets, etc. I like using them for t-shirts because the paint stays pliable when it dries.
10. The loom. I'm actually a little surprised that Forbes missed this one.

11. Fabrico inks and Speedy Cut printing blocks. Perfect for making your own stamps and printing them on fabric. Those nifty white Pentel polymer erasers should really be listed here too; they're great for making little stamps.

12. Eucalan wool wash. What's so special about it? It leaves knits and sweaters really soft, and you don't rinse it out after washing. I also use it to wash the baby's Robeez shoes. And this is where I pull together my entire post: this stuff is great for cleaning vomit off the carpet! It dawned on me in the middle of the night that it might work, and I'm pleased with the results so far.

So there you have it: crafting products that even have other fantastic uses. And now I'm going to put all the crafting materials away and go to bed for some much-needed sleep. I'm hoping for a well-hydrated, vomit-free Wednesday.

One other unrelated item: Todd wrote an interesting post/book review today that involves Gee's Bend quilts. Just thought you might be interested.

Monday, March 27, 2006

What I learned this weekend

Update: Oooh, look! I'm a finalist!

"Hey, JoJo, what do you say,
We all want to know what you learned today.
We're all here, so go on: take it away!
We all want to know, tell us what you learned today."

Have you ever seen the children's television show, "JoJo's Circus"? I love how at the end of each segment JoJo is whisked away by a stage/television crew to tell everyone what she learned. They set it all up for her: lights, stage, backdrop, camera.

It's a good thing there's no audience over here, since I just got barfed on by the baby and am now wearing clothes I pulled out of the dirty laundry. In any case, here's a report about what I learned over the weekend.

1. It's a really bad idea for me to knit more than one thing at a time. After working on a baby sock earlier in the day, yesterday I returned to the hat I'm making for a swap with Suzie. It wasn't until I had finished knitting one of the earflaps that I realized I had knitted a baby-sized earflap onto an adult-sized hat. Apparently I'm not alert or awake enough to remember which pattern I'm reading.

2. I discovered that I love knitting socks. I had a sneaking suspicion this might be the case. The pattern is the Easy Children's Socks pattern from Knitting Pure and Simple. I can hardly wait to try some other patterns. Lace, perhaps? I don't want to get too ambitious, but I'm in love with Anna's Elfine socks and may have to make them next.

In fact, I noticed last night as I was getting ready for bed (What? You mean you don't brush your teeth and read Bloglines at the same time?) that Emily at Yarn Miracle is having a contest to give away some Lorna's Laces sock yarn. I slipped my entry into the hat at the last minute. You can vote on your favorite "Why I deserve my first skein of Lorna's" entry starting Tuesday.

3. It struck me again yesterday how many terrific blogs exist today. Here are a few that I've recently found and am enjoying:

Shim and Sons Great Japanese craft magazines, nice photos and beautiful handmade items. I love that personalized polka dot tote bag!

A Dress A Day If you're a dress fan, here are some terrific vintage sewing patterns and photos of dresses, both contemporary and vintage. Isn't this a great idea for a blog?

Floating World Views All about living and crafting in Japan. Check out the photos of Tokyo fashion.

And now I need to go do a load of laundry. Isn't it funny how these things happen on the one night Todd is out of town after being home for nearly three months straight?

I leave you with a photo of the baby enjoying her "new" chair. (Pre barf.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Weird little obsessions

One of the little pleasures I've accidentally rediscovered since the kiddo was born is the mid-week vacation day. Not just for me; Todd has some extra un-used vacation time that he's been taking here and there, and we've enjoyed going out to breakfast together, catching an early matinee (I don't think I had even been to the movies before noon, pre kid), or just wandering some of the neighborhoods near us. Yesterday was one of those days: we took Little out for lunch, stopped by Purl, went to see the quilt show I wrote about, and hit a few Chelsea galleries before stopping by my former office to see some old friends.

In our wanderings we also stopped at one of my favorite children's shops, Kid O, in the West Village. Such a beautiful store; each item is carefully selected and displayed, and the shop includes an interesting variety of toys, furniture, accessories, and books about child development. I'm interested in the Montessori method, since I think I would have learned well in that environment, so I enjoy seeing the Montessori toys that Kid O carries.

Anyway, as we were browsing the shop we noticed the sleekest, coolest toddler chair. It was perfect for Little, who is presently obsessed with child-sized chairs. When we asked the clerk about it, she explained that it's a "vintage" chair from the late 1960's (Ack! I'm vintage!) which they are now selling. For $250. Gulp. Well, lo and behold: Todd grew up with this chair! His mother saved it all this time and is now sending it to us for the baby. I think it's just about the coolest thing ever: not only will she have a very nifty chair to enjoy and to pass along to her own child(ren), but it was her Dad's chair. And it's small enough to fit in our apartment, which is always good.

It's often these little things that thrill me. I had just spent several hours online looking at various retailers and vintage furniture shops, trying to find just the right chair for her. Why? I don't know. I didn't want to spend a lot, and it felt a little strange to buy something that hadn't already been in the family. I wanted something that sat really low (in case she fell off) and that had some sort of armrest (again in case she fell off - the kid is pretty unstable yet). So I'm getting a crazy thrill out of this chair and the anticipation of receiving it. In avocado green, no less.

On to the next little obsession.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quilt Monday?

Because who said Quilt Monday has to be on Mondays?

Needing a little inspiration? Here's what's got me excited today:

Ian Hundley has a quilt show at a local shop, and clearly he's onto something: these quilts are different from anything I've seen before, and they're really lovely in person. Based on topographical maps of Europe and using mostly fabric from apparel, his quilts also incorporate bits of lace, buttons and buttonholes, and pintucks from garments. I especially liked the satin stitch he uses between sections in one quilt. Another quilt uses raw edges of a chiffon or a similar fabric to bring together the various blocks of the quilt.

Showing at An Earnest Cut and Sew in the West Village.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Getting into a rhythm

I hope you had a good weekend. Todd took the baby up to the Whitney on Saturday afternoon so I could do the vacuuming and laundry and maybe a little sewing; so what did I do? Fell asleep on the sofa, completely unintentionally. Kiddo has been waking frequently during the night, and we're not sure if her ears are bothering her, if it's because she's so close to walking and is practicing it in her sleep, or if she just wants to be with us. Whatever the cause, it's making me really tired. This New Yorker isn't accustomed to waking at six a.m., either, which is currently the time we begin our day. Not my idea, obviously.

I'm starting to get this baby gift thing down pat. This weekend I even made a template for the velcro circles on the diaper case so they can be stitched into place before assembling the cases; it saves me a lot of hand stitching - when I remember to sew them in place beforehand.

These fabrics are all from the Heather Ross collection at Freespirit fabrics. I thought they worked well for this project.

We're waiting to hear the good news about one more friends' baby sometime this month (can't embroider the name until I know what it is), and then I'll be done making gifts for a while - as far as I know. After all this work making and then tweeking the patterns and perfecting the sewing method, perhaps I should be making and selling some of these things. I know, I know; I've been saying I'll sell some things for quite a while now, but my Etsy shop is still empty/not even really set up. My goal for the week is to put a few things up for sale. Really.

In the meantime, here are some fun links to keep you busy:

I love these memory sticks, found via Camilla Engman. It would be such a laugh to march into the photo shop carrying one of these with all your photos loaded onto it.

I forget who first linked to this site, but Kelly McKaig certainly has an eye for display and styling. I've been enjoying her photos.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Are you ready?

Because it's here - Purl Patchwork is open, and it was worth the wait!

I don't think I've even been really overwhelmed at a quilt shop. I can usually take two trips through a shop and find, if I'm lucky, five or six fabrics I like and maybe one or two fabrics that are completely new to me. Today I was dumbfounded. Everything was gorgeous, and much of it was unusual. In addition to a large selection of Heather Ross, Amy Butler, and Denyse Schmidt (all in one place!), Purl Patchwork also carries a small but breathtaking collection of Japanese prints. These are not your usual Japanese quilting fabrics; I've seen a few of the same patterns at Reprodepot, but I wasn't prepared for the beauty or variety of the line. The fabric itself from this line is heavier and lends itself to other projects besides quilts.

But more amazing to me was the wall of small, tonal prints, many of which are reproductions - some even from the 1800's. These fabrics are organized tonally, in really lovely shades that one seldom sees in quilt prints. What a pleasure to see lots of brown and softer, muted shades of teal, peach, pink, blue and green.

And finally - hurray! - a wide selection of solids! They may not be sexy, but solids are so useful and so difficult to find in many shops. I find myself drawn to them more and more; maybe it's the Denyse Schmidt and Gee's Bend influence. Anyway, Purl carries a nice selection of colors.

Yes, it's a tiny store. And just like Purl, Purl Patchwork makes fantastic use of the space: floor-to-ceiling walls lined with bolts of fabric, with just two small cutting tables in the middle of the floor. Merchandizing? Are you kidding? I don't know anyone who does it better than Joelle. The front window is lovely, and I'm sure we're bound to see some fantastic quilts in the shop very soon. I seem to recall some gorgeous threads and a selection of quilting notions in there someplace, too, but honestly I was so amazed by the fabrics that it was hard to think straight. I was giddy and probably made a complete fool of myself with gushing and staring and not being able to make up my mind. Oh, yeah, I brought the baby with me. Now, what did I do with her?

Let's see; what else? Oh yes, sometime in the future Joelle hopes to make PP fabrics available on-line as well. Oh, happy day! In the meantime, I think Sullivan Street has become crafting mecca. It's too bad no one has opened a hotel someplace between the two stores yet; why would you want to travel outside of this block during your stay?

More photos here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Going out on a limb

Have you seen the adorable spring Bonpoint childrenswear collection? I just love the smocking and the sweet, delicate calico-type prints they're using. Jacadi also has some cute prints in their spring line, but I can't find any photos on the website. Here are a few similar prints that I found on the equilter site:

(In the textile business the first three prints are called ditsy prints and the last three are called scatter prints, just because of the way the flowers are arranged on the fabric. Just a little side note for anyone who wants to know the terminology...)

Do you remember back in the 1970s when calicos were all the rage in quilting? I think those calicos are, in large part, why so many quilting fabric trends frighten me: so often, you can date a quilt by the prints that are used in it. I find myself steering far clear of the batiks and the Japanese prints right now because they scream "quilt trend" at me. Not that all quilt trends are necessarily bad or entirely avoidable, but if you're going to make a quilt, you probably don't want someone to look at it and say, "Oh, you made that quilt in 1984," right? Chances are, you'll be really tired of that quilt in a few years. And after all that work, it would be nice if you continued to enjoy your quilt for many, many years instead.

Anyway, I've been thinking lately that it's probably about time for the calicos to come back into quilting vogue. They feel fresh and clean again, and if they're mixed with some crisp yarn-dye stripes and cheerful polka dots they could be really pretty. How about a really clear, happy pastel palette like the creamsicle orange, raspberry pink, and lawn green in the last print above, adding lots of antique white, and doing a classic patchwork pattern like stars or pinwheels? I'd love to see a quilt like that finished with tying instead of stitching. I love tied quilts; they feel so antique.

Clearly, I've got quilting on my mind these days. Purl Patchwork opened today, and I will be visiting it tomorrow because I can't wait to see what fabrics they'll be carrying. I promise to report back, hopefully with photos. And maybe with a few fabric cuttings, if I just can't help myself.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tiny Golden Books

Growing up, these were some of my favorite books. I just found a set for the baby via ebay, and Little latched onto them immediately when they arrived in the mail. She has been carrying one or two books around the apartment at all times. It must be, in part, the size of the books: they're three inches tall and two inches wide, and the kiddo really likes small books.

There are 24 books in the set, and the illustrations are done by Garth Williams, of Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web fame.

I love the covers

(Great handbag!)

and the end papers

and the illustrations inside are so colorful and lovely.

Some of the animals' dresses may inspire a few little girl dresses in real life.

I like the pink and marigold combination that the girl on the tricycle is sporting. And how about that fantastic lime green printed dress with the brilliant red sash?

Each illustration contains so much detail on such a tiny page. I'm excited to re-experience these little books!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I wish these came in my size,

especially with the yellow toe and turned heel!

Those long-awaited baby gifts

At last I can show you those baby gifts. You'd think it was some big deal or something, the way I've been leading you on about these things.

It all started with the food bag I made for the baby. I just wanted something nicer than a ziplock baggie to keep the spoon, bib, and baby food jars together in the diaper bag.

Of course, once that was made I decided we needed to improve on the baggie that was holding the diapers. I thought the diaper case should match the feed bag. So this is what developed and has become the baby gift we're giving everyone this year:

Why, why, why did these gifts take me so long? It took a while to develop and perfect the pattern. (And of course, the proto I made the baby still doesn't have it's velcro dots because the cobbler's children don't have shoes, right?) Both bags are fully lined with muslin, and the diaper case has a canvas interfacing to help it keep its shape, so there are many, many little pieces of fabric to be cut and pieced together. Plus the embroidery, clipping and pressing the curves on the diaper case, finding time to go all the way downtown to buy the velcro dots, then getting all the way across town to buy shipping boxes, and finding time to stand in the endless line at the post office. Whew!

But I'm working ahead now, and I have lots of these things cut out and started sewing. The goal is to have the diaper cases made so that I have just the embroidery and food sacks to sew when a baby is born. Hopefully it will save a little time and the recipients won't be potty trained by the time their baby gifts arrive.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Eating and waiting for spring

This time of year always seems to be the toughest, in my opinion: colds linger, spring fever starts breaking out, the weather starts teasing us with little bursts of warmth and sun, but we frequently have another month of winter awaiting us before we can really start saying that spring has arrived. I'm just tired of being sick, and I want the Vitamin C fairy to wave her magic wand at me and make me start feeling energetic again.

Bebe - who is very close to walking, at which point I suppose I will have to stop calling her Bebe and start calling her Kiddo - has gone on a food strike for the past week or so. It started shortly after the pediatrician told me she needs to start eating more. Of course. Every so often I can coax a little oatmeal or yogurt into her, but she mostly wants to feed herself. Yet nothing seems to make it into her mouth and stay there right now.

So at the advice of a good friend, I made some banana bread to see if Bebe might eat it. It turned out really well, and I think she may have eaten a little of it, but I think I ate most of it.

Today I decided to make the recipe again and tweak it to make it a little more healthy: replace some butter with yogurt, substitute some white flour with a little whole wheat and oat flour, etc. I made two loaves: one banana and one zucchini squash. And they turned out really well! I'm always happy when kitchen experiments go smoothly. Of course, here I sit eating the bread from the photo; I'd better save some for the baby.

In other very exciting food news, we were reading the book about yellow things the other day and Bebe got really excited when we came to the page with the banana. "Ooooh! Ooooh!" She was quite upset and confused when she couldn't get that banana off the page. It's fascinating to me to witness this little mind at work.

There hasn't been much crafting to show off lately, but I have lots of things in the works. So stay tuned. And I think the etsy shop will be opening very soon, too. Maybe if I stop eating and start crafting I'll get rid of this spring fever.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Wash day

Bebe usually gets one book and one goodnight song before bed - I borrowed this custom from my sister - and the other night I found myself singing "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush" to her. This isn't a regular chanson on my repertoire, and at first I thought perhaps I was remembering the verses incorrectly. But no, I had it right: each verse is about a day of the week and its accompanying chore. Apparently for many years this is how housework was done: Monday was wash day, Tuesday was for ironing, Wednesday was mending, Thursday was for shopping, Friday was cleaning, Saturday was baking, and Sunday was for church and rest.

Grandma was telling me, a while ago, that wash day became a competition between neighbors when she was growing up and even when she was rearing my father and my aunts. The idea was to be the first on the block to have your wash hanging on the line on Monday morning. I suppose it showed what an industrious, hard worker you were if you got up earlier than everyone else and did your work. In Grandma's neighborhood many rumors circulated about the Dutch neighbors who supposedly soaked their wash on Sundays to get a head start on Mondays. Sacrelig, apparently.

As if happens, Bebe and I usually do the laundry on Mondays. I just like to get it out of the way so I don't need to think about it during the rest of the week. If I let it go longer than a week between washings the piles grow too big and Bebe runs out of clothing.

I typed "this is the day we wash our clothes" into Google this morning and came across the site for The New Homemaker. It's an interesting concept, and I may do a little more exploring on the site, but the word "homemaker" and the sweet calico background really set my teeth on edge. It's all a little too 1950's June Cleaver for me. I'd rather be the Speed Queen. Busy.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Where did the week go?

This week passed so quickly, I needed to stop for a few minutes today to determine where my time went. Granted, taking care of Bebe all day does not involve sitting around eating bonbons and watching soap operas, but where did my blog/craft time go? I think I've uncovered the time-eating culprits:

I spent a lot of time cutting fabric for new projects.

However, these cutting activities did not seem to reduce my fabric stash by any measurable quantity,

nor did it reduce my yarn stash at all.

I managed to finish two of the baby gifts I've been working on for so long. More on this later next week, once they've been sent out to their recipients.

We also spent time trying to fight off Bebe's nasty cold.

I worked on sketching a few design ideas for the pillows,

and I caught up on a little reading.

On Thursday, Bebe and I sat for a three-month-old friend. The experience reinforced my tremendous respect for mothers of more than one child. And Bebe decided that she does not want to share her Mum with other babies. We all had a good time, but by Thursday night I was exhausted.

On Friday, after the sitter arrived for my once-a-week break, I went back to bed for some much-needed sleep.

Next week? Perhaps a little more sewing and knitting. And hopefully a healthy Bebe. It will be great to all be healthy at the same time over here.