Chapters

28 October 2016

A Sappy Fall Tale & Lessons From Tilly


It's been a bit of a trying time for me. A week ago last Thursday I had a fall...tumbling backwards into a few immovable, hard objects. The pain was the worst I have experienced to date. Breath-taking...quite literally. The following day I decided that a trip to the doctors might be in order since the weekend was fast approaching and I worried about how I was going to mange if it got worse. DH carefully loaded me into the card and off we went. After a couple of hours and 15 x-rays I went home to wait for a call. The initial thought was that I had a broken hip and/or collarbone. When the call came there was good news and bad news. Good news that my hip and collarbone were fine, and, best of all, that the metal-works in my back were still in place. The bad news was that I had two spinal fractures (L4, L5...near where one of the fusions is).

I have been encamped in/on my "easy-chair" for a week. Sleeping in bed was much too painful and although sleeping in a chair is less than perfect- it has been easier and more comfortable. I sleep, watch the tube, gnash my teeth over the political insanity and have had time to think...oddly enough I had no wisp of a desire to stitch...until yesterday! Things must surely be looking up! I am quite distressed over this latest "back business" and wonder how quickly the bones will heal and I when I will be able to get back to normal. I worry about the future since I have have been living with daily pain for years now...will it be the same? Worse? Better maybe!? I am not a particularly patient patient, but I also accept that I have to play this one "by the rules". The blessing, and I think it is just that, is that this could have been much worse...much worse.

I have had lots of time to think...and Tilly and my relationship to 4 legged has been one of odd topics that has crossed my mind. I love creatures. They awe me and inspire me. I like dogs and they seem to like me well enough too, but it is cats that have been a life long love for me. I relate to them so much better than dogs. I have been privileged to be owned by many felines over the years, but Tilly, cat of my heart, has touched me in a way that few others have. She adopted me/us when she was three years old and DH and I have been spellbound by her ever since. She's a one in a million kind of girl- beautiful, funny and very smart.
As I pondered this deep, inter-species connection I began to think of the lessons that Tilly has already taught me:
  • Age is not an indicator of desirability. Just as non-kitten cats have a lot to offer, older humans have stories to tell and wisdom to share. Don't judge everyone only by what you think you know about them....we all have had fascinating lives before the moment we meet.
  • Don't judge a cat or human by it's "cover story". Some cats and people need safety and security to really blossom and the we may appear at first glance most likely isn't the real story.....sort of goes along with the lesson above.
  • Yes, of course I am worthy! Of great, unconditional love, good food, spoiling, tenderness and praise.
  • Love, acceptance, and kindness can coax out the deepest love of even the most tentaive, life-weary and fearful of us....both 4 and 2 legged.
  • Be joyful! Enjoy the simple blessings of pettings, kisses, food, warmth, routines and love. Roll around, act goofy and revel in life!
  • Go with the flow. Nap when you need to, eat what you like, toss your toys in the air if you want to. Enjoy kind attentions but don't be afraid to make it clear that you need time alone. Tomorrow is another day and when something not-so-good happens...it will pass. Things are always better after a nap.
  • Life can be a gamble. Sometimes the path you are on just does not work out, but finding a new way forward can bring unimagined blessings and love.

Tilly has brought so much into our lives. I first saw her as I was approaching my second back surgery in 2010. I wasn't looking to adopt or be adopted, but I do have "a thing" for white four-paws.There she was, ready and willing to take on the challenge of two humans who wanted nothing more than to smother her with love. In truth, she is the best gift that surgery brought and now she is a gift for healing.

The lessons come every day! So love your 4 pawed companions as deeply as you can and learn to see the lessons that you can learn from them!

Fall has arrived in our neck of the woods...it's the season when I miss my New England home the most...but even here in the most. Orthern place of the Pacific Northwest the colors are are saturated and beautiful!

 

08 October 2016

Aurifil's New 80wt Appliqué Thread

The changes that getting older bring can be amusing at times. When I was younger I eagerly awaited hearing about a new job or pay raises, what the weekend might bring, what art I hoped to make soon...those kind of life experience kind of things. Lately though, my 'awaiting moments' are far more simple.

 

Thread! Yes, I have been eagerly waiting to try Aurifil's new appliqué thread...an smooth, strong, 80wt cotton. It seems that my 'making' life has been dominated by hand sewing and hand appliqué lately. Therefore, anything that tends to make my stitches look smaller and blend better is on my radar. Over the years I have used a lot of varieties of appliqué thread. Who doesn't love stitching with silk thread?! It's soft, lustrous and blends so well! My issue with sewing with most silk threads was that it tended to break a lot. I tried to love Superior Threads Bottom Line poly and Wonderfil's Invisifil poly. The problem? I really tend to be old school and I prefer sewing with cotton thread. Superior Threads pre-filled bobbin rings of their many colored Masterpiece 50 wt cotton have been my go-to appliqué thread for quite some time now. The bobbin rings are so handy and the color range is large...what's not to love?! Masterpiece replaced my myriad small spools of Mettler 50wt that had been my appliqué staple for many years before the wonders of Masterpiece pulled me in. I have two Mettler thread carriers one with the warm side of the color wheel and the other filled with the cooler side. An investment for certain....and I still return to these stashes quite often for particular shades of blues, reds and purples especially. Money well spent back then.

 

Amid all of these options though I kept dreaming of something even more perfect. I wanted a thin, smooth, strong cotton! Recently I discovered that one my favorite thread purveyors, Aurifil, would be introducing a new, cotton, 80wt appliqué thread at Market this fall in Houston...and,ostensibly, it would be available at Festival too. Alas, my personal exchequer would not allow for me to go to Houston and so I started searching the 'net' .... and found The Fat Quarter Shop, the bountiful, wonderful, online purveyor of all things quilty had some sets of this wonderous new product but they were out-of-stock. Once again, patience off. Since I had requested re-stock notification I found out as soon as this set was available again and pressed the magic "buy-me" button. Voila! Today I received my set of "Essential Appliqué" colors and I may be in thread love heaven!

I find that most appliqué works very well using these "essential" colors and so I had to begin my Aurifil 80w collection with this set...oh my! another sewing addiction to add to my "I want more" list. This 80 stars cotton is veerrry smooth and amazingly strong. Later today I will play with it some more and hope to have some examples to show before long. If you are a hand appliqué/hand sewing fan I think that you need to give this amazing new thread a try. I think that Aurifil has a new winner in their "thread stable"!

I wish I had ALL weights of Aurifil for examples in black, but I don't...so I have used similar weight and the image above shows

from RIGHT TO LEFT:

  • SUPERIOR Threads POLYESTER Bottom Line in Raven (black)
  • AURIFIL new 80 weight COTTON appliqué thread in black
  • AURIFIL Mako 50wt cotton in color 1130 ( dark brown)
  • SUPERIOR Masterpiece 50 wt cotton in Raven (black)
  • WONDERFIL Konfetti 50wt cotton (an all time favorite of mine)
  • SULKY 12wt cotton in black (I am a big fan of Sulky 12 wt, but SUPERIOR thread has come out with a delectable line of 12wt thread called "Sew Sassy" I love to use 12 wt for top-stitching and "big stitch" quilting...more than perle cottons which tend to spread much more.

Threads have come such a long way since "the old days" when one brand dominated the market. I am so happy to have such an amazing and varied selection these days. The thread companies have really responded to consumer requests I think.

Do you have favorite threads and/or thread brands ?

So you use a favorite hand appliqué thread?

Do you use 'essential thread colors" for most hand appliqué or do tend to carefully match colors?

Have you tried a variety of thread brands? Which ones and why?

Now...back to my regularly scheduled hand sewing projects!

 

30 September 2016

A New Dress No.2

Lately, most of my time has been dedicated to the several large quilt projects that I have in progress. One these projects is quite fiddley and requires focus, attention to detail and commitment! Sometimes I just need some more or less instant gratification and lately that has meant making a new garment.

I love this simple dress/tunic from 100 Acts of Sewing. Called simply Dress No.2. One of my pet peeves seems to be untidy, unfinished seams and so this entire dress if French seamed. It looks so much nicer....better for this kind of of sew than even serger seams I think. Makes me pleased. I lengthened the sleeves and added a partial sleeve lining so that if I turn the cuff up it still looks nice.nect time I want to raise the front neckline just a bit and add a few other other details like in seam pockets.

The fabric is more hefty than I general use. It is from Lonni Rossi and her "Geishas and Ginkos line (not recent). It is a deep Chinese red and black - not the pinker color that some of the photos show. It has a nice feel for Fall and Winter and I know that it will soften up lusciously with more trips through the washer and dryer.

Can you see my disguised pocket below? I tried to match the pattern exactly.

My first "Worry Bird" tagged make.

Now back to regularly scheduled quilting projects. This dress was rejuvenating!

 

03 September 2016

What Is A"Worry Bird" and Why Is One On My Dress?

What, you ask, is a 'worry bird' (shown above)
and why would I add it to a new top?
Well, let me explain.......

I was looking for a pattern for a simple but stylish pull over dress/tunic. As I searched for "the right one" I started to wonder if the image that I head in my head was just too simple to have a pattern. I did not want to 'reinvent the proverbial' if I didn't have to and, considering that I have not yet drafted a pattern, it would much easier if I could find the simple shift of my dreams! After a lot of time spent web searching among the "big 4" pattern companies and assorted Indie pattern companies I happened upon "the" pattern on Etsy. It is simply called, "Dress No.2" from 100 Acts Of Sewing (there is also a Dress No.1...more of a v neck and it too is on my list). I admire the look of a simple 'dress' (or call it a tunic) like this worn over slim pants...or leggings and I wanted simple design like this that would look good in a wide variety of fabrics and was "customizable". The sleeves looked good to me; simple but not too loose and easy to make short, long...or sleeveless.

This is a pattern that is so simple that nothing could possibly go wrong. Hummmmm.

My goals for this simple sew were:
  1. To sew it using my 20+ year old serger that I had recently spent the time to figure out. Until I can afford the Babylock serger of my dreams I want to at least take advantage of learning more about "sewing" with a serger....I had not used it in close to 20 years!
  2. The pattern features patch pockets but since it was so 'simple' I planned to add in-seam pockets instead.
  3. Rather than making a plain 'ole muslin test for such a simple pattern I decided to make a wearable 'muslin' from some very thin, but very cool, Indian voile that I had purchased this summer for another shirt project that I haven't sewn yet. The fabric was rather inexpensive so I figured it would be a nice summery wearable and I could buy some more fabric for the shirt later.
Of course....the 'best laid plans' etc...
The front of "Dress No.2"

Mistakes began to happen at the get go.

  1. The voile was quite loosely woven and, while not that difficult to sew, I had to fiddle with the tension on the serger a bit to get right.
  2. I thought I had cut TWO sleeves, but I discovered that I had missed a beat and had cut only one. The problem was that I did not have enough fabric to cut another sleeve without piecing it and while that was doable, in order for both sleeves to look the same I had to remove the first sleeve and sew a faux seam in it so that the two sleeves would look the same. Off to a frustrating start!
  3. I added the in-seam pockets and sew-serged away. Of course I soon discovered that the size I had cut from the pattern was much too large. Before you ask the obvious, yes, I had read the pattern's finished measurements, but I have become so used to needing more room "up top" these days that I figured a looser fit would be fine. Not so! Additionally, the in-seam pockets did not look all that good either because the fabric was so loosely woven and lightweight.
  4. I took the dress apart; removed the pockets and redrew the pattern to size down. The neckline - which was already bound and finished, was also much too large and way too low so I had to pick that all apart as well. Again, because of the very lightweight fabric, the binding looked limp and not very good. So I made a new, improved, neck binding and added a 1/2" strip of lightweight sew-in stabilizer as I sewed it again. The result was a soft but much better looking finish. Phew!
  5. I sewed up the roll over hem, but then, when it was all done, I decided that it needed to be shorter. One more time - cut it all off, used a double facing this time for stability and re-sewed and aligned.
  6. I decided that I did want a pocket...maybe not two on this one...but I like having a pocket. The fabric really did not lend itself (to my eye) to using a contrasting fabric for the patch pockets. I was quite low on useable fabric by this time but I really wanted the pocket to be as 'invisible' as possible and I tried to match the pattern as best I could to camouflage it. It worked out well. I used a twin needle with solid thread in one needle and a softly variegated -slightly thicker thread in the other.

After all of the time I had spent to sew, rip, re-cut and re-sew this simple pattern I needed to add a bit of humor as a reminder to myself to measure twice and cut once, that almost any project will have a positive outcome with patience and care and that nothing that I do is all that important in the general scheme of life. It's ALL small stuff really!

Enter the "worry bird". I had fallen in love with the critters on this happy Halloween fabric. The color was vibrant and the bird so whimsical that the fabric makes me smile when I use it. I added a piece of it to the back of the top. An unexpected bit of brightness and light-heartedness.

The back of "Dress No.2"
The whimsical "Worry Bird"
The not quite invisible pocket (above)

It's difficult to tell from the photo age above, but I chose to use the "wrong" side of the fabric as the right side of the dress. The fabric's right side was too bright for my taste and the pattern looking kind of chunky and clunkie. The "wrong" side was subtle and softer.

When all was said and done (or should I say said and sewn) I am thoroughly happy with this simple "test" make. It's cool and comfortable and and not too.loose or too tight. The sleeves are a perfect - tapered and just right- and easily made shorter or longer. Personally I like the 3/4 length as patterned.

My next version is going to made from an amazing French twill from Emma One Sock. Four colorways are offered and I seriously want three of them...but I can only afford one....or perhaps I will throw caution to the wind and get two of the color ways....I like it that much! I received free samples of them and it is a luscious fabric that I think will sew up beautifully with the extra weight of the fabric. Substantial but not stiff.

My two favorite online apparel fabric resources have become Emma One Sock and Stylemaker Fabrics. They both offer unique apparel fabrics and superb customer service and free swatches! Also, for cool summery Indian cottons, voile and trims at really good prices check out The Delhi Store on Etsy.

Now back to regularly scheduled quilting. I feel that I need get the quilting projects in the "finished column" before I get too involved in making clothes.

  • Have you ever made anything that at first seemed like more trouble than it was worth, but that, in the end, you learned a lot from making it?
  • Have your projects ever taught you to appreciate things more...like patience, perseverance or skills?
Happy making to all .....and Happy September too (just how did that happen anyway?!)


 

25 August 2016

"Within Limits" & The Value of County Fairs


When I first moved to my little slice of paradise I had never been to a County Fair and barely knew that they existed. I grew up in NYC and the greater metro area and Fairs (other than art faires) were few and far between. I jumped on the proverbial band wagon 25 years ago though when my first fair entries were photographs.

Although I comsidered myself a quilter at the time I did not enter anything in that division for some years. As it turned out, that was a very good thing because my quilting hubris was much larger than my quilting talents were at that time! What I did not about quilting is, in hindsight, embarrassing! Over the years I learned a lot from the amazingly talented local quilters. My skills increased and I even managed to take a few classes over the years. In the last few years, for some reason, I have not entered many items in the quilting section and almost did not again this year. But........

Of course, County Fairs acquire funding based on number of entries and so I decided to enter "Within Limits" - a large bed sized quilt. It is based on a pattern called "Wagon Wheels" from American Jane by Sandy Klop and was beautifully custom quilted by local friend Keri Leighton-Stome from Orcas Island. As a huge fan of colorful scrappy quilts I challenged myself to use a more controlled palette of red, my new neutral, black, grey, white and splashes of mellow golden yellows.

When the quilt made it home....with thanks to my friend Janet for picking my entries up for me and even hand delivering them.....I was thrilled to see the bevy of colorful ribbons attached to my quilt. We all love and lust for the coveted blues and honorable mentions are a real bonus, but it was that fluffy Viewers Choice ribbon that meant the most to me. I had never received one before and I was tickled pink by this teal colored beauty. It encourages me and I am so grateful to anyone who took the time to vote on Saturday!

We had a special exhibit called the "Itty Bitty Teeney Tiny" challenge. We have a severely limited amount of available space for display in the "wool shed" (which houses quilts, sewn textile items, knitting, weaving, spinning, basketry etc etc) and so this year's theme was created to be not only a creative challenge but also to save on valuable real estate within the exhibit area. I entered two teeny tiny fabric baskets that I had made for a similarly theme challenge a few years ago. There was no restriction that entries had to have been made within the previous year.

I was surprised to find an envelope attached to the baskets. It featured this year's Fair theme and poster and inside was a very special little surprise. have a feeling that I know who was responsible for this most touching remembrance (MzT you know who you are!). MzT is a gracious, very multi-talented, thoughtful friend who always seems to find ways to make an event even more memorable.

I now understand County Fairs much better than I used to. They serve so many wonderful functions. I cannot imagine m world without them any more. County Fairs foster a love for all things wonderfully rural, critters, horsepersonship, the growing of good and beautiful things and the myriad displays of creative works by many talented hands.

County Fairs are empowering, they help to build a healthy self-respect, they engender a needful love of things that mean "we live in the country". Fairs bring communities together for a special annual week of friendship, sharing of all things fair ...."fair food", trashion fashion shows, getting to know our neighbors...and perhaps best of all they reconfirmed the joys that I feel every day for being able to live in "my special'place", and enjoy the benefits of deep roots and long friendships.

 

Have you always had County Fairs in your life?

Do you always enter things or not so much?

What is you favorite thing about your County Fair? Memory?