Thursday, February 19, 2009

Small Accomplishments

I haven't finished anything big lately. This weekend and past few days I've done a bunch of little projects that while small are still exciting! And, interestingly enough all were finished on Monday!

First, I dyed a sock blank. A sock blank is essentially a double-stranded, stockinette swatch. Ater you dye it, you can unravel it to knit two identical socks! Pretty neat! It was my first time dyeing (which always sounds weird when you say it out loud) and that was fun and interesting. It gives me a whole new respect for people who do hand-painted yarns!

Second, I finished my Saturday Sampler block. This is the block I was cutting out when I cut myself. I eventually got back on the horse, got it cut out (though rather slowly, methodically, and with much anxiety), retained all my digits, and finished the block! So, "save $10" is checked off my to-do list!

Lastly, I learned to spin. Well, I started learning. I'm thinking it will take me quite a while before I can say with confidence, "Why yes, I do know how to spin!" But, I have started and so here is a picture of my first little single-ply skein of yarn.I plan on framing this puppy! (I don't think there's much else I could do with it.)

Lastly, Bobby has been doing better with solids and has graduated to getting it into his hair (and mine once, but I won't go into that). So this is his rockin' hair after a wash cloth hair cleansing!
The only other super-exciting thing from Monday was that I ordered a Phat Fiber sampler box. A big accomplishment seeing as how they sold out in under 3 minutes from when they were posted. I am practically beside myself waiting for it to arrive! It's perfect timing since I have a new respect for hand-painted yarns and am starting to spin! It's a box with lots of different samples from various independent fiber artists. Each one is a little different, and I can't wait to see what's inside!

That's pretty much been it. We've been keeping busy with day to day stuff, and now I need to go check the USPS tracking to see if my box is getting nearer!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Craft and Tell?

I have been having an internal debate: if you are starting a project for someone, do you tell them?

I have a tendency to get so excited about what I'm making and working on and how perfect it's going to be and how wonderfully suited for the recipient and all of the other things that are so great about it, that I'm just bursting to tell them everything. But, what if you tell them, make your plans, even start and then don't finish right away? What if you start something else and then something else and then before you know it, the gloves you promised someone two years ago when you first started knitting are on scrap yarn because you needed the needles for a different project and not even one hand is finished? Pretty rough, on the relationship. Particularly if they know about all those forays into other crafting pursuits.

So, it would seem better to not tell the person. After all, if you never tell them and you don't get it finisehd then they are none the wiser. No damage done. Well, except for the disappointment in yourself for not finishing what you had planned. But that's the beauty of a work in progress. Who is to say when that progress ends? However, I've noticed that many people that you tell about projects in progress intended for them, don't take this longer view of crafting. They really are much more into instant gratification. They can get almost downright impatient at times! Not that the freezing weather, other pairs of finished gloves, new scarves, completed hats, and brand new baby sweaters might influence that feeling.

If the project is a gift, it's obvious you can't tell them. Most gifts, especially for birthdays and holidays, are surprises and telling them, "I'm making you a hat" kind of gives it away. This gets tricky when you need things like measurements and once people know you knit it doesn't take much for them to translate, "Could I wrap this string around your head?" to "I'm making you a hat." Especially if you just told them about the other gifts you're making for Christmas, or asked what their birthday plans were. Asking family members only gets you so far, and I'm not really much more creative than that at getting information out of people. Every so often I think I should do a little questionaire for people I know, but then that could get awkward. Would you want to give someone your chest and waist measurements on the chance that they might make you a sweater or a skirt one day?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Especially, if that person still owes you a pair of gloves.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dreaming of Summer

I have been obsessed with skirts lately. All I seem to want to do is sew, knit, think about, and wear skirts. I think it's a sign that really I want summer. I'm sure it's some sort of emotional transfer or something: during the summer I can wear skirts whenever I want (without fear of frostbite), I'm wanting the weather of summer so I'm wanting the clothing that goes with it. Makes sense, right?

So, while no new skirts have been made, I've been thinking a lot about them and have a lot of ideas. If all goes according to my plans I'll be wearing a new skirt practically every day!

Okay, so that's too optimistic, I only have plans for 3 different ones right now. But go with me on this one!

This is the fabric the first one will be made from. I can't wait to get it finished!

Actually, right now I'd settle for even getting it started...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


So, I finally decided to make a few new year's resolutions. These are not commitments I have made lightly. I've been thinking about them for a while and was trying to figure out a way to better myself but keep it (life) reasonable at the same time. Especially since the addition of a baby makes life a bit more unmanageable at times, I knew that if I made my resolutions too big and then failed on the first or second day I would be rather upset with myself for the rest of the year. So, instead of jumping in with abandon, like I usually do and expecting way too much of myself, I've scaled it back a bit. They are small in some ways, huge in others:

1. I will do something creative every day.
I am leaving this so exceptionally open-ended that I can't imagine not being able to do it. As long as I can sew, knit, blog, journal, write, sketch or plan a project for even 30 minutes in a day, I will consider this one met. Pretty lenient on myself, I know, but I'm hoping to build the habit and then make it a more consistent part of my life. And, who knows, maybe the things in my life that I consider acts of creativity will expand, too.

2. I will learn to do something new this year.
I want to learn something not completely unrelated to what I know now, but I want to deepen or broaden my knowledge about the things I already do. In other words, I want to learn something that makes me much better at the sewing, knitting, and crafting I already do. I have a few ideas of where to start with that, but we'll see what pans out!

Yesterday my husband helped me with the daily creativity by handling the staple gun (he has a better track record with sharp and dangerous tools) as we made these:

I am a pack rat and just couldn't let go of these bits of my past. One is a collage frame from a friend in high school and the other is a project I did in graduate school. I'm particularly partial to the scrabble letters on the border. But, we are trying to get rid of the junk and clutter that seems to breed in our house so I was gradually bringing myself around to the fact that they were going to have to go. Then, I realized that I could keep them if I used them in some other way. A few layers of batting, some solid cotton fabric, leftover webbing, and several staples later I had two "canvases" to try out fabric combinations on, and keep track of various scraps in my stash. Plus, they make for fun ever-changing wall art!

And, if I am every overcome with the urge to see my memorabilia ever again I can just uncover it! Okay, I don't see that happening, to be honest, but it makes me feel better to know it's still there. I plan on dealing with this habit in a future year.

Monday, February 9, 2009

One More Thing

Sorry, forgot to mention this: I'm on Twitter (thus the new feed on the right side bar) under the name "onemoreproject".

Pencil Sharpeners

At the beginning of this school year I quickly discovered that my new classroom didn't have a pencil sharpener. This was definitely the low point in a series of steps down.

During my student teaching year, the teacher whose room I was in had an electric sharpener. It was nice to have in the mornings. It was fast and easy, but it was really noisy. And, much to my amazement, I saw the students being rather indiscriminate with what they chose to sharpen in that fancy contraption. I personally would never have sharpened an eye-liner pencil. But, who knows, that may have more to do with the fact that I don't wear eye-liner and so have never experienced that emergency in English class when you need a sharp eye-liner pencil.

When that sharpener broke (OD'd on eye-liner) or the outlets it was plugged into were on the fritz, the students sent up a howl about having to use the one on the wall. It was so much effort after all.

Then last year I was on my own and only had that one mounted to the wall. The problem with it was that it was right by the door and the students had a tendency to knock off the shavings holder as they hustled in and out of the room. By the end of the school year, my hugely-pregnant self was very tired of picking it up off the floor; the semi-permanent pile of shavings wasn't that great either.

Then there was the small fact that it plain stunk as a sharpener. I suddenly understood why they had complained so much the year before. I had a student take a brand new pencil down to a 2-inch nub, not because he was procrastinating on doing his work (honestly), but because the sharpener kept biting off the end of the pencil. I ended up back there with him trying to pry it out. That sharpener definitely needed a new job, preferably one that provided it with more job satisfaction.

This year nothing was in my room at all and while I was happy that students remembered to bring pencils, I was not happy to hear their complaining or to have to go scrounging for pens from my own stash (I think they actually breed in the bottoms of my bags). I was considering whether to buy one after the first week when I found one of those little sharpeners that I remember from elementary school. The kind with a small blade set in plastic with a cone-shaped hole. I've been using it ever since.

At the beginning of the year, the students complained just as loudly as they did when the electric one broke that first year. But, they stopped when they realized it really was all I had and that I use it, too. I think it also helped that I personally sharpened pencils for a bunch of them one day.

Then they started picking up something else about it: this thing sharpens pencils pretty perfectly. This is one seriously good sharpener; it takes pride in its work. I've yet to have a student spend the whole class sharpening their pencil and they sharpen the pencil over the trash can so their are no shavings on the floor (usually).

It's been a bit of a miracle that I've never lost it. It's been near the perilous clutter of my desk and loaned to students who "return" it to unusual places. Really? With the glue sticks? Really?

I started thinking about all of this today after I had a student walk in at the beginning of lunch from her math room across the hall and ask to borrow my sharpener knowing full well what she was asking for. Who knew such a little thing would be so great!

On My Mind

I've had a couple of things on my mind lately and thought I'd share them briefly. Well, I've had more than just these two things, but these are crafting related, and all I really have time to talk about before heading to work.

First, I have a friend that spins and dyes (though not necessarily in that order) her own yarn. It is beautiful and inspiring, and while I thought, "Yeah, I could do some dying, I could see getting into that," I never was really that interested in spinning. Watching her spin and ply made me think that it was out of my league. And, (I hate to admit this) I was a little afraid that the texture might get to me. I get weird shivers when too much yarn goes over my hands too fast for too long, and I was afraid the same thing might happen with spinning. But the other day I found myself thinking about it. A lot about it.

Then she started working on this. I think I am going to closely monitor the progress. I imagine if you get excited about finishing a whole sweater for yourself, then you'd get an even bigger sense of achievement after finishing a sweater for your husband that you also dyed and spun the yarn for. I'm going to watch closely to see if the increased sense of gratification is worth it. I have the sneaking suspicion it totally is... ...

Second, another friend of mine is always finding the best books about crafting, being creative, and other just generally good resourceful books. The last three books I've bought (and six I've read) have been her recommendations (or loans). Because of these books, I've been spending more time thinking about sewing clothes, both new from patterns and by-the-yard fabric and reconstructed from old cast-offs. I spent a few hours yesterday (not all at once, but here and there between other things) thinking about how I could turn two brown pillowcases into skirts that didn't look like they used to be pillowcases... ...

An unfortunate side effect of this new interest in this other side of sewing is that my drive to get current projects finished has sputtered a little bit. Instead I now want to be sewing baby booties, place mats, pencil rolls, and skirts!

I'm resisting the urge to call in sick, sneak back home, and work in the craft room all morning.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Few Little Things

I am going to talk about a few little things that are pretty much entirely unrelated. I will, however, try to manage some rough transitions; no promises.

First, Bobby is teaching me how amazing human beings truly are. It wasn't until now, as I watch him grow and learn, that I realized how much coordination and thought has to go into almost everything we do. Walking for example, is one tough nut to crack! You have to push off with one foot, and catch yourself with the next one before you fall on your face. Even just standing up straight can be a major achievement! Bobby taught me this as he modified an ottoman we have and turned it into his very own walker:

His reaction when he notices the camera is pretty typical and makes it challenging to get pictures sometimes. He either crawls over and gets in the camera's face, or he hams it up. It's hilarious. And, he's not doing his huge smile as much any more. He's trying out a new look that you catch glimpses of at the end of the video. His new happy smiling face is one where his nose is wrinkled up and he bares his gums at you with wrinkled eyes. Pretty cute!

New topic, but we're still on Bobby. As I said a little while back, he's not the most consistent eater. Now we're just trying a variety of new foods. Last night he tried out pineapple. It seemed to not really be his favorite.

He loved playing with it, felt the texture, put it all over his hands, hair, arms, belly, table, chair, floor, my shirt, Bob's shirt, but didn't really want it in his mouth. He even managed to get some in his eyes. And, when that happened his screaming meant that this attempt at new foods was over. He was happily playing with his turtle later though, so no lasting damage.
Then today his eyes were opened to the wonder that is pineapple by his Nochi. (And, Bob's theory that he just wants what we're eating instead of his own baby food was affirmed.) He still played with it a lot first, but he did enjoy sucking the juice off of the fruit and even had a little bit of the pulp. But, he didn't really go for the little pieces I cut up for him. Instead he ended up with his grandmother's chunk of fruit. We tried to get video of this, but again, he kind of reacts crazy to the camera!

We plan on trying watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew soon!

Moving on to a new topic, I will transition with these photos that I use to support my hopes that one day Bobby will love to knit with me! Right now he resents it a bit when I pick up the needles.

I'm working on my sister's hat and I love it so far, but I'm at the point where I need to turn up the hem and it's easiest (or so I read) to just knit the lining into a row. So, here it is all ready to be knitted into the next row. And for an hour and a half I tried to do just that. But, somehow it didn't really work and while I have the same number of stitches in both rows, I ended up with 28 stitches left on the needles and over 30 on the row to be knit into it. Wasn't really going to work. So, I had to undo all the work I had done so far and was left with this. A whole pile of not-in-the-ball yarn. Not a huge [pile, but still had a ton of fun to try to sort that out! I plan on trying again soon, and I've marked the stitches to be picked up so that hopefully it will be easier this time, and I'll actually be able to move on with the rest of the hat!

And lastly, still in the crafting vein, but on the sewing front, I worked on a few more blocks for my Twinkle quilt and am liking the ways the colors work together!

Well, that ends the whirlwind tour of random happenings around my house the last few days! I hope you all are staying warm!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Brought to You By

These finished projects were sponsored by my lovely husband who watched Bobby for a full 2 hours straight and then was willing to pause the TV show we were watching while the sewing machine was going!

Book for Bobby

Lap Quilt Top (still hanging from my ironing board)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Something Good

I'm not sure yet, but I feel something good coming on. I think maybe, just maybe, I might getting a small case of "finish-it-up-itis." (And, that would be the sound of my mother rejoicing and the ice crackling in the underworld.) For some reason, I really want to get things finished. I have lots of plans and I keep thinking things along the lines of, "Ooh, when I finish that project I can start on this project" or "When I finish this project I can spread out that project" or "When I'm done with those things I'll have room for these things." Now, the majority of these thoughts aren't new, but the "when I finish" part is completely unexpected. I don't know why it is suddenly cropping up in my thought process. But, it has to be a good thing.

So, in this spirit I have finished another baby hat (no pictures, because mom reads this blog and by golly at least part of it has to be a surprise!) and a belated birthday gift. I also pulled out a project I started this summer.

It's a lap quilt that will look mostly like this except with three strip panels, and sewn together, and not hanging from my ironing board.

Because I couldn't sew this afternoon, I decided to cut the scraps up into pieces for a table runner. It's going to be great (I think), but it's been a bit difficult making sure I had enough left over fabric. For example I needed 13 more 1.5"X2.5" strips out of the green fabric. I glanced over to my strip pile and thought, "Excellent, more green!"Then I realized exactly how much green I was seeing.
Not quite the 35" I needed.

So, I cut what I could (4 pieces) and decided that this table runner is supposed to look scrappy, not necessarily balanced, so I cut the remaining pieces out of other fabrics. Then I turned to the final pieces I needed (63 more 1.5" squares), and realized I had no more fabric left.

Nothing. It was all gone.

All I had was my little pile of what I thought was going to end up being 96 1.5" squares that I had carefully saved out of the longer strips.

Seeing as how I had spent a good deal of time and effort figuring out how to cut all the other pieces, and I was being very economical in my cutting I was frustrated that it would all come to naught.

I started looking through my fat quarters; nothing would work for the centers.

Then I clawed through my scraps; none of the pieces that would work had enough fabric left to them.

In a last ditch effort, I dug through my (other) scrap drawer, and my reluctance to part with fabric paid off. I'm hoping this doesn't result in a relapse into hoarding in other areas of my life (or house). But this time I was lucky enough to find squares of a perfect creamy color already cut to the size I needed! How amazing is that!?

So, I'm hoping the hopeful and positive energy that has suddenly sprung up in my life will lead to more successes like this one! I'm also hoping to have a long list of finished projects very soon!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Imagine With Me

All the wonderful things that will flow from this, the last of my Christmas presents. It is truly a thing of beauty. Taking my sewing surface from this 7.5"X6.5"

to this 18"x24"