Monday, July 30, 2007

Movies, Movies, Movies

I've had a movie marathon lately and thought a couple of reviews would be appropriate.

Norbit - an Eddie Murphy comedy that I knew nothing about before I saw it. Let's just say that if I had known what it was about I probably would not have watched... maybe if I was drunk and befuddled I would have but not stone cold sober. I will say the special effects are incredible as Eddie, once again, plays multiple characters and, in the case of one female character, is completely believable. Definately a pass if you are over 18.

Premonitions - Sandra Bullock plays a wife who has learned her husband has died but wakes up the next day with him next to her in bed. The premise is pretty good and well executed though the ending seemed a little bit of a bummer. I liked it and, at least, it made me speculate about the ending until the last 15 minutes.

Flags of our Fathers - A war film by Clint Eastwood about the men who were photographed while raising the American flag on Iwo Jimo. Good acting, well done character studies and incredible battle scenes but it really didn't go any where. One of the surprises is that Clint Eastwood composed one of the more interesting pieces of background music. A pass unless you really like the genre.

The Shooter - This movie is about an expert marksman and an attempt on the President's life. I really enjoyed it, learned a lot about marksmanship and was fully engaged in the plot. Although the ending was satisfying to me, others may not agree. A film worth checking out.

On another note - I have been invited into a new swap. This one is for doll quilts themed for the four seasons so it would be a year long committment. I know the moderator is looking for participants so if you would like to join the details are here: With such a small format it should not be too much of a pain. Check it out.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bubble Sweater

I finished the Bubble Sweater the other day. I love the texture and way the stripes pretty much lined up as I wanted. BUT before I finished weaving in all the loose ends I discovered that the dang thing had no shoulders. The set-in sleeves hang very nicely from the boney point of my shoulder bones but from there I went way, way, way off course. From the shoulder point I ended up developing a large cowl neck... on something that was to have a simple crew neck! Here's the sweater on the dress form:
And here is some detail on what I am talking about. I'm sure there is some way for me to figure out how to fix it without tearing out all that knitting but I don't have a clue as yet what that could be. I am not gong to tear it out as the yarn is a cotton/microfiber blend that really clings to itself. You can see it at as Austerman Bubble yarn with the pattern I used.

Maybe I should interface the whole thing with a fusible knit of some sort and use the 'yardage' in some other projects? It may be worth a try as I really liked this knitting before I messed up the shoulders. Any ideas?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Sharing

Not much to share but check out these absolutely beautiful sweatshirt based jackets ... just wonderful and truly humbling.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mail Call

In the mail today I found a plethora of creative inspiration. First I saw the fourth issue of Craft magazine. Just flippng through it took 20 minutes bacause I kept stopping to more closely examine the projects. Heck, even the last page was amazing with a full size, usable, stained glass shopping cart. Then I opened a package from Amazon which contained the Amy Butler book 'In Stitches', 'The Crafter's Companion' edited by Anna Torborg and Tsia Carson's 'Craftivity'. Each are full of inspiration and each has its own voice. I will probably be spending a lot of time reading rather than doing over the next few days and I promise to report back on anything I think is noteworthy.

BUT the most interesting news came in an e-mail today from the folk at Sew Stylish magazine. Babylock is having a contest called 'Take this craft and sew it'. Entrants are to go to their local Babylock dealer and get a free package of materials to make either an MP3 player case or a clutch style purse. Entries are due by the end of August and winners get a Babylock sewing machine. This contest should yield some interesting results if they can generate some enthusiasm. The rules and entry form are at

I will now go and build my ark as I have heard that the weatherman is expecting another 5 - 10 inches of rain over the next three days ... on top of the 12 inches we have already had this month in my backyard. Maybe I should have put off retirement and moved to Columbus, Ohio, when the bank offered to move me, as they have not had any rain in almost two weeks. Just kidding!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

FLY Lady Update

A while ago I mentioned that Iwas going to try the FLY Lady organizational strategy. To recap - the premise is that to Finally Love Yourself you need tobe happy in your surroundings. One way to feel comfortable is to get your envroment under control. To control our enviroment it needs to be organized, clean and stress free. There are several steps laid out in the program. I have bought into some of this but not all of it. Here's where I am now:
  • Keep your kitchen sink clean - I have tried to follow this one - not that I do a lot of cooking or that my kitchen is a hive of family activity but the kitchen sink was becoming a bit of a toxic waste dump. Now, most days , my sink is clean and my kitchen is ready for company. It does reduce my stress to have at least one area of the house that's company ready. Of course there is this great big honking sewing machine on the table, until my classes are finished, which greatly reduces the amount of surface area that needs cleaning.
  • Get dressed down to your shoes every morning - I do get dressed to my shoes every morning.... just not ready to go out in public with the sun above the horizon. My initial getting dressed has to do with dog feeding and walking. I have moved my dressing for the public to later in the morning. I don't think my solution completly embraces the FLY Lady spirit but it works for me.
  • De-cutter 15 minutes a day - I like this one as I seem to have papers that are breeding while I sleep. I try to toss, file or give away for 15 minutes at a time every day. My piles of stuff are a little smaller than a month ago. I have used ths method for culling the bookcases in the dining room and de-junking the junk drawer. I really need to get to my closets in this manner because I know I don't need or want the number of garments I seem to be keeping.
  • Swish and Swipe - this is the rule that says you should do a quick bathroom clean-up every morning. I can't seem to get my head around this one though I can see the value of having a clean bathroom every day. I think I will work on this one.
  • Do a load of laundry every day and put it away - I don't generate enough laundry to do a load a day and with all the felting I've been doing I find myself searching for the right things to put into a hot wash with the knitting. The doggy blankets and beds seem to be getting a lot of attention lately! I am failing at this one because even when I do a load for felting, I don't get everything put away for a few days as I want to work with what I've just created.
  • Prepare for the next day by having a bedtime routine - My bedtime routine is to lock up the dogs, set the alarm and snuggle down with my most recent book. Works for me but does not meet all the criteria... like I should be laying out the next day's clothing, cleaning up my most annoying clutter gatherers etc. etc. etc. I don't think I will ever be organized enough to acually lay out clothes for the next day on any regular basis

All in all my month with the FLY Lady has been good but I don't see myself becoming a true FLY Lady. I would much rather be sewing or knitting or walking the dogs or meeting with others who like the things I do or reading or embroidering or any of a hundred other things, to spend more time than I do now on house work... after all there is always a cleaning service if things get too out of hand!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blame the Apron

A while ago, while talking about the Amy Karol book called Bend-the-rules Sewing, I made an apron out of some fabric from the Elsie's Kitchen line. I liked the fabric so much, I went looking for some more and ended up making an assortment of kitchen stuff. The placemats and tea towels are sale items from Kohl's that I embellished with the fabric bits. The napkins are in the additional fabric I bought. The two oven mitts are inter-lined with Insul-brite which is like an aluminized batting produced for hot pads and such. I was concerned about the inter-lining really keeping the heat away but after a test, it really works. I now have a totally coordinated set of kitchen accessories - I guess I will finally have to take down the yucky wine themed wallpaper and paint those kitchen walls to match the fabric. How June Cleaver of me!
And for those of you who are now laughing at me - blame the apron for setting me off on this new crusade.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

French Knot Anger

Today the Craft Magazine daily posting referenced a tutorial on how to make French Knots at the Purl Bee blog. French Knots are a very useful hand embroidery technique and have been used for centuries by hand embroiderers to add texture to handwork, the eyes to teddy bears and other thread work. I am rather good at them as I once had to do approximately 2,000 of them for a piece I was doing. The link referenced by Craft ( ) takes you to a tutorial that gives the worst description of how to do French Knots that I have ever seen. French Knots should only have one twist with size determined by the number and size of threads used. The tutorial shows multiple twists as the way to get fuller knots which usually results in French Knots that fall apart over time. I am (irrationally?) upset by this bad information being disseminated to the worldwde crafting community.

Why am I so angry? This is not an earth shattering event. The tutorial may not even be read by more than one or two people, so why does it bug me? When did I become such a stickler for precision? Maybe I've just had too much lazy writing today reading the latest Harry Potter and this tutorial broke my patience? I don't know if anyone reading this really wants the best information on French Knots. If you do, I suggest you find the old Sew Beautiful magazine that I used to learn them or, alternatively, let me know and I can walk you through the process.

On the other hand, I may just be irritated because earlier today I was given a senior citizens discount at a restaurant when I didn't ask for it and didn't meet the posted criteria. Must have been all my grey hair that prompted the clerk to key it into the system. LOL

Tomorrow will be a better day as it is not expected to rain for the first time is almost two weeks. Yeah!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Embroidery Leftovers

When I got the new sewing machine I knew I would have a lot of samples/experiments to contend with. Very organized people will take their embroidered samples, put them in a notebook and attach a detailed listing of all the settings used to embroider that particular sample. I am not that orgainzed nor do I think I would ever wish to exactly duplicate these samples in a 'good' project. Instead, I have taken my old oxford cloth shirt doodle cloth and made myself a yarn barn for when I am knitting. The whole thing ended up to be about 9 inches high and 4 1/2 inches square. The lid closes using Velcro and the stiffener in the side walls is some scrap Timtex I had been saving. It should hold the yarn for most projects. The knitting shown there is part of the arm I have been working on which is done in a great cotton blend called Bubble. The picture on the right shows the interior, lined with some lovely silky fabric I would probably never use, and holding three balls of Bubble. It does look like toilet paper but it is really yarn. Maybe I'll take my next doodle cloth and make it into a toilet paper container... Oh the possibilities!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Doll Quilt Swap II

Wowser! Is this not a terrific quilt or what? The maker, Lynn Chouw, (

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Madness

I think I've finally lost it. After all, what dog doesn't need a custom embroidered super hero cape to impress all his doggy friends?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Toy

I finally bit the bullet and purchased a sewing machine that also does embroidery. I went for the Brother Innovis 4000D which is their biggest embroidery machine for the home sewer. When I went to the store a couple of other customers were looking at similar machines and getting a mini-seminar on how they worked. I couldn't see the benefit to that as I had already done a lot of research so I asked the sales woman to write it up without a long sales job. The only tricks she showed me were how to thread it (a neat little robot-like thing does the hard work) and how the bobbins get wound while you are sewing.

I was signed up for a class to learn how to use it which runs for 12 hours over three weeks. Since I have to bring my machine and all the accoutrements to each class, I have decided not to set it up in my sewing room. It is now taking up most of my kitchen table... not a bad location as long as no one else wants to eat in the kitchen with me. Note the candle for when the power goes out during all the thunderstorms we get here. Also note the Hello Kitty container I got in a Happy Meal that I am now using for thread trimmings.
Since I got it home, I have been spending time playing with my new toy. I cut up an old Oxford Cloth shirt that had some nasty stains and have been having fun. The close up below shows the stuff I have been doing. The piece of fabric at the bottom of the picture has become a doodle cloth and I have been trying out stitches and embroidery designs. I have combined patterns, increased and decreased designs and strung designs together. The piece under the needle in the upper right is a design I picked up free off the internet. It's very pretty in many shades of blue and I wanted to try something lacy. On the left is what I would call Surfer Mickey. Brother is very proud that they have an agreement with Disney but the user is penalized as there is very little you can do to customize the designs. All I could was change the colors so I used a varigated orange thread. Scary! I wonder what else I may learn in the class?

I thnk I better put these into some project soon or the house will be full of machine embroidery experiments. On the other hand I could stash them with the hand embroidery pieces I have waiting for just the right project. Works for me!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Freedom Friday

I think I should make this a part of my week every week - even if its not Friday. This is a day where I do not have to be anywhere but where I want to be and no-one but the dogs have any claims on my mind or time. I went to bed last night wanting to watch more of the movies my son had downloaded for me, to get the dang sweater I've been kntting to the 'shaping the yoke' stage, create some additional kitchen accessories from the leftover apron fabric and to buy some guilty pleasure food at the grocery store. I made it to the grocery store and picked up some Marie Callender's pot pies - the guilty pleasure. I watched The Messengers (dumb), Breach (unsatisfying) and Bridge to Terebithia (excellent) while knitting up a storm such that I only have half a sleeve left before I can start shaping the yoke (whatever that is). As to additional kitchen accessories, well no such luck... or at least none to share as the potholder I did try got all wonky... maybe I'l share more successful attempts, if there are any, later.

Medical update - saw the doctor yesterday and she says my vocal cords are as smooth as a baby's bottom. I think that's good.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

bend-the-rules Sewing Part 3

One last thng I wanted to try from this book was the Apron. I seem to be seeing them around a lot lately and wanted to try my hand at one. I had purchased some cute fabric from a line called Elsie's Kitchen and made the Apron below. I adjusted the orginal pattern to minimize the amount of leftovers by using selvedge to selvedge widths for the skirt, trim and ties. The waist band is whatever I needed to fit the gathered skirt. I reinforced the waistband with some fancy waistband interfacing that I have had hanging around for ages and I think it worked well. I have also attached a closer look a the fabric. It seems so 50's ! Check out the lower right hand corner of the fabric picture ... what is that green thing with the red center being sliced up with a calorie count of 200?

Monday, July 9, 2007

bend the rules Sewing Part 2

I tried out three of the projects from the Amy Karol book bend the rules Sewing. I think I finally figured out what she means by bend the rules. In sewing we are taught to cut out all the pieces to measure the exact size of the pattern plus some pre-determined seam allownace. Two of the three of the projects I tried had you draw the sewing line on the chunk of fabric, sew along it, trim and turn and voila, the project was essentially complete. Definitely bending the rules!

The 'Charming Purse' was a little tricky in that some precision was needed in putting it together. I used some thrift store fabric which was a medium weight upholstery type and lined it with a piece of fabric that I cut out of another thrift store find. It is about 8" by12" and is the perfect size for a hardcover novel. I added a pocket in the interior to hold my cel phone but, in the end, it turned out to be the perfect size for another project - the 'No Cash Wallet'. The 'No Cash Wallet' took about 15 minutes to make from copying the pattern to sewing on the velcro. This pattern is one where it is recommended that you draw the sewing line, sew then trim down the fabric to the right size. Same fabric as the purse exterior and pocket. The instructions call for a snap and a buton to cover the snap but I prefer Velcro. Maybe I will find a button or pin to embellish it later on because it is rather plain. It is perfect for holding credit cards! Both the purse and card case leave lots of room for embellishment and fabric manipulation to dress them up.
The third project I tried was the baby bib as it seemed the whole world was addicted to them. It took about 5 minutes to make as it uses the sew then trim method of construction. Again I used Velcro rather than a snap. The fabric is a left over from the St. Jude hospital quilts I made a couple of years ago. I used a piece of Minky for the back side so its really soft. I might adapt this method to produce some bibs for the ASG project. The only difference would be that the ASG project requires a pocket at the bottom of the bib. At this kind of speed I should be able to turn out quite a few before the deadline on Saturday.
My final evaluaion of the book is a B - It does have neat projects but there were several irritations. I have yet to find measurements for the strap for the purse which is minor but Amy keeps calling an interlining a facing. A facing finishes the edges of a garment but interlining is an additional layer between the fashion fabric and the lining of a garment like the batting in a quilt. I kept looking for addtional pattern pieces for facings. What a pain!

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Although my intentions were to try out a couple of patterns from the bend-the-rules sewing book, I realized that I still had to complete the hospital gowns for the ASG charity sewing project for the conference this year in Sacremento. I had cut out 16 gowns from teeny tiny to big enough for me ,from stash fabrics, and they allneeded tobe sewn. All the seams had to be finished to the outside of the garments so I serged all of them and secured them to the garments using my double needle. It was a lot of fun to use the double needle as I would have traditionally sewn each seam twice but the double needle made it go twice as fast ... glad I finally used it after ignoring it for for many months/years.
I tried to use really bright fabrics even though these will be washed many times and will bleach out over time. Above is the pile on my bed with my favorite one on top. It is one of the smaller ones and I lucked out in finding the border print in my stash. They are now off to be washed before I drop them off for shipping with all the other pieces produced by others in the Houston Chapter. I hope the kids like them.
Now, my next dilemma is what to do with all the leftovers.
RAIN UPDATE: My area went about 16 hours without any rain ending today at about 4:30 PM. That did not deter the dogs from finding wet patches in the lawn and getting covered with mud. I changed my clothes three times yesterday when it rain on and off most of the day, and twice today because of all the mud they distributed on me. They have also had a couple of baths but it just became too much to try to keep up with the mess. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, July 6, 2007

bend-the-rules Sewing

bend-the-rules Sewing is a new book authored by Amy Karol. Its been all the buzz all over the web so I went out and purhased it, at full price no less, from Barnes and Noble yesterday. First of all I must say thatt I am an Amy Karol fan. She has a blog called tie-one-on that has an on-going apron making competition. In addition, I must admit, that I admire anyone who gives birth to their third child the same week as their book is published and still manages to answer e-mail and give interviews. Talk about an over-achiever!

I was pretty excited about the purchase because I had already seen some of the projects on Flickr and they looked great. I was particularly impressed with the number of baby bibs that posters had made... it seemed like any one who made one started churning them out like candy. Another project that had many postings was the Charming Handbag. There were several different sizes and they loooked like fun. Most of the comments were of the nature that they would change the bag in some way to make it useful but those semi-warm comments did not deter me.

Part 1 of the book concentrates on what you need to actually sew these projects. Amy has extensive instructions on which notions are needed, how to use them and why you should use them. She talks about using her patterns, appropriate fabrics and even how to sew on a button and make bias binding. Part 1 should be reproduced and given to anyone thinking about taking up sewing for fun or profit as it contains excellent instructions, humorous descriptions and good advice. I was particularly glad to read that she recommends having more than one pin cushion as I seem to scatter them all over the house to catch errant pins.

Part 2 contains the projects. They are pretty standard but Amy puts her own mark on them. A standard tote bag becomes interesting when one handle is shortened into a loop for the standard sized handle to slip into for carrying. An apron becomes a fashion accessory when embellished with an unusual pocket. A plain old expanse of fabric becomes a scalloped edge baby blanket in Amy's hands. I have a couple of bones to pick with the patterns. They require the sewer to execute teeny tiny fold overs of raw edges and top stitching by machine to get an adequate result. Even now I sometimes have trouble turning an 1/8" fold over of a raw edge and top stitching can run off the edge when you are working so close to it. Another tiny complaint is that with all the turning required I don't remember that she ever has anyone clipping corners for smoother turning and sharper corners.

This book is not for the experienced sewer unless you want to see what the newer sewers are doing. The patterns require a copy machine as most need to be increased in size for good results. I would give this to anyone wanting to sew something unique for themselves, their friends and family as it has such a good introduction to the equipment needed and how to use it. I am off to try a couple of the projects and I will post the results. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Doll Quilt Swap II

Finally decided that I would leave the quilt top the way it is without any additional embellishments. I tried to come up with a silhouette but the only one that looked real was of my son's head when he was a little boy and I don't think it was appropriate to the quilt. So its off to Denmark and I hope that my swap partner will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it for her. She did have some likes: fall colors, primary colors, black, suitable for hanging on a wall - I think I met most of them. I certainly love the colors and I did apply a hanging sleeve on the reverse which is black as well. I could have kept going with borders and such but then it would have been too big to meet the criteria. The arbiter of quilt perfection, my son, said that he liked it the way it was but pointed out where washing the quilt had made it a little wonky. Wonky works for me.
RAIN UPDATE - So far today my little rain gauge has recorded 1.4" of rain. A day without rain is not forecast until this coming Monday. Looks like my weekend will be spent sewing or, heaven forbid, cleaning up around here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Glorious Fourth...

Bah Humbug! ... or what ever the right expression is for this holiday. It rained from about 7:00 AM until about 4:30 PM. No grilling the beautiful steaks I was going to thaw out (until I saw the weather). No yard work or playing with the dogs outside. I did some vaccuuming, swapped the cushions on the couch, ate takeout with my son and his girlfriend and watched some movies - The Island (while vaccuumimng), Frantic (only part of it but that's all you need of Harrison Ford), Happy Texas and now Superman Returns.

The rain chances tomorrow are 60% so it looks like the mushrooms in the yard will have a nice layer of mold before too long.


Update - I forgot all about the little tykes around here that just have to set off fire crackers. Everything is so water logged I don't see how any fires could be started BUT the dogs are hating it. Lady Jane was always so calm about fireworks. She would check them out but no barking or other carrying on - the girls have to bark and run from the dining room at the front of the house to the back yard several times for each pop that they hear. Alex is a little afraid of them and between running around and barking he is firmly attached to my hip.

Will this day never end!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

June/July Sampler

I received my Sampler yesterday and I feel like I really hit the jackpot. From the top left hand corner the box included:

  • postcards made from old game boards by,
  • a cut little heart pin from,
  • a full kit to make a dish cloth of cotton and wool yarn by,
  • a knitting pattern that makes up into wrist warmers with big red lips on them as an extract from a new knitting book called pretty in punk from,
  • a cute card from,
  • a sample of some absolutely wonderful walnut dyed super wash merino sock yarn from,
  • cute gift tags from,
  • a book mark with some lovely ribbon from,
  • a pair of sodalite hoop earrings that I would actually wear from,
  • a botlecap magnet from,
  • a set of spa basics from,
  • a Nom pin from and
  • a soy candle from Sheba's Secret as well.

I regularly look at the craft leftovers blog but was hesitant to purchase. After all, I have lots of leftovers but this kit is very clever and I can't wait to make it up. The Sheba's Secrets items will also warrent another look as the products seem wonderful and the scents appear to be under control.

On another note - it rained most of yesterday so it was tough to get the dogs to go out. I have a little sun shade outside and I tried to encourage them to come out and join me out there to do their business. The girls would not take the bait hence the picture on the left of Kimora testing the air througth the doggy door. The picture on the right is of Alex standing in the middle of a downpour. He had a great time out in the yard as long as I stayed outside with him. I was dry under the sun shade while he got thoroughly soaked. What a life!

Monday, July 2, 2007

More Felting Fun

Today I thought I would catch up on some things that have been hanging around waiting for me to toss or finish. First of all, from a couple of weeks ago, I crocheted a flower with a real neat bead that I felted then added to the handbag. To the left is one side of the handbag that I originally posted and on the right is a picture of the flower that was added to the other side of the handbag. I think it turned out pretty well in the end and I can't wait to try it out during a shopping trip.

I then tried to line a couple of experiments in felting that I had completed last week. First the orange and black little purse. I tried to line it so that the lining would cover the rough edges at the opening as I had trimmed it down a little. This lining experiment worked well. The actual yarn was a ball of a Lion Brand yarn that looked like wool roving. The final size was about 4" x 6" with a rounded bottom. I added velcro as a fastener which also helped to hold the lining in place. I love the way the yarn was mostly black and gray but the orange is what stands out. The second experiment had to do with me adding piping to a similar purse and leaving the raw edge exposed. This effort really failed which is too bad as I like the way the pink yarn felted. The problem was that the purse had such a small opening that it did not even fit on the arm of my sewing machine which meant a lot of slippage when attaching the lining. I probably should have attached the piping and lining by hand but I was too lazy.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Finished... maybe!

Finally finished the quilt for the Doll Quilt Swap. Its about 20" x 20" and is based on Ricky Tims' Convergence Quilts. I've made several from this concept but much larger so it was a challenge to keep it small. The fabric is from Judy Robertson's Just Imagination. I don't think the picture does it justice but I might add some embellishments to it, maybe a black silouette of some trees or leaves. If I do I will re-post a picture but I do know I can't make the decision this evening as it will be certainly the wrong decision. Let me know what you think.