Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Little Thing

A while ago I saw a cute little sling bag where one handle is longer than the other. It is carried by the longer handle slipped through the shorter handle and the whole thing slung over a shoulder or wrist. I got a link from the Junie Moon site for a small, wristlet size version that uses only two fat quarters. I had a couple of fat quarters of fabric that were begging to be used and this is what I came up with:

I love the idea of a bag called 'Japanese Knot Bag' made up in purely Texas themed fabrics. Its completely reversible, only twelve inches tall with a circular bottom about the size of an everyday bread and butter plate. The pattern and instructions I started with are posted here. I did not interface the fabric at all but I did add a layer of Timtex to the circular bottom for some extra durability. I also changed the way the handles were completed so I didn't need to do any hand sewing. The technique I used is from the 'Five Fat Quarter Shopping Bag' instructions I posted here. I would like to make another one but in a size where the bottom is about the size of a dinner plate but I haven't figured out the proportions yet so this will take a little more thought.

I see myself using this when I am out and about and need a little more with me than can fit in the pockets of my shorts. But this bag is also perfect for using at the ASG conference later this year. At one point during the proceedings, there is an awards banquet and each chapter tends to wear or display some sort of locally themed item. Most of the group going from Houston will probably be wearing their Texas pride on a wonderful garment. I think I can make do with this little handbag.

I hope your weekend is going well. My big sewing machine died so I am hauling out my old straight stitch machine. I think the problem is the one Brother has with a lot of their product...a power supply issue. Both of my other Brothers have had their power supplies replaced at least once each. Fortunately these replacements have been at no cost to me so I am not afraid of a big repair bill. I just want it back soonest because I have some embroidering I want to do.

Since I had to go back to where I purchased it (about 50 miles away), a friend and I had a mini shop hop today. I picked up a lot of little goodies at the three shops we visited but didn't spend a lot of money. It was very, very nice to spend a stress free day in the company of an avid sewer who is also an incredible quilter. I hope we get a chance to do it again. It was even nicer for me as she did all the driving as I am trying to recover from a nasty cold. Thanks!
The only sour note on the day was that I forgot to remove a silk pre-made purse from a dye bath I started it in last night. Its been sitting in dye for almost 24 hours and I am not confident that it will survive that long in dyes from 15 years ago. I hope it will be dried and set by the morning at which point I'll post the results. Here's hoping it will turn out all right or at least accepteble.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Puzzle Blouse - Update

I finally hemmed my second attempt at the Puzzle Blouse. The original was based on a 38" x 40" rectangle of a very light weight linen. This second attempt is based on a 36"x 40 " rectangle - 36" to go around me, 40" for the length. As everything is on the bias these measurements may seem a bit off but they seem to work. Now that I have worn it for most of a day I am now thinking that I take take it down another couple of inches in the width and play around with the armholes.. The too bright pictures below are an attempt to see what a sleeveless verion might look like. As I only folded the extra fabric under my bra strap its not a true rendition of what it would look like but its close. I think I should make another template, for the armhole, to go with my template for the neck and have another go at it.

The fabric was from Laura's Fabrics and Gifts from her big sale last week. Its just a simple quilting cotton but I love the little pattern. I serged all the raw edges and used one of the decorative stitches on my sewing machine to secure the hems and sew down the seam allowances.

I can't believe I am playing around with this pattern so much. There's just something about playing with bias for a simple top that is totally intriguing to me. I think the next one I try will be cut a bit narrower but in a cotton knit. How does pink sound? I have some in my stash... if I can find it.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Zipper Purses Redux

While searching through my zippers the other day I came across a five and a half yard spool of black zipper tape that I had purchased many, many years ago. For some reason I believed that I did not have the zipper pulls that went with it. I realized that the spare zipper pulls from the other purse projects would fit this zipper tape and decided to make another bag without the benefit of the DVD or book I had borrowed for the previous projects. This is what I came up with for a pouch to hold all my extraneous electronic accessories when I am travelling.
This project was a barrel of laughs from the moment it made it into my head. I was wrong about the zipper pulls... there were about twelve scattered throughout the package but I didn't discover that until I spent about thirty sweaty minutes trying to insert one of the other zipper pulls onto this tape. I finally got just one on the tape and began to sew on the ribbon. The ribbon I had on hand was 7/8" wide rather than the 5/8" used by Mary Mulari. The ribbon came from JoAnns and was on two three yard spools by Offray. I joined the to pieces together so I would have enough length. I did the first sewing on one side of the tape and decided to check out what I had done.

The first thing I discovered was that the join for the two pieces of ribbon was now on the outside of the bag. Ugly but not disasterous. I also discovered that the zipper pull was on the wrong direction... that is, instead of pulling down from the proposed top of the bag to the bottom it was inserted so that it would open from the bottom. I decided to try to insert another zipper pull but after 45 minutes of trying I couldn't get it to work so I went to Plan B. The bottom became the top of the bag. That presented a whole other set of issues... like how to seal the top to make it the bottom. In the end I just kept sewing until I ran out of zipper, then I created a funky seam and sewed it up.

This bag is bigger than the original due the wider ribbon used. The original was about 10" x 10" while the new bag is about 12" x 12". I've tried it with all the power cords, chargers, games and extra batteries I tend to haul with me and they fit with a little to spare for other toys. So all is good... except for the ribbon join BUT if I cover it up with a weird button a viewer might believe that I meant to do it that way all along.

I wonder what the TSA will think when they search my bags next time?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Yesterday I was trying to get my bead related stash in some sort of order. It shouldn't have been a big job but I found my various pliers in three different rooms and in the garage. The beads were in a drawer with the buttons, in another drawer with beading needles and in a bin with a couple of beading trays. Something had to give. I gathered all these supplies into one big fabric covered bin and brought a little organization to the chaos... not a lot but enough that I will only have to look in one place for the right supplies.BTW - this bin came in one of the silent auction baskets at the Kingwood Area Quilt Guild Auction in April and is much bigger than it looks - 15" x 7 1/2" x 20". The construction is pretty neat. The side walls are hard cardboard covered with batting and fabric. The whole thing is held together with Velcro at the corners. I wonder if I can replicate this technique the next time I need a fancy container?

While I was feeling down right smug about this activity I realised that I had a lot of hand held electronics that had little naked holders for charms. Not to let this horror continue I then proceeded to play with the beads and made some bling for my cell phone, Nintendo DS and my Sony e-reader. Don't they look less naked now?
I used 3 inch headpins, added beads from the jar of mismatches and then I attached them to these neat little jump ring holders made for cell phone charms. Here is a link to a wholesaler of these neat accessories. They sell them for $0.25 each at retail.
And now a special note from Alex:
Hey there! Me again. I just don't get it. I played with Alice for about six hours today, training her to play fetch with me. Even though she wanted to spend time embroidering stuff on nightshirts for her Dad, I got her out of her chair for some good exercise. Hey, she even got to retrieve the ball from under the dresser three times and the buffet about eight times. That kind of movement is good for the abs right? Now she's hidden the ball and is not letting me sit in her lap while she watches the evening news. You know what I say about all this.........NOT FAIR! Even though she spent most of the night sick and in the porcelain room, she should be thanking me for such a fun day ... definitely not fair.

Did you notice how my fur is almost back to normal? The Babes are loving it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I HATE Amy Butler - Update

I was over at Junie Moon's blog and she tried the business card case which is a freeby on Amy's website. I decided to use some of my scraps and try out the pattern. Junie may have gotten it wrong but maybe I could get it right. WRONG! We both ended up with one card pocket rather than two. Maybe if the pattern makers spent less time having you chalk mark your fabric before cutting (who would mark when rotary cutting is so much faster and accurate) and spent more time using the English language more clearly we would all have more success with her patterns. Here's a link to Junie's comments.

By the way, check out the rest of her blog as she really comes up with some amazing little projects. The pictures of her guest bathroom are clearly suitable for Archetecturial Digest.

The Schlepp Bag

I first saw instructions for this bag at a board meeting for the Houston ASG Chapter. Apparently someone had showed it at neighborhood group and another member (an engineer no less) created instructions on how to make it. I took a copy as I was intrigued by a bag made out of squares and immeadiately saw an opportunity to use up some the five inch packs I have been picking up at my favorite quilt shop. I tried to make one and it turned out incorrectly. I then was e-mailed a scan of a similar pattern, resewed my bag and it turned out wrong again. For some reason when I used this pattern it all came out correctly. Anyway, here is my bag:

I used a pack of five inch squares from Moda but have no idea which pack it is as I have discarded the packaging. You need 32 squares if you do the lining and exterior in squares. My pack did not have enough squares so I added five extra from a spare fat quarter. I cut the straps from a fat quarter as well using two strips of 22" x 5" and ending up at about 1 1/4 wide after folding and stitching. I think , if you choose to go with a five inch square rather than a seven inch square, (as in the pattern) you should stick to one manufacturer as they all seem to cut their packs a little differently. I used Fusible Thermalon Fleece by Pellon for the batting that is attached to the lining. I cut it a tad smaller than the actual size of the squares to reduce bulk. I also cut another piece the size of the finished bottom to add a little more protection to the bottom when it is in use.

The bag, using five inch squares, came out to seven inches on each side and about ten inches tall. This is a nice size for a light shopping day, a book bag or as a gift bag. The five inch packs come in many themes so it should be easy to match one to an event. The other suggestion I have seen is to cut your squares so that there is a focus fabric in the middle diamonds. That would look very planned and not as scrappy as mine.

Thanks to the Internet I have another little bag to add my sewing repetoire but I must give credit to the other two designers for figuring it out as well. Apparently the original was on the HGTV website a little over a year ago and I found the quilt guild class instructions by cruising through one of the links in a discusion thread.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Jane Parker Purses

This is a convenience post for those interested in taking a class from a local ASG member on June 14. Here are photos of several of the purses the class will be based on:

Sorry if your are reading this looking for new blogging wit from me!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I HATE Amy Butler

Maybe that is a bit strong but as I sit here with sore fingers and a weary soul, I realy do hate her. She published a book called 'In Stitches' with a sub tite of '25 simple and stylish sewing projects'. The projects look stylish but, make no mistake about it, the projects are not simple to sew. I started off with the Patchwork Handbag (called the Funeral Purse earlier) which was supposed to be very difficult. As it was the last project in the book and I had no real problems finishing it, I assumed that all the others would be very doable for my sewing skills. I next tried the Clutch handbag (called the Girlie Bag by me earlier) and again had little trouble with it. I was working up to the Fashion Checkbook Clutch. A seemingly wonderful portfolio style case to hold a checkbook, credit cards, pens, lip gloss and miscellaneous papers. Who could resist trying this project after seeing this picture?

There are 81 steps to this project and 25 separate illustrations to aid construction. With all those details, how could I go wrong? Well, I went wrong many times and ended up ripping out the last three layers and joining them by hand. The exterior looks pretty good if you squint a little. The back side has an additional pocket on it but I didn't know it was there until I started construction.

The interior looks pretty good but that odd flower on the credit card pockets is there to cover up the blood I accidentily got on the interior while trying to machine sew it all together. There are some parts that have been sewn at least a dozen times through 12 layers of stuff and still I could not get a great result. Again, squinting helps.

Amy Buter may have designed this project but she has a couple of women who actually wrote the instructions and six testers to work through the patterns. I blame all of them for my less than stellar results only in that after sewing several projects with the same pattern makers intructions the testers couldn't help but get good results. I am also to blame for tackling a project that I was ill prepared to complete. I really think I can get a great result at some point in time, just not this past week or so.

BTW the fabrics I used were all from the Designer Fabrics Outlet in Toronto. I used about a quarter of a yard of drapery fabric for the exterior and about a third of a yard of silk dupioni for the interior. The cording , which I substituted for the pattern's ruffle, was also purchased in Toronto. I used significantly less than the yardages asked for in the pattern .. and I have no idea why. I used a 'by the yard' mid-weight zipper as I could not find a pre-made one, locally or in my stash. I could not find the recommended zipper pull/handle thingy but I am still looking around to find one. I don't think I will actually use this as a clutch but as a correspondence folder. I really need a place to hold my envelopes, note paper, stamps and little address book and this looks like a good solution to that storage problem.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A new look at Bias

This past Monday I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Dayton Texas neighborhood group for a session by Suzy Seed on making her Puzzle Blouse. The Puzzle Blouse is something anyone can make from virtually any fabric and be guaranteed of an excellent fit. In the past, I have worked on two similar tops - one designed by Carter Smith (and reviewed earlier this year) and the other developed by a fellow ASG member. The Carter Smith top is a little tough to tweak for a better fit and turned out too short for my taste. The other is a very clever design where a square of fabric, placed on the diagonal, has its corners brought to the middle and sewn up. This top also turned out too short for my taste and, while the front is on the bias, the bad remains on the straight of grain.

The Puzzle Blouse solves two problems for me - its easy to make the blouse as long as you want and the whole thing is worked on the bias so it drapes beautifully. I originally made the blouse as shown in the instructions. It also ends up with nice cap sleeves that cover a multitude of sins on me. The length was great, the fabric draped well but the width was just too broad for me. Today, I worked with a friend and determined that I needed to reduce the width I used by two inches to get the fit I like. The first blouse I made was of very thin/fine linen and I covered the long seam and one of the short seams with bias tape. To test the new width I increased the long seam's seam allowance by an additional one half inch and made another seam down the back to match the front. Here is a picture of what it looks like now .. which should encourage me to use real muslin for fitting rather than some lovely fashion fabric.
The one I made today has not had its edges finished but fits great. I will try to rope someone into taking a picture of me in it this weekend and post it later. If you are as intrigued as I am by this type of clothing construction here are the directions I used to make my second try. Please note that this pattern idea came from Suzy Seed and she should be credited if you use these, or similar, instructions with others.

1 – 1.25 yards of fabric – suitable for all blouse weight fabrics, woven or knit, printed or solid. Avoid fabrics with an obvious one way design
Sewing machine and/or a Serger
Matching thread
Measuring tape

Measurements and Cutting

_____________ Width – Your high bust measurement or your high hip measurement, whichever is larger. Rip or cut your fabric along the selvage edge to equal this measurement. Mark this side with a pin or marking pen. (I ended up using this measurement minus two inches)

_____________ Length – if you would like your top to sit at your waist use your width measurement. If you would like it longer add two to three inches to your width measurement. Rip or cut your fabric from raw edge to raw edge to equal this measurement. ( I ended up using my new width plus four inches for the length)


Fold your fabric with length measurmeent along the fold - right sides together if you would like the stitching hidden or wrong sides together if you would the stitching to show on the finished blouse. Sew or serge a scant quarter inch seam along the short ends.

With your fabric laid out on a flat surface, folded edge toward you, fold one corner up to the open side. Mark where this corner meets the raw edge with a pin in one of the raw edges. This finds the true bias of your square/rectangle.

Holding the edge with the pin as one end of the seam, pull the raw edges apart to form one long seam. Serge or sew this seam with a scant quarter edge seam. The previously sewn edges may or may not end up aligned with each other. Do not be concerned as this will differ among blouses.

You will end up with a weird floppy square/rectangle with no opening, one side plain bias and the other with seams on it. The flat side is the back of the blouse while the seamed side will be the front but tha is your choice.

Shake out the blouse and lay out on a flat surface. Determine the bottom edge and cut a body opening from corner to corner. Do not cut through any previous stitching.

Determine the size of your desired arm holes. Eight to nine inches is typical but additional length can be added when you try on your blouse before finishing. Cut two slits for armholes from the shoulder down the sides.

Fold the blouse together along the center front so that the armholes line up with each other. To cut out a neckline, mark a point about four inches from the fold toward the shoulders. On the fold, mark a point about three inches below the neckline. Cut a curve from the mark on the fold to the mark on the shoulder. On the front only, cut another curve about one inch below the first, cut on the fold, to the mark on the shoulder. (I used a template from an old t-shirt to cut this hole)

Try on your blouse and adjust any of your cuts for the arm holes and neckline to suit your taste and body size. Simple tubular sleeves can be added as this point.

Finishing – The raw edges can be finished by serging, or serging then sewing a small hem, or sewing a small rolled hem or applying a bias binding.


As an alternative to the blouse, this pattern can also make a jacket. In that case increase the width measure by an inch or two, add tubular sleeves to the arm holes and open the center front.

The pattern can be enlarged to make a dress by doubling your length measurement and completing as noted. It can also be used for a skirt by adding about twelve inches to the length and adding an elastic waist band.

The neckline can be adjusted for a variety of shapes – a slit or V can be made about eight inches long. A collar can be added if desired but required additional fabric.

The addition of an elastic waistband would result in a blouson edge.

If you have some time and want to try a unique bit of clothing sewing try out this top. I don't think you will be displeased with the results.

BTW - Dayton Texas has a lovely store in it called The Vineyard. It consists of a series of boutiques selling knick knacks, flowers, clothing and accessories. There is also a great little cafe that sells wonderful sandwiches, salads and a tempting looking daily special. The clothing area had a discount rack and I scored a brown French Terry sweatshirt for $10.00. They also had a large variety of unique purses, including one made of candy wrappers and some of the most beautiful pajamas a girl could want. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones #4

This afternoon a friend and I went to the movie 'Indiana Jones and the City of the Crystal Skull'. I am so glad I went because I don't have to feel deprived about not seeing it. It was not as good as my expectations but it was definitely worth the $7.25 it cost to get in ... excluding the popcorn that is!

The plot is a little convoluted and the movie had several continuity issues (as all these movies do) but it was good to Harrison Ford as the goofball man of action character that he plays so well. It was a little disconcerting to see a man of his age doing some pretty athletic stunts. My knees were aching by the time the movie was over. This may be a movie that I would go and see again with a larger, more diverse audience because I think audience reactions really can enhance this kind of movie.

For those of you keeping track, I did not do another survey of male versus female weight issues as the lights were down by the time we made it to our seats. Next on my list for summer viewing ... Hancock.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Peace T-shirts

I mentioned previously that Kelli over at AfricanKelli was collecting t-shirts to be given away during her trips overseas this summer. I committed to making two but it took me until today to get them in the mail. I machine embroidered/appliqued snails on the butts of two onsies. I think any little kid will look cute crawling around with a snail on their behind. I had originally planned on doing the work on the chests of the t-shirts but realised that one - I couldn't figure out how to get the onsies into the hoop and two - that the embroidery could be itchy. They fit on the butt easily and any itchiness will be absobred by diapers. I hope Kelli is able to fit them into her luggage for her first trip this summer.

See more t-shirts that Kelli has received for this project here.

Alex and the Duck

Today, Laura's Fabrics and Gifts was having a big sale of their current inventory. I met up with a friend there and made a few fabric purchases. It was hard to decide what to get as Laura has great prices under normal circumstances but at 40 - 75% off, it was a challenge to make a choice. She was also selling off some of her gift inventory at 75% off. I saw a really cute stuffed duck all dressed up for an afternoon at the pool with sun glasses and a life ring. For $2.00 I thought it was worth buying for Alex as a gift. Herein lies the tale.

I arrived home at 1:50 PM CDT and let Alex out into the back yard. After a couple of minutes of making sure that no-one had been in the yard while he had been locked in the house, he came inside to check out my shopping bag. For some reason he figured out that the top item in the bag was a toy for him. Before I could grab the duck for a picture, he grabbed the duck and ran outside. I tried to get it back but he wouldn't let me near him.
By 2:20 PM CDT, this is what remained of the duck:
By 2:30 PM CDT he had abandoned the duck and started in on his sqeaky tennis balls again. Ah, the ficklness of youth!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bog Coat Fun

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting a program on the Bog Coat to the wearables group of the Kingwood Area Quilt Guild. This was inspired by my experience with making this coat:

Below are my notes on making a bog coat including references that include a set of instructions from the 2003 Bog Coat challenge done by the Houston Quilt Guild wearables group .


A bog coat is a garment constructed out of a rectangle of fabric with the only waste being the opening for your neck. The label, bog coat, was developed as some of the earliest examples were seen in excavations of old bogs In Denmark. Other examples date back about 4,000 years. The style has gone in and out of favor at various times throughout the world. A more contemporary example of this design can be seen in coats made from Hudson Bay blankets in Canada.

The design appears to be based on garments made from animal hides, excluding the extremities. The size of the fabric rectangle is determined by how long and how wide the final garment needs to be. I have attached a set of instructions from the Houston Quilt Guild Wearable Arts Bee challenge from 2003 as a starting point in your design.

Measurements needed:

1. How wide do you want the sleeve to be? This measurement is done from the tip of your shoulder, over your bust to 1 – 2” below your bust. This is typically 11 – 12”.

2. The length of the coat is the next measurement. From the point where you measured your sleeve width at the shoulder, measure down over your bust to where you would like it fall. The length is entirely up to you but can be anywhere from your waist to ankles.

3. Next determine how wide you want your garment. Measure your biggest bit… bust, tummy or hip.

Now you can calculate the size of your rectangle -

Sleeve width (1) ______ plus garment length (2) _________ = _____Side A.

Width (3) _______ plus 6” = __________ side B.

Example: Side A - 12 + 30 = 42 inches
Side B – 40 + 6 = 46 inches
Size of rectangle = 42 x 46 inches

Any and all fabrics can be used for a bog coat as long as they have a bit of drape. Having measurements in hand before you buy fabric can really help in fabric selection. In the example above one side of my rectangle needs to be 42” … a convenient size for quilting cottons if I am not going to quilt the garment. If I were quilting the garment, I may opt for creating the rectangle out of two lengths of fabric, joining them to create the final size plus 2- 4”before quilting.

Cutting out the Garment

There are four cuts that have to be made. The first is for the center front on a side that equals your width. Cut into the middle of this your sleeve width plus 4”. Make a neck oval about 6” wide at this point. Discard this oval or use it for a patch pocket. In the example measurements this cut would be 21” from one side and 16” long.

The third and fourth cuts are from the length sides. Cut into the rectangle twice the width of the sleeve for ¼ of the width. In the example size, these two cuts would be 24” from the side you cut the center front for 11 ½ “. See your pattern template of the Houston instructions for clarity.

Garment construction

Anything goes here – seam the sleeves and around to the center, bind all the edges and sew the edges butted together, join the edges with ties so the garment can become a blanket, serge the seams together, add decorative bands down the front and around the sleeves and on and on and on.


Beyond the Bog Coat by Linda Halpin, RCW Publishing, 1993, Out of Print but available as a pattern directly from the Author – I used this book as the basis for my reversible bog coat with Afghani and Seminole patchwork bands.

Cut My Cote by Dorothy K. Burnham, Royal Ontario Museum, 1973, Out of Print – This little gem has many pieces of clothing constructed with little or no waste in their construction.

Quilts to Wear by Virginia Avery, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982, Out of Print - This book has beautiful quilted garments, all of which can be adapted to the bog coat concept.

Google ‘Bog Coat’ on the internet for many examples of bog coats, construction variations and a plethora of fabric choices. One technique I am anxious to try is one similar to the Folk Wear Tibetan Coat pattern that uses gussets for additional shaping.

Houston Quilt Guild Instructions -

The wearables group has decided to have a challenge of our own over the next few months to construct our own bog coats. I am so looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with as a one of the women came up with about a dozen variations in about two minutes after we had taken our measurements. I wonder what I will create?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Techie Toys Part Two

The very first phone I remember us having was a black bakelite thing that sat in a little cubby hole under the stairs. Our phone number was 294 and you had to call the operator to get connected with anyone anywhere. Long distance calling was considerd only for an emergency because it was so expensive. Today I have to dial a 10 digit number to call the house next door. I have five extensions (four of them are wireless) and an answering machine. This is all 'necessary' to stay connected to the rest of the world. For a while I didn't have an answering machine and friends would get ticked off that they couldn't leave messages for me. When did it become necessary to be so connected?

Granted, the technology makes it easy to stay connected and who can resist one base unit with three other phones charging up in other parts of the house. No phone is more than five or six steps away from where I am. Is this why we are all a little more hefty than we have been in the past? My mother used to regale us with stories of drunks calling in the middle of the night for my lawyer father and her tripping over the end of the bed while rushing to pick up the hone in the center of the house. In the same situation today all I have to do is roll over and a phone is right at hand.

The greatest leap forward, at least in my opinion, has been the emergence of the cellular phone. I've had one for at least 15 years. In the beginning you never got charged for calls if you used less than one minute of air time. Paul and all his little buddies were able to make a zillion calls a month without any additional charges by timing their calls just right. The cell phone has also caused a lot of problems for me. At one time I had been out of town and left the phone with Paul. I got back into town and didn't have my house keys. I tried several times to call him from the corner market but he wouldn't pick up because he didn't know who was calling. I ended up asleep on my back deck waiting for him to come home. When did we stop automatically answering the phone? You could blame the telemarketers but I also blame the technology that allows them to reach out and touch us based on our demographics. Some of these calls are so specific to me and my needs I have to shake my head in wonder. The programming is amazing but I don't want any more calls from Bank of America asking me to sign up for their identity theft program - seven calls now and still counting!

Another area of technology that I love is the growth of calender and address book information keepers. The move from a pocket calender to a Filofax to a Personal Digital Assistant(PDA) seems to have occured almost overnight. The pocket calender was from the dentist and came in the mail in December with your cleaning reminder. The Filofax keep your calender and address book on seven hole punched paper so you could re-write pages when your friends moved for the fifth time in as many years and you could keep whole years of appointments in storage... just in case you needed them. The move to the PDA definitely met my technology love factor. It not only kept about 300 numbers and addresses and twelve years of appointments but I could also play video games on it. I kept so much on mine that I needed a memory card to hold the overflow. The only down side was that I couldn't doodle in the margins when I was in boring meetings. I guess there is still a need for pen and paper.

Yesterday my cell phone and PDA loves came together when I bought a new cell phone. My old phone was completely battered from being dropped on the concrete driveway so many times that there were whole chunks missing off it. I went to the Sprint store and found a flashy red number that was also a PDA by Palm. I am now in hog heaven. I can keep my calender on my laptop and on my phone. Ask me if I am busy on a particular day and I can now whip out my phone to check rather than searching for my calender. All 300 phone numbers are in both places and I have even begun adding mailing addresses to the laptop version. I just better keep the laptop backed up more frequently so I don't lose all this data.

Although this phone will also connect me to the internet to watch TV, read e-mail and cruise the internet, I don't think I want to do any of those things on a two inch screen. I now have my two favroite techie toys in one flashy red fashion accessory. All I need to do now is construct a carrier for it so it won't get as battered as the phone I replaced. My new high tech toy in a hand sewn pouch - .. there's something poetic about that.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Techie Toys Part One

I must admit it ... I love technology toys. Computers have always fascinated me even though I have not always been successful with them. My very first program code back in the dark ages was written in Cobol on IBM punch cards and resulted in 800 pages of error messages. As 800 pages was the maximum all the nerdy TAs had a good laugh at my expense. A couple of years later, at a summer job, the company decided that it would switch from punch cards to direct input to their mainframe. I was one of the testers and managed to kill all of the data entered since the project began one afternoon while trying to do an end run around an error code. As I said, I love this stuff but I can be the kiss of death when it comes to hands on work.

The first PC that I had at work had two drives for floppy disks - A and B. I don't think anyone but dinosaurs like me remember why you had a B drive. (It was for data while A was for programs)
My boss hated the fact that I spent most of my day on a shared PC down the hall from my office so I became the first person in our finance department to have one on her desk. On the home front my husband at the time was also fascinated by the emergence of the personal computer. We actually bought and built a Timex Sinclair and I taught some bats to fly and a turtle to crawl around the page. Anyone else remember the Turtle to teach children how to program???

The next big leap was moving from floppy drives to a hard drive. WOWSER BATMAN - It couldn't store any data but it could store programs. I think its total capacity was about 10MEG... about 1/100th of what I have on my little laptop today. The first portables we had were Compaq Portables that we all called luggable because they weighed about 50 pounds. On the home front we bought an IBM with a keyboard that you had to push a button to use the key pad. I remember using it one evening to do some data entry for a bunch of spread sheets and my husband sitting there mesmerized as I ponded away with both hands ... one to type in the numbers and hit enter, the other to activate and deactivate the key pad.

It was at about this time in the early 90's that my reputation as the kiss of death for any operating system came out of the closet. I had the computer techs running around like mad trying to unfreeze my system on a daily basis. At one point I even had my own tape backup system that I ran every day before leaving so that we could always recover the previous day's work if I accidently hit the 'format all' keys in Excel. This was also when I got a new system every couple of years. I would take the old one home, bring back the one I had and use the new one in the office. Laptops, wireless networks, high definition graphics, e-mail, instant messaging and gigantic storage devices have all made our lives so much more interesting.

I really can't mess up this laptop as I can always recover to an earlier configuration almost automatically. I used to load all my own software and do all my own configuration. Now I have no idea what's on this thing. This is a tablet PC and I can draw pictures and hand write text if I so desire ... unfortunately I don't desire to do that as often as I thought I would so this feature remains abandoned and unused most of the time. Although it is less than two years old is too underpowered for Vista, which may not be a bad thing considering all the bad press Vista has been getting.

Where am I going with all this? This is a preamble to a post, maybe several, that I am going to do on some of the techie toys I have acquired in the past year or so. I hope this has given you a flavor of how much I love this stuff.

If you would like to check out some of the early pieces of technoloy I have used, see this site. To see my current laptop check out Gateway for their newest version.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Finny and Donk's Sewing Adventure - May & June

Well, the sewing adverture continues. The project we are working on next is a simple wrap skirt. Yup, that's right a skirt, without a pre-printed pattern. I gasped when I saw the choice but realized that after my guerilla sewing adventure with the Seams Possible challenge, I could do this. Things have gone from 'defnitely doable' to 'completely laughable' in a few short days.

My measurements are a tad different from the ones used to constrict the skirt in the book but there were no instructions on how to adjust the suggested size. Taking my pencil and tape measure I determined that I would need to make a skirt that with a waistband that would be my waist size plus four inches for ease. Starting from there I then drafted the pattern with the shape of the original design. Though the project looks pretty good it wraps around me significantly more than the original intent by about EIGHT INCHES. Only after I tried it on the first time did I discover that I should have added only about one to two inches to get the right waistband size. Measure twice and twice more and re-check the additional ease twice more again is a lesson I never seem to learn.

Fortunately the fabric I used was a black linen/cotton blend so the extra over lap is as noticeable as it would have been with a lighter weight/color fabric. I embroidered a bunch of flowers on it with a pink varigated thread and I think it looks pretty good from a distance. The waistband and ties, in the instrctions, called for three inch wide satin ribbon. I went to the fabric store and discovered that three inch wide ribbon is kinda pricey but that satin blanket binding, prepackaged from Wrights, is the perfect size, prefolded, inexpensive and comes in great colors to boot.

I will be re-drafting my 'pattern' to incorporate the lessons I have learned. Since I do like skirts, especially wrap skirts with a significant overlap, I forsee several in my closet once I get the fit right. Anyway, here's my first attempt at the wrap skirt project. Please don't chuckle too loudly!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


When is gross not gross? When it is a Gross... like 144 of something. When I learned in grade school that twelve times twelve was 144 and was also called a Gross my friends and I made a lot of lame jokes about it. In this case, 144 of something is not gross at all but very loving, thoughtful and colorful. In this case it represents the output of the Kingwood neighborhood group, of the Houston Chapter of the American Sewing Guild, for the production of Anti-Ouch Pouches. Every year ASG has a national charitable project chosen by the host city chapter of the annual conference. This year the chapter is Chicago and they opted for the Anti-Ouch Pouches.

Anti-Ouch Pouches are thin, soft cushions that look like a tote bag and are used by women after breast cancer surgery to keep their arm from rubbing against the side of their body. An ASG member, and cancer survivor, designed the pouch and ASG members all over the country have been running sew-ins creating them by the time of the July conference. The Kingwood neighborhood group has many members who took to this challenge with a passion. Last October, I made about eight of them one evening and discovered that it was a quick and easy sew. One of our group, on her own and from her own stash, created thirty of these pouches and delivered them right after the January Retreat. Seven of our group have participated in our own three sew-ins and produced fifty bags from our own stashes, completed 32 pouches started by others and made up 24 kits from fabric in the chapter warehouse. So 8 + 30 + 50 + 32 + 24 = 144. I delivered 26 bags last month, will deliver 63 more on Saturday and will do a final delivery in a few days when we finish the final details on about 17 more bags.

This is a great project and, once we got organized, can be easily produced assembly line fashion. If you know of anyone who is going to have this type of surgery please consider making a few of them from the pattern here. We have also discovered that they are a real benefit to those with painful tumors even before surgery to keep their arm from pressing against the tumor, especially when sleeping.

So here's to Patricia and Barbara and Pat and Mary Jane and Margory and Charlotte for embracing this project and making it such a success. About half of these will go to Chicago as ASG's contribution to the host city while the rest will stay here and be distributed to our local cancer centers. At the conference we will probably here about hext year's project. I wonder what it will be? Whatever is chosen, I hope we will continue creating these items for our post-surgery friends.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In the Mail

Today I received the most arorable Doll Quilt from the Doll Quilt Swap III. It came all the way from Austrailia and is abosolutely adorable! The central motif is a crazy patched rooster in combat boots! Amanda did a lot of hand applique on this work and added fabric yo-yos and bright buttons. Check it out here. Thanks to Amanda for an amazing quilt that is sure to inspire the redecorating of my guest bathroom.

Monday, May 12, 2008

UFO # 9

Today I finaly finished up a dress that had its inspiration in a challenge for the Seams Possible ASG Neighborhood Group. This project started here last October. I needed to make something with mauve, using a stepped satin stitch and inspired by the movie Sergeant York (1941). The color was the easy part as I had just picked up seven yards of fabric that had mauve in it about an hour before someone gave me the challenge. The stepped satin stitch was also easy to incorporate as it is nice decoratve stitch. How to incoporate these elements with the movie seemed impossible until I re-watched the movie and noticed that York's mother wore a mother hubbard type dress in a couple of the early scenes in the movie.

Mother Hubbard dresses are essentially big sacks with the shaping coming from the apron that seemed perpetually tied on to keep the dress clean. I decide to make a modern take on this style of dress. I cut the fabric into four long pieces, two for the front and two for the back. I then pleated each piece at the eventual high waist. I then discovered that four pieces would make a dress for someone the size of my car so I discarded one of the peieces. I then sewed up two of the pieces from the hem to about four inches above the pleating to form a loose v-neck.

At that point I sewed up the sides. I then separated the v-neck open to about five columns of colors and sewed shoulder seams. I then noticed that I had no arm holes so I cut a couple of holes for my arms and rolled over the edges to neaten them up. I took the seam allowances at the shoulder seams and sewed them into casing for a ribbon I thought I would be using. I made the casings and cleaned up the v-neck with that stepped satin stitch. I also experimented with a couple of ways of shortening the shoulders by using ribbon ties but neither way works satisfactorily. More experiments needed. Here's how it all turned out:

I think the basic concept works but I also know that to make this a street ready garment several things would need to be changed. Firstly I would need a really long slip if I wore it out on a sunny day. The fabric is pretty heavy for the application. Something more thin and drapey could make this concept into a pretty party dress. A nice obi style sash would add some class to it. I experimented with a couple of belts but I don't have anything that is wide enough. My final criticism is that the dress does not look like anything the people of Sergeant York would wear... more of something a mountain family in Japan would wear for working in the fields.

I will be bringing this to the Seams Possible meeting tomorrow to see if they agree that I have fulfilled the challenge. I just hope they can hold their laughter until I am out of the room.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


For the past 72 hours Alex been completely obsessed with a ratty old squeaky tennis ball. They are cheap to buy ($1.99 for three at Petco) and I have been tempted to get more as they are getting pretty gross. That may have to wait a while as the continuous squeaking has been driving me a little nuts.

His current trick is that he appears to be teaching himself to play fetch. He gets the ball up on the couch and gets it all soaked, by licking and chewing it for about five minutes. Then he drops it in front of his paws and strikes a thoughtful pose. He just sits there looking at me, trying to catch my eye, as though to say "Okay, I'm ready to play now." . My job is to pick up the most disgusting tennis ball and toss it around the house or up the stairs or out the back door so he can run like crazy to get it. He then brings it back to the couch to get it all slobbery again so he can play fetch with me.

I had described this activity to someone else earlier in the day as Alex teaching himself to play fetch like I have been trying to teach him.

Suddenly a lightning bolt struck and a revelation occurred.

He's not teaching himself to play fetch my way, he is teaching me to play fetch his way!

Such a cleaver puppy! Such a crazy dog lady!

I hope your weekend is going well. I'm off to try my hand at guerilla dress making - that is dress making using a chunk of cloth, minimal cutting and a lot of sewing, to create a dress you would actually wear. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Four Seasons Quilt Swap - Spring

Today I finally finished my entry for the Spring portion of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap. Can you hear the big sigh of relief? No matter what I do to have these quilts finished before the deadline, something always seems to steer me off course. This time I am blaming Alex's wounds and the visit to my Dad.

You may remember that this haiku was the inspitation for this quilt:

Speechless before
these budding green spring leaves
in blazing sunlight.


In this quilt, in the Chinese Coins Desigh, I used every color of green fabric I could find that matched a green in my garden when spring began. Remember, that Spring starts in January around here so I've been working on this, off and on, for four months. From the florescent green of the new leaves on the Overcup Oak in my back yard, to the purpley green leaves of weird pink flowered clover I have, this quilt incorporates them all. The picture below does not show off the colors very well as I took this picture in the setting sun light of this 90 drgree day. Sorry about that but I will try to gt a better picture before I mail it off. I hope my partner enjoys this quilt as I will have a hard time sending it off tomorrow.

Other things that I think are noteworthy is that there are 10 shades of green fabric plus some pink for that weird clover. I added the embroidery (machine done) after trying out what seemed like a zillion, but was probably only half a dozen, different designs. I quilted the quilt vertically in the ditch and embroidered the branch, both, with varigated threads from Superior threads. I, also, now have the largest collection of green threads in the known universe but ended up only using a few yards of one of them.

Maybe I am now ready for that St. Patricks Day themed thread painting exercise I have been meaning to do.

Monday, May 5, 2008

And the Lion shall lie down with the Lamb

Not sure who is the Lion here or who is the Lamb but its good for my soul and my sanity to see Alex and Kemora making nice. Unfortunately, it did not last long and Alex was back to not sharing the sqeaky tennis ball with Kemora. The fact that I have three of these balls does not seem to stop the competition. Whichever one Alex wants is always the one Kemora wants. And, as it has been raining constantly since 3:00 am today, all three of the balls are disgustingly wet and muddy. Yuck!

And then there is this Alien dog (aka Kelis) who seems to be above it all.
PS - sorry about the variability of the picture quality - I guess raining nasty days do change the ambient light ... or it may just be operator error.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Designer Fabrics Outlet

For the past week I have been up in Canada seeing my Dad. While I was there I was able to visit a fabric store recommended by the incomparable Judith. It is called Designer Fabrics Outlet and you can see their website here. The website does not do this store justice as the ambiance and layout of the contents are unique.

The store is located in a couple of old buildings on Queen Street W. in the Lansdowne area of Toronto. When I was in college it was considered a great place to live as there were cheap rents, cheaper restaurants and a lot of ethnic diversity. The area still looks the same and the first problem you encounter while trying to go to this store is the almost complete lack of parking. The store itself has four (yes, that's right, FOUR) parking spaces on a side street. Most of their customers seem to cruise nearby streets for parking or they come on the street car.

The store has thousands of different fabrics with the first floor mostly occupied with home decorating fabrics while the second floor is mostly devoted to fashion fabrics. The second floor has some fabrics straight from the runways at incredibly high prices. You do not cruise the aisles looking for just the right bolt but sift through tons of fabric samples hanging from hangers on clothes rods. You can borrow the samples for up to three weeks for free. Once you choose your fabric or trims or embellishments or anything else you find in the samples, the staff locates the right bolt and brings it to you for cutting. What you can't see on the website are the hundreds of bolts priced at $9.99 a meter, or less, that are remaindered or bolt ends. If there is only three yeards on the bolt, you must take it all, otherwise they will cut any length you need.

I was thoroughly overwhelmed by this shopping experience. I needed some cording and they had 15 different sizes and multiple colors. I scored more that what I needed and a bunch of sixty inch long zippers priced at $0.99 each. I picked up a couple of pieces of fabric - a half yard of multi-colored striped seersucker and a yard and a bit of peach colored silk that seemed to go together. I felt most peculiar standing in line with my handful of items while others had, in one case, 30 yards of cream colored wool and, in another, 24 eighteen inch long silver and black tassels.

If you ever make it to Toronto you must check out this place. The creaking floors, high ceilings and jam packed shelves of everything needed for any sewing project, make this place worth the visit... even with the lousy parking .

Have a great week!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wristlet Swap Update

As part of the Bag Ladies Swap Flickr Group we swapped wristlets in March. I foolishly did not take a picture of what I sent out but Meg did. You can see what I made here and here . I must admit that I am inordinately pleased with this project. I have had that butterfly counted thread piece completed for a long time. It was orginally created as a needle case or an evening bag but it seemed too fancy for another needle case and too small for an evening bag. Every once in a while I would rediscover it and try to incorporate it into a current project. When the wristlet swap came along I knew I had the perfect project. The butterfly actually wraps around the bottom of the brown cordura nylon bag. The bag is about 6" x 8" and is attached to a wooden and brass bangle so the whole thing can dangle from your wrist. I used some stash silk to attach the bangle to the bag and to line it as well.

I think I am going to go through my stash of completed pieces to see if there are any others that I can use in other projects. This could be fun ... or embarassing when I see how much I have stored away!