Monday, June 30, 2008

Finny and Donk's Sewing Adventure - May & June Part 2

You may remember this skirt from a month or so ago. I made it way too large but I'm going to cut it down so it is more wearable because I really like the pink and black combination.
My second attempt was still too large but I finally figured out that this skirt sits just below the waist so it is definitely salvagable. I intend to use buttons as a closure rather than the satin blanket binding I used in my first attempt. This fabric is really lovely... a mid-weight denim embroidered with faded thread used for jeans construction. I haven't found the right buttons yet but I know they are somewhere in my stash.
My third attempt is definitely a keeper. The fabric was bought last year for a light-weight coat but I like this application better. The base white fabric is slightly stretchy and the embroidery and raw edge cutouts are not. I don't think the difference in stretchiness makes any difference in this application but it might in something with sleeves or pockets than canbe pulled out of shape. This time I measured very, very carefully, added a couple of extra darts than the pattern called for and used a squiggley stitch pattern to attach the satin blanket binding. I think I could even make this someone else and have them end up happy.
This pattern has been a real learning experience for me as I created the skirt based on written directions rather than by enlarging a printed pattern. The skirt has nice drape and now that I know I can really do this pattern making business I think I can adjust it to a standard A-line skirt with a regular waistband and pockets without too much trouble.

Trust me to finish this up on the last day of the challenge!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sew Crafty Houston Visit

I visited Sew Crafty, Houston's first sewing lounge, on Saturday afternoon. Its located in an old stone building in Houston's historic Heights neighborhood. There is very little off-street parking but the walk in the midday heat did not dampen my spirit. When I went up to the door, the sign said closed but there was a door bell so I rang it anyway. The closed sign was up as a class was in session but I think they will change that policy. Inside I discovered a completely renovated interior with white washed walls and bright lighting. I brought some ASG membership brochures with me and they were promptly put out for browsers. They are planning on monthly adult crafting evenings to include leal libations and a monthly sewing/crafting for charity event. The owner, Sarah G,, gave ASG a wonderful little write-up in her weekly newsletter so I hope we will be able to complement each other.

A class was just finishing up. The students were half a dozen young women who were embellishing little two pocket aprons they had just sewn in their introduction to sewing class. The sewing classroom had Janome's Sew Precise sewing machines with lots of space for spreading out your materials. There was another room with tables for other crafting. In this case, it was covered with aprons, ribbons, buttons and other embellishments that the class was working on. There is a lounge area that really tempted me to stay and knit. There is a kitchen as well which suggests that more 'water intensive' crafting is also a possibility for classes. The entrance area has a small selection of patterns, fabrics and accessories. I liked their little basic sewing kit that included a hem gauge... something I lose a couple of times a year.

I saw some patterns from 'Betsy Ross Patterns' and decided to try one as I had heard good things about them. First of all, production values are very high in this line of patterns. Each black envelope had a lovely black and white photo of the project. The instructions come in a nice booklet and the patterns themselves are printed on heavy duty white paper. Everything is explicitly stated and it appears that it would be hard to go wrong with these patterns. I picked up the simple tote bag pattern and, after a couple of changes, I came up with a pretty good bag. The pattern does not include a lining so I added one. The handles seemed pretty flimsy so I added some cording to them. I also added a hook to hold my keys so that I don't have to dig them out of the bottom of my bag and also added an exterior pocket embellished with an old embroidery of mine. Here's how it turned out (in all its wrinkled glory):

The exterior is an old piece of heavy weight linen and the lining is an old piece of dupioni silk. The praise for these patterns is not misplaced when it comes to the quality of the patterns but the projects are very, very simple even at the higher difficulty levels. I also wonder why anyone in this day and age would continue using 5/8" seam allowances when half inch are easier to do using your presser foot as a guide. The lack of a lining or pockets in this pattern are real negatives if a beginner wants to produce a high quality product. I may try another of these patterns but not until more interesting patterns are developed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In the Mail

A couple of days ago I got in the mail several Japanese language craft books. I ordered them after hearing on a lot of blogs about the clear, illustrated instructions and the general quality of the projects presented. I went to Yes Asia and had a browse around as the initial welcome screen did not seem to have anything I would like - lots of ads for Korean, Japanese and Chinese movies, music and television shows. When I searched on sewing a whole other world opened up. Here is what I ended up ordering:
The two books on the lower right are published by Ondori and are part of a series. They cost $4.49 each and are excellent resources for felting and sashiko. Sashiko is a particular style of hand stitching origianlly used to create padded jackets for outdoor workers. Both the sashiko and felting books are excellent resources if you are interested in these topics. The projects were unique and beautiful and look like you can do them from the illustrations without reading the Japanese instructions. Both are well worth the price.

The handmade Zakka book speaks to a phenomenom in Japan defined, by Wikipedia, as "the art of seeing the savvy in the ordinary and mundane. To qualify as a zakka, a product must be attractive, sensitive, and laden with subtext.". This book is essentially eye candy. Beautiful pictures of items to make plus pictures of various venues with the projects artfuly arranged. The instructions are a little less clear than the Ondori books but doable.

The book in the upper left with the beautiful blue and white tote on the cover seems to have the theme of items for travelling. There are ten quilted handbags/totes, half a dozen pieces of clothing (including a gorgeous wrap dress) and a couple of home dec items. This book is a lush combination of eye candy and doable projects. There is a lot of attention to detail and the handbag finishing is laden with hand stitching to give these projects a wonderfully finished look. The garments are lovely but, as you can imagine, too small for me BUT I bet a talented pattern maker could size them up easily.

The last book is the most interesting to me. It was advertised as a sewing book but it is so much more. This book has about 15 basic patterns with 2 - 4 variations of each pattern. The key to successfully completing these garments is accurate measurement taking which is very well illustrated. There are four sizes included for each garment - S, M, L annd LL. The book shows detailed diagrams on how to draw the patterns for your size, detailed layouts of your pattern on the chosen fabric and excellent illustrations on how to make each garment. I am definitely bigger than the LL size... heck, I am even three inches taller than the LL size but the clear pattern drawing instructions should make it easier for me to up-size the patterns to a more American size.
The best part about all this is that Paul's girlfriend should like some of these styles and is closer to the sizes shown. I will probably be able to experiment on things for her before plunging into garments for myself. The last couple of pages have detailed instructions on general sewing including how to insert different styles of zippers. The very last page of the book has the simplest design of all so you can try your hand at garment sewing without a huge expenditure in either time or money. The project is a pull-on elastic waist skirt with side slits. I wish I could read Japanese so I could understand the item labelled, in English, 'One Point Advice'.
Except for the sewing book, all of the books open like western style books. Scattered throughout there are English words for things like 'how to make p. 72' but 99.9% is in Japanese. If you are not a visual learner you might want to find a Japanese speaker to help you over the rough spots. I am having a hard time deciding what to start on first but since I have some travelling coming up I will probably try the sashiko book first. One final note, there are several projects in these books for book covers where the back cover slips into a pocket and the rest wraps around the book to close with a button and ribbon. A very nice design and easily adapted for all standard paperback book sizes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sewing Lounge

I am so excited! I saw a headline about something called Sew Crafty Houston and hopped over to their website here. It looks like they are going to be havng a lot of fun over there. I especially like the idea of a monthly wine and craft party. Someone tried to start a similar operation here in Kingwood but it never seemed to get off the ground. I'm going to hop over there on Saurday after the Houston Chapter ASG board meeting and see what its all about. I read in their blog that all their beginning sewing classes were sold out for June so it seems they are meeting a need. I wonder if the Houston ASG chapter and the Houston sewing meet-up group could get into a mutally beneficial relationship with these folk? I'll let you know what I find out. More later.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jane Parker class

You may have noticed a few posts earlier that I posted pictures of Jane Parker's purses. The class was yesterday and was worth the price of admission as Jane provided all of the fabrics, trims, embellishments and interfacings to complete one of two styles of bags she was teaching. She even included the book she uses as the basis for her purses. The book is Crazy Quilting with attitude by Barbara Randle. Being a hand work person it was interesting to see her all machine sewing work of purses and home accessories.

We spent the morning making the basic bits like the lining, handle and interior lining with a pocket. The afternoon was more difficult for me as we needed to crazy quilt the exterior (lots of choices!) and complete the project. I chose a kit for a purse that included lime green, navy and red fabrics. It made up into a purse wth a rectangular bottom, two embellished exterior pockets and a long single handle. Here is what I came up with:
I added the crystals after I got home as I thought it could use a bit more glitz. I may add even more once I dig into my stash however I think its fine the way it is right now. The handle is long enough that you can wear it over your shoulder or across your body which adds to its versatility.

One snafu occured right at the beginning which impacted the overall design of the bag. The top portion of this bag was supposed to have had a notch in it for the pear orament to hang over. Jane forgot the make that adjustment and I was too distracted to read the instructions. Oh well, I can do it that way next time as this design does speak to my need to use up fabric.

That red pear ornament is darn heavy! It is purely decorative as the top of the bag and the exterior pockets are all closed with magnetic snaps. I think it began life as a key chain but I think it works well with this bag. There were no other ornaments that would work well with my bag but most of the others were home dec tassels - some embellished, some beaded and a couple of very fat simple ones. I will be on the lookout for these when I have a good coupon at JoAnns.

A couple of changes I will make when I next do this kind of bag is to use stiffer interfacing (fusible fleece seems a better choice for stronger sides) and use my cording foot for the couching of the trim. I had forgotten all my machine accessories so the trim was no fun to couch. The fussy red trim was sewn on by me although most of the other participants used glue. Weird thing about this whole project is that I have the perfect fussy trim in my stash for these fabric choices. I guess I will just have to make another one!

Have a good week!


I was in Steve and Barry's the other day abd saw a really cute sun dress in the Sarah Jessica Parker Bitten area. It looked a little tiny on top but the fabric had a wonderful print. As I am always looking for sun dresses to wear around the house or while working in the yard, I thought I would give it a try. You can see the whole line here and, if you do go to the site, you will see that this little sun dress is shown with two t-shirts under it. I can see why you would need the t-shirts but it seems to defeat the purpose of wearing a light weight summer dress to weigh yourself down with additional layers. Here's a picture of the sundress by itself.
As you can see the bodice is extremely tiny ... way too small to contain me but I still liked the border printed, light wieght, cotton fabric. And there is lace trim along the bottom for a nice girly touch. And it is fully lined so there is no annoying show-through in the sun. I decided to redo the dress as a skirt as the band under the bodice was close to my waist size. It was a simple change. I removed the bodice, shortened the side zipper and added a closure at the waist band. I kept the tie belt at the same length which ties around my waist about three times. I may remove it later so I can wear a t-shirt without having to tuck it into the waistband but I am keeping my options open.

BTW - everything at Steve and Barry's these days is priced at $8.98 per item so this little skirt cost me less than $10.00 and about twenty minutes at the sewing machine. Not a bad deal.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Yes, I am dogless this week. On Sunday Paul and his girlfriend pickded up the three dogs for a few days. At Paul's they become house bound as everyone is away all day at work. I thought I'd get them again yesterday but I didn't think it was fair to get the dogs as I was going to be out all evening. Now I can't get them until Sunday as I will be a class all day on Satruday. Do I miss them? Yes, but it is nice to spend time apart. I don't have to worry about them being fed and watered regularly while I am pursuing out of the house errands and classes BUT I think Paul over feeds them horribly.

While they are here, I feed them twice a day, a quarter of a cup each at a time. They also get a Greenie or another treat at midday plus little bits of whatever I eat during the day. By little bits I mean leftover milk from my morning cereal plus a half inch cube each of what I have for lunch or dinner. Not a lot and their weight is close to the desired amount. especially when you take into account that when I am home they have free reign of the ayrd and house. While they live with Paul, he feeds them three time a day at a third of a cup at each sitting. He rarely feeds them treats and never any human food. The last time Alex came home from Paul's he weighed about thirteen and a half pounds. His ideal wieght is about twelve pounds.

This feeding business has become quite a bone of contention. I insist on keeping them lean while Paul wants them not to be hungry. I must admit that hungry is what Alex is all the time so its hard to judge if he ever is not hungry! The girls have perfected the pathetic yearning look so I don't know how you could judge when they are not hungry as well.

Any advice? I am going to be away for two long trips over the next month or so and I dread coming back to tubby Dachshunds. The girls belong to Paul so their health is really in his hands. Alex, on the other hand ,spent three months in a vet's kennel when he was first rescued so I dread kenneling him alone while I am gone. I think the ultimate answer is to continue keeping pressure on Paul to feed them less and to make sure they get lots of execise when they are here... as well as a more proper diet!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gabrielle Swain

I was so lucky this past Friday to take a full day class with Gabrielle Swain. I should have known that this would be an unusual class as the title was 'Designing from Nature'. Designing is not something that I do and nature... heck I'm a piecer not a person who does figurative quilts that look like something. Also, the supply list included everthing but a sewing machine, thread and fabric in a variety of values. We were asked to bring pencils, erasers, large pieces of paper and pictures that inspire us. It was with some trepedition that I came to the class on Friday morning.

I brought a variety of photos including ones of the girls as puppies, my favorite Alex picture, a couple of landscapes and a picture of my Brazilian Roses. I thought I had all my bases covered. Gabrielle started the day teling us a little of her background and some information on how she constructs her quilts. She is a multiple winner at the Houston International Quilt Festival. She does all of her work by hand including all of the applique and quilting. She uses colored pencils and pigma pens to make the hand dyed fabrics that she uses more pleasing to her. It was fascinating. I especially liked the way she was not really careful about how she handled her quilts. I've seen teachers go ballistic if a student dared to touch their quilts. Gabrielle didn't mind us handling them as long as we didn't spill anything on them.

She then talked about the inspiration we had brought. She spent time with each of us talking about focusing in only part of the picture to create a design. The variety of work ranged from a book of Georgia Okeefe paintings to a post card from a favorite restaurant in New Orleans. In every case she had us looking at individual elements of the picture rather than the whole landscape. I quickly realised that I had only one picture that would work for this class. This is the picture I used as my inspiration:
I thought I would focus in on the big pink flower but quickly realised that I would be digging myself into too big a hole to ever get out of. I decided to focus in on the leaf on the lower left. From that choice I then made three different sketches, each focusing in on a small portion of the leaf. Here are my drawings.

The second one looks very weird to me while the third looks a little spare. The first, however, looks like something I could work into a quilt. The biggest problem I have is that I am not confident in the fabrics I should use. I have a ton of hand dyed fabric from Judy Robertson in almost every hue so I may have too many choices. Here's what I am thinking today.. a blue green for the big leaf, a darker green black for the two leaves behind the main leaf. The backgound in a sort of medium purple grey. Fortunately with hand dyes there is lots of color variations within each piece of fabric so I should be able to find the right portion to use for each area.

There were a couple of 'AHA' moments during the class. First of all, because she does all of her work without a sewing machine all of fabrics are trimmed carefully on the back. She does all this trimming with little four inch scissors from Dovo. I thought that you needed duckbill scissors to accomplish her degree of accuracy. The other moment for me was when she said that you can create texture in a piece of fabric just by cutting it into pieces. For example, you can cut one piece of fabric for that big leaf and use the quilting to create definition OR you can cut it into five or six pieces first, applique them to the background and start your quilting with definition and texture already there. Not an 'AHA' but I was pretty proud that I could focus on such a small portion of the photo and get usable drawings.

I will keep you updated as I make decisions and complete this assignment. I know its going to take a while but I hope I create something worth having. Besides fabric choices I also need to decide how to actually construct this quilt... fusible applique, hand applique, freezer paper templates, reverse applique, and all the other applique methods. So many choices but, fortunatly, lots of time.

Monday, June 9, 2008

That's Sew Wrong!

That's the name of a Michael Miller Fabric I picked up a while ago. It is one of those 'conversation' prints that are fun to have but you never know what to do with them. This fabric, however, has really sparked my interest and I have several projects lined up for it. Or rather, I will be doing a lot with it until the three yards I have of it runs out. Here's my photo of the fabric:
and here is the MIchael Miller Fabric website showing all three color ways. There are few images on the fabric but the ones they have are priceless. Right now I feel like the sewing machine repair guy with the sledge hammer and I know I made that wonky blouse in a previous life. My first project was to recover my cheapo Ikea backup sewing chair. You can see a similar one here. I don't use this chair a lot but it is out in public quite a bit and the sickly blue fabric it was covered in was really beginning to bug me. Today was the day to use the new fabric. I think it definitely brightens up the place:
I cut off the original fabric for the back rest to use as a pattern. The original fabric was so securely attached to the core of the chair that I could not remove it all . I ended up attaching the new fabric cover by hand slip stitching it onto the back rest. The seat cushion would not come off the legs so I ended up tracing the shape on the fabric, sewing it up and then hand stitching it to the bottom of the seat. This is not the best reupholstery job in the world but the final product makes me smile a lot.

I really need to get moving on my Gabrielle Swain design but, frankly, I am a little hesitant to actually start getting the applique fabric prepared for the design I created. Tomorrow is another day and I will try NOT to avoid the issue much longer. After all, with all the really bad sewing projects I have shown on this blog this one could just join the roll call of great ideas gone wrong.

Wish me luck!

Ready Made

Ready Made Magazine that is. I love this magazine but never subscribed until the Maker Faire last year when they were doing promotional subscriptions for $5.00 a year. For $5.00 I thought I couldn't lose and so far I haven't. It has an eclectic mix of how to make stuff, what to buy and some wonderful regular contributors. One that I particularly like is the interview series that asks someone HDYGTFAJ! (How Did You Get that F***ing Awesome Job! with apologies for the profanity). In addition Todd Oldham does a column on making simple accessories for you and your home. Who can resist a column called Hod Toddy?

The June/July issue is all about vacations but with a Ready Made twist. There are reviews of various camps where you can learn furniture making, basket weaving, fly fishing or a number of other adult pursuits. Another article has a whole bunch of camping equiment from smaller manufacturers. I thought the article on how to build a camp fire was pretty lame until I remembered how difficult this skill is for most of the participants in the TV show Survivor. They even devoted a couple of pages to vacationing at home in unusual ways. Heck, I even learned that the first hot dogs were invented in 1690 and called 'little dashchunds' (ewww!).

I have never made any of their projects but with the beginning of pool weather I decided to try Todd Oldham's Beach Tote. The complete instructions are in the magazine and online as well. My towels were bigger than he used but I think it turned out pretty well.

Folded up and ready to carry over the shoulder:
Unfolded down the stairs with the pillow at the top:
Close-up of the pillow and the side pockets:
I didn't have enough webbing or cord for the handles to reach all the way around the bottom so I improvised with some marine cord I had in the garage. I also put the handles on the short edges of the bag for stability. The pouch at the top of the bag has three pockets. The large middle one for an extra towel to be used as a pillow, and two smaller ones which seem just the right size for paper back books, water bottles and sun screen. Though I am not a great swimmer I do enjoy time at the pool and, with this tote, I will definitely have all I need for an hour or two at the community pool this summer.

Stay cool!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Machine Wrapped Cording

At the Kingwood group of the Houston ASG Chapter, I had the priviledge to do some hands-on work with one of our members on machine wrapped cording. I had first encountered this technique in the book Fabric Leftovers by D'Arcy Jean Milne. I tried it out and my results sucked. I tried again on Wednesday with an expert there and my results were still sucky HOWEVER I figured out why. To do this successfully you really need a feed dog in the middle rear of the sewing field. The feed dogs on my travel sewing machine are on the sides only so I had to manually pull the base cord through the foot which meant uneven coverage. Also, a beading or cording foot would have helped a lot but I left mine at home. Here are the examples I created:
The upper piece has 20 gauge wire as part of the cording while the lower piece is just wrapped with thread. The base cording is actually three pieces of worsted weight yarn. If you would like to try this technique and see some great examples of how to use your custom cording, the folk at the Creative Textile and Quilting Arts site have a free on-line tutorial in this technique. You can access it here. This technique would be great for creating custom colored cording for purses, pillows, clothing or art quilts. When I used to do a lot of hand embroidery I would take my leftover threads at the end of a project and create cords and tassels with them. Now I have a use for leftover thread from sewing projects when I have over bought.

Try this out, you should be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bog Coat Fun Continues

I attended the Kingwood Area Quilt Guild meeting last night. Besides being nominated for the role of Corresponding Secretary on the Board I was completely blown away by the bog coat one of the members of the Wearables Bee created. During our meeting last month I presented a brief how-to on Bog Coats. One of our group was looking for a simple jacket to create for a wedding and the Bog Coat seemed like a great idea. She used blocks from a Mary Mashuta workshop the month before and this is what she came up with:

Doesn't she look wonderful! There is no batting in it so it is quite light weight. The lining is a wonderful orange batik fabric. I especially liked the way she attached the bias binding - instead of tediously hand sewing the front side she used a wavy sttch on her sewing machine to make sure it was all firmly secured. Her final jacket for the special occasion will be made out of silk. I can't wait to see it.

On a personal note, I must admit I was very puffed up with pride to see someone take something I had taught and turning it into a great garment. I know I had nothing to do with the actual construction, and my color sense may have a lot to be desired, but I walked around all evening with a big grin on my face after seeing her coat. I better watch out or I will start taking credit for all the good stuff out there.

Have a great weekend! I hope that I wil be able to get a post up on the great class I took today with Gabrielle Swain today. You will be amazed!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dog Walking Realities

As it has been consistently above 90F here for the last couple of weeks, I think I need to give into the fact that summer has come to the Houston area. I have been considering giving up the morning walk with the dogs because I tend to be very glowy (remember - women don't sweat, they glow) by the time we get back to the cool of the house. Two things are holding me back. One is that I need to keep up the walks, no matter how long or short just to keep myself moving. The other is that if we didn't do long walks at least one a day, how will the dogs know how to get home if they get out of the yard? The former point is a universal but the latter is a necessity of life.

To illustrate my point, let me tell you a story.

Alex and the girls were really antsy one night. They didn't sleep for more than an hour at a time and they kept wanting to go out in the middle of the night. I was also restless, maybe due to a change in the weather, so at about 4:00 am I gave up on any more sleep and got up to feed them their morning meal and take them for their walk. By about 4:30 am we had made it about a block from home when Alex, somehow, slipped his collar. He thought he was so clever and proceeded to bound around on everyone's front lawns just out of my reach.

I live in an area where there trails behind the homes so the girls and I proceeded to the closest entrance to the trails. I figured that if I could get Alex to follow us, he would at least be off the street if a car came. We made it to the trail head and I let the girls off their leashes. They have been trained to walk off leash but I only let them do that on the trails ... too many temptations in front yards. The girls and I went onto the trail and I heard Alex's tags jingle as he followed us. At about fifty feet onto the trail I realised that it is VERY, VERY dark at 4:30 am and that the street lights did not penetrate the woods. Not deterred, the girls and I proceeded home on the trail while I called for Alex.

I couldn't see Alex or the girls, nor could I hear his tags and was wondering what the rescue folks would think about a new owner who lost her dog while on a walk. All of a sudden I heard Alex's distinctive howl, AROOO! AROOO! from up ahead. We came out at a street light only to see Alex sitting very nicely howling at my front door under the porch light. I called his name, he looked over his shoulder, turned back and continued to howl. LET ME IN!!! LET ME IN!!! The girls and I made it to the front door and Alex nearly turned himself inside out trying to get in the door first.

I have no idea how he made it home as I don't think he made it by us on the trail but I am convinced that the only way he knew how to get home was because of the long walks we had taken in the neighborhood.

So, even if you only have a 'yard dog' or one that spends most of their life in a kennel, get out there and walk them at least once a day. If they ever get out by accident they will know their way home. Also, quite frankly, your butt will thank you as well.


By my front door rest the following items:

Bug spray - an absolute necessity in an area prone to West Nie Virus.

Leash - Dogs must be leashed when walking with me.

Coffee Mug - preferably full of a nice cool beverage for all of us, just in case.

Pepper Spray - new this year after the attack on Alex earlier.

This is my first attempt at a 'Dogs on Thursday' post. Several people have made Thursdays Dog Day on their blog and I have decided to join. I hope the sewers out there are not disappointed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Good Things

This morning I was trying to find the right cord to charge my phone. I found four that looked alike but only one was the right one. The zipper pouch I made to wrangle my cords has only made the search for the right cord even more problematical than before. Then the light bulb went off in my head. How about I make my own cord identifiers. And here is what I came up with:
I used some old half inch wide twill tape about thirty inches long and some black velcro. I cut the velcro into three inch pieces and sewed them down onto the twill tape. I sewed the velcro train fashion - a piece of soft velcro then a rough side then a soft side etc. until I ran out of twill tape. I then zigzagged each end of the velcro bits and cut it all apart into five units. Each unit has six inches of twill tape with two pieces of velcro. I used a Sharpie to write the name of the cord being organized right on the tape. Now I can bundle up the cords and secure them with the velcro. While I am using the cord I will keep the holder velcroed on the cord until it is time to pack it back up again.

Time spent - twenty minutes tops

Pretty good return for the time spent .

Monday, June 2, 2008


I was cleaning out some old files the other day and came up with an old water bill from 1990. According to this bill my household used 28,000 gallons over three months in 1990. There were more people in the household then than now but even at that it seemed like a lot of water. The total cost was about thirty dollars which is about what I pay today for between one and two thousand gallons that I use each month now. This lead me to mull over my use of utilities and why I make the choices that I do.

I am adament that I will not water grass with drinkable water. It is such a waste to treat water only to have it go on the ground to keep something growing that wll bounce back whenever we get rain. Houston floods at least once or twice a year so I am confident that I will never be in the situation of seeng a dust bowl forming in my yard. I will water new plantings but after a month or two they have to figure out how to make it on what mother nature provides. I try to run the dishwasher and clothes washer only when they are full and have been known to sleep without a down comforter in winter until my sneakers are ready for the wash so that the sneakers will be available to fluff the comforter in the dryer. I don't have a clothes line but I am selecting a spot for one in the yard that will meet the needs of my HOA and still meet my need for air dryed sheets.

I just put in a very effiecient HVAC system which seems to have cut my electric bills by about half BUT I will need a few high cooling months to prove that out. When I was officing out of the house it never bothered me that upstairs, where my office was, was always warmer than the downstairs. Now that I am also using the upstairs for much more activity during the day, this tendency had begun to really bug me. My solution is to install a curtain at the top of the stairs. I had some wonderful fabric, designed in New Zealand, distributed by Free Spirit on sueded broadcloth. I love the bold graphics in muted colors with such a soft hand. It seems to be keeping the cool air upstairs and the dogs have finally figured out how to get get by it. Their first few attempts were hilarious and I wish I had taken a picture of their noses on the top stair poking into the upstairs area. It even looks good folded behind the quilt hanging from the bannister to the left of the stairs for winter days when heat is encouraged to be upstairs.
I also have this fabric in four different read and cream prints and I am having fun deciding what to do with them. But I digress.

My other effort to beat the cost of cooling is planting tress in previous years to block out the hot afternoon sun. The oldest is now almost as tall as the eaves and I look forward to many years of its shade. Two others that I planted started as twigs from the local garden club. They will take a bit longer to have any cooling benefit but they are doing well with the ten mature trees (pine and sumach) on my lot. I do not close the blinds against the sun unless it is really oppresive. It seems odd to me to close blinds and curtains then to have to turn on lights to see. Solar screens and films just don't stand a chance against the Texas sun.

My old method of beating the heat was to go out for a drive to some eatery. With gas prices the way they are I am trying to avoid these mindless trips by planning three stops/errands for each trip. I have actually gotten more errands done by challenging myself to be a better planner. Not that I don't cheat, once in a while, when my grocery shopping has not kept up with my needs.

One thing I have not been able to do to beat the heat is to train the hot water bottles (aka Alex and the Girls) from draping themselves on me every time I sit down. They do feel good but all my efforts will be wasted if I cool the house just to offset their needs.
Here's wishing that the dome of heat over Texas finds someone else to bless!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

UFO # 10

On New year's Day I resolved to clear out UnFinished Objects (UFOs) at the rate of at least one or two per month. I have been slowing down on this resolve lately but today I confronted my demons and pulled out a project from about a decade ago. I don't remember how I got started on this sampler quilt but it may have been at the Houston International Quilt Festival where they have a hop shop on the sales floor. I only made nine blocks (typically there are twelve) and decided to put them together in the 'quilt as you go' manner. This method lets you quilt each block and sashing strip together one block at a time. I had already joined three of the blocks and their sashing strips so I thouhgt it would be a breeze to finish it up.

Each block had a sashing strip attached to it so the basic unit should have been a nine inch block attached to a three inch sashing strip for 9" x 12" plus quarter inch seam allowances. That comes out to 9 1/2" x 12 1/2". The unquilted blocks looked a little the worse for wear so I decided to give them all a good press and trim any uneven edges. First of all, none of the pieces came out to the desired size - all were smaller by at least a quarter of an inch. That didn't phase me too much as you can always fudge a little by a good stretching with your steam iron. I trimmed up one block and its sashing strip and ended up only about 1/8" too small on one side. I picked up the next unit and discovered that the closest I could come to the desired size was 11 1/4" by 8 3/4 ". My spirits rapidly plunged to pond scum level as I tried to fudge these blocks up to the correct size. Here is my last look at this quilting disaster:
Pretty colors but a mess!

And here is a close up of the worst block. Can you see how the creamy floral is about half an inch shorter than the white and swirly blue piece?
In my defence I think this is from early in my quilting carrer when I didn't even know about 1/4 inch seam allowances and their importance in the overall construction of a quilt block. Also, this may have been the first sampler quilt I had ever tried and I think it was done using those pesky Marti Michell plastic templates (which I hate with a passion now). So UFO #10 has gone to that charity bag in the guest bedroom in hope that someone somewhere can stop laughing long enough to start a fire with it OR better yet, that they can use these blocks as examples of how not to piece a quilt. For my part, I disavow any knowledge of this quilt and will shoulder on to my next UFO project - to quilt the second blue and white quilt for my Dad's friend's daughter. The first one was finished in March and the second should travel with me the next time I see my Dad.

Have a great week!