Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene

I weathered Hurricane Irene just fine, even though the forecast for southern NY (I'm about 30 miles north of NYC) had been severe. It rained hard, and the wind was fierce, but being on higher ground than NYC and on a hill within this town, helped me avoid flooding. I was also lucky enough not to have any power issues, though my ex-husband, in a town 5 miles down the road, lost power for 36 hours. He had a full house too, with both kids there and his parents visiting from overseas. At least he has a gas stove, so cooking isn't made virtually impossible, My stove here is, unfortunately, electric. I'd have had a harder time of it.

I was relieved I didn't lose power. Jeff is out in Seattle, where he was working at the PAX Prime convention. So without power I'd just have the cats to talk to. I'm not quite that ready to be a crazy cat lady yet! Jeff did a live stream for the company he works for from PAX, which was hugely successful. I was happy for him as he worked really hard on it. Having power also allowed me to watch the stream, and Jeff. And it allowed me to do some sewing as well.

I made binding for my charm squares baby quilt, and the Olivia the Pig quilt. I pieced the back of the Olivia quilt (it's only 2 halves). I machine quilted the charm squares baby quilt, and bound it. I'll post more elaborately on that one later, after I speak with its intended recipient.

Trying to measure and cut down your quilt backing using floor space, when you have cats, is nigh on impossible. I put the backing down and the top on to get an approximate idea, and this is what happened in under 30 seconds, when I had turned to get scissors:

Quilt Backing Attempts

Quilt Backing Attempts

Eventually I had to put Lieam (the smaller black one) into the bedroom, because he started rampaging around on the fabric, and I couldn't keep anything straight. At least it was only 2 out of 3 cats on there though.

Besides the charm square quilt, I also traced a pajama bottom pattern onto Swedish tracing paper, which I was going to use the Terrain flannel that Kate Spain generously sent to me. Of course, I picked a directional print, and the pattern did say that additional fabric would be needed for directional prints, but didn't specify how much. It would figure that in order to get the pattern going in the direction I want, I'm about 4-6 inches short. I think I will order some flannel myself when yardage becomes available, and sew some pajama pants for Miss Matilda with the material Kate sent. I'm certain Tilly will be very excited, it's such pretty fabric. I'm bummed though, the flannel is deliciously soft, and I had huge expectations of making them yesterday. So, sadly, I must wait. Argh!

Progress was also made on my Flipside quilt. I cut strips for sashing and binding, and got some sashing sewn yesterday. I hope to finish that top today. If I'm really good, and get the floor mopped again, I hope to baste the Olivia quilt. I'd like to finish that before the kids come back from their vacation with their dad. I hope Matilda will love it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Projects That Suck Your Soul

Have you ever had one of those projects that seems to kind of rip the wind from your sails?

Last week I got it into my head to work on a dress that I started YEARS ago. A silly thing, from Alexander Henry novelty fabric (skulls & roses), and a Simplicity cheongsam/Mandarin collar dress pattern. It was going to be something fun to wear when going out. I'd seen someone make a Victorian bustle walking dress with novelty sushi fabric (Trystan Bass, the Gothic Martha Stewart), and that's where the idea had sprung from.

I started this dress years ago, before I had Dashiell, who just turned 6 in July. I had finished it, and it needed altering, and it was lined and I'd have to take it all out, and that would be a pain in the ass, and I put it away, and then there was a pregnancy and baby and no time and it didn't fit etc. etc. etc.

For reasons I cannot fathom now, I had decided to line it. In black cotton. 2 layers of cotton that are not sheer or semi-sheer becomes very hot. Which is great for winter, but this was a short sleeved dress, and it didn't need the lining.

I decided last week that I wanted to finish it. We had floated plans for the weekend where I might actually be able to wear it too, and I just wanted to finish it once and for all. Taking the lining out was time consuming, but eventually got done. Then I had to try and adjust the fit in the bust, one of the longstanding issues with it.

As I hadn't sewn on this thing in years, I had little recollection of what size was actually chosen for this pattern. Nevertheless, it was too big in the chest, which meant there was some poofy thing happening above my breasts, and it looked like I needed quite a bit more padding to stop it looking all odd and slightly puckered. A first adjustment attempt sorted out quite a bit of the issues, but I was still having some problems. In the end, after several frustrating hours, I ended up just wearing it inside out, and hand stitching the bust seams, then machine stitching it. After all that, I had to put the sleeves back in again too.

Many many hours of frustration heaped on this dress the past few days. It has been the bane of my existence. I almost gave in to the urge to take it outside and burn it on a ceremonial pyre, but I persevered.

It's almost done, I'm finishing up some top stitching in certain parts. And I'm relieved.

I should add that I have little experience at all in garment sewing. I sewed on a bunch of garment stuff back in the day when my friend Kit still lived nearby, who was a trained costume designer. But when I had my first kiddo, that all went on the back burner, especially after Dashiell was diagnosed with Cri-du-Chat and needed a lot of therapy and doctor's appointments.

Garment sewing is something I'd like to get back into at some point, and it has been hard not to sour on that desire with this skulls & roses dress. This dress is certainly a case in point for why quilting cottons don't necessarily make good garment fabrics. I know a little more now than I did then about things like drape and such, even though a lot of it is still very intimidating to me. This fabric would work well as a skirt that's A-line or structured or something that doesn't require a lot of drape.

And so I am almost done with this dress, and I find that it has made me very frustrated and aggravated, and I've kind of obsessed with it and burned creative energy just stressing over the thing. And it also drained me of a desire to make anything else the past days too, which makes me doubly unhappy. But. It is almost entirely off my plate!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This past week or so has been perfect, weather-wise. I'm enjoying the late(r) summer weather, with less humidity, less crippling heat and cooler nights. It does make me sad though that this indicates that we're on the downward slope temperature wise, heading towards winter. We had a long and very cold one here in New York, and it feels like Spring and Summer only just showed up recently!

I'm glad the height of Summer is gone, and I look forward to balmy Fall weather with crisper nights. It would be great if it could stay that way. Fall, and Winter, do bring the promise of being able to wear some warmer clothes, and excuses to pile quilts around. I think that's the excuse I should use on Jeff if he asks why on earth there's another quilt in the process of being completed...

Anyway... a couple of weeks ago, I was looking at the previews on Moda's website for Kate Spain's new line, Terrain, and noticed that it includes flannel. I tweeted into the Twitter-verse that what would be AWESOME, would be to make pajamas from that. My pajama wardrobe is in dire need of some replacements, and it seemed like a logical thing to make. The lovely Ms. Spain saw my tweet, and offered to send me some of the flannel that she'd just received to help me on my way!

Now, I have to say that I'm generally a Purple girl. I don't entirely know why, but I often just gravitate towards that color. And while there were purples and blues among the 9 Terrain flannels, I went a different direction entirely. Oranges and greens and yellows. Because it will be cold and gloomy soon, and those colors are such a warm and sunny pop of color, calling into mind, for me at least, the late days of Summer and early days of Autumn.

Terrain Flannel

Terrain Flannel

I have to say that this flannel is the nicest and softest flannel I've ever seen. I haven't always had a really high opinion of flannel, but that opinion is mostly based on encountering it as cheap and awful receiving blankets. This was a welcome surprise! I want to keep touching and petting it. And I keep having to fight the cats to stop them from sleeping on it and covering it in cat hair.

The pattern I chose is "Sweet Dreams" by Make It Perfect, which I purchased over at Pink Chalk Fabrics (along with a pattern by Valori Wells for a small cell phone purse). Free shipping on patterns, yay! enabling!

Once I get the house a little more organized, I'm going to dive into making these. The kiddos went to stay with their dad for 3.5 weeks on Friday, as part of their Summer break with him, and I'm using some of that time to give the house a necessary deep cleaning. The cats are doing their best and stepping up the mess-making in the kids' absence. Lieam especially is good at knocking things off surfaces, to then bat them throughout the room. I'm still looking for my nice seam rippers, a week after they went missing >_>

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ghastly Quilt Top

Ghastly Taffy quilt top is completed. As with most things, this took a little longer to piece together than I thought it would, but still not bad. I thought I might have this pieced by lunch, but it was a couple hours (and distractions) later.

Ghastly Taffy

A sideways view, to avoid shadows across.

Ghastly Taffy

Ghastly Taffy

And close-up!

I feel like a bit of a jerk now that I've realized that the little girl in the pink tutu holding the hammer is actually woefully underrepresented in this quilt in the main blocks. It's strange how I didn't notice that before when I was (fussy) cutting the focal star centers.

I'm happy with how this turned out. Close up it's a little harder to make out the pattern quite as well, being so monochromatic as it is. But I was relieved to see that from a distance it's a lot easier to see. While I'm not always a huge fan of the Halloween favorite: orange, I can see how using a really vibrant orange with the Ghastlies in this pattern would likely make it pop more. But I specifically wanted mostly black/white/grey.

Julie's (Jaybird Quilts) pattern is really good. I can't say enough about the way that these patterns are written. It's very clear and I like the small graphs that tell you how many strips of Y-height x width-of-fabric you'll (most likely) need to cut the pieces, and how many pieces/blocks you require for each quilt size. It makes it so much easier to keep track. I did use less fabric/strips than stated because I'm a fairly frugal cutter, apparently. Leftovers though will end up in the pieced back, which I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with just yet. Maybe a wonky log cabin, to illustrate the Ghastly Night fabric I got specifically for the back.

Yay, accomplishment, yay!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ghastly Vertigo

I'm a bit behind lately with the blogging and sewing.

Parts of last weekend were spent cutting the remainder of pieces and assembling some of the smaller blocks for the Ghastlies quilt, and I had intended to get quite a bit of that sewing done at the beginning of this week. This got derailed quite a bit when I had a severe vertigo attack on Monday evening.

Vertigo was a fear of heights, or so I had always thought. But apparently not. In its severe form, it causes a sensation of the world spinning around you, nausea and vomiting, which is what I ended up with. One moment I was fine and talking to my boyfriend, Jeff, and the next moment everything was spinning, I felt supremely unwell, and vomiting started not long after. After about an hour we ended up going to the ER as it seemed unrelenting.

Thankfully hours later, after the administration of oxygen, a saline drip, IV anti-vomiting medication and tablets to combat nausea, I felt much better and was released home at about 4.30am. Blood tests indicate my body had been fighting off an infection, and one of the possible causes for severe vertigo can be an inner ear infection. But, hard to know either way whether it was just a random occurrence, or actually an ear infection (with the blood cell count indicating some other infection being combated).

Not an experience I hope anyone else has to ever experience! Tuesday was spent feeling kind of jet-laggy due to being up most of the night and getting to bed at 5am, but Wednesday had me feeling a lot better, and yesterday better still, to the point where I'd say I'm mostly back to normal.

I'm also back to sewing some on my Ghastlies quilt top. It's finally starting to come together, and that's always a bit of a nerve wracking feeling, because this is where I'll start to see if my fabric and color choices actually work as well as I'd imagined!

Still it's exciting though!

Ghastly Pieces

Re-cutting with the Lazy Angle ruler.

Ghastly Taffy Pieces

Ready to piece the big stuff! (Sorry, a little dark).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ziggety Terrain Mug Rug

Being the last week of summer camp for Dashiell, and not knowing whether or not Shannon will be his aide for the next school year, I wanted to make her something special. Initially I'd considered a mini quilt, but not knowing whether or not she'd have room for one or want one, I decided to make something more utilitarian: a mug rug {or snack mat}.

The pattern I went with was the Ziggety mug rug {free tutorial!} by John Adams from the Sew, Mama, Sew blog, featured here.

Scraps and Fabrics

After having considered 2 of the matching Terrain solids, Cactus and Iris, I ended up going with Kona Ash for the binding. The pale grey really frames off the bright colors in Terrain well. The other 2 were very overpowering without an additional border or so, and being a mug rug that's already on the larger side, I didn't want to add even more, or cut down the patterned fabric much.

Ziggety Mug Rug in Terrain

VoilĂ ! Simple quilting added.


I used Julie Herman/Jaybird Quilts' tutorial for perfect binding to finish the binding. The diagonal seam removes so much bulk, it's awesome!

Hopefully Shannon will like her mug rug! (And the dark chocolate covered caramels I got her from Trader Joe's mmm!)