Friday, September 30, 2011

thoroughly modern

I feel like I've just been picked to be on the cool kid's team at school. I've been coveting the chance to be in a modern quilting bee ever since I saw this and this (aren't her squares amazing?). And then my amazingly talented friend started one and invited me to join! The premise of a modern quilting bee? There are twelve members, each member is assigned a month in which to pick a theme as well as fabric if desired, then all other members make quilt squares that meet the guidelines. By the end of the year, each member of the quilting bee will have a quilt.

What do I like so much about this? 1) I am notoriously bad at finishing big projects, like quilts. 2) I get incredibly sick of pumping out square after identical square for quilts, but overwhelmed by putting together a more interesting, free-form quilt. 3) I have faith that I can, actually, finish one to two quilt squares per month.
I haven't much experience in quilting. I have made three quilts. The first was when I was 16. It has purple-ish calico cows appliqued all over it. It permanently resides in my parents' house with all my other embarrassing early forays into the world of crafting. The next was a white on white wedding quilt for my older sister (I used to be afraid of color). The third was a wedding quilt for my younger sister using a set pattern, white space and rich colors. I liked the way this quilt turned out. I felt a glimmer of hope that I could, too, learn to create beautiful quilts. I then began having children and haven't quilted since.

I still owe my brother and my other sister a wedding quilt. As well as myself.

With my position secured in this modern quilting bee, I feel like my time to do some excellent quilting has finally arrived.

I just finished the block for September. More on that soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

quick skirt: a tutorial

Alright, I'm going to try to make this somewhat easy to follow. Fingers crossed.

Quick Skirt
1/2 yard fabric (For adult size, use 1 yard fabric).
1 spool elastic thread.

1. French Seam - back: Begin with fabric folded in half, with wrong-side edges together. Sew 1/4 inch from outer edge (if there is fabric information printed along these edges, or a strip of plain fabric, you'll want to sew 1/4 inch from the inside edge of that and trim the excess off, so that you will not see it when the seam is finished).

2. Turn the fabric inside out and press seam. Sew 1/2 inch from your pressed edge to create a french seam, hiding the unfinished edge inside.

2. Fold and press both hem and waistband (top and bottom) edges under 1/4 inch.

3. Fold and press waistband edge another 1/4 inch.

4. Fold and press hem another 1-3 inches (or 6 inches if you like, depending on desired length of the skirt).

5. With presser foot against the inside fold, stitch around hem.

6. Fill an empty bobbin with elastic thread. I use my machine threader just as I would for regular thread. You will have elastic thread on the bottom and standard thread through the needle on top. Set your machine to the longest stitch it allows (a "4" on my machine) or a zigzag stitch (both have worked well for me -- it just depends on what kind of stitch you want showing on the outside). With the fabric right side up, stitch just as you would for a normal stitch, with the needle in the center position, beginning with the presser foot on the outer edge of the fabric. This will both begin your rounds of elastic stitching and stitch down your waistband seam (folded in steps 2 and 3).

7. When you reach the end of your first round of elastic stitching DO NOT STOP. Simply stitch over the first few stitches of the first row, and then sew at a slight downward angle for 1/2 inch until your presser foot can use the round you just stitched as a guide. Continue going around in circles 6-10 times, shifting downward in a smooth drop at each circle-end. When you are finished with your last round, close your final circle by stitching firmly over the beginning of your last round to make sure the elastic thread won't unravel. Don't worry if the waistband seems very loose at this point -- it usually does.

9. Wash and dry your skirt on low (be careful drying elastic, as it can harden -- don't you hate fried swimwear?) Your waistband will be tight and firm now. After the initial washing, I usually hang dry any clothing with elastic (for the aforementioned reason, and also because I just like to hang our clothes), but you are more than welcome to dry the skirt howsoever you normally dry clothing with elastic.

Then throw it on and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

new school year art

As my daughter and I prepared for her to enter kindergarten this year, her excitement reminded me of my own (ages and ages ago). There was nothing more lovely than pristine pencils, unbroken crayons and fresh notebooks without doodles, scribbles, or tainted by the telltale marks of an eraser.

This year, I saw beauty in the aftermath of preparations. And in contemplating the creations and learning that would ensue from the pencil stubs and crayon halves; the bursts of creativity (or boredom) that would leave their mark on the pages of her notebook.

Monday, September 26, 2011

date night with my girl

On friday night, dinner is a hurried affair. Something quick and easy that doesn't require a lot of clean up. The kids and I eat early and then I hand out assignments: make sure to change the baby before you put on his pj's; please clear a footpath across the floor in your room; please please please put away the food that will rot before I get home. With the necessities under control, the seven year-old and I head for the car.

Over the past few weeks we have discovered a route to her riding lesson that is almost exclusively rural -- fields and horses and broad views of the hills. We turn off the radio and roll down the windows and talk about farms and animals and the horse we want one day. I'm partial to grey arabians; she is dying for a black Rocky Mountain. [Speaking of dying for a horse, she brought me a Shel Silverstein book the other night, plopped it open to 'Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony' and announced, "You really need to read this mom, to see what can happen to a girl when she doesn't get her pony."] Before the car is even in park, she throws the door open and sprints for the stalls. I gather up my knitting or a book, and go looking for a spot with a little shade and a good view of the paddock.

This week, as fall officially kicked in, there was a new edge to the air, a new hue in the sky. Fresh -- can I call that a color? I brought a jacket from the car but could not bring myself to put it on. She rode bareback for the first time, and could hardly stop hugging the horse.

For a full hour she did this:

While I did this:

And all while the sky was doing this:

and this:

and even this:

Sometimes I think the whole combination is a show put on entirely to soothe my sanity, to ease up the tension from much of the week. But even if the audience extends beyond one, if part of the display is for the benefit of everyone managing a glance out the window, I'll still happily buy my ticket. Friday's drive and lesson fee and hurried day are a price more than worth paying for the pleasure of watching the sky dance and evolve, while this girl of mine strokes her dream.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

fall orange

On a recent visit, my mother-in-law brought a hat she had knitted for the kids, and oh the vying that has ensued. Aside from the obvious draw of a pumpkin hat, and the supersoft that is good wool, I really think it's the color that has prompted half of the kids to claim ownership.

I mean, it is fall. Orange and fall; is there a more perfect combination?

Sunday afternoon we went for a walk in the canyon. The greens are going yellow and the reds starting to pop, but from a distance the overall swath blends to orange. After all, orange is the early side of red and the late end of yellow. Even brown in the sunshine and green on its dry dull side read orange from fifty feet away. It's the color of transition, of moving from lush to gone. The grasses and leaves and even the bark in these canyons break out oranges that are fiery in the day and drousy cool at night. Singed and cooled and singed again, this quick stretch of fall between summer and winter shouts orange.

Can I really expect them to resist?

So I started some other orange hats to ease up the tension. First for the baby. I put together a variation of Leef's Ear Flap Hat, with some extra orange rows on the bottom, and the second color (brown) all the way to the top. One of these days I'll learn how to use Ravelry and provide more details of the variations, but for now "a little more of this and a little less of that" is the best I have to offer. Beyond color changes, and mostly "knit" where it said to "purl," I followed the pattern (relatively) faithfully.

Two orange hats on hand, one more to go . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Monday, September 19, 2011

visual obsessions: upward

Our kids are incurable climbers, a tendency which has drawn its share of applause and, well, disapproval through the years. But I love that they are always looking upward, stretching toward, taking risks. While I follow them around with a camera (and a ready hand), I'll admit that it's sometimes hard to let them work themselves in and out of situations, to give them the space to explore their limits.

There are boundaries and rules, of course, but in general those are pretty broad. They have a lot of room to maneuver, and sometimes they get stuck and scraped and nervous. Sometimes they're not sure they can get down. So I stand below and offer some advice -- "left foot now, just a little lower. Hold on tight with your right hand and reach for the branch with your left." I am there, but I'm usually hands off.

There is something to be said for doubting and conquering, for trying and failing and failing again, and trying and maybe not failing. For learning to trust instincts and footing. For reaching the top and stretching one's arms to the horizon and daring it to claim it's unreachable.

Friday, September 16, 2011

the hustled bustle

There's just something about bustles. Those, and pantaloons.

Pantaloons are easy - I've sewn multiple pairs I'm more than happy with. But making a bustle of some sort that can be worn comfortably by active little girls - that's been a bit trickier.

This one was an experiment sewn as a birthday present the day of the party. (Yes, I am a procrastinator.) Do you ever try out completely new recipes when company comes for dinner? Kind of the same idea. Tired of the same old gift for a little girl's birthday (we'd had a rash of them recently), I made this one up as I went along. The design didn't end up as I'd pictured it, so I added a monogram (who can resist a monogram? besides all those people whose bathrobes show up in the Land's End outlet). But apparently it went over well with the birthday girl - her mom requested one for her older sister as well.

 Not the perfect bustle, but not too bad for a hustled one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

a few of his favorite things

My youngest sister has always insisted that the straggler gets shafted -- by the time she was cognizant of the family-goings-on, many of us were long gone. But spending my days watching this little boy of ours, the boy who arrived five years behind the previous tail-end to our chaos, I'm thinking that there are more than a few perks to straggling as well. He's coming into his own personality (which is a force to be reckoned with, let me tell you) in the midst of so much motion, and with so many people willing to aid and abet, that it seems he's got the world at his fingertips. He's certainly got all of us at his fingertips: literally, figuratively, gastronomically.

So for today, a few of his developing favorites.

The daddy-made blocks are far and away his favorite toy (although very closely followed by tennis rackets and sticks). My husband made these blocks for our oldest boy for Christmas the year he turned one. Thirteen years and five moves later, can you believe we're only missing three?

Ahh, and then there are rocks. This boy carries one with him at all times outdoors, and generally inside as well. Rocks, dirt, bugs, leaves -- why is it that the scatterings of the outdoors all look appetizing, but creamed spinach does not? I will forever marvel at the amount of mud my kids have very willingly ingested over the years.

I mean, seriously.

Snatching, snatching, sn, snnn, snnnnnatching. What these older kids will happily hand over to him, considering how intensely they fight to ward one another off, is amazing.

Everyone loves the beach and a nice warm tub, I understand that, but frigid water in a bucket? He has even figured out how to turn on the facet upstairs (and open the front door and spin the lazy susan and break glass bottles), and now insists on running water over his outstretched hand while I change his diaper.

Mmmm, dancing. Really, this boy dances like none other. Whenever the music comes on (and whatever music it happens to be), he starts to groove. In his carseat or the crib, on the floor, in outstretched arms -- anywhere and everywhere he's shaking his little bootie to the beat. Last night he started conducting along with the dance, much to the delight of the oldest boy (who does a good deal of air conducting himself).

In the end, however, nothing compares to his Bama blankie. Like all of his siblings before him, this blanket is the first thing he wants in the morning and the last at night, its close at hand while he plays and in his hand when he's upset. A Bama blankie and a mommy snuggle are pretty much the best part of his day, especially when combined.

The combination is pretty much the best part of my day as well.