Sunday, August 31, 2008

At least it's done

Frankly, I think it turned out butt ugly with that final pink border:

The pink does match the pink in the fabric, as does the yellow, but I just think the borders look like an afterthought, not a coherent design. I'm just hoping that a binding in the red will bring it all together, but I'm not keeping my hopes up.

But wait til you see the bag!!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Six pocket bag

My Wisteria Lane quilt is actually progressing and I am almost done. I think I kinda handicapped myself by only doing two fabrics - where I had assumed that it was going to make my life easier. Once I got done piecing the blocks, I had to address the issue of the border. This pattern has a double border, and I just couldn't see using the same fabrics again - but I couldn't decide what to use. I ended up with two Moda watercolors in yellow and pink; I've done the yellow border and have just started pinning the pink. Once the pink is all sewn on, I'll post a picture - hopefully one taken with some actual sunlight and not these ugly halogens and floods we have down here in the dungeon where I sew.

But now - feast your eyes on my next feeble attempt to attach material together in a coherent fashion:

This is a six pocket bag from the current issue of Quilts and More (see it online here. The six pockets are created when you sew the straps on. AND - my fabric arrived today:

IS THAT NOT THE CUTEST? Okay, perhaps I'm too new at all this and more seasoned quilters would be all "Oh, I did the sushi fabric when I first started too." But, I can't help it - the sight of this fabric actually makes me squeal, and the thought of coordinating 3 - three!!!! - fabrics just makes me feel all reckless and bold.

Now if I can just lock the kids in the closet for at least a day so I can get started on it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In Hiding

The couple we rent our house from live right next door to us and are the sweetest people you'd ever want to have as landlords. Their emails to me are always thanking us for being such great neighbors and tenants, and they let us do just about anything we want with the house. Twice now, they have invited us over to join in some big cookout they were having, and on both occasions I have declined. The first time, I did have a massive migraine headache, and the second time one was coming on, but even if I had been feeling just dandy I would have demurred. Because I'm fat.

I know it's ridiculous and I know many of you are saying, "Who cares? You gotta love yourself!" And as a matter of fact I do love myself, I just hate my fat. I think it's possible to have a healthy sense of self-esteem and still intensely dislike some aspect of yourself. Most people don't get my sense of humor, but I still say wildly inappropriate things at funerals. (That was a joke. I only do that at weddings and christenings.) Most people don't give a rat's ass that I'm fat—but that's where I get hung up.

I went on a mission earlier this summer, when we still had some cash left from tax refunds and stimulus checks, to "own" my fat by finding some fabulous clothes, some killer footwear, and just strutting my big buns all over town looking good. Problem was, there were no fabulous clothes. There were shirts like tents, made for women with double-D breasts, and always with the largest flower prints made by man - and these were in the stores that supposedly cater to large women. Pants simply don't work in any size, because my belly is so large (and I never had a waist even when I was skinny), and skirts and dresses just look dumpy on someone who is fat, has no boobs and no waist. All the fat women I see who can work it the way I hoped to, have boobs and a waist. So I'm back to the only things I can wear: XXL t-shirts from Old Navy and elastic-waist knit pants from Lands End. And now, after a summer of taking care of kids, all those shirts have indelible stains, the black pants are all faded and worn, and I feel like a god-awful fat slob. Particularly when I see my gorgeous skinny landlady hop on her bike to go ride the local trail for her daily exercise.

But, that's why I'm here, writing this. I feel like if I can just manage to articulate these things - these maddening bits of my psyche - maybe I can face them in a different way. And instead of hiding from what I need to do to change, I can finally just go ahead and do it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Take Me Lightly (if you take me at all)

This morning I checked my email to find 5 new comments - 4 of which were from the same reader! At first, I figured I had finally gotten one of those looney readers you're always hearing about - you know, the ones who can't spell and who write the entire comment in all caps and say things like IF U WRENT SO FAT MAYBE ID DATE U HA HA DO A FAVR AND JUST SHUT UP. Fortunately, all 4 were from a lovely lady who just had many, many things to say.

And one thing she said struck me as a good topic for a post. She said that a friend had been reading this blog and had directed her here, but that friend wasn't sure how to "read/take" me. Myra, please tell your friend she is not alone. Most people have no idea how to take me.

I think that a lot of life is damn hard. Being fat, not having enough money, raising kids - even teaching myself to sew. I have migraines that last for a week at a time. My sweet part-time job as an editor is probably going to end soon and I don't have a lot of prospects for further work-from-home employment. My family all lives far away, and I lost my best friend when I started having children and she couldn't deal with my attention being drawn away from her.

So I deal with life the only way I know how: I try to make it funny. I don't sugarcoat a thing. I don't pretend to be happy when I'm not. But even when I'm miserable, I'm finding ways to laugh about it. It may be sardonic, it may be sarcastic - but it makes me laugh, and that keeps me sane.

People who meet me in person don't know how to take me because i say the kinds of things I say here with a totally straight face. My landlord said to my husband one day, "Your wife's funny, isn't she?" Which I assume she phrased as a question because she really wasn't sure if it was okay to laugh at the crazy shit I come up with.

So, yes. It's okay to laugh. In fact, I really hope you do, but I totally understand if you don't get my sense of humor, or if you find it grating, or just think I should DO A FAVR AND SHUT UP. I'm not going to shut up, but I totally, totally understand if you think I should.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Re-thunk it

That disappearing nine patch? Scrapped for now. In its place, a super-simple pattern called Wisteria Lane (in fact, it is so simple, I can only assume it's called a million things, but the instruction which got me this far say "Wisteria Lane", so that's what we're going with.

Check it:

An improvement, no?

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Quilter Who Made Me Quit My Job

You will of course find out by the end of this story that the title is a bit of an exaggeration, but it's an exaggeration that suits my purposes today and is therefore totally legit.

I've mentioned a couple times here that I was an optician in a past life. For those of you who don't really know what an optician is, we are the professionals who help you choose eyewear and lenses, and sometimes fabricate the glasses to one degree or another depending on the store and what equipment is used. Opticians do not have to be certified by the American Board of Opticianry, but the best ones are - and I was. I was very, very good at what I did, even though I hated it like cancer.

I enjoyed the work when it didn't involve customers, and I think anyone who has worked for any length of time in a retail business would agree that customers are the main drawback to that type of career. People who enter stores to spend money are often rude, selfish, snotty, and occasionally less than clean. Add in the vanity one must appeal to when helping one of these people choose a pair of eyeglasses, and you have a big misery stew. There were, of course, wonderful people - people who still hug me when they see me and who sent baby gifts when my first child was born, and thank god for them. But the bad ones could erode not only your good mood but, I am convinced, your health as well.

I could regale you with a bajillion stories about various bad customers, but my recent foray into quilting has reminded me of one in particular. She came along in the last few months of my career, and I do give her credit for adding to the general misery which made me eventually say, "Fuck all y'all," and walk out the door for good.

You can tell a lot abut people, and about what their shopping experience with you will be like, by the way they answer the question, "How can I help you?" This question might also be phrased as, "How may I help you?" or "What can I do for you today?" However you ask the question, it is intended to open the transaction and indicate that you, the humble salesperson, are at the service of the customer. The normal (i.e. not evil) customer will respond in kind and the work goes forward from there. And, believe it or not, there are multiple reasons a person could be in an eyeglass store, so the question is actually germane.

The evil customer will respond in a way that suggests, not only that the question itself is stupid, but also THAT YOU SAID IT WRONG. "You can help me choose a pair of glasses." (said with a withering look.)In other words, "It should be obvious what I'm here for, missy, and I believe the word you were looking for was SERVE."

The next question-and-answer rally will cement the customer's asshat status, as if it needed cementing. Again, believe it or not, even the best opticians cannot take one look at a person's face and immediately select the perfect frame. For one thing, people have questionable taste - okay, variable taste - and, in general, are prone to reject the first pair outright (though I would say that a good 75-80% of the time, they will end up choosing that pair anyway). I may think the gentle upsweep of the modified cat-eye style brings out your cheekbones and widens your eyes - you think that anything called at cat-eye will make you look like your Aunt Delores. Better for me to try to engage you in a little conversation about what you like or don't like, what you may have seen that you are interested in trying. If I'm whipping out plastics and what you have been dreaming of is rimless, we've missed a communication opportunity. So, I might start with, "Is there any particular style or look you are interested in?"

"Well, aren't you supposed to be able to pick the frame that looks best on my face? Aren't you supposed to be the expert?" (Evil people use a lot of italics.) So, clearly what I should have done, when she first darkened my door, was run up to her, gaze at her face intently, then declare "I HAVE IT!" and grab the frames that turn her from a 60-year-old bitch into Grace Kelly.

So this is how my transaction with Evil Quilter Lady began. Suffice to say, it never really got any better, though everyone eventually begins to defer to my expertise. I have a very gently authoritative way of speaking, and can generally convince almost anyone that I do in fact know what I am doing AND I also know more about it than you. However, towards the end of the deal (and she was buying something) she expressed some concern about the size of the glasses to accommodate the no-line bifocals she needed, "because I'm a quilter."

Like a fool, I decide to leap on this. "Oh really? My mother and sister are quilters..." And before I can get that thought out, she is giving me another withering look. "Oh? And do I know their work?"

Do I know their work? What the fuck does that mean - and who asks a question like that? Do you know how many quilters there are in this world, lady, and that the vast, vast majority of them are doing it anonymously? How dare you imply to me that the the work my mother and sister do for their craft might not be worth it if that work isn't "known"? And how dare you take a pursuit that is KNOWN for being populated with friendly, welcoming people and try to turn it into another way for the upper classes to act like snots?

I replied that, no, she would not be familiar with their work, that they quilt for the love of it, not the glory. We finished the transaction. She left a deposit. She called and canceled it the next day.

A few months later, I quit. I walked into the store, and realized I had had enough. And I turned around, and walked out, and never went back. Best decision I ever made.

Oh, and another really great decision - writing this blog. I've received so many kind and encouraging comments, and I never thought I'd actually have any readers for this thing. So, thank you all. Thank you for being welcoming and friendly and everything I knew quilters and sewers would be. And for not being a bunch of snotty asshats.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I may have to rethink this

So on the advice of the sweet little lady at the Fabric Chest, I took my two lovely designer fabrics and attempted to cut strips for my disappearing nine patch. This time I used masking tape to hold everything in place, and it worked pretty well...some of the time. I felt a lot more confident about sewing my strips together since they were relatively straight, but I forgot that I still can't sew in a straight line. Up until now, I have been perfectly willing to take the blame for this - I am a newbie after all, and surely others have had to overcome this particular handicap when they started, right?

But now I'm ready to blame anything and anyone but myself, because my self-esteem, which is usually pretty good (and yes, I know I rag on myself for being fat, but i see that as a whole other issue) is starting to waver just a bit. I have learned many, many things entirely on my own, and managed to do quite well at most of them. I taught myself how to do layout when I was asked to create a local literary magazine a few years ago. Then I taught myself basic Photoshop and ended up landing a job as an editor/graphic designer for a local magazine (I had been an optician for years prior to that). A friend gave us a used aquarium a couple years ago, and after my husband tried to set it up, and killed a bunch of fish, I did the research, fixed the problems, and now I have 6 tanks throughout my house. AND I have managed to raise two girls to the ages of 5 and 20 months without killing or seriously maiming either of them and I totally had no idea what I was doing when they came along.

So, why, why, why can't I put two pieces of cloth in a sewing machine and have them come out the other side with a straight seam? I'll tell you why. IT MUST BE THE MACHINE. There's no other explanation, really. Except maybe goblins. Or Satan. I seem to recall from my days at David Lipscomb Super Fundamentalist Elementary School that the Devil is always trying to knock you off the straight and narrow path - SO HE'S CLEARLY GOT IT IN FOR ME.

So the disappearing nine patch, simple though it may be in theory, is actually a bitch to do if you have cutting and sewing issues. The idea is that you take a simple 9-patch (like a checkerboard with 9 squares) and cut it into 4 equal pieces. This gives you a large square, a small square, and 2 rectangles on each piece. These can then be rotated in various ways to create a pleasing pattern. The nice lady at the fabric store said that 2 fabrics work as well as 3 or more, and can create a simple pattern that's easy for a beginner. She even showed me an example - one that she herself was working on.

So, here's the result of my spastic labors:

I'm not sure what I think. the darker fabric seems too red to me now, for one thing. And these are just pinned to the wall - there's no way in hell I could stitch those monstrosities together. So the question is, should I regroup and try a different pattern with the same fabric? Forge ahead and hope that I can solve my cutting and sewing issues before I waste all my fabric? Hide under the sewing table and eat a dozen glazed doughnuts?

I'll let you know what I decide.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

10 Things: When I was skinny/Now that I'm fat

When I was skinny:

1. I actually owned a pair of size zero jeans.
2. If any of my clothes were a size 4 or above - it was to achieve that baggy boho look.
3. I couldn't give blood.
4. I never wore a bra.
5. I drank Dr Pepper all day long and never felt guilty about it
6. My bathing suit was a bikini
7. I ran track and cross country (badly, but still)
8. I never wore bracelets because they always fell off.
9. I wasn't ashamed to be seen naked.
10. I knew I would never be fat.

Now that I'm fat:

1. It's kind of hard to put on socks.
2. Old ladies hold open doors for me because I look pregnant.
3. I don't recognize my face and its chins in the mirror.
4. Extra large doesn't cut it anymore, and in some stores, not even XXL.
5. Chafing. I can't say more.
6. My bras are from Just My Size. But I'm still barely a B cup.
7. I'm actually a healthier eater than I was then, but it still adds up to fat
8. There are no decent looking clothes that fit this shape body. I wear t-shirts and elastic-waist, knit pants.
9. Shit. I dropped my cookie...
10. I've lost two pounds. For whatever that is worth.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Disappearing Nine Patch

Now, flush with the limited success of my first quilt, I have decided to tackle the second, since I can't very well make a bad quilt for Number One Daughter without also making one for Number Two Daughter, now can I?

I had to address the issue of fabric, however, and on the advice of my first and only reader, poolgrl95, went back to JoAnn's to see if they had suddenly ordered something fabulous, but perhaps this is only happening in select locations, and not, you know, here. So I hauled my ailing vehicle (that would be my car - not my big butt) down to Annapolis to check out a quilt shop there. Now, I will say that they had a lot of nice fabrics there - just none that made me want to shove old ladies out of the way for (and isn't that really the criterion we all use?) I had other errands to run, and on my way home, I remembered a little store I had seen in an unassuming strip mall some weeks ago as I was looking for a Target in the area. It was called the Fabric Chest, and from the road there was no way to tell what might be inside. I had 45 minutes before I had to get home and relieve the babysitter, so I stopped.

I was giddy. Actually giddy - practically giggling and wishing like mad I had a friend with me so I could go "Look at this! And this! And this!" A very sweet lady pointed out all the cheap sale fabric, but I was entranced by all of it. It wasn't a huge store - it just had exactly the kind of fabric that makes me start fantasizing about all the fabulous things I could make IF I COULD ONLY LEARN HOW TO SEW.

So, here's what I bought:

I hope to use just these two fabrics to create a simple disappearing nine patch pattern, but since this will involve serious rotary cutting skills, I may be forced to create a quilt out of angrily wadded up scraps.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My First Quilt Top. Now What?

I should have updated this last week when this historic event actually occurred, but, you know, I was too busy eating chocolate pie and feeling guilty about it to heave my fat ass over to the computer.

After working on those pink practice patches (insert lame alliteration comment here), I set about doing the real thing. I still hadn't found a decent fabric store within driving distance, so I was once again forced to partake of JoAnn's wares. I have since learned that any quilting project I undertake with Ms. J's goods will probably disintegrate in the wash, but never mind that for now. I managed to find some fabrics that weren't all old fashioned and cutesy and set myself to the task of a basic four patch pattern.

You may notice something amiss in the picture. I sewed the last two rows completely backwards - and even after pinning the whole thing up on the wall for several days, failed to notice it. It wasn't until I took the above photograph - no, until I downloaded and looked at the above photograph - that I realized what I had done. I suck.

BUT - I don't care that I suck, because at least I finished it, even if it was poorly cut and sewn like I had my eyes closed. For the back, I managed to find a brown and aqua polka dot print (at Wal Mart, god help me)

and I will be sending the top and the backing to my sister in Tennessee to have one of the fine ladies at her shop machine quilt it for me. Then I'll have to figure out how to do the binding, which may just end this whole experiment in ineptitude.

This quilt, should it prove to become one, will belong to Number One Daughter. I hope its glaring misalignment will serve as a lesson for her: never give up, even when all evidence shows that you really, really should.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Progress - on two fronts

It is utterly amazing what a little reading can accomplish. I've been trying to start quilting without the benefit of a teacher or even a book, and even though I put 4 squares together a few days ago, the result was less than stellar. I finally found a great beginner website,, and discovered that I was doing everything all wrong! Fancy that!

Now my corners come together beautifully, at least the 4 corners of the 4-patch I made today. I ran out of anything like contrasting fabric, though, so my brilliant work is a bit hard to see on camera. You'll just have to trust me until I get more fabric.

when I finally get this business of piecing all worked out, my first major project will be something called a watercolor quilt. If you Google the term, you might come across some quilts that look neat in their background, but then get all ruined, in my opinion, by some cutesy applique on top of it. To me, a true watercolor quilt takes small squares of fabrics, and creates abstract designs using a color and tone shift from dark to light. My inspiration came from this Etsy store, and I purchased my first set of squares from this artist as well. I mounted a big piece of cardboard (n lieu of corkboard, for now) and arranged my first 126 squares thusly:

And, in other news, I have not gained any weight! There is a small possibility that I am down a pound or so, but the current state of my monthly water retention is surely masking it. I also recently read that obese people (and oh, god, I cannot believe I actually fall into this illustrious category)need to exercise for an hour every day, rather than the 30 minutes they've been saying is okay. So I had a talk with my husband and we worked out an arrangement where I can go to the gym for an hour in the morning before the kids are all awake, and he can handle any early risers. So this morning, I got up at 5, hit the gym at 5:45 and hit the showers at 6:40. The idea is to do this every day, and if only to get the time alone in the car without having to listen to Sesame Street or Backyardigans songs, I'm totally up for it.