Sunday, November 30, 2008

Helen! This spaz made another quilt!

On Saturday, I took Harper to my favorite fabric store to pick out a border and backing for her quilt, which we finished a few days ago. I think she has become so accustomed to places like Target and Michael's that a normal-sized store seems like it was made just for kids. She asked if it was possible for her to get lost there, and knowing that there were at least three sweet old ladies already cooing over her cuteness who could tell me at any moment where she was, I said no it wasn't possible and let her roam around the store on her own. I used my considerable influence to nudge her towards a particular batik I thought would make a good border, and gave her free rein to pick the backing.

Not bad, huh? I'm definitely willing to rethink my position on scrappy quilts if they can end up looking like this.

This will be the backing:

Naturally, she picked a stripe, knowing full well Mommy has a CONDITION, which prevents her from doing anything in a straight line. And the first two quilts I made were small enough that a yard of fabric, uncut, was just enough for the backing, but this one is bigger, and I ended up using more of that border fabric to get enough width.

You know, it never ceases to amaze me that when sewing any length greater than a few inches, that I just have to constantly wrestle with the fabric to keep it in line. I guess I somehow had the notion that, sure, long ago when sewing machines were made of wood and had to be powered by mule teams, one would have to struggle to keep things running smoothly. But now, in the modern age, I figured these newfangled devices would pretty much sew a straight line on their own, and that I would be acting in more of a supervisory position. Clearly, I was somewhat incorrect on that point.

I am now utterly fascinated by batiks and am starting to collect a few in blues, purples and greens so that I can make this:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

And the winner of the (coveted) charm pack is...

...Lurking Linda! Congratulations, Linda - and be sure to email me your address so I can send them off to you (email is harperland at mac dot com).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. You will all be in my obligatory list of things I am thankful for, and when Grandma asks what a "blog" is, I will tell her that it's a place where people can go say really bad words and God can't hear them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grandma might not get it, though

I'm thinking of using these for my Christmas cards this year:

Card 1

Card 2

(Oh, and I'll be home for Thanksgiving, but I'll be in the kitchen all day tomorrow. I'll try to announce the winner of the charm squares before noon, if I can.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Someday, she'll be as mediocre as her mommy

My 5-year-old daughter, Harper, is still in that blessedly cute stage of childhood where she thinks everything Mommy does is beyond cool. She even assumes that all the foods she eats have been somehow magically made by me ("I really love your Sun Chips, Mommy.") So, naturally she's been fascinated by all the sewing and has been begging to "help" me make something.

So last week we got out a bunch of Kaffe Fassett charm squares that I had purchased on eBay back when I started this whole sewing thing and was still trying to figure out how to handle the fabric end of things. Should I buy yardage and cut it myself (not a great option, considering my rather, um, challenged rotary cutting skills) or just rely on charm packs, limiting the patterns I can use but at least more likely to be cut in actual squares and not some weird rhomboid shapes. Of course, like with the fish or fabric question, I've ended up doing both.

But the thing about these squares was that when I got them they reeked of smoke, and sure enough, I checked the listing and waaaaaaay down at the bottom, in the teensiest letters it said We do use and enjoy our fireplace during the winter months. Now, I'm no expert on fireplaces, having never had one, but I'm pretty sure the smoke is not supposed to go wafting into the fabric storage area. Which leads me to assume that either this lady has some serious flue issues or she is storing her fabric in the chimney.

The only way I could use the squares was to wash them first, and if I were some sort of magical fairy I would have hand washed them, but I am merely mortal and had to use the washing machine. In my defense I put them in a lingerie bag (which is funny because I don't actually own any lingerie but I have a bag to wash some in should I ever get frisky and go buy some) and set the washer on "delicate." Nevertheless, they came out all frayed and I didn't think they were going to be useable - until Harper spied them in the scraps box.

The squares are all different sizes now because of the fraying, but Harper has no freaky neuroses about things lining up, so we just sewed away without thinking too hard. She has been choosing the order and orientation of the squares and I do the sewing. I think it's going to be my favorite quilt so far.

From The Bitchy Stitcher

From The Bitchy Stitcher

From The Bitchy Stitcher

From The Bitchy Stitcher

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fish or Fabric?

Before I began sewing, my main hobby was freshwater aquariums. At one point, I had 7 aquariums in various rooms of our house. My daughter complains because fish are soooo boring, but of course she is too young to understand that THAT'S THE POINT. There's no drama with fish: no barking in the middle of the night, no peeing all over your clothes, no standing on your chest as you lie in bed early in the morning and biting your nose as soon as you wake up in order to say, "Bitch, get up and make me some Fancy Feast." (God, I loved that cat. He came to live with me just after I graduated from college, and he was the best cat EVER. He liked to play tag, loved tummy rubs and tortilla chips, and always refused to eat alone. He was my best buddy, until I decided to move in with that damn cello player and his roommate, who also had a cat. The roommate thought that T.J. ought to be able to roam free, though I felt he should be an indoor cat - and, of course, my boy got hit by a car.)

Moving to our new house was too stressful for most of my fish, and now I only have 3 tanks set up, with only one tank containing a handful of fish. So I've been perusing the fish books and many online sites which sell fish, and I really, really just want to blow a wad of cash on some lovely little swimmers, but then I'll have no money leftover for fabric this month.

Part of the problem is that there are so few convenient places nearby to buy fish. Let me rephrase that: there are so few places to buy fish where the sales staff aren't total douchebags. That's one thing you can say about quilt shops: not a lot of douchebags there. ("What pretty fabrics you're getting. I wonder when these came in. Helen? When did we get these? We've had them for eight years? Fancy that. So, what are you making with these? Really? How cute! Helen! She's making patchwork scarves for Christmas gifts! Would you like a cookie, dear? HELEN! WHERE ARE THE COOKIES?")But if I want to buy fish, I have to tackle the snotty 20-something who is trying to avoid me, make him go to the tank and get the fish I want while assuring him that I do indeed know that mollies prefer hard water, and I HAVE hard water, and that's why I'm buying mollies JUST GIMME MY GODDAMN FISH.

There are a number of great places to buy fish online, and the whole douchebag problem is thus solved. Fish can easily survive an overnight trip - but it does have to be guaranteed overnight delivery and therefore you're tacking on like $25-40 more to the cost of the fish. Fabric, on the other hand, is relatively cheap to ship - even using Priority - and there's new stuff out there like this:

and this:

But I miss watching my fish while I write:

Fish-themed fabric won't cut it, nor will sewing up cute stuffed fishies. And there's no good use for fabric in a fish tank.

Perhaps I should dwell on this over some pie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I cribbed that last line from Bartlett's

It was so, so good to see Barbara today. She is looking great and only has a touch of edema around her right eye. Well, that and a big honkin' dent in the side of her head and a freaky scar, but you can't see those unless she forces you to get close and look and she had me in a headlock as soon as I got in the door. And she can't move her right eyebrow, so whenever she tries to look surprised, she just looks suspicious.

It was supposed to be a day without kids for me, but at the last minute a friend needed me to babysit her 1-year-old, so little baby Bella came along while my girls stayed home with daddy. But that was just fine because she's sweet and a very easy baby and Barb and her partner Chris are NUTS about babies, so Bella had two more devotees by the end of the afternoon.

I'm pleased to say that both Barb and Chris LOVED the pillow, and Barb hugged it much of the time that we were talking.

And it turns out that brain tumors do indeed suck. But hugging old friends is totally fucking awesome.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Surely there's a marketing opportunity here

Back when I was an optician, I worked with a lady named Barbara for about 7 years. Technically, I was her boss, but we were equals in most respects, and we became very close friends very quickly. We never socialized much outside of work, because we were already with each other more than with our respective spouses, but while we were at work we shared a comfortable co-existence. I don't think we ever fought once. And when I decided to leave, we both bawled like little babies on my last day.

We've kept in touch, but I haven't seen her since she left the business earlier this year. Sometime in July I got this email from her:

Hi all old friends,

Passing along this terrible news as I need all the thoughts of good will and prayers you can muster if you choose. In May of this year I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and Chris and I have spent these past few months researching and doctoring and getting many neuro opinions and the outcome is brain surgery which is scheduled 2 wks from now . The most unnerving part of the whole thing is I have no symptoms indicative of a brain tumor and I would never have known had I not had an MRI for hearing loss last April. There was no reason for hearing loss on the MRI but oh, by the way you have a brain tumor. Needless to say, our world has been rocked all summer and I intentionally scheduled the surgery date for after the summer so that we could spend as much time at our beach house in NJ w/all the grands.

Yet the date looms and the wait is grueling and the whole procedure and recovery is god awful and just keep me in your thoughts.Since it is considered a high risk surgery, I do have a very specific wish for no visits at the hospital or at home for at least a week or two until I feel and look better. It is brain surgery after all not a new hip or a hysterectomy or something I'd welcome if you get my meaning.

Chris will be sending out an e-mail to you all after the fact .Thanking you in advance for your good wishes.

She's finally ready for a visit, so I'm heading out to her place on Tuesday to see her. I had just started my teach-myself-to-sew project when I found out about her illness, and I would have liked to have made her a quilt, but I wasn't prepared to take on that kind of project for anyone who wasn't a forgiving family member. And besides, there simply are no good brain tumor-themed fabrics out there.

So yesterday I decided that I could at least make her a pillow, if nothing else. One which expresses all my love for her and my great relief that her surgery was a success and her recovery is nearly complete:

Who needs Hallmark?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The orphan's replacement

It's nothing fancy - but husband LOVES it, and that's what matters, I guess. This is half finished (well the rows are pieced; I just have to sew the rows together) - the other half will mirror this one.

I just wish I could get better pictures in this damn, windowless basement.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Behold - the orphan

A couple people have asked for pictures of the offending Bento Box pieces I've made so far, and I was sure I had posted some when I first started it, but my lazy, cursory glance at my past posts didn't turn up anything. I laid out what I had done thus far, and I know that the blocks would be broken up in a finished quilt and not placed together like this, but it looks even worse trying to do that now with so few blocks and so few colors.

And these are the fabrics I have not yet cut or pieced:

So, red, black, green, and white. Though I have an assortment of fabrics, those are the main colors the sushi prints come in. Do I need more colors? More solids or less busy prints? And for those of you who have done this pattern, how many different fabrics did you ultimately use?

Monday, November 10, 2008

So, the sushi Bento Box quilt is dead in the water. I just couldn't keep up my enthusiasm for it, especially once I realized that the person for whom it was intended (my husband) wasn't crazy about how it was looking. And, frankly, I wasn't either.

Now I'm going to say something here, and it may offend some of you. If you can't handle radical, anarchist quilting opinions, well then just stop reading right here. Ready?

I don't like scrappy quilts.

See, I told you to stop reading, but you didn't listen, and now you're all indignant and going, "Well, I love scrappy quilts - my house is full of scrappy quilts - I was even going to make you a scrappy quilt AND NOW I'LL JUST HAVE TO GIVE IT TO SOME HOBO ON THE STREET." (Well, that's what you would say if you were a member of my immediate family, all of whom take any expression of an opposing opinion as just another way of saying "I hate you, and everything you like is shit.")

Believe me, I am well aware that the entire world loves a scrappy quilt, but I just have some genetic mutation which makes me resist them. The sushi quilt just wasn't cohesive enough, because even though they were all sushi prints, and all had backgrounds in black, white, green, and red, the result was just a mishmash of busy prints. I think I also didn't like that, in creating the strips, the charm of the prints just kind of disappeared. And, see, any other normal person would have still liked it 'cuz it looked all "scrappy" and whatnot. I just had a different aesthetic in mind and when it didn't live up to that vision, I couldn't make myself keep going.

But I'm going to try again, in a different vein. I got 4 of the Moda "Bistro" charm packs, and I've been playing with arrangements on my wall.

I want some arrangement of the blocks that produces some sort of effect with the flow of colors from light to dark, but that may be asking too much of my feeble brain. In the meantime, I'll need to find a use for the squares I made for the sushi quilt. Maybe a tote bag or some square placemats. Pillow covers. Or hankies, to dry my tears of disappointment and despair when I inevitably hate this quilt too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hooray for America. And for not having my head in a toilet.

Lordy, it's been one thing after another here at Chez Bitchy. And the icing on the cake was when I was preparing for our election night party and began barfing. SERIOUSLY. I ended up huddled on the couch, having told the guests not to come, shaking and sipping water, and crying every time Obama won another state.

So, please let me just say that I fucking LOVE my country. I am a witness to history, and I will tell my grandchildren about this day - including the part about the barfing. Because I feel the need to share that with everybody.

Today I am attempting to recover from whatever crawled in my gut and died, but my youngest seems to think that's a self-indulgent way to spend my time. She got all in a twist earlier this morning because she had somehow gotten her arm out of her shirt and wasn't pleased. So she came over to me with her usual words of complaint when she can't make something work the way she wants: "It'th thtuck!" Only she wouldn't let me fix it. She was upset, and wanted help, but wouldn't accept help. And somehow this situation just escalated into the biggest tantrum I have ever seen. She was knocking over chairs, throwing every thing she could get her hands on, and I finally carried her, kicking and screaming, to her room where I thought there were fewer dangers for her. And it just went on and on and on, until finally she was starting to bite things (not me, thank god) and I was getting scared and decided to just leave the room for a minute to check on her older sister. The baby followed me out, still screeching, but by the time we got to the kitchen she saw one of her bottles and asked for one, and she finally quieted down on my lap and we read books and tried to forget what had just happened.

This really shook me up, because I have never seen anything like it before. My older daughter never had tantrums like this - hardly ever had them at all, really - and Devon is usually such a happy little girl. My husband emerged from his home office upstairs after it was all over and I fell apart crying as I told him about it, and he told me a story about some kid he had heard of who used to throw rocks at her parents whenever they told her it was time to leave the playground. "This is all perfectly normal," he said. You weren't there, buddy. SHE WAS GREEN.

Now she and her sister are happily playing with an empty box. But every time she babbles at Harper, I imagine she's saying. "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."