Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coming along

I love how fast this is going:

But if I could just find someone on eBay to do my crappy sewing for me, I'd be all set. I don't want to eliminate the middleman. I want the middleman to move in to my house and start taking over my identity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I have been tagged twice recently to participate in a picture meme, so I better get on it while I have the time.

Fourth folder, fourth picture. Harper, at 3 years old:

"Mommy, are you sure this lumpy thing is gonna turn into cookies?

Sixth folder, sixth picture. The girls on Easter, 2008:

The beauty of this picture is that it was the first one (I took, like, 20) where Devon wasn't trying to shove Harper out of the chair.

I know I'm supposed to pass on the tag, but I'm pretty sure that everyone I could reasonably tag has already been tagged, and the others don't play these games anyway. So, if you haven't been tagged and would like to play, consider yourself hereby Tagged.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I knew it was impossible to cut folded fabric:

I finally got around to some of the jelly rolls I've been collecting, cut by nice ladies who sell them on eBay and Etsy. I assumed that since they were ballsy enough to offer home-cut jelly rolls, that they knew what they were doing and wouldn't dare sell a bunch of V- and C-shaped strips.

I am way too trusting.

Even so, it makes me feel better that even people who cut fabric for a living suck at it as much as I do. I recently purchased a book of jelly roll quilt patterns (a book which was, by the way, part of the inspiration for this post) and selected what appeared to be the easiest pattern to start with. It's kind of a take on the Chinese Coins pattern, but using jelly roll strips instead of scraps. You sew 5 strips together and cut that into 5 8-inch sections, continuing until you have 40 blocks.

Mix 'em up and sew them together in 5 rows of 8 blocks each, add sashing and a border, and you have a quilt that even morons like me can make.

Except that my strips are all wonky, and I didn't really realize it at first. See, I keep trying to avoid pressing my seams until I've sewed all my strips together. I hate ironing, and it's another one of those things that you find a lot of gloom and doom instructions for ("Press. Do not iron. If you iron, children in Bangladesh will go hungry and there will be a potato blight in Bulgaria."). I'm always certain that I'm doing it wrong and it's just a big pain and, the upshot is that I thought my second strip set came out all curved because of a combination of lousy sewing and not pressing the seams before sewing on the next strip. So I began pressing/ironing diligently and they were still all fracked up, and THEN I finally looked closely at the strips themselves.

And you know what? I don't care, because I still didn't have to cut them myself. I have no standards.

Well, finally

There has been something missing from our lives here, ever since the weather turned cold. Fortunately, it finally arrived this morning:


The girls and their daddy were up before me this morning, and I stumbled downstairs to find everyone with their noses pressed to the windows. Devon was still in her jammies, demanding to put on her coat and shoes and go outside, and my sweet sweet husband offered to go into work a little late so he could take them outside to play for a while (he knows how much I hate to be cold). It was Devon's first real experience with snow:

Harper's had a few snowstorms to play in during her 5 years of life, but they're always exciting:

But, of course, the best part of going out in the snow is coming back inside the warm house:

I just can't be snarky and profane on a snowy day with cute girls to snuggle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How to Sew an Accurate Seam - A Tutorial

The following is a distillation of what I have gleaned from the various quilt books I have purchased and been given since I began learning how to quilt. I hope this proves to be as helpful for you as it has been for me.

Sewing an accurate quarter-inch seam is so important to proper quiltmaking that if you can't manage to do it, you might as well just pack up that sewing machine and take up a more appropriate hobby like, oh, I don't know, making sloppy crap. Because your entire worth as a quilter depends on this skill. No one wants to see a quilt where corners do not meet precisely on point, where seams are not in perfect alignment. Try to give a quilt like that to your mom and she's liable to wad it up, stomp on it, run over it with her car a few times, and deface it with spray-painted obscenities before throwing it back in your face.

So let's get started!

1) Take a look at your sewing machine and note the marks on the needle plate. One of these is marked "1/4". Ignore it. Chances are, you have one of those plastic, made-in-China, bought-on-sale-at-Target models, and everybody knows those are only good for being a doorstop, and they don't even do that well. That 1/4-inch mark was placed there by a godless commie who would like nothing better than to see you fail. Trust us, it ain't accurate. Come back after you've mortgaged your house and bought a real machine, preferably one with an unpronounceable name.

2) Okay, now take a look at the needle plate on your new machine and find the 1/4-inch mark. Ignore that one too. Oh, hush. At least you have a decent machine now.

3) Take a ruler, preferably one you use for cutting fabric and place it on your machine under the needle. Lower the needle carefully and adjust the ruler so that the needle just touches the 1/4-inch mark. Using the edge of the ruler as a guide, lay a piece of masking tape on the bed of the sewing machine, marking a line 1/4-inch distant from your needle. You can now use this line as a guide when you sew.

4) Oops! Forgot about that pesky bobbin thing. If you don't want to re-calibrate every time you change the bobbin (and we can't understand why you wouldn't, but whatever), you'll need to buy a quarter-inch presser foot. We'll wait while you compare the cost difference of replacement feet for your brand new shiny Nordic machine and the one we made you throw out in shame.

5) Once you figure out how to put the new foot on, you'll have to make sure that your machine, if it has multiple stitch settings, is set on the correct stitch for this foot. Otherwise as soon as you start to stitch, the needle will hit the foot and there will be terrible noises and lights flashing and things beeping, and you'll probably ruin your needle, if not the whole machine. We do not speak from experience. We have heard of someone this happened to, a friend of a friend. Loser.

6) If you are certain that you will not bring about the apocalypse when you begin sewing, you will need to test the accuracy of your new foot. Take a 2.5-inch wide strip of fabric and cut it into 2 sections that are 1.5 inches long each and one that is 2.5 inches long. Of course, this depends on you being able to cut accurately. You can do that, can't you?

7) Oh, for fuck's sake.

8) Look. We appreciate the fact that you want to take up this most noble and elegant art. But you're clearly not cut out for it, so to speak. Just hand over that nice, new machine and we'll never let on to anyone how much you suck.

9) Fine. You leave us no choice. We're calling your mom.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You know how I always joke about not being able to sew in a straight line?

I'm not joking:

While I've certainly improved in shorter seams, I still struggle when sewing the borders to my quilts (and the binding, too - but I've pretty much said all there is to say about that). I have a nice big table for supporting the quilt as I sew, but it doesn't seem to do any good. I still end up having to wrestle with it and the ensuing melee produces these meandering stitches. I keep expecting the damn thing to start bellowing like some kind of wounded beast as I try to force it into submission.

My rotary cutting skills have only slightly improved as well. I have better tools now, and I don't veer off to the right nearly as often as I used to. But this whole thing where you "square up" the fabric and then cut it into strips? And those strips will then supposedly come out straight? And then the Quilt Fairy comes and grants you three wishes and everybody enjoys some no-calorie cake?


Total. Fucking. Myth.

It has been scientifically proven by me in controlled experiments with sterile equipment and no alcohol whatsoever, that it is impossible for a normal human to fold a piece of fabric in such a way that when a rotary cutter is applied to it, a straight strip of fabric results. So, clearly, all of you who manage to do this on a daily basis are some kind of magical beings, or possibly aliens.

Too bad I'll have to destroy you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I have created a monster. A short, cute monster with a high-pitched roar.

I dragged my 5-year-old daughter out with me on Saturday morning to investigate a quilt shop that I discovered online in a town about a half hour from our house. She was bored out of her mind on the ride over, but once we got there, you would have thought we had just landed at the world's biggest Toys R Us. The store was about twice as big as the evil place I had been to last week, with two long rooms just loaded with - or so they claim - thousands of bolts of fabric. Off of one of those rooms, a small closet had been outfitted as another fabric room, and when Harper discovered it her tiny little voice rang out through the store, "MOMMMY! THERE'S A LITTLE FABRIC ROOM OVER HERE. YOU GOTTA COME SEE!"

The whole time we were there, she was just giddy, and kept trying to negotiate with me about how much fabric we were going to buy for her next quilt. I tried to explain to her that we were there to look for fabric for Daddy's quilt, but she wasn't havin' none of it. I managed to simplify things by allowing her to pick out two fat quarter bundles, which we will combine with some jelly roll strips I bought a while back to make a Happy Squares quilt. Who am I to stifle her need for me to make her stuff while she watches?

And I'm very happy to say that everyone there was lovely and helpful, and very, very kind to my daughter. No one offered us a cookie or shouted to Helen to come over here and take a look at this, but that's perfectly okay. It was a wonderful place and I can't wait to go back and the other place can suck it.

Also, I did find fabric for her daddy's quilt and I finally finished the top last night:

It measures 76.5" x 68" - the biggest quilt I've made so far, I think. Husband loves it and seems very touched that I've made this for him, but he could just be looking to get laid.

In other news, the new job is going well, but it is the reason I can't post as often as I'd like. I'm editing 13-17 articles each month, as opposed to 6-7 every other month, plus I have two articles of my own to write. One of them is about a local Irish pub and their "perfect pint" of Guinness, and I got to interview the manager last week. He is, as they say, the "genuine article"— a transplanted Irishman who came from Dublin to open this pub here. I am a sucker for a good brogue, be it Irish or Scot, so I had a major crush going by the time we were done with the interview. My boss loved the resulting article, but I didn't tell her it was fueled by unrequited lust. Wouldn't want to give away all my secrets!

AND - remember how I started this whole blog thing with the notion that it would be a chronicle of both my sewing and my feeble attempts at weight loss? The weight loss part kinda went out the window, because it's not really that fun to dwell on, much less read about. But I just realized this morning that I've lost 12 pounds. I made it over the 10-pound mark without even knowing it. Sweet.

That calls for a donut.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Or I'd at least get a hug

This morning I took advantage of my new found freedom (read: part-time baby sitter) to visit a bookstore and swing by my second favorite quilt shop on the way home. I say "second favorite" because there are exactly two quilt shops within a decent driving distance, and it sure as hell ain't my favorite.

It does have a huge selection of fabrics, and nearly every quilt on display has the pattern or a kit right next to it. The fat quarters are to die for, and I love the little room in the back that is devoted to kid and baby fabrics. It's located in a quaint section of town, and unlike many other shops in that area, it has good parking available.

But it's the staff that bugs me. I walked in at 2 minutes after 10, and already the two women on duty were sitting at the cutting table, and they looked at me like, "Oh, fuck. A customer?" They said a cursory hello, and I went off to look for the black Moda Marbles fabric I just assumed a store like this would carry. As I scanned the shelves, I heard one woman talking the other one's ear off about every boring detail of her previous day, which apparently included eating some questionable shrimp. When I couldn't find what I wanted, I asked the Wonder Twins if they carry it, and they both looked perfectly bewildered, and one even said they don't carry that line at all, even though I noticed they had it IN EVERY OTHER COLOR BUT BLACK. Then they waited for me to go away again, so they could, I don't know, compare bunions or something.

Despite myself, I ended up buying a bunch of fat quarters. (They had bundles of the Baby Geniuses Grow Up line, which I plan to use for a quilt for my landlords' baby boy, and lovely batiks for my future batik quilt.) It's just a shame that they had to hire such duds, and I'll have to pay a visit to my No. 1 quilt shop to make up for having given my money to the competition.

And when I do, if they don't have what I am looking for, I know they will do their best to help me find a substitute. And if that doesn't pan out, they'll probably offer me a cookie. ("Helen! Bring me my purse! We don't have the Moda Marbles in stock, but I'm pretty sure I've got me some Fig Newtons in there!")

Sunday, January 4, 2009

or for a Dr. Pepper and some sausage

On Saturday, I was seized with a fit of organization. It started when we took down the Christmas decorations and I discovered that, in the time the decorations had been up, the storage room had become overrun with boxes and trash. Once I cleaned that out, I tackled my computer, and began backing up all my important files onto DVD. While the DVDs burned, I worked on my fabric.

My fabric acquisitions have been somewhat haphazard, and so now I have these random patterns and colors that in twos or threes would work in, say, a handbag, but which would never come together for an entire quilt. I love the idea that I could someday just grab a bunch of fabrics that I already have on hand and plan a quilt with them, but it will be a while before I get to that point.

Then, among the scraps and fat quarters and yardage, I came across those abandoned Bento Box squares, and I decided it was high time we had a sushi pillow around here.

And now, before my cranky, moody two-year-old daughter wakes up from her nap, I shall take my own little snooze here on the couch and hope that my pillow gives me sushi dreams ('cause I'd sell that kid for a rainbow roll right about now).

Friday, January 2, 2009

A query for the blogoshpere

I am working on my first article for my new magazine on women and heart disease. I need to find one or two women who have:

- been diagnosed with heart disease

- had a heart attack

- had a stroke due to cardiovascular disease

I'd like to ask just a few questions via email to give the article some perspective from someone who's been affected by heart disease, so if you know of anyone you think might be willing to talk with me, please direct them to my email at harperland at mac dot com.

Please stay tuned for your regularly scheduled bitching about how hard it is to sew in a straight line.

UPDATE: BLOGOSPHERE! In my defense, I've been loopy lately with all my new mag duties, but still no excuse for poor spelling, even of a word that probably doesn't exist in any major dictionary yet. Thanks, Carrie in TX!