Monday, February 27, 2012

The Garment District

I was full of grandiose plans to lose 20 pounds before Market, but that hasn't happened because of being sick for so long. I still start coughing and hacking if I get the least bit winded, so exercise is out and then I feel sorry for myself because I am still blowing alien life forms out of my nose every 17 seconds, so I eat popovers. I have a thing about eating popovers when I am going through long periods of stress or discomfort. Some people need chocolate. I self-medicate with puffy bread.

So it's looking less and less like I will be skinny 3 months from now, particularly since I've managed to gain a few pounds (mmmm...popovers....) during my convalescence. How is a fat chick supposed to dress for being seen in public? Baggy, stained yoga pants and oversized t-shirts from Target are probably not going to cut it.

I used to love wearing tunics and leggings and I've seen people even bigger than me manage to carry this look off, so I started perusing catalogs. But everything is either cut wrong or too expensive, so on a lark I started looking at patterns. Not that I would actually make one or anything, because that would be insane. I am a hard person to size because my boobs are not as proportionally big as the rest of me, and I have no waist and a round belly. All those skinny people that make a living telling fat people what to wear say to emphasize the slimmest part of you, by which they mean the waist or the area right below your boobs. But from my armpits to my crotch, its all basically one big blob. There is no slimmest part.

But then I saw this and temporarily lost my mind.

What cool sleeves! What a flattering shape! And it says perfect for beginners! Surely if I can do curved piecing I can sew in a fucking sleeve, right? Oh, okay, what the hell.

And it was a breeze. No problems, no frustrations. I whipped that thing together in a couple days and it turned out perfect.

It looks like ass on me, of course. but on a hanger? Hot shit.

Now the girls had gotten quite used to hearing me say that I could make them skirts but nothing else because I didn't know how to make anything else, and as soon as I finished this and stepped back to admire my work, they jumped on me and demanded dresses. With gathers and zippers and shit. So I let them pick out fabric and we chose another pattern, and yesterday afternoon, I got started.

I worked on it periodically until the girls went to bed, and then I focussed on it while I "watched" the Oscars. I used to care deeply about the Oscars, back when I was child-free and had time to see the films and could stay up late with my friends getting shit-faced on champagne and trying to outdo each other with dumb celebrity jokes. Now I can't afford the hangover, but I still feel compelled to watch, and by "watch" I mean "have it on in the background while I do far more interesting things with my time." I was done before Meryl won for that movie I will never, ever see because at this point in my life, films about British politics are probably lower on the list than films about American politics. Or anything about any politics. I really fucking hate politics.

So it was with great pleasure that I got to tell Miss Devon this morning that her dress was all done:

Now it's Harper's turn, and then I will try again for myself. I have picked out two more patterns that look good in theory, but will surely fail upon practical application. And after I spend all that money on patterns and fabric I might have just enough left over for a new pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt from Target.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A question having nothing at all to do with quilting

I've been losing a bit of sleep over this and since the internet seems always so forthcoming with unsolicited advice, I thought perhaps I'd solicit some and see if together we can solve an odd problem.

Every day I drive my youngest daughter to daycare, 20 minutes away, then drop Harper off at school. In the afternoons, Harper gets picked up first and then we ride out to pick up Devon. There are several routes we could take to get to Devon's daycare, but the one I finally settled on has the least amount of traffic and seems to get us there and back the fastest, even if it isn't precisely the shortest drive. Shortly before we get to the neighborhood where her daycare provider lives, we drive along about two miles of windy, slightly hilly 2-lane road. It's not mountainous or anything and not full of crazy dead man's curves, but is just hilly and windy enough that there is no passing allowed along it's entire length. There is no shoulder anywhere.

After this road we get to a light and make a left onto a larger, divided road that has a wide shoulder on both sides. A few days ago, I noticed, as we turned onto this road, a young mother and two little girls—I'm guessing around 5 and 7 years old—walking along the shoulder. Since the girls had backpacks, I assumed they were coming home from school, though, knowing where the nearest elementary school is from that spot, they had already been walking quite a ways. Then as we drove back along the two-lane road, they were there, trying to navigate the non-shoulder. The little one wasn't paying much attention and as I came around the curve and they came into view, she was well into the road. If I had been distracted by anything at that point, I would have hit her.

I have now seen them every day this week, and yesterday, despite my vigilance as I was driving, I felt I came too close to them again. I am terrified something is going to happen to one—or more—of them. Since I have driven this same route every day for over a year and this is the first I've seen them, I'm assuming that mom has lost her car for some reason. I would think the kids would be on a bus route, considering how far they are walking, but there are clearly circumstances I do not know at play.

The most obvious thing would be to offer them a ride, but I only have room for one more person in my car, not three. I am never in a position where I can pull over and ask if there's any way I can help - divided road or no shoulder. I can't be sure what school they are coming from (or even if they are coming from a school) so it seems less that helpful to blanket all the area schools with letters or calls saying, "There are two kids who need a ride but I don't know who they are." The mom might not even accept a ride from me - even if I had a nice big mini-van and had the room - because who the hell am I? Hell, I'd be scared to get into my car if a strange woman approached me and offered me a ride. It's full of used tissues and trash that I'm too lazy or busy to get rid of. It looks like a junkie's car, except for the cute kids in the back.

So, I'm stuck. I don't know what to do. Maybe there's nothing I can do. Maybe she'll get her car back soon and it won't matter anymore. But the thought of a little one being hit by a car on her way home from school is plaguing me, and if there is something I can do I want to try to do it. I just don't know what it is.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Bit of Ointment for Those Problem Areas

You all know Facebook, right? Fun little place, where we can all interact and have fun together in a way we can't really do here? I have 1152 "fans" on my blog's Facebook page, and I'm not absolutely certain how many of those people actually read this blog or even know it exists.

There is this phenomenon on Facebook where people can start a page called, oh, I don't know, "Mayonnaise is AWESOME!", and if your friend clicks "like" on that page it shows up in your Feed. "Megan likes 'Mayonnaise is AWESOME!'" And you even get to comment on her liking: "I know, right? Mayonnaise IS awesome!!!!!! LOLOLOLOL." So, naturally, being the mayo lover you are, you go right on over to that page and click "like" too, so all of your friends will know that you are an unapologetic aficionado of egg-n-oil emulsions.

However, what neither you nor your hair-trigger clicker finger friends have noticed is that Mayonnaise is AWESOME! is actually the name of a thrash metal band from Cleveland that paints penises on kittens during their live shows and promotes the penis-painting-on-kittens lifestyle on their Facebook page. Now, you wake up one fine, sunny morning and open up FB only to find your feed filled with posts like "WE WILL PAINT WEENIES ON ALL TEH KITTEHZ AND MAKE YOUR MOMMA CRY!" And you are, naturally, horrified.

Some people will take this as an opportunity to belatedly edify themselves as to what the holy hell Mayonnaise is AWESOME! is all about with perhaps a quick Google search or a look-see at the rest of the info on the band's Facebook page. And then, determining that the mission, aesthetic, and philosophy behind Mayonnaise is AWESOME! is not for them, will boldly, but quietly, unlike the page. Others, however, unwilling or unable to do this, will feel the need to comment instead, with such gems as:

"What does this have to do with mayonnaise?"
"Miracle Whip is so wrong! Am I right?"
"What is this band everyone is talking about?"
and, of course:
"You know, I'm no prude, but all this weenie talk is just too much!"

This is what happens to me a lot. Apparently, lots of people have "liked" my page because they like the name "The Bitchy Stitcher" so I guess they feel like it's something they can identify with. And then I share some photos that a reader sent me of knitted boxer shorts with some very clever appendage-pouches built in and I get someone saying, "I'm no prude, but no more pictures please." Or a reference to something that was on the blog gets commented on and somebody pipes up, "This blog sounds great! Can someone give me the link?" And I'm not a naturally kind and diplomatic person, so I have to dunk my head in a bucket of cold water, take a couple shots of whiskey, and count to 100 very slowly before I can answer without being rude.

So, quilters. Please. Before you click like on that page called "The Slutty Sewist" or "The Patchwork Puta," please take a moment to be sure you are actually going to like what ends up in your news feed and whether you do indeed like what those people do outside of Facebook. And, by the way, if you ever have the notion to say, "I'm no prude, but..." — you're a prude.

I'm new to the whole swap thing, but the few times that I've mentioned it, the response from readers has always been, "I HATE swaps and I'll never do another after I quilted an entire Cadillac DeVille - life size - and my swap partner sent me a used tissue and a severed ear." So when my GenQ cohorts were all hot to sponsor a swap, I said, "Okay, but everybody tells me they hate them!" But others among us had participated in swaps and had no issues, so we forged ahead.

For any newbies out there, this is the basic idea behind a swap: someone gathers names of people who want to participate and then matches up everyone into pairs. Those pairs exchange contact info and agree to make each other something according to the theme or guidelines of the swap. However, the laws of swapping apparently dictate that what you will receive from your swap partner will be in inverse proportion to what you send. So, if you work your butt off to make something awesome, your partner will take a dump in an envelope and mail it to you (first class).

The obvious thing here would be to advise people that unless they are going to put some effort and creativity into it they shouldn't bother, but I'm thinking beyond that, because I still think they seem like fun. Maybe, in order to participate in a swap, you should have to provide references. "Yes, I did a swap with Arlene and she made a hand-pieced hexagon mini-quilt that is also a relief map of Bolivia. Plus, she added brownies." "Oh, Barbara? She sent me the paper she tore off a lint roller. I'm pretty sure it had pubic hair on it." If your references don't check out, you can't participate.

The only other way that I can see to prevent Swap Sadness is to include some form of public humiliation, like a special blog where people can post pictures of the shit they got in a swap. Swap Flops, or something. (Note to self: this could work. Nab that URL now!)

So, quilters. Please. Before you sign up to participate in a swap, ask yourself this: Am I an anal retentive over-achiever who says at least once a day, "WHY CAN'T OTHER PEOPLE JUST DO THINGS RIGHT? LIKE I DO?" Or, are you a lazy, shiftless ass munch who does everything at the last minute and doesn't give a crap about anyone else? Because, if you are the latter, the rest of us will see you on

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gimme the blue pill, Larry!

I am a 42-year-old woman. I have given birth to two daughters. I have made a (small) name for myself as a writer. I am at my peak intellectually and creatively. I am happy, sane, and - lung chunks aside - relatively healthy. I am no longer a teenager, as far as I can tell.


I'll tell you why. Because the Endocrine Gods have decided to fuck with me, that's why. Never mind that I'm still years away from menopause, my body has decided that my early forties are a great time to mess around with the chemicals that not only control my reproductive cycle but also play a far too large role in my moods and the state of the skin on my chinological area.

I have not had a period since early December, and that ought to be a good thing, because periods are a big pain in the cooter. But when I start skipping periods, I also start getting cranky. Then I crave carbs and sweets so bad I am willing to bake when it's not even the weekend (gasp!). And then, worst of all, I have zero - I mean ZERO - interest in my, um, marital duties. (Thank god for the donuts, or there wouldn't be any point in going on.)

But then things start cranking towards the Red Letter Days, but it's like watching a very old person with a walker cross the street. The only indication I have that things are progressing towards an actual menstrual cycle once again is the return of the Chin Zits. Big chin zits. Zits so deep I can feel them on the back of my head. I have layered on concealer with a trowel and you can still see this thing from across the room with the lights out. And its twin is trying to hatch on the opposite side (I guess it knows how I feel about symmetry). All last year, my periods were regular again, I was only cranky some of the time, I was more interested in my, um, marital duties than I have been MY ENTIRE LIFE (and it was awesome) and I had NO ZITS. Not one.

So, how do I get back to that? Can I go to a doctor and say, "Give me drugs and make me like that again?" Or will they just go, "That's peri-menopause, bitch. Deal with it."? What's a cranky, fat, be-zitted woman with a very patient husband to do?

In Quilting News...

So, last week I had this bright idea about something that I was gonna do that would be so funny, and it involved making a quilt, so I made the quilt in, like, one day (it was very simple), but then realized that I had made it way too big to use the way I wanted to, so I ended up just using it for free motion quilting practice. I have been stippling the living crap out of everything and it's a fairly acceptable way of getting a quilt done, but I know myself, and I am not going to be content with that for long. I need to learn how to control a large quilt in my machine and get some other designs under my belt.

I have a pretty good set-up for my machine, with a table to the left and one behind the actual sewing table:

This gives good support to the quilt and I highly recommend this if you are struggling with your FMQ-ing (and thanks are due, of course to Leah Day, who taught me to do this). I would love, love, love to replace my sewing table with the Gidget table that Leah sells because it comes with special acrylic inserts for where your machine rests, so you have a smooth, flat surface that is even with the table. Even though the needle plate on my machine is even with the table, the bed of the machine itself is curved, creating a lip in the table and the quilt does sometimes get hung up on that. I've learned to work around it, but the flat surface would be nice. Sadly, it's $245, and that means I can either have that or electricity for another month. I'll have to think about it.

I marked off 8.5" squares on the quilt and chose a design from Leah's library called Matrix. I decided I would do every other square in this pattern and then choose another for the ones in between, maybe something loopy or more flowery. Now I think that 8.5 inches is too large an area to work in, and I would go with 5 or 6 inches next time. The effect so far is kind of neat, even though it looks like trolls attacked my quilt with thread when you look at it up close.

I think it might end up being fairly interesting when it's all done, and I may even try something similar again.

I'm glad that with quilting, there's always something to challenge me, always more techniques to learn and farther to progress. Otherwise, I'd just be a cranky, fat, be-zitted, frigid woman with a lot of bad quilts lying around. And that would be awful!

Friday, February 3, 2012

As opposed to an Irregular Blogger, naturally

So, the real reason for all this furious posting is that I took a gander at my blog archive and noticed that I made fewer posts in 2011 than in the year I started blogging, and I started in July of that year. That's just sad. Of course, I had the excuse that I got sucked into the whole GenQ thing last year, and I am still being, that project and will be even more over the next few months. But before GenQ started I wanted to revitalize this site and get back to posting with some sort of regularity, and I decided with this new year that I would, no matter what else I happened to have on my plate at the same time. I will probably fail miserably, but what you have seen over the last several days is the beginnings of my attempt to be a Regular Blogger once again.

Having been able to reconfigure the look of the blog so that the posts are wider and I can use larger photographs has helped a lot with my enthusiasm for blogging again. However, I may regret that after what I have to show you today.

My older daughter, Harper, is, like a lot of kids, totally enthusiastic about EVERYTHING...for about five seconds. She will lay at my feet, begging and pleading for her own sewing machine, yet when I let her sew something, she gets tired after about three seams and has to go lie down with some Nutter Butters and an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place to recover. Then I wait three or four months and it all starts again.

Now, as I've mentioned ad nauseam, I have been a bit under the weather recently and this has meant that both girls have not had as much mommy time as they are used to. So, last week, when school was closed for two days due to Stick It To Working Parents Right After Christmas Break Teacher Training Sessions, and Harper dug out one of my graph paper pads and my colored pencils, I knew I probably was not getting out of participating in a Harper Project. This was her design:

The colors didn't scan exactly right, but that is supposed to be purple, pink and orange. Since we would end up working with triangles, Harper "elected" to have me do the actual construction while she acted in a purely supervisory capacity. So I appointed her Head Designer and Secretary of Snacks while I took over as Lead Contractor and Director of Milk Pouring (she still spills sometimes).

We decided to make it a mini quilt and calculated how big it could be if we used fat quarters. Harper chose the fats from my stash and decided on red thread for the quilting. She preferred a meander to any kind of straight line quilting, and chose a lovely teal blue for the binding.  Please note that I cannot be held responsible for any seizures or other catastrophic neurological events caused by viewing the following pictures:

"My eyes! My eyes!"

And thus endeth my spate of creativity. I have no projects currently in the works, so if my posting continues, we're going to have to talk about something other than quilting. So next week, it might either be the story of how my college boyfriend took me camping during our sophomore year and almost got us arrested or maybe a video of me demonstrating Shit Quilters Say (suggestions welcome).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A willy nilly post from my twisted little heart

Yep, another post. I have no idea either. I guess it's all the free time this stupid illness has afforded me, and who knows whether I'll be able to keep it up (odds are: no) but I'm enjoying it while it lasts. Even if I keep having to clean bits of lung tissue off my computer screen.

That damn Flippy Lip quilt, or whatever the hell I'm going to call it, should have been enough to keep me occupied last week, but no, I had to sign up for the GenQ Valentine swap. And I didn't exactly sign up for it. I said that if we ended up with an odd number of participants and we desperately needed one more to be able to match up that last individual with a swap partner then, yes, I would participate, and I got the word that my services would indeed be required just about the same time that I started to get sick.

I saw that my swap partner lived in the same city as one of my my GenQ cohorts, so I asked her (the GenQ cohort) if she was acquainted with her and she was. They are in a guild or mini-group together, and the cohort was kind enough to inform me that this individual was a bit conservative in her tastes and so perhaps I should not send anything festooned with penises. AS IF I WOULD. Geez, just because I have some fun here on my own personal space doesn't mean I just send that shit out to unsuspecting people all willy nilly (heh, heh, heh: "willy"). Give me a little credit for being an actual adult who doesn't go around flipping off cops and flashing little old men because she has no self control. I haven't done either of those things in months.

So for a week I laid in bed and worried about what the hell I was going to make, particularly after losing a week to Marburg 2: Electric Boogaloo. I decided that a mini quilt was my best option, since I don't know bupkiss about making cards and I couldn't imagine what else might be appropriate. If I wanted something heart-y I figured I could either go with applique or paper piecing and since applique can take a while, depending on the complexity, and, knowing me, I'd choose something akin to building a particle accelerator out of novelty fabric, I went with paper piecing.

I hadn't actually done any paper piecing since I made Alexander last year:

But I figured if I did it once, I could do it again. I went to the same place where I got the pattern for Alexander, because I remembered her having some interesting heart designs and I chose her Twisting Spiral Heart pattern. I love getting patterns by email. When I can buy Godiva key lime truffles via email and have them appear in my hand in mere minutes, I will die happy.

I wish I had some great story for you about how hard it was to put this together, but I don't. It was super easy and I really enjoyed making it. God, how fucking boring is that?

Quilting it scared the living daylights out of me and at first I only had the large border areas outside the heart quilted and I was going to leave the rest alone. But it needed the texture throughout the entire background, and even though I cannot control fabric under a needle very well at all, I held my breath and went for it. And it worked! I quilted in some itty bitty spaces and didn't end up lurching over into the areas I was trying to avoid. I'm starting to wonder if Mucinex has brain-focussing side effects they're not telling us about.

AND I have another mini-quilt that I made at Harper's request I hope to show you later this week, if she ever picks out a binding for it. It is her own design and it is totally fabulous, if you think royal purple, bright orange, and hot pink with red thread for quilting is fabulous, and why wouldn't you? I'm praying she goes for lime green for the binding so it can fry every possible neural circuit between my retina and my brain. I don't like to do anything halfway.