Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food for thought

I've been reading a great book about the history of blogging, and it has occurred to me that perhaps I should be a little more circumspect when writing about, oh, my family, my employers, the people who are giving me my first break in publishing. Wouldn't do to have the new corporate overlords get pissy 'cuz I had a snarky little post about 'em, now would it?

Thus the deleted post. In a few years, when I am the maven of a quilting media empire, I will take to the internets to dish about all the people I had to step on on my way to the top. That should make up for it.

(Oh, and the article will be in the Oct./Nov. issue, NOT the Sept. issue. Another little oopsie yesterday. But all good! Yay corporate overlords!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Do you dare?

So, I found myself with nothing to sew all of a sudden. Well, okay, that's not exactly true. I have something to work on, and by "work on" I mean "disassemble with the seam ripper." That Birthday Presents quilt I was so full of myself over? Hideous. It started off great, and every block came together nicely, but the colors in some instances are just so garish. The book, Take Two and Add a Few, says that one way to make a multi-color quilt work is to use every color from the color wheel except one. So, I chose to use blue, purple, green, yellow, and orange, but not red, which was exactly what they had done with the sample quilt in the book. But where they had lovely batiks, I had these marbles and, well, the yellow and orange were too bright and there are some blocks that look like some sort of warning flags, like something you'd use to wave at airplanes to keep them from landing in radioactive toxic waste. So, I tried to assemble the quilt anyway, thinking perhaps it would look better all together, but it didn't. I only pieced the rows, so now I'm going to take those apart, donate the ugly blocks to the local chapter of Blind Pilots of America, and just make a wall hanging or a doll quilt or something with the rest.

So I could have done that, but ripping seams makes my eyes burn. I bought a pattern online for a little top that I wanted to make for my friend's baby girl, but I soon realized that the author of the pattern is some kind of religious nut, and apparently intends for users to pray to God for the knowledge required to put the fool thing together. Had to chuck that one, of course - God tends to smite people when they use the word "cocksucker" in their prayers.

Therefore, I had no choice but to make the skirt. Not wanting to use any of my good fabric, in case it turned out badly, I hit Jo Ann again and got a polka dot print that I thought might look cute with orange shoes, in case it turned out well.

So, I took my measurements and decided to go with a size 18. This is because, despite my girth, things like this always end up too big, so I went one size down from what I thought I should do. And, I figured, the elastic waist would be forgiving as well. See, my belly is really big, like 6 months pregnant big, disproportionate to the rest of me, so when I get things that fit my pot, the rest is baggy. Anyway, the upshot is a 20 might have been better. As it is, it is not really the elastic that is holding it up, but how snug the yoke is around my baby-stretched fat. Even so, it's quite comfortable, though it does emphasize my lack o' abs.

It was also not too hard to make. Granted, the pieces kinda came out looking like I hacked them out with a butter knife and my teeth, but I managed to make it work. It's not like you have to tilt your head to make it look even.

So, please understand that by viewing the following photograph you are agreeing to incur any damage to eyesight or mental health that may result and that you waive all right to call a lawyer and try to sue me or otherwise flame me because I TOLD YOU SO:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Saving face(ing)

So, um, yeah. Interfacing. Kind of a pain in my ass. But I think perhaps I'm using the wrong kind.

I made this today:

I used Pellon 808 Craft Fuse, which is apparently meant for industrial and military applications, and not, you know little sissy Hello Kitty purses. The good news is that my babysitter, for whom this is intended, will be able to deflect bullets, should any come her way.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thank you.

Thank you for all the kind words during my momentary (I promise) crisis of faith. And thank you for buying my t-shirt. I recently received a commission check for $73, and while it would have been most appropriate to buy fabric or liquor, I decided to indulge an old passion I have neglected since the kids came along.

I got myself these babies:

(I got one pair in red and one pair in orange - I jsut didn;t want to take two pictures of my feet.) Comfortable and sturdy enough for my klutzy self. Jimmy Choos they ain't, but they are the most stylish footwear I've owned in years.

But now I need clothes to go with them. All I've worn in the last 5 years are stretch pants and Old Navy v-neck t-shirts. When I originally purchased my sewing machine last year, my goal had been to make myself clothes, not quilts. I soon determined that I am too fat and shapeless to wear anything other than my fat chick uniform, and I hate cutting out patterns anyway, so I took up quilting. But, even though 20 pounds may not be enough weight loss to warrant it, I just bought this pattern:

I just want to wear a swingy skirt and cute shoes again, even if I have to destroy a perfectly good pattern to do it. If I manage to succeed in making something wearable (which I doubt - my measurements and the way clothes fit me have nothing whatsoever to do with one another, so this will either turn out to be a tourniquet or a potato sack) I may post an actual photograph of myself. But don't hold your breath. My lawyer may ultimately advise against it due to the potential for dozens of "mental torture" lawsuits.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On humor and bitchiness

Oh, I have been in quite the peevish mood lately. My workload has eased since we just put out a double issue, which means we get to kick back a bit for the month of July (thus my recent productivity, quilt-wise). But my babysitter has been gone much of that time, and my youngest child has been sick twice (and I sick once) and my husband is maniacally trying to meet a major deadline for work on Friday, and has become kind of unbearable to be around. In the meantime, we have made the decision to start sending our youngest to daycare starting in August, which means that, starting late August/early September, I will have my days to myself again, free to devote to work, housework, writing, and, of course, quilting.

This decision has been so difficult for me, and at one point I just cried for over an hour, feeling that I was abandoning my child, pushing her away from me to achieve my own selfish ends. Intellectually, I know that the decision was based on many factors, my own needs being just some of them. She has been home with me since birth, and she is now at an age where she loves me beyond all measure and wants to be with me 24/7, but at the same time is trying to be independent and separate and so butts heads with me all day over issues such as which shoe to put on first or the exact spot on the floor where she wants me to sit. Her sister was in daycare from the age of 4 months on until she went to pre-school at age 4, and I am convinced that the interaction with other kids and other adults was very, very good for her. And I am convinced this will be good for Devon as well, but I still can't shake the fear that it will cause her some sort of irreparable psychological damage.

On top of this, I was reading a much-anticipated book, It Sucked, And Then I Cried, by Heather Armstrong of Dooce fame. As is the case with many blogger books, it is a re-written, re-edited compendium of blog posts which recounted her battle with depression during and after her first pregnancy. As someone who has been through post-partum depression herself, I have always taken some comfort in Heather's story and I have been a follower of her online work for several years. It would not be exaggerating to say that Heather Armstrong is one of the reasons I became a blogger and decided that it was perfectly okay to write in my own snippy, snarky voice.

So, I was really looking forward to reading the book, but as I plowed through each chapter, I realized that I was NOT enjoying the book AT ALL. I mean, I wanted, several times in fact, to take the book and throw it against the wall. I wanted to tell her to shut up already about your swollen feet, like you are the only person who ever had a baby? GOD.

It really just pissed me off in deep, visceral ways. She exaggerates everything about her pregnancy, about her size and ungainliness and swelling and difficulty urinating, in chapter after chapter of, well, endless bitching. By the time she gets to the point where she has both a newborn and a mental illness that needs treatment in a facility, I as a reader felt like her crippling anxiety was just more bitching. There is nothing in the book that makes her seem like a warm, vibrant, loving individual, which I am quite sure she really is, and so her breakdown seems (and I emphasize "seems" because I do know that this isn't actually the case - I'm just criticizing the mechanics of the telling of it) like just a consequence of a life of incessant negativity.

Reading this, and being so disappointed, kind of forced me to take a look at my own writing and to wonder if I am in danger of falling into the same trap. It has occurred to me, and upon further reflection I think this is true, that what is funny in a blog post, even if the blogger posts similar content fairly often, is not funny at length. when I take a minute out of my day to read about Heather's new baby, and she says that little Marlo doesn't cry, but instead yells, "pot-bellied, weathered by years of tragedy and illness and unemployment kind of yelling. Drunk on scotch and just got home from the coal mine yelling," it makes me guffaw out loud and once again wish I could be that funny and clever. But a whole book of the same kind of "my kid is so difficult" exaggerations just sounds mean.

So you'd think my conclusion would be that my bitching can be amusing on the blog, but I should just come up with a new plan when the inevitable (right?) book deal comes through. But, no. I may work myself around to that conclusion eventually, because I can't really think that I am going to stop complaining about my incompetence, if I am truly honest with myself. But at least I can go through a period of appropriate reflection and meditation in the subject, to make myself feel better.

Thus, right now I am thinking a lot about humor and the writing of it, both online and off, and wondering where the lines between satire and hyperbolic whining fall, and if if I have a place in that that I can make my own, that I can be comfortable with. Lord knows I have exaggerated my own incompetence here simply because it is funny to me to do so, and it helps me to get over the lazy perfectionism that has kept me from pursuing so many things in my life. David Sedaris has done the same thing, though not about his lousy quilting skills and in a much more talented and wonderful way than I ever will, and apparently everybody was taking him seriously all those years. They truly thought that he intended each and every crazy story to be taken as fact, as reporting, and when it turned out that he was exaggerating, people were shocked, shocked, that it wasn't all gospel truth.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing this blog has become a bigger enterprise for me than just yapping about my sewing misadventures. It may have opened a door, a small door right now - but still a door, into further writing, and with the time that is opening up before me this fall, I have an opportunity to, in the second half of my life, finally do some of the things I have long wanted to do. Like write a book.

I just don't want to fuck it up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reports of my suckitude have been exaggerated

As I tried to express a few posts ago, the Labyrinth quilt top which I recently completed was particularly frustrating for me because I was so sure that my skills had improved to the point where that particular pattern should not have been difficult at all. While it was more intricate than anything I had done to that point, it was still rectangles and squares, and should have been, if not a breeze, then at least a task that would not make me run to the computer to look up new and ever more scandalous curse words.

And, as you may have seen in the pictures, things did not go so well. Fortunately, I had an inkling about how to make up for the errors as I went along, and the whole thing turned out pretty good, if somewhat frightening on the backside. I did some experiments with the leftover fabric, and I can say definitively that my pieces were cut perfectly and the black fabric was a waste of money. The solid black fabric was so poor that it warped and distorted with every stitch, and further with pressing, thus creating all of my problems with those blocks. And while, yes, the result looks good from the front, it will probably have structural problems and may fall apart if washed or used as a quilt should be. It may remain in my pile of unfinished projects indefinitely as a result.

Months ago, I had started this quilt:

From The Bitchy Stitcher

and put it aside as I got distracted by other projects. Once the cursed Labyrinth quilt was completed, I picked this one up again and finished it in a matter of days.

It is very nearly perfect, at least by my standards, which are admittedly quite loose.

Then I decided to tackle another quilt, a bit similar to the Labyrinth, that I found in this book:

It's the one on the cover and it's called "Birthday Presents." There's a lovely multi-colored version inside, made with batiks, and I wanted to try it with just tonal marbled fabrics, in similar jewel tones. These kinds of bright, almost solid quilts were what I imagined making when I started this venture almost 1 year ago. I had some marble fabric that seemed sturdy (at least it held up in a couple tests I did) and I had flat quarter packs in values of blue, green, purple, and yellow/orange. I chose a purple and a blue to start, and cut my strips as I have been doing, and set about to put the first block together.

It was pretty late that evening when I started sewing, but when I saw what was happening, I had to keep going, had to finish the block and see if the magic continued. It did.

Every seam aligned perfectly. It was like when Ikea furniture comes together without having to get out the rubber mallet. I didn't have to ease stitch anything, and furthermore, everything ended up the right size. I didn't have tails hanging over the ends because I had not done my seam correctly or had cut imprecisely, or both. It was the loveliest thing I've ever seen come out of my sewing machine.

I stayed up late again the next night so I could get all the fabric cut, and then I began sewing in earnest, whipping out 5 more blocks in a day and a half.

And every one has been as good as the first. My seams are accurate, my points all pointing where they should. No problems, no issues, no frustrations other than wishing I could just sew all day, every day. Which is not exactly fodder for comedy, unfortunately.

So, if this unbridled improvement continues, I may have to close down this humble blog, as I am generally more motivated to write about my failures than I am my successes (there may be a topic for some future therapy session in that). Or perhaps I will rise to the challenge and manage to eke humor out of mundane competence. Either way, I am feeling very, very content.

I can quilt.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Almost definitely too good to be true.

Has anyone seen this yet?

Obviously, since it would appear to be the answer to my prayers and is relatively affordable to boot, it is certain to be a piece of crap. If anyone has seen or used one of these things, chime in!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Not half bad. Not half good, either.

It is done.

Miraculously, every seam of every block came together nicely, so I didn't end up with some sort of wonky, ease-stitched monstrosity, as I had assumed I would. If I were to present this at, say, a quilt guild meeting, there would probably be mass fainting and my membership would be revoked, and I would henceforth be known as The Quilter Who Must Not Be Named — but to the untrained eye, it probably looks pretty fucking brilliant. Hell, I'm impressed, and I know how poorly it was actually put together.

My wonderful readers had lots of great advice for why everything was turning out so funky in my piecing. Unfortunately, I was already doing many of the things they suggested I try (except the freezer paper thing - which I'm going to try on another project). I think that the black fabric I used was pretty crappy and seemed to distort just by breathing on it. Yeah, that's it. It was the fabric. And the humidity. And aliens.

And as for yesterday's announcement, I decided to ping the managing editor over at Quilter's Home yesterday to say, "What's up? Are you printing the stuff I sent you?" And she wrote back to say that she was no longer working at the magazine but that she knew one piece had been accepted and slated for the October issue. Now I've emailed Mark and another editor to say, "What's up? Let's do some business." And of course, I've had no response. Sigh.

Now I need to get back to work on this quilt. I don't know why I abandoned it, and now it seems like a lot more fun than what I've been doing the last few weeks. Let's just hope the humidity lets up. And the aliens.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

All signs of advancement have been erroneous

Stupid quilt.

I am so sick of this Labyrinth quilt, but, dammit, I have to keep plowing on and try to finish it, since I'm so close. I got sidetracked by tendonitis in my left wrist over the weekend, and then by a cranky toddler with a sore throat and runny nose, but I was able to get back to it last night.

Now, I am absolutely certain that my rotary cutting skills have improved since I started quilting (almost a year ago!). I have learned how to fold the fabric and square up the ruler, and by all measures, I should be cutting very even, regular strips.

Apparently, this is not the case:

What the fuck? If you look at these strips before they are sewn together, they look perfectly fine. Honestly! Straight and even and, well, okay, perhaps not perfectly on the grain, so maybe a little stretchy, but holy crap!

This is the kind of quilt that I wish I could be doing alongside someone experienced, someone who could watch what I'm doing and be able to tell me the secret thing that will make all the difference. "Oh, honey, no. You can't stand like that when you're cutting strips. You need to point your toes toward each other and squat a little. Stick your butt out juuuuust a bit more... There! Now, sure it hurts, but look how perfectly these pieces sew together. Isn't that worth a little ass cramp?"

I've managed to work around these issues enough that the finished blocks do not actually look that bad from the front (the back, of course, looks like a crime scene) but I haven't had the nerve to try and measure them. It would make sense I suppose to try and square them up, but since there's no straight line any where on them to start from, I can't quite figure out how I would do that. I have 7 more blocks to finish, and then the borders. I have a feeling the finished quilt top will be shaped like a kite, and if so I will string it up and give it to the kids, and go back to piecing charm squares.

Of course, now that I think about it, maybe my problem is that I'm all off balance because I'M LOSING WEIGHT! Today, for the first time in I don't know how long, I was below 180: 179.4 to be exact. When I started this blog I was 197, and lost about 10 pounds in the first few months. This would fluctuate between 184 and 187 as I stopped really trying anymore, but I've gone on diet soda and a regimen of regular meals and portion control, and over the last 2 weeks I've dropped about 4 or 5 more. Now that warmer weather is here, I'm wearing last year's clothes and feeling them just a bit looser than they were, and that is a very nice feeling (except when you keep having to hike your pants up while you walk). So, my quilt may end up rather Lobachevskian, but I will always think of it as The Quilt That Was So Frustrating It Made Me Lose 5 Pounds.