Monday, January 30, 2012

It also needs a name. Maybe the P.S.E.T.

I'm still dying. I won't bore you (much) with the details, but my chest sounds like someone is wadding up a Sun Chips bag every time I breathe and I constantly feel like I can't get quite enough air. Yeah, I've already been scolded by several people that I need to get that shit checked out, like, yesterday, so I will probably be spending today at the doc's, stripping down to my skivvies so she can place an ice cold stethoscope on my chest without undue hindrance from anything that would protect my modesty or keep me, you know, warm.

I discovered long ago that when I am ill or otherwise in pain, sewing is usually the only thing that I can tolerate doing for any length of time. This was not the case while my hand was inflamed or while I was going through the worst of the flu, but right now, even though I feel like a miserable sack of poo (as an old friend of mine used to say), I forget about it while I'm sewing. So I spent most of Saturday finishing up a project that I started several weeks ago and that had been on hold during my bout with la grippe.

Early last summer I started collecting Anna Maria Horner and Joel Dewberry fat quarters. I was aiming for a collection with a particular sort of boho look to it, and these fit what I wanted. I would have added more from other collections if I had found anything that seemed to fit, but by the time I had all of these, I thought I better stop before things got too out of hand.

I had seen several examples of Mock Cathedral Windows online and I had been eager to try it, and I had also been looking for a project that would employ my boho fat quarter collection. I wanted to go for a really super scrappy look, and see if I could make that sort of thing work.

I didn't really see any good way to test the layout ahead of time (translation: I was too lazy to try and come up with a way to test it out ahead of time) so I did what I usually do and just jumped in. I bought an Olfa rotary circle cutter and started whacking.

I cut two circles from each fabric and set aside one pile to be the tops and one pile to be the bottoms (or doms and subs, if I'm feeling kinky). That way, I figured each fabric would make one appearance as the middle of the circles and one as the "petals" (and also the squares on the back. Of course, it helps if you keep track of which pile is which and don't move them all over the sewing room because you get a big ol' bug up your butt to start organizing shit. But, whatever. The original principle was sound and that's all that matters. Execution, shmexecution.

I layered two fabric circles with a batting circle and sewed them together. Turned out that despite my handy, dandy circle cutter, I managed to cut everything all wonky. But wonky is cool, right? It's what all the kids are doing now. So I did what I always do and fudged it and figured it would all work out in the end. Or I'd give it to the kids.

So, then I had a nice pile of fabric frisbees:

Then came the fun of sewing them together. And it was fun. Really. That's not just the Dayquil talking.

The problems came when trying to sew down the petals, or flaps, or lips or whatever the hell you call them. Sometimes everything would go beautifully, and then the next one would bunch up and the quilt would seem to lurch under the needle and I'd end up with something all fucked up and wrinkly. But there was no way in hell I was ripping stitches out of this one. However it tuned out was the way it was gonna stay and if it looked like ass I would just pretend I bought it off some hippie out of the back of her VW van and then I'd make up some story about how I had to air it out for days to get the weed stink out of it and how it may not have worked because I still smell colors every time I get near it. So, you know, win-win either way.

I finished the whole thing Sunday morning and dragged it and my coughing carcass outside to photograph it for posterity.

I can't decide how I feel about it. I like it better now than I did while it was being a little bitch. And everything looks better hanging from my patented Front Porch Quilt Photography Apparatus.

Maybe it needs a cute kid.

David is all freaked out that the back just looks like this and not a reverse image of the front.:

It's also a very small quilt, like baby size, but I am no longer giving away baby quilts since no one seems to actually like them, so this may be a throw or a picnic mat or a Psychotropic Substance Enhancement Tool. Not that I would know anything about that. Anymore.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In the interstice...

...between the hand thing and the flu, I did manage to work more on my Organize The Sewing Room Project. After the fabric shelves, the next thing to tackle was the closets. See, this house was remodeled before we moved in and the owners decided that instead of having one large and two small bedrooms upstairs, they would combine the two smaller bedrooms into one massive master bedroom. At first, we made that larger space the girls' room, but after I started sewing and realized that the lighting in the basement was going to blind me and possibly drive me to a vitamin D deficiency-induced suicide and that the kids only wanted to hang out wherever I was anyway and not in their own designated area, I decided to make that big room upstairs mine. Because it combined two bedrooms, it has three, count 'em, three closets, two of which I use for my sewing stuff and the other for bins of kid toys and bedding stuff. The sewing closets have just been stuffed with haphazard piles, to the point that if I want to put something in one of them, I just open the door a crack, toss the thing in, slam the door closed, and run.

So, for closet number one, I bought a set of metal shelves and had a grand old time assembling them because it involved a lot of whacking things with a rubber mallet. I had to also purchase a rubber mallet, and now that I have one, I don't know how I ever lived without it. Our house is furnished entirely from Ikea, so we had to assemble every damn thing we own and somehow we did this without a rubber mallet. Then, the weekend right before the flu hit, we bought a table and drawer set for the girls to use for homework and art projects and this time we had the magic mallet and I imagine that is what Orville and Wilbur felt like when the wheels left the ground for the first time.

I had already tricked the kids into helping me organize my scraps into colors a while back, but I also needed to do the same to my fat quarters and once again they were happy to assist. However, I had to re-fold every single fat quarter I own in order to get them into the bins I bought, but somehow this activity did not induce any sort of repetitive stress injury. I also found some flat bins that looked like they'd be good for certain works in progress and UFOs and such, and it was looking pretty good:

Except you see how the second shelf has only 10 bins? And how the top has 4? And how the bins are all different on the bottom shelf? THIS WAS UNACCEPTABLE. Seriously, every time I would look at this, my eye would twitch because of the lack of symmetry. But then I got the flu and I couldn't do anything about it and that was absolutely the worst thing about being bedridden for over a week: the fact that I had an unfinished, asymmetrical organization project and I couldn't futz with it.

And it's not like I'm anal about everything. My house looks like a fucking dive all the time because I have neither the time nor the patience to keep everything neat as a pin, and so I live with a great deal of clutter and chaos. Tissue missed the trash can? At least it's near the trash can. Where should you put that very important piece of paper that we will need in order to have money to eat/send the kids to school/continue to own a properly registered vehicle? Why right on top of that big pile of paper that is leaning precariously close to the stove!  Where are your shoes? Well, where were you standing when you last threw them across the room?

But give me a project and I must complete it to my exacting specifications, and until I do so I am obsessed with achieving my desired result. So, once I had the energy to leave the house, I immediately hit Target and scooped up the rest of what I needed.

Oh, thank goodness. That's better. Except, they didn't have any more bins with blue lids so I had to put two with white lids on the middle shelf. And the large bins I got for the bottom won't fit three across so, I have to use the smaller bins for that space, but they don't fill the space quite enough and -

Excuse me. I need to go spend some time on First World Problems and then see if my rubber mallet can do anything about this eye twitch.

UPDATE: Apparently I am not the only person afflicted with this debilitating condition. Kat and I Plead Quilty, this is for you:

Friday, January 20, 2012

What happens when I can't blog for two and a half weeks

I should know better than to make plans, to attempt to work out a list—even if only a mental one—of goals for the year, because the gods which control such matters clearly have it in for me and have conspired over the years to sabotage all my efforts at self-improvement. Obviously, because despite the demonic exterior I am human, one of those goals is always to lose weight and exercise more. And it's not like I go crazy and do more than I'm capable of and get injured in the process. No, the thing that happens—and there's always a thing that happens and thus the sabotage—rarely has anything to do with the actual exercise I've been performing.

We spent Christmas at my mom and dad's place in Tennessee, as we've discussed, and while we were there there was a lot of talk about What To Do With All The Stuff. See, my parents have accumulated a TON of stuff over the years and then they built this lovely house in the middle of nowhere to hold it all, then bought MORE stuff - and now they have realized that they are not going to be able to take care of a ginormous house forever and so stuff has got to go. Unfortunately, they did not also provide for a way for me and my siblings to house all the stuff, even split three ways, so we have to be circumspect about what we can take.

Now, in one of the umpteen closets in the rooms where we all sleep when we visit (a closet that I have peeked into frequently because I needed to turn the light on inside it to use as a nightlight so I could make it from the bed to the bathroom at midnight without knocking myself out cold on something) there was a box of fabrics, all neatly folded, that were clearly Laurel Burch. And that box had been in that same spot, untouched, FOREVER. Since I had already caught my parents sneaking out to measure our car to see how much of their stuff they could sneak in and get rid of,  I figured that this was one of those rare times when asking, "Can I have that?" would not be rude.

When I told my mom about the box, she at first didn't realize there was such a box or that there was any fabric down there. I was pretty sure she was gonna go, "You mean I've got good shit down there? Hell, no you can't have it! I'm hoarding it for a reason!" But instead she said, "You can have it all," and even started pulling out fabric from the shelves right next to her.  So I went from hoping for a box of Laurel Burch to agreeing to house my mother's entire stash.

Not that I mind. I was thrilled, frankly, but when I went into that closet, and started exploring I discovered that there was a hell of a lot more there than I had realized.

This doesn't even include what Mom had in her room. I was only able to bring home a fraction of all this (I did snag the Laurel Burch and Kaffe Fassett though, just in case she tried to change her mind) so I lugged all this up to her room and ordered a bunch of flat rate boxes from the post office so she can ship the rest to me a bit at a time.

So we get home and I now have all this new yardage and no place to put it. The last time I rearranged my sewing room, I put all my fabric in an old dresser/changing table that hasn't left the room because it's too big to move and there's nowhere else to put it anyway. It was never a good system, but it kept everything out of sight, which seemed good, because this was the sight:

Not horrible, but not really user friendly. I had some shelves in a corner of the room that I had rejected for use as fabric storage because there was too much space between the shelves and I am not the sort of person that can build my own, so they had been used for books and magazines. But then I found some double cube things at Target and figured out that by not attaching the sides I could make them fit as inserts to my shelves and BOOM! I now had a perfect place for yardage.

Now, in order to make all the yardage fit properly, I had to re-fold it and It needed to be folded consistently. So I took an old acrylic ruler I never use that was about six inches wide and used that to sort of roll the fabric around (I got the method from this tutorial. No it's not dirty - I'm too sick to dickroll you today, sorry). This required a lot of ruler flipping, and apparently, this was too much for me.

I managed in just a couple days of fabric flipping to induce tendonitis in the base joints of my pinky and ring fingers on my right hand (the dominant hand, naturally). And Holy. Crap. it hurt like a motherfucker. And so for days I couldn't type, couldn't sew, couldn't cook. And I sure as shit couldn't fold fabric AND THERE WAS STILL FABRIC TO BE FOLDED.

I get very squirrelly and cranky when I can't do things and that is why this post is merely descriptive and not particularly funny. The tendonitis has, for the most part gone away, though there remains some residual soreness, just to remind me, I suppose, of the Perils of Planning. But no sooner did the tendonitis go away, than the flu arrived.

You know how you get a stuffy nose and a sore throat, maybe a cough, and you feel kind of icky for a day or two and you tell people you have the flu because, well, it's flu season, and you feel crappy so, ergo, its the flu. Yeah, that's not the flu. The flu smacks you so fucking hard that in the midst of it you smack your head and go, "Oh, yeah. THIS is the flu!" Every inch of your body hurts. Scalp. Teeth. Earlobes. The soles of your feet protest as you walk across the floor. Then there's the chills. Oh, Christ, the chills. You get so bone-deep cold, and you start to shiver uncontrollably (and look this symptom up and the advice all says, add an extra blanket or sweater to warm the patient) and all the sweaters and quilts in the house do nothing to help. And often the chills come when you are lying down and you desperately want to get up to go find that extra sweater or blanket, but getting up makes the chills worse so you lie there, freezing and shivering, until the chills finally subside and are replaced by fever and sweating and hoping for death. And through it all you are so tired that even reading is too much of a drag on your limited energy and so all you do is stare into space and hope to sleep.

So once again, I have been unable to do ANYTHING. Once again it seems as though the entire month of January is becoming a complete wash and despite my hopes to rev up this poor old blog and to reorganize my sewing room and get started on all my writing projects that I've put off for so long, I'm just sitting in a pile of used tissues and praying for sweet, sweet death. This is the first time in about six days that I've had the energy to type anything longer than a facebook status, so I suppose that means I'm on the upswing, but it probably also means I'm going to have to spend the rest of the day in bed to recover. I also know that this is one of those situations where many in the world have it worse off than me, and I admit this freely and without hesitation.

But I'm still miserable and I still feel sorry for myself.

So, to end this pathetic post on some kind of up note, I'll share with you something else I found in that closet. The first quilt my mom ever made. This baby is all hand pieced and hand quilted. No, I didn't get to take that, but finding it was like finding gold. I'd love to get it here so I can hang it from my patented Front Porch Quilt Photo Apparatus and get some really good shots of it, because a short husband and an eight-year-old weren't quite cutting it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I also have a name for my upcoming Chinese buffet restaurant

We just got back from a week at my parents' place in Tennessee, and are slowly readjusting to life in civilization again. I believe I've told you that my parents live in the middle of Fucking Nowhere, Tennessee, and it takes a half a tank of gas (well, half a tank when you drive a Matchbox car like we do) just to hit the nearest decent-sized town for groceries or other retail needs. Fortunately, their house is like a spa, particularly the showers. I now have established a deep, meaningful relationship with their downstairs shower, and David is fully aware and has given his consent as long as I don't use all the hot water, which apparently isn't possible because the hot water appears to be infinite in that place and thus my affection.

And God bless Tennessee, truly. I do love that place, and there is aways a moment where we cross the border and I know I'm home again. Oh, sure the landscape is the familiar rocky hills I grew up with and the accent is sweet and twangy, but what really makes it feel like home are the billboards. Since we come in from Virginia to the east, we pass close to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and if you know anything about those places you'll know that they are the craziest tourist trap towns in the entire southern U.S. and much of the, um, attractions are devoted to, how shall I say, the indigenous culture of the east Tennessee hills. Hillbillies, in other words. Even when I was growing up and we would vacation there every year, back before Dolly opened her Wood and before the place really took off, there was a miniature golf course called Hillbilly Golf (it's still there, but apparently they're too hillbilly for a website). Now they have those big dinner arena things, like Medieval Times, but with feuding lumberjacks. Every other billboard for miles was for Lumberjack Feud. And then there was one for moonshine! Somebody got the bright idea to legally distill and sell corn liquor. IN MASON JARS. And I'm cursing like a—well, like me—as we pass these magnificent roadside advertisements because I can't just whip out my camera and get a picture of them for you. I love it that I get hate mail when I make fun of my redneck brethren, and yet Tennesseeans are exploiting it themselves left and right.

I couldn't fit the pickled pig's feet in the shot. No lie.

But the ones that really get me are the billboards that truly show that Tennessee is God's country. You know, a place where good, decent, church-going folk live and raise families the moral way, never letting their teachers mention the word "gay" in or near a school because all you have to do is hear the word and suddenly all you want to do is find the nearest same-sex individual and go to town on them. Everybody knows that - it's in the Bible. And down there, in the land of the righteous, you can see tons of huge, in-your-face ads for guns and porn. GUNS, GUNS, GUNS—WORLD'S LARGEST SELECTION OF UNNECESSARILY DESTRUCTIVE WEAPONRY. WHY KILL A DEER WHEN YOU CAN ANNIHILATE IT? And then 100 yards later, ADULT WONDERLAND—WORLD'S LARGEST POON AND WANG EMPORIUM.

Oh, and fireworks. I'm not sure how that fits in with the guns and porn, but apparently Tennesseans love fireworks as much as high-powered firearms and girl-on-girl action.

And then I saw the most wondrous thing of all. Not one, but TWO billboards for quilt shops. Now, perhaps in other parts of the country this is a normal thing, but I never thought of any quilt shop as being a big enough business to even afford a gigantic roadside sign, much less be able to benefit much from it. But there they were.

And then it hit me. When I retire, and we move back to the hills of my ancestral home, I will need something to do to keep me busy. And I have the perfect enterprise, one that can't possibly fail to succeed in that environment. And then, as I was fantasizing about this, I realized that in the recent name game we had here for giveaway day, I had the perfect name. So, in about 20 years, you'll all be able to find me in Tennessee. Just look for the billboards.

P.S. Katherine, aka the real Streaker Beaver, email me. I'm sending you the book and calendar.