Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sewn Hats: A Review

Note: Back a long, long time ago, way before I started working on GenQ, I had a whole bunch of plans for this blog, one of which was to occasionally do book and product reviews. But, you know, good ones, not just rah, rah cheery ones so that people will advertise and send me free stuff. I am trying to renew my commitment to keeping this blog alive and in that spirit, I give you my first book review.

I've pretty much decided that all patterns for all things should be written by people who have advanced degrees in some scientific field. I am fairly sure that this is the key to me not wanting to take the author of any particular pattern and smack him or her around for a while for writing such incomprehensible gobbledygook. When I was a new quilter, I stumbled and cursed my way through a lot of bad patterns, and the difficulty in interpreting poorly worded instructions kept me from attempting more complicated things, even when I was probably ready to do so. Fortunately, this is often what I wrote about and managed to turn that into a minor career as a quilting humorist, so THANK YOU, CRAPPY PATTERN WRITERS.

I had also avoided attempting to make clothing, except for the odd skirt that required only straight lines and some elastic in a tube. But sleeves? Hell, no. Zippers? There was no way anybody could possibly explain—with, you know, words and stuff—how to sew in a zipper. People who made things with zippers were clearly giving it to their moms to do for them and then lying about it on their blogs.

And then I discovered Carla.

Well, to be more specific, I discovered Sis Boom Patterns, which are created by both Jennifer Paganelli and Carla Hegeman Crim. (Carla also has her own line of patterns under the name The Scientific Seamstress.) I made the Patricia Tunic for me and the Marissa dress for each of my girls. Sleeves! ZIPPERS! And the instructions were so incredibly good, I kind of fell in love. Carla has a degree in molecular biology, and I have become convinced that the rigors of scientific research and writing (and the aptitude for such things) have helped make Carla into the incredible pattern writer she is today.

See, I love clarity, and I have a great deal of respect for anyone who can speak, write, or otherwise convey information in a way that is easy to understand without being overly simplistic. With the Sis Boom patterns, I felt like I had a teacher with me, helping me along and making sure I didn't sew my hand to my face while also letting me know that the techniques I was about to attempt were perfectly doable by anyone who was not completely (or partially, for that matter) drunk. AND I learned to sew zippers. Myself. No mom anywhere.

I have since purchased a bunch of Carla's patterns and more Sis Boom patterns, and when I heard on Facebook that Carla was publishing a book on hats I was SO excited, both for Carla because, yay—book!, but also for me. See, I love hats, but I never buy them because I have a gigantic melon head. Seriously. Hats do not fit me. They sit perched on top of my skull like something Princess Eugenie would wear to the gym. I turn every hat into a sad fascinator.

Sewn Hats has patterns for babies, kids, and adults, and the adult hats fit all the way up to Gigantic Melon. I know this, because she has a very easy-to-read chart that shows where your head circumference fits in the range of sizes that are given for each pattern. (And yes, I measured my head, and it is, apparently, freakishly huge, but is at least actually on the chart. Unlike some of my other parts.) And instead of an envelope crammed with tissue paper pattern pieces, which I despise, you  download a PDF of the project and print them yourself. If the pattern has different sizes, the first page will tell you which pages to print for the size you want. Then, if you want to make the hat again in a different size, you just print out what you need—no more trying to salvage those damn tissues you already cut up. This is pure genius, and is the same way all Carla's individual patterns have been done, but the first time I have ever seen it in a publication. I suppose it's possible that other books have been done this way, but if they have, I'm totally going to ignore it and give Carla all the credit.

The first chapter has a ton of great information about tools and techniques, so don't skip it. I tend to gloss over this kind of section in most books, because it's usually all "I'm going to teach you to sew in 4 pages" and doesn't tell you anything worthwhile, but Carla isn't doing that. This gives you specific info on the stuff you will be using to make these hats (think interfacings, glues, and starch), techniques you might not be familiar with, and tips on reading the patterns themselves.

The patterns are exactly what you would expect, considering the high praise I've already given. This is a curated book, meaning that Carla has her own patterns here but has also gathered patterns from many other people such as Melissa Stramel, Bari J., Betz White, Shelly Figueroa, and many more—but the patterns have all been written and edited and illustrated to be consistent with Carla's style. And that makes me confident about every pattern in the book.

And, oh, the hats are so stinking cute! I apologize for the crappy photography, but the book won't fit on my scanner.

There's every kind of hat you can imagine and several you probably can't. There's cute, pretty, silly, fussy, simple—even a good old do-rag. If you can't find a hat in here you like, well then you are clearly just a soulless hat-hater and no good can come from any association with you.

Just so you know, Carla did give me this book, but I have determined that I will never praise a book on this blog that I don't actually love, so if it had turned out that I hated it, you would never have heard about it at all. I don't give praise lightly, so when I do give it, you know I mean it.

By the way, your ass looks fabulous in that hat.

Monday, November 12, 2012

For lack of anything else to post about...

...I am going to share more of my Market pictures, ones that weren't used on GenQ. Enjoy!

Cool stuff from Tula Pink:

This is going to be sold as a kit with pre-cut hexies!

Can you see the quilted rope around the anchor?

Retro chic is still a thing.

Brights were big at Michael Miller:

See? Retro again. Bet you ten bucks somebody makes an 8-track tape quilt pattern soon.
I really liked these updated Dresden Plate patterns at EZ Quilting:

As usual, Amy Butler's booth was big and beautiful, and usually jammed packed with people. (I scared 'em away for the shots:

And David Butler's booth right next door was tiny (but awesome) and I never saw anyone in it. Except David:

And this was Melody Miller's booth. All that retro chic? Pretty much her doing. But she does it really well.

What shocks me when I go back and look at my pictures is how much I didn't shoot. I still feel shy about it, for some reason, like somebody is gonna go, "Hey, you can't photograph that!" And that is not necessarily an unlikely thing. As I have discovered, Quilt Market is a place where you can easily get a lot of, "Hey, you can't!" We were trying to pick up schedules for Schoolhouse, and the woman handing them out was desperately trying to weed out the undesireables by being as intimidating as possible. I'm surprised we weren't asked to show our papers.

I'm going to try to get a review of Sewn Hats up on Wednesday, and then be sure to come back Friday because I have some begging to do then and you know you don't want to miss that!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I hear Ty Pennington is hosting Extreme Introvert Makeover

I'm just going to say it. I'm going to just say it flat out and damn the consequences. I may be shunned and become a social pariah for the rest of my - OH, WAIT.

I really hate going to Quilt Market.

"But, Megan," you say. "How can you possibly hate meeting your quilting idols, being surrounded by so much eye candy, and receiving the love of GenQ/Bitchy Stitcher fans every day? Have you no soul?"

Yeah, I know. For a lot of people, all of those things are wonderful, and the networking opportunities are endless. I do enjoy looking at the fabrics and patterns and I did meet some really great people. But for the love of all that is good and holy in this world I was just never meant to be put in such close proximity to so many people for so many days in a row. By the end of the first day, I was so done, and I was actually praying for a major gastrointestinal event so that I would have an excuse to lock myself in a room and be alone for more than a minute and a half. I simply do not have the gene/gland/section of medulla oblongata that causes other people to walk into a room that is stuffed wall-to-wall with total and near strangers and go "WHASSUP, MAH BITCHEZ? IT'S PARTY TIME—WHO'S GOT THE EASY CHEESE?" Instead, I just feel a constant sense of dread and unease, and the stress makes me feel constantly ill. Yes, I know it's pathological and weird, but this is what events such as this are like for extreme introverts. (NEXT TIME, ON EXTREME INTROVERTS, MEGAN RESORTS TO HIDING HER HEAD INSIDE HER OWN SHIRT)

This is not to say that I don't like the people I went to Market with. On the contrary, I like them all very much. And I did have some great times with them over the course of the weekend. My roomie Bev must absolutely be my roomie on all future Market trips. I want to be her when I grow up, she is that awesome. She is friends with our editor-in-chief, Melissa, and comes to Markets to help us out in the booth, which she is excellent at. Woman can charm. She used to be a color commentator for car racing for ESPN back when women did NOT do that sort of thing, and I would pretty much give my left nut to see some footage of her work. And Tracy Mooney is just a pure pleasure to be around, despite the fact that she is tall, gorgeous, and built like the proverbial brick shithouse. There are few other people I'd do this with/for:

Nor are there many other people I'd go to a sex-n-hookah shop with when I'm already so tired I can barely see straight. This was directly across the street from our hotel:

A 24-hour smoke and porn shop. Naturally, we had to go. And naturally, when we walked in, another group of quilters was walking out. NO ONE CAN RESIST THE ALLURE OF GIANT DILDOS AND SEX SWINGS AFTER DRINKING ROBERT KAUFMAN'S FREE ALCOHOL.

And I know what your next question is: did I buy anything? Sadly, no. For one thing, I was truly exhausted, and one simply cannot purchase filth without a clear head. Also, the TSA has suddenly started rifling through my checked baggage. When did this start? I've never had my suitcase lock taken off before, never seen one of those "TSA was here" notes tucked into my stuff. I certainly don't need some bored government inspector getting his dirty mitts all over my brand new leather restraints. And, as usual, I just couldn't really afford anything. I mean, I suppose I could have bought some Dick Tarts or something, but yawn—been to that sex shop, bought that.

So, let's see. What were some of the other highlights?

1. Stuff. I know most people come home from Market with way more stuff than I had. For one thing, I couldn't go to Sample Spree (and frankly, Sample Spree is a total mystery to me. Everybody says that they only let certain people in, like the buyers for quilt shops, and then everybody and their grandmother shows up the next day and says how much they bought.). And for another, people just don't give me things. Again, other people? They go to a booth and say, "Hi, I'm from Generation Q Magazine," and suddenly they're all "Oh, my god, here, take some fabric and some books and some patterns and wait lemme look in my purse I might have some mints or an unexpired condom!" But if I go to a booth and say, "Hi, I'm the Creative Director of Generation Q Magazine," I get The Look.  The look that goes, "Uh huh. And I care about this because...?" And I'm lucky to get a post-it note with a website scribbled on it.

Still, I managed to come home with some cool shit. For one thing, I won a collection of Aurifil embroidery thread from Bari J at Schoolhouse, and then I won a set of Christmas embroidery threads from Presencia.

The swag bag from the Fabric 2.0 party was pretty sweet, and also included some magazines (ours included) which I cannot seem to find at the moment:

But the absolute best thing - and right now, for me, there is not much better than embroidery stuff - was this:

Carla Crim is truly one of my idols because her patterns are Just. So. Good. We became acquainted when I reviewed one of her patterns for GenQ and found out that we lived in relative proximity. Sadly, before we could actually meet and hang out, she and her family moved to upstate New York, but in the meantime, she had promised me a copy of her book, and she had one for me at Market! And even without the book, it was a blast to meet her and find out that she really is as cool as you would imagine somebody who is Just. That. Good. would be. She is definitely someone I will look forward to seeing again. (And I'm going to be reviewing this book more in-depth in the next few weeks.)

2. People. I amy not be a people person, but I did have some great moments with actual human beings. I got to meet these two ladies:

Those would be Kelly Biscopink on the right and Andie Johnson on the left, and they have written a new book called Modern Designs for Classic Quilts. I saw their Schoohouse presentation, and then was able to chat with them a bit in our booth later, and they were just very easygoing and funny, and I really hope we get to work with them in the future.

Of course, I saw this freakazoid:

That damn woman spotted me in the hallway during Schoolhouse and actually tackled me. TACKLED. As in ran to me at full speed, jumped on me, and threw us both to the fucking floor. I seriously love her.

And I got to meet the great Sam Hunter live and in the flesh:

Sam has become one of those great friends I've never met (until now, obvs.)—somebody I truly adore and respect whom I have only known through email, facebook, texts, and phone calls. She's also a kick-ass quilt designer. Go buy her stuff.

And there were a few people—not many, mind you, but a few—who stopped by the booth to meet me, and that was just so, so wonderful. I'm sure the reality of meeting me is something of a disappointment, since, you know, the introvert thing, and I just feel so tongue-tied and awkward and I think people expect me to be just the way I write and I can be, but only after I've known you for a long time, not at first, and especially not when I'm tired and overwhelmed and missing my family so much. So if you stopped by, and weren't particularly impressed, blame my faulty genes/glands/medulla oblongata. And if you stopped by—thank you. You made me feel really good.

3. And of course there were the booths and all the fabrics and just the way booths were decorated. Sadly, almost all of my pics were taken for GenQ and I can't use any of them until they have been picked through for the GenQ Market posts this week. And there was so much that I didn't manage to get pictures of, because I was truly overwhelmed by it all.

Still, I came away with even more excitement about my newest obsession: embroidery. I worked on two special projects before I left, so that I could literally display my new obsession on my person at all times:

A cameo! Out of french knots!

This is a cuff bracelet made from wool felt. I drew the vine freehand with a water soluble marker and used a quarter to mark the outline for the flowers/buttholes. These are both projects I hope to perfect and possibly share with you in the future if anybody might be interested. Sadly, no one noticed them, but it's not like they were easy to see. Still, I'm proud of them and I feel like embroidery is going to be a big part of my life for a while.

I'm sure there's a million things I've forgotten, LIKE THE FREAKIN' HURRICANE, but it is way past my bedtime. Plus, my eyeballs are totally sore and bloodshot from the embroidery I did all afternoon. You guys, it's like I'm cheating on quilting with embroidery. It's awesome.