Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hand-crafted hooks and a corsage

You guys are the very best! Your comments the other day were so fierce and righteous and hilarious. Solidarity! Thank you, so much. As always, it is best in the end to find yourself with a funny story.

For my (now infamous) birthday, the doc totally came through.

That's two hand-carved crochet hooks, made from the seasoned wood of our old apple tree, whittled in secret while I was elsewhere, and I can't imagine when he had time to do that. On his lunch break at the University? While I napped? Clever man. Aren't they wonderful? No wonder everybody and their brother wants a piece of him.

His famous mustache is finally back in progress. What a heartthrob.
These beautiful hooks made working on this little flower a great pleasure. I'm going to stitch a pin back to the wrong side and wear it every year on my birthday.
Here's my pattern, in case you want to wear a yarny corsage on your birthday (or any other day) to announce to the world that you are fabulous:
[All crochet terms are US]
Big Fluffy Birthday Flower
Choose two pink yarns and a hook that will make working with it a pleasure. Leaving a long tail at the beginning, use the lighter of the two and Chain 57.
Row 1: Dc in 6th ch from hook (1st V made). *Ch 1, skip next 2 chs, (dc, ch2, dc) in next ch, rep from * across. (18 Vs made).
Row 2: Work (1 hdc, 3 dc, 1hdc) in 1st five V spaces. (5 five-stitch shells made). Work (1hdc, 7dc, 1hdc) in next 6 V spaces. [Mid row, break yarn, join darker pink, continue in row as follows:] Work (1hdc, 11dc, 1 hdc) in last 7 V spaces.
 
Break yarn and fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing. Thread the beginning tail on a darning needle, and starting at the beginning (light pink) end, start rolling it. Tack it at the bottom edge as you go, and arrange the petals so they are a little bit offset and pretty. When you get to the end, tack like crazy all over the back with both tails to secure. Tie the tail ends together and weave in.
You'll need a couple leaves too:
Ch 11
Working in first chain from hook, sl st, sc, hdc, 5dc, hdc, sc, ch1, sc, hdc, 5dc, hdc, sc, sl st. Break yarn and fasten off. Use the tails to sew the leaves to the back of the flower, then weave them in and secure. Sew a pin to the back.
 

Thank you, friends. xoxo

 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Silver Linings

 

Oh, goodness. I begin to doubt whether I will ever get it together. I look around the place and am just so sick of all my stuff and I hate all my clothes, and I have to start over somehow from scratch and get it right this time. Do you all do this too? Everyone tells me this is because it's spring. Also, my hair, urgh. It is gray and curly in the completely unruly way that is not what they mean when describing the tempestuous heroine of a romance novel. It's more in the way of that famous photo of Einstein where he's sticking out his tongue.

It was my birthday a few days ago, and as a nice treat for my gray and wrinkled self, this happened:

Acquaintance, taking my hand: Hello, you're the doctor's wife, aren't you?

Me, very proudly: Yes, I remember you, it's nice to see you again!

Acquaintance: It's nice to see you too. Now, my daughter and I are having a little argument. I told her you were the doctor's wife and she said there's no way that was possible.

Me: Why is that?

Acquaintance: Well, I almost don't want to tell you. It's because you look way too old.

Me, gulping: Huh. Well, actually I'm 47.

Acquaintance, laughs, and pats my hand: I thought so! Well, it looks like I win! Have a good day!

It took me awhile to recover, and all my friends were very uncharacteristically swearing with fury on my behalf when they heard that, because I totally told that story to everyone I know. My friends are so great.


Then later, this:

Different male acquaintance: Hi, happy birthday!

Me: Thanks! (goes into the next room)

Male acquaintance, aside in a low voice to the doc: I don't know if you'd ever be interested in coming over sometime for, you know, a little casual...you're probably thinking I'm crazy, I'm so crazy! Sometimes my friends get together and we go to the basement...

Doc: Um, no thanks.

Male acquaintance: Doesn't everybody do that?

Doc: I don't think they do, nope.

Male acquaintance: Well, don't tell your wife I mentioned it.

Doc, as soon as we get to the car: You'll never believe this...(tells me the whole story)...so I guess I just have one of those physiques. (flexes muscles)

Me: Aaarrrgghhh!

So here's my current passport photo:

I need to eat less cake and more nutrients, so I made a green shake for breakfast--here's the best life hack ever, write this down--the blade attachment on my blender fits perfectly on a Ball canning jar. The threads are the same. I know! So instead of getting out the whole blender thing with the lid and then getting a glass dirty, I can just stuff all my shake ingredients (1/2 banana, 1/4 cup frozen pineapple/mango/other yellow fruit, handful fresh spinach/chard/arugula, fill jar the rest of the way with almond milk) into the jar, screw the blade attachment on, and pop it onto the blender. Whizz until smooth, take the blade off, add a straw and enjoy it straight from the jar like the hippie I am. Now, listen and learn from me: if you're going to do this yourself, stand there and hold onto the jar as it blends, because if you don't, it just might come unscrewed somehow and fall off while the blade is still spinning and fling spinach and banana and pineapple and almond milk all over your entire kitchen, which will ruin your morning but will give your dog an entire day's worth of trying to lick underneath the stove. So just keep a hand on the jar, that's my advice. Also, while we're learning things, don't try to put a zip-top bag full of chicken noodle soup into your purse.

 

My beautiful daughter was here for the weekend, and she brought me this beautiful orchid. The tiny blossoms are the size of my thumb. Fabric auditions for the next quilt are underway. Spring is definitely when the quilts start to happen. As my lovely mama pointed out the other day, I have a nice little life here.

 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sock, Cardigan, Irene

I'm knitting another brown cardigan. This is the third try for this yarn, which is a warm chocolate with lots of red in it, and I keep getting halfway up the last sleeve and changing my mind about the pattern. I'm already not confident about this one either, and maybe it's the yarn, I don't know. It's been wound/knit/rewound/reknit so many times that the ball bands are long gone, but I'm pretty sure it's Cascade 220. I don't even know if there's enough yarn in the bag--why am I even knitting this thing? Luckily, there's always a plain sock lying around here somewhere, waiting to be worked on. I did a whole bunch of knitting while waiting around these last two weeks, because the doc was very busy:

He played the leading man (swoon!) in our local community theater production of "Irene". Singing! Dancing the tango! Getting slapped! He was handsome and dashing and they made him shave off the beard and mustache, which made his face seem weirdly naked, and just as I got used to it, the thing was over and the mustache was on its way back. He was wonderful, and I was so proud. Bravo, honey!

 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Custom Fabric Lampshades

 

I have learned a new trick, and it's the cleverest thing in a long time. Maybe you recall this mess, in which I got glue everywhere and invented some new words? A mighty struggle, that project, and I decided I couldn't cover lampshades. Well, behold: it is a lampshade, covered in new fabric, and it is good.

This idea came to me from the wonderfully creative mind of my friend Michelle. She did all her lampshades in plaid last winter, which was stunning, and which made her pretty little house look like a baronial hunting lodge. She also (as ever) made it look easy, and this time it really was easy. You measure a little (hardly at all), cut a little, glue a little, and that's all. You need paper, scissors, fabric, white craft glue, spray adhesive, a pencil, a ruler, and a lampshade you want to cover. These are all over the place in the thrift store, go look. Okay, here's what she told me to do:
 

Make a panel template. (This process works with those paneled silk lampshades that have individual sides--we'll get to the drum-style shades in a minute.) She used graph paper and accuracy for her plaid masterpieces, but you know me. I just put a piece of paper over one of the sections and traced it.

Cut out as many pieces of fabric as your lampshade has sections. I used a thrifted piece of men's shirting--ravelly, flimsy, hideous to sew. Lovely to glue.

Put a big piece of paper or other protective layer over your work surface. Open a window if you can, because the next step is stinky. Apply spray adhesive (I used Krylon Easy-Tack) to the back of one panel and stick it on the lampshade. It might look like it won't stick for a minute, but be patient. Smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles. Repeat for the other panels. Keep smoothing as you go, and don't panic if it looks like it isn't sticking. It will.

Make some bias edging. Don't cheat, it really must be cut on the bias. There's no need to measure, just cut some lengths--you can trim it later. My bias edging is cut at 1 1/2", then folded in thirds and pressed. Spray the adhesive onto the back of the first piece and stick it to one of the lampshade ribs, between the panels. Trim off any extra. Repeat for the other ribs, and then do the top and bottom edges, just matching one folded edge of the bias tape with the edge of the lampshade. Don't try to turn it to the inside, that's a recipe for tears. Fold the last raw edge under and stick it down with a dab of white craft glue. Let it dry. That's all there is to it. You may need to do a tiny bit of sewing to make a long enough piece of bias edging for the bottom edge of the lampshade, but that's the work of a moment, and you can do it by hand.

We hung it upside down on purpose, because we are quirky that way. Also, it wouldn't fit the fixture the right way up. Why not, right?

You know how it is, once you get going and you've already got glue all over your hands and everything? When you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail?

We delved into the fabric stash and gave this lamp a new shade, too. I'm sorry there are no process photos of this one, because I was on a roll and also it was getting dark--the method here is a little bit different, but just as easy. [Scrub the glue off your worktable and] spread out a big piece of paper. Roll the lampshade over the paper, using a pencil to trace at the edges. Accuracy is useful here, but if you're going to err, go bigger. Too big can be trimmed. Leave enough allowance at the end for it to overlap. Once you have a paper pattern, use it to cut out your fabric. Now run a line of white craft glue down the seam in the lampshade's existing cover and stick the wrong side of your new fabric to it. Let the glue dry a bit--you want to be able to tug on the fabric a little as you cover the shade to help it lie flat. A couple clothespins are useful here. When the glue is somewhat set, apply a little white glue at the top and bottom edges of the shade a few inches at a time, and stick the fabric to it. You're not gluing the whole fabric, just at the top and bottom edge. It may wrinkle a little, so take the time to smooth it out--when it's smooth, move the clothespins, apply a few more inches of glue and keep going, all the way around. When you get to the end, fold over the last edge and glue it down, overlapping the first edge. You might be able to skip the folding over part, if your cut edge is neat enough, or if, like me, you are too covered in glue to care anymore and are willing to turn that seam toward the wall. Carefully trim off any fabric or fraying threads that stick out above the edges. Now, as before, make some bias binding and use spray adhesive to stick it to the top and bottom edges. Fold over the last edge and glue it down with white glue. That's it, you're done.

Seriously, that's great. Custom fabric lampshades! I feel like a genius. Michelle, thank you.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Seed Stitch. Laceweight yarn.

This thing is taking forever. I've been working on it (I confess, not very often) for so long I can hardly remember my knitting life without it. Seed stitch. Laceweight yarn. I am making my peace with the fact that I will be knitting this Endless Seed Stitch Wrap for the rest of my natural life. There are at least four more colors to go, and I'm doing that thing where you knit until the yarn is gone and then join another, repeat. There is no thinking at all, but I can't take my attention off it, because seed stitch. Laceweight yarn. Urgh. It looks like an ice cream, though, doesn't it? I can't help liking that. I might as well like it, because we are in it for the long haul.

 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Napping quilt for springtime

 

 

 

 

Springtime. It's still so gloomy and gray, but somehow it bothers me so much less. The sky is like iron, the ground is murky and soft. There are no flowers yet, but the daffodils have poked out of the ground--a sure sign that we have made it through. And rain, every day, which makes a nap seem like it would be so nice. The new pup really likes to sleep--she gets up late, does a few lazy stretches, goes reluctantly out into the weather for a minute or two, eats a good breakfast, and goes back to bed. Wanders back out in a few hours, maybe chews on a bone, takes another nap. We walk in the orchard where the mud is ankle deep, come home for a bath, curl up in front of the fire. This is a dog I can live with.

The quilt is done, and it is so satisfyingly rumply and soft. Improving weather makes the quilts happen. They seem so perfect for warm days spent lying sprawled in a sunbeam. There is so much rain I feel like I'm living underwater, but if a sunbeam should appear, I will be ready.

It's impossible not to nap.

The backing is a beautiful piece of vintage cotton lawn that's been lingering in my fabric stash while I entertained ultimately futile thoughts of making some kind of shirt-dress/tunic thing, but in the end this is the best place for it. I realized that although I might like to imagine myself wearing some kind of floaty, romantic frock made from a delicate green sprigged batiste most likely meant for baby clothes, it is probably pretty unlikely to happen. I could just envision the entire hopeful day spent cutting up this perfectly soft fabric, then pinning, stitching, pressing and finishing a whole beautiful dress, probably with some kind of contrast peter pan collar and little cuffs, and then looking at myself in the mirror wearing it, and having that sinking feeling, that realization that I didn't look at all like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but more like a delusional old granny. So I saved myself the aggravation and put it on the back of my napping quilt, and I am pretty happy about it.

 

This quilt is 60" x 72", with wool batting (oh, do try this. It is dreamy!) and quilted with big, utility quilting stitches and #5 perle cotton. Git 'er done! There are 30 log cabin blocks, with 3" center squares and 2" log strips. I used scraps and leftovers. I still have so many scraps and leftovers. More quilts to come.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fever Dream

 

And then we both got the flu, so that's two weeks I won't get back, which were mostly spent sneezing and complaining and feeling each other's foreheads and trying to think of other things to talk about instead of constantly whining about how miserable we were, but failing at that. I got jealous of my nighttime self, all full of antihistimines and decongestants and sleeping the sleep of the just, drooling mouth open and snoring like a bull, oblivious. Days were nothing but coughing and blowing my nose. I wore the perfect swing not-a-bathrobe cardigan as a bathrobe because it matches my jammies and also because it made me feel like I was halfway dressed.
I did spend a few minutes untangling this, which is destined for the log cabin quilt. Dogs like string.
I did a lot of sitting around. Gave myself a pedi.
I started watching The Great British Sewing Bee on Youtube (ohmygoodnessIlovethatshow) and got inspired to sew a skirt out of a piece of thrifted (itchy! Unravelly!) upholstery fabric. I used a pencil skirt pattern I had already, and which was cut a size too small, and sort of freehanded it into an approximation of an A-line skirt, and it would have been fine actually if not for my failed zipper installation. I really want to learn to draft patterns, install invisible zippers, make facings and evenly-hanging hems. Is there a Craftsy class on that, maybe? Must look. And where do people get good apparel fabric? I don't even know. Help?
I went on a mostly hopeless quest to find a book where some woman doesn't DIE in the first chapter. What are you reading? I need a suggestion, preferably something with a minimum of death in it. I read Mental Floss instead. I knit plain socks, boring and dark gray, because I need them. I wrap scarves around my chapped face and walk the dog in the orchard, where she explores the fallen apples, sticks, rocks, deer tracks. She stops to sniff every. Single. Leaf. She stares off at nothing for long minutes, and I wonder if she can smell the coyotes. Later, I put her in the tub for a bath, and she licks the water, the faucet, my face.