Thursday, December 30, 2010

Row, row, row. . .

. . .your quilt. Sew the rows together, that is.

It's that time again, the moment when it is most possible for me to mess up construction of a quilt. I seldom make mistakes assembling blocks, but I might possibly hold the world record for sewing rows together backwards, upside down, or just plain wrong. It's my Achilles heel. Somewhere between the design wall/floor/bed and the sewing machine I can completely confuse or forget how I was supposed to sew the row I am holding. It's a gift. I think this is turning out really well. It's going to go on the couch in my husband's den/computer room. Every couch needs a quilt, in my opinion, even if I'm the only one who uses it! (Husband prefers afghans.) The room is decorated in blue/beige and he currently has the blue butterfly quilt on his couch, which is not quite manly enough for his room. Plus, the rust accent color will be nice.

This is a great pattern because it looks nicely intricate but is easy-peasy to assemble. I am totally in love with the color scheme. The fabric is "Silk Road" by Benartex and it's gorgeous.
I changed my mind on the size of the quilt and after enlarging it had to scurry around online and find more of the backing and binding fabric. Don't you just love the internet?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Work in progress

I think I'm going to call it "Katmandu". Don't know why. And I'd love to find a quilting design that looks like paisley.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Too brown?

That was my husband's opinion. A brown monotone design with small red and blue accents was my plan. And I like it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas

From the Calico Quilter, the Radio Guy and Molly the calico cat in snowy Tennessee, a blessed Christmas to you and yours this season. May you be happy, healthy and safe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A few finishes

I was inspired by the Carrie Nelson books I have been buying and I've been in the mood for some mindless sewing; aka, copy the nice lady's quilt. Sometimes you want to be adventurous and creative and sometimes you want to push fabric through the sewing machine. At least I do. It's easier to do the latter with someone blazing the trail ahead of you and assuring you that the product will be pretty.

So, without further ado, I give you my version of Carrie Nelson's "Double Duty": which I absolutely adore.
Then I jumped on her pattern "Six Degrees" (don't know WHERE these names come from). I made a mistake in that my greens aren't vibrant enough but that's what was in the stash closet. The four stars in the middle really need brighter green points, but they show up well enough in person, they just don't photograph well:Finally, while waiting between clues on the Quiltville mystery quilt I got out my cut out quilt from the "Open Door" pattern and sewed away. It came together so quickly I was surprised because it looks like a showstopper. It was really easy:
Anyway, that's what I've been doing. This morning I cut out another quilt from her book. Got to keep those hands busy. It's got a lot of HSTs too but you know, I'm getting really good at them!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New project

Here's a peek at three blocks from my new project, which is a Carrie Nelson design called "Open Door". The three are the top row of this smallish quilt, and the bottom block actually goes between the other two.
I like a lot of Carrie Nelson's designs because they look complex without being complex to cut out or assemble.

Sewing room frustrations remain. I still have this tiny design wall because I can't figure out how to get a couple of pieces of 4' x 8' foam insulating board home to make a bigger one. I have a station wagon and no access to a truck. So for now my little 40" x 60" wall has to do. But the fact that I can walk off and the close the door, leaving my projects in place and my mess undisturbed, is priceless.


I pulled out one of my project-in-waiting this afternoon to fill the time until the next installment of the Quiltville mystery and started sorting out the cut pieces. It was then that I realized that the first thing I needed to do was to make 225 red and cream 2" HSTs.

Sound familiar?

Even though I didn't think I could face another little red and white square of fabric I decided it was good for my character to persevere.

Just in case you're wondering. . .

. . .I wasn't crushed under an avalanche of red and neutral fabrics and actually finished all of my HSTs for the Quiltville mystery. And here they are:
I'm using a hatbox shaped woven box with a lid to store the mystery pieces. Here are all of them laid out in groups of 20 in the lid. Kind of looks like a pizza, doesn't it?

There's actually 720 of them because I'm increasing the quilt to king size. Friday morning I was debating the wisdom of that decision.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quiltville mystery

I just happily popped out of bed and printed step 5 of the Quiltvillle mystery.

We need to make 600 half square triangles.



Well, have a nice week, I won't be seeing you for a while. . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A kitchen foray

Pleasant surprise. You CAN bake acceptably with Splenda. I hadn't tried it yet, but when faced with a few bananas that were trending toward decrepit today and a fond wistfulness for my Kona Inn banana bread recipe, I knuckled down and tried it. First I calculated the carbohydrate grams in the recipe. I found out that with the flour, the bananas, the walnuts and the bits of Russell Stover sugar-free chocolate that I added (hey, I always put chocolate chips in my banana bread, no reason to give it up) there were 54 grams of carbs in a mini loaf from my small pans (6" x 3.5" x 2" deep). Diabetic diet translation: a little more grams of carbs than I'm allowed per meal, but I can forgo 1/3 of my carbs at dinner and have a little less than a third of a mini loaf as a quasi-dessert. That's about four bites. Oh well, it'll have to do.

(An aside: just leaving out the sugar didn't make the calories go away either. This stuff is crammed with them. See, sugar isn't your only enemy in the battle of the waistline. It's the only thing that is medically limited on my diet, but I also have to watch the calories and fat. And the bananas are wickedly caloric. We're not even going to talk about the 1/2 cup butter in the recipe.)

Off to the kitchen I went to mix up a batch and bake four mini loaves of banana nut/choc chip bread. And you know what? It wasn't bad. There was still that "Is that actually sweet?" thing that Splenda does with me. It's not like sugar-sweet, but your taste buds don't quite know what to do with it and provisionally categorize it as sweet. This is the only way I can describe what goes on when I taste Splenda. It's kind of weird.

But the banana bread loaves had the right texture and browned nicely, acting just like the regular recipe. They were moist and dense and quite acceptable. To back my up impression of the experiment, I asked husband if he wanted to try them. He replied that since he doesn't like Splenda and he doesn't like the Russell Stover sugar-free chocolates and he's not crazy about walnuts or banana bread either, his opinion probably wasn't needed.

Best dressed doggie

This has got to be the cutest dog coat ever, even if I do say so myself! I was paper piecing heart blocks a couple of weeks ago for the Pike River mine disaster charity quilts effort in New Zealand, and said "Red hearts would look very nice on my brother's dog." So, a dog coat was born.
Having no dog to model it, I pressed my trusty Juki into service:
I can't wait to see this on Pepper!
I liked it so much I made this one too in animal print for the diva that she is! Note the red lining.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wouldn't you like a nice doll, little girl?

Thinking about Christmas presents reminded me of a story my mother tells. My grandfather was a coal miner and Mom grew up in coal camps in Kentucky and West Virginia. When she was young, she was a terrible tomboy, the one where the neighborhood kids would come to the window and holler for her to come out and play sports with them instead of her brothers.

One year, she wanted a football for Christmas. Oh no, her parents said, little girls don't need footballs. Never mind that she was a regular on the neighborhood teams. She was also the girl who beat everyone at marbles, playing "keeps" too, and who had to sneak upstairs with her booty and hide them before my grandmother caught her and made her give the kids their marbles back.

Anyway, Christmas came and someone from the camp played Santa for the kids, going house to house and delivering gifts on Christmas Eve. Of course she and her siblings were delighted to see him until he pulled out a doll from his pack and presented it to her. A doll? She didn't want a doll! She wanted a football!

Of course, she let it be known that Santa had got it all wrong. And Santa put the doll back into his pack and left her with no present at all. Later, the guy who played Santa returned the doll to my grandmother, who put it on mom's bed. It sat there for a long time. And was never played with.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New guest accomodations

Houseguest leaves on Saturday. New sofa bed is delivered on Monday. Isn't that always the way? Poor houseguest had to sleep on an air mattress on the floor. At least it was a relative who likes us. Or at least used to.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quiltville mystery part 4 done and house guest is gone

My brother in law came for a short visit - well, that and to pick up the rolltop desk we were giving him. As usual, he drove his Ford full size van, otherwise known as the bottomless pit vehicle. We loaded the rolltop desk, a desk chair, a radial arm saw, an enormous Rubbermaid storage box of photographs to be returned to his sister, 6 Christmas presents - each box 24 x 18 x 10 (guess what they were!), a a surround sound amplifier, a center channel speaker, a set of back channel speakers (looks like someone is getting a killer home theater setup) and all of his various traveling accoutrements (CPAP machine, suitcase, etc.) and the van said "Is that all ya got?" I swear, you could move your household in that thing. Of course, it's like driving your house. The thought terrifies me - it's enormous.

The CPAP machine reminds me of something: how many people do you know with sleep apnea? Does every third person stop breathing at night? It's amazing. No one in my family ever had it. You'd have to be breathing really well and quite consistently to snore as loudly as they did! Everyone I'm related to has sinus trouble - hence the racket. I've never dared to ask my husband if I snore. I just never fall asleep on trains or planes, for fear that I do.

I finished making the blocks for part 4 of the Quiltville mystery, and I'm no closer to guessing what the pattern is. Nice selection of greens, though. There are 36 sets of green/neutral "twosies" and matching 2x2 inch green squares. Heaven knows what we'll be doing with them. And where does that red go that she specified? Haven't seen it yet, nor much brown. I figure steps 5 and 6 will be killers. She's just going easy on us so far.
I'm almost finished with my brother's dog's Christmas gift - a paper pieced heart design dog coat. It's very cool. I'm debating making another coat because I have a piece of upholstery weight woven zebra pattern fabric I was going to make into a purse. I think every diva deserves an animal print coat, and the dog is definitely a diva!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Catching up

Bonnie Hunter has a column in Quiltmaker magazine called "Addicted to Scraps". I've been making two of each of these blocks using red/blue/neutrals to go in a sampler quilt that I'm tentatively calling "Patriotic Fervor". Got a little behind but managed to catch up today. Here's a picture of the blocks so far:
Since the blocks are all different sizes, they will be assembied with sashing, pinwheels, flying geese, four patch etc to fit them together. That's going to be the hardest part of the quilt!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Quiltville mystery part 3 done

I definitely don't think of this when I say neutrals! But they are actually tame compared to the examples Bonnie Hunter pictured in her instructions. I kind of held my nose and jumped in! Bonnie's directions said anything with a neutral background, so I rummaged and pulled and cut and used everything I could find that qualified with the exception of the white on white or cream on cream, which are only sparingly represented. I wanted this one to be scrappy and boy, I think I succeeded!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quiltville mystery part 3

I couldn't sleep very well so I got up early and decided to print and start part three of the current Quiltville mystery. With anticipation I opened Bonnie Hunter's blog and read the instructions.



We're supposed to make 60 string blocks.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit. . .I don't like string blocks.

I'm not crazy about foundation piecing either.

I just made a stack of foundation pieced heart blocks for a charity and ripping those papers off the back drove me to distraction. And string blocks? Well, they just aren't ORDERLY. They aren't planned, they aren't patterned, they aren't geometrical, all the things I love in quilts. They're just strips - and strips and strips and strips. Ugh.

And they're all out of our white or cream background prints and neutrals. Does't sound very interesting to me.

I had pulled a selection of about 30 neutrals for this quilt, white on white, cream on cream, small prints with white or cream background, the kind of neutrals I use. They coordinated very nicely. Just because it's a scrap quilt doesn't mean to me that it can't have some sort of rhyme or reason. When I read these instructions my heart sank, and I retreated to the stash closet and started gathering up everything that had a white, cream, ivory, ecru etc. background, regardless of the color in the print. Which didn't net me very much more, because that's the kind of neutrals I don't use. When I want neutral, I use NEUTRAL, and when I want prints, they are more colorful.

So I finally had the stack shown in the picture. I'm afraid they will make very boring string blocks. I thought about making 16 patch blocks instead, or something else I like better, but decided to let Bonnie stretch my horizons with this one and follow along.

But I have to protest that I am a geometry girl - I like the flow and interaction of intricately pieced patterns, and strings don't catch my eye. Never did.

You remember the "Christmas Lights" mystery and the two blocks I thought didn't go together at all? The one where a very mild comment about "I don't think I understand the overall design of this quilt" got me vilified on the chat group? That one, I split the blocks and made two different quilts with the two types of blocks. Let's hope I don't end up hating this quilt too and trying to rework it.

Thank goodness I bought a scribble pad for foundation paper, though.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New sofa

Yes, it's blue. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but it's my favorite color. And it's exactly the color of the lighter blue in the Oriental rug.

Quiltville mystery part 2

Part 2 is completed. Thirty six sets of four matching HSTs in pink and brown. The instructions were for 30 sets, but I'm making extras in hope that I can extend the design from 87" x 102" to 102" x 102" king size. I'm betting that there are thirty blocks, arranged 5 x 6. If I'm lucky it won't hurt the design to make it 6 x 6, a bit larger.

On other fronts, our new living room couch is being delivered this afternoon! I can't wait. But, it is delaying us putting up the Christmas tree until tomorrow. We decided to decorate earlier this year and enjoy it longer. I put together my Christmas village last weekend. But now I'll have to move part of it temporarily to make room for the couch to come in the front door. Afraid it will be bumped trying to carry the new couch in and the old one out past it. Rats!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Last of the Christmas gift quilts

I finished the binding before bedtime yesterday, in spite of spending the day cooking. I was sooooo tired, but was determined to get this gift completed. It's 62" square and will be a couch quilt for my brother in law and his wife. I know that parts of her house have light green carpeting, and am hoping that includes the living room so it will coordinate. Rather happy with how this one turned out. Sherry's quilting is perfect, as usual.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quiltville Mystery Step 1

Zippity-doo-dah, look who's completed step one! Contributing to the general speediness this morning: 1) Shape Cut ruler - genius, genius. If I had one quibble it would be that the ruler is made of more flexible plastic than the usual rotary ruler and I'll have to be more careful in storing it and using it - easier to accidentally break it and easy to nick the slots with a sharp new blade. 2) Sewing room - lots of space to spread out and a spot at my right side to erect the 2'x4' folding table to hold strips as I sort and pair them for sewing.

(sniff) Now what will I do the rest of the weekend? LOL


What are the odds? Two days ago I bought a shape cut ruler to make cutting strip sets into segments easier (prompted by a Carrie Nelson pattern I was making) and today the initial Quiltville mystery instructions call for making - strip sets! Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It's 5 minutes after 4 in the afternoon and the neighbor's rooster is crowing. And crowing. And crowing. That darned chicken is about to push me over the edge. I haven't figured out how to report the illegal poultry without causing a neighbor-to-neighbor stink. The old lady next door plays her TV so loud that she probably doesn't hear them. The other neighbor behind me is gone at work all the time. I guess I'm the only one being driven crazy.
On other fronts - I indulged today and bought a specialty rotary cutter ruler, which is something I usually don't do. A 40% off coupon from Joann's enticed me to try a Shape Cut ruler. After trimming a lot of pieced strips into 1 1/2" segments for four-patch blocks, I thought that one of these rulers where you position it once and cut through the slits to produce multiple patches looked like a good idea. We'll see. Maybe Bonnie Hunter's new mystery will give me a chance to use it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finding quilts a good home

Part of my recent decluttering effort has been to attack the mass of stuff relating to my quilting hobby. I weeded through fabric several years ago and took two lawn/leaf size plastic bags of the culled fabrics to a quilting group at a church in a nearby small town. The ladies were flabbergasted but delighted. And even though I have purchased more than my share of fabric since, the input and output have been well balanced and the stash hasn't outgrown its storage closet. It got a little messy, though, so I took care of that when relocating all the boxes to my new sewing room.

Tools were next and were organized and stored where at last they have a permanent convenient home. Kits were neatly stashed in bins.

But the quilts? I have lots of quilts. LOTS of them. Quilts I have made, quilts my mom made for me, quilts my grandmother pieced, quilts I pieced and mom quilted. Kits. Mystery quilts. Scrap quilts. Magazine patterns. Lots.

Over the years we have used many of them, rotating which one was on the bed. But some are just not big enough now that our cat Molly sleeps with us. I can't tell you the times I have awoke with the cover wadded down between us in the center of the bed by her not-inconsiderable self and some or most of me uncovered. With Molly sharing the bed, I'm making big quilts now. Less than 90" wide? Don't even think about it.

But there are quilts that I made that have never been slept under. Some of them are finding new homes this year. These are generally large bed-size quilts, which is what I normally made until I started to be involved with Project Linus and segued into child-size patterns. While folding the quilts to store in the top of the closet, I realized that it was getting a little ridiculous. How many quilts does a gal need, anyway? And isn't it sad if they just sit on a shelf and not do what they were meant to do - warm and comfort someone?

So I started pulling out quilts that could find new homes with my husband's family. First were three quilts for three of his first cousins who grew up around him and are practically as close as brothers. He still talks to them very often even though we don't live nearby now. Then a smaller "couch" quilt for his sister and one for his brother (this one is a completed top that is being quilted right now). Both have received quilts from me before but for their bed, not for snuggling watching TV. Then a wall hanging for his sister, which I thought she might enjoy (this was my husband's idea).

And then I started thinking about the charities that Project Linus supports locally. The coordinator is always asking for larger quilts for teens in foster care as well as smaller baby and little kid quilts. A perfect home for them. Shortly, ten quilts were selected and bagged to take to her house. I delivered them on Saturday and she was thrilled. She unfolded each one and oohed and aahed. (She's a VERY nice lady.) Let me tell you, a little ego stroking is always in order!

I haven't figured out a way to get the five quilts to my nephew's family in Germany yet, but they will go as soon as I can. And now all my quilts fit neatly in the space allotted. Until I start sewing again.

Oh Good Grief

Every once in a while you do something so stupid, you have to wonder where your brain has gone, since you evidently aren't in possession of it and definitely aren't using it. This week it was my turn.

I'm giving six quilts as Christmas presents this year. Three are bed size, two are lap size and one is a wall hanging. I just got the wall hanging back from the longarm quilter (since I wanted a fancier job that I could do). One of the lap quilts is still with her but the rest are ready to go. A few days ago I decided to get boxes and wrap them so when my brother-in-law visits in a few weeks he could take them back with him, since he lives close to the family recipients of the gifts.

I gleefully wrapped the four that were ready and said to myself, "Well, I'm ahead of the game THIS year." Famous last words.

Friday, I sewed the binding on the wall hanging and started to prepare a label. While sorting through my preprinted labels from RJR and Windham Fabrics to pick just the right one (very handy, those) I suddenly realized that I HAD NOT LABELED THE WRAPPED QUILTS. None of them. Sheesh.

So, yesterday morning I made labels for ther other four quilts in hand, unwrapped them, sewed on the labels and rewrapped the boxes. It took all morning.

Here's a peek at the wall hanging: Sherry Meyer did a fabulous quilting job, as usual. And yesterday I woke up to the most beautiful misty fall morning, with the sun starting to break through the fog and glinting on the trees. Even with my bad photography and the power lines in the way, you can get an idea how lovely it was:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Quiltville Mystery

A new Quiltville mystery, called Roll Roll Cotton Boll, starts November 19th, and I can't wait. The first quilt in my new sewing room! It will be great to sew on a large project without cluttering up the kitchen.

This time, I'm adhering to the colors Bonnie Hunter has selected. Before, on Double Delight and Carolina Christmas, I went in other directions but on this one I'll close my eyes and trust. I briefly thought about substituting yellow and blue for the pink and green, but since I've never made a pink/chocolate quilt now's the time.

Here are the fabrics I've pulled for her scrappy design:
Not sure how that red accent fabric fits into the scheme, but I'm open to be surprised.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Too clean to mess up!

An unfortunate side effect of all this house de-cluttering: now my new sewing room is too neat and clean to mess up! I was up early so I took the opportunity to assemble a few rows of blocks in my latest project (Carrie Nelson's Double Duty). But every thread that hit the carpet was picked up immediately!

I love having a dedicated sewing room now, but I'm going to have to do something about the lighting. You recall the layout (final proposed floorplan - I don't have that sewing or cutting table, nor the wall lamps yet): Right now I have an antique (rickety) oak table holding the sewing machine. My OTT light is sitting there for additional illumination for sewing. My old articulated desk lamp is sitting on the bookcase at left, providing light for the ironing board. These are in addition to the usual semi-flush mount ceiling fixture you'd find in a bedroom, which is good for providing enough light to walk into the room but not much else. Overall, the lighting is adequate but not good. I need to research wall-mounted articulated lamps for either side of the window to provide more even light at the sewing table, and I'll have to buy some type of clamp-on lamp for the cutting table, because standing there I wll be casting a shadow from the ceiling light on the surface of the table.

The one good thing about sewing in the kitchen was the lighting. The 300 watt total hanging fixture over the table was great, and the undercabinet lighting where I put the small ironing board made pressing easy.

Oh well, all these things will work out eventually. And my stash closet still makes me smile when I open the doors.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I THOUGHT that looked familiar. . .

Old stash closet. . . New stash closet. . .
Definite family resemblance, I'd say. The difference? It's been shifted one room down the hall. I spent the morning installing shelves in the closet in my new sewing room and moving all the bins of fabric from one closet to the other. In the process I got to straighten and sort a bit and commandeer some new bins emptied during the garage clean-up.
It's all very, very organized.
For about 10 minutes.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The great clean-out continues

Well! I have decluttered the closets in the "was guest room/now sewing room", the third bedroom (husband's computer domain), the master bedroom, the coat closet, the linen closet, the cedar closet in the garage, and now the workshop in the garage. Whew! I've made three trips to the Goodwill drop-off and a trip to the womens' shelter with clothing. Oh, yes, and a trip to the library to donate books. I can't carry much at a time to Goodwill with my little car, so I've been back and forth. Got to go back again on Monday.

It's starting to look clean and uncluttered. Breathing room! I have opened up a huge area in the upper shelves in the workshop where my Christmas village stuff will be stored after dismantling this season. I wanted so badly to put all the boxes up there to see how it will fit but I would be taking it down in three weeks to assemble the village, so that would be silly. Just have to picture it in my mind. . .

Next will be taking down the shelves in the fabric stash closet and moving them to the closet in the new sewing room. I can't wait!

I have a funny story, but to understand you have to envision the shelves in the workshop. Imagine an area five feet wide, with three very deep wooden shelves, almost 2 feet deep. The shelves start about waist high and the upper one is above my head. They are supported by a wood framework screwed to the walls and ceiling made of 2x2's and 2x4's, fastened with metal plates. They're strong! They were here when we moved and I love the storage potential. Below the bottom shelf I installed a shallower one, much less robustly constructed with cleats on the wall to support the ends and center, that is used to store scrap lumber pieces (never know when you'll need a little piece of wood. . .).

Well. . .after I had finished reloading the shelves with multiple heavy boxes, I pushed the lawnmower back into position below the shelves. In doing this I must have bumped the stack of scrap lumber on the lower shelf and not known it. Suddenly, I start to hear this creaking, wood-rubbing-wood noise, very soft, but continuing. Oh - my - goodness. I'm standing in a 5ft x 10 ft workshop with a loaded set of wooden shelves looming over me and SOMETHING is starting to make creaking noises. I don't know whether to run for my life or look for where the shelves are coming apart. If they fall, it's going to be a catastrophe, and I would be on the bottom of a very large pile. I'm starting to panic, when I realize that the creaking is coming from the lower part of the shelves, in fact from my wood scrap pile on the bottom shelf, where the stack has slid slightly and is trying to tip over. Whew! Crisis averted!

Meanwhile, my husband is talking to his brother, who decides he wants the rolltop desk we are clearing out as well as an old surround sound amplifier, a center channel speaker and two back channel speakers. His TV room gain is our gain too, because now I don't have to figure out what to do with them. Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sewing room

I'm way too tired and bleary-eyed to take a decent photograph, but here are two views of the room so far. The other two walls are complete chaos, as you can probably guess, so no pictures of those!
BTW, the stuffed bear sitting on my sewing basket is the World's Best Bear. He has a medal around his neck that says so! I've got teddies here and there in the house, posed in small teddy-sized chairs and even in a little red Radio Flyer wagon. One has a little wing-back armchair, just his size. A silly hobby of mine.

I put up that wallpaper 17 years ago. Back then, I liked it. Now - not so much. But I like it more than I would like the work it would take to remove it. I do need to take down that valance. It's SO 1993. Maybe replace the traverse rod with a simple brushed nickel rod and rings to match the ceiling fixture.

That picture over the bookcase is crewel work, which I used to do until I burned out on it. I did needlepoint and cross-stitch too, but nothing has kept my interest like quilting. The old gold framed mirror is a remnant from the guest room days.

Cleaning closets,. . .

. . .thinning out the bookshelves, gathering clothes to donate to the shelter, picking out new flooring for the master bath, ordering a new couch for my husband's computer room. Man, I've been busy. And, of course. . .


The guest room is going to become my sewing room. Last weekend, my sister-in-law and her husband drove down from Kentucky and took back the bedroom suite from the guest room. It came from my mother-in-law's house to begin with, so that's fair. We ordered a sleeper sofa to go in the third bedroom, which my husband uses as his computer room, so we'll have the guest accommodations covered. And now I'm researching sewing and cutting tables. A bookcase from the other bedroom and two old cabinets have been relocated for sewing room storage, and the new floorplan has been drafted. I still need to move out an old rolltop desk, which is going to be donated to charity, and decide which brand tables I will buy. In the meantime, an antique oak table I have is standing in for a sewing table because Quiltville is starting a new mystery this month and I don't want to miss it.

Here's an idea how it's going to be laid out. There's one window (top) and two closets with bifold doors (left side). The sewing table under the window has a dropleaf to double the size if needed. I will install swingarm lamps on the wall on either side of the window. The brown item on the left wall between the closets is an old bookcase which will hold projects, thread and such. The cabinets flanking the sewing table are entertainment center components my father-in-law built. The one on the left has shelves behind door (used to hold stereo components) and will store tools, templates and rulers. The one the right is open and used to hold a TV; right now it's full of folded quilts. A design wall will be mounted on the right wall, above which will be a curtain rod with clip rings from which I can hang completed quilts for photographing. The cutting table will fold up and store in front of the design wall. It's shown unfolded and in place for work. The item on the bottom is another cherry bookcase which is in the room now and has to stay, but it holds my quilting books. Unfortunately, the treadmill stays too! It folds up so it doesn't take much room. You can see that there's space for my big ironing board to the left of my chair. This will be so handy. I can adjust the board height to be used while seated, and pivot in my chair between the sewing machine and iron. Now my fabric stash closet needs to be relocated from the third bedroom to the guest room. That entails a lot more than it sounds. All the stuff in the guest room closet needs to find a home. Some of it will go into the closet where the fabric is right now, and the Christmas village decorations will go in the workshop out in the closet. But, before that can happen, the workshop needs to be decluttered and room made for them. It's a mess! A moves to B which moves to A and C but C has to be cleared out before the whole daisy chain can be put into motion.

But, all the work aside, I am very, very happy about this!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

And the answer is. . .

House - no. Condo - no. Moving - no. Staying where we are - yes. Again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

House - maybe?

I'm wrestling with a very strange decision right now. We've been debating buying a newer house and moving for several years, since we retired. We even talked with a builder in 2008 about a new development he was starting. As it turned out, we shied away from that because we thought he was getting over-extended, and it was a good decision. The builder went bankrupt and the four houses he had started, along with the land for the development, went to the bank.

That bank still owns two of the houses which are pretty much complete, but sold the other two houses and the rest of the land to another builder. The bank's two houses are done on the inside but need everything outside: final grade on the lot, landscaping, sod, driveway, sidewalks, gutters. The bank has listed the two houses on MLS, even though they can't get a habitability permit now because the road has not been installed in the development (which will be done by the other builder that bought the rest of the land) and the sewer and water lines need to be backflushed and connected, which won't be done until the road is done. We were told that at least a hundred people had inquired about the houses but were scared away by the unknowns: when will the city services be available, what will be built on the rest of the land adjacent to these houses, etc. The up-side to the decision is that the houses are listed at about 60% of what they would have sold for had they been completed as originally planned, and are still well under actual value even though without the planned amenities from the original development they wouldn't be worth that much now.

This is what it looks like right now:

It's like a completed house sitting in the middle of a construction site. Since it's the first house on the street, on the corner of the main road, it is somewhat separated from the rest of the development and may not be as affected by what else is built as the other houses further up the street will be.

The inside is very cool, by the way. The kitchen is to die for - plenty of cherry cabinets, granite, the works. It doesn't have appliances yet but the realtor said to specify what we wanted in the contract and the bank would install them. There are build-ins in the living room, a sunroom, nice large baths, the works.

So our dilemma is this: this house is a good fit for what we have to have in a new home - slab construction with no steps, roomy, good use of space, well designed and constructed, attractive, small yard. But the downsides are almost too much to consider: Will the bank accept a contract that specifies that they must complete all the remaining work on the lot and house? How much of a pain will it be to get that work done correctly? When will the new builder put in the road (it's been delayed three or four times already this year)? How long will it take for the final city inspections and the habitability permit to be issued? What will be built on the rest of the land - will those houses affect the value of the ones already built? Could the builder put up apartments or something else instead (that's completely possible but not as likely)?

And - very important - will the new builder know what he's doing with respect to water control and drainage or will we have to worry about that too? That's a biggie because on our last house we had water issues in the basement when it rained hard due to the bad runoff control in the subdivision. This house is the first one on the road, and the land slopes uphill slightly from the main road to the back of the development. The original builder was very good at runoff control and we wouldn't have had a concern if he was still in the picture, but this area has become infamous in my eyes for builders that don't have a clue how to handle grading lots to avoid water issues. We have seen damp crawlspaces and basements and water problems everywhere we've looked.

That's a lot of issues to grapple with. Add to it the whole "Do we want another free-standing house with yard issues or should we just buy a condo and not have to take care of the outside?" and I'm in a complete tizzy. I'm good with problems where you solve for an answer and get THE answer - like math - but these fuzzy decisions completely stymie me.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wrangling the remote controls

Home theater set-ups come with a lot of stuff. You have your front speakers, you have your back speakers, your center channel, your sub-woofer, your home theater amplifier, DVD/Blu-ray player - and of course you have a television and a cable box. How you accomodate all those speakers is a post for another day, but the subject at hand is all those remote controls. Every piece of electronics in the cabinet has one. And they take up room. If they're not handy, it becomes a nuisance to get them out and play a movie. If they're too handy, they tend to take up all the space on the end tables.

What to do? I made a remote control caddy. And I had the perfect place for it.

My husband is a pipe smoker and he's had an ashtray stand for thirty years or more. It was a Christmas present from me several houses ago because there wasn't a good place for his ashtray (pipe smokers tend to have large ashtrays to hold the pipes). It's still is use even though the finish is getting a little beat up. While contemplating one day what to do with the remotes after we got the small end tables, the space between the three turned legs on the ashtray stand caught my eye. A little sketching and voila! The perfect remote caddy. I made it today:
Here's a close-up:
It can not only hold all the remote controls but also the case for his reading glasses. I think it's kinda-sorta brilliant.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What we get ourselves into

Cute little split Log Cabin blocks, aren't they? They're only 6" square. I need 104 of them. And 80 Flying Geese blocks. Oh my.

Time to update the living room

In the last few months we reached the point where we looked around the living room and said "Something's gotta happen." Not that things were in shambles, but we had kept it the same for at least 10 years and both of us were bored. His chair was the first priority, because it had become uncomfortable, so we found and bought the leather armchair I posted about several days ago. Then we started talked about the rest of the furniture.

The matching couch was looking tired and getting kind of squishy, and didn't go with his new chair. We had debated ordering a chair to match it but figured the new chair would far outlive the existing couch and besides, we had found a good deal on an in-stock recliner in that dark brown leather. So the couch had to go. A little sleuthing (and some phenominal luck) put me in a local furniture store during a Columbus Day 25% off sale, and I found a nice comfortable small-scale Flexsteel sofa. We ordered it with custom upholstery for a great price. We had looked at sofas all over town and they were so BIG. Our house just isn't that large, at least the living room isn't, and it doesn't have a lot of open wall space that isn't taken up by the ginormous television. The sofa has to go under the window on a wall that also contains his comfy chair in the corner, positioned so he can see the television. So the sofa can't be 90" long. The one we ordered is only 79" and that's rare.

The rug, drapes and striped arm chairs are staying, so that left the end tables and coffee table, which we've had for over 30 years. Nice stuff, cherry, well made, but we're tired of them and wanted smaller scale end tables. One evening, surfing through, I found the perfect solution:
Lovely little cherry drum tables with interesting veneer and two shelves behind the door to stash remotes and stuff. They arrived yesterday. The next step is new table lamps for them because he detests the ones we have, but surely that won't be hard.

Still can't find a coffee table that's not as big as a bed, but I'm working on it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Vogue vs. Bazaar

First, if you know me you might wonder why I am writing a post about fashion magazines. I, who sartorially lean toward khakis and comfortable loafers. I, whose skin can't tolerate make-up. Well, I may not covet the clothes, but I love the photography.

Vogue is an icon to the fashion world, a staple for upteen decades, the Mecca toward which all other style magazines bow. But is it starting to look a little, well, long in the tooth? I started reading Vogue in my teens while waiting for my mother at the beauty salon. It documented a world populated by exotic creatures doing entrancing things in faraway places. It had a society column that showed what the rich, so so different from you and me, were doing and who was who in the social whirl. These images showed a millieu just about as far away from eastern Kentucky as you could get and still be on Earth.

Harper's Bazaar always seemed sort of an also-ran. It had the best models, the newest fashion, but it just didn't have the cachet. I never found much to read in Bazaar, whereas Vogue always had top-drawer writers as well as drool-worthy fashion shoots. Even now, the first thing I turn to when I get my latest issue of Vogue is Jeffrey Steingarten's fabulous food column. It's the photography that seems dated.

Have you seen the documentary "The September Issue", which chronicles the production of the fat-as-a-phone-book Vogue issue that contains all that is new and noteworthy for the fall season? It's an eye opener, and hugely entertaining. Some people come off pretty well as the photographers trail them through their days in the office. Grace Coddington, the creative director and possibly the best photo stylist in New York, is particularly personable. An ex-model who moved into publishing, she least looks the part, with her wild frizzy red hair, no-nonsense dress style and forthright demeanor. The film follows her as she sets up and styles memorable and wildly creative photo shoots (and gnashes her teeth as Anna Wintour, the editor in chief, cuts some of her best work from the magazine layout). She works hard and she's real. You like her. But the rest of the Vogue crowd don't come off so well.

Andre Leon Talley is just plain weird, a creature from some label obsessed planet where he really does have go-fers and assistants to do things like peel him a grape and keep his highness from actually interacting with the real world. You see him playing tennis, Hermes towel draped around his neck, and you half expect him to have his assistant hit the ball for him. And Anna Wintour, the doyenne of Vogue who personifies the magazine, is more like a block of ice with impeccible makeup and large sunglasses, a Sphynx in Chanel. She makes proclamations, she bosses people around, and she peruses photos over which the stylists and photographers have sweated blood and casually tosses them out without even a flicker of an expression. You kind of want to smack her. And you really begin to see where the screenwriters got their inspiration for the boss lady in "The Devil Wears Prada".

Nowadays Vogue magazine feels like Ms. Wintour seems in the film - distant and preserved in amber, scarcely breathing and never cracking a smile. Whereas, Bazaar, since an overhaul several years ago, is bright and chipper, new and fun-fun-fun. The restyled editorial pages have imaginative photography, beautiful layouts and elegant but lively typography. The couture clothes are just as otherworldly as those in Vogue, but seem a lot more interesting. I read Vogue, I pore over Bazaar, drinking in the pictures.

Take the October covers, for instance. They both feature au courant actresses. Vogue chose Carrie Mulligan, a pixie faced new star with a prodigious talent. As a cover model, however, she falls a little flat for me. There she stands, square to the camera, in an unfortunate dress that is probably gorgeous in person but way too busy to photograph well. She's not smiling, she's not emoting, she's just staring. Her background is out-of-focus greenery that adds a distracting texture to the shot. And surrounding her picture are the usual cover-clutter of blurbs tailored to catch your eye at the newstand. It's not a bad cover, it's just kind of blah.

Bazaar photographed Drew Barrymore, a woman that has enough sizzle in her personality to light a 100 watt bulb by staring at it. She's posed against a simple background of gold fabric hung in fluid drapes. Her hair is swept away from her face and falls in lush waves down her back. She is dressed in frothy voile with killer gold dangle earrings. And she is giving the camera a look that should have melted the lens. Ah, there's glamour.

Better still, Bazaar does something that all magazines should consider: the newstand and subscriber issues have different covers. If you're a subscriber they know they already have your attention. The subscriber covers are clean and spare, freed of the clutter of typefaces designed to compete for eye-space with the other newstand fodder. It contains hardly any words at all, just a simple statement of the focus of that month's issue "Fabulous at Every Age" (indeed) and that beautiful picture.

Every issue I've received in the past year has contained striking photography, the most jaw dropping of which was the April cover featuring Demi Moore perched atop a twelve foot tall spiral staircase standing in the sand at the beach, a giraffe daintily nibbling from her hand. I looked at it and said, "Well, it's a paste-up job but it's cool." Husband, the expert of all things photographic, pronounced it photoshopped but well done.

And then I was channel surfing one night and came upon a program documenting the photo shoot for this cover, and there was that stairway on the beach at Malibu, Ms. Moore positioned at the top, while a giraffe wrangler (!) coaxed his charge to take the treat she was offering, the whole thing like some fevered heat mirage.

Now THAT's cool. I'm not sure Ms. Wintour and Vogue would have even have had the idea, much less make it real.

Window world

Time for that miserable window washing job again. I just spent the last two days on them, and boy, I am going to be sore this morning! Up the ladder, down the ladder, haul that bucket of water, wash that screen, do it all again. Inside and outside. Ugh.

In case you're wondering, I don't have that wonder of the Western world, the tilt-in window. Nope, mine are vintage 1968 aluminum frame single pane wonders that are starting to hit the end of their lifespan. A few of them are decidedly wobbly in their frames and getting hard to open. They weren't state of the art when they were installed and haven't improved with age. I got to thinking today, I've never had a house with decent windows. The first one had aluminum crank-out awning windows, which were old when we bought the house, and the cranks promptly started to break after we moved in. When we left, two didn't work at all. The next house was new construction but the guy cheaped-out when he bought windows. They were wood frame casement types that swelled and stuck. Now this place with its own peculiarities. I would replace them if it wouldn't cost a mint. I know - I got the estimate several years ago. Ouch! So it's up the ladder I go to clean the outside.

One of the most trying things about them is that if they are in an area with any moisture in the air, like the baths, kitchen or laundry, the frames mildew. Why? Who knows. I've never had this problem in any other house. But they do, and the best way to remove that is bathroom cleaner, the fume-ier the better. So after you wash the frame and the sills with Tilex you break out the Windex and the paper towels and shine up the glass. And wash the screen. And, oh yes, remove the flimsy metal grate that gives the windows the look of multiple panes (and, for the person doing it, multiple pains!), being sure not to bend or distort it - which is very easy to do, wash that also and snap it back onto the inside of the window.

After the windows, I cleaned the glass in the front and side doors and realized that the doors and door frames needed some attention so I washed those too. And then the garage doors looked dingy, so. . .right, they were next. Then the outside lights caught my attention so I polished up the metal and glass on those and vacuumed out the bugs. (Just an aside, but how do bugs get into a sealed outdoor light? The top attached with two screws and the glass panels fit into channels, but the bugs get inside anyway.) These are easier to clean than they appear because you can remove each of six trapezoid shaped pieces of glass to clean them.

In doing that, just as I finished polishing the last of the panes in the last outdoor light, I dropped the piece of glass and broke it. So I had to trace a pattern to take to the glass shop and get a replacement cut today. In fairness, this light is beside the sliding door to the patio, at the top of a set of rather steep concrete steps, and I was balancing on the top step trying to reach around to the back side of the light and replace the glass after cleaning it, so add in the fact that I was tired and getting sore in my shoulders and it's no wonder I dropped it. Probably a miracle I didn't break more of them.

All evening I walked around the house and admired the nice clean windows. It's a shame that they will be dusty and messy again before you know it. I suppose that's what drives me crazy about housekeeping. You work like a dog and everything looks. . .right. Not special, just like it should be. And by the next week it's as if you never did a thing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The new baby in the house. . .

. . .at least it's my husband's new baby! And, boy, is it comfortable. I took a turn reclining in it while he was on the computer and almost fell asleep during Project Runway. He may never stay awake for the end of another movie we watch at home.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goings-on at the House of Quilts

Molly determined that a stack of folded quilts makes a dandy kitty sleeping bag: I fixed the quilting bobbles and completed the binding on the final (FINAL!) backlogged quilt from all those years ago:
I think forgot just how cute it is, or I wouldn't have let it lie in a cupboard for 10 years with those thread knots and bobbin tension loops unfixed. I will never know what happened with these quilts. The lady was a good longarm quilter and did several for me before the five that came back with all these problems. She was also inexpensive, so I was feeling pretty good about letting her have my quilts. And then these come back in a batch with the machine tension all messed up and loopy thread on the front where the bobbin thread pulled up to the surface. It wasn't like the lady to let work like that go without fixing it, so I still think her daughter was helping her quilt and the daughter didn't have the same work ethic.

The quilter lives in Kentucky near my mother so I would drop off my quilts with her when I visited Mom. It was my fault that this time I picked them up, pulled a corner of each out of the bag for a cursory examination and bundled them into the car. I was leaving town and eager to hit the road. Now I spread every quilt out and microscopically go over it before I leave the premises. Paranoid, I guess. But I don't have any problems with my longarm quilter Sherry's work. It's beautiful.

And remember this quilt made of Benartex Meadowbrook fabrics (see linked post for picture)? I never could decide if that quilt was just OK or pretty, but two years ago I hired the quilting at a local shop. It came out positively the worst quilting job I have ever seen. Dreadful. The thread tension was all wonky and the stitch length varied so much that some of the stitches were over 1/4" long. Ruined, absolutely ruined. I whimpered a little and chucked it in the corner. Finally, I machine sewed on a binding and thought I would make it a charity quilt. But it was so terrible I couldn't make myself give it away. It languished in the closet, and I tried to forget all the work that went into it.

This afternoon I picked it up, spread it out and decided I wouldn't go down without a fight. So I trimmed off the binding and picked out the quilting. ALL OF IT. It took hours. And hours. In fact, it's after 1 a.m. and I just finished. It would have been worse if it had been done correctly but it was a complete mess and I could break the bobbin thread with a stitch picker at 12" intervals and whisk it out without even breaking the thread. Plus, it had been done in a moderate sized meander.

So now it's completely disassembled and I trimmed 1/2" off the edges to straighten them after lopping off the binding. Thank heavens for solid unpieced borders. There was no way I was going to pick out all the stitches securing the binding too. Luckily I found more of the Benartex Meadowbrook backing fabric online. Since the binding was trimmed off, the backing is now the same size as the quilt and smaller than my new (dependable) longarm quilter requests. She likes them to be at least 6" larger than the quilt top all around. And I'll have to buy new batting, a major expense nowadays. It's always a financial shock when I pick up a queen size Quilter's Dream batt, but I love the stuff and don't use anything else. I can salvage the removed batting for small quilts. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. Can't be worse.

If it turns out all right, I might do the same to this one from a Suz Guz Designs pattern (last pictures on the linked post). Another miserable quilting job from another bad longarm quilter that I could fix, if I have the nerve to pick out all the quilting on a whole queen size quilt.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A few quilt finishes

After applying the binding on this wall quilt I hung it in the hallway. If pumpkins are here can Halloween be far behind? This is a design from Thimbleberries circa 2002. There were four in all, one for each season. More later when I make some photographs. Also completed is the large, 92" square, Miss Rosie's Quilt Company pattern using the Pat Sloan fabric from 2003. I put on the master bedroom bed while the white bedspread is in the wash. Doesn't match a thing, of course, but aren't the colors rich? We'll use it for a few days because it's so nice and big.
Here's a corner of the quilt showing the colors in detail. It's says "Autumn" to me.
My time this weekend is taken up with completing some quilts begun 10 years ago or so (maybe even more, I can't remember) that have thread tension problems in the quilting that need to be repaired before binding. I've talked about these before. Time to get them done and over with.

It's odd that I don't have any quilts at the longarm quilter right now and don't have anything spread out on the kitchen table in process. Kind of doesn't feel right! However, I've "kitted up" a couple of Miss Rosie's designs and have them ready to work when all the lingering projects are done. In the meantime, you should see the bed in my guest room. It's stacked up with the five quilts for my nephew's family, the other three seasonal wall hangings, two small quilts (the second version of the Quiltville Carolina Christmas mystery and the batik with orange and blue I call "Kentucky Girl Moves to Tennessee") and five other Miss Rosie pattern quilts, two of which I will keep and the other three probably give away to family. It's snowing quilts at my house!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My thrift store jacket find

Here's the $7.00 jacket I scored at the thrift shop, back from the cleaners and ready for action - if it will ever cool down. 92 degrees today - can it be fall, please?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bound and determined. . .

. . .or, they are bound because I was determined.

Remember the nine quilts I had accumulated that needed binding? I'm on the last one! The black and white quilt I am making for my nephew only needs binding on two sides and I will be completely done. It's a miracle.

It also contained a bit of a surprise. I bind quilts working at my desk. I roll up the quilt with the edge in process sticking out and drape it across the desktop. As I was shifting the black and white quilt, I was stuck by something protruding from the rolled up portion. What? I started feeling and prodding and found the end of a pin protruding from the roll. So I started exploring further, unrolling the quilt. About two feet from one side and three feet from the other the end of a very large pin was sticking through the front of the quilt. I could feel a large glass head on the pin through the backing, and it appeared to be inside the quilt, between the front and back. Oh, good grief. I quickly determined that the head was too large to work out of the fabric and I would have to snip a slit in the backing to remove it. With much irritation I made a small slit and worked the pin out. It was entangled in the batting so I had to slit that too. And here it is:

It's absolutely huge, at least three inches long, and looks more like a hatpin instead of a sewing pin. How in heaven's name it became trapped inside my quilt is a mystery. The problem is, now I have a slit about 1/2" long on the backing of the quilt, which has me very, very aggravated. It's at such odd spacing from the edges it would look strange to put the label over it, but I may have to. Or make a block and add it as decoration. I haven't decided yet.

It's always something.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thrift shop score!

No picture because it's at the cleaners, but I stumbled across a wool tweed blazer at the local Goodwill for the scintillating price of $7.00 today! It's a brand name, it fits like it was made for me, and it's gray, which is a very "in" color this fall. In fact, it hardly looks like it was ever worn. I don't think the pocket stay stitching was even snipped open. Why can't I be lucky like this more often?

The new fall wardrobe is assembled and barring some minor hemming jobs, I'm ready for cooler weather. I even bought matching hangers so the closet looks nice. Snazzy!

Brave new world - or, I compute, therefore I am

On the way downtown to deliver a load of donated clothes to the women's shelter a few days ago, I happened to drive through the edge of the local university campus early in the morning, where throngs of students were wending their way from the dorms to the classroom buildings. I noticed that almost every single one had a laptop case tucked under their arm, or carried by a handle, or slung across their shoulder in a messenger bag, or stuck in a backpack. They were everywhere.

Now, I have a laptop myself, but it's a stand-in for a really skinny desktop computer because I'm not willing to delegate any more prime real estate on my desk to a monitor and computer than necessary, and I certainly am not willing to put the keyboard in the center desk drawer that I have to pull out and flip down the hinged fake front in order to be able to type. So I have a laptop that I can close and shove aside when I need room. My laptop isn't well traveled. We have a netbook for that, when it's not being the home theater PC, which is its primary job. And my laptop is a 17" model, which husband picked for me. It's a really nice one and I like having the larger screen but it's a handful to pack around.

But evidently these students go everywhere with their laptops, and I imagine that they use them for note-taking in class too. I recall the scene in the movie "Legally Blond" (OK, it was a slow TV night) where the law class is assembled and everyone has their laptop in front of them except for the heroine, who pulls out a pad and pen, which is kind of shorthand for how out of touch with the law student's life she is. But it's probably accurate that students sit there in class and type notes while listening to the lecture.

Which brings me to my point: how on earth do you do that? And isn't the sound of a full classroom of people pecking away on their keyboards very irritating? When I was in college studying engineering I took notes in class, but they were pretty sketchy, just jottings to remind myself what was discussed. Occasionally, I would write down a whole calculation or derivation or proof, but in the main my note-taking was more like automatic writing, where my hand went off and did its thing without a lot of supervision. I found I got a whole lot more out of the lectures if I paid more attention to the instructor than to taking notes.

But even with the ability to touch type (thank you, high school typing teacher, what would I have done without you with my terrible handwriting?) I can't just type without looking at the screen and I certainly misspell more words typing than writing. I think trying to take notes on the laptop would be quite distracting. If you're 18 and you've never lived without a computer and a cell phone that texts and all the other technological paraphernalia that you practically come out of the womb with nowadays, I suppose the use of these gadgets is more ingrained and this is just the old fogey in me talking. Sometimes I can't get my brain wrapped around how that generation relies on their computers/phones/Ipods/etc. in every aspect of their life.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Make it work! (with apologies to Tim Gunn)

Along with a heavy coat for winter, another piece I shopped for last month was a light jacket, which I will probably be able to wear all the way to Thanksgiving, given our temperate climate. I wanted something casual but stylish that would suit sweaters and khakis. And I found it at LL Bean: I liked the epaulets and the turn-back collar, and the button tabs on the side to give the jacket some shape. Since the customer ratings said it ran large and I'm between sizes, I ordered the smaller size at first, which fit in the hips and chest but was too tight in the shoulders for comfortable driving and such. So I swapped it for the larger size, and the fit is very comfortable. But it was a little boxy. What to do? I tried cinching in the waist using the button tabs but that made a lump of fabric at the sides which wasn't comfortable.

While examining the construction I thought about the inset waistband. Perhaps a little elastic? But did I want to disassemble the jacket to put elastic in the waist? The solution came to me: hand sew a lightweight cotton casing on the inside of the waistband to hold the elastic only in the back between the side seams. It took just a few minutes before I had completed the casing and inserted the elastic. Just enough to nip in the waist:Believe me, it looks better on the body than on the closet door. That bit of elastic made all the difference in the world in the fit of the jacket and didn't hide the fact that I have a waistline. Perfect!

Regarding the Tim Gunn reference: I have become a great fan of "Project Runway", and Mr. Gunn is one of the major reasons why. His gentlemanly manner is a relief among the catty contestants and snobby judges. He's a class act.

I watch the program weekly with the sort of morbid attention you give train wrecks. It's really quite spellbinding, not the least because of the appalling garments they produce. Granted, they are under time and monetary restraints, but really, some of these get-ups look like third graders made them. And can ANYONE fit a pair of pants anymore? It is hard to watch this stuff when you have made clothing since you were in grade school yourself and know tailoring and how clothing should fit, regardless of the compromises I make in my own clothes because I buy instead of custom make the stuff now and altering is a PAIN. The thing that really gets me about the styling of the dresses is the length. There's mini, and there's MINI, as in about a handsbreath below your underwear. We're into seriously tacky here. Unless the girl is going to wear bike shorts underneath everything, I'm at a loss how she will walk and sit without a public indecency charge. The winning dress last week was a good example. Oh, it's probably just me being a 50-something. I was here the first time minis came around but that time, four inches about the knee scandalized the nation.