Sunday, January 31, 2010

The First 25

I finished my first 25 pillowcases for Operation Pillowcase, which is sending dark pillowcases to service members. Boy I love that mindless sewing, and as unintended consequence I'm doing an archaeological dig on my stash, removing the top layers, and finding all those projects that I still want to make, that I still have supplies for, but that have fallen into the deeper sedimentary layers of the stash (OK, no more geology references).

I've always known that I get distracted by clutter, but somehow I didn't use that realization in my sewing room. Now that I've peeled away some layers, I feel more organized and less distracted. I'm sure I will get even more pillowcases done for OP, and in the process I plan do work on some long-hibernating projects.

Of course, the main benefit of OP is to do good: to bring a little comfort to soldiers in Afghanistan. Debra just posted a list of things that soldiers can't get, but need or can use, and the simplicity of the items just breaks my heart. There's still time, if you want to help out.

I also finished knitting this sweater. Isn't it cute? It's a free vintage pattern you can find on the web here. I love this design, and I updated it with this deep purple color. The yarn is Vanna's Choice, an inexpensive acrylic, which is soft and lovely, and not the least bit stiff like older generations of acrylic yarn.

One of my students made this pin for me, which matches the sweater perfectly. When I wear it, I feel like quite the fashion plate.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Final Dollhouse Tour

Here are the last photos of my dollhouse tour. You can see the others by following the "dollhouse" link in the sidebar, and they're in my Flikr page too. This is the small bedroom.

I made the bed: the headboard is from pre-made fence shapes from Michael's craft store. The dresser and vanity are from the dollar store. I felt like it was my lucky day when I ran across those.
This room still needs pictures on the walls. Just like with a real house, you're never quite done decorating a dollhouse.

The T.V. is a Japanese magnet. You may be able to see the perfume bottle next to the lamp is made from beads.

This is the second bedroom. I enlarged it by covering over the opening for the staircase that was originally on the right side. The stairs would have had to face away from the open side of the dollhouse, toward the front wall, so they wouldn't have been visible. I've been able to use the display space for more furniture.

This bed was made from balsa wood, and the headboard is a decorative wooden medallion.

This picture of my kids as babies was a charm for a necklace.

Don't you love these side mirrors? I was lucky to get this dress form on EBay.

Originally, there was a sepia-toned picture of a large house pasted into this frame in the wall. I wanted to keep it, but when I masked it off to paint the room, the picture got damaged. I replaced it with a postcard featuring a painting by Carmen Lomas Garza, of a family making tamales.

She does beautiful paintings of everyday life among Texas Mexican people, some of which are incorporated into children's books. The postcard advertises an exhibit of her work at the University of Texas. In front of the picture is the treadle sewing machine I knew I wanted for the dollhouse.

One big question about dollhouses is how to display them. They take up a significant amount of space, and you want to be able to see both sides. For the time being, I've installed mine on the counter between my living room and kitchen. From the living room, you can see the inside of the dollhouse.

From the kitchen, and when you come in the front door, you can see the outside. I'm pleased with this arrangement for the time being.

Thanks for visiting the dollhouse. Drop by anytime, the coffee's always on.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Doing Good Works

Crafters are such generous people. Debra has spearheaded an effort to send pillowcases to service members in Afghanistan, which you can find out about at Operation Pillowcase. Her goal is to send 50 pillowcases to one unit, and I've sewn up a few myself towards the effort. In less than a week, and with the help of some friends, she's halfway toward her goal.

Others have posted about ways to contribute toward the Haitian earthquake relief. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot, has been championing Doctors Without Borders for years, and the post-earthquake donations her readers have reported to her blog have put the total contributions of her Knitters Without Borders over $750,000. Knitters can flex some major charitable muscle.

Crazy Aunt Purl posted instructions on how to make small donations to the Red Cross and to other groups using your cell phone. She reports that over 7 million dollars has been collected to far for Haitian relief using the mobile giving campaign.

With so much loss and suffering, it's good to know we can each do our small part, and that these small efforts add up to a groundswell of tangible help to those in need.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter Madonna

Thanks for your good wishes about the earthquake. I think my heart rate is almost back to normal and the general level of panic in the community is subsiding a bit. I went grocery shopping yesterday and the store was jammed and people were shopping for the end of the world, but I think things should continue to calm down as the days pass.

I'm working on the next piece in my seasonal Madonna series. I'm working with the Hoffman Virgin of Guadalupe fabric, and I cut out the motifs and use them as appliques. Here's an image of the original motif trimmed down.

The background for the four pieces are a set of vintage napkins. I take out the hems and trim them up so that the finished pieces are 16 x16 inches

Like for the Fall Madonna, I'm switching out the Madonna's robes to match the season of each piece. For this one I gave her and black and cream costume, and the new fabric is added over the old with needle-turn applique. I like the winter foliage in the print for her veil, and the skirt fabric has a Jacobean-style subtle print that I've used as the pattern for the bead embellishment.

Because this is the Winter Madonna, I've chosen the poinsettia as the floral motif for this piece. I found some poinsettia beads that I've worked into the skirt. At the bottom you can see the machine basting that I used to outline this piece. The stitching will be the fold line for the applique and I'll cut the rest of the fabric away about an eighth of an inch from the stitching.

Here's the finished motif. I'm thinking that when I attach her to the background, I'll add embellishment along her edge.

And this is my mock-up of the placement of the elements on the background. I use a freezer paper outline of the Madonna to figure out where to place her. I'm also using a piece of black lace to indicate the new moon. Each piece will incorporate a different phase of the moon.

Here's the completed Fall Madonna for reference. I'll be adding silk ribbon embroidery and broidery perse flowers to the Winter piece as well.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Mother Nature's Roller Coaster

Edited to add: a link to a front page photo from today's paper and to the story.

We had a 6.5 earthquake at 4:30 pm on Saturday. It was a firm reminder that Mother Nature is really in charge, that we delude ourselves with daydreams of control and mastery, but ultimately, greater powers are in charge, and when they remind us, we are humbled.

We're all well. My house is fine, we didn't experience even one broken dish. I had an old bottle of sunscreen on top of the furnace in the garage, and it fell, the bottle cracked, and the sunscreen spilled. We had no power until just now, 11pm. I bless the people who work for Pacific Gas and Electric, who work so hard to restore power at times like this.

When the quake hit, I was in the middle of my first foray into the new Kohl's department store. It opened about 4 months ago, but I still hadn't been in. I decided to go shopping for bras. Michael had gone to pick up things for dinner, and was going to come to my house and cook. Allie was at her job at the restaurant, prepping for dinner service. Alex was at his job at the grocery store.

So here I was, thankfully, as Michael later noted, at least not in the dressing room naked from the waist up, but casually looking for a cashier, carrying two bras, (one beige, one black) a pair of leopard print drawers, (of all things) and a set of pink pajamas, when everything started to shake and the lights went out. The first jolt was pretty strong, but then, a bad sign, the ground kept rolling. I was in an area with racks of clothes, and had to struggle to keep my feet under me. Across the isle, dishes started to fall off the shelves and break. I could see the exit because it was still light outside. I dropped the merchandise and headed for the door, as did almost all the other shoppers.

Once I got outside, I saw a woman with a little girl, still holding garments on hangers. A pregnant woman clutched her belly and said she hoped this wouldn't send her into labor. An older lady stopped to chat with me as I fumbled for my cell phone. She seemed completely unaffected by the quake. She was just annoyed that she'd come all the way to town to exchange something, and now she wouldn't be able to.

All around me people began to run for their cars. I stood there for several minutes with my cell phone in my hand, in a quandary about who to call first. I called Michael, but he didn't answer. I later learned that he was at my house on the phone with his son in San Francisco, so he didn't answer. He realized it was a strong quake, but perhaps because he wasn't in a public place when it happened, he was the least effected of all of us. I left him a message.

I called Allie, who didn't answer either, so I sent her and Alex a text: "I'm okay, check in when you can." Allie works in the basement of one of the oldest buildings in the county. When the ground started to move, she was standing with a knife in her hand. All her co-workers, not being Californians, were confused when she dove under a table. They headed for the exit, and she followed them out, leaving her phone behind.

I was especially worried about Alex. I had visions of toppled shelves and broken glass. It turns out he was in the beer cooler at the time, surrounded by walls of stacked beer in glass bottles and cases of cans. He stood in the door frame of the cooler, until he remembered from his Red Cross training that the door frame isn't necessarily a great place to stand during an earthquake, so he exited the store. They thankfully had minimal breakage, though I think Alex was pretty shook up. They kept the store open, after hooking up a generator to the store manager's car battery when the generator battery wouldn't work. Alex spent part of his shift moving ice cream into the freezer at the back of the store to prevent them from losing inventory. Locals kept coming in to get candles and batteries.

As I pulled myself together to drive home, I lined up with all the cars leaving the mall. Emergency vehicles were coming in. I later heard that ceiling tiles and skylights came down in the mall, but that there appear to have been no major injuries and no major structural damage to buildings. As I drove home, Alex texted me that he was okay, and Allie called to check in. A woman called into the radio station I was listening to to say that all her glasses and dishes had fallen from the shelves and broken.

It's taken hours for the adrenaline to subside. Michael cooked and we had dinner and sat in the dark waiting for the power to come on. We got out the candles and the lanterns. Allie came home after they closed the restaurant, leaving meat on the cutting boards in the dark, and the food in the refrigerators spoiling. Alex came home after his shift and played the guitar. I knitted a few rows on a shawl that I can knit by feel. I feel like we dodged a bullet. I'm grateful that we're all well. That we have each other.

Alex brought home stories from customers of how windows blew out of a big grocery store, and of how ceiling tiles came down in a store at the mall, but with no power, it's been hard to get a sense of what's going on in the community around us. But for now, we're safe. In the coming weeks, we'll be stocking up on fresh batteries and I'll be stashing supplies in all the cars and in my office. This wasn't The Big One. Thank Goodness. Yes, it could've been much worse.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Year Greetings

The kids and I just came back from a quick trip to see my parents. Now that both kids work, we have to squeeze our travels in between every one's work schedules, but here the kids are with my dad.

And here they are with mom. She was recently in the hospital, but is doing much better.

Finally, here I am with the kids. My parents live in California's central valley, and we got typical cold foggy winter weather during our visit. We didn't get five minutes of sun over three days. I was glad when we drove out of the valley and into Lake county, where we finally got some sun. Then we drove into the familiar Humboldt County drizzle and we were home.

One of the many good things about having young adult kids is that we now have multiple drivers for our trips. This makes travel easy for me. I sit in the back seat and knit.

Here are a few recent knitted items. Knitting and winter are naturally compatible. Here's a fun hat I knit for myself. The pattern, Columbia, by Sarah Pope, is available through Ravelry.

I also knit myself this shawl from some lovely Misti Alpaca baby alpaca yarn that I had stashed away. The border is knit from an odd skein of Kid n Ewe mohair and wool blend that I picked up at a thrift store. The pattern, called Textured Shawl Recipe, is also available on Ravelry.

Quilting content is on the way. I'm working on a new hand embroidered Madonna piece, and I'll be posting some photos soon.

Happy 2010 to everyone. May the coming year bring us all closer together.

Sweater Genesis

  A few years ago I learned to harvest yarn from old wool sweaters.  I don't do it so much anymore, with the exception of if I find...