30 May 2006

dolly's smock is cuter than mine

This is my first contribution to Tie-One-On, Angry Chicken's monthly apron challenge. The theme for May was a "Smock to wear out" and I was really excited about this given Twin and I have long had a yen to make moo-moos. You know, loose-fitting, tent-like, completely unrestrictive but also somehow cute summer wear. In theory, at least, tent-like and cute are not mutually exclusive. So the smock challenge seemed like a good chance to make a moo-moo-like garment.

I should caveat this by saying I don't think my creation really counts as a smock. It's not open in the back and goes on over the head. I was going to try to alter the pattern to button in the back but feared that if I went off-pattern, I would end up with a great big mess. I almost ended up with a great big mess just trying to follow the pattern exactly, so this was probably a wise decision.

I used an old pattern from the 70s I got off eBay. I knew I wanted a yoke-style smock—I was inspired by the 70s Vogue Sewing book I borrowed (i.e. stole) from Mom. The book is not only the greatest resource for basic sewing info, it is also endlessly amusing. In the section on pleats, it reads, "The Perky Pleat: There's nothing like the snappy swing of pleats to put a lilt in your walk and a gleam in the eye of a passing gentleman..." So THAT'S the secret. Why did no one tell me sooner?

Alas, I'm not completely happy with my smock. I think it pushes my cute factor over the threshold into the realm of obnoxiously cute. All the pink didn't help. The general shapelessness of it didn't either, I think.

I used a pillowcase that I found at a thrift store for the front and back. It wasn't quite wide enough so I added a bit of white at the sides. I have since discovered that the pillowcase was vintage Vera—and I went and cut it up for a shapeless, slightly wonky smock. Oopsy. The gods of vintage linens may smite me down for such blatant sacrilege. I can only plead my complete cluelessness as humble defense.

Dolly saw the smock Amy made on Angry Chicken and liked her interpretation of the smock so much better than mine. So I made Dolly a smock a la Angry Chicken. I used the scraps from my quilt in progress and have to admit it turned out absolutely adorable. See, Dolly has no issues with cute overload. 8" plastic dolls apparently have no ceiling on cuteness. Twenty-something women, however, dressed in pink who still play with 8" dolls, well, that's when cute begins to turn into something else.

29 May 2006

grandma's chocolate cake

Hi there, Julieree readers. This is Jennie (AKA Twin). I've got Julie bound and gagged in the closet and I've taken over her blog. MWAHAHA! I'll probably let her go soon. But until then...you get me.

I actually baked today, a very unusual occurrence. Julie is a fabulous cook. Me, sadly, not so much. I love to eat what Julie cooks, but few things inspire me to make the effort of baking. This cake is one of the exceptions. It is light and fluffy, very chocolatey but not overly sweet.

First, the story behind the recipe. When our grandparents got marrried in the late 1930s, Grandma decided to have a recipe bridal shower, each guest bringing a favorite recipe to share. When Grandpa first tasted this cake, he made it a condition of the marriage that she make the cake once a week. Of course he was kidding, but it has been a family favorite ever since. Julie and I have probably had this cake at every single birthday. It is by far my favorite dessert. Grandma always made it with regular chocolate frosting, the fluffy kind made with confectioner's sugar. Mama has since traded this for a rich ganache for even greater chocolatey decadence.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbs cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup boiling water

Directions: Preheat oven to 250. Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs and egg yolk. Beat well. Sift flour, cocoa, salt, and soda together in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Begin and end with flour mixture. Add hot water and stir to mix. Pour batter into greased 9"X13" pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 250 for the first 20 minutes, then increase temperature to 350 until done.

As you can see from the picture, we made them as cupcakes this time. They take about 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

Mama's Ganache:
1 1/4 cup cream
12 oz chocolate (highest quality you want to spring for)
1 tsp vanilla

Just heat the cream in the microwave, then stir the chocolate and vanilla in. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until it has set to a good consistency.

Special warning for all you baking novices out there (like me). This is actually my second attempt at the cake this week. On my first try, I realized at the last minute that we didn't have any cocoa. So I pulled out some Nesquik thinking, hey, it's the same thing, right? Ummm, no, not really. Disasterous results. Practically inedible. So this time I bought the good stuff--Scharffen Berger unsweetened cocoa. Good ingredients make for a good cake. A lesson learned.

28 May 2006

the Plan

A baby quilt it is. Twin and I went to Purl Patchwork yesterday. There was much hemming and hawing and general indecision (on my part) over which fabrics to choose, as usual. And we came home with more fabrics than we actually need for the project, as usual. But I am very excited about the plan. It's completely opposite my original idea, which was soft muted yellows without a lot of contrast. Twin saw the pink fabric, and we were both immediately smitten. I love the salmon color, and it's one of those fabrics where the warp is one color (in this case, hot pink) and the weft is another (orange), so it has the most beautiful texture and depth to it. I'm sure this kind of fabric has a name, but heck if I know what it is.

Twin thought I was nuts to not want much contrast, and she can be very persuasive. I knew I wanted to use squares, so I mocked up some possibilities, but ended up feeling that Twin's original idea of concentric squares looked best. Her "I told you so" quotient was exceedingly high yesterday.

So this is the plan. I hope to get it pieced before we leave for the beach so I can quilt it while I am sans-machine. Since we're leaving in just five days (YIPEEEEEEE!), this is probably a wee bit overly ambitious. But babies wait for no man, so I figure I better get crackin'.

And here's a peek at the other fabrics that jumped into our bags at Purl. I am setting this down for all the world to see in the hopes that I can make myself obey it: I WILL BUY NO MORE CRAFT SUPPLIES UNTIL AFTER RENEGADE CRAFT FAIR. I've been meaning to save my money so I can splurge at the fair, but alas, I'm never very good at saving. The other day I was browsing through eBay and they had a listing for "Thousands of vintage buttons." And the bid was only at $5! Who can resist that, I ask you? And the one little picture showed just a mountain of buttons—no detail shots. Which of course starts you thinking, what treasures could be lurking in that enormous mountain of buttons? So I bid. Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view), I was outbid and Twin succeeded in physically restraining me from placing a new bid. But some days I still wonder about that mountain of buttons, and what wonders were hidden within.

27 May 2006

to one thing constant never

I'm throwing in the towel. This baby blanket will never be finished. It's just too incredibly slow. The yarn is too light, the pattern is too complicated, the hook is too damn small! I wanted to finish it. On Tuesday I vowed a renewed commitment to it. I crocheted all the way to work (45 min) and all the way back (45 min). I crocheted while watching The Parent Trap for the bazillionth time (1 hr 30 min). And all I had to show for it were three lousy rows. (3 hrs = 3 rows = 3 hours of my life I will never get back)

It's not patience I lack, but focus. There are too many other projects I want to do—so many inspiring things I see out there that I want to try. So I guess it was Shakespeare who said it though the words come to me through the Emma Thompson film adaptation:

One foot on sea,
And one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny nonny!

So I'm letting this project go. At least for now. I thought briefly about making it into a pillow, but I'm not sure you're supposed to give pillows to babies. I can just see myself giving a baby gift which, while looking pretty darn cute, will also asphyxiate the poor child.

Lying in bed last night I imagined a baby quilt. In soft yellows. And I've already ordered this, this, and this pattern from Alicia. And rumor has it Mom has ordered One Skein and Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and she may give them to me if I play my cards right (YAY thanks marmee). And Dolly is still awaiting her wardrobe.

So even if I only start projects and never finish them, at least in the process I am feeling mighty blithe and bonny.

22 May 2006

my mama's brunswick stew

Brunswick stew is good southern cooking. I think it's traditionally made with squirrel or rabbit or whatever you gone done shot in the woods out back, but I pretty much just stick with chicken. (and just for the record, I have never been hunting and prefer to get my meat all wrapped up in cellophane from the market.) I was always taught that Brunswick stew originated in Brunswick County, Virginia, though I recently learned this is a disputed claim— Brunswick, Georgia also calls itself the home of Brunswick stew. A heated debate, I'm sure.

It's a thick, hearty stew made from a tomato base with a good kick of red pepper. It's great in winter, but warmed two southern girls' insides this weekend as the early summer in New York seemed endlessly cool and rainy.

Here's my mama's recipe:

1 smallish chicken (or the equivalent parts)
yellow onion
12 oz. bottle of V-8
1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
2-3 baking potatoes, chopped
1/2 bag frozen lima beans
1/2 bag frozen shoepeg corn
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

Place the chicken parts in a large pot along with 2-3 stalks celery, 2 carrots, and 1/2 the onion (all roughly chopped). Add salt and pepper. Cover with water and cook 20-30 minutes until the chicken is just done. Remove the chicken. Cut the meat off the bone into bite-size pieces, set aside. Return the bones to the broth and continue cooking at high heat until the broth has reduced to about half.

Strain the broth, reserving the liquid and discarding the rest. Add the V-8 juice, the tomatoes (chopped) along with their liquid, 2-3 chopped carrots, 2 stalks chopped celery, the other half the onion, the potatoes, and the lima beans. Season with the cayenne (a couple good shakes or more if you like it spicy). Cook 30-45 minutes. The longer it cooks the mushier it gets. (I think mushy is good.) Add the corn and the chicken for the last 5-10 minutes. Season to taste.

You must eat corn bread with it. There is simply no other way. The stew is even better the next day and freezes well.

If you're not up for cooking, try to find Mrs. Fearnow's, which is made in Virgina though a bit difficult to find outside that venerated commonwealth. It looks like dog food coming out of the can, but sure does taste good. Great for camping, too.

21 May 2006

two pouches and a gumby bag

This week I've been making bags. Mom had ordered a zipper foot for our little machine, so I went up to the garment district and bought some zippers. The notions shops up there put out huge bins of zippers and other odds and ends on the sidewalks. You have to rummage through the tangle to find the colors and sizes you want—but they're extremely cheap. I brought home a dozen in various colors. Thus my inspiration to make bags.

I started out with a pencil case for Jennie (above, top right). It was surprisingly easy. It was supposed to be rectangular, but it turned out slightly trapezoidal, so it leans a bit to the right. I like the effect—it looks like it's speeding off somewhere.

The second bag actually has right angles for corners and I figured out how to bind the seams inside. A little machine stitching for decoration. Here are the interiors.

Then, with my confidence growing, I knew I was ready for something a bit bigger. As I was browsing through flickr, I saw this amazing bag made by little birds. It looked like my friend Suzanne, and since her birthday was about two weeks ago, it seemed like the perfect (if slightly belated) birthday present.

I'm quite proud I actually figured out how to make the pattern for it. And didn't have to rip out any seams at all! Throughout the entire process, I had that feeling of imminent disaster—just waiting to discover I'd sewn the lining inside out, or forgotten to attach the handles, or left off seam allowances entirely. Imagine my surprise when it was done and all the pieces were in their proper places and all the seams lined up. It wasn't until I turned it right side out that I had one of those slap-your-head-and-yell-d'oh!!! moments. Because the mouth of the bag is tiny! I had imagined it as a tote, but you couldn't possibly get anything wider than about 7 inches into the thing.

But I still think it's pretty, and I hope Suz can use it as a purse—so long as she's only reading a paperback. I embroidered a little tag for it with a black-eyed Susan. Happy birthday to my brown-eyed Suzanne!!

20 May 2006

nice to meetcha

I don't really like the Blogger profiling system, so I have been very lax about entering any information about myself. But apparently my profile is being viewed occasionally, and those poor people who get directed there are only rewarded for their curiosity with the measly little bit of information that I am female. Well, duh. So in the next post and henceforth forever more, visitors can learn 100 nifty little factoids all about me.

I am not quite sure who is viewing my profile. Quite possibly, my mother is clicking it every day to see if I have gotten my act together and posted some information. Somebody asked Jennie the other day if she had a "readership" for her blog and she just snorted in response, as if to say that was completely beside the point—her blog is an exercise in writing and a way to organize and archive thoughts, and if anyone happens to visit, that's fine and dandy but she's not going to lose any sleep if no one ever reads a word she writes. Very mature of her. But we both recognize the value of a blog's ability to connect people of like interests and temperaments and deep down, we are very happy when someone visits our blogs and feels any kind of kinship with the words and images we set down here.

And though I generally try as hard as I can to melt into the background and don't really like talking about myself, I have learned (slowly but surely) that connections don't happen unless you put yourself out there. So here's me putting myself out there. How do you do.

100 things

I wrote the list below in 2006. A lot has happened in 5 years (have I really had this blog for five years?). The list will still tell you more than you want to know about me, but for accuracy's sake here are a few updates: Moved to North Carolina to work in communications for a university. LOVE North Carolina. Met a wonderful man. Adopted a dog. Bought a house. LOVE the man, dog, and house. Married the wonderful man. Still sewing, still designing, still blogging. Very happy. 12/29/10

I'm Julie. I've always liked my name.
The ree is the abbreviated form of my middle name, which I inherited from my grandmother.
I love that my blog reminds me every day of her legacy.

I'm a southern girl at heart.
Hot sun through closed eyelids is the best feeling in the world.
I'm trying very hard to like NYC.
I hate the smell of garbage.

I have a twin.
She is my roommate.
She is my best friend.
She is my best honest critic.
Some day a man will take her away from me.
That man should probably beware of poisoned apples, falling pianos, and being shoved in front of oncoming buses.

I have had a surprising number of professional incarnations for a gal of my youth.
I was a bookseller.
I was a teacher.
I was a cheeseseller.
I worked as a pastry cook.
It was a tough decision between culinary school and design school.
Design school won out.
Design school is not particularly good for your health.
But ever since going to design school, it seems my eyes are open a little wider.

I must have been French in one of my previous lives.
I fantasize about moving to France.
I love that this fantasy doesn't have to come true to taste sweet.

I like handkerchiefs, knee socks, and most kinds of cereal.
I hate bubble gum, disposable housecleaning products, and socks that fall down into your shoes.

I still don't know the difference between imminence, immanence, and eminence.
But it really bugs me when people confuse "you're" and "your."
Ditto with "their" and "there."

I admire my father's unflappable and imminently (eminently?) Buddha-like self-posession and inner peace.
I admire my mother's passion, energy, and boundless generosity.
I admire my brother's sincere, easy affability and the way he never does anything halfway, but instead with passionate pursuit.
I admire my sister's candor, her vivacity, and her wonderfully wry sense of humor.

I have a phobia about cranes.
The giant construction equipment that hangs precariously off tall buildings, not the birds.

My desk drawers are always extremely neat.
My sock drawer never is.

According to my brother, I have a very "girly" movie collection.
I think I own every Jane Austen novel-turned feature film ever produced.
I guess he's right.

I believe camping is balm for the soul.
Wind blowing through trees is one of my favorite sounds.
The smell of a campfire makes me see blue mountains.

I secretly believe I have pretty feet.
My nose is not so much to write home about.

I acknowledge the usefulness of cell phones, but I hate ring tones.
I believe my DVD/VHS player has a personality disorder due to its dueling halves.
This makes him fairly temperamental, and not a little quirky.

I can't believe I'm only to 50.

I love shopping for school supplies.
I hate shopping for electronics, cars, or anything else that is expensive.

95 degrees (and up) is not too hot for me.
In winter, my toes are perpetually frozen.

Some day I want to make my own paper,
Write a story,
Print it with a letterpress,
Silkscreen the illustrations,
Bound it,
Then give it to anyone who will read it.

I never used to think of myself as "creative."
But I love creating things, so I guess I am, in fact, "creative."

I was raised on Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger.
I was "little bunny fou-foued,"
And "bushel-and-a-pecked."
I was spoiled in the best possible way—
With unconditional acceptance and admiration.

I love containers.
Boxes, tins, jars.
Pockets, folders, cabinets.
Boxes of tins stacked in cabinets make me happy.

I now know that 100 things is way too many things.
If you're still reading, I am in awe of your perseverance.

I love to diagram sentences.
I love the cryptic doodle-like marks of proofreaders.

Ingonish, Nova Scotia is the most beautiful place I've ever visited.
Talloires, France is a close second.

I climbed Pikes Peak.
(in a cog railway car).

I can't wait to retire.
I have a very long time to wait.
I will move to Florida,
learn to golf,
sit in the sun til my skin turns to leather,
and stir things up in my old folks community.

I love smocks, smocking, and smuckers (apricot).
I have a growing weakness for eBay.

Mac, not PC.
InDesign, not Quark.
Jif, not Skippy.
Skim, not 2%.
Daisies, not roses.
Chocolate, not vanilla. (well, ok, maybe both.)

I love this blog.
It encourages me to create.
It encourages me to write.
It encourages me to explore.
I hope it encourages you in some way too.


18 May 2006

bits (no. 3)

Much controversy over the new "Safe Happens" ad campaign for the VW Jetta. Too scary? Or a justified use of shock value? I think the latter. Watch them here.

A different view of the cosmos everyday with the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Accompanied by fairly layman explanations.

The New York Public Library has opened an exhibition of French book art. Must go, must go!

You can design your own V&A textile! See the one I made here.

Oh, for a tiny little cottage.

Vitra miniatures are 1/6 the size of famous design pieces. Almost as expensive as the real thing, but my dolly has a yen for the miniature ball chair.


A whole lot of beautiful.

"Last year, human beings produced more transistors (and at lower cost) than they did grains of rice." Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM. More.

15 May 2006

somebody get that baby some clothes!

This is my Madame Alexander doll. My mom had several very beloved Mme Alexander dolls as a girl and they all had the most incredible wardrobes. My grandmother would make dresses, nighties, coats, and hats for them. And these dolls were no collector's items, encased in glass for viewing purposes only. Mom loved them fiercely and played with them so much that by the time I came along, a few had become half-bald, a few had lost a limb or two, and at least one had eyes that no longer did that thing where they pop open when the doll is vertical, then close when the doll lies down. But they were still the most beautiful dolls.

While my Mom's dolls are all Velveteen rabbity, my doll is not feeling the love. I got her about five years ago, because she's beautiful and I'm nostalgic about these dolls. But she has sat on the shelf, in the outfit she came in and never even got a name. Or maybe I named her several times, and then forgot what I named her. She's been wearing the same froofy Easter dress for the last five years and she's tired of it.

I went on eBay and found some vintage patterns—at least one of them is the same pattern Grandma used to make clothes for Mom's dolls. They arrived in the mail a few days ago and I have already started a nightgown. Patterns from the fifties, however, seem a bit cryptic to me as they assume a higher level of sewing skill than I currently possess. But I plan to persevere because this baby needs some clothes.

And I've settled on a name for her. She is Dolly.

a ceck.

I baked a cake this weekend. I got the recipe from Martha (the January issue that was so good because it was a compilation of the best of their first 15 years). My cake is not quite as pretty as hers, of course, but turned out fairly well for an amateur. It's a very light spongy kind of cake with lemon curd between the layers. Martha called for a meringue icing, but I miscalculated the bazillion eggs required for all the different parts, and ran out of eggs. So I used traditional buttercream—nice and tart.

Baking is the most fun. Cooking a big meal stresses me out—orchestrating all the cooking times and the mad rush just before bringing it to the table. But baking can be done a step at a time, all methodical like, and then brought together, assembled, and stowed away in the fridge for leisurely enjoyment.

I've completely lost my touch with the decorating, though. Need to practice a bit more. I'll just have to make cake-baking a bit of a habit.

14 May 2006

hers and hers placemats

I was inspired to make patchwork placemats when I saw some beautiful ones on While She Naps earlier this month. I thought it would be a great way to use up some of the scraps of fabric we have. I asked Jennie very sweetly if I could have the leftover bits from her recent quilts and she replied very sweetly that of course I could. (We are generally very sweet with one another unless low blood sugar or hormonal volatility is involved. We never have trouble with sibling rivalry—it's the chemicals that get us.)

I've never really done much piecing but I have to say this was fun. Sewing up all the little bits together and puzzling out the best way for them to fit together definitely qualified as prime, top-choice, Grade A fun for the anal-retentive crafter. I made a red one for Jennie and a blue one for me. It would probably be more useful to have a set of four, but there's only so much fun a girl can handle.

On the reverse side I used a panel of the same linen that our curtains are made of, which seems a little more grown-up if less cheerful. I bordered both sides in brown for a bit of unity.

Jennie says she's afraid to eat on them for fear of getting them dirty. I told her that they are, hypothetically, washable. I am even moderately sure that they will come out of the dryer in one piece and looking just the same as they did when they went in. Or maybe my sewing will all come to bits--if so, I can always cut up the scraps into even smaller pieces, and I bet putting them back together again will be even more fun.

11 May 2006

martha stewart living, jr. (aka blueprint)

My first issue of Blueprint finally arrived in the mail on Saturday. I had already plunked down the $18 subscription—perhaps hasty given I had yet to see the first issue, but such was my confidence in the great and mighty empire Martha built.

I'd read some reviews that made me wary. Design*Sponge thought it was trying to be too much—home/health/beauty/fashion/the kitchen sink. Indeed the subtitle of the magazine is "Design Your Life"—hardly a humble goal and one which may prove to be a vaulting ambition just waiting to o'erleap itself. But, I didn't really consider the breadth of the subject matter to be a negative. They can toss in the kitchen sink if they want because they would probably give us such a thoughtful, creative, and beautifully executed article that we would never look the same way at our kitchen sinks again.

All the good bits of the traditional Martha Stewart are there: how-to's, nifty ideas, gourgeous photography, and breathtaking layouts. It is certainly geared toward a younger audience, and it's also a little more urban, modern, and minimal. They strike a very graceful balance—it brought to mind the easy marriage of playfulness and sophistication that is the hallmark of Kate Spade.

If the cover resembles a little too closely a J. Crew catalog, they can be forgiven because the interior layouts are fresh and interesting. My only criticism was the issue seemed a little overworked—every word, every element of every photograph is so carefully treated as to seem to be trying a bit too hard. Will be interesting to read subsequent issues as I am sure the daily grind of churning out the magazine will cure this all too quickly.

In all, I'm very glad I plunked down my $18. Any magazine that includes a tear-out sheet of graph paper (and lovely thick, soft graph paper at that), has got it about right.

08 May 2006

flowers, flowers, and more flowers

We finally made it to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this weekend. We had hoped to make it in time to see the cherry blossoms, but were a bit too late—they had almost entirely turned green, and their petals all swept away. Maybe next year.

There were, however, no shortage of impressive displays. I had never visited the BBG before, and I was struck by how different it is from the New York Botanical Garden, which is a short train ride away in the Bronx. The NYBG is huge—you could wander for days and find yourself alternately in dense forested areas, wide rolling meadows, and carefully manicured gardens. The BBG doesn't have the luxury of all that space. And, in true New York fashion, it makes up for its lack of square footage by cramming as much jaw-dropping spectacle as possible into its 52 acres.

The grove of lilacs was so thick and lush, their fragrance was almost overwhelming. The thick lines of candy-colored azaleas looked as if they had been spray-painted on by an over-zealous painter. I have never been a huge fan of azaleas (which you probably noticed), but there was also some quite lovely rhododendron which reminded me of how azaleas probably looked before man began his determined tinkering with their DNA.

My absolute favorite find was the lily-of-the-valley. Growing quietly across the path from the grove of lilacs, they hardly demanded the attention of the passing crowds, and I imagine they really don't mind being ignored over their showier neighbors. You have to kneel down and get friendly with them before you smell their delicious scent. And by the time you've gotten that close, you can't but admire their perfect little forms, all nestled cozily amid their dark green foliage. Perfect.

Jennie fell in love with the pink dogwood—a lovely dusty rose kind of color that seems much more sophisticated than the more common bubble-gum pink.

I always feel that photographing flowers is cheating a bit. They are so beautiful, it seems too easy. But if photography is all about celebrating the beauty we see around us, I can't think of a better subject.

I've posted some more images from our trip on flickr—check it out if you want to see more.

06 May 2006

a spotty pointy kitty

I recently discovered a community of incredibly creative and inspiring crafting bloggers (or maybe I should call them blogging crafters—they are first and foremost the creators of some of the most beautiful handmade crafts). I've added a few of them to my links at right, but once you begin blog-hopping, you will travel far and quickly, around the world several times over with only a few clicks.

It is from one of these crafters, Hilary Lang of Wee Wonderfuls, that I got the pattern for this kitty. I recently bought a ton of felt and had a severe hankering to do some felt applique. This is a completely unseasonal urge—I should be wanting to work with light, airy muslin or something in celebration of the warm weather, but there is really no arguing with hankerings, so I bought the felt and got out my book of basic embroidery stitches. (I did, at one point last night, when the weather had finally—FINALLY— reached a point where flipflops were necessary and a balmy breeze carried the voices of kids playing in the street into my living room, only then did I feel the need to fold up the felt and stow it away on a shelf lest it suffocate me with its fuzzy closeness. Luckily, I had just finished the kitty.)

The kitty is named Callie, short for Calico, of course. I tattooed her on her rump so there is no mistaking the matter. She's a little bit saucy, and enjoyed her photo shoot immensely.

She has joined Hilary's Pointy Kitty gallery on flickr, where you can see other people's interpretations of this fantastic pattern.

02 May 2006

a swingin' bag for mama

We had the loveliest visit from Mom this weekend. Shopping, sewing, and cooking were all done to great success. There was a trip to Purl Patchwork, lovely purchases from the Macy's shoe department, a batch of brownies, and some absolutely gorgeous weather. Jennie and I got a tutorial in skirt-making (still in progress) and I made this bag for Mom from an Amy Butler pattern using an Amy Butler print. The handles are ever-so-slightly wonky, but you have to look closely to spy the wonkiness. I'm hoping to make one for myself soon, maybe with felt and some kind of applique design (which means I'll need to learn to work with felt as well as how to applique...but my crafty mood doesn't seem to be wearing off so it sounds like a fun challenge)

Thanks marmee for a great weekend!

bits (no. 2)

You can now download the Webster Dictionary onto your iPod. ($10 but may be worth it.) You can also get the Constitution and the Brown v. Board decision for free. Are my siblings excited yet?

More information graphics (my favorite shows energy production and consumption) whose implications are depressing but whose visual execution is stunning.

A completely photographic tutorial on how to make a pincushion out of a bottlecap. View it as a slideshow—the immediacy of the instruction is amazing. How much do I love flickr?

Amazing collection of vintage advertising and other illustration. Did I mention I love flickr?

The Prairie Home Companion movie is in theaters June 9. It has almost every single one of my favorite actors in it, which makes me nervous but excited.

01 May 2006

meet lloyd

Last week a friend introduced me to amigurumi—a japanese style of crocheted stuffed animals. You can see incredibly cute ones at Avocadolite and GourmetAmigurumi. Though the ones on those sites are pretty complicated, the basics of the skill didn't seem too intimidating, so I thought I'd give it a try. I found this pattern for a penguin from kreinik which I thought appropriate for my Penguin friends.

Jennie, being a bear of little vision, named him Blobbie the Penguin as I worked to shape his (admittedly somewhat blob-shaped) body. I didn't have any black yarn, so I just used some endy-bits that I had lying around--red and cream. Mom said a red penguin was either a Republican or a Communist, and since he certainly didn't want to be a Republican, he became Blobbie the Commy Penguin.

In the end, I showed up Jennie's skepticism by producing a moderately cute little bird. We realized that penguins that are not black really just look like any other bird. (Little abstractly crocheted ones do, anyway.) And when he was all done and had received his little embroidered face, he whispered to me that his name was Lloyd and that communism was just a phase he went through—he has now wholeheartedly espoused the democratic system as well as the free-market economy, despite being red.