28 January 2007

what me? weird?

This 6 weird things meme is spreading faster than the bubonic plague. AmandaJean and Ginger tagged me and it took me a few days to think of six things. Because I'm completely normal. Yall, on the other hand, sound weird as weird can be.

I kid, I kid. I'm completely nuts. So here's some weirdness:

1. I name everything. From stuffed animals to home appliances. My iPod is Wynkyn, my KitchenAid is Beau Bou (short for Beau Boulanger). Our armchair is Cora. She's pink and looks like she belongs in a little old lady's house. And my silicone pastry brush is named Wilson.

2. I scrunch my nose to get my glasses to move up higher on the bridge of my nose. You know, instead of using my finger to push them up. Saves time. Twin ridicules me endlessly for this one.

3. I can wiggle my ears. This is a talent carefully cultivated by my entire family. My grandfather was the master. His ear wiggles were especially impressive because of the great size of his ears, and the shiny bald pate which they straddled.

4. I intentionally mispronounce things all the time. Twin does it too. For instance I might say "bonsoirio cherie, would you like a booveragie?" She might respond, "si coo-coo pig, I'd like a choka-macola." It's mostly all bastardized european phrases with a smattering of complete nonsense thrown in. I guess it's the closest thing we have to a shared twin language, but we really sound ridiculous.

5. I can quote the movie Clue from start to finish.

6. I like the smell of old moldy books. Not really moldy, of course. But slightly moldy is good.

Seems like most people have already done this, but if you haven't yet shared some weirdness and would like to volunteer some, please do.
Hooray for weirdness. And for being totally ok with your weirdness.

26 January 2007

man shirt reconstructed

There is a really great tutorial on Craftster about how to reconstruct a man's shirt into a cap-sleeved blouse. And since my brother had passed a couple of his old shirts on to me for quilting, I grabbed one of those and started cutting it up.

I really enjoyed the freedom of this project—no worries about screwing it up and wasting the fabric. And you get to skip all the tedious bits, like buttonholes and hems.

I followed her instructions exactly, and had really good results. I didn't bother re-hemming it because I like the long tunic-y style. I opened the side seam up to my hip to create a vent and keep the shirt from wrinkling over my caboose.

I wasn't very careful cutting it out and the little pleat in the center back ended up off-center. So I just cut out the seam and resewed it with a gather in the center. I like the feminine touch.

Fun project, and I will definitely make more once the warmer weather returns. If some more man shirts come my way (hint, hint, big bro).

23 January 2007

handquilting tutorial

This past weekend I got what seemed to be a brilliant idea to do a tutorial on handquilting. A video tutorial on handquilting. Someone should have stopped me right there and said "but you don't know how to make videos." Small detail. Someone probably also could have stopped the madness before it began by reminding me that I was going to have to speak during the darn thing and then everyone was going to hear my voice. I don't even like talking on the phone, much less broadcasting my voice far and wide across this mighty internet.

But well, fools do rush in, so I made the movie. The resolution is pretty awful and it's a bit hard to see what we're doing in places, but I hope it is moderately instructive. It's a beginner's tutorial for handquilting. Even if you've never picked up a needle, you can do this. My many many thanks to Twin, who I managed to rope into demonstrating her technique, which is far superior to mine.

And I'll state for the record that I do not in real life have a lisp. I watched rather helplessly as the video and audio quality diminished from somewhat crappy to nearly unwatchable with each step from transfer to compression to upload.

I almost didn't post it. But then I decided that life is way too short to be shy.

20 January 2007

rainbow pillow

I've had a yen recently to practice my hand quilting. A baby-yen, though. Something that could be sated with an evening's work, rather than two weeks of finger-blistering quilting. A pillow-sized yen, rather than a quilt-sized yen. So a little pillow it is.

The funny thing is this is actually the back of my quilting. The side I'd intended to be the front is pieced with green and brown patchwork. But then I turned it over and I absolutely loved the way the multicolored lines of quilting showed up against the plain brown. It reminds me of these blankets and shams which I have been admiring for some time.

I'm hoping after washing it'll be even more puckered and textured. And that my quilting lines don't pull out in the washing. Here's hoping.

And can I just say thank you to everyone who has been visiting here recently? Really you all are so kind and sweet and I don't think I have ever in my life felt so encouraged and supported. I mean, my mom has always said I was something special, but no matter how highly you regard your mother's judgment in general, it's a bit tough to take her word on something like that. And I have met so many amazingly talented and interesting people through this blog. So sorry for the mushy blog-love but here's a great big blog hug (dare I call it a blug?) for every single one of you.

17 January 2007

hats frenchy and otherwise, and a new book

I got a gorgeous new book thanks to an Amazon gift certificate that recently came my way. Simple Sewing with a French Twist by Celine Dupuy. Gorgeous. The book design and photography are enough to stop me in my tracks, but of course the projects are quite lovely too. She has photos and recipes for about 30 or 40 projects ranging from home dec to a couple simple clothing projects. And the projects really are simple to make (she's not joking).

I sewed up this adorable little beret in about 30 minutes last night. Now, you might ask, why is your teddy bear wearing it and not you? Well, because apparently Celine Dupuy has a dainty French-sized head, whereas I have a freakishly large American head. But my bear does look tres chic, does he not?

What I find most inspiring and valuable about this book is her perfect use of fabrics and materials. Simple, quality materials perfectly chosen for each project. And such flawless style. Feminine but not precious, modern but not severe, delicate but made to become heirlooms. I'm inspired.

I almost pre-ordered Amy Angry Chicken's book, but decided to go for instant gratification as it's not out until June. I also almost ordered the new sewing book by Lotta Jansdotter (oooh! aahhh!--hadn't heard about this one yet) but ditto on that because it doesn't come out until March. All in good time.

And speaking of hats, my mummy is a little hat-knitting factory. Check out this beauty. And cozy, oh cozy—made from Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. Can't remember now where she got the pattern. (mom do you have a link for it?) I love the cable brim, I feel quite as chic as my teddy bear.

Who enjoys reading Camus while I am away at work. In a flawless french accent, of course.

14 January 2007

his girl friday shirt

I'm calling this the His Girl Friday shirt because I can just see Rosalind Russell in it, clickety-clacketing furiously over her typewriter then dashing off, pencil behind the ear, to cover a breaking story. In heels, pencil skirt, and fantastic hat, of course.

This is Simplicity's Built by Wendy pattern 4112. I love that all of Wendy's patterns are such a great combination of modern and classic—and this one has such fantastic details to make it interesting. I will say that this one was not easy peasy. More like difficult pifficult. It looked easy when I was picking out the pattern, it looked easy when I was cutting out the fabric, and then it dissolved into very confusing, very quickly. Give me a few more days to recover, and I may be of the opinion that it was worth all that effort.

Part of my problem was that I was working with a fabric that looks the same on both sides—and the seemingly simple instructions "right sides together" caused me more confusion than you would ever think possible. The neck band had to be ripped out not once but twice. The sleeve plackets were backwards and had to be resewn. I will say very proudly that I did get both cuffs on without a bit of trouble and they both happily face the right direction, unlike last time. And I will repeat my love for cuffs. Love them. So much fun.

The sleeves. Check out these sleeves. Wendy suggests striped fabric for this shirt to make the most of the interesting cut of the sleeves, and she's absolutely right. They come in two pieces and are gathered in three places, so you work for it, but they are pretty darn cool.

I think I cut out about a size too big, and ended up taking in the side seams considerably. As a result the sleeves are even poofier than Wendy had intended. But I guess if you're going to go poofy, why be shy about it? The body of the shirt has no shaping at all, so it is very comfortable. It might be less flattering on curvier women, but the slightly masculine cut is a great foil for the girly sleeves and neckline.

After all the effort of sewing the shirt, I couldn't bring myself to bother with putting on buttons and buttonholes. So snaps. Twin and I debated about whether the pearl snaps pushed the shirt over the line from charmingly old-fashioned to doofy and grandmother-ish. But we decided that doofy is the new cool so we went with the pearls. And I have to say that taking a hammer to the darn thing was incredibly satisfying.

Walter Burns: There's been a lamp burning in the window for ya, honey... here.
Hildy Johnson: Oh, I jumped out that window a long time ago.

10 January 2007

gifties in both directions

A friend recently sent me an unexpected but very thoughtful gift so this little set of quilted coasters are now making their way to her as a thank you. A little gift for an old friend with a new name and a new home. [Many many congratulations Sara!]

And Twin was so patient to model this awesome new hat that Mom knitted for us. (Don't worry, that big fat lower lip only reflects her dislike of being photographed, rather than any dissatisfaction with the hat.) It is the warmest and coziest hat ever. Mom used this yarn and this pattern. It's called the Brangelina hat and it looks crazy complicated to my non-knitter's eye. Besides being super soft and comfortable, it is also big enough for our gigantic domes, which is saying something. She has promised to make us a second one—good thing because otherwise we might have fought over it all winter. Thank you thank you Mama!!

On an unrelated note, I finally figured out how to find permalinks for my individual posts. This has been driving me nuts for months. Did you fellow Blogger-users know that the itty bitty little timestamp at the end of your posts is actually a permalink? Well I didn't and, umm, can anyone say "not particularly intuitive, Blogger?" I found an extremely helpful blog that instructs how to add the word "Permalink" down there to make it a bit less confusing. You can get the instructions here for Classic Blogger and here for those of you who are using the New Blogger Formerly Known as Beta. I thought I'd share this in case anyone else is suffering from Blogger-induced permalink frustration. Or maybe it was just me.

Happy Thursday friends!

08 January 2007

quilt planning

A couple people have asked how I plan my quilts, so here's the scoop. I'm certainly no expert, and I'd love to hear how other people do it as well. (purty please!)

I'm a fairly novice quilter, but I don't generally use patterns. Twin taught me to quilt and she has done some beautiful quilts that are more traditional, including a sampler of classic quilt blocks. After learning the basics of piecing, I struck out on my own and designed my own quilt-tops. I've stuck to really basic, geometric designs because a) I like the simplicity and b)I'm lazy. Most of the designs I've done are just built around simple squares.

I have a hard time visualizing what a design is going to look like in my head so I always plan it out on the computer first. I use Adobe Illustrator, which is the most commonly-used illustration software for computer graphics. It lets you easily and quickly create shapes and manipulate them. It's not difficult to learn, though the program is pretty horribly expensive—out of the range of most hobbyists.

I think there are software programs just for quilters, though I've never had any experience with them. Anybody know anything about any of these?

But you don't really need any fancy software to plan your own quilts. Like my design teachers always scolded us, you shouldn't let your tools dictate your end result, anyway. (blah blah blah, but they had a point.) Graph paper and colored pencils will get you there just the same, if a little more slowly than a computer.

That's it, really. See, I told you I don't really know what I'm doing—I just jump in and figure it out (in my own little anal-retentive, highly-organized way).

p.s. You can go to my quilting archives if you fancy.

04 January 2007

keyholder wall pocket thingy

A few months ago our old wooden mailholder/keyhook thingy by the front door took a dramatic and sudden leap to its death on the hallway floor. "This life is too hard" it croaked, lying broken on the floor, its many-times-over gorilla-glued pieces parts once again come asunder, its inadequate hardware flung aside. It took a few dying gasps, then went to a far, far better place.

Out of respect for our fallen comrade (or maybe, just maybe, out of laziness), we didn't immediately replace it. Instead we hung our keys on the lonely little nails that were left sticking out of the wall where it used to hang. Apparently this got on Twin's nerves after about three months and she decided to take it upon herself to light a fire under my ass and get me moving on the project. She picked out the fabrics and dug the corkboard out of the supply closet. "Pockets," she said, and shoved me toward the sewing machine. This was good. Sometimes the best thing our loved ones can do is light a fire under our ass. Here I was, rolling around the apartment, feeling a bit fat, glassy-eyed, and lazy after the bustle and indulgence of the holidays, and she orders, "Make!" So I made.

Easy peasy this was. Inspiration lifted from those incomparably elegant Shim wallpockets (thank you sally!). After sewing the pockets on, I just stapled the flannel to the back side of the cork panel, then stapled a length of bias tape across the back for hanging. Simple but good.

01 January 2007

happy happy brand new year

hmmm. Do I have to go back to work now? pooh pooh. We've been back in NYC for a few lazy days. I have read three novels (almost as many as Twin, gasp!) and accomplished almost nothing. I did balance my checkbook and create a new revised personal budget that is a model of economy and moderation—the effort of which left me a bit depressed and drove me to seek refuge in the aforementioned novels. Twin is a little money squirrel. She has hoards of it. Well, relatively speaking anyway. I would not be surprised if she has little sacks of it hidden in nooks and crannies all around her room. Me, I hemorrhage money. Unfortunately.

Anyhoo that's my resolution and I'm sticking to it. I made a few other resolutions but I won't share them, because then I would actually have to stick to them as well.

These pictures are a few I took in Williamsburg over Christmas. Have you visited Williamsburg? Probably you were dragged there in the third grade and you found it deadly dull. But it really is lovely. "Pleasant" and "charming" both apply which gives some people the heebie-jeebies, but I think it beautiful. It's home. If you want to see more pix there is a set. And no, Williamsburg is not bathed in a perpetual rosy cast, there just happened to be a particularly spectacular sunset that evening.

And look what was in my mystery box from Twin. The cake plate I have gazed at adoringly for years from Crate&Barrel is now all mine. I baked a cake today and it can be excused for being slightly dry and having strange coagulated chocolate bits in its icing, because it looks so very regal sitting atop its elegant pedestal.

Kind of like a birthday cake, which seems fitting for the day. Happy birthday to this new year and may we make it a peaceful one, and a good one.