Sunday, February 28, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

Again, love has blinded me to reality.

The instructions for this wall hanging say to "freehand draw the branch as shown on the piece of fabric."

Um, okay. Sure.

*record scratching noise*

Wait, what? Branch?

Yes, the pattern shows a branch -- a tree branch! One that looks very much like a gnarly apple tree, if you ask me, except that instead of apples hanging from it, there are Chinese lanterns!

One of these things is not like the other.

Chinese lanterns, or Physalis alkekengi, grow along the stems of an 18-24 inch plant.

You can cut them for a vase or container and the stems will dry out, but they don't usually turn dark brown, and they do not resemble an apple tree branch. The pattern even has you using a marbled fabric that resembles wood.

Alas, the lovely "Climbing Lanterns" has presented me with a dilemma. Do I suspend reality and make it as pictured, or go out on a limb and come up with a (possibly horrendous) alternative?

I need a couple of aspirin and some time to sort this out. Comments and suggestions appreciated.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Of Funk and Foundation

Things are progressing on the wall hanging made with Lantern Bloom fabrics.

Jane and I finished the background. I love a good foundation.

It's like a good bass line, which Sly & The Family Stone provided as I bobbed over the ironing board this afternoon.

What? You don't bob at the ironing board?

Maybe it's been a while since you've felt the funk. Here, let me fix that. (Click the Play button. It's free.)

You can thank me later.

Next, I've got to do the applique on this. I've got to take it higher.

Boom laka-laka-laka, Boom laka-laka-laka.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Paper Doll Prize

The doorbell rang yesterday just before noon. It was the mail lady (postwoman?) delivering a package.

When I opened it, I was greeted by these lovelies!

A couple of weeks ago, Peter over at malepatternboldness was having a contest, and this was the prize.

I won!

You can read about it here.

To enter, you had to post a comment on the subject of your favorite doll. I mentioned a couple different Barbie dolls, including Midge, Talking PJ, and my old Ken doll. Many years later, my daughter claimed Ken as her own. He was pretty special.

Aren't these paper dolls sweet? They're so pretty, I can't bear to think about cutting them out.

Check out all the great 1940s fashions.

That bathing suit is too cute!

Norm thinks we should display them refrigerator art style.

We'll see.

Thanks, Peter!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Name Game

Ever think about changing your name?

There was a brief period of time when I considered it. I was a young co-ed and wanted a simple, no-nonsense, all-American sounding name. My real name seemed way too complicated.

I don't use my first name, just the initial. I am called by my middle name and always have been. That's no big deal in some parts of the country, like where my mother was born and raised. But in the Upper Midwest where I grew up, it was downright baffling. Yes, the good folks of my home state, who are known to wear large wedges of cheese on their heads at sporting events, thought not being called by one's first name was very curious indeed.

Sometimes you get tired of explaining.

Add to that the fact that my name means "small" in French. If you know me in real life, you're laughing out loud right now. Trust me, the irony is not lost on all six feet two inches of me.

So there I was in '79 or '80, sitting in a smoky joint known as The Brass Rail, chatting with the bartender, my one-time college roommate, who just happened to have the kind of name I coveted. I called her Barb.

"I think I want to change my name."

"Yeah? What would you change it to?"

"Jane Morgan." (Why not change my real last name too? It was of German origin and rhymed with "I ski, you ski...")

I don't remember exactly what Barb said in response, but it wasn't "Huh?" or "WTF?" (which hadn't been invented yet). Nor was it, "I think I've served you one too many Tanqueray and tonics." It was probably something neutral--she was, after all, a fellow psych major. Maybe along the lines of, "That's interesting. Tell me more." Knowing me, I blathered on.

Thankfully, it was only a whim. I soon sobered up and have long since *cough* grown into my name. I am at peace with it. It also helped to marry someone with an easy, four-letter surname.

I still like the name Jane, though. To me, it connotes a straightforward nature, singularity of purpose, the beauty of simplicity.

Kind of like my new sewing machine--a solidly built, straight stitch only, non-electronic machine. Fast but not furious. Few bells or whistles. Streamlined.

So that is what I am christening my Juki TL-98Q.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jane.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Swing Your Partner, aka The Gear Quilt

It's nice to have a recipient in mind when I'm making a quilt. It makes the process more purposeful. If it's to be an unexpected gift, all the better.

At Christmas dinner in 2008, I was talking about a quilt in progress. Sitting across the table was my sister Nita and her fiance Terry, who seemed quite interested in the quilt making process. One of the many fine qualities Terry has is the ability to converse on just about any subject, whether because he has some personal experience or just because he's curious.

I shouldn't have been surprised that he was interested in quilts. After all, he does know a thing or two about putting pieces together to make something great-looking and unique.

Terry builds hot rods.

Described by his peers as a "car builder extraordinaire," he has the artistic confidence that comes from decades of following his passion. He also has a great sense of humor. Over the windshield of a rod he recently built is lettered the wry jab, "Don't act like you're not impressed."

Where my medium is fabric, Terry's is metal. My foundation is cotton; his is a chassis. We both get a kick out of finding our materials, sometimes in odd places. Mine might be from a yard sale or thrift store, his from a swap meet or buried to the axles in muck in a farmer's back forty.

After paging through Bonnie Hunter's book, Scraps & Shirttails a few days after that Christmas dinner, I found a pattern I wanted to make. I showed it to my husband Norm, who commented, "It looks like gears."

That got my wheels turning. I knew just the gearhead who might like it.

"I think I'm going to make this for Terry," I said. Norm agreed it was a great idea. The official name of the pattern is "Swing Your Partner," but he kept calling it "the gear quilt."

I pieced this from thrifted men's plaid shirts during the first part of 2009. When it came back from the longarm quilter in the fall, I finished it with a binding and a label.

Terry was working on something in his shop the day Norm and I delivered the quilt. He wasn't sure what we were up to, paying him a visit out of the blue. When I asked him to wash the grease off his hands, he was suspicious but obliged with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye. As he unfolded the quilt, he seemed pleasantly surprised.

Like the "rat rods" Terry builds that are meant to be driven, this quilt was meant to be used. So it was good to know that it was on a bed shortly after it was received. I hope he and my sister will enjoy it for years to come.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


A quarter doesn't get you much today. A shopping cart at Aldi, maybe.

So I was happy to find this pattern for 25 cents at Bethesda Thrift Shop last year. I bought it just because it made me smile.

A few months later, I came across Peter's blog, and offered to send it to him.

This made my day!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Keepin' It Real

Being a beginner is humbling.

I wanted to learn to do free-motion quilting, so I bought a new sewing machine right around Christmas. It's a Juki TL98Q.

Yeah, like that doesn't need a nickname you can remember.

As you can imagine, I was pretty excited when it arrived. I threaded it up with some hot pink serger thread lying around and started sewing away on a scrap quilt sandwich. That's backing fabric, batting in the middle, and pieced block on top, for my non-quilty peeps.

Free-motion quilting is kind of like learning to write cursive while driving a car. Your foot is on the speed control and your hands are on the quilt doing the steering. You start out herky-jerky. You're not sure where you're going with your curves and turns. Your stitches are uneven. Your speed is too fast, too slow, then really-really fast. Then you stop abruptly.

It's exhilarating and intimidating all at the same time.

You so want to be good at it, but you suck at first. Viz:

On the second attempt, I changed thread to a black fancy-schmancy type made specifically for machine quilting. I'm not sure what makes it so awesome, but it does have a fancier price tag and feels very silky and smooth. I trust the people who recommend it know way more than I do.

More scribbling. I even tried writing my name.

I then commenced to crap up -- er, I mean practice on -- a different piece. I hummed along for a bit.

Then my fancy thread got a little loose looking on top, so I stopped and flipped the piece over. Witness the horror:

Oh, the humanity.

There was weeping and gnashing of teeth, followed by clickety-clacking of keyboard to post an S.O.S. on the Juki users group board. Well, those wonderful folks swooped to the rescue like Wonder Woman being chased by Superman. An alternate threading pattern later, and all was put right.

However, I remained a bit traumatized. I procrastinated. That's what it's called when you piece a whole other quilt top, wall hanging, and table runner on a different machine, go thrift store shopping, start a blog, sew for a mannequin, bake cookies, and do 9,563 other high-priority items in between. Like laundry.

But today I put on my big-girl panties and gave it another go. I changed the thread to a long staple cotton that came with the Juki. Got my practice quilt sandwich ready. Bobbin washer, Supreme Slider, Machingers gloves--check, check, and check. Dropped the feed dogs, pulled my bobbin thread to the top, lowered the presser foot, and hit the gas.

Stopping to check the underside. Looks okay so far. Whew.

Fifteen minutes later, I had accomplished this.

The tricky part was trying to keep my speed even and my hands and shoulders relaxed. I only quilted myself into a corner twice.

I see lots of practice ahead, but I am encouraged.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Time On My Hands

On Wednesday, I had a little free time on my hands.

First, I baked a batch of gluten- and dairy-free chocolate chip cookies, using this recipe. Thank Goddess for people like Karina, who so generously share their culinary artistry with food intolerant folks like me. With so many luscious recipes, who can feel deprived? These cookies rock!

Then I made good on a promise last week to provide Dolly with proper attire. I riffled through my vintage patterns and came up with this one from 1965.

View 4, since it's sleeveless -- and that petal shaped collar! Dolly is a rather delicate flower, after all.

I thought about using the serger for it but decided to do it up old school with my vintage Singer 301. That's the one I found at the thrift shop several months ago.

Meet Vivian. Viv for short.

I debated about naming my machines and came to the conclusion that it might be easier than saying "vintage Singer 301" over and over again. I am all about the shortcuts when they're useful, and also mnemonic devices. Think: "Vintage Viv."

Remember Viv from The Lucy Show? Played by Vivian Vance, the same actress who played Ethel Mertz in I Love Lucy. Viv was the perfect sidekick, initially trying to be the voice of reason but soon caught up in the crazy situation with Lucy just the same. My favorite episode is when Lucy and Viv put in a shower.

Confession: I did indeed love Lucy, but whenever she got herself into a pickle, my anxiety meter crept toward the red zone. Certainly, it was my own good-girl, perfectionist tendencies causing me to fret about how much Lucy was screwing up. (I was a preteen during this time.) Of course, that's what made the show hilarious, but I couldn't watch it without those little twinges of angst.

Back to sewing. Here is the blouse I whipped up for Dolly.

Now doesn't she look like she could bake you some cookies and try, unsuccessfully, to talk you out of your schemes?

If she had appendages, that is.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Paint-By-Number Madness - Vintage Thingie Thursday

See these guys? They started it.

Oh sure, they look all pastoral, like they're just minding their own business, gazing over the fence and grazing by the stream. Don't be fooled. They're colluding.

I'm convinced they plotted a way to come home with me. At under a buck apiece, I was easy game. They fairly jumped into my Goodwill shopping cart.

I did paint by number as a kid, sitting at the built-in desk in the alcove of the Cape Cod style house I grew up in. The light on the north side wasn't the best, but I worked on a few of these there nevertheless. I can still smell the oil and see the toothpicks strewn about, miniature paint sticks for those tiny plastic pots.

I sorta sucked at it, but it was a lot of fun.

Who knows whatever happened to those early works? My guess is that they were probably in some state of incompletion when I abandoned them for another pastime, like Creepy Crawlers or stretchy loop potholders made on a loom. Or maybe I just ran out of #9 olive green or #4 aqua blue.

I think those horses knew they would rekindle a fond memory. They told their friends -- first, the little fishing boy, who sent his trusty Irish Setter all the way to eBay to sniff out a thatched roof cottage, flushing out a couple of ring-neck pheasants along the way.

And that, my friends, is how a collection is born.

The doves are the most recent acquisition, but I don't trust 'em. They look like they're up to something.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to visit Colorado Lady for links to other fabulous vintage thingies!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

There Can Be Only One

One first quilt. This is it.

I don't remember the year, exactly, but I would put it at around 1992-1993. Sometime just prior to my Highlander obsession, during my brief Michael Bolton phase.

Oh, don't worry, I got over Michael Bolton. By the time the movie Office Space came out in 1999, I was laughing at the jokes (and myself) right along with everyone else.

I may never get over Adrian Paul.

The name of this quilt is "Rose of Sharon." The pattern was from a library book I don't recall the title of. It is stenciled with fabric paint and hand quilted. I love the soft colors. It's baby quilt size. I made it just because I liked it. My baby was already five or six years old, and I knew it would just be kept for posterity.

I made a few mistakes on this quilt. Like fabric, for starters. It's a poly/cotton blend, and a rather thin one at that. I quilted it with Dual Duty machine sewing thread. Are you gasping in shock? Sorry, I didn't know any better at the time.

All in all, I think it turned out okay.