Friday, May 22, 2015

Matryoshka doll and catdog


My dear friend Hilde has sent me the most lovely matryoshka doll, hand-pieced in patchwork and embellished with buttons and beads. I love it so much, and can't stop looking at it. Hilde's stitches are so tiny and immaculate.


I love the heart-shaped lips. The velvet ribbon, sprinkled with tiny beads. The little rose at the temple. Hilde is so talented, and her work is so bright and beautiful. She's an inspiration. The pattern for this doll is included in her new book, Zauberhafte Lieseleien, which you can find here. It's in German, and I hate to admit I can't read a word of it, but it's worth it for the pictures alone, and templates are all included, so you can probably figure things out.


The little beads on the edges of things are so wonderful. If you're the sort who, like me, loves to spend a whole afternoon with your workbasket, tinkering with the details of one pretty little thing, I think you'll find much to love here. Hilde sent me the doll and the book (and also some beautiful, mushroom-colored yarn!) for my birthday, and I'm telling you, I just want to dive headfirst into the scraps and beads and start making stuff right now.



In other news, there is crochet in progress, and a new striped pullover, and we've decided that this dog is half cat. She's a catdog. She gets up in the morning only long enough to look for a sunny corner to nap in. She can flatten herself out completely, like a bathmat. She sits with us, but only if she feels like it, and she doesn't particularly care to do what we ask, nor walk on a leash, nor act like she can even tell you're talking to her. She watches birds out the window, flicking her tail. She wakes up from a nap to go to bed, and once she's asleep, picking her up is like lifting a loosely-packed, forty-pound bag of warm flour. I thought she was the one and only catdog out there, until I told my friends my findings and they all said, "Oh, yeah! I had a catdog once. She chased birds, too, and pretended she didn't know me." It's a thing. Catdogs.




Monday, May 18, 2015

I'm doing this instead

I was actually scheduled to spend Saturday marching in a parade while wearing a giant blue owl costume.

The costume has a battery-operated fan in the head, for ventilation. It also comes with a vest full of ice packs and a set of removable wings. You wear big yellow feet, and view your surroundings through a mesh hole in the beak. You wave your wings, blindly hug children you can't really see, and mentally sing I've Got the Power so you can get the dance moves right.
It usually rains.
Your place in the parade lineup is somewhere behind the horses.
All that sounded like fun, and I was ready to go until a week ago when Ethel called and said, "Can you come with me to Martha's Vineyard?"
Umm, let me think...

Yes. Yes, I can.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Carry-All: a soup story

Because I am a hippie and also because I have a child in his second year of architecture school (cha-ching!) we are a one-car family. So I walk everywhere, and I needed something to sling over my back that would be big enough to carry all the usual stuff mom carries in her purse, plus a sweater and a book and an apple and my knitting, but I didn't want it to be so big that it looked like I was running away from home. Anna at Noodlehead designed this bag, which was perfect. Hers is full of very sew-y details and pockets and stuff, but as you know I am an impatient little magpie and just wanted a big enough bag, and I wanted it right now. I made a very simplified version of the larger tote, using a piece of gray corduroy from the crafty thrift store for the exterior, a really pretty but too-small skirt (also thrifted) for the interior, and a belt that came with a pair of pants I no longer have for the strap, which seems extremely thrifty. I made my usual leather loop closure and used a bargain bin button from the stash. It worked great, and everything fit in there. Everything, including... (cue fateful music) dinner.

Here's what all was in the bag: wallet, keys, sunglasses, phone, earbuds for listening to podcasts on phone, gum, apple, little container of almond butter, two interiors magazines belonging to Michelle, two paper patterns for sewing raincoats for dogs belonging to Robin, and a book. Oh, and a quart size zip-top bag full of chicken noodle soup.

I know what you're thinking! Honestly, I completely agree with you. We've all seen the commercials! We know those bags are supposed to be strong! I saw a lady on television fill a zip-top bag with spaghetti and shake it upside down! Friends, listen to me and learn from my mistakes: do not believe everything you see on television. People in my house were dubious about my putting a bag of soup into my purse, but I was in one of those confident hurries where we just needed to mobilize so we could get everyone out of the house in order, and heads were shaking, and people were saying they hoped that zip-top bag of soup wouldn't open up inside my purse, and I was saying, "It's fine, sheesh," and then they were saying, "I smell onions" and "what's that all over your lap?" and "Your purse is full of soup, and not in the way you think it is." Things, nice things, things belonging to other people and loaned to me in good faith, were floating in soup. Inside my purse. My beautiful daughter, visiting from Philadelphia just in the nick of time to witness her mother's latest caper gone wrong, could not stop laughing. She did not say "I told you not to put a bag of soup into your purse" but she surely was thinking it.

So I had to wash it already. A couple times.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hand-crafted hooks and a corsage

You guys are the very best! Your comments the other day were so fierce and righteous and hilarious. Solidarity! Thank you, so much. As always, it is best in the end to find yourself with a funny story.

For my (now infamous) birthday, the doc totally came through.

That's two hand-carved crochet hooks, made from the seasoned wood of our old apple tree, whittled in secret while I was elsewhere, and I can't imagine when he had time to do that. On his lunch break at the University? While I napped? Clever man. Aren't they wonderful? No wonder everybody and their brother wants a piece of him.

His famous mustache is finally back in progress. What a heartthrob.
These beautiful hooks made working on this little flower a great pleasure. I'm going to stitch a pin back to the wrong side and wear it every year on my birthday.
Here's my pattern, in case you want to wear a yarny corsage on your birthday (or any other day) to announce to the world that you are fabulous:
[All crochet terms are US]
Big Fluffy Birthday Flower
Choose two pink yarns and a hook that will make working with it a pleasure. Leaving a long tail at the beginning, use the lighter of the two and Chain 57.
Row 1: Dc in 6th ch from hook (1st V made). *Ch 1, skip next 2 chs, (dc, ch2, dc) in next ch, rep from * across. (18 Vs made).
Row 2: Work (1 hdc, 3 dc, 1hdc) in 1st five V spaces. (5 five-stitch shells made). Work (1hdc, 7dc, 1hdc) in next 6 V spaces. [Mid row, break yarn, join darker pink, continue in row as follows:] Work (1hdc, 11dc, 1 hdc) in last 7 V spaces.
Break yarn and fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing. Thread the beginning tail on a darning needle, and starting at the beginning (light pink) end, start rolling it. Tack it at the bottom edge as you go, and arrange the petals so they are a little bit offset and pretty. When you get to the end, tack like crazy all over the back with both tails to secure. Tie the tail ends together and weave in.
You'll need a couple leaves too:
Ch 11
Working in first chain from hook, sl st, sc, hdc, 5dc, hdc, sc, ch1, sc, hdc, 5dc, hdc, sc, sl st. Break yarn and fasten off. Use the tails to sew the leaves to the back of the flower, then weave them in and secure. Sew a pin to the back.

Thank you, friends. xoxo


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Silver Linings


Oh, goodness. I begin to doubt whether I will ever get it together. I look around the place and am just so sick of all my stuff and I hate all my clothes, and I have to start over somehow from scratch and get it right this time. Do you all do this too? Everyone tells me this is because it's spring. Also, my hair, urgh. It is gray and curly in the completely unruly way that is not what they mean when describing the tempestuous heroine of a romance novel. It's more in the way of that famous photo of Einstein where he's sticking out his tongue.

It was my birthday a few days ago, and as a nice treat for my gray and wrinkled self, this happened:

Acquaintance, taking my hand: Hello, you're the doctor's wife, aren't you?

Me, very proudly: Yes, I remember you, it's nice to see you again!

Acquaintance: It's nice to see you too. Now, my daughter and I are having a little argument. I told her you were the doctor's wife and she said there's no way that was possible.

Me: Why is that?

Acquaintance: Well, I almost don't want to tell you. It's because you look way too old.

Me, gulping: Huh. Well, actually I'm 47.

Acquaintance, laughs, and pats my hand: I thought so! Well, it looks like I win! Have a good day!

It took me awhile to recover, and all my friends were very uncharacteristically swearing with fury on my behalf when they heard that, because I totally told that story to everyone I know. My friends are so great.

Then later, this:

Different male acquaintance: Hi, happy birthday!

Me: Thanks! (goes into the next room)

Male acquaintance, aside in a low voice to the doc: I don't know if you'd ever be interested in coming over sometime for, you know, a little're probably thinking I'm crazy, I'm so crazy! Sometimes my friends get together and we go to the basement...

Doc: Um, no thanks.

Male acquaintance: Doesn't everybody do that?

Doc: I don't think they do, nope.

Male acquaintance: Well, don't tell your wife I mentioned it.

Doc, as soon as we get to the car: You'll never believe this...(tells me the whole story) I guess I just have one of those physiques. (flexes muscles)

Me: Aaarrrgghhh!

So here's my current passport photo:

I need to eat less cake and more nutrients, so I made a green shake for breakfast--here's the best life hack ever, write this down--the blade attachment on my blender fits perfectly on a Ball canning jar. The threads are the same. I know! So instead of getting out the whole blender thing with the lid and then getting a glass dirty, I can just stuff all my shake ingredients (1/2 banana, 1/4 cup frozen pineapple/mango/other yellow fruit, handful fresh spinach/chard/arugula, fill jar the rest of the way with almond milk) into the jar, screw the blade attachment on, and pop it onto the blender. Whizz until smooth, take the blade off, add a straw and enjoy it straight from the jar like the hippie I am. Now, listen and learn from me: if you're going to do this yourself, stand there and hold onto the jar as it blends, because if you don't, it just might come unscrewed somehow and fall off while the blade is still spinning and fling spinach and banana and pineapple and almond milk all over your entire kitchen, which will ruin your morning but will give your dog an entire day's worth of trying to lick underneath the stove. So just keep a hand on the jar, that's my advice. Also, while we're learning things, don't try to put a zip-top bag full of chicken noodle soup into your purse.


My beautiful daughter was here for the weekend, and she brought me this beautiful orchid. The tiny blossoms are the size of my thumb. Fabric auditions for the next quilt are underway. Spring is definitely when the quilts start to happen. As my lovely mama pointed out the other day, I have a nice little life here.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sock, Cardigan, Irene

I'm knitting another brown cardigan. This is the third try for this yarn, which is a warm chocolate with lots of red in it, and I keep getting halfway up the last sleeve and changing my mind about the pattern. I'm already not confident about this one either, and maybe it's the yarn, I don't know. It's been wound/knit/rewound/reknit so many times that the ball bands are long gone, but I'm pretty sure it's Cascade 220. I don't even know if there's enough yarn in the bag--why am I even knitting this thing? Luckily, there's always a plain sock lying around here somewhere, waiting to be worked on. I did a whole bunch of knitting while waiting around these last two weeks, because the doc was very busy:

He played the leading man (swoon!) in our local community theater production of "Irene". Singing! Dancing the tango! Getting slapped! He was handsome and dashing and they made him shave off the beard and mustache, which made his face seem weirdly naked, and just as I got used to it, the thing was over and the mustache was on its way back. He was wonderful, and I was so proud. Bravo, honey!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Custom Fabric Lampshades


I have learned a new trick, and it's the cleverest thing in a long time. Maybe you recall this mess, in which I got glue everywhere and invented some new words? A mighty struggle, that project, and I decided I couldn't cover lampshades. Well, behold: it is a lampshade, covered in new fabric, and it is good.

This idea came to me from the wonderfully creative mind of my friend Michelle. She did all her lampshades in plaid last winter, which was stunning, and which made her pretty little house look like a baronial hunting lodge. She also (as ever) made it look easy, and this time it really was easy. You measure a little (hardly at all), cut a little, glue a little, and that's all. You need paper, scissors, fabric, white craft glue, spray adhesive, a pencil, a ruler, and a lampshade you want to cover. These are all over the place in the thrift store, go look. Okay, here's what she told me to do:

Make a panel template. (This process works with those paneled silk lampshades that have individual sides--we'll get to the drum-style shades in a minute.) She used graph paper and accuracy for her plaid masterpieces, but you know me. I just put a piece of paper over one of the sections and traced it.

Cut out as many pieces of fabric as your lampshade has sections. I used a thrifted piece of men's shirting--ravelly, flimsy, hideous to sew. Lovely to glue.

Put a big piece of paper or other protective layer over your work surface. Open a window if you can, because the next step is stinky. Apply spray adhesive (I used Krylon Easy-Tack) to the back of one panel and stick it on the lampshade. It might look like it won't stick for a minute, but be patient. Smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles. Repeat for the other panels. Keep smoothing as you go, and don't panic if it looks like it isn't sticking. It will.

Make some bias edging. Don't cheat, it really must be cut on the bias. There's no need to measure, just cut some lengths--you can trim it later. My bias edging is cut at 1 1/2", then folded in thirds and pressed. Spray the adhesive onto the back of the first piece and stick it to one of the lampshade ribs, between the panels. Trim off any extra. Repeat for the other ribs, and then do the top and bottom edges, just matching one folded edge of the bias tape with the edge of the lampshade. Don't try to turn it to the inside, that's a recipe for tears. Fold the last raw edge under and stick it down with a dab of white craft glue. Let it dry. That's all there is to it. You may need to do a tiny bit of sewing to make a long enough piece of bias edging for the bottom edge of the lampshade, but that's the work of a moment, and you can do it by hand.

We hung it upside down on purpose, because we are quirky that way. Also, it wouldn't fit the fixture the right way up. Why not, right?

You know how it is, once you get going and you've already got glue all over your hands and everything? When you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail?

We delved into the fabric stash and gave this lamp a new shade, too. I'm sorry there are no process photos of this one, because I was on a roll and also it was getting dark--the method here is a little bit different, but just as easy. [Scrub the glue off your worktable and] spread out a big piece of paper. Roll the lampshade over the paper, using a pencil to trace at the edges. Accuracy is useful here, but if you're going to err, go bigger. Too big can be trimmed. Leave enough allowance at the end for it to overlap. Once you have a paper pattern, use it to cut out your fabric. Now run a line of white craft glue down the seam in the lampshade's existing cover and stick the wrong side of your new fabric to it. Let the glue dry a bit--you want to be able to tug on the fabric a little as you cover the shade to help it lie flat. A couple clothespins are useful here. When the glue is somewhat set, apply a little white glue at the top and bottom edges of the shade a few inches at a time, and stick the fabric to it. You're not gluing the whole fabric, just at the top and bottom edge. It may wrinkle a little, so take the time to smooth it out--when it's smooth, move the clothespins, apply a few more inches of glue and keep going, all the way around. When you get to the end, fold over the last edge and glue it down, overlapping the first edge. You might be able to skip the folding over part, if your cut edge is neat enough, or if, like me, you are too covered in glue to care anymore and are willing to turn that seam toward the wall. Carefully trim off any fabric or fraying threads that stick out above the edges. Now, as before, make some bias binding and use spray adhesive to stick it to the top and bottom edges. Fold over the last edge and glue it down with white glue. That's it, you're done.

Seriously, that's great. Custom fabric lampshades! I feel like a genius. Michelle, thank you.