Monday, September 28, 2009

Jane Market Bag

Since I've had no time to sew and since I've been obsessively thinking about sewing, I think it's time for a confession. I love the idea of designing and making my own bags but I just DO NOT want to design and make my own bags. Three dimensional sewing is (in my mind) pretty fussy and the pattern drafting sounds complicated. I know I COULD do it if I wanted to...but the thought of making my own pattern and all the associated trial and error really turns me off to the whole thing.

It's taken me years but I finally admitted to myself that I'm not a bag creator. My heart just isn't in it. That's why after months of almost hitting the shiny virtual button, I finally bought the Jane Market Bag pattern designed by Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy.

I read through the pattern immediately (downloadable patterns are awesome!) and it looks so easy to make. And yet the finished product is really sassy with those pockets and the pin tucks along the side edges. The pattern is very clearly written and the steps are completely non-fussy. I haven't made a bag yet but it's easy to see that the hardest part will be choosing fabrics.

I'll definitely have more to say about this after I get some quality time with the pattern. Probably not until next week though. Until then, check out the flickr pool if you haven't already. I love seeing how the different fabrics change the feeling of the bag.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tour des Moustaches

Ian has two house guests this week. His friend Erin just flew in from New Jersey (and boy are her arms tired). His other guest is me because the plumbing guys are hard at work at my house.

Today Erin and I walked over to the Minnesota State Capitol. It was my plan to photograph some of the many mustachioed gubernatorial portraits for you, a Tour des Moustaches if you will, but the lighting was bad and they all turned out blurry. Instead, I'll show you photos of the ceilings...not as charming but nice just the same.

Here's the dome over the rotunda:


It's very grand! Here's the ceiling in the house chambers:

house chambers

It's very ornate! And here's a ceiling in a random hallway:

painted ceilings

It's just plain awesome! Also, if you take a moment to look at the floor, you'll see these guys hanging out on the base of all the lamps in the capitol:

strange creatures on lamp

Aren't they cute? And lastly, the outside of the main dome and the golden quadriga:


I feel so lucky to have a state capitol as lovely as ours. And I feel extra lucky to be able to see it every day. And if you visit me in Minnesota, I'll take you on the Tour des Moustaches and you'll feel lucky too.

I love bees!

I love them almost as much as fuzzy baby bunnies. I say almost because bees won't let me rub my face on their sweet, fuzzy fur.


But I wish they would.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Renaissance Festival

This weekend I met my family out at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I thought you might want to see a few pictures.

The King:

the king

The wind-up man:

wind up man

The proper attire for a gentleman:

elizabethan doublet

The sassy Maid Marian played by my very own sassy grandma:

maid marian

It was a nice day and it was nice to see my family. We even ran into my brother which was a surprise since he works on weekends. I wish I'd taken more pictures but these will just have to do for now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Glamour Shots by Deb

Since so many of you are Napoleon Dynamite fans (and if you aren't, you should be), I thought I'd post some ancient Glamour Shots by Deb. You know, just because they're flippin' sweet.

Me, of course. It's pretty much the best picture of me that I know of:

This is my friend Natalie. She's so pretty (she could drink whole milk if she wanted to). You wouldn't know it but she has really sweet bowstaff and numchuck skills:

And two for the price of one...Deb is a genius:

So, that's it for now. May all your wildest dreams come true.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back to school

Guess what everyone...I'm going back to school. Where, you ask? Oh, you know, a little place called Yale University. That's right, I'm smart enough to go to Yale...just like Rory Gilmore!

Ok, so I'm obviously not going to Yale but I'm going to take classes there. Intrigued? Read on...

Ian just told me about this wonderful program that Yale is developing. They're providing free (not for credit) online courses. Lectures for the entire course can be downloaded as transcripts, mp3's or videos. There's also a syllabus and list of reading materials. Unfortunately, links to the texts aren't provided which means you have to find the proper books on your own, but that's just as it would be if you were in college anyway.

I'm all ready for my first philosophy class: Death with Professor Shelly Kagan.

thinking hard

I'm thinking hard, as you can see. A Yale student must always be thinking hard.

I also have my Napoleon Dynamite pencils ready to go...a Yale student must always be prepared for taking notes.

napoleon dynamite pencils

Ian and I will be taking Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics with Professor Charles Bailyn and I'd also like to sit in on The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 with Professor David Blight.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass on this amazing resource. I suggest you check out one of the lectures, if for no other reason than to see what a class at Yale is really like. I know it's the only way I'll ever get to see one...besides watching Gilmore Girls, of course.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


This weekend while I was unpacking and waiting for delivery people and construction people and feeling the need to stress eat, I threw together the only ingredients I had on hand and made shortbread.

shortbread mold

Most of the cookies got stuck in the mold when I turned it over but I managed to get two pretty wedges which I saved for Ian.

Then the delivery guys came and set up the new table that my grandma picked out. I picked some flowers from the front yard and admired my little shortbread cookies for as long as it took to take this picture. Then I ate most of the "ruined" cookies myself. Not a great idea but what can you do...

shortbread cookies

And I didn't notice it because it's been so hot here this week...but fall is coming:

changing leaves

I'd love to take a week off of work and have a stay at home vacation...pajamas, falling leaves, sewing, reading, hot apple cider. But there's no time for that right now. And that's fine...I just hope I don't miss the whole fall while I'm so busy with other things.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cathedral windows!

Oh my gosh, you guys! Look what I did last night:

cathedral window quilt

I know, right? Cathedral windows! I can honestly say that I love, love, love them. I can also honestly say that I'm never going to make a cathedral window quilt.

My starting squares are 12" instead of the 9" recommended in the tutorial. I cut fabric for nine squares and after folding the third square, I'd decided a quilt was not in my future. This is where I usually quit a project but I was still curious about cathedral window quilting so I went ahead and finished preparing all nine squares and sewed them together. Now my base is just the right size for a pillow. Or maybe a wall hanging for my studio?

cathedral window quilt

I really do enjoy turning these curvy edges and hand sewing them down. It's very satisfying! But I'm pretty sure I'll stop enjoying it after about four more hours of work. And a quilt would take considerably longer than that.

So, for now I'm going to enjoy these little curvy windows and anticipate looking at them for years to come. I still recommend trying it out for yourself, even if a quilt is not in your future either. There's something satisfying about manipulating a flat piece of fabric into something mind-bogglingly different.

And while I'm on the subject of manipulating fabric, I highly recommend The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff. If you've ever wondered how to do anything with fabric, it's in this book. Tucks and ruffles, smocking and quilting, pleating and's just amazing how many ways a flat piece of fabric can be transformed.

Oh, and Elaine, my current obsession with magenta is all thanks to you. I was never a fan but now I can't get enough. Don't you love it when that happens?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Custom ironing table

I got a question regarding my ironing table and rather than reply in the comments, I thought I'd do a proper post with pictures. First, I bought a Vika Amon table from ikea. It's nearly 2'x4' which is wide enough to iron an entire width of quilting fabric. It's also a very, very light table which is important because I like my studio to be flexible...I have to be able to move things around when I need more floor space for a project.

I bought two additional tables to use as my cutting table and my sewing table. I like things to match but it's also nice that they're all the same size and height (I push them together to make one large work surface for free motion quilting).


I found a picture of the underside...I hope it helps. I used four layers of cotton quilt batting and taped the ends underneath. At the time I didn't have a staple gun but the tape is easy to remove so I think I like it better anyway. To make the cover I cut a rectangle out of cotton fabric, turned over the edge and sewed to make a casing for the drawstring. There's a great tutorial at the Purl Bee. Next time I'll make the cover larger to cover more of the underside.

I read that using tinfoil between the layers would help protect my table but I couldn't stand the tinfoil sound so I took it out. If the table top gets ruined, I can buy another one for $15...but I'm pretty sure I'm never going to use it for another purpose anyway.

Also, the table stands lower than my traditional ironing board which might be a concern for some people. Fortunately, the lower height works well for me. I don't like to have to hold the iron too high because it gives me headaches.

Anyway, I hope that helps. I've found that a rectangular surface significantly decreases the time it takes to iron fabric. Now ironing yards and yards of fabric is fun, if you can imagine that. I still use my old ironing board for skirts...but pants and shirts work fine on the new ironing table.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A little more progress

I was going to post about this tomorrow but I'm a little grossed out by the whole dairy thing so I think a pleasant-er topic is in order. So, another thing I managed to do this weekend, despite the headache, was work on the studio. I finished covering my design wall and assembled the tv stand (and filled it up with yarn and movies):

design wall and tv stand in studio

The design wall is made of three panels of extruded polystyrene insulation that I cut to the correct height for my wall. I put two layers of felt on each panel and wrapped the extra around to the back. It's secured with quilting pins in groups of two or three set at opposite angles, not straight in. The total cost was nearly $60 if you count the pins (I used a lot of pins). The finished size is 12' x 5.5'.

new studio

In addition to setting up my shelves in the closet and sorting some boxes, I worked on some fabric napkins:

sewing machine by the window

and baby quilts for the holiday craft sale:

new projects on the design wall

sneak peak

And that's about it. Ian and I saw Inglourious Basterds one night and made pizza and watched Lethal Weapon another. There will be more unpacking this week until I can find my thimble. And when I do, I'm going to take about a four hour break to finish the binding on the quilt above. I'm excited because, well, polka dots! Wouldn't you be excited?

Dairy terror!

Wow, that was a long weekend! But not long enough because I had a headache for two of the three days. But let's not dwell on that...instead, let's talk about butter.

Fist, you should all know that I have sort of a dairy phobia. I'm terrified of warm milk or butter or even cheese that sits out all day at our family's christmas party. I've never gotten sick from bad dairy. I can only attribute the start of my fear to the day I spilled milk on my pants while I was at school in first grade. I was terrified that the milk would spoil and I'd smell like stinky milk all day. The milk didn't actually start to smell but maybe the fear was enough to start the downward spiral into dairy terror?

Or now that I think of it, maybe it has something to do with the movie The Stuff. I saw it on tv when I was little and the white, dairy-like substance could move on its own and kill people. Scary, right? And people were eating it because it was delicious but it turned them into something like zombies. I had terrible dreams for a long time after that...who would make such a horrible movie? Dairy terror indeed!

Anyway, I say this now so you'll know just how hard it was for me to leave the cream out on the counter while I was at work. And how hard it was for me not to pour it out after I smelled it. It smelled like...cream! Gross!

Cold, cold, cold milk doesn't really smell or taste like much and that's really the only reason I can drink it. And I'll drink a lot of it if I get the chance. But if there's any left on the "sell by" date, it goes down the drain. I'm a terrible person and I'm trying to get better.

Anyway, I poured some cream into a jar, shook it for about five minutes and found this inside:

making butter from cream

A sweet little lump of butter (and a big glass of buttermilk which I didn't photograph). I pressed it with a spatula to squeeze out the remaining buttermilk like Allison says in her tutorial and ended up with smooth butter after just a few minutes:

making butter from cream

Then I made banana bread which didn't turn out well at all! First, I didn't have enough sugar and rather than go to the store, I decided to do what Ma Ingalls would do and used brown sugar. Then in went the butter and the buttermilk and the rest of the ingredients. I forgot to add cinnamon and for some reason the batter was too thick. Then it took a half an hour longer to cook and then I didn't feel like eating it because it made the whole house smell like butter (I was surrounded by dairy!) That fresh butter sure was buttery!

I ate some of the bread in the morning and it wasn't as good as my normal bread...but there were so many variables that I don't know which was the culprit. It tasted good but the texture was off and it just wasn't the same. I tried it with some of the fresh butter (refrigerated overnight, of course) and it was definitely good butter.

So, there you have it, my butter adventure. I don't exactly feel like Ma Ingalls and I didn't sit out on a quilt while reading my book but it was definitely a fun adventure. The next time I'd like to make rosemary butter. And Ian wants in on the action so I'll let him shake the jar.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Little house

I think the worst part about moving is not knowing where my stuff is. I know it's here but where? It's like searching for the needle in the haystack. I rely very heavily on my photographic memory so when stuff all goes into identical boxes (especially if that box was packed by someone other than me), it's very frustrating. My brain is addled, my memory in pieces.

The second worst part is when half my stuff is at the old place. Last week, when half my stuff was at the old place, I found myself reaching for something that wasn't there. The toothbrush charger or the filter basket for the coffee maker, for example.

The first night I slept at the new house was pretty frustrating and knowing there would be no coffee in the morning didn't help. It got worse when I went to settle into bed with my book and realized I didn't bring any lamps to the new house. And since I hate reading with the overhead light on (I'll usually choose to just go to sleep without reading if that's my only option) I found the box marked "candles" and read like this instead:

bedroom during

I turned to shut the door and when I turned back and saw this, I felt all my frustration melt away. I felt like Laura Ingalls in her little house in the big woods. Candles, quilts, crickets...simplicity itself.

Last night I found my copy of Little House in the Big Woods and started reading. When my mom read this book to me when I was little, I never questioned any of it. It sounded like a grand old time to grow up in the big woods of Wisconsin. But now, at 28, I realize just how hard it was to survive that lifestyle, especially in a state that was covered in snow for half the year.

So far in just the first few chapters we learn that Pa hunts and fishes and chops wood all day so they have the hope of surviving the winter. He smokes meat in a smoker he made from a hollow log. The girls cook and eat a pig tail, they play games with a pig bladder filled with air, they trace designs in the frost on the window using Ma's thimble. They rejoice on butchering day and gather food from the garden and prepare it for storage over the long winter. They make headcheese and sausage and lard and bread. Ma churns butter and presses it into her wooden butter mold, the one with a design of a strawberry and leaves.

"In winter the cream was not yellow as it was in summer, and butter churned from it was white and not so pretty. Ma liked everything on her table to be pretty, so in the wintertime she colored the butter."

Just when I think that all there is to this life is surviving, Ma surprises me with her pretty butter mold and her butter colored with carrot juice...because, you know, it's prettier that way.

What is it about this life that I find so appealing? The little log cabin in the woods, the wolves howling outside, the wind and snow whipping around the corners of the cabin and into any chinks they can find, the little family curled up under handmade quilts, the children wrapping their arms around corncob dolls. Oh, the hard work, the hunger, the survival, the hunting, the gathering, the family, the warmth, the simplicity...the thought of it makes my heart ache with a longing I can't really describe.

Since I'm not a hunter nor a gatherer nor a survivalist nor a hard labourer, I think, for now, I'll fulfill my Little House fantasies by making butter (using Allison's fantastic tutorial). And then I'd like to use the fresh butter and buttermilk to make banana bread. And then I'd spread the butter on the warm banana bread and eat it while reading my book on a quilt (that I made) under a tree in my backyard. That sounds nice, right?

Do you have any fond Little House memories? Do you think about Ma's thimble every time you see a frosted window? Do you remember Laura's pockets bursting when you collect pretty rocks at the beach? Did you identify more with Laura or Mary? What design would you want in your butter mold?

Design wall update!

I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner but I figured out how to attach the felt to my design wall. Pins! Like, long quilting pins. I put them in an an angle closer to sideways than not and grouped a few together, each pointed in a different direction. I took photos but, of course, forgot to take them off my camera. So, I'll be able to show you my finished design wall once I can find more pins. They're packed away somewhere and I used up all I could find on the first of three panels.

Thanks for your suggestions yesterday. Sometimes I get so focused on one idea that I completely miss the obvious.

Oh, and last night, my parents went to bed before I did. I walked past the stairs and they were talking and I couldn't resist telling them to stop goofing off and go to bed. Just like they used to yell up to us when we were little. My dad asked for popcorn which is always what my brother and I would ask for after bedtime and we all laughed. Earlier in the evening we sat outside and ate pizza and listened to the geese fly overhead. It was nice, just like the old days. I think I'm really going to like living here again, now that I'm no longer an angsty teen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Studio update

My parents will be in town tonight and will be staying overnight at my house. My house that's filled with boxes. In the guest bedroom, which is also filled with boxes. So, instead of peeling wallpaper and preparing rooms to paint, I spent most of my night moving boxes out of the kitchen so we can all eat dinner together. What little time I had afterwards, I spent in the studio.

My first priority was fabric, of course:


The second was coming up with a layout I liked:

studio during

The third was dreaming about my new painting nook:

studio during

And the fourth was trying to attach white felt to these big sheets of pink insulation (my new design wall).

room4studio during

Staples didn't work, they slipped right back out. Tape didn't work because it wouldn't stick to the felt. I searched in vain for my glue gun but couldn't find it in any of the boxes labeled "studio". Not surprising. This week I'd like to pick up one of those low temperature glue guns in hopes that the glue will stick to both the felt and the insulation without melting either. If that doesn't work, I'm out of ideas so I'm going to look up tips on the internet.

It really feels good to get a little bit of my life back. The studio is far from finished but the essentials are there. The hole in my chest is just a little bit smaller today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Baby quilt conundrum

So, most of you know that I don't have kids. And none of my friends have kids. But I have a kid-related question and I thought some of you might be able to offer some advice.

Laura and I are planning to make things for the annual holiday craft sale at her work and in addition to some small things, I'd like to make some baby quilts.

But I don't know what size they should be. I was thinking around 40"x55" because the kid won't grow out of it for years. But then I see tiny quilts for sale online, (around 24"x36") and I think, that's just too tiny. But maybe it's not? Can a baby quilt be too big?

So, what do you think? What's the best size for a baby quilt, from a parent's perspective?

I wish I had some photos to offer you in return for your advice but I'm still unpacking and getting settled in at the new house. The de-wallpapering is going well and I think I'll be able to start painting the studio on Friday. It's going to take me a while because I have so many other things going on this week and weekend. I'm going just a bit nuts without my sewing machine, it's definitely a priority.