Sunday, July 31, 2011

What I Did for My Summer Vacation

This is the Summer of Making it Work- as in- use what you have, stay away from the store and make it fun.

So I started by cleaning out my fabric stash. A closet full of plastic bins overflowing with beautiful (and ugly) cottons- some from my mother's fabric stash and at least 30 years old! I ended up with lots of bins filled with neatly folded fabrics sorted and labeled on the shelves of my closet. And at least three bags full of stuff I am going to donate.

Then my a/c died in my studio. Yeah- we have central air ( we live in North Carolina for heaven's sake!) but my little room upstairs gets uncomfortably hot without the window unit. And in the spirit of Making It Work- I decided NOT to spend the money on a replacement unit,
but to move my sewing plans downstairs- to the kitchen. With a week off from work and lots of unfinished projects resurrected from the piles of fabric, I took over the kitchen counters- Cutting space on the island, iron on the counter, sewing machine on the table. On Vacation! Oh- and outside temps well over 100 degrees. I put Pandora on the computer and had nothing but time- I had an awesome week!
I made two quilt tops from a charm pack and yardage I bought at least three years ago- I over dyed some very ugly yarn- making even uglier yarn. And I made fabric bins to organize all those pieces of fabric I so lovingly folded. I found a bolt of upholstery linen I was going to recover a chair with- The chair is history- so I had yards and yards to play with.
I have always loved Maya's blog- Maya Made, and her burlap buckets have inspired me over and over again. My original plan was to make buckets, but then I realized that square shapes would suit my needs better- so I made up my own pattern and went to town.

15 bins later- I have some pretty cool looking storage! I was going to use stamps to label the colors I had sorted my fabric into- but I have decided to use numbers instead, with a fabric strip tied to the handle to indicate what's inside. This way I can reuse these bins in the future. I liked them so much- I thought I'd put together a tutorial for them- stay tuned for that!

By now, my week of free time was winding down- responsibilities lurked- the fantasy that I could make things for a living was evaporating like the rain from a brief summer shower. Laundry needed to be done- groceries bought- threads vacuumed up- meals prepared. But I felt very good about what I had accomplished.

Then this morning I started thinking about how I knit more than quilt these days and why. It's because with knitting I can stay right in the middle of things- I can easily hide surplus yarn in the cabinets in the living room, and sit and interact with my family while knitting. Quilting requires me to retire to my studio space- away from the center of things, isolated (which is sometimes a good thing). Quilting takes up lots of space.
When I first got married and my kids were babies, I did whatever I could do to stay at home with them and not have to pay someone else to raise them. Daycare has come a very long way since the late 70's. So I had my sewing machine set up in the eating space of our apartment and I sewed zippers into eyeglass cases for needlepoint kits. I made good money and worked for an awesome woman who believed in nurturing other women's creativity. And I was available to the kids and in the middle of things. Later we moved to California and I still had limited space-but my sewing machine was always in the dining room, in the middle of things.
Flash forward to an empty nest- including unused bedrooms- and a studio space was born. I love having my own room- and I love leaving everything where it is, in whatever stage of being finished- but I miss being in the middle of things. It's a trade-off- I'm rarely embarrassed by my clutter anymore- I still get quite a bit of work done. I love knitting, and I'm happy I am getting better at it all the time. But I REALLY loved working with fabric and making quilts and having threads on my clothes and singing VERY LOUD to old Joni Mitchell songs while my sewing machine was going full power.
So now I have put away all my toys and I have finished the laundry and I'm prepared to go back to work tomorrow- But what I really want to do is make this

Hey- only 5 days to the weekend, right?

Thanks to Amanda Jean for the inspiration

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Deep Breath!

Lots to be excited about in this here part of North Carolina. The dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom and the weather is being spring-like. 66 today and 90 tomorrow. Plenty of rain and wind are keeping the yellow haze that is spring at bay. For those who don't know- we have so many pine trees down here that spring means you keep your windows closed so you don't get pine pollen on everything you own. We consider how a new car will look with pine pollen all over it before we buy...the lyrics of Jimi Hendrix' 'Purple Haze' get changed to 'Yellow Haze'. We think Coldplay wrote "Yellow" just for us. ' In short- it's a mess. But this year we have had a couple wind storms and two or three day long soaking rains that have washed a good deal, if not all, of the pollen away. That's a good thing.

We are also excited about our garden this year. In light of world events- recession, gas prices, radiation in Japan - it just seems to be time to pay attention to being able to do at least some of the providing for ourselves. I found an article about straw bale gardening last year, and never got it together, but this year, we are on track for tomatoes, green peppers, beans (green and dry-able), squash and potatoes- as well as some pretty flowers grown on straw bales. So we don't break our backs with double tilling rather poor soil- and doing battle with weeds. We are going to get at least one and maybe two rain barrels, and hope to be able to keep this going through the hottest days of summer. And that will be the real test. This method of gardening should be successful if we have a moderate amount of rain, but I get lazy when it's 100 degrees out and hasn't rained in weeks.

My nephew, Greg, has started a Facebook group- The Green Gardener for those of us who like this sort of thing- check it out.

We also moved our compost barrel inside the fence so we can get to it easier. (We have been known to throw away perfectly good bunny poop instead of composting it). The round table discussion of whether to build a chicken coop, like our two neighbors have-has resulted in the decision to eat other people's eggs. I think I've done my share of nurturing small creatures, and it wouldn't be fair to Walter. He doesn't like chickens, much. And he'll end up taking care of them. I know myself that well, anyway. The bunny is evidence of that.

I also wanted to talk about how hard spinning is. I got a spinning wheel about 3 weeks ago, and haven't managed to get yarn on a bobbin yet. I know it will come. I'm just stubborn enough that I want to teach myself, but I may have to find some help. My wheel is a little, shall we say- different looking. It's called a Hitchhiker and was designed as a traveling wheel for those who really know what they are doing- or as a good beginner wheel (so I'm told...). There are whole groups of people who have this wheel and make lovely yarn on it. Those talented people let me lurk on their forum postings, cause I don't know enough to contribute. It's ok. I like a challenge. When we stop learning, we stop growing. I don't plan on stopping my own growth- so there you go. When I get good enough to actually produce some yarn, I'll tell you all about it. For now, however- just wish me well on this part of my journey.
How about you? Have you got any new things going on for Spring? Have you shaken off the winter doldrums and started anything new, challenging or interesting? Leave a comment!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end,"Ursula K. Le Guin

I just spent about an hour on a post I deleted. I was talking about what I'm making now- that doesn't really matter. What I really want to talk about is how we are all on the journey- and the things we do that we love- are the reasons we are traveling. And being aware of that is important.
So I make stuff- and some of it is needed and loved- and some of it ends up in the back of the drawer. It's about the process- the journey, the IDEA. It's also about the finished project- and the blessings that object sends into the world.
Making things has two sides- my side is the creative rush- the flurry of 'Oh- I have an idea' through to the wrapping it in noisy tissue paper so it rustles when the new owner opens it. Or the happiness that the place mats I knit for our dinner trays gives me at dinner time.
The other side is knowing that the love and care, and, hopefully, thoughtfulness I put into making something goes out into the world and makes the recipient feel loved and cherished. That putting on those fingerless gloves reminds Zoe I love her-Noah's hat keeps his ears and his heart warm- or wrapping the shawl around her makes Bev realize she's not alone. That the work of making things puts a little more love into the world.

I like my surroundings to be touched with sentiment- so my husband's baby shoes have a place of honor- right next to my dog-eared copy of Franny and Zooey. My parents both painted and their artwork is on my walls- along with newer works by my oh-so talented son and mother-in-law. But I don't like a lot of clutter. (Which is my constant battle, by the way). I hope the things I make will stand the test of sentiment/practicality. But if they don't- pass them on to someone else. And I really want to mean that. (If my kids give away any 'important' stuff, it will hurt my feelings, though-just being honest here)

So the double edged joy of making stuff comes from sending my love and care out into your world- so you are reminded by that baby hat or blanket that I treasure you in my life, and the pure joy I get from the process itself. It's about the Journey and the Destination. It's about the time it takes and the love it makes-

...and in the end- the love you take is equal to the love you make...

Put some love out there! And enjoy the journey.