Summertime… and the living is…

FRUITY!!! It seems I just can’t get enough fruit this summer. We’re going through nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, plums, and cherries (OH MY GOSH, THE CHERRIES!) as fast as we can get them into the house! This is actual good news, as fruits and veges are an oft-neglected part of my diet. I just hope to ride the wave through the autumn and into winter! I know all the good food is good for my immune system, and that’s important for those of us with chronic illness.

We joined Weight Watchers a couple of months ago and it has been working great! DH and I have lost almost 15 pounds each! He’s walking a lot more and I’m feeling better, so I’m glad we’re doing that. I also ordered a new cook book recently. (I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.) It’s called GO FRESH by the American Heart Association. Although I don’t use cook books often (I’m more of a by-the-seat-of-my-pants cook) this one looks really interesting! It’s well organized, with color pictures in the middle. The recipes sound really yummy. I like that it covers a lot of different cultures – Mexican, Greek, Southern, etc. That way we don’t get bored with what we’re eating. I mean, you can only eat steamed broccoli and grilled chicken breast so often, you know?

The book has a lot of tips in it for how to buy your food and how to store it so that you get the maximum nutrition. Too often, we wind up wasting food because we forget it in the back of the ridge, so it’s good to be reminded about how to store it properly. One of the things I like the best about the book is that it uses common ingredients. Sometimes, when I look at cook books, the authors seem to think that everyone lives in a major metropolitan area with access to specialty grocery stores. For those of us in small town America, it’s refreshing to find ingredients that I can pick up at the local store and still have so much variety! I’m sure we’ll be trying out some of the recipes soon. I’ll keep you posted!

I’ve also been creating a lot lately. I had a treatment at the first of the month, adn it knocked me flat for a couple of weeks, but I’m bouncing back now. I’ve made several bags, a couple of shirts, most of an afghan, and have started working on items for the local Haunted House.

The bags are really fun! They’re called “Mondo Bags” and the’re made out of patchwork squares. A quick internet search should turn up directions if you’re interested. Here are a couple of the ones I have made:

elephant bag for me

purple bag for a friend

The afghan is not going as well as I had hoped. It’s a challenge from “The Crochet Crowd” called “Stitch-Cation.” It’s coming together, but it has driven me nuts! Apparently, I am no longer able to count to 35 or to do basic addition. This has caused much ripping out and swearing. But I’m finally working on the borders and the end is in sight. And the fact that it’s not really square is just going to have to be OK. These are the blocks before I started joining them together:

Stitch-cation afghan

As for the Haunted House… It’s really a Haunted Mill. The local community theatre works with a local mill to create a spectacular haunted mill as a fund-raiser for both entities. The mill is an old mill with much of the work being done by hand. They teach classes in woodworking, ceramics, weaving… all sorts of things. And the local theatre is an organization I have been involved with for quite some time. So we like to support both organiaztions! This year, I’ll be setting up a room of my own in the Haunted Mill. I’ve got lots of work ahead of me, but I’m starting early so that I don’t get too tired. Here’s a pic of the sewing room in its current state! LOL!

haunted mill items

It looks like I’m doing a lot more than I actually am. I’m still not back to 100%, and I still spend quite a bit of time on the couch, but things are looking up. I have hopes that I will continue to improve and continue to be able to create!

Now, let’s go create something!

Summer breeze…

“… blowing through the jasmine in my mind…”

And apparently taking my mind with it. June went by so quickly I didn’t write a single post! So here it is July…

This month I want to let you know about a book I was sent for review. It’s called:

Super Stitch Sewing by Nicole Vasbinder

This is an interesting book for sewers with some experience. It doesn’t cover the basics of sewing, but it does tell you what all those “extra” stitches on your machine can be used for — from the basic straight stitch all the way through to the decorative stitches. There are diagrams for each stitch and written explanations of how they work. I found it especially helpful for stretch stitches used on knits. I sew a LOT, but I don’t sew on knits very often, so a reference book for those stitches could come in handy.

That’s what this is. A reference book. It is not an instructional book.

What’s the difference? Well, to me, an instructional book is meant to be read (and used) from front to back with each lesson building on the one before. A reference book is meant to be opened up to a specific section when that info is needed. Nitpicky, I know, but it caused me a bit of confusion. This book tells you all the machine stitches first, followed by the hand stitches, followed by the presser foot and needle information. As a reader, I think it might have been less confusing if the sections had been reversed — presser foot and needle info followed by hand stitches followed by machine stitches. That makes more sense in my head – starting with the basics and moving towards the more complex. As it is, when you are reading about a machine stitch, it will refer to a presser foot that you haven’t heard of before because the presser feet are in the back of the book and you haven’t read that far yet. Perhaps my error was in sitting down to read the book rather than just pick it up and use it for reference.

There IS a decent index and table of contents, so using the book in future for a specific task should be simplified.

The book’s descriptions are accurate with helpful expert tips included along the way. The diagrams are clear and easy to read. There is a photograph of each stitch so you can see what it will look like when you’re done. On a few stitches, more photographs would have been helpful. I don’t process spatial images in my head very well and being able to see the actual blind hem process (for instance) would have made it clearer for me. Also, the diagrams and graphics are mostly red and a green-ish gold. This may cause problems for folk with red/green color-blind issues.

The book discusses stitches found on sewing machine since the 1950s. If you are interested in stitches available on older machines, this book might not be what you’re looking for. Of course, every sewing machine brand is different, and your best resource is often the manual that came with your machine. But if you have misplaced it or need further information on a specific stitch, and have a more modern machine, this book might come in handy.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Now, blow the dust off that sewing machine and go create something!

Sunshine and rainbows!

It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon here and I thought I’d take a picture of my quilt in progress. The colors are so beautiful in the sunlight!

I’ve had so much time to sit on the couch, and I’m trying to do something useful, so I picked up some fabric I had cut and had never had time to sew together. It’s the first large quilt I have ever hand pieced, but it’s coming right along! Another week and I’ll be ready to put on the border pieces.

I’m going to hand quilt each of the hexagons with intertwined hearts and the quilt is going to hang on the wall in our home. If it all goes well, I may even enter it in the fair!

Lion? Lamb? Who can tell???

Around here, March wasn’t sure which animal to emulate as it arrived. We’ve had rain, sun, fog… everything but snow. Today we woke up to a beautiful morning – sunny, bright, warm, no wind – and by noon the clouds had rolled in and we had to turn on lights in the house. By 4:00 it was raining and cold and we had to close the windows. Fortunately, living right on the ocean as we do, we’re used to sudden changes in the weather. So we spent the morning outside, going to garage sales and doing yard work and I spent the afternoon on the couch. Crafting, of course!

I’ve been hand-piecing 18 quilt blocks and have decided on their placement in the quilt, but before I get started sewing them together, I decided to get some baby gifts made. So I’ve been watching “Dr. Who” and hand sewing baby things. Baby things are so much fun to make! They require very little in the way of materials and come together so quickly! (All the seams are short.) They’re a great way to use up smaller scraps, too. Surely you have some scraps hanging around your house! Pull them out and see what you can make. A preemie quilt only has to be 14″ square. Bibs, hats, booties – they all take less than 1/2 yard of fabric. You can even make use of your ribbon, lace, and rick rack scraps to decorate them. It’s a real stash buster! And it’s a great way to try a new technique before committing to a major project.

The same holds true for knitting and crocheting. Baby washcloths, burp cloths, and blankets let you try new stitches and patterns and you don’t have to worry about your gauge before you start! Just grab some baby-friendly yarn and start stitching!

I’ll be posting pictures of both the quilt blocks and the baby things soon. I’m really excited about how well the quilt is looking!

Until that time, let’s go create something!

Something from Nothing (almost)

This is a story of two stories.

The first story is this: Back in 1982, I was in Scotland. Having always heard that I had Scottish ancestors, I took the opportunity to research the family clan. I found the clan, the tartan, and the clan motto. (of course, years later I found that I started with the wrong ancestor’s name, but that didn’t stop me from claiming the clan for myself).

The clan motto was “Neither spare nor dispose.” I took that to heart. Although I’m not sure what the Scottish meant by it when they originally created the motto, I took it to mean, “We don’t give it away, and we don’t throw it away.” Thus I have justified my ability to collect more fabric, more yarn, and more patterns than I can possibly use in this life or the next!

This brings me to the subject of this entry – Something for Nothing (almost).

About a week ago I found I needed a Halloween costume. Yes, for THIS Halloween. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of CFIDS is mounting medical bills. Work missed + medical bills = not enough money for a costume. So I borrowed a phrase from my grandparents’ generation, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”

I took a look around at what I had on hand. I found the aborted attempt at a purple chiffon wedding dress, 5 yards of sturdy black cotton in my fabric drawer, and an old pattern from the 1980s. I added $15.00 worth of netting and spiders, some silver buttons, and came up with this:

steampunk fortune teller

I really need to get a better camera so my pictures aren’t so blurry…

At any rate, I picked up the layers of the skirt on the wedding dress into swags. I cut the top of the dress off (the part that didn’t fit) and covered the raw edge with black ribbon.

The 5 yards of black twill cotton became a long, gathered skirt and a short fitted jacket. I used scraps from the wedding dress to make the lapels on the jacket.

the jacket

The netting and spiderwebs I draped into a bustle on the back of the skirt.

bustle

I’m adding a black snood, black lace mitts, a black lace shawl, and some costume jewelry.

So I will be reading the cards at a local Haunted House this weekend and next, dressed in my Steampunk Fortune Teller’s outfit.

So what do you have hanging around? Kids outgrown their jeans? Have some spare quilt batting? Turn them into potholders or trivets. T-shirts can be cut into strips and crocheted or braided into rugs. I even use my scraps of embroidery floss by putting them in the birdcage for our finches to buils their nest.

Oh, yes. I promised you two stories. Here’s the second story:

When I was 9 years old, my mother sat me down at her old Kenmore sewing machine and said, “I hate to sew. You will hate to sew. But every woman should know how.” Here I am, 46 years later, with an entire room devoted to sewing and crafting. She never dreamed it would take me so far. And when I sit down to work, I invariably think of her.

Thanks, Mom.

Now let’s go create something!

Crisis averted!

Yesterday was a day almost as important as the actual wedding day! It was the day I finished the dress and finally got to try it on! And guess what?!?!? It doesn’t fit. And not in an “oh, no one will notice” or a “you can make a quick adjustment” kind of way. Rather, in an “O.M.G. I cannot be seen in public in this dress and there’s no way to fix it” kind of way. One week till the wedding and nothing to wear. When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. I immediately down-graded my expectations to a nice cotton sundress. I hit the fabric store and the thrift store and got nothing. I went to the quilt store. Nothing. In despair (and fighting an incipient panic attack) I went to Target, thinking it was the one place I hadn’t already looked. I know. A wedding dress at Target? But believe it or not, I found a purple sundress at Target that is very flattering and now the dress issue is finally resolved. I’m exhausted – emotionally, mentally, physically. But I will have a dress for the wedding.

The wedding is September 7, and we’ll be heading out for our honeymoon after that, so I’ll be absent a few weeks. But there will be pictures when I get back! In the meantime,

GO CREATE SOMETHING! (I’ll be creating memories)

I can hear the bells!

So on Monday we went and got our wedding license. SQUEE! I am getting so excited! The wedding is just over 3 weeks away! I better get that dress done, hadn’t I?

Anyway, while we were getting our license, we also had a friend of ours sworn in as Deputy for a Day so that she can perform the ceremony for us. They made her promise to uphold and defend the constitution. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary during our wedding!

While we were talking to her, I realized that she would need a clipboard or something to hold the written service during the ceremony. We talked about it some, and went out and bought a purple binder. Yes, it was purple and it matched the rest of the wedding, but vinyl covered in clear plastic looks so cheap! I just didn’t want that at the wedding. I looked at wedding guest books (have you seen the prices in the bridal aisle at your local craft store???) and I even looked at some pretty scrapbooks (ditto the prices).

So, being the Chronic Creator (I think I’ll take that as my superhero name) I headed to the fabric store. I found fabric that was perfect to cover our binder, on sale for $3 a yard, and I only needed half a yard! Such a bargain! I also found scrapbook paper and stickers at 40% – 50% off. So, $24.95 later and a little bit of sewing, I have a custom binder to hold, not only our service, but our engagement and wedding photos! I hope to have some of the engagement pictures in it before the wedding so that people can look at the album during the reception.

Remember covering your school books with a brown paper bag? Well, this is the same concept, only in fabric. Turn in all the edges and hem them, then wrap it around your binder and pin it to measure. After it’s all folded around the binder, I stitch the edges together and it slips right on. I’ve used the same technique to cover Bibles and other books in the past. Sometimes I use a layer of low loft batting behind the fabric, but this time I just used the fabric.

I decorated mine with a ribbon and a rhinestone buckle (4 buckles for $2.00, I kid you not!) but you can use lace, contrasting fabric, leave it plain, or even hot glue a small picture frame to the front. My personal philosophy is that a girl can’t have too much sparkle!

If you decide to give this a try and open your book flat to measure the fabric, make sure you leave a little extra fabric in the width as it will need some ease when you close your book.

Have fun! Let’s go create something!