Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm a Moss Maven.

No one ever told me what Date Night would turn into when you had a kid. Come to think of it, I never considered asking because every night is Date Night when you are childless; it's only when you are suddenly responsible for a little person's life that you look up one day, see your partner scraping poo off a diaper into the toilet and think "oh, hey. I remember're kind of cute, want to go out?" only to fall asleep 10 minutes later just because the baby finally went down. A year into our new roles as parents and we're finally realizing that baby-free time is OK. It helps that we have two eager grandparents who want nothing more than to stare at Bean all night so really, I don't know what took us so long.

Enter: the Moss Date.
I like moss. A lot. In our current house we have a fantastic shade garden with a lovely brick path that is covered in moss. When we bought the house, the previous owner told us that it got slippery and so every once in a while he (sit down for this one) sprayed bleach on the moss to kill it. He was generous enough to leave us his bleach-spraying device, even. After promptly throwing the sprayer out, we sat back and watched the moss take over, carpeting the walk and making the space feel positively enchanted. I had no idea how to cultivate moss, but any time I'd be digging around in the shade garden, I'd toss any dislodged mossy bits onto new ground, stomp on it a few times and leave it be. Turns out, this plus a little water is about all you have to do to grow moss.

So when Moss Acres hosted a moss workshop in nearby Radnor, I said to Andrew: I'd like to go to that and can we drop off Bean at her grandparents and have dinner and call it a date? And that is how we ended up getting a coffee, learning about moss, and having grilled cheese at a diner on our (I think) second official date since Bean arrived.

And here is what I am thinking about now...

- There are 22,000 species of moss. I'd like to know about at least 10...seems like a good start.

- I need to gather some of the moss from this house and move it with us to our next house. I also need to start sourcing old bricks so that I can recreate our little path. And I need to take the rock that I moved into the garden which is now covered with moss with me to the new house. Sorry new homeowners, you can't have my mossy rock.

- I need to put a moss green roof on the chicken coop in the new house. I don't know how I'm going to accomplish this, but I really, really need to do it.

- I need to spread the word that sphagnum moss / peat moss is bad bad bad because it is being overharvested and is destroying ecosystems.

That is all. Go moss!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stray dogs and center squares.

We found a little beagle on the side of the road very near to our house on Thursday night. It had a collar with a rabies tag, but nothing else. It took a long time to track down the owner...we called the vet from the tag who didn't want to give us the address but called the owner on our behalf. They reached the wife who was out of town who couldn't get a hold of her husband who was with the kids at the park. Arg. The dog (Celie) was very sweet but very eager to explore her surroundings and without a leash, I spent a good half-hour hunched over, keeping her held back by her collar. We got her back to our house and borrowed a leash from a neighbor and waited outside, but not before Celie got a little freaked, strained against the leash and succeeded in pulling my back out of whack. You may remember that I threw my back out a few months ago while needlepointing. Well, at least this time I was being slightly more athletic, but the result is just as crappy: I'm OK lying down or standing up, but sitting really hurts.
Nevermind, I have a quilt along to keep up with! I've been going at it in short bursts since I can't sit for too long, but so far I have all of my strips sewn, a little less than half of them ironed, and the center of my quilt all made up. Pretty, pretty!And in the interim, when I have to be lying down, I am happily involved in the fourth book of the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I'd started the series a while back, put it down and then picked it back up again when I heard they'd done an HBO series based on the book. I think these are just about the sweetest stories ever (perfect summer reads) and although I think Jill Scott and the woman playing Mma Makutsi are doing a wonderful job, there is a lot lost in translation. I also cannot figure out why new characters have been made and plots changed significantly (like, entire mysteries are solved to be something completely different) but I'm trying to be open minded about it. I think that's what Mma Ramotswe would want at least! Anyway, I have lots to do while laying down, even if I can't figure out how to rig my sewing machine so that I can operate it whilst horizontal.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Simple tools, scary tools.

Here's the latest progress on my JJ blouse...
I covered some buttons which was very fun and a little addicting. You get a little kit that comes with a simple tool to make the covered buttons. It's kind of like the potato chip phenomenon, you can't make just one. I don't think this project calls for seven buttons, but I couldn't help myself! Extras will be dealt with in an appropriately crafty fashion.

I also secured my ruffle (I'm using only the one ruffle on the princess seams) to my shirt. More importantly, I USED MY SERGER! That's right, that wonderful machine that I have owned for (dare I admit it) over two years now and haven't used yet. Well, I did try to use it once. I'm a big believer in the no-first-project-is-too-big-too-attempt and therefore I decided to break my serger in making a t-shirt. Out of knit fabric. Had I ever worked with knits before? Did it really matter because could anyone have convinced me not to try knits for my first serging project? Long story short: major failure; serger gathered dust (and the occasional pissy sideways glance from moi) while covered in knit t-shirt fabric for a few years. But I bought a book, mustered up some confidence and found the rolled edge stitch on my cotton fabric to be very easy. Yay!

I'm continuing with my french seams, though it seemed a little odd to make them over the ruffle. May be a little too bulky in the end, but we'll see. For now, I'm still loving the project, though the impending sleeve and collar instructions are scaring me. Never mind, I still have my quilt along project to distract me...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A blouse.

We are full of buying and selling house stress over here. I don't want to bore the blogosphere with my story of our real estate adventure, but let's just say that our weekend involved open house preparations and an overflowing toilet. Thankfully we survived and celebrated on Saturday with lunch at one of our favorite little spots in a quaint little shopping district nearby. As luck would have it, Andrew parked the car right in front of the quaint little fabric shoppe (it's quaint, you need that extra "pe") and I decided that since I was still smarting from our plumbing and vacuuming extravaganza, I needed a pretty piece of fabric to make it all better...his fault for parking in front of the fabric store!
Here's what I got and I decided to try my hand at my first Burda Style pattern, the JJ Blouse. It has a lot of ruffles, which I might pare down to just one. I like this interpretation.

This is the second downloaded pattern I've used (the pinafore was the first) and I rather like the cutting and pasting of the pattern pieces. I figure I'm going to have to trace the pieces anyway if I'm using an already-printed pattern...and frankly, without a light board, I find tracing to be a pain.
So I've started sewing but need to wait for a nap before I get photos in progress. Let's just say it involves french seams, because that is my new favorite skill.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Finding a matching handle to the originals on my jewelry box is proving to be insanely difficult. I've looked through door hardware (too big), cabinet hardware (getting warmer), and miniature supplies (too tiny). I started searching for cabinet "hardware" or "knobs", but I do believe that I end up more in the size range I'm looking for (3") in the category "finger pulls". On a different note, who the heck names these things?!

OK, so here is the WIP that is the jewelry box. I'm really happy with the paint colors (just stuff in the basement that I've had from other projects) and how well the grey goes with the yellow interior. I think this may be my new favorite color combination.
I did a very wee little bit of distressing. Such a very tiny amount that maybe it just looks sloppy rather than intentional, but I figure there's going to be plenty of wear and tear going on with a soon-to-be-toddler in the house so sooner or later it'll look weathered.

And here's my week's work for the quilt along. This is my first jelly roll project and oh. my. god. When I bought the thing I felt a little bad like I was cheating or something. Now that I'm using it, I definitely feel like I'm cheating and I HEART IT. The only downside that I can so far see is that there was an abundance of little fuzzies that flew everywhere when I opened the roll. Next time, I'll bat it around outside a little before opening it up indoors. Otherwise? I did lots of ironing and cutting for my background fabric and then happily got to the jelly roll and lazily unwound it and chose my fabrics. Done and done. I should also note that I gave myself a three-inch burn along the back of my arm from my iron. I know, I know. What the frick was I doing with my iron to burn the back of my arm? The iron was behind me and when I yanked the plug out of the wall, my arm backed into it. We were leaving for a party as I did this (of course) and our host had to use hairbands to hold an ice pack on there for me. I don't want to get a scar, but if I do, I'm going to enjoy calling it my quilting battle scar.

And because I have quilts on the brain lately, here is a hand-quilted number that is making me crazy happy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A pinafore.

Man, I want to make this in me-size.
I made up this little pinafore for Bean last night from a Heidi and Finn pattern. I'd seen a bunch of these pinafores at the Art Star Craft Bazaar a few weekends ago and wanted to make them up with my own fabric choices. I found a few patterns but liked this one because of the cute little pocket.
I used the same fabric as I did for the Easter bonnet. I made the pocket out of the contrasting lining fabric and I sewed the back flaps on in reverse so that the you get to see the pretty blue from behind. OK, that's not really why I did it...I just messed up because the wee one and her Dad left me alone in the house and I was feeling frenzied about finishing this before they got home. I didn't pay attention to the directions at that point and by the time I realized it, I was not feeling the seam-ripping vibes. I still think it's cute!

I did everything as instructed, except for the fact that I topstitched the entire piece at the end. This was super duper fun because once you have the whole thing sewn together, you basically have a moebius strip. I just started at the back and worked my way 'round until I came back to the starting point. Yay for the magic of moebius!

This pattern is going to get a lot of use. It's quick and easy (for last-minute gifts) and is simple enough to be personalized. I'm thinking of putting some appliques on future pinafores rather than a pocket. Also, I think the pinafore is nice enough on the inside to be considered reversible, so there's some creative potential in that.
Now I just need to rework this pattern to be grown-up size...somehow I think I'm going to encounter the same issue with all of the Heidi and Finn patterns I sew...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A jewelry box.

Here's my latest project: redoing a childhood jewelry box. I say childhood not because I remember this particular box while growing up (neither can my Mother, for that matter), but because of what I found inside of it. These are the treasures of my childhood self...

A ribbon fish.This was made by a woman who owned Waverly gardens with her husband years and years ago. Local peeps will know that this is YEARS ago because the greenhouses are still standing, but the shop has been closed forever. My Dad was way into gardening when I was a kid and we spent many a weekend in the local nurseries. I'd wander around, picking up fallen flowers that I found all around. At Waverly gardens, the woman would use ribbons to make decorations like fish and flowers and they'd be stuck randomly into the plants. I loved that about Waverly gardens. One day I remember watching her for a while as she put this fish together. I don't think we spoke (possibly a language barrier because I don't ever remember speaking with her) but when she was finished the fish, she just gave it to me. I remember feeling very lucky to have one of those fish and especially lucky having seen this one go together. It's always been safely stowed away somewhere in my life.

A bag of my orthodontic rubber bands.
Sigh. Why were these things all named for kids doing karate? Who knows. All I remember is that I couldn't relate to karate and I hated those rubber bands...but the collecter in me DID like it when I moved onto the next stage and could get a different bag...

Various and sundry game pieces. Childhood gambling problem?

Little plastic figurines. I liked tiny things and I still do.

One of my charm bracelets. Just one. I have two necklaces full of charms somewhere. These are such an incredibly important part of my life in the 1980s. Why can't they bring these back? So much better than silly bandz.

A bunch of random jewelry, most of which doesn't bring back any memories. These three are very memorable. The green k always reminded me of an m&m and I liked anything with my initials on it. Also, it's a substantial weight and I remember wearing it and running it back and forth along the chain. The monkey was loved for his moveable appendages and the dancer was well loved because I was big into ballet...

...and...bras...(what the?)...I do remember cutting the fuzzy fabric to fit into that little heart-shaped trinket box.

A miniature music stand. I love this because it's handmade and unfinished. Someday I'll finish it when I start putting together Bean's dollhouse.

So the jewelry box looked pretty plain. The yellow drawer lining was in excellent shape so I decided to keep that. I chose this as my inspiration because I knew I had a bunch of no-voc paint in similar colors in the basement.

It's been sanded, primed, painted and scuffed a little to make it look slightly weathered. I'm not ready to show the finished product yet because I still need to find a replacement for a missing door handle (see first pic) and spray paint the ones I have...but I'll reveal soon.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gutless. And a Quilt-a-long!

I am slowly putting together my first knit frog dissection (!) I had the pattern for a while, so long in fact that I think there is now a pattern for a dissected fetal pig and a lab rat (can we get a dissected worm? Please??). After storing my downloaded pattern for a good year or so, I finally knit the frog up, and then puttered around waiting to find a dissection pan to put him in. I think I thought I'd find one at a yard sale or something. But then I thought I'd check out the supply companies that I get stuff for school from and, sure enough, they have dissection pans that don't cost and arm and a leg. I put dark cork in there for the backing because I had some lying around. I'd love to have something that is the color of the blue wax that you usually see in those pans, but I want to get this done in this lifetime, and I think the dark brown is a good background anyway. I need to snag some pins from the lab at school and then needle felt some guts. Of course I will need to do some research because we need to have anatomically correct frog guts. I don't do dissections in my classes so I'm no expert at this. The male and female human reproductive systems? That I could render in felt. Frog innards? Not so much.

I have gotten together the fabrics to have the baby quilt I made OVER A YEAR AGO finally quilted. I'm just going to have it sent out because I don't want my first quilting project to be a quilt top that is really special to me. Quilting is a funny craft because there's this large part of it that I don't feel I can do on my own. Sucking it up and handing it over to someone else to have quilted is proving to be a challenge. But babies grow up fast, I'm now realizing, and I need to get this done quick before she's too big. That, and the last bunch of fabric I had for the backing and the binding turned into her Easter bonnet before I realized what I was cutting into, so I can't have the stuff lying around for too long. It may turn into a sundress.
Getting all of this ready to go has me thinking about quilting again and so I am thinking of joining a quilt-a-long. I wasn't even going to entertain the idea because I work on so very little sleep these days and time in the craft room requires some planning to make sure that Bean is looked after. I'm much more of a spontaneous creator, so planning time to be in the craft room doesn't always work. I just might not be wanting to make something at that time that was set a few days ago. But the fact that this project is jelly-roll friendly AND that I happen to have a jelly-roll lying around means that I'm going to try to give it a shot. If I do it, it'll be the first twin-sized quilt I've made! Stay tuned. Or better yet, join the fun over here!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer knits look like this.

Tiny. Lightweight. Sky blue. And portable. This is a pattern Geisha from Knitted Socks East and West. Lots of lovely pattern choices in that one, I tell you.
Why don't I knit socks more often?

made. by k.d.