Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cat post

I haven't posted anything about my cats for a while, so figured now might be a good time to do a little update. (And check out that photo! Aren't they sweet??)

If you recall my post in June about dear, sweet Iris and her eye infection, you will note that she now looks all better! Our little Iris Beans had a speedy recovery and has been doing wonderfully ever since. Still, the multiple trips to the vet (especially the first visit to the emergency room) cost us a nice chunk of change. But that's why we have pet insurance, right? So a few weeks after Iris' recovery, I filed a claim form and faxed all our paperwork to VPI pet insurance. We've had this insurance for Bellow for four years and got it for Iris as soon as we brought her home from the shelter. Bellow had a major leg break when he was only 6 months old, resulting in a surgery to put a titanium rod in his leg and 6 tough weeks of recovery (mostly because it was impossible to keep a kitten from jumping around). That's when we investigated pet insurance and settled on VPI. Ten years of insurance is less than Bellow's one incident (nearly half what that cost us) so we couldn't say no.

Anyway, I received an email shortly thereafter saying the claim had been received and we should hear from them within a month. I forgot about that, until I received a check from them in the mail! Not only did they pay the full allowable amount for Iris' eye thing, minus a $50 deductible, they also paid for her receiving fluids for her fever! We're still out more than the deductible, but that's because the emergency vet visit cost more than three times what a normal office visit would've cost. So, I'm happy. The insurance company is everything they're touted to be, but this is the first time I've found out for myself. (And no, they are not paying me in any way to say these things.)

Bellow, as usual, is up to no good. He's become addicted to drinking from the bathroom sink. Addicted to the point that if you start heading down the hallway, even if you're not going to the bathroom, he will race to beat you there and then sit on the sink in anticipation. Addicted to the point that he knows when I head to bed, so every night around 10:00 he disappears--until I turn on the light and walk into the bathroom to see him sitting on the sink, blinking in the light. Waiting for the faucet to be turned on. I feel like this is getting out of hand and I should cut him off, but I also know that neutered house cats can develop bladder and kidney problems if they don't get enough water, so I'm hesitant to start depriving him. What's a pet owner to do? I blame my mom, who let him drink from the sink once last fall when my parents were visiting us. She unleashed a monster.

The photo above is of Bellow "helping" me sew. As is typical, both cats like to help me with the sewing and the fabric and anything else I'm trying to do that doesn't require their help. Of course. I was getting ready to pre-wash a bunch of fabrics for garment sewing, so I was basting together their raw edges to form a big loop so they would be less likely to tangle in the washing machine. About halfway through my pile I turned around to throw another finished loop on the floor and found Bellow curled up in the very middle of the pile, intent on taking a nap. Aww. So I just kept throwing my fabric around him and let him sleep.

I [heart] my kitties.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dear Jane

Another Dear Jane block to report. I've definitely been slow at getting to this lately. But I view this project as such a long one (I hope to finish by/when I'm 40, and I'm barely 27 now) that I feel it's okay. I don't want to rush it, and I certainly don't want to burn out on it. 

This is block F4. I pieced it from the center out, but now realize I should've stitched the three rows and then attached the end triangles. Oh well--it turned out fine. I am still loving this hand-stitching thing. I don't know if it's a control-freak kind of issue, or just a closeness to the fabric and the quilt, or some kind of romantic notion of the way things used to be done, but it really appeals to me. It's kind of like my therapy. 

Not much else to report on the crafty front. I did accomplish one bit of crafting--a belated birthday gift for my friend Hallie that I'll post later this week. Hallie, if you're reading this, it's going out today so hopefully you'll have it by the end of the week. 

Other than that, we finished Deadwood, which I sort of liked and sort of didn't. I liked season three the best by far, but then it ended, so... Watching that show took up a lot of our time, so it's nice to be done with TV series for a while. Last night we watched Be Kind Rewind from our Netflix account, which has been languishing as we watched Deadwood from the library or from friends. I thought it was okay, Rob liked it a lot. I thought Son of Rambow was better, Rob didn't. Tonight looks to be Youth Without Youth, which I can't say I'm excited about, but we need to get through these Netflix, so... Inevitably there will be a good little gem in there, right? That's what happens if you watch enough movies, right? Eventually you hit on a Station Agent or Lars and the Real Girl. Or Pieces of April. Maybe we should only watch stuff with Patricia Clarkson in it; that lady is good

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Built By Wendy Sew U skirt

I did it! I had enough energy when I got home last night to cut the interfacing and then assemble this skirt. The pattern comes from Built By Wendy's (Wendy Mullins') book Sew U as I've already mentioned a million times. My initial verdict? LOVE. Love love love!

The darts give this skirt a great shape. It's A-line, but not too pouf-y and not too pencil-skirt-y. It's perfect. The facing (and interfacing) makes the waist of this skirt look so finished and professional. It's extra-flattering. It comes to just the right place above my hips but a little below my natural waist... and it helps hide the tummy that I'm starting to develop. (Too much beer, I'm sure!) It's just so... clean. Wow. I'm definitely impressed with the way this skirt came together and am looking forward to tackling some more versions of this, plus also the other patterns in the book.

Here's a pic of what I look like today. That's a little girls' XL pleated pouf-sleeve tee from Old Navy that I got for a whopping $5. Also, today I'm sporting new earrings! They're these from Wicopy's Etsy shop. I ordered them last week, and I couldn't believe I had to register on Etsy. For whatever reason, I thought I'd bought stuff on Etsy before, but apparently not! I guess I just browse a lot. Anyway, they're lovely, and inexpensive, and I bought three other pairs to give as gifts.

I went to my favorite fabric shop in Boston over my lunch break and stocked up on thread and single-fold bias tape and some cotton for lining some more projects that are percolating. I think I'll take a break tonight and just hang out with Rob and watch Project Runway. Oh yes. Right now I'm really liking Kenley and Leanne. Only time will tell if these ladies will go very far...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Finally! First finished dress

I finally finished the dress pattern I've mentioned a million times, and here's my first dress from using it. This picture was taken in the organized chaos that is my sewing room (or, as Rob would say, "our rec room," but he'd be wrong). It's based on BurdaStyle's Danielle dress with a few modifications. It still needs some work, but isn't so bad for the first one. I have quite a few more in the queue...

Do you recognize this fabric? It's from the 60th anniversary quilt that my aunt and I made for my grandparents. I ended up not having to piece the back because the top wasn't more than 44" wide, so had a good yard and a half left over. Sweet. All I chipped in to this dress (other than thread and time) is a button and less than a yard of white double-face satin ribbon from my stash. It's quite possibly the cheapest dress I've ever made.

Remember my list of stuff I wanted to accomplish last weekend? Well, I made quite a bit of progress. Let's have a look at my list from Friday, shall we? I've grayed out the things that were accomplished.
  • We have breakfast at Red's one of those mornings
  • I finish my dress
  • I cut and sew the muslin for a new Built By Wendy skirt from Sew U
  • More Dear Jane progress
  • I sew the Sew U skirt ?
  • kitty snuggles
  • I kick Rob's ass in poker
  • We watch more Deadwood
Not bad, really. I did make the muslin for my new skirt, only shortened the length (it just may be true, what everyone says: Built By Wendy has the best patterns), and then cut my fabric for my first skirt using that pattern. That is something I hope to whip together tonight, but that will all depend on my energy level upon reaching the homestead. There were no kitty snuggles over the weekend due to it being nearly 90* in the apartment. Yuck. I also did not kick Rob's ass in poker. We ended up at Jenn and Daniel's after a showing of Dark Knight (there's a new Batman movie out--maybe you've already heard??) and a yummy dinner of Mexican food. I was the first to go out with my chips, but Rob wasn't too far behind me.

I made some progress on my Dear Jane but haven't quite finished the square, so I haven't updated my counts yet. Also, I made some progress on an upcoming mini quilt I've been thinking about forever. It's inspired by the book Bits and Pieces, about making mini-quilts from scraps. I have this whole idea about doing a series of mini-quilts and hanging them in the stairwell heading up to our apartment. I also have the idea to hand-stitch and hand-quilt them all in an effort to practice and improve my technique. The materials are things I already have, so if for any reason these mini-quilts look horrible, I'll only be out time and thread.

Friday, July 18, 2008

(Last) weekend crafting

These are the last of the projects that I've completed and not posted--I promise! The only thing close to that is my new dress, which isn't finished; the pattern is done, but the first actual dress in actual cotton needs a few adjustments before it's wearable. But it's close!

Anyway, by request from my mom, who is doing yoga now, I made these two eye pillows for her and her friend. I followed the dimensions and filling instructions for the Eye Will Survive eye pillow in Denyse Schmidt Quilts (which, if you haven't noticed already, is my go-to crafty book; I use this one more than any other!) but the patchwork is all me just throwing stuff together.

This view shows the back of the Japanese one. Those fabrics aren't actually Japanese, they just look like it. I really like this swirl but didn't want to chop it up for the front, so there you go. The one thing I'm not totally pleased with on this is the filling. I was running out of flax seed so I bought some from the Trader Joe's instead of the bulk stuff at Whole Foods. I saved a lot of $$, but when I went to use the flax seed I realized that it was roasted! And it smells roasted! I added some extra lavender in an attempt to over-compensate, but not sure how well that will work. So, um, sorry Mom! I hope the eye pillow doesn't make you hungry!

And I totally forgot to post this earlier, but here are two of the felted rocks we made at Lady Scouts last week! The instructions are from Last Minute Fabric Gifts and were very easy to follow. Our rocks all turned out pretty well!

So, it's Friday! Almost the weekend! And I get a summer Friday today, thanks to the wonderfulness of book publishing (and my working extra hours all week). I plan to make the most of it: Rob is meeting me for a late lunch, then we're going to mosey down Newbury Street (meaning we will spend oodles of time and probably $60 in Newbury Comics) before meeting our friends at the Boston Common Loew's for the 4:30 show of the Dark Knight. I'm very excited to see it! I think we all are. We'll probably be back on the North Shore around 8. I didn't even get home until after 7:30 last night, so when I get home tonight it will feel like I've already had a bunch of my weekend, when really it's barely begun!

On Saturday night Rob and I are going to see Salem State's production of Grease! We haven't been to live theater since...we left the midwest, I believe. Insanity. I don't know about Rob, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Those are our only concrete plans (and that's quite a few, but still leaves a lot of open time on Saturday day and all day Sunday), but I'm sure we'll think of something. Here's what I hope will happen this weekend:
  • We have breakfast at Red's one of those mornings
  • I finish my dress
  • I cut and sew the muslin for a new Built By Wendy skirt from Sew U
  • More Dear Jane progress
  • I sew the Sew U skirt ?
  • kitty snuggles
  • I kick Rob's ass in poker
  • We watch more Deadwood
Also, I cannot believe it's nearly the end of July already. Where has the summer gone?

Also also, I want to take a little break here to talk about some other arty (but non-crafty) things that have been near and dear to my heart recently:

1) Son of Rambow. Seriously--this movie is amazing. We saw it last Friday at 4-something in Salem and loved it. I actually got really teary at the end. It just reminded me how wonderful cinema is, how inspiring and uniting it can be, and why I love it so much. I want to own it. Go see it, if you can. Netflix it!

2) Billy Corgan. Okay, I know... If you know me, you know how intensely I adore Billy Corgan. Really, truly. I adore him. I love his music. The Smashing Pumpkins has been my favorite band since I bought Siamese Dream in, like, early 1994. So I've been a Pumpkins fan for more than half of my life. I sobbed when they broke up. I was ecstatic when Zwan formed and I saw them at First Ave to kick off their US tour (which they never finished because the band broke up) the night after the war in Iraq started. I loved Billy's solo album and freaked out when I saw him play at Avalon and I was only 20 feet from him. I own two copies of Billy's poetry book. I waited in the rain for two hours in October in Cambridge to have him sign my book at the Harvard Book Store. He said the most wonderful things to me and my photo of him signing my book hangs right above my computer at work (and is also framed and hanging above my guitars at home). When the Pumpkins reformed and put out Zeitgeist last year, I also freaked out. They came to Boston for three shows and I was lucky enough to see them at two of them. Two nights, in a row, of live Pumpkins! I really freaked out.

What brings me to this point is the fact that for the past couple of days I've been listening to the bootleg I have of the first Pumpkins show I attended. It's been just over nine months, but it still feels so fresh. Rob and I were in the very last row in the orchestra at the Orpheum, but I could still see really well, and the sound was amazing. I did really well and didn't cry until half way through the show, and then only once, during "To Sheila." I am still incredibly moved when Billy is singing, "You make me real." That show was the best. We got three encores! The band tore through "Cherub Rock" at the end and it was amazing. Billy's voice was so beautiful, but he also did a lot of rockin' screaming. They did a 17-minute version of "Heavy Metal Machine"!

Anyway, I've been listening to live Pumpkins and adoring Billy Corgan.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Belated birthday gifts

Some belated birthday crafting happened recently. In fact, I think they both have the same birthday! May 31? Yes, I'm VERY belated. But, in my defense, I haven't seen either of them since their birthdays... Anyway, this guy above is a fun hamster applique I did for an apron for my friend Robert. The idea was to make it be "infinite hammie apron," sort of like Infinite Cat, only...not. I also thought this was the best I could do in a Robert-as-animal caricature.

Here's the entire apron. I should mention that it's an outdoor apron for Robert's fancy grill, which gets a lot of action in the warm months, but that it also goes with the newly painted BRIGHT yellow kitchen. How could I have known? It's perfect.

Even before I made the apron, though, I made this oven mitt. Same as with JJ's mitts, from the Denyse Schmidt Quilts pattern, lined with muslin, and filled with Warm & Natural and Insul-Bright. For this one I had a better grasp of the double-fold binding, so that part happened with less struggling (and fewer wonky stitches) than with the whale mitts. A success, I believe.

And last but not least, a very little "little something" for Ginny, who I'm having dinner with tonight. I wasn't really sure what to make her, but then I found this cool vintage hedgehog pincushion pattern online (free!) via Feed Dog and had to whip one up. Though I wasn't sure if she really used pins, so I had to fill it before giving it. (It looks much cuter with the pins in, anyway.) The pattern is fine and easy, though Feed Dog's looks so much cuter! I added some flax seed to the bottom to give it a little weight. I only had acetate felt on hand, and my suspicion is this hedgie is much more successful when made with actual wool felt. The pins are very slide-y in this little guy. If I were to remake it, I would think about using something different to stuff with (possibly wool, or maybe even line the inside with quilt batting before filling with the polyester stuff) or would consider interfacing the felt before stitching it together. So, not so great, but easy to make, and a cute little shelf decorator, even if it's not the most practical thing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blog update

Yes, faithful reader, I've updated the blog today. Mainly, I've done two things: 
1: used a tutorial I found online and adapted the template to allow for three columns, not just two;
2: added a link in the crafty links to How About Orange, which is awesome. Seriously. 

So, yeah. That's what I've been doing today: editing HTML. Not so much "editing" as "experimenting through trial and error," but still. That's how busy I've been at work :P Although, now that I write that I will probably get slammed. I don't think I'll mind. 

Dear Jane

It's been a while, but I finally have some more Dear Jane progress to report! Here is block D3, my first applique block, in its wonky glory. I had a little bit of trouble with the points, and with keeping this entire thing symmetrical. Not the greatest, but it's done. 

Here's a close-up of my teeny stitches in one of the curves. LOTS of stitches in this block. It took me a couple of hours to do--I kinda lost track. Thank goodness for the distractions of television. 

More crafting to report soon! Belated birthday gifts! And the elusive dress pattern! Finished! Get excited! 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Recent crafting

Okay, still trying to get all caught up on my pictures and working long hours and watching Deadwood... But I'm close. I have some more crafting that I'm finishing and giving away tonight, and tonight is a Lady Scouts with a very special, fun project, so I should have pictures of all of that next week, but this is pretty close to where I'm at right now. 

My friend JJ just moved into a new place (congrats, Jage!) to go with her new job. She is quite the cook, so what better housewarming gift than some oven mitts? With whales, which she loves? These were made following Denyse Schmidt's pattern in her book Denyse Schmidt Quilts. She only calls for quilt batting and uses cotton canvas for a lining. I changed that up by using Insul-Bright AND Warm & Natural in the middle and only some muslin for lining. I hope she doesn't burn her hands!

This whale was my own design. Cute, no?

My assistant just had a birthday over the weekend and I wanted to do something nice for her because she's fabulous. I was going to make her an apron, but when I found this cute gingham one at Target, I couldn't resist. It was a little plain, though, so I added this cute cherries felt and ribbon applique. Perfect! 

But the apron wasn't enough (she's awesome!), so I also made her this big stuffed lizard from Let's Make Cute Stuff!: Cute Dolls. She really liked the Cute Book lizard (which I made her for Christmas), so I figured why not make another one? The gingham bow adds a lot to the wonky cute quotient (I'm still having trouble with knits, but holding off on the new Built by Wendy book for now). 

So, that's pretty close to where I'm at crafting-wise now. I'm checking out a bunch of new blogs to possibly add to the links on the right, but one that I'm adding right now is label-free. It is new but already SO great! Check it out. I'm also adding this Flickr album that I am obsessed with: the sewing tattoo pool. I am getting antsy for my next tattoo but just can't figure out where to put it. Stay tuned... 

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Belated Crafting Update

Apologies for the absence from the blog. It's been a busy couple of weeks around here, and minimal crafting, until last weekend. So I have a bunch of updates to post, and pictures of recent projects, but it might take me a while to get to them. You know, what with me working long days toward summer Fridays, having no internet at home due to a power issue with Rob's laptop, becoming immersed in Deadwood.... I have a lot going on. 

But I digress... The picture above is a closeup of my bag for Jeff's wedding, which I mentioned in this post. It's the Patricia bag from the book Making Vintage Bags. I used an upholstery remnant I had on hand, and it whipped up pretty quickly. 

That lining is a cute polka dot cotton I had on hand as well. The bag ended up being perfect for what I needed it for, AND was matchy matchy. Nice. 

Here's the felt business card holder I whipped up to hold my cash and ID and fit nicely in the handbag above. This is from the Let's Make Cute Stuff!: Cute Stuff book I've mentioned numerous times already. It's a great, easy pattern, and was perfect for this. I spent way more time making all those tiny French knots along the bottom than cutting or stitching the actual envelope. 

So, I'm back, baby! And I hope to have more updates soon!