December 30, 2009

Cleaning, and sewing...

So far, I've cleaned out the front hall and the front closet.  It is easy to get rid of stuff that is too small when the youngest can't even get the snow pants over the hips LOL. And, because the youngest is also wanting to make her new toy (a doll house), the basement got cleaned so she could build the house on the basement table.  It was a good thing--but it took a day to do.  Thant makes two car loads of stuff gone from the house.  It doesn't feel like that much, but now the cupboards are holding what they need to hold, and there aren't piles everywhere.   Thank the good lord for my hubbie, who is willing to drive stuff to the good will to get it out of the house.

I've also started sewing my SWAP, except, well, I started with something that may or may not work into the whole thing: a brown stretch velvet cowl neck turtle neck shirt.  Next up is a pair of lined, wool pants.  Between the 30 minutes of sewing a day, and the spring cleaning, I'm doing things slowly but surely. 

December 28, 2009

Shepherds and Angels

A thought came to me Christmas eve, about the angels and shepherds story.  Why did the angels appear to the shepherds? 

I'm not going to get into the literal and mythical issues about the birth stories of Jesus.  If angels appeared, I actually don't think that the angels appeared only to the shepherds of the day.  Given the importance of the event, I think angels probably appeared all over, but in all the clutter and noise of Jerusalem and Bethlehem they could not be heard.   Think of the time: the movement, the noise, the need to find a place to sleep and put all the stuff of travel since everyone was going back to where they were born for the census.  Is it any wonder that there was no quiet, no space, for the angels to be heard?  Not that they didn't sing in Bethlehem, but that their song could not be heard over the clutter and noise of the day.

Sometimes, I think that my life is like that.  Not that God isn't speaking, but that perhaps my life is so cluttered that I can't hear anything over the noise. Time to tidy, thin and make space. 

Starting the new year with a tidy house

Every year, we have a New Year's open house.  Normally, we do a stash and dash cleaning job to get ready for the open house.  This year, though, I want to start the year with a clean house for open house.  So, I am working through from the front door around to the left through the whole house doing a spring clean.

Until I found this site, I had no idea how to do a spring clean.  I mean, I know that people spring clean,but I had no idea how to do it.  I particularly like Simple Mom's approach to spring cleaning.  She has a great e-book, which can be printed out and put into a home journal,, but everything is also available on her blog.  essentially spring cleaning   boils down to declutter, clean, organize. 

Or, to be more specific: 

1--take everything out of the space.
2--wipe down the space, and clean it.
3--only put back what you need, and love.
4--actually send the rest away, as in don't just leave those black bags in the hallway, load them into the car and get them out of the house. 

The last step is my personal challenge.  I don't have a problem actually thinning out the space and filling the black bags.  Getting them out of the house, though, that is a challenge.

I may do the 14 week challenge from the first link, since I'm not sure how far I can get in four days, but we will have a jump start on the main floor of the house.   Space one is the front hall, and then I will work around to the left.  The goal is to do a 'car dump run' every single day.  Maybe even two a day.  Thin, black bag or box, and get it out of the house. Maybe even replace our decaying drapes in the front window.  Maybe. 

Here is to a tidy and less overstuffed New Year.

December 22, 2009

No orphans

The sewing contest on Pattern Review that changed my sewing the most was the Endless Combinations Sewing Contest that I moderated last year. I've done SWAP, and it is good, but when I sew now, I sew with the thought: no orphans. What I sew has to go with something else in the closet. I'm trying to sew styles that I know will work with what I have (as in, have a waist shaping, are open and flattering around the neck, are plainer on the bottom half). I'm also limiting my colours along the line of the very small closet concept. I use black as my base (black, deep gray, medium gray, white), supplemented with the deeper colours: cranberry in all its variations (from deep to lighter rose) blues (teal, medium blue, airforce blue), and brown (a lovely red brown, which is the only brown I can wear). Colour wise, everything works together.

This week's sewing is brought to you by the colour cranberry. So far, I've sewn:
1--a cowl sweater, in polar fleece; I had to piece the sleeves together to get a three quarter sleeve.
2--a panel princess sleeveless top, in cranberry velour
3--a matching ankle length mermaid style gored skirt, in cranberry velour
4--a cowl sweater in rose embossed crushed panne stretch velvet (this one might get passed to the daughter, since it isn't quite exactly the right colour; it is also her fabric that was put onto my shelf in a tidy up, oops).
5--rayon poly lycra crepe hollywood waisted pull on pants, in cranberry
6--rayon poly lycra crepe 6 gore flippy skirt, in cranberry.

Those are the keepers. They are all textured, but they are all the same colour. I didn't buy them together, it just happened that they are all the same colour. None of them are 'speaking' fabrics, in spite of the textures, and they work really well together. They also go with about 15 other things in my closet, including my favourite black and brown pants, as well as the black stretch velvet pants I made last week, and the white velour cowl top. The more laundry I do, the more I realize how these pieces work with most of what I already have. What a good feeling. Sewing should give you more options in your closet, not fewer options.

To make it work as a 6 pack sewing, I need to have a topper that coordinates, but I don't have any more cranberry fabric. Yeah--stash sewing gone right.

December 5, 2009

Following the crowd...

Or, why I learned that I like more tailored clothes LOL.

Today, I made one of those lovely 'wrap it a million ways' uneven sweaters. I was loosely following the tail end of the Pattern review challenge: to make a warp sweater.

It was, well, bad. I did not take any pictures. I have saved myself the humiliation of eating crow for years to come. The sweater was cut like a Vogue pattern, morphed onto my own TNT, with fronts that tastefully fell to my knees. I wanted it to look like the pictures, but it looked....lopsided and horrible. My oldest (in her teenageryly way) gently let me down: Mom, you just have to accept that sometimes you make things that are just not fit for wearing by any living human. My husband just frowned at it, and said: um, no. My youngest, well, she gave me that look (Mom, why are you embarassing yourself this way, and me too?) and shook her head. Too big, too droopy, and ugly.

I gave up, and recut it into a nice tasteful sweater, with an even hem and a button band. It still needs buttons, but it feels much better. It fits my style. I don't look like I'm a little kid wearing my mom's clothes.

Lesson learned: quit following the crowd, and listen to that still small voice that says: are you sure that you want that much fabric hanging around your middle to your knees? You didn't like the burda mag pattern with the triple wraps, because it wrapped around your waist...So, now I have my skirt, tank top and tasteful cardigan on and I am thankful that I am not going to keep following the crowd. But, it was a fun illusion while it lasted!

December 3, 2009

6 piece Winter Sew along

Endless combinations sewing really changed how I sew for a wardrobe. I still wear most of my endless combinations wardrobe. In fact, I am wearing some of it out. The wild print t-shirt with the sequins has really done its time, and I still love it. The sequin glue is giving up, however, and sequins appear regularly all over the place. But, what I realized from sewing and moderating the endless combinations challenge is that I sew in capsules. A capsule is a jacket/sweater, two bottoms (skirt and pants) and at least 3 coordinating tops. Sometimes I add a dress, sometimes I sew a top that matches the bottoms. Over at Aristan Square, Elizabeth has started to have 6 piece sew alongs for her coordinating wardrobe concept.

The sew along for capsule sewing works on this same principal, and is more suited to my climate that a strict SWAP plan because there are more layering pieces. Each season (3 months) you sew six pieces that co-ordinate. If you pick four colours (ideally 3 neutrals and an accent) in a year you *should* have a very easy wardrobe to pick from. But each season would still co-ordinate if you wanted to shift colours between seasons.

The winter sew along looks like this:
Trousers (dark neutral)
2 Tops (1 to match, 1 to complement)
2 layering tops/cardigans/jackets (1 to match, 1 to complement)
Coat (dark neutral)

Other than doubling the bottoms to two pants, or pants and a skirt, I can see this plan working for me in the long run. My base colours are black and deep gray, deep navy blue, and a rosy brown. My accents end up being plum, raspberry/rose, teal, white, deep green, and steel blue. I'm not sure I can go to just 4 colours, but I am happy with these colours because they are coordinating.

This season, I'm working on black and dusty plum.
So far:
Black embroidered stretch denim pants (done).
Plum stretch dress pants (done)
Two tops: plum/black print long sleeve knit top (done)
Black/white/pink print long sleeve knit top (done).
?Matching black top, that goes with the black sweater thing?

Layering pieces still to go:
Matching plum 'casual jacket' with pockets and buttons
Black 'sweater thing' that can be worn a thousand ways

Macphee swirl skirt in black knit, to match the black sweater thing
6 gore skirt with flares in deep gray something
Deep gray dress pants
2 piece plum stretch lace twin set (sleeveless top and v neck sweater) (done)

December 2, 2009

I'm trying to decide if I'm going to do the Artisan's Square SWAP (sewing with a plan)--making 11 garments that work together, in 4 months.

The sewing is not the issue--the planning is the issue. Here are the criteria:

Option #1:
6 tops - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
4 bottoms - jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or kilts.
1 your choice (not an accesory)

Option #2:
2 dresses -single pieces consisting of top and bottom that can be worn alone.
6 tops - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
2 bottoms - jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or kilts.
1 your choice (not an accesory)

Option #3:
5 dresses -single pieces consisting of top and bottom that can be worn alone.
4 tops - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
1 bottom - jeans, pants, shorts, skirt or kilt.
1 your choice (not an accesory)

2 garments may be purchased or previously sewn.
1 may be knitted or crocheted.

1 will be a matched print or stripe.
1 will feature embroidery, beads or sashiko
1 will have buttons as the star feature OR use unusual or alternative closure(s).

This year's emphasis is going to be on making a wardrobe that fits your needs, and showcasing your sewing and embellishing skills.

Sewing will begin December 26th, and all garments must be finished by April 30th, 2010. Because this is a shorter time frame, pattern fitting and cutting may be done whenever you're ready.

I'm pretty set for colours. Since doing the endless wardrobe sew along, I've been pretty set in my sewing ways. My colours are 'low contrast deep winter'. Which translates, seriously, to basics of black, dark gray, and white, and highlights of plum, raspberry and teal, deep red, brown and china blue. Not really dusty, but deep colours.

The question is more one of planning--a central theme, an interesting closure, some embroidery....

October 24, 2009

She, Born Organized and Finishing things...

(Spiral pinwheel jacket, made of Noro, with lace edging; a former UFO, finished and submitted to detention in HPHC, winning second prize)

I've been knitting along with the Harry Potter House Cup on Ravelry since February this year, and I'm beginning to realize how much the process of being creative on demand for a long period of time has changed me.

Before I joined HPHC, I used to have lots of ufo's, stashed everywhere. In fact, one of the reasons I joined the group was the class project in January--'organize your stash and queue'. Getting organized appealed to me. I knew I needed to have some focus, and I was hoping they would run that class again. About April, when I realized that they weren't going to run the class again, I gathered up all my wool, and sorted it into my insane wall of stash. I found most of my ufo's, and put them into one place. I sorted projects into project bags. In a fit of reality about May, I frogged a lot of items that I would never finish, and I let go of a huge stash of needles, mostly plastic circulars, to bless someone else (who loves them). I sorted my tools, and kept what I knew I loved and would use, and let go of the rest to bless someone else.

(The organ we rearranged our entire house to have, getting rid of a piano, and a book shelf, to make room for the organ, my youngest daughter's dream instrument).

Along the way, I knit and I knit. Man, have I knit! HPHC has made me realize that I am a deadline oriented person. I like creativity with a deadline. When points are on the line, I finish things. 6 projects a month, and two Owls (larger project) since April, and I've actually gotten Christmas presents knit, already, and it is only October. What is the world coming to?

After 9 months with HPHC, I've also come to realize I have a hard time with the finishing stages of creativity. Not the seaming, journaling and taking pictures of my knitted creations--no, that part is easy; it gets me points. What I find hard is the very last parts of letting go: the putting away the last few bits of left overs or sending them off to bless someone else, the wrapping, boxing and mailing, all the little tidying portions of finishing a job.

This is the essence of 'she--ness': not being able or willing to tidy up the mess, and let go of the process, maybe because we think that it won't happen again. I think it comes from the wish to stay in that creative space, and continue the fun. But, I've come to realize that the tidying up portion is necessary to the process. With out the tidying portion, there isn't any space to continue to create because all those other leftover wishes get in the way. I need clear space (both physical and time related) to create, and to get it, I have to let go. I have to shine my sink, and tidy my desk. I have to put away my tools, thin out the unnecessary supplies, and purge the bits that will bless someone else more than me. And, it is hard for me to do, because I have to take that leap of faith that I will be able to create again.

But, nine months in HPHC has taught me that I can do just that--finish the job, put away the extra, and let the process happen again. And, I get a lot of knitted items to bless others with along the way. Yeah, HPHC.

October 22, 2009

Starting again

This month, given the state of our over stuffed lives, I've decided to start again.

In terms of knitting, I'm working on a top down sweater that will have EZ's lace from the Feb. baby sweater on the bottom, knit with a lovely hand painted wool. And I'm working on a sweater for my youngest that I hand dyed to be striped. That one is turning out too cute!

As well, I've decided that I'm going to start 'spring cleaning'--that is, declutter, clean, organize. Even a little bit will help in this definitely overstuffed house.

Check it out here

August 29, 2009

If you love someone...

Dear Former Best Friend of my daughter:
I'm sorry you moved to Australia with your family, and it was hard. I'm sorry you feel that the only way to cope with your new home is to destroy a friendship that has existed since junior kindergarten, and to blame my daughter for your being homesick when you talk to her or email her. A long time ago, I thought you understood what it meant to be a friend. I guess I was wrong.
The mom.

Dearest Daughter:
Ugh. I'm sorry that I didn't hear you when you told me your friend canceled her email and stopped talking to you. Of course, you didn't tell me she told you that 'the only time she feels homesick is when she talks to you' and she 'has to let you go to deal with her new life'. That totally sucks; it is not fair to you, to have her blame you for being willing to listen and care, for you to be encouraging, and tell her to get involved where she is now. I am sorry for this pain, and I am sorry I asked how she is.
It is a rotten way to learn the saying: If you love something, set it free.
I am proud of you, and think the world of you. You don't deserve to be treated this way. I admire the way you are dealing with your pain and moving on. I know it is hard; I wish I knew a way to make it easier for you.
Guess I don't need to save for a trip to Australia as a graduation present; maybe you can go to France instead?

August 10, 2009

Harry Potter Knitting Crochet House Cup

So, where have I been for the last 5 or so months?

Knitting, that's where! I finally started really looking at Ravelry, and found a few great groups, and started knitting like stink.

Knitting for the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup, on Ravelry. If you haven't asked for an invitation to Ravelry, and you do any kind of fibre art, you should--it is fun. It is amazing; it is full of people who love to do fibre art type things. It has the world's best database of patterns that is searchable. You will fill your list of things to do in twenty minutes, just looking at patterns.

What have I worked on?

A lot of little things (arm bands, hats, coffee cup sleeves) and a few big things.

Like: a Sylvi sweater from the Twist Collective.

A couple of Felted Pirate hats--from Knit like a Pirate-this one is for Patch. (Still one to come for the birthday girl).

A stash busting sweater, inspired by Molly Weasley, using odd balls and a stripe pattern to make it beautiful. I think Molly would be proud of me for this one.

And, a great shawl, that I actually managed to finish after changing needles and trying different yarns, some of which I liked and some of which I hated.

February 15, 2009

Dolls--Waldorf and others

This is Anime Annie. She is my very first doll pattern, and she is made like a Raggedy Ann style doll, but with a shaped bottom for sitting, and set in 'shoe style' feet. Her legs and arms are much longer than a regular Annie doll, much more like the Anime Characters my daughters both love. I may offer her as a freebie pattern on FOCD, if I can figure out how to create a pattern pdf.

This is my very first Waldorf-inspired doll--Jessie May. She is made from the 12" Friendship dolls pattern, from Dancing Rain Dolls. Her hair is wigged on a crocheted wig, with fibres that are (well) a mystery. She isn't stuffed with wool, or made with organic jersey knit like a traditional Waldorf doll, but I still love her. She is just so cute!

Her older sister, nicknamed Peanut Butter Cup for her hair, is still waiting for her introduction pictures. She is made from the 16" Dancing Rain Dolls friendship doll pattern, with medium brown wool hair and 'lighter coloured' highlights. The combination looks remarkably like peanut butter cups.

I prefer the 16" doll. I like the overall shape, and feel better than the 12" doll, but there were 'challenges' with the 16" body pattern in the down load. The lower body pattern did not match the upper body by more than 3/4" across. Being inventive, I enlarged with lower body page to 114% to get it to match. There are also no vertical 'match here' marks on the body pieces in the 16" doll pattern; I guestimated where the pieces should match, but I could be wrong. Although I love the pattern, particularly since it includes a wide variety of clothing that fits the doll, the pattern challenges for the body will cause troubles for a less experienced seamstress or doll maker. I did contact the maker, but I received no response after a week. She has a reputation for excellent service, so maybe I got her on a bad week, or on a vacation week.

Overall, her instructions are excellent. Some of the pictures are very close up, particularly for the nose directions. I found, as a new doll maker, I needed the information found on a couple of blogs to sort out some of the head information. All her patterns, including her clothing patterns, are template patterns. You need to add seam allowances, or be willing to sew on the line. This isn't a problem in any way, as it means that everyone can sew with their preferred seam allowances. The patterns include a very large variety of clothing patterns for the doll. For the money, even with the body pattern challenge, I would highly recommend these patterns.

February 8, 2009

Waldorf dolls, costuming and avoiding report cards

The last play I helped with (I can't really even say I worked on it, except to sew a dress that was, well, insane, and to do a tiny bit of costume polishing) closed last night. I didn't even need to go to strike--that's how little I did. Our next show (Beyond a Joke, at Guelph Little Theatre) opens in about 5 weeks; I start costuming it this week. It is wonderful, funny and a little thought provoking play, full of misconceptions about life, and what happens to evesdroppers, and the requisite dead body in the closet. I laughed my way through the script, and am looking forward to playing along. Only 8 people to costume, and no real challenges from the script. We will see what the director wants.

On the doll front, I am continuing to explore how different dolls are made.
  • I've ordered a combination Hitty Kit, and the online class, to make a painted head/hands/feet Hitty with a cloth body. The class is about half way through; I hope I get the kit before it is over.
  • My first fabric Hitty is sewn and waiting to be sealed and painted.
  • I have all the printouts for Judy Ward's Cloth ball jointed Bleuette, and everything is traced. The secret ingredients for the cloth ball joints are painted, and waiting patiently. I am going to force myself to use fabric that is lying around to make the first one.
  • My challenge doll pattern for another club has been printed and trimmed.
So it isn't like I have no projects on the go. But, then I wondered--what makes a Waldorf doll different? Well, apart from the fact that everything is totally natural, they are stuffed with wool and made with organic fibres--how are they made so that they are so different? They have a distinctive face shape and a very simple embroidered face. So, I started researching, and I discovered, there is a prestuffed shaped skull and neck under the skin fabric. It is really cool!

If you get interested in learning more about Waldorf dolls, here are some well done tutorials, and a few free patterns:
  • The Silver Penny has a lovely tutorial with a lot of photos, and a few free patterns for a button jointed Baby style Waldorf doll.
  • This is a really tiny Waldorf baby, suitable for a doll house.
  • This is a pattern for a full joined (not button jointed) Waldorf baby; the pattern for the hands and torso are on the bottom of the page.
  • This is a felt body baby, with a Waldorf style head (about 4" tall). Another name for these dolls is Steiner dolls, after the first doll maker who made this style of doll.
  • Here is the pattern for a smaller 'sleeper style' baby doll along with instructions.
And, just in case it appeals, here is a pattern for a child sized doll sling, for your darling to carry your baby in. Too cute, and too easy. These would make great Christmas gifts.

Although I could make a doll from the freebies, I decided I wanted to use a real pattern, and make a girl style doll. I ordered a downloadable ebook from Dancing Rain Dolls for a 12" and a 16" Friendship doll. These patterns include all kinds of clothing, fantastic instructions (including how to make a crocheted wig that is stylable), and the rights to make and sell the dolls. The doll has attached (sewn in) legs, and button jointed arms. Her body and head cover are one piece, which is different than almost any other Waldorf doll I've seen, but this is a very cute doll. I did what I could without wool stuffing, but the next one will definitely be made with all the right stuff.

But, did I actually do any marking or work on report cards? Ummmmmm.....

February 1, 2009

Working towards goals--playing with dolls

One of my goals is to play with different types of doll bodies. So far, I've made 3 new types this year:
  • my first painted head vintage doll, a challenge pattern from the Vintage Cloth doll group.
  • my first Hitty, a free fabric doll pattern. Hitty is an antique wooden doll, 6 1/2" tall. As far as I can tell, getting into Hitty is kind of like getting into American Girl, only a lot smaller! I don't think I will be really into this in the long run, but my youngest loves miniatures, and this is close to that. So, time will tell.
  • my very first pattern, of my own. This is for a rag doll, with a shaped body and a bum. She is about 20" tall, but thin. My girls tell me that she looks like an anime character--so we've nicknamed the pattern Anime Annie. I want to experiment with adding ears and tails, since a lot of the characters in the Anime cartoons have different ears/tails, and they would be interesting. She is a pretty doll. The little girl down the way 'ordered one with a blue dress' for her birthday LOL.