On The Edge

Most people would not place me in the category of “risk taker.” I’m remarkably satisfied on the non-moguly/un-powder filled blue and black runs when we ski, I wear a life jacket when in a boat, and I always carry my flashlight at night in case of mountain lions.    But sometimes, I like to live life on the edge.  You know –  do crazy things like play my horn without warming up, drive my car for days with the “fill gas light” on, or most recently – buy an orange coat.

No, seriously.  This is big.   As a red-head, wearing the color orange is akin to eating lutefisk. Doable, but not recommended.  But orange coats are what happen when you’re faced with crazy sale prices at the CO Ski-Expo. It’s a killer coat – the perfect weight down AND it has a hood (be still my heart), so I’m embracing the orange, like the wild woman that I am…

In addition to the death-defying wearing of the orange coat, I found myself taking a walk on the wild side this Christmas.  The hand-made gift plan started with two hats for my favorite girls – my nieces, Sophia & Hadley.  Somehow that very doable plan erupted into six hats, two pairs of fingerless mittens, a cardigan, a dopp kit, and three matching aprons for my secret santa at work.  Completely reasonable…. had I started in September.

The aprons had to come first, due to the school time-line.  When your secret santa says they like “cooking with their daughters,” does one have any choice but to sew up matching aprons?  I didn’t think so.

Since these had to be made during the crazy last week before break, amidst putting on three performances of our 5th grade musical, all while my parents were visiting – I didn’t have time to go fabric shopping… believe it or not.   I dug out an old, failed attempt at a baby quilt – it had an assembled, color-blocked front, and a piece of backing. Perfect.  I used this  Purl Soho pattern (I did a flip-flop with the quilt top, so they’d be able to tell them apart) for the girls, and this one (backing fabric) for Mom. They are simple and straightforward aprons to put together, and I love that the neck adjusts with the waist. Slick.

 

I took these photos on my classroom floor (beautiful, isn’t it?) before jamming them in a gift bag .

Next up, I cranked out two pairs of Wild Feather Mitts from Making Magazine: Vol. 2 – Fauna,  in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. Great pattern, great yarn – I’m a fan.

 

Now, as for all of those hats…

I finished Harper’s.
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I finished Hadley’s.

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Pattern is Northward by Tin Can Knits

But Sophia’s looked like this at 9:30 p.m. on December 23rd. img_8656

Sophia watched me carefully as I knit away on it all day…  slyly asking who it was for. She was totally on to me.  I wrapped it still on the needles, which she thought was pretty silly.  Fortunately, North Dakota pulled through with a Christmas blizzard that gave me plenty of time to finish on Christmas Day.  img_8729

Speaking of wrapping things still on the needles… I’ll show you my sister’s hat when it looks like a hat.  There was so little finished she had to ask me what it was going to be.

Now, three plus one does not six hats make.  The brothers’ (my twin nephews Oliver and Axel) hats haven’t appeared yet.  I put the pattern and yarn in the same bag, but alas – the elves must finally be on holiday.

 

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Cutest kids ever   –    Photo cred. to Auntie Sara

I’m happy to report that the dopp kit and cardigan were actually finished when wrapped – more on those another time.

I’ll admit that my procrastinator’s walk on the holiday-wild-side may not have been the wisest or most stress-free route to take… But making special things for people I love  – totally worth it.

For my next daring adventures I’ll be sewing button holes, and trying to leave for work on-time.

Happy New Year!

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Woolen things come in handy in a North Dakota winter wonderland.  Photo features my favorite brother, Andrew and his beautiful daughters. Photography by my favorite sister, Sara. Here’s hoping her fingers have thawed by  now.

 

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Balance

It was a street race – we were driving in the middle of a Fast & The Furious style street race. We expected it to be a quiet, easy, low-traffic drive home from a jazz club in Denver – It was 11:30 p.m., not exactly rush hour.   Instead,  we found ourselves in a pack of super loud cars that were whipping across the lanes on the highway, ahead of us, behind us, along side us, pulling off on the shoulder to wait for the next car to catch up so they could race again.  It was super intense.  I kept waiting for someone to challenge our little Honda Accord, but alas there were no takers. The cars had blacked out their license plates and I even saw a driver wearing a face mask, presumably so the traffic cams couldn’t take his photo (all strategies worth considering the *next time I’m late for school).  I’m not sure I’ve ever been so thankful to see our exit.

As we drove home I reflected on how nice it is to live in our quiet little town with it’s slower pace. How we enjoy the peacefulness of our home near the creek, trails, and open space. That night, I slept the sweet slumber of a woman unconcerned with whether or not Vin Diesel won.  The next morning I was chatting with a neighbor when we came across a bunny on the front lawn.  Clearly, Thumper had not had a good night. I mumbled something about it being too bad, and coyotes, and oh the poor thing…

“Or, it could be the lion,” my neighbor said.

……… I’m sorry, did you just say lion?  Yes, indeed – I went from being thankful that we don’t have to deal with street racing, to learning a mountain lion had been seen strolling the sidewalks (not kidding people) two blocks from our home in the wee hours of the morning.

The list of things I’m really afraid of is not long. It includes: getting a paper cut on my eyeball, the super volcano under yellowstone, and mountain lions.  So, now when I take the dogs out to do their before-bed duties, I stand on the step with my flashlight, loudly singing Row Row Row Your Boat, while squinting into the dark looking for eyes…  The other night a rabbit ran out from under a bush and I very nearly had to change my shorts.

Isn’t that just the way it is though, happy medium – an ever elusive balance. Should we live with street racing or mountain lions? How do we balance work vs. play (I’d rather play), folding laundry vs. knitting (makes me laugh every time), and of course – store bought clothes vs. handmade.

I’m all about hand made.  Knowing who made my clothes and how they were made is increasingly a pretty big deal for me.  I like to buy local when I can, and try to support businesses who treat their employees the way humans should be treated.  My preference is to make it myself when my skills and time allow.  The planning, plotting, cutting, sewing, knitting, and finally wearing is crazy-pants addicting.  While I’m typically delusional enough to think I’m going to make all of my clothes, in reality I don’t have enough minutes in the day to keep up with my wardrobe’s basic needs.  As a teacher of tiny humans, I’m not easy on my clothes. I spend my days sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor, kneeling to tie shoes, squatting and bending to fix instruments that are on the floor, and dancing (sweating) around the room with kids.  I love my job, but my wardrobe takes a hit.

Because nudity is frowned upon in the public school system, I’m left in the position of needing to refresh and repair more often than I might if I had a desk job.  Repair is often tricky because it’s not worn holes in my knees that are the issue.  I’m dealing with shirts that are pitted out, or pants that wear thin in places one cannot patch while still being considered presentable for work.

I try to crank out those fast/slow-fashion options (I’m looking at you Hemlock, Scout tee, and knit skirts) when I can, but a girl needs next level nice work attire as well. To be honest, I don’t always want to take the time and spend the money to make a muslin for that new pants/shirt/dress pattern, but not sewing a muslin is the equivalent of going out at dawn and ignoring the fact that there is a mountain lion in the neighborhood. Things could be fine, or they could go very, very wrong.

When the process of making is thoughtful, when it takes time and energy – the end product is valued and appreciated on a different level, but planning alone does not a clothed teacher make.  Once again, I’m working to find the balance between thoughtful planning and producing wearable garments.

At present, my big blue top-down sweater is putting the “slow” in slow-fashion. After surviving a wicked bout with the flu last week, the sweater finally has a sleeve! Unfortunately, my progress was thwarted when little Miss Ginger the bulldog decided the DPNs I need for the sleeves are an important part of a high fiber diet.

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So, I took a forced break from the big blue sweater and dug through the stash. I found odds and ends of some bulky weight yarn from many moons ago. The colors were all purchased for separate projects, but they worked together (the purple got the boot). A bit of improvised colorwork later, a few texts to my knitting adviser, and a tall, slouchy, scrunchy cowl was born.

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I can’t tell you who it’s for because it’s a birthday gift.  As a general rule, I tend to think of birthdays as “remember to cast on” days, because I’m organized like that. So, dear friends, if you’ve had a birthday in the last 8 months – this could be headed your way.

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Get out the Big Needles and Big Yarn – Cast on 48 or 50 and make it up as you go!

You know, I imagine street racing feels like fast-fashion. It’s exciting, things changing quickly, always trying to stay ahead of the curve – a thrill, no doubt, while you’re in the moment.  If the analogy is going to hold true – I suppose that would mean making your own clothes is like living with a mountain lion in the neighborhood.  You need to plan ahead and make smart choices. The thrill and question of what’s going to happen exists every time you step outside or make the first cut. And when your project is finished, you can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that all went well – and you’ll live to make another day.

 

*face-mask packed for tomorrow morning

The Best Laid Plans

I was so proud of myself.

The first day of school (with tiny humans) and I was on time, had my coffee, my lunch, a matching cardigan, my glasses, and had even managed to put some mascara on that morning.  This. This was the way to start a school year.

The first half of my commute to school was filled with self-congratulatory thoughts.  I was on it…. organized, excited to see the kids, ready for a new year. When my phone dinged with a text from my sweet husband, I happily waited for the next stop light to read the “Have a great first day!” message.  I almost spit my coffee across the dashboard when I instead read, “There is a tub full of books here. Did you need that?”

That tub just so happened to contain all of the teaching materials I needed.  I mean, ALL of the materials.   I could have survived the day without any of the things I actually remembered – except for the coffee, but especially the mascara.  That pile of books and lesson plans was the only thing I really needed to remember.  This was not the way to start a school year.  Fortunately, G’s school year started a week later than mine, because that dear man jumped in the car and brought me my books in gross morning traffic. Life. Saver.

I try to plan ahead, be organized, remember my laundry is in the washing machine before it starts to grow mold. I really do.  I make myself to-do lists, only to inevitably end up adding the things I did instead of what was already on the list, just so I can cross them off. Most of the time I can even find my car keys in less than ten minutes.

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Exhibit A. Actual list from last April. It started the day with one column. FYI: “Baby” is a nickname for Gunnar. Clearly I’m not walking a human infant… I’d only do that once a day.

One of our PD days when school started was all about behavioral and thinking preferences – for teachers as well as our students. It turns out I tend to think big picture, like to do my research/analysis, and am pretty social.  Guess what I have basically no preference in…. the making lists, plans, details category. My personal summary actually said, “This person would prefer a job that does not require them to be efficient, organized, or robotic.”  I probably won’t be adding that to my resume.

Naturally, this brings us to the Fringe Association’s Improvised Top-Down Knit Along.  Karen Templer (of whom I’m a total fan girl) is hosting this “knit a sweater without a pattern” adventure on her blog.  So, though I have two sweaters on the needles that are *nearing completion, I thought surely this is something I must do.  I spent all kinds of time dreaming up what I wanted, researching shape options, “Do I want a cardigan or a turtleneck?,” yarn choices “which yarn do I like, can afford, and is not fingering weight so this sucker gets finished?” and deciding which “it’s okay for a red head to wear this shade” color to choose.  I opted for a cardigan, in pea coat blue Puffin from Quince & Co. The potential issue is, obviously, the lack of pattern. The fact that I am lousy at planning and details does not help. I did knit a swatch (good job me), which I used to make some quick calculations. I then used a very involved mathematical equation called a “guesstimate,” chose numbers that I figured were close enough, and cast on.

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So far, I seem to be on track… with the notable exception of forgetting to add the button band ribbing. I mean I was two whole rows in when I realized my error, and was definitely not going to rip back all 15 minutes of knitting progress. I decided that I’ll pick up the button bands at the end, because there isn’t a pattern telling me I can’t. Ooooh, the power!

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I’ve just reserved the sleeve stitches, which means the sweater is officially too big to carry around in a project bag.  It looks a bit like I’m smuggling an entire sheep when I try.  I have high hopes that this sweater will be finished before the first Colorado snow flies…. but warm fall days could be making me delusional. I’ll tell you more about the knitting details next time, in case you’re into that sort of thing.   If I remember, of course.

 

 

*You’re hilarious, Di.

Take 3

If you happened to live one street over.

If you happened to be awake at 11:00 p.m. last Friday night.

If you happened to glance out your front window at just the right moment.

You would have seen a woman, sprinting down the sidewalk in her flip flops, whisper-yelling at her bulldog puppy who had decided to take a flyer. They were both running at full-tilt for an entire block until, in desperation, the woman made a rolling dive to capture the little monster adorable puppy.

Tomorrow, a new school year begins… and like that little bulldog, I feel like I’ve been running at full speed with the school year right at my heels.  These final weeks are always a mix of wanting to do as much as possible, because summer is almost over; and wanting to do as little as possible, because summer is almost over.  Today I opted for dog walks, a coffee date with G, watching the olympics, finally approaching the “back to school” section in Target, and finishing a pair of Moji pants from Seamwork.  Whether this qualified as accomplishing a lot or a little I’m not sure, and frankly, it doesn’t matter.

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Part of my “accomplish a lot” list this summer has included making myself some new clothes for work. I cranked out a few tanks to make fall days in a school with no AC bearable. The Wiksten tank pattern is all over the sewing blogosphere. It’s a solid, straight forward, pattern that includes a dress option (it’s on my list) as well. After doing a bit of research I found that the Wiksten runs a bit big, so I cut a size smaller than my measurements suggested.

Attempt #1 was made in a super light chambray shirting that had been living in the stash for awhile.  I finished it with french seams like the pattern suggests, which makes it as lovely on the inside as it is on the outside.  In addition to learning that the pattern runs a bit big, others found that there was a bit of gaping at the back of the neck. I took several bloggers’ advice and angled my back pattern piece to remove a couple of inches from the neck. Worked like a charm.

(Turns out I didn’t iron these. They had been jammed in a ball in the corner of my suitcase while I was teaching in the mountains. Also, I may have confused the camp office staff when I asked to borrow four wall tacks for ten minutes…)

Attempt #2 was made from a piece of Anna Maria Horner’s Loominous in Traffic Denim. This time around I finished seams with my serger instead of using french seams. I also did an excellent job of stretching out the collar when I neglected to under stitch.  I left off the pocket on this one because A. the pocket is adorable, but supremely unuseful, and B. The fabric is so pretty I didn’t think it needed anything extra.

In terms of difficulty, I’d rate this a one seam ripper pattern. The french seams are an extra step, but not tricky, and other than that, it’s two pattern pieces and some bias binding. Slick. I’ve got a piece of black handkerchief linen that might need to become a Wiksten tank dress.

Tomorrow morning teachers will hit the ground running. While it is always a bit hard to see summer go, I feel pretty fortunate that going back to work means spending my days teaching, learning, and making music with kids.  Tonight I’ll enjoy the end of summer, and look forward to a great fall filled with ironed tank tops.

 

 

 

That Time I Started A Blog And Didn’t Write Another Post For A Month

My grandmother, is the best. My quilting skills, are not.

She is a Grandma who deserves only the finest.  She’s smart, kind, beautiful, and hilarious. She makes the best cinnamon rolls in the history of ever anything, is a total card shark, embroiders beautifully, and always has time and love for her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. In the last year (because I’m never actually on time) she had a milestone birthday, so I thought it was high time to make her something special… like a quilt.

I’ve dabbled with quilting in the past… a poorly executed table runner, which my mother is kind enough to continue to let grace her table; a case for my iPad, strategically made with super busy fabric so nobody can actually see my quilting; and a lap quilt that I ended up hand quilting (in a panic) on the floor of my husband’s apartment in Wisconsin.   None of these efforts were overly successful, and yet it had been long enough since my last attempt that I allowed myself to believe that, A. I knew what I was doing, and B. I enjoyed it.  Of course, instead of making something reasonable like quilted pot-holders, I decided to make a full-on throw sized quilt.  Pot holders won’t keep her warm while she watches NBA games from her recliner.  (Seriously. She’s super cool like that.)

Filled with misplaced confidence I selected my pattern, the Four Winds Quilt designed and sold by my local shop, Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I was at least self-aware enough to realize that big blocks were smarter than a tiny intricate pattern.

SIMG_6014ewing the quilt top was definitely the best part (outside of fabric shopping – obviously). The method for creating the flying geese blocks was smart, and made the assembly quick (relatively speaking) and easy. I was pretty proud of that quilt top –  the corners met where they were supposed to, and the final product was relatively square. Clearly my over-confidence was warranted.

And then I had to quilt it.

I was so diligent. I even went to school (oh, the horrors) to use my classroom floor for basting, as it’s the only floor space that is #1 – big enough, and #2 – wouldn’t have a puppy walking all over it as I pinned.

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Side note: My classroom floor had just been deep cleaned for summer. This is a booger free quilt.

 

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They recommended I have extra batting and backing… clearly I took that to heart.

I watched an hour long Creative Bug class on making a quilt sandwich and made sure not to cut any corners.

I carefully pin basted the whole thing, hand basting the edges at the end. It was a thing of beauty.  This quilt was not going to get the better of me.

One line of stitching in on my machine and I knew I was in trouble.  My walking foot did a funky little jog every five stitches and I couldn’t get my tension settled.  All of that basting?  Pointless.  I had to re-pin to accommodate for all of the stretching and dragging, and snip out that beautiful hand basted edge.  It was miserable.  However, I persevered and at some point decided that I should quit trying so hard and just let all of those tucks and pleats continue to happen…. you know, for the sake of consistency.

The quilt uses a self-binding technique, where you cut down the batting to match the top, but leave the backing an inch or so bigger. The backing gets folded over the top edge and you sew it down.  Slick.  At least I was able to end the misery project on a positive note.

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Artfully draped and photographed by my sister. Thanks Sara!

As previously stated, my Grandma really is the best, and loves me (and the quilt) regardless of my remarkably poor quilting.  Though my skill and patience were tested, I loved making something for a woman who has given me so much.  Many a lesson (on what not to do) was learned while making this sucker.  I’ve sworn off quilts for awhile, but it’s only a matter of time before I become delusional enough to try again.

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With my pretty Grandma Bonita.

And really, if you stand across the room and squint – it looks pretty darn good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blog, A Bulldog, & An Analogy

 

Dear Internet,

I’ve decided to start a blog.  Yes, yes, I know there are already blogs for everything. There are so many fantastic blogs for people who, like me, like to make (sew, knit, embroider, etc…) all of the things. So, why do I think the internet needs another sewing/knitting blog?  The answer, is that the internet doesn’t need one, but I do.  I’ll try to explain, but first you need to meet Ginger.

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Ginger is a five month old English Bulldog puppy.  She is the coolest, and the naughtiest.

The other morning I returned home from coffee with a friend, only to find myself wondering: “How did my puppy become super pregnant in the last two hours?” Ginger’s belly looked like an over-filled water balloon. Her poor little tummy was hard as a rock, stretched tight, and her puppy scamper had turned into a slow waddle. What on earth had she gotten into?  No toys were missing, the garbage had been left alone, her dog food was up on the washing machine, her dog food should be up on the washing machine…. why is her food not on the washing machine?  (Insert colorful language here)  You see we’ve been putting the dogs’ food up high and leaving the laundry room door open, or putting their food on the floor and closing the door.  Guess which magic combo I hit that morning…

Food = floor, door = open.

That poor girl had eaten as much kibble as she was physically able to pack in.

Ginger got to spend the afternoon at the Vet’s office where they referred to her as “little Buddha” and had dibs on her “puppies.”  They had to help her “get rid of” some of her tummy contents so she would be more comfortable and not end up bloated and gassy. One end or the other, that little girl was going to have to do something with all of that food.  So, what does this have to do with starting a blog?

You see, like Ginger’s kibble filled tummy, I have reached the point with my making where I need output to balance the input. I’ve collected so many patterns (I quit counting at fifty) that I want to make or started to make and have not finished.  The kicker, is that I not only enjoy making things, but I believe in it.  I want to know where my clothes come from, where the wool is produced, and whose small business I’m supporting when I buy a pattern.  This also means that my wardrobe is in tough shape because I avoid shopping, because “I’ll just make that sweater, tank top, pants, etc…, myself.”

Now, I hate to compare the contents of this blog with the contents the vet induced Ginger to free, but an analogy is an analogy.  I’m certainly hoping this blog will help to motivate and encourage me to up my finished object count. In addition, I’ll admit I’m a sharer who loves a good story.  Tales of the epic failures (there are lot of them) and successes are so much a part of learning to make your own clothes. My misadventures are many and frequent, so I hope you aren’t hoping to only see professional photos and perfectly executed button bands.  Now, to finish a few things that are already in the works (particularly because we just handed the vet the equivalent of six months worth of yarn/fabric purchases).  I think I’ll begin by finishing this Wiksten tank…
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And this baby cardigan… (yes, it’s out of focus… I can’t give my gift secrets away)

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And this Four Winds Quilt…

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And this Alder…

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And this Immie blanket…
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I’m excited to make, I’m excited to share, and I’m excited to see where this goes.  Thank you for joining me .

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Also, this is Gunnar the Boston Terrier. He chose to not gorge himself on kibble. Smart cookie, that one.