Polar Bear Warmth

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

About a month ago, I mentioned the most recent Craft Hope Project for Margaret's Hope Chest. While I intended to make a couple quilts to send, I ran out of time and could only complete one before the November 15 deadline. I felt bad about this turn of events, so I added a fleece-backed scarf to my package. I figured that if homeless students needed quilts, they could also use a scarf. While it's not the same as a quilt by any means, I wanted to add a little more than one quilt and this was the best I could do with the time I had. In addition, it was a great way to use up some of the remnant fleece I have, and I plan to make some more in the near future.

In another bit of news, the above picture might have been the last taken with my old dying camera!


A Not Very Black Friday

>> Friday, November 27, 2009

While many lined up at stores during the wee hours of the morning or even pitched tents yesterday to stand in line for "Black Friday" specials offered by retailers across America, I slept in (for the the first time in a long time!) and then got started on some of my weekly reading. I generally separate my student/work life from this blog, but one of the books I'm currently reading for class resonates well with many of the messages, posts, and pleas I've seen from the handmade/crafty community.

For those who make things, the holiday season can be both joyful and frustrating. The holiday season offers a potential boon time to those selling their handmade wares (through their own websites, at craft fairs, on etsy, on artfire, or any other platform). But it can also be exasperating as people reject their wares in favor of mass-produced stuff [or fill in your favorite noun here]. There is no doubt that almost all of us living on the grid buy things that are mass-produced and sold for cheap; few of us have the money to always buy the most high-quality goods made from well-sourced, fair-trade materials by equitably-compensated artisans. At the the same time, however, consumption breeds a mentality that favors more over better, which is why, to betray my leanings on this matter, I avoid malls and shopping to the best of my abilities (with fabric stores being the most obvious exception!).

For those interested in the dominance of Wal-Mart in contemporary America (and the consumption ethos and service ethos it conveys), To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (2009) provides a corporate biography in which Bethany Moreton reconstructs how Wal-Mart ascended to the top of the world's corporate mountain as a global retail behemoth.

I'm only midway through the book, but so far it is quite readable and engaging -- a laudable characteristic of any book published for a primarily academic and business audience.  Detailing how the northwest Arkansas business turned the region's anticorporate populism into its own brand of procorporate populism, To Serve God and Wal-Mart delves into the companionate roles of business tactics, rhetoric, government subsidies, entrepreneurial aims, free-market gospel, Sunbelt migration and buying power, and missionaries to describe the potent mixture of faith and profit in the growing service economy.

It's not a quick read, but no matter where you stand on Wal-Mart, this book offers a different -- and thought-provoking -- twist on Black Friday.

*     *     *
Posts will continue to be sporadic through the end of the semester, but I hope to have some more crafty things to show you in the next few days. Also, I'll be participating in Sew Mama Sew's December Giveaway Day, so check back here on December 2 to win something fun!



>> Saturday, November 21, 2009

An opportunity to help...provide a kid with a quilt this winter. Go here to get the details.

An opportunity to win....Free Market Fancy fabric. Head over here to enter.


The Goat-Faced Girl

>> Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's not often that I get to plug a children's book created by someone I know well, but a good friend of mine from college has happily provided me with such an opportunity. The Goat-Faced Girl updates and reinterprets a classic Italian folktale, offering a non-preachy lesson in the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of hard work. Written by Leah Marinsky Sharpe and illustrated by Jane Marinsky (a mother-daughter pair), the book wittily winds its way through the forest and the palace.

The foundling raised by a lizard-sorceress appears destined for the perfect life of princess sloth, until her wise mother intervenes. Torn from a world of lazy luxury, the would-be princess doth protest; yet through a series of trials emanating from the transformation into the "goat-faced girl," the wisdom of her mother prevails and, moreover, reveals the importance and power of hard work and self-reliance.

From the opening lines on, the book invokes, mimics, and drolly engages classic folklore motifs and language: "Once upon a time, long ago and far away, a baby was left in the forest. This event wasn't so strange in itself, for lost children appeared in this particular forest every third Thursday. But this foundling was an infant girl who was far too young for quests, unable to understand talking animals, and even too young to interest the witch in the gingerbread house." Of course, the baby can't rest in the forest for long, and along comes a lizard to save the day. But the forest residents -- which must, the gingerbread reference implies, include at least a few gossipy old hags -- can only look on in wonder as the lizard rescues the child and spares the animals "a tripping hazard" that leads the group "not to interfere with the lizard's plans." Raised by a magical lizard, Isabella grows and approaches adolescence and maturity with but one flaw: laziness.

To see how the lizard mother helps transform Isabella into more than a lazy young woman attracted to an equally lazy Prince Rupert, read the book! Leah first told and refined this tale while babysitting, and its sophisticated yet clear prose shows the strength of time-tested modern story-telling. Accompanied by rich illustrations, The Goat-Faced Girl is a visual and linguistic treat. Jane Marinsky's illustrations are vivid and detailed, offering much to delight in, linger over, and savor.

Find it at your local bookstore, library, or online here. For less than $12 (on Amazon, anyways), it will make an excellent holiday and/or birthday gift.

Update: Go here for the book-signing events calendar and here to see Jane Marinsky's website.


ISO: Red/Black Mingle (Robert Kaufman)

>> Sunday, November 15, 2009

I disappeared last week, thanks to germs and work. No swine flu for me, just your basic cold, but it made me lie low while trying to get other work done. I'll probably be a bit slow to post for the next few weeks as the end of the semester rush builds and time for fun things (temporarily) dimishes.

In the mean time, I'm hunting for some fabric for a project. Specifically, I am looking for Robert Kaufman's Mingle by Monaluna in red/white and black/white. It looks like this (in black/white, since I'm having trouble even locating an image of the red, though I've seen it before):

If you have any in the black/white or red/white colorways, please be in touch (2hippos [at] gmail). I could use anything from a fat quarter to a yard, and am open to buying it or trading for it. Thank you!


Chuppah in Action

>> Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beth and Harley's wedding was this weekend, and the chuppah looked wonderful, if I do say so myself. Alas, my camera decided to accelerate its death this weekend, leaving me with mostly useless pictures of dark blobs. However, pictures from other people in attendance are starting to tricle in (or trickle to facebook!), and I'll post them as I encounter them.

First, an up-close, stained-glass-like view:

And, just for the heck of it, a watercolor-like version:

This was the ketubah, which the chuppah was designed to complement:

And, finally, the view of the full chuppah.

I'm hoping to acquire a picture of the chuppah and ketubah together because they made a fine visual pair.

*all photos posted here courtesy Marlene Seidel


Hawthorne Threads

>> Thursday, November 5, 2009

Looking through Google Reader can be dangerous. Terri over at Sew-Fantastic posted about the new Hawthorne Threads (head to her blog for a giveaway). I've had good online fabric shopping experiences through a variety of vendors and, as a general rule, have found the ones from whom I purchase equal in terms of website, shipping, and selection, with the availability of the fabrics I need determining the place I spend money (too much money, usually). Sales and free shipping do lure me in.

Nevertheless, I think Hawthorne Threads (an evolution of Fabric Supplies on etsy) has made a large leap in terms of online fabric shopping. The site lured me into plunking down more money than I should have; however, I justified my decision to myself because I bought fabric that I've been lusting after for a while and plan on using it to make 2 quilts for myself over winter break, and that falls into the promise I made this summer to make something for myself. So, be forewarned about its power. Some of the things I really like about it:

*It's clean, well-designed, uncluttered, and yet chock full of information.
*You can buy in all sorts of different increments starting at a 1/2 yard.
*If you look at a collection, designer, or their picks, you see all of the fabrics on one page rather than needing to scroll through multiple pages.
*Your shopping cart updates the shipping price as you had fabric (and tells you it for the US, Canada, and the rest of the world).
*When you look at fabric already in your cart, the site tells you it's already in your cart.
*Tiered pricing and return-customer incentives: the more you buy, the more you save -- starting at 3 yards and determined by the total yardage, so 6 half-yard increments counts the same as 3 yards of one fabric. The discounts are additive, so you can get all discounts available to you.


Free (Basically) Stationery

>> Wednesday, November 4, 2009

That's right. Avis of avie designs is offering her stationery for free. All you have to do is pay $3 in shipping. So if you need or will need some fun, modern stationery, head over to her etsy shop, peruse the offerings, email her and let her know what you want, pay the shipping fee, and wait for the new stuff to show up on your doorstep. And then you can send me a note, because I really like it when the mail-person brings me unexpected letters.


Squares and Swirls

Wow, last Friday was really dreary. I'm pretty sure I recognized that at the time since, despite plenty of obligations and things to do, it was really hard to get up. While I dislike the early darkness that comes along with the switch to Standard Time, I really appreciate light appearing earlier since my body wakes up much easier (and sometimes too easily) with the appearance of light. Time change diversions notwithstanding, the dreariness produced some pretty crap pictures of what it, I think, a rather lovely table runner.

Exhibit A: The colors are not actually drab but are rather bright and cheerful. Do your best to imagine bright colors leaping off your screen in the image above rather than blah colors.

When I first started thinking about this table runner, I knew I wanted to use fall colors, make improv but not really wonky blocks, and sash the blocks in white. Other than that, I had no real plan. Some of the fabric was in my stash and some of it found its way into my house more recently. I'm pleased to say that I used almost everything I bought (just a bit of the green--which is definitely not Flea Market Fancy but resembles it a bit, I think--remains) and still have some more of the stash fabrics.

The other side -- this is a fully reversible table runner -- evolved a lot. I wanted some sort of free-floating squares design, but that's all I had settled on. Once I made the front blocks, I decided I'd use the remnants for the back blocks. The white makes the blocks pop against the purply background, and opted for some extra strips to keep it asymetrical.

Moving on to some slightly better pictures....I fussy cut the green square above for the back but otherwise cut the fabric and let the design fall where it fell. I free-motion quilted the table runner, in a deep yellow, which I like because it both blends and stands out, depending on where you look. No quilting endeavor is without its exasperating moments and the quilting had one of those. When I selected the thread last Thursday night, I picked it both for the color and because I had an almost-full spool. Or so I thought. Either my eyes deceived me or I didn't pay close enough attention to how full it really was (and while I can't see without the aid of contacts or glasses, I'm pretty sure my eyes don't deserve the blame in this instance). There I was, stippling (mostly, with a few swirls, loops, and even hearts tossed in), making good progress, seeing the crinkly texture take form...and then there was no thread. The spool was empty, I had no more yellow, I contemplated quilting the rest in another color (and thankfully discarded that idea as quickly as it came to me), and resigned myself to a trip to the store on Friday morning since when one starts quilting after stores close, there's no other option.

One of the things I love about this quilt is that it allowed me to use stash fabrics in unexpected ways. Take, for example, the brown floral piece at the center of square above. It's been in my fabric pile for a while, waiting its turn patiently, taking rejection from project-after-project in stride, confidently knowing it would be used eventually, and resting comfortably next to some coordinating turquoise, orange, and pink fabrics. When I went digging for a brown fabric, it jumped out. But its neighbors did not. So while I expected that I would use it with 3 other fabrics that seemed to mesh well together, in the end, I used it with a completely different batch of fabrics, a set that I created/improvised in the moment, and a group that I've become rather fond of tough I never could have predicted it.

The swirly flower-esque motion in the close-up represents my favorite quilted element in this project. Prior to quilting it, I started thinking about spirals, contemplating making big spirals in each of the 5 big square blocks. I wasn't confident enough to do that but decided to experiment with some small spirals instead. I'll definitely make some of them again and look forward to more experimentation. I finally feel comfortable with my free-motion foot, in no small part because I've found the right tension to use with it. It turns out that my machine needs a slight clockwise turn on the dial to a higher tension to free-motion quilt without weird loopy things on the back.

So....Congratulations Emily and Chris! I hope this gift stays with you and reminds you of your October wedding for years to come.


My Love Affair with Orange

>> Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Maybe it's the influence of autumn or maybe it's just a change in sentiment, but deep oranges attract me more and more. Even when I don't use a ton of orange, I'm drawn to the color, the depth, the richness, the warmth.

Here's a preview of a wedding gift I finished last week and took with me to a Halloween wedding this past weekend. It displays a lot of fall colors and tones, and while I vacillated about the binding, alternating between the orange seen above (which doesn't do justice to the color) and a brown option, the orange kept pulling me back in. So I went for it, and rather like the result.

I'll show the whole thing in my next post (though the rainy, grayness of last week interfered with getting decent pictures).

All wrapped up. The magenta matches one of the fabrics in the table runner, and I realized that I had a ribbon that almost perfectly matched the color of the paper. No plain white or taupe wrapping paper in my apartment! When I placed the wrapped gift on the table, the loud, unwilling-to-blend-in gift certainly stood apart from the others (admittedly, it never crossed my mind to think about white wrapping paper...as many friends can attest, I'm not well-socialized to many protocols of weddings, giftwrap included. More on after this weekend's upcoming wedding!)



Aliens? Not quite, although the space unfinished objects take up in my living room make them somewhat like resident invaders.

Jacquie over at Tallgrass Prairie Studio is coordinating a UFO challenge: how many UFOs or works-in-progress can you finish by the new year? I'm only listing the quilt tops I have pieced because the others make the challenge too daunting (plus all the other non-craft-related work that needs to be completed between now and the end of December). That means I have 2 Miracle Foundation quilts to complete, 1 more Margaret's Hope chest quilt to finish (by November 15, ack!), and many more projects looming beckoning. There's a lot to do in November and December.


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