Greetings from New Zealand!

>> Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Greetings from New Zealand! It's been an eventful week down here thus far, starting with easy plane rides but lost baggage (or delayed baggage -- I can't quite figure out how my bag needed more than 3 hours to make it from one plane to the next, but it arrived the next day and that's all that matters). As promised New Zealand has been wet, but the beautiful mossy beech forests are one lovely result. My friend and I spent 3 days on the Routeburn trek, 1 dry and sunny, 2 wet and rainy! While walking through the forest area, we commented on how it looked like it could be hobbit-land, only to learn when we finished that we missed running into the filming of The Hobbit by one mountain!

There were loads of Avalanche Zones, many of which were perfectly safe. However, the Department of Conservation required a helicopter ride over one not-so-safe area (see, Mom and Dad, we were careful!). Their rangers and hut wardens are tremendously knowledgeable and helpful, even providing us with some newspapers to stuff into our very wet shoes in the hopes of making them slightly less wet. Because of the rain, we walked across, though, and in many a waterfall. This is the land of a million waterfalls, at least in the spring.

But for stunning views like this, it's all been worth it.

And this too!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States!


Leaving on a Jet Plane

>> Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Setting: Detroit Airport
The Time: Saturday early evening.

TSA Official #1: "Is this your bag?"
Woman: Smiling, internally wondering what on earth has been spotted on the monitor.
"Yes, that's my bag."
TSA Official #2: "Please take your stuff and follow me."
Woman gathers her shoes, belt, jacket, purse, clear bag of 3 oz. liquids and follows TSA #2.

TSA #2: "It looked like there is a bottle in your bag, so I'm going to need to search it."
Woman: Quickly checks to see that empty water bottle is in purse. "Um, ok. I don't think there's a bottle but go ahead."
TSA #2: Takes books, bagged items, scarf, bag of assorted chargers, toiletries, etc out of backpack. "Wow, this is an impressively packed bag. I'm so sorry I have to unpack it."
Woman: "No worries."
TSA #2: "Seriously, this is the best packed bag I've ever seen."
Woman: "I like packing things. It's sort of like playing Tetris."
TSA #2: "I'm so sorry for needing to take everything out."
Woman: Laughing, "it's ok, really. You're just doing your job. Have you found what you're looking for?"
TSA #2: Pulling out a pair of old Chacos wrapped in a plastic bag. "Oh here it is."
Woman: "Oh ok, they're just sandals."
TSA #2: "Yep, I guess the curve just looked like a bottle. I'm so sorry that I'ev totally unpacked your bag."
Woman: "It's fine, I can put it back together really quickly."
TSA #2: Watches woman repack bag quickly. "Wow, I wish I could pack bags that well. You should teach a class."

Perhaps in my next life, I'll teach people how to pack efficiently. "Be a Packing Ninja 101" will, I am sure, have a tremendous audience. In the meantime, there are a couple of tricks to taking 2 carry-on size bags + 1 purse with you for 3 weeks:

1. Pick your bags wisely. There's a sleeping bag and a camping pot in the duffel bag. They fit well because the bag is as spare as can be. It's a rectangle, and the bag itself takes up very little space. The corollary is: use every bit of space. My first-aid kit is stored in the pot along with my knife, whistle, and other little items. (This bag was obviously checked due to the knife and the jar of the peanut butter I tossed in too.) My backpack is large for a daypack but small for a camping backpack. It's almost full now but it can expand as necessary. It has some of the food we'll take with us backpacking, so once we eat it, there will be more space for any items I pick up along the way.

2. Pack lightly. I've always been a light packer, and this trip is no different even though I'll be backpacking (hence the need for the sleeping bag and camping pot, but no tent needed on this trip) for part of it and wine-tasting (nicer clothes required) at other points. All clothes should be interchangeable (pick one neutral color and make sure everything works with it). Shoes should be adaptable (hiking boots are necessary for this trip so I took 3 pairs of shoes, but 2 would otherwise be sufficient). A couple of key accessories can dress up a pair of jeans or a simple black dress. Accept that you'll be wearing the same things for several weeks. It's ok; no one really cares. Bring items that dry quickly so you can easily do laundry as necessary. Take older clothes that are versatile and fit well but can be tossed if they meet a mud puddle or a jagged rock or anything else making them no longer wearable.

I've been in LA the past couple of days visiting friends (including a super fun dinner with Michelle last night), and I'm off to New Zealand for 2.5 weeks tonight. If you have any tips for NZ (my friend and I will be spending most of our time on the South Island, but a little time in Auckland as well), comment away! Any restaurant, sightseeing, coffeeshop, fabric/crafts, etc recommendations are much appreciated. We'll be starting with the Routeburn Trek and moving clockwise around the South Island from there. I'll try to post while away but with (intentionally) limited internet access, I make no guarantees...


Celebrate Color: Fall Scarf

>> Saturday, November 12, 2011

I indulged in a little scarf-making this week. I'd been thinking about how I like reversible scarves but sometimes want more of each side of fabric to show when wrapped around my neck. At which point I realized stripes could be quite useful.

I sewed together 6" strips of the gray fabric (picked up from the $2.99 table at G-Street Fabrics. Maybe it's rayon? It's soft and silky and feels like something scarves are made from. I'm open to ideas) and 4.75" strips of the deep yellow pastry voile from Anna Maria Horner.

Then I sewed the long (86" or thereabouts) strips of yellow and gray together. I purposefully made them different widths so that I could flip them on the back. This added a little variety and avoided the need to line up seams. The voile + rayon were both a touch slippery, but pinning helped. And since it's a scarf, perfection is not necessary. I sewed the right-sides together, leaving about a 3" hole for turning, and then top-stitched about 1/8" from the edge.

I saw Rachel's interview with Lotta Jansdotter* a couple days ago, and I think this scarf gets at her Celebrate Color motifs. And now I have something to enter in the Celebrate Color pool!

*I'm loving her new Echo collection. I bought several half-yards at full price (which I never do online) from Tammy. They will become a quilt for the living room since the colors work perfectly.


Pixie Sticks

>> Friday, November 11, 2011

My friend Suzanne is having a baby any day now. In the meantime, she keeps me entertained from 2000 miles away with her blog. Now I admit, I'm not really one for pregnancy blogs. Just not my thing. However, Suz's blog is sharp and sassy, just like her. I mean it. Her blog captures her voice better than anyone I know. I confess that when we were in college together, I would not have expected Suz to become an ultra-runner, which she did. While I can't fathom 50 mile trail runs as fun, I can hear her voice in her stat-keeping, produce-analogizing, cocktail-dreaming, fashion-arranging, book-thinking, conversation-relaying writing. As for the quilt, I decided to lead with my favorite picture, which is technically of the back, but could be the front too.

The offset blocks were made from some Arcadia charm squares and honey bun strips. I pieced them together until I could cut out 4" blocks (at least I think they were 4" but I made them awhile back and can't remember.) They looked better offset than in the middle. And it's a quirkier quilt that way, which it should be for the future child of Suzanne and Jasper. Jasper is a real rocket-scientist and Suzanne does good things for Earth Justice, and I think their child will be full of sass and delightful quirks. He will not be named Oliver, however, despite some parental efforts to influence name choices. The name remains a state secret for now.

The block on the bottom left is my favorite. I don't know if I'm supposed to have favorites, but I do. I like the sharp-edged flowers and, of course, the orange. The off-white is Moda Snow for those keeping track (which I love dearly but it is not bright white which I originally thought "snow" meant. Luckily it's also not the dingy white snow turns after cars drive near it, because that would be truly unfortunate.)

The yellow leaves from the tree in the backyard created quite a nice background for a full shot of the back. The grey-ish color is Moda Stone, and I improv-pieced the "pixie sticks" and then added fabric until it was big enough. Stipple-quilting led to nice crinkling.

I bound it with my favorite print from Arcadia, the orange leaves, and Pixie Sticks made it to California this week, at least a little bit before Baby H's arrival.


do. Good Stitches: November

>> Wednesday, November 9, 2011

After my last-minute block-making for my own month in do. Good Stitches, it was time to be diligent and efficient this month. Shannon picked a great block and a wonderful color scheme of gray/tangerine/aqua. I was able to make the blocks out of my scrap bin (plus the Kona Ash from Shannon). I do use aqua and orange a fair amount, after all. These blocks were super easy to put together -- cutting the pieces definitely took the most time, but once that was done, the sewing was quick.

I think the upper left block is my favorite. I like how the scale of each of the prints works with the other. As I noted to Felicity last week, I like the challenge of bees in which each person is sewing from their stash. It means choosing blocks that can play well together even when the fabrics are pretty different. I think this block is a real winner in that regard.


Line It Up

>> Sunday, November 6, 2011

A picture of a few white lines on white fabric is probably not the most spectacular picture ever. Actually, it's probably going to win some photography awards soon. For something like "most boring picture ever taken and not erased." Because, really, it's not showing much. But that's sort of the point, at least so far as the quilting goes. That whole disappear-into-the-background quilting thing. For what quilt, you might wonder. I was wondering too, since it had been a while since I'd really sat down and sewed something.

Way back when, by which I mean over two months ago, I showed a few peeks of a quilt I started for me. Should you not remember the glory that was that post, you can find it here. [For those of you who only know me through the interwebz and aren't used to a mildly sarcastic two hippos, well, here's a glimpse at the real-life sardonic two hippos.] Anyhooo.....this big pile o' quilt has been staring at me (when it wasn't buried under lots of other fabric), pleading with its non-existent eyes to be quilted. The problem was that it's huge, or huge for me. It's a full-size quilt and that's a fair amount of fabric to stuff through my machine. Which led to the "how to quilt it, like it, and not go crazy conundrum." For a brief moment in time, immediately after I basted it at the September SE Michigan Crafters Meetup, I thought I would do big circles. Then I tried to do one big circle and failed. It looked like a lumpy potato.

Which led me to bring it home, wait a while to rip out the lumpy potato, and then decide on a new tack: straight lines. Once I finally sat down and started sewing, straight lines were my new best friends. I did a few at irregular intervals across the entire quilt top just to get started, and then filled in at more irregular intervals until I felt it was sufficiently quilted. It took about 5 bobbins and 5 episodes of Body of Proof and then it was done. Just like that. Snap and done.

Once it has sufficiently crinkled in the dryer and I enlist the aid of some poor unwitting friend, I'll get a picture of my new quilt. That's right, my new quilt. It's staying in casa two hippos, in the bedroom de two hippos, to be precise.


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