A Year of Creativity: May – Rag Quilt

Or as I like to call them: Quilts for People Who Suck at Making Quilts.

I won’t really go into my quilt making history much.  But let’s just say that RocketPuppy has a few failed attempts that I made for her, and from then on I stuck to fleece blankets.

Until I found the world’s greatest bowling fabric.  Fabric I knew I needed to have.  Fabric that went clearance when clearance was half off.  And I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but at that price I knew I needed to BUY ALL THE FABRIC!!!

So then I was left wondering what a girl was to do with 7+ yards of bowling cotton.  Trust me, it was an amazing deal….

At some point I remembered that I had some grey flannel sitting around–thankfully not prewashed–enough to back a duvet cover.  My wheels got turning.  I’d always wanted to make a rag quilt, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  Problem was, I didn’t really want a black and grey quilt.  That didn’t seem like fun.  I needed to throw in one more thing to make it “me.”

Luckily shortly after this flannel solids went 60% off.  And it was also shortly before I’d stop having my sweet employee discount, so I needed to strike.  And strike I did.  Aqua.   Because it’s me.

And then I put it off for a really long time because I was skurrd.  There are plenty of things I haven’t made yet because of fear.

Then I got bored.  So I decided to dive in.

First I figured out how big a square I could make while still getting an even amount of squares out of the width.  I settled on 10″ squares.  And I cut a million of them (okay 216).

I started with this:

72 triplets in layer order

Then I stitched giant Xs across all my triplets with aqua thread on top and black in the bobbin, and I ended up with this:

Then I followed a little pattern my buddy The Hooker (she crochets, get your mind out of the gutter) drafted for me, because she convinced me I shouldn’t have all print on one side and all solid on the other.  And I sewed and I sewed, piecing 8 squares into a strip and nine strips into a blanket.  And it was just about the fastest sewing I’ve ever done.

And then I had to snip.  And snip.  And snip some more.  Every seam needed to be snipped, and it took me a couple evenings.  The first evening it was cool, and I welcomed the blanket on my lap.  The second evening it was hot and humid.  I think that made me work faster.

Next up was washing to shrink the fabric and fray the edges.  I can’t remember if I washed in hot water–I doubt it, since I don’t wash anything in hot water unless I have to–so I don’t think it really shrunk that much.  I washed and dried it twice.  The first time there was so much lint that it blew the lint trap on the washer hose clear off and filled the entire lint trap in the dryer with almost an inch of lint.  The second wash there was about a quarter as much.  There’s still little balls of lint/pilling on the flannel, but I’m not going to worry about those.  They may require a sweater shaver, and I just don’t have that kind of patience right now.

But, frankly, I’m sure you guys don’t care about that… You want to see the end result.  And I’m happy to report it’s one of my favorite creations to date.

You can see the lint on the back.  If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears.  And by suggestions, I mean solutions that require almost no work at all.

The quilt will not stay on the bed, although I have used it myself on a couple of the cooler nights.  It’s really just not big enough for the whole bed with two bodies underneath.  72 10″ squares would be PERFECT for a twin sized bed and doable for a full with only one person.

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I’ll post something eventually. Until then, I hope this tides you over.

File This Under Y

For Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

Pretty much ever since Dragon graced our doorstep, the blinds in the living room have been trashed.  He’s a pretty headstrong cat, and if he wants to see the squirrels and birds and bunnies, he’s going to see the squirrels and birds and bunnies.  From the safety of the indoors.  Because he’s kind of afraid of going outside.

As a result, the blinds started looking a little like this:

Something in my head said, “Hey, I wonder if I can make these crappy blinds into roman shades.”  So I went to the Google.  And it turns out, I can.  Little Green Notebook has great easy to follow instructions. I was a little nervous cutting into the blinds, but really, they were so far gone that if I screwed them up more, who cares?  Armed with the knowledge that I could just buy new ones if I botched these, I pulled out the scissors and went to work.

Strings cut and most slats removed.

I used E-6000 instead of fabric glue, because that’s what I could find in my sewing room.  I also serged and hemmed the edges of the panels instead of just gluing them down.  I couldn’t reuse the plugs that kept the strings to the bottom bar, so I just tied the strings around the bar before gluing it down.  The end result:

The blinds themselves never worked well–or I just really suck at operating blinds… this is entirely possible–but the fabric hasn’t affected the operation of the strings in any way.  Well, I take that back… the strings are behind the fabric, which makes it a little inconvenient.  There’s really no other way for that to happen with this, so if you like to raise and lower repeatedly, this may not be the project for you.

For us?  We never move them, and they’re strictly for privacy.  And, more importantly, the cat can’t really screw them up.  He might snag the fabric, but that’s it.  Great way to repurpose, I say.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I read.  I kind of read a lot.  There’s a lot out there to read.  My nook*?  Makes it even easier to ingest a billion and one books.  I’m not any faster of a reader, but it’s a lot easier to pick up a little reading here and a little reading there if I can just throw 100+ books in my purse all at once.

But there are a gazillion more books out there than I’ll ever be able to read.  So out of all the books in the world, how does one choose what to read?

For me, it’s word of mouth probably more than anything.  If someone tells me they read a really great book, I’ll probably try reading said book.  People tell me about the books they’re reading every so often, because book lovers like to talk about said books, but it’s not like I have recommendations beating down my door.

From there, I typically take those authors and read everything by them I can get my hands on.  I have read all but two books ever published by Tom Robbins (though finding him was a fluke, read on).  I am making a considerable dent in the works of Terry Pratchett, but that man is such a prolific writer, I don’t know that I can read them as fast as he can write them.  You’ll find a lot of Nick Hornby, Douglas Adams, and Bill Bryson in my collection (side note, it is an amazing distinction for Mr. Bryson to grace this list, because he brings as much life to his nonfiction as all the previously listed fiction authors, and I find that’s hard for people to do).

But as much as I love these writers (and others whom I’ve not mentioned), I can’t read the same thing back to back to back.  And eventually (except in the seeming case of Mr. Pratchett) they’re going to run out of books for me to read.  So I need one more tack.

And, yes, it’s judging books by their covers.  Which I’m pretty sure everyone who reads does.  You can’t help it.  The cover is like an advertisement.  You have one second to grab my attention or I’m long gone.  Like anything else we consume, if you don’t already have the clout of coming highly recommended or a proven winner, you really need to sparkle.  But the problem lies in the fact that what catches my eye, may not catch someone else’s.  In fact, it’s pretty much a given that it won’t catch everyone’s.  The trick for publishers is to find that fine line where the cover catches the eye and gives a general vibe as to what the story is about.  And it’s that second part that’s really more important.

For instance, I’ll show you two covers, one that would attract me and one that wouldn’t.  To keep it fair, I’m going to use covers from an author I already know I like, so I’m literally only judging the covers.

In this corner, we have The Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot:

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I can tell by the fact that the cover is colorful and cheeky that it’s going to be a lively and funny book.  It’s fluffy, too, so it’s obviously going to be chick lit, but not like a bodice ripper or anything.

In the other corner, we have Every Boy’s Got One:

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This corner looks like bubble baths and Lifetime movies.  And while I don’t hate either of those two things, they don’t scream good reading.  To me it looks like a silly little lady story.  If it weren’t Meg Cabot, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.  But it is, so I’ll probably read it eventually.

The spine is even more important, but much harder for me to pin point, so we won’t even go into that, but if a cover is graphic enough for me to pick it up or click on its link, it now has maybe 30 seconds to wow me.  That back cover better have a damn description of the book.  I don’t want to read an excerpt from your last book.  I don’t want to know what so-and-so said about your books (Unless you’re Jenny Lawson; the quotes on the back of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened** are freaking hilarious).  Give me a plot summary and make it juicy.

Now, there is an exception to this.  It was brought to my attention that some books have summaries on the copyright page.  But still, those summaries are usually not terribly flashy and also usually in much smaller print.  Plus you have to open the book and find the page, and ain’t nobody got time for that.  That eats into the 30 seconds I could be using to read the summary.  Just sayin’.

So… Read any good books lately?

*I’m not being paid to endorse nook, I just happen to really like it.

**Linking to Amazon just so you know I’m not playing favorites :D

February Sewing

I know we’re already in March, but never fear, I did some sewing in February.  Here’s a reminder of the list:

January: Pirate Blanket √

February: Lunch Bag  Finish Apron and Oven Mitts √

March: Suede coat

April: T-Shirt quilt

May: Fur throw

June: New chemise and pirate bodice

July: Bowling rag quilt

August: Patricia Peppermint the Duchess of York

September: Orange Coat

October:

November: Steampunk Sinbonnet Sue 

December:

You’ll notice I crossed off the lunch bag.  I decided that was CRAZY TALK.  I had a giant plan for a divided bag that would allow me to carry all my various bottles and drink containers that I bring to work (two water bottles, one Cupco straw cup, and sometimes a shaker bottle).  But I really didn’t know how to create all the divides, and I was able to find a cheapish bag while shopping one day, so I decided it would be better to finish the apron and oven mitts I started in November.

The results:

The apron is reversible with an adjustable neck strap.  I made it using  this pattern, but not constructing it exactly the way the directions call (mostly because by the time I was putting the actual apron together, I no longer had the instructions available).

The oven mitts were patterns designed by my friend ArtisticEdition and they exhibit my complete and utter inability to use bias tape.  I’m working on it.  I’m currently considering these prime example of this Adventure Time image I came across (I literally know nothing about AT, I saw this on Google+).

adventure time

So, yeah.  There’s that.  I’m going to keep plugging away at bias tape.  I’d really like to not suck at it.  I’d also really like to not have to hand stitch the back side.

March’s project should be interesting.  I’m going to attempt a muslin with the pattern that I have.  It may not fit, due to the fact that I have a tiny chest and large everything else, and the pattern was purchased when everything else wasn’t quite so large.  It will certainly test my pattern alteration abilities.  See above graphic…

PS: I’m aware the check marks are square root symbols.  I rather like it.

Conquering a Scary Goal

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going to conquer the  ropes course at the Mall of America.  And conquer it I did.

It was extremely difficult to get photographic proof, since they make you lock up your belongings before you can get the harness, and (if you want to take the slide at least) they make you take off your harness before you can get your belongings.  So this is what I have to settle for:

Rest assured, this photo was taken (by a helpful stranger) inside the compound for the The Flying Dutchman Ropes Course.  This was also taken after the whole thing was finished, because I’m pretty sure if it had been taken before hand, I wouldn’t have been nearly as smiley.

I was drugged–make no mistake about that–but I was still nervous.  Much like my adventure to the 4th floor, I was still emotionally nervous, but the physical symptoms were for the most part gone.  There was still a mind over matter fight, but the fight was a lot more evenly matched.

I’m pretty sure the first obstacle I had to cross I asked my buddy 1.0 “What the hell was I thinking?”.  If you’re wondering why I was asking myself that, here is the official video for the attraction.

Some of the obstacles I really had no trouble with.  And the more I did, the fewer I had trouble with.  By the time we made it to the 4th level, the ones I skipped on the 1st level didn’t seem so intimidating.  We went over the course twice, and I made a point to hit most of the obstacles I’d skipped.

I started the adventure by telling 1.0 I’d go across something after I watched her do it.  But pretty quickly in I decided to screw that and make myself take the open paths.  I’m really glad that I did.  This will go down as one of the things I’m really glad I made myself do.

To everyone that’s said “Let’s do this together!” I assure you, I will do this again.  If you want to go, name the time and I’ll be there (unless I’m, you know, at work, or something equally pressing).  I have one more major obstacle I need to conquer, so the Flying Dutchman hasn’t seen the last of me.

This Is… Thursday

This is the only way to properly condimentize Arby’s Curly Fries.

You have to open the cup first, and it’s a lot flimsier this way, but damn does it work.