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From one obsession to another

October 28, 2010

I’d have to say it really started with knitting.  I started knitting late in college, when my roommate Michelle introduced me to the fun of knitting while watching TV.  I’d come home and see her curled up on the couch with a scarf and a show, and decided I wanted to learn.  With some help from my mom and a starter set from Michaels, I finished my first scarf in 2002 and never looked back.  We took a field trip to local yarn shops, but most of my stashing occurred at Michaels or local craft stores.  It wasn’t until I moved down south that I started getting into the higher end yarns from local yarn shops (LYSs for those of you in the know), and it wasn’t until Ravelry and my discovery of Wollmeise and indie dyers that it really snowballed.  I’ve always appreciated a good photo, so I kept my online stash up to date and meticulously photographed, getting many compliments on ‘my stash.’

It’s a weird thing when you think about being complimented of photos of yarn that is going to be rearranged into a garment.  I suppose it’s the same as people taking photos of their mise en place or produce at the farmer’s market, but my stash has always sort of stressed me out.  I don’t see it as a beautiful collection of wonderfully dyed yarn – I see it as things I still have to do and haven’t done yet.  A list of WIPs to become FOs, and bottles of ibuprofen to tackle it with.  I am a retail therapist, and my stash is the product of grad school, breakups, job hunting, grief, moving, wedding planning, and any other stress factor.

So I started to move away from knitting, into faster and equally productive hobbies – weaving and sewing (with a detour into spinning which isn’t fast and produces yarn to be knit, but is nicely meditative and doesn’t hurt my body as much as knitting seems to).  And my stashes changed

Suddenly I was collecting fiber, subscribing to etsy feeds for shop updates, reading quilt blogs and falling in love with new fabric collections.

It turns out that one of my skills in life, aside from my rare but sometimes useful interest in chemistry and medicine, is collecting things.  If only this were somehow marketable!  I have fears of one day going overboard and having the producers of Hoarders show up on my doorstep, but I know that’s a long ways off (besides, Mark still hasn’t let me live down throwing out some of my spices before I moved to Colorado in my fit to get rid of things and squeeze my life into a U-haul trailer)

I reached a decent medium of paring down my yarn and fiber stash, sewing with my fabric stash, and trying to not indulge in retail therapy when I was stressed out (see my shoe collection).  And then I read this.  And this.  My mother and I share a like for cute dolls from overseas, so this wasn’t my first introduction to Blythe.  But something tipped, and before I knew it I had one and had started pulling out fabric to sew doll clothes.

Oops.  At least I managed to get rid of some more yarn and fiber before I bought her!


Look, I finished it!

October 7, 2010

Finally this weekend I finished attaching the binding to my quilt, washed it, and put it on the bed:

I cannot tell you guys how excited I am to have finished my first machine-quilted quilt.  My mom helped me pick out these fabrics on one of my visits to Napa, after I fell in love with the bubble print.  I aimed big and decided to try for a king-sized quilt to fit our queen-sized bed.  The piecing took awhile, and is still imperfect (you can see in some spots how the squares line up vertically but not horizontally), and it sat for a few months while I debated whether or not to try machine quilting it on my domestic machine.

I was inspired by the idea of organic line quilting, where you just free motion quilt lines without attempting to make them perfectly straight.  Since I hadn’t gotten the blocks to line up, I was hesitant to try anything like diagonals that would need to be fudged to hide the mistakes.  I tried it out on a little crib quilt I had finished (I still haven’t put the binding on that one yet) and though I had alot of problems with my tension, I eventually figured it out and loved the final look.

So I dove in:

Can I just say I love those little bias tape makers?  Made my life so much easier.  Now I just need an AccuQuilt to cut squares and I will be happy with my toolset – cutting up all these squares for the Tokyo Subway Map QAL nearly did me in!

In other news, I’ve been dyeing and dyeing and winding and warping and getting ready for an update in my etsy shop for tomorrow morning (9 AM Pacific).  I made the mistake of adding in some custom orders before I finished dyeing and winding for the update skeins and have been working late every night after work to get everything ready.  Whew!  I think I’m going to take next week off from dyeing yarn!

Busy little bee

September 29, 2010

In an effort to combat the post-wedding blues, I’ve been busy at the dyepots and in the craft room:

A set of placemats for a friend who just moved into her new house

All gazillion blocks cut up for Oh Fransson’s Tokyo Subway Map Quilt Along

I’ve also been solidifying the yarn shop – there’s now both a Google Group and a Ravelry Group to communicate shop updates and the like.  I still haven’t decided how far I want to take this – right now with a full time 40+ hour a week job I think of dyeing as my hobby rather than my livelihood and would be hesitant to try and run it as a business.  So I’m still playing it by ear to see how far it goes.  But the dye stains on my feet make for interesting conversation when I wear sandals 🙂

I was also inspired by Making It Lovely‘s 30 before Thirty list.  While I’m too old now to call it that, I’ve started compiling a list of things I’d like to do, my 40 before Forty.  So far I’m up to 9…

The blues

September 17, 2010

In the flurry of the wedding planning, I got used to this overdrive mode of doing multiple things at once – crisis at work, crafting, wedding details, day-to-day living.  Now that it’s been almost a month since the wedding, I’m having a hard time settling back into post-wedding life.

At first I turned to dyeing, wrapping up custom orders and trying to get a shop update ready – it’s murder on my back/neck/shoulders to wind and warp, so I had to take a break after finishing up over 30 skeins.

Then knitting, taking part in the 2010 Shawl Wars (similar idea to sock wars – each person in a group gets assigned a target, forming a big circle of targets and assassins, knitting socks/weapons and sending them off until 1 person is left standing).  I managed to knit my shawl in less than a day (thanks in part to a flight back home from a business trip and a holiday weekend)

but was still eliminated before I could take my target’s weapon.

Then I turned to quilting – I had a nine patch of ‘vintage’ pinks and browns I’d picked up, that I was in the midst of squaring off before piecing, to help the blocks line up when I put the rows together.  I’d also finished this quilt top awhile back, but hadn’t thought I could quilt it on my machine.  And since my blocks didn’t quite line up from row to row (oops), I didn’t want to do a diagonal or something that would highlight the issue.

Then I saw this post about organic line quilting on Tallgrass Prairie Studiu, and thought that might work.  The downside is that it’s a very ‘straight’ design, but adding a little waviness to the lines may keep it from being too rectilinear.  And with that technique, I’d only need to be able to fit half of the quilt under my machine.  So I dug out a crib quilt I’d pieced and sandwiched and tried it out on that – until I ran out of thread.  But I liked the look, and after winding the few bobbins I had left – I started on this one, quilting down the middle of the sashing and the middle of the squares to start and anchor the top.   And guess what?  I’d forgotton how thin the batting was, and could probably have fit more than half the quilt under the arm at a time.  Good to know.

But once I started there, I kept seeing all these other quilts I wanted to make.  Like the Tokyo Subway Map, by Oh Fransson – I could use alot of the Japanese prints I’d stashed for making project bags.  And this happy sunshine quilt by Wisecraft – I had some Wildwood prints that I’d picked up awhile back that would be perfect with this brown batik I’d picked up.  And this Toe the Lime pattern I’d bought, with some greens and grays and oranges…

And suddenly I realized I’ve got alot of quilting to do and a full time job still, plus a family life to have.

So I picked up my spinning instead and finished this up:

About 400 yds of fingering weight organic merino, in Dani’s Esme Island colorway.  I’m by no means a great spinner, and I still overspin my singles, but since I also overspin when I ply it seems to even out 🙂  It’s a nice “just a few minutes” activity to pick up and put down, and more relaxing than heaving a king sized quilt through my machine.

I still miss all the planning, and the excitement of knowing friends and family are coming to visit.  But I’m getting used to the relative quiet (ahem-dog-who-barks-in-the-middle-of-the-night), getting back to cooking, getting back to hiking.  Soon it will all feel normal again.

Happy Friday all!

Getting to the church on time

August 30, 2010

Well,it’s now been over a week since Mark and I have taken that next big step and gotten hitched!  It’s been a wild ride of planning and craftiness, and I would be remiss if I didn’t drag you all through the DIY that went into it – so without further ado, let’s see it all come together


I’m generally not an artist, and can only really draw two things – stick figures and trees.  Since weddings tend to be more formal occasions, I decided to stick with the tree and go from there.  After scanning, correcting, and adding text with Picnik (my go-to design program), all that was left was researching envelopes, printing, cutting everything down to size, and assembling

Right, that was easy, wasn’t it?  Next up….

Escort cards and signage

Being the good DIY bride that I was, I immediately started leafing through issues of Martha Stewart Weddings and fell in love with these tissue paper bouquets.  But how to incorporate them….did I want to make bouquets of them?  Not really, because that seemed like alot of work.  Somewhere along the way I came up with the idea to use them as escort cards and my bridesmaid Pip joined me for some tissue paper fun

Thanks to the wine consumption of my friends Sara and Angela and their friends, I managed to get ahold of enough corks to last me a lifetime and put together the escort cards

The plus of designing our own invitations also meant I had a theme I could carry out through the wedding.  The tree I drew was used in the table cards, the guestbook sign, and the gifts.  The font I used was carried throughout on all these signs, along with the escort cards.  I used Picnik and a papercutter I got at Michaels for everything, and was really pleased with how it turned out.

As for the guestbook, we wanted to do something different.  Instead of leaving guests scrambling for something to write, I printed out a few starter phrases on cards for the guests to fill out and put in a vase – another Martha Stewart idea.  There are definitely some gems in there 🙂


The other project of Martha’s that I fell in love with were the striped vellum candles, which ended up being a pretty big headache initially – I ended up trying multiple types of vellum tape, mod podge, and spray adhesive before I finally settled with double sided tape as an acceptable method of affixing the vellum to the vases.  The vases were scrounged up from Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Michaels (on sale!) to finally come up with this:

Yes, that’s alot of vases!  I also wanted to add some green to the table, so we decided to go with bamboo favors that would sit in colorful bowls on the tables for the guests to take home.  Which I of course did not take any pictures of 🙂

Aisle Decorations

My friend Sara, who go married last year, used pinwheels to decorate the aisle and since we weren’t doing flowers for our wedding I decided to go with her idea, at the last minute (read: 3 weeks before W-day)  I’d helped her make them before, so with some additional tips and alot of help from Mark cutting things down to size, we ended up with these:

I loved them.  I wanted them to go on chairs along the aisle, and I’m told they did.  But you know what?  I didn’t even see them 🙂


You all remember the wedding shawl I made awhile back, right?

Well I didn’t stop there.  Oh no, I went ahead and decided to make shawls for all the bridesmaids, in a blue custom dyed for me by my friend Dani.  One shawl a month sounds reasonable right?

Two Swallowtail shawls down I began to realize just how crazy this might be.  As I started to run out of yarn, I began to panic.  I got some more dye from Dani and started alternating on the last shawl, modifying the pattern and praying.  Finally, a week before the wedding, I had 4 blue Swallowtail shawls for the bridesmaids

The Wrap Up

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed that it was all over.  Yes, we’ve settled back into our life now (with nicer kitchen stuff!), but there’s a part of me that misses the crafting and prep.  And a bigger part of me that misses seeing all of our friends and family.  My maid of honor said it best in her toast – in many ways, my friends have become my family (or a large part of it) since college.  We never write or call or visit as often as we’d like, and seeing everyone together in one place reminded me of how important they all are to me.  It was a beautiful day, and if anyone needs some pinwheels or vases just give me a call – we’ve got some extra 🙂

Ticking clock

June 28, 2010

In less than 2 months, Mark and I will be getting married.  After so much planning and mental gymnastics (how do we get people, dresses, flowers, cupcakes, table linens, etc to the church on time?  Esp when we’re not getting married at a church…) I feel like it’s snuck up on me.  It really shouldn’t have, given all the crafty prep I’ve been doing – I have a whole blog post planned on that for after the wedding – but somehow between the invitation making and the decorations crafting and the linen color choices I realized today we’ve passed the 2 month mark.

The trial run I had making bouquets with flowers from the grocery store

Of course it hasn’t all be wedding prep here – I do still have to work to earn a living (I know, the nerve, right?) and have been starting my own dyeing business on the side (sparkly, stripey socks anyone?).  Thankfully we’re going out to Boston this weekend to see some old friends while I have next week off – a vacation couldn’t be more needed (I suspect I’ll be eating my words this August).

One of the sold skeins from the shop

And of course there’s been knee surgery #3 (adding a second bundle to my current ACL) – a follow up to #1 (broken leg) and #2 (new ACL) that should hopefully bring me back to hiking shape.  I’m 2 weeks out and still hurting and swollen and bruised, but I’m able to walk around without crutches or a brace which make me pretty happy.

Here’s hoping I’m in dancing shape in 2 months!

Guilt-ridden or inspired?

April 29, 2010

There’s a link floating around the blogs these days to this article, written about the bloggers who seem to have perfect and beautiful crafty lives, and how it affects the rest of us in the blogosphere.  When you see these perfectly manicured tables and gorgeous window shots, do you somehow feel even more mediocre than you did 5 minutes ago?  Do you read through these posts with their carefully crafted words describing an ordinary day and wish that was your life?  Do you want to be a Marthette?

In my mind, the question comes down to not whether or not these women really have the perfect lives they blog about and why they’re making the rest of us feel guilty, but why we feel guilty.  Why feel bad about yourself when you read their posts, rather than feeling inspired?  I read my fair share of crafting blogs and take away different things from each of them.  Sknitty makes me aspire to be a better and faster knitter with the rate she makes sweaters at.  Mamieknits inspires me to dig out my sewing maching and stash of fabrics with the beautiful work she does.  Yummyyarn teaches me the value of a gorgeous photo in the start of spring and how much it can brighten your day.  There are countless bloggers out there that inspire me to be better at all the crafts and arts I enjoy, to try new things, to broaden my horizens.

In my mind, it really comes down to a frame of mind.  Yes, I am envious of the women with the perfectly decorated house with their vintage clothes and their baked creations.  But I know too that if I selected fractions of my day and artfully photographed them, I too could be a Marthette.  I suspect for every perfect tart there is a sink full of dirty dishes that didn’t make the final cut of photos to include in the post.  For every gorgeous quilt sewn from vintage fabrics there is a waste basket full of scraps, some pricked fingers, and countless hours of work that went into making that final shot.

You can feel bad about yourself reading these blogs, or you can take them for what they are – snapshots out of someone else’s life.

Artfully arranged and perfectly lit.