Archive for the 'Crafty' Category

A visit to Heath




I have the good fortune to live across the bay from Heath Ceramics. Heath makes tiles and dishes in a fantastic mid-century style in their factory in Sausalito, California.





A few years ago I helped my parents re-tile their kitchen counters and bathroom floor (I’ve written about the process before) and we used a large selection of tiles from Heath. My Mom decided that she wants to tile her shower too, so we went back to Heath to pick out more material for the project. While we were there I had a great time drooling over the dishes, mugs, teapots and especially the brightly colored serving bowls.





Another treat greeted us at the factory store, SkinnylaMinx! I knew that Heather had done some work for Heath before, but I didn’t realize that they stocked a full array of her tea towels and napkins! I’ve been giving sets of napkins from SkinnylaMinx as wedding presents the last few years. I love her sense of design and I see why it works so well with Heath.




We ended up buying mostly subway tiles in off white and gray for the shower, but we did get a few of the signature Heath oval tiles to add to the mix. I think we will use them as a long skinny row around the shower, but I’m not totally decided yet. Occasionally I’ll spot Heath tiles like these ovals around town – they are so recognizable and distinctive.


One of the wonderful things about the factory store is that it is part of the actual factory. To get to the tile room you actually have to wind your way through the factory floor! Seeing the factory really gives you a sense of how small scale an operation Heath still is and how special the pieces they make are.




What I appreciate most about Heath is the functionality of their products. They make beautiful dishes which are meant to be used everyday. Owning something beautiful that you get to enjoy all the time makes so much more sense to me than owning dishes which only get used a few times a year. That being said, though I am officially an adult I’m not in a place in life where I feel like I can buy a set of dishes from Heath. I aspire to it someday, but I’m just not there yet. Maybe when I have an actual income? At least my lack of current ownership can’t stop me from dreaming about the shapes and colors!


Paralysis of Analysis

Actually, a lack thereof.


This quilt had a deadline and my main goal while making it was to not get bogged down over-think everything. I didn’t plan it out ahead of time, I didn’t shop for fabric and I didn’t let myself think too long about any design decisions. I think my design intuition works just fine like this, my analytical side really just gets in the way. I don’t really enjoy planning out projects, I am usually itching to just get started, but some aspect of my neurosis feels like I have to think through the project before I start so I make sure to do it in an efficient way. I have been known to get so tied up in the planning of projects that I never actually start them.

Paralysis of Analysis is a phrase my dad has been repeating over and over the past year. It seems that he has finally discovered internet forums (in a very 1998 style) and is having a blast posting photos of his car creations for other people to comment on. It is also not something from which he suffers. In fact when we do projects together I will be drawing out plans and calculating distances while he already has a drill or saw in hand. Clearly there are merits to both approaches and some sort of middle ground is probably a good place to be. Since I seem to suffer mostly for over thinking and I have to work a little harder to just jump in I wanted to focus on not getting tied up in the planning.



I made this quilt for a new baby of some good friends who just moved away to Europe. I used fabric entirely from my stash making it quite nostalgic for me. I know that it won’t mean the same thing for baby Amaya to see my parent’s waterbed sheets from 30 years ago, but I’m sure she will form her own attachments to the colors and patterns.



Pattern Details:
I based this on “Flock of Triangles” from the Denyse Schmidt quilt, but the color layout is obviously quite different. I looked at a lot of zig-zag colored quilts like this, but what I ended up making was somewhere in-between.
It measures 39″ by 58″
The fabric is all from my stash, mostly cotton but a few old sheets that are probably cotton-poly blend.
The batting is organic cotton-bamboo.
I machine quilted it in a zig-zag pattern using a walking foot attachment on my Singer 301.





City Museum




A few weeks ago I went to a wedding in St. Louis MO. I had never been there before and I didn’t know anything about the city other than the fact that it was on the Mississippi River and has a big arch. I was pleasantly surprised about quite a few aspects of the city (public transportation, re-purposed industrial spaces, pedestrian oriented streetcar communities still in tact) but I was in complete awe of the City Museum.

The ethic of the place was all about exploration and it appeared to be built completely from recycled and salvaged materials. It was a place that I am pre-disposed to adore – in fact, I’m actually fairly shocked that I had never heard of it before!

From their website:

Reaching no farther than municipal borders for its reclaimed building materials, CITY MUSEUM boasts features such as old chimneys, salvaged bridges, construction cranes, miles of tile, and even two abandoned planes!

We went to the museum on the recommendation of some other visitors from the wedding. There were 5 adults, but from the smiles on our faces and eagerness to acquire rug-burns you might have mistaken us for 10 year olds. The place is one giant maze/jungle gym. It was a little bit like a 10 story tactile dome taken to the extreme. On Fridays it is open until 1am! The place was decidedly not an amusement park, nor was it a traditional museum in any way. Participation was encouraged (or required?). We even heard a museum employee telling all of the parents sitting around the outdoor structure that they needed to show the kids how it was done – i.e. get up and play!



The place had no maps (although I did find one on their website) and not much in the way of directional signage. This required visitors to find their own way and keep exploring to discover what other fantastic-ness awaited them. Several times I overheard kids discussing how to get back to some part of the maze that had a feature they really liked (a slide, or ladder perhaps). Problem solving and creative thinking were require everywhere. Everywhere I looked there were structures made from everyday objects. The top floor even had a vintage clothing store including vintage clothing printed with the museum logo.



We didn’t have adequate time to explore the place (and I didn’t have nearly enough time to take pictures because I was more excited about running around) but there were two main features that were big winners with our group.



The outdoor area, called the MonstroCity, featured airplane fuselages, construction cranes, a fire engine, a giant ball pit, and large metal mesh tubes suspended several stories in the air (you can see one coming off of the plane’s wing). Everything was meant for climbing on or through. I saw people problem solving to navigate their way, overcoming their fear of heights and mostly grinning from ear to ear.

The biggest single attraction was the 10 story spiral slide made from shoots welded from sheet metal. It looked like the shoots were part of the original shoe factory (in which the museum was built) that were connected together to make one long, very twisty, slide.



The slide is the spiral all the way on the left. There were no elevators to the top, you had to walk up a spiral staircase (into increasingly hot air) all the way to the top floor to earn your ride down. While sliding down it I kept thinking the ride would end but 10 stories in circles is a long way to go! The bottom of the slide dumps you out in a series of caves which were dark, eerie, and refreshingly cool.


If you ever happen to be in St. Louis you MUST visit the City Museum. The scope and scale of this place was inspiring and exploring within the museum brought back feelings of wonder and excitement from childhood that little else can replicate. My adult side was amazed by the structures made from re-purposed materials and inspired to build large scale sculpture. My child side just wanted to play like crazy and skin as many joints as possible.

Vintage Singer(s)




I’m adding my 2 cents to the great sewing machine debate. Here is my response to the Sewing Machine Meme from Sew Mama Sew.

What brand and model do you have?
I have two machines, both 1950′s Singers. The first is a mocha colored Singer 301 and the second is a black featherweight (221). The 301 weighs in at 16lbs and the featherweight weighs in at 11lbs. The 301 has the same bobbin case as the featherweight but uses a slant-shank instead of a low shank. It is often called the “big-sister” of the featherweight and mine came in a portable case that looks like an old suitcase.



How long have you had it?
I have had the 301 for 4 years and the featherweight for 2 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I recieved the 301 for free from a woman on craigslist (see below). Vintage machines don’t have very regular pricing, but you could probably find a 301 for between $100 and $200. You may find one for much less.

I purchased the featherweight from craigslist for $100 but they more typically cost $200-$400.



What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I sew anything and everything. I have made quilts, clothes, bags, curtians, pillows – you name it. In addition to sewing light-weight cotton and machine quilting I have sewn canvas, heavy vinyl, seatbelt webbing, bike innertube, and sailcloth on both machines. They are troopers.



How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew at least a few times a month and sometimes every day. I ask a lot from my machines as far as sewing heavy duty and unusual materials but they don’t show much wear. Both of them had clearly been used by previous owners but are still going strong.



Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love both of my machines but they do drive me crazy occasionally (see below).



What features does your machine have that work well for you?
My machines only do straight stitch (both forward and backward). I have external accessories for zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and a walking foot. Both machines came with a variety of feet, I have only used the zipper foot and rolled-hem foot regularly. The featherweight is not large enough to fit a bed-sized quilt for machine quilting, but the 301 is.



Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Sometimes the tension can be disagreeable. I will get frustrated and stop for the day and often when I come back later and try again everything works fine. I also have problems with skipping stitches on the 301. I have tried to troubleshoot why it skips stitches (changing needles, matching thread and needle, checking bobbin tension) but tends to be rather mysterious.



Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I posted a want-ad on craigslist for a Singer 301 and was contacted by a woman who had two and gave me one. Thats right, a really nice woman I met on craigslist GAVE me the machine in return for me working to “save the earth from the ill effects of humanity” (which is really what I do already, right?).

I had always wanted a featherweight. I have a nostalgic attachment to the machine I learned to sew on – my mom’s featherweight was her 16th birthday present. My featherweight was another craigslist find – the machine was not listed as a featherweight but I recognized it from the photo and drove down to adopt it from the son of the original owner. His mom ended up calling me later to give me an additional box of accessories she found. I was happy to get a machine that had seen a lot of use but was still in great working order. I have put plenty of hours on it since then as well!



Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
If you have a little patience and a love for vintage machinery I highly recommend getting one of these two machines. They are simple enough to understand and troubleshoot. I don’t know much about other vintage models, but these two both sew an excellent looking straight stitch. They use standard shank styles so you can buy new feet if necessary and featherweights are dearly loved by the quilting community so there are reproduction replacement parts. Along the way I picked up a second 301 that does not run and I’ve been keeping it stored away for spare parts when I need them. A vintage machine is not for everyone though, you have to love the quirks and personality. They sure do look cute sitting on your sewing table though!



What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I would consider strongly what it is you want to sew and what your temperament is in relation to machinery. Do you need to use a lot of different stitches? Do you want to machine quilt large things? Do you like knowing how your machines work and tinkering with them when things aren’t quite right or do you prefer to treat it like a black box? Knowing some of these answers ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.



Do you have a dream machine?
I had always wanted a featherweight but now I have one! The next machine I want is an industrial machine so I can sew even more ridiculous materials. My apartment can’t handle that now, but someday!

April Showers




My friend and co-worker is having a baby. The fact in itself is not surprising at all, but what is more unusual is that this is the first time I feel involved. By involved, I mean that it has fallen to me to organize things like baby showers and post-birth food deliveries. The new parents are not American and their families live far away so I feel like it is our responsibility to provide a support structure. I should point out that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when to comes to babies or baby related things. I have no siblings, I never babysat while I was growing up and I don’t know the first thing about dealing with small children. I don’t know what is supposed to happen at a baby shower either, but there I was having one in my apartment.

The one part of this whole baby experience I do feel mildly comfortable with is making things. I started with my standard baby shower gift, a flannel blanket (monkeys above, tutorial here) but I wanted to make something more this time.

I decided on a baby sling. At the suggestion of collected orange I used this pattern as a guideline. I chose the most gender neutral fabric I could find in my stash (a waterbed sheet from my parents circa 1978?) and paired it with an undyed flannel. The result is cozy flannel on the inside, printed fabric on the outside.






I’m a little worried that I made it too big for Mom, but I think it should fit Dad. I have many other fabrics suitable for a mom-sling so if they like it I will plan to make another one a bit smaller.

I also wanted to knit some baby footwear. After 4 failed attempts (too small, too big, etc.) I settled on Saartje’s Bootees (rav link, web link see sidebar) and some Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere I had in my stash. The buttons are vintage from my grandmother’s button jar. I think the booties are adorable, I only hope that they will fit at some point!





The shower itself was fine, I made it a potluck and the new mom requested no games and no pink, so basically we sat, snacked and visited. I consider that a success.

Next up on my list is organizing some food for the new family post-birth. I don’t know if I should do this formally or just tell people about it and have a free-for-all of food getting dropped off. I have an extra freezer down the street lined up to help out but otherwise the only preparation I have done is to ask Mom what she wants and doesn’t want to eat. Does anyone have suggestions for me? What works well or doesn’t work well? I’d love to get advice from some people with firsthand knowledge!

Making a sweater from a molehill




I’ve been spinning now for just about two years exactly.  In fact, I think I had just purchased my wheel days before Stitches West 2007.  I guess I didn’t dive head first into it, but I’ve now waded a good way into the spinning world and I’ve got many skeiens of unknit yarn to show for it.  Sure, I’ve knit a few things from handspun, some silk handwarmers (from my first spindle spinning attempts), a few hats (all ravelry links- 1) and scarves (1, 2) and a pair of mittens (which each see lots of wear) but I haven’t worked up to anything big yet.  Part of this is due to my scattered fiber buying.  I have small quantities of a large range of fiber types and colors from which I have been teaching myself about spinning.  This has been great for exploring the variety available but not so great for knitting up anything requiring more than 2oz (or sometimes 4oz) of material.

I have a goal: turn some of my handspun yarn stash into a full sized wearable garment.  I’m hoping to mostly use things already in my stash but I will accept the possibility that I need supplements to make this work.  I also realize this might require a multicolored garment, but I also contend that I have to make something wearable so it can’t be too technicolor.

My first idea is to make a yoked sweater with some colorwork at the top.  I’ve got many lovely bits and pieces in a similar gauge which could contribute to the colorwork. I even purchased some of them together with this in mind. This is one of my favs:



Yak from A Verb for Keeping Warm

but I also have



Thai Iced Tea BFL from A Verb for Keeping Warm.

and



Jade Merino-Silk from A Verb for Keeping Warm.

What I’m really missing is a substantial quantity of something to use for the body and sleeves. I do have a fair amount (just under 9oz) of polwarth from A Verb for Keeping Warm



but would guess that this is not enough for the body of a traditional yoked sweater unless I skip the sleeves. There might be a savior in my fiber stash, a lovely brown polwarth secret (an xmas present from girlontherocks…) that is not even washed yet. Perhaps that can solve my sweater body woes?

Does anyone have a good estimate for what percentage of a sweater the body and sleeves comprise? I have some idea in my head that I need about a pound of yarn to make a sweater, but I’m not sure of the proportional breakdown of each part. Any references or books I should check? I consulted EZ (Knitting Around) and found the percentage system for measuring size of sweater but nothing to help for estimating yarn requirements… If I had to guess I would put the yoke section at about 1/4 of the total sweater. This would make my 9oz of Polwarth too small, requiring more like 12oz.

Another option is to re-think my pattern direction, but I just don’t have any visions. Any ideas out there?

economic stimulus




I did my (small) part to stimulate the economy this weekend through a bit of shopping during the Stitches West 2009 conference. I had a great time this year-enjoying some time with friends and not getting too over-stimulated. Want to see what I got?

First, at the top is my new spindle. Made by Greensleeves Spindles from bloodwood in the style “Vixen” weighing in at 0.6oz.

Wensleydale top in olive tones (8oz total) from Lisa Souza.


Alpaca/Jacob blend in Red (6oz) from Toots LeBlanc.


A bit of Brenna! Prepared alpaca fleece (from Breanna) in jet black (3.8oz) from A star Alpacas.


Undyed cotton (2oz) from A Verb for Keeping Warm. I’m excited to give spinning cotton a try and I know I can always get more from Kristine’s shop (brick and mortar!) when I get the hang of it.


Last but not least I visited Krista at Pigeonroof Studios. I have had a recent re-interest in knitting socks so some superwash was in order! I got one roving in color spume


and one skein of “siren two lace” in charcoal.


I was also really excited to pick up some textile bobbins from Krista’s booth. I missed out on the bobbins at Color last October so I was happy to snag a few this time around.



It would, perhaps, have been a little easier to show all of these purchases in a single photo. Unfortunately natural light bright enough for photos lights up barely a few square feet of my apartment during weather like this (read: gray and rainy). I’ve currently got some kind of illness to go along with the gloomy weather. It is always a bit disappointing being sick. I feel bad staying home (and not getting work done) but I can’t really do anything fun at home either. My brain is a bit shot and my head and neck are very achy. Lets just hope I wake up tomorrow fresh as a daisy and let the week go on.

In any case, Stitches was fun and made me excited to make things, just as soon as I recuperate enough to think about it.

finie 1 (quilt)




We managed to finish the wedding quilt for n’s brother in time to take it across the country with us at Christmas (only 2.5 months after the wedding itself!). I spent an entire day working on it in December, first sewing the blocks together to make the quilt top, piecing the back together, and binding it together. It took another couple of hours to do the machine quilting and sew the binding on with the machine before we were ready to pack it (in a carry-on!) to bring with us. We finished the hand sewing of the binding in MD and I embroidered a patch with the names of the bride and groom and their wedding date.



I hung the quilt top in my window while I was trying to find sufficient light for photographs. It reminds me of stained glass and makes me want to sew pieced curtains someday.



The back. It is made mostly of a gray blue (delft blue kona cotton to be exact) with one pieced section. The light was not agreeing with me that day, it made me miss our old apartment.



Almost finished, nighttime shot. You can see the machine quilting here, I did straight lines again. I found it much easier doing the machine quilting this time around. I don’t know if it was because I used a different batting, but it was substantially easier. I thought about doing squares in each of the blocks, but I was under time constraints and I had done the lines before so I decided to stick with what I know. I think for the next quilt I would like to try free motion quilting.



My mediocre attempts at embroidery.



Nick helps with sewing the binding to the back.



All done! Cato approves.

I feel so relieved having this done!

Just to remind you about the details, pattern is a modified version of “Drunk Love Two-Tone” from the Denyse Schmidt Quilts book. We did 6 by 7 blocks with a small (3″) border of green on two sides. See the full progress here and all of the photos here.

coming together




Remember that quilt I was planning a while back? Yeah, I forgot about it too… Back when we found out they were getting married N and I decided to sew a wedding quilt for his brother and his wife. I got as far as cutting out the pieces before the wedding took place, but work and sewing wallets and bags took precedence so I haven’t touched it since September. I left the rest of the block piecing to n while I worked on other things. I won’t say he was diligent, but he did eventually get through them and the quilt squares are all finished.

Last night I laid them all out on the floor. There is a bit of a tighter fit in our apartment now (compared to the last time I did this) but I made enough space to lay out the design.



I didn’t follow the pattern I made on the computer when I was originally planning the quilt (or even look at it), but just having the constraints of distributing color and block type around made the layout similar to the original design:



N took things a step further and wrote a computer program to search for the optimal quilt layout based on edge color, center color, block type and highlight color. With 42 blocks there are 1×10^51 combinations possible. His program was still searching, but we took the best result so far and laid out the design.



Since the colors are fairly well distributed within the blocks, all of the desings look similar to me. I haven’t picked one yet, but since I picked up all of the blocks off the floor (If I don’t, the cat makes a mess of it) when I put them back down again I will surely make a new pattern. Who knows, maybe after another day of optimizing N’s program will give us the best result of all!

p.s.
Last weekend, while visiting the grand opening of the A Verb For Keeping Warm Workshop, I met some folks who suggested I take my bags over to a gallery space nearby. I did, and now there are a few bags and wallets for sale (in public!) should anyone happen to stumble upon them. The gallery is called blankspace and carries lots of cute handmade items, many of which I recognized from other local etsy sellers. I hope it goes well, but I’m not getting too excited this time.

where to go next?

*warning* long-winded post musing on craft business outlook below, reader beware!



(all photos from girl on the rocks)
I’ve been grappling for the last year or so about where I really see myself fitting into the craft business world. I have visions of the products I want to produce and I how I think everyone should love them, but I have been hesitant to really put in the work to go the extra distance and create a true promoted business. The path I have taken so far is to half-heartedly embrace the idea. I’ve produced a few things that I’m really excited about, but I haven’t spent much time marketing or polishing up an image that I can promote them on. The reality is that the business-y side of things doesn’t really interest me. I like creating and designing, but I’m not as excited about promoting or bookkeeping. I guess I viewed the Bazaar Bizarre 2008 as a bit of a test. If people seemed to like my items and buy them maybe it makes sense to put a little effort in on the business side and try this world out for a bit.



I thought I made a good faith effort, at least with the bags, wallets and chickens I made. I’ve been busy with work and traveling but it feels like I spent all of my spare moments sewing. I made a coat rack full of bags, each of which I thought was awesome. I put in the effort to sew bike inner tube edging on many of the bags (it is really difficult but is such a nice durable material). I made stacks of wallets and card holders out of a range of colors from vinyl banners. I sewed with salvaged high-tech sailcloth–a material I don’t see around in the craft world much but which is familiar to me because of my sailing background. I was hopeful and a little expectant, but my sales were rather dismal. Tweed Chickens did well (which is great) but I sold only two wallets (and both were to friends).



What went wrong? I have a few observations and a lot of questions. First, a lot of other people at the Baz Biz were selling wallets and bags, so I had direct competition. I though my display looked nice (but I may be wrong?) and people noticed the wallets. A lot of shoppers picked them up to examine them, but returned them to the table. People were especially drawn to the sailcloth ones – they look unusual. I suppose this shopping season is probably slower than last year and people might be choosing what they buy very carefully. Still, the other booths seemed to be making sales and I wasn’t. The only info I provided about the materials was “recycled wallets.” Do I need to provide more of a storyline for the materials I use? Were my prices wrong (either too high or too low)? My prices were in the same range as wallets at other tables, and the bags were difficult to compare since I don’t really think there were other bags like them.



Now I need to decide where to head next. Do I bail out now and abandon this whole project? Should I ramp up the effort and try again given the lackluster response last weekend? I know there is a lot more I could do, but given the response so far should I just give up now?

I’m trying to look at the situation objectively and not whine too much about it. I do feel like it is time to make some decisions though. Does anyone have some insight? Did anyone see my table set up and have comments or suggestions for how it could be done better?