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.

beginning (year)

(gratuitous pretty photo, sunset in Hawaii in October 2008)

There are plenty of reminders all throughout the year of time passing. I have a running list of anniversaries of random and unimportant events in my head, maybe not tied to specific dates, but to the passing of different seasons and emotions. Why is it that the New Year is the one annual event that we strongly associate retrospection with? I’ve been living on the academic calendar so long that it no longer seems like the break between years belongs in January.

Nevertheless, I suppose the turning over of the calendar is as good a time as any for evaluating ones life, taking stock of where one stands and in what direction one is heading. On that note, I have a few things I plan to try out in the time going forward from now. Call them resolutions if you want, but I prefer not to.

1. I would like to be less stressed.
The holidays have been relaxing for me. I feel like I’m coming down from months of stress. Maybe years? I’m having trouble remembering the last time I felt relaxed for an extended period of time. Being a scientist (or, more accurately, trying to be a scientist) is an entirely self-motivated profession. With freedom comes responsibility, namely responsibility for your own success. I know that those with a normal desk job will balk at me for complaining (though please note I make poverty level wages for the bay area) but despite all the freedom and flexibility, or maybe because of it, there is a lot of guilt and stress associated with work. Anyone who is self employed must have an idea of this feeling. I do no one any good when I’m stressed out. I’m no fun for n or anyone else, especially me.

I have a few ideas about how I will accomplish this. Somehow I need to be productive at work, come home to make dinner and still have a little time for crafting. I know at least this last fall I let the crafting get the better of me by over committing myself to too many projects with deadlines. The quilt was hanging over me while I was trying to sew for the bazaar bizarre and all the while I was working until late and feeling stressed about dinner (n used to do most of the cooking but his new job includes with it a 1-2 hour commute and he rarely gets home before 8pm). I think this leads nicely to:

2. Do more meal planning (including grocery shopping) ahead of time.
It is the planning that I find harder than the actual cooking. If I know what I’m going to make I can just go into auto-cooking mode and make food. Ideas for what to make are the precious commodity around here. I think I need to spend some time studying our shelf of cookbooks (we got some new ones for xmas) and get more ideas about what I can make.

3. Have more fun crafting and make fewer commitments.
I think I will stay off the craft fairs for a while. I’m happy to go and help others, but I think I’ll stick to other ways of selling my wallets and bags. I want to make another quilt, but I think this one will be for us and won’t have a deadline.

4. Make a plan for the next two years. I need to really figure out what I need to do to finish my PhD and where that is going to leave me when I am done.

There they are, my thoughts for how to look forward into the next year. Did anyone else make resolutions? What kind of things to do you include on your list?

fini 2 (year)

A few photos and notes to remember the last year. The photo above is me and Marie taken by Snake Oil.

Last January we moved. I think I’m still recovering and getting the apartment organized. Just yesterday I finally put all of the cookbooks on the same shelf! I miss the light in the old apartment, but otherwise the new place is really nice.

We went to see elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park but saw no fights and no blood (sorry Luis!). We also discovered (or re-discovered) the coconut ice cream at Mary Anne’s in Santa Cruz.

We went to two Jens Lekman concerts in two nights. I loved it. (all I can give you is the wikipedia page, his own site seems to have disappeared)

We “ran” the bay 2 breakers this year. N spent the whole time being amazed that such an event is allowed to happen every year.

We went backpacking in King’s Canyon National Park with friends.

One of my best childhood friends got married and all of us were there. I had a lot of fun and even survived the next day.

Bean! She is still loud, demanding and adorable as ever. A perfect match!

I visited friends and fish in Seattle. I always seem to visit the Ballard locks when I’m in Seattle. It might be because I know how to get there, but the fish have something to do with it too. I’m looking forward to seeing them (friends at least) again in April.

I helped tear apart a house in Alaska. Hearty Alaskan folk that they are, they survived 4 months with no stove and just put it back in the week before Thanksgiving.

I finally vacationed with an old friend’s family at a lake up in the Sierra Nevada Mountians. I’ve been meaning to go for so many years.

The annual department camping trip. This year we went to Lassen NP. An active volcano is always a good place for earth scientists.

N’s band played at the Lebowski Fest. You have never seen so many people dressed as Walter Sobchak.

Then there was the marathon:
The Wedding (with it’s associated quilt)
Bazaar Bizarre

Finally to end it all off, a little Christmas Travel

and some hello/farewell freezing cold New Years Even warehouse fun.

I’ll leave you with my most viewed photo (on flickr) from last year, the Mel-o-dee wallpaper. This year saw the bar change hands but the wallpaper stayed. Hooray! Happy New Year everyone!

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!

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?

it’s Bazaar Bizarre time!

My marathon (parts 1, 2 and 3) is almost over. The last big event is the Bazaar Bizarre this Sunday in SF. I’ll be there sharing a table (officially!) with Girl on the Rocks.

The details:
Sunday November 30th 2008, 10:00am – 5:00pm
San Francisco County Fair Building Golden Gate Park, San Francisco (9th Avenue at Lincoln Way) – Map
$1 at the door – 50% of Proceeds go to Out of Site Center for Art Education

Need more incentive to stop by? I teamed up with Girl on the Rocks (moustaches, fiber and stitch markers) and A Verb for Keeping Warm (naturally dyed fiber and yarn) to offer a coupon!

Please stop by and say hello!

There are some really great other vendors at the show selling all sorts of wares – clothes, letterpressed cards, recycled notebooks etc. Our table will be next to the ever fantastic Sweet Meats (I’m sitting on the couch with my pork chop right now!). Just follow your nose to the moustaches and recycled vinyl banners. If you spot plush steaks you are right near by!

I’ve had a really difficult time deciding how much product I will need for this event. This is the first event where I have officially had part of a table and also the first time I will be bringing bags. I keep oscillating between thinking that there is no way I have sewn enough and that maybe no one will buy anything and I’ve got way too much stuff… I guess I just have to wait and see which scenario plays out. Wish me luck!

paris etc. (traveling part 3)

The last trip was for another conference, this on in Hyeres in the South of France (even, perhaps, near to where the naked ladies danced). Some of the employees at Air France had the good timing to go on strike for the day that I was trying to fly from Paris to the south (how French of them..). I was concerned that my complete lack of French language skills was going to be a problem when I arrived in Paris and would have to make alternate arrangements. It all worked out and I made it south despite my flight being canceled. Just to convince me that traveling by rail wouldn’t have solved my problems, the train went on strike the day we were to return north.

The conference hotel was set up on the hill near the old part of town. The vegetation was decidedly Mediterranean (like California) but the narrow steep streets and ruins of a castle at the top of the hill were quite unlike anything I would find at home.

After the conference I went to Paris for a few days to visit C, S and T. They moved there last July and I was eager to see how things are going for them. I was also excited to see in person how S’s etsy shop is coming along. I’ve seen the adorable photos and I’m here to say that the clothes are just as cute in person, especially on your favorite toddler.

Photo by collected orange, dress on etsy

I’ve never been to France before, so I spent my four days walking around Paris. The weather was mostly cooperative, with dramatic skies and occasional rain. We even got a little snow during our Sunday morning trip to the market. My friends showed me around town during the weekend, and I showed myself around the other days.

I peeked in the windows of a few Parisian crafty shops, but only took photos from the outside.
Ribbon store.

Yarn store (the skeins were hung on the wall in a lovely rainbow which is barely visible).

My travel knitting was a second pair of mittens from the Selbuvotter mitten book. The colors in this photo are off, but I had to show the perfect blue skies the morning I flew out.

I tried to sleep on the flight home, but I was really excited about flying over Greenland and catching a glimpse of sea ice so I did a lot of dozing on the window waiting for breaks in the clouds. I was rewarded a few times.

Now I’m back at home, a bit in a daze from the jet lag and wishing the sun were here! I must have left it in Paris…

losing the sun (traveling part 2)

I’ve been on a marathon for about a month and a half now. Only a few more days before I can really relax..

What have I been up to this whole time? Well, I’m glad you asked. First I went with N to his brother’s wedding in MD (but I mentioned that already…).

Next was the Color Fiber Festival. I actually missed about half of the festival because I had to go to my office and finish up my poster for the next branch of my adventure. Here we are setting up the Girl On The Rocks booth.

I got several really nice things at Color but I haven’t gotten a chance to spin any of them yet.

I think I am most excited about the drafted lamb’s fleece (Tanner, from Flynn Creek Churros). It is a lovely shade of chocolate brown and quite soft.

I also scored a gorgeous roving from Krista at Pigeonroof Studios. I kept looking through all of the selections and pulling the same one out, so I knew it was the right color for me!

Yak from A verb for keeping warm.

California Variegated Mutant (love the name!) from Tactile fiber arts.

The next morning I flew several thousand miles in the opposite direction to Hawaii for a conference and a few days of exploring. I made a best effort to spend as many sunsets at the beach as possible. I think I did pretty well.

I discovered a few things about traveling alone in a tropical locale. For one, it is difficult to put sunscreen on your own back. In response to this realization one person said that it would be an excellent opportunity to make friends on the beach. I chose to wear a shirt instead.

For lack of motivation to do much driving on my own I spent one entire day sitting on this beach:

It was time well spent.

When I returned home it was all of a sudden winter, and I was just in time for the election and a few days of intense work and a little sewing.

More sewing you might ask? Yes (!), more sewing. I’m frantically trying to prepare for the Bazaar Bizarre! I’ve been trying my best to cram a little sewing into all the cracks in my life. I’m going to make it (the show is this Sunday!) but I might not want to look at a vinyl banner or my sewing machine for a while afterward. If you are in the area please stop by! I’ll be at a booth with Girl On The Rocks – just follow your nose to the table of moustaches and recycled vinyl. Expect another post about the event soon…

I agree with the Smilodon*

photo from girlontherocks

I hope you do too! Respect your fellow Californians and vote NO on Prop 8.

*The Smilodon is our building guardian left over from the days when paleontology was part of the geology department. He spent much of the last few years staring at a temporary construction building inches from his nose, and now he just wants to be heard!