Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cleaning Up My Rubbish For The New Year

Looking for the quilt giveaway? Find it here!

So 2010 is almost over. A few days before Christmas, I cleaned up my sewing table - to the point that it was unrecognizable as the same miserable mess of drafting paper, elastic cord, homeless zippers, one million thread spools and lint that it'd been all year.

I almost don't want to begin sewing again, just to keep it looking the way it does now. But I have an owl to make for a friend's birthday, and I think I might want to sew a fleece robe for myself, so..... hello again, mess.

I have two big organizing tasks to do for the new year. The first, which I finished this week, was to refresh the art wall in the kids' playroom. Their old art wall boasted masterpieces from as far back as 2008 - almost entirely Emily's, because she was essentially the only functioning artist then.

To do this, I had to clear out the art basket (thing into which all the artwork from school, the kitchen table, church etc is dumped) and sift through pieces like these:

Took me two days - why? Because I wasted time getting sentimental and nostalgic over each piece. They eventually did get sorted - some into folders for storage, some into the trash, and some onto the three new art walls.

So Art Walls - check.

The second task is to - eeewwwww - clean up my sewing closet. The current situation is reprehensible - I have the space, but no system. Everything is everywhere else. I have never organized my fabric in a visible way before. All of it was in giant opaque tubs, and whether it saw the light of day again depended solely on my very dubious memory. I know how I'm going to organize it (and by "organize", I mean "make visible") but it's daunting. Worse - there's probably ugly fabric from my teenage past in there too - I'm scared about having those pop out at me and bathe me in shame forever.

But don't let me regale you with tales of my lousy housekeeping. Let's look forward to the new year! What new projects/skills/techniques/fabric-buying resolutions have you got? I'm going the same way as my 2010 resolutions:
  1. Do not pick up knitting.
  2. Do not pick up crocheting.
  3. Do not pick up wool felting.
  4. Do not pick up quilting.
  5. Do not buy any more filthy camera bags from garage sales from which to poach hardware, because we all know they will stay under the sewing table for months, fighting for space with the spare Singer (does it even work?) that we refuse to throw out/donate to Goodwill because we're paranoid that the Pfaff will die during a massive thunderstorm and we will be left without a means to finish the wretched Halloween costumes and will have to resort to the glue gun, which should really only be used for Supreme Cardboard, most of which is also under the sewing table, along with the rolls of newspaper that are half-finished drafts of who-knows- what pattern for who-knows-which kid.

Yes. By my calculations, that should leave me enough time in 2011 to make a few cardboard things and sew a few toys. Maybe even clothes. Some of you might call this narrowist crafting discrimination and close-mindedness. I'm calling it survival.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Pocketful of Sky -A Summary and A Giveaway

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! We were away for the weekend with family, and we're now home again, marveling at the ridiculous amounts of snow everywhere. Our deck, for instance, is about 3 feet deep in snow. Grrrr.

Well, our series on pockets is finished!

25 posts full of them!

Some easier than others, some more exciting than others.
But all blue. And all sewn on the same thready, quilty white fabric.

Was I actually making something?

Yes, I was -

I call it A Pocketful of Sky -

A (faux) quilt full of pockets - 26 different ones:

Top row:

Second row:

Third row:

Fourth row:

Fifth row:

Bottom row:

Here are links to the other commentary posts in this series:

Back to the quilt - I made two, actually.

The first was for me and the kids. I meant it as a sort of inspiration wall for myself, but we ended up using it as an advent calendar with two extra pockets for candy wrappers. The kids loved playing with all the different pockets, even when it was yet half-finished and full of pins. Had to shoo them away just so they'd be safe. I finished mine the traditional way - with a backing and binding.

The second one is for you. Well, one of you - I'm giving it away as a Happy New Year present!
You can use it as an advent calendar, too - for Christmas or to count down to Spring 2011.

But I finished yours differently - the backing is only buttoned on

so you can unbutton it, peel it back, and examine all the innards of 26 pockets. I made it to be a teaching tool as well as a reference guide-cum-inspiration wall - to let you study pocket construction to your heart's content.

If you would like to win the Pocketful of Sky teaching quilt, this is what to do:

Blog about the pocket series and the teaching quilt.

It doesn't have to be a long post - the point is to spread the word so other people can come here to learn about pockets. If you'd like some visuals, go ahead and use 1 or 2 photos from this blog. If you don't have a blog, you could also post about it in a public group forum - only please make sure viewers don't need to register/become members to read it.

Then come back here and leave a comment with a link to your post.
I'll check all your links, and pick a comment at random.
I can ship internationally, so anyone in the world can enter.

I'll leave the giveaway open till bedtime of 1 January 2011 and pick the winner the next day.

Good luck, everyone!

If Ever I Am Cured of My Non-Fondness of Print Fabric

Orla Kiely will be the one to do it.

My husband gave me this for Christmas:


He and I have had quite a few conversations on how to procure fabric like this, without having to

  1. pawn our limbs for what they cost on ebay
  2. having our London-dwelling friends stake out her flagship store with a large brick
  3. silkscreen/paint our own canvas with (doubtless) disastrous results.

One shelf of my cotton fabric stash is categorized into
  1. The Main Event (solids, dots, ginghams)
  2. Accents (prints)
  3. Grab First In Case Of Fire (Orla Kiely)

See -
this is how to make bags that are feminine and non-boxy without resorting to ruffles, pleats or gathers.

And - be still, my beating, top-stitch-obsessed heart - this is what covetousness looks like:

OK - technically, that last one was not a print fabric. So maybe I'm not cured yet. But I'm close.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


There was an old woman who lived in a shoe

She had so many children she didn't know what to do

So she got out her typewriter and rolled out a letter
To a faraway boarding school, the farther the better.

And there did her little brood spend all their time

In classrooms with teachers to keep them in line

At Reading, aRithmetic, wRiting - with pens*-

In dorm rooms that feel like sleepovers with friends.

At meals in the dining hall (or out on the grass

On days when the weather is especially first-class).

With lessons and good friends and quizzes and rules

A full education they'll get at this school!

*before the advent of personal computers

Welcome to Kindergarten!
The girls and I are reading Enid Blyton's Naughtiest Girl series right now. As a kid, I'd always enjoyed fantasizing about being in the kind of boarding schools in Blyton's books - Whyteleafe, Mallory Towers, St Clare's. They had fabulous uniforms, they had seasonal sports, they had midnight feasts, they had wonderful no-nonsense teachers, and they had NO Chinese lessons. Ah, the stuff dreams are made of.

I made Jenna's Kindergarten a younger version of boarding school.

Want the tour?

There is the dorm room

that has pockets (yes, I've got them on the brain now)
for beds,
a night stand with an alarm clock

and a washstand with toothbrushes and a washbasin/sink.

There's the classroom with chairs and a chalkboard

that flips to change the lesson:

And there's the picnic ground

with a pond

a little book

and a picnic blanket

that has little teacups sewn on

a teapot

and plates of cheese sandwiches and fruit.

The picnic blanket is itself a large pocket (he he!)
that stores all the picnic paraphernalia.

The chairs, chalkboard, nightstand and
washstand unfold flat when not in use

and Kindergarten

folds up into school-on-the-go when the day is done.

Here are some photos of the kids playing with it
(we had part I of gift-opening last night).

Jenna: The kids get scared and might want to switch beds with each other.

Me: Why do the kids get scared, Jenna?

Jenna (rolling her eyes): Because the girls are seven years old and the boys are ten years old and they're in full day kindergarten so sometimes at nighttime, the girls get scared 'cos their bedroom light is really dark when you turn it off.

Kate sang lullabies to the dollies.

Crazy, huh, what shoots off from that simple stand-up beanbag idea? Thanks again, Ms Muffin for the incredible German fabric- look what you made me do!

Merry Christmas, everyone!