Tonight I have two things that I'm most excited to share with you! The first I can't take any credit for whatsoever, but it was such a find.
I have a very dear aunt and uncle who live nearby. I can't begin to tell you how tremendous they are. We've had serious medical scares with both of them this past year, so these days I'm feeling hugely lucky to have them both alive and well. Anyway, I've been at their house a bit these past few days and just happened upon this quilt.
Yes, it's entirely handmade. Hand pieced, hand quilted, all from scraps, handmade. I was in disbelief when I first saw it. I can't imagine the work that goes into something like that! Granted, I'm hand quilting my niece's quilt, slowly but surely, but doing all the piecing too? Gracious. Obviously, handmade quilts aren't all that rare, but I seem to think they're something of a legend, a myth, falling somewhere on the scale between four-leafed clovers and leprechauns.
I wonder about all the love that went into it, what else those fabrics were used for, what was going on in the quilter's life when she made this. Don't you put all of that stuff into your crafting? I think after I'm gone my projects will be able to tell my life story better than anyone, if only you could get it out of them. Anyway, It's the happiest quilt I've ever seen. You know, I think my favorite part is the red binding. Note to self - my next quilt must have a red binding. Till then I'll marvel at this one whenever I'm visiting my aunt and uncle.
Next up, a sneak peak! This year my goal was to give as many handmade Christmas gifts as I could. That was a great plan until I remembered that Christmas is also my busy season as a horn player. Thus, my family will be celebrating Three Kings Day and sending Happy New Year cards this year, but that's ok. Nonetheless, I've been wondering about how craft bloggers deal with Christmas. You don't want to give away any surprises, but what happens when most of your projects are meant as gifts? So I'm hoping the recipient(s) of this particular item still pretend to be surprised, whether they guess it or not. And I promise more pictures after the holidays are over!
Tonight I have two things that I'm most excited to share with you! The first I can't take any credit for whatsoever, but it was such a find.
at 10:33 PM
These days I find my self drawn to the intentional use of white in decorating. And I don't mean the use of white as a safe default color, I mean a solid commitment to a neutral color scheme.
These are from emmas designblogg, and there's a great set on flickr as well.
Now, you've seen the orange walls in my living room. That's only the beginning. I once likened my apartment to the inside of a Crayola box. Truly, I don't think my apartment would wear white walls very well, and I do enjoy the colorful existence we have going on. But here's my thought. I have a large piece of canvas tacked above my couch in said living room. That canvas has traveled with me since my first apartment, and it's painted in colors from the house I grew up in. But what if I turned it over (it's not stretched) and painted the back white? It would certainly be a conscious, intentional decorative use of the color white, and maybe it would inject some clarity and peace into my otherwise untameable living room. At least it would be cheap, and I could always flip it back over if I'm not keen on the result. Any thoughts?
Ouch, it's such a shock in comparison to the lovely white photos above. Maybe it's time to get on to recovering that couch too. Something must be done. Consider this a before picture!
at 12:16 AM
Just stopping in to say hi. We had a Christmas party this evening, so I'm on my way to bed.
Today I dried orange slices and hung in the windows as ornaments. We haven't gotten a tree yet, unfortunately. Our line of work makes this a busy season. But for now, orange slices perk up our orange living room pretty nicely. The only trick will be convincing the monster, I mean cat, that they're not for him. Anyway, till tomorrow!
at 1:18 AM
Fred always scolds me when I start a project without the proper preparation. Usually this involves paint. It's not uncommon for me to start painting without putting a drop cloth down, but I've gone so far as to paint a dresser without actually taking the clothes out of the drawers. Yeah, it's bad, I know. So it should come as no surprise to hear that I learned more about making marshmallows after I had started the process than before. My recipe looked good and was well reviewed, so I dove right in.
Well, the good news is that they taste great. The less fortune news, the part I figured out after the fact, is that marshmallows really do work better when fluffed up in a tabletop mixer. Sources say that 10 - 15 minutes with a whisk attachment allows the marshmallow goo to triple in volume. Alas, as this baby is not yet a part of my counter top arsenal, I tried using my food processor. I use that food processor pretty successfully for just about everything, so I figured it should work for this recipe too. And the results?
Yeah, they're a little on the skinny side. Maybe even leaning towards dense and slightly chewy. Bummer, you say. But wait, dear friends, there's hope! This is the perfect application for that multi-purpose life lesson: Chocolate makes everything better!
And now, just consider the possibilities! These handsome things are fated for so much more than your standard hot chocolate. Bite sized and delicious, they're the perfect size and shape for microwave smores! Come on, you know you love the idea....
at 10:29 PM
Anybody there? Oh hi, it's me. Yowzers, it's been over a month. So here's my plan. I'd like to post once a day from now till Christmas. I'm going to subject you to whatever pictures I can squeeze out of my day, whatever updates and meanderings I find to blog about. I like the idea of getting some practice with my camera, and I love checking in on other blogs that update often. After that, we'll see where this takes us. Bear with me, folks.
In the meantime, let's gloss over the past few weeks, shall we? Fred and I did indeed make it up to visit my sister over Thanksgiving, despite a persistent ice storm. It was quite beautiful, once we got off the road.
Then, speaking of ice storms, we battled another one this past week on our way out to visit my alma mater. I haven't been back since I left, and being there again was awesome. Gosh, I miss that place.
And for as much as I enjoy Boston, I've never found a coffee house quite like the one we frequented in Rochester.
I don't even want to tell you how much time I spent there during those 4 years. It hasn't changed a bit, thank goodness. Check out the painting up there, the woman with the red tights. I've wanted that painting for years. Alas, she's not for sale.
But enough of my nostalgia! Christmas is coming! That means homemade ornaments...
Wicked dark chocolate...
And handmade peppermint patties!
Yeah, those guys are crazy good. Who knew that you could make peppermint patties with only 5 ingredients? I have this strange concept of certain foods, where I don't really perceive of them as having existed before they came in mass produced, individually wrapped sizes. Peppermint patties fall in that category, as do granola bars, cough drops, veggie burgers, and marshmallows. I mean, really, who came up with these things? But I am here to tell you that peppermint patties can be made with 5 ingredients, and not a single preservative. Love that. And just to tick another item off that list, tune in tomorrow for my expo on marshmallows! Thanks for stopping in, and have a good night!
at 11:15 PM
I'm trying my hand at a French Onion Soup recipe from my favorite recipe website. That in itself has nothing to do with this post, except that my whole apartment smells of caramelizing onions and the windows are getting steamy with its happiness while I write. I've never made French Onion Soup before, but I love onions and it sounded like warm goodness. I'll have to let you know how it turns out. But on to our regularly scheduled topics.
This is my second elephant, made and personalized for Audrey, my dear niece. The body is a delicious flannel, and the purple accents are fabric from her quilt. I've decided that I love the splayed legs, design flaw or not. The result is so endearing!
And of course, the tail.
We're going up to visit them for Thanksgiving, and I can't wait. My sister says that she's just started holding her own bottle. Rather, she grabbed it from her Dad's hands, as in, "I can do it just fine by myself, thank you very much. Thbbbt." Ah, Miss Independent, just like her Mama. She sounds amazing.
So despite the derth of posts, it's not like I haven't been working on anything! My biggest project right now is Burda's Steffi jacket. I'm making it in a rich burgundy baby-wale cord with a blue lining. The outer part is nearly done, and I just need to get to the lining. I think it will be the perfect Thanksgiving jacket, and I shall reporting more when it's done. But right now that's boring, at least in comparison to THIS:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am now spinning my own yarn! I ordered myself a bottom whorl drop spindle on Etsy, and I can't seem to put it down. Really, it's addictive. I was totally swayed by the yarn and batts over at hobbledehoy's Etsy shop. What amazing colors! But I had to figure it out first on a bit of roving that came with the spindle, and this is the result. Don't be deceived by scale, that little ball is less than 2" across. This isn't a volume business yet. But let me tell you, I carried my first two yards of yarn around, tickled pink. And now onto the good stuff! I'll let you know when there's more than 2 yards to report on :) Till then, be well!
at 6:26 PM
"The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea." -- Isak Dinesen
I love the ocean. Simply, it makes things better. So I was playing a gig in Duxbury the other day, not even a mile from the beach, and couldn't resist a visit.
It was beautifully grey and and windy. I think it would have only been more perfect had a thunder storm rolled in.
These guys were showing off their fall colors quite nicely. I'm in awe of the plant life that roughs it through those kinds of conditions.
Alas, I couldn't stay for too long, but I think these fellows were happy to see me go. As for me, I played a concert that night with sandy feet, and was so pleased for it.
And in other news, after taking dozens of pictures at the beach, I dropped my purse getting out of my car when I got home. Beach rocks in my purse collided with said camera, and the poor thing is completely toasted. My display cracked. Hooray!!!!! I've been pining after this handsome thing for weeks now. I wasn't going to get it till mid-November, but this was the perfect excuse! Fate, I'm telling you. It should arrive on Wednesday, and I'm wicked excited. And amazingly, I got an extended warranty when I originally bought the now-deceased camera. Now Fred will be the happy recipient of that shiny new replacement model. New toys all around! Peace :)
at 9:43 PM
Fred's cousin, Jenn, just had her first baby, a little boy they named Cole. They're out in California, but Jenn's parents, Fred's aunt and uncle, are here in the Boston area. The family held a video-conference coast-to-coast baby shower this weekend. I was playing my last day of shows, but Fred was able to go. A couple of days before he asked if he could show up empty handed, having no time to go find a baby gift. Actually, I think he was utterly terrified by the mere thought of having to shop for a baby gift. He is a 25 year old guy, after all. (Love you, Fred!) Well, me being the adventurous one I am, I set down with my trusty sketch pad and sewing machine and got to work. And a few hours later, this poor hapless creature came to be.
Sigh. Yeah, those little legs were supposed to aim downwards, such that he might actually stand up on them. But no, this little guy is all splayed out instead. His little belly has so much girth that he's more whale-like than elephantile. I have a knack for design flaws, don't I? I saw it coming as I was sewing him together, and I couldn't decide whether to laugh or start over. So I laughed. Thank goodness Fred's family has a sense of humor! He's pretty cute, nonetheless.
And check out his little tail! I'm all about personalizing things these days, and I was so stoked to use my new cotton tape and letter stamps. I think that's awesome. I'm still pleased to have designed and made something, no matter how curious he is. Maybe I'll tweak the pattern before I make one for my sister's baby.
And there you have it! Welcome Cole, and congrats to Jenn and Seth! Happy Sunday, everyone.
at 1:55 PM
Hey, like my new title bar? I know, the name has nothing to do with "dilettante," but I'm digging it.
Today, a photo excursion.
These came in the mail for me the other day. The plan is to make labels:
Also, so you can see, I actually finished something!
The second burst is a variation on the first. You could say it's in the process of bursting, while the other is still building up energy. I'm going to say I did it on purpose.
And next, my new bag:
I'm loving it. I made it to replace this one, which had some design faults.
I was excited for the leather and studs when I made it, but it lacked a snap, didn't hold its shape well, and the handles couldn't stay on my shoulders. The new one is definitely an improvement.
I'm loving that it's punchy, despite the muted colors. Yay for Ikea fabric! And yes, that is my orange living room wall you see behind it.
More on bags next time. They might be my new addiction, they're so much fun. I'm chewing on an idea, and we'll see if I go anywhere with it. Peace.
at 2:40 PM
First off, and as always, apologies for my long absence. I've come down with a bad case of business, but I'll refrain from going into detail, as it seems to be going around. You'll probably catch it sooner or later, if you haven't got it yet.
I've been wracking my brain over a better title for this blog. I don't know about you, but when I look at a list of blogs I'm much more likely to check out something called "whispering pine" or "brooklyntweed" or "moonstitches" than simply a name. But I haven't come up with anything to suit me. Until this evening, perhaps.
Some of the blogs I admire (ok, idolize, study) are written by women who do this sort of thing professionally. I'm really only dabbling, no matter how delightful (and expensive and time consuming) a hobby it may be. So I was browsing one of these professional blogs for reasons we'll get to shortly, and the author had a post on the word "dilettante." A quick trip to Answers.com tells us that a dilettante could be either a dabbler or a lover of the fine arts. How perfect! That's it precisely! And now, for a moment, on to the juicy stuff.
This evening I found some of the blog sphere in a hullabaloo. Here's the long of the short of it, and pardon my gossipy tone. Jane Brocket a professional "domestic artist," wrote a book. I haven't seen the book, but her blog (from which I have happily borrowed "dilettante") is fantastic. She received a scathing and catty review, in which she was called a "domestic evangelist" and the homemaking genre was likened to "domestic porn." There have been some fantastic responses, and I'll refrain from adding my own, except to say that I hope to be counted among the ilk of bloggers and domestics that the article refers to. The abundance of supportive and creative energy that floats around online and in our homes is a beautiful thing.
Alas, it seems someone else has already sprung on "Domestic Dilettante." So I'll mull on it some more, but I like where this is going. And now, I'm going to get back to my domestic porn. I mean embroidery.
at 10:27 PM
It's a miracle, I finished something! I'm notoriously slow in finishing projects (ask Fred about last year's Christmas present) but I decided that this year's winter wear would be different. Admittedly, I think it's because I pined for cooler weather all summer, and working on a scarf was my only consolance. Nonetheless, ta-da!
The scarf is the Isobel pattern from Cider Moon. It's my first lace, and thankfully it's simple and knits up quickly. And I don't actually know what the yarn is! I'm always grabbing yarn from somewhere or another, and not paying much attention to detail. I think this was a recent buy from Misty Hollow, my sister's favorite yarn and craft store in Potsdam, NY. It's lovely, though. Sometimes variegated yarn knits out in stripes, and that's all well and good, but I love the flecks and short snippets of color in this one.
And the mittens, indeed, are my first self-created pattern! I will post the pattern in the coming days. But this is a huge step for me. I've gone so far as to crochet mittens and hats before, as they just go in circles and are easy enough to tear out and fix when you mess up. But I felt brave to tackle mittens, knitting them in the round. Truly, they're a little bigger than they need to be. Maybe I'll go felt them some and get them down to size. I'm enjoying the nubby white yarn, and I like them for their simplicity.
That's all for now! Some day I'll finish hand quilting Audrey's quilt, and yes, I said hand quilting. Till then, or whatever comes in between, peace, and have a good night!
at 11:05 PM
Well, I'm definitely not back to school, for the first time in 20 years! But the fall also brings the start of orchestra seasons, the choir year, horn lessons, and now my show as well. I imagine I'll always feel the start of the New Year in September. Fall is a fantastic thing to celebrate anyway. But it's a bit of a shame that I get busy as soon as the weather turns cooler. I'm so tempted to wrap myself up in my quilting and knitting instead!
Nonetheless, I have been able to squeeze in some projecting between things, so I'll share a bit. This had been a pillow, or rather, two bargain bin fabrics haphazardly thrown together and stuffed. Boring, unoriginal, it hadn't found the love it deserved. The back is a tan velvet, and the top is light blue, something I would say resembles a dupioni silk. There's a lot of potential there, so when I found this delightful project I knew it had to be. It just needs a few more rounds of the white before I put it back together and re-stuff it. Now if only I could reupholster the couch it's supposed to sit on, we'd be in great shape!
Next, let me tell you about my first adventure with fabric.com. I'm skeptical of ordering things online. What if the colors aren't what they appear on my monitor? What if the weight and texture aren't what I was hoping for? And no, I'm not really patient enough to order swatches. I'm barely patient enough to make muslins! On top of that, I'm skeptical of fabric stores in general. I'm so often disappointed by the quality and selection that I find at standard fabric stores. So pardon my sounding like an advertisement, but I ordered 5 things from fabric.com, all at great prices, and I'm so impressed! This is one of Anna Maria Horner's. It shall be the lapel detailing on this lovely jacket. And thank you BurdaStyle. I love free patterns. I'm new to the concept of free patterns, and I'm such a fan. Free patterns, a great fabric selection with decent prices, cooler weather, and I'm a happy girl. If only I had time to work on it all! I'll keep you posted as things progress. Happy Fall!
at 1:06 PM
Let me start by saying that my first and last embroidery attempt was probably more years ago than my first and last successful quilting attempt. And that isn't to say my first embroidery attempt was successful. I think I spent more time using my embroidery thread to make friendship bracelets!
So this foray into embroidery hasn't been a highly refined project. However, there is one benefit that has come from my embroidery greenness. I don't know if I'm doing it well or not! Well, that's not entirely true. Rather, I'm enamored with every little design I come up with and stitch onto the quilt, as it's all still brand new to me. It's nice to not be overly judgmental about something I made! So if you have any inclination to start up a new hobby or project, I highly recommend it. You'll be so pleased with anything you come up with, and that's such a happy thing.
And furthermore, thank goodness for the internet. I love that I can crawl around online and find stitching dictionaries and directions to make this all possible. I picked a bunch of different stitches and effects, and what you see is a sample of my sampler.
And here's a note to my sister: I've added details to 10 pieces so far. It's a scavenger hunt! I'll let you know the final count, and you get to report back when you find them all. Love you!
at 7:57 PM
Like I mentioned, I've been busy working on a quilt for these two lovely ladies. It's been a long time since my last successful quilt, which was actually my first successful quilt. I was maybe 10 years old, and it was a small baby-sized nine patch. Thank goodness I've become a lot more patient since. I could barely finish it back then! Well, it's still hard for me to finish a project, as witnessed by the various single knitted gloves and mittens tucked in my knitting basket. I get so excited about the next project that I can't bring myself to start and finish a mate to the first. But nonetheless, the top of the quilt is pieced!
With some great instructions for the Crazy Nine Patch, and a bit more inspiration, this was a snap. I did add borders, but you can't really see them in this shot. And now I find myself both full of ideas, and at a complete loss! I plan to add some appliques and embroider here and there, both to bring out designs in the fabric and to personalize it for Audrey. Nothing too huge, but I really like the idea of adding tiny hidden details throughout the quilt top. But as for the quilting, I'm stumped. That first nine patch was probably a stitch-in-the-ditch-er. I think all failed quilting attempts since then were going to be tied, probably again for lack of patience. But now I don't have a repertoire of quilting designs to pull from! I'll wait for inspiration to hit, and until then I'll busy myself with the embroidery. I just hope to finish this before my niece grows out of the color pink!
But how sweet are these fabrics? I think the white one with the little pink flowers is so precious. Of course, not a single project can go by without Baxter's assistance and approval.
My other project for the day was to take head shots of my handsome boyfriend. Fred has a fancy-pants solo gig in about a month, and needs something for publicity. I'm so excited for him. This is the beginning of our first year out of school, and freelancing is a scary proposition. We've both been relatively successful in different ways, but a solo engagement is really fantastic. Anyway, I'm not a photographer by any means, but we got some fun shots. So for your viewing pleasure, Fred Sienkiewicz.
And of course, one of Sam and Batty prowling around on the porch while we were trying to shoot. Happy Labor Day, and I hope you can enjoy some good company and good weather this weekend!
at 2:51 PM