Monday, January 31, 2011

... listening

one of my favorite things, when i get ready to sit down for a few hours of sewing, is to queue up some podcasts to accompany me. so i thought i'd share some of my favorites with you, and then you can tell me what you like to listen, and perhaps we can all discover something new?

[now, don't get me wrong, i do love music, but sewing usually puts me in a quieter, more meditative mood, one that enjoys being talked at. music i save for housecleaning, driving, showering and grading papers (not all at the same time, duh).]

selected shorts



ooh boy, do i love a good short story. i used to read them all the time in high school and college and then got completely burned out because i discovered that most modern short stories follow this pattern: funny, funny, sad, sad, sad, sad, poignant, sad, heartbreakingly sad. and that can get tiresome. but there's something about the stories that they select (ha! see what i did there?) because they are usually quite good. many funny, some sad, some crazy, and sure, some that are poignant. not to mention the amazing actors they get to read these stories! there is nothing quite as dreamy as hearing david rakoff or alec baldwin reading you a story in the comfort of your own home. and the theme music is so lovely is gives me goosebumps every time i hear it. i heart you, isaiah sheffer, i really do!

the best show on wfmu



actually, wfmu has many of my favorite shows (downtown soulville, sinner's crossroads), but this is my all-time favorite. boy howdy, do i love tom scharpling and the best show. at first i hated it. i'm sure you did/will, too. tom comes across as rude and egotistical and i couldn't figure out why everyone loved him so much. but after listening for a while, i found him hilarious. i love the regular callers (spike, laurie, julie, fredericks) i love the scharpling/wurster segments, i love all his good friends who call/come in regularly (paul f. tompkins, patton oswalt, john hodgman, ted leo, aimee mann)... i love it all. and you will, too, if you give it a chance.

the pod f. tompkast



and speaking of paul f. tompkins, you can now hear him on his own podcast! the intro part where he's kind of babbling strangely with noodley piano music in the background is almost disconcerting before you realize it's terribly funny, and then it just gets good. you get to hear a regular call with jen kirkman, segments from the paul f. tompkins show, and all of his ridiculously awesome impressions of celebrities like the cake boss, andrew lloyd webber, ice t, and john c. reilly. super fun good times. if you are a fan of comedy you should be a fan of paul f. tompkins.

this american life



sure, everyone loves this american life, and you probably live in a hole if you don't know it. but honestly, it makes for the best sewing listening. i like the short segments that let me stop for a while if i need a break. sure, sometimes the stories can be a little predictable (as a good friend once put it, the intro should go something like this: "i am ira glass, and this week on this american life i am going to break. your f*$%ing. heart.") but many times they are just so very good. and yes, i heart you, too, ira glass.

the splendid table



i usually reserve this one for when i'm going to be doing some baking, but since i eliminated sugar from my diet recently and haven't been doing much baking (but not forever, only for a little while!!) i find i want to listen to this whilst sewing sometimes, too. i just love lynn rossetto kasper's obviously unrestrained love for food. and just listening to people talk about food and cooking and travel makes my mouth water. which, these days, happens pretty easily.

seven second delay



this was the first show we started listening to on wfmu and is still a favorite. it's probably not to everyone's taste, but if you like stupid jokes and listening to figurative trainwrecks happen on air, this one is for you. one of the hosts, andy breckman, likes to pretend he's the star, but really, ken freedman is the perfect straight man. their chemistry is pure magic. or alchemy. or whatever. i love the show.


ok, so now you tell me: what do you like to listen to while you sew?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

... seeing the forest for the trees

do.good stitches: trees quilted

at long last, i have managed to finish my tree quilt for the do. good stitches charity bee. yay! i don't know why, but it always takes me longer to finish quilts than i expect it to. i have this naive optimism when i set out making my quilt sandwich that, in just a few hours, the whole thing will be finished. sure. cut to a week later as i'm on the third day of hand sewing the binding thinking why in the world did this take me so long?

i think i can answer that with a little more clarity right now, and the key is my sewing machine. while i love my little project runway edition brother, it's time for me to admit it's just not cut out to be doing any major quilting. i swear, there were times this week when i wanted to throw the freaking thing across the room. i can baste the bejeezus out of my quilt and use my walking foot and go as slow as a snail, and every quilt still manages to bunch and pucker in the worst of ways. i spend so much time ripping out seams and cursing up a storm, but going back to redo areas doesn't even help that much. my only consolation is that washing and drying the quilts makes the most egregious mistakes look slightly less so, and i've gotten pretty good at taking photos that don't show you the worst of it. but still, it hurts my heart to see a quilt i've spent so much time on end up looking less than perfect, and it is doubly hurtful when it's a group quilt for a charity project where i want us to be represented in the best of ways. (i know, i know, it's not really that bad, but as fellow quilters i'm sure you can sympathize with this kind of thing, right? also, sewing machine recommendations are welcome... i'm leaning towards a bernina, but still looking around.)

so anyhows, despite my griping, i do love how this one came out. i love how each block is so different, and yet they all look so perfect together. i love the variety and harmony in color. and, despite the flaws, i love the quilting. i chose to do random "straight" line quilting since it seemed like anything too geometric would interfere with the blocks. in retrospect i should have quilted it a bit tighter, but that would have made me lose my mind, and this was enough to keep the whole thing together and functional and able to withstand many years of some good use.

trees binding

i also love the binding. i chose a nice, bright yellow kona cotton (actual color name long forgotten... i've got to get one of those color cards) to set off and complement the greens in many of the trees. and also, i just love yellow. so there.

trees back

and i love the other side, too! mari made some adorable blocks that i featured on the back of the quilt surrounded by this simple tone-on-tone green fabric.

tree quilt back

see the little frogs under the trees? adorable!

what else? the quilt measures 48 x 48 inches, so each block is 12 x 12. i will package this little baby up this week and ship it off to wrap them in love, a very deserving charity, indeed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

... crewel

crewel kit

well, i can proudly say that i have learned a new craft and am very much in love. last sunday i took my first class at the uber-cool assemble, taught by emily of tako fibers, who is one of the sweetest and most patient teachers imaginable. if you have a chance to take a class with her (and she's teaching this same crewel class again next month!) i urge you to do so.

crewel kits

crewel kit

emily's kits come with pretty much everything you need to complete them: embroidery hoop, needle, more than enough yarn for each project, a screenprinted design on hopsack, instructions, and a little instruction book to remind you of all the stiches should you (inevitably) forget. and there were so many great kits to choose from! i picked this abstract flower design, but she also had some adorable birds, a fox, bear, party garland, raindrops, and others i just can't remember right now.

crewel practice

class started with practice, so we got to try all the stitches before going at it on our kits. i am a big fan of satin stitch and chain stitch. french knots are still not my friend. but i will persevere.

tea and toast

on monday i was lucky enough to have the majority of the day off, so i cozied up on the sofa with my crewel, some (decaf) tea, toast, and a viewing of anne of green gables. i know, lucky me, right? it was so terrific to have a day to myself where i could spend some time on a project and enjoy a movie that only i love.

crewel progress

and then i got sick. and i've spent the last two days in bed feeling pretty awful. because sick + pregnant = ugh.

finished crewel kit!

but at least i got to finish my kit! isn't it the prettiest? i think i'm going to get a slightly larger hoop and hang it in that. unless i get inspired to maybe frame it in a patchwork-style pillow of some kind. but right now i'm just so happy looking at it in its little hoop. i am picturing a bunch of these clustered together on the wall (in the nursery, perhaps?) but i don't want to get too ahead of myself.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

... making lists

my sewing space

i really like what jo is doing over in her corner of blogland. i, too, feel the urge, in my sudden need for order and getting things done, to have some kind of master list to manage my creative endeavors this year. but whoa! have you seen her list? just looking at it makes my head spin. so my list will be a bit smaller in the hopes that i can accomplish everything on it. and really, it's actually more of a "what ara jane wants to accomplish this year" list, with only few specifics. so here goes!


  • finish my september [cough cough] quilt for the do. good stitches bee. i have the backing fabric, binding, and the finished quilt top sitting around, now i just need the energy to put it all together. also, the heat is really on to finish this soon since it looks like march is my turn again for quilting. yikes!
  • finish the quilt for my now not-so-new nephew.
  • finish my mini-quilt project that i was so excited about last year. (see above photo for this project on my sad little "design wall".)
  • make my own sewing machine cover. why do i not have one already? poor, dusty sewing machine.
  • make my very own baby quilt (i'll get started on this once i learn the sex of this little peanut inside of me.)
  • once and for all learn to sew clothing, starting with baby clothes. baby clothes!
  • seriously, i will learn to embroider this year. i swear i will. in fact, i just today signed up for a crewel class at assemble next weekend. yay for crewel!
  • finish knitting the cutest little baby hat that i started pretty much the second i learned i was pregnant.
  • send off all my bee blocks on time. i've been good so far, but gosh darn it, i don't want to fall behind!
  • make a table runner. i've been dreaming about having a handmade one for quite a while.
  • make a cute little dishmat (ala this one from r0ssie). i always seem to have some kind of bunched up, sad towel on my counter for my drying dishes, and i've wanted something just a bit more lovely and stylish, not to mention, practical.
  • fix up my little sewing nook (see above for current set up... i am ashamed to admit that my fabric is stacked on top of a box spring with a sheet draped over it and that i've been too lazy to just get rid of that box spring). i'm currently sewing in the back sun room on our main floor, but am considering moving everything upstairs to what is currently my "office" i.e. the place where i pile up a bunch a papers but never actually spend any time in, thus making it an actually useful space. question to the mothers out there: do you think it's best to have your sewing space separate from the family area (what with keeping sharp objects and such out of reach) or is it best to be set up in a main living space where all the action is? having no experience here i'm not sure what the best thing will be once the baby comes and once that baby turns into a toddler.
  • quilt quilt quilt!
  • sew sew sew!
  • knit knit knit!
  • and, you know, all the other gifts and inspiration and various projects that will invariably pop up along the way.


yup, that's a pretty good list to get me started.

color play blocks for do. good stitches

blocks for december do. good stitches. mailed off in the nick of time to melanie at texas freckles. what a fun block to make!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

... new beginnings

winter walk

when i was a young, angsty teen i thought the new year was so silly. i think i enjoyed being contrary more than, say, actually believing in anything, so i had this thing about time being arbitrary and how celebrating the changing of the year was a stupid pastime. i'm glad that phase is over and done, because i really do enjoy the tradition of getting excited about a new year. i like having new year's resolutions (even the ones i don't keep) and i enjoy the feeling of starting afresh with new hope and a new outlook.

winter walk

looking back, 2010 has been so, so good to me. i'm grateful for all my wonderful friends, both virtual and real-life, new and old, my family, my lovely and comfortable home, my amazing husband (that still tickles me to write), and all the small, beautiful experiences that dotted my everyday life. heck, i got married! that alone makes 2010 100% awesomeness. and last year we started the tradition of having a family motto. this past year's was "don't be a slave to comfort," something i took quite seriously and, i do believe, really changed my outlook in a number of situations (even though i never got around to embroidering it on a pillow). for me that meant physical comfort (i.e. stop complaining and suck it up, you ninny) but also my own psychological comfort, as in, trying new things and going outside my comfort zone with new experiences. it's true, i can tend to be a slave to comfort and like things just as they are. but i think i've made some small, gentle strides in changing that.

winter walk

this year's motto, in a similar vein, is "don't be scared." it started out as somewhat of an inside joke between me and c, but one that took on some extra meaning and now seems entirely appropriate for the new year. and one i still hope to embroider on a pillow.

you see, we are going to have a baby in june and, i'm going to admit it right away, this kind of frightens me. of course, i'm terribly excited and ready for this new adventure, but i don't think i'd be human if there wasn't a small amount of terror mixed in with that excitement, right? already thing are changing, what with feeling a constant low-grade queasiness (c's new nickname for me is queasy... i'm like the eighth dwarf) and insane fatigue. can i use that as an excuse for not really being present here much the last couple of months? i hope so, because i'd like to milk it for all it's worth! i mean, there's not much to write about when you're spending any time not working just lying around on the couch watching bad tv and moaning about how queasy you feel. (though, admittedly, i totally missed the opportunity to do posts called "you know what i love... my couch" or "you know what i love... [insert name of reality tv show here]".) seriously, i haven't even finished a real book since november! and that, for me, indicates that things were kind of crazy.

winter walk

so this year will be a year of new beginnings in every sense of the word. i already feel like i'm coming out of my fog, i have a renewed passion for sewing and the energy to do something about it, and i feel so optimistic about everything that is to come. in addition to my motto, my only real resolution* is to be the best mother i can possibly be and focus on that, both before and after this baby comes.

(*oh, okay, and also post here an awful lot, sew and quilt as much as possible, read my 52 books before this darn baby comes, put learning to embroider back on my list of things to learn this year, since i never learned it last year, and be happy, hearty and healthy!)

winter walk

all photos are from today's sunny (and chilly!) walk around the center for urban horticulture, one of my favorite places in seattle. highly recommended as a place go for a stroll with your sweetie and reflect on the new year.