Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happiness X 2

Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  
~ G. K. Chesterton

Every year, this class brings amazing people into my life.

For this, I am truly thankful.  :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It is never right to play ragtime fast.
~ Scott Joplin

Well, here are the first set of rag rugs - I have to admit that I'm not ecstatic with how they came out.  The width of each rug still wanders (wider for a little bit, then narrower for a little bit...)  And I just wove the full amount of recycled t-shirt yarn that I had of each color - so some rugs are a little bit longer than seems appropriate and pleasing to me...  

I started with my rug - here it is:  

I didn't take a picture of it spread out, but you can tell that it isn't a nice consistent width from one end to the other...  :(

Here is one with three stripes of pink:  

A red, white and black rug:  

Navy blue, light blue and beige:  

The last one on the loom - green, blue and brown:  

The only slightly positive thing I can say is that I do think my weaving improved the more rugs I made - this last one is the straightest yet (and I like the length):  

So, hopefully I'll keep getting better and the last seven will be even better...  And hopefully the recipients of the first four rugs will remember that it's the thought that counts and think of these rugs as special in a unique, quirky way...  ;)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Holiday Frenzy

As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, 
compounded by December's bad weather, 
it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives 
who are worth this aggravation, 
and people to whom we are worth the same.  
~ Donald E. Westlake

No fun sewing or weaving for me over the weekend - I was knee-deep in php and html code, thankful that there wasn't a 2-year-old around, learning a whole lot of new "vocabulary"...  ;)

So, backing up a bit, I haven't been doing a good job of marketing The Original "How Much Fabric?" Reference Cards, but I was motivated by the looming holiday season to set up a couple of give-aways and offer our first ever discount.  But PayPal doesn't provide any easy way to offer a discount code - you know, because who would ever want to do anything like that, right?  It's so rare...  

Hence, the struggle with code...  I can report that I emerged bloodied, but semi-victorious!  ;)

You can find our first give-away at Tasia's website, Sewaholic (here).  We are offering two sets of cards - one to a US winner and one to an International winner.  

We are also part of a larger Thanksgiving give-away on Pattern Review (here) - you definitely want to check that one out because there will be 12 give-aways in total!  

Finally, in conjunction with these give-aways and the upcoming holidays, we are offering a discount on all of our card sets - this, in the face of strong opposition from PayPal!  Yes, just enter the code HOLLY (each time you add a set to your shopping cart - sorry, this is where the "semi" in "semi-victorious" comes in.  I could not find a work-around for that limitation) and you'll receive 15% off (here)!  

The card sets make the perfect small gift or stocking stuffer for your sewing friends - not to mention a really nice little treat for yourself!  And they pay for themselves quickly - because you don't overspend on fabric...  ;)

Okay, the promotion is over.  Now, back to your regularly scheduled content...  ;)

Tonight is our last ESL class of the semester and so I hope to have a picture or two for you tomorrow... 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Color Selections - Part 3

My two favorite colors of the rainbow are gold and leprechaun.  
~ Jarod Kintz

The last batch of color selections that I'm going to show you:  

Row #1 - ivory, apricot and light green
Row #2 - blue, grey and yellow
Row #3 - red, light yellow and dark brown

Now you've seen them all but two - one set I accidentally wove into a rug before I took a picture and the other isn't complete yet.  One person had her heart set on a particular color combination and only got two of the colors she wanted on color market day - so she is ordering the third color herself and it hasn't come in yet.  

Aren't all the combinations interesting?  I think they really show how diverse tastes can be...   

The color sets are different, but each person had the same look of satisfaction on her (or his) face when contemplating her (or his) set of colors.  :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Photo

The reason cats climb is so that they can 
look down on almost every other animal - 
it's also the reason they hate birds.  
~ K. C. Buffington

Recently, Sophie has taken to heights...

It's making us "jumpy" too - worrying about how she's going to get down...  

Isn't it funny how much we worry about the most self-sufficient of all animals?  ;)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The First Set of Rugs Leave the Loom

It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice-cream sandwiches.  
~ Lemony Snicket

As I think I may have mentioned once or twice (or one million times) before, once the loom is set up, the weaving goes really quickly!  Look at this big roll on my front beam that contains FIVE completed rugs:  

I was so excited by my progress that I cut the rugs off the loom before getting to that part in my video lessons - and I quickly discovered that tying the fringe neatly is not so easy - the last row or two of t-shirt yarn wants to come apart and the warp threads don't necessarily stay distributed evenly across the rug:  

So, it's to the sewing machine I go!  I stitched down the outermost row on each side of each rug.  That big thick white stuff was my divider yarn - I put in five inches between each rug, hoping that 2.5 inches would be a good length for the fringe:  

This made all the difference - look how my outermost row of t-shirt yarn stays in place, with the warp threads evenly distributed:  

Everything is ready for the fringe knots - and the length turned out just perfect!  :)

I have A LOT more knots to tie - plus the wet finishing - before I can show off these five rugs...  But, I'm working on it!  ;)

So, my first five "babies" have left my loom - the only home they've ever known - and they won't be returning with ice-cream sandwiches...  

But don't feel sad for me, because there are seven more waiting to be born.  ;)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Color Selections - Part 2

Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.  
~ Claude Monet

I have another set of color selections to show you today:  

Row #1: Dark purple, pink and turquoise
Row #2: Light grey, lilac and purple
Row #3: Black, rust and dark green

Each one of these sets will turn into one, three-striped rag rug - the order displayed above will be the order of the stripes (although only the middle color is really relevant, as there is no defined start point...)

Across all the combinations (not just these three), there are some that I love, some that I like and some that just don't appeal to me.  The cool thing is that, for each combination, there is someone who really, really likes it!  

It's going to be fun to see how the rugs turn out!  :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

More of A Good Thing

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!
~ Mae West

More shopping spree results from my stop at "A & E Pharmacy" in Pensacola, Florida!  

First, a yard of this Seminoles print to make a Christmas gift (car trash bag) for a friend/fan.  ;)

Another perfect Hawaiian shirt print for my husband - this one featuring state "postcards" from along Route 66:  

And one more top and skirt combination for me!  I'm envisioning a cute, little short sleeved (or sleeveless) blouse with the butterfly print and a flow-y skirt in this cotton fabric that blends from a very light orange into a very dark orange.  (I'll put the dark along the bottom, obviously.)  

Somewhere along the blended continuum, the orange color in the skirt fabric matches the orange in the butterflies in the top - so I hope those two will look good together.  :)

I seriously need to quit my job and stay home to sew and weave all day long...  Here's wishing all of you a wonderful sewing weekend!  :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Good Thing

If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing.
~ Ayn Rand

I'm on a business trip this week to Pensacola, Florida and that's got me feeling a little sorry for myself, so I decided to temporarily take a "vacation" from my decision to only shop my stash for a while and went on a fabric buying spree at this place: A & E Pharmacy.  

Yup, it's that classic pharmacy-fabric store combination that we all know and love so well...  ;)

Seriously, they consider themselves something of a quilting fabric store, so they stock mostly cotton prints - but they stock A LOT of them and plenty of stuff that I never see in any of the chains back home.  As you probably know, I sew lots of cotton prints, so I was in heaven!  

Here are just a few of the goodies I found and my plans for them:  

This brown fabric with colorful names of national parks will make a perfect Hawaiian shirt for my husband!  :)

I'm thinking of trying something a little different here - I'd like to somehow use both of the cotton prints in a single skirt - maybe with vertical panels?  I can't quite visualize it, but I'm feeling like it's going to be something different.  And then the pink knit will become a top to go with the skirt.  :)

I'll show you the rest of my "loot" tomorrow - needless to say, after my shopping spree, I was no longer feeling sorry for myself!  ;)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sewing? You Sew?

The secret to enjoying your job is 
to have a hobby that's even worse.
~ Bill Watterson

I am pretty "tied up" with my Christmas weaving (did you see what I did there?), but there is a project waiting for me in the sewing room - a work-worthy skirt and top.  The skirt is a TNT (tried and true) - the view shown in the photograph.  The top is a new pattern - I'm planning to make the v-neck, short sleeve version.  

I particularly love the fabrics I picked out - this beautiful flower print cotton for the skirt and a dark grey knit for the top:  

I don't have much experience working with knits, but am hoping that I can get this pattern to work and that I end up with another TNT.  :)

I don't know when I'm going to get around to them - this whole work thing keeps getting in the way of my life...  I wish Mr. Watterson had explained his secret to me before I got interested in sewing...  ;)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Let the Weaving Begin!

Creative minds have always been known to 
survive any kind of bad training.
~ Anna Freud

I decided to start with my rug, so that I can practice the techniques that I'm learning from my Craftsy class and, hopefully, get all the kinks worked out before weaving gifts for my friends.  Pepper was anxious - insistent, in fact - to help me at each step along the way...  ;)

There are three, related things that I'm trying to re-learn and do correctly.  The first is "throwing" the shuttle  through the "shed" (the opening between the 2 layers of warp threads) - rather than passing it from one hand to the other.  My loom is narrow - only 22 inches - so I can get away with (and usually do) reaching inside and passing it through.  Obviously that won't work with a wider loom, so I want to learn how to do it correctly.  

The second is having the weft thread at an angle before beating it into place:  

The purpose of the angle is to give the thread a little more length than appears necessary.  That extra length is used up, because the weft's path isn't straight across - it goes down and under some warp threads and then up and over other warp threads - that up and down and up and down path requires the extra length.  

Finally, I am trying to learn how to make nice, even edges, without fiddling with each weft thread with my hands.  I'm certainly not perfect, but thanks to my video lessons, my edges are definitely improving!  :)  

Look at how beautifully the pink and yellow/orange look together!  And it looks like the width of this rug is staying pretty constant too - unlike the first rug, that our foster teen and I did together (here)...  

The weaving is my favorite part and, in comparison to all that loom preparation, it goes so quickly!  I can't wait to dive into all the color combinations that my friends chose!  :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

And the Loom is Ready!

A (wo)man is a very small thing,
and the night is very large and full of wonders.
~ Lord Dunsany

The last step in preparing the loom for weaving the Christmas rag rugs was tying the warp threads onto the front apron rod.  This went very quickly.  I learned a trick in my Craftsy video - the more threads you have tied on, the easier it is to tie them tightly (because the other bunches of threads are helping you hold the apron rod in place) - and you want all the threads to have the same amount of tension on them...  

So, my instructor explained that you should tie on about one third of the threads like this:  

And then tighten the apron rod a smidge, before tying on the rest of the warp threads.  

Notice in the picture above how the threads are tied in bunches on the rod and form a series distinct segments?  To weave, I want them evenly distributed - so first I put in a few weft rows of a thick yarn (actually, I think this is the stuff that we used to have in all of our mops).  

Voila!  Now the threads are evenly distributed!  And I am ready to weave!  

More than a month before Christmas!  

Will wonders never cease?  ;)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Color Selections - Part 1

Taste is not only a part and index of morality, it is the only morality. 
The first, and last, and closest trial question to any living creature is 
"What do you like?" 
Tell me what you like, I'll tell you what you are.
~ John Ruskin

Here are three of the color selections made by my friends:  

Top row: Red, White and Black
Middle row: Navy Blue, Light Blue, Camel
Bottom Row: Light Pink, Mid Pink, Bright Pink

I'm going to start by doing my rug - hoping to work out all of my mistakes before I get to any of the gifts.  Then, the goal is to get these three rugs on the same warp...  :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gratuitous Kitten Picture

I care not for a man's religion whose cat and dog are not the better for it.  
~ Abraham Lincoln

Popeye has been feeling sick for a few days.  Poor baby.  :(  

We took him to the vet and he got a bunch of medicine...  

He's still hiding, but instead of being curled up in a miserable ball, he is stretching out a bit...  I hope this means he is getting better!  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A$$ Over Teakettle

Sometimes things fall apart 
so that better things can fall together.  
~ Marilyn Monroe

I'm still working on preparing my loom for the first set of four Christmas gifts.  As I may have "mentioned" (i.e., bitterly complained about) already, the instructor in the Craftsy class I'm taking is teaching us how to warp the loom from the back to the front - and I've always done it from the front to the back.  

It's amazing how you can get some practice doing something one way and start taking for granted how comfortable you have grown with that method, until someone challenges you to do the same thing using a different method...  

In other words, doing things "backwards" has dumped me a$$ over teakettle!  

With my husband's help, I got the warp wrapped around the back beam - but there were signs that my tension isn't even, in that the exposed thread ends aren't all the same length - there is a discrepancy of several inches between the shortest and the longest!  That should NOT be the case...  :(

And you should have seen her warp on the video at this point - every thread exactly the same length and perfectly smooth!  :(

Next up was threading the heddles - I did groups of 4 and tied slip knots at the end of each bundle.  It was a little more complicated and twisty, because I had wrapped three lengths of thread at a time - so there wasn't a perfect "next one" at each moment...  

Step #3 - sleying the reed - again working in groups of four and "securing" each group with a slip knot - Ha! - as if that slip knot will secure the threads against Pepper once she discovers the dangling bunches...   

A close-up of the slip knots:  

Progress - the reed has been sleyed (long live the reed!).  

Another sign of messing things up - my warp is not centered in the reed - I have about 4 inches left over on one side and only about 1 inch left over on the other side...  This never happened before - although there is not really anything about this new method that should have made this step harder.  :(

Not sure how big a difference this is going to make - I'm probably going to try to go ahead and work with it - rather than pulling all of those threads out and re-sleying them into different "dents" (the slots in the reed).  

The last major step is to attach the warp to the front beam - hopefully I can squeeze that in some evening this week, after work.  

Let's hope that this is one of those times that Ms. Monroe was talking about and all this aggravation of learning to prepare the loom in a different way pays off!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Color Market

You should never hesitate to trade your cow 
for a handful of magic beans.
~ Tom Robbins

Well, yesterday was the "color market" at work.  I didn't have a plan, but no one seemed to want to dive in and start arm wrestling for little snips of yarn - so someone suggested that I shuffle their name cards and read them in a random order - determining the order in which they would get to make their selections.  I read through the 11 names three times - the middle time in reverse order - and each person got to pick one color each time her (or his) name was called.  

After that, everyone was free to bargain, negotiate and swap with everyone else.  Some people were really flexible, while others had their hearts more or less set on a particular combination.  As you might expect, some people had more fun with it than others...  

By the time the dust settled, I think that everyone was reasonably pleased with her or his selections.  

Here's the whole crew - each holding up her (or the lone "his") index card with the selections stapled on.  I work with some pretty awesome people - smart, funny and genuinely caring...  :)

(Oh, one couldn't make it, but someone else drew colors for her - hence the woman with two cards in her hands.)  

I'm not sure that I'd do it that way again, but it was something different and kind of exciting and I think that, in the end, it worked out.  Now let's just hope that everyone loves their gifts!  Fingers crossed!  :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

(Rail) Road Trip!

I travel light.  
But not at the same speed.
~ Jarod Kintz

Now that our foster daughter has turned 18, the great state of Florida considers her an adult and has "cut her loose", so she can join her extended family (aunts, uncles and cousins) in New York.  Over the weekend, we journeyed there together, by train.  

It's a 24-hour trip by train, and I just wasn't up to trying to sleep all night in a coach seat, so I sprung for the "roomette" - which is a private "room" that has 2 day seats (facing each other) that fold down and connect to form a lower berth and an upper berth that slides down from the ceiling, to give us bunk beds!  It also has a toilet and fold-up sink - although there is no privacy screen, so one party must leave the room if the other party wants to use these facilities.  

As you can see (above) our foster daughter does not share my problem with sleeping in a coach car!  ;)

We spent most of our time in our private room.  We ate 3 meals in the dining car and took showers in the shower "room" (I'm not sure, but this may be where the British coined the term "water closet").  

Watching out the window, as we progressed north, she asked me, "Why do the trees look like they are on fire?"

I passed time by reading a book on my Kindle - she passed time by doing teenage girl things - painting her nails, plucking her eyebrows, putting on her make-up, ironing her hair and using her smart phone to post selfies and chat with friends on Facebook...  ;)

We met up with her Facebook boyfriend in NYC.  Despite almost daily Skype-ing with him for months, she was nervous about meeting him face-to-face for the first time.  She kept asking me what she should say and I kept proposing ridiculous things that made her laugh, but I never managed to do more than temporarily relieve her nerves...  

So far, I'm afraid she's not a big fan of NYC.  Remember that she came from a very small village in Honduras and thought that Lakeland, Florida was a pretty big city.  "Lake-what, Florida?" you may be thinking to yourself.  Consider my point made.  ;)

Later that night, when we spoke on the phone, she was crying and said it was ugly and she hated it and it was the worst mistake she ever made in her life.   

My husband reminded me that I cried too, on my first night with him in our first place, in a new city, far away from everyone and everything I knew...  Now, 31 years later, I hadn't even remembered...  

I told her that story so that she could know that, no matter how she feels today, it;s not actually the end of the world and everything will be better with time.  :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Green Lantern: "What are your powers anyway? You can't fly."
Batman: "No."
Green Lantern: "Super-strength?"
Batman: "No."
Green Lantern: "Hold on a second... 
You're not just some guy in a bat costume, are you? 
Are you freaking kidding me?!”

~ Geoff Johns

Believe it or not, this was their first time trick-or-treating.  

They made their own costumes.  (I took them shopping for the supplies.)  

Carolyn was a box of "Jelly Bellies" jelly beans:  

She even had windows where you could look in and see the jelly beans!  

Now this one is harder for me to get my mind around.  

I tried to entice Brandon with the idea of being an astronaut.  But he stuck to his guns - apparently he has always wanted his Halloween costume to be:  

A crossing guard!  

Yes, a crossing guard!  I know, I know - that is so overdone - always beating out ninja, zombie, witch and fairy princess for the most popular Halloween costume of the year.  I hated to see him become such a Halloween cliche...  ;)

But they had a blast and scored TONS of candy.  :)

And isn't that, after all, the true meaning of Halloween?   ;)