Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Making of the Toys

I was asked by my sister to nanny for her while she was at a grooming competition in Seattle.  I always jump at any chance to hang out with my niblings! They live so far away. 

After giving the kidlets their quilts, I thought it would be fun to bring them to a quilt shop with me.  They were excited to bring their quilts and show them off.  I asked them to help me choose some souvenir fabric to back bring home to Canada. 

Nolan chose a green fabric with teal shapes and Jo chose a pink fabric with dogs on it (ick! But I got it just the same).  I found a couple other prints that caught my eye, but my favourite was the tooth fairy flannel. The fairies are quite deranged looking and their teeth are still covered in blood.  Who comes up with this stuff?!

On our way back to the hotel, Nolan asked for his fabric.  I explained that it wasn't "his" - that he just helped me pick it out.  The he asked if I would at least make him something with it.  And thus began the making of the toys.

Nolan asked for a creeper (from Minecraft).  Sweet.  All squares.  How hard could that be? And of course, one cannot make something for one child and not the other, so I asked Jo what she would like.  "A teal unicorn with purple horn and hooves and pink and yellow hair." Um... Okay... A little more complicated, but I could handle this.

I looked up sewing unicorn toy and found what I now know to be a "pony loaf".  I fell in love with this pony loaf idea, and knew just the perfect fabric to use - fireside! We had some teal at Serge & Sew, so off I went.  
Found some anime eyes online that I felt worked well since I didn't want to go out and buy plastic eyes and voila! I think she turned out pretty cute.  Went together quickly, too.
Oddly, my "all squares" creeper took way longer,  I decided to get all pixel-y and cut a bunch of scraps into squares and pieced them all together. 288 squares altogether.
I was very happy with the results, though.
And apparently, so were the kids! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Somehow in the last couple months I have become "too busy".  I blame trying to distract myself from the art quilt I'm trying to make for Colin (see previous blog).  I started making a very simple quilt for my niece with the intention to make one for Nolan as well and give the quilts to them for Christmas or something.

Well, then I was asked to watch the kids for a few days while my sister was in the area for a grooming competition. So in my mind the deadline moved up from Christmas to April 22. Doable, but I don't seem to be able to take into count that I simply can't work on it EVERY day.  

So other projects were put on the back burner.  I didn't get Colin's quilt done mid-April like I was hoping, so now that is  being delayed even longer due to the beach quilt I have to have done for the store by mid May.  Top is done for that, but deadlines come up quick.  

The stupid thing is the kids weren't even expecting these quilts.  I really had no reason to place them in such a high priority.  But at least they were well received.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Motivation by Avoidance

My friend, Becky, and I went to a social quilting day today.  Jonanco Hobby Workshop puts on "Jonanco Quilting Days" two to three times per year.  These events include a whole weekend of quilting, though I was only able to attend one of the four days. I was too busy sewing so I wasn't my usual camera-happy self, but Diane, one of the Jonanco organizers, managed to snap a picture of me at my machine.

I worked on a quilt for my niece. A nice easy square-in-a-square pattern that would come together quickly was just what I needed.  I managed to get the 12 blocks I needed pieced, though I was sort of hoping for a finished quilt top.  She's slightly obsessed with Frozen, so I grudgingly use Frozen fabric for her quilt.  It's a good thing I'm working on hers first, since I'm very much looking forward to Nolan's Star Wars quilt of the same pattern.  Olaf is pretty cute, though. 

I needed a bit of a break from my art quilt that I'm making for my dear friend of an artist, Colin Spencer. (He doesn't have a website and I don't have permission to post any of his work right at the moment, but here's a link to a print maker's website that has a couple of his pieces posted.) I was excited for the challenge. And it has proven to be quite the challenge.  The process is basic enough, but getting the stripes just right managed to frustrate me.  I got that part done but hadn't been motivated to go back and keep going, especially since there was another striped part I would have to work on - with even skinnier stripes! Here is what I've got so far...
You can see the coloured pieces on the left and might even be able to see where they will fit in on the right side there.  You can also see the template of the striped piece I needed to do next. Well, having a break with something simple seemed to be enough motivation to get going again this evening. I managed to get half the strips sewn together before I ran out of white thread....
Motivation for the win! Maybe I can actually get all my quilts done on time. Colin's art quilt by April 17, the kids quilts by April 23, beach quilt by May 15(ish) and maybe even catch up on the myster quilt that I'm a couple installments behind on.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

All Work and No Play...

When I first started writing this blog, it was going to be a rant.  I was having a bad day and was ready to throw in the towel on my goals in life.  Mostly because I have no real goals.

It started because, at work, there are a couple jobs that just make me feel like I'm useless... simple... like I haven't amounted to anything.  These include (but are not limited to) refilling stock from the overstock and vacuuming. I don't even mind vacuuming! But being told to as if I haven't noticed the crap all over the carpet is demeaning to me.

I start feeling like "I'm better than this! I was a straight A student! I owned my own business!" And I get frustrated.  

So why don't I have any goals to get me ahead in life? The simple answer is money.  The more accurate answer is fear.  I have spent the last five years with little to no extra spending money and every time I/we save up a little safety net of cash, something comes up and we lose it. And all of this to end up on the verge of bankruptcy. Part of this is the result of previous loans. Student loans make up about half of our financial struggle.  

And so the fear comes in to play.  I would love to go back to college and study botany or environmental science.  But the thought of getting student loans again is hard for me.  I don't want to end up in this same situation again. So I sit in limbo at my minimum wage job that promotes consumerism, which I rather despise especially since I realize I succumb to it.  Gotta be better, stronger, faster! But you'll only achieve this if you have the newest __________!

Anyway, I have come up with two goals: 
1 - Focus my career goal from botany/environmental science to a more specific job title.  
2 - Get involved somehow to help decrease the cost of education for everyone. 

I love the idea of charities (preferably small ones because the larger ones tend to make way more money than they put into the actual purpose of the charity. 

But first, I must make my life work around my goals.  I plan to take a book keeping course and hopefully work from home, making a school schedule much more viable.   

Saturday, February 28, 2015

50s Retro Ruffled Apron

I'm generally not one to make the same thing more than once.  It seems like once any project is finished, I've been there, done that.  Don't need to do it again.  This is why I will never be a good sales crafter.  Can't handle pumping out the same stuff over and over again. This apron was an exception to that.  I have made this same pattern four times now. 
That wasn't the original intent. It started out as a project requested by my mother.  For the last few years previous to this project, we had done the ugly Christmas sweater thing.  In 2013, my mom said instead of a sweater, she wanted an ugly Christmas apron.  So I asked her to give me an idea of what style she would like and I would do something up for her.  
We went to the fabric store. (The ONLY fabric store.  Actually, it's basically just a quilting addict who sells fabric out of her home in order to support her habit.  Don't get me wrong. Great lady and very helpful.) There were only three Christmas themed fabrics, and they didn't coordinate.  Since we needed three, and it was supposed to be an ugly sweater, we took some of each. When it was done, Mom was thrilled! She couldn't wait to show it off.

Everyone said it was a terrible "ugly" sweater. It was too cute! My sisters both informed me that they were putting in an order for next Christmas (now last Christmas). I had a year, so I figured I could handle it. I started with Tracy's.  I figured Ali would be more... particular... regarding her fabric. Tracy just let me choose.  I loved the Santa in the above picture, so I put together colours that I like.  At this point working at Serge & Sew, I had many more fabrics to choose from.  I got it done right away and it was on display at the store for a while.
Alison came down and chose her own fabric. I had to send Tracy hers, so it had to be taken down from the mannequin at the store.  I replaced it with Ali's as soon as possible.  Both of these samples were met with adoring reviews.  So when I had to send Ali's to her, we were left with no sample for the store.  
So I made one just because, with fabric that required no season.  It ended up being a class in the store.  This is a pattern of my own design and I've done it so many times that I've put it into a pattern. If you would like to try it, check it out here on my Etsy page.  I added tulle to the three Christmassy ones, but not the pink and blue one with the ducks.  I found it didn't really need it and it was much less fussy.  But for an added umph, you can add some tulle to the skirt if you really want to. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mythic Worlds 2015

 Last weekend, I attended Mythic Worlds. For those of you who don't know, Mythic Worlds is the "premiere mythic music and arts festival on the West Coast."  Now, faeries and the like are not exactly my personal obsession.  Don't get me wrong.  I love fantasy. From Labyrinth to Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, fantasy is my fiction of choice.  But I went for the niblings.

I don't get to see them very often and my sister, Alison Spokes (their other aunty) suggested I join her at the festival while she had the kidlets.  It was a blast.  The dancing, the people, the costumes!

I was dressed like a mountain goat faun, yet somehow I felt underdressed at this event. A lot of the costumes were intricate beyond imagination. There was a dragon whose wings actually unfolded and folded back up again.  There were some pretty poofy dresses that would give Sarah from Labyrinth a run for her money (Jareth did make an appearance). Down to the nitty gritty detail of beadwork or hand-painted paper flowers, some of the people put hundreds of hours into their costumes.  

(See the guy on the left? He's not on the stage.  He's wearing stilts.  The lady in the middle with the big dress? It's made of plastic plates and cutlery. Jareth is on the right and somewhere behind the faun is the dragon.)

I wish I could have watched the fashion show where the vendors get people to model their wares.  Jo got the opportunity to participate with her lovely face paint and toting an adorable headress, but it proved too much for her and we had to go deal with some tears.  She walked on that stage, though! (Actually, it was quite a magical moment. She was getting nervous right before the show and, since she was sporting her Elsa dress, all the other models burst into an impromptu rendition of "Let It Go." It cheered her up... Until she got on the actual stage.)

(Jo in her face paint and headdress right before the fashion show)

Oh yeah.  That bird lady.  She was creepy. Yet all the children loved her.  No issues walking right up to her and posing for a pictures.  The kids also loved Wotan (not sure if I'm spelling that correctly) the Faerie-Smasher. I didn't actually get a picture of him! I was too busy laughing at Jo and Nolan casting spells on him to make him think his hammer was a puppy.  That guy must have been seven feet tall!

My favourites must have been the Shadow Man and the giraffe. He may have just been wearing all black, but The Shadow was just as hard to see in real life as in this picture. It was mysterious. The giraffe may have been a guy taking advantage of needing forearm crutches, or he may have just been using something of the sort for effect.  There was a lady who transformed her medical scooter into her dragon mount, after all.  How creative!

That picture is hard to see, I know. But it was only at the masquerade that I saw him.  Another character of note would be the jellyfish - also on stilts.

It all makes me want to make costumes! On that note, I have informed the girls of Naughty & Spice burlesque troupe that I would be quite happy to help them with their costumes as well as make my own. I'd really like a challenge! I'm also hoping to get some proper sewing lesson from a lady in town named Anne Warren.  Her rates are ridiculously reasonable at $65 for four two-hour sessions. But it will have to be a paycheck or two away, as I'm still recovering from the trip to Mythic Worlds.  Would do again next year... If only for the shopping (that I didn't get to do this year).

Please... Feel free to post any pictures of costumes you have made! I love seeing creative outfits!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mystery Quilt

   Anyone ever heard of a mystery quilt? Well for those of you who haven't, you are basically given instructions to pick out a certain number of fabrics in certain amounts without knowing what the pattern is and then given the instructions for the pattern in installments.  You don't really know what you're making until it's pretty much done.

Oh they give you guidance for choosing your fabrics.  Border Creek (the company whose mystery quilt I am currently working on) even gives you a sample colour way with the option to get that specific kit.  When I saw the colours I was like "Ick!" No judgement on my part if you like them. It's just not my thing. Here is what they had to offer:

Well I would have had to be different anyway.  I just can't handle the thought of making something by hand and still have it be the exact pattern and colours as everyone else. Seems to me that it defeats the purpose of quilting (or any other craft for that matter) in the first place! Here are the fabrics I chose in the same order as above:

I learned about mystery quilts when I first started working at Serge & Sew in June last year.  We were putting together plans for the previous year's Mystery Quilt Club's showcase party.  The walls were lined with so many quilts of all the same pattern in any colour way you could think of. I was mesmerized.  And I was determined to be part of it the next time around.

One thing I have learned is that it is very important to pay attention to the specifics of the instructions. When you don't know what the end result will be, you can't assume you understand how many of what you'll need. 
You'll notice that it says "6 pieces remaining".  That means that you don't do all 44 pieces, you only sew 38 of them.  Well, I wound up having to unpick those 6 pieces.
No harm done and it could have been much worse.  Now I'm taking my time and being meticulous about following the directions.  I only have so much fabric!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Valour Gone Wrong

I have to admit something... I kinda did a terrible thing.  It may never be recognized by those who it was done to. But for those who read this blog, you will know what I have done.  Feel free to judge me...

It all started with good intentions. You see, at work I run a program called The Colour of the Month.  Each month has its own colour. I choose a fabric of that colour and cut it into approximately 15x15" pieces. Anyone who would like to participate buys one piece for $2.50 and makes something with said fabric.  If they bring their project back before the end of the month, they get entered into a draw for a $25 gift certificate.

In November, I changed things up a bit.  The colour was red, and the fabric had red poppies on it.  So I thought it would be nice to ask everyone to make up a 12x12" block that would be part of a quilt to donate to the legion.  Everyone was quite excited at the prospect. 
I realized, of course, that with so many different people involved, measurements were bound to be off. I thought I had this all figured out by choosing a means of connecting the blocks with sashing so that the blocks were all offset and it wouldn't be so obvious that they were slightly different sizes.  
All the blocks were on my wall so that I know where to strategically place the sashing to make the pattern.  I started with the top left corner.  Then I stopped... 
What had I done?! (When you see it, you'll know.)  This quilt was going to be donated to the freaking Legion! They were so excited when I phoned to see if they were interested in the idea.  And now I was commited.  They were expecting it.  Twenty-four ladies had put time and thought into their blocks.  And here I was putting symbols of terror into a valour quilt! 

I called my husband into the room.  He saw it, too.  He told me I couldn't keep doing this - that I needed to undo it and think of something else.  

But I couldn't. I kept going.  I made that same shape over and over.  I fretted about it the entire time but tried to convince myself that when it was all put together it wouldn't be so obvious.  In fact, no one would even know.  But I knew.
I was right. No one noticed.  Or at least, they were polite enough not to say anything.  But the quilt is done now. And every time I look at it, I see them. They haunt me.  And they will hang in the Legion for all the brave veterans to see.  I just hope no one has some crazy flashback... :S

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wow! I've come a long way!

PThis is an update. A lot has happened since my last post.

I'm quite proud to announce that I have joined the burlesque troupe, Naughty & Spice, as Lydia Vox and have kittened for one show and performed in another.  (Kittening is a term for setting up and picking up all the props.  I was their "kitten".)  It has been spectacular. We are currently on a winter break, but will be resuming practice in February.

Serge and Sew is still proving to be a fabulous job.  I'm teaching classes now. Seems so odd to be teaching quilting classes to people who have been quilting for decades.  But it seems to mostly be a social thing.

Then again... my quilting experience has expanded a substantial amount in the last 8 months. I've made three quilts and numerous smaller projects. 
This last quilt was a collaboration, I must admit.  I only made one of the blocks.  But I did put all the blocks together and quilt and bind it.

On the whole, life in Nanaimo has proved to be as excellent as I remember.  Though I do miss my friends and family from the north a great deal.  They were always around.  Everything was a social event.  Even at work, my coworkers were my friends and Miake had her lunch at my store more often than not.  Evenings were full of dinners and D&D.  Weekends consisted of snowshoeing or hiking or geocaching, making labyrinths or monster cookies.  

Now, I spend an awful lot of time on my own. Sewing... But still by myself.  I see my friends occasionally, yet it seems so formal. Like there has to be a reason to get together. No one just stops by because they felt like it.  I do miss this. 

And my Hashimoto's Thyroiditis seems to be getting worse.  Half the time I don't want to do anything even if I could.  I simply don't have the energy.  Falling asleep at 8pm is becoming a more frequent occurrence.  

For some reason, being here has made me more inclined to walk everywhere, even though I have farther to go than I did in Houston. And I've joined a gym and started cooking regularly.  So it has its ups and downs.  

Glad we made this step, though it may be some time before I feel established. Of course, knowing me, by that time I'll want to go somewhere else.  Or have some other new endeavour.  Never could sit still for long...